Review of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski + Giveaway

I don’t typically write reviews, but occasionally I come across a book that I love so very dearly that I must shout about it. I also posted this review on There and Draft Again.

 Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

At the urging of many a book blogger, I pre-ordered The Winner’s Curse long before release, received the gorgeous hardcover, and somehow managed to squish in reading it. I’m typically terrible about finding the time to joy read, but HOLY COW THIS BOOK. It gripped me. I stayed up way too late and ignored friends and simply basked in this masterpiece. (Also had a happy panic attack when this happened.) I have a hundred and one things to say about it, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to four or five. First off, the writing. I loved some of the unusual descriptions that many people wouldn’t be able to get away with. Somehow the author was able to make them totally work. Those lines that I’m always afraid are a little too ironic or a little too intense? She puts them in there, guys! And not just anywhere. They are chapter endings. THE ACTUAL ENDING, ZOMG. This is what prompted me to gush all over Twitter that I think I have a kindred spirit, to run out and buy all her other books pronto. I’m now a crazy fan, thank you very much.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my adoration for the writing off of my chest, there’s Kestrel. I haven’t liked a main character this much in years. She’s smart and cunning, and she knows how to use her intelligence without rubbing everybody’s face in it. Her personality was realistic and deep. I loved that she didn’t go around earning respect by being as tough or attractive as others. Instead, she was very much her own person, with her own tastes and friends and qualities and weaknesses. I love a character with a passionate streak, or deeply wounded with complicated motivations, even some who are harsh and unforgiving; but I also love a character with downright sense. Kestrel is sensible while still managing to feel things deeply, and she knows how to strategize around life crap that gets thrown at her. Basically, I adore her. Arin, the Herrani slave Kestrel wins at auction at the beginning of the story (thus invoking the “Winner’s Curse”), was expertly layered in every sense. His entire race has been conquered and made slaves — and that alone is enough to justify the bitterness he shows toward his purchaser — but he’s not whiny at all, and that made me literally want to hug him. He is displeased and incensed by his circumstances, so he sets out to change them, and he does so in a smoldering cloud of awesome. The conflict between him and Kestrel was crackling, and I liked it even more than their romance. There’s nothing quite like two honorable characters, equal of mind and soul, going at each other with words [knives, swords, poison, chains…ahem].

The secondary characters do not disappoint. Kestrel’s friends, Jess and Ronan (especially Ronan); an opponent of hers, Irex; and perhaps my favorite, Kestrel’s father, a general in the Valorian army — are all interesting, complex, and real in their own right.

Oh wait, General Trajan totally deserves his own paragraph because the father/daughter relationship is so freaking flawless. Kestrel’s father sometimes seems too unemotional and commanding, yet the way his wife died gives him cause to pull away AND cause to want his daughter to be as rugged and logical as possible. Also? He treats her as an equal. So much of the Young Adult genre eloquently reflects how idiotic parents can seem to a teenager, but I LOVE that someone decided to portray a teen that is actually pretty good at putting herself in her parent’s shoes and understanding him as a person (teens can be sympathetic and observant too, y’know). Trajan, although rather emotionally challenged, does everything he can to give her equal parts privilege and responsibility. And although she finds herself disagreeing entirely with his political views, Kestrel manages to never personally betray him — which, you know, just made me <3 <3 <3 her all the more.

I love that Rutkoski doesn’t shy away from showing many sides of mortality. There are slimy characters, people we think are well-meaning who turn out to be douchy, and there are beautiful, sacrificial souls that might have seemed shallow until the surface was scratched. (I AM rather bitter that we didn’t see enough Ronan in this book. I want more Ronan.) Nothing in the story was overtly magical, and that made me love it ten times more. Kestrel’s world is layered in history and humanity instead of symbolism and supernatural powers. I’ve always been drawn toward the more realistic/historical worlds in the fantasy genre — especially when the emphasis is on the characters! — and I’ve never felt that there is enough of them. The Winner’s Curse is the first in a trilogy, so there’s more coming, YAY!

