Danger. Have Book. Will Ignore. Everything.

Long, long, long ago, when I was a little munchkin, I loved to read books. Fast forward through the awkward middle school years, the dark teen angsty years, the wow-I-can-sleep-in-every-damn-day college years, and into the I-will-never-get-to-sleep-in-ever-again years of parenting. And I still love to read books.

It isn’t always as easy to find the time, and I almost never have the peace I used to have for it. But I still sneak books in wherever I can. While I’m fixing lunch, I might take a little extra time than usual. There might be one or two unnecessary trips to the bathroom during the afternoon. For the excruciating weeks when I had to stand in Z’s doorway as she fell asleep, I listened to audiobooks.

But it’s always a risk. If the book is terrible (and again and again I wonder how these things are even published, but that will always remain one of the world’s unsolvable mysteries)…where was I? Oh yes, if the book is terrible, and I read the whole thing (as I almost always do, because even if I hate the main character or think the plot is completely contrived or will scream my head off if another teenage protagonist LOVES the library)…where was I? So if I get through it, I’m grouchy because I wasted time on a dumb book.

The even bigger risk, though, is a book that sucks me in. With a short one, like Elizabeth Scott’s The Unwritten Rule, where the main character is totally completely forever in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, I’m pretty safe. I can get through the book in a couple of hours, quickly unload the dishwasher, read Z a story and jet to the park, and I feel like a good stay-at-home mommie.

But if it’s a suck-you-in book and it’s big and fat, like Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, and I have to get to the end of the story and it takes me more than a day, and I let everything go – housework, play dates, personal hygiene…those are the dangerous books. It’s a safe bet that we will eat, but the meals might be a little later than usual, and perhaps less involved. And heaven forbid if Z’s potty breaks don’t coincide with my own. “You have to what? But I just sat down with my book!” Suddenly I regret potty training.

If you want to get sucked in, here are some recent favorites. I’ve reviewed some of them here in my blog and helpfully provided the links…but why waste the time on a review when you can go read the book?

So it’s the weekend, you’ve got plenty of time. Get thee to a bookstore!

The Writer’s 12 Days of Christmas

Instead of a book review, I have to do something festive. Okay, and this post was supposed to be for Christmas Eve, but I never got around to posting it. But really, if I’d posted it on Christmas Eve, I wouldn’t have known that the last one was actually true! And in the original version, it was “purple,” not “lovely.” Since it isn’t purple, I’m glad I had time to change it.

Let’s take this from day twelve to avoid the repetition that is the hallmark of this song.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Twelve pens of red ink,

Eleven pristine notebooks,

Ten packs of Post-Its,

Nine friends a’reading,

Eight cups a’brewing,

Seven books on writing,

Six story boards,

FIVE PAPER REAMS!

Four babysitters,

Three critique groups,

Two conferences,

And a lovely laptop just for me!

This list is slightly exaggerated, but even then, I am spoiled blessed.

The Challenge of Turning 30

The clock is ticking and I’ve got six months left of my twenties. I want to do them right.

The thing is, I feel like a kid most of the time. There’re all kinds of things I don’t know how to do or even handle, and so like the bibliophile I am I turned to a book. I (rather smugly) gave this one to Husband when he turned 30:

30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30, by Siobhan Adcock.

Here they are (lifted from the back of the book) (with slight commentary as embellishment where necessary):

  1. wrap a present
  2. start a successful fire in a fireplace, at a campsite, and in a barbecue
  3. finish a piece of furniture
  4. get a raise (whahahaha!)
  5. order wine at a restaurant without getting stiffed
  6. parallel park in three breathtakingly beautiful movements
  7. dance a “slow dance” without looking like an idiot
  8. use a full place setting properly, including chopsticks and Asian soup spoons
  9. clean your place in under 45 minutes, when friends, relatives, or prospective lovers (hahahaha) are coming by unexpectedly, and soon
  10. hold your liquor
  11. cure a hangover
  12. do the Heimlich maneuver
  13. use a compass
  14. change a flat
  15. jump-start a car
  16. open a champagne bottle
  17. send a drink to someone’s table
  18. cook one “signature meal” (I’m shuddering in fear at this one)
  19. whistle with your fingers
  20. take good pictures
  21. fold a fitted sheet (those damn things are so annoying!)
  22. remove common stains
  23. sew a button
  24. carve turkey, lasagna, and birthday cake
  25. hold a baby (hahaha!)
  26. change a diaper (if only I didn’t know how to do this)
  27. keep a plant alive for more than a year
  28. make dogs and cats love you
  29. help someone out of a car
  30. write superior thank-you notes

The rules for my challenge are simple. I have until my thirtieth birthday. I’ll write here about my successes and failures. I’ll try not to burn down any cities (#1–whoops, Dana pointed out this should be #2, not #1), bite off my fingers (#19), or make everyone else’s pets move to my house (#28). As much as possible, I’ll stick to my regular blog posting schedule, but if I have Breaking News, things might get switched up a bit. Breaking News will not include items I feel I already have proficiency in (such as keep a plant alive for more than a year, hold a baby, change a diaper, and a couple of others).

