Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday=Book Review Time

Here's to trying to get back on schedule!  I'd like to finish out the year with some good ones so...

Up for this week's review:  Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

 Book of a Thousand Days by Hale by kmartin802

Why I bought this?  I love Shannon Hale's work.  I saw it on the shelf at the BN when it first came out and snatched it up.  As I recall I did read through the inside of the dust jacket, but it was just for curiosity's sake.  It had no bearing on whether I would purchase the book.  Sold!

Synopsis:  It's a retelling of a very obscure fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.  It's completely made new--think Goose Girl.  A lady, Saren, and her maid, Dashti, are shut up in a tower for seven years because Lady Saren refuses to marry her betrothed.  Saren's father oversees the bricking in of the door and tells her that she has seven years to think about her disobedience.  Dashti keeps a journal of what happens to them.  Hope and danger come in the forms of two suitors who can only talk to them from the outside.

This book is so incredibly well done.  I absolutely loved it!  I know I always say that my reviews are based on how much enjoyment I get out of reading the book and not its literary merit, but this one has that too.  The lyrical language is compelling.  Shannon Hale is a master at crafting the words to fit her characters.  The story is moving and funny and poignant.  I'm planning on rereading it Feb. 

My rating:  *****
My 14 year old daughter's rating:  ****

CS: 2 out of 10--This one is very clean.  It gets a 2 for some mild violence.  I would even let my 8 year old daughter read this one.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.)

Why I bought this?  I was trolling the bookstore for something more grown up and the picture on the cover caught my eye, so I picked it up and thought the title sounded interesting.  Then I read the subtitle:  A tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. I love the OED.  I read the back, and I had to get it to know the whole story.  Sold!

Synopsis:  This is a history that reads almost like fiction.  It is meticulously researched.  "The Professor," James Murray, oversaw the compiling of the definitions for the OED (This began at Oxford University in 1857).  When he and his committee noticed that one particular man, a Dr. W.C. Minor, had made over 10,000 submissions (if you've ever read through the OED then you know just how huge that is), the committee felt he should be honored for his amazing contributions to the monumental dictionary.  Murray found that he was an American Civil War veteran and locked away in an asylum for the criminally insane in Surry--a "madman."  

This is an amazing history.  Well written and fascinating--full of humor and sadness. Winchester did his homework and tells the story of a very troubled man who had a lot more to give to the world than just his insanity.  His obsession with words helped keep him closer to sanity than just about anything else.  

My rating:  *****

CS:  7 out of 10--This is mostly for the situations with Minor.  There are things that happen in the asylum that are very disturbing for those who are sensitive.  I would recommend it to adults, but not kids. It would probably be alright for 17 and older.  The details are all true and some of them are brutal.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm here

This is me.  If you're looking for my new blog you found it.  Yea!

It's a whole new blog--same old me

Welcome to my new blog!  It's a place where the Lotus is rising.  

I finally made my decisions about how I wanted things to change.  Thank you all so much for your input.  It made the choices so much easier.  I hope you like the new look of things.  It's much brighter than I'm used to, but the green and white go so much better with the lotus picture that I was finally able to get up in the header that it was the only way to go really.  They are some of the lotuses from Monet's garden that I photographed summer before last which makes them sentimental for me, so I wanted very much to use them.

My new blog address will be you can tell if you're already here, but I thought you might want to know why.  I decided that it would be easier and better for the address to just go by my name and yet be a little different, so I went with my initials and my last name and shock of all shocks lamoss was available.

The new blog name is Lotus Rising.  It's a spin on what Justus suggested.  I loved the whole image of the Lotus rising from the mud and growing into the light.  Thanks Justus!  and Congrats again on the new little one!  Well, really I guess he's not so little, but here's a shout out for young Ashton Luke Bowman!

There will be no more lotusloq.  She's retiring.  The new name will be lotusgirl.  I picked something that wouldn't be that big of a switch but that would keep with the whole lotus theme I've got going on.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This Week

Posting will be suspended for the week of Christmas since my computer access is limited.

I hope all of you have a grand holiday, and I'll stop by your blogs as time permits.

Merry Christmas!

Lois Moss

Friday, December 19, 2008

What is in a name?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  How about a lotus?  It has other names: Nymphaea and Water Lily.  Here's one from Monet's garden in Giverny.  

