Monday, January 07, 2013

A Mish-Mash, Hodge-Podge of Books and News

 I've been saving items of interest from Shelf Awareness, and though I've not been able to post a review for awhile (holidays, Crohns and inertia, are the top three reasons why), I figured I'd better start putting these on the blog before they all go stale.
Here's some excellent excerpts from a book for kids that sounds like one of those books full of wisdom that adults would enjoy as well:
The result is Big Questions from Little People & Simple Answers from Great Minds (public library), one of the best children's books of 2012 – a compendium of fascinating explanations of deceptively simple everyday phenomena, featuring such modern-day icons as Mary Roach, Noam Chomsky, Philip Pullman, Richard Dawkins, and many more, with a good chunk of the proceeds being donated to Save the Children, and also one of the best science books of 2012.

Most of the time, you feel in charge of your own mind. You want to play with some Lego? Your brain is there to make it happen. You fancy reading a book? You can put the letters together and watch characters emerge in your imagination.
But at night, strange stuff happens. While you’re in bed, your mind puts on the weirdest, most amazing and sometimes scariest shows. … In the olden days, people believed that our dreams were full of clues about the future. Nowadays, we tend to think that dreams are a way for the mind to rearrange and tidy itself up after the activities of the day. … Dreams show us that we’re not quite the bosses of our own selves.

My favorite answers are to the all-engulfing question, How do we fall in love? Author Jeanette Winterson offers this breathlessly poetic response:

You don't fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)
And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.
PS You have to be brave.
I really want to read this book, which sounds incredible.
Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love
by Megan Caldwell
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Molly Hagan, the protagonist of Megan Caldwell's Vanity Fare, is a 40-year-old single mother who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. She suffers the sting of a husband who left her for a younger woman; a traumatized six-year-old son who asks too many questions and is begging for an exotic pet; a mother whose finances have collapsed and who now has nowhere to live; and well-meaning friends and a shrink who pressure Molly to make changes in her life. Molly's troubles grow even deeper when she learns that she's penniless and can't even pay the rent.
When an old friend offers Molly a copywriting job at a new bakery, Molly jumps at the chance for employment. The venue is located near the New York Public Library, and the owner wants to make the bakery "a destination point." Inspired by the challenge, Molly comes up with a "literary-food-is-delicious" schematic for what she envisions will become "Vanity Fare." In the midst of pulling together her presentation, Molly suddenly finds herself being wooed by both the sexy British pastry chef with an "upper-crust, devil-may-care Hugh Grant accent" and his aloof business partner (who becomes more emotionally attractive as he forms a bond with Molly's son).
Each chapter commences with blurbs that cleverly pair literary references and puns with bakery offerings, such as "Much Ado about Muffins," "A Room of One's Scone" and "Catcher in the Rye Bread." Caldwell has whipped up a delicious, well-plotted romance where a smart, self-deprecating heroine conquers real-world issues with good humor. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A copywriting job for a new bakery sweetens the life of a struggling single mother in this delicious romance.

After watching the season 3 premier of Downton Abbey last night (and loving every minute of it) I was glad of this tidbit about one of my favorite comedy authors, PG Wodehouse:

Wodehouse TV: Blandings & An Innocent Abroad

BBC1 may be looking "to steal Downton [Abbey] ratings with two helpings
of P.G. Wodehouse," according to the Guardian, which reported that
"offering a humorous glimpse of aristocratic life, may clean up." The
six-part series, which stars Jack Farthing, Jennifer Saunders, Timothy
Spall, David Walliams and Mark Williams, is "based on Wodehouse's
much-loved accounts of the fictional life and times of Blanding Castle's
9th earl" and "will follow the fortunes of the amiable, befuddled
Emsworth, played by Timothy Spall, and his beloved pig, Empress."

A Wodehouse-lovers "golden year" may be underway, since in March the
"darker side" of the author's legacy is being be explored on BBC1's An
Innocent Abroad, "which will re-examine the controversial period that
the author spent in Nazi Germany," the Guardian wrote. Tim Pigott-Smith
portrays Wodehouse in this project.

This also looks like a book I would love to read:

White Truffles in Winter: A Novel by N.M. Kelby (Norton, $15.95,
9780393343588). "This richly layered novel is based on the life of
legendary chef Auguste Escoffier, who popularized French cooking methods
at his restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz at the beginning of the
20th century. Escoffier's love for two women--the beautiful, iconic
actress Sarah Bernhardt and his lovely, poetess wife, Delphine
Daffis--is at the heart of this complex tale. The characters are vivid
and the food--oh, the food--is delicious!" --Erica Caldwell, Present
Tense, Batavia, N.Y.

Interesting how much these books sold for, especially considering some of them are foreign language books:
AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in 2012
An inscribed first edition of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, which sold
for more than $46,000, was narrowly beaten by a 1603 celestial atlas
($47,729) on AbeBooks annual list of most expensive sales
Also showcased on the website are the most expensive sales in science,
mathematics, children's and YA, art, photography, poetry, maps and
atlases, ephemera, travel and exploration, medical, science fiction and
fantasy, and books written by world leaders.

The Most Expensive Sales in 2012:

1) Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata, Nova Methodo
Delineata, Sereis Laminis Expressa by Johann Bayer ($47,729)
2) Casino Royale by Ian Fleming ($46,453)
3) Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) by Franz Kafka ($30,000)
4) A Latin Bible from 1491 ($26,200)
5) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak ($25,000)
6) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ($25,000)
7) A Polyglot Bible from 1599-1602, edited by Elisa Hutter ($25,000)
8) Livre d'Heures (Book of Hours) ($24,680)
9) Cosmographia by Petrus Apianus ($23,681)
10) Les Ruines de les Splus Beaux Monuments de la Grece by Julien David
Le Roy ($23,530)

Another book that sounds fascinating!
Review: The Painted Girls

Images of belle epoque Paris are burned in our minds from the works of
its renowned painters. Cathy Marie Buchanan's The Painted Girls explores
the internal world beyond the canvas, from the point of view of the
teenage student dancer who modeled for Edgar Degas's sculpture The
Little Dancer, Age Fourteen. Loosely inspired by the true story of the
impoverished van Goethem sisters of Montmartre, Buchanan's story follows
Marie, a struggling ballet dancer, and her warm-hearted older sister,
Antoinette, as they battle what seems an inevitable fate of destitution
and despair.

When their father dies, leaving only their depressed and alcoholic
mother to care for them, threatened with impending eviction and
starvation, the van Goethem sisters face the challenge of simple
survival. It is with the hope of earning enough money for food and
shelter that Marie enrolls in dancing school, becoming one of the "petit
rats"--desperate girls working to learn the discipline of ballet in the
hope of a stage career and a better life for their families. Every girl
cherishes the dream of outshining the others, and attracting the
patronage of the abonnés--wealthy men with a particular interest
in dancers. First, though, Marie attracts the attention of Degas, who
asks her to model for him in a partnership that will eventually lead to
a sculpture that, in its bronze reproductions, has been exhibited all
over the world.

From the daily routines at the barre to the obstacles of a dancer's
life, Buchanan describes the world of 19th-century Parisian ballet in
meticulous detail. The immediate threat of poverty is also vivid, giving
readers a constant awareness that Marie and her family are on the verge
of being cast out in the streets. Rather than romanticizing ballet, The
Painted Girls underscores the grim need that fuels the dancers, raw
emotion that found its way into the works of Degas in violent slashes of

What may be most remarkable in the novel, however, are the relationships
between women. In most novels about competition between women, the
characters end up bitterly at odds; yet here the most devoted
friendships are between the female characters--Marie and her schoolmate
Blanche; Antoinette and the beautiful prostitute Colette. And the heart
of the novel is the love between the two sisters, which forms the
bedrock of their lives--and will become, in a convergence of tragic
events, what is ultimately most at stake. --Ilana Teitelbaum

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