Wednesday, October 29, 2008

funny bookish Halloween cartoon

I've got Will Write for Chocolate in my RSS reader, and I had to share this one with all of you:

If you can't read it, clicking on it will take you to the cartoon on the Will Write for Chocolate site. You should head over to Debbie's site, too, and see some of the other stuff she's got on the go. I like her holiday greeting cards, especially the one about the holiday birthday. (I love my December 23 birthday, but that card is very, very funny--and I've never seen another one that addresses the issue.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Grift by Debra Ginsberg

The Grift was exactly what I needed right now.

It's not a book that got into my head; I didn't dream about psychics or ruby rings. I did, however, put down my computer for hours to read. (Once upon a time, this wouldn't have been such a notable event.)

Though the premise of the story (psychics are real!) has been pretty popular for TV series of late, I expected more of a Ghost (think Whoopi Goldberg) kind of protagonist, and so, despite praise from other readers, I didn't have particularly high hopes for this book. But Marina is definitely no Ida Mae Brown. The characters run the gamut of familiar (but enjoyable) California archetypes, whose piddly little issues take on characteristics of cartoon snowballs rolling down a hill until they lead to real, dangerous problems.

I haven't read much Alice Hoffman--none of her grown-up books--but this book is along the lines of what I'd expect from her. (Hoffman fans should feel free to tell me whether these expectations are right on or off-base.)

This book isn't a work of literary genius; it's not particularly deep. But it is a fun experience, and that's more than I can say for a lot of the books I've picked up this year.

Many thanks to Random House for so obligingly sending me a review copy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Northlander by Meg Burden

Hi, everyone. Jill at The Well-Read Child sent me a few books to review as a guest blogger for her site, and the first one is Northlander.

My review is scheduled to be posted at The Well-Read Child today!

By the bye, in two months I will be turning 31. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Galveston library needs our help

Hi, everyone. Here's another great cause that needs our support.

Cheryl Rainfield's blog today asks for help from books/library lovers everywhere. The Rosenberg library in Galveseton, Texas, was badly damaged in the flood caused by Hurricane Ike, and they're asking for donations to help rebuild. You can donate to the general library fund or to the children's library fund. The Rosenberg Library's blog has just announced the services they've been able to resume, and you can see some pictures of their work.

Everything on the first floor of the library was destroyed with the flood, including the children's section. The library has received many offers to donate books, to which the head of the children's department responds:

I would like to encourage those wanting to help to make a contribution to the Hurricane Ike Library Recovery Fund and allow us to use this donation in the way that would most help the Library. No gift is too small. Patrons wishing to specify their Hurricane Ike donation be restricted to the Children’s Department may ask it be applied to the Children’s Department Recovery Fund.

The Children’s Department, Technical Services, Circulation Department and Operations were located on the 1st Floor and all are gone. Many have contacted me wanting to help rebuild the Children’s collection by donating books. It is gratifying to field requests from as far away as Washington D.C. and as close as right here in Galveston. It is difficult not to accept these gifts, but right now it’s important we approach this catastrophe in a logical, organized manner. We have no shelving for books, no technical services staff to catalog the books, no elevator to move the books, no electrical panel to light the department, etc. We can’t put the cart before the horse, as my grandmother would say.


(read in full)

You can donate to the Rosenberg Library's Hurricane Ike recovery funds through the buttons on their site or by sending a donation to:

Rosenberg Library
2310 Sealy Ave.
Galveston, TX 77550

I suspect you've already got the Rosenberg Library's webpage open and are signing into your Paypal account or getting out your debit/credit card. Book people are great like that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Maggie and the Chocolate War by Michelle Mulder

Maggie and the Chocolate War is the kind of book I would have read and reread as a kid.

The setting is Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) in 1947, when war rations have been done away with, but the cost of all varieties of foodstuffs are skyrocketing, resulting in most families being worse off than they were with the rations. Maggie, our main character, is trying to earn enough money to buy her friend Jo a chocolate bar for her tenth birthday, but the cost of chocolate bars hikes up to eight cents right before Jo's birthday. Kids are furious, because there's no way they'll be able to afford their favorite treat when the cost nearly doubles overnight. So, inspired by a lesson they learned from their favorite teacher, they decide to protest. They even march on the legislature.

Maggie is a surprisingly complex character who has to consider various points of view; her dad is a shopkeeper selling eight cent candy bars, so the protests could affect their family's income and cause them to have pare down their budget even more. Maggie has to make decisions about how her actions are going to effect those around her, and she has to deal with the myriad emotions that accompany those decisions.

One of my favorite features of the book is that instead of illustrations, the images in the book are copies of real newspaper articles and pictures of the boycotting kids. There's even an ad in which a chocolate manufacturer tries to explain why the cost of candy bars had to go up. Extra kudos to the author (assuming it was the author's decision) for including these copies of primary sources.

I will be holding on to this charming and empowering book for my own kids to read someday, and I'll probably be sending my niece in the States* a copy, too, for when she's able to read on her own. (She's two weeks old.)

Many thanks to Emma at Second Story Press for sending me this book!

*If you're in the States reading this with your kid(s), you might want to have a map of Canada and a map of BC handy for a light geography lesson.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An in-between books post & Book Aid International Auction

Book Aid International is holding an online auction on Ebay. Most of the items being auctioned are books that have influenced prominent people, who have inscripted and signed them, including Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, William Boyd, Iain Banks, and (apparently) Twiggy. Also included in the auction are several illustrations. All proceeds will help their good book work in sub-Saharan Africa.

And if anyone's been wondering why I haven't posted any reviews lately... Well, quite frankly, I've been mired in Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. For some reason, despite my interest in Puritan history, I'm having a hard time getting through it, and now that it's reached the point where I cringe/sigh despairingly to pick it up again, I've decided to put it aside (for now). I'll give it one more go before I give up completely, because I think it's as much me as the writing. For now, I'm reading The Northlander to write a guest review for The Well-Read Child. I'll let you know when it's posted, in case you don't check that particular blog.

After that--well, I have a whole box full of ARC/review books to pick from. We are in between moves. This means that all my books from my shelves are in boxes in the basement of this place we used to live in, and which we're living in again, only for a month. Then we're moving into a new, hopefully a little bigger, place.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Book Magic by Julie Ferguson

Book Magic is a practical guide for writers who have not yet ventured into the publication arena. Ferguson discusses how to predict markets, pitch ideas and reinvent yourself as an expert in your field. She also covers the importance of query letters, picking book categories and genres, and using agents (or not). Mostly, though, Book Magic presents writers' publishing options, including commercial, print on demand, e-books and more. Even published authors will find valuable insight in these pages. Ferguson plainly lays out the pros and cons of each publishing method, as she herself has published in several genres and explored every avenue.

If you're turned off by or skeptical of the use of "magic" in the title, you needn't be. Though the magic theme/gimmick feels hokey, Ferguson describes the hard work and effort that are the real magic behind getting published. The only disappointment in the book is the writing wasn't as smooth as I would have liked; sometimes it feels stilted, and that's not helped by the author's fondness for commas, the extra spaces between paragraphs or the numerous bulleted lists. Not that the bulleted lists are bad--sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Overall, though, I found the text to be reader-friendly.

Book Magic would be an invaluable resource on the shelf of most Canadian* writers, especially those new to publishing. The important information offered is succinct, and its 121 pages (plus helpful appendix) cover a lot of ground. And when you're done, publishing won't feel like such a huge obstacle.

*Ferguson, a Canadian, focuses on Canadian publishing information, but doesn't neglect the more numerous publishing businesses in the US, either.

When Julie Ferguson presented at the Powell River Festival of Writers (2008), I was privileged to be volunteer chauffeur for her two-day stay. When she asked me to review the second edition of Book Magic, I was flattered.