Review: Allies

Allies by Christie Golden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I have a confession: series books {a.k.a. a book like Star Wars Fate of the Jedi: Allies by Christie Golden} are my guilty pleasure. I don’t read as many as I used to and I don’t read as many series as I used to, but my love of “Star Wars” knows no bounds and so therefore, I gobble up any and everything related to that long ago and far away galaxy.

It’s been a while since a “Star Wars” EU series has captured my attention like Fate of the Jedi. I’ll admit that I missed some of the Yuzhan Vong hoopla (I have always believed that aliens belong in the Star Trek ‘verse, not SW), but when I found out that the end of the series featured a showdown between Solo twins, Jacen and Jaina, I quickly got up to speed. Because not only am I sucker for Star Wars, but I am a huge sap for Han and Leia’s kids, and Luke & Mara’s son, Ben. Which is probably another reason why I am so digging FOTJ.

The premise of the series is interesting and different from other EU works. Instead of being worshipped like a demigod by the powers in charge, Luke Skywalker has been banished, cut off from the Jedi Temple and the universe at large by dictator–er, leader–of the Galatica Alliance, Admiral Natasi Daala. (Yeah, she’s a chick and she’s ex-Imperial. This ain’t your mama’s Star Wars.)

The series begins with Luke and Ben leaving Coruscant, deciding to travel the galaxy together, while being forced to leave behind their family, including Leia, Han, Jaina, and Jacen’s illegitimate daughter, Amelia. (Babies out of wedlock? What would George say?) But, I digress, for many of these events happened during the whole Yuzhan Vong series.

Let me get back to Star Wars: FOTJ Allies. This book finds Ben and Luke in the soup, forced to ally with Sith (Yeah, those Sith.) and find and destroy an ancient creature that someway, somehow is causing Jedi the galaxy over to go crazy. Not a little bit crazy either, but batshit, I-think-the-moon-just-winked-at-me crazy. Meanwhile, Daala is warring with the Jedi in a pissing contest for control that would make Palpatine proud. This of course means, Han and Leia are alternately Prime Suspects No. 1 and 2 for anything that appears to go against the GA, appears to aid the Jedi or might involve Luke getting illicit help from his former students.

But where FOTJ and Allies in particular really shine, is in the illustration of the relationships. Gone are the semi-uncomfortable realization that you once kissed your sister, replaced with complex emotions. These characters grieve and struggle to find meaning in a galaxy that constantly disappoints and amazes them, just as we all do. While Han and Leia deal every day with the fact that both of their sons met early deaths, Jaina must also deal with being the last surviving Solo offspring, the Sword of the Jedi, and oh yeah, the fiancee of the GA’s top military leader. She must also contend with the fact that her Jedi ways and her boyfriend’s ex-Imperial leanings don’t always mesh and may end up costing her love in the name of family loyalty.

And then there’s Luke. Another confession for you: He’s my favorite original Star Wars character. I love Han and I love Han-and-Leia, but I have always had a special place in my heart for Luke, an orphaned farm boy on a distant planet dreaming of something more. And for the most part I have been quite pleased with how the EU has treated young Skywalker, especially Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire series, which is still the shining achievement in established trilogy EU (in my opinion).

And I loved Luke and Mara Jade together. I loved it when they had a son and I loved it when they named him Ben. I thought it was even more interesting when this son, while he was just a toddler, but already strong in the Force, eschewed his father’s and his family’s legacy, afraid of what wielding such power might mean. What an interesting place to put our hero, looking at his own child who wants nothing to do with the family business.

Luckily, Ben came around and he is now quite the Force user. But along the way, he lost his mother and Luke lost a wife. And this is something that Allies brings to the fore so very well. In a twist I won’t reveal, Mara comes back to help both her boys and it’s Luke reaction to seeing her again that resonated deeply with this particular reader. The knowledge that Mara is gone, but can never really be dead (because she is now one with the Force) is at once the greatest gift and the harshest cruelty.

Perhaps the best part is that Allies set up a hell of an ending that has left me eager to get my hands on the next book in the series, Vortex. I’ve had some luck recently reading series of books that have made me anxious to read the next and that is such a gift as a reader, and so enviable as a writer. I for one am immensely glad that the Star Wars EU is still alive and well. And that all of our intrepid heroes still are too.

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Who doesn’t love presents?

As some of you may realize from reading my likes, dislikes and general takes on life, I’m a little bit of a nerd. So, over the weekend, while thinking about how much I need to blog more (notice I said thinking about, not actually blogging), I whipped up a top 10 gift list for nerdy/geeky ladies. And I’m kind of proud of it. I’m hoping to do another for the guys this week.

While it may be too late for this year’s holiday shopping, there’s always birthdays and Comic-Con consolation gifts, if you don’t get a chance to go. Nothing says, “it’s okay that you’re missing the most seminal nerd event of the year” like a t-shirt from your favorite fandom.
Enjoy! And happy holidays to everyone!

Top Gifts for Geeky Ladies

Posted on my LiveJournal

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PW’s Best Children’s Books 2010

Mockingjay and Incarceron are named two of Publisher’s Weekly’s best books of 2010! Viva YA!

PW’s Best Children’s Books 2010.

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A busy summer reading YA

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this summer reading some exceptional YA. Most notably, Mockingjay (of course) which I will write a separate review for soon. However, I also just finished Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and Fade, the second book in the Wake series by Lisa McMann. And here’s what I loved about each of these stories: a strong female protagonist.

While each main character is different in their personality traits and quirks, what unites them all is an undeniable strength. Whether it’s Katniss in Mockingjay, Jane in Fade or Claudia in Incarceron, each young woman shows that she has the ability to fight for what she believes in, take life as it comes and even find love, all while not compromising her beliefs. And while taking action.

And this is what separates these young woman from certain other literary heroines who are popular right now. (I’ll give you a hint, starts with a “B,” ends with “Ella.) None of these girls sits by and waits for things to happen. Even when it’s painful, uncomfortable or downright scary, each of them will take risks to either protect those they love, make a stand or sometimes both.

These characters and themes are a great segue to a panel I attended this weekend at the Boston Book Festival in Copley Square. A YA-centric panel, entitled “What’s hot and what’s not in YA Fiction,” the author’s on the panel were Noni Carter (Good Fortune), Kathryn Lasky (The Guardians of Ga’Hoole), Francisco Stork (Marcelo and the Real World) and Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire). Each writer, as varied in their careers and styles as one could imagine, offered interesting insights into the world of Young Adult Fiction.

While none of them felt particularly qualified to classify what was hot or not in the genre, all the authors agreed that Young Adult books have common themes: who am I? What am I doing here? How can I make a difference? The YA novels with these basic questions at their center and engaging characters are often the most beloved. They also spoke of trends in YA and as Kathryn Lasky said, “A writer can’t write toward a trend.” Later, Kristin Cashore explained that while getting Graceling published, her agent explained the process. As Kristin realized she’d be proofing the book about ten times before it actually went to print, she asked, “I’m going to be so sick of this book when this is over, aren’t I?” And the agent said, “Yes, so you better love it.” If you write toward a trend, there’s no guarantee it’s what you love to write and chances are you’ll hate it before the process has even really begun.

I think with most YA literature, adults and young readers alike have that immediate reaction — love or hate. It isn’t often you meet a young reader who’s nonchalant about a book they’ve just read or are reading. For the most part, those “whatever” books, don’t often get dog-eared after the first chapter. Why? Because we love it. Or we hate it. But the books we keep talking about, The Hunger Games and The Book Thiefs of the world are the books we love. The books that pose the fundamental questions of who am I and why am I here?

And though I have yet to read a book that answers those questions succinctly, I have enjoyed many nights reading about characters struggling to find answers, just as I am.

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REVIEW: Iron Man 2 Reminds Us Superheroes are Fun, Not Perfect


*** *** ***

Let’s be clear: Iron Man 2 is not going to change the way movies are made or force anyone to wax philosophical or prompt tweets about how much better living in Pandora would be, as another highly-anticipated and over-hyped sci-fi movie did this past winter. However, it may ease a few fears in Hollywood about the sophomore sequel slump and should solidify Iron Man as one of movie-dom’s most bankable franchises, revving up the anticipation for Thor, Captain America and the mother of all exercises in ego management, The Avengers.

Why? Because it’s good. It’s a superhero sequel that actually manages to be entertaining, advancing the story of the protagonist by introducing new characters and a credible villain. It also continues to debunk the myth that superheroes must be virtuous, retiring, and hidden from the public eye.

