Friday, July 12, 2013

Books read in 2013

1. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

A story of many unhappy individuals

The Casual Vacancy is a story of unhappy people, both teenagers and adults, all brought together by the death of Barry Fairbrother, a member the of Pagford council. There are some who want Barry’s seat on the council, to crush what he was fighting for, which was to keep the methadone rehabilitation clinic open. There are teens that are abused by their parent, that cut themselves to relieve the pain, that don't take life seriously, that dislike their parent(s). There are adults who want Barry Fairbrother’s seat on the council, that are strongly affected by Barry’s death, that are unhappy in their marriage.

If you think that The Casual Vacancy will in any way be like Harry Potter, then you will be disappointed. The story and the writing style is so different from what we are used to reading that I could not tell it was JK Rowling who wrote it. This is not a type of book that I would typically read, however I was not disappointed. There are many characters thus the story was hard to get into and follow at first but it started to become interesting after a hundred or so pages.

Spoilers ahead:

Andrew Price’s father is abusive, but Andrew cannot understand why his mother just won't leave his father. Sukhvinder Jawanda does poorly in school and is made fun of at school for being hairy thus she cuts herself to forget just for a little while. Krystal Weedon, whose mother is a heroin addict and prostitute, is trying to keep her family together; she fears that Robbie, her three-year-old brother, will be taken away from her. Stuart (Fats) Wall makes fun of his adoptive father and doesn't take life seriously. Gaia Bawden is unhappy because her mother moved them to Pagford to be closer to her boyfriend.

Kay Bawden, the social-worker for the Weedons, wants her relationship with her boyfriend to go further now that she has moved to Pagford. Gavin Hughes, Kay’s boyfriend, doesn’t really like Kay, and is afraid to introduce Kay to his friends for fear that it will be difficult to break off his relationship with her later. Collin Wall, a teacher, is afraid of being accused of molesting his students. Samantha Millison has lost interest in her husband. Parminder Jawanda struggles with the death of Barry and is hard on her daughter, Sukhvinder.


Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: adult fiction
Pages: 503
ISBN - 10: 9780316228534


QUOTES

Parminder after learning of Barry's death: Everything had shattered. The fact that it was all still there—the walls and the chairs and the children's pictures on the walls—meant nothing. Every atom of it had been blasted apart and reconstituted in an instant, and its appearance of permanence and solidity was laughable; it would dissolve at a touch, for everything was suddenly tissue-thin and friable.
She had no control over her thoughts; they had broker apart too, and random fragments of memory surfaced and spun out of sight again: dancing with Barry at the Walls' New Year's party, and the silly conversation they had had walking back from the last meeting of the Parish Council. (39)

Parminder: O mind, the world is a deep, dark pit. On every side, Death casts forward his net. (40)

Kay: Kay had read the file from cover to cover. She knew that nearly everything of value in Terri Weedon's life had been sucked into the black hole of her addiction; that it had cost her two children; that she barely clung to two more; that she prostituted herself to pay for heroin; that she had been involved in every sort of petty crime; and that she was currently attempting rehab for the umpteenth time.
But not to feel, not to care...'Right now', Kay thought, 'she's happier than I am.' (72)

Fats: His targeting of Krystal had been a deliberate act; and he had his cool and brazen retort ready, when it had come to facing down his mates' jeers and taunts.
"If you want chips, you don't go to a fucking salad bar." (78)

Kay after she and Miles have an arguement: His inner certainties had been no more rearranged by Kay's arguments than a breeze can move a boulder; yet his feeling towards her was not unkind, but rather pitying. (227)

Andrew: This, Andrew thought, was how Ruth spoke to Simon on the rare occasions when she felt obliged to challenge him: subservient, apologetic, tentative. Why did his mother not demand that the woman take down the post at once? Why was she always so craven, so apologetic? Why did she not leave his father? (288)

Andrew's thoughts about his mother, Ruth: She was not frightened of showing temper to her sons. Was it because they did not hit her, or for some other reason? (289)

Andrew: Andrew returned to his bedroom hungry, because he had been heading for the kitchen to take out some food, and lay for a long while on his bed, wondering how badly Simon would have to injure anyone in the family before his mother realized that he recognized no moral code whatsoever. (290)

Fats: The victims of the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother were mired in hypocrisy and lies, and they didn't like exposure. They were stupid bugs running from bright light. They knew nothing about real life. (377)

Monday, December 31, 2012

What to do while reading your first draft


My writing was put on hold for over two years after I completed the first draft; I did not know how to edit something 80K words long. I tried editing it probably twice or three times but the method I was trying wasn't working--I was reading the manuscript while make changes, next I tried reading the manuscript while taking notes on what it was about.

