Monday, April 30, 2018

National Poetry Month 2018 - A Wrap Up

Greetings Pups,

Well, it's the final day of April and, therefore, the final day of National Poetry Month. I know I've talked about this time of year on quite a few occasions, but I've never done a wrap up of how I, someone who loves, reads and of course, writes poetry, decided to spend this month that centers around it. For some people. Still, at the moment, I have nothing more interesting to share with you all, nor did I have time to go into anything too in depth, thanks to life things, as always. So, we're doing this.

One of the things I decided to do was partake in some poetry that was written by others. When you write your own, you can very easily get wrapped up in that and it may cause you to ignore the work of your fellow artists. So, I thought I'd read a couple of books. One was Blackbird Singing by Paul McCartney, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, and That Shining Place by Mark Van Doren, which may or may not have peeked my interest due to the connection to one of my favorite movies, Quiz Show. Go watch it and you'll find out. Another thing I did was visit social media and hit up some hashtags that had to do with poetry, so I could check out what others were posting this month. I must say, I am clearly not the only one to share my work a lot, and there are some decent poets out there. Nice to know that something edifying can spring from Twitter and whatnot.

Speaking of which, I took to my own Instagram to share some of my verses. Every day I did it, as a matter of fact. Here's hoping I didn't annoy anyone, but I did get quite a few likes and some more followers, so thumbs up on that, I suppose. And I must give some thanks for that to a lovely app called TextGram which I have certainly taken advantage of to make my plain little words look all nice and pretty. That's probably the closest I'll ever come to being a visual artist, but you never know.

Finally, I celebrated the month by doing what I do every day - writing. And I continued to work on my latest collection of poetry, polishing and editing and all that. Not to mention that I've been coming up with some song lyrics which are basically the same thing as poetry. Point is, I spent this April fulfilling my calling as a writer, and I think I came up with some decent stuff. Again, some people on the interwebs seem to think I'm not bad at all at this. Though, I still wait for the day when someone important notices me. And by "important", I mean someone with some influence, or possibly minions, who will see my stuff and like it and spread the word about it. I could use the help.

In closing, I enjoyed this go round with National Poetry Month, and I must say, it is nice to see that this whole thing is still being acknowledged. Realizing that there are some people in the world who still appreciate the somewhat archaic thing that I take part in. And remember, my fellow poets, if any of those who surround you turn up their nose and snidely ask why you write what you do, just show them that quote where Tom Hiddleston says he loves poetry, then ask them what THEY can do that a cute boy loves. Mic drop! No, wait. Quill drop!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, April 21, 2018

GoodReads Activity

Greetings Pups,

So, I've spent all week talking about books. May as well end said week by talking about a place where many people go to talk about books (for better or worse) GoodReads.

A weird thing happened earlier this year. My author page on the GoodReads finally got a few followers. Of course, I have to credit that with the House of Leaves book club I joined on Facebook, since I posted my link on someone's comment for some reason. I think they were specifically asking for it, though trying to remember at this point would be, well, pointless. So, since I now have some people following me there, I am entertaining the possibility of giving them a reason to do so.

Apparently, one can start a blog on the page that bears their name. I know I already have a blog - this one - but over there I will be forced to talk about books. Believe it or not, I've never actually done a review on that site. Sure, I've given stars many times (still no 1/2 stars!) but I have never written a review of a book on the GoodReads website. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because I was doing it over here. Or maybe because I didn't want certain authors to attack me if I think their book isn't the best thing since War and Peace. Yeah, apparently that's a thing that some authors do, I've heard. I won't mention names, so you can look that up on your own. Rest assured, I am not one of them. Anyway, it can't be the worst idea to spread around my bookish opinions.

Speaking of books and GoodReads and me, I may also have to pull my own books from there very soon. At least those editions. You see, when I am granted some kind of financial miracle, I will be repackaging my past books to make them look a bit more professional, same as with my upcoming books. And by more professional, I mean I may actually seek some outside help from people who know what they're doing. See, when I first self-published, I had no idea what I was doing, and it shows. I still barely know what I'm doing. I think I may have mentioned this before, but as it has been so long since I've posted, I may have understandably forgotten. But hopefully, with some help, many kinds of help, I can pull this off.

