Book Review: The Witness by Nora Roberts

*Disclaimer: There may be some spoilers in the following review, VIEWER (or reader I guess) DISCRETION IS ADVISED*

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Synopsis:

If you don’t want a detailed of a description of the novel, I’ll insert the blurb right here so that you have an idea of what it’s about:

“Elizabeth Finch’s short-lived teenage rebellion began with L’Oréal Pure Black, a pair of scissors and a fake ID. It ended in blood.”

If that’s enough for you, you can scroll down to the “Plot” section of the review to get to the rest of the review.

Otherwise, I will continue below.

Elizabeth Finch is a sixteen-year-old girl whose mother raised her to be the perfect student, and ultimately, the perfect adult. Her mother is a surgeon and wanted Elizabeth to pursue a similar path and become a doctor. Elizabeth is incredibly intelligent (she took accelerated classes in high school and is now attending Harvard for pre-med. At SIXTEEN), and basically followed her mother’s plan for her entire life, until recently when she decided that she did not want to be a doctor. When her mom leaves for a week for a medical conference, Elizabeth rebels by going to the mall (to essentially be a normal teenage girl that her mother would NOT approve of) and runs into one of the popular girls who went to her high school, Julie. Julie decides to help Elizabeth with her rebellion, in exchange for Elizabeth making them fake ID’s so that they can sneak into one of the hottest night clubs in Chicago.

Once they make it to the night club, they run into members of the Russian mafia, which eventually leads to Elizabeth being on the run for the next twelve years of her life. That is, until she meets a cop who falls in love with her (This is Nora Roberts after all, there is going to be some form of a romance in the novel) and wants to help her with her situation.

I’m going to leave it there, because I don’t want to spoil too much.

 

Now, let’s move on to the review!

 

Plot:

The plot was interesting to me, especially with the perspective of someone on the run from the Russian Mafia. I thought, for the most part, the story did flow very nicely, and the subplot that is included was interesting and the characters involved in the different plots were interesting parallels to each other.

However, for a novel about being on the run from the Russian Mafia, they really weren’t involved after the first one hundred pages, which considering the novel is over four hundred pages, doesn’t make that much sense to me. The mafia was mentioned in a couple scenes in the middle of the novel, and then were a tad bit more involved in the end, but to me, it felt like they were kind of thrown in there as an afterthought,

“You know, we haven’t really talked about the mafia enough, let me add these random sections so that the reader knows that they’re still thinking about Elizabeth all this time.”

It was almost as if she was trying to create some suspense to make the reader think the mafia was going to run into her at some point, and then have this interesting plot development. Instead, it made me wonder why the author bothered writing these scenes in the first place. Also, the plot had predictable elements to it; I had a feeling nothing awful was going to happen after the events from the beginning, causing the novel to drag in the middle, especially with the romance.

 

Characters:

As far as characters go, I feel that each one had a distinct voice, so much so that I could imagine them speaking in my head very clearly. For the most part, the novel alternated from the point of view of Elizabeth and Brooks, and because the character’s voices were developed so well, their differences in personalities juxtaposed each other very well. However, some of the characters did come across as cliché because of the way I heard them speaking in my head. Eventually, I also did get tired of hearing from Elizabeth, because her voice came across as robotic (I suppose to convey her intelligence), monotone, and overall kind of bored me at certain points (another reason why I appreciated the alternating points of view).

Even though the novel alternated mainly between Brooks and Elizabeth, the focus was on Elizabeth, and her traumatic run-in with the Russian Mafia. The novel wanted to emphasize that Elizabeth had gone through a traumatic experience that affected her (obviously since she was on the run for the twelve years). Yet, instead of feeling Elizabeth’s pain and sadness from going through this, I felt nothing. Maybe the point is that Elizabeth was so traumatized that she had become numb and the only way for her to deal with her pain was to focus on being on the run, but it just didn’t interest me to the point where I wanted to explore Elizabeth dealing with her pain. Instead, I became bored with the novel and just wanted to move on to see what would happen to her in connection with the mafia.

One major point where the novel fell flat for me was when Brooks and Elizabeth first started falling in love and getting together. I know that Nora Roberts writes lots of romance, but I felt that the romance in this novel just didn’t really pull me in. I felt nothing when they were together, or about how their romance was affected at the end of the novel.

I think that the characters overall were okay, but I never really felt invested in anything that happened to them. For me personally, this novel was more interesting to me due to the plot than the characters, though this novel seemed as if it was supposed to be more character driven than plot driven.

