Saturday, August 23, 2008

Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

This is a great book. I read it twice, David, my eight year old son read it and my 15 year old daughter, non-reader, read it. It is the only book my 15 year has finished in I don't know how long. And she enjoyed it.
David and I were able to meet (virtually) J. Scott Savage at the All Star Game and here is our interview:
Jennifer: Jeff it was nice of you to meet David and I here at Yankee Stadium for the All Star Game and to discuss your book Far World: Water Keep.

J. Scott: I’m excited to be here. The last All Star Game ever to be held here. Looks like the new stadium is coming along nicely though.

Jennifer: I am rooting for the National League what about you?

J. Scott: Uh, oh. I grew up watching the Oakland days back when they won three World Series in a row. So I’m kind of an AL guy. Sorry.
Jennifer: That's OK a little healthy compitition is good.

David: Where did you come up with the names Ishkabiddle, Bonesplinter, Frost Pinnois and everything else?

J. Scott: Making up names is one of the most fun parts of writing fantasy. You can really run wild. Some names are totally just made up. I just play with sounds until I find one I like. Others, like the Unmakers, Mist Steed, and Mimicker, are names that sound like what they are. With Ishkabiddle, there was a musician in the 40's who called himself Ish Kabibble which I understand is Yiddish for something like "What me worry?"

Jennifer: I read over on Inksplasher that the Ishkabiddle has received a clamoring of attention and your readers want more of her. David read the book before I did and I remember asking him if the Ishkabiddle is in any other part of the book. Why do you think a minor character is so popular?

J. Scott: I don’t really know. It’s makes me smile but it is so totally unexpected. It’s probably because I introduced her first thing in the book, so the reader gets an instant attachment. It’s funny. Originally she was just a plain old rabbit. But I needed it to be more clear that we were not on Earth from the start. So I invented the Ishkabiddle. And now look at her. She’s a rock star. Maybe we’ll have Ishkabiddle dolls one day. Huh?

J. Scott: I’m gonna go grab some hotdogs. Would you too like some?
David: Can I have three, please!

Jennifer: NL scores yeah!

J. Scott: Shoot. I knew I shouldn’t have left. Ten minutes away and my team gives up a run.

David: What gave you the idea of the scar on Marcus's arm?

J. Scott: That was actually a tough decision, because it instantly draws comparisons to HP. But it’s too important a part of the story to leave out. Not just how Marcus got the mark, but what it means.

Jennifer: NL scores again!

J. Scott: That hurts. Especially since it was an A’s pitcher. Hey, look a foul ball. David, get you mitt up. Nice catch!

Jennifer: Keep that ball David. What gave you the idea of referring to Harry Potter in this book? It does set the time period of the book as modern day.

J. Scott: Good question. No one else has asked me that. Some writers prefer to make their books “timeless” but not referring to pop culture. But my experience has been that things change so fast you can’t help but have your books take on a certain timeframe. Imagine, for example, that you had referred to a floppy disk fifteen years ago. At the same time, I also want realism, and in my mind if you told any kid today that there was “real magic” the first thing he’d think of is HP. So let’s do it.
David: I like that you brought HP into it.

J. Scott: Well so far the games been kind of quiet. But it was cool that David caught the foul ball. Maybe this is the NL’s year—finally.

Jennifer: AL scored two runs this inning

J. Scott: Heh. He. Just had to jinx your team a little by saying they were going to win. Uh, oh. That Mets fan over there is giving me the evil eye. I better get back to book questions.

Jennifer: Why is the magical world pre-technology? Even with magic it seems it would be easier to cook on a stove than a fire.

J. Scott: Another great question. In Farworld, magic is so prevalent that technology has really stagnated. If you can control how and where the fire cooks, and then keep the food warm days at a time through magic, why invent the stove. Magic is not infinitely powerful. For example you still have to tan a hide and cure it before you can add magic to the boots. But much of the manual labor is accomplished via magic. That’s why Kyja is such a total misfit there. It’s like having a girl on Earth who can’t use any machines of any kind. No technology.

Jennifer: Both teams scored now it is tied and the top of the 9th.

J. Scott: This is my kind of game. Hey, peanut guy! Two bags over here. Ouch! That guy’s got quite an arm. He should be playing right field.

David: Where did your original idea for Water Keep and the other Keeps come from?

J. Scott: When I first pitched my publisher on the idea of the elementals. They really liked that concept. It reminded Chris of a show called Avatar that his kids watch. Then I explained what the elementals really are and why they are, and it really blew him away. I’ve spent an inordinately large amount of time on the details of the elementals. All the way down to colors they prefer. I didn’t want them to just be the same thing but with fire instead of water. Going along with that, then, they needed different places to call home. And those places should reflect their natures. I originally called the home of the water elementals City Under the Water. But I really thought that was weak. When I came up with Water Keep, we all liked that.
David: I love Avatar and your book.

Jennifer: Extra innings here we come.

J. Scott: This could be a long night. Glad you came armed with lots of questions. Anyone for a giant #1 finger?

Jennifer: Any secrets about Elder Ephraim you would care to share? He certainly gives Marcus some good advice.

J. Scott: They may be more to him than we know. There are some interesting parallels between him and MT.

Jennifer: What an exciting inning (10th) bases loaded and no outs and the NL kept the AL scoreless, Wow

J. Scott: Yeah. I thought we had it won for sure. That’s not a voodoo doll your playing with over there is it, Jennifer?

Jennifer: When is the next Shandra Covington novel coming out and will there be any more after that?

J. Scott: Well, as you’ve probably heard, Farworld really slowed down Shandra. Only so many hours in the day. I’m hoping for a late 2009 Spring release. But it’s all on my shoulders at the moment. I think there will be at least one or two more books after this next one.

Jennifer: I am really looking forward to the next Shandra and am glad there will be more than one. What is happening with your horror novel?

J. Scott: Covenant has wisely told me to get Shandra done, then we can go back to the horror novel. It’s done, but it’s not the top priority.

Jennifer: Good finish Shandra first I'm not into horror novels though I will probably read yours. Drat the AL won but that was an exciting 15 innings. Thanks Jeff for joining David and I.

J. Scott: Thanks it was a blast. Now I just have to figure out where I threw my A’s hat in all the excitement. It’s got my address in it. You think someone will mail it to me?
Jennifer and David: Thanks Jeff.
Now for those of you who would like an ARC of Far World: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage. Leave a comment on this blog by Wednesday August 27th. One winner will be randomly drawn and will receive an autographed copy from J. Scott.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Surprise Packages

Surprise Packages

By Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, Carroll Hofeling Morris
(Deseret Book, 2008)

Once in awhile an LDS novel comes along that is completely refreshing. Surprise Packages will, you guessed it, surprise you.

Surprise Packages is the third installment of The Company of Good Women series. It’s a story of three women who met at BYU Education week, then became lifelong friends through thick and thin. The authors themselves have self-proclaimed themselves to be Crusty Old Broads—just as the three female characters in their books.

Deenie, Juneau and Erin live in different parts of the country and lead different lives. But they write emails, make phone calls, and get together on mini-vacations, keeping their friendship alive. Their challenges and triumphs mirror real-life situations, yet I found that the solutions they came up with to handle what came their way was many times truly inspiring. I found myself reflecting on the why’s and what’s of my own life, and where I can be better and make more of a difference.

Surprise Packages was truly a delight, surprising me time and time again.

Surprise Packages is available at Deseret Book.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, reviewed by Laura Craner

School starts for us on Monday. The transition is surprisingly mind-boggling. How to mark the change from sunny adventures and late bedtimes to structured classrooms and homework? The answer is obvious: a great book!

The Penderwicks, in case you haven't heard of it from your children's librarian or from all the awards it has received, is the tale of four wildly different sisters and their botanist father and the adventures they have during their summer holiday on the meticulously gardened grounds of Arundel Hall. The adventures begin when Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty (whose real name is Elizabeth--after their dead mother) meet Jeffrey, "a very interesting boy", and his mother, who seems to bring out the worst in each girl. They face down a raging bull, some lost bunnies,and a Garden Society Competition (hordes of old women in heels! yikes!), but the real trouble comes when they find out Jeffrey is going to be sent away to military school. What will the girls do? The solution pushes each girl to face down her fears and weaknesses and discover the real strength of family bonds.

My favorite thing about the book was how different each girl was and how integral she was to the family's happiness. It made the book positive and empowering. As I read I found myself hoping my girls would pick up some of Rosalind's dependable nature but hold on to Skye's feistiness too. I wanted them to be a part of Jane's dreamworld and the innocence of Batty's escapades. What really surprised me though, was when I realized I was hoping that I would incorporate some of those traits into my life too.

More than anything, this book was fun--a perfect summer read.