Agatha Christie may be one of my heroes

agatha-christie“Agatha Christie on how her lack of education and childhood boredom led her to write…” Full article here.

Austin Kleon, who I follow religiously, posted the article above up on Tumblr this week, based on a 1955 interview that Agatha Christie gave, and I recommend you check it out.

Christie’s words got me to thinking about how different her childhood, and those of my generation were, compared to the ones of my own nieces and nephews and the other Millennials I am surrounded by on a regular basis. It’s difficult to find a child not engaged with a screen, be it watching cartoons or playing on their parent’s tablet or phone. We install tvs in our vehicles now to ‘ keep children busy’.

Of course I had television as a child too, but I remember my parents giving us room for play without always being connected to a screen. Field trips to parks where we explored nature, and to museums for learning, and zoos and farms. I remember long car trips and out of sheer boredom, the yellow legal pad begged from mother’s purse and a purple pen (ah…. now I understand why I love purple!). Doodles turned to jotting down daydreams and that evolved into writing stories. The birth of a writer.

Cultivating childhood creativity and an early love of reading can transform those lulls of boredom and restless energy into something marvelous. What about your childhood — did you have plenty of time to play and exercise the imagination?

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After Alice Now Available For Pre-Order

after aliceIf you’ve read my past post on Gregory Maguire, then you know how much I adore all things Wicked. I am thrilled that Maguire is returning to his fairy tale roots (see also Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Mirror Mirror) with his latest title, After Alice.

William Morrow notified me that this title is slated for release on October 27th, and a signed, first edition can be pre-ordered from Porter Square Books, B&N and Books-a-Million.

I don’t know about you but After Alice is going to be immediately going onto MY fall reading list.  Are you excited about this title too? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

 

10 Books That Still Resonate With Me

Recently on Facebook I was challenged by a friend to complete a challenge of “10 Books That Have Stuck With You”.  Well, that’s a long list, made longer by the fact that for most readers I think, 10 books isn’t going to be nearly enough!

I thought it’d be fun to post my response.  I challenge ALL OF YOU to post in comments with your top picks!  I look forward to reading your responses. 🙂


Briar Rose. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Briar Rose. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

1. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Probably one of my earliest introductions to the power of a fairy tale mixed in a historical setting, this is the story of “Sleeping Beauty” set in the holocaust. Haunting.

In the same vein…

2. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Technically a short story, I fell in love with this story from the first time I read it. Beyond shock value, what makes this story awesome is how well it’s written: tight writing, suspense, and a growing sense of unease as you realize something is terribly wrong. Must-read.

anne of green gables3. The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery (and) Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Anne Shirley is in my top 3 favorite heroines in literature. She’s irrepressible, imaginative, super-intelligent, a writer, gets into scrapes without meaning to, a best friend, loyal to a fault, loving, and unfortunately, she’s slow to forgive. Like, seriously, Anne, you’re the one who smashed the slate over a boy’s head. I think he got the raw end of the deal there.

Oh, and I have to thank Montgomery for introducing me to the works of Tennyson, and countless other poets. Thank you.

Blue Castle was the first (maybe only?) book Montgomery wrote targeted for adults. I always like the idea of spinsters going off for a hurrah and their life ends up changing for the better. It’s charming.

mason & dixon4. Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Thus far, the only Pynchon book I’ve ever been able to finish, I was introduced to Pynchon’s books by a great teacher and chose this one because it was the longest and it was able Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin rocks. Even today, I still question whether he was really that dynamic of a character. If he was, people would read history more.

neverwhere5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
This rocked my world the first time I read it. I loved this dark fantasy set beneath London’s streets and the adventures of Richard and Door. I also recommend Gaiman’s “Stardust”.

if I ran the circus6. If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
I love Dr. Seuss’ imagination and this children’s book makes me smile every time I read about Morris McGurk’s dreams for taking an empty lot and transforming it into the world’s greatest circus.

beauty_robin_mckinley7. Beauty by Robin McKinley
This was probably the earliest novelization of a fairy tale I was exposed to and I was hooked for life. McKinley has a love affair with Beauty & the Beast (I think), she’s written two books about the character, but I love how this ‘Beauty’ isn’t beautiful.

