Friday, December 28, 2012

Why Pandas Do Handstands, by Augustus Brown

I don't read a lot of non fiction books, to be honest, but recently I've been terribly fascinated by the adaptability of animals, and how their bodies are so perfectly suited to their lifestyles, or how their lifestyles are so uniquely adapted to their strange bodies.

This book has a lot of great tidbits.  Did you know there's a fish that grows at a rate equivalent to a human baby becoming an adult six times the size of the Titanic?  Did you know that elephants may be able to communicate with other elephants 20 miles away by stomping on the ground?  

Why Pandas Do Handstands:  And Other Curious Truths About Animals will give you hundreds of fascinating tidbits like this.  The writing style gets a bit repetitive, as do some of the facts, but overall it's a fascinating look into the adaptability of animals.

My rating:  4

Click here to buy Why Pandas Do Handstands, by Augustus Brown.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Runaway," by Alice Munro


I'd never read anything by Alice Munro, though she's quite the famous author.  This is one of her collections of short stories, and when my friend Marla lent it to me, she described the first story as "disturbing."  The whole book is indeed rather dark and somewhat dreary, with long slow descriptions that are beautifully written but not always terribly engaging.

Some of the details and ideas are quite interesting, and I love the Canadian settings.

My main issue is with the endings.  They are all very anti-climactic.  Not just literary anti-climactic, where not everything gets prettily resolved and not everyone lives happily ever after, but truly anticlimactic--no bang at the end, as if there should have been more but she just got tired and quit.  Maybe this is to reflect real life and the way true stories don't all tie up in nice bows at the end, and we don't always learn things or grow or even find nice little poetic twists to our own personal tales.  Unfortunately, I want an END, so it's disappointing not to get one.

Still, I think Alice Munro is a good writer, and I would read more of her work someday.  Click to learn more  about Alice Munro.

My rating:  3

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Czech "Tramping"

I love the four-seasons beauty of the Czech Republic and the people's great love of nature.  It's one of my favorite things about living there.

For a little more about it, see my article on Czech "Tramping" in In the Know Traveler.

Summer landscapes near Vsetin, Czech Republic

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nanowrimo 2012

Yeah!  I just validated my win on Nanowrimo.  54,000 words this month.

The only problem is that I didn't quite get to the end of the plot.  Okay, I didn't get nearly as close as I should have.

Nanowrimo 2009--Totally finished the plot
Nanowrimo 2010--Finished the plot, but with a few scenes left out toward the end
Nanowrimo 2011--Got the last scene in, but skipped quite a bit toward that end.
Nanowrimo 2012--Oops.  Still a lot of plot to go.  But I still got 54,000 words while working 40+ hours, doing the holidays, and mostly maintaining my exercise routine.

Hmm..  Is this a worrying trend?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pictionary masterpieces

How to get your sister to say "Marx Brothers" while playing Pictionary:

First, draw the flag of the USSR.

Second, draw a statue of Lenin.

Once your sister starts staying things about communism, draw a book.

When your sister realizes this is the Communist Manifesto, draw a stick figure with a pencil, writing the book.

She will then, of course, say "Karl Marx."

Finally, draw three stick figures who look just like your stick-figure Karl Marx, and wait for your sister to guess, quite logically, "Marx brothers."

Do this in under one minute.


True story, as drawn by my brother and guessed by me, Thanksgiving Day 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible, By Barbara Kingsolver.  

One word:  amazing.  

Premise:  Missionary family goes to the Congo in 1959, shortly before the Congo gains independence and then goes through a period of upheaval, changes of regime, and CIA-backed assassinations.  The family consists of the gung-ho, blindly faithful, iron-fisted father, a mediator mother, and four girls:  Rachel, the self-absorbed teeny bopper mostly interested in looks, Leah, serious and thoughtful, who at first wants desperately to earn the respect and affection of her father, Adah, her slightly brain-damaged twin sister, who thinks in palindromes, and little clueless adventurous Ruth May.

The sections are told from the viewpoints of the four girls and their mother, and the style of each section brilliantly reflects the personalities, quirks, and worldviews of its narrator.  Though at times this annoyed me (all the misspellings/wrong words in Rachel's section, the heavy plays on words in Adah's section), the skill involved in writing it was amazing.  Inspiring.  It added such depth to the story.  Barbara Kingsolver is an artist.    

The sweeping story covers many years and lots of politics and big issues, along with tiny fascinating details.  I learned a lot.  Perhaps even more important, I thought a lot.  It was hard to read in some places, the way holocaust stories are hard to read, or tales of kids dying of cancer.  Especially when the US was involved in the history in such a shameful way. 

Definitely the most memorable and enriching book I've read this year. 

My rating:  the elusive 5

Click here to buy The Poisonwood Bible.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala

Dad and I at Guatemala's volcano-ringed Lago de Atitlan

Atitlán is a beautiful place:  spring-like temperatures year round, mist-shrouded volcanoes, villages where people still wear traditional clothes, swimmable water, green hikes, yoga retreats, language schools, live animals in the markets.  It's a great place, though somewhat inundated by laid-back American expats.  If you're looking for a nice destination in Guatemala, Lake Atitlán is the place to go.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seeing the world through other cultures

In my conversational English class the other day, we somehow got into a discussion of war and prejudice and immigration and US foreign policy.  These are the sort of topics you have to be really careful with, but it was a brilliant class conversation.  That day, I had students from Iraq, Mexico, China, Thailand, France, Slovakia, and Guyana.  Quite a United Nations.  In the end, we agreed mainly on the goodness of ordinary people on the small scale, and the horror of national greed on the large scale. 

We also decided that everyone who wants a real education should travel out of their own country for a spell, and not just to a beach in Mexico.  In my own case, travel has rather forcibly pried open my mind and let in a lot of things that wouldn't be there otherwise.  And though it has—regretably—actually enforced a stereotype or too, it's killed far more. 

When I was little, I thought America held a monopoly on democracy and freedom and the good life, and that everyone must want to be us.  Then I traveled.

I met real people.  Unlearned many things.  Grew to love—or at least accept—the differences and similarities that bind us all together in often complicated knots.  And only threw a few tantrums when things didn't work they way I thought they should.

As Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."

Travel on, and maybe one day we can truly be citizens of the world.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Eclectic Reading List

Feeling Very Random

I've been reading all sorts of things lately, many outside of my normal preferences.  I've enjoyed it, but I have to admit, some of the selections involved rather much slogging through pages I wished were from some other book.  Nevertheless, I think it's important to try varied types of literature.  And yes, it's all literature!   

My list of recently read books:

1)  Life of Pi, by Yann Martel  .  Great book, about a boy who survives for months on a life raft with a full-sized Bengal tiger.  This is actually the second time I've read it, and I'm still not quite sure what to believe at the end.  Highly Recommended.

2)  Birds of Prey, by J.A. Jance.  A mystery set on an Alaska cruise.  I read it because I was eagerly anticipating my own Alaskan cruise.  The setting, unfortunately, was the best part.  I've read that it isn't Jance's best. 

3)  Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.  Classic science fiction, read in honor of the illustrious author's passing.  Interesting premise, and perfect darkish ending, but overall a bit too poetic and preachy for my tastes.   

4)  Klondike Wedding, by Kate Bridges.  A historical romance (yes, a historical Harlequin romance).  I read this too because it related to my recent trip to Alaska.  However, it delivered very little history.

5)  The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry.  A random juvi fantasy I pulled off the shelf.  A Cinderella story which, though well written and pleasant enough, just didn't captivate me.  I'm also tired of main characters who are thieves.

6)  The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.  Fantastic!  Strange book about a missionary family in the Congo during times of unrest.  Though sometimes the style annoyed me, I still admired every word of it.  Fascinating dark details and moral issues.  One of those books that stays with you.     

7)  Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.  What can I say?  I'm not really a Shakespeare fan.  The plot has some interesting bits, though it could have been much condensed (see my post here.)  Intriguing characters in Macbeth and his wife.  Multiple great lines.  A lot of extra words. 

8)  Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen.  Not even sure what genre this is.  Comedy revenge mystery?  Zany characters and interesting settings, but not that much of a page turner for me. 

9)  Call of the Wild, by Jack London.  When I was younger, I used to joke about not liking "dog in Alaska" movies, meaning all those beloved animal/animal against the elements stories that were popular at the time.  This was truly a dog in Alaska story, and had some interesting bits, but it could also have been much shorter.   

10)  Runaway; Stories, by Alice Munro.  Literary short stories by Canadian author.  All interesting in a slow, dreary, deliberate sort of way, but all with anti-climatic endings.

So, that's my list:  from Shakespearean plays to Harlequin romances to dog in Alaska stories, I've had a very eclectic reading list for someone who mostly sticks to fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction.

Read on!     

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 5

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 5 scene 1
DOCTOR:  I've watched two nights with you, but haven't seen evidence of your claim.
GENTLEWOMAN:  I tell you, I've seen her rise from bed, throw on her nightgown, unlock the closet, take forth paper, write upon it, read it, seal it, and then return to bed, all while fast asleep.
            Enter Lady Macbeth
GENTLEWOMAN:  Look, here she comes.  Upon my word, she's fast asleep again.
DOCTOR:  How did she get the candle?
GENTLEWOMAN:  There's always one by the bed.  It's her command.
DOCTOR:  Her eyes are open.
GENTLEWOMAN:  Yes, but they're vacant.
DOCTOR:  What's she doing?  Look how she rubs her hands.
GENTLEWOMAN:  I've known her to do it for a quarter of an hour straight.
LADY MACBETH:  Yet here's a spot.  Out, damned spot!  Out!  Shame, my husband.  A soldier, and still afraid?  We mustn't fear who knows it.  None can question our power.  Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?  And Macduff had a wife.  Will these hands never be clean?  All the perfumes of Arabia will not mask the smell of blood on these hands.
DOCTOR:  This disease is beyond my practice.
LADY MACBETH:  Go to bed, husband!  Look not so pale.  Banquo's buried.  He can't escape his grave. 
DOCTOR:  Foul whisperings are abroad.  Unnatural deeds breed unnatural troubles.  Infected minds spill their secrets.  She needs God more than she needs a doctor.

Act 5 scene 2

LORDS:  The English army, led by Malcolm, approaches, burning with revenge.  We'll meet them on the field near Birnam Wood.  The tyrant Macbeth is fortifying Dunsinane.  Some say he's gone crazy.  Others who hate him less call it a valiant fury.
ANGUS:  Now he feels his secret murders sticking on his hands.  Those he commands obey him out of habit, not love.  Macbeth feels his title hanging loose about him, like a giant's robe on a tiny thief.
LORDS:  Let's join Malcolm, who will heal the kingdom.

Act 5 scene 3

MACBETH:  Bring me no more reports. Till Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane, I shall not fear.  And what about the boy, Malcolm?  Was he not born of woman?  The witches promised no man born of woman shall have power over me.  So flee, traitorous lords, and mingle with these English cowards.  I shall not fear. 
            Enter servant
SERVANT:  There are a thousand—
MACBETH:  Geese?
SERVANT:  Soldiers, sir.
MACBETH:  Pluck up your courage, lily-livered boy.  Give me my armor.  Scour the countryside and hang anyone who talks of fear.  Doctor, how's my wife?
DOCTOR:  Not so sick as troubled.
MACBETH:  Can't you heal a diseased mind?  Pluck sorrow from her memory and with an antidote deliver her to sweet oblivion?
DOCTOR:  In these matters a patient must administer to himself.
MACBETH:  Throw medical practice to the dogs.  Give me my armor.  I will not fear death until Birnam Forest comes to Dunsinane.
            Exit all but Doctor
DOCTOR:  If I were safely away from here, no amount of money could tempt me back.

Act 5 scene 4

SIWARD:  What wood is this before us?
MENTEITH:  The wood of Birnam.
MALCOLM:  Let every soldier cut a branch and carry it before him, to hide our numbers.

