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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS (including the ending!)
Okay, so I’m a little late to this. In my defense, I don’t like jumping on bandwagons. I DID buy this book almost two years ago, but it’s sat unread on my shelf… until now. (I did the same thing with The Da Vinci Code, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is in there somewhere as well, as yet unread.)
With the movie adaptation of THG coming out next month (and in the wake of some amazing trailers), I decided I wanted to experience the story the way it was meant to be before queuing up to see it in theaters. Plus, I’d had several people urging me to read it for years, so I finally relented.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, here’s a synopsis of the book:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
One of the main reasons I didn’t read this book right away is because of its similarities to another book called Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. To see what I’m talking about, here’s its synopsis as well:
As part of a ruthless program by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one “winner” remains. The elimination contest becomes the ultimate in must-see reality television. A Japanese pulp classic available in English for the first time, Battle Royale is a potent allegory of what it means to be young and survive in today’s dog-eat-dog world.
It actually sounded like a blatant rip-off to me, and I’d thoroughly enjoyed Battle Royale, so why bother?
Well, honestly, if it hadn’t been for this movie trailer, I probably wouldn’t have—
It just seemed so full of emotion. Seeing Prim getting called at the reaping and Katniss, scared out of her wits for her sister, screaming to volunteer as tribute; the whole of District 12 saluting her; Katniss and Peeta talking about dying. Just watching this trailer made me feel something for these characters, and so I had to pick up the book.
The first 50 pages of the book were pretty well summed up in the beginning half of the above trailer, so it felt like I was reading the book for a second time. Yes, I got to see everything with more detail, but it felt like a repeat. Another thing that I got hung up on was the narration. 90+% of the book is told in the form of first person, internal monologue… meaning you’re in Katniss’ head the entire time. Yes, there is some dialogue, but it’s mostly her.
At the beginning, she kind of annoyed me. She seemed selfish, in a way, dismissing other people’s thoughts and feelings (Gale mentions them running away and she thinks, “Why even think it since we can’t do it? What’s the point?”—paraphrased—when he was clearly wistfully dreaming). And even as the reaping is proceeding and Prim’s name gets called, it’s like she’s just retelling someone else’s story. There was hardly any emotion as she gets pulled away and has to say goodbye to her family.
When she and Peeta, the other tribute from their District, finally get on the train and head to the Capitol, that’s when the story really changed for me. You understand the severity of the situation as they describe the competition they’ll have and how little their chances of survival are, as they’re primped and prettied and set before a crowd and forced to perform. The idea of this being a cause for celebration for those in the Capitol and the idea of people betting on champions and sponsoring them (in order to send them things they need while IN the games) was a clear departure from Battle Royale, so my interest was further piqued.
I’m also starting to like Katniss’ attitude. She’s in it to win it, but she’s also defiant at the same time. It starts with little things: her refusal to act happy with the proceedings, to her shooting an arrow at the Gamemakers during their talent exhibit, and finally, when she gets into the arena and decides to cover Rue’s body with flowers when she’s killed.
The Games themselves are brutal and full of tension. Lots of action and close calls. And the Gamemakers never let things get too dull for too long. Hellfire and deluges of rain…
And throughout all, you can tell how much in love Peeta is with Katniss. Everything he does is in an attempt to make her fare better, to give her a leg up in the Games, to save her… I’m completely on Team Peeta (she also clearly has a crush on her friend from home, Gale). However, where I start to get annoyed is that, while Peeta’s love for Katniss is genuine, her displays of affection are calculated. They were put into the Games as a pair, and she needs to keep up the act. While Peeta’s affections are a confession, hers are part of a show. In the end, he still believes she actually loves him, until she breaks his heart in the last moments of the books.
I couldn’t believe how selfish she was. As soon as I finished the book, I texted my friend, “Katniss is a bitch. Poor Peeta!” And that’s how I still feel several days after finishing. At the end of the Games they both win. Katniss has the idea that they appear to commit suicide rather than one having to kill the other, as the two finalists. While Peeta agrees to do it instantly, his love for her winning out over his will to live, she only does it as a ruse, never intending to swallow the poisoned berries they have. Completely selfish.
The other thing that pulled me out of the story happened towards the very end. It was established throughout the book that the government genetically enhanced/manipulated certain creatures. They have Mockingjays that can repeat words they overhear, and there are the Tracker Jackers, which are basically bees that have the ability to track down the person who disturbed their nests, and their stings have hallucinogenic properties before killing their victims. Fine, okay, I have a good suspension of disbelief, so I’ll go with it. But when there are three tributes left, they all get attacked by a pack of wolves… but upon closer inspection, doesn’t that one have the same eyes and fur color as the boy from District 1? And that one looks like Rue! OMG, they’re all of the dead tributes come back as mutant wolves to attack us! AAAHHH!!!
I thought it was completely over the top and took me out of the story. If it had just been a genetically engineered pack of wolves, fine, but this? Too much…
Overall I enjoyed the book, but those couple of things stop me from giving it a super high rating. I’m going to see the movie next month, and I’m definitely going to buy the remaining two books (I definitely want to see what happens!). And I would still recommend the book, even though I wasn’t super happy with the ending. So…
Kyle W. Kerr
It’s rare that you have an actual experience reading a book. I’ve read many, and while I’ve enjoyed a great number of them, few have transcended into the other category, that stack of books that have something more… the books I want to purchase at the bookstore every time I see them, even though I already own a copy. It’s happened to me with Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Now, I must say, Erin Morgenstern and her debut novel, The Night Circus, have been added to that very short list.
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I first read about this book several months ago, before its publication, in an article about publishers looking for “The Next Harry Potter.” I was more intrigued by the blasphemy of this statement than anything else (you all know my obsessive love of all things HP), but once I started reading, I couldn’t help but feel, well, sorry for Erin. This was to be her debut novel, and already there was so much pressure on her and the book to succeed. The publisher and booksellers had spent countless dollars promoting the title and throwing extravagant, Le Cirque des Rêves themed release parties, and she was already scheduled for a whirlwind promotional tour. The concept of the novel heavily piqued my interest, but what of the reception it would receive from the rest of the world? People can be so… mean. I didn’t know anything about her, but I found myself rooting for her nonetheless. I really wanted everything to work out for her.
When the book was finally published, I immediately bought a copy. It was forced to sit on my shelf for a few months, however, as I was in the middle of reading an epically long book already (and I never read more than one book at a time, out of respect for the work and its author), though I noticed its shimmering cover out of the corner of my eye on many occasions. Finally the day came when I could take off the dust cover and stick my post-it bookmark between its pages. But I was nervous. I’d fallen into the trap of over-hyping something in my head so that the actual product couldn’t possibly live up to what I was expecting (the movie Hereafter is a perfect example of this). The book was beautiful to behold, from the sparkly cover, to the intricate silver inlay of the actual book’s cover, to the stripey endpaper that made me slightly dizzy. So, just as I was about to begin the book, I sent out a short tweet to the woman herself.
I didn’t expect anything in return. I follow several authors and other celebrities I occasionally tweet at and don’t get responses (SOME do, which is always lovely). But, very shortly after sending it, I received this:
@KyleWKerr Hurrah! I hope you enjoy it.— erin morgenstern (@erinmorgenstern) January 22, 2012
How could I be nervous after that? So, with a little less trepidation than before, I made the plunge.
I read the book in five days flat.
That might not SEEM impressive, but I rarely do that. I’m very open about the fact that I’m a slow reader, and it usually takes me a week or two to read a book, and sometimes a little longer depending on the length of the book and how into it I get. 400 pages in five days was something of a record for me. I still read at the same pace, but you can ask my roommate… I hardly did anything else. No TV, no movies, I just read for hours on end.
I can’t give the book any higher praise than that.
But I’m going to try.
The concept of the story drew me in, but three things kept me reading: 1) the depth of the characters, 2) the richness of the setting, and 3) the elegance of the writing.
The characters were introduced in such a way that I cared about them almost immediately. Poor Celia and her manipulative father, and lonely Marco with his indifferent teacher. We know they’re in competition with one another, but you want them both to win, or for neither to lose (I think that’s an important distinction). And it doesn’t stop there. My favorite characters, outside of the main two, were the twins Widget and Poppet, whose extraordinary powers make them a dangerous combination, though most don’t see it that way. The rest of the cast… you’ll just have to read it to see the wide variety of characters you meet. When I finished the book, I felt like I’d lost some friends, but take solace in the fact that I can visit them whenever I want.
It takes a little while for them to get to the circus, but it’s worth the build-up. Morgenstern clearly flexed her imaginative muscles in creating tent after tent of impossibly alluring “acts”. From a garden made of ice, to a labyrinth comprised of many different experiences, and a carousel that seems almost like… magic. Once you enter the circus, you’ll never want to leave.
And her writing was as smooth as silk. It flowed beautifully word-to-word, paragraph-to-paragraph, chapter-to-chapter, so that by the time I looked up from the page, hours would have passed in what only felt like the blink of an eye. It’s simple in its construction, and didn’t have me running for the dictionary every few words, which allowed me to just read. It’s pure, escapist writing.
I cannot recommend this book more. A wonderful yarn it is, but more importantly, it’s a vehicle to transport you into a beautiful world of mystery and mysticism.
*Image with rainbowy cover was taken from Erin’s website.
Kyle W. Kerr
Yes, I’m aware it’s been almost a year since I wrote a blog post. Sometimes I find I have nothing to talk about, and other times I feel what I do have to say isn’t worthy of a blog post. Hence, no posts. I need to change that, so I’ll be starting up my usual posts of book and movie reviews once more, and possibly some updates on my writing as that happens.
What’s prompted me to break my silence is the fact that I’m making a conscious decision to read more. I can’t think of 10 books I read last year, and that’s sad. So, I’ve put a goal of 20 books up on Goodreads for their “2012 Reading Challenge”. It’s not the 100 book goal that my friend Dawn has made, but I’m a slower reader, but that is actually something I do on purpose, because I want to absorb what I’m reading. Not saying she DOESN’T, but I know that when I rush, I miss things, and I want to give each book the time it (and its author) deserves.
This is my progress:
Won’t you join me in the challenge? Friend me on Goodreads and let me follow your progress! I’m hoping to exceed my goal of 20 books, but I think it’s a worthy goal nonetheless. Expect reviews of my first two completed books, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern soon. But in the meantime, Happy Reading!
Kyle W. Kerr
I don’t get to go to author events often (mostly because of my work schedule, and partly because, even though Boston is a big city, book tours don’t often take authors this way), so it’s a rare treat when someone I’ve read comes to town. This past week, I was able to see David Levithan (whose book Will Grayson, Will Grayson I just reviewed), as well as newcomer Hannah Pittard.
