Monthly Archives: October 2009

Book Geek Wednesday: What Are You Reading?

Though I’m still working my way through Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, (I am greatly distracted and seem to be inching my way through it for some reason- this is in no way a reflection on the book itself, I’m not far enough to decide how I feel about it yet), I already have a book on the shelf waiting to be read.

You’ll notice I suffer from obsessive cover-based shopping. Quite often I will buy a book because I fall in love with its cover. This is a terrible habit to get into. Not all the pretty covers have the depth and magic I’m looking for in a book. Hopefully this one will.From the blurb, I have high hopes.

It’s called Avielle of Rhia.

With her silver skin and silver hair, fifteen-year-old Princess Avielle of Rhia resembles her Dredonian great-great grandmother who practiced evil magic. Everyone in Rhia expects Avielle to turn evil, too. Shunned by those around her, she feels unloved and unable to love others.

In addition, she fears that Rhia will go to war with Dredonia, which suffers under the rule of evil wizard-priests: the Brethren of the Black Cloaks. They have placed impossible demands upon Rhia, but the king and queen have refused to acquiesce. One terrible night, the Brethren attack, killing the royal family and hundreds of others. Only Avielle escapes. She must keep her identity secret to avoid death from the enemy. While hiding among the common people, she learns that she has a magical gift for weaving. But will this gift, rooted in her Dredonian blood, lead Avielle to the same evil that possessed her great-great grandmother? Or will it help her free her people from further attacks?

So tell me: What are you reading?


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

thousanddays

“Mama used to say, you have to know someone a thousand days before you can glimpse her soul.”

***

Dashti is only Lady Saren’s maid for a few hours when she promises to never leave her side.  She hardly realizes what exactly it is she’s promised, but it’s not long before she realizes that Lady Saren is on the verge of being locked in a tower for seven years for disobeying her father and refusing to marry a man she despised.

Still, for Dashti, a mucker maid who’s all alone in the world, this doesn’t seem like the worst possible fate—especially when she realizes that they’ll be closed in with seven years’ worth of food, more food than she’s ever seen in her life!

The story goes way beyond the tower, though, and that’s when it really picks up, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself, because it’s spoilerific.  I can say flat-out that I loved, loved, loved this book.  Dashti, the mottled-skin mucker maid enters into this situation believing that Lady Saren, daughter of a lord, must be touched by the gods, and that she herself was smaller than a stone in her presence, but as time goes on, they both begin to see that’s it’s less what you’re born to be than it is what you allow yourself to become.

Like The Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days is based off of a Grimm’s fairy tale, this one on the lesser-known Maid Maleen.  It doesn’t follow quite as faithfully as The Goose Girl, but still, you might not want to read it if you don’t want to be spoiled (or confused).

I’ll admit, this started out a little slowly for me, but it picks up exponentially, and by the time it was over, I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters.  I was enchanted by Dashti’s healing songs, even if the lyrics are a little odd.  The quiet, seamless interfusion of magical elements is something that I really love in Hale’s work, and this has officially become one of my favorites (still under Enna Burning, I think).  The characters are enchanting, and really none more so than Dashti.  She is so sweet and eager to do good, which is something you don’t see in fiction very often—or at least not often enough.  I can guarantee you’ll be as excited for her triumphs as she is.

My rating: An affectionate A+


Movie Magic Monday: Now Showing

Every person I’ve spoken to is thrilled about the release of Where the Wild Things Are. And I admit, it looks FANTASTIC. How many of us read this book and loved it? It’s an icon of our childhood. I love that in the age of CGI we can bring it to life.

My only concern is that all the positive hype will make our expectations too high and then find us disappointed. We’ve talked about it before on this blog, as great as it is to have a visual represenation of a book we love, they very rarely capture the same magic. The book is undoubtedly better than the movie, at least 95% of the time.

On the plus side, I’ve heard amazing things about the soundtrack, which I’m going to check out. I am a complete movie soundtrack obsessee. If I love a movie, I buy the soundtrack, period. Which is why my CD case is filled with random movie scores/soundtracks that don’t seem to have anything in common. Except fantastic music. 😉


Fun Friday: Featured Author

We here at Hollow Tree would like to welcome our very first featured author, Heather Ingemar.

Heather S. Ingemar has loved to play with words since she was little, and it wasn’t long until she started writing her own stories.  Termed “a little odd” by her peers, she took great delight in exploring tales with a gothic flair, and to this day, Edgar Allan Poe continues to be her literary hero.

Heather completed a B.A. in English Literature in December of 2006, and she and her husband reside on the family cattle ranch, with two dogs, two house-cats and many rogue turkeys.

Her work has appeared with Echelon Press, Membra Disjecta, MicroHorror, and the Gothic Revue.

FOLLOW HEATHER ONLINE:

Twitter . GoodReads . Myspace

Rise of Gothic Blog Tour Post: How I got into YA

By Heather S. Ingemar

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as “young adult” literature – at least not that my library stocked. And, being a precocious reader (I had a college reading level by 6th grade), I wasn’t afraid to tackle the “big stuff.” So when I grew tired of all the Bonnie Bryant, C.S. Lewis, Walter Farley, and R.L. Stine books, I headed straight for the adult fiction section of my local library.

For a long time, I thought this was how everyone read: picture books, then chapter books, then adult books. It wasn’t until college when I began hearing the term “young adult literature” bandied about.

Fast forward a few years. I’m now a fledgling short story writer, and working as a new library assistant in my husband’s hometown. My work is going through administrative changes, and at the very first staff meeting with my current boss, I’m informed I’ll be ordering for the YAs.

Huh?

Over the next couple weeks, I scrambled. I read every review site I could get my hands on. I searched out book review blogs written by teens, for teens, and read. I scanned Amazon, I flipped through LibraryJournal. Anything that said “young adult” on it was like a neon beacon flashing my name. I was there.

My first order of books came in the second to last week of January. A couple books by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, some Brian Jacques, and a few others that slip my mind. Eight books. Over the next couple weeks, I read half of them. Then, I began exploring the section under my watchful eye, and in between orders, I read books already on the shelf.

Eventually, my protagonists in my fiction got younger, and younger. About the time I stopped reading books from the ‘adult’ section of the library, is about the time I wrote my first truly ‘teen’ piece (“Dream-Drinker”).

One of the things I love the most about YA is how ‘fresh’ it can be. Adult literature – in my humble opinion – is suffering right now with a sense of jaded-ness. Their characters have done everything, seen everything, and the world has nothing to offer them anymore. Children’s lit is the polar opposite, but there’s a lot of pressure on writers to write something “appropriate” for growing young minds. But teens… they’re young and strong. Fearless. Yet they have that understanding of the sometimes scary, sometimes frightening and dark world we live in. They face that every day (no matter how much their parents don’t want them to). And they can still come home and be excited over things like a first kiss, a first car, or a first job. YA can stretch the boundaries, can look the darkness in the eye and laugh, because that’s what teens do.

As a writer, that’s the best part.


Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Brownies

forestIf you were ever a Girl Scout (or even if you weren’t) you probably know that Brownies are small little people-like creatures that show up in the middle of the night and finished off chores and tidied up houses.  As usual, though, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Brownies go by a few names depending on the who and the where, from Scottish to Scottish Gaelic, to Slavic or German, but what is fairly agreed to among all is that brownies are a type of hob (like hobgoblin) or in plainer language, house spirits.  It’s said that once upon a time, every house had its own brownie, living in some unused or unknown part of the house, and while brownies are for the most part fairly reclusive and even sometimes lazy creatures, if a family respects and understands the brownie’s humors (not the joke type of humor, the way-of-being type of humor), brownies will step up and do menial tasks very quickly—and brownisometimes will even appear to people, though usually you had to have the “second sight” to be able to see them.

Brownies could not accept “payment” or bribery of any sort for the work they did, however.  If payment of any kind was made, then the brownie had to leave forever, never to return.  Where it gets a little bit gray, however, is that traditionally the household was meant to make offerings or sacrifices to the brownies—a show of gratitude, if you will, by way of returning kindness.  So long as it was strictly not considered payment.  If you failed to do this, the brownie would either stop helping, or possibly turn to mischief against you.  Because of this, milk would often be sprinkled in the corners of houses for the browniebrownie’s use, or offerings of food were left out.  Many homes had a  “brownie stane” or stone, which was basically a stone with a hole bored into it, where they would pour offerings of wort, the liquid that ferments into beer.   Also, in many Scottish homes a seat would be left open by the fireplace for the brownie.

