Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm going to need to take a blog break this week. See you next Monday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Being on a Panel

Wednesday's answer and winners: I was at the WNBA (not basketball but books) Panel on YA Literature in Charlotte, NC. I was actually on the panel and my illustrious co-panelists were (drumroll please) Tracey Adams (agent extraordinaire--she and her husband run Adams Literary), Beth Revis (up and coming author of Across the Universe), and Carrie Ryan (established author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places). The moderator was Snow Wildsmith.

As you can see, I was low man on the totem pole, and people didn't come to hear my depths of wisdom about YA lit. Even still, I hope I added a few good things and some comic relief. It was a lot of fun. Samantha VĂ©rant was the first to list 3 people in the picture and Patti was the first to guess where. Honorable Mention to Alexa who gave every detail about where I was. Y'all are on the ball. Go check out their blogs if you haven't. There's great stuff there. N.B. Tracey Adams is Kimberly Marcus' agent and that's where I heard about the book I reviewed on Monday.

Alexa actually asked for a recap of the event and so, since I know you time is limited, rather than do a photolife post today, I'm linking you to Carol Baldwin's post about it. Wow. Lots of links. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where in the world is Lotus Girl?

The "where" may be hard unless you were there or heard about it, but you can also win by giving me the names of 3 of the people in the group shot.

Hint: There was book signing going on at the end.

If you missed Monday's book review, you really should go back and check it out. You don't want to miss this book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--Terse and Gripping

Up for today: Exposed by Kimberly Marcus


Why I bought it? I didn't actually buy this one. It's not out until tomorrow. Disclosure: Kimberly Marcus' agent gave it to me when we were on a panel together last week and asked me to review it.

Synopsis/Set-up:  Photogirl, Liz, captures life and people in exposed moments on film. She is a senior in high school and wants to study photography in college. (Those of you who have been following this blog for a while or know me at all will understand how that was enough to pique my interest.) In the aftermath of a fight she and her "forever-best" friend, Kate, have at their monthly sleepover, their friendship seems to be unraveling. As secrets are exposed about the source of the friction, Liz is left questioning herself and all those closest to her.

What I thought? I LOVED this book, and it's not just because of the photography references (although I enjoyed those immensely). At the beginning I liked the clever ways the author put things and the spot on teen voice. As I got deeper into the story, it was as if my heart were being gripped in a fist that kept getting tighter and tighter. I'm sure my lips were thin and pale. The story is terse and gripping. It has been distilled down to its raw essence and is so compelling in its honesty that I think people will be talking about it for a long time. I found it incredibly thought provoking and enjoyed the different perspective on its hot button topic. I don't want my review to be a spoiler, so I'll stop there. Disclosure #2: I love books in verse (if they are done well), and this is in verse. Don't let that stop you from reading it, if you think you don't like that form. This is a well told story and the verse flows extremely well--like tightly honed prose with a little something extra. I'm rereading it right now, and I rarely reread anything any more. With all the great books out there, who's got time to reread? And yet! Here I am rereading. I'll grant you it is a quick read (even if you find yourself rereading certain pages over and over) but still...

My Rating:  ***** out of 5. If you couldn't already guess, I'm breaking out all 5 stars for this one. Rare for me these days, but that's how much I liked it. In fact this is one of the 3 books (that's our limit) I will take to recommend for my book club when we make our selections in June for next year's reads.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10. This is mostly for the themes, but nothing is shown explicitly. There are very few incidents of language and nothing super strong. This is something I think teens would do well to read, but if you are a very conservative parent, you may want to read it first. It won't take you long. I wouldn't have any problem with my teens (16 and 14) reading it, but I wouldn't give it to my 10 year old yet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's photolife--Aspects of an icon

Wednesday's Answer and winner: Hannah Beth was the first to get The Washington Monument. Congrats.

On to the Photolife:

When I'm taking pictures of iconic subjects like The Washington Monument, I like to capture as many different elements of them as I can.

With this view, everyone probably would have known exactly what the subject was.

This one would have been pretty obvious too.

It's good to get distance shots with other elements like the trees here.

Or up close, showing the variations in color in the surface and things like the security wires or even chips in the stone.

Here's a part that many of you may have never seen before. You have to go inside for it.

Another more obscure aspect. This is of the floor mosaic inside. I love that the stars are brass. These kinds of details are fascinating to me.

Getting up close and personal we can see what an icon is made of. Its mortar and imperfections.

Application to writing? This concept goes so well with characterization. It's important to include as many different aspects of our characters as we can to add dimension and authenticity to them. Show how most people see them. Their strengths and weaknesses. What they're like on the inside and out. What they're made of. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What in the world?

Hint: This could be a "Where in the world?" too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A few of my favorite love stories

Happy Valentine's Day! In celebration I thought I'd list some of my favorite books and movies with romance rather than my regular book review. I'm sure I'll leave out some great ones, but these are what come to mind today. If you enjoy a heart flutter or two, you might want to check them out.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Stargirl and Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, it's still an engrossing love story.)
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Old Magic by Marianne Curley

Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, but most any version will do)
North and South (Pitter pat)
Bride and Prejudice (The best spin on P and P ever! If you like musicals.)
Dear Frankie
Becoming Jane
Young Victoria
Return to me
Notting Hill
Sleepless in Seattle
The Prince and Me--not the sequels

Tell me some of your favorites in the comments.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday's photolife--UP close and wacky

Wednesday's answer and winner: It was indeed a pinewood derby. I thought the track was pretty slick. My son went to the regional and this was the track they had there. Congrats to Nisa for being the first in with the answer.

On to the Photolife:

Think about the way you take pictures of kids. Do you shoot them straight on with a smile? Are you shooting down at them with them looking up? It's a standard take for adults. I like to get some pictures like that, because it's the most common way I see them. 
BUT. It's also nice to get down on their level.
OR, if you want something with more impact get below them and shoot UP. Let them get crazy. Don't forget to get close and fill the frame with their wackiness.

Application to writing? It can be good to include different perspectives of your characters--different aspects of who they are and how others perceive them. I like to include some of the funny things they do. It can infuse your writing with humor, and every book needs a little humor--even the most serious or maybe especially those.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What in the world?

Hint: I was there for my son.

Be as specific as you can.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--Steampunkin'

Up for today: Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: Book CoverBehemoth by Scott Westerfeld: Book Cover

Why I bought them? I had heard great things online about Leviathan, but I thought I wouldn't like Steampunk so I didn't buy it at first. I picked it up in the bookstore several times loving the cover and quality of the book. Debated it, thought about if one of my kids would like it, and put it back. Natalie Whipple raved about how good it was, so I finally decided to give it a chance. I got it up the next time I was at the Barnes and Noble. I bought Behemoth at the BN as soon as it came out.

Synopses/Set ups: Leviathan starts at the same point as WWI when Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife are assassinated. One of the main characters is their son Alek who is fleeing for his life. The other main character is Deryn, a girl masquerading as a boy to be in England's air force. The twist is that Alek is fleeing Austria in a Clanker machine (a sort of walking tank) and Deryn's ship is an enormous dirigible whale. The fun begins when their worlds (Clanker and Darwinist) collide. Here's a fun trailer that explains the difference in Clanker and Darwinist. 1:14. So not long. I love the ending line. Behemoth follows their continuing adventures. (I don't want to spoil anything.)

What I thought? Leviathan completely swept me away. The characters feel real and grounded even though the elements of the story are fantastical. The history is actually pretty accurate although there are many departures. Some of the criticisms that I heard about the book said that the characters come across a little young for their ages and the artwork (which is amazing and part of why I had to get the print books) seems to depict them that way as well, but that sort of thing didn't really bother me. The beginning is a little slow, but don't let that stop you. Once Alek and Deryn's stories merge things really take off. I loved it. Behemoth is equally well done.

My Rating: ***** out of 5 (for both), Rare 5 star books for me. These were two of my top favorites I read last year.

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, There is a little light language and some fairly mild violence and a lot of peril. All in all, it's fairly innocuous. I'm even considering letting my 10 year old read it. It's recommended for 7th grade and above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday's photolife--document it all

Wednesday's answer and winner: Ellis Island. (And yes I did go by it--I took that picture--but it wasn't open for tours at the time so we didn't get to go in.) Congrats to Domey Malasarn from The Literary Lab for being the first to get it right. I thought this one would be trickier. I guess my hint was a little too helpful.

On to the Photolife:

I'm a big proponent of documenting everything when taking pictures. It's kind of like when you're documenting your life including the prices of a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread the year you were born or telling stories about your dog's penchant for climbing trees (my mother had a dog that did that) or your favorite shoes in the summer. I love those sorts of details. Here's a picture that my niece took at a family get together.

I love all the details: the darkness of the foot imprints (they've obviously been well worn), the size differences (a nephew's and a niece's), that both shoes are Rainbows (an incredibly comfortable flip-flop that one niece swears by--in SC they know their flip-flops), etc.

Application to writing? It's important to give details of things that may seem trivial. It adds authenticity. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011