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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Chopsitcks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Are you looking for a reading experience that's more experience than reading? Man, have I got a book for you. Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral's Chopsticks is a story about a girl and a boy and why they can't be together. Through minimal text and a spectacular assortment of images the authors have crafted a visual novel that stimulates a creative questioning like nothing I've encountered since reading Nick Bantock's Giffin and Sabine Trilogy.

Chopsticks begins with a breaking newscast alerting the reader/audience that Glory Fleming is missing. Glory is a world famous piano prodigy and her disappearance, quite obviously, shocks the nation. The novel quickly shifts into it's second section, the story of Glory's short life and rise to fame, but the real kickstarter of the book occurs when a young boy moves into the house next door. Frank and Glory fall into a quick and very serious relationship that worries Glory's father.

Glory's dependence on Frank deepens and begins to affect her abilities on the piano, thus putting a stop to her world tour. It is around this time that the details of the novel become increasingly odd. Images and words that had once been attributed to Frank now shift and belong to Glory. Where one character ends and the other begins becomes unclear. Soon Glory, the once great pianist, will only play variations of the simple piano piece "Chopsticks." Her life becomes a constant repetition of the notes F and G (the only two notes in Chopsticks) moving along the piano until finally Glory disappears.

This novel is an excellent portrayal of a girl's break from reality and the obsession that travels alongside it. I enjoyed trying to place all of the details and decide exactly what happened to Glory - the best part of the mystery is that the authors leave it up to the reader. You are presented with this beautiful collection of images and somewhat ambiguous text and then left to deduce what truly transpired. As I said in the intro, Chopsticks is an original and wonderful experience.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Re-reading

I am not a re-reader. There are simply too many books in the world for me to spend time reading the ones that I've already read. But I'm also getting older and the years between me and some of my favorite books are stretching pretty thin. It has been ten years since I read The Great Gatsby over ten since I encountered Fahrenheit 451. And The Hobbit, please don't even ask - it just makes me feel old. How can I suffer such time away from these greats of my life? There may be other Gatsbys or fantasy adventures that rival Bilbo's, and I want to read those too, but it may be time to start revisiting some old loves along with discovering the new ones.

The movies coming out this fall don't really help me either. I have no real interest in book trailers (there are so few good ones), but a good movie trailer makes me want to read a book quicker than even the best recommendation. That's what started this whole re-reading question.

It's flashy, it's decadent, it's expensive looking (and in 3D) - it's Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I'm not sure what to think here. DiCaprio looks too old to be Gatsby who is only thirty and should look even younger. Other than that I'm experiencing cautious expectation.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was on of the few YA books on the market when I was a YA. It was also one of my favorite books ever in high school (back when I did read books several times). I am so happy to see a film version come out and will definitely be revisiting this book.

If I am approaching the Gatsby adaptation with cautious expectation consider my wait for The Hobbit unadulterated glee. I am so excited about this.

Let's not even talk about all the books I haven't yet read that are being turned into amazing looking movies due this fall. That's a separate post altogether.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn

I often feel stifled by technology. I love the access to information that the internet allows me, but I hate being tied to a computer. I admit it, I'm a luddite. That's why I am so pleased when I come across a book like Andrew Henry's Meadow. Doris Burn wrote this gem forty-seven years ago, and it is still a great read today. Burn passed away in the Spring of last year, which prompted a reissue of this, her most famous story, I can only hope that we will see new editions of her other works as well.

This is the story of Andrew Henry, a middle child. He has two older sisters and two younger brothers; each pair of siblings is always off doing their own thing. Andrew doesn't seem to mind that though. He is an inventor and always looking for new things to build, but after being pushed out of the kitchen, the living room, and his brothers' and sisters' bedrooms he decides to head off to a meadow outside of town. There Andrew builds himself a house that perfect and just for him. Soon other children from town begin coming to Andrew, asking that he create for them the perfect home away from home. The meadow soon becomes it's own town of curious and imaginative children all following their interests. It's a childhood heaven and reminds me very deeply of my own childhood off in the woods behind our house building forts from fallen palm fronds.

When I think if modern childhood I tend to think of electronics. Of Nintendo, Playstation, WiFi. But when I think of my own childhood I think of puppies, tree houses, and forts. My siblings and I stayed out until dark making up games and (though we didn't realize it then) just enjoying nature. Andrew Henry's Meadow reminded me so deeply of that (even if it did come out decades before I was born). Whether it is merely nostalgia or not, there was a charm to that time that I cannot deny. Modern childhood is so fast paced. I recommend that you grab your kids while you can and throw them outdoors until dark; when they come back inside and you all settle down for bed you should read this story. It will make them that much more hungry for tomorrow's adventures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Recomendations for Suzy

Last week I posted a short film by Wes Anderson on Facebook; the short accompanies his new film, Moonrise Kingdom. It's a series of animated scenes from the six fictitious books that Suzy Bishop reads from and lugs around in a suitcase throughout the film. Suzy and I just happen to have similar reading tastes (we both like adventure stories featuring mostly female heroes), so after I bemoaned the fact that The Francine Odysseys does not exist I started thinking about what books I would recommend to Suzy if she came to my store.

Tony DiTerlizzi's The Search for WondLa is the story of Eva Nine's search for other humans like herself. The story begins as she is forced out of the subterranean home where she has spent the first twelve years of her life. Eva has never been above ground and never been contacted by any other humans, but she holds a small picture of a woman, a child, and a robot with the word "WondLa" printed across it as proof that they do exist and she is not alone.

My love for Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making knows no bounds. The title alone is one of my favorite things (the sequel: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is due out this fall!). Fairyland tells the story of September, a bored girl from Omaha, who absconds to Fairyland on the back of a Green Wind. Once in Fairyland she is made to do the bidding of a wicked Marquess but along the way September meets the most wonderful characters who help her restore Fairyland to its former greatness.

The scariest book on my list must be Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This is the story of an abandoned children's home that was once filled with dangerous children. Sixteen-year-old Jacob finds Miss Peregrine's after it has been quarantined and abandoned, but the Peculiar Children may still be alive. The novel is told between text and very creepy photographs; it is a reading experience that is perfectly peculiar.

Slightly less creepy, but with plenty of spook is Kathleen O'dell's The Aviary. Clara Dooley lives in the town's haunted mansion along with the much feared widow Glendoveer, but she does not see what the other kids find so scary. Her mother, who was hired to take care of the house and grounds, does not let Clara hear the stories about the house or the mystery that surrounds it, but one day a caged mynah speaks to her and the mystery begins to unravel.

For a step away from fantasy (but not too far), I would recommend When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead's Newberry award winning novel  about a young girl receiving notes from the future - notes that tell her she must act to save her friend's life. This is one of the best middle grade mysteries I have ever read!

Darwen Arkwright moves from England to Atlanta, Georgia and his entire life is thrown into tumult in Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley. Not only does he have to contend with all of the troubles involved with moving to a new school in a new town in a new country but there's also the truth about his parents that he has difficulty admitting to himself. Oh, and Darwen has recently discovered that he can walk through mirrors into another world! He begins to escape so frequently into this other world that our world becomes threatened and Darwen and his new friends must figure out how to put things back to right again.

Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and the other books in the His Dark Materials trilogy are not yet 20 years old, yet they have already achieved classic status. Commonly referred to as the anti-Narnia, Pullman's books about Lyra Belacqua's adventures are a standard in children's fantasy. Lyra's story begins in The Golden Compass when she spies on her uncle explaining the celestial phenomenon known as Dust to a group of scholars in the college where she has grown up. Lyra is then thrust into a story of witches, seafaring clans of gypsies, armored bears and much, much more.

In case you missed it:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

SIBA's 2012 Book Award Winners

I wrote about the SIBA awards last year, and I am happy to announce that the time has come again. These are the six best books in southern literature. One title is chosen from each category: Children's, Young Adult, Cooking, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. The titles are nominated by southern, independent booksellers (like me) and their customers (like you).

Children’s Winner: Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond by Mary Quattlebaum
“A delightful riff on ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’” -- Books Plus

Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond
Blurp. Croak. Quack. What is making those sounds? Come along with Jo MacDonald and learn about the wild creatures at the pond on her grandfather's farm. You'll find fish, frogs, ducks - and a few surprises.  Author Mary Quattlebaum engages little ones with rhythm, repetition, wordplay, and onomatopoeia and illustrator Laura Bryant charms them with lively watercolors of a pond community. And check out the outdoor activities and games in the back, sure to encourage young naturalists at home and school.

Cooking Winner: The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle 

“This book helped me make the most of my vegetable garden!” --Quarter Moon Books and Gifts
The New Southern Garden Cookbook
In The New Southern Garden Cookbook, well-known food writer Sheri Castle aims to make "what's in season" the answer to "what's for dinner?" This timely cookbook, with dishes for omnivores and vegetarians alike, celebrates and promotes the delicious, healthful homemade meals centered on the diverse array of seasonal fruits and vegetables grown in the South, and in most of the rest of the nation as well.

Fiction Winner: Iron House by John Hart

Iron House
“I enjoyed Iron House because it had so much more to offer the reader than ‘whodunit.’  John Hart is southern mystery writing at its best.”  -- The Country Bookshop

A New York Times-bestselling author delivers his most devastating novel yet--the remarkable story of two orphaned brothers separated by violence at an early age. When a boy is brutally murdered in their orphanage, one brother runs and takes the blame with him. Twenty years later--a seasoned killer--he returns to North Carolina.

Nonfiction Winner:  Lions of the West by Robert Morgan

Lions of the West“I really appreciate Mr. Morgan's distinction that the historical figures through which he delves into the westward expansion weren't all ‘hero’, nor all ‘villain’, but usually a mixture of both.”  -- The Fountainhead Bookstore

From Thomas Jefferson's birth in 1743 to the California Gold rush in 1849, America's Manifest Destiny comes to life in Morgan 's skilled hands. Jefferson, a naturalist and visionary, dreamed that the U.S. would stretch across the continent. The account of how that dream became reality unfolds in the stories of Jefferson and nine other Americans whose adventurous spirits and lust for land pushed the westward boundaries.

Poetry Winner: Abandoned Quarry  by John Lane 
Abandoned Quarry

Lane's poetry is rich with love of place and environment.”  --City Lights Bookstore

Abandoned Quarry is a collection of poems by one of the South's most admired environmental writers. The collection makes available for the first time under one cover poems from a dozen full collections and chapbooks. The poems range in subject matter through relationships, nature, improvisational pieces, and rants about the strangeness of the modern condition.

Young Adult Winner: Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley

Darwen Arkwright andthe Peregrine Pact“Takes place in Atlanta Georgia, and incorporates fantasy along with the real struggles of being a teen in a new place, adjusting to a new school, and a new culture.” –Fountainhead Bookstore

Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright has spent his whole life in a tiny town in England. So when he is forced to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, he knows things will be different - but what he finds there is beyond even his wildest imaginings!  Darwen discovers an enchanting world through the old mirror hanging in his closet - a world that holds as many dangers as it does wonders. Scrobblers on motorbikes with nets big enough to fit a human boy. Gnashers with no eyes, but monstrous mouths full of teeth. Flittercrakes with bat-like bodies and the faces of men! Along with his new friends Rich and Alexandra, Darwen becomes entangled in an adventure and a mystery that involves the safety of his entire school.


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