Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Recommendation: Midnighters: The Secret Hour

You may be familiar with Scott Westerfeld through either his Uglies series or perhaps his recent Steampunk novel Leviathan.  (If you've never heard of Scott Westerfeld at all, then it's really time you did.  He's one of the key voices of current Young Adult fiction, and he's an excellent story craftsmen.)  Today I want to talk about one of his slightly lesser-known books, Midnighters: The Secret Hour, the first in a trilogy.

The Midnighters series is about a group of teenagers who experience a 25th hour of the day that occurs precisely at midnight and that everyone else lives through instantaneously.  This “witching hour” is full of mystery and magic.  Each of the characters has a special ability related to survival in this special hour.  And all the gifts are necessary; survival isn't easy.

There are Things that live in the midnight hour, dark things with long memories and an instinctive need to hunt.  The Midnighters have to use all their skills and all their ingenuity just to stay alive.

But they have a lot of both, and they aren't without defenses.  The dark things hate steel and they hate anything to do with the number thirteen.  One of my favorite characters, Dess, is a math wiz, and she uses both math and steel in deadly combination.  She makes math cool and exciting.  And now, in The Secret Hour, there's a new girl in town, whose ability has the dark things even more in terror.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read with fast-paced action and keen intelligence.  Scott Westerfeld does his research, and there are lots of interesting tidbits sprinkled through the pages of this book.  After reading you'll come away feeling smarter and having enjoyed every word.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NaNo and Fugues

Have you ever done National Novel Writing Month?  Participating in NaNoWriMo was how I first became interested in being a writer.  It was a rush!  I was in school at the time, so I had to keep up with my work, but I couldn't wait to get back to my story.

Now that some years have passed and I write more regularly I find it more and more difficult to do NaNoWriMo.  I do a lot of editing as I write, which doesn't lend itself to the fast pace necessary for NaNo.  My stories are usually more than 50 thousand words now too.  But I still have a soft spot for NaNo, and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about making writing more a part of everyday life.

My second NaNovel was a story called Fugue.  It was about music and math and supernatural creatures that embodied things like Hope and Peace.  Hope was summoned from the performance of one perfect Fugue, and then the others came through variations on that Fugue.  (All together the Fugue and its variations were a mathematical group with musical operations, for those who are mathematically inclined.)  It was a very conceptually based story with a shaky plot, but I had a good time writing it.

When I first started writing that story I bought a CD of Bach Fugues and listened to it almost exclusively while I wrote.  Hearing that CD now I automatically go into writing mode.

I have a somewhat different relationship with music than most people I talk to.  I really love music—I love listening to all kinds of music and I enjoy composing too—but most of the time I prefer silence.  Too much audio or visual stimulation wearies me.  So while I like music, what it is, what it stands for, the reactions it can evoke, it is too intense for me to listen to it all day.

However, sometimes music provides me exactly the sort of energy replenishment I need for writing.  If I am at rest, too much music is overstimulating, but if I am expending a lot of mental energy through writing then music helps fill me up again.  I like to listen to upbeat music without words to keep me going while I write.

So what about you?  How does music affect you?  Have you ever come up with a story idea that involves music?

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Monday

I'm having one of those mornings... the ones in which I wake up an hour earlier than usual to make an appointment and then get all my errands out of the way by 10am, leaving me weary before the day has even started.  It's a nasty day out too.  Fortunately there was some sunshine yesterday afternoon, but in general the last few days have been wet and gloomy.  And it's Monday.  All in all not the sort of morning that inspires motivation.

So today's post will be a bit mundane, just a list of the first three things that come to mind while I sit here.

1)A few days ago was the first time in years, maybe ever, that I looked in the mirror and didn't feel fat. Now I'm not saying I'm a twig or even precisely the weight I want to be, but I have managed to lose 30 pounds in the past year and a half.  I feel really good about that, and while I still have a few pounds to go, I'm glad I've stuck with it.  Exercise and eat right, my friends—that's the way to go.

2)The hubby and I have a few big decisions to make in the next few months.  I won't bore you with the details.  Let's just say I had one of these nights last night.  (Actually, I suppose in part my insomnia was due to staying up so late on the weekend and then knowing I had to get up early this morning.  Still... I was thinking all sorts of things about the future as I was drifting off last night.)  I'm feeling half paralyzed, half excited.

