Tuesday, August 30, 2011


So I've noticed lots of books with feet (or shoes) on the cover. This is a trend. I'm sure you've noticed it too. Maybe some of you remember how much I hate photos as the covers of books. There are a few exceptions to this hatred of mine, one of the exceptions being: feet. I don't know why. Well, maybe I do. I like feet. I like pictures of feet. Feet are weirdly fascinating. They're like hands... but not. Here are some of the covers I've run across. (This gallery of covers does not in any way attest to the quality of these books. I've only read two of them and I can only recommend one: The Anatomy of Wings.)

There's so many! And these are only a few...

So what do you think of all the feet? I think I'll make it a goal to have a book at some point with feet on the cover... or maybe I'll put together an anthology of short stories that all have feet in them!

Here are some of my photos of feet, which can be found in my photography gallery on deviantART. So you can see why I like these sorts of book covers...

Moving At the Speed of Life

'Til the End of Never

A Finer Shade of Clarity


Rain 2

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Reviews for August

I really don't have time for this. But if I don't do it right now, it won't get done until September! So here are some truncated reviews from my August reading.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Yes, I reread this. I read it back in April or whenever and after watching some old episodes of The Twilight Zone based on stories by Richard Matheson, I felt I needed to read it again. I didn't read the I Am Legend novella again, just the rest of the short stories. And they were better the second time.

Get this collection. Matheson is a wonder.

Button, Button by Richard Matheson

Matheson is a master in creepiness. I have been so influenced by Matheson. As a writer and a lover of science fiction and fantasy and the surreal for all my life, I have been influenced by Matheson for all my life. Because all writers in these genres have been influenced by Matheson.

There is a story in this book called Patterns of Survival. READ IT.

Burger Wuss by MT Anderson

I don't know why I always look for a happy ending. Maybe because I am just used to writers wanting to tie things up in a nice pretty bow for the reader. MT Anderson has no such desire. Burger Wuss is similar to his other works in that respect. This tale of revenge, the effects of bullying and unrequited love doesn't have a happy ending.

I am always amazed at MT Anderson's writing. It makes me think of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. So many rules broken, but the prose works.

So, no happy ending. It was fun though. I you liked his other books, I recommend Burger Wuss. And here is much lampooning of McDonald's, which we like.

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Aura Ambrose is fifteen. She's an artist. And she's terrified she'll end up like her mother.

A Blue So Dark explores the connection between art and mental illness. I liked the usage of watery themes and mermaids. The whole idea of a child being the caregiver for a dysfunctional adult is frightening. I suppose Aura's fear that art will lead to madness could be genuine in certain people, but I found it hard to believe that Aura wouldn't just do some research and discover that while many people who are creative suffer from mental illness, it does not follow that the creation of art causes such illness.

Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Seventeen-year old Eddie Reeves (female) is struggling with her father's suicide. She doesn't understand why he wanted to die. All she wants is an answer. When she meets Culler Evans, a student of her father's, she thinks he might have the answers.

I like Courtney Summers' writing. The only thing that confused me was whether or not I was supposed to see the reveal coming. Were we supposed to know things that Eddie didn't know? I'm not sure.

I like the idea of Eddie pursuing this at any cost. I just mostly felt sorry for her. I just wanted to tell her, "You know. It's not your fault."

Warning on: language.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Great concept.

Concept: Mackie Doyle is a changeling. Everyone who knows him, knows this. But they love him anyway. Everything in the world above, the town of Gentry, is making Mackie sick. The only way to find a cure, and to find his friend's missing sister, is to go underground.

The descriptions of the underworld were very interesting, and I could see this as a creepy paranormal teen movie. Very Tim Burton-esque imagery. 

Warning on: Language, sexual situations.

The Twilight Zone - The Original Stories

The title says it all. Stories by Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Damon Knight, Charles Beaumont and others.  I LOVED IT.

This is a KILLER collection. I will probably buy it someday.

My fave: It's A Good Life

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Karen Russell. She's like . . . 25.

Her short stories are astounding.

My only gripe: all the voices are the same. The same gripe I have with HP Lovecraft.  But it's such a teeny, tiny, infinitesimal gripe it means absolutely nothing because I'll just read her stories all day long and never complain.

But it's a must read.

The prose is so crunchy and delicious. Christian, you would like the prose.

Read especially: St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Christian recommended this. It's a memoir, sort of I think. It's searing and difficult. But beautiful and transcendent. The artwork was amazing too. Very expressive. I'm extremely impressed with Craig Thompson.

Warning on: nudity and language.

To be alive is to be vulnerable

"When we were young, we used to think when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . To be alive is to be vulnerable." ~ Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

For those of you who don't already know, my friend Renee Bhatti Klug has created a new community of women who share their stories of having overcome. I knew Renee in high school. I never knew her that well (she was much closer to my best friend Karla), but I was able to take a creative writing class with Renee many years ago and was very impressed with her spirit and her work. The community is called Anthem Exposition. She put out a call for submissions on FB and my essay happens to be the first one she published! I feel that Anthem Exposition is going to be a very good thing for a lot of people and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

Click here to read my essay.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Journey Begins Now

Have you read The Arduous Journey of An Average Artist?

