Sunday, February 28, 2010

Utah Book Blogger Winter Social 2010

As you may or may not know, we had a blogger get together last night, for all the fun and amazing book bloggers in Utah. And of course, we invited authors too! It was the third such event we've had, and the biggest by far. So this time (unlike the times before) I won't be able to tell you who all ended up being there, but instead, can only tell you about those that I met and talked with.

But first, some pictures:

This one is an overview picture of the whole area we occupied at the Golden Corral. We thought we had the banquet room, and would be off by ourselves, but wires must have been crossed and we ended up just with our own little corner. It all worked out.

Here I am trying to be brave and chatting with the authors. In this picture you can see Bree Despain and Emily Wing Smith (facing the camera) and Brodi Ashton and Sydney Salter (backs to the camera) and me on the end. This table laughed non-stop all night long and we all wondered what we were missing. But I'm sure we really didn't want to know what was going on over there!

Bree Despain and Emily Wing Smith pose for the camera. They are too stinkin' cute!

Then Emily stole the camera from my husband and "made" him pose for this picture with Sydney Salter and Brodi Ashton. He tried to get out of it, by Emily would have none of that!

Here's part of the crowd that we managed to reel in for a picture. Alison from So Many Books, So Little Time, me, Natasha from Maw Books, Kim from Good Clean Reads, Cherylynne from Critiquing the World, Shannon Hale, Michelle Teacress , Ann Cannon. Front row: Karen from Typing With My Toes, Melissa from One Librarian's Book Reviews, and Cari from Bookscoops.

And another group shot (yes I ran from group to group!) James Dashner in the back. Ann Cannon, Catie from Book Bound, Emily Wing Smith, me, Sydney Salter, Michelle from Flower Petal Books

Sitting was Jenni from Jenni Eylse, Debbie from Cranberry Fries, and Bree Despain.

Kim from Good Clean Reads was just about as star struck meeting the authors as I was. Here we caught her finally chatting with the two biggies: Shannon Hale and James Dashner.

Another author table (next time we need to mix up authors and bloggers a little better!) with James Dashner and his wife (who I feel bad about not actually meeting and saying hi to) and Shannon Hale, Nikki Mantlya , and Karey Shane.

Our fearless leader, Natasha, with her husband Taylor and her sister, Leisa. Taylor looks thrilled, does he not? But he assured me later that he loved being there!

Highlights of my experience:
  • when Ann Cannon said to me "Oh, I've read your blog! I really like it!"

  • when Shannon Hale said to me "Suey! I've met you!"

  • when I was able to say to Sydney Salter, "Hey, I've just read your book and I loved it!"

  • when I finally talked to Melissa from One Librarian's Book Reviews, and Angie from Angieville, Alison from So Many Books, So Little Time, and Becky from One Literature Nut, bloggers I feel like I've known forever

  • when Kim from Good Clean Reads said, "I really really love your blog!" and when talking to her felt like talking to a long lost friend.

  • when James Dashner didn't say hi but just held out his fist for a "rock it" shake instead.

  • when I got to meet and talk to a bunch of new to me bloggers (some new to blogging, some not so new) such as Caitlin from All Things Print, Cherylynne from Critiquing the World, Debbie from Cranberry Fries, Jenni from Jenni Eylse, Michelle from Flower Petal Books, Rachelle from Bibliobabe, Lyn from Barding Well, Catie from Book Bound, Brenda from Brenda Loves Books and Karen from Typing With My Toes.

  • when on the way home, my husband said, "You did good" meaning, I mingled well and managed to come out of the corner!

  • when I got the book "I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It!" brought to the swap by Sydney Salter.

  • when James Dashner got the book "The Baby Manual" from the book swap!

  • when I see so many supportive spouses having fun along with their fanatic blogging partner

  • when I see so many supportive authors coming to hang out with fanatic bloggers!

Lowlights (because there's always some!):

  • when I got a text from home saying my 11 year old had locked my 18 year old in the basement because she wanted her to stay home to play, and not go out with friends
  • when I was too uptight to eat anything!
  • when I came home and saw all the goofy pictures that were taken of me (did I ever say how much I hate myself in pictures?) and being posted all over
  • when I came home and realized how many people I didn't get a chance to talk to, including many of the authors who came
  • when the night ended too fast (even though we were there for three hours)
  • when my friend, who I was so happy to have coming, texted and said she was too too sick to make it.
  • when there were so many other blogger friends that couldn't make and who I truly missed talking to!