A few weeks ago I read the chapters of 'Nail Your Novel' by Roz Morris about what to do before you rewrite. It promotes making a Beat Sheet, so now I am reading my entire manuscript while making notes on Excel under the following headings:

- chapter number,
- time/weather,
- intended purpose of scene (this is important to know whether a scene is there for a reason--I had one scene that had no reason for existing),
- summary of the chapter,
- emotions (you feel while reading),
- mood,
- pace (we want a variety of paces--slow, medium, fast, not just fast pace for chapters and chapters).

You must make sure not to edit while reading, because it is a complete waste of time at this stage since you may have to make major changes which will make your edits completely unnecessary. I tried this before and it will make you unwilling to make the major changes because of all the time you put into editing the scene unnecessarily.

With the Beat Sheet completed, it will be easier to move around scenes, see if things work, delete/insert entire scenes, and be able to see the big picture rather than getting lost in the words. I have yet to read the chapter on what to do after I am done creating a Beat Sheet.

The times I tried to edit, I normally gave up after reading 25% or so of my manuscript, but this time around I have read almost 80% of it. I am hoping to make it to the finish line and not have to reread the manuscript because I will have the Beat Sheet handy to work from until I am ready to make changes.

At the same time that I am excited that I will soon know what I wrote three or so years ago, I am fearful of the huge edits I will need to make and how much work that will take but I hope it will make me a better writer. I will have 'Nail Your Novel' handy to answer questions about rewriting. I may even read the chapters about what to do before writing the manuscript and when writing the first draft to see what insights those hold.

What I noticed is that writing takes a lot of time away from reading. Tell me if this happens to you too. If you have a completed manuscript that you don't know what to do about, do pick up this book and see if it helps.

Books read in 2012

1. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland
2. Flanders Point by Jacquie Gordon

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books read in 2011

1. Dark Angel by L.J. Smith
2. The Chosen by L.J. Smith
3. Soulmate by L.J. Smith
4. A Season of Eden by J.M. Warwick
5. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
6. Stein On Writing by Sol Stein
7. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

A sad story about more than just brotherly/sisterly love

The novel is about a brother and sister, Lochan,17, and Maya, 16, who are left in charge of their three siblings, Walla, 5; Tiffin, 9; and Kit, 13, since their mother is a waitress, an alcoholic, and is currently dating the owner of the bar in which she works. Now, she is coming home less frequently. And so, Lochan and Maya must make sure to get their siblings to school on time, pick them up from school, make sure they do their homework, and be entertained until their bedtime. The two of them must also cook, clean the house, do groceries, and beg their mother for some money etc. Thus, Lochan and Maya were acting almost like the parents of their siblings.

Lochan has trouble speaking with others outside of his family. His words don’t come out and when he tries to speak, the words escape him. Thus at school, he is a loner, and home is where he can be himself.

(Spoilers ahead!)

Eventually the Lochan and Maya notice how attractive the other one has become. And eventually they realise how much they depend on each other, even need each other, and how attracted they are to one another.

Incest, however, is against the law and so it’s against what society considers right. Will Lochan and Maya’s relationship be found out while living in a house with their three other siblings and having their mother drop by every once in a while?


Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma is written from the prospective of a brother and sister, Lochan and Maya Whitely, so we know what’s going on in both of their minds. Their world is well described that I felt like I was a part of it. One of the characters in particular named Kit, 13, was so realistic, with his want to bother others for no reason at all, and try to oppose authority that it seemed like Tiffin, 9, the younger brother, wasn’t as real as him. The story revolves around the two protagonists, Lochan and Maya, their sister Walla, and their brothers Kit and Tiffin.

The novel wasn’t bad, however the last one hundred pages seemed to be dragging on a bit. I felt like I was emotionally connected to the story, because I didn’t want the protagonists to get caught. But at the same time, I felt like the ending wasn’t bad at all. In this novel, the protagonists do get caught, and we see the result of that. Which I found was different than what might have happened in other novels.


Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: older teens
Pages: 418
ISBN - 10: 9781862308169


QUOTES (contain spoilers!):

Lochan’s thoughts: “At what point does a fly give up trying to escape through a closed window – do its survival instincts keep it going until it is physically capable of no more, or does it eventually learn after one crash too many that there is no way out? At what point do you decide that enough is enough?” (1)

Lochan’s description of himself: “My eyes slide past theirs as I enter the classrooms and they gaze past me, through me. I am here but not here. The teachers tick me off in the register but no one sees me, for I have long perfected the art of being invisible.” (2-3)

Lochan’s thoughts: “Family: the most important thing of all. My siblings may drive me crazy at times but they are my blood. They’re all I’ve known. My family is me. They are my life. Without them I walk the planet alone. The rest are all outsiders, strangers. They never metamorphose into friends. And even if they did, even if I found, by some miracle, a way of connecting to someone outside my family – how could they possibly compare to those who speak my language and know who I am without having to be told.” (35-6)

Lochan’s thoughts about his sister, Maya: “Over the last year she has turned from pretty to beautiful in an unusual, delicate, unnerving way. Boys chat her up endlessly – alarmingly.” (37)

Lochan: “I cannot distinguish one sentence from another: it has all turned into a blanket of noise.” (67)

Maya: “The sound of silence fills the air like a beautiful smell: no raised voices, no slamming doors, no pounding feet, no deafening music or babbling cartoons.” (108)

Maya’s thoughts: “I can’t bear to think I might have lost our closeness, our friendship, our trust. He was always so much more than just a brother. He is my soul mate, my fresh air, the reason I look forward to getting up each morning. I always knew I loved him more than anyone else in the world – and not just in a brotherly way, the way I feel about Kit and Tiffin. Yet somehow it never crossed my mind there could be a whole step beyond…” (132)

Lochan: “And the hands of the kitchen clock will continue moving forwards, reaching midnight before starting all over again, as though the day that just ended never began.” (148)

Lochan: “…the fear that we will have no choice but to bury this night as if it never took place, a shameful secret to be filed away for the rest of our lives until, brittle with age, it crumbles to dust – a faint, distant memory, like the powder of a moth’s wings on a windowpane, the spectre of something that perhaps never occurred, existing solely in our imagination.” (176)

Lochan: “The sky is on fire and the night has ended.” (180)

Maya: “Everything greys in comparison. The world becomes bland and vacuous, there seems little point to anything any more.” (182)

Maya: “The pedestrians around me don’t feel quite alive. I don’t feel alive. I’m not sure who I am any more. The girl who existed before that night, before the kiss, has been erased from life. I am no longer who I was; I still don’t know who I will become.” (189)

Maya: “Pupils hurrying this way and that look like extras on a film set. I must move in order to fit into all this activity, just as an electron must obey the current.” (189-90)

Maya: “If I keep going, maybe I will find my way back – back to the person I used to be. I am moving more slowly now. Maybe even floating. I swim through space. The earth has lost its gravity, everything feels liquid around me.” (191)

Maya speaking to Lochan: “I don’t care if you happen biologically to be my brother. You’ve never just felt like a brother to me. You’ve always been my best friend, my soul mate, now I’ve fallen in love with you too. Why is that such a crime?” (200-1)

Lochan: “The human body needs a constant flow of nourishment, air and love to survive. Without Maya I lose all three; apart we will slowly die.” (200-1)

Lochan: “Everyone else is permitted to have what they want, express their love as they please, without fear of harassment, ostracism, persecution or even the law. Even emotionally abusive, adulterous relationships are often tolerated, despite the harm they cause others. In our progressive, permissive society, all these harmful, unhealthy types of ‘love’ are allowed – but not ours.” (341)

Lochan: “We are being punished by the world for one simple reason: for having been produced by the same woman.” (341)

Lochan: “Sometimes, worse than watching her at school from a distance is seeing her at home, too close to touch, together but apart, so near and yet so far.” (341)

Maya thinking about Lochan: “His hands are like vices round my wrists, still trying to prevent me from touching him.” (354)

Lochan: “…I am overcome by a feeling of complete detachment. I am a mere object to these people. I am barely human any more.” (384)

Maya: “…I’ve learned that for me, as with everything I do now, there is no point to it. Nothing can relieve the pain. Not crying, laughing, screaming, begging. Nothing can change the past. Nothing can bring him back. The dead remain dead.” (409-10)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Season of Eden by J.M. Warwick

A tale of a student falling for her teacher

A beautiful eighteen-year-old girl named Eden thought she could have everything, that she even set her eyes on her new music teacher who is four years older than her. After seeing him, James Christian, Eden can think of nothing but him. She no longer wishes to be with her current boyfriend, Matt, since she feels that any excitement their relationship had died long ago, and that she and Matt were only together so that they would have someone to date.

Not only that, Eden starts to feel too immature compared to her twenty-two-year-old teacher. She starts listening to classical music, which James refers to as food, while all other types of music are referred to as junk food. She starts to find her pastimes, such as partying, childish compared to what she imagines James would do during his pastimes. Eden starts coming to school early to get a chance to talk to him alone before class begins, and to help pass out any papers, and even to give him hints about her thoughts of him.

Will Matt let go of Eden so easily? How will Eden get her teacher to like her enough to forget that they’re not allowed to date? Will James succumb and fall for his beautiful student? If so, will Eden and James get caught?


Every here and there, there are word omissions, indicating the need for more editing. And at times, the sentences were too short. But those errors are easy to avoid because of the gripping story. At first I thought the progression that Eden experienced of leaving her boyfriend and of no longer partying happened too quickly. But then I thought about it and remembered that she just used to party because she didn’t really have a family to go home to ever since her mother died and her father remarried. Thus, perhaps Eden was looking to move on for a long time and her new teacher gave her enough motivation to do so.

I wish the ending had been more precise of what to imagine would happen, but even without that, it was a great story about a girl neglected from parental love for about ten years.

Overall, if the book had been edited a few more times it could have been much better to read. But regardless of that, it was a great story and it left me thinking about the characters after I had completed the novel.

Rating: 4/5
Genre: teens
Pages: 234
ISBN - 10: 1933963905


QUOTES (may contain spoilers)

Eden describing James: “His skin wasn’t the honey tan of most southern California boys I knew, but rather a pale luminescence, like a candle just starting to glow.” (2)

“At first only the piano, light trickling notes that danced on the fringe of heaven. Then the voice. The sound stopped me.” (11)

“My heart started to thump as his fingers swept the keys, taking my pulse and blending it with the melody.” (11)

Eden: “Matt and I had really only been two people playing at liking each other because being alone was the lame alternative. We’d both be news tomorrow. I’d be barraged by leftover guys.” (20)

Eden describes James playing the piano: “His fingers taunted the ivory keys.” (33)

“Boys could be disgusted by honesty. But then I realized he wasn’t a boy. He was a man. Were men disgusted by honesty?” (40-1)

“Verbalizing meant admitting that we were all about the show, some intricate spectacle that might run down, like a clock inevitably unwinding. Then everything would stand still. Others could examine us.” (42)

“For a second I saw myself inside one of those confession boxes. I wondered what it would be like, to share my sins with a hidden stranger. I wondered if James Christian had anything to confess.” (44)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Season of Eden by JM Warwick (trailer)

I haven't read this book yet, 'A Season of Eden' by J.M. WarWick. Here's the description that amazon.com gave:

"He's my teacher. I shouldn't be alone with him. But I can't help that he's irresistible. I let the door silently close at my back. He stared at me, and a taut quiet stretched between us. "I like hearing you play," I said, moving toward him. He turned, in sync with my slow approach. He looked up at me but didn't say anything. I rested my clammy hand on the cold, slick body of the baby grand. "May I?" The muscles in his throat shifted, then he swallowed. "Eden." My knees weakened, like a soft tickling kiss had just been blown against the backs of them. "Is it okay?" I asked. His gaze held mine like two hands joined. He understood what I was really asking. "Let me stay," I said. "Please." "You're going to get me in trouble," he said."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Soulmate by L.J. Smith

Night World 6: Soulmate by L.J. Smith

Okay...Another forbidden love

Soulmate was an okay story. The beginning was extremely interesting, but after a chapter or two, it somehow went downhill. I did like that the protagonist, Hannah, has had many past lives, but she fails to remember them. What I didn’t like was that sometimes while I was reading the story, I felt like I was inside a box. Although the story was a little different from the previous stories in the Night World series, all the stories are about forbidden love and so in the end cannot be very different. I also didn’t like the decision that Hannah made in the end.


The story starts with Hannah Snow, a girl with a large birthmark on her face, in the psychologist’s office, telling him that she has finding notes in her room in her own handwriting but she has no recollection of writing them. She writes notes such as: “Dead before seventeen.” (435)

Then the bell rings and Paul the psychologist goes to open the door even after Hannah instinctually warns him not to, and at the same time a wolf breaks in through the window and tries to attack Hannah.

Only with the help of her psychologist will she be able to find out why she keeps writing notes to herself about death. How many past lives has she had? And why does Hannah keep dying before the age of seventeen in each one of them? How did the birthmark on her face come to be?


Rating: 3/5
Genre: fantasy, teens
Pages: 229 (from page 434 to 662)
ISBN - 10: 1416974512


QUOTES (CONTAIN SPOILERS!)

