someone new will be reading an alphabet of thorn

Sunday, November 29, 2009 | | 5 comments

It’s time to announce the winner of my Alphabet of Thorn giveaway. Patricia McKillip’s novel is a high fantasy told in beautiful prose, and it masterfully contrasts the fantastical with the everyday magic of living. The result is a fairy tale, a dark mystery, and a romance, all swirled together and given a sprinkling of glitter for good measure. Without further ado, the winner is:


from Handle Like Hendrix

Who answered the question, “What do you (or do you not) like about fairy tales?” with:

“I like fairy tales because I like fairies because they are smallish like me and wear pretty clothes.” Congrats, Callie!

what makes the difference?

Saturday, November 28, 2009 | | 3 comments

Elizabeth over at The Occidental Idiot is a friend and inspiration, and we’ve been exchanging blog prompts for a while – though it’s been a while since the last time. This time around, the topic is “What makes the difference?” Interpretation up to me. So I’m going to take it in small chunks and diverse subjects. Feel free to weigh in on “what makes the difference” in your own experiences in the comments!

Between humor and awkwardness?

Humor is largely dependent on environment and certain ‘x’ factors, things beyond any one person’s control. After all, a good, humorous situation involves an interaction. One person has to say something or do something or record something (film, etc.) that elicits a favorable and amused reaction. When they don’t quite hit the mark, there’s the classic awkward moment, which often seems to stretch off into eternity. I think there are several things which can make the difference, but the most important is an open mind on both sides of the interaction. A willingness to be entertained. It is VERY hard to get a laugh out of a person if they’re not open to it. I mean, I know stand-up comedians do it all the time, but most of their repertoire is based on shock tactics, and they are, after all, professionals.

Whereas in my case, for example, it’s all about self-deprecation and extreme goofiness. If I can’t communicate well enough to make fun of some of my extremely odd characteristics (and I do have them, be warned!), then I tend to revert to slapstick. I’ll purposely run into walls or doors or street signs. I will ask strangers intimate questions and make silly faces or start dancing. I will be an absolute fool. But none of that is effective if the audience is completely depressed or badly drunk or unresponsive. It’s moments like those when I eventually subside into an awkward silence and give up. And then I spend quite a bit of time re-hashing the whole thing in my head to try and discover where it went wrong and why I couldn’t get a laugh. I do so love to get a laugh…

Between cheesy and genuinely entertaining?

I am easily delighted. Bright colors put together, a wondrous story, a fantastical imagination – these all entertain me. But there is a difference (quite noticeable) between cheesy and entertaining. For purposes of brevity, let’s limit this to…films. Cheesy: overdone, badly acted, unbelievable situations, missing segues, improbable dialogue in impossible situations, distasteful humor. Genuinely entertaining: cleverness, brilliant cinematography or set design, characters with whom I can identify, a hint of the bizarre, the unexpected made believable, and surprises that don’t immediately strike me as cliché. Examples: The Brothers Bloom, Charlotte Gray, Gosford Park, A Very Long Engagement, Stardust.

Between buying and not buying?

Intuition. Compulsion. Emotional state. Anticipation. Planning. Price tag. Perceived worthiness or value. Need. Presentation and packaging. I can’t nail it down…it’s all of those things together.

Between competition and apathy?

I think there are a couple of different things that contribute to a competitive spirit versus an apathetic one. a) Stake in the outcome. Is it important to my physical, emotional, spiritual, mental well-being that I win or compete? If so, there’s your answer. If you don’t even ask yourself this question…well… b) General character and personality. How do you deal with conflict? An avoider may choose to cease competing or actively seek activities where competition is uneccessary. c) Level of energy. A generally competitive person may act out of character out of extreme exhaustion. I'm just could happen!

And that is all. What makes the difference for you?

thanksgiving food fest

Friday, November 27, 2009 | | 7 comments

First off, Happy Thanksgiving! I know it’s a US holiday, but it doesn’t hurt to count up your blessings every once in a while, regardless of your particular nationality. This year I’m thankful for family, friends, a job (part-time), a job interview (in December, for a full-time position!), health, the wonderful blogging community and for God’s remarkable provision.

Of course, a lot of Thanksgiving ‘on the ground’ is about the food. I LOVE the neurotic mess that is Thanksgiving cooking. That’s probably a huge failing in my character, but I think it’s okay to be cranky and gourmet and ridiculous in the kitchen for this one day. After all, what else is the family going to fight about?

And one of my favorite (and surprisingly simple) Thanksgiving foods is Peach Potato Puffs. I usually make them myself, in a triple batch, and they’re often the first dish finished on the buffet. This year my mother did them, but I fully intend to take back the recipe next year. In the meantime, enjoy – it goes extremely well with ham, too!

Peach Potato Puffs


2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (oven bake 4 fresh sweet potatoes, then peel skins when cool)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

6 canned peach halves

dash of cloves and cinnamon


Combine sweet potatoes, lemon juice, salt, dash of cloves, cinnamon and butter; whip all ingredients until fluffy. Arrange peaches in greased 10 x 6 x 2-inch pan. Add potato mixture to top; dot with butter. Bake at 400˚F for 20 minutes. Serves 6.

can you see the stars in my eyes?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | | 15 comments

One of the most engaging and fun novels I’ve read this year was Lisa Matchev’s Eyes Like Stars. It’s made quite a splash in the blogging community, and I can honestly say I wish this novel all the best. Because it’s hilarious without verging on camp, it’s outright fun without a lack of depth, and it has a rollicking plot that keeps (or will keep) all of its readers glued to the page.

The star of the show is Bertie, heroine and mischief-maker extraordinaire. But if she were going to be upstaged, it would be by her motley entourage of sprites or the elusive, dangerous Ariel. Even Shakespeare’s character Ophelia shows surprising emotional depth in this tale.

And that’s what this frolic is at its heart: a tale, a play on words, a play on plays, a grand playground of the imagination. Of course there are a few miniscule flaws – after all, the author is human (or is she?) – but the overall performance is strong, and Mantchev delivers creative, wondrous prose. At the risk of sounding like Mantchev’s publicist, this woman completely ROCKS, and her story does too. Only moreso. Thus, if you haven’t already, you should get yourself in on the dramatic adventure (pun intended) that is Eyes Like Stars.

Enter Stage Right

All her world's a stage.

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She is not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but has no lines of her own.

Until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every place ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

Open Curtain

Recommended for: EVERYONE, but especially anyone with an inexplicable attraction to bright colors. Also, fairy and theater fans, and those who can appreciate well-written coming-of-age fiction.

teaser tuesday (21)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | | 29 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“Our tale, the one that couldn’t quite remain a simple love story, begins then in Fabletown and almost immediately moves up to the Farm. It happens because a witch learned something that she told to a beast, who phoned a wolf, who in turn called his wife’s twin sister, who never was a princess but perhaps should have been.”

-p. 24 of Bill Willingham’s Peter & Max

everything austen giveaway

The Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie's Written Word wraps up on New Year’s Eve, and though I still have three items to finish, it’s been fun and a great motivation to READ or WATCH, and doitnow! I’ve deviated from my original list like crazy and found more Austen adaptations and spin-offs than I ever imagine existed.

To keep the Austen love going I’m holding a GIVEAWAY. Yes, in all CAPS. So if you like, think you might like, or know someone who’d like gifts and books of the Austen-inspired variety, look no further.

The prizes:

Persuasion (1995) DVD

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Austenland by Shannon Hale

According to Jane ARC by Marilyn Brant

Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan

PLUS something pretty and frivolous and special from Etsy – but it’s a surprise for now.

I’ll pick two winners. The first will choose three items, and the second person gets the other three. The ‘something pretty’ will go to the first winner. Okay? Cool.


To enter:

Leave a comment on this post answering the question, “What is your favorite Austen spin-off or adaptation?”

Please include your email address or another method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally (Merry Christmas!). Comments will close on December 8 at 11:59pm PST, and I will notify the randomly selected winner via email.

Good luck!

symbolism in ya paranormals: auto club version

Monday, November 23, 2009 | | 7 comments

I was zooming through the latest YA paranormal sensation, Hush, Hush, when a certain scene and description brought me up short. It wasn’t about the bad boy’s gorgeous features or an egregious error in judgment by the flawed-but-lovable heroine. It was the introduction of Patch’s motorcycle. Or should I say, his ‘prop’ automobile. The attention given by the character to this form of transportation (brand new and shiny, by the way) just brought a lot of random and seemingly un-related thoughts together into a still random by now slightly ranty mess (which you see before you).

Out of this confusion, one clear question emerges: What the heck is up with the symbolic and totemic rides in paranormal teen lit? I have three examples in mind when I say ‘paranormal teen lit’ – Twilight (just the first book – I didn’t read past that point), Shiver, and now, of course, Hush, Hush.

Twilight: does it need any introduction? NO. How about Edward’s Volvo? Also NO, especially with the debut of the new ads featuring Robert Pattinson as vampire + car. That Volvo screams intelligent, discriminating, tasteful and foreign. But what about Bella’s vintage (nice way to put it, don’t you think?) truck? It might symbolize stability, strength, tradition. Unchanging attitudes. All traits which could be applied to the guy who gave her the vehicle – Chief Swan. I’m just going to put this out there – he was my favorite character in the film version. And that’s…something. I’m not even going to go into the cars driven by the other vampires. There’s some serious car lust bleeding through the pages, Ms. Meyer…

A less explicit example is Grace’s selection and purchase of a Bronco (it IS a Bronco, right? I’m not making that up?) around mid-book in the werewolf love story Shiver. Any old SUV really, but a especially a Bronco, conjures up images and references: solid, rangy, ready for adventure and/or disaster. Maybe a little bit like a wolf?

And my current read, Hush, Hush, with Patch’s motorcycle and the girls’ Neon and Fiat. Can I just point out that ALL THREE of those vehicles are several ticks past impractical for a story set in Maine? The motorcyle is easy and cliché – daring, danger, energy, image. The Fiat is history and danger (in a completely UNsexy way). And the Neon? Newish, impractical above all, and kind of vanilla despite the purple paint job.

Anyway, these vehicles actually play large parts in the stories – as retreats from trouble, as shining steeds for the proverbial teenage white knights or rebellious mounts for the bad boys, and as possible thrill-inducing (negative AND positive) experiments. I mean, I know that learning to drive and getting a car are seminal American teenage experiences. But to grant (intentionally or not) these machines their own place and character in the story is a very interesting phenomenon. It’s not as if these are stories about cars, after all. Can you think of more examples? Is this a recent trend or something that’s been happening for a while? And is there an appreciable connection between car obsessions and paranormal novels in particular? Just some food for thought.

*Feel free to insert jokes about the driving skills of sparkly white vampires here.*

what to do, what to do...

Sunday, November 22, 2009 | | 10 comments

Haven’t updated in a bit because some inventory has gone missing in the inspiration department. BUT! I remembered this evening that I’d been meaning to finish this book-ish meme. I think I got it from Steph Su – I could be wrong – but she’s marvelous at any rate, and might as well have made up these questions. Enjoy, and feel free to steal them for your blog as well!

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?

In an ideal world, I’d have a whole library full of hardbacks. But for ease and utility, trade paperbacks. And you can’t beat the price of a mass market…

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

I’m a Barnes & Noble girl. It might have something to do with the Starbucks & cheesecake in the café.

Bookmark or dog-ear?


Amazon or brick-and-mortar?

I do like to shop on the internet, but recently I’ve discovered the joys of The Book Depository (sorry, Amazon!).

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?

Random. Unless shelving by size counts.

Keep, throw away, or sell?

I keep most of the books I buy for pleasure reading. I sell academic books if I don’t see myself using them again, and I’ve only ever thrown out a book by mistake.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?

KEEP! Dust jackets are integral to the hardback experience. Plus, they make good bookmarks.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?

With. See above.

Short story or novel?

Difficult decision…but if I go by volume of novels vs. short stories in my reading queue right now, novels win.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Harry Potter. I love that the books ‘grow up’ as Harry does.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

When tired. I’m pretty impervious to the effects of chapter breaks.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Oh…this one’s hard! Can I have both? In the same story?

Buy or borrow?

I love to own books, but borrowing is much more economical. Certified library geek.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?

In that order exactly. I read book reviews (Booklist and School Library Journal, if they’re not too spoilery, and fellow book bloggers), then go to recommendations, and I’ve been known to browse occasionally as well.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

Somewhere in between. I don’t like having ALL ends tied up, but I’m not fond of books that can’t stand on their own either.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?

Nighttime, or between-appointments-time.

Stand-alone or series?

If I fall in love with a book, it’s nice to know that there’s a series following it up, but I believe in stand-alones in general. Sometimes the next books are disappointing, and then what do you do?

Favorite series?

If I have to pick just one…Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Favorite children’s book?

A Christmas Card for Mr. McFizz by Obren Bokich.

Favorite YA book?

All of them. Umm...but seriously? Maybe The Only Alien on the Planet. Or The Blue Sword.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

Mercedes Lackey’s Phoenix and Ashes. It’s magical alternate history set during World War I, and it’s loosely based on the Cinderella fairy tale. GREAT book.

Favorite books read last year?

Thirteenth Child, The Hunger Games, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Academy 7, Book of a Thousand Days, Chalice, The Graveyard Book. And many, many more.

Favorite books of all time?

Persuasion, The Blue Sword, Phoenix and Ashes, Neverwhere, Sabriel, The Once and Future King, The War of the Flowers, The Merlin Conspiracy, and Howl’s Moving Castle, to name a few.

What are you reading right now?

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Libyrinth by Pearl North, and Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.

What are you reading next?

Probably Genesis by Bernard Beckett.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?

Anything by Garth Nix or Robin McKinley, depending on the sex of the 11-year-old in question.

Favorite book to re-read?

Rilla of Ingleside or Phoenix and Ashes. Both make me cry buckets and fall in love with the characters all over again.

Do you ever smell books?

Yes. Anything verging on mildew is bad, but old paper smell? Awesome.

Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?

I have, yes. They’re not a favorite, though. I’m a fan of editing.

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