Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I am excited to bring you the first author interview on "In Search of Giants."  Cara Muhlhahn is a midwife in New York City, and the subject of the documentary The Business of Being Born, by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake.  Next week, I have the chance to interview Cara...and so do you!  I have three copies of Labor of Love to give away in a very special contest.
I will pick my favorite two questions, and those entrants will receive a brand-new, hardcover copy of Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir.  A third copy will be given to someone chosen at random.
 Leave a comment with a question that you want Cara to answer. 
(leave a separate comment for EACH!!)
+1 Share this contest (+1 for each posting, sidebar, Facebook, Twitter, etc; max of +5)
+2 for Google Reader or email subscription
+3 Become a Google Follower

In her first book, "Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir," (Kaplan Publishing, January, 2009) Cara Muhlhahn shares her fascinating personal story while providing an insider’s look at natural childbirth in the home setting. From tales of her formative adolescent experiences, to the home birth of her son, to engaging accounts of her 30-year-long practice of midwifery, Muhlhahn chronicles the unconventional decisions she made to honor her vocation.
In addition to offering a compelling personal narrative, "Labor of Love" gives readers insight into the home birth movement at a time when it is generating substantial mainstream interest – and controversy.

Be sure to stay tuned.  On April 6, I will post my review and announce the winners.  Then, the interview with Cara will post sometime the following week.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Amusing Monday: Natalie Dee

We do a lot of contesting, reading, writing, reviewing, but it took a couple of posts from Kiersten's laptop to make me realize that we could do a little more to make life in the blogosphere fun.  
Starting today, I will put up something funny every Monday.  Well, something that I think is funny.  Funny ha-ha, or funny weird, or slap-happy not-really funny but laugh-anyway funny.  
So, if you want to join me, feel free to put something up for Amusing Monday each week - it can be a funny story (*cough* Ello), a humorous quip ("nothing is sacred," Richard), a comic strip (wolfie, that's you) or any other witty, comic, droll, facetious, entertaining, diverting, silly, farcical, slapstick, side-splitting, rib-tickling, laugh-a-minute, wacky, zany, off the wall, peculiar, quirky, bizarre, hysterical, jocular, hilarious bit you want to share.
Today, I'm just ripping from a Google Search, but it was totally worth it.  Meet Natalie Dee, humorist:


NEXT WEEK: Why I Do Online Crushes: A Melodrama in three parts

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Writing Round-Up

Writers and RCWCers take note:

Theresa's given warning about April's Pitching Clinc. It sounds as though it will be amazingly helpful and thorough.

Alex Moore is part of a brand-new, group-run creative writing site called Adventures in Writing.

Another fun, not quite as new writing resource is Yeah, Write. Also check out Cynthia Lin's Writing for Children and Teens. Or Authoress, Miss Snark's First Victim.

And Poetry Month is just around the corner!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-12

I am elated at this week's Weekly Geeks, not only because I haven't had time to participate in the past couple of months, but also because it's a terrific, fantastic, wonderful community building idea.

When Dewey started Weekly Geeks, one of the first projects she encouraged was for Geeks to link their book reviews to each other.  I want to invite you to share your reviews with me!

These are my book reviews.  If you've read and reviewed any of these on your blogs, please leave your permalink for me.  I've created a nifty form in the sidebar to the right (look for the tab "Share a Review")

I will edit my reviews to include those links in the body of the review post.  This is an ongoing project, so please remember to submit your links anytime you write a review!!

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps

My online crush Moonrat, editatrix extraordinaire, writes at her blog Editorial Ass about a new project she's undertaking.

She writes:

Awhile ago, my friend Andromeda Romano-Lax, the author of the beloved novel The Spanish Bow, told me about a project of hers, which I've decided to totally rip off (sorry, Andromeda).

She collected a list of 100 books that she wants to have read in her life to fill in some of her reading gaps of classics and great contemporary fiction. She knew it was a monumental task ahead of her--we all tend to choose fun things instead of things we should read, right? At least I do--so she gave herself 5 years to try to get through the list, and gave herself 25% accident forgiveness, meaning if she finishes 75 titles in 5 years, she'll consider herself to have been victorious.

If I follow Moonie's rules, my goal will be to finish 75 of these 100 books by New Year 2015.  And if my WIP has not gotten an agent by then, I'm going to get a sex change operation.  Or something else really drastic.  Like becoming a Republican.

