Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A fairy tale twisted

Up for today: Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argylle (review requested by Mary Kay)

Literary Fantasy (Adult)

Why I bought it? Michelle is a friend, and I love her writing. I have a signed copy. (Disclosure: I did some beta reading for her on this project.)

Synopsis/set up: This books begins with Cinderella in the palace, married to her prince. Royal life is not all its cracked up to be, and Cinderella wonders if magic can result in true love. Doubts creep in and lead her in unexpected directions. Not necessarily happy directions.

What I thought? The writing is incredibly well done, and, when you think that she didn't have all the infrastructure of traditional publishing, it just goes to show what a great writer Michelle is. (It helped her get a publisher for another book and then more, so obviously it's well written.) She does vivid like nobody's business. It's one of my favorite things about her writing. It's cinematic. The story line is unique--at times cool and clever, at times infuriating. It elicited strong reactions from me often visceral. I wanted to shake Cinderella or sit down with her and give her a good talking to or a shoulder to cry on. The twists and turns keep the reader engaged and guessing. I was surprised by the the ending but prepared for it all the same. The secondary characters are well drawn and realistic--no two-dimensional, paper-thin people here. In some ways, I think of this as a fairy tale that hit reality.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10, This is written for adults and has a some pretty tame marital love scenes and there's some war type violence. This is a dark tale and has a healthy body count. I think it's fine for older teens. I wouldn't have a problem with my 16 year old reading it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Photolife--editing

Wednesday's Winner: This was my first time using Random.org. It was so nice. I assigned everyone numbers according to how many points they earned, then plugged those numbers into Random and voila! Today's winner is testament to blogging, tweeting, and facebooking to get extra points and so more chances to win. Congrats to Samantha VĂ©rant.  Email me at lacmoss (at) gmail (dot) com with your address, and I'll send the book out to you. It's actually the one that Beth is signing in Wednesday's picture.

On to the Photolife:

I love a good photo shoot. I think I've told you that the k-check of the shutter snapping calms me. I can find peace puttering around the yard, lying on the ground, or cozying up to a tree capturing little moments in time. I'm actually a bit of a purist. I like the shot I take to be the final one I'm going for. BUT. Lots of them aren't. Sometimes, to get what I want, I have to make it happen on the computer.

Here's a shot from one of our recent snow storms. You should have seen the splits I did to get it. Very acrobatic. This is the raw shot. It's really nothing special, but I had the bare bones of something to work with.

Here's a cropped and doctored version. It's natural and you may prefer it, but what I wanted was to highlight the leaf.
So... In this one, I photoshopped it in layers maximizing the color of the leaf and minimizing the color of everything else. Now the viewer's eye goes straight to the leaf. Its impact is much more powerful.

Application to Writing? I think of the photo shoot as a sort of rough drafting. It's wonderful to get things right in that first draft, but not everyone has that particular knack. I have a well known author friend who writes in such a way that his first draft is his final draft (other than minor copy edits). He insists that it keeps the writing fresh. I agree (mostly). It's like getting the framing, angle, and lighting perfect in a shot when you're taking it or being able to do minor edits to get it (like in the 2nd picture). I wish I could do it in my writing, but I'm much better at taking my raw draft and layering and tweaking to craft what I want. Some effects* (like in the last version of the photo) are only available through editing. Not everyone will like it better, but some will. It all depends on what you, as the author, want.

*An example of this in writing would be things like flashbacks or interwoven plot lines.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where in the World is Lotus Girl? (with a seriously awesome prize)

Today's picture should be extremely easy. In fact, I'll be shocked if you don't get it right after last week's posts.

The rules: This contest is for everyone (even internationally) who answers correctly not just the first to get it right. It will be weighted for those who get their answers in early (+5 for the first, +4 for the 2nd, +3 for 3rd, and +2 for the 4th) or tweet or post about it (+5--just send me a link or something for verification). The deadline is this Friday at 6 AM, Eastern Time. Oh, and to win you must be a follower.

The prize is a signed ARC of the NY Times bestselling novel, Across the Universe by the illustrious Beth Revis.

Good Luck!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A bit of black humor

Up for today: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Why I bought it? I actually didn't buy this. I won it in a contest. Yay me! I'm so glad I did. I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise. I thought I wasn't a fan of necromancers and that sort of thing, but the blogger giving it away raved about how great it was, so I entered.

Synopsis/Set up: When goofing around at work gets out of hand and a taillight gets busted on the WRONG car, a new world opens up for Sam (full name: Samhain Corvus LaCroix--it's something, eh? and there's meaning in them there names). A world that may end up killing him. He's been an unmotivated average guy, but he discovers that he is actually a necromancer. Can he discover why his powers have taken so long to surface? Or save himself and his friends from the impending doom?

What I thought? With the title's spin on Elton John's Tiny Dancer* I figured I was in for a fun ride, but I had no idea how entertaining it would be.  It ended up as one of my top 10 favorites of 2010 (a stiff (no pun intended) competition). Sam's voice and personality carry the day: witty and sarcastic but also lovable. He is trying to do the right thing. He is just as shocked at the events unfolding around him (death, mayhem, impending death, undead pandas, a talking head, etc.) as I was, even though others take them in stride. The big strength for me in this book was the humor. It kept me laughing all the way through. I love that it's a great book for guys. There are not near enough of these out there. If you like dark humor, do yourself a favor and read this. I seriously had a hard time putting it down.

*All the chapters, as a matter of fact, are headed with song titles (or variations on them) and very clever. I laughed out loud at some of them and chuckled later about points in the chapter that applied. Most teen readers won't recognize them all though as many of the songs are older ones. (Not even my daughter, who's a classic rock aficionado, recognized them all.)


My Rating: ****1/2

My Daughter's Rating: ****3/4, She said, "I really loved the book. There were parts that could have been written better, but it was still very, very good. The humor was pretty dark most of the time, but it was a good fit for me."

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is for your older teens. There is some language, violence, and a sort of skipped-over sex scene. I did let my 16 year old daughter read it.

It was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award that honors debut YAs. A seriously amazing debut novel.


A recap of how I rate books for anyone new:
* = Complete drivel. Not worth the paper it's printed on.
** = So, so. Has some redeeming qualities but is, essentially, a disappointment.
*** = An enjoyable read but nothing too terribly earth shattering
**** = Very enjoyable. This is where I'd recommend for others to read. I'd consider buying it.
***** = So much fun reading that I can't put it down or so compelling that I can't stop thinking about it. I HAVE to own this book.
*****+ = One of my all time favorite books. I know some people would think this is over the top, but then again sometimes I am that kind of person. I won't give many books this rating though.

Cleanness Score: 
The cleanness score (CS) is 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.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday's Photolife--A launch

Sorry to be posting so late and not the full photolife post today--just a few pictures. My computer has been in the shop since Wed. morning (not long after I posted) and I just got it back a little while ago. Wow. Talk about a tough time for me.

Wednesday's answer and winner: Kudos to those of you who recognized Stephanie Perkins the author of Anna and the French Kiss. I thought the blue streaks would help. She posted last week about Beth Revis' book launch for Across the Universe and told how we finally got to meet in person. We've been blogging buddies for over 2 years. Beth and I met in person for the first time that night too. We've been blogging buddies for about 2 1/2 years. It was all very exciting. So... that's where I was. Congrats to RSJ for being the first to get it right.

Here are a few shots:


The bookstore was really cool. This is the window opposite the star scene from Wednesday's post.
Here's Beth signing my copy of AtU.

Us mugging for the camera (Thanks for taking the picture, Snow.) and Stephanie is right: Beth totally has princess hair. It looked so cool. I told Beth that we look like we could be related. What do you think?

Steph's husband, Jared, took this picture of Steph and me. Check his composition out. He's put our faces in the power spot. Thanks, man!
It was a fun time. Here's Beth enjoying her time in the spotlight. 
I'll be back next week with my regular schedule. Hopefully there will be no more computer glitches. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where in the World is Lotus Girl?

I'm finally back. Yippee! AND it's Wednesday, so here's a tricky Where in the World? for you to get us back in the swing. If you've been paying attention to the world of books you may be able to get it right off. Good luck!

Hints: The picture on the windows is very appropriate and if you recognize the fabulous author in the lower left corner, that could help you. She was there and blogged about it.

Books Read in 2010

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (reread)
3. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
4. Paper Towns by John Green
5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
6. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
7. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
8. Sanctuary by Meg Cabot
9. Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
10. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
11. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti
12. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
13. Two-way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
14. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
15. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
16. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater
17. Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr. and Glen M. Leonard
18. Fire by Kristin Cashore
19. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)
20. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
21. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (reread)
22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reread)
23. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (reread)
24. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
25. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
26. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
27. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
28. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (reread)
29. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
30. Runaway by Meg Cabot
31. Heist Society by Ally Carter
32. These is my words by Nancy Turner
33. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
34. Pendragon Book Ten: The Soldiers of Hallaby DJ McHale
35. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Booksby Azar Nafisi
36. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
37. Wake by Lisa McMann
38. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
39. Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
40. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
41. The short second life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
42. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
43. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
44. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
45. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
46. Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle
47. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
48. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
49. Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
50. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
51. Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
52. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
53. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflectionby Carol Burnett
54. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
55. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
56. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
57. Being of Two Minds by Pamela F. Service
58. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
59. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
60. The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
61. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
62. Pegasus by Robin McKinley