Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour Creative Post — The Waking Forest

Hello, literary aviators! Welcome to the last stop of The Waking Forest book tour; I hope that your flight has been free of tempestuous clouds and that you are ready to enjoy this last lovely blog post before your return flight. For those who haven’t heard of this new release by Alyssa Wees , here is a brief synopsis of the book:

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

For this creative post, I will be providing a list of writing prompts related to the novel. If any of these prompts tempt your inner writer, please post on your blog and link to and/or comment on this post so that we can all read your work!

  1. Re-write a fairy tale from the villain’s perspective.
  2. Write a story that occurs within another story.
  3. A character is lost in the forest, and the trees begin speaking to him/her. What do they (i.e., the trees) say?
  4. Write a story about or containing a fox.
  5. Write a piece that includes metamorphosis.
  6. Write a story featuring a powerful sibling.
  7. Write a fairy tale retelling of the John Hughes’ movie of your choice.

I look forward to reading your works! Thanks for stopping by, and have a safe flight home (and if you haven’t yet, enter to win a copy of the book via this Rafflecopter).

 

The Writer’s Journey

I recently borrowed a copy of Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers from the library. The title appealed to me, as someone with aspirations to potentially becoming a published novelist at some point in the future who also has a background in Classics. There are a lot of writing aids out there, some better, some worse. Based on the Vogler’s own words, this particular guide is his interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. However, as someone who has actually not read Campbell’s famed work, I found Vogler’s work meaningful, particularly because he uses examples from famous books and movies to help explain the concepts that he is recommending to help structure any (longer) work – novel, screenplay, etc.

Because this was a library book, and I could not mark the book up with highlights, handwriting, etc. (yes, I am one of those people who marks up her books), I am including the quotes, tables, summaries, etc., that struck me on this initial reading below. You definitely are not expected nor recommended to read the remainder of this post; this is literally posting so that I don’t lose the info that struck me as interesting/poignant from a reference book, but if you are currently struggling with the plot of this novel, I think this particular reference book could be a good resource.

Okay, now I’m going to post my notes, and shit’s going to get boring. #youwerewarned

At heart, despite its infinite variety, the hero’s story is always a journey.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “A Practical Guide”

Archetypes:

Ultimately, a Hero is one who is able to transcend the bounds and illusions of the ego, but at first, Heros are all ego: the I, the one, that personal identity which thinks it is separate from the rest of the group.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

People commonly think of Heroes as strong or brave, but these qualities are secondary to sacrifice – the true mark of a Hero.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Ideally, every well-rounded character should manifest a touch of every archetype, because the archetypes are expressions of the parts that make up a complete personality.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Interesting flaws humanize a character.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Hero”

Gift-giving, the donor function of the Mentor, has an important role in mythology.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Mentor”

Testing of the hero is the primary dramatic function of the Threshold Guardian.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Mentor

The energy of the Threshold Guardian may not be embodied as a character, but may be found as a prop, architectural feature, animal, or force of nature that blocks and tests the hero.


Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Threshold Guardian”

The Shapeshifter serves teh dramatic function of bringing doubt and suspense into a story…

Shapeshifters appears with great frequency and variety in the film noir and thriller genres.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Shapeshifter”

The negative face of the Shadow in stories is projected onto characters called villains, antagonists, or enemies. Villains and enemies are usually dedicated to the death, destruction, or defeat of the hero. Antagonists may not be quites o hostile – they may be Allies who are after the same goal but who disagree with the hero’s tactics. Antagonists and heroes in conflict are like horses in a team pulling in different directions, while villains and heroes are like trains on a head-on collision course.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Shadow”

In secret societies, a old rule of initiation is: Disorientation leads to suggestibility.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Every good story poses a series of questions about the hero.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Fairy tale heroes have a common denominator, a quality that unites them across boundaries of culture, geography, and time. They are lacking something, or something is taken away from them.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

Scripts often fail because the stakes simply aren’t high enough.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

In a good story, everything is related somehow to the theme…”

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Ordinary World”

A string of accidents or coincidences may be the message that calls a hero to adventure. This is the mysterious force of synchronicity

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Call to Adventure”

An important lesson of martial arts is Finish your opponent.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Road Back”

