Aug 27, 2012

Making Time

One of the problems of owning a bookstore is being surrounded by books but never having time to read. I am very adamant with the people in my life that they DO have time to read, they just fool themselves into thinking that they don't. Therefore it is my solemn duty to follow my own advice. Hypocrites are so tacky. And/or human (you decide). So I have been trying to read for at least ten minutes 4-5 nights a week before bed.

Do you want to know what happened? I actually found more time to read and started reading in other slow moments! Ah, the power of making room to read in your life. My favorite part about reading is sharing authors I love with new people and I have whole new platform for doing that. It is funny how sometimes I get in a great conversation with a customer and they leave and I scold myself remembering that I didn't even bring up Cindy Pon one time.

Right now I am obsessed with a new author. Her name is Lindsey Leavitt and I may want to try and have her children (just kidding!) It is basically happening at the perfect time because she is coming to the store for a signing on September 15th.

First I have to give a huge shout out to Eric Shakespear for putting an AWESOME writing workshop together in our middle of nowhere town. The best part is that she hasn't just gotten ONE awesome author to come to town, but THREE. (Please check out her blog for more info on the workshop.)

I first met Lindsey Leavitt last November at the Vegas Valley Book Fest. It was fun chatting with her and Emily Wing Smith and James Dashner and all the other authors who were there. But of all the books I bought that day one ended up being by far my favorite. The cover and concept of Princess for Hire appealed to me from the beginning and I found Lindsey's style and voice to be addictive and extremely entertaining.

As much as I loved the first book it took me a while to continue with the series. Why do I have reader's block when it comes to book two in a series? I am tempted to say that The Royal Treatment was one of the best second books in a series I have ever read, if not the best (sorry Cindy!)

As much as I love the Princess for Hire series I am excited to read more books by Lindsey, especially her forthcoming book Going Vintage. I have already gotten one person to PLOW through the Princess for Hire series (THEY ARE THAT GOOD) so if you are looking for a GREAT read, maybe something a little on a the lighter side you are going to have to check Princess for Hire out.

I am looking forward to seeing Lindsey again soon at both Braun Books and again at Vegas Valley Book Fest later this year. I had so much fun last year I have been talking about it almost non stop this year.

Aug 25, 2012

Three Months

I have owned a bookstore for three months. Wait, let me try that again. I have OWNED A BOOKSTORE for three months. Me, an owner. Living my dream for one quarter of a year and let me tell you, it has been amazing. There are hard days and good days and tired days and magical days. But what am I doing now? How am I celebrating bookstore ownership?

I am on vacation! I am huddled away in some deep dark hole resting and thinking about every nuance of change that has come in the past few months. Running away like this for the moment is a luxury. I am still in partnership with the previous owner and I can feel a certain sense of confidence in leaving the store in his extremely capable hands.

I have been wanting to blog about this experience as a way to share it with others and gain perspective for myself, but there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to deal with everything that needs to be dealt and sleep anywhere near enough. This is all, of course, part of what I signed up for. I guess the part I didn't consider is that I bought the bookstore directly before tourist season. The few slow meandering days I had before I owned it were gone once summer hit.

I keep remarking how anyone who thinks paper books are dying has never been in my bookstore. People are eager to pile up books on my counter and tell me how they must be crazy for not liking the whole digital craze. I also have to tell you that bookstore is more successful than it has ever been. But what does that mean? I am not sure how to cope with the own known future of the winter slow down and eventual departure of my business partner.

Having a business partner is a blessing for sure, but it is also a curse. The way that we struggle between what he has done and what I will do creates a tensioned environment, but I think both of us are fine to sit in our discomfort. I appreciate him for all he has ever done for the bookstore. The choices he has made to grow it into what it is today and for being generous enough to share all of that with me. He opens talks of the growth the store has made in the short time I have owned it. Our mutual admiration and discomfort are both products of a changing environment. One we gladly accept. Change is good, but change is also hard.

What have been the recent changes in your life? What would you do if one of these changes was buying a bookstore? What would be in your dream bookstore?

Jun 20, 2012

Pictures As Promised

I have owned a bookstore for one month and nine days. It is 10:09 PM and I am in the basement of the store. I wasn't lying when I said this is my home now. Tonight was our first annual Lit Fest! Hopefully I will post more about that later. I can't have another post get high jacked because I have promised you pictures!

My pet project!
I love children's and young adult books.
I have made this section all my own.
This picture of the store represents my proudest contribution to the bookstore. Kids and literacy have been a passion of mine for over a decade now. I have been able to explore this passion from all different angles. Now I have a new opportunity.  Sharing books with the youth of my community is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given.

In just a number of weeks since this picture was taken the section has grown and evolved even more. I am realizing now the print I am making on this space and store after I realize how quickly this picture has become out of date.

But this picture is a start of letting you into my dream and hopefully my passion. So many moments in your life you feel like you are on the right path, but buying this bookstore was one of the easiest things I have ever done in my. All my past experiences help me do my job here at the store even better.

The store is awesome!
I can take credit for so little of it.
But I love enjoying it every day.
I have inherited so much in this experience. To take over an existing and THRIVING business is such a wonderful thing. The store is a living breathing thing, asking to be molded into more for the community.

The books and the shelves and the signs are all mine now. But in a way they will never be mine. They are for the people who come in and finger through them and forge life experiences that start when they are standing in front of that shelf and continue through turning that last page.

Inheriting such a rich and vibrant bookstore comes with a burden as well. What if I can't be what it always has been. I have to remind myself of the things I have to offer beyond what has been.

I do know that I am happy doing what I am doing. And as long as I am happy people will come to see me shine. I already have customers who are now my friends. The transcendence of books is what we all yearn for. It is why we have blogs and join book clubs and I am able to live that every day that I am at work.

I talk about the books that I love. And the books that didn't work for me. I share my reading experience without shame. I know one person's likes are different from another. I think all of you have helped me to understand that. It is amazing to think about all the years that we have been doing this. Blogging and sharing our thoughts and commenting. And we have all grown closer though said comments, and twitter, and events.

In a way I have transitioned all of our chats and recommendations into a real life experience. I know I am not the only one who has done this either. The most interesting part about the bookstore is that you are all here with me too. I talk about you and your thoughts on books as much as I talk about my own.

I hope to be able to share more of this journey with you but time is harder to find these days. Maybe about as hard to find as sleep. So many of you have shared kind word with me on Twitter and Facebook; I really, really appreciate it!

Did you notice? My post is getting further and further away from the pictures AND I don't have any of the storefront. Will put that on my to do list!

Some days it feels like the store was ready made
for me to come and put my stamp on it.
If I were to chose the colors, I would have chosen different ones, but there is so much room and space to add a few touches of my character into the store. I think that if I had to do it from scratch I might be a little heavy handed. There is something so freeing about being able to work in a ready made space. The pressure is off and you can just add and take away as the whims demand. I may just be one of the most fortunate people on the planet!

Have been told these may be the most
comfortable chairs in the whole world.
Behind them is a magical doorway to the coffee
shop next door.
Everyone says now that I have a bookstore I need to open a coffee bar. The best part is that I can have the coffee without the stress. My neighbors are completely awesome and make the best cup of coffee in all of Utah. Anytime you come to visit me you will have to stop in The Grind as well! The Grind is family owned and generous and wonderful neighbors. They accommodate their customers who happen to wander extremely effectively. 

This is my happiest place on earth. I would love to hear what you think! I would love it even more if you manage to stop by some time. A few online friends have already stopped in and that has been an awesome treat for me.

I hope to have more posts for you soon. Until then, happy reading!

Jun 19, 2012

Braun Books

I have a new home! Or a home away from home. Braun Books in Cedar City, Utah has stolen my heart. I have been shopping there for over 13 years.

And now I am the boss!
Things are a little different on this side of the counter, but I have been wanting to own a bookstore for a long time.

One of the most surreal feelings you will ever have in your life is living your dream.

It comes in two parts, first the dream like not quite real quality your life takes on, but also the sheer sense of panic when you realize you have no idea what you are doing.

The panic is easy to deal with. The joy overcomes everything else. I can't help feeling like I am doing what I was meant to do. On the other hand I am doing something that I never had to do before. Selling to people. Talking about books has long been a passion of mine and in the past month I have gotten so many compliments about my passion, but it is hard to not wonder if people think I have an ulterior motive. Probably only a few people worry about my motives, but it always haunts my thoughts.

It isn't always true that living your dreams means you are successful. I had to consider that before I went into this venture. What is the future of bookstores? After trying out working at Braun Books I decided one thing, bookstores aren't dying. Not independently owned community oriented bookstores. These stores provide something that online and big box can't. A smile and a recommendation and an exuberance that can never come from an online experience.

It is in my own best interest to believe bookstores are alive and well, but I would like to think it is a little bit more than wishful thinking.

Jun 7, 2012

I am facing a day of a work after a sleepless night. This is not the first sleepless night and it won't be the last. I haven't updated my blog in close to four months because I have been living my dream. So many people in life know about the recent changes in my life, and you might already too. There is one thing I can tell you, life your dream is amazing but exhausting.

For years my life has been mainly book focused. I am about to take that to a whole new level. About two weeks ago I dove in and bought an independent bookstore in Cedar City, Utah. Over the past 13 years Utah has become my home in a way that the place I was born could never match. And over the past 13 years I have been a customer of the very bookstore I now own. It is surreal and amazing all at the same time.

Previous to working in the store for a few months I knew that owning a bookstore was something I always wanted to do, but would probably never be able to accomplish. But buying a bookstore with a built in customer base was one of the easiest things I have ever done in my life. For now some things about the bookstore will change and some will stay the same.

For the next year I have the guidance and mentoring of the previous owner. The store, Braun Books, is currently named after him and the tradition he has built in this town for over ten years. But a new name will come in time and more of my finger prints and foot prints trailing through the store.  Last night I woke up at 2am worried that I didn't lock the door correctly. It has only been a few months, but I have never forgotten to lock the door. This worrying is just part of my life now.

From the moment my business partner and previous sole proprietor of Braun Books came to me and told me he was thinking about selling the store there has been many sleepless nights. There was a whole month of tossing and turning and worrying about mistakes I made throughout the day.

It may be presumptuous to say that I was born to do this, but I have struggled to accomplish a lot of things in my life and all of them help me be a better bookseller. And after all those past struggles, buying the store has been one of the easiest things I have ever done in my life.

Life is different. More so than I ever could of expected. I thought I was buying a sleeping bookstore in a small town but most days there is very little down time. Life is rich, yet exhausting. The personalities that wander in and out of the bookstore make it a lush experience. And sharing books and ideas with these people and personalities is one of the greatest experiences I have ever known.

Over the next few days I hope to share with you some pictures from the store, though it can be hard to find time any more. Last night I found time to read for the first time since the possibility of owning a bookstore emerged for me. I am beyond excited for the new changes in my life.

Feb 16, 2012

Starters ARC Winner

Congratulations to Jamie Krakover! Jamie just contacted me saying she already won a copy of the book.

Amy is our new winner!

Jamie Amy has already been contacted.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I hope you get a chance to read Starters soon. If you do, please let me know what you think!

I finished the book just the other day and will have my review up soon.

Thank you also to Lissa Price for suggesting I do this giveaway in the first place. I really liked hearing what interested each of you about the book!

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for indie/sulf published books. I admire the people who take control of their writing life and make the best of it. I also think that people often get a false sense of their ability when they don't go through the proper channels to publications. I love hearing about the stories that prove me wrong. Now that I have an ereader, self published are a little more in the forefront. They tend to have a much better price point than a lot of the other books that interest me.

One of the first thing that struck me about Open Minds was how much I liked the cover.  I have never been ashamed of judging a book by its cover. And this cover of Open Minds words for me.  Usually I am not a huge fan of photos on the cover of books. They can kick me out of the story a little bit by demanding me to conform the character to the picture on the front. Lately I have seen a lot of photo covers that worked for me, most of them utilize a really strong focus on the eye/s of the character/model on the front of the book.

I like the vague idea I got of the book when I looked at the cover and thought about the title. I was definitely looking at Open Minds from a dystopian point of view when I was looking at the cover of the book.  It made me think of how in a dystopian society it is dangerous to have secrets and it is necessary to show a willingness to be open to the control the government is providing/inflicting. Of course what I thought the book was about was not in fact the story that Susan Kaye Quinn wrote.

Open Minds is based on a mutation in the future when everyone is able to read and share thoughts,  Thinking about people being able to read my mind all the time terrifies me. I pride myself in being a fairly honest person, but I think about all those outlying thoughts that are less a representation of me and more a moment of fancy (or at least that is what I tell myself.) And how those outlying thoughts and all the rest of them would be right out there in the open for everyone to know.

Despite my original misjudgment of the book (solely based on what I thought the book was about regarding the cover) Open Minds does have a lot of dystopian themes, though I am not sure that I would go as far as to say that the overarching society is particularly dystopic. Kira lives in a world where everyone around her can read each other's thoughts, yet she cannot. Like other aspects of growing up the transition between becoming a mind reader happens at different ages for different people. Kira lives in fear of never developing the ability that every one else around her has. She would be a zero for life and not be able to go to college and it would limit the type of jobs she can get. She hopes that every day will be the day that the change will happen and she will be like everyone else. Until one day she makes a new friend who changes her point of view about everything in her world and her life.

Considering the price and the fact that this was independently published Open Minds was a surprisingly enjoyable read.  I think it is easy to over do praise of these types of books because they are totally separate from any sort of expectations.  But it is easy to think of more traditionally published books that had a lot more problems than Open Minds did.  My biggest issue with the book was that of pacing. I though it dragged on at times and other times seemed to be switching a little more unexpectedly than I wanted. The concepts were compelling and Kira was an interesting character. I enjoyed reading the book a lot, though even though it wasn't slow paced it was a slow read for me. The pacing was just off for me and didn't pull me back to the book when I stopped reading it.

I know that value definitely is connected with my enjoyment of a book. I definitely felt like I got my money's worth and more with Open Minds. Most fans of young adult speculative fiction will enjoy this story as will those fans of dystopian and superpower you adult fiction. Susan Kaye Quinn did a good job of tackling a conceptually complex type of story to narrate. She did a good job writing about the inner workings of thoughts and the ways that thinking is are different from speaking.

If you have read Open Minds I would love to hear your thoughts on its dystopian elements and what you liked best about the book. This book is a good example of how having a vague idea of the type of book I am looking for lead me to a surprise enjoyment of a book.

Feb 10, 2012

Guest Review of Filaria

Dystopian February is great because it enriches my love of reading other people's takes on dystopian books. As always I would like to express my appreciation to Lenore for coming up with the idea in the first place! Her posts and those who have shared their posts on her blog make it fun to see what everyone is reading and reviewing for dystopian fiction.  

Today I am honored to have Joanne Renaud visiting on the blog for a review of an adult dystopian novel she recently read. I think Joanne definitely has a unique (and honest) view on what she reads. For another example of this you can check out her review of The Hunger Games. Thank you Joanne for sharing your thoughts with me and the rest of my readers!

I picked up "Filaria" by Brent Hayward as part of ChiZine's Friday the 13th giveaway. The book stood out to me because I was in the mood for a science fiction dystopia, as it seems that many young adult dystopias these days are, more or less, Sweet Valley High novels with vaguely oppressive governments. I wanted something gritty, dark and adult, and "Filaria" seemed to fit the bill.

It started out well enough. It was confusing at first, but once I persevered, I got a pretty good idea of how the world worked. I really liked the world-building. It was bizarre as hell, but the weirdness was written in a way that creeps over you like a fungus… I was down with that.

"Filaria" is set in this massive underground habitat/resort in the distant future, when the sun has dimmed and gone red.  The habitat is tiered, with the wealthy plantation owners living on the top tier underneath the artificial suns; in the basement, the descendants of the "Public Works" sector live amidst flying rats and radioactive waste. There's also the reservoir level, with its polluted lakes and Hoffmann City, with its famous red light district; and connecting everything are the lifts (pods) which seemingly operate by organic technology.

Instead of hero or a heroine going on a quest, "Filaria" tells four stories with interconnecting characters… rather like a Robert Altman movie IN THE FUTURE!  You have Phister, a hairless, toothless young man from the basement trying to find his ex-girlfriend and getting hopelessly lost; there's Deidre, the pampered daughter of the top-level "Orchard Keeper" forced into exile; Mereziah, an elderly lift attendant who decides to finally leave the station he's been faithfully keeping for almost a century; and Tran so Pheng, a reservoir level fisherman who goes out searching for a cure for his beloved wife who is dying of the Red Plague. But, as all these characters find out over the course of the novel, some mysterious thing has breached the artificial sky, and the world is now breaking down.  Sounds good, right?

It was, for the most part. The writing was, if elliptical at times, compelling and descriptive, with a big emphasis on emotion that was almost operatic. The characters were well-drawn-- from earnest basement urchin Phister and brainy but clueless rich girl Deidre to ancient, prim Mereziah and bedraggled Tran So Pheng, intent on his quest to find a cure, or at the very least, answers-- and the pacing was kept at a brisk pace. I was really enjoying it until-- it all of a sudden ended. It practically ended mid-sentence, since the end resolved nothing. And I mean NOTHING. It was, seriously, like getting into a TV show and having it cancelled mid-season.

I half wonder if the author just got tired of writing and stopped, as all four plots end mid-step. Deidre is kidnapped and taken outside the habitat (by whom?) and is told that she might be the savior "of the species." Phister is implanted with the personality of a big important dead guy-- on yeah, and he also might be a savior, but we leave him as he's wandering off in the hopes of waking up more dead people (although we are not told any more that that). Tran so Pheng is still looking for his wife, and Mereziah, after meeting Deidre's dad, goes into a light. Is it THE light? Who the hell knows?

I wouldn't mind this so much if this was the first half of a two part book, but there's no signs of being any kind of a sequel, and the author apparently-- according this Livejournal entry-- prides himself on his lack of resolution. I'm not sure why. The ending is often the trickiest thing to write in a book-- nail it, and you can make a mediocre novel truly memorable; flub it, and you can wreck a truly good story. This felt like the worse kind of cop-out-- even worse than "and then I woke up" or "and then the aliens came." It was incredibly unsatisfying. If "Filaria" had a decent ending, I would have written a glowing review and declared it one of the best dystopian novels I'd read recently. But as it is, I can't recommend it.

This is really unfortunate, because the story was fun and the world-building is incredibly well done, but I really hate the idea of investing days in reading a book and it ending like a cancelled TV show. This felt far more like a half-finished draft than a complete novel. ChiZine looks like a great publishing house-- the design and packaging of "Filaria" looks like a million dollars-- and I'm happy they sent this to me for a promotion. But I'm afraid I'll have to pass on reading any more of Brent Hayward's books in the future. 

Joanne Renaud, who earned a BFA in illustration from Art Center College of Design, has been writing, drawing and painting as long as she can remember. She currently works as both an author and a freelance illustrator. Her novel, A Question of Time, is due for release in November 2012 from Champagne Books.

Feb 7, 2012

World Building a Dystopia

The problem and the promise of a dystopian novel both stem from the same place. When we start a book with dystopian themes we generally recognize much about the dynamics of the world, whether it is like ours or the opposite of ours, we as readers understand it through the lens of our current world. All speculative fiction, but especially dystopian novels, rely heavily on world building. This has long been the keystone to beloved fantasy and science fiction novels.  The issue with the dystopian novel is that the world building in away has to be even more detailed. I think it is easy to assume that the reader is able to fill in the blanks more easily when they are presented with a world that is like their own, but different. But actually I find the opposite to be true; the more like our world the future world is the more questions I have about the transition between the two.

