Friday, March 30, 2007

Time to suffer, kids!

I've been seeing some comments from people who are taken aback by Oprah's latest book club pick, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (presumably because it has such a bleak style and masculine focus). I'm not surprised at all. Here's the editor's description:

"Ask any literary critic*--and most discerning readers--to name the greatest living American novelist, and Cormac McCarthy is sure to surface as a major contender. Best known for his powerful regional fiction (Sutree, the Border Trilogy, Blood Meridian, et al), this dazzling prose stylist crafts tragic, unforgettable stories suffused with violence, alienation, and an undeniably apocalyptic vision. Now, in what we consider McCarthy's best novel to date, the apocalypse itself becomes a set piece. Unfolding in a terrifying future where Armageddon has been waged and lost, The Road traces the odyssey of a father and his young son through a desolate landscape of devastation and danger. Powerful, moving, and extraordinary by any standard, this is McCarthy at his greatest and gravest."

See, when I see words like "powerful", "tragic", "alienation", and "devastation", I think: Wow, this book is right up Oprah's alley. I'm convinced that she chooses these titles strictly so that her followers give up on reading altogether and watch TV instead, and I'm sticking to this theory until she chooses a book that's actually halfway readable. (If you're looking for suggestions, Oprah, try Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me.)

*Not this one.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

TV does Jane

I've spent the past two nights watching the new British television version of Austen's Northanger Abbey*, and I'm happy to report that it's not bad. It's well cast and nicely filmed, and while it doesn't do justice to Austen's gleefully biting novel (they whipped right through the laundry list scene, probably so they could spend more time training the camera on Isabella Thorpe's heaving bosom--truly a sight to behold--and Catherine in a series of low-cut nightgowns), it's loads better than the recent big-screen version of Pride and Prejudice.

My only quibble is that the actor who's playing Mr. Tilney seems a little too flirtatious in his early scenes with Catherine. I've always read his attitude in these scenes as "Cute girl--a little dim, but what can you do?", while this version seemed to be going for "Cute girl--I'll pull on her pigtail and maybe she'll dream about me tonight!" Still, J.J. Feild is super smokin' hot, so who am I to quibble?

*I'm downloading it from YouTube--there's nothing quite like trying to watch an entire movie in 5-minute-long increments.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows covers!!!

We finally have the cover art for the final installment of the Harry Potter series. I like the British adult cover the best, though the kids faces on the British children's version are a little scary. Enjoy!

American Version

British Children's Version

British Adult Version

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Meg Cabot bullet points

1. Meg Cabot's YA books are moving from HarperCollins to Scholastic*, which means that she's wrapping up her current projects, including the long-running Princess Diaries series. (She's currently editing book nine, and book ten will conclude the series.)

2. According to her press release, Cabot already has three series in the works for Scholastic, including a "tween" series for 8- to 12-year olds, and two trilogies: Abandon**, which is apparently "a dramatic modern retelling of the myth of Persephone", and Airhead, described as "daring, highly entertaining and a new direction for [Cabot]".

3. Her adult books, however, will still be at HarperCollins. (This includes the last two Queen of Babble books and the last Size 12 mystery.) Plus there are still some YA books on the HC docket, including the standalone novel Pants on Fire, the Avalon High mangas, and a supernatural book called Jinx.

*This might be a good move for HER, but it's a pain in the ass for US, as it's very difficult to get review copies from Scholastic. Alas.

**Cabot says that this title has a 100% chance of being banned in Texas, so we're looking forward to reading it.


Monday, March 26, 2007

One last piece of manga news...

I just found out that the new Viz title The Gentlemen's Alliance is the English-language edit of the book irc users know as Shinshi Doumei Cross. Hopefully the professional version of this story will be clearer than the scanlated one. Not to knock the scanlators' job, but this is one of those very pretty, very confusing stories with plots that don't bear close examination, but are fun to read anyway. (See: Vampire Knight.)


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Boys on bikes

AZN Television has started airing episodes of the Taiwanese drama Mars, based on Fuyumi Soryo's mega-soapy manga series. Here's the official plot description*:

"Asia's most popular group F4's Vic Chou continues the ideal romantic pairing with Barbie Xu beyond Meteor Gardens II**, in the extraordinary new Taiwanese drama, MARS!

