How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman – Book Review

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, a Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of ways to write a novel, many of them good. Of course, many of them are also oh so very bad. Luckily, if you WANT to write a bad novel, Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman have got you covered. These two long-time denizens of the world of writing have identified 200 Very Bad Things writers do in their novels in categories such as plot, character, style, and world building and have laid them out with detail so you can either avoid them or aim for them, depending on what you’re going for.

The advice here is wonderful. Mittelmark and Newman are not telling you what to write or how to write, because there are so many different things that work for different people. But seriously, no matter who you are, this stuff is bad and should be avoided at all costs. I’m not sure that by simply avoiding all of this you can write a good novel, but you can definitely make your novel better, something that will be hugely helpful for all of you beginning your NaNoWriMo work (you may want to revise with this by your side).

There was something that seemed slightly off, I felt that I didn’t always know from one moment to the next whether they were warning writers away from something bad or pretending to encourage the terrible thing. However, the fact that the conceit didn’t always seem consistent never impeded my ability to understand just what was horrible and what was not. I am also able to forgive any inconsistencies because this conceit made How Not to Write a Novel hugely engaging to read. I figured I’d get some pointers for my own potential writing and more ways to think about what I read, but my reading of How Not to Write a Novel was as much about enjoyment of the style and authorial voice as it was about analyzing specific writing issues.

If all writing books were as fun and helpful as How Not to Write a Novel, I might have a blog of nothing but writing books.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012-2013

Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy – Book Review

Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy
Published by Berkley Prime Crime, an imprint of Penguin

This is the fourth book in the Manor House Mystery series, please see my review of the previous books in the series, Grace Under Pressure, Grace Interrupted, and Grace Among Thieves.

For a Manor House Mystery, Julie Hyzy doesn’t put her main character, Grace, into the manor house very much. At the opening of Grace Takes Off, Grace and her boss Bennett are finishing a two week European vacation (for those of you who haven’t read the book, it isn’t like that, Grace and Bennett are not lovers, her mother may have been his illegitimate half sister) by visiting Bennett’s good friend in Italy. When Bennett has the chance to examine a treasure that has much sentimental value for him and his good friend, he reacts oddly. What happens on the flight home proves that Marshfield Manor isn’t the only place that Grace can find herself in mortal danger.

Julie Hyzy does a great job knowing when to remove her characters from their normal surroundings. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that Grace Takes Off be the first book that anyone picks up in the Manor House Mystery series, not least because it assumes that people have read at least some of what comes before, but putting Grace on a plane and giving her conflict there keeps the series fresh – even if the finale does find Grace back in a very familiar position.


For more information, see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph Ellis – Audiobook Review

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Knopf, both imprints of Random House


From the publisher:

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Thoughts on the story:

I am seriously impressed by Revolutionary Summer. It is a relatively brief book, just about seven hours in audio, but Ellis conveys a lot of information – including much that is glossed over in most accounts – in a very clear manner. He intertwines both the political and the military happenings of that summer, showing readers how they interrelate and influence one another. It is well-organized and informative, really a top-notch history.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Rudnicki has a wonderfully resonant voice and presents Revolutionary Summer clearly, adding just the right amount of audible interest.


A wonderful audiobook and a wonderful look at American history. A great listen for 4th of July weekend.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.


Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets

This plugin requires intervention by this site’s administrator.

To display the widget for this post, please click here.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas – Audiobook Review

Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, narrated by Bernadette Sullivan
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Crown Books, both imprints of Random House

If you’re participating in Audiobook Week don’t forget to link up your reviews to the review linky.


From the publisher:

Confessions of a Sociopath takes readers on a journey into the mind of a sociopath, revealing what makes the tick and what that means for the rest of humanity.   Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils these men and women who are “hiding in plain sight” for the very first time.

Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the wary. Drawn from Thomas’ own experiences; her popular blog,; and current and historical scientific literature, it reveals just how different – and yet often very similar – sociopaths are from the rest of the world. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy and is both the memoir of a high-functioning, law-abiding (well, mostly) sociopath and a roadmap – right from the source – for dealing with the sociopath in your life, be it a boss, sibling, parent, spouse, child, neighbor, colleague or friend.

Thoughts on the story:

At times M.E.’s story seems to contradict itself and I would be reminded that the narrator of this book self-identifies as a sociopath and wonder just how much I could trust her. Looking back now, I am not certain whether M.E. is a consciously unreliable narrator or if her lack of trust-worthiness has more to do with with a certain amount of self-delusion that is connected with her condition.

I found the first third of Confessions of a Sociopath to be the most interesting part, particularly the discussion of the lack of recognition of risk and all of the rotten food M.E. has eaten because the threat of food poisoning is not a deterrent. I was also interested in M.E.’s childhood and fairly incredulous when she describes it as not having been so bad, when it pretty clearly sounds terrible to me.

There is a point towards the end where the narrative begins to drag, particularly as M.E. begins to talk about all of her romantic conquests; that section goes on much longer than I was able to maintain interest. Of course, by that time I was pretty well invested in the book, so it wasn’t too big of a problem.

audiobookweekbutton zpsdb6e126c picture Thoughts on the audio production:

Bernadette Sullivan’s narration in Confessions of a Sociopath is not a delivery that would work in most audiobooks, but her dispassionate (although not without vocal interest) patter accentuates Thomas’s own style of writing and makes you truly believe you are listening to a sociopath tell you her story.


Confessions of a Sociopath is a highly engaging – if at times very disturbing – audiobook. Recommended

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.


Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski – Book Review

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading by Jason Merkoski
Published by Sourcebooks

Eventually the “e” will be dropped, and books will be assumed to be digital, just as most music is now digital; after all, we don’t refer to music as e-music.

You have to ask yourself whether you trust these men (because they are mostly men – and mostly white men, at that). Do you trust them to make decisions for you on what books you’re permitted to buy?

Jason Merkoski, Burning the Page

Once upon a time, Jason Merkoski worked for Amazon, where he helped make the first iteration of a little product you might have heard of, something they call the Kindle. Actually, Merkoski was involved in ebooks even pre-Kindle, and as someone who has been dealing with this technology for decades, Merkoski not only has information about the format’s past, but also a vision for its future.

What I really like about Burning the Page is the way that Merkoski is somewhat ambivalent about the digital future. For instance, the above quote about white men and their hold over ebook stores and distribution means. However, he clearly sees ebooks as the wave of the future, and something that will quite likely completely supplant new print books. I can’t say I’m crazy about the idea of print books completely disappearing (after all, I still don’t trust my ereader in the bathtub), but some of his ideas of exceptionally social reading or essentially livestreaming books from an author to a reader basically terrify me as a reader. Socialization around reading is great, but having it completely integrated into every sentence goes so far beyond the past changes in format that it seems completely recreate reading, rather than simply recreating books.

Although I had issues with some of Merkoski’s predictions, I think Burning the Page is an important read for those interested in the past, present, and future of digital books.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.


Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013