I’ve only read two of David’s books, and the first one was about eight years ago. It was his first novel, Boy Meets Boy, a sort of alternate reality town where gay is okay, cheerleaders ride motorcycles and the quarterback of the football team is a dragqueen named Infinite Darlene who is also elected prom queen. I thought it was a unique story and have held onto it since first reading it, though never really pursued the author.
Cut to a couple of weeks ago when I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I absolutely loved the book and decided to look into the co-authors to see what else they’d written, and what should I find? Not only did David write Boy Meets Boy, but he is also the co-author of another book that was recently turned into a movie, Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist. So of course when I had the opportunity to hear him speak, I had to jump at the chance (I even passed up going to an advance screening of Just Go With It, the new Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston romcom).
I got there early and felt my heart sink, because there was only one other person there. I’ve been to author events before where almost no one shows up, and I can only imagine how I’d feel in a similar situation, so I was really nervous this would turn out similarly. Luckily, the slow trickle turned into a rush of last minute arrivals, and there turned out to be standing room only in the end.
Having come for David, I hadn’t realized there would be two authors, so I was surprised when they put another book on the front table that wasn’t one of his. The novel was called The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. I’d never heard of it or her before, so didn’t really think about it. I was there for David.
When 7 o’clock rolled around and the two authors took their places, it was Hannah who went to the reading podium first. She’s a tall girl with long, dark hair and a slightly imposing voice, so when she started talking I honestly wasn’t paying too much attention. Hannah explained that her book is about a girl named Nora who goes missing, and a couple of boys fantasize about what might have happened to her. Then she started reading, and I couldn’t take my eyes away from her.
In the portion she read, she unfurled a tale of a girl who got pregnant and fled her small town in embarrassment, and winds up married to an older Mexican man and raising twins. She’s not happy, but she’s not sad either, almost indifferent in the direction her life took. The stability is comforting, and the Mexican cherishes her kids, yet she can’t help but wonder about the people she left behind. It’s a dark tale, one I fully intend to read in future.
Next came David, promoting his new novel The Lover’s Dictionary. In explaining the premise of the book, he said he literally opened a dictionary and picked a word a page, and used the words as inspiration for snippets and insights into one couple’s relationship. The entire book is laid out in these short dictionary entries and follows no chronological order, yet when you finish the book, you’re supposed to have a full understanding of their relationship. The entries range from single sentences to a couple pages, laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking. His reading encompassed one word per letter, and the emotions I felt in those few minutes ran the full gamut, fully aided by his masterful reading skills (I’ve never seen a more engaging author reading his work before). Another book I’ll have to buy very soon, because I can’t get it out of my head.
The real treat came when the two sat down to talk. They began by asking one another questions about the other’s work, which brought out some really intriguing insights not normally revealed at such events where questions are audience driven (since the same ones are usually asked, no matter the author… Where do you get your ideas? What advice do you have for young writers?). They’d never met before, but had a surprisingly natural chemistry together that was intoxicating to watch. And both were so articulate about their work, in such a way it almost made me nervous to think of my own (hopefully) eventual book tours and the kinds of answers I’m going to have to come up with. Will I be able to dissect and analyze what I wrote with such intelligence and thought?
Most any author event is worth going to, though not all of them leave you with such inspiration flowing through your veins. I loved hearing David in particular talk about his writing habits, and how he always likes to work with challenges. With Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the collaboration had him and his writing partner writing blind of one another’s work for the first few chapters before they came together to figure out what they had. On The Lover’s Dictionary, he went through the dictionary and pulled out words and formed a fully realized relationship between two people with only these short entries to work with. His next novel is a different sort of collaboration altogether, where a photographer friend of his would give him a random picture and he’d have to form a story around it. He continued to receive random photos throughout the writing and had to incorporate them into the book. David never knew what photo he’d get, and his friend never saw what he was writing, so they wouldn’t be able to influence each other. Brilliant writing challenge, and changing it up with every project helps maintain the freshness of his work, which is surely a factor of his success.
Now I’m going to have to invest in his backlog of work, as well as Hannah’s debut. I truly recommend checking out both. Here’s David’s website, twitter and facebook, as well as a link to Hannah’s book on Amazon (I haven’t found any web presence for her just yet!).
Kyle W. Kerr
The premise of this book is really what drew me to it. Authors David Levithan and John Green co-wrote the novel, each writing about a separate teenage boy who both happen to have the same name, Will Grayson. They don’t know one another, but after a few chapters their lives converge at pivotal moments for each of them.
Will Grayson is trying to find his place within the social castes of his high school. His best friend is Tiny Cooper, an imposingly sized, flamboyantly gay football player who falls in and out of love faster than most people can blink and always tends to steal the show. He also befriends Jane, a member of the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) who turns out not to be a lesbian but isn’t exactly free, either, which proves to be an unfortunate complication when Will decides he likes her. He feels unappreciated as a friend, pressured by his parents to pursue their idea of the perfect career, and doesn’t know how to navigate his life as it seems to spiral around him.
will grayson hates life. he only has one friend, maura, who also hates life, and they only hang out because they have nothing better to do. will lives alone with his mother, his father out of the picture. they’re poor and he has to work to help pay the bills. the only thing good in his life is isaac, a boy his age he met in an online chatroom, and they happen to be in love. no one in his life knows he’s gay, but the two arrange to meet face-to-face for the first time after a year, and will heads to chicago with breathless anticipation. but his happiness is only short-lived.*
The boys meet at a porn store in downtown Chicago, and their lives are changed forevermore.
I think you can see what I mean by an intriguing premise. The authors agreed on the structure of writing about two boys with the same name, that they would be in high school, and that they would equally write half of the book (alternating chapters). They went off and wrote the first couple chapters of their own Will Grayson/will grayson’s story without talking to one another about what they would write, then convened once they were done.
The resulting product is a mash-up of friendship and love, angst and depression. You can’t depend just on yourself in life, and sometimes the people you rely on disappoint and hurt you, but sometimes the ugly precedes the good.
I didn’t know how it’d like this book, but ended it with that happy sign of satisfaction that comes from finishing a good book. The characters have stuck with me in the couple weeks since, and it’s one of those stories you wish you could continue reading, if even for just another couple pages… but alas.
Both authors have written numerous other books, and I will delight in perusing them in future.
*David Levithan wrote his will grayson chapters completely in lowercase. I can’t find the interview I read about it in, but it’s supposedly because the character thinks so little of himself that he doesn’t think he deserves it (capitalization). Very unique!
Kyle W. Kerr
I have a new favorite author to add to my list. Yeah, that’s a tiny hint about the direction this review is going to go.
My first foray into the fictional world created by Cassandra Clare was with her debut novel City of Bones. In it she established a new set of warriors called Shadowhunters, an ancient race of Nephilim (half human, half angel) whose sole purpose is to protect humans against the demon underworld. She introduced us to Jace, Clary, Simon, Izzy, Alec, Magnus, and more, a combination of Shadowhunter, Vampire, Warlock, Lycanthrope, Faerie and Mundane (human). They join forces – however reluctantly – to stop a rogue Nephilim from unleashing the demon hoard in an attempt to destroy the race of Shadowhunters. The trilogy continued with City of Ashes, and concluded with City of Glass.
With Clockwork Angel, Clare delves even deeper into the Shadowhunter mythology, taking us back to 1878 London, England. We meet new warriors Will and Jem, who stumble across the body of a murdered 14-year-old girl while fighting off a demon, then set off on a search for her killer.
Next we find Tessa, fresh from a trans-Atlantic journey from New York City, her parents and aunt dead, with only a letter from her brother telling her to join him in the Old World to start a new life. Yet the moment she arrives, something is terribly wrong. A strange coachman and a pair of sinister sisters take her from the dock, promising a quick reunion with her brother… but six weeks later, she hasn’t seen him, and they’ve kept her prisoner, torturing her day after day, forcing her to Change.
Once she’s perfected her talent, they deem her ready for the Magister, a mysterious man of enormous power amongst Downworlders. But on the very night they’re to hand her over, the boys’ investigation leads them to the very house Tessa’s being held captive in, an otherworldly battle ensues, and they are able to escape.
What unwinds from there is a tale of misdirection, conspiracy and betrayal… one full of secrets and temptation.
I fell in love with Clare’s stories with The Mortal Instruments books, and not much has changed since finishing the first of the Infernal Devices trilogy—unless you count my new obsession for a whole new cast! She has an uncanny talent in making every character three-dimensional, with giving them a history and a purpose for their actions. In reading about these fully formed people, you can’t help but become wrapped up in their lives and invested in their futures.
Tessa is a fierce heroine in a world of proper ladies, whose love for her brother overrides any fear she might have. Will acts like he doesn’t care about anything—and his past hints at some dreadful secrets—yet his stern indifference gets overshadowed by his deep concern for his friends. Jem’s tortured past has dire consequences on his present, and his gentle compassion will leave your heart aching.
Cassie (as she’s known to her fans) weaves a harrowing tale that will have you turning pages long into the night. There are two more ID books to come (and she swears that’s it), as well as a whole new trilogy in the TMI series. Up next is City of Fallen Angels in April, and Clockwork Prince in August. Also big news right now is the City of Bones movie, which is currently being cast.
This book will not disappoint, and I’m not exaggerating when I say: 10/10.
Kyle W. Kerr
Written by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
For sale February 2011
“WHO IS GIDEON CREW?” reads the cover of the Advance Reading Copy sent out to reviewers. Who indeed.
I’ve never read one of the many novels by either Douglas Preston OR Lincoln Child, as co-authors or individuals. They’re internationally bestselling authors, and this was my first foray into one of their worlds.
Gideon Crew witnessed his father’s death by government agents at the age of twelve. He grows up believing his father is a traitor, responsible for the deaths of 26 undercover agents. But on her deathbed, his mother tells him the truth. His father is not a traitor, but tried to warn the government about a flawed new encryption standard, and was used at a scapegoat when it eventually failed. She sets him the task of clearing his father’s name and bringing down the man who made it happen.
This in and of itself could have been a sufficient novel, but it’s only the beginning. The takedown happens within a couple of chapters and serves the purpose of highlighting Gideon’s ingenuity, persistence, and superior analytical skills.
Thinking he can finally get back to his life, he’s summoned by a mysterious organization working with the US Government to track down a Chinese defector known as Mark Wu, who supposedly possesses the plans for a revolutionary weapon more devastating than the H-Bomb. He doubts his own abilities to succeed on such a mission, and soon finds himself embroiled in an international race to uncover Wu’s secret before his adversary—a ruthless killer called Nodding Crane—finds it first… and kills him in the process.
