Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life and Two More

If you're a professional, skilled, talented writer, you know the dread and desperation you can sometimes face when looking at that blank page in Microsoft Word, or the blank screen of your blog, or even the white page in your typewriter, or legal pad, if you're a luddite.
Fortunately, author Nava Atlas has created a gorgeous book of inspiration, guidance and insight, called "The Literary Ladies'Guide to the Writing Life" Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way" available from Seller's Publishing.
Atlas has gathered excerpts from diaries, journals, letters, memoirs and interviews with twelve famous female writers, from the wit of George Sand to the wisdom of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton.
There is reassurance from Virginia Woolf, who says in a letter "I hate safety, and would rather fail gloriously than dingily succeed!" And "Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for women rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different. She still has many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed, it will be a long time, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against." Yet we know that Woolf conquered her inner phantoms long enough to write several wonderful novels.
Willa Cather offers advice on balance, relating that she worked only two and a half to three hours a day, because "if I made a chore of it, my enthusiasm would die. I make it an adventure every day...I attend to my housekeeping, take walks in Central Park, go to concerts and see something of my friends. I try to keep myself fit, fresh; one has to be in as good a form to write as to sing." Louisa May Alcott echoes these sentiments by stating that she also writes for only two hours a day, as otherwise she suffers from writer's cramp, or what one suspects was carpal tunnel/repetitive stress injury from long writing marathons when she was younger.
Pulitzer-prize winning author Edna Ferber speaks of her fantastic inner life, "Writing is lonely, but the creative writer is rarely alone. The room in which one works is peopled with the men and women and children of the writer's imagination. Often they are difficult, but rarely boring, company."
Yet the each authors work is so necessary, so vital in its unique voice, that writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe believed that the pen would prove mightier than the sword in future battles for equality. "The way to be great lies through books, now and not through battles."
This book provides 192 pages, gorgeously illustrated with photos, drawings and pull-quotes, allowing writers of all stripe to read, reflect and absorb the wisdom and enlightenment of the female authors who have gone before us. Truly a great gift or a present for oneself, "The Literary Ladies" is a feast for scribes and scribblers everywhere. Highly recommended!

I've also just read "The Winter Sea" by Susanna Kearsley, the second of her works I've read, after "The Rose Garden" which I enjoyed, and before "Mariana" which is waiting patiently in my TBR stack.
The Winter Sea was engrossing and fascinating, as it had to do with Scotland, a part of the world that I long to visit, and it was about a novelist, Carrie McClelland, who writes historical fiction, and comes across an ancestor during her research, Sophia, who was involved in the Jacobite invasion of exiled James Stewart in 1708 off the coast of Scotland. Carrie rents a cottage from a lovely old Scotsman who just happens to have two handsome sons, and as Carrie becomes more involved with Graham, the eldest son, she also seems to have more dreams and trances in which she sees and hears what happened to Sophia at nearby Slains Castle before, during and after the attempted invasion. As each fact of what happened proves to be true, Carrie realizes that she's dealing with not just a case of deja vu, but ancestral memory, perhaps gotten through reincarnation, though that option is never fully explored in this book. Still, the way Kearsley mingles the past and the present, and weaves in historical fact and real figures with fictional characters is seamless and hypnotic. The reader pulls for Sophia to be with her Moray, and agonizes over his apparent demise. The prose is robust and the plot, though adventurous, is somewhat measured in pace, slowed by necessary historical explanations that are important as set up for the denoument. I would recommend this book to those who like gothic fiction and historical romance, and give it a solid B+.
Finally, I read the last book in Kristin Landon's "Hidden Worlds" series, "The Dark Reaches" today.After reading "The Hidden Worlds" and "The Cold Minds" in reverse order, I wasn't sure what to expect from The Dark Reaches, so I was pleasantly surprised when it proved to be a fine read. Linnea, the protagonist, and her dynastic pilot lover Iain, set off for earth to try and rescue the last remaining people who've not been taken over by sentient nanobots known as the Cold Minds. Linnea gets something of a distress signal from the "deepsiders" a group of space hippies, for lack of a better term, who have managed to survive being taken over by the Cold Mind nanobots by a kind of vaccination. Meanwhile on Triton, a moon of Neptune, an evil pilot-consort of that civilization's president (whom he's managed to beat into submission) has made a deal with the Cold Minds to let them regularly raid and steal the children of the deepsiders for use as pilots to their spaceships, because pilots can't be subsumed by nanobots and still navigate "Otherspace," which is the wormholes between solar systems. Linnea's noble insistence on saving as many people as possible from the Cold Minds serves her in good stead in this novel, but her insistence on keeping Iain alive, even after he's been infected with Cold Mind nanobots really makes her seem almost too noble and too unwilling to believe that sacrifices are inevitable during war with an implacable enemy. Still, because this is an SF/Romance hybrid, there is an HEA and some satisfying removal of the bad element toward the end of the book. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to my friends who have enjoyed Ann Aguirre's Jax books, or Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five series.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Few Items of Interest, and The Cold Minds by Kristin Landon

I agree with Mr Salardino 100 percent, a book is a great gift, and one that I am giving this year to my mom and dad and stepdad, as well as to myself, from local bookstores Island Books and Baker Street Books.

"Technology is ruining the holidays. A download is a dud gift
(dudload?). When you give a 'real world' book to someone you are saying,
'I am totally in love with this book and think you will be too,' or 'The
sentiment in this book reminded me of you,' or 'Here, this is a journey
you will never forget.' A book is a personal gift--something uniquely
picked out, inscribed, and physically presented to another person. It
has emotional and actual weight. I am not saying there are not other
good gifts out there (a ukulele comes to mind), but with a book you
don't have to: mortgage the home, guess bra size, learn to sing, or find
out too late that they are allergic to nuts. That is why I think the
book is the best gift you can give. It is economical, beautiful, hours
of entertainment, thoughtful, and can last (both physically and in the
mind) a lifetime."

--Steven Salardino, manager of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., from the
bookstore's latest e-newsletter

This is an inspiring list of quotes from Flavorwire, via Shelf Awareness:

This is a reaction to, which is encouraging people to go into their local bookstore, find a book that they like and then buy it from off the computer, while they give you $5 off. I think that is an un-called for blow to Independent Bookstores, most of whom are an important of the community. Good for Garth for his response:

Author Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain), who is appearing at
Third Place tonight with Robert Goolrich (A Reliable Wife), tweeted his
own strategy "I like
to do the Reverse Amazon: hear about a book, read about it on Amazon,
then go buy it at my local bookstore! It's fun! #ReadLocal."

In a blog post headlined " 'This is the Part Where Amazon Jumps the
Shark' or 'Go Forth and Destroy Your Community Sayeth Amazon,' " Jarek
Steele co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.,
observed: "Meanwhile, I can offer this--if you shop at my bookstore, I
will not pay you five dollars to spy on my competitors. In fact, I'll
probably recommend them if we can't get what you need. I won't degrade
your favorite author by giving away a lifetime of her work so that I can
sell electronics. I will not make you feel bad for reading traditional
books, nor will I mock you for choosing an e-reader, e-book or anything
else I offer even if I don't personally like it. After all, customers
are people, not pawns. We still like to shop with people who respect

On Facebook, Occupy Amazon: Shop Local
offered a personal challenge from Kim Gavin of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.:
"Physical retail establishments are not merely showrooms for products. Your local indie
store offers you knowledgeable employees that don't adhere to a
mathematical formula to provide recommendations, physical products to
peruse at your leisure, and a place to meet with members of your
community.... I personally challenge everyone to buy local this Saturday
(and every day thereafter). It's worth $5 to keep our local businesses

On Friday, Sen. Olympia Snowe
(R.-Maine) called for Amazon to cancel its price check plans and
described the online retailer's promotion as "an attack on Main Street
businesses that employ workers in our communities. Small businesses are
fighting every day to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and
incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far....
During the busiest shopping season of the year, we should remember that
our local restaurants, bookshops, and hardware stores are the economic
engines in our communities."

I've always been a fan of the wonderous claymation of Aardman Animations, since their first "Creature Comforts" video came out, followed by the first Wallace and Gromit adventure to the moon ("We'll go somewhere where there's cheese, Gromit!") so I was delighted to see this trailer for a claymation pirate looks like loads of fun, and it has my favorite Dr Who, David Tennant, as one of the voices!

Sony Pictures Animation and the U.K.'s Aardman Animations (Wallace &
Gromit) have released a trailer for the stop-motion 3D movie The
Pirates! Band of Misfits,
which is directed by Peter Lord (co-directed by Jeff Newitt) and based
on the books by Gideon Defoe. The voice cast includes Hugh Grant, Salma
Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Imelda Staunton and David Tennant. The Pirates!
opens March 30, 2012.

Finally, I happened upon a mass market paperback book in Baker Street Books called "The Cold Minds" and noticed, once I took it from the shelves, that there was a blurb on the cover from Linnea Sinclair, my favorite science fiction/romance hybrid author, and that the main character's name was also Linnea, so the book was sold just from that. Once I brought it home and began to read it, I found it to read like a combination of Sinclairs works and Ann Aguirres, with a heroine who was fiesty and smart, but also honorable and in this books mileau, dealing with a lot of sexism by the spaceship pilots fraternity. Though it's not a long book, it is engrossing, and I was able to spend a bit of time away from Terry Goodkind's "Legend of the Seeker" universe that has become somewhat consuming, as I begin reading book 3, "Blood of the Fold." I've just ordered the third book of Kristin Landon's series, "The Dark Reaches" from Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Wishlist and Support Your Local Bookstore

I completely agree, and I hope people will shop their local indie bookstore for Christmas presents this holiday season:

"There are lots of reasons to support local businesses, whether it's
mom-and-pop hardware stores or neighborhood farmers' markets. But when
you buy from an independent bookseller, you're doing something more.
You're helping to keep alive an important force in making our national
literary culture more diverse, interesting and delightful. Your shelves
are full of books that wouldn't be there if not for indie booksellers
you've never met, struggling to get by in shops you've never heard of.
That's why it's so important to support the one next door."

--Laura Miller, introducing Salon's new project "Declaration of
created to "draw more attention to these fantastic local shops by
featuring your favorites."

I don't think this list is definitive, but it still contains some great shops that I would love to visit:

The Huffington Post featured the "World's Great Bookshops"
as chosen by Black Tomato,
which said, "We love a good book, and we're definitely advocates for
keeping traditional books alive and the bookshops in which they live. To
inspire you to feel the same we've handpicked our favorite bookshops
from around the globe. There are some truly magical bookstores out
there, if you just know where to look."

Below is a partial wishlist of books I'd like to gather to add to my already towering TBR!

Touch of Power, Maria V Snyder
Don't Sing at the Table, Adriana Trigiani
Darker Still, Lanna Renee Hieber
Bloodhound, Terrier, Mastiff, Tamora Pierce
Curiosity, Joan Thomas
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel Friedman
Stone Maiden, Ann Aguirre
The Reading Promise, Alice Ozana
The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson
Blue Eyed Boy, Joanne Harris
Dragon Ship, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Aftertaste, Meredith Mileti
Dark Descendant, Jenna Black
The Story and Its Writer, Ann Charters
A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time, Katrina Ávila Munichiello, editor
The Winter Sea, Susanna Kearsley
Mr G: A Novel About the Creation, Alan Lightman
Ghost Light, Joseph O'Connor
Second Read, James Marcus
The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

On the same note, I've just finished "Wizard's First Rule" by Terry Goodkind, and though I loved the TV series, "Legend of the Seeker" that was based on it, I have to say that reading the book was a much richer experience. So now I've got to make a pilgrimage to Baker Street Books in Black Diamond to get myself copies of the others in the series, so that I can find out what happens next to Kahlin and Richard.

This is a brilliant blog post that describes how I feel when I read something great and engrossing:

"Maybe we build the stories we love into ourselves. Maybe we digest stories. When we eat a pork chop, we break up its cellular constituents, its proteins, its fats, and we absorb as much of the meat as we can into our bodies. We become part pig. Eat an artichoke, become part artichoke. Maybe the same thing is true for what we read. Our eyes walk tightropes of sentences, our minds assemble images and sensations, our hearts find connections with other hearts. A good book becomes part of who we are, perhaps as significant a part of us as our memories. A good book flashes around inside, endlessly reflecting. Its shapes, its people, its places become our shapes, our people, our places.
We take in a story. We metabolize it. We incorporate it."
Read the rest of this wonderful blog here:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rest in Peace, Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series and many other SF/F novels, died this past Friday at the age of 85. She had survived a stroke and a heart attack, only to succumb to a killing stroke that, according to the statement by her children, took her swiftly and with no pain, thank God.
I started reading Anne McCaffrey when I was 9 or 10 years old, and reading "Restoree" as a pre-teen was a lifesaver for me, because it gave me hope that one day I could, perhaps, trade in my old fat skin for someone lovely who would win the admiration and adoration of my classmates, particularly Karl McVey and Steve Manion, whom I had crushes on in Junior High.
When I met McCaffrey in 2001, she was wheelchair-bound, but fiesty as anything, swearing like a sailor and laughing with Elizabeth Scarborough, with whom she was on tour for one of their mutual efforts. When I revealed to her that I had just been diagnosed with Crohns Disease, she sputtered and swore about how horribly the disease had been treating her daughter, who had suffered through many intestinal operations. "G-damned Crohn's!" she said, and then, when I told her how much "Restoree" had meant to me as a pre-teen, she said "It meant a lot to me, too, it was my first book!" When I asked to take a photo with her myself, and then with my husband, she insisted that instead of saying "cheese" we say "SEX!" and smile broadly, which of course made everyone laugh. She was ferocious and determined not to let a stroke get her down. She talked about new books on the horizon, especially her collaborations with Scarborough and others. She asked if Jim and I would like to go to supper with her at a local fancy restaurant, but we had to decline, due to our lack of funds to buy dinner, and I was too embarrassed to tell her that, and to explain that we couldn't leave our son at home with a sitter for too long. She seemed somewhat peeved at us for not accepting her invitation, but I felt that otherwise, the meeting was a success, and that I'd met one of my author/heroes.
So when I heard she'd died, I found myself saddened, but I realize that McCaffrey's work leaves behind a huge legacy of great entertainment for young minds who dream of flying with dragons.
This gal's blog expresses what I felt about McCaffrey and her work perfectly.
Fly free, Anne!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Good Quotes and Some Good Books

I totally agree with Mr Wallach and I treasure the fact that my mother read to me as a child, and I've read to my son until recently, now that he's a pre-teen and way too cool for that sort of thing.

"I know I'm a Luddite on this, but there's something very personal about
a book and not one of one thousand files on an iPad, something that's
connected and emotional, something I grew up with and that I want them
to grow up with.... I feel that learning with books is as important a
rite of passage as learning to eat with utensils and being

--Ari Wallach, "a tech-obsessed entrepreneur" and parent in a New York
Times article on parents' preferences for printed books for their children

I also find great wisdom in this, from two authors who are pleading for the life of independent bookstores this holiday local for your book presents, people!

In Down East magazine, cookbook author Kathy Dunst
made a case for supporting independent bookstores, beginning with a
confession: "I am a cookbook author and I often send people to Amazon or
Barnes & Noble because I don't know which stores actually stock my
books. It's a damn shame. The independent bookstore crisis seems to
mimic, in some small way, the whole Occupy Wall Street crisis--the 99%
begging to have a voice, to be given a chance when it comes up against
the power of big banks and big money.

"So I am making a vow. I will shop at independent books as much as
possible, even if it means going out of my way and paying a bit more.
It's worth it to me in the end to know that there are still book stores
out there where I can browse for an hour, or an entire afternoon,
reading through new and old books and learning about authors I never
knew. I don't want a computer-generated list of book suggestions coming
to me through my computer. I want to spend more time talking to the
devoted shopkeeper of an independent bookstore who has read these
books--often met the author--and can truly recommend something great. I
want more human-to-human book connection and less time 'talking' to my
computer. I want to look at book covers and feel the gorgeous quality of
the paper. I want to go to readings at independent bookstores and hear
authors talk about writing and the state of the world. This cannot be
reproduced in a computer or chain store."

--- YES!

"I believe that real books, those pulp-and-paste objects that threaten
our backs when moved from home to home in old wine boxes, must
survive--as should the most dedicated merchants who sell them," wrote
author Julia Glass
in her "Ode to Indies" for Ladies' Home Journal. "So if you are lucky
enough to live near an independent bookstore, think hard before you
exploit its browsability and then go home to order your books from an
online retail behemoth. (Some bookstores, by the way, can 'fill' your
e-reader onsite.) Even if you don't live near a good shop, many now
maintain websites that enable you to order online just as easily as you
might from Amazon....

"But there's another reason it's so essential to preserve independent
bookstores: The people who run them and what they know. I read reviews
and consider myself pretty 'plugged in' to the literary cosmos, yet one
of the things I love best about book-touring is the opportunity to
compare notes with favorite booksellers around the country. I always
come home with books by authors I'd never heard of--or books I've read
about but didn't realize I might love."

Today marks the beginning of the sun in Sagittarius, my birth sign and that of my son, so I thought I'd drop in a little tutorial about all things Archer!

All About Sagittarius
Sagittarians are known as the "favorites of the gods" for good reason: These folks are famous for their generosity, humor and optimism, as well as their ability to see the best is every situation, no matter how dire the circumstances. A Sagittarius will find a real reason to celebrate each and every day, something due in no small part to Jupiter, this sign's planetary ruler that's best known for benevolence. Of course, the other side of this coin is excess and extravagance, so in addition to knowing how to laugh -- and how to make others laugh -- Sagittarians are also experts at overdoing everything. At the same time, if a Sag has to be restricted to just one of anything, it better be the most impressive of its kind!

Sagittarians are also famous for their love of travel and philosophy -- these people crave knowledge and will spare no effort to satisfy their innate curiosity. Sag's own personal philosophy is that life is nothing more than a series of extended vacations, which is why so many born under the sign of the Archer end up living in a different city, state or even country than where they grew up.

When it comes to relationships, Sagittarians often find that some of their most successful ones are with four-legged creatures -- their connection to anything with fur, feathers and even leaves is legendary. Romantically speaking, if you're a human, you can only have a Sag of your very own if you're willing to hold them with an open palm; restrictions will not be tolerated. However, if you let your Sag sweetie know you care, but allow them to live as they see fit, you'll have gained an intelligent, witty and highly impressive partner whose long-term loyalty will astound you.

One warning about Sagittarians: Don't ever ask them a question if you can't withstand an honest answer. They're bound to tell the truth above all else, regardless of the consequences -- that way, at least they can be sure you know exactly who they are. And while Sagittarians can get along with just about anyone, many of them are drawn to those born under other Fire signs also living by the motto, "What you see is truly what you get."

In the past two weeks, I've finished two novels and a short story collection, Laurel Hamilton's "Never After" a collection of "revised" fairy tales in which the female protagonist refuses to be married off to whomever is chosen for her, and instead chooses her own "happily ever after." With story titles like "Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?" and "The Wrong Bridegroom" it's inevitable that there will be quite a number of twists and turns in this anthology, which, although somewhat uneven in storytelling talent, is still a darned good read. The authors keep the characters just entertaining enough, and just different enough from their classic fairy tale counterparts that the reader feels compelled to read on to find out what happens. It's a fast-paced book and well worth the time. I'd give it a solid B+ and recommend it to fantasy fans who enjoy seeing what a contemporary author can do with a tale retold.
Alice Hoffman's "The Red Garden" was less satisfying, unfortunately, mainly because I felt I'd already read it. Her book "Blackbird House" is nearly a carbon copy of this book, about the origins of a town and the generations of the founders through time. This time, we're again following the pioneer families who founded Blackwell, Massachusetts, and the one crazy woman who manages to keep them all alive, and who eventually runs off with a bear and is never seen or heard from again. As with all her books, there is "magical realism" woven throughout, and people come to realizations, fall in love with someone they're not supposed to, and have strange children. Inevitably, the founders house and her "red garden" are characters in and of themselves, and Hoffman brings it all back around at the end and ties it up with a bow for the reader, though I found that a bit too facile an ending. I also found myself getting bored with the book, which is a cardinal sin for me as a reader, because Blackbird House was so similar in content and form, right down to the child who drowns and the crazy pioneer woman. I've also read "Practical Magic" and "The Ice Queen" and I have a copy of "Probable Future" that has been in my TBR for awhile, so I am familiar with Hoffman's style and her tendency toward quirky female protagonists and bad male characters who meet with grim ends. Though I respect the fact that she's written 29 novels, I am saddened that she seems to "phone it in" with the Red Garden, and re-tread a previous plot with characters that are much the same. I regret that I paid full price for this trade paperback book, though I plan on turning it in for credit at Baker Street Books Used Bookstore. Still, it merits a C at best and I wouldn't recommend it to any but the most die-hard of Hoffman fans who love East Coast historical fiction.
Finally, the last book I finished was Tess Gerritsen's "The Keepsake" which is a Rizzoli and Isles mystery, and as I've watched and loved the TV show (though it has been cancelled, much to my consternation) I thought I'd see how the original novels stacked up. Boston cop Jane Rizzoli isn't as sassy as the TV version, and Medical Examiner Maura Isles on TV is blonde, sleek and not having an affair with a priest, so she seems a lot less skittish and guilty on the tube. Still, though they interacted a bit less than they do on TV, I liked the book version of Rizzoli and Isles, and I found the deft plot and fully-realized characters very interesting, along with the twist at the end that I didn't see coming. This book deserves a B, and I'd recommend it to those who like women solving mysteries and getting their hands dirty in the case, while also learning a lot about Egyptian mummifying techniques.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Home Front, Magic on the Line and Flavia DeLuce

Home Front by Kristin Hannah is the fourth book I've read by this author, and, full disclosure, it was sent to me as an ARC with a publication date of January 31, 2012. I was surprised at how fast this book reads, because its 390 pages long. But local favorite Hannah has created a wonderfully intimate story with characters so realistic I found it hard to believe I hadn't actually met them. The squeaky-clean prose has just the right amount of description and the plot, though complex, is still swift and sure. I found the book hard to put down once I started reading it this weekend, and, as I wrote to the marketing person for the book, you'll need to have a box of kleenex tissues handy when you read the novel, because from page 199 on, if you're not crying, you have no soul.
Home Front is, as the title declares, the story of a soldier at war, but this time, the soldier is Jolene "Jo" Z, whose husband Michael, a lawyer, doesn't approve of her military service and who tells her the day before she is deployed to Iraq that he no longer loves her. What follows is Jo's emails home to her two daughters that downplay the horrors of war, her private journal entries that tell the terrifying reality and Michael's struggle to raise his two children while also growing up and figuring out what he wants out of life and of his wife. When Jo's Apache Helicopter is shot down, and her best friend is near death's door and Jo loses her leg, the real test of family and marital love, loyalty and mental health are tested. I really felt for Jolene from the beginning of the book, because she had such a horrible childhood with selfish, alcoholic parents who abandoned her, only to have her selfish husband try to abandon her again just when she needed him most. But the fact that Jo gets through all the grief and guilt and manages to keep her marriage and her family intact while learning to walk with a prosthetic leg was just amazing and uplifting and made me proud to be an American and a woman. I would give this book an A, and recommend it to those who have either served in the military or come from military families. It's a journey worth taking, trust me.

Flavia deLuce is back, just in time for the holidays in "I am Half-Sick of Shadows," by Alan Bradley. As with all Flavia's mysteries, there is skulduggery afoot, but this time, it's all happening under Flavia's nose at the family estate, Buckshaw. The colonel, her father, is drowning in debt and allows a film crew to rent his family mansion for a movie to try and solve his cash flow problem. The film stars aging star Phyllis Wyvern, who agrees to do a scene from Romeo and Juliet (prior to shooting the film) as a fundraiser for the town church's roof repair. Unfortunately, though the whole town of Bishops Lacey shows up, so does a blizzard of Biblical proportions, and everyone is stuck at Buckshaw until the roads clear. Meanwhile, Flavia is concocting a sticky trap for St Nick and putting fireworks on the roof, while also uncovering family secrets about Phyllis Wyvern. When Wyvern ends up dead, strangled with her own movie film, Flavia gathers clues and figures out whodunit in record time. Though Flavia is the same age as my son Nick, she's a bit more mature, and uses her brilliant mind to see through the lies and secrets of the adults around her, without being judgmental. As with all the previous Flavia deLuce mysteries, Bradley's prose is clear and precise and his plots are so fast they're breathtaking. I'd give this book a B+ and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys British mysteries and unusual detectives/sleuths.
Finally, the second to last Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy, Magic on the Line (by Devon Monk) just hit the shelves at the beginning of November. This 7th novel in the series is pretty dark, and has Allie going up against the new head of the Authority, a bad apple named Bartholomew Wray, who refuses to believe that all the magic in the city has been corrupted by the Veiled, and is making Allie sick whenever she uses it. Add to that a plague that kills people who get bitten by the Veiled, and you can imagine the mayhem that ensues. Both Allie's boyfriend Zayvion and her Hound friends and authority friends will have to make some seriously tough decisions before the end of the book, and there is a lot of emotional fallout to deal with not only in her relationship with Zay, but in her dealings with the Authority and magic. As usual, I love Monks fun and funky Portland,Oregon setting, her zingy, tangy prose and her lightening-fast plots. It took me less than a day to read this book, and like potato chips, Monks novels leave you hungering for more. I'd give this book a B+ and recommend it to anyone who loves local urban fantasy and kick-arse heroines.

This guy has a point! Especially for someone like me, who has loads of books:

E-Books: A Threat to Marriage?

"The lightness of the e-book medium, literally and figuratively, holds a
terrible allure and an insidious threat to the heavily booked-up among
us. How many marriages, seemingly held firm by the impossibility of
moving several hundredweight of vinyl or CDs out of a family-sized home,
have already foundered post the digitization of music? How many more
will break if apparently inseparable and immovable matrimonial libraries
become something that anyone can walk out with in their pocket?"

--James Meek in the most recent issue of the London Review of Books

In my opinion, this is a much better way to change the world:
John Wood Continues to Change the World

Nicholas Kristof had a touching update in the New York Times yesterday
on John Wood, author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World,
whose charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 libraries and 1,500
schools around the world since it began in 1998 and also supports some
13,500 impoverished girls. Recently, in Vietnam, Wood handed out his 10
millionth book.

Kristof wrote in part: "So many American efforts to influence foreign
countries have misfired--not least here in Vietnam a generation ago. We
launch missiles, dispatch troops, rent foreign puppets and spend
billions without accomplishing much. In contrast, schooling is cheap and
revolutionary. The more money we spend on schools today, the less we'll
have to spend on missiles tomorrow."

Woods told Kristof: "In 20 years, I'd like to have 100,000 libraries,
reaching 50 million kids. Our 50-year goal is to reverse the notion that
any child can be told 'you were born in the wrong place at the wrong
time and so you will not get educated.' That idea belongs on the
scrapheap of human history."

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Got An ARC From Kristin Hannah!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that nothing makes me happier than getting a new book to read, and yesterday I was delighted to receive two books in the mail. One was Devon Monk's latest Allie B book, Magic on the Line, which I ordered from the perfectly wonderful Island Books on Mercer Island, and the other was an unexpected but most welcome copy of Kristin Hannah's "Home Front" which is due out next year. I was so delighted that I was doing my "Milk the Dairy Cow" happy dance, recently stolen from the TV series "Body of Proof!" So now I have a ton of great reading ahead of me. The enclosed literature says that if I like the book and post a review, they will send me a free hardback copy of the novel...I like the sound of that, getting another free book in the mail, hurrah! I've already read three of Hannah's other books, Magic Hour, True Colors and either Night Road or Firefly Lane, I don't remember which, with the other one in my TBR. Still, I always look forward to reading good local authors whose works are traditionally published.
Meanwhile, here are some fun things I found in Shelf Awareness this week:
I couldn't agree more:

"You must hold a real book in your hand, smell the pages, examine the
type face, the spacing between letters; must note the shape and size of
the book, the weight of it. Only then can you experience the book's full
import. And its magic.

"A book as an object is a piece of history....

"Of course, new books are not quite the same, but you can be a book's
'first' owner, the first to hold, read and study it. You can learn from
its binding and paper and weight and lettering and smell. You can hold a
new book in trust for its future owners. You can become part of its

"Give your e-reader a rest, grab a real, printed book: and feel the

--Helen Selzer, owner of Farshaw's Too, South
Egremont, Mass., in a post on her blog Books Books Books

This is a splendid idea!

Point Reyes Books,
Point Reyes, Calif., has developed a program called community supported bookstore (CSB),
based on the principles of community supported agriculture (CSA), the
Point Reyes Point reported.

Under the CSB, customers can deposit from $150-$500 into a bookstore
account, make purchases from that account and receive a 5% discount. The
bookstore will use CSB fees for operational and community events during
slower months. The store introduced the program two weeks ago at an
event with Michael Ondaatje and already has 30 members.

Steve Costa, who with his wife, Kate Levinson, bought the store in 2003,
told the paper: "It's an opportunity for locals to step up and really
support the bookstore. To say, 'I really want this bookstore to survive
over time.' Those dollars really will make a big difference."

The store hopes to have 200 members in the CSB by the end of the year
and at least 500 members within a year. The model might work for other
indies, Costa said.

Sad, but true:

"When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are
rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and
that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and
monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a
special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever."
--Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life: A Memoir

Sunday, October 23, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson, Plus Tidbits

Being a tea-drinker from the time I was old enough to hold a cup,
I really, really want a copy of this book! From Shelf Awareness for Readers and Shelf Awareness Pro:

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time
by Katrina Ávila Munichiello, editor

As autumn arrives, many of us look forward to crisp fall evenings curled up with a steaming mug and a good book. This anthology of essays, stories and poems devoted to the art and comfort of tea is as warm and soothing as that hot cuppa.
A Tea Reader is divided into five "steeps," each illuminating a different aspect of tea: its effect on the individual, its ability to create fellowship, the formal and informal rituals attending it, the joys and hardships of careers in tea, and the travels of tea enthusiasts. Readers will connect with fellow tea lovers throughout history, from ancient Chinese poets to 19th-century authors to modern-day authorities. Rudyard Kipling details his visit to a Japanese teahouse; New Orleans tea seller George Constance rebuilds his shop after Hurricane Katrina tears it down; other writers recount the beginnings of their own love affairs with the leaf.
While the book's topic alone makes it the perfect gift for the tea enthusiast in your life, the selections all are also skillfully written, whether somber, joyful or educational in tone. Most share a contemplative, peaceful sensibility (often achieved over a cup of Earl Grey). So although at least a passing appreciation for tea will further readers' appreciation, any fan of good writing will enjoy sampling the contents... even, dare it be said, those who prefer coffee. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

I agree, and I am a fan of Vincent Van Gogh:

"I think it's going to be many years before there's a formal portrait
where the sitter is clutching his or her Kindle or iPad. I'm not at all
concerned that the interest in the book is going to disappear," said Ken
Soehner, chief librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in introducing some of
his favorite book-related artwork for the Met's Connections series.

"Books have a symbolic importance that goes far beyond the text," he
observed, adding: "I think Van Gogh is one of the great painters of
books. They are very bookish. They're very much about the materiality of
books. They are not props. They're part of the inevitability of everyday
life. Oddly enough, they're very often not the sitter's books, but Van
Gogh's books. It's the self-portrait in a way through his books."

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson is yet another readers memoir about taking a year to read a certain number of books for a specific reason. In this case, Nelson wants to read books she should have read in high school and college, as well as books in her TBR stacks that she hasn't gotten to for one reason or another, plus books she wants to revisit, books friends give her, books on her parents shelves, etc. This is the third such memoir I've read this year, and though I did enjoy Nelson's insights and sense of humor about trying to be a parent and a writer and still have time to read a book a week for a year, I found myself slightly put off by her consistent references to being a New Yorker, a Jewish person, and a cynic. Not that it is bad to be any of those things, but Nelson contends that they influence her reading choices to the exclusion of other genres of books. It seems to lead her to a fascination/obsession with Philip Roth and to be bored with 90 percent of children's literature, which saddened me, as I've always felt that some of the worlds the greatest authors wrote books for children, and my mother reading classic children's books to me has had a great influence on my life as a reader. Though I can't, as an Iowan Protestant, really identify with Nelson about many of her book choices, I can identify with her struggle to find the time to read as a wife and mother and journalist. And I found her familiar ground when she states that she likes to have two or more books going at once, as that's something I also do all the time. I also completely understood her method of finding inspiration for writing:
"Any writer who's honest will tell you that she usually comes up with her best lines or her important transitional paragraph not when she's sitting in front of the computer, watching the clock or using the word-count mechanism in her word processing program, but when she's stepping into the showing, making dinner or cleaning the cat litter." So true!
Nelson reviews mostly books that I have already read or would never read (I've never liked the work of Philip Roth)but her love of Elinor Lipman, my grad school mentor, and her adulation of Nora Ephron, whom I also adore, kept me reading and laughing. I'd give the book a solid B+ and recommend it for all those bibliophiles out there who struggle to find time to read in their hectic lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Value of Bookstores

This is so true, and I delight that it is from my favorite Monty Pythoner, the adorable Michael Palin:

"There's nothing that lifts the spirits of this author like a good
local, independent bookshop. Through all the recent ups and downs of
bookselling, the best of the independents have shown the way forward,
championing that personal connection between shops, readers and authors
that is the life blood of the trade."

--Michal Palin,
author and Monty Python legend, speaking to the Daily Mail in support of
the Hive Network of indie retailers in the U.K.

And more on the value of a good community bookstore, something I feel is greatly lacking in Maple Valley:

In "Ode to the Bookstore,"
the Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that "if you care about the unique
character of your community, if you believe in rewarding the rugged
independence of small businesses, then your local independent bookstore
deserves your support, now more than ever. This is an admittedly
counter-cultural effort--but that is part of its appeal and sense of

Avlon recommended a number of his favorite indies coast to coast, but
noted that "beloved as all these might be, you don't need a crystal ball
to see that independent bookstores are going to have to at least adjust
their business model to remain relevant in the face of new technology."

He cited Mitch Kaplan's Books & Books
stores in the Miami area as the "best model I've seen" because they "are
now built around cafes and outdoor courtyards, where friends meet for
coffee in the morning or a drink after work. Local musicians play and
nationally known authors read, as free concerts open to the public. It
is an expanded version of the old coffeehouse model--beer and wine is
served along with good food--and buying a book becomes a backdrop, an
essential organic part of the overall experience."

Avlon also showcased "a gallery of some of the great and iconic
independent bookstores
across the United States. Seek them out. Support and appreciate them.
Rally round their flag because they make your city or town a better
place to live by keeping the soul of the great good place alive."

This is about a new bookstore in Seattle, the Book Larder, a place where food and books meet, and considering how fond I am of both, I should visit, soon!

"What began as a dream of local literary force Kim Ricketts has been
realized by Lara Hamilton, who took over Kim Ricketts Book Events before
its beloved founder passed away," Eater
wrote about this week's opening of the Book Larder, Seattle, Wash.

In addition to featuring a photo tour of the space, Eater noted that
"local chefs, home cooks, food nerds and bibliophiles have been eagerly
anticipating the arrival" of the new shop, which "evokes the same
giddiness as San Francisco's Omnivore Books, but with the savvy addition
of a kitchen and demonstration area."

Hamilton told the Seattle Times that she wants the Book Larder "to be a place where people can gather and linger, where if we're not too busy, someone might offer you a cup of tea or
something we've been cooking from a book."

And finally, our locale titan of industry,, has launched a new imprint, specifically for SF/F, my favorite genre:

Amazon has launched its seventh publishing imprint, 47North, which focuses
on science fiction, fantasy and horror. The imprint will debut with 15
books, including The Mongoliad: Book One, the beginning of a five-book,
collaborative Foreworld series led by Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear.

Also,the Warner Bros. 3D film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great
Gatsby will open December 25, 2012. reported that director Baz
Luhrmann began filming his adaptation last month in Australia. The movie
stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan,
Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern--BOTY

Over the weekend, I finished what was, for me, the best Book of the Year (BOTY), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
It was an amazing work that gripped me from start to finish.
I am still astonished that the author is so young, and that this is her first published book...she could easily be our next Alice Hoffman or Mary Stewart or Neil Gaiman, for that matter. Her ability to create a dark, alluring atmosphere is unparalleled and her prose is delicious, as addictive as sacher torte or a red velvet cupcake with dark chocolate icing...sweet and yet not nauseatingly childlike...its the full-flavor of a sinful, irresistible adult confection.

Here's the book jacket summation:

"The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lamp posts or billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Reves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a game to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters."

What follows are gorgeous magics that are illuminated at the beginning of each chapter with such evocative sincerity that the reader is hard-pressed to not run out and attempt to find Le Cirque des Reves and wander its pathways oneself. The characters are well fleshed out (unless they are ghosts), believable and fascinating. The plot is swift, sure and intense throughout the novel. I tried in vain to slow down the turning of pages, so as to savor the wonderment and experience each sensual chapter for as long as possible, but inevitably, the end drew nigh and I was finished at midnight last night, which is somehow appropriate, as the Cirque des Reves opens at nightfall and closes at dawn in whichever town it has landed. The story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so we get a glimpse of a more gilded age, a time when gentlemen wore bowler hats and ladies wore gowns and gloves. The love story woven throughout the Night Circus is written with an air of discreet melancholy and framed by sacrifice. There is almost a Shakespearean aspect to it, beautiful but bittersweet.

As you can imagine, I highly recommend this novel for anyone of an artistic or creative nature, and for those who enjoy beautiful stories, well told. A+ and a white rose to the author, Erin Morgenstern. I now consider myself a dedicated Reveur, and will wear a dark red scarf this winter in honor of this mesmerizing work.

Also, I adored this list, which has so many characters I adore on it, I felt I had to post it here:

Friday, October 07, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs, Apple Icon, and Other Sad News

I was just telling Adrian Sechrist, Mac computer expert, on Tuesday that I thought Steve Jobs, my ultimate college crush, was going to pass on soon. Adrian assured me that wasn't the case, and then the next day, Oct 5, my 14th wedding anniversary and my mothers 74th birthday, Jobs died of pancreatic cancer. So Wednesday was a bittersweet day for me, and for millions of Mac lovers around the world.
Here is a link to an article that has links to many tributes to Steve Jobs, Apple Computers co-founder and brilliant, gorgeous man.

From Shelf Awareness:

Like millions of others around the world, we at Shelf Awareness were
saddened to hear of the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. We're big
fans--most of our capital assets are Apple products.

Apple enthusiasts are already turning to books to find out more about
the man some are comparing with Edison and Einstein. Steve Jobs by
Walter Isaacson ($35, 9781451648539), whose pub date was moved up by
publisher Simon & Schuster to October 24 from November 21, is #1 on
Amazon. Isaacson, author of biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert
Einstein, had been asked by Jobs to write about his life.

Agate Publishing's I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words, edited by
George Beahm ($10.95, 9781932841664), a collection of more than 200 Jobs
quotations, is coming out on November 15. Agate president Doug Seibold
said the company may be able to update the book, which is at the
printer, and is more likely to make changes to the e-book, which had
been finished. The book was #21 on Amazon this morning.

Recent titles on Jobs include:

* Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney (Portfolio, $24.95,
9781591842972), which was updated in 2009.
* The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles
for Breakthrough Success by Carmine Gallo (McGraw-Hill, $25,
9780071748759), published in 2010.
* The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation by Jay Eliot, a
former senior v-p of Apple (Vanguard, $25.99, 9781593156398), published
in March.
* Return to the Little Kingdom: Steve Jobs and the Creation of Apple by
Michael Moritz (Overlook, $15.95, 9781590204016), which was reprinted
last year.

Another related title is a bit unusual but exquisitely timed. Apple
Design, a tribute to the design of Apple products and to Jonny Ive, the
design guru at Apple, is being published by Hatje Cantz and distributed
here by Artbook/DAP ($60, 9783775730112). The book accompanies a show
called Stylectrical: On Electro-Design That Makes History currently up
at the Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.

Yesterday, my husband was telling me about this, and I was stunned, as I've visited the U Village B&N many times over the years, and I've always loved that store. I believe the landlords who are booting them out will be sorry, eventually, when they lose the people that the bookstore brought to U Village.

Barnes & Noble is closing its store at University Village in Seattle,
the large, upscale shopping mall in the University district, according
to the Seattle Times. B&N and the mall owner apparently were unable to
come to an agreement on a new lease.

The 16-year-old store has 46,000 square feet of space on two levels and
is one of B&N's largest stores. It's also the largest retail tenant at
U-Village. B&N has a dozen other locations in the Seattle area.

This really does make me want to go back to college!

Smith College Launches Book Studies Concentration

Tomorrow morning, Smith College, Northampton, Mass., is introducing a
"book studies concentration" that will draw on "the
exceptional resources of the Mortimer Rare Book Room and the wealth of
book artists and craftspeople of the Pioneer Valley." In classes,
through field projects and independent research, students will learn
about the history of the book, from oral memory and papyrus scrolls to
digital media, as well as book production, technology and design,
illustration, the book trade, libraries, literacy and more.

Finally, Tor is doing SF/F fans a solid here:

Noting that "indie booksellers also hold up half the sky,"
science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor will feature monthly picks by
indies on its blog, asking booksellers "from somewhere in the universe
what they think we should be reading. At the same time you'll get a
little bit of information about the booksellers themselves. We'll not
only be showcasing great reading lists but also putting a spotlight on
the many wonderful independent homes for SF&F books around the world."
Kicking things off this month is Borderlands Books
San Francisco, Calif.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A New Bookstore Nearby!

This is from Shelf Awareness, and I am nearly giddy with excitement that there will be a new bookstore opening up in a town that is only 15-20 miles away!

University Book Store to Pop Up in Renton
University Book Store, which has eight stores in and near Seattle, Wash., is opening its ninth store, at the Landing in Renton, next month. It's a 3,000-sq.-ft. "pop-up" store that may lead to a permanent store in the area. The store will offer new,used and bargain books, University of Washington Husky gear and gift items.Bryan Pearce, CEO of University Book Store, said that the store aims to serve "a special and growing community of people, those who enjoy reading and appreciate the value and experiences provided by a high quality independent bookstore. We also know that there are many long time University Book Store customers and University of Washington fans and supporters in the greater Renton area."University Book Store is 111 years old and has four stores in Seattle and one each in Bellevue, Mill Creek, Bothell and Tacoma.

And though I am not a huge fan of his show, No Reservations (he eats stuff I wouldn't feed to my worst enemy) I can totally understand this quote, because I grew up in the same way:

"I come from a house filled with books. I had very good English teachers in high school. I was something of a reading prodigy when I was a little kid. When I was in kindergarten, I stole my parents' copy of Why Johnny Can't Read. It angered me that they would have such a book, and I read the whole thing. I was reading way ahead of my grade level for all of grammar school and beyond. I read very quickly. I read a lot. I read widely. It is a pleasure for me, a passion."--Anthony Bourdain

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Valuable ARCs and A New Wishlist

This is a good question, from Shelf Awareness:How can ARCs be valued at 50 times the finished version? After posingthis question, the Guardian noted that "book collectors are a funny lot readers, who are concerned with what's inside the book, the truedelight of any volume for a collector lies in the nuts and bolts of the book's production. First editions, signed copies, limited releases...these are valued above rubies by the book collector. But there's also ashadowy gray market in book collecting--that of dealing in proofs."The used book market "is currently convulsed by one of its periodic kerfuffles" because an uncorrected proof copy of Hannu Rajaniemi's science fiction debut The Quantum Thief is listed for sale at 275(US$432). Among the puzzled onlookers is Jon Weir, senior publicitymanager at Orion imprint Gollancz. He told the Guardian that the book was being sold "with my press release in. I mean, it was a good press release, but not worth 275!!"

I think this is a fascinating idea, going on a tour of author statues:
Monumental Works: Statues of Famous Authors
Flavorwire "collected a series of statues of some of our favorite authors, from the surreal (Kafka) to the cheeky (Hemingway) to the monumentally brooding (Tolstoy)," observing that "there’s something satisfying about a life-size (or larger than life) statue of a beloved figure, able to be touched and taking up space in the world."

Meanwhile, here's a (wish) list of books I want to read, or explore reading:
A Long, Long Sleep, Anna Sheehan
How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr
Changos Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, William Kennedy
The Night Circus, E Morgenstern
Admission, (forgot the authors name)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seattle Should be in the Top 10

I can't imagine why Seattle isn't in the top 10 on this list, as we still have a number of great bookstores and plenty of readers and reading groups! From Shelf Awareness for Readers:

Top 10 Cities in U.S. for Book Lovers's "Top 10 Cities for Book Lovers" list highlights "some of the independent bookstores that are still standing and the cities that support them. We started our search by looking at cities with either iconic bookstores, huge numbers of bookstores or emphatic bookstore supporters. You can see which stores maintain the independent spirit and the cities we deem best suited for book lovers. But one cannot live on books alone. That's why the cities we picked offer a great quality of life, plenty of entertainment and awesome outdoor activities." The top 10 are:

1. Portland, Ore.
2. Kansas City, Mo.
3. San Jose, Calif.
4. Charlottesville, Va.
5. Iowa City, Iowa
6. Traverse City, Mich.
7. Pueblo, Colo.
8. Coral Gables, Fla.
9. Spokane, Wash.
10. Charlotte, N.C.

A lovely poem by Dante Gabriel, who has the same initials that I do:
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell;
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore,
You have been mine before--
How long ago I may not know;
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall--I knew it all of yore. --Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I hope that they have this for the Nook e-reader soon, as I have a Barnes and Nobel e-reader and not an Amazon Kindle:

Borrowing Kindle Books: Seattle Libraries Beta-Lend

Some libraries in Seattle are beta testing
the Amazon Kindle feature that lets patrons select and place holds on
Kindle versions of books, Brier Dudley wrote in the Seattle Times,
noting that the "downside, from my perspective as a fan of public
libraries, is that the process requires you to visit to
borrow a book and have commercial offers interjected into the process.
But then again, you're opting to consume a public library book via the
world's largest e-commerce business, on a device optimized for selling

"It's a big deal for us because so many of our patrons have purchased
Kindles, and they've been asking for the longest time," said Bill
Ptacek, director of the King County Library System, which began offering
the service Monday.

"I hope libraries are getting a deal on the service and the Kindle
editions they acquire, because Amazon will benefit from the traffic and
profiling opportunities generated by the public libraries, not to
mention the big improvement in the Kindle's utility and appeal that
library lending brings," Dudley observed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Selected Tidbits from Shelf Awareness

Great Quote, and so true!

"Books can be passed around. They can be shared. A lot of people like
seeing them in their houses. They are memories. People who don't
understand books don't understand this. They learn from TV shows about
organizing that you should get rid of the books that you aren't reading,
but everyone who loves books believes the opposite. People who love
books keep them around, like photos, to remind them of a great
experience and so they can revisit and say, 'Wow, this is a really great
book.' " Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company

World Book Night Book Nominations!

The top 100 nominations for World Book Night in the U.K. next year have been
unveiled. During the past two months, more than 6,000 people submitted
their 10 favorite reads. The collated results will inform the choices of
the editorial selection committee, chaired by novelist Tracy Chevalier.
A final list of 25 titles for World Book Night 2012 will be announced
October 12 at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The World Book Night Top 100 is led
by Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, followed by Jane Austen's Pride
and Prejudice, Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, Charlotte Bronte's Jane
Eyre and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

I love the smell of books, the feel of them, the joy of shopping for books that contain whole new worlds to explore, in the palm of your hands.

"Eric Hellman explored the concept of people who claim to love the smell of books, noting that it seems odd "until you think about the time-travel aspects of smell.... I've been talking to a lot of people about the books that they love. 'Love' in this context is not the 'love' people might use casually to describe their relationship with a product for sale. Instead, people seem to relate to books the way they relate to people. There's the love for a teacher who makes a difference in your life. Love for a friend you helps you feel joy. The thrill of discovering a soul mate. And among authors, there's the blind love for a child that goes beyond all rationality.

"The intensity of these emotions must get bound up with smells in the hippocampus to create a lasting impression on book lovers. When we smell a book all of these feelings resonate across time and they comfort us. Even in the future when all our reading is done on e-book readers or other screens, we'll keep real books around us like the clothing of a spouse or a parent lost to a tragedy, left in the bed to warm and comfort. And then we'll find strength to move on, but the spirit of the book will remain."

The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play, because the words are so beautiful and the characters so lush and real. This whole idea of revisiting it intrigues me, especially when another favorite author, Neil Gaiman, is evoked!

When Prospero Lost came out in 2009, L. Jagi Lamplighter's modern
version of the characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest seemed to draw
inspiration from Neil Gaiman, especially the Sandman comic book. It
wasn't just that Prospero's daughter Miranda--now the head of a
multinational corporation that keeps supernatural powers in check so
they don't wreak havoc upon the earth--had a full contingent of equally
immortal brothers (and a sister), each with their own magical weapon. A
more profound similarity lay in Lamplighter's efforts to create a
totalizing worldview, one in which all mythologies and folklores are
equally valid and capable of commingling.

Lamplighter built that premise up slowly in the first book and its
sequel, Prospero in Hell, as Miranda struggled to reunite her estranged
siblings after discovering that her father was being held captive by
demons. Their rescue mission was disrupted on the very last pages of
that second novel, and Prospero Regained picks up the story almost
exactly where it left off, as the family slowly reassembles itself once
more and then heads to the tower where their father is being held

Along the way, Lamplighter resolves several issues that have been
kicking around throughout the trilogy. Is Miranda's devotion to Prospero
simply a matter of familial affection, or could it be sorcerous
compulsion? Why does her brother Erasmus hate her with such intensity?
And where does Caliban fit into all this, exactly?

Prospero Regained also pushes the trilogy's theology in a new direction.
From the beginning, Miranda has maintained that her devotion to the
unicorn goddess Eurynome is not incompatible with her professed
Protestant faith. During this final novel's long treks across Hell,
there is much occasion for religious debate--since one of her brothers
was once a pope, such debate is perhaps inevitable--and Lamplighter
eventually puts forward a scenario that strives to reconcile pagan
pantheons with Christian views on salvation. (Sometimes the argument
gets especially wordy, and when the demons chime in, there's at least
one monologue that lays out its agenda so baldly it's as if we've
temporarily wandered into an Ayn Rand novel.)

Unfortunately, this isn't a story you can jump into mid-stream: although
Lamplighter recaps as much of the previous two novels as she can without
dragging everything to a complete halt, there's only so much internal
monologues and "let's go over what we've learned so far" conversations
can cover. To fully appreciate the magnitude of Miranda's dramatic
transformation over the course of Prospero Regained, readers need the
earlier books--but for contemporary fantasy fans who enjoy a healthy
dose of the epic, that won't be much of a burden. --Ron Hogan

Friday, September 09, 2011

I Can Think of Many More Awesome Female Heroines!

Topless Robot has this list of Badass Women from Fantasy Novels on it's website today, and I had to add, in the comments, about 10 more that they completely missed, including Yelena from Maria V Snyder's Poison Study series and Karin Murphy from the Dresden Files (Harry Dresden would have died a lot sooner without her help).

Also, I've asked my husband to get me tickets to see Neil and Amanda for our 14th wedding anniversary in October, and he said yes! I wonder if the estimable Mr G will allow time for the signing of some of his wonderful books?

An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer
Beginning in Los Angeles on Halloween, "pop-culture freaks and geek
newlyweds" Palmer and Gaiman will be "taking their domestic and creative
union to the West Coast this fall with a short tour," Wired reported,
noting that the project "already boasts a complementary Kickstarter
project that has grabbed more than $70,000 in funding in just a few days, with
weeks to go."

According to Palmer, "This show will be very different beast from the
loud, crazed rock shows that I'm accustomed to... and also very
different from the relatively well-behaved readings to which Neil is
accustomed. This tour is a like one big, long reception in which our two
fan-families get to meet each other."

Gaiman hopes "that Amanda's fans will put up with the messy-haired
Englishman reading them stories, and that mine will enjoy the beautiful
lady singing them songs of angst, post-modernism and woe. Or possibly
vice versa."

Not only has Jane Lynch made Sue Sylvester an iconic character on the brilliant TV show "Glee" she apparently has excellent taste in literature, as well:
Book Brahmin: Jane Lynch

Television and film actress Jane Lynch (who
plays Sue Sylvester on Glee) grew up on the South Side of Chicago and
currently lives in Los Angeles. She married Dr. Lara Embry in 2010, and
was lucky enough to get two daughters in the deal. Happy Accidents, her
memoir, has just been published by Voice (September 13, 2011). Watch
Jane's hilarious book trailer here.

On your nightstand now:

The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup. I usually read it in
the middle of the night while hot-flashing.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye by Kenneth P. O'Donnell. I was
Kennedy-obsessed as a kid.

Your top five authors:

David McCullough, John Irving, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Dr.
Christiane Northrup. After I read historical biographies, I like to

Book you've faked reading:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I was about 23, and I would "read" my
dog-eared Penguin copy while on the subway trying to look educated.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. I bought multiple copies to give away to
friends. I inscribed them with "this will change your life."

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I read it and loved it in
the early '80s and re-read it recently and thought it was rather silly.

Book that changed your life:

Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav.

Favorite line from a book:

"An authentically empowered person is one who is so strong, so
empowered, that the idea of using force against another is not a part of
his or her consciousness." --Seat of the Soul.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Shelf Awareness Widget to Win a Free Book!

Subscribe to Shelf Awareness and enter to win a free book!
Many thanks to all the booksellers and bloggers who've embedded our spiffy book giveaway button. This week our signed, first edition giveaway is The Winters in
Bloom by Lisa Tucker.

If you'd like to put this on your website or blog, go here

If you already have the button, it will automatically update!

And if you have friends who are not subscribed to Shelf Awareness for
Readers, they can sign up and be entered for a chance to win a copy of
The Winters in Bloom here

Friday, September 02, 2011

On Labor Day, Thank a Bookseller

This essay is from Shelf Awareness, and I completely agree that Booksellers are under-appreciated for what they do so well--keeping bibliophiles like me in good reading materials! My thanks to Jeff Morris, Roger Page and Mr Charles (all bookstore owners) for their hard work!

Robert Gray: Bookselling Is Harder than It Looks

They say it all the time. Right this minute, somewhere in the world, a
customer is waiting at the POS counter, chatting with a bookseller while
purchases are rung up, appropriate currency exchanged and selections
bagged (or not, depending upon local custom and environmental
awareness). They may be talking about one of the chosen titles or the
weather, favorite authors or town politics. But sooner or later the
customer will be compelled by some mysterious cosmic force to embark on
the requisite traditional litany.

"It must be so wonderful to be surrounded by books all day," he or she
will say. "You have the best job in the world. I've always wanted to
work in a bookstore."

If you are that bookseller, you will smile and nod... knowingly, yet
still guarding a secret of the ages that only those in the trade

Bookselling is harder than it looks.

Customers enter your bookstores because they want to. By contrast, they
enter grocery stores because they have to. Bookshops are both a refuge
and an adventure for them. Once inside, they move through a sensory
wonderland--row upon row of books; soft strains of music in the air,
mingled with the scent of coffee or baked goods.

All over the world, booksellers greet them courteously, ask how they
are. Perhaps no one has asked them that question all day, not even their
families. They say "fine" in the language of the land because, quite
suddenly, at this moment and in these special places, they are fine.
There are empty chairs in quiet corners. Maybe they will just sit and
read for a little while... in paradise.

Ten minutes later, they glance up from their reading to watch
booksellers shelve a few novels. It's a beautiful, universal and almost
ceremonial tableau. They think about the jobs they must return to when
this break is over, the bosses who are mad at them for no reason,
co-workers who are driving them crazy and the mountains of work piling
up incessantly.

They can't help but consider an alternative: How pleasant it must be to
just work in a bookstore.

You know the truth. It is pleasant most of the time--you can't imagine
doing anything else--but it's also complicated. It's bookselling.

Labor Day weekend is an appropriate time to celebrate the work of
booksellers. Your totem animal is the duck, which appears to float
serenely on the water's surface while paddling like hell underneath.
That is also your job description.

Here's just a bit of what those customers nestled in their comfy reading
chairs planet-wide don't see because you are doing your jobs so well:
today's deliveries stacked up in shipping & receiving; cartloads of as
yet unshelved books; sections needing to be culled for returns; returns
waiting to be boxed and shipped; staff meetings; internal staff
rivalries; scheduling conflicts or sick days that result in
overstaffing/understaffing (whichever is the worst one that could happen
at this particular moment); ordering to be done; bills to be paid (or
strategically delayed); websites and blogs to be updated; author events
to be planned and executed....

Part of the magic and mystery of bookselling is never letting customers
see below the surface. Who wants to look at a duck's feet when they can
just watch the tranquil pond? The other part is that you wouldn't have
it any other way because, for the lucky ones, bookselling is a vocation
as much as a job. You could have done something else and certainly made
more money. You chose this profession. If you're one of the best, it
also chose you.

When you interview a prospective bookseller, you probably don't tell
them about the phone calls from lonely people who'll talk to them for 15
minutes and may or may not order anything. You probably don't mention
the occasional customer who takes a day's (or a lifetime's) worth of
frustration out on you at POS because your books are more expensive than
Amazon's. You probably don't ask them how heavy a box they can lift or
if they can fix plugged toilets or shovel snow. If they are meant to be
booksellers, they'll find all that out soon enough and it won't really

You're a bookseller. You work hard, so enjoy Labor Day and a well-earned
rest, though you're probably working this weekend.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now

I will admit to being one of those people who longs to be a bookseller, but, as I have no money to start a bookstore, it's just a long-held dream.

This is a great idea, from a wonderful blog called Mr Micawber Enters the Internets:

Sometimes the customer is really right. A few weeks ago, a patron of
Micawber's bookstore, St. Paul, Minn., asked co-owner Hans Weyandt for a list of his top 100 books. He thought she
meant the shop's all-time bestselling titles, but she quickly said, "No,
I mean your personal favorites." From that catalyst, a great idea was
born. Weyandt has since contacted several other booksellers nationwide
with the aim of getting top 50 lists from at least 20 different people
or stores.

Last night, he posted his own selections on Mr. Micawber Enters the
Internets blog and plans to add a new
list each weekday. Thus far, he has received 20 lists (a total of 1,000
books) from booksellers in 17 states.

"All contributing stores will get copies to place in-store or use
on-line as they please," he noted. "Once I've posted all of the lists, I
will compile the most frequently mentioned titles. What I told everyone
was that I was looking for either a top 50 list or 50 favorite books to
handsell. Some booksellers chose to add their own restrictions, such as
fiction only, deceased authors only, etc."

Weyandt added, "All of this has been a great deal of fun and an
incredible way to touch base with some old friends and a way to open the
door on new ones."

To whet your biblio-appetite, these are some of the booksellers who have
agreed to contribute to the project:

Staff lists from Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., and the Harvard
Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass.
Neil Strandberg from the Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colo.
Michael Boggs of Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky.
Libby Cowles of Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.
Liberty Hardy of RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, N.H.
Jay Peterson of Magers and Quinn, Minneapolis, Minn.
Toby Cox of Three Lives & Co., New York City
Matt Lage of Iowa Book Co., Iowa City, Iowa
Emily Pullen of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif.
Emma Straub of BookCourt, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Paul Yamazaki of City Lights, San Francisco, Calif.
Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights, Iowa City, Iowa
Stacie Michelle Williams of Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis.
Joseph DeSalvo of Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, La.

Weyandt noted that if "there is a bookseller out there that would like
to join this you can contact me and I will continue this project until
its very end. Being involved in this has been the highest honor

This is totally because of the luscious Alan Rickman!

In an upset, potions master Severus Snape was voted favorite character
from the Harry Potter series
the boy wizard himself--in a recent fan poll conducted by Bloomsbury.
The Guardian reported that Snape garnered 13,000 (20%) of the 70,000
votes cast, with Hermione Granger finishing second, followed by Sirius
Black, Harry and Ron Weasley.

I love this, that Ian Fleming wrote a letter to ease his fans fears about the death of a main character...Jim Butcher, take note!!

In 1957, Ian Fleming tried to quell the fear among his readers over the
apparent death of James Bond

at the end of From Russia with Love. Letters of Note featured one of the
"charming letters" the author wrote to thousands of worried
correspondents. It includes a "confidential" bulletin, signed by
neurologist Sir James Molony, that had been "recently placed on the
canteen notice board of the headquarters of the Secret Service near
Regent's Park."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs Resigned from Apple Yesterday

Steve Jobs, my ultimate crush, resigned from Apple Computers, the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak, yesterday, and today, I came upon a list of some of his best quotes, starting with his speech at Stanford:


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

Then there are his discussions on wealth. Truly, what a brilliant and wonderful human being he is...I thank God all the time that he helped create the computer I'm writing this on, the iMac G4.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” [The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]


Q: There’s a lot of symbolism to your return. Is that going to be enough to reinvigorate the company with a sense of magic?

“You’re missing it. This is not a one-man show. What’s reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there’s a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they’re not losers. What they didn’t have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]


“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” [Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998]


“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” [Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer Inc., May 1999]

I get the feeling that Steve Jobs knows that his battle with cancer isn't going to end well, and that his time is running out. So he's left the company he helped to create so that he can spend his last days, weeks or hopefully years, doing things he wants and needs to do before he passes away. Godspeed to the man, who will always be that smart, sexy, innovative Apple Computer god in my heart, worthy of a pin-up on my dorm room wall in college.

Meanwhile, my favorite legendary critter (the tops are made of the rubber, the tails are made of the spring!) now has a playlist:
Flavorwire was also in an A.A. Milne mood, offering a literary mixtape
for Tigger and
noting that "someone who bounces all day long would have to listen to
the most spastic, bounding modern indie rock and pop songs he can get
his paws on. After all, all that bouncing is hard work, and even a
Tigger needs a little musical boost once in a while. Or, if we know him,
all the time. Tigger is certainly not one for moderation. His iPod is
filled with nothing but fun-fun-fun! Here's what we think he would
boast, bounce, and eat extract of malt to."

In Dr Who news, here's some interesting tidbits about that sexy David Tennant and Matt Smith, who is adorable, but not nearly as hot:

I would very much like to have my other lifetime crush's library, Sting, or Mark Twains library, or William Randolf Hearsts would do in a pinch:
Celebrities who are also readers have a slight advantage over the rest
of us, in that they "often making tens of thousands of dollars for just
showing up somewhere, have no such financial restraints and may indulge
themselves with those epic home libraries the rest of us can only dream
about." Presented as evidence by are "20
celebrities with stunning home libraries"

This is the TRUTH about independent bookstores, said very eloquently:

"The intimacy and personality of independent bookstores provides a
high-touch environment complementing the rich experience of the book--an
antidote to the relentless technological acceleration in our lives; a
counterbalance to the local-disconnect felt by the globally connected."

--Ed Morrow, co-founder of the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center,
Vt., in his introduction to therevised, updated edition of Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Bookstores
Represent Everything You Want to Fight for from Free Speech to Buying
Local to Building Communities (Seven Stories Press).

