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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Recommends and mini-reviews II: novels, blogs, and books on craft


Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • This novel (memoir but not, as you’ll understand when you read the acknowledgments) is superb in every way possible. While it is true that I am biased because it features Japan ^_^’, I can honestly say that this is one of the best stories I have ever read in my life. 
  • The story is alluring and the almost-continual moments of chaos and devastation are heart-wrenching—great mechanics at work here for writers. Plus, the romance is whimsical, yet fraught with despair, suspense, and peril, which leaves the reader breathless for much of the novel.
  • The writing of Memoirs of a Geisha is exquisite. If you want to improve your figurative language skills, read this book!!! The metaphors and similes are nothing short of brilliant, full of surprise and life (not cliché, not dead from overuse, but alive!).
  • I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Bar Flower, a memoir by Lea Jacobson
  • Bar Flower is a compelling and extremely well-crafted memoir of the author’s “decadently destructive days and nights as a Tokyo nightclub hostess.” At times the revelations were entirely unexpected—and having studied Japan, Japanese culture, and the Japanese language for a number of years, I was surprised about how little I knew about the ‘floating world.’ 
  • If you are even the least bit fascinated by the concept of geisha, Bar Flower would be good to read as the world of the ‘bar flower’ complements the world of the geisha (one coin, two sides).
  • Bar Flower captures many elements of Japanese society that are unfamiliar to foreigners, and offers profound insight into social rigidity, gender politics, ‘secret’ fascinations…the point is, if you want to understand Japanese culture better, this is a read for you. I personally found this book to be a bit of a dip into culture shock (in a good way).
  • I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars. Writers—Jacobson has a voice you don’t want to miss, whether you’re interested in writing memoir or not.

The Bookshelf Muses <> 
  • This is an INCREDIBLE blog written by true wordsmiths that shares a wealth of knowledge about everything writing. You don’t want to miss this if you are serious about becoming a better word-crafter. (And yes, I know I’ve mentioned it somewhere else in my blog, but hey. If it’s good, it’s good, and it should be highlighted here.)

Books on Craft

Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected, by Jessica Page Morrell
  • Um, I love this book. While that sums it up for me, you’re probably wondering why  I love this book…so I’ll tell you! For starters, this author is down-to-earth, hilarious, and incredibly helpful. 
  • Sometimes books on craft are painful because the author is too distant and/or lacks trustworthy credentials (thus making you wonder about the advice given). Morrell gets personal and has the credentials as an editor and an author that make me feel confident about the tips she provides (aside from their own merit).
  • For the most part, Morrell is  compassionate when it comes to bad writing, but she doesn’t compromise the honesty we as writers desperately need to hear—especially when it comes to that one segment of dialogue that we can’t bear to part with even though we may secretly know it kinda sucks. This book will help you.
  • This book will also help you get ahead of the writing curve because Morrell takes pains to show readers the mistakes that writers make most commonly…which means you won’t make them…which means you will (hopefully) find more favor in an editor or agent’s sight. Plus, the format is just plain dandy. There are checklists, exercises, and “takeaway tips.”  
  • I would give Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us 5 out of 5 stars.

Creating Character Emotions, by Ann Hood
  • Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that all of the content of this book is positively stellar, I would say that Creating Character Emotions is, above all, practical. At the end of each emotion chapter, Hood provides exercises for readers to complete. The best way to learn how to write about emotions is 1) to read novels and 2) to practice writing them.
  • Another thing I like about Hood’s guide is that she gives several examples of good and bad writing in each chapter, and explains why. I like this because there are times when I read bad writing and know that it’s bad…but I can’t really put my finger on why it’s bad. Knowing the problem exists gives me an opportunity to fix it. Plus, her list of emotions is fairly extensive, so it’s worth the money to buy it.
  • Sadly, there are improvements that could be made. I would prefer a little more detail in certain chapters. Also, some of the exercises feel contrived/hard to really believe and get into.
  • I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

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