Since I want more people to read this amazing book, but I want to keep mine close to my pillow, I’m giving away a brand new hardcover, right here, right now. Be sure to follow Marie on various forms of media so you can keep track of this series. I guarantee you won’t want to miss it. Giveaway is open internationally (anywhere The Book Depository ships!). Ends 6/20/14.

Enter the Rafflecoptor Giveaway

Buy the Book

Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children’s fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner’s Curse, the first of which was published in March 2014. Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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Some Books I’m Looking Forward To

I know, I never blog anymore! I’ve turned into a hermit. When I do peek out of the Scrivener doc, it’s to tweet or text a CP and freak out yet again over a missing plot point — which of course wouldn’t be missing if I wasn’t constantly rearranging the events in KNIGHTS OF RILCH. (More on my wild and crazy revisions in this post I wrote for There and Draft Again.)

But today is release day for a book I’ve been excited about, and I thought I’d seize the moment and mention some others I’m looking forward to (once I dig myself out from under all these millions of edits *headdesk*).  And yeah, I realize most of these are Young Adult Sci-Fi. It’s a Sci-Fi year. I’m grooving with it. Because seriously, it’s freaking awesome.

First, Young Adult Sci-Fi ULTRAVIOLET CATASTROPHE by Jamie Grey is out in the world today! I just ordered my paperback and I cannot wait for it to get here. Not that I’ll have time to read something for fun for awhile (nervous laughter), but when I do, eeeekkk!!


Ultraviolet Catastrophe by Jamie Grey

Quantum Electrodynamics. String Theory. Schrödinger’s cat. For sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler, they’re just confusing terms in her science textbooks, until she finds out that her parents have been drugging her to suppress her outrageous IQ. Now Branston Academy, a school run by the world’s most powerful scientists, has tracked her down and is dying for her to attend – as a research subject.
She takes refuge at Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific community where her father works as a top-notch scientist, and begins her new life as girl genius at Quantum High. But the assignments at her new school make the Manhattan Project look like preschool – and Lexie barely survived freshman algebra.
Her first big assignment – creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge – is also her first chance to prove she can hold her own with the rest of QT’s prodigies. But while working with the infuriatingly hot Asher Rosen, QT’s teen wonder, Lexie uncovers a mistake in their master equation. Instead of a wormhole, the machine they’re building would produce deadly ultraviolet rays that could destroy the world. Now Lexie and Asher have to use their combined brainpower to uncover the truth behind the device. Before everyone at Quantum Technologies is caught in an ultraviolet catastrophe.
Next, the sequel to Leigh Ann Kopan’s debut, ONE. I don’t even have to tell you how much I enjoyed that book. I’m even more excited to read the sequel because it’s from Elias’s perspective! Only two more weeks!!!

Coming October 8th, 2013

Two by Leigh Ann Kopans

Elias and Merrin are on the run.
After escaping the Biotech Hub, they thought they could breathe easy, or at least a little easier.  But when bombs slam into the Social Welfare Hub only hours after their arrival, it becomes clear there’s nowhere to hide – and no end to what Biotech will do to get them back.
Their last chance for safety and answers is the Clandestine Service Hub. CS has intel on the real, broader purpose behind Fisk’s experiments , and the newfound knowledge of  the  horrors  hidden  deep within Biotech’s walls sends Merrin back to  recover a secret formula that could ruin the Supers’ world forever—and might just save the lives of the Biotech victims spiraling out of control.
Elias’ sisters are counted among the victims of Fisk’s experiments, and if Elias can’t find and help them, their powers will destroy them–sooner rather than later. Returning to the place it all began terrifies him, but with Fisk ready to make an example out of Merrin, and his sisters’ lives –and the lives of all Supers–hanging in the balance, he might not have a choice. If he can’t find the courage to face his worst fears, Elias might lose more than his newfound powers.
He might lose everyone he loves.
I’ve been following Sarah on Twitter for awhile and I basically love everything she ever says. I’m convinced her book is going to be a treasure trove of all her usual wisdom and wit. Basically, I’m crazy pumped. *grabby hands*

