Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Brother/sister creative team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm’s Babymouse books are a series of witty, girl-friendly graphic novels starring Babymouse, a anthropomorphic young mouse obsessed with books and cupcakes. Their most recent effort, Babymouse #7: Skater Girl, is pure goofy fun, sure to appeal to the 7- to-10-year-old set.

Babymouse feels like she’s the only person in the world without a special talent. She’s never won a trophy for anything (although she has quite the collection of honorable mention ribbons). But when Babymouse discovers she has a gift for ice-skating, is she truly willing to sacrifice everything to succeed—even friends, junk food, and free time?

Girls will like that Skater Girl is fun and unabashedly girly, with Spiegelman-influenced black, white, and pink illustrations, and their parents will like that, unlike many brands aimed at preteen girls, Babymouse isn't trashy (see: Bratz Dolls), insolent (see: Happy Bunny), or stomach-churning (see: the High School Musical franchise). This fresh, funny series is a great feminine alternative in the superhero-filled world of comic books for young readers.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wordcandy loves the poetry!

Poetry Speaks Expanded, edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby, is an updated version of the 2001 collection Poetry Speaks. This remarkable book features poems from 47 of the greatest English-language poets of the 19th and 20th centuries, including such diverse poets as Walt Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Dylan Thomas. Each chapter of Poetry Speaks Expanded is devoted to a specific author, and includes a brief biography, an essay about the author written by a modern poet, and a selection of the author’s poems. The book is accompanied by three audio CDs of the authors’ readings of their own work—everything from the early (and virtually unintelligible) phonograph recordings of Tennyson reciting “The Charge of the Light Brigade” to modern recordings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Al Young‘s Something About the Blues is a more informal, idiosyncratic collection. Young, California’s Poet Laureate, has collected 120 of his new and previously-published poems. All of them are blues-inspired; many are dedicated to a specific artist. Something About the Blues is accompanied by an audio recording featuring Young reading and discussing over 20 of his poems, frequently backed by a live band.

Something About the Blues and Poetry Speaks Expanded would make wonderful gifts for any teachers, students, or literature buffs on your holiday shopping list—their combination of text and audio provides the perfect “hook” for anyone interested in deepening their understanding and appreciation of poetry. Poetry Speaks Expanded provides a comprehensive, well-organized introduction to nearly fifty of the greatest English and American poets of the past century, while Young’s collection will be embraced by fans of both the blues and his elegantly offbeat verse. These accessible, beautifully executed collections are guaranteed to offer poetry fans a memorable reading and listening experience.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Tokyo Look Book

With text by anthropologist Philomena Keet and pictures by Yuri Manabe, The Tokyo Look Book attempts to give readers a complete tour of the Tokyo fashion scene. While it doesn’t quite manage to cover the “entire spectrum of styles currently gracing the streets of the city” (which would probably require more than 220 pages), Keet and Manabe’s book is full of informative content and eye-catching, jaw-dropping pictures.

The Tokyo Look Book takes readers on a journey through the streets of Tokyo’s most fashionable districts, capturing looks ranging from Gothic Lolita and decora-kei to the carefully groomed styles worn by young professionals. In addition to the full-color photographs and Keet’s commentary, the book includes a handful of interviews with some of Tokyo’s leading fashion figures: boutique owners, magazine editors, and designers.

While it would have been a crime to cut any of Manabe’s photographs, The Tokyo Look Book might have been improved by additional commentary from Keet, whose brief descriptions raise more questions than they answer. How do these young people, a collection of students, salespeople, hosts, and hairstylists, afford to buy clothes that cost hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars? (And how do they clean them? We are talking about astronomical dry-cleaning bills, here.) Is it because life in a major urban center rules out rent and car payments? Are service workers exceptionally well paid in Japan? Traditional kimonos seem to be even more expensive—have the Japanese always devoted large chunks of their paycheck to clothing? None of these questions are answered, and they become more irritating with every chapter.

