Category Archives: Books

Guest Post


I’m super excited to announce that today I am guest posting about some books I’ve recently read at New York Times best selling author Lauren Willig‘s website. Willig authored the deliciously entertaining Pink Carnation series, which have been favorites of mine for many years. Thanks, Lauren for this opportunity!

Read my post on wifely books here.

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Reading Slump


I find I write better when I’m reading good books. But lately I haven’t encountered any of those Magical Things.
I recently finished Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours which had a compelling plot line, but didn’t suck me in like her other novels The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton did. Too much unnecessary flowery prose and character sketches, and it took forever to get to the point. I’ve started a few other novels but never felt compelled enough by any of them to invest in finishing them.

Any suggestions? I like historical (but if it takes place in the 1960s onward I won’t touch it) novels with romantic elements. Also since I’m marrying a Spaniard in 4 months and 23 days, I’m interested in reading ones set in Spain. I just picked up The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner and I’m thinking some Carlos Ruiz Zafron would be good since he’s pretty highly acclaimed.

So yea, what do you say?


Dads and Doughnuts


Remember LAPTOP LIT MAG is here!! Check it!

Also Happy Birthday to my twin younger sibs. 16 today = driving. I’m a little nervous.

Yesterday, my former elementary school where my youngest sister currently attends, hosted the annual Scholastic Book Fair. If you follow the link and watch the kids in the video, imagine a 6-14 year old ginger kid who looked forward to this day of the school year more than the Christmas party free-for-all, field day, and summer vacation combined, and that kid would be me. Ok fine, take out the summer vacation, no kid is that nerdy that they enjoy something more than summer.

But I did adore the Book Fair. Each year, the gym transformed from a grungy place designed to torment children into the most magical place on earth. Tables literally overflowing with books. And what a variety! Clifford the Big Red Dog to Great Expectations. It was almost like heaven, but not quite, since I’m entirely convinced my heaven will look like my dearly departed local Borders. Each year, I collected my own money and parents’ spare change to wreak havoc on that place. No expense was spared (and still isn’t, whether it be print or Kindle format). I always returned to class with at least three plastic bags with book corners poking holes out of them.

It thrills me that nearly ten years after I’ve left the place, the tradition lives on. My sister – who doesn’t read much but likes buying things – gets to enjoy the same excitement I did. And the first step is owning the book. Once she has it and it’s hers she’s more likely to read it. It’s all about the encouragement.

Which is what is so fundamentally great about the Book Fair. It’s literally glorifying books right at the age where kids start idolizing things and creating their future life habits. If you present something as awesome to a kid when they are very young, odds are they will still think it’s awesome when they are older. Example – Rugrats cartoons. If you think about it, not really so great as far as concept, drawing, voices, everything else. But ask anyone who watched it when they were little and they will say something like, “Ahh, Rugrats. Good times. That was when cartoons were good, not like the stuff nowadays.” They’re really all on the same level, people, your perception is what has changed.

But something as broad as books don’t fade. There are too many different kids of books for people to be prejudiced against them as a whole. Reading is one of those things where – even if it takes you a while to get into it – once you find something you love and start reading it, you tend to not stop. Plus, you have to read to advance anywhere in this computer age anyway, so even if you don’t like reading, you’re reading this right now. Ha ha!

I digress.

This year, in order to foster more love of reading, the school did something so brilliant, I can’t even stand it. For the first half hour before school began they invited all Dads to join their kids at the Book Fair and offered them free doughnuts.

Wow. Kids spending time with Dads who probably work and don’t get to see their kids much during the week while eating scrumptious breakfast/desserts (how do you classify doughnuts really?) while also surrounded by thousands of books. I could almost cry at the beauty. Just by making the event something special consequently makes the kids remember their experience. And what was the factor that brought this experience about? BOOKS! Within that half-hour alone, the powers that be made $1,100. Yea that’s right. Put everyone in a good mood, make sure Dad is paying and the cash just can’t stop flowing.

My sister came home with about ten books. Five purchased with Dad and five when her class got to go down later that day for those whose Dads were not able to make it. She’s in fifth grade and returned with:

She loves dogs

And Phineas and Ferb.

All perfectly acceptable fifth grade reading level books. And I will deny this if you tell on me but sometimes I find myself watching Phineas and Ferb on my own, now that my soap opera has been cancelled. What? I never watched soaps or childish cartoons at nearly 22! Granted when I was in fifth grade, I came home from the Book Fair with the following:

Technically the love began in third grade, but I still dig these classics out. You can NEVER go wrong with Nancy Drew.

Not a lie. Fifth grade. Still have the copies. One is never to throw away books.

So my sister and I have different reading tastes. But we always knew this. I am the family reader, she is not. She may not be reading Pride and Prejudice but thanks to the Book Fair, she is still reading.

Had a request from Dear Friend Kristen, to update on my writing. Will do, but this post has gone on long enough, so next time.


Three Things


First

Check it. Letter to a Young Writer from Kiki eons ago. Never got around to posting it because couldn’t think of good enough comments. Still haven’t but I want it out of my drafts box and think you could gain things from it.

Second

Book review. I haven’t done one of these in a while but I enjoyed this book so much that I have to. Be forewarned it’s not an easy read.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens is the story of Annie O’Sullivan, a Realtor whose life is brutally interrupted when she is abducted after one of her open houses. After a year of no contact with the outside world, she finds her way back home and struggles to piece her life back together, revealed through sessions with her psychiatrist.

My thoughts: an excellent read. Much of it was tough to get through because of the nature of the content. Though I flew through it, I had to read it in shifts. The gritty details make a reader cringe, but are not over the top. There is just enough to be chilling but not too many to be obscene or unbearable. The first person narrative shows much more of the internal struggle than would be revealed through third person. Annie’s regression then progression is perfectly paced and real. The characters are well developed and Stevens’ research into the human psyche is apparent. Additionally, issues of family, friends and tested relationships are fleshed out very well. Aside from the horrific experience, Annie also deals with normal problems.

But even more horrid was the possibility that someone might still be out to get her … It had me on the edge of my seat, tense and cheering for her the whole time.

Sorry for the brevity of the review, but I’m tired.

Third

WOAH! A movie about Facebook? I do find it ironic that the first thing I did when I found out was post the link to all my friends … on Facebook.


A Mother Can Dream


My deepest apologies! I am 34 hits over 2,000 and have yet to upload the opening chapter of Becoming Mrs. Kennedy. I hurl all blame away from myself to heartily thrust it on Fairfield University and professors who require both final papers and exams. One or the other I could handle, but both? Come on, now you’re just being mean. Pick one. Hats off to professors who are able to make up their minds.

Anyway, in a few moments I will, as promised, post the first chapter of my novel. This book and I have been through quite a bit. I gave birth to her about half way through senior year of high school (so that puts us at approximately February of ’08) because of an inspiration to write about a soldier and the need to get over a guy. Let me tell you, ladies (and I suppose it could work in reverse for gentlemen as well) there is no better way to get a man out of your mind than making him a hero of one of your stories and then finishing that project. Because once you finish it, it is done! Then you are quite literally done with him! This strategy has come through for me now on two occasions. *Note to self, do not write about the, we’ll call him interest, you have now lest it makes things go awry.* What, did I say that? Of course not, that would be getting my hopes up …

ANYWAY, I completed the first draft around May of ’08, and then edited it a bit in between spurts of unsuccessful queries to agents. It didn’t disappoint me too much, for I had much on my mind with college and moving out, etc. Plus by then the idea for Damn Brits would not leave me alone, so I had Julian on the brain rather than Derek (all names have been changed so as to not resemble flesh and blood people). I was still proud of BMK, I only decided to put it down for a little nap like a good mother would for her over-tired toddler.

Two years later, I pick up the damn thing to edit it and give it another shot in the publishing world, and nearly go into the bathroom to hang myself. I thought this writing was good?!?!? I thought this would get me published!?!? No wonder agents rejected me! No wonder my mother lied about finishing it. It was awful!!! This was how I wrote? I would never be a published novelist if this was the way my writing took shape!

Following a few days of self-pity and despair, Ralph gave me a good kick in the ass (unrelated to writing, but quite related to other life experiences) that basically hammered home the realization that I had to give it another go. My precious toddler had grown into a gangly, pimply teenager who just needed some tlc and a giant makeover. Snuggling up in a comfy chair in the library armed with a notebook, highlighters, stikie notes, post-its, pencils, pens, and a Sharpie, I began construction. I excavated the entire first chapter, laying a new foundation in the form of a much better one, and remodeled all of the interior design by scrapping my “See June run” (little tribute to June Hur there) sentences for better craft.

