Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: The Lies of Locke Lamora

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“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”
Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora

Scott Lynch struck gold with the Gentleman Bastard series. The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first of (so far) three  installments, and, as you can see on the cover, even George R.R. Martin has endorsed it.

Locke and his fellow Gentleman Bastards appear to be lowly pick-pockets in a city full of thieves that pay homage to Barsavi, lord of the underworld. What is unknown to all who dwell in the city, (which is clearly based on Venice, Italy), is that the Gentleman Bastards are actually genius con artists preying solely on the elite.

When a man called the Grey King appears on the scene, the Gentleman Bastards no longer find themselves able to live a happy, secret existence robbing the rich. Can Locke find a way to lead his crew, pull of one of his greatest cons yet, and survive the Grey King before it’s too late?

When I was gifted The Lies of Locke Lamora, it was described to me as “Ocean’s Eleven, but in a fantasy setting,” and that is exactly what it is. The novel is written as if you are watching it like a movie. There is very little character development internally. You know where they have gone, and what they have done, but much isn’t given as to how they think and feel about it. It really reads just as if you’re watching a movie, which was disappointing to me. 

I think I was lucky in the sense that I was warned the novel would read that way, but it still felt like I was being cheated on my time. The book could’ve been half the size, which would have made it that much more entertaining, but it dragged on way too long.

I will say that it was entertaining, but not enough that it justified the amount of pages it had. However, if you’re into long winded labyrinths of con artist’s adventures, then this is the book for you!

Buy it here!

New York Summers

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You know what makes New York winters worth it? New York summers.

The city is so wonderful right now. I can go outside wearing whatever I want and feel the sweet humidity envelop me like a steamed towel in a spa. I get all the vitamin D!

I’m implore you all to go out to parks and zoos and botanical gardens if you can. (In New York, or in your home town.) This world is beautiful, go out and see it.

Here are some of the places you can explore in New York:

 

Bronx Zoo           Queens Zoo         Prospect Park Zoo (Brooklyn)

New York Aquarium (Brooklyn)

Bronx Botanical Garden            Brooklyn Botanical Garden

The High Line Park

Start your summer off with some beauty.

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(Taken at the Cloisters.)

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Dark Lord of Derkholm

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“It was only when Shona, in sheer fury, turned the carnivorous sheep among them that they moved. They ran, some of them with charming little white sheep attached to their legs or backsides and the rest shouting about monsters.”
Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Lord of Derkholm

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite children’s author. Some of you may know her by her most popular children’s fantasy novel, Howl’s Moving Castle. (Which was later turned into a Studio Ghibli film by the same name. I highly recommend both the movie and the book if you haven’t already partaken. Both are amazing in their own ways.)

Jones continues to use her powers of phenomenal fantasy writing in Dark Lord of Derkholm. The title and the cover may seem daunting, but do not shy away, because it holds all the wonders of lovely fantasy elements such as magic and mythical creatures. There is no shortage of humor, either.

Derk has been chosen to play the Dark Lord for the hordes of tourist, known as the Pilgrim Parties, who enter his world to play make-believe. Every year someone is chosen, and the whole magical world is forced to become an amusement park for humans coming through a portal. The person holding Derk’s world hostage, Mr. Chesney, is nothing more than a business man with a demon in his pocket. But never the less, the citizens are forced the participate by fear.

Derk, an outlier in the community for his creative creatures, feels the pressure of the position, as well as the pressure from his family. When an old Dragon arrives at his doorstep, Derk is thrown out of commission, leaving the pressure of the tours on the shoulders of his children. Will they be able to stage raids, bird attacks, demons, and please Mr. Chesney in time?

If you love, or love the idea of, Dungeons and Dragons, then this is an awesome read for you. It has the perfect amount of fantasy and humor to reveal things from a reversed side of campaigning. And if you’re not into D&D, the book still retains all of its charm.

Buy it here!

 

Final Frontier of Fiction

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This is my last semester at my current college, and I have to say the experience has been amazing. Although it has, many times, caused me great stress and frustration, I am leaving with a sense of satisfaction.

School, and the piece of paper it comes with, was an abstract idea in my mind before I re-enrolled in college. The impression I had was that I would be of more social value if I obtained this piece of paper claiming I gave years of my life to knowledge. I would be more respected, be able to find a better job, and maybe be taken seriously when I sent my stories out. These were my thoughts, and some of them still remain, but what I’ve learned the most valuable thing I’ve gained from my time back in college is my capacity to understand culture/s.

One of the greatest things about living in New York is that almost no one tries to prevent education about other cultures, or hide the realities of their mindsets and histories. The professors I’ve had have introduced me to books I never would have read on my own, but have become some of my favorites. I hardly read non-fiction, but King Leopold’s Ghost and A Small Place are now at the top of my list for life-changing written works. I went through preschool to twelfth grade, as well as two previous colleges before I learned about the holocaust that took place under King Leopold’s reign in the Congo. The same goes for corruption and colonization in Antigua (the small place).

My final semester has some of the most interesting novels, autobiographies, and biographies I’ve read. They are:

Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I’m very excited to finally get my first degree and move on to the second one. I’ve gained some valuable writing skills, and feel confident enough to begin a new re-write of my novel. To Education!

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: The Halloween Tree

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“Suddenly the day was gone, night came out from under each tree and spread.”
Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

Any time of the year is a good time to read some Bradbury! One of the many Godfathers of Scifi and Fantasy has done it again with his ghoulishly fantastic children’s novel.

All Tom Skelton wants is for him and his friends to have a good fright on Halloween. However, things begin to get strange when the coolest boy of the bunch, Pip, seems to be sick. Pip gives the boys directions to the creepy house on the edges of town, and claims he’ll meet them there soon.

