Friday, March 30, 2007

54. Book Awards-the Ready-Made Reading List

I love book awards. I love to read about books and what finds people have discovered in the recently published avalanche of paper. I view each new announcement of book awards as another reading list. And my TBR list is very long.

So in the interest of sharing those reading lists with others, who may get to the books before I do, here's a link to more book awards: The Galaxy British Book awards: Feel free to let me know what you've read and recommend-from among these or elsewhere.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

53. Latest Harry Potter Excitement

Here's the cover art for the new front cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I found it over at ShelfTalker (a lovely blog thanks to the folks at Publisher's Weekly). My first reaction is that Harry is playing tennis--he's just tossed his ball into the air to serve an ace.

But wait-here's the full cover as it wraps around the book.

It's an odd assortment of images. The curtains at each end make it look like a stage play. The arched structure in the background looks Roman, and like a stage set. The orange sky looks both uplifting, like dawn, and troubling, like rampant fire. The dementer (or inferi? or is it Lord Voldemort with red eyes?) [ed. OKAY, it's official, it's Lord Voldemort] on the left seems to be reacting to something other than Harry, not threatening Harry. And Harry's arm in the air still seems ridiculous.

I wonder what the splintered wood in the foreground is--it seems incongruous, unrelated to the curtains or the stone arches. And are the shadows in the background a throng of observers, spectators? They add to the feeling that this is "staged."

I wish the characters were relating to each other or something in the picture. And I wish that Daniel Radcliffe's image hadn't worked it's way into the GrandPre vision of Harry. ED. I just noticed that Harry has something around his neck--the locket? or something else?

I think this cover will grow on me, though. I like the orange vibrancy.

And there's this--the book cover to be released in the UK.

Harry looks like he has buck teeth (maybe we do need the Daniel Radcliffe version after all!). Hermione looks like a floozy. And Ron's red hair isn't (red). And they, too, are reacting to something outside the cover. (Or have they been sucked into a vault at Gringott's?) Perhaps that's a stylish innovation, but it doesn't work for me.

So I'm happier with the "American" cover art. Although, I do also like this "adult" cover for the UK (although I think the locket should be gold, not silver).

And I can't wait to read the books. Seeing the cover art is exciting. It makes the book's imminent appearance all that more real.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

52. Condolences

I extend my condolences to the families and friends of Kim Jin Ah, Yang Mira, Ku Jung Whan and Suh Sang Won. May our prayers fly to heaven to welcome your children. May you find comfort and peace from our sharing of your grief. May you forgive the waves.

Monday, March 26, 2007

51. Harry Potter-Look what's coming! Think what's coming.

Here's a movie trailer for Order of the Phoenix.

And my predictions or thoughts on the 7th book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

#1. Dumbledore told Harry in book 3 that his release of Peter Pettigrew was magic at its deepest, that Peter was indebted to him, and that this bond would come to fruition in the future. I'm hoping it does and I'll be deeply disappointed if it turns out that Dumbledore's promise was empty drama. What I'm hoping is that Peter is responsible for Snape's demise.

#2. Florian Fortescue has gone missing from Diagon Alley (book 6, I think). And we know that one of the portraits of an old headmaster at Hogwarts was a Fortescue. I'm wondering if Voldemort has taken up residence in Florian's place to have access to a portrait that can now spy on what's happening in the Hogwart's headmaster's office.

#3. Where will Harry find the Horcruxes? There are 6 (or possibly 5 if the last one was not completed). hc 1-The diary-ruined. hc 2-The ring-broken. hc 3-The locket.

The RAB inscription on the fake locket has been discussed in other circles (and yes, I exaggerated when I said I didn't ever pay attention to the scuttlebutt on HP fan sites--but I haven't been around them in a while). So I agree with those who suggest that one of the horcruxes is the locket last seen in Sirius's house (Phoenix headquarters). A possible complication may be that Kreacher has stolen it.

Other horcruxes?
hc 4-The cup? Could it be in Godric's Hollow? (My lovely Webster's International shows that "hallow" is a variant of Hollow--perhaps the deathly hallows are the hollows where the horcruxes are hidden?) Voldemort planned to use something for his final horcrux when he killed HP. So he might have dropped it at Godric's Hollow and not gotten it back yet. (But would it even be a horcrux or was the magic spell unfinished?)

hc 5-The snake. With Voldemort. HP's parseltongue will come in handy, no doubt.

