An Update, Some Great News, and a Poem for Your Monday

Hey gang,

As I shared in my resolutions update, I’ve been wondering how to restructure my blog so as to better facilitate posting more regularly. One of those ways involved making a three-sheet spreadsheet. Another includes making some tweaks to featured posts.

On this note: I’m trying a new format for Poetry Monday. Rather than posting a video of me reading the poem, I’m going to still share a poem, but in typed format, then give a few sentences as to why I like it. If this goes well, I’ll keep doing it. If not, I’ll go back to videos in a few months.

The great news: I got word on Friday that my chapbook,”Field Guide to Fire,” will be published by Finishing Line Press! No word on a publication date yet, but I’ll be sure to post when I know! Now that I’ll be on the author side of things, I’ve got a kick in the pants to support other authors and catch up on reviews I’ve been dragging on.

velociraptor_FINAL

Why raptors? Why the heck not?! Thanks to Beth Colletti for helping me with this image.

Speaking of reviews, I know I don’t usually post star ratings, but I’ve come up with a system. I’ll give books “Raptor Ratings.” The highest rating is five raptors. Why raptors? Why the heck not?!

Now for the poem. I’ve posted quite a few poems by Kim Addonizio on my blog, but given my recent publication news, she’s the first that comes to mind. I’m over the moon with this news, so I want to share a poem that makes me feel unstoppable!

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (from Tell Me)

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Photo courtesy of goodreads.com

Kim Addonizio - How badass is she? So badass. Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

Kim Addonizio – How badass is she? So badass.
Photo courtesy of pirenesfountain.com

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


Why I like it
: My word, the sass! I love the no-holds-barred brashness of the language. “I want it to confirm/your worst fears about me.” I mean, damn! Addonizio dives head first in the face of what is expected of women and says, “Screw you!” I love those last lines. They’re so affirming, as if to say, “This is who I am, and I’ll be this ’til I die.” I read this poem and I have insta-confidence. And, of course, I just love red dresses.

Divergent, Insurgent…Detergent?

Divergent

Divergent (Photo credit: prettybooks)

I recently stumbled upon the Divergent series thanks for a library friend of mine.  She said it was being heralded as the new Hunger Games.  I was skeptical.  I loved the Hunger Games and didn’t think anything could come close to it in YA fiction again.  But I have to say that Veronica Roth does a very good job.

The heroine of the Divergent series, Tris, is strong-willed and useful, the two qualities I love in female characters.  This is not because I am a Femi-Nazi.  It’s because I like tension in my characters.  While reading about Tris, I found myself getting frustrated with her.  This is not the frustration one feels when one encounters a poorly written character, but rather the organic frustration that inevitably comes when you get to know someone.  Their quirks bug you and sometimes (though you value their strength) you wish they weren’t so stubborn.  I have wrestled with Tris as I wrestled with Katniss.

Now for the obligatory summary (without too many spoilers, I hope): This dystopian series is set in a society where people are split into 5 factions which hold a particular virtue above all others: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Abnegation (selflessness).  When children turn 16, they get to choose which faction they will stay in for the rest of their lives.  This means they will conform to the rules of that particular faction, wear faction-specific clothing, and if you choose a faction different from the one you were born into, you never get to see your family again.  No pressure, right?

This book follows Beatrice Prior, who is born into Abnegation.  She ends up choosing Dauntless.  This seems pretty straight forward — a young girl who feels too selfish for a life of selflessness tries to break out of her prescribed mold by being daring. To be sure, Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, faces many fears throughout the first book and really gets comfortable in her own skin.  She finds it’s ok to have desires, to have free time and spend it any way you want, and even (gasp!) get tattooed.  The first book is really about Tris coming into her own.  The end of the first book and the entire second novel are about the war (it’s a dysptopia…of course there’s war).  But it’s more than that.  Like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth does a wonderful job of developing her characters.  I actually cared about what happened and that kept me reading.  Tris is a girl thrown into a war-torn society and has to make quick use of all the information she has learned while “growing up” in a few short weeks since leaving her primary faction.  The twist?  She can make it all stop.  You’ll just have to read the books to find out how 🙂

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

As you can tell from this review and others I’ve posted recently, I really enjoy character development.  While I definitely yelled at Tris quite a few times because of her unnecessary recklessness or stubbornness, I really liked her.  She meets so many people, like her love interest, Four, and various friends.  Not only does the political dynamic shift, but also the interpersonal dynamic.  People choose sides. People die.  And it’s what happens in the aftermath that I find so interesting.

