Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's TIME to Buy BOOKS: A Middle-Grade Books List for Your Eager Reader

It's THAT time of year again. Holidays. Egg nog. Cookie exchanges and Christmas pageants and Hanukkah parties and Festivus and all the other things that people do (I do not discriminate) to bring some joy into our eight-point-two-five hours of chilled daylight. We watch It's A Wonderful Life and swear we'll do better next year and forgive our transgressors. Then more eating. Complaining about cold. Complaining about snow. Complaining that there isn't any snow. Complaining that a bear pooped in the snow next to the house. Complaining because the beagle ate the poop that the bear left next to the house. Dreaming about Superman Santa bringing you presents. Drinking too much rum punch and dancing on your boss's desk and then going through his email because you have the passwords and then turning all those photos of him and his chippie in his PRIVATE DO NOT LOOK HERE photo folder into Christmas cards that you send to his wife's family.

What? Did I say too much?

It is oft called the season of giving. As I have multiple underage humans living under my roof, they already know what they're gettin' from me: BOOKS. Always books. As my youngest says, "It's better than socks." (Although I guess this says something about how boring I am that I ask for socks every year.) Lately, I've had a number of folks ask me for recommendations for their avid juvenile readers, and I find it helpful to do these posts once in a while so I can say HERE READ MY BLOG and there's a list at the ready to fill the bookish shopping bags to the tippy-top.

A quick stop on the home pages of your favorite indie bookseller and/or e-retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters for the Canadians) will give you a smack in the face for what books are popular for Big Kids, but what about our little friends, those between the ages of "gross boys have cooties" and "maybe boys aren't so gross after all"? We call that The Middle Grades. Almost as scary as the Middle Ages, but without the decapitations and incest marriages.

Here's our list for some of our FAVORITE middle grade reads. Enjoy, and MERRY DECEMBER / HAPPY NEW YEAR!

BOOKS BOOKS MORE BOOKS NEVER ENOUGH BOOKS
Middle-grade edition 
(Summaries pulled from Chapters.ca and Goodreads)

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Shannon Messenger's KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES. Though we covered this title in an earlier post, the SEQUEL is out, which means you can buy both books for your young reader and keep them busy for HOURS. Kendon, age 9, rates this on his Top Five Favorite Books Ever alongside Wimpy Kid and The Hobbit.

In this riveting debut, a telepathic girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world--before the wrong person finds the answer first.

Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She's skipped multiple grades and doesn't really connect with the older kids at school, but she's not comfortable with her family, either. And Sophie has a secret--she's a Telepath, someone who can read minds. But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she's not alone. He's a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well ... she isn't. Fitz opens Sophie's eyes to a shocking truth, and almost instantly she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.

But Sophie still has secrets, and they're buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden among humans? The truth could mean life or death--and time is running out.

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES: EXILE

Sophie Foster thought she was safe. Settled into her home at Havenfield, surrounded by friends, and using her unique telepathic abilities to train Silveny--the first female alicorn ever seen in the Lost Cities--her life finally seems to be coming together.

But Sophie's kidnappers are still out there. And when Sophie discovers new messages and clues from the mysterious Black Swan group, she’s forced to take a terrifying risk—one that puts everyone in incredible danger.

As long buried secrets rise to the surface, it’s once again up to Sophie to uncover hidden memories—before someone close to her is lost forever.

In this second book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must journey to the darkest corners of her luminous world in a sequel that will leave you breathless for more.

(For older readers, Messenger also has her YA series, LET THE SKY FALL and its recent sequel, LET THE STORM BREAK.)

Stefan Bachmann's THE PECULIAR:

Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings--Peculiars--and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley-Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann's riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

And the companion book, THE WHATNOT:

Oh, the Sly King, the Sly King, in his towers of ash and wind.

Pikey Thomas doesn't know how or why he can see the changeling girl. But there she is. Not in the cold, muddy London neighborhood where Pikey lives. Instead, she's walking through the trees and snow of the enchanted Old Country or, later, racing through an opulent hall. She's pale and small, and she has branches growing out of her head. Her name is Henrietta Kettle.

Pikey's vision, it turns out, is worth something. Worth something to Hettie's brother—a brave adventurer named Bartholomew Kettle. Worth something to the nobleman who protects him. And Pikey is not above bartering—Pikey will do almost anything to escape his past; he'll do almost anything for a life worth living.

