Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wordcandy's Holiday Gift List: 2010 Edition

It's that time of year again, dear readers—time for our annual list of Wordcandy-friendly gift suggestions! Behold ten of our favorite book-related goods ranging in price from $10 to $100:

1.Jonathan Adler Bookends for Barnes and Noble, $39.99 We usually find Mr. Adler's mod-art sculptures adorable but overpriced, so we were delighted when he teamed up with Barnes and Noble to produce several items in the forty dollar range. We're particularly coveting these Dachshund bookends. Cute, huh?

*Please note that between now and December 2nd, B&N is running a buy one, get one 50% off promotion for all their "Home and Gift" items. See? We are all about saving you money.

2.Penguin Classic Editions for Anthropologie, $16.99 These beautifully embossed editions of five classic children's books will be widely available next spring, but for now you can only buy them at Anthropologie stores (which means, sadly, there's almost no chance of them going on sale):

3.The Little Prince: The Deluxe Pop-Up Edition, $35.00 Don't waste this gorgeous pop-up book on any little kids on your list (they'll just ruin it), but it would make a lovely gift for any grown-up art fans:

4.Book Safes by Pommes Frites, $20.00 to $40.00 As longtime readers of the site know, we usually disapprove of destroying books (even books we dislike). However, the proprietor of the Pommes Frites Etsy Shop states that all of their book safes are made from "ethically sourced" books—neither new nor rare, but books at the end of their life spans:

5. Hallmark Dr. Seuss ornaments Hallmark produced a line of Dr. Suess-inspired ornaments between 1999 and 2006. Hunting these suckers down can be a challenge (search online, and be sure to compare prices!), but the end product is colorful and sturdy, making it a great kid gift:

6. It's a Book by Lane Smith, $12.99 Okay, we think this book is utterly awesome, but if you're giving it to a small child, warn their parents that they might want to substitute the word "donkey" for "jackass" when they read it aloud. We don't want to be even indirectly responsible for some kid getting kicked out of preschool for quoting the soon-to-be-classic line "It's a book, jackass!":

7.Sense and Sensibility: the Graphic Novel, $19.99 Sadly, the text for this Marvel adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel was contributed by Nancy Butler (who also penned their mediocre-at-best Pride and Prejudice series), but the artwork is by Wordcandy favorite Sonny Liew, making it a must-buy for any Austen/comic book fan.

8.Ode to Julia Child in towel form, $10 Elloh's Etsy Shop offers several literature-friendly towels, and while we lean towards this Julia Child-inspired option, you could be drying your dishes with a Mr. Darcy-themed towel as well.

9.The Thomas Keller Boxed Gift Set: French Laundry Cookbook + Ad Hoc at Home, $100.00 Normally we would scoff at paying this much for a cookbook (and even online, this sucker is expensive), but Mr. Keller's chocolate chip cookie recipe—which we found on Baking Bites, much to our eternal gratitude—has made us believers. Those cookies are practically worth a hundred dollars by themselves.

10.Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts, $70.00 With a forward by Art Spiegelman, this box set offers all six of the gorgeous, wordless novels of wood engraver and illustrator Lynd Ward (1905-85), one of America's first and finest graphic novelists.

Good luck, happy shopping, and we hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Wordcandy's Wedding-Book Review Extravaganza Part II: Bridal Nonfiction

Do not give Rebecca Mead's 2007 book One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding to anyone who has recently had a wedding*. Trust me, it will only depress them, and who wants to embark on married life glumly conscious of the fact that nearly every element of their wedding celebration was an artificial construct designed by a bunch of clever ad writers?

Ms. Mead, a staff writer at The New Yorker, spent three years researching the American bridal industry, and her book takes an in-depth look at the backgrounds of a number of wedding-related sacred cows. She interviewed dozens of wedding professionals, traveled to China to see how wedding dresses are made, and visited “destination wedding” hot spots ranging from the vulgarity of Las Vegas to the schmaltz of Walt Disney World to the manufactured folksiness of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The result is a depressing-but-informative account of a booming and utterly shameless industry.

