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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Best of both worlds

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Alyssa is the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice. The Alice – the one that Alice in Wonderland is based on. She creates morbid art with the bodies of insects and parts of plants, hoping to quell the voices she hears. That’s right – she can hear plants and insects talking to her. But telling her dad would mean a one-way ticket to the same asylum as her mom, who shares the same infliction.

During one of her weekly visits to her mom, Alyssa begins to question whether or not the voices are real. Her mom hears the bugs and plants saying the exact same things she hears. If she were making it all up in her head, then the conversations wouldn’t match up word for word, right? Alyssa’s mom says that the family is cursed because of what Alice did, though she doesn’t explain what that is exactly. To break the curse, they would have to go down the rabbit hole. Since Alyssa’s mom isn’t going anywhere, it’s up to her to find the rabbit hole and right Alice’s wrongs (whatever they may be).

Let’s start with the cover. Gorgeous. Absolutely eye-catching. The thing with pictures, though, is that it doesn’t portray just how brilliant the colors shine. Go to your local bookstore (once you’re finished reading this blog) and find a copy. You will be blown away.

Next, the type. I’m not usually one to comment on the format of a book, font and otherwise, but perhaps that is because most books are just black type on cream paper. This book, however, is a little more lavish. The type is in purple, which I thought at first might be a strain on the eyes, simply because I’m used to reading in black, but that was not the case. I actually stopped noticing it after a while. The beginning of each chapter also has a little more decoration than the rest of the book. I don’t know how to describe it, really, except to say that there are intricate designs flowing across the top of the page. The best likeness I can think of is that it could be a wrought-iron gate design. The chapter title even has an enticing font; it has a little bit of a flourish but not so much that it’s illegible.

Everything about the book is appealing to the eye and intriguing to the mind. Before the reader even begins at the very first word, she is drawn in and excited about the adventure that awaits her.

The writing was beautiful and descriptive. Of course, when reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of the movies that have been made of Alice – the Disney version as well as Tim Burton’s version. I also thought about Lewis Carroll’s book, which I’d read most of a decade ago. From what I remember of what I read, Howard’s imagining of Wonderland fit well with Carroll’s tale.

This is no children’s story, though. The opening scene is Alyssa creating one of her dead-bug murals. And it just gets creepier from there. After finding the rabbit hole and making her way to Wonderland, Alyssa soon discovers that Carroll’s book wasn’t an exact depiction of the other world. The white rabbit, for example, is a creature that looks like a rabbit but with antlers instead of ears and most of his skin and muscles have been rotted away, leaving mostly bones behind. He claims he is of the White lineage and he is rabid, rather than a rabbit. It’s a dark and twisted version of the Wonderland that Alyssa grew up with. As she journeys through the world, though, she discovers things about herself that she never knew.

This is a definite must-read for any Alice in Wonderland fan.

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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Literature

 

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Challenge accepted!

The publisher W.W. Norton tweeted names of novels with a winter twist. Some of the tweets include: Fifty Shades of Yellow Snow, Plowers for Algernon, Less Than Absolute Zero, and We Need to Talk About Kelvin. Oh, the puns! Norton has also retweeted some really great titles from its followers. For example: To Chill a Mockingbird, A Farewell to (the Feeling in My) Arms, Nowhere Near the Tropic of Cancer, and Gloves in the Time of Cholera.

I love them all! Of course, this is not the full list, nor am I crediting anyone here. To see more and who wrote what, look for Norton on Twitter @wwnorton or search for #ColdWeatherLit.

Of course, I can’t see these tweets and not share a few of my own ideas. Here are the ones I thought of (and others may thought of them, too, but I didn’t see any of them tweeted…though I didn’t look that hard).

The Scarlett Sweater

The House of Warmth

Alice’s Adventures in a Winter Wonderland

The Heart of Winter (or) The Winter of Darkness

Ethan Frozen

Bleak Winter

Dante’s Inferno Sounds Pretty Good Right Now

The Man in the Ski Mask

A Room with a Fireplace

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Literature

 

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A funny thing happened in the bookstore

Last year a book came out titled Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores and it was composed by Jen Campbell. Most of the quotes came from her time working in a couple of bookstores in England, but others came from booksellers in the US and Canada. It’s a quick read – I read it in just a day (ironically, I read it on Christmas, one of the two days that my bookstore closes for the year). Just when you think you’ve heard it all, though, someone opens her mouth…

I’ve had my fair share of the weird and funny, as have my coworkers. We swap stories so we can get a laugh because even though we work in a bookstore and not an emergency room, things sometimes get stressful.* In honor of Campbell’s book, here is a little compilation of my own and my coworkers’ (with my inner sarcastic remarks in parentheses as well).

Do you have Brains for Dummies or Dummies for Brains – one of those? (You obviously do.)

Little boy: Does this cost free? (It was cute until he yelled at his mom 10 minutes later, “You WILL buy me something!)

Grandmother: Star Wars is fiction, right? (No, it’s real. My Millennium Falcon is getting some detail work done at the moment.)

Where’s your Oprah Book Club section?

Where’s your birthday book section? You know, the books you would give to someone on their birthday. (All around you, lady.)

Do you have How to Draw Stick Figures for Dummies? (There is no such book, but give me $50 and I’ll teach you, dummy.)

Grandma: Do you have a younger version of Harry Potter? There’s no way my granddaughter could read something so big!
Granddaughter: Yes, I can! I’ve already read the first three books.
Grandma: So, is there anything for younger readers?
Me: No, these are the only Harry Potter books that there are. You could always watch the movies if the books are too hard.
Grandma: They made a movie?
Me: They made eight. (Have you been living under a pile of rocks for the past 15 years?)

Customer: Where is your non-fiction section?
Me: It’s 3/4 of the store. Is there a particular subject or book I can show you?
Customer: I want to browse gift books; books that I can give as gifts. Like cookbooks.
Me: Our cookbook section is right here.
Customer: But I want non-fiction books!
Me: *blank stare
Customer: I don’t want to give just cookbooks! I also want to look at your history books or anything that would be a good gift to get. Could you just show me what section that would be in?
Me: I’m afraid I don’t understand what you want.
Customer: I want the non-fiction section!
Me: *sweeps arm over 3/4 of the store It’s all right there.

That’s all I have…for now, anyway. But I want to leave you with a story that I wish I could have witnessed myself. This comes from part time bookseller who seems to get more than her fair share of the weird:

A customer was sitting at a table in our cafe. He was checking his messages on speaker phone. One message was from his pharmacy telling him (and the rest of the cafe) that his Viagra was ready for pick-up. The man quickly packed up his stuff and left the store. What poetic justice for disrupting the peace!

*Why is it that some people think that working in a bookstore is relaxing and that we get to sit around and read on the clock? Those books don’t shelve themselves!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Everyday Life

 

Those who don’t learn from history are stupid

Note: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) through my workplace. The book is scheduled to be released in March 2013.

The publisher Shadow Mountain has yet to fail me. When it comes to young adult fantasy and adventure, they know their stuff. Back in early 2009, they sent copies of teaser chapters from a new series by an up-and-coming author. Not one to read adult fantasy (save for the Quantum Leap books and a few others), I picked up the book sample and read it on my break. Instantly I was blown away. I wanted to continue reading beyond the two teaser chapters but the book wasn’t due to be published for another two months! Instantly, I ordered it and the day it arrived, I was eager to get home from work and start in on it. The book was The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner. He’d published a series before, but wasn’t widely known – yet. Within a year he published another book, The Maze Runner, through another publisher. It was through this new series (four books in total) that earned him the title New York Times Bestselling Author. I have every single one of his books and it is because Shadow Mountain first introduced him to me.

Then in late summer of 2011, my Community Relations Manager handed me an ARC of a book titled The Janitors by Tyler Whitesides. The publisher was Shadow Mountain so I thought I would give it a try. Once again, I was blown away by the clever and well written fantasy book!

Inventors SecretSo when my CRM told me he had an ARC from Shadow Mountain, I didn’t even ask who or what it was; I just said I wanted it. It was The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris. Not surprisingly, I loved the book.

It’s the year 2074 and twins Abby and Derick have been admitted to the world-renown school Cragbridge, a school for gifted and talented students. Abby doesn’t believe she belongs there. It’s Derick who gets the perfect grades and programs video games. She struggles with math and has done nothing extraordinary with her life. So why is she even admitted into the school? Because her grandfather founded it.

This makes life for the socially shy Abby even more difficult. She gets ostracized by her roommate, who then tells the other girls that Abby’s at school while someone who should be there isn’t. At this point in the story, I was already emotionally attached to this young girl and my heart went out to her when people started being mean to her. But eventually Abby makes a friend, Carol, who thinks that being ordinary in a school full of extraordinary kids makes Abby special.

Like most of its students, Cragbridge is no ordinary school. Animals are studied through avatars and historic events come alive in the classroom. Thanks to the wonderful inventions from Abby and Derick’s grandfather, learning has become so much more than just reading books.

Because of his inventions, though, Oscar Cragbridge fears he is in danger. Indeed he is right; a man the reader only knows as Charles seeks to learn all of Oscar’s secrets and to get them, he traps Abby and Derick’s parents aboard Titanic three days before its doomed demise. All Abby and Derick know, though, is that their family is missing and it’s up to them to follow their grandfather’s clues to rescue them. The clues rest in various places, including books, quotes, and historic events. I won’t say how it ends but lessons are learned and there is an opening for more to come.

The book is also a clever history lesson. Morris does a great job of describing the historic events as Abby and Derick review them, making it feel as if the reader is right beside them as they watch history. One event they review is Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance being stranded in Antarctica. As I read this part of the book, I remembered my own fascination with the story when I first learned about it a few years ago (22 men stranded in Antarctica for two years and they all survived). It made me want to read even more about the event; perhaps other readers will feel the same and pick up history books after reading this one.

Fans of fantasy and adventure are sure to love this book just as much as I did. Download or buy a copy (preferably from a brick-and-mortar store) in March – you won’t regret it!

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2013 in Literature

 

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Underpants!

This is a review for Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella. I was granted access to a digital Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) through Edelweiss. The book is scheduled to come out in May 2013. This review contains spoilers.

Wedding NightWhen people ask me for a good beach read, one of the authors I recommend is Sophie Kinsella. Her books are light and fun, often with quirky characters and laugh-out-loud moments. I’ve read almost everything she’s written under the pseudonym (her real name is Madeline Wickham and I have yet to read any of those books, though I want to). She’s most known for her Shopaholic series, of which the first book was made into a movie. While the Shopaholic series is fun, I think Kinsella’s best works are her stand-alone titles. Remember Me? and Can You Keep a Secret? are my two favorites.

Kinsella’s next book is another stand-alone titled Wedding Night. Lottie expects that her long-term boyfriend Richard is poised to propose at a special lunch date. When he doesn’t propose, and seems downright frightened of marriage, Lottie tries to save face by dumping him. The next day she makes plans with Ben, an ex she hasn’t seen in 15 years. When they meet for lunch, a mixture of alcohol and nostalgia causes them to do the unthinkable. Ben proposes and Lottie accepts. But there’s one condition: no sex until the honeymoon.

Lottie’s older sister, Fliss, reviews hotels and spas for a travel magazine. She’s going through a divorce from Daniel, who doesn’t seem to care about their seven-year-old son Noah. After a two-week trip abroad, Fliss comes home to find her sister engaged – and set to marry the next day! Fliss disagrees with the choice, seeing as Lottie just got out of a relationship and Fliss hasn’t even met the bridegroom. But Ben and Lottie elope anyway and jettison off to the Greek island where they first fell in love. Determined not to let Lottie ruin her life through a messy divorce like her own, Fliss does everything in her power to stop the couple from consummating their marriage. Acting through the VIP concierge at the hotel (whom she bribes with a five-star review and personal profile), Fliss manages to keep the two apart.

In the meantime, Fliss is on her way to the Greek island to rescue her sister. In tow is her son, who provides great comic relief to awkward moments. At the airport, Fliss spots Ben’s business partner, Lorcan, who needs some papers signed, and Richard who is finally ready to declare his love for Lottie. Everything comes to a head when Lottie discovers the truth about Fliss, Ben, and Richard.

The plot is right up there with Kinsella’s other books – unusual and inventive. It had its predictable moments, like Fliss and Lorcan ending up together, as well as Lottie and Richard. But how they got there was still quite creative. I don’t think I could have come up with so many ways to keep people from consummating their relationship! There were a few actual laugh-out-loud moments, which is usually a guarantee in any Kinsella book. There were also lessons that different characters learned, which was good, but what was even better was that Fliss forgot hers right away and had to re-learn it. It’s something that a lot of us do, I think.

