Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Redux


In this corner of the world, it is currently impossible to avoid game fowl attached to fruit crops. Sometimes, this alternates with spinning dreidel type music; Apprentice Writer has yet to hear any Divali or Kwanzaa music on the radio. Partridge-bearing pear trees dominate.

They also beg the question: what kind of person really thinks it's a good idea to prove his true love with a hen that speaks French or men in a hop/skip/jump competition?

Today, alternate suggestions from a trio of Canadians.

From Antonia Zerbisias, columnist with the Toronto Star :

"On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
A penthouse apartment,
A driver and a Beamer,
10 Botox treatments,
9 spa vacations,
8 maids a-cleaning,
7 Prada outfits,
6 Manohlo Blahniks,
more closet space,
4 Cartier watches,
3 French dinners,
2 Hermes scarves,
And a pug in a purse Gucci!"

If Antonia's tastes are too elevated, there is always Bob & Doug McKenzie (aka Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas of SCTV):

"On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,
twelve dozen doughnuts,
...
8 comic books
7 packs of smokes
6 packs of 2-4's
5 golden tuques
4 pounds of back bacon
3 French toast
2 turtlenecks
and a beer in a tree!"

In Apprentice Writer's house, that would be a root beer.

If this is the season for the Gentle Reader to celebrate: many happy returns, and AW wishes you your preferred gifts, feathers included or not.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Activists Unite!


There are two kinds of people in world: those who are passionate about books, and everyone else.

Of the passionate group, there are also two kinds: those who pull back with glum sigh when bookdom is threatened, and those who take up (symbolic) arms in defence.

Mr. Bill Wrigley of Toronto is an engineer and bridge builder by profession, who appears to hold the motto, "When the going gets tough, the tough get building!"

In an early instance of toughness, he regarded his wife's 3000+ mysteries and apparently concluded that a bookshelf probably wouldn't do. Rather than harping on her to dissolve the collection, he built her a reading room with such features as secret doors and a button on one volume's spine which ignites the fireplace when pressed.

Apprentice Writer would have adored Mr. Wrigley for that alone. But!

He has now gone on to new heights of heroism. How, the Gentle Reader may ask?

Toronto currently has a mayor who won the election by promising to "Stop the Gravytrain" (i.e. eliminate wasteful spending at city hall). Once elected, he found there was surprisingly little actual gravy on the train. In order to fulfill election promises, he has embarked on an in-depth examination of city expenditure with a view to cutting/selling.

One of the culling candidates is the city library service, with some branches projected for outright closure and others "merely" looking at limitations like weekend closures (when user numbers have traditionally been highest). When literary giant Margaret Atwood protested, the mayor famously stated that he would probably not recognize her on the street.

Many Torontonians responded by forming unfavorable conclusions about a holder of Canadian public office who didn't know who Margaret Atwood is. Mr. Wrigley did something much more useful: he built a Little Free Library on his street.

It is open 24/7, operates on the principle of take one, leave one, and is carefully stocked with items that appeal to various age groups. It had its grand opening celebration this past weekend.

Mr. Wrigley considered inviting Margaret Atwood but decided he didn't want to make political statements.

Bravo, Mr. Wrigley, for this gem of an example of "Deeds, not Words", and for making your neighborhood more interactive and neighborhoody. Apprentice Writer hopes that in future there will be friendly competitions of who can build the most architecturally interesting Little Free Library in their town.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"And now a pause for jocularity...."


Apprentice Writer is deep in the throes (this will shortly strike the Gentle Reader as funny) of new-and-improving her query.

A query, for those who may not live in the book world, is a brief letter an aspiring author addresses to a literary agent. It is supposed to entice the agent to read the first pages of a manuscript and then hopefully sign the writer on as a client before going on to sell that manuscript to a publisher on the writer's behalf.

New-and-improving her query currently involves working through the archives of the blog Query Shark by literary agent Janet Reid. Ms. Reid routinely eviscerates (her word) the queries voluntarily sent in by hopefuls such as AW. Witnessing the dismemberment is in equal parts terrifying and educational; AW is in awe of the hapless writers who dare present their work for the shark and all the blogosphere to see.

Tucked in among the earnest efforts is the occasional spoof. AW came across one today that made her laugh so much she wanted to share. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Notable Quotes: 'Huh?' Edition

"Classical musicians were the rock stars of their day, much like the rock stars of today are the notaries public of tomorrow."

Anyone care to explain to Apprentice Writer what, exactly, this means?

In case it's helpful: it was taken from today's Groupon email attempting to entice AW with the featured deal of the day. For the curious: AW chose not to take advantage of it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Launch: SAINT SANGUINUS



The absotively, posilutely best thing about the interwebs is discovering like-minded friends in far-off places.

Today is launch day for SAINT SANGUINUS,
the debut novel of Apprentice Writer's online amiga Julia Phillips Smith. AW is delighted to introduce this brand-spanking new author, and have the chance to pick her newly professional writerly brain.

Congratulations, Julia! First things first: the cover. Did you have input regarding art or title?

One of the pluses - or minuses depending on your point of view - of self-publishing is the amount of creative control an author has over the finished product. In traditional publishing one can fill out a style sheet and suggest things, but it's really the marketing department that has the final say as to cover art and title of the book. An author has to trust that it's in the best interests of everyone involved to produce the best cover possible, with the catchiest, stop-em-in-their tracks title, ever.

With self-publishing, it's important to pay attention to other covers currently in the marketplace. Does your genre tend to feature a hero brandishing a weapon? Does your genre currently trend toward blue covers, or red, or orange? What do the covers of the top sellers in your genre look like?

Unless you're someone with graphic design skills, I wouldn't recommend designing your own cover. Hiring a professional to do your story justice - a story into which you've likely poured your heart and soul - will result in the wonderful moment when you first gaze upon a dream come true.

As for my title, I followed the time-honored convention of naming a superhero origin story after the title character.

The title certainly is memorable! What comes to you first: hero? Heroine? Ending? One-liners?

For me, stories always come in a vision-like flash. I'll be minding my own business, and then wham! I'm deep in the midst of a dramatic sequence unfolding in my mind's eye, and I haven't the slightest clue what's going on. Who is he? Why are they doing that to him? What's going on here?

Then I have to sort out what's what, almost like stumbling into a playground fight and listening to everyone's 'He started it!'

I can honestly say no character has ever come to me in quite that way. What's your favorite scene in 'Saint Sanguinus'?