Thanks to everyone who came! I thought it was a blast and truly look forward to the next time. I hope those who couldn't come this time will be able to make it then. I tried to mention and link to at least everyone I talked to and met last night. If I missed you PLEASE let me know and I'll fix it. And if you are a Utah book blogger or author and you are thinking "Ummm hello, I'm in Utah, why wasn't I invited?" then also PLEASE let me know and we'll get you on The List. (It's getting big enough now that there's no way we can find everyone on our own and need everyone's help to make sure all those interested are included.)

Happy blogging to you all!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekly Geeks 2010.7: Comments on Comments

We're talking comments over at Weekly Geeks this week. Interesting, since I've had a sort of a sad comment week this past week. It's pathetic, really, how comments , or the lack thereof, can make or break my day.

Anyway, here are some of the questions, along with my answers.

*Do you reply to all comments? If you do, how do you do it? Email? On the blog? I try to comment on all my comments. But sometimes I'm a little slow. I love the idea of getting a discussion going in comments, so I reply always on the blog itself.

*Do you use moderation? No, haven't had the need really. I do moderate older posts now because I've had a couple weird things come through that way.

*How do you handle trolls? Flaming? Never had trolls or flamers. I think you need to be a popular blog for that stuff! :)

*How much do you tolerate from a belligerent commenter before you close or delete comments? Haven't had this problem either. And hopefully I won't ever have to deal with it.

*Have you ever gotten a comment from someone you admire? An author? A superstar blogger (the ones with the book deals)? I have had a couple of author comments and I LOVE them! And a comment from any blogger makes my day. I actually love comments from newbie bloggers, because then I can get to know them and comment on their blog and make their day.

*How do you feel about author comments? Are they welcome or do they make you nervous? Yes, I love them. They would only make me a little nervous if I did a negative review, but I don't often do that, so I love it when they take time to seek out reviews, find mine , and then actually comment. Very cool.

*Word verification? Yay or nay. NAY. If I started having problems, I'd maybe turn it on, but for now, things are okay.

*And then there's spam. How do we combat the evil that is spam? Delete. I've only had a little, and I just delete and hope for the best. If it suddenly becomes overwhelming, I'd seek out some of the methods people use to catch it.

Comments are fun and I think the thing that keeps us going, just knowing someone out there is reading what we have to say and hopefully enjoying it enough to say something back. And as much as I moan about not getting enough comments, I, in turn, do a terrible job of commenting on other blogs. So, as always, I will vow to do better!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Suey's Thought Stream

Falling Ice
(I know it's a waterfall, not a stream, but I'm using it anyway.
This one I took in Zion's Canyon in Southern Utah several years ago.)

I've often pondered what it would be like if I just "free wrote" something on this blog or did the stream of consciousness thing which is, you must know, totally different than doing a random post, which is what I did last Friday, so of course I don't want to do yet another one of those so soon, especially since I can't think of anything very random even to post because it's been an awfully boring dumb and all round yucky week, yet there's not really anything of any substance coming to mind either, so that's when I thought about what would happen if I just did the stream of consciousness thing, even if I know it won't really be any less boring, for you at least, but for me it might be kinda fun to try, but at the same time it might be a bit scary to post, so I'll see what comes out and then decide if I dare, and yet, I'm allowing myself to edit just a bit, well okay, a lot! The good thing about this past week is that I had a reading binge and started and finished like three books in three days, but I'll tell you all about that in a different post, I really liked them all too which is, I know, not a newsflash or anything since I pretty much like everything so whatever, but still they were really good. I'm hoping this blah of a week will end tomorrow at the blogger party which is going to be so much fun but scary too because I have to fight the urge to plant myself in a cozy corner and just listen and soak things up but if I want to meet people I can't do that so I guess I'll see which part of me wins the fight, but either way, it's going to be tons of fun. Before that in the morning, we will be attending a violin Suzuki graduation for Toto, meaning a graduation program where they play a song from the book they finished during the year, and then it would be nice if we found time to finally see The Lightning Thief, but I don't know if we can fit it in. It would make sense to go tonight, but why go tonight when we can go tomorrow and pay three dollars less a ticket, and when there's five of us that adds up, right? Did I tell you I chopped my hair? Well, I did and so far I like it pretty good even if my neck does feel a bit naked, I think I'll get used to it pretty fast. Can you have sentences and punctuation in a stream of consciousness blurb? Or can you pretty much do anything you want? Because in my stream, I guess there's punctuation and sentences! I think American Idol was really boring this week and it makes me sad that I don't have a favorite to root for yet, and I'm not sure that will change, but maybe it will I guess you never know. This week has made me wonder why I try or do anything, you know the feeling, why work? why make dinner? why blog? why clean the house? why encourage kids to apply for jobs? why pay for lessons? why read? why exercise! (big one there) why why why, but it will pass yes it will and speaking of passing I can't believe it will be March already this week. That means my baby will turn 11 and we have all sorts of orthodontic appointments set up for her which sort of freaks me out and then later we have the concerts I mentioned last week which seemed so far away when the tickets were bought but are now looming closer and also we have tickets to the play Legally Blonde which will be fun and so there's lots of fun stuff to look forward to, but then it will be spring break and I so want to go somewhere but at this point we have no plans which makes me sad because often we've done big things for spring break so on the years when we don't then I feel all let down and bummed which is a major spoiled rotten way to look at things but that's just how it goes and I'm already dreading the summer because even the one or two things we do have planned for that are conflicting with each other which makes me crazy and I ask why yet again! Maybe I should direct my thought stream more towards books because after all that's what it's all about right? Did I tell you I was going to a blogger party tomorrow! :) And we have to bring a book to swap and I haven't figured that one out yet. The books I love and want to share with people I can't part with, the books I can part with, I don't really like so why bring it to a swap, so maybe I'll go buy a book to swap, which sort of defeats the purpose, but works, right? Which means I should get off the computer and go for a ride, and besides that I still have a book that I've been working on forever, which is finally getting the main focus of my attention and I know that I can finish it tonight too and add even more to my monthly total and that book is calling to me right now, in the voice of Robin Hood, "come read me" which reminds me what other really good Robin Hood books do you know of, because if there's some really great ones out there, I need to read them. And then I need to go back to England and visit Nottingham instead of just drive by it and wave out the window, "Oh, look there's the road to Nottingham!" Whatever. Time, we really need more of it.

... and now I ponder whether I should really post this or not.....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Why You Read

Booking Through Thursday's question suggested by Janet:

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

If I'm understanding this quote right, it is saying that people read because they don't like their own life. Right? Well, I think we pretty much ALL say that part of the fun of reading is to escape. But does that necessarily mean we don't like our lives? I don't think so. So I'm not liking this quote so much. When I open a book, it isn't to say "life sucks!" (Some days, maybe, but most days, not.)

It IS to say, I enjoy stories. I enjoy words. I enjoy learning about different countries, cultures, and settings. I enjoy character relationships. I enjoy the amazing ability authors have to create new worlds and new situations. I enjoy talking and discussing book reactions with others. I enjoy bonding with books and their stories and their characters.

So to answer the question, this quote may describe me on those bad days when I truly want to run away from life, but for the most part, it misses the mark on why I REALLY read.

Review and Blog Tour: The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran, Including Interview and Giveaway

Book: The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: A+
From: The publisher (Ballantine Books)

When Lisa from TLC approached me to review this book for a blog tour, she said, "This title just screams "SUEY" to me, for some reason." How could I pass that up?

But the interesting thing was, she was totally right! I loved this book!

This is the story of Henry and his wife Margaret and their little family. They head off an on adventure to New Zealand during the late 1800's, because Henry gets a job there. Margaret tolerates the whole experience, but is counting the days until she can return back to England to be closer to her parents, and show them her new baby girl twins that were born shortly after arriving in New Zealand.

Just when we think things are all settled, and life is happy in New Zealand, something terrible happens. We're talking, truly truly terrible.

And seriously I wish I could stop the review RIGHT HERE because I totally don't want to give anything else away. I would LOVE anyone who decides to read this to go into it knowing pretty much nothing, as I did.

But that wouldn't be much of a review now, would it?

So, basically, their lives are ripped to pieces. And Henry is left to try and put things back together. From the title of this book, you may guess what he decides to do. Because of that decision, instead of putting things back together, he ends up causing even more stress and confusion. It's very interesting to see, in the end, how the situation is "solved." Also, it really makes you put yourself into their shoes and try to figure out what you would do... and I'm not sure the answer would be easy for any of us.

I truly loved the story. It had me from page one. But I think, even more than the story, I loved the writing style. Very clear and concise, and completely fitting the era of the story. Yet, as simple as it is, the emotion, and the humor, and the tragedy, all come through so very strongly.

Bottom line: I totally loved it!

As part of the blog tour, I get giveaway a copy of this book! I promise, you are going to want to enter for a chance to win and read this book! To enter, please comment by answering this question: Apart from your family, what would you miss the most if you had to travel and live for an extended time in a faraway place? Sorry, the publisher can only send to addresses in the US and Canada. The contest will be open one week, through Thursday, March 4. I will randomly pick and announce the winner on Friday, March 5. Don't forget to leave an email address so I can contact you for a mailing address. Thanks!

And now, without further ado, I'm happy to introduce the author, Johanna Moran, as a guest on my blog today! It was exciting for me to be able to ask her a few questions about her writing, the book and of course, to make her pick her FIVE important books!

-- I love your writing style, and I know I'm going to have a hard time describing it to my readers. (Simply because I have a hard time describing styles in general.) Do you have any particular authors you modeled it after? Or authors you aspire to be like? (Even if their styles are completely different than yours?)

Well, my writing has been called "spare," if that helps to pin my style down. I'm not big on description, long passages detailing a room or somebody's dress. Alice Munro is one of my favorite writers. She brings a story to life with an amazing economy of words.

-- I know you answered this in the interview in the back of the book, but so my readers can have some idea, can you tell us a little about the background of this book and how you came to write it?

More than a half-century ago, my father, a law professor, came across an abstract on the Henry Oades case and showed it to my mother, who was attempting to write short fiction in her nonexistent spare time. She was intrigued and gave thought to fleshing out the story, but that's as far as she got. She might have had three kids down with mumps that week, or a spectacular birthday party to host. In any event, five children and writing never did mesh. My mother squirreled the abstract away, perhaps thinking she'd get to it eventually. She gave it to me about ten years ago. The abstract did not delve into the interior life of either wife, and I was glad. I had my own vision almost immediately.

-- What are your plans for future books?

I'm working on a story about a friendship between two nineteenth-century prostitutes, one of whom was in fact murdered by Abraham Rothschild.

-- One of my favorite questions to ask: What would a perfect day be like for you?

There'd be no deadlines on this perfect day, no laundry to fold or groceries to buy. There'd be time to spend with my sweet husband doing just about anything, with time to spare to read and write.

-- Finally, a question I ask every author: What five books are most important or influential to you?

Only five? That's hard, but let's see...I could go way back and say The Catcher in the Rye and The Diary of Anne Frank. More recently: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, The Life of Pi, with its strange and memorable ending, andSuite Francaise.

Thanks so much Johanna for visiting my blog today! I truly loved the book and look forward to reading more from you.

Here's the complete list of the TLC Blog Tour stops for more reviews and opinions on the book:

Monday, February 15th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, February 17th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, February 18th: My Friend Amy
Friday, February 19th: Beth Fish Reads
Monday, February 22nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, February 23rd: The 3 R’s Blog
Wednesday, February 24th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, February 25th: It’s All About Books
Friday, February 26th: Thoughts of an Evil Overlord
Monday, March 1st: Rundpinne
Tuesday, March 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, March 3rd: A High and Hidden Place
Thursday, March 4th: The Literate Housewife Review
Friday, March 5th: Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-aholic
Monday, March 8th: Bibliofreak
Tuesday, March 9th: A Lifetime of Books
Wednesday, March 10th: Starting Fresh

Don't forget to comment and enter the giveaway!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

Book: Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk
Genre: Historical Fiction- ish
Rating: B+
For: Fun
From: The library

I'm afraid this is going to be one of those books where I expected to love it more than I did, because everyone else loved it so much, I thought I'd be right on board with the crowd. Because I usually am.

But this time I must say, though it was a fascinating book, I didn't exactly love it.

The story is really quite simple. It's about a guy who's is found washed up on the shore of Spain, mumbling and incoherent. He's taken to a facility where it's then realized that he believes himself to be Christopher Columbus. One particular nurse takes special interest in him, and he begins to tell her his stories. Eventually, they get to the bottom of his mystery.

The best thing about this book is the WAY this simple story is told. We bounce all over the place, from Columbus' day, to present day, to the nurse's life, to the guy trying to figure out who Columbus really is, to memories floating around in Columbus' head that at first seem unconnected to the story at all.

It's all very lyrical and emotional. You really get a sense of Columbus' urgency, his passion, his drive. You get a sense of the nurse's (Consuela is her name) conflicts and stress and emotional battle.

What I didn't like about this book was that it had an overabundance of language and sex... enough so that I was distracted by it. Now, quite often, I can handle it, but this time, it got in the way for me. I wanted to like Columbus, I wanted to understand what Consuela was seeing in him, but as it was, he mostly just creeped me out. And I really hated how Isabella, Queen of Spain, was portrayed. (Ducking for cover now!)

Bottom line: After reading so many things about this book and how everyone was "blown away" by it, I must say, though I enjoyed it, and it was engaging and page turning and interesting and unique, I wasn't blown away.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Book: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: A

From: Bought at the store during Authorpalooza!

Before I went to the Authorpalooza event a few weeks ago, I'd already heard about this book and knew I wanted to read it soon. So when the author was there, smiling and signing, I quite easily forked out the money, bought it, and bumped it to the top of the pile.

It was a very fun and quick read. And no, there are no vampires or werewolves in it! Even though it does have a bit of a Twilight feel, I think simply because the romance story feels a little familiar in that intense sort of way.

It's about our girl Abby, who falls for the tall, dark and handsome new guy at school after he joins the play she's in charge of, Much Ado About Nothing. His name is Dante, and he's from Italy, and yes, there's quite the aura of mystery about him. For one thing, he'll be around for awhile, then he disappears for awhile. For another thing, he won't talk about himself at all.

He lives with his uncle, who owns the cool, popular teenager hangout where a bunch of his friends have a band that plays there regularly. Abby's friend gets mixed up with this band, particularly one member of it, and she begins to change and act differently. This freaks Abby out, especially since she gets a really weird not-so-good vibe from this band guy in the first place.

So of course she starts investigating and learns some pretty unbelievable things about these guys and not only that, but she discovers that she is somehow completely immersed in the whole crazy situation.

I loved that this book has a whole new take on the "mysterious guy" love story. It was very fast paced and fun, and of course, left the door (ha, get it?) wide open (or perhaps I should say shut) for much more story. Lucky for us, the sequel, The Golden Spiral, comes out soon, May I think. I'll be there.

Bottom line: Loved it!

Other Reviews:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday's Random Rambles

Stuff I'm thinking today:

** We finished Robin Hood Season Two and I'm going to be going into some serious Robin Hood/ Guy of Gisborne/the-whole-outlaw-gang withdrawals. It may be awhile before we can manage to get our hands on Season Three, so until then.... I'll just have to read about them. What about you, got any feelings one way or the other about Robin Hood?

** This weekend, I WILL finish some books! I've got several that are so so close, so I hope there's time to get some good readin' in. What books will you finish this weekend?

** We're also hoping for a chance to see The Lightning Thief since our attempt on Monday was futile. It was a little bit too popular that day I guess. Seen it? What did you think?

** No big bookish events this weekend, but NEXT weekend.... it's the Utah Book Bloggers Winter Social! Yes, I'm excited. If you are a Utah blogger, will I see you there?

** Let the concert countdown begin! Only six weeks until we get to go see both these concerts:

I'm so excited. It still feels like forever away, but it will be here before we know it! If you could see anyone in concert, who would it be?

** Last night at book club we had a fun discussion on fairy tale books and the original of fairy tales, and just fairy tales in general. I decided they make quite the fascinating subject. What's your favorite fairy tale and/or fairy tale remake book?

** Just saw that all the top 24 American Idols have been set up with Twitter, My Space and Facebook accounts! Sheesh, now I need to decide who to follow and none of them are really standing out to me yet this year. Do you have a favorite American Idol at this point for this season? (I just followed Casey... reminds me of Sawyer... haven't decided about his singing yet though.)

** Well, okay. Enough of that. Happy Weekend people! Get some good reading done!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review: Golden by Cameron Dokey

Review: Golden by Cameron Dokey
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: A
For: F2F Book Club
From: the library

This was another fairy tale book I read for book club this month (today in fact) along with Zel, which I reviewed last week. Golden, is the complete opposite of Zel, at least for me. It's going to be interesting to compare the two at book club today!

In Golden, we have the story of Rapunzel as you've never heard it before. There's quite a twist or two, things I didn't see coming for the most part. The mother/witch makes more sense, and even though she is still a bit selfish, you can actually understand why. Rapunzel herself, I think, can be related to much better, and is tons more feisty. And the "prince" is far from boring.

Many have said this one even brings on the tears. Though I didn't cry at the end, I could see where one would want to.

So if you are in the market for a Rapunzel book, add this one to the list!

Bottom line: I liked it a lot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weekly Geeks 2010.6: Romancing the Tome

In celebration of Valentine's Day, Weekly Geeks asks us some romantic questions:
  • What literary couple is your favorite?
  • How do you define romantic literature? Does it always involve sex? or the hint of sex?
  • What author/s do you think writes romantic scenes particularly well?
  • Do you have a favorite romantic scene in a book?
  • Do you find you read romantic literature at certain times of the year?
  • Tell us your favorite romantic quote.
  • Do you have some favorite romantic poetry?
Okay, so NOW I realize these are some hard questions! I can't pick just one answer!

-I have a gazillion favorite couples. Let me just rattle off a few: Anne and Gilbert, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Ash and Anjuli, Katherine and John of Gaunt, Catherine and Heathcliff, Jane and Mr. Rochester, Beauty and the Beast, Cosette and Marius, Molly and Roger, Robin and Marian, Tristan and Isolde......

-I think romance is best in books when sex is not involved... I think the romantic parts are the couple overcoming whatever obstacles they are facing to get together. And the highly charged emotional and physical attraction that's going on as it all unfolds is romantic. Once they are together, it's nice and satisfying, but the fun, or intensity, is gone. That's quite a generalized statement, so I'm sure I can find lots of examples where this isn't the case, but that's my first impression of this question.

-Well, I think it's quite obvious that I love the Bronte's, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, etc. for their quiet, yet intense way of writing romantic scenes.

-My favorite scene in Twilight is when Edward first touches Bella by brushing the back of his hand down her face. I love when Anne recites The Highway Man, and Gilbert is moved to the core. I love the scene in Wives and Daughters when Molly is running from window to window watching as Roger leaves. I love it when Mr. Thornton wishes with all his heart that Margaret will look back at him. Then there's scene when Mr. Rochester takes Jane's hand after the fire, and says "Oh my cherished preserver!" And of course, when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy run into each other at Pemberley.

- I like romance all year long!

- A quote from Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God."

- I'm not familiar enough with poetry to know any great romantic poems. The first thing to come to mind would be Shakespeare's sonnets, of course. I'm sure they are quite perfectly romantic!

Bottom line: For me, a book is incomplete unless there's a bit of a romantic element to it. And as one dude (Clint Johnson I think it was) said at the thing I was at this weekend, romance is not about the flowers and candy and chocolate, but in fact romance is often the underlying motivater behind some pretty powerful events, both good and bad. (That's paraphrasing of course, I really wish I had his exact quote because I loved it.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True or False: 90% of Everything is Crap!

So here's the thing I want to ask: What's with all the Twilight bashing lately? Is it just because we all got sick of the hype? Admit it, most of you, and many other people, loved it in the beginning. Back then all we heard was praise and raves. But NOW, it's not cool to say you like it and in fact, it suddenly seems you might even need to hide your head in shame if you admit you like it.

This seems especially true in the land of writers.... and "well read" readers. Wow, I heard a lot of Twilight bashing, or maybe that's too harsh, maybe I should say Twilight teasing, or Twilight jokes, at this recent conference I went to. Admittedly, some of it was pretty funny, but some of it bugged me too.

So, here's what I think...I think there are many many jealous writers out there! Bottom line, Stephenie Meyer "did it" and they want to "do it" too.

So I was pondering this last Friday night after I came home, and then Saturday morning I went to Brandon Sanderson's keynote speech for this symposium, and I LOVED what he had to say, because it went quite along with this thought I was having about the Twilight bashing thing.

He talked about Sturgeon's Law, which is a quote attributed to a science fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon, where he said that "Ninety percent of everything is crud." (Or crap as we like to say these days.) And I guess many lovers of this science fiction and fantasy genre believe that.... there's some some pretty good stuff written for the genre, but most of it is just crap.

So Brandon wanted to test the theory. He went to, a movie review site, and analyzed how the critiques reviewed movies. He found that even the grouchiest of critiques, one that even HATED The Lord of the Rings movies (gasp!) still liked at least half of the movies he reviewed. If his "study" worked there, it goes to reason that it will prove true for any creative body of work.

Another thing he pointed out was that even if it's popular, that doesn't necessarily mean it's crap. He knows that many consider themselves "elite readers" and won't read what's popular, himself included. He said it took him until Harry Potter #4 to try that series, and then he ended up loving it. Granted, if it's popular, it also doesn't necessarily mean it's good either!

What I especially liked is that he pointed out that if we cut down and degrade much of the stuff we read, then we are doing that particular genre a disservice. For instance, if we are actually lovers of science fiction and fantasy, we should want to build up and promote the genre. We should say, (and this is the example he used)

"Oh, you loved Eragon? Well then, here's some more stuff I think you'll like...." as you hand them what you think is perhaps quite better than Eragon. (And not say, "Oh, that Eragon... it sure is CRAP!")

And even if you think something is crap, that doesn't mean AT ALL that it really is crap, it simply means that YOU didn't like it, which in turn means, we all have different tastes, which is a GOOD THING! :)

He said, it's dangerous to assume and think that everyone should have our same tastes, which isn't to say that we shouldn't make our opinions known. It's good to say, "I didn't like that" but not good to say, "That is crap."

So, coming back to Twilight... perhaps some really don't like it, but that's not say that it's crap. I think there's something to learn from the Twilight phenomenon, and we should be figuring out what that is.

What do you think? Is 90% of the stuff we read crap? Or is it all just a matter of different tastes? Do you look down on those who like the popular stuff? Or are you a popular stuff type of person? Do you enjoy the differences of opinion we all have, or does it make you crazy?

I hope, I feel like, I'm good with all the different tastes we have, even though I told my good book reading buddy (who doesn't enjoy Brandon Sanderson's stuff) the other day, "My goal is make a Brandon Sanderson convert out of you yet!" But, I think we both know that our differences of opinion just makes things all that much more fun.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I Learned at LTUE

Last post, I talked a little about my LTUE experience, but not many specifics. Here are the specifics, but in a bit of a list format so hopefully it's easy to read.

First, a list of some of the panels/lectures (mostly panels) I attended, just so you know what sort of things we're talking about here:
  • Fantasy without magic

  • Mormons in Horror

  • Defining YA Lit

  • Putting Romance into Fantasy

  • Abnormal Psychology

  • Zombies!

  • Building Different Cultures

  • Regional Publishers

  • Writing a Good Blog

  • Edgy YA

I also went to:

  • a Brandon Sanderson reading where he read from The Way of Kings (out later this year,) and from the next Alcatraz.... funny funny stuff.

  • a James Dashner reading where he read from The Scorch Trials.... wow.

  • Brandon Sanderson's keynote address, about a subject that makes we want to devote a whole post to it... stay tuned

  • Nathan Hale's keynote address, where despite the technical difficulties he faced, had us all on the edge of our seats anyway, and where I learned I need to hang out more on his website.

  • live recording of two Writing Excuses podcast episodes.... and where we laughed so much our faces hurt (the first episode is up, you can listen to it here.)

  • a Brandon Sanderson book signing, where I got Warbreaker signed with "My Breath to yours," and a picture, AND an invite to send him a link to the reviews I've done on his books. Cool.

Things I WANTED to go to but couldn't fit in:

  • Ghost hunting!

  • How to write a story that Rocks

  • Who influenced me as a writer?

  • Believable child characters

  • A guy's take on romance

  • Current trends in YA

  • Pre-mortal romance in Twilight

... just to name a few. Sheesh, for a FREE symposium, there's really a lot here. And like I said before, most of it is geared toward aspiring writers, but I'm finding that the discussion generally goes in a direction that is very much fascinating to avid readers.

So, if I take a look at my notes, here's a few random tidbits that pop out as things I want to remember:

  • Fantasy is a story about something that is impossible, but not necessarily needing magic.

  • Science can be the magic in a fantasy book, and thus we have the blurring of the genres.

  • What is "slipstream"? The mash up of all sorts of genres!

  • Magic defined: Certain laws of physics that do not exist in our universe.

  • Science fiction defined: making use of laws of physics that COULD exist in our universe.

  • A Lee Allred quote: Science fiction is things that COULD be, Fantasy is things that could NEVER be, and Horror is things that SHOULD never be.

  • Three degrees of horror according to Stephen King: Highest degree is called terror where there is a slight change going on but you don't know what it is, middle degree is called horror where you have monsters that you can see, lowest degree is called the gross out where you have blood and guts. He tries to aim for the highest degree.

  • Zombies represent: political statements, things we are scared of, the fear of the loss of control, chaos

  • Some authors use blogs to get the juices flowing and therefore write their blog first, others use it as a reward and only write their blog after writing, say, 1000 words on their project first.

  • Book blogs are becoming a strong force in the publishing industry! Blog tours are effective.

Other random things I learned:

  • I need to keep reading in the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

  • Own up to the fact I have a book blog... people actually think that's pretty cool.... especially people just breaking into the writing world

  • Use my Suey nickname, people remember it better than my real name.

  • If you ask for a picture with an author, even if no one else is taking pictures, they will probably be fine with the idea!

  • If you get certain authors in a room together, be prepared to laugh and laugh and laugh.

  • Zombies are a much deeper subject than I originally thought!

  • The subject of publishing vs. self-publishing can get very VERY intense!

  • Brandon Sanderson is an interesting speaker, even if he thinks he didn't prepare anything at all.
  • I really really want to get my hands on a copy of I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells! :)

  • Time flies when you are talking about science fiction and fantasy!

This symposium has been going on for 28 years now and this is only the third year I've gone to it. Where was I all those other years? The things I've missed! I had a blast and can't wait for next year.

So... what do you think? Does it sound like something you'd love too? Or does it sound like something that is much too much on the nerdy scale for you?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Exciting Events of the Week and We Have a Winner!

Another week of major bookish happenings for me. This month it just keeps going and going!

On Tuesday I participated in Nicole's That's How I Blog show, and actually called in to talk to her and Heather J. about The Eye of the World. Let me just say, that was scary for me. And I felt pretty much like a doofus, because we all know that brain doesn't work all that well when one is nervous, right? Anyway, it was fun.

Also, on Tuesday I did a Weekly Geek Author Fun Facts about Brandon Sanderson, and then on Saturday, I ignored all my shyness and nervousness yet again, and actually met and TALKED to him. Here's a picture to prove it. (My daughter took the picture and afterwards I said, "I did good, right? I didn't sound too silly and stupid, right?" She said, "Ummm Mom... you were kinda weird." Oh, geez. Whatever!)

And wow, what a weekend it's been! I've had so much fun going to the Science Fiction/Fantasy conference at BYU (called Life, the Universe and Everything). This is the third year I've been, but the first year that I didn't feel like I was crashing someone else's party. See, it's geared towards writers, but readers sure seem to enjoy it too, and I finally GOT that this time. There's so so much to say about all the stuff I went to and learned so I hope to sum that all up for those interested in a separate post. And hopefully soon before I forget it all.

Also at the conference, I met a "new to me" book blogger, Megan from Po(sey) Sessions. That was pretty cool too. Be sure to check out her summations of the event.

Also, we chose a new Bookword this week: A Wanderlust Novel for a book that makes you want to travel to its setting. Now we need a word for a book you've fallen in love with.

I also did an Authors Pick Five post, which I love doing. Beverly Patt choose five (or six) books she loves.

All this week I've been helping to organize our next Utah Book Blogger party. Hopefully, if you are one (a Utah book blogger) you've received an invite. If you haven't, please let me know and we'll fix that! (There's a lot, and it'll be a miracle if we don't accidentally miss someone.)

And today, I'm announcing the winner of my Sing Me To Sleep giveaway! Congratulations goes to The1stDaughter from There's A Book. Thanks to everyone who participated. I'll be having another giveaway in a week or so as part of TCL Blog Tour.

Of course, in the middle of all this excitement, I'm trying to read stuff. There's about five books or so that I'm seriously trying to read all at once. It's insane.

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum which I picked up last week at the Authorpalooza. Loving it so far!

The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane, reading it for a blog tour. It's been a slow start, but I'm feeling like things are picking up and I'm anxious to stick to it.

Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk... a book everyone's been raving about, but I'm finding a bit strange. Hmmmm......

Golden by Cameron Dokey, has to be read by book club this Thursday!

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley. I started it months ago, neglected it, and now have picked it back up because, you know, there's this Robin Hood obsession I'm currently going through!

Then, oops, somehow I came home from the library with more books, inspired by Authorpalooza last week too:

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
Everything Is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
The Dragon War Relic by Berin Stephens

Maybe if I can renew these, like, five times, I'll get them read eventually.

But seriously, after the weekend's events, all I really want to read is SF and F! Bring it on!

Truly, this week, no, this month, has been All About Books! I'm so loving it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Authors Pick Five: Beverly Patt

I've asked Beverly Patt, author of Haven, to participate in Authors Pick Five and pick five books most important or influential to her. Since I'd mentioned that her book, which I had just read made me weep a bit, she decided to use that as a starting point for a "theme" for the five picks she choose. She says:

I will go with the books that either made me weep (hard to do! I'm tough!) or laugh out loud, two things I aim for in my writing. I frequently go back to these books to try to figure out, "How'd they DO that?"

They are, in no particular order,

A Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (many tears shed)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (sobbed in PUBLIC. Lord. Also laughed)
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (tons of laughter, weeping at end)
Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Conner (amazing how this was so simply told but still made me well up)
The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis (another perfect mixture of humor and heart:)
(and a bonus choice): Holes by Louis Sachar (Ok, no weeping here but very funny and very quirky. I love quirky.)

Coming up in April, Bev will have another book published, this one called:Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook. Here's how she describes it: "It's the story of two friends who get separated by the war- one stays on the 'home front' near Seattle and the other gets sent to a Japanese internment camp. It's done in scrapbook style with photos, sketches, letters and 1940s memorabilia." Sounds wonderful, don't you think?

For more on Beverly Patt, including teacher guides, book club guides and even recipes, be sure to check out her official website.


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