Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Show & Tell

A few days ago, I wrote a review for Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I did, for the most part, enjoy this book. My enjoyment came not from the wild and unforgettable things that happened in the story but from the beautiful language used to share the story. Libba Bray is a master of showing rather than telling, something many writers – myself included – struggle with from time to time. The following is an example of her incredible ability to show her story:
“By the time the Lost Girls returned to the beach, the sky was the color of wet slate and an army of angry clouds massed along the horizon, awaiting further instructions.”
-Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, page 18

Absolutely beautiful writing! This sentence happened early on in the book and it was this sentence which won my desire to finish the story regardless of how it turned out. I think this is one of the aspects of a good novel which GLOW was missing for me. Too much telling and not enough showing sucks the life out of the story.

I can imagine Bob Ross (the PBS painter who always found a happy little bush or tree to brighten a painting) painting this picture and using similar words to explain what was happening in his creation as he loaded the canvas with oil.

Had I been the one writing this story, I might’ve overlooked this opportunity to paint in the readers mind by simply saying, “By the time the Lost Girls returned to the beach, a storm was brewing.” How blah and boring and completely flat! Instead of a Bob Ross masterpiece (or Libba Bray for that matter), it comes out looking (and sounding) like this:

What a prime example of my nonexistent talent with drawing! It's also a depiction of the lost depth and lack-luster feelings TELLING rather than SHOWING elicits for the reader.

As a writer, I will try to remember the way Libba Bray chose to show the storm (an important plot device) developing rather than just telling the reader a storm was brewing so I too can find The Joy of Painting with words instead of a brush.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Libba Bray is truly a gifted and talented writer. The beauty of the words she selects and puts together is amazing. Beauty Queens does not disappoint when it comes to engaging prose, the use of several plot lines exquisitely woven together, multiple characters fleshed out enough to imagine they're real, and comical situations which have the reader laugh out loud.

The story begins with a plane having crashed on an island already. Right away, you are given the feeling like this is all being filmed, thanks to the commercial breaks and advertising footnotes. I couldn’t help but think of the first episode of Lost as I read the first chapter. In fact, I can imagine the source of inspiration: Husband and wife sit down to watch TV together. Wife wants to watch the Miss America pageant, but hubby keeps flipping between Lost and Survivor. Blur all those story ideas and characters together and you end up with Beauty Queens.

As the story progresses, you are introduced to several (12/13) beauty queens who survived the crash. At first, I had a very difficult time keeping them all straight. Some of the girls developed unique characters quickly, but several just kind of got lumped together, and I had to keep thinking back to remember who was who and how they all related. Less than half-way through the book, that feeling of character confusion settled for the most part.

With the understanding that this story is supposed to pull on all our stereotypes and the ridiculous nature of reality tv shows, the plotlines are funny even though a bit predictable at times. My least favorite part of the whole book was the end. I could visualize the cheesy ending to a cheesy movie, but it was just too over-the-top for my taste.

The reason I gave Beauty Queens only 3/5 stars is not for anything lacking in this story, because honestly the story is phenomenal. It’s just I’m tired of teen books feeling the need to engage in political correctness. I get the need for it in this book; it’s a semi-farcical satire. Of course it’s going to utilize political correctness just to make fun of it. Only, I’ve read so many books recently where the political correctness was there because the author had an agenda or was trying too hard to appeal to a certain group rather than to develop the story. But the main reason I gave this book only 3 stars is because my daughter picked it up from the library and began reading it before I could get around to it (Thanks GLOW). Thank goodness she knew to put it down before the sexual stuff got real heavy. I wish there was a larger selection of clean or mostly-clean books available to our teens. I would recommend this book to a reader in the 18+ group looking for an over-the-top comedy.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: GLOW by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow (Sky Chasers, #1)Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Before I get started on my review, I want to thank St. Martin's Griffin and Sarah Goldstein for sending me a copy of GLOW to review. I was so thrilled when I opened my mailbox and found it waiting for me. So, thank you!

Now, I'm about to do something I hate doing...something I never, ever do, especially when it comes to books I'm reading.

I'm quitting.

I'm sorry, but I have to. I only made it to page 117 in this 307 page book, but I have to stop.

Ahh... Already, I feel lighter and freer.

I've been struggling with reading this book for nearly two months. I put all my library books aside to read this, figuring I'd have it done lickety-split-quick since it's so short. I’ve had to renew my library books so many times they won’t let me renew them anymore.

I seriously planned on having the book done in two days or less when I first started it...and I was sooo excited to start it too! This was one of only two ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) I've ever received. With that honor came the understanding that I would review the book before it's scheduled release date...tomorrow! GLOW sounded like a story I would love and I couldn't wait to read it, give it glowing (hehe) reviews, and have St. Martin's Griffin love me and send me more.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I'm hard pressed to find anything really nice to say about this book at all. Oh, I know! I liked the cover. Simple but intriguing. I’m guessing the girl in the porthole is supposed to be Waverly. Anyway, so that’s my nice thing, decent cover.

Now on to the book’s insides.

The writing style was un-enjoyable for me. The narration is very much telling rather than showing, something that’s okay occasionally but becomes drab and boring page after page after page. Also, I understand wanting to help me, the reader, get what's going on, but I'm a smart girl. You don't have to spell everything out or tell me three times. I can figure things out.

