Thursday, December 31, 2009

How I Spent the Last Decade

This post could also be called "A Decade in Two Minutes."  I'm not the sort of person who dwells on the past much (I often can't remember further back than the day before yesterday.)  Still, I thought I'd share the events in my life that had the most impact, for good or bad.  Mostly good.

relocation to Southern California
Yes, I also received my Master's degree that year, 
but living in California was definitely the highlight of the decade.

trip to St. Andrews in Scotland

trip to Australia
my soul found its home

Home Remodel - mostly done ourselves;
might also be called "the fourth ring of hell"

the birth of my son, aka "Stitch Bear"

the birth of my daughter, aka "Bug"

art by andrea walford

Meeting My Posse

1 in 110 kids has autism.  My son is one of those kids.

Because of one of my Posse gals, I got hooked into the Clarity of Night contests.
The contests led to more blogging.
The more blogging led to book reviews.
All of that led to "meeting" all of you, which has enriched my life immeasurably.

Motherhood.  Seriously.  It's a wonder we don't just eat our young.

Keep a lookout for some "Best Of" booklists, coming this weekend to In Search of Giants.  In the meantime, I wish you a bright New Year.  Bonne Annee!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Directions

And no, sadly,  I don't mean these guys:

I haven't blogged much lately.  If you're a past reader of In Search of Giants, you know I don't like long posts, so let's break this down:

Top Ten Reasons 
Aerin Hasn't Blogged Since August

10. Clarity of Night July '09 contest
Writing for it and reading its entries scorched my brain.

9. Reading
Kisses to Trish and Ello for lending me me ARCs of FIRE and of CATCHING FIRE.  Yes, Ell, I still have yours.   See what else I've read at

8. Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize
I am forced to use armored cars and bulletproof vests when out in public, since I think this is a splendid idea and people around here....don't.

7. Travels - Nashville and New York City
Both with children, neither with a spa.  Enjoyable but requiring quite a bit of recuperation time.

6. Spouse
Forgets other people are part of the house, focuses on a zillion music projects plus a huge project at work.    I turn into Housewife Zombie.

5. Daydreaming about meeting Stuart Neville
Was even better than I'd expected - the accent, the sense of humor, the milk in his tea, plus he gives great hugs - I'm sorry, but the man is yummy:

Betsy's pretty hot, too.

4. Season Premieres
Fringe, Glee, Bones, Criminal Minds, House, How I Met Your Mother.  This is important sh*t, yo.

3. Stephen Parrish emailed me
He & unknown co-conspirator encouraged my writing, which is not my first love (reading is) but is definitely my first calling (before reading).  No one's ever done that before; I'm taking it as a sign.

2. Family Stuff
My sibs and I are pretty tight-knit; my lil sis and I are practically the same person.  So when life's tough for her, it's tough for me.  And it's been really, really tough for her lately.

1. My son, who is autistic, started kindergarten.
I go with him to class, because as friendly as the teachers & staff are, they're clueless when it comes to the needs of a child with autism.  Our IEP involved a lot of "settling for" on our part - not an ideal situation for my precious child.  I've spent more time and energy in the past three months than I ever did when he was at his special Autism school.  Of course, his special Autism school drained our life savings and my in-laws' bank account, too.  Add to this managing my daughter's feelings, making sure she's not feeling shortchanged, and I don't even have time for martinis in the evenings.  Agh!

I'm not going to turn my blog into a platform for autism, but you're going to encounter it.  The new stats are 1 in 98 children.  Learn more at Autism Speaks.

As if all that weren't enough, NaNo starts in just three days (see #3, above). 

In other words, I will continue to be a sporadic, MIA even, blogger.  But do stay tuned - exciting announcements from the Co-Dictators of the Universe, my first CD review, and more - sometime in the near future (ie, prior to 2011.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Do You Do:

News about Catching Fire, The Maze Runner - two books I'll be reviewing this month! - as well as oodles and oodles of giveaways.  (Particularly look for the current one aimed at kids ages 6-12.)

Do You Do is a new feature to help highlight places of interest.  Feel free to send suggestions to aerinblogs AT aol DOT com.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teen Essay Contest sponsored by Gilda's Club


Gilda’s Club New York City, a cancer support community named for the late comedian Gilda Radner, launches its inaugural Teen Essay Contest

NEW YORK – ( September 28, 2009)
– Are you a high school student who has been impacted by cancer?  Gilda’s Club New York City is launching its inaugural “It’s Always Something” Teen Essay Contest to provide high school students with a forum for sharing their stories about living with cancer.   Teens may submit an essay about the experience of their own cancer diagnosis, a family member or friend living with cancer, or the loss of a loved one to cancer.  Celebrity Judges include Alan Zweibel – Emmy-winning writer and close friend of Gilda Radner, Matthew Zachary – Founder of I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, William Sherman – Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for New York Daily News, and Tonya Hurley – author of the NY Times best-selling “ghostgirl” novels.

More than 70% of teens have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis yet teens are often an overlooked audience, especially regarding cancer prevention and dealing with the social and emotional needs brought about by cancer.  Nationwide, 25% of families with a cancer diagnosis have children under the age of 18.  “Our primary objective is to provide a forum for teens, grades 9-12, to share their experiences with cancer and more importantly, raise awareness of the issues teens face when they are living with cancer.  By partnering with local schools and community organizations, we are hoping that our inaugural ‘It’s Always Something’ Teen Essay Contest will open the door for teens to express themselves and provide an opportunity for our community to hear what they have to say about life with cancer” says Lily Safani, CEO of Gilda’s Club New York City.

Essays must be postmarked by Friday, October 23, 2009. The contest is open to all high school students who are legal residents of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Subject to official rules available at: Or write: Gilda’s Club New York City, c/o "It’s Always Something" Teen Essay Contest, 195 W. Houston St., New York, N.Y. 10014.  The essay winner will receive a $250 Apple gift card.  A ceremony for all participants will be held at Gilda’s Club New York City on January 14, 2010.

About Gilda’s Club New York City
Gilda’s Club New York City creates welcoming communities of free support for everyone living with cancer – men, women, teens and children – along with their families and friends.  Our innovative program is an essential complement to medical care, providing networking and support groups, workshops, lectures and social activities, all free of charge.

Monday, September 21, 2009

CROSSED WIRES by Rosy Thornton

Crossed Wires
Crossed Wires
by Rosy Thornton

December 11th 2008 by Headline Review
Hardcover, 320 pages
0755345541 (isbn13: 9780755345540)
Fiction/Literature, Romance, British

4 of 5 stars

"Autocare Direct Motor Insurance."

Mina - Wilhemina - is a young, single mother who works at the Sheffield call center for car insurance. Peter is a Cambridge geography professor who's just crashed his car into a tree stump. They're both single, both parents. In America, this would be a definite One Fine Day type of hit. But they're not in America; they're in England. And the class difference between them is palpable, pronounced. Throw in Peter's colorful next door neighbors, Mina's deadbeat little sister, and three of the most fun children in literature, and you've got a full-on MIAM (Make It A Movie).

I almost hate to recommend Crossed Wires as a MIAM, so read it first before Thornton sells a screenplay. Thornton's writing is so cozy - the written equivalent of a roaring fire and the perfect pot of tea. She's speaks directly to those of us who grew up and/or raised children during Harry Potter. She makes Dr. Seuss references. She speaks directly to so many experiences - male couples who have lived together their whole lives but never clarified their relationship; parenting twins; scraping by on just enough money; reading in a university library. Your feeling is that she must have snuck into your brain and shared your experiences, so keen are her portrayals.

I waited to review this novel until the leaves started changing here in Colorado. Crossed Wires involves bonfires and New Year's and coats and boots, so it's not the best summertime read. As a fall read, it's excellent. Buy it if you're a romance (but not erotic romance) fan (think Sleepless in Seattle), or check it out if you're not - though you'll probably end up buying it anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2009

THE WET NURSE'S TALE by Erica Eisdorfer

The Wet Nurse's Tale
The Wet Nurse's Tale
by Erica Eisdorfer

August 6th 2009 by Putnam Adult
0399155767 (isbn13: 9780399155765)
Historical Fiction

3 of 5 stars

"There was snow on the ground when my time came"

Susan Rose is a lower-class maid in Victorian England. When she becomes pregnant by the lord's son, she escapes to London where she finds work as a wet nurse, as her mother had done before her. She moves from job to job, as she's needed, all the while commenting to the reader in dry tones about the scandals of the higher classes. When tragedy strikes, Susan has to decide if she can continue the life she's chosen, or if she must return and do her duty by her family.

Erica Eisdorfer is a fellow Duke grad, yet she works for the trade bookstore on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Just as Eisdorfer's loyalties are a little mixed up (ahem, Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels), so Wet Nurse's Tale, her first novel, is a mixture of well done and poorly done. In fact, the well done is so well done - warm, accessible, witty writing -  it accentuates the poorly done piece all the more.

Susan is a lower class, illiterate character. She has to hire someone to write letters for her. And yet, the tone of this first person protagonist is that of an educated gentlewoman of poor means - a slightly randy Jane Eyre, if you will. To have Susan address us as "Dear Reader" - suggesting she is herself writing the book, and therefore not illiterate - completely throws us out of the comfortable rhythm of Eisdorfer's otherwise spot-on writing.

For any mom's group who's had the breast v. bottle debate, this is fun with an open perspective that won't invalidate either side; you'll want to buy it so you can underline the bits you like. For any mom who has breastfed, this is a humorous journey into nursing during another era. And for everyone else, it's a bouncy, well-researched piece of historical fiction that's neither sentimental nor hard-nosed. Check it out from the library, especially if you're a fan of Jane Eyre.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SHRINKING VIOLET by Danielle Joseph

Shrinking Violet Shrinking Violet
by Danielle Joseph

May 5th 2009 by MTV
Paperback, 304 pages
1416596968 (isbn13: 9781416596967)

3 of 5 stars

 You're listening to Sweet T on 92.7 WEMD SLAM-FM.

Teresa Adams, high school senior, dreams of being a deejay on her stepfather's hot Miami radio station. The problem is that she can hardly speak a word in school, she's so shy. Making eye contact, answering teachers' questions, and not to mention a nitpicking mom who thinks she's still a teenager herself - these are all the daily trials that plague Tere. An unexpected mishap lands Tere her dream. She's transformed into Sweet T, the fresh new deejay on SLAM-FM. When SLAM announces a songwriting contest in which the prize is a date to prom with Sweet T, Tere panics. Can she face the crowd, the publicity, and her hottie crush Gavin without falling apart?

If ever a book should be made into a movie with Demi Lovato, this is it (MIAM - Make It A Movie). There's no fault in the writing. Joseph's characterizations are easy and authentic, her dialogue's snappy and purposeful. The plot, although simple and predictable, is still fresh. Despite the fact that Tere's a senior, this is a sweet, dare I say innocent, book that will appeal to late middle school and early high school readers.

If someone hasn't snapped this up for a screenplay, they're idiots. But don't discount the printed page - Shrinking Violet would be a nice "break" read for high school students who are being faced with Romeo & Juliet or Lord of the Flies. It's fun, quick, and definitely worth getting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

FADE TO BLUE by Sean Beaudoin

Fade to Blue Fade to Blue
by Sean Beaudoin

August 1st 2009 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Hardcover, 208 pages
0316014176 (isbn13: 9780316014175)

4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Bits #4: Middle Grade Classics

Book Bits are mini-mini-reviews of books 
that I either don't have the time or inclination to review fully.  
However, I have read in entirety the books mentioned.

Editor's Corner

"Even though my daughter Anna is entering the 6th grade, she still enjoys it when I read to her at bedtime.  We have been reading E.H.Gombrich's A Little History of the World,which is a delight to read aloud-the tone is conversational and easy, and historical figures are described in all their humanity, flaws and all. It opens up ample opportunities for us to marvel at how things used to be.

It's harder to make room for read-aloud time now, as much as Anna enjoys it, because she is also increasingly absorbed with her own reading.  Recently Anna enjoyed The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Compound.  I'm watching her grow more and more passionate about books, but so far-knock on wood-that hasn't diminished her enthusiasm to be read to at night!"

-Sally Doherty, Executive Editor, Henry Holt BYR

A Royal Pain (Point) A Royal Pain
by Ellen Conford
September 1990 by Point
Paperback, 171 pages
0590438212 (isbn13: 9780590438216)
3 of 5 stars
what Meg Cabot read to get the inspiration for The Princess Diaries. Conford's novel is what would have happened if Mia had been mistaken.
Running Out of Time
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Running Out of Time (An ALA Best Book for Young Adults)2004 (first published 1995) by Scholastic
Paperback, 184 pages
0439632501 (isbn13: 9780439632508)
4 of 5 stars
hard to summarize without spoiling; you should read this especially if you grew up in the Midwest
Just in CaseJust in Case
by Meg Rosoff
February 29th 2008 (first published 2007) by Plume
Paperback, 246 pages
0452289378 (isbn13: 9780452289376)
3 of 5 stars
Rosoff's dark indie humor reminds me why I'm not really a fan, but not because she's not a skilled writer
by Meg Cabot
August 1st 2007 by HarperTeen
JinxHardcover, 272 pages
0060837640 (isbn13: 9780060837648)
3 of 5 stars
speaking of Queen Meg, this is a fun Practical Magic-meets-Gossip Girl novel with teen romance that's appropriate for younger readers (middle grade)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In Which Allison Burnett Discovers I'm Easy

If you're a regular reader, you saw my quasi-review of undiscovered gyrl by Allison Burnett.  Don't forget to see the postcript in which I explain the Salinger comparison a little more, as well as a strange connection to author Saundra Mitchell.

undiscovered gyrl made me cringe, made me angry, made me confused, made me think.  I hate when reviews say that books "make you think."  It's as though being thought-provoking is the best you can say about it (as opposed to being witty, eloquent, well-paced, etc.)

