Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adult Books with YA Appeal

Thanks to Laura for the head's up about the Alex Awards (in response to my post We love Young Adult Books). The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults.

From the Alex website, here is a list of the 2009 winners (with links to Amazon added for convenience).

City of Thieves, by David Benioff
The Dragons of Babel, by Michael Swanwick
Finding Nouf, by Zoë Ferraris
The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti
Just After Sunset: Stories, by Stephen King
Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan
Over and Under, by Todd Tucker
The Oxford Project, by Stephen G. Bloom and Peter Feldstein
Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow
Three Girls and Their Brother, by Theresa Rebeck

Pretty much all of these sound good, but knowing my recent spate of dark fantasy reading, you might be unsurprised that Sharp Teeth sounds intriguing to me:
A fast-paced ride through the brutality of L.A.’s wilderness of drugs, gangs, and the connections people make with one another. The fact that most of the characters in this bloody, sexy, free-verse tale are mostly lycanthropes is almost incidental.
I'm not so sure about the "free-verse" part, though, but I still think I'll see if my library has a copy.

Church Architecture Links

Two churches featured recently on Arch Daily, one familiar, one new to me:


Church of 2000 by Richard Meier. This project was supposed to be built for the millennium (hence the name), but wasn't finished until 2003. I've featured Meier's work for Crystal Cathedral previously. Take a look at both and you can really see that Meier has a style and he's sticking to it, thank you very much.


New Church in Foligno - Doriana e Massimiliano Fuksas The exterior shots of this are really stark and imposing, but make for what looks like an amazing interior. Those cut windows in the concrete evoke two very different projects, for me - Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel and Liebeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We love Young Adult Books

I will never apologize for my unabashed love of young adult books. As Jezebel said in reference to a Publishers Weekly article, We Are All 14-Year-Old Girls. They may have meant it tongue in cheek, but I don't care.

From the PW article:
Another book that has adults happily clutching it is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A real page-turner of a dystopian adventure set in a future society that deals with larger themes that adults are really sinking their teeth into. This is a challenging book to book talk, as on the surface it deals with kids killing kids at the behest of the government. Adults look askance when I say that, but then I put the book in their hands and say, “Read it. It’s so much more than that.” Again, adults are proving to be less patient than kids. I had a woman who was actually whining about the release date of the sequel. “I’ve got to wait until September?!"
I promise, that wasn't me. (Though it could have been!)

Stealing from John Scalzi, I'll also note that this year's Nebula Award winner was a YA-SF book, Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin. Actually, its more than that:
Observers of the science fiction field will note the Nebula Award for Best Novel was won this year by a YA book, that the Tiptree Award is co-shared by a YA novel, and that in the Hugo Best Novel category, two and a half of the books nominated are also YA (the “half” in this case being Zoe’s Tale, written to be YA-friendly but shelved with the adult SF).
Those of us who like YA books are in good company.

On a related note, S. E. Hinton spoke at last weekend's LA Festival of Books and Jacket Copy has a good article summarizing her talk. Hinton wrote The Outsiders* and, for those of you who may not be familiar with her story, is credited with basically inventing the YA genre as it exists today. She was 16 when The Outsiders was published. (This fact makes me feel bad about myself. At 16, I was a miserable human being, not publishing groundbreaking fiction.) Its an interesting article because it raises a question, however briefly: can adults write genuine books for young adults? I think so, but it's worth thinking about.

*The book, not the movie, despite the fact that I used a movie poster to illustrate this post. But how could I resist? Matt Dillon was dreeeaaaamyyy. Unless you were a Ralph Macchio kind of girl.

Review: The Hunger Games


I'm going to be pretty unequivocal in my opinion here: I loved The Hunger Games
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
I had read so many glowing reviews of The Hunger Games before I read it, I was worried I wouldn't like it after all, but I did. The plot and the writing, as befits a so-called young adult book, are straightforward, but just suck you in and make it hard to put this book down. I say "so-called young adult" because this is a very violent book, but I liked that Suzanne Collins didn't feel like she had to tone it down.

Now, all the good stuff said, I'll be nitpicky and point out the annoying stuff in the story: Katniss is emotionally clueless and I wanted to give her a good shake at several points in the story. There's a reliance on a deus-ex-machina plot device that I found a little lazy. And, as Stephen King pointed out in his review*, this book will probably remind adult readers of a lot of other dystopian future novels.

But, who cares? This is a good book. I loved it. You'll love it, too. Read it.

Buy The Hunger Games on Amazon.

Look out for the upcoming sequel, Catching Fire!

* Don't read the comments on King's review, they will make you cry. In the review, King jokingly makes a comment about that Bachman guy. Bachman is one of King's pseudonyms, a fact of which I am sure King is aware. The commenters either don't grasp the concept of a joke, or don't know that the Stephen King writing the review is, yes, that Stephen King.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

a few random thoughts

I was getting incredibly bored with my previous template so have switched things up a bit. The next step will be to get a custom template but that will have to wait. Until then, at least this is not so white anymore.

Here's an interesting interview at Omnivoracious with Scott Allie, Senior Managing Editor at Dark Horse Comics. Not enough on Buffy, though, in my opinion.

Zoe's Tale comes out in paperback today. Yes, I will be stopping by the bookstore on my way home from work. You probably should, too. For a reminder of what I'm talking about, visit my review of The Last Colony.

Architecture Links: Family Edition

Inspired by my family, here are today's architecture links.

These links are for my husband, who loves treehouses:
Lofty shelterporn: 'New Treehouses of the World'
Offbeat Traveler: Yellow Treehouse restaurant in New Zealand
Modern Tree Living: Creative Treehouse Designs & Plans
This one isn't exactly a treehouse, but it feels like one: Lofted Forest Home: Organic Curves & Natural Materials

For my sister, Archidose has some beautiful photos of the Antioch Baptist Church in Perry County, Alabama by Rural Studio, 2002.

This photo is for my mom, because Salvador Dali always reminds me of her. I'm not really sure why, though.


Via Jezebel, this is a photo of a lamp by Moschino from their new collection of one-of-a-kind melted, twisted homewares inspired by Salvador Dali.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama's Cabinet

This postcard just came in today's mail to my office so I just had to share it with y'all.



By Marquetry Cabinets. They do other, very nice work as well (like this), but I can't say that this is their finest piece. And the pun! The pun! (Sorry about the goop on Hillary's face. That's just how it came.) *shakes head sadly* Let's not pun like this again, okay?

Review: Terra Incognita


It is spring in the year 118, and Gaius Petreius Ruso has been stationed in the Roman-occupied province of Britannia for nearly a year. After his long and reluctant investigation of the murders of a handful of local prostitutes, Ruso needs to get away. With that in mind, he has volunteered for a posting with the army in Britannia’s deepest recesses—a calmer place for a tired man.

But the edge of the Roman Empire is a volatile place; the independent tribes of the North dwell near its borders. These hinterlands are the homeland of Ruso’s slave, Tilla, who has scores of her own to settle there: Her tribespeople are fomenting a rebellion against Roman control, and her former lover is implicated in the grisly murder of a soldier. Ruso, filling in for the demented local doctor, is appalled to find that Tilla is still spending time with the prime suspect. Worse, he is honor-bound to try to prove the man innocent—and the army wrong—by finding another culprit. Soon both Ruso’s and Tilla’s lives are in jeopardy, as is the future of their burgeoning romance.

Terra Incognita shines light on a remote corner of the ancient world, where Ruso’s luck is running short—again.
The sequel to Medicus (see my review), Terra Incognita is quite well-written. Author Ruth Downie clearly put a lot of time and research into bringing Roman Britannia to life. The main characters were likable, though I preferred Tilla over Ruso, and the cast of supporting characters brought flavor and variety to the book. I thought that the story dragged, though, quite a bit, especially towards the end. By the time the final resolution came, I felt like we had spent more time than we needed to get there. Despite my complaints, Terra Incognita is still a worthwhile read.

Buy Terra Incognita on Amazon.

Terra Incognita was published in the UK as Ruso and the Demented Doctor.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Random Post

This is very random, I know, but I think I've found a new role model:


Nobel Laureate Rita Montalcini, can I be you when I grow up? (More on Jezebel.

Friday Update

What a slow week here at arch thinking! Between last weekend's busieness (which meant I couldn't pre-schedule my blog posts) and this week's ickiness, I hardly posted at all. I did, though, get some good reading time in and I, of course, found time to go to the bookstore and stock up. What did I bring home this week?

First, I bought the third book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, The Well of Lost Plots. As you may recall from my review, I really enjoyed The Eyre Affair and then thought Lost in a Good Book was good but didn't quite live up. My sources tell me that The Well of Lost Plots is a real return to form, though, so I am looking forward to reading it.

One of the other books I picked up this week was Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico. Its good to know that we're not the only ones who fantasize about packing it all in and moving off to a warmer, cheaper climate.

I will be away this weekend, so I expect I'll get lots of reading and very little blogging done. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did I say I was going to have a new post on Thursday? Let's make that Friday, okay? See you then!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday

Hello, readers. If I was less lethargic* this week, I would have written pithy posts about the Pulitzers (I liked Bookslut's take), or the books** I've read so far this week, or said Happy Earth Day or just speculated on who will be going home on American Idol*** tonight. Instead, I'l just say hello! and that I'll be back tomorrow with a real post.


* I had a wee minor medical thing this week that has kept me not wanting to sit at a desk any more than I need to for work. I am fine, though, thanks.
** Reviews of The Hunger Games and Terra Icognita are forthcoming.
*** It better not be Anoop!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

After the Read-a-Thon

I hit my goal of visiting all 168 blogs (my count) participating in the read-a-thon, but sadly, I fell short of doing it all during the actual read-a-thon. But I visited the last few today to say congratulations and I'm so glad I did. There are a lot of wonderful blogs out there that I never would have known about or visited if it weren't for this read-a-thon. Thanks to everyone for visiting me back here. I hope you'll stick around!

Now, for those of you who stayed up all night reading, get some sleep!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Read-a-thon Update

I've visited 154 blogs so far today and I think my brain may have turned to goo. So I'm going to take a break and come back to visit everyone else participating later.

Good luck to everyone participating in the read-a-thon and have fun!
Wow. I've now visited 116 of the blogs participating in the read-a-thon and I may need to take a break. There are so many great blogs out there that I had never visited before, though, so this has been great!
After a quick break to shower and torture* the cat, I'm back to cheerleading. So far, I've visited and commented on 53 blogs, so I am just under 1/3 of my way to my goal of cheerleading for everyone. And at some point, I want to do a little reading of my own, too.

*Just kidding, of course. We had a fun session of chase the string before she went back to ignoring me.

24-hour Read-a-thon Update

I've been visiting blogs and performing my cheerleaderly duties for about two hours so far and I've only managed to visit a fraction of the blogs that are participating in this years read-a-thon! Congratulations to our organizers for doing such a great job of getting people involved!
Good morning! I'm mobile-blogging from the kitchen, where I'm making myself a nice big pot of coffee. My "official" 24-hour read-a-thon hour is 9-10 PDT,but I want to visit everybody and I think that will take longer than an hour.

ETA: Clearly there's a hitch in this mobile blogging thing - I don't know how to only write 140 characters at a time!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Update

It's been a while since I've written one of these and I got some new reads this week, so I thought it was a good time to do an update. Then I read Presenting Lenore's great post about authors requesting books. The comments on that one (over a 100 when I last checked) ended up covering a broad range of topics including complaints from authors about bloggers who ask for free books and then never review them. So I just want to make this clear: I buy (or check out from the library) the vast majority of books that I talk about on my blog. On the rare occasion when I get a book for free, I talk about it in one of these preview posts not to brag, but to give the book additional publicity and to talk about how excited I am to read it.

Okay, onto the good stuff - books!


My book club picked our next book: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny.

All children mythologize their birth...So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
Hopefully I'm not stepping on Alea's toes (for those of you who don't read her blog, Pop Culture Junkie, Alea does these fantastic Lookalike posts about similar book covers) by bringing this up, but I really like this cover and when I went to the bookstore to buy it, I saw another book that struck me as being similar-looking: The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay.

Do you see a similarity or is it just me?
Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city.
This sounds intriguing, though the reviews I read were lukewarm, so maybe I'll see if I can find this one at the library.



From LibraryThing's Early Review program, I got The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. (I'd like to point out that this is not actually an "early" book; its been out for several months.)
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
I am so excited to read this book! I've heard so much about it from everywhere, it seems. Here's what My Friend Amy and Maw Books had to say about it, and word from Presenting Lenore about the sequel!

Happy Friday, everyone, and join me tomorrow for the Read-a-Thon!

Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon

Tomorrow is Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, an annual event where book bloggers pledge to read for 24-hours (plus or minus) straight, blog about it and, usually, donate to a charity of their choice. I'm not planning on being a Reader, but I am looking forward to hearing about everyone else's exploits. If you'd like to follow along or find out more, visit the Read-a-Thon website.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Dark Arts of Architecture

After reading my earlier post on architectural rendering, my mom sent me an email. In it, she noted that rendering is also the process by which butcher melt down animal fat. Yeah, ew. It did remind me of what has to be one of my favorite Monty Python sketches of all time. I'll warn you, it's dark humor but I think its pretty funny.
Architect: Oh, I see. I hadn't correctly divined your attitude towards your tenants. You see I mainly design slaughter houses. Yes, pity. Mind you, this is a real beaut. I mean, none of your blood caked on the walls and flesh flying out of the windows, inconveniencing the passers-by with this one. I mean, my life has been building up to this.
Client: Yes, and well done, but we want a block of flats.
YouTube won't let me imbed, so here's a link instead. If you prefer, here's a link to the transcript.

Review: The Queen's Man

Epiphany, 1193. Eleanor of Aquitaine sits upon England's throne. Her beloved son Richard Lionheart is missing, presumed dead - and the court whispers that her younger son, John, is plotting to seize the crown. Meanwhile, on the snowy highroad from Winchester, a destitute young man falls heir to a blood stained letter, pressed into his hand by a dying man. The missive becomes Justin de Quincy's passport into the queen's confidence - and into the heart of danger, as he pursues a cunning murderer and jousts with secret traitors in Eleanor's court of intrigue and mystery . . .
I've wanted to read Sharon Kay Penman's historical fiction for a while (especially because I just love the idea of reading a book called Here Be Dragons). But I've always been a little too intimidated to dive in. When I found The Queen's Man at a used bookstore, I thought it would be a good entry into her writing and I was right. Unlike Penman's best known books, which are long (The Sunne In Splendour is 900+ pages) and cover a lot of ground, The Queen's Man is a lighter read and would be good for all medieval and mystery fans, including young adult readers. It is very well-written, filled with rich details and characters that bring the quickly-paced story to life. I will definitely be looking for the sequel, Cruel as the Grave, and will move Penman's other books up on my To Be Read list.

Buy The Queen's Man on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Architecture Links

From mental_floss, 10 Facts About St. Peter’s Basilica. I'm sure any architects reading this already knew #1 from their architectural history lessons, though, right?

If any of my clients wanted to donate enough money to a university to have the architecture school named after me a la Fay Jones, I wouldn't say no. Heck, I'll take a couch in the student lounge. "Where did you sleep this afternoon after last night's all-nighter?" "The Lorin couch. Man, that thing is comfortable!"

I found myself nodding my head in agreement several times reading this post, 12 Reasons to Refuse to Render. (via archinect) To clarify, the blogger is talking about why, as a young professional, he thinks you shouldn't do the office renderings, not why projects shouldn't be rendered. But, as one of the commenters said, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and that, to me, explains the proliferation of blobs at architecture schools today (see my post on the subject here.)

I love these miniature chairs created from Champagne corks! Design within Reach sponsors a yearly contest to make these. They're fun and great to look at. Bonus points to those who spot the copies of some famous pieces. See more at DWR's site and this blog. [via weburbanist]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This is my first attempt to blog by text. How does it look?

Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritker Laureate

Not that anyone asked, but I am quite pleased that, as most news services have reported by now, Peter Zumthor has won this year's Pritzker Prize. The Pritzker is the highest honor in architecture and, really, I found it astonishing that Zumthor hadn't won yet.


I've never had the pleasure of visiting any of Zumthor's built projects, unfortunately. When I was in Switzerland, I really wanted to go see his most famous project, the thermal baths at Val (photo above), but didn't have the time. I will just have to go back sometime! I have, though, seen him lecture, which was just wonderful. Also, I did a project in grad school about his Bregenz art museum (below), after which a small group of us got to have a meeting with one of the project's engineers to discuss the building in depth. That was pretty cool.


One of the things I like about Zumthor is that you never really know what you are going to get from him. The building will be beautiful and well-thought-out, but he has no set style. Unlike a Frank Gehry, who you hire because you want a Gehry building (read: swoopy and shiny), Zumthor produces something new and beautiful each time.

photos from Wikipedia

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all of those who celebrate! And I hope that all of you who celebrate Passover enjoy the fourth night.To those of you who aren't celebrating any holidays this weekend, I hope you enjoy what is (at least here) a beautiful spring day!

In the spirit of the season, here are some links on one of my favorite Easter candies: Peeps. I don't like them to eat, I like them to make dioramas and blow up in the microwave, of course!

