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Book Review: Zorrie, by Laird Hunt

  Book review of  Zorrie , by Laird Hunt   Character studies must be very difficult to write, especially if almost nothing happens by way of plot—so it’s testimony to author Laird Hunt that ‘ Zorrie ' is such an excellent read. Zorrie’s an upper Midwest farm girl, orphaned, growing up in the 1930’s. She becomes a ‘ghost girl,’ painting luminous material on to clock faces––a blithe, historical use of radium that casts a shadow of tragedy over the story. Zorrie has no superpowers—she’s average in most every way—but we get taken deep into her thoughtfulness, demonstrating that a ‘simple’ life is never that simple. Life mostly happens to Zorrie, and even her few attempts at striking out in later life lead her right back to where she started. It’s beautiful, touching, and sad. The prose, in tone, strikes me like a summer morning on a Midwest farm: too ordinary to comment on, too stunning for words. The language is spot on, not only the Indiana dialogue, but the internal voice, a matter-

Book Review - The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Book Review:  The Name of the Wind , by Patrick Rothfuss     One of the things I look for is great world-building. Whatever the genre, it’s important, but none more so (nor more enjoyable) than in fantasy.   Patrick Rothfuss’  The Name of the Wind  delivers a comprehensive, fully-built world that seems believable and sufficiently tactile. The magic, as it’s revealed, shows a thoughtful balance of alchemy, willpower, resources and study, so that it resembles the ‘real world’ arc of discovery. While much of this world relies on a familiar, vaguely English 18 th  century backdrop, the fantastical elements of magic, beasts, and powerful figures are hugely enjoyable.   The story follows Kvothe, delivered mostly in first person, as a boy and as a teen, encountering indifference, friendship, love and power structures; some of the struggles are predictable, others delightfully surprising. Readers should be aware that, at 722 pages, this novel only gets his story partly told––and as much as I e

Character Names Part 2

Blog #4 Creating Character Names As mentioned before, one of the things I enjoy most in writing is giving my characters names. For what it’s worth, here are some of my own guidelines: Free associate : I envision my character’s appearance and personality, then see what pops out of the ol’ subconscious. Often, I’ll be writing a scene and wait until the character makes his/her entrance before I first reach for a name––and it’s amazing how often something just emerges. It’s also when I’ll often come up with half a dozen names at once; write them all down; then drop them in the text one by one. Often the first one sticks. Evolve the name : Let’s say you’ve always liked the name Rebecca (love that name) and you have a female heroine for which it seems to be perfect. Well, in fantasy, you can’t generally use ‘real’ names because they have too much association with ‘reality.’ So: evolve it. This is best done out loud. Rebecka, Rebbeka, Recca, Reaba, Berecca, Brecca, etc. When you hit the right

Character Names part 1

I love coming up with character names. Before sharing my own thoughts on name creation, I’d like to share two of my favorite sources from literature and screen. In classic literature, it’s top hats off to Charles Dickens as my favorite author of character assignation by name. Is there any question that the slimy, falsely humble character in  David Copperfield  is perfectly named as  Uriah Heep ? What about  Mr. Bumble , the officious beadle of  Oliver Twist ? Or my personal favorite, to be found in  Great Expectations , the ever-stinting  Mr. Pumblechook ? Bad guys are actually easier to name, but certain ‘good guy’ names are also expertly done, such as the eponymous  Oliver Twist . Arguably the greatest good/bad character name combination in literature is found in  A Christmas Carol , with the axis of the defenseless innocent  Tiny Tim  and the grasping villain of  Ebeneezer Scrooge . Just saying these names out loud is a pleasure! In the movie world, it’s a tip of the helmet to  Star

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Book Review The Underground Railroad  by Colson Whitehead   It can’t be easy to write a book that’s describing very real atrocities from the past, and yet make it readable and engaging. The Underground Railroad combines real facts and visceral conditions into composite situations, but doesn’t use composite characters. One situation leads to the next in this book, and somewhere along the way you realize that  you  are traveling the rails of history, which for Americans of African descent has meant one struggle after the next. And the journey isn’t over, either, as by book’s end the symbolism of the railroad makes clear. The story starts appropriately in Africa, with the main character’s grandmother. But we’re soon joined at the hip with Cora, an abandoned child slave on the Randall plantation in Georgia. The stress and pain of everyday life is vividly portrayed, which makes the appearance of an actual railroad of escape a bit of a lurching turn. But it’s a (literal and literary) vehicle

Book Review - All The Light We Cannot See

Blog #1: Book Review of  All The Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr   Dearest Reader, Welcome to my first book review. I just finished reading the 2014 novel   All The Light We Cannot See   by Anthony Doerr. Let me just say: this is an excellent book. The quality of the writing is what I appreciate the most about this novel. It's an impressionistic and compact style that occasionally stretches out in surprising ways. Drop a verb from the sentence––why not? The author gets away with this easily because there's a lot of intimacy and trust in the writing. Outright poetic, you could even say.  One of the main characters is a blind girl. When you think about it, it must’ve been very difficult for the author to render her perspective, because none of her experience is visual. But Doerr skillfully gets you into her head using various techniques, such as internal dialogue, touch, sound, taste, memory, etc. A sample: p. 384 (hardback): "The very thought of her lips against water