Cooking tips: prep.

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: cooking tips

Cooking tips don’t always pertain to the actual cooking of things. Sometimes tips are also essential for prep work. Here are two quick tips to make your cooking experiences just a little bit better.



Ever go to cut an onion, only to be reduced to tears and burning eyes? (It’s all right. It happens to all of us.)

Did you know there’s a way to prevent that, though? That’s right. You don’t have to cry!

Here’s what you can do:

1. Put the onion in the fridge or freezer at least 20-30 minutes before planning to cut it.

2. Quickly rinse the onion (peeled) in water, then chop.



Garlic is amazing, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to smell like it for quite some time.

Here’s how to get the potent smell off your hands:

1. After chopping the garlic, rub your hands on a stainless steel utensil.

2. After chopping the garlic, wash your hands with lemon soap or lemon juice.

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8 Responses to “Whip it Up Mondays! {15} – cooking tips.”

  1. I have heard that onion trick!

    Also, I like garlic. Mmmm…. garlic.

  2. Liz. R says:

    Is it odd that I usually don’t cry cutting onions? I do sometimes but most of the time I’m fine. I wonder why…maybe different types of onions have different effects? And garlic is amazing but the smell left on your hands is annoying. Will definitely be using those tips!

  3. Nikki Steele says:

    What a fun one! I actually have a pair of old swimming goggles I use when cutting onions because they make me tear up so badly. I have to use them covertly as my husband can’t help laughing when he sees me in them.

    Another quick garlic tip if you don’t have a garlic press is to slice the clove thinly, sprinkle a bit of salt over it, and then mash it with the back of a fork. The salt makes it easier to break the garlic up.

    • Alissa says:

      😮 I like that tip! Especially because I don’t have a garlic press. Will be using in the future! Thanks, Nikki. 🙂

Weekly recap at the grammarian’s reviews

What did I miss? {8/12 – 8/19}


2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews showcasing weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

[review] The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa — I wasn’t sold on this at first, but OMG did it end up being wonderful!

Bout of Books mini challenge — It’s time to relocate those characters!

Whip it Up Mondays — Quick prep tips for handling onions and garlic.


As you’ve probably already noticed, I didn’t post much this week. I blame both my laziness and the lack of action in the blogosphere. Seriously. WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

Meanwhile, in my world, I’m trying to enjoy my last few days home and pretending I don’t have to go back to school next week.

…School? What? What is that?


*knock, knock* Anyone there?

No links this week. Sorry!

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2 Responses to “What did I miss? {8/12 – 8/19}”

  1. Liz. R says:

    I know a lot of UK bloggers are taking breaks for uni stuff, but no idea where everyone else has gone! It’s strange. I’m feeling lazier and lazier every week…:P

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa (review)

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’s dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myths and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

My name is Ethan Chase. And I may not live to see my eighteenth birthday.

400 pages | Publication date: October 23, 2012 | Harlequin Teen


 Keirran! Ash! RAZOR! Grim! Ethan! Puck!

How can I possibly love so many of Kagawa’s characters? I’ll tell you how: they kick butt! There isn’t one main character that sits idly by, that doesn’t have a care in the world and shows no growth. There’s always someone looking for more, wanting to be more. And the male/female dynamics play out very well. There are much stronger female characters this time around, and they’re not afraid to show and use their strength; they complement the boys, which is refreshing because the boys like to play the Chivalry-Isn’t-Dead card a lot. It’s nice to have girls that can do something and be their own persons.

That being said, the story does have a very slow, repetitive buildup. But it’s worth the wait. And, after having finished the book, I realized that, while slow, some of the buildup is pivotal, although slightly misguided. Ethan runs into, and chooses to take, a lot of “detours” along the way, which sometimes had me wondering what, exactly, was crucial to the plot. I didn’t always like being tugged in several directions, getting sucked into new plot points, gripping the edge of my seat….only to be turned around. (It was like walking straight into big, yellow TEASER! signs. Face first.) There are still a lot of unanswered questions, most of which stem from the abrupt ending. It’s just enough to sink your teeth into, to keep you waiting on the next book.

