Monday, February 28, 2011

... A-Foraging we go! ...

Ever in search of the perfect book, I am a University Book Store forager. I have been thus, on and off, since you don't wanna know when*: wandering the bookstore shelves with the knowledge that some juicy, succulent, sublime morsel--one that will bring a new and purposeful clarity into my life--lies there, just over in the distance.** And I will boldly state that I am not alone.

There are scores of people ---just like me---who call University Book Store their stomping grounds, their mecca, for the search of the 'Holy Grail' of bookstore finds. And today I thought that I would share some of my most recent booty.

Transform Your Life through Handwriting, by Vimala Rodgers. This kit was originally priced at $29.95, now offered at a bargain price of $9.98: Inside you will find guidebook, journal, declaration of intent cards (A-Z), and two cd's. The first card that I picked at random shared this tidbit of wisdom: “There are no “shoulds” in my life; I am at peace.” Now I call that lovely … and I could easily see it as the perfect gift for a young woman on her--say--15th birthday. But this not-so-young woman may give it a go too. Positive reinforcement could well be the great leveler.

Paper Blossoms, by Ray Marshall, $28.00: This stunning book features “five amazing pop-up bouquets” and it “brings floral cheer to any room.” Okay, this item may not be for everyone, but I can assure you that there are more pop-up book collectors than you could ever guess.

The Key to the Kingdom, by Tony Meeusissen, originally priced at $25, but now offered to UBS customers--in extremely limited quantity--at $7.98 from our Bargain Books department: I have not checked the book of verse out yet, but I have perused the lovely art cards (shown above) and have just begun to whet my appetite. And even if you decide that you don't want to use the deck, you could easily paste each individual image to some card stock to make for a one-of-a-kind card to mail via snail mail. (I know that I'd love a gift card like that.)

William & Kate Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney (the 'dude' in paper dolls), $9.99: Filled with pomp, royal style, and the hazy daydreams of many young girls ... of what it might be like to be queen. Okay, I probably won't purchase this, but you may be a hit if you get it for your nine year old who is already a slave to fashion. There are big to-do's ahead.

Berlitz Basic French, originally $29.95 now $14.98:
How often does the universe give you the big hint that your high school language classes just aren't cutting it ... that you wouldn't necessarily get the best service at a Parisian cafe what with the primitive accent that you've been harboring? (lol) J'adore la belle France! Oui!

And a fairly recent book, in the gardening section, called The New Terrarium, by Tovah Martin (author of some Tasha Tudor books) and photographer Kindra Clineff. $25.00.

... so green, so velvety green, makes me know the spring that is to come ...

... and look! you can add touches like these little geese and fox ... gosh, how cute is that?! ...

... and look at this one: classy with a touch of sassy ...

... finally, this is the one that does it for me ...

You can see that this beautiful book could very well inspire me to actually make a terrarium to showcase in the garden section ... or perhaps give as a gift.

*since 1980.
**And as we are on the midst of our annual clearance sale some of these treasures are now half off.


The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring

Continuing my mini-quest to document spectacular picture books with African American protagonists...

The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring is one of those books I stumbled upon one day, I think on the bargain shelf. It's still in print, and I was thrilled to discover that we actually carried it. It's the kind of book that is totally of its time (published in 1973) but that still shines decades later. Written by Lucille Clifton and illustrated by Brinton Turkle, it's the story of a boy named King Shabazz and his friend Tony Polito, who go through their neighborhood trying to find Spring, which grownups keep assuring them is "just around the corner."

"'Where is it at?' he would holler every time his Mama talked about Spring at home."

"One day after the teacher had been talking about birds that were blue and his Mama had started talking about crops coming up, King Shabazz decided he had just had enough. He put his jacket on and his shades and went by for Tony Polito."

Just like Ezra Jack Keats's books that I talked about last post, this story is set in an urban environment that is a major character in the story. On their walk to find Spring, King Shabazz and Tony Polito go past chain link fences and mailboxes and a bakery. "They passed Weissman's. They stopped for a minute by the side door at Weissman's and smelled the buns." Fire hydrants, street signs, other people walking the sidewalks. "They passed the Church of the Solid Rock with high windows all decorated and pretty." Here's the decision to cross a street they've never crossed before:
"Then they were at the streetlight. Tony stopped and made believe his sneaker was untied to see what King was going to do. King stopped and blew on his shades to clean them and to see what Tony was going to do. They stood there for two light turns and then King Shabazz grinned at Tony Polito, and he grinned back, and the two boys ran across the street."
They finally come to an empty lot with an abandoned car in its middle. (No Spring has yet sprung, thus far.) "Then they heard the noise. It was a little long sound, like smooth things rubbing against rough, and it was coming from the car. It happened again. King looked at Tony and grabbed his hand."

