Last-minute book-inspired costume ideas for the truly lazy (Part I)
Let's start with the kids, shall we?
Pre-Hogwarts Harry Potter: This one couldn't be easier, less expensive, or more cold-weather-friendly. Dress your kid in oversized, shabby clothes, slap some tape on a pair of non-prescription glasses, draw the scar, and you're done.
Nancy Drew: A red wig or red-tinted hair spray, a flashlight, and a magnifying glass. (Bonus points for a shirtwaist-style dress, but it's totally not necessary.)
Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes: Some serious hair gel to achieve that unique Calvin coiffure, a striped t-shirt, a stuffed tiger, and you're golden!
I know Michael Buckley is probably hard at work on that Sisters Grimm movie, and I hate to whine about a mere one-year waiting period between books (okay, that's a total lie), but I really wish the man would either A) produce a new book every six months, or B) lay off the evil cliffhangers.
Anyway, it's still about half a year away, but we finally have some details about the seventh Sisters Grimm book, The Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War, including cover art and a plot summary:
"Picking up after the dramatic cliffhanger that ended Book Six, Sabrina and Daphne’s prayers are finally answered when their parents awake from their sleeping spell. But their happy reunion is short-lived, as they are caught in the middle of a war between the Scarlet Hand and Prince Charming’s Everafter army. As the family works to help the prince’s ragtag group of rebels and protect their friends, Sabrina comes face-to-face with the family’s deadliest enemy—the mysterious Master—who reveals a secret so shocking it will rock the entire family to its core."
Another famous fantasy series I've never heard of is getting the LoTR treatment.
According to the Powell's Books blog, Deryni Rising, the first book in a "classic sci-fi series" written by Katherine Kurtz, is on its way to the big screen. I'd never heard of this author or this series, but five minutes' research has produced the following info:
1. The Deryni novels are historical fantasy.
2. The first novel in the series (Deryni Rising) was published in 1970, and the most recent novel (Childe Morgan) was published in 2006.
3. As of 2007, this series consists of five trilogies (one of which is not yet completed), one standalone novel, two collections of short stories, and two reference books.
I also now know more about Ireland's policy of not taxing book royalties, (a policy which the American-born Ms. Kurtz appears to have taken advantage of). Thanks, Wikipedia!
If you have a strict "try before you buy" approach to first time authors, please note that Silver author Edward Chupack has also written a few humorous essays on politics and piracy, available for free here.
Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder, a novel by Edward Chupack
Something about the fictional pirate Long John Silver seems to inspire absolutely fantastic titles. First there was Björn Larsson's Long John Silver: the True and Eventful History of My Life of Liberty and Adventure As a Gentleman of Fortune and Enemy to Mankind, an “autobiography” featuring the character, and now there’s Edward Chupack’s Silver: My Own Tale As Told By Me With A Goodly Amount Of Murder.
They both just roll off the tongue, don’t they?
As Chupack’s story opens, the infamous pirate Long John Silver is being held captive on his own ship, en route to his execution in England. He begins to record his memoirs, beginning with his boyhood as a nameless street urchin, tracing his rise through the pirate heirarchy under the command of Black John, and ending with his eventual capture by an unexpected adversary. Silver sprinkles encrypted clues about his hidden treasure throughout his narrative, hoping to tantalize his captor into releasing him. His account presents a very different view of the events in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island—but fans of the original book shouldn’t worry: Chupack manages to pack plenty of plundering, cannibalism, and murder into his 272 pages.
Readers will need some familiarity with Treasure Island in order to make sense of this alternate history, as Chupack is obviously more interested in exploring Silver’s voice and showing off his own cryptology skills than in coherently connecting the dots between his characters, their motivations, and the book’s many action sequences. Happily, his vision of Silver as a hugely charismatic (and slightly deranged) Scheherazade is compelling enough to carry the novel, despite a few awkward passages.
Tony Hillerman, author of the excellent Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, died of pulmonary failure yesterday. He was 83, and had been in poor health for several years.
Lots of contest news this week, huh? But this one looked too good to pass up...
Hyperion is giving away a $1,000 shopping spree and lunch with Blue Bloods author Melissa de la Cruz. Admittedly, a thousand bucks would probably only buy, like, one of the outfits featured in Ms. de la Cruz's novels, but this shopping spree will happen in the winner's hometown, so unless your hometown is Neiman Marcus, you're probably golden.
Barnes and Noble takes on furniture, with meh-inducing results.
Has anybody else checked out B&N's new "Home" section? Frankly, I would think that a bookseller would offer a more practical book storage solution than this:
On the other hand, I did kind of like some of their lamps:
B&N is currently running a 20% off of one item sale, so if you're tempted by either one of these pieces, you might want to buy it now, seeing as they're a little expensive otherwise. ($152 for the lamp, $119 for the bookshelf, before online discounts and sale price.)