3)Writing is... going.  I'm in critique mode today, but once that's done I am considering working on a short story for a writers workshop that's coming up.  We'll see what happens there. Hopefully I'll have time to work on Annia's novel later this week.  That may depend on how quickly I get True Sight critiques and how much I'll have to revise.

And that's all for today.  Happy Monday...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Recommendation: Wicked Lovely

I enjoy reading stories about fantasy creatures of all types, and faeries can be some of my favorites.  There are so many different approaches to faeries; every author treats them with a unique point of view.  Sometimes they are dainty, sometimes very human but with superhuman powers, sometimes dangerous and frightening.

In Wicked Lovely Melissa Marr's faeries fall into the category of “treacherous and other.”  They are creatures ruled by passions fiercer than those we experience and far too toxic for humans to survive.  Some can be rational and many have needs and desires with which we can sympathize, but they feed off of a passionate energy that humans can't share or comprehend.

And much of the conflict of Wicked Lovely comes from this difference between humans and fey.  The book is about a mortal girl named Aislinn who is caught between the two worlds.  Her heart belongs in the mortal world, but her destiny would take her into the world of faeries.

It is her fight to keep as much of her life human as she can that makes me love her.  Most of the other girls in her situation who have gone before her let fey otherness erode their humanity to nothing, but Aislinn resists with all her strength.  Reading her story I want to see her succeed.  Every triumph has me cheering.

Melissa Marr's writing in this book is smooth and compelling.  It's easy to get drawn in by her words, and the world she creates is believable.  She handles both drama and action with a deft hand, and her romance is spell-binding (but not recommended for younger readers).  Wicked Lovely is a very entertaining book, but those who are looking can find some thought-provoking themes as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Future

According to Jonathan Coulton, “it's gonna be the future soon.”  The future: it's always there, but we never seem to reach it.

What do you imagine the future to be?  Often I will hear or read statements about how in the future one very specific concept will become all-important and change how we live life forever!  Just imagine if all of these statements actually came true.  The world twenty years from now would be completely unrecognizable.

So personally, while I think it might be fun to go off on a tangent about how one idea will change the world, I think in reality the things that will end up changing us the most are the things that we perceive make our lives easier.  After all, as cool as they might sound, we still don't have flying cars.

What we do have are smart phones, pedometers, Facebook, hybrid cars and Xbox Live.  Technology connects us, entertains us, makes us more efficient.  The more things it does for us, the more highly we value it.

So what do I imagine in the future?  I see us wearing our electronics in our clothing, triggering them with gestures to open a projected display that connects us to the world.  (This sort of technology is already in the works.  There are some particularly interesting projects happening here.)  I see us attaching a lot of value to things that reduce the time between desiring something simple and seeing it happen.

Take communication, for example.  Over time it has become more and more instant: telegraphs to telephones to cell phones to speed dial to voice recognition.  We come closer and closer to instant gratification.  We have remote controls and highways, reducing the amount of movement we need to make and speeding up the movement we do require.

And along with these advantages we have physical and social disadvantages.  I think the movie WALL-E gave us a pretty good picture of where all this ease and efficiency might lead.  Like most things technology comes with a mix of good and bad.

So where does all this lead?  I don' think anyone can say for certain.  There are a lot of interesting ideas though, and even if we can't explore them in real life yet, we can always explore them in books.  Maybe one day I'll have reason to write my version of the future.

In the meantime, happy imagining!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Critique Group

This morning I went back to read a short story that I wrote a few years ago just as my critique group was first beginning to work together.  I was actually surprised—it wasn't as awful as I remembered—but it wasn't a very good story either.  I know that I've improved since then, and so much of that improvement is due to working with the same critique group for all this time.

So today I want to acknowledge them.  I'm grateful for all of the ways they have helped me grow in my writing.  So often I will submit a piece, knowing instinctively that something isn't quite right with it, and they will pick out exactly where the problem is and inspire me to find the solution that I have always known was there.  Even better: they are great people too, and I have really enjoyed watching their writing mature.

The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be a writer is to start writing immediately and don't put it off.  The second best advice, though, is to find a good critique group.  How?  The best way is to find a place where aspiring writers gather and see if anyone else is looking for a group.  Check local writing groups.  Check online: my group originally came together out of the writing workshop forums on Orson Scott Card's website.  Check writing conferences: we've added two members in the past year through connections at ArmadilloCon.

Then learn how to give and take critiques.  There are three things in particular that I have found to be vital for making critique groups work:

1.Build trust over time.  When I first started getting critiques I didn't know my critique partners very well and I took most of their comments with a bit of skepticism.  That's natural in the beginning.  As we continued to work together, however, I learned to see that their critiques had a lot of value.  I saw what they all said to each other, not just what they said to me, and I saw that far more often than not I agreed with the comments they gave one another.  And we talked about other things too, not just our stories, not even just writing, but we got to know each other as people.  That really helped.  Now that we have worked together for several years I have a good sense of who has which strengths and I value each of their strengths.

2.Learn to put words to your instincts and know where the common problems lie.  It's usually easy to tell when we don't like something that we are reading.  Sometimes it's harder to know why.  Part of becoming good at critiquing is learning to articulate what feels wrong in a piece. Practice helps.  Reading a variety of different authors helps.  Reading books on writing can help too.  I would recommend The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.  That one in particular has been beneficial for me personally.

3.Be honest; don't be cruel.  Critiquing is about telling the truth—you can't help anyone if you give out only compliments.  But brutal honesty isn't what's called for either.  While it's true that writers need to develop thick skin in order to get anywhere, you won't help an aspiring writer by being unkind.  Don't mock; don't be sarcastic; don't tell people their writing is just plain horrible.  Try to open your critiques with something positive—tell the writer what is working in the piece.  Try to end on a good note as well.  That'll go a long way.

Joining my critique group was one of the best things I ever did.  If you are just beginning your writing journey I hope that you can find just as good an experience of your own.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and its sequel Catching Fire are wildly popular books.  And for good reason.  Nevertheless I imagine there are still some people out there who haven't read them, or maybe haven't even heard of them, so if that's you, this post is for you.

Most good books are hard for me to put down, but The Hunger Games was even more of a page-turner than usual.  It's exciting, it's heart-wrenching, and it's nearly impossible to predict.  The twists keep coming, and each new reveal left me breathless.

Part of the excitement comes from the style.  The book is written in first person present tense, so we feel what Katniss—the main character—feels, and we experience things as she experiences them.  There's an immediacy to the telling of the story.

But mostly the excitement comes from the plot.  The Hunger Games are a yearly fight to the death between twenty-four people aged twelve to eighteen.  They are a tool that the futuristic Capitol uses to keep its districts in line.  The concept of the novel is not unique—it is very similar to the Japanese book Battle Royale, for example, and its roots go back as far as the Minotaur of Crete—but the characters and the details of the plot are compelling.

Katniss is an intriguing narrator.  I found her point of view to be a very comfortable one to follow.  She has a natural edge to her personality from having to fight for her survival on a daily basis even before the Hunger Games begin.  Yet she is not annoyingly abrasive, and her hard exterior covers a kind heart and absolute devotion to the people she loves.

Together the plot, the style and the characters build on each other to create a fantastic energy in this book.  I loved reading The Hunger Games, I loved Catching Fire just as much, and now I am very eagerly awaiting the final book, Mockingjay, which comes out at the end of summer.  Until then, “may the odds be ever in your favor.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Just wanted to add that I love this blog post.  It's so very true.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

It's nights like last night that remind me just how important a good night's sleep really is.  Without going into too many details, there was prolonged noise that kept me awake last night, even through my earplugs.  Eventually I put on some soft music and managed to drift somewhere between sleep and waking, but it wasn't until the house was silent that I was able to sleep for real.  Therefore this morning I woke up groggy and resigned to a headache all day.

I realize that lack of sleep is hardly the worst thing in the world, so I won't harp on it for long.  Instead I just want to say how strange it is to me that we need to spend one third of our lives in an alternate state of consciousness.

Does anyone else find this mind-boggling?  I'm sure I can't be the only one who is fascinated by sleep and all things relating to it.  There are plenty of people who study it for a living.  And dreams?  How little we still understand them, and yet how much we sometimes make of them.