My list will be generated by the following criteria (also borrowed from Moonie, and adapted):
-snobby classics I've always wished I could tell people I'd read, but would never read otherwise because I can't imagine enjoying them (these will probably end up making up the 25)
-books that I've bought and owned for a long time, but haven't read for whatever reason
-a book by each of the great Alices (Mattison, McDermott, Munro)
 -select recommendations from friends
-some books I've been curious about and keep forgetting to buy/read
-the gaps filled in with Pulitzer and National Book Award winners

I should have the list completed by the end of the weekend - come back and compare your TBR lists, OR make suggestions of what should be included.

Anyone else want to play? You can obviously vary the rules/books/time frame to fit your circumstances.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Giveaway: Wintergirls

In case you missed it.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

byLaurie Halse Anderson

March 19th 2009 by Viking Juvenile
Hardcover, 304 pages
067001110X (isbn13: 9780670011100)

  rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lia's 18, a senior in high school, and the skinniest girl in school, just as she vowed, at the age of twelve, that she would be.  For nine years, Lia had been best friends with Cassie Parrish, the girl across the street - best friends of the sort who live in your skin with you, who share your emotions as you're having them, who complete your soul.  Then, after a car accident brought on by Lia's deteriorated condition, the girls are forced by their parents to separate.  Six month later, Cassie's found dead, in a hotel room, by herself.  The last person she called was Lia - and Lia did not answer her phone.  Lia feels she is being haunted by her dead friend's spirit.  And the weight of Cassie's ghost both terrifies Lia and beckons her to a place between time where the two girls can be together again.

I read this book in a two-hour bubble bath.  While I did not love Wintergirls, I also couldn't put it down.  Further, it's a book I think everyone will like and that everyone (even dads!) should read, for the subject matter, if for nothing else.

That's not to say there's nothing to enjoy in this book.  There are sweet moments, funny moments.  There is yummy food.  Most of all there is kick-ass writing.  I'd never read Laurie Halse Anderson before, so I had no idea to expect such genius.  One of the things I liked about Anderson didn't give in to the temptation of a simple situation or an easy solution, but rather tied mental illness and broken home life and eating disorder into a whole bumpy package.

Anderson is a genius, but I was frustrated, at first, by that genius.  The main reason I didn't love Wintergirls is that it's told in a style that's almost prose poetry.  The style is meant to capture the disjointed, lyrical quality of Lia's instability.  However,  for the first 45 pages or so, I just felt that it distanced me from Lia, rather than brought me more inside her head.  Finally, a plot is introduced (the "haunting") and I could settle into the narrative without feeling barred by its wording.

Having said that, I sort of liked Lia.  It wasn't until the climax of the book that I wanted to shake her and yell, "Snap out of it, idiot!"   Otherwise, Anderson did an amazing job developing Lia so that she feels fully realized, a girl who could live across the street.  Throw in references to Tamora Pierce and Jane Yolen, and I definitely felt I could be or at least know Lia.

This is also the reason that this is not a book I would read again.  I consider myself as someone who's comfortable with feelings and emotions and her body, but it was deceivingly tempting to fall into the trap of comparing myself to Lia - and finding myself lacking.  Anyone who has ever looked in the mirror to see if her butt looked fat will identify with some of Lia's feelings.  I have high hopes this book will have the sort of change-impact on girls' body image that we all say we need but have no idea how to accomplish.

OTHER REVIEWERS: Carrie from Carrie's YA Bookshelf, Stephanie at Juiciliousss Reviews

Friday Finds

Jen sez:

Librarina caught my attention with a review of The Plague, by Joanne Dahme (due out in May). "When Nell’s parents succumb to the plague, she and her brother, George, fear what will become of them. As they follow the death cart to the graveyard, however, something miraculous happens. They cross paths with the king — who is struck by the fact that Nell looks nearly identical to his daughter, Princess Joan." Adventure follows.

 From ShelfAwareness:

Wild Things by Clay Carmichael (Front Street/Boyds Mills, $18.95, 9781590786277/1590786270, 248 pp., ages 9-11, May 2009)

It's hard to resist the voice of 11-year-old narrator Zoë, who stars in Carmichael's (Bear at the Beach) swiftly-paced first novel, alongside a supporting cast of eccentric characters nearly as wild as she. A feral black-and-white cat, for example, whose perspective unfolds through an occasional third-person narrative (and fills in some of the characters' background), suspects human beings just as much as Zoë does. Their reluctance to trust and their gradual softening (the feline for Zoë, and Zoë for her uncle) run in tandem. Despite her age, Zoë's had enough life experiences to fill the memoir she's started writing. Her mentally unstable mother went from man to man before finally taking her own life--which is how Zoë wound up with Uncle Henry Royster, the half-brother of the father she never met who's also deceased. The girl and her uncle's matching gap-toothed smiles and red hair attest to their common DNA; they also share a rather prickly independent-minded personality. But as time goes on, they grow quite fond of each other.  Zoë, who always found refuge in the library, warms to Henry's book collection ("Next to animals, I loved books more than anything"), and she rethinks her initial impression of her fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Avery ("dumb as petunias"), when the woman starts leaving books for Zoë and gives her time and space in the back of the room during the school day. Carmichael portrays a small Southern town with its requisite busybodies and odd personalities as well as a history of social dynamics that stretches back at least a generation. A rundown cabin in the woods and a mysterious white deer with an evasive companion introduce additional intrigue that helps Zoë to discover who she is in the world, both literally and figuratively. At times, the third-person sections focused on the cat (whom Zoë names Mr. C'mere) feel intrusive, but the relationship between the cat and the heroine is so essential to Zoë's development that readers will likely overlook this narrative device. This cluster of quirky, winning characters will feel like a throng of old friends by story's end.--Jennifer M. Brown

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting Ready for Poetry Month

I'm not a huge poetry person.  I can appreciate poems, and I've memorized a few.  Overall, though, they are too overwhelming for me - too much in too little space.  Well, and I had a really terrible creative writing professor in college who turned me off poems in a big way.


For April, which is National Poetry Month, I decided to give poems another go.  (This has the added benefit of "justifying" my pathetic procrastinating on my WIP.)

Here are some ways you can join me:

POEM A DAY from Poets.org
Poets.org will send a poem a day to your inbox.  They also have lots of other poetry related resources.  Especially fun are the Free Verse Project, the Poetry Read-a-Thon for classrooms, and the Poster Gallery.

Poetry Terms Hangman
Favorite Poem Project
Traci's List of Ten

I found a list of types of poems at Shadow Poetry.com.  I will attempt, during April, to write a poem in each type.  I would love to have a cohesive theme, but I'm going to be lucky just to get them written.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Under the Influence

Sarah writes: "It’s an interesting Meme – 25 writers who have influenced my writing. Not sure about coming up with 25, but it did start some thoughts swirling. . . .Tag yourself if you're so inclined."

So, I'm limiting myself to writers who have influenced my writing, exactly as the meme says.  My writing, of course, is both fiction and non, so there is a variety.

1. Robin McKinley
2. Louisa May Alcott
3. Richard Lischer
4. Madeline L'Engle
5. Margaret Atwood
6. Charlotte Brontë
7. Tamora Pierce
8. Jasper Fforde
9. Suzette Haden Elgin
10. bell hooks

11. Dr. Seuss
12. Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel
13. Wendy & Richard Pini
14. William Shakespeare (presumably)
15. M.M. Kaye

16. Julie Campbell
17. Karen Russell
18. Adrienne Rich
19. Precie S.
20. Tess Thompson

21. Mercer Mayer
22. Harold Kushner
23. Julia Cameron
24. Anthony Minghella/Jim Henson
25. Catherine Marshall

Happy Belated Birthday Steph!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Steph BDay

Monday, March 23, 2009

Operation Teen Book Drop, TBD '09, Press Release

For more information contact:
Sara Easterly, Publicist for readergirlz
Sara Easterly & Friends

Despite economic downturn, generous publishers have donated
thousands of young-adult books for readergirlz, Guys Lit Wire, and YALSA
to deliver to teens in America’s top pediatric hospitals

March 17, 2009 (Seattle, Wash.)Teen patients in pediatric hospitals across the United States will receive 8,000 young-adult novels, audiobooks, and graphic novels next week as readergirlz, Guys Lit Wire, and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) celebrate the third annual Support Teen Lit Day on April 16.
In its second year, “Operation TBD” (short for Teen Book Drop), puts free books donated by 18 book publishers into the hands of many teens most in need of escape, inspiration and a sense of personal accomplishment. Books with exceptional characters and fabulous stories can provide just that for teens and their families dealing with difficult, long-term hospital stays.
At a time when philanthropic giving is down, readergirlz co-founders have been inspired by overwhelming industry support for Operation TBD. “readergirlz is always looking for innovative ways to connect teens with literature, “ said Dia Calhoun, co-founder of readergirlz and acclaimed young-adult author. “We’re honored that publishers have supported this goal by giving so liberally this year.”
Operation TBD also aims to encourage all teens to choose reading for pleasure as a leisure activity, over other entertainment options. Inciting the broader teen community to participate in Operation TBD in its drive to spur reading on a national scale, readergirlz has launched a trailer on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/readergirlz) inviting teens and YA authors to leave a book in a public place on April 16. When visiting www.readergirlz.com, participants can download bookplates to insert into the books they’ll leave behind, which explain the surprise to the recipient and tell them to read and enjoy.
This event is such a special one because it not only raises awareness about teen literature, but it also truly helps those teens most in need. Teens facing illnesses will be able to find an age- appropriate new book to read while in the hospital — teen books matter and not just any old book will do,” said Sarah Cornish Debraski, YALSA president. “Our thanks to the publishers, readergirlz, and Guys Lit Wire. It’s wonderful to unite with these organizations to forward this cause.”
Participating book publishers who have donated books or audiobooks include Abrams Books, Bloomsbury/Walker Books, Candlewick Press, Full Cast Audio, Hachette Book Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hyperion, Milkweed, Mirrorstone Books, Orca Book Publishers, Peachtree Books, Perseus Book Group/Running Press, Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, Soft Skull Press & Red Rattle Books, TOKYOPOP and Tor/Forge/Starscape/Tor Teen.
“Putting the right book into the hands of a teen can turn that teen into a reader for life, “ said Suzanne Murphy, VP and Group Publisher, Scholastic Trade Book Publishing. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to help Operation TBD show teens firsthand just how much fun reading can be.”
Pediatric hospitals that have signed up to receive books include Phoenix Children's Hospital (Phoenix, Ariz.), Rady's Children's Hospital (San Diego, Calif.), Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Children's Hospital and Research Center (Oakland, Calif.), All Children's Hospital (St. Petersburg, FL), Children's Memorial Hospital (Chicago, Ill.), UM C.S. Mott Children's Hospital (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics (Kansas City, MO), The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center (Tacoma, Wash.) and Seattle Children's Hospital.
“Our teen patients here at Seattle Children’s loved the books donated through the Operation Teen Book Drop last year,” said Kim Korte, Child Life Manager, Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Books are a wonderful avenue for our patients to be distracted from the pain and stress of hospitalization. We are always in need of books and greatly appreciate the generosity of the publishers who donated.”
Everyone who participates in Operation TBD is invited to celebrate at the TBD Post-Op Party on April 16 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on the readergirlz blog: http://readergirlz.blogspot.com.

About Support Teen Literature Day
For the third consecutive year, Support Teen Literature Day will be celebrated April 16, 2009 in conjunction with ALA’s National Library Week. Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day by hosting events in their library. The purpose of this new celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase award-winning authors and books in the genre as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.

About the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

For more than 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens. For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, visit www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390, or email, yalsa@ala.org.

About readergirlz

readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by five critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Holly Cupala (A Light That Never Goes Out) Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), and Melissa Walker (the Violet series). readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award.
To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. For more information about readergirlz, please visit www.readergirlz.com and http://readergirlz.blogspot.com, or contact divas@readergirlz.com.

About Guys Lit Wire Guys Lit Wire brings literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them. Working to combat the perception that teen boys aren’t as well read as teen girls, the organization seeks out literature uniquely targeted toward teen male readers in hopes of bringing attention of good books to guys who might have missed them.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Children's Book Voice Thingy

Check out my March Voice Fun!!

This month's topic was to read aloud a children's book.  I'm still learning my way around video and podcast posting, so you will need to visit another site (but if you want to comment, you'll have to come back here.  I know.  I promise I will get it figured out.)

It's password protected, too.  The user name is march and the password is dinosaur.  Sorry, but my kidling's involved and I want to add some security measure.  You get the best resolution if you use the "small" size.

Anyway, I meant to do all kinds of fun titling and pop-ups but it's been a really long day. The sound quality's not the greatest, either. BUT it was fun, and the Bug enjoyed it, and there are goofy messages in the end credits. Enjoy!

This Week at In Search of Giants

(no, really, it will happen this week)

Win a copy of Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn, and participate in the Q&A with Cara herself!!


The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Other Fun Stuff
"And even in your case - though it's the toughest case I've yet to face......

..............RCWC site is still getting a makeover

Bookmark this site so you don't miss a thing!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Funk

I'm in a bad mood.  A really bad mood.  A black miasma kind of mood.  And yes, I've even medicated with a chocolate martini.  As a writer I feel guilty I'm not expressing this in metaphor, but really, I'm in a fuck-it-all place.  I will get back to you on Monday.