WHAT DO THEY FIND??? I'm totally not telling. You'll have to come by the Kids Info Desk to find out.

--Anna, kids

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nerdfighters in the Store!

Dear Reader,
Do you like this book? If so, you are probably a NERDFIGHTER! Don't be alarmed
this is a good thing! Go to (John Green's youtube channel with his brother) to find out more. Your Neighborhood Nerdfighter

If this picture and note are meaningless to you, let me be the first to tell you: There are people in this world called Nerdfighters. They are made of awesome, and they fight worldsuck. They are also known to leave notes in John Green's books, since he and his brother started the Nerdfighter community via their mindblowingly awesome video blog series Vlogbrothers. See their introductory video (made long after they started to clue new folks in on all the in-jokes) here. I love when we find these notes, and I never take them out. The Green brothers started their video project as just that, a project, and it evolved into a worldwide community that has many permutations, supports various charities in creative ways, and generally reminds me that the internet has the potential to facilitate things that I love (instead of just helping me keep tabs on people who were on my elementary school soccer team and giving me the ability to know virtually any song lyrics that I forget).

And if you are a nerdfighter, two things: first, DFTBA, And second, you should know that we have multiple nerdfighters on staff, if you ever want to talk about nerdfighteria. Just saying. We might even own t-shirts...

-Anna, Kids Books

Links to John's books:
Looking for Alaska
An Abundance of Katherines
Paper Towns
Let it Snow
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Against the Odds

Against the Odds
by Marjolijn Hof

Sometimes from the outside small children appear all precious and tender and in need of protection from the terrible corrupting world. They're actually pretty complex and dark little creatures, and books that write authentically from a child's perspective about darkness often freak out adults. We forget how early and how directly kids have to face pain, and how creatively they try to rationalize painful experiences. In kids fiction, the treatment of tragedy can easily fall too far on one side of either overly sensational or too careful. But every once in awhile, (think Bridge to Terabithia, Olive's Ocean, Silent to the Bone, Missing May) a book for young readers about fear, grief, or tragedy can leave even adult readers breathless. Against the Odds is that kind of book, and it's one that will definitely creep some people out. But the way it honors the protagonist's confusing fight to regain some sense of control in her life is spot on, and will resonate with kids who have been or are in the same state of suffering.

Translated from the Dutch and coming in at a tiny 124 pages, this masterfully written middle grade novel is about Kiki and her missing father. It opens like this:
My father was on his way to a war. His suitcase was packed. He just had to say goodbye.
Every now and then he went off to a war. At least once a year. You're heading the wrong way when you go off to a war. It's better to stay as far away from wars as you can. But my father is a doctor, and they need doctors in a war. My father likes to be needed.
Within a few chapters, her father stops calling, and Kiki and her mother are thrown into the uniquely horrible chaos that comes along with uncertainty. Even before her father is officially missing, Kiki is obsessed with death. Her mother tries to calm her down by explaining the concept of "odds," meaning that the odds of her father not coming home are small. But Kiki misinterprets the explanation, thinking that if other bad things happen the odds are even better that the one thing she's really afraid of won't. She gets a pet mouse with the possible intention of killing it or letting it die (although she can't actually bring herself to treat Squeaky with anything but love), then goes back to the pet store and gets a runty, sick mouse, who does perish. She also vividly imagines her farty old dog's demise. These moments are dark and weird and will probably turn off some adult readers. But the eventual conversation she has with her mother about what we think about when we're scared or stressed, and the difference between the things we think or imagine and the things we actually do, is a marvelous thing and totally worth the ick factor. This is a dark book with plenty of humor and a consistently impressive voice, and it deserves as much recognition as the previously mentioned classic sad books.

-Anna, Kids Books

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Garden Show

Every year we get excited about our participation in the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It is a week surrounded by green: book covers and spines in all different shades of green, display gardens with elaborate landscaping and unique plants, or a whole hall full of house plants and seeds and bulbs. We gather energy in the months leading up to the show by picking out the newest and best garden books and remembering the old classics that we love to put in people's hands. The energy continues as we set up our booth, putting books on shelves, displaying gift items in pretty places, all around building a mini-University Book Store inside the Washington State Convention Center. But the real fun is when the show starts and crowds of people buzz around our booth, flipping through books and chatting and asking questions and sharing stories.

