Monday, April 28, 2014

MMGM: Masterpiece, by Elise Broach

Many years ago I encountered the cockroach poet Archy, author of Archy and Mehitabel, and the image of a bug jumping from key to key on a typewriter caught on a hook in my imagination and hangs there still. I don't know what it is about artistic insects, but the narrator of Masterpiece joins an illustrious line of literary invertebrates (think of Charlotte's Web) that are irresistible.

Marvin is a beetle who lives under the kitchen sink. We are introduced to him when he rescues Mrs. Pompaday's contact lens from down the bathroom sink drain. (How to make a character instantly lovable! (At least for those of us who have ever worn contacts!)) Of course Mrs. Pompaday doesn't realize her day was saved by a beetle: staying out of humans' sight is the most important beetle rule, and Marvin has a large beetle family to remind him not to do anything to jeopardize his family's comfortable life in the Pompaday's walls.

But then young James Pompaday gets art supplies for his birthday, and Marvin discovers a remarkable, un-beetle-like talent.

This book appeals on so many levels. Like The Borrowers, it plays with the notion of small people living on the scraps of human life. I loved the description of the beetles' food, and their beetle-eye perspective on human activities.

Then there's the art heist story: everyone loves a good art heist, and this one has action and suspense and also manages to introduce readers to Albrecht Durer without ever seeming didactic. I loved the passion for art that comes across in different ways from the different characters.

But perhaps what's best about Masterpiece is the beautiful friendship story. I loved the characters of James and Marvin, and the way they were able to communicate without words and trust each other without reservation.

Kelly Murphy's illustrations were perfect.

Masterpiece is your favourite picnic food: maybe a really good potato salad, or cold roast chicken. Hearty and fun.

Check out Shannon Messenger for more great MMGM reads, every week.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Carry around a poem in your pocket and then wear a button or something that invites people to exchange poems with you. Is that not a brilliant idea? Thanks to Mr. Shu for pointing it out and to for coming up with it and having a whole collection of poems to choose from. (Their site's a little slow today: I hope that means tons of people are visiting and choosing poems!

I've got a virtual pocket here on this blog and on my Facebook page. (Check back for more poems throughout the day.) I hope you'll share your poems with me!

The poem in my pocket at this exact moment is from the site (you can print a PDF of it if you want to share it today):

Afternoon on a Hill

I will be the gladdest thing 
   Under the sun! 
I will touch a hundred flowers 
   And not pick one. 

I will look at cliffs and clouds 
   With quiet eyes, 
Watch the wind bow down the grass, 
   And the grass rise. 

And when lights begin to show 
   Up from the town, 
I will mark which must be mine, 
   And then start down! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

MMGM: Ondelle of Grioth, by Danika Dinsmore

I'm excited today to announce a book launch that's happening tomorrow: local author Danika Dinsmore is launching the third book in her Faerie Tales from the White Forest series.

I reviewed the first two books here and here. Ondelle of Grioth continues the story of Brigitta, young faerie of the White Forest who has a large destiny on her small shoulders. The fate of the White Forest is at stake, but no one believes Brigitta is carrying Elder Ondelle's memories and knowledge. Brigitta is sure she knows how to prevent the coming crisis, but if no one will listen to her she'll have to take matters into her own hands. Again.

Danika has created a complex, believable world full of fun, tangible details. Her faerie society and mythology are entirely original, giving surprising depth and texture to sparkly little people with wings. (I've never been much of a faerie fan, but I can get behind the White Forest faeries!) Ondelle of Grioth adds to our understanding of the mythology and sees Brigitta struggling more as she realizes the extent of the burden laid on her by Ondelle.

In celebration of Ondelle's imminent launch, Danika agreed to answer a bunch of random questions, in which we discover her rabid Dr. Who fandom, her deep and wide-ranging love of poetry, and her eclectic desk decorating scheme:

1. Brigitta carries the memories of Ondelle with her, and they surface whenever she needs to learn a piece of knowledge. If you could choose someone's memories and knowledge to carry with you, who would it be? (Fictional or real)

Hands down, Doctor Who! (although that might completely blow my puny human mind)

2. Brigitta travels through a lot of inhospitable wilderness on her adventures. What sorts of wilderness have you travelled through? Are you more of a city girl or an outdoor adventurer? 