My favorite scene comes toward the end, during the big set piece. Hero in jeopardy, deep in the Black Moment - my favorite! If it was a film, it would be the part I obsessively watch over and over again. Not that I'm prone to doing that *cough, cough*

Heh. What's a typical writing day look like for you?
Once upon a time, I didn't have a typical writing day. I wrote in creative bursts.

But over the years I've definitely developed a writing routine. Mon-Fri I work at my day job. So during the week I wait until evening to climb into the creativity cockpit. I'm a night owl by nature, so writing from 8:30-12:30 or sometimes 2:00am works best for me. That's when I'm really on. Even on the weekends, when theoretically I could write at any time, I still do my best writing between 8:00 pm and 2:00 am.

I love the image of climbing into the creativity cockpit. How does your family feel about you being an author?

I come from a creative background, so I've always had 100% support. No need to explain why I need to hibernate and ignore the garden, for example. Even my dog seems to encourage my scheduled time at the computer.

My garden and children don't seem to operate that way. Your best writing habit?

This has evolved directly from participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - taking place right now! www.nanowrimo.org). I followed one character exclusively during the writing marathon, realizing it took too much mental rearranging to go back and forth between points of view. I then followed the heroine's POV exclusively. This helped me to realize that immersing myself wholly into the character is vital, and it's a new way of working that I'm now applying to all my stories.

I've never tried that technique before. Perhaps I should experiment! Worst writing vice?

Trying to tune into the revisions channel in my head. For the longest time, I thought it was a matter of finely tuning the same invisible dial that brought me to the story in the first place. Finally, it dawned on me that there is no revisions channel, at least not like the Generating A New Story channel that runs 24/7 in my mind.

Instead I had to get my own shiny revisions toolkit from the Put On Your Big Girl Panties store and just get on with it.

Social Networking: wolf in sheep's clothing or blessing in disguise?

Social networking is an immense, globally available, free marketing tool no writer should leave out of his or her press kit.

As a longtime blogger, I have online friendships with people all over the world. Think of attempting to spread word-of-mouth promo in countries like Australia, England, Denmark, Israel and all across the US by traditional means. This is already accomplished for me, because I have blog friends in all those places.

Nightstand Inspection! What was the last ____ you read?

Contemporary: The Christmas Baby Bump, by Lynne Marshall
Historical: Heiress in Love, by Christina Brooke
UF/Paranormal/Fantasy: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, by Leanna Renee Hieber
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Spring Break, by Kayla Perrin
Memoir/Non-Fiction: The Supernatural Companions, by Nicholas Knight

That's quite the diverse lineup. Who is your writing idol and why?

Jo Beverly. She takes the time to place the reader squarely in the time and place of her historical romances, without ever slowing the pace of her stories. She never lets modern sensibilities intrude upon the historical tale she's telling. She manages to address the unromantic truths of her historic time periods without losing the shine of her happily ever after. Plus, she's a master of dialogue that carries the rhythms of real speakers, while still managing to weave story momentum within it.

Wow. I hope I write stories like Jo Beverly when I grow up. Just, like, in contemporary times and with comedy instead of historical drama and stuff.
Which literary character do you wish you'd thought of first?

Quentin Tarantino's The Bride from the "Kill Bill" series. But I'm glad he did think of such a kick-ass heroine.

You betray your roots by your choice of ultimate character from cinema instead of printed page!
Best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

The biggest thing - when you hit the point when you leave behind the infatuation stage with your own raw talent and now face the cliff-climbing phase of perfecting your craft - once you get to the top of that cliff, you will be like The Bride. You will kick ass yourself. Keep going.

I'm somewhere on that cliff now too.
How much tech know-how should one have to self-publish? Should a person like Apprentice Writer who barely manages to log on to Twitter or Facebook simply exclude that road to publication?

No, you don't have to exclude it. But you will have to be willing to pay other people to do the various aspects for you.

Self-publishing means wearing many hats, but it doesn't mean you will do every job yourself. I've hired my own little project team to prepare SAINT SANGUINUS for publication, including a graphic designer for the cover, a producer for the book trailer, a copy editor/proofreader for the manuscript and a formatter for the e-book prep.

Each book will require its own creative/technical team. Skimping on these aspects will produce an inferior product going out to readers, and I personally don't want to have my name on that.

A true co-operative effort. Anything else you'd like to share with AW's readers?

There was a time in my life when following my dreams seemed to have turned into a colossal joke. In embracing my artistic aspirations, I had a film degree but no way to pursue that field, because unforeseen health issues made working for free - in order to collect film credits - a complete impossibility.

Obviously, even through truly soul-crushing times, I managed somehow to hold onto my original dreams. Even though I tried to keep them at arms' length, they hid in little places deep inside of me. I kept working at telling stories by learning to write novels instead of making films.

In my personal life, my husband and I managed to climb out of the financial pit in which we'd languished. The health issues continued, but over time we've learned not only how to live with them, but flourish despite them. Suddenly, planets alligned or something, because things started falling into place at a rapid rate this year.

So what I'd like to share with your readers is this. Life really does kick you in the gut sometimes. The dark part of "...it's always darkest before the dawn..." can choke you into unconsciousness. But take it from me.

DON'T give up. NEVER give up.

Thanks Julia, for showing your story so honestly.

Gentle Readers, you can purchase SAINT SANGUINUS from Amazon from 18 November.

Visit Julia at www.juliaphillipssmith.com to learn more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE I LEARNED FROM ROMANCE NOVELS


EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE
I LEARNED FROM ROMANCE NOVELS

Sarah Wendell

Non-Fiction

Sourcebooks, October 2011


Premise:
Blogger and devotee of the much-maligned genre draws helpful real-life insights about personal growth and relationships from the books, their authors, and their fans.

Cover: In a book with an already high tongue-in-cheek factor, the cover may be the tongue-in-cheekiest of all. The iconic clinch-cover image is obscured by what looks like brown paper wrapping, a clear and sassy nod to the perception that the genre is merely "chick porn" (hence reference to delivery method of X-rated material in the days before internet and the author's name looking handwritten, as in a postal address). It made Apprentice Writer laugh, which is a great way to begin a relationship with a book before the first page is even read.

What Works: A lot.

The author's trademark funny, breezy, low-key conversational style, familiar to legions of her website and twitter followers, translates seamlessly to the printed non-fiction page. New readers should be aware that this style sometimes includes expressions that may not be suitable at work, or with kids reading along. On the other hand, it provides learning opportunties for new vocabulary - AW, for example, had not come across the terms "giddypants" or "crapmonkeys" before.