This year we are particularly hyped up for the show because we love the theme: "Once Upon a Time...Spectacular Gardens with Stories to Tell". The whole show is based off of gardens in literature! Display gardens will be inspired by classics like A Wrinkle in Time, Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, and the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe. Even seminars will stick to literary themes. I personally can't wait for Colston Burrell's seminar called "Cultivating the Written Word: Books That Changed the Way We Garden." As a gardener and a book lover, I'm eager to hear what's on Colston's list. There will even be a "Sprout Stage" for little ones to get a start on their gardening skills and where you can find a selection of our favorite children garden books.

We hope you'll join us at the Garden Show this year, February 23-27 at the Washington State Convention Center. Come say hi in our booth, at the Sprout Stage or during the Book Signings outside of the seminar rooms.

--Anna, Events

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day World!

Happy Valentines Day!!


Authors (and Illustrators) In Love, Kids Book Edition

Um, have I mentioned how much the Kids Department loves themed displays? Well, the above photo is the sign for the display we've got up on the wall right now, and I'm mighty proud of it. Every year for Valentine's Day we make a display of the requisite heart-covered red and pink books, and every year we want to do something a little different. We also have a young adult fiction display of love stories and not-so-love-stories: breakup/tragedy/unrequited/singleton tales. One year there was a full display for each kind of love story (happy and sad, I mean). But we've always figured there has to be a slightly more unique take.

This year we've finally done it up right! The following pictures are from our first ever display of authors and illustrators of kids books who are also couples. Some of them (Peter Dickinson & Robin McKinley, Helen Oxenbury & John Burningham) totally blew my mind; some are pretty well-known as couples (hey Scott & Justine!). In any event, we hope you enjoy them.

There were actually way more than we originally thought.

Scott and Justine, sittin' in a tree...


Like I said, this one blows my mind. Too much talent in one household, come on!

Somebody loves YOU, Mrs. Spinelli! (And it's Mr. Spinelli, of course. And we love both of you.)

Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) & Lisa Brown

Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek: Their joint effort, Birds, is one of my favorite picture books of all time.

Arnold Adoff's Black is Brown is Tan is actually a poem about his and Virginia Hamilton's multiracial family (their marriage was illegal in half the country when they married), written and published in the 1970s.
"this is the way it is for us
this is the way we are"
"kiss big woman
hug big man
black is brown is tan"
are quotes from the book. Please come take a look at it; it makes me tear up every time.

Also included in the display: the married author/illustrator team behind Curious George (Margret and Hans Rey, who, I am not kidding, escaped Nazi-occupied Paris on bicycles with the manuscript for Curious George tucked away), The Dillons (who have been married for over 50 years!), this year's married Caldecott winners the Steads, collaborative graphic novellers Shannon and Dean Hale, the Pinkwaters, the Pinkneys, Donald Crews and Ann Jonas (and their author daughter Nina Crews), local couple Steven and Carmela D'Amico, Sarah Stewart and David Small (squeal!!!), and one couple who book world gossip says has broken up and who shall remain unnamed. Probably not an exhaustive list, but definitely long enough to remind us all that books are the best way to get a date for Valentine's Day, whether you're reading them or writing them (or illustrating them). So I guess what I'm saying is, come in and see if it works for you.

-Anna, Kids Books

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.*

I have a somewhat strained relationship with contemporary fiction. This strain is exacerbated by my constant consumption of blurbs; on book covers, online, in magazines, etc. Like any prolonged exposure to advertising media, I have become sensitized to certain words, and just like my friends in graphic design school who DIE when they see comic sans or papyrus (fonts unavailable), I experience a little cringe when these words rear their heads. I think many of these words act as cues that the book in question is being marketed to a specific audience, and with a few exceptions, that audience is women. Maybe I'm obsessing, but it bugs me that reviewers and blurb-writers have this set of go-to words which, through overuse, have lost most of their potency and taken on a simplistic symbolism.

Luminous: Unless you mean that the text literally glows, or that the writing has led you into a new and brilliant realm of intellectual enlightenment, this means nothing to me.

Lyrical: What does this mean? To me, describing something as lyrical means you are compelled to read it aloud, savoring the music of the language.

Sprawling: This is a trendy way to describe a narrative that either has lots of characters, covers lots of geographical distance, has broad chronological scope, or all of the above.

