Monday, March 31, 2008

The Once and Future Sweet Valley High

I would like to think that this is an April Fools' joke, but, sadly, it's still March.

With typical elegance and restraint, Gawker is reporting that the Sweet Valley High books have been updated. (See: "Random House Proudly Promoting Eating Disorders".) According to the linked memo, Random House has given the blonde, beautiful, unlucky-in-love Wakefield twins a full 21st century makeover. Elizabeth is now a blogger and the editor of her school's website, the twins drive a Jeep Wranger (wouldn't socially responsible Elizabeth drive something a little more fuel-efficient?), and both girls are now thinner: they've been updated from a grotesquely fat "perfect size 6" to a much more reasonable "perfect size 4".

While the size four thing is totally gross, I think the Gawker headline is unfair. Random House is trying to promote a series that was actually pretty wholesome: the original Sweet Valley High books were like a PG-rated soap opera. They were plenty stupid, but they didn't have the meaningless sex, rampant brand-whoring, or extreme social backstabbing so prevalent in today's Gossip Girl-influenced publishing industry. I'm not saying I approve of the choices Random House has made, but I'm reserving judgment... at least until Jessica (now a full-blown alcoholic) gets drunk and sleeps with Elizabeth's boyfriend, and Elizabeth gets her revenge by publishing X-rated pictures of Jessica on her blog. If that happens, Gawker can write whatever they want with my full support.

[Via BuzzSugar]

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Sakura-Con 2008

Forgive the short blog post today, dear readers, but I'm heading to Sakura-Con, the big Northwest anime/manga convention. So if any of you happen to be attending, and you see a tall, confused-looking blonde woman wandering the perimeter of the Washington State Convention Center, please point her in the direction of the front door.

(Uh... not like anything like this has ever happened to me.)

We'll be back on Monday with a full report of the festival goings-on!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Upward Spiral

When Mary Street’s The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy was first published in the U.K. in 1999, it looked like this:

Now, almost ten years later, it is finally being published in the United States. The new edition from Penguin looks like this:

Quite a step up, huh? The new version is a much better fit for Street’s novel, which is one of the best Pride and Prejudice-inspired titles I have ever read. Unlike many of the novels that have re-told Austen’s story from Darcy’s point of view, Ms. Street’s novel is G-rated, well-written, and sticks closely to the Pride and Prejudice storyline. (Unlike some people, Ms. Street obviously understands that most readers are only mildly interested in a creative interpretation of what Darcy does during the time he is absent from the original novel.)

The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy has its flaws: Street’s attempt to imitate Austen’s style results in a lot of strange grammar choices, and her vision of Mr. Darcy as a man of overpowering-but-ruthlessly-suppressed passion gets a little silly. (He’s like a pot about to boil over, all of the time.) Still, Ms. Street’s novel is extremely entertaining, and American readers should be delighted that this well-written Austen tribute is now available—and with such respectable cover art.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Downward spiral

We're a little behind on the calendar, so I was surprised to learn that Kelley Armstrong's new book Personal Demon is already out... and I was even more surprised to learn that this is the cover:

A babe in a vinyl dress, fondling a gargoyle? What on earth were they THINKING? Kelley Armstrong's old covers all looked more or less like this. Don't covers usually get more tasteful as the author becomes better known, rather than tackier?

Note: On the upside, I hear she's about to come out with a young adult series, which I am totally stoked to see!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I will undoubtedly regret watching this, but at least it's free.

PBS's The Complete Jane Austen is concluding with the only Austen adaptation I haven't already watched on YouTube: the 2008 TV miniseries version of Sense and Sensibility, adapted by screenwriter Andrew Davies*. Sense and Sensibility is my least-favorite Austen novel, but I'm sure I'll end up recording it. Click here to watch a scene from the film, which will air on March 30th and April 6th.

*Which means DANGER, dear readers. While Davies has done some solid work, he is also responsible for the 2007 TV adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel A Room With a View, which went ahead and invented an unhappy ending! Seriously, who would do something like that? Is he going to make up a new final scene for Sense and Sensibility featuring both sisters dying in childbirth?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

ADV falls off the wagon (again)

We're hearing distressing rumors that ADV is once again in financial difficulties, which means that we'll have to wait even longer to get our hands on the sixth volume of Yotsuba&!.

The original release date was late February, but that obviously didn't happen. Hopefully this rough patch is resolved quickly--nobody wants this series to take another two-year break!