The central crisis or Supreme Ordeal is like a midterm exam; the Resurrection is the final exam. Heroes must be tested one last time to see if they retained the learning from the Supreme Ordeal of Act Two.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Resurrection”

Resurrection often calls for a sacrifice by the hero. Something must be surrendered, such as an old habit or belief. Something must be given back, like the libation the Greeks used to pour to the gods before drinking.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “The Resurrection”

There are two branches to the end of the Hero’s Journey. The more conventional way of ending a story, greatly preferred in Western culture and American movies in particular, is the circular form in which there is a sense of closure and completion. The other way, more popular in Asia and in Australian and European movies, is the open-ended approach in which there is a sense of unanswered questions, ambiguities, and unresolved conflicts. Heroes may have grown in awareness in both forms, but in the open-ended form their problems may not be tied up so neatly.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”

A rule of thumb: Subplots should have at least three “beats” or scenes distributed throughout the story, one in each act.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”

Another good rule of thumb for the Return phase is to operate on the KISS system, that is: Keep It Simple. Stupid. Many stories fail because they have too many endings.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey, “Return with the Elixir”

Arsenic and Old Friends

It’s a little rough, but here is my story, prompted by M of Putting My Feet in the Dirt’s February 2019 Writing Prompts:

“Peach coffee and hazelnut tea?” The words slurred listlessly out of the orange-hued lips of the barista, whose eyes were heavy with sleep and mascara. Morgan smiled and said thank you, both actions that went unacknowledged, although Morgan liked to think that her actions were both charming and meaningful, and would slightly brighten the barista’s day, or at least change the world. She picked up the steaming mugs, and took them to a small table by the window out of which her companion Anna was staring intently.

“Here is your disgusting beverage,” Morgan said cheerfully, the harshness of her adjective belied by the gentleness used to set down the drink. “Although it’s possible it’s coffee.”

Anna looked at her, right eyebrow quizzically raised.

“I’m assuming the barista misspoke,” Morgan said. “But maybe the universe decided to save you from yourself; specifically, your cafe decisions.”

“But I can’t drink coffee!” Anna laughed, rubbing her stomach gently.

“The kid’s not even born yet, and you’re going to let him just walk all over you! First, it starts with what you can eat and drink, then it’s going to be what clothes you can wear… what next? What hairstyle you have? Where will the madness end? You need to take a stance, Anna, and I think that stance should start with coffee.”

“She is a bit of a monster, but what can I do? She takes after me,” Anna replied, taking a small sip of her drink, and then a large gulp. “And if I was going to ‘take a stance,’ as you put it, it would not be with peach coffee, which I sincerely hope is not a thing, because it sounds disgusting.”

“True,” Morgan said. “Almost as gross as peach tea.”

“What do you have against tea? It’s good for you, especially when it’s not caffeinated, and it’s delicious. Try it.” The diamond solitaire on Anna’s left hand flashed as she nudged her mug across the table.

Morgan’s nose wrinkled in distaste. “I will not try it. I am a true American; tea is for wankers who try to make me pay taxes.”

“I think the people trying to make you pay taxes – and succeeding, I might add, since they’re automatically deducted from your paycheck – are also coffee-drinking, ‘true’ Americans.”

“Anna – must we really discuss politics? I thought I was in polite society. Such poor taste.” Morgan clucked her tongue and shook her head.

“I hardly think you would meet with me if you wanted polite society. And you started it!”

“Get your mind out of the gutter,” Morgan faux-chided. “I was merely discussing history, with no political intentions whatsoever.”

“Mm-hm. And what’s the historical significance of your hazelnut latte, exactly?”

“I have had them to drink before, and I like them,” Morgan replied.

Anna laughed. “Fair enough. And I like my baby-healthy, fruit-flavored tea.”

“… do you? Really?”

“I mean… not as much as coffee. But yes.”

“Ugh, I’m sorry. I forgot you couldn’t have caffeine when I suggested meeting here, to be honest.” Morgan had not forgotten. The small, bitter seeds within her heart had overtaken her intellect and social consciousness. She knew that she should be more kind, if anything, to her friend, but it was difficult to be kind, sometimes, to someone for whom everything came so easily.

