Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See Offers Deep, Introspective Value
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"It was enough when Werner was a boy, wasn't it? A world of wildflowers blooming up and carrot peels and Frau Elena's fairy tales. Of the sharp smell of tar, and trains passing, and bees humming in the window boxes. String and spit and wire and a voice on the radio offering a loom on which to spin his dreams."
All the Light We Cannot See is an emotional novel that looks at war, survival, and the interesting ways that fate and choices bring us together. The novel drips with depth and gorgeous imagery.
The story follows Marie-Laure Leblanc, a girl who is blind during WWII, as she struggles with the loss of her father and the dangers of trying to do the right thing. Werner Pfennig, an orphan, is the other major protagonist of the novel. Through a twisting plot line, their stories become clearly connected as they fight for survival and to overcome lives that suddenly don't feel like their own.
Doerr's style is truly poetic. From page one of the novel, it is clear that he isn't just an excellent storyteller but a word master:
"At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country."
Throughout the entire novel, the reader roots for both characters despite their very different circumstances. The novel reminded me that there truly are no winners or losers in war--just people desperate to survive, to protect their dreams, and to hang on to the ones who matter to them while maintaining a sense of dignity and humanity.
The middle of this book was a bit slow-moving for me. I felt that the pace could have been a bit faster. Nonetheless, Doerr's skill at bringing the entire story together underscored the depth and meaning of this work.
This book reminded me of one of my favorites, The Book Thief, because of its focus and style. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a book with deep meaning and purpose.
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Romance Writers: Here's How To Be Successful
I write sweet romance.
I’ve been a published romance author for almost three years now, but I’ve spent most of those years trying to shrug off this sentence, to run from it. I’ve tried to make my descriptions of what I write more sexy, more risqué, and I’ve sometimes tried to portray my work as something it just isn’t. I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to sell my fade-to-black romance as something more marketable. I’ve attempted, at least mentally, to worm my way into the most popular segments of the genre only to find myself not quite fitting.
It’s not that I’m ashamed to write sweet romance. It’s just that for most of my career, I’ve found myself in a defensive position of my writing. It is through these defenses, however, that I’ve learned a lesson valuable to any writer, but especially to those in the romance genre.
Taking Heat For Not Turning Up the Heat
I didn’t start my writing journey determined to focus on sweet romance; it just sort of happened. When I put my fingers on those keys and drafted my first novel, sweet romance just flowed out.
I could attribute my sweet romance and lack of sex scenes to many things. Perhaps it was my love of Nicholas Sparks that encouraged me to write books focused on the emotional side of relationships. Maybe it’s that my introverted, conservative personality never allowed conversations about sex to be quite comfortable. Or maybe it’s partially the fact that as a high school teacher, I knew I didn’t want to have to blush knowing some of my students were reading those scenes.
Whatever psychoanalysis we want to attribute to the cause, I know the outcome is that my works are lacking in the hot sex-on-the-page sort of scenes.
It’s not that my characters are chaste or that I can’t appreciate the value of sex in romance. I truly do. I think we all have our preferences when it comes to spice in our novels, though, and I believe there’s a place for all types of heat levels in the romance genre.
Regardless, I’ve found myself “taking heat” for my notable lack of heat. Over the years, I’ve heard comments about the lack of sex in my books and the disappointment over the lack of physicality. The words “sweet romance” seem to incorrectly conjure images of cheesy, unrealistic scenes where everyone is constantly happy, and life is perfect. I’ve been accused of skipping crucial segments of the genre.
Again, I get that and appreciate the value of those comments. We each have our preferences and our tastes. These are the greatest gifts literature gives us—stories to fit everyone’s desires and the freedom to critique the stories that don’t speak to us. As an English teacher, I try to impress upon my students the idea that every single book has value, even if it doesn’t strike a chord with you.
Nonetheless, for so long, I’ve had a hard time appreciating the value of my own work. Daunted by a market that is seemingly owned by books with heat, I’ve questioned my writing. I’ve felt the “sex sells” society values creeping in on me. I’ve questioned what could happen if I just jumped the “no sex” hurdle. I’ve tried in my drafts to be sexier and more risqué. I’ve considered crossing that not-so-invisible divide within the genre.
And you know what? It didn’t feel right. At all.
It was with my last release, which is perhaps one of my sweetest romances, that I realized one important thing: Your own truth is the one you should value when it comes to your writing.
For me, that truth is that I am a sweet romance writer. I will never fit into the Fifty Shades kind of world in the romance genre, and that’s not a bad thing.
It is only when I had this epiphany that I realized my own value as a writer and the worth of my stories. It was when I came to terms with exactly who I am as a romance writer that I could better appreciate my successes and stop focusing on what I am not.
Write Your Story
It’s not just sweet romance that is marked by incorrect stigmas. At several book events recently, I’ve seen the other side of the spectrum. When I mention the word “romance,” I see a shriveling of the nose accompanied by one of the following statements:
Through these comments I realized: No matter what type of romance you write, spicy or sweet, you’re going to have critics. You will never suit everyone’s tastes.
And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.
As romance writers, we cannot measure success by what’s popular or what the market demands. We can’t base the heat level of our book on marketing trends or on variables like reader preference and opinions of strangers.
At the end of the day, we must learn to value our own instinct, our own passion, and our own voice. We must learn to be true to our stories and characters. We must write in the way we are called to write. We must tell the stories we yearn to tell in exactly the way we want to tell them.
It is only when we learn to listen to our own voices and let our guts be our guides that we can truly reach success in the genre.
So sweet or spicy, sex or not, learn to write the story that speaks to you, and the rest of this arduous but rewarding writing journey will lead you to the exact point you are supposed to be.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing, a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post, and a high school English Teacher. To celebrate sweet love, visit her on Facebook.
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Beauty Products Actually Worth Your Hard-Earned Cash
Yes, I'm a beauty and hair product addict. I've earned my Ulta VIP status and then some. I've racked up Sephora points like it's my job. I've collected countless lotions and potions in the hopes of finding the miracle product that was going to tame, defrizz, smooth, unwrinkle, define, improve, and everything else the beauty world promises.
I've spent way too much money--and I've been way disappointed so many times.
However, with my trial and error, I can say I've found quite a few products over the years that are actually, truly worth your time. Here are my top 5 products worth the price tag.
1. Dry Bar Shampoo and Conditioner
Sephora sent me a sample of Dry Bar Sake Bomb Shampoo and Conditioner... and my wallet was forever ruined.
This shampoo and conditioner is pretty expensive... but it's the only shampoo/conditioner combo I would actually classify as life-changing.
I'm always looking for that perfect shampoo to take my hair up a few levels, and this one does it. After one wash, my hair was noticeably softer and easier to style.
I recently got theDry Bar Charcoal Shampoo and Conditioner kit from Sephora. It is equally as life-changing. The dry shampoo is also on its own level. I definitely recommend any of these products... it's worth the dent in your pocket, trust me.
2. Tarte Rainforest By the Sea Foundation
I found this miracle foundation from Christen Dominque's Youtube channel. This water-based foundation is like none-other. It essentially melts into your skin but still gives you adequate coverage. It is by far my favorite foundation of all time... and I've tried a few dozen.
3. It Cosmetics Brushes
I used to think all brushes were the same and, thus, the cheaper the brush, the better. I went for quantity over quality.
And then I triedIt Cosmetics' eye shadow blending brush. My eye shadow game went up a couple of notches. I invested in a set of brushes from Ulta and realized the brush really does make the face.
I have a set that includes the foundation brush, powder brush, concealer brush, and two eye shadow brushes. They are worth the money because they truly make every step of your makeup look more natural.
4. Hot Tools Curling Iron (24k gold)
Again, I was always convinced curling irons were all the same. I was using the cheapest curling iron possible and couldn't figure out why my curls were falling flat by noon.
I finally invested in a Hot Tools gold-plated curling iron. Now, my curls seriously last over a day without any extra steps.
5. Too Faced Chocolate Palettes
I'm an Urban Decay eye shadow fan, but when my mom bought me the Too Faced Chocolate palette, I fell in love. When you don't have time for ten steps of eye shadow application, this palette is perfect because you can swipe on a single color and be ready for the day. Each shade is perfectly shimmery and pretty by itself. They are super blendable and smell amazing. I love this set of eye shadows for my everyday wear, and they are easy for beginners. You don't have to be a blending pro to get these super smooth shadows to look angelically pretty.
What would you add to the list? Comment below with your suggestions