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1. SDCC ’14: Jeff Lemire talks the return of The Legion of Super-Heroes and the end of his Green Arrow run

JLU_Cv4_selfie_varBy Kyle Pinion

While Jeff Lemire has recently been making waves with the announcements of his upcoming The Black Hammer at Dark Horse and Descender at Image, his DC work continues to be amongst the premiere offerings of the publisher. I had a chance to sit down with Lemire to discuss what’s coming from him in The New 52.

Kyle: Congratulations on another well-deserved Eisner nomination for Trillium. It’s kind of funny to think about this – Trillium is sort of an opening shot in this line up of sci-fi titles that have started to release from other creators. Where do you see Trillium sitting in this “new sci-fi revolution” we’re seeing in comics?

Jeff: Yeah, well I think Saga was the first shot. It was so inspiring to see a sci-fi book do so well. I think every nerd has a sci-fi story they want to tell eventually, and this is the time. Where does Trillium sit? I don’t know – it just came out so you kind of have to look back in maybe 5 years from now to see where it stands and if people are still talking about it. I tried to experiment a lot and tried to tell an emotionally affecting story set in a big, cosmic setting. It’s hard to analyze your own work when it’s so fresh still.

Kyle: And I know you have a special attachment to the stuff you draw yourself. Do you have plans to do more of that soon?

Jeff: Yeah, I’m working on a graphic novel right now for Simon & Schuster that I’m drawing that’ll come out next fall. Then I’ll probably do another ongoing monthly thing that I’ll draw after that.

Kyle: Justice League United is one of my favorite titles coming out of DC right now. It’s very exciting and a lot of fun, the origins of that title though – it changed at one point from Justice League Canada when it was announced initially to Justice League United. Is there a background story as to why that changed?

Jeff: No, it’s pretty simple. I was really just taking over Justice League America and I wanted to move the team to Canada, which they were totally cool with, so we changed the title to Canada and then as we got closer to publication, I think they realized having Canada in the title might be a little bit too specific for international readers and American readers. So it just made sense. We want to get as many people reading the book as we can, and it didn’t affect the content of the story at all, so it was cool with me. No drama.

Kyle: The tone of Justice League United is very DC animated universe-esque. Was there an outward attempt to aim for a more fun tone?

Jeff: Yeah, very much. I feel like there are so many super hero comics that are very serious and take themselves very seriously. Green Arrow, for example, is very much that, I write some of that stuff too. But I think there needs to be more balance, and I think sometimes we forget that these are super hero comics. They should be fun, and the characters should be having fun. And I really tried to bring that back. A lot of the stuff that I read when I was younger, that I gravitated towards, had a sense of humor to it, and a sense of fun and wonder.

Kyle: It’s kind of opening up a lot of the cosmic stuff of the New 52 as well. Was that one of your long term goals with the series?

Jeff: Absolutely, yeah, that’s some of my favorite stuff in DC history is all the cosmic stuff. It was one big corner of the universe that hadn’t really been exploited too much aside from the Green Lantern titles, you know, so I felt there was a lot of potential there. I’m really getting into Raan and Thanagar and the politics there and seeing other alien races and the Legion of Super Heroes coming, which blows everything wide open.

Kyle: So what can you tell us about the Infinitus Saga?

Jeff: Ultra the Multi-alien, the child that they found in the first arc was a big part of that moving forward, and what Ultra is destined to become is something that has a huge impact in the 31st century. So we see a few Legionnaires come back to deal with Ultra, and that kind of spirals from there into a massive cosmic saga. I grew up reading Legion and the great darkness saga so this is my attempt to throw down the gauntlet and do one of those big sprawling space opera stories with like 40 super heroes running around the galaxy. It’s been a blast.

Kyle: Can we expect to see your Legion further beyond this story, possibly?

Jeff: I don’t know. I would love to. That’s definitely a property I have a lot of ideas and opinions on. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential right now. So that would be something I would definitely be interested in. Who knows?

Kyle: I hope so. Do you have a favorite Legionnaire, Jeff?

Jeff: I do. And it’s Ultraboy. Or Brainiac 5. Or Mon-El. Those 3.

Kyle: You get one choice sir!

Jeff: I always dug him (Ultra Boy) more as a kid, I love that idea that he was as powerful as Superman but he could only use one at a time, that’s so fun. It kind of limits him. Superman can be too powerful sometimes to write plausible threats for him, whereas Ultra Boy had that power but it was limited in a really fun and interesting way. He was very charismatic as well.

Kyle: The storytelling potential of that is pretty strong. I always liked the fact that his powers comes via a whale, being named Jo Nah.

Jeff: Those costumes are so cool, and for some reason his costume always got me. I just liked drawing it as a kid.

Kyle: So we can expect some good Ultra Boy scenes perhaps?

Jeff: Yeah I haven’t really had a really good one yet. I’m on the fourth script of a six issue story so I’ve got to really find a good moment. You’ve got to find one moment for everyone, because there’s so many of them. I’ll find his.

Kyle: And that’s going to run through the next, what, 5 issues of JLU?

Jeff: Yeah, it starts in the Annual. Then it goes for 5 issues after that. So 6 issues total.

Kyle: Is Mike McKone going to be penciling?

Jeff: No, Mike’s done on Justice League United. He’s moved on. Mike, he’s awesome to work with, I love him, but he always knew he was only going to do the first arc because I think he has some other projects he wanted to get done. So we’re bringing in an artist named Neil Edwards from the U.K. I think Neil worked with the same studio as Bryan Hitch, so they have a common thread in their style, and he’s great. He’s been great so far.

Kyle: Equinox is going to have her profile increase over the next few issues as well. Are you excited to have your own character that you created taking the forefront of the story?

Jeff: Very much so, there are a couple of cool things; like the Futures End issues where we jump 5 years into the future. I got to play with her and where she is 5 years from now, so she’s much more confident and much more entrenched in the larger DC universe, playing a bigger role, so that was fun. And in the Legion story, she’s someone who’s lived in a small isolated community, and all of a sudden she’s in space with 40 other alien super heroes, and her reaction to that is a lot of fun to play with, and her being an aboriginal woman and meeting Dawnstar who is an aboriginal woman from the future, and learning that she’s a huge inspiration for the next thousand years, is this really great moment that I’m really proud of.

Kyle: have you heard much from the basis of the character, Shannen Koostachin’s family?

Jeff: Yeah, it was kind of misreported. The character wasn’t really based on Shannen. Shannen – that story is very inspiring – she was a young activist who was killed, and I wouldn’t presume to try to tell her story in a super hero that without her family’s blessing or anything. The idea of creating a teenage character who was based in the same area, she is certainly one of the inspirations for her, but the character wasn’t really based on her.

Kyle: It’s good to have that clarification! So, with the little bit of time we have left I’d like to talk to you about Green Arrow. It’s a fabulous run, probably one of my favorite DC comics coming out right behind JLU, it’s coming to an end sadly. Was it always planned it would end at issue 35?