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Friday, March 21, 2008


The trailer for the film adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novel Wanted is out:

Huh. Adorable James MacAvoy seems miscast as a budding supervillain (particularly one who was orginally modeled on Eminem, or so Wikipedia informs me), and I'm getting awfully tired of seeing Angelina Jolie in these roles. Can't anybody else play a pouty, gun-toting, morally ambigious femme fatale? Sure, she looks the part, but now that she's all U.N. ambassador/super-mom, watching her play Lara Croft's evil twin is a little weird.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

L.J. Smith returns

In unexpected (but awesome!) news, fantasy writer L.J. Smith has returned from a decade-long absence. The only signs of life we've seen from Ms. Smith since 1998 have been the recent re-releases of her Vampire Diaries series, but all of a sudden she has a brand-spanking-new website overflowing with info. She talks about more re-releases, the possibility of new installments in both her Game series and the Vampire Diaries books, and the long, long awaited final volume of her Night World series. The site also explains what happened during her break (she was preoccupied by some terrible family illnesses), and offers several short stories and story-inspired art pieces.

Note: I was less than impressed, however, by the image on her intro page. As I am no longer nine years old, I can't imagine wanting to be pictured cuddling up to a unicorn, but to each her own, right? I can accept that famous fantasy writers have different tastes! But... well, does anybody else think that the unicorn's horn is lopsided? Because I think it looks like the horn is growing directly above its left eyebrow.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Freeing Tibet

The BBC/NPR program The World aired an interview with novelist Eliot Pattison yesterday as part of a series of stories on the recent unrest in Tibet. I've never read one of Pattison's mysteries, but I'm definitely going to pick one up. Doesn’t a book about a disgraced Chinese inspector breaking rocks in a Tibetan gulag sound like it would make a great addition to my Easter basket?

However, thanks to my recent obsession with the book Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis, I am extremely pessimistic about American efforts to stop Chinese human rights abuses. As long as we owe the Chinese boatloads of money—and by "boatloads" I mean "hundreds of billions of dollars"—they have no particular reason to listen to us about human rights abuses*. So if you’re truly interested in doing something to support the Tibetans, you might want to slap a “Pay back the Chinese!” bumper sticker next to that “Free Tibet!” one....

*Well, other than the fact that they want good press for the Beijing Olympics.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Penderwicks

I have long avoided reading Jeanne Birdsall's National Book Award-winning The Penderwicks, mostly because of its tastefully retro cover (which I felt was shamelessly derivative of the silhouette illustrations in The Boxcar Children), but also because its air of overwhelming wholesomeness. But when the fourth child of my acquaintance assured me Birdsall’s story was awesome, I decided it was probably time to give her book a shot.

It turns out I should have listened to the first three kids, because The Penderwicks is adorable—nostalgic but not stuffy, sweet but not sappy. It’s the story of the four Penderwick sisters, who spend the end of their summer vacation in a cottage on a beautiful estate in the Berkshire Mountains. The girls befriend the owner’s son, Jeffrey, and they spend three adventure-filled weeks together. Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s mother disapproves of his new companions, and every encounter with the boisterous Penderwick family makes her even more determined to ship her son off to the Pencey Military Academy....

I finished The Penderwicks yesterday, and I’m planning to start on the sequel this afternoon. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (due out April 8th) deals with an edgier topic: the girls are horrified when, four years after their mother’s death, Mr. Penderwick starts dating again. I’m not sure if the old-fashioned charm of Birdsall's writing will translate to more modern subject matter, but I’m eager to find out.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Hana Yori Dango Version 3.0

While reading the excellent Dramabeans blog, I was delighted to see that there's going to be a K-drama adaptation of the cheese-tastic shojo manga Hana Yori Dango. I enjoyed the recent Japanese version*, and I tried to watch the Taiwanese version, but I prefer Korean dramas. (Japanese dramas are too short, and Taiwanese ones are too long. K-dramas are just right.)

Hana Yori Dango, for the six or so manga fans out there who've never heard of it, is the story of Makino Tsukushi, a poor, hardworking girl who gets into an ultra-elite school on scholarship. She does her best to lay low, but when she angers an insanely wealthy, powerful classmate, she becomes the target of a school-wide attack. It doesn't take too long for her chief tormentor to forgive her (and--shocker!--fall in love with her), but poor Makino still spends the next zillion volumes surviving physical attacks, thwarted admirers, and evil plots to steal her boyfriend/social position/maidenly virtue. The series is the soapiest story on God's green earth, and I'm totally excited to see what Korean TV will do with it.

*Well, I enjoyed the first season. I tried watching the second, but I was really turned off by the scene where the heroine is threatened by a group of black guys in NYC.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books are an action-adventure/science fiction series featuring a group of genetically engineered bird-human children. There are currently three books in the series*, and each one is more entertaining—and ridiculously farfetched—than the last.

By the third book in the series, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, Patterson’s heroine has endured a lot. She’s been tortured, betrayed, and captured (several times), she’s got a tracking chip in her arm and a mysterious voice in her head, and her “flock” of fellow bird-children is getting a little tired of life on the run. Unfortunately, things are about to get even worse: the kids discover that the scientists who created them are now planning to re-engineer a handful of people into a genetically enhanced master race… and destroy the rest of humanity!(!!!)

[Cue maniacal laughter.]

I recently gave the Maximum Ride books to a teenage friend of the family, and she absolutely loved them. It didn’t bother her at all that Patterson’s series is full of gaping plot holes, implausible characters, and ridiculous dialogue stolen straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. All she noticed was that the books were fast-paced, quip-filled, over-the-top fun—and let’s face it: sometimes we’re all in the market for a little mindless entertainment. So if you’re heading to the beach, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or stuck in an airport, we encourage you to pick up this series, set your expectations on “Low”, and enjoy accordingly.

*The fourth book in the series, The Final Warning, comes out this month.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Fug Girls are at Powell's

Well, kinda. Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, creators of GoFugYourself are the guest bloggers this week for Sadly, they haven't talked much about books at this point (although references have been made to the Sweet Valley High books, Eat, Pray, Love, and the Ballet Shoes series), but the week is still young. Click here for their posts.

P.S. Unless this is some kind of bizarre stunt (like Paris Hilton running around with that fake monk dude), they are going to make the last Harry Potter book into two movies. Man, I cannot believe I'm going to have to pay for two $%@!) tickets to see the film adaptation of book I don't even like.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

I've been hearing good things about the just-released movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day--including that it was based on a very sweet, funny British novel written in 1938. So I looked it up, but it seems that the only copy available here in the U.S. won't be out until July. I'm looking forward to reading it, although I'm still confused as to why they didn't rush the release date a little. (Strike while the iron is hot, people! Unless July is the DVD release date...) Here's the publisher's description:
"Miss Pettigrew is about a governess sent by an employment agency to the wrong address, where she encounters a glamorous night-club singer, Miss LaFosse.'The sheer fun, the light-heartedness' in this wonderful 1938 book 'feels closer to a Fred Astaire film than anything else' comments the Preface-writer Henrietta Twycross-Martin, who found Miss Pettigrew for Persephone Books. The Guardian asked: 'Why has it taken more than half a century for this wonderful flight of humour to be rediscovered?' while the Daily Mail liked the book's message - 'that everyone, no matter how poor or prim or neglected, has a second chance to blossom in the world.' Maureen Lipman wrote in 'Books of the Year' in the Guardian: 'Perhaps the most pleasure has come from Persephone's enchanting reprints, particularly Miss Pettigrew, a fairy story set in 1930s London'; and she herself entertained R4 listeners with her five-part reading. And in The Shops India Knight called Miss Pettigrew 'the sweetest grown-up book in the world'." [Source]
Sounds promising, doesn't it? Meanwhile, I suppose I'll have to shell out the price of the movie ticket:

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sisters Grimm #6: Tales from the Hood

(Have I mentioned how much I hate the whole Daylight Savings spring time change? Because, seriously: my brain feels like it's going to melt.)

I can't believe this slipped past me, but Michael Buckley's sixth Sisters Grimm book is almost out. Tales from the Hood will be released on May 2nd, and Amulet has already posted the cover art and synopsis:

"The Grimms defend Mr. Canis in Ferryport Landing’s trial of the century!

This book sees Mr. Canis, dear friend and protector of the Grimm family, put on trial for past crimes. Considering that he’s really the Big Bad Wolf, he has a lot to answer for. Is there any truth to the story told by Little Red Riding Hood? What’s the deal with all that huffing and puffing? Will Mr. Canis be forced to answer for his crimes?

A kangaroo court of Everafters, led by the cruel Queen of Hearts, is determined to find Canis guilty and force the Grimms out of Ferryport Landing. Meanwhile, Puck has decided to focus more on his mischievous ways, making a few new troublemaker friends. So it’s up to Sabrina and Daphne to find evidence to save Canis—and their investigation may reveal more than they hoped."
I look forward to reading it... but now I'm going to take a little nap.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Bone: the movie

Meg sent me this link over the weekend. Apparently, Warner Bros. has bought the movie rights to Jeff Smith's Bone.

See, a Bone movie would only work for me if they got the people who make Wallace and Gromit to put it together. I can't think of anyone who could handle the series' unique mix of goofiness and dignity better. Unfortunately, this film is going to be produced by Dan Lin. You know what his credits include? Scooby-Doo 2, the new 10,000 BC movie, and the recent (and no doubt immortal) film version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

So... yeah, my hopes aren't high.

P.S. I finally read the first issue of Smith's Rasl. Totally different from Bone, but a very intriguing start.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Georgette Heyer rides again!