I heard about New York's "Cringe" gatherings on NPR about a year ago, but I've never been lucky enough to attend one (and, seeing as I'm something of a delicate flower, that's probably just as well). These events feature ordinary, adult New Yorkers reading aloud from their teenage diaries—and the more cringe-worthy the entry, the better. Show creator Sarah Brown and the fine people at Random House have joined forces to reproduce some of the, er, “best” entries in book form:
According to the Random House's book site, the book features poetry:
"I lumber like the sad clown with the hope that my performance might make you smile. Yet I am a flickering star over a cloudy sky."
And pep talks:
"OK. It’s the end of February. No more kidding around! You have to go out with someone! You haven’t gone out with someone since the summer! At least fool around with someone!" Come on! You’ve got it in ya!"
Aaaand deep teenage reflection:
"My mom is madly in love with her boyfriend. . . . Cool! He’s so rich . . . I could get a lot out of this— vacations, a car—if he buys my mom one + she gives me hers—psyche!"
The Willamette Week's blog has posted some images of the proposed addition to Powell's Books' Burnside store in downtown Portland, OR. It's tough for me to visualize the finished project based on these plans, but it looks like they're trying to keep the soul of that old wraparound marquee!
"Spain—On the Road Again", or: "The Insufferably Smug Take a Road Trip"
I finally caught an episode of Spain—On the Road Again, the PBS food/travel TV series featuring cookbook authors Mario Batali and Mark Bittman and actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols. Unfortunately, it was profoundly irritating.
I've never been a Paltrow fan—she appears to ooze self-satisfaction from every pore—but I was surprised by how obnoxious I found Batali, Bittman, and the show's central premise. If this show is supposed to be a serious production, did these celebrated authors really need the infinitely hotter and younger travel buddies? And if the hotter, younger travel buddies were absolutely necessary, couldn't they include a middle-aged female chef accompanied by a beautiful young man, thereby allowing the objectification to work both ways? (Like, Sara Moulton could travel with Diego Luna. I'd totally watch that.) As it is, I felt like I was watching a midlife crisis packaged as a travelogue.
I know I've complained in the past about Meg Cabot milking her series for all they're worth, but this idea is straight-up awesome:
Ransom My Heart is a historical romance "written" by Princess Mia Thermopolis, the heroine of Cabot's immensely popular Princess Diaries books. (Cabot gets a "with help from" credit.) Amazon has already posted the summary:
He's a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She's an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister's dowry, and fast. Hugo Fitzstephen, returning home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, has money, and lots of it. What could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom?
Well, for starters, Finnula could make the terrible mistake of falling in love with her hostage.
And in keeping with Princess Mia Thermopolis's longstanding interest in environmental issues, Cabot will be donating her advance to Greenpeace. The book is due out in early January.
Finnula? Hugo Fitzstephen? I take back at least 25% of those complaints, Ms. Cabot. My hat is off to you.
Forbidden Planet is currently giving away two sets of Penguin UK's gorgeous new reprints of sci-fi author (The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, etc.) John Wyndham's classic novels. Click here for details—and hurry, because this giveaway wraps up next Sunday and these editions don't seem to be available in the US.
I managed to catch today's installment of The Writer's Almanac, which reminded me that today was French poet Arthur Rimbaud's birthday. Now, normally I dismiss the Symbolist poets as a bunch of whiny, melodramatic babies... but, to give Rimbaud his due, he actually was a baby—a child prodigy whose literary career began at 16, and ended at 21, after his affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine* went south. The poor kid probably couldn't help writing poetry like this:
A Season in Hell
Once, if my memory serves me well, my life was a banquet where every heart revealed itself, where every wine flowed.
One evening I took Beauty in my arms—and I thought her bitter—and I insulted her.
I steeled myself against justice.
I fled. O witches, O misery, O hate, my treasure was left in your care...
I have withered within me all human hope. With the silent leap of a sullen beast, I have downed and strangled every joy.
I have called for executioners; I want to perish chewing on their gun butts. I have called for plagues, to suffocate in sand and blood. Unhappiness has been my god. I have lain down in the mud, and dried myself off in the crime-infested air. I have played the fool to the point of madness.
And springtime brought me the frightful laugh of an idiot.
Now recently, when I found myself ready to croak! I thought to seek the key to the banquet of old, where I might find an appetite again.
That key is Charity. (This idea proves I was dreaming!)
"You will stay a hyena, etc....," shouts the demon who once crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Seek death with all your desires, and all selfishness, and all the Seven Deadly Sins."
Ah, I've taken too much of that; still, dear Satan, don't look so annoyed, I beg you! And while waiting for a few belated cowardices, since you value in a writer all lack of descriptive or didactic flair, I pass you these few foul pages from the diary of a Damned Soul.
