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1. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, by Caroline Jayne Church | Book Review

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, by Caroline Jayne Church, is a delightful board book that takes a childhood favorite nursery rhyme and sets it with beautiful illustrations of children around the world.

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2. Can I submit with a working title?

Question Pretty much what it sounds like... I'm in the middle of drafting a submission to an agent and realised that I'm not sure if the title I've chosen

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3. Thankfully Reading Day 2

I managed to avoid the turkey coma. I set out to eat until I was full and I did exactly that. No stuffed feeling! We ate dinner with friends and ended up eating in 3 waves, because of all the food! Roasted turkey and sides first, smoked turkey and smoked mac and cheese second, and dessert third, including this ridiculous Mile-High Apple Pie topped with caramel and pecans. Yes.


That was easily the best apple pie I have ever consumed. My friend said it was a Paula Deen recipe, so if you're interested in recreating that amazing deliciousness, I'm sure you could Google it!

On the reading side of things, I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday! We didn't head to our friend's home until 4:30, so all morning and E's nap time were spent occasionally fitting in 10 or so pages and when we got home and the little one was off to bed, I sat for a couple hours and sped through The Book of Strange New Things. Almost done with that one and it's 500 pages! Hoping to finish that and maybe 2 more of the course of this long weekend. 


For today's update, Jenn asked us to answer the question "what book are we most thankful for this year?" I didn't even have to think about my answer, as it's the one book that brought back my love of reading this fall. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. 

I had too much on my plate, signing up for event after event and though most of these things were fun and I had a great time while I was out, it definitely took away my reading time and often left me exhausted. I didn't have time to read, because I wasn't ever home and when I was home, I just wanted to sleep. The Best Yes spoke truth into my life and made me realize that I was craving the ability to slow down and return to the quieter life I loved... and how to be ok with saying no. 

I have started slowly taking myself out of obligations that were making me exhausted and that I felt like I absolutely had to do and sticking with the things I truly love. My dinner club and book club are sticking around, but the second book club and my Bunco group had to go. I've taken leave from the bookstore, so I'm no longer working on weekends, and amazingly my reading numbers have gone up and I'm just happier. So, thank you Lysa Terkeurst, you changed my year. 

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4. Star Wars cross-hilt lightsaber quickly captures the imagination of people with nothing better to do

m4tzadqea67z4mrb47ln Star Wars cross hilt lightsaber quickly captures the imagination of people with nothing better to do
With nothing else to do but digest turkey and fight crowds, the internerd has quickly turned, just as we knew it would, to the “Claymore” lightsabre in the new Star Wars: TFA trailer. This lightsaber not only has a blade, but two mini lightsabers coming out of each hilt, reminiscent of the real universe blade the Claymore, a giant sword that had little swords as hilts. The “Claymore saber” would seem to be highly…cumbersome to use as you would be in eminent danger of stabbing yourself with your own hilt at all times. But…it looks cool, so what.

The weapon quickly meme’d out:

Buzzfeed has a poll about it.

And so on. Personally, we think whoever made the sword just decided to make a tricked out, lowrider lightsaber, damn the practicalities, becuae that’s what you do.

BTW for the shot by shot speculation and spoilters, io9 has a good breakdown. And for all your spoiler/leak needs, Star Wars Underworld. I’m not going to be one of those people who hangs on every leak and makes baby JJ Abrams cry, so read at your own risk.

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5. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig



This is a picture book which has a message, but is written in such a way that it doesn't feel preachy. Brian, a young elementary school boy is quiet; so quiet he's invisible. Other children and the teacher ignore him when teams are chosen or hands are raised. He draws when his classmates read or play board games. Things change for Brian when a new boy joins the class. The new boy Justin, appears to be a different ethnicity than the other classmates and is looked upon strangely at first. Being outsiders, Justin and Brian make friends and soon a third friend is included. Toward the end of the book, the three boys work on a project together that cements their friendship. Patrice Barton's illustrations show Brian faintly in the beginning and gain some color when he makes friends. At the end of the book, there's a reference page with further reading for children and adults about friendship and introversion.

