A book of memories

Let me just start out with saying this: although this book kept me disinterested for 3/4 of its content, I have to say that when everything came together in the end, it was fairly intriguing and noteworthy to think about. And really, I’m wondering if my disinterest was a symptom of confusion as to how all the characters related to each other. So in order to entice more possible readers, know this:

Richard: Son of Inga Beart (famous writer), raised by his Aunt Cat, father to Neil; retired middle school English teacher, currently in Paris doing research on his late mother

Neil: Son of Richard; historian in France doing research with his Professor

Magdalena: Friend of Lina; girl who sees people’s truths on their skin, who meets up with Neil to exchange their parents’ Christmas presents

One thing that I think is really noteworthy about this book is not necessarily the plot, because the characters themselves don’t really do too many noteworthy things, but the reflections that the characters partake in, particularly their musings. SPOILER ALERT.

As they hiked up hillsides covered with olive groves, Magdalena listened to Rachel talk about her days doing junk, sleeping in doorways and robbing her mum, and it occurred to Magdalena that the things she’d gotten used to reading as her mother reached for a pan or changed her skirt or stretched out her toes to let the polish dry had something in common. They were stories Magdalena had heard as a little girl, or they were hints of stories her mother might someday decide to tell her, and a number included phrases in the imperative tense-don’t pick the thin-stemmed mushrooms, check that the butcher’s scale is zero to begin with-as if her mother had made notes across her skin of the things that Magdalena ought to know. (206)

Two sentences, in which they ramble on and on about her internal musings, not necessarily about the route she was taking or how hard the road was on her feet or how everyone was avoiding or annoyed by Rachel, who must’ve repeated her story five times to each individual person. This story focuses so much more on memories, thoughts, and reflections, which I think is why this book has such strong, well-rounded characters. They definitely have wants. Fears. And I think for a first book, Adelia Saunders did a great job crafting her characters. Her style is certainly unique. One of my favorite stream-of-conscious in the story is shown below:

Starts with Ellameno, Neil said once when it was his turn to choose a letter, and his dad thought that was so funny that they started making up a whole world populated with made-up fantastical things: the ellemenopede who liked to eat ellamenoghetti twirled around forks held in each of its ellamillion hands. (214)

The trick to Saunders’ reflections is not only the fact that she writes this huge enormous sentences (which could attribute to the book feeling so slow and drawn out), but the fact that most of her reflections are descriptions of a memory. She could’ve stopped at ‘they started making up a whole world filled with things starting with ellameno,’ but she goes beyond that memory, describing the actual scene of the world itself. Saunders has so many fantastic visual descriptions, which develop the whole life of the character. Because even as she describes this single memory, it evolved into other times Neil and his dad would spend time together, what happened when they didn’t, and what happened when they grew apart. I love how these 2 pages defined how their relationship changed before and after certain significant events. It really helped strengthen the characters.

Other than that, I like how this book also addresses our memories – maybe that’s a motif for this book – because while this book examines Richard’s singular memory of his mother’s red shoes, convinced she had come back to see him, this memory evolves as we learn more and more about his mother’s situation, which in turn shows us how memories are subject to your own delusions or interpretations.

SPOILER: I’m specifically thinking of when Richard finds out how his mother gouged out her eyes. Initially he was mad at his Aunt, thinking sooner or later he would’ve learned the truth that she went crazy and had caused her own death. But later he realized that she had gouged out her eyes because she didn’t want to see him when he was flown back to Paris to meet her. See page 259. 

So I’m going to stand by my opinion that I liked this book. I think it’s hilarious it was marketed under Science Fiction because although Magdalena can see “truth” on people’s skin (and it’s revealed a number of additional people can as well), this played a minor part of the story. It may have been the driving force behind a few of the character’s actions, but it didn’t play an enormous visual role in the story, which is typically how science fiction or fantasy books work. It was very subliminal, which convinces me to argue this is more of a fiction than a sci-fi piece. And although it’s slow, I think it’s still well worth it to pick it up and read.

Saunders, Adelia. Indelible. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2017. Print.

Pinocchio, your nose is growing

Do you know what truth is? Because I don’t anymore.

When it comes to politics, I don’t think there is a truth. And I’m not talking politics, like presidents and government, because that’s a whole other can of worms. I’m talking politics as in the balance of personal opinions as it weighs on everyone’s beliefs. This is coming from my side job of teaching for those of you at home. 

I’m sorry. Let me explain:

Essentially the truth as we know it does not exist. The common belief that fact equates truth isn’t real, just as opinion doesn’t equate fact. The reality is truth equates opinion. Because the bottom line is this: As soon as you believe in what you’re saying, to you, that is the truth, no matter whether it’s right or wrong.

And this is where I struggle at work. I like to consider myself a blunt person. Maybe it’s because I over analyze my own actions and those of others, but I prefer a blunt nature than one hidden and contrived. I prefer someone to tell me their truth, if so I can see things from their point of view, maybe understand where they’re coming from. Because, everyone has a reason. Even if they don’t consciously know it. But as soon as someone begins to hide their truth, this is where I get frustrated. I like to know what people think, and you hiding your thoughts from me…that’s frustrating.

I want opinions. I want your truth. And maybe this is a personal thing, maybe it’s an author thing. Maybe it’s human. But, I like to think that out of all the things it means to be human, your belief is the most important one of all.

One of my truths:

If you can’t be right, be confident.

People are going to hate me for that. But, I like to think that we’re all going to be wrong at some point in our life, due to probability and such, so why not be confidant? What’s wrong with being wrong? It’s an opportunity for growth and learning, whether you teach somebody or somebody teaches you. We should celebrate learning, and we do – in the odd Western way of graduation after completing your pathway or monetized learning. But seriously, we should celebrate being wrong. Why be shy about it? If it happens to everyone, what’s the big deal?

Why do we have to lie about it?

Splitting perspective like light

Phew. I’m exhausted. I just finished reading 624 pages of book, and it was a monstrosity of a story. Not monstrosity as in bad but enormous. A Conjuring of Light is what I would’ve called the equivalent of an epic. And that’s a huge change in tone considering its sister volumes weren’t anywhere close in length, at least, not in terms of page numbers.

About two brothers whose fates are intertwined, literally – the two brothers share a lifeline after what happened the previous story. I guess that’s what happens when you die and your brother’s a magician – they both are in the midst of a tragedy after a magic-demon takes over their city and threatens their kingdom. Oh. Did I forget to mention these brothers are royalty?

What I really enjoyed about this book was not necessarily its plot line, but it’s unique strategy in presenting that plot. I was used to reading this book from a few of the main characters perspectives, either Lila (magician of grey London) or Kell (magician of red London) or Rhy (prince of red London). But in this book, I read from multiple POVs. And plenty of them characters I’ve never heard from before. And that’s what I really want to examine in this post. So forgive its length.

Chapter Character Why their POV?
1.1 Lila Because she is testing her magic to the extent of an Antari, testing if she is in fact Antari, and if she can save Kell in time.
1.2 Holland To show that Osaron’s will had conquered Holland’s, that it was no longer Holland’s body but Osaron’s.
 1.3 Kell Because Kell’s magic is disappearing due to the collar, and Rhy is dying.
 1.4 Rhy Because he’s dying.
 1.5 Alucard Alucard can see the strands of magic, watch them disappear as the threads tying Rhy to this Earth disappear.
 1.6 Lila  Because Lila is fighting to save Kell, to save Rhy.
 1.7 Kell  Until Kell gets his magic back and fights to reach Rhy, realizing along the way that Lila had a fake eye the entire time. That she was Antari, like him.

