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!


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.


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


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!


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.



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


<-- 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.


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


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!


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.


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


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


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!


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."


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?


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.


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.

Feb 1, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: By a Thread by Jennifer Estep

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My posts about adult literary fiction are here:
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My posts about my guilty pleasure reading (romantic, often paranormal, novels) can be found here:

My posts about YA/teen titles are here:

My posts about middle grade titles are here:

And now for today's:

By a Thread (Book 6 in the Elemental Assassin series)
by Jennifer Estep
9781451651768, Pocket Books, Pub. Date: February 28, 2012 

I have such mixed feelings about this book. While the early books in the series drew me in, I'm sorry to say I think the writing has gotten worse rather than better over the course of the series. AND, I haven't enjoyed the two new YA titles in a new series Ms. Estep recently released. BUT, there's something about the basic premise of these books - kick-ass female assassin who is honest, straight-forward, well-read, uses both knives, skills, and her elemental magical powers to take down evil in her city - that has me hooked. So I keep trying. Here's the publisher's description:

When killing people is your job, there’s no such thing as a vacation. Then again, how often does an assassin live long enough to enjoy her retirement? In this line of work, you either get lucky or you get dead. And since I destroyed my nemesis Mab Monroe a few weeks ago, all of Ashland’s lowlifes are gunning to make a name for themselves by taking out the lethal Spider—me, Gin Blanco. So I’m leaving behind my beloved barbecue joint and heading south with my baby sister, Bria, to cool my heels in a swanky beach town. Call it a weekend of fun in the sun. But when a powerful vampire with deadly elemental magic threatens an old friend of Bria’s, it looks like I’ll have to dig my silverstone knives out of my suitcase after all. Complicating matters further is the reappearance of Detective Donovan Caine, my old lover. But Donovan is the least of my problems. Because this time, the danger is hot on my trail, and not even my elemental Ice and Stone magic may be enough to save me from getting buried in the sand—permanently.

Read the first chapter here.

Jan 31, 2012

Around the World Challenge: January & Global Domination Challenge: Africa

The objective is to read a new book from a different country for each of the 12 months in a year.

Time for my January review:

Spud by John van de Ruit

John Milton has a lot on his plate, as any 13-year-old boy does. He is heading off to a private, all-boys boarding school, thanks to a new scholarship and his beautiful singing voice. While he's excited to be leaving behind his crazy and embarrassing parents and eccentric grandmother he calls The Wombat, he's terrified to discover what awaits him at school - things like being nicknamed Spud because his balls haven't dropped yet, having a crazy bunkmate who only talks to inanimate objects and pulls out his own hair, and getting caned after getting caught with the rest of the Crazy Eight (his first-year dorm mates) sneaking out to go midnight swimming. He also meets both The Mermaid and Amanda (2 girls! While attending a boy's school!), trounces and gets trounced on and off the cricket field, decides to become both an actor and an activist, and explores the complexities of forced friendship and loyalty. With no punches pulled, no description too graphic, from the heights of love to the depths of loss, Spud captures it all in his diary, fully chronicling his first year at boarding school.

All of this takes place during the 1990s, making the backdrop issues of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela, race relations, class relations, and other related social issues. It's a bit crazy to think the 1990s are now "historical fiction," but Spud does a great job of capturing a White teen perspective at the time - learning about issues that didn't seem important until they suddenly are, struggling to catch up and make meaning out of political history, living in an accepting mixed-race environment at school but dealing with blatant racism at home, etc.


Spud: The Madness Continues by John van de Ruit

Surprise! I read two books for this challenge this month. I had forgotten that Spud, my original book choice, has 2 sequels! I was only able to get my hands on the second book, Spud: The Madness Continues, but I've requested my library purchase the third, so stay tuned to see if I ever get a chance to read it.

In Spud: The Madness Continues, the madness of the Crazy Seven (Seven due to a loss of one boy in Spud; then Eight, when a new boy comes; then Seven, when the new boy leaves; then Eight, when they induct Roger the Cat as an official member; then Six, when two of the boys get expelled; then Seven, when one of the boys gets back) really does continue. Spud is going to turn 15 during this year, is no longer in his first trembling year at the school, and has high hopes for both ball dropping and hair appearing in that same region. Despite his optimism (and the eventual voice-cracking, ball-dropping accomplishment), Spud soon finds that with both enemies and allies still at school, this year will not be any smoother. Still writing in his diary, the Spud of this year will chronicle his mother's plans to emigrate, The Wombat continuing to lose her mind, and his father's moonshine business; his first breakup, first ball hair, and first trip to England; the Crazy Eight's torture attempts at the Normal Seven (the new batch of first years); his actor career hitting a snag when he's cast as the Dove of Peace in a disastrous school play; and all the usual adventures of midnight swimming, cricket matches, brews, books, and broads, with just a hint more seriousness this year than last.

