MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King — May 28, 2017

Book Review – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

Book Review – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

on_writing

Facts:

Book: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Memoir
Year of Release: 2000
Read 291-page paperback edition in May 2017.

Book Description:

In this part memoir, part advice book, prolific author Stephen King provides a toolbox of writing tips and advice, as well as reflections on his life as a writer, before and after he made it big.

Book Review:

This book was broken into two main sections, the first half being the memoir, and the second half being the tips and tools on writing.  Although there is some overlap in the two sections, the organization of the book is useful, and provides us first with an overview of King’s life growing up and developing into the successful author he is today. After this, we then get into some of the recommendations King has for any writer.

The memoir section was fascinating, with King filling us in on his biography from childhood. King’s style and knack for humour comes across as well, and we are treated to many amusing anecdotes, often that have connections to the art of writing. He focused on those elements of his life that are connected to being a writer (and reader), which makes sense since developing writers are his audience in this book.

A later section telling us of how King’s life changed when he was hit by a car while walking also provides a lot of nuance to the reader, and King’s observations at this time also provide the prospective writer with things to think about in the context of the importance and cathartic release that writing can provide.

The writing tips section is the meat of the book. There have been many writing tips books, but this one is extremely valuable. King is not afraid to share advice that he thinks works, even if it won’t necessarily work for everyone. King provides great ideas, comments, and justification for why he gives the advice that he does. There is great feedback and thought here which can and will improve the quality of one’s writing, and not just in the horror or sci-fi genres.

The one thing that did detract from this book was the fact that at times, King’s flexible and loose organizational style made the book difficult to follow and collect advice from. For example, a summary of the advice in one small section of pages, or even sub-titles and headers in the large advice section of the book, would have helped from the developing writer’s perspective. This is a small issue of course, as the key is the advice itself, which is useful and practical.

 

Overall, this is an extremely valuable and helpful book for any writer, whether established or just developing their skills for the first time.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars

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Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight — October 30, 2016

Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight

Book Review – Making a Break – Thursday Knight

mcnally

Facts:

Book: Making a Break
Author: Thursday Knight
Genre: Fiction
Year of Release: 2016
Read 183-page paperback edition in September 2016.

Book Description:

This collaborative novel is written by a collection of 21 authors from a Creative Writing class in Winnipeg, Canada. The pseudonym Thursday Knight was based on the fact the creative writing class took place on Thursday evenings at the McNally Robinson bookstore classroom in summer 2016.

In the novel, two main protagonists, Stanley and Eve, are suffering through marital issues. They jointly agree to a separation of eight months, where they can reflect on the relationship but also live their own lives and adventures. After the eight months, they will then come back together and discuss whether they should get back together, or make the separation a permanent one. Along the way, amusing, surprising, and emotional moments occur for both of them.

Book Review:

 

Bias warning: I was one of the students who wrote this collaborative novel! Chapter 7 is my work, and I was very proud to have my first piece of work published! The class did a great job working on this project, and the outcome was terrific, with the book selling out and getting on the bestseller list for two weeks at independent bookseller McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, Canada!

The bias being noted, I can now make some comments on the novel 🙂

From reading the book, it is quite clear to the reader that there are many different authors that utilized different styles. This can sometimes be a little bit jarring, as styles and topics change suddenly from chapter to chapter. That being said, the reader knows that this is a collaborative novel and so this is expected given how this book was produced.

The main characters are interesting and are well explored by the authors. The decision to incorporate a medical condition ensures that the novel is not only about comedy and romance, but also about drama and stress. This is a great element in the novel. The adventure in the novel takes on a more intense flavour because of the medical condition that is being faced in the novel.

Although the conclusion is somewhat predictable given many of the things that occur, particularly with Stanley, the last chapter is comedic and brings everything together very nicely.

Overall, this is a fun novel that is quick to read and has real charm.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Blog Format Update — March 9, 2016

Blog Format Update

Hi all!

I have changed the format and style on my blog, just experimenting with a new look and feel. I had used the same style for 2 years, and thought now was the time for a change!

I will also be trying to interact more on WordPress with other people in the blogosphere, commenting on other pages and blogs, and perhaps trying to post more frequently. (Currently I post about 8-10 posts per month, perhaps I could increase that slightly?)

