Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Recap

In February, I either wasted a lot of time, or was very productive. Depending upon how you look at things. I wrote negative 40k words this month. I was almost 45k words into the rough draft of THE SECRETS OF SMITH HALL at the end of January. Then I realized that my story had zero plot and zero hope of finding a plot so I started over. Now I'm about 5k words into BROKEN. While I was pushing the delete button (not really, I saved my old work and just started a new blank file) I was also managed to read/listen to 25 books this month. 25 books in 28 days, that has got to be some kind of a record, even for me. The exact stats are that I read 1 paper book, I read 8 books on my kindle, and I listened to 14 audio books. Here is a quick account of each of the books I read this month. I didn't intend to go crazy into paranormal, but it sort of happened anyway.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Young Adult – This powerful emotional story involves a teenage boy recieving a set of audio tapes from one of his classmates just after she committed suicide explaining the series of events that lead to her own death. It’s a dark and gripping and tragic tale.

Vladimir Tod Series (books 1-4) by Heather Brewer – Young Adult/Paranormal – This is a fun vampire series. It has more of the traditional vampire lore and less of the sparkly love story. Vladimir Tod, the young vampire, is an intersting character. The story doesn’t get really gripping until the later novels.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – Young Adult – The book is even better than the movie. I does a great job of jumping back and foreth between Nick and Norah’s heads and showing how easy it is to misunderstand a person’s meanings when you are just beginning to meat and fall in love with them.

The Time Paradox by Eoln Colfer – Middle Grade/Fantacy – This is the sixth book in the Artemis Fowl series. All of which are fun to read. In this one 15 year old Artemis travels back in time and ends up coming face to face with 10 year old Artemis. In addition to being an exciting adventure, it illistrates how much Artemis has matured over the course of the series.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher – Young Adult – This is a great “boy book”, filled with sports and fighting and overcoming racism and other predudices. Chris Crutcher is a bit of a ledgend in the boy book genre. I’m not sure how many more of his books I’ll read, but I did find this story very captivating.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols – Young Adult – This is the ultimate bad girl/good boy love story. A seventeen year old child deliquent falls in love with a nineteen year old cop. Both characters had interesting complexities to their personalities which unfolded over the corse of the story. But I still found the whole thing hard to believe.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – Young Adult/Paranormal – This book is very gripping. It will keep you guessing until the very last page. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of the characters all that likable. The main character, Nora, was expecially exaperating. She is constantly lying to people when she finds herself in mortal danger, thinking the best option is to pretend everything is fine and sluth out the truth herself. Really, when unknown forces are trying to kill you, is that the best way to go. Can someone say to stupid to live?

The Princess Bride by William Goldman – Fairy Tale – This book is just as funny as the movie. All the great lines that people always quote from the movie come straight from the book. It’s also a pretty short book, only three CD. I now wish that my parents had read me this book as a bedtime story instead of just showing me the classic movie.

Looking for Alaska by John Green – Young Adult – I have luke warm feelings for this book. I like the characters, I felt like there was enough going on to keep the story moving. But when it’s all over, there is nothing that makes it stand out above the half a dozen other books I read that week. It’s just an interesting story about some high school kids at bording school.

Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison – Young Adult/Paranormal – This haunting adventure was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the showtime show Dead Like Me, which was cancled way to soon. I felt like I understood everything that was going on for the entire story, but then the end through me a huge twist. A twist that is going to make the second book in the series, which comes out this May, just as exciting.

Slam by Nick Hornby – Drama – In this story a 16 year old teen dad gets life advise from a live sized poster of stakeboarder Tony Hawk. It’s a funny story that tackles hard issues from an interesting perspective.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Middle Grade/Fantacy – This classic adventure didn’t captivate my imagination quite as much as its more recent competition. The story is interesting, but I found the character of Meg really whiney and kind of annoying, so I didn’t care as much about her quest.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston – Young Adult/Fantacy – This story involves the real life fairy folk of Puck and Oberon and others interacting with a seventeen year old actress playing Tatania in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The modern adventure set within the peramiters of Shakespeare’s fantastical world worked really well. I found myself rooting for both the humans and fairfolk as they struggled for balance in the relms.

