Friday, 26 October 2018

Exercises in Style by: Raymond Queneau + Serendipty Agency's YA Discovery Contest

Genre: Fiction, Writing
Published: February 17, 1981 by: New Directions
Pages: 204
Rating: 4/5 stars

Exercises in Style is a fiction-like book that I had to read for my creative writing class. I say fiction-like because the story within is essentially fiction, but the book itself is actually an instructional book on writing. In this book, the same short story about a confrontation on a bus is told over 70 times repeatedly, using different writing styles. One story is written entirely in metaphors, another formatted like an opera. The premise is to show that the possibilities to a writer's voice are endless.

I was very excited to start this book because I thought it would be very cool. I can barely think of 10 ways to write a story, and here, the author has written countless versions of the exact same thing, in formats that I didn't even know existed. It was quite fascinating.

The whole reason I had to read this book in class was for our study on a writer's voice. I myself find it hard as a writer to stick to a distinctive voice, and I don't think that I have truly found mine yet. But this book gave me plenty of ideas, and, while some formats were quite ridiculous, this book also gave me quite a laugh.

Obviously this book tells the same story over and over again, and so it did get repetitive after a while and especially frustrating when I couldn't even understand the format that he chose. But I do recommend this book for any aspiring writers who need help finding a voice.

And speaking of aspiring writers, if you are a new writer of YA, I am proud to feature a contest that may be for you:

Serendipity Literary Agency is hosting their 9th annual YA discovery contest, in which amateur YA writers submit the first 250 words of their novel for a chance to win an entire novel critique from literary agent Regina Brooks. There are also plenty of other opportunities to submit query letters and get discovered by agents. The contest begins November 1st, and you can find out more information on Serendipity Lit's website:

Overall I hope you guys are interested in the contest and best of luck if you do enter! Also, I hope you enjoyed my book review. I rarely ever read writing novels and so I was happy to give this one a feature.

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday, 19 October 2018

The Silver Star by: Jeannette Walls

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: June 11, 2013 by: Scribner
Pages: 267
Rating: 4/5 stars

Bean Holladay is living in 1970's California when her mother abandons her and her older sister Liz to go "find herself." The sisters get along fine for a while, but when the money runs out they decide to leave California and go live with their patient Uncle Tinsley in Virginia. While there, Bean learns more about her father's past in the war, and while she becomes fascinated with family history, her once bright sister begins to slip deeper into a depression, and is soon abused by the town bully, a wealthy man named Jerry Maddox. Soon Bean will have to take on the role of big sister, as well as learn more about the complicated race and class relations in 1970's Virginia.

Last summer I seemed to be on a mission to read whatever Jeanette Walls book I could get my hands on. I love her writing and I always seem to be fully captivated in all of her books. The worlds she creates are just incredible. While this book did keep me fully engrossed, it wasn't necessarily my favourite of hers, and this is mostly because of I think when a white writer is writing about race, there are always some issues needing to be brought up.

First off on a positive note, I did love the concept of this book. I think Walls did a great job at capturing the atmosphere of the South during the 70's, and the characters were also very well written. Bean was courageous and optimistic, and I really felt for Liz. Walls wrote amazing characters and made me feel a lot of emotion for them.

I was kept engaged through the entire book, however I did find some issues with some of the terms that Walls used. While I totally understand that she is writing a very harsh depiction of racial issues in Virginia during the time, frequent use of the n-word really shocked me because at the end of the day, she is a white author. Her white characters really do speak negatively and stereotypically of the black characters, and again, while this definitely did happen during the time, I wonder if Walls consulted black men and women living during the time period to draw upon their experiences. I cannot speak to whether or not the use of the n-word is ok in this context because I am not a black blogger, but I would love to read black reviewers thoughts on the subject. It just didn't sit well with me.

Overall, this book definitely had some great aspects to it, but like I said, I need to read some reviews from POC bloggers to see their opinions. It definitely did get me thinking.

Have you read The Silver Star? What did you think?

Friday, 5 October 2018

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by: Art Spiegelman

Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Published: November 1, 1991 by: Pantheon Books
Pages: 159
Rating: 5/5 stars

In an attempt to reconnect with his cantankerous and ailing father, Art Spiegelman begins writing and illustrating a story about his father's experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz. As his father recounts the blurry details of a horrific past, Art splits between writing about the war, and about how he wishes his father was less stubborn and a bit more compassionate to his patient wife. This graphic novel is a story about the gruesome details of the Holocaust, but it is also about the long-term affects that the war had on the elderly, and the relationships severed because of it.

This book was flawless. The illustrations were poignant, heartbreaking, and so incredibly real, and the story of Art's father was heartbreaking. What's unique about this book is that Art uses the metaphor of the cat and mouse in his illustrations. All Jews in the book are drawn as mice, and all Nazi's are drawn as cats. These details really show the harsh authority that took over the war, and the innocence of the victims.

I loved how this graphic novel didn't really read like one. I do not like graphic novels that have too many pictures and not enough text, but this one was overflowing with rich dialogue that felt like I was reading just a regular book. You can tell that Art is as talented a writer as he is an illustrator.

This book is special because it flips between Art's father in the 1940's, and how he is now. You can really see the affect that the Holocaust had on his mental health, and that has made the relationship with his son difficult. This is a brilliant novel that explores much more than you ever thought you knew about the Holocaust.

Have you read Maus? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess