November 18, 2010

Book Review: The Forest Of Hands And Teeth

I'm not all that into zombies. Werewolves and shapeshifters, absolutely. Fairies, sign me up. Vampires? As long as they come in the half-dressed-Eric-from-Trueblood variety. These are monsters with varying levels of heart and conscience and personality. Zombies have no conscience. They're the walking dead. They're gross. And, they're kind of boring.

But the Forest of Hands and Teeth might just have changed my mind on this point. Not about zombies being interesting in and of themselves, but about them being fun and fantastically fun to read about. This book is, essentially, a postapocalyptic zombie romance (not something I'd generally get excited about, but trust me as I rave). The book centers around a teenage girl named Mary and her life in a small village surrounded by ominous woods (think The Village). The woods are overrun with zombies kept out by the Sisterhood, the Guardians, and a circle of fences. Mary has always dreamed of a world beyond the fences, a place where the Unconsecrated don't fill life with fear. So when the fences are breached and Mary's world is shattered, she and the people she loves must fight their way towards that hope.

There are so many things to love about this book. It's got mystery, it's got a love triangle, and it's got the perfect amount of creepy. That, plus the fact that it's incredibly suspenceful and fantastically well paced. I couldn't reach the end of one chapter without itching to jump into the next. This was a stay-up-until-3AM-even-though-I-have-to-work-tomorrow read. There was constant danger and building drama, but the author also leaves room for contemplation. She uses the growing zombie nightmare as a means of exploring the fragility of life, of human connection, the resilience of the spirit in the face of true adversity, and the yearnings and feelings that define the human condition. Even with a horde of dripping, moaning flea bags banging at the door, this book offers tender moments and introspection. Not to mention the fact that it's very well written and that the main character's voice never wavers. I didn't always like Mary, but I always believed her and believed in her.

The zombies weren't lovable (I'm waiting for the author who can achieve that feat), but they were lovably creepy. Ryan turns the woods and the zombies that plague it into a chilling, unknown world that was a pleasure to step into. The book is tagged as YA, but I don't think this is a strictly 'teenage' book at all. This is a book that I think a huge range of readers could happily fall into.

November 14, 2010


I don't get many visitors in Brisbane - I'm don't know why. Australia is spectacular. I know there are poisonous things here and there, but there are also large lizards and cute bats and stunning sunsets and the most amazing tropical breezes. There are clear, warm beaches, funny accents and wedges with sweet chili sauce. Plus, I make a pretty good hostess. I may not have a bed for visitors to crash on, but I do have these.

Because I made them.

They are called Buckeyes. I found them here.

They involve peanut butter, cream cheese, and graham crackers. They also involve a heap ton of sugar.

You don't even need to bake them. You roll them into balls and dip them in chocolate.

They are by far one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Like Reese's except eighteen times better. And homemade, so you know they're made with love.

So come on over to my place. I'll keep some Buckeyes in the freezer for you. Though I don't guarantee how long they'll last.

November 3, 2010

Nanowrimo 2010

I had mixed feelings about Nanowrimo last year. Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month, wherethe goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month) is all about amassing what seems to me to be a coma-inducing, sanity-quashing daily word count. It seems to be more about putting random words on a page than striving for thoughtful writing. I don't like writing a really crappy first draft, because that means having to go back and rewrite most of it. Editing is hard enough without having to work with half-ass material that wasn't well thought out.

That said, Nanowrimo DOES present an ambitious deadline and an infectious collective writing spirit. So I'm doing it again. Except this time (wait, I did this last year, too) I'm working on a manuscript I'm already 20,000 words into AND I'm not aiming for 50,000 words. I just want to double my word count by the end of the month. That means I'll have reached 40,000 words by November 30th. So there, I've said it. Work and social life be damned, I'm going to get to 40,000. That means about 660 words a day.

... I guess I should probably get going on that.

Linocut Printmaking

So I went to a beginner's linocut class this past weekend as an early birthday present to myself. I've always had a thing about black and white prints, the simple beauty and intricacy of them, the contrast of a black silhouette against a white page. It was a lot of fun and not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I took a sketch I'd drawn of what I wanted to try and create: a silhouette of a bird sitting on snow-covered branches.

We started with a plain piece of linoleum. We traced and outlined our design onto the linoleum with a Sharpee. Then we used little shovel-like tools with different heads to carve out our design. The tricky part was wrapping my head around the black/white concept: whatever I carved out would end up white, while whatever I left behind would end up black on the page. How much ink showed on the page depended on how deeply you cut into the linoleum. This is the part that took me the best part of FOREVER: the artsy illustrator guy to the left of me had carved out two designs in the time it took me to do this puppy. And I'm pretty sure I injured my neck while I was at it.

Then it was time to try printing. I rolled my lino with black ink and lined it up on a giant press. Then I turned the big captain's wheel and pressed the wet inked lino under my chosen decorative paper. And out came several of these:

I had a lot of fun printing my design on different kinds of paper that I plan on turning into this year's Christmas cards. This is such a fun art form and something I plan to play with in future, although I'll have to figure out how to do it without a giant press.