reading

I'm probably the last person to finish reading the critically-acclaimed children's novel loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, only because reading for a living makes reading for pleasure so difficult. But I'm going to review it anyhow.

In Gaiman's typically lyrical and humorously morbid fashion, he tells the tale of orphan Nobody Owens and his adventures growing up in a graveyard with ghosts and ghouls and assorted things that go bump in the night. Bod is a charmingly innocent yet oddly worldly boy, and Gaiman paints him with the vivid but light brush, one as masterfully applied as a watercolour artist's.

Gaiman's skill in suspending disbelief has always gives my imagination limitless room to soar. Just like in his previous foray into young adult literature, such Coraline, he manipulates a child's sometimes audacious perspective and carries the readers into worlds they could only have conjured up in their adolescence.

Even in the sometimes suffocating setting of the dilapidated cemetery, he manages to open up whole new realms of discovery, whether it's in the "places in between" or in underworlds where monsters snatch you up for food or fun. Even the "real world" beyond the gates of the graveyard become an endless playground for young, cloistered Bod.

If you haven't read any Gaiman, this is a great place to start, for young or old.

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Some might ask, What qualifies me to teach anything to anyone about the craft of writing? How can I possibly be considered an expert? Who the heck do I think I am?

Let me be upfront: I didn't do an English degree--I went to journalism school. And I think I skipped a lot of the English classes throughout university. I can't even remember what we read in some of them. So my literary knowledge (and tastes) tend to be a little more on the eccentric side.

Some years ago, I started writing fanfiction and produced a number of stories that gained a lot of attention and acclaim. I was on to something. I enjoyed writing. So I started writing original fiction.

I came to the romance genre through my work as a proofreader. I read mainly contemporary series fiction for a large romance publisher, so that's my total exposure to the genre, in addition to being a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Toronto Romance Writers.

Writing is a skill acquired through experience rather than theory. I've been writing steadily now for more than eight years and been published mainly in local newspapers and magazines, so I think I can claim just a wee bit of experience.

There is a big, gaping hole in my education, however.

I haven't read any of these books:

1. Pride and Prejudice (with or without zombies): I tried. Several times. But I just couldn't finish it. I got about a quarter of the way in and ended up smacking my head against the wall so often I had to give it up or face a head injury. I don't even know why I couldn't finish it: I love historicals. I love sexy-angry-hate romance. So why can't I get through this classic? I haven't even gotten around to watching any number of film or TV adaptations. Not even the BBC one with Colin Firth.

2. Anything by Nora Roberts: You'd think I would have at least read ONE Nora. But no. I've never even cracked the spine or either Roberts or J. D. Robb. The romance gods are spinning in their rose-petal-strewn graves.

3. Gone with the Wind: You can see the "greatest romance of all time" on my TBR list. I'll get to it. Really. Someday. Soon. Maybe. Really. I will!

4. Anything by any of the Bronte sisters: The only thing I know about the Brontes is this.

5. Twilight (or any of its vampiric brood): I've heard a whole range of reviews from "OMGSQUEEGOTEAMEDWARDSPARKLYHOTROBERTPATTISON!!!" to "Don't bother." I'm wholly aware it's important to keep up with romance publishing trends, and vampires are in. Sadly, the image of pasty-faced, bedheaded RPatz has been forever seared into my brain, so I'm going to have a really hard time trying to dream up an "impossibly handsome" teenage vampire without thinking of him and not shuddering. (Sorry to the ladies who think he's hot. He was cute in Harry Potter. He just scares me now.)

Other authors I have to get around to: Georgette Heyer, Betty Neels, Danielle Steel, Jennifer Crusie...

I'm sure there are dozens more. If I could tear myself away from my WIPs, I'm sure I'd get around to them eventually. Anyone out there want to recommend their MUST READS?