Thursday, April 30, 2009

7-Step Scoop: Karen White

Hurrah!  I knew there had just been a mix-upDorothy, the wunder-brain in charge of Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours, mislaid the email that Karen had sent back with her interview responses.  And I'm so very glad she did.  Of all the interviews I've been collecting, Karen's "scoop" is by far the funniest I've heard.

Okay, back to the book business.

I was interested in doing the tour with Karen because 1) I think she looks like Celine Dion's way prettier sister and 2) I knew Shelly liked her as an author.  (Lo and behold, Shelly's got her review of The Lost Hours up today over at Write for a Reader.)  And I really enjoyed The Lost Hours, which to me combined the earthiness of Billie Letts' characters and the gracefulness of Audrey Nifenegger's story development.  The Lost Hours is well-written (of course it is, it's Karen's tenth book!), with characters who are at once new and familiar, and a plot that keeps you turning pages.

So, let's get on with the first ever 7 Step Scoop Interview!

Step #1

  • Mac or PC?  Both!  My desktop is a PC and my new laptop is a MacBook Air. Stevie: Nicks or Wonder?  Both!  (can you tell I'm a Gemini??)
  • keep or toss?  Toss.  Although I used to be a keeper.
  • London or Paris?  London.  (I lived there for 7 years)
  • salty or sweet?  Sweet--hands down!
  • bath or shower?  Shower
  • floral or fruity?  Floral
Step #2
DESCRIBE a favorite scene or event from your memories of childhood.

Lying in bed at my grandmother's house and listening to the tree frogs outside, and the sound of my mom, her four sisters and my grandmother talking in the kitchen.  I lived all over the world growing up, but I never looked forward to anything more than the summer visits to my grandmother in Indianola, Mississippi.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite 4-star vocabulary words.  

Ubiquitous:  Everywhere, always present.  As in "The working writer can be identified by her ubiquitous laptop."
Inevitable:  Foreseeable or expected (I learned this word from reading Victoria Holt gothic novels as a teenager).  "Lack of sleep in an inevitable occurrence when an author is up against her deadline."

Step #4

  •  The last book I finished reading was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
  •  I gave it 5 stars.
  •  One word to describe it is illuminating.

Step #5
QUESTION:  I'll admit, I haven't read any of your other novels.  But the style of "The Lost Hours" reminds me of a meeting between Billie Letts and Audrey Niffenegger.  What authors do you think have most influenced your writing style overall?

Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rivers Siddons, Jodi Picoult--and probably a host of others that I can't think of right now!

Step #6
QUESTION: Piper, Annabelle, Odella, Earlene.  Lots of strong, definitive names.  How do you choose (or discover) the names of your characters? 

I think it's the hardest part of the novel!  I roll a bunch around in my head for a while, and usually even start writing a character using a different name at the beginning of the book.  I find that I have to 'know' the characters to properly name them.

Step #7
GIVE US THE SCOOP.  Tell us something about yourself that's exclusive to In Search of Giants (ie, has never been publicized in print or podcast interviews.)

I've done so much blogging for my virtual tour that I think I've shared all the big stuff.  So, here's a gem:  when I was in 10th grade I went on a school trip to Egypt.  While in a bazaar near Luxor, my chaperone was approached by a man who offered him 200 camels in exchange for me.  My husband would like to find that man and see if he's still interested...

Huge and many thanks to Karen for her time!

To celebrate this, my first-ever author interview, I ran to Borders and bought a copy of The Lost Hours to send to one of you!  DEADLINE SUNDAY NIGHT MAY 10.

Here's how to enter:
Leave a separate comment for each item!

+1 comment on the most interesting part of the interview
+1 becoming a follower (Google or just through a reader)
+1 already being a follower
+1 share info about this contest
+1 comment about the 7SS format (the good, the bad, the in-between)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Silver Phoenix Set Free

Cindy Pon is celebrating her debut novel, Silver Phoenix, with a charming contest.  
Earn raffles in many different ways, such as spreading the word or writing a review.
On JUNE 8, Cindy will choose a winner, who will receive
  her exquisite framed brush art (or, alternatively, a $100 gift card.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

7-Step Scoop: Karen White

I was supposed to have an interview up today from Karen White, author of The Lost Hours, which is a really nice book.  But I'm thinking a communication breakdown has happened somewhere along the lines, so I will have to postpone the debut of 7-Step Scoop until May 1.

Be sure to come back Friday to meet one of the most interesting people from my past!



I "met" Cindy via Precie and Ello, right when she'd signed her contract with Greenwillow Books.  Quickly she (Cindy) became my online crush, since she's witty, beautiful, and loves yummy desserts.  And today, her debut novel Silver Phoenix hits bookstores everywhere!!

You can find early reviews of Silver Phoenix on Goodreads, at Steph Su Reads, the YaYaYas, Presenting Lenore, and Reviewer X,

or you can watch the trailer (below),

or you can just go out and buy the thing already, why dontcha!?!

Of course, the really big news is that Ello's hosting a contest for autographed copies of Silver Phoenix (plus other fun goodies.) You can find all the information over at Ello's very cool blog.  (And mention that I sent you, or I will hurl a wet hamster at you.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Amusing Mondays: (the incessantly rambling) Snarky Bitch

Yesterday was a fundraiser for the autism treatment center where my son has gone for the past two years.  Basically, it's one-on-one preschool with specially trained teachers.  Translation: very very expensive.  Despite the fact that the teachers and staff are fantabulous beyond compare, they don't get paid nearly enough to do what they do.


The fundraiser was at our local amusement park, which is decent in the same way truckstop bathrooms are.  Also, we've got typical Rocky Mountain weather, which is, in a word, bipolar.  Sunny and warm last week; frigid and rainy over the weekend.  But we'd promised the kids we go and it didn't start raining until mid-afternoon by which time we were enough covered in other-kid-sneezes-and-gummy-hands-and-sticky-shoe gunk we welcomed the cold shower.  Keep in mind, I have two preschoolers.  Amusement park=endless repetitions on the kiddie roller coaster, or the kiddie bumper cars - for all of which I'm too big. *Pout*  So I get to stand around and look pretty and make sure pedophiles aren't snatching my kids from a ride. 

I'm a people watcher; I come by this trait honestly from my hyper-judgemental grandmother.  And while I try to remin charitable in my observations, sometimes I'm just too tired and child-crazed that I turn into....

...wait for it....

Snarky Bitch!!!  (not to be confused with Cutthroat Bitch from House.)

Some of my observations from the day may amuse you, or at the least, you can have some amusement castigating my rudeness.

First ride: the carousel.  Kidlings and Mr. Aerin and I are second in line behind another family.  Just behind us come two pre-teen looking girls with heavy eyeliner and little clothing (did I mention the overcast chill in the air?)  And I swear to god, one of the girls says about twelve times in a three minute period, "I hate this music."  All right, yeah, carousel music isn't exactly the sort of thing you find on a 12-year-old's iPod.  But after the third time, I wanted to turn and say, "Then don't ride it."

That was a mild annoyance.

At the kiddie boat rides, there was a woman with high bangs (really), in cut-off blue jean shorts, a black men's t-shirt and a novelty oversized green foam necktie that said I'm with Stupid ------>.  She and her husband and her kids were walking toward the ride, and her husband stopped to look at one of those carnival game booths, which mixed up the order.  So then the arrow was pointing to her kids, and, on noticing it, rearranged herself so that the tie would still point to her husband.  Right.  'Cause wearing the tie wasn't stupid at all.

There were the waif-like goth kids marathon smoking, since obviously that's why you pay $35/ have somewhere to light up.  The packs of 13-year-olds, boys with their arms slung around the shoulders of their chattel...I mean, girlfriends.

Hmm.  I'm not really that amusing.  Castigate away.

Part of the problem is when we lived in So. Cal, we spent Friday nights at Disneyland.  Literally - every Friday night (vive la Annual Pass!).  And Disneyland is the creme de la creme of theme parks - clean, well-staffed (mostly), and without novelties like foam ties for purchase.  (Instead, purchase a single, genuine Disney golf ball, for only $24.95 plus tax!)

Then again, I may be in the minority here; oversized foam ties may have become quite popular amongst the populace.  Which is great, because then I'll know what to send Pete for his birthday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cleaning Up

Do y'all find interesting bits around the web and start a post, thinking you'll add to it later? Well, I do, and I'm trying to clean up the extra stuff, so here's a fun smorgasbord of trivial tidbits:

  • Suggestions for reviewing policies for wannabe reviewers to help publicists find their blogs - Posted by Paula Krapf of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
  • A while back, Weekly Geeks asked us to share a cause we were passionate about - mine is the death penalty, or, more precisely, its abolition.  Death Penalty Focus
  • Promoting authors: Josephine Damian pointed out this article Library Journal about the Ghosts of Belfast.  How else do you promote authors?  Whenever I check out at the bookstore, I mention a recently released book I'm excited about, and tell them who it would be a good recommendation for.  So, for example, I said to one checkout person who commented on my YA purchase that she should keep an eye out for Forest of Hands & Teeth, and suggest it to people looking for a gift for teen girls.
From Shelf Awareness
  • The New Statesman explored "How celebrities saved, then killed, the book trade," observing that the publishing industry "has cultivated an unhealthy obsession with celebrities . . . to the detriment of proper books and authors."
  • Think you're prepared for bad times? Take the Guardian's "literary apocalypses" quiz because, even as "the end of the world grows nigher and nigher . . . there's still time to tackle our hellishly difficult quiz before the lights go out."
My Newest Tattoo

My son's name starts with O, my daughter's name starts with L, and my husband's name starts with P.  Can you see all three letters in that middle design?  I don't wear a wedding ring (I just can't do jewelry on a sustained basis), so this shows the world I'm a marked woman.  Sort of.  And it looks pretty.  My other tattoo is on my lower back, and I definitely don't know y'all well enough to go that far.  Maybe someday.

Introducing the 7-Step Scoop

It seems I'm branching out from just book reviews to actual author interviews.  In considering this process, I've read interviews all over the web, considering the kinds of information that's asked and presented.  In coming up with the 7-Step Scoop, I knew I wanted:
  1. to have really interesting information that readers would not only read, but could look forward to;
  2. to keep the interview process short enough that even busy authors could participate; and
  3. to have similar questions so that interviews could be compared.
The entire month of May will be devoted to interviews, with a special early kick-off on Tuesday because I have my first author interview with the fabulous Karen White.

Here are some of the authors whom you'll see in the coming weeks:

Sandra Cormier (The Space Between, Bad Ice, The Toast Bitches)
Cara Muhlhahn (Labor of Love)
Stuart Neville (The Twelve)
Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix)
Jaye Wells (Red Headed Stepchild)
Karen White (The Lost Hours)

Also, there are these featured writers & bloggers:

Michelle Hickman ("The Surly Writer")
Ellen Oh ("Hello Ello")
Kiersten White Brazier ("Kiersten Writes")
Whirlochre ("Abyss Winks Back")

And, finally, a whole parcel of fantastic and somewhat delusional people (arguably less so than the above-named, of course) who agreed to help me perfect this process.  Meet a lawyer from San Diego, a think tank guru from North Carolina, a speech pathologist from Maine and many more.

To really celebrate, I'll be holding giveaways for each of the published author's books, plus a choose-your-own-prize for the Monthly GRAB.   Please help spread the word!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANNOUNCING: My Project Fill-in-the-Gaps List!

After much deliberation - seriously, making this list took a long time - I am happy to present my list of 100 novels which I will read over the next 5 years.  Come visit the main web page at The Fill in the Gaps Project, made by the uber-wonderful Emily.

Adams, Richard.  Watership Down    
Alcott, Louisa May.  Good Wives    
Alcott, Louisa May.  Jo’s Boys    
Alcott, Louisa May.  Little Men    
Alexander, Lloyd.  The Prydian Chronicles    
Angelou, Maya.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings    
Avi.  The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle    
Baxter, Charles.  Feast of Love    
Bellow, Saul.  Henderson the Rain King    
Bradbury, Ray.  Farenheit 451    
Bronte, Anne.  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall    
Bronte, Charlotte.  Villette    
Brooks, Gwendolyn.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn    
Bryson, Bill.  A Short History of Nearly Everything    
Bryson, Bill.  A Walk in the Woods    
Bryson, Bill.  The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way    
Buck, Pearl S..  The Good Earth    
Burgess, Anthony.  A Clockwork Orange    
Byars, Betsy.  Summer of the Swans    
Camus, Albert.  The Stranger    
Cather, Willa.  O Pioneers!    
Chabon, Michael.  The Yiddish Policemen’s Union    
Clarke, Susanna.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell    
Collins, Wilkie.  The Woman in White    
Conrad, Joseph.  Lord Jim    
Cooper, James Fenimore.  The Deerslayer    
Dante.  The Inferno    
De Beauvoire, Simone.  She Came to Stay    
Defoe, Daniel.  Robinson Crusoe    
Dickens, Charles.  A Tale of Two Cities    
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan.  The Hound of the Baskervilles    
Dreiser, Theodore.  An American Tragedy    
Du Maurier, Rebecca.  Rebecca    
Eco, Umberto.  The Name of the Rose    
Eggers, Dave.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius    
Eliot, George.  Middlemarch    
Ellison, Ralph.  The Invisible Man    
Eugenides, Jeffrey.  Middlesex    
Faulkner, William.  As I Lay Dying    
Foer, Jonathan Safran.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close    
Forster, E.M..  A Passage to India    
Foucault, Michel.  Discipline and Punish    
Gaiman, Neil.  The Graveyard Book    
George, Jean Craighead.  Julie of the Wolves    
Hammet, Dashiell.  The Maltese Falcon     
Heller, Joseph.  Catch-22    
Hemingway, Ernest.  The Old Man and the Sea    
Herbert, Frank.  Dune    
Homer.  The Iliad    
Hosseini, Khaled.  The Kite-Runner    
Hurston, Nora Zeale.  Their Eyes Were Watching God    
Irving, John.  The Cider House Rules    
Jacobs, Harriet.  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl    
Joyce, James.  The Dubliners    
Kaye, M.M..  The Far Pavilions    
Kerouac, Jack.  On the Road    
Kingsolver, Barbara.  The Poisonwood Bible    
Kipling, Rudyard.  Kim    
Kundera, Milan.  The Unbearable Lightness of Being    
L’Engle Madeline.  And Both Were Young    
L’Engle, Madeline.  Meet the Austins    
Lawrence, D.H..  Sons and Lovers    
Lewis, Sinclair.  Kingsblood Royal    
Lowry, Lois.  Number the Stars    
Mitchell, Margaret.  Gone with the Wind    
Moore, Alan.  Watchmen    
Morrison, Toni.  Beloved    
Nabokov, Vladimir.  Lolita    
Naslund, Sena Jeter.  Ahab’s Wife    
O’Dell, Scott.  Island of the Blue Dolphins    
Paterson, Katherine.  Jacob Have I Loved    
Pears, Iain.  Stone’s Fall    
Peet, Mal.  Tamar    
Pessl, Marisha.  Special Topics in Calamity Physics    
Plath, Sylvia.  The Bell Jar    
Porter, Katherine Anne.  Ship of Fools    
Pullman, Philip.  The Golden Compass    
Rand, Ayn.  Atlas Shrugged    
Rawls, Wilson.  Where the Red Fern Grows    
Robinson, Marilynne.  Gilead    
Rushdie, Salman.  Midnight’s Children    
Scott, Sir Walter.  Ivanhoe    
Shelley, Mary.  Frankenstein    
Shikibu, Murasaki.  The Tale of Genji    
Spenser, Edmund.  The Faerie Queen    
Steinbeck, John.  Cannery Row    
Sterne, Laurence.  Tristram Shandy    
Stoker, Bram.  Dracula    
Swift, Jonathan.  Gulliver’s Travels      
Taylor, Mildred D..  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry    
Updike, John.  The Poorhouse Fair    
Virgil.  The Aeneid    
Vonnegut, Kurt.  Slaughterhouse Five    
Walker, Alice.  The Color Purple    
Waugh, Evelyn.  Brideshead Revisted    
Welty, Eudora.  The Optimist’s Daughter    
Wharton, Edith.  House of Mirth    
Woodson, Jacqueline.  After Tupac & D Foster    
Woolf, Virginia.  A Room of One’s Own    
Wright, Richard.  Native Son    

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Giveaways 'Round the Blogosphere

I found this whilst roaming publishing sites:


Ages 12-17 DEADLINE May 15th

Win Lunch with Suzanne Collins!

Beth is a new blogosphere friend 
who seems freakishly kindred-spirit-like 
(and I mean that in the very best of ways, beth, dear.)


Massive Giveaway at writing it out
check out my sidebar for even more fantastic contests and giveaways!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amusing Mondays: Random Funny Things My Kids Say

We had a snow storm come in over the weekend and I had to make a grocery run before it came. Normally I try to wait until Mr. Aerin is home so I don't have to drag kidlings along. But Thursday, I couldn't wait.

I was pulling shoes & socks on the Bear, and the Bug approached.

"I want to stay home by myself," my three-year-old Bug announced.

"Sorry, you can't," I said.

"Please? I want to stay home by myself." (all of the 't's get specially enunciated)

"Honey, you can't stay by yourself. It's the law."

She looked at me skeptically. She is used to demanding her own way.

"If you stay here by yourself," I sighed, "the police will come and take me away and put me in jail." (Yes, I said this to a three-year-old.)

The Bug looked thoughtful.

"Okay," she said, patting my hand. "I stay here by myself and you go to the dungeon."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

The Crazy School The Crazy School
by Cornelia Read

January 10th 2008 by Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover, 326 pages
044658259X (isbn13: 9780446582599)

  rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Halfway to Christmas, Forchetti stated the obvious: 'You can’t teach for shit.'”

In 1989, Madeline Dare moved from Syracuse, New York to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts.  She takes a job as a history teacher at the Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers.  David Santangelo is a questionable headmaster and founder, who wears opera capes and hot pink helicopter uniforms and subjects his students and staff to bizarre therapeutic regimes.  For example, when no student confesses to kicking a dent in the Xerox machine, all the students must sit in a silent circle in the gymnasium, with teachers in the middle and bathroom breaks every two hours.  As expected in such a strange environment, tragedy befalls some of the students.  When police are called in and violence escalates, Madeline finds herself as the only advocate for the students against the maniacal machinations of those directing the Academy.

 The Crazy School reads like a  female-J.D. Salinger-turned-mystery writer.  Cornelia Read, who was herself a New England debutante, precisely encapsulates the ethos of the late 1980s.   From the prevalence of cigarettes to Madeline’s personal memories of the 70s, Read flawlessly plunges her reader into the bleak setting of the Academy.

I can imagine that certain conservatives might want to censor this book.  Read is particularly fond of capturing teenage boy dialogue, littering the novel with the words “fuck,” “shit,” “asshole,” and the like.  She addresses the issue of providing contraception to teens, and overall makes Madeline a challenge-authority-by-using-your-brain kind of gal.

Since my husband is a social worker/therapist whose primary focus is working with troubled teenagers in residential homes, I have more familiarity with the parts of The Crazy School that are realistic and those details, like Madeline’s having recently inherited a Porsche, which stretch the limits of fiction. 

The Crazy School is a fast-paced, fun book that’s nearly impossible to put down.  It’s a great book for older teens and college students who want a break from coursework and assigned reading.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent The Magicians and Mrs. Quent
by Galen M. Beckett

July 29th 2008 by Spectra
Hardcover, 528 pages
0553589822 (isbn13: 9780553589825)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

“It was generally held knowledge among the people who lived on Whitward Street that the eldest of the three Miss Lockwells had a peculiar habit of reading while walking.”