Dietribes: Jeepers Peepers!
Peeps Imitate Life: 11 Sweet Marshmallow Scenes
How to Make Peeps from Scratch [via Jezebel]
And the official peeps site.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Sex With Kings

With a title like that, reading Sex with Kings* by Eleanor Herman in a public place is sure to raise a few eyebrows. But for anyone who reads as much historical fiction as I do, it's nice to find out some of the history behind the fiction. This book, a look at the history of the Royal (European) Mistress, is nonfiction and well-researched, but written in the juicier style of a fiction page-turner.

It is not, though, without its faults. For example, since this book was arranged by topic rather than chronologically, sometimes the same story was referenced several times, which made the book a bit repetitious. Also, the writing is a bit over the top, even for me. Really, do we need multiple references to the "altar of Hymen"? .

But for those who like their history with a bit of oomph, and want to delve deeper into the history books than Phillipa Gregory and The Other Boleyn Girl allows, I recommend Sex with Kings for a fun read.

Buy Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge on Amazon.

* Hmmm...I wonder what kind of hits I'm going to get now on this blog!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Review: Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire


Like Mistress of the Art of Death, it was my husband who first picked Medicus up, before passing it to me to read.* From the publisher:
Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. In a moment of weakness, after a straight thirty-six-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to compassion and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner. Now he has a new problem: a slave who won't talk and can't cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar. Now Ruso must summon all his forensic knowledge to find a killer who may be after him next.
Even though I'm not normally interested in books about ancient Rome, I thought this was one of the better historical mystery novels I've read recently. I think that's because it was very character driven. Ruso was a really likable guy and, even though the book seems to me to be pretty historically accurate, I thought he was very relatable to the modern person. I certainly smiled at his constant plans to write a book, though maybe that's just me.

I've seen a bit of ink spilled lately lamenting that reading has become a woman's hobby and that fewer and fewer men are reading for pleasure.** This may be an odd compliment to give a book, but I think Medicus would be a prime candidate to give to a man who has stopped reading, to convince him to start reading again. Not that a woman wouldn't enjoyed this book, too, obviously, since I did. But I know a lot more men than women who are interested in the history of warfare and might like this fictional look into a Roman garrison.


In the UK, this book was published as Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls.


Ruth Downie online.
* Also like Mistress, I read this a while back but am reviewing it now, as the sequel just came out in paperback. So, stay tuned for my review of the sequel, Terra Incognita: A Novel of the Roman Empire!

** See, for example, this article in the Guardian calling for the "re-masculinization" of books in order to interest men in reading. Then, of course, you need to see Book Ninja's tongue-in-cheek contest in response.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

mmm... Cadbury Eggs

Just because it is fun and Easter season and I love Cadbury eggs...

Review: 84, Charing Cross Road

About a million years ago, I asked here what I should pick for my book club book. Consensus here was to go for Paper Towns, but the ladies actually in the book club voted for 84, Charing Cross Road, so that's what we read*. Then life got in the way, and we pushed off book club a few times, but by the time we met, only three of us were able to come. Sigh... On the plus side, we had all read the book (which doesn't always happen) so that's good. Then again, 84, Charing Cross Road is 97 pages long, so even if we had met the week after we chose it, everyone probably would have read the book!

Despite its brevity, this is a really charming book. This is the correspondence between Helene Hanff and the London bookshop that she bought her books from. It was a tribute to the love of books and reading, and to a friendship that sprung up entirely through letter writing. I also liked how it was a wonderful window into another era (the 50's, mostly), like when Hanff would send care packages to the bookshop, conscious that they were still on rations from the war. My fellow book group goers and I were trying to decide what it would take to get one of us to eat powdered eggs in this age!

I highly recommend this little gem of a book to any of you who love books as much as I do. Plus, it will make you want to starting writing letters to your loved ones. And isn't it nice to get something in the mail?

Buy 84, Charing Cross Road on Amazon.

This book was also made into a play and later, a movie, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.

In a related item, the New York Times Paper Cuts blog calls the New York Society Library exhibition “The President’s Wife and the Librarian” a kind of visual version of 84, Charing Cross Road. What a pleasant thought!

* Though two of the ladies also read Paper Towns and really liked it, so that certainly adds to my interest in reading it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Classics with One-Star Amazon Reviews

You Can't Please Everyone is a series of posts from Cynical-C about classics (books, movies, albums) with one-star Amazon ratings. Some are funny and some are very, very depressing. Here's a sampling (and [sic] to just about all of these):

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Who the hell is this Mark Twain character?! Simply put: What a lousy novel! Maybe this was his first novel…I don’t know. Anyways, I sure hope he doesn’t plan on writing anything else. I read this book, initially, in the author’s native bulgarian language…and it was even worse! The translator was probably trying to do us a favor by touching up this P.O.S. novel, but I think it would take an act of God to save this text…

1984: i give this book one star i had to read it for class and i know it’s suposed to be a “classic” but god itis awful. first of all its NOTHING like the future is probly going to turn out. second of all every one says the aurthor george orwell is so trippy and wierd but i think he’s just trying to cover up for the fact that HE CAN’T WRITE. please george do us all a faver and stop writing books.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: This alBUM and the beatles in general are way too over-rated! How can you people say this album is perfect without it having ONE GOOD METAL GUITAR PART! you people need to learn what GOOD music is. I suggest: Dragon Force, Megadeth, and Death Cab for Cutie.

I have to confess, though, I didn't like Catcher in the Rye, either, so I won't criticize anyone else's one-star rating of it.

Thanks to mental_floss for the link.

Secret Room Round-up

As you may have figured out by now, I love secret places in a building. I find articles about them all the time, though most of the time there aren't any photos, so I don't bother passing them along (and most of them are of the "police found drugs in secret room" vein, which I'm decidedly not interested in). Here are some more links and photos of secret rooms and doors that caught my eye:

From Dornob: Modern Secret Rooms and Hidden Doors. I like the stair/door.



Have you ever heard of Chicheley Hall? It was just purchased by the Royal Society, which brought it to my attention.
The most remarkable room is the 'secret' library on the upper floor, with all shelving and books concealed behind what appears to be panelling, thus disguising the room's true use. The interior includes some of the finest woodcarving, joinery and plasterwork in any English country house of its period.


If any of you have ever been there, I would love to see what it looks like inside! I can only find exterior photos online.

Proof that its not just castles that have secret rooms and that wardrobes really can lead to a secret place (even if its just a dusty bedroom). abandoned place... behind my own wardrobe

No photos unfortunately, but this article is about a new home that Richard Dreyfuss (yes, the actor) is building. In addition to being a model for green building/sustainability practices, the home also has planned a "two-story library for Dreyfuss' 15,000-volume book collection, with a hidden panel leading to a secret room." Am I jealous? Yes, yes, I am.

That's it for now. I'd love to hear from you about any secret rooms, etc that you've visited or heard about recently!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nothing To Say

I seem to have nothing to say these days. Actually, I have lots to say but little inclination to say it. Or type it, especially as the tendonitis in my right arm makes typing painful. Instead, I will leave you with an interesting photo of what happened when a truck met a hydrant outside of my office recently.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Review: The Big Over Easy

So, here’s a story that doesn’t really have anything to get the book, but I’ll tell it anyway. For whatever reason, growing up we didn’t refer to our eggs as being “over easy.” Instead, we referred to our eggs as being “once over lightly.” When I first moved in with my husband, I kept telling him I wanted my eggs "once over lightly" and he kept looking at me like I was a crazy person. It took me a while to get used to calling my eggs over easy instead.

Anyway...

Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.
I wasn’t entirely sure you get much sillier than the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, but he certainly done it with his Nursery Crime series. Someone on Librarything wrote that reading this book was a little bit like watching a Shrek movie and I have to say, I agree. References and allusions go by at a mile a minute. Some of them went right over my head but in general, I caught enough to be amused by the book. The story goes by very quickly which is good, because the plot takes so many twists and turns the book gets rather drawn out. Also, the characters are all very flat - maybe that befits a book based on nursery tales, but it certainly meant that I never really connected on a deeper level with the story. Ford, though, is a great writer and he really knows how to choose his words carefully, making The Big Over Easy very readable and enjoyable.

Buy The Big Over Easy on Amazon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: Midnighters Trilogy

I just finished reading the third Midnighters book by Scott Westerfeld, Blue Noon, and I wanted to write a review of the entire Midnighters trilogy. As I’ve said in the past, Scott Westerfeld has really become one of my go-to authors for a fun read.

