Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Wonderfully, I imagined an okay plot on the drive up to the house. I wrote for three hours at the lodge and churned out a little under 2,000 words. So far, its working title is The Story of Anabel and Paul because I don't know what's going to happen yet and how can you title something without knowing what's going to happen. I think I finished the first chapter. The last paragraph:
When her tea was finished she turned out the light and snuggled into bed, replacing Paul’s pillow. An hour or two later, she heard him come in and make his way around their dark bedroom. As he climbed into bed, she realized it was very nearly Christmas.
Chapter One is titled The House and is just an introduction to the characters and the house they live in. Chapter Two is going to be titled The Lot and is going to be a flashback to Paul buying the land on the mountain and clearing the lot to build he and Ana's house with her brother, Charlie.
So far, this is my rough outline:
Chapter One - The House
Chapter Two - The Lot
Chapter Three - Christmas Eve
Chapter Four - The Watch Shop (about the father's death)
Chapter Five - The Spring
Chapter Six - The Proposal
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This list only includes books I've read for the first time. So, Pride and Prejudice has a much higher rating than Mansfield Park and is on my reading list for the year, I've already read it about a thousand times and it doesn't count.
Drum roll. Please.
Top Ten of 2009!
10. American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis
9. The Beach - Alex Garland
8. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
7. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore, David Lloyd
6. Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin
5. The Likeness - Tana French
4. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Andersen
3. Stitches - David Small
2. Watchmen - Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
1. The Shining - Stephen King
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So far, I have about 1500 words. My cousins will be here in about a half an hour to make Christmas snowflakes, so that gives me just enough time for 500 more words - unless I allow Battlestar Galactica to completely distract me. I write better with noise! But Starbuck is pretty much my best friend, and it's the episode where she crash lands on that moon! The next few episodes are some of my favorites. She reconfigures that Cylon and makes it fly for her! Everyone thinks she's dead, but she isn't!
Someone passed along this e-mail at work. I guess a bunch of authors and editors are partaking in this big Twitter hashtag - Santa's Book Bag - where they'll choose one book for each day from December 1 to December 24. It can be one of their own or a colleagues. It's a way to promote their books and to remind people that books make good presents too! (Although if you were at Christmas in my house about 13 years ago, the time my brother took one look at the packaging, exclaimed 'stinking book' and threw it, you wouldn't think so. He's a book friend now though.)
I think I'm going to do that. I'm not promoting anything except reading for the greater good. I might even start before December 1. Depends.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
And one thing depression did was give my brain an idea, and I think it's a pretty good one!
So! Not all things are bad!
Also - it's completely original and does not rely on anyone's or pieces of anyone's life to tell it.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I may have picked up a writing buddy. She's 13 and her enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo reminds me of my enthusiasm for writing when I was her age. I should attempt to resurrect some of those old half finished "manuscripts" of mine. Trouble was, back then I thought I was the next R.L. Stine and only wrote about troubled girls who put their fluffy white cats through meat grinders and made delicious hamburgers and stole their mother's boyfriends. Damn, that story was so good.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Another, Ack! My grammar! It's atrocious. Not editing is killing me, but I guess it keeps me moving forward instead of focusing on the behind parts.
8:09 - I'm procrastinating like a mother. Still haven't written anything yet. MUST WRITE.
8:16 - Plugged in and ready to go. I really wish that my keyboard keys glew (glew? glowed?) in the dark.
9:04 - 394 words and I'm fading fast. Going to take a short break, drink some water. Take a shower and then start Chapter Two.
9:35 - I can't think how to begin the second chapter. What do I want to happen? I have this chapter and perhaps one more before Mark leaves everything behind. I wanted to make it at least to the first week's goal of words before I switched gears and sent Mark on his way. That would be about 12,000 words in.
So what to do? So far, his father's come home (to live) and Mark's mother never told him. It's been over a year since the day his father was kicked out, but Mark still isn't talking to him, so this is a pretty huge deal. Mark's mother tries to rationalize his decision in a terrible "make up" conversation with her son and Mark leaves, waking up at 4am in his car at the beach and in trouble with the security guards.
What happens next? I thought about starting the chapter at the therapist. Or do I have him staying at his aunt's house? Or do I have him at home, not really talking to his mom, nor his dad and ... this sounds terrible. I think I'm going to start the chapter at the therapist. With a combination of that last one.
The most fun bits to write so far have been the description of the LIRR and my description Ocean Parkway. I'm sure this will never get published, but I think it's important. To capture things as they are. Paint the place you live as it is so it's never forgotten.
I have to put this down for the night.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
For the first time since beginning to take the train in and out of the city, I prayed for a track condition or the striking of an unauthorized person on the track. Anything to delay the train, spend two, three, maybe four hours on the train instead of one. Everyone would grumble and curse and yell that they needed to pick up their kids or they needed to get home to dinner or they spent 3,000 dollars a year on this bullshit! And I would smile knowingly at them, shake my head as though I shared their pain. We would be united in our unification, our hatred of the LIRR, except inside I’d have erupted in tumultuous applause for the worn track or the unauthorized person who died just so I wouldn’t have to get home on time.
As always, the Long Island Railroad proved to be completely unreliable and pulled into Deer Park station at exactly 6:55. Walking to my car, I started to panic. Full blown panic. I am normally a runner – one of the people that gets up at Wyandanch and stands at the door, impatiently tapping my leg, waiting for the train to pull into the Deer Park station and the doors to open so that I can burst forth, entering the race of the other 5 or 6 runners that throw themselves down the platform stairs and across the parking lot to their cars. But I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even get out of my seat and nearly missed the Deer Park stop.
I walked slowly to the car and got in. And sat there. Part of me wanted to run home and defend her. Tell him to get the fuck out. Maybe I would push him. But another part, the part that kept the hand that held my keys frozen to my side instead of inserting them, igniting them and peeling away – that part wanted to never go home again. That part wanted to go to sleep and just forget about it.Just reviewing The Beach on Shelfari and adding Raven. Then, back to writing for at least the next half hour.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Watching some 30Rock right now while I straighten my hair, doing dinner and wine with the boyfriend and the parents, and then back to writing until my eyes close on themselves. Can I write 7000 more words before the end of tomorrow?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Man I love WIN WINS.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Though every single speaker/panel was eye-opening and wonderful, there were two sessions in particular that left me in awe of this giant profession that I've chosen for myself. I can only hope that one day I'll have changed and shaped the industry in the ways that they have. The first was opening keynote speaker, Morgan Entrekin, President and Publisher of Grove Atlantic. The second was Closing Keynote Speaker Kate Medina, Associate Publisher, Executive Editorial Director and Executive Vice President of Random House along with bestselling author, Anna Quindlen.
Morgan Entrekin took the time to speak to us plainly about his entire journey. He started judging manuscripts with Yes, No, Maybe and moved up from there. The greatest and most awe-inducing points of his story was his discovery and promotion of Brett Easton Ellis and how he became Kurt Vonnegut's editor. Brett Easton Ellis! KURT VONNEGUT!! These authors and publishers will never cease being celebrities to me. Could I someday discover a writer as unique and influential as Ellis and have the courage and strength to promote what I believe in? I can only hope.
The evening ended with Kate Medina and Anna Quindlen talking about the dynamics of their relationship as editor and author. Kate spoke of her editing process and Anna of her writing process, and for someone who can't decide if she wants to discover the next great novel or write it, both women had so much to say that I listened to with much awe and attention. Not to mention these were two women who made themselves into something great - a great editor and a great writer so that young wanna-be girls like me can aspire to that same greatness.
I tell everyone I'm going to be a big deal someday. And sometimes I think think, seriously? You? But listening to everyone speak today made me feel like I am on the right path and I really am going to be a big deal someday.
In conclusion, here's some important stuff from the seminar. Words of advice, etc:
- Always have the courage of your convictions.
- Follow your instincts and your passions.
- Understand all facets of publishing. Most importantly, the economics of it.
- Experience the international publishing community and learn another language. Most international publishers can speak at least 3 and it brings something extra to the table.
- Get a good mentor.
- It's okay to say you don't like a book.
- Right now is a really good, albeit scary, time to be in publishing.
- No matter what you do all day, the only thing that matters is that you deliver your book to the consumer when s/he wants it, where s/he wants it and how s/he wants it. Meet the consumers' needs.
- In 1975, people had 8 different media choices - television having just come on the scene in a biggish way. Today, there are over 20. How do we compete?
- [SEARCH] has changed the way we gather information completely over the past 10 years.
- When marketing a book, make it simple for the consumer to talk about and share how great they think the book is.
- We all do this for that I NAILED IT feeling.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
8:40 - Boyfriend called and interrupted process.
9:04 - Phone call ended. Devoting another 10 minutes before beautifying process begins.
9:15 - 420 words and taking a break. Will continue when beautifying process is complete. One of the guys upstairs is talking outside my window again, and he's lucky I'm in a good mood. That's all I'm saying.
Oh, also, before I go. I think I found some sort of direction for my story. It opens with the line I mentioned yesterday and the character discusses his childhood depression, loneliness - etc. His "suicide" isn't really a calculated suicide and has more to do with a child's desire to slip away, disappear. He talks about this with a bit of childhood innocence, a bit of humor. Anyway, the story really starts at his second suicide, a death he fakes to escape his life and start over. There's this mother son thing going on in the first part, and so I think I'll have him watch his own funeral and react to his mother's pain.
10:18 - starting again, slowly, with wet nails. But it's a fab dark eggplant-y color. Very professional.
10:48 - I am so tired and can't continue. After sitting up way past midnight last night, I don't think I can hack it again tonight. But I am glad I have some sort of maybe direction.
This was fun!
Oh - I'm something like 3000 words behind, but need to have something like 11,500 words by the end of the week. I'm going to put it on Google Documents so that I can work during my lunch breaks. Seeing as how I only have a few hours at home to myself, that may be the only way to reach my goals realistically and without killing myself.
Here's the excerpt I posted to my NaNoWriMo page:
There were other things too.
The time Eric bet me I couldn’t knock that nest of baby birds out of the tree with the rock he had in his hand. Not wanting him to know that I really didn’t want to knock the nest of baby birds out of the tree, I took the rock from his hand and hoped that the smirk on my face matched his. Heavy, hard and cold. It pressed against my fingertips and I twirled it slowly, watching my target. There was a shrill cry from the tree and I could see at least 2 little heads reaching up towards their anticipated lunch. If their mother came home just now, maybe she’d eye Eric and I and know what we were up to. Maybe she’d swoop down and poke out Eric’s eyeballs, giving me enough time to drop the rock and run for it. She’d leave Eric bleeding on the lawn and fly after me, but I’d be too fast for her.
Eric looked at me. “Scared, Mark?”
I twirled the rock one more time, drew my arm back and threw. My aim was perfection and the nest exploded, sticks, mud, thread and tiny baby birds bursting up into the air. Then it all came down and their tiny bodies hit the ground hard. Bounced once. And all was still.
“Cool,” Eric shouted, running to inspect the chaos.
I followed more slowly and quietly contemplated the murder I’d just committed.
There was the time I called Donny a nigger because I’d heard the word on TV and I was pretty sure I’d applied it correctly, but also wasn’t quite sure how much damage the word would do. He told his mom and then his mom came to my house and told my mom. My mom said she’d never teach her son that word, which was true because she hadn’t. And Donny’s mom said maybe she should have taught me not to say it. And my mom said that you never know what kids hear and she was sure I was sorry, which I was sorry that my mom was getting yelled at but I wasn’t sorry I called Donny a name because he had stolen my backpack. Donny’s mom answered very rudely and my mom asked her to leave. Then Donny stole the stick and that was the last I saw of him.
There was the time I told mom everything about myself. Everything I was and everything I feared that I was. And she took me in her arms and told me it would never matter to her, but her eyes looked so sad and scared.
I was 9, the first time I tried to kill myself.
I meant to get to 1,667, but I'm tired and it's already incredibly late. I can make up the extra words on the weekend. If my computer weren't so bulky, I could carry it with me through the day. Oh well.
I do really want to do this.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Basically, the point is to write a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30 - completely giving yourself away to 'literary abandon'. That's 1,667 words a day and I'm already one day behind! Luckily, how much you write is the aim - not what you write. The point is not creating a work of pure genius, but sitting down and writing. Just writing. Commitment is the point.
I got 159 words done at work today. Just to get myself started. 1,508 left for tonight, plus yesterday's 1,667.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
You have to wonder - in this situation, are your readers going to route for the nice-guy fiance, or are they going to hope for the lurid affair? It's the same for any decision a character has to make. Will readers be for or against it? And while a writer can certainly persuade the audience to feel a certain way, I'm sure that they can't always get the intended result.
This reminded me of something, this presentation of plot. And I'm wondering if anyone else out there does this also.
I yelled over/through the wall: "Have you ever had a really big decision to make and so you think about your life like a story you might be reading and think about what the reader's reaction might be to both of your choices and decide that way?"
Her answer: "No! But that's a really good idea!"
I'm sure only the bookish would be inclined to ever think this way, but maybe I'm just being prejudiced. Or maybe, I'm the only crazy out there. What do you think?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
(Ypulse is a fantastic blog geared towards marketing to today's teens, tweens and Gen Y)
"The tagline had me incredibly worried: "I swear to be the skinniest girl in school. Skinnier than you." While I don't profess to be an expert on eating disorders, I was an active member of the Eating Disorder Awareness Committee in college and held more than my share of "Ana" and "Mia" hands, both male and female. Anorexia and bulimia are not trivial disorders and should never be characterized by any trivial symptoms – such as the desire to be pretty or to be the skinniest girl in school. These disorders are larger than that. They go deeper than that. And so when I saw this tagline, my immediate response was, "Oh… no…" (No, no, no, no, no!)
For me, the premise of the book raised two major concerns. Was Wintergirls, in misunderstanding what these diseases are to those who experience them, going to offend a large community of people? And, more importantly, if it was a complete misrepresentation of eating disorders, did it run the very high risk of being a novel packed with triggers? Too often, as a recent New York Times article (reg. required) points out, in their attempt to be as realistic as possible, books about eating disorders become how-to manuals.
Fortunately, Laurie Halse Anderson does not offend and does not misrepresent. Wintergirls is a very raw and real representation of what it is to battle an eating disorder without drawing the reader too close to what the main character, Lia, refers to as "dangerland."
The story centers on Lia as she deals with her best friend Cassie's ED-related death by using her own eating disorder as a crutch. As is the case with many, the disorder can often become the one constant – something that is always there. The reader experiences everything that Lia experiences. We feel her need for control, her need to hide, her need to remain anorexic. But we also feel her world slipping away from her. We simultaneously feel her fear. And, most importantly – we understand the consequences of Lia's decisions.
But it's Emma, Lia's innocent and doting younger sister, who really opens our eyes to the horrors of eating disorders. With a best friend dead and parents who can't seem to truly understand her pain – Emma is the only character whose love means as much to Lia as the disorder itself. This parallel is frightening, strange, and extremely important when it comes to understanding anorexia and bulimia.
The tagline I mentioned earlier does have a special place in the book. Lia has already witnessed Cassie's bulimic habits. But, it's one New Year's Eve that the girls decide to support each other. Cassie as a bulimic and Lia as an anorexic. Once read in context, it's actual a very real and typical occurrence, for teens with eating disorders to find a friend to inspire and help them through the struggle of denying oneself nourishment. After Cassie’s death, Lia finds encouragement through online Ana and Mia chat groups and blogs. Ana is the name these groups give to anorexics, Mia to bulimics. These groups are only too real and very protective of their members – other wintergirls.
In the end, Lia gets the help that she needs. She's able to recover. But for all recovering anorexics and bulimics, life without an eating disorder is an ongoing battle that must be fought every day. Lia says, "There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward." For many of the people I have known, this means making a choice every day to live healthfully and raise eating disorder awareness.
In my opinion, Wintergirls is this small step upward. Teens today are flooded with images that promote a negative body image. This is often linked with a message of success, beauty. control. Anorexia and bulimia are diseases that are all too prevalent in our society, and which, too often, are misunderstood. Laurie Halse Anderson’s exquisite novel provides a better understanding of the disease and is sure to spark further, much needed discussions the true causes, societal pressures, consequences, and ways to help and prevent."
Purchase Now from Amazon: Wintergirls
Friday, September 11, 2009
What strikes me most about that day is the moments directly before our lives were forever changed. Scarred by terrorist attacks and eight long years of virtual inaction. I have a photograph. I'm really not sure why I had my camera. Probably because it was my senior year of high school and bringing cameras to school was cool and I wanted to document everything I could. I randomly took a picture of my 11th grade AP English teacher and another teacher in the department. They look so happy. The look on their faces is sort of stupid. Probably wondering why I wanted to take their picture so early in the year.
