NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Bookshelf Review

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Welcome back once again!

This week’s blog is going to be a bit different than the posts in the past as it will mostly consist of book reviews on the few books and short stories I have chosen to read and utilize for the crafting of my NaNoWriMo story this year. The reviews will be ordered as follows:

Short Stories

The Cask of Amontillado - Edgar Allan Poe

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Outsider - H.P. Lovecraft

Pickman’s Model - H.P. Lovecraft

Technical Works

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel - Hallie Ephron

The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer - Sandra Scofield

I will do my best to keep these reviews relatively short as there are several works being touched on, and I don’t want to make you all read a novel. Not yet anyway.

Short Stories

The Cask of Amontillado - Edgar Allan Poe

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.
— Montresor, A Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

What can I say about this piece that hasn’t already been said? This work is a primary example of Poe’s mastery of the short story. It’s a classic, and I’ve honestly read it at least five times in the last month. Poe is one of the great founders of the thriller/horror genre, and while his works may seem mild compared to some of what you can read today you must keep in mind that he was a first to dive into the realm of psychological horror. The Cask of Amontillado is a perfect way to start a journey into this somewhat small and misunderstood genre.

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This short story was actually one of my first treks into the psychological horror/thriller genre, despite my burning love for Poe and Lovecraft, Gilman was my first draw into this world of the dark imagination. This piece is especially powerful due to the message it carries beyond simply entertaining the reader. Touching on the topics of the forced subordination of women and the dangers of the oppression of emotional and intellectual expression, Gilman uses her mastery of a specialized genre to call attention to the dangers of unjust treatment. The points made in this work are still viable in our society today. An excellent read.

The Outsider - H.P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft is somewhat of a fascination for me. He is a bit of an enigma that I love to indulge in. The Outsider is one of his shorter works and a wonderful example of his ability to create a setting that tells the story just as much as the characters. This tale focuses on the fear of the internal and the idea of the one versus the many - themes that are in opposition to the second work in this list by Lovecraft. As I stated before, he is a bit of an enigma and it comes out in his writing. This work is a wonderful piece where one can find themselves emotionally connecting with the creature we are meant to fear.

So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for. Then in the shadowy solitude my longing for light grew so frantic that I could rest no more, and I lifted entreating hands to the single black ruined tower that reached above the forest into the unknown outer sky. And at last I resolved to scale that tower, fall through I might; since it were better to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without even beholding day.
— Narrator, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft

Pickman’s Model - H.P. Lovecraft

Unlike The Outsider, which deals with a fear of the internal, Pickman’s Model touches on the fear of the external - the things which are just on the edge of one’s vision. Many of Lovecraft’s works focus on a fear of the dilution or contaminating of something seen as ‘pure’. Which was fueled by his somewhat aristocratic, elitist beliefs. Pickman’s Model leads us into a world in which there are things living on the outskirts of our understanding. Things that are so close to us that we don’t seem them for what they are until they have already infiltrated our lives. A wonderful example of the genre.

Technical Works

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel - Hallie Ephron

This book has been amazing to read through! As I have stated many times before, I have never attempted to write something within the mystery/thriller/horror genre and this book has provided advice that is invaluable. I would recommend parts (most of it, if I’m honest) to anyone new to writing, not just mystery novel writers. It does offer wonderful insight into writing in the mystery genre, but the practices can easily be adapted to any genre. Ephron does a wonderful job of breaking down the components of developing and implementing writing strategies for even the most beginner of writers.

The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer - Sandra Scofield

I found this book to be exactly what I needed. Scofield does an amazing job of explaining all the elements of a scene. She helps you develop scenes that drive the plot forward and do more than create a space for the characters to stand in. This book, while I found it useful, might not be best for beginning writers. It’s very technical in nature, more so than Ephron’s work. That being said, I highly suggest it. I have found myself a better writer for having read it.


Those are my current bookshelf reviews! I hope you are inspired to read some of the works found in this post - they are all worth the time!

Keep writing, keep creating!