Coming October 15th, 2013

Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory

Jenna Oliver doesn’t have time to get involved with one boy, let alone two.
All Jenna wants is to escape her evaporating small town and her alcoholic mother. She’s determined she’ll go to college and find a life that is wholly hers—one that isn’t tainted by her family’s past. But when the McAlister twins move to town and Jenna gets involved with both of them, she learns the life she planned may not be the one she gets.
Ian McAlister doesn’t want to start over; he wants to remember.
Ian can’t recall a single thing from the last three months—and he seems to be losing more memories every day. His family knows the truth, but no one will tell him what really happened before he lost his memory. When he meets Jenna, Ian believes that he can be normal again because she makes not remembering something he can handle.
The secret Ian can’t remember is the one Luke McAlister can’t forget.
Luke has always lived in the shadow of his twin brother until Jenna stumbles into his life. She sees past who he’s supposed to be, and her kiss brings back the spark that life stole. Even though Luke feels like his brother deserves her more, Luke can’t resist Jenna—which is the trigger that makes Ian’s memory return.
Jenna, Ian, & Luke are about to learn there are only so many secrets you can keep before the truth comes to reclaim you.
I’ve been hog wild about Cait’s writing ever since I read her debut NA Gothic Romance, Eyre House. I’m not really crazy about New Adult (yet), but I can tell you this: You do NOT want to miss one of her books. You MUST experience her incredible imagination, her knack for nailing descriptions, for amazing characters and beautiful settings.

Coming October 15th, 2013
Parawars: Uprising by Caitlin Greer

The Paranormal Uprising brought myth and legend out of the shadows and into real life. The war that followed tore the world apart. Two years after the Uprising, twenty-year-old Kendry is learning the hard way that the battle lines aren’t as clear-cut as human versus para. And the hard way means being hunted down by both human militants and para separatists. Trouble is, she has no idea why.On the run with only her mysterious gargoyle guardian, Kendry knows that finding out why she’s on everyone’s most-wanted list will be no easy task. It means charging headlong into a war she’d hoped to avoid, and is woefully unprepared for. So when she realizes that everyone in her life has been lying to her, discovering that she’s somehow the key to ending the war is the last thing she needs. With both sides tearing up the world to find her, it’s decision time for Kendry—keep running, or stand up and fight.

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And THIS ONE! I’m lucky enough to have an ARC sitting on my Kindle at this very moment, and it’s taking all my willpower not to tear through it.  I need to finish about a kajillion other things before I start a new book, but I read the first two chapters. And ZOMG. You want this book. YOU WANT IT.

Coming October 29th, 2013
Unbreathable by Hafsah Laziaf

One hundred and fifty years ago, Earth was destroyed, and the remaining humans fled to the dusty red planet of Jutaire, where the only oxygen is manufactured, food is scarce, and death strikes often.
When Lissa’s father discovers Earth still exists, she accidentally inhales the toxic air of Jutaire, and in one breath, discovers she isn’t quite human.
Her father hangs for his discovery, and Lissa knows the Chancellors will come for her, for she saw the Earth that night too. With nothing to lose, she sets out to expose the truth. It isn’t long before she meets Julian, a beautiful boy who can breathe the toxic air like she can – and shows her that the Jute, the original inhabitants of the planet, are more tangled in their lives than she knows.
But the Chancellors are only pawns in a greater game – one where the Jute control everything. Worse, the Jute plan to leave Jutaire for Earth, but to get there, they need her. And they’ll stop at nothing until Lissa is in their clutches, even if they kill every human in the process.
The race for Earth has begun.
Annnnd that’s all for today! But before I go I have to congratulate one of the sweetest, most lovely writers ever, Andrea Hannah, on her book deal! Her Young Adult Mystery, OF SCARS AND STARDUST, sold to Flux yesterday. Gahh, I’m so thrilled for you, Andrea! I’m just…I’m just…THIS MUCH HAPPY:
All right. Enough with the flails and back to revisions. I promise to blog again in the next month. Truly!

Review: ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

This gorgeous Young Adult Sci-Fi novel comes out on June 11th, 2013. I was lucky enough to be included in the street team, which meant I got a lovely ARC two months before the release. I don’t review many books on my blog (yet), but this one was completely outside of my genre and warranted a full blown post. Enjoy!

ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

I was excited for this book. I pre-ordered two copies as soon as the release date was announced. I near bounced out of my skin when ARCs were given to the members of Team ONE. But all of this was pretty new for me because…

I don’t go crazy over Young Adult. In fact, I hardly read any Young Adult (I know, I’m so boring). I don’t know if this is because I just exited my angsty teen years and I’m not that excited to revisit them, or what. Maybe it will change soon. If it does, it will be because of books like this one! *big, huge, gigantic smile*

So you can take this from a total Young Adult cynic: ONE passed my expectations. Over and above. Totally in love. Boom.

The story starts out with a fabulous hook — Merrin has only half of a super power. She doesn’t fit in with the mutant kids called Supers, and she doesn’t fit in with the Normal kids, either. She’s known as a One, a.k.a. a freak. Yeah, okay, typical teen feels, I don’t fit in, nobody understands me, etc. But not only did the futuristic world grab me, Merrin’s attitude was excellent. She’s not whiny, she doesn’t sit around being a pout. She does her best to use what she does have: an incredible brain. Yes. Main character we can get behind. Like, like, like.

Enter tall and gawky totally awkward and smiley love interest character. He’s just the right amount of push, enough to get into Merrin’s world — and just the right amount of no pressure, I like you, let’s be friends. He really reminded me of my little brother. A total sweetheart at the core. Someone you can be happy about every time he shows up. Love, love, love!

And just about the mid point, when I felt a little bogged down with “I love you, you’re so perfect for me” moments, the story starts spiralling out of control with about 80 pages of sheer action. The ending was perfection. Happy, but with danger lurking. Sequel, please!

Overall? Five out of five stars. No matter who you are or what genre you usually read, pick up ONE this June (and be ready for the sequel, TWO, coming in October!). You won’t regret it. If it isn’t your favorite, mail it to me so I can have extra copies to give to friends, because this is one of those I will be handing out everywhere.


Pre-order ONE
More about Leigh Ann Kopans
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Loved this. Can’t appreciate Dahlia enough, and the fact that she shares with such ease! Muah!

The Daily Dahlia

Hi everybody! As you may have guessed from the title of this blog post, this is not going to be all sunshine and sweetness. Of course, as you may have guessed from interacting with me enough that you know this little blog exists, you know that I’m not either. You might even think I’m kind of a jerk. I’ll try not to take that personally ;) The thing is, it’s nice to be nice, but when you’re only nice, you’re probably not being all that helpful to the people who really need it, who really want to get better, be stronger, try harder.

I’m a firm believer in confidence and thick skin being two of the keys to this whole writing thing. It’s what allows you to humbly take crit and internalize it. It’s also what allows you to know when a suggestion isn’t right for you. Those are hugely…

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I was only guilty of one of these. (Guess which one?) So true, and really good for a laugh.

There And Draft Again

Welcome Fellow Fantasy Writers!

So I didn’t write this post. This post was first published by David J. Parker (with additional material by Samuel Stoddard) on this website. Since it is awesome, I have decided to share it with you. Visit the RinkWorks Production website for more information.

So here goes…

“Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be…

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The Next Big Thing

I got tagged for this blog hop by Autumn Birt, and then totally spaced on getting my post up on time! Three weeks late… here are my answers for the Next Big Thing Blog Hop interview questions. Check out Autumn’s Blog as well, The Weifarer’s Wanderings, because she is awesome!

