Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spiced by Dalia Jurgensen

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, andWhat Really Goes on in the Kitchen Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, andWhat Really Goes on in the Kitchen
by Dalia Jurgensen

April 16th 2009 by Putnam Adult
Hardcover, 288 pages
0399155619 (isbn13: 9780399155611)

  rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Order, fire!" screamed Steven from the window that separated the small, open kitchen from the dining room.

Dalia Jurgensen left an office job and jumped head first into the New York restaurant scene.  Fourteen years later, she wrote Spiced, a memoir of her time in the kitchens of some of the most famed restaurants in the city.  You'll read about her first mentor, Mika; her struggles with a male-dominated industry; problems with chef uniforms and her decision to pursue pastry rather than savory cooking.

I love Food Network, especially those Vegas competitions where high-strung people have to make wicked amazing cakes. So I thought I would like Spiced. In fact, I liked it better than I expected to, but I wasn't dazzled.  The difficulty with memoirs, of course, is how to have an assertive presence without seeming to grandstand or be stuck-up.  Jurgensen didn't figure out this lesson.  Her insights seem pretentious, her priorities seem unbalanced.  One sentence indicates she contacted the union about sexual harassment; only a few pages are given to her time with Martha Stewart.  Yet there are several pages about feelings of resentment when she realizes her boss has been sleeping around with the staff, and not with Jurgensen exclusively.

Mostly, however, Jurgensen really does try - and sometimes succeeds - in being an observer, merely recounting events to which she was witness.  My sense is she's a gutsy, talented woman who's just not as gifted an author.
A definite gift for someone who's going to become the pastry chef at Nobu.  Possible purchase if you're a foodie with an extensive collection of similar books.  Everyone else, I'd recommend that you do read this quick, breezy book - but check it out from the library to do so.

The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them by Roxanne J. Coady

The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them
by Roxanne J. Coady

October 19th 2006 by Gotham
Hardcover, 224 pages
1592402100 (isbn13: 9781592402106)

rating: 3 of 5 stars



"It's funny that reading and valuing words is now what anchors my life."

Roxanne J. Coady is the owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut.  Together with editor Joy Johannessen, she put together a collection of essays from authors who have all, at one time or another, done readings of their works at her store.  Each brief essay tells of one (or sometimes two) books which "changed the life" of the author.

I had hoped there'd be an amount of freshness, of surprise, in the essays.  Instead, I found the sorts of references you'd expect.  Alice Hoffman wrote about Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger); Anita Diamant about A Room of One's Own (Virginia Woolf); Graeme Base wrote about The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien).  There are a few novelties, that sent me to Goodreads to look up a title, like Tomie dePaola's essay about Kristin Lavransdatter (Sigrid Undset).  Also, you can find out the meaningful books in the lives of Joe Lieberman and John McCain.

Overall, this is a nice little gift book for a librarian or bookseller; not a gift for someone who's not a truly avid reader. Also, proceeds go to the foundation started by Coady, Read to Grow.
Charlotte from Charlotte's Library is one of my favorite book bloggers, so I am trying to help her out.  Not only can you do a simple, altruistic thing, LibrarYAn actually has a very cool site - if you can get over the fact she *sniff sniff* got to go to BEA.

Charlotte says:


If you by any chance feel that you could do a small thing that would make me and my mother and my husband and Els, aka Librarian Mom, very happy, maybe you could go leave a comment on this post at LibrarYAn (saying I sent you) and help us get an ARC of Catching Fire to read? If you haven't read it yourself, and want to, we can add you to the mailing list should I win...It ends at midnight on June 1st, which seems to mean in six hours....

GO - RIGHT NOW!! (Thanks, Beth)

Reviewer X is giving away a copy of CATCHING FIRE!!!!

RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!

Go sign up now--the contest can end any minute!

Friday, May 29, 2009

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Tamora Pierce; Part 1: The Awesome Quotient

I'm trying something a little different for my last post in AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT week.  I received an email from a blogging buddy who is also a librarian:
I think I checked out seven Pierce books today to patrons, plus put one back in the mail from Interlibrary Loan. Can you give me a rundown on why she's awesome and recommend first books? Not that I need any more to read, but I know you're a fan.
For anyone who doesn't know (and if you don't, I pity you), Tamora Pierce is a writer of books that are technically categorized in Young Adult fantasy (at least, that's where you'll find them at the bookstore or the library.)  Like the works of Robin McKinley, however, Pierce's stories are appealing not only to teenage audiences but to adults as well. 

I thought I would do a two-prong post to answer this friend (particularly because I want to secure my nomination for assistant dictator of the southern hemisphere.)  First, I've been making notes to analyze Tammy's "awesome quotient."  Then, I want to share my own personal journey from Tammy-novice to Tammy-worshipper.

I don't have an actual interview with Tamora Pierce.  However, the fantastic Malinda does, over at the Enchanted Inkpot.  Also, the Tamora Pierce website makes a good place to start.

Now, for the Awesome Quotient Analysis.

