Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Jay Asher’s novel starts two weeks after its main event – Hannah Baker’s suicide. Through a series of tapes, she speaks to each of the thirteen people who have prompted her decision to give up on life. It’s sad and powerful. It will make you look differently at the troubles our kids go through as they work out the emotional roller coaster(s) of growing up.

thirteen reasons why

The book is amazing on a number of levels. First is that it’s Asher’s debut novel! Like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I’m always amazed when a writer nails it right out of the starting gate. This is precisely what Asher has done. Breaking the normal “rules” and setting his own stylistic atmosphere.

Second is that, not only does Asher get into the head of Hannah Baker, a discerning and sensitive teenage girl. But he delves equally well into the emotions of Clay Jensen, the teenage boy who responds so deeply to Hannah’s death.

I’ve read that it is hard to write from the perspective of the opposite sex. I recall my first published short story which was written from a male perspective. Somewhat of a tomboy my whole life (well, okay . . . a huge tomboy), it didn’t seem much of a stretch for me. But I found myself wondering how Asher perfected both the angst of a teenage girl and boy. And done it so masterfully!

If I were the type of person to recommend a book, Thirteen Reasons Why would be one of them. Not to overly influence you, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when you’re done!

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Most times I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the books I read. And I do with this one too! It sucked me in from page one and I could hardly put it down. You know the kind of book where you read at red lights, read way too late into the night, read when you should be doing other things . . . like feeding your family – stuff like that.

Well, that’s what happened to me when I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The story was incredibly told with vivid descriptions and engaging characters who grew and developed and learned.

missperegrine

The thing that I found to be disappointing was the ending. There was a bit of foreshadowing early in the book that I expected resolved. And I was thinking all things would be tidied up and finished in the end. When I realized I was a mere twenty pages from the end and there was no way on earth Riggs could resolve everything in those short pages, I got a little bummed.

I see that there’s a Kindle edition of the “Untitled Sequel.” But I’m the kind of person who hasn’t yet made the leap from paper to digital reading yet. Sure I’ve done a little. But I just prefer a real book, made of real paper with a cover and a back. And by the time the sequel comes out in that media, I’ll have been swept away by some new love interest. You have to admit, there are plenty of awesome YA and MG books out there to sweep one away!

So, I suppose what I’m saying is that I ended up with somewhat of a love/hate relationship with Riggs’ book. I’m not sorry to have read it. And you won’t be either if you pick it up. I’m just a tad disappointed that I may never find out what that foreshadowing was all about.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me and the expectations I have that might be a tad different from others. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to. It really is exceptionally written.

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Moon Over Manifest

As you can tell, I have not written anything here for quite some time. It’s not like I haven’t been writing or reading. It’s just that it’s been . . . well . . . elsewhere. Which is good, right? Maybe.

Anyway, I recently read a book that a good friend got for me at the the L.A. Conference. Signed and everything! She’s such a sweetheart. And yet we still haven’t had a chance to chat about the book. Darn it.

I’ve never read historical fiction but now that I’ve read this one, I think I’m hooked. It’s Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

I don’t know how authors actually become the characters they write but Vanderpool has it mastered. She is Abilene Tucker right down to the lingo, the pre-teen angst, the feistyness, the mixed emotions.

Claiming that he can’t keep her with him any longer, Abilene’s father sends her alone to the strange town where he’d grown up. Abilene quickly finds herself caught up in a mystery about her father’s past (along with some other strange goings on). And she manages to make a couple friends who become just as interested in solving the mystery as she is.

I loved how the story wove in and out of the past. I totally appreciated all the research Vanderpool put into learning the different ways of life around early and mid 1900. And how she blended them together with a story that is really hard to put down! I’m a slow-as-molasses reader but I simply burned through Moon Over Manifest.

In fact, I liked it so much I bought a copy for another friend as a birthday gift!

If you’ve already read it, let me know what you think. If not, pick up a copy. Read it. I hope you like it as much as I did.

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Five Movies all Writers Should Watch

Okay . . . so five movies everyone should watch! At least in my humble opinion.

But really. Don’t good movies give us a feel for great characterization, awesome sub plots and just drop dead dialogue? As writers, we pay attention to everything. Everything has a story in it, from the small, little gesture made by a stranger, to the way airport crowds move with herd mentality. So we pay attention. And when I watch a great movie, I always think, “Wow, there are layers and layers of elements here and how would I ever get that much intensity into my own stories and writing?

So, without further ado, here is my list (in no particular order) and the reasons why I chose it.

First up is The Green Mile with Tom Hanks (who is also on my top list of male actors) along with a tremendous cast. The Green Mile is one of Stephen King’s inventions and is so rich with lessons in life that you won’t even know where to start. Good vs. Evil, life’s difficult choices, and a few incredible miracles along the way. I’ve read many of Stephen King’s books but I have to confess, this was not one of them.
From a writing perspective, I think this is one of my favorites because of the growth in character. They are already so rich and deep and layered. But, as the story unfolds, they all change and grow. I think it’s nothing short of brilliant.