So, even though I have my issues with GoodReads (like the 1/2 star thing I mentioned!), it may be a decent idea to take advantage of their services as an author and see if it does any good. Here's hoping. Oh, and happy reading.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, April 20, 2018

Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

There is something extremely comforting about an author that you can trust. Like, when you pick up one of their books, you know what you're going to get, from the quality to the kind of story to how it makes you feel. One writer who fits this description quite well is Janet Evanovich. I've been reading her books for years and I know that I'm always going to have a good time with them.

On occasion, Evanovich has teamed up with other writers. Just last year, I read several installments of the Fox and O'Hare series that she writes with Lee Goldberg, which I love and must get around to reviewing someday. And a couple of years ago, she started another one with Phoef Sutton, the Knight and Moon series. And the first book is the one I'll be discussing today, Curious Minds. And before I forget to mention it, Phoef Sutton? Possibly the best name ever. Moving on.

Curious Minds was released in 2016, and the sub-titular characters are Emerson Knight and Riley Moon. Emerson is a very rich young man, who, in addition to having no shortage of money, has no shortage of eccentricities, who is not exactly tactful when it comes to interacting with people and who is, of course, very handsome. Riley is a graduate of Harvard Law and Business schools, who just started working at a prestigious bank and also has just been charged with checking up on one of their clients. Namely, Emerson.

Right off the bat, Riley is a bit put off by Emerson and his strangeness. But remember, he's handsome, so she also takes notice of that, as well as the way that he likes to have poke a lot of fun at her personality, which runs very much counter to his. Before we know it, we're in the middle of a pretty elaborate plot, with missing gold and missing people, and murder, and conspiracy theories. There's so much . . . stuff, but it's okay, because you just go along for the ride. And it is kind of a crazy ride, helped along by the cast of odd characters that Emerson and Riley come across as they are forced to team up, Scooby Gang style, to solve a pretty big mystery. Oh, and there's also an armadillo. Don't ask. Just read.

I went into this book with high expectations of having a lot of fun, because, as I said, I trust Janet Evanovich. And I certainly did enjoy this book. Especially the characters. Especially Emerson. Yeah, it's official. Much like with the Fox and O'Hare series, the Knight and Moon series has given me yet another book boyfriend. Like I needed another one.

Now, I'd like to talk about how this book is different from others I've read by Evanovich, due to, I think, the collaboration aspect. When I pick up a book by Janet Evanovich, I expect fun. I expect to laugh. I expect something lighthearted but very good. With this series, I got all those things, though not quite as much. The Knight and Moon series, again, much like its predecessor, is a bit more serious than what I expect from this author. Don't get me wrong. She has not done a 180, but there are a few more dark moments and the whole thing is heavier. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I think that all of these aspects put together give the book a very nice balance. So, you're gonna have fun, but you'll also get some tense moments. All of it makes for a pretty entertaining story.

Look, I don't think I have to recommend any books by Janet Evanovich to her fan base and those who haven't read her stuff would probably want to start with the Plum novels. But if you wanna give this one a glance, it's definitely worth it. As of right now, there's only one other book in the series, and I intend to check that one out as well. Hopefully, this is the start of another great literary relationship.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tori Amos: In the Studio by Jake Brown - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

I have to admit it. I am a bit of a "Behind the Scenes" voyeur. I love knowing what happens behind what happens. It's just one of my things. I am someone who always watches the special features on a DVD and don't even get me started on how a great commentary track can thrill me. And, of course, I gravitate toward books that let me delve into those worlds, too. And that is just the experience I got when I read Tori Amos: In the Studio.

I am a huge admirer of Tori Amos, something I have made abundantly clear here, so that is why I got this book for myself. It was published in 2011 and written by music journalist, Jake Brown, who has written quite a few books like this about various artists and styles of music. And this was so well done that I am seriously considering checking out some more of his work.

