Friday, October 29, 2010

Erica’s Five Adventures in Steampunk

Already you’re looking at me funny and I didn’t even do anything. I just said "steampunk" and you were all: huh? And I was all: you know, it’s kind of like a futuristic vision of the world based on a distinctly Victorian version of the future peopled with fantastical steam-powered machines, dirigibles called airships, people who fly them called aeronauts, bustles, monocles, goggles and other coggy, clockwork goodness inspired by the writings of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and authors of that ilk. You’re all: dude, you’re blowing my mind. Let’s go get an Orange Julius.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor, $15.99)
While some version of Victorian England is often the setting for a steampunk adventure, it’s not a prerequisite. Boneshaker takes place in 19th century Seattle, in the midst of an alternative history where the Civil War still rages. The titular Boneshaker is an incredible drill engine which has destroyed Seattle proper, having released a poisonous gas that turns people into zombies. Zeke Wilkes enters the gas lands to clear his father’s name and it’s up to his resourceful mother Briar to track him down. Briar is definitely the clockwork heart of this fabulous, fantastical yarn which ticks toward conclusion at a rollicking pace.

Girl Genius Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil and Kaja Foglio (Studio Foglio, $22.95)
The tagline says it all: a gaslamp fantasy with adventure, romance and mad science! I’m just gaga for mad science and Girl Genius doesn’t disappoint. It follows plucky heroine Agatha Clay, er, Heterodyne, a student at Transylvania Polynostic University, who, despite her dedication to the world of ingenious invention, can never actually get her inventions to work. All of that changes however, through a series of extraordinary events which reveal that Agatha may be a Spark, i.e., one with a special hereditary genius for mad science. This beautiful color edition graphic novel collects the first three issues of this ongoing comic turned web comic, which were originally published in black and white.

Soulless by Gail Carriger (Orbit, $7.99)
The first in what’s now the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless features heroine Alexia Tarabotti who finds herself quite without a soul. Hellfire and damnation! I hate it when that happens. But don’t worry about Alexia, she’s got the perfect blend of grit and determination couched in impeccable manners to lead you through this frothy romp through a 19th century London peopled with vampires, preternaturals and other things that go bump in the gaslamp-lit night. Did I mention the ferociously dashing Lord Conall Maccon, Scottish werewolf? Insert sexy growl here.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 by Alan Moore (Wildstorm, $14.99)
I want to be Alan Moore when I grow up. He’s given us Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and a ton of other brilliant graphic novels and comics which haven’t been made into sh*tty movies. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was also made into a movie and its sh*tt*ness is debatable, but fortunately I’m talking about the graphic novel which isn’t sh*tty in the least. Six of England’s most brilliant champions, Alan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Mr. Edward Hyde and Mina Murray (the former Mrs. Harker) are assembled by the mysterious Campion Bond to defeat a nefarious baddie bent on world domination. I love it when literary heroes team up like the Super Friends to kick some nefarious-criminal-mastermind-ass.

Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters (Quirk, $12.95)
The publishing kids these days are calling it a “mash-up” when you take a classic and add in some genre-bending element like fangers, werethings and zombie-doodles. I thought I was bored already, but then Android Karenina came along. I’ll be honest; I thought the original Anna Karenina was a total snooze-fest, so I’m all in favor of trying to spice it up by adding a few robots and airships. Plus there are pictures! Uh, maybe you would call them illustrations or plates. In fact there’s like a table of them. Faaaaaanncy! But seriously, though, this latest mash-up is jolly good steampunk fun, even while it explores class struggle and cultural politics through the lens of a robot servant class. It’s an improvement on the original for sure. Yeah, I said it. Strike me down, Tolstoy.

October 2010, Erica David

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five Books Maleka Wants to Read (or Finish) This Fall

I start a lot of books and never finish them. It's not that I don't like them! It's just that there's laundry and book clubs and life. And then there are books that I never start but I keep staring at them in the store, petting them, waiting for the day to make them mine and devour the story whole. Okay, here's the list:

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine (Anchor Books, $16.00)
Need. to. finish. this. Such a good beginning!

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak (Viking, $25.95)
Also started but did not finish. I cannot wait to keep going. It's a love story with Rumi, y'all!

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, $8.99)
I love dystopias. No, seriously. One of my favorite books of all time is Brave New World! I can't wait to start this.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Knopf, $24.95)
Hey, guys, I like to do things in bare feet! Also I want to start running again. I think this will give me inspiration.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Vintage Crime, $14.95)
I started this. I really wanted to love it so much that I wouldn't put it down for two days. But I just kind of liked it in a very medium sort of way. I want to finish though. I need to see why people love it!

October 2010, Maleka Fruean

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jen’s Five Books on the Power of the Written Word

Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin
(Houghton, $7.95)

When the city’s long-time invaders have outlawed all books and writing as the work of demons, how dangerous is it to live in a house with a secret library?

The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
(Penguin, $7.99)

Sometimes the best way to make sense of your life -- or your life as you wish it to be -- is to start writing it down.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
(Simon & Schuster, $16.99)

A grudging extra credit international pen pal project turns into a surprising exploration of culture, gender, and writing.

Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
(HarperCollins, $5.99)

Does “special” have to mean “special education”? Or can a particular teacher turn it into something quite different?

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (HarperCollins, $8.99)
Take a small packet of letters, full of instructions and ideas, and open them one at a time...

October 2010, Jennifer Sheffield

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kate’s Five Books That Changed the Way She Thinks About Society

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich (Holt Paperbacks, $14.00)

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole by Benjamin Barber (Norton, $16.95)

The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler (Vintage Books, $16.00)

The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality by Walter Benn Michaels (Owl Books, $15.00)

Flat Broke With Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform by Sharon Hays (Oxford University Press, $19.95)

October 2010, Kate Musliner

Monday, October 25, 2010

Janet’s Five Books to Share with Your Daughter When the Time Is Right

Big Blue Marble Bookstore stocks a wonderful array of books dealing with physical and emotional maturation. Sharing the written word can often aid a mother's introductory fact-sharing regarding sexual development. You can leave books out to be pored over in private, which often leads to greater comfort and preparation. As your child gets older and privacy becomes more important, books can provide a sense of normalcy to the highs and lows of emotional swings and the equally shifting tides of friendships. Below are a few choices available at our store:

Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler, MPH (HarperCollins, $14.95)

Body Drama by Nancy Amanda Redd (Penguin, $20.00)

Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton (Zest Books, $12.95)

Taking Care of Your "Girls" by Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. and Isabel Friedman (Three River Press, $15.95)

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley (Candlewick Press, $12.99)

October 2010, Janet Elfant

Monday, October 18, 2010

Five Books About Earth That Prove Mo Has a Dirty Mind

Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Crisis by Vandana Shiva (South End Press, $15.00)

I love this book. Using India as a kind of case study, Shiva gives a brilliant critique of industrial agriculture and the failures of many forms of “development” to improve the lives of the poor or address climate change. She also explains how our current crisis also provides an opportunity to establish what she calls “Earth Democracy,” a truly democratic society that values the earth and the local independent farmer.

The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic America by Patricia Klindeinst (Random House, $18.00)
Klindeinst challenges the image of migrants and immigrants as “uprooted” through descriptions of several families and communities shape their adopted lands by farming and gardening.

Two Picture Books for Kids
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, Ilustrated by Ashley Wolf (Random House, $15.99)

What goes into compost?

[Editor's note: Compost Stew is also one of Jen's August Picks.]

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin (Joanna Cotler Books, $16.99)
The inner thoughts and desires of a worm can be pretty hilarious.

A Picture Book for Grown-ups
A Field Guide to Sprawl by Dolores Hayden, with Photographs by Jim Wark (W.W. Norton, $22.95)

Aerial photos of landscapes that demonstrate our terrifying infrastructure, parking lots, and developments at their worst.

October 2010, Mo Speller

Friday, October 15, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for Oct 15-21

Poetic License Horoscope Oct 15-21

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Take yourself home early tonight, Libra. Light a candle for each bauble in your jewelry box heart—diamonds to costume—and drink hot cocoa amidst the conflagration. Happy birthday, again.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Sally Draper’s one friend in the world is Glen, a football-playing misfit and fellow child of divorce. He listens to her talk about her dreams. Let’s pretend Betty isn’t about to separate them!

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): You would travel all the way across town to root for a friend, even if she’s just singing karaoke. Pick your favorite song and join her. Bonus points if it’s “Don’t Stop Believin.”

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): The other day my wife and I waited in line for four hours to see The Roots and President Obama at the “Moving America Forward” rally. Both have themes of change and ask “Why do haters separate us like we Siamese?”

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, /the world offers itself to your imagination, /calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting-/over and over announcing your place/in the family of things.”—Mary Oliver

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Rose, the main character, can taste the emotions of the people who’ve prepared the food she eats. She is usually 1. Very hungry. 2. Eating very processed foods for their factory anonymity. and 3. Envying her friend Eliza, whose sandwiches taste like happiness.

Aries (March 21-April 18): Volunteer to work in the upcoming election. It may not work, but it’s more fun than helplessness.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): When I first moved to Philadelphia, I worked with children from Fulton Elementary School. When the President spoke at that same school the other day, we ended up behind my favorite Fulton student. Out of a crowd of 18,000! It felt like a nod from the Universe.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): Take an extra walk today. The air smells like acorns and ozone. The fall flowers are bejeweling the place—blue salvia, fuchsia and purple aster, sunflower and dried hydrangea. Take a break from your headphones and listen to birds.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): A pal of mine included special pre-party suggestions in her party invite, to keep people from being too early and awkward. Somebody’s gotta arrive first, though, and those are your best friends.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Enjoy this quote from Le Petit Prince: "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world. . ."