So now here it is. It is what it is. I’m still uncertain of whether to pitch it as a YA novel or an adult novel. The first chapter begins in college, but the rest of it is post college/adult life … I’m not sure. Your thoughts would be welcome!

I do hope you enjoy it (warning gentlemen, it is girly) and let me know what you think. Please be honest, I’m a big girl and I can take it. I come from Irish heritage; the world has been crapping on us for centuries, therefore we have thick skins. I will gratefully take all constructive comments. This is my baby, and I want her to be the best she can be before I send her off into the world to fend for herself among the turbulent sea of publishers. Hopefully there she will then find her soul-mate, a publishing contract, and then the two of them can ride off into the sunset to blissfully reside in their lovely house on Bookstore Street waiting to hear of the birth of her little sister, The Second Novel. Or so a mother can dream.


Fantastic Book Alert


Right then, so rather than write my last final paper, here I am reading a book I plan to recommend to everyone I know, give as gifts, etc.

As I was perusing my sanctuary that is Borders, escaping from a harrowing day of classes and finals, I came across a title I could not allow to slip through my fingers (or G’s, she wants it for her birthday, damn now she knows what I’m giving her!).

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren is going to be responsible for my failing grade. I simply could not put it down! This intriguing memoir sheds light on a life most everyday Americans, or citizens of fortunate Western-culture countries, would have absolutely no idea about.

The book follows Jillian’s life from when she began living on her own in NYC (and who wouldn’t want to do that? I know I plan on it after college, here it’s already a good book) as a struggling actress who soon finds herself on a plane to Brunei at the behest of the Sultan’s brother Prince Jefri.

I know, quite the change of lifestyle. Jillian soon becomes one of the Prince’s favorites in his harem and reaps the benefits of limitless spending privileges and royal treatment. But yapping at the advantage’s heels are some girls who would do anything to see her fall.

The well-crafted prose along with the addicting story will have you hooked by page one. I started reading it the second I returned from Borders and finished it two days later (it would have been sooner but the Glee Club had our annual Pops concert – which was amazing!!! – and it took over my life once again). The wild tale of a contemporary Scheherazade will keep your thumbs turning pages well into the wee hours. Kudos to Jillian!

Creative Writing Status and Goals (We’ll Do It All in One Go Today)

Rescue Me: It’s coming along. I’ve been writing this little sucker non-stop between classes outside whenever it’s not raining and have the sunburn to prove it. As of right now I’m where I want to be. Goal: don’t lose the momentum.

BMK: Half through edits and I am liking it much better. Now that I’m cleaning it up, I’m not sure if it would still count as a YA novel or if it would be an adult novel … a full post on this alone is due so I can gather your trusted opinions. Goal: Still 2,000 hits!! only 130 to go!!


The Last Article of the Spring 2010 Semester


The last spring 2010 issue of The Mirror was released yesterday 😦 BUT I went out with a bang having both written this article AND edited a section for the first time. *Aspiring Novelist pats herself on the back*

“House Rules” Ruled a Page-Turner

What would you do if you were obsessed with crime?

Jacob Hunt, the principal character in Jodi Picoult’s latest novel House Rules, has this addiction. He watches CSI shows religiously, fabricates his own crime scenes in his home, and crashes real crime scenes after listening into local police frequencies.

The only problem is, Jacob can’t help himself. His autism won’t allow him to let go of his fascination and lead a normal life, even when it gets him into serious trouble.

Picoult’s moving book follows the lives of Jacob, his mother, and his younger brother as they all struggle to cope with Jacob’s disability and blend in with normal society. None of them were able to retain close friends due to Jacob’s inability to carry out typical conversations or function in the real world as most people do. Jacob cannot look people in the eyes without feeling severely uncomfortable, nor can he control himself when something does not go his way, often resulting in full-blown tantrums in the middle of public places. Average people in their Vermont hometown avoid the Hunt family like the plague. Unable to understand Jacob and those who love him, they simply distance themselves and label him as “different.”

