Book Review: The Lying Game

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, 384 pages, Published July 25th 2017 by Gallery/Scout Press

“Kate draws a long breath, and she looks up, her face shadowed by lamplight. But to my surprise, she doesn’t speak. Instead, she gets up and goes to the pile of newspapers in the scuttle by the stove, left there for lighting the logs. There is one on the top, the Salten Observer, and she holds it out, her wordless face shadowing all the fear she has been hiding this long, drunken evening. It is dated yesterday, and the headline on the front page is very simple: Human Bone Found in Reach”.  -The Lying Game, Ruth Ware

It’s no secret that i’m a fan of thrillers. I mean, just look at my blog. Most of my reviews are mystery/thriller novels (i’m working on branching out, I promise). Last year, I read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and I enjoyed it somewhat. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was good. I didn’t have extremely high hopes for The Lying Game, but I was pleasantly surprised!  This latest thriller, by Ware, is an all- consuming, compelling story, full of mind games and edgy suspense. It’s definitely more ‘psychological’ than thriller, but it remains intriguing with enough twists and turns to make it ‘unputdownable’.

Synopsis:

Fifteen years after leaving Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel, A simple text “I need you” is sent from Kate to her three best friends from boarding school, Isa, Fatima and Thea. Within 24 hours they have left their jobs and families to rush to Kate’s side. The foursome became best friends in school and were infamous for playing the Lying Game, telling lies for fun to both fellow boarders and faculty. However, the game had consequences, and the girls were expelled in their final year of school under peculiar circumstances involving the death of the school’s art teacher and Kate’s dad, Ambrose.

My Thoughts:

The Lying Game is definitely more character driven than Ware’s previous novel, it’s oozing with human conflict and characterization. These women felt authentic; their faults and growth development felt real and it made me want to follow their journey throughout these 384 pages. Even the minor characters leave a solid impression on the reader. The setting for the story, which is a place in the English marshes, gave the novel such ambiance and intensity. I could feel myself trudging through the marshes with the characters and I could almost smell the decayed wood of Kate’s house that was slowly being swallowed by the marshland.

It is no secret that Ruth Ware’s writing is strong, and It was welcoming to read something a bit different than her norm. The Lying Game has probably been my favorite Ruth Ware read to date because it was gripping, immersive, and had wonderfully fleshed out characters. I look forward to reading anything and everything she writes in the future! You can learn more about Ruth Ware and her novels at http://www.ruthware.com/.

My Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: Enigma Variations

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Enigma Variations by Andre’ Aciman, 288 pages, Published January 3rd 2017 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

 

I know this is going to sound like a cop-out, but it has taken me so long to write this review because I was allowing myself some time to think about how I wanted to talk about this book. This novel blew me away. Everything about it made me feel something. Aciman’s prose is stunning. His words flow so effortlessly throughout the book, which makes it both easy to read and something you want to savor. It reads kind of like a series of short stories, but all from one man’s perspective.

     Synopsis:   

Each story focuses on Paul and the people whom he has loved or lusted after throughout the course of his life. The first chapter introduces us to Giovanni, Paul’s first love. Paul arrives on a small Italian island that was the home to his family during his childhood summers. He reminisces about his first sexual awakening as a twelve year old and the shame and confusion he felt because he was physically drawn to another man.

The second chapter is devoted to Manfred, a man Paul meets at the Central Park tennis court in New York.  Paul is now in his late-twenties and is in a cohabitating relationship with a woman named Maud, but he cannot stop thinking about Manfred. Finally, after two years of his hidden feelings, Paul and Manfred go out for a drink and confess their feeling for one another.

“Every morning I watch you walk to your court, I watch you play, and I watch you leave an hour and a half later.  Always the same, never brooding, just silent.  Occasionally, you’ll say “Excuse me” when I happen to stand in your way, and “Thank you’ when your ball drifts into my court and I hurl it back to you.  With these few words, I find comfort in false hope and hope in false starts.  I’ll coddle anything instead of nothing.  Even thinking that nothing can come of nothing gives me a leg to stand on, something to consider when I wake up in the middle of the night and can see nothing, not the blackout in my life, not the screen, not the cellar, not even hope and false comforts—just the joy of your imagined limb touching mine.  I prefer the illusion of perpetual fasting to the certainty of famine.  I have, I think, what’s called a broken heart.”  -Enigma Variations, Andre Aciman

 The last three chapters we learn that there are even more people that Paul finds himself drawn to. Chloe, who Paul has known since college, has a profound effect on his emotions. They keep running into each other at social gatherings about every four years and every time these accidental meetings take place, their sexual attraction is intense. However, they both have trouble committing to one another, which leaves their relationship with nothing but a series of false beginnings that never blossoms into more.