In this book, we get some insight into Tori's early life and then we start getting into the musical career. All of it. Including a not so great first album. No, not the acclaimed Little Earthquakes, but something else that true Tori fans know about. It was a pretty low . . . a very low point for her, but it ended up giving her a push to figuring out who she wanted to be as an artist. Mostly, by figuring out what she did NOT want to be. See, that's why we must never fear failures, because they create the steps we climb to our own success. Oh, and when that album came out, some article had referred to her as a bimbo. To which she responded in an interview I once saw, "Fair enough." I love you, Tori.

Anyway, each chapter of this book deals with her individual albums, but it stops just short of Night of Hunters, sadly, as that is my favorite album by Tori. Still, I was so drawn in to what was being written about her work. It goes pretty in depth when it comes to her process and things that inspired her music on each of the projects. And if you know anything about Tori, you'll know that the stories she can tell about her process as an artist and where her ideas come from can be just as intriguing as the songs themselves. So, no surprise, I loved reading everything she had to say about that.

I suppose if I had a complaint it would be that I wished it was longer. Because this is not a long book at all, especially considering how much time it covers and who it covers. It could have been three times longer and I absolutely would not complain about that. There were a lot of quotes and stories from Tori herself, and all of that was interwoven very nicely with the writer's take on everything. So, yes, I would have been happy to read even more of it.

As a music lover, I am always interested in how an artist works and what inspires them, regardless of who the artist is, though I have my favorites. But I would recommend this book to others who enjoy knowing about a songwriter's process, especially if you're a fan of Tori Amos, or are interested in her story. This book was a fascinating read and truly let's you get into the head of the artist, even if it's another artist who is holding open the door.

Love and Full Moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

I am someone who very much appreciates the arts, even the type of arts that I don't partake in. Or that I'm not necessarily good at. So, I do enjoy some crossing over of mediums when it comes to that. So, it was inevitable that I would pick up a book by a writer who clearly has an appreciation for the art of painting. It was also inevitable that I would pick up a book by a writer who I have enjoyed in the past. Therefore, after wanting to do so for a very long time, I finally read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.

The Swan Thieves is the 2010 follow up to Kostova's wildly successful book, The Historian. A book, mind you, that I have already reviewed and very much enjoyed. Again, her writing delves into history, but this time her focus is more on the world of art, specifically paintings, as I mentioned. The story here starts when a renowned artist, Robert Oliver, is arrested because he nearly attacks a painting in the National Gallery. Subsequently, a psychiatrist named Andrew Marlowe is called in to take over the care of this new patient. While Oliver reveals little to nothing about himself or his motives, Marlowe is forced to dig deeper than he ever has for answers. In his search, he discovers a few people who have had an impact on Oliver, one that would even be considered an obsession to him, and Marlowe realizes that they are as much of a mystery as Oliver himself.

As with her previous novel, Kostova does a bit of time jumping in this, as well as changing perspectives quite a bit. We get the perspective of Marlowe, as well as two women in Oliver's life. Those are the present day stories. But we also are told the story of characters from the far past, through narrative as well as letters, which tie in to the present, and tell a very compelling tale. Interestingly enough, we don't get much of anything from the view of the artist Robert Oliver, which leaves him as much of a mystery to us as to the people around him in the book. But, in regards to all this aforementioned jumping around, it's not that confusing at all. We always know the where, the when and the who.

One more thing that Kostova carried over from The Historian is her attention to details. Her books are very detailed and that lends itself to the descriptions and the actual writing. The good news here is that all those details didn't bog down the progression of the story as much as it could have. Now, when I talked about her first book, I did mention this way of writing with her and I also may have mentioned that, despite how well it's written, one more trip to the editor might not have been the worst idea. Just to help the whole thing move a bit more. I didn't have that issue with this book, personally. In my opinion, whether it was because of better editing or a better story or something else, I found it much easier to get through and I read it much more quickly. To me, that's a very good thing, although, I do like to take some time with her books, just to let all the good detailing and info sink in. True, I would not put anything of hers on a 24 Hour Readathon TBR.