But it wasn’t so much the journey that kept me around –  it was the characters that had me cheering them on. They’re just so likeable – even with all of their quirks. They mesh well together. I like this “meshing” the most because it’s a clear mixture of new and old, old and young. And it works. (It did take some time getting used to Ethan’s older age now, though.)

All I can say is The Lost Prince officially swept me off my feet. Despite an excruciatingly slow start-up, once the ball got rolling it was just like old times.

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7 Responses to “REVIEW! The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa.”

  1. Marie says:

    Great review!

    I haven’t started this one yet but I read a bit of the first chapter. His age difference is going to take me some getting use to as well!

  2. Liz. R says:

    I am so excited to read this now! Especially since things start getting interesting once you get passed the slow start. Glad you ended up enjoying this one and that the shaky beginning didn’t put you off! Great review, hopefully I can read this soon :).

  3. […] [review] The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa — I wasn’t sold on this at first, but OMG did it end up being wonderful! […]

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (review)

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

416 pages | Published: July 31, 2012 | Harlequin Teen


Pushing the Limits is YA romance at its best; it packs the heat, tension and kissing, then boils it down to some very steamy scenes.

I had my reservations about this one. Loner with a leather jacket? Popular girl-turned-freak? It seemed all too overdone. Then, to my surprise, this wasn’t the case at all! Looking past some of the soap opera plot points, Noah and Echo really stand out as main characters. I really enjoyed getting both of their perspectives, especially because they don’t rehash the same events over and over. The two of them, while entwined, also function separately and have their own stories to share. I feel that Noah’s story is more compelling, offers the most resolution and provides the most growth. Echo’s story, while compelling, is full of holes that aren’t really resolved or known.

Noah and Echo’s relationship is at the forefront through most of the novel, but it works. It’s not forced, it’s not love at first sight. And despite it being incredibly swoon-worthy and steamy, it’s not made out to be all about the sex. In fact, it’s the opposite. The physicality of their relationship, while highly prevalent, isn’t as important as the meaning and rationalization behind it. I like that they both think things through even though they know what they want. I like that they use their heads.

That being said, I did still have a few issues with their relationship – namely, that it’s taken to the Nth degree. It’s not just I love you or I want to be with you, it’s You are mine forever and ever. There’s a lot of talk about ownership. She’s his girl. He’s her guy. I didn’t think it was demonstrated enough how destructive this behavior of theirs is. It’s touched upon, but resolved too quickly.

But when you get past that, Pushing the Limits delivers heated romance and heartbreaking tales.

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8 Responses to “REVIEW! Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.”

  1. *pokes you* This book is on my wishlist! I had sort of forgotten about it because I haven’t seen any reviews lately, but now I want it all over again!

  2. Liz. R says:

    I feel the same about this book. I liked it but didn’t love it and I agree about the ownership aspect of the relationship. Plus I hate how often Noah said “baby” -_-. But I did really enjoy the story and the romance overall. Great review :).

    • Alissa says:

      YES. THANK YOU. I usually complain about the “baby” thing, but I’ve been seeing it SO often in books that I figured there MUST be people out there that like/use it.

  3. Christine says:

    I just came across your site and it is really lovely! I happily followed you and will enjoy reading your updates. You can find me over at Rainy Day Reads, It would be great if you could stop by and I would love to have a fellow book lover as a new follower.
    Christine x
    Rainy Day Reads

  4. I got this at BEA & it does look good. I’m glad you liked it and it sounds like it really works. I really dislike when different pov’s overlap and there is a ton of redundancy. I do think that teens can be very emotional though…I know they talk like that.

Whip it Up Mondays! {2}


7 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: Microwaveable Potato Chips


Guess what I bet you didn’t know? Yep – those potatoes you have just sitting in your pantry? You could be turning them into deliciously healthy, non-processed potato chips.  BUT WAIT! Don’t go!

I know your mind is swimming with images of fryers and grease and the all-important ticking of the clock, reminding you of the time you just can’t spare for making measly potato chips.

But what if I told you that you wouldn’t have to use a fryer? What if I told you that you could use your microwave?

And that’s precisely what I’m telling you. You can make your own potato chips in the microwave. In the span of four minutes! And the best part is one potato can yield you a bunch of chips, and you get to season them however you’d like. You can also store them for several days  – so you can make a bunch and not worry about finishing them!

When I first came across the microwaveable potato chip idea over here, I didn’t know what to think. I almost felt cheated that I didn’t know I could have been easily making my own chips all this time, flavoring them exactly how I want them, without having to buy bags and bags of processed chips. I always assumed a fryer was needed, and I was not about to waste a bunch of oil just to fry thinly sliced potatoes. So this idea of utilizing your microwave to make your own chips is just ingenious to me.

Are you ready to see how easy it is?


microwaveable potato chips

medium russet potato
parchment paper
optional seasonings: chili powder, Old Bay seasoning, powdered cheddar, etc.


Using a mandolin, v-slicer, or knife, slice one medium russet potato (peeled, if you like) as thinly as possible, taking care that all slices are the same thickness. Line the turntable tray of your microwave with parchment paper and place the potato slices on it without overlapping. Salt lightly and sprinkle with your choice of seasonings.

Microwave at full power–watching closely–until spots of brown begin to appear, about 4-6 minutes. Turn off the microwave for 1 minute. Microwave again at full power until the slices are golden brown. (Be very careful not to over-brown or they will taste burned.) Remove from the microwave and allow to cool. Repeat until all potato slices are cooked.

For salt + vinegar chips: Dip each potato slice into cider vinegar before putting it on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt before microwaving.

I don’t think it gets any easier than that! Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of potatoes laying around while I’m at school, so I have to wait until I’m at home to indulge in this neat little cooking treat. But if you have potatoes going unused, I highly suggest giving this a try!

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7 Responses to “Whip it Up Mondays! {2}”

  1. Mind officially blown. I will definitely have to try this.

  2. This is AMAZING. I didn’t know it was possible to make chips outta the microwave. I’m with Amanda – my mind is officially blown XD. Gonna have to go to the grocers today to pick up some potatoes!

    Just a coupla questions – do they come out crispy or more crunchy? Also, do you think fingerling potatoes would work?

    • Alissa says:

      I’ve never tried with fingerling. I assume they’d still work, but, I’m guessing it probably has to do with starch content? That’d be my guess, anyway.

      And it depends, but I’m going with that they’re more crunchy.

      Let me know how they turn out for you!

  3. This sounds kind of interesting I may try it.

  4. Cialina says:

    Wow, this is so tempting.

The YA tribe. –

The YA tribe.


13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

So this article over at the Huffington Post was brought to my attention – “YA Cover Girls on Top”

Apparently since I’m a 20-something YA book blogger, I’m part of a YA readers “tribe.”  The word “tribe” just immediately makes my mind wander to “primal,” which definitely isn’t the point of the article at all.  The article is instead about this:

YA readers are part of a tribe; and YA covers signify that the book is special, meant just for members of their tribe. ‘This is ours, not yours,’ the book cover declares. As a lifelong reader, writer, and lover of literature, I want to be part of this tribe, which, like all groups, is full of contradictions. I have a lot to learn from book bloggers and — I believe — a lot to offer them. And I decided I want a book cover that will attract this tribe to my novel The Earthquake Machine, a book that asks the reader to think critically about everything from immigration to limitations imposed by gender.

Lowry goes so far as to say that “YA bloggers’ [have a] fetishistic love of book covers.”  To prove this, she says she’s witnessed some strange things, particularly in vlogs: “YA bloggers often go so far as to caress their favorite book covers, an activity I have dubbed ‘cover stroking.’”

In my almost two years in the book blogging world, I have not watched someone’s vlog in which they “stroked” a cover. And I’m quite glad that I haven’t. But it got me thinking. Lowry also mentions how cover reveals have become this major aspect of a book’s promotion.  And maybe I just don’t get it because I could care less about a cover reveal, but how much do they really influence us? How much do they influence you?

Are we really placing THAT much importance on covers in the YA book market? Are we inadvertently falling in love with and promoting unattainable and/or unrealistic qualities and standards of beauty for women?

I pulled these covers from the Barnes and Noble Teen bestsellers list:

What is it that you first notice about them? Perhaps the flawless skin. The beautiful make up.  The dresses. The sex appeal.

Do any of those things contribute to your liking, or attraction to, any of these covers? I’d say the above covers are aesthetically pleasing. I certainly wouldn’t call any of them hideous.

Is it our liking of these beautiful covers that creates the cover trends we ultimately begin to complain about? For a period of time, I remember, covers were detailing close-ups of dramatic eyes. Then we had enough of that and close-ups of lips became the new eyes. Then it was whole faces. Then it was legs.  Each time, the covers seem to focus on at least one part of the female anatomy – from head to toe.

But what does that say of our “tribe”? Could book covers still be aesthetically pleasing and, uh, stroke-worthy, if they didn’t plaster seemingly perfect girls on them? I think so. There are plenty of covers I like purely for the fonts or colors. But I do think there’s something to be said for the covers we, as YA book bloggers, as a majority, favor.  And the ones above are perfect examples. The good news, as Lowry mentions, is that “bloggers may still value images and ideas of beauty that are limited enough to be harmful; but if book covers lead young readers to books that ask them to think critically, then one of these days bloggers may begin demanding more covers, and books, that acknowledge more expansive notions of female beauty.”

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13 Responses to “The YA tribe.”

  1. Anne says:

    Wow, that’s really interesting. I guess covers don’t matter to me as much as some people. I certainly wouldn’t put any of those best-sellers you pictured on my favorite covers lists. Thinking about it, the majority of my favorite *covers* are more abstract and rarely feature a human face. Several don’t have people on them at all! That said, I know what publishers want me to think when I see a cover so I still judge a little on that, because I know what kind of cover they tend to put on the kind of book I like to read, if that makes sense.

    This is definitely a topic that needs some more thinking about! Thanks for bringing it to my attention =)

  2. Wow. Huh. Tribe?
    I tend to be more embarassed of covers like these ones. I prefer the jackets of books like SHINE or HUNGER GAMES or anything really androgynous. The real beauty is within, right? 😉 I do hug my books sometimes. No judging.

    • Alissa says:

      Haha, no judging!

      I also prefer androgynous book covers. Like I said, I can be attracted simply by the font.

  3. Gaby says:

    I’ve always been a cover person. I beautiful cover catches my eye, but that doesn’t mean I will read the book. But I don’t think the covers are important only in YA….have you seen chick lit covers? Historical Romance? UF? Sci Fi? Every genre, from children to adult, is making their covers more appealing.

    • Alissa says:

      I agree! I think every category has gotten smarter into creating covers to appeal to larger audiences. Sometimes I see covers in the regular fiction section that look like they could easily pass on the YA shelves.

  4. We Heart YA says:

    We saw the piece too. And we think it makes some good points, gives us all some food for thought. However, the four of us are NOT fans of the covers to which she is referring and which you have shown above, and never really have been. We much prefer covers like that of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, or PEGASUS, or MARCELO AND THE REAL WORLD. (See more that we like here – And we do NOT care for either of her two covers… Bottom line: we’d be curious to see if she actually TALKED to any bloggers or readers about their cover preferences, or whether she’s just making ass

    • Alissa says:

      I made sure to check if there was any positive feedback at all for the cover and book over at Goodreads (and there is), but beyond that, I don’t know.

