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Writing in the Time of Corona: Resources

We wanted to create a resource list for all of the writers out there who are needing to redefine routines during these stressful and unfamiliar times. Becca Spence Dobias and Jacqui Castle jumped on an impromptu brainstorming podcast, which you can listen to here.

Below are a few of the resources mentioned, and we will also be adding to this list every time someone brings another resource to our attention. If you have something you want to add, either tag us on twitter – @writing_bloc – or shoot an email to [email protected]

We hope these resources prove useful, and remember that we are here to support the writing community in any way that we can.

Free Resources

Low-Cost Resources

  • Masterclass. Access to all of the resources on Masterclass starts at $15 a month. You can read some of our masterclass reviews here.
  • Online Tools for Learning a New Skill Resource list on All Connect “With many people looking to fill up their new-found free time productively, we created a resource that highlights the top sites and apps people can use to learn a new skill. From writing to photography, we outline which tools are the best to use as well as any deals or freebies on these classes.” – Communications Coordinator at Allconnect.com

*This list will be updated frequently. Check back for more.

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How to Write Great Reviews

As a librarian, I am constantly thinking about book reviews. I use them to select books for my library’s collection, as well as to decide which titles to hand-sell to my patrons. I review for Booklist and read reviews critically. I see a review as a tool – something to help people make decisions about a book before reading it. And it’s cool to give back to the reading community by creating those tools after I’ve enjoyed a book.

In my writer-life, it’s different. Reviews of my own work make me cringe. I cannot open the Goodreads pages for anything I’ve written. Better to remain in la-la land.

Because here’s the thing – reviews are for readers.

And every reader will have a subjective opinion. Whether you’re indie-published, trad-published, or in some little hybrid land like I am, your reviews are not all going to be five stars. Even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the highest-rated book on Goodreads, has 4.62 stars. 

In library terms, we call that 1. Every book its reader and 2. Every reader their book. These are two of S.R. Ranganathan’s five laws of librarianship. Some readers will resonate with your work, and others will loathe it. That truth cannot be avoided, and it means that as writers, we must become comfortable with reviews that we don’t like.

OK. Now that you’ve sat with it for a while, we can get back to the task and art of writing reviews of other people’s work.

Some writers will give the advice that you shouldn’t review other people’s work at all. That’s a perfectly valid choice, and it’s your boundary to set as a writer. For me, it’s not feasible. First, because I’m a librarian, and second, because I just can’t stop reading books. Seriously. It’s an addiction.

So I have some Very Particular Rules for how I review and blurb. I generally do not rate anything lower than four stars. I figure, if the book was worth my time to read and I enjoyed it, it’s worth four or five stars. If I am sent a book for Booklist that I cannot review under this criteria, I decline to review it. But, like the decision to review or not review, your star-code is yours to set. Readers vary widely over this – some readers will give one star even if they read the entire book! This is another reason why the stars are so subjective.

A few other general tips:

  1. Don’t use the review as a platform.
    1. Remember – the review is for readers. Now, if you have some connection to the book, you may certainly state that. But the reader is not interested in what you have to say about your own work. They are trying to figure out if the book is worth their time investment. Also, this is not the time to be using writerly jargon, being overly critical, or give feedback the way you would in a writer’s workshop. The book is published. That time is over.
  2. Do comment on the very specific strengths of the book.
    1. What sets this book apart? I like to think of myself as writing a query letter for someone else’s book every time I write a review. I’m helping the author sell the book by pointing out its strengths. 
  3. Do focus on the appeal factors.
    1. If you are not familiar with appeal factors – brush up! We librarians use them to help match readers with books. These are the juicy characteristics of books which entice readers: plot, character, language, setting, and so forth. Here is a fabulous crash course which I use in my readers’ advisory classes for librarians (thanks, Molly At the Library!) 
  4. Do be mindful of the star rating.
    1. “But, Cari, you just said the stars don’t matter!” Yes, I did. But the overall star rating will impact how readers receive your review. I’m not saying you should change anything based on it – stick to your star-code. Just know that the star rating is there and it’s part of the package.
  5. Do acknowledge the author’s hard work.
    1. A thoughtful review helps the author know that it was worth it for them to put that work out into the world. Help keep the good karma wheel spinning.
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Writing Bloc’s Best of February 2019: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads February 2019 Edition. Welcome to the seventh post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of February, we hear from Becca, Jacqui, Cari, and Michael.

