My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes


"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#SHELFIE

Remember, we're accepting nominations for the first annual Blogger Awards until November 1rst, so keep nominating!

I have been dying to do these.

For those of you who don't know what a shelfie is (I'm not patronizing you; someone had to explain it to me), it's like a selfie (self-picture of one's face, usually unflattering, always embarrassing), only of one's bookshelf instead!  That is a kind of selfie I can get behind!

So here is my first bookshelf.  It's my classics bookshelf, where I keep all of my classical literature.  Behold:

From Dumas to Asimov to Homer to Flaubert to Shakespeare to Fraser to Hawthorne to Milton to Kipling to Sophocles to Aristophanes (I LOVE Aristophanes!).  If you look carefully, you can see my favorite non-Shakespeare play, "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt, on the second shelf next to "The Crucible".  Also, Ghosty, that's "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" on the top shelf, far right.
To break up the monotony, a picture of my dog, Shadow:

Woof!
 
Moving on!  Here's a picture of the bookshelf in my closet.  The bottom shelf has my art books, my star chart, my rhyming dictionary, my fairytales, etc...  The top shelf has my signed books on the left.  I keep them in the closet to keep direct light off them.  Aren't they pretty?  The ones on the right are my to-read books.


Here is a smaller shelf, but no less noble for its diminutive stature.  It holds my first-ever (and only) publication.

An essay on young adult heroines in What Kids Can Do's collection Stirred but not Shaken.  It occupies the place of honor atop my mantle.
 
Now a picture of my cat, the Princess Peach (her real name is Peaches), looking imperious yet drowsy.
 
Dreaming cat dreams...
 
This is a rather sad shelf, hidden high in my closet.  It's for children's books that didn't survive the test of time, books too big for ordinary bookshelves (I'm looking at you, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel!), and books that didn't win the fight to stay on my main bookshelf.  And, curiously, on the far right, a collection of vintage Tolkien books that I haven't read yet.

I hide these books because they make me sad.  Except for Tolkien.  He's cool.
 
And, last but absolutely not least, my personal bookshelf, which faces my bed so I can look at it when I wake up each morning:

From Alexander to Paolini to Stengl to Rowling to Tolkien to Jones to George to Barry to Lewis to Lynch to McKinley to Turner to Sanderson to Rothfuss to Pratchett to Flanagan...  Also note my Excalibur letter-opener, courtesy of Ms. Jennette Mbewe.
I don't know if the etiquette of social media dictates that I can tag someone on this post, but in truth, I have never cared for those rules.  So I tag

Friday, October 24, 2014

Spooky Reads for Halloween!

Remember, we're accepting nominations for the first annual Blogger Awards until November first, so keep nominating!

Some spookiness to set the mood!
I don't know about you, readers, but I am an ardent fan of Halloween.  The weather turns beautiful and cool and golden.  My grandma, great aunt, and aunt all come to visit.  We burn bonfires.  We have an annual friends-and-neighbors party.  We almost loose fingers while carving Jack-o-Lanterns.

But the festivities have changed for me this year.  Because this is the first year I won't go Trick-or-Treating.

That's right.  Last year people still gave me candy.  But I also received some awkward looks, so I have decided to fork over the extra five dollars and get my own assorted candy.  (I don't even like candy.  But it's Halloween.)  I've decided, though, that since I'm not Trick-or-Treating, I have to work extra hard to get my money's worth out of this holiday, so I've been enjoying some spooky books.

When it comes to the horror genre, I get scared very easily.  As in, this terrifies me, and I find Casper the Friendly Ghost vaguely sinister.  I suspect this might be a writer's problem; our imaginations are too active for our own good!  So when I say spooky books, I really mean, for the most part, books that take place in the autumn.