Picaresque: What the dictionary says: pertaining to, characteristic of, or characterized by a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in realistic detail, the everyday life of the common people.

What this really means: you will not be offended by anything in this book. You will chuckle.

Exquisite: This is a word for table settings and jewelry.

Heartbreaking: OK, I admit I have felt something akin to heartbreak while reading a great novel. But it really takes a lot of skill as a writer to produce characters and a story worthy of this descriptor.

Breathtaking: Just don't use this word.

Evocative: This doesn't work too well unless you tell me what is being evoked.

Lush: A scene in a novel can be lush, but mostly it depends on the setting. I would like to read a lush description of a job interview set in a desert.

Muscular: Do not use the phrase "muscular prose" unless you are quoting the first person who wrote it. Its meaning has been wrung out by weak writers.

Astonishing: I imagine the face of someone who has just been astonished whenever I see this word. It is a particular expression which doesn't appear very often on the faces of adult humans.

An honorary mention goes to at once.

As in: Sprawling and picaresque, the new novel by the astonishingly muscular author of Luminous Lush is at once lyrical and breathtaking, evocative and heartbreaking. An exquisite read.

I know there are some words I've just blocked out. If you can think of more, please share them in the comments.


*Emily Dickinson

Picture Book Valentines

It's February, which means it's time for displays of books covered in hearts, lace, foil, and every shade of pink and red (and sometimes purple, and occasionally, somehow, a pale yellow). It's also Black History Month, and more blogging will be done about that, but for the moment let's take a look at this valentine business.

People often stand on one side of a love/hate line when it comes to Valentine's Day, which I genuinely don't understand. There's something that irks people about either the commerciality of it, or the sort of forced-display-of-affection thing. For other people it's a super important day and you'd better propose via ring-in-food or something, or at least have hand-strewn rose petals all over the apartment. Neither of these stances is at all appealing to me. I think the idea of the holiday is dumb and fun and an excuse to make candy-heart poems in school, get crafty with tissue paper, buy yourself flowers, or just have a really excellent dinner. I have no real emotional investment in the holiday, but like to celebrate it goofily because, well, why not? The best valentine I've gotten in my life (other than my mom's sweet handmade ones) was a big stack of boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios. There's something to be said for a present that says, "I know you."

Because of where I work, my favorite valentine to give is a good picture book, because if you're going to shell out $3 on a factory card or $5 on a handmade one, why not push it to $6-$8 and get a 32-page paperback? And if you're actually into gifts, just get a hardcover. They're lovely. Here are my favorite valentines:

I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, comes as both a mini hardcover and part of Houghton Mifflin's new "Send a Story" series, where they package little paperbacks in a way that they can be sent directly through the mail. I Like You is illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast with black and white ink sketches that move just right and make me smile. It contains things like this:
...I like you because
If we go away together
And if we are in Grand Central Station
And if I get lost
Then you are the one that is yelling for me

Hey where are you
Here I am
And I like you because
When I am feeling sad
You don't always cheer me up right away

Sometimes it is better to be sad
You can't stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute
You want to think about things

It takes time
Well, yes. Exactly.

Leo Lionni's A Color of his Own is a favorite of mine for storytimes as well as giving to grown up friends. A little chameleon feels lonely and different because he changes colors wherever he goes, while all the other animals have a color of their own. He tries to find a solution by staying in one place, but the leaf he's on changes colors and falls. When he meets another chameleon, older and wiser, he asks, "Won't we ever have a color of our own?" and the other fellow says sadly, no, but "why don't we stay together? We will still change color wherever we go, but you and I will always be alike."
And so they remained side by side. They were green together, and purple, and yellow, and red with white polka dots. And they lived happily ever after.
Awwww. Lionni's paintings are always top shelf, but giving a chameleon such an expressive smile is one of those picture book feats that really deserves some praise.

Tiny books make great valentines, and Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library is probably the best collection of tiny books ever. One a day for the few days before the 14th, perhaps? I've written about these before. The sturdy little box contains Sendak's Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, One Was Johnny, and the inimitable Pierre, all in tiny hardcover. Wanna be the best valentiner ever? Get 'em in french.

Not romantic, not about love, but a little charmer we've loved all winter is The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska. Here are some kinds of quiet that there are:
Jelly side down quiet

Car ride at night quiet

Swimming underwater quiet

Last one to get picked up from school quiet

Top of the roller coaster quiet

Best friends don't need to talk quiet

Right before you yell "SURPRISE!" quiet
And there are more, of course. The illustrations are exactly right, that's all I can say. You really need to take a minute to sit with it, to look at each moment and find all the little details that are going to win your heart. It's a bit of a valentine because of the way the friends throughout the story spend quality quiet time together, throwing stones and reading books and hiding behind furniture. And it's on the small side for a picture book, so it feels just right in your hands as a little token of affection.

-Anna, Kids Books

Monday, February 07, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year my Martin Luther King Day post did not come together in time to go up here, which is my fault (January is a big deal in the Kids Department because of the ALA awards, which we will blog about later). What I was trying to do was give some examples of kids books that speak to his legacy as opposed to just another list of King biographies. The man was working for something a lot more complex than just specific civil rights legislation, and I sometimes wish his holiday wasn't spent mostly talking about the man himself. Since it's February now and Black History Month, it seems this post is worth putting up here anyway. If exploring King's legacy isn't a fitting way to honor the month, I don't know what would be. I think kids are best served by studying historical figures in context (as opposed to a bulleted list of biographical information), and the following resources are a great place to start.

If you want something about Dr. King, pick up KING for Kids and let him speak for himself. It's an audio CD that pieces together a couple of hours worth of speeches and sermons by Dr. King, meant to give kids and families a clear, concise introduction to the man's way with language and his core beliefs (not just his most famous quotes). For a contemplative car trip or a rainy afternoon, this sounds like a dream for a family of social justice-minded folks.

For something about the civil rights movement, try Elizabeth Partridge's Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children, and Don't You Grow Weary. If you're looking for a book to breathe fresh air into the topic, this is a spectacular choice. Focusing mostly on the first half of 1965 in Selma, this tells in clear language, much of it quotations from interviews, the individual stories of (mostly pretty young) people who were involved in the marches and protests at the time. The book grabbed me from sentence one: "The first time Joanne Blackmon was arrested, she was just ten years old." And the facing set of four photographs are captioned: "Samuel Newall stands alone in front of the Dallas County Courthouse with his protest sign, July 8, 1964. Deputies arrested him." Two pictures show him standing, warily but proudly, with his sign. One picture shows a wall of khaki-wearing deputies ambling up the sidewalk as he watches them. The last one shows them surrounding him and taking his sign. He looks about ten years old. The book works so well both because of these great photographs, and because of its tight focus on a few individuals, following them through events as they unfold so you get an incredibly up-close view.

Another fresh civil rights nonfiction title you can grab is something I've recommended here before: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (now out in paperback). Did you know Claudette sat down in the front of a bus almost a year before Rosa did? She just didn't get as much political support, seemingly because her story was a little too complex to make for a poster child. If you want to read about an inspiring young activist who you've probably never heard of before, here you go. (Whet your appetite for her story with this New York Times piece on the book and Ms. Colvin.)

This is a nonfiction book I love but never put on display, because the cover features a photograph of two men who have been lynched, and it's just not quite face-out appropriate in the kids section. It would be pretty upsetting to come upon next to the stickers and coloring books. But that doesn't mean it's not deserving of a lot attention. The title is Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America, and this is the kind of kids' nonfiction that I love for taking a weirdly specific-yet-general concept or topic and then laying out a lot of great information in a relatively short page count. This mostly covers specific historical instances of intolerance, ranging from Mary Dyer, who was hung for being a Quaker in Boston in 1660, to the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, to the 1984 murder of Charlie Howard, a 23-year-old gay man in Bangor, Maine. With black and white photographs throughout, it's chilling in just the way a study of American intolerance should be.

And to move forward with hope, and put King's words into practice, there are two books from one of my favorite children's publishers, Free Spirit press: The Kids Guide to Social Action: How to Solve the Social Problems You Choose and Turn Creative Thinking Into Positive Action and the similar-sounding but different The Kids Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Kids Who Want to Make a Difference (sorry, y'all, I love a good long subtitle). Perfect for a family, classroom, girl scout troop, or whatever, these are the kinds of how-to books that I find a lot more interesting than how to build a birdhouse or make your own paper clock (no offense, how-to books! I just like activism more than crafts. It's not your fault, really). Headings contained in The Kid's Guide to Social Action: "How a Bill Becomes a Law," "Five Ways to Fundraise," "How to Write a News Release," "Parading, Picketing and Protesting: When All Else Fails." Inside The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: "Help Get Out the Vote," "Adopt a Grandfriend," "Help People Who Are Out of Work," "Grow a School Garden," Try Tutoring."

Now get to work, young ones. You're the future, remember?