Looking forward to more great blogging ahead! 🙂

MatthewSean (aka mattcanada.wordpress.com)

2015 in review — December 31, 2015
Dragon’s Loyalty & Versatile Blogger Awards! — September 1, 2015

Dragon’s Loyalty & Versatile Blogger Awards!

dragons-loyalty-award versatile-blogger-award

I am very humbled and happy to report that the excellent movie blogger 13mesh has kindly nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty and Versatile Blogger Awards!!!  These are the first awards my blog has received before, and I am proud to share this great news, it makes me very happy indeed! 🙂

Similar to 13mesh, I will combine the two awards together and follow the instructions in both!

Award Rules:

1. Display the award on your blog
2. Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who awarded you
3. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award
4. Link your award in the post and let them know of their being awarded
5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Seven Interesting Things About Me:

1) My favourite past-time is reading, but I think I may actually post more movie reviews than book reviews on my blog 😛

2) I have done a much better job at writing on my blog, writing in my journal, and writing my fiction works over the past couple years, although I need to make more time for my fiction / novel writing.

3) I have a busy schedule with full-time work, the odd bit of overtime and travel required with work, and volunteer and family commitments. But I am doing a better job at balancing everything then I have ever done in my life, which feels good!

4) I don’t watch much TV, but two recent series I have been watching and enjoying are BBC Sherlock and BBC Planet Earth!

5) My favourite actor at the moment is probably Benedict Cumberbatch 😉

6) For some strange reason I have always wanted to spend vacation time checking out a real desert. Perhaps its because I live in Canada on the cold Prairies? 🙂

7) I have completed two full marathons in my life (now THAT felt like an achievement, lol)

Nominating 15 Blogs for Dragon’s Loyalty and Versatile Blogger Awards:

Check out these AWESOME blogs!!

1) Husband&Husband

2) Vinnieh

3) Xingsings

4) Ajoobacats

5) HyperReality

6) UP! urban poetrees

7) Digital Shortbread

8) Daily (w)rite

9) Lowcountry Book Lover

10) RobbinsRealm Blog

11) Erika in Bookventureland 

12) Drunken Dragon Reviews

13) The Saavy Reader

14) 101 Books

15) Books Come First

Thank you everyone for reading my blog, and for all your support and comments!

Thank you again to 13mesh for nominating me! Please check out his awesome blog: https://meshthemoviefreak.wordpress.com

Have a great September everyone!  -Matt at MatthewSean Reviews

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Free Writing 400+ Words — June 26, 2014

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Free Writing 400+ Words

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Free Writing, 400 Words Minimum

Today has been a good evening.  I have enjoyed watching World Cup so much, and today was another evening of watching 2 more world cup matches with friends over good food and drinks 🙂  What can be better? 😀

After this, I did a bunch of cleaning and did some dishes at home, and put on a CD of a “classic rock” band, Foreigner, which I hadn’t listened to in a LONG time.  I loved this Best of Foreigner CD, it’s one of the first CD’s I bought for myself, and it reminded me of how much fun I had listening to classic rock and 80’s music, especially in my past, and especially when I worked at the Winnipeg Zoo.  I remember I would have fun putting on this CD after close and mopping huge floors or scrubbing kitchen grills and I would just sing along at the top of my lungs, and not care that people teased me for not listening to more current music (lol).

Listening to this CD while I did the dishes and some cleaning, and while I type this blog entry, brings me back to those fun days at the zoo.  And I was toying with those concepts of memory and nostalgia last week in a blog entry, and this reminds me that these are good memories I can come back too.  Music is amazing for that, bringing us back to specific memories, even in our distant past.  It can evoke memory, thought, and feeling.  I love that about music.

But more than that, I can take elements of those fun days and those fun memories, such as the feelings music reminds me of, and use them as a spring board, to build different yet equally wonderful memories today!  So, for example, I can sit outside, enjoy the beautiful weather of a Manitoba summer, and write a blgo entry, or write in my novel, or read a book, and enjoy 🙂

As much as I do have various stressors in my life at the moment, I always like to remember that everyone has various  challenges and stresses, and many people in this world have it much worse off than I do in Canada.  I also have lots of resources, strengths, and blessings that can help me meet my challenges and tackle my stressors.

Listening to music tonight and thinking of fun memories, and pondering new plans and ideas for the future, makes me realize how lucky, fortunate, and overall how truly blessed I am 🙂

Hope everyone is doing well out there! 🙂

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Fear — June 24, 2014

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Fear

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Fear

In this blog assignment, we are tasked with writing about one of our personal fears, worries, or anxieties.

An interesting assignment indeed. Not something I often write about on a public blog, but I will take a crack at this, it is one of our assignments after all for this month’s challenge!  Also, it is important to acknowledge that we all have fears and worries, and sometimes the best way to address them is to acknowledge they exist and face them, head on.

Anyhow, the fear or worry I want to speak about here is sort of an extension to the post I wrote yesterday.  Carrying on from some of the themes I wrote about, I do have an innate fear that I am going to look back on my life later on, when I’m older, and think, wow I wasted time.  I am a big believer in getting things done, and making a difference.  I enjoy volunteering, giving back to the community, and a wide range of hobbies and friends/family.

However, I spend a large amount of time 40-45 hours per week these days on my “day job.”  And on the bright side, it is a great job, one I do enjoy (most days), where I enjoy the co-workers at my place of work, I have great opportunities for development and career advancement, and I am fortunate to have job security, pension, and am compensated fairly.

But all that being said, I still have a fear I am going to look back on my life, and think, wow did I waste time in that position / career field / profession / organization.  What were you thinking?  You weren’t truly happy!  And you didn’t make a true difference for the local or global world!

Like I said in my post yesterday, I know what true workplace happiness is.  I worked at the Winnipeg Zoo for 7 years and had a blast.  I know that in my current position, I am not as happy as I was there.  I am now in a more administrative / managerial position where I am in an office most of the day, in meetings, directing professional-level staff who are also in an office setting.  Although there are many good things about my job, as I listed above, there are also major detractions.  I do feel the weight of being “cooped up” in a large organization, and in an office environment.

I fear I sound like a whining person as well, bemoaning the fact I may not feel I am making a true difference and enjoying myself fully at work.  After all, I should be happy I have a job, many people are not so lucky!

But at the same time, I know it is important to be happy at work.  You spend 1/3 of your waking hours at work, and that’s assuming you work no overtime!  So work is important, and enjoying work is also important to your overall health.  I want to use my skills to better people around me, and I also want to be at a place where there is lots of action, excitement, fun, and where I am truly fulfilled in multiple respects.

Whether this will happen in my current situation, I am not sure yet.  But I guess my fear is I won’t have the courage to make changes if necessary, and I will end up being much older, and then look back and regret not taking risks or making changes in the area of my work.

I guess the challenge to me is to keep this in mind, think on it hard, and be prepared to make changes while I am young, mobile, and when right options present themselves, if this feeling is present.  I definitely need to puzzle this through.  I just don’t want to spend the next few decades puzzling through, and then realize it’s too late!

I have personal fears in addition to this more professional-based fear, but this is definitely one that’s been on my radar for awhile, and it felt good to right some thoughts down on it. 🙂

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Lost and Found — June 23, 2014

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Lost and Found

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Lost and Found

In this blog assignment, we are to write about something that we lost at some point in our lives, and it may or may not have been found again later.  This may be a material possession or something less tangible.

For me, I think back to my days working at Assiniboine Park Zoo, from 1999-2006.  I was age 18 – 25.  These were 7 special years in my life.  On the one hand, I was still in the closet, and struggling with how to come out of the closet in a religiously conservative family.  That aspect of my life made for some hard years in this time period.

However, at the same time, one of my saving graces that made these some awesome years despite the personal challenges was the fact I worked at the Zoo.  I worked with some special people who became close friends I cherish to this day. I got to work up close and personal with some amazing animals, and have some experiences I will cherish and smile and laugh at forever.  And I had a job where I was allowed to grow, learn, and flourish, working with co-workers and a manager who were more than that; they were good people, and my friends.

The loss came when a large wave of us resigned in 2006.  There was a shakeup of management, and many people left the Zoo.  Today, increased government investment of dollars has made the Zoo a much healthier place than it used to be. However, many of us left because it was not the same place it had been for so long. It was like a big family, and in 2006 that was changed.

