The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

This book has been sitting on my to-read shelf for a very long time, so since I'm trying to read more adult novels this year, I thought I'd finally open it.
Blurb: When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare's attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler's Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it's about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.

The Good: I expected the jumping back and forth in time, and the alternating POV's to be confusing, but Niffenegger has truly created her own art-form here. It worked perfectly, and if I ever felt slightly lost, I just checked the chapter headings, which included the date and character ages. The plot is captivating, probably because the premise is so wonderful. Time traveling caused by DNA? Gold. The exploration of the protagonists, Clare and Henry, and there relationship is fun, sweet, and intriguing at the same time, as the novel raises questions on fate, and free will.

The Bad: I felt that the side characters and their relationships to the protagonists were sidelined, in particular Gomez, who is something of an antagonist, but isn't fully formed enough for a reader to feel any true feelings towards. In addition, Henry comes across as a lovely character from Clare's POV, but in several parts (particularly when he's younger) he's very unlikeable, and his growth from complete jerk to love-of-Clare's life material isn't really shown.

Extra tid-bits: 1) I feel that I should put a word of caution in here. There are several sex scenes in this novels, and I have found that most people who have given this novel a bad review, have done so because they were put off by this. If you are of a sensitive disposition in regards to sex in novels, then I recommend steering clear, but personally I didn't find it over the top.

2) I felt a little teary in parts, so if you want a feel-good read this might not be for you!

3) There has been a movie made, and I must admit that I saw the movie first. Because Eric Bana played Henry, and it was ERIC BANA, I may have been a little disappointed in the novel's portrayal of Henry, purely based on my own expectations.

The Verdict: A beautifully written, poignant love story. Highly recommended.

Writer's Block NZ's Verdict: 8/10

Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton.

From Goodreads:
There is a fire and they are in there. They are in there...

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and rush. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards Grace must find the identity 
of the arsonist and protect her children from the person who's still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

I read a lot of books but Rosamund Lupton is one of my latest favourite literary authors. I first came across her poetic writing when I read her debut novel, Sister, a chilling tale set in London. (I reviewed it here...)

Afterwards is also a chilling tale, but this time the reader has to allow themselves to enter a world where two disembodied spirits are the protagonists. This is a leap for some readers and wouldn't appeal to everyone. Yet I found everything about this book - the cover, the writing, the plot, all magnificent.

I think the idea of the POV coming from a person the other characters can't see is a wonderful idea. And the main character sharing my surname didn't sway me at all! Here is a brief overview of the storyline. 

Grace Covey is at her eight year old son Adam's school’s sports day when she sees smoke coming from the school building. She is afraid for her children, a daughter and a son who are in the school. Panicked, she runs towards the school. She is relieved when she finds her son outside the building being minded by the daughter of a friend. Her relief is short-lived when she discovers her daughter, 17 year old Jenny, is still inside and Grace runs into the building, desperate to rescue her little girl. (You might wonder why she doesn't leave it to the firemen, but they have been delayed by the street parking of parents at the sports day and they cannot get their trucks into the grounds.)

Grace manages to find an unconscious Jenny on an upper floor and she drags her downstairs. Mother and daughter don't make it. Grace collapses before she can get both of them out of the building. They are
admitted to hospital, both seriously burnt and fighting for their lives. However, the real fight hasn't begun yet because it is revealed that the fire was deliberately lit. Grace believes that somebody is out to destroy her children and she is desperate to stop that person, whoever he/she may be.

Before the fire, life was beautiful and easy for the Covey family. They had it all - great marriage, beloved children even if Jenny was rather secretive about a stalker who actually threw blood over her. Is this the killer? 

Afterwards comes the fighting. Afterwards comes the time to appreciate the things that are truly important in life, to discover hidden depths of love and strength, especially of the bond between a mother and her children. Afterwards is the time when everything changes, forever. Afterwards is a time of sacrifice. How could their lives be the same afterwards?

I've already said I loved this story. I loved the mystery with so many possible villains and a very credible solution, although I was slow to guess. It's an absolutely gripping story with Lupton's characters captivating, and her dealings with emotions are both credible and heart-rending. 

This is one of those books I didn't want to ever finish, yet I read like lightning as the storyline had me in thrall. I can't wait for her next book.

L'Aussie's verdict: 9/10.

Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb; Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass


Today I am doing two different writing books. One I read years ago when I first started focusing on writing novels but over the past few weeks have been re-reading. The other is one I bought from amazon last year and have read off and on whenever I feel like checking it out. Both of the books work for the same audience but they are definitely different.