Let's see if I followed the guidelines:

1. Books must be set in the country. - Yes, all over South Africa, with a brief stint in England in book two.

2. Books should be by an author of that country, if you can find/get hold of one. - Yes, John van de Ruit is apparently quite a big deal over there.

3. Books must be fiction or memoir. Children’s books count too. - This is children's historical fiction, perfect for advanced tweens and early teen readers.

4. Books can count towards other challenges. - As I'm also participating in the Global Domination Challenge over at Insatiable Booksluts, I will count this for my Africa read.

Stay tuned for next month: FEBRUARY: Bangladesh - Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

For my complete book list, click on my original post or the challenges tab.

Jan 29, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by

So many books, so little time! Last week, I received:
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Despite the lack of an Oxford comma in the title, this still caught by eye when advertised. Random House was nice enough to send me a copy. 

Description: Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.
by Olaf Olafsson

Okay, in the first place, great name. Then you add love stories, war, Tuscany, and I'm hooked. Ecco books, an imprint of HarperCollins, sent me a copy at my request.

Description: Having grown up in an exclusive circle of wealthy British ex-pats in Florence in the 1920s, Alice shocks everyone when she marries Claudio, the son of a minor land-owner, and moves to San Martino, a crumbling villa in Tuscany. Settling into their new paradise, husband and wife begin to build their future, restoring San Martino and giving birth to a son. But as time passes, Alice grows lonely, a restlessness that leads her into the heady social swirl of wartime Rome and a reckless affair that will have devastating consequences. While she spends time with her lover in Rome, Alice's young son falls ill and dies, widening the emotional chasm between her and her husband-and leaving her vulnerable to the machinations of a nefarious art dealer who ensnares her in a dangerous and deadly scheme. Returning to San Martino, Alice yearns for forgiveness. But before she can begin to make amends, Claudio disappears, and the encroaching fighting threatens to destroy everything they built. Caught between loyalists and resisters, cruel German forces and Allied troops, Alice valiantly struggles to survive, hoping the life and love she lost can one day be restored.

by Jessica Shirvington

There's a very cool story to this book - I belong to the Young to Publishing Group, Boston chapter, and Sourcebooks reached out to us as a group in the industry and sent us ARCs. I got a package in the mail at work - how cool is that?

Description: On her 17th birthday, everything will change for Violet Eden. The boy she loves will betray her. Her enemy will save her. And she will have to make a choice that could cost not only her life, but her eternity.

(And a big thank you to Book Stacks On Deck for the mailbox pinup!)

Jan 28, 2012

Book Review: The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson

The Angel Makers 
by Jessica Gregson
9781569479797, Soho Press, $24.00

Both shocking and encouraging of sympathy, The Angel Makers is a haunting novel that will slyly seduce you.

Taking place in an isolated village in Hungary, the story revolves around Sari Arany, first as a young girl, then as a woman, and her place in village life. Her father is the village medicine man and seer; her only friend is the feared village midwife and herbal woman. Before her father dies, he arranges (with her permission) for Sari's engagement to Ferenc, the son of the wealthiest family in the village. It is a surprise to most, for because her mother died soon after her birth, Sari is thought to be unlucky and treated with scorn and suspicion by the villagers. It doesn't help that Sari is peculiar - beautiful, piercing eyes, more learned than most women, and surprisingly forthright with her speech and actions. Despite this, it is seen to be a good match, and when her father dies sooner than expected, Ferenc assumes they will marry immediately instead of waiting for Sari's 18th birthday. Yet Sari stands firm, and instead chooses to live with Judith, the herbal woman, to learn about being a midwife prior to marriage.