They're amazing and beautiful and symbolic.  I love them, and I identify with them.  Part of it is that as a child a family friend called me Lotus Blossom.  I always loved that.  It made me feel like I was beautiful and special like a lotus blossom.  With a given name like Lois, people were constantly giving me nicknames.  That was fine by me.  I thought my name was old fashioned and lame.  It stuck out wherever I went.  Spelling it was a problem. Pronouncing it was a problem.  I've been called Louis and Louise more times than I can count.  Even my mother, who I was named after, didn't go by Lois.  It was even old fashioned in her generation.

I have made peace with my name over the years, and now I like it.  If someone comes into a room and calls for me.  I know it's for me.  There are not 10 people named Lois in any given room ever.  (Maybe at a Lois convention, but otherwise...)  There have been a few times in my life when there have been 2, but you get my drift.  It's unique, and that works for me now.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday about the name of my blog, my username, a possible pen name, and my real name.  As an author, what do we do with our names?  We want people to be able to remember them.  We want it to pop up with us first on the list of google searches.  We want our blogs accessible and welcoming.  What to do?

When I first set up my blog, I wasn't really thinking about all that.  I was looking more to being incognito.  I like my privacy and was concerned about putting myself out there on the world wide web.  Now I'm thinking I should have done things differently.  I'm thinking that before I do much more with this blog that maybe I should set up one with a more accessible name.  No one, as yet, has been able to get "domus muscida" on the first go round, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th either for that matter.  What?  You're not all Latin scholars?  

And Lotusloq as a username may have to go too.  It's short for Lotusloquax which is what I use on Livejournal.  It means "speaking lotus."  

I think I would like to keep the Lotus part.  It has depth, meaning, and beauty like the flower, and I think using Nymphaea is fraught with double entendre that I don't want.  Haha!  

Do you have any ideas out there?  What do you think?  Should I change?  Should I make everyone bend to my geeky ways?  Any name ideas?

Maybe I should go with just the English:  Speaking Lotus or Lotus speaking?  or Lotus Blossom Moss?  haha!  Can you see I'm floundering?  Help!  Please!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday=Book Review Time


*Keep in mind that my reviews are strictly on my impressions of the books and the ratings are based on my enjoyment of the books and not necessarily a reflection of their literary merit

           i'd tell you i love you but then i'd have to kill you by msannakoval

Why I bought it?  This is one I had seen a few times and almost picked up because the title is so catchy, but I didn't--more shame for me.  This was my daughter's choice when we were at the BN together, and it was the snazzy title that sealed the deal for her.  She was the one who read it first and then recommended it to me.

Synopsis:  Cammie Morgan is training to be a spy and goes to an exclusive, secretive all-girl school for spies.  When she falls for one of the local town's "normal" boys she discovers how hard it is to have a relationship with someone who can never know who she really is.   She and her friends are geniuses and can speak 14 different languages and kill a guy 7 different ways with their bare hands, but with boys they are clueless--well, except for the despised new girl. 

The premise is fun and the book really delivers.  I was captivated from the first page.  The narrator's voice is charming and snappy.  It's a very quick read and seemed to just fly by.  I never wanted to put it down.  When I was done, I was disappointed that it was already over.  I'll definitely read it again when I need something light and fun.  It has been optioned by Disney, so I'm sure there will be a film soon. It will translate well to the big screen--lots of action and comedy and romance.  What more could a gal want?  I'd tell ya, but then I'd have to, you know, kill ya.

My rating:  ****1/2
My daughter's rating:  ****1/2  (Wow!  We agreed!  That's saying something!)

CS:  3  This is really only for the "violence" parts which are really pretty tame.  It ends up really being more about the intrigue.  I kept thinking that there was a little language because there's an edgy vibe to the MC, but I've gone back through and other than a few British swears (by a British friend) and "Oh Jeez!" and "Heck" appearances and the like there's not much I could find.  For the movie rating I'd say probably a PG, because you know they'll show someone getting punched in the solar plexus.  G seems to be the kiss of death for a teen movie.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy


Why did I buy this?  I was browsing at the BN and saw it and immediately recognized it as the sequel.  I couldn't buy it fast enough.  

Synopsis:  Cam's in real trouble for her relationship with the town boy from book 1.  It breaks all protocol.  Will she have to give him up forever?  There's a big mystery going on at the school that brings some unexpected guests--some unexpected male guests. I don't want to say too much and make this a spoiler for the 1st book for those who haven't read it already, but I wanted to include this review with the first because if you loved the first one you will definitely want to read the second.

