Fatima’s Book Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

Review by Fatima Bheekoo-Shah

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Today, we live in a world that when you look like this:

life in terms of friendships tend to be little easier. At school you able to befriend other kids fairly quickly, people want to know you and you able to have a smooth schooling career. But, what happens when you look like this?

Are people or children willing to know you just as quickly? Do they flock around you, or shout your name when they see you coming up the steps at school? ‘Wonder‘ tells the story of ten year old August, who to most people looks anything but ordinary.

I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go. (excerpt from book Wonder)

We follow August (Auggie) as he is about to enter 5th Grade. He will be attending school for the first time. Due to his facial difference, he had to have numerous surgeries and thus had to be home schooled up until now. While Auggie is nervous about attending school, he is also excited to go to school with other kids. During his year he will meet a variety of characters. The bully, who doesn’t bother to get to know him, but bullies him because he wants to. The girl who goes out of her way and has the courage to be kind to him despite what others may think and say. And the boy who genuinely like Auggie, wants to be friends with him but loses his way for while during that time.

My eight year old son and I read this book together on the recommendation of my nephew. In my nephew’s words; “It was the best book I have ever read”. There was no way I couldn’t take his advice (even if he is eleven years old) and I am so glad I did. Wonder is one of those books that can be read across the ages. There is no one particular age group that it is meant for. Anyone who reads this book, will either be inspired by it or can relate to it in some way or the other. I love the fact that the author does not give a description of Auggie, instead you are told you can never imagine what he looks like.

‘My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’

The book is written in the first person from our main character Auggie. I cannot begin to explain how much I adored his character. While you brutally aware of his facial difference, he is so confident in himself. He is witty, smart, funny and unbelievably kind and strong in character. While his family worries about him, they never try to fight his battles for him, yet at the same time continually support him. They handle the difficult situations with such dignity, it is impossible not to feel awestruck or uplifted.

The main theme of the book is ‘kindness before being right.’ As a parent, while reading this book, I began to think back on all those ‘awkward’ situations I came across with my kids. What did I do when my kids first came across someone in a wheelchair and started shouting in a sing song voice “why is he in that?” Did I pull them along and run? or did I use the opportunity to teach them by speaking to him kindly and showing them he is the same like us but can’t use his legs? When asking my son about his thoughts, he told me he hopes he will always remembers to be kind and to be able look past what people look like.

As it is said by The Independent, R.J Palacio has written a book that ‘wreaks emotional havoc.’ While she continually makes you question your own kindness and dignity, she also shows and reminds us that we all were ‘an Auggie’ in some point or form in our lives, and that it was okay to be that way.

Every person needs to read this book.

An emotional 5 stars.

Fatima’s Book Review: The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

Review by Fatima Bheekoo-Shah

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

Deanna Madden thinks of herself as a killing machine. She has a constant thirst to spill anyone’s blood and spends her time imagining various ways to take someone’s life. She is a danger to everyone. She cannot move or live among society. She needs to protect people from her, so she locks herself in apartment 6E.

Deanna supports herself as a naughty, sexy cam girl who fulfils the fetishes and desires of both men and women. This livelihood helps distract her from what she really wants. To a point. While fulfilling  one of her clients fantasies that she realises he is not just fantasising. His fantasy may end a little girl’s life. Has Deanna finally found her excuse to leave her apartment and give in to her own fantasy?

This is the first installation of this three part erotic suspense series. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning of this story considering the main character is stuck in her apartment. How much interaction can she have? Other than her clients via internet, who else is this book about? A.R. Torre does not disappoint. The writing is riveting and Deanna’s narration of her life is not at all dull. While Deanna considers herself a villain, I could not but empathise with her situation. Does that make me as sick as she is?

Due to her being in her apartment, Deanna has all her essentials delivered to her. This comes in the form of the good looking UPS delivery guy Jeremy. He is intrigued by the girl who refuses to open the door and who insists he leaves it and sign for it himself. Will their chance encounter end badly or is he the one person who can save her from herself?

The manner in which the villain was introduced into the story was done well. The switch in narration between Deanna and villain keeps you turning the pages. A.R Torre’s (Alessandra Torre) favorite part of being an author is delving and living in to the minds of her characters for weeks and months, and it shows. The hours you spend reading is as if you walking through the book with the characters. The definition of her various clients fetishes adds to the dimension of the story, and helps you understand the characters that much more.

While the plot was fairly predictable, it does not lessen the suspense factor, although there was one plot twist that I did not see coming. While the book does not end on a cliffhanger, Deanna is far from being cured, if she can be cured. She is still a danger to everyone around her. I will without a doubt be reading the next book to find out if and how her situation improves.

I rate this book 3.75 stars. If you read this book, I would love to hear your comments.

A.R Torre also writes erotic romance books under the name Alessanda Tore.

Fatima’s Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Review by Fatima Bheekoo-Shah

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

During my teen years I lived on a staple diet of Judy Blume books. It was an awakening of my adolescent years and made me realise that teenagers the world over have common issues regarding body image, sex, romance and insecurities. Judy Blume was my constant companion while I traversed through the angst of my teenage years. But when I think about it now, perhaps her characters were too perfect. They were your typical girl next door type and usually they started off awkward but it never ended off that way.

