Friday, December 28, 2012

Join me for the Jan Plan


The brainchild of the lovely Christa Desir, The Jan Plan is a concerted effort to finish off a project that has been hanging over you for a while. 

 According to Christa's blog: "The Jan Plan will involve committing to finish one project. One. However you define 'finish'. Just doing what you have to do to get one project out of your unfinished knitting basket."

I love this idea because I have been wanting to dedicate some real time to writing since summer, but when school is in session, this just isn't possible for me. NaNo is never an option because it's a crazy busy time in the semester. 
When I'm teaching, I squeeze in an afternoon here, or a weekend there... but not nearly enough time to really finish a project. I do like it, though, because it gives me time to mull over plots and make cool connections within my work. In January I have a small break of a few weeks where I am working from home but the boys are in school. Perfect for the Jan Plan. 

So, what will I do for MY Jan Plan? Two things, actually. (I'm bending the rules already)

1. I need to work through my current MS, MINA TAKES THE SKY to make a few changes that I've been thinking about for months. I just want to take it up a notch, which will require at least two intense read-throughs with editing. 

AND

2. I want to re-work my first book, STUNG, the MG about a girl who collects bugs and solves mysteries, to include a graphic element. I think knowing how the insects look adds something important to the story. To me, when I describe them, I see them in my head... but not everyone knows these species the way I do. 

For example, one of the first bugs I describe is a velvet ant, which is a wingless wasp that has an extremely painful sting, but the MC finds her fascinating and beautiful. It's an important part of the book and I think the reader should "see" it, not only through words. So, I made a drawing of it. (I don't have a velvet ant in my collection any longer. This drawing was made on the program Art Studio from a photo on flickr that was taken by Hunter Desportes and is open to use, alteration, and commercial use through a creative commons license)

This book (STUNG) is something that I've all but shelved... and this will be its final gasp. 

What say you? Who will join the Jan Plan? Grab Christa's lovely badge and let me know YOUR Jan Plan. 




Monday, December 24, 2012

The Cow of Kindness, the Gift of Hope



One of my dearest friends gave me a cow last year. 


No, not something for my urban mini-farm (which is sadly nowhere near ready for livestock-- even chickens are too big for my backyard). I mean the gift of a cow from Heifer International. 

On my trip to Kenya we met with representatives from different farming collectives. We wanted them to grow Amaranth and to use some simple technologies that students/faculty created to see if they improved farming productivity.

 So, we met with five different groups over the course of the ten days, and with each we were working to develop an implementation plan. 

We wanted to know how they planned to work together, to share the tools, to try to bring the grain to market after it was grown. We walked them through the steps of planning so we had some reassurance that they were thinking about bigger issues, planning for the future, and taking it all into account. Among the five groups there was a big difference in the depth of their organization. 

One group was one of the most organized-- a group of HIV-positive men and women who banded together to grow crops and sell them, and also formed a micro-lending group amongst themselves where they would save money and use it on projects. 


We asked them really specific questions about how they would manage the implementation of the project, and management of the tools-- and for every question we had, they had really well-thought-out answers that made perfect sense. They clearly had a structure within their group that could handle our project. 

Eventually we had to ask them-- how are you guys so organized? Then they started telling us how they worked with Heifer International, and a part of that included that they trained them on how to work collectively and how to overcome some of the conflict and issues that might arise with sharing resources. 

Then they told us that Heifer International had supplied them with a cow.

Of course on some level I knew this wasn't THE cow my friend gave me for Christmas last year, but secretly I pretended to myself that this was THAT cow. 

Because in Kenya I saw people who I felt needed help every single day. There were many people (like the farming groups we met) who were actively improving their lives, working hard, and achieving success. Their lives held a great deal of promise-- they were relatively quite well off and were able to create a school with their early profits to provide a better future for their kids. In many cases, they didn't have indoor plumbing, they were completely dependent on climate and seasonal rainfall for ensuring their crops would succeed, and it was clear they didn't have a lot in the way of food. 

