Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Let me start by saying that this novel is not what you're expecting. Yes, there's the experiment gone wrong and the multiple personalities of Jekyll and Hyde, but that just sets the stage for Robert Louis Stevenson (the author) to explore some very deep and dark parts of humanity.
Structurally, I didn't enjoy the very long paragraphs in the novel, but something about the novel kept me interested. I didn't notice anything special that Stevenson did, but Stevenson kept it interesting. It's very hard to pinpoint my point of interest though. However, the final paragraph is absolutely golden!
For his time, Stevenson was a bit of a genius. I really enjoyed his exploration of the darkness inside the human heart. Jekyll is a well kept and intelligent man, but Hyde is the beast inside of him. Hyde wants to have fun and do whatever he wants. Hyde is the physical manifestation of Jekyll's anger and twisted thoughts.
The novel left me with a haunting chill. I wanted more Jekyll and Hyde, more of their story. It really got me thinking about the 'Hyde' in all of us.
(Original Post on January 12, 2012 at: )

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Problem with Getting New Books...

So, with Christmas past us and a new year coming, I have a slight problem. I got three new books for Christmas* and I'm trying to fit them on my bookshelf.
The problem is that all of my books are different heights and different lengths so it looks like short book, tall book, short book, tall book and there are books that stick out and books that I can hardly see. (You could just picture the buildings in a city if you like.)
I think books should have a standard height and a standard length so they all look nice and neat on my bookshelf. But this could just be my OCD typing right now... What do you think?
Standard book sizes would also make it much easier to build bookcases, and presses (or whatever machinery they use to make books... hmm, how do they make books? To Google!)
Anyways, my rant is over. My OCD wants standard book sizes.
*The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein, Still Me by Christopher Reeve, and My Inventions by Nikola Tesla
(Original Post on December 30, 2011 at )

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter

Alright, I'll admit that when I began The Scarlet Letter, I hated it. The language is a bit old and it's a lot to take in at once. It is a hard book to read, especially since Hawthorne thought it was perfectly acceptable to have paragraphs that were over 2 pages long (because it is very, very far from acceptable!).
On the surface, the novel explores the concept of sin in Puritan society, but it does so much more than that. Hawthorne wrote the novel to explore the concepts of love, hate, sin, pain, regret, redemption and revenge (to name a few) and he does it very well. Don't get me wrong, Hawthorne was a psychiatric genius, but the psychiatry in the novel feels extremely overdone, which takes away from the (very little*) plot that does take place.
However, Hawthorne does redeem himself in the final chapter when it is revealed what his biggest purpose for writing The Scarlet Letter was. [Read the spoiler at the bottom of the page if you wish.] All in all, the novel wasn't really something I enjoyed as a story, but I did somewhat enjoy the points Hawthorne was trying to examine and how he did so.
*I say very little because, to me, it felt like most of the novel was repeated descriptions.
 <Begin Spoiler>Hawthorne's real purpose was to examine the concept that love and hate are in essence the same. Both require another person, either the object of love or the object of hate, and when that person dies there is no longer a reason for love or hate.</End Spoiler>

(Original Post on December 30, 2011 at )

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Power of Simplicity

Writers use a lot of big things to get points across. They use imagery, personification, metaphors, symbolism, etc, but what about the tiny little things that you may or may not look right past. They lurk, hidden in plain sight on the page of a book.


