Friday, October 31, 2008

NaNo Anticipation

T-minus 4 hours and counting.

The NaNo site is slow, and will be until Monday, they say.  I keep checking my account to see what my word count is. Yeah, I know.

I am giving myself a reward if I win NaNo - a 23" screen for my MacBook.  So I'm holding a contest during the month of November for people to be my cheerleaders.  I haven't come up with the prize yet, but I'm thinking a Bas Bleu box of books or $50 Amazon gift card.

Stay tuned!  I will either be back with details or my head will implode by Monday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anatomy of NaNoWriMo Registration


I'm registered.

My first NaNoWriMo. I'm AerinRose. Feel free to add me to your list of friends.

(I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have an idea, but there's a story that's just spilling out of my fingers that I want to give a chance.)

So here's how it happened:

Lynn Viehl at Paperback Writer started posting advice about NaNo. (She has more advice here and from Literary FanGirl here.)

Unbeknownst to me, celebrated upcoming author Cindy Pon registered. (You know Cindy - the gorgeous person who looks far better on webcam than any person anywhere has any right to be.)

Her fellow celebrated upcoming author Stuart Neville registered. I took some solace when the fantastic Josephine Damian wrote,

WTF? NaNoWriMo? Say it ain't so!

There's nothing that annoys me more than these NaNo blog posts that say "2843 words today! Woot!" - People, stringing words together on the page for the sake of stringing words together to make it to a finish line is not writing!

Writing is not a numbers game!

Discover the joys of outlining and you'll never get stalled on a writing project, or need this crazy NaNo thing.

Gerard, of all people! Jeesh!

NaNo chatter is just one reason I'm taking a blog hiatus in November - I have a term paper to write and NO - I won't be using NaNo to write it!

In the same comments section, Ello verified that she had registered:

I'm in. Although I don't know what I'm going to write about because I start submissions this week (OMG!) and agent said sit tight on writing anything. But I think I have to take advantage of Nano and write something next month. Just don't know what it will be. I'm elloecho so please buddy me!

Stephen Parrish registered, blaming Stuart Neville and challenging Erica Orloff to Scrabble, thereby sealing his stiletto doom.

I discovered that a book that I'm incredibly excited about  had its conception in NaNoWriMo.

My secret online crush Moonrat registered.

The love of my life, the dearest darling Precie will be doing a modified version of 10,000 words.

When I posted about my indecision on the oracle that is Facebook, my high school friend Sir Chip Lynch said that he was considering participating again.

So I clearly have this solid circle of fellow participants (well, although I consider Moonie and Conduit sort of untouchable, but, still.)  Add all of that to the fact that (see above) I do for once in my life have a story I'm excited about, and....I registered.

Now I'm off to do my happy dance and say "yay me!"  And then get to writing.  See y'all in December!**

** Not really - I will still be holding a contest during November.  Be sure to add me to your readers so you get all the updates!

Giveaways Around the Blogosphere

I'm ignoring the NaNo call (for now) to tell you about some cool give-aways around my little blog circle.

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

There are over 1200 prizes being given away as part of the Quarterly Carnival. Granted, some of them are pretty mommy-focused (ie, $40GC at Diaper shops from Dinker & Giggles). But here are some of my favorites:

Production, not Reproduction is offering a $15 GC to Target, Starbucks or Amazon.

One Room Schoolhouse offers a prize pack that includes a $25 GC to Starbucks.

Deal-icious is giving away a $20 GC to Target.

Halfway to a Dozen is giving away three Usborne science books.

PixnPens will choose two winners, one to receive a box of books, and the other to receive a $25 Amazon GC.

Finally, at Empowering Girls: So Sioux Me, a contest that is Ello-worthy - $150 FreeAgent GO portable Hard Drive to the best non-sexualized Halloween costume.

Coming in November:

Also, the In Search of Giants big November giveaway!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

I'm still working on the site design, but in the meantime, fate or karma or the spirit of the Easter Bunny or the Ghost of Christmas Past - someone - is conspiring to get me to try NaNoWriMo. (I wrote an outline last night, people. A real, honest to goodness, I know the ending outline.)

Anyway, I've been collecting NaNo links, but this one came up from Paperback Writer today, called Pro-to-NaNo. It's a list of advice from professional writers to NaNo novices.

