That sound you hear? That would be me, in the corner, curled into a ball,whimpering gently. I just finished Changes, book 12 of the Dresden Files. Based on past publishing patterns it will be a year before I find out
Have you read the Dresden Files yet? Harry Dresden is a both a P.I. and a wizard. The Chicago he inhabits is populated with vampires, werewolves, all manner of Fae, beings that claim to be demons and angels (nobody sanewould argue with them) and pretty much any other stripe of magical creature you can think of. The Dresden Files is the series other urban fantasies want to be when they grow up. They are fairly light quick reads but they really do need to be read in order, starting with Storm Front.
Several years ago, I bought the first two on a whim. I forgot about them until my husband came to me with book two in hand to ask if there were any more and could I go get them right now please? Huh. Obviously I was missing something. I started reading them myself. I was hooked. Now I snatch up each new installment on the release date and finish it before bedtime. This is my absolute favorite series. I've seen it enjoyed by both male and female readers. I've talked mystery/detective story readers into giving it a try despite the fantasy elements and they've enjoyed it.
A few years ago I heard the author speak at a convention. He was charming and witty. When asked how many books were planned he said he had a twentyyear mortgage. At this point I'm not sure how it will end. Harry Dresden may die horribly or finally see a moment of untarnished happiness - probably right before dying horribly. I'm not sure which I'm rooting for. He's done dubious things for good reason, he's allied with not nice beings for a good cause, he's made mistakes, some with bloody, tragic prices. But so far, Harry Dresden keeps getting back up and trying again. He's got a lot of flaws, headed up by a smart mouth, although it's sarcasm rather than cynicism.
And while it may sound like these are twelve grim volumes of unremitting gloom, they are frequently very funny. The characterization is truly top notch. I care what happens to Harry, I care a lot at this point. But I can't really describeanything that happens in book twelve without venturing into spoiler territory. What I can tell you is that on October 26th Butcher is releasing a book of short stories called Side Jobs. It contains the collected Dresden Files short stories from various anthologies plus a few new ones. One of them is written from the perspective of a secondary character and is set immediately after the end ofChanges. I am pre-ordering Side Jobs because I can't wait until next April. The author is an evil, cruel, and terrible man and I need a hint of what happens in book thirteen right now.
PS, the tv show?... Meh, it was OK. If you like genre TV and want to watch something on DVD you'll like it well enough. But it doesn't hold a candle to the books.
Oh no - yet another book I don't want to return to the library! I think I'll have to go out and buy it. I love Country living : A Bit of Velvet and a Dash of Lace : the Fabulous Interiors of Magnolia Pearl by Robin Brown with Jason Boyd.
As a new homeowner I like to browse the interior decorating books in the library. I've found that many of them don't have a personal voice or narrator. If they do they can come across as clinical and cold. This is not the case in this book! Brown offers the reader a warm invitation to the "Magnolia Pearl" style of decorating. She also shares stories about her upbringing in 1960s California with her artistic parents.
I'm not usually attracted to the funky, Bohemian-Victorian style but Brown makes it appealing. And it's wonderful to see Brown's style beautifully portrayed on each page by Steven Radazzo's stunning photographs. Though I might use elements of the Boho-Victorian style, there's no way I could make my entire home reflect this dedication to interior decoration.
Perhaps you'd like to add these elements of style to your home? Luckily this book includes a guide for those who would like to do just that. Some of the projects included in the book are weaving flowers in your hair, building a gate from a bed frame and making pet beds. If you are looking for a visual treat along with great storytelling try the lovely book A Bit of Velvet and a Dash of Lace. You won't be disappointed.
Welcome to our new blogger Cathy, who says of her reading tastes, "I love all kinds of books, music, films, comics, zines and web stuff. Basically, I eat from all 5 food groups, including junk food." More about Cathy and all of our bloggers here.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, if someone called you the L word, if it didn’t refer to your sexuality, it meant you’d been outed as a liberal. But that L word is so last century. In today’s hallowed halls of Web 2.0, the latest 12th-letter indictment is Luddite. So why is Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley visionary, musician, and one of the web’s big supporters in the 1980s, now having to fend off that label? Lanier’s recent book You Are Not a Gadget- a self-proclaimed manifesto - is his answer to all the mudslingers.
I love how this book asks lots of “taboo” questions about the Web. His FAQs preface the book by saying “it ought to be possible to criticize aspects of digital experience without criticizing the whole of it.” Here are just some of the provocative issues he raises:
- Computer scientists create a standard, like storing information in files. It makes sense while their system is small, but when the system expands (think Microsoft), it gets “locked in” - now we all must use it, whether it’s outdated, inefficient, or unaesthetic. What happens when the ‘lock-in” is your personal profile, on a social network like Facebook?
- Regarding crowd decision-making on the Web: “Collectives can be just as stupid as any individual – and, in important cases, stupider. The interesting question is whether it’s possible to map out where the one is smarter than many."
- It has been a decade since music migrated to the Web. Are musicians actually better off? What does the online music world forecast for other fields, like journalism?
