Monday, November 30, 2009

Made of win.

I can only read FailBlog for short periods of time. (I usually get queasy around the five-minute mark.) But I can certainly see why other people like it—at its best, it's insanely, painfully funny. So if you're the kind of person who likes your humor cringe-inducing, you might want to pick up Fail Nation, the recently-published "visual romp" through some of the site's most, um, memorable moments.


Stretching your dollars

Well, dear readers, today is Cyber Monday, the pseudo-holiday devoted to online shopping. We totally respect the fact that the whole appeal of shopping from home is that it's low-effort, but we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to do a little online bargain-hunting first, no matter how lazy a shopper you are (hi, Mom!). You should always do a quick search for online coupon codes, and today's a particularly good day to find 'em, as sites are offering everything from free shipping to additional discounts.

Good luck and happy shopping!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well, *I* would pay to see it.

While looking up Jane Austen stuff surrounding the New York exhibition, I noticed that Lady Susan is being adapted by playwright Lucy Prebble (best known as the creator of the Secret Diary of a Call Girl TV show) for the BBC. Further hunting indicated that this project appears to be on hold, but it still begs the question: if they're willing to make a movie out of anything Jane Austen put her hands on, ever, why won't anyone film an adaptation of a Georgette Heyer book?

I leave you to ponder this over the holiday weekend, dear readers. Have fun!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time for a second mortgage?

TODAY is reporting that several famous children's books from the collection of U.S. professional football player Pat McInally are going up for auction next month, including a copy of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There that belonged to Alice Liddell, the British girl who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice books, a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit that belonged to Beatrix Potter, a first-edition copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and signed, limited-edition copies of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.

Man, I really hope that Alice copy goes to a good home, because otherwise you just know somebody toolish like Marilyn Manson is gonna buy it and do something gross to it.

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Adios, allowance.

I've never approved of Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi's Spiderwick Chronicles. At $10.99 per (short and v. unsatisfying) book, the series has always seemed like a total money sink. But when I saw a collected version of the first five Spiderwick books I thought I might check it out... until I saw the price tag. It's still listed at thirty dollars! For a 569-page-long kids' book!

For the purposes of comparison, you could buy:
A) A boxed set of the first three books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan for $19.99,

B) The complete boxed set of the Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins for $32.95, or

C) A boxed set of the first five Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer for $35.00...
...all three of which would be a much, much, much better value.

I'm just sayin'.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Jane Austen's Real! Live! Stuff!

The Morgan Library & Museum is currently holding a Jane Austen exhibit featuring "more than 100 works, including her manuscripts, personal letters, and related materials". They've got letters both by and about her, the autograph manuscript of Lady Susan (the only surviving complete manuscript of any of her novels) and an unfinished autograph manuscript of The Watsons, and assorted Austen-related tidbits, including the William Blake portrait that Austen said was a perfect representation of how she had imagined Jane Bennet.

I was thinking of going to New York this winter anyhow, so this might have sealed the deal for me.

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If money is no object...

...or you're just a really, really, really big Robert Crais fan*, you can buy a special limited edition copy of his upcoming novel The First Rule from The Mysterious Bookshop in New York. You can choose from the 100 signed and numbered copies (at $150 apiece) or the 26 signed and lettered copies ($275). They'll all have leather spines, marbled boards, and glassine jackets, and they'll be available by mid-December.

Normal Crais fans, like my dad, should probably wait until January 12th, where they'll only have to shell out $26.95.

*Or looking for a Christmas gift for one.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

When classics collide

I was listening to my local NPR affliate a few days ago and caught the tail end of an interview with Paul Constant, book editor for The Stranger. Mr. Constant was on KUOW to talk about three recent comic titles of note: Robert Crumb's adaptation of Genesis (which: no thanks), David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp (also no thanks), and R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics, which I'm actually really interested in. (An adaptation of Crime and Punishment featuring Batman, and Macbeth with Mary Worth? Sign me up!) You can hear the interview here; it makes for a fun listen.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

I. Am. Appalled.

No, seriously.