We came back inside, all tripping and laughing and smelling like the outdoors. Happy we missed 15 minutes of class. Mrs. ___ turned on the TV. Which - was odd. I think someone may have asked her what she was so oddly doing, because I remember her saying -
"I just want to see something." Something she'd heard. Another teacher left her cell phone on and her husband called and
And tuning in just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.
I can remember the rest of the day perfectly, but I won't bore you with the minute details. Details you probably remember yourself, in your own way. The halls were filled with kids, running, crying. In my science class, someone running down the halls stopped at our door and announced, "The Pentagon was just hit," before taking off to tell others. Most teachers let us watch the news. Others felt it was important to treat the day like any other day. Before lunch, my history teacher from the year before came out of his classroom. He looked at me. "The tower fell," he said, and grabbed my arm and pulled me into his classroom with his other students. I didn't eat lunch that day. I watched him wander around his classroom with a wounded, haunted look in his eyes.
I live on Long Island. And I didn't know anyone who worked in the towers. But I know firefighters and cops who responded, and thankfully are still alive and healthy today. We spent the day not knowing. Not hearing from them. Watching the news and looking west - towards the haze on the horizon.
A family friend, a firefighter, carries around a business card he found in the rubble. Everything, he told us, everything was essentially pulverized. They found dust. No desks, or chairs, or computer parts, or file cabinets. Just dust. And this business card to remind him.
It seems sort of cliche to be writing this. Like jumping on the bandwagon. But I don't really want to ever forget this day. The day that everyone seemed to pull together. The day - the year - many of us felt an intense nationalism for the first time. So. This is that.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Anyway, here is a fragment of something I might think about actually putting into something larger. I'd like to do something the right way, for once. With an outline and more than two paragraphs.
What are your honest and brutal opinions?
She stands at her kitchen sink, staring out the window to the front lawn. At a distance, she can see the Eastman’s house. Halfway between the brown Mrs. Eastman had painted it last month, and the olive green she decided to start painting it today. A restless house. Never satisfied in its image. Closer, she spies a FOR SALE sign on the Eastman’s lawn and tries to remember how many FOR SALE signs she’s seen there over the past sixteen years. She can’t. Too many. Yet, the Eastmans had lived there the day she’d moved to this block. And they live there still. And her front lawn. Their front lawn. Neat and tidy. The Japanese oak stunted, yet vibrant and full of fire. She remembers seeing a dried up mound of dog shit at its base this morning. Fucking dogs. And the owners who let their dogs shit on her lawn – their lawn – with not even the pretense of cleaning up after the canines. Fuck them.
She drops her hands into the sink. Full of dishes. Always. Cereal caked to the side of the deep blue bowls. Coffee and lipstick ringed mugs. One inside the other and a dinner plate balanced artfully atop a milky spoon. Now with the water on and a sigh. She leans over to open the dishwasher. Her silent dishwasher. It was emptied this morning, but not without begging and ultimately threatening. Rinse and place is the motion. The repetition. The sequence of events for the next twenty minutes. An engine sounds somewhere down their street and still stooped, she cocks her head to see who might be there. It passes, but she notices a little spot of something on the window and moves closer for better inspection. It is brown. Reddish brown. A splash of reddish brown color on the window. Standing on her tip toes and using the granite counter top for balance, she peers onto the grass directly below the window. There she spies only a small pile of white and gray feathers. A small pile of white and gray feathers and a splash of reddish brown color on the window.
Today, she thinks. Today
Shelf: Now Reading
Firstly, I realize I completely skipped over reviewing The Mysterious Benedict Society. Don't worry, my trusty followers, (You know, those of you that I forced to follow me...) I'll have the review up soon. I wrote it in my notebook, then I changed bags, then I changed bags again, then the LIRR overcharged me for my ticket. You know how it goes.
There is some sort of snooty aspect to this book that makes me feel as though stating that I didn't really enjoy it means stating that I didn't really "get" it. I get it. At least I think I do. A pot addled writing professor can't seem to finish his mammoth manuscript for his magnum opus - Wonder Boys, which turns out to be hugely symbolic of his failure at life. And once he lets go, he's free.
There's also a tuba.
Purchase Now from Amazon: Wonder Boys: A Novel
Monday, August 31, 2009
Memories of Reading Rainbow and Levar Burton dominate my childhood. The show's apparent demise, besides funding, is that it assumes children already know how to read and focuses on fostering a love of books. There isn't a large enough audience for this anymore. Now, there is a need for shows that teach phonics and how to read. As Omnivoracious points out, teaching kids how to read without also instilling a love of books seems sort of counter intuitive. Not completely, but sort of.
For me, Reading Rainbow's main objective was a complete success. I LOVE books. (See: Shelfari) (See: This blog) And, I'm pretty sure that it was Reading Rainbow that led me down the path I'm on right now, starting with Aunt Eater Loves a Mystery (which, by the way, I read because it sounded AWESOME on RR. It scared the crap out of me!) and ending with me and my butt, in this chair, reviewing submissions for children's books.
So, seriously Reading Rainbow. Seriously. Thank you.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Shelf: Now Reading
Very good second installment of PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS. I think I'm going to reread Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY before I continue on with this series.
Purchase Now from Amazon: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2)
Shelf: Now Reading
I really love Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams and so when I saw that they were starring in the movie and saw that the movie looked pretty awesome, I ran out and got the book.
The book was very good and very well-written. I was afraid at first that the story and the non-chronological storyline would be confusing, but I had no trouble at all making sense of this unique concept. I did flip back a few times to help myself complete the puzzle, but I found this interactive and engaging rather than frustrating.
All in all, Time Traveler's Wife was incredibly sweet and I definitely cried at the end!
