Monday, November 25, 2013

The Winter People

Warning: If you have other things you need to get done, do NOT pick up "The Winter People" by Jennifer McMahon.
I've had this book on my "to-do" list since I got approved to get an advanced copy from Net Galley, but I was putting it off because I'm doing National Novel Writing Month and a wise professor once put it in my head that it's not great to read other authors while you're working intently on your own writing. He said he didn't like doing that because it interfered with his own "voice" in his writing. It makes sense to me, especially after I had to read Toni Morrison's "Home" while doing the April NaNoWriMo Camp and it had me feeling terrible about my own writing. So this November, I vowed that I would read only non-fiction. It worked well at first. My book club read "Killing Kennedy" this month. I started "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" but it made me too squeamish so I ended up calling it quits. Then I started Mary Roach's "Spook." Last week, I was arranging my "to-read" list for the next month or so — why yes, I did arrange my list to make sure I could squeeze in several Christmas/winter books, don't judge me.
At the top of that list was "The Winter People." I love getting advanced copies of books, but the problem is that I feel tremendous pressure to read them right away when I'm approved. That and a craving for fiction led me to start "The Winter People."
Jennifer McMahon had me hooked from the start. The story centers around a spooky old farmhouse near West Hall, Vermont, and alternates between 1908 and present day. The 1908 portions follow Sara Harrison Shea, her husband Martin, and their daughter, Gertie. When Gertie disappears one winter day, her mother stops at nothing to get her back. The consequences of what she does continue to affect the people of West Hall more than 100 years later. The present-day portions follow a girl named Ruthie and her sister Fawn, whose mother disappears; and Katherine, who is trying to figure what led her husband, Gary, to West Hall on the day he died.
"The Winter People" is wonderfully creepy. I loved the setting, the characters, and all the intricate details that tied all the stories together. Jennifer McMahon does a great job of making you feel like you are there, and maintaining tension throughout. I definitely will be seeking out more from this author.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Killing Kennedy

This month my book club is discussing "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. It's a book that I had considered reading for quite some time. I'll be honest, the fact that Bill O'Reilly wrote it turned me off a bit. I mean, Bill O'Reilly writing a book about a Democrat? That can't be good, right? Well, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised (others I have talked to who have read the book have said the same).
The old cliche is that truth is stranger than fiction, and the events portrayed in Killing Kennedy certainly live up to that. I learned a lot of interesting things by reading this book. I can't count the number of times I went, "Wow!" The book is written in such a way to set you up for those moments. There are little "gotcha!" moments everywhere. At first I was really sucked in by them, but toward the end I found I was getting a little tired of it and I started imagining some parts being read by that guy who does all the movie preview voiceovers. "The man with five months to live...." You get my drift.
Aside from that, my only real complaint about "Killing Kennedy" was the use of present tense. It just does not work in a book like this, and it wasn't even very consistent. I found it often distracted me from what was really important.
Overall, I really enjoyed "Killing Kennedy." It's the type of book I want to keep on my shelf and would definitely consider reading again. I am also excited to check out "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Jesus."

Monday, November 4, 2013

National Novel Writing Month 2013

This month I am on a mission to write 50,000 words. Yes, it's National Novel Writing Month. I've known about NaNoWriMo for years, but last year was the first year I tried it. I was always one of those people who wanted to write a novel but never did. Then in September 2012 I started writing a novel. I finished the first draft of that in about a month's time and thought, "Let's do that again!" So I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I had a blast doing it. There really is nothing like the experience of sitting down and seeing just how much you can write in a month. What's great about National Novel Writing Month is that it encourages you to keep going. If you know something that you've just written isn't exactly how you'd like, you keep writing. If you are stuck, you keep writing. You may not have the Great American Novel when you are finished, but you will have something, and that's a lot more than most people have done.
I know there are a lot of naysayers when it comes to NaNoWriMo. Don't bother, they say. Nobody wants your crappy novel. Why even bother? I think that's a really crappy attitude. If people want to write for fun, let them. It sure beats sitting around and watching Duck Dynasty and the Karsashians, in my personal opinion. Also, why deter potential authors that way? Sure, not everyone is going to write something amazing that publishers will be clamoring to put into print. But there may be a few gems that come out of it. One of my favorite books in the past couple of years, "The Night Circus," was written during National Novel Writing Month. I think that's pretty awesome, and if Erin Morgenstern had been told not to bother, it would have been a damn shame.
National Novel Writing Month has helped rekindle my passion for writing fiction. It gives me confidence that I can do what I've always dreamed of doing and, even if I never get a big publishing deal, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've written a novel. For me, it's the equivalent of running a marathon (which totally is not my cup of tea, but I'm not about to go telling others not to bother because they won't win anyway).
In the first three days of NaNoWriMo, I've written more than 6,000 words. I'm feeling great about my story and can't wait to write the rest.