Ready . . .or Not

I was ready for a busy December. Wrote my post early in the month and told myself I’d do another as soon as the holidays were over.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how busy January became . . .Feb

or how packed with activity the first three weeks of February are.

As I write, roofers remove old shingles and mutter things about “worse than we thought.”

Worse than we thought too. We thought we’d fixed our weak spot before the El Nino storms. My husband patched this summer. For two days of rain we were snug and dry. But the roof was no match for the downpour on the third day.

Don’t you just hate finding your sewing nook transformed into a swamp?

Living stone succulent that just bloomed.

Living stone succulent that just bloomed.

A plumber also works today in our circa early 1900’s bathroom—a companion piece to the roof.

Water news from Southern California is never easy come, nor easy go. But we struggle on and are especially grateful for the roofers working today. It’s expected to get up to the high 80’s or 90’s (seriously? February?).

Hopefully, the next El Nino storm will be tracked inside only after it’s fallen to the ground.

And now to books. Yes, I’ve had time to do a little reading—not a lot, but some.

Year of the Tiger, by Alison Lloyd and published by Holiday House in 2010, is a middle grade novel set in the Han Kingdom of China with a bit of a Prince and the Pauper feel.

Year of TigerHu, a peasant boy, and Ren, the youngest son of a Commander of the Imperial Troops, were both born in the Year of the Tiger. Now, twelve years later, it’s again the year of the Tiger when they meet and slowly form a friendship.

In the first part of the book, I felt I was learning about life in ancient China from both noble and peasant perspectives. As the story progressed, the tension rose. While the troops and their conscripts, Hu’s father included, race to repair the Great Wall before barbarian troops can attack, the growing trust between Hu and Ren is destroyed. Will there ever be the opportunity for it to be rebuilt? At what cost?

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to hear Stephanie Diaz speak at a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting. She talked about world building for your novel. She’s an informative speaker and just an all-round appealing person.Extraction

She wrote her debut YA novel Extraction while a young adult herself. Talk about having your finger on the pulse of your intended audience! She had her first acceptance for publication when she was nineteen years old.

Clearly a writer to watch . . . and read.

So I bought a copy of Extraction, published in 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin, and got started on the first book of the trilogy. Clementine lives on an earth that has been poisoned—an earth where safety lies deep in the crust rather than on the surface, an earth where children and young people do the labor that needs to be done above.

Clementine’s almost sixteen, the age when she will take a test to see if she’s smart/valuable enough to “extract” from the surface and take to the safety, privileges, and values of underground society. What does Clementine want?

This dystopian novel is a page-turner.

It brings to mind The Hunger Games for comparison. I kept trying to figure out why the writing made it impossible for me to put it down without quite pulling me all the way in. At the beginning, I thought maybe this world was, if possible, a little meaner than the Capitol and the Districts in The Hunger Games.

What I finally decided is, while Clementine has people she loves, there aren’t relationships with quite the same Katniss-Peeta bittersweetness or the Katniss-Prim and Katniss-Rue tenderness . . . yet.

But Diaz’s writing is solid and I can’t wait to read Rebellion and Evolution to see what Clementine does next and the way Stephanie Diaz grows as a writer.

Still more layers to go . . .

Still more layers to go . . .

P.S. The word about the roof is indeed worse than expected. So I’m soothing myself with Margot Zemach’s It Could Always Be Worse, published in 1976 by Harper Collins.Could Be Worse

So what do you see? A rose half-way at its peak or half-way gone? (It did this on its own and lasted several days like this. I didn't pull off petals.)

So what do you see? A rose half-way at its peak or half-way gone? (It did this on its own and lasted several days like this. I didn’t pull off petals.)

When a poor man can no longer stand his crowded, noisy home, he goes to the rabbi. The rabbi gives advice that only makes the situation worse. But by the end of the story the man’s crowded, noisy home seems like a peaceful retreat.

I’m working on a similar attitude adjustment—one that doesn’t require multiple farm animals.