This sequel does not disappoint.  I was worried at first, but I actually liked it better than the first.  There's no question as to whether I'll read this again.  Absolutely!  This one would make an even better movie.

My rating:  *****
My daughter's rating:  *****  (Agreement again!  Does that tell you how good it is?)

CS:  3--ditto as for the first book

            a countess below stairs by ryfkm79


Why I bought it?  I had seen it quite a few times at BN and had wondered if it would be any good.  Then, when I was on Amazon buying something for my book club that I hadn't been able to find in the store, this came up as a recommendation.  I finally decided to take the plunge and read one of Ibbotson's books to see if they were as good as they looked like they would be.  The synopsis seemed interesting and the general reviews seemed high, so...

Synopsis:  Anna is a displaced Russian countess in England after the Russian Revolution.  She ends up working below stairs as a maid for an Earl and his household.  She works very hard and is determined that no one will know of her past, but her manner conveys that she is more than a servant.  It's hard to hide that royal upbringing, you know.  She starts falling for the Earl, but his mean old fiancee is in the way.  As the earl falls for her the conflicts deepen.  He is trapped by honor.  He will not go back on his promise no matter what.  

I'm a romantic softy at heart, and so I was hoping to enjoy this.  I'm always looking for good YA romance stories without the racy stuff.  This one is pretty good, but I didn't have much trouble putting it down.  That's never a good sign.  There were times that the writing was more long-winded than I like.  Sometimes though it was pretty lyrical.  I enjoyed the storyline pretty well and the denoument was unexpected yet satisfying--actually it was kind of crazy.  I'm glad I read it, but I don't plan on reading it again.   I will recommend it to my daughter.  I think she would like it.  I will definitely read some of Ibbotson's other books though.

My rating:  ***1/2

CS:  3--mostly for situation stuff--there's not really any language issues that I recall. 


Monday, December 15, 2008

When inspiration strikes

What do you do when inspiration strikes right when you're going to bed--when that proverbial light comes on in the darkness?  Roll over, tell your brain to shut up, and go on to sleep? or are you afraid you'll forget?  Do you jump right out and grab a piece of paper or fire up the computer and get busy?

Last night a new idea for the beginning of my novel I've been working on for a while hit me right at that point of drifting off, and I knew I would not remember the details if I didn't get them down on paper, so I drug myself out of the nice warm bed and grabbed pen and paper and the ideas poured for 4 pages.  It pulls the whole novel together and sets the tone I've been looking for.  Woo hoo!!  I feel like celebrating!

Friday, December 12, 2008

International Stories

Ah!  La Belle France!  Paris!  I read a blog yesterday that was talking about stories set in Foreign locals.   It got me thinking about how much I love books that are set in far away places. I love learning about the cultures and the people that live there.  I would love to see more books like this.  I understand that the location needs to be integral to the storyline of the book, but I think there's a market out there for these types of books.  What do y'all say?  Books set in Paris or Cannes or Nice or wherever?  Are they for you? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday=Book Review Time

As promised no ***1/2 stars this week!

Up for this week:  North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Why I bought it?  I had rented the movie through Netflix because I love all the BBC classic movies.  I absolutely loved the movie.  It became a quick favorite, and I wanted to read the original.  I couldn't find it at my BN, and so I ordered it online at Amazon.

Brief Synopsis:  This is not the North and South that tells of the US civil war.  No Patrick Swayze.  Sorry Girls!  This story is set in England and tells of an upper-class family from the south that has to relocate to an industrial city in the north because of a significant reduction in income.  Margaret Hale, the MC and daughter in this family, has to adjust to the change of climate, status, responsibilities, and prejudices (that she holds) to make her way in her new life.  The wealthy mill owner, Mr. Thornton, being a tradesman is not of her class, and yet there is something "more" in him.  

If you've seen the movie (you know, I take back my "sorry" above.  There's nothing to be sorry for with Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton.), I'd still suggest reading the book.  There are some significant changes from the movie.  I have to say, as much as I loved the movie, the book was better (Isn't that the way it usually is?).  The Mr. Thornton in the book is much gentler than the one in the movie, but I understand that the film makers wanted to be sure that a modern audience would understand why Margaret looked down so much on Mr. Thornton, and with his harshness at the beginning of the movie it is not necessary to understand the importance of class ranking in that time period.  (Elizabeth Gaskell was a contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens, so if that helps you with the time period.)

