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A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
I have watched A Christmas Carol more times than I've read it, and I've read it two or three times at least. The story is oh-so-familiar; the phrasing is oh-so-familiar. It's a book that has an old-friend feel even if you haven't read it dozens of times. There are scenes and descriptions that just feel incredibly right and familiar. For example,
Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug!”
“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.” “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Other details, I've found, are less memorable perhaps.
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?” “It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.” From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children, wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “O Man! look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. “Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” The bell struck Twelve.
I don't recall thinking much of the two children Ignorance and Want, of thinking about what message Dickens was sending. But when I was reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford stressed their significance. (Standiford called A Christmas Carol, "a bald-faced parable that underscores Dickens's enduring themes: the deleterious effects of ignorance and want.") Why had I not noticed them before? I can only suppose that I've been rushing through the text looking for what was familiar and beloved, not really considering the book as a whole.
I like A Christmas Carol. I don't love, love, love it. I have found it to be a Christ-less Christmas story. A book that doesn't really focus on the Savior--newborn babe or risen Savior--so much as it focuses on humanity improving and changing and saving themselves. The message to Scrooge isn't, you're a bad man; you need a Savior; consider your eternal soul. The message is whether that even Scrooge, as horrible as he was, can change; he can change the way he lives; he can become a good man, a great man. He can avoid after-life horrors by changing his behavior. That isn't a Christian message.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Sublime is a dark, atmospheric romance. It’s the story of a living boy and a ghost who fall in love, but more than that it’s about the lengths someone will go to be with the person they love. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, but overall I thought it was a very romantic, unique paranormal romance. The best part about this book were the two main characters. The chapters switch between Lucy and Colin’s perspectives, and I think each character is given equal depth. I was especially surprised by Colin. He was sensitive and likable, even when he did stupid things (like crazy bike stunts that break his arm). A lot of times when I read young adult books I don’t feel like the boys come across as authentic, but Colin did effortlessly. He thought and acted like a teenage boy. His chapters were some of the... Read more »
The post Sublime: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Review by Andye
Yep. I'm one of those people who read A Vision of Fire because I loved the X-Files.
listened to the audiobook, which was read by Gillian Anderson herself,
so that was kind of awesome. She did a great job with all the voices and
characters and accents. The only thing was that her narration was a
little . . . sleepy? (That's the second time this week I've
Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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By: Stacy Dillon,
Our brains seem to want comparisons. Every time a new book comes out, editorial blurbs sing, “For fans of….”, or “Blank meets blank in this striking new novel…” I am both attracted to and wary of these comparisons, because they often create a false hope. After all, a significant amount of connection to a story comes by what we bring to it. I was first struck by the gorgeous cover of The Greenglass House, by Kate Milford and then I started hearing the buzz. I started to hear talk of The Westing Game . Now, if you don’t already know, any time someone asks me what my favorite book of all time is, The Westing Game slides quickly from my mouth. No questions asked. Over the adult titles that I have swooned about, the Newberys I have loved, the picture books that spawned the art that is matted and framed on my walls, The Westing Game is still firmly on the tippy top of the pile. So the talk worried me a bit.
Milo and his family have just settled in for the holidays at their inn, The Greenglass House. The guests have all departed, school is out for a couple of weeks, and it’s officially family time. Imagine Milo’s surprise when the bell rings to alert the family that a guest is ready to come up the hill in the rail car called the Whilforber Whirlwind. Situated on the top of Whilforber Hill, the inn is somewhat iconic in their town. Nagspeake is a smugglers’ town, and Milo’s parents are as likely to get paid in goods by the folks passing through as they are money. But smugglers have seasons and the winter holidays are not smuggler time. Who could be coming to stay now?
Milo and his family are even more surprised when the bell keeps ringing! More than one guest? What is going on?
After the passel of guests shows up, Milo’s folks call on their regular help to come and help with meals and rooms and such. Since it is break, the cook brings her kids and even though Milo has never met Meddy before, the two get along famously even starting to role play using Odd Trails -- a game Milo’s own dad played when he was young. Milo’s personal of Negret comes in handy when guest’s belongings start disappearing. This is such an atmospheric, multi layered story -- I just can’t say enough about it. When you put all of the aspects of the story into writing, they can seem overwhelming. We have the mythos of the town, the rules of the game, the mysterious guests, the criminality afoot, Milo’s own adoption story and sense of self, the lore of the house...it goes on and on. But in Milford’s deft hands all are perfectly balanced and unfurled just so. I started to slow down as I read this one, because I didn’t want it to end. I ache to see this on the big screen, and am anxiously awaiting the first real snow of the season so I can hunker down and treat myself all over again!
Since we’re coming up on All Hallow’s Eve, we thought it would be fun to discuss our favorite ghostly reads. It’s been fun to look over our choices and see just how varied the genre is. There are so many possibilities with a ghost story–creepy, sad, vengeful or harbinging–and we’ve hit just about all of them. So which are our favorites? Peyton’s Favorite Ghostly Read I don’t read a lot of ghost stories because it is ridiculously easy to scare me with the supernatural. I was the child who cried when her friends brought out the ouja board at sleepovers. So, my favorite ghost story is one I stumbled upon and loved, rather than something I actively went looking for. (Spoilers Ahead!) The Burn for Burn series by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian was what I thought was an entertaining, high school revenge story. We follow three girls... Read more »
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We’re getting ready for Halloween this month by reading the classic horror stories that set the stage for the creepy movies and books we love today. Every Friday this October we’ve unveiled a part of Fitz-James O’Brien’s tale of an unusual entity in What Was It?, a story from the spine-tingling collection of works in Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, edited by Darryl Jones. Last we left off the narrator, Harry, tried to fight off a mysterious creature fighting him in his bed. His friend Hammond had just come to his rescue.
Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord that bound the Invisible, twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a vacant space. I never saw a man look so thoroughly stricken with awe. Nevertheless his face expressed all the courage and determination which I knew him to possess. His lips, although white, were set firmly, and one could perceive at a glance that, although stricken with fear, he was not daunted.
The confusion that ensued among the guests of the house who were witnesses of this extraordinary scene between Hammond and myself, — who beheld the pantomime of binding this struggling Something, — who beheld me almost sinking from physical exhaustion when my task of jailer was over, — the confusion and terror that took possession of the bystanders, when they saw all this, was beyond description. The weaker ones fled from the apartment. The few who remained clustered near the door and could not be induced to approach Hammond and his Charge. Still incredulity broke out through their terror. They had not the courage to satisfy themselves, and yet they doubted. It was in vain that I begged of some of the men to come near and convince themselves by touch of the existence in that room of a living being which was invisible. They were incredulous, but did not dare to undeceive themselves. How could a solid, living, breathing body be invisible, they asked. My reply was this. I gave a sign to Hammond, and both of us — conquering our fearful repugnance to touch the invisible creature — lifted it from the ground, manacled as it was, and took it to my bed. Its weight was about that of a boy of fourteen.
‘Now, my friends,’ I said, as Hammond and myself held the creature suspended over the bed, ‘I can give you self-evident proof that here is a solid, ponderable body, which, nevertheless, you cannot see. Be good enough to watch the surface of the bed attentively.’
I was astonished at my own courage in treating this strange event so calmly; but I had recovered from my first terror, and felt a sort of scientific pride in the affair, which dominated every other feeling.
The eyes of the bystanders were immediately fixed on my bed. At a given signal Hammond and I let the creature fall. There was the dull sound of a heavy body alighting on a soft mass. The timbers of the bed creaked. A deep impression marked itself distinctly on the pillow, and on the bed itself. The crowd who witnessed this gave a low cry, and rushed from the room. Hammond and I were left alone with our Mystery.
We remained silent for some time, listening to the low, irregular breathing of the creature on the bed, and watching the rustle of the bed-clothes as it impotently struggled to free itself from confinement. Then Hammond spoke.
‘Harry, this is awful.’
‘But not unaccountable.’
‘Not unaccountable! What do you mean? Such a thing has never occurred since the birth of the world. I know not what to think, Hammond. God grant that I am not mad, and that this is not an insane fantasy!’
‘Let us reason a little, Harry. Here is a solid body which we touch, but which we cannot see. The fact is so unusual that it strikes us with terror. Is there no parallel, though, for such a phenomenon? Take a piece of pure glass. It is tangible and transparent. A certain chemical coarseness is all that prevents its being so entirely transparent as to be totally invisible. It is not theoretically impossible, mind you, to make a glass which shall not reflect a single ray of light, — a glass so pure and homogeneous in its atoms that the rays from the sun will pass through it as they do through the air, refracted but not reflected. We do not see the air, and yet we feel it.’
‘That’s all very well, Hammond, but these are inanimate substances. Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. This thing has a heart that palpitates, — a will that moves it, — lungs that play, and inspire and respire.’
‘You forget the phenomena of which we have so often heard of late,’ answered the Doctor, gravely. ‘At the meetings called “spirit circles,” invisible hands have been thrust into the hands of those persons round the table, — warm, fleshly hands that seemed to pulsate with mortal life.’
‘What? Do you think, then, that this thing is — ’
‘I don’t know what it is,’ was the solemn reply; ‘but please the gods I will, with your assistance, thoroughly investigate it.’
Check back next Friday, 31st of October for the final installment. Missed a part of the story? Catch up with part 1, 2, and 3.
Featured image credit: Haunted Hotel Room by Manuel Millway. CC 2.0 via Flickr.
The post A Halloween horror story : What was it? Part 4 appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Becky Laney
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews
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The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]The Children of the King is set during World War II. And it's set in ENGLAND during World War II. There is every reason in the world, why I should love and adore this one.
Cecily and Jeremy and their mom evacuate to the country; since London is fast becoming much too dangerous, they've evacuated to the family's country estate, Heron Hall. They will live with Uncle Peregrine. On their journey, they see hundreds of other children also evacuating. Unlike Jeremy and Cecily, these kids are going to live with strangers. Cecily resents that they're on the same train. "While she pitied the evacuees, part of her wished they had been on a different train so she wouldn't have had to see them and be weighed down by their plight. She had troubles of her own." (17) But oddly enough--unless you've cheated and read the jacket--Cecily decides by the end of the journey that she just HAS to have ONE of these children. She WANTS to choose herself. She examines the children carefully and slowly. She settles on the one that--by appearances at least--will suit her best. She chooses a girl named May.
May, Cecily, and Jeremy. Three kids that, for the most part, are so different from one another. Sometimes their worlds touch: they interact well with each other and seem to enjoy one another's company. And other times, it's selfishness times three.
Jeremy is fourteen. He is ANGRY and scared and perhaps ashamed that he's scared? He feels he has something to prove. He does NOT want to be in the country. He does not want to be stuck with Cecily and May. They may need the safety and comfort of the country. But not him. He's a man, well, almost. Surely, Jeremy is brave enough and strong enough and stubborn enough to think and act independently.
Cecily. Is she simple or complex? I just can't make up mind. On the one hand, she's selfish and bossy and inconsiderate. On the other hand, what she says may not reflect how she feels. She may be hiding how the war is effecting her. Her fears and doubts might be to blame. I did not really like her very much.
May won't be bossed around for long. Cecily may have picked her out like a pet; Cecily may think she's the boss, but, May is more than capable of standing up for herself and doing exactly what she wants. When Cecily and May accept one another as somewhat equals, there is some peace. But instant friends they are not. Still Cecily and May spend over half the novel in each other's company. It is Cecily and May who spend all their time investigating "Snow Castle;" Cecily and May who discover the two strange boys living in the castle ruins. Cecily and May who keep a secret from all the grown-ups.
I will be honest. I didn't exactly "like" any of the children. I did enjoy, however, Uncle Peregrine! He seems to be just what these three children need. He seems to be the only adult there who understands the children deeply. Peregrine is a storyteller. He tells these three children a story. This story takes weeks to tell. He tells just a little at a time, always leaving them wanting more. He does have a way with words.
For better or worse, the story Peregrine tells is of Richard III and the princes in the tower. He does not call the man in the story, Richard III, he calls him Duke. But to adult readers especially, it is clear how his "story" fits into history. Peregine's story, unfortunately, is ambiguous in all the wrong ways. Richard III is clearly the murderer. (Boo, hiss!) In his ambiguous telling, he offers the possibility that the boys were saved, after all, that they were taken to the country to hide for the rest of their lives. And since these two princes match up oh-so-closely with May and Cecily's strange new friends living in the ruins, readers are led to believe this is where their ghosts dwell after all.
I would have much preferred Hartnett to be ambiguous with the identity of the murderer, to at least consider that others had equally strong motives. If Richard himself had hid the children away in the country, it would have been a more enjoyable ghost story.
I typically like World War II stories. I don't usually like ghost stories. Does the fact that the ghosts are the princes of the tower make me change my mind? I'm still thinking on it.
I do appreciate the juxtaposition of these two stories. How Hartnett trusts readers to reach conclusions and find common themes: how children rarely, if ever, have power or a voice; how sometimes children are caught in situations out of their control, are caught in chaos and uncertainty. That war is war, and war can be cruel and ugly.
So in many ways, I can like this one, at least from a distance, but did I love it? I'm not sure I can stretch it that far.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
"Review My Books" review by Angela
MY LAST KISSby Bethany Neal Age Range: 12 - 18 yearsGrade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (June 10, 2014)
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What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy?
Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend
A few years back, I found out the secret my grandmother had hidden all her life, a secret that explains all about the kind of woman she was - and maybe about the kind of writer I am. Perhaps I should have guessed there was a secret. As a writer, I know that the way a character acts can be traced to backstory.
My grandmother, Effie Satterwhite, was a bitter, mean woman. But I never thought to wonder why, to think that people don't start out that way. I never thought to question why she didn't marry until she was 32, in 1920, at a time when many of her peers were probably becoming grandparents. If I did give any thought to it, I must have chalked it up to no one wanting to marry such a judgmental person.
Then, four years ago, in an idle moment of Googling, I found her name in an Arkansas State Supreme Court decision. It upheld a lower court's ruling that found my great-grandfather guilty of assault with intent to kill.
According to the court records, when she was 17 and living in Hope, Arkansas, Effie started seeing a man named Jim Wallis. One night they went to an “entertainment,” and returned at 11 pm. The following is from the court transcripts.
"She put her hands against him and pushed him away"
“She started to go in the house, but was stopped by Wallis who reached out his hand and drew her to him and kissed her. She put her hands against him and pushed him away. They walked to the end of the porch, and stood there talking until the clock struck eleven. Wallis looked at his watch and then turned and kissed her again. He then left the house.”
Effie went inside, heard a door open, and then saw her father “going down the steps with a gun in his hands.” She heard the shot, and tried to run to Jim. Her father grabbed her, and said it was all her fault.
Finally he let Effie go to her boyfriend, who lay bleeding in the street. Jim told her that he was sure he was dying.
"Relieve her of her virtue"
At the trial, Effie’s brother testified that a year earlier he had seen Effie and Jim together “in a very suspicious attitude, conducting themselves in what he thought a very unbecoming manner on the front porch.” Gus ordered Effie inside, and told Jim to never come back. But Jim did, the next day, and told Effie’s brother that he loved her. They continued to see each other until the night he was gunned down. He lingered for months, finally dying in a Texarkana hospital.
My great-grandfather’s defense was that he was sure Jim “was trying to seduce his daughter and relieve her of her virtue.” But the jury found that the two intended to marry.
Effie lived with her parents for many more years. How did her family treat her? Her town?
I'd like to do a story that reunites the lovers in present day. A ghost story. Which is different than anything I've done before.
But Grandma Effie's spirit calls to me.
Do you see a family resemblance?
Hitting stores on September 15, 2014 is Tacoma’s Haunted History, co-authored with my dear friend and ghost hunter, Ross Allison. Special thanks to Ross for believing in me enough to work with him on this project. We had several fun hours spent together pouring through history at the library!
Tacoma hides in the shadows of Seattle, but what hides in the shadows of Tacoma? The city’s paranormal history is riddled with Native American culture, spiritualists, mysterious deaths, tragedy, and curses that dwell in the dark. Much of Tacoma is built directly on top of sacred lands, and many natives to the area can attest that the city is haunted by its past. Desecration of graves can leave troubling results. Hexed citizens can perish. An untimely death can leave behind a soul. These unfortunate circumstances bring forth tales of the strange and unexplainable. Are we alone in Tacoma or accompanied by ghosts of the past?
A.G.H.O.S.T. was founded in 2000 by Ross Allison. With more than 25 years of worldwide investigative experience, Ross shares his knowledge by writing books, appearing on national television, and teaching classes. He can also be found wandering the streets of Seattle as a tour guide for his business, Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tours. Teresa Nordheim is the director of research for A.G.H.O.S.T. and is a self-proclaimed research addict with a passion for the paranormal field. She has written more than 30 articles for various publications and conducted interviews with celebrities and distinguished professionals in the paranormal and scientific fields.
Pre-Order today from Amazon and see a free preview!
Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us-a demon she accidentally set free.
Now Kennedy and the other Legion members-Alara, Priest, Lukas, and Jared-have to hunt him down. As they learn more about the history of the Legion and the Illuminati, Kennedy realizes that the greatest mystery of all does not belong to any secret
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I was actually searching for a fantasy book, but stumbled upon a good old-fashioned ghost story instead.
Little, Kimberly Griffiths. 2014. The Time of the Fireflies. New York: Scholastic.
Larissa Renaud doesn't live in a regular house. As she tells it,
"My parents moved us into the Bayou Bridge Antique Store—a fact I do not brag about. It's embarrassing to admit I share the same space as musty, mothball-smelly furniture, dusty books, and teacups that dead people once drank from."
Sometimes she wishes they had never come back here from Baton Rouge, but her family has a long history in the bayou town, much of it is tragic.
When Larissa receives a mysterious call on a broken antique phone, she's got a real mystery on her hands.
"Trust the fireflies,"
the ghostly girl tells her, setting Larissa on a strange and eerie path of discovery. Can Larissa right the wrongs of the past to save her family's future?
Though it highlights rural poverty, bullying, and new sibling issues, The Time of the Fireflies
is at heart, a ghost story with a remarkably likable and resourceful protagonist.
To avoid giving away too much, I'll merely mention that readers may see some similarities to Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning, When You Reach Me
. The spunky Larissa and author Kimberly Griffiths Little will draw you into the rich world of the Louisiana bayou until you too, are carried away by the fireflies.
(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher as an Advance Reader Copy.)
By: Mayra Calvani
Blog: Mayra's Secret Bookcase
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When Beverly Stowe McClure was in eighth grade, her teacher sent her poem “Stars” to the National High School Poetry Association, and she was soon a published writer in Young America Sings, an anthology of Texas high school poetry. Today, Beverly is a cum laude graduate of Midwestern State University with a BSEd degree. For twenty-two years, she taught children to read and write. They taught her patience. She is affectionately known as the “Bug Lady” because she rescues butterflies, moths, walking sticks, and praying mantis from her cats. Most of the time, you’ll find Beverly in front of her computer, writing the stories little voices in her head tell her. When she’s not writing, she takes long walks and snaps photos of clouds, wild flowers, birds and deer. She also enjoys visiting with her family and teaching a women’s Sunday school class at her church. Her articles have been published in leading children’s magazines. Two of her stories are in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ANTHOLOGIES, and she has nine novels published, two of them award winning novels at Children’s Literary Classics and other competitions.
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A: One summer, on a visit to our son and his wife in South Carolina, we went to Folly Beach, not far from where they lived, to watch the sun rise over the water and lighthouse. It was a beautiful sight. But what caught my attention more than the sunrise was the lighthouse sitting in the middle of the inlet. It was deactivated years ago, but was used during the Civil War. A lighthouse must have a ghost, right? My mind started chasing different scenarios as to who the ghost was and why he was a ghost. What kept him from finding rest? A blockade runner worked nicely, since the ships came into the harbor bringing supplies to the city. Other ideas popped up, too. Pirates were quite active in the area although in earlier years. But, if they were ghosts they could have been around for years. So I added a couple of pirates to the story. And what’s a good ghost story without a cat? My MG/Tween novel APirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat was born. Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. A: Thirteen-year-old Erik Burks is a typical young teen. He plays baseball and likes to hang out with his friends. When his dad leaves home, Erik’s life changes in ways he could never imagine. First, his mom takes Erik from Texas to South Carolina where they move in with her sister. Second, he meets the weird twins that live down the street and that claim they’ve seen a ghost ship in the harbor. Third, Erik doesn’t believe that ghosts exist. Fourth, he soon discovers he might be wrong. Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? A: I had fun creating Erik and the twins, typical teens, if you count a girl who can read mind dreams typical. The ghost pirates are based on real pirates, and I did a lot of research to learn about them and their ships so the historical facts would be accurate. I am a slow writer and it took probably two years to write and edit the story. No major bumps along the way. I had visited some of the places in the story, like the lighthouse, and tried to remember what they were like. Getting the pirate language just right took some research too, but was a lot of fun. Avast, matey. I discovered fascinating information about the two pirates that ended up in the story. Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel? A: I try to put the characters in exciting circumstances. In novels for MG readers, the kids like action. They’ll stop reading if they’re bored. Forget description unless it moves the story along. I let the characters get in trouble so the reader will wonder if they’ll get out of it. At this age, friendships are important. And they need trouble. Lots of trouble. Ghosts are just right to cause trouble, along with a cat that Erik hates, and the feeling is mutual. Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? A: Sometimes, I look at the blank screen on the computer and think, Okay, where do I start? Will anyone like this story? Can I even write it? The only way to deal with anxiety is to start typing. Yes, there will be many changes, at least for me. I usually rewrite the beginning a jillion times. If I don’t get those first words down, I’ll never have a story. So I go for it and hope I’m headed in the right direction. Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? A: I’m a morning person. Usually I work on my WIP from 9:00 AM to 11:30 or 12:00 noon. Then I take a lunch break and maybe check emails or look at blogs. (I’ve done some mail early in the morning before I started writing.) Around 2:00 PM I do edits if I have a manuscript that’s been sold, or else I check my blogs and post on other blogs. Evenings, I write reviews, do critiques for my critique groups (I’m in two), and whatever else needs to be done. I’m retired from my teaching job, so I have no outside work to interfere with my writing. I’m a playmate for my cats, but other than that, my time is my own. Q: How do you define success? A: Success to me is writing novels that help young people enjoy reading, and if they take anything away from the story that makes their lives happier or more understandable, that’s an added bonus. Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? A: It’s hard when your family doesn’t support you, but I feel we each have the right to pursue our dreams. I’m not saying neglect your significant others. Don’t neglect yourself either. Let them know how important your writing is to you. They may surprise you and understand. If they don’t, find time when you’re alone, or make time to be alone, even if it’s only 30 minutes or an hour. Maybe while they’re at work, or anytime they go out for whatever reason. Don’t give up. Follow your dreams. You only have one life. Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? A: Oh, yes. A writer has to be driven; otherwise, why would we sit in a chair for hours a day, typing our hearts away, for pennies a day (at least in my case)? Perhaps we’re a little insane. And the beauty of it is we don’t care. We’re doing what we love. Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? A: Just thank you for hosting me today. Thank all you awesome readers for your comments and thoughts. You’re the ones that keep us writing, you know. If you have a chance, stop by my blog and see what’s happening. http://beverlystowemcclure.blogspot.com.
By: Wendy Darling,
Fall is in the air, and we’re celebrating by hosting a Halloween Thrills and Chills event! Some of our favorite blog friends will present fantastic guest posts and interviews by three Disney Hyperion authors with books releasing this year, including Mary: The Summoning‘s Hillary Monahan, Welcome to the Dark House‘s Laurie Faria Stolarz, and The Whispering Skull‘s Jonathan Stroud. Check out the full tour schedule below, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the very end for a box of horror books that will be delivered to you in time for Halloween reading! We’re kicking off the event tour with Jonathan Stroud, author of the The Bartimaeus Sequence and many other novels. His second book in his Lockwood and Co. series just came out, and if you like the idea of coolly competent young British ghosthunters with a Sherlock-type vibe, you’ll certainly enjoy this series. I love how the... Read more »
The post Halloween Thrills & Chills: box of horror giveaway + Jonathan Stroud interview appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
By: Wendy Darling,
I was sold on this book by two things: the words “Lauren Oliver” and the idea of ghost POVs. Rooms by Lauren Oliver is a slow, secretive book that intertwines the lives of the dead and the living, and yet its tone is, in turns, contemplative, chilling, and in the end, nearly unbearably sad. If you’ve read the author’s previous young adult or middle grade novels, you probably know that a supernatural book by this author is not going to be your typical ghost story, and it’s a pleasure to find that the author’s first adult novel is sure-footed and clear-eyed. Not all transitions from YA to adult (and vice versa) feel as natural as this, but the author handles adult themes and language and structure with ease. It also has surprising moments of lightness and humor–although Rooms is certainly about death and its aftermath, it is also about life... Read more »
The post Rooms by Lauren Oliver: interview + giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
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, Arts & Humanities
, Oxford World's Classics
, Darryl Jones
, Fitz-James O'Brien
, Horror stories
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We’re getting ready for Halloween this month by reading the classic horror stories that set the stage for the creepy movies and books we love today. Check in every Friday this October as we tell Fitz-James O’Brien’s tale of an unusual entity in What Was It?, a story from the spine-tingling collection of works in Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, edited by Darryl Jones.
It is, I confess, with considerable diffidence that I approach the strange narrative which I am about to relate. The events which I purpose detailing are of so extraordinary a character that I am quite prepared to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and scorn. I accept all such beforehand. I have, I trust, the literary courage to face unbelief. I have, after mature consideration, resolved to narrate, in as simple and straightforward a manner as I can compass, some facts that passed under my observation, in the month of July last, and which, in the annals of the mysteries of physical science, are wholly unparalleled.
I live at No. — Twenty-sixth Street, in New York. The house is in some respects a curious one. It has enjoyed for the last two years the reputation of being haunted. It is a large and stately residence, surrounded by what was once a garden, but which is now only a green enclosure used for bleaching clothes. The dry basin of what has been a fountain, and a few fruit-trees ragged and unpruned, indicate that this spot in past days was a pleasant, shady retreat, filled with fruits and flowers and the sweet murmur of waters.
The house is very spacious. A hall of noble size leads to a large spiral staircase winding through its centre, while the various apartments are of imposing dimensions. It was built some fifteen or twenty years since by Mr A——, the well-known New York merchant, who five years ago threw the commercial world into convulsions by a stupendous bank fraud. Mr A——, as everyone knows, escaped to Europe, and died not long after, of a broken heart. Almost immediately after the news of his decease reached this country and was verified, the report spread in Twenty-sixth Street that No. — was haunted. Legal measures had dispossessed the widow of its former owner, and it was inhabited merely by a care-taker and his wife, placed there by the house-agent into whose hands it had passed for purposes of renting or sale. These people declared that they were troubled with unnatural noises. Doors were opened without any visible agency. The remnants of furniture scattered through the various rooms were, during the night, piled one upon the other by unknown hands. Invisible feet passed up and down the stairs in broad daylight, accompanied by the rustle of unseen silk dresses, and the gliding of viewless hands along the massive balusters. The care-taker and his wife declared they would live there no longer. The house-agent laughed, dismissed them, and put others in their place. The noises and supernatural manifestations continued. The neighborhood caught up the story, and the house remained untenanted for three years. Several persons negotiated for it; but, somehow, always before the bargain was closed they heard the unpleasant rumors and declined to treat any further.
It was in this state of things that my landlady, who at that time kept a boarding-house in Bleecker Street, and who wished to move further up town, conceived the bold idea of renting No. — Twenty-sixth Street. Happening to have in her house rather a plucky and philosophical set of boarders, she laid her scheme before us, stating candidly everything she had heard respecting the ghostly qualities of the establishment to which she wished to remove us. With the exception of two timid persons,—a sea-captain and a returned Californian, who immediately gave notice that they would leave,—all of Mrs Moffat’s guests declared that they would accompany her in her chivalric incursion into the abode of spirits.
Our removal was effected in the month of May, and we were charmed with our new residence. The portion of Twenty-sixth Street where our house is situated, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is one of the pleasantest localities in New York. The gardens back of the houses, running down nearly to the Hudson, form, in the summer time, a perfect avenue of verdure. The air is pure and invigorating, sweeping, as it does, straight across the river from the Weehawken heights, and even the ragged garden which surrounded the house, although displaying on washing days rather too much clothes-line, still gave us a piece of greensward to look at, and a cool retreat in the summer evenings, where we smoked our cigars in the dusk, and watched the fire-flies flashing their dark-lanterns in the long grass.
Of course we had no sooner established ourselves at No. — than we began to expect the ghosts. We absolutely awaited their advent with eagerness. Our dinner conversation was supernatural. One of the boarders, who had purchased Mrs Crowe’s ‘Night Side of Nature’ for his own private delectation, was regarded as a public enemy by the entire household for not having bought twenty copies. The man led a life of supreme wretchedness while he was reading this volume.
A system of espionage was established, of which he was the victim. If he incautiously laid the book down for an instant and left the room, it was immediately seized and read aloud in secret places to a select few. I found myself a person of immense importance, it having leaked out that I was tolerably well versed in the history of supernaturalism, and had once written a story the foundation of which was a ghost. If a table or a wainscot panel happened to warp when we were assembled in the large drawing-room, there was an instant silence, and everyone was prepared for an immediate clanking of chains and a spectral form.
After a month of psychological excitement, it was with the utmost dissatisfaction that we were forced to acknowledge that nothing in the remotest degree approaching the supernatural had manifested itself. Once the black butler asseverated that his candle had been blown out by some invisible agency while he was undressing himself for the night; but as I had more than once discovered this colored gentleman in a condition when one candle must have appeared to him like two, I thought it possible that, by going a step further in his potations, he might have reversed this phenomenon, and seen no candle at all where he ought to have beheld one.
Things were in this state when an incident took place so awful and inexplicable in its character that my reason fairly reels at the bare memory of the occurrence.
Check back next Friday, 10 October, as the events of the narrator’s night unfolds.
Featured image: Hotel Meade by Nomadic Lass. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.
The post A Halloween horror story : What was it? appeared first on OUPblog.
I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!
Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.
Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE!
When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.
This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".
Here's the book trailer:
I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.
To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!
And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!
I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookie magazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.
Here's the lowdown on ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE!
is a website created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager. When it becomes tough to appreciate such things, we have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of rants, too. Every school year, we compile the best from the site into a print yearbook. Behold: our Junior year!
In Rookie Yearbook Three
, we explore cures for love, girl-on-girl crime, open relationships, standing for something, embracing our inner posers, and so much more. Featuring interviews with Rookie role models like Sofia Coppola, Amandla Stenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kim Gordon, and a bonus section chock-full of exclusive content including a pizza pennant, sticker sheet, valentines, plus advice and contributions from Lorde, Shailene Woodley, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Sia, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Haim, and more!
I know!!!! Amazing, right? Can't wait to go home and pore over my copy!
And if you are in the New York or Toronto areas, there are events celebrating the release TOMORROW, October 22. There is also an event in Brooklyn on November 5th. All of the details are on the Rookie Events page
. Go if you can and tell me how fabulous it was!
By: Barbara Fisher,
"Now this way, now that way, and won't let me be! Keep him off, Bill - look here - don't let him come near! Only see how the blood-drops his features besmear! What, the dead come to life again! Bless me! Oh dear!"
The Dead Drummer or a Legend of Salisbury Plain from The Ingoldsby Legends a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry supposedly written by Thomas Ingoldsby, actually the pen-name of an English clergyman Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845).
The legends were originally serialised in Bentley’s Miscellany Magazine and later in the New Monthly Magazine the version I'm featuring here was published by Macmillan in 1911. The illustrations are all by Harry G Theaker.
Raising his eye so grave and so sage, from some manuscript work of a bygone age.
The Lord of Thoulouse A legend of Languedoc.
And in rush'd a troop. Of strange guests!
The Lay of St. Cuthbert or the Devil's dinner-party. A Legend of the North Countree.
The girl, as they say, ran screaming away.
The old woman clothed in grey A Legend of Dover.
When at the bed's foot, close beside the post, he verily believed he saw - a Ghost!
Plain, and more plain, the unsubstantial sprite to his astonish'd gaze each moment grew;
Ghastly and gaunt, it rear'd it's shadowy height, of more than mortal seeming to the view, and round its long, thiny bony fingers drew a tatter-d winding-sheet, of course all white; -
The moon that moment peeping through a cloud,
Nick very plainly saw it through the shroud!
Mirth and Marvels
With illustrations in colour by H. G. Theaker
I was thrilled to be one of the lucky recipients of a giveaway hosted by the lovely Yvonne over at Winter Moon
. My gift was a copy of The Savage Garden by Mark Mills and as if that wasn't enough Yvonne also included a gorgeous bookmark, a pretty card and a second card with my initial. Thank you so much Yvonne, I know what I will be reading this All Hallows Eve.
The Witching Hour is nearly upon us – are you reading anything scary?
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
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, ari goelman
, female protagonist
, jewish history
, summer camp
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Book: The Path of Names
Author: Ari Goelman
Age Range: 10-14
The Path of Names by Ari Goelman is about a girl named Dahlia Sherman who loves magic tricks, does NOT want to go to Jewish summer camp, and ends up unraveling a 78-year-old mystery involving a Yiddish rabbinical student and the ghosts of two young girls. There are camp skits, mazes, and (minor) sibling rivalries. There's a creepy camp handyman, a posse of mean girls, and a boy with the potential to be a friend (and the inclination to be more). In short, The Path of Names has a little something for everyone.
Dahlia is a strong character, a girl who doesn't care that much that the popular girls think she's weird, who likes math, and who just wants to understand things. She's at that age where she's resisting the boy-girl stuff, even as it swirls around her. She is delightfully furious when she finds out that her friend Rafe is letting people believe they are dating. I like that she uses her brain and tenacity to solve the mystery, despite making mistakes along the way.
Most of the book is told from Dahlia's limited third person viewpoint, but intermittent chapters are from the viewpoint of David Schank, a 17-year-old yeshiva student in 1940's New York City. A few sections are also told from the viewpoint of Dahlia's older brother, Tom, a counselor at the camp. Dahlia is the one that readers will relate to most of the three, through David's story is the more suspenseful one. Shifting the viewpoint between Dahlia and David will keep readers turning the pages, driven like Dahlia to understand what happened to the young student.
The camp setting and details seemed authentic to me, though I never went to sleepaway camp (Jewish or otherwise). It is certainly not an idealized portrayal - there are details that strongly indicate the author's personal experience in a camp setting. Like this:
"Dahlia went up the stairs to the cabin. It smelled familiar from visiting Tom all these years: the musty scent of old wood, mingled with the smells of clean laundry and dirty shoes and nylon sleeping bags. She had sort of liked the smell when they visited Tom, but the girls' bunk smelled different, more girly. Had someone really brought perfume to summer camp?" (Page 9)
There is also quite a lot of information in The Path of Names about Jewish history and culture, kabbala, Hebrew words, etc. All of these things are central to the book's storyline. I found the details fascinating, and I think kids will too. Goelman does a nice job of broadening the reader's perspective, while still keeping his focus on plot and character.
I do think that The Path of Names is more a book for middle schoolers than for elementary school kids. This is partly due to content (there is a small amount of drinking by the older kids, and there are deaths), but mostly due to the mystical themes, and the relatively grown-up perspective of David. Certainly, despite having a girl as the primary protagonist, The Path of Names is also boy-friendly (ghosts, mazes, magic tricks, pranks). Recommended for mystery and adventure fans, or anyone who likes the idea of seeing ghosts at summer camp.
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Blog: Read Now Sleep Later
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, book review
, disney hyperion
, high school
, Rachel Hawkins
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Publication date: 13 May 2013 by Disney-HyperionCategory: Young Adult Fiction/FantasyKeywords: Paranormal, High School, Ghosts, WitchesFormat: Hardcover, eBookSource: ARC from PublisherSynopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.
Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.
Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?Kimberly's Review:
Izzy Brannick is strong and trained to fight monsters. And the one thing she is scared of? High School.
