Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shattering the Glass Slipper Writing Competition

Posted by Simcha 5:53 PM, under | 1 comment



A few days ago I had mentioned that I'll be hosting a writing contest, along with Stephanie of Misfit Salon, and I'm excited to announce that the contest is now underway.

As you might have guessed from the image, the contest is related to the story of Cinderella and the goal is to re imagine the classic fairy tale in a new way. Perhaps tell the fairy tale from a new perspective, provide a new ending or take some of your favorite themes from Cinderella to write a completely new story. Anything goes as long as it's somehow related to Cinderella.

For more information about the contest rules and prizes visit the Shattering the Glass Slipper Blog.

And if you have a blog and would like to help spread the word about the competition you can include one of the buttons below in your blog's sidebar.





Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My 2010 Reading Year in Review & Reading Resolutions

Posted by Simcha 7:07 PM, under | 6 comments

I don't usually give too much thought as to which books are my favorite because often it's whatever book I most recently enjoyed. But with book bloggers everywhere putting up their lists of 2010 favorites I decided to give it a try and see if I could manage to pick out my own favorite reads from this past year.

Just a note: The books listed are ones that I've read this year but were not necessarily published in 2010

Fantasy:

Since the majority of the books that I read are fantasy I wasn't surprised to see that most of my favorite books fell into this category. But since of all the books I read only seven of them really stuck out in my mind, I decided to list them all.

Soulless
by Gail Carriger
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Gale Beckett
The City and the City by China Mieville
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Science Fiction:

Looking over my list of science fiction reviews I was disappointed to see how few scifi books I really got around to reading this year. Of those that I did read I chose the three below as my favorites because these are the books which made me realize that reading science fiction doesn't have to me a mental struggle but it can actually be fun and entertaining, with the right kind of book.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Rusch
The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

Young Adult:

While I don't read as many young adult books as adult books I did read a lot more YA this year than I have since my own YA years, though most of the books I read didn't impress me that much. Perhaps I just need to try more of them but of those that I did read (and managed to finish) those were by far the best of the bunch:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Urban Fantasy:

I had the most trouble with this list because half-way through the year I kind of gave up on reading urban fantasies since most of the ones I tried I couldn't even finish. I had already established that Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs were my favorite UF authors and since they each came out with books this year it seemed easy enough to settle on those for this list. But then I recalled one other book that I had a lot of fun reading, and that one usurped the place of Brigg's Silver Borne, which I didn't enjoy quite as much as the previous Mercy Thompson books.

Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler (for some reason I didn't review this one)
Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews


Non-Genre Books:

I really didn't get to read as many non-genre books as I would have liked this past year and I think I'm definitely going to have to make more time for them next year.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (review coming soon)

Best Audio books:

This was the year that I discovered the pleasure of audio books and I am so happy for that discovery since it really allowed me to squeeze in some extra "reading" time, as well as to make chores and work more enjoyable. It was hard to decide which of the audio books were the best because almost all of the ones that I listened to were really well done. There were a few that I didn't finish because the books themselves were too complicated for me to follow while listening to them, but it rarely had to do with the way the books was read. But as for the best, I'm going to settle on the two below because I think I actually enjoyed these books more by listening to them than by reading them myself.

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (hmm, can't find the review..)

Reading Resolutions...

Melissa at My World...In Words and Pages has a New Year's reading resolution post to which she has invited other bloggers to participate and so I thought I would throw together a list of some of my reading goals for the upcoming year.

1. Read more science fiction. I had been trying to read the classic stuff but this bogged me down because I just didn't enjoy a lot of it. This year I'm going to try some of the more modern scifi and see how that works for me.

2. Experiment a bit more with Urban Fantasy. As I mentioned above, I had given up on UF because I couldn't find anything that I enjoyed but I think I should probably give this genre another try and see if any new authors have emerged recently whose books I might enjoy more.

3. Read more short story anthologies. I had dipped into a couple of short story anthologies this past year and ended up enjoying them more than I had expected to and so I'd like to dedicate a bit more of my reading time to trying some other short story collections.

4. Make time for my non-genre reading. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy reading other types of books, especially non-fiction, since reviewing scifi and fantasy has left me very little extra reading time for other kinds of books. But this year I am going to make more of an effort to make time for all the other books that I have been wanting to read, especially those books whichI already have on my shelf.

And that should keep me busy for the next year. I'll be interested to see next January how well I succeeded in accomplishing my reading goals.

If you would like to participate in Melissa's reading resolutions, visit her blog here

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Posted by Simcha 5:07 PM, under | 9 comments

When Justin Cronin’s eight year old daughter expressed her concerns that his books were not interesting enough, Cronin asked what she thought he should do about it. His daughter responded that he should write a book about a young girl (preferably red-headed) who saves the world.

During the next few months father and daughter discussed some ideas for this hypothetical novel until Cronin decided to take the next step and see if this was a story that he actually make something out of. The answer was a resounding yes and The Passage has gone on to become one of the most popular books of the year.

When I started reading The Passage I actually had very little idea of what the book was about. I had added it to my wishlist back in February, after hearing a rave review of it on Books on the Nightstand, but then I made a concerted effort to not read any other reviews to avoid picking up spoilers. All I knew is that the book involved vampires and a young girl (a combination that made me a little nervous). I also knew that the book had become immensely popular and by the time I finally got a hold of The Passage my curiosity about it was pretty intense.

