Monday, April 30, 2007

If only it was a recipe for something else.

The mega-cool Virtual History Exhibit at the Horn Book site is currently featuring Laura Ingalls Wilder's recipe for gingerbread (recorded in a 1953 letter to a woman named Jennie Lindquist). Sadly, I would be more excited about this brush with history if gingerbread (even the best gingerbread) wasn't so nasty.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

When what to my wondering eyes did appear...

I really wanted this t-shirt, but apparently it's already been sold:

Alas. Well, I guess I could make do with this one:


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spin the wheel

New Line's website for their Golden Compass movie adaptation is up and running, and allows fans to play a twenty questions-style game that determines what their deamon would be. (It's kinda fun--mine was an ocelot named Gabriel.)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And now for something completely different.


The Screaming Room, by Thomas O'Callaghan

Thomas O'Callaghan's The Screaming Room is not a book for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. It's a thriller featuring a series of gruesome, sexually motivated killings (all of which are committed by a pair of teenaged twins who were themselves horribly abused as children) and is the second book to feature O’Callaghan's manly-yet-sensitive hero, NYPD homicide detective John Driscoll.

I can't say that this book was a total waste of time: after all, I did learn something (I had to look up the word "anthracite"* when O'Callaghan used it to describe his heroine's hair). And if one can get past all the stomach-churning details, O'Callaghan is a competent writer. Unfortunately, The Screaming Room is less of a thriller than it is an exercise in endurance, consisting of countless pages of gory murder scenes, horrible flashbacks of abuse, and young children discovering mutilated bodies. There are undoubtedly people out there that want to read a hybrid of Flowers in the Attic and Silence of the Lambs, but I am not among them.

*It's a kind of coal, in case you were wondering.

Queen of the Underworld, by Gail Godwin

I'm not sure whether Gail Godwin's semi-autobiographical novel Queen of the Underworld was actually a good book or if it just seemed that way because I was still recovering from The Screaming Room, but I'm confident that it was at least a huge improvement--a sharp, elegantly written story about a young woman working to establish herself as a journalist in post-Castro Miami.

Queen of the Underworld opens in 1959, when twenty-one-year-old Emma Gant becomes the newest reporter for The Miami Star. Living in a hotel full of Cuban immigrants, Emma spends her nights pining after her married lover and her days getting to know the eclectic group of people that surround her--including former madam Ginevra Brown, the so-called "Queen of the Underworld".

It's tough to warm up to a character that is unrepentantly having an affair with a married man (one with a perfectly lovely wife), but there's no denying that Godwin makes eager, brash Emma seem like a real person. Queen of the Underworld drifts to a close, leaving far too many of its plot twists unresolved, but it works beautifully as a "slice of life" novel, painting a vibrant picture of a time and place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

International Trailer Action!

Here is another sneak peak of what to expect this summer from the next Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Now if we could just get a sample chapter from the final book... (yeah, I won't be holding my breath on that one).

: You can see the US High-Definition trailer (which looks like it might be a little different from the one above) here.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh, for the love of...

It has finally happened: Hollywood is going to make a film version of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. And you know who is going to direct it? David L. Cunningham, director of the infamous ABC TV miniseries The Path to 9/11, a man who has professed a desire to be a "missionary" to Hollywood through films with a "Biblical, values-based message".


Damn it, will Hollywood PLEASE stop SCREWING with my beloved childhood classics?!? If you're not going to hire somebody who's willing to do their subject matter justice--and Mr. Cunningham does not have a good track record with this, folks--then please, please just leave those film rights right where you found 'em.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Alice tableware is offering some cool Alice in Wonderland-themed glasses and serving plates:

Aren't they pretty? They range in price from $4.50 to $19.95, and I think they're well worth it.

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Support your favorite banned book.

My local bookstore is selling the American Library Association's "Banned Books" bracelets. There's an adult version featuring Howl, Alice in Wonderland, The Color Purple, and three other titles for about $20, and an adult-sized kids' version with The Adventures of Captain Underpants, King and King, To Kill a Mockingbird and three additional titles for about $18. Both are cute, although the picture quality for the covers is low.

Note: If you haven't already done so, have a talk about book censorship with any young readers in your household--you'd be surprised at how many kids and teens have no idea that some of their favorite books are controversial subjects. (Your local library should have a book devoted entirely to challenged and banned books in their reference section.)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We like our books pretty.

Have I mentioned what a bargain the Everyman's Library editions are? Published by Knopf Books, this line of over 500 classic titles is beautifully bound and reasonably priced, at about $18 apiece. Their children's classics are a particularly great deal--gorgeous hardback editions of everything from Roald Dahl's The BFG to the Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel for a mere $14.95. These are the kind of books that will grow with a child, and look just as great sitting on a college bookshelf as they do in a kid's bedroom.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Achewood teaches us about wine., home to Chris Onstad's awesomely surreal webcomic of the same name about the group of anthropomorphic toys, robots, and animals that live at 62 Achewood Court, now offers The Achewood Cookbook, a book designed "for people who are fed up with glossy, high-quality efforts by professional chefs who aren't forced to shop at lousy chain grocery stores and cook everything in a ruined teflon pan." (Ooh, and it's only $14! I think I've found my little brother's birthday gift!)

I tend to wonder if this kind of thing is a very late April Fools' Joke, but apparently it isn't: you can buy the cookbook or the Cook's Gift Set--which the shop assures us is "just about the finest thing a person can give to another person"--at Onstad's online shop.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Diana Wynne Jones news!

According to her homepage, the great Diana Wynne Jones's current work-in-progress will feature a guest appearance from Wizard Howl, the hero of Howl's Moving Castle (and a bit player in Castle in the Air). Moving Castle is one of my favorite Jones books--and there's some stiff competition--so I'm very excited to hear this.


