Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Debut, I'll Review Update for 2012

Well, I failed to read twelve debut authors of MG or YA debuting in 2012... which is surprising, because with 83 books you would have thought I'd hit on a few more debuts.

I did read several other debut authors (Amor Towles, Jay Z... I'm sure there are many many more) but this challenge is supposed to be about YA and MG.

I managed nine, and have four more (two of these are not strictly YA/MG) that I have pushed off but will read soon-- scout's honor.

Here are the posts/reviews on the debuts I read in 2012

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The Cabinet of the Earths by Anne Nesbet

Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

Cracked by K.M. Walton

The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash        

Flying the Dragon Natalie Dias Lorenzi   

Chaste Angela Felsted     

The Truth about Faking Leigh Talbert Moore  

Blood Fugue by EJ Wesley

Still on the list (bought and ready to read-- I want to finish these in the next month) 

Kittie Howard           Rings of Trust
Meagan Spooner     Skylark
Stephanie Strohm   Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink  
Jus Accardo             Touch

Haven't bought yet but still interested in...

Ivy Adams                 The International Kissing Club  
Shelley Coriell          Welcome Caller, this is Chloe  

I will not officially be doing the challenge this year. 

I'll read plenty of debuts-- and I'm looking forward to some awesome ones by authors like Kasie West, who was on my 2012 list but her pub date was pushed back and the fantastic Christa Desir (Fault line! Fault line! Fault line!) -- but I'm not officially in on the Challenge for 2013.  

What about you? 

What books are you looking forward to in 2013? 

I have been making an effort to read the books I have already bought--- I'm trying to clear out most of those before buying any new books (let's see how long that lasts).

Are you taking part in a challenge in 2013 to read certain types of books? Books already on your shelves? Debuts? Out of your typical genre?

What are your reading plans in the new year?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bugs in the House!

Not in the bad way.

In the good way.

I love bugs. You guys know this. In the last 20 years of collecting insects I've amassed a pretty decent collection. (Though many of my oldest bugs did not survive living in storage when we moved to the Netherlands. Such is life.) One of my absolute favorite things to do is to take my insects out and show them to kids or the public in general.

Collecting anything can be such a solitary experience, and part of what I adore about insects (and why I use them as a subject matter in my art) is that they are incredible (not to mention our world would not function without them) but they are overlooked, forgotten, despised, or ignored. It gives me a lot of pleasure to share what's great about them.

I am very fortunate in that I get opportunities pretty regularly to share them. For the past two years I have been a part of our school's annual Turn Off the TV Night, which is just what it sounds like. I was asked to have an exhibit at my town's First Night celebration Middnight on Main. I also take them to my own kids' classrooms at least once a year, and occasionally to the classrooms of teachers who are friends.

I had a message from my second grader's teacher last week saying they were doing a bug lesson and could I come by?
You better believe my answer was a speedy "Yes". You see, I got a tobacco hornworm caterpillar for Christmas (I know. Take a moment to chuckle over that one) and I really wanted to share it with the kids. I was able to bring the caterpillar, three collection boxes, a few books, and several specimens in lucite that the children can actually hold and examine closely.

Here's a photo of my own son with the caterpillar. It's freaking huge (and going to get bigger). I didn't take photos of the event-- I was too busy talking and answering questions.

But I did want to share the absolute best part of the experience: the thank you notes from the kids!! (How thoughtful and terrific is my son's teacher?)

Here they are-- the images and their comments were absolutely adorable.

 I promise, I did not yell at anyone, despite what the drawing shows.

 I love a good butterfly.

 The detail on this one is spectacular.

And of course, one from my son explaining how just after my visit he "saved an ant" he found in his classroom.

What could be better than bugs and art? Not much in my book.

How do you share your passions with your community?

What's your favorite insect?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Blood Fugue by EJ Wesley

I ordered EJ's book a few months ago and like many, many books I've ordered recently-- left it on the kindle while holidays, life, and the flu got in the way. I finally opened it this weekend, and finished it within a day!

Here's the goodreads blurb: 

Jenny Schmidt is a young woman with old heartaches. A small town Texas girl with big city attitude, she just doesn’t fit in. Not that she has ever tried. 

Life has pummeled her heart into one big, lonely callus. She has no siblings, both parents were dead by sixteen, and her last grandparent—and caretaker—was in the ground before she turned twenty-one. She’s the last living member of her immediate family. Or so she thinks…

Suddenly, instead of burying it with the dead, Jenny is forced to confront the past. Armed only with an ancient family journal, her rifle, and an Apache tomahawk, she must save her grandfather’s life and embrace her dangerous heritage. Or be devoured by it.

This book is not YA-- I think it would be more New Adult Paranormal (correct me if you have a better moniker, EJ). 

Here's what I liked about it. 

First, EJ writes beautifully. 

The word that kept popping up in my head as I read was visceral. Stuff is going down (just trying to avoid spoilers), things are intense, but it isn't gory or overdone. It's gorgeously written. 

The action scenes are heart-pounding and dripping with suspense. 

EJ infuses the text with thick, rich descriptions, lots of mystery, and even humor (and I mean funny humor). I loved the character of Jenny-- she was tough and real, but I was rooting for her from the first second. 

My only complaint was that I wanted more!!! 

Which is a good thing for a writer, right? 

EJs next book is out Witch's Nocturne and as soon as I clear off my kindle and actual book shelves (a new year's goal for me), I will snap it up and read it, too. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jan Plan Update...

How is your JAN PLAN going?

Mine is hanging in there... but a couple of bouts of family illness over the holidays have made it tough to keep up. 

If you will recall my JAN PLAN goals were:

1. "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." 

Check! I have finished it (for now) and am pretty satisfied with the result. 

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." 

Of the eleven images from STUNG that I wanted to complete I have currently made five...
I know. Not stellar. The dragonfly wings took FOREVER. 

But I am still working on them. Here are the five I completed, with a quote from my manuscript. 

 Velvet ant
Stag beetle
"If Mr. Anderson were an insect, he’d be a stag beetle. Big and showy, the male stag beetle likes to compare the size of its horn with other males..."
"If Momma were an insect she’d be a honeybee, working behind the scenes to pollinate the world’s crops, and raise a hive, and make all the honey."

"If Mila were an insect, she’d be a dragonfly. Strong, beautiful, sure of herself, and distinct. She is the things I’m not."

"If Miss Teensy were an insect she’d be a ladybug: bright, round, and sweet." 

I've made sketches for the remaining six and they should roll out pretty quickly. 

Overall, the Jan Plan was great for me. I feel like I accomplished what I needed to! 

Are you participating in the Jan Plan? How is it going for you?

There's one week left-- what will you accomplish?

All sketches made from photographs available for use (commercial and derivative) under a creative commons license. Here are the sources:
Velvet ant: by Hunter Desportes on Flickr
Stag beetle: by PublicDomainPhotos on Flickr 
Bee, Dragonfly, and  Ladybug: from