Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Dead Beautiful" review

Here's another great review by Kathleen Ivy, this time delving into a debut teen novel.

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon is a highly readable tale that is likely to appeal to fans of such writers a Libba Bray and Lilith Saintcrow. Renee Winters is “every girl” and yet still displays character and backbone when confronted with moral dilemmas and unnerving circumstances that would send most sixteen-year-olds screaming into the night. (Which would not be a wise choice anyway, considering what is out there.) Dante, her enigmatic crush, certainly seems like the answer to every young girl’s prayer – but is he really? That is just one of the page turning questions. What is the curse that seems to haunt the grounds of Gottfried Academy? What actually killed Renee’s parents? How did Renee find her parents, and why is she seemingly drawn to find dead things? Why did Renee’s grandfather insist on her attendance at the academy and why did he leave her among strangers? What are the school monitors up to with their secret meetings? Confused and alone, Renee seeks answers to the mystery surrounding her and their intrinsic link to her own identity. Will she find them before it is too late, or will more people have to die lost in the twisting tunnels beneath Gottfried Academy?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Book, You Book,...E Book?

"To me, a book is a book, an electronic device is not, and love of books was the reason I started writing. I don't have a word processor, e-mail, any of that stuff. I write in longhand mostly, then put it on my typewriter as I go along. I don't have any interest in any of that electronic stuff, but I'm going on 85, and won't have to worry about it too much longer."

--Elmore Leonard, quoted on his website.

There has been a lot of talk about e-books in recent years. Those who are on the bandwagon talk excitedly about digital conversion and having any book you might want at the press of a button. Naysayers turn up their noses at the technology and worry that this may be the last nail in the coffin for the publishing industry. And booksellers? Well most of us try to adapt as much as possible and keep a watchful eye.

Amazon recently reported that they sold three times as many e-books for the Kindle in the first half of this year as they did last year. Then again, independent booksellers are reporting that their sales are up 1%, which is in line with other retail sales for the year. It seems that while e-books are exploding there are still some people steadfastly holding on to their paperbacks.

E-books seem like a perfect invention for those that spend a lot of time travelling. When I imagine the ideal e-book consumer I think of someone like George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, who is constantly on the move. For me the main appeal is the lack of weight and space that a Kindle would take up in a bag when compared to a stack of traditional books.

I’m a technophile. I love my laptop, iPod, email, and cellular phone (when it works). I spend a lot of time commuting, and hauling books with me to and fro. On the surface I seem to be a great candidate for such a gizmo. And yet, when asked if I wanted such a thing I can feel my lip curl in distaste. For me reading a book is more than ingesting content. It’s the feel of the pages in my hands. The smell of the paper. The finality when I turn that last page and close the cover. It’s a rich tactile experience. It’s the reason I printed all my online reading in college. Reading from a screen just isn’t the same. At least not for me.

I have friends on both sides of the fence. Friends who love their e-books intensely and friends who would sooner die than read Jane Austin on a screen. So what do you think? What’s your opinion? Are e-books the future, or will there always be a place for print?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For the Writers

Working in a bookstore I must say I was surprised to discover I was only one of two writers on staff. (A high-five goes out to my fellow coworker and compatriot, Kelsey.) While I know that obviously not all readers are writers, it is fairly true that most writers are readers. If ever there was a place to nestle into in between bouts of madness, err, authorial genius, it is surely a bookstore – I didn’t suspect I’d be one of the few (the proud?) to land amidst the stacks. Yet here I am: the resident oddball poet and novel scribbler.

It wasn’t long after I read my first book that I wrote my first short story (a saccharine tale about a girl that fell to Earth in a raindrop – every bit as youthful and trite as you probably imagine). For me writing and reading are intertwined, and both are as normal and necessary as breathing. And so I compile this entry for my fellow wordsmiths. Whether you pen novels, poetry, short stories, essays, letters, or even the occasional lengthy diary entry, I salute you. After all, without the writers this store would have remarkably empty shelves.

William Safire's Great Rules of Writing:

Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

For a more serious list of guidelines, Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander, has a list of Ten Rules for Writers that she recently shared with the LA Times. You can read them here.

And if you just want to waste a little time and have a giggle check out the I Write Like site and have your writing analyzed and compared to a famous author.

- t

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eye Love

Last week I got Lasik surgery. Well, not exactly Lasik, but PRK which is something very similar except the healing process takes longer. For those of you who aren't in the know, Lasik surgery is an operation involving lasers (awesome) that permanently corrects the vision of the patient.

Besides average fears and nervousness, I was most afraid as an avid reader. Anything that messes with my eyes is scary. I couldn't help but think of Jose Saramago's novel Blindness, in which an entire city is stricken by (what else?) blindness. The horrors in that story are so fantastic yet realistic that they stuck with me throughout the procedures. Fortunately, everything went perfectly, which is good because I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to learn braille.

To be fair to all the eye surgeons out there, I was being a tad dramatic. The odds of anything detrimental to my sight happening was astronomical. My eyes were, however, unable to focus properly for the first few days which meant I spent that whole time unable to read. Sick days were never the end of the world to me because it meant I had the perfect excuse to kick back for a day to sleep and read. Illness without this excuse was painful.

The long wait is finally over, though! As of this morning I was officially reading-ready and I was almost disappointed to get called out of the waiting room this morning just as I was beginning to sink back into my book. My vision isn't 100% quite yet, but just you wait for that to happen-- I'll be reading over your shoulder from miles away! I guess the "deep message" behind this "profound blog post" is don't take your vision for granted-- that alone gives you the perfect excuse to read as much as possible today!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Want To Know a Secret?

The real secret to Todd Mitchell’s book, The Secret to Lying, is that while it is shelved in the teen fiction section most adults would probably find it just as enjoyable and relevant. The story follows James Turner as he attempts to find a balance between who he is and who he wants to be. Invisible and ignored, James gets an opportunity to reinvent himself when he goes to a new school. His yearning to be noticed leads him to lie about his past and who he is, and as the lies snowball his eccentric bad-boy persona balloons until his true self becomes all but lost.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about this book is how radically it departs from what one might expect. While the plot is fairly typical, the prose and world it is set within are not. James frequently retreats into his dreams, which are far more bizarre and Burroughs-esque than one would ever expect. Disturbing and strange interior worlds mix with James’ crafted lies to form a collage of teen apprehension. When the only real thing in James’ world is the friendship he forms online with an unnamed person, reality becomes strangely fragile, vacant, and reflective, like a house formed of mirrors and windows.

While part of the charm of this book is in the characters and their adventures, what really makes the book pop is the snappy dialogue, solid prose, and honest heart. At its core this book is a foray into the absurd mixed with the grounded reality (and pain) of finding oneself and growing up. For a book all about the lies we tell to each other and ourselves this may be one of the most honest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

- t

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Post on Movie Adaptations

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!! If you haven't read The Road yet (are you living under a rock???) or seen the movie (definitely more forgivable) you might not want to read any further.

So, I finally did it. I rented The Road, sat down, and watched it. The whole thing!! I've been meaning to do this since it came out in theaters. I'd been following the progress of the film online before the many postponed release dates.

The first 90% of the movie was great. Suspenseful, emotional, and quick-moving, I sincerely enjoyed it. Then came the ending. Oh, the ending! Why, Hollywood, why?!?! I was barely able to control my scoffing when, at the conclusion of the movie, the boy is united with a family that had been "following them all along" including a mother and son I could have sworn we'd seen get hacked up earlier in the film. This wasn't right at all, so I determined to put my complaints to blog-form and tear the ending apart.

This is when things started to get funny. I sat down this morning, with the movie fresh in my mind and grabbed a copy of The Road off the shelf in order to reference the REAL ending. I was shocked to find that the movie HAD represented the "real" ending, almost word for word with the exception of a few corny lines delivered by the mother.

Had the two years since I'd read The Road been enough time for my brain to completely reshape the ending? I didn't think so, because I remembered discussing what I considered the "ambiguous and unclosed ending" with friends. I think, instead, that Hollywood is not to blame, but rather the conceptualizing of any written form. Basically, because I didn't trust the people at the end, I saw their appearance as ambiguous. When screenwriter Joe Penhall read the end, he must have seen the people as a force of good.

The problem with movies based on books is not always boiled down to poor adaptation. It's more that reading is so personal that no director can tap into our heads enough to portray scenes and characters the exact way we imagined it. No adaptation will ever please everyone simply because everyone related to the book in a different way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Do Vampires Suck?

Robyn Riley wrote an article in the Sunday Herald Sun taking a stand that "vampires are bloody annoying."

I think we can all agree that vampires seem to be everywhere these days. Lurking in movie theaters, television shows, and of course, bookshelves. This isn't the first time in recent history that vampires crept out of a popular book and overtook our popular culture. (Anyone else still remember Lestat?) I'll even admit to being a bit of a vampire fangirl, especially in my younger more "black lipstick" days. I watch True Blood, spin Concrete Blonde's album Bloodletting, and have a hard-bound gold cover copy of Interview with the Vampire. So naturally I must be jumping for joy about all of the new vampire blood on the scene (pun intended). Right? Wrong.

Let me be open about this: Yes, I read Twilight. And I hated it. (You can direct your hate mail here, care of Tara.) Perhaps it's my English degree snobbery, but I can't get past the fact that Meyer can't seem to write her way out of a paper bag. (Quoth the fans: "Sure, it's not the best writing, but it's soooo good!") Bad writing. Wooden characters. The excitement of watching linoleum curl. And a subtext that makes my teeth itch. Not a winning combo. Plus, vampires shouldn't sparkle, but we've all covered that at great length by now. Now we have movies, with equally bland dialogue recited by equally bland actors. And don't even get me started on what they've done to werewolves...

So what are we (I speak now to my fellow fans of the good old fashioned bloody fanged vampire) supposed to do in this flooded, and watered down, vampire market? We could join the haters and renounce our love of all things fanged. Or perhaps we could throw in with the Twihards and just embrace the fact that we have a lot to choose from. Instead I suggest taking a third road: dig through the pile, set aside the inferior works, and embrace the gems. Not sure where to start? Here are a few favorites from a couple of us here at the Firehouse to get you started.

- t

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Last words...

This is it friends. The last shift, my staff pick shelf has been taken down, my reading frenzy of books I am afraid of never seeing again has slowed (never ending of course), and I sit wondering "what next?"
Many of you might know the changes happening here in the store but for those of you that don't I will fill you in. I am moving to Portland next week with my fiance! We are getting married (back in CO) in September but until then I am preparing for the wedding and he is working at the lab he will be in for school. It's a big change and to be honest hard for me! I have gotten used to this adorable town and this wonderful and amazing bookstore being the center of a lot of my life here! But it's on to new things and new bookstores (never a chain though, rest assured!).
I will miss everything about this store and the customers. I have loved getting to know many of you and talking "shop" with you! Books are such a wonderful thing to draw people together and make them into friends. What a treat it has been to read some customer recommendations and other books that I might not have branched into on my own! Thanks!
In closing, I want to encourage you to READ MORE! Our motto here of Eat, Sleep, Read really makes for a charming and wonderful life and I am trying my best to live it out! I hope you find books that capture and enthrall you, that take you to far away places and teach you about other lives, and I hope you find books that change your life (ahem, The Happiness Project...cough, cough).