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.
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The Registry by Shannon Stoker – Audiobook Review

The Registry by Shannon Stoker, narrated by Kate Reinders
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by William Morrow, both imprints of HarperCollins

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime.

The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

Thoughts on the story:

You know, two or three years ago I might have dismissed The Registry as being outlandishly unrealistic. With the whole ‘war on women’ of the last couple of years and the seemingly-concerted effort to erode rights, I don’t see it as necessarily being totally insane if set far enough out. Is it actually likely? Well, no, but (hopefully) few dystopians are actually likely. It has a very similar concept to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, at least as far as the role of women and in my opinion has a similar level of likelihood. Atwood does spell out the events that lead to her dystopia more clearly, but she also has them happen much, much more quickly, so it is logical that her characters would know exactly what led to their current situation, while Mia is in a world that is generations removed from the one we know, which is why neither she nor anyone around her truly understands how they have come to be in such a predicament.

Uh, so that was a lot of stuff to say I found the story interesting, and believable enough to keep my interest, even if I don’t exactly think this is going to happen next week.

Thoughts on the audio production:

For the most part, I really enjoyed Kate Reinders’s narration. She was a big part of what sucked me in to the book right away. The only thing that  bothered me was her depiction of one of the male characters who, thankfully, came in later in the book. I found the way she presented him to be very creepy, one might even say ‘rape-y.’ Luckily he came in a good portion of the way through the novel, but I don’t think that Stoker intended him to come off like that and it distracted me from the story every time he spoke, wondering whether or not he was actually a total creep.

Overall:

All in all I found The Registry to be a fun, enjoyable audiobook.

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.

 

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Audiobook Review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane written and narrated by Neil Gaiman
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by William Morrow, both imprints of HarperCollins

Synopsis:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane opens with the protagonist, now an adult, returns to his childhood home and happens upon an old friend’s house, where he finds one of her older relatives. The longer the protagonist stays at Lettie Hempstock’s house, the more he behinds to remember his time with her. These memories are long buried, other more reasonable memories of the same time have taken their place, but the Hempstock farm brings back the truth of what happened when the protagonist was seven years old.

Thoughts on the story:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is so magical that it is scary. It begins as a simply charming story of  a sweet little boy, but strange things begin happening around him. When he tries, with his new, slightly older friend Lettie Hempstock to appease the spirit causing problems, he inadvertently creates a far larger problem. The story builds along very nicely. While I wouldn’t classify it as horror, there is one section that would nearly qualify as a supernatural horror, although it invokes more tension than outright fear, since we know the protagonist survives. The details about the Hempstocks are beautifully crafted, making this otherworldly family seem absolutely realistic. It is a short but utterly absorbing novel, if you have it in print you could probably easily read the whole thing in a single sitting.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Ah, Neil Gaiman is one of those few authors who really should narrate his own work. His narration is particularly effective since his protagonist seems to be approximately his own age in the framing pieces and his protagonist as a child is said to be loosely based on his own childhood (minus the magical creatures trying to kill him, I’m assuming). As such, his narration fits the novel beautifully and he is able to give his words a level of emotion that take them to the next level.

Overall:

The story in itself is fabulous, so I don’t think you can go wrong with The Ocean at the End of the Lane however you consume it, but Gaiman’s narration gives it that extra special something. If you can listen to this audiobook, please do.

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.

 

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Godiva by Nicole Galland – Book Review

Godiva by Nicole Galland
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

The story of Lady Godiva riding through town naked to relieve her people’s unfair taxation has long been a part of popular mythology. Nicole Galland re-imagines this history and brings Godiva brilliantly to life. Her Godiva is a feisty woman, someone who is motivated not onlywere by her pride, but by loyalty to the people she loves and a strong sense of right and wrong.

I found Galland’s version of Godiva and her story to be very convincing. Both Godiva’s character and the plot itself are very well developed, so that the fact of her riding through town makes sense from both directions.

As always, Galland paints a vivid historical picture and provides a compelling view of the past.

Note: I began this book in audio and initially really enjoyed Emma Jayne Appleyard’s narration, and particularly getting to hear pronunciation of pre-Norman British names. About 1/3 of the way through there was a period of a few minutes where I could hear some mouth noises. As I had already abandoned another audiobook that day for excessive mouth noises, I had no patience to continue and switched to the print copy I already had. If the noise abates relatively quickly I think the audio would actually be the better choice because of the way Appleyard brought Godiva to life and for the aforementioned pronunciations.

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

 

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Tampa by Alissa Nutting – Book Review

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Published by Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

Celeste is embarking on a new career as a middle school teacher, something she has been looking forward to for some time. She isn’t looking forward to teaching for the reason that most people do, though, she is looking forward to it for the access to young boys. Celeste would do just about anything to avoid sex with her husband because, in his early 30s, he is more than fifteen years too old for her. Fourteen year old boys, now they interest her, and as an eighth grade teacher she has all the access she could want to intriguing young men.

Tampa is an insanely disturbing book. I knew from the description that there was a whole reverse-Lolita thing going on and that was disturbing enough in and of itself. However, the first 20 pages in particular of Tampa are ever so much more disgusting and horrific than I ever imagined. Somehow I kept reading and once I got past the intense shock value early on, I began to see the genius of Nutting’s writing. She never tries to make Celeste likeable or make the reader identify with her, but somehow she still sucks you into Celeste’s sexually sick and psychopathic mind.

What really worked for me in reading Tampa was to think of it as a horror novel. A horror novel can be intensely graphic and disturbing and still have a brilliance in the writing and plotting, and that is exactly the case with Tampa. That being said, Tampa, like any horror novel, is certainly not for everyone. How you will feel about the book depends largely on your capacity for disturbing in pursuit of amazing, but really, it is sort of amazingly brilliant.

For more on this book, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

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