Honorable mentions: Patricia C. Wrede’s Snow White and Rose Red; The Snow White, Blood Red Anthology Series

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you know me well, you might be surprised to find this so far down the list. This is my favorite romantic comedy formula and it hits all the right emotional marks every time, making this a favorite whether it’s a play, a film, the book, whatever.

velveteen rabbit9. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
I cry every time I read this book. This book made me hope that all well-loved stuffed toys have a happy ending. It also tore my heart out. It’s such a beautiful and sad story.

christy10. Christy by Catherine Marshall
The book is way better than the TV movies, trust me on that. Marshall may be the pioneer of the trope – “schoolteacher leaves comfort of the known to venture into the unknown and find purpose, adventure and love”.

voice in the wind11. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
Really difficult book to read, but Rivers has a gift for telling a book from multiple perspectives and a great eye for detail. I think it was probably Francine Rivers’ work on this series that made me want to write historical fiction. A great foray into Christian historical fiction.

… and so many more books!

Quiz: Which Shakespeare Character Are You?

In honor of last week’s loosely-based-on-Shakespeare title, I thought it’d be fun to link up to a quiz. This one’s hosted by PBS, who airs a lot of British stuff, and the Brits know Shakespeare.

Which character will you get?  Take the quiz and report back here.

Which Shakespeare Character Are you?

My Quiz Results: I am Rosalind!

“And therefore look you call me Ganymede.” — AS YOU LIKE IT, ACT 1 SCENE 3

Top 10 Bookish Things (That Aren’t Books) That I’d Like To Own

photodune-3938229-top-10-xs-e1380168647738I don’t always participate in The Broke and the Bookish’s Top 10 Challenge but this week’s challenge was too much fun to dismiss:

Pick out 10 things that are related to books (but aren’t books) that you’d like to own.

How fun is that? I’ll admit up front that I love shopping from indy artists, especially Etsy, so you’re going to find a ton of stuff on here is from Etsy, with links to purchase back to the artist’s Etsy store. That said, here’s my Top 10 for the week!

 

Irving Harper book1. An original paper sculpture by Irving Harper

Mr. Irving Harper works with paper as his medium and I think his sculptures of owls, architectural wonders and floor-to-ceiling sculptural columns.

The photo is of a recent book released showing his sculptures. I encourage you to check out a copy and see the awesome stuff he’s doing. Oh, to be able to get frilly, pretty things … but where on earth would you display them?

2. A full weekend’s worth of Regency gowns and accoutrements

I would love to do a historical re-enactment at a JASNA convention, or one oversees, as a Regency-era character but those costumes are pricy! Still, at a minimum, I’d love the dress, bonnet, stockings, shoes, jewelry, underthings, etc., of at least 1 day dress, and preferably, also an evening gown for special events — like a dance at the local assembly!

il_570xN.578248235_gitq3.Scheherazade Tea (Arabian Nights) by Stroble Farms

I love tea and a friend of mine curated this tea in her foodie treasury list which is how I ended up discovering Stroble Farms’ Etsy page.  Cloves, cinnamon and cardamon are all favorites of mine but I haven’t tried them with rose petals and allspice. Sounds amazing to me.

This is going on my birthday wishlist.

 

il_570xN.532331459_61mk4. On To Our Next Adventure (tote) by WinterCabin

This is pictured in yellow but it’s currently also available in red.  If they’d expand their collection to include blues, greens, and purples, I’d love to get one of these. A girl can never have too many book totes.  Mine are forever being overstuffed and falling apart.

5. A vintage card catalog

I grew up using these heavy-duty babies at my local library and they’ve got a great vintage feel. Just like the old apothecary cabinets you see in antique malls, card catalog drawers can hold a variety of knickknacks (jewelry? art supplies? cd storage?) and look great. But they’re getting harder to find and oh, so expensive. Maybe someday if I’m lucky…

il_570xN.3280604546. Penguin Book Dangle Earrings by Coryographies

I know this makes me such a geek but I’d love to get these Penguin Classics (in purple!!) earrings.

Aren’t they cute?  Oh my gosh, adorable. And purple is my favorite color. #librarygeek flag flying here. Deal.

7. The official Jane Austen charm bracelet released by the Jane Austen Centre

As of this writing, the British pound is around $1.68 American so one of these beauties would cost me around $340.00 American, plus s/h and taxes. For a charm bracelet, yes. So not happening (lol). But as long as we’re dreaming, I’d like the bracelet and optionally, the fan charm add-on please.

il_570xN.541006271_foh38. If I’m Honest I Have To Tell You… (Decal) by Raaa100

I need to patch and re-paint the walls in my home office, and find a smaller chair so it won’t scrape the new paint first. But after that, then maybe, I’d like to get this for the wall above my desk. $20.00+ for wall art is a great price.

Alternatively, there are tons of great literary-inspired quotes and art prints that I would love to get and frame all in black (or maybe all in a metallic color) and do a grid display on my home office walls.

9. Page Nibs™ by Levenger

If I’m being perfectly honest, you should know that I lose bookmarks. All the time. These page nibs seem like a useful, utilitarian alternative — not too unique that I won’t get attached and coming out at about 33 cents a piece, it’s not the end of the world if I forget to take one out before returning a batch at my library.

il_570xN.576110689_204l10. Any of the literary prints by PemberleyPond

I love this type font print of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell but if Gaskell’s not your thing (who are you and why are you on my blog?!), there’s also some great Jane Austen picks.

This is one of those other art series I could see myself doing someday — get a bunch in complimentary colors from different books and frame side by side or in a grid format. Lovely.

Repost: Jane Austen Satire on Newsbiscuit

Photo credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, FreeDigitalPhotos.com.

Photo credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, FreeDigitalPhotos.com.

A positively delightful look at young ladies misadventures abroad and the perplexed coppers who must try to wrangle these ladies into some sense of order after “late nights spouting Mozart arias in the streets” (a paraphrase).

Although this is clearly satire, a part of me (that wishes that ladies still wore sprigged muslin and talked prettily) would love this to be real.

Alas, this is one fashion that has not come around again.

I’ll keep waiting.

Shannon Hale Visits St. Louis

Wednesday night was the single best author event I have ever attended (sorry Gregory Maguire). There I was, a 30-something female reader going solo, surrounded by a large crowd of teenage girls and their parents, teachers, or youth group leaders.  Those girls were excited.

Shannon Hale talking

Shannon was at St. Louis County Library (SLCL) Headquarters to promote her newest venture, Ever After High, which already has its own line of dolls (ala the Monster High variety), courtesy of Mattel.  In addition to answer the slew of questions from her (mostly) younger audience, Shannon treated us to her rap version of one of the songs in Ever After High.

First off, I cannot believe how substantive the questions were coming in from such a young crowd.  These girls (as a whole) really knew Shannon Hale’s books and asked some great questions.  Maybe we had some future writers in the crowd. 😉

Shannon also revealed that she is a mother of four (including twins) and that (I think) this was her first time visiting STL.  Next stop on the list was LA.  On a side note, that’s got to be really hard being away from your family that long.  If she felt homesick, you’d never know it.  Girl brought energy!!!

Shannon Hale readingAs a writer myself, I am impressed with her turnout time for novels (Goose Girl was three months, I think she said), and two years for some of her other books.

She spends about three hours a day in her office, during “writer stuff”.  Although nobody asked about target word counts, I imagine that Shannon must be really productive when she does get down to work.  I think that two years for a book is pretty darn fast.

Waiting in line for the signing, I met some awesome people while waiting in line including some Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) who had met Margo Dill. You may remember that I reviewed Margo’s book, Finding My Place, back in  August.

Back to Shannon Hale.

Shannon grew up reading one of my favorite fairy tale authors, Robin McKinley, author of Beauty and Rose Daughter.  It was reading Beauty that inspired Shannon Hale to try and write her own version of a fairy tale and answer some questions left unanswered by the original, The Goose Girl.

For those of you who didn’t read The Goose Girl (the original), I recommend the beautifully illustrated copy written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Robert G. Sauber.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“I wrote this story for you [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe], but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.

I think this quote is often taken out of context. In context, it implies that C.S. Lewis’ family member outgrew reading children’s lit during the long process of him writing it.  Out of context, it focuses on  the idea that fairy tales are something you come back to again and again (although in Lewis’ case, I think he probably meant when he/she was old enough to have children of their own).

Anyway, my point is, some of us never stopped reading fairy tales. I haven’t.

I never really grew out of fairy tales.  I remember being a toddler and reading fairy tales and then even as I grew older, I kept reading them.  I loved Robin McKinley and Jane Yolen, and then later, Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale brought this revival of interest in fairy tales as literature.  Both ladies have written fairy tale-ish stories that explore the characters on a much deeper level than the originals.  It’s not just a fairy tale anymore.

