Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About KevinWe Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book blew me away for several reasons.
1. The writing style. When I first started reading, I found it pretentious and overdone, but actually it was deep within the character’s voice. The whole book is narrated in letter format by Eva, the MC, and this is her voice. Find it aloof? That’s because it is intentionally that way. Even her own husband, Franklin, asks her to restate something in plainer terms, which proves the point that the narration is the character’s true voice. I got used to the language quickly and felt engrossed in the character herself. The style of writing deepens the reader’s connection with Eva, even if you don’t find her sympathetic or likable.

2. Taboo issues. Several times the author hits on issues in relationships and especially in motherhood that people just don’t talk about. Feeling limited by pregnancy, feeling jealous of the attention the baby gets from the husband, feeling neutral or negative about the child overall. These are all things we don’t talk about, that don’t seem…acceptable. In an interview at the end of the audiobook version, Lionel Shriver speaks specifically about this. I highly recommend the audiobook version if for no other reason than to hear the fascinating interview. (The audiobook is fantastic anyway.)

3. Feeling Eva’s feelings. The way the book is written really gets the reader involved in Eva’s life, her innermost thoughts and feelings, and that serves to help us genuinely feel what she’s feeling. I felt so frustrated with Franklin sometimes that it felt like I was frustrated with someone real. I found myself fighting with Franklin on Eva’s behalf. I kept listing reasons why he should pay attention to what she was saying. But the brilliant part is, if you look at it from Franklin’s perspective, you get it (to a degree) as well. The problems in the relationship and the character flaws allow us to feel the layers within their interactions and just how complicated they are.

4. Suspense. Shriver has a way of building suspense that I haven’t experienced often. It’s a little unconventional, to the point that even when I knew what was coming, I felt nervous during the buildup. This is one of those rare books where it’s helpful to know some of what’s coming so you can appreciate all the little hints while you read – and there are a lot of them. There is much to be appreciated in this book, and the seemingly small details are really not so small at all. In fact, most things have major significance, even when it seems like Eva is getting off track, so pay close attention.

5. The ending. I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say it really affected me. It took me off guard, shocked me, and I had to actually get over it. Normally I go back and read the beginning of a book after I finish it, just so I can try to pick up on little things that might have been blindly significant until you reread. I couldn’t start from the beginning again right away. I needed time to recover.

There is so much more to say about this book, I can’t fit it all into a review. It’s 100% worth the time and then some. I highly recommend it to readers and also to writers as a good writing lesson. I learned a lot from it and have ordered the paperback version so I can study it more closely.

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Books and Jewelry Giveaway

To celebrate reaching 300 subscribers on YouTube, I’m giving away jewelry and books! To enter the giveaway, comment directly on my video with (1) what video(s) you’d like to see in the future and (2) what prize you’d like to win! Watch the video to see the prizes in store for you. Giveaway ends Wednesday, June 7 at midnight Eastern Time.

 

 

My Review of – Anatomy of a Darkened Heart (Dark Victoriana Collection Book 1)

This wonderful review started my weekend off wonderfully. Take a moment to read the latest kind words about my book!

An Authors Blog

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Synopsis

Abigail Delilah is the firstborn of three Whitestone children – and she is the most regretted.

But is it really her fault?

She can’t help that the revelation of Father’s wretched secret coincides with her birth. She can’t help the fear she feels during Mother’s psychological – and physical – assaults. As the shadows grow stronger over her soul and the noose of pain tightens around her neck, Abigail will find out which is stronger: her family’s wicked assumptions about her or her true self.

My Review.

Firstly, the cover. I think it has to be the prettiest, creepiest most perfect cover for a book I’ve seen in some while.

The story isn’t super long, which for me is a plus because I’m slower than molasses on a cold day when it comes to reading. I started this book when I was 31, and now I’m eight hundred…

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50% off ANATOMY OF A DARKENED HEART on Smashwords

Through March 11, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart is discounted by 50% on Smashwords. You can buy it for $1.50, less than a Starbucks coffee! Just use the coupon code RAE50 at checkout to take advantage of the sale. Click here to download a sample and/or buy my ebook on Smashwords.

Don’t forget, Locke and Keye will be published soon, so now is your chance to read the first book in the Dark Victoriana Collection at half price. Enjoy!