Having read a few writing books over the last 5 years, I have started to glaze over when reading them because there is only so many times I can read things like the difference between first and third person, who is a protagonist and other basic information. On the other hand, I am always learning something new.

Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

From Goodreads: In "Your First Novel," novelist Laura Whitcomb and seasoned literary agent Ann Rittenberg team up to provide you with the skills you need to write your dream novel and the savvy business know-how to get it published.

Section 1 - Writing Your Novel
This section focuses on, as you can tell, the writing end which is more than just the first draft. This is from preparations to writing to editing and more.

Section 2 - Publishing Your Novel
This section is focused on traditional publishing. Topics discussed included what a literary agent does, query letters, and publication day and beyond.

Throughout examples are provided by both authors to illustrate different points.

I purchased this book when I first started focusing on novels and for good reason since the title of the book is "your first novel." Also, what caught my attention about this book was it went beyond how to write the first novel to tips from an agent, which sounded cool and useful. The book discusses so many things in the less than 300 pages of the paperback book, so it might lack some in depth focus on all of the topics, however, it provides a broad basis for a writer to start with when learning to write. From there the reader could jump to a more focused book.

Reading the book over again, I find myself glazing over when reading certain section. Also, I sometimes skip the examples because they are small snippets of books I have never read. It's rare in a writing book to use something I've read as an example but there are a few. One thing that is fun about this book is that at the end of chapters there are recommended readings and some even have web sites and movies suggested. This is good for beginners but would also be a good refresher for veterans too.

Dawn's Verdict: 7.5/10

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

From Goodreads: Noted literary agent and author Donald Maass has done it again His previous book, "Writing the Breakout Novel," offered novelists of all skill levels and genres insider advice on how to make their books rise above the competition and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

Now, building on the success of its predecessor, "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" calls that advice into action This powerful book presents the patented techniques and writing exercises from Maass's popular writing workshops to offer novelists first-class instruction and practical guidance.

This is the first "workbook" that I've purchased as far as writing is concerned. I haven't actually read the book that inspired the workbook, so don't know if that factors into anything.

It is an extensive workbook but some of the topics were a bit lost on me, or so I felt. There are some things in writing that not everyone will do the same. For me, character building is one of them. I even noticed this when talking to a friend, as I looked up the section of the book because he was wanting help on developing characters. For now, all I've done is ponder some of the exercises presented in the book but I might try some of them in the near future.

This book is definitely something for a person who liked a hands on approach to learning. Reading advice on writing has its place but there has to be a time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and this book is good step to learn how to do certain aspects of writing before taking that information to use it in a novel. It might be a good idea to check out the original book, Writing the Breakout Novel for those that are less of a hands-on approach type. This is not my favorite book on writing but it's something that I would recommend friends to at least look at and consider.

Dawn's Verdict: 7/10

In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth

I was trawling through my digital library for some adhub novels to read, but stumbled across this YA novel and decided to add it to my reading list. I'm so glad I did!

Blurb: In a Heartbeat explores the ties of family and the weight of regret when a mistake costs Eagan her life during a figure-skating competition. Left in the afterlife, reflecting on what she could have done differently, Eagan's still-beating heart is given to Amelia who has been waiting patiently for a transplant. When their thought, feelings, and dreams begin to mysteriously overlap, Amelia knows she must search for Eagan's family and find a way to give them all the closure they need move on.

The Good: Right from the beginning, In a Heartbeat deals with a really horrible idea - what if by hoping that you will live, you are actually hoping someone else will die? That's the dilemma Amelia faces, because the only way she can get a new heart is if someone else dies. That someone happens to be Eagan, a beautiful figure skater with her whole life ahead of her. I thought that this novel deals with the concept of life and death beautifully and I found Ellsworth's exploration of grief really touching.

The Bad: You know the entire story from the blurb--there are no real surprising twists, or extreme tension. But thanks to the character development, and the emotions this novel deals with, I didn't find it much of a bother at all.

Extra tid-bits: 1) I must admit, I could have been so taken with this book because it resonated with me on a personal level--my brother died when he was the same age as Eagan.

2) I cried at the end!

3) Caution: If you are not an organ donor yet, you may change your mind thanks to this book.

The Verdict: A touch, poignant tale of grief and the joy that can come from it. Highly recommended.

Writer's Block NZ's Verdict: 9/10

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