Category: books (page 1 of 12)

Charming Weekend Read

Friends, I read a thoroughly adorable contemporary romance this week. THE DATING EXPERIMENT by the lovely Elodia Strain (and yes, of course I asked her when I met her several years ago, “Is that your real name?” and yes, of course it is her real name, and yes, of course I’m jealous that she has such an awesome real name).

Elodia has graciously consented to give us an interview here on the ol’ blog space. And since I am a person who loves listy things, she has listed things for our benefit.

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First off, I just have to say I am thrilled to the moon to be visiting the blog of an author who is everything good in this world: Gracious, funny, kind, and bright. I thought I’d include a list of 17 random facts you might not know about me:

  1. The first scene in my new book was partially influenced by my experience working as a palm reader in the Girl Scout booth at a carnival when I was in 6th grade.
  2. My first job was at Carl’s Jr.
  3. One of my earliest memories is of my kindergarten teacher asking our class to describe an apple with adjectives starting with every letter from the alphabet. When she got to Z, I said, “Zesty!” I knew the word from reading the label of Kraft Zesty Italian salad dressing.
  4. I come from a very large Mexican-American family on my dad’s side, and grew up with the last name Saavedra and the nickname Dia. Sometimes on Facebook one of my dad’s cousins will post something about my books and there will be tons of comments from other relatives asking, “Who is Elodia Strain?”
  5. I lived right on the border of Kirkland and Bellevue, Washington (circa 2008) and fell in love with Bainbridge Island.
  6. I’m so Mormon that I worked as a hostess at a restaurant when I was 18, and the first time I took down a drink order it said, “Ginna Tonna.” The bartender laughed and said, “You mean a Gin and Tonic?”
  7. I’ve been terrible at organized sports since elementary school. But I always won a blue ribbon on Field Day for hula hooping.
  8. I co-wrote a song for my high school’s graduating class with now lead-singer of the punk band Survival Guide. Clearly, she was the more musical one.
  9. I used to be really afraid of bugs. Then I lived in Texas for a few years. Now I have a much higher tolerance.
  10. I’ve never finished a piece of black licorice.
  11. In high school and college I drove a red 1967 Mustang.
  12. My first live concert was Third Eye Blind. 90s forever, man!
  13. Whenever I hear a first responder siren, I say a quick prayer for the people those sirens are headed to.
  14. I met my husband in the Cannon Center cafeteria at Brigham Young University.
  15. My parents took me to a fancy lunch at the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco to celebrate my grades, and I saw Courtney Cox and David Arquette’s wedding (mostly just cars and a lot of people) at Grace Cathedral across the street from the hotel windows.
  16. I’ve been a Webelos leader. It was pretty awesome.
  17. The fact that anyone reads anything I write astonishes me.

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Well, I read what she writes, and I find it adorable. in THE DATING EXPERIMENT, Gabby Malone suffers through a ridiculous job as a telephone psychic as she deals with the fallout of… all the parts of her life. Then an opportunity arises for her to join an online dating study, complete with the danger of crossing paths with her ex. There is a vast array of swoon-worth dates (along with the cringe-worthy ones), a sassy and awkward heroine, a gaggle of elderly quilters, spunky teens stuck in a hospital, and the return of a secret crush. It’s a sweet, funny, charming read. Go give THE DATING EXPERIMENT a try.

The Turtle Part

My 11th grade students are reading THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re studying it, though. Because I have this goal – I want them to finish high school LIKING Steinbeck. I love Steinbeck. And so, instead of requiring them to read a book that they won’t likely finish and can’t hurry through and still understand, I chose to go about teaching this book a little differently.

I showed them the movie.

(That was different.)

And now we’re studying some chapters. Today we read the Turtle chapter (it’s chapter 3, if you’re playing along at home). In this chapter, we see a turtle struggle across some landscape and cross a highway. A car swerves to miss it. Then a truck swerves to hit it. It survives, and life goes on*. It’s three pages. Not painful. But so many good things are in there, and I want these kids to know it. So we talked about it. We talked about how it’s all a big metaphor and junk. About how it’s not about turtles at all, and about humanity and evil and kindness and victimization and everything important. And then I made them write about it. I made them write for just 10 minutes – when have you metaphorically swerved to hit? When have you swerved to miss? When have you been the turtle?

