Friday, March 23, 2012

Ready, set, blog! (reflective) - blog challenges ahead

Did you ever get a "little set in your ways"?
Is it time to push your writing muscles a bit?
A blog challenge may be just what you need!

With over 150 book recommendations, BooksYALove heads into its 12th month with a wow, as I participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge in April.

Rather than just posting 3 books a week, I will be posting on 26 of April's 30 days according to the Challenge's alphabetical schedule, starting with A on Sunday, April 1 (no fooling).

Naturally, trying to align the alphabet with the stack of great YA books that I want to recommend isn't as easy as I'd hoped. Using book titles would be simple - if I had some that began with X or didn't have multiple titles that all start with the same letter. Ditto for authors' names, last or first. So, there will be a few entries that get shoehorned into a letter slot because of their subject or a major character.

But why do a blog challenge in the first place? You've heard that it takes 30 days to acquire a new habit, so a month-long challenge with a set framework and some coaching will make your success more likely, as will being accountable to the challenge organizers and fellow bloggers as we exercise our blog-writing 'muscles' and encourage each other.

On April 30th, my blog's first birthday, I'll take another deep breath and plunge into the full 31-day Wordcount Blogathon, with a big thank-you to its host Michelle Rafter. Yep, I finally began blogging so that I could participate in the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon. Lots of excellent advice, a forum to share our posts, guest post exchange - you should sign up for the 2012 version, too! It's free, you won't get any sales pitches, and your blogging muscles will get great exercise. Sign-ups will begin soon, so I'll remind you!

Ready, set, April!
(photograph of lichen on oak branch (c)2012 H.B. Massingill Jr. - thanks, Dad!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Wednesday (fiction) - Writers from all over

When your mind wanders, where does your imagination take you?

If you really want to go places - without leaving your favorite reading spot - be sure to check out these interesting books written by authors from outside the USA.

Travel back to the time of Scheherazade when Yeats ventures Between Two Ends - magical bookends, that is - to rescue a young girl trapped in her favorite story decades ago, now facing almost-certain death. Canadian author David Ward takes readers far from the Bronze Age Britain setting of his Grassland Trilogy in this exciting tale.

Katherine wants people to see what's inside her, ignoring her burn scars - can she break free of limitations set by others, like Butterflies burst from their cocoons in the Sydney springtime? A story beyond the usual everyday high school worries, ably written by Australian Susanne Gervay.

French author Guillaume Prevost takes us all over the world, hopscotching across centuries as Sam uses The Book of Time to search for his father and stop a cunning criminal. William Rodarmor translated all 3 books in the series, with its dizzying turns and twists through time.

Amazing determination sets apart young Eon: Dragoneye Reborn from others competing to become Dragoneye apprentice. Courage and loyalty in the face of massive psychic and physical peril keeps Eona and her country alive in this adventure duology by Australian author Alison Goodman.

Berlin during the waning days of the Great War was an increasingly dangerous place, as Socialist demonstrators clashed with police and wounded German soldiers returning from the front lines told truths that the government would not let newspapers publish - German author and international schools teacher Monika Schroeder brings us young Moritz' perspective in My Brother's Shadow.

Japanese mythology collides with modern life in London as Miku and her friend Cait race to save the teen's baby brother from evil Takeshita Demons who have followed her family from Osaka. Australian author Cristy Burne sent me a tweet to say that books 2 & 3 in the series are now available in the US.

Living in London and going to school is much better than staying in their tiny Pakistani village for Halima, but the threat of an arranged marriage and no further education sends her running. The Payback promised by the groom's family will end her hopes of choosing her own Muslim husband and could end her life! British author Rosemary Hayes says only the names are fictional in this story.

Perhaps Mercy is the ultimate exchange student, flung from heaven to earth, suddenly awakening in someone else's body (with their mind riding shotgun), on a mission to stop a crime - when she doesn't know what it is yet! First in series by Australian author Rebecca Lim - Exile (book 2) and Muse (book 3) are already published, with Fury on the 2012 horizon.

Please do look for these fine books at your library or independent bookstore as you support the local institutions that take our imaginations everywhere! And click Non-US Authors in the Labels section on the right for these and other great books by writers who bring us different perspectives and other dreams.

sitting on my Florida porch, wondering if those sunset clouds will ever bring us rain

Monday, March 19, 2012

Peter & Max (fiction), by Bill Willingham - Fables, love & revenge

Peter and Bo live up on The Farm,
keeping to themselves after Bo's crippling accident,
near the moon-jumping cow and that talkative puss.

Oh yes, storybook folk and creatures live in our boring mundane world, leaving behind the enemies and evils that attacked them in their magical homeworlds. But you won't find Fabletown on any maps of New York City and no country road will let you drive to The Farm upstate where all the magical animals stay. None of the Fables want to draw the attention of the mundy populace - laying low is their key to staying alive.

But here comes Peter's brother Max, asking for admittance to Fabletown after all these years of evil power and magical domination over Hamelin, outside the mysterious Black Forest.

He wants revenge, he wants Bo Peep, he wants to take over a new kingdom.

Even if you haven't read the Fables graphic novels, you'll enjoy the twists and turns of familiar Fables with Willingham's skillful backstory additions. And Fables fans will delight in this long-form narration which fills in some storyline gaps while staying ever-true to the series.

p.s. remember that the Fables series started publication over 10 years ago, well before TV shows like "Once Upon a Time" - see this interesting article by Bill Willingham.

Book info: Peter & Max (a Fables novel) / Bill Willingham; illustrations by Steve Leialoha. Vertigo/DC Comics, 2009. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Left for dead in the Black Forest, Peter and Max are separated from their minstrel family and must find their way through its terrors alone. Sinister forces prey upon the Piper brothers’ minds, twisting one toward wrathful revenge while the other draws closer to the magical music of the flute given to him by their father.

Making such otherworldly music exacts its price, and Peter’s mouth collects many small cuts and scars as he plays. Max finds an instrument of his own, invoking its darker powers to get back at Peter and anyone who may have helped him escape the Black Forest.

Yes, this is the tale of Peter Piper, whose playing gladdened the heart, and of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who lured away all that town’s children. So long have their stories been told that the people are now Fables themselves, including Peter’s childhood friend and love of his life, Bo Peep.

Replaying the same dark vengeance wearies even Fables, so Peter and Bo decide to leave their storybook land and retire to an obscure corner of the human world. Such an unmagical place shouldn’t attract the dangerous interest of the dark forces who pursue Fables in their enchanted homelands – but sometimes evil slips through Fabletown’s watch spells and guards.

Max has come into the human world, and he plans to duel Peter to ultimate death, taking Bo Peep as his prize. Can Peter win this fight without exposing Fabletown to the humans?

Peter & Max is the first novel based on the long-running Fables graphic novel series, and author Bill Willingham has called on series cartoonist Steve Leialoha to provide illustrations for this compelling story. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the series or are visiting Fabletown for the first time, you’ll enjoy meeting familiar storybook characters in most unfamiliar circumstances. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.