- Why was advertising the villain in the 1960s and 1970s, but now can do no wrong? Lanier’s answer is because it’s what pays for the Web, and what allows content to be available for free. So what happens to culture when advertising is sacrosanct?
Lanier is no naysayer; he’s open to debate, and he proposes intriguing alternatives. This book's guaranteed to start great discussions, whether you’re a computer geek or a rank and file Web user.
Sometimes I think that I am drawn to books of sorrow. Rather, maybe, I am more attracted to how people survive and work out their grief.
Perhaps it was too soon for the author to write of his daughter Amy's untimely death from heart failure at age 38. Making Toast: a Family Story by Roger Rosenblatt is so filled with raw sorrow, a touch of bitterness and tender stories of helping to raise three young grandchildren. The children call him, Boppo, and his wife, Ginny becomes Mimi as their lives are forever changed.
Roger Rosenblatt may be familiar from his columns in The Washington Post or Time Magazine. He is also a Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University and the author of the hilarious novel, Lapham Rising.
Facing this terrible loss is torture, but caring for the children becomes a joy.
Always the teacher, Boppo gives the children a new word each morning to mull and savor. These 'Word of the Morning' stories sprinkled throughout the book and the quiet way that the Rosenblatts instill a love of reading are some of my favorite parts of this memoir. Bubbies, the youngest child, is just under two. One evening just before bedtime, Bubbies points to one of the books in the den and says, "book." It is a copy of The Letters of James Joyce, but Boppo takes the book down and instead reads a story of Bubbies' adventure on the playground.
"I try to put back the book, but he detects an implicit announcement of his bedtime, and he protests. "Joyce!" he says. Eventually, he resigns himself to the end of his day. He puts the book back himself, and quietly says, "Joyce."
Ginny puts her feelings into the startling poem "Arch of Shade" as she grapples with leading her daughter's life by caring for the children.
Arch of Shade
Rachmaninoff and Mozart
Sift through the haze
On River Road.
Two hatted women wait
In the heat for the Ride-on-Bus.
The Wii is the summer wish
Your babies' crib is disassembled
And taken away
To be the bed for a new life.
I am turning
To the camp carpool line
Only thinking of you.
The arch of shade hovers
The hot July sun rays
Dapple the leaf arch
To highlight the darkness.
I am here.
Roger astutely comments on his wife and her poetry; "Her graciousness distracts people from noticing that she is alert to life's dark places. She prefers it that way. Her poems hit their mark, but gently. They crack the egg without breaking it."
Making Toast will both break your heart and show you what is possible in dealing with grief.
Many mystery novels feature figurative and sometimes literal skeletons in the closet, but there are a number of titles where the skeletons are out of the closet and into the ground. The Crossing Places is one of those, and it's a good mystery in a brand new series by Elly Griffiths. Ruth Galloway is a late thirty-something, overweight archaeology professor teaching at a new university in the county of Norfolk, England. When the bones of a young girl show up in the salt-marsh close to her home, DCI Harry Nelson asks for her help in figuring out how old they are. Turns out, they belong to an Iron Age girl, but it's not long before a much more recent skeleton appears. Are these the bones of the girl who went missing a decade ago? Nelson's desperate to solve that mystery and help the parents get on with their lives. The ending is a bit melodramatic, but I liked the book and especially the atmospheric setting and unusual character of Ruth. I'm looking forward toThe Janus Stone, the second in the series coming out in the fall of 2010. For two other mysteries with forensic anthropological and archaeological bents, read Haunted Ground by Erin Hart and Old Bones by Aaron Elkins, one of my favorite mysteries ever.
I just read a really good debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. So often trying a new author is a hit or miss proposition, but this was a solid hit. Yeine Darr is a half-breed. She was raised in the hinterlands. Although she was raised to rule and her father was the prince of his little country, she's still the half-savage, unfashionable, rude barbarian with no grasp of civilization. At least that's what her mother's courtiers think of her. She's too short and she looks different. Nobody, least of all she, is happy that her grandfather the emperor has summoned his granddaughter to court where his potential heirs are competing. She's nearly murdered within the first few hours and it doesn't get any better from there. This novel is the first in a series but it does stand alone quite well. The author has said that each new book will center around a new main character and the characters from other books will become side notes. So it's not the usual fantasy commitment of at least three novels to try out this new author.
I've always liked a good ghost story, but zombies leave me cold. I mean, how can anything with rapidly decomposing brain cells moving at the speed of a sloth possibly be scary? Why don't the living in
these movies stick out their tongues and dance circles around them? It's because zombies are relentless, say some; they never tire. Yeah, but I could just pull a Will Smith on them and create a Manhattan penthouse fortress, the way he does in I am Legend, based on the book by the same name.
It seems as though writers and directors have finally figured out that slow-as-molasses zombies aren't all that frightening. The director of Dead Snow has certainly turned up the horror. A group of medical students spends the weekend at a remote skiing cabin in Norway. Throw in a strange old codger with stories about evil lurking in the hills, and the problem of having to go to the outhouse in the dark, a horror in itself, and you've got a pretty good start. But then add...wait for it...Nazi zombies! Yes, it's a great concept but it's a bit over the top when legions of them start popping out of the snow to eat our protagonists' vital organs. The problem is that, as with many zombie movies, when you try to escalate the fear it seems inevitable that you stray into caricature or satire. Or maybe that's the point - the appeal is knowing the whole conceit will eventually dissolve into the absurd.