In the fictitious land Altania, Ivy Lockwell has kept her family together since her father suffered a magical breakdown. Intelligent and beautiful, Ivy continues to study her father’s books, hoping to learn the spell that will reverse his ailment. Yet, she must also care for her fussy mother and her younger sisters Rose and Lily. When tragedy befalls her family and they are faced with the threat of being evicted, Ivy takes a position as the governess for the young cousins of Mr. A. Quent, an old friend of her father. Ivy’s trouble adjusting to the rustic countryside after an entire life in the city soon gives way to her fondess for the two children and her fear that Old Magic seeks to harm them. Together with the dashing Mr. Rafferdy, Ivy must draw on her father’s powers as well as her own to save the children, her family, and all of Altania.

Three “books” comprise this rather long novel which reads like Jane Austen meets Diana Wynne Jones. The whole thing’s more like an intricate patchwork quilt, with scraps from many different novels, such as Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and snippets of Dickens.

Probably 80% of the reviews I read about The Magicians say the same thing I wanted to: we felt we shouldn’t like it but we secretly did. I think there’s such fear of plagiarism (ahem) that we forget that most early art came from re-telling or re-painting or re-imagining older pieces. Beckett may have borrowed the structure, but the design and decoration are entirely the author’s own.

You all probably know how I feel about sequels and, sure enough, Beckett’s already working on The House at Durrow Street as a sequel to The Magicians. But I think this volume stands on its own, and would be an excellent choice for hitting the beach, giving to an Austen-loving friend, or recommending for a book club.

This is the very best kind of book – one that’s fun without being vapid, intelligent without being preachy, and fanciful without being frivolous. I’m the first to admit I adore the Bronte sisters and tolerate Austen, and I loved this postmodern take on those styles. Add in the Robin-McKinley-Diana-Wynne-Jones familiarity with and fondness for magic, and it felt almost as though I was greeting an old friend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Authors with Heart

I took an anonymous survey a few weeks ago about what readers want from authors. Blogs and interviews and such are all fun things, but what I really want was some indication from authors that we're in this together, that they appreciate readers as much as we appreciate them.

Not a few days later, I received the following email from Louise Hawes:

I would like to send a giant writerly hug to you for your review of my book, Black Pearls, a Faerie Strand, on "In Search of Giants." What a treat to read a review by someone who "gets it."

She wrote a bunch of other stuff about how much she loves me and is going to put my name on her next book and...oh, okay. Not really. But her email was very nice, and entirely personal. It set a new standard for me.

I don't expect Tammy Pierce or Robin McKinley to read the reviews I write of their books (well, and such reviews would simply read "wow wow wow wow" so there's not much they would read). And I don't review all books as thoroughly as others. Still, to know that an author found the review (I have quit emailing reviews to them), and then took time to comment, made me appreciate Louise (I feel so smug using her first name) and authors like her even more.

Julia Hoban, whose debut novel Willow was released two weeks ago (wow, has it been that long?), and for whom the uber-wonderful Lauren created a release blog, emailed me personally twice in response to comments I made on the release blog:

You are the first blogger I've seen who lists Moby Dick among her
favorites. . .I'm so pleased! Thank you so much for leaving that very thoughtful comment on thatincredible site that they made for me!
There have been other books I've plugged that don't get any kind of recognition from their authors, even authors for whom the works are debuts. I understand - truly, I do - that not all authors can spend the time to find reviews and fans online and make a personal overture. Heck, I don't even have time to respond to all of my commenters (I tend to reciprocate by visiting commenters' blogs, though.) And it's not that I don't like authors who don't visit my blog (*cough cough* Geraldine Brooks) or email about my reviews.

I just think that, whether it should be or not, authors are their own best publicists. And, usually, are really cool people, and it's always fun to get email from really cool people.

I sat down at the desk this morning to work on the Feeds Page for Dewey's Readathon, and found a comment on one of my reviews that began, "I apologize, sort of. . ." My first thought was, wow, how impudent of one of my readers to claim credit for this author's work. Then I read it - it was from the author herself, Kathleen Duey!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a celebrity hound. If Angelina Jolie showed up at my blog, I might not think twice. In a field where I feel comfortable - literature, writing, reading - there's a profound satisfaction in the recognition from professionals within the field. These are not just authors, but authors with heart.

And to those authors, I say: thank you.

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

The Explosionist The Explosionist
by Jenny Davidson

July 1st 2008 by HarperTeen
Hardcover, 384 pages
0061239755 (isbn13: 9780061239755)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

"As a small child, Sophie used to tell herself the story of her own life, pictures and captions running inside her head just like a real book."

The Explosionist is, to say the least, a complicated story. It begins with Sophie, daydreaming in chemistry class, eighty years after the Battle of Waterloo. In Sophie's world, however, the French won at Waterloo, the current European chancellor bears a striking resemblance to the person we know as Adolf Hitler, Sigmund Freud is a radio hack, and Alfred Nobel is a disembodied voice.

Despite a bomb, a murder, a national plot toward war, one of the best lines in the book is about cake.
"I don't like cake very much," Sophie said. "The one really good thing about cake is that it's an excellent icing delivery system."
If you are easily confused by history (in other words, if your best association with Waterloo is the ABBA song), you may want to read up on it a little at, say, Wikipedia, just to get yourself on sure footing.  Also, if you're not keen on reading books in a series as-they-are-released, you might want to wait for the next installment(s) of this one.   Because, in my opinion, any book that holds icing in such high esteem is certainly one worth reading.

To the Story Siren

Monday, April 13, 2009

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

100 Cupboards 100 Cupboards
by N.D. Wilson

December 26th 2007 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 304 pages
0375838813 (isbn13: 9780375838811)

  rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Henry, Kansas, is a hot town."

If this book hadn't been recommended to me, I wouldn't have gone past the first two pages.  There's only so much information about hot Kansas towns I can take.  Henry York arrives in Henry, Kansas, to live with his Aunt Dotty, Uncle Frank, and his cousins Penny, Henrietta and Anastasia.  Life is about as normal as anyone would expect in Kansas - from Uncle Frank's truck to evening barbeques and baseball games.  One night, plaster starts to chip off of Henry's bedroom wall and fall into his hair.  He finds cupboards, all showing window-like portals to other worlds.  Add in an ugly witch, a strange creature, and you've got the makings of a wannabe Narnia.

This is a good book for middle age boys.  It's fun and fast-paced and guy-friendly.  It would be well paired with Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary.

So You Want to Write by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood

So You Want to Write (2nd Edition): How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and Memoir So You Want to Write (2nd Edition): How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and Memoir
by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood

August 1st 2005 by Leapfrog Press 
Paperback, 288 pages

097289845X   (isbn13: 9780972898454)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

"I believe the barriers to productivity are both inner and outer."

Marge Piercy is a novelist/poet and Ira Wood is a publisher.  This collaboration is like a workshop-in-a-book rather than a collection of, for example, writing prompts.  I can imagine So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction as a text in a college writing class.  It's too detailed for a novice to simply pick up and begin writing, but it would be a good resource to study in a group setting, with a month or so of coached reading and writing.

I also like that it's more or less current.  The first edition was printed in 2001; the second edition in 2005.  With information about rejection letters, FAQs about agents and publishers, and what to expect when you get famous, as well as lessons in creating seductive beginnings, writing a memoir without sounding like a victim, and finding narrative strategies, this is a dense volume you might want to add to your library.

This would be a good book to add to a collection of writing books, but I doubt it would be the only writing book you'll ever need.  Get it from the library before you buy it.

A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama 
by Laura Amy Schlitz

2006 by Candlewick
Hardcover, 400 pages
0763629308 (isbn13: 9780763629304)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

"On the morning of the best day of her life,  Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'"

Maud Mary Flynn has lived at the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans since her mother died and a family adopted her brother and sister but did not want her. The day that Hyancinth Hawthorne and her sister Judith arrive, eleven-year-old Maud can't believe they choose to adopt her. Maud is given new clothes, good food, and books. She lives in an enormous house with the two sisters, their other sister Victoria, and the housekeeper, mute and deaf Muffet. After some time, Maud realizes that she will have to contribute to the "family business," which means questionable and somewhat eerie participation on her part. Still, to refuse means to be sent back to Barbary Asylum. Finally, Maud must make a decision about who she is and what she is willing to endure for the sake of feeling loved.