Another appealling aspect is that the author does not set herself up as the one with all the expertise. She shares her views (sometimes vehemently; witness "giddypants" and "crapmonkeys") however for every personal opinion stated she seeks out those of others as well, and in so doing, gives equal measure to those crafting the tales and those consuming them. This is a refreshing reminder that the book community is composed not just of writers influencing readers through their work but equally of readers influencing writers through their reactions to and discussions about that work.

When Sarah Wendell sends out a query into the blogosphere or twitterverse, she really truly (to use the technical term) listens to the responses that boomerang back, and incorporates them into a more expanded understanding of whatever the issue may be. This collaborative attitude permeates the whole book, and is encapsulated in the dedication to "...the fabulous readers who have come to Smart Bitches over the years to talk romance novels, celebrate the excellence, and bemoan the bizarre."

This willingness to explore said bizarre is also a plus, of the book and the site. If the internet is to be believed (and why in the world shouldn't it?) (Just kidding. Kind of.) that vast army of romance novel afficionados that singlehandedly drives the lion's share of profits of the mass-market publishing industry can roughly be divided into two camps: those who believe it is "mean" to mention anything critical about a romance novel (meaning reviews are all rainbows and roses), and those who believe in mentioning aspects that could be improved (meaning reviews run the gamut between all out raves and full on evisceration. AW, the Gentle Reader may have guessed, leans toward the side that says all types of honest reviews are legitimate so long as this doesn't cross the line into personal slights or attacks on the author.

AW loved the mix of analysis and jokes/gentle teasing about certain common features, such as:

"...4..A romance heroine doesn't just stand by her man, she stands up to him!....5. A romance hero must always be willing to rush into a burning building to save a basket of kittens."

"...Reading romances and taking them literally is definitely not the path to everlasting happiness. There are some crazy over-the-top plots that would never fly in the real world...For any (real-life) men who may be reading this...if you like a girl, I suggest asking her out on a date, in preference to threatening to turn her ecologically sound tourism location into a strip mall."

AW's favorite parts were pseudo-scientific lists and tables. The list of best heros of all time, for example (who's #1? P&P's Mr. Darcy, of course) should provide endless room for debate on correctness of numeration and inclusion, the suggested newbie shopping list of ten iconic novels to start a romance collection that spans most subgenres and which AW imagines was Holy-Melting-Eyebrows-Batman difficult to keep so brief for a passionate lover (ha!) of the genre, the step by step guide to looking like a romance hero ("Step 1: Acquire a mullet. Step 5: Ensure that the wind is buffeting your manly chestular landscape in as flattering a manner as possible.").

Perhaps the most educational (albeit snortworthy) aspect for people who think that all romance is of the Harlequin Presents type (i.e. with a title along the lines of "The Latvian Tycoon Playboy Sheikh Billionaire's Virgin Pregnant Secretary Mistress Bride") is the graph "Which Romance Are You?" which illustrates how diverse the genre really is. It puts specific questions to each of 9 subgenres. In this way, one learns that the answer to the question "How Do You Like Your Steak?" is "Mooing" in Western and "Hairy in Paranormal, the answer to the question "What is Your Favorite Dessert?" is "whipped cream" for erotica and "anything on fire" for romantic suspense, and the answer for "What is Your Favorite Holiday?" is "Boss's Day" for Harlequin Presents and "Talk Like a Pirate Day" for Historical.


What Doesn't: Not so much a criticism as a desire for a specific point's greater emphasis of a or repetition (not, AW grants you, the usual type of request).

The author mentions early on how the life lessons explored are taken from more more recent decades, and may not be contained in quite the same way (or at all) in some older examples of the genre. This is so true, and significant, that AW almost feels like it should be tacked onto the bottom of each page of this book as a warning message. As in: "This is old-skool romance! May contain the opposite of messages like "We Know Who We are, and We Know Our Own Worth", "We Know How to Solve Problems", and especially "Happy Endings Take Work"! Content may be hazardous to feminist sentiments, the concept of men and women being equal partners, the expectation that men NOT solve every problem with might-makes-right, and the idea that women need to do more than just look pretty and blush on cue!"

Failing such distinction between what was then and what is now could lead readers newly willing to give the genre a try to feel like all their preconceived notions were well-founded. AW can certainly remember a couple of earlier-published works that ended up being thrown against a wall from the time that she had newly discovered the genre. Luckily for her, she simultaneously came across some other volumes with much more positive underlying messages (plus great writing) so continued exploring rather than giving up on the genre.


Things AW Wishes Had Been Included:
1. The author's husband's reaction. Not just because a person detailing all the great things they've learned about love just BEGS for a statement from that person's spouse. Not just because it would be nod to the Great Romance Debate on novels told only from the heroine's point of view vs. inclusion of the hero's point of view. But because this particular spouse once did a book review on his wife's site and as AW recalls he was just as funny as she.

2. A stepback cover. As AW may have mentioned (one or two dozen times), she loathes stepback covers because she has yet to see one that she didn't think was snarkworthy to the highest degree. It would have been a lot of fun to see a parody.

Overall: Strikes a good balance between thoughtful and entertaining. Readers already familiar with the author will not be disappointed, while those for whom this is new territory might well rethink a preconceived or perhaps outdated notion or two, and, who knows? Even pick up one of the myriad books mentioned, see if it clicks for them, and whether they can draw a worthwhile life lesson from it themselves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Health Promotion: INCENTIVE MUCH?


Usually, Apprentice Writer's Health Promotion posts take the form of something funny to create an immune-system boosting effect. Today, it will take the form of something humiliating to create an aerobic-encouraging effect.

See this gentleman? He is 100. And COMPETING IN THE TORONTO MARATHON.

That's right, the 'Turbanned Tornado', Mr. Fauja Singh, is not satisfied to sit on his sofa, reminiscing about days of yore and dispensing wise advice. Instead he has set a goal to achieve world records in a slew of running distances, and will most likely succeed as there are - surprise, surprise (not) - no existing world records for many of them for an individual of his age.

Apprentice Writer must confess that her admiration for Mr. Singh is, sadly, not entirely pure. It is tainted by disgruntlement. Because all the excuses she regularly applies as to why she is too busy to exercise pretty much expire of shame in the face of such just-do-it-ness.

AW is left with one question: why in the world doesn't Mr. Singh have a Nike endorsement deal????

