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I’ve just finished a couple of books.  The first one, Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison, was pretty good.  This book is fairy tale-ish along the lines of Snow White.  But instead of re-telling the fairy tale, the story follows the wicked queen’s magic mirror.  The story begins with two peasant girls, apprentices to a local witch.  The girls think of themselves as sisters but the first sister only seems to care about beauty.  She becomes more and more power-hungry and evil, eventually trapping her sister in a mirror. 

The rest of the book is about the mirror’s journey.  Not just her physical journey, but her emotional one, too—how she enters the lives of two other girls and as she helps to change them, she herself changes and learns what love is. 

I found the writing in this book quite good.  It flowed very well and it must have been hard to show everything from the point of view of a wood-and-glass mirror that has to be carried everywhere, but it was wonderfully done and didn’t feel contrived for the most part.  The story was fascinating and made me want to keep reading.  The characters seemed real and fun and interesting.  The mirror’s gradual change in feelings and beliefs was done pretty well; there were only a few spots where I was pulled out of the story to think, “Where did that come from?  That was sudden.”

When I finished the last page last night I closed the book, puzzled.  It was not a very satisfying conclusion.  Yes, there’s redemption and a form of happiness, I suppose.  But it felt very rushed and not complete.  I wanted to see much more of Mira, after all her long years of waiting. 

Final grade: B+

 

Deeper by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

I also (finally) finished Deeper this week.  It’s a sequel to Tunnels, which I read last year and found very different, boring in some parts, and quite scary/freaky in a lot of ways.  I was interested enough to read the sequel, I guess.  These books follow two teenage boys who stumble upon a mysterious Victorian society deep under the streets of London.  In Deeper, the boys go…where else?…deeper underground, many miles below the surface of the earth.  They encounter strange plants, animals, giant bugs, lots of dirt and dust, really evil bad guys, and a plot to take over the earth.

It took me a really long time to read this book…nearly two months.  That’s because I found a large part of it really boring.  It’s far too long, for one thing—I love long books if the story is a page-turner, like Harry Potter.  I can’t get enough.  But for this book, most of it felt like all they did for several hundred pages was wander around in the dark, exploring yet another dusty, hot tunnel.  643 pages of this can get pretty old.  I think I only kept plodding through it because after 300 pages I thought, “I can’t bear to waste all the time I already spent…I might as well finish.”  So I’d read in brief, 10-minute stints.  The characters are okay, but really annoying at times, and they do things that don’t really make a lot of sense.  They’re not completely believable.   The authors also seem to have a goal to be as gross as they possibly can…gory stuff, really disgusting stuff, they don’t seem to care as long as it’s nasty.  Perhaps they think this really appeals to teenage boys?

That said, though, it did get more exciting toward the end, and I’ll probably force myself to read Freefall, the next book, when it is published in the U.S.  (It’s already available in the U.K.)  I do feel vaguely interested in the fate of the characters.  But if you have to “force yourself” to read something, that kind of speaks for itself.

Final grade: C+

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Shannon Hale needs no introduction.  If you haven’t read her books yet, they are wonderful and I highly recommend them.  She and her husband Dean co-wrote their first graphic novel last year, Rapunzel’s Revenge.  The sequel, Calamity Jack, will be out…possibly sometime next year?  I didn’t hear a date for that one yet.  It’s got a cool cover, though!

Shannon and Dean did a half-hour reading/Q&A session on Saturday afternoon.  But before they read, they said they wanted to show us how their collaboration works by doing an “interpretive dance.”  Shannon assured us that they had never practiced or rehearsed this dance, but she knew it was some brilliant choreography.  Enigma’s “Return to Innocence” played as they did their slow poses.  But enough description…on to the pictures!

                         

 

            The pictures can’t do it justice.

 

After this hilarious (oops, I mean thoroughly moving) performance, Shannon and Dean read from Rapunzel’s Revenge.  Shannon took the part of Rapunzel; Dean read Jack’s part.  I took a short video with my phone but it’s not good quality and hard to hear, so if you want to listen, turn your speaker up:

"Rapunzel’s Revenge" reading

Here’s Dean modeling the Rapunzel poster:

Shannon and Dean also showed us the way “movie kisses” are done, with the girl being leaned unnaturally far back and head twisted strangely to the side:

There was quite a lot of kissing going on, actually.  :)  They informed us that this is the way Rapunzel ends.

 

After the reading, the Hales took some questions.

 

Q: What’s your biggest waste of time while working?

A: Not doing it.

 

Q: What’s your biggest waste of money on writing stuff?

A: I don’t spend a lot of money on writing.

 

Q: Why did you choose The Goose Girl as the fairy tale for your first novel?

A: I read Robin McKinley’s Beauty many years ago and it really stayed with me.  My favorite fairy tales are not necessarily my favorites, but the ones I actually like the most are the ones that bother me the most—the ones that raise the most questions.  [Dean interjects: That’s why she married me, too…I wasn’t her favorite, but I bothered her the most.]

 

Q: Do you ever get burned out coming up with ideas?

A: No.  I never seem to run out of ideas.  But one thing I try to make sure I do is have time to read for fun, so I don’t get burned out on writing.  It recharges me.

 

Q: Was River Secrets hard to write from a male point of view?

A: As a kid, I swore I would never write from a male perspective.  But by the time I started working on this book I knew Razo so well that it just came naturally.  Dean corrected me in a few places, to help me know how a boy would see things.  [Dean: I think there were only two places like that.]

 

Q: How much do you write each day or week, and how do you balance it?

A: Dean: I try to allocate time as possible.  I still work a full-time job.

Shannon: I set daily goals of words.  Right now my goal is 1,000 words per day, Monday-Friday.  I used to be able to write during my first child’s nap but now, with two children, that isn’t possible.  I do hire a sitter a few hours a week and I sometimes write at night if I haven’t reached my goal.

 

Q: Dean, what can you tell us about your picture book?

A: Shannon was busy writing one night, so I thought, “I’ll do some writing, too.”  I wrote the text of a picture book I called Scapegoat.  It really was a perfect name, I thought!  It’s about a little boy who blames everything he does on the family goat. 

One day we were in New York—why were we there again?  [Shannon: We were on the Today show, honey.]  Oh yes, that’s right!  Anyway, Shannon was in a meeting with her publishers and I was waiting for her so I showed the book to her agent.  The agent liked it and said, “Let’s do it!”  But they made me change the title.  They said kids wouldn’t understand what a scapegoat was.  Also, I had to change the name of a character.  He had a wonderful name: “Hasby the Croat.”  They were afraid it would be offensive to Croatian people, plus they were pronouncing it “Cro-at” and it didn’t at all fit with the rhyme scheme.

 

Q: What’s your favorite music?

A: Oh goodness, no idea!  Right now we have 800 songs on the iPod.  My current favorite song is “Golden Years” by David Bowie.

 

The very talented Rapunzel illustrator, Nathan Hale, was also in the room.  That is, until they started up their dance again at the end and asked him to join them!  He escaped—err, I meant, had to leave—very quickly.

Nathan Hale

Shannon and Dean were absolutely delightful to watch/listen to.  My whole family thoroughly enjoyed their presentation and my husband liked it so much that he went down to the bookstore, bought Rapunzel’s Revenge, and insisted on getting it autographed to him. 

 

It was a thrill to meet one of my favorite authors.  If you ever get the chance to see the Shannon/Dean dance team, you shouldn’t miss it.

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