Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nina's Five in a Flash

In honor of our micro-month, five books that truly leap in small spaces.

Haywire by Thaddeus Rutkowski (Starcherone Books, $18)

Variety of Disturbance: Stories by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $14)

Running In the Family by Michael Ondaatje (Vintage, $15)
[Note: the bookstore is holding a discussion of Running in the Family tonight, as part of our Life Stories Book Group!]

House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage, $11)

Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel (Harper Perennial, $13.99)

February 2012, Nina Jones

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Maleka's Five Books of a Dystopian Nature

All of these books show glimpses (or huge perspectives) of where our world can go if we continue on paths of environmental destruction, war, and other sad and oppressing states. Another world is possible!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (HarperCollins, $14.99)

[Note: Brave New World is also one of Maleka's April Picks and Erica's August 2010 Picks.]

1984 by George Orwell (Signet Classics, $9.99)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, $8.99)

[Note: The Hunger Games is also one of Maleka's October 2010 Picks and the basis for Kate's January 2011 Picks.]

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (Random House, $7.50, 11.95, or in omnibus form for $21.99)

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (Fawcett Books, $7.99)

February 2012, Maleka Fruean

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cordelia’s Five Books from the School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids’ Books

Successful children's authors, such as Lauren Myracle and Sara Zarr, judge this year’s book battle! Read some of the contenders and join the discussion.

Chime by Franny Billingsley*** (Penguin, $17.99; $8.99 paperback due out in April!)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, $18.99)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins, $15.99)

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami*** (Simon & Schuster, $16.99)

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, $29.99)

***One of my teachers at Vermont College of the Fine Arts!

February 2012, Cordelia Jensen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jen's Five Books to Keep You Afloat

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Puffin, $4.99)
“I can't come back! I don't know how it works!” This cry from the Wizard of Oz film is good for a laugh, but in the book the Wizard calls only, “I can't come back, my dear...Good-by!” That's because the Wizard does know how it works, having worked closely with Dorothy to cut and sew together long strips of green silk in different shades, coat the inside of the bag with glue, and then fill it with hot air (which he concedes is not quite as good as gas, but will probably do). I love that I learned stuff like this from the books I read as a kid...

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois (Puffin, $6.99)
I learned even more about hot air ballooning from The Twenty-One Balloons, which my fourth grade teacher read to us in class. Diagrams and descriptions of actual balloon-related inventions punctuate this fanciful story of a lone balloonist, the island of Krakatoa, and the absurd intentional community he finds there in 1883. From this book I also learned what really happened to Krakatoa in 1883.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon & Schuster, $9.99)
Steampunk is generally held to contain both gadgetry and dirigibles. There are plenty of gadgets here, as the Central (“Clanker”) Powers in this alternate 1914 have armed themselves with mechanical walking vehicles. The Allied (“Darwinist”) Powers, on the other hand, have developed living dirigibles, spun together from the “life threads” of different species. I know I've already recommended this young adult series twice before (and Nif once); it's really that good. And I've learned a lot about the history of WWI. (The real history, that is.)

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, $15.00)
Dirigibles don't have a leading role here, and so it took me a while to find the part of the book where Thursday travels by airship. But I always describe this world as “an alternate 1985, in which the Hindenburg disaster never happened”. There's genetic engineering in this world too, with dodos, mammoths, and neanderthals brought back from extinction. Literature is both more prominent and more of a commodity, with manuscripts (and forgeries) exchanged on the black market, chased by our intrepid hero, Literary Detective and Crimean War vet Thursday Next. (Yes, the Crimean War. In 1985.)

[Note: The Thursday Next series has been previously quoted on the blog, and Jasper Fforde is also one of my August Picks.]

Changeless by Gail Carriger (Orbit, $7.99)
This is book 2 of the Parasol Protectorate series (book 5 is due out in February!), in which Alexia Tarabotti, preternatural (soulless) and working for Queen Victoria, travels the length of England by dirigible, in the company of her sister Felicity and friend Ivy (both human), to investigate the mysterious humanizing affliction of the local supernaturals (carriers of excess soul). If she’s off her dinner and nearly tossed off the airship, will that change how she feels about air travel?

[Note: Changeless has been previously quoted on the blog, and Book 1, Soulless, is one of Erica's October 2010 Picks.]

