Monday, April 30, 2012

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Rating: 5 stars

Into Thin Air has been sitting on my shelf for at least a few years now, bought shortly after I'd completed Into the Wild, and left to the wiles of the dubious To Be Read pile. A conversation within Twitter's #fridayreads thread in which I stated, "I need to read more Krakauer," to another user, prompted me to pluck this out of the pile on his recommendation. I had told him that Into the Wild left, "such an impression on me." While having no doubt that Into Thin Air would display Krakauer's extraordinary talent as a journalist and writer - I still was skeptical that it could surpass Into the Wild in my heart and mind.

It has.

Similar to the start of Wild - Krakauer begins Thin Air about 3/4 of the way through his story. Before you even get moving, he's already shown you what is to come. You would think that this would help stall the shock and overwhelming emotion as in each chapter Krakauer and his teammates climb higher and higher to the summit of Everest. It doesn't. Not at all.

The book is Krakauer's personal account of the Everest tragedy in 1996. Sent on assignment by Outside magazine to report on the commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer and several, several others are caught up in a storm near the top of the mountain where they all faced severe hypothermia, hypoxia, and - for eight climbers - death. The story is harrowing tale of the beautiful danger of nature, survival against all odds, and - ultimately - the struggle to come to terms with leaving others behind. Krakauer leads us up the mountain, working hard to capture every detail, to accurately represent what he can and fill the gaps with as balanced speculation as possible.

Most amazingly, Krakauer manages to bring each of the people on that mountain to life again. I began to feel like they were people that I'd met - and when the inevitable tragedy struck, I found myself shaken to my core at their deaths. Throughout my day, I kept going back to the internet to search for their faces. To  continue to try and connect with people long gone, who weren't even mine to know.  Now - having finished - I am grieving.

Another interesting read: Paul Deegan's 1998 review of Anatoli Boukreev's "rival" book, The Climb. Though other supplemental reading suggests that the two were not enemies, persay, they did have different opinions on what happened that day. Krakauer writes Boukreev (a guide with the rival team) fairly poorly in Into Thin Air. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Into Thin AirInto the WildThe Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Dance with Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Rating: 3 stars

While A Dance with Dragons was double the size of Feast for Crows, it took less than half the amount of time to read. I toiled through Feast for months, wondering where the brilliant writing and storytelling of the first three books had gone. A Dance with Dragons doesn't bring it back - unfortunately - but it's a far superior and much less tedious book than the one that came before it. And now that all of the characters seem to be where they need to be for this story to begin to come its close, I continue to have nothing but high hopes for this series.

A Dance with Dragons brings back our favorite characters, all of whom were missing from Feast for Crows. But, because it is so large and spans such a long period of time - we pick back up with some of the characters in Feast as well - causing the book to fall back into the pattern that George R. R. had set with his first three books. Those favorite characters were welcome and long (LOOONG) missed.

Still, while his story telling remains fairly strong throughout the book - the writing has suffered dramatically (in comparison to Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings, Storm of Swords). In fact, the book falls prey to some of the things I hate about mass market, serial writing. Character development doesn't just fall flat, it abruptly ceases to exist. Instead, the characters repeat the same thoughts over and over again, by way of the age old writing faux pas - TELLING us, rather than showing the reader how each character progresses through the books. It makes for pretty boring reading. Each character stays vibrant and alive only through the legacy created by past books.

But, I still love this series. And I'll still eagerly await the next book. And I'll still foolishly hope that Martin's contract with HBO means that he's also promised to write his books in a timely fashion. We'll see!

(Oh! Another annoyance for people who were fans of the book first - George R.R. refers to the Others as white walkers at least once in this book! Please keep HBO and your books separate!? PLEASE?)

Purchase Now from Amazon: A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Giving Away Wintergirls on World Book Night

Last night, I participated in World Book Night - an initiative to spread the love and joy of books and reading across the United States (as well as the U.K. and Ireland). My book of choice was Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I picked up my 25 copies from Flights of Fantasy, a local independent bookstore, and set off for Colonie Center Mall to hand out the books. My fear was that I'd chosen a poor location. I asked the girl behind the counter at Flights - where were others giving their books out?  She only knew that one person had decided to give their books out at the family center near the Crossings. A family center! That's so much better than a mall!

However, things were looking pretty amazing from the moment I got there. Not only was I able to approach single shoppers and strike a conversation with them, but I was also able to approach groups of friends who looked as though they might enjoy reading the book together.

Having worked marketing street teams before in New York City, I had a picture in my mind of what to expect. Most people will say no, others will grab and go, and a mere few will stop to ask questions. My expectations were dashed. Most people stopped to ask me about World Book Night and about the book I'd chosen to give away. A couple even told me that they'd pass it on after they finished. You'll see from my Twitter feed below - start to finish, I encountered hardly anyone who said no, and gave away my books in about an hour.

My only regret was not giving the book to any men. Not that I didn't try. I did. That is where most of my Nos came from. But it would have been nice to get at least one man interested in reading a book like this. 

For future World Book Nights, I'd like to create a bookmark to go along with the book. I wish I'd given people my blog url and my Twitter handle so that they could let me know if they'd read the book and whether or not they liked it. I did choose my favorite book from the list, so that I could be confident in my recommendation. I'd very sincerely love to know how others felt about the book. If I was able to make 25 impressions. 

