Is Scott Westerfeld actually going to give us... closure? Is he feeling feverish?
Okay, so our hopes aren't high, but we're happy to see that there's going to be fourth book set in Westerfeld's Uglies 'verse. The Extras is due out on October 2nd, and we hear it will feature cameo appearances by a few of Westerfeld's earlier characters. Of course, that could mean anything from a full-blown scene to an overheard conversation, but it's more than he usually gives his readers, so who are we to quibble?
Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby?: True Adventures in Cult Fandom, Allyson Beatrice’s collection of essays about her experiences as a hardcore Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, is a funny and insightful memoir, but it works far better as a love song to a particular online fan community than it does as a depiction of most cult fan experiences.
The book opens with Beatrice’s personal history of cult fandom: after an impulsive move to Los Angeles, she became intensely involved with online Buffy discussion. That lead to connections to some of the Buffy creative team, and she eventually took a leadership role in a variety of show-related crusades. Vampire People includes essays on the friends she made through her fandom, fan-based campaigns, and the difficulties she and her fellow Buffy junkies dealt with while trying to maintain a healthy online community—everything from trolls and garden-variety creeps to mentally ill con artists.
Some of Beatrice’s essays work better than others, and there are a few that could have been cut entirely. (The one about her concern over the “realness” of her friendships with people like Buffy/Angel/Firefly bigwig Tim Minear was painful, mostly because the idea of her calling him up to inquire if they were really friends was so excruciatingly middle school. I mean, what’s he gonna say? “Uh, no. Sorry. And by the way, please stop calling me.”)
Beatrice’s experiences are specific to a bygone time and television show—making friends online was an entirely different proposition ten years ago, when the Internet wasn’t overrun with millions of eleven-year-old MySpace users, and internet-savvy Buffy fans were an even more rarefied group. Beatrice’s intelligence and caustic sense of humor carry this book through its weak spots, but it would be interesting to see what she’d do with subject matter that wasn’t so limited.
TOKYOPOP has their new website up, and it's totally overwhelming. I hate to say it, because I'm sure their web developers worked really, really hard, but any website that has to feature a huge "How to Use This Site" button is too confusing and (sorry!) needs to be revamped.
Norton's annotated editions are beautiful and useful, full of fascinating information about the text and author(s), so I was extremely excited to see that they'll be releasing an annotated version of The Secret Garden this fall. Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel is one of my favorite children's books, and I'm confident that Norton will produce an edition worthy of her story.
Note: The "collection" link above provides a list that's several years out-of-date, but you'll find more annotated titles by searching Norton's catalog.
Recently, we've been in something of rut here at Wordcandy. If it wasn't a book about a boy wizard (you wouldn't believe how many Harry Potter rip-offs we get), it was a YA romance. Don't get us wrong--we love boy wizards and YA romances as much as the next person, but it was time to mix things up a little. We wandered over to our "To Be Read" pile, and picked out the two toughest, grimmest-looking titles in the bunch....
...and, luckily enough, they both turned out to be extremely solid thrillers, with enough nail-biting action to keep us thoroughly engrossed, but not so much pointless ickiness that we went skittering back to the boy wizard/YA romance stack. (This is always a danger, because we're very delicate flowers here at Wordcandy.)
Dead Connection, by Alafair Burke
Dead Connection, Alafair Burke's first standalone novel, opens with a young woman's murder. When a tentative connection is made between her death and the murder of another young woman exactly one year earlier, New York detective Ellie Hatcher is assigned to assist Flann McIlroy, the eccentric homicide detective in charge of the case. The killer has left behind a clue linking his victims to an online dating service, and Ellie is a young, single woman, living alone in the big city—perfect for playing bait.
While Burke gives Ellie an interesting back story, an interesting back story does not a well-rounded character make. Ellie's father, also a cop, died in an apparent suicide while attempting to catch another serial killer. Ellie is obsessed with the idea that her father was murdered, and her fixation with his death casts a shadow over her own investigation. Unfortunately, while readers might have enjoyed getting to know Ellie over the course of a series, she's too vague a character to carry a standalone novel.
