Sunday, February 28, 2010


There has a been a hitch in the blogging plan...namely, the piles of snow that have fallen over my house as if the entire sky had decided rest itself upon the ground. Besides the endless shoveling of the driveway (and roof) that comes with four feet of snow, there has also been the minor inconvenience of 60 hours without electricity. The power is back on, but the Internet is out. I've had to retreat to the local cafe for a little bit of interweb and some local color. 

I've oddly enjoyed the lack of light and television...some insight has been gained on life of times gone by. However, no running water was a bit of drag. And the wife refused to let me cheat (just a little) at Yatzee. 

I promise to be back once the propriety has properly thawed. This outage has been brought to you by, Mother Nature, Time Warner, and NYSEG. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 8

Classified Enemy Information 004 (access Intercepted Communications)

The following file collected by our top placed child agent and delivered through underground channels.

FILE NAME: Bianca Eldon


Special Skills: Espionage, Recruitment

Comments: Highest Ranking Human Child among the Warrens

Location: Outer Warrens

Originally believed to be part of the first group of Human Children captured and converted by the enemy, it is now understood that Bianca Eldon (formerly of parents Richard and Patricia- now deceased) defected hours before the first disappearance (commonly referred to as The Night of a Hundred Sorrows in the underground human settlement). Information has been uncovered, suggesting Bianca may have orchestrated the kidnapping with the help of --name classified-- and may or may not be under hypnotic influence.


...having been put fully in charge of the human child population now habitating within the warrens. Though most disciplining has been regulated to subordinates, Bianca remains the most feared of the humans. Even a number of the rabbits...


...most frequently in the Outer Warrens, planning new raids and subterfuge to infiltrate the underground settlements.

Updates to follow. 

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Monday Morning Edition)

The Roundup comes a day late this week due to my brief but pleasant sojourn to Florida for the past several days. The list is also cut short due to a few less days of listening time. However, I think I can pull off a respectable addition to the Monday Morning Edition of the Roundup. Enjoy.

The Muldoons - The Muldoons: I saw these kids (literally, kids) open for The White Stripes years ago, but the sound was terrible and the crowd was loud, so I didn't really get to hear much of it to any extent. I tracked it down again after my interest was perked by a later entry on this list and was shocked at how good this album was. A heavy Detroit garage sound from the minds of two preteen boys. Aggressive and angry and great. It quickly made the top ten of my KidCore list

The Alan Parsons Project - I Robot: One of five APP albums I got from what I'm now referring to as the Great Vinyl Score of Christmas '09, this was definitely my favorite of the five. Sure, it's pure late '70s coke rock but I've always had a soft spot for that genre when done well, thanks to my Saturday Night Fever disco punk days in the winter of '93...the winter where everything changed. This album kind of takes me back there on an emotional level. It was a fun ride.

Seasick Steve - Dog House Music: I'm a little late to the party on this one in a way...though I've known of Steve since this album, released back in 2006, I didn't really tune in. He plays a style blues with a real old timey feel, which makes sense, him being an old timer and all. He got big in the UK a few years back and I've been digging on the track "Things Go Up" for well over a year. Finally got hold of the whole album (he has subsequent releases). It's solid old timey blues, if that's your thing. 

Spank Rock - YoYoYoYoYo: Yet another album from 2006 that I missed out on. I got into Spank Rock through backdoor channels, which really isn't that unusual in my listening history. His guest rhyme on Santogold's "Shove It" is supreme, enough so that he deserved his day in court. This didn't disappoint. Interesting beats and golden flow...a hip-hop recipe for long listening pleasure.
The Upholsters - Makers of High Grade Suites: A pre-White Stripes Jack White project, The Upholsters only ever put out this one 7 inch, but the three songs on here are pure garage heaven. I've been searching for this for years. One of the B-sides surfaced on a White Stripes bootleg I got years ago (a cover of Jack Starr's "Pain Gimme Sympathy") and is one of my favorite songs. The other two songs on here are equally as blistering. Six well spent minutes. The other guy in the band is the father of The Muldoon boys, he's also the drummer in that band.

Brian Jones - Bones and Jones (Vol. 1 and 2): Brian Jones is one of the towering figures of rock lore that has always intrigued me, not only because he's my namesake, but also because everyone knows Mick and Keith sold his soul for rock n' roll. This two disc bootleg gives a good insight to the Jone's Stones influence, the more Beatlesque sounding Stones tracks that all but disappear after his death. Good stuff. 