Brownies are also associated with water.  It’s said that while they didn’t communicate with people, they were known to enjoy each others’ company quite a lot, and would often have celebrations and revelries near brooks, where their voices would mix and be hidden by the babble of the water, and it’s speculated that perhaps the brownies were originally or related to water sprites, but I guess we’ll never know for sure.


Book Geek Wednesday: Collecting Dreams by Heather Ingemar

CollectingDreamscoverToday continues our look at the gothic YA fiction of Heather Ingemar with a look at Collecting Dreams, a collection of three short stories involving Isabele (great name, right?) and her introduction to the supernatural creatures that feed on our dreams in the night.

The story begins with Dream Drinker, where Isabele rescues her friend Madeline from nightmares by recapturing her dreams and destroying the strange creature that she comes to learn is a dream drinker. Unfortunately, she is unable to return the dreams to Madeline, as the jar falls and breaks and they dissipate into the ether. This becomes a constant reminder as Isabele herself begins to undergo a frightening transformation.

The story continues with Dream Seeker, where we learn that two years later, Isabele is plagued by an unnatural hunger for dreams. Since killing the last dream drinker, is she now destined to follow in its path? And finally there is Dream Hunter, where Isabele goes on a journey to find a cure among the moon flowers, all while evading an angry Soul Eater. But will she make it before her transformation consumes her?

I have to say I was fascinated by the world Ingemar created here. On the surface it seemed so much like our world but at night when everyone was asleep the creatures would all come out to play. It reminded me of tales I’d read about monsters as a child, the type that live in the closet or under the bed, except these could take your soul. There was a kind of old fashioned nostalgic fairytale feeling that this collection had and I really enjoyed that about it. It lagged a bit in the beginning, but I think it was setting up the normal world so we could better appreciate the supernatural aspects of it later on. And I didn’t necessarily fall in love with the main character, but I did sympathize with her very much. So I think the story was effective in that aspect.

Overall, I give the collection a strong B, as I enjoyed the wordlbuilding and the fantasy aspects of it very much.


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Requiem by Heather Ingemar

We’re excited to have our first featured-author week!  Make sure to check back on Friday, when we’ll have Heather here to talk about her gothic YA ebooks!

requiem

Hattie Locke has a gift: when she sings, the dead dig themselves from their graves to listen. As a death-siren, her life has always been this way.

Then the dead begin to show up in numbers far beyond expected. With each song she sings, they grow pushy and demanding, rushing the stage to reach her. Trapped in a place where her dreams of music become her nightmares, Hattie is left with nowhere to turn.

But then she meets a boy, who promises freedom from her curse.

Now Hattie wonders: is ridding herself of her voice worth losing the music she’s lived to create?

Available at Echelon Press.

———————————

This is a very nice, quick, easy-going read.  Hattie is a great character, and I think a lot of teens can relate to  her—especially when her wants and dreams are drastically different from her parents’, who want her to continue singing career.  Hattie’s at a crossroads in her life, one where she has very good reasons to go either way.  Add a new romance into the mix, and things certainly get complicated.

I think Ingemar did a great job of letting you know right off that Hattie’s world is not our world—here things like vamps and weres and known entities dealt with regularly, where having a voice that pulls the dead from their graves is rare, but not entirely unheard of—there’s even records kept and broken as to which death sirens pull in the most walking corpses.

Hattie’s also super-relatable in that something that she’s dealt with all her life suddenly becomes overwhelming.  Her parents don’t (or won’t) see that her vocal “talents” are suddenly endangering her, as they’re too tied up in the prospects of a career for her, so she’s kind of on her own until she meets Jasen, who’s… well, somewhat less than living, even if he’s not falling-apart dead like most of the people she attracts with her voice.  Jasen and Hattie have a bit of a whirlwind, all tied up in figuring out some way to stop the walking dead from attacking Hattie every time she so much as goes to choir practice, and the idea they end up with… well, it may not be what you expect.

I didn’t know what to think going into this since it’s not really my common genre, but I honestly liked it a lot.  Heather Ingemar pays a lot of attention to detail, so you can visualize just about everything going on in this story, and the climate between her and her parents, and her friends and teachers, etc, all seem very natural and normal—definitely an example of fantasy highlighting everyday challenges.

I give it a (strong) B+


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