Wednesday, April 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House
Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Mystery

Ratings:
4/5 stars
PG-13 because it does involve some dark and depressing things surrounding the disappearance of a toddler and memories of war; murder; and some mild sexual content (nothing happens on page, but a child does walk in on it).
Recommend to fans of character-driven stories and twisty-turny mysteies.

I have opted not to include the summary, as it was recommended I not read it, for fear of it giving too much away and therefore ruining some of the suspense. I will say this is about the disappearance of a toddler in 1933 and the detective who tries to solve the cold case in 2003.


The Review:
This is the first book of Kate Morton's I've read, but it has definitely made me a fan. It's not your mainstream kind of genre mystery; it's much more character-driven, the mystery-solving less straight forward, often dealing more about the emotional and/or life changing effect the mystery has on the characters than on how the characters risk life and limb to solve said mystery. And, being a huge fan of character-driven stories, I loved it.

At first, I was annoyed with the amount of detail going into all the different story lines and the character's back stories because this was a mystery and I wanted PLOT. However, once I became familiar with the pacing of the book, I became much more invested in the individual characters and, at times, I wanted to know more about them than I did even about the mystery. Morton is still rather superfluous with her descriptions, but it's easily forgiven in this piece.

The story is complex, insanely layered, and nuanced; it's revealed a piece at a time and steadily unravels until the grand tapestry of secrets and lies finally falls away to reveal the truth. Shifting constantly between two main perspectives over a period of seventy years, Morton leads a merry dance and it's hard not to fall straight into her red herrings because they're blatant and subtle and magnificently crafted. Just when you think you've figured everything out, she reveals a single -sometimes even insignificant- detail that WINDS UP CHANGING EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW.

You think you understand a character inside and out, but Morton is constantly shifting them to expose heretofore unseen facets that rewrite every word and action up to then. This is absolutely a character-driven story and I quickly became invested in them. I became so invested in the characters that, at one point in the book, I actually came to hate it because of one of these twists. I was so devastated that, despite the wonderful crafting of the book, I didn't think I could ever come to good terms with it again. (Fortunately, I did.)

Heartbreaking, wonderful, emotional, trying, and well-plotted, The Lake House is an understated mystery with moments of despair and grit, and a good ending.


Have you read any of Kate Morton's books?
What's your favorite character-driven story?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday Post 009 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


 Corny Joke Monday 


What kind of tea is the hardest to swallow?
REALITY

 Last Week on the Blog 



 This Week on the Blog 


The Blacklist | S4, E16&17 To Watch
The Lake House Review


 What I'm Reading: 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
P&P with dragons. YEESSSS!!!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Re-read, book club read.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (audio)

The Clone Wars comics

 What I Read: 


The Lake House by Kate Morton

Chapter two of a friend's WIP that I LOVE

 Internet Shenanigans 


In my love of all things Postmodern Jukebox, I just discovered that its creator, Scott Bradlee, has written inspirational blog posts for inspirational types like us and I'm eating them up. So far, my favorite is How to Turn Practice Into A Habit because it made me reevaluate how I approach everything I do from writing to blogging to 'practicing' piano.

Also, Dragonfly's review of Cress by Marissa Meyer over at ourfamiliarium.com IS EVERYTHING I HOPED IT WOULD BE! All her fangirling makes me so happy. XD

 In Real Life 


NBA PLAYOFFS! GO JAZZ! I've been spending every other night at my grandparents' place, watching the Jazz games with them and boy do me and Grandma get into it. They say the Jazz auditorium is the loudest one in all of the NBA -and the two of us aren't even inside it!

Of course, the Playoffs schedule is kind of wreaking havoc with everything else. I mean, I still haven't had time to watch the new Blacklist episodes! *gasp*

  What's new with you? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

AUDIO REVIEW: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan
Genre: YA Fantasy

Ratings:
3.5/5 stars
PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images
Recommend to fans of Marissa Meyer, Alice in Wonderland, any retellings/branch offs/additions involving Wonderland, tragedies, and villain origin stories; people who don't mind love triangles.
Narration: 4/5 stars



             Summary:
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (via Goodreads)


The Review

Though well-told and possessing a good story, clever uses of traditional Wonderland elements, fun worldbuilding, and great characters, I had a hard time getting through this one because of the love triangle. Ugh. I really, really hate love triangles.

