February 22, 2021

What to Put in Your Story (and What Not To)

I have been contemplating writing or filming a piece on “Why I (Book) Blog”, which may at some point be forthcoming, but the long and the short of it is, I find it useful to analyze stories. Note, stories, not books. As you’ll know from my Rant Rave Reviews to my four-part series on different mediums of fiction, I consider books, movies, video games, and so on to all hold value in terms of narrative structure and choice.

Despite their differences, all stories have one thing in common: someone wrote them. Which means that someone, or someones, chose what to put in them and what not to put in them. This might seem obvious, but the import of this fact seems to allude many an amateur writer and book critic. Particularly when talking shop, writers seem so focused on what taboos to avoid or what structures to follow that they forget the most basic question: what should go in the story? And its mirror image, what can be left out.

If this all seems opaque, let me illustrate with some examples.

February 14, 2021

Rant Rave Review: Alice and Wonderland 2010

It's, like, unforgivable. Today, I rant about Disney's live-action Alice in Wonderland and RAGE about people besmirching my darling Lewis Carroll. Get ready for dumb Chosen One tropes, ugly color pallets, and Frank Beddor's rank hypocrisy.

February 7, 2021

January (and December) Reading Roundup

Advent Gospel Reflections by Bishop Robert Barron

  • Genre: Religious nonfiction
  • Why I read it: It was Advent
  • What I thought of it: Anyone familiar with Bishop Barron's Catholicism film series knows his theological explanations are solid and accessible. This was no different.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes! Just be sure to get the copy for the specific year, since Advent is a different number of days depending on when Christmas falls.

"Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie

  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Why I read it: Kind of genre research for my WIP, I guess?
  • What I thought of it: Though the twist was a little predictable by the end, it was still an interesting story with a good concept. I also enjoy Christie's writing style. 
  • Would I recommend it: Maybe, if you're into cozies, but I think some of her other stories are better.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

  • Genre: True Crime / Journalism
  • Why I read it: Someone on Tumblr posted several excerpts and it looked interesting
  • What I thought of it: I feel like this is the kind of book that anyone who cares about journalistic integrity should read. It wasn't that entire news outlets were lying  (though some publications did do that in order to smear victims), but rather they didn't report the truth, which can be just as bad. The title, "Catch and Kill" is the phrase used for purchasing a story in order not to publish, so it won't see the light of day.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, but trigger warnings for sexual assault of all kinds.

"Old Man and The Gun", "Chameleon", and "True Crime" by David Grann

  • Genre: True crime
  • Why I read it: I loved Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon and was looking for more true crime from him
  • What I thought of it: I loved all three essays, which are from a book I had read parts of previously, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. These are the kind of weird accounts that seem too fantastic to be real: a septuagenarian bank-robber and escape artist, a man who literally takes on the identity of children, and a murderer who wrote his crime into a novel and the detective who used that writing to pursue him.
  • Would I recommend it: 100% yes!!!

Capirotada: A Nogales Memoir by Alberto Alvaro RĂ­os

  • Genre: Memoir
  • Why I read it: Book club
  • What I thought of it: This book was sweet and funny, and brought back memories of when my family used to go to Nogales every Black Friday. I enjoy boyhood stories, like those of Patrick McManus; this was in the same vein, with various (slightly) hyperbolized recollections of youth.
  • Would I recommend it: Yes, especially if you want something charming. This is like the slice-of-life cosy of memoirs.

"Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds" by Agatha Christie
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Why I read it: I'm on a Christie kick
  • What I thought of it: I liked this one best of Christie's stories so far (though I have admittedly only read four an a half). It had a great set-up and pay-off, and the twist was slightly different from what I was expecting. Much like Arthur Conan Doyle, she introduced a set of twins, but their being twins had nothing to do with the crime!
  • Would I recommend it: Yes. It was fun.

"The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger" by Agatha Christie
  • Genre: Cozy mystery adjacent
  • Why I read it: Still on a Christie kick
  • What I thought of it: This one was interesting because it was more of a little adventure than a mystery, and I feel there was a lot of backstory I was missing, as this was the only Tommy and Tuppence story I've read. That being said, the twist was super predictable, telegraphed from almost the moment a certain untrustworthy character entered the room.
  • Would I recommend it: Only if you want to study the cozy genre. I will say, this story has inspired me to finally write a post about why every genre needs to learn from cozies, but that will have to wait until later. 

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
  • Genre: Cozy mystery
  • Why I read it: See above
  • What I thought of it: The entire cast was well written, and I especially liked Cornelia, who I assume was supposed to either have Down Syndrome or autism of some sort (she was referred to as 'simple' a number of times). The different subplots with the side characters / murder suspects were intriguing. Unfortunately, the main murder plot was exceedingly predictable, and I don't think it's just because I've seen a lot of mysteries. Also, I did not approve of Poirot's decision at the end regarding the murderer's fate (Sherlock Holmes would ever have allowed such a thing to happen!).
  • Would I recommend it: I guess. It was a well written story, just not the best mystery, if that makes sense?

February 3, 2021

Rant Rave Review: Cobra Kai and Megalo Box

It's, like, a karate soap opera? Today I rave about Cobra Kai and Megalo Box, featuring love triangles, men talking with their fists, non-diegetic hawk noises, and manliness!!!