Wanna join me? No age requirements. You can be 30, close to 30, or nowhere near 30 (on either side of the number).

In totally unrelated self-promotion, come by on Friday for an interview with Vintage Veronica author Erica S. Perl, and my first ever Giveaway Awesomeness.

I Heart You, Georgia

I haven’t yet reviewed an entire series on this blog, but it’s slooooow going through my current (snooty-sounding) read, The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood, so I’m stepping back in time here.

Last October, Louise Rennison published the last installment of her Georgia Nicolson series. The one with all the extremely weirdly titled books, the kind that are hard to ask book store associates about over the phone because they keep saying, “What? What? Can you repeat that? Can you spell that? Did you say ‘basoomas’?”

Yes, you did say “basoomas.” This is a series of ten young adult books featuring the hilarious heroine Georgia Nicolson, a young woman with very little tact and poise and very a lot of hormones and hijinks. She blunders her way through manipulating her parents, butchers French and German phrases on a regular basis, has a huge case of potty humor, and alienates her friends and boyfriends with almost amazing regularity.

Georgia’s voice is the absolute best part of the books. The novels are written diary-style (I’m sure there’s an academic term for that kind of novel, but as Georgia would say, “Qu’est-ce que c’est le point?”). Her adoption of French and German phrases, as well as her clique’s slang creations, only add to the humor. Add that to the run-of-the-mill linguistic differences between the US and British lexicons, and you will need the glossary provided at the back of each book. But unlike a textbook glossary, you will enjoy reading it, because Georgia is just as funny there.

The girl has her flaws, though. She’s self-absorbed, disrespectful, and can be cruel to her friends on occasion. She makes bad choices. She buys too tight shoes. She spies on her nemesis, Wet Lindsay. She’s a boyfriend stealer. However, she grows, learns lessons, kisses a bunch of guys, and finally – FINALLY! – figures out the one who is right for her. (The last three books I was practically screaming at her as I read: “It’s ____! Stop messing around, you horny minx!”)

The series goes on a bit longer than it has to, and the last few books end on cliffhangers which is a Big No-No in my House Rules. [I should clarify: The very last book obviously does not end on a cliffhanger.] However, the books are funny, fast reads. Very light. They never fail to cheer me up.

If you’re interested in reading the series, here’s a list of the Georgia books in chronological order (US titles):

1. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

2. On the Bright Side, I’m Not the Girlfriend of a Sex God

3. Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas

4. Dancing in My Nuddy Pants

5. Away Laughing on a Fast Camel

6. Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers

7. Startled by His Furry Shorts

8. Love is a Many Trousered Thing

9. Stop in the Name of Pants

10. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

For more information on Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson books, you can visit the official website here. Happy reading!

First Sentences in YA Lit, Answers

In lieu of a book review, here are the authors and books matched up to the first sentences I posted on Friday. (Oh, and the parenthetical P notations indicate, where I remember, that the first sentence comes from a prologue, since I’ve been obsessed with prologues lately.)

1. We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck. -M. T. Anderson, Feed

2. It was a dark and stormy night. -Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

3. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves. -Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver (P)

4. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. -Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

5. I don’t believe in ghosts. -Gillian Shields, Immortal (P)

6. The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning. -Holly Black, Valiant (P)

7. Chauncey was with a farmer’s daughter on the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the chateau. -Becca Fitzpatrick, Hush, Hush (P)

8. Blood fills my mouth. -Bree Despain, The Dark Divine (P)

9. In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind. -Kristin Cashore, Graceling

10. Her parents were going to kill her for this. -Carrie Vaughn, Voices of Dragons

11. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. -P. C. Cast & Kristin Cast, Marked

12. On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry. -Rachel Caine, Glass Houses

13. Mommy forgot to warn the new babysitter about the basement. -Kelley Armstrong, The Summoning (P)

14. Janie Hannagan’s math book slips from her fingers. -Lisa McMann, Wake

15. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. -J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

16. “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.” -Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty

17. There were only two kinds of people in our town. -Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures

18. Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape. -Lauren Kate, Fallen (P)