Here's what I've got so far:

We Have Always Lived in The Castle, by Shirley Jackson:

One evening at supper, beautiful Constance Blackwood poisons the rest of her family with arsenic.  Escaping punishment on a technicality, she, her surviving uncle, and her younger sister, Merricat, who was sent to bed without supper, live alone on their estate, dwelling apart from the villagers who fear and hate them.  But when a little-known cousin appears with an eye on Constance and the family fortune, he stirs questions into light-- how did the Blackwoods died, and why did sweet, gentle Constance poison them?

Of the books on the list, this one scared me the most.  It is told from the perspective of Merricat, who believes she lives on the moon, thinks she can hurt people with her thoughts, and buries knickknacks to protect her small family.  This book is chilling.  If you find yourself with the post Trick-or-Treating blues, try reading it.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken:

With no adult supervision except a murderous governess, Bonnie and Sylvia embark on a dangerous journey for freedom.

When I first came up with the Blogger Awards, I seriously considered having Worst Parents as a category.  Because fiction about young people so often chafes under responsible conventions, authors must hunt for ways to free their characters from the yoke of supervision-- thus the careless parents trope is born.  Seriously, Mr. and Mrs. Bonnie's Parents?  You didn't stop to wonder if the governess was batty before you go on a three-month-long voyage?

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:

Ten strangers are invited to Indian Island on a glamorous retreat.  They seem upstanding citizens-- a doctor, a judge, a governess-- but each hides a deadly secret.  As accidents begin and the death count rises according to an ominous nursery rhyme, the characters must plumb their inner secrets to--

Oh, who am I kidding.  I didn't like this book.  Not.  One.  Bit.  And I'm normally a huge Agatha Christie fan!  But this one had too many characters to keep track of, and the deaths lost emphasis because they were so numerous and the characterization was so poor.  Sorry, folks.  I didn't like this one.

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley:

Does this one even need a blurb?  Suffice it to say that I haven't read it yet, but I hope to get to it before Halloween.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker:

Through a collection of letters and diary entries, Stoker paints an awe-inspiring tale of horror that traces from the depths of Transylvania to modern London...

I read this one when I was nine or ten.  It was the first classical novel I ever loved!

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

Lots of Jackson on this list!  I'd love to give a blurb for this one, but in point of fact, I haven't read it yet.  I might be too scared.  How can someone with a name like Shirley write stories that are so sinister?

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman:

A man returns to his childhood home for the first time in years to attend a funeral.  The old, familiar environment brings back forgotten memories of terror, vulnerability, and love...

If you asked me a month ago, I would tell you that I hated Neil Gaiman.  I was a poor, foolish child then.  Well, not really.  The truth of the matter was that I had only read American Gods and Stardust, to both of which I was indifferent and somewhat offended at the objectionable content.  (The Ocean at the End of the Lane does have some uncomfortable scenes, but it is nothing compared to American Gods.)  I did not plan on reading this book, but something about the cover-- which is really beautiful-- compelled me to try it, and I was floored.  It is a vast, in-depth 100 page book, and it is utterly lovely.  I became a staunch Gaiman fan, which led me right into...

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman:

(I'm tired of blurbs.  Can we pretend I wrote one?  Or-- you know what, just come here and read the actual one.)

I haven't finished this one yet!  On the advice of many blogging friends, I checked out the audio book, narrated by the author, from the library.  Ghosty warned me that Gaiman uses a scary little-girl voice, but honestly, I was so enthralled by the story that I didn't even notice he was switching voices.  This story is delicious; it may find its way onto my top ten list.  I got it on audio book so I could listen to it while practicing ballet, but I cheated today and listened to it while cleaning out my closet.  : )

So there you have!  Eight spooky books for Halloween.  Are you doing any seasonal reading?

And I almost forgot to ask!  Would anyone like to do a guest post in November?  It doesn't matter if you have a blog or if you don't.  I would interview you at the beginning of the post, then you can write about whatever you like, as long as it isn't politics.  Either let me know in the comments, or e-mail me at aruvidich@gmail.com.  I'm prepared to do multiple ones, so don't be shy!

Edit: Oh, oh, oh!  I forgot again!  You know what's a great, spooky, atmospheric read that takes place around Halloween?  Chime, by Franny Bilingsley!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Blogger Awards!