Some aeronautical runners-up: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

February 2012, Jennifer Sheffield

Monday, February 20, 2012

Erica’s Five Books: You Just Can’t Trust a House

What is it with houses? You kill someone in one of them and they’re just like elephants—they never forget. They go on about their business providing shelter and whatnot, but they’re irrevocably imbued with some kind of evil. What’s the deal, houses? Can’t we all just get along? Here are five novels starring real estate you definitely don’t want to own.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Riverhead, $16.00)
Demented domicile: Hundreds Hall.

“I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain—like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun.” Downton Abbey, it ain’t.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Penguin, $16.00)
Demented domicile: The Angel of Mist.

“As I neared the mansion I noticed that one of the statues, the figure of an avenging angel, had been dumped into the fountain that was the centerpiece of the garden…The hand of the fiery angel emerged from the water; an accusing finger, as sharp as a bayonet, pointed to the front door of the house.” Nota bene: when avenging angels point in one direction, it's best to walk in the opposite.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Vintage, $15.00)
Demented domicile: 124.

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.” Dude, angry ghost babies are the pits. And you know what’s even worse than angry ghost babies? Angry ghost babies of ex-slaves.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $16.00)
Demented domicile: The Hanging House.

“I had never seen a vacant house before, so I didn’t know what an ordinary vacant house looked like, but I guess I figured it would have a sad, beaten sort of look, like an abandoned dog, or a cicada’s cast-off shell. The Miyawakis’ house, though, was nothing like that. It didn’t look 'beaten' at all. The minute the Miyawakis left it got this knowing look on its face…You just can’t trust a house.” Tell me about it, they’re always telling your secrets and airing your dirty laundry in their backyards.

The Shining by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster, $8.99)
Demented domicile: The Overlook Hotel.

“The Overlook was built in the years 1907 to 1909. The closest town is Sidewinder, forty miles east of here over roads that are closed from sometime in late October or November until sometime in April. A man named Robert Townley Watson built it, the grandfather of our present maintenance man. Vanderbilts have stayed here, and Rockefellers, and Astors, and Du Ponts. Four Presidents have stayed in the Presidential Suite.” Guess what? I’m still not booking my next vacation there.

February 2012, Erica David

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sheila’s Five Books of Adventure for Warrior Girls...and Boys

There’s an idea in the publishing industry that girls will read books about boys, but boys won’t read books about girls. These are some books (and series) that disprove that notion! All of these are the first book in a series, so once your kid gets hooked, there are plenty more to keep them going.

The Amulet graphic novel series (Book 1 is Stonekeeper) by Kazuo Kibuishi (Scholastic, $10.99)
Emily finds she has inherited an amulet that will allow her to save her mother, but it also commits her to saving an entire alternate world. First, she must master the power of her stone. Beautifully drawn and full of gorgeous steampunk detail, this will please adventurers, artists, and reluctant readers. First grade and up.

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Random House, $17.99; paperback coming in April for $7.99)
Kate, Michael, and Emma aren’t really orphans, even though only Kate remembers their parents. After they arrive at an orphanage where they are the only wards, they travel through time, escape a villainous countess, and quest through underground realms to find the secret of a powerful book whose destiny is entwined with theirs. Fourth grade and up.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (Amulet, $15.95)
Another graphic novel offering, Mirka is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who would rather fight dragons than learn to knit--though it may just be that those two activities have more in common than you might think. I love it that Mirka’s stepmother is pretty much the opposite of evil (though she can be a little brusque). For Third grade and up.

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (Penguin, $6.99)
When her mother disappears, Enola Holmes, Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister, runs away rather than allow herself to be sent to boarding school, and embarks on her own investigations. Every bit as much a master of disguise as her famous brother, these are full of adventure. Fifth grade and up.

Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt (Simon and Schuster, $6.99)
Gwyn is the innkeeper’s daughter and has heard stories of Jackaroo her entire life, how he rides out of the hills to champion the common folk against the greed and exploitation of careless lords. They’re only tales, though...or aren’t they? Seventh grade and up.

February 2012, Sheila Avelin

Friday, February 17, 2012

Claudia's Love List for February

Soo... its this time of year where common people are bombarded with chocolate hearts, heart decorations, heart cakes, hearts, hearts, hearts.....

That makes me think of the movie Love Actually with the grandiose Bill Nighy. You remember the lyrics: I can feel it in my fingers, I can it feel in my toes. Love (actually Christmas) is all around us...

