Star Trek Into Darkness is AMAZING!!! Went to the midnight opening and I want to spew spoilers all over the place. T-R---- no I can't. I mustn't. Go see it!
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).
1. A Million Suns, by Beth Revis. There are so many things about this cover that I love: the stars, colors, the shimmer, the curve of the window, the body language, the question of whether or not they're holding hands. Why have I not read this book yet?? I loved Across the Universe and this is definitely a sequel I'm planning to read.
2. Pegasus, by Robin McKinley. The winged horse, the light, the clouds, the girl looking up, so so so dreamy. And I love that the pegasus is black and not white as you usually think of them. This book I've read, parts of it twice, and it's on my short absolute favorites list.
3. Starcrossed, by Josephine Angelini. The stormy sky and the light water, the girl's blowing white robes with the violet shading and the girl's darkly shadowed skin. Also love the title font and embellishments. The book is pretty good to read, too.
4. The Binding Stone, by Lisa Gail Green. The blue-red-orange color scheme; the desert background; the overlaid lacy pattern; the light trailing off the opal; the Djinn's red silky wrap; love, love, love. I just read this book and I'll be sharing my review tomorrow and probably raving more about this book in the future, too.
5. For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund. Okay, maybe a pattern here: stars! It's star pattern overlaid on the dress that really made me fall in love with this one, what a cool idea. Also, this is the prettiest title font I've ever seen, complete with those lovely encircling touches and shifting colors.
6. Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvator. I love all the shades of blue with intertwining branches, the odd-shaped leaves, and the wolf half-hidden in the background. All of this juxtaposed with a brilliant red drop of blood. Such a good book, too, my favorite of the series.
7. The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson. This book sort of has a starry effect going on too and I love the green and gold shimmer fading out to black. The glowing tree pattern on the girl's arm; the pattern on the back of her dress; the subtle lighting on her hair make a perfect combination. This book had amazing world building and difficult, challenging, hard-to-forget characters.
8. The Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare. The shining book - it looks almost ethereal in the girl's hands. The architecture is breathtaking, too - that bridge! The dome! All the background details overlaid with subtle clockwork patterns. I do love an old-fashioned dress, and it has such a pretty color and texture. Alas, I haven't read this book yet, but I certainly plan to.
9. Firelight, by Sophie Jordan. I don't usually like close-ups of faces, but the girl's unusual but not overstated pupils, and the subtle scales around her eyes have made the cover stick in my mind even several years after I read it. Not to mention I think that's the prettiest hair I've ever seen, and a Mona Lisa kind of secret smile. It's an entertaining, fast-paced book, too, with some interesting twin sister dynamics.
10. Ride a Wild Dream, by Lynn Hall (1982). Sorry this is the best picture I could find of this cover, but it doesn't do it justice! This was a childhood favorite of mine - I had to include it for sentimental reasons because I spent hours as a kid looking at the ethereal golden horse on this cover (I was insanely horse crazy as a kid) and daydreaming about having a horse like that. I probably read the book at least 5 times, like all of Lynn Hall's wonderful horse and dog books.
There was one more cover I searched long and hard for to include here; I wished I'd added it to my Goodreads lists because in addition to the gorgeous cover, it also had an interesting premise. It's a recent YA, dystopian I think, and the cover has a skyscraper city background with a sort of shimmery waterfall effect superimposed over it. If that rings any bells, please let me know!!!
Do you have a favorite book cover?
Posted by Margo Berendsen at 12:20 AM
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Maybe if you loved animals, like me, you wanted to grow up to be a vet or a zoo-keeper or a wildlife biologist.
Or maybe computers and chemistry sets and gadgets and science fiction were more your thing. Maybe you wanted to grow up to be an astronaut or the first engineer to figure out how to fly beyond light speed.
Or maybe, just maybe, you were BOTH of these - animal friend and star dreamer. That was so me. It's still me.
So the premise of Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon, about a veterinary school on Mars for alien animals, oh my gosh just made me all kinds of excited. And even better, hints that the main character has a special type of communication with the animals/aliens. I dreamed about this kind of stuff when I was a kid! Living on another world; check. Communicating with animals; check. This author brilliantly thought to put these two ideas together.
I desperately wanted to enjoy this novel, to write a raving review about it. I couldn't finish it, but that might just be me. If the premise grabs you like it did me, TRY IT!!! Maybe you'll love it (other reviewers did). Certainly the first four chapters I read had a lot of potential. I just couldn't click with the writing style.
