Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spanking Shakespeare, by Jake Wizner

Jake Wizner’s debut novel Spanking Shakespeare is the literary equivalent of a Woody Allen movie directed by Judd Apatow: five times as self-centered, sex-obsessed, and painfully neurotic as it is genuinely funny.

Wizner’s hero is Shakespeare Shapiro, a teenage boy burdened with the name from Hell. Shakespeare has always hovered on the lower end of the social ladder, but when his bawdy (and implausibly articulate) entries for his school’s required memoir-writing class are read aloud, he starts to win his classmates’ attention. Before long, Shakespeare has achieved at least borderline coolness, and it seems like his greatest dream (sex with a hot girl—any hot girl; he has a list of both his dream girls and his “safeties”) might actually be realized.

If Shakespeare had ended up with a girl who was even half as hideously self-obsessed as he was (say, the heroine from Susan Juby’s Alice, I Think books), I would have forgiven this novel everything—but, naturally, he ends up with a sweet girl with a martyr complex a mile wide. I am so tired of this story. When are they going to write a book or make a movie about a nerdy, sarcastic, egotistical, schlubby girl who ends up with the boy of her dreams*? I’m not talking about a Meg Cabot-style story featuring a geeky heroine who doesn’t recognize her own unique charms or the impossibly sunny Nikki Blonsky winning Zac Efron in Hairspray. I’m talking about the feminine equivalent of Superbad... or Mr. Wizner’s book.

I know, I know: it’ll never happen. For one thing, how would they even find enough chubby/nerdy girls in Hollywood to fill the cast? And for another, the film industry is too busy making a movie version of Spanking Shakespeare, which (shocker!) was optioned for film nearly as soon as it came out.

*Without a Cinderella-style makeover.

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The Scarlet Letter goes high school

Frankly, the story has always struck me as being fairly juvenile, so this seems like a pretty good fit.

Variety is reporting that Will Gluck is directing a film called Easy A, a "modern, high school-set retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter... [centering] on a student who sees her life paralleling Hawthorne’s heroine Hester Prynne after she pretends to be the school slut in hopes she’ll benefit from the notion she’s promiscuous."

Huh. Sounds... unique?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Cassandra Clare's City of Bones

Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, the first book in her "Mortal Instruments" trilogy, has a lot going for it: the twists and turns of the plot make sense, the dialogue is lively, and—unlike so many YA authors—Clare actually develops her characters, rather than just (*ahem*) name-dropping the brands of their clothing*.

In the New York of City of Bones, vampires, werewolves, and demons are lurking all over the city, unnoticed by everyone but the Shadowhunters, a secretive, highly trained group of monster slayers. 15-year-old Clary Fray has always considered herself as a normal girl, but when she comes across a trio of tattooed teenagers killing a demon that only she can see, she is drawn into the Shadowhunters’ world.

Apart from a plot twist late in the novel that any telenovela fan will see coming a mile away, City of Bones is pretty darn good. It isn’t as funny as Rosemary Clement-Moore’s "Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil" series or as darkly dramatic as Holly Black’s books, but it is extremely entertaining, with solidly constructed characters and a creative storyline. The third and final book in this series just came out, so urban fantasy fans should hie themselves to a bookstore and check these titles out.

*The heroine wears green Converse, but we’ll give her that one.

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Borders no more?

There's been a fair amount of depressing-sounding Borders news floating around lately (not to mention the obvious shutting down/downsizing of its CD and DVD divisions), and it sounds like we might get some kind of confirmation soon: The Consumerist is reporting that things aren't looking good.

I'm not totally clear on the roads to bankruptcy and/or going out of business (they seem to go hand-in-hand much more in this economy), but I'm assuming we'll hear more this week.

Anyway, good luck, Borders! You charge too much for CDs*, but I really like your manga section, so I hope you stick around.