Think back on some of the books you've read lately.  Have any of them described the characters' dreams?  In fact, I think quite a lot of books do have dream sequences, however brief they might be.  So many writers (myself included I must admit) seem determined to describe the characters' dreams, and yet I can't remember ever reading a single dream sequence that felt realistic.  Written dreams are usually so obviously symbolic, when in reality dreams are arbitrary, the random elements coming together in ways that defy logic.

But that's not all we do with sleep and dreams.  In fantasy sleep can become a platform for anything at all.  In many books the characters use their dreams as a tool to walk through a dream world that is parallel to the real world and has lasting effects on the real world.  Some of the most exciting and monumental events can happen in fictional dreams.

When I was in middle school (or perhaps in high school) I had an idea for a story that took place mostly after my main character would go to bed.  As soon as she fell asleep she would be transported to this other world where she learned a form of magic that she could use in the real world.  Her teacher was a super-wise, super-knowledgeable man who always seemed to have all the answers to everything.  But as she went back to him night after night she began to discover that he never remembered much of their previous meetings.  Eventually, once she learned everything he had to teach, he told her that the time-line of her dreams was opposite of the time-line of his.  Very soon he would start forgetting everything that he knew, and it would be her turn to teach him.  In the end the dreams stopped, and the two characters were charged with finding one another in the real world in order to use their magic together for good.

The idea never evolved much beyond that, and I've never had the inspiration to write it into a story.  But I do like the concept, and it's stayed with me.  Maybe one day, right?

There are plenty of other things that we could do with sleep and dreams.  Have you ever had an idea for such a story?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just a quick post to say...

Ever wonder what goes on inside a writer's head?  Here's a pretty good look at how some of us view the world.  Thanks, Rosemary!  That made my day.

Short Stories

So recently I've found myself in a bit of an in-between place with writing.  I've sent out the most recent version of True Sight to a handful of people, and I'm in various stages of getting critiques back.  Soon it will be time to do a little more revision there... soon but not quite.  In the meantime I've been trying to juggle some other writing projects.

The priority is my next novel, currently titled Olympus Gate.  I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm really enjoying this project.  I look forward to every moment of this story, not just the big exciting moments.  So O.G. is off to a good start.

But I've been working on some other things as well.  Short stories specifically.  I've heard so many different conflicting views on whether or not it is necessary to publish a few short stories before having any success with a novel.  At this point the best I can deduce is 1) that short stories are great practice (which I have definitely found to be true—that was focus of the first year of the Story Center critique group), and 2) that if I have a good short story idea I should write it and make the most of it, but if I'm just ambivalent I shouldn't try too hard to make something out of nothing.

Well, I haven't had any new short story ideas lately, but I have decided to go back and rewrite three of my best short stories from previous years.  All three were interesting concepts, but technically they needed work.  So far I've completed first drafts of two of the rewrites.  The third is a little more daunting, but I'm still determined.

The tough thing about short stories is that they are really so different from novels.  I have the hardest time coming up with ideas that will fit nicely into a short story; most of the ideas I find exciting are those with plots that are too complex for a few thousand words.  About the only short stories I'm able to write are those with some sort of shock value.

So, to my consternation, most of my best short stories probably fall into the horror category.  I say consternation because I'm really not a big fan of most horror; it affects me so strongly.  I start imagining all manner of things staring at my back and if I turn my head too quickly I see figures of tragic little girls standing in the doorway.  Why would I want to add to a genre that so thoroughly creeps me out?  And yet, this is where I've had the most success.

Really though, it must be possible for me to come up with other kinds of short stories.  They do exist.

Here's today's question then: what short stories have you read and liked?  What do you enjoy reading about in a short story?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Recommendation: Elsewhere

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is the story of the “life” of a girl named Liz after her death at age 15.  After she is hit by a car on earth Liz wakes up on the boat to Elsewhere, the parallel of earth where everyone gets younger and younger until going back to earth as a baby.

It's a unique concept and a great hook.  I've read other afterlife stories before, but none with quite this angle.  What's good about this book is more than just the idea, however; it's moving because of what Liz chooses to do with this life she is given.

When she gets to Elsewhere as an almost-16-year-old she finds it terribly unjust that she has to relive all her years in reverse without ever growing up or getting married or having children.  She misses her life.  Though her death is hard for her family back on earth it is even harder for Liz herself; they lost a daughter and a sister, but she lost everything.  She becomes obsessed with watching over the people she left behind, and reading her struggle it's hard not to imagine doing the same thing myself in her place.

