Fun in Austenland

imageI’m alive! And having fun in cosplay. Several years ago, I designed and made a historically accurate regency gown after months of painstaking research. Just because I could. And yes, I’ve had several opportunities to wear it. This spring I added to my ensemble by decorating a straw bonnet and purchasing a matching reticule in order to attend a fabulous tea party hosted by Sarah M. Eden. On the way, however, my giant white coach got a flat tire, and I ended up walking the last several blocks through Provo neighborhoods to the event. I was in my own Austenland, in the midst of busy traffic and rubbernecking college students. Wouldn’t it be great if those of us so inclined could get together an Austen flash mob? Let’s pick a time and place, then all show up in costume to exchange witty banter and discuss the weather. I showed up to my bunco group tonight in this same dress, hoping to get my friends excited about going to see Austenland with me. :) The things we do for ‘research.’ I’ll have to create some kind of regency sci-fi in the near future.

Finalized summer reading list!

I just noticed that the largest of my tags in my tag cloud was READING. It should be writing… ah well.

Here is my “finalized” reading list, and thanks for all the great suggestions! Titles in italics I have already finished.

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia
  3. The Forgotten Locket, Lisa Mangum
  4. White Cat, Holly Black
  5. Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan
  6. Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt
  7. Lemon Tart, Josi Kilpack
  8. Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
  9. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
  10. Possession, Elana Johnson
  11. Blood Oath, Christopher Farnsworth
  12. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick Dewitt
  13. Eight Days of Luke, Diana Wynne Jones
  14. Armageddon’s Children, Terry Brooks
  15. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Mark Twain
  16. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman
  17. Our Town, Thornton Wilder
  18. City Boy, Herman Wouk
  19. Incarceron, Catherine Fisher
  20. Airborn, Kenneth Oppel

I’m posting reviews as I go on goodreads, so feel free to follow me there if you are interested. It’s too bad about my writing lag, but perhaps since Edwin Drood keeps putting me to sleep at night I’ll be able to write a bit more this week…until I move on to Dandelion Wine.



The draw of dystopias

I’ve been mulling the material for this post around for a while in my brain. What is it about dystopias that make them compelling? Why did I hate them in high school (no, they were not all required reading) but love them now?

Off the top of my head, the dystopian novels I read in my younger years were Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. I also read other works–lots of short stories by Bradbury, and several novels by Louise Lawrence, including Children of the Dust, which I remember enjoying very much. While reading many of these works, I focused all my energies encouraging the protagonist to GET OUT! It was easy to become caught up in  all the evils or problems of the societies portrayed, and to feel as trapped as the character.

When I returned to these same books later on, I found that, instead of just the painful experience I remembered, reading dystopians had become a powerful experience instead.

I’m more aware of the imperfections of the world we live in now, and it is easy to see how someone’s well-intentioned changes or laws could end up being a living nightmare, a dystopia. Human nature is human nature. We all have tendencies towards light and dark that manifest themselves in our actions, whether we like it or not. Despite our best intentions, we make mistakes, are selfish, narrow-minded… So when a perfect society is created by humans, sooner or later it will become a dystopia.

What I like in dystopian fiction today is the ability to see the good side of human nature portrayed against the startling backdrop of the mess that comes from us trying to make everything perfect. No matter what decisions we make as a society or as individuals, people will always have the ability to make choices for good or evil.

What are your favorite dystopian novels?


Help for summer reading list

I need help. Not that we didn’t know that already, right? In this case, it all began with a quick trip to the library last week for some new audiobooks for our driving pleasure. We pulled in and found ourselves in the middle of the summer reading program kick-off party, which I had forgotten entirely about.

The kids weren’t with me, but I thought, hey, I should sign them up while I’m here, right? After deliberating in only the way a mother can on what their reading goals should be, I had five packets in hand and was heading for the door when the kind librarian brought to my attention the sign-up area for the adult reading program.

I thought, why not? I read a lot anyway. It’s like breathing. The sign-ups were nothing fancy, just a place to sign your name and the number of books you promise to read. In a hurry to get on with my errands, I scribbled down the required information. Then I remembered. I am writing right now as well… I’m crazy!! I can’t believe I just signed myself up for 20 books between now and August 15!

Without spending time writing each day, 20 books would just happen. To get through 20 books AND write will require a plan. I want to make a book list for myself. Any suggestions? At the top of my list are Uncle Tom’s Cabin (for a book group), Possession (by the lovely Elana Johnson), and The Forgotten Locket (Lisa Mangum).  All other slots in my summer reading schedule are open.

Please comment and suggest books you have loved, plan on reading, or think I should read (be nice–if I read Les Miserables again, that will be all I do this summer). I have varied reading interests, so don’t feel the need to only suggest YA fantasies or dystopians. And, for my fellow author friends, if you have a book coming out before August 15, don’t hesitate to list that!

Thanks in advance! I’ll post my reading list as soon as I can put it together.

Writing Again

After the passing of one of my all-time favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones, a couple of weeks ago, I busily engaged myself in a comprehensive reread of all books on my shelf authored by her. Yes, it was a bit excessive, and the mountains of unwashed laundry in my kids’ rooms will attest to Ms. Jones’ superb writing. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, however, and I am not ashamed.

This latest marathon of a read has inspired me, thankfully, to write (actually rewrite–I’m working on editing two of my novels) instead of throw my laptop at the wall in despair at ever writing anything as interesting or witty or intelligent as the author of Howl’s Moving Castle. So, thank you, Ms. Jones, for your inspiring writing, and a wonderful inspiring life. I wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for you.

Read her autobiography here:

Reading for Survival

While attempting to process needed and necessary revisions on my latest WIP, I have found it necessary to read in vast quantities. I have to admit, reading is usually my way of procrastinating what I should be doing. The up side to this type of procrastination, however, is how it ultimately motivates me to write and helps me write in a particular style.

My latest reads were an assortment of whatever I found at the small local library that appealed to me. Some titles were ones recommended to me recently, others were ones I had recently discovered at a writing conference. I went in for one specific title (North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell), and came away with six books, none of which were what I had been looking for. I then proceeded to read three of them in less than 24 hours!

The books I couldn’t put down are by Utah author Lisa Mangum, entitled The Hourglass Door and The Golden Spiral; part of a trilogy, the third title, The Forgotten Locket, is due to come out this summer. Congratulations to you, Lisa, for keeping me up all night! The Hourglass Door was one of the best YA reads I have had in a long while.

The Hourglass Door intrigued me in several ways. First, I love suspense. Not knowing or understanding the secret behind Dante’s strange existence and rules for living paired with his obvious connection to Abby made for a compelling read.

The romantic element was also well crafted, leaving me on tenterhooks waiting for the main characters to finally get together and kiss, already. And, frankly, while an Italian accent wouldn’t do much for me, discussing classics with someone who understood them as deeply as Dante… I loved how the author brought so many great ideas into the book and wove them together into a compelling story. Leonardo da Vinci, time travel, betrayal, secrets, and love. Oh. And one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.

For me, the second book, The Golden Spiral, didn’t keep the same sense of discovery and suspense. While the strength of Abby’s character develops to a great degree, and she does some amazing things, I felt I was not exploring any new territory. It was still worth the read, however, and I’m looking forward to the completion of the trilogy in a few months. I’m sure it will round out the story perfectly.

And it took me two days to publish this entry, because I had to take a break to read Monster Hunters International by Larry Correia.