How I Pick My Novels

Hi everyone! I’m both glad (and not so glad) to be back home. I had spend this past weekend in New Jersey and New York. One of my college graduation presents was tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway so I was beyond excited. I also got to visit Sleepy Hollow. Overall, it was a very exciting weekend. Now that I’m back, I decided to do a blog inspired by a author/Youtuber I follow, Jenna Moreci. Some of you may have heard of her as she has recently released her debut novel, The Savior’s Champion. She is very funny so I definitely recommend you look up her channel. She recently did a video called “How I Choose My Novels.” Naturally, I’m copying her. All credit goes to Jenna Moreci for this.

Genre: Like the rest of you, I have preferred genres. All of them fall under the fiction category. Within that, I like to see which genre I haven’t read recently so I can mix it up. I also like to see novels that break genre. I want to give myself a variety, as well as you who read my blogs.

Author: Normally, I don’t concern myself with authors too much but, obviously, I do gravitate towards my favorite author. I also like to know which authors are up-and-coming so I can hop on a bandwagon. I like being a part of fandom, as do a lot of you.

Reviews: There are many books I’ve picked up solely because I heard many people enjoyed it. Reviews really do have an impact on which books I choose. In fact, your reviews have helped me pick books. I prefer to read book by average readers rather than professional critics. I feel like professional critics can be “too” judgmental at times. I just want to know if a book was good or not. I don’t want an analysis.

Book Length: As much as I would love to read super long books, I don’t always have the time or the patience. I tend to have a short attention span so I’ll avoid thicker books. I would love to buckle down and read something like Les Miserables or War and Peace but, let’s be real, my last three brain cells wouldn’t be able to handle that.

The Blurb: Ah yes, the might blurb! I must read the blurb of every book in the store before I make a decision. A vague blurb isn’t going to interest me and a long blurb is going to lose my attention. I need a nice sized-blurb with just enough detail. The blurb is what’s going to sell your book.

The Cover: Unlike the popular phrase, I do judge books by their cover. I even did a post where I talked about book covers. A nice, eye-catching cover is the first thing that makes me pick up a book. I’m not going to gravitate toward something with a bland cover or a cover with too much happening. I will most definitely avoid a book with a movie poster as the cover. (I think it’s tacky but that’s just me.) We do judge books by their covers and we can all admit it.

 

Celebrating the Feminine: Some quotes in honor of International Women’s Day

Hello Everyone! I wasn’t planning on posting again until my next review. I finally got a new book to read but I haven’t been able to sit down and read it yet. Hopefully, I will get you that review soon. In the meanwhile, I decided to celebrate International Women’s Day with some quotes from famous female authors. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to share your favorite quotes in the comments or make your own post.

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” – Bell Hooks

“Above all, be the heroine of your own life…” – Nora Ephron

“I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I only have myself.” – Simone de Beauvior

“I am not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” – Jane Austen

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab life by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We already carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.” – JK Rowling

“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

“The beginning is always today.” – Mary Shelley

“If theres’ a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” – Malala Yousafzai

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Short Stories I Must Recommend You Read

I know the title sounds like click bait but it got you to read my post, didn’t it? I’ve read more than my fair share of short stories over the years. I’m currently trying to write my own with little luck. There are a few that I absolutely love that you might enjoy too. The art of the short story is one that takes a while to master. It’s hard to convey a powerful message in just a few pages. These ones I have picked have a made an impact for me and I hope that they make an impact for you too.