So, would I put Wedding Night up there as one of my favorites? No, but it was good entertainment and would recommend it to anyone in need of a laugh or needed something for vacation. That is, if they haven’t already read Remember Me?

 *If you want to understand the title of this post, then you’ll have to read the book.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Literature

 

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’m disappointed in myself in that I only had 8 new posts last year. That is a major fail as a writer! I should have at least 8 posts a month! On that note, time to get writing…

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Rants

 
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Yes, I know it’s been awhile (only half a year) since I posted so I’ll try to make this “catching up” post brief.

The most significant change in my life is my relationship status. Fred and I called it quits back in September, though we both saw it coming for a while. There are no hard feelings between us – we just wanted something different out of the relationship that the other couldn’t provide. Yes, we still talk, but not like we used to. He moved out and I’m in the large apartment by myself. For the most part I enjoy the quietness of living alone again but I do get lonely at times.

The holidays were the worst for this. My sister came to spend Thanksgiving with me and we had fun crafting art for our walls. I spent Christmas at a friend’s house, expecting just good food and good company. The family surprised me by getting me a wonderful gift – a certificate for a massage! Needless to say, I felt that my coming with a partially drunk bottle of spiked eggnog was not a significant exchange. Gift aside, just being around people on Christmas was good. Had I been home, I would have been on the couch crying. (Although, come to think of it, I did cry that evening, but that was because we saw Les Miserable.) New Year’s was probably the most uneventful; I spent a few hours at Judy’s house watching The Twilight Zone marathon. Just before midnight we flipped to another channel, one showing the ball dropping in Times Square. When the clock struck midnight, we gave a very unenthusiastic “woo”. And, no, we did not kiss (pervs). So, I wasn’t alone for the holidays or my birthday (smack dab in the middle of December) but that doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a few tears.

Not all is gloom and doom, though. I am expecting to become an aunt soon, which is very exciting. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say on the internet so for the time being, I won’t say anything else. Mom and Dad are enjoying retirement. Last year they took a three week trip to New Zealand and Australia and next week they’re going to Tahiti. What an adventure!

Of course a new year brings new goals. My goal first and foremost is TO FINISH EDITING MY NOVEL AND SUBMIT IT TO IUNIVERSE! I wrote that in all caps because it’s been four years – FOUR! – since my dear friend Mike gifted me a publishing package. That’s too long and it looks like I’m ungrateful for the wonderful opportunity to see my words in print; I’m not ungrateful, just scared. But I’m also anxious to move on to another writing project. This one just needs to be wrapped up first.

I also want to continue to grow my card business. If I hadn’t mentioned in previous posts, I make sarcastic greeting cards called Sarcasm Included. I opened an Etsy shop and have a corresponding blog. I’m reading books about making your craft into a business and just have to remember: one step at a time. Also: craft every day. That is something I need to be better about (as well as writing every day).

The other big goal for 2013 pertains to books. (Who’d have guessed?) Last year I had a goal to read 40 books, which I did (sadly, counting a few picture books) so this year I have a goal to read 45 books. Last year I also hoped to read 6 classic novels but I didn’t even read one. I think I was overwhelmed by my first choice, which was The Annotated Wizard of Oz. “Overwhelmed by The Wizard of Oz?” you may be thinking. Yes and I’ll tell you why. The annotated version started off with 100 pages of introduction to L. Frank Baum’s life and the evolution of the Oz series. And I’m not talking 100 pages of paperback proportions. The book is wider and taller than the average hardcover book so the amount of text per page is significantly greater.. I’m talking 100 pages of that. So I got through that (it took awhile but I did it) and then I started in on the actual book itself. First was Baum’s own one-page introduction (ah – one page! How nice!). Unfortunately, this came with three pages of annotated notes.

So that’s where I stopped with that. Too much too soon. If I’m going to drudge* through 100 pages of introduction for weeks on end, I want the rest of it to be easy. I think I’ll go back and read just the book at some point and skip all the notes. Either way, lesson learned.

That’s the news for now. Hopefully I’ll be posting more here as well as my other blog and Etsy shop. Thanks for reading!

*It was actually a very good, detailed introduction and I enjoyed it for the most part. It just felt like it took forever because one page took several minutes to read so reading for an hour and only get a few pages done made it feel like I wasn’t accomplishing anything at all.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2013 in About me

 

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