Although I am happy the Zoo has undergone a positive transformation in Winnipeg, I am still often sad about the loss of such a fun and unique workplace that my friends and I got to work within for so many years. Although I have a good job today, it is not nearly the same level of enjoyment and closeness with others that I enjoyed at the Zoo.

I haven’t found a place where I connected with co-workers and developed lasting friendships since I left the Zoo in 2006. And I am not sure if I ever will. And although I haven’t found a place like that again, maybe that is okay. The memories and sometimes melancholy feelings will always hold a special place in my heart. And I can enjoy the ongoing friendships into the future, even though I don’t have the past physical location to work at 50+ hours a week.

The Zoo was a truly special place, and it helped me get through some hard years in my personal life, and even made those hard years some special and enjoyable years. Although I do miss that amazing place, at the same time why would I want those special memories to be replaced or repeated?  The truth is they can’t be “repeated,” all that can be done is to move forward and continue striving for more positivity, in different permutations.

After all, life is about moving forward, and continuing to build on positive memories, and learn from past challenges, to create a present and future that you can be happy and proud of.

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Real World Conversation — June 17, 2014

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Real World Conversation

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Real World Conversation

In this blog posting, we are supposed to be writing about a “real” conversation we participated or overheard.   I put the word “real” in quotation marks because to me, the concept of real is hard to define.

When it comes to conversation we heard or participated in, real is marked by our own perceptions and interpretations.  What is real for me in terms of what was said in a conversation may be very different from another person’s interpretations.  That is a good reason why we may participate in the same conversation or hear the same speech from someone, but have very different ideas and understanding of what was meant.  The word “real” is a loaded word.  What is real?  Perceptions are often everything, and understanding can be very fluid depending on who is hearing and interpreting.

Anyways, with all those thoughts leading the way, I am revisiting a conversation that happened between a friend and myself at work today.  We are colleagues, and we have very different work styles and functions at work, but we have a friendship as well, developed from working directly and indirectly together over the past 4 years.

In our conversation today, we actually ended up in an argument.  I was arguing that she needed to be careful and that she was having difficulty with change in our department, and she was arguing that I was getting involved in something that was not my business.  I noticed quite quickly that we were both speaking past each other!  Nothing I said seemed to impact her, even though I was trying to approach it as friendly advice being given.  And for her part, I am sure she felt that I did need to mind my own business, and I was just sticking my nose into an issue that wasn’t even an issue for her.

It ended with us basically agreeing to disagree.  I know we are still friends, that is never in jeopardy.  But it is always challenging when you get into work disagreements with friends in the workplace.  Nobody likes to be 100% wrong.  And usually nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong, it’s a blend of the two arguments or two points.

Language and conversation can be difficult when people all perceive things in different ways.  Today’s conversation with a friend really made this point come home clearly to me.    And if it can be this nuanced and complex with friends, no wonder there is not clarity and world peace! 😛

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Childhood Home — June 16, 2014

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Childhood Home

Writing 101 – June 2014 Challenge – Childhood Home

For most of my childhood, I grew up in a suburban middle-upper class home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Winnipeg, for most of my childhood, was a city with a population of 750,000 people or so, which is a mid-large sized Canadian city.

Growing up in suburban Winnipeg, I had the good fortune of being in a neighbourhood with lots of opportunities, lots of activities for kids, and lots of outdoor playground spaces.  It was the days before the internet and large video game systems, so kids would play outside a lot, whether it be at the park or sports like soccer or street hockey.  I enjoyed playing outside, but I also liked my time indoors at home as well.

I remember my home as a fun place to play with my dog Misty, do my homework at the kitchen table, or read my books or write my short stories in my bedroom in the basement.  I also had the good fortune of having a closet in my room that also had a cupboard under the stairs (yes, Harry Potter style).  But for me and my sister Melissa, we used this as a place to play with our toys, often me playing My Little Ponies or Rainbow Brites with her in our hideout under the stairs.  (And yes, my gay self looks back now and laughs at how much I loved playing with those toys, lol.)

Overall, my home growing up was a good place to be.  Although it was suburbia, and definitely meant being slightly sheltered, I had a great sister to grow up with, and good neighbourhood friends and cousins close by.  There were always people around, and that made the place a warm and welcome one.  Although I am very happy today, living closer to downtown in a neighbourhood very far from suburbia, I still have fun memories of my childhood home.