Friday, April 13, 2007


While hunting down artist James Jean's website for yesterday's post, I ran across this, his cover art for William Sleator's novel Among the Dolls:

Whoa. Add a clown and that is the freakiest thing I've seen in months.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Free Comic Book Day is coming soon...

Remember, gentle readers, Free Comic Book Day is coming up on May 5th. I don't know much about this year's titles, but there's one titled The Umbrella Academy that features cover art by the phenomenal James Jean (the cover artist for Fables, Jack of Fables, and the soon-to-be-released paperback edition of Annette Curtis Klause's Freaks) and something called Choose Your Weapon, a compilation title from Tokyopop. We'll try to remember to post a reminder on May 4th, but mark your calendars now!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Teen Witch Powers Activate!

Thanks to the fine people at Penguin Books, I have recently discovered Cate Tiernan’s very entertaining YA supernatural/suspense series Sweep*. Ms. Tiernan produced this fifteen-book-long series between 2001 and 2003 (a release schedule that must have thrilled her readers) and now Penguin is reprinting the lot with new, attractive, Goth-lite covers. Tiernan’s series isn’t as nuanced as L.J. Smith’s Secret Circle trilogy, and each story leaves you hanging for the next, so I don’t recommend starting the series unless you’re prepared to finish it, but the Sweep books make for a fast, stylish read with a deliciously soapy plot.

*Known as the Wicca series in England, Australia, and the Netherlands

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Manga on the cheap.

We always encourage people to buy manga through their local comic book stores (who could almost certainly use the money), but if you're doing all your manga shopping at Borders or Barnes and Noble, then you might be better served by checking out I can't personally vouch for them yet, but they're offering a decent selection of titles at some great prices, including Beauty Pop and Ouran High School Host Club for $6.29 per volume, and The Wallflower, Goong, and Angel Diary for $7.66--not to mention the free shipping and additional coupons available online.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

In an old house in Paris...

Check out this super-cute box set of Ludwig Bemelmans' three most popular Madeline stories. According to the publisher, it's "packaged in a replica of the famous 'old house in Paris that was covered with vines.' The attractive box includes Madeline, Madeline's Rescue, and Madeline and the Bad Hat and has a convenient carrying handle so children can take Madeline with them wherever they go." Wouldn't it make a great gift for some little girl's birthday?

I always liked these stories as a kid (although that little thug Pepito had some serious behavior issues). I loved the way that the artwork slanted drunkenly to the right.

Note: has this set available for a mere $10.11.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Stardust Trailer

We've been keeping an eye on the new Stardust movie, and we now have a trailer. Take a look:

There's a better version on the official Stardust website, located here.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

New series from Kelley Armstrong

It seems that Kelley Armstrong, the author of the much-loved Otherworld books, has a new series in the works. Unlike her current series, which has a strong paranormal/suspense element, this new series will be straight-up crime-fighting. The first title in the series is Exit Strategy, and its heroine is an ex-cop turned hitwoman named Nadia Stafford:

"Law enforcement is in Nadia Stafford's blood. She comes from a long line of police officers, and was one herself until the wrong case sent her over the line from cop to killer. Now, to keep her beloved wilderness lodge afloat, she's a contract killer for a small Mafia family.

When a serial killer with all the earmarks of a hit-man begins murdering innocent people, the police investigation threatens to unmask Nadia and others, and she bands together with a small group of hitmen, including her mentor—the mysterious Jack. But once the killer realizes who's on his trail, his simple plan twists into a complex game as both sides fight to prove who is the hunter...and who the prey."

This looks like a lot of fun, and is definitely going to make it onto my list of summer books that I'm really looking forward to reading. The first three chapters are up on Ms. Armstrong's website and are well worth the visit.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lean Mean 13

We have a title and release date for the thirteenth book in the Stephanie Plum series. Lean Mean Thirteen will be out on June 19th! For those of you who can't wait to see what Stephanie gets herself into this time, the first ten pages are up on Ms. Evanovich's website. You should definitely check them out!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jane Austen has a little work done.

Last Sunday's New York Times featured an article about the minor flap over a publisher's decision to prettify one of the few known images of Jane Austen for a reissued biography. I don't particularly care about this one way or the other--and I don't think Jane would have, either, so long as she didn't look like Regency Barbie and her books kept selling--but I do take issue with the Times writer's assertion that "there is not a lot of physical description of people in Austen’s novels", which he seems to take as proof that she didn't put much emphasis on physical attractiveness.

While Austen didn't spend much time describing the details of her characters' appearances, she was always hyper-aware of their physical charms. Austen's concept of courtship was warlike, and all of her characters, male and female, have a clearly defined list of available weapons: varying levels of beauty, charm, virtue, fortune, and common sense. If a character was only moderately attractive (Catherine Morland, Anne Elliot, Colonel Brandon), Austen pointed that out, and duly noted the deficiency in that character's arsenal. Highly attractive characters, like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, are strong on the beauty front, but hampered by their lack of fortune--and, to a certain extent, their virtue, which is tainted by their family's behavior. Austen may not have told us much about Mr. Darcy's broad shoulders or Emma Woodhouse's dainty ankles, but that doesn't mean that she thought broad shoulders or dainty ankles were unimportant.

[Above: Wordsworth Editions' new-and-questionably-improved image of Jane Austen]


Monday, April 02, 2007

That man is pure class.

On the most recent episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert posed for a series of bodice-ripper book covers. (He was trying to prove to Harlequin Books that he'd make a great cover model. And I don't know about you, but *I* would pay many, many dollars for a romance with him on it.) But even if his modeling dream is never realized, his tech flunkies very kindly posted his sample artwork on, so fans can make their own book covers.

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