Ten  Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Knights of Rilch. Not so sure I want to keep the title, especially as it is the prequel to Coldness of Marek… which is a way cooler title, methinks.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
After I finished Coldness of Marek, it was obvious that it needed a sequel. Yet I could not get the backstory out of my head. Decided to write that before the sequel, to fill in a lot of questions readers had, and also to better setup the finale to the series.
What genre does your book fall under?
I believe it falls under New Adult Epic Fantasy. Apparently New Adult is the next big thing… I had no idea!
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a  movie rendition?
Ooooh that’s a tough one. I actually know a girl in real life who could easily be Kierstaz. An actress? Umm… a shorter version of Scarlett Johansson? Or maybe I just love her, so I would cast her for my female protagonist all the time, haha! I think Mikel could possibly be Liam Hemsworth, if he dyed his hair blonde… maybe. Oh wait! Tom Hardy would actually be a pretty good choice. Yep! Hodran would definitely be one of those annoyingly perfect-faced guys, an Armani model or something. Sheezum, I can’t even name someone at the moment, that’s bad.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In the kingdom of Serengard, over-thrown and exhiled ex-monarchy siblings start a fruitless effort to save the last few knights loyal to their family… and find their life expectations change drastically in the midst of the conflict.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an  agency?
Excellent question, and I’m not sure yet. I self-published Coldness of Marek, and it was certainly a learning experience. There were downsides and upsides. It was great to get my work out there and into the hands of readers. However, once I released it as an eBook, I started to have second thoughts about wanting to be involved in the influx of online fiction. True, it’s great that the indie movement is so vibrant, and I am thrilled that there is an outlet for these artists to get their work out there. But I can’t help but realize that a lot of what readers will have to sift through is total crap, and they’ll have to do it staring at a glowing screen. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is something beautiful about the actual written/printed word, and I think that’s a value we need to hold onto. And the big publishing houses are enforcing that value.
So. That said, I may pursue an agent with this book, revise the first book, pitch the series just to see if there is any interest in the “real” publishing world. I don’t look down on self-publishers (let’s face it, I am one!), but I think authors should do all they can to try to be a part of the old style system. It’s worth keeping.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your  manuscript?
I tried to write the whole thing in the 30 days of November, but I have to admit I went 8 days over. I reached my goal of 70,000 words during NaNoWriMo, which was great, but I had more story to wrap up, bringing it in at 80,000 words in the first draft. I expect that to expand to around 90,000 with polishing and edits.
What other books would you compare this story to within your  genre?
Hard to say. I am not as well read in my genre as I should be! There’s Tolkien and George R. R. Martin and that’s it, right? <winks> I can’t claim to be either of them, so…
I have seen a number of other pitches on the blogosphere that sound similar to my story, all on works in progress. And there is a series out by Sarah J. Maas (“Throne of Glass” and its sequels) that sounds comparable, but I have not yet read them. I need to get on that.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Mostly it was the amazingly positive reaction I got from my first book. Being a short, almost novella-like 54k YA fantasy, I really had no idea what to expect. I was surprised to find a wide age range reading it, liking it, and demanding a sequel. I had so much story already in my head that it was easy to imagine the sequel, but a book that short really needed a prequel as well to fill in the backstory. As I started sketching ideas I realized I had created a complex world with Serengard, and that I was going to LOVE writing this. As soon as I got the first chapter written on November 1st, I was in head over heels.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s  interest?

Oh, I don’t know. The blood? There’s lots of conflict, lots of it emotional, but always encased in action. I don’t care for people sitting around in a room having feelings. I like them to be worked raw and pushed to the edge of their limits, even if that means going outside of realism a little bit. I mean, who doesn’t want to see queens and princes forced to turn into lowly knights and battle mobs of angry citizens and evil usurpers who’ve stolen their lives and their loves? Needless to say, this is basically my own fantasy story… I just hope a few others will enjoy it as well.

Thanks, Autumn, for getting me involved in this blog hop! And I have one person to tag, even though I don’t know if she is actually going to do the blog hop or not… <sheepish grin>
Check out Jami’s blog: Scripts, Music & Smileys

Reblog: An Interview with fantasy author Cady Elizabeth Arnold

This is cool. Another fantasy author who lives near me and Indie published her book with Maine Authors Publishing. I like her style!

“I’m Cady Elizabeth Arnold but have always been called ‘Betsy’, except by telemarketers or my parents when I was in trouble. I love to write and can’t remember a time when I didn’t. In my basement are boxes of folders and journals with writings that date back to second grade…poetry mostly, but also stories and prose. I call myself a ‘closet scribbler’ because I haven’t shared much of my work with others. Publishing is a challenge and I waited until I had a novel I really believed in before I felt ready to jump that hurdle. Another reason I have been slow to publish is that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Part of me still wants to make edits and changes to Tapestry: Strands of Yellow and Blue even though I am well into the writing of the sequel.”

>>> Read More >>>

Review: Seven Deadly Wonders

Seven Deadly Wonders
Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a hard time getting into the story here, perhaps because it was all action and no drama, but I find Reilly’s writing style captivating in and of itself. This was my first of his novels and I think I need to go back and start at the beginning of one of his series to really get myself vested in his characters.

A quick note; this book is written much like actual field notes or a diary narrative, with lots of incorrect usages and bad grammar. I love it. Truly unique and creative with no holds barred. Yet how does he get away with writing like this? If I did it, an editor (and the educated public) would taboo me in an instant! Cheers for him!

View all my reviews

I really do like a few actors!

I am often caught in the middle of one of those revolving movie conversations where I admit I don’t like any of the movies or people mentioned. Don’t like Brad Pitt. Don’t like Steve Carrell. Don’t like Adam Sandler. Don’t even like Tom Hanks! Or Tom Cruise! Or Cate Blanchett! Or Keira Knightley! Or Mark Wahlburg! Or Dwayne Johnson! Or Arnold or Ryan Reynolds or Kate Hudson or Hilary Swank or Matt Damon or Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom or Steve Martin–

At the end of all this someone will comment that I sure don’t like anybody, do I. And I’ll sit there in puzzlement trying to name an actor or actress that I do like. For the sake of having a list somewhere, here is my list.

People I like to see on the screen:
Hugh Jackman
Russell Crowe
Eric Bana
Richard Armitage
Nathan Fillion
Bradley Cooper
Rachel McAdams
Edward Norton
Scarlet Johansson
Christian Bale
Liam Neeson
Jessica Biel
Simon Baker
Thomas Kretchsmann
Katie Holmes
Sean Bean
Antonio Banderas
Karl Urban
Jason Statham
Tom Hardy
Tommy Lee Jones

People I don’t mind seeing:
Nicole Kidman
Jennifer Garner
Sean Connery
Daniel Craig
Gerard Butler
James Marsden
Clive Owen
Reese Witherspoon
Viggo Mortensen
Matthew McConoughey (just lately)
Sylvester Stallone (in moderation)
Catherine Zeta-Jones

And of course there are these wonderfuls, who don’t count because they’re not in movies anymore:
Ingrid Bergman!!!
Cary Grant
Olivia DeHavilland
Errol Flynn
Yul Brynner
James Stewart
Gregory Peck
Julie Andrews
Charlton Heston
John Wayne

So there. I guess I do like some actors. :)

“made waffles”

BECKETT: “He’s a cardiac surgeon.”

CASTLE: “That’s…”

BECKETT: “Impressive, yes. In fact this morning he performed a triple bypass. He saved the patient’s life. What did you do this morning, Castle?”

CASTLE: “Made waffles.”

My honey brought me breakfast in bed this morning because I had a nasty cold. He is the bestest.

Writing Advice from Richard Castle [ahem]

Question: What do you do when you have writer’s block?

Answer: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re so embarrassed by the horrendous drivel you’re writing that you can’t bear to see it on the page. After all, you can always write something. I’ve discovered that giving yourself permission to write poorly is the gateway to writing well. It may not be good, it may not make sense, but that’s okay. After enough pages of meaningless drivel, your brain will uncover something interesting, and before you know it, you’re off and writing again.

