Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This was such a cute book.

This is from Goodreads: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Here are the beats I found.
1. Opening Image: What Anna knows about France.
2. Theme Stated: Um...Sometimes you need to be alone before you can find love?
3. Set-up: Anna gets left at an American School in Paris without knowing any French, leaving behind a best friend and a could-be boyfriend, and develops a friendship with a group that includes St. Claire, who has a girlfriend.
4. Catalyst: Meeting St. Claire.
5. Debate: Anna finding her place in the school and in France.
6. Break into Two: St. Claire takes her out for a night on the town.
7. B Story: Cinema, the relationships of the friends
8. Fun and Games: She and St. Claire grow closer, which only confuses her more.
9. Midpoint: Thanksgiving
10. Bad Boys Close In: St. Claire's mom has cancer, his father sucks, Toph and Bridgette hook up and don't tell Anna, she dates Dave and breaks up...
11. All is Lost: Anna has lost all her friends, fights with Amanda, has rumors spread about her....
12. Dark Night of the Soul: Anna is alone.
13. Break into three: St. Claire kisses her (before #11 and #12).
14. Finale: Notre-Dame
15. Final Image: Home isn't a place, it's a person.

This book made me smile. It was so much fun to read because of the location, the characters, the issues. I loved that it was clean, that the characters had genuine issues and likes and dislikes, that they had character arcs, that there were mean people with motives and nice people who turned mean and anger and redemption and hate and love and broken hearts.... *sigh*
  Some of the reviewers got it right. I think my favorite is from Maureen Johnson who said, "Very romantic. You should date this book."
  I think the only thing I didn't like is the part where Anna tells St. Claire how to beat his father at his father's own game. It seemed a little false. And then, the fact that he did it and still met her at Notre-Dame made the timing seem off. Sometimes there is too much good that happens at the end, and it may have happened here. However, I did like that at the very end not all the couples were still together, not everything was as people wanted but it still seemed okay--good move, I think.

Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

Ah. This is a book similar to Beautiful Disaster, and yet different in so many ways.

From Goodreads: When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night - but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

I'm going to beat this out, then discuss it. So here goes.
1. Opening Image: Jacqueline leaving a party.
2. Theme Stated: Sometimes love isn't Easy--and sometimes it is.
3. Set-Up: Kennedy broke up with Jacqueline. Lucas rescues her, then turns out to be in her Econ class.
4. Catalyst: Dance
5. Debate: Jacqueline deciding to use Lucas as a rebound.
6. Break into Two: Lucas comes to her room to draw her.
7. B Story: Parents? Lucas and Landon are the same. Self-defense class. Erin and Chaz breakup.
8. Fun and Games: Jacqueline has crushes on both Landon and Lucas, then finds out they're the same person.
9. Midpoint: Jacqueline goes home for Thanksgiving
10. Bad Guys Close In: Kennedy wants her back, Lucas and she got caught and Lucas can't see her anymore, Buck rapes Mindi
11. All is Lost: No real all is lost moment. There are too many ups for a true down.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: Jacqueline leaves Lucas' thinking she's lost him only to have Buck try to rape her again.
13. Break into Three: Lucas asks Jacqueline to tell him to stop. (before #12 DNotS)
14. Finale: Jacqueline is going to music school and Lucas accepts a job near her.
15. Final Image: Lucas tells her that choosing to be with her is an easy decision.

So, there were so many things I liked about this book. In fact, I enjoyed it more than Beautiful Disaster even though I wasn't as addicted to it as I was to Beautiful Disaster. I loved the dual identity, although I figured it out almost immediately. I loved Erin the friend. I loved the ex and the way the frat bros and sisters all stuck together and Benji (although I don't think he needed to be gay--it's like the author needed a gay person, so she made him that way halfway through the book). I loved that she went back to using her name after the breakup and that she was strong throughout the book. But here are a few things that don't jive with me.

First, if she was THAT GOOD of a Bass player, it would be the focus of her life. I know people that have gone to Julliard, and I know how hard they worked. We're talking practicing at least 5 hours a day. And yet, having music as the main focus in her life seems to be more of an afterthought, like Jacqueline needed some reason to not be at the school--to have wanted to go somewhere else--and so she became a good music person. Very convenient for the author, but not at all believable. There should have been music similes, thoughts of music, translating the world around her into music, especially if she is writing her own music.

Second, I think the main guy had too many jobs. I wanted something more specific to identify him with, like being a closet model for artists, or doing murals in fancy houses, or something. He was too diluted.