I loved the first chapter. Especially the introduction to the first alien creature: the Indra. And what the Indra can do, and how space travelers have partnered with it, is so... sooo....alakshgsdhdgouncldg. Yep, words fail me. I want to say "cool" but that is too lame of a word. Awesome, too overused of a word. Back to lsknxsaqhyejlsd. I'll spare you the exclamation marks.
But in the next few chapters the writing style kept jarring me. To me (just my personal opinion) it had an after-school-special sort of feel to it. Also, I picked up some problems that could have been fixed by a more diligent editor. There were long paragraphs that were nothing but infodump, and a few long stretches of dialogue where nothing happens except talk. Info-dump sort of talk; not quite "as you know, Bob" but almost. A whole conversation without a character pausing to so much as scratch her head (or antennae, in the case of Hamish).
Speaking of Hamish, after I got over my first reaction of utter disbelief (a giant and kindly alien beetle? really? okay - I guess that works), I was very impressed by him, because his voice immediately rang true.
Unfortunately, I couldn't connect with any of the other characters, including the main character, Zenn. I get why she was so narrowly focused on her studies to become an exovet. It's clear she loved the animals, and it was clear she had to keep herself busy or despair from the loss of her mother, and her father's emotional distance. But she was too narrowly-focused for me to connect with. I admit I can't connect with people like that in real life, either, whose whole focus is their work or a single, driving passion. I admire them - but I can't connect.
But back to the positive things, the reasons why I encourage you to try the book if you like the premise, because there's some really inventive things, like the mobile virt-screens "hovering before his face like butterflies", and how Mars was made suitable for humans to live on, and some of the medical devices used for entering and ah, exiting large alien creatures. No vet book, alien or not, would be complete without some potty humor. I have a feeling the author, Christian Schoon and James Herriot are kindred spirits.
And also, there were a couple places where the writing was very impressive:
Her father's entire being was like a fresh wound.Beautiful.
....Sometimes, she thought she understood what made him go, that he had no choice, that he couldn't survive both his own pain and hers. At other times, she simply lost sight of this sort of understanding; as if heavy fog had rolled in, obscuring the landmarks that had guided her at first.
Thank you Strange Chemistry and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to try out this book.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
1. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - prejudice and racism.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - prejudice, racism, misunderstanding
3. Code Name Verity - war, Nazis
4. The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers
5. Wonder by RJ Palacio - deformed appearance
6. I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade, by Diane Lee Wilson - physical handicap
7. Right Behind You by Gail Giles - guilt
8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - rape, high school "branding"
9. Never Gone, Laurel Garver - death of a loved one.
10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - abuse, repression
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan - parental neglect, abuse
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell- animal abuse
Nineteen Minutes - school massacre. Jodi Piccoult writes issues in a very gripping if borderline sensationalized way.
What tough issue book(s) resonated the most with you?
Friday, May 10, 2013
Here's my top ten time-wasters while I wait for opening night on May 17...
10. Watch the trailers a million times on You Tube
9. Follow #startrek on Twitter and smirk at tweets only true long-term ST geeks will get at @TNG_S8
8. Watch Star Trek (2009) again. Just one more time.
7. Dream up Star Trek / Star Wars mashups now that JJ Abrams is in charge of both
6. Order Spock ears and matching wig to wear at opening night (only $12.99)
5. Imagine possible ways Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine characters could be included with the rebooted original characters
4. Discover things like Star Trek onesies on Pinterest and wonder how many people understand why you'd never buy the red one for your baby
3. Get absolutely giddy reading a movie review that says there's "an "Inception"-indebted freefall sequence that sees the crew negotiating gravity-shifting practical sets"
2. Read other Star Trek top ten lists like "Top Ten Star Trek technologies that actually came true" at How Stuff Works (where you can feel both geeky-happy and maybe-not-completely-wasting-your-time-because-you-are-actually-learning-stuff)
1. Consider a road trip to a city that is releasing the movie early
Are you eagerly awaiting the new Star Trek movie? Or what movie would you rather wait breathlessly for instead?
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Some Quiet Place, by Kelsey Sutton, is a young adult paranormal with a really brilliant premise and beautifully haunting writing, but it contains descriptions of violent abuse and torture. I feel like this should be mentioned upfront since I haven’t seen this graphic level of violence in a young adult book before, with the possible exception of Mockingjay. Personally, I don’t need any more fodder for nightmares in my life, so the graphic descriptions partially ruined this story for me.
