Sunday, June 22, 2008

Delicious New Book

I'm working hard to make up for going almost two weeks without a post.

I finished another very good book today. It isn't quite as serious as Trudy's Promise, but it is an awesome read.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is a charming story of two Southern sisters who just happen to have a little magic, including a clairvoyant apple tree. Very intriguing, no? Allen does an excellent job of subtly weaving mysticism in with a story of love and family.
You can read more about Allen and her books at her website:
One of the things I found inspiring is that it took her 12 years to get published. I think I needed to read that because I got a rejection letter on the teen novel I submitted recently. It was a very nice rejection letter, as far as that goes. The editor called the mystery "compelling" and praised the plot, but said "the narrative voice wasn't quite there." So, I guess it is back for more revision.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Great New Book

Oops! I let almost two weeks go by without a post...

But I just finished a fantastic book: Trudy's Promise by Marcia Preston.

The book is set in the early sixties and focuses on the Berlin Wall and communism versus freedom. Preston creates incredibly real characters that we cheer for and puts them into extremely difficult situations forcing them and the reader to examine what we believe and why. Because this book was written by a woman and features a female protagonist and is published by Mira, it is classified as "women's fiction." But this story transcends gender lines and will appeal to anyone looking for a good story.

Here is a link to Preston's website where she talks about the book and her inspiration for writing it
This was my pick for our book club this month and I've heard from one other member that she just finished it and really enjoyed it. I'm eager to hear what everyone else has to say about it.
In my own writing news, I submitted a short story to Highlights magazine this week. It is likely to be weeks before I hear back from them and if successful, many months before publication. But it feels fantastic knowing I have launched another possibility out into the publishing world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Book Challenge - Finish Line

In all, I read six books during the 48-hour period.
Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper (235 pages)
Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by JT Petty (120 pages)
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor (170 pages)
The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher (151 pages)
Ellie McDoodle, Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw (170 pages)
Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child (190 pages)

Technically, I think I went about 10 minutes over on the 48-hours, but I'm hoping no one will hold that against me. (and I doubt that I've come anywhere close to reading the most books during this time period)

I reviewed the first two books yesterday, so you can check a previous post for those.
Here are the others.

I have to admit, I didn't like How to Steal a Dog. I realize there are quite a few parents out there who make poor choices or find themselves in over their heads - I could swallow the "we were evicted and living in our car" storyline. What I could not swallow is that no other adults in the story were smart enough to figure that out. The author sets the scene as being in a small town, but my experience is that folks in a small town would find out very quickly that this family was living in their car. More than likely child welfare would be involved, etc. I was impressed with the inner conflict presented in Georgina and the decisions she finds herself making. I just didn't think it needed to go on as long as it did.

In contrast, I LOVED The Opposite of Invisible. Great characters, great plot. I particularly liked how the author portrayed high school cliques and mentioned that the cheerleader was intimidated by the artsy kids. I also liked the open and honest way she talked about drinking and sex and the choices teens face in those areas. Plus, who can resist the Seattle setting? Makes me want to go shopping at Pike Place Market and dodge the flying flish!

Ellie McDoodle is pure fun. I wonder, would drawing in my journal make me laugh more at difficult situations? If I came up with descriptive nicknames and drew pictures of my crabby co-workers would it make me smile? I may have to try it....

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean was utterly wonderful. Again, humor in a difficult situation. I waited until I'd finished reading, but then I had to go back and share the Granddad's friend being evicted from the nursing home because he snuck in the dog and it ate the neighbor's parakeet pages with my husband. It was hilarious.

A few thoughts about the challenge - I learned that I can squeeze more reading time into my schedule. Carrying a book around means you steal time to read a page here, a page there and - guess what - you can read more books!
Most of all, I've been working on developing my voice in my writing. With the assortment I read this weekend (and yes, reading them all together like this really helped) I was able to hear the voice in each of the books. I feel very proud of myself for this. I'm looking forward to applying it to my own writing.
I got an audio book from the library to listen to while driving, but I didn't take the extra step of putting it on my iPod. Had I done that, I probably would've knocked off another book while grocery shopping this morning, doing the dishes, etc. Something to consider for next time.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Two Good Books

Since 6:15 last night, I've read two books. And yes, I'm feeling pretty good about it. :-)

Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mercile Harper is a humorous cross-section of teen angst. The pages are dotted with doodles and drawings related to the story (although I wouldn't say it goes so far as to be a graphic novel) I have to admit there were several times when I laughed out loud. This produced glares from my husband who was attempted to balance the checkbook at the time. But I would read him the hilarious page or passage and he too, would laugh, so all was well. I'm hoping I can talk my oldest daughter into reading this. I think she would enjoy it, but I would also like to get an exact gauge on whether something like this would appeal to freshmen/sophmores. I noticed the author was careful not to reveal exactly which grade the characters were in.

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by JT Petty was also an excellent book. But very different from Flashcards. I would call this a modern fairy tale. It hinges on a line from supposedly from Peter Pan (although this may be pure fiction - after the Challenge, I'll take the time to look it up): "as soon as Wendy had spoken, Tinkerbell dropped dead. Dead as a gossamer-winged doorknob." I was entertained by the book. It would make a great companion for reading with Peter Pan and also has references to Rumplestilskin and other classic tales.

I'm off to do a little yardwork before starting on the next book. And I haven't decided yet what it will be, but you can be sure - I'll let you know how I like it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book Challenge

I'm now beginning the 48-hour Book Challenge.
I'm starting with Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper. I'll let you know how it is.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Book Challenge

Today was my oldest daughter's first day of volunteering at the library. I'm so proud of her. She spent the morning signing kids up for the summer reading program.
I stumbled upon something else that sounds like lots of fun: The Third Annual 48-hour Book Challenge. See how many books you can read and then review on your blog in a 48-hour period. Since we have no particular plans for the weekend, this sounds perfect. I plan to start gathering my books tonight and working out a reading schedule.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Adventures

Last weekend, we went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great action, good versus evil, exotic locations, a touch of romance, riddles to solve - what more could you ask for?

Actually, my writer-mind kicked in and I started analyzing the story and the plot. I happen to especially love these history/mystery/adventure genre movies. In addition to the Indy movies, I'd also add The Mummy movies. Laura Croft and the American Treasure movies. The basic plot of all these has our hero on a quest to find some rare artifact, along the way a classic bad guy steps in, attempting to force the hero to use his unique knowledge to solve the unsolvable puzzle, otherwise the hero's love interest will die. The hero plays along to save the damsel, but then with wit and muscle escapes his predicament. The greed of the villian always leads to meeting an untimely end.

When I reviewed what I wrote, I realized DaVinci Code also falls into this category to some degree. BUT, the point of that book and the movie was not to have fun. The others are purely entertainment - we all know Nazis, Egyptian zombies and folks who would steal American artifacts are bad. Dan Brown picked characters who are less black and white and never gave us any reason to laugh. (except maybe at Tom Hanks' hair, but we have to blame that on director Ron Howard, not author Dan Brown)