Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blog Book Tour: Maximum Ride

(Cross-posted at Lessons from the Tortoise)

So I was talking about YA fiction the other day, and how I didn't have it to read when I was (ahem) a young adult. So I'm making up for it now, and my latest foray was James Patterson's Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. As my earlier reading choices indicate, I was and am a sucker for plot: move it fast and I'm yours for the ride. A little mystery and a little romance are good, too. Maximum Ride has all of the above. It reads, indeed, like you're watching a movie: every scene can be visualized, every encounter moves the plot forward. It's exciting and fun, and it's absolutely meant for kids from about 12 to 16. (Nick, who just turned ten, started it, but I found his bookmark on page 54, right where the first kiss takes place He swears that's not why he stopped reading, but he also hasn't asked for it back.)

Saving the World is book three of Patterson's Maximum Ride series, but I found it easy enough to start here with a narrator who helpfully brings readers up to speed this way:

Those of you who picked up this book cold, even though it's clearly part three of a series, well, get with the program, people! I can't take two days to get you all caught up on everything! Here's the abbreviated version (which is pretty good, I might add)…

Max, the titular character (yes, Maximum Ride is a name), narrates about half the chapters, with the others going to an omniscient narrator who's able to fill us in on the action that takes place out of Max's sight. And there's plenty: winged kids, werewolves, a talking dog, telepathy, cloning, and blogging (yes! Blogging as a plot point!) keep the story moving forward. There's an appealing cast of characters, though I did have trouble keeping a few of them straight at first (with names like Fang, Iggy, Angel, Gasman and Nudge, they did all run together at times--particularly Nudge, whom I'd completely forgotten until I picked up the book to refresh my memory). And while the "evil scientist wants to rule the world" storyline has been done before, and while the evil scientist lapses into explanatory mode much in the manner of a James Bond villain, and to similar effect (allowing our heroes enough time to reflect and perhaps save themselves) a little too often, still the overall effect is exciting and fun. The short chapters (2-3 pages) contribute to the sense of urgency and speed. I might quibble with the snarky knowingness of the narrative, which too often addresses the reader in a somewhat postmodern "this is all a fiction, right?" way, but I have to admit I also find it fun--and, more to the point, I think a lot of teen readers will.

This book is pure escapism. It'll make a great movie (and I can't wait to see the special effects.) Sure, there's a message--"kids can make a difference"--but the pleasure of the book is in the action and the characters--and that's a considerable pleasure.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I made this

I finished this shawl a while ago but I kept forgetting to take it into the Yarn Lounge to show it off, and I always like their FO shots better than mine. So now you can see it. I've got several projects going now and I'm hoping I'll finish one or two on my upcoming trip to Kyoto (!)--but I'll also make sure to take this along. It's perfect for air-conditioning.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Harry Potter Factor

(Cross-posted at Lessons from the Tortoise)

My new column is up, and it comes with a spoiler warning. So if you haven't finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but you think one day you might want to--and you don't want to know ANYTHING about it--well, then, don't click on this link. (I don't give it all away, by any means, but I just couldn't keep it all to myself.)

Here's a spoiler-free taste:

17 years. That's how long I've been a mother. It's also how long J.K. Rowling has been living with Harry Potter. She started the series while pregnant with her first daughter, Jessica, in 1990; my daughter, Mariah, must be a little older than Jessica, then, as she's rapidly approaching her 18th birthday at the end of this year.

10 years. That's how long I've been the mother of two: Nick's tenth birthday was this month. It's also how long Harry Potter novels have been out in the world available to read. My mothering life, then, has tracked the Harry Potter series in more ways than one.

Mariah and I began reading the books some time in 1998 or 1999, I think, before the biggest hype but after the first book was available in my public library. At first I didn't know I'd be buying them all (in multiple copies, no less!). I just thought I was sharing another fun book with my daughter.

We read the first few books together, sprawled on a couch, each wedged into a corner with our feet meeting in the middle. As we continued reading, she grew taller -- and her reading got faster -- so we read them sequentially, talking about them over meals...

Read the rest here...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the news of the day... that I just sent back my contract for my contribution to Mama, Ph.D.: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life. Go check out the list of fabulous contributors, the table of contents, and the editors' blog about the book. I'm really excited to be in this essay collection--not least because one of the editors is my sister Caroline. So cool!

Monday, August 13, 2007

new stuff

There's always good stuff to read over at Literary Mama, as I hope you know by now. This month I particularly like this piece by children's lit author Gail Gauthier about being a mom who does tae kwon do.

(cross-posted at the other blog...)

Friday, August 10, 2007


Nick's back from camp, with a sunburn, several new beaded creations and one leather wristband, a garbage bag full of dirty clothing, and a request for "food like we normally eat. Not hot dogs."

Must be doing something right...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

free books

Just in case you read this blog but not my other one, I'm directing you over there today to find out about the Pay It Forward Book Exchange. Go, now!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I'm the UN!

Found this over at Wormwood's Doxy and I love it! (She's South Africa, which is actually really cool...)


You're the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to
completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long
way to go. You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each
other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of
beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart
is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Mark and I will have been married twenty years in early September. A month or so ago we realized there was no way to get a vacation in together then, as he'll be just starting the new semester in a new job. And the kids will be back in school. So we decided to take a long weekend together alone, and that was last weekend. We went to Asheville, NC (and we'll go back--it was great!), we went whitewater rafting, we ate fabulous food, and we generally had a great time. We hadn't been away alone together in fifteen years (not counting a conference or two, since those aren't vacations). We've decided not to wait another fifteen years.

Mariah is away for a week at her annual songfest with PII (People International, Inc.). She will live in a hotel with a group of kids and adults who come together annually to sing, dance, talk, laugh, eat, and put on a show for charity. So far the text messages suggest that all is well.

Nick's birthday party was yesterday. He did, as promised, bake his own cake--a crazy cake with buttercream frosting (I made the frosting). He frosted the cake and sketched in the designs, which I then (rather inexpertly) applied. As far as we could tell, everyone liked it.

And now Nick is off to camp for five days, leaving tomorrow morning. The house will feel very empty. But Mark starts work this week as well so it's a good time for a little peace and quiet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ten for Ten

1. Nick turns ten today.

2. Ten years ago I missed two weddings because I was pregnant with (or giving birth to!) him. This summer, he's been to two weddings.

3. In the last year he's earned a black belt in tae kwon do, a spot on a dance team, and a pretty good chunk of change at his lemonade stand. (Currently on hiatus.)

4. He's going to his first sleep-away camp next week, after recently making it through his first "weekend with a friend so your parents can leave town."

5. His birthday party will be Saturday, and he insists on baking his own cake for it.

6. When he was only a year old he came in second in a "most photogenic baby" contest. (Yes, that's the picture.) I'm not sure he knows this.

7. He's got a great smile, a bit of a temper, a terrific hug, and an insistent eye for mistakes, misspellings, typos, contradictions…

8. He's read all seven Harry Potter books. Today he said he didn't think he'd read them again, but I'm betting he will. He's a big reader and re-reader. At one point he was known to sleep with Bullfinch's Mythology under his pillow.

9. He hates mushy stuff in movies and walked out on Ratatouille for what he called "a weird romance." But Friends was his favorite TV show for years.

10. He's a youngest child with certain first-born characteristics, no doubt because his older sister has until recently seemed more like one of the grownups than an ally. Right now they're off on a kids-only lunchdate.

Happy Birthday, Nick!