Wow! I bet his birthday parties were nothing but fun, don't you?
*An alcohol-and-drug-addicted pedophile who began his affair with Rimbaud while his seventeen-year-old wife was heavily pregnant.
Humpty Dumpty Jr.: Hardboiled Detective, by Nate Evans, Paul Hindman, and Vince Evans
There’s a certain age—say, six to eight—at which most young boys really enjoy books about mucus, leaking diapers, and/or questionable odors. Unfortunately, few authors (Dav Pilkey aside) appear to share these tastes, leaving these readers high and dry until they’re old enough for Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Happily, authors and illustrators Nate Evans, Paul Hindman, and Vince Evans have stepped in to help fill the void. Their Humpty Dumpty Jr: Hardboiled Detective series has everything a seven-year-old boy could wish for: explosions, magic, sword fighting, mysteries, puns, and more gross-out humor than you can shake a stick at.
The first book in the series, The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop, kicks off when Private Investigator Humpty Dumpty Jr. receives a frantic call for help from his friend Patty Cake, owner of New Yolk’s famous Pat-a-Cake Bakery. Humpty rushes to her side, but arrives too late—she’s been kidnapped! With a list of suspects that includes rival baker Mr. Crinkles, the Knave of Hearts, and the bitter, fresh-out-of jail hoodlum "Johnny" Cakes, Humpty wonders if he’ll ever find his friend again.
By the start of the second book, The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost, Patty has been recovered and Humpty has accepted former street kid Rat as his new sidekick. Rat is less than thrilled to discover that Humpty and Patty intend to enroll him in school—but classes get much more exciting when he signs up at Merlin’s Institute for the Knowledge of Everything and discovers he might be the reincarnation of King Arthur....
Normally, Wordcandy donates any review copies we don’t want for our personal collections to our local public library (which in turn sells them at their used book sales), but I’m hanging on to these two books to give to my brother’s girlfriend, who manages a before-and-after school program at a low-income elementary school in Seattle. She has a lot of small boys to entertain, and I’m 100% certain that Evans, Hindman, and Evans’s cheerfully silly series will go over big with the first- and second-grade crowd.
Wordcandy favorite Terry Pratchett has written another essay about his ongoing battle with "posterior cortical atrophy", a rare form of Alzheimer’s--a depressing subject, but one he continues to handle with tremendous grace.
Once again they have announced the finalists for the National Book Awards, and once again, despite spending the entire freaking year reading and reviewing books, I haven't read a single featured title. The last time I actually read a NBA-approved book? Yeah, that would be 2005's The Penderwicks.
Slate has a great slide show up about kids' books set during tough financial times. They skipped a lot of my favorites (Mama's Bank Account, about an immigrant Norwegian family in San Francisco in the early twentieth century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes), but they did include some great titles--everything from Margaret Sidney's Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to Beverly Cleary's Ramona and her Father.
Reviews of the current City of Ember movie have been mixed, but I'm less concerned by complaints regarding Bill Murray's smirking and some amateurish acting than I am by the addition [SPOILER!] of what this review describes as a mole the size of a Mini Cooper, boasting "moist phallic tentacles, [appearing] to embody preadolescent sexual anxiety".
And according to an article in The Australian, McCullogh's novel is quite the potboiler:
Mary has been keeping her elderly mother company for two decades, tucked away in comfortable isolation in the country, where Mr Darcy—or Fitz, as he is now known — keeps the two gaffe-prone women away from society.
Fitz has gone into politics with his eye on being prime minister, and he and Elizabeth are a powerful couple, although on the domestic front at Pemberley they have a disappointing son and lots of daughters.
And the other sisters? Sweet Jane has proved a fertile wife to Charles Bingley, with babies every year; formerly wild Kitty has transformed herself into a fashionable society wife with a much older, rich husband; while poor floozy Lydia is on the skids. Jane and Kitty are happy, pretty much; Elizabeth is not.
When Mrs Bennet dies, Mary is unleashed on the world. No longer mousy, she has hit her straps in middle age. She has a crusading fire in her belly, and is off to write a book about the conditions of the poor people of industrial northern England.
But her peculiar combination of unworldliness, stubbornness and superiority lead her into some jolly japes and life-threatening scrapes as she encounters rogues of all stripes. Kidnapping, explosions and casual cruelties inflicted by people she meets on her travels are almost her undoing. Fortunately, there’s a romance to lighten Mary’s load and by the end she has gone from "dandelion to a most exotic orchid".
Hm.... Setting aside the fact that Austen did actually mention what happened to both of the unmarried Bennet sisters (Kitty Bennet married a clergyman near Pemberley, and Mary ended up with one of her uncle's law clerks), my brain twitches at that dandelion/wild orchid image.