Dunk by David Lubar – Young Adult – This is a really fun story about a teenage boy mad at life who dreams of becoming a bozo at a dunk tank, so he can properly yell at the world. The story has several fun twists and turns along the way. David Lubar is starting to become one of my favorite YA writers.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike – Young Adult/Paranormal – In this story, Laurel is a fairy instead of a witch, vampire, or angel. It’s a very cute story that is super G rated. Laurel is in high school but elementry school girls in love with fairy tales could get just as much enjoyment out of this story as teens.

King Dork by Frank Portman – Young Adult – This book is about a total loser who refers to himself as King Dork, what’s not to love. It has a really great voice, and by the end of the story there were some exciting twists. Unfortunately, a book about a kid with zero friends can be a bit dull, and the story took a while to really get going.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Classic – An interesting protrat of imigrant life at the dawn of the twentieth century. See a longer review here.

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner – Young Adult – This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The character of Skakespeare, his parents are freaks, is helarious. This story has one of the best voices around in YA fiction. To acsent the great comedy, several of the side characters deal with very serious and complicated issues that end up dragging Shakespeare into a meaningful story without destroying his wit.

Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner – Young Adult – Not quite as funny as Spanking Shakespeare, but close. I can’t wait for Jake Wizner to write a third book. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I mean really, how can you go wrong with teens singing show tunes about castration?

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr – Young Adult – Sara Zarr is really good at writing stories about teenagers with horrifying pasts. The hidden nightmear of Jenna’s childhood is reveiled slowly as she deals with a ghost from her past transferring to her high school. I liked the character development, and Jenna’s growth, but actually found the horrifying nightmear much tamer than I’d expected given Jenna’s frayed emotions.

Joke of the Day
What's the difference between an accountant and a dectective solving the Case of the Stolen Book?
One's a bookkeeper and one's a bookcaper

Friday, February 26, 2010

Movie ≠ Book

Last night I saw “The Lightning Thief”. Let me start by saying that I love Percy Jackson. I read all five books about a year ago and have been talking them up ever since. I was thrilled when I heard about the movie, because I’m enough of a realist to know movies always increase book sales. And seriously, people need to read these books.

But the movie wasn’t very good. I understand that books always need to be abridged to fit into a two hour movie. But they cut out the villian. Seriously. The movie version of “The Lightning Thief” is the equivalent of making a Harry Potter movie and cutting out Voldimort. For just this one movie, all that did was lower the stakes and make the ending seem really dirivitive (so no big deal). But it also set it up to be almost impossible to make a movie of the second book in the series. Every single part of the over arching storyline was cut. So I can’t recomend that anyone see “The Lightning Thief” but I do recomend reading the books. Cause Percy Jackson is a very cool kid.

This made me think about other movie adaptations of books. There is sort of a universial truth that the book is always better than the movie. So why is it that so many people think they can watch a move and get away with not having to read the book? The Harry Potter movies do a pretty good job of tracking to the actual story. That’s because J.K. Rowling is enough of a superstar to have veto power, and she forced her screen writers to stay true to her vission. But even those movies are more of a clift notes verssion that really wouldn’t make much sence to someone who hadn’t previously read the books.

I have a writer friend, who sold the movie writes to his book eight years ago. Several different Holywood screenwriters have attempted to adapt this novel into a movie, and the rights have been re-optioned several times. But his book is both funny and action packed. And nobody has been able to figure out how to cut a 100k word novel into a 2.5 hour movie without cutting the action, the suspence, and/or the comedy. The result is that his producer finally hired him to write the screenplay.

I don’t think very many authors are given the oppertunity to write their own screenplays. And I know that this author is still struggling to figure out how to properly abridge his story. I expect when he’s done, the movie still wont be as good as the book. Because the universal truth is a truth. The movie is never as good as the book.

So don’t be a cop-out. A paper back is cheeper than a movie ticket, and will entertain you for 10 hours instead of two. So put down your remote, and go read a book. I recommend the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It has a really great villian that you wont find in the movie. Plus Percy is dyslexic and that’s cool too.

Joke of the Day
Why are builders afraid to have a floor 13, but publishers aren’t afraid to have a chapter 11?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Library Love

I can't remember the last time I checked a "book" out of the library, but I'm guessing it probably contained more pictures than words. But that doesn't mean I don't frequent my local public library. I've just somehow convinced myself that all those books filling 90% of the space don't exist. Instead I focus solely on the audio section. Free audio books, can someone say paradice.

Between the ages of 10 and 15 I systematically listened to every audio book available at the Lake Oswego Public Library. Listening to an average of 200 audio books a year definately affected my education. It also helped me fall in love with the public library system, even if I couldn't read any of the books housed inside.

I took a eight year sabatical from audio books after I graduated from college. Somehow, I convinced myself that I'd never learn how to read for myself unless I went cold turkey on audio. Since I didn't have class related deadlines, I could labor through actually books. The process wasn't as painful as I'd expected. The love of literature sparked by all those audio books in my childhood, gave me the drive to break down and start reading.

About a year ago, I decided that enough was enough and it was time to start listening again. This decision came when I realized I'd somehow gone from listening to 200 books a year, to reading 20 books a year. If I wanted to get an idea of market trends, and important part of any writers life, I had to start listening again.

Remembering my orderly processes through the LO library goinig in alphabetical order by author, I set myself a goal of listening to every audio book available in the Hillsboro Public Library. Well, I've been attacking the library for a year now, and figured I'd give an update. In the past year, I have listened to about 70 library books. I have also listened to about 35 other books (through audio bookworm) and read about 35 books (e-book and paper). 140 books a year is pretty good. I no longer feel like a slacker.

But I'm not working through the library in any kind of systamatic order. My new found ability to read means that I can read jacket covers and reviews and try to pick out books that I think I'll actually enjoy. I currently have eight audio books checked out from the library and six more on hold.

Still there is a mild fear hiding in the back of my mind. What will happen when I get through all the books in the library? It took me about six years as a kid, and I listened to a lot of stuff that I didn't particularly enjoy. I expect it will take me two or three more years to get though all the library books I'm currently interested in. Then I'll have to haunt the new releases and/or start spending more time/money at Powell's.

What about you? Do you frequent your local library? Have you ever tried to read all the books inside?

Joke of the Day
Why is the alphabet in that order?
Is it because of the song?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tragic Loss

It’s the end of an erra. My iPod died last night. Believe me, this event has lead to much crying and nashing of teeth.

We had good times, me and my iPod. Hundreds of audio books were consumed on that device. Thousands of songs. And now it will sync no more.

Don’t worry. Today during my lunch break I went out and bought a brand new iPod. I’ve got to listen to those library books before the library wizards delete them off my computer. I can’t be sitting around without a working mp3 player.

I thought about burying my aged iPod in the backyard. But it doesn’t seem environmentally sound. So I took advantage to recycling program discount instead. The good people at Apple can tear my sad little iPod appart, and see if there are any usable parts left inside.

My new toy is actually an iTouch, which mean in addition to dispencing all the audio books I can dream of, it also has web capabilities. Maybe soon I’ll be blogging from my iPod too. Wouldn’t that be spiffy? Perhaps some good will come out of this tragity after all.

Joke of the Day
Alcohol and calculus don’t mix.
Never drink and derive.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Could the classics make it today?

I recently listened to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This was actually my second listening of this story. The first time I listened to it I was fifteen years old. At that time, I absolutely loved it. I had in my mind that it was one of my favorite books, so I decided to go back and listen to it again.

These were my thoughts going into the story at age thirty. Twelve cd’s, wow, that’s pretty long. Most books are six to eight. (I just checked on-line, this is a 528 page novel). I started listening anyway. Ready to fall into a story so wonderful I’d relish the extra word count. But wait, is that third person omnicient? Seriously? That has to be the most annoying point of view ever imagined. But I like Francie, she’s a cute kid. So I’ll try not to think about how much better this book would be in first person and just go with the omnicient.

Then the back story started coming in waves. We aren’t talking, only give back story that is required to help with the progression of the front story. We’re talking, a two hour long side trip into the ancestry of the main character, that she’s not even present for because she hasn’t been born yet. Eventually the story came back around to eleven year old Francie, and stuck with her until she turned seventeen. Six years seems like a lot to cover in one book, isn’t that what series are for?

I have read enough current books, and enough blogs by current publishing insiders, to know this set up would have a vary hard time finding publication today. Books that span generations don’t work. And nobody likes an omnicient POV, nobody. But in 1943 the rules were different, so Betty Smith’s little tale did find publication.

Here is the thing though. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a really good book. By the time I finished it, I’d fallen in love with Francie all over again. It doesn’t surprize me one bit that this was one of my favorite novels as a teenager, cause it addresses growing up with a truth few stories match. It also offers a glimps into a world that no longer exists with an honesty modern historical fiction cann’t match. And the result, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’s” current amazon rank is 4,312.

In comparison, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, is a YA novel that came out last year and seems to be doing everything right. It spans one day with very minimal back story sprinkled in. It is first person from the point of view of a girl in a coma. It has a great voice, and deals with issues current teens care about. I recently read it and loved it. But “If I Stay’s” amazon rank is 5,005. And my guess is in another 67 years, Betty Smith will still be outselling Gayle Forman.

I’m not sure what this all means. I expect that if “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” had 200 fewer pages of back story and was told in first person, I’d still be a fan. It definately would have been easier for me to get into it at the beginning. But I’m not convinced the current literary push towards short attention span readers is a good thing. Maybe I only noticed all the current rules “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” broke, because I’m in the process of attempting to enter the writing world. And maybe a current novel could span multiple generations in third person omnitient and touch modern readers just as easily. Or maybe, just as Brooklyn has changed greatly from the world little Francie grew up in, the writing world has changed too and the short attention span novels are here to stay.

Joke of the Day
Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender looks up at him and says, "Sure thing. Olive or twist?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Finding a Place to Write

This weeks Road Trip Wendnesday over at YA Highway asks the question, where do you write. I have two answers to this question.

Answer #1: The train. I live in the suburbs of Portland, but work downtown. This means I have a 45 minute comute by lightrail to and from work each day. That’s an hour and a half each day that I’m sitting on a train with nothing better to do than write. I bring my laptop with me to work, and write during my commute each day. On days when a story idea nags at me all morning, I often pull out my laptop during my lunch break and write then too.

Answer #2: Bed. I desided to convert our guest room into my home office. There isn’t a desk in there. There is just a bed that only gets used a few times a year. I like sitting in bed and writing. I also like being able to spread notes to myself all over the matrass and not have to worry about cleaning them up when I want to go to sleep. I find the guest bedroom is a wonderful office. We do have a desktop computer at a real desk in another room of our house, but I’ve never written at that computer. How uncomfortable. I sit at a desk eight hours every day. When I get home and want to write, I’d much rather lay in bed.

What about you? Where do you like to write?

Joke of the Day
Never say anything bad about a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. By then you’re a mile away, and you’ve got his shoes. So you can say whatever you want.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Romance without Spell Check

My husband is a very good speller, most of the time. But every year on valantines day, he gets a kick out of giving me a little spell check free romance. Last year he got me a boquet of flours. It was a very lovely arrangement of whole wheat, buck wheat, corn meal, and all purpose white. I actually loved the boquet of flours or than I would have liked some traditional flowers. Cause I knew he'd put some thought into a special gift, even if it was humorous.

This year he decided to make me a very sweet card. This is an exact quote of what the card says:

"Too Kate: Hapy Valintine's Dae. Plese Bee Myn. Luv, Warren"

Isn't that thoughtful. Okay, maybe now he's just making fun of me.

Joke of the Day
Jim asked his friend, Tony, whether he had bought his wife anything for Valentine's Day.
"Yes," Tony said. "I bought her a belt and a bag."
"That was very kind of you," Jim said. "I hope she appreciated the thought."
Tony smiled. "So do I, and hopefully the vacuum cleaner will work better now too."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Literature Loving Characters

I’ve recently read several really great books that star well read characters. Three of these books have been YA books with male protagonists. The bookworm boy is rarely represented in fiction, but it makes sence that boys who read books would enjoy reading about boys that read books. The way that these authors brought literary refrences into the novels was a lot of fun.

In SLEEPING FRESHMAN NEVER LIE, Scott goes out for the school paper hoping to get face time with his latest crush. Only she ends up leaving the paper staff after one issue. Scott really wants to write book reviews, but ends up getting stuck working as a sports reporter instead. The guy can’t win. But he does have lots of commentary on the horrible book reviews that do appear in the paper and lots of ideas about the books he would review if given the chance.

In KING DORK, Tom hates CATCHER IN THE RYE. Every English teacher he’s ever had has forced him to read it and he is just playing sick of Holden Caulfield. That is until he finds a beat up copy of Catcher in his basement, that belonged to his deseast father. Tom attempts to get to know his father by decoding the criptic notes written in the margens of his dad’s copy of Catcher. Oh and Tom’s life tends to mirror Holden’s a lot too. Drat.

But my favorite novel about a well read teen is SPANKING SHAKESPEARE. The main character in this novel is named Shakespeare, his parents are freaks. Shakespeare isn’t really all that much of a reader, but he does have the hots for a very well read girl. As a result he writes her a 16 stanza poem that compairs himself to several literary masters with the final conclusion that Shakespeare needs to get laid. It’s one of the funniest passages I’ve ever read. You should definately go buy this book, but I’ll tease you with one of my favorite stanzas.

Shakespeare (the first) while writing King Lear
Got totally hammered guzzling beer.
And in between poems, word has it that Keats
Liked to cavort betwixt oft-soiled sheets.

So what about you fellow writers, do any of your characters like to quote passages from Catcher, or write pornographic poems about Keats? If not, I think you’re slacking.

Joke of the Day
What’s big and gray and wrote gloomy poetry?
T.S. Elephant

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crap, I’m Boring

Anyone who follows this blog with any frequency knows I have a serious addiction to audio books. Last weekend I listened to five books and wrote nothing. I’m aweful, I know. But during all this listening, I had an opiffany. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good one.

I have this problem, where I keep getting sucked into boring novels with good voices. You know the type. The narrator has an awesome voice and there are lots of really funny scenes. So you start reading, thinking the story is going to be fabulous. Then you get to the end and realize that the story line was way overdone, incredibly predicable, and now you feel like an idiot for wasting an entire Saturday reading this drivil.

Here is the really sad thing though. The book I’ve been working on for the past two months is totally one of those stories. I like the characters, I have some fun scenes. I think I might even be able to suck in some readers with a funny enough opening. But in the end, my story is a total waste of time. I don’t want to piss off my future readers. But I can’t force an interesting plot into the world I’ve created without rewriting EVERYTHING.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m starting over and changing everything. I am keeping three of the characters from the story that I’ve been writing. But I’m making them seniors in high school instead of freshman in college. And I am throwing crap at them that wouldn’t make any sence in the story I already wrote, but will hopefully not waste my readers time.

I haven’t actually started writing this new story yet. But I’m hoping that it will be worth reading when I’m done. I guess it’s good that I realized the book I’ve been writing is boring 50k words into the rough draft and not after I’d hashed out 8 or 9 more drafts.

Joke of the Day
Punctuation Parable
Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours, Gloria

Sunday, February 7, 2010

100 and Counting

I started this blog just over a year ago. In the past year, I’ve managed to come up with 100 posts that had little or nothing to do with spelling. Why did I ever think a blog about bad spelling was a good idea? I’m not to worried about my lack of spelling related posts, because a lot of the things that I have come up with haven’t been to horrible. I doubt anyone other than my mother has read all 100 posts. If you’re a newer follower and don’t want to go back and read all 100, here are links to my top 10.

10 – Happy Holidays: Sometimes pictures speak louder than words. And the 15 foot snowman I built last year was so cool, I’m almost willing to forgive my husband for buying that forklift.

9 – Multi-Tasking: My secret is reviled – how I listen to so many audio books.

8 – What is Dyslexia: Why read wikipidea, when you can see my definition right here?

