Five on Friday

1.  Love Gretchen Rubin’s thoughts on doing something everyday.

2. English as the “vacuum cleaner of a language”.

3. I keep waiting for Tayari Jones to write a book on the writing prcess. Her advice always resonates with me. I especially like: “But don’t commit to the publishing, commit to the writing.”

4. Writers as dreamers.

5. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed is definitely on my TBR list.

Books Read in March

“Clean” a YA novel by Amy Reed
I can’t sleep, as usual.

Five teen addicts find themselves in rehab. Even before one of the characters describes the group as a druggie version of “The Breakfast Club” that’s what came to my mind as well. Five kids from different backgrounds, with different issues end up with the same result: they are addicts. As they confront each other and, eventually, themselves they learn they are more alike than different. It’s a rare, raw look behind the scenes of drug use and rehab.

What I learned: How important it is to find the structure for your story, instead of imposing one. This structure felt inevitable. She found a way to not only tell each of their stories but the story of the group as whole. Loved it.

“The Hunger Games” a YA novel by Suzanne Collins
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Okay, I confess that I resisted reading this trilogy for quite a while. Why? I thought it was just another version of “Twilight” which, honestly, was not a selling point for me. But I picked it up because my daughter loved them (she was not a “Twilight “ fan either) and she was sure I would as well. She was right. While there is a love triangle thread as in “Twilight” it is not the main thing that carries the book. Katniss is not consumed by this triangle. Which boy to choose is not the most important thing in her life. She has a few other things going on, including saving her younger sister, Prim’s, life by volunteering to go in her place for the annual “Hunger Games”. If there is anybody left out there who has not read these books yet, here’s a quick recap: What used to be North America is now called Panem and is divided into 12 districts, with the Capitol, lush and rich, in charge. To keep the districts from ever considering rebelling again, they hold an annual Hunger Game where each district is required to send one girl and one boy to a fight to the death on live TV. A reality show of the future. The story follows her through training and the competition where she surprisingly becomes a contender. With the current social and political climate pitting the classes against each other with the 99% versus the 1% this books is a chilling meditation on where that particular road can lead.

What I learned: To not judge a book before I’ve read it myself.

“Pandemonium” a YA novel by Lauren Oliver
Alex and I are lying together on a blanket in the backyard of 37 Brooks.

This is a sequel to “Delirium” which I wrote about here, and the second in what will be a trilogy. It picks up pretty much where “Delirium” left off so I won’t go into a lot of details for those of you who haven’t read it yet. In fact, there’s not much I can say abolut this story without giving away the ending of the first. So i will just say this- read them both.They are riveting.

What I learned: How to end a novel on a doozy of a cliff-hanger!

“Catching Fire” a YA novel by Suzanne Collins
I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the sea has long since leached into the frozen air.

If you haven’t read “The Hunger Games’ and plan to, then stop reading now.

Okay? So, Katniss has won the Hunger Games and has returned home with Peeta as victors. So why doesn’t she feel victorious? Her longtime friend, Gale is keeping her at a distance and Peeta has turned away from her as well. Then there are rumors of unrest, perhaps even rebellion, in other districts. Unrest that Katniss as unknowingly stirred up. Katniss and Peeta are required to go on the Capitol’s grotesque Victory Tour where they need to convince everyone that they really are the lovers they portrayed themselves to be in the arena, a love that gained them much support among the viewers, a love that President Snow isn’t buying at all.

What I learned: Just as the Hunger Games arena throws one obstacle an threat after the other at the participants, as a writer I need to up the stakes (emotional and/or physical) for my characters.