  1. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe – I’ve a been a huge fan of Poe for years now and own several different editions of his complete collections. Though I absolutely love his other famous short stories, I love this one in particular for the sensory picture that Poe writes that creates a sense of impending doom and suspense as you read it.
  2. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – In only 6,000 words, Perkins Gilman provides a scathing indictment of the American mental health system. As told through the diary entries of a woman suffering from postpartum depression, “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows how improper treatment of mental illness in women can have devastating effects on the mind.
  3. “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri from The Interpreter of Maladies – Lahiri’s bold and intimate writing provides an inside look at the struggles of people’s lives that others might overlook. In this particular story, a young couple must come to terms with the loss of their child and deterioration of their marriage during the nightly blackouts that occur in India. This story is has a heavy and poignant message that is palpable as you read it.
  4. “October in the Chair” by Neil Gaiman from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Other Wonders – Gaiman is well known for his surreal, humorous, and profound writing. His short stories are no exception. In this story, the personifications of the months gather around to listen to October’s turn to tell a story about a young boy find out more than he wanted when he decides to run away from home. Gaiman artfully crafts a fable-like tale for fairy tale characters who come to life on the page.
  5. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – This story is a classic one that I read back in high school. I was initially confused but soon found out that this story provides a much darker message than it gives away. Jackson paints the picture of a quaint little town built on dark traditions. It is hard to create the perfect plot twist and Jackson doesn’t fail to deliver a shock at the very end.
  6. “The Dead” by James Joyce from Dubliners – Last year, I went to Dublin on spring break specifically for Joyce. One of my professors is a leading Joyce scholar so it would be foolish of me not to mention any of Joyce’s short stories. Dubliners is a tricky read but it is endlessly fascinating. “The Dead” is the final story in the collection and it takes an introspective look into the life of a man who is struggling with his identity. The very last line of the story is profound and brings the whole novel into perspective. Even if you haven’t read Dubliners, the story is still just as powerful.
  7. “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury – I’ve been a fan of Bradbury for a while and, in particular, I remember reading this story in grade school. “There Will Come Soft Rains” follows the daily goings on of an automated “smart house” that continues to operate despite the fact that no one is living there. The story serves as a warning for how technology may develop and how it could change the environment. Bradbury’s haunting and detailed science fiction story is another great example of how to master the plot twist.
  8. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver – One of the more famous short stories out there, Carver’s message of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is just as powerful with each read. When a man wife invites a blind man to their house, he is reluctant to let him stay. However, he soon learns how to understand how other people live as he spends more time with the blind man.
  9. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe – Yet another classic Poe story, this one is a bit more famous. Poe was famous for his unreliable narrators and this story is one that makes the reader question what truly makes someone insane.
  10. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes – Much like Gilman’s story, this one also calls into question the ethics of how mental health is treated. Though it involves science fiction, Keyes is still not too far off from reality. This story follows Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68, who undergoes a surgery to increase his intelligence. He and a mouse named Algernon who also received the surgery are then subjected to scrutiny as they are thrust into the spotlight.

Breaking It Down: Reviewing Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

I don’t know about anyone else but I didn’t have very good creative writing classes in my school career. I did competitive writing in grade school in a competition called Power of the Pen, which is a regional thing in America. I didn’t have anything available to me in high school and the classes I took in college were tedious. This hasn’t squashed my passion for creative writing but it has dampened my confidence in being able to execute my ideas on a technical level. I was browsing around the bookstore when Prose’s book caught my eye. Normally, I don’t gravitate towards non-fiction but I was certainly interested in this. I am happy to say that it was the right choice to take home.

Francine Prose, a prolific author with a fitting name, takes a realistic and informative look at the art of fiction writing. Like most authors, she learned from reading other famed authors and studying their techniques. Starting with a chapter just focusing on words and building up to the full story, Prose teaches you how she and other authors craft their stories in ways that are succinct and impactful while still being unique. She also reflects on her time as a teacher and how she found her way in the literary world. With an honest and friendly voice, Prose provides a helpful and detailed way to improve your writing and reading skills.

The first thing I enjoyed about this book is that it doesn’t feel like its too technical or condescending. I’ve taken literary theory classes and those made my head ache. Prose, however, provides an honest look at how to better improve writing and reading skills. As fun as fiction is, it is still a pain to master and Prose understands that completely. This book is a great learning tool for writers and readers alike. It dissects famous short stories in a way that shows why they are so effective. This has already taught me more than I have learned in actual classes.

Houston, I Have Many Problems: Reviewing The Martian by Andy Weir

Andy Weir basically lived a Cinderella story for writers. His self-published book was noticed by Hollywood and turned into Oscar-nominated movie by the legendary director, Ridley Scott. His debut novel started out as curiosity that snowballed into a best-selling book. It stands on its own for its simple premise and new take on a survival story. I also may have mentioned the movie in my article about movie adaptations and, in case I didn’t mention it, I definitely recommend the movie as well.

It began with a freak dust storm on the surface of Mars. Mark Watney was lost in the dust and his crew had no choice but to leave him behind, thinking he was dead. When Watney awakes and is still very alive, he must do whatever he can to survive on the infamous red planet until the people of Earth realizes that he is still alive. With his engineering expertise, botany knowledge, and a quick sense of humor, Watney records his epic struggle to stay alive as the only human on Mars.

I’ve never been a science fanatic so I was a little wary when I first started reading this novel but I soon realized that this math and science was not out of my reach. Weir uses Watney’s sarcastic and knowledgable voice to explain how he utilizes his resources to endure the surface of Mars in a way that anyone can understand. It’s a funny and exhilarating narrative that takes the classic survival story to the next level. Though it is not necessarily a science fiction novel, The Martian is still a suspenseful journey nonetheless that will have you turning the pages to desperately find out Watney’s fate.

Just a Little Strange: Reviewing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

As the years have passed, I have found myself staying away from YA literature. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but it’s easy to get lost in the endless series. I’ve been reading more standalone books lately but I still have my exceptions. I will be reviewing one of my particularly favorite exceptions. Note: there is a movie adaptation that came out in 2016 but I knew from the trailer that it had been changed too much to my liking.

Jacob Portman was just your average sixteen-year-old boy who loved listening to his grandpa’s stories. When tragedy strikes, Jacob knows he must journey to Wales in order to find the truth behind his grandfather’s life. While he searches through the former sight of the mysterious school he learned about, Jacob realizes that these peculiar children were more than just that. Soon, he uncovers the deadly reality behind his childhood stories as he delves into the world of the peculiars.

Riggs’ book is particularly unique in the way he tells his stories. He collected strange vintage photographs and wrote the story around those. They appear every few pages, providing interesting visuals that help add to the story. This fantastical and dark world of the Peculiars can suck you in within the first few pages. Riggs finds a perfect balance between childlike innocence and morbid curiosity in a way that both teens and adults can enjoy. It is fairly reminiscent of the X-Men and has just as much action. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a mysterious and gripping journey that spans the ages.

Note: This series is currently a trilogy and I am not sure if there will be a fourth or not.

The Hidden Side of Hollywood: Reviewing Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher

I hopped onto the Star Wars craze a bit late. It wasn’t until the seventh movie came out that I realized I had been missing out on something. While I’m still not a die hard fan or anything like that, I found a new appreciation for the iconic movies series. Within that, I discovered that Carrie Fisher was a novelist. I sadly didn’t know about this until after her death but my curiosity was peaked and I wanted to remember her for something other than movies. I decided to read Postcards From the Edge and I was pleased to find Fisher’s other talents.

Suzanne Vale is an actress who knew she would end up in rehab at some point. It all started after an incident involving Percodan and scallops. Alex is a writer who doesn’t think of himself as an addict, despite his obvious love for cocaine. Their two stories come together as they reflect on their lives before rehab, their hopes for the future, and their fears of losing everything in the fickle entertainment industry.

Though this novel is relatively short, it packs a large punch of humor, honesty, and poignancy. Fisher provides these two narratives with plenty of unfiltered commentary about Hollywood and drug addictions and everything in between. There is no doubt that Fisher took a page out of real life in order to provide the profound revelations in her writing. Even if you aren’t involved in Hollywood, it is still easy to sympathize with Suzanne and Alex as they struggle to put their lives back together. Fisher’s humor and insight knows no bounds as she explores certain taboo topics. It is easy to remember why  Fisher was so loved by many after reading this novel.

This and This and This: Reviewing The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This maybe an unpopular opinion but I preferred the Illiad to the Odyssey. Both of Homer’s epics are great but I have always enjoyed the former. I like the intertwining stories of the gods in Olympus and the mortals fighting to the death. The Trojan War is just such an interesting topic to me. Being the mythology buff I am, when I heard about Miller’s novel I was immediately intrigued. Now that I finally have a physical copy of the book, I will review The Song of Achilles. 

