Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #11: This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has written some 25 books and an equal number of short stories. His Devil in a Blue Dress was turned into a great noir-ish film starring Denzel Washington, and several others of his novels are or will be movies as well. His inner-city tales are described as “crime fiction,” but go well beyond the genre—they talk about white on black racism, black on black racism, social, political, cultural and class inequality, how we hold ourselves back, how we are held back, and more. I love his books, and the more philosophical he waxes (one of my favorite characters is named Socrates!), the more I love them. So when I learned that he had written a book entitled “This Year You Write Your Novel,”  I felt that one of my favorite authors was speaking directly to this frustrated  wannabe.

This slim volume is written in Mosley’s easy non-lecturing manner, and contains a lot of good basic advice and some real gems that set it apart. His first, last and most important lesson is that in order to write … you must write. Every day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Whether it is stream-of-consciousness, snatches of plot ideas, character sketches, a chapter-by-chapter outline of your story, or a first draft from first page to last, you must put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write. Mosley devotes chapters to how to build the armature that will support your novel, including point-of-view and dialogue, plot and character development, and even reluctantly offers a writing exercise or two. He talks about re-writing, how—or whether—to workshop your novel, how to find an agent, how to get published.

But Mosley then offers some profound insights, which I feel reflect the secret of his own success. He talks about the study of poetry as a way to learn both economy and elegance in writing prose. He talks about the understanding of music as language, of finding your novel’s internal rhythm and tapping into it. If you’ve ever read a Mosley novel, you’ll know just what he means. His spare language packs a wallop, and the drum beat is also just beneath the surface, if you listen for it. He talks about letting go of preconceptions of success or failure, of breaking through one’s own self-constraints and finding the subconscious other “you” which has its own thoughts and means of expression.

And he offers a piece of advice which, for me, sums up the essence of a good story: “The reader,” writes Mosley, “is always looking for two things in the novel:  themselves and transcendence.”

Thank you, Mr. Mosley. Now to put pen to paper ….


Leanna Moxley’s #cbr5 review #2: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes



The Sense of an Ending is only a few hundred pages long, a quick read that often refuses to delve deeply into scene or description. Instead, the book relays information the same way it would actually be remembered years later: as a story the narrator has crafted about his own life, a hazy story, missing details, second-guessed and puzzled over. It is a fast read, but not a light one. The seemingly slight words on the pages are more than a little troubling, and I left the book with a strong sense of being unsettled, jostled out of my narrative assumptions. Life is a story we tell ourselves, but life itself is not a story. Read more on my blog.

BenML’s #CBR5 Review #06 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

I’ve read this book before. I will read this book again, probably many times. Writing an overly positive review without sounding too schmucky is hard, so I’ll keep this one pretty short. If you haven’t read Eggers before, I highly encourage you too. His style really sticks with you, be it fiction or non. His most recent book (A Hologram for the King) came out last summer and was on plenty 2012 top ten lists. This book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG), is still my favorite. And I admit, I’ve read pretty much everything he’s ever written. I’ve bought books based solely on the fact that he has written the forward. So, recognize my slight obsession, and on the one hand, take this glowing review with a grain of salt. On the other hand, READ THIS NOW.

Check out the rest here,, but be aware, I realllly like Eggers.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #16: The Traitor’s Wife

A prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter, I didn’t enjoy this novel nearly as much. Might work differently for other readers, but it felt off.

Originally published as The Wolves of Andover, this novel is a prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter. The heretic of the previous novel’s title is the wife in this story, and it makes sense that they changed the title to reinforce the connection between the novels. While I quite enjoyed The Heretic’s Daughter, and how it explored life in a small community during colonial times, this novel was oddly structured. Kathleen Kent is descended from Martha Carrier, one of the women to die during the Salem Witch Trials, and this novel attempts to give more of her back story. The novel itself is fiction though inspired by family and local legends, including the question of Thomas Carrier’s possible role as executioner of King Charles for Oliver Cromwell. The problem seems to be that Kent decided that the courtship between Martha and Thomas wasn’t enough for a full novel, and added in a story of political intrigue. While she is probably correct in believing that the actual courtship couldn’t have been expanded more, personally I think there would have been other ways to approach this, focusing on colonial life, even if it had simply been telling the story from a few more perspectives such as Patience, Martha’s cousin, or Daniel, Patience’s husband, for example.

Read the rest here.

Janel’s #CBR5 Review 3 – Preemie Parents by Tami Gaines

Tami Gaines addresses the emotional aspect of being a preemie parent and delivers a positive message of hope and action. She is truly an authority on this subject as she has lived the experience firsthand. Both her children were preemies (she gave birth to twins after only 25 weeks (her daughter spent 3-1/2 months in the neonatal intensive care unit, her son spent over 18 months). Preemie Parents is an inspiring, personal guide that will help parents of preemies learn valuable lessons in coping and becoming effective advocates for their children.

I found this book looking for a preemies book that would share experiences with raising premature children. At first, I found Tami’s story interesting, but as I read more and more of the book I just felt sad for her. Tami’s story is extreme and not like the average preemie story.

This book could be a one part of any education for a new parent of a preemie just starting their NICU journey, but it shouldn’t be the only story they read. For me at our stage of our journey, I didn’t learn too much that I already knew. Some of her advice would not be realistic for every parent of a preemie. Overall this book didn’t satisfy the need I was trying to fulfill.

Janel’s #CBR5 Review 2 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

ImageMindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers. Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.




As I am just jumping into this e-book world, one of my friends suggested that I read this memoir for some lighter side reading on my iPad. I have watched Mindy on The Office, but I didn’t know much more about her.

I enjoyed this book and read it over a few early morning while rocking my daughter to sleep. The book is part storytelling part stream of consciousness that pulls the reader in. If you read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, then you would like this book as well.