Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sage advice for the young'uns

Ah, satirical advice from Disney's cartoon princesses! Check out these words of wisdom from "Belle" and "Ariel":

To be fair, I feel like cherry-picking objectionable messages from Disney films is like looking for potentially offensive stuff in the Bible: sure, it's there, but that's not really the whole story...

...although that nuanced viewpoint didn't stop me from grinning over these videos. Somebody should embroider "The lesson here is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder ... as long as the woman is good-looking" on a pillow!

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Christmas (themed books) come early...

Oooh, Lisa Kleypas is releasing another holiday-themed novella (after 2008's A Wallflower Christmas). Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor will be out in late October, and appears to be the first entry in a new series of contemporary novels set on Washington State's San Juan Island. I'm a little surprised she's kicking off a series with a novella, but Kleypas always delivers, and let's face it: sadly, 224 pages* from her are likely to be more satisfying than full-length books written by 90% of her peers.

*Featuring large font and generous spacing.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

A book club take on Mockingjay

Okay, one last post on Mockingjay, and then I'm done talking about it (at least until the inevitable movie* comes out). The online magazine Slate has chosen Mockingjay as the subject of one of their book clubs, and I thought they raised several good issues, including the series' hugely imbalanced sex-to-violence ratio. (If you're new to the site, our review of the book was mixed. So is Slate's.)

In general, I too am irritated by the way YA publishers are more comfortable dealing with violence than sex (for example, many high school libraries contain Stephen King books—some of which contain sex, although it isn't their primary focus—but wouldn't dream of stocking romance novels). However, I'm not sure the lack of sexual urges in this series is unrealistic—after all, it's not like Katniss has much time to sit around mooning over boys (unlike, say, Bella Swan), and even if she did, there are some cold, hard, unpleasant realities she'd have to consider first. I don't know about you, but I suspect I would find the existence of the Hunger Games—and the idea that I would have to submit any potential children to them—a real incentive to keep my pants on.

*Which I'm really, really, really hoping will not star Miley Cyrus.


Edgar Allan Poe fights (or possibly commits) crime

John Cusack has apparently signed on to play Edgar Allan Poe in a (fictionalized) account of the poet's last few days of life. The description of the film on Cinematical mentions something about a serial killer who's murdering people using the methods described in Poe's books, so I'm assuming these filmmakers don't subscribe to my favorite rumor about Poe's death: that he was press-ganged into a repeat-voting scam.

Note: Hey, I would totally watch a movie about mid-19th century voting scams. I think it would make for edge-of-your-seat viewing.

Note #2: Adorable as Cusack is, I have my doubts about his ability to carry off that hairstyle.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Walking Dead on AMC

Behold, the trailer's out for the upcoming AMC zombie series The Walking Dead, based on the comic book of the same name by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. Enjoy... but not right before lunch, okay?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aisha finally hits the big screen

AustenBlog has posted a review of Aisha, the Bollywood update of Jane Austen's Emma. The critique is positive but far from gushing, and the author notes that the movie appears to be a close remake of Clueless, rather than the original book—without, sadly, Clueless's unexpected depths. Not that one lukewarm review with stop me from seeing this, but if you don't happen to live near a theater that shows foreign films, take comfort in the notion that you probably aren't missing much by waiting for this sucker to hit the DVD shelves.

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Onwards and upwards

Now that one buzz-worthy summer release is behind us, it's time to move on to the next. The final book in the 39 Clues series comes out next week. Behold:

Fans of this series know that only a fraction of the 39 clues have been discovered by the main characters in the books. The rest have only been available online and via the collectible cards included in the books. I've been far too lazy to investigate these alternative options, which is why I'm hoping that this sucker connects the many, many dots I haven't figured out myself:

Yes, dear readers, the end is not the end... at least, not while they can still squeeze $12.99 out of you. The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets comes out in October, and I trust it will do most of my thinking for me.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catching Fire and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

Well, dear readers, I waded through both Catching Fire and Mockingjay yesterday, and my emotions were mixed. There were elements I liked, but the violence was so constant that I found myself actually bored by it—out of a few hundred speaking roles, how many characters survive? Twenty? Fifty? Literally everyone else bites it, and most of 'em in the most hideously gory way possible.

For those of you who've skipped this series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay are the sequels to 2008's The Hunger Games, which we reviewed here. In Catching Fire, Katniss struggles to deal with the fallout from her unconventional Hunger Games victory as the Capitol forces her to participate in the creepy spectacle of the post-Games events. In Mockingjay, Katniss joins (not fully by choice) the rebel movement of District 13, but it's unclear if her new “allies” are better or worse than her old opponents.