I’ve also discovered that writing about why you can’t write allows you to discover what’s holding you back. Once you know what’s holding you back, you can face the problem and solve it.

— Richard Castle


Producers who cancel shows.

I know for certain if some producer or network somewhere was to bring back Firefly with new episodes and the original cast, that person would make a fortune. The show may have only had a small Sci-Fi following back when it aired on the Sci-Fi network, but its fan base has now expanded far beyond that to many (including myself) who never cared for Sci-Fi much in their lives. The whole space cowboy thing has a lot of appeal; and the acting is executed ridiculously well, the scripts inpeccable, and the effects never overdone or monstrous. Besides, even the parts of the show that are meant to scare you are not gross or morbid (I think they crossed that line when they made the movie Serenity, though– had to close my eyes a few times, eeek).

If someone would reinstate this show, or maybe make another movie, I would jump up and down. Honestly, there were only fourteen episodes ever made, three of which never aired! Meanwhile, Grey’s Anatomy just finished it’s sixth season. Blah.

Speaking of cancelled shows… who on earth ever in their lives wanted to cancel Jericho? Was it just too good? How could they do it without having their conscience plague them for the rest of their lives? I don’t understand.

Urban Prejudice of Mine

I’m often quick to form an opinion and way too slow to take it back. By the time I realize that maybe I was wrong, I may have accidentally been poured into a restrictive mold of my own making. This is usually comical! So I thought for your entertainment I would recount a few of my claim reversals.

I used to like every Keith Urban song that ever came on the radio. But I assumed that since his fans always went on and on about his physical attributes that he had to be a fraud as a musician, a pretty boy and not much else. It really bugged me that I liked his music so much! I told people that I hated Keith Urban.

Then last September I saw him do a live performance of one song on TV and I was hooked. Contrary to my stereo-typing, he put a huge amount of emotion into his performance and poured it out to the audience; it wasn’t about him, it was about them. So says I, I like him!  A few months later I splurged and bought all of his albums (something I never do!) and discovered that most of those songs I adored were originals by him, but more so, he has some heavy stuff on there that was never released to radio and will stir you like nothing else.

I used to tell people I loved the movie Pride & Prejudice. I mean, I told a lot of people this! Well, so, my tastes changed… I could say that! But no. I realized a little while ago that I never actually liked this movie. I claimed to like it because it was expected that every girl must like this movie! And who was I to be unfeminine? A few lines here and there that made me laugh, I liked those. But overall, it holds no real glamour for my sword-fighting tendencies. I like the girl to be in danger before she’s rescued.

I claimed to hate cell-phones and texting. This May I bought an LG Banter and I text all the time. I swore I would never use mousse in my hair. I now use it nearly every day. I thought I didn’t like animals. But recently I noticed myself talking to ducks and kittens and even black flies almost as much as I talk to people.

And then there’s that man I claimed I would never marry. And now I am marrying him and I am soooooo happy!!! Thus ends my confessions for the day. :)

Love! You didn’t do right by me.

Love! You didn’t do right by me. To send me a Joe who had winter and snow in his heart wasn’t smart, oh Love! You didn’t do right by me. I’m back on the shelf and I’m blaming myself, but it’s you.
— White Christmas, song by Irving Berlin

I am amazed over and over again by both the incredible depth and the contrary shallowness of my own soul. When I am alone, walking a dirt road, my dreams and desires are so simple. They are uncluttered by overdone drama and ridiculous ideals. But when I try to describe them to anyone they become vague and cloudy, unrealistic, covered in laughable expectation.

Does this sound familiar? I have been here before, I know it. Writing is so much easier than speaking. Words are my friends on a page. These are really just excuses. The truth is, my state of mind is the same whether I am writing it out in splendid color or stumbling through it out loud without the aid of the piano in my head. There is so much I wish to be and yet so much I care nothing for or about.