Greetings, dear readers!  Do you recall the secret project I referenced in my deadlines post?  Well... it's here!  Although it isn't even Halloween yet, I hope you're anticipating the Christmas season.  It's distant yet, but there's plenty to celebrate in the meantime!  So without further ado, I am pleased to announce the first annual Blogger Awards.
 
Isn't it beautiful?

The Blogger Awards is a series of awards designed to celebrate the gifted authors of 2014.  They are hosted by four bloggers: Hannah Williams, Clara Diana Thompson, Ghost Wryter, and myself.  We'll be awarding seven categories:

Best Book Design, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Thursday, December 18

Best Cover, hosted by Hannah Williams on Friday, December 19

Best Title, hosted by Clara Diane Thompson on Saturday, December 20

Best Heroine, hosted by myself on Sunday, December 21

Best Hero, hosted by Hannah Williams on Monday, December 22

Best Author, hosted by Ghost Wryter on Tuesday, December 23

Best Book, hosted by myself on Wednesday, December 24

The Blogger Award
See how they lead up to Christmas?  I can't tell you how excited I am for this, readers!  And now it's your turn to help out.  We have hosts, we have categories, we have awesome widgets designed by the incomparable Hannah Williams-- but we don't have nominations!
 
That's where we're relying on you, dear readers.  Comment on this page and tell me your favorite heroine and book of 2014, then take a tour of the other blogs, commenting with what 2014 favorites you'd like to see honored in their categories!  Nominations are open until November 1.
 
Share the widget with a link back to this page!  With your help, readers, we'll make this the best Blogger Awards ever.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Spot of Advice on the Topic of Apples?

Hello, dear readers!  I need to ask your advice on a matter.

As you may recall from the last post, I'm finishing a short story right now, and I'm pleased with the way it's shaping up!  It needs one last thing, however...

A title.

The short story is based on the myth of Atalanta and the golden apples.  I'm sure you've heard it.  A beautiful maiden vows never to wed unless a suitor can beat her in a footrace.  One cunning suitor distracts her with three golden apples, gifted to him by the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and he wins Atalanta's hand.

I've come up with three brilliant, original ideas, and they are:

Gold, Golden, and Golden Apples

I know.  They are astounding specimens.  So, dear readers, I must ask: do you have any ideas?  Do you like any of these?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Deadlines

Hello, my lovely readers!  I'm so sorry I've been absent this week.  So sorry, in fact, that I decided to write a blog post about it.

Deadlines.  If you are a human being, you probably have them.  I, personally, like deadlines: they give me that extra impetus to put my chin down, work hard...  But here's the rub.  I also like sleep, and free time, and, you know, meals.  And lately, my deadlines have been conflicting with those.

October 15 looms before me like a tidal wave.  In addition to being right on top of midterms, it is the date I am taking the PSAT, so between those two, I have been plugging away for weeks over my textbooks.

But October 15 is also the announcement of a Super Secret Project I have been working on.  (Before you become wildly jealous, no, it has no relation to Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Secret Project.)  It took me a few weeks to realize that the dates coincided.  "Oh!" said I.  "It doesn't matter, because I can write that blog post in advance, and I'll still have plenty of time to study and eat and sleep and read."

Hehe.  Hehehehe.

Right.

But as September snuck into October (alas, where has my time gone?) I received the opportunity to submit a short story for review for an anthology.  And here's where it gets tricky.  Because, you see, the short story was due on October 15, and I hadn't written it yet.

Everything in my life right now is pointed to next Wednesday.  In addition to my usual schoolwork and tasks, I am studying and, above all, pounding out that short story like nobody's business.  So I haven't blogged recently.

That's not all, though.  There are more deadlines.

I am of course entering Rooglewood Press's Five Enchanted Roses anthology.  (I might do a post on that later!)  I've actually written one entry, with another in the works!  Those are fairly calm for now, though.  I still have time.  Ask me in November, and I might change my tune.

Those aren't the big deadlines, though.  Not even close.  Because I have received a very cool and awesome opportunity (which could be yours if you check out this website) that will be really fun and valuable, except for one detail:

I have to write a novel by December.

I'll be the first to admit that it's not as bad as it sounds.  It's intended for middle grade, and I can't see it being more than forty or fifty thousand words.  And although I want to, I don't have to write all of it; I just need an outline and an excerpt up to 50 pages.  But if I can... why not write it all?  It means someone from Scholastic will know my name and read my work.  I want to seize this opportunity.

Anyway.  I wrote this post to let you know that I'll have to slow down from my breakneck pace in the favorite books series, although I'll definitely keep posting.  And to ask that... if you look to your calendars and see that it's October 15... could you say a little prayer?

Note: A quick shout-out to my dad, whose birthday was on the 9th.  Happy birthday!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Book Review: Orphan's Song, by Gillian Bronte Adams

Gillian Bronte Adams is my blogging hero.  She's been blogging for six years, and her followers have grown into the hundreds.  So I was understandably excited when she announced this May that she was publishing her first book, under the sweet, adventurous title Orphan's Song.  And my excitement only grew when, in September, I got an ARC.

This is the part of the review where I say that I am being a stern, honest reviewer even though I got a free copy.  So... yes.

For all of her short, miserable life as an orphan, Birdie has been surrounded by music that no one else can hear.  Only five notes, constantly sounding but never resolving.

(If you have a piano, please go to it now.  Play the following notes: D4, G4, G4, B4, A4.  That is how I envision the orphan's song.)

Where was I?  That's right-- five notes that never come to a resolution, seemingly meaningless.  But when a soldier of the occupying Khelari forces overhears the strains of Birdie's song, she discovers that the music has a greater, more mysterious purpose than she ever imagined.  Forced to flee from her wretched life as a kitchen drudge, Birdie is thrust into a world of half-forgotten lies and secrets.  Leira needs a Songkeeper to face the Khelari, but before she can be their hero, Birdie must discover what being a Songkeeper means.

If I had children, I would give them this book.  It is a delightful adventure story of your archetypal mistreated orphan who is destined for great things.  Throw in a jaded former hero and a street urchin, and I would actually be impressed if I hadn't enjoyed this book.   (My favorite character was Ky the urchin, with his gripping struggle between fearful self-preservation and noble selflessness.)

That being said, Orphan's Song is Adams's debut novel.  It's not perfect.  I felt that, despite being 304 pages, it never sank its teeth into the questions it presented.  What is the Song, and who is the Songkeeper?  Why are the Khelari so evil?  And above all else, what is Birdie going to do about it?  I understand that this is a trilogy and Adams has another two books to answer these questions, but in Orphan's Song, she fell shy of the balance between compelling mystery and distressing ignorance.

All in all, Adams's debut novel is an enjoyable, swashbuckling tale of adventure, and the few things I disliked will probably be remedied in subsequent volumes.  If you'd like to purchase a copy (and you really should), you can find it here on Amazon.  For the moment they're out of stock, but hopefully Enclave will sort that out soon.  And until you can get your hands on Orphan's Song, check out Gillian's blog!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

And the winner is...

A drumroll, if you please.

JENNETTE M!!!

(I realize I just won a giveaway from her blog.  I promise this is chance and not payback.)

Congratulations, Mrs. Mbewe!  E-mail me at aruvidich@gmail.com to claim your prize of any book on the list, which, to recap, includes:

- The Crow, by Alison Croggon
- any book from The Queen's Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner
- any book from the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
- Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
- Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones
- any book from the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
- Lirael, by Garth Nix
- any book from the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
- any book from the Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander
- Chime, by Franny Billingsley

Once again, thank you all for commenting!  I expect I'll be posting again in a few days... this time on the meaning of hair color in fantasy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Favorite Books: Number One...

