Posted in Books, Reading, The novel, Writing

The problem with romantic fiction

Alright, so… romantic fiction?  Yay or nay?  As a reader, they’re my favorite kind of books to lose myself in and, as an aspiring writer, romance is, by far, my go-to topic.  Trying to find good romance novels to read… Well, that’s a challenge.  Why?  Because a big majority of romantic fiction out there just downright sucks.

Continue reading “The problem with romantic fiction”

Posted in Books, Reading

Cookie-cutter fiction

So the thing about me is that when I find a new author I like, I read everything I can from that author.  This happened to me recently because I borrowed a book from the library (ebook version, of course) by Diana Palmer.  Because I have a thing for cowboys, I really enjoyed the book.  So then I borrowed about seven more from her.  By the time I was into the fifth one, I was pretty sure I’d read this book before.  That’s when I realized that all her books follow the same formula.  Young virginal woman + older man + tortured attraction + unrealistic characters who profess love in gorgeous prose = every Diana Palmer book. Ever.

The same can be said for Nicholas Sparks.  I know he’s wildly popular but his books wouldn’t be his books unless someone dies at the end, bringing everything full circle and leading to the main character(s) having profound realizations.

What is it with these authors?  Why do they publish the same book, over and over again?  Why does the reader never seem to mind and just keep buying them?  Is originality dead?  I mean, Colleen Hoover runs circles around Diana Palmer – yet Hoover had to self-publish at first!  As an aspiring author myself, I’m beginning to realize that there’s no rhyme or reason to getting published.  Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is proof of that.  That series should’ve ended about ten books ago, yet it just keeps going and going and going.  Stephanie’s car blows up + Grandma Mazur is funny + Lula makes fat jokes + Stephanie can’t decide between Joe or Ranger (the answer is ALWAYS Ranger, in case you were wondering) = every book in the stupid series.

The only thing I can surmise is that readers aren’t picky and that there’s no accounting for taste (or the lack thereof).  50 Shades of Grey is proof of this!

Posted in About me, Books, Reading

When a book leaves you shattered and moved and hopeful

I just finished reading this incredible book.

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Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

This book is written in first-person.  One of my cardinal rules of reading is “never, ever read a book written in first person!”  The reviews for Hopeless, though, were so positive and glowing and full of fangirl key-smashing (both on Goodreads and Amazon) that I threw caution to the wind and click “Buy” anyway.  For once, I am absolutely relieved that I let go of my “no first person” rule because if I had, I would’ve missed out on this treasure of a book.

It starts off innocuous at first.  We meed Sky Davis, the narrator, who has been raised by a hippy-dippy mother whose aversion to technology and public education are both so severe that Sky was practically raised Amish.  However, Sky is about to start her senior year at a real, public high school while her best friend Six, who has a less-than-stellar reputation that has rubbed off undeservedly on Sky, goes of to Italy as an exchange student.  It’s obvious to the reader from the very beginning that Sky is “damaged” somehow, but it’s not clear why until much later.  As soon as Sky starts school, she meets Dean Holder.  He’s a “bad boy” with a reputation of his own and the word “hopeless” tattooed on his forearm.  He has a temper, a wealth of secrets, a past that is both fuzzy and frightening.  He also has heart-stopping dimples and a helluva physique (that made me feel guilty for lusting after him since he’s only 18) and his very presence makes Sky react to him in a way she never has to anyone else.

I’m not going to give the plot away because then you wouldn’t need to read this book, so all I will say is that Sky and Dean’s connection causes truths to be shared, secrets to be stirred up, and hard facts to be realized.  I will say that this book is far, far more than just a simple romance story.  It’s light-years beyond just being about two teenagers falling in love.  Trust me, this is no ridiculous, teenaged angst like Twilight. (Don’t get me wrong, Dean Holder sparkles, but not in an Edward Cullen kind of way.)

This book moved me.  Inspired me.  Gutted me.  I read the entire thing, from cover to cover (well, from 1% to 99% on my Kindle, anyway), in the span of about eight hours.  And then I flailed about it on Tumblr and Twitter.  And then I gifted three copies of it so that others can read this book.  It’s the kind of story that sticks with me long after I’ve finished.  Only a book or two a year ever do that to me and this one is definitely going to stay around.  In my head.  In my heart.

Read it.  You have to read it.  Here, here’s the link to it: go buy it right now.  And if you’ve read it, please leave me a comment to tell me how very much in “live” you are with Dean Holder, too!

Posted in Books, Reading

One angst-whore’s dream book…

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m an angst-whore.

I love a good angsty romance.  Novels filled with unrequited love/star-crossed lovers/lovers kept apart by circumstance are probably among my list of very favorite things.  Thanks to one of my favorite authors tweeting about a book she loved yesterday, I discovered Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry.

Oh my God….

–I need a minute–

*grasps for composure*

Okay, this book made me bawl for more than halfway through it.  It’s about a man (Michael) trying to recover after the untimely death of his young wife, Billie, and Billie’s best friend (Angie), who is grappling with both the loss of her friend and a newfound attraction to Michael. And then “stuff” happens and it gets more and more complicated.  And then the tears start and continue for page after page and I– GAHHH!!!  I just can’t…

Seriously, if you love angst and romance and smut and happy endings, go read this book!

Posted in Books, Reading

What I’m reading right now…

Although I’m 93% done (according to my Kindle), I wanted to share what I’m reading at the moment because it’s really affecting me.

 

This story follows Babe, Grace, and Millie from the World War II years to the mid-60s, and shows how their lives and the lives of those around them were profoundly changed by the war.  A connoisseur of WWII-era fiction, this book is different than most of the ones I’ve read because it strips away the romanticism of the period and lays the struggles of those that lived it open for all to see.  It focuses on the intense grief over the men who didn’t come home and on those who did make it home, but who came back changed due to PTSD.  It tackles heavy topics like as rape, racism, and the post-war role of women, but at its heart, it’s about three women, the men they love, and how the war changed them and the world around them.  Oh, and as an added bonus for those of us who thrive on angst, it has a healthy dose of unrequited love, too.

Posted in The novel, Writing

A little s-e-x… or a lot?

Can we talk about sex, please?  Well, not the act of it, per se, but attitudes toward it in the past versus the present.  I think a lot of people are inclined to believe that in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and right up to the start of the sexual revolution in the 60s, premarital sex just didn’t happen.  And if it did, there was an intense level of shame that rode piggy-back on the person who’d had the sex.  For example, my dad was born in May of 1945, after his parents had been married only seven months.  Later in life, when he questioned their wedding date as compared to his date of birth, he was told that he had been a premature baby.  Pictures of my dad as an infant show a robust, downright roly-poly, healthy baby.  Dad always joked that had he been carried to term, he would have been an 18 pound newborn.  It’s obvious that my grandparents engaged in a little pre-wedding hanky-panky but even when my dad was 50 years old, they still couldn’t tell him the truth.  So it seems that sex, while obviously a part of life, wasn’t an open part of life.

Fast forward to today, where attitudes toward sex are blase.  Television, music, movies, books – everything is designed with sex in mind.  As a result, kids are growing up way too fast and with more knowledge than they need at a young age.  The reason I’m even talking about this is because the novel I’m working on takes place during the 40s, where sex, as a point of conversation, wasn’t treated the same way it is today.  It’s a topic that also has to be addressed because the actual act of it is apparently becoming pivotal to my story.  (The reason I say “apparently” is because the novel I had planned is not the story that’s coming to fruition.  The characters have other ideas and they’re letting me know, one detail at a time.)  The thing I have to remember when writing is that, while sex certainly happened – think of all the soldier boys leaving home for God only knows how long and that whole “last night on earth” mentality that must have been present – my characters wouldn’t have openly talked about it like characters would in a novel that takes place in modern day.  The thing is that today, sex sells.  Even badly-written, questionable sex sells. (I’m thinking of a certain terribly written fanfiction story-turned-novel that involves the “hero” (and I use that term under great duress) yanking a tampon from the body of his heroine so that he can bang her for the 14th time that day.)  Since sexually charged stories are so popular, the more the better, right?  I have think about those things when writing this novel.  Sex is pivotal to the story line, yes.  It’s a catalyst for so much of what comes later.  And even though I know that graphic details and titillating descriptions are what attracts an audience, my biggest challenge is staying true to the era.  A conversation that would easily happen between girlfriends today almost certainly wouldn’t have happened in 1941.  There wouldn’t have been any “OMG we totally did it” moments to share between squealing girlfriends.  Any conversation would have been had in hushed tones with one eye toward the door.

So I guess the question I’m posing to myself is how much sex is too much sex?  Where do I draw the line between keeping a modern audience happy and telling an authentic story?  I love writing sex just as much as the next gal, but I have to find my limits with these particular characters, because I don’t want to turn my readers off when attempting to turn them on.

Posted in 1940s stuff, About me, Writing

“Now is the Hour” – a World War II-era short story

Ben told Iris a lot of things over the years as they played in the street or went ice skating on the pond. And as much as she told Ben about her hopes and her dreams, there was one thing she always held back. She never told Ben, or anyone else for that matter, what her biggest secret was. It was the kind of thing that Mama had told her girls should never talk about, especially not to the boy himself. A boy should be the one to come calling on a girl, not the other way around. “The fact is,” Mama told Iris as she dropped warm dollops of butter over the mashed potatoes on Sunday afternoon, “that good girls never chase after boys. Your job is to look pretty and smile – if it’s meant to be, he’ll notice.”

He’s about to go off to war and she’s not sure when he’ll be back. All Iris has to do is get up the nerve to tell Ben how she feels before he leaves. After all, he was the one always encouraging her to go after what she wanted.

Full story located HERE