Books I Read This Month - January 2011

Bad Twin - Gary Troup
Be prepared to roll your eyes. This book was ghostwriter for a fictional character, Gary Troup, by Laurence Shames. Gary Troup (prepare yourself) was a character from the show LOST. He was a writer whose manuscript was found in the plane crash on the island. Troup never actually appeared on the show, only his name on the cover. A character started reading the manuscript, but he dropped it in a fire and was never able to read the ending. So I wanted to. :) Enough about LOST. This book, though I am biased, was really good. It was a crime novel about a private detective hired to find a wealthy missing twin brother. It was character driven and had great themes: good vs. evil and choice vs. destiny. I thought it was awesome.

Don Quixote - Cervantes
Weird book, kind of hard to read since it's old and translated from Spanish. It was still pretty good, though.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
I saw the movie for this a long time ago, but I think the book was better. This is a great story about community and sacrifice. A good book, a classic.

Under the Dome - Stephen King
When the name of the author is in a larger font on the cover than the title of the book, you know he's good. And Stephen King is good. This was a great book that I recommend to you to read, if you haven't already. It's over a thousand pages, though, which is kind of intimidating, but it was actually a quick read.

Tell All - Chuck Palahniuk
I'm not sure if I liked this or not. I do respect the author a lot, though, because it seems like a lot of research had to go into it. Unless he's just very cultured. Maybe I didn't understand the plot fully, but I could take or leave this one.

Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
So I went to the library and checked out like three Dennis Lehane books, so excuse the amount of him on this list. I saw the movie before I read this book, and I wish I hadn't because the ending wasn't all that exciting for me. If I hadn't have seen the movie already, it would have been a surprise, like the movie was to me. But besides that, Lehane is a wonderful writer, and I enjoyed this book. If you haven't seen the movie, then read this first! Then watch the movie, since that was really good too.

Gone Baby Gone - Dennis Lehane
I didn't see this movie, and after reading the book, I'm kind of indifferent to seeing it eventually. I liked Shutter Island better than Gone Baby Gone. It's not like I was disappointed or didn't like the book. I did like it. But you know, it's not like I would read it again or anything.

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane (again)
Pretty good. This one was better than Gone Baby Gone but not as good as Shutter Island. Sorry to you guys if I don't go into as much detail about books as other reviews do. But sometimes I just don't have much to say about it other than 'it was good.' (Conversely, there are books about which I could go on and on and on and on.) This one was good. It was entertaining and fun and thought-provoking, but it's not going to be on my favorite shelf or anything.

Dexter Is Delicious - Jeff Lindsay
I love the show Dexter. Michael C. Hall is an underrated actor with a voice almost as awesome as Morgan Freeman. Most people say they would have Morgan Freeman narrate their life, but I would choose Michael C. Hall. But we're not here to talk about him. We're here to talk about the book. This is the fifth book in the series. I read the other ones, of course, and the first one was the best. After that, they kind of went downhill a little bit. Dialogue is also not Lindsay's strong suit. But there is a lot of playful alliteration and play on words that make serial killers seem a little more fun and loveable. I'd recommend starting with the first book. If you like the show, the first book was the basis for the first season, but afterward, the two series separated a bit. I think besides the first book, the TV show is better than the books. They're still alright though. I'm just afraid Jeff Lindsay may have become a sell out.

My Booky Wook - Russell Brand
Every once in a while, like once or twice each year, I discover some fantastic actor or musician, usually a man, and I become absolutely, irrevocably, thoroughly, and possibly unhealthily obsessed. This time around it's Russell Brand. I had a bout of Jude Law last year (The Holiday is still my favorite movie of all time) but I kind of ran out of material. Then I was in love with John Lennon for a while, though he won't be pumping out any new material any time soon on account of he's no longer living. Yes, they are all Englishmen. I'm so cultured. Ahem, back on topic. I saw Get Him To The Greek a few weeks ago and loved it. So I bought Russell Brand's first memoir. He has a second one out already, and I'll probably go get that one if it's in paperback. This guy has led a very interesting life. He's a comedian and actor and writer and musician who is married to Katy Perry and has been clean from drugs and alcohol for eight years. Obviously this book has some intense content in it. I got to around page 100, hoping the rest of the book would be happier than what I'd read so far, but then I realized that he hadn't even become a drug addict yet and I had to take a breather. But he has this way with words that's just so, Aaaaah. And FUNNY! And it brought tears to me eyes on more than one occasion. Russell's attitude on life is so wonderful after everything he's been through. I respect him so much for this and his talents and his spirituality and his mindset and his humor especially. Plus he's really sexy. I think I may, I think I might, have to do an entire post on this book some time. Although it's a memoir, so the post would be less of a book review and more of a rant about Russell Brand, so let's kindly excuse this idea, as I'm sure you would like me to stop rambling now and just tell you to read this book and watch some of his movies. Funniest stuff I've seen in a long time. I just love this guy.