Oh, they’re clever kids around here. They wrote amazing, open-heart things about being a Hitter (and almost universally regretting it, minus the kid who confessed that he crumbled [and then stirred] saltine crackers into his little sister’s giant birthday jar of Nutella; he doesn’t regret his choice – Yet). They wrote tender, humble things about being a Misser and how they wish they could more often be a Stopper who gets out of the metaphorical car and makes sure the turtle is okay. And they wrote self-aware things about being the Turtle. About how those people speeding past don’t know anything of their struggles to get to the road, let alone across it. About how sometimes life is hard. About how sometimes people are awesome.

Listen: “Maybe to get to the stage of being the woman who swerves to miss the turtle, you have to have been the turtle before.”

“I see those turtles in the road and I have sympathy for them. I want to make up for my crappy former self that was the one trying to hit all those turtles.”

Maybe none of these kids will ever try to read GRAPES OF WRATH. Maybe none of them will ever like Steinbeck (but not because I wasn’t trying). But for at least ten minutes today, they thought about their actions, and how those actions look to others, and how they will affect the world. That’s why reading.

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* We talked about the weed-seed part, too – and about how Life Goes On, sometimes in spite of our trials, and sometimes because of them.

I love Steinbeck. Have I mentioned that lately?

Wrapping

(As in Wrapping up the Year. I’m not still doing presents the Day After.)

Christmas was lovely and precious and fun and very nearly perfect. After a very not white November and December, we got inches of powdery snow for Christmas morning. Couldn’t have been more pretty. We did happy presents – lots of the Joy of Giving (which translates to lots of the Joy of Getting, too, but the real excitement came for everyone in the presenting of the presents).

The husband and the boy got up early in the dark hours this morning to try the new game: Skiing. The boy’s amazing grandma got him the fifth grade ski passport, which allows him to ski at every Utah resort three times. (!) His dad’s pretty excited to get back in the saddle. (I am pretty sure nobody uses a saddle to ski, but then they might; I’m absolutely not an expert on anything related to skiing.)

I’m writing words (lots of words) (for me), and lying around a great deal, and reading books. I am excited about the books. Unbroken. S. Death Comes to Pemberly. On Writing. Bird by Bird.  So many good words.

Dickensian

Once my dad read a manuscript I’d written, and he wondered if the plots weren’t a little too dramatic. Dickensian, he called it. Did I, he wondered, really mean to make such tragic, permanent things happen to my characters? This might surprise you if you read my books (and if you don’t, let’s just say they’re more character-heavy than plot-heavy, as a rule). But lately I’ve had cause to wonder if the ideal book pitch isn’t swinging back Dickens’ way.

Not that I’m some literary novelist (don’t be ridiculous), but I really enjoy reading (and writing) quieter stories where WHAT HAPPENS is not so important as the people to whom it happens. I tell my writing classes, “I don’t care what happens until I care who it happens to.” (Because I love to break rules about ending sentences with “to” and also because I mean it.) What if I’m the minority?

I am in my classroom now, so I can’t look for this book that I’m thinking of, but a few years ago I read a delightful middle-grade novel that was so unsubtly Dickensian that I laughed my way all the way through it (like I was supposed to). Is that the way I should be structuring my stories’ plots and conflicts? Strange benefactors, the creepy elderly, cartoonish villains with angular knees and elbows, all the orphans, death lurking around every corner?

{UPDATE: The story is called SOLOMON SNOW AND THE SILVER SPOON. It’s adorable.}

These are the thoughts. No answers. Ideas and wonderment and more and more thoughts.

Capturing the Best Stories

Tonight we have a ladies’ night Literacy activity. We’ve all been instructed to bring a used book to exchange. As obedient as I generally am, I couldn’t do it. I had to go out and buy a new copy of the book I’m exchanging. Partly because I can’t give up my original copy… okay, so Totally because I can’t give up my original copy. I love this book – not just the words, but the pages and the bends and the marks on the paper and the smell and all of it.

I’m “exchanging” Dodie Smith’s I CAPTURE THE CASTLE because I love it so, so much. And because it’s unlikely to be stir-y. I don’t want to cause any stirs tonight. I’ve wrapped it in red paper and a raffia bow. The red paper now has my handwritten favorite quotes (from the novel) all over it, and if I didn’t have to (I totally don’t have to) hand it over, I’d keep it because it looks lovely.

Quotes like these:

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.”

“How I wish I lived in a Jane Austen novel!”

“Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself.”

“Contemplation seems to be about the only luxury that costs nothing.”

“No bathroom on earth will make up for marrying a bearded man you hate.”