 

Writing Style:

I generally like Nora Roberts writing style because I think she does a good job of setting the scene and creating the overall atmosphere, without over doing it. She’s a great story teller, and obviously as she has written many novels over the years (this novel clearly stated on the cover that it was her 200th novel, and this was back in 2012), this means both that she has had years to work on her craft, but also that not every novel of hers is going to be one that I love.

I did mention earlier, though, that certain points of the novel did drag on for me, and I think part of it had to do with Nora Roberts telling the reader things that they could have figured out themselves. One example of this is in the subplot, Justin Blake is seen as a parallel to Ilya, but instead of the reader realizing that for themselves, Elizabeth essentially says this to the reader during a conversation with Brooks after the incident. I wonder if one reason for this is because of how many people read her novel’s for purely entertainment value, as opposed to trying to figure out the significance of the sub plot in relation to the main plot. Due to this, she will probably spell things out for her readers, instead of letting them figure it out for themselves, because she wants to be sure that the reader picks up on this fact. Even though it is fun to just read a novel and not have to intensely analyze what it is that I’m reading, it does get old after awhile having the author spell things out for me, instead of letting me figure it out on my own.

 

Overall Thoughts:

The novel starts off strong, and made me interested initially, but the middle dragged on. After getting a third of the way through it, I had put it down for a couple of weeks and wasn’t interest in picking it up again. However, I am someone who hates not finishing a novel (unless I think it is just utter garbage), so I decided to pick it up again a couple days ago, and finished it quickly, mostly because I wanted to see how it was going to end.  The ending was anticlimactic for me, as throughout the novel, I had been convinced that nothing bad was going to happen to Elizabeth. A part of this also had to do with the fact that Elizabeth came across as so intelligent that she would be able to figure out how to get out of any situation, and I never really worried about anything happening to her. It was still a decent ending, but it just wasn’t as powerful as I thought it was going to be.

I do wish that there had been more of the Russian Mafia perspective included in the novel, as especially towards the end it seemed like they really didn’t care about finding her that much, even though it was the whole reason why she was on the run in the first place. During the last third of the novel, Elizabeth tells Brooks about one time in New York when Ilya had seen her, but she ended up escaping because she was just so much smarter than them and could move faster than they could. As a result of this, it seemed to me that Elizabeth’s fear from being on the run was told more so than shown, because to me, all I could see was that she was an intelligent woman who, even though she had to be careful, was always able to take care of herself.

Based on the plot, characters and writing style of the novel, I would give this novel 3.5 stars/5 stars. Even though it was a decent read, I wouldn’t have been too upset if I had never gone back and finished the novel after I had initially put it down.

 

Thank you for reading guys, I hope you enjoyed my first ever book review for my blog! 😀

On that note, I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I will see you in the next post!

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

Creative Dumping Ground #6

This week I wanted to play around with some pictures I took of the flowers in the yard. Flowers also have their own meaning and symbolism behind them, so I figured I would do some research and see what these flowers symbolize.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Yellow Daffodils

Daffodils

Purple Hibiscus and Yellow/Orange Hibiscus

 

Hibiscus

 

That’s about all I got for this week, thanks for coming by, and I’ll see you in the next post!

-Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

References:

Hibiscus Flower – Meaning, Symbolism and Colors

https://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/daffodil

Reading and Writing

If you have any interest in writing, you know one piece of advice you hear a lot is to read as much as possible. By reading other writers works, you get an idea of what writing styles you like, what kind of plots your interested in, and what a published piece of work (at least if you’re reading published pieces that have been through many stages of editing) is like at the end of the whole process. This is especially important when you’re first starting out and  your own writing still needs to be more developed.

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,Said the Shotgun to the Head  by Saul Williams

Another reason you should read a lot as a writer is to learn to critically think through a piece of work, even if it’s already published. If you can go through a piece and pick out parts that make the plot drag, or why a character seems so one dimensional, it will make it easier to find similar mistakes in your own writing. Which is why I want to start doing book reviews; I am stuck at this current stage of editing (basically I added a bunch of things, but now I’m not sure what I want to do, add more or work on the actual writing itself), so I figure by dissecting other pieces of writing, I’ll be able to edit my writing better than I can now (and it might give me ideas as to what I should do next).

 

Now you may be wondering, why exactly am I announcing that I want to make book reviews?

Why didn’t I just post one today instead of writing this piece?

Well, let me tell you that… I actually was going to do one for this week, but when I finished writing the first draft yesterday, I realized there was more I wanted to add and I couldn’t do it all in one day.

Also, I am starting a new job soon! Woohoo! As exciting as this is, I had a bunch of paperwork to fill out before my orientation this week, along with other things I wanted to finish before I start working.

