Author Archives: BrittneyRz

New Writing Space

IMG_5321Over the last year I have been trying to figure out why my motivation for writing has been lacking. I could remember when I wrote everyday. I remember feeling like I didn’t have the choice but to write. I would write no matter what had gone on throughout the day. I never was too tired, or too preoccupied.

Over the last year that feeling has been gone. I have been trying to desperately figure out where it went. I thought at first it was because I spent so much time looking for a job, then I had multiple jobs. I put it all off as being too tired. I was not just physically tired but mentally as well. I was trying so hard during the day to prove myself, to show that I was worth hiring into a full time position that I used up all my motivation and strength. There was nothing left for me.

Then at the end of last year I was offered a full time position at one of my jobs. I took it with excitement. It was exactly what I had been hoping would happen from the start of my journey. I thought, “Perfect, that worry is now gone. I can pay my bills doing a job I love.”

I thought my writing motivation would come back in a flood. My weary mind had room to do something else now. But that didn’t happen. At first I put it off as the holidays. Christmas and New Years was stressful this year, in a good and bad ways. Life was stressful in and of itself. I thought if I could just get through December that I would get a routine back and everything would fall back into place.

Again, that didn’t happen. I found excuse after excuse to not write. I was tired. I had other things to do. I began to wonder if I cared about writing the same way again.

I then began watching the reboot of “Queer Eye” on Netflix. (It is a reboot of the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” a makeover show from the early 2000s I believe. It was one of my favorite shows back then. The reboot is fantastic!) One of the things they tend to do in that show is talk about creating a place specifically for the guy’s either hobby or way of life. It is usually about creating a space designed for them.

I realized that is what I was missing. In college I had a writing space. I had my set up, that was supposed to be for school work but became where I went to write. It had no distractions. It was about work and a spot for specifically for that and only that.

I did not have that in my apartment. It had a desk but it was used as a trash heap. I had my supplies but they had no home. I wrote on the couch, my back yelling at me. I wrote on the floor but could never get comfortable. Also each of those spots required me to do a lot of set up, a process that I never wanted to do.

IMG_5324So I went out and bought some things to create my writing space. I cleaned off my desk and moved it to a central part of my room. Moved my bed to the side and surround the desk with bookshelves. I found signs with sayings that can inspire me. I bought whiteboards and calendars to keep myself organized.

I transformed my room from a bedroom to a writing space. It has a new purpose now. I have somewhere, where I can sit down and begin to work without a set up process. It has no TV to be distracted by and my cat can easily curl up in my lap as I work without getting in the way.

Is this a magical cure to my block? No, but it is a start. It is a space that can inspire me. It is a space where I can feel like my writing has a home. I can see my progress whenever I walk in the room on my whiteboards. I want to be here and I am excited to see how far I can go now.

Do you have a writing space? How do you push yourself to get writing done around the rest of your life? 

Down the TBR Hole

I saw this tag on on Howling Libraries and it looked like fun. It was originally created by Lost in a Story and seems like a good way to go through some of my TBR on Goodreads and see what is there and what I can get rid of or push me to start reading. 
Links will be  on the titles for the books Goodreads page. (I am going to do ten for this round of this tag).

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 or 15 or 20, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Current TBR – 246

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Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – Date added: August 22, 2013
I think I added this one after hearing about the movie? Through looking back at it now, I just don’t feel any real connection to it.

Decision: Remove

I am America – Stephen Colbert – August 22nd, 2013
I think I added this after I read John Stewart’s book on the history of America. I liked that and still own it. I think I will keep this because one day it would be fun to read. It will probably just be awhile before I get to it.

Decision: Keep

Suicide Notes – Thomas Ford – Date added: August 22nd 2013
This sounds interesting and like it would have a good look at life. I am still intrigued by the plot.

Decision: Keep

The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker – August 22nd, 2013
I have heard mixed reviews about this one. I still like the idea of the plot through. I am all for different mystical creatures outside your usuals like vampires and werewolves.

Decision: Keep

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The Children of Men – P.D. James – August 22nd, 2013
I love dystopian stories. This one is a classic and I will get to it one day.

Decision: Keep

The Never List – Koethi Zan – August 22nd, 2013
I have no idea how this one ended up on my list. Reading the summary again, sadism and torture seem to the main plot points. I have zero interest in either of those.

Decision: Remove

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess – August 22nd, 2013                                                    I own this one and I do want to read it one day. I remember starting it once and the slang throwing me off. I have to find a time when I am ready to try to decipher the meanings.

Decision: Keep

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon – August 22nd, 2013
I will get to this one, one day. I have every intention of reading it. I have heard great things. I just have to find the mood and time.

Decision; Keep

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The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – August 22nd, 2013
I was interested in the plot at first with this one but as time as moved on I feel like my interest has all but gone. Plus I have heard very mixed reviews about it.

Decision: Remove

The Lincoln Myth – Steve Barry – May 19th, 2014
I think this was added when I into reading history thrillers. I do like these stories where a some ancient artifact connected to history is sought because it can change the world. But I think I will stick with James Rollins at the moment.

Decision- Remove

Have you read any of the books on my current list? What are your thoughts on what I decided to keep and remove?

 

 

 

The Everything Box – Richard Kadrey – Review

25989974In 2000 B.C. an angel is set to end the world. He reaches into his pocket only to find the device is gone. The world won’t be ending on that day.

Fast forward to 2015 and we meet Coop. He is a pretty decent thief, except for he has been caught. He is facing jail or working with special client to retrieve a mysterious box. In the process of trying to find the box he becomes entangled with the Department of Peculiar Science. They tell him the box is not just a trinket container, it is a doomsday box. It will destroy the world. Coop is set on finding it, and meets just about everyone else who is out to get the box as well. No one is qualified for this search and things start falling apart more and more as time goes on. It becomes pretty plain that starting the apocalypse is not an easy task.

What I liked:
This book was just plain fun. The humor was great, the running around in circles was entertaining. I love a book that is just pure fun. It felt like a sitcom to me. One person would get the box and then lose it to someone else. Each time we were introduced a new cast of characters that were more ridiculous then the last group. I laughed over and over again as I read this story.

The characters were also so much fun. Coop’s sarcasm was on point. I love a good sarcastic character. Coop had an attitude and it fit well with the story. It wasn’t out of place. It helped extend the humor of the book.

I enjoyed the “cults” as well. I loved how they were introduced as these groups who were demon worshippers but then held bake sales. This juxtaposition between the two ideas was great. It fit right in with the ridiculous feeling of the story. They were all bumbling idiots and you would never picture them being able to summon a demon or end the world.

Sometimes you need a book that is just ridiculous. It doesn’t teach you any lessons or make you rethink the world. It is just fun. You just read it to laugh and feel relaxed from the rest of the world.

What I just was okay with:
While I highly enjoyed the back and forth pace of the book I do wish there had been just a bit more to the plot. The entire point of the plot was to run around trying to get this box, lose it and meet another group that was after it. I think by the middle if somehow the groups had banded together or there had been another revelation it would have elevated the plot a bit more. I like things a bit more complicated.

This story literally made use of every type of magic you could imagine. Not only were there demons and angels, but you had wizards, werewolves and vampires. Then there were ghosts and magic spells on top of all of that. While this was fun, I felt like it was a lot at one time. It was like throwing everything in and seeing what happened. The story might have benefitted from picking only a handful of magical elements and focusing on those.

What I wished was different:

I can’t think of anything that was outright annoying or that I disliked. This wasn’t a complicated, life altering tale but it was fun and that is exactly what I wanted from it.

I gave this four stars on Goodreads. It is not going to change your life. It is going to provide an escape from life. It is fun and has great humor. Life won’t change but it will lighten the mood for a bit.

Link on Goodreads and Amazon.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli – Review

914DeALdMcLSimon is a normal kid. He has good friends, a great family and he seems to enjoy school. There is just one thing, he has been keeping a big secret. He is gay. Only an email pen pal, one of the few people he feels like he can truly open up to, knows. Through twist and turns Simon not only comes out but learns  about himself, his friends and family. And in the end learns love is a beautiful thing.
What I loved:
I don’t even know where to start with this book. I have about four other books I should be writing a review for but I have decided this one has to come first. I want to write a review for this book because I have to talk about how much I loved it!

I have heard about this book for ages. I keep seeing recommendations on blogs and Twitter. Some of my favorite authors love this book and I have meant to read it. I just keep getting distracted (It is always like, “Oh yeah, I’ll read that one. OOooo look that new pretty one.” Its bad.). I finally picked it up at Target with a gift card and I am so glad I did. This book lives up to everything I have heard about it and it has become one of my all time favorites.

First up lets talk about how this book left me literally feeling high and giddy at the end. I have read books with great endings before. I have read books that leave me feeling drunk on them. I have not read a book that has made me as happy as this book did. I was grinning so hard my face hurt at the end.

This book felt like a fairytale to me. It wasn’t unbelievable, just that happy, perfect, loving feeling that fairytales leave behind. That feeling of hope and joy you feel when you finish a fairytale. I felt all of that with this book.

I jokingly said when I finished, that I felt in love because of how strong and real the emotions were in this book. I raced through it because I felt like I was on the rollercoaster ride with Simon. I was impressed with how spot on this book felt, with how real and alive it was. I am not emotional so for a book to pull out a strong emotion like, pure joy, from me is impressive.

Let’s move onto the characters. Simon was great. At first he felt one note, I felt like I knew his character but as the story progressed I saw his growth and change. I liked how his emails with Blue helped him learn aspects about himself. This was one of the strongest parts of this story. The way the two of them were able pull revelations out about themselves and each other was fantastic. Simon grew and he grew in exactly the way he needed to grow.