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: THE ROSE GARDEN


THE ROSE GARDEN
Susanna Kearsley


Timetravel

Sourcebooks, October 2011


Premise: Grieving contemporary woman returns to childhood Cornwall home and begins travelling back in time to an era of smugglers and uprisings.

Cover: Title - very pretty, but held more significance for the contemporary portion of the story than the historical. Would have liked it if a title had been found that was equally significant to both time periods.
Art - Lovely, and much more eye-catching and also fitting than the art on the ARC Apprentice Writer received, which put her in mind of a story of a brave cancer survivor or some such. This one shows a titular rose, colors that recall the sepia tints of old daguerrotypes, and features hair (in a style which could be historical or contemporary) as the central element - so right for the story. Very well done.

What Works: The author has above average writing skill and an engaging style which draws the reader into the story, an effect which is further enhanced by use of first person and sympathy the reader feels for the protagonist from the first page as she talks of how bereft she is following the death of her beloved older sister.

The choice to have the protagonist keep going back and forth between time periods, as opposed to leaping close to the start and spending the bulk of the story in the past/future, with a final leap back to own time at the end, created a great contrast between typical daily life challenges of average people now (setting up a new business, keeping on old one viable, negotiating dating life) and typical life challenges then (having to be watchful of local law enforcement due to no recourse to higher authority, political choices that can mean swift and bloody death no matter which side one comes down on, gender inequality that placed any female without male protectors with enough muscle and in close enough proximity at risk, the sheer labor and difficulty associated with tasks of daily life).

Finally, a great strength of this book is the historical love interest. How Apprentice Writer adored him, his relationship to his brother and best friend, the way he chooses to deal with economic and political reality of the time, but most of all, how he responds to a woman with modern sensibilities. He was swoonworthy, and AW would have been happy to read more about his backstory and what happens next to him. He gives Jamie Fraser (of the mega timetravel hit "Outlander) - who is #2 on the list of best romantic heros of all times, as compiled by fellow Sourcebooks author Sarah Wendell ("Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romanc Novels" review to come shortly), a run for his money. If anything, Daniel Butler comes out ahead, considering Jamie's unfortunate disciplinary episode (cue groaning of the "Outlander" faithful).

What Doesn't: In AW's view, if you going to write a timetravel, then do the reader the courtesy of not treating the actual timetravel element like a trivial afterthought. In this case, the explanations of where and to whom it happened were tepid and unconvincing (because the conditions for both should have affected many, many more people than it did) while the explanation of why it happened at some times and not others was never given. The fact that the protagonist seemed to show such little curiosity about the mechanics of the thing gave this reader an ever dimmer opninion about her intelligence. It also made her WILD that in contrast to, say, Henry of "The Time Traveller's Wife" who cannot take anything with him from the old place (including clothes) when he shifts, the protagonist here could, but never thought to do so. You can bet your sweet petticoat that AW would have taken care to have a supply of toothpaste/brush, dental floss, aspirin, swiss army knife, and feminine hygiene products with her at times.

Apart from the personal grooming aspect, AW was very surprised at how the protagonist never thought of the possibility of some small gift for the two historical men who literally risk their lives for her, given that having other people of their time seeing her appear or disappear would brand them as associates of a witch. There is a whole subtheme of capacity to create fire (in the form of skill to strike a spark), thus symbolizing access to light, life-giving warmth, capacity to eat, and feeling of security - all of which the hero and his best friend continually bestow on the heroine. The hero even shows special interest in the future invention of matches. But does the heroine think to slip a lousy book of matches for him in her jeans pocket, or some small modern kitchen gadget in recognition of her adopted brother's culinary interest? Not at all. This willingness of the heroine to accept all the tangible and intangible gifts offered to her by these men without any notion of return created an uncomfortable sense of imbalance, all the more peculiar considering the extravagant gift she bestows on some secondary characters in the contemporary time.

Overall: The single word previous reviewers seem to apply most often to this novel is "haunting"; AW would agree with that, as well as the "well-written" description. The story is more about the psychology and emotion of the person going back and forth in time rather than the action-adventure (such as found in "Outlander") or the modern time luxuries/olden time privations angle (such as found in "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict"). From this perspective, the feelings and actions of the cast of characters was (with exception mentioned above) convincing and satisfying.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. (Yet) death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent."

(From his commencement address to a college graduating class in 2005, in which he remarked on having himself dropped out of college)

How many aspiring writers like this one have been influenced, to larger or smaller degree, by this man's creativity?

Countless.

RIP Mr. Jobs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Health Promotion: TOURIST COMPLAINTS


The Association of British Travel Agents published a list of most ridiculous complaints received from clients upon their return home from abroad. A few of Apprentice Writer's favorites:

"No one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

"On my holiday in Goa, India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry."

"We booked an excursion to the water park, but no one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes."

"It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It only took the Americans three hours to get home."

"I was bitten by a mosquito. No one said they could bite."

"We bought Ray-Ban sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."

"I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was signficantly smaller."

"The beach was too sandy."

And finally, AW's favorite British tourist complaint: "Too many foreigners now live abroad."

AW applauds the British Travel Agent Association for providing such an educational report, and eagerly awaits the reports of any other national travel agent association.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Car Culture & the Law


True Story #1:

A mother and small child cross the street on foot to catch a bus and are hit by a car driven by a man who had been drinking, was on painkillers, mostly blind in one eye, and had a previous conviction for a hit-and-run accident. Result?

The mother was convicted of vehicular manslaughter of her toddler and faced the possibility of three years in prison. The car driver meanwhile served six months.

Apprentice Writer imagines that in most places, reaction would be atomic level "WHAT?????"

In Marietta, Georgia, USA, where this story took place, however, this astonishing end result apparently makes sense (at least, to the members of that jury). Looking a little deeper into the situation creates greater unease: the mother and son were black, as are most of the public transportation users in the town described as mostly white and affluent. She was convicted by an all-white jury who held her accountable for not crossing at a designated crosswalk thus "causing" the death. The saving grace was that the judge ultimately transformed her sentence to community service and payment of a fine rather than actual jail time.

AW's thoughts: There is a scene in the old Eddie Murphy movie "Beverley Hills Cop" when the hero is thrown through a plate glass window of a skyscraper lobby by security guards and subsequently arrested by police. When he incredulously asks why, they state that he is accused of trespassing. He is so astonished at the backwardness of this, feeling that he is the clear victim rather than the perpetrator, that he goes on to ask whether a person struck by a car in that town would be arrested for jaywalking.

