New Release: The Thorn Necklace, by @FrancescaBlock

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For devotees of Bird by Bird and The Artist’s Way, a memoir-driven guide to healing through the craft of writing

A cinematic exploration of the writing life by Francesca Lia Block, the bestselling author of the Weetzie Bat series of magical-realism novels, The Thorn Necklace offers visceral insights and healing exercises for the writer who creates as a way to process pain and adversity. Gently guiding the reader down the write-to-heal path, Block offers guideposts of awareness for writers, such as how to find a muse, channeling agony into art, putting chaos into order, ignoring the inner critic, personal perseverance, and thriving as an artist in a troubled world. The author also addresses the intrinsic value of channeling our experiences into the written word, and provides compassionate support to the reader for his or her own write-to-heal process.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles to a poet and a painter, their creativity an obvious influence on her writing. Another influence was her childhood love of Greek mythology and fairy tales.
She has lived in the city all her life, and still resides there with her daughter, Jasmine Angelina (about whom she wrote her book Guarding the Moon), her son Samuel Alexander, and her two dogs: a springer spaniel named Vincent Van Go Go Boots and a beagle mix named Thumper.

She left only to attend the University of California, Berkeley. She has often professed her love of Los Angeles, calling it a “Jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city,” which she has nicknamed in her books “Shangri-LA.”

Find out more:

Novels in Verse

I can’t remember if I’ve brought this to the blog in the past or not, so I’m going to assume it was just on Facebook and/or Twitter. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about VERSE NOVELS!

What’s a verse novel? Maybe you know them as “novels in verse”. There are a few terms to use, but they all boil down to one obvious thing: They are novels written in verse (poetry) instead of prose (what everything else is written in).

Why do I enjoy them so much? That should be somewhat obvious. I’m a poet. I enjoy poetry. And you also know I enjoy novels in general. Once I discovered the magic of joining the two forms, I was hooked.

I first read a verse novel back in grade school. It was Karen Hesse’s OUT OF THE DUST. I remember talking about the fact that it’s written in blank verse, but that fact dissolved in my memory shortly after. I remember enjoying the story, but that was all. That is, until I rediscovered the form a few years back in Sonya Sones’ writing. I found out about her book WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW. I read it. Enjoyed it. Got hooked. I’ve since read all of her books (except one, because I don’t want to be without more of Sones to read) and from there, branches out into other authors work.

I have to admit that I’ve stuck mostly to Young Adult verse novels. It’s not completely by choice, though, partly it is. There seems to be a larger amount of verse novels for YA readers out there, compared to those for “adult” readers. I also think it’s a marketing thing because I’ve discovered a few adult titles are marketed as being poetry, but lacking take about the story aspect. Probably a few reasons for this, but I won’t speculate here. But back to my mention of YA novels. I think most of my recent YA reading has actually been done with verse novels. YA is already a pretty accessible type of book for anyone to get into, but adding in the verse form makes it even more so. And not in a bad way. I think it makes them “easier” to read while opening the story up to having a deeper message, emotional response, etc. Verse forces the author to be limited in word choice (in most cases), and I feel this makes every word used count that much more. The books may be fast reads, but I feel that I’ve gotten more out of them at times than prose novels because of the lack of words and focus on what really needs to be said.

On a less critical, and more fun note, I also like when authors play with the visual form in their verse novels. One author who does this in many different ways in all her novels is Ellen Hopkins. Her text isn’t restricted to the left side of the page. It’ll jump to the right, middle, and everywhere in between. The text placement lends to the reading of the lines and what’s being conveyed. Some of the connection between text and text placement can go over my head, even, but I don’t think her books would be as powerful if they were all left-aligned. That works for other authors, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. But at times, poetry needs to push itself across a page, be different, and stand out.

I hope I’m not alone in my love of verse novels. I do know a few of my readers have experience with them. Maybe some of you haven’t explored that part of the book world yet. I’m here to help. I’d like to close this post out with a list of verse novels I’ve enjoyed. Some of them are as recent as this week…and I’m planning on grabbing a few more from the library soon. They’re addicting!

#Review: Necklace of Kisses, by @FrancescaBlock. A #WeetzieBat book

Necklace of KissesTitle: Necklace of Kisses (Weetzie Bat #6)
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Rating: 4/5 stars

Where were the kisses? Weetzie Bat wondered.

And so behind a magical journey of discovery. As she turns forty and the relationship with her secret-agent lover-man Max falls apart, Weetzie packs up her lime green and bright orange bikini, orange suede sneakers,and Pucci tunic, jumps in her ’65 mint green Thunderbird, and leaves.

Weetzie finds herself at the enchanted pink hotel in sparkling Los Angeles, where she once shied away from a kiss that may have led her to the love of her life. Now she returns, perhaps in search of her lost passion, and meets an otherworldy cast of characters, among them a blue-skinned receptionist, an invisible cleaning lady, a seductive fawn, and a sushi-eating mermaid who gives her a kiss that sets the wheel of self-discovery in motion.

Block invests every scene with equal shots of magic and realism, rendering her heroine and supporting players in vivid, poetic detail. In Necklace of Kisses the fans that have grown up with Weetzie Bat will be able to meet her in adulthood and find that life is still no less trying and no less full of wonder.” (description from Goodreads)

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Necklace of Kisses is the book in Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat books. I read the first five books in the Dangerous Angels collection and loved every minute of it. While Necklace of Kisses differs from those books, in my opinion, Block’s writing is just as captivating.

As I said, I found this book to have a different feel than the rest of the Weetzie Bat books, though this wasn’t a thing that turned me off. One thing that made this change (that I’m not really sure I can accurately put into words) feel natural is that Weetzie is now 40. She’s grown up. She’s a mother of college kids. And she is just now finding herself. As readers, we’ve aged with Weetzie, as well. And behind the beautiful language, magical characters, and otherworldly experiences Weetzie has in this book, there is a story that we can all relate to. I may not be Weetzie’s age, but we all have a time in our life when we need to go out and find ourselves. For her, it just happened a little later in a magical, crazy life.

I’m not going to come out and say this was my favorite book of the series. I think the first book will always hold that place for me for many reasons. However, the fact that Block has shared this cast of characters’ lives with us over many years, and still can keep the magic in her books, that’s what’ll keep me reading her work. It’s also what’ll keep me coming back to this series (I still have the prequel, Pink Smog, to read next) for as long as it may go on. I wouldn’t be opposed to reading about Weetzie, Max, Dirk, and Duck all in rockers watching grandchildren grow up before their eyes.

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You can grab yourself a copy of this collection from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles to a poet and a painter, their creativity an obvious influence on her writing. Another influence was her childhood love of Greek mythology and fairy tales.
She has lived in the city all her life, and still resides there with her daughter, Jasmine Angelina (about whom she wrote her book Guarding the Moon), her son Samuel Alexander, and her two dogs: a springer spaniel named Vincent Van Go Go Boots and a beagle mix named Thumper.

She left only to attend the University of California, Berkeley. She has often professed her love of Los Angeles, calling it a “Jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city,” which she has nicknamed in her books “Shangri-LA.”

Find out more:

#NationalPoetryMonth Challange!

That’s right: I’m CHALLENGING YOU! As we all know, April is National Poetry Month (international if you want to say. It’s spread pretty far by now.) I like to celebrate it on A Life Among the Pages, and this year is no different. Bringing awareness to poetry and new poetry to readers is always a great goal, even if just one more person gets into poetry. It’ll still be a win. So let’s kick this month off by bringing back a graphic you may remember from last year…

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Poetry Month FB Banner

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Remember that? Either way, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it this month.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I’m challenging everyone reading this to do: Read a book of poetry. Simple enough right?

I challenge each and every one of you to go out and find a book of poetry that you think you’ll enjoy. Then read it. It could be a single poet collection. It could be a multi-poetry anthology. And if that’s a little too much for you, maybe try easing yourself in with some single poems you find online. As long as there’s an attempt to try to read more poetry, that’s all that really matters.

I know many of my readers read poetry even if it’s occasional. But maybe some of you would like a few suggestions. I’m not sure if I’m good at suggestions, but I’ll try by listing some of my favorite collections that I’ve read and some poets, as well.

A few verse novel suggestions might help those not ready to dive right in.

And here is a list of Indie poets you might have seen on the blog in the past. They’re definitely worth checking out. I’ll link a collection into each name.

I don’t really know where to steer anyone looking for an anthology. I own so many and many have overlapping selections. You can’t really go wrong with one. Read a few poems from them and if it seems like it’ll click with you, that’d probably be a great choice.

ALSO, as a little self-promotion and a help for you (maybe), you may notice the prices on my ebooks have dropped. For the month of April, on Amazon (since 99.9999999999% of my five sales each year come from there)…

From Where I Stand is only $1.23

and

Winter’s Homecoming and other Poems is only $0.99

AND, because I want to be generous, if anyone would like to read one of these collections/chapbooks but can’t afford to buy one…let me know. If you’re serious about reading it (and hopefully leaving an honest review when you’re done), send me a message and I’ll hook you up. I can give out Smashwords coupons for you to grab it for free. You can get it in any format through them. I’m here to spread poetry and that’s what I’ll do my best to do!

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Have I tired your eyes out yet with all this reading? One most big of housekeeping to do and then you can run off.

STORY TIME FRIDAY and PROSE VERSE BABEL…let’s get them going this month! A lot of poetry has been featured on STF so far, but we’ll keep that going if we can this month. PVB hasn’t been alive in a LONG time. Let’s fix that.

So I’m asking for you all to help by contributing. Find out more on how to submit work to each here:

Story Time Friday

Prose Verse Babel

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Ok folks. That’s all for now. Help spread the poetic word and come back often to the blog for most poetry fun all month!

Half-Read Books: A Reading Confession

Today I’d like to show you a pile of books.

IMG_2716It’s a nice sized pile, isn’t it? Notice anything about it? Not the titles (some well-known ones in there, I know). Run your eye down the left-hand side. You might notice some paper, even a piece of string. What’s all that? Well, if you didn’t guess already, those are bookmarks.

This, my loyal readers, is my pile of half-read books. Aside from a few that I didn’t feel like stacking up on the pile and a few on my Kindle, this is my pile of books that I’ve started and haven’t (yet) finished. Some are from recent weeks. A few, like the Nick Hornby, were started two years ago. (In defense of the Hornby, its columns he wrote for a The Believer, and I don’t feel that they need to be read in a rush.)

It seems like I have a problem. I admit, it is somewhat of a problem that I’d like to fix. There are periods of time when it doesn’t occur, however, reading a portion of a book and putting it down only to have another catch my eye  and start reading that instead has shown me something about myself as a reader. And that is what I’d like to discuss today.

There are many things that plague my reading life. I get easily distracted. I find it hard to sit and read for long periods of time. Because of this, reading one novel could take a week (average, and I’d be pleased with that) or longer. Other readers will devour these same books in a day. Luckily, even with this big different in reading “speed” I think I still enjoy the story the same as devourerers (did I make up a word or just spell it wrong? Oh well.) More on that in a bit. It’s rare that I’ve read a book in one day, but it has happened. Reading one in 2-3 days is an accomplishment for me. Those are often the ones that BLOW ME AWAY, not just blow me away.

I’m not trying to get a pity party going. I know I’m not alone in some of these reading struggles. It’s how we’re built. I can’t, often, read a book straight through even when I love it. I said it. I’m proud. I’m a reader. That’s all that matters. What I would like to focus on is some of the interesting things I’ve noticed in the last few years.

As a kid I devoured some books. When the Animorphs series came out, I read almost the entire series. Many were read almost as they were released. Then I stopped reading, unless it was assigned to me. It was in high school that I discovered books again, but it was also when I realized I don’t read fast. It took me months to read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (one of the first books I bought when I discovered the local used bookstore). While I read that, I also started and finished A Farewell to Arms and many of his short stories. I didn’t think much of this until recently.

Once I started blogging, my reading frequency picked up. I also didn’t have as big of a pile of half-read books until the last year(ish). I got busy. My mind started wandering. It happens. A great thing about blogging, and more importantly reviewing, my memory for books seems to have gotten much better. Or, I never gave my memory as much credit as it deserved. This is one of the key factors to not being (t00) ashamed of my half-read pile.

Most of the books you see pictured above, I can jump right back into and feel like I never put it down. It might take a page or two to recall what I need to keep going, but that’s all. I never would have thought I’d be able to finish some books without restarting them, but I feel that I’ve grown as a reader to the point that these things stick in my head for a long time. Well, once I finish a book, I tend to start forgetting things. But that’s what my reviews are for, and one of the main reasons I started reviewing. They help jump-start my memory after I’m done.

*To interrupt your regularly scheduled reading of this post, I’d like to point out that this is the point of the post where real life started calling. I had to stop writing it, and didn’t get back to finishing the post until more than 24 hours later. Ironic isn’t it? Half-written post on half-read books. I now your regularly scheduled reading, already in progress*

An example of this, World After by Susan Ee. This book was released in November of 2013. I got the book around that time and even started it then. It’s admittedly a fast, very engaging read. But I put it down at some point. Read a chapter or two in 2014…and now I picked it back up the night I started this post. this time, I plan on going to the end. I have less than 100 pages to read now and I’m loving the book. Funny thing is that the same thing happened when I read the first book in the series, Angelfall. It went a little more than half-read until close to release day for book 2. The third book, End of Days is coming out in May and it seems that history has repeated itself. Though, when I get my hands on that book, I’ll have to remind myself there’s no fourth book to wait for and that I should read it in one sitting. The series deserves that after what I’ve put it through.

One of the downfalls of this half-reading habit is that I often tell people “yea, that book is on my TBR” or “It’s next on my list. Can’t wait to read it.” Seems innocent enough. Turns out that I say this much too often, and even if I did start the book soon after saying that, I come to realize I have a long line of books on my Kindle that I said I was going to read months ago. This happened in the last few months of 2014. I met many new authors, got myself some great looking books (and also had some gifted to me), had the intention to plow through the pile. I think, as of today, I’ve read two from the pile. That’s almost nothing. I don’t feel too guilty about this. We have our reading speeds. We have lives. No one expects things. I just don’t like feeling left out of things, especially when I interact with most of these authors daily.

So, to all authors out there: You may remember (or not) whether or not I have your book on my pile(s). You may remember that I said I’d be getting to it soon. I doubt that soon came soon enough. Luckily, I don’t forget most of what I own, and I have every intention of reading it in the next ten years. (Eh, figured I’d close this out in a light note.)

As always, comment with your thoughts. Do you half-read? I’m sure many of you can’t fathom it. Totally understand that too. I know some of you probably start from the beginning, as well. For me, that’d get into rereading territory, and that’s a topic for a totally different post.

Speaking of topics for posts, I’m running on empty here. Tell me what you’d like to read. Tell me if you’d like to write up your own guest post. I’m open to almost anything. Just shoot me a message though the contact form with topic ideas or guest post inquiries. I’d love to hear from you all about anything (almost anything. I have my limits…maybe.)

Now, to read more of this weekend’s book…WORLD AFTER

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2014, A Year in Review(s)

Now that it’s 2015, it’s time to take a quick look back at the 2014 reading year. I’ll be the first to admit it was a strange year (for reading and otherwise). The book world has changed a lot since I started blogging, and in the last year the trend continues, sometimes at a rapid increase.

You may have noticed a change in my blogging, as well. I started out the year with a challenge to read 5 short stories a week and post mini-reviews. That series, A Storied Week, was short lived, though it was fun while it lasted. I also wanted to focus more on my writing and less on reviewing. That was only partly accomplished. I didn’t have as many reviews and I wrote a few things. I hope that, even with the change and less frequent posting, you’ve still found pleasure in stopping by and that you’ve found some great books to check out.

In 2015 I think it’ll be much of the same around here, though I hope that with the recent start of Story Time Friday, reading the blog will be a better experience each week. We’ve already had some great work in the first few weeks. I’ll be trying to include my own work more often this year. And don’t worry, even though I don’t plan on opening my doors for review requests any time soon (closing them was the BEST thing I could have done for my reading and my sanity), I’ll still be reviewing much of what I read. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

So, now that I rambled about all that, how about you continue to the rest of the post, to what you’ve all been waiting for. Here are my “best books read in 2014” lists. As always, there’s no specific order to the lists inside the categories. The first isn’t necessarily my favorite. Also, I decided not to do a list for short stories this year. I read too many, but had many duds.I also read many of them early in 2014, so it’d be hard to recall them for a best of at this point.