1. Pierce is Prolific:  Her first book, Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983, the year after McKinley's Blue Sword.  Both books feature strong, red-haired characters who wield swords and save kingdoms.  While Harry's tale ends in Blue Sword, however, Alanna and her children and friends go on to inhabit fourteen more books.  Add to the the Alanna stories the Circle Opens series (plural), and Pierce has published, at present, twenty-six novels, in addition to multiple short stories or anthology collaborations.  Just the numbers assure that Pierce will be a much-checked-out library author.

A long bibliography doesn't tell the whole story, of course.  Pierce is prolific in effective writing.  Her dialogue is snappy and well-executed; her descriptions are sensory but not overdrawn.  Pierce's plots are believable, and she includes roadblocks and how they're overcome: you'll find not even a whiff of deus ex machina.  And her imagination soars.  From the Jade Pavilion to Daine's Immortal parents, Pierce's books are fresh and deeply engaging.

2. Pierce and the Lake Wobegon Effect:  "All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Somehow, Pierce writes characters that are real (see below) but still hugely attractive: strong, attractive, smart, clever, funny, wise, and all the while fallible.  Reading about these people makes me want to be a better person.  And to be Daine, just because of Numair.  But anyway. 

3. Pierce keeps it Real:
  • Action Scenes Blood is blood, muscles hurt, breathing strains, waste smells, and we can feel the blisters of the sword on our fingers.  Pierce's visceral descriptions are particularly important for her female characters, since women in fairy tales (all right, princesses) usually don't sweat.
  • Evil Pierce doesn't gloss over the costs of battle; refugees whose homes have been destroyed play prominently into her works.  Lack of crops or drinking water are realities in war-stricken Tortall.  But there's evil, too, that mirrors the worst of  human history. (For example, a wizard whose fighting machines are fueled by the souls of children - so, of course, he has to kill the children to capture their souls.)
  • Romance & Sex Sometimes it's love (like my feelings for Numair) and sometimes it's hormones (Alanna explores sex & love), but Pierce never makes romance gushy or sappy, even when someone's in love with a crow.  ("I want to always have the taste of you on my lips," Nawat whispered...Trickster's Queen, page 345.)  Pierce also makes a point to have characters talk about birth control, if necessary.
In Part 2 of AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Tamora Pierce, I'll share my own experiences with her books, and give more in-depth examples. 

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what any of you think about Tammy's Awesome Quotient.   Do share!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT 7SS: Stuart Neville

I first made acquaintance with Stuart Neville through the blogosphere community that frequents Jason Evans's Clarity of Night flash fiction contests, before he even landed his agent.  I've enjoyed being one of the groupies, cheering as Stuart humbly recounted tales about landing Nat Sobel as an agent, finalizing the publishing deals, getting celebrity (and non) feedback for his debut novel The Twelve, and caving to peer pressure to join Facebook.   


(Okay, okay, and I admit: I totally have a crush on him.  Fear not.  My thinking he's a dreamy Irish hunk had no impact on my journalistic integrity - these 7SS being so serious and all.)




Step #1

LIGHTNING ROUND
  • stout or lager? Lager - can't stand stout.
  • Bransford or Moonrat? Oh, don't make me choose! Um, Moonrat, but only because I've met her in person and she took me to a karaoke party.
  • David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Roth, of course.
  • coffee or tea? Tea - can't stand coffee.
  • celebrity crush: Just one? Any female news reader - Fiona Bruce from the BBC News, for instance. Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls. Jenna Fischer from The Office. Oh, and Cindy Pon, now that she's all famous.
  • a phrase you use often: "Sorry I'm so late," usually followed by a poorly thought-out excuse.
  • music you write by: All sorts, but recently it's been Mutter, and album by German industrial metal band Rammstein.
Step #2
TELL US about any of your weird writing habits or idiosyncracies. (ie, What’s one “thing” you need to write, the thing without which the creative juices would cease to flow?)
I need a guitar to hand at all times so I can noodle on it while I think. It's kind of like how people will doodle with a pen and paper.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite vocabulary words.
Pishmire, which is a local expression for someone grumpy or miserable. It's come from an old word for piss ant. That's about as clean a word as I can think of for now...

Step #4
BOOK BLANKS
  • The last book I finished reading was BLOOD'S A ROVER by James Ellroy.
  • I gave it 5 stars.
  • One word to describe it is surprising.
(in fact, dear readers, you can find Stuart's review of that book here.)

Step #5
QUESTION: What was the most difficult part of The Twelve’s journey to publication?
Being on tenterhooks for what seemed like forever as it was doing the rounds at the UK publishers. You hear of book deals being struck in minutes, but my auction seemed to go on for weeks.

Step #6
QUESTION: What has surprised you most about the publishing process itself?
How eagle-eyed my editor at Harvill Secker, Briony Everroad, is. Her eye for detail is staggering. And also how generous people in the writing community are, from struggling hopefuls to big-name best selling authors.

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, a fully grown man, can't ride a bike. And I don't mean a motorcycle, I mean a bicycle with pedals.


Obviously I was hoping that Stuart's "scoop" was that he was naming a character in his next book after me, but, whatever.  Thanks for letting me interview you, Stuart!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some of My Writing & a Sermon

All right, my lovelies, I've been spending a lot of time on the book-part of my blog, so I'm going to be taking some time to work on my writing.

I have, however, managed my Koala Kounts for the past few days. I've written some really bad poetry and a really good sermon. If you are interested in reading (and/or listening, to the sermon, anyway), send me an email and I'll give you the link.

Otherwise, I've kept that site private since - well, you can never be too certain. You might get people like this hounding you.

Stay tuned - tomorrow, Mr. Gorgeous, Mr. Dreamy-Irish-Hunk himself, Stuart Neville!!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT 7SS: Cindy Pon



If you are brand-new to my blog, you might not know how much I adore Cindy Pon.  Cindy's debut novel Silver Phoenix was released at the end of April; two picture books featuring her brush art are to follow, as well as the sequel to Silver Phoenix.  Cindy can also be found at her website, on Facebook, at The Enchanted Inkpot, and as part of Debs '09.  I am particularly pleased with this interview because I discovered how to get her to use capital letters.



Step #1
LIGHTNING ROUND

    • keep or toss? TOSS
    • Bing Crosby or Fred Astaire? FRED
    • Mac or PC? MAC
    • pool or hot tub? HOT TUB
    • pen or pencil? PEN
    • salty or sweet? SALTY
    • Jacob or Edward? EDWARD

Step #2
DESCRIBE a favorite scene or event from your childhood memory.

summer. pretending to be mermaids with my best friend cheryl at above ground pool in the backyard. i was a crap swimmer.

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

surreptitious : all secret and sly like.
bamboozled : totally conned and fooled.

Step #4
BOOK BLANKS
The last book I finished reading was _________________ by ____________.
  • EYES LIKE STARS by lisa mantchev.
I gave it ______ stars.
  • five stars. one of my favorite reads this year.
One word to describe it is_______________.
  • delicious.
Step #5
QUESTION: Your writing has been compared to Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce. What are some of the authors who have influenced your style?

tough. i enjoyed GRACELING immensely and am utterly ashamed to say
i've not read pierce. tho she is on my TBR list! i tend to like more spare and
direct prose. ursula le guin is a favorite prose writer or mine. i love neil gaiman and
his observations and the way he sees the world. it's reflected in his writing.
but i don't think i'm that astute?

Step #6
QUESTION: Was “Silver Phoenix” always the title you wanted for this novel?

no. i had originally named it SPIRIT BOUND. but my editor
didn't feel it conveyed the story enough. we brain stormed A LOT
before settling on SILVER PHOENIX.

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.)

you want all the dirt, don't you, aerin?
i've been around online for so long i'm pretty sure
i've said it all. ha. let me think ...

i got a progress report for having a "D" in algebra
in 8th grade. (those word problems killed me.) i was
so mortified that i forged my mom's signature. to this day,
it's probably one of the worst things i've ever done, in my mind.
thankfully, i raised my grade by the end of term.



I lloooovvvvveeee you, Cindy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some Catching Up

Rebecca at "Lost In Books" put together a list of names shared by book bloggers.  Mine made the unique list!

Debbie Ridpath Ohi at "InkyGirl" suggests a critique site, Review Fuse.

Over at the uber-cool site "The Enchanted Inkpot," Deva Fagan asks us to think of imaginary and unwritten books.

FOR drey:


FOR Lauren
(Lauren - I changed it because the lettering on the other one didn't do well to be resized. I hope this is okay.)

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT 7SS: Louise Hawes

I'm delighted to kick off Author Spotlight Week with an author I truly admire.  I've read one of her books and currently have three on order from B&N.

Louise Hawes was the person who inspired Authors with Heart.  When I started reviewing books, I sent the reviews via email to authors.  When I didn't ever receive responses, I quit sending them.  Then I posted my review of Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand.  A few days letter I received a lovely email from Louise.

This communication not only endeared Louise to me, but gave me the confidence to seek out interviews with other authors.  Granted, Cindy Pon and Stuart Neville, whom you'll also meet this week, agreed to do interviews so I would quit stalking them.  But others, like Julie Berry and John Marco, are direct results of my newfound faith in Authors with Heart.

While I'm pleased to offer you this interview with Louise, I also encourage you to check out her writing.  It's sensorial, intelligent, graceful....much like Louise herself.



Step #1
LIGHTNING ROUND
  • Mac or PC? PC
  • keep or toss?  I don't speak toss. I still have clothes I wore in high school!
  • aisle or window? Aisle
  • LA or New York?  Sorry, I'm not a city girl, not any city. I like my air without smog and my mornings filled with bird songs, not honking horns and squeaking brakes.
  • pen or pencil? Pencil for free writes, pen for contracts. The first need to flow, the second need to last!
  • Bronte sisters or Louisa May Alcott?  I read Jane Eyre every year. It's among my all-time faves; I even wrote a novel, Waiting for Christopher, about it!
  • cake or ice cream? I thought they were a set :-)
Step #2
TELL US about any of your weird writing habits or idiosyncracies. (ie, What’s one “thing” you need to write, the thing without which the creative juices would cease to flow?)
I like to work on more than one kind of project at a time. If I'm working on a novel, it's like R and R to take a "break" and develop a picture book. If I'm writing a short story, building a poem is a fun "vacation" and helps tighten my language at the same time. Each piece feeds and is nourished by the others. So if I get stuck on one project, I often find the solution by working on something else.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite vocabulary words.
You're talking to someone who reads the dictionary for fun! I love the history of words as well as the music they make. One of my favorites I've worked it into several books is OTIOSE. It sounds just like what it means -- lazy, slow, useless. It can describe a river, a person, a mood. It comes from the Latin word, otisosus, meaning idle.

