Mix-Tape Mondays: Very Violent Horses Edition


This week I wanted to do a more contemporary novel, and one I had reviewed on the site (no matter how useless my review was). I went with my favorite novel of 2011, a Printz nominee that was signed and doodled in by the author herself at the only book-signing I have ever attended in my life: Continue reading


Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I’ve Read Since the Birth of the Blog

Today’s topic is slightly arbitrary, and may be difficult because I haven’t even been blogging for a year yet. I will link to reviews where I can, and as always thanks to the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish for starting this meme and keeping it going!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read Since I Started This Blog

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Loved this tear-fest. Oh Augustus and Hazel Grace. My review is here.

2. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Once I have dollars, I fully intend to purchase a copy of this witty and beautiful book. My review is here.

3. Duma Key by Stephen King

I finished this one just before I left for South Dakota (it was on my summer reading list), and the half-finished review has been sitting in my drafts for quite awhile now. I keep tinkering with it but I really enjoyed this one and I want to do it justice.

4. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Cute and fun, a total blast to read. My review is here.

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I actually told friends that it was better than The Hunger Games and I stand by that assessment (though I was not quite so impressed with Insurgent). Review here.

6. The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Last Fall I was studying animation, and working on my own animated short. I requested this book for Christmas and read it from cover-to-cover. It’s a beautiful read in terms of art, nostalgia, and a deep and abiding respect for the singular genius of Walt Disney.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I re-read it just before the movie came out. That counts, right?

8. On Writing by Stephen King

An illuminating peek into the workings of one writer’s mind. Many passages from this half-memoir/half style-guide have stuck with me. My thoughts here.

9. Who am I Without Him?: A Short Story Collection About Girls and Boys in Their Lives by Sharon G. Flake

I walked to the library one day, plucked this from the shelf, and read it in one sitting. I am considering buying copies for my niece and sister-in-law.

10. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This one just barely made the cut, time-wise, but it was my favorite book of 2011! If this list were in order it would be number one. I never gave it a proper review, but I did write a little here.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Ten Most Vivid Fictional Worlds/Settings

As always, thanks to The Broke and The Bookish for creating this happy fun-time meme.


1. Xanth (Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels)

The pun-filled, magical world of Xanth may have been the first whistle-stop on my journey to becoming a lifetime fantasy fan. My sister read Dragon on a Pedestal to my brother and I during a three-week drive from California to Alaska and back when I was eight, and I spent the next decade-plus tracking down further installments in the series. Xanth is a fantastical landscape vaguely the shape of Florida filled with ogres, nymphs, centaurs, humans with Talent, and many more winsome creatures. I always thought I’d like to be Magician Humphrey, whose talent is Information. The ultimate know-it-all.

2. Pern (Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series)

With Pern, McCaffrey created a nuanced world of craft and tradition which periodically faced a terrible scourge. Throughout the long-running series more and more details about the relationship between hold, hall, and weir were revealed. The history of Pern was a rich source of drama even as new political intrigues and societal challenges unfolded. The novels that dealt with life in the guild halls and weirs were always my favorite, particularly The Masterharper of Pern which managed both. Being a dork and naturally inclined toward teaching, I thought it would be much cooler to be a harper than a dragonrider.

3. The Wizarding World (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels)

There can be no argument.”Muggle” has entered the general lexicon.

4. Middle-earth (J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion)

This may actually be the definitive fictional fantasy world. It is so complex and widely known that it is often hard for fantasy authors to think in terms other than those of Middle-earth. Dungeons and Dragons spawned four decades worth of adventures set in Middle-earth inspired landscapes, courses are taught at real world universities in Elven and Dwarven language as Tolkein presented them.

5. The future United States (M.T. Anderson’s Feed)

The future U.S.A. of Feed is scarily plausible: dead oceans, meat farms, mind-numbingly simple/dumb popular culture, people with what amounts to a mind-controlled iPhone embedded in their skulls. Corporate-owned schools who exist only to teach students how to become more efficient at purchasing. The thing that keeps the novel from being utterly depressing is that main character Titus has no clue how depressing it all is. He’s just a normal teen, product of his time, enjoying his wasteful and worthless lifestyle.