It's a blog written by my friend. I won't say her name because sometimes she writes snarky posts about people she knows to get it off her chest and she doesn't want them stalking her for her snarkiness. Even though she changes names. BUT, she calls herself Miss Hobbit because she's short and likes Lord of the Rings. I love her a lot.

So Miss Hobbit is an artist. As evidenced by the title of her blog. But she's also a writer (which she won't really admit, but you can just tell). So we have a lot in common.

Miss Hobbit has been sick. Really sick. For a while.

She had to drop classes (even the ones she was taking with me!) last semester and I haven't seen as much of her ever since and I miss that girl. I miss her weird trench coat. I miss her uber-snarky sarcastic comments. I miss her giggling. Miss Hobbit is a giggler. In fact, she visited when my kids were here. We watched Fern Gully together and after she left they all said, "She is so funny. She giggles a lot." And I said, "Yeah, she's a giggler." Plus all her giggling makes me feel good about myself. I am freakin' funny.

So she's been sick and laid up in bed most of the time. She was over at my house the other night and I asked her about school. She said she might post something just for me on her other blog. When I looked it up today, I decided to visit her art blog, to see if she had been posting -- she stopped posting when she quit school -- and lo and behold, new posts! Including, this one. And I hope you'll go look at it, but even if you don't, I'm going to quote it here, because this is what I need. What a lot of us need. I'm going to put blanks where she talks about art, because what she says can apply to anything:

"I can't describe what I've been waiting for.
A feeling. A flutter. A whisper. A sign.

I've been waiting for this journey to begin itself.

But I've finally decided that I miss ________ - that my life is better
when I'm doing those things. I've been telling myself, "Later. Later. Later later later...

No more.

The Journey Begins Now

My journey in becoming ________, has to begin somewhere. It's not going to start itself next week or next month or in another hour. I have to choose to begin, and the choice cannot be put off. It may have a stunted, sad and sorry beginning, but that's okay. I don't need a great start - I just need to start."

(See what I mean about her being a writer?)

So. The Journey Begins Now.

Who's with me?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Bacchanalia 3

For those of you not familiar, Book Bacchanalia is our name for library discarded book sales, where we can get books for 10¢ to $1.00.

So Geary was out of town for this month's Book Bacchanalia. I had to brave crowds of bibliophiles by myself. Scary. But I can't think of a better way to start the day.

The gleaning: 36 books for $25.10. Here is what I got:

For myself:

A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
Live Writing - Ralph Flet
Total Oblivion, More or Less - Alan Deniro
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Writing The Script - Wells Root
A Sense of Wonder - Katherine Paterson
Soul Moon Soup - Lindsay Lee Johnson
The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry
How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction
Prey - Michael Crichton
Masters of Dragonlance Art
Snow White, Blood Red - Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
The Reader - Bernhard Schlink
Renoir - Nancy Nunhead
Voyage of the Bassett - James Christensen
Anansi and the Talking Melon - Eric A. Kimmel
Sleep, Little One, Sleep - Marion Dane Bauer
Alice the Fairy - David Shannon
Rotten Teeth - Laura Simms
Nova's Ark - David Kirk
Armadillo Tattletale - Helen Ketteman
Orso: The Troll Who Couldn't Scare - Brad Theissen
The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & The Beast Tale - Laurence Yip
Sailor Moo: Cow at Sea - Lisa Wheeler

For others:

White Fang - Jack London
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle
The Ghost Children - Eve Bunting
The Bartimeus Trilogy, Book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud
The Grey King - Susan Cooper
In Your Own Words - Sylvia Cassedy
Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces - Carrie Stuart Parks
Drawing with Lee Ames - Lee J. Ames
How to Take Great Photographs - John Hedgecoe
Magical World of Unicorns - Michael Hague


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Somewhere in the middle of August...

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." ~Ayn Rand

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Reviews for July

Best American Short Stories 2007, edited by Stephen King

As you know, I adore this series. I have seven copies of BASS and I love them all. I love reading through each volume and finding the standout story. At least the standout for me. As someone who continues to try perfecting the art of the short story, every volume of BASS teaches me something valuable.
BASS 2007 was a gift from Alisha Geary. Thanks, Love! As always, you know me so well.
The standout story for me in this volume: St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

I was pleasantly surprised to find a work of fantasy in BASS and even more pleasantly surprised to find this riveting and gorgeous tale. I have come to learn that there is a short story anthology by Russell sharing the story's title. I was so impressed with her work that I am going to look her up at the library and see if I can find that, or her other work, Swamplandia!, which expands on a piece found in the short story collection.

Well-written short stories make me happy!
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

This book, recommended to me by several readers and writers, is a startling look at bullying. I haven't read a Robert Cormier book with a happy ending, so it shouldn't have surprised me that The Chocolate War wasn't any different. But I wanted it to end well. And when it didn't I was sad. I suppose that's the whole point of the story. Bullying never ends well. Lives can be devastated, as they were in this story.

When Jerry Renault refuses to sell the chocolates during his private school's annual sale, he is punished, by both peers and faculty. The results are violent and disturbingly real. The Chocolate War is a searing portrait of human cruelty set in 1974.

While I think it's good to have books like The Chocolate War available to youth and adult readers, it's not a book for everyone. Content warning: sexual situations, language, disturbing imagery.

Beyond The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Publisher's synopsis: "The school year is almost at an end, and the chocolate sale is past history. But no one at Trinity School can forget The Chocolate War.

Devious Archie Costello, commander of the secret school organizationcalled the Virgils, stall has some torturous assignments to hand out before he graduates. In spite of this pleasure, Archie is troubled by his right-hand man, Obie, who has started to move away from the Virgils. Luckily Archie knows his stooges will fix that. But won't Archie be shocked when he discovers the surprise Obie has waiting for him?

And there are surprises waiting for others. The time for revenge has come to those boys who secretly suffered the trials of Trinity. The fuse is set for the final explosion. Who will survive? "

Don't expect a happy ending with this one either. Same content warning as The Chocolate War.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Those of you who know me know I love Anderson's work. Some books are more beloved than others -- at least by me. Speak and Wintergirls and Chains are my top faves. Fever 1793 is young adult historical fiction! There's not much of that on the shelves right now from new authors. I dunno, blame the burgeoning Paranormal Romance section. Don't get me started.

Those of you who know me know I also love a good infection story. Fever 1793 follows Mattie Cook through the Philadelphia yellow fever outbreak. Anderson's story is creepy and harrowing, as a good infection story should be. It also highlights social attitudes of the day, racial oppression and the limited knowledge of medicine, all seen through the eyes of the strong main character.

I recommend Fever 1793. It has no questionable content. Germophobic or sensitive readers might have problems with some illness-related disturbing imagery.

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

Picked this book up at a library book sale for 50¢. This book is at once interesting and frustrating to me. It takes place in what I assume to be a very distant future on a world called Samaria. This is usually the type of book I would just eat up, and it was fascinating, but I wanted an origin story.

Gabriel, soon to be the Archangel, must find a wife to help him lead the sing-a-long worship to their god, Jovah. Using the Jovah's Kiss in his arm (what I assume to be some kind of tracking device) and a prophet (who communicates with Jovah using a screen) Gabriel tracks down Rachel, a slave-girl, and marries her. The relationship is loveless, but Rachel and Gabriel eventually reconcile.

This story at first glance carries everything I would love in a sci-fi/fantasy tale: distant future, colonization, genetic engineering of the ruling class, loss of technological understanding, etc. But these are things I only gleaned through implication. There is no explanation given by Shinn for how everything works. She doesn't tell us where their strange Judeo/Hebrew/Israeli religion/government stems from, where these people or their technology came from. Honestly, I'm more interested in the origin story than I am in the dilemmas of the main characters.

Archangel is interesting though, and I would recommend it to fans of sci-fi/fantasy. For those of you who read it, maybe the origin story wasn't necessary for your enjoyment of this book. Let me know what you think.

Firebirds - edited by Sharyn November

This anthology of fantasy and science fiction (there's no science fiction, which disappointed me) was recommended to me by Shar Abreu Petersen. On the whole, I was very impressed with this selection of stories. My favorites:

The Baby in the Night Deposit Box by Megan Whelan Turner
Mariposa by Nancy Springer
Max Mondrosch by Lloyd Alexander
Medusa by Michael Cadnum
Hope Chest by Garth Nix
The Flying Woman by Laurel Winter

I recommend these stories in Firebirds. The art of the short story lives!

Ophelia by Lisa Klein

In this retelling of Shakespeare's finest play, Hamlet, Ophelia gives us her side of the story. As a fan of the original and someone who has read it multiple times, I found this to be fascinating reinterpretation. Klein takes the circumstances around Ophelia's tragic death and crafts them into a Romeo & Juliet-esque tale of love in hiding and dark revenge. Klein flavors the novel with flowery prose and remixes of Shakespeare's beautiful language, making it believable within this fictional version of Denmark.

I won't give away what ends up happening to Ophelia. Here are some hints: Hamlet, poison, condemnation, Horatio and flowers. I recommend this book to lovers of Hamlet, but it's not for purists. Content warning: sexual situations (only implicitly described), assault.

Also read:

The Game of Sunken Places by MT Anderson

Creepy speculative fic for middle graders.  This book is pretty scary, so sensitive readers beware.  It was fun.
Going Bovine by Libba Bray

This won the Printz Award.  It was weird.  And long.  Any one have any thoughts on Going Bovine?