There are a lot of things to admire about this series. Katniss is a wonderfully complex character, and Collins does a superb job of taking current trends and pushing them to their creepiest extremes—at their best, these books have some of the disturbing topicality of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Her love triangle (which is less of a plot point than the plethora of “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” t-shirts available on the Internet would have you believe) adds a human touch to the story, without being irritatingly dragged out.

Unfortunately, many of these virtues were hard to appreciate after yet another chapter full of decapitations, mutilations, and flesh-melting. (At one point, Nathan walked into the room and asked me how Mockingjay was going. Choosing a sentence at random, I started reading aloud: “My face lands in a still-warm puddle of someone's blood...” That's seriously how the book goes. Practically every page!) I still managed to enjoy myself—I have a strong stomach—but I'm sincerely hoping that the next series from Suzanne Collins heads in a very different direction.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Complete with recipes!

If you're a Hunger Games fan and 21 years of age or older, be sure to check out Forever Young Adult's Hunger Games Drinking Game, which I'm sure will make the whole "Peeta Vs. Gale" debate a whole lot more interesting.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Frankly, my hopes are not high.

Well, dear readers, today is August 23rd, and tomorrow is the release date for Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay. If you're desperate to celebrate this event, you can nip down to your local Hot Topic and pick up one of their not-very-creatively-designed Hunger Games merchandising tie-ins, which range from t-shirts to bookmarks to those ugly rubber bracelets.

I, on the other hand, still haven't read Catching Fire, the second book in this series. I'd like to say this is a testament to my dazzling self-control, but the fact is that while I liked The Hunger Games well enough, I still haven't gotten over the crushing disappointment of the final book in the Gregor the Overlander series. I'm planning to read Catching Fire today (I might even post a short review later on), but I'm fully bracing myself for a knife to the back when I pick up Mockingjay tomorrow.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Saving one's spot

If you're looking for some book-themed presents that manage to be both awesome and affordable, check out these bookmarks by Olympia-based artist Sarah Utter, creator of the "Reading Is Sexy" t-shirt:

Each hand-inked, letter-pressed bookmark is made from a salvaged album cover, and features the final line from one of three classic books: Willa Cather's My Antonia, Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, and Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener. I certainly wish Ms. Utter had chosen different titles (something a little less painfully eleventh-grade-Honors-English would have been nice), but these puppies cost a mere two dollars apiece. Buy all three and give them to some poor kid heading off to college--let 'em know what they're in for.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Branching out

My, my... Janet Evanovich has written a full-length novel about Diesel, the mysterious supernatural being who consistently turns up to hit on the heroine in Evanovich's holiday-themed Stephanie Plum novellas. Wicked Appetite will be out next month and appears to be the start of a new series. You can read an excerpt here. Behold:

I can't believe that Laurell K. Hamilton hasn't already used that title, can you?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm sorry for posting this.

No, I really am.

You can apparently buy J.D. Salinger's seatless, lidless, uncleaned toilet (complete with a letter of authentication) on eBay for one million dollars.

Ordinarily, I'd add a picture, but I'm voting no on this one.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Middle Earth: the theme park?

According to Cinematical, there are rumors that Universal Studios is toying with the idea of making a Lord of the Rings theme park (presumably thanks to the success of its Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction). I'm assuming this will be tied in to the release of the long-awaited adaptation of The Hobbit, which I understand will be split into two parts, directed by Peter Jackson, and released in 2012 and 2013.

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The end of the beginning of the final Harry Potter movie

MTV's Movies Blog is reporting that the first half of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will end at roughly Chapter 24, for those of you who've been wondering. (Here's hoping that's not the really boring bit in the woods.)

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Embroidering Mr. Darcy

Artistically-inclined Jane Austen fans take note: you can buy a PDF version of this Mr. Darcy cross-stitch pattern from Etsy artist thetimeisnow for a mere $7.00. The pattern is printable, in color and comes with a matching dmc floss key (whatever that is). There's a Captain Wentworth pattern, too, but I think he looks kind of... Pirates of the Caribbean-y, and not in the Johnny Depp way, if you take my meaning.