      I think it’d make for an interesting follow-up article, for her to discuss this almost sort of research that she did.

  5. elena says:

    I actually don’t like those covers very much! I prefer not to really have faces on the cover because they’re rarely done well. It’s weird because it seems like the US has this trend and the UK gets better covers since they have different tastes. In the end, I don’t read YA for the covers otherwise I probably wouldn’t even read the books at all, ha.

  6. Ruby says:

    *raises hand* Guilty. I love a beautiful book cover, and all too often, that mean a pretty dress or a pretty face. But I also think that part of the reason I like these covers is because they’re more likely to be books I’ll enjoy. But which came first? I don’t know.

    • Alissa says:

      I understand. I know I’ve definitely overlooked certain books because of their lacking beautiful covers. I know which looks of books tend to provide me with a story I want to read.

  7. Sarah says:

    Honestly? The thing I hate most is when they put faces on covers. Period. It’s completely possible to do a beautiful book cover without a face or a person. I hate it though because I don’t want to have any influence of how to imagine the main character in my head — and usually the girl on the cover is meant to be the main character. It drives me up the wall.

Independent Book Blogger Awards –

Independent Book Blogger Awards


1 COMMENT • This post is filed under: Uncategorized






Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers is having a contest for non sponsored blogs to win all-expenses-paid trips to BEA this year!

Do you know what this means for me? A heart attack from excitement, that’s what! I never got to go to BEA last year, which was the first year I’d ever heard about it (thank you, blogosphere!). And, as it stands, I won’t be able to make it this year, either. Finances really are a pain in my butt.

But I’d LOVE to go. Capital L-O-V-E. It’s not just about the swag or books. It’s my future. If I’m going to make it in the publishing world, I want to know what it’s like. I want to speak with authors and their crews. Really, I think of my going to BEA as one big field trip, or compressed internship. Attending the conference would benefit me in so many ways.

…Can you tell I’m a student? Hah!

But really, I would appreciate any and all support in this contest. I won’t tell you to vote for me . But I will say that if you’d like to help and think TGR and myself are deserving of this trip, then you can click the vote button to the right of this post, in my sidebar.

Thank you!

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One Response to “Independent Book Blogger Awards”

  1. […] Vote for TGR at the Independent Book Blogger Awards – help me get to BEA! […]

Top Ten Tuesday: They did WHAT? –

Top Ten Tuesday: They did WHAT?


5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by The Broke and the Bookish.


Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. I’d been taught from the Traveling Pants series that there were always happy resolutions for the girls. But this was not the case at all in its conclusion. It was very unsettling.

The Duff by Kody Keplinger. The concept of the Duff barely made a lasting appearance in the story. I felt cheated into reading a cliched teen romance.

Love Story by Jennifer Echols. I’m not sure this counts as an instance of deceit, but, c’mon. That ending? What’s up with THAT?

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Going by the cover alone, I expected some sort of masquerade. It just led my mind in a different direction entirely. Thankfully the story ended up being TOTALLY AWESOME.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I thought this would be a cutesy winter read, but it ended up being chaotic and the Book of Dares was left by the wayside maybe halfway through. The title was misleading.

Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy. The cover is a coffee cup with a heart in its foam. Yet, the story is about a spunky tomboy being in a band. What’s up with that?

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. I was expecting a cute, romantic read focusing on a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Instead the story revolves around the protagonist and her relationship with her father – which is okay, just not what the summary sold me.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I expected a cute, beach read. Instead the story is very serious (and, consequently, boring). It didn’t live up to its description.


*I know there’s only 8, but this post decided to eat itself before posting, and I had to recreate it from memory in a shorter amount of time.

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5 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: They did WHAT?”

  1. Carissa says:

    Oh wow! Totally bummed about DUFF – I was looking forward to that one =(
    I haven’t read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet either, but I’m glad you liked it despite the deception!!

  2. Tara says:

    I had Daughter of Smoke and Bone on my list too – though for me it was because I didn’t like the UK edition hardcover’s cover at all!

    And I think you’re right with the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – I was hoping for more fluffy romance than I got based on the cover!

    Great list!

    Tara @ Hey, Tara

  3. I know what you mean about so many of these! ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ with the whole feather mask thing screams masquerade! And Duff and ‘Statistical…’ totally deceive with their titles! Great post!

    My TTT:

  4. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says:

    I also abandoned Book of Dares. I agree with you. It was chaotic.

    Here’s my
    Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Were Deceiving.
    I’d love to have you stop by!

  5. I have to agree with THE DUFF. I felt it was juvenile and petty and, frankly, I felt dirty after having read it lol.

    Great list, Alissa! 🙂

Writing and Reading: a discussion. –

Writing and Reading: a discussion.


5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

“Good” versus “Bad,” Making and Breaking Stories, and Workshops

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – what makes and breaks a story, for me.  Between blogging, engaging in literature-based discussions in my classes, and going through the Hell known as the writers’ workshop, well, it’s easy for me to begin thinking and then talking about these kinds of things.

Just earlier tonight I had a discussion with a friend about the misconception writers and readers may have about “good” and “bad” stories and “good” and “bad” writing. Both my friend and I feel that there are clear distinctions between the two. For instance, just because I don’t like the Hunger Games, it doesn’t mean I think it’s a “bad” book, or “bad” writing. I don’t like the Hunger Games because I have issues with the characters, dialogue and some plot points. Meaning, I have issue with how the story is conveyed to me, not its literal make-up.

In a workshop setting, I think this sometimes becomes misconstrued, or a little too black-and-white. In my workshop experiences, if the other writers did not like a particular piece, they dubbed it “bad” writing, or equated it to not being able to write well. But I don’t think this is always the case. To be a writer, you must also be a storyteller. And I think sometimes the roles of storyteller and writer become blurred together, though I feel that they’re separate. I think you can have a great story to tell, but, at the same time, be unable to convey it well. Likewise, I think you can construct a very eloquent piece of work, but have it lacking in its actual content, or story. Because of this, I don’t think you can simply label a book “good” or “bad.” There are too many factors – most of them based upon opinion.

When it comes down to it, what makes and breaks a story for me are the characters. If there’s any disconnect between me and the characters in a story (presumably a majority of them, depending on how many are involved), I begin to lack the will to continue reading. I want the character to be a person to me – as real as they can be, whether they’re admirable or despicable. If they simply seem like a cookie cutter (without that being their intention), or uninteresting (again, without that being their intention), then I don’t see the point in me learning about them.

Going along with that, I also place importance on dialogue. The characters may appear to be as real as real can get, but if a disbelieving or ridiculous or lacking or cliched line of dialogue is tied to them, I start to become wary. They can’t just seem real; I need them to sound real as well. What they’re saying has to matter to me, on some level. If it doesn’t, then I know I’m not very emotionally invested, and possibly even interested, in the story.

Characters are what hold my attention – they’re what I cling to when I read. This unfortunately means they can both make or break it for me.

What about you? What makes or breaks a story for you? How do you view “good” versus “bad” writing? What have your workshop experiences been like?

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5 Responses to “Writing and Reading: a discussion.”

  1. I have to admit, as a writer myself, my first thing that I notice as a reader is plot, then the characters, then the writing, and then everything else that makes up a story. But a lot of that includes stuff like world building, which I am a big stickler for – if the world makes no sense, then I can’t get into the book as much as I want to. My mind gets caught up on the details instead of the story.