Happily, the little text that does exist in The Tokyo Look Book is a perfect fit for the book’s photographs. Keet’s dry, academic sentences balance out Manabe’s flamboyant pictures, which might prove a little overwhelming on their own. (It’s difficult to describe the impact of a full-page photograph of a woman wearing a yamamba outfit—the closest I can come is “picture a lady dressed up as a Rainbow Brite’s trashier cousin”.) Together, Keet and Manabe have crafted a fascinating, colorful book that's sure to appeal to fans of both fashion and Japanese pop culture.

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Big week

We’ve got a clear mission here at Wordcandy: we promote fun, smart, critically ignored popular fiction. We beam a little love at the best romance novels, mysteries, fantasy/sci-fi stories, manga, and YA titles the world has to offer. Sometimes, however, we get a book in the mail that’s a little different, and these titles all-too-frequently end up languishing in the darkest recesses of our “To Be Read” pile. These are totally Wordcandy-worthy books—we’re just not sure what to do with them.

This week we’re cleaning off our desks, and that means we’ll be trotting out reviews from all over the genre map: two poetry collections, a book about extreme Tokyo fashion, a manga-style kids’ story about anthropomorphic baby mice, a serialized audio novel written by some of the nation’s top thriller authors, an autobiography about growing up in Kiev, a book about dinosaurs, a collection of profanity-laced essays about the joy of teaching, and a novel about Winston Churchill. We’re not sure what we’ll put here on the blog* and what we’ll stick on the main site, but both sites are going to be chock-full of some very offbeat (well, by our standards) material.

*But don’t worry, blog fans—if we run across any critical Wordcandy news stories, like Rowling announcing an eighth Harry Potter book or Britney reading another C.S. Lewis novel, we’ll report that, too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Regency revisited

Michèle Ann Young’s No Regrets features one of the most tantalizing opening sequences I’ve seen in ages, and a plot that borrows heavily from Georgette Heyer. (Hey, if you’re going to borrow your plot twists, it’s always smart to borrow from the best.) Despite these virtues, No Regrets is a disappointment—it’s a cut above the average bodice-ripper, but it never lives up to the promise of its first chapter.

Young’s heroine is a dowdy, overweight spinster named Caroline Torrington. Caroline’s not sure why her childhood friend, dashing rake Lucas Foxhaven, keeps proposing to her, but she darkly (and correctly) suspects that it has something to do with money. When Lucas finally makes her a marriage offer she can’t refuse, Caroline reluctantly consents—if he agrees to her list of demands: a London season, financial support for the rest of her life, and a quick divorce.

Like many Heyer imitators, Young makes the mistake of focusing too much on her hero and heroine, and too little on her supporting characters. (Heyer’s novels usually featured at least one solidly entertaining subplot in addition to the main romantic storyline.) But while Young’s book introduces several intriguing minor characters, 99% of No Regrets focuses on Caroline and Lucas, who endure enough disasters to fill up a dozen Heyer novels. These are reasonably compelling characters, but their melodramatic romance alone isn’t interesting enough to justify a nearly four-hundred-page-long book.

Laurie Brown’s Hundreds of Years To Reform a Rake, on the other hand, doesn’t imitate anybody. This highly original book ignores romance novel conventions, and while many of Ms. Brown’s ideas work, one wonders if such an unusual novel will appeal to fans of the genre.

Professional paranormal researcher Josie Drummond has been hired to prove that the ghost of Lord Deverell Thornton, the ninth Earl of Waite, haunts Waite Castle. (The castle’s impoverished owner needs an “official” ghost to turn the building into a tourist attraction.) But the spectral Earl has even bigger plans: he transports Josie back to the Regency era, hoping she’ll be able to debunk the swindlers that cost his family their fortune. Still reeling from her discovery of ghosts and time travel, Josie is horrified to discover that Deverell expects her to blend into in the complex Regency social scene. After all, waltzing, corsets, and fake spiritualists are bad enough without a handsome, bossy ghost criticizing her every move....