But the real problem with this label arises when police misinterpret Jacob’s differences for guilt after he comes under suspicion for killing his social skills tutor. His unwillingness to answer questions, fidgety nature, and avoidance of eye contact all lead the police to believe that they have found their culprit. Running through the novel is the burning question – are these signs only of Jacob’s disability, or did he truly commit murder?

Faced now with more hardship than they have ever had to endure before, the Hunt family must not only fight society, but also the court system to prove Jacob innocent of the heinous crime without letting the disability tear them apart.

Sibling rivalry doesn’t even begin to cover the relationship between Jacob and his brother Theo. Though three years younger, Theo constantly has to step into the role of the older sibling when it comes to things like making sure Jacob does not get picked on at school or remembering their mother’s birthday.

Theo is continuously overlooked because their mother has to put most of her time and energy into caring for Jacob. He often did not receive sufficient birthday gifts because all extra money had to go to Jacob’s treatments and psychiatrists. All food in their house must be prepared according to Jacob’s gluten- and dairy-free diet. Luxuries like pizza and ice cream are nonexistent in Jacob’s – and therefore Theo’s – life. It is no wonder then that Theo finds it extremely difficult to abide by his mother’s house rule: “Protect your brother. He’s the only one you’ve got.” For a middle-aged woman, Picoult brilliantly gets inside the minds of teenaged boys and makes all their thoughts, actions, and feelings leap off the page. The writing is raw and genuine.

Her desire to lead a normal life that she will never have is also painfully poignant. The scenes where she encounters her ex-husband set the reader’s nerves on edge. Her reminisces about what could have been and all her white-picket-fence dreams that never came to fruition will undoubtedly bring a tear to even the most hard-hearted person’s eye.

Jodi Picoult masterfully crafts a tale of an average family with average problems gone seriously wrong. Any mother can relate to Jacob’s, even though she has much more on her plate than others. Her intense love for her son as she so vehemently battles to keep him out of prison is apparent on every page.

Warning: do not begin this book if you have too much to do with finals hanging over your head. Picoult’s characters and her intricate plot will be stuck in your head until you have turned the last page.

Top Ten Jodi Picoult Novels

My Sister’s Keeper – Superb, the movie was horrible, DON’T see it.

Nineteen Minutes – To Be Read

The Pact – TBR

Plain Truth – Wonderful

Change of Heart – TBR

Keeping Faith – TBR

The Tenth Circle – TBR

Salem Falls – Chilling but excellent

Handle With Care – TBR

Vanishing Act – TBR

Copyright Aspiring Novelist. All rights reserved.


Twenties Girl Worth Twenty Bucks


Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong decade? You find you have old-fashioned opinions, research the time in which you should have been born, and sigh over the costumes in movies from that time.

No, of course I don’t do this.

Lara Lighton, the principle character in the novel Twenties Girl doesn’t subscribe to this either. Yet in Sophie Kinsella’s hilarious latest book, Lara finds herself engaged in such behavior and many other crazy escapades – all to appease the ghost of her one-hundred-and-five-year old great-aunt. A haunting is certainly the last thing Lara needs. With her best friend and business partner gallivanting off to god-knows-where leaving Lara to salvage their floundering company on her own, Lara really can’t handle the supernatural intrusion. Not to mention she is also teetering on the precipice of financial ruin and heartbreak. Great-aunt Sadie, who reached her prime in the Roaring Twenties but recently passed away in a nursing home, has plans for her grandniece. Estranged from each other in life, Sadie insists in death that she will pester Lara for the rest of her days unless the two of them can locate her dragonfly necklace.

And so the unlikely duo sets out on an epic quest to locate the necklace and thus, let Sadie’s soul rest in peace. Along the way, they naturally have many a verbal battle, learn each other’s deep, dark secrets, and work on Lara’s love life. Though they profess to loathe each other throughout most of the novel, by the conclusion they realize how close they have actually become. Lara also comes to value Sadie’s life and decade, and eventually gives her aunt’s plight and mission her full attention.

As is typical of all Kinsella novels, the protagonist is an opinionated female in her twenties who is, regrettably, a tad immature. This initially turned me off to her popular Shopaholic series. It felt like I was inside the mind of a middle school girl rather than someone who had already completed college.