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6. Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

The nominees in the four juried categories of the FIBD 42 have been announced, 35 “Official Sleections”, 12 in the “comics for young readers” category, 10 in the “best reprint” category and 5 in the “mystery novel” aka Polar category (all descriptions are my own.) “Polar” which you see so often in various listing at Angoulême, as best I can make out, tarnslates as a “light mystery” or thriller category….kind of the popular genre in Franco-Belgian comics, as opposed to say, superheroes. If I’m wrong, please someone correct me.

The  nominees include many international cartoonists including Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, David Petersen, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Taiyo Matsumoto, Asaf Hanuka and so on. I think there are many French cartoonists who are a bit better known in the US here listed as well, including Loisel, Brecht Evans, Hussenot and  Blutch. It’s all an indication of how even local comics scenes have gone global in the last few years.

I’ve included the the French titles from the press release, but the covers will help sort out some of these for non French speakers.

La Sélection Officielle

SO 01 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

L’arabe Du Futur Tome 1
Riad Sattouf / Allary

SO 02 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Autel California – Tome 1 Face A – Treat Me Nice
Nine Antico / L’association

SO 04 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Beta… Civilisations (Volume 1)
Jens Harder / Actes Sud – L’an 2

SO 03 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Barthélémy L’enfant Sans Âge
Simon Roussin / Cornélius

SO 06 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Building Stories
Chris Ware / Delcourt

SO 05 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Blast Tome 4 Pourvu Que Les Bouddhistes Se Trompent
Manu Larcenet / Dargaud

SO 07 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Calavera
Charles Burns / Cornélius

SO 08 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Cet Été Là
Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki / Rue De Sèvres

SO 09 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Le Chef De Nobunaga Tome 4

Takurô Kajikawa, Mitsuru Nishimura / Komikku

SO 10 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

L’enfer En Bouteille

Suehiro Maruo / Casterman

SO 11 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Hommes À La Mer
Riff Reb’s / Soleil

SO 14 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Lastman Tome 6
Balak, Mickaël Sanlaville Et Bastien Vivès / Casterman

SO 12 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Julio
Gilbert Hernandez / Atrabile

SO 13 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

K.O. À Tel-Aviv Tome 2
Asaf Hanuka / Steinkis

SO 15 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Little Tulip
François Boucq, Jérôme Charyn / Le Lombard

SO 16 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Locke & Key Tome 6 – Alpha Et Oméga
Gabriel Rodriguez, Joe Hill / Milady

SO 18 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Lune L’envers
Blutch / Dargaud

SO 17 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Love In Vain
Mezzo Et Jean-Michel Dupont / Glénat

SO 20 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Max Winson Tome 1 – La Tyrannie
Jérémie Moreau / Delcourt

SO 19 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Magasin Général Tome 9 – Notre-Dame-Des-Lacs
Régis Loisel, Jean-Louis Tripp / Casterman

SO 21 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Mes Cent Démons!
Lynda Barry / Çà Et Là

SO 22 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Moderne Olympia
Catherine Meurisse / Futuropolis – Musée D’orsay

SO 23 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Un Océan D’amour
Grégory Panaccione Et Wilfrid Lupano / Delcourt

SO 24 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

L’or Et Le Sang Tome 4 – Khalil
Merwan, Fabien Bedouel, Maurin Defrance Et Fabien Nury / Glénat

SO 26 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Que La Bête
Fleurisse Donatien Mary / Cornélius

SO 25 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

PANTHÈRE
Brecht Evens / Actes Sud BD

SO 28 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Sukkwan Island
Ugo Bienvenu / Denoël Graphic

SO 27 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Saga Tome 3
Fiona Staples, Brian K. Vaughan / Urban Comics

SO 30 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Ulysse, Les Chants
Du Retour Jean Harambat / Actes Sud Bd

SO 29 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Sunny Tome 1
Taiyô Matsumoto / Kana

SO 31 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Vermines Tome 1 – Le Retour De Pénélope
Guillaume Guerse, Marc Pichelin / Les Requins Marteaux

