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book reviews in 200 words

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August 2016

My Best Friend’s Exorcism – a book review in 200 words

My Best Friend’s Exorcism
by Grady Hendrix

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Grady Hendrix, author of the Orsk store turned hell-house tale, Horrorstör, has taken us for another scary-fun and disturbing journey with his new book, My Best Friend’s Exorcism.  I originally picked up the book because of the title, but the design of the book served as the clincher; it mimics a 1980s high school yearbook, signatures, ads and all.

Horror fans will enjoy the book’s smorgasbord of terrible things, from uncontrollable vomiting to animal mutilation.  But, the truly terrifying scenes present the demon, in teen girl form, masterfully exploiting all her friend’s insecurities – boys, bodies, friendships, and social status.

The two best friends, Abby and Gretchen, are popular.  They are untroubled, complacent.  They are self-absorbed as only teen girls can be.  Until a night of partying, when Gretchen disappears overnight.  With Gretchen’s return, Abby is slowly stripped of all her assurances and comfort.  We, the horrified audience, can only watch the story unfold bit by gruesome bit.

Children of the ‘80s will enjoy the nostalgia: song references, fashion choices, devil worshippers, cult members, and being a teen before cell phones were a thing.  Really, there’s nothing like a possessed teen to scare your pants off!

Rating: 89/100

Buy My Best Friends Exorcism at Barnes & Noble

She remembered being “buzzed on the dopamine high of belonging to someone else, having a total stranger choose you, someone who wanted to know you, another person who cared that you were alive.” – on being a best friend, My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Brady Hendrix

Book Review Rating System

When I am asked to rate a book, I always feel like 5 stars or even 10 half-stars are such limiting options.  Let’s say, I love the unfolding of the story but the ending was terrible (Girl on the Train).  I’d still give it 5 stars.  Or, what if I love, Love, LOVE the book and will tell all my friends that they should read it but it’s not for everyone because it is extremely sad (A Little Life) – yep, 5 stars.  How about Grady Hendrix’s really scary and inventive, My Best Friend’s Exorcism?  Really good scary story, but is it really on par with Toni Morrison’s Beloved?  You see what I mean?

So, I’m going to try something different and see how it goes.  I’m going to use a 100 point scale.  Just like grading papers.  Here’s the rundown:

1-20:  I will probably try to forget that I read this book.

20-40: Passable effort, but overall did not care for this book.

40-60: Either the story, the idea or the writing is good, but there are major flaws.

60-80: Now we’re getting somewhere; liked it; may recommend to friends.

80-90: Loved this book and will recommend it to friends.

90-99: I probably will not be able to shut up about this book.

100: (Not sure this is an achievable score – we’ll see.)

 

Featured post

Thank You, Authors!

I was reading Zachary Petit’s book The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing (which you all should read because it is full of very, very good advice AND you should get it at Barnes & Noble because that’s where I work).  In his book, Mr. Petit explains he is a big believer in the Thank You note.  If you read something you appreciate, you should send the author a note just to tell them what you enjoyed, because authors like to hear it and don’t get that praise as often as we think.  So, I tweeted Mr. Petit a little thank you for the really good advice in his book.  Just sending my gratefulness out into the Universe.

AND I got a reply!

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So, AUTHORS DO APPRECIATE US READERS!

Again, following the advice in Mr. Petit’s (fabulous) book, I put together this website, a place to point editors who would surely (oh, please!) be looking for examples of my work in the very near future.

I took a vacation from my regular job, and wrote like a maniac.  Two of the items I worked on were reviews of books that I recently really enjoyed (read the reviews here: The Ecliptic and A Little Life).  For fun, I posted them on my social media with thank yous to the authors.

Guess what?!?

Both authors replied.

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You’re welcome, Benjamin Wood
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OMG, Hanya Yanagihara!

So, here is the reason for this post.  I have always found, and am still finding, writing to be a solitary endeavor full of self-doubt and a lot of what-the-hell-am-I-doing-this-for moments.  But then, you put something out into the world, and someone actually says they appreciate it.  That.  That one little note from a stranger who liked what you had to say.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to pick up the pen or get back on the computer.

If you have a favorite author or have found a new author whose work you enjoyed, send them a note (or a tweet or Instagram them) just as a reminder that we, the readers, appreciate their hard work.  Hey, author, you are not toiling away for nothing and we love your work!

And even though you’re not doing it for you’re own recognition, you never know what might happen!

So, what authors would you like to thank? Have you ever gotten a response tweet from a favorite author?  Leave me a comment!

15 Word Story Writing Challenge!

I have a challenge for all my writing friends out there!  I’ve found this to be fun and challenging while making me think about every word used and its exact meaning.

Here is the challenge:

WRITE A STORY IN ONE SENTENCE (15 word max) ABOUT A LUMINOUS FEATHER.

Here is mine:

Father aimed, shot; an incandescent feather fell and his winged daughter, possessed, radiant, flew on.

Please share by putting yours in the comments.  Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Haiku Anxiety

​There is disquiet

In my brain, doubt settles in.

I am a lost thing.

A Little Life – a book review in 200 words

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life will kill your heart.  Once finished, you will need to binge watch Disney movies for days.  But, this book. A life changer.

A Little Life is a mystery/romance/straight-up literary read about four boys right out of college who move to New York to start their careers.  Willem, JB, Malcolm and Jude; actor, artist, architect and lawyer.  Yanagihara throws you directly into the thick of things, so some readers may find it difficult to navigate  the beginning, as you must sort out who is who.  Do not give up.  Understanding comes quickly after the first few chapters.

As in real life, all of the boys are somewhat broken, but the meat of the book centers around Jude.  Jude is damaged, physically and mentally.  He doesn’t talk about it, his friends don’t ask.  Not surprisingly, Jude finds myriads of ways to hurt himself, and by extension, them. How does he deserve these friends?

In the most simple, beautiful language I have ever read, Yanagihara writes about self-harm, suicide, depression, abuse, victim-hood, orphan-hood, trauma, friendship, relationships, love and family.  This 2015 Man Booker Prize finalist is a must-read and has become one of my top five reads of all time!

Rating: 96/100

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

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