Awakening Macbeth, by Carmen Amato


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Much like the title insists, Awakening Macbeth is the story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. And, of course, the man she chooses to take on said journey. Throw in a few historically manned dreams where souls are literally at stake. 

When I go into romance novels, the biggest thing i analyze is the relationship itself. Is it healthy? Ups and downs, and conflict are one thing. All relationships have minor hiccups. The difference is how they’re addressed. I liked the fact that the narrative created incredibly imperfect relationships and presented healthy solutions. All of those obstacles (and then some) served to really develop Brodie’s character. The level of emotionality that went into the characters was done well. 

Characters themselves were done well. The author took a different route when creating character backstories. I liked the accuracy and the respect shown for types of characters created. I don’t want to spoil the types for other readers, but they’ll know it when it happens. 

The fact that the narrative was a paranormal romance without the romance itself being paranormal was a nice change in a genre over saturated with vampires, shape-shifters, and things like that. The paranormal actually plays a rather huge part of the plot, even though I feel like it sort of took a backseat at times. Because of that, the buildup was alright, but the climax and the mystery were too easy. I took into account that Brodie was smart and sharp, but it still felt too easy for her. 

Actually, to build on Brodie a little bit, I absolutely adored how smart she was. I loved her relationship with other women. There was no petty competition between them; only love and support. Something I wholeheartedly enjoy seeing in any sort of novel. 

Writing style supported the tone of the novel, I think. It was firm, without being overbearing. There was some lightheartedness to it, without being overly comical. I think the description worked well, and the brief historical interludes were a nice change of pace and scenery. 

Easily one of the better romance novels I’ve read. There was a lot of positivity as well as good messages interspersed throughout. While the mystery could use a bit of tweaking, the story itself was solid and consistent. It follows the general genre formula, yet still manages to not be full of stereotypes. It was really an excellent read. 

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Boomerang, by Temba Magorimbo


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Boomerang is the type of novel where it seems like a whole lot is going on, but there’s really not as much as you think. Things are a little convoluted for me still, so hopefully I get this right. 
Kangira is a wood carver that became embroiled in sneaky shift of power after the chieftain died. His bachelor status is a huge concern for the tribe, and many encourage him to change that. After he takes a wife, the story follows his descendants and their lives through time and into the modern world and the establishment of his own clan. 
The narrative itself was deeply imagined. While fictitious, customs and cultures that were demonstrated allowed for an interesting backdrop. That backdrop slowly changes as time progresses. However, it still maintains a good level of creativity. I think characters really helped with that too. There was a myriad to choose from. All of them had their own, unique stories that contributed to the narrative. 
Being a more character-driven story, description lacked in some areas. It tells like the reader should already know the surrounding areas and the actions in the scenes. Changing that around could make the narrative a bit more powerful. 
Running through three generations of a family tree was also a little confusing. While the characters are distinctly marked, it doesn’t really click as to who they are or why they’re important until the end. The narrative explored their lives, how they’ve changed from generation to generation, and how they’ve progressed into the future. 

Because of that, the tone feels like a familial memoir–one talking about how an empire of sorts. And, I suppose, within their family, they do kind of build an empire.
There was lots of repetitious actions. Not just minor ones in conversations–those were nearly nonexistent. I’m talking more of major plot points. Or rather, the consequences that push the plot forward. I recognize why it’s important, and why it’s necessary, but after a while it got boring. It’s not supposed to be a novel of thrilling proportions, but there was definitely room for less repetition. I think coupled with the fact that the writing itself needed some good, solid editing would do wonders for the narrative. 
It was an interesting story in its raw form. Polishing would be a huge benefit for it. It created creative, interesting characters, who have lives that would be considered unheard of now. Not bad. 
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Moshe, by Andrew Montante

8_9_17 Moshe

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

 

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Moshe was an interesting experience. It was a very unique blend of Christian mythology and fantasy.

 

After a cataclysmic event forced their entire village underground, Moshe, his friend Calish, and Calish’s sister, are forced to adapt to incredibly extenuating circumstances. Zombies, magic, mysticism, existential crises, and subterranean people abound.

 

The most interesting part was how well the mythos was blended. Moses and the Exodus from Egypt was used as the basis for the village’s origin story. It set the tone for not only culture and setting, but something of a timeline, as well. Now that I think back on it, there were a few more hidden within the narrative, only much less obvious.