7 – Is Listening the Same as Reading: I’ve blogged a lot about the wonderful world of audio books, but I think this post does the best job of showing my love/hate relationship with full cast audio.

6 – Being an Illiterate Author: Occationally, I’m forced to stop and notice how much of a freak I really am.

5 – The Secret of Writing: I still like to talk to my imaginary friends, what about you?

4 – How Do You Spell Your Name: I feel making it to my senior year of high school before I learned to spell my own name qualifies me for some sort of metal.

3 – Servival Skills: It’s not that hard being illiterate, you just have to know how to cope.

2 – Users Guild to Spell Check: With ten easy steps, your spelling can be as good as mine.

1 – Famous Dyslexics: The list is suprizingly long. It just goes to show, living outside the box isn’t always a bad thing.

Joke of the Day

Check out my Dyslexia Jokes post to see a complete list.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teen Angst - It's Not Just for Girls

I started writing a new novel about two months ago. Because I'm a total pantser, I started writing the very first second I heard a new character's voice in my head and I spent about a month and a half writing non-stop with no idea where I was going. I now have about 45,00o words. The scenes I've written surround a group of friends, and so far I've written chapters from six of these characters points of view.

I'm now at the point where I need to start writing my real story. Which means I need to figure out what my story is actually about. Who is the narator? What is the plot? What is the point? These are the questions I've been asking myself for the last couple of days. Don't worry, I'm not going to keep all six point of view characters. That's just way to crowded and messy.

I thought I might tell the story from Haley's point of view. She's a major character, I like her a lot, and many of the scenes I've already written have been from her point of view. Also, given what I've already written, Haley's clearly the primary female character. The problem is that while Haley does grow and change over the course of the story, nothing that happens to her is all that profound. Her life seems blessed. I really like Haley, but I feel like an entire book about her might be kind of boring.

Then there is Kyle. I love Kyle. He's a total mess, which makes me love him even more. A novel told from Kyle's point of view could be really fun to write. And I think it would have a better chance of engaging/captivating readers than a story written from Haley's point of view. The only problem is that Kyle is a boy. And this story is YA. And everybody knows that only girls read YA, right?

I was discussing the idea of writing my story from Kyle's POV with a writer friend. When I said that this could be a "boy book" I was actually laughed at. But I've read some really amazing books with male narators. Many of my favorite books of all time have had male narators. And I've heard multiple people within the publishing industry say that there is a shortage of boy books. So I did a little unscientific research.

First I looked at amazon. Based on their sales rankings 53 of the top 100 YA novels have a male main character. 53%, more than half, how can that be possible? Is this because there are fewer books with male protagonists available, so they end up selling better than their female counterparts? Or does this mean that the myth that only girls read is truly a myth?

I decided to look further. Next I examined my own reading habits. I am a little OCD and actually keep a detailed list of all the books that I read. Of the last 200 novels that I read, 86 had male protagonists. 43%, less than half, but still a lot. But I read from a variety of genres, so I limited my permiters. 102 of my last 200 reads had a protagonist under the age of 20. Out of those 102 books, 42 had a male protagonist. 42%, almost exactly the same as the stats for all genres.

But these statistics might be a little misleading. Of my 42 books with a boy MC, 7 starred a guy named Harry Potter, 5 stared a guy named Percy Jackson, and six stared a guy named Artimis Fowl. And out of the 60 girl books on my list, only 4 stared a girl named Bella Swan and 3 stared a girl named Ever. So 72% of the Paranormal/Fantacy books I've read recently have had male MC's, and 22% of the non-paranormal YA books I've read have had male MC's.

I don't think this means that boys can't appear in YA novels though. Cause "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", "The Awesome Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl", "King Dork", "Sleeping Freshman Never Lie", and "The Misfits" are all really good books. I read them all and loved them all. And I expect that there are a lot of teenage girls that have also read them and love them. And I also think there are a lot of teenage boys who like to read, and they are so desprate to find novels they can relate to, that they have forced 53% of the books on amazons YA best seller list to star boys just like them.

So that is that. I'm convinced. I'm writng a book about a geeky boy named Kyle, who I totally love, and nobody can stop me.

Joke of the Day
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter.
The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Extra Time on Exams

I recently stumbled upon an article about a dyslexic Yale student who wasn’t allowed extra time on this medical licencing exam. I don’t know all the details of the case, but it did make me think about IEP’s (individual education plans) and the way extra time on exams can affect dyslexic students.

As a kid I got very little extra help from the public school system. My parents hired a private tutor for me as soon as I got diacnosed with dyslexia and pressured the school to keep me mainstreamed as much as possible. By the time I got to high school, I’d become so good at working the system that nobody seemed to notice or care that I couldn’t read. Bonehead English was the only non-honors/AP class in my schedule.

But when it came time to take the SAT, I did pull the IEP card to get myself some extra time. I took the SAT twice, once with regular time and once with extended time. My math score stayed the same for both exams (I actually cut back the amount of time I spent on the math sections when I had control of the clock). But my verbal score went up by more than 100 points when I had time to read the questions. That was what I wanted to show colleges, that I knew how to speak English, I just read really slow.

The thing is, there comes a time in a persons life when reading slow stops being a good excuse. I’m not given extra time to get my work done now that I have a job. And I’d be apprehensive about a doctor who needed extra time to read my medical charts. So I actually think it’s a good thing that the medical board refused to give that Yale student extra time. Eventually, you just need to learn how to read.

While in college, I got all my textbooks on tape. But I never asked any of my professors for extra time on exams. I could have had it if I asked, but most of the time I finished early. I have to take my engineers licencing exam pretty soon, and I would never dare to ask for extra time. If I can’t pass the test, I shouldn’t be alowed to stamp construction plans. And time shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

All this discussion of tests reminds me of a few years ago when I considered getting an MBA. I gave up on the idea before I got around to applying, but I did take the GMAT. My results shocked me. My verbal score was higher than my math score. How does a dyslexic engineer do better on a verbal exam than a math exam? The only answer I can come up with is that I learned how to read. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to pass exams without reading the questions as a kid. Now that I can read the questions, the tests seem really easy.

Hopefully, that Yale med student has learned how to read too. There’s no reason why a dyslexic can’t be a doctor. But I hope that my doctor can read my charts without to much extra time.

Joke of the Day
When it comes right down to it, dyslexics have more nuf.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Listening Log

Since I was in Spain at the time, I didn't do a month end reading review at the end of December. You didn't miss out on much. Thanks to my OCD writing habits, I only read/listened to seven books in December. I picked things up a little in January and read/listened to fourteen more books. So here is a quick review of the twenty-one books I've consumed in the past two months. If you care about the stats, I read one of these books in paper form, I read four on my kindle, and I listened to sixteen.

PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern - Chick-Lit - Why watch the movie, when you could read the book? I haven't seen the movie, but got about as much out of the book as I expected from watching previews. It was touching, and sentimental, and sappy. I liked it, but I didn't leave any kind of a lasting impression. It's just a cute love story with a sad beginning and a hopeful ending.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - Sci Fiction - I'm normally not a big SciFi fan, but after reading this book, I feel like I should become one. It was one of the best books I've heard in a long time. The post apocolitic future reality was artfully depicted, and the backstory was revield in a way that made it easy to suspend my disbelief. I honestly hope that high school kids are forced to read this book in fifty years. 'Cause it deserves to join the great SciFi classics like Ferinhight 451, 1984, and Brave New World. Even if you don't normally like SciFi, I recomned this futuristic tale of deseat and inspiration.

Doing It by Melvin Burgess - Young Adult - The British tend to be a lot more vulgar about a lot of things. I've read enough YA books to know they often push boundrys and tackle edgy subjects. But this books felt like reading porn. OMG, it was really graphic. I did find all the crazy British kids snogging entertaining, but if I was the parent of a teenager, I wouldn't want my kids to read this novel.

One Two Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie - Mystery - I like Agatha Christie. Did you know she's dyslexic. Well you do now. I was so sure I'd guessed the killer half way though, but the ending totally threw me. I was way off. But still very well entertained.

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan - Young Adult - I really liked this book. It's funny and honest and raw. The characters in this book are freshman in college, so it makes it a natural comp title for my WIP. I would love to one day write with as much wit as Cohn & Levithan.

Artemis Fowl (books 1-5) by Eoln Colfer - Middle Grade/Fanticy - I haven't gotten to book six yet, and book seven is due out this summer, but so far I'm loving this series. It's similar in genre to Harry Potter, but takes a very different approach. Artemis is a tween criminal mastermind on a mission to take over the world. He discovers the existance of faries and then regularly exploits them in his diabolical plans. Eventually he befriends the faries and joins forces with them to save the world several times. It's a fun series, and I like having a bad guy human surrounded by lots of good guy dwarfs, sprites, and evles.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Young Adult - This book is very touching. It's about a teenage girl who's family gets in a car accedent. Her body is in a coma in the hospital, but her spirit is able to move around and observe her concerned friends and loved ones. Her entire family dies in the car crash, and she has to decide if she wants to stay and live her life as an orphan, or let go and follow her family. I may have cried while listening to this, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.

Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth - Young Adult - This book is all about the young James (not yet Hook) in prep school with the young Darlin. In it James is the hero/victim and Darlin is the villian/bully. At the end of the story James finds the curage to stand up for himself and steels a ship before sailing away to Neverland.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - Young Adult - This homosexual teen romance takes place in an unrealistic utopian high school were the football quarterback is a drag queen that gets elected homecoming queen. Oddly, the story read exactly like all the other YA romances out there, with a love quadralatera between the MC, their ex-boyfriend, their new crush, and their BFF. The only difference was that all four characters were male. Maybe that was the point. That teen angst exists everywhere, even in a town where the cheerleaders drive motorcyclels.

Sleeping Freshman Never Lie by David Lubar - Young Adult - This is a really cute book about a geeky kid who flounders through his freshman year of high school feeling completely lost only to discover he has everything he needs. I like stories that glorify the geeks and probably would have loved Sleeping Freshman Never Lie when I was fourteen. Heck, I even enjoyed it at thirty.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga - Young Adult - This book was funny, but the ending left we wanting more. It didn't really seem to have much of a point. It just ended. But I loved the voice of the MC, and I always enjoy stories of the terrors of high school told through the eyes of a dork. So I enjoyed this read despite it's ending.

Shadowland by Alyson Noel - Young Adult/Paranormal - This is the third book in the Immortals series. I really liked the first book in the series, but found both the second and third book left something to be desired. The MC keeps on making dumb choices that cause problems with the story. I know that everything can't be perfect in a story, there need to be complications. But do they all have to stem from the MC's stupidity. It's hard to care about a character when everything that goes wrong is her fault. But I'll probably end up reading book four when it comes out anyway.

Manhattan Heat by Alice Orr - Romance - This is a Harlequin Romance novel that I got at a white elephant gift exchange at X-mas. The plot was simple and predictable, but I don't really think many people read romance novels hoping for complex storylines. The thing that surprized me about this book was how tame it was. There is more sex in most of the YA books I read then there was in this. Most of the story was just sexual tension, and then there was one graphic scene towards the end.

Sleeping Beauty by Arthur Quiller - Fairy Tale - After rereading this tale, I'm convinced that my WIP wont be a modern adaptation of this classic. But the story itself is still fun to read.

All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare - Classic - Another great comedy filled with mistaken idenities and chastity of maidens.

The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner - Chick-lit - This is actually an accompilation of short stories, all about girls with crackpot dads that lead to a general mistrust of men. Some of the stories had good characters, but as soon as I got into one, I'd be thrust into the hands of another. I've never been a fan of short stories and would have enjoyed this book better if it had focussed on just one of the character sets.

How to Not Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler - Young Adult - This book is hellarious. It's about a girl who's family moves all the time. She hates always having to say goodbuy to her friends, so she makes a plan to not make any friends at her new school. She does everything she can think of to act buzzar and scare everyone away. Not suprizingly, this encourages the shallow bitches to leave her alone and the interesting nice kids to befriend her instead. I stayed up all night reading this book on my flight to Spain. I laughed so hard in some spots that I woke up the other passengers on the plane.

Joke of the Day

I’m reading an interesting book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.