*Seriously: the Neko Case CD I bought at the beginning of the month cost under $10 at Target, $12.95 at Starbucks, and an impressive $17.99 at Borders.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Georgette Heyer resources

We're wrapping up our week of Georgette Heyer coverage (although our Heyer giveaway runs through Tuesday), so we thought we'd close with a list of additional references. If you'd like to know more about Ms. Heyer's life and work, we suggest checking out:


GeorgetteHeyer.com—the definitive Heyer website

The Sourcebooks Heyer site—Heyer’s most recent American publisher

The Arrow Books site (UK)—Heyer’s most recent British publisher

Austenfans—This Jane Austen site has a page devoted to Heyer’s work


The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Joan Aiken Hodge

Georgette Heyer's Regency World
, by Jennifer Kloester

Both of the above books are British publications, and can be hard to find in the States, but I hear there might be an American Heyer bio coming out sometime this year....

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Wordcandy odds and ends...

They've cast the three main characters of the upcoming CW adaptation of L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries.

The anime adaptation of Skip Beat is winding down. People always want another season of popular series... and in this case, I have no idea how they're going to resolve even half of their plot lines in the time remaining. Another season seems downright necessary.

If you can read Japanese, manga greats Rumiko Takahashi and Mitsuru Adachi created a one-shot manga short story called "My Sweet Sunday" in celebration of the Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine's 50th anniversary, and you can read it online for free until May 24.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wordcandy chats with the Sourcebooks graphic designer!

As longtime readers of the site know, we care (maybe more than we should) about cover art. It's all very well to say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... but, hello, there are a lot of books out there, and how else are you supposed to judge 'em, at least initially? So we were very excited to have a chance to interview Dawn Pope, the Sourcebooks graphic designer responsible for their lovely new Georgette Heyer covers!

Can you tell us a little about your work process—do you start with a pencil and paper, or do you go straight to the mouse?

As far as my process, I am a straight to mouse kind of gal. I get a lot of my inspiration from image research. I start with an idea, usually based on the premise of the novel, the characters a scene, what the time period is. If a manuscript is available, I will try and read a chapter or two if there is time. But it is the image research for me that inspires where I want my design to go.

What is a typical time frame to get a cover from assignment to final approval?

Our typical time frame for cover design is generally about 3 months. This seems like a lot of time, but when you are working on a list of over 140 titles, this is a bit daunting. I usually design about 30 covers off of our seasonal list.

How often do you bring (or the editor brings) an author into the process?

Most all of our authors are involved in the cover design at some level. Some more than others, it really depends on their contract. Our authors always have approval over the final cover. I really like to involve the authors, and meet their expectations, because after all this is their work, their reputation, their career. It is my job to do the best I can, design the best I can to make their hard work fly off the shelves.

How do you arrive at a balance between producing covers that meet the needs of the editors, marketing, store buyers and consumers, while maintaining a creativity level that’s personally gratifying?

Oh, the delicate balance… this is a tough balance. There are so many elements that not only go on our covers, but that affect the cover design. To achieve the perfect balance, it really comes down to knowing the category, what works what doesn’t. The only way to really do this is to spend a lot of time in the bookstores and online to see what is working in the market place, what works on shelf. Things you wouldn’t even think to consider like, the lighting in the store, the type of shelves your leading retailers have. For example, are their ledges on the shelves, will the authors name or title be blocked if placed too low on the cover. Lighting is important because you don’t want your cover to be too dark and not legible.

We work very closely with our editors, marketing, sales and publicity departments to make sure that the look, the language and design of the cover work for that category. Our publisher, Dominique Raccah, also has final say in the approval of the covers and she has a very wide breadth of knowledge in all aspects of this book; she knows what is going to work and what won’t.

Once you understand the market place and the audience you are designing for, it allows you to design to a self gratifying level, while having a successfully functional cover and a successful book.

If you were to talk to a classroom of aspiring designers, how would you describe to them what book design is? How is it different from other forms of graphic design (say, CD packaging)?

This is one of my favorite things, I actually do go back to my high school twice a year to participate in portfolio reviews and talk to the design classes there. Book design is a very complex process, there is so much that goes into consideration when designing book covers. Like the biggest issue is that a cover is never done, it is never perfect. You may go out with one cover, then the book doesn’t work well on shelf, if that book comes back up for reprint, then sometimes we redesign the cover to make it function better. A book cover is a marketing piece and you have 30 seconds to sell the reader. It is funny that they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, because that is exactly what you do… it is that cover that gets you to pick up the book and read on. If you don’t convey the information in an eye catching easy to read way, you just lost a sale. I would say the biggest thing with book design is that it is always around. I got my start in magazine design for a non-profit agency, that was one month and the work was done and gone. With a book, a good book, it is around for a long time. Same way when you look at web design, it is an always changing platform. I have to say, that is why I love book design, I like my designs to be tangible, and something you can have around always.