These were the people who were well off. 

Every day we saw kids in rags. Kids without shoes. Kids sick with malaria or AIDS. Kids who were happy --no thrilled-- to have a meal of ugali (kind of like grits, a cornmeal mush) and kale. Imagine giving grits (without butter) and kale to the kids in your life three times a day. Imagine their reaction. We saw many, many, many, many kids orphaned from AIDS.


The problems felt TOO BIG, TOO HARD TO SOLVE, and as if anything I could possibly do WOULD NEVER MAKE AN IMPACT. 

So, for that afternoon, I wanted to feel LIKE SOMETHING COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE. 

It was INCREDIBLE to see one of the Heifer International  cows in action and what it meant to this community. 

I liked their philosophy (a hand up, not a hand out) from the first moment I heard of them, and loved the work they did, but had NO IDEA how thorough and amazing they were on the ground. 

So, in this season I wish you the HOPE that I felt that day. That someone's actions thousands of miles away might make a difference to those that need it most. 


Posting concurrently on The Kindness Project website on 12/28/2012. 
(Girl and cow photo from the Heifer International website. Farm in Kenya photo taken by my student there). 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I've read in 2012

Ahhhh... the end of the calendar year always means a fun recap of the books I've read this year. 

I'll list them all by month!

January
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
39 clues: One False Note by Gordon Korman
Finding Antigone (BETA) by Sue Winegartner
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The Moving Finger

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
AND Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexi
Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I want to be your class president by Josh Lieb


February

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Cabinet of the Earths by Anne Nesbitt 
What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

March
Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson
The Hunger Games (reread) by Suzanne Collins
Don't Stop Now by Julie Halpern
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

April
Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
Ditched by Robin Mellom
Decoded by Jay Z
Cracked by KM Walton
The Case of the Dying Detective by Arthur Conan Doyle
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

May
Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie.
The Adventure of “The Western Star"
The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor
The Adventure of the Cheap Flat, and 
The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge by Ms Christie
The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
Hushed by Kelley York
The Circular Staircase by Mary Rinehart Roberts
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (re-read) 
Darkness Be My Friend
Burning for Revenge
The Night is for Hunting, and 
The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

June
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Bill of Rites for the American Man by K. Cooper Ray
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


July (is it obvious I spent nearly 24 hours each way traveling to and from Kenya this month?)
Before I Go To Sleep, by SJ Watson
Several Agatha Christie novellas and short stories:
The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
 The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
The Kidnapped Prime Minister
The Disappearance of Mister Davenheim
The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
The Case of the Missing Will
The Veiled Lady
The Lost Mine
The Chocolate Box
The Affair at the Victory Ball
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook
The Cornish Mystery
The Adventure of Johnny Waverly
The Double Clue
The King of Clubs
and The Plymouth Express
Crunch by Leslie Connor
The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene

August
Tate's Hell by Holly Dodson
Burnt Amber by Carolyn Abiad 

September
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

October
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

November - December
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Hundred dollar holiday by Bill McKibben
Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibottson
Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Boomerang by Michael Lewis

That's 83... but I don't honestly believe the Agatha Christie's should ALL count-- many were short stories, but since I keep track for the I Dig Reading Challenge I assume it's okay to over-count.  

AND I'm still working... because I need to finish up several books I've started and there are also 2012 debuts I promised to read but haven't gotten to yet. 






Friday, December 14, 2012

The Kindness Project: Anger and Compassion


This is also posted at The Kindness Project

As I was flipping through  O, The Oprah Magazine (October 2012) I found an interesting quote from Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh*  under the Heading "How to Let Go of Anger". (Source: 20 Things Everyone Should Master by Age 40)


"Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Then look at, or think of, the person triggering this emotion: With mindfulness, you can see that she is unhappy, that she is suffering. You can see her wrong perceptions. You can see that she is not beautiful when she says things that are unkind. You can also see that you don't want to be like her. You'll feel motivated by a desire to say or do something nice—to help the other person suffer less. This means compassionate energy has been born in your heart. And when compassion appears, anger is deleted." 

