Category: Books


Book Review: Perfect Ruin

23658Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin (Book #1 of The Internment Chronicles) is a perfect combination of fantasy and allegory wrapped up with a beautiful Young Adult series bow. Destafano is already known for expert world-building, (as in her Chemical Garden series), but she takes it to a new level in her latest book.

Imagine a city on a hunk of land that floats high above the ground. A large dome protects the city from the atmosphere and creates a barrier between the population and the Edge. Trains run around the city to get people where they need to go, but they are also the dividing line between an orderly civilization and forbidden territory.

In a city where everyone and everything is controlled by an all powerful king, the concepts of individuality and free thought are virtually nonexistent. The government arranges marriages, dictates when babies can be born, assigns jobs and living quarters, and essentially brainwashes the entire population with a state religion and fictional history. Anyone who dares to think outside these boundaries is declared as “irrational” and subjected to therapy and medications, or worse.

Morgan has lived in the city her all her life and she knows the rules. The Edge is a dangerous place and there are serious consequences for even thinking about what lies on the ground. Still, her imagination often tries to picture the landscape and who might live there. Both her best friend, Pen, and betrothed partner, Basil, can see the danger of her daydreams, but they too share her curiosity. All can’t help but wonder if this one city is all there is in this life. The distant land below beckons as Morgan and her friends begin to question the life laid out by their government.

Perfect Ruin is a high concept story that digs deep into social and adolescent issues like independence, family, and self-discovery. At the same time, it is a compelling allegory that explores the folly of master societies and dictatorial states.

Verdict: Well worth reading.

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c.b.w. 2014

 

It’s official! I finished knitting my first raglan sweater! After receiving the book, New England Knits by Cecily Glowik Macdonald and Melissa LaBarre, I fell in love with the pattern for the Derry Raglan and Cowl. This didn’t surprise me in the least as MacDonald was the designer of the pattern for the first sweater I ever made, (See Knit, Purl, Knit …). I just love her designs! They highlight simplicity with just the right touch of intricate detail.

The Derry Raglan has a plain front, but a beautiful lace pattern runs down the sleeve. Seeing as I live in a mild climate, the idea of ventilated sleeves on a sweater made this the perfect project for me. Plus, it had the added bonus of learning the raglan technique for the yoke and shoulders of a garment. I’m always ready to try something new.

Before doing anything I had to learn how to do a Right-lifted Increase and a Left-lifed increase. Luckily, I found two great videos on youtube for both stitches. It’s rare to find a knitting video that clearly explains every step and takes the time to visually go through those steps slowly and repeatedly. If you need to learn these stitches, follow the links!

Pyrrha Designs: Right Lifted Increase

Pyrrha Designs: Left Lifted Increase

Aside from lifted stitch increases, the hardest part of this sweater was the first round. After casting on, the pattern stipulated lifted increases with only the cast on stitches to pick up.  I had to start over at least four times before I found the right tension!  Once I got that first round, everything fell into place.

The finished project turned out great!

100_4398

A little magic math on the gauge lead to a perfect fit!

The yarn is Berroco Remix in Red. Made from recycled fibers and cotton, this yarn is not only soft, but also earth friendly!

When I bound off the final stitch, it was 80 degrees outside. There’s nothing worse than finishing a beautiful sweater and knowing you’ll have to wait more than six months to wear it. However, as luck would have it, a cold front swept through my area for one day this week. I got to wear my new sweater after all!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

“A Life” Faces The Truth

128618A Life by Guy de Maupassant is the story of a woman who grasps the reality that life is rarely fair. While the premise is nothing new in terms of storytelling, the way in which Maupassant approaches it is revolutionary.

The story begins with a young woman who is full of dreams and bright imaginings of her future. Unfortunately, her innocent fairy tale mentality clouds her perspective. When real life begins to unfold she feels the pain of crumbling fantasies as life deals her a few cruel blows and her choices further entrap her into an existence she never imagined for herself. As she approaches midlife, she becomes jaded and full of self-pity. It’s only when old age sets in that she starts to sift through the memories of life with a new eye. Instead of tragedy, she finds herself remembering only the joys.

The beauty of the novel lies in how Maupassant contrasts different views of life. There is always something influencing the character’s point of view – whether it be the innocence of youth, scorn of adulthood, or impending death, never does she view life in an unbiased mindset. In the process, Maupassant unveils the universal emotions we feel when faced with our own mortality.

One of Maupassant’s strengths is his ability to transform a rather simple story into something beautiful with well-crafted imagery and flowing prose. Lengthy descriptions of nature are used to represent the feelings, emotions, and rites of passage for the main character. Rather than explore these realms the old fashioned way through the mind of the character, he creates magnificent and sometimes haunting images of emotion with landscapes, water, and plantlife. These passages are often long and sometimes drag, but I was swept into them as soon as I viewed them as part of the character and not just insanely long descriptions.

