Today is the LAST DAY to nab a free digitally downloaded episode of Bleach, Naruto, or Death Note from VIZ Media and Amazon Unbox, Amazon’s digital video download service.
Unbox normally offers episodes of Naruto Uncut, Death Note and Bleach for $1.99 each, and they apparently frequently offer the first episodes of anime series for free. (All the better to hook you with, my dear...) It would take me longer than 24 hours to figure out how to use Unbox*, but all you tech-savvy types out there might want to take advantage of this offer.
*But that's because I'm technologically impaired. It shouldn't take a normal person more than a few minutes to figure it out.
J.K. Rowling, author of the world-renowned "Harry Potter" novels, will be the principal speaker during the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard University's 357th Commencement on June 5, 2008.
"Perhaps no one in our time has done more than J.K. Rowling to inspire young people to experience the excitement and the sheer joy of reading," said President Drew Faust. "Her tales of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their Hogwarts adventures have cast a spell on millions of readers around the world. Harvard isn't exactly Hogwarts, but I'm sure that her visit with us this June will be a moment of magic for J.K. Rowling's many admirers across the University."
"It will be an honor and a thrill to welcome J.K. Rowling to Harvard," said Jonathan Byrnes, president of the Harvard Alumni Association. "There are countless Harry Potter devotees throughout the Harvard family, and we look forward to warmly welcoming one of the world's best-read authors to our Commencement festivities."
Rowling's seven "Harry Potter" novels, published from 1997 to 2007, are among the most popular and beloved books in history. Countless readers have eagerly awaited each new volume chronicling Harry's life as a young, orphaned wizard possessed of extraordinary powers and confronted by formidable challenges as he and his friends progress through the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Global sales of the "Harry Potter" books have reportedly surpassed 375 million copies. The titles have been translated into more than 65 languages and are available in more than 200 countries. The most recent volumes rank among the fastest-selling books of all time, and each of the seven titles has risen to the top of The New York Times best-seller list. When the final novel in the series was published last July, Harvard Square was the site of a night-long festival, and thousands of people, many in their finest wizard costumes, flocked to Harvard Yard to hear a concert by Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, and the Hungarian Horntails.
Passionate about writing since she was 6 years old, Rowling completed the first "Harry Potter" manuscript while struggling to make ends meet as a language teacher and single mother. Her novel was rejected by many publishers before being accepted for publication in 1996. She and her books have since been internationally recognized with numerous honors, and the books have given rise to a highly popular movie series. A devoted philanthropist, Rowling has special interest in efforts to combat poverty, to support multiple sclerosis research, and to aid children and one-parent families. Born in Yate, England, near Bristol, she now lives in Scotland with her husband, Neil Murray, and their three children. [Source]
Man, why am I always stuck going to the boring graduation ceremonies? I'm looking at possibly going to two of 'em this year (one for my little brother, one for Megan), and while I have no idea who their speakers are going to be, twenty bucks says they'll be totally snooze-worthy.
Well, we're finally seeing signs of life on the Yen Press/ICE Kunion front. Yen Press's webpage is UP, and it's full of Korean-manhwa goodness. Yes, dear readers: new volumes of Goong, Angel Diary, and Cynical Orange are coming soon (well, soon-ish) to a comic shop near you!
Sadly, nothing is coming out before July. I thought they were aiming for spring release dates, but, hey, better late than never, right?
Remember the adorable Yotsuba&! "Cardbo" doll we mentioned a few weeks ago? Well, click here to see how to turn it into this:
I want one.
In other Kiyohiko Azuma news, Yotsuba&! volume six is due out in late February, Revoltech has released their new-and-improved Yotsuba figurine (Behold! It comes with two heads, extra hands, a squirt gun, and an ice cream bar!), and I think I'm making progress on my quest to buy an Osaka screensaver.
Several months ago we were offered a pile of Austen-inspired novels from the fine people at Sourcebooks, Inc.. While all of the titles were entertaining, we were particularly impressed by Sybil G. Brinton's Old Friends and New Fancies (which we reviewed on the main site), Jane Dawkins's Letters From Pemberley, and Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary.
Jane Dawkins's Letters From Pemberley: The First Year is a continuation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and features a series of letters written by Elizabeth to her sister Jane. While the book touches lightly upon the difficulties Elizabeth faces during her swift social elevation as the new Mrs. Darcy, the bulk of novel is spent introducing a series of lightly-disguised characters, situations, and famous lines from Austen's other works.
Dawkins does a credible imitation of Austen's style, and paints a sweet picture of Elizabeth and Darcy's life together, but the best thing about Letters From Pemberley is her decision to borrow liberally from Austen's other books. Austenmania is a dangerous fandom to screw with*, and it's much smarter to appeal to our intellectual vanity ("Hey, she made Mr. Knightley into Mr. Daley! Heh. Man, I am, like, so smart...") than it is to have us foaming at the mouth over ill-advised tampering with our favorite book.
Like Pamela Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series, Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary re-tells Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy's point of view. It's always a little difficult for me to accept Mr. Darcy as hardcore diarist (let's face it: he's not exactly Mr. Self-Aware), but Grange does a nice job of illustrating the changes he undergoes during his courtship of Elizabeth.
While Grange makes a handful of unnecessary and unwelcome changes to her source material, including upping the toolishness of the younger Bennet girls*, she wisely doesn't linger over the several-month-long period during which Mr. Darcy is absent from Pride and Prejudice. (Aidan tried to fill this section by sending Darcy off on a bizarre Gothic adventure; Grange just bulldozes right through it, spending about as much time on the months between April and August as she does on Elizabeth's six-day visit to Derbyshire.) Mr. Darcy's Diary is far from perfect, but Grange's restrained writing style and obvious affection and respect for Austen's novel make her book an entertaining accompaniment to the original work.
(You know, it's very soothing, not having to get creative with my post titles.)
We're planning to review a number of Austen continuations this week, and Lord knows there's been a recent outpouring of Austen-inspired books*, but today we thought we'd introduce you to some of the earlier attempts to turn Austen-pillaging into a competitive sport. You'd probably be smarter to stick with Austen's original works (trust me, they stand up to a few thousand re-readings), reading a Georgette Heyer novel, or checking out one of the web's many Austen fanfic sites**, but, hey, if all else fails...
Joan Aiken wrote a number of books that were either continuations of or inspired by Austen's works. While most of these were forgettable or worse (Lady Catherine's Necklace), two were solid: 1984's Mansfield Revisited and 1997's Jane Fairfax. Both are worth hunting for at your local library.
Julia Barrett (the pseudonym of authors Gabrielle Donnelly and Julia Braun Kessler) is the author of three Austen continuations: The Third Sister, Presumption, and Charlotte. When I first read these books I thought they were terrible, but--having read several Austen continuations that are far worse--now I'm grading on a curve, and have since upgraded these to "Mediocre".
While I've read plenty of craptastic Austen continuations, Linda Berdoll's two R-rated efforts (Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife) take the absolutely unreadable cake. I'm all for spicing things up, but Berdoll's dim-witted, over-the-top bodice-ripping and questionable writing talent would have been better suited to a late-night cable version of Forever Amber.
[Click here for a list of additional Austen sequels/companion novels, organized by source book.]
*She practically has her own section at Target! **Hey, don't knock 'em until you've tried 'em. Some of them are excellent, and all of them are FREE.
It's my birthday this week (yes, all week), and Jane Austen is my favorite author, and American PBS stations are currently showing all those (mostly bad) Austen adaptations, and I have a pile of Austen spin-off novels to review, so I'm hereby declaring this "Austen Week" here at the ol' Wordcandy homestead.
Starting with these images of upcoming paperback editions--all of which are available for under five bucks:
I like 'em--they're pretty, colorful, and unusual (I get tired of tasteful images of antique portraits), but still totally appropriate. While the Pride and Prejudice edition is already out, you'll have to wait until early next month for the other two.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, we actually do have a reason to be posting this They Might Be Giants video--it's the theme song for the upcoming Jennifer Crusie collaboration Dogs and Goddesses.
Like The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, Dogs and Goddesses will be co-written by three authors: Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lani Diane Rich. (And no, Stuart and Crusie didn't kick previous co-writer Eileen Stuart to the curb; she just had other commitments.) Here's the book's description from their blog:
"Once upon a time, three writers decided to do a novel about three ordinary women who meet at a dog obedience class and discover they’re descended from ancient Mesopotamian priestesses and are, in fact, the embodiment of Lust, Chaos, and Ecstasy. Oh, and their ancestors served the ancient Mesopotamian Goddess of Life, Kammani Gula, whose sacred animal was the dog. And she’s just risen to save the world. In southern Ohio."