Izzy has been homes schooled her whole life. So when a case requires her to go to high school, Izzy bunkers down, watches a lot of high school television and hopes for the best. But nothing could prepare her for a best friend, a crush and a ghost. A really strong ghost.
Can Izzy's new friends accept who she is and help her defeat this ghost?
I'm a big fan of the Hex Hal
l series so I was really excited to read School Spirits
. Izzy appears in the last book Spell Bound
, and she takes front and center in School Spirits
. Izzy is smart, strong and achingly awkward. I love how she's never been to a high school pep rally, basketball game. I love how she's learning everything there is to know about high school by watching television. The story introduces us to some "normal" teenagers like her new best friend Romy who is equal parts awesome fun and rainbow unicorn. And sweet Dex who makes Izzy a little bit dizzy.
In typical Hawkins fashion, there's a lot of fun one liners and witty dialogue. There's some romance, and ghosts and witches and danger. But best of all, there is Izzy who is really sweet and a bit sad.
The story moves quickly and while I would have liked more description, more twists, stronger motivations for the characters, I still breezed through it quickly in only two days. Enjoying the ride and wishing there was a sequel I could dive into right away.
It's a standalone after the Hex Hall
series, but you should read the series first to fully enjoy School Spirits
. I really hope this is the start of a spin off series.
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
Visit the author online at www.rachel-hawkins.com and follow her on Twitter @LadyHawkins
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Blog: The Children's Book Review
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Books for Girls
, Chapter Books
, Fantasy: Supernatural Fiction
, Teens: Young Adults
, Gail Gallant
, Teenage Love
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This YA paranormal mystery/romance is a page-turner all the way. Told in the present tense, the action always feels immediate. The author captures Amelia’s grief over her mother, self-doubt over her paranormal abilities, and conflicting pulls of love for both the dead Matthew and the living Kip.
Tomorrow marks twenty years since Kurt Cobain's death, but this is less about him and more about me because with that anniversary comes another one that is harder for me to explain, a personal turning point that is just as significant—no, maybe more significant.
I've tried on many occasions to put what Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's music meant to me into words. I think my story is similar to a lot of Nirvana's fans no matter when they discovered the music—in the thick of when it was all happening, like me, or a decade or so after Kurt's death. I was lost, broken, and angry. I'd been bullied, and even though I had a few good friends, I was so depressed that I still felt like an outsider, an alien. Above all, I felt voiceless. And then along came this man, this band, who understood all of that, who knew what it was like to be trapped in school with no recess, to "miss the comfort of being sad," who channeled it into noisy, distorted guitars and gave those difficult feelings a voice. That, in turn, gave me the courage to use my voice because if Nirvana could do it and change the entire world, surely I could do it to empower myself.
Then April 8, 1994 happened. The day we learned that Kurt's depression and addiction had won out over his voice, silenced it with a shotgun blast. I heard about his suicide from the girl who'd been my best friend since third grade and she delivered the news is a nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah sort of sing-song. She didn't like Nirvana, saw them as one of the new differences that had been cropping up between us. And I would learn later, she was pissed at Kurt, thought him a selfish coward for taking himself away from his family on purpose when just a year earlier, cancer had taken away her grandmother, her family without giving anyone a choice. I was pissed, too. I called him selfish in my journal, asked him how he could do it to his wife and his baby. I didn't write, but I remember thinking, "And how could you do it to me?"
|Me in my bedroom at 14, November 1993|
This is probably where my story differs from other Nirvana fans. My story is so tied to the fact that I was fourteen when Kurt killed himself and I was a pretty fragile/angry/depressed fourteen. His suicide flicked a switch inside of me, it dialed my self-destructive, "oh, fuck it" feelings up to eleven. It made me want. Desperately want. I wanted a tribe. I wanted mosh pit bruises. I wanted to taste and try everything. I wanted to live. Not all of this was bad. It was time for me to come out of my shell and when I did many of the friends I found were amazing and so was the music and the shows and those mosh pit bruises. But since self-destruction lurked underneath it all, there was a lot of ugliness, too. A lot of mistakes. A lot of pain. A whole fuck-ton of anger. I emerged with scars and foggy memories as well as crystal clear ones I wished I could erase—especially that day almost exactly a year after Kurt's death when a boy who idolized him taught me that saying yes once means saying yes forever. (God, why do so many boys who idolize Kurt get it so fucking wrong? "He's the one who likes all our pretty songs... But he knows not what it means...")
In my early twenties, I started to come out of that.... Well, I started trying at least. I was still drinking too much sometimes, still in a fucked-up codependent relationship, still feeling married to my past. I'd taken a bit of a break from Nirvana in my late teens; sadly, they reminded me too much of that asshole boy. But when I was ready to crawl out of that bloody, angry, booze-drenched hole I'd dug myself into After Him, I turned to those songs again. Kurt's howl reminded me that I could howl and I needed that more than anything. I became obsessed. I spent hours on message boards, talking to other fans, trading bootlegs and memorabilia, trolling eBay for the limited edition vinyl and mint copies of the magazines I'd cut up and collaged my bedroom with as a teenager:
|A piece of the Nirvana collage between my windows that I started in eighth grade|
In retrospect, I think I was trying to go back and fix it. I still didn't have the strength to get out of my alcoholic codependent relationship, so instead I avoided it by locking myself in my office and trying to time-travel back to 1994. Maybe with enough bootlegs, enough vinyl, enough magazines I could do it. Maybe in alternate 1994, Kurt wouldn't die, or even if he did, I would do a better job of living through it, of surviving high school, of being punk and artsy and weird without being destructive. I would just have a bunch of really cool friends, which is what I did find on the message boards. More specifically, I found them on the Hole message board because that's where the girls were and I didn't really want to talk to boys about Nirvana. I'd spent real 1994 listening to boys talk about Nirvana. It was old. It was boring. And half the time, thanks to my 1995 boyfriend, I didn't trust male Nirvana fans. I wanted to talk about them with girls. Girls like me who heard something in the music, heard the respect they'd never gotten from male artists before and turned it into self-respect, heard a voice that made them feel understood, that made them feel invited to create and did create something—something far more interesting than all the boys who picked up guitars to emulate Nirvana. ("I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock and roll."- Kurt Cobain)
Even though so much of my obsession seems silly now, like some weird version of therapy that I feel uncomfortable talking about most of the time (the fact that I'm blogging about it now might seem to indicate otherwise but I'm basically pretending this is my journal), I don't care because those months—no, those years
, really—locked in my office trying to time travel back to 1994 brought me my girls, Jenny and Eryn, two of my very best friends in the entire world:
|Jenny, Eryn, and me at Viretta Park, Seattle, April 5, 2004|
After exchanging emails, letters, and packages, Eryn and I started talking on the phone. She's a couple of years younger than me, but her heart broke like mine had when she heard about Kurt's suicide, and like me, she'd watched the news coverage of the vigil in Seattle and wished she was old enough to go. She'd promised herself that she would one day. I had too at some point, but I'd forgotten about it and while talking to her, I wondered if maybe that forgotten promise had fucked things up for me. Maybe if I made the pilgrimage, I could let go of my teenage baggage. So Eryn and I started planning our trip and recruiting people to accompany us to Seattle in April of 2004 to pay homage to Kurt on the tenth anniversary of his death. This was the beginning of a real transition for me—from trying to time travel to trying to find closure.
I was home sick a couple of weeks before we were to meet in Seattle, me coming from Chicago, Jenny and another friend of hers from St. Louis, Eryn from Denver with another friend of ours from the message board who'd come all the way from Australia. While zoning out on the couch to the bootleg Nirvana videos that were my greatest comfort then I realized how significant the trip was. Ten years. A part of me had needed to do this for ten fucking years. So if I was going to do it, I should DO IT all the way. I pulled all of the Nirvana biographies I owned off the shelf. Heavier than Heaven by Charles Cross
was the most detailed, giving exact addresses or solid descriptions of locations. I tore up tiny pieces of paper and marked each important mention: childhood homes, recording studios, concert venues, shady motels where Kurt escaped to shoot heroin, the morgue where he was cremated. I wanted to see it all. I NEEDED to see it all. I took the book upstairs, shut myself in the office and painstakingly Mapquested everything. Yeah, Mapquest. These were the days before Google maps with street view and integrated public transportation schedules, before GPS and smart phones. Or at least before I could afford them. I was still in college and had saved for a year to go on our week-long trip. We were renting a car for a day, but reliant on public transit for the rest, so I went back and forth between Mapquest and the King County Metro transit website trying to locate everything and fit it all in to our schedule. Eventually I came up with a full itinerary. Eryn was as excited as I was. The others might have been a bit freaked out by the depth of my obsession, but they didn't show it. Jenny, who'd volunteered to drive the rental car, exhausted herself so we could do it all: the bridge and the childhood homes in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano, the site of Nirvana's first show at a house party in Raymond, the Pear Street apartment in Olympia, and even McLane Creek where Charles Cross described Courtney, Wendy Cobain, and Frances spreading some of Kurt's ashes.
|Me under the Young Street Bridge, Aberdeen, Washington|
|Jenny, me, and Eryn at McLane Creek, Olympia, Washington|
Last week, Eryn sent me a link to a New York Times
article by a dude who had gone to all of these places and wrote an ultimate guide. Not gonna lie, I was a little bitter. We did that ten years ago back when Aberdeen was not into celebrating Kurt Cobain at all
—when there was no park by the bridge and people at gas stations misdirected you because they didn't like Kurt or his fans. I pitched the story of our journey to every major publication I could think of, but had no takers. Maybe ten years wasn't long enough. Maybe the interest in Nirvana is extra high now because of their impending induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe I didn't have enough writer cred yet. (Okay, I definitely didn't; I was still four years away from publishing my first book and seven from writing for Rookie
.) Maybe writing about Nirvana has long been dude territory and no one wanted to hear a woman's point of view on Kurt Cobain and how he transformed her life twice—once as a junior high misfit and again when she went to Seattle at 24 to retrace his footsteps and light up his name.
|Our tribute to Kurt at Viretta Park on our last night in Seattle, April 10, 2004|
But that's okay because I wrote it anyway
and for an essay site created by a woman named Hillary Carlip, who'd inspired me as much as Kurt did when I was teen. Hillary helped me shape it into the thing I wanted it to be: less of a Nirvana travel guide, more of the story of a personal journey. Go ahead and read it if you want because I don't really want to rehash it. It was a huge moment for me, the moment I finally started to let go of my past, but it happened ten years ago. That's why after a little bit of bitterness and venting that someone else got to write the
piece I'd researched, lived, and wanted to write ten years ago, I quickly realized that I didn't care. Now any Nirvana fans, old and young, who still need to go on that journey have a guide
and that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will lead them where it led me: to blaze their own path.
This brings us to that other anniversary, the one I am far more focused on than the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Ten years ago around this time I found the place where I belonged and something clicked inside of me—maybe that self-destructive switch turning off?—and I started to set myself free. It was definitely a process. Even though I had the giant “It was” revelation on April 10, 2004 that I documented in my “Ten Years Gone” essay, disentangling from ten years of damage wasn’t that simple. I didn’t go straight home, break up with my alcoholic boyfriend and move to the city I’d fallen in love with on my ten-day trip. In fact, I stupidly bought a house in the city I knew I didn’t want to live in anymore with the guy I knew I shouldn’t be with. But I was changing on the inside. I was thinking non-stop about Seattle—not about Kurt, but about my experience there. That was and still is the hardest part to explain, the way I fell in love with Seattle and drew strength from it sort of in the same way I did from Nirvana’s music. Sort of but different. I did my best to explain it here
and also here
and now I explain mostly in pictures on my Tumblr
. I have to admit that I feel self-conscious sometimes about its connection to Nirvana. It’s not just because the depths of my obsession in my early twenties was strange and personal, but because that makes it less mine somehow.... Or worse, it keeps me tied to my past, and my love for Seattle, my moving here, is not about my past—quite the opposite. When I fell in love with Seattle, I started fighting to live in the present and to give myself a future.
My trip to Seattle in 2004 was the farthest I’d gone from home on my own, without the boyfriend, without any link to teenage me (well, besides the Nirvana fandom). The girls I was meeting up with were new friends, internet friends. They became best friends, people who knew and understood me as well (and better in some ways) as those who’ve known me most of my life, but that bond was forged during our trip. In some ways that week was more intense than spending four years of high school or four years of college together. And though Nirvana brought us there, our friendship was so much than that. The shit that we’ve gotten each other through and that we’ve celebrated together over the past ten years proves it.
|Me, Eryn, and Jenny on my wedding day, October 3, 2009|
My relationship with Seattle is quite similar. Nirvana may have brought me there, but the old venues where they played or recorded, the house where Kurt died and the park next to it is not what made me fall in love with it. Much as I loved grunge and 90s music, I’d never thought of the city as some sort of Promised Land—that’s probably why I’d forgotten my fourteen year-old promise to go there someday until I talked to Eryn. It was just a faraway place, a rainy and gray place from what I’d heard. Just a place. Except from the moment I arrived at the waterfront, I knew it wasn’t a
place. It was the
|My first glimpse of the Seattle waterfront, April 3, 2004|
But like I said, it was a process to get there—a process that involved a lot of visits. I took my boyfriend there in December of 2004, partially because I already missed Seattle so much after six months and partially as a test. If he saw the city the way I did, maybe our relationship would be worth salvaging. He didn’t. The two of us finally broke up after I took another trip to Seattle with Eryn in April 2005. It quickly became a tradition for the two of us, sometimes Jenny joined us, too, and once we went with a couple of other message board friends and one of my best friends from college. That was the fifteen year anniversary of Kurt’s death, so we did Nirvana-themed things then, but for the most part my trips with Eryn or Eryn and Jenny had changed—we went in June or August instead of April, we always visited Viretta Park, but we spent most of our time exploring the rest of the city, especially the parks and beaches, the places I had nothing similar to back in Chicago.
I stopped hanging out on message boards and collecting. I’d found my girls, and once I’d started ridding myself of the damage and baggage from my past, I didn’t need it anymore. Actually, I didn’t have room for it anymore. I was too focused on my own art and building my first healthy romance with a guy I would eventually marry. I did still buy the music—the reissues of Bleach, Nevermind,
and In Utero
as they came out, and I had to have them on vinyl. The music will always be my everything and to paraphrase Britney, one of our diarists at Rookie
, when your favorite band is no longer, has been no longer for more than a decade, and will never create anything new because the frontman is dead, you take what you can get. You listen closely to remastered songs to hear something new, you relish lives tracks and the scraps of partially written songs. (I’m sure that Britney actually said this much better. She writes insanely insightful diaries for Rookie. You should read them
.) But aside from the music and a recent impulse buy of a special edition commemorative Nirvana Rolling Stone,
I’ve stopped collecting.
I didn’t even see Hit So Hard,
the documentary about Hole’s drummer Patty Schemel until it had been out on DVD for a while, and when I did, I reacted to the old video footage of my teenage idols in a surprising new way. Instead of wishing I could time travel back to the early 90s and live forever in the period before everything went wrong, instead of being pissed at Kurt for leaving behind the baby girl he clearly loved and the people who clearly loved him, I felt that empathy
he'd written about over and over again in his note. I remembered being 24, still grappling to understand teenage me, something he must have been grappling with too and during his meteoric rise to fame. I remembered being 26, right after that long, codependent relationship finally ended and struggling to find the ground beneath my feet. Even after I found it, I still battled depression. Hell, at 32, just a couple months before I watched Hit So Hard,
depression and severe artistic blocks combined in such a way that I was regularly writing journal entries wishing for my own death. If this has happened to 26 or 27 year-old me, I might have picked up a shotgun (or my version of it, which would have been a razor blade and a cocktail of pills) but instead I picked up a phone and made an appointment with a sliding-scale, feminist therapist who helped me remake my life
. I survived. It was surreal for 33 year-old survivor me to watch 26 or 27 year-old Kurt, the man I’d always thought of as my savior, and want to go back and tell him that it would be okay. It could have been okay. He could have survived. Not for me, not for his art, but for the people who loved him. Yes, outliving and outlearning your idols is a very strange experience indeed.
Right around that time April 2014 became a different sort of anniversary in my mind—my ten-year anniversary with Seattle. In late 2012, I started to grow anxious. I told my husband that I felt pathetic for wanting to live in this place for almost ten years, but not being brave enough to go for it. I had to be there by the ten-year anniversary. Had to or I’d feel like I failed myself. This is when the biggest change in me happened, bigger than “It was,” bigger than my break-up, bigger than publishing my books and becoming an artist in my own right. It’s still so fresh that I haven’t been able to fully unpack it yet, though I tried in this Ms. Fit Mag series
. All I can say is that I feel like a fully-formed person now, one who let go of fear and self-imposed limitations to become brave and assertive enough to go after what she wants and live how she wants to live. I am new in this new city. I am the person that I dreamed of being ten years ago when I was still trying to time travel to fix it. Time travel wasn’t necessary. Fixing
wasn’t necessary, processing was and I did that through cross-country travel, through friends, and through art.
It’s still a work-in-progress. It was only a couple of months ago through a conversation with Anaheed Alani, one of my brilliant editors at Rookie,
that I realized how connected to my past I remain in my art
. I expect that settling here in Seattle, living fully in the present and dreaming of the future, will change that immensely over the next ten years (or hopefully over the next year or two!). It’s a little bit scary, seeking inspiration in new places, but mostly it’s exciting and hopeful.
So what does tomorrow bring? April 5th
, 2014, the twentieth anniversary of the death of my teenage hero, the man who sort of brought me here, the man who I outlived, what does it mean to me now? It’s been a little bit bizarre because ten years ago and especially twenty it felt like it meant as much if not more to me than it did to the rest of the world, but not this time. There’s been a frenzy of stories—the creepy, crying statue in Aberdeen, the newly released photos from the suicide scene, all of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame hoopla, and that New York Times
piece that briefly stirred my writerly jealousy. I’ve clicked on them, skimmed, and then closed the browser window and glanced out the real window at the Seattle sky that I consider mine now.
|A Seattle morning as seen from my house|
What tomorrow brings for me—what tonight
brings actually—is my girls. Jenny and Eryn as well as my college best friend Jenny and Lynn, a message board friend turned real-life friend when she came to Seattle the first time five years ago. We will go to Viretta Park and I’m sure I’ll bring flowers and light a candle to pay tribute and say thanks because I’m still very grateful for what Kurt and his music did for me. He helped me find my way to this path. I do still wish he could have found his way to one that helped him, but mostly I'm just grateful that I did survive. I made my way here to this beautiful, healthy life that is fully mine and I don’t need to retrace footprints, I’m leaving my own and so are my girls. That’s what we will really be honoring and celebrating this weekend and I think Kurt would have appreciated that.
By: Andye ReadingTeen,
Blog: Reading Teen
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Reviewed by Andye
SEA OF SHADOWS
Age of Legends #1
by Kelley Armstrong
File Size: 773 KB
Print Length: 417 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0751547816
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 8, 2014)
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Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and
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April has been a busy, crazy, fun, busy, poetical, busy, bunny business month--and it's not over yet.
So before it gets any crazier, I'll share what I've been reading, doing, writing...
Who says libraries are just for books? Not the Lorain, Ohio children's librarians! They are encouraging kids to explore their creative side in fashions with "Sew Lorain Kids
." A long time ago I worked in a couple of libraries in the Cleveland area. I'm so glad to see that the librarians there are continuing to be innovative. There are so many great craft how-to books in libraries, but why not give kids a chance to actually put the lessons into practice. My hats off to all of you in Lorain!!!
I've been working on a variety of writing projects--one of them is an easy reader narrative nonfiction book on stars. So I was delighted to see a new book by Kathleen T. Isaacs which highlights picture books dealing with nature: BUGS, BOGS, BATS, AND BOOKS
. Young readers--as well as their parents--often need help in finding age-appropriate books on various nonfiction subjects. This title also including science activities relating to various topics in the book. Look for this book at the library or ask your librarian to help you find some delightful nonfiction books to share with your children.
Kuddos to another librarian--this time with the focus on poetry. Thinking totally outside of the norm, Cathy Jo Nelson, a South Carolina educator, blogs about "The Unexpected Perks of Poetry
." She and a teacher collaborated on a poetry assignment--encouraging the students to create poems from words in book titles: spine poetry
. Ms. Nelson elaborates in her blog about the many bonuses of this activity for both students and faculty. Poetry always seems to expand the world for us.
I'm writing the rough draft of chapter book with a poetic ghost in it. Although the story didn't start out with a lyrical ghost, she just appeared out of thin air--so to speak. And who am I to tell her that she doesn't belong in this story. I might be haunted for eternity...so I continue writing.
Apparently April is also NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH. Although I was unaware of this, I have been reading some humorous picture books of late. A couple of favorites are CREEPY CARROTS
by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. Here is a video by the illustrator explaining how he envisioned the sneaky carrots
. My two-year-old grandson loves this books. We've read it over and over again. I've even made him his own creepy carrots with real carrots and a black sharpie. Beware biting into that next crispy, orange carrot! There may be many more lurking in the shadows--just waiting to pounce!!!
The other fun picture I've been studying of late is WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN
by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam. The author uses the "what if" storyline to create an elaborate beach day fantasy complete with fire-breathing dragon. And the illustrator brings the creature to life with humor and charm, sure to entertain children of all ages. But of course, there is the dilemma--once a dragon moves in how do you get him to move out??? Rather like the moles in my backyard, I'm afraid. :)
So here's hoping April is poetically humorous--and beware of carrot-eating dragons, or something like that!
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Reviewed by Elisa
THE DARK WORLD
Dark World #1
by Cara Lynn Shultz
Series: A Dark World Novel (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (May 27, 2014)
Paige Kelly is used to weird—in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has