I was poking around my local Barnes and Noble last night, and I ran across this:

My first reaction was a snicker. I mean, thank goodness Emily Bronte's novel has finally been approved by somebody who matters, you know? Nothing says "immortal classic" like a thumbs-up from the fictional protagonists of what has been aptly described as "the world's longest and most ridiculous perfume commercial".

But then I saw this:

I don't even know what grosses me out more. The blatantly derivative cover art and font? That they chose "Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her" as one of the taglines, implying that there are some kind of supernatural shenanigans afoot? The fact that the back of the book invites readers to compare the Elizabeth-and-Darcy romance with the Edward-and-Bella one? HarperCollins doesn't even publish Twilight, for Pete's sake! Are they that hideously desperate for sales? Do they think teen readers aren't going to notice a slight difference in the writing styles of Stephenie Meyer and Jane Austen? Or do they not care, and just figure a sale's a sale, and truth in advertising be damned?

Now, I can get over this. (Probably.) But what's next? Nonfiction books about wolves offering to teach us about Jacob's full-time furry cousins? George and Martha with new black-and-red cover art featuring one of Martha's roses (tulips?) lying limply across the page? Some combos just don't work, and a Pride and Prejudice comparison with Twilight is one of 'em.

Bleagh. Somebody needs to stop this train; I want to get off.

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Nearly there...

Kelley Armstrong has posted the first three chapters of her upcoming young adult novel The Reckoning (the third and final book in her "Darkest Powers" trilogy) on her site. Interested parties should totally click here to find out more.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nothing but good times ahead

What's this? Why, it's the cover art and plot description for the upcoming "companion novel" to Carrie Ryan's zombies-and-evil-nuns extravaganza The Forest of Hands and Teeth! Behold:

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.
Hmm... so there's still zombies, still evil nuns, but she's adding mass imprisonment and a zombie-worshiping cult? (And if Gabry's connection to the first novel is the one I think it is, this story isn't--shocker!--going to end well.) That is just awesome.

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James Patterson fans take note:

Yen Press announced their plans last week to adapt the first three novels in James Patterson's Daniel X series into a manga/manhwa-style trade paperback. Yen's adaptation will feature artwork by Korean artist Seung-hui Kye, and (like Yen's adaptation of Patterson's Maximum Ride), will appear in their manga anthology Yen Plus for several months before being collected into a trade paperback in the summer of 2010.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Buffy lives again (some more)

There are semi-plausible rumors floating around that Joss Whedon's comic book version of the eighth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer might get turned into a web-based animated series.

No idea how realistic this idea is, but I'd watch it, and with more enthusiasm than I've felt for the comic books. Not that the BtVS comics are bad, exactly... but one definitely gets the feeling that these are TV writers trying to work in a medium that they don't fully understand. Hopefully an animated version of the show would allow them to tell the same story in a format better suited to their talents.

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The darker side of Ikea?

Salon recently posted a very interesting Spiegel article about a tell-all book by Johan Stenebo, a former Ikea bigwig with quite the axe to grind. Sadly, I don't read Swedish and I have no idea how many of Mr. Stenebo's claims are valid, but the book sounds like hot stuff....

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Killer unicorns

Megan has been nagging me to read Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl books for about a year now, and I keep forgetting 'em when it comes time to read something that's not for the site. But thanks to a Friday the 13th moment that involved my car getting towed and me being stuck at a University of Washington Bookstore for nearly two hours, Peterfreund has now been bumped to the top of my to-read list, and it's totally thanks to this book:

Yes, dear readers. I know it looks like a slightly more grown-up version of this hearts-and-flowers sugarfest, but Rampant is actually an insanely entertaining novel about carnivorous unicorns (expect a full review in short order). I wouldn't wish the car-towing experience on anybody, but I couldn't have picked a better book to get me through it.

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Seducing Atticus Finch

Even reading Lemondrop's list of the top 15 Literary Characters We'd Totally Sleep With makes me uncomfortable. I mean, where to begin? The fact that they picked Macbeth as their #2 jumpee, or the fact that they ranked Logan from the Babysitters' Club series above both Mr. Darcy and Jay Gatsby?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kimi wa Petto 3.0

Turns out they're making a K-drama version of one of my favorite manga titles of all time, Yayoi Ogawa's Kimi wa Petto, and it's starring Kim Hyun-joong, the gorgeous but wooden musician-turned-actor who played the Rui character in the k-drama version of Hana Yori Dango.