Still not sure what to read next? Check out Writing Bloc’s 2019 Writers as Readers Challenge.

Becca’s Recommendation – Lipstick Brigade by Cindy Gueli

In Lipstick Brigade: The Untold True Story of Washington’s World War II Government Girls, historian Cindy Gueli brings to life this important part of World War II history. I have a professional interest in these 100,000 women who moved to Washington D.C. to fill important clerical positions: my novel, Rock of Ages, follows a Government Girl. My interest is also personal. My beloved grandmother was one of them, classifying fingerprints for the FBI.I picked up Gueli’s book as research, hoping to make my own book as historically accurate as possible, but ended up feeling more deeply connected to my grandma, who passed away two months ago.

Gueli explains the political and personal forces which drew the women to the nation’s capital, an important government and military hub. She describes in detail their often monotonous jobs, the crowded and expensive living conditions in the bustling wartime city, the sexual and social traditions the women challenged, and the media portrayal of Government Girls that the real women contended with. She does it all with an eye to the influence of gender and race. Gueli is an excellent historian and an engaging writer.As I read about beauty seminars hosted for Government Girls, I began to understand my grandma’s fascination with Avon products and saw the time she took me for a makeover in a new light. She brought with her the experience of being a 19-year-old woman from rural West Virginia, on her own in a big city for the first time, learning beauty standards. 

Reading about the cost of various amenities in D.C. at the time, I was able to make more sense of the letter my grandma kept detailing her raise and of her story about her $25 a month room. My grandma’s independence, patriotism, resourcefulness, and fashion sense all make more sense to me after having read this book. At a time when feeling close to my grandma is especially meaningful, I am grateful. My novel, too, will no doubt benefit from Gueli’s extensive knowledge.Readers interested in 1940s history, labor history, and feminism will certainly enjoy this thorough, readable book.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Beartown by Fredrik Backman

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil.”
― Fredrik Backman

Ever since reading A Man Called Ove years ago and absolutely loving Backman’s style, I’ve had several of his books on my to-read list, but they kept getting pushed to the back-burner for some reason. I think because deep down I knew that when I chose to enter another Backman book, I wouldn’t come out unscathed. There are certain authors that you know can wreck you, leave you reeling for days. Fredrik Backman is apparently one of them for me, and he is quickly becomming one of my favorite authors.

It’s hard to explain what exactly it is about Beartown that resonated so deeply. On its surface it’s a story about a hockey team and a devastating event that rocks a small town, but it is so much more than that. It is a story about the many, often contradictory, layers we have as humans. It is a story about the sometimes-toxic world of sports and tribalism. It is a story about snap judgements and self reflection. Highly recommend.


Cari’s Recommendation – Duped by Abby Ellin

Author Abby Ellin almost married a con man – she tells her story in this part-memoir, part-fascinating fact book about liars. While there are other books out there about liars and their motivations, this one stands out because of its strong storytelling and clear, engaging style. Highly recommended for writers – if you’re looking for a reasoning behind your deceptive character’s motivation, you’ll be able to find it here.

Michael’s Recommendation – Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

I recently found Octavia Butler’s work thanks to friend recommendation. She was a powerhouse in science fiction, and all of her works are worth praise. Most of her stories feature complicated characters exploring issues that mirror current events, and her characters are rich and diverse, unlike the campy science fiction stories she fought to counterbalance. This recommendation is truly for Octavia Butler’s entire catalogue. From Kindred (1979) to Fledgling (2005), you can’t go wrong with any of her stories.