Watching Iron Man 2 on opening weekend, I was struck, maybe for the first time, at the differences between Tony Stark/Iron Man and his Marvel brethren (and not-so-distant DC Comics cousins). Based on comic mythology, Tony Stark should be Iron Man’s villain—he’s narcissistic, attention-seeking, insubordinate and quite honestly, ethically challenged. He’s also intensely witty, which is a far more common characteristic of antagonists than protagonists. True, his origin story is full of similarities to Spider-Man, Batman and the rest: tragic accident deeply affects and/or physically changes the character, forcing him to further examine life and his place in it, making him realize he is meant for greater things and should therefore don some type of costume, invent some unreal gadgets and fight bad guys under cover of darkness while maintaining an eccentric and aloof public persona.

This latter distinction is where Iron Man deviates the most from his counterparts. At the end of Iron Man (and retold cleverly as voiceover in the beginning of the sequel), Tony Stark reveals to the world that he is Iron Man, and as Iron Man 2 opens, it’s obvious he’ll make no apologies for his role in the current state of world peace; in fact, he might just make a spectacle of it. (Well, we know he will, because this is Hollywood and it’s Tony Stark).

It’s impossible, of course, to have a discussion about Tony Stark without mentioning his portrayer, Robert Downey, Jr. A clear definition between the two is oftentimes hard to spot: they both have well-documented histories of bad boy behavior and run-ins with the law (for Tony, substitute military for law), as well as a long list of accolades for their work. And Tony’s snark wouldn’t be half as endearing if anyone else was delivering those lines, I’m convinced of that. In Iron Man 2, Downey, Jr. stresses Tony’s egotistical and sardonic nature (sometimes, to excess) and continues to make no excuses for his less-than-defendable behavior.

In fact, it’s his grandstanding that draws the attention of the piece’s villain, Ivan Vanko, a menacing Russian played with menacing aplomb by Mickey Rourke. Rourke, taking the role fresh off his Oscar-winning performance two years ago in The Wrestler, manages to do what few other character actors have done before—adopt a Russian accent that doesn’t make us groan or giggle. Side note: isn’t it interesting that even 20+ years since the end of the Cold War, Russians are still Hollywood’s go-to bad guy?

Ivan’s backstory is a little fuzzy. Told through a short scene between Ivan and his dying father as well as some well-placed, yellowing newspaper articles papering the man’s apartment, I’m not sure I would have followed his motivation (or believed it) if I hadn’t read about it before sitting down in the theater. About two-thirds through the movie, more of Vanko’s history is revealed to Tony, filling out the story, however, it felt too late to make the necessary impact. But this ill-timed exposition doesn’t detract from Rourke’s performance or the very awe inspiring site of his character wearing electric whips that cut through cars like butter.

However, Ivan’s lack of planning brings about the wrong kind of attention, landing him in a French prison. Enter his sponsor, another Stark hater who has already made it pretty plain that he feels entitled to everything Tony has and is capable of throwing very petty and technology-fueled temper tantrums. Justin Hammer, head of a rival weapons company believes Vanko has the tech to not only wrest Tony’s U.S. Department of Defense contract away from him, but destroy the smug superhero, too. Played perfectly by Sam Rockwell, Hammer is the guy you want to feel sorry for, but just can’t, because, unlike Tony, his snark is not charming, it’s slimy. Rockwell has made a successful career playing smarmy guys who make you feel like you need a shower, and he doesn’t disappoint here. While incredibly smart, it’s clear from the start that Hammer cannot be allowed to win—and secretly, you want Iron Man to rough him up, just to knock that smirk off his face.

Tony has allies too, most notably, his long-suffering assistant and sometimes Girl Friday, Pepper Potts, and Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, who must appease his military commanders while managing Tony’s giant ego and maintaining access to the tech. The replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle in the role caused a stir when it happened approximately eighteen months ago, but in practice, nothing really changed. Cheadle and Howard obviously bring something different to the screen and the role, but I didn’t feel anything was “missing” with Howard’s absence. Cheadle even managed to better convey Rhodey’s conflicted conscious, although some of his actions in the movie seemed supremely out of character. (I’m still not sure why Rhodey thought the only way to talk Tony off the ledge during his girls-gone-wild-birthday-party was to don another suit and fight him for it. Given Rhodey’s respect for the tech, it seemed inappropriate.)