Few of the "traditions" Ms. Mead investigates go back further than the mid-20th century: white wedding dresses weren't commonplace until after the end of World War II, diamond engagement rings were popularized by the 1947 ad campaign "A Diamond is Forever", and the first wedding registry was established by Marshall Field & Company in 1924. However, the wedding industry relies upon treating these trappings (as well as an ever-increasing list of new ones) as prerequisites for marriage—and they have gotten extraordinarily good at suggesting that if you don't have a wedding videographer or hand-beaded dress or keepsake "heirloom" ornament for your flower girl, your marriage is doomed.

Don't get me wrong: the desire to have a big wedding is perfectly understandable. At what other time in your life is it going to be socially acceptable to spend fourteen to sixteen months—the length of the average American engagement—and nearly $28,000—the average cost of getting married in 2006—planning a day that is All About You? But while I sympathize** with the desire to spit in the eye of financial reality by spending seven months' salary on a one-day event, it's probably best that prospective brides and grooms decide which elements of their wedding are actually meaningful to them. That's why I'm recommending Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day as an engagement gift—the newly married may have already lost out, but there's no reason for the fresh blood to suffer.

*Unless it was the wedding of someone you dislike. In that case, hey, Christmas gift!

**Actually, I totally don't.


Wordcandy's Wedding-Book Review Extravaganza Part I: Bridal Fiction

Earlier this month, Nora Roberts released Happy Ever After, the final novel in her 'Bride Quartet'. I've grown fonder of this series with each book, so I trotted out to my local bookstore—this time only grumbling a little over the price. At the library a few days later (and clearly still in a wedding-book-friendly frame of mind), I picked up Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, a nonfiction exploration of the excesses of the American bridal industry. The two made for an interesting compare-and-contrast reading experience, so today I'll be reviewing 'em both. Enjoy!

Nora Roberts' Happy Ever After is the final entry in a series about the romantic and work-related adventures of four young women. Mac, Emma, Laurel, and Parker are lifelong friends and the co-owners of Vows, a wedding-planning service. Vision in White was Mac's story (the Vows photographer), Bed of Roses was Emma's (florist), and Savor the Moment was Laurel's (pastry chef). Happy Ever After deals with the romance of Parker, Vows' hyper-organized wedding coordinator, and Malcolm Kavanaugh, a local mechanic.

We've written before about Roberts' problems with creating plausible drama. She has moved steadily away from the sturm und drang-filled plot climaxes of her earlier work, but she has yet to find a decent replacement. Instead, her otherwise sane, stable, socially adept characters either tote around a massive emotional hang-up due to a relatively minor cause (like Jack, the love interest in Bed of Roses, who never got over his parents' perfectly amicable divorce), or they don't have any significant problems at all, as is the case here. Parker and Malcolm really like each other, and while their path to wedded bliss has some minor hiccups, everything is rapidly and neatly resolved.

While romantic angst might be in short supply, Roberts does a great job of exploring the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating fairytale weddings. The most memorable moments in the Bride Quartet have always been the scenes where the four heroines work together to soothe hysterical mothers-in-law, oust drunken groomsmen, and break up fistfights between first and second spouses. Unfortunately, these scenes don't carry the weight of real urgency—Vows is already a well-established business, and the four women are more than strong enough to overcome the challenges they encounter. Still, the combination of Parker, Mac, Laurel, and Emma's rock-solid friendship, the low-key but pleasant romantic storylines, and the over-the-top nature of their job makes this series a sunny, stress-free read.

Tune in this afternoon for my thoughts on the Wordcandy Wedding Book Extravaganza Part II: Ms. Mead's One Perfect Day.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

One-stop holiday shopping

Well, this should make Megan happy (she loves these editions): for a limited time, Powell's Books is selling Penguin's "Hardcover Classics" line—designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith and featuring "gorgeous patterns stamped on linen cases, colored endpapers, ribbon markers and other sumptuous details"—for 20% off. Admittedly, you can find these exact editions for slightly less elsewhere online, but it's nice to be able to save money and support a less evil-empire-ish bookseller option at the same time.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Check your fairy godmothers at the door

Salon's Laura Miller has posted an article about the National Book Award's stipulation barring "collections and/or retellings of folk-tales, myths, and fairy-tales" from entering the contest. I had no idea this rule was in place—and, interestingly, none of the current National Book Foundation staff seem to know why it was thought necessary in the first place.