Previous to my recent exploration into speculative fiction I had never really heard of the concept of world building. I actually, in fact, knew the first time I ever consciously registered the phrase. I was listening to the first episode of the Writing Excuses podcast (when they were just a few episodes into recording them) when Brandon Sanderson first mentioned something in passing called world building. It was interesting because the other people on the show knew immediately what he was talking about and he also made the assumption that people listening would too. I, for one, didn't have a clue. I was listening to a podcast about writing yet being faced with a concept I didn't know and was pretty sure I didn't care about. I had spent the previous decade learning about the craft of writing I was convinced that the phrase "world building" had nothing to do with the type of books I wanted to read. This was still on the fringe of my science fiction awakening,

It is interesting how this awakening helped me turn a corner into other great pieces of speculative fiction and exposed me to the concept of world building. It has gone from a tangle of words that mean nothing to me to one of the most important elements of a book for me. Especially when it comes to dystopian fiction, it can be the make or break element. What do I mean when I say world building? This is the government, economy, history, and environment of a speculative fiction setting. World building is all the elements that set the dystopian world apart from the world we currently live in. A dystopian world is supposed to be the future of our own; it should be a world we recognize, and it is the elements of the world building that show us how things are different. The better the world building is the better sense we get of the threat of the dystopian future.

We often become attached to certain books that get an elevated status in our mind. One dystopian book that has achieved this for me in 1984. It was one of the first books I ever read that impacted me in a significant way and it was also the first dystopian piece of literature I ever read.  It was also presented to me as a piece of dystopian fiction and used to help me define my first understanding of the term as a high school sophomore, thank you Mr. Mitchell. I think it may always be the example I always hold other books up to. I doubt 1984 is an example of perfect world building but the (possibly  skewed) images I have of it is close.

This probably makes it hard for novels to live up to my standards of world building.  I have also noticed that one person's view of effective world building is laughable to another. But I know I like to see the world percolate through the story rather than have it be front loaded into the story and quickly forgotten. World building is more than just setting, it is an atmosphere that should play a factor throughout the entire book. A good dystopian book is as much about how the world unfolds as it is about the characters and plot. The unfolding, the discovery that happens with dystopia is massively important to the world building process. We need to see the man behind the curtain. We need to know how the world got this way and see transparently into who is controlling and how they are hiding it by the end of the book. Every question doesn't need to be answered but we definitely need to see enough to ask more questions!

Sometimes when a story's world building feels front loaded it is like the story could happen in any genre. It feels like it has just been plopped in the middle of a dystopian world. A book can often starts with a really nice basis for an interesting concept of the future but these elements are abandoned or mentioned in passing once the characters start interacting with each other. Maybe this type of story can be appealing to others because the turn can make it feel refreshing. But it tends not to work for me.

Unfortunately, the more I read the less I find the balance I am looking for. This is a combination of the flaws of a book together with exceedingly high expectations that can't be reached. It is unfair to want the next book I read to be better than the last one while still expecting it to feel unique. Throughout this month I am working on the lowering of expectations and enjoying reading and books more. Yet despite all of this I do hunger for books with great world building.  Do you have any suggestions of books with great world building? I think good world building is impressive because the amount of thought and time the author has to put into it. Every detail that they can give helps us better see each element that makes a society different from our own.

Feb 6, 2012

Dystopian February - Possession by Elana Johnson

It has been over a year since I first met Elana Johnson. It was one of the most exciting author meetings I have ever had! I think because it took me by surprise. When you go to a book event you know the authors who are going to be there. But Elana was attending an event and I had no idea she was going to be there. I remember my hands shaking while holding an ARC of Possession. I loved the cover so much (and still do)! I think this will always be one of my favorite book related memories. The cover was so striking and appeals to my personal aesthetics, on the front of dystopian book, written by a Utah author.

I talked with Elana once about the pressure of reviewing a book by an author you have met and feel friendly with. I know I am not the only blogger who feels an obligation to give a better review because an author is overwhelmingly awesome, but a person are not the words on the page. Though they are intimately entwined they are not synonymous. But this pressure had me concerned about reading Possession even though I knew my gut was telling me I was going to love it.

I remember Elana saying she had been inspired by the Uglies series when she decided to start writing Possession.  I think this sets up an interesting comparison and dynamic when reading the book. I couldn't help but thinking that though I enjoyed the books in the Uglies series, Possession was definitely better.  It may seem odd to say this but I could definitely see the influence of Westerfeld on Elana's writing but definitely not in a bad way.

I think one thing that I liked more about Elana's book was that it was quite a bit more ME. What I mean is that it was much more focused on the things about dystopian books that particularly interest me. The technological aspects of the story were particularly interesting to me.

I also loved the dichotomy of the Goodies and the Baddies. It set up a nice dynamic in the psychology of the main character, Vi. Vi lives in a society that is openly brainwashed and she doesn't exactly love it but she is also semi accepting of her place in it. I liked reading this book from Vi's perspective. Her voice added a unique level to the book that made it different from some of the other dystopian books I had read. Also, the concept of Goodies and Baddies felt very reminiscent of 1984, but not in an overbearing way that hasn't work for me with other books.

When I am reading a dystopia I definitely find that I question the world more than the characters. I want to know why the world is the way it is, but the characters take quite a bit longer to get to the same curiosity level. I think this tension only adds to the effectiveness of a dystopian novel. And it takes a quarter of the book until Vi flat out thinks, "I imagined what life would be like without rules, without a taunting voice inside my head, without scanners and readers in every doorway." When the character gets to this point of voicing their concern I always turn their thoughts onto my own life. What would my life be like the a taunting voice inside my head? How would I feel about a life without rules? I think the voice probably wouldn't taunt me because I like my rules and following them and being a good girl! But I also think that this kind of inner monologue is essential to the influence and effect of a dystopian novel.  Without the questioning about my current place in the world and the possible futures a dystopian work isn't successful for me.

Possession was a very confusing book. This was both an asset and a drawback. I never knew what was coming next, I sometimes didn't even know what was happening now. In the end I think it may have had one or two too many twists for me. As readers we can be very hard on books, we are annoyed when they are too predictable but also similarly annoyed if they take us too much by surprise. Possession definitely left me wanting to read the next book in the series.

The next book Surrender will be out June 5th and I am definitely looking forward to reading it. The cover is also very striking. I really love the white space on both of the covers. Though butterflies are particularly special to me, so this one doesn't have the same DEPTH of adoration as I had with Possession.

Though I just found out that both covers have gotten redesigned and I don't like them anywhere near as much. So in protest I have the OLD cover of Surrender up to the left.

Elana said on her blog that she likes the new typeface of the titles on the book and I will say I agree with her there. But I LOVE the white covers. They totally work for me. I actually specifically said that about the covers to Elana when we first met. But I guess they weren't received as well by others.

I really thought the white covers would stand out in a sea of various colored covers on the shelves at the store.

If you have any thoughts about the covers I would love to hear them. Or the books in general! I have been looking over a few reviews before I finished up this one and I am seeing a lot of mixed responses. This makes me doubly curious for what the reactions to the second book will be.

