July 4, 2012

Reading, Reading, Writing…

This past month I haven’t written a ton (though I am making progress!), but I’ve read several books, and we all know that reading, reading, reading, is mooo-ey important for writers to keep their muses afoot. I try to mix the bag up a little and read from different genres, though I’m partial to Young Adult and those with a bit of magic.

A short recap on the recent books I’ve read and my humble opinion of each:

Gilt by Katherine Longshore—Young Adult, Historical
I was pleased to get this hard cover autographed by the author, who attended our SCBWI Regional Conference this year. She is one of the talented YA Muses. The story is based on the life (the very short life!) of young Catherine Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII. I absolutely love reading about the old European monarchies (Phillippa Gregory is one of all time fav adult fiction authors for this very reason), so when I spotted this Young Adult take on one of King Henry’s wives, I was thrilled! And the author didn’t disappoint. She blended a perfect mix of history, romance, and the struggles of friendship to keep me turning those pages. A great teen (or adult) read for a close-up view of life (and death) at the Tudor court.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver—Young Adult, Magical Realism
One of my crit partners loaned this one to me with high recommendations. It’s set in contemporary times with one important bit of magic thrown in. Think Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day—a teen girl’s last day of life is repeated seven times. This one had me hooked from the get go. I found myself experiencing a range of emotions, sometimes hating that I couldn’t put it down! Definitely a worthy read, though I’d recommend for older teens (or adults who like YA) due to the sexual content. 

The Giver by Lois Lowry—Middle Grade, Dystopian
I had been wanting to read this one for awhile, and am now looking forward to reading the next installment, Gathering Blue. The book has similarities to The Hunger Games, but it is also very different. The protag is younger (12 yrs. old) and male, and there’s a lot less action (no deadly game shows or romance, etc.), but a lot more thoughtfulness… Very well done, highly recommended!

The Space Between by Alexandra Sokoloff—Young Adult, Thriller
I gave this one a go because it fell into the YA category AND I absolutely love this author’s non-fiction Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. This book is about a 16-year-old girl having reoccurring dreams about a high school massacre. When she learns the most popular boy at school is having the same dreams, she knows they are all headed for disaster. I was impressed with her writing style, the beginning hook quality, and the ever-present tension, buuuut…this particular story just wasn’t my thing. In fairness, I don’t normally read the thriller/horror/gore (even light gore in consideration of it being a YA) genre, so I may have a different opinion if I enjoyed reading that sort of stuff. But, I was also disappointed by the ending, which didn’t pay off as I’d hoped based on the tension built throughout. There was a cool twist, not to be ignored, but still, I felt unsatisfied…     

Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley—Adult Fiction
I gave this one a shot based on the rave reviews it got on Amazon, and also because Mists of Avalon, also written by this author, is one of my all-time favorite books. This story is set in the circus world of the 1940’s & 1950’s, where two trapeze artists fall in love (both male). Though the writing itself is well done, I found the story too slow. A fourth of the way through (which is a lot considering the saga is nearly 700 pages) I got frustrated and put it down. The prose is perfectly vivid and the characters interesting, however nothing was really happening to keep my interest piqued. I may go back and read some more in case I have this wrong…but in my humble opinion, if I can’t stay hooked after 150 pages, something is missing.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James—Adult Romance/Erotica
Okay, one of my girlfriends insisted I read this, and in a word: WOWSA. The scenes were so hot they nearly singed my fingertips while I read them. For those who squirm with discomfort instead of delight when reading graphic sex, BE WARNED. You will be mighty tortured with this one (and if you’ve read the book, you get my pun!) This is the ultimate guilty pleasure book, where the writing isn’t all that incredible, but the interplay between a hunky zillionaire with a dangerous fetish and an oh-so innocent college girl is irresistible. Adults only, please J



  1. Christina, you're my hero! I'm impressed with your broad-ranging selection of genres and appreciate your candor. I'm WAAAY behind on my reading this year. MZB's book in particular sounded really good, but your review aligns with some of my opinions of some of her other work. I guess nobody hits it out of the ball park all the time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks so much, Pandora!!
    I've also read others by MZB that didn't pay off nearly as much as Mists of Avalon. That was a hard act to follow, I guess.