Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding Connections With Characters

You know one thing I love about reading? I love how you can make connections with characters. Not just the sort of connection where you're like "Oh hey! I've experienced that too!" but the kind of connection where when you decide to re-read a book for the hundreth time you feel like you're revisiting old friends and catching up.

Am I insane, or do other people feel the same way? Both is also an exceptable answer to that question.

I am currently re-reading the whole Harry Potter series in celebration of the release of part one of the seventh film coming out next month. Yesterday, I finished the fourth one. (I'm assuming all of you have read it yourselves or seen the movie, but if not, skip the next few lines so I don't spoil anything for you.) I was reading along, trying to remember the answer to the sphinx's question during the third task, and then I reached the end of that chapter where Cedric and Harry decide to share the victory and both take hold of the cup turned portkey. You know what happened then? I should probably be ashamed to admit this but my eyes totally started watering and wouldn't stop! I was hoping I wouldn't break out into full blown out crying (I'm proud to say I managed to contain myself), and this was all happening because I knew Cedric was about to die.

After I finished the book, I tried to think about the last time Harry Potter made me teary. I'm sure there must have been some moment in the sixth or seventh books, but the one time I actually remember was when I first read the fifth book. I actually had to put the book down. I couldn't believe it! I'm sure you all know what moment I'm talking about.

Anyway, it just made me appreciate that I can even make these connections with fictional characters. I don't go to the extreme and pretend they're really or compare my boyfriend to Edward Cullen or things like that. It just makes reading so much more fun, enjoyable, and worth while when you can make that connection. I still love Harry Potter even after all these years. And did I mention how excited I am for the movie next month?

Until next time. Happy reading! I hope you can all find characters to love!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Books That Inspired You To Read

The past couple of days, I've been trying thinking about some of the first books I ever read (or in some cases, were read to me). That train of thought turned into another thought: what books or experiences with books inspired me to start reading?

These thoughts came back to mind yesterday when I was talking to my chiropractor and he told me how he never enjoyed reading. He had to do so much reading for school that it just wasn't an activity he wanted to do in his spare time. It wasn't until his wife gave him a copy of The Firm by John Grisham that he truly had the desire to read.

It got me thinking. My mother, on the occasion, noted that certain books fit certain people, and each person individually has to find the right book for them. (I, being the nerd that I am and being very Harry Potter oriented as of late, immediately thought back to that moment in The Sorcerer's Stone where Harry goes to buy his wand. "The wand chooses the wizard." Okay, enough of this side note....for now.)

I certainly belief there's truth to that. Every child has a different reading style, and it doesn't always take the same steps for each child to start reading (let alone enjoy the process). I was also reminded of a YA fiction class I took a while back where we discussed how sometimes children are given certain material too early, and therefore their thirst for reading could be in danger of being quenched permanently! I realize that's a bit dramatic, but in some cases I'm sure it's true. You may recall in an earlier post how I mentioned my experience with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Here's a brief summary: my middle school language arts teacher urged me to read the book. I did. Absolutely hated it. Thought it was long, boring, no point, dry humor, that sort of thing. Read it again. Liked it a little better. Read it again. Realized it was brilliant. Today it is one of my favorite books ever!

I had a similar experience with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That same LA teacher that encouraged me to read The Hobbit told me I should read Austen's classic novel. Her language was very difficult for me to understand. I remember going pages and pages without a clear idea of what was happening. I also remember thinking, "Oh that's rather convenient! There's that Mr. Darcy...AGAIN! I mean really... This sort of thing would never happen." (Said the girl who read strictly fantasy if she could get her hands on it.) I read it again about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. The humor. The tension. The strong female protagonist. Brilliant. Once again, it has become one of my favorite books.

From these experiences, I learned that sometimes I need to give books second chances. There are exceptions. For example (no offense to anyone who loves this book) I didn't care for Blood and Chocolate. For those of you who don't know the story, it's sort of a teen werewolf romance novel. They even made a movie off it in case you're too lazy to read the book. I would actually recommend both so you can see the differences, but that's branching off into another topic that I'll save for later. For me, I just didn't feel a connection with the characters, and I'm still not sure I'm happy with the way it ended. It was kind of sweet, but also kind of weird. But you don't have to take my word for it. The point is, that book just wasn't one for me (it wasn't the perfect wand!), but it can most definitely be the right book for someone else.

So, I want to know what first got all of you into reading. Here's a little of what's been going through my mind the last few days as I've considered my first experiences with the written word.

My dad isn't much of a reader. He'd much rather watch the movie and call it good. (I always get a kick out of the fact that as we are watching movies based on books, he'll sometimes turn to me and ask, "Was it like that in the book?" or "Did the book give more information?" or something along those lines.) Mom, on the other hand, loves to read. Her genre of choice is mystery, a genre I appreciate simply because a good portion of the TV shows I watch are crime based, but I've never really gotten into reading that genre. So, if the love of reading were genetic, that love would come from my mom.

My first memory of reading a book outside of school involved Dr. Suess' The Cat In The Hat. I distinctly remember sitting on my grandfather's knee and struggling to remember what all those letters on the page sounded like. I would read, and he would help as I needed it. I still have yet to add any Dr. Suess books to my shelf, but believe me, it will happen someday.

I remember other children's books from school: Pink and Say, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, My Father's Dragon and the like. Good found memories. But these weren't books that came to my head right away.

Two books that did come to mind right after The Cat in the Hat were Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeliene L'Engle. I can never remember if my first encounter with Where the Red Fern Grows was in second or third grade as I had the same teacher both years. Part of me really wants to attribute my love for reading to her simply because of all the stories I was introduced to and still love because of her. (Thank you!) She read Where the Red Fern Grows to us and it was probably one of the first books I re-read once I found the incentive to go out and find my own books. It was also probably one of the first books I ordered from one of those book orders after she read it to us. For some reason, that memory is very fond to me. If you haven't had the chance to read that book, you should.

When I was in fifth grade, I was of the opinion that although my teacher was a very nice man, he wasn't cut out to teach fifth graders. Ouch. I apologize. But I was only ten and eleven at the time. What did I know really? Well, I knew how to get away with reading a book under my desk instead of actually listening to the teacher. That's how I spent a portion of my fifth grade education. I was becoming so in love with books that I couldn't stop to take time to listen to my teacher! I had to finish the story. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the books I remember doing this with. I believe it was recommended to me by the same friend who got me hooked on Harry Potter in middle school. (Speaking of middle school, I feel it's only right to also thank the teacher who made me read The Hobbit and Pride and Prejudice and encourage me to take Honors English in high school no less! Thank you!)

I really think what it comes down to is a love of story itself. Even young children love a good story. Before I was even gobbling up books as fast as I could get my hands on them, my grandpa used to tell me and my siblings his very own Winnie the Pooh stories before we went to bed. Sometimes he would start telling the story in Spanish. We would all whine, "Grandpa!" He'd laugh and then continue the story in English. Grandpa has always been quite the kidder.

So I suppose there are multiple things that eventually pushed me into my love for reading: great teachers, family, friends, love of story itself, the whole shabang! It's because of all of those people that I have an overstuffed bookshelf quite contently sitting in the corner of my room. Thanks you guys. The books and myself really appreciate it!

Now tell me what it was that first got you into reading? You can leave it in a comment, or, if your story is long as mine turned out to be, you can send me an e-mail. Maybe I'll even feature some of your stories in coming posts, eh? How's that sound? In either case, I loved to hear from you.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


National Novel Writing Mo (NaNoWriMo) is an event that takes place every year during the month of November. I first heard of this event last year when one of my friends decided to take the challenge. I didn't take part in it myself as I "didn't have the time" what with school work and other social activities that took up my time (plus I probably spent way too much time clicking the refresh button on Facebook, waiting for something exciting to happen). Although I still have things to occupy my time, I've decided to take the plunge. I just created a NaNoWriMo account, committing myself to at least attempt to reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. I'm going to do it. And you are more than welcome to try it with me :)

Some of you may be wondering what all of NaNoWriMo entails. I'm still learning about it a bit myself, but I'm having fun exploring their website. Well, first off, you can find out all about it under their What is NaNoWriMo? page. As I mentioned above, the whole goal of this event is to spew out 50,000 words in 30 days giving about 175-pages worth of your very own novel. In case some of you think this is an easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy process, let me assure you that writing takes a lot of work and it never comes out perfectly on the first go.