Next up is Crash with Matt Dillon, Terrance Howard, Brendon Frazer, Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock. I could go on. Here’s a movie that just defies everything I can fit into my brain about interconnected plot lines. I doubt I could ever manage to get so many connections into one incredible story. Again, the cast is phenomenal. The interwoven stories need to be watched a couple of times to really see all their layers. Crash makes me think of the “six degrees of separation,” how each of us is connected to another in only six steps or fewer. This movie brings that to light as lives intertwine in unthinkable ways.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you’ve only seen it once, watch it again. I guarantee there’s something you missed the first time.

Of course I have to include As Good As It Gets. But I’ve already talked about it at length here so I’ll just let you go there if you’d like: http://laleschak.com/2012/05/03/as-good-as-it-gets/

Then there’s Steel Magnolias with Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olivia Dukakis, Tom Skerritt, Dolly Parton, Shirley Maclaine, to name a few. Okay so yeah . . . it’s your ultimate Chick Flick. But c’mon! The characterization is incredible! All the little oddities about each and every one of them. We, as writers need to be able to create those quirks in our own characters. Not to mention building that great tension between certain personalities: Ouiser and Drum, Ouiser and Clairee. Well, I suppose it was Ouiser and everyone really! The bonds between the women become such an integral part of the plot that sometimes I think they under-emphasize the male roles. Other than that, the movie is phenomenal.

Finally, finally . . . and only because I want to limit this to five, is The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (also on my list of favorite actors!) There has to be more than one reason why I chose this movie but right now I can only think of one. It’s just such a darned good story! And that should be the premise of all our writing, right? I mean, if the story’s not there, then all we’re doing is putting words on paper. The story has to grab you and make you love (or hate) its characters. It must make you sympathize with their plight and want to walk their journey with them. And that’s what I found in The Shawshank Redemption. Here’s a guy, quiet, smart . . . really, really smart, claims to be innocent of the crime he’s serving two life sentences for. You want to believe him; you want to see what he’s going to do about it. And over time, if your as patient as he is, you do. It’s a story of hope and endurance, of friendship and redemption, and of life’s hard choices. Even in the face of crippling limitations.

You might be thinking how all my movies are somewhat old and, gosh . . . don’t I like anything new? Well, yes, I do. But these five have stood the test of time in my book. They’re the ones I’ve come back to over and over. Cried and laughed again and again. They’re the ones I think of as really great movies, movies whose building blocks I should think about when writing my own stories.

But maybe I’m missing some. Do you have a few you’d like me to add to my five? Or maybe you’r own five. I love a good movie. So . . . if there are any you think I should check out, let me know!

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Two Book Blog

Well, I haven’t been all that faithful to my Friday blog, now have I? Things have just gotten in the way! Important things, mind you, but still distracting.

Yet I have had time to read a few things. Two of which I thought I’d share today.

First was a Marissa Meyer’s Young Adult novel, Cinder, a quirky twist on the old Cinderella tale.

I picked up a signed copy at the Teen Con Book. Got it signed and everything! Which means it’ll be gifted to a niece at Christmas (gently read, mind you).

In Cinder, you still have your evil step-mother who hates her. And you still have her two step-sisters. Although one of them is really not awful! She actually likes Cinder. But, unlike the real Cinderella, Cinder is a sixteen year old cyborg working as a mechanic in New Beijing where her best friend is a robot. And here, there’s a deadly plague that’s threatening to devastate the population (enter the time crunch factor).

It’s an interesting and creative fairy tale retelling. Which seems to be a popular thing these days. My husband and I were treated to a showing of Mirror, Mirror while visiting the SFA campus for orientation a couple weeks ago (yes, my baby is off to college in another month! Yikes — empty nesters!) Anyway, Mirror, Mirror stuck to the main premise of the original more than Cinder did.

I still enjoyed it. Enjoyed them both really.

Ah, but I digress. This is about two books! Not movies that are (or are not) like them!

So second up is Gayle Forman’s Where She Went, sequel to If I Stay.

I’d read the first book a while back but still remember how much I liked it. How much I appreciated Forman’s command of music lingo, both rock and classical. Not to mention near death experiences and hospital protocol. If I Stay was hard to put down.

I wish I could say the same for Where She Went. Forman wrote it from the perspective of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, the guy who wanted her to stay when she was almost killed in book one. For reasons I won’t go into here, he was not a very pleasant person to be around. It took me a long time to actually like Adam. Almost half the book really. But I have to admit, it was Forman’s writing that kept me going. She got his angst tuned as tightly as his guitar was! And I’m so very glad I stuck with it! I loved how she ended things up. And again, I loved her command of music, both rock and classical.

It was well worth the read! And if you find that you don’t like Adam in the beginning, give him some time! He’s been through a lot of stuff that you’ll learn about later.

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