Happily, Dead Connection is a strong enough novel to distract readers from its underwhelming heroine. Burke is a capable writer, and her book has both topical drama (online credit fraud, the dangers of internet dating) and elements of more timeless suspense (Serial killers! Women in peril! Russian mobsters!). Burke's novel deserves a more intriguing heroine, but it's still a solid choice for readers in the market for an intelligent, fast-paced thriller with a female protagonist and a tidy ending.
A Nail Through the Heart, by Timothy Hallinan
Hallinan's novel scores considerably higher on the gross-o-meter than Dead Connection, but it makes up for its gruesome material by featuring an unusually engaging group of main characters, all of whom are trying to make a life for themselves in post-tsunami Thailand: Poke Rafferty, an American travel writer turned unofficial detective, Miaow, the former street child he hopes to adopt, and Rafferty's girlfriend Rose, an ex-go-go dancer who's struggling to get a legitimate housekeeping business off the ground.
Legally adopting Miaow is an expensive undertaking, so Rafferty accepts two very different private-eye jobs: hunting down a missing Australian man and locating a mysterious envelope. The seedier areas of Thailand make for a perfect noir landscape, and it isn't long before Rafferty's investigations uncover several stomach-churning secrets.
A Nail Through the Heart features some truly brutal material, but Hallinan handles it with empathy and intelligence. Few things are resolved by the end of the novel, but it ends on a cautiously hopeful note—which is why we were delighted to find that Hallinan plans to turn his story into a series. We'll have to brace ourselves to get though more scenes of Thailand's darker side, but Hallinan's vivid characters make it worth the effort.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, author of the bodice-ripper classic The Flame and the Flower (book #1 on our Worst So-Called "Fun" Books Ever list) died Friday, July 6, 2007. She was 68.
While Ms. Woodiwiss's novels frequently made our stomachs churn*, and we take issue with the "founding mother of the historical romance genre" description found in the bio below (uh, that would be Georgette Heyer), we can't deny that her books were compulsively readable. Ms. Woodiwiss's last novel, Everlasting, is due out this fall from HarperCollins.
For a full biography of Ms. Woodiwiss, click here.
*We'll never, ever forgive Eloisa James for not bothering to re-read The Flame and the Flower before writing an op-ed piece about it for The New York Times, thereby whitewashing the book's more revolting elements.
Well, I've finished the last Harry Potter book, and I'm going to do my best to give a quick, decent, almost-spoiler-free review. I'd divide it into the usual "Good, Bad, Ugly" categories, but that doesn’t seem fair-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has its problems, but nothing about it qualifies as downright ugly. The Iffy:
Other critics are going to complain about the amount of exposition in this book, and the mildly corny epilogue, and the sluggish pacing, and they're right on all counts... but the biggest problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is that it's severely low on fun. It has its laugh-inducing moments, but they're few and far between. While I realize that Rowling was trying to write a Grand Finale, her books are much more readable when the hissing supervillain stuff is leavened with some humor.
Well, Rowling certainly came through on her promise to kill off some major characters. There are real losses in this book, both large and small, and I was surprised by how affected I was by a few of the more unexpected deaths. Meanwhile, Snape and Dumbledore are explored in fascinating detail. And while I was disappointed that funny, fiery Ginny Weasley was shoved back into the "supportive girlfriend" role, other minor characters-particularly Neville, Luna, and Kreacher-finally get the treatment they deserve.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a worthy finale to the Harry Potter series, one that punishes evil, rewards good, honors the dead, and makes us laugh a few times in the bargain. Bad things happen to nice people, but (unlike certain OTHER authors—yeah, I'm looking at you, Pullman and Collins) Rowling doesn't feel compelled to remind us that life isn't fair by ending things on an unnecessarily depressing note, for which I am truly grateful. Such a solidly happy ending is a rare and generous gift in the fantasy world.
...plus, the reason that Ron and Hermione finally kiss? Totally brilliant.
That said, it’s 5:30 now, and I really need to go to bed. Goodnight, everybody, and happy reading!
So now it's Friday, and you haven't made a single plan. You haven't ordered your copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You didn't make arrangements to hang out with your fellow book geeks at some HP extravaganza. You're going to miss out on a full evening of Harry Potter-inspired food, games, and obsessive-fan conversation....
...and now you're regretting it. Sure, you can probably pick up a copy at Target tomorrow like a sane person, but where's the fun in that? This is an extraordinary event--possibly the only time any of us will ever see thousands of people foaming at the mouth over a book release. It is truly a sight worth seeing.
But never fear! We here at Wordcandy understand that some of our readers struggle with personal organization, and sometimes even the coolest events seem to come at us out of nowhere. So just in case you're one of those people who woke up this morning and thought, "Crap--it's TODAY?!", we've come up with a last-minute Harry Potter celebration that you and your equally disorganized friends can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.
Where To Get Your Book: 24-hour grocery stores are pretty much the only source for unreserved copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you want a copy at midnight you'll probably need to get in line by 10:00PM, but the whole experience will give you a nice opportunity to get to know all of the other slacker HP fans in town.
What to Eat: If you're really motivated, try any of the recipes available here. They look gorgeous--but very time-consuming! If you're looking for something much, much easier, we suggest that you dig out your Halloween cookie cutters, buy pre-made sugar cookie dough, and churn out some Harry Potter-inspired witch, owl, and cat cookies. When you (and maybe some nice new friends you met while waiting in line at the supermarket) get back to your house, you'll find that the whole book-reading experience is really enhanced by a plate of warm cookies and a glass of milk*.
*Unless you're over 21, whereupon we suggest you keep reading.
What To Drink:
If you're under 21, we suggest that you try some spiced cider, hot chocolate, or making your own butterbeer. They'll taste good, and the sugar will help you stay awake long enough to slog through one more chapter. But if you're over 21, we suggest trying out Chartreuse liqueur. It's perfect for a Harry Potter party--it's green, it's yummy, and it will help you gloss right over any irritating plot holes that you might run across!
Please note: We don't usually do blog posts on the weekend, but look for our quickie review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sometime tomorrow! We don't promise coherency, though--we're going to be really, really tired.
While there are great HP-release party options on the East and West Coast, Midwesterners might be having the most hardcore HP shindigs. Two Ohio towns, Wilmington and Hudson, will be turning their downtown cores into massive Harry Potter festivals on July 20th. In Wilmington, visitors will be able to eat Gillyweed and Eye of Newt (a.k.a. spaghetti and meatballs) at Hogwarts (a.k.a. The General Denver Hotel), shop in Diagon Alley, or check out the free Harry Potter triple-feature film fest at the Murphy Theater. In Hudson, they can take Weasley cooking classes, ride the Purple Knight Bus, or--should nature call--try a "Porta-Potter".
More than 4,000 people showed up to Wilmington's release party for the 2005 release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Hudson is expecting 12,000 for this year's event, so we suggest that you get there early.
Above right: Wilmington's Professor Dumbledore wanders the streets in 2005, apparently unaware of the dark fate about to befall him.
Starting around 4PM, Couch Street will be closed to traffic. "Dumbledore" will be there to greet the books as they arrive by Powell's truck, and then the books will be draped in black cloth and put under lock and key until 12:01.
Throughout the evening, there will be activities that include dancers and musicians on the main stage, vendors selling food and drinks, and street entertainers--jugglers, stilt walkers, magicians, and fire-eaters! Powell's staff will be wandering the crowds, giving away free stuff to people in costume.
"Dumbledore" and "McGonagall" will arrive by horse and carriage to open the doors at 12:01, the first group will be let inside, and then the reading orgy can begin!
If you're going to be in New York this weekend, and for some reason you can't make one of the midnight parties, the Strand Bookstore in New York City (the "18 miles of books" place) is having a Harry Potter Pizza Party from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday, July 21st.
According to Christina at the Strand, the party will feature games, soda, pizza, and Strand Friend Barbara Gerard, who will be dressed in costume. Ms. Gerard will be assisting party-goers with the crossword puzzles, word scrambles, and trivia questions that Scholastic has supplied for the party. In addition to the food and activities, attendees will also receive bookmarks and temporary tattoos.
This is a great alternative for Harry Potter fans with young children (and no babysitter) who don't want to drag the kids to a midnight shindig, or people who work at night. It's wonderful that they won't miss out on all of the fun and craziness surrounding the book seven release!
This week we'll be focusing on various Harry Potter-related activities scheduled around the country. If you're not a HP fan... uh, sorry. Check back next week.
