Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RainForest Pickings #4 - Book Reviews

Science Fiction, Mystery, and Writing Instruction Titles
New and Old

Showing & Telling, The Keys to Powerful & Balanced Writing, by Laurie Alberts, Writing Instructions.

Published in 2010 through fw media for Writer’s Digest books. Laurie is an author of several books, including three novels. She teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Per Laurie, “The truth is good writing almost always requires both showing and telling. The trick is finding the right balance of scene and summary - the two basic components of creative prose.” This book shows how to employ these techniques within a narrative. Through seventeen chapters we are shown examples via excerpts from various published writers.

An excellent book for the novice writer in particular, this book attempts to dispel the confusion attached to the common advice of ‘show, don’t tell’. Laurie explains what is needed to attain the balance between the two, and includes a short story --Russia is a Fish -- at the end to illustrate some of the techniques. This is the best reference I’ve found that is easy to understand, and has practical ways to employ what is taught.

Highly recommended for any writers. I wish she had written this sooner in my writing life.


OLDER TITLES - (the worth-a-2nd-look books)

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Mystery/Suspense.

Published in Penguin Books 2005, this book became a NY Times bestseller. Originally published in Spanish.

Another book referenced on writing blogs, the Shadow of the Wind begins in 1945 when a young boy discovers the book by that name hidden in a book cellar in post-war Barcelona, Spain. It entangles him in a journey he could never have planned for himself. The dire meaning of consequences creeps into his own world as he investigates deeper into the secrets of the past.

This amazing story kept me intrigued throughout. The characters interact from their youth to their adulthood, entwined endlessly in a series of events which impact many lives. It’s a great mix of intrigue, historical issues and family ties in one of the old baronial towns, a place where one family ruled the lives of all within their reach.

Zafon weaves a complex tale. I’d read more by this author.


C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton - published 1986; crime/detective novel

Kinsey Millhone, PI, is at it again. She's offered a job by a young man, a casual acquaintance at her gym. Suffering from the results of an earlier car accident, the young man insists someone is out to kill him. Kinsey agrees to help. With very little to start with, she learns of an important address book.  But no one knows where it's stored.

Hampered in her investigations by her client’s loss of memory, the search for the real killer begins when her client succumbs in a second auto accident. Kinsey must navigate the society parties complete with high profile doctors, therapists, and questionable best friends as she tries to solve the murder. Dysfunctional families can be found anywhere, and wealthy enclaves are no exception.

I like the Millhone attitude, and what Grafton does with it.  I'd like to read more.  Look for the Alphabet series. if you like the detective novel style.  I do.


The Stand by Stephen King - unabridged / Author replaced pages originally edited out of manuscript, Horror/thriller, republished 1990.

Never read this when it first came out, but happened upon the unabridged version when packing for the last move. I know it’s old, but it’s been mentioned so much as being one of King’s better stories, one that has stood the test of time. So, I thought I would give it a chance - and surprisingly, I breezed through the 78 chapters and 1138 pages, including the 150,000 words/and many pages that were originally cut and subsequently replaced by the author.

A disaster of mega proportions occurs when a volatile germ is unleashed upon society-at-large, leaving medical facilities and government institutions scrambling to catch up. At the same time, beliefs are challenged in this dystopia, as dreams start to infiltrate the sleep of those who survive. Some dream of hope, and others dream of a walking man, intent on evil.  The crux occurs in the desert.

It's one of those books you like to read, but you hope the situation never happens to you.