Friday, October 21, 2011

I Wish I Could Write the Book I Want To Read

Life is fantastically full right now:
I love teaching English again.
My library gig is fully satisfactory, and is the site of my biggest professional successes.
I just became a published author.
(see the What is Steampunk teaser----that's all me!)
I continue to read my brains out, wallowing in books of all shapes and sizes.  I am zombie-esque in my devouring of pages.
My beautiful children continue to take small yet productive flights from the nest, with me ever watchful.
My intelligent and dynamic mother succumbs more and more every day to the most demeaning disease I have yet to encounter:  dementia.
My church feeds the community as we quest for a new spiritual leader.

newscenter.sdsu.edu
Full plate.                                                                    

But I am still hungry.

Sometimes, I can feel the words flow from my fingertips, wanting so much to be tangible.  I really want to write.  I have no idea what I want to write about.  And even worse, when am I going to do that?  I could get up at 4am every day.  I could stay up until midnight.  Neither seems to fit into my life right now, and I am often left thinking that maybe now isn't the time.  But if it isn't, then why can't I stop thinking about it?

Went to Ohio Educational Library Media Association conference two weeks ago.  I sat through two sessions given by Sarah Darer Littman. She spoke about her newest book, Want to Go Private, which I promptly read and finished in less than 48 hours.  I also had the honor of hearing Steven Kellogg and Alex Flinn speak about writing.  None of these authors make the process sound easy, nor would I have wanted them to.  Several weeks ago, Michelle Houts visited our school.  She was a delight and an inspiration - her life seems all too  familiar to mine.  She wrote a wonderful book called The Beef Princess of Practical County. It was a perfect district read for our little rural school.  All of these authors, along with Kristina McBride, my FB friend, inspire me.  But I feel stuck.

The book I am going to write will be about an adolescent female.   There will be romance involved, but not a simple one.   There will be some elements of fantasy, perhaps some Steampunk, too.  I will want to be in the world of my creation more so than in my world.  It will be nostalgic, but not weepy, and it will make readers think.  Critics will ponder over the choices the heroine makes, while young readers will say, "Of course that is what she decided!  How could she not?"  I do not know who She is.  I am not sure what she will do, but I know that she star in this book, the kind of book I want to read. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Creepy Creeperson

The third galley I snagged on Net Galley the first time around was the one I was looking least forward to reading and, of course, ended up being the best of the bunch.  I loved Variant by Robison Wells.  What I thought would be the same ol', same ol' was truly a treat:

Benson Fisher thinks he has found the solution to his problem in Maxfield Academy.  A loner shuffled from foster home to foster home,  Benson finds Maxfield's promise of a prep school for social outcasts to be a perfect setting for his needs.  When Benson arrives, however, he discovers that advertising is not always truthful.  Instead of a prep school, Benson finds himself in a life-size maze complete with human rats.  The school is populated by teens only - there are no adults except for the daily broadcasting of a bodiless male who informs the 74 "students" of what the day's schedule will be.  Society, one of the three gangs at the school, runs the show:  turning in deviants who fail to follow the strict rules, teaching classes, and administering medical care.  Havoc, another gang, runs the physical side of the school and enforces who may leave the building and who may not.  Clad in heavy chains and self-made tattoos, Havoc's rough demeanor intimidates and subdues the inhabitants of Maxfield.  Benson finds himself a member of the Variants, a gang populated by those who still believe there is a way out of Maxfield.  Benson's determination to find out the secret behind the television screen is the catalyst that shakes up the experiment that is the school and reveals more deception than anyone had previously believed existed in the stately realm of the institution.

Although the beginning of the book is somewhat slow and familiar, Wells soon shifts the action into high gear by dropping bombshells of revelations in the middle of the plot.  Reader's reactions will race from "No way - can't be!" to "Don't leave me hanging!"  But leave us hanging is indeed what this first in a series does.  Wells creeps through the grounds of a creepy, plastic setting, knocking over facades and throwing bombs that destroy assumed plots, creating a suspenseful and engaging book that readers will have a hard time putting down.  I groaned inwardly when I read the last line and realized I would not know the secret of Maxfield Academy and I eagerly await an inevitable sequel.  Wells book is a winner and is sure to draw in young adult readers of fantasy and suspense.



The downside is that I read an ARC which means I will have to wait even longer than most for that second book to come out.  Of course, there is always Net Galley.  I'm gonna keep my fingers crossed that the ARC is up for grabs there!