In the movie, the scene was played for laughs because of the blatant absurdity of the situation. It is chilling to see a true life scenario turn out this way. Has car culture really reached such a level that pedestrians are not only viewed as "the enemy" to drivers, but considered to bear the lion's share of responsibility to ensure that they don't get in the way of "rightful" users of the road (no matter how physically or chemically impaired)? Is this some new variation of social Darwinism, where it is considered someone's own fault if they don't have the means to own a car and that's that?

AW hopes not. She also hopes that this case could become a catalyst for people not just in Marietta to take a look at the economic and ecological cost of getting around in daily life and take action that promotes transportation in a more co-operative rather than confrontational way. Because discouraging rather than encouraging use of public transportation and forms of healthy transport like walking or biking? Is so five steps backward. Especially at time when greenhouse gases and lack of exercise are at crisis levels.

True Story #2: A woman gets in a car, drives to school to drop off her child, swings by the grocery store, and is arrested.

It must have been a stolen car, right? Or she was driving erratically and endangering others? Or didn't have the right papers with her?

Incorrect. It was her family's vehicle, she had a licence, and followed traffic rules. So what did she do wrong? Be born female.

Once again, cue the atomic level "WHAT????" from most places.

In Saudi Arabia, however, where this story took place, this astonishing end result apparently makes sense (at least, to the lawmakers). Manal al-Sharif, a Rosa Parks of sorts, chose to make herself a lightning rod for the rights of women to drive themselves, and posted video of herself defying the ban of female driving to Youtube. This has launched a mini Saudi Arab spring of other women in that country doing likewise, with outrage and threats poured upon them as a result for supposedly threatening Saudi culture, traditions, and morals.

AW's thoughts: Are Saudi men truly such fragile flowers that their self-worth is threatened by a woman going to the grocery store herself? Seriously. How is something so banal emasculating or interpretable as an attack on the superstructure of an entire culture?

It isn't, of course, as is proven by the multitude of countries where women have been driving for generations without the existing culture falling down around everyone's ears. AW hopes that as evidence of the non-catastrophic results of women driving builds, laws will come to reflect that.
Bravo to the women of Saudi who decided that enough was enough, and put themselves forward to create progress for themselves and the next generation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Health Promotion


Laughter boosts the immune system. Today an image of what parents hope, year after futile year, their children will look like at the thought of school starting the next day.

courtesy of www.cakewrecks.com

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: TOUT SWEET


TOUT SWEET - Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France
Karen Wheeler

Memoir
Sourcebooks, August 2011

Premise: Romantically disappointed journalist moves to rural France.

Cover: Title - Clever wordplay ("tout de suite" = French for "right away"), and the subtitle is a concise summary of content. Art - Very pretty, eyecatching, and reflective of author's description of everyday life in the village. Altogether, well done.

What Works: The cover blurbs repeated the words "honest" and "charming"; Apprentice Writer is pleased to say that she found both to be accurate. The honesty comes in the lack of airbrushing. The author has the courage to include aspects that do not always show her in the most flattering light, which provides the armchair traveller with the opportunity to recall occasions when they might not have shown the best judgement themselves at the same time as they think "I wouldn't have done that!". The charming comes from the manner in which the heroine prevails, the way she does her utmost to learn, and the way she provides the vicarious experience of sitting in a cobbled, whitewashed courtyard looking at potted flowers while enjoying breakfast baguette, and so on.

The writing has some ups and downs. AW has included it in the "What Works" rather than "What Doesn't" section because even though there is a regrettable pattern of word echoes and repetition in some places, there is also just enough French for this high school level speaker to find it flavorful without becoming confusing (something which she has had more than one occasion to bemoan with other British writers and their casual inclusion of Latin all over the place). And as regular readers of this space know, AW is particularly fond of well-done metaphors and similes; in this case, she enjoyed the author's fashion training being aptly applied to description.

It becomes clear to the reader early on that the idealized mental image the author has of Life in Rural France and reality may not match. It is to the author's credit that by the end of the first year which forms the material for the book, her resourcefulness and adaptability have combined to create a lifestyle that she enjoys and plans to maintain - as opposed to the many expats who, for whatever reason, give up and go home. This reader loved it that she did not allow her single status, lack of contacts, and complete absence of handiwork skills to stand the way of her dream of owning and renovating a home in a foreign country. Bravo, Ms. Wheeler, for doing so and for making the reader want to book the next flight to France for the rewards of the countryside rather than the glitz of Paris.

What Doesn't:
For this reader's taste, too much space was taken up with the minutiae of fellow ex-pats' dysfunction, whether romantic or alcoholic. Yes, sometimes moving to a new place can exacerbate rather than heal marital friction, and yes, sometimes individuals used to a greater amount and variety of alternate entertainment may turn to booze as a way to fill the time when such entertainment is curtailed. But must we dwell on it? AW thinks not.

Overall: A feel-good story that proves there is (satisfying) life after love, that sometimes running away to reinvent oneself can actually work, and that homeownership is not just for the handy and mechanically-inclined.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Privacy Alert


Apprentice Writer was startled to learn of this new threat to her bathtub reading habits:

ALERT!!

New privacy issue with Facebook!

As of tomorrow, Facebook will creep into your bathroom when you're in the shower, smack your ass, and then steal your clothes and towel.

To change this option, go to Privacy Settings > Personal Settings > Bathroom Settings > Smacking and Stealing Settings, and uncheck the Shenanigans box.
Copy and paste this on your status to alert the unaware.


The Gentle Reader has been warned!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Health Promotion


Laughter boosts the immune system. Today's good deed in the name of public health inspired by the great big Swedish furniture retailer, where Apprentice Writer recently spent time due to junior apprentice writer #3 outgrowing her toddler bed.

For those who worry about such things: fear not. AW did not practice assembling a bed by first assembling a cat.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Minimalist Movie Reviews


There are bloggers who deliver erudite, thorough, well-balanced thoughts on cinema. And then, there is Apprentice Writer. She delivers one word or plus on movies as subjective fancy strikes her. Choose you loquaciousness.

Robin Hood
1. *Sigh*
+. There was a lot to like about this adaptation: Cate Blanchett, cinematography, Cate Blanchett, the care that went into architectural, costuming, and landscape features, Cate Blanchett. But the positive aspects were overshadowed by the shamelessness of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe trying so heavy-handedly to recreate 'Gladiator' glory. Not once, but twice, they tossed in the signature move of a weapon being thrown up at Crowe on horseback at full gallop who, of course, catches it one-handed and despatches some villains with suitable flourish. Living in the past, much?

