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Need a little inspiration? [17 May 2010|07:18pm]
Need a little inspiration?
The Daily Prompt
The Daily Prompt is a series of blogs on IlanaWrites
for writers who need a little extra inspiration! These unique blogs help writers explore different genre and styles, take on new challenges, and
The site updates daily and you can post a link to your response piece in The Daily Prompt Forum The Daily Prompt Forum

(Mods: let me know if this isn't allowed and i'll remove it, thanks!)
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Last Day of Giveaway! [30 Oct 2009|11:25am]

Today is the LAST DAY to enter the Hush Hush Giveaway!

Winners announced on Halloween!
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GIVEAWAY! Hush, Hush Posters! [14 Oct 2009|11:23pm]

Readers of Becca Fitzpatrick’s debut novel are unlikely to remain Hush,Hush about the next big thing in young adult lit. Setting the new standards for heavenly hunks is Patch, a fallen angel whose only desire is to become human. While on earth he takes an interest in fellow classmate, Norah Grey. Since they met, Norah finds herself the victim of several near-death encounters. Although she finds Patch’s bad boy antics anything but charming, he always seems to be around to save the day . When at last Norah finds herself succumbing to his peculiar come-ons, she starts to wonder what exactly he’s pursuing her for.

I’ve got no doubts that Hush, Hush will leave readers with the same jealousy over Norah Gray as they did over Bella Swan. Expect many high school girls to be despondent and uninterested in anything but the book in their hands as Hush, Hush mania explodes.

Boys? Start pulling out the leather jackets and tattooing on those angel wings!

Want a Hush, Hush poster for your room or locker? YOU ARE IN LUCK, SIR! Because I have two beautiful ones to give away! (Thank you Simon & Schuster! And Becca! And UPS for not mucking them up!)


How to Enter:

1. Leave a comment on http://www.ilanawrites.com with your email mentioning the latest young adult book you read and who it was by.

Extra entries:

2. Add me on twitter and tweet: “ RT @IlanaJacqueline HUSH,HUSH Poster giveaway on www.ilanawrites.com ! (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway by mentioning it or linking to it. (2 extra entries)

Make sure you leave a comment on www.ilanawrites.com letting me know how many entries you submitted with links to your twitter/blog.

Winners will be announced on Halloween morning!
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Hope Endures: Leaving Mother Teresa, Losing Faith, and Searching for Meaning by Colette Livermore [10 Sep 2009|05:24pm]

[ mood | chipper ]

I read this book in one day. It is a story of a nun who joined Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity order. She speaks about her time helping the poorest of the poor while working through the very austere and strict environment of the order. She explains how she was refused to help a sick child because it interrupted teatime. It concerns her struggles with faith in God and her wanting to break free of the confines of a very strict rule of obedience. The author seems to struggle a bit with her conception of a woman who on one hand she admires for serving the poor but on the other hand wants almost sadistic devotion to authority and suffering for Jesus.

The book is a good read. It has good flow and is well written in my opinion. It also seems to be more conservative in its criticism of Mother Teresa compared to books like The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens.

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The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins [08 Feb 2009|08:05pm]

[ mood | thankful ]

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
Whilst I do not believe in God by any means and would certainly describe myself as an Atheist, my biggest issue with ‘The God Delusion’ is what Richard Dawkins would describe as his ‘Devout Atheism’. The fervour and passion he writes with is almost on a par with that of a religion devotees and thus at times is equally as awkward to digest. Perhaps it could also be due to a conditioning of our modern world he describes, in that we feel awkward discussing religious topics in public, in case we offend someone around us, even when reading the book I found myself occasionally hiding the title in front of possible ‘religious types’ in case I offended them. The book is generally easy to read and full of intriguing, interesting and thought provoking topics and nuggets of information only occasionally wandering into intellectual territory that may be lost on some readers.

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Book review : Derelict London [07 Feb 2009|10:42am]

[ mood | thankful ]

Derelict London, Paul Talling
I find this small collection of images documenting London’s derelict underbelly appealing for two reasons. I know the author from his days as an Indie label ‘boss’ and the fact that he turned to a successful sideline in snapping pictures of abandoned buildings is fascinating. Secondly a lot of the subjects within the book are familiar to me, sometimes in the same state as within the book and sometimes in their previous non-dilapidated state. My own connections aside this is a great little book of fascinating images of abandoned buildings, wasteland and other images of London’s abandoned side. The (small) physical size of the book makes some of the images annoyingly small when really this should be a coffee table sized book, but that’s more than likely a Publishers decision. The descriptions accompanying each photo give an insight into the mind of the author, full of references to London football teams and amusing anecdotes to reveal a side of London that you either didn’t know about or much like the subjects, had forgotten about.

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hey bibliophiles! [16 Jan 2009|08:02pm]

I started a new community for those of you who want to find more bibliophiles for your f-list.

Check it out !

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1421, Gavin Menzies [24 Oct 2008|03:52pm]

[ mood | peaceful ]

1421, Gavin Menzies
Living within the European focussed world view that many of us have had instilled into us from an early age it is often hard to forget that there are and were highly developed civilisations besides the Europeans, and the Europeans weren’t necessarily always the first to achieve or discover things. In 1421 Gavin Menzies sets out a believable hypothesis that the first nation to ‘discover’ and ‘chart’ the rest of the world outside of their own locality was the Chinese and not those who we’re led to believe such as Columbus and Magellan. He also sets out many pieces of evidence to show that China had a tremendous level of contact and influence on many nations around the world including the Aboriginals, Maori, Native Americans, African nations and more. The final strand of his hypothesis goes on to show that the European explorers were actually in possession of Chinese maps before they set out into the ‘unknown’. Perhaps the most fascinating elements of the book is realising how advanced the Chinese were, long before the rest of the world, in terms of technology, trade and attitude (there are no cases of Chinese slaughtering native races for no reason) and the shear scale of their operations, showing that the Chinese wielding massive power and potential is nothing new. The fact that China has only recently come out of the self imposed insularity it commenced in 1421 (thus drawing to a close it’s exploration and trading empires) makes this a very current and apt book. Gavin Menzies style is extremely enthusiastic, he is clearly passionate about his subject, he repeats himself a lot and his somewhat amateurish writing style sometimes grates, some waffling aside though, this is a truly fascinating read that makes you question a lot of what we believe and hold true in European society.

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Willy Vlautin [14 Jul 2008|10:25am]

One should never meet an artist whose work one admires; the artist is always so much less than the work.

Friday evening at WORD, a splendid little bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Deb and I attended a reading by Willy Vlautin, whose first two novels, The Motel Life and Northline, are two of the best books I've read in years. In a blurb advertising the event, Time Out New York called Northline a "bleak novel... about a pregnant woman who, in moments of deep trauma, speaks with her idol, Paul Newman." Reducing the book to these two plot points is as wrongheaded as describing John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath as a "road movie about a family that can't get work."

In between playing a couple of songs on his guitar (he's also the lead singer of Richmond Fontaine, a fine band that's been around since '94 and have ten or so CDs to their name), Vlautin read a passage from Northline, introducing it as a "story about weakness, about the bad things you do when you're feeling weak, the sideways moves you do. You get out of one bad situation and you feel good that you've made a brave step. But then you're so worn out that you end up making the same exact mistake."

Both of Vlautin's books are in the literary tradition of Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski. His spartan prose perfectly reflects the people about whom he writes: spare on the surface but ultimately strong enough to bear up under the lives they have made for themselves. Readers, like Vlautin's own characters, may be surprised to discover just how strong.

After the reading, we had an opportunity to meet Vlautin and have him sign our copies of his books. He and I both spent a chunk of our lives working in trucking out West (we were employed by competing companies), and we spent a few minutes talking about Reno and Portland and Salt Lake, about the Nugget Casino, and a legendary hamburger called the "Awful Awful." Deb and I left the bookstore with the feeling that—Toulouse-Lautrec be damned—Vlautin in person appeared to be as genuine and wryly funny as Vlautin the writer. It was a good night.

Willy Vlautin reads from Northline.
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[18 Jun 2008|06:12pm]

[ mood | ecstatic ]

 Hey Guys!!
LOGO just came out with a really cool list of the Best of Summer Listens, which includes books from great authors like Augusten Burroughs, Christopher Rice, and others! And the best part: we can download all the books straight to our iPod from this site. Check it out!

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The Prester Quest, Nicholas Jubber [28 Apr 2008|09:25pm]

[ mood | loved ]

The Prester Quest
Nicholas Jubber
The prester quest is a story of two men’s present day retracing of a journey from Italy to Ethiopia made by a Papal Emissary in 1177. His mission to deliver a letter to a supposedly (and widely believed to be) real King of a fantastical Christian land in the heart of Islamic lands. I read a similar 'retracing the steps' book (Victoria Clarks, The Wayfarers) about a year ago, which was an amazing read, so this book had a lot to live up to. It starts slowly and doesn’t really get going until about a quarter of a way through the book, the author's slightly facetious tone initially rather annoying and patronizing. However once the plot and journey kicks in the book is a gripping read full of interesting facts, observations and experiences from History and their eventful journey across several countries, continents and cultures.

Or read on my website at www.chinchillamusic.com/article.php?ID=185

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Bill Bryson, A short history of Nearly everything [16 Mar 2008|09:19pm]

[ mood | exhausted ]

Bill Bryson – A Short History of nearly everything
Black Swan

I have a recently rediscovered passion and interest for History, absorbing many tomes over the past few months, my favourite being brief surmises of ‘all of History’.

Possibly it’s laziness or a fear of delving to deeply into specific areas of History so early into my enthusiasm, or perhaps a desire to get an overall picture of the state of the world before specialising. Whatever the reason Bill Bryson’s infamous book that comes highly recommended from many sources is nothing to do with human history as such, rather a history of how we got here in the first place. 574 pages (plus 110 pages of notes and indices) dealing with weighty topics such as the creation of the universe, scientific pioneers and Evolution with an enthusiasm and clarity so often missing from such volumes, not only dealing with the issues but also revealing some of the fascinating characters and lives behind infamous discoveries.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects is the stories behind such familiar names, sometimes you hear so much about historical characters and their achievements you forget that they also suffered struggles, had lives, relationships and personalities. The book is a pleasure to read, you learn so much without it flying straight over your head or sending you to sleep, despite it’s topics you find the book hard to put down, eager to discover what happens next or what crazy ideas scientists came up with next.

It’s simultaneously scary and refreshing to realise that we actually know very little about the world around us and that so much of what we think we know has been discovered relatively recently. Likewise a lot of our assumptions and conjectures on the universe are based on such little evidence; there are many tales of completely and utterly ridiculous mistakes, but who’s to say that our assumptions now are any more accurate.

Life is fascinating, complex and confusing, full of amazing coincidences and mysteries, if you have even a modicum of interest in who we are and how we got here then I heartily recommend Bryson’s extraordinarily accessible book and challenge anyone not to learn at least a handful of captivating facts to conjure up during drunken late night conversations.

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. . . Pants on Fire [09 Mar 2008|12:36pm]

Last week yet another memorist was outed (this time by her sister no less!) as nothing more than a lowly fiction writer; once again begging the question: why didn't they just publish their works as fiction in the first place?

Ego and greed, probably.

Not discounting these writers' duplicity in dealing with their publishers, what's truly troubling when these contretemps raise their ugly little heads is the press's haughty shock and awe that any half-truths (or quarter- or third-truths) should have wormed their way into the sanctity of somebody's memoir. Literary and social critics alike thump their thesauri and behave as if, pre-James Frey coming along and embarrassing Oprah with his million little lies, every memoir published was letter-perfect when it came to factual matters--that no details were added or enhanced (or omitted), that no dialog was fabricated, that nothing was tweaked to make the piece better (or at least readable).

By its selective nature, a memoir is not journalism; it is subject to the tricks our memories play on us; how and why events took place are filtered, consciously or unconsciously, by our prejudices, belief systems, etc. Plus, let's face it, folks: life, by and large, is boring. Even fascinating people have plenty of downtime where nothing of much interest happens. Knowing what to emphasize and what to ignore, where a chapter--let alone the real story--begins and ends (in reality, most people's lives have very few--and very long--chapters), is the writer's job.

And while we're talking about it, the very journalists looking down their collective nose at these memorists are prone to the same refractions they're pillorying; they shouldn't be, but they are. The truth is never more malleable than in the hands of a writer.

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Reading Mr. Mamet [29 May 2007|12:32pm]

David Mamet's latest collection of essays, Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business, zeroes in on the subject of moviemaking — Hollywood moviemaking, in particular — and, as is his way, manages to make the reader feel a) pretty damn smart for understanding what's being set at our feet, b) dimwitted for sometimes not knowing what the hell he's talking about, or c) both a) and b) at the same time.

Reading Mr. Mamet is not unlike drinking a dose of cherry-flavored cough syrup: you don't necessarily enjoy it at the time you're downing it, you wonder where they picked these particular cherries, but afterwards, if its desired effect is successful, you're glad you took the measures.
(I speak here of Mamet's prose writing, not his playwriting. In that respect, I have nothing bad to say about the man who wrote Glengarry Glen Ross, nor, with few reservations, about the man who wrote the screenplays for The Verdict and the Untouchables, and who wrote and directed House of Games and State and Main. This hereby ends the world's longest mea culpa.)

That being said, the sections of the book devoted to "The Screenplay" and "Technique" prove invaluable reading for any writer. "Storytelling: Some Technical Advice" begins: "Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others." Mamet goes on to say that all successful stories utilize the same form: "Once upon a time, and then one day, and just when everything was going so well, when just at the last minute, and they all lived happily ever after. Period."

He misses the boat, however, with the book's appendix, which consists of over 30 pages listing the films referenced throughout the book. Rather than enticing us with descriptions of the movies that are salient and incisive, after providing the year the film was made, the principal actors, the director and writer, he boils the plot lines down to their bare bones (sans any marrow whatsoever) and presents capsule reviews that make Leonard Maltin sound like Shakespeare. (For example, his entry for Taxi Driver: "Isolated in New York City, a Vietnam vet takes it upon himself to violently liberate an adolescent prostitute from her pimp.")

If his goal was to demonstrate how the plots of even classic films can be reduced to a single sentence, he succeeds. But in doing so he also shows why so much of what comes out of pitch-happy Hollywood these days is devoid of mystery, poetry, character, or any trace of art.

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No Rest for the Wicked [19 Mar 2007|07:17pm]

In the end, we are who we are. The best we can hope for after we're gone is that someone will think enough of us to to render a kind and fair account of our memory.

The thing is, in death as in life, you tend to do unto others the way they did unto you, and, well, long story short, singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, who died from mesothelioma in 2003 at the age of 56, wasn't always a very nice person.

Zevon, like his songs, was often acerbically funny and witty and generous; in music and in life he possessed the ability to locate poetry in the commonplace. But he also epitomized Toulouse-Lautrec's dictum that "One should never confuse the artist with the art." Zevon the man  had difficulty seeing beyond his own often petty desires and, as a result, left scores of hurt friends and family in his wake. Which, when it comes to the more than 130 songs he wrote and recorded in his 34-year recording career, is neither here nor there.

In a genre that begets imitation and champions crass commercialism, Zevon was an original. Reviewing Zevon's eponymous album back in 1976, Paul Nelson called forth a disparate roster of stellar artists to herald Zevon's arrival: "he is a talent who can be mentioned in the same sentence with Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and a mere handful of others -- no apologies necessary."

All of which brings us, over 30 years later, to the new book I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. Written by Zevon's ex-wife Crystal Zevon, the book provides a compelling oral history of a man who was as troubled as he was talented. Detailing the years before, during, and after Zevon's battle with alcoholism, the result is an artfully rendered casebook study of an addictive personality and, because Zevon portrays herself as honestly as she does her ex-husband, a codependent relationship.

Less than halfway through the book, photographer and art director Jimmy Wachtel, commenting on Zevon's newfound sobriety, gets right to the heart of the matter: "To be honest, he was the same asshole, drunk or sober, so there wasn't that much difference except he didn't repeat himself as much."

For those of us who didn't know Warren Zevon personally, it remains the work that matters, for which he'll be remembered. For those who did know him, who have to sift through the memories and hang onto the ones that made Zevon special and kept him in their lives and their hearts, it's a bit more difficult.


I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon
is due out from HarperCollins on May 1st. In the meantime, Crystal Zevon is posting updates about personal appearances and other related events -- as well as material about Warren Zevon that doesn't appear in the book -- over at her website.

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Felt Life [22 Aug 2006|01:27pm]

[ mood | irritated with the Internet ]

Bob the Gambler, Frederick Barthelme's fine 1997 novel about Ray and Jewel Kaiser and Jewel's teenaged daughter RV, concerns itself with the introduction of a fourth member into their pieced-together Mississippi family: gambling, and its effect on their love for one another.

Barthelme knows loss. The one-after-another death of his parents in the mid-Nineties, on the heels of the death of his big brother Donald in 1989, made it possible for Barthelme and his brother Steven (both of them college professors and, like Donald, writers) to gamble away more than $250,000 -- most of their inheritance.

Anyone familiar with the allure of gambling will easily understand Ray and Jewel's beautiful and twisted illogic when they risk all they have -- and all they don't. Barthelme's accomplishment here is that he makes it possible, too, for his non-wagering readership to comprehend how Ray can, on one hand, cherish a quiet night at home in front of the TV with Jewel and RV, and on the other (the hand holding the cards), risk losing it all.

Along the way, the Kaisers acquaint themselves with other artistic treatises on the subject -- most notably Jean-Pierre Melville's amazing film Bob le Flambeur (providing not only the book with its name, but also RV's nickname for her stepfather) and Dostoyevsky's The Gambler, whose protagonists' ill-fated systems and schemes are somehow lost on Ray and Jewel.

Bob the Gambler is infused with Henry James' "felt life." Just as there's no doubt that at some point Bruce Cockburn encountered a bullet hole in "Peggy's Kitchen Wall," equally convincing is Barthelme's elegy to an addiction that promises something (and it's not money) for nothing.

Barthelme's writing has always been about gambling: seeing how long he can draw out his sentences, his passages, the moments between his characters, until they reveal more than is on the page. Like Peckinpah's best slow-motion shots, meaning is not found in the action, the action resides in the meaning.

Writing in the same seductive tones as the addiction itself, Barthelme is clearly best friends with the fleeting yet inveigling sensation that comes from beating the odds: the feeling that he's somehow, if only for a moment, managed his own destiny.

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So, introductions. [26 Jul 2006|12:39pm]

[ mood | nervous ]

I'm not really one who joins LJ Communities, but as I'm away from University for the summer, it would be nice to have a place to bathe in the glow of literature, which doesn't happen much here. My name is Meg, currently an English major at the University of British Columbia. I'll be going into my second year there, and my first year was so wonderfully literate that now I want nothing more to do than sit and read old, smelly, library-worn books, no matter how sad and antisocial that might make me.

Anyway, my current readings for the summer are To Kill A Mockingbird, The Brothers Karamazov, Coraline, Enormous Room, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and The Complete Journals Of Sylvia Plath. I won't know what I'm reading next year yet, but the course lists for UBC come out August 1.

Also, I have plans to work on a silent film based upon Mordicai Gerenstein's The Old Country, a children's book that I fel in love with, along with some friends, last sememster.

And, um, that's about it. I live in Florida when I'm not in Vancouver, and that's boring.

So yeah, Hi, I'm quiet_cinema, and I'm new. Expect me to start fawning over classics at any time.

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To Dance on Sands [22 Jul 2006|11:28pm]

[ mood | achy ]

Marta Becket is her own best friend, and her splendid autobiography suggests that's how it should be for anybody who fancies herself an artist, dancer, painter, composer, or writer -- all of which, not coincidentally, Ms. Becket happens to be. Beyond mere autobiography, To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley's Marta Becket, examines the ascetic lifestyle she chose and all its attendant self-sacrifices (including, for many years, love).

I first wrote about Ms. Becket and her work last March in my post "Are You Saved?" The subject of Todd Robinson's exquisite documentary Amargosa, Ms. Becket is a New York City-born dancer who almost 40 years ago found herself smack-dab in the middle of some of the most godforsaken territory imaginable -- Death Valley Junction, California -- and never left. Ms. Becket, who turns 82 on August 9th, doesn't rely on the town's population (depending on your source, somewhere between two and twenty) to come see her dance, however. As in Field of Dreams, people come from around the world to witness what she has created. Death Valley Junction is her Iowa cornfield, and the amazing Amargosa Opera House is her baseball diamond.

Fans of Amargosa expecting To Dance on Sands to be fat with tales of her life in Death Valley may be disappointed, as it occupies only a single chapter. What comes before details the road traveled to get there, a path that proved that dancing wasn't her only means of expression, and the decisions rendered along the way that ultimately determined the route she took. Ms. Becket's story is a fascinating and compelling one, so much so that the occasionally clunky writing style is forgiven. What she's writing about rises above any such shortcomings, and provides a handbook for anybody interested in art and the space it occupies in our lives.

Throughout her own life, Ms. Becket again and again confronts the question whether or not it is right for an artist to expect so much of one's self at the expense of others. (While she painted the magnificent mural that graces her beloved opera house, her husband,whose love and devotion was always somewhat suspect, felt neglected and sought attention elsewhere.) She asks if what she does is "necessary" and wonders whether she might have been happier as "someone ordinary."

Marta Becket asks the questions that all artists must ask themselves. Given her life and accomplishments, the answers are contained within her fine book.

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Stray Bullets [16 Jul 2006|09:01pm]

[ mood | Just had huevo la flamenca ]

If you liked stray bullets, try reading 100 bullets, it's really cool, it's about this gunman who has 100 totally untraceable bullets, and the people who pay him to kill. It's quite a cool idea, because wouldn't we all kill someone if we were guaranteed never to get caught?

KG xx

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