Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Favorite Retelling

Our book this week is The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It's, obviously, a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story.  Alex and I have decided we're going to tell you about our favorite retellings.

I really love the Fables graphic novel series (I know!  There's a graphic novel out there I really like!  Who would have thought?)  The whole series works on the premise that the fairy tales we know and love, are real people, who have all the magical power we always knew about.  However, they were run out of their home by The Adversary.  So now their in our world, trying to cover up all their magic and just trying to get back to their homes.  Snow White essentially runs the place, the three little pigs live up at the farm in upstate NY with the other non human fairy tales, and prince charming... is actually kind of a jerk.

I like it because it's a very dark and gritty retelling of these tales we all know, and I think that it's very well done.  It's about 17 books in (I think) and it's a very good series.

No, I'm not just sucking up to my co-blogger... I really do think I See is my favorite retelling of an existing story.

I'll go more into this when I review this week's book, The Looking Glass Wars, but I don't usually enjoy modernized versions of stories that have been retold five billion times. I like either subtlety in the retelling (like a lot of the Shakespeare retellings you get, to the point that unless you're familiar with the original, you might not even notice) or using a unique original that hasn't been done to death.

When I tell people that my friend Cassy wrote a book based on the Cassandra myth, I get the look that means "should I be familiar with that? Because I'm not." It's not like retelling the Odyssey. And I like that.
Plus, it's well-executed... but you've heard me talk about this book before so I'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Retelling Stories

This week, we're reading The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  Beddor took the story of Alice in Wonderland and repurposed it, changed it.  Really, he turned it on its head and created his own story out of it.

Lots of authors have used a story as a starting point, and refashioned it into something new.  Usually, it's fairy tales that get retold in new ways.  We reviewed Cinder not that long ago (and by "not that long ago" I clearly mean a year ago... ), where Meyer took the Cinderella story, servant meets prince and falls in love, and transforms it into something futuristic.  Cinderella is a cyborg, half metal, half human, in a world far into our future.  There are aliens and hovercrafts and constant space travel and let's not forget plague and a couple more world wars than we, the reader, know about.

Myths often get retold, or told from different perspectives.  If you remember, way back when, one of the first books that we reviewed on this blog was a myth retelling.  The Penelopiad told the story of Odysseus' wife and her suitors.  But we hear a lot from Penelope's maids, because they're kind of the tragedy in the story.

You know who else did a retelling of a myth?

Where can you find this wonderful piece of work?  

OH MY GOSH!  IS THAT MY BOOK?!  HOW IN THE WORLD DID IT GET INTO THIS POST!!!  (Ok, so I'm kind of shamelessly plugging this.)  BUT that doesn't change the fact that I took the myth of Cassandra and set it in modern day, taking all of those characters and repurposing them into something new.

So what makes a retelling different from, say, fan fiction.  Well, for one, retellings take characters that are out of copyright/never were copyrighted to begin with.  Yes, they're someone else's characters, but the original owner has been dead so long, no one is around to collect the money anymore.

Also, a lot of times, while authors may start with an idea, a story, by the time the book is done, these characters are completely different than their originals.  Unlike fan fiction, people like Baddor and Meyer aren't looking to copy the original character, just give their readers some base knowledge for the story.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Author Bio - Frank Beddor

This week, we're reading The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  The book is a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story, set in a very sci-fi type setting.

Beddor is actually a VERY well known producer.  His probably two biggest claim to fames are There's Something About Mary and Wicked (no, not the play, the Julia Styles movie.)

Did I forget to mention that he is a world champion skier, a stuntman and actor?  The guy really does it all, so it shouldn't have surprised anyone when he started writing and ended up becoming a NY Times bestseller.

The Looking Glass Wars is the first of a trilogy, and has a spin off graphic novel series, Hatter Matigan.

As per usual, you can always go to his website to find out more about him!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review Me Twice: Call of Cthulu by H P Lovecraft

A short story has never felt so long. And I've read books of Stephen King's short stories (the ones he can keep short are good, but sometimes it seems he forgets that he's not writing a novel).

If you have a large vocabulary, incredible patience, and don't expect great horrors from this story, you'll be fine. I have the first, but I thought that what was supposed to be one of the greatest horror stories of all time would have better pacing and, you know, actual scary stuff.