Simon’s reflections on his sexuality were great. I liked that he wasn’t ashamed. He was just trying to find a way to make a declaration when he didn’t understand why he had to. I loved his point about how it doesn’t make sense that not everyone has to come out. I agree with him that straight people should have to make a big deal about their sexuality and revealing it like the LGBTQIA+ community always has to do, or on the flip side  no one has to make a big deal about it (what I hope the future holds one day).  The reflections on that idea hit home for me. It made sense and they way he talked about it was perfect.

I also liked the progression of how he came out. It wasn’t ideal and it wasn’t the way it should have happened. We saw him go through a gambit of emotions about how it happened and come to a conclusion about how to handle it. It felt true to life. The one scene where he is yelling at someone was done perfectly. I was angry and upset and wanted to cry just like Simon. What he states is exactly right about the situation.

Simon’s family was great as well. I think I liked them because they reminded me so much of my own family. They are goofy and have inside jokes. His parents wanted to just know him and watch him grow and not miss anything. It made me smile because I could relate to everything they said and did.

The mystery about Blue was captivating. I read the book and raced through it because I had to know who Blue was. I thought I knew once or twice. I did end up guessing right but I liked that mystery element. I liked that we got subtle clues and if we paid attention we could see the revelation. I do want to reread it one day and see if I could pick on some things.

The end where we learn who Blue was, was exactly what I wanted. The connection that was formed was true and it came from the emails. We saw that their conversations mattered. Nothing was made up. Nothing was done on a sly manner. They bared their souls, and grew even if they didn’t meet face to face for a while. It showed that email and text conversations can form a true connection between people.

I have an issue with people who think that because of the internet and phones we have no ability to connect with other people anymore. This book shows how untrue that can be. If you open yourself up and write what you really think, you can build a bond. A bond is not only built face to face.  A bond is built through honesty and sharing who you truly are with someone. That is what ultimately matters.

We saw this in this book. Blue and Simon connected. They grew as a pair of friends and then more, all through email. When they met that spark was there, that connection was true and alive. They were able to move forward because the groundwork was already put down. It was heartwarming to read.

What I was just okay with:

I think the only thing I could think of that drew me up short was that some details weren’t mentioned right away. Like Simon has glasses and I didn’t realize that until about 3/4 of the way through the book. He has to put in contacts and I had to then reimagine him. I don’t like having to change how I see a character that I have been reading for pages.

It wasn’t enough to throw me out of the story but it did stop me short a few times. I just had to readjust and I wasn’t prepared for that.

What I wished was different:

Nothing. I can’t think of one thing I had a true problem with. As If you couldn’t tell by my gushing above.
I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads and it deserved everyone. If you want a sweet, coming of age, coming out and falling in love story, this is perfect. If you want a happy ending with pure giddy joy, this is perfect. I can’t wait until the Leah on the Offbeat comes out.

Links: Goodreads  & Amazon

Quotes:
“It’s like they have this idea of me, and whenever I step outside of that, it blows their minds.” (pg. 54)

“But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again. (pg. 56) (Has to be one of my favorite parts of this book.)

“Being secure in your masculinity isn’t the same as being straight.” (pg. 65)

“Why is straight the default?” (pg. 146)

“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold.” (pg. 147). (This whole chapter of conversations is so important).

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein – Review

51aqyzJkv1L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Denny’s dream has always been to be a champion racer. His dog Enzo has been by his side since he was a puppy. They have built a strong, unbreakable bond. A bond that is desperately needed as Denny’s life begins to unravel around him. Life is complicated but seems a bit more understandable and bearable when seen through the unique eyes of man’s best friend.

What I loved:
A book told from a dog’s POV; that had me hooked from the very start. This is actually a book I have been meaning to read for ages now. My aunt got it for Christmas from my cousin and I borrowed it from her.

I lovd Enzo. His insight into human behavior is interesting. He sees things we can’t see. He sense things we can’t sense and he understands the world around him much better than I initially imagined he would. I thought he would have a goofy sense of the world.

I always imagine a dog having a childish perspective of the world. Enzo had a much more mature voice. Enzo learned from his environment and he made observations based off what he learned. Enzo was smart.

I loved how we see the connection between man and dog from the dog. If you have had a pet you know the deep connection that can exist between a person and their furry friend. We have numerous stories about how a dog has helped someone make it through the toughest time in their lives. In this story we got to see how a dog manages to be that support system.

The look at the universe  and life was refreshing. Even with all the things that Denny had to go through, Enzo still held hope. He had Denny’s best interest at heart and he was not going to let anyone do anything to take that away from him. I loved some of the ways he had to help Denny see reason or make a decision. Seeing how he got his “voice” heard was great.

The end made me cry. I don’t cry easily and those last few pages hit home in a major way for me. It was uplifting and satisfying. It felt perfect. As someone who has a deep connection with a pet, I appreciated the sentiment at the end.

What I was just okay with:

While I loved Enzo and his voice I had a serious issue with the way the plot played out. It was just very aggravating to me. Everything that happened to Denny wasn’t his fault. He had no control, he was a victim of circumstance and crappy people.

Particularly the “Evil Twins,” made me want to hit someone. It wasn’t bad writing or anything it was just those circumstances and type of people infuriate me. I wanted the book to end because I just couldn’t read about their horrible way of behaving anymore. It was a sign of great writing that I emphasized with Denny so much and hated some of the other characters. I just get annoyed quick with that kind of storyline though.

What I wish was different:
There was one minor scene that really bugged me. When Enzo is taken to stay with Denny’s friend Mike, he introduced to Tony as well. When Enzo meets him he refers to Tony as Mike’s “wife.” From this description I understood as them being a couple.

This may just me being sensitive but I didn’t like Tony being referred to as a “wife.” Enzo is a smart dog. He understands racing in all its terms, he understands the legal system and can sense sickness. So I don’t understand why he would think of Tony as a “wife.” He could have easily observed him being close to Mike, think they are together, and say something like “He is acting like Eve does to Denny, as if he was his wife. But he is a man, so I guess that would make him his husband? Can a man be another man’s husband? I don’t know, I haven’t seen that before. But nevertheless this is where I find myself right now.”

Sometime simple like that. Observe that it is different than what he knows, apply language he already understands in a new sense and move on. It is only one scene but it still prickled me a bit. I have a brother who is gay and that may be why it annoyed me. I wouldn’t want him or his boyfriend be stereotyped that way. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading but it did throw me off during that chapter.

 

All in all this was a sweet, heartwarming book. I enjoyed it. I liked seeing life from Enzo’s point of view. I had an issue with the harsh nature of the plot line but that did solidify the significance of Enzo and his role in Denny’s life. I gave it four stars on Goodreads and would definitely recommend it.

Quotes:

“Because memory is time folding back on itself. To remember is to disengage from the present.” (pg. 11)

“Be it through intention or ignorance, our success and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” (pg. 43)

“Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” (pg. 102)

“The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferable of his own makings – in order to triumph. (pg. 135)

 

Link to find it on:  GoodreadsAmazon

Down the TBR Hole

I saw this tag on on Howling Libraries and it looked like fun. It was originally created by Lost in a Story and seems like a good way to go through some of my TBR on Goodreads and see what is there and what I can get rid of or push me to start reading. 
Links will be  on the titles for the books Goodreads page. (I am going to do ten for this round of this tag).

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 or 15 or 20, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Current “to-read” shelf: 251

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What Color is Your Parachute? 2014: A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changes
– Richard N. Bolles – Date Added September 12, 2013

I added this when I was job hunting. It was suggested to be me by someone who was helping me network. I now have a job that I love and do not plan on changing anytime soon.

Decision: Remove

Gone (Gone #1) – Michael Grant – Date Added: August 22nd, 2013

I don’t remember adding this one but it sounds interesting. Adults are gone and so is every modern convince. Almost sounds like a modern day version of Lord of the Flies. Synopsis still intrigues me so I’ll let it hang out for a bit.

Decision: Keep 

Beauty Awakened (Angels of the Dark, #2) – Gena Showalter – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

I love Gena Showalter’s Lord of the Underworld series. This one is sort of connected by the angels they work with. I think I will go back to this series once the Lords series finishes this year.

Decision: Keep

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

I have every intention of reading this one. It is one of the few “classic” books that I am eager to read, I just keep getting distracted by more recent published books.

Decision: Keep

 

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Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga #1) – Orson Scott Card – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

Another one I do have every intention of reading. I have good things about it and I do own it, so one day I will start this series. Just not sure when that will be exactly.

Decision: Keep

The Boy Who Could See Demons – Carolyn Jess-Cooke – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

I have zero memory of this book. It sounds kind of interesting but ultimately doesn’t sound like one I have too much desire in reading.

Decision: Remove

How We Decide – Jonah Lehrer  – Date added:August 22nd 2013

I love psychology and books about how the brain works but this was also added at a time when I was trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. I have a much better hold on my life at the moment so I don’t feel the need to read this one anymore.

Decision: Remove

Girl Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

I have heard great things about this one and the movie based off of it. I am still intrigued by it and hope to get it to sooner rather than later.

Decision: Keep

An Unquiet Mind:: A memoir of Moods and Madness – Kay Redfield Jaminson – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

I think this one was another one added when I was in my mood of psychology and understanding the brain more. I am still interested in many of these subject but this one doesn’t hold any interest for me anymore.

Decision: Remove

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry – Jon Ronson – Date added: August 22nd, 2013

Now this one still hold serious interest for me. I have always been interested in the idea of what makes someone a psychopath and why. Now that I have been reminded of this one I will have to put it higher on my list of books to read.

Decision: Keep

 

 

Removal Percentage – 40%

Have you read any of these? What are you opinion on my decisions? Do you have any books you have recently taken off your TBR?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz- Review

51uZpbbhvmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Aristotle (Ari) doesn’t have any idea of who he is or what he wants. He feels like he is drifting through his life. His parents keep him at a distance. His brother is in prison and no one will talk about it with him. He meets Dante at the pool one day and his life begins to change. He still struggle through life, trying to find his place and make sense of things but he has a companion now. His relationship with Dante expands and moves forward. In the end both boys grow, both find their place in the outer world and inside their own worlds.

