Thursday, June 25, 2015

Viper Wine, Book Review

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

Viper Wine is set in 17th century Britain and revolves around the relationship of Kenelm and Venetia Digby, their love for each other and the individual obsessions that destroy their love. For Sir Kenelm, alchemy and the quest for knowledge become his hamartia while Lady Digby’s fatal flaws are youth and beauty.

Ms. Eyre does a masterful job of exploring Venetia’s vanities and her dependence on viper wine to maintain her beauty. And lest the reader feel too superior, the author juxtaposes Venetia’s foolishness with our own society’s youth and beauty obsessions resulting in everything from fad diets to breast enhancement to liposuction. However, in exploring Sir Kenelm’s folly, the author misses the mark. Kenelm is a bit too disconnected from the narrative and his own life for the reader to fully vest in him. And the brain messages he receives are often jarring to the narrative flow of the text.

Despite this, the writing itself is usually clean and lovely. I felt like with a bit more editing, particularly in the last quarter, this novel could have been a more fluid and engaging read.

N.B. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review, Emotions in the Wild

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I first heard about this book, I was struck by how much I wanted it. How it filled a need I didn’t even know I had.

As any writer knows, one of the most difficult things to communicate is the emotion of a character. How can you communicate a character’s feelings subtly yet distinctly? In other words, how do you show these emotions to your reader without telling them? And how can you do so without using clich├ęs?

Ms. Garver’s book Emotions in the Wild is a guided journal that shows writers how to use the power of observation in their everyday lives to create an “emotions bible” to guide them in crafting a unique reference book for their writing, a personal source book for help in describing what an emotion (anger, jealousy, etc.) looks like, sounds like, and even how it might be provoked.

The book begins with an introduction explaining how to use the journal. The rest of the book is divided into emotion chapters—a total of 39 different emotions are given for examination. Each chapter includes pithy quotations from famous individuals to stimulate thought about the emotion. Following the quotes are sections where the writer records observations on the particular emotion’s “Common Triggers,” “Facial Expressions,” “Postures and Movements,” “Range of Reactions Observed,” and “Related Words, Idioms, and Phrases.”

In the past when I’ve been stumped with how to describe or explain something, I’ve often used Roget’s “Concept Index,” but now I’m looking forward to incorporating this journal into my life and watching it bear fruit in my writing. Five Stars! Click here to buy it.

Me and my copy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Stainless Steel Man

Matt leaving the hospital.
I wanted to title this post “Iron Man,” but Matthew isn’t Iron Man. He’s Medical Grade, Stainless Steel Man. During the surgery (see previous post), Matthew had two metal bars and two small plates implanted into his chest. That sounds cool. The reality…not so much.

Here are the recovery highlights.

1. Matthew is five weeks into recovery—which means that in one more week, he’ll be able to bend, twist, lay on his side, use a pillow, and get in and out of bed on his own. Woot!

2. He has discovered that when he breathes (even though it’s painful), his chest expands out to the sides. Before, he was using his stomach muscles to breathe.

3. Matthew can never be a recreational drug user. According to the anesthesiologist, morphine has no effect on him. (Yeah, you take encouragement wherever you can.)

4. I realize that he’s a much better patient than I would ever be. I know I’d be whining and complaining.

5. I've caught him with refrigerator magnets, trying to figure out if they'll stick to his chest.

6. He is not above taking advantage of his situation.

     A. This morning, he pointed at the French press. I said, “Pour it yourself.” He said, “It’s more than two pounds.” I poured him a cup—but I’m seriously thinking of weighing the pot.

     B. I am not always as quick at doing what he wants when he wants it.

The only chair he’s allowed to sit in is a massive wingback chair, which has to be carried wherever he wants to be. That thing is a beast, so I’m not always eager to move it. The other day, I found Matt in the living room sitting in the wingback, which had been in the dining room.

I said: How did that thing get in the living room?
Matt: I dragged it.
Me (hands on hips, narrowed eyes): Dude, that’s way more than two pounds
Matt (smirking): I dragged it with my foot.
Me: So you balanced your unsteady body on one foot, dragged the chair with the other?
Matt: Yep.
Me: And the possibility of falling during this feat of gymnastics?
Matt: (shrug)
Me: To the long list Things-You-Are-Not-Allowed-To-Do add dragging chair with your foot.

Now if I take too long, Matt says, I’m thinking of dragging the chair with my foot.

I respond: If you do, I will pick up a tree and kill you. Because if you do something stupid and those bars pop, you'd rather be dead.