What influences have contributed to your design style?

I don’t know if there are specific influences to mention, but I like very clean design. I like white space, and I am a typography nut... I love type and fonts. I love to see how you can arrange a title. I put a lot of emphasis on my type and my font choice. I had never considered myself an artistic person until I started taking a production graphics class in high school, I discovered a love for design and creating printed pieces that took me into college where I had to learn all about art, how to draw, how to sculpt, and how to design.

I took a book design class and it was setting mass amounts of type, for the internals of the page that fascinated me. It has been a learning experience every step of the way, and I just keep learning.

Who are the book designers you look up to?

I would say Chip Kidd tops the list... he is the definition of a book designer. Other than that, I admire all designs, some of the most classic designs I look up to come out of Chronicle, Penguin and Random House. They have amazing designs, and I can only hope to compete on their level with every one of my designs.

How many of the books you design covers for do you read?

Unfortunately, I don’t get to read a lot of the books before I design the covers. Our editors provide us with cover information, the character descriptions, setting, time period and mood. A lot of times when we are designing covers, the manuscript isn’t ready yet. I do like to go back and I try to read every book, which is why currently I am reading three books... gets a bit crazy.

Is there any book for which you have a burning desire to rework the cover?

Oh geeze, any book from my first year in book design. I am still generally okay with my covers, there are a few that when I look at them, I think, “Oh, I could have done so much better...” but that is the beast that is book design. Like I said before, they are around for always, I see them over and over again, but when I compare them to what I do now, I see how far I have come. All I can think is that with each title and each cover it is a new challenge and a learning experience, and I can only get better.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Dawn!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Where the Wild Things Are trailer is UP!

And it looks AWESOME:

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Georgette Heyer's film adaptations

The question of “Why hasn’t there been a Georgette Heyer television adaptation?” is one of the great Wordcandy conundrums, right up there with “How can anybody read the Twilight books without wanting to punch Bella in the face?” and “Why won’t someone reprint Jill Pinkwater’s Buffalo Brenda?”. According to GeorgetteHeyer.com, there have actually been two Heyer film adaptations (a 1959 German version of Arabella and a spoof of The Reluctant Widow), but neither sounds like the kind of thing our readers are looking for. We want the full-on Mystery!–style treatment, complete with great vintage costumes, cars, and location shots. Is that so much to ask?

Apparently, yes.

After some e-mail hunting, I received a response from the literary agent who handles Ms. Heyer’s work in the U.K. According to his letter, his agency has been trying to interest production companies in dramatizations of Heyer’s mysteries for a long time, with no success. He said production companies “mumble about the cost of period drama, and whether there is an audience for old-fashioned crime”!

Thankfully, he assured me that they plan to persevere until someone sees the light....

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Georgette Heyer: Author Bio

Wordcandy favorite Georgette Heyer was born in 1902, and wrote her first novel at age 17. While she is best remembered as a writer of Regency-era romances, Heyer also penned several earlier period romances, a dozen mysteries, and four modern novels. By the time of her death in 1974, she had written more than fifty witty, romantic books, many of which are still in print.

Georgette Heyer once said “Romantic I am not”. That isn’t quite fair (saccharine she was not), but her novels are notable for their tartly humorous approach to love. Her best books are truly outstanding—hilarious and sharply intelligent, sweet but not sentimental—and even her less impressive efforts display considerable style.

Heyer’s first book began as a serialized melodrama she created to entertain her invalid younger brother. Impressed by his daughter’s creativity, Heyer’s father suggested that she turn her story into a novel, and found her a publisher. The Black Moth came out in 1921, when Heyer was just nineteen years old. By the time she was thirty, Heyer was producing one romance novel and one thriller per year, and supporting both her extended and immediate family with her writing. (Her short stories paid for her brothers’ weddings, for example.)

Heyer wed Ronald Rougier in 1925, and remained happily married for the rest of her life. Her husband reportedly created the basic outlines for her detective stories, with Heyer coming up with the characters, relationships, and dialogue. The pair had a son, Richard, in 1932.

Despite her early and consistent success, Heyer’s life had its fair share of troubles. She never figured out the British tax system, and tried everything from accountant-hopping to forming a limited liability company to minimize her financial obligations. (None of these plans worked out, but she kept trying.) She had frequent health problems—some of them bizarre, like the time she got a mosquito bite that turned septic—and eventually died of lung cancer at age 71. Her later career was plagued by several alleged plagiarists, whose books displayed everything from imitations of Heyer’s style to outright theft of her characters, plot elements, and turns of phrase. (Some of Heyer’s fans actually suspected her of publishing inferior work under a pseudonym.)

Over the course of her career, Heyer wrote thirty-four romances, six re-imagined histories, twelve mystery novels, and sixteen short stories. She also wrote four non-genre modern novels—Helen, Pastel, Barren Corn, and Instead of the Thorn—in her twenties, all of which she later suppressed (with good reason, if these books are as terrible as my mother claims). While she achieved considerable popularity and commercial success, Heyer’s books never received much critical attention. Only recently, thanks to elegant new reprints in the United States and Great Britain, as well as an admiring essay by high-falutin’ English novelist A.S. Byatt, has Heyer’s work begun to attract some long-overdue literary acclaim.


Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, by Carolyn Turgeon

Carolyn Turgeon’s Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, is an elegantly melancholy retelling of the classic fairytale. The novel focuses on Lil, a desperately unhappy old woman with a secret: she was Cinderella’s fairy godmother, but chose to go to the ball in the girl’s place. Banished from the fairy realm for betraying her charge, Liv is now a lonely New Yorker with a shabby apartment and a job in a bookstore. When she meets Veronica, a friendly young woman with constant guy trouble, Lil thinks she might have a shot at redemption—if she can find Veronica true love, perhaps she can return to her “real” life. But as the story deepens, it becomes increasingly clear that Liv’s past might be more mundane—and horrible—than any fairytale....

Godmother is long on style, but short on sympathetic characters. Liv seems to find being an old woman a fate worse than death*, and Veronica’s quirkiness wears thin. The story is beautifully written, and Turgeon describes her New York settings with a lush, lyrical pen, making an East Village fabric shop seem just as magical as anything in the original Cinderella story. Unfortunately, these strengths aren’t quite enough to overcome the novel’s increasingly depressing twists and turns, which culminate in an ending scene that aims for shocking, but instead just comes as a relief.

*Perfectly in keeping with her character, but (speaking as a young woman who has high hopes of one day becoming a very, very old woman) I found it an unappealing trait.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: the movie

We have some non-Heyer-related news to cover this week, too, like the release of the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movie trailer:

Huh. Looks nothing like the book I remember, apart from a couple of the food shots at the end.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Rick Steves goes hardcore.

Heh. Okay, not really.

Anyway, Salon has a fascinating interview up with the travel writer, who shares his feelings on Iran, ugly American stereotypes, and the decriminalization of marijuana. It makes for a great read, and shows a different (read: way more political) side of Steves than I think most people give him credit for. Whether you agree with him or not, he comes across really well...

...except for one throwaway line about his wife gaining a few pounds on a beach in Mazatlán, which I suspect he might live to regret. At least, he would if he was my spouse.

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Black Lagoon Vol. One, by Rei Hiroe

As frequent readers of the site know, I have been sick with the Cold from Hell for days, and I spent most of that time reading. I read well-written books, thoughtful books, uplifting books... and I read the first volume of Rei Hiroe’s manga Black Lagoon. Black Lagoon might not be well-written, thoughtful, or uplifting, but it is an awful lot of fun.

Hiroe’s manga features on a group of smugglers operating in the seas of Southeast Asia. The smugglers, known as the Lagoon Company, include a hot Chinese-American woman with the ability to shoot two-handed (and a seeming inability to button her teeny-tiny shorts), a former soldier, a goofy American college dropout, and Rokuro Okajima, a hapless Japanese salary man who is first kidnapped and later adopted by the Lagoon crewmates. The manga follows the group’s various adventures, most of which consist of working for a Russian crime syndicate and getting drunk out of their minds in a seedy Thai bar.