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NOVELS

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VERSE NOVEL

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POETRY

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NON-FICTION

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GRAPHIC NOVELS/COMICS

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FAVORITE AUTHORS

  • S.M. Boyce, for her Grimoire Saga which concluded this year with Illusion. I’ve go on and on about Boyce’s writing for years, ever since I read Lichgates in 2012. I was both happy and depressed when her series ended, but it just means I can move onto the next project Boyce has in store for her readers. I’m already clearing space off my shelves for whatever it is.
  • Francesca Lia Block, who first caught my attention years ago with Weetzie Bat. I reacquainted myself with that book and the rest of that series this year. I’ve also ventured into a good chunk of Block’s body of work and 2015 is sure to be a continuation of that journey.
  • Chelsea M. Cameron, one of the authors I met back in September. I’ve known her online early on in this blog’s life in 2012 and have finally begun to read her novels and I’m not sure why I waited so long.
  • Jessica Park will stay on my favorite authors list for some time. Even though she takes her time writing and releasing books (like my other favorite author S.M. Boyce) I know that with my patience I’ll be rewarded with a book worth the wait. This year’s Flat-Out Celeste, a sequel to Flat-Out Love from a few years back, blew me away.
  • Rebecca Makkai, the author of The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House. I read these both this year and have recommended them to many friends since. I’ve also checked out some of the short fiction Makkai has out and it’s just as high up on my list of great work. I’ll be eagerly awaiting this author’s next book. Part of me is hoping it’ll be a collection of short stories.
  • Honorable mentions: Tiffany King (she’ll always be one of my favorites), Tara Sivec (another great author I keep coming back to), Richard Stephenson (his New America series is worth checking out. Book 3 out in the spring), Megan Erickson and Christina Lee (two authors I discovered late in the year but who I know will be filling my “read pile” in 2015).

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BEST OF:

2012 | 2013

Line curvyPlease feel free to comment on this post with some of your favorite reads and authors of 2014. We should always be about sharing the book love!

 

#Review: Psyche in a Dress, by @francescablock

Psyche in a DressTitle: Psyche in a Dress
Author: Francesca Lia Block

Rating: 4/5 stars

“But this is what I could not give up: I could not give up myself Psyche has known Love–scented with jasmine and tasting of fresh oranges. Yet he is fleeting and fragile, lost to her too quickly. Punished by self-doubt, Psyche yearns to be transformed, like the beautiful and brutal figures in the myths her lover once spoke of. Attempting to uncover beauty in the darkness, she is challenged, tested, and changed by the gods and demons who tempt her. Her faith must be found again, for if she is to love, she must never look back.” (description from Goodreads)

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I wrote this review back in April and posted it on Goodreads. In reviewing my reading year of 2014 it seems that I didn’t post the review here on A Life Among the Pages. Today I’ll fix that by posting it now.

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I read Block’s Weetzie Bat a few years ago, and I think that helped prepare me for reading this book. Block has an interesting way with language that is beautiful to read, but can also lead to some minor confusion and rereading. It’s not a fault in the writing though. It helps it stand out and allows for the story to do interesting things.

Block takes well known myths and weaves them together into a set of modern day characters. It’s often hard to tell where the myth and the “real world” aspects of the story are because of the blending and language used. But there’s a beauty to how this story is told. I feel that I’ll need to go back and read it again some time down the road to full appreciate it, though. I wasn’t until about halfway through that I was able to find the flow through the verse, especially with it’s lack of punctuation.

I’d be very interested in reading some other poetry (non verse novel works), after reading this. I’ll have to go see if there’s any out there.

If you’re looking for something different, something that might not “click” right away but will make you think and pay attention, this might be a book to check out.

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You can grab a copy of this verse novel from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles to a poet and a painter, their creativity an obvious influence on her writing. Another influence was her childhood love of Greek mythology and fairy tales.
She has lived in the city all her life, and still resides there with her daughter, Jasmine Angelina (about whom she wrote her book Guarding the Moon), her son Samuel Alexander, and her two dogs: a springer spaniel named Vincent Van Go Go Boots and a beagle mix named Thumper.

She left only to attend the University of California, Berkeley. She has often professed her love of Los Angeles, calling it a “Jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city,” which she has nicknamed in her books “Shangri-LA.”

Find out more: