Archive for February, 2009

I know you’ve seen this on facebook.

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.
1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally your total read at the bottom.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X+
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien *
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontex X+
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling X+++ (what?)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee *
6 The Bible * (I haven’t read all the way through the Old Testament, so I really can’t count that, I guess)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott X+
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare * (oh yes I will.)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier * (if only to understand the Danver Clones in Thursday Next)
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien X+
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger * (EVERYONE says this is amazing).
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot X+ (I love the main character so much)
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell X+
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald X (ugh)
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens *
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy *
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams *
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky X+ (I heart Dostoevsky. I really do.)
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll X+
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame *
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy *
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens *
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis X+ (well, at least I really love the first few. It’s all about the Pevensies.)
34 Emma – Jane Austen X+
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen X+++
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X+ (this is double-counted, children.)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne X+
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez * (maybe?)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving * (maybe?)
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery X+
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy X+++
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood * (maybe?)
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan * (maybe?)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (I thought so, but everyone keeps saying it’s dull as death)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen X++
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens X+++ (“A life you love.” Gah.)
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck * (maybe?)
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas *
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy *
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville * (but really only in a vague ‘I want to read all the classics someday’ kind of way)
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens * (ditto)
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett X+
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce *
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola * (maybe?)
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray * (maybe?)
80 Possession – AS Byatt * (If it’s anything like the movie? Heck yes.)
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens X (at least I’m 99% sure we read the whole thing)
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle *
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad X (UGH.)
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery X (Also ugh)
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas *
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare X+
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl *
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo *

31!  Not bad.  Not mind-blowing, but definitely more than six.  Half of those I’ve read more than once, too. *cough*Harry Potter*cough*   I really would like to read all of Shakespeare someday.  And all of Hardy, Dostoevsky, Dickens… what can I say?  I don’t think I’ll ever be done reading.  My most impressive add ons that aren’t on here: Paradise Lost by John Milton and Troilus & Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer.  Looks like I still have a lot to add on to my list, though!

And I can’t end this post without giving a shout-out to my friend Isabelle Santiago, who besides having a fantastic new ebook called Surfacing out right now, also just welcomed her very first bundle of joy into the world on Thursday, a healthy little baby boy.  Congrats Isabelle!

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Soundtrack to a life story.


If you’ve ever talked to me about writing, then you know that I’m a big advocate of the story soundtrack.  It’s one of the first things I do when I’m trying to get my head into a story, developing the characters and the world.  Some songs are so tied to stories and characters in my head that I can’t listen to them without being momentarily transported into a certain scene, or feeling that a character has.

You get a little dependent on these soundtracks, so, when you transfer to a new computer and suddenly your playlists don’t work anymore… well, things get a little messy.  And guess where I am.

So at the moment I’m trying to reconstruct the soundtrack to my main project at the moment, a sort of Young Adult fairytale fantasy.  A soundtrack that had nearly a hundred songs on it.

But on the positive side of things, this is giving me the chance to not only re-evaluate the music I’ve selected for this novel (a lot of Badly Drawn Boy, Nickel Creek, Feist, stuff that brings open countrysides and beautiful expanses to mind), meaning I get to throw out the duds that didn’t really fit the story, the ones I’ve left on out of laziness, but it also means I get to add some fresh new things into the mix, new stuff, like Vienna Teng, who I’ve recently fallen completely in love with.

This song, in particular, just crystallizes everything my main character is.

Vienna Teng, “The Tower” (or listen to it at

I need not to need
I’ve always been the tower
But now I feel like I’m the flower trying to bloom in snow


I love that last line above especially, because I think that’s just where my character is.  She’s very used to having to be strong and seperate, but when major events and uncovered secrets change everything for her, she not only has to learn how to depend on others, but she really steps into her own for the first time, definitely “trying to bloom,” because there’s that yearning there, too.  Just a perfect song.

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Book # 5 – Persuasion by Jane Austen

emth_persuasion14_1617_57My favorite Austen.  I don’t think I can deny that now, after the third time reading the novel.  When I was assigned Austen novels in school, this is the only one I ever finished by the due date—and that I did twice.  Now reading it on my own, though, I enjoyed it more than ever.