Neil Young - Time Fades Away: This 1973 live album completes my pre-1980 Neil Young collection. Though I have a ton of live Neil concerts from that era, this album is significantly different. A much more country folk selection of songs and more jamming than many of the acoustic sets I've heard from the same era. Well worth it for Neil fans. 

Uriah Heep - Return to Fantasy: Another one from the Great Vinyl Score, this 1975 hard prog rock from German band Uriah Heep is pretty awesome in a Led Zeppelin kind of way (the cover sort of gives that away). I also have an earlier album of theirs (Salisbury) which is also pretty good, but this one stood out as being a little stronger in my opinion. Nothing revolutionary, but a solid '70s hard rock album for those sick of the ones you've heard six million times already.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Replay it Again

One of the really fascinating aspects of working on a second draft is being able to replay scenes over and over. It's like a reoccurring dream, with the power to change it at will. The second draft, possibly even more than the first, is a process of asking what if? 

Like walking through rooms in a mad funhouse, I find myself stepping into each chapter and thinking what if this happens instead that. Of course, this happens in first drafts constantly. What makes it different in the revisions is that you can weigh the options based on everything that happens after, not just before. Therefore the decisions are more precise and the changes more focused. The major conflict for a writer, in my opinion, is having to courage to trust in those alterations. 

More than ever before, I'm finding this process to be extremely exciting. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 7

Classified Enemy Information 003 (access Intercepted Communications)

The following file collected by our top placed child agent and delivered through underground channels.


ENEMY RANK: The Hypnotizer 

Special Skills: Mind Control, Sonic Assault Weaponry, Propaganda 

Comments: Commands the Human Child Inclusion Program.

Location: Central Warrens

It is believed that the elimination of this operative would have a dramatic effect in ending the defection of human children to the warrens' ranks. A loyal friend of General Nippon, Fival developed the high frequency mind control program currently depleating the Human settlements. His uniquely placed teeth, slanted at 13ยบ angle, produce a specific sonic signal capable of....


Prone to fits of a rare rodent disorder, Fival goes through long periods of rabid behavior. It is known that he is responsible for at least eleven rabbit murders. The authority needs no persuasion to look the other way. Too valuable to the cause...


Agent ---name classified--- has been lost. Even with the sonic ear blockers, Fival proved too powerful. With direct, close contact, he was able to pierce the defensive technology. It is imperative he is made our top priority, even able General Nippon. 

Updates to follow. 

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

It's been a week of grey days and snowstorms that never came up around these parts, which means it's the time of year that I seem to retreat into acoustic soundscape music. Compounded with the weather is that fact that this week was dedicated mainly to the development of story ideas and concepts...this also lends itself to the mental imagery conjuring abilities of such albums. However, I do still need to clear the brain out with rock, so not everything here will strike the kids as b-o-r-i-n-g.

HIM - Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice: I'm not afraid to admit I've been a HIM fan for a decade (and several years before Bam or Hot Topic knew they existed, thanks to my Euro friends). They play love metal at its finest and I could listen to Ville Valo sing all day long. That said, I didn't have high expectations for this one. There last album was such a let down and I'd worried they'd lost it. This album is much better, but treads similar ground. HOWEVER, the special issue includes a bonus disc of the entire album acoustically...and that my friends is fantastic. Certainly worth the extra price (or extra searching). 

Guns N' Roses - Live in Concert: Democracy in Japan 2009: This boot of GNR's December concert in Japan isn't their best concert or the best quality, but it was interesting to hear all of Chinese Democracy played live (mixed in with other songs in the 3+ hour concert). Whole Lotta Rosie and Rocket Queen sound great. And Tommy Stinson singing Sonic Reducer is pretty awesome, nearly as good as Joe Dick's version.  

The Mad Trist - Pay the Piper: Certainly I was attracted to this by the great cover and the title (the Pied Piper of Hamlin story is one of my favorites). The album turned out to be a solid enough Queens of the Stone Age impersonation. Rock with just enough tinge of eerie to make it un-bland. If this is your genre, I don't think you'd be disappointed.

The Lickets - They Turned Our Desert Into Fire: One of the soundscape albums I promised. Sounding much like Pink Floyd in their Cymbaline days. Certainly more of a headphones album, I'm liking this one quite a lot.