Finally, a magazine I've written for informs us of the happy event of Seattle getting a new bookstore...Hurrah!

Delicious news from Seattle: the Book Larder, a bookstore devoted to
"all things culinary," will open in October,
according to Seattle Met. The owner is Lara Hamilton, who used to work
for the late Kim Ricketts, founder of Kim Ricketts Book Events. The
store is taking shape at 4252 Fremont St. N. See photos on Seattle Met.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Literary Shoes and a Homemade Life

From MediaBistro's "GalleyCat" comes this marvelous new website and readers resource, BookLamp:

How Publishers & Readers Can Use BookLamp
By Jason Boog on August 18, 2011 3:53 PM

Ever wish you could find new books the same way Pandora helps you find new music? Using a series of algorithms, BookLamp analyzes your favorite books for five style elements and then delivers you customized recommendations with similar themes and style.

The site currently tracks more than 618 million data points, trying to decode the DNA of literature. Here’s a simple explanation: “Motion, Density, Description, Dialog and Pacing are stylistic metrics or terms developed to help make the complicated under-workings of our analysis more understandable. They are not the complete picture of what makes up a book’s writing style, nor a complete picture of what BookLamp tracks in a book, but they do measure elements that a person can easily understand.”

In another awesome use of literature for functional design, here are shoes created from famous works of classic literature (I am partial to the Romeo and Juliet shoes):

"Here's the idea: sneakers inspired by some of the greatest literary works of all time. Each design pays tribute to one fantastic book everyone should read before they die, and shows off your love of classic fiction to the world. I'll admit, this is a passion project for me. New designs will keep coming as often as my time and creative energy permit. Suggestions always welcome, though I'll have to have read the book before I can design them. Comments, referrals and promotion absolutely encouraged Women's sizes: According to Zazzle, women should order a men's shoe 1.5 sizes smaller than their size—so if you wear a women's size 7 you should order a men's 5.5. I may end up specifically designing women's counterparts if there's a demand for it."

I have just finished Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" for my Tuesday night book group, and because I'd just read "My Year With Eleanor" and "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair" this book felt like the third part of a trilogy about women finding their way through grief and/or pain by concentrating on doing something positive with their life, in this case, cooking as a vocation and falling in love (and getting married). Wizenberg loses her father to a swift and brutal cancer, and spends much of the book talking about the foods that he made, and the foods she grew up eating. She also discusses the time she spent in Paris, and the excellent foods she ate there. Unfortunately, since I can't have dairy or eggs, her recipes that are found in each chapter are not ones I can try, because all of them have butter and cream in them, as well as nuts and onions. Still, it was a delicious read, and one I will not soon forget. Though I plan on asking the willowy Ms Wizenberg (she is visiting the Covington Library in late September) how she manages to stay slender when she eats a couple of sticks of butter and pints of cream every day, along with French bread and chocolate. If I ate like that, I'd be huge. Still, I'd give this book a solid B+.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

I highly recommend "My Year With Eleanor" by Noelle Hancock, who is one of those rare creatures, a truly funny writer who is also, amazingly, young, so we have hope of more from her witty mind. This book, like "Tolstoy and the Purple Chair" chronicles a year in the life of a woman bent on transforming herself due to some life-altering event. In the case of "Tolstoy" it is the death of the authors sister that plunges her into a year of reading a book a day as a way of honoring something they shared a deep and abiding love of, while in "Eleanor" it is the author being laid off from her journalism job (a fact that is all too understandable in the recession, and close to home for this freelancer)that allows her to confront one of her fears each day and overcome it by any means necessary. Though Hancock wasn't as wise as the Tolstoy author (mainly because she's much younger) she makes up for any deficiencies with a razor-sharp wit and self-depricating honesty that makes her not only vulnerable, but adorable. This leads the reader to root for her in even the most absurd and compromising situations, as when she's caught almost 'in flagrante' with her boyfriend in the bride's bathroom at a wedding. I must admit I was in deep envy of her ability to afford some of her challenges, such as skydiving and flying a fighter jet in a Top- Gun-style dogfight, which I would give nearly anything to do. But apparently, online entertainment journalists get enough severance pay to actually be able to take an entire year off to write a book and have a string of thrilling adventures, something not allowed for mere print journalists. Still, I was able to get my jollies vicariously, as intrepid Noelle scales Kilimanjaro, jumps out of airplanes and does 5 minutes of stand up comedy with a slew of other journalists. Since I've done the latter without resorting to raunchy humor, as Noelle did, I admit to feeling slightly smug when recalling my triumph at an AA Biker bar in Seattle, (I kid you not), where I didn't have a huge crowd of friends to cheer me on (I did have my husband and two friends, but that was it), and I was one of only two women to actually perform that night. If you didn't get at least a few laughs, you didn't graduate from the UW stand up class. There was one guy whose humor was all dirty stuff and mostly mean stuff about women, since he was getting a divorce, and he totally bombed, didn't get one laugh, while I got a ton of laughs and applause, and won the evening, graduating at the top of my class (who knew sober bikers would get Iowan humor?). Though I have never really had a fear of public speaking, like Noelle, no one likes to bomb on stage, and everyone is nervous before a performance, at least everyone I've ever spoken to, celebrity or otherwise. This book was just the right size to not become tedious and the prose was clean enough that it was a fast read. I'd give it an A, with the caveat that those who are normally fearless and bold might find some of her whining and puking a bit tough to take, but if you bear with the author, you find yourself feeling transformed into a 'braver' person in the end, right along with her.

In other news:
Lev Grossman, author most recently of The Magician King, selected his 10
must-read fantasy novels for Flavorwire.
This list could have used some Shana Abe books, some Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and World Fantasy Award Winner Patricia McKillip tomes. There are some books on here that are great and well worth the time, and others, not so much.

It was announced today that Sony's new e-reader that is coming out will be dedicated to exclusive content from Pottermore, which makes this stuff even more interesting:

"From flying letters to a 4,500-word discourse on wand woods,
early access to J.K. Rowling's move into the digital arena, Pottermore, reveals a richly-imagined, elaborately realized behind-the-scenes peek into the world of Harry Potter," wrote
Alison Flood in the Guardian. A photo gallery preview of Pottermore, which will
officially open to the public in October, was featured by Entertainment

The website is already a phenomenal success. Flood noted that there have
been more than 22 million webpage views, "peaking at some 50,000
requests per second on August 3, as readers rushed to become one of the
million users chosen to receive early access and a chance to shape the
website's development."

What is in store for those who venture within? "On entering the site,
users begin to travel through the world of Harry Potter and the
Philosopher's Stone, following in the footsteps of Harry and learning
new facts about his world as they open an account at the goblin bank
Gringotts, travel up and down Diagon Alley shopping for equipment for
school and choosing a wand. Unlocking new content as they progress
through the storyline, they can click on and collect items for their
'trunk,' build and evolve their profiles, adding their own drawings,
collecting books and chocolate frog cards, learning spells and brewing
potions. A Pottermore account can also be connected to a Facebook
account, with users able to make friends--and even take part in
wizarding duels once they reach a certain point on the website," Flood

Entertainment Weekly's Keith Staskiewicz noted that even in the site's
early stages of development, "there's still more than enough to make
your entire afternoon disappear like a temporus suckus spell
The real fun comes with the community elements. Once you're sorted into
a house--we got Ravenclaw because we're smart and boring--you'll be able
to interact with your fellow housemates via a number of activities.
Individuals can earn house points in the site-wide House Cup, and you
can even engage in a wizard's duel using your customized wand and the
spells you have learned. If potions are more your thing, you can buy all
the bezoars and flobberworm mucus you need at Diagon Alley and whip up a
batch or two in your cauldron, but don't overspend or else you'll find
your Gringotts vault empty. All these elements represent the kind of
useless but still desperately desired reward system that can turn
horribly, wonderfully addictive. It's hard to tell at this point exactly
how addictive when it's nobody else but us chickens in here, but
Pottermore seems especially designed to destroy work productivity the
world over."

Oh, what I wouldn't give to be in this warehouse with a suitcase!

The Guardian also reported that the 150,000-square-foot Leavesden
where the Harry Potter films were shot, is being converted to showcase
"The Making of Harry Potter " studio
tour, which "will offer a trip around the sets where the films were
shot, and provide an insider look at the film-making process."
Pre-booking for the tour will begin on October 13, with the attraction
itself opening next spring. Fans will be able to walk through the Great
Hall at Hogwarts and visit Dumbledore's office, as well as other iconic

"I once took a trip to the studios in 2008, while filming for the sixth
film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was well underway," wrote
Joe Utichi. "In the ice-cold hangars that housed the sets, even the
corridors were stuffed with the detritus of several years of large-scale
moviemaking. Familiar props from all five of the previous films were
stacked wherever there was space.

"But what struck me was the incredible level of detail that had gone
into every facet of the films' creation. Production designer Stuart
Craig and his team achieved a level of artistry I'd never seen
before--all enhanced by curiously organic touches that were a product of
years in production. In the Great Hall, torch-bearing gargoyles are
scorched by years of naked flames, while dining tables are marked by the
graffiti of the student extras."