Usually I’m able to avoid books that have graphic violence other graphic depictions because I read reviews very carefully (and young adult books usually don’t get this graphic), but since this book doesn’t release until July, there aren’t a lot reviews yet. I posted more thoughts on this issue a couple days ago on my blog.
To be fair though, I really liked some aspects of this book. The first half had me in a constant state of musing wonder. The main character, Elizabeth, lives in our same ordinary world, goes to ordinary high school, does ordinary chores on her family’s farm -- but she can also see into another plane where Emotions appear as people, invisible to everyone except Elizabeth. And she’s unique in that none of the Emotions affect her – she is, in fact, immune to any sort of emotion at all. Which raises tons of questions.
It also made for some hard reading at first, because how do you connect with a main character who has no emotion or feelings? She does have reactions and instincts and impulses and her body language mirrors emotion, but she doesn’t feel anything. After I got used to her detachment I realized I still connected with her because she does want to feel, and her observation is so keen, and she’s constantly questioning, processing everything and everyone.
As if to make up for Elizabeth’s lack of emotion, the rest of the characters are fraught with emotion, and we’re constantly meeting the Emotions that visit them: Fear (more about him in a moment), his brother Courage, glimpses of Love, Guilt, Worry, Longing, Loneliness, Envy, Resentment, others:
When our eyes meet, Resentment nods in greeting. He’s bald – even though they’re immortal, Emotions resemble humans in appearance – and I’ve always though he looks like Mr. Clean minus the gold hoop earring. He’s one of the few Emotions that enjoy talking to me. Then again, he enjoyed talking to anyone. Resentment has always had a chatty tendency.In addition to Emotions, other things like seasons and weather are also personified: for instance, when fog rolls in across the fields, Elizabeth sees a person walking in its midst, and knows it’s Fog himself. Stuff like this made me all shivery, wondering what ordinary thing I’ll meet next, in unexpected form.
But of all the Emotions, Fear is the one that we get to spend the most time with, and he’s quite a character. I felt some irony that the story tempts you to “fall in love with Fear.” You kind of forget what he actually is: a haunting Emotion, the result of so much misery and in a way often the cause of unnecessary misery, too. That’s part of the twist of this story (and not a good sort of twist, I think) that Fear appears attractive and passionate and actually the most dynamic and interesting character – even though he’s also cruel at times and obsessed with Elizabeth for mysterious reasons.
Fear reaches out and touches the curve of the girl’s cheek in one painting. Phantom fingers brush my real cheek as he does so.He also like to play games with Elizabeth, constantly testing her to see if she’s developed any Emotions yet, in particular testing her to see if he can make her afraid of him:
Fear vanishes, and an instant later a huge man jumps from the shadows of the loft with a long knife, making as if to stab me in the stomach. He’s wearing all black and his face is swathed in a ski mask. When I only stare at him, making no sound of alarm, the attacker disappears just as the blade is about to go in me.
“Fear?” I call.
“Just checking,” he chuckles, his voice coming from the night sky.Yup, it’s early scenes like that one, with illusionary violence, that should have given me warning: the violence turns all too real as the book progresses, with Elizabeth’s abusive father, and another otherworldly creature who’s even worse than Fear. Unfortunately the character that’s even worse than Fear was not a very well developed antagonist. The only interesting thing about him was trying to guess which Emotion or Element he was and why all the other Emotions and Elements were so frightened of him.
The book constantly raises questions, like “why does Fear love her?” and I spent half my time reading out of focus as my mind mused over questions like “Do the Emotions influence people, or are they just responding to summons when a person is filled with that emotion?” and theories like “She can’t love him back, she’s incapable of feeling” and “Oh! Maybe Fear loves her because she’s the only one immune to him. Everyone else would run away screaming because his presence evokes terror.” And my favorite theory: “is she an emotionless Emotion? An Emotion who has been stripped of her emotion, as a punishment maybe?”
(I thought my theories were pretty good! – but they were all wrong).
So the first half of this book had me coming up with theories like these left and right and enjoying the mystery and trying to piece together the potential hints.
Then, things all fell apart in the second half.
The plot began to skew. It felt sort of random, or under-developed. Then the violence escalated, and the descriptions became more graphic. I was unhappily hooked, wanting to find out if any of my theories would be turn out true, and puzzled and disturbed by what happened instead.
Really crucial parts of the story just weren’t developed. Like the antagonist, and the woman who occasionally tries to warn Elizabeth, and Rebecca and Landon’s father (this is a big reveal at the end, but didn’t have much impact because of lack of development), and Landon himself, who is a really crucial character (at least, crucial as far as causing motivation because what happens to him is what sets the mysterious events in motion). None of these are given any character development, or much backstory.