 

Review of “Anatomy of a Darkened Heart” by Christie Stratos

I’m so thrilled with the amazing review of ANATOMY OF A DARKENED HEART from Sunshine Somerville! My smile is stuck on my face! Her blog review is wonderful and her YouTube review is awesome too. They have different details, so be sure to check them both out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RwIcHmAL_Q&feature=youtu.be
Thank you, Sunshine!

Sunshine Somerville

26813854This felt like a book I would’ve had to read in an English Literature class in college – and I mean that in a good way.  Everything about the writing and the story felt legitimately true to the period, like this was an old, classic book I’d somehow missed all these years.

The writing is phenomenal.  It’s not a long book, and the author makes every word count.  Her descriptions are perfectly refined to give the reader exactly the amount of detail you need. The  plot certainly isn’t action-packed (that wouldn’t fit the genre at all), but the slow build works very well as you focus on the psychological aspects of the story.  I was never bored because the tension constantly increases as matters of the heart grow more and more complicated.

This book is, after all, about how these characters are “darkened.” I absolutely loved how I started thinking…

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How to Ruin an Ending in One Easy Move

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) was a fantastic movie. Heartbreaking, suspenseful, psychological. Yes, one hour and 15 minutes of it was great. The last 5 minutes, however, were horrendous. You see, this movie suffered from Cop-out Ending Disorder, and it ruined the entire thing.

Spoilers are included in this post, but don’t worry. If you watch the movie, you’ll be so confused by the ending that only the final screen’s warning will hint at what actually happened. “In order that your friends may enjoy this picture, please do not disclose the ending.” That was the only thing that told me the filmmakers hadn’t gone crazy. I had to really think about what on earth I just watched and only then did I finally understand. That’s when I got really annoyed.

Imagine you spend time writing a deep, sometimes slightly disturbing psychological suspense movie script. You write it all the way to the end and you have two choices: (1) satisfy moviegoers with something that fits the rest of the movie or (2) show that none of the intensity that led to the ending ever happened. That’s right, 30 minutes worth of movie were for naught. And somehow, for some unfortunate reason, Universal Pictures decided that #2 was the ending for them.

Even while you’re watching the bad ending, you think you know where it’s going. You think the main character has gone insane and it’ll end on a fittingly disconcerting note, slightly creepy and still within the movie code (in this time period, movies had to adhere to a movie code where everyone gets their just desserts, essentially). But no. It turns out none of the most satisfyingly dark stuff ever happened and everything is okay and everyone lives happily ever after. In other words, they’ve chosen the dream trope. Oh, thank goodness it was only my imagination!

I don’t know about you, but the disappointment in this kind of cop-out forces me to hate the movie as a whole and want to rewrite it with the much better ending it should been given the dignity to have. If you, reader of my blog, are a writer, please don’t do this to me or to your book. It’s not fair to your readers, your characters, or your writing in general. Do something with your ending that will satisfy and, if possible, surprise. It’s 100% worth the effort to come up with something that is, at the very least, appropriate to the rest of the story. If readers remember your book based on the last thing they read, your ending had better make the whole experience worth it.

That’s my editorial rant for the day.

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Fiction Binoculars

When Monday is a national holiday, it gets a pass.

zoom-lens

One of the most important things creativity can be used for is not necessarily pushing your own views, but zooming in on something that needs more attention. In Joe Compton’s Amongst the Killing, it was how multidimensional the pain of loss can be and that it can cause self-destruction. In Jason Greensides’ The Distant Sound of Violence, it was recognition of how undervalued life can be and the spiderweb effect that can have on others, directly and indirectly. And in my book Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, it was the irreparable damage that can be done when someone is continually taught they’re worthless or wicked.

These messages aren’t meant to get you down. They’re meant to bring attention to things that aren’t talked about often enough. They’re meant to make you think about those who go through things you can’t imagine, to help you feel compassion for things you may never truly understand (hopefully). And they’re meant to warn you of situations you may not have seen coming before, situations you may be better prepared for after you read about them, even in fiction. They’re meant to help you reflect in an introspective way and to see more in others. Imagine how flat our lives might be without reading about others in places, relationships, and cultures so different from our own.

The best fiction makes us feel as if we’ve lived another life. And the best fiction of all makes us question any one-dimensional opinions we had before reading, especially ones we weren’t aware we had.