Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writing everywhere but here..


I'm taking two writing intensive ("WIN") courses this semester so I have to be constantly reading and writing. Two article reviews, one in-class essay, three journalistic writing stories, and 8 chapters worth of discussion questions and journal entries later, I have finally been awarded with some precious blogging time. I'm almost thankful for the fact that I got laid off at Guitar Center around the time I did. I loved it so much but my term ended in early September. I won't go into detail but it wasn't the most harmonious ending. The way I see it, it was like a ticking time bomb went off and I'm actually doing well in school now instead of stressing. I've even been selected to be published in the local student newspaper, The Bridge, and you can see the story here if you'd like. I have a partner I work with and we've two other pieces about astronomy and a political science organization on campus so hopefully it won't be our only slot. I only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I'm there mostly all day and during my one hour gap, I've managed to finish 5 novels. Safe Haven is down there, which I blogged about already, but I'm retouching on it just to tie in the similarities of Sparks's novels. I've noticed some definite patterns and have decided to address them here. I've also read Lori Gottlieb's two novels and want to talk about them a little. Okay so some quick paraphrasing on  plot, characters, and thoughts. These are very informal reviews but let's get to it.
This plot centralizes around Julie: the attractive hairdresser who works in Beaumont, North Carolina. It quickly covers the tragedy of becoming a widow early on and addresses all of the immediate characters fairly well. She works with Mabel and she is painted as the sassy salon owner. Then there's Andrea, the insecure woman who dresses provocatively and dates every guy but her ideal man. There's also Henry and Emma who are happily married. Last but not least, there's Mike (Henry's brother). Julie knows Mike because he was Jim's (her late husband) best friend. He's always been liked by Julie's Great Dane named Singer, who's her final gift from Jim after his passing. Your typical "best friends" situation that deals with unrequited love that everyone else can see until Julie finally opens up her eyes and decides to give Mike a chance. This happens after dating Richard, a seemingly irresistible catch. Although he treats her to extravagant dates, says the perfect lines, and has a respectable career, something doesn't feel right about him in Julie's eyes which is confirmed by Singer's apprehension towards him. Long story short: Richard's dark past is exposed as the chapters progress and he starts to plot to have Julie all to himself, no matter what. The authorities (the "dumb cop" stereotype experiencing delusions of grandeur shown through the character Pete) are no help, except for new export Jennifer. Throughout all the chaos, both Mike and Singer are there for Julie until the final confrontation of the story. Ultimately, this book is the only Sparks novel I've read where there's suspense and grim twists. It has a darker side to it but also proves the loyalty dogs can have. As a dog owner myself, it touched me. Although it's one of the more lengthier novels, I read through this book in about 2 sittings and in two days because I was that hooked. 
Logan walks across the country with his dog, Zeus, until he stops at Hampton, North Carolina to find Elizabeth ("Beth"). He begins this journey after his fellow Marine says that the picture of her is what kept him alive in Afghanistan. Initially, he doesn't believe him but after returning to the states and having difficultly adjusting to civilian life, he decides to try. Beth has no idea about his motives when he comes into her shop to ask for a job looking after the dogs in her kennel. Unsure of what to make of him, she hands the decision over to Nana, her beloved (and quirky) grandmother. She hires him and soon, everyone is falling for Logan. Even Beth's son has taking a liking to Logan, which doesn't sit well with possessive ex-husband, Keith. Most locals know that his family controls Hampton but Beth doesn't know just how much he controls her. This book develops in a point-of-view format, unlike your typical numerical chapters. It jumps from Beth, Keith, and Logan, and does a pretty decent job at developing characters and personalities. 

For the sake of saving time and space, read here.

*CAUTION* (Somewhat of a spoiler)
There's two stories in one with this novel: The story of what some call the "meet cute" between a couple and The Choice that Travis must make. The book is in a normal numerical format and starts with Travis at the hospital. Anxiously debating in his mind, he begins to flashback to the first story. The first story is somewhat of a love triangle between Travis (the easygoing vet), Gabby (the meticulous nurse practitioner), and Kevin (the commitment-phobic 4 year boyfriend). Gabby moves to Beaufort, North Carolina to get closer to her boyfriend. Her arrival next door shakes up the predictable yet content lifestyle that Travis has been living. She has been one to follow a plan her whole life but upon meeting Travis, this mentality starts to change. Meeting Travis's sister, Stephanie, further shows her there's hope for a different type of life. She ultimately chooses Travis over her boyfriend Kevin. They marry and have a happy life together until the accident, which is where the second story lies. Travis beats himself up about how Gabby ended in a comma and wrestles with keeping a promise to her or keeping their love alive. He promised her that if she ever turned into a vegetable to pull the plug for everyone's sake but he doesn't want to lose the love of his life. This choice is ultimately asks a very universal question: What would you do in the name of love?

What I noticed about all these novels were that the main love interest is always with a more calm demeanor while the ex is always painted as more of a monster. Either that, or the main love interest is always a reminder of a man in the girl's past. For example, in The Guardian Mike reminded Julie of Jim. In The Lucky One, Logan was a reminder of Beth's brother. There always has to be a sassy supporting role (i.e. Nana, Stephanie, Jo, etc.) An epic tragedy always has to happen as well (i.e. confrontation in all the stories). North Carolina is where all these characters reside (maybe they even know each other. lol ) Although the dialogue between all these couples is very playful, it's still very endearing in each one.There seems to be a specific formula Sparks always follows and he doesn't stray too far from it. I think that's what everyone always criticizes.I don't know if it's a bad thing but I do know he won't ever make a great novel if he keeps it up. There has to be some innovation to this formula before it becomes so much of a recycled mold that people stop reading. 

Lori grew up being a very bright child in Beverly Hills but was often discouraged and isolated because of it. Even her superficial mother would tried to encourage a change in her interests. This story is chronicled through Lori's diaries as an eleven year old. They provide insight to a girl's thoughts while dealing with anorexia. The format is in "diary form" but seems to be edited for an older audience. I don't know if I believe that it was authentic journal entries or entries fabricated based on the real thing. However, it was entertaining. The tone changes from laughing at the things Lori says to being genuinely concerned and upset by how she slowly morphs her thoughts before she starts to engage in the behaviors that begin her anorexia. Even as a child, Lori points out some very solid insight that's beyond her years. It almost makes you question who's smarter in the story: her parents or her? I think a second theme ties in as well. It shows how controlling and oppressing a child can turn them to unorthodox ways to cope with it. It was an easy read that left you wondering, which was the goal from the beginning. 

Marry Him has a title that basically sums up the story. It makes women pause to think about their selection choices in their romantic life and suggests an alternative. Basically, it addresses how women "judge a book by its cover" and because of it, their dating lives are suffering. She suggests a more realistic approach to dating and shows the results with "case studies" , interviews, statistics, and her own experience. It's hard to argue with the evidence. Although it was a New York Times best seller, I feel changing the title would have attracted more readers. This is quite honestly one of the most insightful books I've ever read and because of a title, I think it will propel readers away. It makes "settling" have a negative connotation to it. Gottlieb basically wants to redefine how we view "settling" and I feel that if most women would take off their masks and lower their egos a bit, they can admit that she's right in some of her points. I almost didn't buy this book because I was scared that my boyfriend would think I was reading it because I was reconsidering our relationship and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would have similar apprehension. Women are so scared of what message they're sending and carrying a book around with a giant "Marry Him" won't help them enjoy the content. It's really a worthwhile read.

So this is how I've been killing time: school, relationships, and books. Not a bad combination if you ask me. Sorry for the long entry. More structure for next time.

'til next time, stay classy! ♥

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