The reason for specifically pointing out Parable of the Talents is that it shows some of the author’s uncanny ability to predict future events by exploring her world at the time of her writing. Parable is actually a sequel to Parable of the Sower, and it was written in 1998. Part of the story features a dystopian take on a future America featuring a presidential candidate hellbent on controlling the population by use of virtual reality and shock collars. This power hungry candidate also used an interesting slogan to push his agenda: “Make America Great Again.” Yes, she wrote this in 1998. Now go read her work. Unfortunately, we lost this literary giant in 2006, but thankfully she left a lot of work behind for us all to marvel at and enjoy.

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How Learning Another Language Will Improve Your Writing

Want to improve your writing? Learn another language!

I know. You might be saying, “But…writing in English is hard enough. Why would I waste my time with any other language?”

It’s simple, really. Writing, as with any intense activity, is best performed after a good warm up. Your brain is about to produce a story, poem, or anything else creative from scratch. Your fingers need to warm up, your mind needs to get into writing mode, and your body needs to get used to whatever position it will stay in over the next few minutes…or hours.

I find it best not to launch right into my story or main project immediately after sitting down to write. It feels heavier and more like a chore if I don’t warm up with another activity first. Personally, I am focused on writing a novel, and I used to warm up with a quick poem or limerick – something to get the fingers moving across the keyboard and get my mind in the mood.

But now I’ve found that studying a language before writing is an excellent way to become a better writer, and here are nine reasons why:

1) It’s free.

There is a remarkable program online called DuoLingo. It is a completely free website for learning another language. Once you create an account, you can study anywhere at any time, as there is also a free mobile app. The languages offered include Spanish, German, French, Welsh, Russian, and a constantly grow number of other language courses. Users can even contribute to the construction of these courses (which is exactly why they have a Klingon course!) Each language course is packed with skills for individual practice, including writing, translating, and pronunciation (with your microphone on your computer or mobile device active). DuoLingo also offers comprehensive quizzes, immersion projects for translating articles on the internet, community clubs, and an extremely user-friendly interface.

duolingo mobile app interface, three screens

2) It will challenge your perspective on language.

Nvidia StoreWhat makes writing interesting and beautiful is how each individual author manipulates language. The rules of the English language can often seem restrictive. But after playing around with the different verb tenses and sentence formations of another language, your mind begins to accept the fact that there are nearly endless ways to express yourself. Plus, while learning another language, you begin to find the words that are similar between tongues, giving your brain quicker access to synonyms and other descriptors you might not have thought about otherwise. In a similar vein, some words are so completely different in other languages that seeing and hearing a simple sentence become something 100% new will challenge your brain to rethink the basics. Never let go of your appreciation for simpler words and phrases.

3) It will demonstrate new rhythms of speaking.

Rhythm is important in writing. If the cadence is too dull or repetitive in your work, then the reader will become bored and lose focus. Making the words flow in a pattern that is pleasing to read is a talent that must be honed in order to become a quality writer. Each language has its own natural rhythm and tonal structure, and learning another language is similar to learning an old song on a brand new instrument. Everything is suddenly brand new.

4) It doesn’t have to be difficult.

With DuoLingo, the lessons are already set out for you. You just open up the program and click on whatever skill you want to either learn or improve upon. The interface is extremely user friendly, and they have rewards and achievements to keep you motivated along the way.

5) It will train your fingers to rethink the keyboard.

This seems silly to say if you are a proficient typist, however, all skills have room for improvement. Typing letters in different arrangements with new punctuation and capitalization is a good way to make typing in your native tongue seem effortless. Face it, once you’ve mastered putting um lauts and tildes in their proper places, then typing a simple English language story will become all the more simple to do.

6) You will gain new perspective on old idioms and proverbs.

Every part of the world has a different perspective, of course. As a writer, understanding other perspectives is invaluable. When learning another language, you start understanding another culture’s perspective as you decipher their sentence structure and word choice. It’s quite fun, actually. For example, in Spanish, “Let bygones be bygones” is said colloquially as “Borrón y cuenta nueva,” which is closer to “clearance and new account.” Interesting, right?

7) It will improve your awareness of your own language.