I like adventures of all shapes and sizes, although I used to spend a lot more time in the actual wilderness and traveling to offbeat places. I’m game for a live transmedia experience or a day in snow shoes. My husband and I like to bike-camp whenever we can.

3. What's on your desk right now?

Ummmm…. stuff? I actually have a very large desk. “L” shaped. It’s probably never moving from my office because it weighs a ton. 

I have an IN box, which I’ve realized I should change to an OUT box, because nothing ever leaves it. 

I also have an obsession with file folders. It gives the illusion that I’m organized. I’ve got 3 file folder holders on my desk stuffed with files on everything from writing projects to conference workshops to tax information.

Also: a dictionary I rarely open anymore thanks to my computer, a hat sporting the word PURE, desktop Cranium game, photo of my parents, caricature of my husband and me, basket of scratch paper, crystal faerie, faerie clock, stuffed monkey, stuffed gecko, Pillsbury Doughboy timer (for timed writing exercises), pens in holders, stapler, fasteners, reminders, binders, set of runes, box of business cards, small painting of orchids that I bought for my Dad when I was 12, massive notebook for current WIP, some journals, some exquisite corpses I drew with the kids, my Geek Girl Con panel name plate, and a bit of orgonite (mysteriously left for me on my book table at FaerieWorlds last year).

Yeah, it’s a big desk.

4. Dark chocolate or milk? 

Dark! (but I won’t turn away milk chocolate if you’re offering)

5. Is there a fictional character you wish were real so you could be best friends? 

See #1. 
(Or any of the Doctor’s companions. They’d all be fun. And I think River Song and I would get along splendidly)

From my own series, I’m drawn to Ondelle. She’s both tragic and wise. I think we would have been good friends. 

6. It's National Poetry Month! Do you have a favourite poem, or favourite poet? 

I actually have an MFA in poetry, and used to produce the Seattle Poetry Festival, but to pick a favourite poem or poet would be impossible. I will tell you it was due to an interest in Allen Ginsberg and the Beats that I ended up at Naropa University. I wrote my thesis on the experimental work of Bernadette Mayer. Studied under Anne Waldman, Andrew Schelling, and Anselm Hollo. And I have a soft spot for Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Toi Derricotte, Rumi, Joanne Kyger… and now I am feeling quite GUILTY because of all the neglected books of poetry on my shelf. Oh, poetry, how I have abandoned you… 

(Ginsberg’s “Father Death Blues” gets me every time. I have a framed and signed hand written print of it on my wall. He used to sing it and play his harmonium.) 

7. How many more books in the White Forest Chronicles (can you tell us?) Do you know how it all ends?

There are meant to be six, but several fans have asked for a book about Brigitta’s little sister Himalette. They really like her and she doesn’t really have much page time in the rest of the series. So, I’m thinking about adding her story. 

I DO know how it all ends. And although that has changed over the past few years, I’m pretty satisfied with the current version. And nobody, not even my publisher, knows what that is yet!

Thanks, Danika! Here's Allen Ginsberg, (and here's the lyrics):

For more Marvelous Middle-Grade books, go see what's up at Shannon Messenger's blog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Enchantment Emporium, and The Silvered, by Tanya Huff

I missed the deadline for MMGM again this week; I'll have one next Monday for sure! Instead, I'm going to veer slightly away from YA in order to plug another Canadian author. Canada has some great names in sci fi/fantasy that you may or may not have heard of or known they were Canadian. Julie Czerneda I've reviewed here, and need to read more of. Tanya Huff I'm just beginning to discover.

Here's part of my Goodreads review of The Enchantment Emporium, a fun urban fantasy/paranormal romance (whatever you want to call it) about a girl who moves away from her very magical family to inherit her grandmother's junk shop, which is definitely more than it seems:

Funny, sexy, intriguing, fast-paced, and, oh yes, very, very funny. The aunties try to manipulate people by sending them pies. I mean, that's what aunties do, isn't it? The fact that they're scary magical aunties and magical pies is just icing on the cake, so to speak.
Loved the characters, loved the family dynamics, loved that everyone behaved within the parameters of the magical system--it was weird and it took a long time to understand, but it was consistent. Loved the magic mirror. Loved the dragons. Loved that it was set in Calgary! (Great line about the Calgary Tower (Allie arrives from Toronto): "As freestanding phallic symbols went, it was smaller then the one Allie was used to, but maybe Calgary felt it had less to prove.")(It's funnier if you're Canadian.)
And there's a pretty steamy romance. Did I mention the dragons? In Calgary. In a country-western bar. Love it. There's a sequel I haven't read yet, but the story is self-contained. (If you've read the book, then read the rest of my Goodreads review, which has spoilers. I'm curious to know what you think.)(If you haven't read the book, don't read the Goodreads blurb, which is both terrible and spoilery!)

The Silvered is a mix of traditional fantasy, paranormal and steampunk, with a bit of regency romance thrown in. It's set in a world where a science-based empire is trying to take over a country governed by shapeshifters and magic users. It's the coming-of-age story of Mirian, a young, not-very-skilled magic user who sets off with the equally young werewolf Thomas to rescue five Mage-pack women from the clutches of a very evil emperor. Points of view include the implacable Captain Reiter who is pursuing them, and the courageous mage Danika, doing her best to free herself and her fellow mages even though most of her magic has been disabled.

I loved the Aydori society, with werewolves at the top and upper-class mothers parading their daughters at fancy-dress events, hoping someone from the Hunt Pack will catch their scent. I loved the developing relationship between Mirian, just learning to use magic she didn't think she had, and Thomas, trying to be the protector and leader his Pack leader brother would want him to be. Captain Reiter really grew on me. And Danika was so strong and wise in a terrifying situation, I was rooting for her all the way through.

Both of these books could work for an older YA audience. Emporium has more sex (all of it PG (ie: not explicit), though the variety of it could be more eye-opening than younger teens might want), and Silvered has more violence (the emperor is evil like Hitler, so there are a few disturbing scenes of torture/experimentation). But their stories of strong young women finding their place in the world will resonate with older teens.

The Enchantment Emporium has to be a pie: a big, flaky, juicy bumbleberry pie, served warm with ice cream. The Silvered is a little more epic, with more depth, maybe a roasted pumpkin soup with creme fraiche and cilantro.

These are books 5 and 6 in my Canadian Book Challenge. Seven more to go before June 30! Be sure to visit John Mutford's blog for more great Canadian reads.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Updates to blog and another book spine poem

Just spent all day figuring out more things about blogger, so I had to post to point out a few new features (which won't be very exciting to those of you who already knew how to do all these things!):

The background picture is now a photo of my own books. Well, two shelves of them, anyway. (If you stretch your browser window horizontally you can see more of them, but the image just repeats after a while.)

After the applause for that feat dies down, I will send you to check out my new book review indexes, on the handy tabs above: you can now search for books by title, and the Book Reviews by Author tab is now arranged by the authors' last name instead of first. Because I'm that clever.

And as a reward for being patient with my general blogger incompetence: another book spine poem!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

National Poetry Month: let's make book spine poems!

I love poetry. Not all poetry. Some poetry I hate. A lot of it I just don't get. But the poems I like, I really, really like and they are as necessary to my life as bread, or chocolate.

If you don't think you like poetry, I command you to go read Love That Dog. Right now. It will take you about 20 minutes.

Okay. Now that we're on the same page, let's talk about book spine poems, because what a fun, awesome thing to do to celebrate National Poetry Month!

I could explain what a book spine poem is, but it's easier just to show you. Here's one by librarian and blogger extraordinare Travis Jonker (who I got the idea from):

Go to Travis Jonker's blog to get a whole heap more examples.

I'm going to try making one just from the books on my shelves at home; then maybe I'll go to the library and try one there.

Oh, this is fun! And easy: the poems just make themselves.

The search for delicious
Things not seen
The secret garden
The song of the quarkbeast
Banjo of destiny

Alice, I think
A little princess
The last dragonslayer
The diary of a young girl

Igraine the Brave
Over sea, under stone,
A wrinkle in time:
The madness underneath.
The dark is rising.

Okay, now it's your turn! Post some on your blog and I'll link to it, or send me photos and I'll post them sometime in April. (kimaippersbach at gmail dot com)

The world needs more poetry!