I suppose I ended up liking this book better than her first, which is an opinion that not everyone agrees with. But, for me, I was just drawn in to the story and the characters more than I was in The Historian. By the way, I'm not knocking that first book. I still think it's great. I just had more of an emotional connection to this one.

In closing, I would recommend The Swan Thieves, especially if you like Elizabeth Kostova's other work or if you're a fan of the world of artists and painters. It deals a lot with what a person can go through because of a gift they may have and how it can effect their whole life. As a type of artist myself, I can certainly relate to that and appreciate it greatly.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics, 1965 to 1999 by Paul McCartney - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

As you may know, perhaps because I've mentioned it here, April is National Poetry Month. Naturally, I had to read a couple of poetry books just for the occasion. And on the first day of the month, I read one that I've owned for quite a while and have merely glanced through but never dug deep into. It was about time that I did a proper reading of Blackbird Singing by Paul McCartney.

This book was released in 2001 and, as you can tell by the full title, it contains lyrics and poems that he has written from 1965 to 1999. Why nothing before that? Well, in my opinion, when it comes to lyrics written pre-65, I think even Paul wouldn't know where the McCartney ends and where the Lennon begins. Yes, their collaborations, partnership and friendship were that strong. At that time. If you are an admirer of The Beatles, you'll know that it was around the mid-sixties that the Paul songs and the John songs became pretty distinct, even though they were all labeled Lennon/McCartney. But enough about that.

In Blackbird Singing, you'll find many familiar songs that Paul wrote during his time with The Beatles, with Wings and from his solo career. Good luck trying not to hear the melodies in your head as you read them. If you can, you're a stronger person than I am. Truth be told, I am known for loving a good and complete set of liner notes when I buy an album. Seriously, if there aren't lyrics in there, I can get a bit miffed, because I actually enjoy reading lyrics. So, naturally, these familiar words were the ones I gravitated to more so as I was working my way through this book.

Now, what about the poetry? Well, it's certainly not bad. A few, I think, were actually very good and very moving, even. That description particularly applies to the poems that are clearly personal to him, subject-wise, such as being about his late wife, or his family, or lost friends. And like most writers, he shines when he can tap into the deepest parts of himself. But here's the thing about Paul McCartney, according to me and, perhaps, a few others. I've always felt that he was far better at the music part of songwriting than the lyrical part. He's kinda like the opposite of me. Although, don't get me wrong. On his worst day of verse writing he's probably better than most so-called songwriters on their best. Still, when I think of Paul, I think more of his melodies than words. I'm saying that I believe that his words shine the most when they are attached to his music. This is probably why, whilst I did enjoy this book and I enjoyed reading those words with merely an accompaniment of silence, I didn't get as much of a feeling from them as I would had I been reading lyrics or poems from someone like Leonard Cohen or Tori Amos.
But, again, the word 'bad' would not be found anywhere near this collection.

So, would I recommend this? I'd say yes if you are a fan of poetry and if you're a fan of Sir Paul, it would be a nice add to your collection. I'm not saying you have to rush to get to this one, but it's a nice easy read and all those classic song lyrics might hit you right in the nostalgia. I'm glad I own it. I'm glad I read it. And if you like yourself some good, old McCartney, I think you'll feel the same way.

Wow, this review was short as heck. But so are poems, usually, so there you go.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, April 16, 2018

Innocence by Dean Koontz - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

You know how there are certain authors who you know about and you're really familiar with their work, but then one day you stop and say to yourself, "Hmm, I don't think I've read anything by that writer." Well, for me, that author has been Dean Koontz. To be honest, I may have read something of his in the past, but it's been so long that I've forgotten. That's a shot at my poor memory, not his ability to write a memorable story. Anyway, I decided that, this year, I would make an effort to read some books by the prolific Mr. Koontz. I was inspired when one of my favorite YouTubers, Travis McBee, did a whole video showing off his massive collection of books by this particular author. He called it his Koontzy Collection. I'd judge him if that isn't what I'd call it myself. So, after hearing him give some rapid fire and spoiler-free reviews of his many, MANY books, I knew that 2018 would be the year of Dean Koontz for me. But only if I started on a good note. And it certainly did with the book I'm going to discuss today, Innocence.

Innocence is a 2013 novel about a young man named Addison Goodheart (no, really) and he lives underground. Like, literally, underground, under the city. He is forced to hide himself because he looks a certain way that makes people turn extremely violent toward him when they see him. Why? What is it about him? Is he disfigured? Is he too ugly, too beautiful? Is this a Powder situation? You don't know, but that's part of the mystery.

Anyway, one night he comes across a young woman named Gwyneth, who is running from a man that is clearly trying to harm her. Turns out, she knows about some hidden parts of the city about as well as Addison does, and she's got some issues of her own. Much like how Addison doesn't want to be looked at, Gwyneth does not want to be touched. So, they realize that this understanding and accepting of the other's needs makes them a perfectly matched pair. Which is good, because they have a long road ahead of them. One that the reader will be compelled with which to follow along.

As the book begins, you will start to find a lot of questions being thrown at you about the characters and the world that surrounds them, ultimately making this a mystery novel. But it is the curiosity and the want to answer the questions and solve the mysteries that makes the reader want to continue. So, everything is propelling you forward because you just really want to know what the deal is with everything and everyone.

If I had to make any gripe, it would be that this one pretty major plot point that leads us straight to the ending kind of comes out of nowhere. I mean, I really didn't see it coming and as far as I gathered, there weren't any obvious clues that gave it away. Of course, since I was so engrossed in the story, I figured "Hey, let's just go with it." And I was fine. Now I have heard a few other complaints about the reveal of why Addison can't be looked at. Some people didn't like the reason that was given. I'll admit it, I didn't see that one coming either, but I found it rather interesting. I also find it interesting that some people are qualifying this as a horror novel. I mean, I suppose there are some aspects of the book that could easily be considered horrific, but full on horror? I'm just not feeling that. Still, I don't think it matters what category you put it in. It's good any way you look at it.

Speaking of which, if I may say, the writing in this book is absolutely beautiful. The descriptions, the words that were chosen, everything was just fantastic. Clearly, I have been missing out all this time I haven't been reading Dean Koontz books. The man has an incredible gift. I guess that would explain his massive success as a writer. Just kidding. We all know that one does not require writing talent to sell a lot of books. But thankfully, he has it.

In conclusion, I am definitely recommending Innocence, especially to anyone like me, who wants to dive head first into the world of The Koontz. Or anyone like me, who simply loves beautiful writing. Either way. In fact, I am so impressed and inspired by this man's work that I might even write him a letter. An actual letter. With pen and paper. Because he totally has an old school P.O. Box. Good times! It's just another reason to like the guy.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Back To Books Week: Third Time's the Charm

Greetings Pups,

So . . . it's been a while. Sorry about that. It wasn't a planned sabbatical, but as usual, life gets in the way of things. I mean, if you follow me on social media and saw that video I put up of the current state of my basement . . . sorry, "basement", then you'll know about just one of the things I'm dealing with. So, yes, I am still struggling with that every day, but I'm still hanging on. By a thread, but still hanging on.

Anyway, I saw that the last thing I posted was a book review, thus, I figured why not continue on with another "Back to Books" week, full of even more book reviews, plus, some other stuff to talk about. As it happens, I am far ahead on my Reading Challenge for the year, so I thought it might be a good idea to discuss a few of the many books I've been reading. It's been a roller coaster of a year as far as quality of the books goes, in my opinion. But there's nothing quite better than finding yourself immersed in a 5 star story after you had to suffer through a pile of 2's.

Lucky for y'all, I'm gonna focus on some of the better ones that I've had the pleasure of reading. Yeah, it's more fun to talk about the crappy things, and I do love to warn people about what they should stay away from, but what with all the negativity surrounding my life, perhaps it would be better to stay positive on this.

So, come back tomorrow and we will begin the week of getting back to books.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer