Feb 24, 2013

Book Review: Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer


Frances and Bernard
by Carlene Bauer
9780547858241, $23, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.

It's brilliant but terrible in its lack of traditional happy ending. Both parties end up with - as harsh as this sounds - what they deserve, but God it still hurts.

I never expected to find myself enjoying a book that spoke so much about Catholic God and faith, but they speak of it in a way that's palpable to an agnostic Jew, which I think really says a lot. I don't shy away from conversations about faith, and in fact, find belief and adherence to those beliefs and searching for those beliefs to be a very real and human and admirable thing. The way the author intertwined the search for faith and the belief in religion with the search and belief in love was, for lack of a better description, done incredibly well. It didn't feel too didactic or heavy-handed, probably because Frances was so pragmatic about the whole thing. To say I enjoyed it doesn't pay homage to the way my heart feels torn apart, but throughout 3/4ths of this book, I did absolutely enjoy reading about Frances and Bernard falling in like and then in love and then I had to figure out what to do about how very much I respected Frances for her convictions and living up to them while I also very much believe in Bernard's declarations of love and try to live my own life believing in it.

*Spoiler alert in the next paragraph!

The one tiny glitch that I am still thinking about is how Bernard's character was framed after his marriage to Susan - all his infidelities. We are absolutely influenced by those we love most, and so though it is possible that Frances might have been influenced for the worse by Bernard's character, was it not also possible that in marrying Bernard, Frances could have been the making of him instead? Was Bernard's character allowed to run out of check because of Susan's character, herself?

That aside, it's going to take me a little while to build back up from all that again. Some books are supposed to make you feel like that.

I feel like I underlined half the book, but here are some particular favorites:

"I thought I had been growing up by unleashing my strength and mind onto the world, by imposing myself and not being afraid of it, but this suddenly began to seem like a lifetime of tantrums. I'd gotten used to having too much, at having whatever I willed become real, which had made my will promiscuous. Not strong at all." (19)

"She is a girl, but she is also an old man, and I see that there is intractability in her heart that may never be shattered. Perhaps that is because she grew up among women who love harder than they think, and she has strengthened her innate intractability in order to keep tunneling toward a place where she could write undisturbed by the demands of conventional femininity. So she may always think harder than she loves." (48)

"My life without you would certainly be less. That is one think I know." (77)

"'Bernard,' I said, and took his hand. 'No, no, that's not enough,' he said. He took the package out of my other hand, put it down on a chair, and then pulled me to him. He was right. That wasn't enough." (81)

"I wonder what of your mother was encoded in you without your knowing; what of your life is a letter she wrote you that you have just opened and will take your whole life to read." (85)

"...people who made a point to weave themselves together because they had poured out their blood among one another. They may be annoyed with each other, but they do not hate each other. They understand that annoyance is a fair price to pay for the strange protective love of family." (132)

"You rely on your books for things the rest of us search for in people... 'Your books need no help from me. They are for you alone. When you don't want to be alone, then here I am.'" (177)

Jan 25, 2013

Harry Potter Readalong, Book 1: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets



First and foremost, thank you to Alice Reading Rambo for hosting this readalong. Second, thanks to Emily at As the Crowe Flies and Reads for turning me onto it. Having not reread any of the Harry Potter books since they first came out, I can not begin to tell you how excited I am to go back and start reading them MORE THAN A DECADE LATER. I am still young enough where this seems like a long stretch of time. Forgive me.

Unfortunately, I'm a week behind, which means I'm going to be posting about the whole of book 1 here, while everyone else posts about the start of book 2, and then by the next post I hope to have caught up. Because I'm so behind, I'm pretty much just going to post my stream of consciousness reading thoughts on book 1 and the get really into the swing of things for book 2



Also, I have only recently been introduced to the world of gifs. Apparently they're moving pictures that have funny captions, and are in part appropriate here because they're like the moving photographs in the wizard world in Harry Potter, yes? Or something like that. I'll get used to them, I promise, and probably some day figure out how to make my very own, or at least where to find some to post here. I apologize there are none on this post.

Lastly, before we begin, I'm going to make you all hate me by saying I am not a fan of Mary GrandPré's artwork. Go ahead, shoot me. It's just not my style. But I'm very happy for her and her career and for the bajillion fans who love her work who are now burning me in effigy.

So, to begin:



Obviously the book is really enjoyable; let's just get that out of the way. This time around, having seen almost all the films (I think I missed the last one somehow - how DID that happen?) and read all the books, I had a pretty good idea of where things were going, which allowed me to pick up on all those other little subplot moments (not to pat myself on the back or anything).

Right at the beginning, possibly plot inconsistency: Hagrid tells Dumbledore that the motorcycle he rides in on belongs to Sirius Black: "Young Sirius Black lent it to me." (pg 14) But later in the series, Sirius Black is in Azkaban, and wouldn't he have been there already or at least suspect at that point for having supposedly betrayed Harry's Mom & Dad? I hate to point that out, as he's one of my favorite characters, but still, that might be inconsistent with the plot later.

During most of the first quarter of this book, I just kept thinking of Oliver Twist: "...and Harry was left to curl up under the thinnest, most ragged blanket" (pg. 45). "Please, sir, may I have another?" Is that even Oliver Twist? Or is that Tiny Tim? Not going to look it up, you get the point. Later, when he's at Hogwarts, I kept thinking of Charlotte's Web, with all the descriptions of food. Reminds me of Templeton's romp through the fairgrounds that one night.


Ah, the meeting with Professor Quirrell in the Leaky Cauldron. How on EARTH did Prof. Q. get this position in the first place? Who DOES do the hiring for Hogwarts? You would think it would be Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall or anyone else with half a brain who wouldn't hire a trembly Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And later, his curriculum - someone should really be looking over that, shouldn't they, to see that the kids are actually being taught something useful? I mean, isn't that kind of an important subject? I kind of feel like DAtDA is like Driver's Ed - not everyone may need to use it, but we should all take it so if we're ever forced behind the wheel of a car, we know at least the basics of what to do. Okay, not a great analogy, but can you think of a better one?

"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the Phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, have another feather - just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother - why its brother gave you that scar" (pg. 85).
Mostly I just loved that whole scene, but I always thought it would be cool if it turned out that the phoenix who gave the tail feather turned out to be Fawlkes (Dumbledore's phoenix. It IS Fawlkes, right?). Also, resisting the urge to comment on wand size being a euphemism for the size of something else...

Moving on: "Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbeldore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling." (pg. 102-103)
Though I had a lingering memory that Flamel had a wife, this part still kind of made me wonder if there wasn't something romantic at one point between Dumbledore and Flamel. Even when Flamel's wife is later confirmed, I still kind of hope there was.

Bad idea to read this book while hungry. Also a bad idea to write down notes on your iPhone without saving. Grrr. Learned a new type of food - something about sausages, starts with a c, sounds Spanish, but I think when I looked it up it said it was actually French.

Okay, what's up with no one talking to them after they lost the points for Gryffendor? Fred & George must have lost that amount of points combined with all the hijinks those two get up to. Seems really unfair (and kind of un-kid-like) for everyone to shun the three of them for that ENTIRE length of time.

Ridiculous detention in chapter 15! First-years in the forbidden forest? Isn't that actually helping them break the rules as part of their punishment for breaking the rules? Also, who authorized this detention? Looking for whatever creature is hunting and killing unicorns?!? Oh no, that won't be dangerous at all. And also, how is that so much work, like Filch keeps talking about? Other than staying up really late, sounds more like an adventure to me. As a kid, I would have loved it if my detention actually meant, "Go explore the creepy forbidden forest at night with 3 of your friends (and one eneme), one of whom is the groundskeeper and so knows every inch of the forest." Really tough, that one.

Lastly, where's the hullabaloo about Voldemort being back?!?!? If the centaurs know it's him, and Harry knows, how died Hagrid not? And if Harry told Ron and Hermoine, isn't at least one of them smart enough to know that they should tell an adult? Voldemort hadn't been seen in how many years and suddenly he's seen in the Forbidden Forest on Hogwarts' very grounds? That entire chapter 15 and detention incident is totally unresolved.

"'It's tonight,' said Harry, once he was sure Professor McGonagall was out of earshot. 'Snape's going through the trapdoor tonight. He's found out everything he needs, and now he's got Dumbledore out of the way.'" (pg. 268)
Why are they so convinced its going to happen that night? Just because they're kids and learned the secret today and the world revolves around them? That stranger in the pub nonsense was weeks ago! Wouldn't the cloaked stranger have already made use of the information by now?

"'Not if I can help it,' said Hermoine, grimly. 'Flitwick told me in secret that I got a hundred and welve percent on his exam. They're not throwing me out after that.'" (pg. 271)
Hermoine gets all sassy, love it! If only she stays this sassy throughout the rest.

Forgot there were so many tasks for them to get past on their way to confront Snape/Quirrell; the movie shortened that. Wish they'd kept the logic in, it really underscored how important Hermoine has become to the group. Instead, they kept in the self-deprecating line about friendship and bravery being more important that books and cleverness. 'Cause that was the right choice (heavy sarcasm should be noted here).

ARGH! General rant about the arbitrary points system! Every time a teacher adds points or detract points, I'm like WTF? I guess that's part of the point - oh those kooky wizards, giving out and taking away points all willy-nilly-style - but it drives me a little insane. Neville's additional points at the end are amazing of course, but then Harry only gets 60 points for almost dying? The whole thing smells fishy.

And last but not least, the two times I teared up: when Hagrid gives Harry the photo album of his family and when Neville gets the winning house points. SUCH a spectacular ending.

Oh, also, how attractive did Neville turn out? (Or the actor who played him.) Hubba hubba.

Jan 20, 2013

Book review: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

I am overwhelmed by how perfectly completed this trilogy is. One of the most brilliant things about this whole trilogy, but this third and final book in particular, is how seamlessly history and current events are woven together so that you're both reminded of events that took place in the previous two novels, as well as given carefully revealed tidbits of information from the history of these countries, to give context to the action happening in the present. A phenomenal ending, not only with all the loose ends tied up, but some lovely additions or plot asides (such as recognizing the bravery and sacrifice made by a 17-year-old Charynite boy in Lumatere 13 years earlier leading to child care advice for Quintana, or Quintana softening enough to play matchmaker) that balanced out all the sadness that came before. Toward the final third of the book, I found myself crying at the small moments of happiness, the expressions of love, instead of over the horrors that came before.

One of my favorite paragraphs:
"And Phaedra saw her smile, with a hint of mischief in it, and she couldn't help smiling herself and then she was laughing. They both were, and the savage teeth were the most joyous sight Phaedra had seen for a long time. It was as if they were dancing. There it was. Suddenly the strangeness of Quintana of Charyn's face made sense. Because it was a face meant for laughing, but it had never been given a chance. It robbed Phaedra of her breath." (pg. 201)
That, to me, is where Melina Marchetta is truly gifted, in that she can make those sweet moments so profound because of the bitterness that is being let go because of them. She makes forgiveness and love such a powerful force throughout this entire series, but most particularly in this third and final installment of The Lumatere Chronicles, Quintana of Charyn.

I will try to describe the plot without giving too much away. At the end of book 2, Froi of the Exiles, Froi was left for dead with 8 arrows in his body, while Quintana was spirited away through underground caves to no one knows where. Froi is saved by his birth uncle, Arjuro, the gods-blessed priestling, and is reunited in Charyn with his birth father, the genius Gargarin, and his birth mother, Lirah of Serker.

Meanwhile, Quintana has gotten herself to Lumatere, where she is being reluctantly taken care of by Phaedra of Alonso and the other escaped Charynite women living in the valley between Charyn and Lumatere. The women fakes their deaths to keep news of Quintana from reaching the evil Charynite soldiers-for-hire who killed the seven scholars-turned-soldiers (Rafuel's) men, in book 2. All the women are hiding out in a cave a few miles upstream from the rest of the refugees, with only Rafuel knowing their truth. It is when Quintana begins leaving the cave to hunt for food and meets Lady Beatriss's daughter Vestie, and is found by Tesadora, that the plot begins to unfold.

In Froi's adventures, he's traveling back and forth through Charyn with Gargarin and Lirah in an attempt to both find Quintana and raise an army to rescue her from whoever has her. In Quintana's adventures, as more people find out the women aren't dead and that Quintana is there, the more all the women, but most especially Quintana and the unborn little king, are in danger, for Bestiano, the horrible man who raped Quintana and was trying to take over the palace and the kingdom of Charyn, is still alive and has offered gold as a reward to any man who will bring him the little king, not Quintana, alive.

Subplots include a jealous argument between Finnikin and Isaboe that leads to Finnikin accompanying his father, Trevanion, and Perri, on a hunt for Gargarin, who they believe to be behind the attack and slaughter of Isaboe's family, during which they run into Froi, whom they haven't seen in 9 months; Lucian finding out that Phaedra is alive, struggling with his new feelings of love for her, and the two of them learning to trust each other; Isaboe and Quintana's unborn children talking to each other, to their mothers, and helping to explain what happened during the day of weeping 13 years earlier when all the women of Charyn lost the babies they were carrying and Lumatere became cursed, thus causing the last borns to be marked; and how to best avoid war and broker peace between all the kingdoms.

I am pleased to announce that despite all the political intrigue, battles fought, and messages gone astray, there is a happy ending in there for everyone who deserves it, with compassion, forgiveness, and love occurring in the most unexpected, but well-deserved, circumstances.

Definitely one of my favorite books of the year, the only downside is what on earth do I read next?

To read my review of book 1 of the Lumatere Chronicles, Finnikin of the Rock, click here. Though I never reviewed it, I did a Waiting on Wednesday post for book 2, Froi of the Exiles, here.

Jan 16, 2013

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of HerOwn Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Absolutely delightful. I don't know why it took me so long to read it, as it was on my TBR shelf from the moment I saw the title - being a fan of the absurdly long title, such as Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - but I will be forever grateful to my coworker Roger who finally literally pressed it upon me. Much like the content of the books that have those other titles, the content of this book lives up to its title as well. In fact, I'm having difficulty coming up with a book that has such a deliciously involved title that doesn't live up to it. Can you? Any novel with a long name really has to be strong enough (and by that I mean interesting enough) to live up to it, doesn't it?

Clearly I digress. It's difficult to explain why this book is so fantastic, and to explain why, think of The Phantom Tollbooth. I dare anyone who has read that book to sum it up concisely. There were so many times while reading this book that I thought of TPT, not because they're really all that alike in terms of story, but more that they're alike in terms of the sly way the authors used a child's fantasy novel to impart little wise asides about our daily lives. They're similar in that "out of the mouths of babes" kind of thing that you get from other books like Winnie-the-Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, too, where a childlike innocence and curiosity underscores some of our deepest thoughts and brings to light some of our most foolish actions. All without condemning us, simply pointing them out, as if they're saying, just in case you missed the fact that as adults we're sometimes selfish asses, and here's why that might be, and here's how to maybe stop. But, you know, without being too pretentious about it. Now on to what the story is actually about.


September is a little mostly-heartless girl from Omaha who is whisked away for an adventure in Fairyland by the Green Wind and his Leopard. Queen Mallow has gone missing and The Marquess has replaced her and so instead of everything in Fairyland being sugar and spice and all that's nice, the Wyvern and fairies have their wings chained and other bad things like that are happening. September doesn't really know much about the history of this, she is mostly just trying to have an adventure, but she has read fairy tales before and so recognizes a quest when she sees one. In addition to the Green Wind, along her quest September will meet a red Wyvern, a blue Marid, a Panther, a few fairies, a changeling, some witches, a woman made entirely of soap, and last but not least, a paper lantern. All play integral roles - some to hurt, some to help - as September loses a shoe but gets a new pair, is gifted a jacket and sash, collects a spoon, a wrench, and the most loyal key ever, and don't forget, sails around Fairyland on a ship of her own making (losing her heart and her shadow in the process). If all of that doesn't sound intriguing enough to make you read it, then I don't know what will.



Jan 8, 2013

Book Review: Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon

Finding Camlann
by Sean Pidgeon

This book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are similarities - romance among two people brought together by new findings that shed light upon a piece of British history - the pacing of this novel would have been much better served as a movie. While I am glad I read it, I can't say I simply enjoyed it.

The story got lost for me in the emphasis placed on everything from the detailed descriptions of the British and Welsh countrysides to ancient historical events and genealogies to dreamscapes (which really seemed most out of place) to almost everything but the forward momentum of the story itself. I could see how the sweeping vistas would be gorgeous in a movie, or how the impeccably researched historical elements might appeal to history buffs, but I wanted more meat to the story itself. The very writing itself seemed to contain a kind of stereotypical British constraint that was occasionally swept aside by a fanciful phrase that almost did more to distract than add, it being so out of place.

All of that said, something about it kept me reading, maybe because the pacing was just enough to hook me in as I was about to give up with some new piece of the mystery or new development in a character's relationship. I did like the characters:
Donald Gladstone is the co-main character along with Julia Llewelyn. He's an archaeologist; she's a researcher for the OED. Her husband, Hugh Mortimer, I thought was the least realized character, despite his rather central role in the end. Some intriguing minor characters come in, with Donald's American ex-wife being my least favorite, mostly because she either put on airs as a character or the author genuinely believes American women act like this (either one being of extreme annoyance to me).

A slow build for sure, I was almost most disappointed in the ending, for right as there is a final build-up to the actual find that brings all the various pieces of the historical mystery together, the author prefers to write something prosaic and leave it all to our imagination, what happens next, as opposed to giving the reader some closure - which, ironically I felt, was something several of characters throughout the novel were looking for (closure).

Jul 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Character Switches


 
The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:
Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Switch Places with for 24 Hours

Choosing these characters does depend a bit on which 24 hours you'd be living through, doesn't it? For instance, you might want to be Harry Potter or Hermoine Granger or Ron Weasley, but would you rather be them in the middle of book 1 or in the middle of book 7? (Personally, I'd like to be Harry Potter right in the middle of the first big feast of his life in the great hall during his first night at Hogwarts. Can you imagine all the different types of food?!?)

After some careful consideration, here are the top ten characters I would like to switch places with, and the somewhat specific 24 hours I would like to live:

1. Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

This one might seem a bit obvious to you, what with her being such a classic character and all, but wait for it: I would choose to switch places with Anne during book three of the Anne of Green Gables series, while she was going to school and living with her friends in that adorable little house with the live cat and the stone dogs Gog and Magog. She was right on the verge of change, and enjoying every moment. No specific 24 hours for this one, just any point throughout the year when she's so appreciative of living in a charming house with great friends, working hard at school, and then hugging to her the equal parts of fear and excitement over being in love with Gilbert Blythe.

2. Sara Crewe from A Little Princess by Frances Hodson Burnett

Apparently I'm sticking with the classics, as Sara was the second character that came to mind. The very specific 24 hours here would be when she wakes up in her attice bedroom in the horrible Miss Minchin's school and finds herself all cozy and warm and thinks that she's dreaming because there's food and slippers and a robe and a fire in the grate, and she calls Becky over so that she can share right away, and for a brief period of time Sara has some real happiness as opposed to her own created happiness. Obviously I like it when happy things happen.
 
3. Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I know I've chosen happy moments so far, but this one is a little different. I would choose to switch places with poor, unwanted Mary during the first 24 hours she's in that huge scary house of her uncle's on the Yorkshire moors. Do you know why? So I can explore it, of course! I'm not saying I wouldn't be equally sad and terrified, but I would also explore that place top-to-bottom, because what could anyone say to me then about poking my nose into every nook and cranny? I'm new and lost and they probably would forget all about me anyway, and so for at least 24 hours I could wander at will and discover all the house secrets right away.
 
4. Angeline Stephenson from Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

In Regency-era high society, one does not perform magic. Yet magic exists, Kat knows it does, because her mother was a witch. Unfortunately for Kat, her mother died soon after she was born, so the only memories she has are second-hand, overheard from her two older sisters. When her father remarried, Stepmama puts away all Kat's mother's things, and no one is allowed to speak of it. I would love to switch places with Kat's middle sister, Angeline, for any of the 24 hours during their high society house party so that I could aid Kat in foiling Stepmama's plans to marry off Kat's oldest sister to an evil (although rich) man whose biggest claim to fame is killing his first wife. Though Kat does a pretty remarkable job of saving her oldest sister all on her own, ruining dastardly deeds is so much more fun with two people.
 
5. The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

This one is the easiest - ANY character during ANY 24 hour period in ANY of the three books in this series, please! They're all equally fun, and I can't wait to be part of that family. Okay, I probably wouldn't want to be Hound, the dog, though he is certainly loved, fed, and petted enough, and allowed to sleep on the bed, but any other human character in the family would do.
 
6. Lydia Demarek from The Brotherband Chronicles: The Invaders by John Flanagan

Lydai's role seems like the perfect mix - deadly accuracy with a slingshot, knowledge of the local landscape, spirit of adventure, and an independent attitude. I would want to switch with her for the 24 hours right after book 2 ends. I can't wait to hear more about her character in book 3!
 
7. Nathaniel Fludd from Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers

Action, adventure, a dodo bird, Bedouins, an unknown aunt, a gremlin, the mystery of missing parents, and a real, live phoenix?? Count me in!
 
8. Perry Stormaire from Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

The first contemporary young adult (teen) novel on the list, let's just say that if undercover assassin Gobi Zaksauskas had chosen ME as Perry for her driver on prom night, the night would have turned out differently.
 
9. Anyone in the crew other than Katarina Bishop from Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Um, a crew of teenagers, all with special thieving skills? Yes, please! I'll gladly replace anyone on the list, though I have a particular affinity for either Kat's character or her cousin, Gabrielle. Either way, I would love to be part of this crew. And which 24 hours depends on which character I would get to be; obviously when it comes to this heist, I want to be in on the action.
 
10. Who is one character YOU would like to switch places with for 24 hours?

Apr 21, 2012

Book Review: Croak by Gina Damico

Croak by Gina Damico
9780547608327, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $8.99


Irreverent and hysterical, Croak tells the surprisingly believable story of the Grim Reaper. Or Reapers, to be precise, as there’s a whole group of Grims, and Lex Bartleby’s Uncle Mort is the head of them all. Shipped off to upstate New York to “milk cows or something,” Lex is surprised to find out she’s actually a Grim apprentice – and more than that, she’s the best Grim apprentice anyone’s ever seen. But when someone starts using the Grim powers to Kill people who haven’t yet died, Lex is torn – they’re killing bad people, like murderers, who Lex secretly wishes were dead, but it’s also an unforgivable use of Grim powers. As Lex and her friends get closer to uncovering who is doing this, she struggles harder with the question of whether to join the rouge Grim or turn them in.

Local Boston-area author!

Mar 2, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!

Articles

The most beautiful home office/library I've ever seen (probably). -->

Oddest Book Titles of the Year (in pictures), including such favorites as The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria and The Mushroom in Christian Art (actual article).

Author with 5 books published tries to sell 6th novel. 12 publishers pass due to previous sales figures. She changes her name, and her book is sold. Triumph.

In other cool news, Street Art of the Day at The Daily What is this colorful repurposed telephone booth in NYC - now a free "library"/book drop!

Children's Books

"A Brief History of Children's Picture Books and the Art of Visual Storytelling, OR What Modern E-books Can Learn from Mid-Century Design Icons"

Sad news: "Jan Berenstain Dies at 88". My mother even texted me - that's how important the Berenstain Bears were in my life.
Typography



Video

Yup, I'm doin' it: World's Geekiest Handshake. I'm also lovin' it (no copyright infringement intended, McDonald's).


Website

Just discovered! We Love This Book

Mar 1, 2012

Working for the Monkey, Not the Man


 That's correct, folks. That says that I am the new Store Manager at the World's Only Curious George Store, reopening in April in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. Can you believe it?!?

My sincere apologies to everyone for being MIA this month. A lot has been happening, mostly good, and including this incredible opportunity just this week. I will be taking a short blogging break while I help set up a brand, spankin'-new, store. I hope to be able to blog about that process soon, so stay tuned!

For updates on the Curious George store, check out the Curious George Store website (still under construction, but you can sign up for email updates). Hope to see you all stopping by the store!

Also, check out Whiteblack the Penguin Sees the World by Margret and H.A. Rey, a lesser known title by the Curious George creators, recently featured on Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

Feb 24, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!

Articles

HuffPo features "Books on Screen: Our Favorite Bookish Love Scenes From Films"

Oh, Amazon. It's so hard not to hate you and your attitude toward a positive, successful, mutually-beneficial, non-manipulative, not-a-monopoly book industry: "Amazon Pulls Thousands of E-Books in Dispute [AGAIN]"

As a chronic re-reader (there are at least three or four books I reread on a yearly basis), I feel gratified that there really can be a mental health benefit from rereading.

The very early news that JK Rowling will now write an adult book for Little, Brown.

Thoughtful commentary on a longer article: "E-Books Can't Burn"

I can't explain the book/word/art collaboration known as Round Robin, but Grain Edit can.

Book Products

Bookplates from Mac & Ninny Paper Co.

Get a painting of your favorite books on your own bookshelf here at Ideal Bookshelf. Beautiful work!

Children's Books

Remember the children's book Stephen Colbert wrote during the Maurice Sendak interviews I posted a couple of weeks ago? Well, surprise, surprise, it's getting published.

Does this list surprise you? "The 100 'Greatest Books for Kids" ranked by Scholastic Parent & Child magazine.

Letterpress



Quiz

Name the titles of these book covers (I got 17 of 24)

Typography

<-- An experiment in 3D letterforms by Letters are my Friends. Read more about it on the Co.Design blog.

"From the retrotastic typographic signage to the beautiful vintage color schemes, these storefronts are priceless time-capsules of an era as faded as their paint coats, haunting ghosts caught in the machine of progress." Read more in this article.

Alphabet Roadtrip, the blog of Iskra Design.


Letterology, an open classroom discussing book design and experimental typography.

Videos



The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ann Patchett
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Websites

A Tumblr blog dedicated to book photographs and quotes: PrettyBooks

Feb 10, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!

Articles

Even if you're not a non-fiction fan or a reader of alternate histories, this is a fascinating and engrossing article about writing in general, non-fiction history writing in particular, and an in-depth look at 5 unusual histories chosen by Geoff Dyer for The Browser.

Of all place, Boston.com has a roundup of "7 book recommendation websites to find your next good read".

Mystery Bus Tour! That's exactly what it sounds like. Read all about it.

Featured in Speakeasy, for all authors out there - "How to Be an Indie Bookseller's Dream" - and being a former bookseller, I concur!

A new international literary magazine presents an intimate look at war: "Warscapes — with sections that include literature, poetry, art and reportage — treats the subject elegantly by publishing stories that underline the personal, the intimate and the introspective."

Love lists like this! From Inhabitat: "7 Amazing Green Bookstores and Libraries from Around the World"

Today's Inspiration is blogging a series of "Female Illustrators You Should Know". You can find the links here, here, and here so far.

Children's Books

"If Dr. Seuss Books for Titled on According to Their Subtexts"

Flavorwire article of the week: "Literary Mixtape: Jo March"

Mitali Perkins, children's lit author extraordinaire, discusses how "Children's Books Explore Real-World Issues"

Lemony Snicket book deal news.

Korean children's book and magazine covers for the 40s/50s and 60s.

Product

"In My Book" - book-themed greeting cards and bookmarks, featured on Books on the Nightstand

Typography

An infographic showing "The History of Western Typefaces" (thanks to Shane for this!)

Video

William Blake is one of my favorite poets. This Brazilian short film was inspired by his poem The Tyger.
(Shout out of thanks to Chelsea for turning me on to this!)



Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?


And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?



Feb 4, 2012

February HuffPost Book Club: Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

The Huffington Post Book Club has released their second title:



Having recently received a copy in the mail (remember?) (thanks, Random House!), I am excited to announce that I will be participating in this month's book club festivities. Or at least the read-along portion.

You can participate, too. February 8 is the official read-along start date, and you can post your thoughts on Facebook (facebook.com/huffpostbooks) and on Twitter (@huffpostbooks) with the hashtag #HPBookClub. Happy reading!

Feb 3, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!

Articles

The New York Times offers a slideshow of "Books as a Way to Grace a Room" - if you can stomach how much money people spend on the personalized service hired here, it's worth the look.

Book Trailer of the Week

Thank you to Publishing Perspectives for turning me on to this book trailer for "La agenda del fin del mundo (Diary for the End of the World), an irreverent 2012 almanac and agenda featuring anecdotes, sound bites and trivia that topped Amazon Spain’s bestseller list." I wish I could get my hands on one!



Children's Books

The appropriate follow-up to the Colbert/Sendak interviews regarding Colbert's proposed children's book, I am a Flag Pole, and So Can You. From Melville House.

NPR highlighted The Snowy Day this week: "The Snowy Day: Breaking Color Barriers, Quietly"

FANTASTIC query about why there are so few female Caldecott Medal winners.

Milk + Bookies is a "non-profit organization that exposes young children to how great it feels to give back while celebrating the love of a good book."



Quiz

Wolves in children's fiction - how well do you know them? I only got a 7 out of 10.

Introvert or Extrovert? Take the informal quiz at NPR's interview with the author of Quiet, Please. I'm apparently split right down the middle - what does that mean?

Video

An absolutely mesmerizing and magical 15-minute film, nominated for an Oscar, all about the power of books.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Websites

This IS a UK-based site, so I don't know how applicable it will be to most of the readers of this blog, but this is an idea I've been in support of for a long time - smaller, quicker reads for commuters, non-readers, and anyone else looking for a small, quick read. QuickReads

For all other English language enthusiasts, I stumbled across this site: English Language & Usage (and no, I'm not promoting it solely because they use my ampersand tattoo as their and symbol). "This is a collaboratively edited question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required."

Feb 2, 2012

A Month of Letters

As an established letter-writer from way back, I am so excited to announce my participation in Mary Robinette Kowal's A Month of Letters project.


In the author's own words: “I have a simple challenge for you. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs.  Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items. All you are committing to is to mail 24 items.  Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.”

Now, as someone who belongs to PostCrossing.com, regularly participates in letter and package exchanges around the holidays and birthdays, and loves to design her own cards and stationary, a project like this is a dream come true.

If you would like to participate, here are some links to get you started:
If you would like to receive a letter from me, send me an email at broche (dot) fabian (at) gmail (dot) com to exchange snail mail addresses. I guarantee you'll receive a pretty something in the mail soon enough.