But if you ARE a HP fan, and you're going to be in Iowa in early August, you should swing by the Iowa State Fair and check out their Harry Potter-shaped butter statue! Apparently, the butter carving will be done by a special education teacher named Sarah Pratt, and it will occupy a place of honor in a refrigerated case, right next to the traditional cow-shaped butter statue.
Above left: an example of this unique art form, in case you're unfamiliar with butter carving. Personally, I think Harry will make a great butter statue, but I DO wonder what will happen to the statue after the fair is over. Imagine, say, using Harry Potter's left ear to butter your toast....
Additional: I saw the new Harry Potter movie last night, and I am happy to report that it was great. It had different strengths than the last two HP films, but I was very impressed by this director's decision to full-out change some elements from the book, rather than, ah, selectively editing it. I know tampering with Rowling's series is risky, but some of stuff in a nearly nine-hundred-page-long book just doesn't work as well in a two-and-a-half-hour long film, and I totally applaud this director for recognizing that.
According to the Associated Press, the estate of the late Ian Fleming has selected British author Sebastian Faulks to write a new James Bond story. Faulks' novel, Devil May Care, is due to come out in 2008, the centennial of Fleming's birth. I don't know anything about Mr. Faulks, but I was encouraged by this quote from the AP's interview with him:
"In his house in Jamaica, Ian Fleming used to write a thousand words in the morning, then go snorkeling, have a cocktail, lunch on the terrace, more diving, another thousand words in the late afternoon, then more martinis and glamorous women. In my house in London, I followed this routine exactly, apart from the cocktails, the lunch and the snorkeling."
Details magazine is currently featuring an oh-so-saucy interview with Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter movie franchise. I didn't read the whole thing (I get tired of Details' tone of contrived naughtiness real fast), but I did have an opportunity to, uh, admire some of their photoshoot:
Is it just me, or does young Mr. Radcliffe look more and more like a hobbit-era Elijah Wood?
My mother suggested that I check out Marta Acosta's vampire/romance series. Acosta's first book is Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, followed by Midnight Brunch, with a third book due to be released in 2008.
Now, I'm not usually a fan of books with love triangles in them (particularly not if all three people are non-jerks, as seems to be the case here), but the Happy Hour at Castle Dracula title is cute, I like the fact that the heroine's name is Milagro de los Santos, and I generally trust my mother's taste.
According to this, patrons of the New York Public Library will soon be able to use the machine at left to "print off books free of charge, the end result of which is supposedly 'indistinguishable from the factory-made title.'"
This looks like those self-checkout lines at the supermarket--cool, but the kind of thing where you get stuck waiting for an hour behind some 54-year-old guy who's totally confused by it but determined not to ask for help, all so you can use it for three minutes to print out a 35-page-long novella.
The trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club is now available on the web.
I was underwhelmed by this book (although I know and respect several people that loved it), and I think I'll skip the movie. The trailer features a lot of people that look good on camera, but I don't see anything particularly Austen-esque about it. Frankly, between this genteel potboiler, the ridiculous Becoming Jane "biopic", and those three dopey TV adaptations of Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey, 2007 has been rough on Miss Austen's books.
Well, here's the cover art for Jennifer Crusie's upcoming collaboration with Bob Mayer, Agnes and the Hitman:
And here's the official publisher's description:
"Agnes Crandall, a food columnist better known as Cranky Agnes, is working on her second bestselling cookbook (More Mob Food) and getting ready for the big society wedding that's going to be held in her back yard when a guy with a gun breaks in and tries to kidnap her dog. Agnes accidentally kills him. Shortly after that, a big grim guy named Shane (just Shane, like Madonna) shows up to protect her. That's good because things just keep getting worse until it's pretty much Agnes and Shane against the world, at least the part of it that's armed and coming for Agnes."
Sounds pretty cute. Although didn't their last collaboration feature two possible covers--an Art-Deco-y one for Crusie's fans and a more manly affair for Mayer's? This thing looks 100% girly--you should complain, Mr. Mayer.
Viz Media is set to release their translation of the first volume of the shojo comic Lovely Complex tomorrow (they've retitled it Love*Com). Lovely Complex is an exceptionally cute odd-couple love story, and has already been made into an anime and j-drama. Some of the humor can get a little painful, but shojo fans should definitely keep an eye out!