As you can see, there’s no specific order to the perspectives. It just jumps from character to character, but I kind of like this method. If you notice the first 6 chapters, even though they center on different characters, they center on one plot-point event: Kell wearing the collar that saps your magic strength, making it so you can’t access magic at all. Leading to Rhy dying.

And I really like this idea because when you read a story, it feels very linear. This happens often when you see an event only from one character’s perspective, but when Schwab changes this pattern, showing us at least 5 different perspectives, it gives the event a sort of 3-dimensional perspective, almost like you were Neo in the Matrix when all the cameras went off to create a 360-freeze-frame effect. It’s a very good way to flush out an event and fill in a scene.

And if you haven’t notice, she doesn’t use the same characters every time.

Chapter Character Why their POV?
1.11 Osaron To reveal the arch enemy of all worlds, and how much he thrives in Kell’s magic-filled world.
2.1 Kisimyr Because even though Osaron can take over some people, for others, he burns through them too quickly. Part of the population of Red London dies like Kisimyr.
2.5 Lenos The man who has the sixth sense of foreshadow, and warns the reader that the demon king is taking over the city from a citizen POV.
3.2 Emira The queen and mother of Rhy, who regrets not better raising Kell, to use him as more of a guardian than a brother, even though it was part of that closeness that saved Rhy.
4.1 Nasi To show that scars are a sense of pride for London citizens; it shows that you’ve survived.
4.3 King Maxim Because the King is willing to do whatever it takes to save his city, same as his son and Kell.
6.1 Ned Tuttle To show how close Osaron is to taking over all the Londons, including the Grey.
9.1 Tieren  To reveal a small theme, that”Love an loss are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be” (371).

As you can see, Schwab switches perspective quite often. But, there’s not as many as I initially thought. With this book, there are 13 different perspectives, as well as an omniscient perspective that pops up once or twice. But with fifteen sections, each with their own series of short chapters, this multiple POV doesn’t feel as overwhelming as it should in a normal-sized book. And because each character adds a piece to the resolution of the plot, it helps make this book feel like a world rather than just a theater, with the spotlight focused on one character or one perspective.

I think I would definitely feel inclined to use a technique like this in the future.

Schwab, V. E. A Conjuring of Light. New York, NY: Tor, 2017. Print.

Have I convinced you yet?

FYI. There’s so many SPOILERS in this post that you’re going to cry. Because this book’s been SPOILED. ← I feel like that could be a catch phrase. 

While this next book is also for YA audiences, I don’t think that should stop you from reading it. Cue The Golden Lily‘s entrance. The 2nd book in the Bloodlines series and the 8th book in the Vampire Academy universe, this book follows Sydney the Alchemist as she questions her entire existence, whether vampires and dhampirs are truly as evil and unnatural as the Alchemists have been led to believe. And while this book sells itself as a YA paranormal romance, including the stereotypical love triangle with the protagonist, it does a much better job than most books in the genre. Characters don’t like each other just for their hotness (although this does happen, just like with every other romance), they like each other based on the other’s actual characteristics.

And you’re also one of the most fiercely loyal people I know-and caring, no matter how much you pretend otherwise. I see the way you look after Jill. Not many people would’ve traveled across the country to help her. (136)

I also love how they’re willing to go out of their way just to make the other one happy:

Liquid sugar. Yes, that was exactly what it had been. I hadn’t wanted to drink one, but I’d known if I’d just brought a slush for Adrian, he really would’ve read that as pity and refused. I had to act as though I’d wanted one too, with him as an afterthought. He seemed to have believed my lie about the drink’s sugar content. (158)

I love how mundane a lot of these instances are. Reminds me of cooking steak for my boyfriend, even though I’m a vegetarian. You can go to great lengths to please someone you love (or like).

Sure, sunstroke and sunburns were concerns, but I loved the sun and had a high tolerance for it. Vampires did not…”Come on, we have to get out of here before you get worse. What were you thinking?” His expression was astonishingly nonchalant for someone who looked like he would pass out. “It was worth it. You looked…happy.” (307-308)

But, I don’t want to talk about their relationship, although I could spend forever talking about how great of a job Richelle Mead did. There’s so many hints and foreshadowing that the transition is really quite smooth. And she achieves the same smoothness in building-up/revealing the antagonist. But the facet I really want to focus on was how Mead had achieved a slow character reversal for Sydney.

First, Mead sets the standard; letting the reader see Sydney’s ideal perception.

We believed vampires were unnatural creatures who should have nothing to do with humans like us. What was a particular concern were the Strigoi-evil, killer vampires-who could lure humans into servitude with promises of immortality. Even the peaceful Moroi and their half human counterparts, the dhampirs, were regarded with suspicion.  (8)

But of course nobody’s perfect, so Sydney has her doubts of herself.

Despite all the running around [my Moroi/dhamphir] friends made me do, I’d missed that motley group almost the instant I left California…Now, feeling that way confused me. Was I blurring the lines between friendship and duty? (17)

At this point, the reader’s got the perfect exposition, all within the first chapter. And throughout the book, we should see a slow reversal until the book resolve itself with Sydney thinking completely opposite to how she originally was, where she believes that “I’d been taught the existence of vampires was wrong and twisted, but I was about to witness was the true atrocity. These were the monsters” (375). But a writer cannot automatically change a character’s POV. Readers have to be convinced, so hence, you have to convince them with a slow build-up, an exposition if you will.

And just like any persuasive essay, you have to tackle the haters first. Cue Sydney’s instinctual responses to her vampire friends.

I laughed out loud and immediately felt guilty. I shouldn’t have responded. (22)

But, we’re only human. We have to doubt ourselves, and doubt instills that idea: Is she doing the right thing? We then have to repeat this train of thought occasionally in order to remind the reader of the conflict of this plot: Are all vampires are monsters?

A bit of the anxiety from the bunker returned, making me question if what I did was truly Alchemist responsibility or the desire to help those who-against protocol-had become my friends. (36)

But she can’t help but have grown comfortable. They’re her friends. Of course that instinctual-evil reaction was going to dull over time.

It was a sign of my progress that vampires talking about “food” no longer made me hyperventilate. I knew she didn’t mean blood, not if the dhampirs and I were being involved. (47)

And yet there are some things she still can’t stand, showing how much progress she still has to make.

I could take a lot of Moroi things in stride now, but drinking blood-human blood-made me shudder every time. (91)

But when it comes to her friends, there’s nothing she won’t do. Especially when looking at her personality, showcased earlier in para. 3. She can’t help but help.

I knew all about what it was like to have a father who continually judged, whom nothing was ever good enough for. I understood as well the warring emotions…how one day you could say you didn’t care, yet be yearning for approval the next. And I certainly understood motherly attachment.

You don’t have to help, my inner voice warned me. You don’t owe him anything. You don’t owe any Moroi anything that isn’t absolutely necessary…”Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.” (103-104)

And when someone finally returns the favor, you can’t help but grown more comfortable. More appreciative. More trusting.

“How many times does she have to refuse?” Adrian demanded. “If she doesn’t want to, then there’s all there is to it.”

I dared a peek at Adrian. He no longer look angry, but there was still a fierceness there. It was almost…protective. A strange, warm feeling swirled in my chest, and for a brief moment, when I looked at him, I saw…safety. (108-109)

Leading to this nice back-and-forth of helping each other, until the characters reach some sort of threshold of trust.

Skipping lunch wasn’t going to compensate for those calories, I thought glumly…I suddenly felt stupid for even attempting this ruse…Then, I thought back to that brief moment by the car, and Adrian’s fleeting look of contentment. (159)

And then finally realizing that not everything is black and white.

Adrian using spirit to bring Jill back from the dead was still a troubling matter for me. Every bit of Alchemist training I had said that kind of magic was wrong…At the same time, whenever I saw Jill bright and alive, I was convinced Adrian had done a good thing. (161)

That you have to look beyond preconceptions to the person underneath.

“I did it because he wasn’t fair to you. Because you deserve credit for what you’ve done. Because he needs to realize you aren’t the person he’s always thought you were. He needs to see you for who you really are, not for all the ideas and preconceptions he’s built up around you.”(243)

Of course, Sydney goes on to demonstrate how much she’s grown to trust her vampire friends, such as on p. 299, p. 306, and p. 320. I loved watching her questioning herself, even as she grew more comfortable, always wondering did she make the right decision? This doubt is what makes her seem human, makes the character seem real. And by supporting her acceptance of vampires with multiple scenes, Mead reinforces Sydney’s decision, that not all vampires have to be evil. And not everything is black and white. You have to look beyond those original ideas and think for yourself.

I think Mead’s major strength in enacting this is reflection. Because she drew attention to the same idea multiple times, she forced her character and the reader to consider this topic. She treated this reversal as a persuasive argument by first presenting the idea and then slowly presenting supporting scenes that would prove that vampires could be good people too. Which leads me to my final question, have I convinced you to read this book yet?

Mead, Richelle. The Golden Lily. London, England: Penguin Books, 2012.

A moment of illumination

I thought I loved this series, but then again, it’s been a while since I picked it back up. So when I did, I found my whole experience could be summed in the following paragraph:

I saw him.

And he saw me.

He stood at the end of the aisle in his true form, shining as bright as a diamond. He didn’t look any different than the rest of the Luxen, but every ounce of my being knew it was him. The very cells that made me who I was snapped alive and cried out for him. He still was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tall and shining like a thousand suns, edges shimmering a faint red. (29)

He’s beautiful. I get it. He’s also your one true love, perfect for its general audience, meaning any teenager learning how to cope with their feelings. He’s a heroic, overly-protective male protagonist who will do anything for his girlfriend, and even though she’s not weak, this does fit the standard fairy tale with him saving her most of the time. This book continues along the lines of its previous rang, each character obsessed with the beauty of the other. Both barely out of high school. Both thinking only of sex, which surprisingly this book has a lot of. Not with an excess of details but with a copious number of appearances, more than I expected for a YA book. At least it does present the discussion of safe sex. Multiple times, the protagonists have pointed out the necessity of condoms. SPOILER. Don’t want to end up like Beth, do we?

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did. But, I found it so less rounded than I have other books. The only other compliment I found, besides each other’s hotness, was the following paragraph here:

“You’ve got a big heart, Kitten.” His lips cruised over mine as he spoke. “That’s what I love about you most. Well, that and I am a really big fan of your sweet body, but your heart? Yeah, that completes the package of you, wraps it up with a nice little bow. It makes you perfect to me.” (281)

Well I’m glad she has a heart. At least now I’m no longer standing in a puddle; my feet are getting wet. But remember back at the beginning where she tried to save that little girl, getting herself captured and nearly killed? She hardly spends a moment mourning her passing, having a quick recollection that ‘the Luxen were probably too fast for her.’ I still don’t feel like she has a lot of compassion. More than she has morals. And is willing to go to any lengths to keep her husband happy. (Btw, they’re married.)

No. What I really enjoyed about this book, and what made this one stand out from all its siblings, was the following statement.

“We’re connected-all of us. From the moment they came, we’ve been inside one another’s heads. I’m not sure how it works. It’s never been like this before. Maybe it’s because there are so many of us here, but when I’m in my true form, there’s no hiding from it. It’s not too bad…now. There are things they don’t know, that we’ve been able to keep from them, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to work.” (75)

I thought this was the most interesting part of the series and this book. Jennifer Armentrout has not only created a unique species, one created from energy and light, but a species opposite of ours, having no individuality once their species has congregated on Earth. With so many present, they behave as a hive, sharing each other’s thoughts and feelings, not having any of their own. Which in itself is interesting. It would mean our instant destruction since they could coordinate attacks perfectly, and we would be too slow, humanity taking too long for consensus. I also thought it was cool that this weakness (or strength) could be combated by having a human-lover, since being attracted to our individuality meant they earned some of their own. I really appreciated this facet. It also would’ve been nice to explore this theme a little more, since the concept of individuality opens up the theme of choice, but alas, this book is for teenagers. But at least it discusses the topic of safe sex.

Armentrout, Jennifer L. Opposition. Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publishing, 2014. Print.

Avoiding Nitty Gritty Details

There’s one book I want to talk about called Dark Matter, and right off the bat, I’m going to go ahead and point out the obvious. Yes. I agree with the general reviews on GoodReads. This book is a fast-paced science fiction thriller, and although it’s a science fiction, it doesn’t go into nitty gritty details and leaves out most of the fancy vernacular, making it accessible for most general audiences. That being said, it wasn’t my favorite book. I found it very dramatic, overly suspenseful, but although it didn’t appeal to me, I still liked it and read it in one go. But there’s one thing I want to focus on: the brilliantly constructed multi-universe theory.

This scientific theory says there’s basically an unlimited number of possible universes. Find more information here. And Dark Matter takes this idea and runs with it. SPOILER. When we meet the character Jason, he’s stuck on the idea that his life is ordinary. He’s not questioning on whether he made the right decision, because he loves his wife and son, but he’s wondering what it would’ve been like if he had followed his research. What if he had followed his dreams and become the celebrated genius that his friend had earned instead?

What if?

This book follows this idea, this theme you could say, and questions what if the multiverse theory was true? And, that is what Blake Crouch does well. We get to see a number of different universes that divert at different points on the timeline of creation, including what if humans hadn’t existed? What if the world had collapsed becoming unlivable to all of mankind? What if mankind had succeeded, creating the most technology-forward world yet? This is a brilliant exploration of originality, where Crouch shows that he has mastered the art of dreaming, where his dreams have led to the creation of a thousand worlds, even if they only exist inside his own head.

If you find yourself not a fan of science-fiction and want to give it a shot, here’s where to start. Pick up a copy of Dark Matter, and color yourself intrigued.

Courch, Blake. Dark Matter. New York, NY: Crown, 2016.

Greens are good for you

I have never been a fan of bitter greens, but then again, I have pretty sensitive taste buds. Even so, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the book Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. I just finished this one up a few days ago, and I have to say, while the story didn’t hit home at the end, there are two reasons for why I still strongly enjoyed this book: the inception story-telling and the character similarities between Selena Leonelli, Margherita, and Charlotte-Rose.

This story starts with Charlotte-Rose arriving at a covenant, depressed and wishing she was back at the Versailles palace with the king, unsure of how she had gotten herself kicked out of court to the nunnery. She struggles giving up her pleasures from the palace, like her dresses and quills, and progressively loses the strength of her personality to the constant onslaught of obedience and subservience. It isn’t until she finds Soeur Seraphina, untils she’s rejuvinated with the story of Margherita.

Margherita, a young seven-year old girl with hair like fire, is at first excited when a strange lady comes up and hands her a beautiful golden necklace, but it isn’t until she goes home to her mother that the true story is revealed.

Now two stories deep and going into a third, Margherita’s mother, Pascalina, tells of how she was orphaned and helped by a beautiful witch, one who had a beautiful garden, the first one Pascalina had seen since arriving into the Italian city. SPOILER. This is the same witch, who gives Pascalina a spell to make a beautiful, homely man fall in love with her; who steals her daughter Margherita from her family; who then forces Margherita into a tower, in order to keep herself young; and who is saved by Margherita due to the girl’s own serenity and forgiveness.

Overall, this book goes three layers deep. And although it certainly adds additional parallel stories,  it never once feels contrived. SPOILER. I think it helps that the main character telling the story, Soeur Seraphina, turns out to be the one and the same Selena Leonelli, the witch who had cursed Margherita and been saved by her as well. I also think it helps that she ends up being such a brilliant mirror for Charlotte-Rose as well.SPOILERS.