On the other hand, there was some interesting tension going on with Elizabeth and Fear and Joshua, because it was a unique triangle: one person wasn’t aware the other existed:
“Elizabeth?” Joshua watches me walk by but doesn’t reach out.
Fear pats his shoulder, mockingly sympathetic. “Let her go, boy. She’s a mess.”
Joshua doesn’t hear or see him, of course, but he does frown, sensing something off about me and the air around us.
The book has a very literary feel too it, and again I’m really impressed for a story told from the point of the view of a girl without any emotions, how real and very raw emotion still manages to vibrate in nearly every scene (and not just because of the Emotions flitting here and there: I’m talking real emotion). The scenes with Elizabeth visiting her friend Maggie, who’s dying of cancer, were agonizing and somehow beautiful at the same time. They rang true. In fact, I know they’ll stick with me for a long time. They were the highlight of this novel, for me.
Characterization: 4 out of 5 stars. The author did a commendable job developing a main character without any emotion. And as for the Emotions themselves, they were each unique and interesting to meet in their personified forms, even though most of them were very brief meetings. I’d push the rating to 5 out of 5 if the antagonist and the other crucial character, Landon, had been developed more.
Setting: 4 out of 5. The setting adds tension to the story: the barren whiteness of Elizabeth’s room to reflect her emotionless state, and her paintings expressing her searching and questioning. The threat of the storm building outside parallels the threat of her father sleeping in the house and the possibility of him waking in a rage.
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars. The plot didn’t hold together strongly enough for me. For instance, at one point Elizabeth asks herself, “What will be Fear’s consequence?” And I never saw this answered; I don’t think how he was attacked by _____ counts because that was a consequence for a different action on Fear’s part.
There were other issues too. Some might be my personal perception though, biased by all the theories I developed and was disappointed when none of them were near the target. But I will say, I loved the role Charles played near the end. That was a pleasant and compassionate surprise!
Pacing: 4 out of 5 stars. Even when the second half was beginning to unravel, I still couldn’t stop turning pages, er, e-pages.
Dialogue/voice: 3 out of 5 stars. Elizabeth’s conversations with Maggie were poignant, and Fear definitely had his own voice - it's just that his voice and attitude turned sour to me.
Personal appeal: 1 out of 5 stars. The graphic violence killed it for me. Also, when I described the book to a friend, she thought the idea of Emotions following people around sounded really creepy, and I had to agree (personal opinion). Things that follow people around and cling to them and invisibly influence them feels too demonic for me (again, personal beliefs here! Others may interpret the Emotions differently. After all, Courage is an admirable Emotion, and I might have felt different if Joy and Love and Compassion had been more than just briefly mentioned).
Margo’s literary scale, where 1 is “merely entertaining” and 5 is “really made me think”: 3 out 5. The theme of hiding emotions to protect oneself is explored: sometimes it felt genuine and other times it felt forced. There’s also brief statements about denial early on that come up again later on, but not connected very well (if I hadn’t been highlighting, I’m sure I’d have missed it).
Some quotes I liked:
A group of our classmates burst through the front doors, startling Joshua. The crowd is followed by two Emotions: Apprehension and Desperation. It’s so important to these kids to fit in, to belong.Very well said:
It’s the way humanity is; give them what they want, and it turns out it’s not what they wanted after all.A thought Elizabeth has for Maggie, my favorite character:
It’s a cloudy day out, no rain but no sun either. Unfair that on a day like this there shouldn’t be brilliance for her.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I got sucked into this great book, Some Quiet Place, a young adult paranormal debut by Kelsey Sutton (not yet released; I got a digital review copy from NetGalley). The combination of a very cool, original premise and beautiful, sensory-rich writing made me a happy reader until I got into the second half, when things turned a little too graphically violent for my taste.
Violence is common in young adult (YA), especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres I lean toward, but the descriptions are short and don't get too detailed. Since I'm prone to nightmares (I still get nightmares from those darned Alien movies, even years and years after the fact!) I really shy away from horror and graphic violence. I just don't need those images stuck in my head! And it's not just movies - the Hunger Games series, especially Mockingjay, left some images in my head I wish I could get rid of, too. I love YA books for many reasons, and one of them is that they don't shy away from troublesome topics, but they don't get graphic about them (well, except for Mockingjay. And now Some Quiet Place).
