Tag Archives: drama

What to Read: Strange the Dreamer

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


Summary

Fairytales may be old, but they are no less powerful for it. A bookish nobody plucked from the dust of Zosma’s great library, Lazlo Strange joins a party of delegates chosen by the legendary Godslayer of Weep. Weep, a city thats true name was stolen from the minds of the world. A city Lazlo continued to believe in even after it had become a fairytale to everyone else. Going on blind faith, the delegation aims to solve the dark mystery that has haunted Weep since the Godslayer earned his name during the Carnage. A shadow on Weep’s history that must be seen to be believed.

Overall Impressions

First and maybe most importantly, I would like to give this book the “shiniest cover I have ever experienced” award. The cover art is as lovely as its content. True to form, Taylor writes prose like poetry. The plot is a little slow to start, but Lazlo’s charm and his author’s narrative keeps it moving smoothly. It has the kind of finesse that can only be achieved by an avid lover of fairytales, and it was easy to image Taylor sitting beside me, telling the story as if she’d seen it first hand. My biggest critique of the book is it’s length, which resulted in a little bit of excessive repetition when there were shifts in the narrative point of view. Otherwise, Laini Taylor has once again solidified her place as one of my favorite fantasy writers. I recommend this book for admirers of myths, legends, and all other forms of literary fantasy. Long live the dreamers.

Happy Reading!

Other recommended series by Laini Taylor:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone 

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What to Read: The Flats

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The Flats by Kate Birdsall


Summary

A dead boy. A cast of deadbeat suspects. A detective determined to root out the killer. Detective Liz Boyle’s hunt for a child murderer sends her reeling when someone she cares about becomes entangled in the web of confusion surrounding a little boy’s death. But just when the case seems synched, a faceless new player slips onto the scene, and Boyle must decide how hard she is willing to push herself and those around her to find justice.

Overall Impressions

Detective Liz Boyle and her partner Goran are the kind of crime-fighting team I’d want on my side. The Flats is full of solid characters, but Boyle and Goran were by far my favorite duo. Birdsall’s tight writing style and classic cop narrative easily ushers readers into Boyle’s world of crime. There are few times when the narrative slows the action, but nine times out of ten Birdsall balances action and dialogue with narrative beautifully. She swings smoothly between Detective Boyle’s personal and professional life as the line between the two become increasingly blurred over the course of the book. The plot itself is self-propelling as Boyle’s investigation leads her down a sinister rabbit hole. I enjoyed the twists and turns that Birdsall sprinkles throughout the book, and the subtle clues that all lead up to a suspenseful climax and satisfactory ending. I recommend The Flats for lovers of mystery, detective dramas, and realistic fiction. And good news — if you like The Flats, it’s only the first book in the Detective Liz Boyle series!

Happy reading!

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What to Read: Annihilation

Before it hits theaters in 2018, catch up on:

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Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer


 

Summary

Four scientists enter Area X, drawn by their need for discovery. They are not the first group to undertake this exploratory mission. Previous expeditions have died of illness, gone missing, and devolved into murder. Readers join the twelfth expedition as Area X quickly begins to take it’s toll, eating away at the trust and minds of the expedition members, twisting the meaning of reality.

Overall Impressions

A biologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and an archeologist walk into a bar…and by bar I mean a creepy, nature-ruled limbo where logic is rendered useless. Vandermeer landscapes an exciting and utterly unnerving tale of exploration. Guided by his scientific style of writing, I could feel the characters’ fear and confusion as their realities unraveled with each new discovery. I recommend this book for lovers of the strange, of apocalyptic fiction, and of mind-bending worlds.

Happy reading!

P.S. Find the movie trailer here.

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What to Read: Bird Box

Looking for a creepy read this fall? Try:

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman


 

Summary

There’s something out there…and all it takes is a glance for it to kill you. Newly pregnant in a rapidly devolving world, Malorie seeks safety in a house with fellow survivors while, outside, people are going mad. Dying. Anyone brave enough to look outside could be infected by this unknown menace in an instant. But Malorie and her friends can’t stay inside forever.

Overall Impressions

Holy crap. Right up there with Pen Pal, this book had me racing between pages with anticipation. The dramatic irony is strong with this one, and it’s to die for (sorry…kind of). Suspenseful, dark, and utterly chilling, lovers of horror found in the unknown will love walking the psychological high-wire that is Bird Box. (Also, this author hails from Michigan, my home state!) It has a style that flows like contemporary and reads like old-school literature. I recommended this for adult readers.

Happy reading!

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What to Read: The Outsiders

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


 

Summary

Revisit the classic, or experience it for the first time. The Outsiders is the story of Ponyboy and his gang of Greasers, and the consequences of a social rivalry taken too far. On the run, Ponyboy must face the wider world outside of his familiar streets. Then when further tragedy strikes, he must decide what type of man he wants to be — the kind who takes to the fight, or the kind who would have the heart to stop it.

Overall Impressions

This was my first time reading The Outsiders, and I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it. It’s easy to see why it’s such a long-withstanding title. Easy to read but incredibly thoughtful, I loved the themes of brotherhood and sympathy that permeated the book. It captures the frustrations and hope of every young adult as they begin to realize that not everyone sees the world as they see it. That everybody’s hurting and loving in some way, and all it can take to mend the gap is a small change in perspective. I recommend this for readers middle school and older.

Happy Reading, and stay gold!

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What to Read: Penpal

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Penpal by Dathan Auerbach


Summary

Bad memories aren’t the only thing that can follow you. This incredible reddit.com thread turned published novel pieces together the eerie memories of a man trying to unravel the mysteries of his childhood. It seems those closest to him have something to hide, but the truth is more terrible than he ever knew.

Overall Impressions

Take a moment to imagine me cradling this book to my chest in sheer wonder that someone was able to gather so much online support for an idea that he was able to make it into a real, pull-it-from-a-shelf book.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of a story. (And the internet.)

But on to the book! Warning: It is not for the faint of heart. More than once I found myself holding my breath with dread and anticipation….in public….in the middle of the day. It’s that good. The story is a series of non-linear snapshots woven together with dramatic irony so thick I wanted to karate chop my way through it to warn the characters–a classic case of “Don’t open that door! Don’t go in there!”. While there is room for polishing, the writing style is relatable yet gripping. I recommend this book for adult readers who like suspense, drama, and skin-crawly crime stories.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Age of Miracles

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The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker


 

Summary

No one predicted the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. For Julia, the weight of the consequences are felt in hindsight as she reflects on her sixth grade year, that first year of “the slowing”. Some people adapted better than others. While the days grow longer, communities crumble like sugar, and relationships shift, life goes on. But for how long?

Overall Impressions

It’s funny how in the midst of catastrophe, some parts of life plod on unimpeded. Like the ups and down of being eleven, or having a crush, or realizing adults don’t have all the answers either. It’s a rough transition, even without environmental disaster. Walker beautifully captures a classic coming-of-age story against a tragic backdrop. Her imagery is sharp, her points subtle, and her protagonist relatable to anyone who remembers (or is currently experiencing) the unstable years of upper adolescence. Definitely not a light-hearted summer read, but one I recommend YA readers add to their lists.

*Shout-out to my cousin, Zachary, who recommended the book.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Comic Books

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Let’s talk comics! I don’t usually cover entire mediums/genres in What to Read posts, but since I’m a fairly new comic book reader, I thought it might be nice to have a bit of a shoutout to the medium as a whole. Superheroes aren’t the only topics covered in comics, but they’re certainly the most memorable, and in recent years have been given a huge cinematic boost by the release of some of DC and Marvel’s biggest hitters (*cough* shameless plug for Wonder Woman, coming June 2 *cough*).

So, comics. If you’re not already a fan of comic books then it might be hard to see an immediate appeal. I’ve been there. But I’ve always been curious, and after taking a college course focusing on Batman, Superman, and the reconfigurations of mythology, I am hooked. Whether you like superheroes or not, we can’t deny the enormous role they play in history and culture. I mean, our superheroes were essentially born as a creative response to the political and cultural atmosphere surrounding World War II. Our most beloved heroes encapsulate our history and continue the myths and legends so deeply ingrained in our society that we may not notice at first glance.

