All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★★   (5.00)
Genre – Adult Historical Fiction18143977
Summary – Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Initial Thoughts –  After it’s won so many awards and gotten so many raving reviews, I ordered this book from the library. After I finally got through the long waiting list at the library, I read it. And thank God I did.
Plot – ★★★★★ Everything is weaved together so beautifully with the different characters’ stories. It’s difficult to take three seemingly unconnected characters and twist their stories together so that they all fall together in the end. Anthony Doerr does this perfectly.
Characters – ★★★★★ These characters come from different backgrounds and contradict each other, yet I still love all of them.
Story world – ★★★★★ Anthony Doerr did his research. I walked through the cities of Paris, skipped through coal mines, cowered in collapsing cellars, and drove through desolate Russia with these characters.
Style – ★★★★★ Anthony Doerr’s style is beautiful. One of my favorite parts of the book was the POV of Marie-Laure, because he managed describe the setting perfectly, using all the other senses but sight.
Closing Thoughts – If you haven’t read this haunting story yet, you have to. It’s perfect for fans of Between Shades of Grey and The Book Thief.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

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5 Tips for Choosing Your Title

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Choosing your title can be a nerve-wracking process. It is supposed to represent everything that your novel is in just a few words. How could you possibly know the right words to choose?

  1. Look at the titles within your genre. Sometimes looking at similar books can give you inspiration for ways to name your book. For example, a lot of dystopian books have the trend of having one word names. This will also help in the marketing of your book.
  2. Search for synonyms. Sometimes you have the right idea for your title, but it just doesn’t flow smoothly. If you simply google ‘[your word] define’, a list of synonyms will appear below the definition. These can help you find the perfect words for your perfect title.
  3. Experiment with different forms of speech. Once you get the right words, sometimes they still don’t flow. Sometimes you simple need to change the form of speech. Say you wanted your title to be something like “The Honesty Search”. That doesn’t flow very well. Change “search” from a noun into a verb. Now you have “Searching for Honesty”. You could change “honesty” from a noun into an adverb. “Honestly Searching” or “Searching Honestly”. You can get a variety of different titles by simply changing the form of speech.
  4. Define what is most important for your character. Your title should represent your book. Find what is at the heart of your book and try to turn that into the title. If you use this strategy, your readers will have one of those ‘a-ha moments’ when they see how your title fits perfectly into your book.
  5. Make sure there are no similarly titled books. It’s horrible for marketing to have a similarly titled book. People will constantly be confused about which book is the correct one if they don’t know your name.

Remember: If you are getting your book traditionally published, you don’t always get to chose your title. Sometimes the publishers change it. However, your title is generally the first thing that agent see when you query to them. Your title is important, even if it isn’t the final one chosen.

How do you choose your titles?

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★★   (4.50)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy22718738
Summary – Becoming Jinn is a magical tale of sixteen-year-old Azra, a teenage girl whose Jinn ancestry transforms her into a modern-day genie. With the power to grant anyone’s wish but her own, Azra pretends to be human, spending her days at the beach, enjoying a budding romance, and evading her Jinn destiny. But when she discovers she may not be like the rest of her circle of Jinn, will her powers save or endanger them all?
(Summary from Goodreads)
Initial Thoughts – I’ve never read a book before about genies, but this book certainly sets the bar high. I just absolutely loved the magic in the modern world aspect.
Plot – ★★★★☆ Becoming Jinn is fast paced and exciting, forcing me to read long past my bedtime.
Characters – ★★★★★ I fell in love with all of these characters. They all had their unique traits and backstories that I can’t wait to explore in the future books.
Story world – ★★★★★ It’s clear how much thought Goldstein put into her story world. From the history to the future of the genies, everything is decided down to the last detail.
Style – ★★★★☆ Goldstein’s smooth style pulls this novel along, forcing you to turn page after page.
Closing Thoughts – This is a must read book with a sequel coming out soon. If you want a modern magic story, this one is for you.

(summary and cover from Good Reads)

5 Tips for Motivating Yourself While Writing

Most days, you don’t really want to write. You know you should and you know you’ll feel better after you do, but you don’t want to. There’s Netflix and social media and that really good book you just started reading and all the other things that you have to do. Everyone can use a little motivation for writing. Here’s five ways to help yourself want to write.