We all get angry. 

Of course we do.

But then what?

Do we let it build until it explodes out of us and we say something we regret to someone dear to us?

Do we hold it deep inside until it festers, causing more harm to us than to the person who has angered us?

I certainly do both of those things. I try not to, but of course it happens.

So, what if I did something different?

What if, instead, I considered how the person who is angering me may be suffering?

And how to do that in a way that isn't condescending or judgmental?

I don't know if I know the answer, but I keep repeating these words in my mind, "When compassion appears, anger is deleted".


Does this resonate with you? Why or why not?



*Thich Nhat Hanh is the author of Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gender Wage GAP

This infographic was created by learnstuff.com

Equal_Education_Unequal_Pay


This feels true because for me it is true. But why is it true? What is this really about? Will we ever resolve this?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Car to the Pool


Check out this amazing infographic, produced by carinsurance.org about the environmental power of carpooling.


PLEASE PROVIDE ATTRIBUTION TO CARINSURANCE.ORG WITH THIS CONTENT Carpooling Infographic

This is especially interesting to me right now because my car recently died, and we're trying to exist as a one-car family. Oh my. It is tough. The hardest part is that I only need a car a few times a week, and only for a few hours on a few days... which makes it difficult to justify replacing our gas guzzler with another gas guzzler. I'm considering just using a zipcar... but I need it for commuting, which doesn't necessarily make sense. 

Do you carpool? Do you ZIPcar? What are the pro-cons?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quinn's Cookie Exchange: CHASTE by Angela Felsted

I'm happy to be celebrating the release of Angela Felsted's YA novel CHASTE by sharing a cookie recipe with YOU.

First things first, here's the cover and the blurb for Angela's debut novel.


***********
When he steps into his physics class on the first day of senior year, Quinn Walker is too exhausted from staying up all night with his three-month-old nephew to deal with moral dilemmas. As a devout Mormon who has vowed to wait until marriage for sex, the last thing he needs is a very hot and very sexy Katarina Jackson as his physics partner. Regrettably, he has no choice.

Kat feels invisible in her mansion of a home six months after losing her older brother in a fatal car crash and will do anything to get her parents’ attention. Since her pastor father has no love for Quinn’s “fake” religion and her ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone, she makes an impulsive bet with her friends to seduce her holier-than-thou lab partner by Christmas.
***********

Now, a recipe for my favorite holiday cookie OF ALL TIME.

It's from a cookbook written by my sister that's full of delicious recipes.  

Candy Cane Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon red food coloring
1/2 cup crushed peppermint
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:
Mix shortening, butter, sugar, egg, and extracts. Mix in flour and salt. 

Divide the dough and tint half red.  

Roll out thin ropes of white and red dough. Twist together in 4 inch long pieces and bend one end to form a candy cane shape. 

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for nine minutes.

Upon removing from the oven sprinkle with peppermint and sugar. 

As you can see in the photo my candy cane got gummy and didn't crack well (but my friend Cathy and I had a great time anyway and the kids LOVED these cookies). 

TRUST me... these cookies are fantastic!

***********
I'm reading Chaste now and will write a full review when I'm done, but so far I'm loving it.  So often  YA deals in fantastical scenarios, and while I LOVE those as much as anyone, it's great to be reading a YA book about real honest-to-goodness issues that don't involve any mythical creatures or paranormal activities. It's a book about kids trying to figure out their own path as they deal with loss, challenges, and faith.   


Find CHASTE here and Angela's blog (with many other delicious cookie recipes in December) here

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christa Desir's Cover reveal for FAULT LINE

I'm SO THRILLED to be part of the group sharing the cover of Christa Desir's debut Fault Line.




(Wait for it)










I love it. It is simple, strong, and eye-catching.

Here's the blurb:
****************************
Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

**************************************
So, I'm DYING to read this... it comes out in November of 2013 (11.12.13... which has to be the coolest debut date ever). 

If you don't follow Christa's blog then I encourage you to do it. Her good humor, sincerity, and honesty shine through-- and she tackles the toughest of topics. Somehow she manages to run a bible study, write amazing books, raise a family, and volunteer with rape victims. And I just know that her book is going to be great.

I'm proud to know her. 

Here's Christa's blog and her twitter

What do you think of the cover? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

This post is also appearing at The Kindness Project Blog.

The email shot through the local web-o-sphere... from Adrian and Elana to Matt and Katie, who forwarded it to Daniel and Amy, Jeff and Izzi, and finally to me and Mike.

The subject line read: Chicken Bridge Mystery...

Now, in your neighborhood, this kind of an email subject line might give pause. In my neighborhood, it led to immediate recognition, because for weeks we HAD been experiencing a real, true, honest to goodness MYSTERY.  And it involved not only a BRIDGE but also a CHICKEN.

The North End neighborhood is not typical. Urban (for Connecticut), with mixed use housing and many socio-economic groups living on smallish lots (by American standards). Some streets include grand old Victorians in various states of repair. Others have less architecturally interesting hundred-year-old houses that are falling apart. We're squashed between the Connecticut River, the Coginchaug River, and Wesleyan University. It's a great neighborhood.

There's just this one thing. The littering.

Our front yard is the bus stop, and on a weekly basis we find Capri-sun containers and other food packaging that's been left on our driveway by the kids. When I walk the dogs it's clear that we have a lot of lottery players, cigarette smokers, and soda drinkers in our neck of the woods. And I may be one of a very few people who actually cleans up after their dog. It feels that way at least.

But when a whole chicken appeared on the bridge, still encased in plastic, that was odd even for this neighborhood.

Imagine for a moment finding a whole chicken on the sidewalk. Then imagine that no one does anything about it. And it sits outside in the August heat. Then through the September days. Still it sits.
Imagine the scents and sights... and you'll have some idea of the Chicken on the Bridge Mystery.

The email had only this video attached:
trash patrol chicken from stephanie lavon trotter on Vimeo.

So, watch it. And then let's talk.

(Did you watch it?)

Here's the thing.

I'm really into the environment. I routinely pick up trash while walking the dogs. I advocate at my University for better litter management, take part in annual neighborhood clean-ups, I even volunteer with a program every year to make sure students' belongings aren't thrown away when they graduate and move out. I know about trash. I care about trash.

And yet it NEVER occurred to me to take one for the team and pick up this chicken. In retrospect, I can't believe it, but it's true. So, I HAD to meet and speak with my neighborhood HERO, the mysterious Chicken Girl. She has a name, Stephanie, and I was able to track her down for an interview. And the story behind the story is much more than a chicken on a bridge.

I invited Stephanie for tea and a chat, only to find that this whole chicken thing was not her first foray into the world of sidewalk garbage (though she admits this IS the most bizarre thing she's ever picked up). When she moved to CT a little over a year ago from Seattle she said she immediately noticed the quantity of trash being left street-side in our little community. So, she began to document it on this website.

In the Pacific Northwest, she explained, free stuff left outside was clearly labeled. Here, she found herself asking-- was that chair free? broken? infested with bedbugs? She started the Trash Patrol blog as a conversation-- to show her friends and family what things were like here-- how different Middletown was.

But from this initial conversation-- she found herself asking bigger questions. We both noticed that sometimes what looks like a whole house's furnishings will appear outside, and that it's often at the beginning of the month. Are these evictions? Foreclosures?  Is this a snapshot of what might be happening around the country as people struggle with the economic downturn? She noted how sad she was to see that in a time when many people visit the local food bank, a whole chicken could be left out to rot.


When she saw the chicken, she vowed to remove it, and she is, as she says, "a woman of her word". So she stuck it out, though you can see it's beyond disgusting.


(Stephanie is, as an aside, a trained Opera singer who is interested in the idea of VOICE, working on projects intent on helping people find their voice. Amazing, huh?)

I write this post in dedication to THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS and to WOMEN OF THEIR WORD and the often disgusting, thankless, unrecognized tasks that they do.

Now, I ask you --in the comments-- give me a compelling reason for why a WHOLE chicken could be left on a sidewalk! Was it a robbery gone wrong? A dramatic gesture toward vegetarianism? I always imagine a domestic squabble...


Monday, November 26, 2012

Chronicle books. So amazing.

It looks like the Happy Haul-i-days annual promotion from Chronicle Books has been replaced... with a nifty Pinterest version.

Check out the details here.

Make a pinterest board and you could win $500 in books from Chronicle!

I LOVE their books so much-- I never fail to find books for me, for the hubs, the kids, and everyone in my family.

I loved creating my own wish-lists for everyone-- check it out here.

If you make a board please link to it in the comments... I'd love to check it out!

What is your favorite gift to give?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Steam punk images

I've been experimenting with filters and sepia coloration with my steam punk-clockwork insect drawings.
 I'm super happy with how they're turning out.
What do you think?







Monday, November 19, 2012

The World On E (or out of E, as the case may be)


PLEASE PROVIDE ATTRIBUTION TO CARINSURANCE.ORG WITH THIS CONTENT Out of Oil Infographic



Do you lose sleep over a looming energy crisis?

See a dystopian novel in the making?

What do you think?

This infographic was created by carinsurance.org

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Project Dystopia Reboot... uh, Reboot!

Okay.

Call me crazy.

I'm okay with that.

I've been called worse.

I have been re-working the images of the playmobil version of my dystopian book THIRST.

I couldn't build sets for the figures, for what I hope are obvious reasons like time, ability, cost, and sanity.

But I was dissatisfied with the images-- so I'm reworking them with this awesome paint app called Art Studio. It allows you to draw layers of paint over a photograph.

Cool, huh?

I also didn't make photos for the prologue for the book, which describes the mega-storm that causes all the problems my characters have to deal with.
It seems more... real now, and I wanted to make images for that portion of the story.

So, I will be posting these again in their newest versions.
A Project Dystopia Reboot Reboot.
Enjoy.

Check out the TUMBLR for the full story, though.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Dig Reading Challenge Update. So. Long. Overdue.



Usually I let the I Dig Reading Challenge simmer on the back burner over the summer. This summer was no different, but I am shocked to see it's almost the end of October and I still haven't caught up with the challenge!

For shame!

First, I must confess that the donation I intended to make for my May challenge didn't make it to the funding group. When I went to make a donation, the group had already shut down their funding (it was a short-term summer project on a kickstarter-like website called Razoo). 

So, I have some make-up challenge money. 

What have I read since my last update?

In June I read... 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Loved it. Kind of blew my mind in many ways. Couldn't stop describing it to horrified friends.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. I have liked her other books more. Nothing's wrong with this one by ANY means, but it just wasn't my personal favorite. Edward Tulane and Desperaux were such fantastic family read-alouds that anyone would have trouble living up to them. 

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby. A funky American middle grade steampunk with lots of mystery. The metal creation (I can't give too much away) was stupendous. Just loved him/it. 

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. A well-written and harsh look at mean girls and former mean girls. It wasn't an enjoyable book to me in the sense that it's a painful, visceral read... but it's a powerful book, no doubt. 

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny HanWhew. I wasn't sure how she was going to pull this trilogy off in a way that sorted out the love triangle in a way that seemed honest to the characters but also satisfying, but SHE DID IT! And those brothers. Sheesh. Way too handsome. 

Bill of Rites for the American Man by K. Cooper Ray. A dear friend of whom I am so fond, K. Cooper Ray uses this slim volume to give etiquette insight to the millennial generation. I am a huge believer in manners with meaning. Cooper modernizes and explains many of the most important manners. It's a great guide that I think is badly needed by some young folks. 

Does this make me sound old? Too bad. It's true! Put down the phones, people. Make eye contact. Learn how to hold a conversation and handle your liquor.

It's the perfect stocking stuffer for the young adult in your life (meaning college and 20s-30s, not in the YA lit sense) . Cooper also designs incredible clothes and had his NYC Fashion Week debut this year. Check out his website here, and Handle Your Liquor. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This was a family read-aloud and it was simply fantastic. We all loved it. 


In July I read...
Before I Go To Sleep, by SJ Watson. A woman with no memory after she sleeps each night. Trying to discover who she really is. Every day. INCREDIBLE. This book had me skeeved out for many, many days. A truly modern and chilling suspense. 

Several Agatha Christie novellas and short stories (The Million Dollar Bond Robbery, The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb, The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, The Kidnapped Prime Minister, The Disappearance of Mister Davenheim, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman, The Case of the Missing Will, The Veiled Lady, The Lost Mine, The Chocolate Box, The Affair at the Victory Ball, The Adventure of the Clapham Cook,  The Cornish Mystery, The Adventure of Johnny Waverly, The Double Clue, The King of Clubs, and The Plymouth Express). 

I love Agatha, but I really prefer her novels. There's so much more time to develop the storyline. 

Crunch by Leslie Connor. A family of kids home alone when the oil crisis hits. A lovely story that somehow managed to be about a very topical issue without addressing it in a preachy, annoying way. Yes, it was about an American town without oil-- but it was really about kids coping with some of the problems that all kids cope with. Beautifully written, the sibling bonds were honest and true, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

The Ghost of Blackwood Hall by Carolyn Keene. An old-school Nancy Drew book, which I read while visiting my parents' house for a week this summer. Wow. Those books don't age well. I still love Nancy and her endless 'sleuthing', painful as this was to read. I can't recommend it, though. Bummer, because I truly adored ND as a kid. 

In August I read...
Tate's Hell by Holly Dodson, a beta read by a lovely writer friend who continues to rock out amazing books. I can't wait to see her name in print!

Burnt Amber by Carolyn Abiad another beta read by a talented writer friend. This one had me longing to visit Turkey and to eat some mediterranean food (while hopefully escaping the bad guys and djinn). 

In September I read...
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. WOW is the word. Beautifully written, this felt very much like a modern Catcher in the Rye to me. Sad but uplifting all at once. I loved Charlie and learned a lot from him. 
I also loved the mystery of the format-- who are the letters to? Why (besides what Charlie gives away)? What did the receiver think of the letters? I love when an author doesn't connect every single dot for you in a way that's logical but also works with the theme. 

In October I read...
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This look at medicine, honor, love,  and life woven through several generations of interconnected families in Ethiopia and America was a gorgeous read. Verghese manages to make liver surgery (and many other surgeries) simple fascinating. I loved reading in the notes that John Irving is his mentor, and I think they are similar in the way they combine political issues on a grand scale with the smallest and largest of family tragedies. Verghese masterfully used the idea of "cutting" as a metaphor for dozens of things throughout the text in a way that worked really well. 

My book club had our monthly meeting at an Ethiopian restaurant in New Haven to celebrate this book and it was a spectacular way to smell, taste, and feel the setting.  

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I'd never read this before, and only vaguely remembered the movie. It was an interesting read--  her descriptions are evocative. Unfortunately for me, I remembered enough of the movie that none of the big reveals were very revelatory. I was also skeeved out by the way the vampire Louis talked about the vampire-girl Claudia. I get that she's supposed to be a 70-year old in a child's body... but it was still really uncomfortable for me. Not to be a downer, but there it is. 

I will combine my donations for all of these books into a cause close to my heart: Mailing items and goods to some of the lovely people I met in Kenya. You can see my post about this endeavor at The Kindness Project Blog. This will allow me to send five care packages to Kenya between now and the end of 2012. 

What have you been reading? Have you read any of these fantastic books? 

What's THE most important manner in your opinion?