6. The future London (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World)

Huxley’s prediction of a culture that had taken industrialism and capitalism to their most extreme conclusion is every bit as chilling as Anderson’s vision of the U.S. The novels have quite a bit in common: genetic engineering, consumption promoted over all other virtues, a popular culture gone low-to-subterranean. Huxley built a religion around Ford and the assembly-line, envisioning a future of batch-processed humans chemically retarded (or advanced) to suit their future occupations. Further batch processing to condition those humans to disdain castes below them, admire those above, but above all be satisfied with their place. The devaluation of intimacy by requiring children to engage in sexplay, and discouraging monogamy. Spiritual death.

7. Wonderland (Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass)

I am not a fan of Alice or Wonderland, because quite frankly they scare the crap out of me. For a fictional world to scare the crap out of a real person, it must be rather vivid. The idea of being trapped in Wonderland forever (as Alice fears she might be) always gave me panic-attacks, exacerbated by the fact that my mother would put the Disney version on whenever she had left my brother and I home alone while we were sleeping. Good job, Mr. Carroll…but no thank you.

8. The alternate history of WWI (Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy)

I sincerely doubted that I could enjoy an alternate history of World War I (I’m more of a Revolutionary War kind of gal), but with a combination of first-rate world-building and gorgeous illustrations Leviathan won me over. The novel imagines a mechanized “Clanker” German army pitted against “Darwinist” England and their menagerie of specially-designed creatures. America, ever the magpie, has created a mishmash of both sensibilities but most of the other major world powers have picked one side or another. Russia boasts giant fighting bears and the Ottoman Empire has an impressive collection of mechanized airships and exotic mechanical-animal transports. The world was vivid enough to support a Manual of Aeronautics, soon to be released with plenty of tasty new diagrams and illustrations.

9. The city of Divergent (Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy)

Can’t say too much about this one because the trilogy is unfinished and I don’t want to spoil anything, but the five factions (and the reasoning behind them) are so thoroughly thought-out by the author that the scenario seems almost perfectly logical.

10. Thisby (Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races)

Thisby is only slightly fictional, in that it doesn’t actually exist and there is no known place in present-day where carnivorous horses leap from the water and are captured yearly for a race down the beach. While I was reading the novel, it was real to me. I could see the view from the cliffs of Thisby in my mind, I could smell its peat fires and ocean air. The inhabitants and the way their small island and its bloody tradition had shaped them. I could hear the music they would play and feel the tension as the races approached. That’s magic.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books for Those Who Liked X Author

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks at an artist’s workshop, and anyone who has seen Big Fish knows then when time stops it has to go super-fast when it re-starts in order to catch up. As a result, over the next three days I will be posting all of the Top Ten Tuesdays I missed while I was gone. For the newer viewer: Top Ten Tuesdays is the utterly bookish meme created by the gals over at The Broke and the Bookish.

1. For those who enjoy the work of Francesca Lia Block: Janet Fitch writes the adult version of Block’s magical-L.A. Fitch can satisfy the need for beautiful language and fanciful thinking present in any Block fan, though her version of the desert city is less overtly fantastic than Block’s.

2. Fans of Edith Wharton will really dig: Henry James, particularly Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. The two authors were longtime friends and correspondents, and each possessed a sharp wit and keen eye for human behavior.

3. Those who liked Melissa Marr‘s Wicked Lovely series might enjoy: Maggie Stiefvater‘s Books of Faerie (Lament, Ballad, the forthcoming Requiem). Both series are contemporary urban fantasy informed by Celtic myth. That ever-popular YA love-triangle is present in both series, but neither author plays it straight, and both authors possess a love of music that shines through in the narrative.

4. If you can’t get enough Judy Blume, try: Rob Thomas. Blume and Thomas write about adolescence, in all it’s unbridled enthusiasm and foolishness, with a frankness few can match. Blume’s YA characters tend to skew slightly younger than Thomas’, but the honesty and humor in both oeuvres is undeniably similar.

5. A reader who liked the futuristic slang and world-building of Scott Westerfeld‘s Uglies series could really sink their teeth into: Feed by M.T. Anderson.

6. Addicts of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series can get a fix from: the works of Roald Dahl. Dahl novels like James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda feature children in less-than-ideal family situations discovering their own agency…livened up with a heaping helping of whimsical British humor.

7. Those who appreciated Robert A. Heinlein‘s space-faring novels Tunnel in the Sky and Farmer in the Sky should try: Higher Education by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle. Teens forced to forge new lives for themselves…in SPACE! What could possibly go wrong?

8. If you’re a fan of Jerry Spinelli novels like Stargirl or There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock; pick up a copy of: Crooked by Laura and Tom McNeal. Spinelli’s female protagonists often struggle with their peers’ inability to accept the protag’s lack of desire to conform. So it goes with the McNeal’s Clara Wilson, one of the few literary characters I’ve found myself able to completely identify with. Clara navigates by her own compass as much as any Stargirl or Maisie. Which isn’t to say that she always makes the right choice. Crooked is a novel of growing up, deciding the kind of person one wants to be…just like much of Spinelli’s work.

9. If your favorite part of Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games series was reading about Katniss’ survival skills and determination, you might like: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The fictionalized account of the real life Woman-of-San-Nicolas-Island is chock full of both survival skills and emotional turmoil, just like The Hunger Games, and both novels feature heroines dealing with the loss of family.

10. Just for a shock, if you enjoy Sara Shepard‘s Pretty Little Liars series (I sure do, I love a trashy book now and then) give this classic a try: Alexandre DumasLe Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo). Revenge years in the making, romance, betrayal…it’s got everything but the designer labels!

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I’d Love to See Made Into Movies

Bonsoir Inklings, it’s time for another installment of everyone’s favorite meme from the fair maidens at The Broke and the Bookish! This week I shall share with you my top ten picks for books that should be made into movies.

Rats Saw Godby Rob Thomas

Paul Dano could make a decent Steve York

This one pops up frequently on Ink, and I have to admit that I have been mentally directing the film since I first read the novel in the late nineties. Now it would be a nostalgia piece but the core of the story is ageless, and it would be worth shooting for the soundtrack alone! Nirvana and U2, take us away…

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The film would be nothing short of epic, with Alek tromping around in mechanized walkers and Deryn swinging from helium-filled jellyfish. A good-time steampunk ride, and two more films worth of material! I would love to see some of the scenes from Goliath and Behemoth on rendered on the big screen by Industrial Light and Magic’s finest.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey is a readymade riotgrrrl high school sweetheart. I’d take my nieces to see this movie about the darker side of instant celebrity in our digital age, and buy them the soundtrack afterward

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

The meat of this tall tale is in the interactions between its colorful cast of characters, and it is seasoned with plentiful music and exotic locales. It would be a good time watching Charlie and Spider’s cinematic journey from England to the Southern U.S., to a tropical island and a mythical realm populated with the creatures of legend. A fruit company could do a product tie-in for limes.

Christina Hendricks for irresistibly alluring (but empty-headed) Undine.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Immediately after finishing this novel I declared to the author that it was destined to become a film. The next day she announced that the rights had been optioned. A romance between the racers of carnivorous water horses set to a driving Celtic beat? Where can I buy my ticket?!

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Perhaps I’ve mentioned the idea that this could be a Sophia Coppola film, in the style of Marie Antoinette. Undine Spragg is a spoiled, silly, striving, hilariously horrible character who deserves her moment in the cinematic sun. I’d trust Coppola not to nice her up like Mira Nair did with Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. The film would be packed with luxury goods, sun-drenched locales, and ignorant ennui set to a bitchin’ soundtrack.

The Subtle Knife (and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman

I loved The Golden Compass, despite its occasional tendency to drag, enough that I went out and read all three books in order to be ready for the next two films. They never came! This series kept getting better and better until its philosophical, nonreligious conclusion. I actually feel its important that the series be completed…and I really like polar bears in  armor.

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block

It would take a weirdo to do the Weetzie Bat books justice, like Alfonso Cuaron and Michael Gondry overseen by Block herself, but what a film it could be if done correctly! Block’s prose is tactile, and the richness of imagery present in this magical story of a unique woman and her children growing up in Lalaland would make an unforgettable movie if done well.

Summer Sistersby Judy Blume

Taylor Momsen could handle teenaged Caitlin Somers, that ethereally beautiful leggy wild-child

Why don’t we have more movies of Judy Blume books? Lord knows there’s an audience. We get plenty of downright disgusting movies about boys fornicating with pies and drawing penises in every possible configuration, but somehow the idea of a girl masturbating or having a period is still taboo. This story of two unlikely friends and their relationship, which spans decades and has a built-in soundtrack, follows Caitlin and Victoria through family troubles, puberty, coping with death, first love, gender roles and the competitions that come with them, college, careers, marriages, children, and the little-examined stage that comes after all that when the mothers are still seen as people. It could be Beaches for the new millenium!

Under the Dome by Stephen King

All I’m asking for is a good old-fashioned King miniseries, doing the book justice. Think The Stand, not Bag of Bones.

What book would you love to see on the silver screen?

Top Ten Tuesdays – Books I’d Like to Give a Theme Song

For the past few Tuesdays I’ve been reading top ten lists over on The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, on topics put forth by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week I like the theme so much I just had to join in.

Presenting the top ten books I’d give a theme song.

1. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton – Jill Sobule “Supermodel”

The lyrics of this song really get at the core of Undine Spragg’s character: shallow, striving, delusional. I see it as Sofia Coppola/Marie Antoinette style combination. Bustles and Louboutins, formal balls and fashion shows.

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Florence + The Machine “What the Water Gave Me”

There is a very literal link between the lyrics of the song and the content of the book, but there is also a moody wildness to the sound that suits the tone of the novel. Windy cliffs and slate-dark seas.

3.  Uglies/Pretties/Specials by Scott Westerfeld – Nine Inch Nails “The Hand That Feeds”

Would make an excellent hoverboarding song, and is up to the Specials’s level of physical scariness.

4. Feed by M.T. Anderson – Nada Surf “Popular”

I imagine this playing during one of the parties, as people are dancing with the draggy elbows and twitching in fugue on the floor. It has that sort of lethargic malaise (is that redundant?) Titus becomes aware of the longer he is with Violet.

5. Strange Attractors by William Sleator – Broken Social Scene “Two Girls”

Warning: this song is kiiiinda dirty.
Eve basically is two girls, and Max digs it.

6. White Oleander by Janet Fitch – “Wonderwall” written by Oasis, as performed by Ryan Adams

Astrid keeps hoping for rescue, though she knows deep down it isn’t coming.

7. Summer by Edith Wharton – Toad the Wet Sprocket “All I Want”

Oh Charity Royall, “and it won’t matter now, whatever happens to me. Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be, it won’t trouble me.”

8. Carrie by Stephen King – My Chemical Romance “Teenagers”

They could care less, as long as someone will bleed!

9. Paint it Black by Janet Fitch – Yeasayer “Madder Red”

Warning: This video is probably too weird for a lot of people.
I imagine this as Michael’s respone to Josie’s searching.

10. Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks – Comsat Angels “Falling”

Poor Cadel, all science and no philosophy.

Because I’m a sucker for a time-wasting meme…

…and because I started a short story earlier and the main character is still suspended upside-down in midair over a roller coaster, trailing a vomit comet…and I’m not sure what happens next.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 1

Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

Day 01 – The Best Book You Read Last Year –

That is a toughie. I read a lot of good books last year. I’m gonna go with The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (it seems to be a very Maggie day here at “Brushes and Pens”). Here is my Amazon review, which was slightly more informative than what I posted here:

The Scorpio Races is far and away Maggie Stiefvater’s best book to date. Pitch perfect from beginning to end, it lacks for nothing. Like any Stiefvater novel it is savage, beautiful, subtle, and unpredictable. Not only are main characters Puck and Sean deftly characterized and fully realized, so are a dozen or more secondary and tertiary characters. This is a book for anyone whohas ever had a family, been in love with anything or anyone (romantic or otherwise), taken a great risk, or hoped to do any of the above. This novel will scare you, make you angry, make you ache…the reading experience becomes more intense with each turn of the page, but you will dread the end. I cannot wait to see what the author writes next.

Note: I am not saying this is a perfect book, but I loved it a lot. It was just the kind of book I like to read (and Maggie drew a horsie in my copy). Also, I may be alone on this, but I hate the cover. It makes me think of John Grisham novels.