This is one of my all-time favorite books.  I absolutely loved it.  Mr. Thornton, to me, ranks right up there with Mr. Darcy.  

Rating:  *****  

The newest aspect of the book reviews is going to be cleanness score (CS), because I have young family members that will read these reviews, and so I want them and their moms to know what they will get with the books I review, and I think that others of you out there picking books for your kids might like to know.  (Is that enough ands?)  That said--my scale is going to be from 0 to 10.  0 has absolutely nothing the least bit offensive in it and 10 is for those books that have very offensive material.  (I think I can guarantee that there will be no 10s in any of my book reviews, but it will still be on the scale for gauging purposes.) 

CS=3 for slight language, mild violence, social unrest (In a theatre it would probably be rated G or PG max.)

Why I bought it?  I had read another book by Sarah Dessen and loved the way she expressed herself.   It also helped that it has a southern setting, and I like novels set in the south since I grew up there.  I saw it when I was browsing in the BN.  The cover caught my eye, I had liked the other book of hers, and so I read through the inside flap.  It intrigued me, so chaching! Sold!  
Synopsis:  Annabel Greene, the MC, is a model for the local department store and has a TV commercial running for back-to-school that features her as the girl who has it all.  Her reality is far from the fantasy of the commercial.  Her family is treading on thin ice, her self-image is damaged, and her best friend has dumped her and taken all their mutual friends with her in a scandalous scene.  She feels lost and alone and scared.  There's a mystery as to what really happened between her and her best friend.  Even her friend doesn't really know.  Enter Owen Armstrong!  The angriest kid in school who's a stickler for telling the truth and expects it from everyone around him.

Sarah Dessen is a master at this.  She unfolds the story bit by bit, building and then backing away.  Her characters are totally real and raw at times.  The text is sprinkled with nuggets of wisdom, and the honesty is compelling.  There are moments of anguish nestled together with moments of subtle humor--heck, some are laugh out loud funny.  I love this book.  It is another one of my all-time favorites.  Owen ranks right up there as one of my favorite leading men.   

Rating:  *****

CS:  6,  a bit of language throughout, but not a lot--there are a couple of F words though,  some violence, I don't want to give away important plot points, so I'll just state it as some PG-15 situations.  I haven't given it to my 14 year old yet to read, so if that gives you a gauge.  I'm pretty conservative.  I suppose some 13 year olds would think nothing of it.  It would depend on what they are exposed to everyday.  In a theatre it would probably be rated PG-13 on the edgy side.

So there you have it.  A couple of my favorite books.  A couple of my favorite leading men that not everyone is aware of.  Let me know what you think.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Let a little light shine through

Thanks to all of you for the comments on what YA writing is.  I think it's also important for those of us who are writing for a YA audience that we include a bit of light in our writings.  Whatever it may be for us.  Sometimes levity is enough to lighten a book; sometimes it is hope.  I don't think moralizing does it.   Preachiness is worse than moralizing.    

In the books that I have been reading lately, I want to avoid reading the ones that seem to have little or no light in them.  That's why I have 3 half started books and one series of 6 books that I have almost finished reading since I started those others.  I just don't want to pick them up any more.  Where's the light?

What kind of things do you think bring light into a book?  

Friday, December 5, 2008

What really makes a book YA?

Since I've commented on 2 blogs already today about this issue, I felt the need to bring it up here.  There has been a lot of criticism of Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series because of the messages that it sends to young teenage girls--especially in the realm of healthy romantic relationships.  Regardless of what you think of her writing style, I think it is important to point out that SM originally wrote the book for herself and then tried to publish it for adults.  It was not until the publishing industry got involved that she was told that the book should be classified as Young Adult.   

It obviously appeals to a lot of YA females.  It appeals to a lot of Adult females.  Where do we draw the line, though, in what is appropriate for the YA audience?  I personally think that this book got classified as YA because it had little language and no blatant immorality.   

Is it the author's responsibility to classify the book or the publishing industry's?  Is it Stephenie Meyer's decision or her agent's or her publisher's?  or should we open it up to the national movie rating system's?  If I were rating the book like a movie, I would give it a PG-13 rating.  Does that mean then that it is appropriate for 13 year olds?  I'm just asking.  I'd love to hear what you all are thinking.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday=Book Review Time

Up for this week:  Savvy by Ingrid Law and Chalice by Robin McKinley.