I'm also feeling guilty because I didn't get Steph's birthday card (for her birthday yesterday) finished.  It's going to be belated.  Obviously.

In the meantime, go go go go go to Elizabeth's blog where I'm the featured guest (is that what you're calling it, E?  Well, it sounds good, anyway) for her 451 Friday.

Go enjoy your weekend, people.  I need you to send as much positive karma this way as you can muster.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

East by Edith Pattou

East East
by Edith Pattou

September 1st 2003 by Harcourt Children's Books
Hardcover, 400 pages
0152045635 (isbn13: 9780152045630

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” alternates point of view, chapter by chapter.  There are five narrators—Father, Rose, Neddy (Rose's brother), the Troll Queen, and the White Bear. Rose is the heroine, the youngest of a large family, struggling with poverty. To save the family Rose goes off with the White Bear, who promises the family riches if Rose will come with him.

Pattou draws extensively from Nordic mythology as well as the original fairy tale and bits of Greek mythology.  She’s done her research in any number of fields, but use of detail in East is deft and masterful. The details of such work as map making and sailing ships among the icebergs come to life as she describes them.

East is a rich tapestry of a novel, but it doesn’t quite sparkle for me.  Each of Pattou’s characters has a fleshed-out personality, even the ones she doesn’t like.  The most lovingly drawn character is of the Inuit shaman who helps Rose travel to the North-most point of the globe.  The plot lopes along with an even pace but it never stalls.  The resolution is predictable but still satisfying.  And while I recommend you read this book if you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings or historical YA, it’s not one I urge you to rush rush out to acquire.

OTHER REVIEWERS: Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

River Secrets by Shannon Hale

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern #3) River Secrets 
by Shannon Hale

September 5th 2006 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Hardcover, 304 pages
1582349010 (isbn13: 9781582349015)

rating: 4 of 5 stars
from the publisher:

Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He’s not very fast, or tall, or strong, so when he’s invited to join an elite mission escorting the ambassador into Tira, Bayern’s great enemy, he’s sure it’s only out of pity. But when they arrive in the strange southern country, it is Razo who finds the first dead body. As they try to learn more from the Tirans about the ever increasing murders, Razo is the only Bayern soldier able to befriend both the high and low born, including the beautiful Lady Dasha. And as Razo finds allies among the Tirans, he realizes that it may be up to him to get the Bayern army safely home again.

River Secrets is the third of Shannon Hale's books about the mythical kingdom of Bayern.  It's also my favorite of the three.  Goose Girl was a little convoluted, Enna Burning was a little long.  River Secrets is a fantastic little read.  It's fast-paced, with a solid plot and characterization, uppity but sincere royalty, plus a romance or two. 

If you're not already a Shannon Hale fan, I'd recommend you put this on your reading list for summer - it would be perfect to read by the pool or on a plane.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes

Google Preview available

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand
by Louise Hawes

May 19th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin
Hardcover, 224 pages
0618747974   (isbn13: 9780618747979)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written collection.  Hawes retells six familiar stories and a nursery rhyme.  Rather than the idyllic heroes and princesses, these are stories of human desire, frailty, cruelty, and loyalty.  Reacquaint yourself with Jack the Giant-killer, Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper of Hamlin and Lady Godiva.  Meet Rapunzel’s mother, as well as the seventh of the seven dwarves, and the emasculated prince who married Cinderella.

Kirkus Reviews writes that these seven tales are
magical and sometimes erotic happily-never-after retellings. . . In this sinister, highly sexual faerie world, heroes are often evil and villains are sometimes innocents who simply don't get to tell their side of the story.
I considered this point of view for a long time, because I didn’t find this book to be erotic or highly sexual.  Certainly the Grimm Brothers’ tales can be as dark as anything Hawes has offered here.  Perhaps Kirkus Reviews are comparing the tales to the G-rated Disney versions.  In that case, then…yes.  Hawe’s faerie world is “sinister and highly sexual.”

Instead of “sexual,” however, I would use the word “appetite.”  Hawe’s collection of tales shows human appetites in all their variations:  for money, for fame, for ease, and, yes, for sexual connection, as well as sexual gratification.  Further, Hawes writes in tones as darkly lush and precious as any jewel, pearls or no.