This book was a pretty quick read for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maud is a sometimes infuriating and sometimes sympathetic character, but by the end of the book you feel as though she's making her own decisions, at least. The three "aunts" Hawthorne are well developed, to the point that I have trouble not calling a person in my daily life "Hyacinth." Muffet is a character deprived of mention on the jacket flap, which made discovering her all the more enjoyable. She and Maud connect, two creatures thrown together in that great dark house.

Laura Amy Schlitz writes in a way that keeps Maud's innocence but does not condescend to Maud (or her readers) for being young. There are sophisticated themes and emotional interactions, but overall Schlitz keeps the story both appropriate and real (Maud is locked in the outhouse for speaking back to a teacher.)

I wish I could tell you more, but I really try to avoid spoilers in my reviews. I will say that Schlitz very much surprised me at the end, and surprising me with a legitimate plot point is quite difficult.

I added this book to my TBR pile because of a Jen Robinson recommendation, and that I can't wait to get it into the hands of my ten-year-old niece. It would make a great book for any girl (mostly girls), ages 9 to 13.

Tweaking & Giveaways

I'm stealing a couple of things from Cecilia, at the epic rat.

First: In her book reviews, Cecilia leads with the opening sentence.  I'm never certain what parts of books to quote, so this is a good starting place for me.  It's also a good exercise for my writing buddies.

Second: I'm doing away with my own giveaways* except for Monthly GRaB (the technicalities of which we're still working out - my own rules will be slightly different than C's.)

* - so far I've only ever received one set of giveaways from a publisher but I will certainly continue to solicit such giveaways and present them to you regardless of GRaB.

Amusing Mondays: TopatoCo

Another Amusing Monday and I'm a little beat from work yesterday.  But then, strugglingwriter, whom I met through Jason's Clarity of Night contests, twittered a T-shirt this morning from a company called TopatoCo.  They have the funniest shirts, and best of all, links to the comics' websites.

By the way, hop over to Susan's and check out Little Lov'n Monday!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another Award

I'm breathless in appreciation. Melissa from the uber-beautiful blog Melissa's Bookshelf presented me with the Let's Be Friends award.

Blogs that received the Let's Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.

So, here are my eight (trying not to duplicate from previous awards):

avisannschild at she reads and reads
Elizabeth at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
L.C. Gant at Red Light, Green Light
Michelle at The Surly Writer
JJ at OxyJen
Persephone at Tempting Persephone
Pete at Corner Kick
Sarah at Short Stuff

Friday, April 10, 2009

Winners, Loose Ends, and Enrique Murciano (not in that order)

All righty, so Laura's birthday is today - YA fans over 30, unite!!


My copy of Wintergirls will be sent to Jena!  Jena, love, will you send me your mailing address AND be patient for the international post, please!

For those who are curious, I asked for a random number between 1 and 19, to take into account both posts in which I mentioned the giveaway.
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-04-11 01:54:26 UTC

Winners of Labor of Love are Amanda Sue (for her waterbirth question), Rachie G (misconceptions question),  and, randomly,  Becky.  Ladies, check your email to send me your mailing address!

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-04-11 02:02:09 UTC

I'm delighted to have found fellow-crushers - and Chip, B.A.H. did too call me loose and by high school my goody-two-shoe-ness wasn't as pronounced; it was mostly elementary school - as well as to have found fellow crushers on my actual crushes!  Yay for D'Onofrio and Murciano!

For those of you who don't know, Enrique Murciano plays FBI Agent Danny Taylor on Without a Trace on CBS.  I haven't watched it in a while, but my Murciano crush was long and googly, so I will share some fun info:

He attended Tulane University and Boston Law School. After a sick friend said, "Do what you want to do every moment of the day or else you're not really living," Enrique realized he should fulfill his dream of acting and at 21 he quit law school to fulfill this dream.  His new movie, Mancora, is open in theatres now. 

It was nice to play the sweet, innocent guy and let other people do the crazy stuff. --- Enrique Murciano

In 2006, he was named one of People's sexiest men alive.  Duh.

Happy Friday, everyone!


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