Step #4
BOOK BLANKS
  • The last book I finished reading was Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham.
  • I gave it unlimited stars.
  • One word to describe it is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. (You said one word, right? But you didn't limit how many times I could use it :-)).
Step #5
Describe what you’re doing/where you are as you’re taking this interview. What project are you working on while you’re there?
I'm a Writer in Residence at an Arts Center in southern North Carolina. It's an elegant, historically preserved mansion with beautiful gardens, lovely writers' quarters named after NC writers (I'm sleeping in the Thomas Wolfe room, which comes complete with ghost :-)), a gorgeous sun porch (with WiFi, of course!), and blissful quiet everywhere. I'm working on a new novel and putting together a lecture for the July residency at the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Can't think of a nicer setting in which to work my buns off!!


Step #6
From the beginning of your writing career through now, what are one or two lessons you’ve learned – about the writing/publishing process, marketing, or, you know, just life in general?
We're in this together. No one can be objective about her own work; we all need readers (preferably other writers) whose eyes and hearts we trust to give us honest responses to our writing. A good writers' group is priceless!

I've learned over time that some of the roughest patches in my life have made me a better writer. I hope they've made me a better person, too. Hard times have a way of tenderizing us.

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.)
You mean besides the fact that I'm allergic to chocolate? (Weep for me...) Okay, here's a real scoop: I've just finished a story for a new graphic novel being put together with four other writers. Fallen Angels comes out with DC/Vertigo next year, and includes Holly Black on the writing team and the gifted fantasy illustrator Rebecca Guay, who did the gorgeous illustrations for my last book, Black Pearls, a Faerie Strand. I can't wait for everyone to see this project--it is amazing!!

Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Louise!

Monday, May 25, 2009

How Well Do You Know Me answer key

1) What country would I like to live in?
a) the United States
b) Australia
c) Belize
d) New Zealand
e) Ireland

2) Who would I most like to meet?
a) Tamora Pierce
b) Stuart Neville
c) Brendan Fraser
d) Pete Dudley
e) Little Miss Zarin

3) I secretly would like to be ________ for a day?
a) a movie director
b) a professor
c) single
d) a librarian
e) multi-lingual

4) What is my favorite store to shop at?
a) Hallmark
b) Target
c) Papyrus
d) Old Navy
e) Nordstrom

5) If I was running out of my burning house, what item would I grab?
a) my signed copy of Robin McKinley's BEAUTY
b) my baby book
c) my cell phone
d) my laptop
e) the box in which I keep my children's artwork

6) What do I like most about myself?
a) my sense of humor
b) my intelligence
c) my faith
d) my hair
e) my parenting style

7) What is my middle name?
a) Rose
b) Michelle
c) Ditzler
d) a, b & c
e) a & c


8) What would be the perfect present for me?
a) a Barnes and Noble gift card
b) jewelry from Sundance Catalog
c) an ARC of Kristin Cashore's FIRE
d) time away to write
e) an iMac

9) Which of the following is not one of my nicknames?
a) Sunny
b) RoseyPosey
c) Charlie
d) Queen Aerin
e) Addy


10) What would I dress as for Halloween?
a) trick question - I don't like Halloween
b) Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
c) Wendy from Peter Pan
d) Belle from Beauty and the Beast
e) Elphaba from Wicked

11) What is the number of schools I attended from Kindergarten thru Sr. Year?
a) 3
b) 4
c) 5
d) 6
e) 7

12) What is my favorite movie?
a) Willow
b) Batman Begins
c) Aeon Flux
d) Sliding Doors
e) Mulan


13) What did I want to be when I was little?
a) a lawyer
b) a microbiologist
c) an actress
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

14) Which of these people have I not had a crush on?
a) Enrique Murciano
b) Cindy Pon
c) Brendan Fraser
d) Neil Gaiman
e) Craig Parker

15) What's my current favorite show on TV?
a) Bones
b) Fringe
c) Legend of the Seeker
d) House
e) Criminal Minds

16) Who is my favorite Disney character?
a) Mickey
b) Lilo
c) Mulan
d) Belle
e) Gurgi

17) What am I most scared of?
a) aging
b) snakes
c) spiders
d) yellow jackets
e) small spaces

18) What city was I born in?
a) Champaign, IL
b) Urbana, IL
c) Savoy, IL
d) Smyrna, TN
e) Murfreesboro, TN

19) What is my favorite wild animal?
a) chinchilla
b) giraffe
c) elephant
d) leopard
e) spider monkey


20) My favorite specialty drink is ________.
a) Pepsi
b) a chocolate martini
c) water
d) Starbucks sweet iced tea lemonade
e) Riesling



How'd you do?

CONTEST: The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wants to give you a copy of The Walking People!