“I’ve always liked Julie’s,” Anna replied, “even when I’m not drinking her caffeinated ambrosia. If nothing else, the view is great.”

“These turquoise chairs are trendy,” Morgan agreed.

“I was thinking more of the view out of the window,” Anna corrected. “I was looking outside at the trees while you waited for our drinks.”

Morgan looked out of the window, but failed to find much of interest. Maybe pregnancy hormones made the three trees outside appear more beautiful, or created the optical illusion that three trees made a forest or something.

“Do you think the trunk of a tree ever gets jealous?” Anna asked.

“Um… what?”

“The roots do important work, and obtain the nutrients that the entire tree will use to survive. The foliage, flowers, and fruit draw the eye of those who behold it, providing beauty and sometimes even food to others. And while the trunk has an important function, keeping the roots and the leaves connected, it is not a very difficult function, and at the end of the day, it’s really just a hollow husk.”

“… I’m going to be honest with you, Anna. I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure the hallucinogens causing you to spout this nonsense are not good for the baby.”

Anna smiled, the pointed tips of her small canine teeth flashing for a second before disappearing beneath her upper lip. “Did you know, that night when we met Ben for the first time, I actually thought he was interested in you?”

… The bright sunshine streaming in through the window morphed into the hazy, sweat and smoke-filled air of the Lazy Star, the dark dive bar where most of Morgan’s nights ended. She was holding two flavored vodka shots, and was in the midst of passing one to the tipsy-but-not-yet-inebriated-enough Anna when he walked up.

“Oh em gee, look at that hawt guy coming over!” Anna trilled, seeming excited for the first time in days about something other than wallowing over her failed relationship with Craig, whom Morgan had always thought was kind of a dick, but had underestimated the impact his “I thought I loved you… but I don’t” would have on her friend. Morgan had been secretly worried that not even a night out with potentiality for alcohol poisoning seemed to be ameliorative, and felt her muscles relax as she was suffused with relief.

“Hello, my name is Ben,” he said, hand on his chest as he talked in a host-like manner, which Morgan had thought was funny until she later learned that he was one of the owners of the bar. “And I would love to buy you ladies a drink.” He tried to catch Morgan’s eye, but she was here for her friend tonight, and shut-down any bedtime vibes his dark blue eyes would have prompted in ordinary circumstances.

“Hi Ben! I’m Anna,” her friend said, smile too wide, tone too loud and perky. “And my friend only got me one shot of vodka.” Her lower lip pouted out in a manner intended to be cute.

“Hi Anna,” Ben said. “We’ll have to fix that. More shots? Or would you or… ” He looked at Morgan briefly. “… your friend… like something else?”

Anna looked at Morgan, who could see her company was no longer desired. “Actually,” she said. “I just realized, I have to head out. So sorry to do this, Anna, but I just remembered that I have this meeting for work tomorrow that I forgot to do my slide deck for.”

“You have a meeting on a Saturday?” Ben had asked, clearly not wanting her to leave.

“Yep,” Morgan lied. “The joys of being an accountant. Every day is a long day at the beginning of the year.”

“Oh no! You’re leaving?!” Anna faux-protested. “And I was having such a good time…” She looked over at Ben, batted her eyelashes.

He behaved like a gentleman, reading the signals and giving the desired response. Morgan handed over the shots, and walked out. She had assumed it would be a healthy, consensual one-night stand; instead, her friend had hopped into a new relationship…

The light in the cafe suddenly seems glaringly bright. “Me?!”she laughed. “Who would find me interesting when you’re around, Anna?” She meant the words more than she wished.

“Well, I mean, not as marriage material,” Anna replied. “Obviously.” She laughed at Morgan’s quizzical expression. “I mean, you didn’t even know who he was!”

“… you did?” Morgan asked, remembering how her friend had suddenly seemed so much more inebriated. She had assumed Anna simply hadn’t eaten; that the liquor had quickly gone to her head (and libido).

“Ben Wellesley?! Of course I did. He’s been on the hottest 30 under 30 list since he was of legal age. When he walked up to us, I frankly thought I didn’t stand a chance. Historically, he hadn’t gone for my type. But I lucked out; he was ready to settle down.”

“Your marriage is much more calculated than I realized,” Morgan said, stunned. “Do you really love him at all, then? Do you really want to have his baby?”

Anna’s blonde hair glistened in the sunlight, bright as her diamond ring, which glittered where it rested on her stomach. “Of course I do. This is how I lock him in… And he can’t tell me to get rid of it; he has to pretend to be excited.”

Morgan was slightly impressed and simultaneously horrified.

“But,” Anna continued. “This baby will become the new trunk holding us together. Ben is the roots, providing our sustenance. I am the beauty, obviously, taking my daily pilates and spin classes to stay slim and appear delicate. Which means… the old trunk is no longer needed.”

“… I don’t know what you mean.” Although, of course, she did.

“The old trunk has to go away. Find a new set of roots.”

… She came upon Ben standing outside of Tiffany’s, coveted small blue box in his hand.

“Is that the ring?” she asked, coming up to him. “How exciting! Can I see it? How are you going to propose?”

He looked over at her, eyes slightly glazed. Wordlessly, he handed over the box.

It was so delicate. Morgan had never received or purchased jewelry from Tiffany’s, but now that she was peeling off the ribbon, gently lifting the lid of the box, and peeking into the satin-encased future of her friend – she got it. She felt delicate and special just getting to hold the damn thing; just imagine if it was for her. The sunlight caught the diamond, causing it to shine bright enough to hurt her eyes. It was considerable in size, and nearly colorless; Anna would love it. Any girl would love it. “It’s beautiful,” she breathed, closing the box and handing it back to her friend’s near-fiance.

“It is,” he murmured. It was strange to see him this way; Ben was always so confident, and occasionally even witty, when Morgan encountered him in social situations. But right now, he was so pale it was as though the sunlight shining in full force upon everything else had muted its ultraviolet rays just for him.

“C’mon, let’s go grab a coffee,” Morgan said, grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the nearest Starbucks. “I’m jonesing for some caffeine, and want to help you plan your proposal.”

She selected and purchased his coffee for him (caramel macchiato, because she had no clue what he liked but was fairly certain nearly everyone liked that one), along with two warm chocolate chip cookies (because everything’s better with chocolate chip cookies, even when they’re not mom’s).

“Just what I needed,” Morgan purred, luxuriating in her first sip. She had been working too many hours; she tried to keep on a happy face, but it was a miracle she was even functioning at this point. She had begun having very vivid, detailed, boring dreams about spreadsheets that caused her to startle awake in a panic, only to realize that despite knowing how ridiculous she was being, she still couldn’t go back to sleep.

Ben laughed. “You’re always enjoying life, aren’t you?”

“You have to,” Morgan replied. “We only get one.

“With pressure like that, how can you be certain you’ve met ‘the one?'” He asked, his right hand straying to the pocket holding the little blue box.

“Don’t go all nineties rom-com on me, Wellesley. Anna’s the one. You’ve been dating her for 2.5 years now, and I’ve never even seen you guys get in an argument.”

“Exactly! Don’t real couples argue?”

“Who the fuck cares what other couples do?! Besides, Anna’s just a lovely person; how can you argue with her? I’ve never managed to, and I get in foul, want-to-fight-everyone moods. That woman’s magic.”

“She is. It’s just a big commitment.”

“Pssht. You can always get a divorce.”

It took Ben several moments to realize she was joking.

“People in my family don’t get divorced,” he said.

“Catholic?” Morgan guessed.

“Fiscally conservative,” was the response. “We don’t do things for silly reasons like zealous belief in an imaginary friend; our decisions are made based on money, that most powerful of all the gods.”

Morgan chuckled. “You are occasionally funny, Wellesley.”

After several sips of coffee, he asked her: “Is that why you weren’t interested in me, the night we first met? I wasn’t funny enough?”

“I can tell you get turned down a lot,” Morgan joked.

“I’ve just always wondered.”

“Really? Strange thing to ponder when you’re fucking my friend.” He just looked at her. “Okay, fine. If you’re going to be such a girl about it, I’ll satiate your curiosity.”

“Sexist. I think I’m behaving more feline than feminine.”

Morgan graced that with a smile. Then shrugged. “I just wasn’t open to meeting anyone that night. Anna had recently had her heart broken, and my sole purpose in being at that bar was to be there for my friend.”