The story was well crafted and not predictable (I’m one of those people who LIKE to figure out the mystery before the character does). I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Gideon Crew, whose multi-dimensional background added real life and purpose to his journey. His efforts often impressed me, even as he occasionally fumbled because of his inexperience. The only thing about him that isn’t fully explained his is past life as an art thief. It helps him bring down his father’s killer and is an asset to him in his pursuit of Wu’s secret, but it’s mentioned almost as an aside. Hopefully it’s explored in future books. But regardless, I look forward to more adventures with him!
As far as the writing goes, I have to pay the authors the highest compliment I can in saying that it reads with one consistent voice. I dare anyone to pinpoint where Preston ends and Child begins; their collaboration is flawless. The only criticism I can think of is that, as a pretty voracious reader and lover of words, they still managed to use a couple terms that even my Kindle didn’t know (it took a bit of online searching to find what a tubercularium is).
In a fast paced, thoroughly unpredictable romp, Gideon Crew is the newest go-to man for international espionage and intrigue. He’s a great addition to the tradition of the everyman-cum-superman, and I can’t wait to see what he gets wrapped up in next.
[Note: When searching online for images of the book’s cover, shots of director Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon) kept appearing. After checking IMDb Pro (you’ll have to take my word on this, it isn’t on regular IMDb yet), it appears Gideon’s Sword is already optioned property, and he’s set to produce and direct the movie version for Paramount Pictures, the screenplay of which is currently being adapted by Chap Taylor (writer of ‘02’s Changing Lanes), for a possible 2013 release.]
Kyle W. Kerr
I’ve been hearing for years about how amazing Anne Rice is. She’d written the hugely successful Vampire Chronicles series, the Mayfair witches books, the Sleeping Beauty erotica trilogy… but I’d never read one of her stories. I’d always wanted to, but something always kept me away.
What’s funny is that I read her son Christopher Rice’s first three books before I ever picked one of hers up. He’s a talented writer himself and I think he has a long career ahead of him.
What about her turned me off so? To be honest, it was her very public return to the Catholic Church and her pledge to devote the rest of her life’s work to Him. Even though I’d never read a word of her writing, I somehow felt betrayed… mostly because of the knowledge that her son is gay and her decision seemed like a slap in the face. How could she rejoin a religion that is bent on condemning her son’s soul to hell?
Forgive me my rant, because that’s not how I feel now. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with religion for a long time, and it has taken many years to sort through my conflicting feelings towards it. I’m not a religious person by any means, but moreso in the sense that I despise organized religion. I don’t like the messages they preach and I think it is despicable that they use God as an excuse to spread their own bigotry and hatred.
Myself, I’m agnostic. You heard that right… I’m not an atheist. I’m a scientifically oriented person, but I believe there are things that can’t be explained by science, so my mind isn’t completely made up. Though I don’t go to mass or pray, I still believe in God in my own way and have my own respect for Him. I believe that Jesus was a real person who tried to change the world for the better and ended up pissing off the bigots of his time to his unfortunate end (which is why I don’t believe he would stand for the hateful things his followers claim to preach in his name…).
However, I now know that not everyone who is a Catholic follows all of the same beliefs. There are those who follow the rule of tolerance and love, and that’s where I now realize Anne Rice is. She has never stopped being supportive of her son, and is a strong advocate for Gay Rights. In a way, I saw in myself some of the same attitudes that some of His more fanatic followers have, and I wasn’t giving her a chance just because of her religion. There was something seriously wrong with that.
So one day I decided it was time to delve into her stories. I eased myself in with a viewing of the adaptation of her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, and instantly fell in love with her characters and their story. I bought the book that day and finished it within a week.
There are many things one can say about Anne’s writing, about her captivating stories, her lyrical prose… but what I found myself so absorbed in was her voice. It was one of my more magical reading experiences, and I couldn’t believe how she kept up such language on every page of the book, in every sentence, every word. There was nothing extraneous, every word was important and helped to paint the picture of this beautiful world. I’d enjoyed the storyline as a movie, but reading the novel was an experience on a whole different level. She’d found an instant fan, one who’d been writing her off unfairly for years.
All that being said, I received a copy of her newest novel, ANGEL TIME, for Christmas (note the irony in THAT), and it was the first book of the new year that I read.
Here’s a small description of the book from Publisher’s Weekly:
“[…] this kickoff to bestseller Rice’s new Songs of the Seraphim religious romance series centers on hired assassin Toby O’Dare, a one-time aspirant to the priesthood until personal tragedy unmoored his life. Guardian angel Malchiah visits Toby, who’s just consummated his latest kill, and offers him redemption for his sins. After accepting the offer, Toby is whisked away to 13th-century England, where, in the guise of a Dominican friar, he becomes the protector of a Jewish couple accused wrongly by the gentile populace of having murdered their young daughter for her conversion to Christianity.”
To be fair, the book started out slow. There’s a lot of exposition from Toby, who we only know as Lucky at this point, over his life as an assassin and his longing to believe in God. I love exposition (as a literary writer myself), so knew enough to give the book a chance. Again, I was amazed by Anne’s lyrical words, the way she could weave together sentences and paragraphs and pages as if from the finest silk. Though beautifully woven, she almost lost me in the second chapter after a lengthy description of a hotel. Even though I knew it had to be important, I wasn’t deep enough into the story to care just yet. But still I gave it a chance.
And that’s when Malchiah came into the picture. He’s an angel that has been following Toby for almost his entire life. He promises to absolve Toby of his sins, to get him back into God’s good graces. As a way of getting Toby to believe he was real, he recites Toby’s childhood in great detail, things Toby never revealed to anyone in his current life.
That’s where the story really started for me, hearing about poor but determined Toby as a young boy, oldest of three, trying to follow his faith and manage a corrupt father and alcoholic mother at the same time. His innocence and pure spirit are captivating, and it makes his loss all the more heartbreaking. Once he leaves home for New York City, circumstances lead him to his first kills, but you know that he is completely in the right for what he does.
The story takes an interesting turn there, as Toby gives himself over to His services and is transported back in time (because in Angel Time, time as we know it does not exist), and he has to protect the Jewish parents of a young girl who the town’s Catholics believe murdered her because she wanted to convert to Christianity. In this time, we get to hear from Fluria, the girl’s mother, about her own struggles with love and religion, because as a Jewess, she fell in love with a Christian, and people were killed in those times for much less.
In the end, this story is about love and Toby’s struggle to find faith and his place in the world. Again, I fell into the trap of believing the story would be preachy, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It wasn’t in the slightest.
I’m fascinated with religion, by the characters and the stories they tell. Religion is a topic I bring into a lot of my own writings, in various ways, for that reason. And this is a story that anyone, of any religion or belief system, can enjoy.
I follow Anne on Twitter and was happy to learn that she recently finished edits on the next book in her new Songs of the Seraphim series, The Dybbuk, and it is scheduled for an October 2010 release. It’s definitely on my To Buy list… I’m even considering picking up her Life of Christ series. I figure I owe her the benefit of the doubt in this case.
Kyle W. Kerr
04/27/09 | Books, Genius Mode, Movies, My Writings, Reviews | 4 Comments
For those of you who follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you’ll know all about the new love of my life, my iPhone! You’ll also know that I spent an hour typing out a blog post on my new iBlogger application… which promptly crashed as I was trying to post it. So, I’m going to try and retype as much of it as I can remember and try to post it again (I’m at work, so hopefully it doesn’t get lost again!).
It’s been a month since I started my last set of updates and I’ve written upwards of 18,000+ new words! My productivity has slowed dramatically now that I’m back at work (I’d taken a week of vacation to try and finish), but I’m still trucking along. I’ve only got one more chapter to rewrite and four others to revise! This is the closest to FINISHED my book has ever been. I’ve been plotting out my next books too, so all around the writing is going well! Cross your fingers for me that I can finish soon...
And now to the random:
THE READER came out on DVD, and it was just as amazing this time around as it was in theaters. Kate Winslet is extraordinary and no one has deserved their Academy Award more. I’m totally not biased.
I’m reading a book called BATTLE ROYALE, about a bunch of Asian students put on an island with various weapons and ordered to kill one another until only one survives. It’s a translation from either Japanese or Chinese, so the writing isn’t that good, but the story is good enough to keep me reading anyway!
The summer movie season is gearing up, starting with WOLVERINE this Friday. Be ready for my reviews coming in as I see them! I did just see 17 AGAIN and it was actually really good. Semi-predictable, but funny enough to make it worth it.
ThrillerFest is coming up in July, which I’m really excited about. It looks like it’s going to be as good or even BETTER than last year! And it’s nice to see all my friends who I only get to see once or twice a year, not to mention all of the writer eye candy! And don’t forget about all the free books! I think I got upwards of 30 last year. Let’s see if I can break that this time around! I’m going with my friend Dawn (whose wedding I’m going to in August!), which is who I went with last year and had a lot of fun! Should be a great time. And this time I get to go for the entire week versus just the long weekend. Fun!
I think that’s enough for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having (except Dawn, who lives where it’s still SNOWING!)...!!!
Kyle W. Kerr
01/25/09 | Books, Genius Mode, My Writings, Reviews | 4 Comments
First, the caving in part: We all know how much I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. It’s about the worst kept secret in the world that I worship the ground Jo walks on (yes, we’re on a first name basis, Jo and I), and would like nothing more than to have her babies. Might be a little complicated, but with the help of some magic, I think we can get it done.
Well, something’s been happening in the last few years: another phenomenon was born. I’ve been mostly ignoring it, somewhat because I was already so involved with the characters of too many series’ (Harry Potter, The Sword of Truth, the Inheritance Cycle, etc…), but mainly because the author is being hailed as “The New JK Rowling”, which is simply heresy as far as I’m concerned.
The author in question? Stephenie Meyer. The books she wrote? The Twilight Saga.
I said I would never read these books. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon, and I felt like I would be cheating on Jo and Harry if I did. Seriously, I felt that strongly about it. But, as the title of this post states, I finally caved in, having asked for and received all four novels in the Twilight series for Christmas.
Let’s just say that I started reading the books about two weeks ago, and I’m already on book four. I have REALLY been enjoying them. They’re absolutely nothing like Harry Potter, obviously, but they’re just as easy a read. I’ve never been a HUGE fan of the vampire stuff, but there’s something about this new mythology that Stephenie has created that is, for lack of a better word, fascinating. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m just going to say that she takes all of our ideas about vampires and their culture and completely turns it on its ear. She has new answers for everything, including but not limited to why they don’t go out in the sun, and it’s all proof of a really clever and talented writer.
The thing I like most about the books, and it’s something I imagine most of the readers really respond to, is the love between the story’s main characters, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. The forbidden love between vampire and human, “the lion falling in love with the lamb” as Stephenie so eloquently puts it, is both beautiful, heartbreaking, and completely hot. Can’t believe I’m swooning over a YA fantasy novel! If you’ve read the books, you’ll know what I mean.
The stories are full of passion, love, fierce rivalry, betrayal, and suspense. I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t start reading the books while the movie was still in theaters, because you all know I think every movie should be viewed in a theater environment, but it’s something I’ll definitely check out on DVD when it comes out. I’m only at the beginning of the fourth book, but I’m sure it’s going to be a doozy, at least from what I’ve heard.
Now, for the second part: I’m not saying that I’ve broken through whatever barrier has been keeping me from writing, but I completed the chapter I began back in October and have also written a completely new chapter in the last week alone. This part is going to be very short, because I don’t want to jinx whatever is going on, and I don’t want to put any false hope behind my sudden writing spurt. However, I will say that it felt nice to finish something again, and then to write something completely new in such a short amount of time. For instance, yesterday alone I wrote over 2200 words, which was the completion of the new chapter. I haven’t been giving myself the time to write so much, which is part of the reason why it’s been going so slow. I just need to prioritize, then everything will be okay.
Thanks again to everyone who commented on my last post, or wrote to me personally. It’s not easy admitting one’s faults, but the support you have all shown me has truly helped. Hopefully you won’t have to read anymore of the woe-is-me posts for a very long time, if ever again, but I hold no promises. Sometimes it just helps to get it all off your chest.
For those of my writer friends who also have blogs, don’t take it personally that I haven’t commented on your sites in so long. It’s hard to explain, but when things become stressful, even seeing a buildup of RSS reeds can feel like overwhelming pressure. So, I have gone through and cleared all of the backlogs, and plan on coming back to them anew. I’ll be back at your next new post and hopefully I won’t disappear like that again, stress permitting. I love you guys!
Now, to end this post on a lighter note, I’ve also recently discovered David Sedaris. For those of you who know me, you’ll know that David has exactly my sense of humor. I’ve listen to two of his CDs, one a live recording of him at Carnegie Hall, and the other the audio version of his book Holidays On Ice, both of which were completely hilarious. Below, you’ll find a clip of him on David Letterman, reading one of his most humorous essays. Enjoy!
Kyle W. Kerr
Apologies in advance for how LONG this post is going to be. I haven’t updated in a while, so this is going to be a bit of a ramble. But, considering the title of this blog is A Writer’s Ramblings, I guess I’m allowed.
It appears that I am unemployable. I got a job sometime in June, but that basically ended in flames and I was forced to quit. Of course, that was two weeks before I headed to Honolulu, so let’s just say I’m a bit strapped for cash at the moment. (I had to sell my soul to three people in order to even GET to the conference and retreat! Thank God I have such great friends!) I’ve currently got my resume out to a number of places, and am even applying to some less-than-ideal jobs in the area (the dreaded retail). Please, pray for me.
I’ve seen a few new ones, three of which I saw on the two 8 hour trips between Minnesota and Honolulu. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Okay, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the first three Indy movies in their entirety yet, but I just have to say that this movie was REALLY hokey. I mean, I love Cate Blanchett, and I’ve recently come to appreciate Shia LaBeouf, but the acting was just BAD. And that ending. Really? I’m usually really good with my suspension of disbelief (I AM a writer, after all!), but that ending was just completely ridiculous. Good lord! Kung Fu Panda: Not much to say about this one. Cute, cuddly, adorable. Jack Black is awesome as usual. I’d watch it again. Skadoosh! Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: I have to say that I really LOVE Focus Features lately. Atonement. In Bruges. And now, Miss Pettigrew. I really, really liked this movie. It’s about a nanny who’s hard on her luck and having trouble finding a job (maybe THAT’S why I connected with her so well! She’s ME!), and ends up stealing a lead from her placement agency after they deem her unemployable. The movie follows her through one day, and it was simply amazing. Plus, I love Amy Adams, too! The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: Awful. It was nowhere near as good as the first two. The amazingness of Rachel Weisz was noticeably absent, the portrayal of the once adorable son (who is magically in his mid-twenties after only a 7 year time gap between films) is that of an arrogant jackass, and the storyline was just WAY too out there! What, you couldn’t find a way to bring back Imhotep for a third round? Whatever. The Dark Knight: Anyone who has seen this movie already knows how amazing it was, so I don’t need to add to everything that has already been said about it. I will say that I believe director Chris Nolan, and actors Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart all deserve Oscars.
I’m currently obsessed with the following three songs (note my seemingly erratic choices! Blame the stress…):
Le Disko by Shiny Toy Guns
I am apparently not allowed to embed the music video for this song (WHY?!), so you can listen to it HERE. This song was offered as a “Single of the Week” through iTunes, so I was able to get it for free. It has such a catchy tune that I haven’t been able to stop listening to it!
Creator by Santagold
I first heard this song on episode 2x02 of Gossip Girl (I LOVE that show!), and instantly downloaded it. It’s been less than a week, but I must have listened to it over 50 times!
An Angel by Declan
This song came to my attention while I was searching for someone else on YouTube (which I talk about below). I don’t know how old this kid is, but I can’t get enough of this song! Just ignore some of the bad lyrics (rhyming “hives” with “hives”, for instance… and using “eyes” at the end of two consecutive lines!) and concentrate on his voice and the music. He reminds me of Billy Gilman, though obviously not singing Country. He has two albums out in the US right now (I think there’s one import available in the UK that isn’t available here), and has such an adorable voice! It’s funny though, because it drops about THREE OCTAVES between this album and his next one.
I’m currently reading The Venetian Betrayal by my new favorite person, Steve Berry! I hadn’t read any of his books prior to having him as a teacher in Honolulu, so I thought it might be a good idea to check him out. I’m just beginning part four of five parts, and I’m really enjoying it so far! He’s definitely a talented writer, and it’s good to know the lessons he taught us can actually be put to good use! I’ll definitely be buying more of his books in the future.
Some books that I’m really looking forward to their releases are Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr and JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard...! Brisingr is the third book in Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, formerly the Inheritance Trilogy because he decided to make the series four books instead of three (which I’m not complaining about!). I absolutely loved the first book in the series, Eragon. The second book, Eldest, I didn’t think was as good as the first, but was still very good (enough to get me to want the rest of the series!). That book comes out in about a week, which I’m really excited about. The Tales of Beedle the Bard was mentioned in Jo’s last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a present from the recently deceased Dumbledore to Hermione as a clue for Harry on how to defeat Voldemort. Only one story from the book was mentioned in Hallows, but Jo created a set of seven copies of this book, each handwritten by herself and bound in beautiful leather and encrusted with precious stones. Six of them were given away to people who were intricate to the success of Potter (I’m guessing her agent, editors, etc), and one was auctioned for charity. Amazon.com bought the book for a reported $4 million, and teased us with pictures of the book and reviews of all the stories within. We thought we’d never get to see inside, when they announced that they were going to publish the book and give all the proceeds to charity! They have a standard paperback of the book available, but I’m interested in THIS one! A replica of the one Amazon won, which is selling for a mere $100. Well worth it, I say!
There are a bunch of things I’m watching nowadays. We’re halfway through the fifth season of Project Runway. I have to say I’m really disappointed with this season. I don’t care for any of the designers. Every time someone gets voted off the show, I’m not particularly bothered. And there’s no one I’m really rooting for to win, either. In fact, most of the contestants annoy me. Suede, with his referring to himself in third person; Blayne, who can only think about tanning; Keith, who’s only capable of sewing together strips of fabric and calling it fashion forward… the list goes on. Gossip Girl season two just started recently, and I’m happy to report that it’s as scandalicous as last year, and hopefully the ante gets upped even more! The Sarah Connor Chronicles had its season two premiere on Monday, and it was amazing. You all know how much of a Terminator fan I am (I’m named after Kyle Reese from the first movie, after all!), and this show has not disappointed (too much). John Connor finally has some of his balls back, Cameron could have been bad but ended the episode on the side of good, and they’ve brought in a female version of the T-1000 (the guy from T-2 who was basically liquid metal)!!! It’s going to be an amazing year. Now, I just have to wait for the premiere’s of Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes…!!! TV JOYGASM!
Some NEW shows that I’ve been watching include Skins and Fringe. Skins is basically Dawson’s Creek on CRACK! It centers on a group of 7 British teen friends, and involves a whole bunch of drugs, sex, swearing, eating disorders, manipulation, fights, suicide attempts, a possible sexual relationship between one of the friends and a teacher, parental abandonment, and that’s only in the FIRST FIVE EPISODES! It airs on the BBC America channel on Sundays at 10PM, but an unedited/uncensored version of the show is available on iTunes. I don’t know what it is about this show, but it is completely addicting. The kids are really great actors, and the storylines are simply explosive! Love it. The other show, Fringe, just premiered on Fox the other day, and stars Dawson’s Creek alum Joshua Jackson. It’s an X-Files-like show that centers on the unnatural, but doesn’t involve aliens (at least, I don’t think it does) and actually revolves around science. The first episode started a little slow, but I was completely hooked by the end of it! Now I’ve got another show to set up on my DVR!
I’m only going to put two on here, and it’s a complete coincidence that the main actors for each movie are schtupping one another.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I first heard about this movie about a year ago, and it’s been on my mind ever since. When I finally got to see the teaser trailer above, my first reaction was HOLY FUCKING GOD! It looks really incredible! And, it brings together a number of my favorite actors, including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. This movie is definitely on my list to see this winter.
After seeing what he could do with Million Dollar Baby, I can’t pass up the chance to see another Clint Eastwood drama. Not only is the concept completely horrifying, but it’s actually a TRUE STORY. Besides, it doesn’t hurt that Angelina Jolie is in it.
The following video I first saw on an episode of Oprah. This is the video I mentioned earlier, the one I was searching for on YouTube when I came across Declan’s song. This is of a boy named Andrew Johnston trying out for Britain’s Got Talent, which is exactly like its American counterpart. You MUST watch the entire video, from the start, or else the song and his voice won’t be AS powerful (though, they’re powerful on their own as well!). I would suggest turning up the volume as loud as you can, preferably using a set of good headphones if you’ve got them around. I swear on all that is good and holy that I actually teared up listening to his voice, and he hits a note right in the middle of the song that sent a jolt right through my body.
I would also highly suggest listening to this in hi-def, which you can see HERE. The faces on the judges say it all. Absolutely stunning, and I can imagine him singing for movie soundtracks in the very near future (they have used boys choirs in recordings for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc… LOTS of work for these kids!)…!
And the last thing I want to talk about is the lawsuit of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. vs. RDR Books, a company who wanted to publish a Harry Potter Encyclopedia based on the website The Harry Potter Lexicon. I’m not going to go into the reasons behind the lawsuit—you can read about it HERE—but just comment on the outcome. Thank GOD the judge sided with Jo and WB, or else we might not have seen the comprehensive Harry Potter Encyclopedia that Jo herself is writing. We’ve been hearing about this book ever since the publication of Deathly Hallows last summer, and it would have been a real travesty had she felt forced to give it up. Justice sides with good once more, and hopefully we get our hands on that book sometime soon!
I’ve made a vow to keep up with my blogging from now on, so you won’t have these ridiculously long posts to sort through anymore. Thanks for listening, though!
Kyle W. Kerr
06/22/08 | Awesome, Books, My Writings | 3 Comments
It’s been a month since my last update. Why? Because I don’t really have anything to say. The writing honestly hasn’t been going very well, and I just haven’t wanted to talk about it. It’s not that what I’m writing is bad, but the fact that I’m NOT WRITING. I’ve tried to figure out what my problem is, but the truth alludes me. I don’t know what’s wrong. Hopefully, it’ll correct itself soon, and I can finish my book at some point.
One of the things keeping me sane in my little bout of no writing is my work on the film news site, Filmonic. It was actually an outlet I never knew I needed, not until I had it. I love movies, more than any person I know. I’d go to the movies several times a week if I could afford it. I’ve even watched the special features on some movies MORE TIMES THAN I’VE WATCHED THE ACTUAL MOVIE. Anyone who knows me knows that I have ambitions of writing a screenplay. It sounds hokey, but I love everything about writing, and most forms of it. I’ve written a novel, many short stories, and even a short screenplay. They are all satisfying to write, and immensely challenging in their own rights. With a novel, you have to have a good storyline, intriguing characters, and sustainability for 80,000+ words. A short story needs the same first two characteristics, but you need to do it in a much more condensed form. Screenplays, along with all of the characteristics of a novel, coupled with a little shorter format (about 90-110 pages) and more of a visual impact, has its own challenges. Challenges I’m very much willing—and eager!—to undertake…!
All of that being said, I love movies. I love finding out little tidbits about movies in production, all of that behind-the-scenes stuff, and I’m a self proclaimed Movie Trailer Whore. The day I set foot on a movie set is the day my life is complete. (Well, I’m assuming that I would have already published a novel by that point! )
What’s cool is that the site has already been recognized by IMDb and PerezHilton.com (whose plug sent so many viewers to the site that it crashed our server!). It’s on its way to becoming a great site, and that’s a good thing. I’m hoping that, once the site gets big enough, that I can apply to the Broadcast Film Critics Association (since I do all of the movie reviews for the site), which would bring a great credibility to the site! We just have to hope that the site continues to grow as rapidly as it has been!
IN OTHER NEWS:
On July 10, I’m heading to NYC to attend ThrillerFest. NO, it’s not a Michael Jackson gathering, but a convention for thriller writers! Now, I’m not a thriller writer, but I do read thrillers. Plus, why would I give up the chance to rub elbows with some of the best known authors in the world? Some of the people I’ll be meeting? Maybe you’ve heard of them: JAMES PATTERSON, SANDRA BROWN, JAMES ROLLINS, STEVE BERRY, DAVID MORRELL, LEE CHILD… the list goes on. If I don’t die on the spot, I’ll have to work on my vocal skills… ie, making sure I can talk, and not simply squeak or drool at them. I’m sure they’re used to that reaction, but I’d rather avoid it if I could!
There are going to be two days of sessions, ranging in all topics about writing, storytelling, and publishing, and then an awards banquet at the end of the second night (which I’ll also be attending)! I’m super excited about it!
I’m actually reading my first ever James Patterson book right now, and it’s really good! It’s called When the Wind Blows, and it’s about genetic experiments on children that turn them into super smart halfbreeds. You heard right, they’re half human, half bird (they have wings). About 100 pages in and it’s got me hooked. And, it’s a pretty quick read!
Also, Entertainment Weekly has released a list of 100 Best Books Published Since 1983. You’ll find that list below, but I have to say… I’ve only read EIGHT of the books! Well, eight and a half (I never finished William Gibson’s Neuromancer). I’ll highlight my pitiful reading list in bold. How many have you read?
1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984) (never did get to the mancer part! LOL)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000) (This is technically THREE books!)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak!, Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)
Kyle W. Kerr
It’s probably one of the worst kept secrets that I love all things Harry Potter, and the author herself is not exempt from this. The last book in the series came out last July and, for the year preceding that day, Jo was followed around by a camera and a documentarian (is that a word?). It was shown on ITV in the UK, but hasn’t found its way State-side yet, though has recently popped up online. I found it really interesting, so I figured I would share with all of you. Below are five videos, each about 10 minutes long, documenting a year in the life of JK Rowling (including the moment she writes the last line of the book!). Enjoy!
Kyle W. Kerr
I’m a pretty technologically appreciative person; I couldn’t live without my laptop, my BlackBerry, or my iPod, not to mention my new digital camera, and all of the cool new entertainment products out there (flat panel HDTVs, Blu-Ray players and DVDs, and new 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, none of which I have but hope to at some point soon). I have been buying music online ever since I got an iPod three years ago, when iTunes was just starting to get big, and I have also purchased just shy of 70 TV shows and 4 movies online (haven’t gotten into movie downloads too much yet… I still prefer DVDs).
But, taking all of that into consideration, there is one thing that I have yet to purchase. Something that has been around for a while, but has been making a little bigger splash now that technology is catching up to the concept: eBooks.
Up to this point, you would have to download a PDF of the book to read on your computer, or some sort of PDA version (which, I would think, would be a real pain in the patookus to read). Reading a book on your computer is the equivalent of watching TEN movies on your computer in a row (considering a good sized book is about 20 hours on an audiobook, and an average movie is about 2 hours). I have never wanted to be restricted to my computer for that length of time. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t downloaded more movies on my computer. Two hours is long enough to lie in bed, or sit at a table to watch a movie, so I could never imagine sitting there for the inexorable amount of time it would take to read a novel. I even have a tendency to print out longer websites, because I prefer paper to screen.
But, like I said, technology has caught up with the concept of the eBook. Not only has Sony come out with their E-reader, but Amazon.com has recently released the Kindle, a wireless version of the E-reader (meaning, you can connect to WiFi and download new eBooks without connecting to your computer).
I have to admit that the second I first saw the E-reader… I HATED it! I hated the very idea of that little device of the devil. Who would ever want to replace a book, something that has been around for millennia, with a black and white screen? You could never replicate the feel of a book in your hands, nor the smell of a fresh book from the store—or an old one off your bookshelf, for that matter!—not unless they put a little scent emitter into the machines (which I wouldn’t put past them). And they just look so damn good lining my walls. If you know me, you know that I live in the smallest apartment known to man, yet half of my wall-space is devoted to shelf-space. In fact, I have recently run out of room, and have an ever increasing stack of books piling up on my desk! And, as a writer, the thought of an eBook, or Kindle for that matter, appalls me.
Yet, Uncle Stevie (Stephen King, people, keep up with me!) recently reviewed the Kindle in his monthly Entertainment Weekly column. Shockingly, he likes it. He argues that “the story means more than the delivery systems involved.” He’s also referencing audiobooks in that statement (which I don’t have a problem with, because stories were spoken even before they were being written down).
I’d honestly like to see one of these machines in action, to see if they really live up to the hype. Is it at least easier to read than I think it is? How does it feel in my hand? Would I instinctively want to chuck it across the room?
But, I think I can safely say that they will never replace books (certainly not with me), at least not in my lifetime. It saddens me to think that physical books may one day be obsolete, but they will always hold a special place in my heart, and they will always add some color to my white walls. And, who knows, if all my worldly dreams come true, I may very well get the Beauty and the Beast library I’ve wanted since I was a kid.
Kyle W. Kerr
This post is all about some BIG NEWS… Some really amazing things that I thought I should share with you all… Of course, none of it is about me, but all of it excites me to no end!
The first thing is about my friend Dawn, who I have mentioned in the past. She recently finished her first book and sent it off to an agent who expressed interest in it back at the Maui Writers Conference… Well, she just got an email from said agent that was very encouraging! I’m not going to go into it until Dawn gets some definite answers, because I don’t want to jinx it… I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you Iusey!
Any Peter Jackson fans out there? Of COURSE there are! For any of you who don’t personally know me, I am a HUGE PJ fan, and have loved all of the movies of his I’ve seen (including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong, Heavenly Creatures, and The Frighteners, and I’m sooo looking forward to The Lovely Bones)… Well, Pete and New Line were having a little tiff… to the tune of about $100 million! That’s how much money in royalties NL tried to swindle PJ out of for the Rings trilogy. Because of the success of the trilogy, NL wanted to immediately put into production the film version of The Hobbit, the prequel to the trilogy, though both sides refused to work with each other while the dispute was going on. I don’t blame them… Personally, I don’t see what the problem was. Give him the damn $100M, because you have the potential to make another BILLION dollars if you team up for another movie (that’s the amount each of the first three made on average in box office receipts alone!). Well, they’ve finally settled their dispute, and PJ is back on board for The Hobbit (which, from what I can tell, is going to be TWO movies, shot consecutively and released in 2010 and 2011), but only in a producer role! He’s not going to direct! What the eff?! They’re looking at Spider-Man director Sam Raimi to fill Pete’s shoes… As long as PJ’s there to make sure things stay on track, it should still be good… I hope!
Also, for those of you who enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s vision of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City in Batman Begins, the next installment is coming out next summer! Enjoy the trailer for The Dark Knight below!
It looks even BETTER than Begins! Anyone else notice that Katie Holmes was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal? Katie had scheduling difficulties. Yeah, she decided to film the ridiculous looking Mad Money with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah. I’m not even going to put the trailer on my site, because it looks sooo bad… But you can view it here if you so choose… Good choice, Katie!
Focus Features has become one of my new favorite movie studios, after their release of the brilliant Atonement. Here are two new movies coming out by the studio that look really hilarious!
In Bruges (January 17, 2008) - This trailer actually has cursing in it, so you probably shouldn’t watch it at work...!
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (March 7 2008)
Kyle W. Kerr
I would love to say that my favorite debut novels are mine and all of my friends’ who are writers… but, considering you can’t read those (yet), I’ll go with some books that are actually in print. In no particular order…
This book looked intriguing to me; the cover had a bunch of books on it, so it caught my attention, and I knew from the blurb that it was about writing, and writers and books in some way. But I never bought it. I would walk by it, stop, pick it up, and ultimately put it back down again. Yet, one day, I received it in the mail (I’m part of the Literary Guild book club, and they send you books every month), and decided to keep it. Again, I didn’t read it straight away, but let it sit for a few weeks, always picking it up when it came time to read a new book, and, again, always putting it back down. You see a pattern?
Well, I finally picked it up. And let me tell you something… I couldn’t put it back down for the life of me. There is mention of an enchanted book in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that, once you pick it up, you can never stop reading it. Well, I’m pretty sure this was the book Ron was talking about.
It’s the story of a woman named Margaret, whose father owns a bookshop and deals in antique and rare books. She has always associated with this life, and probably gets along better with the fictional characters in her books than people in real life. She gets a letter from a very famous old writer named Vida Winter (someone on the level of, I don’t know, a mixture of Nora Roberts and JK Rowling… in level of fame and skill, not storylines), who wants Margaret to write her biography. The story of this woman’s life, I have to admit, is kind of like following Alice down the rabbit hole. With every new thing Vida tells her, the story gets weirder and crazier, but, at the same time, so very interesting. A truly amazing first novel; her second one can’t come out soon enough.
Okay, this book has been out since July of 1995, but it was still Terry’s debut novel. This is the first book in his Sword of Truth series, which just ended with its 11th book, Confessor (which debuted at #2 on the NYT bestseller list!), last month. As you can tell by the title, this is a fantasy series, which is truly a remarkable feat that Terry got on the NYT bestseller list.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but this is actually my favorite fantasy series of all time, NOT Harry Potter. (I’m just much, MUCH more obsessed with HP… there’s a difference!)
I have to admit that I bought WFR on a whim because I saw a special $2.99 paperback version of the book, and figured it couldn’t hurt.
Richard is a simple woods guide, when he stumbles upon a woman in the woods who is being chased by four men. He helps her get away, and ends up aiding in killing the four men (who ambush them, so it was self-defense). Kahlan (pronounces Kay-lin), is in search of the First Wizard from her own land, which is blocked off from Richard’s by a magic boundary (not going to get into how she got through). Then they go on a perilous journey back through the boundary, almost get killed a million times, and drama, drama, drama. Richard, Kahlan, and everyone he comes into contact with are all destined for great things, and are powerful and wonderful (in their own ways, good and bad) beyond reason. SO good, you guys.
Terry’s books are anywhere from 650-1000 pages each, and they are ALL page-turners. If you are a fantasy fan, or if you are just a fan of unbelievable fiction and superb writing, you should check out this book—and the rest of the series as well!
This book got a lot of attention when it came out a few years ago. Like The Thirteenth Tale, I would walk past it in the bookstores and never buy it. That is, until I went on a book-buying spree one day (which isn’t as unusual as it sounds… these sprees happen quite often).
Lee Fiora realizes that she doesn’t like the public school she’s going to—she doesn’t fit in—and decides that she is a much better fit at a prep school in Massachusetts (—on a side note, it has taken me 3 years to be able to spell MA in one shot… go me—). She comes from a lower, middle class family, and is only able to attend the school because she is granted a scholarship, in a place where “money was everywhere on campus, but it was usually invisible.”
Many people want to liken this novel to The Catcher in the Rye, and I can see why they would want to; Lee is an outcast and doesn’t seem to understand the basic norms of socialization (she never hires a prostitute just to talk, but does other, equally as awkward things). After reading the memoir Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, it almost seems like Lee has Asperger’s Syndrome, which would make absolute sense.
Diane is able to get teen angst down to a science, and this was a very enjoyable read.
Has anyone not heard of this boy’s story? Well, in case you haven’t, here it is: He was home schooled and ended up graduating from high school at 15. Then, having nothing to do, he decided to see if he could write a book. (What 15-year-old wouldn’t come to the same decision faced with free-time?) So, he plotted out the storyline to what would eventually become the Inheritance Cycle (four books), the first of which was Eragon. It was first self-published for Christopher by his parents, and they went on a marketing frenzy. Eventually, it garnered the attention of Random House, who purchased the series for their Knopf imprint. The rest is kinda history.
This book, honestly, isn’t the most well written in the world, but the ideas and storyline are first class all the way. Eragon is a poor farm boy who stumbles upon, what he thinks is a precious stone, but actually turns out to be a dragon egg. It is one of only three left in the world, all others having been exterminated by the evil king. The egg hatches for him, and Eragon becomes the first Dragon Rider in a century. Now, he is being hunted by the king and his minions, and must flee to the Varden, a group of rebels fighting to overthrow the king and free the land of Alagaesia.
This was one of those books that leaves you speechless. And, for all those who have seen the god-awful movie version, it is no comparison to the book (which is better a thousand times over).
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? It’s about a historian? Well, sort of. This story is actually about vampires, and one very famous one at that (Dracula… what other famous vampires are there?).
Most of the story follows Paul, a young historian, who gets tangled in the mysterious past of one of his professors. We find out his story as he reveals it to his daughter, who has always been interested in his stories from the past and about her mother, who Paul met on this adventure to find Dracula and his missing professor. The story is also a romp through an ancient Europe, as the story goes far back in time to when Dracula was born.
I actually had the immense pleasure of meeting Elizabeth. It turns out that she worked on this book for about ten years (which makes me feel slightly better about my current six years), since she had to do so much research for the book. Plus, she’s anal, just like me. This book was amazing, and not what you would think upon hearing about it. Just like all of my blurbs in this post (and any other post where I talk about books or movies), my description does not do it justice. Just read it and see for yourself.
Duchess of Nothing by Heather McGowan
So, it’s poll time… who’s heard of this book? In all likeliness, probably none of you. I saw this book one day while perusing Barnes & Noble, and I’m usually wont to do. And there it was, just sitting there, staring at me. It was actually the cover that caught my attention, because I thought it was a really cute picture (the paperback cover is really ugly, though, by the way). So, I bought it, and didn’t regret it. This book is existentialism at its finest, and contains a lot of very dark humor.
The unnamed narrator lives with her boyfriend, Edmund, and Edmund’s 7-year-old younger brother in Rome. The narrator is never named (hence me saying “unnamed narrator”), and Edmund’s younger brother is lovingly referred to as “Edmund’s brother” throughout the text. After the first few chapters, Edmund leaves the two of them, and she is forced to look after the boy. She insists on giving Edmund’s brother an education (of sorts), and brings him around the city teaching him about life (while he looks longingly at a group of school children on a field trip to the zoo). At times she is very juvenile, and 7-year-old Edmund’s brother acts the adult in the relationship.
Through the course of the novel, you find out about the narrator’s past, and exactly how she became the way she is. The story is told from the narrator’s point of view, in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of way (with no differentiation between inner monologue, narration, and speech, which is all combined in large paragraphs). However, as chaotic as it sounds, none of these techniques diminish the book in any way, but only serve to strengthen it. Really great book and, at only 224 pages, a really fast read. And believe me, once you start reading, the narrator’s voice will suck you in so fast you won’t believe you’re reading anything, but having the thoughts yourself.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite debut novels. Do me a favor and check some of them out, and let me know how you like them! Each of the novel titles is conveniently linked to their respective pages on Amazon.com, so what are you waiting for?!
Kyle W. Kerr
11/16/07 | Books, My Writings | 0 Comments
I have been talking to a friend of mine who is going to school for psychology. There are a lot of things I didn’t know about how certain people react to abuse, and she’s helping me get a realistic portrayal of young people in the situations I’m putting some of my characters through. It probably sounds horrible to say this, but it’s really a fascinating subject, something I plan to study more in the future.
Writing’s been going slow. For those of you who know the plot of the story, I’m beginning the complete rewrite of Pat’s journal, which is a central plot piece. It needs to be right (which is why I’m talking to my therapist friend). Because classes are over on December 4th, and new classes (my last semester as an undergrad!) won’t begin until the second week of January, I’m literally going to have a month off, which I’m going to dedicate to writing. I missed my personal deadline for finishing the novel by October 31st, so I need to pick up the pace. I know that an agent will wait a little for a novel they requested to read, but I don’t want to keep her waiting much longer. As I said in a previous post, being asked to send the entire manuscript is an amazing request (something all writers want to hear), and I don’t plan on losing the opportunity.
If you noticed, I said that it’s going to be my last semester “as an undergrad”. Well, that’s because I’ve decided to apply for grad school. Yup. And this time I’m going for creative writing! I’m going to apply for the Creative Writing MFA from Emerson College here in Boston, which is one of the best schools for creative writing in the country. There are only 47 spots, and they receive over 250 applications a year, so I’ve got some work ahead of me. Wish me luck!
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
You know what? She was damned if she did, and she was damned if she didn’t. Almost everyone has heard of Alice’s debut novel, the internationally bestselling The Lovely Bones. It has sold millions of copies worldwide, and is currently being filmed by acclaimed director Peter Jackson for a feature release next year. So many people loved this book that any book following it would let people down. If she wrote a book like TLB, everyone would have said that she’s a one-trick-pony. If she didn’t write a book like TLB, everyone would be all Where’s Susie? Well, she opted for the latter, and her new book has gotten some VERY mixed reviews. It currently has a 2.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com. People say it’s too depressing. Depressing? Did they even read TLB? Susie is a 14-year-old girl who gets raped and murdered in the first chapter, then looks down from Heaven as her family and friends fall apart. That sounds pretty depressing to me.
Personally, I loved it. It was amazing. Alice is such a brilliant writer and deserves some more respect. This book was about a woman in her 50s who is caring for her elderly mother. The mother is so far gone, that Helen (the main character) ends up suffocating her with a pillow during the first chapter. The remainder of the novel takes place over the next 24 hours, as Helen tries to figure out what to do and reminisces about the past. There is a lot of dark humor in the novel, and Helen is deeply moving.
Okay, so I haven’t read this book yet, but I went to an event of his at Harvard and had the opportunity to attend a personal meet-and-greet with the man himself. This book is about his life’s ambition to build schools in needing countries (such as Pakistan and Afghanistan). He really is an amazing person, and is so passionate about promoting education abroad. The subtitle for the book is “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time”. His reasoning behind this is that educated people are less likely to participate in acts of violence in the name of peace. One reason in particular (something that I didn’t know and find quite intriguing, considering their usual view of women) is that men going on missions actually need the blessing of their mothers, who usually approve because they are not educated enough to make the proper decision. With a proper education (or any education for that matter, considering that they usually don’t have one at all), they would know the true ramifications of their sons’ actions.