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake isn’t outstandingly humorous or erotic, but it is thoroughly researched. Tidbits of historical information appear on almost every page, many of them designed to strip away the romance associated with life in the early nineteenth century. Some of these factoids are worked naturally into the story (Josie discovers that crowded, deodorant-free Regency balls were sweaty, smelly affairs, and Deverell is under six feet—appropriately tall for his time, but a far cry from the usual strapping six-foot-four romantic hero.) Others are less well-suited to the story—there's a scene where the hero explains that many Regency dining rooms featured a chamber pot behind a screen, should someone require it during a dinner party. That may be true (I'm certainly not going to look it up), but it’s a jarring and unnecessary piece of information to find in a romance novel.

If you’re in the market for a different kind of historical romance, or you enjoy stories filled with period detail, Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake is a solid bet. Ms. Brown’s book is far from perfect, but romance novels this unconventional are few and far between.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Birds redux

In surprisingly positive movie adaptation news, Naomi Watts is said to be starring in an upcoming remake of The Birds. According to the article I saw, this time they're apparently trying to stick closer to the original Daphne du Maurier short story—which leaves me a little confused. It's been a long time since I read The Birds, but didn't Hitchcock come up with the Melanie Daniels character all on his own? The original story's protagonist was a farmer or something. Watts would make a fabulous Tippi Hedren 2.0, but who's she going to play in this version? [Source]

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New and (much, much) improved

I've been waiting a long time for somebody to give Lucy Maud Montgomery's books new cover art. I've seen a few decent-looking editions of Anne of Green Gables recently, but nobody seems to be leaping to renovate Montgomery's lesser-known works... with one happy exception: my favorite of her independent stories, The Blue Castle. Here's the butt-ugly edition of my childhood, which, sadly, is still widely available:

And here's the new version:

Not exactly mind-blowing, but way better, huh? Tasteful and grown-up. I'm not sure how widely available this edition is in the U.S.*, but you could probably special-order it. This charming, funny, starry-eyed romance is totally worth the effort of a little hunting.

*The big online stores say they have it, but let's face it: they lie.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Manga news

Wired magazine is currently featuring an article called "How Manga Conquered the U.S.—A Graphic Guide to Japan's Coolest Export". The article, which is told through manga-style text and artwork, narrated by a sailor-suited Japanese schoolgirl, and meant to be read right-to-left, is downloadable as a pdf.

Note: There's an accompanying article entitled "Japan, Ink: Inside the Manga Industrial Complex". It's written in (sigh) plain old text, but it's excellent.


Monday, October 22, 2007


Fantasy fans take note: there's a new book out from Robin McKinley entitled Dragonhaven. Here's the publisher's description:

"Jake Mendoza lives at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild. Keeping a preserve for dragons is controversial: detractors say dragons are extremely dangerous and unjustifiably expensive to keep and should be destroyed. Environmentalists and friends say there are no records of them eating humans and they are a unique example of specialist evolution and must be protected. But they are up to eighty feet long and breathe fire.

On his first overnight solo trek, Jake finds a dragon-a dragon dying next to the human she killed. Jake realizes this news could destroy Smokehill-even though the dead man is clearly a poacher who had attacked the dragon first, that fact will be lost in the outcry against dragons.

But then Jake is struck by something more urgent-he sees that the dragon has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive. What he decides to do will determine not only their futures, but the future of Smokehill itself."

So.... Jake = Charlie Weasley?

Frankly, this doesn't sound like the kind of thing I usually get into (plus, that cover art looks too much like an inferior version of the artwork they used for Naomi Novik's series), but A) you can usually trust Ms. McKinley to come up with something unique, and B) it's a YA novel, so it's retailing for a mere $17.99. Not bad for a hardcover.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rowling shocks the easily shockable (and thrills legions of fanfic writers) announcing over the weekend that beloved wizarding icon Dumbledore was gay!

GO, J.K. ROWLING! Hell, if your books are going to be banned left and right anyway, why not strike a blow for equality while you're at it?

[For a rough transcript, as well as several additional details about other HP characters, click here.]

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Friday, October 19, 2007

M.T. Anderson Speaks! (Part II)

(Here's the link to Part I of this interview. Again, the High School TV reporter is referred to in this interview as "HSR", the interviewer from George Mason University is referred to as "GMU", and Mr. Anderson is referred to as "M.T.A.")

