Posts Categorized: Writing

Review: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg

Habits have a profound influence over our lives. Before reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, I had never paused and reflected on the habits in my life. How are habits formed? What causes them to take root? Most importantly, why are they so hard to stop? (more…)

Review: Train Dreams – Denis Johnson

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is an elegiac novella set in the American west. The novella takes place between the late 1800’s and into the 1960’s. It chronicles the life of Robert Grainier and his struggles to carve out a living through logging, building railroads, and working odd jobs. At a deeper level, Train Dreams meditates on the losses Grainier experiences and how he adapts. The writing is thoughtful and gorgeous., showing Johnson’s skill as a writer and Grainier’s fresh perspective. Furthermore, the narrative flows well and lends the novella a dream-like quality as time jumps around through Grainier’s memories. (more…)

Review: Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson is a complex fantasy novel that, thankfully, is not part of a trilogy. I don’t have anything against trilogies, but it’s nice to read a self-contained fantasy novel without waiting a few years for the follow-up books to come out. Point-of-view and rapid pace make Warbreaker such a compelling read. As a reader, entering a fantasy world is a shift in perspective. It takes time to figure things out and understand the system the world is built around. For instance, take the novel Dune, while not a fantasy, it establishes a world in which spice is the dominant currency. The system in Warbreaker is that of religion, as occasionally, people come back from the dead. (more…)

Scintilla Issue 2

I published the second issue of Scintilla yesterday. It feels great to have the issue up and to support so many wonderful writers. You can read the current issue here and the first issue here.

The artwork was from a submission, which I was graciously able to use as the cover. As with Issue 1, I learned a lot and the publishing process is now faster and more sustainable. I use WordPress to publish Scintilla and love it.

Now that the issue is up, we need people to read it. Please, check it out and share your favorite poems and stories on Facebook, Twitter, and through email. If you’re feeling especially generous, like us on Facebook and we’ll like you back. Thanks!

Review: Swamplandia! – Karen Russell

Exclamation points, like so many symbols, have a specific function and many unintentional meanings. Technically, an exclamation point is a sudden cry or yell that can be full of emotions ranging from anger to excitement. However, exclamation points are the all-caps-email of punctuation. They often feel out-of-place and come across as unnecessary yelling, like that email from an aged relative that says, HOW IS LIFE IN THE BIG CITY? CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO VISIT. THE TURTLES MISS YOU. Of course, there is the ironic exclamation point in names like Yahoo! and Swamplandia!, but really, beyond an exclamation, what is the point?

All this is to say, readers, beware. Take one look at the exclamation point after Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and turn back, because nothing on this trip through the Floridian swamp can save you.
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Currently Reading: Moonwalking with Einstein

Recently, I picked up Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. It blends scientific literature about memory with an interesting narrative, Foer’s quest to compete in the USA Memory Championship. The result is a book that’s fun to read, useful, and educational. So far, I highly recommend it. As an aside, I’ve just received word that a Memory Palace has come on the market, as we all know, it’s a buyer’s market.

Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John le Carré

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by John le Carré is an inaction-packed suspense novel about a high-level mole in British intelligence and one man’s mission to uncover the traitor and take him down.

I say inaction-packed, because most of the novel involves George Smiley, the former second in command of the service, sorting through old files, interviewing former colleagues and contacts, and piecing together the puzzle.

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Review: Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath

How do ideas stick in our minds? What is it about those ideas that makes them so hard to shake? In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath answer these questions and more in a way that’s entertaining and easy to understand.

In the introduction the Heath brothers lay out the keys to making ideas stick. Ideas need to be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and contain a story. Each chapter that follows focuses on one of those topics.

One central idea to the book is the curse of knowledge. How do experts communicate with non-experts? In other words, how does our knowledge blind us to the perspective of a novice? The more familiar a person is with a topic or an area of study, the easier it is for them to talk abstractly and assume their message comes across. Meeting your audience in the middle ground is not the same as dumbing down your message.

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Review: Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides reminds me of a gilded mirror with intricate details swirled along the frame. The novel is a mixture of family history, coming of age, and gender identity. The mirror metaphor works, because the narrator, Callie/Cal Stephanides, spends so much time exploring who s/he is. That’s a difficult enough question for most teenagers and adults, but  how does that question change when a person’s body seems to mislead them? While the narrator focuses on their identity, the novel suffers at times by diverging into the past and getting lost in details. It’s obvious Eugenides loves language, but it comes at a cost in terms of rhythm and pace.

Some details I loved about the novel were the descriptions and metamorphosis of Detroit. I’m from Michigan and Detroit is a place that inspires both pride and sadness. Pride because of its greatness, because of the auto industry, because of all that Detroit used to mean. Sadness, because of the past tense, because words like used to linger on. To see Detroit described in its height is wonderful. To see how the city languished in the last 40 years is important.

Middlesex spans three generations and is full of rich characters. It navigates around sadness, but perhaps that is part of the immigrant experience. Lefty and Desdemona upon arriving to the United States are completely out-of-place. They can’t speak the language, their clothes stand out, and they’re unsure how to earn money. What must they give up to assimilate? More importantly, what must Cal/Callie give up later on?

Black and white are easy. A light is either on or it’s off. A thought either occurs or it doesn’t. Black and white seem easy, because it’s so limiting. A child is either a boy or a girl. Except when they are not. Same goes with the light, it’s not always just on or off. It could have no power, it could be broken, it could be anything less or more than on and off. Immigration takes this idea a step further. Is a person Greek, Greek-American, or American? Why is a choice even necessary? Depending on the context any label may fit.

So what is Middlesex? It it a novel about gender identity? Is it a mix of fiction and memoir? Is the novel about what it means to be American or an immigrant? Middlesex broadens the lens through which life is viewed. Depending on the reader, the novel may illustrate how life is more nuanced than they previously thought.

Middlesex was published in 2002 and is available through Amazon.