Not only is this an amazing man, but he’s apparently written an amazing book. Out of the 424 customer reviews on Amazon.com, 390 of them were 5 stars. Now that’s saying something.
Kyle W. Kerr
11/6/07 | Books, Movies, My Writings, Procrastination | 0 Comments
Still writing, I’m chugging along as usual. It’s going well, and with the help of two of my friends I found another problem that was holding the narrative back (which I am now working to fix). I can only hope the novel will be finished by the end of the year. Keep praying!
I got the opportunity to see NYT and Internationally bestselling author Matthew Pearl for the second time. The first time I saw him was at an event, but this time he was generous enough to come to my writers group on campus! It was an amazing time. It’s rare that young authors get face-time with someone who’s “made it.” And he was very open about his experiences and he was an immense fountain of knowledge for our members.
In honor of Matthew Pearl coming, I bunkered down with his first book. Guys, it was really good. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I couldn’t put this book down. It was based around a group of leading literary figures in 1865 Boston (who are all real people, by the way), who are trying to create the first American translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. However, some of the leading members of society are being murdered, and they realize that the killer is reenacting the tortures found in Dante’s Inferno. So, in order to protect themselves, as well as the work they are trying to create, the group members become overnight sleuths. It was amazing, and it will honestly keep you guessing right to the very end. It’s kind of hard to get into because of the language (it’s written in 19th century prose), but once you get past the first few pages, it flows in a way you can’t imagine unless you experience it. Now I definitely have to pick up his second book, The Poe Shadow.
This was a really cute movie. David (played by John Cusack) is a widower sci-fi novelist who adopts a young boy named Dennis… who thinks he’s from Mars. Sounds like a perfect match, right? David and Dennis are both lonely and need to be loved, and to love in return, and David should understand the boy’s fascination with thinking he’s otherworldly. However, it’s not always a match made in heaven, and David soon finds himself overwhelmed with the prospect of raising a “different” child all on his own. Really beautiful acting and a great storyline. Worth a watch!
Okay, this movie sounded… weird, to say the least. But, it also sounded intriguing. So, I rented it. I’m so glad that I did. As the title suggests, it’s the story about a murderer who’s obsessed with scent, and preserving scent… particularly, the scent of women. He finds these women with unforgettable scents, and harvests them (which usually includes killing the women; a small price to pay when you think about it, wouldn’t you agree?). It sounds insane at first glance, but it was really an amazing story. The director also did a beautiful job portraying scent visually, which is just as hard has it sounds. The main character is the anti-hero (he’s the one doing the killin’s), but he is played with such compassion and honesty that you can’t help pulling for him! Fantastic movie, and it has an ending you’ll NEVER see coming. Now I have to go and read the book…
Oh, and here’s a little treat.
Anyone else excited?
Kyle W. Kerr
10/21/07 | Books, Idiot Mode, Movies, Trailers, Procrastination | 0 Comments
My personal deadline for finishing revisions on my book is fast approaching. When I got back from Maui, I told myself that I would write a page-a-day (or whatever the revision equivalent is), and that it would all be done by the end of October at the latest! It is now October 21st, and I have only worked on four chapters… So, I’m no where near done, no where near where I should be at this point (considering my deadline), and have no possibility of finishing on time (unless I forego everything else in my life, including going to class, sleeping, and possibly even eating). There are ten days left. It’s not going to happen, and I’m disappointed in myself.
Since making certain decisions about the book, I have come to love it again. Yes, there was a time when I thought it was the worst thing ever and hardly considered showing it the light of day, let alone to friends, family or, god forbid, literary agents. I would have died of embarrassment. Now, I think it’s a story worthy of being read. I just have to finish it, and therein lies the problem. I can’t seem to motivate myself to finish, and it’s exceedingly frustrating. What I wouldn’t give to just go away, away from the world, from school, from interruptions like TV and movies, out of contact with everyone, no internet, nothing; just me, my computer, and possibly some books (show me a writer who doesn’t read, and I’ll punch them in the nose).
So, as I wallow in my reverie, here are some things that have kept me from writing…
This is a memoir about a boy who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome and didn’t know it. Asperger’s is a type of autism, but generally mild—considering most autistics live in their heads. Aspergians, as JER calls himself and others like him, seem outwardly rude and misfit-like, while generally being very smart (savants). Yet it is their incomprehension of certain social rules and guidelines that is their true downfall. JER talks about his struggles to make friends and socialize, about his abusive and sometimes downright terrifying childhood, and about learning to live with his condition and making the best of a life that seemed set to fail right from the off. JER is the older brother of National and Internationally acclaimed memoirist Augusten Burroughs, who wrote the incredible memoir Running with Scissors. Here is a short clip of Augusten interviewing his brother (notice how very different the two are):
And, yes, John Elder Robison DOES in fact “Woof!” at the camera! This is one of his mechanisms for awkward silence (which he explains in the book).
If you remember, I have been waiting to see this movie since I first heard about it a year and a half ago. Besides a problem the theater was having with the sound (which isn’t a reflection of the movie), it was absolutely AMAZING. I am thrilled that I liked it so much, that it was able to live up to the epic movie I had been building it up to be in my head. Cate Blanchett is in her element, and Clive Owen lives up to his name, and Jordi Mollà (as King Philip II of Spain) is almost terrifying. Geoffrey Rush, unfortunately, wasn’t in the movie as much as I would have liked. Excellent movie, with some definite twists and turns that will keep you guessing right until the end of the movie. Sadly, it has had a poor box office run these past two weekends, only grossing $11.2M in 10 days. Not good! Go see this movie!
This is a documentary about how the MPAA rates movies. For those of you who haven’t heard of this, the board that rates movies is consisted of 8 “normal parents” who rate movies based on what they think is appropriate for children to see (which is why the ratings are all age based… G – General Audiences, PG – Parental Guidance suggested, PG-13 – Suggests parents should accompany any children under 13-years-old, R – Children under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult, and NC-17 – No Child under the age of 17 under ANY circumstances). However, this board is secret, just like the CIA. No one knows who they are… until now. Director Kirby Dick hires a personal investigator to find out the identities of these mysterious and all powerful 8, and they do, and they tell you exactly who they are. Kirby also delves into the biases these people show towards studio made movies versus independents, scenes with violence versus scenes with sex, and straight sex versus gay sex. Very eye opening view into the inner workings of the MPAA. Worth a watch!
Oh, and for anyone as excited as I am by the upcoming The Golden Compass movie, here’s an extended 5 MINUTE preview of the movie!
Now, back to writing (hopefully).
Kyle W. Kerr
10/9/07 | Books, Genius Mode, Movies, Music, My Writings, TV Shows | 0 Comments
The rewrites have been going really well. So well, in fact, that I expect to crash and burn any time now… I finally realized what my problem was, and now it’s almost like the book is correcting itself, with minimal effort on my part. (Not saying I’m not putting effort into it! Just saying the work isn’t really work.) And I’m really excited about some new developments that have recently been revealed to me. If you’re a writer, I can’t stress how important it is to LISTEN to your characters! They will never lead you in the wrong direction (unless you have an unreliable narrator, and that’s a whole different tin of biscuits).
In the past few weeks I’ve…
Excavation by James Rollins
I had a conversation with Jim about why his books aren’t classified as Science Fiction. In Excavation, a band of archaeologists stumble upon a lost Incan temple, get stuck in it because someone is trying to steal the treasurers within and causes it to collapse, trapping some of said archaeologists and forcing them to find a way out… and they encounter albino tarantulas and mutated, cannibalistic ape-like beasts (that turn out not to be apes at all!), as well as discover a substance that is some form of nano-biology that is able to bring people back from the dead and regrow human bodies from nothing but a severed head. Sounds pretty far fetched, right? Science Fiction-like, even? Well, to put it bluntly, his publishers said “We can market it as a Sci-Fi novel and sell okay, or we can market it as a thriller and sell 10x as many copies.” Yeah, not a tough decision there. Point being, this book was very, very good. Just be willing to extend your suspension of disbelief a bit more for this one than regular thrillers.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. What the hell am I listening to this emo crap for? Because I love it, I can’t lie. I LOVED DC’s album The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, and have listened to it religiously since I bought it six years ago… Nothing DC has made before or since has really lived up to that CD, because Chris Carrabba’s vocals and lyrics, coupled with the acoustic instrumentation, just completely took me over. And there are even a few tracks when he gets so into the music that his voice breaks (one of my favorite things in the world… really). Everything else has been more rocker-ish, and less intimate. Until now. In The Shade of Poison Trees, Chris returns to the acoustic songs he does so well, and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s on repeat right now.
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I was going through a low point and needed to take my mind off things, so I watched all 60 or so hours of the first three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy… in 4 days. That’s right, I watched disc after disc of that show, and couldn’t have been happier to do so. As sad as it is that I did that, I don’t regret it. And now I’m obsessed. This is one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, and has the kind of characters I can care enough about to WANT to watch new episodes live (I don’t have cable, so anything I watch is either on DVD or I download it from iTunes… I don’t like commercials). Bailey is my favorite (“O’Malley, stop looking at my VA-JAY-JAY!”), I’m totally shipping George and Izzie, Meredith and Derek need to get over their issues, and Christina is just fun. Totally hooked. Though, I have to say, I am totally disappointed that they created the spin-off for Addison. I loved her, and now she isn’t even Addison anymore. Did anyone else notice that her hair doesn’t even look red? Hopefully, when that show fails, they’ll bring her back to Seattle!
Okay, this movie was absolutely insane… Fantastic, intriguing and immensely well put together, but insane nonetheless. Talk about your unreliable narrator! You think this movie is just about a teacher schtooping one of her students, but NO, it has a completely other level of crazy! When they say “A Story of Two Obsessions,” they’re not kidding. It’s one of the worst kept secrets in the world that Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actors (second only to another Kate!), and what she is able to pull off in Notes is nothing short of brilliant. My love for her grows with every movie I see her in, and the emotion she was able to bring to this role was so tortured, so vulnerable, you couldn’t help but feel for her pain. Is it crazy on my part that I could understand why she did what she did (the character)? Not deflowering a 15-year-old, of course, but her need for something more than the life she was dealt, her need for escape? And Judi Dench’s character is… terrifying is probably the best word. I may just have to pick up the book now.