What I loved:

I loved Dante and Ari’s characters. Both of them were very relatable. I felt a connection to both of them. Ari was our main protagonist and I understood him from the very beginning. He is angry, he is scared and he is lost. Ari is real. He isn’t written as overdramatic. He is written as someone who wants answers, who wants someone to trust him with information, as someone who wants to matter.

Dante is fun, he is smart. The way he talks with Ari feels beyond his age but I liked the introspective nature he brought to the story. I felt like he opened up not only Ari but me as a reader as well. He allowed the book to be brought to a higher level. Dante allowed himself and Ari to grow.

I liked the way that sexuality as handled in this book. Dante comes to terms with being gay quite quickly. He figures out who is attracted to and he accepts it. There is a hint of what he wants from Ari but he doesn’t force anything. One moment comes and goes but he doesn’t resent Ari for his choice or his apprehension. He lets Ari determine who he is and lets him have the time to do that, which is exactly what Ari needs. Dante knows Ari and that is made plain throughout the story.

I think that is what I liked best about this book was that this felt real and tangible. Nothing felt like it didn’t belong. This story was about two boys growing up and coming to terms with how they were as people. It was a true and strong journey. It was a journey we all can relate to. Sometimes these stories can take a turn that feels too neat and easy. Nothing for these two was neat and easy. I liked that aspect. Growing up is not easy and it was nice to see that portrayed in a true way.

What I was just okay with:

I didn’t have any real issues with this book. I did feel like the storyline with Ari’s brother could have been more solid at times. I felt like it was dragged out, revealed and kind of left hanging afterward. Then again this book was told over a short time period, we wouldn’t see the full effect of learning about his brother’s crime and its forever effect on Ari in this span of time.

What I wish was different:

I can’t think of anything that stood out as needing to be changed. The pacing was great, the character development was perfect and the story overall was engaging and made me want to read more about these two.

I gave this book a full five stars on Goodreads. I raced through it, wanting to learn more about these two boys. I wanted to see them grow and develop. It was one of those books I found anytime to read. If you enjoy coming of age stories this one is one of the best I have read.

Quotes:

“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” (pg. 8)

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.” (pg. 31)

“He looked so happy and I wondered about that, his capacity for happiness. Where did that come from? Did I have that kind of happiness inside me? Was I just afraid of it?” (pg. 241)

“To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.” ( pg. 324)

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series – Carlos Ruiz Zafon- Review

51gU0eNxl+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_There is a place where forgotten books find a home. It is a secret bestowed on a select few. Once you are brought into the cemetery you are given a chance to chose one book. This becomes your book, you are charged with protecting it.

This series tells the story of one particular family, the Sempre family. They are booksellers, a family that understands the intrigue and power of books. A family that understands the importance of books and keeping them safe. The series is a tale of this family keeping not only their business alive but also finding ways to make connections with others around them. It is a tale of a family who gets intertwined in mysteries that change their lives forever.

What I loved:

I actually started this series backwards. I started with The Angel’s Game, not realizing it was part of a larger series. The Angle’s Game and the subsequent books had this deep air of mystery. You were always wondering what exactly was going on. Each book had its own mystery, one that slowly unwound around the reader.

I enjoyed the slow and steady pace of these books. Sometimes with mystery books there is a long drawn out hint at what is going on. Then at the end everything gets wrapped up in a few pages. This was different. The mystery unfolded piece by piece. We meet new characters and figure out what is happening. This pace is what keeps you reading, wanting to find out the exact details.

I also like that this whole series was around one family. I enjoyed slowly learning about them. We got different generations in the books. We saw the evolution of the family and the long term effects of events in the earlier books. I liked this connection that built on themselves throughout the stories.

I also enjoyed the air of otherworldliness in The Angel’s Game. This was the first one I read and I twas captured by it because I had this feeling something was happening under the surface. I liked this kind of floating feeling I had throughout the story. I had a theory and later learned I was right; but I liked that it was in another novel that I found out what was truly going on. This was what kept me reading this series. I wanted more of this atmosphere though unfortunately  that wasn’t present in the the other books.

1232What I was just okay with:

I started with The Angle’s Game and found out that it was the second book in a series of three. When I finished The Angel’s Game I believed that The Shadow of the Wind would have taken place before The Angel’s Game, or at least have a solid logical connection it. That was not the case.

The Shadow of the Wind actually took place after The Angle’s Game which left me very confused. I could not fathom why the series was written in this order. I read The Shadow of the Wind expecting to have more understanding of The Angle’s Game but that wasn’t true. It did nothing to help tell The Angel’s Game any different.

I struggled I think because I started The Shadow of the Wind with a certain expectation. When I realized it was not going to do what I expected it to do, I felt let down. I felt lost which I think took me out of the series.

