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Book review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

I’m going to confess, I’ve had this in my library for the past two years. I bought this book in early 2015 and it’s been sitting on my kindle ever since. I once tried to read it, I got to like page two before I put it down. There was just no interest in reading it. Every now and then, I’d glance at it, think I should read it and then go about my merry way.

And now, I’m kicking myself. A few months ago, I went to a used bookstore. The lady there recommended three other books by the same author. I decided to give them a try and during a long stretch where my internet wasn’t working, I decided to give BLL a try. I finished it and I loved it. So much that I immediately went back and started rereading the book.

But let’s jump in.

Like most of her books, it’s set in Australia. It follows three sets of moms, all who had children who are starting kindergarten. Jane is a single mom with her only child Ziggy, who’s new to the area and school. Madeline is a veteran mom on her second marriage, her youngest daughter Chloe is starting school. She’s struggling with her older daughter and ex-husband from her first marriage. And finally, Celeste is the mother of twin boys, both in the same class as Ziggy and Chloe.

The problems start when on the first day of school, Ziggy is accused of biting another little girl’s arm. He of course says he didn’t, but the bike marks says he did. Battle lines are drawn and poor Jane and Ziggy are in for some rough times.

It does not sound like much, but this is a great book. It’s well written, the characters are incredible. I especially like the relationship between Madeline and Abigail, her older daughter. It’s real and painful. They deal with real issues, the mommy cliques, bullying and friendships. I don’t even have kids of my own, but I was fascinated by how mothers and this blended family is portrayed.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything bad to say about this book. The twists and turns are great, the characters are great. I loved every moment of it. This is not just a chick-flick book, it’s quite good and well worth reading.

You might have heard that it’s been turned into a series by HBO. I have not seen it yet, but I assume that it’s good. HBO always does quality work.

I would love to say more about this, but there’s not a lot I can say without spoiling. Go give this a read.

9/10.

Have you read it? What do you think?

~Ames

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Posted in info, Reading

Book review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Since the last book I read, I didn’t enjoy very much, I decided my next review would be one that I really loved. Have to balance things out.

I was not planning on reading this book. But I’ve been hearing about it (along with hearing Hulu is making a TV show based on it) and then the owner of the book store that I love recommended it. So, I gave it a read.

(Note, this is a difficult one to describe because there’s a lot happening and it’s a bit of an unconventional plot).

The Richardson’s live in Shaker heights, Ohio in the 1990’s with their four high-school aged children, Lexie, Trip, Moody and Izzy. While their youngest daughter is a strange girl who acts out a lot, they are a normal, higher middle-class family. Things change when a single mom, Mia, moves to town with her teenage daughter, Pearl. They are very different, as Mia is a wanderer and free spirit. As their kids become friends, a court case splits the town, forcing people to choose sides. Things escalate from here.

Now, honestly, this does not sound like a very good book. When I picked up the book and read the book jacket, I had my doubts.

But holy crap, I loved this book.

First, there’s a massive theme of mothers and daughters here, which I love. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed this aspect as it was given a lot of focus. Mothers and daughter who like each other, dislike each other. Several of the moms in this book have dark secrets, giving the book a real depth.

Which leads to the characters. All of them here are amazing. They all felt like real people. Sometimes when reading, it doesn’t feel like these characters are people, as if they life only started at the beginning of the book. Not here, even minor characters have depth and background. All were very well written.

Another bit I liked was, I’m not really into romance and I felt like there wasn’t much of that in here. A bit here and there, but not the main plot. This is a good mark, in my book.

Finally, the writing is superb. After reading, I looked up information about the author and saw that she has a master degree in English and it shows.  The writing is masterful, several times I found myself wishing I could write like that. It’s beautiful, well done and just icing on the cake.

Over all, an amazing, well written story. I saw that this was her second book, so I’ve already gotten her first one and at the time of writing this, I’m about halfway done. If Mrs. Ng publishes anything else, I will be there without question to read it.

To be honest, I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this book. I thought about it for several minutes and nothing came to mind. I’m sure maybe someone else might come up with something, but I loved it. I highly recommend reading this book. So much that I loaded my copy to someone at work and am letting another person read it when the first person is done.

9/10

What are you thoughts? Have you read it?

~Ames

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Book review: Into the water

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

I should warn you right now if you’re a fan or love this book, I really did not like this book. It’s not quite hatred, but I didn’t even finish it. I got 200ish pages in, was so sick of it that I skipped to the end to see the twist, rolled my eyes and shoved it back on the shelf. So, keep that in mind.

So after the massive success of The Girl On The Train (which I thought was fine, but wasn’t really into) Paula Hawkins wrote another one. I decided to give it a read.

Into the Water takes place in a small, charming English village where there is a river that runs through it. A part of it’s called the drowning pool and like the names says, women (weirdly, just women) have been drowning there. There’s even a several hundred year old story about a teenage girl who drowned there. A teenager drowns a few months before the story and a single mom (named Danielle, or Nel) at the beginning of the story. A single mom who just happened to be investigating the drownings.

Nel’s estranged sister Jules comes back to town to look after Nel’s teenage daughter, Lena (who also happened to be friends with Katie, the girl who drowned a few months ago). Jules and Lena do not get along and both believe that Nel would of never jumped. The freaking book jacket  talks about them, saying the two of them don’t get along, but both want to figure out what happened.

Now, at this point, I found this a bit interesting. I love dysfunctional families and an aunt and a snooty teenager who hate each other trying to solve a mystery sounds great. Except there’s one problem.

The book isn’t about that! There’s not a lot about these two, they seem to avoid each other, snarl a bit at one another and then retreat away.

This book involves so many other characters and that’s the problem. Let me see if I can remember all of them.

Besides Nel, Jules and Lena, there’s Sean, the policemen working on the case and Erin the detective. Also, Sean’s wife Helen and his dad, Patrick, who lives with them. Also Lena had a friend named Katie who died a few months earlier, she has a younger brother named Josh, their mom Lousia and her husband, who I don’t remember his name. There’s also a psychics named Nikki who as far as I know, is not related to any of them. I have no idea why she’s in the story.

All of these characters has POV chapters. And while I just laid out who everyone is, the author never does that, or really introduced them. They’re just thrown in our face with little explanation, very fast and we’re left trying to figure out who these people are and how they’re related.

It’s very confusing and jarring to jump from character to character, especially when it hardly seems like these people matter. I didn’t care about the father of the policemen working this case and his dead wife,  or random flashback chapters about Nel’s boyfriend when she was 16. I wanted to know more about the teenage girl left behind and solving the mystery of how Nel drowned.

Worse is, none of these characters are memorable or even likable. I had to force myself through 200 pages and not one of them stuck out to me. It’s one thing to be horribly confused, it’s another when you just don’t care. There was nothing interesting or unique about these people. And that’s bad.

Another problem this book has is it’s written in all three tenses. First, second and third. More characters are in third person, a few are in first and Jules for some reason, is in second person, narrating to her dead sister.

No

No

No

No.

Pick one and stick to it. I’ve read a few books where two is used and I didn’t care for it. But three is way too over the top.

Another random thing I’d just like to point out that when I was growing up I lived in a small town of less then 20,000 people and we had a river that was popular to dive into, but after two kids drowned there during my HS years, the police did all they could to stop kids from going down there. But of course, none of that happens here. Kids go down to the drowning pool and play in the river all the time. I found that annoying. Why aren’t they trying harder to stop these drownings?

Ugh.

Overall, this book was a mess. And looking at Amazon and Goodreads reviews, it was clear I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I guess after the success of her first book, she had to try harder and cram as much into it as possible?

To be honest, unless she publishes something else that gets rave reviews, I’m not buying another one of her books.