This is a mixed bag of news, dear readers. Kim Hyun-joong is seriously hot, and he can dance (important, as his character dances professionally). However, the role he will be playing—Momo, Ogawa's noisy, goofy, unexpectedly complicated protagonist—is a difficult one, and he's not going to be able to get away with flashing his (admittedly adorable) smile and calling it a day. We'll have to wait and see, but my hopes are not high.

Note: I wonder if they considered Lee Min-ki for the role? He's ridiculously hot, too, and I think he would have been spectacular.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So very, very wrong.

Oh, for the love of...

Variety informs me that the Disney Channel is planning a Harriet the Spy made-for-TV movie. Unfortunately, they've made some changes: the new version has Harriet as "a movie producer's daughter determined to become the class blogger".

That would be bad enough, but I'm even more concerned by the announcement that "So You Think You Can Dance" contestant Blake McGrath will choreograph. Um, choreograph? Since when are there dance sequences in Harriet the Spy? Have they seriously turned this into some kind of High School Musical-influenced monstrosity? Have they no shame?

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Scholastic Book Fairs: the good, the bad, the ugly

A few weeks ago, my mother agreed to run a Scholastic Book Fair for a local school. Unfortunately, she forgot that she was going to be traveling for the first three days of the week-long-fair... which means, naturally, that *I* am currently enjoying my first up-close-and-personal interaction with a Scholastic Book Fair.

The good:
The reps are great, the point-of-sale system couldn't be more user-friendly, and they've got a pretty good range of titles. Setting up the entire thing took about two hours--these people really know what they're doing.

The bad:
Apparently, getting things like signs can take up to fifteen days, and they don't send e-mail updates when you put in an order. What kind of customer service is that? Also, their book selection is crazy lopsided--we have about 75 copies of the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, but no Hunger Games or Catching Fire, and they failed to send the early books in either Jeff Smith's Bone series or Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, which means that kids are going to have to go elsewhere if they haven't already started the books. I'm going to call and try to fix some of these deficiencies, but who knows how that'll work out.

The ugly:
Well, there's this. And this. Not behavior to be proud of, Scholastic.

The verdict? This is a very user-friendly approach to book fairs, and a low-stress option for a small school like the one I'm working with. I'm very interested in hearing more about locally-run book fairs* (apparently The Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle offers one, which I might investigate), but there's no denying that Scholastic runs the kind of tightly-organized fair that lends itself to being run by almost anyone--even a highly disorganized book critic who was volunteered at the last minute by her mother.

*It would be nice to sell something other than Scholastic publications.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Books for girls

People are all up in arms over the fact that Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of 2009" list features no female authors. I'd care, but I'm too busy shaking my head over the fact that they've got "best of" lists for mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, poetry, and comics, but not one for romance*, despite the fact that romance novels make up a huge percentage of total books sold.

*Romance novels are included, but they're shelved under the "Mass Market" section.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Coming Soon

The book cover and publisher's description for The Inside Story, the eighth Sisters Grimm book, are out. Behold:

"After the shocking ending of The Everafter War, this book picks up with Sabrina, Daphne, and Puck stuck in the Book of Everafter, where all the fairy tales are stored and enchanted characters can change their destinies. The girls (and Puck) must chase the Master through a series of stories, where they’re willing to change what they need in order to save their baby brother. Soon, however, they are confronted by the Editor—the book’s guardian—who, along with an army of tiny monsters known as Revisers, threatens the children with dire consequences if they don’t stick to the stories. As they chase their quarry and dodge the Revisers, they meet Alice, Mowgli, Jack the Giant Killer, Hansel and Gretel, the Headless Horseman, and more. But will they find their brother in time?"
This puppy is officially out at the beginning of May, but the local Borders store always seems to have their copies on the shelves at least two weeks early, so I'll be keeping an eye out for it by early April.

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Is nothing sacred anymore?