This movie was produced by Walden Media, the same folks who brought us The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and Bridge to Terabithia (they like the whole making-a-movie-out-of-popular-children’s-books thing). It had a lot of promise, and the trailer made it look really good. To me, it didn’t disappoint. It has a really great premise, the foundations of which were lain down by Susan Cooper, who wrote the book back in the 70s (I say foundation because the book and movie apparently have very little in common. I’m reading the first book in the series—the movie was based on the second book, which has different characters than the first—but I have found a website that lists all of the changes, and they are extensive. If any of you loved the book Eragon and saw the movie based on that book, you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about with this one. BUT, because the movie was my introduction to the world, and not the book, I was able to enjoy the movie for what it was). Definitely worth a buy when it comes out on DVD, though I don’t know how happy the studio is with it at the moment. Opening weekend on the purportedly $60M movie was a measly $3.75M… Ouch!
A sad side note…
If you remember my excitement about the new TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles, you’ll know how disappointed I am to find out that Fox has decided to hold off on launching the show until mid-season. Why? Because God hates me.
Kyle W. Kerr
09/20/07 | Books, General, Genius Mode, Maui, On Writing | 0 Comments
Throughout the years I have looked for help in many different places: books, magazines, websites, from authors, workshops, the list goes on and on. I’m going to list a few of the things that really help(ed) me.
Half autobiography, half book on style, Stephen mixes up one of the best books on writing available today. Why is there a section where he talks about himself? Because you need to know where he’s coming from in order to know why he does what he does best. The story of his life, his vices, and the success of his first book, Carrie, are inspirational (something all of us novice writers need!), and the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing. Read through the book, do the samples, and watch your talent soar.
Okay, who the hell would ever read a book on punctuation, let along write one? You guys, this is an amazing book. I don’t claim to be the end all of punctuation knowledge (in fact, I tell everyone who will listen that most of my knowledge is actually instinct based… which usually works, but not always). You couldn’t find a more boring topic, but Lynne handles it with grace and—dare I say it?—a little wit as well. (Also, if you’re in the mood to laugh, check out her book on rudeness, Talk to the Hand).
Both are monthly magazines, and both cover a wide array of writerly topics: from how to get an agent, to writing better emotion, to lessons on column writing, and so on. Also included in many of the issues are current markets out there searching for new material, information about contests and competitions (including some of their own), as well as first-time novelists’ success stories (which are always great to read).
I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to Tess on two occasions, but more importantly I am able to connect with her on a much more regular basis through the blog on her website. She actually reads every comment, and personally responds to them when necessary. Not only is she an immensely gracious author by taking the time to connect with her readers in such a way, but her blog is actually a very useful tool to novice writers like myself. Tess gives us the inside scoop on the publishing industry, both the ups AND the downs. Most importantly, she brings herself down to our level, reassuring us that we all have doubts and worries, and even she, after 20+ books and a level of über-success most of us only dream of, still gets nervous whenever she begins a new project or when her books go on sale. And, as shown by this entry, she really cares about us beginners.
This is a peer-to-peer critiquing site. Basically, in order to have someone critique your work, you need to do the same for someone else. Once you read and review one story (you write up an actual review for the author, as well as scoring the piece on several categories, including plot, theme, characters, language, etc.), then you are able to put your own piece up for review. This is a great tool for anyone who gets nervous presenting their work to groups, and it works out fairly well. The only problem I really have with this is that you can’t regulate who reads your story. It could be sent to someone who doesn’t like your genre/theme, and your rating and review will reflect that. Also, you lose a little when you’re not able to actually talk to the person about what they thought. All you get is a little snippet. Still very enlightening and useful.
Okay, I know I’ve talked about this a little in previous posts (considering I was just there!), but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate all of this. The conference is nice because you get to go to seminars and hear from some of the best authors in the world, including NYT and internationally bestselling and Pulitzer winning authors. They tell you their stories and insights about what has worked for them, including some tips and tricks they’ve picked up along the way.
BUT, the best thing about the whole experience is if you go to the week long retreat before the conference. This is where you are able to learn, this is where you are able to delve into the depths of your writing and uncover what lies beneath. I can honestly say that the retreat changed my life—and my novel—forever and for the better. You learn about your weaknesses and try to improve upon them. You learn about your strengths and try to broaden them. You learn by doing, by writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, because there’s no better way to learn than by doing.
EVERY BOOK I’VE EVER READ
This is something I can’t stress enough. Every time you read a book you are learning how to write; plot, structure, interesting and realistic characters, dialogue, theme, everything you would ever need to know about writing has been laid out for you for centuries, all you have to do is pick one up and read it. I am flabbergasted when wannabe writers tell me that they do not have time to read—they’re too busy! Well, how are you supposed to know how to tell a story if you never read one? Don’t know what to read? Go to the library, go to Barnes & Noble and browse, or even email me if you need some suggestions; I’ve read hundreds of great books.
Hopefully some of this information will help you can write one (and me, too!).
Kyle W. Kerr
09/16/07 | Books, Movies, My Writings, Procrastination | 0 Comments
This weekend, I saw two new movies… one new, and one a little older. Plus, a little on a book I’m currently reading.
Okay, I don’t know where to begin on this movie. We all know that Jodie Foster is a brilliant actress. Terrance Howard is good as well. This movie was freaking amazing. Though very brutal at times (you see about a two minute long beating scene, as well as a number of murders on Jodie’s part), there is such raw emotion behind it all. I don’t know if that is the work of the three writers behind the script (two of them are credited just for “story”, so I don’t know if they did any of the actual writing or not), or because Jodie and Terrance are in their element, but it is surely a sight to see. AND, it has one of the most satisfying endings to a movie than I have seen in a good long time. Our ENTIRE theater was in an uproar by the end, which only shows how quickly and deeply you get attached to these characters. Definitely a must-see.
I wanted to see this movie since I first saw the trailer (however long ago it came out). Renée Zellweger hasn’t been one of my favorite actresses, but she has grown on me as of late (I recently saw the first Bridget Jones’s Diary movie, which was cute… and I have liked the ever classic Empire Records since it came out on video), and the movie looked like I might enjoy it. Not to mention the recommendations I got from people telling me to see it (including the writer of Frida). So, I caved and bought it. I think I have to give it a 4 out of 5. This movie was so engaging, and to touching, that I was totally prepared to love it. And I did, but only up to a certain point. The last half hour of the movie completely dragged. For some reason, they (the filmmaker and writers) felt it was necessary to showcase her purchasing 4000 acres of land, working said land, and doing little, if any, writing or drawing/painting. I know this movie is supposed to be about her life, but the main pulls were her books and her love; I didn’t need to know that she was responsible for conserving 4000 acres of apparently prime English real estate property (though highly noble on her part, it doesn’t make for very interesting movie watching!). They should have cut that last 20-30 minutes and expanded the other sections instead. Still worth the watch, though.
I’m actually in the middle of this right now. I decided to read this because, well, I bought it in Maui so he could sign it and I needed something to read on the 14 hour trip back to Boston. Not that I got much reading done on the plane (I actually SLEPT, which is something I rarely do on planes… I like being on planes too much to sleep!), but I have made a slight effort to read it now that I am back. It’s actually quite good so far, and he’s freaking me out by having albino tarantulas attacking a group of archaeologists. Again, only halfway through, but it’s good so far. I’ll let you know if I like the ending!
(Note to self: Come up with some sort of cool rating system.)
So, now it’s time to get back to writing. It’s amazing that I have been back for two weeks already, and I’ve only worked on ONE chapter of my novel. I need to finish the rewrite of said chapter later today, and then start moving on to the next ones. My October 31st deadline for completion is approaching more rapidly than I could have ever expected, so I need to buckle down and WRITE! I am very excited about all of the changes, though, and I can’t wait to be able to read through the whole manuscript at the end (and to hear what everyone thinks about it!). GENIUS MODE!
Oh, for any of you who are interested:
Kyle W. Kerr
08/21/07 | Books, General, Movies, Procrastination | 0 Comments
I’ve been procrastinating again. All of my ‘worry’ voices keep telling me to get more work done on editing my novel, but I can’t even seem to force myself to do it the past week or so. I actually got through a nice chunk yesterday, but a whole helluvalot of procrastination happened before that. What have I been doing instead? Why don’t I tell you…?
The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven
It was actually an interesting read. It’s about a demon from Hell who takes over this boy’s body, hell-bent on, well, destroying the universe. It is Sam’s first novel, and is written for the young adult crowd (which is fine, because I think there’s a bit too much violence for the children’s crowd!). Bit dark, but a lot of humor is brought in with the character of Jack.
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
This story begins during the summer of ’81, when two boys from a Little League are molested by their coach. One of them likes it, believing it to be love, and goes on to be a hustler when he gets older. The other blacks out the experience and, later in life, is convinced that those five hours are missing from his life because he was abducted by aliens. He’s not too far off, actually. Stunningly written, though I would extend a word of caution if you don’t have the stomach for a bit of violence.
Director Alfonso Cuarón impresses again. I’m not shy about my love of all things Harry Potter, and I was first introduced to his work with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the most visually stunning of all five HP movies so far, I think). Here, he does it again, and with seeming ease. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should definitely check it out. But, if you HAVE seen it, you should take a second look, and pay attention to the three or four scenes in the movie that are actually ONE CUT. The opening scene with the coffee shop, the scene where they are attacked in the car, as well as the final battle scene are ALL done in one shot. Amazing. Alfonso is one of the top directors I would choose for my screenplay Bethanine if I were able to pick the director myself.
I get more and more amazed by this movie with each viewing. Everything is so subtle. Nothing is thrown into your face. From Clint Eastwood’s quiet struggles, to Hilary Swank’s determination (even at the end) to go out a champ, and rounded off nicely with Morgan Freeman’s soft narration, you get sucked in and just nestled in the flow of the movie. Throw in Paul Haggis’s superb writing, and it’s no wonder this movie won the Best Picture Oscar. Paul Haggis is another person who intrigues me… To have written TWO Best Pictures in a row (MDB and Crash), as well as being versatile enough to take on projects like the recent Casino Royale, he’s the kind of screenwriter I want to be. (Oh, and try HUNDRED MILLION Dollar Baby… That’s right, this little movie brought in BIG bank!)
WANT TO SEE:
Since it came out almost 10 years ago, Elizabeth has been one of my favorite movies. Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses. So, you can imagine my joy when I learned they were making a sequel! I first heard about Elizabeth: The Golden Age about a year and a half ago, and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival since. Now, the trailer has finally been released, stating an October release date (!!!). So, if you have a moment, why don’t you bask in the gloriousness that is Elizabeth: The Golden Age…
A line that gives me the chills every time I hear it?
Queen Elizabeth I: Tell your king I fear neither him nor his armies.
Spanish Minister: There is a wind coming that will sweep away your pride.
Queen Elizabeth I: I too can command the wind, sir! I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare if you dare to try me!
What was that line of Jim Carrey’s? Joygasm?
Kyle W. Kerr