Monthly Archives: December 2009

Teaser Tuesday (12/29)

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TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

# Grab your current read.

# Let the book fall open to a random page.

# Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

# You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

When viewed from above, some state boundaries make sense — they follow rivers, declivities, chains of hills — but the straight lines defining Wyoming are purely notional and basically delimit a mammoth sandbox.

Wyoming is just the land no other state wanted endowed with a capital building to make it feel good.

From: Up in the Air by Michael Kirn

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The Charles Dicken’s Fair

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For the past 31 years in San Francisco, a large group of volunteers puts on a 4 weekend event known as The Charles Dicken’s Fair.

Despite having lived in the Bay Area for 20 years of my life, this was the first year that I actually went, and it was fantastic. I felt like I traveled back in time. People dressed up in costume of the era, I saw an actual Punch and Judy puppet show, saw characters from Dicken’s books walking around the lot and ate lots of good authentic British food. The fair, for the most part are rows and rows of shops and little carts selling specialized goods (Victorian costume and clothing, jewelery, candy, etc).

There was a Fezziwigs Warehouse as soon as you walk in, and the entire place was mapped out using character names and city references from all of the Dicken’s books. An avid Dicken’s fan would have loved it. I’ve only read a few of his books and those few and far between each other. I had my book club read A Christmas Carol and we went to The Dicken’s Fair as our first Book Club Field Trip. Needless to say, we didn’t actually discuss A Christmas Carol because its a story so many people know by heart and one that the movies replicate exactly from the books, including specific lines and narration. Gonzo’s narration in A Muppet Christmas Carol is taken directly from the book.

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Now for some picture proof of the awesomeness of the Dicken’s Fair.

This hat shop we went to was AMAZING. I think we tried on every hat inside, including stray feathers we stuck in our hair.  (I think we look like swash-bucklers in this photo — fyi, I’m the one on the left).

This is Fezziwig’s Warehouse during a dance. They also played games with people from the audience.

Dicken's Fair - Fezziwig's Warehouse by you.

This is the stage for the Punch and Judy Show:

Punch and Judy Puppet Theater by you.

Dream Girl – Review

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Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling

Age: 10 – 14 years old

Dream Girl is about Claire Voyante, a sophomore with a curious trait. Her dreams tend to come true. On her 15th birthday, her grandmother Kiki gives her a charming cameo necklace that seems to have a special set of powers. The necklace, as Kiki put it, makes your dreams come true.The necklace, in fact, enhances the powers of the wearer.

At the start of the novel, we find out that Claire is transferring to a new school, one where her former best friend is now the reigning mean-queen bee. After making a couple of new friends, Claire’s dreams start to lead her down a path that will put her in a position to save lives and solve a major mystery for one of her newest friends.

Dream Girl, by Lauren Mechling, has a lot of similarities to Gossip Girl, but its more PG than R. Cut out the sex, curse words, and drugs, and add a little mystery and fantasy to the mix, and you have Dream Girl. I would say this book is appropriate for girls 10-14 years old, but older teens will find it dull. There is just as much fashion name-dropping and glimpses into New York city life of the upper elite as Gossip Girl, but it seems to be missing the glamour that goes with it. I did enjoy the elements of Claire trying to get along in school and make friends, as well as her relationship with her family. I though Mechling did a great job interpreting how teens feel about major changes in their lives (in this case, starting at a new school and making new friends). The fantasy element worked sometimes, and other times it felt forced. Its well written and the characters are lovable even at their worst. I can see this book being turned into a TV-show for kids if it ever gets the chance.

Dream Girl
by Lauren Mechling
Delacorte Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0385735216
309 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Books in the news

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I don’t know if its because I’ve upped the number of hours I listen to NPR each week, but I’ve been hearing more and more news talks about books, so I thought I would share some of the more interesting (to me at least) blurbs.

1. The Phone Booth Library in Britain. Read the full article at www.theworld.org

One of Britain’s few remaining traditional red phone booths has been recycled into one of the country’s smallest lending libraries – stocking 100 books. Villagers from Westbury-sub-Mendip in Somerset can use the library around the clock, selecting books, DVDs and CDs. Users simply stock it with a book they have read, swapping it for one they have not. Marco Werman speaks with local resident Janet Fisher about the unusual library.

This is such a cool idea! Its very creative and quaint. The phone booth currently holds 150 books, all supplied by people living in the neighborhood.

sustainable design, green design, recycled materials, phone box library, westbury sub mendip, public space, urban design

2. Goodbye Kirkus reviews: Full article at the New York Times

The book industry, beleaguered by a battery of dispiriting news about lackluster sales and online price wars, got another taste of the apocalypse on Thursday with the news that Kirkus Reviews, the venerable prepublication review journal, was closing.

Kirkus books is highly used by librarians and booksellers in regards of deciding what books to purchase. Their reviews were terse, direct and quite blunt. Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist (in addition to School Library Journal and Library Journal) make up the primary sources for librarian’s when picking and choosing what books to purchase, or what books to recommend to inquiring minds.

Teaser Tuesday – (12/15/2009)

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TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
# Grab your current read.
# Let the book fall open to a random page.
# Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

# You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

While Dev was at the airport, Miranda went to Filene’s Basement to buy herself things she thought a mistress should have. She found a pair of black high heels with buckles smaller than a baby’s teeth.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Review

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I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell about 3 weeks ago and I’m still musing on what to say about it. Its a heavy book, (1006 pages in paperback and 800 in hardcover), but it is completely worth the time and effort.

Here is the back cover synopsis:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England — until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

The summary doesn’t even cover half of what goes on in this novel. There are resurrections, enchantments, the man with the thistle-down hair, the conspiracy to overthrow the King and to bring dark magic back into the public realm.

As Susanna Clarke’s first novel, this book blew me away. A brief warning: Clarke is incredibly wordy, much like Charles Dickens and Honore de Balzac. This book definitely struck a chord with me, because it reminded me of why I love Victorian literature and classic literature so much more than contemporary works. There is a lot more thought and detail put into creating a fantastic new world with incredible characters.

Mr. Norrell is and old, fuddy-duddy Scrooge type of character. A miserly old man, unwilling to share any of his magic books with other pupils and unwilling to allow anyone else to practice the slightest hints of magic in London. Jonathan Strange is the perfect gentleman that any girl would want. All my friends in my book club had a big crush on him throughout the book. He is witty, intelligent, strong-willed and reckless at times. His relationship with his wife is amicable, although he becomes a bit neglectful the more he delves into the world of magic.

Susanna Clarke spent 10 years working on this book, and I really admire the time and dedication that she put into such a creative piece. You can really tell that the author cared for this book and all its characters, being meticulous with the details and storyline. I heard some talk that there might be a mini-series produced based on the book, but I have yet to see anything happen. I would love to see this book turned into a movie, it lends itself well to that media outlet. This book is also a fantastic winter read, because most of the setting is wet and dreary England. A great book for curling up on the couch at night with a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket (or snuggie if you prefer).

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke
TOR, 2004
ISBN 0765356155
1006 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Up in the Air – Movie Review

Up in the Air is the newest movie by director Jason Reitman (Juno and Thank You for Smoking). For some reason unbeknownst to me, there is only 1 movie theater in the  entire Bay Area that is playing this movie, and it just happens to be in San Francisco. I think that is a shame, because this is one of the best movies I have seen all year, and I really wish more people would be able to go see it. The screenplay is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn. The book was written in 2001, but the plot and execution of the film is timely given today’s recession and epidemic levels of lay-offs.

The plot: George Clooney plays a man who travels almost 90% of the year, firing people. When managers are too coward to lay-off their own staff, they call a separate corporation to send someone to do the job. Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham lives in an isolated world, surrounded by strangers. Airports are his home, he has no solid relationships with anyone in his life, until he meets Alex. A female frequent flier that seems to be his exact female match. To cut the story short, Clooney takes on a travel partner, a 23 year old Columbia graduate who wants to revolutionize the firing industry through technology and the internet (firing people via computer screen rather than in person).

I heard the interview with Jason Reitman on NPR and I instantly wanted to see this movie. I liked Thank You for Smoking, but I really did not like Juno. Ellen Page really killed the movie for her. I thought her delivery was forced, her character was too witty to be realistic, and I’m really just sick of Michael Cera always playing the desolate loser. But, that’s a tangent.

Up in the Air is a really emotional movie, where you see people at their most vulnerable. The people getting fired and the people doing the firing. You learn a lot about the value of friendship, of love, of compassion. You see how technology, although bringing people together all around the world, is also putting up a wall against human contact. One thing I found interesting about the movie, was that except for the obviously famous actors, all the people being laid off in the movie, are real people who have been laid off by the recession. Jason Reitman put out an ad, touting this movie as a documentary about job loss and the recession. I think going this route, really gave the movie a more human feel to it, than if actors had played those roles. It gave a face, numerous faces actually, to just how severe this recession is.

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