Purchase Now from Amazon: The Time Traveler's Wife
Shelf: Now Reading
Not as fast paced as GAME OF THRONES, but good nonetheless. It was a "bridge" book (I think maybe I'm coining that term right now), a book to get the reader from GAME OF THRONES to STORM OF SWORDS without missing any important developments.
We finally met Stannis and found out all he was up to, learned the true strength and virtue of Tyrion, Sansa, and Arya, and were left wondering what happened between Catelyn and Jamie in the cell!
I've heard through the grapevine that STORM OF SWORDS is absolutely SICK (see: AWESOME) and I can't wait to begin!
Purchase Now from Amazon: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Referring to the question I asked earlier on twitter: Can you read a book without knowing anything about it or do you need to at least know the premise to help you establish tone and purpose?
I'm wondering because, I absolutely have to know what the book is about. All the time. I recently finished The Mysterious Benedict Society and just started Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. I realized that I experienced the same moment with both books - I read the first two pages, started to feel slightly uncomfortable and confused, realized I had no clue what the stories were about, and promptly flipped the books over to read the back cover copy. Without context or knowing some sort of general purpose, I find I'm completely unable to establish the correct tone. The words somehow seem muddled. It's all Morse code, or something equally difficult to read if you don't know how to read it.
Basically, I need some sort of direction in order to more thoroughly enjoy and understand a book.
(Repetition is key, right?)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Shelf: Now Reading
It's difficult to not compare this book to the first in the Harry Potter series. While I didn't like it as much as I like Harry Potter - I would recommend Rick Riordan's series to any Harry Potter fan.
The usage of mythical gods and creatures in modern times is unique and interesting. The story reads well and is easy to understand for an age group slightly younger than Harry Potter. Edith Hamilton would be proud of this young(ish) readers introduction to the word of mythology.
I didn't find the twists as shocking as many other reviewers did. The book wasn't exactly page-turning as it was an easy, quick, and enjoyable read. I had it all figured out from the first few pages, but this didn't leave me disappointed with the story.
Definitely a good read for any young or adult reader. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.
Purchase Now from Amazon: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Shelf: Now Reading
I got sucked in - quickly. The fellow gave me this book and has been begging, literally, for me to read it. I'd pick it up and put it down. 'I can tell it's going to be one of those books with too many characters!' or, 'I'm just not that into fantasy!' You know, then he probably made a sad face, so I actually dropped the tough lady literature snob act and started reading the book. And wow. (And how.)
Multitude of characters, indeed, each with their own chapters that give a unique point of view to the rapidly escalating story. When you play the game of thrones, that evil witch of a queen tells us, you win or you die. Or you win and you still die. CRAZY! And it's not all knights and valour either, it's - awesome. That's all. George R.R. Martin writes an awesome story that grips the reader from beginning to end. I can't wait to start the second book.
Purchase Now from Amazon: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Shelf: Now Reading
Jane Austen Book Club
Since I've not yet read Northanger Abbey I can't quite say for sure, but I think that this is probably Austen's best novel. I had strange expectations for Mansfield Park. These expectations made the book extremely difficult to read. But, now that I've finished I'm dying to go back and read the book for what it actually is, rather than what I was expecting it to be.
Firstly, I've never heard Fanny Price talked of in a positive light. So, while I was excited to finally meet her, I wasn't expecting such a charming heroine. Secondly, as with Austen's other novels, I was expecting a love story. While there is a 'love story' component to this novel, it is not as strong as say, the story of growing love between Elizabeth and Darcy or Elinor and Edward, which leads me to believe that while Austen always intended Fanny to win the love of Edmund, it wasn't quite the point of the story.
'Mansfield Park', in its set up, is typical Austen. We have our heroine, our hero, and our cast of secondary characters who can not escape satirical scrutiny. Yet, it's completely different than any other novel. For one, as discussed in the Jane Austen Book Club, Fanny Price doesn't change at all throughout the novel - a statement in itself. It has been said that Mansfield is her most socially, sexually and politically aware novel. I agree.
Still, I didn't pick up on the genius of her purpose until the very end. There is no letter or grand speech from Edmund to Fanny as there is in Austen's other novels from hero to heroine. Instead, Austen tells us of Edmund's finally realizing his love for Fanny in a couple of paragraphs. A little disappointing - yes. But an obvious choice. While Fanny's steadfastness and love for Edmund is the center of the novel, it is what is happening around them that is important.
I would really like to re-read Mansfield someday soon to come at it from this perspective. I wonder how different it will be to me, from beginning to end.
Purchase Now from Amazon: Mansfield Park
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Uglies Trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld: I still count it as a trilogy even though he came out with that fourth book, way after the fact. I’ve not read it and I’ve got no interest in reading it because the trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials) is such a special and cohesive series. Westerfeld’s approach to image is unique, truthful, and thought provoking.
I also proudly sport an oversized tee that states, “I’m an Ugly”.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky: This book speaks volumes to any kid who’s always felt a bit on the outside of life. Charlie’s struggles and final acceptance of himself is incredibly heartfelt. You can’t come away from this book without its making a profound impact on your life.
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore: Cashore’s book is, in my opinion, at the top of contemporary Teen fantasy. It’s incredibly well-written and has a unique approach to the fantasy genre. Rather than use your typical witches, vampires, elves, etc – Kristen Cashore invents a new kind of people. And she doesn’t disappoint. I really love this one.
Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien: YES, I read it before the movies came out. Way before, actually. I’m proud of me. Are you?
Hamlet, by Shakespeare
Yes. An in class reading assignment in high school, I think it counts! Hamlet is my favorite Shakespearean play, with all of its madness, betrayal, ghosts, and plays within plays. Not to mention, we got to take a ‘field trip’ to the Academic Learning Center and watch the Kenneth Branaugh movie version of the play.
Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore!
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snickett: Though I obviously wasn’t reading these when I was in fifth grade, I would have been had such an unfortunate series existed. It’s one of those brilliant series that transcends all age groups. They are witty and complex enough for an adult, yet simple and entertaining enough for a young child.
Though, for me this book was a little misleading. I was pretty sure my period would come quite quietly, displayed as a teeny tiny red dot on my panties. This wasn’t the case at all. I also wish I hadn’t done so many of those “We must” exercises…
Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling: Who else sells over 100 million copies of a book because she is somehow relatable to YA readers as well as Grandpas and Grandmas? I love books that have the ability to sell themselves to readers - that spark enjoyment of the story and a hunger for the words.
At the bookstore I once worked at, we had midnight Harry Potter release parties. The first one I ever worked was for the release of The Goblet of Fire. At this point, I worked in the café section of the store. We all dressed up in black, wore witchy hats and some of us wore Potter glasses, and other carried wands. The party was UTTER INSANITY! About a million Potters, Grangers and Weasleys showed up. A few McGonagills, a Hagrid here and there, and this guy in a complete wizard costume, with a creepy plastic mask head. He rode in on a motorcycle. Which was incredibly hilarious. The line for café snaked around the entire store. I didn’t see the end of it until 2 in the morning. TWO in the morning! These are people, parents, out with their kids! For Harry Potter! At two in the morning!!
But seriously. You know by five am we all already read the book. Right, you guys?
Everyone keeps hoping for another Harry Potter. And by that I mean, not a book 8, but a really good book, by another extremely brilliant author who has the ability to bring together such a diverse crowd that eats snacks until 2am. I’m not sure we’re going to experience something like that again in our lifetime. Which is what makes Pottermania a true phenom.
My Top Pick:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi
I read this book about once a year. It was probably the first book that gave my system a true shock. A polite and proper young lady defies expectation and preserves her dignity by casting aside her upbringing and becoming one kick ass chick. Charlotte Doyle inspired me then. She continues to inspire me.
Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
3rd and 4th Grade Picks:
Chocolate Fever, by Robert Kimmel Smith
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume – I know I read this book before fourth grade, a fact which excited me very much when I was a kid. Mostly because I thought you had to be in fourth grade to be able to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Thus developed my severe reading superiority complex. Book snob in the making.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary – Who didn’t love stubborn little Ramona and her oh-so-cool older sister, Beezus? There was, and always is, a little bit of Ramona Quimby (age 8!) in all of us!
My Top Pick:
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
I remember the reason I read this book. The movie was going to be on TV. Commercials were announcing it like it was going to be a major event. Maybe back then it was. But my mother told me that I absolutely could not watch the movie until I read the book. Impetus! You know, these are the things I should thank my mother for on Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving – every day.
I read the book, loved it, and then she bought me the movie. Thanks, Mom!
Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Kindergarten to 2nd grade
3rd grade to 4th grade
5th grade to 6th grade
And, of course, I thought I’d join in on the fun. I mean, you guys can’t have a party without expecting me to crash it. Especially when the party involves children’s books. So here I am, digging through my many years of reading experience to give you my own top choices every day this week, and they might just be extremely old school.
Kicking it off, Kindergarten to 2nd Grade:
The Jolly Postman, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg: Renting this book from our elementary school library was, quite literally, a fight to the death. And it was a fight I lost. Over and over again. The book was never available to take out, and the kid who was lucky enough to get their grubby paws on the book usually wouldn’t even let you look at it. It was the elements that drew us in and around this famous picture book. The letters that we could pull out of the envelopes and read, as though we were spying on our favorite fairy tale characters.
Years later, in college actually, I lamented often on how I was never able to check this book out of my library. For my birthday that year, my roommate bought me the picture book and now I don’t have to share it with anybody!
Really, one could say this isn’t truly my favorite book from this time period, as I doubt I ever actually read it then. However, I remember it. I remember wanting to read it so badly, I’d give anything for it. And I obviously cared so deeply about not having read it that my college roommate bought me a copy and I, from time to time, still take it off my shelf and read all of the Jolly Postman’s letters. And Children’s Book Week should be about celebrating books that give kids the desire to read. Even if that desire results in a fight on the playground.
The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton: I spoke about this book briefly in my previous post. I think it’s probably the first book to make me feel something, to connect me to the world through its universal themes, emotions, and stunning illustrations.
Real Mother Goose: Every child needs a collection of Nursery Rhymes. This just happens to be the collection that I grew up with and loved. The illustrations are wonderful and classic. My sister, brother and I loved our paperback edition to pieces. This past Christmas, I purchased gorgeous hardcover editions from Barnes & Noble, inscribed and gave one to each of my siblings. My brother was really too young to remember, plus he always hated getting, and I quote, “stinking books” for Christmas, so he thought I was referencing a Mother Goose computer game we used to play as kids. “Uh, thanks.” But, my sister cried.
Babysitter’s Little Sister, by Ann M. Martin: The Babysitter’s Club was a HUGE deal when I was in elementary school. However, partly because I was too young and partly because my mother monitored, somewhat, what I read, I wasn’t able to start reading The Babysitter’s Club books until the fourth grade. Thankfully, there was Babysitter’s Little Sister, part of the Little Apple Books series which made up most of my early chapter book reading.
By the way, I was Mary Ann. And I remember constantly referencing something about “faucets” when it came to describing how much Mary Ann cried. Though I wasn’t much of a crier. And I wasn’t very shy either. But I was Mary Ann. Which Babysitter were you? (C’mon, you know you played!)