Really, it all boils down to the fact that I don't like the framing device for this story. I went in expecting something more like a history of the old gods or a direct recollection of someone's interaction with this incarnation of hell itself... instead, I get many, many pages of a guy digging through his dead relative's paperwork and looking at a carving. I get the boring side of an Indiana Jones adventure, really.

It doesn't help that the copy I used has those awful ragged-edge pages that make it impossible to turn to the correct page on the first try (especially when it seems nobody else has ever checked the book out from the library so the pages haven't separated) so I lost patience with it more quickly than I might have before. But it was only 31 pages, so I made it, albeit unhappily.

To summarize, I was disappointed. When so many authors I like tell me another author is amazing, I expect to agree. I did not.

Honestly, I wasn't impressed with the book at all.  Half the time I couldn't follow the characters, I wasn't totally sure who he was talking about, and there was a lot of jumping from place to place.

Also, maybe I'm just not intelligent enough for this story, but to be honest, I just didn't get it.  The Cthuhlu is supposed to be this insanely scary thing.  Basically it scares men to death.  But our main character doesn't even SEE the thing, and he's petrified of it.  He's done nothing but read second hand accounts and that's convinced him that he's going to die, which seems a little over dramatic to me.

For such a classic, I was insanely disappointed with the book.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cthulu in Pop Culture

Cthulu is a pretty cool monster... I mean, look at him:

Depending on your personality, you just don't want to make that guy angry, or you want to attack him and take him down. Either way, he's awesome. Which is why it isn't too surprising that he's all over the place in pop culture.

The first printing of the original Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods book included an entire chapter on Cthulu and his mythos. Unfortunately for them, Cthulu was copyrighted and they had to remove him from subsequent editions.

Magic: The Gathering includes a group of beings called the Eldrazi, who are heavily influenced by Cthulu in description and power.

Several video games, including Quake, Lost Souls, and World of Warcraft include either direct references to Cthulu or characters (usually boss types) that are clearly modeled on him and the other old gods. Did you know that you can summon Cthulu in Scribblenauts? Seriously... try it; it's adorable.

Lots of bands have songs either explicitly about or influenced by Cthulu: Gwar ("Horror of Yig"), Cradle of Filth ("Cthulu Dawn"), Blue Oyster Cult ("The Old Gods Return"), Deadmau5 ("Cthulu Sleeps"), Metallica ("All Nightmare Long" and "The Call of Ktulu")... there's even a band called H. P. Lovecraft.

He shows up in other books, too. Eoin Colfer slid him into the final installment of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy six-book "trilogy" where he was interviewing for a position as god of a small planet. Terry Pratchett makes several references throughout the Discworld series, and Neil Gaiman has written a short story called "I, Cthulu" that is meant to be an autobiography of the beast. (He wrote about him again in "A Study in Emerald," which is like a Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft mashup.)

Cthulu has also shown up on television: Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Supernatural, True Detective, several episodes of Dark Shadows, and (pictured above) South Park have all incorporated Cthulu or parts of his mythos.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Favorite Short Story

I've mentioned The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury before as my favorite comfort book. It also contains my favorite short story. (Though, if we had to pick second place, it would contain at least three of the ten or so I would tie for that honor.)

My favorite is called "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is the title of a poem by Sara Teasdale to which the story refers. The two lines of the poem that really encapsulate the theme of the short story are "Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, / If mankind perished utterly." The story is about an automated house that continues to do its work (alarm clocks, weather reports, making breakfast, vacuuming, etc.) after the inhabitants (and, seemingly, everyone else) are dead. Human extinction became a really big theme after nuclear weapons became a real threat, and I think this poem and this story are excellent examples of the subgenre.

I don't read a lot of short stories, but while in a Major Authors class in college, I read one by Octavia Butler.  Now, this class gave me a huge appreciation and love for this author (Female, African-American sci-fi writer.)  She wrote a lot of post-apocalyptic books, which is something I love to read anyway.

She wrote a book called "Bloodchild and other stories" and, while I didn't read the whole book, I did read a story called "Speech Sounds."  It basically works on the premise that a disease has spread throughout mankind, rendering many of them unable to read, write, speak, understand speech, or any combination thereof.  Rye, our protagonist, can still speak, and meets Obsidian, a man who can still read.  