However, it was fun to watch Iron Man and War Machine take down Vanko in the film’s climactic battle sequence. Especially when the director allows us to see their faces and expressions through “in-suit” close-ups. Both Downey, Jr. and Cheadle have green screen acting down to a science.

And then there are the girls: Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and Natasha Romanov aka Natalie Rushman, played by Scarlett Johansson. One day, I will ask Stan Lee about the redhead in his life who inspired all of these female characters, but I digress. Back for her second shot at Potts, Paltrow’s quiet exasperation and dwindling patience for Tony’s behavior continues to win us over, as does her evolution in the sequel to CEO of Stark Industries. Pepper’s talent for damage control cannot be overlooked as she deftly attempts to take over the company while keeping Tony on some kind of leash.

Johansson’s role seemed more of a set-up for a possible part of The Avengers movie rather than integral to this story. Yes, it’s nice to watch Tony drool on his shoes and even better to watch Johansson take down a hallway full of men in a skintight cat suit, but I’m not convinced she needed to be there, although the men in the audience would probably disagree. What I actually enjoyed most about her role was her interactions with returning S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, played by the ultimate badass Samuel L. Jackson. In fact, Fury’s beefed up presence in this film was a welcome addition, providing us with not only insight into his agenda, but also a hint at what the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s true purpose may be. (As a peripheral comic book reader, I know a little, but not a lot, so this added exposition is welcome to me.)

Also, only RDJ can go head-to-head with Jackson and appear completely unaffected by the latter’s intimidating presence. Their scene toward the end of the movie is probably one of the best.

I have to give a shout out to John Slattery as well. The man who plays boozy ennui so well on “Mad Men” turns in a great, nuanced performance as Howard Stark, Tony’s aloof, dead father. Shown only through clips of video recorded in the 1960s, Tony and the audience are given insight into the man who built the empire Tony reluctantly inherited. His messages “from beyond the grave” were a great way to introduce needed backstory while also honoring another man who built an empire in the 1960s, Walt Disney. The tone, look and content of the videos was far too similar to be a coincidence. (Maybe an early tribute to Marvel’s new owner?)

Jon Favreau, the film’s director and Tony’s upstanding driver/bodyguard, still brings his “everyman” funny to the part, while keeping all the film’s intricate pieces moving. Garry Shandling’s turn as a pompous U.S. senator was also notable, although I’m pretty Shandling long ago established his dominance at playing pompous.

The true beauty of Iron Man 2 however, is that it’s fun. While other superhero movies have gotten darker—I’m lookin’ at you The Dark Night—Iron Man has managed to stay light-hearted and still tell a convincing, engaging story that you’re invested in. There’s no doubt that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night is a remarkable film or that Heath Ledger’s performance was inspired. However, I can tell you for certain, I’ll never watch it again, once in the theater was plenty. But Iron Man, and Iron Man 2, will become go-to “fun” movies for me, similar to Indiana Jones, Spider-Man and its sequel (but not three, I do have some taste), Star Trek (old and new) and of course, the mother of all sci-fi movies, (and my personal favorite), the original Star Wars trilogy.

For me, that’s the testament of a great movie—a desire to watch it over and over again, to spend a protracted time with those characters and their story and to find that no matter how snarky they are, you actually care.

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Book Review – Catching Fire, Book 2 of “The Hunger Games”

I just finished reading this book and wrote a quick review on GoodReads (which is an awesome site and everyone should join). I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and you should totally pick up both “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins.

My Review of “Catching Fire” on

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Sept. 11 – This generation’s Kennedy Assassination

It’s a pretty common question for most Generation X- and Y-ers: Where were you when the planes hit? Where were you when the towers fell?

And all of us have an answer. I was at college, sitting in my undergraduate Intro. to Journalism class, when another professor knocked on the door and told us something was happening. We all headed down the hall to the broadcast studio classroom and watched over the next forty-five minutes as the world changed.

When the towers crumpled to the ground, I don’t know if anyone could have predicted the result. I’m not sure anyone was aware of the fear or paranoia or outright hatred that would take root in the hearts of most Americans. Like just about everybody, I was holed up in my apartment, watching TV in horror, but unable to look away. I lived in Tampa at the time, a few miles from MacDill Air Force Base. It seemed anywhere could be a target. It felt like the whole country had a bulls’ eye on its back.

Of course, the planes crashing was just the beginning. We’d watch for days as firefighters and police officers dug through rubble and looked for survivors. We’d flip to news channels and see the president trying to offer condolences. We’d watch as they rebuilt the Pentagon, the headquarters of our country’s unparalleled military might, which now had a gaping hole in the side. We’d be inspired and saddened by the courage and heroism shown by passengers on the planes, by police officers and firefighters at the scene, by everyday New Yorkers walking around with their heads held high. We’d breathe a sigh of relief when things started to be normal again, even though we knew, normal no longer existed.

September 11, 2001 became Generation X and Ys Kennedy Assassination. My parents can still, in startling detail, describe to me where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. They can tell me how hopeless the country felt after JFK, who many believed would be the man to restore American’s faith in government, was shot down in a motorcade through Dallas. The death of one man in 1963 dealt a heavy blow to a disillusioned America, just as the death of thousands dealt a heavy blow on that September day. The difference is, our disillusionment came after, after there was a call to arms and hints of weapons of mass destruction and an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks.

Now, eight years later we’re still wondering what happened. Sure, we may know the names of the men who got on those planes with an intent to destroy America, and we may know who the ultimate mastermind is, but there’s still an air of disbelief–a feeling of “how did this happen to us”–that permeates most people’s thinking. And there’s a growing discontent over the war we declared on the entire Arab world before the dust had settled.

I would never advocate the U.S. in any way brought on those attacks. It’s simply not true. That kind of unmitigated violence has no place in modern civilization. The people that died that day and the days after and those men and women who have died overseas fighting a nebulous enemy are heroes to be honored and remembered and thanked for years to come.

But just as the resulting years of 1960 brought about an era of free love, hippies, drug experimentation and finally, our entry into another nebulous war, so has Sept. 11th brought about eight years of fear and finger-pointing and a mounting death toll. America’s gone off the rails and while we are on our way to correcting course, it will be a long, slow and painful process.

Because the memory of Sept. 11th will be with us forever and one day I’ll tell my children where I was when the towers fell–just as my mom told me where she was when JFK was killed.

It’s an interesting legacy we’re leaving our children. It’s an interesting footprint we’re leaving on history.

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The Maestro of Movies – John Williams & the L.A. Phil

It’s been almost two decades since I sat under the stars and watched John Williams conduct. Nineteen years ago, I was with my parents at Tanglewood, an outdoor venue in Upstate New York where the Boston Pops are artists-in-residence during the summer months. We packed our picnic and set our blanket on the lawn, waiting for John Williams, one of my personal heroes to conduct the Pops in some of his most famous movie scores.

On that night, there was no “Star Wars” on the program and my disappointment was palpable. I had recently rediscovered my love for George Lucas’ space opera and was dying to hear those familiar strains live. Even through three encores, he didn’t play the fanfare or the theme or even the Imperial March. It was a good concert, but I left with my shoulders sagging just a bit.

On Friday, September 4th, I traveled to the Hollywood Bowl (and I mean, traveled. Do you know how much of a pain it is to get there?) to see John Williams conduct once more. This time he would lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in a night of movie music. I was sitting under the stars once more, waiting for the show to begin. A quick glance at the program revealed no planned “Star Wars” music again. I wondered if fate was playing some cruel joke.

My mounting disappointment aside, the program was pretty Williams heavy with the first half consisting entirely of “Harry Potter” music. Some of his most recent work, the “Harry Potter” motifs are quickly becoming as recognizable as the themes to Indiana Jones and Superman. There were quite a few kids in the audience as well and I knew they’d appreciate hearing those tunes.

For the second half, the selections were a mix of his newer and older stuff, along with a salute to some of the older cinema composers. The medley played at the top of the half was accompanied with a clip package shown on the big screens and I was proud to realize there were only three scenes I didn’t recognize. I did, however, recognize all the songs. Williams’ 30+ year collaboration with Steven Spielberg has given us some great themes, most notably “E.T.,” “Jaws,” and “Jurassic Park.” It also has brought out Williams’ jazzy side, which the soundtrack to “Catch Me If You Can.” Bringing out a jazz trio (alto sax, bass and xylophone), Williams showcased a few of the pieces on this soundtrack. It was understated, moody and invoked the 1960s in a second. My favorite part was listening to the bass solo as I always think basses sound almost like they’re talking when played by hand (sans bow). You can almost imagine the conversation, can hear the intonation as the player picks away.