The provocation for revealing this to all the world starts and ends back at last spring ‘s obsession with knights and maidens. I am so moved by extremes, it is flabbergasting to some who know me. I will immerse myself in an idea for weeks or months or years at a time, take it to the edge of all the reason it can hold, and then let it go with a laugh because I am done with it. Each of these obsessions is filled with revelations and epiphanies, a euphoria of discovery after discovery. As embarrassed as I may be to have spent so much time watching Robin Hood, the immenseness and the reams and reams of pages of thinking that little BBC TV show inspired will still bring a secret smile to my face.

I don’t like to be told I was wrong about something. But I love it when I realize I was wrong! Oh the freedom of it! The loveliness! I was wrong and I can change! I don’t have to stay here, I don’t have to wallow in this blah blah blah!

Knights and maidens. My ethereal visions of grandeur inspired by stupid decisions and how those stupid decisions rob us of beauty we could otherwise receive. As with so many of my writings, a year later I often cock my head at them and say to myself, “yes and no.” This particular yes and no warrants a word because I see how I have shot myself in the foot– how many of us have– by a classic withdrawal, and yet we call it by another name. We call it standards. No, it’s not standards, it’s flaming hoops that we want others to jump through to get to our hearts. The alternative? To give love freely no matter what the cost? This is something the world has right in theory, but they have twisted it into the sickly physical form of free sex and casual “relationships”. In other words, stupid decisions with the name “love” smacked on them to account for the pain associated with those stupid decisions.

The truth is that we should love with abandon, expect pain, expect people to let us down, but love anyway. Love withheld quenches the spirit faster than anything, and it’s why religion can be so toxic. We should have conditions to how much we will physically and emotionally give to a person– something they must give us in return– this is healthy. But love must not be confined to a cell of its own within our hearts. There it will only grow cold and small.

The reason for the walls and walls and miles of flaming hoops is that we forget how to love unselfishly. Love is selfish when it is all about us. “Respect for others is a lost art,” my brother said the other day, and he got my wheels turning. He is right. Either way, whether it be a headlong thievery of affection that belongs to another, or a prideful pile of hot coals for all who want to get near us, the real nastiness of it all is a lack of respect for the other person. It’s all about me me me and whether I’ll be happy happy happy. Forget it! Happiness is a decision. Righteousness is a decision. No one is going to make me do right, no one is going to make me be happy, and no nice box of guidelines is going to protect me from the disrespect of others.

The stereotype that I have been guilty of romanticizing in respect to the knight and maiden is a prime offender of tunnel-vision. It’s truly only a tiny piece of a puzzle, this concept of a standard. Having a standard is a good thing. But it is not a good idea to allow our standards to cause us to look down on those who don’t abide by our standard, if it makes us elevate our visions above the hearts of those around us. We should only draw lines about what we ourselves will or will not do. Do you see this, or is it just me? We smack a name on our expectations of life and call them God’s principles, but they are not! God’s principles have to do with what we each individually do with our hearts and minds and bodies, not what we must expect from other people! Our job is to uphold our end of the deal by obedience, and that’s it! We don’t invent other people. We would stink at it! We can only be ourselves.

I think this is often a huge reason why people fail to stick to their marriages. They think the person they love is always going to be sweet and wonderful and treat them well. But it doesn’t work that way in a broken creation. God never lied to us and told us life in this place would be a piece of cake. We just aren’t that strong, that consistant, that understanding! We’re people! If we can’t forgive each other for whatever hurts and harms we go through in our friendships and more-than-friendships and not-quite-friendships, what makes us think we’re going to be so darned great at forgiving our spouse for far more hurtful and close to home words and offenses?

“Love is a bloody and beautiful mess,” my friend Grace said, and she’s right. God made it that way so it would mirror the extreme and utter endlessness of his own love. Read your Bible. It’s the story of the bloody and beautiful mess of life on earth — and there’s nothing like it anywhere.