The Stranger - Albert Camus
This was good. The syntax, the prose, or whatever you want to call it, was very interesting. And the whole message of the book was great and I could really relate to it, even though it was about some Algerian man arrested for murder. That's how you know it's good, when you can really connect to the story when it's something completely opposite of yourself.

Peace, Aimee

Pen Names and Gender

First of all, I would like to draw attention to the fact that I have changed the title of my blog to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. This is because of all the characters in literature, I can relate to Stephen Dedalus of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the most. But I'm a girl, so I had to revise it a little. I moved my former title to the subtitle area there because I liked it and wanted to keep it. In Which I Blog About Writing, Peace, and Life. Because that's what I do. I blog about writing, peace, and life. Mostly life, though mine is pretty boring. Writing and peace, however, are the two most important things in my life as of now, so yeah.

Also, in case any of you care at all, I have officially put my Patronizing Patrick story into the dump drawer along side my Untitled Literary Fiction novel that I tossed last year. At the beginning of the year, I was confident about the Patrick story, but it's really gotten no where, and I have a wonderful story called The Reason upon which I've just been typing away. I hope it sticks. My attention span seems to be shortening and shortening.

Now to the post.

I've been thinking lately of what I will do when (if) I get published, name wise. The URL for my blog is my full name, Aimée Beatrice Jodoin, which I've decided is what I would use on the cover of my books. However, there are many options that I thought of but then declined. Here, I will explain what they are and why I chose to dismiss them.

Well at first I was thinking of doing Aimée Jodoin, but I love my middle name and really want to use it. I'm named after my great-grandmother. She lived until the age of 104 in Montreal, Canada, and the only words she knew how to say in English were hello and coffee, a word which she said whilst smiling and pointing to a bottle of beer. What a sense of humor that woman had. Though I wouldn't know because I don't know very much French. Also, what's the point of having a middle name if you never use it for anything? Many people think the name Beatrice is funny or old fashioned, but I don't care; I love it.

Another option is a pen name. There are a few ways of going about that. One is to change the name altogether, and the other is to use your initials. The reason behind changing or masking your name is that you either don't want people you know to know that it's you writing this book or that you want to mask your identity gender-wise or age-wise. The most prominent examples of this I can think of are George Eliot and J.K. Rowling. Both females, they altered their identity, believing that males would not want to read their work if it was written by a female. This is something I'm am slightly worried about. When you think of a female writer, you usually think of romance, or at least I do. I however, do not write romance. In fact, I can hardly stand it. There are obviously romantic subplots in my stories because love is a very important part of life, and my stories would be rather boring if everyone was single or sociopathic. So that's my main worry, that males would not want to read my writing. There is one name that I will not reveal that I have been thinking about using as a pen name in the future. It is a male's name. Maybe I'll use it one day, which is why I won't tell you guys now. However, I think I probably won't end up using it. I think I'd have to go by the name Aimée Beatrice Jodoin. Even though many, if not most of my stories have male protagonists, I would still use my own name, not a male pen name, and not my initials, A.B. Jodoin.

I will not alter my identity to make people like me.

Isn't this something that middle schoolers deal with? I will not act like a child, changing my name or my identity to make people want to read my work. It's as simple as that. I AM Aimée Beatrice Jodoin, and I will never be anyone else, so why should I let other people believe that I am not this person that I am. If the name Aimée Beatrice makes people discard my work, then there is something the matter with them, not me. What's wrong with a female writing about sex, drugs, and rock and roll? What's wrong with a female writing from a male perspective? And even vice versa! What's wrong with a male writing from a female point of view?