Tangled
1. Girlpower!
+. How far Disney princesses have come. From role models of yore that were all of the same apparent ethnic background, forever waiting for some prince to come change their lives, letting themselves be exploited in the meantime, and sometimes, just sleeping all the time (how's that for the ultimate passive character?) . Heroines offered up for little girls today look different, think for themselves, snatch up whatever items are handily available for self defence, negotiate, work hard, and see beyond shallow looks (Mulan - crossdressing, Princess & the Frog - amphibious transformation, Rapunzel - negation of hair as female power). Superb animation, lots of humor, hero to be redeemed; what's not to like about this movie? Appealing for any age.

How Do You Know
1. Quirky.
+. AW had no expectations of this movie, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. She has no special love for Owen Wilson but he was exactly right for the role of egocentric superjock who sincerely makes an effort at genuine commitment, with some stumbling on the way. Reese Witherspoon was convincing as the woman finding her way in a new life who doesn't seem to follow "typical" female thinking processes about love, as she puts it. Paul Rudd played the guy he always plays, but it worked. A quiet, odd, gently pleasing little movie.

Inception
1. Whaaaa????
+. Was this movie thought provoking and creative? Sure. But: perhaps AW is intellectually no longer up to par. Perhaps she was too tired or distracted to put together all the clues provided to form the full answers to the questions the movie posed. Whatever the impasse, by the time the final scenes rolled around, she was hopelessly confused about the many clones of each character that needed to be accounted for and was clueless about what really happened to the wife, the as always mesmerizing Marion Cotillard. AW thinks this is a great example of a movie that is trying too hard.

Arn: The Knight Templar
1. Nope.
+. Good points? Erm...it is kind of nice to see a movie about the Crusades that does not have England or France as the protagonists' home base, and AW supposes it is instructive to be reminded that even though Scandinavia is known as the global elite in terms of egalitarian society these days, historically it may have been just as misogynistic as other parts of Europe in the name of the Church.

Not so good points? When making a movie that spans two decades, it is probably a good idea to have makeup and hair artists on staff who are skillful enough to prevent the hero and heroine looking exactly the same throughout. It is probably also a good idea, when including battle scenes, to, you know. try and make them convincing. AW kept watching on the principle that Swedish movies don't come her way every day, but it all fell apart during a climactic confrontation between rival Swedish factions when one side begins its advance, the other faction's archers raise bows, the commander of the first side suddenly shouts "It's a trap!" and - the second side looses its arrows.

ARE YOU KIDDING????? THAT'S IT????? AW was expecting something along the lines of the sharpened logs that impaled the cavalry from 'Braveheart', or the ground falling away like in "Prince Caspian". But a medieval army that is surprised by a generic arrow volley? Come on.


What do you say, Gentle Reader? Agree? Disagree?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Health Promotion

When being honest about your (licensce plate) feelings may not be such a good idea.....



Three of these mustaches are natural - but which?




Llamas disapprove of public displays of affection.







Yet, for some reason, the fashion of America brides cuddling up with grizzlies and Canadian brides cuddling up with polar bears just hasn't caught on....






Thursday, July 14, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: PILLOW TALK


PILLOWTALK
Freya North

Sourcebooks, July 2011 (reissue)

Women's Fiction


Premise: After a brief period of non-acted upon attraction when they were teens, a London jeweller and rural teacher meet again.

Cover: Title - Relevant on two levels: it signals 'relationships' as theme, and points to the sleepwalking and insomnia that bedevil hero and heroine. Art - colors and cartoonish font and illustration look like classic chicklit, and the story contains several elements that point in that direction (if we all did not know that Chicklit Is Dead. Or so we keep being told). Altogether, the cover gives a good indication of what the reader will find inside.

What Works: It is very easy to like the protagonists. Artist Petra is passionate about her work, good to her friends, and doggedly determined to keep up her relationships with her divorced parents and stepsiblings despite zero energy on their part to make an effort in that direction. Arlo is a former rock singer/songwriter who now teaches music at an uppercrust private school, and seems genuinely fond of his pupils and sincere in carrying out his duties.

Their story is not about tumultuous passion or wild adventure, but rather, the quiet moments and steps that build up on each other to help everyday people decide whether a relationship is worth sticking with or no longer functional. This is pretty much the opposite of what happens in genres like urban fantasy, space opera, or stories that involve, let's say, espionage, so it is a refreshing and thoughtful change from those types of novels.

Apprentice Writer also found it interesting how sleep was used to underscore what is going on. How, where, with whom, how effectively we do it - all become symbolic of trust and affection. AW liked how it was developed beyond the simple euphemism for sex that is often deployed in contemporary fiction.

What Doesn't: The story hinges heavily on the protagonists not knowing how to get in touch with one another. As young(ish), hip(ish), (partial) Londoners, this trampled AW's suspension of belief. Just because the protagonists liked riding bikes does not convince her that they were so retro that don't know how to operate Facebook, Google, or even something so low-tech as a phone directory.

There was also a moment when the Petra thought she was reliving a very negative experience with her former boyfriend all over again with Arlo, and takes certain immediate action without allowing Arlo even a minimum of opportunity to share his point of view. AW supposes that the reader was intended to take this as a sign of the degree of hurt she had experienced. The way it came off, though, was as childish. It felt like one step away from being too immature to be deserving of the genuine adult relationship she had set her sights on.

Overall: A pleasant beach read, especially for those who miss stories in a chicklit direction.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Notable Quotes


How to describe a goddess? It would need to be in a way that sets her apart from mortals, of course. Regarding Hera:

"Her hair was the color of blackmail, her spine like a guillotine..."

from "Gods Behaving Badly" by Marie Phillips

Monday, June 20, 2011

Non-Laughter Reviews: WHISPERS IN THE SAND

WHISPERS IN THE SAND
Barbara Erskine
Paranormal Mystery
Sourcebooks, 2011 (reissue)



Premise: Contemporary divorcee travels to Egypt and finds her life increasingly entwined with that of a Victorian ancestress and a mysterious ancient artefact.

Cover: Title - Creates sense of drama and is relevant to content. Art - Pretty, eyecatching colors and style of hairdo and dress captures the sense of modern with historical. Overall - well done.

What Works: The author clearly has a tremendous love for Egypt and respect for the profoundly deep sweep of its history. This attachment soaks into the story and makes the reader yearn to get on a plane to see the sights and experience that antiquity personally. At the very least, for those lacking time and travel budget (Apprentice Writer, for instance), the novel motivates to search out more historically-based fiction about the kings and queens mentioned.

AW became caught up in the life of the ancestress. A gifted painter and grieving widow, she tries to regain her physical health and emotional equilibrium by sailing along the Nile. Like her granddaughter, she is challenged to understand the secrets of the antique glass bottle in her posession, but she has the added obstacles of racism, sexism, and stifling Victorian morality rules to deal with. Her choices, and how they affect the contemporary protagonist, held AW's interest.

AW is not a huge ghost-story afficionada, but nevertheless became engrossed in the eternal-seeming power struggle between the rival priest spirits who form the mystery element of the story. What do they want from the bearer of the artefact? Are they benevolent or malevolent? Can they be released from their prison? Will they actually speak? AW could never quite figure out which was the good guy and bad guy between them - perhaps intentionally on the part of the author, to represent how no-one is ever completely innocent or guilty? - and read on more to find out what happened to them than to know what happened to the nominal heroine of the story.

What Doesn't: Warning! Mild Spoilers!
AW struggled with the protagonist. Presented as a depressed, trying-too-hard-to-please, somewhat passive character at first, it seemed logical to expect that over the course of the story arc she would grow into an empowered, active, confident character who realizes she is capable of standing on her own two feet. Didn't happen. True, she does try to tell some other characters that she does not appreciate their behavior, and does take some steps towards determining her own romantic future. Altogether, though, by the end she still spent much time being "taken care of" by a male character and AW repeatedly wanted to shake her for not grasping such basic concepts as: just because someone asks you a question doesn't mean you are compelled to provide an answer if you don't want to. And: if someone enters your living area uninvited and takes some of your property, despite your clear demand that they not do so, there are actions that you can take about it.

AW tried to figure out whether the frusrtation she felt for this character would be unique to her personal reader style, or whether it could be more broadly based. Was there truly a lack of character development on the protagonist's part? Or was it more a case of AW being used to the take-charge (sometimes with skillful violence) attitude of female protagonists found in urban fantasy novels, meaning it was unfair to expect similar backbone in characters from other types of fiction?

It was not possible for her to tease out a clear answer, partly because the waters were muddied by another factor: surprise at the multi-level open endings. Questions about the ancestress, the spirits, the hero and heroine all remained. AW tried to take this in a philosophical way, but in all honesty would have been happier to know some things more definitively rather than imagining for herself what could have happened.

She was also left with a headscratcher: at one point in the novel the protagonist learns that by virtue of their gender women have protection from ill effects of the artefact. Yet in other parts of the story, a woman dies prematurely and some families (presumably containing female members) also perish due to proximity. Any explanations the Gentle Reader can share?

Overall: The two biggest predictors for liking this novel are enjoyment of a paranormal element, and tolerance for open endings. Readers who like their fiction realistic and loose endsl tied up may be left unsatisfied. But readers who welcome a sprinkling of ghosts and who can appreciate tantalizingly unanswered questions as a symbol of the endlessness of time (without question, relevant to a place so old as Egypt) or the eternal nature of humans trying to find their true love, may well be entranced by this story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Health Promotion


Apprentice Writer will shortly be winging her way to Europe for a few weeks. As she has no idea what wifi situation will be, she leaves you with a dose of that non-flying avian, judgemental bookseller ostrich.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bookish Outposts in Cyberspace, Part II


Apprentice Writer's Magical Mystery Tour of cool bookish places to hang out in cyberspace, continued:

Number One Novels - this site is devoted exclusively to interviews of authors who have just published their debut novels. AW has a special love for debut novels, so the Gentle Reader can imagine her delight when she stumbled upon this outpost. The Gentle Reader can go on to imagine her even greater delight that each author interview involves a giveaway of the featured debut. Finally, the Gentle Reader can no doubt imagine AW's Canuck dissappointment to learn that the majority of these giveaways are for American readers only. This, however, does not stop her from visiting as she is addicted to "How I Sold My First Book" stories and loves reading about authorly background stuff.

A Piece of My Mind - this lovely, high-content site is the cyberhome of AW's online amiga Julia, devoted to art of all kinds. Julia's creative interests seem to know no bounds, and a visit may result in education or opinions on paintings, novel-writing, poetry, music,dance, cinema, etc. etc. Though AW's family is most excellent in its own way, Julia's family has long caused AW to plot (so far, unsuccessfully) as to how she might get herself adopted into a Maritime family because, Holy inspirational Atlantic sea spray, Batman, ALL of Julia's relatives possess creativity of some type or another. (Not kidding. Every. Single. One). Though AW may not share Julia's views on, say, all musicians featured, or fully comprehend the symbolism of every line of poetry posted, she does look forward to having her spirits lifted each time she ventures to this site.

Popcorn & Chainmail
- this excellently funny site devotes itself to affectionate snark of historical movies, conducted by cinemaphiles who have the background necessary to spot historical inaccuracy at a hundred paces. The Gentle Reader may question why AW includes this site on a list of so-called bookish outposts, to which AW would say, "Hey, I said BookISH, didn't I? And lots of those movies were based on books. Sort of. I think." She would also go on to add, "They haven't posted in a while, so rush over before the site goes dark!"
AW remembered it recently while watching "Kingdom of Heaven" (which she really liked, by the way, flaws and all) and recollected how she'd giggled at what the sporkers (they call what they do sporking a movie) had to say.

More site tours to come.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bookish Outposts in Cyberspace: Part I


Where, the Gentle Reader may wonder, does Apprentice Writer go in the Blogiverse when she isn't here at home?

To various bookish landing spots, some well-known and some deserving a wider audience. In no specific order:

Dear Author - this reader-oriented site (as opposed to author- or publisher-oriented) was begun by Jane Litte, a reader whose training is in law. As a result some of the most interesting discussions at the site involve legal interpretation on developments in the publishing industry or legitimacy of various threats made in the kerfuffle du jour. The site is devoted mostly to genre fiction (heavily of the romance persuasion including any and all subgenres), but from that single blogger beginning it has grown to multiple reviewers of widely differing tastes. Authors comment frequently in the threads, there are many guest posts, and publishers regularly hold impressive giveaways. Jane and Sarah of 'Smart Bitches, Trashy Books' also collaborate on all sorts of bookish ventures - the annual DABWAHA tournament (AW will let you google that on your own), commentary in various conferences and workshop panels, and who knows what else. You never know what you find when you visit Dear Author, but it is interesting enough frequently enough that AW keeps checking in.