When a new teenager, Jessica Day, moves to town, she is shocked to find that her new home town of Bixby, Oklahoma isn’t like other small towns. Unbeknownst to most of the residents, midnight every night the world freezes for an hour when the darklings - mysterious creatures from the past - come out to play. The only people who are awake during the quiet hour are the Midnighters, a group of four teens with special abilities, like mindreading and flying, but only during the special hour. And Jessica is a Midnighter. Now she just has to figure out what her ability is.

In book two, Touching Darkness, the stakes are raised when lives are in danger. Despite their differences the team has to come together to save their own lives and the life of a girl who was captured by the Darklings decades ago.

In book three, Blue Noon, the story intensifies as it becomes clear to the Midnighters that the danger is spreading. If they don’t find some way to protect the people of Bixby, the whole town, and maybe more, could be killed by the Darklings.

These are great books for younger readers and I found them to be fun to read, too. The Midnighters books didn’t have quite the same depth as Westerfeld’s Peeps (my review) or Uglies series. But I enjoyed them for what they are – interesting, fun, intriguing, and engaging.

Buy Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour on Amazon.
Buy Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness on Amazon.
Buy Midnighters #3: Blue Noon on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Free Women of the Otherworld Stories

For those of you who are either a) completists* or b) trying to see if the Women of the Otherworld series is worth diving in to, series author Kelley Armstrong has a ton of short stories on her website that you should check out. (See my previous post here.) Here are a few links to get you started:

Rebirth
Infusion.
Demonology
Birthright

Probably the easiest way to navigate to all the short stories is to visit the Wikipedia page for Women of the Otherworld, here.

* completist kəmˈplētist - noun, an obsessive, typically indiscriminate, collector or fan of something. Example: me.

Review: Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic & Haunted

I have written in the past about buying several books in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. The first two books in the series, Bitten and Stolen, focus on the world's only female werewolf, Elena. As I've said before, I enjoyed these books, especially Bitten, which prompted me to buy the next three books in the series: Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic, and Haunted. These books focus on witches, and Elena and the other werewolves play only minor roles.


Dime Store Magic
... Paige [is] just an ordinary twenty-something who runs her own website design company, worries about her weight and wonders if she’ll ever find a boyfriend. Okay, so she’s leader of the American Coven and guardian of Savannah, the teenage daughter of a black witch. Really, life is ordinary. But then a telekinetic half-demon, Leah O’Donnell, shows up to fight for custody of Savannah. And although Paige is ready for her, she’s not quite so prepared for the team of supernaturals that Leah brings with her, including a powerful sorcerer who claims to be Savannah’s father.
When all hell breaks loose -- literally -- and Paige is accused of witchcraft, Satanism and murder, the Coven, fearing exposure, abandons her. Cut off from her friends, Paige is forced against her better judgment to accept the help of a young sorcerer lawyer. And she quickly comes to realize that keeping Savannah could mean losing everything else.

Industrial Magic
... Someone is murdering the teenage offspring of the underworld’s most influential Cabals — a circle of families that makes the mob look like amateurs. And none is more powerful than the Cortez Cabal, a faction Paige is intimately acquainted with. Lucas Cortez, the rebel son and unwilling heir, is none other than her boyfriend. But love isn’t blind, and Paige has her eyes wide open as she is drawn into a hunt for an unnatural-born killer. 
Haunted
Eve Levine - half-demon, black witch and devoted mother - has been dead for three years. She has a great house, an interesting love life and can't be killed again - which comes in handy when you've made as many enemies as Eve. Yes, the afterlife isn't too bad - all she needs to do is find a way to communicate with her daughter Savannah and she'll be happy. But fate - or more exactly, the Fates - have other plans. Eve owes them a favour, and they've just called it in...
Industrial Magic is my favorite of these three - the Cabals are a really interesting concept and the "whodunit" factor of this one was a nice departure for the series (or what I've read so far). In general, though, what I like about this series is how different each of the books is from one another. That's also a little bit of a complaint, since there is something so satisfying about re-visiting the same characters in most series. But the twist here, where the same characters re-appear but the focus changes from book to book, keeps things interesting and makes each book stand on its own quite well. The books build on each other, though, so its better to read them in order. Overall, I recommend these three books to any adult* fantasy fans. However, I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Broken, as it returns the focus to Elena, who has been, hands down, my favorite character.

Buy Dime Store Magic on Amazon.
Buy Industrial Magic on Amazon.
Buy Haunted on Amazon.

*Yes, there's a smattering of sex in each book, plus other adult themes.