But soon the war comes to Hungary, and the men must go off to fight. Suddenly, the women of the village find themselves living in a strange new world where they don't worry about when food is on the table, where they have time to make new friends, where they begin to feel more free in thought and action - no longer worried about a harsh rebuke from a husband or father. When a POW camp sets up nearby, they also feel free enough to get jobs (and lovers) at the camp. Sari slowly becomes more accepted in the village, making a few particular friends, learning more about herbal medicine and midwifery, occasionally receiving letters from Ferenc about his dreams of home.

Then the war ends. The village men begin to return. The POWs leave. And the women are no longer so free as they once were. Sari's friend, Anna, again begins to creep around the village trying to hide the fresh bruises that are a marker of her husband's homecoming. But change did happen in the women. And they are not as willing to lie down and take the men's actions and decisions as they once were. It is at this point that they begin to rely on Sari and Judith's herbal knowledge for getting rid of those pesky problems - the men who maybe should not have returned home from the war.

The best part? This is based on a true story. As the author writes, "The novel details a peculiar kind of madness that gripped the women in a small, isolated village over a period of around ten years, and writing the novel was my attempt to try and understand what circumstances might have brought it about, as well as what may have been going on in the heads of the women in question." This is a fascinating look at how far some women will go to assert their freedom.

Jan 27, 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!


In the words of Book Riot (where I found this photo), it's 5 o'clock somewhere.


"In the Land of the Non-Reader" - a man spends several weeks as a non-reader and this article talks about why and what he learned.

Flavorwire article of the week: "15 Great Works of Literature-Inspired Nail Art" - just to prove there really IS something out there for everyone.

Second Flavorwire article of the week: "10 Cult Literary Traditions for Truly Die-Hard Fans"

Okay, okay, THIRD Flavorwire article of the week: "10 Legendary Bad Girls of Literature" (I had to include it, especially as I think they did a much better job on this list than the previous 10 Legendary Bad Boys of Literature).

"Some of my worst friends are books" from The Guardian. Some of my best friends are, too, though I also enjoy people IRL.

"Nine Coolest Literary Siblings"

"The Business Case for Reading" in the Harvard Business Review


The Penguin Press (where I found the typewriter poster on the right, entitled "Typewriters and the Men Who Love Them")


The Last Bookstore, LA, CA.

I have never been to this bookstore, but if I ever find myself spending time in LA (doubtful), you can bet this will be my first stop. This is the article that got me interested. The sentences that sold it for me?

"The Last Bookstore lets you hold a new or used book in your hands in a chic-vintage, one-of-a-kind interior. The store is decorated with things like elephant tusks and mannequins. Even when you go to the checkout, you will see that the counter is made up of books. It’s like an Amoeba Records meets Best Buy meets Borders meets Goodwill, decorated by someone’s hipster sister."

How could you not want to go see a store like that?

"25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore"


The filming of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is back on! Thanks to EarlyWord for this info:

Kate Winslet is set to star as WWII magazine columnist, Juliet Ashton in the film version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Random House, 2008). Kenneth Branagh will direct (and, some speculate, star as Dawsey Adams). Filming is to begin in March.
Back in November, Variety reported that Branagh had abandoned Guernsey for an adaptation of Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell (New Press, 2009), starring Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins. That project appears to now be on the back burner.

Children's Books

Dr. Seuss was almost never published! But a chance street encounter led to the fateful publication of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. NPR relates "How Dr. Seuss Got His Start 'On Mulberry Street'".

Want to know what district you'd live in, if you were in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games? Check out this map of Panem. I'd be living in the Wilderness which I'm pretty happy about.

Watch this RIGHT NOW (Colbert interviews Maurice Sendak. Hilarity ensues.).


The Huffington Post's Arts section presents a photo montage of Eric Fonteneau's "Haunting Library Installation"

"20 Heroic Librarians Who Save the World" - and yes, I've seen all THREE The Librarian films (though whether I'm proud or ashamed of that, I haven't figured out yet). Also, you must read that Garth Nix series if you haven't already. Lastly, HUGE crush on Giles, even though I'm not a Buffy fan.


Can you name these popular children's book characters?


"The 5 Books That Inspire the Most Tattoos" (though I would hasten a guess that the movie "Fight Club" has more to do with the tattoos than the book does).