SO 33 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Voir Des Baleines
Javier De Isusi / Rackham

SO 34 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Vous Êtes Tous Jaloux De Mon Jetpack
Tom Gauld / Éditions 2024

SO 32 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Les Vieux Fourneaux Tome 1 – Ceux Qui Restent
Paul Cauuet Et Wilfrid Lupano / Dargaud

SO 35 couv 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Yekini, Le Roi
Des Arènes Lisa Lugrin Et Clément Xavier / Éditions Flblb

La Sélection Jeunesse

 

S JEU 02 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Boule À Zéro Tome 3 – Docteur Zita
Ernst Et Zidrou / Bamboo

S JEU 01 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Au Pays Des Lignes
Victor Hussenot / La Joie De Lire

S JEU 03 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Caterina Tome 1 – Le Gang Des Chevelus
Alessandro Tota / Dargaud

S JEU 04 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Emile Et Margot Tome 4 – Merci Les Monstres !
Olivier Deloye, Anne Didier Et Oiivier Muller / Bd Kids – Bayard

S JEU 05 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Hilda Et Le Chien Noir
Luke Pearson / Casterman

S JEU 06 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Karton Tome 1 – Taméus Trognebarde
Uwe Heidschötter Et Patrick Wirbeleit / Bd Kids – Bayard

S JEU 07 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Légendes De La Garde Tome 3 – La Hache Noire
David Petersen / Gallimard

s jeu 08 couv cmjn Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Passe
Passe Dawid Et Delphine Cuveele / Éditions De La Gouttière

S JEU 10 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Les Royaumes Du Nord Tome 1
Clément Oubrerie Et Stéphane Melchior / Gallimard

S JEU 09 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Quatre Sœurs Tome 2 – Hortense
Cati Baur Et Malika Ferdjoukh / Rue De Sèvres

S JEU 12 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Le Temps Des Mitaines

Anne Montel Et Loïc Clément / Didier Jeunesse

S JEU 11 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Seven Deadly Sins Tome 5
Nakaba Suzuki / Pika

 

La Sélection Patrimoine

S PATR 02 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Daredevil Par Frank Miller Tome 1
Frank Miller, Klaus Janson / Panini

S PATR 01 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Capitaine Albator
Intégrale Leiji Matsumoto / Kana

S PATR 04 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Green Lantern & Green Arrow
Neal Adams, Dennis O’neil / Urban Comics

S PATR 06 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

La Malédiction De Rascar Capac Tome 1
Hergé Et Philippe Goddin / Casterman

S PATR 03 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Gilles La Jungle
Claude Cloutier / La Pastèque

S PATR 05 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

2001 Night Stories
Histoire De La Sainte-Russie, Gustave Doré / Éditions 2024

S PATR 07 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Pogo Tome 1
Walt Kelly / Akileos

S PATR 08 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

San Mao, Le Petit Vagabond
Zhang Leping / Fei

S PATR 09 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Sandman Tome 4
Collectif Et Neil Gaiman / Urban Comics

S PATR 10 couv CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Sex & Fury
Bonten Tarô / Le Lézard Noir

La Sélection Polar

SP0 2015 COUV 02 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Gotham Central Tome 1
Michael Lark, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka / Urban Comics

SP0 2015 COUV 01 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Fatale
Max Cabanes, Doug Headline / Dupuis

SP0 2015 COUV 03 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Moi, Assassin
Keko, Antonio Altarriba / Denoël Graphic

SP0 2015 COUV 04 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

À Shioguni
Florent Chavouet / Philippe Picquier

SP0 2015 COUV 05 300 CMJN Angoulême Festival Prize nominees announced

Wet Moon Tome 1
Atsushi Kaneko / Casterman

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7. A 24-Hour Bookshore Thrives in Asia

esliteThe Eslite, a 24-hour bookshop based in Asia, “has more night owl visitors than most Western bookstores could dream of during their daytime hours.”

The Eslite Group has designed its stores to cater not only to bibliophiles, but also to people who appreciate fashion, home styling, and restaurants. The company owns 42 stores in Taiwan and 1 store in Hong Kong; the executives plan to open new locations in China.

According to CNN, the organization “reported revenue of around $425 million in 2013, with books accounting for some 40 percent of sales, according to company spokesman Timothy Wang. Sales are expected to increase by almost eight percent this year.” What do you think?

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8. End of blog.

Due to lack on interest I will no longer be posting my work here. Instead it will only be shown on my facebook page. 

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9. Precautions

It’s good to take precautions
When you’re going on a trip –
Umbrella, bug spray, meds will ease
Your mind when in your grip.

Yet even if you’re more prepared
Than someone would advise,
There always is the chance that you’ll
Encounter a surprise.

For who can really tell you what
The future has in store?
And health or weather may act up
In ways not seen before.

So pack your suitcase to the brim
In full anticipation
That all your efforts cannot
Guarantee a smooth vacation.

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10. Istanbul-Tbilisi

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11. Sledding without a cell phone

Yesterday we went to Thanksgiving dinner at my wife’s parents’ house. There is, in their spacious backyard, a perfect hill for sledding. There was, in the garage, a perfect sheet of plastic to fashion into a toboggan. We slid and spun down the hill again and again, me and my pink-cheeked boy, until the sun set behind the distant trees.

It occurred to me many times that this experience was perfect for Facebook — to make a short video of the boy sliding and whooping his way downhill, or at least to transmit the important status: “Sledding with son on makeshift sled! #blessed.”

But when my cell phone broke two months ago, I didn’t bother replacing it. I canceled my service instead, sick of the way the phone made me less present in any moment. Out with my wife, at the park with my son, whatever. I’d check the phone every few minutes for nothing-that-important. Occasionally it’s inconvenient to not have the phone (calling the wife, for example, to remind me what exactly she’d asked me to pick up the store I am now wandering aimlessly through), but I don’t miss it much. I think it makes me less annoying to be phoneless. The shame I used to feel when seeing those thought-pieces about people and their smart phones as turned to smug self-satisfaction. “Don’t even have a cell phone, anymore,” I remember.

But does it really matter if I have a phone with me, if I am mentally framing the moment, crafting the image, composing the status? Thirty years ago Annie Dillard wrote of the “running description of the present,” that took place in her head on hikes, the “talking too much,” even when she was alone. I definitely know this feeling, though I wonder what genre these thoughts mimicked in the days before Twitter, what imaginary medium and audience gave shape to her interior monologue?

I still have the cell phone in the hand of my imagination. Even if I want to believe that my own shutter opened and the moment imprinted itself on the silver of my soul, I was actually composing a blog entry in my head about how such a thing happened, and applying the “Rockwell Filter” to my mental Instagram.

But that’s not completely fair to myself. Flying down the hill there was nothing but speed and cold and the squeals of a happy child. It was so perfect I have no memory of it — I didn’t jot one down in my mind for later.

Makeshift Sled

(Photo taken by my wife from the living room window.)


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12. Another Farewell To Book Club...

Yesterday, I said goodbye to another lot of Year 10 book clubbers. Natasha, Karyn and Jenny were the loyallest members, who turned up to pretty much every meeting between Year 7 and 10, and I gave each of them a gift voucher for Dymock's bookshop. But there were plenty more. Some had joined us only this year. One, Hayden, who had been a member briefly in Year 7, returned this year, bringing his friend Mark, a lad who endeared himself to me in Year 8 when he recognised a quote I made from Monty Python. Mark is a keen reader, though this year he was mostly absorbed in the Game Of Thrones series of fat books, so had little time for much else.  I never did get him started on Terry Pratchett, a pity, because he would have enjoyed Discworld.

Hayden is, in fact, the only one of them who appears in that picture with Marianne De Pierres, because the others in his class were stuck in a maths test. Safa and Meka joined us this year and read manuscripts for Allen and Unwin. 

 Nusaiba was another veteran, though not as much as some of the others. She did come to Reading Matters and several meetings this year.