Much to my delight, Sourcebooks, Inc. is continuing to release beautiful paperback editions of Georgette Heyer novels. Their most recent publication, False Colours, isn’t her best work, but even an average Heyer novel is cause for celebration.

False Colours opens as Kit Fancot, on leave from the diplomatic service, decides to pay a surprise visit to his family in London—and is promptly confronted with a laundry-list of disasters: his flighty twin brother Evelyn has disappeared; his lovely, extravagant mother’s creditors are pressing her for payments she is wholly unable to make; and the family’s security and good name hinge upon Evelyn’s marriage to heiress Cressy Stavely. Unfortunately, the betrothal requires the approval of Cressy’s domineering grandmother, who has demanded Evelyn’s presence at a large, formal party the following evening.

Against his better judgment, Kit’s mother convinces him to pretend to be Evelyn, assuring him that the masquerade will only last for one night. The deception leads to a complicated comedy of errors—and things get even more convoluted when Kit discovers that quiet, poised Cressy is exactly the kind of girl he has always dreamed of marrying....

False Colours doesn’t even make my top-five list of Heyer titles*, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome—it’s just a sign of how great her work can be. This witty, light-hearted novel features an engaging romance and a collection of memorable secondary characters (including the immortal Sir Bonamy Ripple). Longstanding Heyer fans will be thrilled to see that Sourcebooks has made this book available again, and if you’ve never read a Heyer novel, False Colours would be an excellent place to start.

*Cotillion, The Unknown Ajax, The Grand Sophy, Sylvester, and A Civil Contract, in case you’re wondering.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Amazon takes one for the team

As most of you probably know, Amazon purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at a Sotheby’s auction. The purchase price (of £1,950,000!!!) was donated to The Children's Voice campaign, a charity Rowling co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of five wizarding fairy tales, and is referenced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's 157 pages long, illustrated and handwritten by Rowling, bound in Moroccan leather, and embellished with sterling silver ornaments and moonstones. Amazon's copy is one of only seven in existence. Amazon has created a website to share images of the book and detailed summaries of the short stories: click here to see more.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Help Jennifer Colt (or somebody else) land a Penguin contract

I got this e-mail from beloved Wordcandy author Jennifer Colt yesterday:

Dear Friends,

I entered my unpublished McAfee Twins manuscript The Hellraiser of the Hollywood Hills in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards—and the Grand Prize is a publishing contract with Penguin Books. They narrowed it down from 5,000 entries representing 20 countries, and I made it into the top 10!! Now it's a popularity contest -- the entry with the most votes from the public wins.

That's where I could use your help. I would really appreciate your vote. Here’s how to do it:

1) Click on this link to my Amazon page.

2) Click on Read the First Four Chapters link next to my picture and download the excerpt.

3) Read the excerpt (or not—you can always fake it).

4) Backpage to the page where you started out. Down at the very bottom of the page it says, "Share your thoughts with other customers" next to a "create your own review" button. Click on the button to be taken to the review page.

5) Fill in a title of the review, rate it with 4 or 5 stars (a rating of 3 or below doesn't count), type a few words in the box about how entertaining/riveting/original it is, and...

6) VOILA! Mama gets a new publisher.

Thanks for your help, and please pass this on to anyone who might want to help a struggling writer (oops, I meant "emerging novelist").


-Jennifer Colt

This is the homepage for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. We encourage everybody to check out the free excerpt from The Hellraiser of the Hollywood Hills (or any of the other titles that tickle your fancy) and let Amazon know your thoughts!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hogfather: the movie

We are happy to report that the Sky One made-for-TV movie adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel Hogfather is finally available here in the U.S. This unique holiday story (Hogfather, the Discworld version of Santa, goes missing, and Death is forced to take his place) is obviously meant for December viewing, but why limit ourselves? Pratchett stories are always in season.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


Lynsay Sands is a fun writer, and her Argeneau Vampire series is totally cute. (Seriously—pleasant, non-violent, Canadian vampires! They're adorable!) Unfortunately, I'm seeing a disturbing trend here:

This came out in early 2004. Sands's books are pretty cartoonish, so this seems like a good fit for the series:

And then this came out in late 2005. I'm not crazy about the more dramatic look, but the book's kind of working it. (Although... is that guy wearing blush?):

And then this just came out this year. Frankly, I am appalled:

What happened? Even I, seasoned romance-novel-purchaser that I am, would hesitate to bring this up to the counter. What's up with that guy's HAIR? (Are we supposed to find that greasy-looking mullet attractive?) And that pose is ridiculous—the couple looks like they're posing for one of those advertisements for sexual instructional videos you see in the back pages of women's health magazines.

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