Anime distributor Funimation is currently streaming the first two episodes of the Ouran High School Host Club anime adaptation AND the first four episodes of the second season of School Rumble. I think they switch titles every Friday, so, uh, watch 'em while they're hot.
Please note that while I totally loved the Ouran anime, and the basic storyline is appropriate for all ages, it does feature a lot of very shojo-manga-specific humor that might get lost in translation. ("Brotherly love" jokes, etc.)
Got blank walls and literary tastes? Art.com is having a 20% off sale today, and they carry a much wider variety of titles than Urban Outfitters did when they offered an identical line of book-art-inspired posters:
All three of these posters are 23" X 33", and they all cost $29.99 (disregarding the sale).
Powell's Books, Portland, Oregon's independent bookstore to the stars, has started a new subscription book club:
For $39.95 per delivery, Indiespensable subscribers will enjoy a delivery of:
"[The] best new books, with special attention to leading independent publishers. Signed first editions. Inventive, original sets. Exclusive printings.... Every six weeks, another installment to read and admire.
All titles are thoughtfully selected by Powell's staff. PLUS: Every shipment is stocked with exciting surprises.... Maybe a pre-publication copy of some great new book, or a bonus DVD or CD, or a literary periodical, or handmade chocolate — always something extra for your pleasure. It's our booklovin', box-filling prize."
This month, subscribers will receive a hardcover first edition of Iain Banks's The Crow Road (complete with laid-in bookplate signed by the author and packaged in a custom, full-cloth slipcase), a full-length CD of original music by Portland artists, AND a limited printing of Graeme Thomson's 40 greatest death songs of all time.
I haven't been particularly excited about the upcoming film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I enjoyed the book (although I prefer Gaiman's short story The Wolves in the Walls), but I was disappointed by the Teri Hatchter/Dakota Fanning casting—what, were there no British actors available?—and I've always thought that director Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas was totally overrated. (Sorry, emo readers, but it's true.)
But then I discovered that John Hodgman (!!) is playing Coraline's father, and Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French (!!!!) are playing Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, and the coolness factor of the entire project shot up approximately 10,000%!
Recently, I've been seeing copies of Katherine Neville's 1988 novel The Eight popping up in prime bookstore real estate (stacks on the misleadingly-named "new releases" table, free-standing displays, etc.), and today I finally made the effort to find out why—turns out she's written a sequel, and it's coming out next week:
If you've never read The Eight, imagine a more girl-friendly version of The Da Vinci Code. There's a lot of codes, jumping back and forward in time, French Revolution hijinks, and mysterious chess set made out of gold, jewels, and creepy mojo. I read it in high school, and it struck me as being pretty over-the-top even then—but that certainly didn't stop me from charging right through each and every one of its 600-odd pages.
Speaking of Korean entertainment, Variety is reporting that practically everybody but the Americans will have an opportunity to see the Korean horror film based on the (already pretty horrific) fairytale Hansel and Gretel. I'm pretty bummed by this, because even the untranslated trailer for the film looks awesome, like a candy-colored mash-up of The Shining and The Others:
Not as exciting as it would have been a week ago...
As an enthusiastic fan of Korean entertainment, I was very sad to hear of the suicide of actress Choi Jin-Shil, whose most recent production was the sweet, funny, Cinderella-esque k-drama My Last Scandal. Ms. Choi's death cast a profoundly depressing shadow over what would otherwise have been a weekend's worth of great drama news: according to Dramabeans, the powers that be have now fullycast the Korean version of Hana Yori Dango, so I'm assuming the project is now up and running.
And, in other movie news, Variety is reporting that Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct an adaptation of the Marvel comic book Thor, scheduled for release in 2010. He doesn't seem like the likeliest choice for this film, but I'm assuming the people at Marvel know what they're doing.
In 2006, inspired by an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, five young women decided to form a “money group”—a Weight Watchers-style support group to help them pay off their debt, start saving, and generally get their financial lives on track. Despite working in fields ranging from TV production to social work, all five women found the money group experience tremendously beneficial, and eventually decided to share their newfound knowledge with others, co-writing (with Jennifer Barrett) The Smart Cookies’ Guide to Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed a Money Group, and Took Control of Their Finances.
This is certainly a good week to be releasing a financially conservative, savings-oriented how-to book, and The Smart Cookies’ Guide’s combination of practical advice, clear explanations, and personal anecdotes will resonate with many readers. Disappointingly, the authors don't explore the larger cultural aspects of their subject in any depth (they only devote a few paragraphs to analyzing why many girls are “taught” to do nothing more than spend money), but this book is clearly meant to be a practical guide, not a sociology text. Pick up a copy for yourself if you’re in need of a clear, comprehensive, prudent guide to personal finance—or give one to any freshly-unemployed Wall Street bigwigs on your holiday shopping list.