Yes, dear readers. They're really making a Berenstain Bears movie.

Now I usually object to the idea of turning 30-page-long kid classics into 2-hour-long movies... but I have to admit it: I spent many an hour as a little girl coveting Sister Bear's clubhouse from No Girls Allowed. Should they work that storyline into the movie, I'll probably withdraw my objections. In fact, I might even scrounge up a small child and see it.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Et tu, Del Rey?

Following in the (already tired) footsteps of Quirk's Jane Austen/horror story mash-ups, Del Rey has made plans to publish a book called Little Women and Werewolves.

Now, I'm not much of a Little Women fan, so this news doesn't pain me the way the Austen ripoffs did. And I hate to say it, but Beth's deathbed scene does sort of lend itself to parody.

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Sense and Sensibility wears Prada!

Is it wrong that I fully intend to see this movie? I mean, I spend all this time complaining about bad Austen adaptations, but I never seem to learn.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nuttier than a fruitcake, but...

Slate writer Johann Hari recently wrote an article about two Ayn Rand biographies—Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller. Despite describing them as "thorough" and "readable", his essay left me with zero desire to read either book, as it's clear they're both total downers*. Still, if you've ever wanted to know more about the woman who has Fox News devotees' hearts all a-flutter, the article is well worth checking out.

*Had to be, with that subject matter: Rand was a total whackjob.

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Out and about

The AP Wire recently posted a story about a dude named Walter Skold, an amateur poet and the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America. (Their tagline: "We dig dead poets... you dig?") Mr. Skold has just finished a three-month road trip during which he visited the graves of 150 poets in 23 states, traveling in his "Poemobile" cargo van. He spent the three months visiting and documenting the graves of the dead poets--some well-known, some totally obscure--and celebrating their works through readings, tombstone-decorating, and the odd bit of performance art.

Mr. Skold is making a documentary about his trip, and hopes to search for dead American poets buried in Europe next year.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Inquiring minds

Is it just me, or have cookbooks gotten crazy expensive lately? Or were they always crazy expensive, and I just never bought cookbooks and therefore didn't notice? Because I was all set to buy a copy of Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking this weekend, but then I noticed it cost forty dollars. Why?!? I can see that the original book was a hugely labor-intensive project*, but A) it features illustrations rather than photographs, which should lower printing costs, and B) this edition is a reprint! How much could it possibly have cost to update a book that was first published less than 20 years ago**? And wouldn't the publishers sell way more copies if it went for, say, $25***?

*800 pages, 500+ recipes
**So it's not like they have to update measurements from 1837.
***Even $30! I would have paid thirty bucks for it!

[Note: These are not rhetorical questions. I totally want to know.]


I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon), by Richard Polsky

In early 2005, art dealer Richard Polsky decided to sell a small Andy Warhol "Fright Wig" painting for $375,000. The sale originally seemed like a success, but Polsky had misjudged his moment, badly. Over the next two years, the art world shifted on its axis. Auction houses began to take over the work traditionally handled by dealers, and prices shot into the stratosphere—a similar “Fright Wig” sold in 2007 for 1.2 million pounds. Polsky's book I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) traces this sea change from its roots to its collapse, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the high-stakes, ego-driven world of contemporary art dealing.

Even if the closest you've ever come to a significant art sale is cruising past a Thomas Kinkade gallery in the mall, Polsky has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, large sections of I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) prove that he isn't the most sympathetic person to tell it. The book's descriptions of wheeling and dealing are amusingly catty, but Polsky wastes too much time on obscure art-circle namedropping and anecdotes about his (numerous) mercenary exes, neither of which the average reader is likely to appreciate. More importantly, while the housing market is full of people who should empathize with Polsky's description of selling something at a grossly inflated price and then finding himself unable to afford its replacement, the immediately-post-Madoff era probably wasn't the smartest time to release a book about a man complaining about clearing a mere(!) $300,000+ on the Warhol sale of the title. Sure, readers might sympathize with Polsky's situation, viewing it as an allegory for the grossly inflated economy as a whole... but we're betting they won't. Polsky's book might be entertaining, but our financial wounds are still too fresh.

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