HSR: How long do you usually take to write a book?

M.T.A: Well, it depends on the book. The Octavian Nothing books will have taken me a total of seven years to write, while Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen took me about two weeks each. So it really varies, depending on the kind of project.

GMU: Do your interests change really often? What happens when you find a different interest in the middle of a seven-year project?

M.T.A.: It’s a pain when you really feel like you don’t want to be working on your current project, but you’re in the middle of it and you have a deadline and everything, so you don’t have much choice. But I find that other interests actually enliven prose: say, if I suddenly become interested in ghost stories or something when I’m working on Octavian—what the hell, I’ll just put a little ghost story in there. It changes the texture a bit, but it reinvigorates the story for me, and the reader will think: okay, here’s an interesting new thing.

Wordcandy: Did you have any favorite books as a child?

M.T.A.:When I was a little kid I loved Dr. Seuss. I also loved these books—I know this sounds obscure but they were incredibly cool—by the author Tove Jansson. She wrote this series called the Moominland books, about these amazing creatures who lived in the forest in the Midlands and had very wonderful and depressing little adventures. I also loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising and Robert Cormier’s I am the Cheese. I thought that was amazing when I was a kid. It just blew my mind.

HSR: Do you have any advice for your readers who are looking to become writers?

M.T.A.:I think my biggest piece of advice is to actually write. Because I think that what happens with a lot of us is that we want to be writers but we think of it as being more of a persona than something that actually involves writing. So we just get a funny hat and walk around and be all writer-y. But I would suggest that it is actually a good idea, even if you are not aiming at publication, to sit there and do things like keeping a journal—even if what is in your journal is all lies and crazy stories that you make up about yourself. Write as often as you can because that early experience with writing creates a facility that allows you to bypass a lot of the technical issues without even knowing it. I also say you should read a lot of different stuff—really stretch your reading into areas that you find bizarre or uninteresting at first. Maybe you could follow those obscure interests to try and see the world in as many different ways as possible.

Wordcandy: Can you give us a glimpse of what we might see coming out next?

M.T.A.: The second of the Octavian Nothing books is coming out. It will be called The Kingdom on the Waves. And I hope the third of my Whales on Stilts books will be coming out this spring. It’ll be called Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware. Delaware, yes... I always feel that Delaware in the title always grabs the eye.

GMU : Do you approach the writing of your books differently, or do you have a standard way of actually physically writing one?

M.T.A.:You mean like chiseling as apposed to other forms? No, there is a difference to writing the Octavian books. I have to create a really historical mood for myself. For that I have to get into, like, a meditative state. I go up to a place in Maine where I can’t be easily contacted, and I read a lot of 18th century stuff and I pace around in circles and I go walking in the woods a lot, until finally I’ve arrived at a point where I really feel that 18th century is imprinted on me. Then I sit down and write, but I really can’t have much contact. When I write the lighter books I can be anywhere and it is a much more straightforward writing process, without all that “Don’t change your shirt!” weird superstition attached to it.

Wordcandy: Have you ever been approached by Hollywood? Is there any chance we’ll ever see a film version of your novels?

M.T.A.: There’s a chance. They’ve all at one time or another been optioned for movies, but none of the options have been exercised. Scripts exist for several of them and I am waiting to see if anything happens.

Wordcandy: Do you get much say in how your book is translated into a movie script?

No, you don’t really get much of a say about that. Basically, the most say you get is if you make or break the contract. But in spite of that… the only time I have ever really intervened was when they were writing the script for Burger Wuss and there was a joke that was just sort of homophobic in it. It didn’t make sense for the character to be making that kind of joke and I thought it was irritatingly offensive and juvenile. Then I did say to them: look, you really have to take that out. But in general, authors really don’t get much say in their movies and in many cases authors are very angry about the movies that get made as a result.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007


And speaking of manga...

Fans of Natsuki Takaya's massively popular Fruits Basket series can now buy the "Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition". It's a compilation of the first two volumes, complete with a new cover and interior color art. It's also only $15 ($5 less than you'd pay for the two individual volumes), so if you're looking for a new zillion-volume-long series to commit to, here's your chance.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


What is this?