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): I had a dream that you were sitting around a table talking on the subject of “belonging.” Everyone in the group was saying things like “I don’t know how to make friends.” “I don’t know how to make connections.” and “I feel kind of extra.” You all bonded on having the exact same fears, then went out for drinks.

by Jane Cassady

Friday, October 08, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for Oct 8-14

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Oh, darling. You need a good, bossy wife, someone to keep the fridge full of nutrients, let you spend what you need to, make you sleep regularly, to check if you’re taking actual lunch breaks at work, which should preferably be spent reading.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Parents whose children have achieved You Tube fame should leave well enough alone. I don’t need to see “Kittens Inspired By Kittens Girl Explains World War II” or “Deleted Scenes from Jessica’s Affirmation.” Let the kids go outside, already.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Make yourself a mix called “Positive Expressions of Negative Emotions.” You may want to include “I Don’t Love Anyone” by Belle and Sebastian, which includes: “I met a man today/And he told me something pretty strange. There's always somebody saying something/He said, "The world was as soft as lace."

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): At the end of this week’s Mad Men, Dr. Faye has sold herself out for the good of Don’s company. She lays her head on his shoulder and “Welcome to my World” plays over the credits. Influence is real. Avoid snuggling up to handsome shapeshifters.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): I’m bothered by the Lifetime-ization of this season’s Project Runway—you can hardly tell its promos from Reviving Ophelia’s. Let’s leave aside the broken heroines and get back to the sewing, please.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Rumi wrote: “Each has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird.” Collect your twigs and ribbon, your delicate detritus, your molted feathers. Use your little mess to decorate someone’s heart.

Aries (March 21-April 18): It’s GBLT History Month! Celebrate by visiting “It Gets Better,” Dan Savage’s You Tube channel where LGBT grown-ups post videos encouraging our youth to hang in there. The wife and I are gonna make a video for it, just as soon as we clean the house.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): In the immortal words of Tracey Jordan: “I lost my mood ring and I don’t know how I feel about it.”

Gemini (May 19-June 21): I went and visited my childhood home last week. The latest owners had fixed it up so nice and cheerful. It was freshly painted and expanded, and they added more trees, a pond, and a carriage house—fancy! Seeing it that way made my soul feel refurbished.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): See how many versions of “I Can’t Stand the Rain” you can find/ I think you’ll discover that not only are you super fly, but you are, in fact, super duper fly.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): The radio edit of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” sounds really boring. While redubbers-of-80s-movies-for-TV may disagree, “Forget” is not a synonym for “Fuck.”

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): I’m having trouble thinking up any slogans to put on a placard for my trip down to Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”—I think maybe that’s because I am immoderate. Oh well, emotional lefties change the world all the time for the better.

by Jane Cassady

Friday, October 01, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope for Oct 1-7

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Happy Birthday Month, Libra! Make 100 wishes, fill them out on laminated cards, and read them like the Tarot to strangers.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Will Sally Draper actually get to go see the Beatles at Shea Stadium like her father promised, or will her ticket go to Don’s pretty new secretary? It’s really the only plot point that matters.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Stand up to the sitcom bullies of your life, get back your lunch money, your heart, your publication credits; hold them like treasure in your fists, like weight.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, began his path to positivity by discovering that tortured dogs often do not take the chance to leap over a partition to freedom. This is called learned helplessness. Some of the dogs did leap, though. That’s you.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): Katy Perry said that being on Sesame Street was the best thing that ever happened to her in her life. Watch her chase Elmo around in the banned-from-Sesame-Street-video. Meditate on opposites.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Experiment with space like this: leave a crowded room full of noise and go walk around the block with someone you trust. See what you find. When you get back, the noise won’t matter.

Aries (March 21-April 18): In the debut issue of Apiary (a journal of Philadelphia poets), Laura Spagnoli wrote a gorgeous and funny poem about the PECO building, which includes the following: “We are 40 foot LED words/digital dolls, rainbow colorized/We are local time and temperature.”

Taurus (April 19-May 18): They used to only make tinsel for Christmas, but now there’s everything: heart tinsel, bat tinsel, Easter egg tinsel, etc. Build yourself a fortress of it.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): The world is your apple orchard. there’s no need to pay for the hayride, we can walk to the trees. Fill up your bushels and carry them, have sweetness ‘til January.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): A few years ago I was babysitting my nephew Kieran. Even though it was a FREEZING April morning at the edge of Lake Ontario, we went to the playground. His little nose got very runny and I didn’t have a tissue, so I pulled my sweatshirt sleeve over my hand and told him to blow, then folded over the operative cuff. I wish I were always that loving.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): In Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom, there’s only one character who is not a jerk. She loves unconditionally and un-martyr-like. (SPOILER ALERT) She gets a songbird preserve named after her. That’s you.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): You were last seen lighting a match—was it to burn bridges or sit vigils? Either way, keep walking.

by Jane Cassady