S. Krishna's Books
- this single reader site records the thoughts of Swapna, reader extraordinaire. Every time AW, who considers herself a fairly heavy reader, visits she is staggered by Swapna's readerly output (or perhaps consumption is the better word), mostly in literary fiction with some memoir, women's fiction, and mystery sprinkled in. This could perhaps be rationalized by supposing that Swapna does nothing else but read, however she is also a student and has a spouse, who presumably needs some attention now and again. As if that weren't enough, she looks stunning. AW has tried to hold all of this against her but fails miserably due to curiosity about thoughts on the titles AW is thinking about checking out, and Swapna's special interest in multicultural authors.

A Life With Books - this single reader site talks about daily life and bookish topics in roughly equal measure. Since both kinds of posts, and the ones that mix it all up, are entertaining and laidback, AW enjoys her visits. Jenners has a laid-back yet thoughtful style, an easy-to-read five point book review system, and has a talent of picking up on fun memes from the blogosphere.

More sites to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Free Ebook



Readers of this space may recall that Apprentice Writer reviewed historical fiction author Ciji Ware's novel "Island of the Swans".

Ms. Ware has just released a new novel, A Race to Splendour, with another lovely cover. The premise sounds intriguing, being set in San Francisco with a female architect trying to rebuild a landmark building destroyed by earthquake. From April 5-11 the ebook is priced for 4.99 U.S. at a slew of ebook retailers.

To celebrate the new novel, Sourcebooks is offering a previous novel, Cottage by the Sea, for free through the same eretailers, April 5-11.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Health Promotion


Who says real estate can't have feelings?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Non-Laughter Review: MODERN FANTASY




Readers of this space know that Apprentice Writer struggled previously with Urban Fantasy burnout. It was taking more and more innovation and stellar writing on the part of the authors to elicit reaction from her, and it gradually dawned on her that it was, perhaps, a little unfair to keep holding novels up to ever-escalating expectations when really, what she needed was a break.

Return to epic fantasy, in the form of the second-to-last volume of the 'Wheel of Time' megaseries, didn't do the trick either.

Paranormal, often considered to appeal to a similar type of demographic as UF, has never really worked for AW. The shapeshifting, blood-sucking, demonic storyliness somehow never quite hold her attention.

AW really liked Ilona Andrews pioneering 'rural fantasy' novels, but those are far and few between and so far other authors don't seem to be leaping into the new subgenre.

What is a voracious reader with taste for well-written fantastical worlds to do? By this point, AW was growing a little desperate.

Then: Rescue! Three books, each very different from the others, very different from classic urban/epic/paranormal, that she all adored. AW thinks of these novels (and hopefully, the many more that will ride in on what she dearly wishes will be a wave) as Modern Fantasy.

1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance Trilogy, Book 1)
2. The Broken Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Inheritance Trilogy, Book 2)
3. Indigo Springs, A.M. Dellamonica (Book 1 in series of unknown length)


Premise:
1. Orphaned offspring of renegade branch of the royal family is summoned to palace hanging in the sky and tossed into a battle of succession in a world balanced on a knife edge between enslaved gods and humans branded into strict social classes.

2. Blind artist rescues an injured, homeless man and is unwittingly caught up between jostling factions of godlings and an uprising of humans against gods in the Tree of Life on the planet beneath the Skypalace of Book 1.

3. Recently bereaved young woman inherits a house and slowly learns of the magical powers conveyed by the springs below, with catastrophic results.


Cover:
1. Title - Intriguing and apt for content. Art - Beautiful, indicative on content, AW was amused by inclusion of streaming hair of her favorite character in the story. Amused because the way it's streaming here is technically impossible unless underwater, yet in in this character's case is correctly depicted - and how this reminds her of the many romance covers that have been snarked because of hair blowing wildly in one way from the heroine's scalp while blowing in the other from hero's scalp, etc.

2. Title - relates well to title of Book 1, apt for content. Art - the tree of life is accurate for content, but the searchlight eyes creeped AW out. Not a cover she would habe been attracted to on its own.

3. Title - Simple (which is always good) and perfectly accurate for content. Art - gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. AW doesn't know why the 'corrugated' effect was added but for some strange reason it works.


What Works:

For all three books the strengths are the same: Beautiful writing. Superb, creative world-building. Intriguing, sympathetic protagist. Memorable secondary characters. And the best bit: unpredictability.

Which all leads up to AW salivating as she waits for the next books in each series.


What Doesn't:

This is a subjective matter, because the two aspects that might not work for some readers (judging by selective Goodreads comments) both actually worked really well for AW.

One was first person voice. AW thought it worked well it was well-suited to the subject matter and let the reader react like the protagonist when shocking things happened.

Another was the at times non-linear writing style. In the case of Jemisin, this took the form of occasional short paragraphs, usually at the start of a new chapter, wherein the protagonist appears to be talking to herself from a point in time after the story. AW will admit that it takes a bit of mental sorting out to adjust to this occasional gear changes, but she did not find them excessive or incomprehensible

In the case of Dellamonica it took the form of the story starting out in the 'head' of a secondary character, who interviews the protagonist after the bulk of the story events have taken place. This is tricky to assimilate on three levels: it is not the protagonist, it is a later point in time, and the protagonist is shown in an odd light. But once these first pages are dealt with, the rest of the story flows free and clear (Heh. AW loves a good pun).

Why did the author put them in, then, the Gentle Reader may ask? AW has to date not perfected the art of reading authorly minds. She will however speculate that the author may, at some point in time, have begun her story in the more conventional manner - that is, at the beginning, in the protagonist's 'regular' life, before anything especially unusual happened - and received feedback that this was not enough of a hook to keep readers interested in this short-attenion span age. Presto - the story starts with such blazingly spectacular events that even the most jaded reader would not be able to describe the setting as 'boring'.

Overall:

AW highly encourages her Gentle Readers to seek out these stories if they have not done so already, and then by all means let her reactions! Also, whether the Gentle Reader has any recommendations to round out her 'Modern Fantasy' list.

Next in Series:

For N.K. Jemisin: Book 3 in the 'Inheritance' Trilogy - 'Kingdom of the Gods'

For A.M. Dellamonica: Book 2 - "Blue Magic"

/m

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