Jeff: No, I didn’t really know when it would end whe? I started it. I knew there was the big Outsiders story I wanted to tell and the Richard Dragon story, so I just kind of let it happen at its own pace. There were a couple of things that Andrea (Sorrentino) wanted to tackle project-wise and I think he was really a collaborator in every sense on this book, a real co-story teller, and I didn’t want to do the book without him. I feel like we had created something special together. I know he was anxious after 20 issues to move onto something else, move on to a new character and keep things fresh for him, so I knew that was coming. And the Futures End thing provided us with a unique opportunity to literally tell the end of Green Arrow’s story. Because he dies in Futures End, I could literally tell the story from my last issue to his death, the last 5 years of his life, and finish his story essentially. So that’s kind of a unique thing, because usually you just pass the character on so they can tell the rest of his life in one big issue.

Kyle: You are actually going to be able to hang on to Green Arrow and Animal Man and JLU, and you’ve got Frankenstein in Futures End. Isn’t it funny that you seem to have the same characters following you throughout the New 52?

Jeff: You fall in love with them, you invest in them, and you put a lot of yourself into them. You spend months and months and sometimes years writing the characters and it’s hard to let them go, you know? So whenever you can keep them and keep evolving them as characters, I always grab those opportunities.

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2. Occupational epidemiology: a truly global discipline

By Katherine M. Venables


Occupational epidemiology is one of those fascinating areas which spans important areas of human life: health, disease, work, law, public policy, the economy. Work is fundamental to any society and the importance society attaches to the health of its workers varies over time and between countries. Because of the lessons to be learned by looking at other countries as well as one’s own, occupational epidemiology is a truly global discipline. Emerging economies often prioritize productivity over other issues, but also can learn from the long history of improvement in working conditions which has taken place in developed countries. Looking the other way, the West can learn from fresh insights gained in studies set in low and middle-income countries.

Exposures are usually higher in emerging economies and epidemiological methods are an important tool in detecting and quantifying outbreaks of occupational disease which may have been controlled in the West. A recent study of digestive cancer in a Chinese asbestos mining and milling cohort provides additional evidence that stomach cancer may be associated with high levels of exposure to chrostile asbestos, for example. This was a collaborative study between researchers in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States, and illustrates the way that studying an “old” disease in a new context can provide results which are of global benefit.

Issues in occupational epidemiology are never static. Work exposures change along with materials and processes. The ubiquitous printing industry, for example, is always developing new inks, cleaning agents, and processes. A cluster of cases of the rare liver cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, was noted in Japanese printers and this finding was replicated in the Nordic printing industry by using one of the large Nordic population-based databases. This replication is important because it shows that the association is unlikely to be due to a lifestyle factor specific to Japan.

Woman smoking a cigarette“Big data” sharpens statistical power and there are now specific data pooling projects in occupational epidemiology, to supplement the use of existing large databases. The SYNERGY study, for example, pools lung cancer case-control studies with the aim of teasing out occupational effects from behind the masking effect of smoking, which remains by far the most important driver for lung cancer. A recent analysis with around 20,000 cases and controls was able to show that bakers are not at increased risk of lung cancer, whereas the many previous smaller studies had given inconsistent results.

The addition of systematic reviews to the toolkit has strengthened the evidence base in occupational epidemiology, allowing policy about occupational risks and their prevention to be made with confidence. Health economics, also, can be applied to findings from occupational epidemiology to clarify policy issues.

Development brings its own issues to which occupational epidemiology can be applied. We now live longer in the West, and we will have to work into old age, often while carrying chronic diseases. Despite frequently-expressed concerns about an ageing workforce, a recent study in an Australian smelter confirmed others in that the older workers maintained their ability to work safely and the highest injury rates were in young workers. Patients with previously fatal diseases survive into adult life and, potentially, the workforce; a survey of patients with cystic fibrosis, for example, found that disease severity was less important as a predictor of employment than social factors such as educational attainment and locality. A loss of heavy industry in the West, combined with cheap transport, means that many of us spend most of our waking hours sitting down, promoting obesity and its complications. A sample of UK office workers spent 65% of their work time sitting and did not compensate for this by being more active outside work. The economic downturn is a major political and social preoccupation, bringing uncertainty about future employment, which may fuel dysfunctional behaviour such as ‘presenteeism’. A Swedish study suggested that this may be associated with poor mental wellbeing.

Katherine M. Venables is a Reader in the Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford. Her research has always focused on aetiological epidemiology. At Oxford, she has worked on a cohort study of mortality and cancer incidence in military veterans exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents, and also on the provision of occupational health services to university staff. She is editor of Current Topics in Occupational Epidemiology.

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Image: Woman smoking a cigarette by Oxfordian Kissuth. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Occupational epidemiology: a truly global discipline appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Spring issue of list

       The Spring, 2014 issue of list - Books from Korea is finally out online, with a special section on 'Children's Picture Books' as well as the usual reviews and information-pieces.
       Also of interest: Suh Heewon has a Q & A with The Man Who Loved Moebius Novelist Choi Jae-hoon.

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4. Spotlight and Giveaway: Her Temporary Hero by Jennifer Apodaca

 

  HER TEMPORARY HERO

Once A Marine, #2

Author: Jennifer Apodaca

Print Length: 194 pages

Publisher: Entangled: Indulgence (July 14, 2014)

ASIN: B00L73W2J6

Former beauty queen Becky Holmes and her baby are on the run from her dangerous ex. With her dreams of love and marriage destroyed, she’ll do anything to protect her child…even agree to hide out in her boss’s cousin’s house while he’s away.

Wealthy, sexy, and emotionally haunted Logan Knight needs a temporary wife to get his land, per his dad’s rules. No wife, no inheritance. But when that wife lands on his doorstep and comes with a baby, his darkest memories are triggered. He tries to keep his distance, but his efforts are shattered when he starts to have real feelings for his fake wife and child.

Just as Logan begins to think he may have a future with Becky, his attempt to have it all backfires into a betrayal that forces Becky into a heart-wrenching choice no woman should ever have to make.

AVAILABLE JULY 14th:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Temporary-Hero-Marine-Entangled-Indulgence-ebook/dp/B00L73W2J6/ref=la_B001IXOJR8_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404912629&sr=1-15

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-temporary-hero-jennifer-apodaca/1119856173?ean=9781622667628

Kobo:

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/her-temporary-hero-a-once-a-marine-series-book

THE BABY BARGAIN

Once A Marine, #1

Author: Jennifer Apodaca

Print Length: 142 pages

Publisher: Entangled: Indulgence (March 11, 2013)

ASIN: B00BQMKC5O

Seeing Adam Waters is the last thing veterinarian Megan Young expects. Ex-Marine. Ex-boyfriend. And still extremely dangerous territory. But Adam doesn’t know the secret Megan has been keeping from him. The secret that was created three years ago, after their last night together…

Adam returns to Raven’s Cove to sell his home in a final break with the town and memories that haunt him. The problem is that his attraction to Megan is as blazing hot as it ever was. But when a vicious smear campaign against Megan turns ugly, Adam learns the truth he never knew—he has a son.

Now the only way Megan can protect her child is to strike a bargain with Adam. And it’s a bargain that looks a lot like blackmail…

AVAILABLE NOW:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/The-Baby-Bargain-ebook/dp/B00BQMKC5O/

Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-baby-bargain-jennifer-apodaca/1114794877

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Baby-Bargain/book-vfUJ7eO_VE2K9094I8lILQ/page1.html

iBookstores: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-baby-bargain/id616370377?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning author Jennifer Apodaca grew up in Southern California and met her very own hero at the dog pound. She worked there, he came in on a business, and it was puppy love. They married and had three wonderful sons.

While her husband worked on his master’s degree, Jen did the mom thing by day and went to college at night with the intention of perusing a marketing degree. But her true passion was writing. With time at a premium, she had to make a choice.

Choosing writing, and with the full support of her husband, she poured herself into her dream. A mere eight years later, she published her first book DATING CAN BE MURDER. In her career, Jen has written a fun and sexy mystery series and a variety of contemporary romances. Taking the pen name of Jennifer Lyon, she also created a dark, sizzling paranormal series, and most recently, The Plus One Chronicles, an emotional and sexy adult contemporary series.

Jen has achieved many of her dreams except for attaining a self-cleaning house, a latte delivery service, and finding the holy grail of nonfattening wine and chocolate. She can live with those disappointments as long as she can keep writing the stories she loves to share with readers.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: http://jenniferlyonbooks.com/jennifer-apodaca/

Blog: http://jenniferlyonbooks.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferApodacaAuthor

Facebook (Jennifer Lyon): https://www.facebook.com/jenniferlyonbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jenniferlyon

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/146987.Jennifer_Apodaca

Goodreads (Jennifer Lyon): http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2759175.Jennifer_Lyon

Excerpt:

His words and touch, and the blaze in his eyes made her shiver. Heat from his powerful body poured over her. She couldn’t talk, couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Becky.” His voice came out raspy. “I want to kiss my wife.”

She had a word now. “Yes.”

He skated his thumb down her throat to the fluttering pulse. “Tonight is only for kissing.” Leaning down, he added, “We have three months together. You’re going to take all the time you need because you’re worth waiting for to have in my bed.”

Becky had no chance to reply as his full, warm mouth glided over her lips.

Logan groaned. She felt him grab onto the counter, locking her between his powerful biceps. Angling his head, he licked and coaxed until she opened, giving him access. He tasted of dinner and that richer, masculine flavor that was all his. He dived in, his tongue commanding as he explored her, filling her with his taste.

Becky dug her fingers into his sides, desperate to hold on. Growing bolder, she tangled her tongue with his, getting more aggressive with every thrust. A whimper of burning need clawed up her throat. Every part of her ached to feel more of him, all of him.

He pulled back, his gaze scorching. Leaning his forehead against hers, he growled out. “Damn, sugar. You’re killing me.”

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

GRAND PRIZE: $25.00 gift card to Amazon or B&N

RUNNERS UP: Three (3) runners-up will receive an eBook of THE BABY BARGAIN, book one in the Once A Marine series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Her Temporary Hero by Jennifer Apodaca appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

MadmanPineyWoods Review of the Day: The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul CurtisThe Madman of Piney Woods
By Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-63376-5
$16.99
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 30th

No author hits it out of the park every time. No matter how talented or clever a writer might be, if their heart isn’t in a project it shows. In the case of Christopher Paul Curtis, when he loves what he’s writing the sheets of paper on which he types practically set on fire. When he doesn’t? It’s like reading mold. There’s life there, but no energy. Now in the case of his Newbery Honor book Elijah of Buxton, Curtis was doing gangbuster work. His blend of history and humor is unparalleled and you need only look to Elijah to see Curtis at his best. With that in mind I approached the companion novel to Elijah titled The Madman of Piney Woods with some trepidation. A good companion book will add to the magic of the original. A poor one, detract. I needn’t have worried. While I wouldn’t quite put Madman on the same level as Elijah, what Curtis does here, with his theme of fear and what it can do to a human soul, is as profound and thought provoking as anything he’s written in the past. There is ample fodder here for young brains. The fact that it’s a hoot to read as well is just the icing on the cake.

Two boys. Two lives. It’s 1901, forty years after the events in Elijah of Buxton and Benji Alston has only one dream: To be the world’s greatest reporter. He even gets an apprenticeship on a real paper, though he finds there’s more to writing stories than he initially thought. Meanwhile Alvin Stockard, nicknamed Red, is determined to be a scientist. That is, when he’s not dodging the blows of his bitter Irish granny, Mother O’Toole. When the two boys meet they have a lot in common, in spite of the fact that Benji’s black and Red’s Irish. They’ve also had separate encounters with the legendary Madman of Piney Woods. Is the man an ex-slave or a convict or part lion? The truth is more complicated than that, and when the Madman is in trouble these two boys come to his aid and learn what it truly means to face fear.

Let’s be plainspoken about what this book really is. Curtis has mastered the art of the Tom Sawyerish novel. Sometimes it feels like books containing mischievous boys have fallen out of favor. Thank goodness for Christopher Paul Curtis then. What we have here is a good old-fashioned 1901 buddy comedy. Two boys getting into and out of scrapes. Wreaking havoc. Revenging themselves on their enemies / siblings (or at least Benji does). It’s downright Mark Twainish (if that’s a term). Much of the charm comes from the fact that Curtis knows from funny. Benji’s a wry-hearted bigheaded, egotistical, lovable imp. He can be canny and completely wrong-headed within the space of just a few sentences. Red, in contrast, is book smart with a more regulation-sized ego but as gullible as they come. Put Red and Benji together and it’s little wonder they’re friends. They compliment one another’s faults. With Elijah of Buxton I felt no need to know more about Elijah and Cooter’s adventures. With Madman I wouldn’t mind following Benji and Red’s exploits for a little bit longer.

One of the characteristics of Curtis’s writing that sets him apart from the historical fiction pack is his humor. Making the past funny is a trick. Pranks help. An egotistical character getting their comeuppance helps too. In fact, at one point Curtis perfectly defines the miracle of funny writing. Benji is pondering words and wordplay and the magic of certain letter combinations. Says he, “How is it possible that one person can use only words to make another person laugh?” How indeed. The remarkable thing isn’t that Curtis is funny, though. Rather, it’s the fact that he knows how to balance tone so well. The book will garner honest belly laughs on one page, then manage to wrench real emotion out of you the next. The best funny authors are adept at this switch. The worst leave you feeling queasy. And Curtis never, not ever, gives a reader a queasy feeling.

Normally I have a problem with books where characters act out-of-step with the times without any outside influence. For example, I once read a Civil War middle grade novel that shall remain nameless where a girl, without anyone in her life offering her any guidance, independently came up with the idea that “corsets restrict the mind”. Ugh. Anachronisms make me itch. With that in mind, I watched Red very carefully in this book. Here you have a boy effectively raised by a racist grandmother who is almost wholly without so much as a racist thought in his little ginger noggin. How do we account for this? Thankfully, Red’s father gives us an “out”, as it were. A good man who struggles with the amount of influence his mother-in-law may or may not have over her redheaded grandchild, Mr. Stockard is the just force in his son’s life that guides his good nature.

The preferred writing style of Christopher Paul Curtis that can be found in most of his novels is also found here. It initially appears deceptively simple. There will be a series of seemingly unrelated stories with familiar characters. Little interstitial moments will resonate with larger themes, but the book won’t feel like it’s going anywhere. Then, in the third act, BLAMMO! Curtis will hit you with everything he’s got. Murder, desperation, the works. He’s done it so often you can set your watch by it, but it still works, man. Now to be fair, when Curtis wrote Elijah of Buxton he sort of peaked. It’s hard to compete with the desperation that filled Elijah’s encounter with an enslaved family near the end. In Madman Curtis doesn’t even attempt to top it. In fact, he comes to his book’s climax from another angle entirely. There is some desperation (and not a little blood) but even so this is a more thoughtful third act. If Elijah asked the reader to feel, Madman asks the reader to think. Nothing wrong with that. It just doesn’t sock you in the gut quite as hard.