And last but not least, I love hearing authors talk about their own books. (Part of why I love author events so much!) So I wanted to make sure to include this clip of Elana talking about Possession.

For more dystopian posts, interviews, and giveaways please check out Dystopian February at Presenting Lenore's!

Feb 5, 2012

The Sunday Salon - Impending Reading Slump

The Sunday Salon.comIt has been a busy couple of days for me here. February has definitely not stat out as I had hoped reading wise and the month feels like it is racing by faster than I can catch up. I am worried I have stumbled across another reading slump. I am pushing to get through it but every day I am losing more reading time. Life gets busy and those kind of distractions don't bother me but not FEELING like reading concerns me.

The year has started strong reading wise. I finished 12 books in January, which is just under half of ALL the books I read last year. But my slump started to peek in on me at the end of the month and I have felt it like a presence looming over me ever since. I really hope I can break out of it soon because there are so many great books I want to read.

One of my favorite aspects of February is Presenting Lenore's dystopian themed month filled with reviews, interviews, and giveaways. Please make sure you check it out along with my own reviews of dystopian books all month long.  Lenore has already been super busy posting tons of great stuff on her blog. My posts (as usual) are taking a bit longer than I expected to get up. Dystopia, as most of you know, has long been a passion of mine and it fun to take the time to experience it with other people. I really appreciate Lenore doing this for the past few years.
Right now for dystopian month I am reading Susan Kaye Quinn's Open Minds. I am enjoying it quite a bit though take issue with some of the pacing. Pacing is definitely a personal thing though it can kind of feel like everyone should feel exactly the same when something is rubbing you the wrong way. Overall though it is an impressive books, especially when you think about ti being self published. I try not to give into the negativity towards self published books, but I can't help feeling surprised when I find I great one, so I guess I do give into it.

Next month I am doing a music theme month on the blog. I love music related books and have been gathering a stash of them for a few years now but never actually reading theme. Besides Lenore's Dystopian February I don't usually do theme months or if I have tried I definitely don't do them well. This rigid reading is a new experience for me and really keeping me motivated and helping me fight those slumps. Often when I have a slump I feel overwhelmed by all that I want to read and can't decide where to start. Now I just pick up one of the books on my list and read a few pages. The other night I started Harmonic Feedback and it is pretty fantastic. My only complaint is that something about the main character feels a little disingenuous. I am hoping that will smooth out later in the book.

Do you know of any GREAT music related books? I have a huge list I am working off of but I would hate to feel like I missed a major one. The two books that I recommend for you are Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway and Getting Over Jack Wagner by Elise Juska. These two books are the ones that sent me off to find more music related books.

As far as dystopian books go, I would ALWAYS love to hear what you are reading. I hope you are posting lots of reviews this month and linking up on Lenore's blog because she has an amazing prize pack up for grabs. If you are needing suggestions let me just take a moment to tell you a few of my young adult favorites. The Declaration by Gemma Malley, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, The Diary of Pelly D by L. J. Adlington, and The Pledge by Kimberly Derting.

Feb 2, 2012

Dystopia's Umbrella

In September of 2010 I wrote a post called The Problem with Dystopia where I addressed some of the issues with the term as a definition and a literary term. In it I said,
"Dystopian literature is gaining momentum, especially in the young adult market, yet no one seems to have a grasp on what words to you use to define, understand, and categorize dystopia."
And the interesting thing is that nothing much has changed. People are still struggling to pin down what makes dystopia dystopian. Yet, we have also come to accept the word into our speech patterns. We use it without being overly concerned with definitions. The more we try to pin down our understanding of the term and concept the more variations of it emerge. This is both confusing and amazing.

I am curious if and why people feel they have a firmer grasp on understanding dystopia than they did in the past. What has changed? I guess we all have that moment when dystopia is defined for us and whatever words were used in that moment sort of stick. It is interesting how in the past I spent a lot of time on Twitter and blog posts defining dystopia and now I rarely ever get asked. The term has become part of the contemporary reading lexicon.

It is easy to point to The Hunger Games as the book that turned a lot of things around. But it was more than one book that created an awareness. People read The Hunger Games then when they went to find more books like it they may have found the term dystopia along with a list of other enjoyable books. Does the dystopian explosion exist without The Hunger Games?

One of the consequences/results of the reaction to dystopian books is a surge in books that aren't exactly dystopian but get the tag just because someone knows it is a selling point right now. The unfortunate thing is that people have started finding books that didn't represent what they were looking for under this classification and have started to become weary of the term. And while I can TOTALLY understand that (I have definitely faced disappointment) I am okay with using the term dystopia as a general umbrella term. Maybe we would be better served to use a term like "hard dystopia" for those books most fitting of the classic understanding of the term. But post apocalyptic and apocalyptic books have fallen under this heading along with other strays. Some readers and fans really resent that, but at the end of the day the term dystopia still brings me to the type of stories I want to be reading.

I am not entirely sure any of us know what dystopia means any better than we did a few years ago. I think trying to pin down an understanding has only lead to more confusion.  Even though we are often faced with what Pam from called a "branding" problem, genre exists for a reason beyond selling books. It helps us talk about what we read with a common language and find other readers who like the same books as us.

But Dystopia is inherently subjective. It can hinge on the world building, the psychology of the characters, or the quality of action. We all have different levels of enjoyment from different elements of any book, but it seem particularly prevalent in dystopian literature. From readers I have seen an expectation from the term "dystopia" that seems higher, more rigid, and more personal than readers seem to have from other genre fiction.  I think author Elana Johnson put the reason for this very well, "Because, really, one person’s idea of a perfect, ideal existence is often another person’s nightmare." And that very concept of perfection verses nightmare is at the core of dystopian fiction and the core of the varying reactions we can have to it.

What do you think about the term and branding of dystopia? Has it more often disappointed you or helped you find the types of books you want to read? I think that a shift in thinking can really change the whole experience when reading young adult dystopian literature. This is particularly hard for me since I have been dedicated to an academic understanding of dystopia for many years now. The dictionary definition of dystopia as "a bad place" lends itself to including more types of books and types of world building that are not traditionally dystopian.

One of the interesting experiences I will have over the next month is seeing how dystopian books work and don't work for me. And how this contrast with possibly unrealistic expectations from a misunderstanding between dystopia as an umbrella term and dystopia as an academic one.

Jan 31, 2012

PREVIEW - Starters by Lissa Price

I had the pleasure of meeting Lissa Price at a Mysterious Galaxy meet and greet in San Diego during the World Fantasy Convention. I wasn't able to attend WFC but I had a great time at the Mysterious Galaxy store seeing Cindy Pon again and meeting TONS of other great authors. It was a wonderful experience, full of surprises. Meeting Lissa was definitely one of those surprises.

When I went to this event at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore I hadn't been keeping up with forthcoming books so when Lissa told me she had a dystopian novel coming out I was REALLY excited. We had a great time discussing the genre and she told me to get a sample chapter booklet out of the store. The first thing that struck me about Starters was the cover. I have seen pictures of it online and it just doesn't show all the amazing detail that you can really see in person. I begged Lissa to sign it for me and she was more than happy to.

I was instantly in love. The cover was overwhelming me, Lissa was wonderful to chat with, and I could not wait to read Starters.  But I did wait. I didn't want to read the sample and be left in agony waiting to read more of the book AND I don't like to know about a book before I read it. I know I say this a lot, but the more I start thinking about the concept of a book the more expectations I start to have. Usually there is no way a book can live up to them.

But in preparation for Lenore's Dystopian February kick off TOMORROW. I have read and am presenting to you a little mini review of these sample chapters of Starters. First I need to tell you that this book would have lived up to my expectations!

Lissa did not disappoint my overpowering need for strong world building in a dystopian novel.  The first two chapters of Starters were spectacular. World building in young adult dystopias can be a tricky matter, especially when they are written in first person. Lissa did a perfect job of revealing the world through the limited perspective of first person in a completely organic way. I really hope the rest of the book lives up to these opening chapters. Lately a lot of books have disappointed me by starting off strong and tapering off.

In Lissa Price's novel there are Starters, people under 20, and Enders, people over 60.  Everyone in between is dead. Callie is trying to care for her slickly younger brother. She learns about a program that allows Enders to rent younger bodies through a company called Prime Destinations.

Rules for Renters at Prime Destinations:
  1. You may not alter the appearance of your rental body in any way, including but not limited to piercings, tattoos, hair cutting or dyeing, cosmetic contact lenses, and any surgical procedures, including augmentation.
  2. No changes to the teeth are allowed, including fillings, removal, and embedded jewelry.
  3. You must remain inside a fifty-mile perimeter around Prime Destinations. Maps are available.
  4. Any attempt to tamper with the chip will result in immediate cancellation without refund, and fines will be levied.
  5. If you have a problem with your rental body, return to Prime Destinations as soon as possible. Please treat your rental with care, remembering at all time that it is an actual young person.

The concept of this body rental is both amazing and terrifying at the same time. And is extremely effective in grabbing the reader's attention. When I think about it, I am not sure what price I could possibly accept to let someone rent my body while I basically took a nap, but I am not in a desperate situation. Callie is worried about the health and stability of her brother and after being displaced from yet another living situation she decided she HAS to "volunteer" to become a rental body for the money to give her brother a better life.

Because I have not read more of the book I wanted to give you a little summary of what was presented in the sample booklet I had.  What I found while reading it was a compelling and thought provoking beginning to the book. I am extremely curious to see where the story is going next and how it will reveal more about this future world. So far the book is laced with complex concepts, fears, and possibilities for where the story can go.

I am definitely dying to read more, and I bet you are too.
And guess what? |

Lissa has graciously offered up an ARC of Starters to the wonderful readers of my blog. To be entered all you have to do is comment on this post with some aspect of Starters that sounds good or interesting to you.  Make sure your comment is connected to a way for me to contact you or leave you email address in the comments.

For an additional entry tell me in the same comment that you've added Starters to your GoodReads to read list.

The contest ENDS February 15th, 2012 at midnight  Pacific Standard Time.

Check back later in the month for my full review. Until then be sure to check out Lenore's dystopian reviews, interviews, and giveaways happening all month long.

Jan 30, 2012

How I Turned a New Page

Fantasy novels have been the bane of my existence since the creation of my blog. Why is that? you ask. Well, maybe bane is a bit over reaching but when it came to fantasy novels I had a huge road block keeping me from reading them. For me fantasy novels are often challenging because of the level of trust a reader must leave in the hands of an author.  The world can be so unknown with character names that are spelled weird and names of places that are insane to pronounce.

It is odd, because at it's core, there is something inherently appealing about fantasy concepts. What little girl doesn't go through the unicorn stage, or love fairies? But I often found that what I was reading didn't match the pictures on my wall. Or if they did, I couldn't read long enough to get to those parts. And since then I have tried to avoid fantasy books. I even resented when people recommended them because I was so convinced that these books weren't for me and never could be.

I can point to two novels that have significantly changes my views on fantasy fiction. Though I can't point to the things in myself that may have changed. I am sure it is a combination of finding the right book for my interests and maturing in some way and trying to be more open minded. Now that I am reading more science fiction and other speculative fiction, I have decided it may be time to expand my horizons a little more.

The first of the two transforming novels is Homeland by R. A. Salvatore. This book is by far the most fantastical book I have ever read. It wasn't some sort of crossover or fantasy book with an interesting premise that I could handle. Homeland was a pretty good amalgamation of many of the things that put me off about fantasy books. But the politics of this broken society made it easy for a love to dystopian to enjoy it. I also listened to this book as opposed to read it. I found that audiobooks may be the best way for me to deal with this genre of book. I still get the story without having to struggle over some of the words. Menzobarenzan was dark and brutal, and easy for me to fall in love with.  Finally I found a place I knew well in a fantasy novel. Drizzt's journey, like many through dystopia, is about the search for hope. He has a deep desire fgor things to be different from what they are. I didn't read Homeland because I thought I would find these dystopian elements in it, I just happened and I am sure there are more fantasy books out there waiting for me to read them that will also surprise me in this way.

The second novel probably impacted me even more than the first. Partly because I actually read it, instead of listening to it, and partly because there was nothing dystopian in the novel.  Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon has been one of my favorite books for over a year now. Previous to that you would have never been able to convince me that one of my favorites was a fantasy book.  The world of Silver Phoenix seemed more approachable by the Asian overlay for me. I accepted it was "foreign" and didn't resent it as a result. Even though Ai Ling was faced with situations that showed her weakness, she was not weak.  She is one of the strongest female characters I have yet to read in young adult literature. Cindy Pon created a balanced character who was able to maintain her femininity. Even with the guidance of a magical force it is Ai Lings's bravery that is her real source of power. Silver Phoenix is a hero's quest laced with the whimsical elements that made childhood magical. This feeling has made me want to find more fantasy books and see if they can create the same feeling. For the first time in my reading life I am actually searching out fantasy books to read.

Since reading Silver Phoenix I have been able to talk often with Cindy Pon on Twitter. She is such an amazing person who is willing to share herself with her readers. She is generous with information and quick to answer any question or chime in on a topic that interests her. She also doesn't hesitate to share and talk about other books she has loved reading. I am using these books that she has mentioned both recently and in the past as the start to my fantasy TBR pile. It can be a slow process because my bias is still present, it just isn't a brick wall anymore.