Last, I just wanted more. There were times when the author told instead of showed, and I wanted the showing. I wanted each moment I could get and sometimes it just wasn't enough.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cause and Effect

In Jack M. Bickman's fabulous must-read Scene and Structure, he has a chapter addressing cause and effect. I have read published authors who would do good to study this chapter, because I'm one of those readers that notices inconsistencies. And they bother me.
  In the last post I wrote a review on Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. The book is totally addicting. But there were two places when I could have closed the book and walked away without a second glance, because in both instances the cause of something that occurred was not adequately stated, which made the effecting action unbelievable, and I lost interest. It still bothers me. I can't recommend the book as highly as I would like because of it.
  Mr. Bickman points out that fiction needs to make more sense than real life. In real life, things happen, and we sometimes don't know the cause and we sometimes don't know the effect because we only have our little lens of the world to look through. But when we're reading a book, we are presented with the whole world, and we need to know each cause and every effect. And they need to be spelled out clearly. I don't want to be left guessing. It takes me out of the story when I sit and think, "Why on earth did that happen?" or "Did I miss something? Because that was out of nowhere." These are two questions that readers should never have to ask.
  Along with Cause and Effect are Stimulus and Response. If a character is going to do something, there has to be a why to the action. And both the why and the action have to be something that we could see if we were watching a play. If someone throws you a ball, you react to the ball either by catching it, moving out of the way, or (for some reason you would have to explain) allowing it to hit you. But you can't say that someone threw a ball and then never mention the ball again.
  I see this happen a lot, as well. The author introduces something that seems really important or intriguing, but then we never hear of it again. If something important happens in a character's life, they're going to react to it. We, as readers, need to see that. And if there is something going on in the mind between the stimulus and the response, we need to know what that is in a stimulus - internalization - response pattern. For example, "Jane threw me the ball. I had already told her I wasn't going to play, so I refused to react as the ball hurled toward me and hit me in the stomach." Just saying, "Jane threw me the ball and I let it hit me in the stomach", with no reason why, doesn't work.
  As you read or write, pay attention to each cause and effect or each stimulus and response. Make sure all the parts are there and, if necessary, the internalization, too.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Ooh, this is a hard book to review. I think the line that sums the book up is Abby telling Travis, "I've been yours since the second we met." I love that line. So, here we go!

From Goodreads: Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

First, the beat sheet:
1. Opening Image: Travis and Abby meet at a fight.
2. Theme Stated: You shouldn't fight against who you are.
3. Set-up: Abby and Travis are just friends.
4. Catalyst: The hot water breaks in the dorms and Abby goes to live with Travis.
5. Debate: She likes Travis but believes they are just friends.
6. Break into two: Abby loses a bet to Travis and has to live with him for a month.
7. B Story: Parker Hayes, Shebley and America
8. Fun and Games: Abby tries to go out with Parker while staying with Travis.
9. Midpoint: Abby admits to Parker that she is in love with Travis.
10. Bad Guys Close In: Mitch convinces Abby she has to take his debt for him.
11. All is Lost: Travis chooses Vegas over Abby and she leaves.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: Abby and Travis are separated.
13. Break into Three: Valentine's dance.
14. Finale: Fight with the fire, marriage in Vegas.
15. Final Image: Abby getting a tattoo saying Mrs. Maddox.

So, this book has a whole lot of swearing, sex, drinking, and fighting. For all that, it was completely engrossing until just before the midpoint. Then I feel it went downhill. And the marriage at the end--completely from nowhere. I also think there should have been a whole lot more exposition so we could get inside Abby's head. But I did really like the main characters and sub characters and all the crap they kept going through. It was fabulous.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review: Authors Anonymous

First off, as an aspiring author in a writing group, I found this movie HILARIOUS! It's a mock-umentary, and both my husband and I loved it.

From IMDb: When a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers accept Hannah into their fold, the last thing they expect is her overnight success. Can these lovable misfits achieve their artistic dreams and avoid killing one another in the process?

Let's beat it out!

1. Opening Image: The married couple who started the writing group are on a couch being interviewed.
2. Theme Stated: All for one and one for all.
3. Set-up: Each member of the group is interviewed and asked about their writing.
4. Catalyst: Hannah joins the writing group.
5. Debate: What the writers are focused on.
6. Break into Two: Hannah gets an agent.
7. B Story: Henry wants to ask Hannah out.
8. Fun and Games: Hannah gets a book deal.
9. Midpoint: Writing group at Hannah's house.
10. Bad Guys Close In: Hannah gets a movie deal.
11. All is Lost: The group starts to fall apart.
12. Dark Night of the Soul: Everyone is at odds with everyone else.
13. Break into Three: The group completely breaks up.
14. Finale: Henry says goodbye to Hannah and gets published
15: Final Image: Hannah declares that Henry is her favorite author.

Other interesting things: Hannah's theme is 'no distractions', and it isn't until Henry becomes undistracted by Hannah that he writes his novel, which could also be a theme for the movie since everyone else gets distracted and remains unsuccessful while Hannah and Henry get published when they are not distracted. The girl in the bar that appears halfway through the movie is in the closing scene, indicating Henry has found someone who really fits for him.