For me, it all comes down to the quotable sentences. And fortunately, in this book the writing is just chock full of wonderful lines. Things like, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and the same can be said of many an argument.” Or later, when talking about Red’s nickname, “It would be hard for even as good a debater as Spencer or the Holmely boy to disprove that a cardinal and a beet hadn’t been married and given birth to this boy. Then baptized him in a tub of red ink.” And I may have to conjure up this line in terms of discipline and kids: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but you can sure make him stand there looking at the water for a long time.” Finally, on funerals: “Maybe it’s just me, but I always found it a little hard to celebrate when one of the folks in the room is dead.”

He also creates little moments that stay with you. Kissing a reflection only to have your lips stick to it. A girl’s teeth so rotted that her father has to turn his head when she kisses him to avoid the stench (kisses are treacherous things in Curtis novels). In this book I’ll probably long remember the boy who purposefully gets into fights to give himself a reason for the injuries wrought by his drunken father. And there’s even a moment near the end when the Madman’s identity is clarified that is a great example of Curtis playing with his audience. Before he gives anything away he makes it clear that the Madman could be one of two beloved characters from Elijah of Buxton. It’s agony waiting for him to clarify who exactly is who.

Character is king in the world of Mr. Curtis. A writer who manages to construct fully three-dimensional people out of mere words is one to watch. In this book, Curtis has the difficult task of making complete and whole a character through the eyes of two different-year-old boys. And when you consider that they’re working from the starting point of thinking that the guy’s insane, it’s going to be a tough slog to convince the reader otherwise. That said, once you get into the head of the “Madman” you get a profound sense not of his insanity but of his gentleness. His very existence reminded me of similar loners in literature like Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson or The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton, but unlike the men in those books this guy had a heart and a mind and a very distinctive past. And fears. Terrible, awful fears.

It’s that fear that gives Madman its true purpose. Red’s grandmother, Mother O’Toole, shares with the Madman a horrific past. They’re very different horrors (one based in sheer mind-blowing violence and the other in death, betrayal, and disgust) but the effects are the same. Out of these moments both people are suffering a kind of PTSD. This makes them two sides of the same coin. Equally wracked by horrible memories, they chose to handle those memories in different ways. The Madman gives up society but retains his soul. Mother O’Toole, in contrast, retains her sanity but gives up her soul. Yet by the end of the book the supposed Madman has returned to society and reconnected with his friends while the Irishwoman is last seen with her hair down (a classic madwoman trope as old as Shakespeare himself) scrubbing dishes until she bleeds to rid them of any trace of the race she hates so much. They have effectively switched places.

Much of what The Madman of Piney Woods does is ask what fear does to people. The Madman speaks eloquently of all too human monsters and what they can do to a man. Meanwhile Grandmother has suffered as well but it’s made her bitter and angry. When Red asks, “Doesn’t it seem only logical that if a person has been through all of the grief she has, they’d have nothing but compassion for anyone else who’s been through the same?” His father responds that “given enough time, fear is the great killer of the human spirit.” In her case it has taken her spirit and “has so horribly scarred it, condensing and strengthening and dishing out the same hatred that it has experienced.” But for some the opposite is true, hence the Madman. Two humans who have seen the worst of humanity. Two different reactions. And as with Elijah, where Curtis tackled slavery not through a slave but through a slave’s freeborn child, we hear about these things through kids who are “close enough to hear the echoes of the screams in [the adults’] nightmarish memories.” Certainly it rubs off onto the younger characters in different ways. In one chapter Benji wonders why the original settlers of Buxton, all ex-slaves, can’t just relax. Fear has shaped them so distinctly that he figures a town of “nervous old people” has raised him. Adversity can either build or destroy character, Curtis says. This book is the story of precisely that.

Don’t be surprised if, after finishing this book, you find yourself reaching for your copy of Elijah of Buxton so as to remember some of these characters when they were young. Reaching deep, Curtis puts soul into the pages of its companion novel. In my more dreamy-eyed moments I fantasize about Curtis continuing the stories of Buxton every 40 years until he gets to the present day. It could be his equivalent of Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House chronicles. Imagine if we shot forward another 40 years to 1941 and encountered a grown Benji and Red with their own families and fears. I doubt Curtis is planning on going that route, but whether or not this is the end of Buxton’s tales or just the beginning, The Madman of Piney Woods will leave child readers questioning what true trauma can do to a soul, and what they would do if it happened to them. Heady stuff. Funny stuff. Smart stuff. Good stuff. Better get your hands on this stuff.

On shelves September 30th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

First Sentence: “The old soldiers say you never hear the bullet that kills you.”

Like This? Then Try:

Notes on the Cover:  As many of us are aware, in the past historical novels starring African-American boys have often consisted of silhouettes or dull brown sepia-toned tomes.  Christopher Paul Curtis’s books tend to be the exception to the rule, and this is clearly the most lively of his covers so far.  Two boys running in period clothing through the titular “piney woods”?  That kind of thing is rare as a peacock these days.  It’s still a little brown, but maybe I can sell it on the authors name and the fact that the books look like they’re running to/from trouble.  All in all, I like it.

Professional Reviews:

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6. Hannah-Arendt-Prize

       They've announced that the €10,000 2014 Hannah-Arendt-Prize for Political Thought, awarded by the City of Bremen and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, will be shared by Pussy Riot-ers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, and -- as they spell it -- Jury Andruchowytsch (Юрій Андрухович, usually -- so also elsewhere in this press release ... transliterated in English as 'Yuri Andrukhovych'), five of whose works are under review at the complete review, see e.g. Perverzion).
       "The Prize is awarded to people who in their thought and deeds courageously accept the challenge of public intervention" ... well, you get the idea, right ?
       And, this being a German prize (i.e. winners announced way in advance), the prize ceremony will only be held on 5 December.

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7. Microbes matter

By John Archibald


We humans have a love-hate relationship with bugs. I’m not talking about insects — although many of us cringe at the thought of them too — but rather the bugs we can’t see, the ones that make us sick.

Sure, microorganisms give us beer, wine, cheese, and yoghurt; hardly a day goes by without most people consuming food or drink produced by microbial fermentation. And we put microbes to good use in the laboratory, as vehicles for the production of insulin and other life-saving drugs, for example.

But microbes are also responsible for much of what ails us, from annoying stomach ‘bugs’ to deadly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and plague. Bacteria and viruses are even linked to certain cancers. Bugs are bad; antibiotics and antivirals are good. We spend billions annually trying to rid ourselves of microorganisms, and if they were to all disappear, well, all the better, right?

This is, of course, nonsense. Even the most ardent germaphobe would take a deep breath and accept the fact that we could no more survive without microbes than we could without oxygen. No matter how clean we strive to be, there are 100 trillion bacterial cells living on and within our bodies, 10 times the number of human cells that comprise ‘us’. Hundreds of different bacterial species live within our intestines, hundreds more thrive in our mouths and on our skin. Add in the resident viruses, fungi, and small animals such as worms and mites, and the human body becomes a full-blown ecosystem, a microcosm of the world around us. And like any ecosystem, if thrown off-balance bad things can happen. For example, many of our ‘good’ bacteria help us metabolize food and fight off illness. But after a prolonged course of antibiotics such bacteria can be knocked flat, and normally benign species such as ‘Clostridium difficile’ can grow out of control and cause disease.

virus-163471_1280

Given the complexity of our body jungle, some researchers go as far as to propose that there is no such thing as a ‘human being’. Each of us should instead be thought of as a human-microbe symbiosis, a complex biological relationship in which neither partner can survive without the other. As disturbing a notion as this may be, one thing is indisputable: we depend on our microbiome and it depends on us.

