Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Ocean at the End of the Lane

Ocean at the End of the Lane

This novel follows a little boy who’s home is overtaken by a creature bent on making his life miserable while helping everyone else. He seeks help from the strange farm at the end of the lane with a pond that one of the residents, Lettie Hempstock, calls an ocean.

I was wary of this book initially. I had a bad reading experience with Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” so I worried this would be the same. But, I like Gaiman’s writing style enough to overlook my resistance and give it a go. I’m extremely glad I did. It is an amazing book.

Things I love: the descriptions, the imagery, the whole shebang. I like that the real world/fantasy world are so close together, like they can exist at the same time in the same place and our world still moves in the same way. 

His characters are so vivid even with just minor description. I find them more in their habits and their words than the physical details, taking it from a sketch to a fully formed 3-D character walking around the page.

The voice is incredible, as well. I’m always blown away when I read a young character that feels 100% authentic in his thoughts and actions. Even more so because the narrator is retelling a childhood tale, so it’s a story from a young boy filtered through an adult brain (two if you count the author in there).

The ending was incredible, definitely heartbreaking but beautiful. It makes you think about the blank spaces and im/permanence of memories. It also has some great points about the adult/child dichotomy. 

Favorite Quotes:

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups.” (pg 112)

5 stars

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Reads

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This book has been on my radar for years, but I never picked it up until now. Arthur Dent is rescued by his alien friend Ford Prefect shortly before Earth is destroyed, catapulting them in a pretty epic space adventure. This was my quickest read. I think the world building was awesome, the characters were interesting, and the story line compelling. I only docked it a star because it felt a little slow for me. That’s not to say a lot isn’t going on, but I was mainly interested in what Arthur was going through and a majority of the book is about the other characters. 4 out of 5 stars. 

We Were Liars E Lockhart

I was seeing this book all over Tumblr and on some Youtuber shelves, so I decided to give it a go. I really liked it. This story takes place on an Island owned by the Sinclairs. The main character, Cadence, suffers crippling headaches and selective amnesia, coming back to the family island to try and sort out what happened to her and her family. I loved the characters in this book even though the book is more than a little white washed. It does follow a rich family who own their own island, so if you’re not interested in those kinds of story lines, I don’t recommend this one for you. I was drawn to the mystery of it, and I connected to Cadence’s struggle in watching her family self destruct. 4 out of 5 stars. 

Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples

I loved this just as much as the first. Another beautiful book with a compelling story line. The inlaws have arrived, and our unconventional couple has to navigate that tense relationship while trying to find the ghost girl and not be found by those hunting them. Major cliffy at the end, and I’m still not so patiently waiting for Volume 3. 4 out of 5 stars. 

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I like H.G. Wells generally, but this was not my favorite. Outside of Saga, it was the shortest but took me the longest to finish. It follows a time traveller as he gets stuck in the future and has to find his way home, witnessing some interesting things along the way. I think it was a little too much narration and not a whole lot of action or dialogue. I didn’t connect with the narrator or the creatures he met. I liked Weena a bit, but her ending felt like a convenient out to tie up a potential loose end. 3 out of 5 stars. 

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

This book made me flip-flop. I didn’t really like it in the beginning. It’s about a wealthy man going against his family’s desires, putting their fortune and reputation in jeopardy. Money centric plots don’t really get my juices going, and I thought maybe satire was just beyond me. But, there were some really funny lines that kept me going, and by the end I really grew to like Mr. Rosewater and thought the ending was amazingly perfect. This was my first Vonnegut read; I’m definitely a fan. 4 out of 5 stars. 

As always, suggestions are accepted and encouraged! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Writing Corner

My current bedside companion

We’re two months into the year, and, excluding NaNoWriMo, I’ve already doubled my word count from 2014. 

Committing to everyday writing is exactly what I needed to get out of my post collegiate writing funk. It’s really hard to do something when you don’t have an outside deadline or overall grade pushing you along. 

Not everything I’ve written has been great in 2015 (nor 2014 for that matter). A lot of it hasn’t. I’m not even close to finishing one story. But they’re words, story starts, and writing through ideas before I get a chance to tell myself no.

There was a lot of that stop and go last year. I wanted the idea and the characters and the story that was going to catapult me to true author status. So, I didn’t take a lot of risks. I wrote things I was comfortable with. Ideas that I’d felt out before. Stayed in the safe zone. 

A small sample of the filled handwritten notebooks taking up space in my office

A lot of those files are boring. They feel old to me, like I was regurgitating a pattern instead of creating anything new. Sure, character names and settings had changed, but if I put the plot points on a map, the trajectories and hit markers would’ve matched. 

You bring a different set of tools to everyday writing. Sometimes the only thing that gets the fingers typing are the crazy, off the wall ideas. I don’t put pressure on the words anymore either. I just appreciate that they’re there on the page. 

It’s also been about getting reacquainted with my old writing self. Sometimes I come to the computer with no ideas, so I pull up the forgotten files, pilfer them for interesting plots, a character I like, anything to spark some kind of creative flow. 

Basically, it’s just nice to have no pressure writing time where my only concern is getting words out and not so much read by others. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

January 2015 Reads

Kicking of the yearly list with 4 books I read in January. 

First, I finished “Not that Kind of Girl” by Lena Dunam. 

In case you’re living under a rock, this is an episodic/essay type memoir written by the creator and star of HBO’s “Girls.” It’s broken down in parts, describing various topics from love and sex, body, friendship, work and big picture. I wanted to like it. I like “Girls,” I’m a fan of reading about any woman’s success, plus I just wanted to identify with someone who I view as being uber successful and my age. 

There was some controversy about the rape chapter and the ‘little too close for comfort’ relationship with her sister, but those chapters didn’t bother me at all. The sister thing seemed like genuine curiosity that people read too much into. 

It had its moments that I liked. Some of the essays were really funny, and it was an easy read. But, after a while, it became a little bit too self-centered. The chapter dealing with her grandmother’s death is what killed it for me. The death became an event in which to view herself, her relationship with death, and her fears over her death. Not one bit seemed about the grandmother that died, or what her life meant, or really anything outside of the Lena show, and it took a 4 star review down to a 2.

Next, I read the graphic novel “Saga.” “Saga” follows a couple from opposite sides of an alien war as they struggle to find a safe place to raise their child when both sides share a common goal in finding and destroying them. Along the way, they meet a spirit who helps them escape in return for latching on to the baby’s soul. 

“Saga” was a recommendation from a coworker that I fell in love with. It’s a weird book, but the art is amazing and the story pulls you right in. I may have went out and bought the next 3 novels in the series after finishing it. 4 out of 5 stars. 

Then, I read a work recommendation all about entrepreneurship and finding success. It was written by one of the founders of Paypal, Peter Thiel, and it’s called “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.” I feel like I learned some things, definitely an interesting look into what makes an idea/startup successful. 3 out of 5 stars. 

Lastly, I finally finished the book “Up for Grabs” by my author-friend Heather Young-Nichols. “Up for Grabs” is a NA read from the main character Flannery’s point of view as she falls in love with Cain and then has to come up with some interesting means to stay not only with Cain but in college once her scholarship is taken from her. 

I hadn’t read an NA in a really, really long time, and this book made me kind of regret that. It takes place in Michigan-point 1 for the novel-at the University of Michigan-point 2. The premise is this desperate for money college student, driven to selling her virginity to keep the life and future she had been cultivating at University. 

I think the book handles that idea in a way that highlights Flannery taking ownership of her virginity and moving outside the lines of it being something that makes her ‘pure.’ That whole virgin-to-pure equation never really sits well with me. If someone believes the contents of one’s character rests on the state of her hymen, that’s showing more problems with that person than the hymen bearer. Anyways, went on a tangent. 4 out of 5 stars. Buy it, read it, love it. 

Leave any book recommendations in the comments! My TBR list is ever growing. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Don't Break the Chain

Can’t say 2015 has been a banner year for blog consistency. Sorry about that! I can say that I’ve found a good way to be consistent in the other areas of my life. 

I’m driven by visual motivation. I like seeing my accomplishments, the ends of the means. I love watching my work move from one side of the race track to the finish line, day after day. In my position now, you can see exactly what you do all day. The amount of calls, chats, and emails you answer are logged and charted so you can sit back and say ‘yeah, I did something today.” Sometimes, all I do is deal with crappy customers, but it’s still something. 

Quantifiable things are my bread and butter, so this year I decided to make my goals more visual. Something I can track in the real world rather than an undocumented bar to keep. Mainly, this revolves around these bits of paper: 

Image belongs to creator Karen Kavett. Get DBC prints here

Don’t Break the Chain isn’t a new concept (one Google search’ll prove that) but it’s new to me. I like deadlines; I only hit the bars I need to keep when I see them. So, I may or may not have 4 of these sheets pasted to my wall. 

Super awesome quality photo, huh? 

And I may or may not have written, read, exercised, and not drank pop daily since I’ve been building my chains.

Maybe I need to print out a blogpost Don’t Break the Chain…

Anybody else have any ‘stick to your goals’ tricks? I’d love to hear them! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 New Year Resolution

2015 New Year Resolution

Last year on the 1st, I did a post of my resolutions (you’ll find the updated version here if you’d like to see how I did). While my accomplished-to-failed ratio is embarrassing, it was a nice post to go back to throughout the year to keep tabs on myself. 

So, I thought I’d do it again. Without further ado: 

Lose 50lbs 

Get Pregnant 

Buy a house

Still be with the company I’m with this time next year

Only drink pop once a month

No more candy bars

Write every single day

Read a book a month

Run a 5k

Donate 5 boxes to charity

Volunteer for a charity

Pay off all credit card debt

Finish my writing portfolio

Publish ‘In Memory Of’ 

Edit my novel 

Write a new novel

Here’s too a good year full of good goals! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Original Art III

I should’ve spent Christmas gifting my mother with a painting made of my blood, sweat, and tears. Instead, I was curled up in bed with cold sweats and nausea. Yay, seasonal flu. Best Christmas present EVER. 

Even if I didn’t get to share it with her yet, I thought I’d share it with all of you. 

This painting was a tiny bit of a departure than what I’m used to. I mainly stick to decorative art. Things to spruce up my apartment. Nothing remotely art in a traditional art way.

But, my mom saw a painting at Home Goods and wanted me to imitate it. It definitely doesn’t look like the original, and this is my first time painting water reflection, but I’m still really proud of it. 
Store Art

What do you think?

My Art