“Truthfulness so often goes with ruthlessness.”

“I have noticed that rooms which are extra clean feel extra cold.”

“Oh, comfortable cocoa!”

“Miserable people cannot afford to dislike each other.”

“Do Americans kiss each other all the time?”

and

“Perhaps if I make myself write I shall find out what is wrong with me.”

The favorite one is about our main character learning to cook – but it didn’t really go with the others. So I didn’t add it there. But here it is for posterity and whatnot:

“I scrubbed some rather dirty-looking chops with soap which proved very lingering, and I did not take certain things out of a chicken that I ought to have done.” (I know, right?)

Whirling

All the things. They’re happening. But not as quickly as they have been happening, and for that little slowdown, I am grateful. I’m helping out with a before-school ACT prep class, in which I explain to kids the irony of the ACT’s dictum against “wordiness,” the “rule” that one uses dashes only in pairs, and the foolery that is Long Sentences Making You Think That Objects of Prepositions Are Actually Subjects of Sentences. [1]

I passed a Praxis test, which is a good step toward teachery legitimacy. I’m all over legitimacy.

I’m teaching TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to my sophomore darlings now, and they’re an even split between liking it and hating it. Also, I read every few chapters out loud to them, and I do my share of shocking by the words that come out of my mouth. I remind them (as often as I remember to) that these aren’t my words, that I wouldn’t normally say some of these words, that we’re developing character through the use of these words, and that if you find yourself offended by my use of these words, I’m sorry for the offense (but not for the words). One thing that’s shocked me is the number of parents who have come in or emailed or spoken to me directly to tell me that “Ick, I hated that book.” I can’t stop my “WHAT!?!?” when we’re in person, but in an answering email I can usually keep it to a polite, “Well, I hope your child has a better experience with the book than you did.” Because WHAT!?!?! Seriously, people. How? I love this book so, so dearly.

And meanwhile, I’m not earning any awards for Wife of the Year. My poor Husband. He’s a champ and he’s always so kind to me, but I know my life of Wearing Thin is wearing thin for him, too. Thanks goodness for Costco’s frozen Orange Chicken, because at least once a week, we get a real meal round here. (THIS IS THE STATE AT WHICH I HAVE ARRIVED. FROZEN DINNER MEANS REAL MEAL.)

Keeping heads above water. That’s the plan.

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[1] One of the things I say frequently around school is “If it’s already an object, it can’t be a subject.” People think I’ve lost it. They may be right.

A Proud-Making Moment

My 10-year-old son just finished reading THE BOOK THIEF. He worked on it for several days, but it’s literacy month at his elementary school, so he’s got loads of external push for reading a bunch of minutes. Today he spent two and a half hours finishing it, and when he was done, he walked down the stairs, sighed a great 10-year-old sigh, said, “That was so good,” and climbed into my lap for a hug. I didn’t mention his flushed cheeks or the redness of his eyes. I told him “I know.” Because I do know. That is a brilliant piece of writing — a heart-filled work of art.

Tomorrow we will go to the Dollar Movies and watch the film adaptation. I’ll have the discussion about “different art forms” three or four more times, but I know it won’t change the disappointment he and his sisters will feel. They come from a line of people who feel personally offended by any change to favorite works of literature. Some of us grow out of it. Some of us don’t. Some of us slip in and out of the two camps — wishing things could be made visual in the precise way they play out in our heads for one story; being satisfied with a different vision for others. [1]

In any case, it makes me proud that he would tackle that book — all 550 pages, and that his heart is large enough to feel all the feels that go with it.

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[1] For instance, I may never forgive the terrible adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s brilliant DESPEREAUX; but I’d watch the film of HOLES over and over. (But, HOLES is really, really true to the book, thanks to Mr. Sachar’s screenwriting abilities; so, there you go.)

A New Book For All The World to Read and stuff…

Guys! My cute friend Christy has a new book! And I would like you to know all the things about it! And see its gorgeous cover. Also, Scary Fingernails ala Wolverine. So here you go…

 

Blurb:

. . . because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery’s family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a psychic for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn’t think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She recently moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has a best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital—and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities.

After Aunt Avril comes to Star Valley in pursuit of a supernatural killer, people begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened. When the janitor reveals that an ancient curse, known as a geis, has awakened deadly powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy.

A thrilling debut novel based in Celtic mythology, Awakening is a gripping young adult fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.


Author Bio:

Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Geis series for young adults, and The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.

@christydorrity

Links for purchase: