Monthly Archives: June 2012

Shadow And Bone

Fantasy reads fall into three categories for me: #1) (most frequent) good plot, bad-to-mediocre writing, #2) bad plot, who-cares-about-the-writing (it’s usually bad), and #3) (hardest to find) great plot, great writing.

Shadow and Bone is a definite #3. An incredibly talented writer, Leigh Bardugo creates a vivid world of magic and medieval darkness, complete with teenage romance, a coming-of-age-with-fireworks story, and the cherry on top, a really intriguing villain (the kind you hate to love and keep rooting that he’ll turn himself around–I won’t say if he does or he doesn’t).

But the true gem of this book was the writing. It flowed as effortlessly as a hot knife through butter. I highlighted so many passages that I might as well had highlighted the whole thing. My hat off to Leigh Bardugo (and her editor) for her skills. The best compliment I can pay is to say that I can’t wait for the second book, and unlike with many other series, this time I’ll remember every single detail of the first one.

I probably couldn’t say much more than some of the reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere have already said, and I don’t want to take away your reading pleasure by slipping in spoilers because of my enthusiasm. So I’ll just urge you to read it–if you’re a fantasy fan, you’re bound to like it.


Find Shadow and Bone here

The publisher also made the first five chapters available for free here

And this is the UK version, entitled “The Gathering Dark”




Machine Gun Preacher

I just finished watching “Machine Gun Preacher,” a movie in which Gerard Butler portrays Sam Childers, a man who turned his life around and is now running a charity in Sudan and Uganda.

A few thoughts:

– Devastating. What’s happening in the African war zones comes to my mind frequently, but I have to admit that at times it all becomes a little bit of a philosophical concept than an on-the-ground reality. Movies and documentaries are good reminders to keep the reality top of mind.

– I wish it didn’t take movies to remind us of these atrocities, but I’m grateful that they exist and someone realizes the importance of making them.

– It’s hard not to feel guilty; I try to remind myself that feeling guilty doesn’t solve the problem. And that compassion is completely different than guilt. So I donate what I can, and I hope that one of these days I’ll be able to get involved in more significant ways.

– It’s also hard not to feel disgusted by everything that’s happening around you, by all the trivial pursuits and petty complaints; unlike guilt, I wish everyone realized how few things in this life, in this world, truly matter, and we all started behaving more like human beings and less like rabid wolves. I know I engage in stupid, petty things all the time, especially during my work day. I’ll make a much more conscious effort to not do that anymore and this time I won’t need another movie to remind me of what really matters.

– What an amazing spirit Sam Childers seems to possess. What he’s doing is outstanding. And I bet that the reality is a lot more harrowing than even the movie portrayed. It also turns the idea of individual transformation on its head and provides an example of how one person living on the fringe of humanity, where little hope ever exists, can end up changing and making a massive difference in the world if they put their mind to it.

– I hope that Carpe Terram will someday become a beacon of life for those in need. I realized that what I described in Healers is much too timid. I am going to be a lot bolder in Rebels, and make sure the message of freedom and food for all is much clearer and more vividly illustrated (even if it’s still fiction).

– Everyone should watch this movie. Because I think collectively we can make a difference, even if it is simply by donating. Everyone can make a difference if they want to.

You can find the Machine Gun Preacher site here. You can donate to their charity here. And this is the movie trailer:



Carpe Terram!


Snow White and The Huntsman

Today I went to see Snow White and The Huntsman. If you don’t like spoilers then this is where today’s blog post ends for you. Thanks for reading!

But if you have seen it or can’t stay away from the temptation of a spoiler, read on after the trailer…


You have to have some creative chops to bring depth to an old good vs. evil children’s story. Especially one in which you cast Kristen Stewart, and pitted her against Charlize Theron. (Sorry, I just think Kristen Stewart only knows how to play Kristen Stewart. Bella Swan, Snow White… same character, different wardrobe.)

So, while the movie wasn’t as wowing as the trailer promised, here is what I think made it worth watching:

1. The characters have more depth than in the fairy tale. Snow White is still the beautiful little princess, but she’s not this confident, smiling, amazingly joyful, full of love woman, she’s just a scared teenager (of course, it helps that Kristen Stewart only knows how to play SAI – scared, anxious, insecure). The wicked step-mother is even more evil than in the story, but her evilness comes from a spell cast on her as a child by her own mother (which she couldn’t have really controlled), so she’s not evil just because that’s who she wanted to be. (And Charlize Theron does an amazing job on the role.) The seven dwarves are still good-hearted people, but with a lot of spunk and gritty looks.

2. The relationships are more realistic than in the fairy tale: the prince doesn’t get the princess; the “commoner” does. Or so I like to think. The ending can be left to interpretation, but I believe she picked the Huntsman (especially since it was his kiss that brought her back to life, not the prince’s). (Which brings me to another point: really, just one dry kiss while she was technically dead? It was a movie for adults. Spell it out next time, it would be nice to know what they feel about each other, otherwise it’s kinda pointless.)

3. The setting was dark and more Game of Thrones than Disney theme park. You could feel the terror everywhere, and the depressing medieval setting and the dark forest were characters of their own. As was the mirror (which looked more like a gong or an over-sized gold plate).

So if you like a good twist on an old story, you should watch it.

P.S.: Next movie I’m going to see? Magic Mike. That trailer was hysterical (I want to see it for the humor, who cares about Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey stripping? Just the way men buy Playboy for the articles.) Plus, I need something to balance out the “dryness” in Snow White. 😉

Imagine A World

This reminded me of the message in Healers… (Especially the final words: Do Epic Sh*t :))


True To Who You Are

A while back I shared Jessie J.’s Who You Are. A friend sent me another version, filmed in NYC in the subway, from what the singer calls “The Boombox Series.” It’s cool to see, because it’s such a powerful “I am who I am and I’m not afraid to show it” message.

A Book Is Never Finished

I worked on Healers for a very long time, and went through so many drafts that I stopped counting. Every time I went to bed thinking “this is the one,” I woke up the next morning and realized the work was far from over. When I finally recognized that there wasn’t much left for me to do without the help of others, I gave it to my reader friends and told them to have at it.

That moment, when I realized I had just submitted myself to an emotional public flagellation, was a major milestone. It’s nerve-wracking, especially if your first instinct is never “look at me, I’m so great.” My readers came back with comments and I breathed once more: they didn’t say “this sucks,” as I was sure they would, but they actually enjoyed it very much. And most importantly, the feedback they gave me was incredibly valuable because it opened up my eyes to many details that would have escaped me otherwise.

So I went through the book again, after each piece of feedback, and then again, because I ended up building on the feedback myself. But each time, there was a very clear, tangible improvement in the book. That’s always such a moment of wonder–just when you think it’s done and you have nothing left to give, you realize you’re still very far from reaching the limit of your creativity.

But there does comes a time when you have to say, “it’s done.” And that time is difficult to recognize and acknowledge. Because the truth is, the work is never done. You could spend a lifetime re-reading the book and finding things to change, language to edit, and details to fix. And even then, you will still find readers who aren’t quite pleased with the outcome. And then, it’s never done because the characters have already taken a life of their own, and they continue to live in your mind. You end up knowing them so well that you realize no book you can write will ever do them justice.

Finally setting a book free is an empowering thing. Because you’re making a conscious decision to let go of your insecurities–and boy, what a load of insecurities!–and let others enjoy the fruits of your labor, in the hope that most of them will say “Yeah, this book IS ready and I loved it. Where’s the next one?”