October 19, 2010

Distractions of the World: Television

As most of what I do for school is read and write, I often want to do something different in order to relax. The laziest of these different things is to watch a television show. I'm rarely able to watch shows when they air, so I mostly hulu things.


Monday: Chuck

Chuck is full of cool spy action, funny characters, and geek culture. I love that the third season resolved the will-they-or-won't-they, since I find will-they-or-won't-they annoying.

Tuesday: Glee

I'm sure ya'll have heard of Glee, which is wildly inconsistent but still dear to me. It's high notes are high enough to keep me watching. I like that Glee allows it's characters to be nasty. No one - not even Will Schuester - is a designated saint.

Wednesday: Cougar Town

I started watching Cougar Town, even though it was awful, due to my loyalty to Busy Philipps. My loyalty was rewarded when it became a startling good ensemble show with incredible continuity and an actual plot, despite the sitcom set-up. No reset button here. Plus, there's an admirable dedication to Chekov's Gun. Expect any silly gag in the beginning to pay off by the end of the episode.

Thursday: The Vampire Diaries

This one isn't on hulu, you have to watch it at CW TV, which is one of the worst video experiences ever. All sorts of buffering issues, plus you have to watch a million ads which repeat. I once watched the same Nikita ad three times in a row. Another time The Vampire Diaries promo kept playing. I DIDN'T NEED TO BE TOLD TO WATCH THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. I WAS ACTIVELY WATCHING IT.

But it's worth it, because The Vampire Diaries is all that and a bag of chips. Attractive people who can act, fast-paced plot, continuity, and Ian Somerhalder not so much acting as ripping through the scenery with a backhoe. (His expressions are mesmerizing and strange.) The Vampire Diaries is another show that lets it's characters do bad things. Stefan, the sweet vegetarian love-interest vampire, is extremely pragmatic. Will-torture-and-kill-you-if-you-threaten-his-people pragmatic. I can dig.

Bonus: based on the classic YA series by L. J. Smith.


If you can't tell, I like funny, character-driven shows. If that's not your thing, you might not like these.

October 18, 2010

Distractions of the World: School Books

I thought that ya'll might like to know what I've been up to, since I clearly haven't been updating In Bed With Books much. First, here are books I'm currently reading for school:

Book Cover

HAMLET by William Shakespeare
(I am actually reading an anthology copy, but if I were to buy a separate text I would choose the Arden edition linked above.)

I've read HAMLET before, but rereading it brings back all the things I've forgotten. It's easy to remember the tragic elements, but I forgot how funny and sexy the play is. It isn't my favorite Shakespeare play - it's not even my favorite tragedy - but it is one of the most fun to subject to literary analysis. The puns! They multiply.

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ENGLISH, AUGUST: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee

I get to read all sorts of fun things for this class. This 1988 novel is about a Bengali stoner in the Indian Administrative Service who is extremely westernized. He speaks English better than any Indian language and listens to Chopin as often as Tagore. I'm not very far into the novel, but so far it's quite funny. I'm not sure it will defeat Vikram Seth's THE GOLDEN GATE as my favorite novel of the class, although it might be close.

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THE BOOK OF TEA by Okakura Kakuzo

Actually, I'm starting to read this one as soon as I finish this blog post. This 1906 book defends Japanese and Asian culture, published almost simultaneously with the beginning of the Japanese folk art and folk lore movements. These movements were part of the backlash against the Westernization of the Meiji period. THE BOOK OF TEA discusses the history, philosophy, and aesthetics of the Japanese tea ceremony and is available in the public domain.

October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day

Today (or tomorrow, if you live in the UK) is National Coming Out Day. That doesn't mean you have to come out today, if you're gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, or otherwise not-straight. But think about being public with your support of LGBTQ rights. The world has come a long way, but it is by no means equal. (Even the official site of National Coming Out Day doesn't mention asexuals. Asexual and bisexual invisibility in the LGBTQ community really needs to stop.)