While I've never been a fan of Christine Feehan's novels, I'm intrigued by this "re-imagining" of one of her short stories as a manga. Ms. Feehan has always struck me as a mediocre writer with a solid imagination, so her stories might suit the graphic novel format, which would play up her plot-creation skills while minimizing her sub-par writing style. Here's the publisher's description:

"Riordan is an immortal Carpathian male, trapped and caged, his honor compromised by his captors. They're in his mind. They're in his blood. And not one can withstand his desire for revenge.

Juliette is an activist devoted to liberating animals from a secret jungle lab. What she stumbles upon is a prisoner like no other. She will release him from his bonds. He will release her from her inhibitions."

Hey, I've read worse. I'm not sure about that $12 price tag, but it's an intriguing idea.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Celebrities reading, part II

It's not as deliciously apropos as Paris Hilton carrying around a copy of Valley of the Dolls, but trainwreck-at-large Britney Spears was recently photographed reading a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I notice, however, that she appears to have purchased the budget edition (note the little red sticker on the back). Sure, she's not raking in the cash like she used to, but couldn't she spare the extra few bucks for the copy with the Chris Van Allsburg cover art?


Monday, October 15, 2007

Bookseller news

Barnes and Noble is currently featuring a video interview with Terry Pratchett. (I'm finding that their new site is about 20% slower and fifty times more irritating than their old one. Is any one else having this reaction?)

Amazon has the first volume of the Wallflower anime available for pre-order. They're giving a 25% discount, too... which still doesn't make it worthwhile, in my opinion. This was a really low-quality anime.

On the East Coast, the Strand Bookstore will be hosting an event on November 19th with the exquisitely beautiful Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo's Top Chef and author of Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day. If anybody goes to this, can you find out how it is that she works around food every day and still remains a size -2? And then get back to me? Thanks!

On the West Coast, Powell's is offering a hefty 30% discount off of Brock Clarke's The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, which we had earlier singled out for having truly excellent cover art.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Awards season

Well, the National Book Awards finalists have been announced, and—surprise!—we've read exactly one of 'em. (And it's a picture book: Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in case you were wondering.)

Why, National Book Awards selection committees, why must you sneer at all the fun books?


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

M.T. Anderson Speaks! (Part I)

Behold again: here's the first part of my interview with the fantastically awesome M.T. Anderson! The second part will be posted soon. Please note that this interview includes questions from a student from George Mason University (known here as GMU) and a high school television reporter (known here as HSR):

HSR: Why are you here at the National Book Festival?

MTA: Because I was invited and there was free food.

GMU: We were just talking about how many different books you had written. The collection of books is so diverse—how do you decide your subject matter? You clearly jump from subject to subject, and you don’t seem to be limited by age group or anything.

MTA: Well, I wrote about whatever caught my interest. For example, I wrote Feed, which allowed me to make up absolutely anything I wanted to, stick it on the page, and call it reality. But then I had always really liked 18th century music, so I thought: heck, I’ll do some research on that. The cool thing about having a varied approach to these books was that one allowed me to say anything I wanted to, while another presented me with all of these very complicated things to look into and research. Which was actually tremendously fun—but I couldn’t even mention an article of clothing without making sure that it still existed, or existed in the same form. But in the middle of doing that work I was like, “Oh, I can’t stand this anymore, I just want to say they ate a burger! I don’t want to have to go look up what they would have eaten!” At that point it was a relief to turn to, say, some of the middle-grade comic fantasy novels I’ve written, like Whales on Stilts, and just put anything I wanted to on the page and be funny. Each approach is kind of an antidote to the previous one, and helped me refocus. If I worked in the same vein for each book, I think I’d be very tired.

Wordcandy: You’ve written a few very funny, surreal children’s books, while your stories for older readers are much darker. Are we going to see more of a crossover between your two styles?

MTA: Feed was kind of like that—it was both comic and satirical. There are some funny parts in the sequel to Octavian Nothing, but it’s not exactly a ripsnorter; it’s about incredible human cruelty and oppression. I think I naturally see comic elements as having the ability to embody the kind of grotesqueness that’s part of human nature.