An adaptation of popular Japanese manga MARS, the television series is directed by the acclaimed Cai Yue Xun. Vic plays two characters, a pair of identical twins with an exploding dark, tragic passion. Zero is reckless, brutal and passionate, losing himself in the speed thrill of motorcycles. Saint on the other hand is quiet and reserved, lives in satisfaction and peace, delivering his passion into drawing. They are a pair of loving brothers until the arrival of Saori, and when Saint cannot accept the fact that Saori loves Zero, he committed suicide. Zero is destroyed by the guilt of Saint's death, and ended up in a mental institution for two years...until the arrival of Kira (Barbie Xu), who managed to find the deepest wound buried in Zero. Kira suffers from autism after a traumatic event from her childhood, can she discover the most beautiful thing in the world, love, again?

The production for the series is taken very seriously, and shots for the thrilling motorcycle racing is shot on location in Japan. Both Vic and Barbie received rave reviews for their performances, and with other young stars in support, MARS is undoubtedly one of the best Taiwanese television shows of 2004!"

Well, if you're looking to blow an idle hour on some serious melodrama, I suppose you could do worse.

*edited very, very lightly to fix one or two spelling errors
**The Taiwanese version of Hana Yori Dango

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I am delighted to report that there are rumors that the English-language release of Yotsuba&! volumes 4 and 5 are going to be out in late June and early October, respectively. I wouldn't put too much faith in this news (my opinion of ADV couldn't sink much lower), but it's still the best sign of life we've seen from this series in a year and a half.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wordcandy loves the nonfiction, too.

After hearing Judith Levine on NPR the other day, I decided to pick up a copy of her book Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping*. My hackles rose at the recommendation from Barbara Ehrenreich on the back cover--I applaud Ehrenreich's purpose and conviction, but her books are so profoundly flawed that I think they actually do her causes a disservice. However, Ms. Levine's book doesn't pretend to be an Ehrenreich-style call-to-arms. Instead, Not Buying It is the story of one woman's attempt to distance herself from consumerist culture.

The book's concept is simple: Judith Levine and her partner, Paul, decide to limit their spending to "necessary" items for one year. They don't take the simple living concept to extremes--gourmet coffee is deemed a necessity, as is their home remodel, annual holiday party, and daily paper. Movies, books, clothes, gifts, and dining out, however, are off the table. Levine's experiment allows her to consider issues ranging from conservationism to her own difficulty in separating true need from desire.

Levine makes no pretense of being deprived (a smart move, seeing as she and her partner own two homes, three cars, and more than one pair of SmartWool socks), but her attempt to cut down on idle consumption is funny, self-deprecating, and genuine, and gives both her and the reader plenty of food for thought.

*From the library, because I couldn't bring myself to buy a book called Not Buying It.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Lisa Kleypas has finally overhauled her website, and I'm surprised to say that I'm kinda sad about it (and not just because I'm now going to have to re-edit her author profile). Sure, we thought that the old website was insane, but at least it was interesting and insane. This one is 1000% more tasteful, but it's also duller than dirt.

And no, we're never happy.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Movie news is reporting that Daniel Craig and Julianne Moore* are in talks to star in a film adaptation of José Saramago's Nobel Prize-winning novel Blindness. I've never read Blindness (I'm still working up the courage), but I've always been curious, even though I hear that Mr. Saramago is too intellectually lofty to use any quotation marks: toss in a few man-eating plants and it sounds like you've got the plot of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. It's too bad that Mr. Wyndham never decided to turn up his nose at standard grammar usage. He might have won a Nobel Prize, too.

*Wasn't she just in a movie about a humanity torn apart by a bizarre medical condition?


Friday, March 16, 2007

Austen: all the better for some hot pirate action?

In this Times editorial, author Celia Brayfield argues that Jane Austen "built a cage for women novelists", and suggests that Austen's "doll-house" novels would have been much improved by a greater focus on the important issues of her time. Clearly, the issues that Austen DID focus on--marriage, family relationships, social inequities, the fear of poverty--were less valid than such topics as the Napoleonic Wars, molecular theory, and (my favorite) the female pirate Zheng Yi Sao, known as the "Dragon Lady of the South China Sea". I can totally see how adding a lady pirate would have really spiced up Mansfield Park, can't you?

And then in this article, author and radio personality Libby Purves responds to Ms. Brayfield's essay with tact, elegance, and a certain bitch-slapping sensibility that one cannot help but admire.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

DIY-ers never had it so good.

Stitchy McYarnpants*'s remarkable book The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious Knits is currently on sale at for a mere $6.99. Pick up a copy for any crafty people in your life, or just buy one for yourself and marvel at the contents, which, according to the publishers, include "sci-fi inspired headgear from the 1940s", "gender-bending sweater sets from the '50s and '60s", and "groovy outerwear from the '70s".

*Real name: Debbie Brisson, curator of the fantastically awesome Museum of Kitschy Stitches website, which features such treasures as the crocheted beer can hat.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Get thee to a comic book store

Today's the release date for the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book! I'm not sure how this whole season-eight-in-comic-book-form is going to work out (I was underwhelmed by the Serenity graphic novel), but it's probably worth the $4 cover price.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BBC does the book list thing...

...but not as well as we do. Here are their readers' picks for the "Top Ten Books" (pretty solid choices, although I sneer at Wuthering Heights), and here are their "Top Ten Unfinished Novels".

Monday, March 12, 2007

Decorating on the cheap

The Library of Congress's online gift shop currently has copies of this adorable vintage print on sale--you can have a 16" by 20" copy of your very own for a mere $20!

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Also pretty!

I have long admired the cover art for Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series. They're truly beautiful books, with packaging that confidently asserts: "Yes, these books are going to be instant classics." But beauty costs money, and Buckley's publishers were understandably reluctant to produce a paperback version of the books until they'd milked every drop of available cash from their hardcover cow. Happily for cash-strapped young readers everywhere, that has finally happened: paperback versions of Buckley's first two books will be available in April, and I'm happy to report that they're A) almost as gorgeous as the hardcover versions, and B) a mere $5.95.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007


I don't know anything about this book (the publisher promises that it's a "sensual and gothic tale of obsession and sexual awakening set in France in the 1950s... a tasty literary treat by an anonymous author that features old money, older secrets, spoiled schoolgirls, and a boarding school that may or may not be run by a vampire."), but I love the cover art. Take note, Wordcandy authors!


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Popular Science

     I'm no physicist, but I like to keep an eye on the science news, lest I end up sounding like an idiot when chatting with my in-laws, who are all science teachers or geotechnical engineers. That's why I was so excited to read Jennifer Ouellette's The Physics of the Buffyverse. "Great", I thought. "I like both physics and Buffy. It'll be like peanut butter and chocolate!"

     Jennifer Ouellette majored in English, but she's made a career out of writing about science. She used her writing skills, science knowledge and pop culture-savvy to produce 2005's Black Bodies and Quantum Cats, which attempted to explain concepts like Einstein's theory of special relativity by comparing them to The Da Vinci Code and the Olsen twins. With The Physics of the Buffyverse, Ouellette illustrates several Newtonian, relative, and quantum physics concepts, using examples drawn from episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: E=MC2 is used to explain why it was so easy to turn Amy into a rat but so tough to turn her back into a human, and chapter eight suggests that all those inter-dimensional portals might have some scientific backing.

     Ouellette's book left me with glowing with smug nerdiness. I can't claim to understand all--or even half--of what she said, and she could have done a more thorough job of explaining the underlying physics, but I can spit out the bullet points like a champ. The first few chapters of the book were a bit like the first week of your high school physics class, but things really picked up by the time we got around to thermodynamics, while Paul Dlugokencky's serviceable illustrations helped to clarify difficult concepts and break up the text. The Physics of the Buffyverse wasn't perfect, but Ms. Ouellette did a solid job of taking a somewhat dry topic and making enjoyable for the masses. It was a two-for-one special--educational and fun!--that will really come in handy the next time my wife's family has a dinner party.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Everyone should read this truly horrifying article about the upcoming library closures in Southern Oregon.

Monday, March 05, 2007

They're not toys, they're action figures.

In slightly cooler figurine news, we're seeing a lot of pictures of the upcoming Harry Potter "deluxe" action figures, and I've got to say--as non-biodegradable plastic goes, they do look pretty awesome. I'm not sure if these are just a UK product (all of the prices I've seen have been in pounds), but keep an eye out for them this summer. [Source]

Note: The source link takes readers to an article on that talks a little about the difficulties of selling female action figures. Interesting stuff.

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Friday, March 02, 2007


I was just cruising to the end of the most recent edition of Jack of Fables, when I came across this charming little objet d'art:

Holy frijoles. Who BUYS that kind of thing? Not only is it ridiculous-looking, it's also ALMOST TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS. It's the comic book equivalent of those statues that you see in the back of the six-year-old Better Homes and Gardens magazines at your dentist's office.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Glorious 3-D is currently having a sale on this mega-cool-looking Alfred Hitchcock pop-up book. According to the publishers, this book "pays tribute to the great filmmaker and features seven of his most influential films: Saboteur, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, and Frenzy... [and features] stunning three-dimensional paper engineering by Kees Moerbeek."

Looks pretty snappy, doesn't it? And don't you think being a "paper engineer" would be a totally awesome profession?

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