Books Read 2012

Books I Read (Minus the DNF) with random commentary.
JAN 2012

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Comments: Incest is icky, but this is a heartbreaking love story between siblings.  And I say this with absolute seriousness. Remember in V.C. Andrews’ Dawn when Philip Cutler is all ‘It’s not incest if we turn the lights off’? and that was um, gross, but in Forbidden, I was really rooting for Maya and Lochan and hoping they’d run away (but not procreate). I felt so TORMENTED after this read.

FEB 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Comments: Pretty Cover!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Comments: Hazel’s quest to meet that Peter Van author dude mirrors my Christopher Pike stalking. I can relate. Unlike Peter Van Mumble Mumble, Christopher Pike is really nice and HE WROTE ON MY FB WALL WISHING ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY ONE WEEK BEFORE MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY WHICH MEANS HE HAS ME MARKED ON HIS CALENDER. ZOMG I’VE BEEN MARKED BY THE PIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To quote Hazel: What is this life?????

MARCH 2012

Misery by Stephen King

Comments: The book is much freakier than the movie. I learned a new word: man gland. And when Annie Wilkes threatened to cut off Paul Sheldon’s man gland, I was secretly worshipping Stephen King’s sick mind.

APRIL 2012

Cujo by Stephen King

Comments: Rabid dogs are scary. That’s all. Read with some liberal skimming as there were lots of exposition on ad agencies and whatnot. Could use a ‘man-gland’ now and then.

MAY 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott.

Comments: Stopped page 195. Reason: Library book due. Aspiring dressmaker on Titanic. I liked the pacing and rapid scene breaks, but when my copy went back to the library, I felt like I could live without finishing it. I’d probably pick it back up again when the Titanic mood strikes.

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Comments: Derek Craven is one sexy gambling kingpin. And he speaks with a cockney accent, much like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, except Derek gets it ON with mousy romance novelist. Not that Dick Van Dyke doesn’t get it ON now and again. If you recall his Penguin dance, he is very flexible and… feral.

JULY 2012

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Comments: The bully and the boy he bullied become roommates in a psych ward. This is neither here nor there, but I kept imagining Biff and George McFly as roommates.

AUGUST 2012

Phantom by Susan Kay

Comments: This is one big mother of a book, but I am obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera and sort of want to marry the man behind the mask. This book is about his life and is so scrumptiously written that I actually looked up from the text to mouth “Wow.” Oh Phantom, you are like the most perfect man EVER. Master architect, magician, composer, tortured genius—who cares about your face? Christine doesn’t deserve you…Please take me to your secret lair and let me play with your mechanical monkey (oh how wrong this sounds).

SEPTEMBER 2012

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

Comments: Gothic-y middle grade involving a tumbledown mansion and an aviary filled with creepy birds. Birds freak me out. Feathers. Beaks. Scaly feet. Nasty avian scum! I once saw a man at the beach with two parrots on his arm and nearly tossed my cookies. Do not EVER ask me to pet your pigeon.

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie Debartolo

Comments: This book is like a love letter to LA from characters who hate LA. This book is hilarious and the voice, my God the voice…Since this is blurbed as “This generation’s Love Story” on the cover, I already knew what was coming and yet, the end felt like a million daggers into my heart all the same. And when I finished picking up the shattered pieces of my heart off the floor, I thought about all the tragic endings I encountered this year. The Phantom. This book. A Fault in Our Stars. Forbidden. It’s the year of tempestuous love and untimely deaths. P.S. I pictured Jacob and Trixie as Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites.