GMU: Your books seem to market to children and young adults, yet they appeal to a larger adult audience. Do you tend to write with a specific audience in mind?

MTA: Some of them I wrote with a specific audience in mind, like Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. I wrote those thinking of 10-year-olds. However, Octavian Nothing is a historical novel—that was a case where I had to force myself to not think of an audience. I wanted to imagine how the character would really speak, regardless of the readership. I tried to blank out the idea of a specific audience, because if I started worrying about “Will people understand this?” or whatever, then I was going to end up stunting him as a character. So, in order to make him fully bloom, I blocked out the idea of an audience and wrote what I honestly believed he’d write and say.

Wordcandy: When you get to a point when you're really low on inspiration and the muses have run away, what do you do? Is there a particular piece of music or a book that you turn to that relaxes you enough to find that inspiration?

MTA: That’s a great question and the answer is yes, for both of those. For each project, I tend to have pieces of music that embody the texture of the writing that I want in that project. Sometimes they’re a piece of music from the period of time featured in the book’s setting, and sometimes there’s just something about them that makes it feel like the kind of prose I want for a particular project. I also read authors who, one way or another, shove me in the right direction. For example, for the 18th century book I continually read 18th century novels, so my natural voice began to write in stilted, 18th century-style prose. But sometimes I would read something modern that gave me a little side wind….

I’m very careful about what I read when I’m writing, because you tend to take on a tinge of whatever it is you’re reading when you write. I don’t know if you've ever noticed when you're writing book reviews, but sometimes you write the review and realize that you’ve written it in the style of the book you’re reviewing. It’s very hard to separate yourself from what you read, which is why it is important to judge what you read carefully.

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We try to meet every bibliophile’s entertainment needs here at Wordcandy, and that includes fans of recreational cookbook reading. Check out Stephanie Anderson’s Killer Pies: Delicious Recipes from North America’s Favorite Restaurants:

Doesn’t that look great? On top of having awesome cover art (I love the vaguely threatening-looking utensils), Ms. Anderson’s publisher has a webpage up that allows you to try out three of the book’s featured recipes—pecan, apple, and a gorgeous raspberry-rhubarb.

...can you tell I haven’t had breakfast yet?


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Great news for manhwa fans...

We've been complaining for a while about the demise of ICE Kunion, the English-language publisher of several of our favorite manhwa titles. (Hey, the idea that we'd never find out what happened in Angel Diary was very upsetting.) So we were delighted to see that Yen Press, the upcoming manga/manhwa imprint of Hachette Book Group USA, has taken over all of ICE Kunion's titles. Here's a snippet of their press release:

"Yen Press has announced that it will acquire ICE Kunion, a publisher of South Korean graphic novels, or manhwa. Following the acquisition, Yen Press will sell and distribute ICE Kunion’s existing inventory, which will be readily available starting this fall. In addition, Yen Press plans to continue to publish new installments of series that began under ICE Kunion as part of the Yen Press imprint in 2008."

Unfortunately, the "starting this fall" bit is fairly vague. I can't find updated release info on Amazon, because, according to their records, most of these books are already out. (ICE Kunion kept on posting release dates for their series, even after they'd stopped producing anything—volume 2 of Goong allegedly came out, like, a year ago.) Still, this is the first sign of life we've seen for any of these series in ages, so we're really excited: more Goong! More Angel Diary! More Cynical Orange! YAY!


Monday, October 08, 2007

Ms. Black Speaks!

Behold, my interview with the fantastically awesome Holly Black, author of the Wordcandy Featured Book pick Ironside:

1. Can you give us any news on your upcoming story The White Cat? Does it have anything to do with the fairy tale of the same name?
It won’t be out for a few years since I just sold it now, and I only have three chapters. But I am really excited that it’s not about faeries. It’s my first non-faerie book! I’m excited to try something different. It’s based on a fairy tale that I loved when I was a kid, but it’s going to be contemporary dark fantasy—grifters, private schools, curse magic, and a cat in a dress.