My list contains only titles that reflect on this hearty time:

Peony in LOVE by Lisa See (Random House; $4.00)

The Forty Rules of LOVE by Elif Shafak (Penguin Books; $16.00)

The I LOVE You Book by Todd Parr (Little, Brown and Company; $9.99)

One LOVE, based on the song by Bob Marley, adapted by Cedella Marley (Chronicle books; $16.99)

Fancy Nancy LOVES! LOVES! LOVES! A reusable sticker book - wow - based on Jane O'Connor (Harper Festival; $6.99)

Happy Valentine!

February 2012, Claudia Vesterby

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Poetic Profile: Quincy Scott Jones

1) How would you describe your poetry?

It’s hard to describe one’s own work, but after reading my work, one of my most respected mentors described me as “one odd dude.”

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

I know it sounds cliché, but poetry is life. You breathe it, you hear it, you wear it on your skin. Poetry sends you text messages, e-mail alerts, and somehow gets invited to Sunday night dinner.

The only problem is finding a way for poetry to pay the bills.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

The Usual Suspects:

Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Askia M. Toure, Lewis Carroll, Lamont B. Steptoe, Zora Neal Hurston, Gil Scot Heron, Sherman Alexie, Alan Moore, Philip K. Dick (need to read more), Fran Ross, Richard Pryor, Saul Williams, Tracy Morris, Robert Hayden, Nella Larsen, Larry Neal, Biggie – Tupac – Kafka – Whoopi, Robin Williams, William F Van Wert (Bill), Bill Withers, Richard Wright, Steven Wright.

Oh, and the author of the alphabet: whoever wrote that song wrote everything (old Steven Wright joke).

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

For all her conflicts, few mention how Philadelphia, much like America, is a community of communities: the blues of Olde City echo in the rhythm of West Philly, in the funk of South Philly, all while the satellite communities like Arcadia and 69th Street dance along. Philadelphia is a city of cities, a new discovery every day.

Of course, I was raised in Jersey, so maybe it’s just new to me.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

I’m looking forward to reading this new book, Old News. I forgot the author’s name, but I hear it’s really good.

Quincy Scott Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, a master’s degree from Temple University, and $100 once working as a supermarket clown. His work has been or is forthcoming in African American Review, Journal of Pan African Studies, Water~Stone Review, California Quarterly, Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75, and the anthology From Where We Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth. Since 2006 he has taught “Poetry on Page and Stage,” a course exploring the idea of poetry as live performance as well as a performance on the page. With Nina Sharma Jones, he co-created the Nor’easter Exchange: a multicultural, multi-city reading series. His first book, The T-Bone Series, was published by Whirlwind Press in 2009.

Quincy Scott Jones and Ryan Eckes will be reading this Saturday, February 18th at 5pm. Please come check them out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poetic Profile: Ryan Eckes

1) How would you describe your poetry?

Hard to say since the form’s always changing—quickly in mind, slowly on paper—but in general so far it’s been a poetry of place: Philadelphia, how bodies move through it and what they say. There’s a lot of found/overheard language I try to respond to and hear myself through a mess of, toward some truth. I’ve described my poems before as “motion machines,” like songs you can step into and go for a ride if you want, but that’s not always the case anymore.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

It’s always on my mind, and I read some every day.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

Most immediately those I meet up with most often: Frank Sherlock, Steve Dolph, Stan Mir, Ian Davisson, Carlos Soto Román, CAConrad. Many in Philadelphia. Many others from a distance, alive and dead. Lately an old standby is Ted Berrigan.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

Of the many communities in Philadelphia, there’s a poetry one that plays a large part because I’m reading and hearing their work a lot. There’s also my neighbors, past and present, students, all kinds of friends—anyone I’ve ever really listened to moves through me and into the poetry. And sometimes it’s just the sounds of the machinery making me go.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

Well, I just read a bunch all at once over the last month, and it was a great experience. These are all sort of swirling together:

Clearview/Lie by Ted Greenwald

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany

Mercury by Ariana Reines

“neither wit nor gold” (from then) by Ammiel Alcalay

Hughson’s Tavern by Fred Moten

Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus

Humiliation by Wayne Koestenbaum

Ventrakl by Christian Hawkey

Scared Text by Eric Baus

Any combination of those’ll work for you, I bet, if you want meaningful criticism of this country we live in, and to see better, if not feel, and serious beauty.

Ryan Eckes was born in Philadelphia in 1979. He's the author of Old News (Furniture Press 2011) and when i come here (Plan B Press 2007). More of his poetry can be found on his blog and in various magazines.

Ryan Eckes and Quincy Scott Jones will be reading this Saturday, February 18th at 5:00pm. Please come check them out!