“So if I had met you pretty much any other night, you would not have shut me down?”

“I likely would have done the exact opposite. I mean, look at you! With those dark blue eyes that don’t occur very often in nature, I think most girls would be interested.” After a beat of uncomfortable silence, she said, “But thank god I did shut you down! Because now you’re with Anna, and about to propose. Just imagine if you had gone home with me; I’m a disaster!”

He laughed, took a sip of his coffee. “I do think about that, you know. What might be different if I had taken you home, instead. You’re not a mess; though you may be more of a mess than Anna. Most people are.”

“Maybe,” Anna continued, her voice gentle, “find a set of roots who likes, or even loves her.”

How that afternoon coffee had morphed into an afternoon romp was beyond Morgan. She didn’t ordinarily do that sort of thing, given that she was ordinarily working too much during the day to enjoy bedroom activities often when the sun was still out, and she liked her friends and didn’t want to hurt them. “You’re amazing,” he had breathed, when they were done. “How can I marry Anna now?”

“Because Ben doesn’t,” Anna continued. At Morgan’s questioning look, she clarified: “Love you.”

But Anna knew that her friend was wrong. Ben had held her close lovingly, and sparred with her verbally, and stroked her hair lovingly, and bought her the mystery novels she loved to read without being asked. He had told her she was beautiful – and meant it – when she was wearing sweats, her hair thrown up in a ponytail, sans make-up. His loving her, loving both of them, really, was the reason she had continued the illicit affair even when it became clear that Ben was going to marry Anna. He had made the trip with her to Planned Parenthood when, despite their cautiousness, she had become pregnant anyway, and had secretly wanted to keep it but wouldn’t let herself because she thought she deserved the pain and anguish that comes with losing something so precious and she also secretly thought she would be a terrible mother.

Ben did love her. But sometimes, love isn’t enough. Particularly when it is being shared between three people and the wife is tired of sharing.

“Well, I’m still not following your crazy metaphor, Anna. You must be tired; I heard hosting a parasite can do that to you…”

“I appreciate your sympathy,” Anna said dryly.

“… but on a completely unrelated note, I’ve been feeling a little lonely lately. My friend has been all wrapped up in being married and pregnant, and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind putting out some feelers, and letting me know if there are any viable, interested male friends of yours who wouldn’t mind buying me a drink, or at least fucking my brains out?”

“Morgan!” Anna reprimanded, although she was smiling. “I’m a mother now; you can’t talk that way around me anymore!”

“And why not?!” Morgan demanded. “Didn’t we just talk about this, Anna? You can’t let that little one make all of your decisions for you…”

The hazelnut coffee was warm and delicious, and when it was gone, Morgan missed it, but knew it was for the better, She would drink a new cup of hazelnut coffee soon enough, and she might even like her new cup even better. Who knew? It might even give her a Tiffany’s box.

Shit I Enjoyed Reading in 2018

With 2018 behind us, and resolutions shiny and new and still capable of being fulfilled before the next midnight party, I wanted to highlight the five-star books that I read in 2018. A common resolution is to read more, and in order to reach that goal, you need to set up a Goodreads account if you do not already have one (which has a function to set a reading goal for the year, and tracks the number of books read so long as you remember to input each one), and you need to have some good books to read. To assist with the latter, here are the books that I really liked that I read in 2018:

  1. Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh, and L.A.: Tales
    1. Author: Eve Babitz
    2. Genre: Literary Fiction
    3. Deetz: Yes, I admit it. I tried Babitz because Belletrist picked her novel Sex and Rage as one of its’ monthly picks, and I have a bit of a girl-crush on Emma Roberts. Sex and Rage was perpetually checked out of the library, but Slow Days, Fast Company (“SDFC”) was on the shelf one day and I grabbed it. It was love at first read.
    4. Babitz herself is a fascinating personage. A ’60s and ’70s L.A. It-Girl who once took a photo playing chess with Marcel Duchamp in the buff, she became a recluse after being in a car accident in ’97 that resulted in severe burns over a large part of her body. In addition to leading an interesting life, the short stories in SDFC prove that she had the literary talent to make reading her work an exercise that continues to be worthwhile. SDFC takes you to ’70s L.A. It makes you feel the magic and the scumminess and the fun and the craziness that Babitz lived. It made me want to visit L.A., and although I cannot currently afford a ticket to CA, these stories take me there figuratively via glorious, escapist read.
  2. Anna and the French Kiss
    1. Author: Stephanie Perkins
    2. Genre: YA/Romance
    3. Deetz: Young love in Paris… doesn’t it sound wonderful? Well… Perkins writes a realistic novel about privileged, white teen Anna Oliphant, who is devastated to be uprooted from her home in Atlanta, Georgia, her senior year of high school to attend boarding school in Paris, France.
    4. Yes, going to Paris sounds like a dream for a lot of us – but Anna doesn’t speak any French, and was looking forward to one more year with the friends and family with whom she had grown up for one more year before the natural separations of college occurred, anyway. Anna is also a teenager upon whom this school was foisted by her father, a bestselling novelist who is super flaky and who has separated from her mother.
    5. If you are not dead-set against reading YA, and you have not read it yet, you should read this novel — the characters are realistic, the romance is both believable and swoon-worthy, and the setting is fantastic.
  3. The Diviners
    1. Author: Libba Bray
    2. Genre: YA/Mystery
    3. Deetz: The beginning of a series, The Diviners is told from the various viewpoints of young people around New York City with various divination abilities. This first novel primarily follows Evie O’Neill, an adorable aspiring flapper who is exiled to NYC after wreaking havoc at a party in her small hometown through use of her ability to know things about people that have not been verbally disclosed. Since she is supposed to remain on the down-low, she decides to investigate a series of murders the police have requested her uncle’s help on, because fuck safety and common sense, I guess.
    4. Evie’s a bit ridiculous, but she’s also plucky and fun. The serial killer is legitimately terrifying, in that shit-I-better-watch-some-Disney-princess-movies-or-leave-the-lights-on-when-I-sleep way. And in addition to being a good individual read, Bray is obviously setting up a series that could continue to be great (the other books in the series are on my TBR list, but I do plan to continue reading the series, which I rarely do anymore).
  4. Saint Anything
    1. Author: Sarah Dessen
    2. Genre: YA
    3. Deetz: Sydney has always felt invisible, in comparison to her older brother, the charismatic bundle of trouble who goes a little too far one night and irrevocably alters his life and the lives of those who are close to him. Peyton’s incarceration does not lessen this trait; if anything, it enhances it, to the point that Sydney feels unsafe but cannot find a way to express her feelings in a way that will be heard.
    4. Also, there’s pizza and romance sprinkled in.
    5. Dessen has a way of writing realistic teenagers that is thoroughly enjoyable, and this novel is one of her best (or at least one of my favorites).
  5. Misery
    1. Author: Stephen King
    2. Genre: Horror
    3. Deetz: Stephen King gets a lot of shit, and a lot of people seem to think liking his work is akin to eating toenails — but I think those people are wrong. Whether you like his work or not, King knows how to write. His plots are sometimes absolutely fucking crazy (a car that comes to life?!), but surprisingly, the stories manage to work. His characters are so real, you have to double check that the chill running down your spine isn’t because they have sprung out of the book and are breathing down the back of your neck. But the best part are the small details that are embedded in his writing, that really drive home the setting. For example, I realized that the 21-year-old drinking age was relatively new from reading The Dead Zone. I generally like King’s work, and Misery is one of my favorites.
    4. Bestselling author Paul Sheldon has just completed his best novel yet, and is returning from his self-imposed isolation in Colorado in a snow-storm while drinking champagne straight from the bottle. When this ill-advised celebratory behavior results in a horrific car accident, Mr. Sheldon finds himself waking in the bed of his #1 fan, who has saved his life. For now, at least…
    5. If you have not read this novel yet, I think you should.
  6. My Lovely Wife
    1. Author: Samantha Downing
    2. Genre: Thriller
    3. Deetz: A marriage begins with young love and the belief, or at least, the hope, that this love is strong enough to keep the two birds together for the long haul. However, time passes, and routines emerge, along with the possibility that those beautiful feelings will begin to fade and potentially even disappear.
    4. How do you keep the spark alive?
    5. For this couple, the answer is murder. Told from the point of view of the husband, this novel is full of some fairly predictable twists and turns (although there was one twist I expected that never materialized…), but still manages to be a helluva ride. Who cares if the ending is predictable when it’s so much fun getting there?
  7. The Circle
    1. Author: Dave Eggers
    2. Genre: Horror/Satire
    3. Deetz: Imagine you got your dream job… only to realize that your dream job may be stripping everyone, including you, of your fundamental rights? This novel grapples with ye olde internet, and the transparency that social media allows, and sometimes enforces. I really enjoyed this novel, which is one of the crrepier ones I read this year.
    4. *cough cough* Also, don’t judge it by the atrocity of a movie they adapted from it featuring Emma Watson. *cough cough*
  8. Beginnings, Middles, and Ends
    1. Author: Nancy Kress
    2. Genre: Non-fiction/Writing
    3. Deetz: This book is not for everyone. But if you are a writer, and ever get stuck while writing or editing a story, this book is a great reference. Broken out into three sections, this book delves into what makes a good beginning, middle, and end. It also, perhaps more importantly, suggests concrete approaches to take to make these sections work better. I read this book cover-to-cover, as more of an educational exercise, but the sections are broken out in an easy format that would allow a writer to double check a specific section or attack a specific issue with ease.
  9. Breakfast of Champions
    1. Author: Kurt Vonnegut
    2. Genre: Literary Fiction
    3. Deetz: My first Vonnegut, this book cleverly satirizes American culture. I devoured this novel, like a tasty piece of pizza after a particularly fun bout of drinking. The writing is clever, yet simple. Vonnegut even includes illustrations. The book seems designed to appear easy – it is easy to read, and appears that it must have flown from Vonnegut’s pen effortlessly. The reality is that it takes a lot of talent and finesse to create something that appears to effortless. But regardless of whether or not you want to take the time to appreciate Vonnegut’s talent, it is a great read that you will enjoy either way.

Do you have a great read that is not listed above that can be kept in mind for those of us looking for what to read next?

(Most of the hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)

Upcoming Hiatus: See You on the Other Side

My job is crazy busy from January through March each year. It’s expected, it’s slightly awful, and it’s part of the job. So realistically, I likely will not be able to post again until this busy season has ended, at which point, I will aim to post at least once a week. Just wanted to give a quick heads-up.

Please, send me kind thoughts to help me get through the crazy, and thank you for reading!

Probably me, for the upcoming 12 weeks or so…

Potential stress relief. Please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway:

Nobody gets teen angst like a bestial metaphor

Let’s talk about the movie Thoroughbreds, which I watched recently over the holiday.

I was hoping to really like this film, which has been marketed as akin to “Heathers” meets “American Psycho,” both movies that I greatly enjoyed (although now that I think about it, there’s a TV show called Heathers as well, that I haven’t seen (and probably won’t), which could be part of the reference being made here, also). I did not like it as much as I was hoping.

In a nutshell, this movie primarily revolves around two teenage girls who rekindle an old friendship. One of them is a sociopath who feels no emotions, the other is an emotional girl who hides her turbulent emotions behind a social-friendly mask. When these girls begin speaking again, their conversations are unconventional, and become dangerous.

This movie has a lot of good elements:

  • the actors, though few, are all fairly good at their parts, particularly Olivia Cooke (the ill girl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and new Becky Sharp in the new Amazon Prime series Vanity Fair). Honestly, if there is a reason to watch this movie, it’s her.
  • the premise of maniacal, murderous mean girls, is both alliterative and fun.
  • there are many sequences that are shot very well. For those who have seen the movie (don’t worry, not going to get too spoiler-y), I found the scene where one character is incapacitated and the dramatic action occurs offscreen very compelling.

In spite of these good elements, however, the movie did not work. The plot is too thinly drawn, and the pacing is off. In spite of a plethora of great scenes that are well acted and shot well, the amount of stale, stagnant time between these scenes is too abundant to keep the viewer as invested as he/she otherwise might be. Overall, I would not recommend this movie if you have not yet seen it.


If you have seen it, please let me know your impressions and thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to take up horse riding?

(Most of the hyperlinks are to Amazon links from which I earn from qualifying purchases; please consider using these links if you are already planning to purchase the identified items via Amazon, anyway.)