The only good thing I can say is the writing wasn’t too bad? She’s an English author and has a very different writing style and slang then I’m used to, but it wasn’t bad. I felt like she knew how to write, but didn’t have good ideas or characters.

3/10, do not recommend.

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

~Ames

Posted in info, writing

Adventures in Outlines

Sometimes, I make myself laugh.

At this point (March of 2018) I have written six rough drafts and I have outlined for none of them. I’m the kind of person who can keep a lot of details, plot included straight in my head. While I don’t have every single thing planned out before I start typing, I have a large overview of the plot known. Sometimes I plan out full scenes before I start writing, it’s just something that I do.

Up until this point, I’ve never felt a need to outline.

Now, this has worked against me in a few points. I have gotten into a few plot holes or had times where I knew the ending and had a general idea where I was going, but was a bit lost in the middle, but over all: this way works for me.

Until recently, when a friend recommended that I try an outline for the next book I’m going to write. She’s a fellow writer, along with she has been published and knows what she’s talking about, so I decided, why not.

It’s going surprisingly well.

While the outline is not finished (five pages and counting, lol) I’ve gotten a lot of details down. In some parts I’ve written a few lines of dialogue, or just said remember this point. Just pouring out all I want to happen in this chapters.

Overall, I was surprised at how well this works out. I sound really silly right now, wow, doing an outline works??? Surprisingly, yes. What a concept.

Once the outline is finished, then I’ll start writing the book and we’ll see how I’m doing then. I suspect this will make writing much easier. But overall, I’ve been really pleased with how this is going. I’ve always been careful to plan out a book and make sure I knew the ending before I start writing, but this way seems very helpful and so far, it seems to be making things easier. No need to remember any of the tough details when it’s already down on paper.

So yeah, overall doing well. I got a few more books from my local bookstore today (Very excited!) and will probably post more book reviews soon. Life is going well.

Do any of you use an outline, or do you just start writing and see what happens? Or maybe your one of those people who figured out outlines work amazingly well years ago and am laughing at me. No shame, I accept it. I’m that kind of person. Always doing things the different and sometimes more difficult way.

Outlines, who knew. 

~Ames

Posted in info, Reading

Book review: The Hate U Give

Hello all!

I wish this could of been done sooner, but college has been keeping me busy. However, better late then never and honestly, this is an amazing book. And such a perfect choice for Black History Month.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Sixteen year old Starr Carter is a girl caught between two worlds. The upper class, mostly white private school she goes to and the poor, all black part of town where she lives. Every part of her life is divided, who she is at home and who she is at school is very different. She’s very careful to be one person at home and another at school.

(This next part sounds like a spoiler, but happens very early in the book and is said on the back cover of the book. I knew this before I even picked up this book.)

One day that all changes when her unarmed, childhood friend is killed in front of her. Her two worlds collide as everything she knows is threatened.

Holy crap, I liked this book. It’s a debut novel and I was blown away at how good it is. The main character, Starr is incredible. She has this great voice and very much sounds like a teenage girl. The side characters and plots are all good. There wasn’t any part that I was bored with, or wishing it would move on to the next interesting part. This novel was a world that I wanted to live in longer.

And sometimes, not always in a good way.

One of the most well written scenes is where she’s talking about what her life is like, going to this prep school. Starr talks about how she’s careful never to use slang, never to get angry, because then people will see her only as an angry-black-girl. She has to spend so much of her time making sure she moderates herself so the people around her are comfortable.

That was hard to read. I couldn’t imagine living my life like that.

If there was one thing about this book that I wished I could get more of, is I wish we could of gotten to know her childhood friend,  Khalil better. We see him very briefly before he dies and then only hear about him from the other characters. But I wanted more, I never felt like we really really got to know him.

But honestly, that was my only complaint.

The Hate U give has been optioned to be made into a movie and I think it probably will by next year (2019?.) I highly recommend reading this book before the movie comes out. In fact, if you only read one book, make sure it’s this one.