I know this is small of me, but I hope Robin McKinley—an American author who has written several (admittedly excellent) reworked fairy-tales but refuses to allow fanfiction based on her books—is aware of this rule and is irritated by it.

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Cookbooks lie.

Jesse Wegman has posted an article on Slate.com about the inaccuracy of cooking times advertised in cookbooks. The author explores a variety of theories, including three possibilities suggested by various well-known food writers:

1. Ruth Reichl of Gourmet points out "that each recipe in Gourmet was tested by cooks who made it many times over, and also by a "cross-tester," who made it only once." However, the printed time came from the repeat cooks, who would, presumably, have gotten much faster at making that particular dish.

2. Mark Bittman suggests that maybe he's just that good. (You'll probably never compare.)

3. And Chris Kimball, editor of Cook's Illustrated, says that printed cooking times are "Utter bullshit", and assures readers that "Thirty-minute recipes are never 30 minutes... It's marketing." (Note that Cook's Illustrated has published a 30-minute meal cookbook... which I've used, and is actually pretty accurate.)
So take comfort, dear readers, when the four hours you've budgeted for making Thanksgiving dinner turn into seventeen. You're not alone!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"You better watch yourself." Seriously, film?

Behold, the dark-and-sexy new film take on Little Red Riding Hood:

Okay... that looks hilarious, and unintentionally so. I am so there.

P.S. Is it just me, or did they steal most of their costuming/make-up ideas from The Princess Bride? The long red outfit, the pale blue dress, the pulled-back long blonde curls... it all looks very Robin Wright, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Save the words!

The fine people at Oxford English Dictionaries have started SaveTheWords.org, a website devoted to reviving thousands of gloriously obscure English words that have fallen out of daily use. Visitors are encouraged to "adopt" a word and begin using it as often as possible. I'm torn: I could probably find some way to work "vappous" into my daily conversation (it means "flat, bland"), but "locupletative" (defined as "tending to enrich") just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Michael Buckley for an older crowd

I caught an episode of Robotomy over the weekend, and while this series was co-created by best-selling children's author Michael Buckley and appears on Cartoon Network, do not assume it is safe for work. It may not even be safe for home, particularly if your house contains anyone with a delicate stomach. For the rest of you, you can see a complete episode here, but be warned: grossness ahoy.

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Jumping the gun?

Deadline is reporting that Fox 2000 has bought the rights to a projected YA trilogy written by Julianna Baggott. The series doesn't actually have a publisher yet, much less a release date or cover art, so I'm relying on the above article for a plot description:
"Pure is a dystopic tale about an apocalyptic event that creates two classes of people. The underclass consists of those who were scarred, and the "Pures" are those who were untouched and live separate from the others."
I'm assuming a movie deal rumored to be in the high six figures will be sufficient to get these books published... but it remains to be seen if the series will hit bookstores before the current craze for über-grim YA fiction dies out.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Weak. Sauce.

Oh, for crying out loud:

They're doing zombie/children's poem crossovers now? And they're charging nearly $13 for them? Seriously, the minute I see someone trying to splice a monster joke into a Dr. Seuss book (Horton Hears a Howl), violence is going to ensue.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smelling like Charles Dickens

Artisan candlemaker Paddywax has released a line of author-inspired candles. At $25 per 9oz. glass container, you can now scent your home with candles named after Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens. I'm assuming the scents aren't inspired by the authors themselves (something tells me that ol' Edgar A. Poe didn't always smell like a delicate blend of cardamom, absinthe, and sandalwood), but rather by the themes of their work.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's still not April 1st, right?