Act 5 scene 5

MACBETH:  Hand out our banners.  The castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn.  If my deserters weren't padding their forces, we'd easily beat them back home.  What's that noise?
SEYTON:  The cry of a woman.  [Goes to door and returns.] The queen is dead!  [aside] By her own hand.
MACBETH:  I wish she'd died later, when we had more time for grief.  Out, out, brief candle!  Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  I don’t know how to explain what I saw.
MACBETH:  Well, try.
MESSENGER:  As I stood watch, I looked toward Birnam and anon, methought, the woods began to move.
MESSENGER:  I'll endure your wrath if I’m wrong, but soon you'll be able to see it yourself:  a moving grove.
MACBETH:  If you're lying, I'll hang you on the nearest tree.  "Fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane."  And now it does.  Ring the alarm!  At least we'll die with our armor on.

Act 5 scene 6

Malcolm:  Throw down your leafy screens.  Attack!

Act 5 scene 7

MACBETH:  They've tied me to a stake.  I cannot fly, but must fight.  But was not my enemy Malcolm born of woman?  Such a one I need not fear.
            Enter Young Siward.  They fight.  Siward died.
MACBETH:  Take that, you man of woman born!
            Exit Macbeth
MACDUFF:  Tyrant, show your face!  The day is almost ours, but if you have died on someone else's sword, my wife and children's ghosts will haunt me forever.  I beg Fortune to let me be the one to find and kill you!

Act 5 scene 8

MACDUFF:  There you are!  Turn and face me, tyrant.
MACBETH:  I have enough of your family's blood on my hands.  Get away.
MACDUFF:  I have no words.  My sword will speak for me.
            They fight.
MACBETH:  I live a charmed life, which will not yield to one of woman born.
MACDUFF:  Hah!  I was not born, but ripped prematurely from my mother's womb.  MACBETH:  Curse it all!
            They fight.  MacDuff slays Macbeth and caries him off stage. 
            Enter Malcom, Siward, and others.
MALCOLM:  We have gained victory.  So great a day is cheaply bought.
SIWARD:  Except my son, who died in valiant battle like a man.  Had I as many sons as I had hairs, I could not wish a better death for them.
            Enter Macduff with Macbeth's head
MACDUFF:  Hail, Malcolm, King of Scotland, I present your usurper's head.
ALL:  Hail, King of Scotland.
MALCOLM:  Good lords, I hereby make you all earls.  We'll waste no time in calling back our exiled friends and righting the wrongs done by the butcher, Macbeth, and his fiendlike queen.  Thank you all, and please come to my coronation party up at Scone.      


For the real thing, read Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Czech Sauerkraut Soup--my newest travel article

Beautiful Wallachia, Czech Republic
Yeah for Czech Soup!  I have another article published on Travel Belles, a great website for travelers, especially women of an adventurous nature.

They have personal travel stories, photo essays, travel tips, local food articles, and more, all in a site that's informative but fun.

For a taste of kyselice, one of my favorite Czech soups, read my article: "Cooking Around the World:  Czech Sauerkraut Soup"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 4

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 4 Scene 1

WITCHES:   Hee hee, we're being witches.  Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.
MACBETH:  Midnight hags, how did you know I would be king?  Tell me more!
WITCHES:  Beware of Macduff.
            Enter ghost.
GHOST:  Be bold.  Scorn the power of man, for no one of woman born shall harm Macbeth.
MACBETH:  Ha!  Then what have I to fear from Macduff?
            Enter another ghost
SECOND GHOST:  Be lion-hearted.  Take no care.  You'll never be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsiname Hill shall come against you.      
MACBETH:  That will never be.  Who can command the forest, or bid the trees to move?  But I demand to know one more thing.  Will Banquo's issue ever rein?
            Enter eight kings
MACBETH:  What devilry is this?  Those crown-topped faces look just like Banquo.  Horrible sight!  Banquo's ghost sneers at me.
            Enter Lennox
MACBETH:  Did you see those foul weird sisters?
LENNOX:  No, my lord.  I'm here to bring you news.  Macduff has fled.
MACBETH:  Time anticipates my every move, so from this moment I shall begin acting on my first impulses.  At the castle of Macduff I will put his wife and children to the sword, and thus end his line.

Act 4 scene 2

LADY MACDUFF:  My husband has fled like a coward.  A traitor, leaving vulnerable his wife, his babes, his lands, and titles.  He loves us not, for even the tiniest bird will fight to protect its nest.  [To son]:  Boy, your father's a traitor.
SON:  What's a traitor?
LADY MACDUFF:  One who swears and lies.  All traitors must be hanged.
SON:  And must all who swear and lie be hanged?
LADY MACDUFF:  Every one.
SON:  Who must hang them?
LADY MACDUFF:  Why, honest men of course.
SON:  Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are enough of them to turn on the honest ones and hang them up. 
LADY MACDUFF:  Poor stupid monkey.  What will you do without a father? 
SON:  I'll get by.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  Danger approacheth.  Run.
LADY MACDUFF:  Where should I run?  There's no escape.  In this world, to do harm is often laudable, to do good is counted as folly.
            Enter murderers
MURDERERS:  Die, son of a traitor.
            Attack son
SON:  He has killed me!  Run, Mother.
            Son dies.  Murderers chase Lady Macduff

Act 4 scene 3

MACDUFF:  Woe is Scotland under Macbeth.  Widows and orphans cry.  The land bleeds and new sorrows strike daily.
MALCOLM:  The tyrant, whose name blisters my tongue, was once thought honest.  I would take England's support and tread on Macbeth, but the kingdom would suffer more with his successor.
MACDUFF:  Who do you mean?
MALCOLM:  Me, of course.  As king, I would make Macbeth seem pure as snow.
MACDUFF: No devil could be as bad as Macbeth.
MALCOLM:  Yes, he's bloody, greedy, false, and malicious, committing every sin, but there is no end when it comes to my own lust for women.  No wife or daughter would be safe.  Better Macbeth be king.
MACDUFF:  Don't worry. We'll find you willing dames enough.
MALCOLM:  I'm so greedy.  I would steal my nobles' lands and jewels.
MACDUFF:  Don't worry.  This greed will lessen and be counterbalanced by your other qualities. 
MALCOLM:  I have no good qualities.  Justice, truth, moderation, dependability, perseverance, patience…I have no taste for them.
MACDUFF:  O Scotland, Scotland!  The crown prince counts himself unfit for the throne.  The bloody-sceptered tyrant rules.  When shall we ever be whole again, Scotland?  My hope dies here.
MALCOLM:  Dear, passionate Macduff, you show your integrity.  I was just kidding before.  I've never even been with a woman or broken a promise.  I am ready to take up arms with my English allies and save my poor Scotland.
            Enter Ross
MACDUFF:  What news?
ROSS:  Things in Scotland are worse than ever.  Macbeth has slain your wife and children.
MACDUFF:  What?  All my pretty chicks dead?  And their dam?
ROSS:  And your servants.
MACDUFF:  Oh Woe.  All?
MALCOLM:  Let's make medicine of our great revenge to cure this deadly grief.  Be this the whetstone of your sword.
MACDUFF:  Get me within sword's length of Macbeth and he shall pay.
MALCOLM:  How manly of you.  My army's ready.  All we have to do is leave.  Macbeth is ripe for the picking.  

Click here for Mangled Macbeth Act V
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 3

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 3 Scene 1

BANQUO:  [to self]:  Macbeth, you cheated your way onto the throne.  I know it.  But the witches were right.  Now perhaps their grand prophecy for my posterity will come true too.
            Enter Macbeth
MACBETH:  Good Banquo, you're riding out this afternoon?
BANQUO:  Aye, my lord, but I'll be back for the feast tonight.
MACBETH:  Travel well.
            Exit all but Macbeth and servant
MACBETH:  Have those men arrived?
SERVANT:  Yes.  They await outside the palace gate.
MACBETH:  Bring them in.  [To self] I fear that Banquo.  None but he threatens the security of my throne, for he alone heard the witches' promise.  Have I murdered the gracious king only to leave my crown to Banquo's sons?  No!
            Enter servant and murderers
MACBETH:  Remember how you thought I had done you wrong?  Well, it was Banquo.  Can you really let that go?  Can you forgive a man who has brought you so low?
MURDERERS:  No.  We're so angry with the world that we've become reckless.
MACBETH:  Banquo is your enemy, as he is mine, but for complicated political reasons I can't kill him myself.  You understand, old boys?  I ask your help, and that you not reveal my involvement.
MURDERERS:  No problem.
MACBETH:  Your spirits shine!  Do it tonight.  While you're at it, kill his son too.
MURDERERS:  Okey-dokey, my lord.   

Act 3 Scene 2

MACBETH:  Perhaps 'twould be better to be with the dead, whom we sent to their graves, than to be tortured by this uncertain joy and insecure power.
LADY MACBETH:  Get it together and at least pretend to be happy in front of your guests.

Act 3 Scene 3

Murders:  Hark!  I hear horses.  'Tis Banquo and his son.
            They attack
Banquo:  Treachery!  Run, my son, that you may later take revenge.

Act 3 Scene 4 
Enter Murderers

MACBETH:  There's blood on your face.
MURDERER:  'Tis Banquo's
MACBETH:  Better his blood on your face than in his veins.  Is he dead?
MURDERER:  Yes, but his son escaped.
MACBETH:  Now I will be forever trapped within my fears.
            Macbeth returns to feast, but Banquo's ghost has entered and sat in his place. . 
MACBETH:  The table's full.
LENNOX:  Here's a place reserved for you.
MACBETH:  Where?
LENNOX:  Right here.  What's wrong, my lord?
MACBETH:  Which one of you has done this?
LORDS:  What?
ROSS:  Rise, gentlemen.  The king is not well.
LADY MACBETH:  Sit.  He's often like this.  Has been since his youth.  It's a momentary fit.  If you pay him attention it will offend him and make the fit worse.  Eat and ignore him.  [To Macbeth].  Are you a man?
MACBETH [aside]:  Of course I am!  I dare look at things which might frighten the devil.  It used to be that once you killed a man, he stayed dead.  Now they rise again and push us out of our chairs.  [To lords] Sorry.  I have a strange infirmity.  Don't mind me.  Let's drink to my dear friend Banquo, who we miss tonight.  Would that he were here.

Act 3 Scene 5

HECATE:  Witches, you shouldn't have toyed with Macbeth's future, but let's sing and dance anyway.  Hee hee.

Act 3 Scene 6

LENNOX:  Boy it's getting dangerous around here—people dropping like flies.  Where's Macduff?
LORDS:  I heard he's gone to England to work with Duncan's son Malcolm.  May they return and free our land from the grip of the tyrant!  

Click here to read Mangled Macbeth Act IV

To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 2

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.

Act 2 Scene 1

MACBETH:  Is this really a dagger in my hand?  Is there blood on it yet?  The world has truly gone crazy.  Well, I suppose I should go kill the king.

Act 2 Scene 2

LADY MACBETH:  What's taking so long?  Why isn't the king dead yet?  If he didn't look so much like my father, I would have done it myself.
            Enter Macbeth, with bloody daggers
MACBETH:  It's done.  But I heard a voice crying, "Macbeth shall sleep no more."
LADY MACBETH:  For crying out loud, pull yourself together and wash your hands of his blood.  And why did you bring the daggers here?  Go smear the sleeping grooms with them. 
MACBETH:  I'm afraid to look at what I've done. 
LADY MACBETH:  Weakling!  I would be ashamed to have a heart so white and frail as yours.  Give me those daggers.  I'll do it.  Go put on your nightgown and go to bed.

Act 2 Scene 3

MACDUFF:  We sure had a wild night last night.  Is the king awake yet?
MACDUFF:  I'll go wake him.
            Exit Macduff
LENNOX:  We sure had a wild night last night.
MACBETH:  Yes, 'twas wild.
            Enter Macduff
MACDUFF:  Horror!  Horror!  Horror!  Most sacrilegious murder!
MACDUFF:  Approach the chamber and you will blind yourself with the hideous sight.  I cannot speak of it.  Murder and treason.  Oh, Lady Macbeth, 'tis not for a woman's ear to hear of this murder.
LADY MACBETH:  Woe!  Alas!  In our house?
BANQUO:  Say it isn't so!
MACBETH:  I wish I had died before I had to see this.
            Enter Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's sons
DONALBAIN:  What's wrong?
MACBETH:  You are, but you yet know not.  The spring and fountain of your blood is stopped.
DONALBAIN:  Dude, speak English.
MACDUFF:  Your father's murdered.
MALCOLM:  By whom?
LENNOX:  His grooms, it looks like.
MACBETH:  And woe, in my grief and loyalty I killed them.  I couldn’t stop myself.  I loved the king so much.
LADY MACBETH:  Help!  I faint!
MALCOLM [aside]:  Brother, let us flee, I to England, you to Ireland, before our father's murderer strikes again.
DONALBAIN:  Aye.  There are daggers in men's smiles.

Act 2 Scene 4

OLD MAN:  Dreadful things are afoot.  Strange omens foretold this.
ROSS:  Does anyone know who killed the king?
MACDUFF:  The grooms, we think, hired by someone.  Since the king's sons have fled, we suspect them.
ROSS:  A sin against nature!  I suppose, then, the crown will fall to Macbeth.
MACDUFF:  He's already gone to Scone to be crowned.

Click here for Mangled Macbeth Act III
To read from the beginning, click on Mangled Macbeth Act I
Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mangled Macbeth, Act 1

Mangled Macbeth
Written by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled by Melinda Brasher.
Act 1 Scene 1  Thunder and Lightning

WITCHES:  Hee hee, we're being witches.

Act 1 Scene 2 

DUNCAN, THE KING:  What report do you have of the war?
CAPTAIN:  Macbeth led our forces with great valor and slew the enemy himself.  Then a new assault began and brave Macbeth beat them back stroke for stroke.  But please, sir, can I go rest now?  My wounds haven't yet been treated.
            Enter Ross
DUNCAN:  Welcome, worthy Ross.  Where have you come from?
ROSS:  From Fife, where the traitorous Thane of Cawdor helped the King of Norway lead an army against us.  We, however, were victorious.
DUNCAN:  I shall condemn Cawdor to death and give his title to Macbeth.

Act 1 Scene 3  Thunder

WITCHES:  Hee hee, we're being witches.
            Enter Macbeth and Banquo
BANQUO:  Who are those withered, wild creatures who hardly look like women?
MACBETH:  Speak.  What are you?
1st WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis!   
2nd WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor!
3rd WITCH:  All hail, Macbeth, who will be king!
MACBETH:  What are you talking about?  I know I'm Lord of Glamis, but the Thane of Cawdor is alive.  And to be king, well, that's unlikely.
BANQUO:  Hey, if you're telling fortunes, why don't you tell mine too?
WITCHES:  Your sons shall be king, but not you.
MACBETH:  Where do you get your prophetic words?
            Witches disappear
BANQUO:  Where did they go?  Are we drunk?
            Enter Ross
ROSS:  Macbeth, the king has heard of your successes in battle, and has happily made you Thane of Cawdor.
MACBETH [aside]:  This is a happy beginning.  The greatest is yet to come.  I do, however, tremble to think I might have to murder the king to make it true.

Act 1 Scene 4
DUNCAN:  Is the Thane of Cawdor dead?
MALCOLM:  Yes.  He confessed and repented.  Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.
            Enter Macbeth, Banquo, etc.
DUNCAN:  Worthiest Macbeth!  My ingratitude weighs heavily on me.  I wish you deserved less reward so that my thanks and payment might mean more.
MACBETH:  My loyalty pays itself.  I would be pleased to have you as a guest in my house, Lord King.  I'll go let my wife know, so we can prepare.
            Exit Macbeth
DUNCAN:  Banquo, isn't that Macbeth a valiant man?  A kinsman beyond reproach?  His worthiness feeds my heart.

Act 1 Scene 5
LADY MACBETH [reading a letter]:  …and the witches say I'll one day be king.  Rejoice with me.  [Aside]:  Macbeth, I'm afraid you haven't the ambition to see this through.
            Enter messenger
MESSENGER:  The king and Macbeth are coming tonight.
            Exit messenger
LADY MACBETH:  The king himself will be here, under my roof?  Give me the strength of a man.  Take away my womanly weakness and give me the courage and ruthlessness to do as I must.
            Enter Macbeth
LADY MACBETH:  Great Glamis!  Worthy Candor!  Your letter has transported me into a glorious future.
MACBETH:  My love, the king's coming tonight.
LADY MACBETH:  And when does he leave?
MACBETH:  Tomorrow.
LADY MACBETH:  Wrong!  Never shall he see the sun rise.  You look shocked.  You must instead look innocent, but be a serpent underneath.  Tonight you shall do the deed that will elevate us to the throne.
Act 1 Scene 6

DUNCAN:  This is a pleasant castle.  I'm sorry to be such a terrible bother, Lady Macbeth.
LADY MACBETH:  My pleasure.
DUNCAN:  Take me to my host, Macbeth.  I do so love him.

Act 1 Scene 7

MACBETH:  If it's to be done, best be done quickly.  But if we preach violence, violence is returned to us.  He's my kinsman and my king, so I really shouldn't kill him.  Plus, he's my guest.  And a good king.  Hmm…
            Enter Lady Macbeth
MACBETH:  Let's proceed no further in this business. The king has given me honors.  I'm content. 
LADY MACBETH:  Coward!  You're no man!  I, as a mother, know how tender it is to love a nursing child, but I would dash out my baby's brains if I had promised you I would, just as you promised me you'd be king.
MACBETH:  But what if we fail?
LADY MACBETH:  Take courage!  I'll get his grooms drunk.  Then we can kill Duncan and blame them.  We'll pretend great grief.  No one will suspect us.
MACBETH:  Fine.  I'll do this thing.  A false face hides what a false heart does.  

Click here for Mangled Macbeth;  Act II

Also Check out "Shakespeare:  "Therein Lies the Confusion"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shakespeare--Therein Lies the Confusion

I've been thinking a lot about why Shakespeare is so hard to understand.

It's not just the words themselves that confuse the reader, though they're often treacherous.  Example:  I was reading Macbeth and came to a sentence that seemed to make no sense.  "The greatest is behind," it said.  However, Macbeth was speaking of his belief that he would soon be king, and was happy about the prospect.  So why did he say the greatest was behind?  Then I looked at the footnotes.  There it said:  "117 behind to come."  Okay, so "behind" means "in front of."  Why didn't I think of that?  And what on earth is our crazy language doing, changing meanings in such diametrically confusing ways? 

The unfamiliar words aren't so bad, because our brain warns us to beware.  Then we can look at the footnotes and figure it out.  The words we think we know but don't are the worst, such as these examples, all from Macbeth (Bantam Classic 1980).  Owed = owned, limited = appointed, make love = ask for aid, scorched = cut or slashed, encounter = respond to, close = secret, minions = darlings.  The list goes on and on.

There are also many words whose meanings have slid, and thus are likely to kill nuances:    sensible =  perceivable with the senses (sensed), amazed = bewildered,  wasteful = destructive, offend = make worse, speculation = power of sight,  overcome = come over.

If it were only the words, it wouldn't be such a problem, but even when I understand the words, the long sentences often disguise their own verbs, and the odd constructions present themselves as riddles.  Poetry and obscure analogies further confuse the issue.    The quotes we hear—the beautiful, well-expressed, profound observations—are couched in seas of words, words, words. 

I know Shakespeare had to write these fast.  I know he didn't have a computer to copy and paste and edit 27 times.  He didn't even have a good pen and cheap paper.  But couldn't he have edited a couple of times to cut down on all the unnecessary stuff?  After all, brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet).     

Much of this confusion is the small matter of 400 years of language change that separates us from the Bard.  His fans will say those who don't understand are just lazy or stupid.  But I cannot count the times I've heard that good writing is clear writing.  I can't count the articles and authors' presentations and critique group discussions that center around how to make your writing concise.  And I can't deny that I simply enjoy stories more when I know what's happening. 

More on Shakespeare Month:  It's Okay Not To Like Shakespeare

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's Okay Not to Like Shakespeare

This may come as a shock, but I've never really liked Shakespeare.  The other day, however, I got to thinking about how I didn't like many of the other greats the first time around because—let's face it—the school system introduces classic literature to us before we're ready to appreciate it.  I hated Hemmingway in 7th grade.  Ten years later I loved him.  At 18, I disliked Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.  At 23, a different story.  In high school I yawned all through Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  In college, I thought I was the most brilliant book ever written.  So, since I hadn't read any Shakespeare or seen whole plays or movies since halfway through university, I thought I should give him another try.  I thought maybe this time I'd think he was brilliant.

Alas and alack, I fear not. 

Shakespeare's work has some nice bits of intrigue, a few fascinating characters, and a lot of excellent lines—profound and poetic at the same time.  He has, through some combination of luck and genius, managed to outlast his competition for over 400 years and has influenced art and literature forever.  Many of his clever turns of phrase have become so loved and oft-used that we think them clichés now.  Shakespeare is nothing to sneer at.  But I also don't believe he can be called, categorically and unquestionably, the greatest writer who ever lived.  I also don't think that everyone who wants to be seen as halfway intelligent or educated should be forced by cultural mores to pretend they actually enjoy his work.

Though I can appreciate many things about Shakespeare's plays, I don't particularly like them.  Perhaps if I spoke 400-year-old English, I would like it more, but I don't. Though I consider myself a good reader and fairly intelligent, I struggle to understand his writing.  I'm not talking about the deep philosophical and psychological themes.  I'm talking about what's actually happening in the story.  I read Spanish pretty well, but when I read difficult work in that language, I feel like I'm missing all sorts of little details and shades of meaning.  However, I generally know what's happening.  In Shakespeare, that's not always the case.  And if I can't tell for sure what's going on, there's no way I'm catching all the nuances that supposedly make Shakespeare so classic, and showcase his deep understanding of human nature.  Call me arrogant, but if I don't get it—I who love to read, who have quite a decent vocabulary, who have experience with other languages, and often read a variety of genres and authors—If I don't get it, I have to assume that some of the people who claim to love Shakespeare haven't actually read it.

Many Shakespeare fans believe that people who don't understand him well are just too lazy to do the research and read the footnotes and reread the text several times.  They're partly right.  But I believe that one of the main rules of writing—espoused by most writing conferences, articles, books, and critique groups I've had contact with—is that you have to keep your reader IN the story.  The more your confusing prose makes them stop and reread, the less absorbed they are in your world.  If you're checking your dictionary five times a page, you're not living with the characters.

I'm not sure how much of this is Shakespeare's fault.  People 400 years ago obviously understood and loved him.  I think it's more the fault of our culture that puts a stigma on translating the untouchable Bard.

I love re-reading passages that are particularly thought-provoking, beautiful, or well stated.  I don't love rereading passages because I didn't understand them the first time.  And I don't think that makes me stupid or uneducated.

So, to everyone out there, I stand by my claim:  It's okay not to like Shakespeare.  Not everyone likes broccoli or Bach or basketball, though these are admittedly things full of great merit.  You can still admire aspects of Shakespeare's work.  You can still respect him.  But if you don't enjoy his writing, go right ahead and admit it.

Next time on Shakespeare month:  "Therein Lies the Confusion" and
"Macbeth, by William Shakespeare.  Abridged, translated, and slightly mangled" by Melinda Brasher.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Images of Alaska

From my 2012 Alaska Cruise.
Music:  "Tango Apasionado" by Astor Piazzola, from the album Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night by Pablo Zinger.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

In honor of Ray Bradbury and his death this year, I decided to read the famous Fahrenheit 451

The prose wasn't what I expected—often poetic, in almost a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.  Not my favorite style, and at times distracting.

The other thing that surprised me was the same thing I felt with Animal Farm, by George Orwell.  With that book, I'd expected a subtle allegory on communism.  There was absolutely nothing subtle about it.  Same with Fahrenheit and censorship.  It would have been more powerful if it was a little less preachy.

However, I found it absolutely fascinating the idea that censorship in Bradbury's world was not government-imposed, at least not initially.  It started with a dumbing-down of media, a sort of natural selection away from the literary and philosophical.  Only then did the oppressive government step in and start enforcing what the people had done to themselves.  The government burned the books, but it was the people who gave them the fuel. 

Rather chilling.

Bradbury's world-building had some other interesting bits, too, like the rather terrifying Hound.

I had a bit of a problem with the main character's abrupt change.  One day Guy Montag is a happy firefighter who loves to burn things—like books.  Then he meets a girl who likes to do crazy subversive things like sitting around and talking with her family.  She makes a few thought-provoking comments about the hollowness of modern life and suddenly Guy realizes how unhappy he is, how everything's gone to pot, and how mindless modern society—and its entertainment—has become.  Now he wants to burn everything, change the world, and risk his life to save the books.  I found the change too sudden to believe.   

What I loved was the ending.  I won't spoil it for any of you who haven't read the book, but the whole last bit was perfect:  disturbing, profound, insightful.     

I'm really enjoying this classic sci fi. 

My rating:  3+

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glaciers never fail to amaze me.  On my July 2012 Alaska cruise, one of the glacier days I spent about five hours outside in pretty chilly and rainy conditions, wet through and through, a red plaid blanket tied cape-like around my shoulders, fingers pruny and numb.  I loved every minute.

At Glacier Bay, however, the sun made an appearance.  Blue peeked out from between the clouds.  A glorious day in a glorious place.  And at the far end of our beautiful cruise?  Margerie Glacier.

Margerie Glacier, with a rare look at its source mountains behind

A dynamic, calving tidewater glacier

And just for a little perspective, observe the boat.
If you've never seen a glacier--or heard it calve, or seen a seal lounging on a baby iceberg birthed by a glacier--add it to your list.  You won't be sorry.

If you want to know more about how to see Alaskan glaciers for yourself, 
check out my new book on Amazon:   Cruising Alaska on a Budget,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Wrecked", by Elle Casey

Great premise—teenagers shipwrecked on a deserted island, learning to survive together.  To make it juicier, two are popular and attractive and the other two are rather geeky and unpopular.  The premise is great and the plot isn't bad.

Unfortunately, the writing needs polishing.  We see more details than we need to, especially about who is looking at whom with what expressions on their faces.  The sections are told from different points of view, but not distinctly enough for me to always remember whose point of view I'm supposed to be in.  I feel like I'm head-hopping a lot.  

The most trying thing, however, is how Casey over-explains so much of the dialogue and action.  In writing, we talk a lot about "showing" versus "telling."  This book suffers from a case of telling after showing.  Here's an example from the all-important first line:  "'I can't believe you roped us into this stupid cruise," Sarah said in a tone of voice that clearly carried her frustration…"  Uh…the words themselves tell us how frustrated Sarah is.  Telling us only weakens it.  From the second page:  "'Oh, please.  Like being stuck out in the middle of the ocean with you guys and those loser Buckley kids could ever possibly be fun.  Not in a million years, Mom.  I'm not in the damn chess club, you know.'  The thought of being on a cruise with the two Buckley nerds was too much."  Great dialogue.  It shows us Sarah's personality and her feelings about the whole situation.  Then Casey ruins it by explaining.  Taken separately, these aren't so bad, but when there's one after another after another, it gets tiring.

That said, I did enjoy the story.  There was some good action, especially in the life boat scene and the chase toward the end.  I also loved the interesting bits on the island about how they learned to survive and make different things.  I'm also a sucker for stories where people who don't initially like each other start learning to get along, work together, and even love each other. 

If you can ignore the corny bits, a couple plot holes, and the unpolished writing, you'll enjoy it.  Despite my annoyance with certain aspects, it kept me reading.  I even wished the island part would go on a little longer. 

My rating:  2

If you want to give it a try, download Wrecked here for your Kindle or other e-reader.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Suspicious Activity in Canada

Hi all,

If you tried to access this blog the last few weeks, you won't have found it.  The reason?  Blogger detected suspicious activity on my account and blocked it (how sweet).  Unfortunately, I was out of contact in Alaska for two weeks and didn't realize it.  Then I didn't have both internet and phone access at the same time to restore it until now.  

Here's the kicker:  the night before I left for Alaska, I made a post from my hostel in Vancouver, Canada.  I wonder if THAT was the suspicious activity.  Ooh...this travel blog girl made a post from another country!  One as exotic and distant as Canada.  How suspicious!  Sometimes I really wonder about technology.  

One of the few charges my credit card ever blocked was when I tried to buy $10 worth of Skype credit.  I'd bought Skype credit before, so I had a history of it.  It was TEN dollars.  Yet they tried to protect me from myself.  It's a complicated world.    

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Icy Strait Point, Alaska

Lovely Icy Strait Point, with ms Amsterdam in the distance

Want to see this for yourself?  Check out my new book on Amazon:   Cruising Alaska on a Budget,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel

The first time I ever heard of Life of Pi, I was at a friend's apartment in the Czech Republic.  He loved books, and loved lending them to people who might appreciate them.  I felt privileged to be among those.  "You might not like it," he warned, as he handed it to me.  "But you'll never forget it."  I've read it twice now, and he was right:  I don't think I'll ever forget it.

I also liked it.  I loved the zookeeping trivia, the psychology of it, the absolute uniqueness of the story.  Yann Martel's writing style is smooth and absorbing. 

The first time I read it, I turned the last page, then sat there for a while staring at the blank paper.  I didn't understand what had really happened.