Many writers and poets vary sentence length in order to affect our emotions, but what if you don't even need a sentence to destroy someone? What if you only needed a single word? There is one word that has the ability to crush all of your hopes and dreams in the blink of an eye.
Hypothetical Situation #1: You have been dating a girl for a few years and you're ready to take the next step. You take her out to a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. You walk her to the car and stop in the middle of the sidewalk to 'tie your shoe'. You pull out a ring and say, "Will you marry me?".
Now, there are many possible answers to this question. She could say, "Yes!" and jump up and down screaming, but that's the response everyone wants. There are many more negative responses, however. She could say, "I need to think about it." which is a pretty good sign that she isn't ready for commitment. She could say, "I don't love you." which is extremely heart-breaking and enough to drive anyone insane. But the most terrifying and horrific response to that question would be a very simple "No."
That "No." launches a rock down your throat. It starts your stomach churning and it makes your head ache. When you walk away from her you're left with a thousand questions: Why did she say no?; Did she ever love me?; Will I ever find love? That simple "No." will drive you mad and leave you in a heightened state of anxiety and depression.
Hypothetical Situation #2: You just so happen to be named 'Clark Kent' and you're on your knees with your cape and suit shredded watching Darkseid holding an innocent bystander by the shirt collar. You stare into the innocent person's eyes and see the fear and pain. You stare into the empty eyes of Darkseid and feel lost. You attempt one last act of heroism and say, "Kill me instead."
Now, obviously you're hoping that Darkseid says, "Of course.", gives a maniacal smile and rips your head off before you squeeze out another thought, but that's a pretty uneffective way to captivate an audience. From a writing standpoint, it's much more effective to have Darkseid squeeze out a simple, "No."
That "No." puts your heart in your throat and rips your eyes out of your head.

The Ultimate End.

This leads to another aspect of writing that can crush hopes and dreams. I call it 'the ultimate end', but you probably call it a period. Using a question mark to end a sentence shows uncertainty. Using an exclamation point shows emotion. But using a period can do so much more. If done right, a simple period can show certainty and emotion. It can highlight the darkest of thoughts or the brightest of images. It can scratch a sentence onto the back of your eyelids and stay with you months after you've finished the book.
Lets use some of my writing as an example.
Example #1: "In a hesitant manner, you raise your flashlight to peer above you. You see a silhouette, soon realizing that it is your friend, impaled on a tree branch, ten feet up. Behind you, you hear the shriek!"
The orange exclamation point leaves a shrieking sound throughout your mind and it sticks with you. Changing it to a period would give you an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Both are very effective ways to get the point across. This just goes to show you how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence.
Example #2: "In what seemed like hours but was merely a few seconds, you quickly turn around and see two round objects. They are black with a silver glow. In one instant they are there, and then they disappear and return. Eyes!"
That orange exclamation point sparks fear and wonder in your heart. It sends adrenaline through your body. However, changing that exclamation point to a period would do far more to your emotions. It would make you wonder, but it wouldn't be a fearful wonder, it would be an anxious wonder. Anxiety, I believe, is far more powerful than fear. The period also creates that sense of hopelessness. You feel doomed and anxious and you're just about ready to give up all hope.
So next time you've written the perfect paragraph and you're practically manipulated your own emotions, but don't know what to say next, say as little as possible. The little, simple things often have the most impact.
(Original Post on December 27, 2011 at: )

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Unreviewable Book: Looking For Alaska

I finished Looking for Alaska by John Green. I've been sitting here for half an hour trying to figure out where to start my book review. My conclusion... it's impossible to review this book. You just have to take my word for it, this book is absolutely amazing and you have to read it.

No book (movie or tv show) has ever pulled out my emotions and made me so vulnerable as Looking For Alaska did. It's amazing!

Go here and buy it:

Or go support your local library and check out a copy!

(Original Post on November 27, 2011 at: )

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Great Gatsby (A True Classic)

Finally I've been given a so-called 'classic' novel that I truly enjoyed. Up until now I've believed that classics were only classics because they were great for the audience and time period they were written in, but The Great Gatsby has shown me something more.


The novel is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a simplistic and seemingly unimportant character, and it follows the lives of seven adults: Nick, Daisy, Gatsby, Tom, Myrtle, George and Jordan. The main plot to the novel is the love story between Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby went off to war and Daisy eventually married Tom instead of him. In an effort to win Daisy's love, Gatsby invents himself around the persona of a rich and well-liked man. Gatsby moved into a giant house across the bay from Daisy's house and waited for her for 5 years. Finally, when Nick, Daisy's cousin, moved in next door to Gatsby, Gatsby had a chance to finally reunite with Daisy. When Nick invites Daisy over for Tea and Gatsby shows up the novel explodes with drama and emotion.

