Writing Case Study: Open Road Summer

open road summer writing

As some of you have pointed out, I read a lot. While most of this reading is for fun, there is an element of “I am reviewing this” to a good number of the books I read, too. Reading doesn’t look quite the same when I’ve got a review to film or post instead of cracking open a book for pleasure. Just how different are the two?

Spoiler: not drastically. But there are far more copious notes to take when reading for a book review. Today I’ll give you a glimpse behind the scenes as I truck through one of my more recent reads, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. And after talking about the concept of “show don’t tell” earlier this month, it felt appropriate to see the idea in action. (Need a refresher on what Show Don’t Tell is all about? Look no further!)

The Scoop
I’m only at 45% progress on this novel. I started reading it with moderate hopes, but am dangerously close to putting it aside forever. Obviously, being only partway through, I’m unaware as to whether or not my problems with the novel will be resolved by the end, but as it stands, this book is a pretty solid violation of show don’t tell.

Open Road Summer starts with an interesting premise, but quickly falls flat due to clunky narration. (Sadly) this book is a prime example of too much blunt narration and not enough development of characters and their motivation. It’s got other redeeming qualities, but its issues with overpower its rewards.

The Offenders

1. He hands me the notebook, and I can’t help but ask. Not only am I curious, but I’m also trying to get his attention. I can’t seem to stop myself.

“Tattoo, huh? Can I see it?”

Maybe this is a brazen thing to ask, but hey — he’s the one who had his shirt off in the first place. He tugs his shirt up and turns to the side. I lean closer, peering at the carefully inked letters. Clearing his through, he says, “It’s from the second verse of—”

“‘Forever Young.’ Bob Dylan,” I finish.

Matt’s tattoo is lyrics from a song I love, written by a singer I love. And I do not use the word “love” lightly or often.

I really can’t tell that Reagan loves this song, or Bob Dylan, or even music for that matter. Come to think of it, the only reason I know she’s associated with music is because she’s friends with Dee. The conversation here happens, but aside from her hasty response, Reagan doesn’t convey her love of “Forever Young” through anything other than her direct narration to the reader.

This could be a great moment to see Reagan’s reaction, to see how she reacts when she loves something, supposedly, so much. Not to mention the fact that she’s an interesting, “angsty” character, for lack of a better term, who’s trying to suppress her personal reactions as well as her growing feelings towards Matt.

2. “So I’ve spent the past two months atoning, keeping to myself as I carried my own brokenness beneath the heavy plaster of a blue cast. This whole time, I’ve been trying to figure that girl out — the one who got too drunk at parties just for attention, the one who dated a loser pothead because it seemed cool.”

Has she now? Reagan’s character is little more than a narrator in the direct sense of the word. She’s got a troubled, rebellious teen girl attitude, but most of her bad girl cred is implied and never shown. As much as I love the idea of her character struggling with a dark past, her characterization is all talk and no action. Up until this point in the story, I caught no real sense of this withdrawn Reagan, of a girl who is punishing herself in her own way for past behaviors that she doesn’t now approve of.

Reagan doesn’t even really cry for attention throughout the early pages of the story, making her statement about seeking attention at parties little more than empty words.

3. “Most reporters haven’t realized that Dee doles out face time based on respectfulness. If a reporter is especially nice to her, with thoughtful questions, she always remembers.”

Earlier, Dee remembers a little girl’s name in the crowd and gives the girl a very personal shout out in the middle of her concert. It’s a sweet moment that perfectly characterizes the singer and the attention she pays to her fans. Yet pages later, that moment is eclipsed by a matter of fact statement of Dee’s niceness that was more effectively portrayed earlier in the story. The earlier endearing moment of indirect characterization was better left alone.

While the story itself is intriguing, the abundance of direct characterization and narration make Open Road Summer a lackluster read. There are plenty of opportunities to provide insight into what are pretty interesting and complex characters, but the writing makes them forgettable and annoying. Being likable does not mean being perfect, but it does require readers to understand the character’s motivation and believe that it is honest, which is where Open Road Summer falls flat.

