Archive for March, 2010

Finding Deeper Meaning: The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs

Last week’s episode of South Park, entitled “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”, while outrageous and hysterical as usual, got me thinking about metaphors and finding deeper meaning in books. 

The boys were assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye in class and were told beforehand that it had offensive material that had gotten it banned from schools across the country.  Naturally that piques their interest and they race through the pages, waiting for the alleged offensive parts (aka the good stuff) which never come.  Incensed that they’d been tricked into reading an entire book and baffled as to why it was considered offensive, they decide to write their own book.  One that would be so outrageously offensive that it would be banned in a heartbeat. 

So they set out to write The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs – the most disgusting, revolting, twisted, and generally effed up piece of writing ever created.  Their parents get their hands on the manuscript and despite only being able to get through a few words at a time before projectile vomiting, they think it’s brilliant and the book is quickly published and sells millions of copies. 

The best part was how everyone interpreted the book and sought some deep meaning out of all the gratuitous vulgarity and obscenities.  It’s pro-life!  No, it’s clearly pro-choice!  It draws attention to the plight of the lower class (represented by Sarah Jessica Parker)!  Meanwhile, the boys are shocked and appalled that not only was their trashy book not banned like they’d intended, it’s being lauded as a masterpiece and the work of a genius (and since they were quick to blame Butters for writing the book to avoid getting into trouble, they’re getting none of the credit).  They go on a campaign against the book, trying – and failing miserably – to make people realize that there is no deep meaning behind the disgusting words. 

People will see what they want to see I guess. 

The episode was hilarious and it made me think about my reading habits.  I realized that I don’t tend to look for hidden themes or messages when I read.  Unless the entire book is a glaringly obvious metaphor, like Animal Farm, I generally don’t think about what certain characters represent or whether different events address any political ideologies or global themes like war and poverty.  I tend to call a spade a spade.  When I read it’s more about connecting to the characters and their stories emotionally.

Am I missing out by overlooking big-picture themes and sweeping metaphors?  Maybe.  But I’m also willing to bet that nine times out of ten the messages and themes a reader picks up were totally unintended by the author. 

What kind of reader are you?  Do you look for deeper meaning in the pages?  

Did you catch the episode of South Park?  If not, watch it here (warning: uncensored)!

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Author Q&A and Giveaway with Maria V. Snyder

Today I’m very excited to have Maria V. Snyder, author of the award-winning Study and Glass series, with us today to answer some questions and host a giveaway of her new book, Inside Out, which hits the shelves today!

Maria, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.  And without further ado…

Jamye – Yelena and Valek are wonderful characters.  Do they feel like old friends by now?  Many writers say that they’re emotionally invested in their characters.  Does it upset you when you have to throw obstacles in their way for the sake of the story?

Maria – They are old friends and I think of them often 🙂  It doesn’t upset me to make their lives difficult – otherwise there wouldn’t be conflict and we’d all be bored.  Sometimes when they need to make a hard decision, I struggle with them and am upset with them, but I don’t feel bad for putting them in that situation.

Jamye – Have you ever considered writing a prequel to Poison Study, maybe from Valek or Commander Ambrose’s point of view?  I would love to read more about the start of their friendship and the creation of Ixia under his regime.

Maria – Yes I have!  I would like to write about the Commander and Valek before the take-over.  I would think the story would be from both of their point of views, alternating chapters.  I just don’t know when a book like that will fit into my schedule 🙂

Jamye – Your book covers are gorgeous!  After the title, the cover was what first made me interested in checking out Poison Study.  Did you have any say in what they looked like?  Happy with how they turned out? 

Maria – I don’t have a lot of say in the covers.  I fill out an art fact sheet for my publisher’s art department and that’s it.  Sometimes they ask my opinion.  Like for Inside Out – in an early draft of the cover, the girl wasn’t looking straight at the reader, but off to the side.  I didn’t like that and mentioned it to my editor.  She sent me a bunch of photos of the model looking straight and I picked the one I liked and they used that!  Otherwise, I haven’t had much input, but I’ve been very happy with all my covers.  They are gorgeous!

Jamye – You took some glass blowing classes in preparation for Fire Study and your Glass series.  Have you done any other research for your books?  Do you enjoy it? 

Maria – Yes, I do research for all my books.  Hands on research is my favorite – it helps me to translate an experience–the sights, smells, feelings, and how things taste or what they feel like–for the reader.  If I experience it myself, then I can draw a better picture for the reader. Some of the research I’ve done is learned how to ride a horse, learned how to taste food, and recently I spent a day at a maximum security prison for Spy Glass.

Jamye – Did you work out the plot for all the books in your Study and Glass series ahead of time or take it one book at a time?

Maria – One book at a time 🙂  I’m a pantser (a seat of the pants writer) and get myself into all kinds of trouble.  But I think that helps with keeping the writing fresh and in surprising the readers 🙂

Jamye – You got your degree in Meteorology and decided it wasn’t for you.  Was it then that you discovered writing or had it been a longtime passion?

Maria – It was when I was bored in work that I discovered writing.  I hadn’t written any fiction before, but I always had a good imagination and use to daydream a lot!  My family was so shocked I started writing.  Before, I avoided it.

Jamye – You recently did a mini book tour in the UK.  How did it go?  Do you enjoy the promoting side of being an author?  Do you ever get nervous at book signings?

Maria – I had a wonderful time in the UK!  It went well and I wrote all about my trip on my website and included some pictures.  You can read all about it at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/UK.php   I do enjoy promoting my books and I love hanging out with my readers – they’re so fun!  I don’t get nervous at book signings, but I sometimes get nervous before a presentation.  When I was invited to the Library of Congress to do a talk, I about died!  It was so intimidating!  But it went well and I’ve been back 3 more times and now I’m not so nervous 🙂

Jamye – If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?  Is there anything about the business that surprised you when you were starting out?

Maria – Persistence is my biggest advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!

I also have a whole web page of writing advice on my website – aspiring authors are welcome to go to the page at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php.

Jamye – What was your most challenging writing moment?  Most triumphant?

Maria – I’d have to say writing Spy Glass was the most difficult book to do and encompasses all my most challenging writing moments!  Nothing about that book came easily and I don’t know why.  As for the most triumphant, is when I write my two favorite words: The End 🙂  Finishing a book is always a triumph, and I celebrate for a few days before starting revisions.

Jamye – Your new book, Inside Out, is being released today by Harlequin Teen.  Can you tell us a little about it?

Maria – Inside Out is about Trella. Trella lives in Inside, and she has a very jaded and hard view of her metal world. Along with thousands of other “scrubs” who live in the lower levels, she cleans the pipes and ducts that crisscross her world and keep them all alive.

In order to escape the noise and presence of so many scrubs, Trella prefers to be by herself in the ductwork. She has explored almost every region of Inside and has the ability to go to any level without being detected by the Pop Cops (Population Control Police). Because of her expertise, she is recruited by a prophet to seek a gateway to Outside. As she searches for the gateway, she’s pursued by Pop Cops, and upper level workers (those who control the government and mechanical systems), but she’s also aided by a few unlikely sources which make her realize she’s been a little too critical of her world.

Jamye – How different is it to write a Young Adult book?  Do you find that you change your style significantly or is it just the content that changes?

Maria – I wrote the book the same as all my others.  The only difference is Inside Out is shorter.  The interesting thing about my books is they appeal to all ages.  I’ve had emails from readers as young as 9 years old and as old as 81 years old. I wrote with adults in mind at first, but when my niece read Poison Study in one weekend (she was 14 at the time and before I found a publisher), I realized that maybe young adults would enjoy my stories as well.

Jamye – So what’s next for you?  Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about?

Maria – After Inside Out is published, Spy Glass will be coming out in September 2010.  I just finished revisions on Spy Glass and am going to start Outside In, which is a sequel to Inside Out.  After that…I don’t know. I have a few book proposals to send to my editor and we’ll see what she likes 🙂 

*         *         *

Be sure to check out the website for Inside Out, www.whatsinsideout.com, to read the first three chapters, take a personality quiz, and other fun goodies!

Just leave a comment to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of the book (U.S. and Canada only please)!  The contest will end April 6th so make sure to check back to find out if you’re the lucky winner. 

In the meantime, here’s the book trailer.  Enjoy!

Musing Mondays – March 29th

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about multitasking.

Do you – or are you even able – to do other things while you read? Do you knit, hold a conversation, keep an eye on the TV? Anything?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.

Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page…

I’m pretty decent at multi-tasking in general, but honestly I can’t do much else while reading.  I can munch on a snack or sip coffee (which is much easier to do now that I have my Nook), but I get distracted so easily it’s hard for me to keep my head in the story with too many other things going on in the background.  If I’m really engrossed in the book I can usually read on the couch while my husband has the TV on, but that’s pretty much the extent of my reading multi-tasking.  And I’m not sure that even counts since I’m not watching the show as well.  Although I do take the opportunity to read a few pages during commercials if we’re watching something live.  Sometimes I can have music on in the background but I’ll usually start paying attention to the lyrics and it snaps me back to reality.  

Yesterday I spent a couple hours reading on the beach (which was fantastic!) but even that proved to be too much of a distraction at times.  The temptation to people-watch or just stare at the waves crashing on the rocks, dogs and kids running by, locals complaining about the growing sea lion population, trying to figure out why one girl was posing by the water a la Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition while her mom (I’m guessing, anyway) snapped pictures of her.  You know, a typical day at the beach.  While all this was going on I only read a few pages at a time before taking a break to splash in the water to cool off or survey my surroundings.  

What’s your answer?

Blog Award!

This is long overdue but many thanks to Jody and Rae at With a Good Book for passing along the Blog Monster Award to me!

The Blog Monster award was created by Eleni at La Femme Reader:

It signifies all the bloggers out there who constantly work hard to keep an updated and insightful website. They aren’t afraid to take a bite with their honest reviews and enjoyable content. You amaze me, you inspire me so I call you a blog monster.

I’m so thrilled and it’s my pleasure to pass the award on to these fantastic bloggers:

Alayne at The Crowded Leaf

Nick at Lions and Men

Greg at The New Dork Review of Books

Lori at Escape Between the Pages

Angela at Reading Angel

Happy reading and writing!

BTT: Break

btt button

Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (And, by breaks, I don’t mean sleeping, eating and going to work; I mean putting it aside for a time while you read something else.)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

My initial reaction to this question was, No way do I do that!  But after some consideration, I realized that I have taken breaks while reading books in the past and in fact I’m doing it right now. 

I started two books on writing not long ago – Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and The Constant Art of Being a Writer by N.M. Kelby – and while I didn’t consciously decide to take a break from them, I realized that I haven’t finished either one yet and have moved on to other books.  I fully intend to finish both of these at some point (although I think the Bradbury book ran away from me and is hiding somewhere in the living room).

A few Anne Rice books also came to mind when I was pondering this question.  One, Violin, I picked up and finished last year after taking a break from it that lasted probably about nine years, since I bought the first edition hardcover (needless to say I had to start it from the beginning.  The cobwebs covering my memories of that book were way too thick to bother with).  The other two, The Feast of All Saints (which I’ve actually taken two breaks from) and Cry To Heaven, I started over ten years ago and never got around to finishing.  I guess it remains to be seen whether I’m on a break from them too or if they’re just going to be lumped into the small category of books I never finished, which I promise is rare for me.

Aside from those few embarrassing exceptions, I typically read books straight through without taking any breaks, even when I’m reading multiple books at once. 

What about you?

Series Amnesia and Other Thoughts

I don’t have any reviews to post so far this week so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the three books I’m currently reading.

An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon

This is the 7th book in the Outlander saga and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it after it waited patiently in my TBR pile since Christmas.  I’m almost halfway through it and so far so good.  The beginning was a bit frustrating because I couldn’t remember what happened at the end of the last book and I was struggling to recall who a few characters were (yes, even major characters like Fergus!).  It was quite distracting, to say the least.  In my defense it’s been a couple years since I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes so I was wracking my brain trying to remember why Roger and Brianna weren’t with Claire and Jamie anymore and why they’d left the plantation (or that Roger and Bree now had a daughter).  It kind of makes me wish I’d re-read the last one to refresh my memory, but again I would have encountered the same problem.  Eventually I want to read the whole series because the first two books are by far my favorite so maybe I’ll do that before the next one comes out (because undoubtedly it will take another couple of years to be released and I will have forgotten everything that happens in this book by then).

Once I got over my initial irritation at my lack of memory, I was able to ease into the story and get back in the swing of things on Fraser Ridge.  I found it to be a bit on the slow side in the beginning, although there was some action (involving a certain character that of course had temporarily slipped my mind) that happened right off the bat.  Jamie still somehow manages to be the most charming, witty, badass, sweet, and stubborn man all at the same time.  Claire is..still Claire, quoting 20th century song lyrics and crying out “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  But you have to love the pair of them.  The story is told from various points of view and the only character I just can’t seem to connect with is William, Jamie’s bastard son (no really, he’s illegitimate) who’s serving in the British army.  I really want to like him, and it’s not that I don’t, I just find myself skimming rather quickly through his chapters waiting for something to happen.  I’m surprised by how much I’m getting into the parts with Roger and Bree and the bairns, adjusting to life in the 1980’s in Scotland and finding out letter by letter the fate of Claire and Jamie and the rest of the loved ones they left behind when they went through the stones.