Why can't we all just get along? :)

Peace, Aimee

All That Jazz

Finding things to write about is something I have trouble with often, mostly because I'm pretty much still a kid, living in the lower-middle class in a very peaceful town. Honestly, I haven't had a very interesting life so far. I'm hoping that will change, and I know how I can lead a satisfactory life, so I'm not worried about it very much. My life is boring, which sucks for now, since I've already lived about a quarter of it. I'm having somewhat of a quarter life crisis. If you can tell me which artist and which song this is from, I will love you forever.

"They" say to write what you know. This is a problem for me because I don't know very much. The world is a big, complicated place, and I've only been to like 1% of it, if that. I've never held a job besides babysitting, I've never done any hard drugs or had a serious relationship, and I've never been to foreign country besides Canada, which isn't all that foreign, since I really only live about 100 miles from the border. I'm kind of too lazy to do a lot of research. Maybe I look up what places look like, and I've learned a bit about other religions and politics, but not much else. I try to write about people of other races and religions because I believe in world peace and respecting everyone. It goes with the themes I write about: love and peace and all that jazz.

So my question to you is how much of your writing comes from life experience? Do you "write what you know" or do you do research or just make it all up?

Peace, Aimee

Mythology In Writing

Please excuse me if I bring up LOST in this post.

Mythology is a pretty big part of human culture, whether we notice it often or not. Think about Egypt and Greece for a moment. And Norse mythology too. There is stuff we see every day that relates to it. There are weird creatures and interesting people and useful lessons in the mythology of all cultures that we encounter in reading (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and many, many others) and in movies (Inception had a lot in there) and in television shows (cough, cough, LOST; I could go on and on about this one) and maybe we have even used it in our own writing.

This is a broad topic, and there are many things to discuss here, so why don't we just have a little comment chat, you know, if anybody actually reads my humble blog. So whether it's naming characters and giving them traits that correspond with it or it's using mythology to reveal your theme, what is it that you do in your own writing, no matter what the culture?

Peace, Aimee

Cool Things and The Places I Visit Most Often On The Internet

Before we get started today I'd like to point out to you that I added word count widgets in the sidebar, you know, just in case you're interested in knowing how my writing is going. This prevents me from talking about it all the time in my blog posts. It won't be necessary for me to go on and on about how frustrated I am about my writing being stagnant because it's right there on the page, so I would feel self-absorbed blogging about it; that way you won't have to hear about it all the time. So there you go. You're welcome.

I'm sure most, if not all of you have been to the ex-literary-agent Nathan Bransford's blog and forums, but if not, here is the link. It is the best tool for writers that I have found on the internet. I'm seriously on it every single day. There is great writing advice, and the community is wonderful.

As you probably know, I am a big advocate for peace. I really support a non-profit organization called Peace One Day. The founder, documentary film maker Jeremy Gilley, is very inspirational and has done wonderful work for the world. International Peace Day is September 21st. Here is the link to the website. And here is a short video I recommend you watch.

Another great writing blog is the Literary Lab. Three writers take turns blogging and discuss writing and books and stuff. It's pretty cool, and there are contests every once in a while.

I also spend a heck of a lot of time on Facebook.

So there you have it. What are the websites you visit a lot? And is there a cause or an organization that you support?

Peace, Aimee

My Favorite Books

Happy Monday!

Everyone has that one book that changed their life forever. I have eight. Not ten, not five. Eight. This only because I was planning on doing the top ten, but couldn't decide on the last two.

These eight books are brilliant. I love these books to death and have read them numerous times, and each time I read them, they change my life all the more. Oh gosh, that's very dramatic.

I guess I just really like books.

8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Henry travels through his life's timeline uncontrollably. Claire is in love with him. Their love defies time. Sounds cheesy, right? Well the cheese is shredded away when you read this book because it is so beautifully written. I'm really not into romance, let alone science fiction romance (yet my WIP Fate's Advocate is exactly that genre, hmmm) but I love this book. It's beautiful. That's really the only word I can think of to describe it. Even if you absolutely despise romance, you should read this book. It'll get your heart pumping.