The last line is where Maupassant dazzles with subtlety. Never does he end a story with everything tied up into a neat little package. There is room to wonder what happens next, while saying goodbye to the characters. For a novel that depicts the often unfair attributes of life, he manages to put it all in perspective with a perfectly balanced dose of optimism and pessimism.

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c.b.w. 2014

Sticking It To Rejection

The list of writers who made to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was posted yesterday and alas my name was not on the list. How tempting it is to pout and unmute my inner critic (who is most certainly shouting, “You suck!”). How easy it would be to give up. How simple it would be to shelve the whole project. However, I’m not doing any of those things for a couple of reasons.

First, any rejection I get is added to the stack and treated like a badge of honor.  Every rejection, silent or otherwise, brings me one step closer to the agent who will say “yes.” Regardless of what my inner critic would have me believe, The Muse does not suck and neither do I.  The Muse is a kick-butt novel that deserves a shot at publication.

Second, my readers gave me a precious gift. When I posted a short story for the first time in more than a year, you all showed up to hit that “like” button and write amazing comments. None of my previously posted short stories got that kind of attention and I’m beyond thrilled that Blink evoked such a strong reaction.

Part of the reason I held off on doing anything with Blink was because I thought it was too weird and no one would get it. Obviously, I was wrong. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my odd little story.

As an added bonus, here’s the image that inspired Blink. I’ve used it before for a series entitled Sundays in London, but it’s an image I come back too often for inspiration.

A side-street in London, near Trafalgar Square
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

All I have to say to rejection is, “bring it.” As soon as I knew I hadn’t made to the second round of the competition, I immediately started Googling “young adult fantasy literary agents.” I’ve already got a new list of agents started and they will all soon be receiving a query package from me. Get ready guys, The Muse is coming to find you.

How’s that for sticking it to rejection?

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c.b.w. 2014

The Writer’s Waiting Game

Query letters have been sent. Competition entries have been submitted. Drafts have gone off to beta readers. In the age of instant gratification, waiting for a response in the writing world is a grueling endeavor. Weeks and months are a long time to wait when you’re dying to know whether your work is good enough to get picked up by a publisher. Or at the very least, whether somebody like it well enough to say, “good job.”

In the case of waiting for a literary agent to respond to a query letter, I go in with the assumption that nothing but silence with follow my inquiry. When a kindly worded rejection shows up in my inbox, I’m thrilled. Positive thinking is a powerful thing on this journey. So is keeping busy. The wait for any sort of a response is agonizing and it never seems to end. You’ll go nuts unless you keep yourself occupied with something other than obsessing over that elusive response.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve perfected the art of waiting with distraction. Trust me, keeping yourself busy makes the process a lot easier to take and in many ways softens the blow of rejection. Here’s a few ways to keep your muse inspired and give your patience a boost…

1) Keep writing.

Start that next novel or punch out a few short stories. Maybe even dabble in poetry or non-fiction articles.  Follow your muse and write because you are a writer, regardless of your publication credits, (or lack thereof). Sometimes a “distraction” piece can turn into something great. My second novel began as a distraction and ended up as my passion project. It got me through a number of rejections and ultimately lead me to a new path.

2) Research literary agents.

Finding the right agent takes a lot of work. It takes research, research, and more research. Every agent has different tastes, query package requirements, and personalities. For those of us playing the waiting game, all the work and time required to find the right agent plays right into our hands. It takes a lot of time to compile a list of possible agents and prepare customized query packages. Luckily, time is something we have in plentiful supply!

3) Read.

Every writer I know is also a voracious reader. Between loving a good book and wanting to figure out how published authors crafted a great story, writers are inherently addicted to reading. While waiting for any sort of response to arrive, it’s nice to escape to another world and enjoy the ride. Plus, some authors thank their agents on the acknowledgments page. This ties in nicely to #2.

4) Edit.

Most writers are never happy with a “final” draft. We’re always looking to make a sentence better or find a more perfect word. My final draft for The Muse has been altered (albeit slightly) multiple times since I started pitching it. A word here, a comma there, I’m always tinkering with it to make everything about it a little bit better. It’s time consuming and tedious work, but well worth every hour. While waiting for that one e-mail to arrive, I am happily ensconced in my fantasy world.

5) Find a hobby.

My craft closet has more stuff in it than my clothes closet.  When an afternoon of writing is done, I’ll pull out a craft project to keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. It beats sitting around and thinking about why an agent hasn’t sent an excited request to read my manuscript. Of late, knitting has been my savior as it inspires my creativity and challenges me to try new things. My muse loves it, too. While I’m knitting row after row, she whispers to me and new stories are born.

This weekend, I sent off my entry to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which means a new round of waiting and waiting has commenced. I suspect my to-read stack of books will get shorter and the sweater I’m knitting will soon have sleeves.

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c.b.w. 2014

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