Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shaking the Cracker Jack Box

Words. It shouldn’t be a terrible shock to my readers that I think words are important. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes brutal. Almost always important. Whether in fiction to transport us or in real life to move us, words carry a kind of power that is seldom equaled in human existence. Imagine a political campaign made up entirely of charades or a news report with just images (a story is told, but cannot be quantified). What about music without lyrics (yes, it can be beautiful and transformative, but I think most will agree that the words can open an almost infinite amount of doors to understanding)? What would marriage be like without vows? Or the growth of a child without the trusty question, "Why?".

Our voices, or our hands in the case of the Deaf, transmit meaning. Our words carry power to others and to ourselves. And sometimes when we are very lucky, the words of our friends can spark change, a new way of looking at the world, or best yet, the breaking of unfulfilling patterns.

Since I took up the writing road, my life has been transformed in many ways. I think of this as the blessing (though sometimes it feels like a curse) of those who get themselves out of the way and obey their purpose. I do not believe that I am unique in this, nor do I think I was alone in bumping into a lot of stupid walls before I decided to do what I was supposed to (the adolescent-ish rebellion against my purpose lasted a very long time).

My writing has become my anchor, and the fixedness of every other thing in my life is gone. Writing has made me open to looking at the patterns in my life and having the courage to change them. To look at the relationships in my life and strengthen the healthy ones and abandon the unhealthy ones. What I eat is different. How I think is different. And certainly the things that would get me all worked up before, don’t. And waiting months and months to hear back on fulls that are out with agents has taught me a kind of patience that I never would have wished for, but am glad I found.

I certainly don’t mean for this to imply that I am in any way finished or even close to finished. All of these steps have been tiny and I have a long way to go.

Case in Point:

As my readers know (and some have only found me because of), I have a friend named Debbie. We’ve known each other months and yet it feels like a lifetime (in a good way, not a prison sentence way). She’s one of the people I call when I’m thinking about things (both lofty and not). She’s the one who understands the ups and downs of the writing road, and I can’t imagine how I made it through a year on this road without her, now that she’s part of every pothole, speed bump, and smooth-sailing lane I experience on this journey. I’m so grateful to have found her, for moments just like this:

Me: (Fill in random babbling insecurity about something only momentarily important, but that seemed to be carrying a lot of weight in my head at that moment.)

Debbie: (casually) Well, you know, you could just choose to let that go.

Me: (Instant reaction, which is usually less evolved than the thought-out ones). Right. (Yeah, I felt really sophisticated by that response.) And my internal dialogue went something like this... “Sure, I could just shake the Cracker Jack box and pull out a brand new me. Right.” And then Internal Me got a little snarkier and thought something like, “And you, Ms. Fancy Pants, Older Child, who knows everything... snarky, snarky, two by four...”

(See above... long way to go.)

Debbie, naturally, fades out at this point to obey the commands of her cat masters and ignores the stew I'm entrenched in, which could really tick me off but doesn’t. Debbie isn’t afraid of change, she thrives on it, and so when she presses the evolve button in my life, she usually just gets out of the way and trusts that the button is very powerful (Rock Stars, sheesh).

And the truth is, her words, “You could just choose to let that go,” stayed with me. Remain with me now. Their meaning simple and yet amazingly powerful. She told me I had the choice. What could be more empowering than knowing I wasn’t some hapless, insecure victim of the patterns in my life. They are my patterns. I own them, and, consequently, I can just chuck them out with yesterday’s avocado skins.

She was right (again, for those who are keeping score). So, what I initially responded to with a high degree of snark has become my mantra.

I hope for everyone to have a friend (or if they are really lucky, friends) who will challenge the patterns that hold them back. Remember, our true friends want us to be happy, fulfilled people who never get stuck in unpleasant ruts. And even if we find the lessons uncomfortable, it’s always best to listen, to weigh the words (while keeping our annoyance on the inside) to see if they resonate for us, and to remember that their guidance is kindly meant.

And, the truth is, we absolutely can shake the Cracker Jack box and pull out a brand new us, as long as we expect to do a lot of shaking and expect the newness to come in very small doses.

Quote for the Day from A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh (Christopher Robbin to Pooh)

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Words, I just love them (those ones made me teary). :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Of Unforgivable Heinous Acts (Otherwise Known as Skipping to the End of a Book)

As a society, I believe that it is high time we deal with the truly noxious acts happening all around us. And what could be more horrifying than people skipping to the ends of novels, instead of earning the ending in the manner the author carefully crafted it? I kid you not. This must be stopped and as expeditiously as possible.

In order to be the change I want to see in the world (thanks Gandhi), I’ve decided that name calling and perhaps hair pulling are the ways to deal with this problem. And it must be even more widespread than I thought, because I know for a fact that three of my friends/family actively participate in this attack on the natural order of fiction.

No writer is safe from this, and, to prevent the spread of this contagion, I look to history to guide me toward a cure. And history teaches (according to genteel and certainly benign, albeit totalitarian, regimes) that it is best to rat out our families and friends in order to promote either re-education camps or otherwise available methods of persecution.

I hereby submit to you that my own mother—lovely, sweet, creative woman that she is—is a chronic end-reader. She’s gone to desperate lengths to commit this crime against all that is right and worthy in fiction. This is how bad it is. Recently, while listening to an audiobook, she became terrified for her beloved Mike Nash and his baby son, Charlie (from Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn), and actually got into her car (wasting precious natural resources in the process) and drove to a bookstore to pillage the unsuspecting book in order to glean the ill-gotten knowledge. How she can even respect herself at this point is completely beyond me. And that such an honorable woman, who raised me with morals and ethics, could unashamedly behave in such a manner shocks me to no end.

And it doesn’t stop with my mother, either. Two of my own friends also participate in this felonious (at least it should be) behavior. They get this compulsion. This itch. It’s an addiction I tell you. Where is the patch, lozenge, pill, or lollipop created to deal with this? It is almost as if the medical-industrial complex is completely ignoring this potentially life-threatening problem.

Okay, life threatening might be a bit much, but these three individuals are also some of my readers, and the very thought that they might read the end first gives me hives. Hives might kill me, right? And even after extracting promises that they will not violate the order of my novels, I still worry, and they (cruel that they are) titter and joke that they’ve looked at the end, the next page, some random line taken out of context. Context is everything, people. Look inside yourselves and know that what you do violates an oath of life, liberty... okay, who am I fooling here? There are a few other problems in the world that might be more important (reckless gum chewing, spam texts, and late night calls to check on the quality of previous car service appointments), but I submit to you that reading the end of the book first is cheating.

And haven’t we learned by now that cheating is wrong? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, dear, I guess there is work to be done here.

As a special commendation to one of the aforementioned deviants, I would like to say a public thank you to my dear friend for not reading the end (first) to the recently recommended SHIVER. That last page has to be earned... and it is so worth it in its proper order. That book is a gift and the last page, like Christmas. (And that gives away a little bit, in that if all the characters were flash fried by an asteroid, that would hardly equate with Christmas morning... for most people anyway.)

And also, thanks to my novel readers who fight their urges and have compassion upon my delicate, appropriate-order sensibilities and read my books from page one until the end, without deviation.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The first step to curing a problem is admitting you have one. Feel free to post and either agree with me (which will win you a gold star), disagree (which gets you absolutely no star), or step up and admit that you are an end-reader and renounce your evil ways or, if you must, deny the wrongness of your actions (and prove that you are in denial).

Quote For The Day from Oscar Wilde

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Play in the Land Governed by the FTC

For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy my own books.

Wait. Oh, no. My friend Debbie recently sent me a book. If I review that book, which was fabulous by the way, then I would have to say that Debbie knew it was fabulous first and that she was the book fairy who deposited it into my hands. (Why does she always have to know things first?)