The skills in DuoLingo are separated mostly into the the different existing parts of speech. Because of these divisions, the user gains an increased awareness of the different parts of speech of their own language. With skill divisions such as determiners, participles, future perfect tense, and modal verbs, the user indirectly gets lessons regarding the many pieces and parts that make up the English language as well.

8) It opens up the world.

As a writer, keeping an awareness and an appreciation for multiple perspectives is imperative. Language is the basis for all communication, and communication is the basis of world interpretation. When creating characters for a story, each character must have their own voice, background, and perspective in order to seem genuine. Learning another language is an excellent exercise in perspective that is not offered any other way.

9) You will learn another language.

With time and dedicated study, you might actually find yourself being able to communicate with millions of other people around the world. Americans are particularly bad about expecting everyone else to know how to speak their own language, and American writers could benefit from the loss of a comfort zone that comes with speaking in another language. As a writer, you should feel comfortable with words. To help this, try replacing your set of vocabulary with a completely different set. I’m betting that once you start, you’ll enjoy the challenge.

The video below introduces DuoLingo, for those who are interested.

Related link:

http://www.duolingo.com

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Writing Bloc’s Best of November: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads November Edition. Welcome to the fifth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of October, we hear from Jacqui, Robert, Michael and Becca.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – The Humans by Matt Haig

Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode.

Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass.

I was first introduced to Matt Haig when I read his book of essays, Notes on a Nervous Planet. I instantly loved his writing style, and wanted to give one of his novels a try. I’m thrilled that I did, and I’m sure I’ll be reading his whole arsenal in the future.

I read The Humans in about three sessions, and it was a blissful combination of raw emotion and comedic timing. The Humans tells the story of an alien who takes over the body of a mathematician who is on the brink of a life-altering discovery. His mission? To stop this discovery from getting out to the general public by silencing anyone who knew of the breakthroughs that the mathematician had made. .

Through the lens of this extra-terrestrial, the reader views the human species – quirks, faults, and all. Through this novel we answer the question – why would anyone ever choose to be human?

 

Robert’s Recommendation — Redshirts by John Scalzi

Cover of Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:

  1. every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
  2. the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
  3. at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

At first glance, Redshirts appears to be a simple spoof of Star Trek, specifically, “What would happen if the often-memed ‘redshirts’ realised their only reason for existence was to die dramatically on an away mission?” This alone would make the book worthy of examination, but I came to realise it was more. The premise may be whimsical, but Scalzi has written a solid narrative that stands alone, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek.

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, narrated by Will Wheaton (Will-Friggin’-Wheaton narrating a Star Trek spoof people!), and it was brilliant. You can read more of my thoughts here.

 

Becca’s Recommendation — The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas took over my mind for the two weeks it took me to listen to the audiobook. Every night at bedtime, I would eagerly plug in my headphones, excited for the next chapter. It was hard to turn it off to go to sleep. Thomas brings the realities of police brutality to life through the eyes of Starr Carter, a sixteen year old girl who witnesses her childhood friend killed during a traffic stop.

Starr confronts the arguments we hear all the time– her friend’s life didn’t matter because he was a drug dealer, police officers are scared too, if people just obeyed the law, things like this wouldn’t happen, and more. And through Starr, we see incredibly clearly the fallacy in all of these.
Thomas shows the complexities of Starr’s life in the hood, and the codeswitching she must perform to assimilate in her wealthy white school, in a way that helps white readers like myself challenge their assumptions about race and poverty.

Especially moving is the tribute at the end to real victims of police violence. Viewing this major problem in our country through the eyes of a relatable young character makes the serious subject matter digestible and approachable This book should be required reading at every high school and college, and really, for every person in the U.S.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Wow. I was blown away by this book, and I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. Not only is this a jaw-dropping analysis of the human condition, the role of free will versus societal blending, and evil itself, but the novel is written in an amazing and unique form. Written in first person, the story takes you through the perspective of Alex, who is a fifteen year-old in a dystopian future in which he and his “friends” get together and commit crimes and perform acts of violence on random people. When Alex’s friends turn on him and leave him to be caught by police, he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison for the murder of the woman whose house he was caught at. Interested in a shortened sentence, Alex agrees to be the first in an experimental “Ludovico technique” in which he is trained to be physically repulsed by violence and acts of criminality.

The novel is beautiful in that it includes Alex’s own dialect and slang, called Nasdat, which incorporates a wide enough vocabulary for some versions of the novel to include a glossary. However, the way the story is written and the events are described, there is no need for a glossary while reading. The character’s actions and perspective are clear enough that you can finish an entire page and look back at it realizing that you aren’t entirely sure of the meaning of half the words on the page, yet the understanding of what was written is clear as day. It’s a short book, and a real horrorshow to read.

An extra bit worth mentioning if you read A Clockwork Orange…

The version I got was at a secondhand store for a dollar. It was printed in 1972. The book is split into three parts, each consisting of seven chapters, or so I expected, but the third part in my version stopped at chapter six. I was curious about this and found out that copies of the book printed in the United States prior to 1986 omitted the final chapter, and this is the version Stanley Kubrick’s film is based upon, as well as the version Anthony Burgess loathed. I hopped over to the library and read the last chapter, and I can say that both versions of the novel are quite interesting. If you pick up a copy with the 21st chapter, stop at 20 and consider your thoughts before finishing the book as the author intended. Interesting stuff, indeed, and worth a conversation over. Either way, read this book.

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Recommended Reading for a Post-Trump Future

When I was coming up with this reading list, I toyed with several different directions that I could go. I considered a reading list comprised of novels loosely related to mine. Perhaps consisting of science fiction or dystopian reads with political themes, but with a slightly different twist. I considered other dystopian novels inspired by current events at the time they were written. Then, while turning to my bookshelf for inspiration, I thought about the various books I have reached for these past two years. About the books that helped keep me grounded or allowed me to open my eyes to the experiences of others when I was craving precisely that. I realized this was the type of list I wanted to build.

I hope a few of these books find their way onto your bookshelf, and that you reach for one when you need it. Whether you want to blanket yourself with inspiring words when anxiety is on the rise and the news is moving too fast to keep up with, or when you’re seeking to stretch those empathy muscles by pushing beyond your comfort zone, or you simply want to read a poignant story about the beauty of monarchs and the importance of conservation—this reading list is for you. Happy reading!

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

“Reading isn’t important because it helps to get you a job. It’s important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape.”

― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet

In this series of essays, Matt Haig tackles anxiety in the age of social media and news overload. If I had to select one book to sit on tables in doctor’s offices, mental health facilities, dentist’s offices, salons, that weird spare room at the mechanic’s next to the vending machine, or anywhere else someone is left waiting… it would be this one.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

More and more, as I think about history,” he pondered, “I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.”
― Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

Originally written in 1935, this novel that explores how quickly democracy can be dismantled stands the test of time.

Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration, edited by Rose Brock

“So what is Hope Nation? Simply, it’s a collection of unique and personal experiences shared by some of my favorite writers for teens. Stories of resilience, resistance, hardship, loss, love, tenacity, and acceptance—stories that prove that sometimes, hope can be found only on the other side of adversity. I’m so grateful to each of these talented writers for sharing their own paths to hope.”

― Rose Brock, Hope Nation

As with any compilation, some essays hit harder than others, and with a collection like this one, readers will certainly find those that reach out and pull them in for personal reasons. My favorites included The Kids Who Stick by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, Don’t Listen to the A**Holes by Atia Abawi, and Baseball Pasta by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.”

― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

In the current climate, talking directly about sexual assault, feminism, and misogyny has to happen if progress is to be made. Roxane Gay gives us the opportunity to approach these heavy topics with a dash of humor, and to recognize we are all human and we aren’t going to get it right 100% of the time.

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

“Had our hearts really become so numb that we needed dead bodies in order to feel the beat of compassion in our chests? Who am I if I need to be shocked back into my best self?”