Before we get to the book we've all been waiting for, I'd like to take a moment to thank you, the readers.  With your enthusiasm and participation, you've made the first few weeks of my blog a smashing success!

Thank you, readers.  From the bottom of my heart.  Waaaaay down there.

And now to the book.  My favorite book ever.  The book that I consider the best suited for Allisons all over the world.  It... is...

But before we get to that, I realized something interesting earlier.  If you ask me what sort of books I like, I might say, "Old books."  And, if you showed even the vaguest sign of interest, I might go on to lament how they don't make 'em like they used to, back in the good ole' day.

So I was surprised when, on a whim, I checked the dates from each book and came to some surprising conclusions, which I have illustrated for you in the following graph (I love graphs):


Note: There should be another baby-blue blob over 2000, but Blogger is hassling me about changing it.
It turns out they do make them as well as they used to!  In fact, they might even make them better.

But you're not interested in this.  You want to hear my favorite book ever, so I'll go ahead and oblige you.  My favorite book... in the world... is...

But really, this interests me, so I made another graph (have I mentioned I love graphs?).  If you ask me what my favorite point of view is in a story, I'd say third person.  I love a good, solid third person (but I have recently been introduced to third person omniscient, which is so terribly exciting I might switch teams).

The following graph reflects the point of views of my top ten favorite books:

Curse the Queen's Thief series for switching sides!  The awkward half-moon blobs represent halves of that series.
Interesting, isn't it?  Here my opinion actually reflects... you know... my opinion!  So I dug a little bit deeper, and I found that--

No.  I'm kidding.  I promise I'll get on to the book now.

If you've followed the blog series this far, you'll understand that I have epic tastes.  Surely, you're thinking, her favorite book must be a 10+ volume series and several million words long.  There'll be a quirky, nerdy heroine who inadvertently saves the world from the forces of darkness in a battle that lasts for thousands of years.

It's not.  Not even close.  Instead, my favorite book is Chime, by Franny Billingsley, and it is a stand-alone novel that takes place in rural England at the dawn of the twentieth century.

To strangers, Briony Larkin seems like the perfect girl.  She's tart, witty, a reverend's daughter, and so patient in her care of her stepmother and her handicapped sister!  But Briony has a secret, so long-kept that it threatens to destroy her as it already has her family.  When a stranger comes and brings dangerous changes from London, he stirs up memories that Briony has avoided for so long.  As Halloween draws closer, and the web between worlds thins, Briony must discover the truth of her secret if she has any chance of salvaging the life she once loved.

Chime is not the most action-packed on this list.  It doesn't have the breadth of The Wheel of Time or the whimsicality of Harry Potter.  It doesn't need any of that, because it has Briony, perhaps the most flawed, complex, wonderful character I've ever met.  She spends the novel struggling between the self-hatred she believes she should feel, her desire to protect her sister, and her hostility towards outsiders.  The entire book, in a way, is focused on Briony's thoughts, almost reminiscent of Virginia Woolf.

And the setting complements Briony perfectly.  As the Industrial Revolution creeps in from London, the Old Ones, who have for so long controlled villagers through their superstition, are dying.  Cursed with the gift to see between worlds, Briony has been trained since adolescence to ignore the failing magic and wonder, replaced by technology and science.

Still not convinced?  I'll say one more thing.  There is a mystery at the heart of Chime, a mystery at the heart of Briony.  Through the course of the novel, Billingsley handed me ever piece of the puzzle, and I was still floored at the ending.

Chime is my favorite book in the world because it perfectly captures the death of pastoral England.  I love it because it has a depth of realism that I rarely encounter in fantasy.  And I love it for a poor, lost girl named Briony, who blames herself for the troubles of the world.

Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite books posts for a chance to win any book from the list!  Entries are capped at one per post.  Mention that Hannah from the Writer's Window sent you for an extra entry!  I'll announce the winner of the book on  Saturday, October 4, so comment until then!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Favorite Books: Number Two-- The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander

I remember the year I spent in third grade with sharp clarity.  It was the first year I, or anyone else in my family, homeschooled, and we really hadn't the faintest idea how to go about it.  The first few weeks, my dear mother sat Big Sis and me down before the whiteboard and talked us through each subject.  Eventually, she grew frustrated with our lack of interest, gave us the necessary school books, and told us to do it on our own-- which we did, with rather more success.  It is a tradition we continue to this day.