“We loved with every organ but the heart.” -Enigma Variations, Andre Aciman

My Thoughts:

Oh my holy Jesus…Aciman is a master at capturing the different phases of love! He pulls at the heart of human connection, what sparks a relationship, endures them, and makes them challenging. Enigma Variations is a very intimate reflection on love through the eyes of a man who loves so whole-heartedly. I was completely enraptured by his writing and even more compelled by his story telling. His passages can only be described as musical, and remarkably calm despite the fact that they are dealing with some of the most difficult and uncomfortable questions about love. As you read Aciman’s prose, you’ll soon discover your breathing beginning to slow and you begin to grow unaware of the sounds around you. Whether it an awkward dinner party with old friends, a New York tennis court, or the place you grew up, he makes it incredibly easy to picture yourself in these settings.  Aciman is tremendously successful at creating an accurate atmosphere and, more impressively, at sustaining it.

I recommend this book 100% to anyone who is willing to listen to me rant about how great it is. I know it’s a bold statement, but I think this just might be my new favorite book.

You can learn more about Andre’ Aciman and take a look at his works at https://www.amazon.com/Andre-Aciman/e/B000AQ43NO.

My Rating: 5/5

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Book Review: Into The Water

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, 386 pages, published May 2nd 2017 by Riverhead Books.

“No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”
― Paula Hawkins, Into the Water

Since her very successful psychological drama, The Girl on the Train, was published in 2015, fans have been eagerly awaiting Paula Hawkins’ second thriller Into the Water. According to her website, Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before trying her hand at fiction writing. She came out with a slew of romantic comedy novels under her pen name, Amy Silver, but eventually decided to use her real name to write thriller novels- good decision Paula!

Synopsis

The people of Beckford, a small town in the British Isles, are struggling to come to terms with the death of Nel Abbott, a single mother who was found dead in a river. It is quickly revealed that she is not the only person to have met their untimely death in the river, or “Drowning Pool” as it is known to the locals. It was the legends surrounding these mysterious deaths that attracted Nel Abbott to the river in the first place. After her own death, she leaves behind an unfinished manuscript about the women who had died in the river, as well as a fifteen-year-old daughter. 

My Thoughts

 Hawkins has built a multi-character story in which the truths, and the memories inhabiting the town, become a puzzle of doubts, secrets, and redemption. Was Nel Abbott so obsessed with the death associated with the river that she jumped? Or was she pushed? Everyone feels guilty; but nobody is willing to take the blame.

This is an excellent crime thriller! It had the perfect mix of history, albeit fake history, and mystery to keep me on my toes. It was refreshing to see a best-selling author handling different viewpoints, and the ways in which they are continuously shaping our assessments of the characters’ motivations. However, there are eleven character viewpoints. Yes. Eleven. I feel like this is way too many, and it is clear that Hawkins struggled at times to keep the characters distinct from one another. I had to make a list of the characters and their relationship to the victim in order to keep track of who was who!

Although there was slight character confusion, the storyline was never broken and I was actually quite impressed by the number of possible suspects and the twists and turns along the way. I found the plot of Into the Water to be far more sophisticated than the plot of The Girl on the Train, despite the pressure Hawkins must have felt to produce another best-seller. If you are a fan of Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Mary Kubica, or any contemporary thriller author, I am sure you will not be disappointed in Into the Water!

My Rating: 4.5/5

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Why You Should Start A Journal!

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I’ve been actively writing since I was in the 2nd grade. It all started with a red furry diary that my mom bought me at The Disney Store. It had an embroidered Mickey Mouse head on it and I took that thing everywhere! Since then, I have had about six journals. I may not have saved all of my journals throughout the years, but for me it was more of a method to cope with issues I was going through “at the moment”. I didn’t fill up my journals so that I could go back one day and reminisce (although that can be fun); it was a way of releasing all emotions-good or bad. Can you imagine what my journals from Junior High look like? CRINGE.

There are many different types of journals and different ways to get started journaling, and I will share everything I know with you! But first, why should you start journaling?

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(You can purchase this journal here)

Reasons to Start Journaling Now

  1. Journaling Helps You Harness Your Creativity. The best thing about starting a journal is that you can make it completely unique to your style. From the décor to the content, everything about it can be entirely you! I used to think I wasn’t a very creative person, but I enjoyed drawing and writing so much that I began a journal specifically for unleashing my creativity! Remember, you don’t have to put your journal on display, so be as creative and unique with it as possible.
  2. Journaling Helps Reduce Stress. The main reason I continued to journal throughout my college days was to reduce my anxiety and stress. Sitting in a quiet room, reflecting on your day, and writing it down can really help to center your emotions. Or if you are like me and would rather not reflect on your worst days, you can always do a little fiction writing.
  3. Journaling Is A Way To Document Your Life. My early years of journaling were strictly documenting the events in my life. It was absolutely crazy to go back ten years later and read about the moments I completely forgot about. If you are someone who loves to capture all of your memories, journaling is a great way to do so! Hint: If you have ever kept a baby book, guess what? That’s journaling!
  4. Journaling Helps Assist In Personal Growth. I remember going through a journal from my earlier years and thinking, “wow, that decision I made definitely didn’t work out for the best”. It’s difficult not to grow from any type of journaling. You may begin to see yourself becoming more organized, becoming a better writer, achieving more goals, being more creative, and showing signs of overall personal development.

 

With so many positive reasons to begin a journal, it’s no surprise that journaling has become super popular! This is also because there are so many different types of journals to fit every lifestyle!

Types of Journals to Keep

  1. Creative/Art Journal. An art journal is a way to express yourself through writing, drawing, painting, coloring, etc. It’s usually more artwork than actual writing. Scrapbooks, sketchbooks, and portfolios can be considered art journals.

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Artist Unknown via Pinterest

  1. Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal is a way to reflect on the good throughout your day. You write down words, phrases, or moments through your day that you are truly thankful for. This type of journal is a great stress-reliever!

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  1. Writing Journal. My favorite journal is my writing journal. I use my journal to better my writing by filling it with writing prompts and ideas for stories. Everything in it is fictional, kind of crazy, and completely my own!

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  1. Bullet Journal. Bullet journals are all over Pinterest right now! It is a unique way to plan, sketch, organize, and journal all in one. Using graphs, doodles, and calligraphy, they are a creative way to do it all!

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  1. Stream of Consciousness Journal. This is probably the most common type of journal, especially for younger writers. If you have a diary, then you have this type of journal. It’s basically a journal that you fill up with whatever you are thinking at the moment- how your day was, memories, reminders, anything!

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6. Prayer/Meditation Journal. If you are a spiritual person, this might be the right journal for you! A prayer journal can be anything from bible study, bible verses, or your thoughts to a higher power. A meditation journal is a personal reflection following meditation or a spiritual emerging.

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There are so many other types of journals you can create, and it’s easy to find ideas on how to get started! Sometimes I will go to Pinterest and search “journal” and look at all the creative and unique journals out there. If you’re interested in getting started, here are a few of my favorite resources.

Resources

How to Use a Gratitude Journal

Writing Prompts

Bullet Journal

How to Start a Prayer Journal

HAPPY WRITING!

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How To Deal With (And Get Over) Writer’s Block

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Flashback to one month ago: I was pestering my boyfriend to sign up for National Novel Writing Month with me, I was scheduling how much writing I was going to do daily, and I was actually excited about maybe writing 50,000 words in  month.

Fast-forward to today: We are thirteen days into NANOWRIMO and I have managed to write not the 26,000 words that I planned for at this stage, but ZERO. ZERO WORDS. How did this happen?

I’ve haven’t been feeling very creative lately. I know it has a lot to do with how stagnant I feel in my life. Not that I’m complaining, but I’ve kind of fell into a routine and I’m the kind of person who needs change constantly to grow as a writer! Luckily, I’ve been able to pull myself from the unforgiving grip of writer’s block before and in the end it always works out.

Dealing with writer’s block is hard. It sucks. You feel helpless and inadequate. You start cursing the day you were born and begin to convince yourself that you shouldn’t be writing at all. But, the most important thing to remember when you’re writing is not to take yourself too seriously. Not everything you write has to be reminiscent of Faulkner and Hemingway. In fact, it doesn’t even have to make sense. There were countless times when I would just ramble on a sheet of paper and from the nonsense something believable and real was created! Here are a few tips to help you get over writer’s block:

  1. Get out and do something new. When I settle into a routine, I feel less creative. Get out and do something that’s completely new to you or something you haven’t done in a while. Inspiration can literally be found anywhere.
  2. Talk to people. When I’m feeling a little un-inspired I talk to people. Not about writing, just about anything. My grandma used to tell me the craziest stories, one of which actually inspired a story I’m working on now.
  3. Work on something else for a while. I’m the type of person that can work on multiple stories at once, so if I’m having trouble with one I can easily step away and try to work on another. Not everyone likes doing this. So, you can always work on something entirely different! Paint a picture or do some crafting, you’re only going to stress yourself out more if you force yourself to write.
  4. Read your favorites. Most writers have authors that inspire their writing. My advice would be to read as many books as you can by those authors and become familiar with their writing. When I get stuck, I’ll go back and read some of my favorites and it gives me the courage and the inspiration to continue.
  5. Don’t stop writing. It’s easy to step away for a few weeks and completely forget about your project. I’ve done that before too. Don’t do this. Keep it up! Take a break but don’t quit!

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