Jason Reynolds, All American Boys

This moving YA novel, written from two vastly different perspectives, transports the reader into the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing fight for racial equality in our country.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

“Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle.”

― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race

If you’re ready to dive head-first into race relations(and learn about privilege, police brutality, microaggressions, and bridging the gap), this book is for you.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

“Science doesn’t tell us what we should do. It only tells us what is.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior

This is my favorite novel tackling the topic of climate change. Follow a young-woman’s paradigm shift as she discovers her family property now falls within the flight path of migrating monarchs.

American Like Me by America Ferrera

“I was beginning to learn that bravery is like a muscle, and once you flex it, you can’t stop. And being authentic requires a lot of bravery.”

— Reshma Saujani, American Like Me

Compelling first-hand accounts of what it is like to grow up in America for those who may not always feel like they meet the standard mold of an American. Voices such as Lin-Manuel Miranda and Issa Rae chime in.

 

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Writing Bloc’s Best of October: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads October Edition. Welcome to the fourth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of October, we hear from Jacqui, Michael, and Robert.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Women Like Us by Jason Pomerance

My recommendation this month is Women Like Us, an endearing debut by author Jason Pomerance. Pomerance’s writing is rich and engrossing, and he draws you into the world he has created with a gentle ease. I truly enjoyed his style and will be picking up anything Pomerance comes up with in the future.

Women Like Us follows the story of a woman in her 30s who is re-examining certain choices she made in her past. She then sets out on a mission to reconnect with her teenage son, who is being raised by her ex-mother-in-law.

Each chapter of Women Like Us was so packed with self-reflection-inducing emotion, that I found myself feeling a bit like a freshly squeezed orange each time I closed the book for the day. There were multiple times I thought the story was veering towards a cliche, but Pomerance time and again flawlessly weaved in a different direction. I found myself wanting to know more about what inspired Pomerance to create these deeply-developed and refreshingly-human characters. A breezy but powerful read that suggests it is never too late to right past wrongs and encourages expanding the traditional definition of family.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

Respect the children’s picture book genre.

I have read a couple of other books this month, both of which left a great impression on me, but neither could compare to this incredible piece of literature. I have a couple of young kids, and we picked this up from the library based on a librarian’s suggestion (can never go wrong with that, in my experience). After the first reading, we almost immediately popped over to Amazon to grab a copy for ourselves. The love for this book swelled within us that quickly.

Yes, I know, you’re probably thinking that you wouldn’t get a children’s book unless you have children, but I urge you to at least give this book a chance by reading it in your local library, kids or not. Its images and art are unique and wonderful. The perspective is brilliant. And the message is urgent.

It’s not what you’re probably expecting, either. It’s not a book about environmental issues. It does mention to take care of the place, as it’s all we have, but the end message is all about humanity and how we carry on through generations. I’m being intentionally vague so as not to spoil the book for anyone.

But it is as advertised: notes for living on planet earth. It’s a welcome. And its simple messages and reminders are worth revisiting, even as adults. So treat yourself to a children’s book this month, especially if you haven’t read one in a while. Aren’t some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned encapsulated within a book you cherished in your youth?

Robert’s Recommendation – Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Cover image from Lifelike by Jay KristoffOn an island junkyard beneath a cigarette sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for secrets; she’s already too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building is a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive was the handful of credits she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can destroy machines with nothing more than her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

This is my first Kristoff novel and it will not be the last. Wow. This book was so good it blew my mind. There’s a lot of Idiocracy in the world, but… darker. Much darker. In inexperienced hands, this could have come off cheesy, but it doesn’t. The characters are a sarcy delight and the story is an intense rollercoaster. And that ending… Holy Hell.

(Also, Kristoff just recently tweeted he’s finished the sequel.)

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

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The Twenty Books that Most Influence Us

Here at the Writing Bloc we have a growing community of authors, aspiring authors, and avid readers. We’ve tapped into that community and asked them to tell us which books have been the most influential to their own writing. The question prompted a fascinating conversation in our Facebook group and the creation of this impressive list. Check it out, then feel free to join the conversation on FB.

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