Jan 27, 2012

Plum Wine Review

Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner is a historical novel set in Vietnam Era Japan. Like the author once was, the main character, Barbara, is an English teacher at a Japanese university. An interesting aspect of the main character's situation is that she speaks very little Japanese. I could not imagine living in another country and not speaking their language, especially in the predigital age. I was lucky enough to share my reading experience with Carrie at Books and Movies after she read a post where I listed some books I wanted to try and read and she shared she had Plum Wine to read as well.

As the story begins, a wine chest is being delivered to Barbara that belonged to her friend Michi. Michi has recently passed away and left this wine and chest behind. Though Barbara loves the gift she isn't entirely sure why she received it. One of the main themes in the book is the revelation of different layers of meaning.  After the chest had been delivered, Barbara looks around the room. "It was strange, she thought. how the placement of objects affected them. It was true for people too. She herself had never felt accurately place, had never taken root anywhere" (12). This aspect of Barbara's personality becomes the backdrop on which the story is built.  I particularly loved this passage and thought it was a beautiful glimpse into Barbara's psyche.  Part pf this lack of rooting is what cultivated the friendship between Michi and Barbara.

I liked seeing Japanese culture through the eyes of Barbara; the American perspective helped high light more intensely the differences between the two cultures. In this new and different place Michi seemed to be the most welcoming person Barbara had found. Later in the story we find that Barbara almost considers Michi like a mother. The relationships between mother and daughter is one of the major thematic overlays in the books. At times I think it may have been a little heavy heavy handed. I felt a very overt layering of story lines, each of varying complexity, pile up in a haphazard way. All of these story lines are supposed to reflect again on Barbara's place in the world and playing off the concept of going to Japanese as a way to fill the need to find her own mother, or some memory of her (even though she is very much alive), within the landscape of this foreign world.

Since reading Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix I have been eager to read more books about and inspired by Asian culture. I noticed that I had a gap in my cultural knowledge when it came to this area of the world and I quickly wanted to rectify it. Plum Wine has definitely been a good start in fulfilling that desire. It may not be the best or first choice but I like to take a meandering way through fiction; even if this story wasn't the most informative or the most well written, I really enjoyed it. I also found a mythology that became of particular interest. The Kitsune is a fox trickster archetype in Asian myths. Introduction to this character type may have been the most rewarding gift Plum Wine had to give me. For more on the Kitsune, please see my previous post.

Both Carrie and I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book. I particularly liked the references to literature and Barbara's classroom discussions. If the book had more of the classroom experiences woven through it Carrie and I would have been a lot more satisfied with the way the story went and the quality of the storytelling. But the whole second half of the book was a bit of a miss for both of us. We had similar complaints and similar desires for what we wished was different. I loved the romantic story line in Plum Wine but it did get to a point where it was a little repetitive and clunky. If the romance had been balanced out by more of Barbara's life, I think there would have been a more complete story told. Yes still the book seemed to win me over in a way it didn't for Carrie. This was probably a mix of my exposure to the Kitsune myth and how strong my desire was to connect with Asian related books.

Plum Wine feels like a coming of age story, but there were just too many pieces in the story for Barbara's personal journey to shine through. I almost appreciate this book for what I wish it was rather than what it ended up being. Carrie and I both would have enjoyed the books more if there was less piling up of back stories that didn't seem to have any resolve in Barbara's life or place in the world. Overall though, I would recommend this book. It really depends of what you are hoping to get out of it, but it was an enjoyable book and maybe would have been better as a one sitting kind of read. Breaking it up definitely didn't do the narrative any favors because it only high lighted some of the flaws in the narrative.

For more thoughts on this book please check out Carrie's post. I want to thank her again for reading this with me, it was a really enjoyable experience sharing this book with her, even if we didn't both love the book.

Jan 26, 2012


One of the amazing things that a book can do is give you a glimpse of something that you desperately need to know more about. It might just be one little line or paragraph but your interest has been piqued. Plum Wine did this for me with its thread about the different fox mythologies in Japanese culture. The book is set in Vietnam Era when an American woman, Barbara, goes to teach English and Literature at a Japanese university.

I was fascinated about the superstition and mythology of foxes in Japanese culture as presented through the book. As always with fiction, I wonder where the facts end and fiction begins. But it was nice looking it all up when I was done with the book.  I found these fox stories were mostly called Kitsune myths. There are many different kind of Kitsune myths but as Lafcadio Hearn wrote in Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan "All foxes have supernatural power. There are good and bad foxes. The Inari-fox is good, and the bad foxes are afraid of the Inari-fox."  The Inari fox is the fox most deeply rooted in the religious elements of the fox mythology and many of the other myths stem from Inari. Though many instances of these fox myth throughout the story, Plum Wine did focus on one type more prominently.

The fox theme runs in criss crossing patterns across the narrative of Plum Wine, but the one that compelled me the most was the story of Ko.  Ko was believed to be a representative of one of the well known Kitsune myths about a fox woman tricking a man into marrying her. Seiji is a Japanese man helping with some translations for Barbara. He reads aloud the translations saying, "Mother-in-law said Ko had face of fox with broad cheeks and pointed chin and her eyes were pointed like a fox. Takasu family had been tricked.  This was a fox trick and Ko herself was fox, mother-in-law believed" (p. 126, Plum Wine).

I wanted to find out more about the type of fox myth that Ko's mother-in-law was concerned with but I had a hard time pinning down definitive sources for the information I found. After finding one summary point to another summary I found an original source that much of the information seemed to be gleaned from. Kitsune: Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance and Humor by Kiyosho Nozaki looks like an in depth study of these myths published in 1961. While this isn't a contemporary book, the date of its publication is particularly relevant to the time period of Plum Wine, 1966. Though I was not able to read Kiyosho Nozaki's book, I was able to read some excerpts from it to give me a little insight into this aspect of Japanese culture. More contemporary interpretations of Kitsune seem to be more marginalized in comics and anime as compared to the deep beliefs in the reality of such being in earlier eras.

Nozaki wrote, "Japan's fox is an expert in changing itself into any form, and its specialty is assuming the shape of a charming and seductive woman, to captivate a young man and an old gentleman susceptible to female charms." This was the fox that Ko's mother-in-law was afraid of. A trickster who had seduced her son and find a way to damage the family.

Kitsune in Japanese simply means fox, but through a folklore from Chinese or Korean culture it became deep and meaningful part of Japanese culture. The quality of a trickster can be mischievous or it can be malicious, but either way there were times when the Kitsune was believed to be very real for the Japanese people.

In Plum Wine Seiji tells one Kitsune myth to Barbara after looking at the artwork on a Japanese scroll. The story is similar to the one we later hear about regarding Michi's grandmother, Ko. Barbara's mother was once a reporter in Japan and brought this scroll back for her daughter before World War II. Barbara begins by telling him her what her friend, Michi, saw when she looked at the scroll.