I recommend this book on its own literary merits, but if I still haven’t convinced you to read it, consider this:  I have one good reason for you to read this book.  The illustration of the Pied Piper of Hamlin makes any imagining of Edward Cullen seem like a toad-faced bottom-dweller.  Rebecca Guay’s illustrations make these black pearls truly luminous.

Other Blog Reviews:

Charlotte's Library
As the title suggests, Hawes is not shining light into these stories to make them sparkle in a pretty fairy dust way, but rather to revel dark layers and complexities. This darkness is nicely judged--not so much as to induce prurient squirming or sick horror, but enough to rivet and disturb.

Compulsive Reader
Anyone who has out-grown the childish fancies that fairy tales are notorious for, but not the tales themselves, will fall in love with this book, and the more mature content will add to its appeal. Hawes has a way of highlighting the intricacies of human emotions and relationships, making Black Pearls a bold, brilliant read.

Happy Birthday Melanie!

 It seems silly to do any sort of online "art" for a graphic designer, but still. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Operation TBD

Here's the deal: each week from now until Support Teen Literature Day on April 16th, readergirlz will be awarding a package of books to one winner. To enter, you just comment on their blog posts (comments on older posts count - a point for each comment!) and get an extra ten points for taking up the week's challenge. Get ten more any time by becoming a blog follower!

Report your post on our blog with the URL (and get eleven points!). They'll keep track of the comments and urls and award the winners each week. Books! Prizes! And you'll be supporting teen lit and hospitalized teens across the country.

Fairy Tales

I've been reading a lot of re-told fairy tales lately.  I'd like to blame it on Charlotte,
but really, I'm happy as a Zombie Cow in Smackdown.

I love fairy tales. 

I think it started with a copy of The Real Mother Goose (you know, the one with the black and white checkerboard cover).  The rhymes were fine, but it was Blanche Fisher Wright's delicate, old-fashioned illustrations that lodged in my heart. 

I moved from those to all kinds of illustrated classics, like Marianna Mayer's Beauty and the Beast

My sister and I memorized nearly all the episodes of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre (see below); we knew the scripts & lyrics of every Disney movie by heart.

Before I knew it, at the age of 11, I had a copy of Robin McKinley's Beauty in my hands.  My earlier prediliction to fairy tales grew into full-fledged obsession.

Back to Charlotte.  With her review of Princess at the Midnight Ball,  Charlotte included some comments about the difference between a Re-Telling and a Re-Imagining. She also threw in half a dozen titles that exemplify each type.  The titles went on my wishlist.  Then a copy of East by Edith Pattou came available via Paperback Swap, so I read it.  Then I found I could actually request just about any book on earth from my library (who knew!?!), so it's been fairy tales ever since.

Don't worry, I'll read something properly grown-up and dignified soon.

down memory lane: Faerie Tale Theatre

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This Week at In Search of Giants

Win a copy of Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
East by Edith Pattou
Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir by Cara Muhlhahn

Other Fun Stuff
Literary Dancing - are you a reader, a writer, or a reviewer?
RCWC site gets a makeover

Bookmark this site so you don't miss a thing!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Contest Round-Up

Carrie's YA Bookshelf gave me the heads up about Karin's Book Nook, which is celebrating the 2nd year of her blog. Here's the link:


International Entries Are Welcome

You can have up to 3 entries for the contest. Please do each entry as a separate comment. It will make it easier when choosing winners.

Deadline for entries will be March 27 at Midnight (CST).

Last Chance to WIN Daughter of the Flames and The Swan Kingdom...

...by Zoe Marriott. It ends today, so there are still a few hours left to enter. The giveaway is here.

I just reviewed The Swan Kingdom this past week, and I am beyond excited to read Marriott's other works.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WINNER of the Weekend Finale!

I have finally gotten around to choosing a inner of the Weekend Finale Giveaway!
Congratulations to Dawn M!
Dawn, I've sent you an email.  Please be sure to respond within 48 hours or I will choose another winner.  Thanks to everyone who participated both in my giveaways and in the Book Giveaway Carnival.

From Random.org:
Timestamp: 2009-03-10 22:27:07 UTC

Happy Birthday Michelle!

Michelle over at The Surly Writer is turning an undisclosed age today!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NYCMM Short Story Results

In January, I took part in the NYC Midnight Madness Short Story Contest.  There were 30 heats, with 20 people in each.  Each heat was given a genre and subject and seven days to come up with a 2500 story.

I wrote The White House Wine Cellar.

