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The Amaranth Enchantment is a breathtakingly-fairytalesque story that I gobbled up in under 24 hours. Julie Berry’s debut novel caught my attention while browsing at the library with its understated cover and Victorian looking girl.
The inside flap sounded like my kinda book a dash of love story, a generous scoop of fairy-tale, sprinkling of magic, and a stronger than she realizes heroine.
Amazon.com summarizes it best:
When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt’s jewelry store. Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda’s path. In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch’s spell, avenge her parents’ death, and maybe—just maybe—capture the heart of a prince.
Lucinda does not disappoint as she muddles through, rising to meet every adventure and misadventure.
The supporting cast are well-rounded out with the mysterious possible witch (Beryl), the pickpocket with a devilishly disarming personality (Peter), the cruel step-aunt, and the playful dreamer with a good heart prince (Gregor). And of course there is Dog, the goat that becomes Lucinda’s stanchest ally.
The plot is well crafted and I found the ending surprising. Everything tied together tightly and I had the oh-so-that’s-what-that-meant moment. I am going to order a copy of the book to keep.
The pacing is good with each chapter starting and ending with a hook that carries you through it and into the next chapter. I found myself reading until the wee hours last night.
This is not a lightning fast book like Heist Society, but it shouldn’t be. This book is meant to be read a bit slower and savored. But the story moves and I never found myself contemplating doing laundry.
I really appreciate it when the cover flap is what the story is actually about. Leaves me feeling immensely satisfied as a reader.
Another great YA where love was an element but not the only element. The story was about friendship, family, fighting for yourself and those you love. And yes, there’s a cute prince but we aren’t forced to swoon over him for hundreds of pages.
Let me start today’s rant with this caveat: I would love to live in a world where people are not judged by how they look or dress. But that is not the world we inhabit.
Walking around the mall, I was baffled by the whorification of the American girl. The complicity of their parents in the treatment of girls as eye candy blows my mind.
Tweens in daisy dukes with low-cut tanks showing off their almost cleavage. Covering the same as a bikini would. Except they aren’t at the beach. More makeup on their face than Sephora carries in their store.
I get that girls are bombarded with sexy bombshell images via tv, movies, magazines and the internet. That it’s easier to believe that being hot is the most important thing in life.
But parents, why are you letting your daughters look like whores? They are too young to grasp what they are doing. Just check out an episode of 16 and Pregnant. These girls are clueless about ramifications.
It’s one thing to dress sexy in college when you can handle the attention and the response to your looks, but at 10,12, even 15, girls are not mature enough.
They want to look pretty and feel good about themselves. Everyone does. But emulating Beyonce’s skimpy skin tight clothes and Kesha’s barely there clothes is not the way to do it.
Those outfits and ensembles are meant for performers because their career is based around eliciting a response and a reaction.
Hell, throw on as much makeup as you want and dress up in racy clothes at home. But don’t go out looking like a street-walker. It demeans you. It reinforces the stereotype that girls are just accessories for boys.
Because your clothes are broadcasting I am nothing but a pleasure vessel for men. I do not exist for me, but solely for them.
I’m not saying you can’t dress sexy or wear clothes that make you feel pretty. But when you’re 10-16, your parents should be there drawing the line between self-expression and whorification of yourself.
And girls, please, stop and think. Why do I need attention so badly? Why am I dressing so provocatively? ‘Cause I’m betting it’s not self expression, but a need for validation from others.
I dub Ally Carter “The Queen of Pacing”. Never have I read such a rapid-paced, unputdownable YA book.
Reading her book helped me grasp how the pacing wasn’t working in my own YA story. Double benefit–great book and I learned more about the craft of writing.
Her story is an international thrill ride whose short chapters will take you jet-setting across the world.
I wanted to hang out with every character in the book from the patriarchal Uncle Eddie to the nerd-suave Simon.
Kat is truly a riveting character, a 15-year-old girl who walked away from the family business (thieves) to con her way into a boarding school and have a normal life. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a girl like that?
Carter gives you just enough backstory to keep you yearning for more and turning those pages.
The book flap hooked me with its first line “When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre…to case it.”
Mind-decimatingly high concept.
I picked the book up and devoured it in 24 hours.
Better than a bag of Sour Patch Kids. I kept saying just one more and then finished the book.
