Tag Archives: Texas

A festival of books? It's a festivus for the rest of us!

19th October 2010

Friday afternoon, I ditched the office, the pup, and Beaumont, Texas to go with my parents to the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. We went last year and had such a great time, we decided it had to be an annual event.

I had plans, people, big plans: I had my panels mapped out. I booked a hotel close to the site with breakfast included so we wouldn’t have to run around hunting for a Starbucks. My dad, on the other hand, had no clue. Yet somehow he made it to seven panels, while I only made it to four. Ah, beginner’s luck.

The four panels I did make it to? Incredible. Plus, I got to meet up with some other Texas book bloggers and end the moratorium on book buying. Throw in a little honky-tonkin, and you’re looking at one exhausted, but pleased picky girl.

Saturday:

Julia Glass

Luckily, I was close to finishing her newest book The Widower’s Tale. In fact, I brought my library book into the Capitol with me to read before the panel started. (Review coming later this week.) Ms. Glass was not all that inventive a speaker, and I was a bit disappointed. The moderator was excellent, though, and asked a couple questions I certainly had about the book. For example, the novel is told from the perspective of four men. Was that a conscious decision, and was it difficult to write from the male perspective? Ms. Glass answered it was most certainly intentional; she apparently feels very comfortable writing in the male voice, though she did admit the 20-year-old perspective was difficult to write (a complaint I had about the dialogue in the book). Here’s the panel and a pic of my mom and I before it got started:

Scott Westerfeld

Fantastic. Funny. Charming. Scott Westerfeld rocked – plain and simple. He really gave the sort of lecture I strive to give to my students – informative, humorous, practical, and interesting. He talked a bit about his series Uglies, but as I cannot speak to those books, I’ll focus on what I was there for – Leviathan and Behemoth. Westerfeld spoke about where the idea for the books came from. He has a blog, and his fans post art inspired by his books. When he found the Japanese version of his first series had drawings, he was a bit taken aback; his fans were jealous. As he said (and I paraphrase), there’s nothing like an oppressed teenager….

Westerfeld pondered why we, as Americans, avoid illustrations in adult books. Why do we reserve illustrations for the young and then take them away at a certain point? Why do we assume illustrations narrow the imagination instead of expanding it? So with Leviathan, he found illustrator Keith Thompson, and they collaborated quite nicely. He says the illustrations “allow for alternate story lines” and that if you look closely, the illustrator works these in carefully. The challenge, though, is making the story active enough – “with illustrations, characters have to move around, so the drawings can change.” Otherwise, the scenes become repetitive. He also had to think differently in terms of setting the stage. Keith would send him sketches, lacking a couple characters Westerfeld had in the scene. When asked about this decision, Keith would tell him it looked too crowded. So Westerfeld revised.

Westerfeld ended the talk with questions, and my personal favorite was when he was asked if he would venture into graphic novels. The answer? An enticing ‘yes.’

In between Saturday’s panels, I met up with some great Texas book bloggers, including Iliana at bookgirl’s nightstand who encouraged me to get into book blogging. It was really great to put faces to the names although since I only knew what Amanda looked like, I was a bit nervous. Thankfully, I spotted the group pretty quickly, and I had a great time chatting with Iliana, Carin, Karen, Trish, Debbie, and Amanda. Jason, Amanda’s husband, was gracious enough to take our photos (please notice how antisocial we are; we are standing like a foot away from each other). 😉 All in all, it was great to meet everyone, and I can’t wait for next year to do it again.

From left to right: Carin, me, Trish, Amanda, Debbie

 

From top left to bottom right: Iliana, Karen, Carin, and Amanda

Of course, I couldn’t wait to get to the tents to buy my copy of Behemoth, and I also picked up these little gems from one of my favorite artists (don’t worry – I’ve got a whole post lined up to give you a peek at the inside):

 

Stay tuned for a wrap-up of Sunday’s awesome panels!!!

Until then, happy reading,

jenn

aka picky girl

Review: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

2nd October 2010

*Trigger warning: this post contains a story line which deals with domestic and sexual abuse.*


On the tail end of yesterday’s post, I had to write this morning about Blue-Eyed Devil. As promised, I went to the library last night and on my friend Sommer’s suggestion picked up the two sequels to Sugar Daddy, a book she passed on to me several years ago. Now, let me just say – my intentions last night were to eat dinner in my pjs, crawl into bed, and sleep blissfully until morning. Lisa Kleypas had other plans, and no, I’m not being dirty.

I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. reading this book. A romance novel? Sure, I guess. But it wasn’t just a romance novel: I CRIED.

There, I said it. The last book that made me well up was The Book Thief, ok. I’m a quality crier. No sappy ending brings tears to my eyes. In fact, sometimes I laugh at that sort of thing, but lying in bed, reading Blue-Eyed Devil, I couldn’t control my tears.

Haven Travis (I know, such a soap opera name) comes from Texas oil money and is from ritzy River Oaks Houston. She comes from a pretty strict background, although her best friend Todd, the son of two artists, is extremely liberal. He’s Buddhist and explains to Haven that Buddhists “spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of reality.” As a child when she asks to attend a Buddhist temple with Todd, her mother tells her she is a Baptist, and “Baptists didn’t spend their time thinking about reality.”

As an adult, though, Haven has got a conscience, which sometimes blinds her to people’s true natures. She is constantly trying to make up for having quite a lot of what most people have so little. The book opens at her brother’s wedding (culmination of Sugar Daddy), her boyfriend Nick by her side. But Daddy Travis, Haven’s impossible-to-impress father can’t stand Nick. In fact, no one seems impressed with him. However, Haven knows Nick came from nothing and loves his character and liberal nature. During the wedding, Haven sees who she thinks is Nick slip into the wine cellar and follows him in. Only it’s not Nick; it’s Hardy Cates, a business competitor of the Travis family. Cates, ahem, weakens Haven’s knees, but she leaves in search of Nick, who has spoken with her father, asking for Haven’s hand in marriage.

After she marries Nick and is cut off from Daddy’s money, she realizes Nick harbors great resentment toward her background. He blames Haven for her family’s money, even though it’s not something Haven thinks about. He wants to have children to manipulate money from Daddy Travis. The marriage becomes increasingly unstable as Nick’s personality deteriorates before Haven’s eyes. Haven must iron his shirts – just so – or she’s a bad wife. If she doesn’t have dinner made when they both get off work, she’s a bad wife. You see where this is going, and it’s not a comfortable place.

Nick becomes progressively more dangerous, and I think my tears started here, in the midst of the first slap:

Screaming. I’d never had someone scream into my face like that before, certainly not a man, and it was a kind of death.

Growing up, I remember my dad as a fairly laidback dad. He worked a lot as a grocery store manager, but it’s not his absences I remember. What has always, always stuck with me are the times when we would be watching television or a movie when my dad would abruptly get up and change the channel or turn the television off. I didn’t understand what was going on, having not even noticed what had happened on screen – a man hitting a woman, and I’m not sure if he ever explained; it may have been my mom who told me, “Your dad doesn’t ever want you or your sister to think that sort of violence is ok.”

Small – but it left an indelible impression on me. I won’t quote the violent scenes or the incident that pushes Haven to leave, but she does leave – after Nick throws her, bodily, onto the front stoop. Her older brother Gage sends someone to collect her in Dallas, and after a trip to the Medical Center, begins to heal. She’s skittish and sad, but slowly the old Haven comes around, except in social situations. One night after having drinks with her brother at a downtown bar, an incoming crowd shoves her, terrifying her with the body contact, into who else but the blue-eyed devil Hardy Cates, and Haven must come to terms with what has happened to her and learn to trust again.

It sounds so cliche, but honestly, if you could see my bleary eyes and mussed hair, having slept in until 9:20 a.m. (so so late for me), you would understand. It’s much less a romance novel than a story of hurt and healing. The only aspect of this novel that bothered me (other than the obvious) was the thought that most domestic violence victims don’t have a family with access to private jets and loads of money and influence to keep an abusive partner away. Of course, it’s fiction, but the book made it seem as though leaving the abuser is simple, when in actuality it’s not. I will say there are moments in the book that subtly address that, but it was just an observation.

I also hope you will not not pick up this book because of the abuse although I would certainly understand. I really enjoyed it and was interested in the narcissistic-personality disorder the book discusses.

And, as to my bout of crying, let’s just not mention that. Has a book ever caught you off guard like that? Especially a book you never thought would have that sort of effect on you? Please say yes.

It's almost here… the Texas Book Festival!

26th August 2010

Some people live for concerts. I myself like a nice concert at a small venue. Other people travel according to their culinary interests. Bravo for them. What am I thrilled about? The Texas Book Festival. I dreamed of it for years: the lines of book-holding patrons; the authors milling about; the tents full of books. Last year, I made that dream a reality. My parents (both booklovers) and I loaded up and made the trip to Austin, thrilled to be able to take part in such an awesome bookish event (I believe this book festival is the 2nd largest nationwide). There are lectures, book signings, stalls of books from publishers large and small, and all sorts of cool events for kids.

Last year, I was a newbie and didn’t have a planned schedule except for seeing Margaret Atwood, who was brilliant. I also saw Lance Letscher (whose artwork is at the top of this blog). There is nothing more stimulating to me than being in such an atmosphere. I am not all that into signed books; I’d much rather listen to what authors have to say than have them sign my book. That said, the TBF people have the nuts and bolts of the event down pat. The entire festival is a well-oiled machine, with lectures and panel discussions held in the Capitol itself along with nearby theaters and museums. My one regret last year (other than seeing David Wroblewski, who wasn’t all that impressive) was missing out on Jonathan Safron Foer’s lecture. He was late in the day on Sunday, and I needed to get back home.

The 2010 full author list was just posted today. The schedule will not be posted until a little closer to the actual festival, October 16-17. I am so excited. Some of the big names this year are Abraham Verghese, Scott Westerfield, Karl Marlantes, Jennifer Egan, Justin Cronin, Michael Cunningham, Julia Glass, and Meg Cabot. I would also like to hear Lance Letscher again as I find his art really stirring. DJ Stout is a book designer for the University of Texas Press, and I would love to sit in on his lecture. If I could draw, I would love to design books.

I plan on heading to the library this afternoon to pick up books from several of these authors I have not yet read. I had such a fantastic time last year, and one of my favorite moments was walking from the Capitol toward the street through this wide expanse of green lawn and coming across this:

There really are books everywhere. I don’t know if a friendly soul left this for another to read, or if the book was just patiently waiting for its owner to return. Either way, it was a nice little vignette to end our trip.

Is anyone else out there plan on going this year? If so, let me know for sure. Also, if you can’t go, who would your “definitely do not miss” authors be?