The first draft of my critical thesis is officially done! We'll have to see what my advisor has to say in the next few days. So I might either spend the next month revising it or the next few months totally rewriting it. Let's hope for the former. I'm almost going to miss reading all these writing theory and theoretical cosmology books, but I'm also looking forward to catching up on more fiction.
For now, I'm off to stalk* Katherine Applegate and Richard Peck at the National Book Festival. There could possibly be tears again this year when I meet them. But I also can't wait to listen to Grace Lin, Tamora Pierce and Natasha Trethewey. It will also be nice to see Lisa McMann again--I haven't seen her since a book event in New York more than four years ago. It's also been almost a year since I've seen the amazing, funny, talented Kathy Erskine. It's a good thing this thing is two days long!
From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll: A very enjoyable read for someone obsessed with time and knows just enough about scientific theories not to get lost in the vocabulary but not so knowledgeable that you spend the entire book disagreeing or seeing what was left out or wishing that he had gone into more depth about... Yeah, so perfect for someone like me. It was a little "preachy" in places, even though he stats at the beginning that he wants to give you enough information to make a decision of your own, which I found a little annoying. Also, the "writerly" aspect of the book does kind of fall apart at points.
Happy by Mies Hout: I find myself rather underwhelmed by a lot of concept picture books, and this one left me feeling blah. I love the idea behind it, and the illustrations are amazing, but even the great chalk illustrations of fish can’t pull off the complicated emotions of humans.
Rotters by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne: Now this is how you do a horror story. Kraus manages to make the terrifying into something both creepy and compassionate. I’m still trying to figure out how he made me cry for a teenaged gravedigger—multiple times. Reminds me of reading Lolita.
In Medias Res: A Primer of Experience in Approximate Alphabetical Order by Karen An-hwei Lee: I’m usually all for experimental poetry, but I couldn’t connect with this one. Maybe it was the format or all the found poetry or the vocabulary or the topics, but it just tries too hard. It tries too hard to be clever and intellectual and emotional, which makes the poetic voice become lost in the effort instead of flowing free to be felt by the reader.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: Wow. Another book where every word counts and the plot really makes you work for it. This novel has both powerful emotion and intense action, which is a more difficult balance to achieve than many people realize.
Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham: The Vampirina books are so delightful. I had the pleasure of hearing the author reading this book, and the way she juxtaposes light and darkness in such a sweet book is kind of amazing.
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park: I first heard Linda talk about this book at a conference nearly four years ago, and then she spoke about it again at VCFA last summer. It is a very moving book about a horrible political, ethnic and environmental issues in Sudan, but Linda manages to explain then in a very clear way kids can understand and still reserves judgment of any of the parties involved. I almost hate labeling this as historical fiction because it addresses ongoing struggles that are not really fiction at all.
Moonday by Adam Rex: I’m always impressed with Adam Rex’s ability to understand how imagination works and then translate it into a follow-able plot. Seriously, I’ve been trying to figure out how he does that for years, and I was happy to read a picture book so I could study it on a smaller scale.
Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames by Brian Richardson: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and learning from craft books. Everyone responds differently to different approaches, which is why writing reference books keep getting published and read. This is not a craft book but a writing theory textbook, and I tend to get more for theory books than craft books. I focused mainly on the time section (obviously), and it really got me thinking more in-depth about a lot of the theories I’ve been forming since starting my thesis.
The Spelling Bee Before Recess by Devorah L. Rose, illustrated by Carey Armstrong-Ellis: Forced rhyme makes me shutter, and this one made me shutter harder than most. I just didn’t understand why Rose opened with echoes of The Night Before Christmas and then didn’t follow through with it. And then there was the “lesson” aspect that you need to read to understand the meaning of words rather than just being able to spell them. Err...
Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber: Action/adventures novels like this tend to become repetitive and the characters tend to revert back to old ways when there are multiple books in a series. Schreiber managed to avoid some of the pitfalls by introducing more character complications and not just throwing plot complications at his protagonists by giving his characters—and not just the action scenes—more depth. Plus, I loved the frame of having a playlist that is pretty much my music library in brief, so I’m a little more in love with this series.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheu by Mary Shelley, narrated by Jim Weiss: I really need to face the fact that I don’t like classic gothic literature. Why I keep trying to force myself to like it, I’ll never know. I honestly thought I’d never get through this one. If I hadn’t spent so much time waiting for it to get better, I would have put it down as soon as I realized all of the action takes place in backstory and that the narrative is so slow that you could read one in every 20 pages and still know exactly what’s going on.
*In case some government body is monitoring this website, that was a joke, although I understand that stalking is no joking matter. I mean it in a respectful fan-girl who might giggle and cry when I speak with them type of way, not a criminally insane fan-girl who will show up at their hotel if they run out of time to sign my book type of way. Don't stalk authors--it's not cool and it makes them not want to do events.