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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tuesday, Wednesday, happy day!

Tuesdays at the CastleCastle Glower is no ordinary castle. Its alive, or as alive as a castle can be. On Tuesdays while King Glower is busy hearing his subjects, the castle rearranges itself to stave off boredom. Sometimes it even builds new rooms. Princess Celie, the youngest of the four royal children, has a special bond with the castle; it seems to favor her. Perhaps it’s because she’s the first person in its long history to attempt to draw a map of the castle, but no one knows for certain. What is obvious, though, is that Castle Glower helps Celie, along with her sister Lilah, brother Rolf, and friend Pogue, when the king, queen, and eldest son go missing. The royal council declares them dead, making 14-year-old Rolf king, but the children don’t give up hope so easily. The castle helps them sneak around and spy on guests to see if they are friends or foes.

Although Tuesdays in the Castle by Jessica Day George is a children’s book, it captures the hearts of all ages. The writing is light but the action is packed and there’s comedy throughout. The book was a fast read for me, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Prince Lulath was a particularly fun character because his English isn’t very good and he always has his four precious doggies with him. Celie is the main star of the show and readers will be drawn to her kind heart and loyalty to her family and Castle Glower.

***Spoiler Alert***

The sequel, Wednesdays in the Tower, is set to be released May 7, 2013. I had the privilege to read a digital ARC.

Wednesdays in the TowerIn the second book, the king, queen, and eldest son Bran have returned to Castle Glower. This time the castle shows Celie a tower with no roof and a rather mysterious occupant – an egg. It’s no ordinary egg, though. It’s huge and orange, like the color of flame, and is hot to the touch. At first Celie thinks it might be a dragon egg, but soon she learns that it’s actually a griffin egg. Griffins were thought to be mythical creatures, but Celie knows that it is not so. Bran, Pogue, and Rolf all help Celie gather information about griffins, from books in the castle library to old tapestries hanging on the wall depicting humans riding griffins in battle. They know that all of this ties into the history of the castle, where it came from (legend has it that it just appeared one day), and why it has started acting strangely. They just need to figure out how it all ties together.

Again, the writing was light with just the right mixture of action, comedy, and mystery. The history of Castle Glower starts to come to light in the sequel, as well as its capabilities. Celie starts questioning where all those rooms come from on Tuesdays and where do they go when the castle gets rid of them. Many readers probably asked the same questions when reading Tuesdays and George found a good way of addressing those questions without giving everything away right at once. In fact, she doesn’t give everything away in the book, but leaves it with a cliffhanger, an open ending just begging for another sequel. Which brings me to my totally selfish whine: I want to know what happens! The next book likely won’t be out until summer of 2014. I can’t wait that long! Why did I foolishly pick up the first book (and enjoy it, along with the second book) when the series is still being written? Argh!

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Literature

 

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Check this out!

Happy First Day of Spring!.

The above link is to a blog written by my dear friend, Lisa. It is dedicated to picture books. I always love her recommendations – they are always on the mark! Please check out her blog!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Literature

 

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Late update

Back in February, I posted that I had a goal to edit 60 pages of my novel by the end of the month. Seeing as it’s now late March, I thought I should update my readers about said goal. Alas, I did not get 60 pages edited. It was more like 10. I hang my head in shame, but not for so long as to deter me from continuing on. Editing has been the longest part of this process (I’m talking years here) and while I’m editing, I’m coming up with more and more ideas. I did take a good step toward checking continuity by creating a chart with each character’s first and last name, her main story, and other stories she shows up in. This has already helped tremendously as I noticed I’d given one character three different last names! Oops!

I also decided to write an epilogue. For those new to the blog, I should explain a little about my book. It’s called About Last Weekend and it takes place over a weekend. Each “chapter” is a story with one main character. Other characters from other stories come and go so each story is connected with one or more other stories. Some stories take place on Friday night, others Saturday, some Sunday, and a select few over all three days. The epilogue will take place on Monday morning and the characters who survived the weekend will make an appearance. So far, I’ve written a page and a half of the epilogue but more ideas are coursing through my brain!

As always, I’ve been trolling book websites, including my favorite, GoodReads. Publishers list giveaways of ARCs (and some final copies of books) there so that any member can enter into a drawing to get a copy. I have to do a little more research, but I think I might be able to list my own giveaway there, perhaps to entice people to read my book and review it. I will post about this when the time draws nearer.

Now that we’re officially in Spring, I will set another editing goal: edit 3 stories and write 5 pages of the epilogue by April 30th. (This one isn’t nearly as lofty as the first goal but when I say “edit”, I still mean fleshing out scenes and characters.)

Finally, I cannot end this post without thanking my dear, loyal, PATIENT friend Mike. He is the one who gifted me the publishing package 4 years ago. I will finish this novel, Mike! I promise!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in About me, Literature

 

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Quick read

The Last Girlfriend on EarthI just finished a short story collection titled The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich. It was a quick read; 24 hours didn’t even pass between the time I picked it up and the time I put it down. The stories were quirky and most were hilarious. The first one got me right laughing out loud on the airplane while I was sandwiched in between two older men. Once you figure out who the narrator is for that one, you won’t stop laughing (I’m not going to spoil it for you here). The next few stories that followed were okay, but the ones that got me were a little further in. There’s one where Seth meets his ex’s new boyfriend, Adolf Hitler, one where God’s girlfriend demands attention while he’s trying to create the universe on schedule, and one where a priest is asked to exorcise the ghost of an ex-girlfriend from an apartment, just to name a few. There are 31 stories in all, most of them funny, though one of them was sad (thankfully the collection didn’t end on this story or my feelings might have turned out differently). It’s difficult to put into words exactly why this collection was so good; I think the best thing I can say about it is that Rich has a way of thinking of situations, turning them on their heads, and making the best out of said situation. This collection is a must-read for anyone who’s ever been in a relationship.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Literature

 

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I just have to know!

**This posts contains spoilers for the book The Selection by Kiera Cass**

Last March I started reading an advanced copy of The Selection by Kiera Cass. At the time, I had just read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I needed a break before reading Mockingjay and decided to give The Selection a shot. The cover is what caught my eye and the synopses sounded intriguing. In a post-American world, 35 girls compete to win the prince’s hand in marriage. As many reviewers later put it, it was The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.¬† Granted, just coming off reading The Hunger Games, I found that the books had several similarities, but nothing that could be considered plagiarism. I actually didn’t get very far into reading the book. The tone of it irked me, though I couldn’t really put my finger on why exactly. So I put the book down with no intention of picking it back up again.

Now, a year later I’ve started listening to audio books to help check books off my “to read” list a little quicker. When browsing online for downloadable audio books from my library, I came across The Selection. Sure, I remembered my dislike of the little bit that I read, but I was also curious. What happened after I’d stopped reading? My curiosity was too much and I decided to go ahead and listen to it.

The SelectionIn the futuristic world of The Selection, there’s a caste system in 35 different provinces and moving between castes is extremely difficult but not impossible. The royal family is the ones, twos and threes are still fairly well off, fives are artists, and eights are essentially the homeless for they are the bottom rung. There are strict rules and horrible consequences (pregnancy out-of-wedlock is grounds for jail and there are public beatings for stealing). The narrator of the story is America Singer, a five whose family does okay for themselves but could always use just a little more. Upon the urging of her mother and her secret boyfriend Aspen (a six), America enters the Selection. Not surprisingly – she is the narrator, after all – she is chosen as one of the lucky girls to be whisked off to the palace and try to win over Prince Maxon’s heart. Aspen takes himself out of the picture, but America cannot stop loving him just because he breaks up with her.

America quickly alliances herself with Maxon, promising friendship and help in making his decision for future wife. In exchange, he will keep America in the contest for as long as possible; each of the girls’ families are compensated monetarily each week she remains at the palace. Being a five, America’s family can use the extra money. Through the days, Maxon and America come to know each other and start confiding in each other. Maxon dismisses girls as he learns that some are not his type, but he keeps his promise and America stays. There is, of course, one fiercely competitive girl, Celeste, who is awful to the girls when the cameras aren’t around and sickeningly sweet when the Prince is around. There are also rebel forces (two different ones, in fact), who attack the palace, which throws a political twist and physical threat into the plot.

The reviews on Good Reads are mixed. Those who didn’t like it hated it and those who like it loved it. I’m one of the few that is split down the middle. I both loved and hated it. The things that I didn’t like were the ambiguous nature of the monarchy. How did the United States go from a democracy to monarchy? Early on in the book, America* alludes to a fourth world war but it isn’t until much, much later in the book that more history facts come into light. While I was glad to eventually have an explanation, it wasn’t a clear one. Too early on in the book, the reader is asked to take faith that the United States has suddenly become a monarchy and not ask why. Writers should avoid this tactic, unless the writer is an established one that the reader can trust has a reason for delaying important information. To suspend the believability for so long was a bad choice on Cass’ part. I think that she should have given more history at the beginning, through the homeschooling that is frequently mentioned but never seen, or action, like America reading the slightly singed history book, then more people would have been drawn in.

Let’s go back to that history book for a minute. It was quite an intriguing bit, once Cass got around to writing that scene. It was late in the novel, when America has been at the palace for at least a week and she describes a memory of finding the book in her parents’ bedroom. Not only are there burn marks on the book, but pages have been ripped from it. Through America’s thoughts, the reader learns that this is the only history book she’s ever seen, and her father says not to tell anyone about it. Curiouser and curiouser. Yet I feel Cass did two things wrong with this scene. First, she didn’t put it in the beginning of the book. If I were to read a book that has the United States as a monarchy and then immediately learn that history books are obsolete, possibly even forbidden, then I would sense a deeper theme coursing through the pages rather than a simplistic plot of down-on-her-luck girl becoming a princess. Many reviewers on Good Reads didn’t finish reading the book or skimmed much of it after reading the first part, much like I did my first time around. They probably didn’t even know that something’s up with how people learn and remember history. What if they had read this scene at the beginning of the book? Would they have stuck it out longer? I think so, or at least most of them would have. Second, Cass didn’t go anywhere with the scene. It was just there, thrown in with no follow-up. What were the things that America read? Did she ever ask her dad why they had the book if she wasn’t allowed to say anything about it? Why was it missing pages and singed? Maybe Cass is setting a foundation for the second book with this scene, but even if she is, the scene is out of place and I think loses a lot of its intrigue by not being mentioned again.

When the history lesson finally shows up, the book is two-thirds done**. This is way too late in the novel and I’m still a bit hazy on the details of it all, how the democracy crumbled and a monarchy was put in place. Having listened to the book, it’s hard for me to say whether or not the author skimmed over the details or I wasn’t paying good enough attention. It’s harder to go back through an audio book and pinpoint certain sections to listen to again.

Another hazy area was the reason for the rebellions. Cass establishes that there are two main rebel groups, but, again, this information comes later in the book and seems to be only something that concerns the royal family and not any of the provinces. It’s also not quite clear why the people are rebelling. Again, this could be because I didn’t pay close enough attention; I cannot say for sure. The rebels are mentioned only a handful of times, two of which were when they attacked the palace. But nothing ever resulted from the attacks. They were just another story element floating by itsself. Again, this could be foundation for the second book, but as an unknown author, Cass is asking her readers to have a lot of faith and patience that it will all come together eventually.

There were many other things that I can nitpick on that I wish Cass had done, but I want to move on to the good parts. First, the cover. Whoever designed that cover should get an award. I drew me in and many other reviewers as well. I want a dress like that! The basic plot and underlining political connotations (not much but some) were intriguing. Any writer could tell you it’s hard to come up with an original story, but Cass was definitely successful in that department (the execution was another matter). The best part of the book, I felt, was America’s emotions. Anger that the higher castes had no idea what life was like for the lower ones. Love and hurt from Aspen’s break-up. Jealousy of Maxon kissing other girls. And so on. I’d once read a dystopian novel where the main character/narrator quickly forgot about the love of her life when she met another dude just a short while later. America does start to develop feelings for Maxon, but she’s still hurt from Aspen and still loves him. That’s true to life. One doesn’t simply forget about a love – especially a first love – as soon as the break-up happens. The heart keeps on loving. The hurt keeps on hurting. Cass pinpointed those emotions perfectly.

The EliteSo, I’m torn. The book was entertaining, but I wanted more of it, more explanations, more detail. The second book, The Elite, is set to come out at the end of April. Of course, I have to know what happens. Does Cass explain the lack of history books? Does America’s feelings for Maxon grow deeper? Why are the rebels attacking? I just have to know!

(Also, what a great cover! I want that dress, too!)

*To avoid confusion, I’ll use America to mean the narrator and the United States to mean the country.

**This is an estimation; I don’t actually know because I listened to the novel and didn’t have a page count.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Entertainment, Literature

 

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