Throughout the book Zevin handles questions of loss and purpose with grace.  Liz finally begins to accept was has happened, and slowly comes to see that her life in Elsewhere can be just as full as her life on earth.  She chooses to be happy.

And her choice makes the book very satisfying.  There is a feeling of completion at the end.  The final chapters are full of tender, bittersweet moments as Liz gets younger, surrounded by the people she's come to love.

I recommend this book because it is a great reminder that no matter where we might find ourselves in life, there is always a chance to make the best of what we've got: we only have to make the choice.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

E-Book Ethics

This week on the internet:

Controversial post from The Ethicist, followed by some interesting points on both sides, notably by Nathan Bransford and John Scalzi.

My take:

I think part of the controversy is about what you are paying for when you buy a book.  Are you buying a product or are you buying the content in the product?

Those arguing for a full payment for each version of the book that you buy are often arguing the product approach: it's a separate product each time; each product has production costs; each product is unique.

Those arguing for a free e-book version after buying a hardback or paperback are often arguing the content approach: they are the same words regardless of version; if you're buying the right to read those words, does it matter what version you read them in?

I've also seen a few people who are looking for a middle ground: buy a hardback or paperback copy and get the e-book at a reduced cost.  I think if the author and all the other people involved in producing the book are amenable to this it isn't a terrible idea.  If they are willing to give you the e-book for the cost of production (which it would appear is more than nothing), perhaps even the cost of production plus a little something but still less than the original cost, then that's probably a good compromise.

Perhaps some books could come with a cd or website code or something along those lines (tucked away and sealed so you would know if somebody has tampered with the book) that would contain access to an e-book version.  And those books could be sold at a price higher than the plain book but lower than the price of that copy and the e-book copy combined.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Virginia temperatures reached a record high in places yesterday.  It was 90, sunny, but NOT humid, which meant I was perfectly content with the windows open and the fans on.  We've hardly had a chance to enjoy spring, though, so I hope that summer holds off a few more weeks at least.

All these changes in the seasons have made me think of the “magic” of weather.  In books weather can contribute so heavily to the feel of a scene.  Each kind of weather has its own energy and can evoke a corresponding energy deep under our skin.

In particular I think there are four “magic” weather days, one for each season.

In winter the magic comes with a blizzard.  It's our inability to control this weather that I think we respond to.  (I didn't say we had to like the magic weather days.  After this past winter I'll be happy if I never see more than five inches of snow at one time again.)  Winter reminds us that despite all of our advances we are still small and puny, and a blizzard strongly reinforces the point.  The magic is in its wildness and uncompromising power.

In spring we have what I call “memory weather.”  I came up with the term back in high school while I was enjoying one of these days and thinking about all the similar days in years past.  Memory weather comes on a day that is cloudless, mild and breezy.  It's the sort of weather that lends itself to nostalgia, to pleasant recollections of other days spent under a benevolent sun.  Perhaps it is because at the time spring meant endings and new beginnings—the end of school and beginning of vacation.  I still feel the same things during memory weather, though, even well after high school.  It's one of my favorite types of weather, particularly when combined with the smell of cut grass.

Summer's magic is a thunderstorm.  It's opposite of winter and yet magical for some of the same reasons.  No one can stop a lightning bolt.  No one can hold back a downpour.  Thunderstorms make our blood race because, like blizzards, they too can't be stopped and they are full of wild intensity.  They make us want to be a little wild too.

And finally fall.  Fall's magic is a bit like spring's, only it's older and wiser.  Fall's changes remind me more of the future than the past.  The sharpness, the clarity of fall translates to a poignancy in heart and mind.  Fall is a season-long high, and its subtle magic is sometimes the strongest.

Thinking of these things makes me wonder if anyone has used weather as the basis for magic in a fantasy novel.  I wouldn't be surprised; it seems logical.  I just don't believe I've read anything quite like that.  In such a magic system I could see the following:

People born in winter would have winter magic.  It would involve cold and ice and could be very destructive but it could also preserve and shelter.

Spring babies would have magic related to growth and renewal.  They would be good healers, but maybe they would have less defense against harsher magic.

Summer magic would be wild and hot.  It would involve flame and could also be destructive, but it could be nurturing as well.

Fall would be trickiest.  I think it would be the most mental of the magics.  Hard to say exactly how it would be used.  (It might be interesting to have a main character with fall magic, which everyone discounts, but then have that character end up being the strongest.)

Though now I've just realized: the four seasons correspond somewhat to the four “elements.”  Winter goes with water, spring with earth, summer with fire, fall with air.  I've told myself I would never use that elemental system in a book since it is so overdone and not very relevant any more (at least in my mind).  But if I used a seasonal magic system I might find myself doing so unintentionally.  Oh dear.

(And yes, I also just realized that other people have probably made the connection between seasons and elements long before I have.  Wow, this post is really making me feel behind.  In my defense, I usually add magic into a story because it fits the story—I don't typically go around studying fantasy magic trends for their own sake.  Though there are some really interesting ones out there—but that's fodder for another post I think.)

Anyway, have any of you seen seasonal magic used in a story before?  What do you think of it as a concept?

Monday, April 5, 2010

1st Person POV

POV is a tricky little thing.

Growing up I always thought that 3rd person POV was the only normal way to write.  Anything else was too stylistic and glaringly obvious.  Nearly everything I read was in 3rd person, so that's what felt right to me.  All else was wrong.

Somewhere along the way I've changed my mind.  I suppose I've just read enough 1st person books now to see it as a very natural style.  (2nd is still a whole other creature.  I might be willing to poke at it with a stick, but no way am I ready to pick it up and examine it with my bare hands.)  Perhaps it is a false perception, but it seems to me that 1st person is far more widely used now, particularly in young adult fiction.

I know I've read a lot of it lately.  I would guess that of the YA books I've read this past year, the majority that have a single POV character are written in 1st person.  Whereas I used to find that POV so jarring, now I don't even notice until half way through the book unless I'm intentionally looking for the POV.

All the same, it wasn't until very recently that I was willing to attempt writing in 1st person myself.  I've built a comfortable home out of 3rd person bricks, and I know what I'm doing in there.  I've worked on 3rd person for (what feels like) so long with True Sight and Swift Flight (Kierr and Deisa's first two books) that it's very strange for me to make a change to a new story at all, not even counting the POV change.

I didn't originally plan to write Annie (my most recent character) in 1st person.  I wrote a few practice scenes several months ago just to start getting a feel for her world, and they were all in 3rd.  But recently, right before I started writing the first chapter, I felt that little click in my mind that happens when something that should have been obvious all along finally falls into place.  Annie belongs in a 1st person world.

So far it's been quite an adventure for me trying to write her that way.  It feels very right, but it's also a big challenge.  The POV is forcing me to examine her personality a lot more closely.  Some of her traits are different enough from my own that I have to be very intentional about the way she thinks.  It's mental exercise for sure.  I come away with my cerebrum panting from the effort.

But the experience has been very rewarding too.  I know Annie so much better than I've known any other character after such a short time.  When I force myself to look through her eyes, somehow I see more of the world she lives in.  She brings me closer to the details and makes me think more about her surroundings.  It's a bit of a rush.

I guess that makes me a 1st person convert after all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Recommendation: Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun, a novel by British author China MiƩville, should come with a warning label:

BE ADVISED: This book has been known to elicit giggles from twelve-year-old boys.  Read at own risk, particularly if reading in a public place.

About the book:

What do you do when the prophecy that everyone is counting on to save the world turns out to be utter bunk?  Well, if your name is Deeba Resham you go right ahead and save the world anyway, through a combination of imagination, determination and knack for making your own luck.

This book is proof that the best stories are often the ones in which nothing turns out the way it's supposed to.

So what is Un Lun Dun?  It is London's topsy-turvy counterpart, the home of black windows, carnivorous giraffes and words that literally come to life.  It's a place where trash has personality, and in fact one of the most lovable characters is an old milk carton.  It's a world of boundless imagination, delightful at every turn.

And one thing is for certain: once you have finished you will not look at your umbrella the same way ever again.

I highly recommend this book to anyone of any age who is looking for adventure, wit and a lot of good laughs.  Just don't be surprised if strangers look at you funny for giggling while you read it on the bus.