Book Review: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the idea of this story. Anna, a thirteen year old girl conceived to be a genetic match to her sister Kate who suffers from a rare form of Leukemia, is suing her parents for medical emancipation. Eldest brother, Jesse, was tested and found not to be a match which haunts him throughout most of the story. The parents, Brian and Sara, put the well-being of Kate above all else, including their other two children.

The story is told from the point of view of six different characters, all done in first person (a different font was used for each character, which I found very irritating). Because of this, I never got emotionally attached to any of the characters. I also found it difficult to differentiate each character as they all seemed to speak alike. An angst-ridden, pyromaniac, who uses drugs and speaks in metaphors? That didn’t work for me. In fact, all six characters spoke in metaphors and used the F word inappropriately. None of the characters used any foul language except for the word f!#%–even the thirteen year old girl. It felt out of character for everyone except Jesse. Likewise, Anna felt like the only character who could get away with speaking in metaphors, yet all the characters did it. The first time I put the book down in the middle of a chapter, I had no idea whose viewpoint I was reading when I picked it back up again.

The ending, which was supposed to be sad and maybe even shocking, did nothing for me. I was surprised, yes, but not the least bit sad. By the end I could not have cared less what happened to anyone in the story. I wanted to know more out of curiosity than any emotional attachment to the characters.

With the multiple viewpoints, I never felt like I got to know any of the characters, even though there was back story constantly thrown in, always bringing the story to a halt. Brian’s preoccupation with astronomy was fine at first, but after a while I found myself wishing Picoult would get on with the story.

In the end, I would give this book a 4 1/2 for story but only 1 1/2 for execution.

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Book Review: Atonement by Ian McEwan

AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I may be a little biased because I saw the movie first and loved the movie but I don’t think that is the case. The story starts off in England, 1935 and revolves around Briony Tallis, her older sister Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the cleaning lady’s son. When Briony is thirteen years old, she witnesses two interactions between Cecilia and Robbie, reads a letter from Robbie meant for Cecilia and without having all the information, she jumps to the conclusion that Robbie is a sex maniac. When her cousin Lola is raped, Briony accuses Robbie of the crime, certain it must have been him, although she didn’t actually see the perpetrator. The story then moves to Robbie’s point of view and his time spent in the second world war (he joined the military in exchange for an early release from prison) before switching back to Briony’s point of view. At eighteen, Briony finally realizes she may have made a mistake in accusing Robbie and tries to make things right.

This was the first book I read by McEwan, but definitely will not be the last. The novel was beautifully written. His descriptions were just enough to allow me to have a vivid picture in my head but not so much that I tuned it out. When there is an overload of description, I tend to tune out the writing and have no clue of what I just read and no clear picture of the story. That did not happen here. Also, I found his descriptions easy to understand and not so caught up in showing off that I have no idea what the author is trying to get across. Highly recommend! I look forward to reading his next book.

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Taking Time Off

I am excited to say I finished the first draft of my second novel! I started writing it in August of 2011 when a voice in my head would not shut up. There were a lot of ups and downs along the way (the burst water pipe that left me in a hotel for three weeks followed by the death of one of my birds), but in the end it got done. I’m psyched to have completed it and can’t wait to edit it and really bring out the story. After taking two weeks off, it only took one more day of writing to finish it. If I had known that before taking the time off, I would have taken a day to do the writing, but hindsight and all that.

Lake Mead

I took the time off because my mom came to visit me for nearly a week on May 7th. She came without her husband so we could spend some time together–just the two of us. The last time that happened was over ten years ago. I had a great time, but my life was sort of put on hold. I did not write, run, or do any social media. Not even any reading (though I did buy four new books when we went to the bookstore). I did not think about my novel at all except to think that I was not writing it.

Needless to say, getting back into the swing of things has not been easy. It took me a week after my mom left to go back to work on my novel. Mainly because I had no idea where I left off in the story. Eventually I had to read the last two scenes I wrote to figure out what was going on.

Running was easy. I got back out on the trail the day after she left.

Getting back into social media has proved far more difficult. I can’t seem to concentrate long enough to write 140 characters on Twitter, much less come up with a blog topic. My new mantra has become: “I’ll do it later”. Only problem is, later never comes.

So this week I’m going to make an effort to schedule in the things I want to do and stop putting them off. I’m going to try to keep up with once a week blog posts and spend more time reading blogs and tweets. (Notice I said “try” not “do”. That’s because even as I write this, I’m not feeling too confident in my success. Maybe my new mantra should be: “I WILL do this now!”)

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7 Things I Learned at The Las Vegas Writers Conference

I attended the Las Vegas Writers Conference (LVWC) on April 19-21. I had a great time and can’t wait to go again next year. Being that it was my first conference and I did not have a finished novel, I spent most of my time taking classes and soaking up every bit of information I could. Here are 7 things I learned while I was there.

1. I discovered what genre my work fits into.

And I wasn’t the only one. Others I talked to were just as confused as I was about what genre their work fit into and found answers at the conference. This is the great thing about being able to talk to the publishing folk in a relaxed setting as I mentioned here.

After nearly eight months of writing my novel and trying to figure out what genre it is, I finally found out at the conference. I was talking with a publisher during a break between classes and she asked me what I was writing. I told her I didn’t know what genre it fit into and then proceeded to tell her what the book was about. After listening to me, she told me it sounded like a suspense novel, but of course she couldn’t say for sure without reading it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a suspense novel and now when I edit, I can make sure to bring out more of the suspense in the novel.

2. Facebook is not as valuable to an author as Twitter.

One of the reasons Twitter is more important is that Facebook updates are not as easy to read and they can get lost. Speaking from my own experience using Facebook, this is very true. I don’t look at Facebook often and so I rarely see posts. I never go back to look for things either. It is also extremely easy just to block people so your news feed doesn’t get so cluttered, which I do as well.

With Twitter, it is easier to get more people to follow you because you are not “friending” them. Also, the more you retweet, talk to, and mention, the more exposure you get to others who may want to follow you.

3. When trying to get published, start small.

You may get paid less, but you will be working your way up by creating experience and contacts for long-term work. Less pay also equals less competition which gives you a better chance of getting published. And of course, if your trying to find an agent, look for new agents trying to build their lists.

4. If you attend a conference, stay where it’s being held.

This is more for people who live in the area where a conference is being held. I live about 40 minutes away from where the LVWC was held and so I decided to commute. The conference cost a lot of money and I didn’t really have the money to stay at a hotel for two days. Plus I thought it would be easier and less stressful to stay home. What I didn’t foresee is how tired I would be from taking classes all day. The drive out there was stressful and tiring, then I had to get up about 3 hours earlier than normal yet I wasn’t going to bed any earlier. I was too exhausted to attend the dinner events and too tired to take any of the early classes. Needless to say, I missed out on a quite a few classes and networking opportunities. I didn’t really feel like I was apart of the conference. Next time, I plan to stay there.

5. Take time to network.

It’s hard to get out of our comfort zone and talk to people, especially if we’re not that social to begin with. I, probably like many of you, am an introvert and socializing exhausts me. I didn’t really get into a groove until the third day and by then, the conference was almost over. I did talk to quite a few people though and thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and learning about them. In fact, I met people I had a lot in common with.

6. Time management is not as hard as I thought it was.

The most important lesson I took away from my time management class was to put my writing first. Don’t do twenty other things before you start writing because you’ll never get to your writing. Put your writing first! And Chuck Sambuchino said that while there is no secret to getting published, the one piece of advice that comes close is: put down the remote.

7. And finally… A lot of the bodies in Las Vegas that come to the medical examiner are green.

This was just a really weird fact we learned when the medical panel spoke to us during lunch. Apparently high temperatures are not good for preserving a body and they turn green.

There are so many more things I learned, but it would take up too much space to write it all down, that is if you were even able to keep reading. Even though I didn’t get all I could have out of this conference if I would have stayed there, I had a wonderful time and recommend to anyone thinking about trying out a conference to go for it!

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5 Great Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

It’s been awhile since my last post. In March, I had a sinus infection and was given an antibiotic that I had a really bad reaction to. I have been off the medicine since March 16th, but have still been experiencing side effects from it, just not as severe. Anyway, I’m starting to feel better now… so, on to today’s post.

Conference season is well under way, maybe even coming to an end. If you’re still wondering whether or not to attend, here are five reasons why I think you should.

1. You will learn more than you ever thought you could.

I just attended a conference and learned so much information. I found it easier to absorb when a real person was explaining it to me (as opposed to just reading it in a book) and giving me examples. Hearing personal experiences and examples is not only helpful, but motivating too.