From Booklist
In her debut, Keane marries a deliciously old-fashioned style of storytelling with a fresh take on the immigrant experience. Awkward Greta Cahill struggles to be accepted in her rural village in the west of Ireland. Unlike Johanna, her gregarious, efficient sister, Greta has a hard time performing even the simplest tasks, but her tight-knit family loves her unconditionally and takes pains to ease her way. More and more of their neighbors desert their small village, immigrating to the cities and to America. Then Johanna meets Michael Ward, a gypsy who would like nothing better than to settle in one place, and the Cahill family suffers a terrible tragedy. The sisters, along with Michael, immigrate to New York City, where Johanna has difficulty adjusting, while Greta, surprisingly, finds work immediately and adapts to her new life. Tracking the family from 1956 to the present, Keane gives a heartfelt account of their pain and their joy while also minutely exploring varied settings and occupations. A warm, involving family drama that makes a triumph of Greta’s transformation from misfit to capable wife and mother.



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has offered a copy of The Walking People to five of my readers! I thought this would be a great way to kick off Author Spotlight Week, with interviews from Cindy Pon, Stuart Neville, Louise Hawes and more!


DEADLINE TO ENTER: FRIDAY MAY 29

HOW TO ENTER:

+1 comment on this post with the suggestion of a good Summer Read

+1 for commenting on author interviews (+1 per author)

+3 for being a follower, previous or new

+10 for commenting on all Author Spotlight posts this week



(+50 for anyone who can get me an interview with Robin McKinley)

Amusing Mondays: How Well Do You Know Me?

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for Author Spotlight week!

Hurrah, it's a holiday Monday here in the states!   If you goof off on Facebook at least an hour a day, you have seen the quiz going around "How Well Do You Know Me?"  (If you don't goof off on Facebook at least an hour a day, why the heck not?)  I thought I'd share the quiz I made with you.  Answers to be posted later today.  
(Why don't you make a similar quiz and put it up on your blog?  Leave a comment with the permalink so we can spread the word!)

1) What country would I like to live in?
a) the United States
b) Australia
c) Belize
d) New Zealand
e) Ireland

2) Who would I most like to meet?
a) Tamora Pierce
b) Stuart Neville
c) Brendan Fraser
d) Pete Dudley
e) Little Miss Zarin

3) I secretly would like to be ________ for a day?
a) a movie director
b) a professor
c) single
d) a librarian
e) multi-lingual

4) What is my favorite store to shop at?
a) Hallmark
b) Target
c) Papyrus
d) Old Navy
e) Nordstrom

5) If I was running out of my burning house, what item would I grab?
a) my signed copy of Robin McKinley's BEAUTY
b) my baby book
c) my cell phone
d) my laptop
e) the box in which I keep my children's artwork

6) What do I like most about myself?
a) my sense of humor
b) my intelligence
c) my faith
d) my hair
e) my parenting style

7) What is my middle name?
a) Rose
b) Michelle
c) Ditzler
d) a, b & c
e) a & c


8) What would be the perfect present for me?
a) a Barnes and Noble gift card
b) jewelry from Sundance Catalog
c) an ARC of Kristin Cashore's FIRE
d) time away to write
e) an iMac

9) Which of the following is not one of my nicknames?
a) Sunny
b) RoseyPosey
c) Charlie
d) Queen Aerin
e) Addy


10) What would I dress as for Halloween?
a) trick question - I don't like Halloween
b) Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
c) Wendy from Peter Pan
d) Belle from Beauty and the Beast
e) Elphaba from Wicked

11) What is the number of schools I attended from Kindergarten thru Sr. Year?
a) 3
b) 4
c) 5
d) 6
e) 7

12) What is my favorite movie?
a) Willow
b) Batman Begins
c) Aeon Flux
d) Sliding Doors
e) Mulan


13) What did I want to be when I was little?
a) a lawyer
b) a microbiologist
c) an actress
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

14) Which of these people have I not had a crush on?
a) Enrique Murciano
b) Cindy Pon
c) Brendan Fraser
d) Neil Gaiman
e) Craig Parker

15) What's my current favorite show on TV?
a) Bones
b) Fringe
c) Legend of the Seeker
d) House
e) Criminal Minds

16) Who is my favorite Disney character?
a) Mickey
b) Lilo
c) Mulan
d) Belle
e) Gurgi

17) What am I most scared of?
a) aging
b) snakes
c) spiders
d) yellow jackets
e) small spaces

18) What city was I born in?
a) Champaign, IL
b) Urbana, IL
c) Savoy, IL
d) Smyrna, TN
e) Murfreesboro, TN

19) What is my favorite wild animal?
a) chinchilla
b) giraffe
c) elephant
d) leopard
e) spider monkey


20) My favorite specialty drink is ________.
a) Pepsi
b) a chocolate martini
c) water
d) Starbucks sweet iced tea lemonade
e) Riesling

Thursday, May 21, 2009

TECHNORATI

This post is 100% word-for-word taken from Lenore, but I don't think she'll mind. (Lenore, if you do, I will send you a batch of chocolate chip cookies - do you think they'll mail overseas?)

This week I happened upon a post that talked about what publishers look for when sending out review copies to book bloggers. You can read the entire post at The Book Publicity Blog, but what stood out most to me is that publicity people look at your technorati authority rating. This shows how many technorati registered blogs linked to your content over the past 6 months and shows how relatively popular your blog is. Trouble is, if mostly unregistered blogs link to you, your rating will be low despite how popular you might really be. I have a feeling a lot of you out there with YA blogs are not registered, so why not support the YA blogging community not just by linking to other blogs but also by making your links count? Register your blog at http://www.technorati.com/. It's been awhile since I did it, but it must have been fairly simply since I managed to register successfully.