Then there's the ridiculous dialogue. Holy, head-slapping, pile of ouch. If any of you have ever watched Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon series - not M. Night Shyamalan's crappy movie version), there's this episode when Sokka is lost in a cave with a group of hippy people. By the time they make it out, Sokka has a bright red mark on his forehead. Aang asks him what happened when, at the same time, the leader of the group comes over and says something entirely stupid. Sokka hits his forehead with his palm making the cause of the mark known. I tell you this because I found myself constantly doing the same thing while reading this book: "Really?!", "Duh!", "Okay...", and head slaps.

And the love triangle? I feel silly for even calling it that. There are no real emotions between the girl and her two love interests. The romantic struggle is so far-fetched and under-developed that I found myself wishing some new guy would come into the picture - even if it is some old, crippled man from the enemy ship.

I will say that the story idea has promise. I love sci-fi. What could be better than a long journey through space to begin life on a new world? GLOW #1 takes place aboard two sister ships. I was okay with the whole used-to-be-teammates-now-we're-enemies idea between these two ships carrying humankind's last hope for survival. I'm not crazy about the hinted-at reason for leaving Earth, but that's my personal belief and I know other people will find the theory completely plausible. I also get that people's ideals and moral codes are rarely black and white, right or wrong; however, I found the anti-religion undercurrents forced and overdone.

If I was to continue reading this book or this series, it would be in the hopes of finding out more about New Earth; whether it was already inhabited, how well the ships' crews were able to cohabitate and make New Earth their home, and how some relationships (both romantic and not) would develop. Maybe that's to come in the future books in this series. I don't and won't ever know.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MIA - My Chaotic Life Begins

I know. I know. I'm a bad, bad girl.

I haven't written ANYTHING at all on my blog in weeks. I haven't even read a book cover to cover recently. I've just been so dang busy! All five of the munchkin bunch started school last week, and I began babysitting for three new clients at the same time. Once we get used to the new schedule, things will calm down and return to a normal state of chaos. Then, maybe, hopefully, I'll have the time to keep up with my reading and all my writing projects.

Since I had the day off unexpectedly, I decided to catch up on some of my emails and found a blog post offering me an opportunity to practice my short-story writing skills with a prompt. Here's the challenge:

Can You Save This Goober?

Just because she absolutely, positively very much ever loved ice cream, didn't mean he he every which time she went to buy won, had to remind her it wood make her fat. She exorcised regularly every mourning, newn and nite, like going bicycling, doing lots of skating all over the place, going around jogging every time she could get a really good chance to be able to do so and even parked her car far at the mol so she could walk too it for getting even more greatly needed wonderful exhilirating exorcise.

Hear he wuz making funn of her but he wasn't sew grate himself, just looking at his puffing when he was walking wuz enuf to loose her breath. Y did he pick on her? Was he thinking he was even better than she was? Wear was he getting that idea, coming off as being such a very great hunky marvelous one when he he never ever followed every each thing he was always and everyday, over and over, two many times for her to llisten without screaming very loud whenever she heard him saying it, told her to be paying attention to her diet.

She just new he wuz being two much of a criticisor, just wait and in some more very soon minutes she was going right up standing real close to him and and she was telling him off real good.


Bad, wasn't it? Well, here's my attempt at improving the story. My idea? Scrap everything but the basic plot of a woman wanting ice cream but being denied. So, here you go. Hope you enjoy! Oh, and click this link The Blood-Red Pencil: Save The Goober if you want to post your own or read what others came up with.

The light flickers on as we enter the aisle shivering in delight from the forbidden treasures resting frozen in their temporary holding docks and from the chill drifting through their glass enclosures.

My hand runs along the cool barrier protecting me from my weakness. My mouth salivates.

I sneak a peek in his direction; he isn’t looking. I fling the door wide and, as if the cold air billowing out has the ability to flash-freeze, I become paralyzed; only indecision is the cause of my immobility.

Coffee. Chocolate. Cinnamon Buns. Chocolate Fudge Brownies. Boston Cream Pie. Cherry Garcia.

Too many choices.

“Close it,” he says, noticing my condition. “You know you can’t eat that; it’ll go straight to your thighs.” His damp sausages squeeze my bony arm and he pushes the door shut with his dimpled knee. “Your treat is in the next section – pharmaceuticals. Come on.”

My feet refuse to cooperate as he tugs my away from my desire.

“Come on, fat-ass,” he repeats, pulling me down the aisle. Breathing heavily from the effort of dragging me, he puffs out, “You’re. Making. A. Scene.”

He thrusts me into the rack of boxes promising miracles. “Which will it be? Cleanse your system? Speed up your metabolism? Dissolve the fat with a pill and glass of water?”

The pig slaps my rear, startling me out of my dream of bananas and cherries and whipped cream.

“Why don’t you get all three? You need it.”

I imagine forcing him to swallow the poison while I devour spoonful after spoonful of Neapolitan ice cream; my size six fat-cells rejoicing at the end of their starvation. As I pick up the box guaranteeing my success at becoming his Barbie doll, the light flickers off down the vacant freezer aisle.

The End