Hannah’s thoughts: “She didn’t know why she felt this way—but it hurt her terribly. It was as if she were losing something . . . infinitely precious . . . before she’d had a chance to know it.” (496)

About Thierry: “He wanted her. He loved her . . . adored her. He thought of her the way poets think of the moon and the stars—in ridiculous hyperbole. He actually saw her surrounded by a sort of silvery halo.” (513)

Hannah’s thoughts: “I don’t know why people are afraid of vampires, she thought. A human could tease or torture a vampire this way, driving him insane—if she were cruel.” (516)

About Hannah: “The house was too bright. The clock on the kitchen wall was too loud. She had the distracted feeling that it wasn’t either night or daytime. It was like coming out of a theatre and being surprised to find that it’s still light outside. She felt that this couldn’t be the same house she’d left an hour ago. She wasn’t the same person who had left. Everything around her seemed like some carefully staged movie set that was supposed to be real, but wasn’t, and only she could tell the difference.” (521)

Hannah’s thoughts about Thierry: “His dark eyes seemed pensive again, the sort of expression a star might have if it cared about anything that was going on underneath it. Infinitely remote, but infinitely sad, too.” (576)


Also see my reviews for the previous five books in the Night World series: Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Spellbinder, Dark Angel, and The Chosen.

The Chosen by L.J. Smith

Night World 5: The Chosen by L.J. Smith

Rashel the vampire hunter

The Chosen did not excite me. Perhaps it was because it revolved around a vampire hunter and it was not the type of book I was looking for. After telling us the background information of the protagonist, the story seemed to start later on. I kept zoning out when I was being told of Rashel’s vampire hunting adventures. I thought it was interesting that there was a secret club that teens went to who were really into death and darkness, and I also liked Quinn the vampire.


On Rashel’s fifth birthday party, inside a tube structure, she saw a man with red hair who seemed to be devouring her friend, Timmy. She managed to call for help, but when her mother came, the vampire broke the mother’s neck. Rashel then got sent to her only relative’s house to live, but that same vampire set the house on fire, and Rashel’s relative died.

After that, Rashel started moving around a lot, going from one foster family to the next. But what she knew most was that she must learn to protect herself from vampires, and that she wanted that very vampire, the one that killed her mother and Timmy, dead.

In the future, Rashel becomes a vampire hunter, and has a few vampire hunter friends. They are observing a warehouse area because they suspect something is going on there. Rashel has knocked down a vampire named Quinn and they have taken him to a room. She tells her fellow vampire hunters that she will look after the vampire until go run an errand. Secretly she is thinking about staking him and not letting the others see this happen.

May contain spoilers ahead:

But she can’t stake a vampire that hasn’t done anything to her, especially one that’s knocked out. Nothing goes according to plan. Once she starts speaking to John Quinn the vampire, she starts to see him as a person, not as a rogue vampires that she often kills, and she doesn’t want to kill him.

When Quinn escapes from his wooden handcuffs, Rashel fights him with her hands because she doesn’t want to use her blade. And once their hands brush together, she feels a shock going through her and everything changes. Quinn starts to take the scarf off her face to see how she looks, just when her fellow vampire hunters walk in.

Rashel doesn’t want Quinn to get hurt and tells him to leave, and eventually he does. But with this, she has lost all respect from her fellow vampire hunters who start to think that she is in fact a vampire lover.

Now, Rashel is all on her own to discover what’s going on in the warehouses and to win back the respect she has lost from her fellow vampire hunters. They no longer believe her when she finds out that something big is actually going on in those warehouses.


Rating: 3/5
Genre: fantasy, teens
Pages: 213 (from page 215 to 427)
ISBN - 10: 1416974512


QUOTES (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!)

Definition of ‘rogue’: “a depraved monster who killed human kids foolishly close to human habitations.” (233)

Rashel: “The night has a thousand eyes.” (234)
Elliot: ““And the day only one,” came the reply from the intercom.” (234)

Poem written by Daphne: “There’s warmth in ice; there’s cooling peace in fire, / And midnight light to show us all the way. / The dancing flame becomes a funeral pyre; / The Dark was more enticing than the Day.” (307)

Quinn’s thoughts: “He let the cold air soak into him, permeating his body, mixing with the cold he felt inside. He imagined himself freezing solid—a rather pleasant thought.” (342)

Quinn to Rashel: “Besides, now that I have seen your face, I can’t stand the sight of myself in your eyes. I know what you think of me." (379)

Quinn to Rashel when she’s unable to hit him: “I told you before. You’re an idiot.” (379)

Quinn to Rashel, speaking in her mind: “It’s the idea that everyone has one and just one soulmate in the world, and that if you find them, you recognize them immediately.” (399)

Rashel’s description: “It was as if a dragon had breathed suddenly into the room, sending a roaring gale of fire through it.” (415)


Also see my reviews for the previous four books in the Night World series: Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Spellbinder, and Dark Angel.
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