The second time, I knew I wasn't meant to. 

I'm still not sure what to believe, and I'm not sure what that means about me.      

Years ago, I rather scoffed at the tag line:  "a story that will make you believe in God."  Now I understand.  And perhaps that's the most disturbing bit of the whole book.

Read it.  You might not like it, but you'll never forget it.

My rating:  4+

Friday, June 29, 2012

Great Things about Arizona Summers

Phoenix offers many advantages, especially in summer:

-If you want tea, you don't have to bother with heating water.  Just turn your tap to its hottest and pour right into your cup.

-If you're in a rush, you can cook dinner on your dashboard on the way home from the store.

-There's no irksome noise from neighbor kids playing outside.  They're all inside with the air conditioning.

-You don't have to worry about what to do with your extra money.  You're spending it all on the above mentioned air conditioning.    

-Clothes—even jeans—dry faster when hung outside than they do in the dryer.

-You can have a hot shower in the sprinklers.

-Long after midnight—maybe 4 AM—it could possibly cool down all the way to 84° F (29° C).

-One hundred days in a row without rain! 

The Arizona desert:  good weather all year round.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Los Chorros de Calera, El Salvador

Los Chorros del Calera, El Salvador
Just outside Juayúa, El Salvador, the Chorros de Calera are a series of waterfalls and pools, connected by man-made tunnels you can swim though in the dark.  Quite a little adventure.  If you're even braver, you can do some cliff jumping into the narrow pools, a feat made to look easy by the local guides. 

Ready for adventure?  Swim through that!
I did an inexpensive tour from the hostel, Hotel Anáhuac.  Our guide was awesome, giving us bits of history and biology as we hiked, then guiding us through the tunnels with shouted commands like, "Hands arriba!"  Hands up.  "This way, this way!  Aventura!" 

Hungry?  Jungle Picnic.
Afterwards, he made us lunch, cutting open a pineapple with a machete and serving it on banana leaves.

I'd never heard of Juayúa before I started researching my Central America trip.  Between the falls, the social hostel, and the local gastronomy festival where I shared a frog with new friends, Juayúa become one of my favorite stops on my Central American odyssey. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Requiem for a Lost Towel

Published again!

Budget travelers, backpackers, and fans of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will enjoy this travel article about the importance of knowing where your towel is.

Click to read Requiem For a Lost Towel, by Melinda Brasher, published on Connecting Solo Travel Network

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Two-Fisted Tweets" by James Hutchings

Flash fiction takes many forms, but James' Hutchings' Two-Fisted Tweets are micro-micro fiction in the extreme.  Each story takes no more than 140 characters, the length of a standard tweet.  I'm not a fan of tweets, but I'm a fan of this collection of bite-sized stories. 

Most of Hutchings' stories are funny or thought-provoking, and the whole collection amazes me with what you can communicate in so few words. 

As a writer, I always say I'm not very good at short.  I won a little internet contest on 400-word flash fiction, and I had to take my scalpel to every last one of those stories, until they were exactly short enough.  James Hutchings has inspired me to try my hand at something even shorter.  Thanks!

Click to download Two-Fisted Tweets to your e-reader free (as of now)
Or see some of my flash fiction online.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mazatlan Sunset

Mazatlán, México
Mazatlan, Mexico
Sunset on the cove after a great day relaxing, swimming, and eating fish on the beach at Stone Island.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Odds of Publication

I just submitted a short story to Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and discovered some sobering statistics.  Granted, Asimov's is one of the most prestigious, most popular sci fi magazines out there, but still...

If their submissions numbering system is purely sequential, meaning that if my submission is 522,019, the next submission will be 522,020, then there have been over 200,000 submissions in the last six months.  They publish 10 times a year, and I'm not sure exactly how many stories they publish in each issue, but this issue has 5 short stories plus 2 novelettes.  I'll assume then that they buy around 7 stories each issue.  That means that in the last six months, they accepted somewhere around 35 stories.  There are lots of variables here, and I could be assuming too much, but if these stats are accurate, the acceptance rate is around .017%.  Not 1.7%.  .017%.  To put it another way, my story will have to beat out around 5,700 other entries.  

Rather disheartening.

Ah, writing...the nightmare of our choice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Wicked Lovely"—Melissa Marr

Urban fantasy isn't my favorite genre, but I'd heard Wicked Lovely praised, so I decided to read it.  I liked Melissa Marr's creative take on faeries, and enjoyed the vivid imagery.  The story fits so well with the beautiful cover

However, the excessive repetition and over-explanation sometimes bogged down the story.  Example:  Beira (evil queen who's not quite as frightening as she needs to be) touches Keenan (her son and enemy) and bruises him with cold.  Aislinn (the chosen one, who hasn't quite admitted she's the chosen one) kisses his cheek and takes away the bruises.  It goes on for a page or so about this, and both their wonder at her power.  Then someone comes up and asks what happened.  "Aislinn healed the Winter Queen's touch," Keenan says.  Four lines later, "She kissed Beira's frost, and it's gone.  She unmade Beira's touch.  She offered me her hand—by choice—and I was stronger."  In case we didn't get it yet, another character asks, "What?"  Keenana says—and I kid you not—"She healed me with a kiss, shared her strength with me."  Four pages later she tells her boyfriend about it.  Yes, it's a pivotal plot point, because it convinces everyone, including her, that she's The One, but for heaven's sake WE GOT IT.

I also didn't like that there are all these rules for the faery world and this epic "game" of theirs, which we hear about over and over, yet we never learn who set the rules, or why, or what will happen if the rules are disobeyed.

As for the characters, Keenan was interesting enough, though whiny.  I liked Donia and her inner struggles.  Seth seemed too perfect to be real (except for his former promiscuity).  And Aislinn, the main character…well, I didn't have strong feelings one way or the other about her.

It has a great tag line, though:  "Rule #3:  Don't stare at invisible faeries.  Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries. Rule #1:  Don't ever attract theirattention."  That's probably how it got the attention of agents and publishers. 

My rating:  3 minus