Because it’s one we need to read.

9/10

~Ames

Posted in Reading

Review: The Kiss of Betrayal

The  Kiss of Betrayal by Michelle C. Hillstrom.

Quick note, this is the third book in the series. As it should be known, I can’t talk about this book without revealing minor spoilers from the first two. Obviously, nothing big will be said. But a spoiler warning in the review.

Spoiler warning.

Now, that’s out of the way.

The first two books are about the good guys, but this one is all about the villain,  Elisabet and everything from her point of view. It goes way back, hundreds of years and explains how she became the person she became. More interesting is how she never set out to become a villain, but more the darkness found her. Her story takes over over several centuries and several countries.

What I liked about this book,

The man character, Elisabet. She doesn’t set out to be a villain or take over the world or anything. In her mind, she’s a hero, but things did not go the way it planned. We see her fail and grow and change. She’s a human being and those are the best kind of villains. Not the guys who are LOLEVIL LETS RULE THE WORLDZ, but the ones that seems like it could happen to you or me.

And then, this might be a bit weird, but I really liked the side characters in this book. There’s several characters that have very small roles to play, but are extremely interesting. All felt like real people that I wanted to get to know. Armature novelist sometimes make the mistake of not having enough small roles that fill out a world and give it meaning, but the author does that have that issue at all.

Finally, I read all three of her books almost back-to-back and man, I can really see how she’s improved as an author. By this point, she has learned her own style, what works for her and what doesn’t work. Things are polished and just in general, feels like real growth is being showed. I liked that a lot.

What I didn’t like about this book,

I had a few more qualms about this book then the two before it. Nothing massive or anything, but there were a few points here and there.

The first is, the first 225 pages (which is a bit more then half the book) takes place in the 1400’s-1500’s. Without giving too much away, lots of stuff happens to Elisabet. She’s betrayed, she becomes stronger and smarter. Things are going really well, but then it skips a few hundred years to catch up to the 1860’s in Louisiana. I think I would of liked it more if these events tied into how she came to America and met the people she knows then. I understood the author prob didn’t want to make this book 700+ pages, but it was clear she got money and met people during that time jump. How did that happen? I wanted more.

The second thing is how Elisabet met Wesley (This is a spoiler). She met him, found out he already have a love interest and that sent her crazy with rage that caused her to kill that woman, attempt to get Wesley as her own and then spend another 130 years trying to kill her every time that woman was reborn??

That seemed a tad…. over the top. I know she was a villain and everything, but dang woman. The motivation didn’t seem strong enough for over one hundred years of messing with these two. I feel like that was a bit of a week spot, especially for a guy she just met. It would of worked way better of Thomas and Victoria (Or their families) had betrayed her in someway or something, or she had a deeper connection.

Last thing, is both this book and the previous book has gone back to explain backstory. It’s good, but I’m ready for these books to start moving forward, not continue backwards. It’s very different from other books in how it does that and it’s both interesting, but I do want more in the present day by now.

In short, go give all of these book’s a read. Even though romance isn’t really my thing, I still enjoyed these books a lot. There’s more to the story and it’s good stuff.  The characters and situations are pretty good.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but it’s not a normal day, I personally know this author and she’s a friend of mine. I met her in 2016 and she is one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met . Michelle is a self published author and needs the support. They’re all available on amazon. She’s a good author and just a lovely person. If you want to know more about her, her books, or what she’s up to, you can find her here on wordpress.

https://itsawriterslifeforme.wordpress.com/

Overall, I give this book a 7.5/10.

Thanks for reading guys!

~Ames

 

Posted in Reading

Review: The Possessive Kiss

The Possessive Kiss by Michelle C. Hillstrom.

First, this book is the second book in the series. As so, it’s really difficult to talk about this book without spoiling anything from the first book. So, there will be a spoiler warning for the first book.

Spoiler Warning.

With that out of the way, lets get to it.

This book is a bit unique as although it is a sequel, it goes back in time and explains how Wesley and Victoria first met back in the 1860. The two of them were destined to meet and fall in love, but fate had other ideas for them. When the civil war kicked off and Wesley was sent off and it changed his life forever.

What I liked:

I was really excited about this book because the civil war is one of my favorite time periods in history. When reading history fiction, I am extremely picky about the slang,  jargon and expressions used. Obviously, people in the 1860 would not be using terms we coined in the 21st century. This is one of my biggest pet peeves and something I watch for very closely when reading.

Thankfully, it was not much of an issue when I was reading this book. I do think there was one or two words I wanted to challenge, but as I have stated, my internet was not working at the time and I don’t remember them now, and I can’t find them at the moment. They weren’t a huge deal.

I really enjoyed how this went into more backstory of Wesley and we learn what happened to him during the war. That was great. The characters are more fleshed out, which was wonderful.

This was huge. There is an actual reason why these two characters keep finding each other and why their love is so strong. So many times in other mediums, it’s because love never dies, or love is stronger then death or sometimes. I was expecting it too be that. I won’t spoil what it is, but I was so glad that is a legit reason!

What I did not like.

There really isn’t much.  The only thing I really did want more of the actual civil war. I know it’s a romance and it’s focused on how Wesley and Victoria, but in the first one, she had more of a life outside him. I know this is a different time period and such, but I did miss that element of the book.  I would of liked more of Wesley in the war.

A tiny minor thing, but the ending was given away in the previous book. I kinda wish that part hadn’t been spoiled as I did know what was coming. I think it would of made the ending more tense for me.

Overall, a great sequel. Adds a lot of depth and background to the characters, like all good sequels.  I enjoyed it a lot.

8/10

~Ames

Posted in Reading

Review: The Faithful Kiss

The Faithful Kiss by Michelle C. Hillstrom.

Katelynn Wilder is a regular college freshman, starting over in a different state in Louisiana. She’s ready for a fresh start; all her life, she’s had nightmares about a red-haired devil woman for a long time and her family has an urban legend that goes back several generations.

On the first day, she gets settled in and to her delight, she meets her roommate’s older brother, Wesley and thinks he’s really hot. However, not long after, she is attacked, and she realized that her life might not be normal, her dreams might mean something and that her new friends are way more then they say they are.

What I like about this book

These books are romance, which aren’t really my thing, but I still enjoyed then all the same. They can be a bit cheesy in spots. It does become clear (at least to me it did) who the villain is pretty early and that’s not much of a mystery. Her writing style is clean and engaging, with some lovely passages. I got lost in some of her prose.

There’s a lot of lore in this book. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a mythical element and really like what the author does here. I do feel like she takes it and gives it her own fresh spin. At no point did I sigh and feel like I was reading the same old-same old thing.

What I don’t like

I shall be honest: it’s romance. As many know, this isn’t my favorite genre. It’s a bit cheesy and a touch cliche in spots. But not too bad. Nothing like love at first glance. Katelynn does have a life, a job and friends outside Wesley, which I was very glad of.

The only other thing was sometimes the characters don’t see things that are pretty freaking obvious. Like this angry woman hangs around the guy she like and glares at her a lot. A few days later, she get text messages from a random person telling  her stay away from him. I wonder who they could be from. But that’s pretty much it.

Over all, I enjoyed this book. Short, sweet and to the point. Lot of fluff, but was well written and good characters. What more could you ask for?

8.5/10

~Ames

 

Posted in Reading

Review: A Torch Against the Night

I just finished this book two night and I am still not over it. This book was really good. At several points, I set it down and just walked away so I could absorb what I had just read.

As this is the second book in the series, obviously I will not be giving any huge spoilers, but it’s impossible to talk about it without spoiling any of the first one. So be warned, mild spoilers ahead. Please don’t read unless you have already read An Ember in the Ashes.

Mild Spoiler Warning.