P.S. It is free!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

7SS: Chip Lynch

He uses the word "Faustian," he lets me ask him dangerous questions, and he watches "Cupid." Meet my buddy Chip Lynch. Admittedly, I have not seen Chip since the mid-90s when I was in college. Still, Chip is one of the only people I've ever met of whom I have no negative memories. I mean, no toilet paper stuck to a shoe, no verbal gaffe I made about his mother or taste in clothing. Plus, he and my friend Laura set me up with a guy whom I'm not ashamed to admit that I dated. Chip is one in a million, and I'm very happy to introduce him to you, and you to him.


Step #1
LIGHTNING ROUND

  • Mac or PC? PC
  • bicycle or motorcycle? Bicycle
  • Piven or Cannavale? Piven
  • shaken or stirred? Shaken
  • Spero or Couric? Spero
  • over or under? Ooohhh.... Under
  • keep or toss? Keep, but I not-so-secretly wish I was a tosser
Step #2
DESCRIBE a favorite scene or event from your childhood memory.

Childhood was full of good memories, but I can only rarely actually recall them. A recurring scene was playing in the back yard of my parents' house and the neighboring few yards. There was a row of forsythia bushes along the back border which are the most iconic things in my childhood memory. In springtime they'd bloom bright yellow which is my favorite color to this day. The overgrowth was just enough that we could get three or four friends huddled in a little section that we'd slowly hallowed out over the years for some relative privacy. This factored heavily into my very first kiss with a girl whose name I ashamedly cannot remember. We dug holes until we reached some buried cables, hid things we didn't want our parents to find (including a playgirl magazine that was back there for at least a week so's everyone had a chance to get disgusted by it), and generally used it as a base of operations for whatever it was we were getting into for the summer.

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

I'm not sure I really have a four star vocabulary! One of my favorite words of late is "cromulent" which suffers mainly from not being a widely accepted word at all, and does not so far as I can tell have a published definition. It was introduced during an episode of "The Simpsons" in the following exchange:

Mrs. Krabappel: I never heard the word embiggen until I moved to Springfield.
Ms. Hoover: I don't know why. It's a perfectly cromulent word.

It's use is generally to imbue some legitimacy to something which otherwise doesn't have any.

I...I... I don't know if I have another. My favorite word is "porridge"... does that count? If anyone doesn't know what it means, we can have a little chat separately.

Step #4
BOOK BLANKS

  • The last book I finished reading was Eric by Terry Pratchett.
  • I gave it 3.5 stars (out of 5).
  • One word to describe it is Faustian.
Step #5
QUESTION: What’s the strangest thing about women, in comparison to men?


Wow, that's a dangerous question.

Women, as a group, seem to have trouble agreeing on a definition of Feminism (see "Sarah Palin"). Men, as a group, will agree with almost any definition of Feminism, just to avoid having to talk about it.

Step #6
QUESTION: What’s one of your favorite places to travel but you’d never live there?


The question seems to be phrased to imply places we've been... I'd love to work on the south pole for a while, but I can't really call it a favorite place to travel, having never done so. In short, tho, the answer is "Anywhere that isn't in the U.S.". I've only been off continent once, through Europe, and I loved every aspect of it, but I just don't think any parts of it could be "home". There's something unique about U.S. Americans. We're kind of strange, actually -- imaginative due mainly to our laziness, I think, which is a combination you just don't find anywhere else. Inside the U.S., I've lived all over the place and the only negative thing I have to say about anywhere is that some of them are too cold for too long. Since I'm currently living in one of those places, I can't say that it's a criteria for never-living-there, which leaves the whole country as my oyster.

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.)


Wow, you want a scoop? 'bout me? I might be scoopless... the whole method of communicating with the world has changed so much that I can't think of anything interesting that hasn't been broadcast on my blog or facebook or, well, SOMEwhere.

I can tell you that I've been infested with June Bugs again lately, and I'm terribly squeamish about that. There was one in my piano yesterday and I dang near had to leave the house so I didn't have to hear it buzzing. I'll have to go hunting for it's body a few weeks from now (long enough to make sure it's not going to have some last minute spasm and scare the bejeezus out of me) and find a nice long tacky stick to pull it out with, wherever it lies.



Thanks, Sir Chipley.  Now get your ass out here to visit all the little ones!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Plague by Joanne Dahme

The Plague The Plague
by Joanne Dahme

May 4th 2009 by Running Press Kids
Hardcover, 272 pages
0762433442 (isbn13: 9780762433445)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

"When I was George’s age, I had an unsettling dream about Princess Joan, and this was at a time when the princess was a stranger to me, known only through a flashing glimpse from a faraway vantage point.”

Nell and her younger brother George are escorting their parents’ bodies to the burial pit for plague victims when the King happens upon them.  He mistakes Nell for his own daughter, Princess Joan.  Without other future prospects, and determined to care for George, Nell agrees to become a companion to the princess, and, two years later, to escort Joan to Spain for her marriage to its prince.  The traveling party is unprepared, however, for the misfortunes they encounter when they land on the continent.  To save her little brother, Nell makes a dangerous agreement with the Black Prince, Edward Platagenet – an agreement which may put the entire country of England in jeopardy.