 Charlotte-Rose- the woman  Margherita – the girl  Selena – the witch
  •  Proud Huguenot, worshiped an illegal religion
  • Independent woman
  • Mother ‘stolen’ and sent to a nunnery, where she died
  • Locked away against her will by her guardian Marquis de Maulevrier at the age of twelve
  • Escaped being beaten through imagination
  • Embarrassed/shamed by first lover
  • Seduced second lover with black magic
  • Lost third lover to his father’s honor
  • The garden at the convent like her mother’s garden
  • Successfully born due to parsley, so parsley birthmark
  • Stolen away from her mother at 7-years old by the witch, then donated to a nunnery
  • Loves to sing
  • Locked away in a tower at the age of twelve
  • Cuts her wrists for the witch, donating blood for longevity
  • Attracted her rescuer through singing
  • Rescued by Lucio de Medici, nephew of the Grand Duke
  • Baptised Maria the Whore’s Brat
  • Renamed Selena Leonelli by the witch Sibillia, whom she served
  • Learned magic and played courtesan to cast vengence and to be independent from men
  • Worshipped the illegal religion of witchery
  • Rejected by Tiziano
  • Used red-headed girls to keep her longevity, but wanted the girls to love her
  • Became a nun at the convent to be good

Notice how the characters have so many things in common. Both Charlotte and Selena are independent women, both unwilling to be so reliant on men. Both have experienced men’s rejection a number of times, but while Selena used magic to earn her freedom and Margherita used her singing, Charlotte used her power of words.

And while I’m thinking about it, this book also has a lot of symbolism regarding time. When I define all the characters, I see the grandmother, the woman, and the girl. Each at a different stage in their life. While Margherita’s innocence saved her, something commonly associated with young children and girls, it was Charlotte’s and Selena’s corruption that doomed them. It wasn’t until Selena had grown older that her wisdom could be shared, in order to save others from their own corruption, the same corruption that had unwittingly stolen Charlotte-Rose to the nunnery in the first place.

Overall, by the end of this book, you won’t be overwhelmed by a strong ending, and you won’t be compelled to read it in one-sitting, but I’d like to argue it is just as good as all of Forsyth’s other books. It’s definitely worth the read.

PS. Another reason I like this book, and Forsyth’s books in general is that it’s a historical fiction piece that tells the story of how the real Mademoiselle Charlotte-Rose de la Force created the story of Rapunzel, how she might’ve heard/retold it from the first version Petrosinella, ‘Little Parsley.’

Forsyth, Kate. Bitter Greens. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. Print.

5 Levels of Editing

So I’ve finished another book, and now I’m stuck with my neck craning back, aching, a wall looming before me, and I just can’t bring myself to figure out: What is the key to editing? Being a perfectionist, there seems to be so much looming before me, but I feel like if I break it down, then it doesn’t seem that bad anymore. So tad-dah! Here’s the 5 levels of editing:

5levelsofediting

1. Plot’s ARC

This is the broadest, most general pass I do while editing. Here I’m looking across my entire story, examining it for an arc, explained earlier here. I want to make sure it has all the general pieces of a story, specifically a climax, and I want to make sure it smoothly increases and decreases in tension. Bobby shouldn’t be dying before readers know he’s fallen down the stairs, or that he’s fallen down the stairs because he has a loose peg leg, which his brother unwittingly loosened for him after a fight over their favorite game.

2. Chapter Editing

At this point, I’m no longer looking at the entire book but each chapter, and there’s a few things I’m checking for:

  • Looking for a purpose/conflict so that the story moves itself ahead
    • If the chapter is missing one or the other, I need to change it so it has both
  • Checking for realistic dialogue
  • Editing transitions between chapters so that you don’t lose focus/tension

3. Paragraph Editing

Here are stylistic changes, which means adding more character reflection or imagery. My goal is that every chapter comes alive and that can’t happen unless you’re connected to the characters (through internal reflection) or until you can see the story (which means more detailed imagery, using as many senses as possible). Currently, I’m not here, but later I’m going to find my ideal paragraph and use that as a standard to measure up against the rest of my writing.

