Tag Archives: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

What is it with all the point of view and timeline changes in novels today?

I want to apologize ahead of time if this post ends up sounding like a rant. I don’t mean it to but I do want to ask for your opinion on the subject. Here’s my question to you: when was the last time you read a book that was written in the past 10 years that didn’t involve a constant change of point of view (POV) or a shift in the timeline? Is it just me or is every novel being written today structured this way? And why, oh why? Would you ever tell a personal story to someone that way?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinAs a fast reader, I find nothing more distracting that having to shift point of views every few chapters, or even worse, every chapter. The story may be told in the third person, but first you’ll see it from the mother’s point of view, then the father’s, then the children’s, and so on. Yes, Jodi Picoult, I’m talking about you! Every book that I read from her was written that way and it got old pretty fast. But it’s not just Jodi Picoult. Actually it seems to be almost everyone. As much as I liked The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten, the timeline shift got old by the end. The shifting point of views in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn didn’t trick me. 30 pages into the book, I had figured out the “big twist” and the story was only disappointing after that. The ONLY point of view shift I found that was used brilliantly was in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, because it actually made the story’s twists reveal themselves very neatly. By the way, if you haven’t read this book, you should put it on your to-read list. It’s very, very good.

I’m now reading Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford, and as much as I’m enjoying the story, it constantly shifts between the present and the past. Yes, the story is about remembering something that happened in the past, but why can’t the writer start with the present, go back to the past to tell the whole story, and then come back to the present? Is it really that hard?

So what keeps me interested in reading? A good story that doesn’t rely on the constant POV or timeline shift. A nicely threaded story with a continuous timeline tends to keep me on the edge more. Finishing each chapter with a little suspense will make me want to start the next chapter rather than put it down. I have no problem with a story that starts in the past to establish a past event, then shifts back to the present and stays there. The Green Mile by Stephen King is a great example of that. It contains tons of cliffhangers, as only a few writers seem to have mastered, and keep you turning the pages, even though the book is over 500 pages long.

The book thief by Markus ZusackOf course, there are other ways to keep my interest as a reader. An unusual narrator will also do the trick for me. Both The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Lying Games series by Sara Shepard use a character that has been murdered as the narrator. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak uses Death itself as the narrator for the whole story. That was so unusual to me, and I personally found the idea brilliant, especially because of the violent and depressing World War II setting.

I only have one explanation for this trend of shifting point of views and playing with timelines: technology and the many distractions it brings. In today’s world, we’re used to talking on the phone while watching TV and browsing the web, texting while driving and listening to the car radio, talking with someone face to face while checking our voicemail or email. So here’s my theory: today’s writers think we’re so “good” at multi-tasking that the only way to keep our interest is to use this constant shifting, otherwise we may get bored.

Distracted driving

Image courtesy of the Sinnamonlawyers blog

All I can say is, I hope this is just a trend, and just like other trends, it shall pass and good storytelling will come back. Storytelling that doesn’t rely on this constant shifting to keep us interested but actually tells the events in a captivating way. If so many writers have been able to do so until recently, why can’t newer writers do it too?

I guess I’ll stop my rant here. Now I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject. Do you like shifts in points of view and time in novels? Do you think they add to the story or distract? Do you prefer a first person or third person point of view? What’s your favorite type of storytelling of all?

WWW Wednesdays – April 3, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn– What I’m currently reading
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Several people recommended this book to me and I finally got it from the library. It’s interesting so far, but I keep thinking I know how it will end, and I hope this is not the way. One thing that bugs me so far, because I find it completely unrealistic, is how Amy writes in her personal diary. I can’t think of anyone writing pages and pages and pages in their own diary to narrate everyday events, describing every single detail. Sure, it makes for a more detailed narrative, but it’s not how someone in their 30s would write, is it? I thought only teenage girls did that. If you read this book, please tell me if that bugged you too.

– What I recently finished reading
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I really liked this book and I’m not sure what to say about it, for fear of giving some of the story away. My only advice is, stick to it. You may find the beginning a little hard to read and understand, because of the way it’s narrated. But as you go on, you’ll understand why and by the end, you’ll realize how brilliant this story is and you’ll want to read it again. There haven’t been many fiction books about British women who actively took part in the WWII effort and I praise this book for giving those brave women a face. Read this book, you won’t be disappointed.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a 2012 Newbery honor winner and New York Times bestseller. I picked this book because it won a Newbury award and I wasn’t disappointed. For a couple of days, I was transported to a tiny town in North Carolina and I enjoyed every moment spent with Mo and her best friend Dale. This murder mystery had me guess until the very end and I loved Mo’s spunk and determination to uncover the truth. I recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and fun story, from age 10 to 99.

– What I think I’ll read next
Tripwire by Lee Child, the third in the Jack Reacher series. I can’t wait!

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Disclaimer: I’ve flipped through the books but I haven’t sat down to read them one by one. My six-year old has read all of them though, and then he read them again. And again. And he laughed every time. He shared some of the funny pictures and text with me. Did I mention he’s read these books several times already? This lunch lady, who happens to be a secret agent with some interesting weapons (fish-stick nunchucks, anyone?), will make you wonder the next time you see a food worker who they really might be…

The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

– What they recently finished reading
The Man in the Moon by William Joyce. After reading Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, I was intrigued to see what else he wrote. I found out he’s the author of The Guardians of Childhood books and is the co-author of the movie Rise of the Guardians. Joyce actually wrote The Man in the Moon after the other books in the series. He mentioned him in the various books but didn’t tell his personal story until this book. And what a story it is! I loved it and my boys did too. Whether you’re five years old or 55, you should read these books as a treat to yourself!

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce. In this simply magical book, William Joyce explains how the Man in the Moon recruited the Sandman to help him protect the children from having nightmares in their sleep. Joyce wrote the words and illustrated the book and you can’t close the book without thinking the guy is a genius.

The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce

The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – March 20, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage,– What I’m currently reading
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a 2012 Newbery honor winner and New York Times bestseller. It’s another young adult novel and a murder story. I really like it so far.

– What I recently finished reading
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. This book wasn’t great but it was good enough for me because I wanted to keep turning the pages and find out how it would end, which is always a good thing. And the ending didn’t disappoint. Now, if you’ve seen the movie Sleeping With The Enemy, or read Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue, you’ll find a lot of similarities in this book. There’s nothing in here that will surprise you about domestic abuse, besides the fact that it’s unacceptable and unbearable. The “twist” I kept hearing about at the end is an interesting twist, but not that dramatic that it blew my mind away. I cried reading The Notebook. I didn’t cry reading this book. It’s a good story and I’m sure it makes for a good movie, but I don’t think it will make it to “my best of” for 2013.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, a Swedish writer. I found this book very entertaining. It’s not the next best thing in literature and it’s not what I’d call a page turner, but it made me laugh. Out loud in most cases. Allan Karlsson is quite a character, who is fond of both explosives and vodka, quite a deadly combination when mixed together… And he’s traveled the world and met some of the most influential leaders in his lifetime. Their personal conversations are a crack-up. I think it’s one of those books you enjoy reading during a summer vacation and I’d love to see it made into a movie too. It would make for two hours of great entertainment.

– What I think I’ll read next
I ordered a few books from the library but they’re taking time to come in. The first one there now is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It’s another young adult novel, a historical fictional that won several awards last year. Here’s the synposis, it looks chilling… Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s begun. When “Verity” is  arrested by the Gestapo, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. I LOVE this book and the message it conveys. A powerful tornado blows Morris Lessmore to a colorless land. There he meets a lady drifting in the sky, being carried by flying books. She gives him one and the book leads him to a library where he learns that the books need him as much as he needs them. The whole story, as well as the ending and the illustrations, are beautiful and magical. My kids love this book too. It’s definitely going on my list of best children’s books for 2013. There was a short animated movie made from this book and it won an Oscar. It’s definitely worth watching these 15 minutes of pure wonder.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, who’s not just an actor but also a funny author. When a little girl who seems bored out of her mind meets a potato that tells her kids are boring, she goes on a mission to prove it wrong. She shows the potato all the things kids can do using their bodies and imagination. My kids find this book very funny and I do too!

I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black

– What they recently finished reading
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool. This is another of those magical books that carries you to an amazing imaginary land, where a boy can spin clouds into the most beautiful cloth. When his mother showed him how to do it, she also taught him moderation:” Enough is enough and not one stich more.” When the king orders the boy to make a huge wardrobe for the royal family out of the clouds in the sky, the boy warns him that it is more than he needs. What will happen when there are no more clouds in the sky? This is a great lesson about being greedy and taking from nature only what you need. I love the effects of the crackle varnish on the paintings.

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool

Skippyjon Jones – Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner. Well, it’s about time Skippito found his way to the circus, because that’s where he belongs and excels at what he does best: being a Chihuahua dog, even though he’s a Siamese cat. This book is as funny as the other Skippyjon Jones adventures and I really enjoyed Judy Schachner’s bright paintings.

Skippyjon Jones - Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner

Skippyjon Jones – Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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