So, I amend my prior statement. For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy most of my own books. Really people, I’m a receipt keeper, I can prove it.

Wait. I better think more carefully. An author, a wonderful one who is also a professional book critic, once sent me books after I sent him a thank you note for his amazing presentation at a writers’ conference. And when I was recently back home for the reunion, my mom bought me a book... or two. (And if she could convince me to get over my FRS and read her favorite books written by W.E.B. Griffin, Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, and Lee Child or read by Dick Hill or George Guidall, they would be arriving any moment. My FRS is a source of great discord to my poor mother.)

So, I further amend my prior statement. For the record, and until otherwise notified, I buy lots of my own books.

And sometimes, when the universe smiles upon me, I receive almost-magical bookstore coupons, and, like a slobbering Pavlovian dog, I rush with great (though within the legal limits) speed to the nearest bookstore that matches the logo on the coupon and buy more books.

The new FTC ruling (that I found in an article linked on Janet Reid’s blog) requiring bloggers to disclose whether reviewed products were paid for or received as gifts from companies got me thinking about all the things they are missing out on in their attempt at sovereignty over the internet.

Should I also disclose, as I have occasionally done so, where the suggestion to read a book came from? And what if that possibly nefarious source didn’t really love the book as much as they said and only wanted to part me from my money? How would I know? And perhaps all of us who love books are dedicated to the survival of bookstores and pitch books like crack dealers to maintain our own source to the goods that we twitch without. Possible? Sure. So, I guess, I must also admit that I love books. Really. And specifically the ones that can be held in my hands. I don’t want any of those e-readers (though I have nothing against them for others). My addiction requires me to turn pages and even to look at pretty covers. Yes, I admit it. See how brave I am. (And don't you feel safer knowing that I'm not fooling about liking books? We certainly wouldn't want people to accidentally or through coersion read more books.)

Now, what about when I recommend a book that is written by one of my heroes? Should I also declare that so you will know that maybe because I already love this author, I am therefore more disposed to love their future writings as well? I admit it. I love authors. They are creative, bright, and, best of all, willing to share the worlds in their heads with others. That’s awfully personal, I think. Seeing as how I’m not too cagey about sharing the fact that I love certain (and lots) of authors, this is probably already clear to you.

On a slightly serious note, I somewhat understand how the FTC might think that they are protecting all of us mindless masses who might tragically end up buying a new brand of beverage umbrellas from someone with a deceitful acquisition policy toward beverage umbrellas, but it all feels a little over the top when other problems like spam and business fraud are running rampant. And maybe there are people who will give a good review to something that is given to them, but if they do that without regard to the quality of the product, people will stop listening to them and abandon their blogs.

Also, I love many books and maybe you will read one and not like it as much as I did. You will then be able to decide if you want to try another one of the books I recommend. I will be honest about how I feel about books, but I must also say that if I don’t like a book, I will just not discuss it at all. My intention with this blog is to share what I love most about literature and life, not to drag books I didn't connect with through the muck. Other people love those books and needed those worlds, and, frankly, who am I to pass that kind of judgment? There is enough tearing down in our world. Let’s choose to be light here and look for beauty in our sometimes treacherous world.

And always beware the beverage umbrella pushers, for they cannot be trusted (according to the FTC) without a full disclosure of their procurement policies.

Quote for the Day from Henry V by William Shakespeare

“If little faults proceeding on distemper shall not be winked at, how shall we stretch our eye when capital crimes, chewed, swallowed, and digested, appear before us?”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tripping Over Non-Fiction On My Way To YA

A terrible dilemma has found me, and I have to say, “It’s not my fault.” (That’s a perfectly serviceable beginning to any story, I think.)

So, here’s what happened.