This is my kind of YA, where the romance is a minor element of the story. Maybe I’m not girly enough, but first love gets me gagging after the dozenth version of it.
The book has already been optioned for a movie. I can see why. I fell in love with it at first read. I downloaded the next book for my trip to Asia, Uncommon Criminals.
You can pick up a copy of Heist Society on Amazon.
On my first manuscript, I listened to dozens of different CDs as background music while I wrote. Then I revised to Taylor Swift. For some reason she resonated best with my protagonist.
On my second manuscript, which is way darker, I got into a nasty habit. I drafted to Twilight’s Eclipse soundtrack. And only to that one CD. It became a requirement for drafting. Granted I only drafted for an hour or two a day several days a week.
Still, it started to get old and not in an antique-I-cherish sorta way, so I made a mix of dark music from Vampire Diaries and used that for revising. A stop gap measure. But now as I struggle through the last chapter, I am so vomit-in-my-mouth sick of those two CDs.
Sure they capture the spirit of the book for me and help me tap into it. They remind me of the characters’ emotions. But my ears, my precious ears, are begging for a break.
So in my spare time, I listen to anything but that music or anything that reminds me of it.
Where am I going with all this? AH yes, choose wisely and widely when you select music to write your manuscript to. You’ll be listening to it for months on end–drafting and revising to it. Even if you love love love it, you won’t in a year.
I have a Dorian Gray face. It doesn’t show much in terms of my aging. For the most part, I love this.
I actively avoid the sun, don’t smoke, don’t wear makeup. Anything that wears and tears on my skin, I run from.
And at 33, I still get carded. For alcohol and cashing scratch off tickets.
But lately, I’ve been noticing the downside of looking young.
- No one ever takes you seriously. I’m always underestimated and treated condescendingly.
- I have to constantly disprove the assumption that I’m a kid. Which means listing off my accomplishments (something I find kinda obnoxious) or be forced to endure the “when you’re my age” speeches.
- No boss thinks I work hard enough. Looking young means they treat me like I’m a kid. Glasses help, but the blonde hair kinda neutralizes their affect.
- Haggard-looking people always get promoted over me.
- My parents still worry about leaving me home alone.
“Gazing out at the quiet lake, I know the risk is worth it.”
From the first sentence, it’s Baccarat-crystal clear why Sophie Jordan is a NYT Bestseller. She sucks you right into the story and sprinkles backstory like pixie dust.
The story’s protagonist, Jacinda, is a high school age draki (a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her ability to shapeshift into human form). The concept sold me immediately.
Dragons, shapeshifting and spirited heroine are a triple draw for me.
But the story promises more with internal struggles amongst Jacinda’s draki tribe, a frustrated twin sister who never manifested draki powers, a mom who never wanted to keep her dragon side alive, a boy who would be Jacinda’s future husband, a father whose death remains murky, and a draki hunter that sets her heart ablaze.
The writing alone will keep you up late turning pages. The characters are multi-dimensional and worth spending more time with.
This is a story of what is worth fighting for in life. It was an inspiring tale about family, first love, and the obligations that can undermine the strongest of wills.
Despite my hatred of present tense in book form, I enjoyed this story immensely.
I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Firelight, due out this fall.
Bet you thought I forgot all about my pesky resolutions made 6 months ago. Well, I didn’t. Been working on them. Chiseling away at each one. So here’s the half year later update.
Resolution #1: Lose 35 lbs in 2011 and keep it off.
Progress: Getting there. Dropped 20 lbs since March 21. Working out 5 days a week for an hour a day and eating low carb. Feeling more energetic.
Resolution #2: Finish drafting my second novel by May 2011.
Dunzo!!!! Finished drafting March 31! Revising last 3 chapters this week. Sending to beta readers. Will begin querying after Asia trip.
Resolution #3: Send out queries until someone falls in love with my YA novel.
Progress: Sent out batch of queries last week. Will continue until I leave for Asia. But realizing this book may not sell.
Resolution #4: Meditate and play with Emerson more.
Progress: Meditating before bed every night this week. Snuggled with and pet Emerson. Usually play tug-of-war and fetch 3-4 nights a week with him.
Resolution #5: Speak my mind when asked.
Progress: Still trying to do it. But finding people very angry when I say No and disagree. Doesn’t exactly make me want to spend time with them.