This one amused me:

11. Writing can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. Try to get eight hours sleep a night, minimum, and if you're writing all day, take a one-hour break to rest in the afternoon.

Um. Seriously? People doing NaNo are writing all day? Do these people have children, jobs, pets, significant others or watch Bones - all those things that prevent you from writing all day? And if they are writing all day, probably aren't they not novices?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I have been redesigning this page and I would love for you to comment about how it looks in your browsers, as well as any other comments you might have.

Keep in mind that I started with the Minima template and have coded all the other features myself. I may have missed details, need to adjust margins, etc.

By the way, you should see a night-sky background, a header image, and several tabbed sidebar menus.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Under Renovation

So I'm trying to incorporate all the CSS/xHTML/hacks/tips/voodoo magic I've taught myself over the past couple of weeks to redesign this page. I'm also getting up there toward my 100th post (on this blog, at least. I now have - count 'em - ten blogs.) I'm hoping to have an Advent celebration/contest/gratuitous page rank inflater event starting early to mid November, so keep me on your Google Reader! I'll be back!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My BookShelves


Visit 50/08

60. Graceling by Kristen Cashore
59. The Billionaire's Bidding by Barbara Dunlop
58. Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
57. The Preservationist by David Maine
56. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
55. The Sacred Quest by Cunningham & Kelsay
54. Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
53. Tithe by Holly Black
52. Ingo by Helen Dunmore
51. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
50. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
49. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
48. Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
47. The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan
46. The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
45. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
44. Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
43. The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
42. Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
41. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
40. Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce
39. Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce
38. Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce
37. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
36. The God We Never Knew by Marcus Borg
35. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
34. Safe Sanctuaries by Joy Thornburg Melton
33. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
32. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
31. And then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
30. Mistress of the Art of Death by Arianna Franklin
29. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
28. Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire
27. Portia's Ultra Mysterious Double Life by Anna Hays
26. The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn
25. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
24. Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
23. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
22. Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce
21. Page by Tamora Pierce
20. First Test by Tamora Pierce
19. Squire by Tamora Pierce
18. A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
17. The Eye, the Ear and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
16. Galileo's Daughter by
15. Places I Never Meant to Be ed. by Judy Blume
14. Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins
13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
12. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
11. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
10. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
9. The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd
8. Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
6. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
5. The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
4. Purple Emperor by Herbie Brennan
3. Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
2. Eldest by Christopher Paolini
1. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Bits

As you head into the weekend (some of you are already there):


Dewey's 24-hr Read-a-Thon begins at 5AM Pacific. Over 100 people have signed up to read, blog, and participate in challenges from Saturday through Sunday. There are prizes, cheerleaders, and three awesome co-hosts (Nymeth, Hannah and Trish). You can sign up as late as 4:59AM Pacific! Here are FAQ.

I'm maintaining lists and feeds. You can find them over at Gargantuan Books. Please, please email me with any questions - I'm pretty good about checking into things quickly (right, alisonwonderland?) Also, in honor of the Read-a-Thon, I've offered to design and install (or give instructions on installing) favicons for anyone who wants one. Email me at Aerinblogs AT aol DOT com.

Fun with Fantasy Figures
(no, not the blow-up kind; a quiz pointed out by Sarah at Short Stuff):

Putting your appointed path ahead of any inner conflicts, you make your own rules for the benefit of all.

If my life or death I can protect you, I will.

Aragorn is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. There is a description of him at

I love Aragorn, and think Viggo Mortensen is a nice-looking airhead. So, yeah, that's pretty right on for me. Take the quiz yourself.

Prepping for NaNoWriMo
Lynn Viehl over at Paperback Writer lists some sites to help with synopses. She strongly recommends doing a synopsis before starting to write. I had really hoped to do NaNoWriMo this year, but, as ever, two of the four busiest months for church staff are November and December. With the coming of Advent, and this being my first year at this church, I'm way too swamped to try to write 500 words, let alone 50,000.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Against Poverty

I really, truly, had meant to write a post for Blog Action Day Against Poverty and I hope still to find the time to do so. In the meantime, Vanessa put up this awesome video over at Feministing. Via the UN Dispatch, it's made by
the Girl Effect.

Instead of making the girl get a loan for a cow, use Heifer Intl to make a gift to her in a loved one's name as a holiday present.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
rating: 2 of 5 stars


Told from the point of view of 15-year-old Manhattan native Daisy, the novel follows her arrival and her stay with cousins on a remote farm in England.

Rosoff's story begins in modern day London, slightly in the future, and as its heroine has a 15-year-old Manhattanite called Daisy. She's picked up at the airport by Edmond, her English cousin, a boy in whose life she is destined to become intricately entwined. Daisy stays at her Aunt Penn's country farmhouse for the summer with Edmond and her other cousins. They spend some idyllic weeks together--often alone with Aunt Penn away traveling in Norway. Daisy's cousins seem to have an almost telepathic bond, and Daisy is mesmerized by Edmond and soon falls in love with him.

But their world changes forever when an unnamed aggressor invades England and begins a years-long occupation. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. When soldiers usurp the farm, they send the girls off separately from the boys, and Daisy becomes determined to keep herself and her youngest cousin, Piper, alive. Daisy and Edmond are separated, and Daisy and Piper, her younger cousin, must travel to another place to work. Their experiences of occupation are never kind and Daisy's pain, living without Edmond, is tangible.


Well, this is another award-winning book I didn't like. I'm starting to wonder if novels about dystopian futures are just generally lauded to make their reviewers seem wise and philosophical.

Rosoff's writing style is supposed to mimic the way a slightly psychologically disturbed 15 year old New Yorker would talk, at least in her head. I'm not certain as to whether this is an authentic teenage voice (none of the teens I've ever taught sounded like that), but Rosoff is skillful in that she never loses the reader. Consider the following example:

"So I sat down and wrote back all about Edmond and Piper and Isaac and the animals and the house and the war, and I made it sound even better than it actually was, and by the time I finished the letter I'd convinced myself that This Was the Life oh yes and Boy Had I Lucked Out. But it's easier said than done to convince yourself that god has smiled on you when the actual fact is that you're living with strangers due to the evil workings of your wicked stepmother not to mention your official next of kin."

The entire book reads this way, in its jumble of run-on sentences and Making Something Sound Important by capitalizing the letters. This writing style, at once raw and whimsical, is the best part of the book. There were entire chapters in which I was carried along by the language, only to arrive at the chapter's end wondering what the hell just happened in the plot or with character development.

There are sudden and incongruous plot jumps, character development that moves forward and backward in weird, jerking shoves, not to mention details that try early in the book to establish the date but disappear by the end. (No one restores email, for instance, after the worst of the war threats are passed.)

One of the stickiest points in the book for me is Daisy's relationship with her cousin Edward. She says in Chapter 10, "[n:]ow let's try to understand that falling into sexual and emotional thrall with an underage blood relative hadn't exactly been on my list of Things to Do while visiting England....." By the end of the chapter, she writes that she was blameless of corrupting her year-younger cousin because he is "not corruptible." And that's it.

I understand that Rosoff wants to examine the natural occurrence of morals, the theme of a postmodernist Eden. I also know that as late as the early 20th century it was not wholly uncommon for distant cousins to wed. Still. How do I say this? It just grosses me out. I'm not alone in this - several teen reviewers I read agreed.

Overall, the book achieved what a book like Tithe was reputed to do, which is to be dark and bleak and depressing. How I Live Now is a book about what Eden would have been like with no future, no hope. However, the reason I would tell you not to read it is the overall lack of cohesion and fractured plot.

OTHER REVIEWS: Megan at Leafing Through Life, Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot

READ INSTEAD: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Belated BBAW Wrap-Up

So, during BBAW, I held a contest in honor of Jen Robinson's "Reviews That Made Me Want the Book." The winner was Alyce (pictured below) of At Home with Books.

Alyce chose as her prize Graceling by Kristin Cashore, (which it took me two weeks to locate!). Then, because the book from which I was named, Hero & the Crown by Robin McKinley, was on her Fall Into Reading list, I sent that one, too!

On another note, I actually won something during BBAW! I got the email from Amy last week that I'd won the goody bag from Tote Bags n' Blogs. It arrived yesterday, and - OMG. Look at this prize:

Now, I've never heard of any of these authors before, as I don't usually read romantic fiction. But I had impulsively ordered a romantic fiction from PaperBack Swap about a month ago, and it was a lot like cotton candy - light, sweet, fluffy, to the point I can have it about once a month. And now I have enough to keep me set for a year! I am so so truly excited! (I also have to give a shout out to Raine for the tantalizing excerpts at her site that started me thinking about the genre, anyway.)

Friday, October 3, 2008


The Preservationist The Preservationist by David Maine

rating: 5 of 5 stars


"Noe says, -I must build a boat.
-A boat, she says.
-A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought.
-We're leagues from the sea, she says, or any river big enough to warrant a boat.
This conversation is making Noe impatient. -I've no need to explain myself to you.
-And when you're done, she says carefully, we'll be taking this ship to the sea somehow?
As usual, Noe's impatience fades quickly. -We'll not be going to the sea. The sea will be coming to us."

In this brilliant debut novel, Noah's family (or Noe as he's called here)-his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law-tell what it's like to live with a man touched by God, while struggling against events that cannot be controlled or explained. When Noe orders his sons to build an ark, he can't tell them where the wood will come from. When he sends his daughters-in-law out to gather animals, he can offer no directions, money, or protection. And once the rain starts, they all realize that the true test of their faith is just beginning. Because the family is trapped on the ark with thousands of animals-with no experience feeding or caring for them, and no idea of when the waters will recede. What emerges is a family caught in the midst of an extraordinary Biblical event, with all the tension, humanity-even humor-that implies.



I got this book from Paperback Swap several months ago and kept putting off because (I told myself) I had better things to read. Then, I accidentally listed on bookmooch as up for grabs. A very nice person in Israel wrote to me asking for it, and then when I ignored her (yes, I was hoping it would go away - sue me), she wrote a very nice letter explaining how badly she wanted this book.

So I scooped it up and thought I'd read it a little each night, and mail it to her within a week or so I expected it to be overly intellectual or to make fun of biblical stories or to simply be dull. Surprise.

This book is fantastic.

I finished it in about an hour and a half. I immediately regretted and didn't regret promising the book to the bookmooch person, and then I found it in overstock at Barnes & Noble for $4. So, yes, I'm buying her her own copy.

David Maine's voice is rich and vivid and honest and - how do I say this - embodies the feminist idea that God equally values both genders. The feats of imagination do nothing to dilute the tradition of the biblical story of Noah nor to take away from the meaning it holds for people who accept that faith as their own.

The chapters go back and forth between different characters (maybe Paolini took a note from Maine) without ever causing the reader to falter. Truly. The transitions are seamless, the plot intriguing, and then, all of the sudden, you're near the end of the book and you're crying.

Well, maybe you're not crying, but.....I am. Oh shut up.

The only downside to this story, I think, is there's a lot of "rutting" (a euphemism for "fucking") The reason I think that's a downside is that I think otherwise this would be a book that sophisticated middle-grade readers would enjoy, though it's obviously a book written for adults. It's one I highly recommend.

MIRA, MIRROR by Mette Ivie Harrison

Mira, Mirror Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison

rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Mira is apprenticed to a witch, the witch's apprentice adopts her as a sister. Too late, Mira learns that she should not trust her new sister when she changes Mira into a magic mirror. Mira's sister becomes the wicked queen of "Snow White" fame while Mira, once her usefulness has worn out, is abandoned. The end of the "Snow White" tale is barely the first act of Mira's enchanting story. When Ivana, a peasant girl running away from her cruel father, stumbles upon Mira, Mira sees a chance to possibly restore her original form. Mira manipulates Ivana into becoming best friends with a wealthy merchant's daughter named Talia. Mira uses her magic to change the girls' appearances so each resembles the other. What Mira does not anticipate is that Talia is quite happy with her new form and is not as easily manipulated as Ivana. It will take all of Mira's cunning to regain enough power to restore her form, but as she comes to know Talia and Ivana, will Mira be as ruthless with their lives as she needs to be?


The bio on Mette Ivie Harrison tells us that she studied German in college, "which is where she got her taste for the grim side of fairy tales." I hate to break it to you, but from a feminist perspective, all fairy tales are grim. Anyway. There certainly is a tendency toward the grim, or, at least, bittersweet, in Harrison's books. I had read Harrison's The Princess and the Hound, which was akin enough (in theme, at least) to Robin McKinley's Deerskin that I enjoyed it, bittersweet ending and all.

I gave this book three of five stars largely because of Harrison's writing style. Her prose flows easily, her dialogue is well-written, and if the plot lingers too often, well, you feel as though you're on a leisurely holiday stroll.

The rest of the book, however, doesn't merit more than a star, a star and a half. While the premise is captivating, the plot and the characters fall flat. The characterization of Mira is decidedly lacking, although she has the potential to be one of the greatest characters of this genre. Talia and Ivana are created similarly. It's as though Harrison is reigning herself in from describing them as kick-ass heroines, and thus all she does is weaken and diminish them.

In terms of the plot, you could substitute my father's catch-all spoiler phrase "they were ran over by a bus" and not miss much of what's going on. There's no climax, no great repentance, even though Harrison tries her best to make you believe there is. It leaves the book hopelessly lacking.

Other reviewers say that this is a retelling of "Snow White," although, in fact, it includes elements of a number of faery tales, such as Beauty & the Beast, or the lesser known "Snow White and Rose Red." You might try Gregory Maguire's "Mirror, Mirror" for a Snow White retelling that's just as dark, though it's written for an older crowd.

Actually, though, I'm not sure whether to tag this book as middle-grade or young-adult. One of the girls is sexually assaulted, which makes me think YA; then again, the end is morally trite enough (love conquers hate) to make me think middle-grade. There's the torture of a pregnant deer, but there's the simple sentimentality of sisterly bonds.

This is a book that's going on my Paperback Swap shelf, because there are any number of other books I'd prefer to own than Mira, Mirror.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Naming Characters

So, I'll be Gwen Ifill and you be Joe Biden and answer my questions. Please don't be Sarah Palin and avoid them - I could really use the feedback!

QUESTION 1: What are some of the favorite character names you've written and/or read? Why?

QUESTION 2: At what point in the writing process do you name your characters? Do their names ever change?

QUESTION 3: Did you ever read a character whose name you thought should have been different than it was?

I will answer my own question #3 - and that is Kaye, from Holly Black's Tithe. It just didn't seem like her name.

I'm getting ready to try my hand at actually writing a book, so I will be asking all kinds of questions. Also, if anyone needs a beta reader, I am an excellent editrix (references available) and it would help me see different people's processes.

Thank you!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Charitable Thing to Do

Win an editorial review of your full or partial manuscript, your children's picture book manuscript, your partial middle grade or YA novel, your query letter, or other fun prizes, all while fighting lymphoma! Check out the raffle site here.

I designed the button (right) for the raffle. Let me know if you need help putting it on your blog.

From Moonrat the Mischief Maker:


Dear Beloved Blogging Fellows,

Recently, a friend of mine was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma. She is only 28 and is fighting back hard, but her valor is frustrated by the fact that she has no insurance. Medicaid will be kicking in for her in about a month, but in the meantime there are some hurdles that nothing will help her get over but money.

Of course, there are lots of benefits and pots for me to throw money in. Alas... I work in publishing and have no money. I was bemoaning this to my darling Ello, and she thought of this fantastic idea: I should raffle off my editorial services. So that's what we're going to try here.


Prizes available:

-One winner: A full manuscript evaluation (up to 120,000 words)*
-One winner: A partial manuscript evaluation (up to 50 page)*
-One winner: A query letter and revised query letter critique*
-Five winners: A choice from select titles in Moonrat's library, which will be mailed with a love letter from Moonrat, who enjoys writing love letters
I've started this new, temporary blog to host a raffle for my friend. You can buy tickets, check the donation log, and see how much progress has been made on each of the raffled lots here.

*please note: these are critiques with an eye toward editorial suggestions, and will in no way be considered submissions to me or my company

General Guidelines (and my very best attempts to make the whole process honest and transparent)

-The raffle will run between now, Tuesday, September 30th, and 8 pm on Tuesday, October 7th, when lots will be drawn.

-Winners will be announced (or their anonymous IDs, if they prefer) on Editorial Ass no later than 11:59 pm on Tuesday, October 7th.

-Prizes have no expiration date--you can ask for your prize redemption anytime between now and, well, I guess 2020.

-Turnaround time for prize redemption is 2 weeks (i.e. if you send me your manuscript on the 1st of November, I'll need until the 15th to get you my comments).

-All prizes are transferable. If you do not have a query letter that needs critiquing but you have a friend who does, you can gift your winning prize on your friend.

-On top of the instant confirmation email from PayPal, you will receive a confirmation email from me by midnight on the calendar day on which you purchased your raffle ticket. My email to you will include your lot number(s).

-On my end, lot numbers will be written on highly scientific bits of paper, which will be dropped into one of four of the rally monkey's highly scientific baseball hats. Lots will be drawn from each hat at 8 pm on Tuesday, October 7.

-You will have the option to purchase raffle tickets under your real name or an anonymous ID. You may specify a code name or number upon receiving my confirmation email.

-I've opened a PayPal account, which will allow you and me both to maintain our identities. PayPal is free for you and only charges me $.30 and 3% off each transaction.

-All raffle ticket purchasers will be fully and publicly disclosed for accountability purposes. At midnight each day the raffle is active, the names (or anonymous IDs, if you choose not to have your name listed) of all the people who purchased raffle tickets for a particular lot will be listed in separate recorded posts. When you buy a raffle ticket, please check the name roster the next day to make sure your name is up. If it's not, email me ASAP at and we'll straighten it out.

-Again, for accountability, I have opened up a separate bank account that will receive nothing but PayPal payments for this one raffle. A record of the balance will be available for anyone who requests it. The entire account will be emptied at the end of the raffle, and our proud balance will be prominently displayed on Ed Ass.

I hope I haven't forgotten anything. If I have left any stones unturned, please drop me a note or comment and I will amend this record ASAP.

I will leave this post floating at the top of my blog for the next week. New posts will appear below it. All regularly scheduled publication will carry on as it always does!

Please, please tell your friends.


TITHE by Holly Black

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black

rating: 3 of 5 stars

SUMMARY (taken from School Library Journal)

Kaye is 16 when she finally learns why she's such a strange young woman: she's a changeling pixie under a spell. A move home to the New Jersey shore brings her back in touch with her childhood friends, the solitary fey, who want to end their servitude to the higher-born faeries by foiling the sacrifice of human blood known as the Tithe. Kaye offers to masquerade as a human for the Tithe and is swept into a complicated net of politics and treason between two rival courts of faeries.


Do you know the scene in the movie Labyrinth in which Jennifer Connelly's character Sarah eats a poisoned peach and finds herself at a faery ball that is at once beautiful and grotesque?

I have to believe Holly Black had that scene in mind when she wrote Tithe. Jareth, the Goblin King played by David Bowie, shares physical features with Roiben, a faery that Kaye meets in the woods; the descriptions of the dark faery court are reminiscent of the half-human half-animal masks Jim Henson used in his movie. Also conjured are similarities to the fey creatures depicted in the movie Legend.

The word used over and over by reviewers to describe the book is "dark." In fact, it's so dark in the first few chapters, the word I would have chosen was "bleak" and I thought about suspending my reading of it. Kaye's mother is an alcoholic, unmotivated, penniless bar singer who moved around so often her daughter dropped out of high school to work full-time at a Chinese restaurant. Kaye wears heavy boots, heavy black eye makeup, and has a cigarette habit that only someone could acquire living in bars every night of the week.

The problem is, Black is far too poetic to turn readers away. Her descriptions are raw and primal - Kaye thinks of the sun as having committed suicide, bleeding red streaks across the ocean as he died beyond the horizon. The interplay between the characters can be stark, and even disturbing, at times, but then she develops a romance between Kaye and Roiben that made this 32-year-old happily married mom swoon a little bit.

In between vivid, gruesome, lovely descriptions, Black's sparse prose leaves the plot hanging at certain points, almost to the degree of losing the reader. There's a lot of back and forth movement between the Faery hill and Kaye's grandmother's house that, in a stage play, would make for very short scenes, and can be distracting from the thrust of the action.

Overall, however, this was a delicious little read, a tart fruit that satisfies the senses and leaves you licking your fingers to catch every last bit.


Holly Black has a really interesting, truly helpful website. It offers her daily journal, FAQs, and this ridiculously well-planned page of writing tips. Despite the darkness of Black's writing, it seems she has a fantastically warm heart.


Related Posts with Thumbnails