If I had read the series in order maybe I would have felt differently about the series as a whole. But as the way I read them, I felt I was missing a vital piece to this story in the end.

9781922079886What I wished was different:

The last book The Prisoner of Heaven felt like it had nothing to hold itself up. The Angle’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind were two good stories that stood alone if necessary. The Prisoner of Heaven did have a nice connection to The Angel’s Game but it was a history of one of the characters, nothing more.

I wanted to hold a true story but it felt like it could have been integrated into the other books. The last book felt unnecessary which left me feeling detached and disappointed by the series as a whole.

 

As a whole the series was alright. I gave it between 3-4 stars on Goodreads. I liked the mystery elements, I liked how it held me captivated but wish that the series felt better connected with one another. In the end I felt like the series could have been stand alone stories and it would have worked as well if not better.

My Inspiration for My Short Story Collection- Is There More?

IsThereMore_AmazonOne of thing I find most fascinating about novel or stories is where the author got their inspiration. What made them think to write about that specific topic? What made them ask the question the story is trying to answer? Why did they choose to write an adventure tale or a romance? Who inspired the character traits of the protagonist? Is the story close to them or is it them trying to work out issues in their own life?

When I write I find inspiration from a number of things but mostly it comes from me asking, What If? . I ask the question and then use my writing to explore the number of avenues the story could go down.

My short story collection, Is There More? consists of a number of stories over a span of years. Each one has their own unique story about how it came to life. I thought it would be fun to write a post about where the inspiration from each story came from. I will give a short summary of the story and then a bit about how I came up with the idea or why I wrote the story.

If you find this interesting and want to read the stories for yourself be sure to check it out on Amazon, either as a paperback or ebook. And if you do read it and enjoy it, a review is always appreciated!

Always Been Ours

Always Been Ours is a cautionary tale about what happens when you abandon the books and stories that created you. It is a reminder to never forget how important reading and books can be for your everyday life, especially for a writer.

This story is the oldest in the collection. It was written when I was a junior in college. It was written (at least the first draft) as part of an assignment: write a short story. That was all we were told.

I wanted to write a story about books whispering inspiration to a writer. I wanted it to be about the creative process but as I wrote I could not get the idea of the books being angry out of my head. Every time I wrote their voices, it was with an edge to it. If I wrote them helpful and inspiring it felt forced and flat. I finally gave in and this story was born.

This was the first time I remember a story writing itself. I always heard authors talk about that feeling but never quite understood it until this tale. I could not write anything else, this was the story that had to be told.

This was also the first time I wrote a story and someone outside of my family was intrigued by it. I remember my professor (my favorite throughout my college career) writing the note “Intriguing”. He wanted to hear more and it made me want to write more, to keep working on this story until I got it just right; which took about 3 years.

So Many Faces

This story tells the tale of love in its many different forms. A number of people tell about their love lives through letters.

This story started off as an idea of writing a letter. That was all that I wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what the letters would be about, just that I wanted to write a story in letter form. As I wrote I figured out that I wanted to write it about love.

I know that love comes in many forms and different ways throughout a romantic relationship. I played with the different types of love and how relationships work. My favorite is the joking, teasing, fun time with one another.

From the people I have spoken to this is a favorite. I was surprised because I didn’t think this one would strike a chord with as many people as it did. Many liked the different format and I definitely will keep that in mind for future stories.

I Like a Good Fight

In this world there is an app that is designed to help you find your soulmate, or The One. You send in some of your blood and it uses it to find your match. Our protagonist doesn’t buy into it.

I wrote this one because I keep seeing apps and dating services. I am someone who doesn’t quite like the idea. I am cautious of it, mostly because you don’t know who exactly you are meeting.

I wanted to explore the idea of an app maybe actually working. I modeled the protagonist after myself. I wanted to explore my attitudes towards the idea and see if there was a way I could be okay with it. It was fun to think about what I would want from a relationship and how if you give someone a real shot, it may actually work out.

Rogue

A writer is trying to get some words down onto a paper about a story. They are having problems getting a scene to work, not because they can’t find the words but because one of the characters will not stay where they belong. It is a story about an author fighting with their story to get it become what it is destined to be.

I wrote this one because I liked the idea of exploring a writer fighting with a character. I always see tweets and comments from writers talking about how they can’t get a character to behave. They want them to do one thing but they won’t. Or they try to give them a certain personality trait but it doesn’t work. Writer’s all know that struggle and I thought it would be fun to personify it.

Goodbye

A woman calls a friend desperate for help. She is afraid of what she has found in her home but is also reluctant to do anything about getting rid of the problem. Her friend helps but we learn that sometimes helping others is an excuse to not help yourself.

This one was actually inspired by a song lyric, “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head.,” from  “The Monster” By Eminem featuring Rihanna. I heard the lyric and instantly thought about skeletons in a closet and what if the demons we carry with us weren’t scary? What if we could make them friends instead? What happens then?

I used this as a way to explore the idea of inner demons and what they mean to different people. I also wanted to explore the idea that our inner demons are only scary if we let them be.

Reset

A woman and a couple are arguing in a doctor’s office. The woman’s boyfriend is dying and there is only one way to save him. A treatment that will cure him but will destroy everything they have built. Is it worth it?

This story was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about how easy it was to fix a computer by resetting it. We joked about how it would be nice to be able to reset ourselves back to a point where things were going as we wanted them to go. I took that conversation and ran with it.

What if you could reset a human being? What happens after the procedure? Is all that time you take a way really alright to lose? Is it okay because someone gets a second chance?

Keep Them

A couple is arguing. They are at impasse in their relationship and the woman begins to see that what they have is toxic. She wants to leave but her boyfriend holds what she believes is the most important thing in her life. Can she walk away from him and start new? Or is she trapped forever because of what he possesses?

This story was inspired by the idea of keeping your dreams in a box. I have heard people talk about writing down dreams or aspirations and putting them somewhere where you can find and read them later. What if that box could hold literal dreams? What if someone stole it or held is hostage?

Can dreams be reworked to fit the new circumstances? Or are they shot because they revolve around one person or one place in time? What can you do to save those dreams?

Whole Again

A call comes in for a heart repair. A higher up is given the task because it is unlikely the heart can be fully put back together. A lesson is taught and a secret is revealed.

This is my favorite story in the collection and one that I have gotten a number of compliments on. This one came about from a song title, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” by One Direction. The song came on my Pandora and I found myself asking, where do broken hearts go? If you could physically have your broken heart somewhere, where would it be? What would do you be able to do if someone could hold it and mess with it? How would that change the way we handle broken hearts, despair or break ups?

This story was one I read at writers group I was apart of for a short time. I knew it worked when everyone was shocked by the end and it was a stunned silence. Then I got some great feedback and praise about it. It was a story I only rewrote a few times but it was one of those stories that again wrote itself.

The End

A choices is presented to a young woman. A choice she has no idea how to make. A choice she has to make. She chooses and the world come crashing down around her.

I love “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels. I also love games that change based off your choices. I like the idea of being able to chose where the story goes. In this story I wanted to explore that idea on a  higher level.

What if your life was dictated by a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel? What if you could do nothing unless you made a choice? What if you chose and found out you were going to lose someone or die yourself? How do you go on? How much control over your life do you truly have?

 

That is a glimpse into what inspired by stories. I hope it gave you an idea of what to expect in my collection. If any of the stories sparked interest or intrigued you, the collection is available on Amazon.

Black Mirror – Season 4 – Review

black-mirror-logoBlack Mirror was one of the shows that I didn’t quite understand until I watched the first few episodes. My brother continually told me to try it and when I finally did I became obsessed. I love shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror because of the twists and the way they keep you on your toes. You never quite understand what is going on and never quite know where the show is going to turn.

Black Mirror is a show that prays on our fear of technology and what it can do. Since the beginning of computers and machines people have had fears about them taking over and destroying our lives. Black Mirror brings out those anxieties and wraps you up in that fear. This season centered on a number of different ideas.

I am going to rank the episodes in the order of my least favorite to my favorite. Some episodes this time weren’t as thrilling as others, but I did enjoy them all in some way or another. There are minor spoilers but nothing that ruins the episodes.

6. Crocodile

BM_CROC.0Crocodile is about a woman trying to hide a mistake made in her past. In her desire to hide what she did, she destroys lives and hurts people.

This episode was interesting, and suspenseful. I wanted to know how far this woman would go to keep her secrets hidden. I was surprised how far she truly went. The end was also surprising and ironic. I did enjoy that aspect.

The reason it is last on my list is because I felt like the technology angle was only there because of the idea behind this show. It wasn’t absolutely necessary to the plot. Black Mirror is about what technology can do if left unchecked. In this episode I felt like the whole story would have been the same with or without the technology. I wanted a bit more twist from it.

5. Metalhead

imagesThe episode surrounds a woman who is trying to bring something back to her community in an apocalyptic wasteland. She is followed by a robot dog and has to decide how and if it is possible to escape.

I saw that this one was liked a lot on Twitter. It was definitely suspenseful. It felt like an early episode of The Walking Dead. It was full of action. I was always afraid, waiting to see if the protagonist was going to get away or not. It was a constant ride, moving at a quick pace. I enjoyed the ride but I wanted more from it.

I felt like it would have been improved if there had been more details about what was going on in this world. I wanted to know who created the robot guard dogs and why. I wanted to know why the world was in survival mode. I felt like it was only this running and hiding episode. I have seen that. I watch this show for something that I haven’t seen before and this episode just wasn’t that for me.

4. Arkangel

black-mirror-s4e33

Black Mirror

A woman almost loses her daughter when she is young. As a way to ensure she will never lose her again, she enters her into a trial for a new technology. This technology implants a chip in a child’s head and allows you to use an app to watch their every move. Not only is there GPS to track them but you can see what they see, hear what they hear and get up-to-the-minute notifications about their health and safety. As the child grows, the mother learns that constantly watching your child can have its downsides.