Closing with the “Superman” theme, the packed audience at the Hollywood Bowl got to its feet and cheered John Williams long and loud. Emerging for an encore, he let the crowd know “this is for our 700-year-old friend Yoda,” which inspired wild cheering. It also set the hillside awash in red, green, purple and blue lights as everyone who had brought a lightsaber to the concert raised them high and waved them in the air. Playing “Yoda’s Theme,” one of the most enduring pieces from “The Empire Strikes Back,” I finally had my “Star Wars” moment. I was happy. Life was good.

Finishing his salute to the little green guy, Williams immediately signaled the group to start the next encore which was the “Star Wars” theme! That got the biggest cheer of the night, including my own. I threw my hands in the air and gave a little shout. It was awesome! Top that off with “The Flying Theme” from E.T. and “The Imperial March,” from The Empire Strikes Back and it was the perfect night.

John Williams holds a record number of Oscar wins for film scores and, at 77, is still hard at work bringing us themes we’ll remember forever. In truth, I can chart a good portion of my life set to his music: “Star Wars” & “E.T” when I was little, “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” in my teens, “Harry Potter” and “Minority Report” in recent years. He’s the artist with the most songs on my iPod; the guy whose tunes I’ll go to again and again because not only did they underscore some great movies, but also illustrated the beauty of truly excellent music composition. He’s my Aerosmith, Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones. Because, just like those groups, he’s a legend.

The Hollywood Bowl, Sept. 4th, 2009

The Hollywood Bowl, Sept. 4th, 2009

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Goodbye books, hello HAL

Megan E. Sullivan, author

Megan E. Sullivan, author

Can a School Library Be Replaced by E-Readers? Apparently, it Can


I don’t like this, I’m just gonna say it. I don’t think flesh-n-bone book should be replaced by e-readers or iphones or computer screens. Is the Internet a great way to share stories and information? Absolutely. Is the digital age redefining the way we read books? Definitely. Is it cheaper to publish digitally than on paper? Of course.

But more will be lost if we migrate away from the tangible book than the occasional papercut.

Books as a medium have been around for centuries. Since Guttenberg invented the printing press, humans the world over have been sharing their stories, committing them not just to memory, but to paper. The printing press enabled us to not only copy works faster, but to make multiple copies at once, allowing sharing across cultures as never before. And a few extra books meant a tragedy like the burning of Rome or the loss of Alexandria could be avoided.

My fear with a digital library isn’t that I’ll miss the smell of books (although, I would). It’s that despite the redundancies and back-ups and failsafes in place, there’s still a chance an errant keystroke could erase a large part of our history. Imagine losing a work like Romeo & Juliet … imagine the cultural impact of never knowing a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Now, this may be an overexaggeration, true. People are not going to all of a sudden purchase e-readers (Kindles and the like) and then have a bonfire to burn their books (at least, I hope not). We probably have a good hundred years before paper and paperboard books are completely phased out.

Even so, isn’t that a little sad? I don’t know about you, but there’s something comforting and tangible about picking up a book and cracking open the spine for the first time. I don’t want children to think getting a new story is as easy as a keystroke. As an author, I respect the work that goes into a novel, respect that when I read those 400+ pages it’s because someone sat and sweated it out over a keyboard. Something tells me that kind of appreciation just doesn’t resonate with a digital version.


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Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

I love fall. Living in Los Angeles (and Florida before that) it’s been a while since I’ve seen the leaves change, but I still love fall. Crisper nights, cooler days and Thanksgiving.

But what I most love is the start of the school year. I know, it’s a little nutty, but I adore shopping for school supplies and seeing what new doo-dads kids will have this year. My new favorite thing, skins for your Texas Instruments graphing calculator … come on, whatever happened to stickers?

Maybe it’s because both of my parents are retired school teachers — the start of school wasn’t just a time of year in our house, it signaled the end of the summer and time to get back to work for my whole family. Labor Day held the mystique of the last day of freedom and I will miss that odd feeling of wanting to go to sleep so tomorrow will come and wanting to stay awake so it won’t.

I find that on Labor Day weekend I’m still anticipating the start of something. It’s kind of a bummer I don’t have an excuse to get a bunch of fresh notebooks, pens and erasers. Don’t you miss erasers?

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