One more horcrux?
hc 6-Don't know-possibly Voldemorts' award for special services on hand at Hogwarts? Seems unlikely, though. Dumbledore thought it would be a possession of one of the original Hogwart's founders. And there are interesting theories you can read about at Mugglenet. (I like the one that suggests the horcruxes are interrelated-so Voldemort would have used the cup to get to the locket, the locket to get to ? etc. But then how did RAB get to the locket? Did RAB have the cup and leave it at his home-now OOTP headquarters, too?)

#4. Voldemort has wanted to come back to Hogwarts for quite a while. I want to know why. I don't think it's just to retrieve a horcrux (he could have had Snape do that), or to release the basilisk (killed in book 2). Dumbledore suggests that he was looking for more ancient magic to learn. I'm hoping that Harry (or more likely Hermione) finds some special magic (besides love) deeply hidden that could be useful, something that Voldemort suspected was there but couldn't find (because of his black heart?). Or perhpas the "deathly hallows" are the ghosts themselves and Rowena Ravenclaw or the Bloody Baron holds a deep secret?

#5. Last prediction ( or not): Harry finds a way to unleash Voldemort memories transferred to him in the lightning bolt incident. Remember-he felt somehow that he knew Tom Riddle, that he recognized the name and felt friendly toward him-a shadow of memory? Perhaps there's more to find "within himself" as Dumbledore is always saying (only it's not love this time either).

50. Harry Potter

I've been planning on sharing my HP ruminations, as feeble as they are, just because I'm looking forward to the 7th book and the 5th film this summer. So I'll share my little predictions in my next blog post. I don't hang out on Mugglenet or read the Leaky Cauldron's deep analysis. I rarely even visit JK's site itself, so my thoughts are "original" to me--(or you could say, uninformed!).

But before I get to them, here's some HP comic relief:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

49. Beyond Distances-New Book Available

Sounds like it should be about a jogger, but this new book is from Carlos Madrid and it's about the 1870's in Saipan. I went to the book launching last night. And when I get a few more minutes, I'll try to scan the cover (done!) , upload a picture of the author (done!), and give some more lively comment.

For now, I just wanted to reiterate that this book is available at the American Memorial Park Museum. Cost is only $15.00. Print run of just 1000 from our NMI Humanities Council press. ISBN: 1-878453-94-7, copyright 2006.

Scott Russell and everybody at the Humanities Council deserve kudos for creating, sponsoring and promoting projects like this historical research. (I did suggest to Scott that they make this and their other books available through Would somebody else echo this suggestion? Maybe if he hears it often enough, he'll do it.)

I've already started to read the book, but of course, what I turn to first are the photos from the era. Early photography, with grainy, blurred black and white images captures the past in a special way--keeping it distant and indistinct, but giving just enough of a glimpse to entice us to learn more.

Catch this book!

Monday, March 19, 2007

48. Wah! A Favorite Blog Down!

POD-dy Mouth has closed up shop. Wah!

I loved reading about the print-on-demand books she found, reviewed, and sometimes loved. I even bought one or two that she recommended.

But alas, she's burned out. Understood.

But we need those "needle" awards. And her enthusiastic voice encouraging us to read. (Well, I don't need that. I'll read anyway. But I still love hearing the reinforcement of my habit.)

Goodbye-POD-dy Mouth. Sorry to see you go.

(P.S. I'll leave the link up for a while, but eventually, I'll have to take it off my list. Wah!)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

47. Another Saipan Vet in the News

Thanks to Dan MacMeekin for sharing this bit from the Washington Post. Josh Stein, a Saipan vet, has a lot to cope with, or actually less to cope with. He lost two legs in Iraq. Read about him and other vets paying a high personal price for our (senseless) war, and demonstrating as much or more courage in daily life as on the battlefield. IraqWarVetJoshSteinShowsCourage

Thursday, March 15, 2007

45. Another great invention-$100 laptop

Wow! Those men and women at MIT are amazing. Working on a concept for a $100 laptop to help educate the children of the world, they've come up with this.
Read more here: MITProject

And consider its possible impact on the entire publishing industry: TechnologyReview

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

44. Great Inventions

You can read my book review of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick in this Friday's Variety. I'll link to it here when it comes out. ANewInvention

The book is fabulous. It tells the story a boy--orphaned, working as a timekeeper in a train station, and stealing parts to fix an automaton that will write. The boy, Hugo Cabret, believes the writing automaton has an important message for him, possibly from Hugo's father.

The story captures the mystery and intensity of a boy alone in a larger world. It also reminds us of a time when mechanical marvels were thought to be magical (that's almost the way I view how my computer works now!).

So here's a look at some old time mechanical marvels.

An 18th century French writing doll.

And a look inside at how it works.

And a 19th century doll writing kanji.

And if you want to understand how it works, here's a little article explaining the mechanical principles. Automatons

You can see a small sample of the variety of automatons at this gallery . And see a picture of yet another writing automaton here: Renee's

And if you want to read more, or make your own, here's a place to get more books and tools. AmazonHasEverything

But if you don't want to spend money, you can get a quick glimpse of the history of automatons, i.e. robotics (and learn where that term came from if you don't already know), here: HistoryofRobotics

And if you're interested in the film by Geroge Melies referenced in THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, you can watch it here: ATripToTheMoon

The fascination with machines is as old as humankind. And a good story about a kid who is fascinated with a machine--well, that's THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET.

Friday, March 9, 2007

43. Great News--A Trend We Love: Teen Reading

Teens are reading more. Buying more books, too. TeensReading Thanks to Seattle for spotting this trend and reporting about it.

I'm glad to see the quality of YA literature recognized. I'm tired of hearing people say that there are no good books for kids, because the opposite is true.

I'm not surprised that Cecilia Goodnow (the Seattle Intelligencer reporter) mentions Harry Potter. JKRowling deserves credit for inciting a reading revolution (and opening children's books to an adult audience as well).

The trend includes a growing fascination with manga (the graphic novel). We have the benefit of Japanese influence here in Saipan, and Japanese manga is available at our local bookstore. It is popular with kids here, and provides an easy transition from television to books. I'm in the middle of a unique blend of (American) graphic novel and traditional story right now--reading THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick. Look for my review soon in the Marianas Variety.

ON A RELATED NOTE: You can scroll down GalleyCat's site to find a poll on how you find books to add to your TBR (to be read) list.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

42. A Funny Thing

The Thespians of the Western Pacific staged A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on February 24, 2007 at the MHS gym.

The show is a hilarious romp through ancient Rome, where Senex (Antonio Tiples) is henpecked by his wife, Domina (Jocelyn Lonsdale), but plans a quiet escape from her while in the countryside;

their son Hero (Tommy Baik) falls in love with a would-be courteson, Philia (Tikla Brown)

and the old neighbor, Erroneus (Jongwon Lee) searches for his long lost son and daughter. Only Pseudolus (Ryan Gutierrez), the slave, is complaining because he wants his freedom.

Pseudolus decides to win his freedom by arranging for a tryst between Hero and Philia. Lycus (Matt Wheat), the purveyor of the courtesans, tries to interest Hero in the other courtesans like Gymnasia (Joan Liwanag), but gladly accepts payment for Philia when Hero insists on her, except that Lycus has already arranged for Philia's marriage to the military leader, Miles Gloriosus (Moon Hyo Lee).
Pseudolus tries to get the contract for Philia from Miles through a fantastic ruse.

Hysterium (Christian Cruz), another slave, poses as the betrothed "lovely" Philia. Too bad that Senex unexpectedly finds himself attracted to the beauty.

And then Hysterium pretends to be dead. Pseudolus hopes to convince Miles that, with his bride dead, Miles can move on to other pastures, and thereby give room for the possibility that Hero and Philia end up together so Pseudolus can gain his freedom.

The ploy comes undone.
Filled with songs like Comedy Tonight, Lovely, and Everybody Ought to Have a Maid, the show is rollicking good fun. The supporting cast of Proteans/soldiers and Courtesans dash around the stage, sing lustily and enhance the humor.
And everyone gets a happy ending, with Erroneus learning that Miles is his son and Philia is his daughter, which puts an end to Miles' betrothal, unites Hero and Philia, and provides Pseudolus with his freedom. Happily ever after, for all.

Well, except for Senex, who is still married to Domina.
The TWPI did a great job staging the show, getting laughs with the right timing. The audiences for the two performances on Saturday were enthusiastic, if small. And the student thespians, along with the student band, and the student tech-crew, proved once again how talented and hard-working our kids are. Kudos to them all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

41. Celebrity Authors Writing for Kids

It's well-known among children's authors that everybody and their grandmother think they can write children's books. Children's books must be easier to write because they're for less-fluent readers, kids with smaller vocabularies, an unsophisticated audience--right?

Children's writers know that the truth is different--that writing for children is a tough job because children are less patient about trying to see whether the story will improve. Kids want a good story from start to finish. So the stories must be trim, sleek and fine-tuned.

Children's editors generally are a radical bunch who believe that our children deserve only the very best. So the good and even the very good don't make the grade.

And there are a lot of people writing juvenile fiction, so there's a very competitive market. The end result is top-notch quality. From picture books to young adult (YA), juvenile literature is a pleasure to read.

But then there are "celebrity" authors. People who are celebrities first and who decide, hey, why not, I think I'll write a book. And of course, they write for children because they make the mistake of thinking it's easier than writing for adults. And publishing houses snap them up because they've already got a "platform" for selling their books.