One movie that embraces the absurd from the outset is Zombieland- sure to become a cult classic. An obsessive-compulsive, agoraphobe hooks up with a pugnacious, zombie hating Twinkie-loving cowboy, played by Woody Harrelson. They make their way across the wasteland that is America after the zombie apocalypse. It's great laugh out loud fun, and personal thanks to the director who realizes that we only need to see the undead munching on a body part once or twice to get the point. Our imaginations will fill in the blanks. This and another low-comedy zombie flick, Shaun of the Dead would make for a great movie night, providing vegetarian food is served.
A recent interest in all things zombie means that there's plenty of fodder for fans. The book World War Z by Max Brooks recounts the story of the zombie wars that almost put an end to life as we know it. If only all zombies would heed David Murphy'sZombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead. Find more zombie related material with the keywords "zombies" and "fiction", "zombies" and "humor". Oh, and be careful out there.
I don’t remember the day I first saw music video for "Around the World" by Daft Punk, but I do know that it was the beginning of a torrid love affair with acclaimed director Michel Gondry. At the time, I didn’t know who the director was, but I would watch the video for hours, trying to memorize each component. The video shows mummies, robots, skeletons, and synchronized swimmers all dancing around a stage built to look like an LP. It wasn’t until I checked out a series of DVDs called Directors Label that I discovered the genius behind Gondry’s directorial skill. Basically a collection of music videos, advertisements, and short films, The Work of Director Michel Gondry highlights some of the best and most imaginative creativity I’ve ever seen. Some excellent commentary in the director’s thick French accent gives you a tiny glimpse into his crazy little mind.
It only makes sense that given a bigger budget Gondry’s feature films are that much more brilliant. One of my favorites is Be Kind Rewind. Starring Jack Black, Danny Glover, and a surprisingly talented Mos Def, this film was filmed and takes place in Passaic, New Jersey. A video store owner faces eviction if he doesn’t retool his business. After a freak accident erases all the videotapes, the store must recreate every movie using people and props from the local neighborhood. The new business booms until a fast-talking lawyer tries to shut the entire operation down. Will the community rally to save their local video store?
It’ll be interesting to see what Gondry comes up with on his next project. He’s currently filming The Green Hornet, a superhero movie based on the radio and character of the same name.
There is something about digging in the dirt, planting a garden and pulling weeds that is nurturing and healing. For me, reading about it is an equally healing experience especially when the writing is as visual and thoughtful as the writing of David Mas Masumoto. I have read and reread his book, Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring. He is a third generation Japanese-American peach farmer and his description of life on his farm is such sensual writing that you can almost taste the peaches.
One hundred years ago his grandparents arrived in America with dreams of owning land, farming and raising a family. They rented land, planted fruit trees and grape vines; survived the Great Depression and continued with their work of raising food and family. But December 7, 1941 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor changed their expectations of a better life in America. The family was interred in the Gila River relocation camp in the Arizona desert and lost everything.
Then Masumoto's father was drafted. "Lock up our family behind barbed wire in the middle of a desert and then draft me?" He was on his way to Europe when Germany surrendered. In 1950, he took a chance and bought a small farm in the Central Valley near Fresno, California. He lavished care on his trees and vines.
"Good pruning is really the art of taking away, like a sculptor chiseling at a rock, working to uncover life inside. Dad paced around the grapevine, paused and clipped, leaning in and cutting: eyes darting back and forth, searching for the strong canes, locating spurs for next year's growth. He worked with the past and saw the future--adding to a living timeline."
In his biography, Wisdom of the Last Farmer, Masumoto writes, "As we move on, we leave behind our stories in interior and exterior landscapes. The looming fog of death, the passing of time, the nature of change all lead us to greater self-awareness, and to a final transformation We mourn the loss of our people and miss them. But we continue to tell their stories."
This, indeed, is the continuing story of how the family cared for his father after a stroke, how working on the land even in a limited way was healing and life-giving, how the family continues to raise organic, juicy fruit.
This book stirred up so many of my own memories. Everybody has a junk drawer in the kitchen or the garage that collects odd bits of wire, screws, batteries and small tools, but this is nothing compared to my Dad's barn of objects too good to throw away because 'I might need it sometime to fix something.' And he most often found a use for many of his treasures. I was tickled by the chapter "Perfect Junk" in which Mr. Masumoto talks about the farmer's junk pile at a farm conference. An old farmer responds, "Out here we don't call them 'junk piles'. We call them 'inventory'."
Masumoto writes a whole chapter on the varieties of heritage flavorful peaches. It reminded me of the grocer in our small town calling my mother to say, "Lois, the Elberta's are in." We girls then knew it was time to bake pies, to peel and can and sample a few rich juicy morsels of the Elberta peaches. I remember, too, the Red Haven and Hale peaches. Now I long to taste a fresh Sun Crest peach straight from one of the Masumoto trees.