Tag Archives: Reading

Thoughts on Plots: Big Little Lies

I heard about Big Little Lies the same way that everyone else did. The trailer dropped and I said “Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz all play moms of the same age kids?”

I set up my DVR to record it immediately and when it popped up, I watched the pilot in shock and awe. But as many of us writers do, I headed out to the store and read the whole book before the second episode came out. (I did the same thing with Outlander many years ago. A pilot is just like a reeeaaaalllly long book trailer to me, I swear.)

Big Little Lies is totally not in my genre, but the brilliance of it is that it’s so intriguing that I barely noticed. I couldn’t put it down! I had to know what happened to Jane, if Ziggy was innocent, and who died. From my own school days, I remember all the parent drama that used to fly. So the idea that it could end in murder? Exciting.

I continued to watch the series after reading the book (although I almost stopped after a few over-the-top HBO scenes). In the end, I’m glad I did. It was a well done show! Well acted and well written, but I always have some complaints when they turn a book into a show.

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What the series got right:

  1. The overarching eerie mystery of who is hurting Amabella. They struck the tone well and made Ziggy seem sweet, but a little off, so that we do question him.
  2. The casting was perfect. There’s not a single actor I would change. Reese Witherspoon is perfect as Madeline and their choices for the kids were excellent too.
  3. Laura Dern as Renata deserves her own line here. Renata is an off putting, powerful, in-your-face, drama mama. And Laura Dern plays the weariness of her so well. She’s overworked, exhausted, and clear concerned that she’s not a good enough mom. I’ve seen that in so many real moms and I loved seeing it so accurately portrayed on screen.

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What I’m sad they changed:

  1. Why the hell did they have to make Madeline have an affair? It just seems over the top. I get that they needed to stretch one book into a whole mini-series, but seriously? Her husband was one of my favorite characters in the book and I enjoyed their dynamic. Madeline steamrollered him constantly, but he loved her anyway.
  2. No back story for Bonnie! I miss getting to know a little bit about why she did what she did, but I also appreciated how they really highlighted the way Madeline was willing to go to bat for her.
  3. The final sequence left out the husbands! I really liked the fact that it was husbands and wives together, facing down their demons and covering for each other. I really missed that in the show! I think they were going for a girl power moment, but it felt misplaced to me. This book is all about marriage and relationships, after all.

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What I liked that they added:

  1. Those opening credits were awesome. I love the idea of the shots from the backseat of the car- how the kids see their moms! So brilliant. And it set the tone so well for the show.
  2. Yoga class. This was a small scene, but I got such a kick out of seeing a bunch of the feuding parents stuck in yoga class together.
  3. The expanded drama of Amabella’s birthday party. I liked the twist of the moms judging Bonnie for being too sexy.

 

For anyone who just watched the show: read the book! It’s even better!

XOXO

************

Cameryn

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50 Books Challenge: 2016

I won the 50 Books Challenge in 2016! It’s been a few months, but I thought I’d share all the awesome books I read in case anyone is looking for some suggestions! They’re mostly YA, of course. What did you expect from a YA writer?

If you’re hoping to complete the 50 Books Challenge for 2017, then let me give you a tip: I kept track of all the books I read in my Passion Planner. There’s a lovely blank section in the back, so I printed out a blank list from 1-50 and filled in all my books as I went. I also marked up my monthly calendars with how many books I needed to have read when.

Here’s the complete list of books I read, with my recommendations at the bottom!

