Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Rampant sounded like a silly title to me -- what's running rampant throughout the story?

But the idea is killer -- vicious unicorns!? Young girls trained as hunters (a la Buffy Summers)?  Italy?  Medieval 'history'?  I'm in!

All in all, it was a terrifying and thrilling read.  I stayed up until midnight (an hour and a half past my bedtime since I get up early) to finish it.  The book is written at a great pace (hard to do with exposition and battle scenes), the characters are real, and the issues both heart breaking and fantastical.  A well-thought out, provoking read that has you considering what you would do with creatures you thought were extinct but turned out to be mass murderers.

I only had a few problems with this book -- namely a) the romantic sections and b) character development.

a) the romantic sections -- I just don't like graphic romantic scenes (or descriptions).  And I think a more powerful way of writing has a lot to do with suggestion in lieu of actual showing what's happening.  I get this is an older teen book and that part of the story is romance, but honestly I don't want to know the details.  (Does anyone?).  I feel like there were some elements that *needed* to be there for the story (and that's fine) but a lot of it could have been cleaned up.

I *did* appreciate one thing she did with this aspect but I'm not going to post spoilers.  Let's just say she made some statements regarding an aspect of sex that I agree with and thank her for saying because it's important for young adults to see the difference.

b) character development was a little rough.  I knew where she was headed and it wasn't confusing, but it was a bit choppy.  The main character quickly turned from faint-hearted to beasty warrior with just a few sentences in between to explain the why behind it.  I feel like the development could have happened sooner, or slower.  Also, the mother went from being kooky to hateful and I didn't really understand that.  And then she went on to...broken.  I don't know.  I don't really understand the mom's character development.

That aside, the rest of the characters were really well formed.

I love when someone takes a standard story and shakes it up.  The idea of killer unicorns is phenomenal, and the way the unicorns are handled in this book is fantastic.  I feel like her ideas on the history and development of her world of unicorns is the truth.  That's how real it felt.

4/5 stars from me -- and it looks like this is just the beginning of the series.  :D

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine

This might be the best book on writing I've read this year -- the tone, the style, the exercises, the topics, everything about this book was, well...magical.

Imagine getting to sit down with an author for tea and just listen and talk about the act of creating stories -- that's what reading this book is like.

Gail Carson Levine's warm, friendly tone is encouraging and honest.  I really, really appreciate the openness she has about herself as a writer, the writing process, and her life experience.  It made the book so much more interesting and I felt as if I was being spoken to as an equal, someone who could one day write something and get it published like she did (it took her nine years to break into the publishing world).

 I had a ton of fun doing the writing exercises (all different kinds, and all intriguing -- including this start-with-a-sentence exercise: The ghost was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  !!!), and it was so engaging (and unlike-a-textbook) that I flew through it and am considering reading it again this week.

This is a must-buy (you can buy on Amazon new or used reasonably priced) for those writers who are interested in creating a living, breathing story that speaks to the reader.

And if you haven't read Ella Enchanted or Fairest, hop over to the library and pick up a copy.  Be prepared for awesome.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Portable Crochet

Been trying to lessen my stash of tiny skeins of yarn and came across a lovely little book on crochet:

The Portable Crafter: Crochet

It has several projects (most of them I'd actually make, which is rare since I think some crochet is better left in the sixties) ranging from coasters to purses to a wrap, all easy to pick up and stash in a purse when you have to wait somewhere and need something to do.

I made a coaster and part of a bookmark (realized I needed cotton thread) and have marked a few more things to try before turning it back in to the public library.  (The instructions and pictures are great -- also a rarity!)

Easy, quick projects in a tiny book that you can carry with your needle and skein?  Done.

It also mentioned that there has been research done on brain waves during crocheting and that they are similar to when you are meditating.  (Bonus!)

All in all, an excellent little trip through fiber-land.

Thumbs up!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FINALLY -- A Book Review

Sorry, folks.  Took me a while to get back to the library.  Had to re-start my reading frenzy with some great kids' books.  ;)

I discovered that there were some Dr. Seuss stories I had NOT read (gasp!  The horror!) so I grabbed a few of those as well as the classics:

Daisy-Head Mayzie -- the story of a girl who grows a daisy out of her head.  This was an unfinished story and it shows.  It doesn't have the polished touch of Seussian moral and word play so it wasn't as fun to read.  It ended rather abruptly and I'm not sure what he was going for -- but it was published posthumously so of course I don't blame him for it.

The Lorax -- I absolutely adore the movie and loved the book as a child.  I re-read it yesterday and it is much darker than I remember.  The movie gives us some hope that the world will recover, while the book leaves it up to you to make the difference.  Even the colors are darker.  I really appreciate the film building a back story for The Once-ler (based on a few sentences about his family) and that they included a lot of Seussian words (schloppety-schlopp, biggering and butterfly milk to name a few) in the songs and took care to keep the theme of the story.

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins -- maybe my favorite Seuss book (and I really don't know why!).  I really can't understand my fascination with it (maybe it's why I love hats?!) because it's very different from other Dr. Seuss books in that it is a story without a strong moral.  It's a rags-to-riches story with a haughty king, unbearable nephew and a poor man who just wants to sell his cranberries but his hats almost take him to his death.  Very strange.  But amazing.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories -- these were published in magazines and collected after Theodor Geisel's death.  They are polished short versions of his longer, thematic pieces.  Loved this book!

Next up: books on crochet and dollhouses.  And I did pick up some fiction reading so those will be devoured this week and next and regurgitated for you here.  Aw...I'm like a mother penguin.  How...icky.

Have a Terrific Tuesday!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Booker Award?!

So Katie (who mans Writer In Progress -- and is a fellow NaNo-er and ScriptFrenzy-er!) gave me a Booker Award and of course I haven't gotten on here in days so I'm posting this late.  Whoops.

Anywho -- here are the rules:

The {Booker} Award is given to those bloggers who have dedicated themselves (and their blogs) to the written page -- either they are producing more pages for us to read (yay!) or they are writing about pages they've read (the blog must be at least 50% about books).

I am also told I must share my top 5 Favorite Books Of All Time, Ever.

That is so extremely difficult.  But I will do my best.

1. The Adventures of Tippy by Glanville Smith
2. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
3. The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame
4. Lirael by Garth Nix
5. 'Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

(Honorable Mentions: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi)

Also -- I get to present this award to other bloggers who have impressed me with their word count, analysis of others' writings, or something pertaining to reading in some way.

Unfortunately, I'm not well connected in the blogosphere.

So I'm asking for help.

Do you know of any worthy bloggers who'd like this award?  Send me a link and I'll go check out their pages (you may of course promote yourself).  I'll do some research and pass The Booker Award on to those worthy few.  ;)

Happy Thursday, readers!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (and a bit of other stuff)

Rest assured, I am still reading (and writing/brainstorming/plotting).

Right now I'm in the middle of:

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (for probably the 7th time)
The Legend of Eli Monpress, Book 2: The Spirit Rebellion (fascinating!) by Rachel Aaron
How to Be A Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play by Barbara Baig


I just read the entirety of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde -- out loud (with an attempt at a British accent).

A friend and I discovered we both loved a) reading out loud and b) Oscar Wilde plays so a few nights ago we each grabbed our own copies (electronic, both of them -- something funny about that) and a chair and picked our parts. My favorite character in any Oscar Wilde play is the witty, pretend-to-be-flighty-but-actually-wise character.  So of course I wanted to read Algernon.  Since there were two of us, I also got to read Gwendolen and Miss Prism's lines.

Here's a taste of the delectable words:

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"  -- Algernon (Act 1)

"It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read." -- Algernon (Act 1)

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." -- Gwendolen (Act 2)

"The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means." -- Miss Prism (Act 2)

The movie adaptation is just wonderful -- apart from a few changes here and there, it is faithful to the original and the cast is lovely (Rupert Everett plays Algernon, Colin Firth plays Jack/Ernest).

My favorite play of Oscar Wilde's, however, is An Ideal Husband, and that movie adaptation is also my favorite.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of either of those (or Lady Windermere's Fan).  They're hilarious and insightful and his writing is such that even while you're taking in the deep societal insights, there's a lightness to the story that keep the insights from being too plain.  (And there's a bit of absurdity that I love as well)

I will be back in a few days with a review of some kind.

For now, I leave you with these words from the book on writing I'm perusing at the moment:

"Creativity is simply the ability to make things, not by following a read-made recipe or a pattern, but by taking materials and combining them in one's own way."