2. I know you’re working on a graphic novel trilogy. How does this new format alter your writing style?

I love comics so I was excited to give writing one a try. My graphic novels are called The Good Neighbors. Are you familiar with Ted Naifeh? He’s the artist I’m working with—he’s done Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things and a book called How Loathesome. It was really hard figuring it out comic scripting as a format, but interesting. The best thing about writing comics is, I usually get very bogged down providing lots of description, but that’s Ted’s problem now! I just have to be like, “Here, make this pretty,” or “There’s some people, make them look weird,” and it’s up to him.

But it’s really hard to convey mood with dialogue. You have to streamline it. And the plotting feels a little bit different,. Another great thing is although you can do flashbacks in books, they’re really hard to justify, but in a graphic novel, they’re fine! So in this first book, there are a lot of flashbacks. I went a little crazy with my new abilities—you know, the joy of the flashback.

3. Your YA novels (Tithe, Valiant, Ironside) feature some pretty hardcore teen behavior. Did you take a lot of flack for that?
I get some. I’ve made it a rule that when I am writing about experiences, the non-faerie parts have to have happened to me or somebody I know. When I started writing these books, I was writing about a part of New Jersey and a community that I knew well—one that I felt like I hadn’t seen a lot of in books. Although I think this is probably less true today, in earlier fantasy, kids were often very wealthy or very poor. And even when they were middle class, they were still what I called upper class. I wanted to write about people I know, and the Jersey shore, and the way it was to be a teenager there. And that means, you know, dealing with a lot of issues. These are things I know kids are dealing with, so I try to portray those experiences as honestly as I can.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Heyer done wrong

I have limited bookshelf space for my Georgette Heyer collection, and if I was smart, I'd save it for the beautiful Sourcebooks editions of her books. But life is uncertain, and I fret. What if they give up on Heyer, and nobody else ever reprints her books? This is why it's impossible for me to pass by a cheap Heyer paperback when I find one. I'm particularly fond of the vintage Ace editions—not only do they have gloriously cheeseball cover art, the promotional blurbs on the back covers must have been written by drunks.

Here's the text from their 1951 edition of The Quiet Gentlemanmy comments are in italics:
It seemed like an impossible romantic daydream when Drusilla Morville set her cap (she totally doesn't do this) for handsome Gervase Frant, for she was his mother's companion (no, she wasn't), and he was the Earl of Erth (uh, he was actually the Earl of St. Erth). Her prospects, in fact, became even more remote when Gervase began to suspect that she was part of an insidious plot against his life (this never even crosses his mind).

Soon Drusilla found herself up to her pretty ears in intrigue (...what?), for not only had she to outwit an unseen enemy (uh, no—in fact, she's determined to stay out of it), she had to convince the reticent Earl that winning her would be the greatest accomplishment of his life (again, no—the reason it's a romance is because he realizes this all by himself—no "convincing" is necessary).
Error-to-Sentence Ratio: 7 errors, 3 sentences

And here's the text for their 1957 edition of Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle:
Nothing could have induced impulsive outspoken Phoebe Marlow (in fact, she's crippled by shyness in public) to marry handsome, elegant Sylvester Rayne, Duke of Salford, the one man she thoroughly detested (actually, he's just one of a very long list). But Sylvester had other ideas; this beautiful young rebel (she's nowhere near beautiful, and the "rebel" bit is questionable, too) had caught his fancy (no, she hadn't), and if Petruchio could tame Katharine, he had no doubt he could tame Phoebe (Ugh. And, again, totally incorrect.).

But Sylvester underestimated his opponent: Phoebe secretly wrote a novel that not only shocked London, but presented her unwelcome fiancé (They're not engaged! And when she wrote the book, they barely even knew one another!), thinly disguised, as a villain and a knave.
Error-to-Sentence Ratio: 6 errors, 3 sentences

See? Who could resist? It's like they're talking about different books entirely!


Thursday, October 04, 2007

National Book Festival

Encouraged by Julia's belief that I would be found wandering around the National Mall, hopelessly lost, I headed out to join the other tens of thousands of book lovers at the Library of Congress's seventh annual National Book Festival.