One of the beauties of NaNoWriMo is that you don't have the pressure of writing a perfectly formed ready-to-be-published novel by day 30. It's just to help you get out a draft that you can go back and edit later and then send it out to your hearts content if you so wish. One rule you must keep in mind as you slave away at your typewriter (or laptop as the case may be) is that you can't stop to edit. We all have what is referred to as the inner editor, that little voice inside us that makes us crazy wondering if we wrote everything correctly (is it who or whom sort of madness), and well the inner editor is all well and good, it also can hold us back and keep us from ever finishing a full length novel as we keep telling ourselves that the beginning just wasn't perfect. So set your inner editor aside and produce a novel!

Another great feature of NaNoWriMo is that you don't have to go at it alone. They create an online community where you can discuss and gain support from other NaNoWriMo participants. In some cases, there may also be groups that get together in your area that you can meet with.

The site also gives encouragement and suggestions to go about writing your novel.

During the process, you can upload bits of your writing so everyone can see what your word count is. (Don't worry. They have protection so no one will be able to steal your novel.) On November 30th, you submit your novel for the final word count. If you made the 50,000 word mark, you're a winner!

Take a look at the site and consider joining in. The site is

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

William Shakespeare Short Story Contest

That's right. We are officially holding our first ever contest here at Spiral Staircase Books! Want to get in on the action? Of course you do.

Here's what you can win:
A New Folger Library Edition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Free shipping on your next order
And your story will be featured on the site

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
281 Pages

The play ends on page 243, but the text of the play is only on the right page, so it's really half that length.

Probably one of his most well known plays, Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two young lovers whose families would never let them be together. Thus begins family feuds, swashbuckling action, and the intricate plan of escape that goes horribly awry.

The Back Cover:
Completly re-edited, the New Folger Library Edition of Shakespeare's plays puts readers in touch with current ways of thining about Shakespeare. Each freshly edited text is based directly on what the editors consider the best early printed version of the play. Each volume contains full explanatory notes on pages facing the text of the play, as well as helpful introduction to Shakespeare's language. The accounts of William Shakespeare's ife, his theater, and the publication of his plays present the latest scholarship, and the annotated reading lists suggest sources of further information. The illustrations of objects, clothing, and mythological figures mentioned int he plays are drawn from the Library's vast holdings of rare books. At the conclusion of each play there is a full essay by an outstanding scholar who assesses the play in the light of today's interests and concerns.

Contest Rules
So here's how it works.Write a short story adaptation of Shakespeare's famous play, Romeo and Juliet. Your piece should be no longer than ten pages double spaced. The deadline for the contest is November 15, 2010. The winner will be announced at the end of that month.

E-mail entries to:

Do not send as an attachment. Put your story in the body of the e-mail. Include a short bio and picture of yourself to be included with your story on the site should you win the contest. Make sure the subject is something to the effect of "Shakespeare contest entry" so I don't accidently regard it as junk mail and delete it.

Thank you for your interest and participation!

Here's our little video companion to advertise and explain the contest. Remember to share with family and friends!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Stock!

I've got some more books for you!

Here's a few peeks at some of the new titles!

Paging Aphrodite
By Kim Green
Four women. An exotic Greek island. A novel about love, life, friendship... and finding Dionysus, wherever he may be...

Wicked Witch Murder (Just in Time for Halloween!)
By Leslie Meier
With planning the town's annual Halloween Party, the drought wreaking havoc on her garden, and her brood of four children, Lucy Stone's got her hands full this fall... Lucy's more concerned about the costume competition, pin-the-nose-on-the-pumpkin, and baking three dozen orange cupcakes and Beastly Bug cookies. But as the October moon rises, a killer plans a lethal celebration of his own--and Lucy's the guest of honor...

By Charlotte Bronte
A moving tale of repressed feelings and subjection to cruel circumstance and position, borne with heroic fortitude. Rising above the frustrations of confinement within a rigid social order, it is also a story of a woman's right to love and be loved.

The Freedom Writers Diary
By The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell
As an idealistic first-year English teacher... Erin Gruwell confronted a room of "unteachable, at-risk" students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust--only to be met by uncomprehending looks...With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell, The Freedom Writers Diary is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.

By Jack Weyland
Stephanie Bradshaw leads a double life. Outwardly she's a funloving, vivacious teenager who attends church regularly with her family and seems to be well adjusted in school and at home. But when she's alone or with her friends, she can't wait for the highs she gets from alcohol and drugs. This story is one that is all too real, one that affects the lives of many young people and those who love them.

Other new titles include but aren't limited to:

A Shawl and a Violin by Randall L. Hall
The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
On My Own...And Clueless by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd
Families and Society by Scott Coltrane
And More!

Thank you for your support of Spiralstaircase books! Keep checking back for new stock!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Commercial!

Remember my friend Breanna Angus? If you've forgotten, check out my last post about this month's book recommendation. I already knew she was awesome, but today, right now, she just earned a whole gob of brownie points! Why's that? She surprised me with a video that she just posted on youtube. That video is a new commercial for the lovely Spiral Staircase Books. Check it out!

Hope you enjoyed it! I know a lot of work went into it. Don't forget to share with your friends. Let's spread the word! Thanks again to Breanna!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pendragon: Recommended Book of the Month

Today marks the beginning of an new month! October is a time for dressing up, scaring the pants off those pesky neighbor children, and stuffing yourself with tons of candy! It doesn't get much better than that. To top things off, it's time to give you a new recommended book of the month! I know you've all loved hearing from me, but I want to give you all the opportunity to share some of your thoughts and writing too. This is a place for book/story lovers to come together as one. So I've asked a good friend of mine if she would like to write the recommendation for this month. She gladly accepted! So please, read on!

Calling All Adventurers
By Breanna Angus

There are many adventure stories out there to be read by children, teens, and adults alike, but one of my favorites is the Pendragon series by D. J. MacHale. The first book in the series, The Merchant of Death, is the book I have chosen to recommend to you readers.

(Click to Enlarge)

The Merchant of Death is a new and wonderful twist on the classic adventure story and it is perfect for kids, teens, and adults. D.J. MacHale’s writing is superb and reflects well on his storytelling capabilities. The reader can feel easily and tremendously connected to Bobby and his quest from the very first page. His struggle to find his place in the world, and the many other worlds he did not know existed before, is reflected on the struggles of the reader. His fears and weaknesses, his strengths and confidence, all fits with our own lives.

Bobby is a brave young protagonist thrown into a new role, a new world, and a new knowledge simply by taking a seat on the back of his uncles motorcycle. He is destined for a greater role in the universe that will ensure that he will never be the same again…and neither will the reader. As Bobby tells his story through journals (sent to his friends back home) you will find yourself believing that it was you he sent his journals to. It is you, the reader, that are responsible to remember what happened to Bobby Pendragon. It is the responsibility of the reader to learn from him.

D. J. MacHale knows how to capture his readers and give them a thrill and a lesson all in one sitting. Needless to say, The Merchant of Death is the perfect start to a 10 books series that just cannot be put down.

Breanna Angus is an aspiring YA author and filmmaker living in a small town near the rocky mountains in Colorado. She is 22 years old and she spends a lot of her time writing and being creative and a lot more of her time reading. She has gained a lot of insight and experience with YA and children’s novels as an avid reader. She loves to share her love of these books with the world as the Boulder Young Adult Fiction Examiner and as the owner of

Want to write next months recommendation?
You can be featured just like Breanna! Here's how it works. Send an e-mail to with your recommendation. It should be at least a couple paragraphs long and should include a short description of the book and why you think others should read it. Then include a short biography of yourself and a picture to go along with it. If you wish to remain annonymous, that's fine as well. I need all entries by October 30th. Depending upon how many entries are received, your recommendation might not show up right away. If I decide to use yours, you will receive an e-mail telling you so. Thank you for your contributions!