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The Best of Writing Books

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo I’m looking back at all the How To Write books I’ve read or skimmed over the years to bring you the Best Of Writing Books. Okay, some may argue that reading a How To Book is a waste of time; you can’t learn to write from some book, you either have talent or you don’t. In the same vein, you learn how to write by writing pages of pages of terrible plotless prose and subjecting your loved ones to the torturous task of reading it. Then the day comes when your writing starts to improve and you stop flaunting your caviler use of inner monologue and ten dollar adjectives and people start enjoying what you’ve written. You do the funky chicken, set the manuscript aside for a few months, read it with fresh eyes only to realize you’ve still got a lot of work to do! Stuff you thought was cool three months ago is super lame now. The middle of your novel sags, you have major plot inconsistencies, your characters are flat and lifeless and tend to grin like the Joker in every situation, you have two catfights in one chapter which some may construed as overkill, you follow the rocky Tarantino road of dialogue for the sake of dialouge and now your characters jabber about absolutely NOTHING. WTFery abounds in the form of cars blowing up for no reason and guys taking off their skirts and slathering mud on their cheese grater abs because you thought this was a ‘deep character study.’  Maybe you should have considered outlining your novel before you plunged in because now you have a steaming pile of words that you must shovel before you get to something you can use. The Choose Your Own Adventure scenario above is, sadly, from my own experience. All is true to some extent, but over the years I’ve read my share of How To Write books (mostly because I actually enjoy them) and have been able to glean a few valuable gems of advice from each one.

Now I spare you the hassle by bringing you a list of the most useful ones.

1. On Writing by Stephen King: This title recommends itself. If Stephen King wants to give writing advice, you better listen. It’s considered the Aspiring Writer’s Bible. Stephen King’s autobiography section is also very entertaining. I was (still am) awestrucked by King’s success, so much so that I even watched his A&E biography and took notes in the hopes that I can emulate some of this work habits. The most valuable piece of information: 2,000 words/day everyday. By trial and error, I realized that the 2,000 words rule doesn’t work for me. I’m an edit as I go type of writer and am lucky if I get 1,000 words/day. But this little rule opened my eyes to the realities of being a writer: you have to produce something everyday whether you feel like it or not or you’ll never go pro. It’s a job, not a whim.


2. Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman: Albert Zuckerman is the founder of Writer’s House. Stephenie Meyer’s agent (who also happens to be John Green and Aprilynne Pike’s agent) is a part of this agency, as is Ken Follett’s agent. Actually, Albert Zuckerman IS Ken Follett’s agent. I am influenced by big names, call me a brand whore, but when the founder of the House that represents Twilight (um, disregarding your feelings about Twilight) gives you writing advice, you are a fool not to listen! This book is roughly fifteen years old and out of print, though you can still get it at your library. It is bursting with so much valuable advice that I don’t even know where to begin. Here’s the most useful one of all: Plot your damn novel! “You wouldn’t build a skyscraper without a blueprint. You wouldn’t shoot a movie without a script. So why would you write a novel without an outline?” This was why my first attempt at writing a novel failed and why I secretly shake my head at the seat-of-pantsers who make it up as they go along.


3. 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias: If you think you’re creating something original, think again. There are only a handful of plots that have been used over and over again in different variations. These are time-tested plots; they’ve survived because people respond to the same stories. For instance, there will always be a market for ‘young boy goes off into the world and becomes a man’ stories or ‘she hates him, he hates her, she sees a new side of him and vice versa, they love each other but can’t be together because of pride or prejudice or both!’ stories. What I learned from this book: Don’t worry about writing something that’s been done before. It all depends on how you write it. Plus, you can mix plots. A quest story + romance + revenge+ thrilling pursuit! Um, try to be subtle about it. Harry Potter, for example, is very similar to Star Wars but different! Think about it… I can go on and on about how Harry Potter=Star Wars but different. Or Jamie Fraser: Black Jack Randall:: Jean Valjean: Inspector Javert except Javet has more sadistic tendencies. Do you see the similarities? Avoid being too on the nose when it comes to plot brews. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, anyone?
4. Story by Robert McKnee: This book deals with writing screenplays. While I have no desire whatsoever to be a screenwriter, I concede to this book’s mastery in how to develop a story. It gets extremely technical, which is what I want from a How To Book. I want to learn the ins and outs of how to be a great storyteller. Since I strive to be a commercial writer as oppose to a literary writer, this advice resonates the most with me:

“Literary talent is not enough. If you cannot tell a story, all those beautiful images and subtleties of dialogue that you spent months and months perfecting waste the paper they’re written on. What we create for the world, what demands of us, is story. Now and forever. Countless writers lavish dressy dialogue and manicured descriptions on anorexic yarns and wonder why their scripts never see production, while others with modest literary talent but great storytelling power have the deep pleasure of watching their dreams living in the light of the screen.”