If you’re looking for sleek, stylized violence or significant character development... well, look elsewhere. (I suggest Cowboy BeBop.) Hiroe’s manga is what it is: a gleefully trashy shoot-‘em-up with plenty of explosions and some fish-out-of-water humor. It might not be War and Peace, but it was the perfect way to brighten up a very long, very boring, very sniffle-y afternoon.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Princess and the Unicorn, by Carol Hughes

If you think the pink-and-gold cover art for Carol Hughes’s The Princess and the Unicorn is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, chances are good you will really like the book. Check it out:

This is truth in advertising, people. The Princess and the Unicorn is the story of two unlikely allies: a 10-year-old human princess and a young fairy girl, who bond together to save a unicorn from the princess’s evil governess. (You can tell she’s evil because she wears a turban and a vermilion and turquoise negligee. Plus, she smokes.) Along the way, they have several G-rated adventures, learn a few Disney-approved lessons, and eventually triumph over their enemies.

Hughes is a solid descriptive writer, and her book features a pleasant dusting of humor, but reading such an utterly straightforward chapter book is a strange experience. The Sisters Grimm this isn’t—The Princess and the Unicorn is so sincere and devoid of sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek humor that it reads like a picture book or an early-reader, but it comes with the hefty page count (274 pages) and price tag ($16.99) of a novel for older kids.

So take a long look at the cover art from The Princess and the Unicorn. If flowers, a bubblegum pink background, and Taylor Swift-style crimped hair is the kind of thing you’re in the market for (and money is no object), you could definitely do worse.

...hey, at least it’s not a musical.

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The Sisters Grimm

So, if you swing by Michael Buckley's site, you can read an excerpt from The Everafter War, the upcoming seventh book in his Sisters Grimm series. But be warned: there's just enough there to tantalize the crap out of you, and that's it.

I'm kind of sorry I read it, actually. I'd do it again in a heartbeat (because I have no self control), but I'm left feeling like the release date* is about ten years away.

*It's scheduled for May 1st, but I find that the people at Borders always seem to put out the books in this series a few days early, so maybe I'll get lucky.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Where the Wild Things Are' poster arrives...

...and it's beautiful.

I don't know why I feel so hopeful about this movie (and God knows I've been let down by good promotional materials before), but something about the handful of images I've seen from this film leaves my hopes sky-high.

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At last!

Yen Press has announced the release dates for the next three(!!!) volumes of Yotsuba&!: volume six comes out in September, volume seven in December, and volume eight in April of next year!

Of course, if my Yotsuba&! luck holds true, these releases will be followed by a year-and-a-half-year-long waiting period, but I'll take what I can get.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why, thank you again, Mr. Colbert.

Stephen Colbert has been doing his part to make my job easier today (which, seeing as I am STILL SICK, I really appreciate). He had another Wordcandy-friendly interview last night, this time with author Neil Gaiman. And unless these interviews are scripted, Mr. Colbert also proved himself to be quite the Tolkien fan:

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Stephen Colbert (hearts) Ayn Rand


Monday, March 16, 2009

Hunger Games sequel coming at us a little faster than expected.

I got an e-mail from Scholastic on Friday, letting me know that they've bumped up the release date for Catching Fire, the sequel to Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games. It's now coming out on September first, a week earlier than planned. (They want to catch kids before they go back to school, apparently.)

Also, Scholastic is running a promo contest for Catching Fire. To enter, fans aged 12 to 17 should write an essay describing how they would survive the fight-to-the-death games featured in the series. The winner will receive a lunch with Collins and her editors at Scholastic in New York City, and the winner plus 100 runners-up will get an advance reader copy of of Catching Fire and a mockingjay pin.

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Oh, Lifetime, you crazy kids...

First of all, I have to apologize for the lack of updates last week. Nathan and I both came down with the colds from Hell (actually, we still have them), and Megan was off on vacation, so there was no one around to do any work. On the up side, I've had nothing to do all week but read and sleep, so as soon as I can sit at a computer for longer than fifteen minutes without having to take a hour-long nap, I'll start typing up reviews.