Why is it a True Classic?

I'm going to call The Great Gatsby a 'true classic'. Why is that, you might ask? The novel sets itself apart from all of the other 'classics' I've read for many reasons.

All throughout the novel are themes of love, materialism and greed. Fitzgerald (the author) did an excellent job capturing the image of society during the 1920s. Each character represents the different types of people found in the era: Myrtle, Tom, Daisy and Jordan represent the many personalities of rich people during the era, while Nick represents a sort of middle-class and George represents the poor. Above all, Gatsby represents a group of people who believed that nothing mattered after the war, a 'lost generation'.

Gatsby spent 5 years holding onto Daisy only to lose her, and himself. George lost his wife, Myrtle, and killed himself. Nick lost Jordan. Conversely, Tom ran away with Daisy.

The novel ends with Nick alone in the world, no family, no friends. Nick, who seemed unimportant throughout the novel, end sup being the most important character. Nick represents the true 'lost generation' of the 1920s.


To further explore the concept of the 'lost generation', Fitzgerald continually refers to the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg, which are on a billboard. The eyes are described as old a fading. The rest of Eckleberg's face is gone and the eyes are slowly fading with it. The billboard stands tall over the road and stares at you as you drive by. The eyes represent God. The fact that they have faded away represents the lack of faith and loss of hope in the 'lost generation'.

(Original Post on November 13, 2011 at: )

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dreams in Literature

Dreams are used throughout literature in many different genres, but why use dreams? What purpose do they serve? How do they enhance a novel? In my opinion there are two types of dreams: realistic dreams and nonsense dreams.

Realistic Dreams:

Sometimes you can't even tell the character is dreaming until they wake up. Perhaps a new chapter started right off with a dream. To pull off a realistic dream, the dream needs to consist of events that fit into the novel. You can't have the protagonist slaying a dragon if they work at a coffee shop (although, that could make a good story). You also have to ensure that any characters in the dream are acting as they normally would. You can't have a business man start talking in slang.

Nonsense Dreams:

A nonsense dream is just what you think it is. Nonsense dreams are quite clearly dreams and make no sense at all.

Now we know the two types of dreams, but why do we use them?


The most common use of a dream in literature is to foreshadow future events. You do need to be careful though. If your character straight out saves the world in their dream and then saves the world at the end of the novel, your reader isn't going to be very happy. I personally use dreams to foreshadow events, but I disguise my foreshadowing with riddles, usually in a nightmare. I use a series of random events and symbolism in nightmares to disguise what is going to happen later on. This leaves the reader wondering and then shocks them once they finish the novel. If you write a series, you can foreshadow the next book in your current book, but that's a bit risky because it leaves part of the novel open ended.


Dreams can also be used to show what a character wants. Maybe they dream about a job promotion or about a family member that passed away. Sometimes these dreams can also be used as foreshadowing.


Dreams are a very good way to reveal back story in a novel. Rather than beginning a novel with a back story that might not draw in the reader, you can begin the novel with something exciting and reveal the back story in a dream later on.


Lastly, a dream can be used to express strong emotions. This can be a very affective strategy if your protagonist likes to hold their emotions in. You can show the reader what they are feeling without messing with the protagonist's character.

No matter how you use your dreams, or what type you use, make sure it fits with the novel. You might not want to put a nonsense dream in a very serious novel, or you might not want to put a realistic dream in a very light-hearted novel. But, then again, you may want to do the opposite of that. Perhaps a nonsense dream works perfectly in your serious novel. Above all, make sure your dreams don't pull away from the actually purpose of the novel.

(Original Post on November 6, 2011 at: )