Tag Archives: fiction

So They Ruined It

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The recent release of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has left fans across generations dazed. Taking to social media, anyone can find a range of conflicting opinions, but there seem to be two dominate camps — the “this is groundbreaking” faction and the “they ruined everything” faction. This post goes out to all those fangirls and boys who have ever left their heart bleeding at the feet of their favorite storytellers, disappointed. (Disclaimer: The title of this post does not reflect my personal opinion of The Last Jedi. No spoilers will be listed in this post.)

A Moment of Validation

You’re right, they ruined it. Those evil writers have ruined your favorite book series, TV show, play, or movie franchise. In a culture of reboots and infinite sequels, it was bound to happen eventually. I am truly, deeply sorry. They had no right. No right at all. If your anger is directed toward the death of a particular character, please seek some therapy from my earlier post, the 7 Stages of (Fictional) Grief.

We Have T-Shirts

On the bright side, you’re not alone in your despair. There’s hundreds, maybe thousands of other members of Club Disappointed. I earned my punch card when I reached the end of the Hunger Games trilogy, furious at the sudden and uncharacteristic turn of events dropped at the end of the third book. Each of us has experienced that surreal moment of realization that what was understood to be true about a certain fictional world has been shattered. If you haven’t, prepare yourself. Your day is coming.

Where We Go From Here

We have a few options. There’s my father’s approach, which is to be initially vocal and then go on to quietly stew over the death of a fictional reality until, just when everyone thinks you’ve finally come to terms with it, burst open another floodgate of outrage. If you are this person, I hope you have someone as patient as my mother to listen…over…and over…and over. There’s my approach, which is to pretend large chunks of the story never happened and write over those grey areas with a false memory. Or, you can grieve, accept that nothing gold can stay, and try to rekindle the fiery fan inside of you.

So go forth, fellow fans. Tell the story of your pain, but do so in moderation, and maybe not to a random guy sitting next to you on the bus. He probably doesn’t care.

Happy Ranting!

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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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Don’t Tell Mom: On Writing Siblings

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Having recently read S.E. Hinton’s classic novel The Outsiders, I decided to dedicate a post to writing about sibling love. The sibling bond is something strange, and I’m not sure there’s any other relationship like it. (Shout-out to my brother for permitting me use the banner images. Just so you know, bro, I probably would have done it anyway. Love you!)

Sometimes We Get Along…

There are many stories that feature siblings as a joint force to be reckoned with. We see it in classics like the Curtis brothers in The Outsiders or the March sisters in Little Women, but also in more recent pop culture such as The Avenger’s: Age of Ultron superhuman duo, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, or the Elric brothers of Full Metal Alchemist. 

The key to these relationships is they aren’t perfect. Even in their most loving moments, siblings may be looking for ways to make their family the butt of a joke. In other words, don’t over-romanticize the closeness of siblings, not even the ones who generally get along. I’d recommend avoiding grandiose speeches of brotherly love sometimes found in emotional or climatic moments of stories unless you’ve built a relationship with your readers so that they expect and respect dramatic effect. If not, keep it short, to the point, and in character. That is where the more powerful impact of sibling love lies–in subtle and sometimes imperfect gestures of support.

…Sometimes We Don’t

Of course, rivalry and personal differences can sometimes break the family bond and leave an emotional fissure. As readers, we often hope or expect these wounds will be mended, but we don’t always get our happy resolution. Siblings know each other’s weaknesses, even if they’re as small as pet peeves. Ill-willed siblings will often use these to their advantage. Hateful siblings definitely will. When reading about a protagonist and antagonist that are siblings, I usually find the villainous activity turned up to eleven. I live for that fictional drama. But again, don’t undersell the importance of the subtler emotional jabs that only someone with the insider knowledge of a brother or sister possesses.

I’d also like to mention that not all siblings fall in the “I love you” or “I hate you” camps. Sometimes siblings simply co-exist in independent neutrality. No two sibling relationships are alike, but I hope these tips will help to get you thinking.

Storytime!

For those of you wondering why my brother and I look like prom dates in the lefthand banner photo, it’s because we kind of were. My junior year of high school we became friends with another brother-sister set, and our moms thought it’d be fun for us to all go to prom together. Thus I came to understand the age old sentiment that no one knows awkward family situations like siblings.

Happy writing!

Question of the week: Who are your favorite fictional siblings?

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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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Child Care-acters (It’s a Pun!)

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Kids are funnier, more creative, and more astute than they are sometimes given credit for. As an adult it can be hard to remember how to think like a kid, making it harder to get inside the mind of a child character. So how do we improve the way we represent children in fiction?

Spend Time with Them

The best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them, right? Even if you’re not “a kid person”, spending some time with them can do wonders for getting those writer wheels turning. Take notes on the conversations you have. Who are more creative and honest than people too young for a verbal filter? I’ve heard some of the funniest, saddest, and purest one-liners while babysitting, and have been able to spin them into great dialogue, in some cases dialogue that isn’t even between children. Those little buggers can be wise.

Know the Vernacular 

With child characters, this means being able to distinguish the dialogue of a five year old from a ten year old, etc. I have read stories that underestimate the difference in children’s vernacular as they develop, and the result is unrealistic dialogue or inconsistent/flat characters. Again, exposure can be a huge help. And while we often want to believe in the innocence of children’s language, the truth is that by upper elementary a kid probably has a more colorful vocabulary than some parents might want or expect. In writing this is often used for humor, but if it fits someone’s environment or personality it can also be reflective of realistic characterization (think Stranger Things or the “Bleep” episode of the TV show Arthur).

Recognize Their Impact

Child characters are often used to empathetic ends. We see this when they are used as foils for jaded or angry adults. Their innocence and black-and-white view can diffuse tense situations, likes Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, or increase tension by obliviously wandering in on an already taut scene. However, child characters can also reveal the darker parts of human nature, like in Lord of the Flies. Either way, they can provide a lot of insight into what it means to be human. But they should also be understood as more than just a literary symbol. They need to be well-rounded characters and relevant to the story. I think Laura from the movie Logan is a great (if slightly intense) example. If kids shouldn’t be talked down to then as characters they shouldn’t be “written” down to either. Let’s give credit where credit it due.

Happy Writing!

Question of the week: What was your favorite children’s book/series growing up?

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