I read a review on Amazon today about this book and learned that there isn’t really an ending so I’m sure I’ll be thoroughly annoyed when I finish the last page, but it’s still Outlander and I adore this series.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore

I’m only about 100 pages in so far but from the very first page (truthfully, from the author’s bio prior to the first page) I became a fan.  This is my first Moore experience and I know it’s early but I have a feeling I’m going to become a devout follower of the man’s work after this.  Just the extended title alone was enough to leave me guffawing like an idiot (The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  Seriously?  How can you not crack up at that?).  Not only is the narrative and dialogue witty and hilarious, but the subject matter really intrigues me.  I’m sure a lot of people would be offended by it, but it really is fascinating.  Think about childhood for a second, and how hard it can be.  Now imagine you’re the son of God.  Yikes, right?  Luckily Josh (from Joshua from Yeshua) has his good pal Levi (aka Biff) to watch his back (not to mention do all his sinning for him) while he tries to figure out his destiny and how to fulfill it.  And then there’s Raziel, the dim-witted angel who resurrected Biff 2,000 years after his death to force him to write his own Gospel by orders of the big man himself, who spends all hours of the day watching day-time dramas and believing they’re real (despite Biff’s best efforts to assure him that they’re the equivalent of a Greek drama) and that Soap Opera Digest must have been written by a prophet. 

I’m going to have some serious fun with this one.

Brighid’s Quest, by P.C. Cast 

I requested this one from NetGalley after the gorgeous cover caught my eye and I recognized the author’s name, having just read Marked (the first House of Night novel).  I hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed that there was an awful lot of back-story summing up and I thought to myself she probably should have written a book about these events if she was planning on mentioning them so often.  Then I found out that, in fact, she did.  It’s called Elphame’s Choice and it came out in September of last year.  Oops. 

The good news is, because of all the reminders of what happened in that book (and I’m not usually a fan of re-capping previous books in a series but it was just fine in this case, and I wish Diana Gabaldon would make use of it a little more) I’m up to speed with who all the characters are and the basic premise of the world and story.  I haven’t gotten very far yet but so far I’m getting reeled in and can’t wait to find out what happens next.  This is my first experience with a centaur as the main character, and I love the winged race of New Fomorians – a hybrid of humans and demons.  Hopefully I’ll make some good progress on this on over the weekend and have a review for you sometime next week.

Have you read any of these?  What’s your strategy on reading a new book in a series?  Re-read the previous book or just go for it and hope you don’t develop series amnesia?

50th Post Giveaway at the New Dork Review of Books

Congratulations to Greg at the New Dork Review of Books for his 50th post!  To celebrate he’s hosting a giveaway of A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.  Here’s a synopsis of the book from B&N.com:

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is foreverchanged.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise.

So head on over to enter for your chance to win!

Teaser Tuesdays: March 23rd

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week comes from page 38 of Lamb by Christopher Moore:

To Joshua he said, “Kid, were you born in a stable?  Wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger?”

Joshua said nothing.

“That’s the way his mom tells it,” I said.

“Is he retarded?”

“I think you’re his first angel.  He’s impressed, I think.”

Sorry for the extra long teaser again, but I figured it’s fair since it’s all dialogue.  😉  I just started this book tonight and am loving it!

Musing Mondays (March 22)

Musing Mondays2 Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about tbr books.

Where do you keep the books on the top of the tbr pile? Not the bunk of the mountain, but just the tip of the peak – the ‘almost up to’ books?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.  (Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page…)

I don’t really decide what books to read next until I’m ready to grab them from my TBR pile.  I just never really know what I’m going to be in the mood for and which genres I’ll want to mix together.  As a result, my TBR pile is all together and quite unmanageable. 

I bought a really beautiful Tibetan cabinet from World Market to house new books but it was completely full before I knew it.  Then after Christmas I brought home three bulging reusable grocery bags full of hardcovers and paperbacks that until last weekend were just sitting next to the cabinet waiting for their turn to go inside.  Unfortunately, instead of reading my TBR books and filing them in my bookshelves, I added to the piles instead – a gigantic stack was on top of the cabinet and a pile was accumulating on our bedroom floor just in the middle of the room.  Yeah I know, ridiculous. 

On Saturday, in an attempt to eradicate some of the clutter around the house, I moved all the homeless TBR books onto an end table in the living room, divided into several stacks.  It looks a little better I guess, but I’m definitely going to take this Musing Mondays opportunity to hopefully get some better ideas from everyone else’s answers.  I need help, people! 

Happy Monday!

The Book Blogger Hop!

This is a great new, weekly event hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books.  I just found out about it today from Dominique at Coffee Stained Pages.  Here’s what it’s all about:

This is a weekly event, hosted here, where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It’s a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  The rules are simple – Add your link to MckLinky below (using the new format posted above), POST ABOUT THE HOP ON YOUR BLOG, and start hopping around and visiting other links that are posted!  If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

I’m really excited to join in the fun!  I’m always looking for people to chat about books with and new blogs to follow, not only for new book and author recommendations, but for ideas and inspiration for my blog as well. 

So head over to Crazy For Books to sign up and join the hop!

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