I found this to be a sweet little story.  It put me in mind of Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice or Catherine Called Birdy, though, frankly, The Plague lacks Cushman’s depth and finesse.  The Plague is supposed to be aimed at teens, but it seems more appropriate in a late-elementary or mid-grade marketing scheme.  The characters, while promising, don’t develop beyond a sort of idealized dualism (good vs. evil).  The plot is simple, but engrossing enough, and the vocabulary doesn’t quite reach SAT levels.

Having said that, it’s almost as though the lack of character development is intentional, because they show such potential.  Nell’s motivation is simple: she wants to protect her younger brother.  George, Nell’s brother, is slightly superstitious and actually has healing abilities (which he doesn’t discover until after his parents are dead.)  Together they’re protective and affectionate, which resonates with me because of the relationship I have with my own younger brothers.

 
A good summer read for just-graduated 5th or 6th graders.  A possible gift for a 5th, 6th, or 7th grader studying medieval Europe.  A super-fast, fun read for older fans of plague-fiction and people who hate rats.

Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
by Ayelet Waldman

May 5th 2009 by Broadway
Hardcover, 224 pages
0385527934 (isbn13: 9780385527934)

  rating: 3 of 5 stars

 “The morning after my wedding, my husband, Michael, and I, were lying on a vast expense of white linen in the bridal suite of Berkeley’s oldest hotel; engaging in a romantic tradition of newlyweds the world over: counting our loot.”

(I didn’t realize until halfway through this book that the above-named Michael is Michael Chabon.  Don’t tell Moonie.  Waldman also went to law school with some guy named Barack Obama.)

Given the humorous quote on the front of the ARC I received, I expected Bad Mother to be equally humorous, possibly irreverent, and even somewhat flippant.  That’s not, however, how it begins.  Ayelet Waldman comes out swinging every ounce of intellectual muscle she’s got; she’s a formidable contender.  Bad Mother starts out less as a book of humor than as a feminist critique, almost scholarly and certainly political, of current expectations of women who are mothers.  With humor thrown in.  (A similar tactic is used by Jessica Valenti to soften the serious message in  Full Frontal Feminism.)

Waldman sets up her book with a chapter about “bad mothers,”  mothers like the the woman Waldman reprimanded on the bus who was yanking her daughter’s hair as she braided it.  Why do we obsess over “bad mothers”?  (Besides the fact that “worrying about egregious freak-show moms like Wendy Cook and Britney Spears distracts us from the fact that, for example, President George W. Bush cheerfully vetoed a law that would have provided health insurance to four million uninsured children.) By defining for us the kind of mothers we’re not, they make it easier for us to stomach what we are.

Waldman informally polled her friends to find definitions of Good Mothers and Good Fathers.  A definition of a Good Mother always involved self-abnegation: “she is able to figure out how to carve out time for herself without detriment to her children’s feelings of self-worth.”  The same people “had no trouble defining what it meant to be a Good Father.  A Good Father is characterized quite simply by his presence.”

She ends the first chapter with a question.  “Can’t we just try to give ourselves and each other a break?”  My good postmodern deconstructionist self cheered.  My brain and my heart were engaged.  I settled in for more discussion, re-thinking, and questions to spur us toward a new paradigm of expectations for motherhood.

After such an auspicious beginning, Bad Mother rolls into territory that is more memoir/social commentary, territory that is humorous, irreverent, and, at times, flippant.  Waldman spends the remaining seventeen chapters self-consciously bragging about what a fabulous partner and father Chabon is, enumerating what she perceives as her failures as a mother, and offering the mechanisms she used to cope with the fact of these "failures."

The underlying message from Waldman is: “Here are the terrible things I’ve done – just be glad you haven’t done anything this bad.”  After the conclusion to that first chapter, I’d hoped that Waldman would be proposing a different way of thinking; an entirely different way of analyzing motherhood. 

Granted, Waldman’s commentaries and anecdotes are both poignant and hilarious.  (“A Good Mother doesn’t resent looking up from her novel to examine a child’s drawing.”)  She's a hell of a writer.  From opinions about breast feeding and Attachment Parenting and sending snacks to preschool, to her own stories about terminating a pregnancy and about revelations concerning her own mother’s parenting style, Waldman's rich writing moves along smoothly, like a bottle pouring a nice merlot.  It’s certainly a book worth reading.


I wouldn’t buy this book for your own mother, but it would make a great gift between (or among) girlfriends, or for someone who considers Michael Chabon her secret boyfriend.  And, unless you live in Berkeley (as Waldman does, and reminds her reader…frequently) or Boulder, it would surely spark heated discussion in a book or moms’ club. And even if you’re not in love with Michael Chabon, I dare you to admit that there’s not some part of you that wants to be as wise and funny and erudite as Waldman when you grow up.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay If I Stay by Gayle Forman

April 9th 2009 by Dutton Juvenile
Hardcover, 199 pages
0525421033 (isbn13: 9780525421030)

rating: 4 of 5 stars



"Everyone thinks it was because of the snow."