Anyway, I see that Nora Roberts is starting a new series, and this time it's a quartet:

One thing, though: this is a paperback, and yet it costs sixteen dollars. WHY, NORA? Don't you get enough money from us already, with your four-to-six-bestselling-new-books-per-year schedule, to saying nothing of your re-releases? Why are you doing this?

...did you invest everything with Bernie Madoff?

Because a serious lack of funds is the only reason I can see for justifying something like this:

Yeah, that's Lifetime's promo image for their four upcoming movie adaptations of Roberts's novels. Now, I've never seen a Lifetime movie (judging by these images, I'm not missing much), but what on earth convinced them to go with the "pastel-colored lady porn" look for their promo? I mean, none of these novels are trashy bodice rippers, so why promote them that way?

I am truly confused, and must now take another nap.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

HBO's The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency

It might be the flu medicine I'm currently on, but large part of me thinks this upcoming miniseries looks made of awesome:

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Yotsuba&! 2009

The Yotsuba&! 2009 calendar is now available for pre-order. It is also, as usual, totally adorable. Behold:

Remember, these calendars follow the Japanese school year, so they'll run from April '09 to March '10.

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Time magazine can bite me.

I've been reading a lot about the new Watchmen movie adaptation, and nearly every article I've seen mentions that the Alan Moore-penned graphic novel it was based on was included on Time's List of the 100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century.

Frankly, I'm not surprised. Anyone who's seen Time's list knows that Watchmen is exactly the kind of thing Time loves: it's gloomy, it's self-consciously arty, and it was written by a white dude. Sure, Time includes a small percentage of token female and/or minority writers, but the vast majority of books on their list are bleak reflections on human suffering written by white guys with very little hands-on experience with the subject.

Books not featured on this list include, but are not limited to:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

See what I mean? Watchmen might fit right in with the Time list, but that doesn't automatically make it the greatest English-language graphic novel of the 20th century. It just means it's the kind of story that appeals to a couple of Time staffers who would rather feature two Saul Bellow novels on their "Best of" list than include a book like Dune, much less something like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the latest (and one of the most interesting!) examples of the many, many novels inspired by Jane Austen’s life and work.

Recently divorced American college professor Emma Grant's life is in shambles: her ex-husband cheated on her with her teaching assistant, she has been falsely accused of plagiarism, and she's flat broke. Desperate to turn things around, Emma takes a chance on a letter from an Englishwoman claiming to have a collection of Austen’s long-lost correspondence... but before she'll be allowed to read the letters, Emma’s mysterious new mentor wants her to complete a series of Austen-related tasks.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life has some significant faults. I caught one Austen-related error*, and I found Emma’s attitude towards money incredibly off-putting. She spends the first half of the book stressing over her lack of funds, but she’s always eating out, and when she pawns her wedding jewelry she immediately blows a huge sum of money on a couture dress—without repaying the handsome, recently re-discovered childhood friend who has been steadily lending her cash over the course of her English adventure.

On the other hand, Pattillo’s novel does a solid job of blending mystery, romance, and alternate history in a way that is both entertaining and respectful of her source material. In a world overrun with poorly-written and -researched continuations, reinterpretations, and contemporary updates of Austen’s novels, Jane Austen Ruined My Life comes across as surprisingly creative and smart.

*Pattillo gets the name of the principal family of Mansfield Park wrong. However, this review was based on an uncorrected proof, and the name may have been fixed in the finished edition.

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Want to read a free chapter of Daniel Gross's Dumb Money?

Anyone interested in seeing the first chapter of Slate and NPR commentator Daniel Gross's new e-book Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation should send an e-mail to: dumbmoneybook[at]gmail[dot]com.

Note: Mr. Gross posted the above address in its real form on Slate.com, but we don't want to be responsible for sending him any more spam that we have to...


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, by Chuck Dixon and Brett Booth

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son is Chuck Dixon and Brett Booth’s comic book adaptation of the 2005 novel of the same name by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson, which is in turn a modern-day continuation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror story.

As the story opens, Deucalion, Frankenstein's original monster, is chilling out in a Tibetan monastery. He’s having a reasonably good time, getting some hardcore facial tattoos and—judging by his underwear-model abs—doing a lot of sit-ups, but his peaceful existence is rudely interrupted by the news that Victor Frankenstein, now known as "Helios," is alive and well in New Orleans, where he has been secretly creating hordes of genetically-engineered slaves. Victor controls his creations with an iron fist, but one has escaped and taken up serial killing as a hobby, thereby attracting the attention of Detective Carson O’Connor and her partner, Michael Maddison. When Deucalion arrives in New Orleans, hoping to expose his creator’s crimes, he turns to O’Connor and Maddison for help, but even their combined efforts might not be enough to stop Frankenstein’s plans from coming to fruition.

Prodigal Son might look to 19th century literature for inspiration, but Alan Moore’s cerebral, nuanced League of Extraordinary Gentlemen this isn't. Instead, it's a well-paced thriller with enough gross-out elements to appeal to horror fans and enough literary references to lend it a veneer of respectability. The biggest letdown about this adaptation is Booth’s competent but generic artwork, but if you adjust your expectations to “fun but forgettable” (and don’t eat anything immediately beforehand, particularly if you choose to read the bonus story at the end of the volume), this is a solidly entertaining effort.

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New Absolute Witch

Huh. How did we miss the second part of Absolute Witch chapter seven? I mean, it's been out since December, and I even helped with the quality check. Seriously, how absent-minded can I be?

Anyway, both the second and third parts of chapter seven are now up on our scanlations page. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Public Enemies

Trailer's up for Public Enemies, Michael Mann's upcoming movie adaptation of Bryan Burrough's nonfiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34:

Looks fun, huh?

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Pride and Prejudice comic book adaptation sneak peek!

Marvel's posted the first five pages, and, in a word, HOLY MOLY.

I'm sorry to say this, but Mrs. Bennet looks like a drag queen and the five sisters look like the Pussycat Dolls. They did so well with the cover (above), but things are looking grim, dear readers....

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan

It's difficult to maintain an genuinely dreamlike atmosphere over 90+ pages, but Australian graphic novelist Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia manages it... or very nearly. One or two of his short stories about life in a Bizarro-world suburb slide dangerously close to "message" territory, but the lion's share of this collection comes across as authentically weird—a rare beast in a medium big on manufactured quirkiness.

The best stories in Tales of Outer Suburbia offer a magical realism take on ordinary suburban experiences, including sibling squabbles (“Our Expedition”), awkward but extremely polite foreign exchange students (“Eric”), and the difficult settling-in period experienced by new immigrants (“No Other Country”). Some of the more obscure stories (“Stick Figures”, “The Water Buffalo”) left me cold, but Tan’s gorgeous mixed-media artwork made even the weakest entries in the collection a pleasure to experience.

Tan won several well-deserved awards for his first graphic novel, the wordless 2007 bestseller The Arrival, and Tales from Outer Suburbia doesn’t disappoint. This stories in this collection might be uneven, but Tan’s delicate, haunting artwork and engaging storytelling make him a talent to watch.

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Gimme Shelter, by Mary Elizabeth Williams

If, like me, you can't get enough of burst-housing-bubble news, Salon is currently featuring an excerpt from Mary Elizabeth Williams's Gimme Shelter. Williams, a freelance journalist, takes her readers on a guided tour of the New York City housing market, which apparently limited middle-class families like her own (and by "middle class", I mean "anyone spending less than half a million dollars") to postage-stamp-sized apartments and/or meth labs. Check it out—it's a fun read.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Book storage with style

I just got the Chiasso catalog, which featured several covetable bookends. I particularly liked these:

Bendit Bookends ($28 for a set of two)

Hand Bookends ($38)

Pretty, huh? I think I like the hands ones better, but the site doesn't say if that price is for one or two, and they're currently on backorder.

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Kleypas news

There's a title and release date out for the next book in Lisa Kleypas's Hathaways series: according to Amazon, Tempt Me at Twilight will be out on September 29th. We're still waiting on the cover art and summary, but I'm assuming this is the story of Leo (the oldest and only male Hathaway) and the younger girls' governess.

Looking forward to it!

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