I enjoyed this episode. It was a cautionary tale about helicopter parenting. I liked the technology. I felt like this was something that I could actually see happening. We already can track people’s phones. The more advanced our phones get the more we are going to be able to follow everyone. And while I understand the desire to know what is going on with you chid, there is a way to take it too far.

I also really liked how the beginning of this episode paralleled the end. It was a great way to end it. I was extremely satisfied by the end and how they used the fear in the beginning and twisted it for the end.

While this was a good episode, I did feel like I could predict much of it. One of my favorite aspects of Black Mirror is not quite knowing where things are going to go, and I was almost spot on with my predictions for this episode.

The episode also felt like it had two storylines at first. The storyline when the girl was a child was interesting and I wished they had pursed that for the whole of the episode. It diverged and went into a pretty simple storyline as she got older. In the end I think this would have been higher on my list if they had taken it in the first direction instead of the second.

3. Hang the DJ

MV5BN2UyMDQyMmQtNDVlNC00ZDU0LTlkMGItNWMwYTNiOTJmZTMxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODE1NDk0NzQ_._V1_.0Two people are set up on a date. At first it seems like a blind date and then it feels more like speed dating. You learn that they are using an app that sets them up, and determines a pre-set amount of time for them to be together. They are given a number of relationships to try until the app has enough information to find them their perfect match.

I really loved this episode. I know people have been comparing it to San Juniper from last season and saying that it was just not as good. I can see the comparison but I felt like this was a different story and was just as sweet.

This is one of the few episodes in this show that has a hopeful ending. It is rare to be smiling at the end of a Black Mirror episode. I liked the idea of the app doing all the work of not only setting you up but also of breaking you up.

I also loved the relationship between the two main characters. I thought their relationship was sweet and felt very real to me. I kept watching, hoping things would work out for them. When I watched the end I was excited. I loved the way the app worked, it was clever.

My only issue with this episode was that I felt like this undertone of something sinister was not well developed. You have an idea of it in the beginning then it fades away until the end. I felt like if it had been better spread throughout the episode you would have felt more urgency for the two to get together. Also the end may have had a bigger impact if that feeling was better used.

2. USS Callister

landscape-1508343510-screen-shot-2017-10-18-at-171757The episode begins with a cheesy over the top seeming episode of a space type opera. The crew defeats a villain and everything is awesome. Then you transition to the real world and see the man who played the captain is at work where he is barely noticed let alone respected. It becomes even more tragic seeming when you find out he owns the company but no one seems to care about him.

We learn that the beginning was his own version of a virtual reality game he developed. He has this version of his life where he is respected and loved, a stark difference to his real life. We quickly learn though that his little world is much more sinister then it appears.

This was the first episode of the season. I loved this episode. I loved the twist and the commentary on some important topics. I loved that the episode didn’t make you wait long for the twist, it put it early and then gave you a journey to go on.

It looked at the way women and minorities are treated. I looked at toxic masculinity and how someone can think they deserve more than they really deserve just because of their name and position. I liked how it explored power dynamics. It felt relevant. I did what I loved this show for doing; it took our everyday lives and showed how technology can twist it to make it worse if we let it.

This episode also showed us what happens though when we fight the injustices. It showed that that fight is possible and if all those who are marginalized come together then something can be done. I think this was a very important episode for our current time. It left an impact and made me think hard about it afterward.

1. Black Museum

black_mirror_black_museumA young woman stops to charge her car. While she is waiting she sees a museum and decides to check it out. She learns that it is a museum of criminality. Everything in it was used for a crime. It is a dark place. She talks with the curator and learns the dark history behind some of the artifacts. It turns out she knows more about this place then she lets on.

I absolutely adored this episode. It was the perfect way to end this season. It was intriguing and interesting from the first minute. I loved all the easter eggs hidden throughout this episode. If you have not watched all the other episodes of Black Mirror, watch those first then come back to this one. You will appreciate it so much more.

I liked how this episode literally centered on the evil that technology can do if used wrong. It shows what happens when we are given too much power, when we think we can control it but learn that we can’t. It is almost like a preview for this whole series.

The atmosphere was dark and forbidding for the beginning. You know that this place is not good, you know that things are not going to end well here. I was worried the whole time for what was going to come.

The two vignette stories before the end were interesting and highlighted interesting technology. I thought I knew where it was leading but was wrong and I love when I am wrong. I was surprised when I watched the end but I was also very satisfied. It was the ending this episode deserved. It explored some tough topics and we are again forced to reflect not only on how we let technology work in our lives but how we exploit and use certain people because we think we are higher than them.

This season was good, not my favorite but it still made me think and reconsider things around me. I think these episodes  weren’t my favorite because the technology wasn’t as front and center as it usually is. I think they tried to tell some other type of stories this time, which was alright but veered away from what I am used to.

In the end this season was fascinating and a fun ride as usual. It still makes you rethink how you use your phone and computer and what it can do to you.

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