New York Times book reviewer Rachel Donadio just wrote an article about the increasingly tangled relationship between books and movies. According to Donadio's article, some publishers are now partnering directly with movie producers to make movie adaptations of their books. This means that they will have more influence over the movie versions of their stories, which (one hopes) may lead to better films.
Film adaptations are always a hot issue here at Wordcandy--in our opinion, way too many great books turn into cow manure on the big screen. Some books just aren't meant for Hollywood, which makes Donadio’s article seriously scary. Will all the books of the future read like movie scripts? (Even worse, will authors be sending advance copies of their books to movie producers before book reviewers like us?) We can't imagine that a closer relationship with agressively-test-marketed Hollywood will improve the publishing industry. After all, how often do you hear that the movie version was better than the book?
I just got this mega-exciting press release in my in-box:
VIZ PICTURES BECOMES PARTNER IN BAY AREA MOVIE THEATRE TO PROMOTE JAPANESE POP CULTURE
The J-Pop Center In Heart Of Japan Town To Offer Latest Live Action And Anime Films
"San Francisco, CA, November 27, 2007 – VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, has announced that it has become an owner of an art-house movie theatre set to open in winter 2008/2009 in the heart of San Francisco’s Japan Town, a prominent and historical sightseeing spot in the San Francisco Bay Area. The theatre will specialize in screening Japanese films and anime.
This 150-seat movie theatre, which is expected to open in winter 2008/2009, will be the main attraction within a multi-boutique commercial building called The J-Pop Center (for Japanese Pop culture) that will also house a bookstore, café and several hip fashion boutiques that originated in Tokyo. The complex will be a popular destination for the local Bay Area community as well as tourists who want to experience the kawaii or “cute and cool” J-Pop culture, which has become increasingly popular across North America in the wake of the momentum behind animation and manga.
Fully equipped with a THX sound system and cutting edge film as well as digital projection systems, the theatre will screen a diverse collection of Japanese live action and animated titles, many of which have been little-seen outside Japan or at select film festivals."
Is it wrong that I totally want this? I mean, it's not like I'm eager to smell like "old English novels, Russian and Moroccan leather bindings, and a soupçon of wood polish", (plus, in my experience, libraries tend to smell like mildew, sweat, and the ghosts of cigarettes past), but that packaging sings to my very soul.
My idea of the perfect afternoon is curling up on my couch with a huge mug of tea and a paperback romance novel. Recently, though, I've become obsessed with audiobooks, and while I'm not tossing the tree-derived contents of my overstuffed bookshelves in favor of mp3s, I am acquiring a healthy audiofile collection. Here's a little info on audiobook players, for all you tech-savvy bibliophiles out there:
Apple iPod family: $79 - $249 Love 'em or hate 'em, Apple and the iPod are the biggest players in the game when it comes to mp3 players and audio downloads. Ranging from the $79 1G Shuffle to the 160G iPod, Apple offers a large variety of options. The biggest benefit to purchasing one of these is Apple's customer service. (Users that don’t live near an Apple store can still contact their phone support.) On the downside Amazon and Barnes & Noble have restrictions (DRM) on the files you download that will not allow you to play them in iTunes.
SanDisk Sansa Clip: $59-$72 Of all the options in this price range, the SanDisk Sansa Clip is the only player with a display screen. (They also include an FM radio and a voice recorder.) This is a great pick for any gym rats that you know - there's nothing like needing to hear the last few pages of a story to keep you on the treadmill.
Creative Zen Stone: $39 This would be an ideal choice for the mp3-player shopper on a budget. The 1G Creative Zen is a great, no-frills basic player, with more than its fair share of style. It boasts solid sound (particularly for the price), and a battery life of 10 hours. Throw in a gift certificate to audible.com and you'd have a great holiday gift.
Sparkling Sony E-Series The Sparkling Sony E-Series is still limited to Japan, and (as far as I can tell) it doesn't seem to boast any technological innovations. This sequin-encrusted little puppy is all about style. If you're as tempted by those sparkles as I am, try checking out Sony Japan’s online store.
Slate is currently featuring an entertaining but much too short slide show about the evolution of children's book art from the dull "improving" stories of the mid-19th century to the weirder and more dynamic world of 20th-century children's classics. Unfortunately, such a tiny collection (only twelve images, and two of 'em are Sendak pictures) means that Slate's story covers less than one artist per decade*.
*We were sorry to see that images from author/illustrators Peter S. Newell, author of The Slant Book, and Norman Lindsay, author of The Magic Pudding, didn't make the cut.
Above image from "Goop Tales Alphabetically Told", by Gelett Burgess, 1904
We usually encourage our readers to buy books from local, non-chain sources, but there's no denying that there are some excellent book deals to be found online today:
Amazon.com has a Black Friday Store. A little hunting will turn up some lovely gift ideas. We were particularly impressed by their $15.83 copy of the sixtieth-anniversary edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.
Barnes and Noble.com is offering "up to 40% off" deals on their Holiday Gift Catalog. Check out their Naruto Box Set--the entire 27-volume-long first story arc, currently on sale for $132.96.
Chapters.com is offering up to 50% percent off its holiday titles. (Unfortunately, the dollar is too weak now for us to take advantage of it, but we hope our Canadian friends are enjoying themselves.) They're offering Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Collection (which includes "three hardcover books, two full-color posters and exclusive tattoos") for a mere $42.24.
As a vegetarian, Thanksgiving is fraught with peril. I don't want to be that girl who wanders around poking at everything, asking "Is there lard in this?", so it's easier if I just handle a lot of the cooking myself. And here are the cookbooks that will help me:
The fine people at Cook's Magazine want their recipes obeyed. They've already spent countless OCD-fueled hours making sure every direction is exactly right, so all you need to do is follow their directions to the letter. Some cooks might find this irritating, but I think it's downright soothing. Thanksgiving is a time for pie, not culinary creativity.
Deborah Madison's cookbooks are slightly less anal, but not much. Her recipes are extremely labor-intensive, but the final results are always delicious, and sure to be appreciated by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
I live in the Pacific Northwest, so Greg Atkinson's collection of recipes based on local ingredients is a wonderful resource. I encourage everyone to find a good local cookbook, one that forces you to explore the best food your region has to offer.
Austen fans take note: There are currently two books out entitled Mr. Darcy's Diary. One (which we are planning on reviewing in a few weeks) is by Amanda Grange, and one is by Maya Slater. We singled the Slater title out a few months ago for its appealing cover art, but if you're interested in, say, plausible characterization, you might want to stick with Grange's interpretation.
Novelist Wendy Holden recently wrote a review of the Slater book for the Daily Mail. According to Holden, Slater's Darcy is "emotionally literate and perceptive... interested in good cooking, sensitive to his men-friends and into social justice and ethical investing... cool with homosexuality...". Well, that all sounds nice. I'm not sure about the "emotionally perceptive" part (that doesn't sound much like Austen's Mr. Darcy), but, hey, I'm open minded about a little character tweaking!
Oh, wait. Apparently, "Darcy gets busy with two blondes during an orgy at Newstead Abbey".
...okay, I'm not that open minded. So I checked out the sample pages released by Ms. Slater's publisher, and by page 11 Mr. Darcy is spending quality time with a hooker named Clarabelle. Clarabelle has, and I quote, "fine paps to her".
I wish I knew more about the Beggarstaff Brothers. Their posters were simple, eye-catching, and insanely effective--plus, they did a lot of work for theatrical literary adaptations! Check out their "Cinderella" print:
And their "Don Quixote":
Aren't they awesome? When it comes to early graphic design styles, I'm usually more of an Alphonse Mucha fan, but I love these. If only I had more wall space... [Source]
Bestselling Japanese horror/mystery author Miyuki Miyabe has a new book out. Here's the publisher's description of The Devil's Whisper:
"The three deaths come in quick succession: one girl jumps from the roof of a six-story building; another falls in front of a train; and the third is hit by a late-night taxi. But how are these related? And are they accidents, suicides or murder? Slowly, the answers are uncovered by sixteen-year-old Mamoru, the nephew of the taxi driver currently being held by the police on charges of manslaughter for the death of the third victim.
Determined to help his uncle, Mamoru discovers that the girls killed by his uncle's taxi had participated in a devious scam to separate vulnerable men from their money, and that three of the four girls involved in the ploy are now dead.
A powerful businessman comes forward with new evidence in favor of Mamoru's uncle and also to reveal the truth about Mamoru's long-lost father, who disappeared when the boy was only four.
But in the meantime, Mamoru must go all out if he is to save the last of the four girls being targeted by the real killer. And then the killer contacts him..."
We here at Wordcandy look forward to Ms. Miyabe's books with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. This woman is a phenomenal writer, but that just means that the creepy bits in her books are all the more hair-raising. Consider yourselves warned....
Check out these titles from OldCookbooks.com, which, according to its website, is "is the internet's largest [resource] devoted to out-of-print, vintage and rare cookbooks offering thousands of collectible cookbooks for anyone looking to replace a treasured family memory, or for cooks wanting to discover great recipes from the past. An extensive library of American classics in their original editions ranging from the 1920's through the 1980's are here for the taking."
Are they not gorgeous?
I'm vegetarian, and my house is really too small for me to start collecting cookbooks about foods I don't eat, but I really wanted that Cooking Canada's Turkey book. (That title = pure genius.) Upon reflection, I realized that I could buy it for my mother for Christmas, which would allow me to read it, but also give me the right to store it at her house. Best of both worlds!
"What current authors do you believe will come to be added to the canon of great literary voices in the future?"
I went ahead and re-defined that “canon of great literary voices” bit in more Wordcandy-friendly terms—the following list consists of five outstanding pop fiction writers whose books, by rights, should still be around in a hundred years:
Lisa Kleypas is the author of nearly two dozen excellent historical romance novels. Her books are always smart, steamy, painstakingly researched, and infinitely superior to the countless cheeseball bodice-rippers cluttering up bookstore shelves.
Diana Wynne Jones has been producing inventive, gleefully bizarre children’s fantasy since 1970. Her novels include Howl’s Moving Castle (the inspiration for the Hayao Miyzaki film of the same name) and the award-winning parody Dark Lord of Derkholm. Ms. Jones’s books have never achieved J.K. Rowling-esque levels of fame, but they’ve won her a devoted readership.
Jeff Smith’s comic book series Bone ran for over 12 years, evolving from a goofy adventure story into a full-blown fantasy epic. The complete story—all 1,300-plus pages!—was collected in one action-packed (and surprisingly affordable) volume: 2004’s Bone: One Volume Edition.
Contemporary romance novelist Jennifer Crusie writes sharp, witty, acerbic novels. Some of her stuff can get a shade bitter (and she needs to stop wasting her time with pointless collaborations), but her best book, 2005’s Bet Me, is the romance novel equivalent of The Princess Bride—brilliantly funny and insanely charming.
Yayoi Ogawa is the author of the fourteen-volume-long manga series Tramps Like Us. Ogawa’s heroine is a beautiful, socially awkward journalist named Sumire, whose shyness is frequently mistaken for coldness. Lonely and miserable, Sumire impulsively offers to let a homeless young man move in with her—on one condition: she’ll treat him exactly like an overgrown house pet. He agrees, and their strange, codependent relationship develops into an unexpectedly moving love story.
None of these authors are perfect—Kleypas and Ogawa’s books frequently feature embarrassingly tawdry cover art, Crusie keeps getting distracted by ill-conceived collaborative projects, Jones’s disinterest in conventional plot development can make her stories difficult to follow, and Smith seems to have dropped off the face of the earth—but they’re all tremendously entertaining. If the literary world ever stops despising books that are actually, y’know, fun, these writers will one day be celebrated as some of the early twenty-first century's greatest producers of Grade-A popular fiction.
According to this article (from the business section of The New York Times), the Borders Group is planning to install two flat-screen TVs per bookstore, allowing them to broadcast "original programming, advertisements, news and weather".
Wow, thank you, Borders! I'm sure your original programming will be absolutely fascinating*, and c'mon: who could possibly get enough advertisements? Sure, we can already see 'em everywhere from airports to movie theaters, but I bet watching a commercial for the next episode of Lost or Geico insurance will really enrich my book-buying experience.
*Five bucks says it will consist of mind-numbing interviews with authors trying to find something diplomatic to say about the terrible film adaptation of their books.
Coming soon-ish: And it turns out that there will be a sequel to Ysabeau S. Wilce's deliciously strange Flora Segunda. The paperback edition of Flora Segunda will be out in May, and the second book (currently titled Flora Redux) will be out next summer.
I've spent a fair amount of time complaining about ADV. Their biggest fault, of course, was sitting on volume 4 of my beloved Yotsuba&! for the better part of two years, but they've committed plenty of minor solecisms, too, including letting far too many grammar and spelling screw-ups slip into their translation of Azumanga Daioh. But I was feeling pretty favorable towards them this week, when I discovered that they had just released an affordable and attractive omnibus edition of the Azumanga series:
Isn't it cute? And only twenty dollars! I was all: Go, ADV! Pick this baby up at your local comic shop today!
Of course, this newfound affection only lasted until I tried navigating their infuriating website...
Next week (Nov. 14-16), FSB Associates will be holding the second annual Love of Reading online bookfair, and we, your humble neighborhood book critics, will be guest-blogging! Mark your calendars, dear readers, because this looks like it's going to be quite the shindig:
Love of Reading Online Book Fair
The second annual Love of Reading online book fair (held November 14-16 at http://www.loveofreading.com/ from the hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST) celebrates and connects the online book community with three days of non-stop events. The event is designed for a wide audience—authors, publishers, booksellers, bookworms, bloggers, reviewers and anyone looking for a gift for the holidays. There will be a variety of special events and giveaways. Among the online happenings:
Free raffles—including 3 free books an hour and one large prize giveaway per day
Ongoing Podcasts and author readings by popular authors such as Alan Alda, Kim Edwards and Pulitzer Prize Winner Rick Atkinson.
Guest bloggers and reviewers will blog at the fair
Forum and discussion groups
Reader’s Choice Award for favorite book jacket. Last year’s winner was the mega bestseller, The Thirteenth Tale.
Roundtable discussions with topics including How to Get Your Book Published
Well, dear readers, we're finally finished: it wasn't quite a week, but we did get through nine book reviews in eight days, so we're feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Meanwhile, though, other Wordcandy blog posts have been piling up, so we're going to try to get through several mini-items at once.
1. We said that we'd do a breaking news bulletin if J.K. Rowling announced her plans to write another Harry Potter book, and sure enough, she came through for us! Well... sort of. Her book of HP-related short stories The Tales of Beedle the Bard might never be seen by the public, so this doesn't really count. And we can't help but agree with the author of the linked article--if she really wanted to donate a huge amount of money to charity, why not publish the book and donate her profits to a deserving cause?
2. Behold, an adorably mod-looking retelling of Cinderella:
3. Check out this surprisingly functional coffee table--an attractive adaptation of a piece of library furniture that I've always coveted:
4. And, last but not least, we were thrilled to see that Jennifer Colt's next McAfee twins book will be out this month, and it's Christmas-themed! And a hardcover! The Con Artist of Catalina Island: A McAfee Twins Christmas Novel is due out on November 20th, and here's the publisher's description:
"In their fourth hysterical outing, Terry and Kerry are headed to Santa Catalina for a family vacation with Aunt Reba and Cousin Robert. But all is not as it appears on this quaint island getaway, as the twins learn when they launch an investigation into the case of a bride, uncovering a nefarious plot that reaches all the way from the shores of Catalina to a defunct Namibian diamond mine. The Con Artist of Catalina Island takes aim at the Patriot Act and the suspension of habeas corpus, while answering the burning question: What happens when you mix a French poodle with a herd of buffalo?"
Ms. Colt's books are always a guaranteed good time, and it will be nice to have another non-sappy Christmas story to sit next to Jennifer Crusie's Santa, Baby on my bookshelf.
Robert Wilder (author of the whimsical parenting book Daddy Needs a Drink) has written another book, and it’s just as funny, profanity-laden, and stomach-churning as his first. Tales From the Teachers’ Lounge is a series of humorous essays about the questionable joys of teaching.
Wilder does not romanticize his profession—this is a book about bullies, insane co-workers, hormonal teenagers, and profoundly screwed-up first graders. At twenty-six, Wilder left an advertising career in New York and moved to Santa Fe, where he got a job teaching in an alternative school. He eventually switched to a private preparatory school, and did some summertime work for Antioch. Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge includes stories about being a student, a teacher, and a parent, with a couple of detours for chapters like “Teentales: High School Students’ Retelling of Classic Literature”.
Large chunks of Tales From the Teachers’ Lounge are tough going. I had to put the book down twice in the first chapter and go wash my hands, and there was a bullying scene on page 84 that required a full shower. Wilder’s fondness for gross-out anecdotes, combined with his no-holds-barred approach to everything from helicopter parents to religion, means that you probably shouldn’t give this book to any sensitive student teachers on your holiday shopping list. (Seriously, the profession might totally die out—this book is about as far from those saccharine Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul books as you can get.) On the other hand, if you’ve got a strong constitution and a pithy sense of humor, Tales From the Teachers’ Lounge is honest, intermittently heartwarming, and extremely funny.
Since going live in 1997, Audible.com has become the leading provider of spoken entertainment and information on the Internet, allowing users to download digital audio editions of books, newspapers, magazines, original programming, and TV and radio subscriptions. Audible customers have several choices: they can download on a per-program basis, or join one of a variety of “AudibleListener” plans, allowing them a predetermined number of credits for Audible content. Audible offers more than 30,000 different programs, totaling nearly 100,000 hours of audio content.
Working with the International Thriller Writers Organization, Audible is currently releasing The Chopin Manuscript, a collaborative, audio-only thriller written by 15 well-known novelists, including Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, and P.J. Parrish. (Deaver wrote the first and the final two chapters, while his fellow authors contributed one chapter apiece.) The Chopin Manuscript is being released serially—since September 25th, readers have received 2-3 chapters each Tuesday, with the final installment scheduled for November 13th.
The Chopin Manuscript kicks off with a bang: former war crimes investigator and musicology expert Harold Middleton is currently in possession of a previously undiscovered manuscript by Frederic Chopin. Determined to uncover the manuscript’s secrets, Middleton is plunged hip-deep in intrigue, and finds himself accused of murder, targeted by assassins, and hunted by a mysterious, terrifying figure from his past.
While one suspects that a story as well set-up as The Chopin Manuscript would work as a conventional novel, too, it’s ideally suited to both the audio-only format and the round-robin-style execution. Actor Alfred Molina narrates the story, infusing each chapter with a sense of tension and dread, and the authors outdo themselves in an effort to ensure that their contribution is worthy of its predecessors. The final product is fun, fast-paced, and beautifully produced—the perfect choice for any Wordcandy readers out there with a boring job and a discreet mp3 player.
Professional paleontologist Thomas Holtz, Jr. has just released Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages, and dinophiles everywhere better start clearing space on their bookshelves, because this is not one of those illustration-heavy, text-light picture books. With contributions from over thirty of his fellow paleontologists, Holtz’s 432 pages (featuring colorful illustrations by “paleoartist” Luis V. Rey) include brief entries on all 800-plus named species of Mesozoic dinosaurs, as well as chapters on dinosaur biology, diet, and behavior.
Older children and adults will undoubtedly benefit from this book (I wish I’d read it before slogging through Peter Ward’s Out of Thin Air), but Dinosaurs isn’t a great choice for young children. Rey’s illustrations are not for the faint of heart, and readers will need to be mature enough to handle sentences like: “Many scientists and paleoartists thought it was best to take this cautious approach, and this is why almost all older coelurosaur pictures show them with just scaly skin.” But while the average plastic-dinosaur-obsessed six-year-old is unlikely to enjoy Dr. Holtz’s book, Dinosaurs would work beautifully as a gift for a paleontology-minded preteen, a donation to a middle school science classroom, or a guide for any adults out there who need to know something about dinosaurs that doesn’t come from a decade-old National Geographic article or a shady internet source.