Shannon Hale and Lauren Miller

Beyond the fairy tales, what Shannon Hale brought to SLCL was a little magic of her own (ala the author kind). As I described the experience to one friend, she summed it up best, “Sounds like an author who knows how to treat her fans.”

I think that that’s the important thing to remember.  Shannon Hale may write her books for herself, versus a specific audience, but people are drawn to her stories. They buy her books. They go to her signings. They follow her online.

Respect your audience.

Embrace your audience.

Sometimes do both!

That’s the magic I think Shannon Hale brought to STL with her, the magic an author brings when they genuinely appreciate their readers and go above and beyond.  She stopped to talk to each person that came to see her. She signed their books.  She personalized them for Pete’s sake. Some of us took photos.

My favorite thing she did didn’t even involve me actually.  There were some really young girls in the audience and I watched Shannon interacting with one of them, a seven-year-old, and sharing with her some snapshots of her own young children.  How cool is that?

If our experience at Shannon Hale’s author event in STL was any indication of what LA can expect, readers are in for a rare treat.

Here’s some of Shannon Hale’s writing credits for those of you unfamiliar with her work: Shannon Hale on Goodreads

I’ve reviewed two of Shannon’s books for adults so far on Pocketful of Prose, The Actor and the Housewife and Midnight in Austenland.  Let me know what you think!

More Thoughts on Gatsby For a New Generation

Great-Gatsby-Movie-e1380168544946The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles. (Amazon.com description)

Story

As a first-person narrated story, there are some changes that are necessary to the change of medium from book to film. Perhaps the most noticeable alteration is the framing device used to explain Nick Carraway’s narration of the events of that fateful summer on West Egg.

I’m not a big fan of framing devices in general and after viewing this version for the first time, I have not yet decided if the telling of the story could have been smoother without the use of the sanitorium.

Another change to the story I struggled with the non-presence of Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s daughter, Pammy. She only makes an appearance towards the end of the film although it’s clear to Nick early on that she in fact exists.  It’s as if Luhrmann has forgotten that Tom and Daisy’s marriage was consummated and resulted in a child, Pammy.

For all of Jay Gatsby’s eternal hope and optimism, it is left unclear in the film whether he is aware of Pammy’s presence. I wonder if he would be as willing to break up the marriage union if he knew there was a child in the picture.  Unfortunately we’ll never know.

Visuals

Absolutely exquisite film. Baz Luhrmann’s signature extravagant visuals with contemporary music dazzle and explode on the screen, the very incarnation of Fitzgerald’s depictions of the wild and lavish parties at Gatsby’s West Egg mansion.

Luhrmann pays humble tribute to the green dock light on Tom and Daisy’s home on East Egg. The light is portrayed with heavy fog and an unearthly emerald glow that gives it the ‘enchanted object’ feel Fitzgerald describes in his book.

My favorite visuals from the film are perhaps from one of its simplest, most profound moments.  As Nick extrapolated on his lost generation:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The words of the narration themselves form this lovely image of rain or snow falling on New York. Carraway seals his Fitzgerald-esque comparison with the final scene (but I shan’t spoil it).

I absolutely adored this film version. It is every bibliophile’s wet dream to see a film so close to the original vision of the author as Luhrmann’s tribute to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Purists may balk at the appearance of Jay-Z and the use of some contemporary music in a period setting but I think for a reboot that this method has a lovely way of transferring ideas from one generation to another.

Bravo, Baz.

10 Books on My Fall 2013 TBR List

The idea for this post came from: The Broke and the Bookish

This fall I am making more of an attempt to read outside of my genre embracing some horror and mysteries as well as start to try and keep up with my husband’s extensive reading list.

Since my husband is reading some of the classics, I will be too! (I hope…) So this fall has a bit of a mishmash of genres that goes all over the place.  Check out the list below and let me know what your fall must-reads list is.

I’ll be grabbing a cuppa before I start.

Ready? Okay!

1.) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I just saw the gorgeous reinterpretation by Baz Luhrmann starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.  I’ve read The Great Gatsby waaaay back in high school but since it’s on my husband’s list for the fall, and it’s been well over 10 years since I’ve read it (cough), I guess it’s time again.

I’ll never forget the narrator, Nick Carraway who introduced me to East Egg and the tragic romance between Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

clare_city-of-bones2.) City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #1)

I’ve been seeing the previews for this for months now and I regret that I still haven’t sat down and read this YA paranormal/horror blockbuster hit yet.  From what the GoodReads comments say, it’s better to read it afterwards because the film diverges so much from the book.

Personally, I think that when you translate a book into a film it always loses something.  It’s an entirely different medium and you cannot please everyone’s expectations of how THEY see it in their imaginations.  But I digress…

3.) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Case in point. We are going to see Peter Jackson’s vision, not necessarily Tolkien’s or even the average Joe’s.  It’s one man’s vision which is why it’s great to see classics remade over time — a fresh perspective for a new audience.

This was bedtime reading for my family and at some point in my childhood I must have read it cover to cover but I’ve forgotten it beyond the retaking of the Lonely Mountain so it’s time for another go.

hill_nos4a24.) Nos4a2 by Joe Hill

Not a film per se but certainly another take on the Nosferatu classic. I’m not a huge Stephen King fan but I’m curious whether his son’s got the gift and this seems like an interesting premise.  Sort of a Once Upon a Time gone horror.  It should be interesting.

james_deathcomes5.) Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James

This is supposed to be amazing.  I am a huge fan of all the Jane Austen fan fiction (well, except for the sexquels…) and I’m excited to see what a renowned mystery writer can bring to the characters in Pride and Prejudice.

Last time someone made a grand attempt like this (cough McCullough cough), I couldn’t finish the book I was so disappointed. I’m not sure how a P.D. James mystery will differ from some of the other longstanding books set in Jane Austen’s England, or featuring Jane as the detective.

Any P.D. James followers out there?  What do you think?

baker_longbourn6.) Longbourn by Jo Baker

I’ve heard such great things about this book.  It’s sort of a Downton Abbey (or Upstairs/Downstairs for the older crowd) meets Pride and Prejudice.  It’s a take on the story from the perspectives of the servants and follows the romances below-stairs as much as above-stairs.  If I can get my hands on a copy this fall, this will be a quick read I’ll wager.

Now, from Regency ballrooms to the Golden Age of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table…

tennyson_idylls7.) Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This is going to be A-maze-ing. This is another of my husband’s reads for this fall and I’m super-stoked to read the entirety of Idylls for the first time.  I first read “The Lady of Shalott” in Anne of Green Gables and fell in love with Tennyson and the whole pre-Raphaelite movement inspired by Tennyson and Shakespeare.  Can’t wait!!

landon_kelley_tracesof8.)  Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley (Mercy Medallion #1)

This is a Civil War era novel, the first in a new series.  ‘Mercy’ called so for the medallion she wears, was found unconscious with amnesia.  Her search to discover her past leads her to a new love and a chance at a future. That future becomes threatened when someone from her past emerges, who knows secrets she herself has forgotten that could undo everything.

This is one of my ARCs that I’ll be reviewing for a fall issue this year so this will be one of the first things I’m reading … which perhaps should have been listed earlier. Oh well.

delacruz_misguided-angel9.) Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods #5)

I’ve been reading the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz for the past few weeks and have gotten through the first four books.  There are still 2 other books left in the series and I’d like to finish them before Christmas.

The Blue Bloods series is an interesting take on vampire mythos (no sparkling vamps). Some of the oldest, richest families in New York are actually vamps and out of one of these families, certainly the poorest of the lot, is young [name] who discovers she is becoming a vampire. Then some of her schoolmates begin winding up dead… and Schuyler begins to wonder, what can kill a vampire?

shinohara_redriver_110.) Red River by Chie Shinohara (Red River #1)

Books from this manga series keep crossing my desk and now I’ve got the bug.

Flipping through the book (right to left), I now want to learn about the college freshman who gets sucked through a puddle into the ancient Hittite empire.

Do I expect this to be in any historically accurate?  Hell no!

Hehe, but it should still be fun.  The graphics are interesting and historical manga series are starting to become a popular sub-genre.  There’s also “The Earl and the Fairy” and “Victorian Mysteries” as manga that I’m also curious to explore.  My introduction to manga was through “Emma” by Kaoru Mori.

They’re such quick reads that I’m tempted to create a new genre category just for Manga. But once you start… On a side note, I am also a fan of the work of Hayao Miyazaki.

-*-

There you go my friends. My top 10 reads for the fall 2013 year.  Do any of these titles inspire you to try them out for yourself?  Let me know what you think!