Happy Reading Friends!!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ho-Hum

Liesl & Po 
by Lauren Oliver

Can I just say that I loved Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver?  That was a freaking awesome book, so I was stoked to see this title up for grabs on Net Galley.  This is my review for Liesl and Po, the one that I sent to Harper Collins.  And this is a reminder to publishing companies:  Just because an author is darn good at writing a certain genre, doesn't mean she will be good at another.  But in the publishing world, it isn't always about being good.  It's about the money...which I am sure L&P will make.  It has a great cover and a great author.  For what it's worth...
Liesl lives in her attic, tucked away and silent.  Her father has died and she has been sent there by her stepmother to live.  She is alone except for some very strange visitors.  Po is a ghost who finds himself drawn to Liesl.  Po brings with him Bundle, who is neither a cat nor a dog, but something in between.  This is the case for all souls who find themselves on the Other Side.  Things are blurrier there, which explains why Po is neither boy nor girl.  Po just is.  When Liesl asks Po to carry a message to her father to the Other Side, Po agrees as long as she will draw it a picture of a train.  With this bargain, the lonely girl and the ghost become partners.  In the midst of this deal, another lonely child, Will, is about to make a mistake that will not only put him in danger, but also bring Liesl jeopardy as well.   As the children flee from angry adults, they must rely on Po, invisible to the world, to help them reach their destination and a chance for happiness.  Oliver wrote this book while grieving for her best friend.  Knowing this while reading will reveal quite a bit of the motivation for writing this juvenile fantasy, a change from Oliver's usual young adult offerings.  It may have been cathartic  for her to write this, but the characters and storyline seem all too familiar.  Liesl and Will are like too many other children found in fantasy quests, and they lack any development or depth.  Adult characters suffer from the same predicament and I found myself thinking of characters from a Kate DiCamillo novel or Jon Berkeley's Wednesday Tales.  Oliver's story follows the juvenile fantasy formula too closely and never strays into orignal territory.  Instead, I found myself re-reading a story that appears in far too many juvenile books.  There were some endearing elements in the book to be sure, and young readers may enjoy the escapades of clown-like adults and cheer for orphaned underdogs.  In the end, however, those few moments of merit will not be enough to make this a classic read.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Zombie Boyfriend





It was a long summer, relaxing and restful.  I read quite a few books during June, July and August.  One of my favorites was The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I hadn't planned on reading Baroness Orczy's classic, but found a copy with an awesome cover in Target's dollar aisle.  I couln't put that book down and read it in a day.  I loved the romantic tension and the Pimpernel's cleverness.  I promptly found the rest of the books in the series (who knew it was a series!) and downloaded them onto iBooks.  They, of course, await my attention.  I can picture me now during those snow days....

There were quite a few books I did not get through.  I still have Oppel's Airborn series waiting for me patiently, along with 2011's Newbery and Printz winners, Moon Over Manifest and The Shipbreaker.  Never fear, I hear they have all the time in the world. 

I did read George R.R. Martin's most recent addition to the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance With Dragons.  I was disappointed in that I felt as if the book went nowhere.  I finished knowing very little more than I knew when I started it, except for the fact that one key, most important, reason for the series character may be dead...sigh

I also read Larson's follow-up to The Devil In the White City, In the Garden of Beasts.  This was the story of Ambassador Dodd and his family, who lived in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power.  Terrifying, but not as compelling as Devil.

And I read The Help.  This was one of those books that I kept putting off.  "It can't be that good," I surmised.  How wrong  I was!  I loved this book and when it was done I almost cried.  I want those characters to be part of my life as they were while I was reading it.  It may be on my All-time Favorites shelf. 

I also decided I don't have enough books to review so I joined Net Galley, and requested three ARC downloads:  Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey, Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver and Variant by Robison Wells.  I also have four to read from Library Media Connection...

At any rate, here is the review for Cold Kiss:

From the moment readers begin reading Cold Kiss, they will realize this is not a typical young adult paranormal romance.  The nest Wren has built in the loft of her neighbor's garage may seem cozy, but the boy she has built it for is anything but snuggly.  He is, in fact, a zombie.  Erase from your mind now the image of staggering, brain-hungry mutants so prevalent in today's popular culture.  Garvey's zombie resembles none of those undead.  Rather, he is a product of some heavy-duty witchcraft.  In the hands of a teenager, power can be dangerous.  Wren learns this the hard way when, after a ceremony in the cemetery, she finds herself responsible for her dead boyfriend, Danny.  Her first love looks the same that he always did.  The only difference is that he has no heartbeat and very little memory of what happened.  Lack of blood flow doesn't keep him from remembering Wren, however.  He clings to her as he slowly begins to remember who is he and why he is as he is now.  As he becomes stronger and sometimes violent, Wren realizes she must turn to someone for help, but who will she confide in?  Her mother has made the magic that all women in their family possess a taboo topic, pretending that it does not exist.  Wren's best friends Jess and Darcia are confused and wary of her unpredicable behavior since Danny was killed in a car accident.  Only Gabriel, a mysterious new boy at school, seems able to handle Wren's secret.  The question is, will he be able to help her bring not ony her power under control, but also her undead boyfriend? Garvey's story is engaging and will draw readers in as Wren's horror at her actions becomes apparent.  Along with this, Garvey adequately creates supsense.  Will Danny remember what happened?  When he does remember, will he turn on the one who has brought him back?  Duelling love stories also lend to the appeal of the story.  Wren's first love is strong, as is first love for many teens, and her emotional reaction to Danny's death will be approved by adolescent readers.  Older readers may question the lack of logic in Wren's response, however.  While her love for Danny is strong, does it merit the improbable and fantastical response of raising him from the dead?  Does Wren fall too easily into a relationship with Gabriel when she is still reeling from the results of the midnight ceremony?  Teens will certainly accept these plot components far more easily that most adults.  Garvey's ending will leave both teen and adult readers with unanswered questions.  The lack of resolution may indicate a sequel, which hopefully will lean to the side of caution.  Wren and Gabriel make a likeable and believable couple; possible plots for future books about characters who have dealt with one zombie boyfriend could venture into the ridiculous.



I am teaching part-time this year along with being the district librarian.  It is a challenge; I just spent 4 hours planning lessons for English 11 and elementary library.  Never fear, I won't let this get in the way of reading.  Winter, spring, summer or fall, there is always time for me to slip away with a book.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

Strangely, these are the words that come to mind this morning as I make my second debut into the blogging world.  It could be because the kids and I watched Paranormal Activity 2 last night and it totally freaked me out.  (We finally joined Netflix BTW).  Every time I woke up last night, I would think about that dang movie.  It could also be because  of the "every time I woke up" section. My sleeping is off.  I can't seem to get a full night's sleep.  I wake up a lot and then by the crack of dawn, I am wide awake.  This morning, I managed to stay in bed until almost 7, which is the latest I have been able to sleep in two weeks.  Hopefully, summer will cure what ails me (which is most likely WORK stress).

And perhaps we can look at  darkness symbolically as well.  Some of you may remember that I had a blog once before,(I had a farm in Africa) and that none of those posts exist any longer.  They were good, too.  Suffice it to say that I got caught up in some politics at my place of employment this year and was more or less censored.  So the darkness could be the blank Muse of Reading that has existed for about 9 months now.  It was my goal this summer to resurrect the blog, and this is the extinguishing of the darkness of voicelessness.  How's that for symbolism?  I'm not even getting paid for it either!

I have another goal too - write that book!  I have all my tools in place and now, I just have to get over this block (for lack of a different term) that keeps me from opening the damn thing up and typing...It's going to be good...

Let's talk about the big bag o' books I brought home from my library yesterday for the summer.  That's a goal too - read my brains out.  Right now, I am reading Dreams in a Time of War by Nguigi Wa Thhiong'o.  This is a SOYAMRG book and has the subtitle of  A Childhood Memoir.  This always makes publishers want to offer this book up to teens in the hope that they will snatch this book up and read it.  While the book is a good one so far, it is not going to catch the eye of the typical teen.  This is a book for adults, one of adult reminiscence on how childhood experiences shaped adulthood. 


I do hope, however, that Stockett's The Help appeals to teens.  It is in my bag o' books for summer reading and it is in the hands of Junior students for summer reading too.  I will be teaching again next year (and being the librarian too...don't ask) and this is one of two books the kids could have read over the summer.  The second is Larsen's Devil in the White City, and absolutely fantastic book.  His newest book, In the Garden of Beasts:  Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin is not in my bag o' books, but it is in my summer reading pile.  Can't wait for that one!

Included in my bag o' books:

Steamunk, Baby!:  Airborn, Skybreaker and Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel; Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (sequel to Leviathan) and the Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede.  I am also including the Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith but it may actually go in the Chills -n- Thrills category below.  Love steampunk - it should wind the award for Best New Genre, though it is certainly not new.  It is just that YA books have jumped aboard this airship and are holding on for dear life.  Check out Steampunk Scholar - one of my favorite blogs about this genre.  And look in October in Library Media Connection for my article on YA steampunk!

Award Winners:  Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Newbery), Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Printz Award) and Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Printz Honor Book).  I could also include The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell in this category as it is an Alex Award winner, but it is certainly a Chills -n- Thrills too, since it has zombies! and all that!

Chills -n- Thrills:  The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me:  Forty New Fairy Tales by really yummy authors like Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates and Francine Prose, Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey which is vampires, but has been reviewed as a fresh take on vampire romance.

One Classic:  You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe because I try to read at least one every summer. 

Miscellaneous:  (how lame is this category?)  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver because my new friend Kristina McBride really liked it.

You know what?  I have more books stacked up in that bedroom to read too...but they didn't come home with me in my bag o' books.  My other goal this summer was to start yoga, and really this morning, that should commence.  But it is going to be a hot one today, and there's some dirt I need to play in before the heat is stifling. 

I hope you like my comeback.  It feels good to write again after being squelched.  I gotta say, that overall, my goal this summer is to do what I want as much as I can.  Thanks for letting me start.