7. Chu-Ju's House by Gloria Whelan
This is a young adult book about a Chinese girl who runs away from home to save the life of her newborn sister, since China had (has?) the one child law. I first read this when I was a kid, maybe about twelve, and honestly, I'm not sure why it grabbed my attention so much. I've reread it multiple times, and still can't figure out why I love it. It might be the self-sacrifice that Chu-Ju made to save a life. It might be because the story had somewhat of a happy ending. Who knows. But man is this a great book for any twelve-year-old girl to read. It really made me feel lucky to live in the US and to have a healthy, happy little sister, even if she is a really annoying pest who splays her laundry all over our room and never pays for gas when I drive her all over town and grinds her teeth really loudly in her sleep and doesn't like my cooking.

6. A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
This novel follows Stephen Dedalus through his childhood until the time he leaves home. Of all the characters in literature, I think Stephen is the one I can relate to the most. He struggled in connecting with his family, he struggled in identifying with a religion, and he struggled in deciding what to do with his life. In the end, he decided to let it all go and just be himself, not letting anyone try to control his creativity and his spirituality. All around, this is a great book.

5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Let me tell you a story. I was in ninth grade, and my English teacher had us listen to this book on tape while we followed along with the novel in our hands. The tape was narrated by Gary Sinise. George and Lenny, the vagrant worker characters in the story, fell into pace with each other, George as the leader and Lenny as somewhat of a little brother to him, the mentally handicapped burden of a little brother. Somewhere in the middle of the novel, someone shot and killed an old man's old and smelly dog because, well, it was old and smelly. Then Lenny did some bad stuff and was on the run from the law, so George went after him and *SPOILER ALERT* shot and killed him. Immediately after the tape ended, my hand shot up, and I said that George killing Lenny was just like the guy shooting the old dog. The old man, after his dog was dead, felt bad, saying that it was he who should have shot his own dog. George killed Lenny because Lenny was his responsibility, and he wanted him to be comfortable and feel loved in death rather than have the angry townspeople rip him to shreds. Everyone in my class went "Oooooooh." That was a cool moment. I felt smart. But that's not why I love this book. I love this book because of the dynamic that George and Lenny had. Their relationship was so complicated, yet so simple at the same time. They were the protector and the protectee, the big brother and the little brother, the nurse and the patient. George gave Lenny hope, even when he didn't see any for himself, and that, my friends, is real love. Even though he shot him. Sorry I gave away the ending. Well maybe you should have read this book already. I mean, it is a classic.

4. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Oh boy. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well not really. Well sort of. This book is less about taboos in the 1950s than it is about avoiding consumerism and politics and conformism and just living your own life for yourself, finding your own meaning in life, feeling connected to nature and the world, and letting go of your worries because life is short and the good die young. Including Jack Kerouac. Rumor has it that Jack absolutely hated his beatnik lifestyle, and that says even more about it. He hated hitchhiking and camping and poverty. He wanted stability in his life. He wanted what everyone else had, but he just couldn't get himself to understand why everyone subjected themselves to the kind of life spent making and spending money and hurting people and nature. It's somewhat of a Catch-22 (another great book, by the way) which is probably why Jack Kerouac was probably so nuts. And probably why I am too.

3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
"Listen. Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time." I don't know how else to describe the plot of this novel. All Vonnegut's books are great: funny, insightful, weird. This one, in my opinion, is his best. By taking Billy to different times in his life (maybe Audrey Niffenegger was channeling Vonnegut with Henry) beyond his control, and even to a planet where free will does not exist, Vonnegut inspires readers to stop focusing on the bad parts of life and to just enjoy the good. Love it.

2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A teenage boy obsessed with religion is stranded in the middle of the ocean on a boat with a tiger. This novel is inspirational. Martel teaches readers that no matter your religion (or species, for that matter) everyone deserves to be loved and treated with respect. Oh man, I love this book.

1. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I've posted about this one before (here). Set on the Congo River, this book takes on you a journey through uncharted territory with Marlow Pilgrim who is searching for the powerful Mr. Kurtz. There are so many layers in this novella, I've had to read it many times in order to figure out what it's even about. I think what Conrad was trying to say in this book is that people should stop worrying about money and power and possessions and just be nice to people because life is short and guilt is a bitch. I'm pretty sure you don't want to be saying "The horror, the horror!" about yourself on your deathbed. Seriously. Great book. Conrad's masterpiece. My favorite book of all time.

I hope you enjoyed this! I know I did. What is your favorite book?

Peace, Aimee