I hope so. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Harry Potter Birthday Cake

My brother's boyfriend is a seriously, seriously talented cake decorator. It was a long while ago, but he created the cake for the Oscar Party Matt and I hosted before I moved. Well, last night's cake for my 28th birthday really ... took the cake.

Isn't that gorgeous??? There's a Golden Snitch on the other side too, not pictured here. For a glimpse at Lu's other amazing creations, you can visit his My Cakes Pinterest board

Friday, April 20, 2012

From Instructor to Author - A Magic Show

My absence - especially after such an amazing run of day-by-day activity in March - is due entirely to the fact that I've only seen 3 days at home this month. The rest of my time has been spent on the road. Alabama came first at the beginning of the month. And I'm currently sitting in Bismark Airport in North Dakota at the end of my trip here.

I was invited by a department at the University of North Dakota to come speak about what the publishing process is like for an instructor who is interested in becoming an author. The presentation went really well, I do have to say - the department responded well to it and I think I may have gotten more than one lead.

How does it work, then? How does one go from teaching in front of a classroom to penning a textbook?

The Idea: The idea part is pretty crucial. Most of my travel time is spent talking to people, poking my nose in their daily teaching life, trying to find the weaknesses in hopes that I can come up with an idea to help fill a need. During the presentation I asked, on a show of hands, how many instructors feel as though they'd already written a book, given the amount of information/materials they'd had to collect and/or write themselves to supplement, or sometimes even lead, classroom learning. The response was overwhelming. And so - from this weakness, this need - an idea is born.

Proposal: Some proposals come unsolicited, which is - amazing.  Unfortunately - in my disciplines - this is rarely the case. Instead, I'm usually doing a search for my authors. LinkedIn has proved INCREDIBLY useful. As has Twitter, actually - where I've been able to carry on conversations with both industry and education. Anyway - whatever means I use to come by talented and enthusiastic authors, a proposal - or a formal outline and explanation of your project - is absolutely needed. We provide would-be authors with a document on How to Prepare a Textbook Proposal.

Reviews: Your proposal gives me the opportunity to do some market research. Seek out other schools that might be in need of the same subject - find out what the competition has done and how they've done it. Reviews are crucial - done by subject matter experts at schools around the country, they give me the feedback I need to truly determine if the book is going to make an impact.

Party: Just kidding - we don't have a party. But once everything has been reviewed and approved, we agree to make you an author an move on to the real writing stages of your project.

Manuscript: I try to give new authors about a year and a half to two years to write. It seems like such a long time, but believe me... it goes rather quickly! And we try to make it clear, especially with my disciplines - write as you teach, not as you think a Pulitzer Prize winning author for literature might. We have copy editors who can help with the grammar.

Development/Production: At this stage, the book gets all sorted. A design layout is placed and the book is sent off to print.

Abracadabra! You're now an author!

My disciplines are: Welding, Mechanical Technology, Process Technology and Aviation. Use LinkedIn or Twitter to contact me for more information.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New York, Phew York

Looks like this is getting closer and closer to its release. I'm VERY excited about this. Not only did I grow up with illustrator Tim Probert and always knew he would make a fabulous children's book illustrator - this book just seems so fun! It's all the good and bad smells of New York, from Pizza to Sewer Steam. Yum! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Walking Dead - Robert Kirkman

Rating: 4 stars

When Season 2 of The Walking Dead ended with a hooded stranger rescuing Andrea and a glimpse of the groups' new home, I went a little crazy. I didn't want it to end! So I borrowed Book One from a friend and settled down to tear through the comic.

Very, very good! And completely different from the show, allowing for two different yet absolutely fantastic experiences. The artists change about halfway through the first 12 issues (which make up Book One) and it's a little jarring. Still, the fast pace of the novel brought me to the end of Book One rather quickly, riding a wave of high anxiety and tension. It is, after all, a continuing story of survival horror, told in a world that's gone to shit and probably won't ever turn around.

Purchase Now From Amazon: The Walking Dead, Book 1

Also, check out Omnivoracious' What to Read While Waiting for Season 3 of "The Walking Dead."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Battle of the Kids Books - A Spectator's Commentary, The Finale

Comments: Surprise! Remember when I called this? Okay for Now is back in the game. And now... the final stand.

Review Excerpt from Okay for Now: "Enraptured by the art, Doug begins to draw himself out of a bad place...[he] learns, through art, to engage with life: it's a slow, dedcated commitment to embracing the pain as well as the joys."  
Review Excerpt from Life: An Exploded Diagram: "It's all rationing, resentment, religious mania, sexual repression. Luckily our guide, Clem Ackroyd, has an eye for the telling detail that renders everything bright like crystal." 
Review Excerpt from Between Shades of Gray: "Ruta Sepetys has passed the message on to us, sketching the incomprehensible in plain, clear lines. She shows us love, hope and tenderness flourishing in hell, and in doing so has created an unputdownable book." 
Comments: Well... all I'm going to say is... this didn't turn out at all like I thought. And even though I want to read all three of these book, I still think that Between Shades of Gray is the clear masterpiece. Okay, so I haven't read and I don't really know. But I KNOW! 

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