They're moving right along on this one--the first draft is already written, revised, and in the hands of their betas. I'd heave a sigh over the news that Crusie is writing another collaborative novel, instead of focusing on her infinitely superior solo work, but that just seems to encourage her, so I'm going to resist. You hear me, Crusie? I give up.
I've been tempted by a number of grim-looking books recently. They all seem to be creative and well-written, but there's no denying that they have a strong smell of "reading this book can only lead to misery and regret" to 'em:
Charles Burns' multiple-award-winning graphic novel Black Hole is set in mid-1970s Seattle, in a world where a sexually-transmitted plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers. The disease manifests itself in a variety of physical mutations--everything from minor changes to molting skin or a full-blown tail.
I don't care for Burns's artwork, but his story sounds fascinating. Still, am I up for a story that Publishers Weekly describes as a "nightmare [vision] of a world where intimacy means a life worse than death"?
According to its publisher, Michael Lowenthal's historical novel Charity Girl "examines one of the darkest periods in our history, when patriotic fervor and fear led to devastating consequences. During World War I, the U.S. government went on a moral and medical campaign, quarantining and incarcerating young women who were thought to have venereal diseases. Most were called "charity girls," or working-class girls who happened to have had relationships with infected men."
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? But I keep hearing it's brilliant...
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl is the author of the 2002 book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, an exploration of the ways successful armies adapt during conflicts for which they are initially unprepared. (The book is based on his doctoral dissertation from Oxford.) Nagl's book "compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 with what developed in the Vietnam War from 1950 to 1975".
Nagl helped develop the field manual the U.S. Army is currently using to combat insurgency in Iraq, and is credited with several of the reforms that have actually worked during the recent "Surge" (moving off large bases to live amongst the population, making the protection of civilians the military's top priority, etc.). By all accounts, he seems to be an incredibly intelligent and talented officer*, and I'm curious to read the book that's causing such a stir.
*Unfortunately, it was reported yesterday that he's leaving the army.
In a word: Bleh. I don't even like normal love triangles, and a two-bodies/three-souls one sounds more irritating than most.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, and her upcoming novel The Host doesn't look like it's going to change my mind. Check out the publisher's description:
"The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake.
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.
Wanderer, the invading 'soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time."
Heh. It's a romance novel for Scientologists!
Also, "one of the most compelling writers of our time"?!?! Please. She's the YA equivalent of Danielle Steel.
I appreciate that the Fug Girls need and totally deserve to be paid for their work, but... a book?
Nobody loves the Go Fug Yourself blog more than I do. I read it religiously*, but would I really be willing to spend twenty dollars for a book (even a brilliant, deliciously evil one) about celebrity fashion missteps? I don't think so. See, the thing about gossip blogging is that it's always current. We know it's okay to be making fun of Mischa Barton's freaky plaid diaper-style shorts or an Olsen twin for dressing up as the Winter Warlock, because if anything really terrible had happened to them everybody would find out. But it's less fun when you find out that the person you've been mocking is actually a total headcase (Britney Spears), and she's dressing like a crazy person because she IS a crazy person.
So I think I'll stick with the site, and just show my financial support for its creators by clicking on their advertisers. (Many of which are very cool, by the way.) That way, when we find out that Starlet A dresses like a loon because of her husband's perpetual infidelities, or that freaky-looking Musician B was hideously abused as a child, at least I won't have a $20 reminder on my bookshelf of all the times I laughed at them.
Philip Pullman continues to milk the His Dark Materials cash cow.
Here's the cover art for Philip Pullman's upcoming Once Upon a Time in the North:
Very... dignified-looking. Once Upon a Time in the North is a prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy, and focuses on the meeting of Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby. It's due out in April. Pullman is apparently planning one more book (a green one), which will feature Will.
Health economist Eric A. Finkelstein and business writer Laurie Zuckerman are the co-authors of The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It, a book that explores the economic impetus behind America’s obesity epidemic. The Fattening of America discusses the financial impacts of obesity on society, the economic incentives that encourage consumption of high-calorie foods, and the $49-billion-dollars-per-year weight loss industry. Finkelstein argues that while there's serious money being made from widespread obesity, employers, the government, and taxpayers are stuck paying for the epidemic's (considerable) costs.
The Fattening of America is not a weight-loss book, nor is it an exposé-style dissection of the food industry. Instead, it attempts to explain the economic factors behind our expanding waistlines—which means, unfortunately, that it features more than its fair share of graphs, statistics, and terms like “utility maximizing” and “adverse selection”. Finkelstein and Zuckerman are entertaining writers, and they’ve chosen a fascinating subject, but you might want to make yourself a cup of coffee before wading through the section on Market Failure, which kicks off with these scintillating lines:
“A market failure exists when the private sector cannot reach the optimal allocation of resources on its own. The optimal allocation occurs at the price where the amount of a product or service that consumers demand is equal to the amount that suppliers wish to provide....”
Finkelstein spices up the drier sections of his book with frequent references to his family. He ponders the economic factors that contributed to the obesity of his "Uncle Al" and "Cousin Carl", he shares the fact his father feels that his mother could “stand to lose a few pounds”, and he chats about his wife, making comments like “God forbid, [she] might have to get a job”, and marveling that she so rarely walks the half-mile to the grocery store. (Surprisingly, his wife, who stays at home with their three young children, isn’t jumping at the chance to take a mile-long stroll with three kids and few sacks of groceries! I know—I’m shocked, too!) These sections successfully personalize Finkelstein and Zuckerman’s theories, but one hopes the people involved are either A) highly fictionalized, or B) blessed with extremely forgiving natures.
We here at Wordcandy usually choose our books based on purely hedonistic impulses, but we have been known—very occasionally—to pick up the odd “improving” book. We frequently regret this impulse, but once in a great while we find ourselves reading something that's interesting, educational, and genuinely moving. Such was the case with David W. Blight’s A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation. Blight’s book features two previously undiscovered “slave narratives”. These (unconnected) first-person accounts were written by John M. Washington and Wallace Turnage, two men who escaped from slavery during the Civil War.
Both Turnage and Washington's memoirs were passed down through friends and family, and only recently came to light. Although there is no evidence they ever met, Turnage and Washington had some experiences in common: both were literate, ambitious, and intelligent, and the sons of enslaved mothers and white fathers. Wallace Turnage was a teenage field hand on an Alabama plantation, and escaped slavery only after suffering the consequences of four previous attempts, while John M. Washington was a young urban slave in Virginia, who fled to the Union army in 1862. Both married, had children, and ended their lives in the North.
Blight prefaces Turnage and Washington's accounts with a lengthy introductory essay—one that frames their stories and offers an intriguing, nuanced picture of the difficulties faced by slaves during and after the Civil War. While Turner and Washington's extraordinary personal narratives are obviously the star attractions of A Slave No More, the book would be worth reading for Blight's excellent, informative, thoroughly researched introduction alone.
It's a Yotsuba&! "Cardbo" action figure!!! Isn't it adorable? It's twenty bucks (ouch), and it's not out until February, and, okay, I'm a little old to be playing with dolls, but that thing is freakishly cute!
Maybe I'll settle for making that top photo my desktop image....
I'm not sure whether I'm more excited or horrified by this news:
'Ladies and gentlemen, the next huge sci-fi franchise has a director. During an interview with "The Kingdom" director Peter Berg, he confirmed the rumor that "Dune" is coming and that he's the one that will helm it. Calling the plans for him to direct "a done deal," Berg told me that "if it weren't for the writer's strike, we'd be in it right now."
Berg says that while there's no script yet, they have a list of writers they plan to go out to once the strike settles. The helmer called himself "a huge fan of the book" and when asked about the scale of the film, he simply replied, "big big big."
As any fan of the Frank Herbert classic knows, "Dune" received the big screen treatment once before in a divisive David Lynch film. Berg said that while he's "a big fan of Lynch," he believes “that interpretation has left the door wide open for a remake."' [Source]
I admit it: there's a special place in my heart for Lynch's delicously campy 1984 version of Frank Herbert's novel. A new movie couldn't possibly be worse, could it? I mean, unless they cast Zac Efron as Paul...
And speaking of new and improved cover art, somebody has FINALLY done a makeover on L.M. Montgomery's novels. Behold the New Canadian Library's versions of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon:
Not exactly mind-blowing, but I think everyone will agree they're an improvement over these:
Unfortunately, they only seem to be offering books from these two series, and American readers probably need to special-order them from a Canadian bookstore. So we're still stuck waiting for an American publisher to give all of Montgomery's books a much-needed facelift... but this is definitely a step in the right direction!