-Anna, Kids Books

Friday, February 04, 2011

It's All About Causality

There's a schedule change coming my way at the end of this month, and it's shaking up the shape of my world. I'll have evenings free, which translates to a need of things to do in the evening. I've literally never had a job that's left me with free time before 7PM. This felt like a problem until I looked at our February author events, and was reminded how awesome, varied, and (often) free our events are.

Since I like to assume that my tastes are universal, or maybe just need to make myself accessible to stalkers, I'm going to tell you about the events I'm most jazzed about. And mind you, this is the jazziest I've felt about events. While there is a steady stream of awesomeness coming down the pipeline, sometimes we have a perfect storm situation. Interests dovetail, authors rock the house with Appalachian buffets, and people admit interesting or awkward things (depending on your perspective) during their face time with the author(s). This February is just such a month.

Going in the order of release dates, which actually matches up with their chronological order, we have an event with Jamie Ford at the Bellevue Regional Library on February 3rd. The event with be an installment of the library's Meet the Author series, where he will read a passage from Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, his debut novel, in addition to discussing the work that went into it. For anyone who has already read the book, which, if sales are a fair indicator, would be a lot of you, I don't need to explain why this event is well worth the potential trek over to the Eastside. For the rest of you, Jamie Ford is one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. He is a soft-spoken, down to Earth, and insightful individual that everyone should go see at a reading or literary event of some kind at least once.

The following week, we have Jane McGonigal showing up at our U-District store to discuss Reality is Broken. My love of video games is well-noted, and as you can read in my little questionnaire profile thingy, I love video games as a delivery mechanism for stories. However, another interest is in the way video games alter our thinking. While there is quite a bit that's been written about video games as an industry, this is the first book I've come across to really touch on what I'd call big picture issues in the fields of psychology or neuroscience. It's interesting to think about the way playing video games can shape our consciousness and the way we interpret and respond to our reality. In her book, you'll find scientific evidence supporting the notion that games are good for us. If you'd like to know more about how games can make us happier, more creative, and more resilient, this isn't one to miss.

Last, but certainly not least, we have an in-store event on February 17th with local author Jonathan Evison! I'm very unabashed about my fanboy-ism here, so I don't mind telling you that I totally hero-worship Evison. Which isn't to say that I've built a small altar with pictures, offerings, or burning candles. Instead, it means he's an acquaintance that I've come to admire and respect to the point of thinking he's one of the best people ever. And that's a thought substantiated by my analytical mind. You're unlikely to meet anyone more encouraging, genuine, or charismatic than him.

All of that aside, West of Here is an absolutely outstanding addition to his body of work. In this novel he shows what a truly amazing talent he is by adopting a style that will come as a shock to those who loved/read All About Lulu. It starts off with prose that feels much more in line with the early pioneers of the novel, with a story of life in an untamed land that would make Jack London jealous. Mind you, I don't say that lightly.

Part of me wants to keep this ball rolling, but there's probably enough here for you to consider. However, a short list of the events of March looks like another perfect storm month is en route. Among others, we've got T.C. Boyle (!!!), Adam Corolla, Michael Showalter, Suze Orman (my mom will be front and center), and Michio Kaku.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Busy whittling ...

The Reapers are the Angels, by Alden Bell, is not only a staff pick of mine, but it was recently given one of the ten spots open for the Alex Award this year.* And not only that, it has just made it onto the current Philip K. Dick Award list of nominees. These are all good reasons to give this book a go. Temple, the main character, is tortured by what it means to be a good person in a world overrun by zombies. And while you may be saying to yourself that if you've read one zombie book, then you've read them all: I assure you that you have yet to become acquainted with Temple, and she will steal your heart.

I seem to be whittling my way through the current list of nominees for the Philip K. Dick Award, having just read the second in that series, The Song of Scarabaeus, by Sara Creasy. Another enjoyable read: this one personalizing environmental politics through Edie's unique view of the worlds being crafted through wet-techs like her. She's kidnapped and unwillingly paired up with a serf named Finn and don'tcha know it that the sparks fly … all in good taste, that is.

Next on my list is The State of Decay, by James Knapp. I do like to give female scifi writers the benefit of my first glance, but I feel like following this particular path for now, it is taking me to interesting places. Please join me, I'd be glad of the company. Your first assignment is to give Reapers a chance. Seija, a co-worker of mine did, and she (ask her yourself) joined me in toasting the good story in this past yuletide.


*The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002. Link to this page using its short URL,

tell all your friends!