Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Umpteen millions things to do today but I had to write this short blog entry as I was so in the “reading flow” as Kelly Gallagher calls what I call "unconscious delight" in his intriguing book called Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Readicide/Kelly-Gallagher/e/9781571107800/?itm=1&USRI=readicide+how+schools+are+killing+reading+and,

I was so in the flow, the world disappeared around me and I was in Russia. I wanted to spend the rest of the morning curled up with Sarwat Ghadda's Dark Goddess http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Goddess-Devils-Kiss-Novel/dp/1423127595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288098714&sr=8-1 What an incredible sequel. Check out the cover art for this book. I shivered just looking at the background of snow falling around a Russian palace. At the forefront stands Billi (Bilquis), a Templar squire and the only woman member of the Knights of the Templar, with sword in hand.

Quite different from the cover on the debut title which makes Bill look more like a romance character in a flowing dress while the shadow of man stands in the background. Billi proves to be no shrinking violet in when we first meet her in Devil's Kiss http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Kiss-Sarwat-Chadda/dp/1423120221/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1 She is rebelling against her father, the master of the Knights of the Templar, who forced her to begin training at age twelve. She did her her best to hide the training bruises and wounds while trying to look like any other high school girl. She wants a normal life but that is never going to happen, especially when a new love interest, Mike, turns out to be the Michael, the Angel of Death. I won't tell you how that battle ends.

In Dark Goddess Billi's foe is no other than Baba Yaga of Russian folklore and she wants young Vasilisa, the Spring Child, the Oracle, whom the Templars are trying to protect. If the witch of Russian lore, Baba Yaga, devours Vasilisa she will gain the strength to cause a natural disaster. The disaster will in turn cause the Fimbulwinterm, ridding the Earth of the horrible humans who have ravaged it and Baba Yaga as she is the Earth. She is the Dark Goddess and revered by the werewolves, the Plenitsy - Man-Killers. The Templar Knights join forces with the Russian Bogatyrs to find the Spring Child only to discover the Bogatyrs are seeking the Oracle for reasons of their own. Intent on taking imperial power in Russia, their leader is furnishing humans for the vampires to feed on. This man has sworn to protect Prince Ivan but he wants him dead, but not by his own hands.

I remember reading the tales about Baba Yaga when I was a child and her house that stood on chicken legs - she was by far more frightening to me than the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Chadda has brought my memories to life with his description of Baba Yaga - "She shuffled into the faint candlelight, and the shadows deepened around her. She walked hunchbacked, but even so was thirteen feet tall. Rags covered her skeletal frame - animals skins and ancient furs. Insects scuttled in her floor-length white hair, which formed a veil over her face. Only the eyes peered out. Black, shiny, ancient. Her nails - long, curved daggers - clicked against her bone staff." The hair raised on my arms just reading this description. A horrific, "virtually strenuous" read that has me internally shrieking in fear as Billi battles one fiend after another. It is is a mix of folklore, myth, and horror and downright deliciously terrifying. Not for the faint of heart! My fingers and arms are sore from vicariously swinging a sword alongside Billi. And I think I'm scared of the dark again!

I just went to Chadda's web site http://www.sarwatchadda.com/ and you can read the first chapter of Dark Goddess.

Curiosity was just killing this cat over the name Bilqis so I had to look it up. It is a derivation of the the Islamic name for the Queen of Sheba, Bilquis. I love how myths, legends, and lore find their way across cultural and geographic barriers, giving us all stories and tales that resonate with us no matter where and when we lived and listened to them. The retelling of these tales, orally or in written format, reminds us all that we are no so different after all.

Chadda's website also talks about The Chainsaw Gang
http://www.sarwatchadda.com/the-chainsaw-gang/ - a group of YA authors who write horror. Check out the covers on these horror titles for YAs. Just the covers should creep-out even the most avid teen horror fan. Sam Enthoven's Crawlers cover art has my skin crawling! Check out Enthoven's other titles at:
http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=sam+enthoven&box=sam%20enthoven&pos=-1 You may recognize his name from The Black Tattoo
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Black-Tattoo/Sam-Enthoven/e/9781595141330/?itm=3&USRI=sam+enthoven about a demon possessed teen.

