Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All Your Books Are Belong To Us

What happens when you give a book geek gift certificates to her favorite bookstore? Pure mania. It could have been too much coffee, but my heart was beating faster than little Despereaux's. Here's a peek at my loot:

1. Half World by Hiromi Goto with illustrations by Jillian Tamaki
Why I'm excited: Beautiful illustrations and a review describing it as "a dark fantasy"with "a complex heroine." Also, it had a "Staff Pick" sticker. I like it when Malaprop's tells me what to read.

Why I'm excited: Rave review from my favorite librarian. Also, someone stuck in a sweet little note that tugged at my convulsing heart. Sidenote: I am forever loyal to David Levithan...he chose one of my stories to include in a PUSH anthology!

Why I'm excited: Twitter chat from YAL book reviewers place this as a must-read. 1st person POV from a girl with Asperger's who is trying to process her brother's death and father's sadness. I expect tenderness paired with acute observations...should be interesting.

Why I'm excited: It's The Odyssey published in Penguin Classic's line of b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l fabric bound, block printed books. Sigh.

Why I'm excited: This anthology includes "rewritten" fairy tales from writers such as Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Martone, John Updike, and Neil Gaimon (doing his version of The Odyssey no less!). It doesn't hurt that the title is from one of my favorite twisted fairy tales, The Juniper Tree...and Cinderella thought she had problems.

Why I'm excited: This may not be common knowledge, but I'm a huge geek (take a breath to process that if you need to). This book makes me feel better about myself. Plus, it doesn't hurt that M.T. Anderson, John Green, and David Levithan (see above allegiance) profess their geekdom in pixelated banners (you opposed to waving their flags...). Holly Black is my new favorite person. Bonus: comics called "How to Hook Up at the Science Fair" and "How to Cheat Like a Nerd."

And because I haven't updated in a while, here's a list of what I've been reading...
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaimon
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The White Horse Trick by Kate Thompson
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I'm planning on a double-dip book review post with info on The White Horse Trick and When You Reach Me. I'm still working on the later, and noticing some similar themes....

Whew...ok...time to go read some more!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Walking Castles and Chick-Magnet Suits...

I have a theory. A book doesn't have to have a complicated plot line that's knee-deep in mythology or characters who you feel like may have actually been in your 10th grade chemistry class. A book doesn't have to be momentous and busting out of it's pants to be good. There. I said it. Slay me now.

Why this realization? Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle reminded me of how much I love a simple fairy-taleish book.

Basically, Sophie is a young woman (18?) who has resigned herself to life as a marmy blue-hair before she's really lived her life, a personality trait that plays a key role in the story when the evil Witch of the Waste actually transforms Sophie into a 90-year-old. Perfect.
Sophie ambles out of town and barges in to the (supposedly evil) Wizard Howl's moving castle where she meets Calcifer, a fire demon, who swears he can change her back. It's no surprise that we find out Howl is not evil and that he and Sophie become dependant on one another. What is suprising? Sophie's a little bit magic and she is probably one of the most stubborn characters I've met in awhile. Seriously. She's an imp. An old imp. I love her.
There are also some interesting sisters, Howl's enchanted chick-magnet suit (yeah, he's that kind of guy), a scarecrow, and a magic door.

With all the magic in this book, you would think that there would be duels, wands, lightening bolts cracking through the air, but no. Jones' magic is a quiet enchantment that doesn't brag, doesn't question, and isn't even amazed by itself. It felt like a great fairytale. I can't wait until Netflix delivers the movie version! It's an animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo, Spirited Away), which is perfect for this book. I'm sure the animation will be enchanting and the plot not too pushy.

Rowdiness Factor: Sophie is something else.... Even though she "settles down" in the end, Jones was careful to let us know that her spunkiness did not waiver. Thank you for not turning her into a "happy housewife"...she's already cleaned Howl's entire castle. That's plenty.
Rrrrr: I don't really understand why the eldest child is doomed to fail. Also, it wraps up really quickly...if the last chapter of the book is eaten by a wild goose when you're on a picnic, then you miss all the resolution. Sorry. Hit up the library.

PS--Thanks to one of my awesome students for loaning me this book. You were right--I loved it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hey Mr. Tambourine Man

You know, I don't do too well with clean things. Neat things. Refined things. I like things a little messy, a little unraveled, a little...would you say...rowdy?
That's why I love Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. It focuses on Bob Dylan the same way you can never really focus on anything in your periphery. He's there, but not in name. A variety of characters in different times, places, situations personify different layers of Dylan. It's gritty, truthful, sometimes even a little absurd (a giraffe in a wild west Halloween town?). More importantly, it reminds me of what really great art, music, and writing can do. It can cut past the fluff and get down to some bit of raw truth, even if you don't know what that truth is supposed to be. Plus, Cate Blanchett plays a really rowdy dude (see bottom middle picture). Awesome. Awesome to the nth degree.

Ok...enough of such adult things. As you may or may not know, I'm working on my own YA book and I'm struggling with balancing the fantastic with something really honest. I'm Not There helped me with this and planted a seed for a new character--Amos! I don't know a whole lot about him yet, but I'm really excited to get to know him! I think he's going to be pretty interesting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ellen and the Fizzled Furnace

Ok, so it's not the best premise for a book, but it's at least a break from the ordinary. Our furnace seems to be broken, though I'm hoping that the guy can come today, give a swift kick, and get that sucker in gear. Anyway, we don't have heat and there's snow a-coming (a single digit lows...eek!).
I can't help but wonder what an intuitive, resourceful, young rowdy girl character would do...
  1. Build a small fire in the den using the side tables for wood. Some things are more important than furniture and floor life and warmth.
  2. Huddle into the dog for warmth. Wait, that's what I do. nevermind.
  3. Befriend a dragon for his heat-breath.
  4. Re-engineer the entire heating system with only a paperclip and a penny (all rowdy girls are brilliant, don't you know?).
  5. Time travel to the summer where she can complain about how hot it is for a change.

As for the time being, I'm putting on warm socks, long johns, and a funny-looking hat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


When throngs of girls lined up outside of bookstores to be the 1st with the new Twilight books, I rolled my eyes. Seriously,'s ok. You can wait a day to buy the next book. Oh, am I ever a hypocrite!

Recently, I became involved in 3 different book series...none of which have been completed yet! I am chomping at the bit to jump back into any of these worlds...

  • Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel. So far, we have The Alchemyst, The Magician, The Sorceress, and The Necromancer. Next up...The Warlock due in May, 2011 (arg!). Humani like I don't wait well!

  • Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus. Percy's Jackson's not top dog anymore! In fact, he's missing.... In The Lost Hero, a pick-up from the Percy Jackson series, we revisit Camp Half-Blood and learn about heroes born from Roman gods. Book 2 is due out Fall 2011.

  • Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles is, of course, a modern venture into the world of ancient gods--Egyptian gods this time. The premise of The Red Pyramid is pretty standard for those familiar with Riordan's books--gods need help from humans to prevent the end of the world. However, you don't see me complaining about anything except that book 2 isn't due out until Spring 2011.

Moral of the story...don't start a new series until it's almost time for the next book to be out.