Lara in Twenties Girl still fits this prototype, but is more sophisticated. She has a more extensive vocabulary, and though she does do some wild things, she is not as annoying as other Kinsella characters. The mixture of they early twentieth century with contemporary culture adds much more flavor to the story. Rather than just taking the reader through the life and trials of a modern woman as so many trashy books these days do, this novel interlaces history with modernity, giving the book much more depth.

The recent paperback release, which has brought the price down significantly, justifies shelling out the twenty dollars on the novel. Twenties Girl makes for a fun-filled, quick read that would be a perfect Easter break activity.

Copyright Aspiring Novelist. All rights reserved.


Day Off


The great thing about taking a day off to nurse yourself from natures torments when all your work is done is that you have free time to do whatever you want and put a dent in some of your self-inflicted creative writing deadlines. Or you can sleep till whenever you want (at least until the idiots across the hall set off the fire alarm). OR you can … omigod, read a book for personal pleasure without interrupting yourself because your music paper isn’t done! Wow. Who woulddah thunkit?

Yes, as you can tell, I am slightly under the weather (I do not get sick this is a natural monthly occurrence) and have decided to let myself skip all my classes. Now before someone who knows my father reads this, let me just say I do not do this often, only when I literally can’t get out of bed, and all my work for the next few days is done. I haven’t missed any yet this semester either and only skipped once last semester, so I figure I’m allowed.

So here I am, rubbing my eyes in a leisurely fashion, trying to type a few more pages of Damn Brits and maybe write a little of Rescue Me. I also want to put a dent in Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl so I can have something to review for the paper next week. Which reminds me, I haven’t watched Dear John yet, must look up it it popped up on Hulu yet. There my goals for the day. Sorry for the rambling. Will let you know if I reach said goals … after a nap.


Ho Finito!!!!!


That’s right, I’m done, done, done! The online winter session of doom is officially out of my life for good. I have survived the drudging experience; the tests are complete, the paper is submitted and there is nothing to do but anxiously await my grade and watch my GPA plummet. Hopefully the latter won’t occur, I should manage to pull a B/B+.

And how did I miraculously pull out of this alive, you must wonder? The answer: molto procrastination with frequent reading/writing breaks. One book in particular kept me going.

My AP US History teacher from junior year of high school told us to watch a funny movie the night before we took the test because laughter releases endorphins which increases brain function. Since the class proved extremely detrimental to my amount of brain activity, I knew it was imperative for me to find something that would boost this in order for me to complete the test and the paper. This saving grace came in the form of Nightlight, a Twilight parody.

For Twilight fans and haters alike, the book was written by The Harvard Lampoon, a group of students from – you guessed it – Harvard which specializes in critiquing popular fads and literature etc. They certainly did a great job with this one. For those of you who hate Twilight, you’ll love its absurdity, and for those of you who love Twilight, you’ll love its absurdity. Written in the same format of the original book, it follows the story of Belle Goose and her romance with Edwart Mullen. The spoof the books and the movies and the ridiculous socially awkward situations in which the characters find themselves are pure comical genius. The exaggerated scenes and just plain funny dialogue and Belle’s inner thoughts had my stomach in stitches and kept me sane during the final stretch of the class.  I would write a page of the paper and then read a chapter, then answer a few test questions and then read a chapter and so on. It honestly made time fly.

A few hilarious excerpts to tempt your literary palette:

“‘That’s Edwart Mullen,’ Lululu said.

“Edwart. I’d never met a boy named Edwart before. Actually I’d never met anyone named Edwart before. It was a funny sounding name. Much funnier than Edward.”

***

“I typed one word: Vampre. Google asked ‘Did you mean Vampire?’ I clicked ‘yes.’

“I felt overwhelmed by the results: ‘The Buffy Summers Workout,’ Kristen’s Stewart’s Onset Romance,’ ‘Midnight Sun Leaked,’ ‘Robert Pattinson Excellent Blues Singer.'”

***

“‘Isn’t it a little soon to cut yourself off from the rest of your peers, depending on a boyfriend to satisfy your social needs as opposed to making friends? Imagine what would happen if something forced that boy tot leave! I’m imagining pages and pages would happen – with nothing but the names of the month on them!”

***

“That took me by surprise. Asking permission was something only knights from ancient centuries did. Then I remembered how old Edwart really was – hundreds of years ago he was living among Napoleon and Jesus.”

BRILLIANT!


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