It's well written, and short, and by an author I love.  Pick something up by her if you have the chance.  And, just in case you want to read it, here's a probably legal copy of "Speech Sounds."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Difference Between Novels & Shorts

Short stories are much different than novels.  You have to get all your ideas in one short little time span, which is sometimes harder to do than writing a full length novel.  Octavia Butler, who wrote sci-fi and only one book of short stories, repeatedly said that she wasn't a short story writer, she was a novel writer, but that these ideas just needed a place to go.  So what are the differences between the two?

Word Count

The first and most obvious is how long each are.  NaNoWriMo says that a novel is 50,000 words or more, and that's a pretty good estimate.  You're looking at roughly 100 pages in Microsoft Word.  Short stories usually range from 1500 - 3000 words, about a sixth of novel.  But don't be fooled: shorter doesn't mean easier.

Character development

In a novel, you, essentially, have as much space as you need to create your story and your characters.  You want to write 600 pages to introduce and develop everyone?  You've got it.  George R.R. Martin has numerous characters in his books, and spans that development over (so far) five, very long, books.

In a short story, you're limited.  You only get about 3000 words, at most, and you need that space for other things.  Your character's entire background had to be succinct, and take up just a few paragraphs.

World Building

Whether it's short story or novel, you're always dropped right in the middle of a world.  When writing novels, you have to make it like this place has always existed, that it's always been there,
because in that book, it has.  But you have a ton of time in a novel to show the reader that world.  Your readers should always catch on to what's happening, and the differences in that world, within a few paragraphs, but you have the whole book to let them explore it, to become a part of it, and to discover its mysteries.

In a short story, you have very little time to acclimate yourself to that world, so you better write it well, and clearly, and let the readers know exactly what's going on it it.  Because in four sentences, you have to introduce conflict.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Author Bio: H P Lovecraft

Surely you've heard of H P Lovecraft before. He's one of the great masters of horror... but not while he was alive. He only became popular posthumously and never got to enjoy his fame. He did contribute regularly to Weird Tales magazine, but never made enough money to live off of his earnings as a writer (this is often attributed to his lack of drive and confidence in his writing and ability to promote himself to publishers). He had an inheritance, but it was spent by the time he died in 1937 at the age of 46.

He was often sick in childhood (though it has been suggested that many of his illnesses were psychosomatic) and he was kept home from school a lot. Lovecraft was reclusive and isolated. He was close with his mother, who died in 1921 in a mental institution (the same one where her husband had died).

His writing influences may be a bit obvious to anyone familiar with his work: his own nightmares feature prominently in his inspirations, as well as the work of Edgar Allan Poe. He was also a fan of Algernon Blackwood, quoting him in the beginning of this week's review book (technically a short story), "The Call of Cthulu."

In turn, Lovecraft has influenced death metal bands, other horror and sci-fi writers of books, TV, and film, and many other facets of culture. In fact, on my favorite wedding website, they use the phrase "bridethulu" instead of "bridezilla" as a reference to Cthulu.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review Me Twice: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I picked this book for a number of reasons.  One, it had been recommended to me a few times by a few different people (my YA book club being one of them.)  Two, I bought a copy of it with the $50 Barnes & Noble gift card I got from work.  I've been making an effort lately to read books I already own.

Every single recommendation you've heard about this book is true.  I started this book on a Friday and could not put it down.  I had to go to my dress fitting on Saturday and was annoyed (ANNOYED to get fitted for my wedding), because I wanted to finish the book so badly.

Cather is the girl you're following around for the majority of the book, but she has a twin sister Wren, who has a pretty significant effect on her life, for obvious reasons.  I love how it's fan fiction that brings Cath out of herself, that makes her open up to people.  I love that, while her family loves each other so freakin' much, they have a lot of things that they have to work out.  I love that the problems in the beginning of the book are not necessarily the problems at the end of the book.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Cath and Levi.  I mean.... I can not remember a time when I have been so invested in a couple.  They kill me with cute.

This is definitely Cath's coming of age story, and I think that Rowell does it in the best possible way.  It's not all at once, or sudden, and Cath hasn't transformed into this different person by the end of the book.  She's still... her, but just with a little bit more umph.

This book is my most favorite book so far this year and don't be surprised if it shows up a few more times around here.

I had not heard of this book before Cassy picked it for us to read, but I'm so glad that she did. One of the best compliments I can give a book is that it is compelling, that it drove me to finish it, and this book is incredibly compelling.