With that out of the way, on to the review.

Elias and Laia escape Blackcliff, both of them wanted subjects of the empire. They have one goal, make to make it to Kauf Prison. Laia’s brother was taken there months ago and has valuable information-if he’s not already dead. If the two of them can make it there and free him without getting caught or kill in the process, then the rebellion might have a chance of surviving.

Meanwhile, Helene, Elias’ former best friend from Blackciff has been appointed blood shrike, aka, second in command to the emperor. One who’s insane and has commanded her to hunt down and make the impossible choice to kill her what used to be best friend, all while trying to protect her family from his rage.

What I like.

To be honest, I could go on about what I like for a very long time. The twist and turns in this book is great. The world is expanding, we’re starting to get more of what I wanted from the first book. More back story, more about the world we’re inhabiting. Not everything has been made clear, but It has been made public that there will be four total book, so we have time. Even better, this doesn’t seem to show any signs of fatigue or things being stretched out to fit four books. I’m very happy with how this is going.

And then the plot twists.

I’m not going to spoil them, but h-o-l-y c-r-a-p. There’s two that caught me by surprise and they come almost one on top of each other. It’s just bam bam. To be fair, looking back, there’s a few small clues sprinkled in, but I did not see them coming at all. They add in another wrinkle for the next book. It’s going to be insane and I cannot wait.

What I didn’t like,

Two things,

One, a few characters have names that are a bit harder to pronounce. Like there’s a girl named Afya and a guy who has the name Miladh. To be fair, they do belong to tribes and not everyone has the name Jane, but they are more difficult to pronounce.

Second,

In the first book, there is a character named Keenan who is introduced as one of the leaders of the rebels. I truthfully hardly noticed him. In this book, he becomes a more important character and travels with Laia and Elias and guess what: a love triangle forms. I honestly sighed when I saw it started to happen because it’s my least favorite thing in YA. Just no more. It does play a part in the plot later, but love triangles are so boring and overdone.

But honestly, that’s it. There’s so much good stuff in this book. I could talk for ten minutes about all wonderful stuff here. About Helene wrestling with her loyalties, about Laia and Elias struggling to free her brother. This is a wonderful book full of magic and danger. Give it a read, I love it.

Have you read it?

~Ames

 

Posted in ideas, writing

Writing your way out of a writer’s block

Hey all,

It’s been quite a week. After way too much candy (50% off all candy at the store after Halloween!) bit of craziness at work, I’ve been trying to settle back into a routine of writing to get back on track.

As from my last post about it, I’ve been having some writer’s block. I mentioned that I’ve been trying to work my way out of it. It took me a bit, but I realized that I did not know the characters well enough and that I needed to do some exercises and fine tune the plot.

Easier said then done.

But what I have really been learning is the only way to get out of a writer’s block is to write. There is no other way around it. No secret trick or magic formula that will just make it go away. Sure, thinking about the plot can help get the ideas flowing. But you have to sit down and actually write again to get past it.

Sometimes it can be a personal one. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing. In fact, I have scenes planned for books that I wrote over two years ago.  (Thank goodness I haven’t published yet.) I know it can be difficult to look back and think what was written is pure garbage and wonder who would want to read such crap.

It’s times like these that I remind myself that it’s okay for a first draft to be messy. That no one else is going to read it but me until I want them to. So if it’s a terrible, ugly, incoherent, mess, that it’s alright. They just have to exist. The second and third drafts are for editing and polishing. The first draft is just for writing.

In fact, when writing the best selling, Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn also had writer’s block and decided to just write whatever her mind wanted to. What she wrote ended up being the infamous ‘cool girl’ speech, and it turned out amazing. Here’s part of it from the movie

(Note, I do not own any of this)

Sometimes, you gotta sit down and write. See where your characters lead you and be unafraid. There is no shortcut. The only cure to a blockage is to write like mad, even if that writing is terrible.

Who knows where you might find yourself.

~Ames