Lula joined us last year and came with us to the Reading Matters conference. Emily, who had been with us since Year 7, more or less dropped out last year, but still wandered in and out. I missed Emily, but the club was for their benefit, not mine. 

Braydon was in and out, but had also been with us for a long time.

We all had a lot of fun together. They chose books, came on excursions, read manuscripts for Allen and Unwin, met writers who visited us. Last year, Emily read The First Third by Will Kostakis, loved it and made her boyfriend a bit jealous when the author visited. Well, Will is young and good looking. :-) I said, "Don't worry, he's going back to Sydney," and the boyfriend snarled," Thank God!" But it was the book she loved. In the novel, the boy's very Greek grandma dies, which devastated Emily, but the author's grandmother, who inspired the one in the novel, is alive and well; she rang while Will was chatting with book club and he handed the phone to Emily.

Natasha was very sad yesterday, almost in tears when I handed her one of the laminated certificates I made for all my Year 10 book clubbers. After the graduation ceremony she gave me a hug and had her mum take a picture of us together. I have promised to see what I can do about having her attend Alice Pung's talk next year.

I think I'm almost in tears myself.That's the thing about being a teacher. You have to say goodbye so soon!

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13. My new favorite book

Adorable and so funny (for both kids and adults).


DORY FANTASMAGORY


review copy from Penguin



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14.

Advanced copy arrived! 

Very excited for the March release. 






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15. The Beat Podcasts! More to Come: Comics Trends We’re Thankful For

logo pod more to come 1400 300x300 The Beat Podcasts! More to Come: Comics Trends Were Thankful ForBrought to you by Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast, the More to Come crew discuss what we’re thankful for in comics this year, including the manga resurgence, greater diversity, digital sales, favorite books and much more on PW Comics World’s More To Come. PW Comics World’s More To Come.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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16. Walk in the Woods Wednesday

We're still not celebrating Black Friday here at Harts Pass, but in honor of the day we'll offer up this retro strip from November 2012. Definitely looking forward to Walk in the Woods Wednesday!

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17. Ferguson Public Library Receives $175K in Donations

Many other orgs closing. But we will stay open to serve people of #Ferguson as long as safe for patrons & staff, up to 8p. Love each other.

— Ferguson Library (@fergusonlibrary) November 24, 2014

The American people have been very vocal in responding to the Ferguson incident. As the unrest continues, several local businesses have closed but the Ferguson Public Library has remained open.

In recognition of the library’s commitment to the community, more than 7,000 people have sent in monetary gifts. Overall, this institution has received more than $175,000 in donations.

Here’s more from NPR: “For community leaders and business owners, the library has become a place to convene…With the donations this week, Bonner plans to purchase more ‘healing kits’ for children to check out. The kits include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that they can keep.” Follow this link to take a video tour of the library. (via BookRiot)

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18. Publishing Jobs: Amazon, Skyhorse Publishing, Penguin Random House

This week, Amazon is hiring an associate publisher, a senior account executive for CPG and a content marketing manager of books, toys and activities for Quidsi. Meanwhile, Skyhorse Publishing is seeking a copyeditor/proofreader and Penguin Random House is on the hunt for a digital archivist. Get the scoop on these openings below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

amazon130

Find more great publishing jobs on the GalleyCat job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented GalleyCat pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

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19.

Dig Here! is a bunch of familiar elements — teenage girl best friends, missing treasure, a cranky aunt, and abandoned house, etc. — assembled in a way that didn’t feel familiar. I found myself wondering a lot whether this was the book Gladys Allen set out to write.

The main character, Sandy, is the daughter of missionaries. She’s sent to boarding school during the school year and to various relatives during the summers. When Dig Here! opens, she’s facing the prospect of spending the summer with Aunt Cal, who she’s never met, and who is related to her only by marriage. Aunt Cal says it’s okay for Sandy to bring a friend with her, so she invites her best friend, Eve, and it’s a good thing for her that she does. Eve is a much more forceful personality than Sandy is, and she’s also more adventurous, more sensible, and probably smarter. She’s even better at dealing with Aunt Cal, in part because she’s better at cooking and housework and, I don’t know, getting up on time than Sandy is.

This is one of the things that makes me unsure Allen knows what book she’s writing. Someone — maybe one of Sandy’s parents, in a letter? — talks about how sunny and sweet Sandy is, but all we actually see evidence of is Eve being better at everything. Towards the end you get a little more of a sense of Sandy as a person in her own right, but not much.

It’s an Augusta Huiell Seaman kind of setup. On their arrival at Aunt Cal’s the girls find that Sandy accidentally exchanged suitcases with a fellow bus passenger — a hair tonic salesman, judging by his luggage. A trip to exchange the suitcase for Sandy’s leads them to an old house, and hair tonic guy behaving suspiciously. Then the house turns out to be the one that Aunt Cal should have inherited from her uncle — and would have, if her shiftless cousin hadn’t hidden his will. There also may or may not be an emerald buried somewhere around the property. I’m not sure Eve and Sandy know which of these mysteries they’re investigating, but they investigate with a will, and with the help of cute farmboy Michael, and, eventually, the various hindrances provided by their school friend Hattie May and her brother Hamish. Hamish fancies himself as a detective.

I think what makes Dig Here! feel unusual is that books like these tend to have a very narrow focus. The kids solving the mystery are usually a small, tight-knit group. The crotchety relative exists to have their heart melted by the main character. You get your protagonist, his or her friends, whatever adults they live with, and maybe a villain. But in Dig Here!, everything’s part of a larger picture you don’t see. There are characters you never meet, like Sandy’s parents and Aunt Cal’s cousin. And the characters you do meet have stuff going on that the kids don’t know about. There are subplots that Sandy and Eve don’t find out about until the end, and then only as an afterthought. Aunt Cal is investigating on her own account, and doesn’t tell Sandy anything about it. And she doesn’t need to confide in Sandy — she’s not socially isolated, she’s got friends, and they probably know more about the mystery than Sandy does, too. It gives the book a different feel than you’d get from Seaman, or from any mystery where the kids hide what’s happening from the clueless grownups. And I enjoyed that.

The downside of the kids not having most of the story is that their side of the mystery isn’t that interesting, and the characters I enjoyed most were the ones Allen spent the least time on, but it was fun.I don’t think I need to seek out more books by Gladys Allen, but if I ended up reading another one, I wouldn’t be upset.


Tagged: 1930s, girls, gladys allen, mystery

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20. Hanukkah Books that are Actually for Jewish kids

Hanukkah's coming! And here begins my annual hunt for a Hanukkah book that's written for Jewish children. See, many, many Hanukkah books are actually written for non-Jews, to explain this crazy holiday. Jewish children don't need to be told what a menorah or latke is. They know. They want stories about crazy Hanukkah hijinks and there just aren't that many. (Also, you really don't need *that* many books about the miracle of the oil.) Here are a few of my favorites:

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote

As the Hanukkah party guest list keeps growing, Rachel's mom keeps sending her next door to borrow more latke ingredients, chairs, and other necessary items. Rachel keeps inviting Mrs. Greenberg to come to the party, but she just won't come! How can Rachel help spread the Hanukkah joy?

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Giora Carmi

I love this hilarious tale about a Bubba who thinks she's inviting the rabbi in to eat her latkes, only to discover she's fed them all to a hungry bear! (Sadly out-of-print)

The Ugly Menorah written and illustrated by Marissa Moss

Rachel doesn't understand why her grandmother insists on using her ugly, old menorah. But then grandma tells her how, when she and Rachels recently-passed grandpa were first married, they didn't have money to buy a menorah and so grandpa made the old, ugly, one. (Also sadly out-of-print)

Biscuit's Hanukkah by Alissa Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories

Mostly because I get excited to find a series character who's obligatory holiday book is about Hanukkah, not Christmas.



Which ones would you add?





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21. Chapter

Question: Is there a set amount of words needed in a chapter of a book? Answer: No. The length of chapters can vary both within a book and according to

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22. Station Eleven

Thanksgiving laziness came upon me early. No not laziness exactly because I have managed to finish two books I was in the middle of and get to the halfway mark of another book I had not even begun until Wednesday and that I need to finish by Sunday so I can return it to the library Monday. Plus there has been a couple inches of snow to shovel and the coldest Thanksgiving in 29 years to eat my way through. And Waldo and Dickens have been piling on top of me and oh, the mean looks they shoot at me should I dare to move! But enough excuses, let’s get to one of those books I finished reading.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel has been getting lots of buzz in the U.S. and in blogland. As a post-apocalypse novel it falls into the genre of science fiction which made it the first science fiction novel to make it to the shortlist of the National Book Awards. It didn’t win, but that’s ok.

To say that Station Eleven is a post-apocalypse novel will likely give you some immediate assumptions. While civilization as we know it has come to an end due to a global epidemic of a highly contagious and fast acting strain of swine flu that kills around 90% of the world’s population, this is no doom and gloom story. It is not The Road or Oryx and Crake or Mad Max. It is a more hopeful book than that and in some ways feels truer because of it, though it could only be wishful thinking on my part.

The focus of the book is on the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel in a horse-drawn caravan along a fairly regular route on the coast of Lake Michigan in what used to be the state of Michigan. On the lead caravan is painted a quote from Star Trek Voyager: “Because survival is insufficient.” It is the Symphony’s motto and it keeps them going through the worst of times. Along with the music, the actors perform Shakespeare plays. Early on they had tried to perform other plays but everywhere they went people preferred Shakespeare so now that is all they do. The world, however, is not completely safe. The Symphony travels armed, with scouts fore and aft, and sets guards around their camp in the evenings.

The book begins in an undated present with the famous actor Arthur Leander playing Lear on stage in Toronto. In the second half of the play he collapses and dies on stage from a heart attack. There were three young girls in the play acting as hallucinatory visions of Lear’s daughters are children. One of those girls, Kirsten aged eight, had befriended Arthur. She survives the flu epidemic and ends up with the Symphony. Much of the post-flu story belongs to Kirsten, but other stories are woven in as well.

Pre-flu, the story belongs mostly to Arthur Leander, his acting career, his three wives, his best friend Clark. It is Arthur and the lives he touched that spin out the story both pre and post flu. The book moves back and forth in time between Arthur pre-epidemic and Kirsten twenty years after the epidemic as well as a couple other characters that flesh things out and add additional angles and dimensions. The transitions are beautifully fluid and nearly seamless. The plotting intricate and detailed. A story like this could so easily feel forced and fake as the author directs all the various elements to fit together no matter what, but there was hardly a clunker to be found.

I loved that the story makes some wonderful observations and asks some interesting questions. Since it is now twenty years after the epidemic there are an interesting mix of people, older adults who remember everything that has been lost, adults who were children at the time like Kirsten who have fading memories of electricity and cars and flying in airplanes but didn’t know quite enough of the world to feel that they had lost so very much. And now there are children who have been born in the aftermath, who know nothing of what the world was except from the stories the adults tell and from pictures in books. At one point someone questions whether they should even teach the children about what the world was like before. His young daughter is upset and angry upon learning that lifespans were so much longer before due to all the medical technology and medicines available and is devastated by the unfairness of it all.

There are terrifying moments of watching the world come to an end. Jeevan and his brother Frank are holed up in Frank’s Toronto apartment. Jeevan, getting a tip from a doctor friend at the hospital just as the flu hit Toronto, had time to buy shopping carts full of supplies and haul them to his brother’s high rise building and from the windows they watch the world fall apart:

On silent afternoons in his brother’s apartment, Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. no one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no on removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.

The title of the book comes from the title of a comic book in the story, Station Eleven. Station Eleven is a space station designed as a planet. The station/planet has been badly damaged from a wormhole and the inhabitants of the station are fighting to survive and find a way to get back home. This comic plays an important role in the novel but it doesn’t become completely clear until the end.

As scary and realistic as the book’s premise is, this is not a depressing dystopian kind of book. Bad things happen in it but it ends on a hopeful note. If you are not a general fan of science fiction or post-apocalyptic novels this one is different enough that you just might enjoy it. And if you are a fan of this sort of book, well, it’s a real treat and a breath of fresh air in what is generally a genre composed of a pile-up of horrors.

For a bit of background on the book from the author, be sure to read her short interview with the National Book Foundation.


Filed under: Books, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: Emily St. John Mandel

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23. How to Survive NaNoWriMo

How to Survive NaNoWriMo


So anyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo is probably sleepless and angst-ridden right now. It's the end of the 50,000 word stretch, and I'm sure most of you are itching at the palms to rest your fingers. Fear not, fellow writers! Here I will share with you a few ways to survive NaNoWriMo with your writer's brain in one piece: 

1. Lots of Sleep 


Yes, writing takes up most of your time and carries on far into the night, (because come on, our characters never take a break, do they?). But getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can help you to focus when you're writing, and better you're dialogue. 

2. Eat Regularly 


Of course, when you're writing you don't want to stop. But brain food is writing food! If you eat regularly while you're writing, instead of forgetting, you may find you have more energy to finish that last chapter. 

3. Read


Read as much as you can in your down time. Reading in between writing spurts can help inspire you and spark your imagination, not to mention help the words flow freely from your brain to your screen. 

4. Channel Your Character


Sometimes all you need to create that perfect character is to spend a few moments channeling them. Take a breath and ask yourself, "how would he/she react to this" without thinking too hard about it. Whatever pops into your head may be the truth. 


5. Set your Space

Set your writing space up every time you sit down at your computer. Whether that means good-smelling candles, pretty curtains, or calming music, everything around you helps to relax you and further your writing. 


And there it is! A few quick (hopefully helpful) tips to surviving this last week of NaNoWriMo! So kick back, relax, and let the words flow.

Best and happy writing,

-Ashley Dawson 

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24. Reread #48 A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

 I have watched A Christmas Carol more times than I've read it, and I've read it two or three times at least. The story is oh-so-familiar; the phrasing is oh-so-familiar. It's a book that has an old-friend feel even if you haven't read it dozens of times. There are scenes and descriptions that just feel incredibly right and familiar. For example,
Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
and
“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug!”
“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.” “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Other details, I've found, are less memorable perhaps.
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?” “It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.” From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children, wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “O Man! look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. “Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” The bell struck Twelve.
I don't recall thinking much of the two children Ignorance and Want, of thinking about what message Dickens was sending. But when I was reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford stressed their significance. (Standiford called A Christmas Carol, "a bald-faced parable that underscores Dickens's enduring themes: the deleterious effects of ignorance and want.") Why had I not noticed them before? I can only suppose that I've been rushing through the text looking for what was familiar and beloved, not really considering the book as a whole.

I like A Christmas Carol. I don't love, love, love it. I have found it to be a Christ-less Christmas story. A book that doesn't really focus on the Savior--newborn babe or risen Savior--so much as it focuses on humanity improving and changing and saving themselves. The message to Scrooge isn't, you're a bad man; you need a Savior; consider your eternal soul. The message is whether that even Scrooge, as horrible as he was, can change; he can change the way he lives; he can become a good man, a great man. He can avoid after-life horrors by changing his behavior. That isn't a Christian message.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. P.D. James Has Died

P.D. JamesP. D. James (full name Phyllis Dorothy James White) has died. She was 94-years-old.

James (pictured, via) became well-known for her crime novels. Throughout her career, she wrote and published almost two dozen books.

Here’s more from The New York Times: “Many critics and many of her peers have said that by virtue of the complexity of her plots, the psychological density of her characters and the moral context in which she viewed criminal violence, Ms. James even surpassed her classic models and elevated the literary status of the modern detective novel. She is often cited, in particular, for the cerebral depth and emotional sensibilities of Adam Dalgliesh, the introspective Scotland Yard detective and published poet who functions as the hero of virtually all of her novels.” (via BuzzFeed)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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