What I’m Reading: Finishing Diary of a Wimpy Kid and City of Bones

I finished up two separate books over the last couple of days, which is always a nice accomplishment. While I was waiting for AAA to show up and start my car for me yesterday (more on this later? Maybe?) I took out my library copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and polished it off. This book was just as funny as the first one, and I continue to love all the illustrations. As I was discussing with a coworker earlier this week, what makes the story so appealing is that Gregory actually isn’t the nicest kid around. He’s not some example of what a kid should be – he’s actually kind of a dick, and a terrible friend. And it’s great, because if I’m remembering my childhood correctly, kids ALWAYS act like little jerks. They pick on each other, ignore each other for stupid reasons, use each other so they can be more popular and fit in. It’s just what kids do – I did it, you did it. It’s just about being a kid. Combined with the fact that they’re hilarious, it’s no wonder every kid I’ve ever seen gobbles them up.

I also finished City of Bones, flying through the last 200 pages last night and this morning. I have some general problems with the book, like with how long it takes Clare to get through scenes (does she really need that many chapters to rescue Simon?) And I really think she uses too many words to describe the action. But it was exciting, and I still like the characters. And a sudden twist means the romance portion won’t go the way you expect, though it involves a little bit of squick (if your read the book, I’m sure you know what I mean). So, while not the greatest books, I really enjoyed it. I just hope City of Ashes is still at the bookstore tomorrow…

Now that that’s done, I need to get some writing in… but I’m definitely starting Leviathan tonight.

Writing Updates: So Much Homework!

Sorry to my regular readers (all 2 of you) for not posting much recently. The due date for my next MFA submission is coming up, and I’ve been hammering away at that.

In his response to my last submission, Tony Abbott gave me a lot of excellent advice, from little things like changing a word, to ideas for new chapters or scenes that could flesh out my plot and characters. Unfortunately, I don’t have nearly enough time to actually get those ideas out – the submission’s due Monday, and I still have about 7 or 8 chapters I want to get through and fix, not to mention my annotations…. I shall not sleep much this week.

For my picture book IS, I haven’t been doing too much work… but when I’m done with this submission, I plan on reworking parts of my manuscript, along with reading quite a few more picture books. I have done some work, by researching frogs (the story’s about frogs, it makes sense).

Also, after reading Hate That Cat, my poetry brain woke up. I started reading my William Carlos Williams collection again, and have even written a couple of poems (in a notebook that no one will see, ever). Too bad it’s actually my “kid lit” brain I need this week…

What I’m Reading: Dragons, Rabbits, Dragons

I’m making more headway through A Clash of Kings. It’s slower going than I thought it would be, but only because I keep getting distracted by shorter things I want to read. Again, rereading this before the new one comes out is proving to be an excellent idea. Things that I thought happened later are actually happening in this book, which means there are definitely some plot points that I’ve forgotten entirely. I’m excited to start in on A Storm of Swords soon – that’s when we start to see the story from Jaime’s point of view as well, and pretty much the biggest plot reveal I’ve seen so far happens towards the end of this book.

I’ve also read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, as you can see from the post I wrote yesterday. I thought that this was the last Kate DiCamillo book I had left to read, but a look on Amazon shows me there are a few more that I didn’t even know existed. Time to add some more novels to my wish list…

I also started in on Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. This is the first in a teen fantasy series that is really just so funny. Princess Cimorene is bored with the usual things princesses must do, but isn’t allowed to do anything fun like fencing or magic or cooking. When she’s told she has to marry a prince, she runs away and volunteers to be a dragon’s princess – after all, being held captive by a dragon is perfectly acceptable for a princess, so her parents can’t possibly object. Wrede pokes some good-natured fun at fantasy/fairy tale tropes. For example, the prince she’s supposed to marry takes his time coming to “rescue” her because “it will look better” if he defeats the dragon after a good number of knights have already tried. And at the same time, it’s a really interesting plot. I may write a longer post on the book when I finish working through it again.

I’ve also read a few manga, one of which I absolutely abhorred: Ai Ore! I should have the review up within a week so you can see exactly why it made my skin crawl.

And now my usual question, what have you been reading?

Children’s Books: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I’ve been a big fan of author Kate DiCamillo for a few years now, ever since I picked up The Tale of Despereaux on a whim. Since then I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through her whole catalog, most recently with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit doll who does not know how to love. He belongs to a girl named Abeline who cares for him very much, but Edward only cares for how fine he looks, or whether his dignity has been injured. One day he is lost, and for years he moves from place to place, person to person, seeing and understanding things as he never has before. He learns to love, but also that he can continue to love even after a loss.

The cover and the title were a bit deceiving to me. On the cover Edward walks towards a door. And the word “journey” implies that Edward will be moving around and doing stuff. But Edward is a doll, and while he can watch everything, and learn from it, he cannot choose where he goes and influence what happens to him. That kind of limitation makes me decidedly uncomfortable (it’s a bit of a phobia of mine) and it also makes me wonder, how can this work? How can Edward learn anything if he can’t make decisions and choose his path?

But this is where DiCamillo handles everything so well. Edward can make decisions: he can choose to listen to the people who adopt him, he can choose to remember the people he’s lost, and he can choose to let his heart open to hope and love. Edward is lost and taken and passed along for years, and at each new parting and meeting he learns something new, and while he thinks it will break him it changes him into something different, until finally he’s ready for his journey to be finished. It’s a heart wrenching story, but one I couldn’t put down until I came to the end.

And of course there is DiCamillo’s language, which is the number one reason why I love her books so much. Her words give all her books a magical quality, even the ones that have no magic in them, like The Tiger Rising. Kate DiCamillo is the children’s author that I most often try to write like; her stories always touch me, and even if the plot didn’t nab me her language would pull me in.
This passage comes just after Edward has been found by a poor boy and given to his dying sister:

Never in his life had Edward been cradled like a baby. Abeline had not done it. Nor had Nellie. And most certainly Bull had not. It was a singular sensation to be held so gently and yet so fiercely, to be stared down at with so much love. Edward felt the whole of his china body flood with warmth.

This was a wonderful book, by an author that has yet to disappoint me. Someday I hope to write a post specifically about why I find her language so wonderful.

Weekend Links – Always More Books to Read

Just a few links this week, since, well, I forgot about this post again. But they’re all book centric!

Thanks to Anita Silvey following me on my Twitter, I found her wonderful website Children’s Book Almanac. Silvey has read literally thousands of children’s books, and each day of the year she posts a new recommendation. I’ve only been going to the site for a few days now, but I’ve already added two new books to my list, Rules by Cynthia Lord and Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (I’ve wanted to reach Love That Dog for a while anyway, but for the cover picture). It’s a great website for kid’s literature recommendations from an intelligent lady.

Something else that came from Twitter, a chair that solves all my problems: Bookshelf Chair. I don’t know if it’s real, but I want it.

Manga made it into the Eisner Awards! Naoki Urasawa has been nominated again, as he was last year, but some of my personal favorites (Bunny Drop, House of Five Leaves) have found their way onto the list as well.