I won’t lie — this book frustrated me to the point of putting it down. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, and until I can muster up the energy to sift through dry, direct characterization all day I’m putting it on hold for books that do a better job of exciting me. Despite its flaws, I do like Open Road Summer‘s depiction of female friendship, plus Dee’s got this Taylor Swift vibe going on, which is a major bonus and makes for an enjoyable aspect.

Like this post? Want me to break down my entire reviewing thought process?
Tell me what book would you like to see broken down next!

Books That Make Me Cry

30Lists Filofax

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you — that’s a list that you see!

If you’re a long-time reader of My Life as a Teacup, you’re probably not surprised to see a list this month! Since 2011, September has been synonymous with 30 Days of Lists around these parts, and this year is no different. #30Lists is a listing challenge that exercises your creativity with a daily list prompt. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, other than to just have fun!

I’ve been participating since the challenge’s first run, and when Kam and Amy invited me to host another prompt this fall, I couldn’t say no. Especially when the topic was books!

Typically when I read, it’s not my goal to turn into a blubbering, sobbing mess of tears. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens, whether due to character deaths or poignant messages in stories. Whatever the cause, here are a few of the books that are guaranteed to make me cry:

Books That Make Me Cry

  1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  4. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  7. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  8. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Want to know what exactly it is about these novels that make me bawl? Join in on the 30 Days of Lists fun to see the full list (don’t worry — there’s no right or wrong time to start listing!)

P.S. That watercolor Filofax printable you see? It’s a list template I made exclusively for #30Lists this year!

#30Lists listing challenge

Plan Your Book Haul For Your Next Library Trip (+ a free library card Filofax printable!)

filofax printable library haulWhen confronted with the prospect of going to the bookstore or library, my reaction can be summed up in one gif:

That being said, you can imagine how chaotic it is to step into a bookstore with someone who’s flailing around, picking up every book, and stroking the cover (true story). For a book lover, stepping into a library or bookstore with literally hundreds of, thousands of options, can be overwhelming!

Here are three ways you can combat Bibliophile Meltdown and shop (or rather, borrow) smarter:

1. Set a book limit — How many of you are guilty of walking out of the library with your borrowing limit maxed out? How about walking out of a bookstore, riddled with guilt as you think of your massive to be read pile at home, while you cradle a stack of 5 new books in your arms? Been there, done that (this week, actually). Keep your TBR stress at a minimum by setting a book buying limit before you walk into the store that aligns with how many books you can reasonably read at the moment, or how many unread books are sitting at home on your shelf.

2. Do your research — Indecision can strike at the worst moment. Don’t let it catch you off guard by doing your research before you get to the bookstore. Knowing what books you’re after, as well as checking out reviews, can help curb impulse buys and even general frustration (I’d like to think there’s research that’s been done on this, but I can’t find any. This is pure speculation based off of how many times I’ve stood in front of a bookshelf, cursing and frustrated at how many options are before me.)

Personally, I love checking Goodreads to see what my friends think of books, and read up on the most recent reviews, as well as trace similar titles.

3. Make a list — Don’t let all of that research go to waste! In case you can’t remember which books out of the hundreds you looked up on Goodreads, or can’t recall which your local library has in stock, jot down your book picks on a list that you can keep in your purse. I like to keep my check out list in my Filofax planner for easy access!

And so you don’t have to keep your book list on any ol’ scrap of paper…I made a library card-inspired book list just for you! Never forget a book title or author from your reading list again. With two sizes — a full 8.5″ x 11″ sheet and Personal size Filofax insert, these free printables will surely come in handy.

library card filofax printable

Get your free printable when you sign up for my newsletter! It’ll be in your inbox in a jiffy.

Free printables! Bookish news! Writing tips!



How do you keep your book shopping under control? Share your tips in the comments below!

Parting with Books (Is Such Sweet Sorrow)

Repurpose Your Books!

You flip the final page of your latest conquest, only for your fingers to graze the glossy cover one last time before the book finds a permanent spot on your shelf. You give it the occasional glance and you think to yourself, “I should give that novel another read. Someday.”

Surely you have a book in mind. You know the kind I’m talking about. It’s not that you don’t like it, no, but it is not a cherished favorite; it doesn’t get pulled out and reread year after year. It just…is.

Do you keep it on your shelf, collecting dust and taking up room? Or do you sell it at a secondhand shop? Maybe hand it off to a friend?

Parting with a book is hard stuff. Nevermind that it isn’t your favorite book of all-time, it mostly just feels weird. For some books (namely those you aren’t too crazy about, like those books you want to stop reading) it’s easier than others; for some people it’s easier than for others. If you do decide to part with your book, here are some ways to consider doing so:

Donate it to a library.

Swap it with a friend. You can even set up a group amongst your friends to swap and share books.

Donate it to a teacher for their kids to read as part of their classroom library.

Repurpose it as decor.

Swap it with your #NovelTeaBookSwap partner and keep the book love going! Maybe someone else will enjoy your previous read.

Sell it at a local bookstore (don’t expect to get rich quick, however).

Make it into a paper flower for your friend’s wedding decor (preferably a book you don’t like).

Just please, whatever you do, don’t throw it away!

How do you part with your old books, if at all?

4 Comic Books For Girls Who Don’t Read Comics

Today’s post is brought to you by the ultra-talented cosplayer and all-around lovely (and geeky) lady, Mia Moore.

graphic novels comics

For years, I wanted to get into comic books, but I didn’t know where to begin. With alternate timelines, deaths and rebirths, reboots and crossovers, comic books can be a confusing hobby, especially for newbies.

Once I jumped in, I found out comics are one of my favorite storytelling mediums! Here are a few of my current favorite titles — that don’t need any research or backstory — to get you started in the beautiful world of comics.

Note: I am a fan of badass ladies, and my selection definitely reflects that. Your mileage may vary!

Batgirl

I was devastated when the New 52 happened. It was right after I started keeping up with comics regularly, so the complete reboot of everything in the DC universe was personally heartbreaking. I mourned the loss of Power Girl and Stephanie Brown, the Batgirl incarnation at the time. But when I heard Gail Simone was the writer for the new storyline, I gave it another chance, and I am so glad I did!

I love the Bat family, but Batman is way too moody for me sometimes. On the other hand, Barbara is funny and lovable. If you want to get into superhero comics without the multiple timelines, Batgirl’s story is the perfect way.

Buy Batgirl: Volume 1Volume 2,  Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5

Ms. Marvel

The new Ms. Marvel run is amazing for several reasons. It’s a complete reboot, meaning you don’t need to know a thing about the universe to get started, and it’s the first comic to star a Muslim-American character. The story follows Kamala Khan as she struggles to navigate her new-found powers as Ms. Marvel and the difficulties of being a Muslim-American teenager. It deals a lot with self-acceptance, and I am a sucker for coming-of-age stories. This book is also lighter than Batgirl, so if you are looking a superhero story that’s a little fluffier, this is a great fit.

Ms. Marvel has been consistently popular — selling out multiple issues — and is one of my all-time favorite superhero stories so far. I highly recommend it.

Buy Ms. Marvel: Volume 1Volume 2

Lumberjanes

Lumberjanes is an all-ages comic (in stark contrast to Rat Queens, below!) Lumberjanes takes place at a summer camp for girls and the main theme of the comic is fun adventures and friendship. Each issue features a villain of the week-type adventure and a “mix tape” playlist to go along with the story.

It’s published by Boom!, so if you like other Boom! titles like Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, you will love Lumberjanes.

Buy Lumberjanes: Volume 1

Rat Queens

Image comics is doing amazing things in the comics world. If traditional superhero comics aren’t your thing, Image is the publisher you’ll want to look into. Rat Queens follows a highly inappropriate and hilarious girl gang. This comic is rated R — if you don’t like drunken brawls, drug references, and a little gore, it’s probably not for you. All four leading ladies are unique in personality and appearance, which is a huge relief from an industry that tends to have very similar female characters.

If you want to see some badass ladies kicking ass in a fantasy setting, Rat Queens is a great pick.

Buy Rat Queens: Volume 1Volume 2 


Mia blogs at xoMia.com and you can find her elsewhere on the web at the links below…