Little do the gang of boys know as they meet the mysterious keeper of the dark house–and witness the thousands of jack-o-lanterns light up in the Halloween tree–that they are about to head out on a journey containing a history lesson that holds Pip’s fate in the balance.

Needless to say this book was written beautifully. Bradbury’s silky, poetic voice carries over into the children’s genre magnificently, and creates a wonderful read for people of any age. And you just might learn a few things about Halloween history as well.

Buy it here!

Description And Subscription

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Everyone here knows how I feel about giving writing advice…however, I do like to share some tricks I use to make my writing more tangible, aromatic, sightly, and (hopefully) believable.

The particular trick I am talking about today I think is an old one, but I also think it makes certain writers feel uncomfortable…

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I occasionally find that it is extremely helpful to richly describe scenery, or food, or even a person when I have a visual. And my number one go-to for visual aides, you ask: travel and food magazines. They provide numerous options for a writer to build a world off of. Think of the transparent teal waters of an island washing on shore as your character eats a lemon-grilled octopus platter served from the food hut north of the beach, or the almost inaudible crunch of a freshly bloomed jade leaf as a marshmellowy black, white, and yellow caterpillar takes its fill, or the burnt amber glow of the morning sun on the tops of a little girl’s cheeks as she sips a glass of milk in the front yard of her farm. You’ve got the story in your head, but maybe you need to picture the right color of the dried grass, or how the herbs lay across the octopus tentacles. Magazine pictures can help.

It’s true that most of my descriptions come from my brain, including the ones up above. And for the most part, I get the feeling writers can be strict about that. Buttttt, I find it helpful in some cases to rip out pictures of places and foods and people who I feel like fit the world I’m trying to build. It can help me with consistency, such as what type of animals are available in each area, so as not to depict a meal or object related to an animal that would be out of place. It can also help with creating characters that mimic real appearance, as opposed to what I personally find appealing. There are a great many types of beautiful people in this world, and some times the best way to be reminded of that is by checking them out.

So my advice is this: if you are trying to build a world with rules and territories, and you want these places to be as believable as possible, check out a couple of worldly magazines from time to time. It will be greatly beneficial.

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Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Grasshopper Jungle

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“We killed this big hairy thing and that big hairy thing. And that was our day. You know what I mean.” ― Andrew Smith, Grasshopper Jungle

I discovered this book by reading the author’s blurb on the cover the not-so-great book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I was a bit skeptical since I could not stand Simon, but the reviews won me over, and I am super glad they did.

Austin is confused. He is confused about his best friend Robby, his girlfriend Shann, his mother, his father, his brother, but mainly he is confused about himself. The unfortunate part is that he does really have time to ponder about it. The story quickly launches into Austin and Robby accidentally breeding massive grasshopper from an old scientist’s chemical compound, and the race to save the planet begins.

The language and movement of the writing are brilliant! If there is one drawback, it is that Smith has this reoccurring theme of Austin repeating things over and over again as he documents his history. It pulls you out of the thrill of bug attacks and mysteries of life choices, (and gets kind of annoying towards the end when you are ready to find out what is happening). Other than that, the book is near impossible to put down.

Buy it here!

Bi-Weekly Book Recommendation: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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“Sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.”
Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Albertalli, who comes from a psychology background as opposed to a literary one, penned a very basic teen novel about a gay kid named Simon living his life in Georgia. As per typical story line, a fellow student finds out his secret, and sets out on a plan to blackmail Simon.

What I can mostly say about this book is that it was thoroughly uninspiring. Not only is Simon an unlikable character, but for an author who works with children dealing with similar issues, she seems to have zero idea of what makes a bad situation bad. Simon is never in a devastating situation, yet his world seems to be crashing in on itself, and the whole blackmail plot line was barely present throughout the book. Essentially, the story was about a selfish teenage who dramatizes everything, even though he kind of has it pretty good.

I might take such a issue with the book because I feel like it gives into stereotypes of young gay men. Yes, I know, stereotypes don’t come out of nowhere, but I feel like as someone who works with children in real situations like Simon’s, Albertalli should’ve kept them more in mind. I also know people don’t always want to read downers about LGBT lives, but at least give your character more personality besides whiny teenager. However, if that’s what she is going for, then by all means she achieved it.

I’m not saying to not buy it. It is not written atrociously, and it reads quickly. All I am say is be warned.

Buy it Here!

Motivation: Food and Books

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The truth is this: wonderful books inspire me to write. However, food plays a big role in my writing process.

No jokes, my loves. Food is the foundation of my writing process. It is the unsung hero of word upon word of storytelling. Different foods are useful for different things in my writing process. For example, no matter what time of day I choose to write, (which should be all day, but let’s face, life is wild), I must have a cup of hot tea. I know I’ve mentioned this several times in my posts, but goddamn it is the key. My go-to teas are simple: green, breakfast (black), and/or chamomile. They get the creative juices flowing with all that natural stuff.

As far as food food goes, my recommendation is to say away from fried stuff. It makes your mind/body sluggish. Fried food or fast food is really more of a first draft kind of thing if you have to eat it. I love my greasy food as much as the next person, and I’m not trying to preach here, but it does make for some lazy writing for sure.

What I try to stick to are heartier things. The more natural stuff you have in your system, the longer you feel full and have energy to trek on. It’s the reason I choose oatmeal and raisins on a writing day instead of Fruits Loops.

At first it was difficult, cause I seriously (very seriously) love junk food. However, the result of my work is super important to me, so I am willing to forgo taste (in some instances) for longer writing stamina. The thought of being able to continually type without crashing is very inspiring to me. 🙂

Here are a couple of good sites with recipes in case you’re interested in trying out food motivation:

Breakfast!

Lunch/Dinner!

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(image courtesy of http://www.healthyfoodforliving.com/)