Initially, I liked the main character Catherine. She's a likable, lovely character, who lives for baking despite it's being an improper pastime for a lady. She's easy to sympathize with, too, because she's set upon by her busy-body mother, who wants her to find a rich husband and get through a single day without covering something in flour! It's no wonder Catherine feels she can't tell her parents what she longs for and dreams of: to open her own bakery. I liked Catherine because really she wants so little -a bakery, for goodness' sake! She just wants to make and sell cakes and pastries and tarts!- and I wanted her to have that more than anything.

What I loved most about Catherine, though, was how Meyer wrote her in the beginning as such a sweet, likable, innocent young woman -but every once in a while, when she's so boiling mad or frustrated, she says or thinks something and I went 'Aha! There's the Queen of Hearts!'

The love triangle was rather infuriating. At first, it was fine. It's the plot of the story -does she choose the King or Jest? Why and why not?- but the middle of the story became so bogged down in this hysteria of emotions as Catherine is floundering between the two of them and between her dreams and her parents' expectations that I WANTED TO TEAR MY HAIR OUT! Meyer tried to compensate for the prominent love triangle by adding in some intrigue, Jabberwocky attacks, and a mystery, all of which is good and really adds to the story, but most of these elements were not capitalized upon during this boggy middle, which made it even worse. While I was impatient to figure out what the Jabberwocky was after and why Hatta seems to despise Catherine so much, Catherine was focused solely on her love woes.

Catherine, who starts out as a really great character, quickly went downhill for me because she won't grow a spine. I didn't mind that she was a fairly meek character; what I didn't like is that she won't speak up for herself, that she lets her mother and the king walk all over her, that she leads the King and Jest on without actually acting on any of the promises she makes them, AND THEN SHE PLAYS HERSELF AS THE VICTIM, moping and complaining that she has no control over her life! The most infuriating thing is that she doesn't notice this in herself, even at its most extreme.

However, there's a flip side to this. As much as Catherine grew to infuriate me with her fickle nature and her tendency to refuse to act and then blame others for her problems -or worse, to act and then blame others for the consequences of those actions- these are the exact traits that eventually form her into the Queen of Hearts. 
Now can you see my dilemma?! One of the key things I didn't like about this book is exactly what makes it such a great villain origin story! Meyer knew exactly what she was doing when she wrote Cath.

On the note of villain origin stories, I gladly give Marissa Meyer a standing ovation because she did not fall into the trap so often seen of late, of casting the 'villains' in the role of misunderstood heroes (al a the film 'Maleficent' and Valentino's 'Fairest of All'). What she gives us in Catherine is a young woman who starts off a mostly good person, but because of how her life turns out, she comes to rely on her flaws. Meyer makes the Queen of Hearts a sympathetic character, but she's no less of a villain for that.

Despite how downright infuriating I found Catherine at many points in the book, I've come to terms with that because this is an excellently-crafted character arc and a great story. My biggest complaint was that boggy middle of the story; I almost DNFed it there, because ugghh love triangles. While I'm glad I suffered through that to the chilling finale, I don't know that I would re-read this.

While not as good as her Lunar Chronicles, it's definitely another feather in Meyer's cap. Because of the prominent love triangle, it simply wasn't my, well, cup of tea.

Speaking of the Mad Hatter... Meyer's version -the rather haunted and bitter Hatta- was, by far, my favorite character in this book, and I bemoan that he didn't have a larger or more prominent role in the story. If she writes a Hatta prequel I will be lining up for that book.


What did you think of Heartless?
What's your favorite adaptation of Alice in Wonderland?

EPIC FAIL: Or, the Take Control Extension

Right.

So.

This is a little embarrassing.

Remember the Take Control challenge that ended last month?

Yeah, I've been so busy with other things I haven't been able to post an update yet.

I, um... failed.

Epicly.

I told myself when I set the challenge -as I do every time I take a reading challenge- that THIS TIME will be different, that THIS TIME I won't put too many books on, and that THIS TIME I'll actually read them on. Thus, the epic part of epic fail.

But I'm no quitter! So what I've decided is to continue with the Take Control challenge until I finish it, because all of these are books I still really want to read and I figure late is better than never. Right? And if this actually works to motivate me, well, maybe this will become 'a thing' round these here parts.

So here is the updated list:

From my bookshelves:

I did not get through any of these, unfortunately.
 