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been slowly working my way through Jane Austen, along and around other novels in between, going in mostly chronological order.  My only deviation is that I’m reading this before Emma, rather than the other way around—though I don’t remember why now.

While I love all of Austen’s completed novels, I can’t deny that I find Persuasion to be the fullest reading experience of the six, and the most satisfying read overall.  We are more in the main character’s head than ever before, and further from Austen’s authorial commentary, and at the same time, I have to think that Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are Austen’s best-matched pair, simply for each of them knowing so thoroughly that the other is so well-made for them.  I also really enjoy the happy portrayals of marriage that Austen includes in this—the Crofts and the elder Musgroves—which are so rare in her other novels.

It’s also much subtler in the social commentary, also.  Of course Anne’s father and sister are ridiculous characters, but the only character who we can assume to truly scorn them—Anne herself is too good and loyal—is Captain Wentworth, and if the reader weren’t as priveleged to Anne’s knowledge of his looks as we are, we might not even know it.  Elizabeth and Sir Walter are, so far as Austen canon goes, let off pretty easily for their pride and vain ways.  They aren’t glorified by any means, but at the same time they don’t end the novel in any worse shape than they begin it, and they may be considered to improve (very slightly) in their opinion of Captain Wentworth’s worth.

The love story is just unbeatable, though.  Something that I suppose anyone who’s ever “let one get away” is half hopeful is possible.  Thomas Hardy has a number of poems about two people who love each other but let their paths go different ways, and either Time (who is generally capitalized and personified in Hardy poems) has taught them to be different people, or they’ve traveled the same amount of time but end up out of step with each other, and that’s what probably happens in life nine out of ten times, people grow up and realize that what they think they wanted once isn’t really what they need, or what’s best for them.

Anne and Wentworth know have a perfect understanding of each other in the first place, though, and when they meet again, it is only meekness on Anne’s part and pride on the Captain’s that keep them from coming together sooner than they do.  I don’t want to spoil the story for those of you who haven’t read it (in which case, get thee to a library—or even but if you’re still not convinced, just check out last year’s Masterpiece Theater version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones (pictured above), you won’t be sorry.  Even die-hard Darcy fans just might find themselves falling for a new Austen man.

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Mini Hiatus?

I found out yesterday that I’m heading to Texas—today.  It’s a family business thing, nothing to worry about, but it means that more likely than not, for the brief moments I’m not on the road (oh yes, we’re driving!) I’ll be in tiny not-so-wirelessly adept hotels, and probably too tired to get online and make a proper post anyhow!

I should be back on Monday, just in time to update Wren & Marnie – Speaking of, Marnie’s got a drive ahead of her today, too!  Funny how that happens. 😉

See you soon!

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Wren & Marnie

Lauren “Wren” Sterling and Marnie Jacoby have grown up together.  They’ve been through it all – growing pains, family problems, gaining and losing friends, fighting over boys (though they deny that) and various jealousies (though they’d rather not acknowledge them).  They’ve been through thick and thin and survived it all.  But can their friendship survive college?  Seperate colleges?  When neither one of them are particularly adept at technology, and are morally opposed to things like Facebook?

Can the distance bring them closer together, or will it just tear them apart?


So, I’ve mentioned, I’ve linked, but I haven’t really talked about Wren and Marnie yet, or their Guide to World Domination.

Wren and Marnie are really, for lack of a better term, an experiment.  An experiment I have to admit I’m really enjoying.  It’s a free read, but instead of a .pdf file for you to read all in one gulp and be done with, it’s actually an on-going thing, updated on Mondays (by Wren) and Wednesdays (by Marnie).  It’s my own little foray into the small and innocuous world of Blog Fiction.

Why do it this way?  Because really I think blog fiction is fascinating.  It’s almost the hybrid offspring of orignial writing and fanfiction—something I admit to knowing more than a little bit about.  Don’t try and hide from it, fanfiction is just a part of the culture these days, and the idea of turning an already-established story into something original is as old as Shakespeare or Pushkin (who are both guilty) and even older!  But the thing that makes today’s fanfiction so interesting, in that people are studying it and writing dissertations about it, etc, is that the stories themselves are entrenched in this community atmosphere that connects the author and reader directly.  In the case of serial works, posted part by part, readers’ comments can even help to shape where the story might be going, because the internet makes it possible to give the author direct “feedback” immediately after reading, so instead of hearing a distant, well-formed review of a work as a whole, readers give to-the-point responses, usually full of emotional reaction.

Blog fiction makes that sort of  interaction possible in a non-fanfic environment, and interestingly, even goes a step further.  Because blog ficiton is basically a normal blog being “written” by a fictional person, readers can, in the comments, interact with the characters themselves—because the characters run the blogs, not the authors, or at least that’s the illusion meant to be created.

Blog fiction itself is such a new format that it’s in its own experimental phase.  Anything and everything goes, pretty much, and that’s really part of why I’m so interested in being a part of the development of this genre.  Wren & Marnie’s Guide to World Domination is my own contribution to this growing medium.  As you can probably guess from the title, this fictional blog is actually being written by two seperate fictional characters, in a more or less epistolary format.

It’s really a very simple concept – two girls dealing with the pressures of college, and the (sometimes scary) freedom of being away from everything and everyone they grew up knowing.  They both want to keep their friendship alive, but it’s difficult, because through this shared blog and each other’s letters, they’ll come to realize that they are two very, very different people.

Wren is type-A personality, studying Classical Theater and Dance at the prestigious Raeburn Institute in Montecito, California, with a minor in World Literature.  Back in high school she was a big fish in a small pond, best at everything, valedictorian, etc, etc.  Here at Raeburn she’s nothing special, though.  She’s finally in the company of the equals she’s always wanted—but can she stand to be little more than a face in a crowd?  She’s working harder than ever to get ahead, but at a high cost, maybe too high.

Marnie hasn’t been able to keep up with Wren academically since high school, at least.  And she’s okay with that, or she’s decided to be.  Her higher education is quite a different thing, too.  Marnie is going to Brenton College in Seattle, Washington.  Brenton is a small, out-of-the-ordinary liberal arts college, with a focus on creative learning and the production of art and literature, where the students have as much say in the curriculum as the professors, and even organize and teach some of the classes themselves.  Competition isn’t really a part of the package.  Much of it Wren can hardly comprehend. Marnie’s schedule is much more open and flexible than Wren’s, also, which is just as she would have it to be.

Similar interests growing up have led Wren and Marnie to become two very different individuals with very different lives.  Now the question is – can they look past their differences and still be the friends to each other that they each secretly—desperately—need?

And the wonderful thing is, I don’t know any better than you how this will turn out.  And neither do Wren or Marnie.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Surfacing – Available February 10th

Surfacing by Isabelle Santiago, available February 1oth exclusively at Freya’s Bower.

Paige Jacobs lives the perfect life with her fiancé, Ryan, but the memory–or fantasy–of a gorgeous boy with silver eyes consumes her. Her sister Aimee, the only one who knows the dangerous secrets of her past, refuses to talk about them.

Feeling very much alone and obsessing over the haunting memories, Paige decides to write a book in hope of finally dispelling the precious memories so she can move on. Every chapter she writes brings her closer to the boy she’d loved so much in her youth. Then one morning in a coffee shop, she encounters a man with silver eyes.

Has she crossed the line between reality and fantasy?


I’m so excited to see Surfacing being made available to the public.  Isabelle is a very good friend of mine and I’ve known and loved this story for quite some time now.  The thing that really draws me to it again and again is the fact that Paige doesn’t really have that bad of a life in the first place – she has a great supportive friend in her sister Aimee, and a loving and wonderful fiancé.  But… what if there’s something more?  What if instead of having a really good life, she can have a fantastic one?  Instead of having a good man by her side, she can have something more than that—a soulmate?  And then if she could have that kind of life again, could she even justify wanting it when it could hurt so many other people?  Is she just fooling herself in the first place?

Paige has some difficult, heart-rending decisions to make here, and traveling with her on this journey can be a bumpy road—but one I would never miss.  Keep the kleenex handy, though… you’re going to need it.

ETA:  Isabelle has a sneak peek of the book up on her blog right now!  Get thee hence!  You won’t regret it!

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Thursday Next: First Among Sequels

How do I love Mr. Fforde’s work?  Let me count the ways.  1) Bibliophilia geekery at it’s very, very best.  You know that this man loves books, and not only loves them, but knows them, inside and out!   2) A fantastic knowledge of his own canon – which repeats and doubles over on itself and is full of time-traveling characters, so that’s quite an accomplishment!  3) Equal aptitude at dealing with the fast-paced action sequences as he is at writing the sweet, quieter home moments.  4) Long and patient build-up to obvious and yet well-deserved jokes. 5) Long and patient build-up to brilliant and not-so-obvious plot twists!  6) The ability to believably mimic the voices of dozens and dozens of well-loved literature characters.  7)  An ever-expanding mythology explaining how books are made.  Not on this side of the page – but inside the books themselves!  8) A main character that never gets tiring or facetious.  9) The gumption to stretch the limits on what can be considered story just about any which way he likes – Jasper Fforde can do anything he wants to do in fiction – and he probably will.

This is maybe not my favorite in the Thursday Next series—I’d say Jasper will have trouble topping Hamlet walking around in England in Something Rotten, in my book, but I’m not about to limit him to anything.  Parts of this are slow so far as plot goes, but we continue to see how very in-depth Fforde’s layout of the Book World is in his mind.  He’s mechanically minded enough to make things like Imaginotransference devices sound like they really do work – and silly enough to admit that Textual Sieves are universally useful simply because they’re never fully explained, and thus can be used for anything.

What I really enjoyed about this one, though, was Thursday’s family environment, especially any interraction we got to see with her children—it’s one of my favorite aspects of Fforde’s Nursery Crime series, also, he simply has a fantastic knack for capturing family dynamics.

This ends with a fantastic cliffhanger, also, one that leads back to things that began even in the second novel.  Fforde has this way of looking back at his own stories and twisting the innuendos of small details to bring them into a new and current problem for Thursday, which I think is utterly brilliant.

While this may not be my very favorite of his canon, it continues to prove to me that anything Fforde writes is worth reading.  The reader always feels a bit like they’re part of an inside joke reading his novels, and a brilliantly convoluted one, at that.  Reading Fforde’s work is like reading a friend’s writing, it’s that much better because you know just how much they enjoyed writing it, too.

So highly recommend this one, and if you haven’t read the Thursday Next series yet, shame on you!  Go on and start at the beginning, with The Eyre Affair, where Thursday has to save Jane Eyre from being kidnapped right out of her own book.  Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting waiting impatiently for Fforde’s next novel – and the start of a brand new series, Shades of Grey.

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The City of Ember

Book #3 of 2009 was an odd little tale called The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau.  This was a Christmas gift from a friend of mine, and I admit, this was a book I judged entirely by its cover.  I thought it was pretty, and I wanted it.  Maybe not the best criteria for wanting a book, but it didn’t really stop me.

I can’t say this was the best book I’ve ever read.  There are a few things about it that I just frankly didn’t understand, but to tell them to you would spoil some things, so I won’t.  But maybe that’s only because I’ve only read this one?  There are at least, I believe, four novels in the series.  I didn’t even realize, really, that it was also made into a film just last year—somehow I missed that entirely.

That said… this book has some very interesting concepts in it, and a couple of fantastic characters, to boot.  I especially liked the main character’s baby sister, Poppy.  One of my literature professors once pointed out (in a William Carlos Williams class—see White Mule) that writing about babies and small animals is both very difficult and very rare to find well done, and I thought Poppy was just a wonderful portrayal of a toddler.  She was almost the most believable character in the whole novel.  Not that her sister Lina and Lina’s friend Doon weren’t believable, but occasionally there was a bit of a cartoonish feel to the novel.  As I read, I was actually constantly going back and forth between imagining these characters as real people and as some sort of animated movie, which I don’t think has ever happened to me before, as a reader.  It was actually very interesting, and I don’t know quite what caused it.  Some of the background characters—especially the not-so-nice ones—are a bit Roald Dahl-ish, though, so maybe that’s a good part of it.

I’m kind of interested in how this book has had so much buzz and non-buzz about it.  Everyone seems to have heard of it, or at least seen it, but almost no one really knows what it’s really about, or maybe that’s just my experience with it.  I really do think that this has a lot to do with it’s lovely cover.  The whole series has really lovely covers, actually.  Maybe you’re not supposed to judge a book by how it’s packaged… but it sure does have some draw over us, doesn’t it?

P.S.  Wren & Marnie updated – I know they blog late at night… but hey, they’re in college, that’s just how it works.

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