Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It feels good to send out books I love...



Happily, all three of the winners wanted different books, so I didn't have to force someone to take their third choice.

The Shadow of the Wind is on its way to The Blue Lipstick Samurai,
A Prayer for Owen Meany will go out to Erin Mac as soon as she sends her address,
and Misha will be getting The Sky is Everywhere in 18-32 days... international shipping considered.


Woot!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RTW:Best Book of September

Road Trip wednesday is a BLOG carnival hosted by the YA Highway-ers.

I read many a good book in September
Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

On Writing by Stephen King

Feeling sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Emerald’s Keeper BETA by Holly Dodson (woot!)

Water Wars by Vandana Shiva

This is not an easy list to choose from. Oh no, not at all.
I liked the Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Shiver (though as you can see in this post, I clicked a little more with the writing in Shiver.)

I thought Feeling Sorry for Celia was sweet, fun, and clever.

I liked Catching Fire more than Hunger Games-- it was riveting, and I can't wait to read Mockingjay.

On Writing by Mr. King is one I am still poring over, and likely will keep referencing for years.

Bridget Jones' Diary is a classic-- though I can't read any scenes without thinking about the movie now.

The DUFF- it took me a while to get into this one. I know I'm old, but I guess I'm older than I realized. The characters in this book acted more like girls in their late 20s/early 30s to me than high school girls. Kind of like Sex in the City meets YA.

Of course the author is really a just-out-of-high-school girl. But I can admit that I am old (36), no longer hip, and quite possibly way out of the loop. I remember reading way back in the summer that people were saying Kody's voice was capturing her whole generation (which is pretty amazing), and I can certainly understand that I am of a different generation. You should know-- I liked the book, it just took me a few chapters to get into it. After a few chapters I was able to (stop worrying about these girls and) connect more with the story.

Water Wars by Vandana Shiva is non-fiction, it's a depiction of water rights issues by this incredible activist and scholar. It is compelling, convincing, and such an amazing read. I highly recommend it, and the film FLOW (For Love of Water), which features a lot of the themes of the book as well as Ms Shiva herself. Check out the movie if you don't want to read the book: you will be astounded by this fierce protector of human rights.

And that brings me to the remaining title: Emerald's Keeper by Holly Dodson. This is the first beta read I've ever done, and it was SO COOL. I really loved getting the chance to see someone else's work, to understand a little about what motivates them, how they craft a story, a plot, characters, twists and turns... all of that. Obviously my lips are sealed on EVERY aspect of the book, but trust me- it's a cool story.

So, hands down my favorite book this month was Emerald's Keeper- because it made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than just my wee little book: A community of talented writers.

MockingJay

Sarah Enni is rocking OUT with a signed Suzanne Collins MockingJay giveaway.

Can you believe it???

Go to her website NOW, and get on that train.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

WINNERS of books I LOVE

Okay- first contest results are in.

There were a total of 57 entries, and the winners are:
1. Glenna
2. Erin Macpherson
3. Misha1989


email me at: kat(dot)owens(at)gmail(dot)com and let me know what your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice book would be.


Thanks to everyone for participating... I wish I could send these books to ALL of you!!

I will run another contest soon!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

48 hours to get copies of three books I love!

The Shadow of the Wind

A Prayer for Owen Meaney

The Sky is Everywhere

Go HERE to sign on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Math for moms

(3 year old+ 5 year old) judo lessons+ [coffee in mom's hand+ laptop]= dead laptop

I am in shock.

It's like I've destroyed this external brain that I use for EVERYTHING.

I'm hoping that my hard drive can be recovered. I back up my most important files... but not everything all the time.

Glenna's Plot and Paper project takes on a level of practicality I hadn't considered before.


LAST WEEK TO ENTER THE BOOKS I LOVE CONTEST (see sidebar).


do you have a mom-oriented math problem to share?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why Jaclyn Moriarty Rules



What do you know about Australia?

What does any of us really KNOW about Australia?

