Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: That Sadie Thing and Other Stories by Annalisa Crawford

By M. J. Joachim
Update 11/20/15
As a big fan of short stories, I became immediately intrigued upon reading That Sadie Thing and Other Stories. Truth be told, I simply couldn’t put it down. Okay, so I’d read a story, do some other quick task and read another story, but that’s the beauty of short story collections. They make it easy to start and stop reading at will, quickly allowing us to peruse through them, all the while enjoying every morsel they have to offer.

From beginning to end, That Sadie Thing provided intense, thought-provoking stories. The first one is the best in my opinion, catching me with its twists, turns and completely unexpected ending. I sat upright, hairs standing up on the back of my neck and said, “Wow! Didn’t see that coming!” Later I told my son about it, he was also blown away by what I shared.

All of the stories are good, each different and unique in its own way. Many have won awards or been published in magazines. Crawford has a special way of weaving tales and delighting us with her imagination, wit and creativity. Except for a few typos, this book was a satisfying and joyful, if not dark and intense publication to read, making it a perfect fit for my Recommended Reading list.

There are stories about relationships, stalking, finding oneself, deviance and free spiritedness, each ripe with human emotion and burning with Crawford’s vibrant use of words. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every story in this book. If you like short stories, this is one collection you won’t want to pass up.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: Bible Girl & The Bad Boy by EC Stilson

By M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/13/15

Based on a true story, love letters written years into a full-bloom relationship never seemed so real. Bible Girl & The Bad Boy is a story of a developing relationship, which captures the mind and heart. It is a story of teenage woes, love at first sight and forging through the years capable of making or breaking that love. 

Not everyone who falls in love at seventeen can use their bragging rights like Stilson. She’s taken the journey every step of the way; several years later, she’s got some battle wounds to show for it, but she’s still standing, and she’s still in love with the man who stole her heart.

The actual format is written like a story, not letters to her husband. The premise is a biographical tale, woven with various scenes of excitement and drama, enough to make real life better than fiction any day. It also makes me eager to read Stilson’s follow-up book, to find out what happened next. Her books are in essence, biographical stories sharing her life with the world. Hey, as long as it’s good, right?

Stilson’s stories are good. She’s lived a hard life, but doesn’t get on her soapbox or play to the soap opera scenario in Bible Girl & The Bad Boy. Instead, she tells it like it is, going back in time as if it were yesterday. This is quite simply, her life shared in the pages of her story, and it’s a book well worth reading, because she’s lived quite an intriguing life, one many of us can relate to on some level.

Perhaps we never carved the same path – wouldn’t dream of it, in fact, but it’s easy to relate to how she felt and the decisions she made back then. It’s easy to remember how mean kids can be in high school and how parents don’t quite have what it takes to understand us. There isn’t a kid in the world who hasn’t faced and tried to overcome these same dilemmas in high school, in my opinion.

Bible Girl & The Bad Boy will be added to my Recommended Reading list. It’s an easy to read story that is written very well.

Best of Monday to all,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Najuan, Polski: Kazik, GNU Free Documentation License

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

By M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/20/15

The climax for Fifty Shades of Grey is nothing compared to the psychological drama that easily played out in the story. The main character, Christian Grey, ends up on another of his many conquests, that of Anastasia Steele. His sexual prowess is extreme, falling into the realms of sadomasochism, while she is yet a virgin, completely unequipped to deal with such a controlling and manipulative sexual partner.

Ever believing she can change Christian, Anastasia endeavors to unwittingly fall in love with him. He’s rich, charming, gorgeous and cunning, as he leads her down the path, continuously dangling the carrot of “love” in front of her, all the while interjecting himself into her personal relationships, wining and dining her like the true whore he attempts to make her out to be.

Whatever the reason, Anastasia falls for it. She, reluctantly at first, begins giving into his demands, gradually losing sight of the woman she is and wants to become, yet striving diligently to keep her wits about her, vainly trying to keep some sense of self-dignity within her grasp.

It is an exciting story, particularly at first when the reader doesn’t know what’s coming next, and is dramatically tantalized with bizarre sexual behaviors most people only fantasize about, if they even allow themselves to delve into the depraved atmosphere presented. Dominants and submissives – Christian’s claim that submissives have all the power, while he remains guarded, demanding submission and punishing Anastasia when she doesn’t comply. Oh, but she can always say, “No.” Not without stern and extremely unsettling disapproval and guilt from Christian, though he never pushes her to her limits, opting instead to guide her in his professional, businesslike manner, until she trusts him enough to do exactly what he wants.

Tears and regret often follow, as Anastasia gradually moves her personal boundaries to a place beyond her reckoning, with the ultimate realization that she simply can’t live like this. All the money in the world can’t satisfy her denial of self, her willingness to give up her self-worth, allowing Christian to get his jollies, owning and controlling her, physically, emotionally and financially.

She walks out because he has gone too far, even though she clearly gave him permission to do so. And the story is over. All that build-up left flat – no heroine or hero, just a warped sense of sexual experimentation in the bedroom. Makes me wonder how this book made it to the best-seller list. Clarifies how some women can literally think of themselves as objects for men, and then wonder why they have no personal identity or sense of true self.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a disturbing book that gives new light to the definition of dysfunctional. No woman in her right mind would choose to be an Anastasia Steele, and no man has a right to dominate any woman that way – figuratively or really (if they have the means to like Christian Grey). It is a sad testament to the dismissal of human dignity, in favor of the sexual revolution – sex without intimacy or consequence.

On the other hand, it does encourage (albeit in a construed and misguided sort of way) releasing one’s sexual inhibitions to explore sexual intimacy in a whole new light. Some of those steamy and romantic scenes could be used to one’s benefit in personal relationships, providing they don’t let it go too far. Communicating and being honest about one’s sexual desires, limits and fantasies is probably a good thing in most relationships. Anastasia’s ability to overcome her fears, being open and honest about her inexperience, hard and soft boundaries and need for “more” is an important part of the story, encouraging clear and thoughtful discussion with one’s partner.

Still, the story left me flat, not wanting more, but simply wondering why all the intense and extreme buildup, only to end on such an easy and unsatisfying note. I won't be adding it to my Recommended Reading page. If I decide to read the next book in this series, perhaps it will shed some light. Will Mr. Grey pursue Anastasia, realizing he simply can’t lose her? That might be a story worth reading, as Anastasia redeems herself to him and readers alike. If it’s only another story of Grey’s conquests and insatiable, warped sexual desires, I think it will likely be a complete waste of money. Been there, done that sort of thing, especially since there are so many more interesting books to read.

Please share your take on this book, if you have read it. If you haven’t, how do you feel about my review?

As always, thank you for stopping by and commenting on Writing Tips today.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Blog Hopping Badges, Manners and Etiquette

By M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/13/15

When you go to a party, proper manners require you thank the host, by making some sort of kind gesture or comment, for the invitation and hospitality received in your favor. Just as the host makes a point to greet you in turn, you make a point to appreciate their reception and kindness. 

Blog hops are pretty much blog parties. Bloggers are invited per their interest via the web. People accept the invitation by signing up for the blog hop, and when the time comes, they join in the blog hopping fun, by posting theme related content on the designated day(s). Blog hop badges are readily available for invitees to post on their blog, making it easier for all participants to identify those in the hop. There’s more to it, however. 

Displaying blog hop badges, and linking to the host site when you participate in blog hops, is proper blog etiquette and quite frankly good manners.

Your host is giving you an opportunity to meet new bloggers, receive more page views and comments and help promote your blog. Thanking your host by displaying the badge they provide seems only right, polite and a nice way to thank your host for putting on the blog hop and inviting you to attend.

Update 11/13/15

I personally don't advocate signing up and participating in blog hops anymore, because all that linking can have detrimental affects for your blog and your blogging adventure. However, there are ways to participate in blog hops without actually linking all over the place. You can easily find a blog hop, write a post for the theme on the set date and time, and hop to everyone you find participating, without adding your link to the master list. It's a bit more work, but I believe it is much safer for your blog. Also, take a screen shot of the badge, so you don't add all that code to your own blog.

Thanks for visiting and commenting on Writing Tips today.

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit:  CCO Public Domain

Monday, March 10, 2014

Birthday Theme Ideas for Your Blog

By M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/13/15

Birthdays provide some great opportunities for themes and writing blog posts. There are so many ideas that stem from them.

Family Member Birthdays – Use this opportunity to list family members, both past and present, to write special thoughts to loved ones, or share something unique and special about them with your audience.

Birthstones – Write about each birthstone, birthstone color, gems related to birthstones etc. Research the history of birthstone, as well as the history of each stone and its significance throughout time.

Dates, Months & Days of the Week– Get creative with this one. Try some foreign languages, pig-latin, even made up words. Talk about days family members were born on, the actual numbers and symbolism; use a thesaurus and dictionary and you’re sure to find something for each letter of the alphabet with these.

Famous People/This Day in History – Celebrities celebrate birthdays too. Follow the month of April or tie in their birthdays with people you know. Let history lead the way, as you write about things that happened, inventions that were made and all sorts of other trivia people will undoubtedly enjoy!

Food – Who can resist it?! Share recipes and special birthday dishes on your blog. List different types of birthday cakes and alternatives to cake. Write about different cultures and the types of dishes each prepares for birthdays.

Celebrations – Offer some quick and easy decorating tips. Discuss the history of birthday celebrations. Share birthday game and party ideas. Birthdays on a budget anyone? How about lavish birthday celebrations, or compare the two. Discuss how different cultures and societies celebrate birthdays, or delve into the religious aspects of birthdays, considering how and when the first birthday was celebrated, and even including religions that don't celebrate birthdays, as part of your theme.

Still stumped on how to come up with a letter for everyday? Combine all of the above, and use a general birthday theme on your blog.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on Writing Tips today,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Birthday candles, GNU Free Documentation License