Saturday, February 21, 2009

In which I attempt to get through some of the stuff I've starred in my reader over the past month

With all due credit to Deanna Raybourn for the style of the post title. (Go read Silent on the Moor. It's excellent.)

Naturally, I haven't read any of these stories yet, but I will.

I'd be all over this if it were more geographically desirable.

Shannon Hale on the difference between confusion and mystery. (For the record: my protagonist? Rather confused at the moment. Working on that.)

A fake cell phone designed to market Nova Scotia - sweet.

Amy or Jo? How about Jo with a touch of Meg's practicality?

I don't need any more blogs in my reader. I don't. But I looked at Carlie's list anyway.


Speaking of things that let me procrastinate research: Victorian London online! (See also: Jane Austen's World)

I don't think I'm supposed to appreciate CJR's Mad Libs this much. But I do.

Much overdue, but I'm amazed at all the work that went into the KidLitosphere Central.

Vikings and world-building.

Two things I never expected to see adjacent to each other: "Lois Lowry" and "OMG."

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Fire, by Kristin Cashore. Coming from Dial Young Readers* in September!

There's no way I can talk about Fire without giving away Graceling spoilers. So I'm borrowing from the blog of the author herself, and dropping in a picture - in this case, one of Walden Pond.

(Which Mr. Thoreau probably would not be too impressed with if he were to drop by today. It's not even a good place to walk deliberately. The path around the pond is about two feet wide, with rusty fencing on either side, so you have to do a bit of squeezing and jockeying whenever you come across another walker.)

Are all the no-spoilers people gone? Good.

The actual overlap between the two books is pretty minor - the boy Leck is introduced at the beginning, and he plays a minor role in the plot. We never get to learn why Leck is such a terrible person - and maybe it's one of those things that just is - but we get to see that it's been part of his character from the start.

Fire takes place in the Dells, adjacent to the kingdoms introduced in Graceling. There are no Graces here, but there is one person with superhuman abilities.

If it's hard to imagine a woman more prickly than Katsa, well, meet Fire. She's a human monster, which means she's just that much more captivating than a normal human - whether she wants to be or not - and has the ability to sense and influence minds.

Fire is the only remaining human monster, thanks to her father's death - at which everyone in the Dells heaved a (brief) sigh of relief. She has no interest in mixing with the rest of the world, and spends her days in the company of her friend-with-benefits Archer and his father Brocker.

But the Dells are in the midst of a civil war, and Fire comes to the attention of King Nash and his brother Prince Brigan, commander of the army - and a thoroughly delectable blend of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, and Sirius Black.

Like Graceling, Fire is about power - different kinds, different uses, and different masters. If Fire and Katsa ever meet (will this be part of Bitterblue? Please?) they may not become friends, but they'll have a lot to share.

Fire is also very much about sex - as a source of power, a way of exerting power, and an emotionally-charged form of human interaction - no matter how much Fire tries to ignore the emotional aspect**.

When I say that sex is a big part of this book, I don't mean in a graphic sense. It's all offstage, but the repercussions - unequal division of love, illegitimate children, what it means to reproduce - are plot drivers, leaving you with just as many questions as answers.

*Dial, not Harcourt, thanks to an editorial relocation.

**Credit for this line of thinking goes to Mitali Perkins, who raised her own questions about Katsa and Po's relationship, which shaped how I read Fire.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reading comprehension

I'm very glad I went back to this post a second time. At first, I thought Feiwel & Friends was releasing Wuthering Heights with zombies added - and really, one of those is more than enough.
This is where Brian James, author of Zombie Blondes, comes in. He’s taken the timeless story of Wuthering Heights and set it in modern-day San Francisco. We still have Cathy, young, sweet, and in love with the boy next door, and we have Henry, misunderstood, mistreated, and furious. The book is called The Heights.
So: no zombies in this book, just an updated version of Wuthering Heights - which actually sounds pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Speaking of small hotel rooms

Justina's comment about her Norwegian room reminded me of this one I shared with two other people in London:
That's what I get for having a very tall roommate.

Meet Justina!

I'm delighted to be the third stop on Justina Chen Headley's blog tour for her new book North of Beautiful!

To win your very own signed copy of the (excellent) book, be the first to answer this question in the comments:

What is Justina's new community service project tied to North of Beautiful?

And visit the other stops on the tour to learn more about Justina - and for more chances to win.

Monday - Mitali's Fire Escape
Tuesday - Shelf Elf
Wednesday - Archimedes Forgets
Thursday - Bibliophile
Friday - Teen Book Review

S: Coffee and tea both play a role in North of Beautiful. Which one do you prefer?

J: Bubble tea—fruity drinks filled with fat tapioca pearls, sucked out in oversized straws. It’s a party in a cup. Or a cup of tea when it's on vacation.

S: From your blogging and tweeting, it's clear that you're into geocaching. Did you start geocaching before it became one of Jacob's hobbies, or did it move from the book into the rest of your life?

J: I had read about geocaching in an article, thought it was interesting, and tucked the idea away until I started working on this book. It occurred to me that geocaching—high tech treasure hunting using a GPS—could be symbolic of Jacob’s transformative effect on Terra. Her controlling mapmaker of a father who tries to box her into a grid; the boy who uses maps to break open her world. So in the name of research, I bought a GPS, created an account at, and hauled my family on a geocaching expedition. The kids and I were hooked!

One of our best geocaching adventures happened over the summer with the readergirlz, Jackie Parker, and Nancy Pearl. Check out for our footage from that day!

S: During the trip to China, Terra makes a few side trips alone. What's your advice for girls who want to travel by themselves - or just split off from the family vacation for a few hours?

J: Right out of college, Microsoft sent me to Europe by myself. Up until then, I had never been out of the country, much less traveled alone. But in two weeks, I had to visit five countries, train sales people, and conduct research with corporate accounts. Worse, the only other language I spoke was rudimentary Spanish—not particularly helpful considering Spain wasn’t on my itinerary. That said, I had a lovely adventure in every country—whether it was the bus driver who detoured from his regular route to take me to the Microsoft office outside of Paris. (Remember, I couldn’t speak more than three words in French, and so I held up my business card, smiled, and said: “Microsoft!”) Then there was the owner of a bistro who comped my dinner since my credit card was demagnetized somewhere along the way. And then I had no idea what tiny meant until I checked into one hotel in Norway. I could touch opposite walls with my arms outstretched.

So here’s my advice: make sure someone knows exactly where you’re going and you have an exit plan in case something goes wrong. Double check with someone knowledgeable that the neighborhood you’re investigating is safe. Know the essential words: please, thank you, sorry. Practice awareness at all times. Go to the bathroom before you set out. Pack a sense of adventure, a smile, and enough cab fare to get you back to your home base.

S: What's your favorite way to procrastinate?

J: These days? As you’ve noticed, it’s tweeting and blogging!