Huh. NPR informs me that the 4th Annual Quidditch World Cup is taking place at De Witt Clinton Park in New York City this very weekend, and will feature more than 60 different teams from high schools and universities across the country.

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And look! She's *not* shaped like Barbie!

Jezebel has posted a couple of advance images from the upcoming Marvel Comics reboot of the "Spider-Girl" character. (This version of the character has no connection to Peter Parker, apparently.) I'm still swearing off Marvel until they resuscitate Runaways and revive Gert, but it's always nice to see new, non-hyper-sexualized girl characters enter the superhero canon.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Not bad, not bad at all.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is apparently planning on giving away several advance-reader copies of her upcoming book Call Me Irresistible over the next few months, so if you're a fan of hers you might want to start monitoring her Contest Page.

Actually, you might want to start monitoring her contest page even if you aren't a fan. That woman is generous with her contests: this month's offering includes both a signed ARC copy of Call me Irresistible and a $50 gift certificate to the winner's bookstore of choice.

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The curse of the delicate flower

If you're a braver person than I am, check out the recent Twilight spoof that aired as part of the Simpsons' annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode. I was too embarrassed to watch more than a minute or so, but I'm told it's very funny. Plus, the Edward character is voiced by Daniel Radcliffe (a.k.a. Harry Potter), so that's two literary shout-outs for the price of one.

[Via BuzzSugar]

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Friday, November 05, 2010

One-stop shopping

If you're interested in checking out any of this year's finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the Horn Book people and the School Library Journal folks have both put together specific webpages for their reviews of the featured titles.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Fellow Pacific Northwesteners take note:

Mockingjay author Suzanne Collins will be visiting Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon on Sunday, November 7th from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. Due to a hand injury, Ms. Collins will be stamping books rather than signing them... but she'll be using a special commemorative stamp created especially for her 2010 Mockingjay tour, if that makes you feel any better.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cookbook porn

The Atlantic has posted a lengthy review (complete with two recipe links) of The Gourmet Cookie Book, the latest and last title from the now-defunct Gourmet magazine. The review is good, but get a load of this cover. I have never wanted a jam thumb-print so much in my entire life:

I chose the largest image option, just for you.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Goin' to the movies

Time for another film adaptation news round-up!

According to the MTV Movies Blog, Johnny Depp might be playing the Huntsman in the movie Snow White and The Huntsman.

The Hollywood Reporter is offering a sneak peek at images from the animated movie Dorothy of Oz. They're pretty, although very Tim Burton-esque.

BuzzSugar says Leonardo DiCaprio has signed on to play serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes in the film adaptation of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America

And ONTD has images from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's upcoming "performance-captured, 3D form" Tintin movie. (I find the look of performance-capture insanely creepy, but whatever.)

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Zora Neale Hurston goes Nancy Drew

The Times has posted an article about Zora and Me, a new kids' novel featuring a fictionalized version of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston as a girl detective. Written by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, the novel is the first book not written by Hurston to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust, an organization created in 2002 dedicated to bringing Hurston’s work to a larger audience.

I'm interested in checking out the book, but I really don't care for that cover. Couldn't they have chosen something less hokey?

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Clutch the pearls!

And speaking of Jane Austen's work, AustenBlog has put together a helpful collection of links about the recent kerfluffle over Austen scholar Kathryn Sutherland, who has made the shocking allegation that the early drafts of Austen's work contain spelling errors and display considerable confusion over than whole "I before E except after C" thing.


Somehow we managed to remain calm in the face of this horrifying news, but lurid, attention-grabbing (and totally misleading) headlines like The Telegraph's "Jane Austen's famous prose may not be hers after all" certainly make it sound like a major literary discovery.

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So confused

Well, here's the trailer for From Prada to Nada, the latest film version based (obviously very loosely) on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility:

Huh. Is Wilmer Valderrama playing the Colonel Brandon character or the Willoughby character? Because he's featured an awful lot in this trailer, but his relationship with the Marianne character comes across as a little antagonistic.

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