Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is anyone out there doing NaNo?

I can’t turn down a challenge, it seems, so I’m doing it again this year.  This is year five for me.  Maybe this will get me back into the habit and I’ll get back to book one in my mystery series that I still need to rewrite.  I’ve been a naughty girl on that.  I can’t seem to keep my seat in this chair for long lately.

I still figure I must be half nuts to take this on with the holiday season upon us.  I also work now so don’t have a lot of free time.  If I can make it through this month, I’m hoping I’ll be back in the writing daily habit and can finish book one as mentioned above.  I hate to say I started this task at least two years ago, possibly longer.  That’s terrible, isn’t it?

Anyway, I know my posting has been lax here lately.  I haven’t had anything to write about writing that may be useful to any of you.  If anyone is doing NaNo this month, feel free to use this blog as a forum for NaNo, if you wish.

You can list word counts, ask questions and give advice.  I hope there are still enough people following this blog that you can get your answers or encouragement from fellow writers.  I welcome all thoughts, advice and support from any of you who want to take time to give it.

Thank you and good luck to all.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review for The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A sad tale with a bit of redemption in the end
3 stars

I read this book because it was a novel written in first person.  The story is narrated by three women, each with a past and something to hide.  The main narrator is Rachel, an alcoholic who is barren, fat, and feels very insecure and worthless.  Her husband divorces her and she loses her job, but keeps this job loss a secret for half of the novel. She’s too ashamed to admit that she was fired for consistently being drunk on the job, so she takes the train to work everyday as she lives in her dreamworld.

A lot of “in your head” talking goes on in this story and especially on the train.  Rachel can view her old house and neighborhood from the window and watch her husband and his new wife and child on the balcony.  She’s upset that they live in her house and have the family she always wanted.  She also watches another house a few doors away and imagines the happy life that couple have.

Rachel becomes obsessed with a pile of discarded clothes next to the railroad tracks and then reads in the paper about a girl who goes missing off the street of her old neighborhood.  She's lonely and has no life of her own. She drowns all her pain through various alcoholic beverages daily.  But Rachel's interest is perked when she reads about the disappearance.  She emerges herself in this unfolding story as the police investigate the vanishing of the girl from the happy couple who live a few doors down from her old house.  

Rachel so desperately wants to fit in and feel needed that she lies to get close to the husband of the missing girl.  As we all know lies eventually catch up with us.  But Rachel isn’t the only one lying throughout this book.

There are lots of underlying factors in this story of love, lies, divorce, jealousy, lust, betrayal and fear.  At first I found it a bit hard to get into this book because of all the internal narration going on in the heads of Rachel, Anna and Megan.  There’s very little dialogue.

Rachel finds herself in many wrong places at the wrong time. The fact she doesn’t remember a lot of things because she was drunk eats away at her as she tries to figure out what really happened.

In the last seventy five pages, the story really starts coming together with a lot of the blanks filled in.  I enjoyed this part the best.  I know this book was made into a movie.  Perhaps the movie will be better than the book this time.  Usually books are always better, but I guess I got the message that Rachel was a lonely drunk trying to find a way to fit in and be happy early on in the story.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Teaching myself as I go

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of first person novels.  I’m writing my mystery series in first person and think this exercise may be helpful.  Sometimes I second guess myself though and think I should change it all to third person, although I like getting into one person’s head and going with it.  I don’t know if this will be a smart move or not.

It seems every first person novel I read is entirely different from the last one.  I wonder if this is right or not.  I have come to the realization that having more then four-five viewpoints are too many for a first person story.  So now it’s back to the drawing board for those extra people’s roles in the story.  I need to work that in some other way, perhaps though dialogue with a more major character.

I’m a very long winded person, come story or real life, so this is very hard for me to do – cut things back to the bare minimum.  I’m working on it and sometimes this entails beating my head on the wall.  Eventually, I’ll come up with a story worth reading, I hope.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Here’s something different

Recently, I ran across some nice photo writing prompts, so I thought I’d share one of those today.  Yes, I know I should be working on my novel rewrite, but I’ve been working so many hours for a part-time job that’s its unbelievable.  I think things will be slowing down soon, for a while, and I’ll get back to it.  Meanwhile, if you’d like something fun to play with see the prompt below.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Readers Live Longer??

Photo by Bryan Thomas for the New York Times

This is a fascinating study about readers versus non-readers.  This appeared in the New York Times on August 3rd.  You can read their article by clicking here.

Over 3,650 people over age fifty participated in this study done by Yale University.  This group was split into three groups, those that didn’t read books at all, those who read three-and-a-half hours a week and those that read more than that.

The study was adjusted to include factors such as age, race, self-reported health, employment, marital status, etc.  Age for the three-and-a-half hour a week group increased lifespan by 17 percent while those that read more than that increased by 23 percent.  Book readers live an average of about two years longer than non-readers.

Reading through newspapers and magazines also saw some benefit, but not as much as book readers.  Maybe one uses more cognitive ability while reading books, which, of course, helps your brain stay younger longer.  This study was published in Social Science and Medicine.  If you’d like to read the article about the study, click the link above.

Now drag out those books and start reading.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Taking a short break

I’ll be having cataract surgery on both eyes and will be taking a break until the end of July.  Please bear with me.  I’ll try to get back to regular posting after that.

Thanks for reading.  I hope your summer is going great!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy July Fourth

I know I’ve been bad about posting here lately.  Hopefully, I can change all that soon.  The problem is many things, but mostly a lack of time to research and post anything worthwhile to read.

I wanted to wish all of you a Happy July Fourth.  It’s bittersweet here with that being the death dates of my father in 1980 and my husband’s father last year.  It’s way to hot to even enjoy a barbecue outside in the desert.  Because of that, we’ll be cooking indoors as usual.

Everyone be safe out there and have a happy day with family and friends.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Another writer gone, but not forgotten

Pat Conroy
10-26-1945 - 3-4-2016

We lost another author and a good one, Pat Conroy.  He was the author of the Prince of Tides and other books that were made into movies.  I’m sure some of you saw some of his films, The Great Santini and Conrack, or perhaps read his books.  The movie for Conrack was titled The Water is Wide and was about teaching poor children on the isolated Daufiskie Island, not far from the resort of Hilton Head where the rich lived.  Mr. Conroy won a National Endowment for the Arts award for this book in 1972.

The movie, Prince of Tides, also won him an Academy Award nomination in 1991.

Conroy lived many places during his life, but called South Carolina home where he was born on October 26, 1945, the oldest of seven children.  The family moved extensively during his childhood because his dad was an aviator in the military.  He flew fighter planes and was very hard on Pat while he was growing up.  He made him attend the Citadel, which was the last thing he wanted to do, but he avoided the draft and wrote a blog at that time about being an anti-war activist.  He saw eight of his Citadel friends killed in the Vietnam War.  He said “they walked off the stage and directly into the Vietnam War.”

Pat Conroy’s memoir, The Death of Santini, reflects on the struggles between him and his father.  After the movie, The Great Santini, came out his father claimed responsibility for boosting the career of Robert Duvall, the main character.  Duvall had already starred in the “Godfather” movies so this wasn’t entirely true, but gives one a sense of what a controlling man his father was. 

Later the book did help to achieve peace between father and son.

The author was married three times and leaves behind two daughters.  He battled a number of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure and a failing liver.  During his life, he suffered from depression, divorce, back surgery and the suicide of a younger brother.  But he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Friday, March 4 2016.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Read Across America

It’s Read Across America day and also the birthday of Dr. Seuss, children’s writer and illustrator.

It’s nice to have a day devoted to reading, but we should all read something everyday.  You’re never too old to read, whether it’s for fun or research.  I’m thankful I learned to read because there are many people in the world who’ve never had the chance to learn to read, or to write.

Dr Seuss left us with many great quotes that are good for all ages.  Below are some of my favorites.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

A tribute to Harper Lee

April 28, 2926 – February 19, 2016

Not everyone can write a classic piece of literature, but this lady did it and did it well with To Kill a Mockingbird.  I read this book in high school, but that was many years ago.  I want to read it again now.  How many of you have read this classic book?

She had the guts to write a book about race when racial tension was high, especially in the south.  And even though the book was controversial and perhaps not about a pleasant subject, she won a Pulitzer Prize.  You can’t get much better than that.  I’m sure many people will read this book in the years to come.

We lost a great lady, but she lived a nice long life and still had her wits about her.  That’s more than some of us can say, or hope for.  I’m glad she lived long enough to see her second book Go Set a Watchman published in July 2015.  This book is supposedly the precursor to 'Mockingbird.'  I haven’t read it yet, but I doubt it will be half the book as the first one.  We’ll see.

Most of her life was lived in seclusion in the southern town of Monroeville, Alabama.  This was her choice.  I’m all for people living by their own rules.  She was the youngest of four children and never married.  To read more of her life story, click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentines's Day Dear Friends

Let's make this a special day to be kinder to everyone we meet, not just our loved ones.  Everyone is probably fighting some kind of battle in his/her life.  Think how nice it would be just to make one day a little better.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What does this mean for people with degrees?

When this came across my news pages, I wondered if this is only the beginning of a new trend in the writing and publishing world.  It only takes one to break the ice and move in a new direction and others will follow. 

It looks to me like all the money and time put in for a degree and other credentials won’t hold the weight it once did and the playing field may be leveled to include people with life experience and not necessarily a degree.  This is an interesting turn of events.  If you’re interested, you can read the whole article here.  All comments are welcome.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who doesn’t like FREE books?

Books are always high on my list.  I don’t think you can ever have too many.  Books are expensive so it’s great to find a big variety free of charge.

Here are twenty sites on the web to download free books.  You’ll be able to find any genre you’re looking for on this list.  Most of these places are easy to search using the book name or author name.  Some of them require you to sign up first.   I guarantee you won’t run out of reading material any time soon.

ReadPrint – this one has anything from classics to sci-fi to Shakespeare and more.  This site requires you to register but it’s free. – over 20,000 books are available at this site

The Literature Network –most books on this one are free, but some require a small fee.  Authors are listed alphabetically by last name. – you’ll find everything to do with computers on this one, as well as some textbooks. – this one has free audio books and gives you a choice whether to listen on your device or to download to CD.  You can also volunteer to be a reader for an audio book. – find current and classic authors here in English as well as some German texts.  You can read these on your computer or print out pages to read later.

Project Gutenberg – most books are in English but there are some other languages available.  This site contains over 50,000 books in various formats.

Scribd – This site gives you a fourteen-day free trial and then it’s $8.99 a month.  They have ebooks, audio books, sheet music and comics.

International Digital Children’s Library – This site is organized by age, reading level, book length and genre.  English and other languages are available.

Ebooks and Text Archives – This one includes popular books, children’s books, historical and academic books.

World Public Library – This one is $8.95 a year for access to thousands of books in 100 different languages.  However, there are over 200 titles on a Give Away Page.  You also have to sign up to use this one.

Questia Public Library – this one contains classics, rarities and textbooks.

Wikisource – the works on this site are submitted and maintained by its users.

Wikibooks – most of the books on this one are textbooks and some cookbooks.

Bibliomania – this one has 200 classics, plus author notes, biographies, summaries and study guides.

The Open Library – over a million books in a variety of formats.

Sacred Texts – this one contains books on religion, mythology and folklore.

SlideShare – this one is for digital presentations on any subject.  Anyone can share ideas, or learn about new technology, by uploading or downloading presentations.  The sign up is free.

Free eBooks – this one has a wide variety of genres but there’s a limit on books per month unless you sign up for a VIP membership.

The Online Books Page – this one has over a million books to read and is maintained by the University of Pennsylvania.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolution time

From my house to yours...Happy New Year everyone.  


We have a blank page again to start new adventures.  What fun.  I haven't made any resolutions yet.  I just hope this will be a better year than 2015, although last year did have some nice moments in it.  

Let’s face it, most of the resolutions we make are broken before the month of January is over. What is called for is being more thoughtful and realistic about the goals we set for ourselves.  As we all know, life gets in the way of many things as the days go by.  

This year, I'm taking my time to think this over.  I think the usual items on the list, losing weight, eating healthier and exercising more are hard to keep because we need to be resolved to change our habits.  That isn't an easy thing to do, but it can be done.  I'm happy with myself in those areas anyway because I changed my habits long time ago where weight, diet and exercise are concerned.  

This year I think my goals will be smaller and more attainable. When I reach them I can make more, even if it isn't New Years.  Remember, you can do this too and may be happier with yourself if you take baby steps.  There's nothing at all wrong with that.  As we look to the future, it’s time to get serious with ourselves about the things important to us.  What do we really want to accomplish?  If you’re yearning for it, the resolution will be easier to keep.

Think about that as you make your list.  Until next time...