For gay-themed book blogs, check out I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read? and Let's Get Beyond Tolerance. James of Book Chic Club is hosting a LGBT week. There's a lot more lit out there for LGBTQ teens than there used to be, but it can be hard finding it sometimes.

October 6, 2010

Interview with Jackie Morse Kessler

HUNGER is Jackie Morse Kessler's first young adult novel, although she is previously published as Jackie Kessler. (She writes the Hell on Earth and Icarus Project series.) She is a former fantasy editor and current mother and cat owner. She is currently traveling about the blogosphere with T2T Tours. Yesterday she stopped at The Book Cellar and tomorrow she'll be at Yan's Books by Their Cover.


1. In HUNGER, Lisabeth travels all over the world in order to do her job as Famine. How did you decide what locations she would visit?

JK: Great question! I picked Sydney (the place where she meets War) because I wanted a place far away from Lisa’s home but still where the people would be speaking English (if not American English). I knew that Egypt would also be a place Lisa visited because she’d recognize the pyramids and know where she was. But the other two places I picked after doing a Google search about modern-day famines. The place Lisa goes to when she seeks Death is based on the Indian state of Mizoram, when bamboo flowered there (as it does roughly every fifty years) and brought with it a plague of rats. The other place, where she goes after Cairo, is based on Haiti.
2. HUNGER does a good job of mixing an issue storyline with genre fiction. How did you keep a balance between the two?

JK: Writing HUNGER was less about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse than it was about Lisa’s anorexia. So I focused on the eating disorder and blended in the fantastical elements. I think the book is closer to magical realism than to urban fantasy. (Sometimes, I think we should just call it “fiction” and leave it at that!)

3. What are the differences between your writing for adults and your writing for teens?

JK: It didn’t really come into play in this book, as it does in the follow-up book RAGE, but a big difference is not having graphic sex scenes and a lot of profanity. (But that may be less about writing for teens versus adults and more about my first series for adults was about a demon of Lust.) That’s the reason why I have a slightly different byline for my YA books than I do for my adult books.
4. How did you research the Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Lisabeth's anorexia?

RageThe Horsemen research really comes down to the Book of Revelations, with a few different interpretations that I found online. I used this as a starting point, and then came up with my own reasons for the existence of Horsemen. I touch on those reasons in HUNGER and again in RAGE. (And the Horsemen make plenty of appearances in popular culture, from comic books to songs to television shows. And other books too! Have you read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s GOOD OMENS? Please do so!)

As for anorexia and bulimia, most of that was personal. I used to be bulimic, and it was (frighteningly) easy to channel that mindset when I wrote HUNGER. Some details about anorexia I found online, and I watched an episode of the A&E series Intervention that focused on anorexia.

I wish I could say that interacting with someone who looks and sings like Kurt Cobain was based on experience. Alas!

5. Your bio states that you've never read any Jane Austen, despite having an English degree. Being an English major myself, I know that there's always some part of the canon you haven't read. What classic do you regret not having read (yet)?

JK: No regrets. Just books to add to my to-be-read pile. :) I suppose the first one should be P&P!

6. Do you think you will continue to write YA after the Rider's Quartet is complete?

JK: I certainly hope so. I have two loosely connected YA story ideas percolating, as well as a middle-grade novel possibility. But at the moment, I’m concentrating on books 3 and 4 of the quartet. :)

Review: Hunger

By Jackie Morse Kessler
Available October 18 from Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Review copy
This review is part of a T2T Tour. My interview with Jackie will be posted later today.

Buy Hunger

Lisabeth Lewis sees herself as a healthy teenager girl. She doesn't eat junk food and she works out every day. But her former best friend Suzanne and boyfriend James don't see it that way. They've started asking her questions. Oh yes, and the other night Lisa tried to commit suicide. Not only is she still alive, but there's a set of scales following her. She agreed to become Famine, according to the rock-star look-alike who identifies himself as Death.

Jackie Morse Kessler's depiction of anorexia and bulimia is brutal. Not just psychologically - toward the climax there is a ridiculously gory scene. (For those who don't like gore, it's not the only gory scene. Nightmare alert.) Lisa's point of view is well-explored. It feels authentic and unique to the character, not to the disorder. You won't confuse Lisa with Lia, for example.

Unlike WINTERGIRLS, HUNGER isn't a straightforward issue novel. It's also an urban fantasy about a teen girl becoming Famine and learning how to use her powers and do her job in tandem with the other three Horsepeople. Sometimes this part works. Kessler develops several settings, both lovely and depressing. Lisa converses with her fellow Horsepeople and every single one of them has an equally strange world view.

But I couldn't tell you much specifically about Lisa's job or her powers. They're clearly problematic, since Lisa is a decent person and doesn't want to starve others. Other than that, exactly what she does and how she does it is pretty unclear. (According to Lisa's horse, Lisa never does catch on that much.) I'm also not sure what happened to this plot between the climax and the end. Basically, Lisa makes a decision that kind of makes sense to me, but doesn't really in light of how she approached her problems. At the same time, I did like that Lisa's problems weren't completely solved at the end. There is not supernatural answer to her personal relationship with food.

As for the side characters, most of them come and go too quickly to get attached. Tammy's story has no resolution. James and Suzanne both come off as a little too perfect. Lisa's parents are nonentities. War and Pestilence get one good conversation each. It keeps the book moving, but I wanted a little more about the people who surround Lisa.

But there is one standout. Death. It appears that RAGE will be about a new Horseperson as well and I certainly hope that not all of the Rider's Quartet will feature new Riders. I'm not sure I could bear parting with the funny, charming, menacing Death. (That is, after all, how I like my fictional men.)

HUNGER is an odd balance between things that are well-developed - Lisa and Death - and things that are underdeveloped - the fantasy and the secondary characters. In an odd way, the novel was a good representation of its subject. At times I felt like I was getting a feast, but at the end I was left wanting.  (Honestly, Lisa's powers did work for me until the end.  Then I started thinking more about them, and I turned on my inner critic to write the review and that element seemed to fall apart.)

Suggested reading:
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett
ON A PALE HORSE by Piers Anthony

October 5, 2010


Sourcebooks has been asking readers about their covers on their Teen Fire ning. Sounds reasonable to me, considering how much readers complain about covers.

Currently, they're asking for input on the cover of STUPID FAST by Geoff Herbach.

Either #1 or 2 would catch my eye.  #3 both has too much going on and a lame color scheme.  As for representing the content, the blurb is available if you follow the link.  It pushes me towards picking #2.

How about ya'll?

October 3, 2010

Forever: Cover and Pre-Order

Book Cover

I love the cover for FOREVER, the final book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, though I still wish it were yellow as I predicted in my LINGER review. It will be available next year on July 12.

But you can pre-order an autographed copy now. Just follow this link to Fountain Bookstore. Note that you can also buy her backlist authographed too.

October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010: The Conclusion

I hope everyone read what they wanted to read this week, in celebration of Banned Books Week.  Today, the oft-challenged Ellen Hopkins was the keynote speaker at the Austin Teen Book Festival.  Her points were familiar, but still need to be made again and again.  People have different maturity and reading levels.  No one can determine what is appropriate for someone else to read, especially if they haven't read it themselves.  Read and interpret on your own.

Also, I adore this graphic from GOOD Magazine on the most targeted books.  (The reasons for challenging are represented by colored darts.  Visual puns are so much fun.)

One of the easiest things you can do to help?  Send a letter or e-mail to a challenged author saying what his or her book meant to you.  Many authors save such letters and pass copies on to librarians trying to defend their books.  The best way to challenge those who want to silence voices is by speaking.

Remember, it's hard to truly ban a book. If your school library doesn't carry a book, try the city library. Go to a bookstore. Use Amazon or other online retailers like Book Depository. IndieBound will set you up with independents across the country.


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