The Best of Editing Books!

The next two titles guides in the next stage of your writing: structural revision and line editing. Once you’ve completed your first draft, get ready to fine tune or completely re-write your plot. Work on your all important first sentence. Work on your hook. Make sure your beginning ties in to your ending.  Once the plot makes sense, you must now focus your mind on commas and semi colons and stylistic choice. All of this is very boring to anyone who doesn’t want to be a writer so I’ve hand selected the best of the editing books down below.
5. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

6. Self-Editing for Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne



Goosebump Contraband and Stephen King

I didn’t like to read until I was 10. Prior to that, I’d shy away from books completely, reading only when I must or at least pretending to read when I’m under the stern eye of a teacher who loveth not idleness. I’d whittle away my spare time watching afternoon cartoons and Save by the Bell reruns. I don’t know what bought upon this sudden love of reading, but I’m willing to attribute it to rebellion.

My mom is superstitious and one side effect of her superstitions is a banned on all objects of the macabre. Black is strictly forbidden in the family wardrobe, stray cats are promptly shooed away from our garden, and there is a strict rule against bringing home any objects associated with death and the otherworldly. It’s almost as if the mere possession of these objects is an official invite for ghouls of the afterworld to merge with our reality. There goes my Halloween projects…

Around that time, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series were the popular literature amongst the 5th grade crowd. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be interested in reading at all, but the temptation to piss off my mother was too great. So during the summer of ’95, I’d visit the library and industriously file through the big bin of tattered Goosebumps paperbacks, smuggle the literary contraband home in my backpack, and read them secretly on the porch or at night, stashing them away whenever my mother entered the room. What a thrill! The access to forbidden stories, the unauthorized merging of realities.

Of course, R.L. Stine never scared me with his cheesy stories and even at 10, I was skeptical about my mother’s unfounded beliefs that the dead flitted unseen among the living. But at night, with images of haunted masks and headless ghosts swirling in my head, with stray cats fighting in the garden below my window, their vicious purrs like the wailing of sickly infants, it wasn’t so easy to laugh at the existence of ghosts, demons, and bloodsucking fiends. Unable to sleep, I’d look over at those Goosebumps covers, harmless and even laughable in the day, but then there was something about that dummy’s wooden mouth, a grotesque elongation of the oral orifice that revealed a black, bottomless void made many times more sinister by the moonlight streaming in through my window. It was like staring into the eye of a hopeless, abominable abyss. I quickly flipped the book over and vowed never to fall asleep next to Goosebumps again.

In a year’s time, I’d read all the Goosebumps at the library, I even saved my lunch money to buy the newest Goosebumps from the bookstore, but I’d read those in less than 2 hours. It became apparent that the prolific Mr. Stine and his monthly installments weren’t enough to satiate my obsessive need to consume horror stories. Then began the brief transitional period of reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and Christopher Pike; it wasn’t until I was nearly 12 that I discovered Stephen King in my childhood quest for the next twisted image.

And Stephen King provided plenty of twisted images—twisted images, dismembered corpses, wife-beating men, bloodsucking prostitutes—I’ve officially exited Sweet Valley High territory. Stephen King covers weren’t as obviously “horror” as Goosebumps covers, so my mom was okay with me reading King over Goosebumps. I’m just fortunate enough that my mom never heard of Stephen King and his penchant for foul language and fictional gore.

Was my mind sullied after reading Stephen King at age 12? Like a white handkerchief trampled in the muddy thoroughfare, my impressionable young mind was sullied through and through. I can confidently say that my imagination is more elastic (and by elastic, I mean twisted) because of Stephen King.

You wouldn’t think, what with all my blogging about Jane Austen and Diana Gabaldon, that I was a horror novel fanatic. When I turned 13, I had one foot in horror and the other in romance. How did this dramatic change in genre occur? For that, I credit V.C. Andrews for bridging the thin line between love and the macabre with a genre I would like to coin as “Horror-Romance”…but that is a topic best saved for another post.