This year's event featured some of our favorite Wordcandy authors: Holly Black, Cynthia Leitich Smith, M.T. Anderson, and Terry Pratchett. The authors started their morning off with a breakfast hosted by the President and First Lady. (Holly Black was speculating on her livejournal about the amount of silverware she could stuff in her purse.) All the authors gave talks or readings and answered questions from the enthusiastic—sometimes downright worshipful—audience.

Barnes & Noble supplied tents where you could buy the featured authors' current releases. After you depleted your your bank account buying books, the authors were available to sign them. There were lots of activities for children: they could meet their favorite PBS character or hang out in the Magic School Bus. Hardcore geeks (possibly including, uh, me) could even get their pictures taken with Bull’s-Eye, the Target dog.

In addition to the author talks and book character visits, other tents had reading activities, a display of the treasures belonging to the Library of Congress, and information about capturing family histories and stories. The "Pavilion of States" had representatives from all the states and U.S. territories, each talking about their reading and library promotion programs.

While at the event, I was lucky enough to attend question-and-answer sessions with Terry Pratchett and Cynthia Leitich Smith, as well as sit-down interviews with Holly Black and M.T. Anderson. Everybody was totally fabulous and funny, so please check back over the next few days to read the summaries and interview transcripts!

Note: The man in black in the middle photograph? Yeah, that's Terry Pratchett. Can't you see the little nimbus of light surrounding him?


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Something to look forward to...

Two of our favorite Wordcandy YA authors have new books scheduled for the spring:

Peter Abrahams has announced that the third book in his excellent Echo Falls mystery series will be called Into the Dark, and is due out April 1st.

And (even more exciting!!!) Wendelin Van Draanen is going to release another standalone romance! We loved Flipped with a fiery passion, and the Sammy/Casey romance in her Sammy Keyes series gets more freakishly adorable with every book. Confessions of a Serial Kisser is due out May 13th.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


As our longtime readers know, we here at Wordcandy rarely turn down a re-told fairytale, even when it’s just another teen-girl-friendly version of Cinderella. We’re particularly excited when the fairytale in question is an unusual one, which is why we were all a-flutter over Jane May’s Hooked, a modern retelling of The Fisherman and His Wife.

Clarence "Woody" Woods, the assistant dockmaster at an exclusive Miami yacht club, dreams of sailing around the world on his almost-fully-restored boat. Woody’s a simple-living kind of guy, but his moderate lifestyle isn’t likely to win the heart of Madalina Dragoi, the yacht club’s hot, money-grubbing new Romanian waitress. So when Woody catches a magical talking tuna (actually a philandering used-car salesman who’s been cursed by his wife) that claims to grant wishes, he finds himself charging up Florida’s social and financial ladders—and discovering that wealth, privilege, and sultry Eastern-European babes aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be.

Several of the jokes in Hooked seem like crassness for crassness’s sake, which may limit the book’s appeal for adult readers. In fact, the book’s target audience is unclear—half the humor (jokes about adulterous spouses, gold-digging, and inappropriately-timed erections) is too R-rated for young readers, but other half (jokes about flatulence and public urination) is too immature to appeal to adults. May’s book would have been improved by a hardcore editing job: one that either A) removed most of the book’s gross-out jokes, added a more fully-developed romantic storyline, and turned it into a book for grown-ups, or B) kept the gross-out humor but removed most of the overt sex stuff, making it more young-reader-friendly. After all, May is a clever, imaginative author, and Hooked makes for a fun read—it’s too bad that it ended up being neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

It's that time of year again

Welcome to Banned Books Week!

Looking for a banned book to read? Lucky for you, there's no reason to leave the house: half the childhood classics on your bookshelf have been banned or challenged somewhere: Chris Crutcher? Shel Silverstein? Madeleine L'Engle? The Captain Underpants series? All apparently out to steal your soul, dear readers, with their evil storytelling powers!

Click here for the American Library Association's Banned Books Week page, and here for their list of the top ten challenged books/series in 2006. Please note that the number one book, Tango Makes Three, is one we've blogged about before. It's about gay penguins. Who on God's green earth could possibly feel threatened by the sex lives of penguins?


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