 

Characters were done well. I enjoyed the fact that Moshe had a stutter—and one that was more on the realistic side. Calish, even as a secondary character, was huge, and an integral part of the plot. I loved his story arc. His relationship with his sister, Bishtar, was amazing, as well. He was protective without being overbearing. Bishtar herself was one of the few females written in, but she wasn’t given a supporting or nurturing role. She wasn’t there to only further the development of the men. She was an active character, with her own goals, and own story line. And the ending to her story arc was wonderfully surprising.

 

Getting through things in the beginning was a little trying. There’s a deficit of description in areas, and grasping the setting took me a moment. Things changed so quickly, however, that it almost didn’t matter. The subterranean portion of the story is where the meat is. There’s a retelling of what happened at the beginning throughout, so the reader still manages to glean the necessary information.

 

Once things get going, they flow nicely. More characters are introduced, and the plot really thickens. The story lines remain distinct, well-thought out, and very intertwined. All the characters and their interactions were necessary for developmental purposes, or simply to push the plot along. They were definitely a creative wrench to throw in for the protagonists. I liked how it highlighted the struggled and victories of two cultures coming together under trying circumstances. There were quite a few interesting, creative, and different messages in the narrative that aren’t found very often.

 

Moshe turned out to be quite the read. It was well-written. What it lacked in description, it made up for in powerful characters. The plot strayed to the original side, and the ending left me satisfied. A very well-rounded book for a variety of readers.

 

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Chromosomes, by Ashleigh Reynolds

8_7_17 Chromosomes

4 stars

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If you’re into paranormal/science-fiction-type romances that follow nearly every trope set down by the genre, Chromosomes is for you.

 

Emma’s kidnapped and held at a mysterious facility, only to be broken out by one of the residents. Holden, better known as “Subject Seven” is a very dangerous person, and his relationship with Emma begins for one reason, and one reason only. Of course, that changes during the course of their escape.

 

Now, I’ll start by saying that the narrative was very well-written. An excellent first-person tone was maintained throughout. For the most part, I loved the way Emma’s personality was constructed. She was smart, sassy, and just generally likeable. To be honest, all the character personalities were done well. I liked the way their individual stories progressed. Even their development was on-point. Overall conflict was external, but the majority of the driving conflict was internal. It allowed the novel to focus more on the characters and properly develop them.

 

What bothered me about Emma’s character was that she was the classic “damsel in distress.” She was always being saved, being knocked out, and constantly had to be protected. It got a little repetitive. To be honest, aside from the role she was required to play by the facility, it felt like she didn’t do a whole lot. She was there strictly for Holden and his development. Holden’s character wasn’t free of tropey standards, either. While the story was told from Emma’s point of view, it felt like his story, not hers. He was the main focus of everything, not her, regardless of how important she was made out to be.

 

The romance aspect wasn’t bad. Again, followed the classic formula, but was better written than quite a few I’ve read. Because of that, progression was easily predictable, so the climax and resolution wasn’t much of a stunning surprise. Their relationship, all things considered, leaned more on the healthy side. That was definitely a point in their favor.

 

A sequel is a certainty. I can say that things were written well enough that I want to find out what happens. There’s a few different routes that follow-ups could take. They could turn out to be pretty epic if genre shackles could be broken.

 

The novel itself and the story weren’t inherently bad. They just lacked some originality. Character personalities really helped make up for weaker areas. The writing style was excellent and very enjoyable. Writing in first person is a huge strength of the author, something I wish I could say for a lot of novels.

 

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Writing Advice as Given by Stephen King

Writing’s not easy, no matter how many people say it is. Chances are, the people who believe that are struggling to write a 1,000 word essay while you’re stuck on the ending of a 75,000 word novel. 

You’re plagued by self-doubt and self-consciousness. A little troll in your ear telling you that your work isn’t good enough, that no one’s ever going to read it. That first rough draft’s been sitting for months because…what’s the point?

Let’s take a moment and see what words of encouragement the master can offer us, hm?

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?” (I highly recommend the Hemingway Editor for this)

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?” (Again, Hemingway Editor is a godsend) 

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. “

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “Most exercise facilities are now equipped with TVs, but TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs. If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhard on CNN while you exercise, or the stock market blowhards on MSNBC, or the sports blowhards on ESPN, it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer. You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keigh Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “When I’m asked for ‘the secret of my success’ (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it. The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.”

12. Write one word at a time. “A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make a fortune writing lik John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce nothing but pale imitations, by and large, because vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”

15. Dig. “When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or Game Boys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

16. Take a break. “If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings that it is to kill your own.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your ecgocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

What do you think of Mr. King’s advice? How well do you think it would apply to your situation?