19. Torrential rain was pouring the afternoon Rebecca Brown arrived in New Orleans. -Paula Morris, Ruined

20. Dad had Uncle Eddie round, so naturally they had to come and see what I was up to. -Louise Rennison, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

21. It didn’t take long for Phoebe to figure out Jeremy wasn’t coming back for her. -MINE!

22. “Guess who?” -Alyson Noel, Evermore

23. Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. -Laura Whitcomb, A Certain Slant of Light

24. Some things start before other things. -Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

25. Flames shot high, turning the night lurid with carnival light. -Annette Curtis Klause, Blood and Chocolate (P)

26. Everyone’s seen my mother naked. -Elizabeth Scott, Something, Maybe

27. Jason was going to Brain Camp. -Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

28. I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. -Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (P)

29. My mother used to tell me about the ocean. -Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

30. There are these bizarre people who actually like physical education class. -Carrie Jones, Captivate

So there they are. Happy Monday! It’s going to be a beautiful week!

First Sentences in YA Lit

Here are 30 first sentences. Do you know the books they go to? If you know what I’ve been reading lately you’ll have an advantage, but I threw a few old favorites in just to keep you guessing. Um, obviously if the suspense is killing you it’s easy enough to find the answers online (which is why this isn’t a contest, just an excuse to use the information from my first-line notebook). I’ll post the authors & book titles on Monday.

The interesting part of this exercise is the discovery that some first lines are definite hooks. I know which ones I think are amazing, and I know which ones, well, aren’t. And there are a few that are not winning first sentences, but if you stick around for the rest of the paragraph–Wow (I’m thinking specifically of #17 when I write this).

Take a guess if you feel like it, or just enjoy!

1. We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

2. It was a dark and stormy night.

3. I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.

4. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

5. I don’t believe in ghosts.

6. The tree woman choked on poison, the slow sap of her blood burning.

7. Chauncey was with a farmer’s daughter on the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the chateau.

8. Blood fills my mouth.

9. In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.

10. Her parents were going to kill her for this.

11. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker.

12. On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

13. Mommy forgot to warn the new babysitter about the basement.

14. Janie Hannagan’s math book slips from her fingers.

15. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

16. “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.”

17. There were only two kinds of people in our town.

18. Around midnight, her eyes at last took shape.

19. Torrential rain was pouring the afternoon Rebecca Brown arrived in New Orleans.

20. Dad had Uncle Eddie round, so naturally they had to come and see what I was up to.

21. It didn’t take Phoebe long to figure out Jeremy wasn’t coming back for her.

22. “Guess who?”

23. Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead. 

24. Some things start before other things.

25. Flames shot high, turning the night lurid with carnival light.

26. Everyone’s seen my mother naked. 

27. Jason was going to Brain Camp. 

28. I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

29. My mother used to tell me about the ocean. 

30. There are these bizarre people who actually like physical education class.

Author Friends: I’d love to read your first sentences, too! Post them below.

Writer Quiz

Dreamer? Wisher? Hoper? Player? [A Friday Free-for-All Entry]

1. Do you have at least seven titles but no salable manuscript?

2. Have you spent over two hours finessing your writing space (on purpose–not just cumulatively over the years)?

3. Is your Acknowledgments page already drafted (if even in your head)?

4. Do you read five or more different writer blogs?

5. Can you hear your friends groaning when you ask them to read your manuscript (again)? Even if you’re asking in an email?

6. How many times have you checked the query success pie charts on an authors website like authoradvance.com?

7. Have you ever used your blog as an excuse to put off revising your manuscript?

8. Have you ever used dirty dishes as an excuse to put off revising your manuscript?

9. Is your manuscript…
a) halfway through the first draft
b) finished after only a few months
c) halfway through a rewrite after it was supposedly finished?

10. If someone asked you to describe your writing routine, would your answer be among the following?
a) when inspiration hits
b) when my child takes her nap
c) when the moon is full and I’ve just finished a Laurell K. Hamilton book for inspiration

11. How many drinks does it take for you to think your writing is “really great?” Is it the same number it takes to make you think you’re speaking fluently in a foreign language?

12. Do you indulge in fantasies where Stephenie Meyer greets you with the words, “Dang, I wish I had thought of that idea”?

13. Do you indulge in fantasies where Seth Green bites your neck (as he did Stephenie Meyer’s) at the premier of your book-made-into-a-film? Have you lost 15 pounds in said fantasy?

14. Do you feel just a tad bit queasy posting this blog entry, knowing that it’s sort of a confession but put into the form of a survey?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, wow. Get thee to a writer’s conference.

Yes, yes. I’m going. Tomorrow.

Reno, bay-bee!