  1. Facing Your Giants – Max Lucado
  2. Wandering Star – Romina Russell
  3. The Vintage Teacup Club – V. Greene
  4. In the Eye of the Storm- Max Lucado
  5. Dreamstrider – Lindsay Smith
  6. The Darkest Minds – A. Bracken
  7. Glass Sword – v. Aveyard
  8. Cinder – M. Meyer
  9. Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare
  10. The Great Hunt – W. Higgins
  11. Scarlet – M. Meyer
  12. Cress- M. Meyer
  13. Winter – M. Meyer
  14. Burning Glass – Kathryn Purdie
  15. Sleeping with Bread – The Linn Family
  16. Seven Black Diamonds – Melissa Mar
  17. Daughter of Dusk – Livia Blackburne
  18. Snow like Ashes – Sara Raasch
  19. A Court of Thorns and Rosese – S. J. Maas (the one re-read on my list!)
  20. The Heir – Kiera Cass
  21. Graceling – Kristin Cashore
  22. Flawed – Cecelia Ahern
  23. Beyond the Red – Ava Jae
  24. A Court of Mist and Fury – S. J. Maas
  25. The Crown – Kiera Cass
  26. The Star-Touched Queen – R. Chokshi
  27. Falling Kingdoms – M. Rhodes
  28. Rebel Spring – M. Rhodes
  29. Gathering Darkness – M. Rhodes
  30. Frozen Tides – M. Rhodes
  31. The Iron King – J. Kagawa
  32. Beautiful Creatures – K. Garcia and M. Stohl
  33. My Lady Jane – Hand, Ashton and Meadows
  34. Ice like Fire – Sara Raasch
  35. The Crown’s Game – E. Skye
  36. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling
  37. The Keeper of the Mist – R. Neumeier
  38. Shadow and Bone – L. Bardugo
  39. Ruin and Rising – L. Bardugo
  40. Siege and Storm – L. Bardugo
  41. A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado
  42. Empire of Storms – S. J. Maas
  43. Three Dark Crowns – K. Blake
  44. Girls with Swords – L. Bevere
  45. The Black Key – Amy Ewing
  46. Supernatural Ways of Royalty by K. Vallaton
  47. Walking in this World – J. Cameron
  48. The Shadow Queen – C.J. Redwine
  49. Settle for More – Megyn Kelly
  50. Crystal Storm – M. Rhodes
  51.  BONUS- 365 Day Devotional – Max Lucado

Recommendations:

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury– Sarah J Maas didn’t disappoint with her follow up to ACOTAR! This one turns up the heat with some super steamy love scenes, but as always with Miss Maas, she tells a killer story to go with it. As Feyre struggles to overcome her PTSD, her bargain with Rhys kicks into full gear, but she soon starts to lose her love for the Spring Court and considers a different future!
  2. Lady Midnight– Cassandra Clare does it again! She always tells the best stories, with amazing characters, killer action, and forbidden romances. With the parabatai bond causing Emma and Julian to experience some strange reactions to their budding romance, Emma pulls away, but there’s a twist! The book left me on a cliff hanger and I’m dying for the next one.
  3. The Lunar Chronicles– I know, I know. I was behind on this one! I resisted the lure of Cinder the Cyborg for some time, but then gulped the entire series down in a week! So good. I love the light, fun writing style- even while covering some heavy topics. Approachable and enjoyable!
  4. The Falling Kingdoms series– A really fun fantasy series with lots of romance and drama to keep you turning the page! There are fascinating character dynamics that change throughout the series. I appreciate the idea that Cleo has more than one great love throughout the series. Because don’t most of us have a few different loves throughout our lives?

Happy Reading!!!

***********

Cameryn

The 8 Best (Non-Sparkly) Vampires

Vampires have gotten a seriously bad rap lately. When Twilight became a tween sensation, it almost turned the entire supernatural genre into an extension of the romance genre. Tsk, tsk. Bad Twilight. Let’s remember all of those fantastic vampires that kick ass and do something other than pine for Bella!

angel 1. Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us…guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey.”

Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and later his own spinoff) gets the Number 1 spot because of David Boreanaz’s major skills at being both psychotically evil and a wonderful, brooding boyfriend. Both were insanely convincing! From helping Buffy and saving her friends, to tormenting Buffy to the edge of insanity, Angel does it all and makes it look good.

simonlewis 2. Simon Lewis, The Mortal Instruments: “Well, when a mommy vampire and a daddy vampire love each other very much…”

Simon from The Mortal Instruments book series (and the one movie) earns his spot on the list by being the Daylighter. (Sorry Vampire Diaries, Simon can walk in the sun without a ring.) He gives up his immortality and his memories to save his friends, and he always injects some much needed humor into the group. Throughout the series, he’s a human, a vampire, a ladykiller, and eventually, a shadowhunter. Also, if Isabelle Lightwood wants to date him, how can he not make the top of the list? (The new Shadowhunters tv show will begin airing on ABC Family in 2016!)

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3. Caroline Forbes, The Vampire Diaries: “Everyone needs to stop kissing me!”

Caroline starts out as a prissy, uptight cheerleader who gets in the way and acts as a compelled toy for Damon. Just a little way into The Vampire Diaries‘ long run, Caroline somehow becomes a vampire badass. She’s smart, funny, strong-willed and an integral member of the team.

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4. Drusilla, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “I can see [the stars]. But I’ve named them all the same name, and there’s terrible confusion.”

Who doesn’t miss this insane, doll-carrying, slightly psychic vamp from the early years of Buffy? Spike and Dru were the perfect bad guys: psychotic murderers and crazy in love. But Drusilla’s unique abilities to have no idea what’s going on right in front of her, but still be a lethal threat, makes her rank above Spike.

The Vampire Diaries Pictured: Ian Somerhalder as Damon Photo Credit: Art Streiber / The CW © 2010 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

5. Damon Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries: “I do believe in killing the messenger. Know why? It sends a message.”

The Vampire Diaries‘ Damon has an excellent character arc showing his transition from a chaos-loving, revenge-obsessed torturer to a semi-productive member of society. He’s a veritable seven layer dip of emotions, regularly murdering people in fits of rage. However, he prioritizes his family and friends and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to save them.

minaharker6. Mina Harker, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: “You’re sweet… and you’re young. Neither are traits that I hold in high regard.”

From the very first vampire story, Mina Harker is the lead female character of the original Dracula novel. Harker shows up in a lot of vampire stories, but I am a particularly big fan of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Harker is the only woman welcomed into the Gentlemen’s league. Even though many don’t want her there, she saves the day repeatedly.

ca. 1998 --- Actor James Marsters --- Image by © Stephen Danelian/CORBIS OUTLINE

7. Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Oh, Spike. Who can say no to that face? Even with the bleached ’90s Buffy hair. The original ‘bad boy gone good’ vampire tale (Sorry Damon), Spike is only low on the list because compared to Angel and Drusilla (both from Buffy as well), Spike is the less unique character. However, Spike avoided being a one-trick pony with his impressive transition throughout the series. Thank you Joss Whedon for making it feel believable that the evil baddie from Season 2 could somehow become a love interest only three years later.

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8. Selene, Underworld: Tanis: You don’t scare me, Selene. Selene: Well, we’ll have to work on that.

Selene from Underworld is a vampire Death Dealer, working for her vampire clan as an assassin. She is fighting in the war between vampires and lycans and wants to eliminate the lycan race. Ice cold with deadly skills, Selene doesn’t show much of herself to anyone until Michael Corvin comes along, a human. Suddenly, her priorities change. Selene is killer to watch on screen as she pulls off crazy stunts to save Michael.

Thoughts on Plots: Red Queen

Red Queen, the debut novel by Victoria Aveyard, is an exciting YA fantasy that came out in February 2015. It was one of the biggest YA hits this year, becoming an instant New York Times Bestseller. Elizabeth Banks is already in talks to direct the movie!

It’s about a dystopian society where a poor, starving girl is brought to the big, fancy city and is forced to participate in a society she doesn’t understand, where she must fight in a series of games. She’s caught between an old, loyal friend who is attracted to her and a new love that she meets, who she must cling to for self-protection. Sound familiar? With the plot having some remarkable similarities to other novels you might have read, you won’t be surprised to learn that Red Queen has made a killing this year! What can I say? The formula works!

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I bought Red Queen when it hit the shelves, partially because of the awesome cover, but also because I’d heard so much hype. I read it as part of my 50 Books Challenge and found it very readable and fun, though I often found myself picking out pieces of other popular YA novels, like The Selection and, of course, The Hunger Games.

What I will say for this book, as an individual, is that it has really cool, unique magic. Awesome magic always gets me to read a series, even if the plot is a little basic. The premise is that the wealthy elite have silver blood, and the poor have red blood. The silver-blooded elite have supernatural abilities in varying forms, while the red-blooded poor have none. When Mare is discovered as having both magical powers and red blood, she is forced to join the silver-blooded society and live under the tyrannical control of the evil Queen, who passes her off as a long-lost silver blood. She plans to marry Mare off to her son to keep the whole situation quiet. Mare finds herself in between the two princes, Cal and Maven, not knowing who to rely on or who to trust, as she works to assist the rebellion of the Scarlet Guard from inside the silver-blooded society.

The Pros:

– Unique system of magic that is very interesting and fun!

– Enjoyable, quick read. I read it in a day!

The Cons:

– The plot has a lot of similarities to other popular YA novels.

The final verdict: An enjoyable and easy read, but don’t expect too much from the story.

50 Books in 2015 – Part 1 of 3

I decided at the end of February that I wanted to participate in the 50 Books challenge, which simply means that in 2015, I will read 50 books. With April over, I thought I would share what I’ve accomplished in the first third of the year! It’s been a rough one, but I’ve still managed 17 books. So here’s what I’ve done so far.

January

1. Heir of Fire

2. Slayers

3. Slayers: Friends and Traitors (Book 2)

4. Trial by Fire

5. The Jewel

February

6. The Red Queen

(Rough month for me, I was really off my reading game!)

March

7. Inferno

8. Quiet

9. Zodiac

10. The Shadowhunter Academy (short novel)

April

11. The Dead Key

12. The Elite (re-read)

13. The One (re-read)

14. The Bane Chronicles

15. City of Glass (re-read)

May

16. City of Heavenly Fire (re-read)

17. Dragonfly in Amber (current)

What’s next? God Loves Ugly (for non-fiction) and Percy Jackson (for fiction). I’ve heard excellent things about both books! My biggest recommendation so far is Trial by Fire, by Josephine Angelini. It is a very unique, alternate reality fantasy! I can’t get over it! (Also, it’s pretty sexy. Just sayin’.)

I’m a little behind on the numbers, but it’s been a rough few months! As anyone paying attention can probably tell, April afforded me a lot of reading time. Here’s why, in one word: unemployed. So it’s a trade off! Yay, books!

My only concern with my current numbers is that I included a few book I was reading for the second time. I checked out a few places online and everyone seems to count rereads, as long as they haven’t counted those books for a previous challenge, and they read the books cover to cover.  I’m counting them, with the stipulation that I state they are a re-read. Who else is participating in the 50 Books Challenge? I’d love to follow your progress! Also, if anyone is as obsessed with reading as I am, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

What I’ve Learned: First Draft, First Book

I am currently deep in editing for my first complete novel, an epic fantasy called Burn Like Stars. I conceptualized the book for about eighteen months before I began writing. The writing itself took me seven months (some of this time I was between jobs and ultra-dedicated to word count), and editing has so far been taking me three months, but I think it will take me a total of six. The process has been lengthy, and I haven’t even started querying yet, but I have learned a lot! Here are a few major lessons:

1. Go for a walk.

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Stuck on an idea? Go for a walk around the block. Leave the headphones at home and bring a notepad. Stay focused on the story. I always have my best breakthroughs while concentrating on the idea as I walk around the fountain near my apartment.

 

2. Everything can be unwritten.

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Have fun and write what you enjoy. So what if you have a ridiculous amount of self-analysis in your first two chapters? You’ll take it out later. For now, your only task is to get your thoughts down on the paper!

 

3. You’re never too good for books.

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Reading books on writing is often scoffed at by true artistes. However, I always read them with a particular story in mind and always come out with more ideas! I am currently enjoying Writer’s Guide to Character Traits and Bullies, Bastards and Bitches.

 

4. Give yourself a break.

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Once you’re done with your first draft, give yourself time. If you’re like me, you want to plunge right into editing and get it done! However, you won’t be able to see your own mistakes clearly without some distance. I waited 6 weeks after my first draft to begin editing and I caught mistakes I was shocked I didn’t see when I read through it after the first draft. You will be surprised at your own crazy typos! (My favorite of mine- I spelled ‘the tree’ as ‘three.’ Talk about lazy!)

 

Have a great NaNo! I’ll be working on my Space Cowboy project, tentatively titled Outworld. Follow my tweets at @camerynf.