These characters are so real. They're like actual people I could have known during my first year of college. And I think that without thinking they're like any specific people I knew; they're like their own people. (Actually, I take that back; I knew somebody a lot like Nick. But that doesn't make him a less well-written character.)

This book clearly got into both of us and demanded to be read; Cassy was interrupted by wedding stuff, and I stopped watching the first season of Game of Thrones for a whole night to sit quietly and read. Priorities.

I think there's a specific audience for this book, though. I'm not sure that older adults would appreciate the young voices (they might see more of the whining and... teen-ness) and anyone younger than early high school usually can't identify with the college life yet. So I don't think it's the kind of YA that spans other age groups, personally, but I've been wrong before.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What is Fan Fiction?

Yesterday, we talked about our favorite fan fiction. (Or, rather, I danced around doing that, and Cassy kind of did it.) But what is fan fiction? I am here to help the perplexed, because despite the fact that I don't read it, I know my fair share about it.

Lesson One: These are amateurs (for the most part). Fan fiction is, by its very definition, written by fans of famous things (novels, movies, games, whatever). They do not pay editors to help them find all the typos and fix all the errors. A lot of them don't even have friends do this, because of my next point, or perhaps because they don't think they write well enough to let people they know read their work. So give them a break on this... to a point. (If every single sentence has errors, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.)

Lesson Two: It's not all NSFW. Fanfic has an enormous reputation for being pornographic. This stems from the fact that people can't tell the difference between the larger category of fanfic and the subset (albeit a large one) of slashfic. Slashfic gets its name from the "/" that goes between two characters' names, indicating that they have a romantic relationship in this adaptation, like "Kirk/Spock" or "Harry/Snape." So you're basically writing your own weird character mashup fantasies (which is why some people publish anonymously or under pseudonyms and are too ashamed/shy to have people who know them check for typos in a sentence like "Then Shape brushed Harry's hair aside, tracing his fingers along Harry's strong jawline, lingering momentarily at his luscious, hungering lips." I'll be honest, I feel a little dirty after writing just that one sentence.)

Lesson Three: Not all authors like it; not all authors hate it. There are some authors who love to read fanfic of their work. J K Rowling has been quoted as saying that she was flattered by HP fanfic; Stephanie Meyer links to some fanfic on her website. Other authors, however, hate it. George R R Martin is very vocal about his distaste for Song of Ice and Fire fanfic, and Anne Rice prevents fanfic of her work at every turn. Like I mentioned yesterday, fanfic is legally considered "derivative work" because you're using elements that someone else created to make something new. If you drop Mickey Mouse and Katness Everdeen into Westeros and have them fight Smaug with lightsabers,
you're skipping a lot of the work that goes into writing: character creation and development, setting description, even fighting style unless they use lightsabers in some new and unusual way. I can see why authors would be upset by fanfic, but I also think it's important to have it around...

Lesson Four: It's a great exercise. I mentioned in Lesson One that this isn't a professional thing to do (although many professional writers actually write fanfic on the side, for fun). You don't, as a rule, publish fanfic. (Mostly because of that problematic legal stuff I was just talking about.) But it's a great idea to write it. If you want to practice pacing or dialogue or other more abstract concepts of writing, it allows you to focus on that one element without having to get all the other ducks (like characters, setting, names) in a row. Just don't expect your fanfic to make you world famous... at some point, you should start creating your own characters to share with the world and inspire another future writer to write fanfic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Favorite Fan Fiction

I pointed out to Cassy yesterday that I have never read fan fiction, to the best of my knowledge. The thing about fanfic is that - as a general rule - you don't tend to make money off of it. That's because fanfic is, under US copyright laws, "derivative work" because you're using the characters and/or setting created by another person, so it's a weird gray area. But I'll discuss that more tomorrow. Back to the point at hand: I don't read fanfic.

However, I ran across a quote from Neil Gaiman (totally by coincidence, actually) where he said something to the effect that fan fiction is hard to define... a fan of a series writing a part of that series (I think his example was Batman, but I thought of how many "Doctor Who" fans have written for the show's reboot, and in fact acted in it; it was David Tennant's dream job to be the Doctor) is a kind of fan fiction.

So in that sense, I have read a great deal of fanfic. But in the truer sense, I have read none. So that's my answer to this week's favorite: I haven't read any.

I had a period in my life where all I did was write and read fan-fic.  From a writer point of view, it's a great way to start out.  I took characters I loved and molded them the way that I wanted them to be molded, turned them into the characters I wanted, and come to the endings that shows and books never gave me.

I had a Sailor Moon fic I was going to show you, but I couldn't remember the name of it and all my Google-fu deserted me.  Instead, I'm going to link you to a fun exercise in writing.

This was the show I wrote fanfic for... and who wouldn't want to write about that gorgeous hunk of man?

You may not be able to read it if you're not a Livejournal member.  Hell, you might even have to be a member of the community (I don't know: It's been awhile since I've participated in this kind of stuff.)

However, they were called comment fics.  Members of the community would write prompts and include the very basics: characters they would like to see used, and a topic/situation/quote they want to see portrayed.  Then a different member of the community would come in and write a short fan fic (usually 100-300 words.)

I participated in the particular one that I linked (so if you scroll through and see im_writing, that's me.)  It was a fun exercise that really gets your brain juices going and, if you ever have the chance to participate, I really recommend it.  This was was particularly fun and was for the TV show, In Plain Sight.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Because We Love NaNo around here

It's April, and that means that there are two big events going on:  NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and Camp NaNoWriMo.

Alex, my most wonderful co-blogger, usually participates in both of these events every year, along with NaNoWriMo that we both do.  What is the benefits, you may ask?  I mean, one book a year is enough.

NaPo and Camp NaNo are actually great alternatives to the November NaNo, especially if you want to get a trial run of what NaNo would be like.  Poetry, while I won't say is EASIER to write, it certainly has a less intense word count associated with it.  It lets you write without having to meet a goal other than, "write one poem a day."

Camp NaNoWriMo is the same way.  The different between Camp and the traditional November push, is that Camp lets you pick your own word goal.  That's right, no 50K mark to hit in April (unless, of course, you absolutely want to.)  You could set a 25K goal or a 30K.  Whatever your comfortable with.

So why all the NaNo encouragement?  Well, our author this week, Rainbow Rowell, actually wrote our book this week, Fangirl, during NaNoWriMo.  She even talked about how liberating NaNo was during her pep talk. So it just goes to show that you never know what can come out of NaNo, weather it be during April when you're testing things out, or during the actual month of November.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Author Bio: Rainbow Rowell

This week, we're reading Fangirl (which I'm super excited about, I might add.)  Rainbow Rowell is our author and, yes, before you ask, that IS her real name.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and her two sons, and a lot of her fiction takes place in Nebraska.  There's actually not a TON out there about her or her personal life, but she has done a litany of interviews and talked about Eleanor & Park (a book written just before Fangirl) extensively in interviews.

She, of course, is present on just about all social media, and the best place to find it all is over at her website.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review Me Twice - Unremembered by Jessica Brody

Alex suggested our book this week, but, to be honest, I've been seeing it at my job for some time now and was always interested in it.  I'm glad she picked it and made me read it.

The book was actually very good, very imaginative, and very well paced.  As often happens in amnesia books, the exposition doesn't feel weird or out of place, because the main character is learning all of these things about themselves.

Sera (or Violet) is our main character and we realize from almost page one that she's is not quite like other kids (I mean, her eyes are purple, for goodness sake.)  And, as the book progresses, we learn more weird things about her.  Speaks multiple languages with ease, can run faster than any normal human should, can rip car doors off their hinges in a single push.

I won't give away too much, because I don't want to spoil the book, but you should know there is a big twist at the end and, for once, I didn't see it coming.

This was a good one and one that I think should be picked up.

Have you noticed that a lot of YA is about the big, scary organization experimenting on - or otherwise using for their own purposes which they claim to be for the good of everyone - young people? Yeah, me too. And you probably think I'm about to say that this is one of those books... but it's not. I mean, it is (that's a very vague description of its plot) but it doesn't feel like every other book like that.

Cassy and I were just saying last night that the Matched trilogy feels very "done," as in, I've seen this all before. This book does not feel "done" to me, although a few elements worried me when I first came across them ("oh no, this is going to be just like Maze Runner, Cinder, Matched, Twilight...") but none of them turned out to feel the same as the other books. Which is awesome.

