Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Splendid indeed

Up for today:  A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Ranjith Wijewardene

Why I bought it? It is by Khaled Hosseini. Originally I had thought it was the sequel to The Kite Runner, and I had loved that book. I realized it wasn't when I read inside the front cover, but I still wanted to read it because I enjoyed the author.

Art by Roxanne Duguay from flickr

Synopsis:  Set in Afghanistan, the story chronicles the lives of two women who are brought together by circumstances. They must face terrible times and losses. It is a view of female life behind the burka as well as with it.  It has nothing to do with the story in The Kite Runner. They only share the same backdrop and historical setting. Sorry, but I don't want to give too much away. Part of what I enjoyed in reading this one was discovering the story.

What I thought? As much as I liked The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns surpassed it. The characters are so well formed and real that I was a part of their lives while I was reading and even still. The setting is so compelling. I learned a lot of history but didn't feel like I was getting a history lesson. It was interwoven and integral to the story. If you liked Hosseini's first novel, I'm sure you will love the 2nd. I didn't find it as disturbing as the first, and I liked the characters more. (It could be because I'm a woman.)

My Rating: ***** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, for violence and situational things--e.g. intimacy 

Monday, April 27, 2009


With all the edits of late I've been thinking how like caterpillars our rough drafts are. They have so much potential inside them.

They have a kind of beauty all their own, but they are hairy and fat and can gross a lot of people out. (Heehee) Other people understand them for what they are and love them. They know that there are still some very crucial steps they have to go through before they are ready to fly. They have to gorge themselves on our time and editing skills. They must percolate in the cocoon of our minds. Then they can emerge, air their wings, and soar.

Or sit on a leaf and look pretty.  Just a thought in the ramblings of my mind. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

20 from the next 20

Oh man! This is seriously starting to date me. The whole fact that I can do this shows I'm getting up there. Here's a continuation from last Friday's post. 20 books that influenced me (and my writing) deeply from ages 21-40. Yep. I'm past that and counting. (Again in no particular order and excluding religious books)

1. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
2. Anne of Green Gables (Series) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
3. Harry Potter (Series) by JK Rowling
4. The Aeneid by Publius Vergilius Maro
5. The Metamorphoses by by Publius Ovidius Naso
6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
7. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
8. A Long Way from Chicago/A Year down Yonder by Richard Peck
9. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
10. Horatio Hornblower (series) by CS Forester
11. The Sackett Series by Louis L'Amour
12. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
13. Persuasion by Jane Austen
14. Profiles in Courage by JFK
15. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Persig
16. The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
17. L'Etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus
18. La Gloire de mon Pere (My Father's Glory--series) by Marcel Pagnol
19. Rhinoceros  by Eugene Ionesco
20. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

It's an eclectic mix. This was a very difficult list to come up with. I've left out some incredible things that I read during that time period, because they are similar in one way or another to ones that I list. Shakespeare could be there. Poets could be there. (I may have to do a post sometime of my favorite poems.) So many things could be there. But, alas... only 20 were allowed. 

What do you think of this list? 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Buttons?

Up for today:  CORALINE by Neil Gaiman
coraline movie by joanneteh_32
Why I bought it? I kept hearing so many amazing things about Neil Gaiman and this book sounded interesting, so I put it on my Christmas list and my husband got it. 

Synopsis: Coraline is a young girl who sneaks into a mirror image flat through a locked door in her own to find an alternate reality with another mother and father. The neighbors are the same but different. All the people in this reality have buttons for eyes. Things are all geared to make her happy in the new world to get her to choose to stay. The food is delicious. All the games and shows are for her.  What will Coraline choose? Should she go back to her real family or stay with the other mother? Is it safe to stay with the other mother? How can she get back home?

Coraline Movie poster by _aBe

What I thought? I have to preface this with a reminder that my opinions and scores are not based on literary merit, but my own enjoyment of the book. Since Gaiman won the Newberry, it is obvious that his writing is very good, however, I was not as thrilled with this as I thought I would be. So many of my friends loved it and thought it was amazing. I kept hoping for that feeling, but, alas, it never really came. The story is very unique, and it did get better for me at the end (which took me forever to get to because I kept putting the book down). It was a very different kind of story than what I normally read. Pretty creepy in a lot of places. It is geared for children, but I was kind of grossed out in several scenes--some things struck me as really weird. I can see some kids being scared, but some really like that. So it's a matter of preference. The alternate covers I found do a better job of showing the feel of the book than the first one (which is the one on my copy). The first one looks quirky and fun with scary elements. The others look more menacing. The book was pretty dark, I thought.

coraline - pulp fiction by mike r baker

What my daughter thought? She said it reminded her of Matilda by Roald Dahl, and that it was creepy but good.

My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 (Only this high because it got better at the end, and the writing was good.)

My Daughter's Rating: **** out of 5 

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is really for the grossness factor, but that is such a relative thing. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Even the little things

When we focus on a tree, what do we see? If it's flowering we see the blossoms and the branches and many of the small details fade into the background. I love focusing in on the little things. Appreciating the beauty of new life--of what you can't see unless you're right on top of it. Giving even the little things a voice.

In writing, it's lovely to get some close details. I think we have to include some for perspective and color and authenticity, but too many can bog a story down. Moderation in all things. What do you think?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Growing up books

On Monday a friend posted a list of 20 of her favorite books she'd read. It was one of those crazy tag things that are going around. I don't usually do taggers, but this one spoke to me where I live, and so I thought I'd give it my own special twist--as I am prone to do. Anyone else feel like doing it? Have at it! But no tags from me. 

Here's my list of 20 books that profoundly influenced me in my growing up years. These are all books that I read before I was 20 and haven't been able to get out of my head. So it's my 20 below 20. They are not in any particular order. (FYI:  I've excluded any religious book, because this is not a religious blog.)

1. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
3. Exodus by Leon Uris
4. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
5. The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
6. The Shy Ones by Lynn Hall
7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10. Emma by Jane Austen
11. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
12. Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
13. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
14. Bulfinch's Mythology
15. Othello by Shakespeare
16. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
17. Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
18. Animal Farm by George Orwell
19. 1984 by George Orwell
20. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I'm sure this list dates me somewhat. There are so many more that for whatever reason didn't come to mind on the first run-through. It's funny I don't remember a lot of the books I read as a small kid. We had a whole set of about 15 volumes of children's stories and I loved to read those, but no particular titles stick out to me except for the Five Chinese Brothers which was my favorite. I can't tell you how many times I read that one. I bet the volume with it falls open to those pages. My sister got the set so I can't go back and flip through, so... oh well. This list is mostly what I read in middle school and high school.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Letter time!

Up for today: LOVE, STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli

Love, Stargirl

Why I bought it? It is the sequel to Stargirl! When I saw it in the bookstore, I about had a seizure. Needless to say, it was going home with me that day.

Synopsis: I don't want to give too many details for those who still haven't read the first one, but...  This is an epistolary novel. It is a series of letters that Stargirl writes to Leo but doesn't send. Stargirl has moved to Pennsylvania and we follow her life there meeting her new neighbors and see the adventures that Stargirl has with them. This book is more reflective than the first.

What I thought? I loved it. If you love Stargirl, I think you will too. In fact, in some ways I liked this one better than the first. Stargirl does some serious soul searching, and Spinelli expresses her thoughts so profoundly with uniqueness. He is such a master at that.

My Rating: ***** out of 5

My Daughter's Rating: ***** (She said she liked it about the same as the first.)

Cleanness Score: 2, Still very clean, but still aimed at your pre-teens and teens.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I declare war!

...on excess!

Spring has sprung! 

The excess on this picture makes it surreal and that is my intent. In art sometimes excess can be great, but too much excess is just too much.

It's time for the Spring Clean!

And I'm in full out PURGE mode! (My poor children! You can picture the miserable creatures cleaning their rooms and sorting through the toys they haven't played with in years. Broken hearted!  My husband loves it! Mwa haha!) 

I created a shirt at the Design-a-T store at Disney last week that says "I am Queen! Obey me!" I am sporting it today! So watch out excess! Cringe gluttony! Fear me mess! I am Queen and you are going down! down! down! out! out! out! 

As many of you know I've been purging my ms. It's getting there. All extraneous words and phrases must go! Snip, snip, snip! chuck! chuck! chuck! Here's to giving all excess the big heave ho! Good luck to you who are doing the same! 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Right chuffed with the BBC

I just had to share my latest discovery! The new mini-series (well, really not so new but new to me) put out by the BBC:  CRANFORD.

I'm appalled that this movie was put out in 2007 and I just found it now. Where have I been? I even trawl the BBC site on occasion looking for stuff. How did I miss this? I've even read the Elizabeth Gaskell book it's based on. Such a moving weave of stories that shows the strength of women with humor and clarity.

Cranford and Cousin Phillis by bookphe
In the end I finally found it on Netflix. Now I've had to send both discs back and am going to have to buy them for myself. I want to see it again and share it with my daughters and friends.

There is an all-star cast headed up by Dame Judi Dench. She is amazing in it! As well as Dame Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Dillon, Michael Gambon, Greg Wise, Julia Sawalha, Simon Woods, Joe McFadden, Philip Glenister, Kimberly Nixon. 

Actually the list goes on and on. Everyone does such an amazing job. One of the ones I was most impressed with, though, was one of the youngest in the cast, Alex Etel (of Millions and The Water Horse fame). Such an inspired and heartfelt performance from one so young! 

It is done in 5-1 hour episodes. There are changes from the original book. The writers actually wove 3 of Gaskell's novels together to provide enough material for the mini-series length. Cranford is a fairly short novel. They do it so well that, even though I've read the book, I'd have to go back and reread to see for sure what they added.

Kudos BBC! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--In the stars

Up for today:  STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli


Why I bought it? I was looking through the YA section of the BN and it was facing out and the cover caught my eye. I already knew about Jerry Spinelli and the back of the book hook was interesting, so... sold.

Synopsis:  Stargirl has been homeschooled her whole life and decides that she wants to go to school with the other kids. She's unique and fresh and makes quite an impression on them. Leo falls for her, but he has a hard time accepting her as she is. When the kids at school turn on her Leo convinces her to try to be normal. Will that be the end of Stargirl? How will she be able to thrive in conformity?  

What I thought? This read is profound and moving and an utter must for pre-teens and teenagers. I loved it. Stargirl is such a compelling character. I found myself completely under her power. You will love her and wish you could be her (at least be as strong as she is). She is a personality that you will think about long after you have finished reading. (I actually read this a good while ago and still think about it. With last week's vacation that didn't allow much reading time and beta reading for friends, I haven't gotten a new book done for this week, so I pulled it out to review today.) Along with Stargirl's ups and downs, Leo's struggle is engrossing and understandable--so human. If you haven't read it yet, read it. It's not that long. 186 pages that fly by.

My Rating:  ***** (It gets even better on re-reading.)

My Daughter's Rating:  *****+ (She actually gave it 10 stars, but as you all know she will not follow the conventions of the 5 star system.  At least you know that she REALLY liked it. For those who don't know, she's 14.)

Cleanness Score:  2 out of 10  There is really nothing much there. Spinelli is pretty good about that sort of thing. It only gets a 2 because of the psychological intrigue.

It appears that a movie is in the works. Several websites say that Nickelodeon has the rights. With any good book being made into a movie, I worry that they will ruin the story--but especially so here. It's such a charming story. I hope they don't mangle it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dropping crumbs

With my crumb dropping last week, I have been thinking about the clues we leave in our novels to help our readers figure out the story along the way. 

At the beginning of a novel, clues of misdirection abound. With this image, it would seem completely believable that I was in Africa on vacation as one follower suggested. (Okay, he was being facetious, but still)

Hints and reflections are all that is needed at the beginning.

We don't want to give too much away too quickly. Where would be the fun in that?

Blurs and half images also work.



Ah, Epcot!


Yep! Disney!

Africa? Nope! Disney World! Little by little laying out the facts and details of the story so that at the end it is completely obvious what is happening--where the story is going and what has happened. At the end there is no more need for ruse or deception. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unraveling the Mystery

You guys are pretty good. Some of you have it. For those who are still wondering, here are some obvious clues.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Not!

Since I've only finished 2 chapters of my book for this week, I'm going to give a few more picture clues--a little more obvious this time.

Good Luck! Just know that we're having lots of fun!