We saw Madonna's picture books (about the English Roses) have a brief spurt of publicity and sales and then quickly fade from sight, although she's still publishing more of them. I reviewed her first book for the Marianas Variety (about January 2004, I think). It wasn't as bad as I had feared, but it wasn't good.

There have been others: Paul McCartney, Julie Andrews, Kylie Minogue, Gloria Estefan and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few. None of these celebrities are playing to their strengths when they write for children.

The one notable exception is Jamie Lee Curtis, who has several baby board books out that have a nice rhythm and rhyme, a sense of story and are good, or possibly very good.

But now we can look forward to another celebrity's book-a YA by Jenna Bush, just sold to a publishing house, according to Publishers Marketplace (requires log-in, so I can't link you to that article). Here's some pre-sale discussion: JennaShopsABook

Beverage Alert: Here's a glimpse (well, parody): Jenna'sTakeOnLife One can only hope Jenna's novel is this well-written! (sigh)

Monday, March 5, 2007

40. A Writing Tip with Software

For writers, including bloggers, everywhere: improve writing with a quick adverb checker.


But really, I couldn't possibly agree to use this. Take away my adverbs? No. Don't...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

39. The Weather

Yes, I'm going to blog about the weather. In Saipan, the weather is usually a given--mid 80's, sunny, breezy, occasional showers. You can give this weather prediction for almost every day of the year--high 80's in the "summer" months, and low 80's in the "winter" months, some other variations, (less rain in dry season, more in rainy season), but really, the most consistent temperature and weather in the world--that's Saipan. So weather becomes a part of the background.

But today was not typical. The temperature hovered around 70 degrees all day--even in the middle of the afternoon. That's one degree above the 60's, which are NOT tropical temperatures. And the incessant rainy mist was downright unpleasant.

All in all, it was a good day for a murder mystery. I'm in the middle of two--both by Stephen Greenleaf. I loaned the first one I was in the middle of reading to a friend who found herself suddenly in the hospital. So then I started the second one. Now my friend is too sick to read, having moved to ICU, so I got the first one back. And I read while she sleeps, or when I'm cozying up to a hot cup of coffee somewhere. Does anyone else read two books at the same time? And two murder mysteries?! I find it rather enjoyable.

Also, it was a good day for soup. I like to eat soup (never slurp!). On a cold, gray, wet day, nothing beats some hot soup. I tried the Thai soup at Cafe at the Park today. It was yummy. Pica and maipe.

Did you notice--I got no editing done (even though it's nanoedmo--see post # 38). I'll blame my lack of progress on the weather! And now, back to the mysteries (books, I mean).

38. National Novel Editing Month

March is NationalNovelEditingMonth. This is for every person with a novel in need of editing; now is the time to pull out the blue pencil and focus on rewriting and revising the lovely manuscript.

If you're in Saipan and you want to get together for some editing comraderie, just let me know (comment here or e-mail me).

I have two novels to edit. I love NaNoWriMo--that crazy project where you write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in the 30 days of November. I've done that twice now (2005 and 2006). Hence, two novels.

And now, March is the editing month. In March 2006, I spent edmo on my first novel. I did a good job finding blatant discontinuities. I felt the thrill of editing joy everytime I noticed a misspelled word or an error in my grammar.

But editing is not a rushed and frenzied activity, and doesn't benefit from the crazy pressure of a month deadline. Writing a novel can benefit from that hurry, because you just need to get words on paper, then you have something to work with. But edmo is the time to work with that mass, to think, to search for the threads that seem promising, to wade into drifts and ride currents, and make decisions about which way the wind is blowing, and which way it should be blowing.

So I'll be working on my first novel again. It has some problems that I need to tackle. I keep stumbling over the opening, which I like, but it doesn't seem strong enough to get a favorable reaction from other readers. So editing takes courage. To be true to one's own vision and voice, but to listen and accept the comments and criticisms of others. To venture into the creative stream and learn when to swim against the current. To set aside one problem and work on another, with focus, resolve, and a little levity.

Well, that's my plan!

I'm going for a light touch this time, so the poor draft doesn't get butchered. Laser surgery by a skilled technician would be nice. But since I'm just learning, it will be more like another rough cut. After last year's rough cut, I thought the manuscript was ready, but now I see problems. So time brings perspective, and perspective is one of the editor's best tools. And now I hope that each "rough cut" to my novel moves it a little closer to the best cut for my first diamond.

My second novel is "baking." (Yes, there are lots of mixed metaphors in this post! But you can be sure that I'll weed them out of my novel!)