Monthly Archives: September 2014

Did We Skip Summer This Year?

Okay. So now that it’s officially autumn I have to ask, what happened to summer?

When I taught school it was always so clear cut. In the south, school was over in May and classes started back up in August. Here in the north, we ran until the end of June and didn’t return until after Labor Day. That in between time where everyone hung out at the town pool and caught fireflies and stayed up way to late was SUMMER.

Now in the REAL world (aka known as owning our own business) it’s not so obvious. I homeschool my daughter, so we don’t really wind down any time. Summer pretty much just starts on the ACTUAL beginning date. We say, “Oh, it’s summer,” wear shorts and flip flops and curse the heat.

Did-I-miss-summerI did wear my share of shorts over the last few months and today is the first day I’m out of my sandals, but I did a lot less cursing the heat this year than usual.

I mean, normally here in the northeast we have blazing hot months where I have to walk around with my arms extended to avoid any excess body heat. This year I remember wearing a hoodie in July. Yes! In July.

There was a major run on heat in the middle of August, but that was it. For some reason I feel cheated. Where is all this global warming they keep promising us (just kidding)?

I guess I’ll just have to curse something else…hmm, when does winter start?

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Reblog-a-thon Day 7 – A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray

My last, but certainly not least favorite, book re-recommendation for the reblog-a-thon was originally published on June 18,2014. That was just a few short months ago, but I thought the book was worth the second look.


Delacorte, 2003

great_terribleWhen I started reading the inside jacket of A Great and Terrible Beauty I thought, “Oh this is going to be like The Little Princess.” We’ve got a Victorian girl raised in India who starts attending an English boarding school full of hateful people. The protagonist, Gemma Doyle, is sixteen so maybe it was going to be The Not So Little Princess.

I was wrong.

This book is more of a dark paranormal Victorian gothic novel. There is nothing sweet about it. But, it is charming.

Gemma gets her birthday wish of returning to England fulfilled in a rather rude manner. Her mother dies. To make it worse, at the moment it happens, Gemma has a vision of her mother killing herself instead of succumbing to the dark force that tried to use her.

Happy Birthday Gemma!

So Gemma ends up at the stuffy Spence Academy for Girls with a dowdy roommate and a clique full of mean girls to contend with. The visions keep coming, a handsome young man from India warns her to control them and she blackmails her way into the popular crowd.

It’s the friendship with the other damaged girls that get this story rolling forward. Once Gemma learns to use her visions to transport herself and her three friends to an alternative world, they all work to become who they want to be outside of the confines of England of the day. Sort of, Girl Power when girls had no power.

I really enjoyed the book and Libba Bray’s writing style. The story was very visual. Engaging. It kept me thinking about the girls long after I closed the cover.

You can find out more about A Great And Terrible Beauty, the remaining two books in the “Gemma Doyle Trilogy” or Libba Bray’s other writing at her website: libbabray.com

 

Be warned…she’s got a sense of humor.


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Reblog-a-thon Day 6 – THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

So Maggie Stiefvater is one of those go-to writers. You know the kind. You need to read something but you don’t know what. Well, I know if I pick up one of her books I’m going to find just what I didn’t know I was wanting to read. Hope that makes sense. My recommendation of this book came out on May 23, 2014.


Scholastic Press, 2011

The_Scorpio_Races_CoverThe Scorpio Races takes place on the tiny Irish island of Thisby. Here every autumn carnivorous water horses called Capaill Uisce climb out of the ocean looking for blood in whatever form they can find it. Sometimes a sheep gets slaughtered, sometimes humans are taken and sometimes the horses are captured to be ridden November first in the annual Scorpio Race.

The story, in alternating voice, follows the lives of teenagers Sean Kendrick and Kate “Puck” Connolly. He is in love with these horses and the sea from which they climb. She is part of the island and wants to keep what’s left of her family together. Each of them has lost someone to the Capaill Uisce, but that doesn’t stop them from taking part in the most dangerous sort of horse race.

I absolutely loved this book, though it took me a while to get into it. There is more blood than I would normally like in a read. I found myself saying every night as I closed the cover that I would probably quit reading it.

But I didn’t.

And then I couldn’t.

I became so engrossed in this story that Puck and Sean ran around my brain all through the day – I thought about how I wanted both of them to win the race, what could possibly happen next and why I needed these two characters to be together.

Maggie Stiefvater has an amazing voice. Her metaphors and analogies are something to be cherished. Get this book. Read it. Cheer on Puck. Root for Sean. Worry about Dove. Appreciate Corr. Hope for a happy ending.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

You can find out more about the talented Maggie Stiefvater and all her books on the website: http://maggiestiefvater.com/


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Reblog-a-thon Day 5 – GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

I found the writing in the book to be just beautiful. My recommendation was originally posted on December 12, 2013.


Harcourt, 2008

Graceling-coverI read this book a while ago and have been holding onto the recommendation. I can not really explain why I waited so long. All I can say is that I was worried my words would not be able to do the story justice. It is that good that I feel intimidated to even write a simple suggestion that you rush out and get this book (but go get it anyway!).

Graceling is set in another time or another place where the wealthy live in castles and travel is on horseback. In this world a few rare people are born with often feared powers called graces. The special skill they have can be something unthreatening like swimming, baking, singing and even dancing. A grace can also be more of a supernatural skill worth fearing like the ability to read minds. The graced or gracelings, who can always be identified by the fact that they have two different colored eyes, often live solitary lives. Their skills cause so much anxiety that few are willing to get close to them.

The protagonist of this story is a graced teenage girl named Katsa. She is the niece of one of the seven kings in the region of nations mapped out in the book. Her skill was discovered when she was just a child living at her uncle’s court. A man she was distantly related to wouldn’t leave her alone so she hit him in the face. When it killed him the king wasted no time in using her talent to control the people around him. For years Katsa is forced to do his dirty work, often hurting and even killing people. Finally she stands up to him and sets out on an adventure where she will find out who or what she and her grace really are.

Basically this is a coming of age story, but I found it to be more unpredictable than some books I have read. I pride myself on knowing what’s going to happen in most stories or movies. This book had so many twists and turns that I kept finding myself surprised.

I also want to mention Kristin Cashore’s writing style. She uses very descriptive words, but they’re not flowery or overpowering. I found them to have a striking elegance which made reading this, her first novel, a pleasure. In fact, it moved me.

Graceling is the first book of a three part series. It is followed by first Fire and then Bitterblue. You can read more about the Graceling Series at http://www.gracelingrealm.com/index.html

Kristin Cashore’s personal blog is on blogspot:  http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/

She in herself is worth following.


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Reblog-a-thon Day 4 – FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

Let me say I love Rainbow Rowell. She is the spunky and mindful sort of writer that I hope to be. That being said, I don’t give recommendations on books because I adore the author. I give recommendations because I adore the story. This post originally came out on December 6, 2013.


St. Martin’s Press, 2013

(This is my first book recommendation since completing NaNoWriMo…YEAH! I CAN READ AGAIN!)

FANGIRL_CoverFangirl by Rainbow Rowell is the kind of book I didn’t think I wanted to read. The first real paragraph on the inside jacket said it was a story about a pair of twins who got through their mother leaving them to live with their father by writing fanfiction. This didn’t just reach out to grab and shake me around saying READ ME!

Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against fanfiction. I’ve even read a few stories online about the further happenings of Harry Potter. Plus I now know what else Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have been up. Fanfiction is just a fun way to keep characters alive once the author finishes telling their story.

The reason I wasn’t sure I was interested in this book was because the girls’ mother left them. That’s sort of heavy. I don’t always want to tackle traumatic moments just before I fall asleep at night.

I am not too proud to admit that I was wrong on so many levels. The book did grab me and shake me around. Good and hard. It ended up yelling READ ME so loud I could hardly put it down. There was even one day at work that I barely got anything done because I kept sneaking breaks to read what was happening (It’s a good thing my husband and I have our own business).

Fangirl is told from the point of view of Cath, the introvert of the twin pairing with her sister Wren. After their mother left when they were eight, the two of them became engrossed in the fictitious world of Simon Snow. Now that they have graduated high school and are moving on to college, Wren wants to ditch that part of her life. Cath can’t. She is a highly successful fanfiction writer with followers hanging on her every word. This is her sanctuary; what she believes is her reason for being. It’s all she wants to do.

During her freshman year she learns a lot about herself. The cast of characters that support and trip her up along the way are charming, clever and work so hard to pull you into Cath’s story. It was these side players that kept me turning the pages to see what would ultimately happen with Cath, especially in the romance department (no spoilers).

Like so many others before me, I’m strongly recommending this book. I am glad I was able to listen to these suggestions instead of going with my gut instinct on this story. It was definitely worth my time.

You should also check out Rainbow Rowell’s website (rainbowrowell.com). It is also charming and clever…just like her characters.

On a side note, Rainbow Rowell first began this journey with Cath and friends during NaNoWriMo. That gave me such encouragement while I trudged away with my own NaNo novel. I had hope the whole month because something great really CAN be accomplished in just 30 days. Check out Rainbow Rowell’s NaNoWriMo Pep Talk. Maybe it will inspire you as well.


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Reblog-a-thon Day 3 – THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

I loved, loved, LOVED this book. My write up came out just before Halloween last year (October 23, 2013) and it seemed so appropriate to have a vampire story welcoming us into the holiday.


TCGIC_CoverLittle, Brown & Company 2013

When I heard that the just released book by Holly Black was a book about vampires, I was a bit skeptical. Everything I’ve read in writing trends and publishing these days says that vampires are dead (pun intended) in Young Adult Fiction. The genre has moved on…but The Coldest Girl In Coldtown is not another Twilight wannabe. TCGIC made me forget all about those romanticized blood suckers (Edward who?). This book is the raw, gritty, chilling way vampires really would be in our internet happy world today.

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown’s list of characters is led by seventeen year old Tana. She’s lived through the decade old plague that has descended on the world. In this book vampires came out of hiding and started running rampant across first the US and then the other continents. Everyday, more and more people become ‘infected’ and begin craving human blood.

The government’s answer is to quarantine the places where the outbreaks start. Huge walls are built to trap those inside. These places are called Coldtowns. Humans and vampires live side by side in these twisted self-ruled cities. Horrific video feeds and news stories pour out of these places describing how the vampires maintain their food supply.

The first and most famous Coldtown is in Springfield, Mass. This is where Tana is heading after she wakes up one morning in a bathtub to find that she’s the only person at a ‘sundown’ party left untouched by a pack of vampires (Do vampires roam in packs? Maybe it should be a gaggle of vampires. Perhaps a pride of vampires.). Traveling with her are an ‘infected’ ex-boyfriend named Aidan and a boy vampire that was chained up in the house beside Aidan. It’s not your typical road trip.

This story is gruesome and disturbing, but also eloquent and beautiful. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, my whole weekend was shot because all I could do was read this book. Who needs clean laundry?

Go get this book. Right away. I mean now. It will be a nice Halloween read for you. You can check out more about Holly Black and her writing at her website, blackholly.com.


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Reblog-a-thon Day 2 – BIRTHMARKED by Caragh M. O’Brien

This recommendation was first published on September 20, 2013 so please excuse the fact that I was still getting my feet wet in this whole blogging business. Birthmarked is a engrossing story.


BirthmarkedRoaring Books Press, 2010

I was immediately swept up in this story.  At the opening, the teenage protagonist Gaia is assisting in an overnight birth by herself. The description of that is harrowing enough, but the worst part comes after the delivery. Gaia feels duty bound to take the baby from its resistant mother. As she walks through the dark with the baby in her arms, the mother follows behind as best she can begging for her child.

Birthmarked is the story of Gaia, the apprentice to her midwife mother. It is set far in the future when water is in short supply and babies are given to the wealthy of the Enclave to meet a monthly quota. Gaia and her parents live in poverty just outside of a high wall where within, there are riches and pleasures that those struggling in its shadow can only dream about. Her whole life she envied the children who were lucky enough to be chosen to live within the Enclave.

After her parents are arrested and taken deep within the walled city, Gaia is forced to take up the role as midwife. It’s then she begins doubting her loyalty to those on the inside. Gaia becomes determined to defy the Enclave and rescue her parents whatever the risk.

This book is a quick read full of action. There’s a predictable love interest, but I found it enjoyable. Just enough give and take on both sides to keep me interested. Caragh M. O’Brien also does a good job with description without droning on and on. Afterwards I was interested to know what else happens to the characters, though I didn’t find the ending wanting.

Luckily, Birthmarked is the first of a three-part series following Gaia’s life. The next two installments are called Prized and Promised. You can read more about these books at Caragh M. O’Brien’s website: http://www.caraghobrien.com/

She’s even written a couple of short stories that fill in the gaps between the three books, plus they’re told from the point of view of Gaia’s love interest. Read them for FREE at: http://www.caraghobrien.com/book/birthmarked/ (scroll to the bottom of the page – titled Tortured and Ruled.) Once you’ve read the first book, I’m sure you’ll want to know what else happens to Gaia and the other characters in the story.


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Reblog-a-thon Day 1 – WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion

This post was originally published on September 12, 2013.  It was my second blog entry and my first book recommendation so you can tell how much I loved this book.


From Atria Books, 2011

WARM-BODIES-coverWhen it came time to write my first recommendation for the blog I immediately thought of Warm Bodies. I read the book back in January and fell in love with the characters. Yes, I fell in love with a zombie. The thing is, there’s a question about whether this book qualifies as YA fiction. Of the two main characters, Julie is definitely a teenager. She’s nineteen and lives with her father. It’s harder to say about the protagonist R. He doesn’t even remember his own name – just that it likely begins with an R. There’s no way he can tell us how old he was before he died. Since this story is a futuristic retelling of Romeo and Juliette one of the original teenage romances, I’m leaning towards calling it YA. Talk about your star-crossed lovers.

The book’s been out for a while. It was even Indie published back in 2009. My first experience with this title though was on a coming attraction at the movie theater last fall. I was captivated by the idea that a zombie could possibly feel remorse for doing what zombies do…eat brains. Plus, it looked hilarious and I had to find out more. When I Googled the author I found his website (www.isaacmarion.com) telling about how this started out as a short story that was rewritten into a novel around the same time the movie rights were purchased. This drew me in even further. For those of you who haven’t read the book or haven’t seen the movie and its trailers (same name, released February 2013), let me explain the premise: The future world is in ruin and a plague has descended. Anyone who dies becomes a zombie unless their brain is removed. R is a zombie who ‘lives’ at an abandoned airport with a bunch of other zombies and some skeletons known as ‘boneys.’ Every now and then a group of zombies takes a walk down the deserted interstate to the city for dinner. Their preference is to eat the human brain because it gives them a feeling of humanity. The effect is that this will temporarily cause them to experience the victim’s memories. A sort of ‘mortal high’ (I’m so glad Isaac Marion cleared that up. I always wondered why zombies went for the brain).

On one of these outings, R is eating a guy’s brain and he feels how much the guy loved this one girl named Julie. When R looks up, Julie’s there in the room. R is compelled to save her, takes her to the old airplane he calls home and then everything starts changing…for the better. Let me say that I am not one to enjoy blood and gore, but this author handled that in a way that made it not so disgusting to read. You don’t blame R for what he is. We know he can’t help it and we feel for him. 

The story is a quick read, but I found it very poignant. When I reached the end of the book I kept it on my bedside table for a long time. These characters set up house in my head and I wasn’t ready to let them go. It took the library due date to make me turn them over. Luckily I read on Isaac Marion’s website that he is writing a sequel. I can’t wait. He already has a prequel out (see his website above).

Read the book…even if you saw the movie. You’ll be glad you discovered the wit and charm of Issac Marion’s writing.


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Made Up Words

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that I first posted on this blog. When I decided to celebrate this little milestone, I thought I should use the correct terminology. Originally I was going to go with calling today my blog’s birthday, but that didn’t seem right. Birthday implies that something was born. While I did ‘labor’ over the different posts (some more than others), the blog most certainly didn’t experience a birth.

Searching the internet, I stumbled upon the term blogiversary. I have to give it up to the veteran bloggers who came before me because that word pretty much sums it up. I’m glad that I’m so new to this business that making up that word didn’t fall on my shoulders.

1cupcakeIt did get me thinking though. What’s with all the made up words flying around?

Blogiversary is pretty straight forward. It is what it implies, an anniversary of a blog. But, since it is so in our current lexicon I thought I would ask, are you aware that blog is a made up word? I type my posts in Microsoft (made up word) Word before transferring them to WordPress (yes, another made up word) and every single time the software draws the little red squiggly line under the word blog. The word is really an abbreviation for the term web-log. Imagine. Someone actually got winded from saying web-log and they had to drop the first syllable.

There are other made up words that are two thoughts being brought together like web and log. The folks on television have been trying to get us to embrace ‘edutainment’ for a long time now. I think it’s sort of like moms burying chopped spinach in the spaghetti sauce. We’re going to be fine having something that is good for us if we can enjoy it.

A newer one I’m hearing is ‘cramazing.” If something is so extremely wonderful that is makes your mind race you might think to say it is crazy amazing, but you don’t have to. Someone somewhere has done you the service of inventing the term cramazing for just that occasion.

Of course the list can go on and on, but I don’t think I will. I’ll just add that of the made up words I’ve used in this post, only edutainment does not have a red squiggly line under it in my Word document (well, I should mention that Microsoft is clean as well). To me that means that edutainment has actually become legit. Who knew?

I hope you found this blogiversary blog post cramazing and just a little bit edutaining!

Take care,

Leanne

P.S. To note the year long accomplishment, I’ve decided I will do a reblog-a-thon (yikes, another one) of some of my  favorite book recommendation posts from the past year. Look out for them during the next seven days. Enjoy and thanks to all of you who follow me and my web-log.

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The Fortune In My Cookie

I love fortune cookies. It’s the second time I’ve written about them on the blog.

It’s not so much the dust, dry cookie part I like. Usually I just smash the thing and move on to the crispy paper filling. YUM!

When I was in college, my friends and I would play the ever popular “In Bed” game. Maybe you’re familiar with it too. Everyone in the group takes turns reading their cookie out loud to the rest of the party. Then, at the end of the reading, you have to add the words “in bed.”

Here’s some examples: “You will go on a long journey…in bed.” “Every day brings new challenges…in bed.” “Your feet stink like the Ganges River…in bed.”

HA!

Now I tend to collect those little slips of paper from trips to a Chinese restaurant. They are hanging from my refrigerator and taped to the bathroom mirror. I have one or two stashed in my wallet. A few even are hiding beside me in the desk drawer.

I’m not a superstitious person by nature, but for some reason I feel like these little pieces of paper hold some grain of truth. It could be that it’s a bit of hope during trying times. Maybe I just want to believe in forces bigger than me. Or it could be that the sayings are so general they could apply to anyone. Whatever the reason, I’m glad they arrive with the check at the end of a good meal.

The other night I got the following fortune in my cookie:

Good writing is clear thinking made visible.

When I googled the quote from my cookie, I found out that it is attributed to Ambrose Bierce (1905). He was a newspaper satirist and short story writer who also fought in the Civil War. Like me, you may have read his amazing short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (If not, you should. At the very least, look up the Twilight Zone adaptation).

The idea that I just need to put my thoughts in a clear manner seems so simple. The problem is that my thoughts aren’t always clear. I have precise intentions when I set out writing, but the characters don’t always cooperate.

What I’m choosing to take away from this fortune is that I need to work on making my thoughts clear and then I will strive to make them visible.

One final thought: My husband got the following fortune:

Keep on Keeping on…in bed.

Hahahaha!

May all your thoughts be clearly visible,

Leanne


InsecureWritersSupportGroupThis post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) blog hop where writers work to support and encourage each other on the first Wednesday of each month.

This month the IWSG is being hosted by the founder Alex J. Cavanaugh  along with Laura at My Baffling BrainMark Koopmans, Shah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham!

PLUS – Happy Third Anniversary of Posting to IWSG!

 

 

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