Why I bought it? (This is going to be an official part of my reviews for the marketing people out there.) I was trolling for some fun books for my kids, and I saw the bright cover and picked it up.  I liked the artwork and title, so I thought I'd see what it was about.  The back was enough to hook me.  "What if your Grandpa moves mountains, one of your brothers causes hurricanes, another creates electricity, and now it's your turn?"  I didn't even open it and read inside the front cover (which I will generally always do with an unknown author and title).  I knew my daughter would love this book (as long as it delivered--these kind of supernatural things happening are right down her alley), and she did and insisted that I read it.  

It's definitely more of a MG book than YA.  The MC, Mibs, is a 12 yr. old girl turning 13.  Her father has been in an accident and is in critical condition.  The mother and oldest brother go to be with him at the hospital leaving the rest of the family behind with the grandfather.  Mibs, two of her brothers, and 2 friends hop on a pink bible delivery bus to make it to the hospital 90 miles away.  This initial premise is terribly far-fetched to me.  It seemed crazy that there would be no plans made for bringing the younger kids to see their father in the hospital, but it didn't bother my daughter.  There are some crazy antics and interesting developments as the trip progresses and as Mibs gets her "Savvy."  

It's pretty funny and a bit outlandish, but I think that is what my daughter particularly liked.  I had a harder time overlooking the parts of the story that were not realistic, and I don't mean the supernatural parts.  I mean the stupidity of many of the adults in the book.  Of course, kids do seem to like the adults being clueless in their entertainment.  Not really one I'd read again.

My rating:  3 1/2 stars
My daughter's rating:  4 1/2 stars


Why I bought it?  Robin McKinley wrote it.   I like most of her books and love some of them, especially The Blue Sword which is one of my all time favorites.  I saw it on a display table at the B&N and snatched it right up with anticipation.

This is more of a YA book.  Mirasol, the MC, is a humble beekeeper and becomes the Chalice when the old Chalice and Master die unexpectedly.  The new Master has been in training to be a fire priest and is no longer quite human.  This is a problem because the Master needs to be human.  They must work together to help keep their homeland from falling apart.  It's an interesting premise and the interactions of Chalice and Master push the story forward.  I found it slow going, especially at first, and it took me a while to get into.  There was very little dialog.  In some ways, this reinforced the idea of peace coming from the Chalice, but it slowed  things way down.  The language and imagery is well done as you would expect with McKinley.  

I liked it, but I didn't love it.  I would like to read it again though to see if it improves with familiarity.  This is where being someone like Robin McKinley works for you.  I'm willing to cut her a little slack and read it again thinking that maybe I was too distracted when I read it the first time to truly appreciate it.

My rating:  3 1/2 stars with potential for a higher rating later

This is getting to be a trend.  I promise next time I won't give 3 1/2 stars even if I have to pick something I read ages ago.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving and traffic

Yea!  We're back!  The vacation was great, but the driving was horrendous.  What was normally about a 6 hour drive took 9 hours on the way over and about 8 and a half on the way back!  There were 2 spots with accidents both directions and on the way over we had been so delayed that we ended up in Knoxville's rush hour traffic.  

I am thankful that we weren't in any accidents.  There was so much insanity on the roads.  It amazes me how many people don't know the rules of the road, much less the common courtesies and unwritten rules of driving.  My husband never wants to drive again during the Thanksgiving holidays.  Sorry Sandy!  Next year it's your turn.

At least our time celebrating Thanksgiving was wonderful.  The cousins all had a grand time and got along extremely well.  Yea!  The food was tremendous.  I spent most of Thursday in a triptophan coma.  Mmmm!  And the family time was delicious as well.

Our Friday did get spent shopping for a while, but not at 5 am and not in any kind of frenzy.  I'm appalled and horrified at what happened in some places.  In our lines everyone was very friendly and we helped each other out.  We chatted with the lady in front of us (that we didn't know) the whole time.  She offered to let us put our stuff on her cart so we wouldn't have to hold it (there were no carts left when we came) and when she remembered something she had forgotten we held her spot while she ran to look so she wouldn't lose her place in line.  Small things, I know, but nice things.  It was all very civil and nice even if the lines did go all the way to the back of the store.  We found some incredible deals just like everyone else.

Now it's back to business as usual.  I'm going to working on splitting and reducing the fluff from my novel.  My goal weight is now 70K words.  Thanks for all the input!  Wish me luck!