I've vacillated from anger to awe, from being impatient to being impressed with Burnett.  I think I'd jump on any bandwagon that tried to convince me one way or another.

Well, Allison got to me first.

You can submit your review to the undiscovered gyrl site, which is what I did. About a week later, I received an email from Allison Burnett.

What can I say? I'm easy.  Authors receive more of my adoration than "celebrities," so to have one engage with me feeds my bookish narcissism. And Burnett's not only an author, but also a force in showbiz; his career includes screenwriting. (How much do I love that he wrote the script for this fall's FAME?!)

The end result, anyway, is that I am declaring myself a news-bringer, a non-neutral force in the viral marketing campaign for undiscovered gyrl. Behold, two videos made by famous people.

The first, directed by Zalman King (he co-directed 9 1/2 weeks), features Burnett talking to the camera about how much he loves Katie, the main character of undiscovered gyrl. The only part that bugs me is his claim that we've all felt like Katie, at some point in our lives. I have to beg out of that one, actually. And I think Holly would agree with me. The vid, however, shows Burnett at his charming writerly best, and it's definitely worth two minutes.

The second video was made by Jordan Alan, and stars his wife Amanda Righetti. I appreciate the attempt, but right away it's obvious that Righetti is too beautiful, too old, too poised, too old, too polished, too old to actually be Katie as she retells the first pages of the book. Still, Righetti is stunning, so watch anyway:

Well? What do you think?

Copies of undiscovered gyrl have gone out to Beth and to Lorna, so if you didn't get an ARC, at least reserve this book at your library. It's definitely something you should read before school starts again - awesome lunchroom discussion that makes you seem both smart and funny, sort of like Amy Poehler.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Before you head back to school, you need to take time to read ghostgirl and ghostgirl:Homecoming by Tonya Hurley (picture right).  Part Beetlejuice, part Christina Ricci's Casper, part Bring It On, the ghostgirl books are the perfect end to summer, get you back in the swing of things for the academic year.  'Cause, let's face it.  School's less about Chinua Achebe and quadratic equations and more about the cute new transfers or who will ask you to the first dance.

Both of these books were highly entertaining and written by a hand skilled in pop culture and teen experience.  Hurley sets up each chapter with a song quote and philosophical tidbit.  The themes and plot are in no way condescending nor do they stereotype teen angst, but they're also not too profound for occasional readers.  There's nothing inappropriate for young teens, but the plot is complex and intriguing enough for older teens. 

Still, while the stories themselves are highly enjoyable, the standout quality of these books is their physical form.  In black hardback, the front covers have glassine panes that resemble coffins, and open to a Tim-Burton-like drawing of Charlotte.  The pages are all tipped with silver, and the text is framed by black and pink flowers.  

Given together, these would be the perfect gift for any reader or non-reader girl (or a boy you know likes YA fiction) to go back to school, or for any occasion while they're in school (birthday, good grades, etc.)  Adults should probably check them out from the library, although they do add zip to the look of any bookshelf.

Ghostgirl Ghostgirl
by Tonya Hurley

August 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Hardcover, 328 pages
0316113573 (isbn13: 9780316113571)

Charlotte Usher headed purposefully across the parking lot to the front doors of Hawthorne High, repeating her positive mantra - "This year is different.  This is my year."
Charlotte Usher has always felt invisible, especially to A-List Petula and her Posse.  Then, on the first day of the new school year, Charlotte finds herself paired with Damen Dylan, her Crush and Petula's boyfriend, in Physics class.   The excitement overcomes her, and she inhales her gummy bear.   And dies.  At first, she doesn't understand why she's in a new school with new classmates who all look like they should belong in The Haunted Mansion.  Then, when she discovers she's dead, she tries her best to infiltrate the bodies of Petula and the Posse, to convince the Powers that Be that she belongs with Damen, after all.
Ghostgirl: Homecoming (Ghostgirl)

Ghostgirl: Homecoming
by Tonya Hurley
July 1st 2009 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Hardcover, 304 pages
031611359X (isbn13: 9780316113595)

Dying of boredom wasn't an option.

Damen's off to college, Scarlet worries about their relationship and Petula's repeating a year, which suits her just fine.  She's in the running for Homecoming Queen, and still giving her little sister grief about stealing Damen the year before.  Meanwhile, Charlotte (aka ghostgirl), finds herself working an afterlife hotline for troubled (living) teens. When Petula runs the risk of crossing over, Scarlet puts her life on the line so that she can get help from Charlotte.

In Bed With Books, GreenBeanTeenQuean, Carrie's YA BookshelfLiyanaLand


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