And my Top Pick for my favorite Children’s Book in the Kindergarten to 2nd grade Category:
Elmer, by David McKee
Okay, so I didn’t even know about Elmer until last year, but I’m completely obsessed with him. And it isn’t even the first title that is my favorite, but rather the character in general. I’ve started collecting all of the books and almost have them all, including the Pop-Up Book , Matching Cards and Baby Record Book . I’ll probably soon purchase the Lunchbox and the Tea Set, and I’ve got a small AND large Elmer Doll sitting on my desk. Just to complete the obsessive streak, I’m creating a crochet pattern to make my very own Elmer blanket.
Elmer is adorable. He’s bright, cheery, and always suffers some ordeal that makes him stronger, smarter, and brighter in the end. An oddly colored elephant among a herd of gray, Elmer teaches children the importance of being different and the strength it takes to be yourself.
My poor, first born forced to love Elmer child!
Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore!
Friday, May 8, 2009
The poster has since been hanging above my desk at work and I’ve been staring at it, longingly staring at it, for months.
In the immortal words of Tina Fey’s daughter – “I want to go to there.”
In January, I mentioned wanting to go see The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Two months later he said, “I want to get out of New York. Do you want to go see that museum?”
He being a guy I should probably keep around, even if just for remembering how badly I wanted to go to there.
So April 24th, we went to there. Okay, enough of that.
Happy 40th, Very Hungry CaterpillarFirst envisioned as A Week with Willie the Worm, the first gallery we entered was a complete homage to the work of Eric Carle and most specifically – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Thankfully for us readers, his (agent?) suggested using a caterpillar rather than a worm for the book. To which he exclaimed, “Butterfly!”
You should now need no explanation for why I love this genius of a children’s book author.
In the gallery:
- Original spreads from A Week with Willie the Worm, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and 10 Little Rubber Ducks.
- A wonderful self-portrait of Eric Carle and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, buddying it up.
- A wall-o-Eric Carle with photographs of his childhood, his wife, Bill Martin and including a video telling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My favorite photograph on this wall was one of Mr. Carle in his studio, holding a paintbrush, and using his left arm to clean his brush! The picture to the right isn't the one from the museum, but you can see his messy arm!
- Butterflies contributed by various famous illustrators, including a lovely, lovely original from Arnold Lobel’s Frog reaching out towards a pretty butterfly.
Preview the exhibit here.
Virginia Lee Burton
I’m completely passing over the exhibit in the middle room with original spreads from Lottie’s New Friend, donated by author and illustrator Petra Mathers. It wasn’t that it wasn’t gorgeous, or that I didn’t spend a really long time moving from spread to spread – but I don’t really know Lottie. I don’t really know Petra Mathers. At all. And I came for Eric Carle and for Virginia Lee Burton. So. I’m sorry.
The Little House has always been my favorite picture book. It was trumped at one point by The Jolly Postman, but this obsession came solely from the fact that the book was impossible to come by at my elementary school library. And I just… wanted… to… touch… it! I was seven. Forgive me. But, The Little House was beautiful, and the sad little house captured my little heart.
Author and illustrator of The Little House, Choo Choo, and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and many others, Virginia Lee Burton was celebrated for her simple, yet extremely complex line art which perfectly depicted the growth of urbanization. The Little House, for example, is about a little pink country house sitting atop a hill. As the book progresses, the city grows and suddenly the house, with its peeling paint and boarded up windows, looks sad and small next to two new skyscrapers.
Amazing was how much she could accomplish, how much she could express, in just a few strokes. Her drawings are not complex, yet they somehow depict movement and emotion perfectly. The VLB gallery also included a print by Norman Rockwell. Compared to Virginia’s Gossip print, you can clearly see her genius. Though simpler, both works convey the same message and invoke the same feelings.
- Original art from The Little House; Choo Choo; Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel; Katy and the Big Snow; Calico, the Wonder Horse; The Emperor’s New Clothes; Life Story; The Song of Robin Hood and others.
- Photographs from Virginia Lee Burton’s life. What a beautiful, amazing woman!
Monday, May 4, 2009
Reach Out and Read
Unlike traditional childhood literacy programs, the objective of the ROR model is to deliver specialized early literacy counseling and support. ROR achieves this by taking advantage of the unique access that pediatric primary care providers have to children while they are in their critical years of cognitive and language development – six months through five years old. Three program components complement and reinforce one another:
* At each well-child visit from six months through five years, children receive a new, developmentally and culturally appropriate children's book from medical providers. By the time they begin school, children acquire a home library of at least 10 beautiful children's books.
* In the examination room, physicians and nurse practitioners offer parents tips and age-appropriate advice about the importance of reading with their young children, including materials to take home.
* Volunteers read stories and look at books with children in clinic waiting rooms, thereby modeling for the parents reading aloud techniques.
Also attending this event was Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck and his wife, Lauran. The Tucks founded Tucks R.U.S.H. for Literacy, and were honored at the dinner that night. Both Justin and Lauran spoke eloquently that night about their work with children, and Justin stressed how important his role is - not only as a starting defensive end for the Giants, but as a role model for children. It was pretty incredible to hear an athlete speak this way - especially in the wake of all the A-Rod nonsense.
Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy
Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy aspires to encourage children to READ, UNDERSTAND, SUCCEED, and HOPE as they continue to nurture literacy in their lives. This charity program is committed to raise funds to donate books and other reading materials to benefit the local New York and Central Alabama communities.
Hoda Kotb, from The Today Show's Fourth Hour, was the keynote. She took a few pictures that she promised to show during the fourth hour the next morning, and I'd hoped she would have them posted on the website. But, no. All she mentioned about the event on her Twitter was that it was a rainy night, and that you should go out on rainy nights "cuz u never know what could happen!" Though, her story about her mother reading them Green Eggs and Ham as kids was hi-larious.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
This is, by far, my favorite poem of all time.