"Michi thought this picture illustrates the fox woman leaving her child. I don't know the story, do you?"

"We have many fox stories in Japan. Usually fox changes into lovely woman to trick man. Most popular one is fox wife. In the tale most schoolchildren know, a hunter spares the life of a fox. Next day a woman comes to his house and offers to be his wife. He agrees and they spend some happy years together wither their child. But eventually the true shape of the wife is revealed--perhaps as they pass by water. Always reflection in water wil show true thing, fox figure instead of woman. So she must leave him and also their child." 

"What a sad ending." 

"This is very Japanese ending--we call it aware, graceful sorrow."

This sadness becomes the legacy of Ko also. She is forced by her mother-in-law to leave after to is "exposed" as a fox wife. There is something so contrary to the expected roles of motherhood represented in this Kitsune myth. For any mother, the idea of leaving a child behind under any circumstances is horrifying. And the stories leaves a haunted quality.

Watts Martin writes, "Most kitsune in stories are female—women in Japanese culture and many other patriarchies are also often seen with the bane/benefactor duality, the lady to be venerated and protected from manipulation set against the dangerous, manipulative femme fatale."  But this femme fatale is not the Kitsune of Plum Wine. The novel really utilises the myth as one of loss, rather than one of power and its misuses.  Martin's essay was one of the most compelling ones of the writing I was able to review in preparation for this post. The interesting part is that his statements reflect my experience reading Plum Wine, but not my experience in researching the topic.  I found it increasingly hard to find out more information about the wife fox myth.   In my quest to find out more about the wife myth of Kitsune, all I found was the same things explained in the novel.

It has been an interesting experience looking through many different websites and lists and types of foxes in Japanese myths, but when it come right down to the wife story, I had almost all the information from Plum Wine to begin with. There are definitely more opportunities to delve into this more in the future. And if you are also interested I have some links and books that might interest you. Watts Martin's essay, "Kitsune: Coyote of the Orient," is definitely going to be one of the first non fiction pieces I will go back to regarding this topic.

Short Stories
"Where Foxes Dance" by Wendy Hibbs
"Fox Magic" by Kij Johnson
"Cosmic Kitsune" by Tanith Perry-Mills

Picture Book
The Fox Maiden by Elsa Marston

Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead
The Vampire Diaries: The Return by L.J. Smith
The Fox Woman by Kaj Johnson
Serrated Edge series by Mercedes Lackey
The White Jade Fox by Andre Norton
Others by Karen Kincy

One last thing I found and loved was the following song called "Fox Woman" by Kathy Mar. I am also adding the lyrics of this song to the bottom of this post. Kathy's song is amazing and I am looking forward to exploring more of her music.


Mother falls on the mountain stair
Wild marauders footsteps fill the air
Fox appears drawn by moans and sighs
Reaching in despair the mother cries

Chorus:  Fox-woman, sister, we are one
  Give me vengeance though my life is done
  Fox-Woman, sister, name your fee
  Grant that I may strike my enemy

Rebels stare silent at the fox
As the wild beast chained in them unlocks
Killers flee fighting hard and wild
As fox-woman guards the one with child

Temple priest takes the mother in
Tells her that the vengeance will begin
Though she knows she must pay with death
Mother whispers with each passing breath


Soft she comes to the temple door
Russet pelt a shadow near the floor
Deep the drums in her gentle heart
Keep the rhythm as the birth pains start

Russet gown, hem of snowy white
Now a woman steps into the light
Makes her way to the bed of pain
Reaches down with touch as soft as rain

As her touch melts into the flesh
Pain departs as fox and mother mesh
Screaming ends with one quiet breath
As the mother gives herself to death

And the priest raises up the knife
Carves a door to bring the child to life
Infant born still without a sound
Fox and woman spirits have been bound


Killers come seeking for the child
Turned away by visions strong and wild
As they flee down the mountain stair
Vengeance, on fox footsteps, leaves her lair

Words and music:  Kathy Mar

Copyright 1986 Kathy Mar

Jan 24, 2012

Lenore's Dystopian February - Coming Soon

When it comes to books there are a lot of little milestones that happen every year, or a few times a year, that make me very happy. There is always the two book fairs at my local elementary school (especially the Buy One, Get One Free one in March) and LTUE - a symposium formally at BYU focusing on speculative fiction and featuring panels from some of Utah's best authors. But there is another semi annual event that is near and dear to my heart. And the best thing about it? You can be part of it too! It is happening right here on the interwebs and is hosted by Lenore from Presenting Lenore.
Do you know what it is?


Lenore and I first met through twitter shortly before she had her first dystopian month. I remember it quite clearly, someone started about dystopia and SUDDENLY the topic blew up for 40 minutes on my Twitter stream and I had made at least a dozen new friends. When Lenore had her first dystopian February I was beyond excited, this was in 2010 and believe it or not a lot of people didn't even really know what dystopia was. I spent a lot of time on twitter helping people define and understand the concept. Now dystopia is a (young adult) sensation. It is fascinating how dystopia has since become a large part of our shared lexicon. In the post Hunger Games reading world people are eager to find more books that show the possible futures of our existence.

I have eagerly followed Lenore's dystopian months ever since (Feb and Aug). It has been fun reading and reading about so many dystopian books. It has been a passion of mine for a long time and I love being able to see other people sharing in that interest. One thing about the past two years that is particularly exciting for me is that now Lenore has a forthcoming book, Level Two, which will definitely have some dystopian tones. This is pretty exciting for me as a fan of the genre to see a friend having a book coming out. I honestly cannot wait to read it.

 There are many understandings of dystopia and this is often a surprisingly controversial issue. I want to preface this month of dystopian reviews by saying I am purposely taking a broad umbrella to the term dystopia. When it comes to reading enjoyable stories, I have used the term to help me find the type of stories that interest me. Though it is often quite clear that a book is not clearly dystopia, I still enjoy the book and was happy to be able to find it. Often times the opposite is true too. I find a book that a resent for not living up to its dystopian label. This is more about personal preference and personal bias than anything exceedingly concrete, but I am also opening over the month of Feburary to explore deeper the meaning of dystopian and what I want from a dystopian novel.

I hope you will considering sharing your dystopian reads with Lenore and myself this February. For a list of ideas here are the dystopian books Lenore has reviewed over the past few years. She has also posted a preview of what books she will be reviewing this upcoming month.

As for me, since finding a wonderful list of young adult dystopian titles, I have been slowly building my home dystopian library. Here are the majority of the books here on my dystopian shelf.

I have close to 150 books to choose from, plus quite a few on my Nook, and audiobooks from my library's digital collection. What dystopian books do you have on your TBR? I look forward to reading about the books YOU decide to read this dystopian February!
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