So check this one out. It's fairly unique for YA fiction, it's compelling, and it's interesting.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Know Where This Is Going

A lot of times, Cassy will tell me that a book she read was really predictable... Then I'll read the same book and totally disagree with that opinion, because I didn't see the ending coming. There's one really big difference between us that causes that: Cassy looks forward while reading, and I don't.

I've never liked guessing at the next plot point or the ending or the hidden motivations of a character; it's just not my thing. When I guess the ending, you know it's obvious, because I'm not trying to guess it... in fact, a lot of times, I'm actively trying not to guess it. The only times I make an effort are mysteries (which I don't read often) and when I'm in the middle of writing myself (like I am now, for Camp NaNoWriMo) and don't have my own plot entirely planned out, so it's like I'm looking for ideas.

But sometimes you're wrong. And isn't that disappointing? You think you know what's going to happen to a character, or you've discovered the big twist, and then it's disproven a few chapters later.

That happened to me with this week's review book, Unremembered. I thought I knew the secret to where this amnesiac girl pulled from the airplane wreckage came from as soon as I read one of the details of how she was found. Then a few chapters later, nope, I was wrong. (Not TOTALLY wrong, but wrong enough.) So now I want to read the book I had mapped out in my head. I want to know what happens to the doppelganger of this character that popped into my head. But if I tried to write it, it would have to start with the same exact first few chapters as this book, and that, my friends, is plagiarism. I mean, I could write it for myself, but that's not my thing.

Does this happen to anyone else? I think this might be part of the reason I don't guess ahead... I get really disappointed on the occasions when I get it wrong.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Favorite Book with Amnesia

This week, we're reading Unremembered by Jessica Brody.  The whole book is about a girl who can't remember anything that's happened to her.  So today, we're going to tell you our favorite book where the characters lose their memory (I know; it's another one of those oddly specific days here at Review Me Twice.)

So, when I first saw this suggestion for favorites this week, I thought, "I have no freakin' clue!" and then two seconds later I thought, "Oh, wait, I know exactly what book I want."

We reviewed The Maze Runner not that long ago on here, so I won't go into it too much, but I just loved how Dashner used amnesia in this book.  It was a great way to get the reader to learn about things, because we were learning them at the exact same pace as our hero.  I loved that no one could remember who they were.  It wasn't just our main character: no one could remember anything about their lives before they came there, except for their names.

Also, it's SUPER EXCITING this book.  I mean, I blew through this book and loved it every step of the way.  There are very few books that Alex and I both absolutely rave about, but I definitely think this is one of them.

Dang, Cassy beat me to it. This is absolutely my favorite instance of amnesia in a book. Cassy even summed up my reasons perfectly: you get exposition without feeling like the author is giving you exposition, because the protagonist needs it too. He's just dropped into the middle of things (like you, the reader) and has no idea what's going on... he knows nothing beyond his own name.

I've read the trilogy (and still slogging my way through the prequel) and - I don't think this is spoilery, personally - the memory thing keeps going for a while, and doesn't get old. It progresses at a good pace in conjunction with the story. So the whole thing just works really well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Use of Amnesia in Literature

There are LOTS of stories where characters lose their memory.  Our book this week, Unremembered by Jessica Brody, using this method, mostly for the shock factor. We, as the reader, don't know where she came from or who she was.  And, as you read through, you realize that this is mostly to keep the reader in the dark of The Big Twist.  If your main character doesn't know, then the reader doesn't either.

Really, I just love this series and will take any opportunity to slip it in.

We've read some other books where amnesia is present.  The Maze Runner is a big one, and while the amnesia is used for The Big Twist, it's also used to make exposition feel a little more natural.  When someone sits there and explains the rules and the maze to our main character, and thereby explaining it to the reader, it doesn't feel forced because our main character is completely clueless.

Amnesia is also used a lot to facilitate a mystery.  In All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark, the main character is accused of murdering her English professor.  She can seem to remember anything about what happen, and all the evidence seems to point to her.  Clark uses the memory loss as a coping mechanism for her character and it helps to also shroud the whole murder in mystery.

These are just a few ways authors use memory loss to make their stories happen.  What other novels do you know where amnesia plays a big role?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Author Bio: Jessica Brody

From Jessica's website,
This week, we're reading a book by the lovely young lady up there, Jessica Brody. She's only a few years older than Cassy and me, and she has sold nine novels (two adult, seven YA) so far. No pressure, us. The one we'll be reading this week is Unremembered, the first in a trilogy.

She's a full-time writer, and visits schools a lot (you can request a visit for your school here) to talk about bullying, overcoming obstacles, and writing.

Her website is if you want to learn more, and she blogs pretty regularly at if you like reading blogs (and you're here, so I'm guessing you do). And, like so many authors today, she's on Facebook, Twitter, etc... sort out all of that here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review Me Twice - Big Trouble by Dave Barry

The book this week was my pick and, while I did enjoy it, I wish I had picked a different Dave Barry book to review.

It was comical, and very obviously overly satirical.  It fell into stereotypes to show you how ridiculous some of them actually are.  It made commentary about airport security and how useless it really is (and this is post 9/11 we're talking about.)  I mean, it's a very chuckle worthy book.

But having read his other humor (non-fiction) books, this one just didn't hold up.  The other things I've read have side-splitting humor and this just... didn't.  Fiction is not really Barry's forte, I don't believe.

However, it WAS still funny, and it made me smile and you shouldn't be turned off from reading it.  I just wouldn't start with this one if you've never read anything by Dave Barry and you want to.  Try one of his other books first.

This is one of those books that is pretty funny throughout, with only a few literal lol moments. I like books like that. It's like British humor (except Barry is American).

I have to correct Cassy on one point... the book was published in September 1999 (I kept checking the spine label on my library copy when the characters were in the airport, because it really is weird to read pre-9/11 airport scenes, even though I did some flying pre-9/11 myself). The movie was supposed to be released in '01 but they postponed it to '02 due to 9/11-related sensitivity (there's a nuke on a plane at one point, for goodness' sake).

I liked the characters pretty much across the board in terms of writing (there are some characters you just aren't supposed to like) which I love. It's hard to give over a dozen characters relatively equal billing, but he did it, and I love it. It's a technique I'm actually trying to recreate in my Camp NaNoWriMo novel right now (and failing, pretty much).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Favorite Humor Book

In honor of this week's humorous book, we're picking our favorite humorous books this week!

Mine is, awkwardly, an upcoming review book, so I'll say very little about it. Years ago, our friend Christopher told me I needed to read this book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, probably best known for her role on The Office. She's also a comedy writer, and her style translates well to bookhood.

But you'll hear more about it in a few weeks... (Oh the suspense!)

I was going to put Paper Towns here, but decided that it's not technically a humor book, it just happens to be hysterically funny.  So I chose a different book by our author this week!

Our book this week is an actual story that Dave Barry wrote.  I'll Mature When I'm Dead is more like his columns, and in fact, some of the stories in there are directly from his column.  He had a Twilight parody (which is pretty much the funniest one that I've read ever), he talks about his dog and his kids and all this real life stuff that's so excruciatingly funny, it could only true.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Types of Comedy

There are all kinds of ways to be funny. And people laugh at all sorts of things. But today, I'm going to just list a few of the ways that people use to make us laugh.

Slap-stick humor

 This is probably one of my least favorite kinds of comedy. However, my Fiance loves it. He thinks that it's just hysterical. The Three Stooges were masters of slapstick comedy. There are also a series of movies that rely heavily on slapstick, like Airplane and the Scary Movie franchise.


Who hasn't used a little sarcasm in their lives?  It's a dry sort of humor, saying the opposite of what you really mean, but in such a way that the person your talking to realizes you're not series.  Ten Thing I Hate About You was a movie that relied heavily on sarcasm (and is one of my favorites.  Mmmmm Heath Leadger.)

Laugh-At-Life Humor

This is where our author this week, Dave Barry, usually falls into.  He takes real situations in life and writes them in such a way that you can't help but fall on the floor laughing.  He will often talk about his dog, or his children and the comical things that arise out of being a father.

"Bathroom" humor

Is it inappropriate?  Are their fart and boob jokes?  Then it's probably bathroom humor.  Cyanide and Happiness uses a lot of this kind of humor and no topic is unholy (they make everything from fart jokes to cancer jokes.)


Probably the most simple and basic kind of humor, puns are easy and can be hysterical if you tell the right one.  It also takes a certain kind of person (my old roommate can't get enough of puns, but another friend of mine can't stand them and threatens me with certain death when I tell them.)