Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle - Not Your Brother's Science Fiction

My friend, and brilliant writer, Amanda Conran, has been telling me for months to read Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Now, I trust Amanda in all things bookish so I don't know why it took me so long, but I just finished and it is brilliant. I love it when I find a voice that is just so different and a writer who makes his own rules. Some reviews I've seen of this book and the upcoming movie make it sound like a science fiction and it only is in a sort of sort of way. Yes there are huge genetically modified green slimy bugs, but at its heart, this is a book about a boy confused by the love he feels for his girl friend and his best friend. He wants to love them both in the same way, and that just doesn't seem like something a boy should think about in his small Iowa town. Smith's writing is funny and moving and continually plays with nudging that fourth wall. It's unlike anyone else you've read and will surprise you - I promise.

But I hope this book isn't getting pigeon holed as Sci Fi or as a "boys book." I am a long time lover of Sci Fi, and hear me when I say there are not enough of us, girls! I will step on my soap box anytime I hear people (especially girls) say "I don't like Science Fiction".  Even more than fantasy or fairy tale, science fiction lets us imagine how the stories we know could be told differently or how deep truths are deep truths no matter what planet you are on or how many green slimy bugs live in your town. Andrew Smith knows this and lovers of story and funny and wonderful word work are cheating themselves if they don't pick this up.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Must Read - Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly - Conrad Wesselhoeft

Under the category of books to enjoy - I just finished this YA by agent mate Conrad Wesselhoeft and I highly recommend. The voice of Arlo Santiago is fresh and amusing, but at the same time, full of heart. Arlo recently lost his mom and takes solace in Drone Pilot, a video game where he's regularly posting the top scores. He also finds peace riding his dirt bike through rural New Mexico, even though his risky riding is beginning to worry his friends (and maybe worry him too). When the U.S government invites Arlo to join its top secret drone warfare program, at first it seems cool and a way to solve his families financial problems, but when they ask him to cross the line between simulation and reality Arlo faces some tough decisions.  Arlo's friends and family are written as a cast of characters you either know or would like to know, especially his Uncle Sal, his Mother's friend Lupita and her niece Lee (Arlo's love interest). Very compelling is the landscape of New Mexico, it is written as a character unto itself, so beautifully described it made me want to put on a helmet and join Arlo in a ride. Put this on your bedside table and enjoy! Give it to a teen reader to enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Announcing - the Third Annual Craft-Based Workshop for Middle-Grade & YA Writers

October 22 to 25, 2015
Better Books Marin 3rd Annual Workshop
Ready to Write?? As in the past two years,  we will focus intensively in a small, interactive workshop facilitated by three amazing editors and a top agent. See the links below for the list of fabulous faculty and session details. We will share three-and-a-half invigorating days exploring elements of our craft at the beautiful Earthrise Retreat Center north of San Francisco.
The Better Books Workshop is limited to fewer than 25 seasoned writers, and designed to provide deep immersion in craft, discussion, and high-level critique.  You need not be published, but we ask that you’ve completed at least one middle-grade or YA manuscript. Workshop fee includes food, lodging, and a written and oral critique of 25-pages. Faculty will be sent advance copies of manuscripts, then lead small group critique sessions the first day. Small groups will  reconvene on Sunday to reflect and  discuss  plans for revision. For more details and how to apply go tohttp://betterbooksmarin.com

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle - Must Read!

Under the category of what I'm reading - and loving - high on the list is Maggie Stiefvaters' Raven Cycle. (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue and a fourth as yet unreleased book). Why do I like them so much that sometimes I want to put down my pen and declare myself not worthy? Its a combination of things: beautiful writing, characters I wish I knew in real life, a plot that keeps me guessing and maybe most of all, the amazing world building that she's done in these books. Good fantasy creates magical, mythical worlds we'd never imagine on our own, but Maggie Stiefvater does that and then places it in the middle of a very real town in Virginia (although from a writer's standpoint the world building she does around vividly painting Henrietta for us is impressive as well). But I love the way magic and the unexplained are overlain with the everyday. When I'm in the middle of these books, it makes me wonder if I too could bring something back from a dream. If you haven't read these yet - make a move to remedy this situation!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 More Art and Whimsy

I often think, as I go about my daily life, about the things that would confuse my dear long departed grandparents. Were they to see that one of my 2015 resolutions was to keep up on my blog there would be so much that would confuse them about that. They'd be equally amazed by the things that  push me to "bloggify" - the list of things that amaze and amuse me is growing daily. Check this out - found for me by my all wise brother, these are Icelandic Electrical Towers (use these words in your favorite search engine to be blown away by more of this). I so love that as a nation they have chosen art and whimsy. Good watch words for 2015 - MORE ART AND WHIMSY!



Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reading and Writing Just came across this list of "100 books everyone should read" from the BBC (see below). I think it has traveled around some, but it is an interesting and slightly quirky list. The BBC introduction says the average person has read 6 titles off this list. Does the fact that I've read 58 make me bright, witty and awfully good looking - or a complete book nerd? Either way - looking at the list brought some lovely memories and some resolutions for what should go on my "yet to be enjoyed" shelf(s). Although sometimes I need to spend a wee bit less time reading and a bit more time with my butt in chair writing! But for you - pick one out of this list and take it to the beach!

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot – maybe
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Alborn
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad started but never finished
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adam
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo