July 2nd, 2012


Books 84- 85: The Help and Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster

Book 84: The Help.
Author: Kathryn Stockett, 2009.
Genre: Period Fiction.1960s USA. Race relations.
Other Details: Unabridged Audio Book, Length: 18 hours, 6 mins. Narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell.

This was my third reading of this novel about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s and the young white woman who wishes to give them a voice. This time round it was the June selection for our library reading group and I decided that I'd refresh my memory of its story, characters and themes by listening to its award winning audio edition.

This was a very strong production with voice actors taking the parts of Aibileen. Minnie and Skeeter as well as an overall narrator for those sections of the novel without a first person narrator. I found that while I had retained a great deal from my previous readings, that listening brought an extra dimension over the printed page. Most notable were the emotions brought by the actors, especially anger, which was mainly expressed by Octavia Spencer in her sections as Minnie. I learned from an interview with the author offered by Audible that Spencer had been the original inspiration for the character of Minnie as well as playing her here and in the BBC radio and film adaptations.

The audiobook won the 2010 Audie award for Fiction & Distinguished Achievement in Production. Well deserved in my option. As expected the novel did generate a great deal of discussion at our meeting.

Kathryn Stockett's page on 'The Help' - including excerpt and Q&A with the author.

Book 85: Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster .
Author: Lee Weatherly and Helen Corner, 2006.
Genre: Non-fiction. Creative Writing.
Other Details: Paperback. 210 pages.

As stated on the cover, this is a practical guide to writing novels for publication and how to proceed from a first draft through the editing process and then submission to agents, etc.. Lee Weatherly wrote the first section on writing and it was clear that she's applied these ideas on pacing, characterization and the like to good use in her own novels (Angel Trilogy). Helen Corner wrote the Introduction and Part 2 on getting published.

It's been a book I've dipped into over the past couple of weeks and found it provided some interesting tips that I'll likely apply to my next NaNoWriMo project.
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16. Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove

Title: Household Gods
Authors: Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Year: 1999
# of pages: 664
Date read: 4/9/2012
Rating: 4*/5 = great


"Nicole Gunther-Perrin is a modern young professional, proud of her legal skills but weary of the daily grind, of childcare, and of sexist coworkers and her deadbeat ex-husband. Then after one exceptionally awful day, she awakens to find herself in a different life, that of a widowed tavernkeeper on the Roman frontier around A.D. 170.

Delighted at first, she quickly begins to realize that her new world is as complicated as her old one. Violence, dirt, and pain are everywhere; slavery is commonplace, gladiators kill for sport, and drunkenness is taken for granted. Yet, somehow, people manage to face life everyday with humor and goodwill.

No quitter, Nicole manages to adapt, despite endless worry about the fate of her children "back" in the twentieth century. Then plague sweeps through Carnuntum, followed by brutal war. Amidst pain and loss on a level she had never imagined, Nicole must find reserves of the sort of strength she had never known." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I liked this book about a modern woman finding herself in a different time, but not because of the time travel. Rather, I liked the way Nicole has to confront her assumptions and how she finds the strength she needs in herself.

Dreamhunter Dreamquake; Garden World Cinder; Dead Life; Ant Woods; Fatal Outlaw; Fantasy Shift

Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
I tore through these. On the one hand, they are typical YA coming-of-age stuff, complete with diaries and fights with parents and siblings and figuring out one's purpose in life and etc etc etc. On the other hand, they are extremely detailed survivalist-style post-apocalyptic fiction. The juxtaposition is weird, and pleasingly novel.
(118, 124, 126)

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake, by Elizabeth Knox
Beautiful Edwardian-in-an-imaginary-country (that still has access to the artifacts of Western culture) fantasy novels. The beginning is light and fun, and then things get darker and deeper in a most satisfying fashion. Tasty tasty tasty.
(119, O41; 120, O42)

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen
Romance and witchcraft and small town relationships. Decent company.

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (ARC)
Cinderella in a cyberpunk-lite future with plagues and psychic Lunar kingdoms. Predictable in some ways, astonishing in others. Pretty strong anime flavor. If those things sound promising, you will like it as much as I did.
(122, A4)

The Ant King and Other Stories, by Benjamin Rosenbaum (nook, Creative Commons)
Frequently surreal, always eminently readable.
(123, O43)

Shift, by Rachel Vincent
Meh. I found the paranormal-romance trappings of this volume were clunkier than they had been earlier in the series, and so it was harder to immerse myself. If this had been the first book in the series instead of the penultimate one, I probably wouldn't have kept going.

The Big Woods Orchestra, by Guido van Genechten
Art is lovely, text is forgettable.

Outlaw Marriages, by Rodger Streitmatter (e-ARC)
The content of this one was very interesting indeed - about various long-term gay relationships where at least one partner was justly famous, and where their partnerhood was a major factor in the famous partner's success. The writing style was.. variable. Some of the chapters flowed very smoothly and others were dry? workmanlike? awkward? something along those lines. Still worth it, if you're interested in the topic.
(128, A5)

Fatal Voyage, by Kathy Reichs (reread)
It's been so long since I read this series (and I've watched several series of the only-slightly-related TV show in between), so I wanted to back up a bit and make sure I remembered what had already happened between various characters before I got back into it. My appetite has been whetted.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Six, edited by Jonathan Strahan (e-ARC)
I liked the first half of this so much that when my e-ARC expired before I finished it, I requested that my public library buy a copy. I feel totally justified in doing so, too, because 1) the second half was also great, 2) there is a hold queue of other people who want to read it lined up behind me. Not a single clunker, lots of gems - and y'all know how fussy I am about short stories, too. Jonathan Strahan continues to rock my world.
(130, A6)
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