Thursday, March 19, 2009

On My Way (plus, a cover!)

I have officially lost my mind.

But that's okay, because very soon I'll be in an airplane, communing with the gods. (Who are in the sky, you know. Airplanes bring you closer to the gods. And the gods give you back your mind if you've lost it [and if you happen to fly by].)

Like I said, mind lost, TRUST ME, it's lost; this has been the WEEK OF CRAZY; but: I am on my way. I leave for Bologna today. I'm certain that whatever item it's most important I NOT forget is the item I have forgotten.

I will probably not be blogging while I'm away, so this may be my last post for a couple of weeks. However, I'll leave you with one more cover -- the Fire cover in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand (Gollancz, Fall 2009). As always, I'd love to hear what you think, good or bad! I made sure to post the corresponding Graceling cover above for comparison purposes.

I probably won't be responding to comments right away, but I will read them, if not while I'm away, then when I get back.

Have a great two weeks, everyone!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Few Books (And a Few Questions)

I don't know where to start with Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange, and I don't know how to express how much I loved it without giving away spoilers, so I'm not going to say much. I know there are a lot of mixed reactions to the book out there, and I understand that. But my experience of reading it was very emotional, and my take is that it's an important, delicate, beautiful book about survival -- about choosing to live after trauma, even though that means choosing to feel the pain you'd rather numb yourself to.

I believe in this book. I found it to be full of heart, feeling, and disturbing truth. Did you read it? What did you think?

Next up, I just finished Donna Jo Napoli's The Smile, which takes place in Florence at the turn of the sixteenth century. I don't think it's much of a spoiler for me to tell you that the smile referred to is the Mona Lisa's smile; the novel is Mona Lisa's story, as Napoli imagined it. (Napoli explains in a postscript that no one is certain who da Vinci's model was for the painting; this is definitely a work of fiction and imagination; but the political history is real and fascinating, and the imagined story is beautiful). I confess that I didn't give this book the attention it deserved, because I've been running around like a headless chicken lately. But even my scattered attention could tell that it was a wonderful book. I'm going to read it again. And here's a question -- can anyone recommend more Napoli books, particularly taking place in Italy? I think I've found a writer whose books touch my soul. I want to read more.

Finally, I forgot to mention the other day, when I blogged the Andre Norton finalists, how much I liked The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. The link, btw, will take you to the Readergirlz blogspot, which is featuring Pearson's book this month and which describes the book better than I could -- and which has a lovely playlist going ^_^. Read it! It's great. And hello, beautiful cover!

The main reason I'm a headless chicken these days is that I leave for Italy on Thursday. I'm going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair, and right after that, to the Penguin sales conference back in the states. I'll be gone almost two weeks, and it's tax season and copyediting season and so many seasons that have me running around like crazy trying to prepare for my disappearance! So forgive me if I seem a little all over the place.

What are you reading and loving these days?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Moses Supposes His Toeses Are Roses (But Moses Supposes Erroneously)

So, my sister (secret code name: Cordelia) and I have a lot of deep and meaningful discussions. Often, we find ourselves on the same side of the argument. For example, we've decided that given the choice of living with a whiner, a wino, or a rhino, we would both choose the rhino. And, the other night, while driving out of the parking lot of the dinner theater, we debated whether it would be worse for us to accidentally run over a patron or a matron. We agreed that while both would be dreadful, the matron would somehow be more dreadful.

Of course, we don't always agree. I asked Cordelia once which she would rather have, a car that doesn't stop or a car that doesn't go. She chose the car that doesn't stop, on the grounds that at least that car has one more good go left in it.

*. . . .*

More recently, we disagreed on who's better, the ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov or the Irish step dancer Michael Flatley. I chose Baryshnikov (even though I adore Irish step dancing), and she chose Flatley (even though she adores people in ruffled tights leaping about). I think if she'd just take another look at Michael Flatley's strange headgear, and maybe watch some Sex in the City, she'd come over to my side. She insists she wouldn't. What can I do?

Finally, lest anyone imagine that the only sister o' mine with whom I ever come into conflict is Cordelia, just listen to this. Yesterday, finding myself increasingly suspicious of the results of my "What Must Be?" poll (eight fabulous options, and almost 30% of voters are choosing flying squirrels??!), I extracted a confession from my sister, secret code name: Apocalyptica, who happens to be the proud owner of a flying squirrel. Apocalyptica linked to my poll on the National Flying Squirrel Association's message boards! ON PURPOSE, TO SKEW MY RESULTS! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!!! NOW I NEED ALL OF YOU TO GO LINK TO MY POLL ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS OF AGONY, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, WRINKLES IN TIME, PASTRAMI SANDWICHES, BRASS QUINTETS, AND DEATH, TO UN-SKEW ME!

I can't believe it. THAT FLIMFLAMMER!

Do you have siblings? Are they like mine? ;o)

And do you like to watch dance? What kinds?