Rocky Votolato - True Devotion: A singer/songwriter with a Midwestern folk vibe, I was looking forward to this. I loved Rocky's last album The Brag and Cuss. There was something smart about that album that captured that sense of loneliness that comes with escaping in the mind and drink too often. True Devotion doesn't quite capture it and seems to miss the mark a little. A decent listen, but I highly recommend going for previous effort over this one. 

Small Black - Small Black: I've been reading great things about this debut from the Brooklyn band on one of my favorite labels, Jagjaguwar. It's very much a Brooklyn sound...fuzzed out vocals, subdued disco drum beats blurred by post-rock guitars. It's a formula that's worked for countless Brooklyn hipster bands and it works here as well. There's moments of brilliance on this album, but overall, I think it stays too close to that formula...or just that there's been too many bands to follow the same formula that it doesn't stand out to me. Good, but not great...though I certainly look forward to what these guys come up with next. 

Jeans Wilder - Antiques: A garbled, lo-fi kind of album that sounds like an artifact from home recording past, though it's new...still though, more than likely a home recording and released on *gasp* cassette, as is the trend with a lot of these droney folk bands (read Natural Snow Buildings). I liked this very much, even though its impossible to know what the guy is singing about because it's soooo lo-fi, but somehow that adds to the mood. Keep in mind though, I am a sucker for this kind of album. 

Harlem - Free Drugs ;-) : After the surprise of "Hippies" (and based on the dANIMAL's advice), I checked this out, Harlem's earlier release. Very good garage rock. Rougher certainly than "Hippies" but not in a bad way. Hailing from Austin, it's interesting that they really seem to capture a Washington Square Park vibe for me. Oh, and I highly suspect they were on drugs while making this album. Just a hunch.

Agalloch - The White: Another soundscape album, I really loved this one. A neo-folk sound, it's an album of atmosphere. That atmosphere to me is like the setting of a dark Victorian children's book where bad things are lurking in pretty disguises. 

Ralph McTell - Not Till Tomorrow: British folkster that is very much in the long line of late '60s and early '70s British folksters to borrow heavily from Don't Look Back era Bob Dylan. This 1972 album is definitely Dylan-esque but a very passable. I put this vinyl on the spinner whilst building a fire and found myself perking up on nearly every song. That typically means, good stuff.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Frogs in a Dynamite Pond

Some people find themselves creatively spent after working on a project for an intense period of time, but for me, the opposite always seems to happen. After finishing the first draft of a novel, I'm quickly overwhelmed with new ideas. It's as if all of these stories that I've pushed to the back of my brain suddenly explode the surface.

In the last few days, I've outlined three new novels in immense detail that I can hardly decide which to occupy myself with next (though there is a leading contender that I can't seem to stop thinking about). I equate the feeling to that upon finishing reading a book and staring at the stack of books set aside to be read. A small part of me is too exhausted to pick up any of them, but the overwhelming majority of me wants nothing more than to grab the pile and read them all at once. 

Of course, the work isn't finished yet on the novel I've been working I must not get ahead of myself. In recent years, I've learned to temper my enthusiasm for tackling new projects. I sketch out the major points and let the ideas simmer and develop. One thing I've discovered in my career is that there are few mistakes worse than starting the wrong project at the wrong time. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Work Begins

The other day, I finished the first draft of my new novel...which means, the real work is about to start. It wasn't always the case that the second draft was the real challenge. Of course, that's because in my youth, like most youths, I didn't believe in second drafts. Here it is, in all its glory was my attitude. Naturally, my ego blinded the super-ego filter into not seeinbg that very little glory was on the page as far as construction and extended metaphor were concerned. In those days, just getting the story out from beginning to end felt like an achievement.

Once I started publishing, and working with editors, I began to fully comprehend the possibilities a second and third draft contained. Refinement. That's the true treasure of the second draft.

Inevitably, an observant writer will notice flaws in their work somewhere around two-thirds into the first draft. No matter how tightly you outline, there's going to be repetition and rambling. (We're writers after all, we ramble by nature.) There's also going to be scenes you dreamt up that didn't come out right, or places where the story drifts and the language gets clumsy. While it's critical to make course adjustments along the way and repair obvious disasters, it's also important not to get too bogged down in tiny issues. Plow ahead, but make notes along the way of things that are bothering you.

One of the most important, and overlooked, steps in writing a novel is to have a plan of action before going into the second draft. Take some time to think about what it is you want to accomplish with it. I find if you just dive in and start editing, there's a chance of making a mess of things. Have some ideas going into it. patient. The second draft requires a lot of mental energy. Whereas first drafts can be fun and excited...the second is just work, but somehow, that makes it all the more rewarding.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 6

Classified Enemy Information 002 (access Intercepted Communications)

The following file collected by our top placed child agent and delivered through underground channels.



Special Skills: Tunneling Expert, Communications Sabotage, Organization & Adaptation

Comments: Ruthlessly demands loyalty to his leadership.

Location: (Undisclosed)

Originally a member of one of the outlying warrens, Nippon rose quickly through the ranks during the early days of the uprising. Finally seized command by brutally disposing of ---enemy name classified---, lunging for the neck and ripping fur and flesh. Addressing the rodent soldiers with blood stained teeth, Nippon called for greater use of human technologies, such as....


...trusts few and lets even fewer in his circle of advisers. None of the human children are allowed close to him under any circumstances. Strict regulations direct his movements. As the general grows more reclusive, and is seen less and less on the front lines, a carefully orchestrated rumor of madness is circulating and spreading quickly through the central warrens. 

Updates to follow. 

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

It's Sunday again and time for a roundup of albums that intrigued me for one reason or the other during the past work week. As usual, old and new collide. Also, there's two albums on here that I've actually had for nearly a year, but heard with new ears of late. So, they've been included.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory: Widely believed to be the bands best, this 1970 release sees the perfecting of the Creedence swamp rock sound. Though, I grew up hearing a lot of their songs on the radio, I've only recently listened to their albums. I got Green River about a year ago, and though I liked it, it didn't really stick. This one is slightly better and it's great classic rock, but for whatever reason, they still just sound like a lesser Traffic to my ears. Which, isn't to say is a bad thing. 

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?: I've had this for a few weeks, but failed to list it here because the cover wasn't yet available. Given the title, I was pretty excited to hear this and went into it with much enthusiasm. Like some of their other works, it's a wild mess. But with any mess, some are more enjoyable than others. This is by far the weakest album of theirs I've heard, but there are still moments of worthiness...but only for fans.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us: For the past several years, the Rainbow has been one of my favorite neo-psyche bands specializing in sunny weirdness. (Falling through a Field and Dandelion Gum are both gems). This fits right in. Perhaps more accessible than previous efforts, but not in a bad way, and without a bit of sacrificing their brand of crazy. Good stuff. 

The Beatles - Hot as Sun: The latest effort in the endless game of putting together the infamous "lost" Beatles album, this is a solid effort. There are many of such fictional albums that harken to the legend of a wiped pre-Abby Road Beatles album; taking demos, solo tracks and snippets and working them together into Side A and Side B. This one feels complete and believable. Had it been released like this, it would signaled an interesting turn for the Fab Four. 

P.O.S. - Never Better: This is one of those albums I mentioned at the top. I've had this about a year and enjoyed it from first listen, but it quickly got overshadowed by some other hip-hop that I got around the same time. I dug it out again this week and it sounded richer than I had remembered. Super smart, super tight, a good example of abstract indie-hop. 

Thurston Moore - trees outside the academy: I don't know why I waited so long to get this 2007 album, perhaps because that year was kind of Sonic Youth overload for me. But I admit to listening to S.Y. albums mainly for Thurston songs, and Thurston's '95 Psychic Hearts is a treasure. This is doesn't quite have that impact, probably only due to exposure, but it's a great album with some truly awesome Thurston tunes on it. 

The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters: Glasgow indie rockers' 2007 concept album of sorts. Oddly, what made this album interesting to me was the many layers within the songs...but the overall effect of those layers piled atop one another ultimately works against itself, blending some intricate work into blandness and creating an unfortunate mediocre rock sound. Still though, in the right mood, it's a decent listen. And if straight forward indie-emo rock is your thing, you'll love it. 

Massive Attack - Heliogoland: Once an important band in my life, I stopped paying attention at the turn of last decade. However, I was interested in this one once the collaborators were announced. Some paid off great. The Hope Sandovall song is amazing, but others, not so much. The Damon Albarn song is a good example of the whole album for's beautiful, but sort of boring. That's how I felt about the album. Perhaps if I hadn't fed on their earlier material in my formative years, I would have found this more interesting. 

The Lennon Sisters - Let's Get Acquainted: The other of the albums I've had for some time and didn't fully appreciate until recently. These teen sisters were featured on the Lawrence Welk show in the late '50s and '60s. This is a collection of harmonized, big band tunes that on the surface should be terrible, but actually have a great early morning, waking up sound. Perhaps it the terrific nostalgia sound that appeals to me (or the fact the Welk is rumored to be my great-grandfather) but I've been listening to this album a lot. It's '50s television pop at its finest.

Lucero - Tennessee: This 2002 release is another solid alt country album from one of my favorite alt country acts. There is not a release of theirs that I haven't enjoyed. Get yerself a whiskey and give 'em a spin. You'll thank me for it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Got to Read the Labels?

For the record, I have no intention of turning this into a book review blog...however, reading often tends to get me thinking about writing. I read books for the enjoyment of reading, but the writer in me can't be turned off completely (or the English Lit major who still begs me pick up a pen and underline, underline, underline...). 

This isn't a review of Wendy Mass's 11 Birthdays, but an opportunity to discuss writing elements, present in the book. Let me start by saying the book itself is quite fun and the two main characters, and their friendship, is wonderfully written and enjoyable to read. It's well worth the read.

There. That's out of the way.

Now, I want to talk about something that has always bugged me about a lot of upper middle grade and YA books -- the need to include random brand-name objects. In my opinion, this is a literary crime, propagated by either author or editor. I'm guilty of this myself in exactly one instance, from first novel, and I still wish I could edit it out. But I did it because I was describing a specific person that I actually knew, not because I was trying to be trendy. It doesn't justify the crime, but it certainly downgrades it to a misdemeanor. 

A felony offense in this category is when the sole intent is to artificially make the story relatable. Given that most marketing experts think of kids as shallow and superficial, there is this compulsion to include objects in order to make things cool. The thinking when it comes inclusion of these references in books is that it will help the story feel immediate to a fickle of this age are obsessed with having the cool things and are terrified of seeming uncool is the standard line of thinking...therefore, let's do that with the characters. 

Besides the fact that I believe kids are more than easily manipulated consumers, here's my problem with the above line of thinking -- though outward appearances are certainly of utmost importance in adolescences, it doesn't need to manifest itself with brand-names. Books are an inward experience. They don't need to include a laundry list of popular brands because nobody but the reader is witnessing it. In a movie, being a social setting for the most part, I can understand the importance of dressing the characters and styling the set to appeal to standards of hipness. But a book is different. As long as the concept is clear, the reader will visualize whatever objects apply to them. 

Ultimately, I think the brand naming detracts from a book more often than it adds. It quickly dates the book down the road. It can have the opposite impact if a certain reader finds a certain product to be "uncool." And it just isn't necessary. 11 Birthdays is a perfect example of that. The story and human relationships are powerful enough to carry to the book and endear readers to it. Therefore, these objects felt like a gimmick. I suppose the writing lesson I'm trying impart is that detail doesn't need to mean brand names. For example, the Spongebob balloon in the book would have been just as effective it were some other identifying factor. And in ten will that product signifier affect and possibly detract from a fantastic and meaningful story? Something I think writers should always consider.

Once again, I recommend the book. It's a wonderful read. But what is a blog for if not to rant about pet peeves?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Do You Think You're God or Something?

One of the hardest things about writing a novel for me is having to do truly horrible things to the main character. As I approach the conclusion of the first draft to my new novel, I find myself forced to play the role of cruel overlord and do things that I know are going to devastate the narrator. 

Sure, I knew this point was going to come from the beginning. But it's still a strange feeling. As a writer, you spend months with your character and are essentially their closest companion on whatever journey they take. Though the people are fictional, the relationship one experiences with them is real. This is also true for the reader. The main character is somebody you grow to trust and like, or distrust and hate, but either way, there is a human connection that occurs. Obviously, this bond is quite different and more intimate between writer and character. 

During the process of writing a novel, the character learns to trust you to tell their story. But as the writer, you know the story isn't's yours and you're ultimately in charge. The time will come when you have to play the role of tormentor. It's never part of the process I look forward to and for that, I typically think those moments are some the strongest moments in my books. Or in most books actually. My guess is because the difficulty facing the character is tied to the emotional struggle of the author having to betray their friend for the sake of creation.

I hope my character doesn't read this...I already suspect she's onto me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Delusional Illusions

-If Virtual Reality systems actually begin to be installed in people’s homes and are effective in their illusion of reality, this will represent the greatest event in human evolution. For the first time, mankind will be able to deny reality and substitute its own preferred vision.- (J. G. Ballard; Blitz 1984) 

-A huge inward migration is taking place at the moment: people are retreating from the outside world into the inner world. When Virtual Reality arrives, it won’t be necessary to go anywhere.- (J. G. Ballard; Seconds 1996) 

As I work my way, slowly and thoughtfully, through this wonderful book of quotes, I continue to come across ideas that resonate with my own way of thinking. The above two quote deal with concepts I've been thinking about a lot lately as I play with them within the novel I'm currently writing. 

If reality is flawed, are we better off substituting it with one of our own making? If one chooses to do that, what are the real-life consequences? If a whole society switches off, what will sustain it?

Of course, the literary world is ripe with novels exploring this type of dystopian future. And I think, provided modern civilization doesn't implode before then, we will face these kind of questions. My exploration of it though is on an individual level and the tangled web woven when imagination and sanity get twisted together. As to what I've'll have to wait a little while for that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 5

Classified Enemy Information 001 (access Intercepted Communications)

We are starting to receive the first usable intelligence from Operation:Public Bunnemy. One of our highly placed child agents, -------(agent name deleted for security purposes)--------, delivered the following dossier on enemy positions in the immediate area of our facility. As you can see, their supply trails are strategic, expanding, and nearly surround our position. The startling revelation that the hoards have since migrated north to the Sierran Mts....


...continued restructuring of town activities within the settlement. Further tunnels have been planned to the east and west. The majority of civilians relocated comfortably underground and adapting well to newly invented eating habits recommended by our scientists. But with this costly information, it's possible the restrictions will not last long.

We anxiously await more information from the child agents. Profiles of the Rabbit High Command expected soon provided the do not get caught. The enemies own spies are all around us.

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Great Expectations of Genius Part II

In a bit of a follow-up to the discussion within my review of Steamboy, I want to talk about the book I just finished reading, The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau - a sequel to The City of Ember

I went into this book with high expectations. The City of Ember story has occupied some prime real estate in my imagination since I read it a year and half ago. I'd heard mixed things about the follow-up books and was skeptical that they were an attempt by an author to simply cash on it on first novel hit. But my enduring curiosity to find out what happened to Lina and Doon won out and I dove in.

My reaction to this book was a complete reversal from my experience with Steamboy. What I discovered was a book that, in my opinion, overshadows it's already wonderful predecessor. 

The City of Ember drew its strength of story from its truly brilliant concept. The characters were endearing, but essentially functional to the story. Plot was everything, and it was done exceptionally well. The People of Sparks is a very different book. The writing is what shines through and the heart of the characters drives the plot. But like Ember, the town of Sparks seems to materialize before your eyes while reading. 

What was really remarkable in my opinion was the way DuPrau captured the sense of wonder the Emberites felt with each new discovery they made...especially as these "discoveries" are things that the reader takes for granted. 

-Over his head, the sky was a deep, clear blue, a thousand times bigger than the black lid that had covered Ember, and around him the green-and-golden land seemed to stretch away without end. Doon kept wondering where the edges were.- 

As a writer, we always try to present the world in a way that seems give the ordinary a fresh perspective. I couldn't image the daunting task she must have faced, staring at the blank screen, and trying to make our entire world feel like a new discovery. It's a thousand times easier to invent a compelling world, than it is to make our own feel magical. 

On top of the wonderful writing, there is certainly a page-turning plot that I didn't want to step away from. Not to mention that it's a pretty profound and deconstructed look at the nature of conflict escalation, resolution, courage, kindness, greed and forgiveness. And that's not exaggeration, it truly is. 

-In the sunlight, [the city] looked more sad than terrible. Over the rolling, grass-covered mounds, the skeletons of the old towers stood like watchmen. The trees bent their backs before the wind, and the wind swept ripples across the surface of the green water that wrapped around the city’s edges. Maybe, thought Lina, the sparkling city she’s seen in her mind was a vision from the distant future, not the distant past. Maybe someday the people of Ember—or the great-great-grandchildren of today’s people of Ember—would come back here and build the city again.-  

Bravo! If they do...I hope to read about it.