MK’s Book Reviews: Stephen King’s It

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Okay.

I am not a horror fan, not a violence fan, and definitely not a clown fan.

Why did I read this book?

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MK’s Book Reviews: All The Light We Cannot See

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You’ve likely heard of this book, as it was everywhere this summer. It also won a highly coveted prize.

Is it worth the hype?

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MK’s Book Reviews: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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I’m back after a long, amazing weekend at Lake Sacandaga in upstate New York. I missed a few days due to no wifi at all (which can be quite nice) but now I’m back and it’s Tuesday which means it’s time for a book review.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of the best books I read last year. You should read it too. Here’s why…

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Learning from the Masters: Voice

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So I’ve written a lot about what we can learn from the masterful writers who’ve come before us, focusing mainly on the first 250 words of the manuscript. Today I want to focus on something else: voice.

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Good Reads Lately

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Been a little while since I updated you all on my reading list. Here are some recent good reads (and incidentally, you can follow my other good reads on Goodreads).

Vanishing Girls Firstly, the prose is beautiful. Lauren Oliver’s prose is always beautiful. This is the story of two sisters, distinct enough from one another but both very realistic, compelling characters, who have issues with each other in the way only sisters can. The setting is perfectly drawn. The other characters are flawed and so real. I read through this in a few days, and loved spending time in this world so much I just didn’t want the book to end. My only issue? The same one I had with all her other books: the ending. It just wasn’t my fave. But that won’t keep me from reading everything Lauren Oliver writes, and it shouldn’t keep you either.

Attachments This book was insanely cute in the way that only a Rainbow Rowell book can be. It’s actually an adult novel, in that everyone in it is in their late 20s or older, but it reads very much like Eleanor & Park and Fangirl to me–maybe because some of us (myself included) never stop being teenagers at heart. It’s a story about finding yourself and figuring out who you’re supposed to be with and what you want to do with your life. It was really well done and you should just go read it, now.

Isla and the Happily Ever After It’s no secret I loved Stephanie Perkins’s other novels, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. They were adorable, well-written, with interesting, relatable heroines and swoon-worthy boys. But I loved this one THE MOST because it struck very close to home for me: it so perfectly captures the obsessive sensation of first-time love. I’m no longer a teenager, but this book transported me back to being 18 and in love for the very first time–the butterflies, the feeling that every moment apart is total agony, the text from him after being separated meaning everything to you. I’d kind of forgotten that feeling, actually, and it was so lovely a thing to be reminded exists, especially as we get older and get into more comfortable, less fireworks-inducing stages in our love lives. Can’t wait to see what Stephanie Perkins does next!

All the Light We Cannot See This was lovely and haunting and beautifully-written and deserves every ounce of praise it’s gotten. I keep wondering when people are going to get tired of World War II stories, and the answer is, I don’t think they are, as long as talented writers like Anthony Doerr continue to bring them to live so vividly. It’s sad, as expected, but also hopeful. Just read it. And then, when you’re done, come with me on my journey back to Saint-Malo.

You can also follow along with my reading adventures on my bookish Instagram!

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Friday Things

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After an amazing wedding weekend (my boyfriend’s sister’s) it was hard to return to real life this week. My boyfriend’s parents rented a big beautiful house in Avalon, in south Jersey, and it was a flurry of days filled with family and friends stopping by to help with last-minute projects, eat, drink, or just hang out. It further cemented my idea that happiness is just a steady stream of seeing people you like (and a nice home, with good food).

Here are three things that caught my attention this week:

1. This is my new favorite Instagram.

2. I really loved this piece about struggling to find a heroine in literature you can identify with. I went through something similar as a teenager; while I was never that overweight, I was quite unattractive for a number of years (acne, bushy hair–oh fifteen, you are so unkind). I remember being frustrated that every girl I read about was always beautiful (to be fair, I was primarily reading Sweet Valley High at the time). This has sparked some ideas for a new novel; more on that later.

3. I can’t decide where to go for vacation this year. There’s just so much attempted life-changing going on the prospect of planning a vacation is overwhelming me. But I’m finding this list intriguing, especially Cuba…

Reading: On the subway this morning, I finished Red Queen. And I gotta say … I don’t understand the hype. It started off interesting enough, but the rest of the book was filled with flat characters, uninspired dialogue, obvious plot “twists”, and my biggest book pet peeve: showing and telling. Sentences like “I grin, pleased with myself”, and “he douses the flame, putting it out with water” make me want to scream.

Watching: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK comes out today! Must be careful not to let the binge-watching intrude on my writing time.

Listening to: More nineties emo stuff, and I love it 🙂

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MK’s Book Reviews: Chaos Walking

chaos-walking-wide-560x282I’ve been reading up a storm lately, barely pausing to update my Goodreads, much less write a review. But I recently read a trilogy of books that merits one.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness merits a lot more than that.

 “Without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”

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A Magician or a Workman?

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I came across this article yesterday. It’s brilliant. Read it, then return to me.

Or if you’re lazy, I’ll summarize:

People are apparently annoyed that ‘Birdman’ beat out ‘Boyhood’ for the best picture award. I wouldn’t call myself annoyed–movies, like all stories, are very subjective–but I actually did see both films, and have formed opinions about both.

My reaction to Boyhood: simply put, beautiful. Like all of Linklater’s films (the Sunrise series are some of the best movies I’ve ever seen, ever) Boyhood was light on plot, heavy on these slice-of-life scenes and characters that felt so real. Making fiction resemble reality as close as possible, is, I think, the ultimate achievement.

My reaction to Birdman: well-acted, incredibly shot, well-written … and really pretentious and overwrought. It just wasn’t enjoyable to me. I think the point of fiction is to get your reader/viewer so immersed in your story that they forget what they’re reading/seeing is fiction. With Birdman, I was aware that every scene I was watching was a work of art. Painfully aware.

And there were other people who think Boyhood was boring and pointless and Birdman was brilliant. To each his own.

But what I loved about the article is how the author brings it back to “the classic debate”:

“Should art be dazzling and inventive or should it be stripped-down, simple, and honest? Should the artist be in-your-face with her talent, or should she recede into the background of the work? Should she be a magician or a workman?”

As a writer, I am firmly in the workman-receding-into-the-background camp. I like my fiction stripped-down, simple, and honest.

Or do I?

I just made a listing of my all-time favorite books to figure out if I prefer sad books to happy ones. (Spoiler alert: I do.) Looking at it again, I see that most of my faves do fall in the “simple, beautiful fiction” category (One Day, The Catcher in the Rye, anything Stephen King.) However, a few others do not.

The Book Thief is up there as one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it yet what’s wrong with you it’s the story of a German girl in Nazi Germany who likes books, among other things. And it’s narrated by Death, in a very distinct voice. Some might call this a gimmicky, showy way of presenting one’s story–in fact, most of the criticism I hear about this book is about Death’s voice–but I thought it was beautiful. The voice, the story, everything. In this case, showy worked for me.

We Were Liars is a recent read, and again the voice was very distinctive. It jumped around in time, with a somewhat unreliable narrator, beautiful prose but with odd line breaks that could be distracting. Again, I loved it. It worked for me.

Another more “showy” book on my favorites list: The Little Prince. It’s a children’s book, drawings and all, but it’s so much more than that, with its odd little metaphors. It’s been a favorite of mine since middle school.

On top of that, I’ve never liked Hemingway. Too boring.

What it ultimately comes down to is personal taste. Find things that make you feel things, then find more of those things. Then, if you’re so inclined, go on to make things like that.

“And really, as an artist, that’s what matters: finding the art that makes you want to make more art.”

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Good Reads Lately

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January is a great month for reading. (Then again, what month isn’t?) If you need some recos, here are some good ones I’ve read lately:

Where the Moon Isn’t is beautifully written, heavy, and pretty depressing. Think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night with a Flowers for Algernon kind of tone. It’s a quick read though, so at least you’re not mired in Matthew’s fascinating but heartbreaking mind for very long. Definitely read it, but have something lighter ready as a digestif. Like some light YA.

Lola and the Boy Next Door was lovely and sweet, just like Stephanie Perkins’s previous novel, Anna and the French Kiss. Charming, well-paced, well-written, and with a predictably happy ending.

Then I picked up Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, since I really liked Eleanor and Park. I liked Fangirl even better–it’s a romance that also dealt with growing up, family issues, and best of all–being a writer! I don’t know much about fanfic–I’ve always found there is too much actual fiction out there to get into it–but I became curious about it when I started reading Cassandra Clare. Now I think I’ll explore it a little more. (Any suggestions?)

Side note: I didn’t know you could classify a book as Young Adult if the protagonist is already in college–doesn’t that fall under New Adult? But I’m happy about that since in my current WIP my protagonist is 18, but a young, naive 18, so it definitely belongs more in the Young Adult world than the New Adult one.

I decided my next book needed to mix it up a bit more, so I picked up a book with a non-teenager protagonist (who is also male!) I’m about a quarter of the way through Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s kind of like a modern Shadow of the Wind (loved that book). I really need to quit my corporate job and start working in a bookstore.

Happy reading! And if you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments!

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My Books of 2014

These are all the new books I read last year!

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)The Geography of You and MeThe Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World.City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)Light on SnowThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAnna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)ContactEleanor and ParkWe Were LiarsThe Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)Love Letters to the DeadWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailRequiem (Delirium, #3)The InterestingsWe'll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter MemoirPandemonium (Delirium, #2)The Rules for Disappearing (The Rules for Disappearing, #1)Delirium (Delirium, #1)David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsNeverwhereWhere She Went (If I Stay, #2)The Paris WifeThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)Before I FallThe Light Between OceansThis is Where I Leave YouPetals on the Wind (Dollanganger, #2)Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger, #1) Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)Orphan TrainIf I Stay (If I Stay, #1)The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat FriendZoliEasy (Contours of the Heart, #1)The Spectacular NowWhere'd You Go, BernadetteCutting for StoneThe Remains of the DayThe AviaryHollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)Divergent (Divergent, #1)

I’ve left out 6, because I disliked like them so much I didn’t feel like putting them here. You can, however, find them with their 1- and 2-star ratings on my Goodreads.

This is also not counting any rereads I did because I don’t keep track of that on Goodreads. As far as I can recall, I reread these books this year:

Tuck EverlastingMany Waters (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #4)Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh, #1)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftThe Time Traveler's WifeBunniculaHowliday InnThe Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2)In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Giver (The Giver, #1)

Mostly all-time favorites, mid-summer I went on a children’s lit kick, and On Writing is something I reread every year, probably twice.

So 52 new reads in all, 46 of which I liked or loved, plus 12 rereads (that I can recall). That makes 64 books, a little more than 1 per week. That actually surprises me, as I would have thought I usually get in more than 1 per week. But then again, some of these were long, and others I’m probably just forgetting about.

Which were my favorites? That’s hard! How about some other superlatives?

Made me weep uncontrollably: tie between Cutting for Stone and We Were Liars

Beautiful prose: The Remains of the Day (his books slay me) and The Secret Place (Tana French is the master of beautiful sentences)

Best sequel: Hollow City was awesome. Can’t wait for the third

Made me LOL (literally): This is Where I Leave You, Where’d You Go Bernadette

Other faves: The Spectacular Now, The Interestings, Dante & Aristotle, If I Stay, The Duff, Love Letters to the Dead, Wild … oh, there are so many beautiful books in this world, if only I had the time to read them all.

How about you? Send me links to your reading lists, if you have them. And be friends with me on Goodreads, if you aren’t already!