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Cookbooks for the ages

The Guardian has assembled a list of the Top 50 Cookbooks Ever. (Here's the top ten, for readers in a hurry.) Turns out I don't own a single one of 'em.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

A guiding hand

Flavorwire has compiled a list of their top-ten picks for Literature's Best-Dressed Characters. Their choices lean heavily towards Literature That Has Inspired Movie Adaptations, and I'm somewhat chagrined they didn't include my favorite fashion authority from literature, Aunt Alicia from Colette's novella Gigi. Check out a few of her words of sartorial wisdom:

"Rather than a wretched little diamond full of flaws, wear a simple, plainly inexpensive ring. In that case you can say, 'It's a momento. I never part with it, day or night.' Don't ever wear artistic jewelry, it wrecks a woman's reputation."

"What is an artistic jewel?"

"It all depends. A mermaid in gold with eyes of chrysoprase. An Egyptian scarab. A large engraved amethyst. A not very heavy bracelet said to have been chased by a master-hand. A lyre or star, mounted as a brooch. A studded tortoise. In a word, all of them, frightful. Never wear baroque pearls, not even as hat-pins. Beware, above all things, of family jewels!"

"But Grandmama has a beautiful cameo, set as a medallion."

"There are no beautiful cameos," said Alicia, with a toss of the head. "There are precious stones and pearls. There are white, yellow, blue, blue-white or pink diamonds. We won't speak of black diamonds, they're not worth mentioning. Then there are rubies--when you can be sure of them; sapphires, when they come from Kashmir; emeralds, provided they have no fatal flaw, or are not too light in color, or have a yellowish tint."

"Aunt, I'm very fond of opals, too."

"I am very sorry, but you are not to wear them. I won't allow it."

Dumbfounded, Gilberte remained for a moment open-mouthed.

"Oh! Do you too, Aunt, really believe that they bring bad luck?"

"Why in the world not? You silly little creature," Alicia went bubbling on, "you must pretend to believe in such things. Believe in opals, believe--let's see, what can I suggest--in turquoises that die, in the evil eye..."

"But," said Gigi, haltingly, "those are... are superstitions!"

"Of course they are, child. They also go by the name of weaknesses. A pretty little collection of weaknesses, and a terror of spiders, are indispensable stock-in-trade with men."
Of course, the woman fully intended to sell off her teenage niece into elegant prostitution, so maybe she wasn't the world's greatest role model... but I read this book at an impressionable age, and I've winced at the sight of artistic jewelry ever since.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Low, lower, lowest

Slate just posted an article speculating that e-readers like Amazon's Kindle will soon be costing less than one hundred dollars. While this is certainly more reasonable than the 2009 price of roughly $300, I'm still not sold.

Fifty bucks, guys. It's as high as I'm goin'.

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Cathy, Electra, Irving, and her mother ride off into the sunset...

Ohio cartoonist Cathy Guisewite, the award-winning creator of the comic strip Cathy, has decided to retire her feature as of October 3rd. I can't say I'll truly miss the strip (actually, I'm not sure my newspaper carries it any longer, and I didn't notice it went missing until, uh... just now), but it did occasionally make me laugh, which is more than several of the other "classic" strips on the page can say.

Best of luck to Ms. Guisewite in her future endeavors!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Because *all* vampires need regular manicures

My goodness. Check out the complete line of Twilight-inspired nail polish from Twilight Beauty:

Which vampire wears the Malibu Barbie hot pink, do you suppose?

[Via BellaSugar]

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Textbooks on the cheap...er

Good news for poor college students (particularly college students who have to pay zillions of dollars for those textbooks that will be out of date about .6 seconds after they pay $95 for 'em): Barnes & Noble announced Monday that it is expanding its textbook rental program. The program began as a pilot earlier this year, and is offered through campus bookstores managed by the bookseller. Users have the option of renting via campus bookstores or online, and the books are offered for at least 50 percent off the purchase price of a new copy.

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(Not for $48, though.)

There's a new collection of Disney Couture jewelry out, this time inspired by their take on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. I'm usually not a fan of themed jewelry, but something about these octopus earrings does sort of speak to me...

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Monday, August 09, 2010

My feelings? Totally hurt.

If you're a Diary of a Wimpy Kid fan in the East Coast/Midwest area, be sure to check out Amulet Books' second annual ice-cream-truck promo tour. According to Publishers Weekly, the tour...

"[...Begins] August 15 and runs through August 28. Each truck will have 26 events, with stops that take them up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest. One truck will visit bookstores in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois; the second will stop in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, and Vermont. Purple ice cream treats (to match the cover of the new book) will be given away at each event; for every treat, Abrams will donate one children’s book to nonprofit organization First Book."
Um, that sounds great and all, but I like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and I like ice cream (even purple ice cream). I, however, live on the West Coast. Why is Amulet stiffing us like this?

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Flipped: new and improved?

