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Posts by Theresa

Book Review: Thriller

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 |

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

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Thriller

This story of a woman married to her second husband after her first has died takes a long time to get going. Almost the entire first fifth of the novel is the author telling us the backstory of Cass and Ryan. Cass has a ten-year-old and a seven-year-old from her first marriage. Sam is the two-year-old she had with Ryan.

Once the story actually starts, the pace picks up dramatically. Cass suspects that Ryan is cheating on her. Then she suspects that he’s poisoning her, but poison is a tricky thing to prove. Did it occur naturally or accidentally in the food she ate? If not, how does she or the police know the exact source? Ryan? The babysitter?

Cass begins to doubt everyone. No one believes her—not the ER folks or the cops and definitely not Ryan, who repeatedly tells her and anyone else who will listen that she’s mentally ill. Even as a reader I wasn’t sure if she was delusional, if only a little.

It actually got to the point that reading the novel stressed me out. Niederhoffer does a good job of talking about how women’s testimony on rape and abuse is not considered as reliable as testimony from men.

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Book Review: Screenwriting

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 |

Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge

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How To > Screenplay Writing

I find that when I’m blocked with my writing, reading a how-to book can inspire me. I’m a novelist who only occasionally wonders if I have it in me to turn one of my manuscripts into a teleplay or screenplay. The basics of storytelling, regardless of genre, are the same. Namely, your hero needs a goal, and achieving that goal should be super hard.

This book did not inspire me to write screenplays, but if that’s your goal, this book is a good start. The advice is helpful For example during the brainstorming faze:

“Don’ edit as you go. In other words, when dialogue (or any other aspect of your writing) starts to flow, you are tapping directly into your creative source . . . If you start to engage your critical, judgmental faculties, you will stifle the creativity you’ve been striving for.”

The movie business sounds even harder than the novel-writing business because it takes millions of dollars to make a movie. For a novel, depending on the format, distribution, advance, and marketing campaign, if you’re lucky enough to have a publisher give you one, the costs are almost nothing by comparison. Also, in novel writing, unless you go to a conference where you pitch your book in person, everything is done these days by email queries. You’d definitely never call an agent like the parts of this book in which Hauge encourages you to cold call. Yipes!

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Book Review: Fiction

Posted by on Oct 27, 2017 |

Catalina by Liska Jacobs

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Fiction > Women’s Fiction

“I call room service and order another Bloody Mary, which, I tell myself, is basically a salad.”

After being fired from working as an assistant at the MoMa, Elsa returns to California where she meets up with her college friends, including her ex-husband, Robby, who is dating a triathlete, and, though he seems happy with Jane, also seems to pine for Elsa. Her other friend, Charlotte “Charly” has a strained relationship with her husband.

Elsa constantly pops pills she stole from her mother. She doesn’t even know what the pills are—she makes guesses, and then washes them down with alcohol. Obviously alcohol and drugs keep a person in a haze where she doesn’t have to feel the pain of her married lover breaking up with her and firing her, but it also keeps her from being able to emotionally be there for her friends. The more we learn about Elsa, however, the more we learn that her lack of empathy came a long time before her downturn in circumstances.

Elsa is beautiful, and while that gives her some power, it also exacts a toll. This is a dark, well-written novel. It’s not a breezy beach read despite the fact the entire book happens in the course of a few days—at the beach.

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Book Review: Young Adult

Posted by on Oct 26, 2017 |

Turtles All the Way Down by John Greene

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Young Adult

This is an original story. I really loved The Fault in Our Stars and cried my guts out with that book. I also didn’t feel like I was reading YA when I read that. With this novel, I was definitely aware the whole time that this was YA. I know a lot of adults who like YA to be reminded of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, etc. I think being a teenager has to be pretty different these days because of social media. I’m very happy I got through high school and college before Facebook and Twitter existed.

The awkwardness of being a teenager does seem to be timeless, however, especially when, like Aza, you battle obsessive compulsive disorder. It was strange seeing the world from that point of view—getting so freaked out by a little kissing and the germs shared that swallowing hand sanitizer seems to be a sensible notion.

Aza is a likeable character despite her mental obsession. She cares about her friends the best she can. The mystery of missing billionaire is compelling and sad for the two sons he abandoned.

Maybe I read reviews that raved a little too much about this book and heightened my expectations. I liked it but didn’t love it.

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Book Review: Thriller

Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 |

You by Caroline Kepnes

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Thriller

This book is a special kind of creepy. Told from the point of view of Joe, he becomes obsessed with a young woman who comes into the bookstore he runs and starts following her after Googling the name on her credit card.

Because she has public social media accounts, he’s able to orchestrate his way into her life, collecting things like her underwear and a “lost” cell phone that he hacks into.

What makes this book so creepy is the casual, sometimes stream-of-consciousness way he recounts what “Beck” (Guinevere Beck) or “You” is doing and his speculation about what she’s thinking based on her emails and Tweets. His calm way of describing doing whatever is necessary to clear any obstacles in his way of making her his girlfriend and, in his mind, his wife in a psycho happily-ever-after tale is unnerving. Clearing obstacles occasionally means murder, which he justifies by seizing on any frailties Beck’s friends or boyfriends or acquaintances may have.

This was absorbing and thus fast-paced, but ever-so-disturbing. Also, while none of the sex or Joe’s sexual thoughts are meant to be erotic, the language is explicit, so if that bothers you, be warned.

I’m impressed by the unique manner in which this novel was told. The author is skilled and original.

If you’re single, you’ll never want to go on a date again.


 

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