    I am not the biggest fan of The Hunger Games out there, but I still liked it. I think the writing was good, not great. The plot was good, not great (and I couldn’t help but come up with a list of other things that are like it). The characters… Good, not great, LOL. But I liked how it dragged me along and made me want to read more. I normally don’t read books in one night, but I read that book in one night. Suzanne Collins is a great storyteller, but the mechanics in my opinion could use more work.

    And about dialogue, I always have to say the dialogue out loud. On paper/computer screen it’s different than coming from your lips.

    Great post!

    • Alissa says:

      Exactly. I’m not its biggest fan, but it did keep me reading through all three books, which I think counts for something.

      I won’t necessarily read dialogue aloud, but I’ll repeat it again and again in my head to either try the different tones it could be given, or to see if it sounds realistic.

  2. […] “Good” versus “Bad” reading and writing […]

  3. We Heart YA says:

    You make some very good points. Writing versus storytelling is something the four of us discussed a lot. Each of us has different strengths along that spectrum. Our goal is always to help each other boost skills in the weaker area. And we like to read books that help us figure out how to do that.

    For example, Stephenie Meyer is a fantastic storyteller. Not a very good writer, but a fantastic STORYTELLER.

    On the flipside, Franny Billingsley writes like magic. But sometimes her story doesn’t move very well.

    Of course, even those are just opinions — and the four of us definitely do not always agree. (Case in point: Sarah adores CHIME by Franny Billingsley.)

    One author we do agree on is Laini Taylor. For us, she is absolutely pitch perfect in both her writing and her storytelling.

    As for good versus bad, or what “breaks” story for us… It’s a balancing act. Character, plot, prose, setting, dialogue — none of these things are enough in isolation, but it’s how they work together that determines whether or not a book is successful. We’re successful ENOUGH, as the case may be.

    • Alissa says:

      I’d have to agree in that Laini Taylor is “pitch perfect,” as you put it. At the same time, I realize personal writing styles affect the telling of a story – which is an entirely separate component to this discussion now. There are so many factors.

REVIEW! Perfect by Natasha Friend. –

REVIEW! Perfect by Natasha Friend.


0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

Perfect by Natasha Friend

Isabelle Lee has a problem, and it’s not just Ape Face, her sister, or group therapy for an eating disorder, or even that her father died and her mother is depressed and in denial. It’s that Ashley, the most popular girl in school, is inviting Isabelle to join her at lunch and at sleepovers at her house, and this is presenting Isabelle with a dilemma. Pretty Ashley has moved Isabelle up the social ladder, but is it worth keeping the secret they share?


This is one novel, I think, that handles eating disorders really well – it neither glorifies nor pities them. Instead, it treats the disorders on a variety of levels, from families to friends to school to day-to-day emotions.  It stresses that every case is different for every individual, but that there is still the opportunity for coming together. For me, this aspect kept the reading hopeful, despite being bitterly dark, at points.

Reading Perfect is like slogging through chewing the rind of a lemon. At first it’s sweet, and just a story.  But the more you chew – read – the more bitter it becomes.  You experience the cloud of oh everything’s fine with Isabelle’s family, and then you get to also experience the spiral of unraveling the truth, of needing help, of feeling happy, sad, lonely all at once.  And, just like a lemon, it’s refreshing at the end.

I wouldn’t say that the description is entirely accurate.  I feel that the story is less about Isabelle being concerned about moving up the social ladder, and more about how she feels after getting to know Ashley and how their secret applies to them both, but differently.  It’s a much deeper read than its summary permits.  Yes, Isabelle’s only thirteen, and her age is reflected in her actions, speech and thoughts.  But there’s still something deep to be found in them, which is what really surprised me.  This even applies to her sister, April (Ape Face), who is only ten. Friend accurately captures the hasty development of maturity that the girls learn to acquire, despite their young ages.

Perfect isn’t the happiest read, and it will make you think, but it’s nice for a seemingly honest portrayal of what people of all ages may be going through, for whichever eating disorder.

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