I know Oprah just invited a ton of people, but not me, to go to Australia.

I know I have wanted to visit it FOREVER, but am going to have to keep saving to make that happen.

I know it as the birthplace of one our BEST friends in the Netherlands, Kylie-- who was such a great mentor to me, such a stellar example of mothering, so much fun to hang out with, and a friend to our whole family while we lived abroad.

I know the other Kylie from Australia, who I didn't realize until living in Europe was such a worldwide phenom.

And I know the Aussie shows that were available in the Netherlands:
  • McLeod's daughters (why did they kill Claire off?? WHY?)
  • the ubiquitous Neighbours (I can't say it without singing the song. Out loud.)
  • and some 80s medical drama that always involved a helicopter (not sure of the title). I was always too distracted by the 80s hair and clothes to get into the show.
So, really, I don't know much about it.



I heard about this book from Nomes, who I'm beginning to think of as my own "Minister of Australian Fiction".

She has flooded my To Be Read pile with Australian authors. I am slowly working my way through, and have a couple of Jaclyn Moriarty books in said pile. The first I picked up was Feeling Sorry for Celia.

I liked the book before starting to read it, because I love the name Celia. It was at the top of my girl baby names list... but then I just kept having baby boys instead of girls.

So there goes that dream.

I also have a stack of letters from the mid 1800s written to my ancestor Susan North from her friend Clelia (a name I also like a lot). I have a work in progress based on a mystery surrounding these letters. So the idea of a Celia (or Clelia) and letter-writing appeals to me.

I had no idea what this book was about based on the title. I started reading, finding the text a little distracting at first. It begins as a series of letters from the main character, Elizabeth, or from others to her.

I thought to myself:

as soon as this little letter exchange ends I can really get a feeling for the story...

but the letter exchange didn't end. It never ends.

I am gobsmacked.

This book is so clever! So engaging! I adored it.

Completely told in a series of letters.

The way I describe it may reek of "gimmick", but it never felt that way to me. If it sounds that way, blame it on my weak description. I have read many a gimmicky book, but this (in my humble opinion) was never a gimmick. It just worked, and I can't explain how.

The book stayed true, funny, and endearing.

It was a light read. By that I do not mean superficial, but that there was little in the way of edginess or dark themes. There were some serious moments, but it's not meant to be scary/heavy/or depressing.

I thought it was substantial, and such a delight.

I HIGHLY recommend it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MIA and Stephen King On Writing: a review

First I feel I have to explain why I've been MIA lately... I wish I could say I was devoting hours to the craft... but actually I've been working. I love my job and I love the work I do. As it's the beginning of the semester I've been inundated. I am hoping to get back to a place where I can spend some of my free time writing and blogging, and not just working. I am hoping.

I have been able, in a few stolen moments, to start to read On Writing by Stephen King. I requested it weeks ago through paperback swap.

I should do a whole post just on PBS. I heard about it through a friend and signed on. I am REALLY loving it. I have a stack ten-high of books just waiting for me to dive in. The newest hottest books have long waiting lists, but lots of little gems are available immediately. I love to recycle and reuse... and am on a budget right now, so I have been trying to use the library and this service as much as possible. I recommend it if you have some books (any type is fine, the "paper" in paperback swap is misleading) you can bear to part with. Okay-- end of public service message.


I have to be honest. Sometimes, I get a little snarky. Sometimes I think the rules don't apply to me (I am human after all). I have read many a review or reference to this book by Stephen King. When reading these comments I've been known to roll my eyes, and mutter under my breath "who made Stephen King the final word on writing fiction! I mean, who does he think he is?"

I am here to tell you I was wrong. Oh so wrong. I have turned down so many corners on so many pages. It is stuffed with useful information. I have not finished On Writing yet, but I couldn't wait to blog about it.

What do I like about the book? He had me immediately, when he started to describe his childhood and life. The way he lets us enter his life is endearing.His writing style is engaging. He uses simple language and concise examples to illustrate his points. He's a grammar nerd, and a writing nerd, and I just love nerds so much.

At the same time, he is a harsh critic. He makes very clear what he thinks produces well-crafted writing. While he is severe, he describes thoroughly WHY he finds these things important.

I take back all those mutters, all that doubt. I was wrong about this book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zombies vs. Werewolves: reviews

I just read Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater and the Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

Both were good, but as is the nature of humans-- and I am neither werewolf nor zombie-- I feel the desire to compare them.

Shiver nutshell synopsis: Grace has always felt a special affection for the wolves in the woods behind her house. When she meets Sam (a human) she realizes he is one of them. Falling in love, dealing with werewolf issues ensues.

FOHAT nutshell synopsis: Mary lives in a compound surrounded by a forest full of zombies. Things change, her world falls apart, and she has to determine whether love or escape is more important.

Both books were exciting. Shiver has, hands down, my favorite cover of the year. Periodically I closed the book while reading just to stare at that lovely cover. And sigh. The writing is so like that cover: crisp, fresh, parsed down in the best way.

Forest of Hands and Teeth is an incredible title. It doesn't get any better than this. It's frightening, and encapsulates so much. The writing is so like that title: evocative.

But when I compare them I feel like Shiver's writing is so much stronger. Maybe it's just the kind of writing I prefer. I am of course critiquing these as a non-published writer. They were both excellent books. I felt at some times that FOHAT was clunky writing. Whereas in comparison shiver was pristine.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tell me what you think about my template

In the comments let me know.

I wanted something fresh for fall.

In lieu of that new wardrobe, you know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Covergirls

Does it bother you when a character is shown on the cover of a novel?

I feel like it steals my imagination before I can create an image of the character myself.

I recently saw a book trailer for The Sky is Everywhere, and I found myself thinking

DON'T show them, DON'T show them, PLEASE DON'T ruin them for me

the whole time.



I feel that in this trailer they purposely keep things fuzzy and they do not try to nail down the image of the main characters. Which works for me, even if it feels a little contrived.

I also find that sometimes while reading a character stays a little blurry in my head, and when I think about it, I like it. I just read Shiver, and after putting down the book I tried to "see" the main characters Grace and Sam. While I had a hint of each, I can't say I really defined them fully in my head.

Here are some books I read recently where I didn't like to see the characters on the cover:


This is my Mary now, and I don't think I would have imagined her this way if there was another option. My Mary's hair and makeup are not that perfect. I also take issue with her clothes on this cover. To me it looks a little like a storebought Banana Republic sweater, not the kind of homespun knitting or clothing I would imagine in this world.

I found myself flipping to the cover while reading and thinking,

Okay, post-apocalyptic zombie reality I accept, but where did she get that sweater???

I also feel a little cheated that I didn't get to imagine Mary by myself at all.


Paper Towns. This is not my Margo Roth Spiegelman. She just didn't seem exactly like this to me. Maybe because it's difficult for one photo to encapsulate this troubled, complex character. She looks mischievous here and rebellious, but I don't think her darker side is captured at all in this photo.


For what it's worth, here are some that don't bother me as much:


The DUFF-- Haven't read it yet, but I like that you get a hint of the character, but not the whole she-bang. It's a sassy glimpse of Bianca, with the eyeshadow and the bubble gum, without giving away too much.



Dirty Little Secrets-- this image works for me. I may not have imagined Lucy exactly like this, but something about the image is authentic to the tone and the scope of the book.

Perfect Chemistry. Again, My Alex and my Brittany are slightly different, but this is such a great photo it doesn't ruin it for me. I like that you get a sense of the tenderness of their relationship-- maybe that's why.

After reading Sarah Enni's delightful treatise on The Katniss Problem I find myself so happy that Suzanne Collins never put a cover model on her books. Though due to Sarah's post I now think of Tania Raymonde as Katniss when I read. Which is okay for me.

When I glance over this list I wonder what the real difference is between the ones I like and the ones I don't. I think the context makes it or breaks it for me. If Mary's clothes/hair/makeup matched the world more I might not mind it, and if Margo looked less like a model and more like a character, I think it would work better for me.

That's my quick and dirty analysis.


So what about you???

Do you like it when the characters are shown on the cover? What are some covers that worked for you, or some that didn't??

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

RTW: What's in your DUFF kit

You may be asking: what is a DUFF kit?

Kody Keplinger describes it this way: "DUFF Kits are meant to be comforting little collections that you can use on a relaxing night either alone or with friends. Things that are purely comfortable and fun and require zero pressure to be the prettiest in the room or the smartest or the funniest. You get the point." (source)

Survival at it's simplest, most comforting, and least showy.

My kit would include:
1. AM: Coffee, PM: Malbec
2. Red dansko clogs, beat up, dirty and oh so supportive.


3. Movies with Joseph Cotten, so good when you're good (Citizen Kane, Gaslight) and so horrid when you're evil (Shadow of a Doubt).

4. Chips, the saltier and vinegar-y the better.


5. Yoga pants from 1999... I'm so glad you're still with me, yoga pants, still grasping and holding your cotton-poly weave like you'll never let it sag. Please don't lose your elasticity.

So what's in your DUFF kit?
Check out YA Highway's RTW for more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Handwriting Meme

Thanks to Glenna for sending this my way.

The idea is you answer a few questions:
1. full name, blog name


2. right- or left-handed or both?
3. favorite letters to write
4. least favorite

5. Write: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
6. Write the following words in all CAPS: crab, humor, kaleidoscope, pajamas, gazillion.




7. Favorite lyrics





8. tag seven people with a special doodle or drawing

*hopes none of you are freaked out by bugs*


If you can't read the names, that is:
Amie
Erin
Leila
Sarah
Annie
Jess and
Nomes

RTW: Best book I read in August

It's not really fair.


This RTW is not fair to all the other books I read in August.I read so many fantastic books, but only one can be the best book of the month.

And this is an excruciating choice.


August was a good reading month for me.

I read:


Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
How to be Popular by Meg Cabot
Paper Towns by John Green
Looking for Alaska by John Green
How to Ruin your Boyfriend's Reputation by Simone Elkeles
Dirty Little Secrets by CJ Omololu
and The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

They are all such great books.

Several authors are ones I've read before and like more and more as I work my way through their titles (John Green, Simone Elkeles).
I loved Simone's characters in this book-- they were complex and amazing. They had realistic problems that were portrayed in a thoughtful way.

I wish John Green's friends were my friends. Could they be more witty, clever or hilarious? I want to hang, John. Call me.


Others are authors whom I've heard about but never read, and was pleasantly surprised to find I liked their work (Jim Lynch, Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen). These are authors whose books I will continue to read.

Jim Lynch is my nature-writer YA- mentor right now. I hope to one day write a book like this.

Meg Cabot's book was cute and fun, her characters jumped off the page. This was not a heavy read but I enjoyed it. It explored themes that are important to girls (and boys, too) of this age group-- how do I fit in?, what am I willing to do to fit in?

Sarah Dessen's characters are multi-faceted and living in a harsher, more difficult world than that of Meg Cabot's. They are so honest and vulnerable.


There were a few that I could NOT stop talking about. Books that stayed with me, that worked their way into my subconscious and had me rethinking my preconceptions (Stolen, Dirty Little Secrets).

Stolen kind of blew my mind. Never have I so despised a character who slowly wormed his way into my heart. Darn you, Ty!

And Dirty Little Secrets opened my eyes about mental illness, about how it is just a small bit of a person's personality and does not have to be the defining characteristic.

But unfortunately for all of these incredible books, I also re-read one of my favorite books of all time this month, The Shadow of the Wind. It is still my favorite among these, but by only a small lead.

I would recommend ALL of these books to a friend.

You can win a copy of Books I Love, including Shadow of the Wind, reviewed here, by entering my contest!