The Finnegan Zwake series by Michael Dahl
I am ashamed I haven't read these yet. Ashamed. I wasn't able to finish the series for years because they were out of print, but my dad discovered they were back in print, and completed my set two Hanukkahs ago. There are five books in total, about 150 pages a piece, and I've only read the first three. Plus, they're MIDDLE GRADE MURDER MYSTERIES! Do you have any idea how rare those are?
I told you. Ashamed.

The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer Part One by David Powers King
This is a book I bought last year. I was really excited about it, yet somehow haven't gotten to it yet. :P

(if I have time)
Star Wars: Rise of the Empire by James Luceno and John Jackson Miller

Audiobooks:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | FINISHED!

Sands by Kevin L. Nielsen

(if I have time)
Etherwalker by Cameron Dayton

From my Kindle library:

PWNED by Shannen Crane Camp
Popular cheerleader who 'helps' the captain of the squad pick on geeks, but she's actually a closet gamer herself. I've wanted to read this for ages!

That Girl, Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Story by James Ramos
This is a gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice retelling. This is either going to be really good or terrible and I can't wait to see which it is.

Avis Blackthorn: Is Not An Evil Wizard! by Jack Simmonds
A kids book in the vein of Harry Potter; the only good wizard from an evil wizarding family is off to wizarding school to escape his miserable home life.

Book Club Read: 

Airman by Eoin Colfer ^_^ | FINISHED!

In addition to my library hoard...

Beauty by Robin McKinely (currently reading)

(if I have time)
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull | currently reading

Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull

What books have been on your TBR for a shamefully long time?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tips and Links for Writing Characters #AmWriting

I mentioned last week I'd found several helpful resources and tips for developing characters and the demand from you lovely Book Dragons was immediate.

So let's travel back in time (to last week) and recall the journey that lead to perhaps some of the most major character writing breakthroughs...

*fade to black*
 
It all started when I realized the reason I couldn't figure out what my character was doing and why my character was refusing to cooperate was because I had very little understanding of said character. I knew some basics -she's reckless; she has a very strong sense of justice and morality; she's independent, strong, and confident- but it wasn't enough.

So I took a personality quiz.


I've heard this is a good way to peg down your character's personality but, honestly, I always thought this was a super weird thing to do. What can I say? I was desperate!


16 Personalities


The quiz I used is at 16personalities.com, which I chose for two reasons. A few months ago, at a friend's insistence, I took this quiz myself and it was pretty spot on. Also, each personality has an EIGHT PAGE summary, talking about strengths and weakness and how they interact in different relationships. This was immensely helpful. I pegged down some specifics about my character's personality that I was aware of, but not consciously so. I extrapolated enough concrete details from the summary that I have a much better understanding of my character.

Now, not everything was accurate, but I was able to amend the bits that weren't very easily. This is perhaps the most hassle-free character I've ever been able to develop.

My next move, of course, was to concrete my character's flaw.

I really have trouble with these; don't ask me why. The outlining of character sketches has always been a plague to me. It isn't necessarily the knowing of the information it's the act of writing it down in any semblance of order. (In school, I always hated outlining :P)

I headed over to K.M. Weiland's Helping Writers Become Authors intending to revisit her step-by-step process for structuring character arcs. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular blog series of hers. On the one hand, it's absolutely brilliant, bursting with great information, and it's a process that should really, really work. On the other hand, it's never worked for me. The few times I've tried it, it's wound up rather destroying my WIP, mainly due to my outlining inabilities.

Luckily, I got distracted on my way there. I was sharing some links with a writer friend from Weiland's blog and wound up stumbling across How To Be a Gusty Writer: Stay True to Your Characters, an analysis of how fantastically Captain America: Civil War handled the good and the bad qualities of our favorite Marvel characters. My gosh. So much inspiration right here, guys.

At this point, I just started reading tons of Weiland's posts, jumping links to the next one and the next one. This is where I found Captain America's 10-Step Guide to the Likable Hero, which is another irreplaceable resource and -even better!- really, really easy to relate to.

One big issue I have with outlining and plotting are 'structure terms'. Catalyst, intro, beat 1, turning point -they all come across as some lofty mumbo jumbo meant to make writing easier, but they don't jive with the creative part of my brain. They're too technical-sounding and -feeling. When I try to break down my free-flowing, creative process into these bland white boxes marked with static, strict, technical headings, my inspiration and will to write just flees. Terms like this and most organization processes tend to box my mind in. It really sucks.

What I love about Weiland's blog posts is that she generally resorts to more laymen terms -these don't scare my creativity off- and she always illustrates her points and tips with specific, step-by-step examples from movies and/or books.

This leads me to the piece de resistance, the #1 most helpful discovery in recent years.



When I clicked on this article, I expected a little advice on how to make well-rounded characters, but what I got was the absolute solution to one of my biggest challenges as an author: Being Mean To Your Characters.

I have always been the type of writer that doesn't like to torture her characters and doesn't like to watch them make bad decisions or screw up because I don't want to put them through that. I'm a very nice person (most of the time) and sometimes this inability to cause pain or trauma or despair is a really frustrating trait to have as a writer!

Weiland's five-step guide to dynamic characters doesn't just give the strength I need to be mean to my characters; it removes my role from the playing field entirely. She shifts the perspective of this idea completely and suggests that authors don't have to mean to their characters. As she puts it:
Here is the single most important thing to understand about your protagonist’s suffering: He must always be responsible.
-K.M. Weiland, The Secret to Writing Dynamic Characters
 That's it. Right there. Now I see this necessity of writing from a completely different angle and I'm write there with the 'cruel' authors. After reading this article, I sat down and wrote a page and a half of bad choices my character could make to put her through hardships and now I can't wait to be mean to my characters because I no longer feel guilty or responsible for said hardships.



So there they are. The three key pieces of writing advice that suddenly clarified writing this character.

I hope these resources will help you with your own writing, too.
But don't be shy!
What wonderful writing resources do you know?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunda Post 008 + Last Jedi Trailer Reaction

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


 Corny Joke Monday 


 Last Week on the Blog 


 This Week on the Blog 


Tips and Links for Writing Characters #AmWriting
EPIC FAIL: Or, The Take Control Extension Challenge
Heartless by Marissa Meyer Review


 What I'm Reading: 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week
 Same as last week, actually. :P

The Lake House by Kate Morton
So many twists since last week! I have no theories at this point, I'm just a puppy following Morton through the story, waiting for the next big reveal. A puppy with heartache, too. =(

Lone Ranger/Green Hornet


The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (audio)
I've been staying up so late with other things, I haven't really gotten much farther with this yet.

 Internet Shenanigans 


THE NEW STAR WARS TRAILER DROPPED!

😍
Light...Darkness...The Balance...
Color me intrigued!

Gotta be honest, I love this teaser. It very nicely sets up the theme for the next film -and a whole ton of questions! I've always wanted to see more expansion on what the Force is (it's 'magic system', if you will) so I'm certainly curious!

But that last Skywalker line! What do you mean, THE LAST JEDI?! I mean, are you just giving up on the Jedi order, whatever there was that survived? Or is dear Luke suggesting the unsuggestionable? That the use of the Force by sentient beings should discontinue?!

Which brings me to what I didn't love, and that's Luke's depressing attitude. I mean, I get it; lots of bad stuff has happened, his apprentice/nephew turned to the Dark Side and (we guess) wiped out any other apprentices Luke managed to gather across the universe. But I'm not enjoying it. I hope something happens quick to put Luke back into action, whether he likes it or not.

More honesty, guys. Episode VIII is going to have to be EPIC -and I mean EPIC- to impress me. Episode VII got away with a lot as a return of the franchise, for bringing back so many familiar faces, and because it was the best Star Wars movie since RotJ. While I still enjoy VII, and I don't think it was a 'bad' movie, I'll admit some of the shine has started to wear off over the years, especially after Rogue One (which I would rank a better movie) and my continued treks into the Star Wars EU (mostly The Clone Wars and Rebels).

Also, Rey, Finn, and Poe better get more interaction together. It's kind of hard to be the new Star Wars trio of heroes if you never interact with each other.

What are your thoughts?

 In Real Life 

Speaking of Star Wars...

I FOUND STAR WARS FELT DOLLS!!!
https://www.etsy.com/shop/lazybluedaisystudio?ref=search_shop_redirect&section_id=21428206

Isn't this Ewok adorable?! There's an Etsy shop called Lazy Blue Daisy Studios and they've got several Star Wars dolls just in time for May 4th. 😄

 New Additions 

Thanks to Book Boyfriend Box:
I'm very eager to read this. *eyes TBR pile* Eventually.

New ARC:
I'm really interested to read this one! It's chock full of ancient Hawaiian folklore and *drum roll please* MAGIC! Not to mention, apparently, shark tamers and teenage surfer warriors.

What's new with you?