Because I try to maintain a no-spoiler policy in my reviews, I am using for a synopsis the wording provided by the publisher.

Choices.  Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love – music – even if it means losing her boy friend and leaving her family and friends behind?

The one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes.  Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one.  And it’s the only one that matters.


The words I’d use to describe this book have all been taken: “graceful,” “lovely,” “gentle.”  Also “page-turner,” “imaginative,” “haunting” and “stay-up-very-very-late-to-finish.”  Okay, maybe I’m the first to use that last phrase.

The plot is gripping, but it’s the characters in If I Stay that make it so unforgettable.  For example, when her little brother was born, Mia’s dad gave up his long hair and leather jacket, donned a bow tie and became a teacher.  And yet the transition was natural, and typical of the bonds that Forman so deftly creates in this close-knit and authentic family.  Adults are adults, teenagers are teenagers, and without preaching, Forman demonstrates how that dynamic grounds Mia.  Mia herself is the sort of protagonist you fall in love with, you root for, a narrator who easily steps into the ranks of Bella and Hermione.

I’ve thought and thought, but I don’t think this book will appeal to teen guys.  Otherwise, I’d recommend the book for anyone high school or older.  I would also highly recommend it as a library check-out for parents and grandparents of teens.

How I Got To Be Whoever It Is I Am by Charles Grodin

How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am
by Charles Grodin

April 9th 2009 by Springboard Press
Hardcover, 240 pages
0446519405 (isbn13: 9780446519403)

 rating: 4 of 5 stars

“My first memory of something having a powerful, lasting effect on me came when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”

I saw an interview once with Cameron Crowe in which he said that his movie “Almost Famous” was like blowing a kiss his early years as a roadie/music reporter and the people who’d been part of those experiences.  I think, in a similar way, How I Got to Be is Charles Grodin’s kiss-blowing to his own past, both his boyhood and his journey from theatre to film to journalism.  And it’s a sweet kiss.

Grodin’s newest book includes behind-the-scenes tales that feature actors, directors, writers, producers, journalists and politicians with whom he’s worked. It’s best to think of this book as a collection of essays.  Other than Grodin himself, there’s no cohesive thread throughout.  There’s a chapter about Dustin Hoffman and the movie The Graduate, a chapter about Grodin’s perspective on doctors and modern medicine, a chapter about Grodin’s work in Washington, D.C.

I had not known that Charles Grodin was such a political activist.  In fact, he’s received the William Kuntsler Award for Racial Justice and has been honored by Habitat for Humanity for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the homeless.  One of my favorite anecdotes in How I Got to Be was the one in which Grodin describes his experience making a documentary with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.  The three created a primetime special with actual footage from Vietnam, to explain how and why Simon & Garfunkel were writing anti-war music.

Your Father’s Day shopping begins and ends here.  As I was reading this book, I made a mental note just about every other page that this would be a great gift for my dad or either of my grandfathers.  Despite the fact these three men wouldn’t agree with Grodin’s politics, I doubt they could resist the wry humor and honest appraisal of a life well-lived that Grodin offers in How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am. 

(also, all of Mr. Grodin's proceeds from this book go to Mentoring U.S.A.)

Book Bits #3: Children's Books

Book Bits are mini-mini-reviews of books that I either don't have time or inclination to review fully.  However, I have read the entirety of the books I mention.  (For the purposes of GRaB, Book Bits counts as one review.)


Earl's Too Cool for Me Earl's Too Cool for Me by Leah Komaiko
May 1st 2003 (first published 1988) by HarperTrophy
Paperback, 40 pages
0060519142    (isbn13: 9780060519148)
rating: 3 of 5 stars
Earl's got a bicycle made of hay./He takes rides on the Milky Way./Earl's too cool for me.
When I Was Five by Arthur Howard
When I Was FiveAugust 1st 1999 by Voyager Books
Paperback, 40 pages
0152020993 (isbn13: 9780152020996)
 rating: 4 of 5 stars 
a book in which "tushy" is a bad word; but more than that, a sweet book for a child turning 6

Tops & Bottoms (Caldecott Honor Book) Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
March 29th 1995 by Harcourt Children's Books
Hardcover, 40 pages
0152928510 (isbn13: 9780152928513)
rating: 3 of 5 stars

Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Carrot SeedMay 1st 1993 (first published 1945) by HarperFestival
Paperback 
0590003860    (isbn13: 9780590003865)
rating: 4 of 5 stars
my son has planted a pot of carrot seeds because of this book
 


Yo! Yes? (Scholastic Bookshelf (Paperback)) Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka
January 1st 2007 (first published 1993) by Scholastic Inc.
Paperback, 32 pages
0439921856 (isbn13: 9780439921855)
rating: 3 of 5 stars
fantastic book, wonderful illustrations, nice and simple; three stars because it gets tedious to read over and over and over and over and over
 
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
March 1st 1995 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Paperback, 32 pages
0689835248 (isbn13: 9780689835247)
  rating: 4 of 5 stars
one of our favorites about a ten-piece orchestra; the writing's as musical as the instruments that are featured
"The STRINGS all soar, the REEDS implore, / The BRASSES roar with notes galore. / It's music that we all adore. / It's what we go to concerts for."

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