2. It’s a great opportunity to network.

It’s nice to meet other writers and get a chance to talk to people who are going through the same things you are going through. Whether you are trying to finish a novel, get work published, or are already published, it is wonderful to be able to share your experiences with others and maybe even be a little inspired by what others have accomplished.

3. You get to talk to agents and other publishing folk in a relaxed setting.

It’s great to be able to talk to the people in the publishing world as people you can learn a thing or two from, not as people who can make or break your career. If you’re pitching a book, it might be different. You might always be a bundle of nerves around the publishing folk, but if that’s the case, I think you might be missing out on some real opportunities to get to know people and get help on your work. Since I was not pitching a book, it was easy for me to talk to a publisher about my book because I wasn’t trying to sell it (I’m not even finished with it) and I got some much needed advice.

4. You will be inspired to finish your novel.

With all the advice and tips I received, I’m ready to sit down and finish my novel and you might be too. When all you think about for the length of the conference is writing it’s hard not to be. Anything seems possible. Others have done it. You learn how to make it happen. All you have to do is sit down and do it.

5. It’s just plain fun!

As a writer, it’s nice to get out of the house, away from the desk, and get out and socialize with others that are in the same boat. You get a break from the day to day things that may get tedious and your life gets turned upside down for a few days. And if you come to the Las Vegas Writers Conference, you get to gamble if you get bored. What more can you ask for?

I’m sure there are many more reasons why one can attend a conference, but these are just a few that made it worthwhile for me.

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Internet-enhanced glasses?

I read an article in The Atlantic today about Google making glasses “that will stream information to a users eyes in real time”. The article questions whether or not anyone would actually buy them. I have no doubt that there will be people who want to buy them, but come on… do we really need information real time? Do we really to be so tied into what’s happening somewhere else (that likely has nothing to do with us) that we have to be totally blind to what’s in front of us? It seems like people are distracted enough with their phones and tablets and constant access to the internet.

The glasses aren’t for sale yet, and according to The New York Times, they have no plans to sell them as of yet. But in my opinion… enough already!

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Vibram FiveFingers–Bikala LS

I meant to post this last week, but I was focused on my novel. I got a lot of writing done and spent very little time on the computer. The good news is I’m that much closer to finishing my first draft.

This is Part 2 of Finding Just The Right Running Shoe. As I mentioned in my last post, I hurt the top of my foot while trail running in my new shoes. I had already taken nearly a week off from running and I was desperate for something to help it. I suppose I could have gone to see a doctor, but that seemed pointless and I hate going to the doctor’s office. I started walking around in bare feet (as opposed to slippers–the joys of working from home) because I noticed when my feet could feel the floor, I walked better and my foot hurt less. At the same time, I happened to be reading Born to Run (click here if you don’t know what it’s about). I was on the part about Barefoot Ted and his FiveFingers shoes when I thought: hey, those might work for me.

I’ve seen these shoes before and I always thought they looked ridiculous. But, ridiculousness aside, my foot hurt, and if these shoes could help, why not give them a try. So that same day I went to REI to go get a pair. Normally I don’t buy things so impulsively. One, because I don’t have money to throw around and two, because I like to think things through. I don’t want to buy something on a whim and then never use it (something I’ve done all too often in the past).

I tried on several different pairs. At first it was nearly impossible to them on. My toes didn’t want to go where they were suppose to–either they were in the wrong toe hole or two of them tried to share a spot. The more pairs I tried on, the easier it was to put them on. It was a little weird at first, walking around with my toes separated, but the more I walked around, the better they felt (and the better my foot felt). I finally decided on the Bikala LS–a road running shoe. I walked in them for a few days to break them in and the ball of my foot felt so much better. By the third day, I decided to try running in them. I took it slow and only ran a short distance. My foot didn’t hurt at all while running. Of course, it did hurt afterwards, but not as much.

I feel like my running form has improved dramatically. I ran as far as two miles in these shoes and my feet felt great. Then I made the mistake of doing too much too soon. I decided to try for three miles and hurt the top of my right foot. I finally found it this is common in people who run barefoot (or barefoot-like) and do too much too soon. Ah well, I guess I need to learn to take it easy.

I still like these shoes though. I can feel the ground underneath me, which helps me run better. If I take it slower, I’m sure they’ll be a great addition to my ever-growing shoe collection.



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