  1. Try timing your writing. This is my favorite way to get myself to write a lot quickly. I set the timer for five minutes and write as quickly as I can. My goal used to be about 300 words, but with practicing my typing and my writing, I’ve been able to increase my goal to 1000 words. You simply have to write as quickly as you can for five minutes, without pausing the timer to answer your phone or check social media. Five minutes to just write with no interruptions. Understand that the speed writing you use here probably isn’t going to be quality, but you can edit it into perfection later. Just get the words out for now.
  2. Bribe yourself word by word. Sometimes if I simply don’t have the focus for timing my writing, I bribe myself with food. I can have a bit of chocolate after every 100 words. It makes my writing go faster and the words add up quickly. I wouldn’t recommend giving yourself a prize that can easily distract you. Don’t allow yourself five minutes of social media, because that can quickly turn into five hours.
  3. Bribe yourself goal by goal. In case you can’t tell, I’m big on bribing yourself. Instead of giving yourself a little prize for a little goal, give yourself a bigger prize for a big goal. Once you finish a chapter, maybe you can watch that episode you want to. Once you finish all of your outlining, you can finish that book you’ve been reading.
  4. Summarize what you are writing that day. If you are a pantser, it can be intimidating at times to just start writing. Especially if you know it’s an important scene. In informal voice, just figure out what you are going to be writing that day. It can be a few sentences or a few paragraphs. Giving yourself a direction to go can help get you started and make you more eager to write.
  5. Write something with your characters, but not your novel. Instead of writing a scene that is part of your novel, write a story about all of your characters going to a theme park or just hanging out at each others’ houses. You might discover things about your character that you didn’t know and be motivated to combine that into your novel.

What do you use to motivate yourself while writing?

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★★ (4.75)
Genre – Young Adult Science Fiction13138635
Summary – Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.
 (Summary from GoodReads)
Initial Thoughts – I’m a bit behind in reading this series, but I’m glad that I’m finally getting to it.
Plot – ★★★★★ This is an amazingly crafted novel. I never would have guessed the ending.
Characters – ★★★★★  I loved where these characters started off and ended up together. I fell in love with both of them.
Story world – ★★★★★ The story world is clearly very developed and look forward to exploring it in the next books.
Style – ★★★★☆  The style of these authors was very smooth and easy to read, but it was just missing a little something for me.
Closing Thoughts – I would definitely recommend this this series to anyone who is a fan of science fiction.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Active vs. Passive Voice

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Any writing blog you go to will tell you to eliminate passive voice to improve your writing. However, a lot of them fail to tell you how to identify  and eliminate passive sentences.

A passive sentence has a subject that isn’t doing the action of the verb. The verb is ‘acting upon’ the subject. Here’s an example below.

The grass was eaten by the horse.

See how the grass isn’t doing the action? The horse is eating, not the grass. So to change it into active, simply make it so that noun doing the action is the subject of the sentence.

The horse ate the grass.

See how much smoother and simpler that sentence is? In most cases, switching the nouns in the sentence and changing the verb to match the new subject will give you an active sentence. Let’s try another one.

The ball was kicked by Timothy. 

Timothy is doing the action, not the ball, so let’s switch the nouns.

Timothy  kicked the ball.

You don’t have to worry too much about writing in active voice on your first draft, but be sure to catch it in your edits.  Writing in active voice will make your prose smoother, more concise, and more professional.

 

Do you tend to use passive or active voice in your writing?

 

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★☆☆   (3.25)18392459
Genre – Young Adult Contemporary
Summary – Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed. They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.Two months to really live.
(Summary from GoodReads)
Initial Thoughts – I was pretty excited to read this book. I’d seen it a lot and the summary set up for a lot of interesting possibilities.
Plot – ★★★ There didn’t feel to be much of a plot for me. Since there were four POVs, it was difficult for any real subplots to form. Some plot lines would disappear and then reappear later, making it difficult to keep track of everything that was happening and stay interested.
Characters – ★★★★☆  Tommy Wallach did a pretty good job fighting against the labels that he set up for his characters. However, there were a few times when I disagreed with the ways that he portrayed some of the stereotypes.
Story world – ★★★☆☆  The story world isn’t described much. We get a few images of burning buildings and chaos, but nothing that really stuck with me.
Style – ★★★☆☆ Wallach’s style wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t memorable to me.
Closing Thoughts – In the end, this book left me disappointed and underwhelmed.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)