At 784 pages, The Passage can be a bit intimidating, as well as a real challenge to lug around. Even after I finally got the book it took me a while until I felt ready to crack open the pages, since I sensed that this would be a book that might take me a while to get through and so I needed to clear my “reading schedule”. But once I did begin reading I immediately got pulled into the story and into the lives of each of the characters that Cronin so painstakingly created.

Cronin’s way of developing his characters was my favorite part of the book. Each character, no matter how minor, is fully formed, with back-stories and motives which the reader is allowed a glimpse of, even for those characters who are only around for a few pages. Even the “bad guys” will earn reader’s sympathy at times because we have seen the way their mind works and have come to understand them.

The Passage is also the first dystopian book that I’ve read which begins before the events leading to the apocalypse, or world-changing event, have taken place. All the other books I’ve read take place after the world,as we know it has already come to an end and we learn about the past through the current characters, but in The Passage we are actually there when it happens as well as in the future which results from those events. I thought that was pretty neat.

But while I flew through the first couple sections of the book there were other parts that took me longer to get through, where the pacing lags and the story gets a little dull, and in the end it did take me several weeks to finish it. By the time I came to the end of The Passage I admit to being somewhat relieved. While it was a fascinating and exciting book it was also unrelentingly grim, with few (if any) “light moments” which often made it a hard book for me to read. I wasn’t even particularly disappointed that the ending doesn’t wrap up the story in any way, I was just kind of glad to have come to the end.

My feelings about The Passage are mixed. It is an exciting, creative and well-told (aside for a few pacing and wordiness issues) story, but it exhausted me. Despite the fact that- for most part- the story had me hooked, when I wasn’t reading The Passage I didn’t feel compelled to pick it up again. And once I finished The Passage I didn’t feel the intense desire to immediately continue reading the sequel as I usually do with books that I have enjoyed. I’m not even sure if I’m going to read the sequel at all.

I would have to say that The Passage is a book that many people I know would enjoy, but it’s not for everyone. Since I have a hard time reading dark books for a prolonged amount of time I probably would have avoided The Passage if I had known more about it. But even so, I am still glad that I read it even if I don't continue on with the rest of the series.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Look out for it...

Posted by Simcha 10:34 AM, under | 2 comments

If you enjoy writing short stories or have always wanted to give it a try, now is your chance.

Stephanie, from Misfit Salon, and I will be hosting a really fun writing contest during the month of January.

Stephanie has already designed this amazing button (which I am totally in-love with) which will give you a hint about the kind of contest it will be...



More details to follow soon...

A Beautiful Story of Holiday Generosity

Posted by Simcha 7:22 AM, under | 3 comments

I discovered The Bloggess a couple of months ago when Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess) had written a post about meeting Neil Gaiman. Since then I have been a regular visitor to this blog due to Jenny's wonderfully hilarious posts that always leave me smiling. But last week Jenny veered away slightly from her regular irreverent style to offer free $30 gift cards to the first twenty people who leave a message on her blog.

If you’re struggling for money right now and don’t know how you’ll give your kids presents then leave me a comment. You don’t have to use your real name or leave a url or prove anything. Just leave me a comment and your email address (always hidden and never used) and I’ll email a $30 Amazon gift card to the first twenty people who leave a comment explaining why it would make a difference in their lives right now.
Jenny had made some extra money through selling blog-related gift cards on Zazzle.com (there is a whole story here about a boar's head that Jenny bought, and which makes for some entertaining reading) and decided to put it towards gift cards for people who could use a little extra financial help for the holidays. The response was staggering and the gift cards were gone in just ten minutes.

But then, people proceeded to leave comments offering their own assistance to other commentors in need and Jenny's original post received over 500 comments with people sharing their heartbreaing stories and others requesting a way to help.


I am absolutely amazed and inspired by what Jenny Lawson has done here and the way her modest gesture snowballed into something so huge and beautiful. The Washington Post wrote a lovely article about it, which you can read
here.

In Hebrew there is a phrase that we say to congratulate someone who has accomplished something of great value and honor,
Yasher Koach (which is made up of the two Hebrew words for "straight" and "strength"). So Yasher Koach Jenny, you rock!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Free ebook from ChiZine- Limited time only

Posted by Simcha 2:04 AM, under | 1 comment

ChiZine Publication has a special holiday gift for fans of dark fiction; a free ebook of your choice!

Just email them by noon on December 26th with the title of the book that you want, and they will send it to you. Pretty awesome, no?

From their website...

A Free eBook of YOUR CHOICE

Now that you’ve all unwrapped your shiny new Kindles and Kobos, we wanted to give you a very special present—a free eBook of your choice. Yup, totally free, no strings attached, just-because-we-love-you kind of free. Simply e-mail us at czpmas@gmail.com with a message of good cheer and your eBook request. Really, guys, thanks so much for a fabulous year. We are truly grateful for the support and the good will of the reading community at large. So eat, drink and be merry—we look forward to another spectacular year come January...


Visit ChiZine for a list of their books on offer.

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