When I read Dumplin’ my first thought was I need to keep this book for my daughter. Dumplin’ was perhaps everything a Judy Blume’s book was not. I loved this coming of age courageous novel about the overweight Willowdean Dickson. While Judy Blume will always be a legend, I loved Julie Murphy’s fresh and contemporary voice when it came to this novel.

Willowdean is a curvaceous sixteen year old teen living in Clover City, Texas. Clover City is famous for one thing, its annual Miss Clover City teen Beauty pageant. When Willowdean decides to do the unthinkable and enter the pageant, it unlikely causes friction between her and her best friend Ellen. All of a sudden the pageant highlights the growing distance between them and Willowdean is forced out of her comfort zone. Although she’s never cared a hoot about what people think about her size, circumstances suddenly make her question everything she thought she understood about herself. And then there is a love interest which makes her life a little more than complicated.

This was our first book choice of this year for our bookclub. We are a diverse group of women and we all as different as night and day but we all thoroughly enjoyed this book. Julie Murphy’s style of writing is light and humorous but at the same time it has deep insight into what goes on in a teenage mind. I loved at certain points in the book she could sum up a whole chapter with just one sentence. Her characters are likeable and interesting. They are not perfect, they are riddled with flaws which makes for more interesting reading. Willowdean is at times a complex and frustrating character but she is the kind of protagonist I’ve LONGED to read about forever.

Days after I still missed the many characters I had grown attached to in the book. I felt remorseful that I had finished this book so quickly. I highly recommend this book and I think it’s great book for moms and teenage daughters to read together as there are so many pertinent points which can be discussed together.

A highly recommended read.

My Favorite Books on Writing

      

 “James Scott Bell is a bestselling and award winning suspense writer, and one of the top writing coaches in the country.”

These are only a few of James Scott Bell’s books, and I own all four. I love his books because they’re easy to understand and he gives plenty of examples when teaching. When I read one of his books on writing, I’m armed with a pen, highlighter, and Post-its. This is what they look like when I’m through with them:
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He has also developed an online, interactive program called Knockout Novel on Hiveword that will guide you through your novel, step-by-step. I’ve been using this with my current novel and I love it.

 

 

 


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“Garry Rodgers is a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police homicide detective who went on to a second career as a forensic coroner for the Province of British Columbia. In my younger years, I served as a sniper on British Special Air Services (SAS) trained Emergency Response Teams and I’m also a recognized expert witness in Canadian courts on the identification and operation of firearms.”

If you’re a crime writer looking for tips, look no further. Garry Rodgers is not only one of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet, but he knows what he’s talking about. He’s a retired Homicide Detective and Forensic Coroner, and now a best-selling crime writer and deadly blogger at The Huffington Post.


“This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!”

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need is a must-have for screenwriters and novelists. Even though it’s made for screenwriters (which I once was), it can be easily applied to novelists. I’ve used this Beat Sheet Calculator (on the right) when figuring out the novel page count (since the book is geared toward screenwriters, those are the page counts he uses). Author Jessica Brody uses Blake’s method to outline and plot all over her novels.

 


 

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“Born out of the author’s real-life experiences growing up around death investigation, Forensic Speak unlocks the secrets of forensic science for writers and fans alike. Jennifer regularly leads seminars and webinars on forensics and crime fiction.”

I first heard about Jennifer Dornbush on Pilar Alessandra’s On the Page podcast. Her story blew me away and I was hooked. I had to have her book. If you don’t write crime fiction now, this book will make you want to. It did for me.        

Video Killed the Radio Star

writing-and-music-300x212The song Video Killed the Radio Star reminds me of two things:

  1. It’s the first video to play on MTV in August of 1981, when I was a mere 11 years old.
  2. Riding the Scrambler in Take This Waltz, one of my favorite movies ever.

I’ve loved Seth Rogan since Freaks and Geeks (still waiting for season two), and I fell in love with Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.  I won’t spoil the movie if you haven’t seen it, but that link above when they’re riding the Scrambler has so many emotions in it….I can feel the wind in my hair…the music pumping…their reality when the lights suddenly click on.

I have seen this movie a ton of times, Continue reading “Video Killed the Radio Star”

Tips for Finding an Accountability Partner

download (8)“An accountability partner is a person who coaches another person in terms of helping the other person keep a commitment.” Wikipedia

I recently found the site Writerology, run by Faye Kirwin. She has a section called  Accountabuddy, where you can be matched up with another writer and hold each other accountable. The thing that stood out to me was being matched up. I have met countless writing buddies over the years, and I’m still good friends with most of the, but we don’t talk about writing anymore. At all.

Within a week, Faye emailed me and said she found someone she thought would be a good match. My new buddy and I Continue reading “Tips for Finding an Accountability Partner”

How Do You Capture Your Ideas?

           

For years I carried around a small notebook to jot down ideas when they came to me. I still do that but now I transfer them to my Idea Box for easy organized access.

If something catches my attention I’ll write it down on something (notebook, napkin, index card, my hand) and later tranfer it to an index card for the box. If it’s something I overheard, I’ll write it down on the card. If it’s an article or photo I find, I’ll cut it out and tape it to a card.

This morning while putting laundry away Continue reading “How Do You Capture Your Ideas?”