Also -- if you recognize the song lyrics in my title, then you know what show Cordelia and I saw at the dinner theater. (^_^) (Btw, click on the little HQ in the right-hand corner to watch it in high quality!)

Monday, March 9, 2009

What must be?: A poll on the topic of our old friend, Ludwig Van

So, I must confess that there are string quartets out there that bore me to tears. However, as I type this, I'm listening to Beethoven's string quartet No. 16 in F, Opus 135, and it does not bore me to tears. It's too much fun.

And now, stand back, because I'm going to tell you why. :o)

At the top of the score of the last movement of this quartet, Beethoven wrote the words "The Difficult Decision" (except he wrote them in German). Then, he wrote the words, "Muß es sein?" ("Must it be?"). The cello and viola open the movement with three notes that seem to be asking that question: "Must it be?" As the movement continues, you can hear the violins and the cello/viola repeating the question, sometimes passing it back and forth to each other. All the instruments sound very worried about it, very full of angst.

Then, a bit later on, right where the piece jumps back into happy, cheerful F major, Beethoven seems to have made his decision, for he wrote the words "Es muß sein!" into the score. ("It must be!") The whole sound of the movement changes, and you can hear the two violins answering, yes, "It must be! It must be!" Yay!

If you listen to it here on youtube, you'll hear the "Must it be?" at the very beginning, and then listen for "It must be! It must be!" at 1:52 exactly.

This was the last string quartet Beethoven ever wrote -- in fact, I believe it's the last composition of any kind he ever completed, though if I'm wrong about that, please correct me -- and he died before he ever got to see it performed. I wish he could go to a performance today, his hearing restored, and hear what a beautiful thing he did. The first three movements are also wonderful, of course. I'm particularly partial to the second (I tend to like fast movements, and this is one of the most fun ever). Here are one, two, and three by the same performers, the Hagen Quartet. (What I like about whoever filmed this performance is that you can really see the way Beethoven has all the instruments talking to each other.)

The funny thing is that no one knows what Beethoven was talking about with all that "Must it be? It must be!" stuff. What did he insist so passionately must be? Angst? Suffering? Unicorns? Beef and barley soup for dinner? What must be?

No, really, I'm asking you. In your opinion, what, in life, must be? (If you're reading this post somewhere other than my actual site and don't see the full poll below, please click here.)

Finally, a friendly reminder that I don't see comments posted in LiveJournal, on Amazon, or anywhere other than my blogspot.

And extra points today if you recognize what movie I'm referencing in my post title :o)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fabulous News and a Pretty Picture

Hi all!

The news:

Graceling is a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (the SFWA's award for YA given concurrently with the Nebulas). Its fellow finalists are Lamplighter, by D.M. Cornish; Savvy, by Ingrid Law; The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson; and, with the best title ever (in my opinion), Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room), by Ysabeau S. Wilce. In other words, I'm in fine company -- and why isn't my title 33 words long? :o)

Also, Graceling is a nominee for the 2009-2010 Georgia Peach Book Award. Check out the other nominees here, and forgive me for not listing them -- there are 20. The cool thing about this award is that teens in the state of Georgia vote for the winner. The other cool thing is that I'm in the company of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, and a bunch of other lovely books :o)

Finally, Graceling is a finalist for the Indies Choice Book Awards in the category of Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book. These awards are presented by the American Booksellers Association. My fellow finalists are The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman; The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins; Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow; My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Kluger; and Savvy, by Ingrid Law. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but, hello. Good company!

That's the news. Before I get to the pretty picture, Melissa Marr is giving away some free books this month, including 3 signed copies of the U.K. edition of Graceling. Go here to enter the drawing!

Also, one more thing: everyone I know seems to be sick right now. Everyone is sick! So this is just a wish that everyone feel better! Feel better soon, everyone!

And now, here's the pretty picture. It's the cover for the Fire ARC in the USA and Canada (Dial Books for Young Readers, Fall 2009). The cover for the final book may be different from the ARC cover.

As always, feel free to tell me what you think. I made sure to post the Graceling cover above so you could compare if you want.

Monday, March 2, 2009

On Originality; On Freaking Out; and On the Universe

I guest-posted at Magical Musings on the topic of originality a few days ago. For my post today, I'm referring you to what I wrote over there.

In case that bores you, this weekend's This American Life explained the banking crisis in a simple and understandable way that was funny, kind, and only slightly COMPLETELY FRAKKING TERRIFYING. It's here if you're interested. I'm pretty sure their link to listen to the whole episode free online will be up by the time this posts, but if not, check back with them. They always put it up soon after the weekend ends.

And in case that frightens you, remember that there's no point freaking out about things we can't control, recall that the sun will explode in five billion years anyway, and comfort yourself with last Friday's gorgeous Astronomy Picture of the Day. Earthshine is one of my favorite sights -- but I never knew what to call it until I saw this photo!

Happy Monday, everyone :o)