Saw the 3-D version of Green Lantern on Saturday. Overall, I enjoyed it. The first 2 minutes were a big backstory dump. I got that the producer’s intent was to weave two stories to their intersection, but it was a bit bumpy at first.
They threw several numbers out within 30 seconds of each other and I started to worry I’d be doing math to watch this film. But a few minutes later, it started to make sense. The world building was pretty cool. Loved the concept of Green Lanterns throughout the universe. But I’m a sucker for comic books. Always have been.
Ryan Reynolds does a great job as the cocky pilot with commitment issues. Makes the character come alive. You find yourself rooting for him almost immediately.
Blake Lively played the love interest and did a nice job. I almost didn’t realize it was the Gossip Girl icon. She becomes so grounded with brown hair.
Wow, was that really Peter Sarsgaard as the villain Hector? He fuglied up like no tomorrow for this role. Clearly, this guy can act because he immersed so well in character that I never realized who the actor was during the movie.
The plot was interesting. I like how they explored the concept of the world being mental and having the power to create what is in your mind. Classic big battle of will vs. fear was well executed.
I like the epic battle good vs. evil movies.
The story moved at a good pace and I didn’t check my watch once.
Loved the Guardians sitting in their granite towers.
The script had several funny moments and poked fun at itself sometimes.
And I am a huge fan of green eyes so I loved how all the Lanterns had them.
The special effects were cool, though I am a sucker for 3-D.
And for another perspective, my 19-year-old male cousin said it was good. Almost as good as Thor but not quite.
Grandma H and I always have the weirdest conversations. Case in point, I get in her car and mention, “This seat is all screwed up.”
She says, “You know why? We had to put Russ’s wheelchair in the backseat.”
“Because he’s dead.”
I’m confused why does his dying require her to put the wheelchair in her car? I must have missed something. “But why did you get his wheelchair?”
“Because he’s dead.”
“His wife gave it to me at the hairdressers since she had it in her car.”
“BECAUSE HE’S DEAD.”
“Do you get all dead people’s wheelchairs?”
She sighs. “No it was ours and we loaned it to him.”
“You kinda left that part out of the story.”
“Oh, well that’s why.”
“So, to clarify, you don’t collect dead people’s wheelchairs?”
She laughs. “No.”
Grandma H announces on the way to IHOP, “I’m not really hungry. I ate some chicken.”
“But you knew we were going to breakfast,” I whine.
“I got up early. I was hungry.”
“You remember those three pancakes I got last time?”
“Yup.” Where is she going with this?
“I want one pancake. That’s it. You tell the waitress.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Luckily, when we get there, I find the Rooty Senior which is one pancake, one egg, one bacon and one sausage. She’s thrilled.
Grandma H and I finish lunch at IHOP and she announces, “I want to go to the cemetery to see my mom and sisters.”
I agree. Partly cause I don’t want her going alone and partly cause I like cemeteries.
We turn off the main road and inch down the gravel driveway. Trees loom around us.
Suddenly, Grandma says, “If someone come out of the woods, I want you to run to the car and lock yourself in.”
My jaw drops.
She continues, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve lived a long life. You have to save yourself.”
My heart thrums in my ears. “Uh, I thought we were going to the cemetery to visit loved ones. Why are you casting me in a Lifetime movie?”
Then when we park, I say, “Let’s lock the car.”
She agrees and puts her keys around her neck.
I shake my head. “Great. Now I have to save you since you’ve got the keys.”
We walk to the gravestones and talk to her sisters a bit. She tells them how she misses them.
My favorite moment is when we turn to her parents grave and she exclaims, “She was the best mother in the world.” She says this with absolute conviction three times.
I ask, “What about your dad?”
“He was okay.”
We end with a macabre discussion of how she wants to be cremated and slip away. No wake. No funeral. No gawkers. Then she explains how she wants the family to gather together to drink a glass of wine and say something nice about her. Her wish is to have her ashes spread in the ocean, but she said the kids can hang onto them for a while if they want.
This brings me to the brink of tears.
I know everyone has to die. But it’s sad to contemplate the death of someone sitting right next to you.
I suggested dividing up the ashes so all the kids get a piece of her. She doesn’t think they want that. Some people have no clue how much they are treasured.