Monday, February 28, 2011

Favorite Phrases/Sentences

So Ann Dee did a post on writing down and keeping favorite phrases that we run across in books.

Here's one I've held on to since I was little:

"The meat settled, quivering." - Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder

I'll add more over time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review - Rick Yancey

Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey

In this sequel to The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey continues the story of Will Henry, assistant to Pellinore Warthrop, the scientist who studies monsters. This is a wonderful, horrible book, like the first one. Every time I opened the book to read a new chapter (just as with the last one) I couldn't help but think about the person who gave me some feedback last year, telling me that older kids wouldn't want to read about a twelve year-old protagonist, that books with a middle-grade protagonist (aged 8-12) shouldn't be dark because no one wants to read that.

But wow, Rick Yancey won a Printz for The Monstrumologist.

The Wendigo is mythological creature of consumption, like a vampire, but the more it consumes the more it starves. And the only thing it wants is human flesh... well, certain parts of human flesh. I love that Rick Yancey explores obscure monster tales, avoiding thus far the ones we know so well. Set in the 1800's, The Curse of the Wendigo is just as dark, articulate, ambitious and creepy as the first book. H.P. Lovecraft for the YA crowd... or just the crowd that enjoys this sort of thing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Myself and other members of The Collective are reading I Am Legend. We will have a book discussion and watch the movie version with Will Smith. We decided we will have apocalyptic snacks. I don't know what that means yet.

I've decided that Richard Matheson is brilliant. I Am Legend is a very accessible, creepy and fascinating read. The germ in the story turns people into vampires, not zombies. Since it was originally published in 1954, it's interesting to think that Matheson directly inspired a whole slew of apocalyptic vampire films. I loved it. And I love the movie version, even though it's very different. One of the great things about it: since it was written in the fifties, it has the feel of the old school sci-fi that I love, but it functions very well as a horror story as well.

The newly published movie tie-in comes with ten extra short stories by Matheson, including Prey, a story that was used in 1975 in a TV movie called Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black. So I saw this movie as a kid and I still think about about it a couple of times a month. It was traumatizing, like Jaws. I started reading Prey and had this sudden vague flashback of fear. "This is that movie!" I thought. And as I read more about Matheson and his work, I realized that he has had a huge influence on my taste in sci-fi and horror. Thanks, Richard!

I Am Legend: warning on some language and some disturbing imagery, but highly recommended.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review - Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Okay, so I wasn't expecting this book to be amazing. I loved the first book, Stargirl, but the sequel is presented in a different format, from Stargirl's point of view this time, written in letter form.

It takes place one year after the first book. Stargirl has moved away from Mica and is back in home school. She meditates, explores, makes new friends and thinks A LOT about Leo and how she still feels about him. I suppose it's a combination of the romantic in me and the reminder of how unconventional I was at that age, but I cried at the end of the book. Stargirl learns lesson at once simple and profound, and it's a good one.

I highly recommend the Stargirl books. As charming and multi-faceted as their non-conformist heroine, their message is ultimately one of love and being true to yourself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Club Girls

So some girls from my church invited me to join their book club. I gave a presentation in a meeting on how to live a more intellectually stimulating life and when they saw that I had Jane Eyre as my number one recommended book they said, "Hey, we're reading that this month! You should come to the meeting."

So I said, "Okay. That sounds cool, maybe I'll drop by."

All through the next two weeks I vacillated. Will I go? Won't I? Yesterday was kind of a bummer of a day, so I didn't really feel like stepping out of my comfort zone to meet with seven women I didn't know. In illustration class I asked my friend, "Should I go?" She said, "Well, you said you would, so that kind of obligates you." Darn you for your logic and integrity, Denise!

So I did. It was last night at 8:30. I don't know what I was worried about. Maybe the culture shock that I experienced when I first moved here. Maybe I thought there would be residual effects. Maybe I would start talking and wouldn't be able to stop? Maybe I wouldn't say a word? Maybe I wouldn't remember anything about Jane Eyre?

In the end, it was fine. All the women there were there because they love books. We talked about themes, characterization, recurring motifs. We had dessert. We shared book recommendations. There was nothing to worry about, especially considering that bibliophiles of varying levels will always be able to find something to talk about.

They're previewing an unpublished manuscript this next month. I opted out of that. I do enough editing in my life without taking on 400 more pages of a manuscript I'm not invested in. I take editing too seriously to do a cursory job, and something like that would seriously compromise my current projects.