The faeries—save for a mysterious sylph and a mischievous cobble faery or two—have been chased out of London. They've all gone north. The army is heading north, too. So Pikey and Bartholomew follow, collecting information, piecing together clues, searching for the doorway that will lead them to Hettie.

The Whatnot is the enthralling, surprising, and unforgettable companion to Stefan Bachmann's internationally bestselling debut novel The Peculiar.

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, a breathtaking tale by Katherine Applegate:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he's seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home-and his own art-through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it's up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan's unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Tui T. Sutherland's WINGS OF FIRE: THE DRAGONET PROPHECY (Book One):

Clay and his friends have grown up under a mountain, secretly raised by the Talons of Peace to fulfill a mysterious prophecy. The five young dragons are destined to end the war that's been raging between the tribes of Pyrrhia—but how they'll do this, none of them knows. But not every dragonet wants a destiny. When one of their own is threatened, Clay and his friends decide to escape. Maybe they can break free and end the war at the same time—or maybe they'll risk everything.

Other books in this series (I love series for this age of readers because they go through the titles so fast and they're not always the most patient when we have to say THE NEXT BOOK ISN'T OUT FOR A YEAR SORRY):

WINGS OF FIRE: THE LOST HEIR (Book Two)
WINGS OF FIRE: THE HIDDEN KINGDOM (Book Three)
WINGS OF FIRE: THE DARK SECRET (Book Four) 


Tone Almhjell’s THE TWISTROSE KEY -- I have heard amazing things about this book and can't wait to dive in:

Something is wrong in the house that Lin's family has rented; Lin is sure of it. The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flowerbed, even in a rain storm. And when a secret key marked "Twistrose" arrives for her, Lin finds a crack in the cellar, a gate to the world of Sylver. 

This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal who ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction.

They are not the only ones hunting for the boy this night. In the dark hides a shadow-lipped man, waiting for the last Winter Prince to be delivered into his hands.

Exhilarating suspense and unforgettable characters await the readers of this magical adventure, destined to become a classic.

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I have to add this one because OF COURSE, Lemony Snicket is terrific fun and has tons of titles available for young readers (including the Series of Unfortunate Events franchise), but also because Snicket is a HarperCollins author and shares my Canadian editor, which makes us practically related. Hi, Brother Snicket!

WHEN DID YOU SEE HER LAST? (Volume 2 in the All The Wrong Questions series – Volume 1 is Who Could That Be At This Hour?):

The eagerly anticipated second volume in the #1 New York Times bestselling series:

In the fading town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are all the wrong questions.

Maile Meloy’s THE APOTHECARY:


It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Together with Ian Schoenherr's breathtaking illustrations, this is a truly stunning package from cover to cover. Contains a teaser chapter of the sequel, The Apprentices.

And the sequel, THE APPRENTICES:

It's 1954, and Janie Scott is in boarding school in New Hampshire, trying to make a new life. Two years have passed since she last saw the mysterious apothecary—or his defiant son, Benjamin. All she knows is that her friends are out there somewhere, trying to keep the world safe in an age of mounting atomic power. On the other side of the world, Benjamin is treating the wounded in a jungle war, and experimenting with a magical new formula that will let him communicate with Janie across the globe.

But Janie has her own experiment underway, and it's attracting interest from sinister forces. Benjamin calls on their friend Pip for help, and they have to race to find one another, and to unravel the mystery of their powerful new enemies.

A magical new adventure, following Maile Meloy's critically acclaimed novel The Apothecary, with captivating illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.

Beautiful, beautiful Kate DiCamillo’s FLORA & ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES:

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry - and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.

Chris Colfer (of GLEE fame!) has a terrific series out -- THE LAND OF STORIES: THE WISHING SPELL (Book One) -- and these covers are gorgeous.

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales. 

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

THE LAND OF STORIES (Book Two): THE ENCHANTRESS RETURNS

After decades of hiding, the evil Enchantress who cursed Sleeping Beauty is back with a vengeance.

Alex and Conner Bailey have not been back to the magical Land of Stories since their adventures in The Wishing Spell ended. But one night, they learn the famed Enchantress has kidnapped their mother! Against the will of their grandmother, the twins must find their own way into the Land of Stories to rescue their mother and save the fairy tale world from the greatest threat it's ever faced.


Claire Legrand’s YEAR OF SHADOWS:

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.
 

Her mother's left, her neglectful father—the maestro of a failing orchestra—has moved her and her grandmother into the city's dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.  

Just when she thinks life couldn't get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia's help—if the hall is torn down, they'll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.  

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living … and soon it's not just the concert hall that needs saving.

And THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS:

At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. A dark, timeless, and heartfelt novel for fans of Coraline and The Mysterious Benedict Society. 

Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.) 

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he's not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out … different. Or they don't come out at all. 

If anyone can sort this out, it's Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.

Lauren Oliver’s book LIESL & PO is one of my favorites. I’ve ordered THE SPINDLERS for Christmas for my voracious reader:

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: 

The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as strange monsters and terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she must pass a series of deadly tests-or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

My agent raves about all things Rebecca Stead – LIAR & SPY. We're reading WHEN YOU REACH ME, and Stead lives up to the hype.

The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh-grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end.


THE UNWANTEDS (Book 1—there are three out at this writing—ISLAND OF SILENCE (#2) and ISLAND OF FIRE (#3)) by Lisa McMann. Kendon is almost done with this one and has enjoyed it VERY much:

A riveting middle-grade dystopian novel from New York Times bestselling Wake author Lisa McMann that Kirkus Reviews calls "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." 

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It's hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate-until he discovers that instead of a "death farm," what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation. 

But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

Fans of THE HUNGER GAMES may not be familiar with Suzanne Collins' other series, GREGOR THE OVERLANDER.

When young Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This strange world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

Rich in suspense and brimming with adventure, Suzanne Collins unfolds the fate of the Underland and the great warrior, Gregor, in the New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles.

GRAPHIC NOVEL FANS: Raina Telgemeier’s books are fantastic, perfect for your grade 5-8 readers.
Start with SMILE:

Eleven-year-old Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after a trip-and-fall mishap, she injures her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, corrective surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have had a bit of their own dental drama.


And then there’s DRAMA:

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that comes once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Following the success of Smile, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!

The AMULET series, Books One through Five (Six is supposed to be out in 2014) by Kazu Kibuishi. Kendon has read and reread this series so many times, I fear the covers will soon fall off.

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a giant robot---and two ordinary children on a life-or-death mission.

Book 1 ~ THE STONEKEEPER: After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids' mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.
 
Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

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PHEW!

Is that enough? Feel free to comment below if you want more. 

Joyeux Noël!
Bonnes fêtes!
Hanoucca heureux!

Xs and Os ...

P.S. Sorry for wonky fonts. Blogger hates me today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Score Lovers Anonymous: My Healthy Obsession

I would be a much happier (read: saner) person if I could just live in the movies. All. The. Time.

I do this thing where I find a film that resonates for whatever reason -- no matter what the reviews or critics are saying -- and I obsess over it. I watch it again and again, sometimes twice on the same weekend night. In the last year, it's been Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, Welcome to the Punch. Past years, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, all the Lord of the Rings films. I recognize this is not a healthy habit. But I'm not a drinker or user of substances other than dangerous quantities of sugar, so if movies are my drug, bring on the popcorn.

It bears repeating: our family likes the movies. Pretty Princess blogs (Truly Luminary) and starts journalism school in January toward her dreams in  entertainment coverage. The Other Half of my heart works in the film biz. He's worked on a lot of awesome flicks in the last 25.5 years, including but not limited to The Fugitive, Army of Darkness (for you cult fans out there), Titanic, lots of X-Men films, Tron, Seventh Son, Percy Jackson, et cetera, et cetera. Most recently he did some time on George Clooney's next supersecret project before hopping onto the epic build for a flick based on a VERY popular video game.  When he comes home covered in foam and silicone, it's because he's recreating a world that only exists in our imaginations. Glamorous, huh? Tell that to my washing machine.

In 2012 he worked on Man of Steel. Sculpted the saddle Jor El rides on his winged horse/dragon hybrid (H'raka); built the mushroomy pool where the Codex Skull is kept, the bed/chair structure newborn Kal El lies in when his parents are infusing his cells with the bits and bobs from the Codex. 




Built the EPIC sets we can barely see in the council chambers when Jor El says YOU GUYS THIS IS MADNESS WE'RE DOOMED and naughty Zod storms in and shoots his guns and yells loudly (Michael Shannon, you are the best kind of villain). 


And then there's that awesome spaceship buried in the permafrost where soon-to-be-Superman goes all manly and says to an injured Lois Lane, "I can do things other people can't ... This is going to hurt." All of these incredible sets come from the hands of REAL people. #proudWyfey 

Lately, the object of my obsession has been Man of Steel. I don't even know why. I tear up when Kal El's parents say goodbye and again when -- oh, wait -- no spoilers, in case you haven't seen it. Despite mixed reviews and haters galore, I love this film.

Maybe it's because so much of Husband's sweat went into it. It's special to us.

Ironically, though, I try not to think too much about the reality behind the film. I usually leave the room when the family scoots around to watch behind-the-scenes stuff because I LOVE THE FANTASY of it. When Lord of the Rings was in its prime, and now with The Hobbit and the MUCH-ANTICIPATED Desolation of Smaug, I want to believe that Middle Earth is a REAL place and not just pretty New Zealand, that if I overcome my fear of huntsman spiders, I will go to Mata Mata and see Hobbiton and while there, Frodo and Gandalf and Aragorn (*swoon*) and Thorin (*double swoon*) will appear and we will have wine with fruity bouquets and eat wheels of cheese and sing songs with our pipes puff-puff-puffing away.

Shit, that was a long sentence. Hadley, I'm so sorry.

I want to believe that hunky Kal El is a real guy, that the sonic booms that ring over our neighborhood are him blasting through the atmosphere, that if an oil rig falls on my house, he will -- shirtless and beautifully muscled -- be there to catch it.

Hello, Kal El. Thank you for saving my house from that collapsing oil rig.

I'm not a purist. Hell, I'm not even a FAN of Superman. Never read the comics, didn't swoon over the earlier movies with the late Christopher Reeve. Didn't care a sniff. Not until Zack Snyder gave us Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe in tights.

Seriously. You GUYS.


THIS is why I'm a writer. I was not beautiful/thin/talented/smart/brave enough to make it in Hollywood, though I dreamed those dreams so hard, I would cry myself to sleep after working at one of three jobs to save the money to move to LA. (I tend toward the dramatic. And I really did work at three jobs at one point to save money to move to LA. Then I moved to LA and had to get another suffocating job to pay the rent. I'm not great with planning, I know this.)

Along with these movies, though, is THE MUSIC. Let me set the scene:

INT. - CHURCH BASEMENT

Banner made of dot-matrix printer paper hangs haphazardly from wall. In crayon, reads "FILM SCORE LOVERS ANONYMOUS." Chairs set around a table holding docked iPod. Side table with silver coffee carafe; plate overflows with frosted cookies shaped as musical notes.

JENN walks in. Chooses a cold chair.


GROUP LEADER
Today I'd like to welcome our newest member, Jenn.

JENN
Yes. Hi. (waves) I'm Jenn, and I'm a film score lover.

GROUP
(in unison)
(many in costume; looks like ComicCon in here)
Hiiiiii, Jenn ...

And so on and so forth.

Thanks to the demigod we mortals call Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel has a FANTASTIC score. Oh, people, honestly ... if you're not listening to Zimmer, I'm not sure if we can continue this thing we call friendship. The Dark Knight/Rises? Gladiator? Inception? Pirates of the Caribbean? Sherlock Holmes? The DaVinci Code?

I KNOW.

It feeds my obsession. The music is the meaty leg warm with pumping blood; I am the leech. I am insatiable. 

And so it has gone for the last months, my thirst unquenchable, as I've labored over yet another draft of Sleight. I quietly turned it in yesterday. No, I do not know what this means. Other than I LOVE it. Other than we wait. This freight train is not under my control.

But the music is. Because when I write, I imagine the actors playing the parts I have breathed life into. I dream about the book being made into a film (we all do) and who we'd get to do the film score. (I have my short list.) Because of this weird obsession, you can see why the movies and music and words are all on one plate for me. Like the bacon with the lettuce and tomato. I cannot have one without the other.

Recently a friend made the mistake of asking for recommendations for music to write by. As a proud film score lover, I answered accordingly:

~ ANYTHING by Alexander Desplat (though Tree of Life is a little odd for my taste); the Twilight Saga's New Moon is arguably one of my top five faves. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is beautiful. Oh, and Zero Dark Thirty. Awesome.

~ EVERYTHING by Hans Zimmer, as mentioned -- but especially Man of Steel

~ Harry Escott's Welcome to the Punch. (I may have peed when Harry Escott followed me back on Twitter. I'm afraid to check if he's still following me. I don't think I can handle any more rejection.) This score narrates brilliant action sequences, stitched seamlessly alongside haunting emotional overtones. (OMG, I love it when the boys cry.)

Now for crying-boy montage:
Mark Strong (my sweetie). Crying because he is a bad good man. (Low Winter Sun)

Cries over dead son. (Welcome to the Punch)
Russell Crowe (Jor El, Man of Steel) almost crying over sending son away to a foreign planet.

Definitely crying here. It's okay, Kal El. C'mere. Let's hug it out.
DAAAAAAAAAAD! More crying. *swoony sigh* If you don't tear up in this scene, you're soulless.
 Something is wrong with me if I like it when pretty boys cry.

MORE MUSIC PLEASE JENN:
~ The score for the film Oblivion (M83 and Anthony Gonzales) is great, as is the score for Disconnect (Max Richter).

Here's a list of brilliant composers to make it simple:
  • Danny Elfman (Oz the Great and Powerful, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, 9, Silver Linings Playbook, tons more -- he's Tim Burton's go-to composer)
  • Clint Mansell (The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream are my faves)
  • James Newton Howard (most recently Hunger Games: Catching Fire releases 11/29; also Snow White and the Huntsman and a zillion others)
  • James Horner (Avatar, Titanic, Legends of the Fall, Aliens)
  • John Williams -- ICONIC -- Harry Potter, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, et cetera. You know his music.
  • John Debney (Passion of the Christ is beautiful; Elf, Iron Man 2)
  • John Powell (Shrek, Bourne franchise, PS I Love You, How to Train Your Dragon)
  • Andrew Lockington (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters)
  • Henry Jackman (X-Men First Class, Wreck-It Ralph, Captain Phillips, Kick-Ass 2)
  • Marc Streitenfeld (Robin Hood, Prometheus, Body of Lies)
  • Michael Giacchino (Star Trek / ST Into Darkness, Up, The Incredibles, Super 8)
  • Howard Shore (all the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit films, Twilight Saga: Eclipse)
  • Thomas Wander (Anonymous)
  • Marco Beltrami (The Wolverine, World War Z, I, Robot)
  • Carter Burwell (Twilight fans rejoice!)
  • Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones!!!)
  • Bryan Tyler (Thor, Iron Man 3)
  • John Ottman (Jack the Giant Slayer, X-Men 2)
  • Craig Armstrong (A gorgeous orchestral score for DiCaprio/Luhrmann's Gatsby)
  • Steve Jablonsky (Ender's Game, Transformers)
  • Johann Johannsson (Prisoners)
  • Steven Price (Gravity)
  • Olafur Arnalds (short but powerful score for the BBC's Broadchurch)
Not to be overlooked: video game scores. Assassin's Creed Revelations is awesome. And it's a TON of music for an incredible price. Halo is solid too.

If you're a film score lover like I am, and you think you might need an intervention, we meet twice a week in the church basement on the corner of Angst Avenue and Brokenheart Blvd. Bring your appetite for cookies and inspired tears.

Before we go:


This blog post is a rambling mess. I'm sorry. But today I'm sort of a rambling mess. Turning in a beloved manuscript after yet another round of painful rewrites causes this. Some people cheer when they write the end. I never write those two words because they make me too sad. I've spent most of the day fluctuating between joy and desolation. Giggles and tears. Sunshine and darkness. I did, however, stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to shower and apply makeup. You know, in case that oil rig thing happens and Superman shows up on my porch.

One more for the road:

Hey, Superman ...
Au revoir, mes amoureux ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Honor of Veterans in Both My Home Countries

In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, today is Remembrance Day (entries from Wikipedia because I am not a history major):

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognised as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. ("At the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am) World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

It has come to represent a day of quiet reflection and heartfelt thanks to all our veterans throughout all conflicts. Like Ken Young, my wonderful father-in-law, who served as a Merchant Marine in World War II. Love and miss you, Dad.




 And in America ... Veterans Day:

Veterans Day is an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in armed service, also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.)
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

And my oldest son, serving in Afghanistan, now starting his post-Army life as a railroad conductor (so proud of you, Blakey!):




And my cousin ("uncle"), who served in the Air Force:
David W. Moffitt, US Air Force, 1963, Keesler AFB, Mississippi
Uncle Will's daughter followed in his footsteps and served as a US Navy hospital corpsman from 1989 to 1998, including tours in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield:


It started as Armistice Day:
Armistice Day (which coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays) is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.
In Canada, we wear a red poppy over our hearts for a few weeks leading up to Remembrance Day in honor of those who served.





"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem ... written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. ... Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where "In Flanders Fields" is one of the nation's best known literary works.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!


Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

 Thank you, veterans, for your service.

Xs and Os ...