As posted on the blog, I have been reading a wonderful book called Hush, Hush (which I will be blogging about very soon) and I finished it (was on some serious pins and needles for a while there). That seems like a good thing. Right? Anyway, I had my next book lined up, and oh, my was I excited. Scott Westerfeld (of Uglies fame and the subject of my first official blog post) has a new book out called Leviathan. With my trusty coupon in hand, off I rushed to claim my copy of the newest book from a favorite author, and after inviting it home and ogling over the amazing cover, I realized I was in a bit of a pickle.

During the hours between finishing Hush, Hush and purchasing Leviathan, I had picked up another book on the pile, a book recommended to me by a friend and former back pain sufferer, called The Mindbody Prescription by John E. Sarno, M.D. It had me at "hello," or more specifically, “...people who were hardworking, conscientious, responsible, compulsive and perfectionistic were prone...” to problems like back aches and migraines.

Okay, so, wow. (And I am not compulsive... I swear. Except, if you read my post on how much I like planning, I fear the evidence is already stacked against me. And honestly, this conundrum wouldn’t exist if I weren’t the tiniest bit compulsive.)

So, the dilemma: Do I read and finish The Mindbody Prescription or do I launch myself with all due haste at Leviathan? It’s so pretty, I tell you.

This might be a good time to share that my writing journey has moved in tandem with another journey I call Mission: Get Healthy. Along with finding my voice to write, I have started to listen to my body, giving up many of the things it doesn’t want, listening to what it does want, and I’ve made steady progress toward feeling better than I have in years. The one thing that is still a work in progress deals with constant back pain. I don’t take meds (too many side effects). I’ve seen spine doctors, chiropractors, and even acupuncturists (I say unto you, “ouch,” but I’ve had acupuncture before without pain, so it might just be me), all without lasting improvement or even a significant diagnosis. The most helpful of all the treatments has been massage, but that might just be because, for a compulsive person, the hour I spend at the massage place is the only real relaxation I get during the week. So, this book and the possibility that it might help where nothing else really has make me lean toward finishing it first.

But then, will Leviathan think I don’t care? Will it not feel loved? Perhaps vengeful? To invite a book in and then ignore it seems rude... oh, no, it winked at me.

What to do? Help. Possibly cure the back or disappear into beloved YA?

Quote for the Day by Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--” ... have no idea which one I’m taking. So, help already.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Justifiable Rock Star Worship

The shortest distance between two people might be a smile, but the quickest way to close that distance is to talk about someone’s mother. Communication is one of the most important facets of human life, and how we use it will dictate our closeness to others. I believe that the way we communicate leaves a footprint on each individual. Some of those footprints are like in sand, easily washed away, and others are boot prints rammed into another person like stomping through quick-dry cement. And the truth is, we really don’t know whether a person is sandy or cementy or the potential for damage we are capable of inflicting.

My recent thoughts about all the kinds of communication between people (and animals) blossomed while reading All Roads Lead Me Back To You, which I will tell you about after the following admission: I have a little rock star agent worship to share with you. The rock star agent is Ms. Janet Reid. She’s witty, fun, edgy, all sorts of bright, and has a down-to-earth understanding of the writing/publishing experience that inspired my rock star worship.

The ironic part: Ms. Reid doesn’t represent most of what I write, and I don’t normally read what she represents. To explain this, I must admit one more thing: I have FRS (Fragile Reader Syndrome). This condition (which is untreatable but fortunately survivable) means that I really can't handle books that involve excessive violence, death (even health-related deaths which seem to be all the rage right now), blood trails or splatters, evil bad guys doing really heinous things, and above all mysteries that begin with some poor mostly anonymous character getting axed. I can’t even watch Law and Order type shows because I never get over the dead stranger from the first minute or so (and am constantly worried about their poor families). Having FRS limits the books I read. (My friends who have read my novels will want me to point out that the books I write are not without loss of life, but I promise I cried about the deaths more than they did.)

So, I really try to avoid books that are going to upset me (sometimes I really get suckered though and sometimes I love the books so much it was worth it). Recently, I started crying on the phone when describing a scene in a book I read in May (yes, I’m a wimp! And for those who are curious, the book was The Time Traveler's Wife and the scene involved the outcome of the really cold day.)

Now, when Ms. Reid blogged about taking on and seeing published a book that wasn’t like her normal blood-pool-filled books (a book that actually had a happy ending), my ears perked (especially at the mention of cowgirl lit), and I’m so glad they did. All Roads Lead Me Back To You by Kennedy Foster is a wonderful book that takes the reader on a unique journey into life on a modern working ranch.

The book is fantastic and I highly recommend it. Instead of giving a breakdown of the main characters or the plot (which can be found here, here, or here), I’d rather talk about the insightful way communication is described in the book in such amazing language that it has inspired me to work harder in my own writing.

Let’s look at the variety of forms of communication found on the ranch (and probably in many of your homes).

Nature’s Communication:

“Everything trickled and gurgled; the landscape seemed to be chuckling under its breath.”

Aside from the fact that the writing is exquisite, this communication by nature brought me into the setting and the real power of the seasons over ranchers’ lives.

Communication between women and men (Domingo and Alice):

“Lot of time,” he returned mildly, “guy like me, we don’t cook, we don’t eat.”

“Guys like you? Meaning what, bachelors?”

Domingo felt searched.

I loved this. What is a simple question to a woman can be an interrogation to a man. Gender politics are more complicated than those on Capitol Hill (and that's really saying something).

Communication between a teenaged boy and cows (this one made me laugh so hard I scared my dogs):

“Nick, up on the chute for hours at a stretch, had for some reason fallen into the habit of addressing the cows in third-year German, with obscene insertions for emphasis.”

This line is followed by Nick’s actual (hysterical) comments, but you’ll have to read the book to find them.

Communication between horse and man:

“... the mare stood still, her ears poised in polite inquiry: May I help you?”

Having been around horses for many years, I loved this. Animals are so attentive to us, our body language, our voices, everything.

Silent communication between a man and woman:

“The pause drew out, became something sweet, a singing note on a phantom fiddle.”

Silence in itself is communication, sometimes filled with love, and sometimes used as a weapon. Silence can be every bit as hurtful as an unkind word and every bit as loving as a caress.

Communication between a woman and man:

“That a woman should speak to a man of, of... At the very least, he had depended on a decent silence on the topic.”

Culture, gender, age, species, this delightful book contains a gamut of different communication experiences all woven into an engaging story. The pace of the story takes its time but doesn’t linger. Personally, I found this to be a fantastic book to read when traveling because I could enjoy my trip and still take a fictional journey that allowed the savoring of moments. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Quote for the Day - All Roads Lead Me Back To You

If you aren’t convinced yet to read this book, this might do it for you.

“He happened to be riding his best horse, a short-coupled golden dun with black points and big dapples. He glanced at her and she glanced at him; more would have been indecent. But he said to himself, I intend to have that woman. And she said to herself, I intend to have that horse.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stepping in What Was

This past weekend, I was swallowed by a time machine that took me back to 1989 in the form of my twenty-year reunion. The decision to go and the thoughts that preceded the event all revolved around the chance to take stock of my journey, more than any concerns about what others thought of me. I wasn’t worried. I didn’t obsess about what to wear. Actually, I didn’t really think too much about the reunion until I was on my way there.

I remember high school as an extremely busy time, a time filled with insecurities and the sense that I had to protect myself. My time was primarily spent in theatre-related activities and the general amount of work required to both do well and avoid parental wrath. I was not popular but didn’t have trouble making friends.

Walking into the first night’s event—a get together at a restaurant bar—my stomach didn’t flutter at all and it was fun to be with one of my best friends (who also graduated my year). What I discovered upon entering was that my classmates looked great, their smiles were easy, and the conversation unstinted by the passage of time. There was an openness and confidence in not just myself but in the classmates I talked to. Our culture’s obsession with the negatives of aging misses a valuable truth: it really does get better. By the twenty-year reunion, we are ourselves. The way we are perceived today matters so little compared to when we lived in the closed ecosystem called high school. We live all over the country (some in foreign countries). Some are married, some aren't. Some have children, some don’t. Some have travelled, some still will. Our dreams have changed, but we are much more interesting now than we were then.

The second night, the dressy affair, provided some opportunities to meet up, but on the whole was a let down, mostly because the music overpowered the ability to catch up with people. And many of the friends I had in high school were either in different years or they didn’t show. Reunions aren’t built to make new friends, only to reconnect with old friends, so as the night wore on, I was ready to let the evening go.

And then I realized that my readiness to return from my time travel had more to do with one of the lessons I’ve learned from my writing. Writing has taught me about the value of today. For years and years, guilt over the past, missed opportunities, and questionable decisions, prevented me from going after my writing goals. The past worked its dark magic to swallow many of my todays and tomorrows. But now I know that today is the only best day we will ever have in our lives. It isn’t romanticized or dramatized the way past triumphs and failures tend to be. It isn’t dreamy and filled with doses of fantasy the way the future is. Today is the only day in which we can act, that we have power over at all; today is the only day that matters.

So, even though the reunion was enjoyable and I had the chance to reconnect with some of the people I cared about back in the day, I found myself flinching away from 1989 and all the years in between then and now, and leaning toward today. And I am so excited about today that I can hardly stand it.

Each day just a little farther on the path. Each day just a little more the person I want to be. Each day, even the crummy ones, exactly as it should be, complete with the lessons to get me further along in my own journey (that conveniently has nothing at all to do with competing with anyone else). Life is an individual sport (even if married and familied). Who we are, what we have to achieve, and our journey are our own and the way we feel about ourselves can only be personally achieved.

We live, we learn, we continue. And I am grateful to be alive to continue. And that is what a reunion can remind you. It isn’t the clothes you wear, the shoes (though I am quite smitten with my shoes), or the big hair you had in the senior photo (the five inches I gained in my heels this time was gained by my vertical hair in 1989). Those things really pale when we approach the event with a grateful heart. And how can we not be grateful to have another today.

Some of the lovelies about the event:
  • Reconnecting with a friend who came to the reunion hoping to find me. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so special.
  • Hearing a beautiful man confess to my best friend that he had a crush on her in the ninth grade. That was a true gift when my best friend, like myself, didn’t get a lot of attention in school.
  • Hearing how I was described by a friend to her boyfriend as the most real person she’d ever known. We rarely hear ourselves described and that was a moment I won’t forget.
  • Eating my weight in sushi with friends that I didn’t lose contact with over the past twenty years.
  • Getting to see a high school friend I just found a couple months ago and realizing that our friendship is still strong and has decades of life in it.
  • Seeing how much more fun and crazy the thirty-year reunion was across the hall. They rocked!

Quote for the Day by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Little by little, one travels far.”

Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Unexpected Change of Plans

When first hit by the blog bug on Thursday, I had my first two blog topics already in mind. You see, I’m a bit of a planner. Those who know me best will already be rolling, but hopefully not down a steep hill toward an eel-filled moat. So, plans. Yes, I like them. Even my plans have plans. There is nothing I like better than creating multi-tiered goals, lists, and intricate battle plans (hence, the past experience as a history teacher). Now, one might think that means that I don’t change them. Not true at all. A change of plans is an excuse for creating new plans. And as evidence, today’s blog is not the one I intended. But the motivation to change is too delightful to ignore.

Our motivator: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I began Shiver based on the gushing review provided by Suzie Townsend over at Confessions of a Wandering Heart. Her love for this book is anything but slight. And I have to say, her love is accurately placed. This book sucked me in completely. The characters are so rich, the writing so beautiful, and journey so heartfelt that I felt both giddy and lucky to have experienced this world Ms. Stiefvater created.