And there is an even more fundamental way in which the survival of Homo sapiens is intimately tied to the hidden microbial majority of life. Each and every one of our 10 trillion cells betrays its microbial ancestry in harboring mitochondria, tiny subcellular factories that use oxygen to convert our food into ATP, the energy currency of all living cells. Our mitochondria are, in essence, domesticated bacteria — oxygen-consuming bacteria that took up residence inside another bacterium more than a billion years ago and never left. We know this because mitochondria possess tiny remnants of bacterium-like DNA inside them, distinct from the DNA housed in the cell nucleus. Modern genetic investigations have revealed that mitochondria are a throwback to a time before complex animals, plants, or fungi had arisen, a time when life was exclusively microbial.

As we ponder the bacterial nature of our mitochondria, it is also instructive to consider where the oxygen they so depend on actually comes from. The answer is photosynthesis. Within the cells of plants and algae are the all-important chloroplasts, green-tinged, DNA-containing factories that absorb sunlight, fix carbon dioxide, and pump oxygen into the atmosphere by the truckload. Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from the photosynthetic activities of these plants and algae—and like mitochondria, chloroplasts are derived from bacteria by symbiosis. The genetic signature written within chloroplast DNA links them to the myriad of free-living cyanobacteria drifting in the world’s oceans. Photosynthesis and respiration are the biochemical yin and yang of life on Earth. The energy that flows through chloroplasts and mitochondria connects life in the furthest corners of the biosphere.

For all our biological sophistication and intelligence, one could argue that we humans are little more than the sum of the individual cells from which we are built. And as is the case for all other complex multicellular organisms, our existence is inexorably linked to the sea of microbes that share our physical space. It is a reality we come by honestly. As we struggle to tame and exploit the microbial world, we would do well to remember that symbiosis—the living together of distinct organisms—explains both what we are and how we got here.

John Archibald is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Dalhousie University and a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity. He is an Associate Editor for Genome Biology & Evolution and an Editorial Board Member of various scientific journals, including Current Biology, Eukaryotic Cell, and BMC Biology. He is the author of One Plus One Equals One: Symbiosis and the Evolution of Complex Life.

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Image credit: Virus Microbiology. Public domain via Pixabay

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8. Translation from the ... Japanese

       In The Japan Times Reiji Yoshida reports that ¥80 million earmarked to translate Japanese books into English to aid PR drive.
       Having learnt nothing from the catastrophe that was the Japanese Literature Publishing Project -- an incredible amount of money that did help get a lot of books translated (see those under review at the complete review) but to stunningly little effect (it still seems to me the ultimate case-study in how not to foster your literature abroad) -- they have decided:

A panel of seven Japanese intellectuals, including university professors and former government officials, will select candidate books over the next month. The government will then subsidize the translation work and publication costs, the officials said.
       I.e. they'll do exactly what the JLPP did (except they'll apparently only be translating into English -- another big mistake). No doubt these will be worthy 'intellectuals' (hey, "university professors and former government officials" -- what could go wrong ?), but sorry, this is just not the way to go about it. As is already clear from the observation: "Books will be selected to call attention to positive aspects of Japan" -- pretty much a death-knell for them choosing anything that might really work abroad.
       It's real money, however -- almost US$800,000. That's a lot of subsidy. May it not go entirely to waste ..... Read the rest of this post

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9. Content Marketing Success - You have to walk the walk

There are so many amazing quotes out there that focus in on what needs to be done and does it in a sentence or two. The quote above from Anatole France, does just that. It reminds me of the Bible quote: "Faith without works is dead." No matter how much planning you do, if you don't take actionable steps, you won't get anywhere. And, if you can't dream it or believe you can accomplish it,

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10. NZ Post Book Awards finalists

       Not fearing competition from that Man Booker Prize, they also announced the finalists for the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards.
       Okay, they take things at their own pace down there -- last year's Man Booker winner is a fiction finalist -- but what really struck me is that five of the eight fiction and poetry finalists are published by Victoria University Press. Sounds like a pretty interesting/unusual book market there if that's possible ..... (VUP describes itself as: "New Zealand's leading publisher of new fiction and poetry" -- but also notes that it publishes (only): "on average 25 new titles every year" (which is ... not that much).

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11. Interview with Kay Thomas, Author of Personal Target

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Good morning, Kay!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Kay Thomas] Wife, Mother, Writer, Friend, Believer

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Personal Target?

[Kay Thomas] Here’s the scoop straight from the back cover copy:

A former SEAL and Black Ops specialist who left the CIA, Nick Donovan gave up a life on the edge to work in the private sector. But that didn’t stop his enemies from coming after him, or his family. In a case of mistaken identity, a drug cartel kidnaps his sister-in-law’s best friend…a woman from Nick’s past.

One minute Jennifer Grayson is housesitting and the next she is abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Now as they race for their lives, passion reignites as old secrets resurface. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?

At its core, the book is about a case of mistaken identity and a very personal vendetta. Personal Target takes the reader from Dallas to Mexico, across the African Savanna, to the shores of the Mediterranean in a race against time for Nick to save the woman he loves but lost ten years ago.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Kay Thomas] One of my favorite scenes to write was when Nick and Jennifer met on the page for the first time. They have a history together, but their summer affair was over long ago. In this scene, Jennifer has been kidnapped, and Nick has come to take her away from the people holding her captive.

Here’s the link to that excerpt. http://www.kaythomas.net/books/personal-target/exclusive-excerpt-reveal.html

The woman at the vanity turned, and Nick’s breath caught in his throat. He had known it would be Jenny, and despite what he’d thought about downstairs when he’d seen her on the tablet screen, he hadn’t prepared himself for seeing her like this. Seated at the table with candles all around, she was wearing a sheer robe over a gray thong and a bustier kind of thing, or that’s what he thought the full-length bra was called.

He spotted the small unicorn tat peeping out from the edge of whatever the lingerie piece was and his brain quit processing details as all the blood in his head rushed south. He’d been primed to come in and tell Jenny exactly how they were getting out of the house and away from these people and now . . . this. His mouth went dry at the sight of her. She looked like every fantasy he’d ever had about her rolled into one.

He continued to stare as recognition flared in her eyes.

“Oh my God,” she said. “It’s . . .”

She clapped her mouth closed, and her eyes widened. That struck him as odd. The relief on her face was obvious, but instead of looking at him, she took an audible breath and studied the walls of the room. When she finally did glance at him again, her eyes had changed.

“So you’re who they’ve sent me for my first time?” Her voice sounded bored, not the tone he remembered. “What do you want me to do?”

What a question. He raised an eyebrow, but she shook her head. In warning?

Nothing here was as he’d anticipated. He continued staring at her, hoping the lust would quit fogging his brain long enough for him to figure out what was going on.

“I’ve been told to show you a good time.” Her voice was cold, downright chilly. Without another word she stood and crossed the floor, slipping into his arms with her breasts pressing into his chest. “It’s you.” She murmured the words in the barest of whispers.

Nick’s mind froze, but his body didn’t. On autopilot his hands automatically went to her waist as she kissed his neck, working her way up to his ear. This was not at all what he’d planned.

“I can’t believe you’re here.” She breathed the words into his ear.

Me either, he thought, but kept the news to himself as he pulled her closer. His senses flooded with all that smooth skin pressing against him. His body tightened, and his right hand moved to cup her ass. Her cheek’s bare skin was silky soft, like he remembered. God, he’d missed her. She melted into him as his body switched into overdrive.

“What do you want?” She spoke louder. The artic tone was back. He was confused and knew he was just too stupid with wanting her to figure out what the hell was going on. There was no way the woman could mistake the effect she was having.

She moved her lips closer to his ear and nipped his earlobe before she spoke in a hushed tone. “Cameras are everywhere. I’m not sure about microphones.”

And just like that, cold reality slapped him in the face. He should have been expecting it, but he’d been so focused on getting her out and making sure she was all right. She might be glad to see him because he was there to save her, but throwing her body at him was an act.

Jesus. He had to get them both out of here without tipping his hand to the cameras and those watching what he was doing. He was crazy not to have considered it once he saw those tablets downstairs, but it had never occurred to him that he would have to play this encounter through as if he was really a client.

He slipped her arms from around his neck and moved to the table to pour himself some wine, willing his hands not to shake. “I want you,” he said, clearly and loudly enough for any microphone in the room to pick up.

She smiled, but her expression wasn’t warm. “Do you now?” Her frigid tone was so at odds with the woman he’d known years ago.

He knew what he had to do. Monique and company were expecting them to have wild sex. If they’d been truly alone, it wouldn’t have been a hardship. And regardless of the circumstances, that’s exactly what he was going to have to pretend to do. He had to make love to Jenny knowing others were watching, at least until that distraction of Bryan’s came through.

There wouldn’t be any sneaking out of the room or the house before then. Guards were most likely gathered around security monitors at this very moment, drinking beer and taking bets as to how long Nick would last before he came. They were expecting to see some action.

“What do you think I want?” His voice was pitched low but loud enough for the mics as he took a sip of the wine. “Didn’t they tell you what to expect?”

Copyright © 2014 by Kay Thomas. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Kay Thomas] I adored the research. Much of the story takes place in Africa. I loved “travelling online” and learning about the continent and the different countries. I liked researching so much that it was sometimes a challenge to pull myself away from the research and do the actual writing itself.

Talking with people who’ve lived in the places I wrote about was fascinating. With some of the exotic locales in this series, I’ve found it helpful to read blogs written by those who have just moved to an area and are sharing their day-to-day experiences. Through the marvels of the internet, I was able to get an authentic feel for what those extreme locations were like when I virtually visited the jungles of Mexico or the edge of the Sahara, without leaving my office chair.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Kay Thomas] A book to read, if I have downtime where I’m going. Nowadays that can be a Kindle or even my phone with the Kindle App.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Kay Thomas] Only three? I’m glad you can’t actually see my desk. : )

There’s an empty plate from breakfast (I had toast). A box of Kleenex. (I have allergies). Two tape measures. (I have no idea why they are here.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Kay Thomas] When I’m working on deadline is the only time I don’t really care what I eat. (It’s sort of my optimum time for a diet because I don’t notice if what I’m eating tastes like cardboard or ambrosia.) But my favorite snack is a cinnamon toast rice cake with almond butter. I could live off of that.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Kay Thomas] I honestly can’t think of anyone I’d like to trade places with, even for a day. I like being me. : )

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Kay Thomas] Ohhh, great question. I think I’d like to be able to “teleport” so I could snap my fingers and be anywhere in the world. There are so many places I’d like to see and people I’d like to visit that just live too far away.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Kay Thomas] I’ve been LOVING Laura Griffin’s work. I’ve glommed on to her entire backlist and, sadly, I just finished the last book. (sniff, sniff)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Kay Thomas] I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes, Pinterest.

My website: www.KayThomas.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KayThomasWrites

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KayThomasWrites

Pinterest: www.pinterest/KayThomasWrites

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you for stopping by!

AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men working under the radar of most governments. If you have a problem no one else can handle, they can help.

A former SEAL and Black Ops specialist who left the CIA, Nick Donovan gave up a life on the edge to work in the private sector. But that didn’t stop his enemies from coming after him—or his family. In a case of mistaken identity, a drug cartel kidnaps his sister-in-law’s best friend … a woman from Nick’s past.

One minute Jennifer Grayson is housesitting and the next she’s abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Now, as they race for their lives, passion for each other reignites and old secrets resurface. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?

The post Interview with Kay Thomas, Author of Personal Target appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. SDCC ’14: Image Comics Goes to Infinity Recap

by Zachary Clemente

Image Comics’ all-around rad panel host (among other talents) David Brothers hosted the first of many of the “I is for…” panels scheduled this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Following in line with their new branding which spins their lineup with succinct descriptive words that being with “I”. “Innovative”, “Irreverent”, “Interplanetary” have been banded about with this new means of breaking the bonds of genre definitions – but today’s panel (“Infinite” for those keeping score at home) was all about introspection.

IMG_1207A good mix of writers and illustrators joined the panel to talk their work in respect to genre definitions, their experiences at Image, the next stages of their projects, and field a good amount of questions from the audience. Since the publisher has a whole mess of creators working with them, an interesting mix is available. On the panel was Ryan Burton (Dark Engine), Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Richard Starkins (Elephantmen), Declan Shalvey (Injection), Tom Neely (The Humans), Stuart Moore (EGOs), and Rick Remender (Deadly Class).

The two most noticeable things about the panel was that it all of the creators on it were white and male. Considering Eric Stephenson’s points of the necessity of diversity in their creators at yesterday’s Image Expo, the panelist lineup does seem to strike an odd chord. Granted, the following Image panels scheduled throughout the rest of the week due feature non-white creators and female creators – so let’s chalk it up to scheduling.

I have to say, often panels like this can hit low points where the people participating weren’t sure where to go from the previous discussion, but give it up for Brothers – this one moved smoothly between talks; allowing all the panelists good time to talk about their own experiences and share their own stories, while the rest were able to interject casually. It felt more like watching a conversation than attending a press event, which is what I look for in a good panel.

Going up and down the table, each creator touched on the influences that shape their books and their relationships with genres such as sci-fi and western and how that informs their books. Burton commented on how he doesn’t feel that Dark Engine could be done elsewhere as he’s allowed to push the concept further – creating an intensely powerful female character in the vein of Conan or Beowulf, going as far as give her a sword made from a T-Rex’s rib.

One interesting topic broached was the age gap for most Image readers. There really isn’t much along the lines of all-ages or kid-friendly currently being published by Image – and Nick Dragotta was happy to discuss the strange interplay he has as an artist recollecting the for-kids DIY educational HowToons book and his raucous and bloody work in East of West. We also found out that East of West is set at about 60 issues, with each 15-issue installment representing approximately a year in the story’s timeline.

Jason Latour, half of the Jason-based team creating Southern Bastards talked about how the book, while not from exact experiences, is ingrained with impressions of spending childhood weekends in rural North Carolina. Otherwise, he jokingly suggested that “it’s about watching dogs poop.” When pressed about his working relationship with Jason Aaron and their southern roots, Latour explained their occasional disagreements with the example of  “I’ve tried to convince him that farm animals are off-limits for sexual proclivities,” which received quite a hoot n’ holler from the audience.

Notably, many questions were directed to Remender, which isn’t too surprising considering he now has 4 titles with Image (Black ScienceThe LowDeadly Class, and the recently announced Tokyo Ghost). As he had in the back of the trade release of Deadly Class, Remender delved into his past, much unpleasant, that influenced the world and emotional core of the teenage assassins book. When queried about engaging the controversy over a certain scene involving Marvel character Sam Wilson and how fan reaction plays a part in their work, Remender was quick to explain that there wasn’t a true controversy in play and that as the outrage built, he “removed himself and spent 3 days hugging his kids, while eating toast and crying.”

As the rest of the panel attempted to field the question, Latour piped in, saying that “some of the rednecks who would have a problem with Southern Bastards can’t read.” Problem solved.

Overall, it was a well-organized panel that come from a lot more thought about their lineup of talent and book on the part of the publisher that I expect of most, though perhaps a slightly more diverse cast would have played well. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Image panels, featuring different guests to discuss different topics.

 

 

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13. Hot Tip: Watch ‘The Onion’ Make Fun of Hyper-Real CGI ‘Ninja Turtles’ (NSFW)

If you thought the faces of the new hyper-real Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were disturbing, wait until you see their dongs. This "Onion" piece is an instant classic:.

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14. Book Beginnings - 7/25/14


*Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.  *Taken directly from Rose City Reader's Blog Page.

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This week's book beginnings is taken from THE WISHING TIDE by Barbara Davis.

"Through my fault.
Through my fault.
Through my most grievous fault.
The sea, it seems, has become my priest, the punishing, faceless thing to which I confess sins, silent witness to my self-inflicted wounds.  We're alike in many ways, a restless beating of water and salt, a shifting and seething of secrets, or treacheries.  Reckless.  Dangerous." 


It is a beautiful read so far.  There are chapter headings introducing each character.  The story is taking place at a bed and breakfast during a severe storm with a mysterious guest.  That's all the farther I have gotten, but it seems as if it is going to be quite good.

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What are you reading that you can't keep to yourself?  :)

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15. Irate Emails.....

Hmm. Just hmmm.

Anyway, I got three -THREE- irate emails from people demanding to know WHY I was not answering messages on Face Book.

Here, just for those dumb-asses, because I've stated this on FB itself weeks ago....

I NO LONGER USE FACE BOOK AND ONLY CBO AUTO FEED GOES TO MY OLD FB BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO STOP IT.

Got that? Good.

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16. Lost for Words review

       Appropriately timed with the announcement of the Man Booker Prize longlist (see above), the most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edward St. Aubyn's Lost for Words -- about which Stuart Kelly wrote (in his review in the Times Literary Supplement, 21 May):

To call this a thinly veiled attack on the Man Booker Prize [...] would be a disservice to veils and how diaphanous they might be.
       This has already/soon will appear in French and German translation, but turns out to be a rather disappointing prize-satire; among the few who really, really seemed to enjoy it was the Kakutani.

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17. Trolling

I'm not writing today to share advice. I'm asking you to share it with me (well, us). I have to admit that as a teacher of journalism, published journalist, playwright, and personal historian, I am pretty comfortable with my writing skills. Hey, there is always more to learn, but I feel like I have solid footing there.

What I am truly, desperately, profoundly lacking in is even the desire to query when it comes to some of my children's stories. I am so fond of them that I'm almost terrified to let them out into the world—the cliche overly protective mother. And thus, without having had to practice, I am still not happy with or comfortable with writing query letters.

Yes, I have the books. I know the structure. I know the rules and recommendations. But I would love to hear what you, Utah children's writers, my fellows in the trenches, have learned from your own experiences with query letters.

What was the best advice you received on writing queries? How do you decide whom to query first? Do you dare "menage a queri" (you know, in multiples)? What little tricks have helped you write or even want to write these nasty little oversimplified descriptions of your precious darlings? (Ahem.) That is to say, when staring down the Writer's Market, where do you focus your efforts?

When it comes to queries, what has worked, or conversely, what would would you never ever do again? Give us your best, worst, funniest query stories.

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18. My Pet Book by Bob Staake

I am a big fan of the work of Bob Staake and I hope you'll take time at the end of this review to explore his other books, many of which I have reviewed here. His newest picture book, My Pet BOOK, perfectly presents Staake's wacky sensibilities and his colorfully crowded world while expressing the joys of books and reading at the same time. Set in Smartytown, we meet a boy who wants a

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19. Poetry Friday -- You Are There




You Are There
by Erica Jong


You are there.
You have always been
there.
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
arrival.
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just
germinating.

To live is to be
uncertain.
Certainty comes
at the end.



June and July have been travel months of for me: Indiana, Hocking Hills, Michigan, Colorado, and next up, Vermont. I like Erica Jong's answer to the question, "Where am I?" 

As Back to School ads and sales rev up and I feel like I should be thinking even more about the upcoming school year than I already am (no school nightmares yet, though...knock wood), I will hold onto that last stanza.

Sylvia and Janet have the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Poetry For Children


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20. The vote for women bishops

vsi bannerBy Linda Woodhead


There are two kinds of churches.  The ‘church type’, as the great sociologist Ernst Troeltsch called it, has fuzzy boundaries and embraces the whole of society. The ‘sect type’ has hard boundaries and tries to keep its distance. Until recently, the Church of England has been the former – a church ‘by law established’ for the whole nation. Since the 1980s, however, the Church has veered towards sectarianism. It’s within this context that we have to understand the significance of the recent vote for women bishops.

Robert Runcie (Archbishop of Canterbury 1980 to 1991) was the last leader to have no doubts about the Church’s role as a pillar of society. That didn’t mean he was a flunky of the social establishment. When he prayed for the dead on both sides of the Falklands War, or commissioned the Faith in the City report which criticised the Thatcher government, he did so from a confident position at the centre of things rather than as critic standing on the margins.

A shift away from this stance began under Runcie’s successor, George Carey (Archbishop from 1991-2002). Carey was part of the modern evangelical wing of the Church, some of whose members were already pushing for the Church to keep its distance from ‘secular’ society, but it was under Archbishop Rowan Williams (2002-2012) that the really decisive shift took place.

The background was a British society whose values were changing rapidly. My recent surveys of British beliefs and values reveal a remarkably swift liberalisation of attitudes. In this context, liberalism is the conviction that all adults should be equally free to make up their minds about choices which affect them directly. Its opposite is not conservatism but paternalism – the view that one should defer to higher authorities.

In the 1960s and ‘70s the Church of England was travelling with society in a broadly liberal direction, with prominent Anglicans supporting the liberalisation of laws relating to abortion, homosexuality, and divorce. But after Runcie, Anglican leaders made a U-turn. The extension of equal rights to women and gay people proved hardest for them to swallow. At stake for evangelicals was God-ordained male headship, and for Anglo-Catholics, an exclusively male priesthood extending back to Christ himself, and good relations with Rome.

Under the leadership of Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, the Church of England campaigned successfully to be exempted from provisions of the new equality legislation, took a hard line against homosexual practice and gay marriage, and made continuing concessions to the opponents of women’s progress in the Church (women had first been ordained priests in 1994, expecting that the office of bishop would be opened to them soon after).

Williams often behaved like an outsider to mainstream English society. He was a fierce critic of liberal ‘individualism’, and thought that religious people should huddle together against the chilly winds of secularism (hence his support for sharia law). He favoured the moral conservatism of African church leaders over the liberalism of American ones, and made disastrous compromises with illiberal factions in the Church. It was the latter which led to the failure of the last vote for women bishops in 2012 – shortly before Williams stepped down.

Williams’ supporters can say that he maintained Anglican unity, both at home and abroad. But the cost has been enormous. Church of England numbers have collapsed,  and it has become more marginal to society and most people’s lives than ever before.

So the vote to allow women bishops is a turning-point which may see the Church re-engage the moral sentiments of the majority of its members and the country as a whole. But the sectarian tendency remains strong. Although Archbishop Welby supports women bishops, he remains opposed to same-sex marriage and assisted dying, and takes very seriously the relationship with African churches and their leaders. The sectarian fringes of the Church remain influential, and the bishops remain isolated from the views of ordinary Anglicans. The Church as a whole creaks under the weight of historic buildings, unimaginative mangerialism, and sub-democratic structures.

Over the last few decades the Church of England has missed a great opportunity to reinvent itself as a genuinely liberal form of religion in a world suffering from an excess of sectarian religion of illiberal and paternalistic kinds. It lost its nerve at the crucial moment, forgetting that liberalism has Christian as well as secular roots, and reading Britain’s drive towards greater freedom and toleration as permissive rather than moral.

To task Anglican clergywomen with putting all this right is to ask too much. But the vote for women bishops strikes a blow against sectarian ‘male’ Christianity. And if the Church is serious about drawing closer to the people it is meant to serve, then becoming representative of half the population and an even bigger proportion of Anglicans has to count as a significant step in the right direction.

Linda Woodhead is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University, UK. Her research interests lie in the entanglements of religion, politics, and economy, both historically and in the contemporary world. Between 2007 and 2013 she directed the Religion and Society Programme http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk, the UK’s largest ever research investment on religion. She is the author of Christianity: A Very Short Introduction, which comes out in its second edition in August. She tweets from @LindaWoodhead.

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Image credit: Common Worship Books, by Gareth Hughes (Own work). CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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21. José Manuel Mateo and Javier Martínez Pedro’s Migrant

9781419709579_p0_v1_s260x420

The recent attention being paid to the many young undocumented immigrants coming across our country’s southern border brings to mind the remarkable book, Migrant by  José Manuel Mateo’s and illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro. This story of one young boy’s difficult migration from Mexico to the United States is one spectacular book. Beginning in a rural village, readers learn why the young boy’s mother makes the difficult decision to leave. Their father has already left and, when he stops sending money and she cannot find work locally, she decides to leave with her two children, the narrator and his sister. The rest of the story is of their hard and frightening journey as they make way to Los Angeles. What really makes the book stand-out is that the poignant words are illustrated by one huge piece of art. Inspired by the codices the early people of Mexico and Central America, the intricate black and white art is viewed in an accordion format, something you fold it out as you read the story of the family’s journey. You can get a sense of this and the art itself at Jules’ featured post about it here.  Highly, highly recommended.


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22. VINTAGE - pinterest

Today's Friday eye candy feature all comes from the Pinterest boards of Arden Kuhlman Riordan. Arden is the daughter of Graphic Designers Roy and Gilda Kuhlman and it is obvious she has a passion for mid century graphics and illustration. Her boards are a treasure trove of design on book covers, records, posters, and more. You can see a wealth of artists such as Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Dick Bruna

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23. Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist

       They've announced the thirteen-title strong longlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize -- open to UK-published novels by writers from anywhere (previously: only from the UK, Commonwealth, plus Zimbabwe and the Republic of Ireland) -- i.e. for the first time also by American writers.
       The longlisted titles are:

  • The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • The Dog by Joseph O'Neill
  • History of the Rain by Niall Williams
  • How to be Both by Ali Smith
  • J by Howard Jacobson
  • The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers
  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
  • Us by David Nicholls
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
       Several of these haven't even been published in the UK yet, much less in the US; I haven't seen a one of these, save the Ferris, which happened to be available at the library yesterday, so I picked it up. I expect to read/cover several of these when/if I do get copies: the Mitchell, Smith, Jacobson, and -- if it gets a US publisher -- the Mukherjee.
       Notable titles that didn't make the cut: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (suggesting the judging panel has at least a modicum of sense/taste), as well as works by Ian McEwan, Philip Hensher, Nicola Barker, Martin Amis, and Will Self. As usual, however, the Man Booker folks don't even reveal what titles were in the running -- some of these may not even have been submitted by their publishers (though quite a few get automatic byes due to their author's books' past performance) [Judge Sarah Churchwell even tweeted that we should: "bear in mind that what we longlist is defined by what publishers submit to us" -- a valid point, which however does nothing to explain why the Man Booker folk won't let on what books were actually in the running .....]
       Apparently 154 titles were submitted/considered [as I suspected, judge Sarah Churchwell's claim of considering/reading 160 submissions was incorrect and inflated] -- not a terrible increase from last year's 151 -- with entries from the Commonwealth (excluding the UK) down to 31 (versus 43 last year), while: "44 titles were by authors who are now eligible under the new rule changes" (presumably all of whom are US authors). So, yes, as feared US authors 'took' some places from UK and Commonwealth authors -- and quite a few places on the longlist -- but things didn't turn out quite as bad as some feared. Books LIVE has a useful look at the country-of-origin of longlisted authors (debatable though some of these are) since 2001, suggesting the inclusion of American authors has indeed come at the cost of Commonwealth and African authors.
       Among the other observations/criticisms: the gender disparity -- as noted, for example, by Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life weblog, in Really, Man Booker Prize ? 10 male authors, 3 female ? (Again -- and as she also notes --: part of the problem may be what the publishers are submitting. Which is kept secret, for no good reason .....)
       In the UK they're taking bets, of course -- Ladbrokes have Mukherjee as 3/1 favorite, ahead of Mitchell and Smith (6/1) -- and offer 2/1 that an American author wil take the prize. (But remember to compare odds at various betting shops before placing your bets !)

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24. Summer Vacation – lllustration by Bob Ostrom Studio

summer vacation, beach, sun tan, illustration, bob ostromSummer Vacation!

Hope everyone is having a great summer! Last week I headed down to the beach here in North Carolina for a short little summer vacation. Unfortunately it rained harder than I’ve ever seen it rain. It was one of those rains where you think it can’t possibly rain any harder but then it does….all day. Just as we checked into the hotel it started let up. The sun popped out for about an hour and half so the kids and I grabbed our boogie boards and headed down to the ocean. Right about the time we decided to to get out of the water the rain came back. And so it went the following day. Two hours of sun at the beach in the morning (with the darkest storm cloud I’ve ever seen on the horizon) followed by a torrential down pour. Since we don’t live too far we decided enough was enough, jumped in the car and headed back home. All in all everyone had a pretty great time. I think maybe we’ll head down another time before the summer is done and see if we can’t get a little better weather.

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25. Character Development: What Makes a Villain a Villain?

What makes a villain a villain? I’ve always been a fascinated—and a little bit terrified—of villains, especially in fairytales. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs even if the old witch sent me diving into our couch cushions to hide my eyes.

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