At the same time, comics can be confusing because they don’t always follow a linear, concrete plot. That’s also part of the beauty of them. Admittedly, it’s something I’m still getting used to, but in the hands of each new writer and artist characters like Iron Man and Supergirl evolve, their stories shift, and they come to reflect the hopes of each new generation. (And to kick some serious ass.) Of course, what comics teach us most is that it is not just power that saves the day. It is the heart behind the fist, the hope beneath the despair. These are the stories that show us that people can be horrible, but more importantly that they can be incredible.

Happy Reading!

(A few recommendations from a newbie…)

  • Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar
  • Superman: For Tomorrow by Brian Azzarello
  • Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb
  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison
  • Nightwing by Tim Seeley
  • Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker
  • Batman & Robin Eternal by Scott Snyder

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A Guide to Preserving Literary Parents

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(Photo taken from Flickr)

When it comes to protagonists, we all know the drill–child loses parents at a tender age, discovers the world is not as friendly as it seems, and eventually becomes her own hero, cobbling together a family-of-circumstance along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I love these types of stories. They’re often my favorite. But, my fellow writers, where does it end? Will no one save the parents?

Parents as Motivators 

The most basic role of parent figures in fiction is probably that of the motivator. Often in YA it’s their death that leads to the main character’s emotional struggle. (For example, in classic Disney films parents have what I  would guess to be a 3% chance of surviving past the first twenty minutes.) But it doesn’t have to be this way! Living parents can be just as effective at motivating protagonists. Reuniting with estranged family can serve as a strong motivation or end goal. In my novel, Marley is offered the chance to find her parents as extra incentive to comply with the antagonist’s scheme. On the other hand, parents can also serve the “prove you wrong” purpose, leading the underestimated heroes to take up a cause to prove their worth.

Parents as Protagonists

Sometimes young writers such as myself forget that a parent can function as a stand alone character, or even the hero. In this capacity, they are the ultimate protectors. Case in point, the movie Taken. At the same time, parental characters don’t have to be confined by their guardian role. They can go on their own adventures, fight their own personal battles, and be their own comic relief. Two words. Dad jokes.

Parents as Antagonists

Ah, villains. How we love thee. Although a bit cliché, parental antagonists are fantastic, creating joyous inner conflicts that have given us gems like:

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Sorry, Darth. Not today. Of course, there are times when children fall in line with the evil whims of their parents as well, such as the case of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. The turmoil between the will of a parent and a desperate to please hero is absolute gold. Not only does it increase tension, but it ups the stakes of the protagonist’s success. Basically, fictional parents rock, so let’s think twice before casting them out to sea.

Happy Writing!

Question of the week: Who are you favorite fictional parents?

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What to Read: The Crane Wife

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The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness


Summary

Based on a Japanese fairytale, The Crane Wife follows George Duncan, a man resigned to abuse by life and love because of his kind nature. Then, one night, an injured crane appears in his backyard. Soon after saving the crane, a mysterious artist enters his life, inviting him to take part in her latest project. Things finally seem to be falling into place for George, but beneath the surface of the everyday a dark and ancient story is unfurling. One of lore, love, and loss.

Overall Impressions

Through shifting perspectives, Patrick Ness poetically captures the paradox of what it means to love. (I know, bear with me.) The story moves easily between George’s life and the embedded myth, eventually merging into one narrative that spans fantasy and reality. A fantasy lover, I found myself drawn primarily to the myth portions. That said, less fantasy-inclined readers should be prepared to exercise their suspension of disbelief. Though “a little trippy”, as described by the friend who recommended it to me, the book’s strangeness ultimately translates in a relatable way. The best way I can think to describe it is whimsically noir. Take it as you will. I recommend The Crane Wife for adult readers who enjoy romance and magical realism/fantasy genres.

Happy Reading!

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