• Book Review: DISSONANCE by Mariella Hunt

    Book Review: DISSONANCE by Mariella Hunt
    Mariella Hunt is one of my dearest online friends. She and I met some time ago, but it’s only recently that we’ve begun talking and collaborating more often. When Hunt rereleased her debut YA urban fantasy novel Dissonance, she was kind enough to send me a paperback copy.

    I was even more excited to dive into this book when she told me she’s been working on the sequel. I’m not big into series (I know, I know), but this is one I can definitely see myself reading more of.

    Before I get to the review, here’s the Goodreads summary:

    Fifteen-year-old Allie Grant lives crippled by her illness. Though kept in isolation, she’s never alone: A spirit named Song lurks in the silence of her bedroom.

    When Song reveals its dark nature on the night of her recital, the show ends in tragedy. Verging on death, Allie’s taken in by an uncle she’s never met.

    Julian claims to be a Muse with power over music and answers that’ll heal her. The cure she needs is rare, requiring of him a difficult sacrifice. Allie soon suspects her uncle has a secret that’ll turn her world around.

    But with days left to live, she might fade without learning the truth…like the finishing chord of a song.

    First off, Dissonance is urban fantasy, which isn’t a genre I’ve read much of–although my novel Reflections is urban fantasy, too, so maybe I should read more in that genre… Anyway, although the story is urban fantasy, it was fairly easy for me to navigate the events and setting of the novel. My only issue with regards to worldbuilding is that there were a few places I found it difficult to follow along with the mythology. Hunt has clearly invested a great deal of time, thought, and effort into developing a cohesive magical system and environment for this novel, and this degree of consideration definitely shows. However, at times, the terminology and social hierarchy confused me.

    Nevertheless, I found the characters, plot, and the writing compelling. Dissonance is a strong debut, and as the first book in a series, promises some more exciting things from the author. As a bonus, this book also features a protagonist dealing with chronic illness, which is refreshing. If you’re looking for a good YA urban fantasy novel with likable characters, an engaging setting, and a memorable plot, I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of Dissonance.

    What did you think of Dissonance? What book should I read next?

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  • Book Review: ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

    This is one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, and one of the most emotional. I bought this book at Goodwill ages ago and kind of forgot about it (oops) until a few weeks ago, when the trailer for the film adaptation came out. The film stars some of my favorite actors, and the trailer captured my attention, so I dove into the book. I devoured it in three days. Totally worth reading.

    All in all, I loved it. This book is extraordinary in a way I haven’t seen in quite some time. But before I get to my actual review, here’s the Goodreads summary:

    Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

    What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

    Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

    What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

    Let me start off by saying that I don’t read a lot of romance. Heck, usually the only way I’ll read romance at all is if it’s masked as something else. With that being said, I am head-over-heels for this beautiful book. It’s a love story, yes, but it’s so much more than that, too. It’s a story of hope in the face of hopelessness,  perseverance against all odds, and discovering the meaning of a life fully lived.

    What got me most about this book is how unpretentious it is. As far as books go, it doesn’t seem extraordinary at face value. With some other books I’ve read and enjoyed, I found myself marveling at the author’s expertise and skill, the way they’ve crafted the world of the story. With Me Before You… that didn’t happen. I couldn’t put the book down, and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized I was being pulled in by the strength of the story, not by the author’s mastery of prose.

    Good writing makes you forget that what you’re reading was created by another human being. It doesn’t call attention to itself. And while it’s clear that Jojo Moyes knows what she’s doing as a writer, there were no moments of “wow, this is so well-written” with this book. To me, it didn’t feel written, didn’t feel like a work of fiction. It felt true to life and real in a way that some books haven’t. This authentic essence is what makes the book difficult to put down, if not almost impossible.

    All in all, I give Me Before You my highest praise. Although it’s a book in a genre I don’t normally enjoy, I loved every minute of it. And although (without spoiling), the ending left me shocked, it also felt entirely satisfying somehow. If you’re looking for an emotional, true-to-life read, I can’t recommend this book wholeheartedly enough.

    What did you think of Me Before You? How do you feel about emotional books?

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  • Book Review: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

    As a writer, I’ve heard a great deal about Blake Snyder’s screenwriting Bible, Save the CatI first learned about the book way back in my freshman year of college, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. Finally, I gave in to temptation and bought it for my Kindle. Here’s what I discovered.

    In Save the Cat, Snyder shares his popular screenwriting structuring method, involving the use of “beat sheets.” These beat sheets allow writers to break their stories down into basic thematic elements to make structuring a breeze. Some of these beats include the Opening Image, Break Into Two, Midpoint, and Bad Guys Close In. Even if you haven’t read Save the Cat, chances are you’re familiar with some of these phrases.

    When I first started writing, I had little idea how to structure a story. Although most of this book is geared towards screenwriters, the principles and techniques in it can easily able to novel writers as well. Snyder makes structure simple–there’s no need to overthink it. In this book, he shares the storytelling skeleton for you to fill in as you please. It may feel a bit formulaic, but there’s no arguing it works.

    I only have two points of contention with this book. For one thing, when I pick up a book on craft, I don’t want to hear much about the author’s personal experience. I only want to hear what’s relevant to the book. In Save the Cat, Snyder references his own work too many times for my liking–but, as I mentioned, that’s all down to personal preference.

    The other thing that bothers me about Save the Cat is that I fear writers who read it may adhere too strictly to the formula it proposes. Don’t get me wrong–Snyder’s storytelling beats are incredibly helpful. I just worry that newbies may try to shoehorn plots into strict beats and sacrifice originality in the process.

    It bears mentioning once again that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. If you want to follow Snyder’s structure, then by all means, go ahead. But don’t spend so much time trying to get your story to fit neatly into beats that you stop having fun.

    After all, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point in doing it?

    In spite of some of its shortcomings, Save the Cat is one of the best, most straightforward books on story structure I have read. Whether you write plays, screenplays, novels, or short stories, I highly recommend you take a look at it.

    What do you think of Save the Cat?

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  • Book Review: DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE by Becky Blades

    woman standing on pile of laundry
    I read a lot of advice books. Trust me when I say this: DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE by Becky Blades stands out from the rest of the graduation-gift-book pack. It’s not only informative, but also insightful, entertaining, funny, and a breath of fresh air.

    Book Summary

    When Becky Blades sent her firstborn daughter off to Harvard, she knew the world’s top-ranked college would not be covering the most important material: how to be kind, happy, and appropriate in public; how to protect oneself from sock monsters, boring conversations, and scary dates; and why you should keep your clothes clean. So the day before classes started, Blades emailed a good-bye letter with motherly advice she had kept to herself for a year. Just in time for her youngest daughter’s graduation from high school, Blades illustrated the prose with her signature mixed-media artwork, creating a thought-provoking, conversation-starting book. With warmth, wit, and a hint of motherly sass, Do Your Laundry, or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening blends bite-sized morsels of coming-of-age common sense with tiny essays on more substantial topics.

    My Thoughts

    The book is a collection of “warm, witty, and wise coming-of-age common sense.” The entries range from lighthearted (“Keep at least one stuffed animal”) to lenghty (essays on topics like phone etiquette and forgiveness). Unlike many other “gift” books, this one takes advantage of humor, witticism, and colorful graphics scattered throughout. I liked looking at the myriad designs almost as much as I enjoyed reading the book.

    This is the book I wish I’d gotten as a graduation present. Blades offers a unique blend of advice and comedy in a style that is entirely new. Here are some of my favorite bits of wisdom from the book:

    If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. You’re smart enough to think of something nice.

    Make something every day.

    Don’t press ‘send’ in the heat of emotion.

    The best way to glow is to shine the spotlight on someone else.

    Reading is sexy.

    Do something nice or good every day and tell no one.

    Have a list of things you like to do that don’t cost money.

    Of course, there are hundreds of other tips in this book for you to take advantage of. It’s difficult for me to choose my favorites. If you want to read Becky Blades’ wisdom for yourself, you can purchase this book in various formats through Amazon, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, and Rainy Day Books. Go get your copy today!

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

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