That's not to say my mother had no role in my education.  Quite the opposite, in fact, as you can see from my post about Harry Potter.  Although she helped me in numerous ways over the years, I can easily pinpoint her shining moment.  Y'see, when I was in the third grade, my wonderful mother did something that changed the course of my life, so much so that I can't imagine what sort of person I would be today if she hadn't.

Long before my mother encouraged me to write... long before she introduced me to Harry Potter... she gave me a copy of The Book of Three.

I didn't like reading.  Not one bit.  But surely this strange, wonderful story didn't count as reading.  It didn't have any of the prerequisites that had filled my literary experience until then: a wise teacher, a bratty sister, and a precocious third-grader.  Instead it had Taran, a lovable Assistant Pig-Keeper who wanted to be a hero, and his charge, the oracular pig, Hen Wen.  (I am sure I was not alone in knowing the word oracular before my tenth year.  Come on; raise hands!)

And then, despite himself, Taran succeeded in having an adventure!  I announced to my family that I loved reading.  Who didn't?  Reading was great!  Deliriously happy, my mother picked up the other four books from the library, and I sat down to read with a vengeance.

Young Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper, longs for nothing more than adventure.  He resents the days he spends with his wise guardians, Coll and Dallben, in tranquil splendor on a farm.  But when Taran loses his charge, the oracular pig, Hen Wen, his chase for her leads him far from his kind, gentle life and into the miseries of high adventure.  Accompanied by a princess, a bard, a monster, and the most famous hero of them all, Taran's quest becomes more than just a hunt for a pig.  He must wage a battle against evil and, in doing so, discover what makes a hero, what makes an Assistant Pig-Keeper, and what makes a man.

There are many children's fantasy series in the world, and I have read a decent sliver of them.  If you squint and tilt your head, they all go the same way.  Nobody becomes a Somebody, gets the girl, and is finally lauded for their hidden talent.  I don't mean this is a flawed or broken archetype.  I'm glad that there are hundreds of books like these out there, because it means I can hold this series up next to them and say, "It's better."  You may have heard of this pretty neat author; he wrote a children's series that's an allegory of how we grow to know God.  I read his books for the first time this year, and they are amazing.  But remember in The High King when Orddu gives Taran the tapestry, and he has to struggle over its meaning?  I remember.  I remember crying when he finally made his choice.  I know many of you will disagree with me, but the Chronicles of Prydain have a deeper meaning to me, as a Christian, than the Chronicles of Narnia.

I recently read this series for the first time in 5+ years, and I am pleased to say that my appreciation and love has only grown.  As an 8-year-old, I thought Taran Wanderer was as dry as toast, but now I am floored with its powerful message of self-discovery.  Although less action-packed than its fellows, it explores more of human nature than any book I've ever read (or at least can think of right now).

Even after eight years, I still cannot think of a single criticism to make of this series.  I'm sure, technically, something could be improved-- an unrealistic character, a heavy-handed message, awkward plotting-- but when I read these books, it is still with the wide eyes of an eight-year-old, swept away with Taran in the breathless delight of adventure.

I remember the day when I read in the papers that Lloyd Alexander had passed away.  I would've been nine years old, hardly begun to appreciate the majesty of this children's author.  It left me with a debt I could never repay, because in their own way, the Chronicles of Prydain prepared me for the adventure of growing up.

"Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we believe we can do.  Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared.  To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."
-- Lloyd Alexander
 
Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite books posts for a chance to win any book from the list!  Entries are capped at one per post; you can earn an extra by mentioning that Hannah from the Writer's Window sent you.  The final book on the list is so secret that it receives no hint and will be announced tomorrow!