With a title like Shiver, it shouldn’t be a shock that the cold plays a very powerful role in the story. I’m really glad that I read it just after the beginning of autumn sent many cool breezes to my home (we’ve already had frost warnings). And as I nervously neared the end of the book, while reading in my chilly house, I found myself sitting on my futon, back to the window, absorbing the sun’s warmth and praying that that warmth would give me a hopeful ending. I’m not sure if the sun really helped or if it was just a lovely gift from Ms. Stiefvater, but the end is as gorgeous as the beginning and middle.

(A little note about how I feel about the cold and how it affects my reading experiences. Readers of the Twilight series will know of the competition between Team Edward and Team Jacob to win Bella’s love. Readers are very fervent about this topic and are usually solidly in one camp or the over. I, on the other hand, dabble in both. When I first read the books, it was freezing here and Edward’s cold exterior just didn’t seem appealing, whereas Jacob’s warmth did. And when I re-read the books during the summer, I changed camps. So, I guess I have a weather-related fickle streak.)

Please read Shiver. It will remind you of both the beautiful fragility and iron-clad strength of true devotion and love.

To read Suzie Townsend's Shiver review, click here.

To visit Maggie Stiefvater’s website, click here.

Happy Reading.

Quote for the Day from Shiver:

“Isabel’s face was still wearing a pretty pout, but I saw storms destroying small villages in her eyes.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Down the Uglies Hole

October is a perfectly good month. The first is a perfectly good day. And Blogspot is a perfectly good place. So, the day after my best writer friend, Debbie Schubert, celebrated her Blogiversary, I will make my own leap into the world of blogging. She likes when I leap, really. And usually—make that always—I’m glad that I did.

And the topic of the day. Hmmm, let me think. Books. And not just any books but ugly books... pretty books... and very special books, and all by the same author (how lucky for us).

In March, I decided that I wanted to read at least thirty-five new books in 2009 (I'm on book forty-six right now, by the way). This is not to say that I wasn’t reading books before, but I am a chronic re-reader. Once I fall in love with a story world, I keep going back (over and over and over). Books on my re-reading list include (but are not limited to) The Mountain is Young (my favorite book), The Twilight Series, The Host (which I love more every single time I read it), The Lord of the Rings (which I used to read every year during winter break when I was a teacher), The Four Feathers, the gorgeous Griffin and Sabine series, and anything by Jane Austen.

I’ve always loved books, but since my new effort to venture out more, I have truly fallen in love again and again (and have added books to my re-reading list as well). Every book I’ve read has transported me, some to places that have shocked me, scared me, lifted me, comforted me. I’ve dreamed of these worlds and even was awake most of one night trying to rewrite the ending of a particularly good book that ended exactly as it should have—just not how I wanted it to (I’m a sucker for a happy ending).

In my mission to read more, I, of course, spent a not small amount of time in the YA fantasy section, and it was there that an intriguing book found its way to the top of the list. That book was Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Woosh, down the Uglies hole, I went. A weekend disappeared with the turning of pages—first of Uglies, then on to Pretties and Specials. The story of Tally Youngblood’s journey to grow up in a culture obsessed with exteriors drew me in completely. The story is fast-paced and incredibly relevant. I found myself wishing I were back in the classroom (I taught middle school for six years) so that I could gush about these books to my students, who are growing up in a world where interiors are often neglected, where eating disorders and narrow images of beauty are a plague upon young people, where peers are too often judged by their covers. These are all issues that Mr. Westerfeld masterfully tackles, all without a heavy hand because we journey with Tally, through Tally, through a level of victimization and into triumph. By the ending, I was so grateful just to have my own face and uniqueness and the knowledge that no one was coming to take that away.

I highly recommend this series.

Thanks for stopping by the blog, and I look forward to sharing more about the books I love and the moments along the journey of both my writing and my life.

Quote of the Day from The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin:

“But it is this restlessness, this knowledge of the tame abyss you drag about with you on a leash, the abyss of language, which keeps you humble and therefore in touch with the Divine.”