31 October 2011

'Tis the Season: But it's only Halloween!!


Two, count 'em, TWO customers asked where our Christmas sales were at in the store.


Also, I have dealt with myriad "But I need to have that book read by tomorrow for school, why don't you have it?" whiners.  Standard answer:  "Because your fellow classmates beat you here, the University/JCollege/High School doesn't order your course books for this store, and it is available as an ebook."  I need a button that says "I am totally not responsible for your irresponsibility".

Other random gems:

  • A Dance With Dragons is so not available in paperback.  Yes, I know it weighs a lot and isn't cheap.  I have no control over either if we are talking books made of paper, ink, and paste.  If we are talking ebooks, it's maybe half the cost and the weight of only tens of thousands of bytes.  Your choice.
  • I don't care about your political views.  I sell the books.  I am highly unlikely to read book.  There are so many other better things to read.
  • I mended all the plush in the store last week and sewed all the hermit crabs back into their shells.  Totally worth it to watch customers warily approach the info desk when the bookseller standing there is armed with needles, pins, and oversize dressmakers' shears (I forgot the embroidery snips, oops) and barricaded by a pile of plush.

28 October 2011

Three Musketeers (in 3D!)

I wanted to see this movie ever since I saw it listed as "pre-production" on Logan Lehrman's IMDB page.  And wanted to see it more once I found out Christoph Waltz and Mads Mikkelsen were also attached.  And Matthew MacFadayen.

Then I saw a preview - good costumes, explosions, sword fighting...I am so in!

I checked out Rotten Tomatoes before we bought tickets and was disappointed to see that it has a 32% or something like that...aka pretty rotten.  Hmmmm...but I said I would be happy as long as there was some seriously kick-ass fancy swordwork and costumes.  We (aka mediazombie and I) went to a 7pm 3D showing because the 2D were at 5pm and 950pm (or something like that...seriously?) - my first "real" 3D movie experience because post-processed 3D usually makes me hurl.

And did I like The Three Musketeers?  Oh, hellz yes I did.  It was so much fun.  Logan Lehrman really does capture that "I am totally a big fish in the little pond of Gascony" attitude AND he does some great stuntwork in his two major swordfighting scenes.  The Three Musketeers (Matthew MacFadayen, Ray Stevenson, and Luke Evans) all bring different shades to their characters.  Christoph Waltz as Richelieu is a scary, scary man - would he stab you in the front or the back, do you think?  Orlando Bloom was great, really having fun playing a man who thinks he is an evil mastermind but really comes off as a greasy, 1920s, moustache-twirling, silent movie villain - absolutely hysterical.  Even smaller parts like Anne of Austria, Queen of France (Juno Temple), had some depth.  Milla Jovovitch was quite good as Milady, although sometimes the wire-work seemed a leeetle bit over the top, but I loved her exaggerated femininity and helpless-looking gestures.

As for the 3D - there wasn't much "stuff is coming at me!" nonsense and I liked that.  I really liked the 3D effects on those shots with great depth-of-field, so most of the exterior work looked great, as well as some great opening credits.  Loved some of the sets - especially those interior shots supposedly at the Royal Palace (did they shoot at one of the Palaces? If they didn't, and reconstructed parts of the Louvre, then the set designer gets some serious props).  Good costumes, too.  This movie was seriously "Go big or go home" - they went big.  It was great.

I totally want to see this again in the theatre - if Jackie wants to go, I'm all in!

Preview goodness:
pre-1.  Hugo - not a preview per se, more like an ad before the previews, but I'm including it because Scorsese gave some sound bites and there were plently of shots from the movie in it
1.  Tower Heist - heist comedy with Ben Stiller masterminding a group of buddies (?) trying to get back at a Bernie Madoff-type guy (Alan Alda); with Matthew Broderick and Eddie Murphy; hope this is good because Eddie needs a good flick
2.  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - this is so full of win, I don't know what to say - CAN'T WAIT UNTIL DECEMBER!!
3.  The Darkest Hour - yet another "put a group of pretty people together and they will *SURPRISE!* figure out how the world is ending" movie; only the pretty Americans are in Russia...and the only ones NOT to get exploded by wierd energy aliens in some Russian rave bar; we had to put our 3D glasses on for this preview and it was so NOT impressive (totally looks like a Roland Emmerich film but it's not)
4.  The Adventures of Tintin - Spielberg, meh; not interested in this one plus that life-like animation creeps me out
5.  Star Wars in 3D, starting with The Phantom Menace - oh, HELLZ NO!!  Please, God/George Lucas, let me enjoy Episodes IV - VI in peace without any updates, blu-ray, digitization, aka CRAP.  Stop robbing my childhood.