Plus, I have a weird head cold where my nose is constantly congested and runny so I have to blow it every five minutes, which makes it hard to write a review that is as well thought out as I would like.

IMG_20190205_121637_277So, in other words, I’m going to post the book review next week. Now that I gave you my list of reasons (or excuses, depends on how you want to look at it), I hope you understand why… I guess that was part of the point of this piece…

Anyways, I think I’ve rambled on for long enough…  so, thanks for reading, and I’ll see ya in the next post!

 

 

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

Creative Dumping Ground #5

Time to revisit an old entry I made a few months back… And I also thought “Eh, why not play around with the font a bit?” So basically… this is what this is below:

 

Experiment#2

 

Now here are some song lyrics that can fit along with this whole “Love Theme” I seem to have going on here this week.

 

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This is one of my favorite pictures of my book shelves (which I also have on my Instagram… I know I know, but I love this photo and wanna share it EVERYWHERE):

 

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And now time to round off this creative dumping ground with another written piece where I play around with different types of font like a five year old.

Cause ya know what?

It’s a lot of fun 😉

Experiment#3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alright everybody, that’s all I got for this weeks “Creative Dumping Ground”! I hope you enjoyed, and I will see you in the next post!

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

Finding Inspiration

Have you ever wanted to create, but you just feel so… UNINSPIRED?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes, which is probably why you’re reading this right now.

Whenever I’m in a creative slump, this means that the creative part of my brain has not been working, or essentially has been asleep. The methods I use to find inspiration again, are mainly to get “the wheels in my brain turning”, as they say (Who’s they? Good question because I have no idea). Although sometimes, I’m just tired and in a bad mood of sorts, so I try to do things that put me in a better mood, and then I’m in a better space to create.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here are my methods for getting me out of a creative slump:

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

1.Writing Prompts- This is what I use most often when I’m in a slump. There are plenty of websites, apps, and books dedicated to writing prompts, though I usually find my prompts online. When I was getting back into writing a couple years ago, this was the best thing I did for myself.

 

 

Here are a couple of my favorite writing prompt websites:

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

https://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises

I also go to the challenges section on Prose, where there are some very interesting prompts created by the users on there.

 

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Having fun exercising… with a statue of a dog riding a bicycle (Like ya do).

2.Exercise- When I wake up in the morning, I can be really cranky and not in the best of moods. Sometimes this goes away after a few minutes when I’m fully awake, but a lot of the time, it doesn’t. When I’m in a mood (Whether it’s crankiness, or stress) I walk around my neighborhood to clear my head, where sometimes inspiration strikes because of things that happen when I’m out. When I’m more stressed (this was more so when I was in college) I preferred going for runs, because I wanted to burn up all that stressed out energy pent up inside me all day. In college, I would usually go for a run during the day, and then at night, my roommate and I would go for walks.

 

 

 

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I watched The Little Prince and it inspired me to write one of my favorite poems. Also it’s a cute movie so you should watch it.

3. Consuming Other Creative Works– Even though I write, whenever I am in a creative slump, I seek out books, photography, music, poetry, or art pieces, to transport me to another creators world. When I’m inspired here, usually I either want to expand on an idea introduced here, or improve a concept. The latter sounds pretentious, I’ll be honest, but you can’t tell me that you’ve never looked at a piece of creative work and tell me that you haven’t thought, “You know, it would be so much better if they did (insert concept here) this way instead.”  Instead of just thinking that, why don’t you create it for yourself?

 

 

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Bath Bombs that I got from an awesome person 😉

4. Taking a Break- Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to get your creative wheels turning, your brain just is too burned out to do anything (And that’s okay). The best thing to do is to take a step back and have a day to yourself, whether that’s cleaning your house, taking a bath, meditating, having an entire self care day, or going on a day trip, sometimes you just need to give your brain time to just enjoy life. After all, inspiration can strike you at the oddest moments, especially if you aren’t forcing yourself to be creative.

 

 

 

 

Alright everyone, that’s all I have for you today, I hope you feel more inspired in some way! However, it’s important to find what methods work for you, because what works for me, might not necessarily work for you. There may be something I didn’t include on this list that helps you feel inspired that maybe just doesn’t work for me. A good rule of thumb is to always take any advice with a grain of salt, because it might not always work for you.

And on that lovely note, I hope you all have a great rest of your morning/day/evening/night and I will see you in the next post!

-Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

 

Creative Dumping Ground #4

For those of you who don’t know, I have been posting creative pieces on a website called Prose, mostly by entering challenges that are posted by other users on the site. It helps me a lot when I need to get my creativity jump started, and it’s fun reading everyone else’s work too.