4. Line Editing

Here focus is narrowed until you’re looking at individual lines. Your always asking yourself, is there a better way to say this? Is it awkward? A good test at this point is to start reading your whole story aloud. Read it to a partner or friend. What can sound good in your head can sound really awkward aloud, and usually your mouth is already fixing the sentence for you. Try it.

5. Word Editing (aka proof-reading)

This is more like copy-editing as this point with CUPS, ensuring you have good spelling. Changing your word choice when you think of a better word. Etc. At this point, you should be feeling happy with the story, and if not, you need to go back and rethink at what point are you not happy? Maybe there’s something you need to fix.

Question

While I was watching my kids test today—may their grades rest in peace—I got distracted, thinking about how my kids are good at asking questions. And it’s sad sometimes to think that this is overlooked as a skill, a valuable one at that. Unless you’re asking questions, you’re not really learning, which is why I always push my kids so hard to ask when they’re confused. If they don’t ask, they’ll always be wondering what if…And until you try it, you’ll never know, which got me to thinking…

You’re not a student until you start asking questions. Until then, you’re only an observer.

Of course, now I’m stuck on the idea of wanting to slap that quote on a poster and hang it up in my classroom. And of course I want to put my name on it, because who wouldn’t be proud? It takes me so long to come up with anything, and I feel like lately it’s so rare, that I’m extremely proud of myself. I want everyone to see I can say smart stuff too, especially when the words seem to just congeal and spill out of my mouth in math. But I guess I can’t put my name on the poster…that would sound too conceited. So why can’t my excuse be because I’m a writer. And, isn’t that what writers do? Obsess over words?

Seeing is believing

Here it is one-thirty AM, where I should be in bed, but I can’t go to sleep just yet because I finished this book, and it’s been so long since I’ve read (and read one this good) that I have to talk about it. Even if it means sacrificing my sleep.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

I feel like while reading this book, I should feel dirty. A guy in love with an eight-year old child; and then a thirteen-year old feeling in love with a 24-year old. It seems like something you would read in the arrest section of a newspaper, except this story is everything but that. This story is about the love between two people learning to care for each other, no matter their differences and their history, even considering all their eccentricities. And, the only reason I can believe for why it feels so real is because of the history Greenwood has built up between the characters.

While reading, you may become annoyed at the chapters. So direct and pointed, they quickly get at their purpose, which can make things seem choppy at first. But it also reveals much of the characters’ history, traveling an expanse of years, all the way from Wavy’s age of 8 to 21. And even though it changes character perspective a lot, instead of distracting from the story, This reinforces Wavy and Kellen’s love. Being too close to the characters could easily lend the belief that their love is blind, who may not realize what they’re doing is wrong. But, by focusing on outsiders’ perspectives, letting the reader see how many other people can see and believe in their love, I think it helps the reader that much more believe in their love as well.

I think it also helps to have so much of their history in the story. It may slow things down at first, but it quickly picks points out the depth of their love:

  • How Kellen enrolls Wavy in school, even when her parents neglect
  • How Wavy helps Kellen when he falls off his bike on the road
  • How Kellen has patience for Wavy’s pecularities with food, touching, and talking
  • How Kellen defends her from her father’s abuse
  • How Wavy will cook for Kellen, help him with bills at work, win him money at poker since she is so much better at numbers than him

That and it picks out all the quiet moments of love. Love doesn’t always have to be sex, touch, and tension. Sometimes it’s just the moment of lying quietly together in silence. Just having the presence of each other is enough to make you feel at home.

Greenwood, Bryn. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. Print.