26 October 2011

Death and the Penguin

Viktor has a rather odd job - he writes "living obituaries".  That is, he interviews famous people then files the obituary to wait until the subject dies.  Viktor also has a rather odd pet.  He rescued a penguin from the Kiev Zoo.  He gets mixed up in the Russian mafia who take a supremely weird fancy to having the penguin attend their funerals.  He winds up minding the young daughter of a shady acquaintence.  Then his "living obituary" subjects begin dying at an alarming rate....

Death and the Penguin is a darkly comic novel.  Not funny ha-ha but funny in the way that Mikhail Bulgakov is funny.  For instance, Viktor's penguin is named Misha.  But then Viktor meets his shady acquaintence - also named Misha.  So ensues a section of the book where Misha-not-penguin is referred to.  The ending is also a surprise.

I'm not sure when I'll get to the next book - Penguin Lost - or any other Kurkov novels but I'm not averse.

25 October 2011

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters/Titan's Curse

More microreviews!

So, woefully behind on my Percy Jackson reading, I snarfed down books two and three during the Readathon.

Riordan does such a fantastic job of blending what is known of the classical Myth with the modern settings - the golden fleece, Atlas.  I loved the idea of Tyson, a loyal brother for Percy, and also of Thalia.  It was also really great to meet Annabeth's dad and the rest of her family.

Need to read books four and five (in my possession, as yet unread)!

24 October 2011

Shatter Me

Just a microreview, since this is all I have time for.  Definitely a great book to read for the readathon - kept me going, good set-up for a sequel.

I liked the style, using the strike-throughs to indicate how Juliette self-censors her thoughts as if retraining her thinking could fix her.

This book is the demented love-child of a three-way between The Hunger GamesX-Men, and The Fantastic Four (there is one overt Dr. Fantastic reference I could have done without at the end, but it's pretty minor).

Dear FTC: I received an ARC of this book - from exactly where I don't remember.  I think my store, could have been the publisher, too.

23 October 2011

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

I am a regular reader of the Yarn Harlot.  She's just what you need when your yarn, needles, and life in general have you in knots. 

And she has a new book:  All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin

Sadly, I've never met her.  Iowa has yet to figure on any of her book tours.  Le sigh.  Maybe once in my life I'll get lucky and I'll make it to Rhinebeck and she'll be there.  I might bring a washcloth with a Hawkeye on it.  Or perhaps an ear of corn....

Back to the book.  The topics Stephanie covers range from knitting in public, destashing when S.A.B.L.E (Stash Acquision Beyond Life Expectancy) looms, the paradoxical problem of swatching, growing daughters, and the ever-present love she holds for Sir Washie, her long-suffering washing machine.  The essays are drawn from her blog and expanded from some of her daily posts.  Her family has grown up over the course of her blog and previous essay collections (Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter and Free Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again) making this book a treat not just for knitters and crafters, but mothers, grandmothers, and anyone with a boisterous family and a century-old house.

Readathon 2011: Wrap-it up! #readathon

After a little make-up-for-sleep reading this morning I can call my readathon at an end!

I was too lazy to get up this morning so I read whatever was in my reach:  The Deed by Lynsay Sands (a re-read, but it was on the nightstand and it is amusing, very quick-to read) and then 16 pages of I, Juan de Pareja...at which point I knew I was readathonned out and in serious manuscipt-editing-withdrawal.  So I went to Lowe's and bought a new garbage disposal and kitchen faucet (and Lowe's is installing them for me because I got a deal on having both done at once) then to Capanna to edit without the cats attaching themselves to my laptop.

But I am mega-satisfied with the number of books read and my page count!

Books read/finished (in order, bottom up, finished books in the left, partials on the right):
  • All Wound Up  (201 pages)
  • Best American Short Stories, intro and first three stories (74 pages)
  • Shatter Me (342 pages)
  • The Sea of Monsters (279 pages)
  • The Titan's Curse (312 pages)
  • Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  • The Deed (372 pages)
  • I, Juan de Pareja (16 pages)
TOTAL PAGE COUNT: 1824 pages (huzzah! and holy cats!  No wonder my eyeballs were ready to drop out of my head!)

I finished six books (six more books added to my Goodreads Challenge to read 100 books this year!) and started two more.  Not too shabby!

Can't wait for the next 'thon and I hope I can participate (maybe I'll have a mini-readathon the next weekend I am not working).

Oh, and I toted all my stuff this weekend in this:

My super-awesome Penguin totebag which sums up this weekend perfectly:

Readathon 2011: Update #3 #readathon

730pm:  Started Titan's Curse

10pm:  Finished Titan's Curse (pity I have no more Percy Jackson books in the house)
Made more tea
Fed the obnoxious furballs who would not stop whining

1030pm:  Started Death and the Penguin

12am:  Finished Death and the Penguin (sad, absurd, and funny all at the same time)

And now, I'm sorta beat

I think I'll sleep now then do some make-up hours like I did the last time I participated.  I worked pretty well.

22 October 2011

Readathon 2011: Update #2 #readathon

1pm: scanned most of the to-read-for-Readathon pile into Goodreads (lamentable oversight)
Started Best American Short Stories 2011 edited by Geraldine Brooks, read 19 pages of introduction (marginally boring)

2pm: have read first three short stories (about 56+ pages) and now need a break from short stories (usual occurence)
time for a PBJ and a new book: SHATTER ME (which has an awesome quote on pg 71 of the galley, will share later)

5pm:  just finished SHATTER ME and it is AWESOME
attempt to make coffee - find that the coffee filter holder has some oogie fur in it
make tea instead while coffee maker bits are marinating in the sink - Twining's Lady Grey
discuss SHATTER ME a little with Pam on Twitter (I believe I called the book a whimsical and deadly child of 1984 and XMEN, or something like that)

520pm:  settle back in with tea and Percy Jackson #2 Sea of Monsters
(also, blue recliner scavenged from my parents' house is actually quite nice for reading until Dante-the-fatter-kitty decides to sit on the footrest and the chair starts to tip forward)

730pm:  Sea of Monsters is DONE! Fun!
Break to start pizza and update the blog!

Readathon 2011: Update #1 #readathon

7am:  Sleeping

8am:  Sleeping

9am:  Woken by hungry cats giving me a wet willie.  Cats pacified with food and fresh water so I decide to wake up fully and go foraging for breakfast and snacks.  Wearing yesterday's makeup, but I did brush my hair and put my contacts in (it's pretty sunny out, so I'll need my sunglasses).
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 34

10am:  Eating breakfast at Bruegger's and thinking that it might be colder indoors than out (only about 50 degrees outside) and watching silly people walking to the football game
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 40
Off to Target for food, cat litter, and a trip past the bookstore so I can get my triple mint white mocha with my employee discount and apologize to Jackie for the deplorable state of the store when it opened (I did enough work for three people last night because the others were slacking, oy vey).

1130am:  Back home and in my jammies.  Time to read, read, read!
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 58
12pm:  Break to find some lemon Yoplait (yum)
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 124
The cats, rather than sleeping like I'm sure they normally do during the day, are working on their applications for World's Most Annoying House Pets.  Chaucer-the-bottomless-pit has twice tried to break into the Cheerios box and then walked all over my back, yowling at the top of his lungs.  There is food in the food dish - I checked.  Pest.
Finished:  All Wound Up, page 235 @ 1256pm

1pm:  Quick blog update, find the cats' catnip mousie, and back to reading!

21 October 2011

Dewey's 24 hour Readathon 2011: I'm in!

Having missed last year's Readathon due to travel, I almost missed this year's 'thon due to inattentiveness.

Surprise, right, since I'm having trouble keeping my head on straight.  But!  I have signed up just in time (holy cats, there are over 400 readers!) and, by some miracle, I don't have a bookstore shift in the middle.  Yay!  I will have to run out for food tomorrow (advance planning = fail) but I did round up a stack of books to work through (advance planning = win):

Yikes!  Quite a stack, right?  You are thinking I am crazy, no?

Well, I tend to count my Readathons in total number of pages read, not just books, and I often take the opportunity to knock off half-finished things.  Also, there are MG/YA books in this stack due to my woefully neglected Newbery Project - they read mucho rapido.  Thirdly, I have the attention span of a gnat right now and I may have to jump around from book to book depending on interest.  I don't want to waste time staring at the 1000s of books in my house, trying to make up my mind.

Projected titles, top-to-bottom (not reading order, this is just so the stack wouldn't fall over):
  • All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (in progress)
  • Best American Short Stories 2011 edited by Geraldine Brooks (Best American Project)
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (galley I picked up from work that Pam loves TONS)
  • The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (yeah, yeah, I got behind on my Percy Jackson reading)
  • Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (because I want my store to adopt a penguin)
  • Spindle's End by Robin McKinley
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Newbery, but I have the cool HarperPerennial cover)
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Newbery)
  • Crispin by Avi (Newbery)
  • The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsberg (Newbery)
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño (Newbery)
  • Vintage-looking "Natural History of Birds" journal that I write all my Newbery Vocab in (I will not be reading this, obviously)
  • Second Reading by Jonathan Yardley (in progress)
  • Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd (in progress)
  • Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil
  • McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes (because it has been hanging around the house too long)
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes (for the book, in progress)
  • Das Niebelungenlied translated by Burton Raffel (for the book, in progress)
  • The White Devil by Justin Evans (galley I requested ages ago - sorry)
  • Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson (galley I requested ages ago - sorry)
Something I will be trying very hard NOT to read: my dratted manuscript (mostly through draft version #6 - it will perhaps be ready for eyes other than mine by draft #10...perhaps not)

19 October 2011

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson is the supreme ruler of pschyological fiction.

Don't believe me?  Haven't read The Lottery?  Or The Haunting of Hill House (movie versions with Liam Neeson don't count)?

Then you ought to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

The Blackwood family is so many ways of messed up.  What is left of the family (Connie, Uncle Julius, and Merricat) lives in their huge house, fenced off from the town, after Connie is acquitted of fatally poisoning the other four family members with arsenic six years ago.

It was in the sugar.  For the berries.

Cousin Charles shows up to help the girls "move on" and stop living in isolation/being fodder for the local gossips (so he says).  For a little while, it seems he might be successful.  Then everything goes completely wrong.

This book constantly keeps a reader on his or her toes - mostly due to the fact that the book is narrated entirely by Merricat (Mary Katherine).  At eighteen years of age and either immature or unbalanced (draw your own conclusions), Merricat is an unreliable narrator at best.  She has odd rituals and practices sympathetic magic.  Things happen when she's around.  Creepy.  Forboding.

My edition, the Penguin Deluxe Classic, has an introduction by Jonathan Lethem and fantastic cover art by Thomas Ott.  The cover alone is worth buying the book.

15 October 2011

Jane Austen Made Me Do it

Janeites take their Jane Austen seriously.  She is "my Jane" in a way that Charles Dickens will never be "my Charles" (er, icky).  I'm a bit picky about Austen variations/sequels/modernizations/also-rans.  Well, a lot picky.  In short, I don't like many.

I heard about the publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It through Lauren Willig, she of the Pink Carnation series.  Lauren, of course, had a piece in the book so I decided that it was worth a look.

And a purchase.  Edited by Laurel Ann of Austenprose, there are stories in this anthology to suit any taste.  Do you like straight-up sequels? "Nothing Less than Fairy-land" by Monica Fairview looks in on Hartfield after Emma's wedding (and even captures Miss Bates's breathless, pitter-patter way of speaking).  Or a sequel to an homage?  "Me and Mr. Darcy, Again..." by Alexandra Potter.  How about a little absurdist humor ala Jasper Fforde?  "Intolerable Stupidity" by Laurie Viera Rigler.  Perspective from a different character?  "Letters to Lydia" by Maya Slater.  A little ghost story?  Perhaps "The Ghostwriter" by Elizabeth Aston.

I personally liked Lauren's story, "A Night at Northanger", which introduces us to Cate (who also figures in the modern frame of her most recent Pink novel, The Garden Intrigue, pubbing February 2012).  We meet poor Cate, stuck "investigating" haunted houses as an assitant on Ghost Trekkers, who gets the surprise of her life when she stays one night at Northanger Abbey.  The story has Lauren's signature funny asides and is a great Band-aid for those of us drooling for the next Pink book.