Jan 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: FrostFire by Zoe Marriott

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My posts about adult literary fiction are here:
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

My posts about my guilty pleasure reading (romantic, often paranormal, novels) can be found here:

My posts about YA/teen titles are here:

My posts about middle grade titles are here:

And now for today's:

FrostFire (Burn #2)
by Zoe Marriott
9781406318142, Walker, Pub. Date: June 2012 

The first book in this series, Daughter of the Flames, was a much under-rated, under-appreciated, strong female protagonist fantasy novel that came out in 2008. Many years later, there is a whole new audience that will be appreciative of both the first and what promises to be an equally kick-ass second book in this series.
The publisher's description:

Frost is cursed - possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them ... from herself.

Jan 24, 2012

Top Ten Historical Fiction Titles

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 Historical Fiction Titles
(Quick note: Thank all that is holy I've started categorizing the books I've read on Goodreads. It was SO helpful to be able to look through my "historical fiction" list.)
Forgive me as I've needed to create two lists, one for adult fiction and one for children's/YA fiction.

1. Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

Hands down my favorite book of all time. Some of you may know that already. For those who don't, this is the New York Times bestselling authorized sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Don't be put off by the romance novel-esque cover (unless you like romance novels in which case, go ahead and like that aspect of it); there is no bodice-ripping to be found. Instead, all of the potential that Scarlett shows in Gone With the Wind is fully realized in this 400+ page novel that picks up right where GWtW leaves off and ends when Scarlett has finally grown up, thankfully without losing her impish charm and backbone of steel in the process.

Definitely #2 on the list of favorite historical fiction titles (apparently this list really IS going in order of appreciation). The sweeping epic is a dual-narrator epistolary novel switching between the perspectives of a White American young woman who has been taken away to live in the UK following a scandal in US society and a high-yellow former slave from New Orleans who has also made his way to Great Britain. Encompassing racial politics on the verge of the Civil War in the US, as well as the spiritual medium craze of that time in the UK, coupled with a political and social commentary on society's rules and expectations of young women, this brilliant book is sadly the only one published by Ms. Hague and is currently out-of-print but is SO worth the find.

3. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Spanning the 40 years between the 1960s and the 21st century, this is a story about 4 people and the lengths they will go to protect the innocent, uphold promises, and believe in love, set to the backdrop of the history of mental institutions, racial tension, and the raising of a child. Read my review here.

4. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
This is, in my opinion, the best thing Geraldine Brooks has ever written. I have tried, again and again, to read her other books (and have finished most of them), but none of them are as well-written, thought-provoking, and engaging as this one. The historical fiction chapters in People of the Book come close, but I think that one is ruined by the contemporary storyline that weaves throughout. Regardless, this tale based on a true story of a village that chooses to close themselves off to the rest of the world to contain the plague outbreak, all told from the point-of-view of a village housemaid, is heartbreaking and beautifully told. Read my review here.

5. Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

Let's discuss epic, shall we? The first two of this incredible trilogy are out, and I can't decide whether to advise you to wait until #3 has come out to begin reading or to run out and grab the first one right away. Both, I guess. These novels are almost unbelievable in the scope of what Mr. Ghosh is trying (and succeeding!) to accomplish. So many characters, so many styles of writing and speaking, so many dialects, so many countries, so many plot points! I admit it's hard to keep them all straight but this is definitely a series that makes that small headache worthwhile. Centered around the opium trade between India and Great Britain, with China as a major port of transfer, everyone from the poppy growers to the opium traders, British gardeners to escaped convicts, there is no one too large to too small to not be fully explored in these books. It would take me days to read a chapter and yet every time I put the book down, my head almost spinning with the assault of plot and unfamiliar language, all I wanted to do was pick it back up again to be literally swept away, immersed in so many sensory experiences that were nearly unbelievable to me. Mr. Ghosh is a true genius in how he is able to bring so many people and threads of plot together. I am greatly anticipating the final book but fear I will have a few years to wait.

The entire Flavia de Luce mystery series, really, as they are all so charmingly written and perfectly present the village life of post-World War II British countryside, including the land-rich, cash-poor local gentry around whose family manor the stories center. Read my review of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie here and my review of I am Half-Sick of Shadows here.

7. Serena by Ron Rash

Ooh, Southern writer creates a truly reprehensible character that you can't stop reading about in Serena. Set in North Carolina just before the Great Depression, the story centers around a lumber town and has great political and social commentary about logging and environmental protection efforts, all with a backdrop of murder. Read my review here.

8. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Confession: It has been too long since I've read this to give it an in-depth blurb here. Second confession: I have been unimpressed with any Anita Diamant book I have picked up since. But, I do remember reading this, really enjoying it, sharing it with my BFF and my mother, and so I recommend it to you.

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Though its historical context is not a main plot point in this novel, and there are fantasy elements - certainly magic exists - that may make some people question it being on this list, it is so wholly enjoyable, and so delicately described, and so fully imagined, that I dare anyone to read it and not enjoy it.

10. Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

I, myself, was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, knowing nothing about it when I picked it up, but it quietly sneaks in and grabs hold of you with its descriptions of places I've never seen, feelings I've never felt, rules and expectations I'll never have to live by, and a point-of-view change that enhances that unusual foreign sensibility rather than detracting from the story. Read my review here.


I believe Scott O'Dell to be the preeminent children's historical fiction writer. Also, Native American history (and present) is a personal interest of mine, so I was always on the hunt for books that at least tried to present Indian history in a truthful and culturally sensitive way. Thunder Rolling in the Mountains is about the sad plight/flight of the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph's niece, while Streams is Sacagawea at her fictional best (with a hopeful ending imagined for her and her child).

2. Anne of Green Gables (series) by L.M. Montgomery

Do books like this count? Because they technically weren't really historical fiction when they were written? Well, there will be a few more on this list like that, just to warn you. The first 4 books and #8 (Rilla of Ingleside) are my personal favorites.

3. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Not just my favorite, this Printz Medal winner is a wonderfully imagined experience of an American teenager caught up with her British cousins in wartime in England. Brutal and brilliant, self-sacrificing and exploring first-love, the writing style will spare no emotional punches as you run from scene to scene, experience to experience, leave and are brought back to the hope and love that binds the cousins together.

4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Another medal winner, this time the Newbery, this middle grade novel tells the fictionalized true story of the courageous attempt of Denmark's citizens to help save their Jewish population. As a Jew, this made a HUGE impression on me as a child, and continues to be meaningful in my life as an adult.

5. The Agency (series) by Y.S.Lee

This is a new series, only books 1 and 2 are currently available, but they've captured my attention with the plucky heroine and society of secret female spies. Also, though I love romantic tension, I equally love it when the storyline ISN'T focused on the girl getting the guy. Plus, who doesn't enjoy a little cross-dressing? Racial tension between whites and Chinese, class warfare, and political intrigue abound in this thrilling YA historical spy series. Read my thoughts about it here.

6. The Little House on the Prairie (series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Do I really have to explain this? I hope not. Also, please do begin with Little House in the Big Woods, which is the real first book in the series, despite the series title taken after book 3.

7. Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice and Matilda Bone and Alchemy and Meggy Swann and pretty much any other book with a female protagonist set in the Middle Ages written by Karen Cushman

What is so engaging about all of these titles is how easy it is to relate to each character, even as they experience life so very differently than how we experience it today. That, and the amount of factual information, the truly impressive amount of accurate historical detail that is put into each novel, is in itself worth noting and praising. Read my review of Alchemy and Meggy Swann here.

8. Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Delicious and delightful. A teenage regency romance that operates under the supposition that magic exists. Some people have it, some people don't. Two cousins - Kate and Cecelia - write letters back-and-forth as one spends the season in London and the other spends it in the country, both working to solve the mystery of the enchanted chocolate pot (and possibly find husbands in the bargain).

9. Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

Both were childhood favorites and continue to be, I believe, some of LMA's best writing. Eight Cousins is about one girl, on the cusp of young adult-hood, sent to live with her Uncle, some aunts, and 7 boy cousins after having been raised an only child attending a prestigious school for girls. She's got a lot to learn (and luckily, to teach) as she and her cousins figure out just what to do with each other. A Rose in Bloom is what happens once the cousins are grown up.

10. A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

This is my all-time favorite young adult novel. Another one of those, not sure it can be considered historical fiction because she was writing about her own time period, sort of books, GSP published this first in 1904. GSP was a pioneer in her own time, being one of the first female nature photographers, one of the first females to work in the film industry in CA, loved and was married to a man she did not share a residence with, published both fiction and non-fiction with themes way ahead of her time but that spoke to millions, etc. An all-around amazing woman who wrote some incredible books. This one, in particular, tells the story of Elnora Comstock, a poor farm girl who lives out of town near the Limberlost, who overcomes all sorts of adversity on her quest for education.