If you've never read Wendelin Van Draanen's adorable 2001 novel Flipped, Random House is releasing an "enhanced" e-book edition of the book featuring a bunch of tie-ins from the upcoming movie adaptation: 8 video clips of scenes and 16 full-color photos from the film, as well as 4 video interviews with Van Draanen and a excerpt from her (inferior, sadly) second romantic comedy, Confessions of a Serial Kisser. At $14.99, it's a little pricey, but they're also offering a standard e-book and a new trade paperback, both of which retail for $8.99. Personally, I'd stick with the original edition—the cover is cuter, and until I see some very good reasons for transferring the story to the 1950s I'm reserving judgement about this movie adaptation.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Low standards

Twelve—the recent film based on the 2003 Nick McDonell novel* of the same name—is not the kind of movie I usually see, nor is it the kind of book I usually read (unless I have to review it). Still, I can accept that other people do enjoy stories about miserable rich kids that culminate in—SPOILER—major bloodbaths, so I read Cinematical's critique of the film. To make a long story short, the Cinematical reviewer feels the novel was better... but I don't get the impression that's lavishly over-praising the book.

*Written, apparently, when he was 17.


The fall of the book-selling empire?

Further hints of the crumbling world of major chain bookstores: Barnes and Noble is considering putting itself up for sale. (Specifically, they're exploring "strategic alternatives", one of which is selling.) My hometown contains both a Borders and a Barnes and Noble, and you can see that market factors are hitting 'em hard (limited hours, diminishing stock, fewer employees), while the five or so local, independent booksellers in the area seem to be doing okay. Wave of the future, or just a fluke of my hippie town? Only time will tell....

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

RIP, OneManga

It is with mixed emotions (about 55% irritation, 45% resignation) that I say goodbye to OneManga, the popular manga scanlation site that shut down for good last week. Now, it's possible that the folks at OM will eventually restore the unlicensed scanlations they hosted (their FAQ section is unclear on this point), but for now the reading portion of the site is dead.

Wordcandy hosts two scanlated series—Banhonsa and Absolute Witch, both wonderful, funny stories that have yet to find a publisher in the United States. When/if that happens, we will immediately take down the scanlations and pray for them to become rip-roaring successes. However, I can't help but sympathize with people who rely on scanlations for all their manga needs. There are just too many problems with the American manga market: the prices are high, series can be dropped at any point, it can be tough-to-impossible to find back volumes, etc. I understand the flip sides to these arguments, too... but there's no denying that free, easy-to-use scanlation sites like OneManga will be sincerely missed.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hiss, boo

Seriously, I am so disappointed in you, NPR. As part of their obnoxiously condescending "My Guilty Pleasure" series, author Helen Simonson has contributed an essay on her love for Georgette Heyer... despite the fact that she appears to have confused Heyer with someone else, someone whose heroines always "[hold their chins] a little higher than the other simpering misses" until they meet "some brooding gentleman". Um, no. One of the coolest things about Heyer is the way she didn't always match up the lovely, fearless heroine with the great rake, and even when she did, there was usually something about the match that tweaked it, turning what could have been another stale Regency romance into something a little more interesting—and that something was Heyer's sense of humor and gift for creating endearing characters, not her meticulous historical research (although I'm not knocking the meticulous research). She wrote some truly great books, some mediocre ones, and some stinkers, but anyone who considers themselves a fan but limits themselves to "slyly" buying Heyer's books at yard sales can suck it.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Seriously, dude? Thucydides?

While checking out the Horn Book Blog, I followed a link to this Harvard Magazine profile of literary agent Andrew Wylie. I was mostly impressed by Mr. Wylie's seemingly colossal ego*, but I think he makes a good point about the future of e-books: the trashier the title, the more attractive its e-book version. I'm never going to give up buying printed books, but when e-readers drop down into the $50 range, I expect I'll start buying e-book versions of the authors on my B-list—you know, the titles you buy because you're too impatient to wait for a library copy, but you're unlikely to read twice.

*Also the fact that he twice uses Shakespeare to disparage Danielle Steel. I'm not arguing the idea that Steel is a terrible writer, but Wylie's comparisons suggest that he is unfamiliar with the many, many genre writers who fall somewhere between the two.

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Watch me suspend the ol' disbelief

In a strikingly Hollywood-ish bit of casting, Daniel Craig—a.k.a. the current James Bond—has signed on to star in the upcoming American remake of Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Craig would not be my first choice to play schlubby, middle-aged journalist Mikael Blomkvist, but I will give the film producers this: his casting goes a long way towards explaining the character's inexplicable (in the book, anyway) sexual magnetism....


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