Since Some Quiet Place doesn't release until June, there's not a whole lot of reviews for it available yet. I'm awfully picky about the books I read: it's a serious investment in time, and sometimes money too if you can't wait for your library's copy, so I always read reviews carefully before I pick a book. The temptation of NetGalley and other similar places is you can get free pre-release copies for review, which is kind of exciting (getting your hands on a book before the general public, and for free) but also a little bit of a risk (few or no reviews yet for you to judge whether the book includes something you prefer to stay away from).
I suppose the title for this post was a little unfair - if you don't like what you read in a book, no one's forcing you to keep reading. But I do feel a little trapped when I'm more than half way into a good book, really enjoying myself, and then - WHAP! - too-graphic violence catches me off-guard. I'm invested in the book, at that point, you know what I mean?
Sometimes I toss around the idea of a "content rating" for books - like the rating system used for movies - but I think that would open a can of the worms with far-reaching issues. In general book reviews give you the information you need to know about whether a book's content is suited for you or not. If you are a bit of a cautious or picky reader like me, maybe preleases or new releases, as tempting as it is to get them for free, aren't the best idea. Especially since in exchange for your free copy, the publishers expect you to review the book on your blog, and I'd prefer to talk about books I can highly recommend on my blog, rather than books I have serious issues with.
So maybe I won't be requesting any more titles from NetGalley. But I have committed to doing several reviews here, and I am trying to be honest about the good qualities of these books in addition to the parts I didn't personally like. I'll be posting my review of Some Quiet Place here on Thursday.
What do you do when you're invested in a good book, and it suddenly takes a turn that leaves you uncomfortable? It's true that books should stretch us outside our "comfort zones" (see the quote on the image) but what about some readers needing a "safety zone"?
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Since it's the first Wednesday of May, it's also the day to post for the
But enough about me and more about Pivot Point, which is truly a great read and worth entering the giveaway for. Here's the form and below that is my review (not so much a review as me spewing out all the reasons I admired this book).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This is sort of a backwards review because I have to start with the ending first. It's a cliffhanger and a sad ending on top of that; but it has interesting time-travelish sorts of "clauses" that make me extremely eager for the sequel but at the same time grinning over the perfect balance of satisfied fulfillment and curious longing that I came out of the ending with.
I'm not sure if any of that made any sense. But I can't say more without giving away the ending. I LOVED the ending.
Okay, now back to the beginning!
The first thing I fell in love with this book (besides its premise) were the chapter headings. Imaginative chapter headings always add a little extra fun to a story, and by Chapter 2, with a dictionary style heading of "Unjustville: n. the land ruled by my parents" I was already grinning. As I got through a few more chapters, I started to realize the dictionary-style headings all had another purpose... (more on that in a moment).
The second thing I fell in love with was Addison, the main character, in chapter 2 when she describes her bedroom:
I grabbed a pillow, pulled it against my chest, and lay down. On the ceiling above me, in black scrolling print, was the Aristophanes quote I had painted there: "By words the mind is winged." For some reason it stood out among all the other quotes that loomed above me."
A girl who paints cool quotes all over her room? This my kind of a girl. I started collecting quotes in high school too and I'm still at it. Bonus: the Aristophanes quote isn't one I've seen yet. Very impressed. Double bonus: it's a beautiful quote for a book lover! Really, it's an awesome quote for anyone.
Another Cool Thing: the range of paranormal powers of kids within the Paranormal compound. They aren't just super-hero sort of ooooh and aaaaah powers: after all this book is science fiction, not fantasy or superhero genre. Here's an example: "he had developed the ability to speed up the connections in his brain, allowing him to run faster." - the author comes up with dozens more abilities, some expected and some quite unexpected. Also, the kids in the Paranormal compound go to their own school, with its own special quirks (not as atmospheric or as well-developed as Hogwarts, but they do have their own special-powers fueled sports, like Para-football.)
I adored Addie's insistence that her life would play out like the plots in the many books she's read. Because maybe I've been tempted to think along those lines too?
"I've been thinking about books where the main character's parents are going through a divorce. A big theme is rebellion. I think I should give it a try."
She laughs. "Addie and rebellion. Those two words don't fit together."
At first I'm tempted to be offended by the comment, but she's right. I'm not rebellious. Not even a little bit. But considering the insane amount of tension still present between my mom and me, I'm pretty sure I can channel rebellion right now. "I can totally do it."
"You do know you're speaking of fiction, right? Your novels aren't supposed to be study guides for human behavior."
I shrug off her comment. "I have at least a six-month window where my parent will blame themselves instead of me for anything I do wrong. I was thinking of a blue streak in my hair."
Her eyes light up as though she's suddenly on board. "Really? Because that would be so awesome."
"Is that enough? I don't want to go over the top, but I don't want to undersell my suffering either."
Here's another snippet of Addie's dialogue with her best friend Laila (don't worry, I'll get to the love interest here shortly) (Laila is such a fun character. she also has the scary ability to erase other people's memories).
Laila speaking: "So let me get this straight. If I didn't have an ability, you wouldn't like me?"
I sigh. "Of course I'd like you. But that's because you're out-spoken, bossy, and don't care what anyone else thinks."
"You just made me sound like a total witch."
"I know, but let's not get sidetracked. This is my meltdown."
"Addie, come on, you usually don't are what anyone else thinks either. What's going on?"
"I don't care when people think I'm an antisocial, controlling bookworm because that's what I am. It's when they interpret me wrong that I have a problem."
Another Neat Thing: the book gets away with a love triangle in a really clever, non-annoying way (really!). Addie uses her ability to look into the future to see the two different ways a choice could play out: stay with her mom in the Paranormal compound and develop a relationship with a Paranormal hot guy, or live in the normal world with her father and develop a relationship with a Normal nice guy.
So remember I said the chapter headings were really cool? The book takes off into alternating chapters, one showing Addie's life continuing in Paranormal world, with chapter headings all having a para-something word, and the next chapter showing her alternative life in the Normal world, with chapter headings having a norm-something word in them. Chapter 11 heading: "PARAliation: n. beyond the average humiliation."
This book is a lot more than cute dialogue and funny chapter headings. Here's another side of Addie as she talks about the pages of books she pins on her walls (in addition to the great quotes).
"It has more to do with the story lines... usually the parts where I felt the most tense or the saddest. I'll pin that page on my wall, and every time I read it or look at it, I get that rush of feelings I got reading.
....When I read, I feel emotions all my own [not emotions influenced by another person, like her mom and dad and how their paranormal abilities affect her]. To me, it almost seems more real, because I know that those characters can't influence me with any power. So I like to remind myself that I can feel without anyone manipulating me..."
And things get really intense as you start to realize how events in the alternative timelines relate to each other, with an escalating danger that Addie can't warn herself about in the different timelines. So in a way, this book is sort of like a time-twist or time travel book.
I promised I'd mention the love interest. There are two of them, of course, but only one really counts, in the way that Mr. Darcy is the only one that counts in Pride and Prejudice, and Wickham is clearly a diversion - if a rather interesting and mysterious diversion. Here's a snippet with Addie and _____ that I loved:
"No." He stops me just as I'm formulating a simple Search. "Don't. Not while I'm here. Just promise me something. If this is a Search and you don't pick me, don't pick this path, for whatever reason, promise me you won't Erase me." [her memory of him]
That's a very serious promise, one I can't take lightly. Because even though right now, if this was a Search, I can't imagine not picking him, if for some reason something major happens and I can't be with him, remembering him and this would be sheer torture.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Unique libraries. Like in the Archived, by Victoria Schwab - library of living, breathing Memories, and Lirael, by Garth Nix - a library of dangerous creatures.
Horses. I'll pretty much read anything where horses play a major role. Or even a minor role. Kid stories or adult stories. My all time favorite is the My Friend Flicka series by Mary O'Hara, followed closely by The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis (I'm reading it to my kids right now). But I love newer horse books too, like the Horse Whisperer, and Sara Gruen's Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss.
Uncommon mythical creatures. Like onis and griffins, especially when combined with the unexpected like Japanese steampunk in Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff. Or creatures like gargoyles! I want a YA gargoyles-come-to-life book! I actually had the great fortune of beta-reading such a book, and lament no publisher has picked it up yet! (that's for you K.T., still hoping).
Fairytale or myth re-telling. These are hard to pull off - for instance I adored Robin McKinley's Beauty (Beauty and the Beast retelling) and the Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, but wasn't crazy about Cinder or The Book of Wonders. But they are still instant draws for me - even lesser known fairytales or myths. A retelling of Arabian Nights made me buy the Book of Wonders, plus, my goodness just look at this cover! It was a little to young for me, anyone know of a YA retelling of Arabian Nights? Want. Need.
Historical fantasy. Instant sell for me. Like you wouldn't believe of how instant. Grave Mercy, by Robin La Fevers; Wildwood Dancing, by Juliette Marillier, and best of all, the Temeraire series (yes, mentioning this one TWICE!!!) by Naomi Novik.
Mind or memory twists. Like the science fiction scenario of two minds in one body in What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang, or carrying another person's memories (I know I've read this but can't think of an example! Help!) Not enough books in this category!Any wicked cool science fiction premise. Like the living prison Incarceron, by Catherine Fischer, or the ability to foresee the path of a choice in Pivot Point, by Kasie West.
By the way, I'm giving away a copy of Pivot Point tomorrow through May 7th so come back!
Friday, April 26, 2013
I saw this Hemingway quote on Pinterest and I keep thinking about it: "write the truest sentence you know" - what a challenge! And pressure! yeah, it's just a sentence. But the truest sentence, wow.
Sometimes when I'm faced with a challenge that demands the very best of me, the very truest of me, I freeze up and can't do anything at all. But then I get angry at myself for not trying, for letting the perfectionist in me keep me from making an attempt.
A few weeks ago I dug out my old journal from my senior year of high school, because for some reason or other, that year was the very best of all my years of journaling. There were other times when I poured my heart on pages because it was cathartic: I'd been through something upsetting and I was trying to process it. But this year wasn't like that. This was a year of freedom and discovery - I sort of came out of my shell. I started to the see the world around me instead of just the immediate trappings of teenage life. Whatever triggered this (maybe it was just part of growing up), I was in love with life, and with writing, and the words poured out.
So sometimes when I feel down and out about my writing, uninspired or discouraged that I can't write *real* stuff, *true* stuff, stuff that will *mean* something to other people, then I go back and re-read my senior year journal and remember that glorious feeling of free and unfettered expression. I'm not saying it was good writing, but it was true writing.
My dog is finally off her leash, and she charges up the hill full speed, a streak of golden light, lifting my heart in her wake.
So there. There is at least one true sentence: based on reading my senior year journals. But even now (not admitting how many years later) (and I don't even currently own a dog), I remember so clearly that feeling, that moment the leash came off, and not just one but two spirits leapt free.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
David McCullough, a famous author and historian, give a talk at our university last week, and he talked about history as "the story of people" and that good history is first and foremost a story. (If you have ever seen the famous PBS series on the Civil War, McCullough was the narrator of the series).
Then later that week I was taking a designing maps class, and we talked about how all maps "tell a story."
I also recently learned how that in teaching, the most effective way to instill understanding of a new concept is to link it to already familiar concepts via - you guessed it - stories.
The story is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. (Ursula K. LeGuin)
Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. (Hannah Arendt)
To me, history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn't just part of our civic responsibility. To me, it's an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is. (David McCullough)
History is a Rorschach test, people. What you see when you look at it tells you as much about yourself as it does about the past. (Jennifer Donnelly)
History is such a wonderful story of who we think we are. English [literature] is much more a story of who we really are. (Nikki Giovanni)
I read mostly fiction, and I firmly believe that good quality fiction can teach us - and get us to think - almost as much as non-fiction. But now I'm also thoroughly enjoying McCullough's biography of John Adams, immersed in the tiny stories that eventually led to huge consequences in my country's history.
What biography of a person or history of a particular time period would most tempt you?
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).
Without further ado, here are my top ten fictional crushes. To avoid copyright issues, I've linked to some images instead of posting them (movie stills are promotional, so I think they are okay)(?)
9. Ash from The Iron Fey Series, by Julie Kagawa. Prince of the winter fae, he's been raised to be cold and cruel and ruthless like the rest of family. Despite everything, he emerges with a heroic heart. I'm going way out on a limb here (this isn't remotely fae), but as a nod to Kagawa's name and my own love of multicultural heroes, here's how I picture Ash.
8. Beast from Beauty, by Robin McKinley. While Disney did a decent job getting us to fall in love with the Beast (yes, it's still my favorite kissing scene evah), this book blows the movie version away. This beast is less comical, more tragic, far more romantic.
7. Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Forget stuffy Mr. Darcy. Wentworth is a captain of a powerful Napoleonic-era warship. And he remains loyal to Anne even though her family forced her to reject his love. This is Sean Bean from the 1997 movie Anna Karenina, but he's also a nice Wentworth.
6. Marcus from the Mark of the Lion series, by Francine Rivers. A rich, spoiled but smart young man in ancient Rome who falls in love with the last person he ever expected. He starts out haughty but turns into a gentleman, and I still love his transformation after re-reading his two books at least half a dozen times. I simply can't find any pictures to do him justice.
5. The Darkling, from Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. Because I had to have one "I love to hate him" bad guy on my list. Here's a couple close possibilities from Deviant Art. The intense look, and the don't mess with me look.
4. Gavriel Duval from Grave Mercy, by R.L. LaFevers. There's so many interesting things about this guy: a knight from 1400's Brittany, an illegitimate nobleman, a devoted brother, possible ally or possible enemy to a most unusual assassin. Orlando Bloom from Kingdom of Heaven is close, but not quite - Gavriel has a sterner, more worried face than boyish Orlando.
3. Wesley, from the Archived, by Victoria Schwab. Light-hearted and goth at the same time. Close to this interesting guy from Deviant Art.
2. Faramir, from Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien.
Forget the movie version, please. Just wipe that image from your mind. I get so distressed with movies when they don't get the character anywhere close to what I had in my mind. In fact, the movie doesn't do him justice is so many ways; you just have to read the book. Here's something much closer to this noble character, in my mind.
1. Corlath, from the Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. There is simply no way to give justice to this wild hill king in a sentence, nor is there any photo or depiction, real or imagined, that has yet captured his quality. But I have to give this Deviant artist credit for a good try.
Who are some of your fictional crushes?
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
A terrible fight between loved ones is tearing apart my family, and it's consumed me these past 10 days as I watch the rift grow deeper without any sign of healing.
I'm on the sidelines, loving both sides, seeing both sides, the anger and outrage of both sides. Both sides are right, both sides are wrong. At times I've leaned toward one side, then leaned toward the other. As I learn more about the history behind this disaster, I realize that this fight is the perpetuation of a vicious cycle going back nearly 20 years, and could very well go back even further than that, back generations. "Controversial" is too tame a word for the thing that started this fight, but that was just the spark - underneath there were layers and layers of the dry tinder of pain and pride and defense mechanisms, accumulating over the years.
I can't be specific because I don't believe that airing dirty laundry would benefit anyone. I bet most of us have been through something similar to what my family is going through - different circumstances but surely the same heartbreak. But what's the solution? Once I realized that this is another turn in a long standing vicious cycle, I started straining my poor little brain cells to their capacity to think of a solution.
How do you break a vicious cycle that is rooted in years of pain and hurt and resentment? Where reasoning and counseling and the lie that "time heals everything" have made no headway?
Now you may call me a dreamer, a hopeless romantic, but I'll say the answer lies in a story. A universal theme that I've seen played out in many books - but perhaps most specifically and vividly in A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. It's been around since the 1960's so I'm going to take a risk and mention what happens at the crucial climax of this story of good and evil, light and darkness.
Meg has to rescue her father and her little brother from the clutches of a terribly evil being called IT. Anyone who gets anywhere near this hideous being has their mind consumed by IT. Meg's brother has become IT's slave, and if she gets too close, she'll become IT's slave, too. But Meg figures out how to defeat the consuming evil of IT. It is so controlling that it has no concept of love, and when Meg loves the hateful thing, she confounds IT and is able to free her brother.
I've loved this story and re-read it so many times that I knew somehow it would play a role in my own writing. What I didn't expect is that it would play such a role of hope in my own dark time. I don't know yet if its theme will play a role in the rest of my family - but I hope. Because it's not just a science fiction or a fairy tale. This theme runs through many fairy tales, yes, but I think it does because there's truth to it that we can apply to our own lives. I really do believe that love conquers all.
Vicious cycles that keep wrecking havoc in families are evil, like IT, because they are so destructive. It's not people that are destructive, it's the misunderstandings that consume us and blind us and perpetuate fear and resentment that are like IT and I believe the only way to break them is with love. Even when others lash out in scorn, you just keep loving. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things.
Does that sound too simplistic?
Perhaps, until you are in the battleground, realizing all the other weapons you've relied on in the past (logic, maybe, or determination) are failing you. Loving unconditionally is the hardest thing in the world. Meg got instant results from her love, that's the science fiction/fantasy part of the story; in real life unconditional love might go for years without seeing any result. It might struggle with the temptation to yell and scream and fight for its rights and its respect or to run away and lick its wounds and vow never to return to get hurt again: but in the end it stays true to its course and just keeps on loving.
I believe this and I am thankful for so many great books and their authors, from A Wrinkle in Time to Harry Potter to Kill A Mockingbird, for not just being books that I read to get through, but books that got through to me with the theme of the strength of love, and gave me hope during a bleak time.