The only writing competition I've entered since - well, since 5th grade - are flash fiction contests over at Clarity of Night.  After I submitted my piece, I started researching and reading short stories, immersing myself in the genre as best I could - too late, of course, but a good learning experience nonetheless.

I placed fifth in my heat!  I was anxious that I would place in the bottom fourth, which would be a sign to me that maybe I didn't really have any raw writing talent.  Obviously, I still need a lot of training and smoothing and practice, but I am so happy with this little bit of affirmation from the cosmos.

So rest assured, McK, I will be making my writing quotas from now on!  (Mostly.  Except for this week.  And maybe next.  And sometime in May.  And - oh, never mind.)

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth Bunce

A Curse Dark as Gold A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce

March 1st 2008 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Hardcover, 400 pages
0439895766 (isbn13: 9780439895767)

rating: 3 of 5 stars
2009 William C. Morris YA Debut Award

A Curse Dark as Gold is Bunce's debut novel, and a re-imagining of the folk tale Rumpelstiltskin.

In Bunce's version, Charlotte and Rosie Miller are the last living descendants of the owners of Stirwaters mill. Stirwaters is the last industry holding their small town together, and Charlotte feels a burdened sense of over-responsibility to keep the mill running. Despite her best efforts, and the dubious assistance of her long-lost Uncle Wheeler, mishaps continue to happen which threaten the future of Stirwaters. Finally, Charlotte makes a deal with a strange man, a deal which may save Stirwaters but will cost Charlotte all that she holds most dear.

A Curse Dark as Gold is well-researched. Bunce bases the story on the woolen industries of Britain and America in the late 1700s, in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. She's comfortable enough with her subject matter to introduce it effectively to her readers - we are neither overcome with information nor do we feel we're lacking.

Unfortunately, the rest of the narrative is not so deftly handled. The pace of the book is slow, even plodding, at times. Bunce seems hesitant in places, and the result is that the reader seems to be watching a train wreck in slow motion - unable to help, unable to look away. The awkwardness is palpable.

The reason I would not read this book again, however, is that the protagonist, Charlotte, thoroughly grates on my nerves. She is supposed to be the heroine, but her willful stubbornness sets poorly against the episodes of naivete, her business cunning belies her ignorance of the world beyond her village. I think the characterization is a reflection of Bunce's uncertainty with her own skills.

I'm torn on whether to recommend this book to you. Indeed, it has some charming strengths, bits of gold among the straw, as it were. Mostly, however, you have to dig through too much straw to find too little gold to make it entirely worthwhile.

The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott

The Swan Kingdom The Swan Kingdom
by Zoë Marriott

March 25th 2008 by Candlewick
Hardcover, 272 pages
0763634816 (isbn13: 9780763634810)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Swan Kingdom is a re-imagining of the fairy tale Six Swans. The first written account of this tale was done by the Brothers Grimm around 1812, and its variations throughout Europe feature ravens or ducks. Those early versions were meant to emphasize the unity of the family in light of adversity, which theme Marriott continues.

In The Swan Kingdom, King and Queen of the Hartlands have four children: three boys, and the youngest, a girl, Princess Alexandra. Alexandra inherited her mother's skills as "a cunning woman," a woman connected with the natural forces and wise in ways of natural healing. Not even her skills can save the Queen when a malevolent being seeks to destroy the Hartlands. Alexandra is sent away, her brothers are turned to swans, and it takes her a year before she even realizes that she's the only one who can save them.

I understand why an agent and/or an editor took on this book. Marriott has incredible potential as a fantasy writer. Her descriptions, even of lowly herbs, are sumptuous. When she sets her mind to it, she can write a tight, fast-paced scene. Alexandra is (mostly) a smart, likeable protagonist, with the sincerity and doubts of youth but without posturing angst. If you're a fan of fairy tales at all, The Swan Kingdom is worth reading.

However, I don't think that The Swan Kingdom will ever be heralded as her best work. (At least, I hope not.) It's filled with cliches, such as Alexandra thinking she's "plain" and the reader finding out later that she's beautiful. The pace can sometimes lag (I started skimming), and she overdevelops minor characters and under-develops major ones. This book is a great beginning, and I'm excited to see more from this promising author.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

December 30th 2008 by Penguin (Non-Classics)
Paperback, 400 pages0143115006 (isbn13: 9780143115007)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

In my opinion, Pulitzer prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks can do no wrong.  One of my friends said I was positively evangelical about Year of Wonders (also by Brooks), and I loved her novel March as well.

Unfortunately, I didn't love People of the Book.  It's slow.  I know, that's not much of detractor, but I devoured Year of Wonders in a sitting.  I was happy to put People down several evenings in a row, having read only one chapter.

It may be better to take People as a collection of short stories, for in a way, it is.  People tells the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, richly embellishing the largely unknown journey of this holy text.  Hannah is the modern protagonist, a book restorer brought in to authenticate the Haggadah.  With each "clue" that she finds (a drop of wine, a white hair), Brooks invents a backstory to explain its origin.  Thus the book flips back and forth between Hannah (and the plot that she uncovers to steal the Haggadah) and the previous owners of the text.

As ever, Brooks is a dedicated researcher.  She caulks the holes in history so evenly with fiction that you only see a seamless story wall.   In People, Brooks assumes we are going to be as excited about the historical minutiae and the technical aspects of book restoration as she obviously is.  The only thing that made me read through those passages instead of skipping them was her enthusiasm, an affection for these details that shines in her words.

I would recommend reading this book when you can pace yourself, and when you're ready to expend a little brain power.  It's worth your time.

A final note: As a Christian theologian, I took no offense to any of Brooks' renderings of historical religious figures or events.  I don't know if someone from the Jewish tradition would feel similarly comfortable, though I think it likely.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Weekend Finale Giveaway

From the Contest Moderator (aka former Ruler of the World, aka Aerin): 
Hey folks, sorry I went MIA.  A family member's been diagnosed with a chronic disease and it's got us all rallying.  To make up for it, I've put together THREE awesome book packs - the grand finale winner will get his or her choice.  Thanks for visiting "In Search of Giants" - and don't forget to subscribe.  I have a new contest coming up in less than a week!

Thursday's Winner:
 Steph won books 1 and 2 in the Faerie Chronicles by Herbie Brennan.

The last giveaway for the Book Giveaway Carnival is Winner's Choice.  There are three book packs, culled from new and used and ARC books.

PACK #1 - Faeries
Tithe and Ironside by Holly Black

PACK #2 - YA Fun
Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (ARC) by Carrie Ryan 
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer

PACK #3 - Memoir (fictional and non) 
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


To enter, just leave a comment.
Deadline is March 8, midnight.

Winners announced Monday morning, Stateside time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Giveaway: Herbie Brennan

Yesterday's Winners:

 Mishel won In the Woods by Tana French.

livingmyhappilyeverafter won a Just Because prize for saying Stuart Neville is hot.

Today's giveaway includes the first and second of the Faerie War Chronicles by Herbie Brennan..  You may remember from yesterday that each of the daily giveaways will be in honor of a fellow blogger.  These two books are in honor of Melanie Avila, a graphic designer blog buddy who, like Henry in the Faerie War Chronicles, finds herself in a strange, far-away land.

To enter, just leave a comment.
Deadline is March 5, midnight.

Winners announced Friday morning, Stateside time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Alyce!

I made this as a birthday card 
for blogging buddy Alyce over at At Home with Books:

Giveaway: In the Woods by Tana French

Yesterday's Winners:

 Lily from "Related Reading" won The London Travel Pack.
(Lily, email me with your address.)

I haven't yet chosen a Just Because prize because I have a crazy night/morning ahead.  I will choose two tomorrow.

Today's giveaway is In the Woods by Tana French,  a story about an Irish police detective.   And since, each of the daily giveaways is in honor of a fellow blogger, I want to introduce you to Stuart Neville.   His debut novel Ghosts of Belfast (UK Title: The Twelve) will be released this year...and...um, he's also Irish.  (And kind of handsome in a brooding, Irish sort of way - girls, go look!!)   

To enter, just leave a comment. 
Deadline to enter: March 4, midnight

Winners announced Thursday morning, Stateside time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Giveaway: Traveling to London

Yesterday's Winners:
Loren Eaton won The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
(Loren, email me with your address.)
avisannschild won the first Just Because prize for commenting on my review of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Today's giveaway is a set of three books to help you travel to London. You may remember from yesterday that each of the daily giveaways will be in honor of a fellow blogger.  This set of books is in honor of Cindy Pon, whose debut novel Silver Phoenix will be released in May 2009. Cindy and her fam spent the holidays in London, and she posted all sorts of fun reports about her trip.

pictured above:
Lonely Planet's Condensed London
How to Pack by Laurel Cardone
Frommer's Portable London from $85/day

To enter, just leave a comment. 
Winners announced Wednesday morning, Stateside time.


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