I just completed a challenge this week that simply said “Write your best poem”. I like how it gave you the freedom to write about whatever you wanted, just as long as it was your best work (no pressure). For me, I decided to try to draw a little inspiration from a picture I had taken of my parent’s garden, and not gonna lie, I really liked the results.

If you want to read it, here’s the link:

https://theprose.com/post/264721/the-flower

So now I basically want to try doing this with another photo of mine, so here it is!

 

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Deception

You promised me the world,

Full of all that you had seen.

From the castles of the past,

To plans of our future,

Time and Life was yours to play with.

That is, until I saw who you really were.

There were no castles,

Besides those on bottles.

There was nothing for us,

Besides the daydreams in your head.

You promised me a world that was never yours,

And now I am left with nothing.

 

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Said The Shotgun to the Head by Saul Williams 

Thank you for reading, and as always, I will see you in the next post!

Erin 🙂

 

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Update

So, I’m going to be honest here, in that I haven’t really been writing or working on either of my story drafts. Instead, I’ve been thinking focusing on this site, and posting more on Prose.

It does frustrate me that I can’t get myself to focus on these drafts, but at the same time, I have been writing everyday. I’ve been creating in some form or another, plus there’s only so much anybody’s brain can handle creativity-wise.

And that’s okay.

Maybe I should take this as an opportunity to take a step back and see if this is just a temporary issue, or if it’s a sign of a much a larger issue at hand.

Maybe I am over exerting my creativity, or maybe… I’m just not interested in those ideas anymore. Or at least, how I have those ideas written out right now.

Only time can tell.

(As of today March 25th, I feel a lot more motivated to tackle editing on Afterlife, so that’s a good sign).

Now, I know it may seem to not be a good idea to talk about how I’m struggling with my writing in a public forum where ANYONE can read it, but it’s important to discuss the struggle that comes along with writing. I was reading a Twitter thread from Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy, Six of CrowsKing of Scars), and she was talking about how misleading social media can be when it comes to successful authors. She mentions all the behind the scene struggles that she faced even after  Shadow and Bone hit the NYT Bestsellers list at #8 (this is in 2012, where YA and MG both shared the same list and there were only 10 slots on this list, for context). Yet, based on how she presents herself on social media, you would never have guessed that. She goes on book tours, attends a lot of book/writing events, and has written a lot of successful series.

Here’s the Twitter thread if you want to read the whole thing through:

After reading through another one of her other Twitter threads, this one is interesting and along the same lines:

We all are aware of how in the age of social media, it’s common for everyone to only post about our triumphs rather than our failures. I’ve noticed though that more people are talking about it recently than before, but I still think we need this reminder every so often.

By posting only when we succeed, we create this illusion that we never failed in our lives. Even though logically that makes absolutely no sense, because we are also constantly reminded about how superficial social media can be. However, it can be hard to remember this in the moment, when your scrolling through one of  the various social media platforms, and all you see are people celebrating their achievements in their life. It’s easy to forget that they struggled in some way to get to that part in their life, which is why they want to celebrate and share with everyone at that moment.

Don’t sit there and wallow in self pity just because someone succeeded and you haven’t. You don’t know their whole backstory, and they probably don’t know yours. Remember, that failures can lead to their own kind of success, even if it’s not the kind of success you imagined initially. Be proud of your accomplishments, and don’t hesitate to celebrate and share it. While you’re at it, be supportive of your friends and peers in their success, with all the negativity in the world, it’s always good to spread some positivity around.

However, if you notice that social media is seriously affecting you mentally, take a step back and stay away for some time. Focus on yourself if you need to, because it’s hard to be supportive of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself in the long run.

And on that note… That’s all I got for today! Thanks for reading, and I will see ya in the next post!

 

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

 

Creative Dumping Ground #3

Hey everybody! So I’ve been trying to do a challenge every day on Prose, so I don’t really have much to add on this creative dump, besides some videos I made!

I know that I mentioned that I wanted to try vlogging and all that fun stuff, but I realized that I am pretty awkward in front of the camera… SO I made some practice videos to get myself used to talking in front of the camera and all that good stuff. I figured, you guys can get a taste of the process I’m going through with this, and maybe laugh (or cringe inwardly and click away) from my videos haha ;D

Just so you know, none of these videos are edited, because I haven’t found a good video editor that I liked yet (and is also on my computer), so you’ll get to appreciate these videos in their natural, raw form ;D

Anyways, I’m going to include the links in this post, because the version of WordPress that I am using doesn’t support videos being directly put on the site (That’s what happens when you get the free version of anything, you’re very limited on what you can do with it).

Here are the links, I hope you enjoy!

Reading Update:

 

Reading Notes from My Phone:

 

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see ya in the next post!

 

 

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

 

Voice Week #2

Hey everybody I’m back to, once again, talk about voice! As I said last week, I have a character that I wanted to develop a little further, so I decided to go ahead and try one of the exercises I found online.

The exercise that I used this week is from the website: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/28/plot-and-character/

person writing on white book
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Character Background

I am working on a character named Geoffrey (Jeff for short), who basically works as a guide for Death. As a guide, he helps souls who have died and get them adjusted to the Afterlife in one way or another. This means that he’s not necessarily from this time period, but he has worked with many different kinds of people over the years, so, he has picked up various slang terms during his time (granted some of it is out of date).

My main problem with him was that I had a vague idea of his back story, his motivations, and even of what era he was from. I wanted to find an exercise that could help me further develop at least one of these points, that way it can give me a place to start in developing the other two parts.

The exercise on terribleminds.com is an interesting one, because it isn’t just an average character development of giving a character’s name, age, height etc. Instead, it had you focus on the character through creating a tagline for them (how would someone else perceive them) and then from there figure out the characters conflict, the obstacles/complications preventing them from achieving their goal etc. I only got as far as conflict, and then I see what kind of character Jeff would be.

*Last week I did show you how I wrote out the exercise and everything, but this week I’m not including that because with developing Jeff more, I also got to develop the plot a little more. So in other words, there are too many spoilers included in his character development for me to just casually post about it online.*

The Rating

Overall, I would rate this exercise a 5/5 for character development. I think this is an interesting exercise that makes you think about the motivation of the character, and how that fits into the plot of the story. It’s very different from other exercises that I found or tried, which is also a huge plus. If the basic character development exercises haven’t really helped you in the past, then I would definitely recommend trying this one out.

Side Note:

In case you haven’t noticed, I frequently do not finish these exercises. It’s not because I think the exercise is useless or anything, actually I think it’s the opposite of that. If I can use an exercise to inspire me, I consider it a great exercise. This also means that if I need more help in the future, I can refer back to this exercise and keep going with it if I need to. The whole point of writing is to be creative, and sometimes we need to find different ways to inspire ourselves to do that. This can range from reading, to using writing prompts, to finding different writing exercises to improve your craft, all of it is important when working on writing a story.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Basically, you do you, as you are the one who knows best how to get yourself writing.If you need to go through the entire exercise, then go through the entire thing. If you need to just work on it bit by bit as your inspiration ebbs and flows, then do that. The whole point of using writing exercises and prompts is to help make your mind work in a different way and to give it some direction.

 

 

Anyways, now that I’m done rambling, that’s all I got for this post! Thank you for reading, I’ll see ya guys in the next one!

Erin 🙂

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord

Creative Dumping Ground #2

I hope you’re ready for another post of me throwing a bunch of random things into one post, because I am!

As I have been writing a lot more recently, there aren’t going to be as many small tidbits of random writing as there were in the last one (Which could be good because that means I’ve been exercising my creative writing muscle… WOOHOO!)

I remember when I was in my junior year of college, I had so much reading to do for class that it made me not want to read for fun. I was super bummed (of course), and when I talked about it with the lady I was interning at the time, Lisa (she makes handcrafted soaps and she’s really awesome! I linked her website at the end of this post), she told me how sometimes it’s best to give your brain a break and find other hobbies that don’t use the same parts of the brain.

Basically, give yourself a break, find new hobbies that excite you (especially if you feel stuck in a rut with your current one) because it could ultimately give you a spark of inspiration or appreciation that you haven’t felt for a while.

Anyways, now that I got that out of the way, enjoy some random photos and things!

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When I worked as a barista, a coworker and I tried to come up with a cool drink for… I think Halloween (Besides what Starbucks had come up with) and this was it. Took that photo and edited with some crazy effects I found on my computer’s photo editing software.

 

-Please don’t forget me. If there’s one wish that I have, it’s that you remember me and all that we shared.

 

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Picture I took at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. I always love going there 🙂 Plus I love editing landscape photos

 

-In the grand scheme of it all, we just want to be seen. Not necessarily by the whole world, but at least by one person.

There are people who spend their whole lives being seen by those around them, and then there are the people like us. Those who just blend in, and fade into the background so easily.

 

Thanks for reading, see ya in the next post!

Erin 🙂

If you want to check out Lisa’s soaps: https://courageoussoap.com/

Twitter: @ENordhof

Prose: https://theprose.com/ennord