I also quite liked "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" by Jo Beverley.  The story uses the basic frame of Sense and Sensibility (as well as a few names) and a theme from Northanger Abbey.  Elinor, a widowed, formerly well-off mother with three daughters, is given the point-of-view in a story about finding happiness and Christmas romance, with a little advice from that wicked novelist Jane Austen.

My favorite story, though, involves Sense and Sensibility and the Beatles.  Yes, the Beatles.  "Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!" by Janet Mullany is set in 1964.  Julie Morton is a low-on-the-totem-pole-of-Cleverton High-School-for-Girls teacher of who, unfortunately, draws detention duty with three Beatles obsessed girls.  The students landed in detention for, you guessed it, telling their English teacher what they thought of Sense and Sensibility: stupid, and all the characters are silly cows.  Julie, taking inspiration from the girls' obsession with John, Paul, Ringo, and George, does a bit of literary analysis to show her students that, perhaps, classic literature does have a place right next to Beatlemania (there's also a good feminist side-plot, too).

11 October 2011

The Best American Essays 2011

This is a very well-curated selection of essays.  Danticat did a beautiful job winnowing the submissions to heart-felt essays (even the informational ones).  Two favorites were seeming opposites: "What Broke My Father's Heart" by Katy Butler and "Topic of Cancer" by Christopher Hitchens.  Riveting.

09 October 2011

Inverted World

Christopher Priest's Inverted World is a very scientifically-grounded dystopic novel (the afterword classifies Inverted World as a Hard SF novel but it doesn't seem that way at first; it seems more typical of a dystopic novel but about halfway through the Hard SF elements start poking their way through).

A walled city is being winched through a devastated landscape on rails.  The rails must be laid before it and taken up after.  The city is forever in chase of The Optimum.  To halt is to fall victim to a crushing gravitational pull.

Helward Mann is our guide to this world.  When he takes the oath to become a Future Surveyor, he is inducted to all the secrets normally kept from the city population.  The dystopic novel was previous to this point, now it's Hard SF's turn.

History, geography, and physics all come into play.  Is this world truly inverted, that only the enlightened of the city will follow the Optimum and avoid death, or are those in the city chasing a truly delusional vision?

05 October 2011

The Night Circus

I love  the concept of The Night Circus - a black-and-white, Cirque du Soleil-like circus that materializes overnight and is filled with tents both awe-inspiring and whimsical.  Traditional acts - trapeze artists, contortionists, big cats - are interspersed with a tent of strange bottles, a memorial tree filled with candles, and a forest made of ice and snow.

At the heart of this circus is a contest of magical education - Celia and Markus are pitted against one another in a mysterious, ill-defined age-old contest of magical illusion. 

The narrative thread in The Night Circus is broken into three parts:  a "real-time" narrative that follows Celia and Markus and the development of the circus, a "later" narrative that follows a Massachusetts farm boy, Bailey, who becomes obsessed with Le Cirque de Reves whose story to whose story the "real-time" narrative gradually catches up to, and a "free-floating" narrative that drops chapters describing the various tents intbetween the other narratives (this is a more "modern" line and it is narrated in the 2nd person - "you" - as if the book is narrating the reader's movement through the circus).

This is a very atmospheric book. Morgenstern sets a scene so well, with very visual, auditory, and olfactory (could do without so many caramel-apple smells, though) description.  There is an exquisite scene between Celia and Markus where they create visions for one another - including a forest of paper trees with love scenes from books written on the trunks.  The writing is just that evocative (Morgenstern is a visual artist as well and it shows in her world building).

I enjoyed this book - the concepts, the evocations in individual chapters - but the book didn't blow my mind, much as I wanted it to.  I lost the thread of the plot several times and, had I not been listening 10 minutes at a time in the car on audiobook, I might have set it aside to read later.  Without spoiling specifics, I was a little disappointed in the denouement - some of the plot was clever and some failed to explain anything.  I kept wishing all the magical tents were real and that I knew more than I did about the different cards of the tarot (points to Morgenstern for not over-explaining things like that).

Audiobook specific observation: Jim Dale (the narrator) says "thank you" weird, like he bites off the "you" and gives it a bit an "r" on the end...and it cuts across all of his accents. This is an annoyance I heard on the Harry Potter audio, too. Also, there are American characters who should have New England/Boston accents yet he chose to give them English-ish accents. Sorta odd (although not as odd as the rather nasal Gaelic accents of Poppet and Widget...annoying).