One such event is her romance with Four, one of the Dauntless leaders.  I’m really not a fan of romance in novels because it’s usually done in a very cheesy manner, especially in YA fiction.  But Tris and Four’s romance seemed born out of necessity for authentic human contact, a longing that is ever present when everything around you is falling apart.  That is something I can believe and genuinely root for.  Kudos to Veronica Roth for doing romance right!

Now, you may be wondering about the title of this post.  The first two are the titles of the books of the trilogy so far.  Since the third is yet unnamed, my library friend has dubbed it “Detergent.”  I flew through the first two books.  I honestly can’t wait to see what happens to Tris and the gang.

The Divergent series has been a series of the most quotable books I’ve read in a while.  For a YA trilogy (well, the two books that are out so far), it’s got quite a bit of wisdom.  As we come up on the new year, I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve found with you:

I do trust you, is what I want to say. But it isn’t true — I didn’t trust him to love me despite the terrible things I had done. I don’t trust anyone to do that, but that isn’t his problem; it’s mine.”

“It reminds me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free.”

“I am his, and he is mine, and it has been that way all along.”

“I read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion. I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.”

“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.”

“Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and the guilty.”

“’May the peace of God be with you,’ she says, her voice low, ‘even in the midst of trouble.’
‘Why would it?’ I say softly, so no one else can hear. ‘After all I’ve done…’
‘It isn’t about you,’ she says. ‘It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.’”

Explosions the Book: A Review of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ “Phoenix Rising”

A new star is added to my shelf of fame!

A new star is added to my shelf of fame! (Photo credit: Paulette Jaxton)

This book, like Big Machine, took me about a year to read.  And again, it’s not the that book was bad, I just have reading ADD.

“Phoenix Rising” is a book in the series “Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.”  It is a steampunk novel that takes place in the late 1800s.  Enter Agents Braun and Books, a lady with a wild streak and an uptight nobleman who has a knack for research, respectively.  You meet these two at the very beginning of the novel.  But it was this quote that really caught my attention:

“‘The Ministry remains rather underfunded by the Crown, Books, and I was given the choice of either more backup or more dynamite.’  She held up the stick. ‘I went with what I could trust.'”

After reading this, I was hooked.  A girl who likes explosions is my kind of protagonist.

But this book isn’t all mindless entertainment.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that we join our daring duo on a deadly mystery.  They research a secret society that was thought to be long gone, but is, in fact, very much alive.  I know, I’ve seen that movie too.  But what makes the plot interesting is the characters.  Yes, they are mismatched, but they learn from one another.

Perhaps what I enjoy most in fiction is characterization.  The two authors of this novel really hit the mark with Books and Braun because they are at once likable and flawed, leaving room for growth.  You know characters are well developed when you talk to the characters.  There is one scene when, on an undercover mission, Books tells  the people he is with that Braun is mute.  Given that Ms. Eliza Braun is a brazen, corset-wearing woman who likes to speak her mind, I immediately said, “Oooh, you’re going to get it later, Books!” (Wait, you don’t talk to book characters?   …I guess I’m just weird).

Another aspect of the story that I liked was the fact that it does not take place in contemporary America.  It is set in late 1800s England.  Sometimes the dialogue took some getting used to, but I enjoyed hearing about analytical engines and reading about horse-drawn carriages.  Call me old fashioned, but it was refreshing to read a book that didn’t include iPhones and the Internet.

This novel isn’t ground breaking, but it is fun.  Ballentine and Morris do a great job balancing action, suspense, and humor.  I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, enjoyable read.