I'm normally a little irritated when a paperback author re-releases previously-inexpensive older material in new, pricier editions. (See: Meg Cabot, whose The Boy Next Door was previously available for FREE on her website, and Nora Roberts, who's re-released a zillion of her old standalone titles in new hardcover editions.) Still, I can forgive a lot when the author in question is Jennifer Crusie, and even more when the hardcover in question is as pretty as this one:
I don't like the font they used for the title, but I love everything else. Plus, it's only $16.95 (less online), which isn't TOO bad for a hardback.
A New Year's Day chat reminded me that I hadn't already posted this:
"Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, as he announced yesterday with a post to the web. The best-selling author of the Discworld fantasy books is 59 years-old.
"I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news," Pratchett wrote on the web site run by Paul Kidby, who has provided Discworld cover art in recent years. "We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism."
According to The Guardian, Pratchett underwent some medical tests earlier this year after "having problems with hand-eye coordination and dexterity." At the time, it was suggested that he'd had a mild stroke, but Pratchett now says the culprit was Alzheimer's.
Pratchett calls his diagnosis "an embuggerance," but he says that he expects "to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments." He aims to complete his next novel, "Nation," and is beginning to lay down notes for another, "Unseen Academicals."
"Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet," Prachett wrote.
"Nation" and "Unseen Academicals" are not part of the Discworld series. The latest Discworld instalment, "Making Money," arrived earlier this year. In all, Pratchett has sold 55 million books, according to The Guardian, and in 1998, he was awarded an OBE for services to British Literature.
After announcing his diagnosis, Pratchett added a post script: "I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say 'Is there anything I can do,' but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry."" [Source]
Well, we're not making any offers of help, but our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Pratchett and his family--and, indeed, to anyone suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. It's a devastating disease, and we're so impressed to see that Pratchett is handling it with his customary wit and good-humor.
And here’s the flip side to yesterday’s list: the top ten literary events we’re anticipating in 2008. Happy New Year, dear readers!
1. 2008 is the year that disappointed ICE Kunion readers will finally find closure, as Yen Press promises to restart their abandoned titles sometime this spring. We’re also looking forward to several Tokyopop releases, including Gakuen Alice and I Wish.
2. There’s going to be some great titles coming out for kids. Meg Cabot (who’s moving to a new publisher) has a new series aimed at the 9-12 set, and we’re really excited about Wendelin Van Draanen’s new standalone title, Confessions of a Serial Kisser.
3. Sourcebooks is releasing several more Georgette Heyer titles. False Colours, Lady of Quality, Black Sheep, and Friday’s Child should all be out before June, as well as a few of her non-Regency romances. We’d really like to see some of her mysteries being reprinted, too, but, hey, we’ll take what we can get.
4. There are several literary film adaptations coming out that we’re looking forward to. See, Hollywood is finally focusing on source material that we totally don’t care about, which makes us much less picky. We are already planning to shell out our hard-earned cash for The Spiderwick Chronicles, Prince Caspian, and Speed Racer. (We admit it—we might even seen Speed Racer opening night.)
5. ...on the other hand, chances are good we’ll end up foaming at the mouth over the BBC’s upcoming adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.
6. 2008 looks to be a good year for romance novels, including at least two more Lisa Kleypas titles and the conclusion of Nora Roberts’s Sign of Seven trilogy. If we’re really lucky, we’ll see another standalone title from Jennifer Crusie this year (at the very least, we should see a due date for one).
7. We’ve been hearing a lot about Novala Takemoto’s Kamikaze Girls (an enormously successful 2002 novel that was turned into both a manga and a film), and American audiences will finally be able to get their hands on a translation—Viz Media’s version will be out this month.
8. Fans of mysteries featuring “re-imagined” literary figures will have plenty of options—Gyles Daubeney Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance and Laura Joh Rowland’s The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte will both be out this winter.
9. A House of Many Ways, the sequel to Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, will be out in June. And if Ms. Jones is feeling really generous, we hear there might be another Chrestomanci book coming out, too!
10. And, last but definitely not least, the final volume of the wonderfully bizarre, profoundly romantic manga Tramps Like Us will be out on February 13th. Once we have our hands on the complete series, we’re planning to make everyone we know read it. NO ONE IS SAFE.