Again, the structure. Can't you just see it? Feel it? Be it?
1. one. a leaf falls. loneliness.
Me. That's all.
I could cry, every time.
I really wanted to pick a woman as my pockets seemed to be stuffed by men. But using sex as a requirement didn't seem fair to my pockets or to the poems. My front pockets are feeling vulnerable and important. It couldn't just be any old poem.
And these two lines from Slaughterhouse Five express a sad, yet beautiful side of my vulnerability. These lines are the way in which I protect myself from you.
Everything was Beautiful
And Nothing Hurt
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman
whistles far and wee
and eddyandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
I love e.e. cummings. I LOVE e.e. cummings. I don't think that I can express that more clearly. I fucking love him.
I love his words.
I love his structure.
I love the way he plays with my brain.
What better poem for my back, right pocket when spring has finally come to us? The trees are a-bloomin' and the New York City streets are a-buzzin'. And I'm standing in Union Square Park, the sun is shining, the pollen is making everything sort of hazy, sort of dreamy, and I lean on my right hip, tucking my right hand in my back pocket, content in watching the people walk up and down, up and down, with their little french bulldogs. "in Just - / spring"
"ART"-parrot word-replaced by DADA,
PLESIOSAURUS, or handkerchief
The talent THAT CAN BE LEARNED makes the
poet a druggist TODAY the criticism
of balances no longer challenges with resemblances
Hypertrophic painters hyperaes-
theticized and hypnotized by the hyacinths
of the hypocritical-looking muezzins
CONSOLIDATE THE HARVEST OF EX-
Hypodrome of immortal guarantees: there is
no such thing as importance there is no transparence
MUSICIANS SMASH YOUR INSTRUMENTS
BLIND MEN take the stage
THE SYRINGE is only for my understanding. I write because it is
natural exactly the way I piss the way I'm sick
ART NEEDS AN OPERATION
Art is a PRETENSION warmed by the
TIMIDITY of the urinary basin, the hysteria born
in THE STUDIO
We are in search of
the force that is direct pure sober
UNIQUE we are in search of NOTHING
we affirm the VITALITY of every IN-
the anti-philosophy of spontaneous acrobatics
At this moment I hate the man who whispers
before the intermission-eau de cologne-
sour theatre. THE JOYOUS WIND
If each man says the opposite it is because he is
Get ready for the action of the geyser of our blood
-submarine formation of transchromatic aero-
planes, cellular metals numbered in
the flight of images
above the rules of the
and its control
It is not for the sawed-off imps
who still worship their navel
I found Tristan Tzara a long time ago - this poem in particular. And it moved me, particularly 'above the rules of the / and its control / BEAUTIFUL', so much. I place this poem in my back, left pocket because of the raw, sexy, satirical power of this poem. Because I see you slipping your right hand into my back left pocket. And I know what it's doing there.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"Tomorrow is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Stuff your pockets accordingly."
I answered - "I'm really going to stuff my pockets with poems tomorrow."
She said - "I know."
Which poems. Which pockets.
This is what I've been thinking about all day. And I think I have the answers. Four poems for my four pockets, the placement nearly as important as the poem.
Four pockets. Four poems. Four posts. Four / thirty.
Shelf: Now Reading
Review: Soon to the join the ranks of great paranormal teen romance novels - it's similarity to novels like 'Twilight' and the 'Wicked' (Witch, Curse...) series is why you'll like it. What sets it apart is its very 'Crucible' theme, as we watch Lena and Ethan struggle not only with the uncertainty of Lena's future, but with inequality as they discover that being a part of Lena's family means facing endless ridicule.
Purchase Now from Amazon: Beautiful Creatures (Beautiful Creatures, Book 1)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I read a news article today about the owner of an Upper East Side Laundromat paying it forward, so to speak, by offering free drying cleaning to the unemployed. The sign in his window reads, “If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for free.”
As you are well aware, so many of us have joined the futile search for – another job. The rest of us, the lucky ones, desperately cling to the poorly paying jobs we currently have. In the past several months, we’ve all heard one of two statements: “We are no longer in need of your position,” or, “I’m sorry, but due to the current economic situation, you will not be receiving a raise, bonus, or adjustment of any kind this year.” So, while the article concerning the Laundromat was uplifting in its own way, the following article concerning the proposed MTA fare hikes was not.
Americans must work to live their lives. And most of us depend on some sort of transportation, be it car, train, bus, or motorcycle, to get to work. According to 2005 study completed by the US Census Bureau, “About half of the nation’s public transportation commuters can be found in 10 of the nation’s 50 cities with the most workers age 16 or over. These cities account for 2.9 million of the nation’s 6.2 million users of public transportation.” As it stands today, public transportation is already eating away at our economically challenged pockets. The proposed 30% hike could mean that many of us won’t be able to afford the actual act of going to work.
As a personal aside, it’s tax season and with tax season came the realization that, on a monthly, even weekly basis, I am barely squeaking by. For me, the proposed hike raises my monthly
So, why isn’t
Monday, March 23, 2009
Review: With all of the blood and gore (and gag inducing descriptives), it is easy to forget just how important this novel is as a depiction of modern American society. Its theme is reminiscent of Hemingway in its cyclical nature, with Psycho's detached main characters making reservations to new restaurants and consequently canceling them, scoring blow , endlessly dicussing fashion trends, and sleeping with eachother. Culminating to the very last line of the book - THIS IS NOT AN EXIT. The ride does not end here, but goes on and on - worse than a downward spiral in its continuity.
Riveting. Fantastic. Important. Unceasing in its universal, existential truths. And, well - Gross.
Purchase Now from Amazon: American Psycho