As much as I want to finish the book, I have to defer the pleasure for later. I was one of those kids/teens who hid my "recreational reading," as Gallagher calls it, behind the textbook as the other kids in class laboriously stumbled over passages aloud in class. As if reading the chapter in the World History text was going to make this stuff any more interesting or real! Bring in Dark Goddess and tell them about Prince Ivan, the son of the Anastasia, the Russian Princess who legend says escaped the family massacre. And Rasputin, the Oracle who lost the fight with Baba Yaga. Make history interesting.

Bring in a picture book version of Baba Yaga like Marianna Mayer's Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Baba-Yaga-and-Vasilisa-the-Brave/Marianna-Mayer/e/9780688085001/?itm=2&USRI=baba+yaga with detailed illustrations by Kinuko Y. Craft. All picture books are not for very young children and this Russian tale is one of them. The illustrations in picture books can bring to life history so much better than the dry textbook can. I did find it interesting that no recently published retellings of this tale came up when I changed the search parameters to recent titles first. Mostly from back in the 90's. Time to pull out those copies and display them with the other Halloween/horror books.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another beautiful day in South Florida. We are loving this weather! We drove down to the Upper Keys to watch the Texans win :-) on Sunday afternoon. We sat outside and looked out on the ocean and checked out the small boats as couples and families came in to have a late lunch and watch the various games. No worries about having to cover up your kids' Halloween costumes with winter coats or add snow boots like in Michigan's UP like we often did as kids.

My morning reading has been a beautifully written YA novel about a very disturbing community and a teen who lives there. Keep Sweet. Sounds like an enduring tidbit to say to someone you love as you depart, doesn't it? This assumption may be what causes a reader to pick up Michele Dominguez Greene's Keep Sweet. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Keep-Sweet/Michele-Dominguez-Greene/e/9781439157466/?itm=1&USRI=keep+sweet+greene#TABS Keep true. Keep silent. - Also on the cover, in smaller print but as intriguing as the innocent sounding title, beckoning the reader to open the book to read the blurb on the jacket flap where "KEEP SWEET ALVA JANE, ABOVE ALL. jumps out at you. Very disconcerting - a kind of disconcerting that made me keep reading when I realized just how awful this "term of endearment" really is. It is a warning to the females of the walled in polygamist community of Pineridge, Utah to remain passive and willing. Willing to be married off to a much older man, to become sister wives as soon as the young teens have their first period - the sign they are old enough to marry and bear children - the more the better. Only a man's first wife is his legal wife, with the remaining sister wives collecting welfare for their children. Alva Jane's mother, the 4th wife, has had 12 children since her marriage at age 14. The sister wives may appear to get along at first glance, but there is animosity and jealous as they vie for their husband's nightly visits, smug when it occurs more often than their "allotted" nights. Fourteen-year-old Alva Jean's relatively calm life changes forever when she does the most forbidden thing a young woman in this fundamentalist polygamist community can do - she fell in love with a young man. In her excitement about their future together when her young man happily tells Alva Jane that he has his father's approval to talk to her father about marrying her, this innocent teen impulsively kisses him but her head is viciously snapped back by her father's legal wife who has been spying on her. The young man is hauled into the desert by the "fathers" of the community and viciously beaten. The reader doesn't learn what happens to him until the very end of the book, but my hopes were confirmed. Alva Jane is also severely beaten and married off to an abusive 55 year old man who has recently beaten one wife so severely that she is permanently crippled - she will never attempt escape again. He takes great pleasure in sexually, physically and mentally abusing Alva Jane but she has become a strong young woman who will defy all odds. Keep True. Keep Silent. Keep Sweet. Six simple words that now raise the hair on my arms. Now to find a copy of Greene's debut novel, Chasing the Jaguar.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It is amazing how much the kids have grown and I am missing it all! I remember Mary and her brother Mic playing in the leaves much as McKinley and Kegan are doing in this pic. McKinley has the same blonde hair as her mom, my Mary, and I did at this age. Wish I could go up there during this Indian summer period in the Midwest but that isn't going to happen for a bit.

I told Mailene, my new Worker's Comp. Case worker, that she'd recognize me as I'd be the blonde with no tan! She laughed and said that will change after living in Florida for any length of time. Some of the women who are avid golfers and play tennis are as brown as George Hamilton. I'd prefer not to be!

I met Mailene and saw my new orthopedic surgeon yesterday. He does not agree with either of the two orthopedic surgeons from Lexington as far as the surgeries they wanted to do, but he wouldn't do surgery either not knowing what the "episodes" are that I'm still having. He wants me to use Lidocaine patches on the sorest parts of my knee and quit using the knee brace for awhile as the metal stays in it are pushing on the sorest parts. Oh boy - no support when the knee gives out and we have hardwood and tiles in most of this house too. He wants a new MRI to go with the x-rays his office did yesterday. My new worker's comp. case worker is an MD so she really knows her stuff.

Headache is banging away so I'm glad I see a neurologist on Monday. Mailene is getting things going quickly and I am glad of that as I'd like some answers to all of this so I can get on with my life without hurting 24/7, not knowing what is causing the episodes. I still have small ones every week, but had a wicked one Friday afternoon and spent most of the weekend in bed with a heating pad. Steve wanted to take me to the ER but the nightmarish overnight visit to UK's ER was enough to make me stay home and deal with it. My right arm is still partially numb and the headache is a banger and then some. I see a neurologist next Monday and it sounds like she'll be doing a batter of tests.

I finally found my iPod and am listening to the first book in John Marsden's Ellie Chronicle Series - http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=405453. Who knows how many there will be in this Marsden series about Ellie and her friends, but there are three titles so far and I'm listening to the first one - While I Live. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/While-I-Live/John-Marsden/e/9780439783231/?itm=3&USRI=john+marsden For those who have not read any of Marsden's 7-book Tomorrow Series, http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=283971, the first book in the Ellie Chronicles, may be a bit confusing as there are so many references to the war and the relationships that developed among the Ellie and her friends. Having read Tomorrow, When the War Began http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tomorrow-When-the-War-Began/John-Marsden/e/9780439829106/?itm=1 when it was initially published in the mid '90s, I had some knowledge of what Ellie and her friends went through when they returned from a camping trip in the Australian bush country to discover Australia had been invaded. Their homes were either burned to the ground or deserted. These teenagers, who grew up in the bush, were soon an effective group of guerrilla fighters intent on rescuing their families imprisoned by the invading army. The war is over in While I Live and Ellie's family is trying to readjust with their farm acreage split up into 4 sections with three other families living there as well. I had a sense of deja vu as I listened to Ellie discuss Gavin's deafness and the changes in her relationship with Homer after a treaty was signed and Australia was split into two countries. The three are out hiking when they hear the shots ring out from Ellie's farm. By the time Ellie dashes back into the farm house, it is too late. Her mother and the family friend living with them are dead - their bodies barely recognizable from being shot up close with high power semi-automatic rifles. She races toward the barn to find her father and sees two of the soldiers lying dead. She knew her father didn't go down without a fight, but he, and a third soldier, are both dead on a barn floor. The war may be "officially" over but raiding parties from across the border brought it gruesomely back to life for Ellie. She wants revenge, especially when she wakes up one morning and realizes Homer and Lee are gone, knowing they have joined the resistance group trying to rescue prisoners kept in camps across the border. It becomes even more personal when Homer becomes one of them.

Marsden is one of the most famous young adult authors in Australia. There is even a John Marsden Prize for Young Australian writers. The movie version of Tomorrow When the War Began has recently been released in Australia. Not suprising as this series has been reprinted 17 times. I've seen at least three different cover art for the paperback reprints. Wikipedia (no - I don't want to go into the authenticity of this source) has a good write up on the series for those who are interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow_series.

I thought of Marsden's books when I first read Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now http://search.barnesandnoble.com/How-I-Live-Now/Meg-Rosoff/e/9780553376050/?itm=1&USRI=how+i+live+now, with England being the invaded country. Daisy is not as strong of a protagonist right from the start as Marsden's Ellie is, but she grows into her role as the protector of her younger cousins. Due to the media hype about Mockingjay http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Mockingjay/Suzanne-Collins/e/9780545317801/?itm=1 - the final title in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Series
http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=book&SID=574901 (not as big as Twilight) librarians need books to recommend when tweens and teens come in asking for more books like Collins' series. Marsden's Ellie is a strong female protagonist like Katniss, but with a contemporary war torn setting. Daisy isn't as strong of a protagonist, but the invasion focused plot is similar.