Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: Jenny Owen Youngs

"What Beats Within" is a song about confessing or trying to at least. It's the perfect addition to my playlist since my main character has no shortage of mistakes. But sometimes admiting what you've done is unfathomable. This is especially true when you are left questioning whether it was even real or if you've lost your mind somewhere along the quest for greatness.

Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Books: Now Even Better With Friends

In elementary school all my friends read The Babysitter's Club and together we watched the amazing movie. I personally always connected with Mallory, maybe it was the glasses. Or it could have been all that reading and writing she did...

Next came Harry Potter. One by one my friends and family jumped on the Hogwarts Express and we bonded over theoretical discussions like so many games of exploding snap. At times there were fierce arguments, mostly about Snape's true allegiance. By the way, I was totes right and there was really no reason to get so hostile. You know who you are. I held parties where I turned the dining room into the Great Hall complete with dangling paper candles. We decorated t-shirts, consumed pumpkin cookies, treacle fudge and more recently pumpkin margaritas which were actually quite tasty.

It was only natural that when Twilight came out my friends-who read it first-demanded I join them in their discussions. I obliged and read all four books the weekend Breaking Dawn was released. While Twilight will never be what Harry Potter is to me, I don't regret it one bit. The saga has provided similar discussions and celebrations. For example, Twilight came out in theaters and we had an epic thread of Facebook messages going for weeks after.

Tonight I'm going to see Breaking Dawn Part One with two friends from college. But before the movie we will be making Red Velvet Whoopie Pies-because they are the color of blood and delicious. There will also be a Breaking Dawn Signature cocktail, it's basically a hurricane with plenty of grenadine. The idea being Bella drinks blood to stop her unborn fetus from slowly killing her, so we shall drink blood-tinis to dull the pain to our ears when teenage girls emit high pitched shrieks in the audience. I love teenagers, but why do they do that at the movies?

I chose not to go the straw and sippy cup route.

As I write this blog post, two friends and family members are reading The Hunger Games. I think they are among the last of my circle to read the series and I am bouncing on my heels waiting for them to finish. I need to discuss. I need to relive the series again-this time with friends.

With the official Hunger Games trailer just released on Monday for the movie coming out in four short months, I am preparing for yet another book series to movie series string of social events. I mean look at that trilogy-so many food and drink options for themed-parties.

Who knows what will be next? It will be a while, but I am gonna cast my vote for Divergent.

Do you have any guesses for the next big book series to tackle the silver screen?

Have a great weekend and if you happen to make it out to see Breaking Dawn let me know your thoughts. We can discuss.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: The Horrible Crowes

It's grey and rainy in Philadelphia, making it the ideal time to slow things down with "Lady Killer" from The Horrible Crowes. Brian Fallon, from The Gaslight Anthem, started this band as a side project. Their album, Elsie, is perfect listening for Fall and in my opinion for writing and brainstorming young adults novels.

Hope everyone is having a great week and for all those NaNoWriMo participants, may the word count be ever in your favor.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Report Monday: Crossed

Title: Crossed, Matched Trilogy #2

Author: Ally Condie

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Synopsis: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I thoroughly enjoyed Matched.

My Review:  A different kind of story from Matched, Crossed focuses on Cassia's journey through the Border and Outer Provinces in search of Ky and Ky's journey to get to Cassia. Point of view is divided between the couple, with alternating chapters. This works well as they are both searching for each other and for several chapters they were just close enough to drive me crazy.

While traveling through canyons called, the Carving, Cassia experiences freedom for the first time. The Society controls everything back home, but in the Carving even though pickins are slim she is the only one in control of her life even what she eats. She can sleep or stay awake and count the stars. She can run as far as she wants without the treadmill being shut off. Nobody watches her every second. Nobody documents her every move as a statistic.

Coinciding with her realization that life without the Society may be possible she learns about the rebellion called the Rising. Cassia is eager to find the Rising and join them. Ky on the other hand is hesitant. He would rather live on the outskirts, not under the Society's control but not engaged in battle with them either.

In the Carving it seems everyone has secrets. Even Ky who throughout Matched seemed almost without flaws. It makes their love more realistic, once we see he isn't perfect. But it also leaves an insinuation of a choice Cassia may still have to make between Xander-her Society chosen match-and Ky. Xander appears in Crossed but in a very different capacity. I suspect the third and final book in the trilogy will have more of a love triangle, but that's all I will say for now.

In the end, as so often happens, it seems the resistance may not be that different from the society they are rebelling against. See: The Hunger Games, Animal Farm, etc.

But that is kind of the point of dystopian novels, there is no utopia and every time a society strives to reach that elusive perfection, they are going to fall short.

Recommendation: If you liked Matched you need to read this.

Next Week: Marcus of Umbria by Justine van der Leun

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving, A Prequel

Pumpkin pies for tonight

Just in time for The Season of Pumpkins and Giving Thanks my sister graduated from her medical professional program last night. Woo hoo! Congratulations, Sister!

She has already been seen using her LPN certification (as an excuse) to jab little kids with needles and explain to confused family members that Nana's hearing is perfect, she's just been ignoring you.

Our parents came from Florida to celebrate and we decided it would be efficient to also have a Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner while they are in town. I mean who doesn't love efficiency? And getting two Thankgivings isn't bad either. 

It's our tradition to go around the table and say something for which we are grateful. Usually I make a funny joke. I have given thanks to everything from inky pens to wonder bras. Don't worry, jokes will still be made but a Virginia Woolf quote came to mind. It's a good one, writers, so get out your inky pens and jot this down.

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
-Virginia Woolf, A Room Of One's Own

Well, Ms. Woolf, I have both of those things and am so grateful. Without them I wouldn't be able to write my fiction. And if I wasn't able to write my fiction...well that would be dark times, dark times for me and all who know me. Of course, I am grateful for more than that. Here are some fun pictures of things I am thankful for...

Why yes, I bought these flowers myself.

Only four short weeks until The Gaslight Anthem returns to New Jersey with a show in Asbury Park.

Upcoming Travel Plans...

Massachusetts in December

Albuquerque in February

Lake Geneva, Switzerland in May...more on this later.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Report Monday: The Magician King

Title: The Magician King, sequel to The Magicians

Author: Lev Grossman

Genre: Adult Literary Fantasy

Synopsis: The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges. 

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them. 

The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis, and the cutting edge of literary fantasy. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I read The Magicians and honestly I wasn't a big fan of it. It wasn't the writing, Grossman is fantastic. It was Quentin Coldwater. He was so unlikable in The Magicians, he was miserable no matter how many of his dreams came true. And he didn't seem to learn his lesson or change until the end of the book. So when I heard there was a sequel coming I crossed my fingers and prayed that Quentin wouldn't let me down.

Favorite Lines: "If this was madness it was an entirely new kind of madness, as yet undocumented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. She had nerdophrenia. She was dorkotic."

My Review: Grossman does not disappoint with this sequel. Quentin has grown as I hoped he would. In The Magician King Quentin is transformed from an anti-hero to a legit hero. Way to go, Quentin. The story is a combination of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Reality Bites. This not a kid-friendly story about magicians. There is sex, booze, violence and lots of profanity. It's gritty.

Like Winona I had a thing for Ethan Hawke.
Fun fact: Anyone can learn magic if they are intelligent enough. So magicians in Grossman's books aren't just capable of magic, they are capable of vector calculus too.

Fillory is a magical word like Narnia. There were even books written about children who traveled to Fillory, exactly like Narnia. The Magicians tells how Quentin and his friends discover that the books they loved growing up were actually based on true events and make it their mission to get to Fillory where there is a  talking ram called Ember who is the God of the magical world.

The  book is divided between the--we'll call it the--current events where Quentin is the main character and he is adventuring between worlds with Julia, and past events where Julia is the focus. That story line explains what Julia was doing while Quentin was at Brakebills-a secret Magician College. It tells how she learned her magic and what it cost her. Julia's parts are told in such a fantastic voice, I forgot I was reading.

I really enjoyed The Magician King and have my fingers crossed for a follow up, maybe in 2013.

Recommendation: Fast, exciting fantasy read for adults. Read The Magicians first.

Next Week: Crossed by Ally Condie

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes fame) is one of my favorite songwriters but most of his songs are a little too lyrically intense to go on my writing playlists. I get distracted by the words and lose my focus and that is the opposite of what the writing playlist is for. This song, "Spoiled" from Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band is not distracting. It also is about being a spoiled brat and as you may have guessed my main character is a spoiled brat.

For him being happy is difficult. There is always something missing it seems. How much does he need to achieve before he will be content? Why do his victories fail to give him anything like peace or pleasure?

Whatever the reason Conor's right when he says, "That's just a shame."