But the book club was good. I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review - The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paolo Cuelho

Okay, show of hands: who all has read this book? I do not doubt the moving power and universal accessibility of The Alchemist, I am just curious as to Paolo Cuelho's readership within my circle of friends. I have had The Alchemist recommended to me over the years countless times, (seriously, I can't count them) but when my husband said I should read it, I thought, "Yep, it's time."

So this is a lovely book: lovely in its simplicity, lovely in its message. There's not much art involved, but I was okay with that this time. It is a philosophical allegory in fable form. It tells the story of a young shepherd who follows the advice of a old sage, sells his flock and embarks on a physical and spiritual journey to "find his treasure". The boy discovers many things, about himself and the universe along the way, the most valuable of which is: pursue your Personal Legend and the universe will conspire to help you.

I recommend The Alchemist. It helped me to remember some important things about myself and my journey.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Orange-tipped yellow roses

(my favorite)

nodding in their fluted vase

scent of something

like love,

but prettier --

a promise?

knowing I'm your one and only?

that thing you say:

anything for you!

and knowing you mean it?

Whatever it is,

it sure smells good...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review - A Break With Charity

A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi

A work of historically-based fiction, Rinaldi's book gives an account of the Salem Witch Trials through the eyes of Susannah English. Susannah at first longed to be a part of an exclusive social circle, but when the girls who reject her company begin to act out for attention, she realizes that something dangerous is happening in the town of Salem. Soon innocent people are being accused of witchcraft, and as tension rises in the town, Susannah must decide whether or not to share what she knows.

Ann Rinaldi crafts a fascinating look at a dark time in American history. Her prose retains the authenticity of Puritan sensibilities while remaining accessible to a modern audience. The events that form the bulk of A Break With Charity have been well researched. Kudos to Rinaldi for writing such an interesting piece of historical fiction. Recommended.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book Review: When You Reach me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 winner of the Newbery Medal, When You Reach Me is a mystery/sci-fi tale featuring Miranda, a twelve year-old living in 1979 New York. She is the only child of a single mom and a latchkey kid to boot. As she navigates the complexities of the sixth grade, she loses friends, makes new ones and receives anonymous notes asking her to document a future event.

I don't want to give anything at all away, because a huge part of the joy is unfolding the mystery for yourself. When You Reach Me is intriguing. I spent an afternoon reading it instead of doing my homework, but my few hours spent curled on the couch did not go unrewarded. Stead crafts a believable, imaginative tale, complete with amazing details that bring the New York of her childhood to life.

This book contains no questionable material. Highly recommended!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review - Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo

Get ready for an unconventional retelling of the Cinderella tale!

In Malinda Lo's debut novel, Ash is still grieving over the death of her mother when her father, newly remarried, takes to his sick bed and suddenly dies. In order to pay off her father's debts (there is some question in my mind about whether there were really debts), Ash's cruel stepmother presses her into service as the housekeeper in order save money on hired help. Ash, stricken with loneliness and grief, becomes more and more enamored with the fairy world of the Wood outside her back door. In order to escape her suffering, Ash walks along the edge of reality, courting powers beyond her understanding.

As a retelling of Cinderella, we are given the familiar mean stepmother and uncaring stepsisters, but Lo takes several detours to give us a fresh take on an old standby. The heroine has, not one, but two loves interests, and neither of them is Prince Charming. Sinister fairy magic also abounds, along with the enigmatic and fascinating introduction of the King's Huntress. While the unconventional love story and overtones in Ash might be a little troubling for conservative traditionalists, overall it is a story of healing and hope. Beautiful prose and lush descriptions make for a delicious read. Recommended.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review - True Grit

True Grit by Charles Portis

When her father is robbed and murdered in cold-blood, 14 year-old Mattie Ross decides to go after the killer. She hires a U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, who she heard has grit, to assist her in her quest.

Mattie is unflinching in her determination to bring the coward Tom Chaney to justice and throughout Portis' narrative, Mattie's voice comes through in a clear and delightful way. As she travels with Cogburn and the Texas Ranger LaBeouf through the wilds of Indian territory in pursuit of the Lucky Ned Pepper gang, she quotes scripture, offers political insight and matter-of-fact observations with hilarious reserve.

True Grit is a wonderful book, YA literature set in the late 1800's and very, very funny. Warning on violence. Highly recommended.