It’s a freezing, rainy October weekend (thank you Hurricane Joaquin) so I’ve spent the day taking photos for the blog, making recipes for the you (prepare yourself for my attempt at food blogging) and realizing it’s been hella long since I’ve done a Writer’s Shelf feature and I’m overdue for some catch up.
Now before I jump into the books for my Popsugar 2015 Book Challenge, I have a big announcement to make. After forever and a day, (roughly), I have finally sold my first book! My middle grade fairy tale adventure novel, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale” will be published by Xist Publishing in 2016! Prepare yourself for more writing features that will actually feature my own novel.
Because I’m behind, I’ll be grouping books together.
Popsugar Slot: “A memoir”
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden
The Princess Bride is my absolute favorite movie, and coincidentally my soon to be published novel was inspired a lot by it. This book is about the making of the movie and it was fun, quick read. The highlights include that Robin Wright (Buttercup) and Cary Elwes (Westley) had a bit of a crush on each other, Cary Elwes actually was knocked unconsciously when he was hit on the head by the 6 fingered man, the swordfight scene took an epic amount of training, and Andre the Giant was the nicest, coolest dude ever. (He really deserves his own book). If the movie is one of your faves, add this to your must read list.
“As you wish” – Could I really choose anything else?
Apparently it took eons before someone could get the Princess Bride made into a movie and it didn’t find its audience until it was released on video after which it became a cult classic. The lesson I’ve learned from this and (my own struggle with publishing) is that eventually your story will find it’s way to the right audience. Sometimes you just have to wait it out.
I don’t read many memoirs but I was moved and intrigued by Ekaterina Gordeeva’s book, “My Sergei: A Love Story” which detailed her life in skating with her late husband. It’s an oldie, but still good.
Popsugar Slot: “A book at the bottom of your to-read list”
by Ann Patchett
A classmate of mine in grad school, Morgan Matson, gave me this book to read. I started and for some reason I put it down and didn’t pick it up again. It’s been quite a few years since then and the books in my “to read” basket quickly covered this one up. It was literally at the bottom. It’s a beautiful, lyrical story about how humans behave and treat each other in extreme circumstances, using music as a link between them. As a musician, that aspect was quite compelling and I found this book to be an inspiring read.
“She sang as if she was saving the life of every person in the room.”
Sometimes focusing on one sense (like sound or scent) can make compelling descriptions and are interesting ways to link emotions to the scenes unfolding.
I can’t really suggest something from the bottom of your personal “to-read” list so I’ll suggest a book I loved where music played an important part. “When Venus Fell” by Deborah Smith is one of my favorite romance novels and features heroine Venus Arinelli, a concert pianist.
Popsugar Slot: “A book that came out the year you were born”
The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende
I was born in 1979 and before I started googling, I was concerned at what I’d have to choose from. Turns out, 1979 was a great year for books and included such gems as “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “The Dead Zone” and “The Elephant Man”. Because I am obsessed with children’s lit and fantasy adventure, I opted for “The Neverending Story”. This was originally published in German and follows the adventures of the chubby, bullied Bastian as he escapes to and out of Fantasia. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or the Germanic origin, but the book felt almost as though it were written more for an adult audience than for children. That being said, I do think the world of Fantasia would be enchanting for all ages.
“”He didn’t like books in which dull, cranky writers describe humdrum events in the very humdrum lives of humdrum people. Reality gave him enough of that kind of thing, why should he read about it? Besides, he couldn’t stand it when a writer tried to convince him of something. And these humdrum books, it seemed to him were always trying to do just that.”
Never try to convince Bastian of anything.
But seriously, you have to be sneaky when you want to teach someone a lesson in your story. Nothing is worse than preachy prose.
1979 was a great year for literature both the highbrow and of the more sensational variety. “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews is my suggestion as it built an entire genre. Even if incestuous romance stories aren’t your thing, you need to read it just for the OMG factor. (Plus it’s one of the few V.C. Andrews books actually written by her.)
Popsugar Slot: “A Pulitzer Prize-winning book”
by, Jeffrey Eugenides
Sometimes I think “real” literature is wasted on me and when I don’t love award winning books I’m afraid the Lit police are going to show up at my door and confiscate my writing degrees. I’d been wanting to read Middlesex for a long time and considering all the current discussion about gender and the role it plays in an individual’s life, this seemed a timely choice. It had some great spots but I really wanted to hear more about our hermaphrodite narrator, Calliope/Cal and how she/he matured through adulthood rather than hundreds upon hundreds of pages about grandparents and parents and even about sperm. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to finish it and when I finally did it felt like I’d been let out of jail.
I’m sorry. Please don’t take away my MFA.
“Jerome was sliding and climbing on top of me and it felt like it had the night before, like a crushing weight. So the boys and men announce their intentions. They cover you like a sarcophagus lid. And call it love.”
You can’t tell every story even tangentially related to your main story without losing something. Backstory is important but not at the cost of your main story and lead character.
I’ll admit I haven’t read tons of Pulitzer winners as a lot of the stories just don’t quite appeal to me. However, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is perfection. I’m actually a little afraid to read “Go Set a Watchman” because I don’t want it to mess with my feelings for Lee’s first book.
I’ll be back soon with another bunch of books from my list.
If you’re participating in the challenge I’d love to hear your choices for the various categories and if you’re not, I’d just love to hear your recommendations for books!