Told through the eyes of Patroclus, his story begins when he is exiled from his home by his father after a violent altercation. In an attempt to be a better prince and son, he hopes to learn from the famous demigod, Achilles. The two soon become closer and closer as they train to be heroes. When Helen of Sparta is kidnapped by Prince Paris, the two young men find themselves right in the center of the Trojan War. With the help of the centaur Chiron, the clever Odysseus, and other famous figures, Patroclus and Achilles must withstand the test of the five-year war and learn who they truly are, unaware of what the Fates have planned for them.

I truly enjoyed this new look at the Trojan War. It’s interesting to have such a different perspective at Homer’s classic epic. In particular, this novel focuses on Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship as lovers. (Note: Homosexual relationships were very common in ancient Greece for various reasons. More than likely, they were in a relationship based on historical records. Also, they were not cousins like they were in the Brad Pitt movie.) Miller combines the intimacy of their relationship with the intensity if the war in the background in a beautiful way. It’s heart-breaking, thrilling, and gripping. With a better look at the other famous characters, Miller takes a classic epic and puts it into a new perspective for the modern reader. This novel is perfect for mythology buffs or romance fans with Miller’s beautiful writing.

When Virtual and Reality Collide: Reviewing Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve never been a huge gamer. I did love my GameCube as a kid and I played Wii Sports with my younger sister. I had a Nintendo DS that I used to play Nintendogs on. Other than that, I prefer to watch videos of other people playing video games. With that being said, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ready Player One with my limited knowledge of video games and the 1980s.

In the year 2044, the world is a cramped, polluted, and dangerous place. In order to escape this grotesque landscape, Wade Watts and the rest of the population dive into the virtual world of OASIS. In this virtual world, anything is possible as its universe is vast and provides more opportunities than the real world. When the creator of OASIS, Jack Halliday, dies he leaves behind a series of puzzles and challenges that lead to the Egg. Anyone who find the Egg wins the right to be the sole heir of OASIS. After fruitless years of searching, Wade stumbles across the first puzzle. He finds himself in a race against time to find the Egg before the thousands of other players and a dangerous corporation known as the the Sixxers. Things take a turn for the deadly when people begin to die in the real world. Wade must complete the tasks and find the Egg before he is taken out of the game permanently.

Like I said, I’m not a gamer and my knowledge of 1980s pop culture is limited but I found myself sucked into this novel from the first chapter. Cline doesn’t expect his readers to know all of this and is more than happy to explain these references without taking up too much of the narrative. The story is told through Wade’s point of view and it is funny, sarcastic, and smart. The stakes in the book become surprisingly high and the tension raises with each page. This novel is the perfect gift for the gamer in your life or you can even read it yourself. Either way, Cline’s book was a surprisingly enjoyable read with plenty of action and wit to go around.

Note: I have heard tell that this book maybe adapted into the movie but last I checked, nothing was confirmed.

Magic Number 21

For those who may not know, 21 is pretty significant in America. You can legally drink alcohol. It kind of solidifies your status as an adult. I certainly still don’t feel like an adult still but it’s nice to know that others might see me as more mature now. I decided that since I’m 21, I will share with all of you 21 quotes from and about books and writing that have inspired me through the years. I hope some of these inspire you too.

“…I like simple things, books, being alone, or with somebody who understands.” – Daphne du Maurier

“I am half agony, half hope.” – Jane Austen

“And here you are living, despite it all.” – Rupi Kaur

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” – Natalie Goldberg

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” – Neil Gaiman

“The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, sometimes it’s like drilling a rock then blasting it out with charges.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” – JK Rowling

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” – Edgar Allan Poe

“A writer is someone who has taught their mind to misbehave.” – Oscar Wild

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare

“I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I have put my heart and soul into my work and lost my mind in the process.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” – John Green

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” – Donna Tartt

“To a great mind, nothing is little.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” – JK Rowling

“Never forget who you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used against you.” George RR Martin

“I picked up a pen. I wrote my own deliverance.” Lin-Manuel Miranda

“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” – Annie Dillard