Saturday, March 31, 2007

Teen Book Festival

So, today I sent a super fun day with a library school pal seeing authors. This is the second year in a row I've gone to the Fairport Teen Book Festival. As with last year Terry Trueman was the keynote speaker. I also saw him speak at NYLA this year. He is funny, charismatic and entertaining. The day began with introductions of all the authors, Terry speaking and then all the authors answering a few questions. Then we moved on to the breakout sessions- to hear authors present. As you can probably guess I have been preparing for this in my infinite geekdom, so I had already chosen the people I wanted to see.
First I saw Barry Lyga, whose Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl I quite enjoyed. Lyga gave a presentation on the History of Geekery which was very funny. In it he defined the term Geek and gave the five most important characteristics of geeks (such as loves details/minutiae, knows everything and is a social misfit) and then named some famous geeks. Notable geeks covered were: Bill Gates, Leonardo DaVinci, Einstein, George Lucas, and God (fyi: google results for God are both humorous and kind of sad, besides, I don't think you need any background info on him.) who, following Lyga's checklist, is in fact a geek.
Next I moved on to David Levithan, whose Boy Meets Boy got the totally distinguished Bee seal of approval. He read from Nick and Norah, which was cool. The best part of that is the copious use of the f-bomb in the chapter he read. Mr. Levithan subsituted the bomb with the work "frock" which was endearing. Example: "Now I'm frocked." funny. Then he answered questions about the writing process of splitting a book with another author and collaborating mostly via e-mail. It totally made me love the book more. Then he read us a section of a new book that he's working on in collaboration with Rachel Cohn about a girl in love with her gay best friend. It was excellent to get a sneak peak. It was dreamy.
Next I saw Nancy Werlin, who seemed shy at first, but opened up. She talked about how the things in her life often serve as a background for her novels. She discussed the genetic research (or lack of) she had to do for Double Helix and how she sort of looked the stuff up bit by bit, which was neat. She also mentioned that when writing The Rules of Survival she had to put it away for a while due to the upsetting subject matter.
Plus, I got some free books from TokyoPop, which is good times, because I am a girl who loves free swag. Barry Lyga also gave away little canvas bags with the Fanboy and Goth Girl logo, so points to him. All in all it was a pleasing day and I'm happy I could go.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 23, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 0375835318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375835315
  • List Price: $16.95
  • I finished this book on Mar. 29
So as you might remember my lovelies, I loved the last book by David Levithan that I read. I would also like to compare this one to desserts, but there's too much to say. I also read this one in one comfy recliner sitting as it deserves: it is quick and sweet.
Nick meets Norah at a bar after his queercore band is done playing. He sees is ex-girlfriend approaching and asks Norah to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes, to which she replies by kissing him. So, this is like the first chapter, and you know I'm a smitten kitten. Anywho, turns out Norah is just getting over a breakup too, but these two end up spending the night together. They see punk bands, watch a lesbian/tranny burlesque review of The Sound of Music, and make out quite a bit. There is also plenty of hearty cursing, and I am a girl who loves cursing.
The book is written by Levithan and Rachel Cohn, who apparently are buddies, and will be coming out with another book. Why do I not have any friends with which to write books? So unfair. Either way, the book is written in alternating chapters from Nick and Norah's points of view. Levithan wrote Nick's part and Cohn wrote Norah's. Love. It. I like books like this, written from different perspectives, it's neat to get to see the different character's first hand takes on what is going on. Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys does this with three main characters, very interesting, but I think I liked it better here. Also, you might remember that the gayest book ever employed this technique between naughty priests.
This book shows us only one whirlwind night between these two. It's what I imagine that Before Sunrise movie was like, only with cool people, and less angst (I totally didn't even see that movie and am currently talking out of my bum). Anyway, check out the saucy cover action, complete with good font choices. There is also a fun website where you can make your own playlist. I feel, unfortunately, that I am not hip enough for that, having not recognized many of the bands mentioned in the book.
All in all it was a tasty treat, a brief love story, a fun read.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: DIAL (September 7, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 0803730012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803730014
  • List Price: $16.99
  • I finished this book on Mar. 29
Hmm, this is not the type of book I would normally choose to read. I usually try to stay away from dramas, or sad books or movies of any kind. Having said that, things here did not turn out as grim as they could have, so that's a plus.
This story is a letter from older brother Matt to his little sister Emmy detailing the events of their childhood that Emmy is too young to remember. They have one other sister, Callie, and they lived with their crazy, abusive mother, Nikki. Matt's story tells how horrible Nikki was and how they learned to stand up to her...and eventually escape. Even though I knew the whole time that they are gonna get away (Matt says it right in the beginning) I still spent the whole book concerned for them. I suppose that' s the point. I would like to point out that I called one of the major parts of the climax of the plot early on. (I feel that I maybe watch too much Law & Order: SVU that I was able to guess that with such accuracy.) In any event, I was pretty pleased with the way things turned out in the end. There was no overly unbelievable happy ending, but things worked out okay. There was even some nice moral questions and other interesting points raised in the denouement.
Like I said, I would usually shy away from books like this, because I tend to be overly worried about what happens. For this reason, I have never read A Boy Called "It", which I know is very popular with the teens. I just can't bring myself to do it: I know it will depress the hell out of me, and who is that fun for. Either way, I think this book would appeal to teens for the same reason. There is some pretty scary stuff that these kids go through. Even so, I'm not sorry I read it. The ending was good, I liked Matt's narration. I think the letter writing thing made for a cool set up. I'm not saying I'm going to run and seek out another bummer child abuse book, cause I'm not. But this one was worth reading, and nothing like the last book I read by Ms. Werlin.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin; Reprint edition (May 5, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 014240327X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142403273
  • I finished this on Mar. 27
What I really wanted was a new David Levithan book, but they were not to be had by the likes of me, so I got this instead. But I must admit, it was pretty pleasing.
Here's the rub: young Eli's mother is dying of mysterious Huntington's Disease and the truth is, he may have it too. There are a lot of secrets in his family's past and his father, the only person he has to talk to about it, isn't being very forthcoming. So far, Eli has managed to keep all of this a secret from his girlfriend, Viv. But, Eli gets a job working as a lab tech for Wyatt Transgencies (this story's evil corporation) and things pretty much go downhill from there. His dad is furious, Viv is mad he won't be honest with her, and it's clear that Mr. Wyatt is hiding something from him.
A great deal of the plot deals with some pretty involved scientific stuff. Any book that can make me feel like a genius geneticist in 252 pages has to have done something right. Werlin explains it just right so that I can understand, and believe that an 18 year old boy is telling me.
This was a quick read and a pretty fast paced plot. I liked Eli's narration and was relatively invested in his story. There was a lot of build up here for about 30 pages of payoff at the end. It was worthwhile though, I was pleased with the ending.
I feel that a book can be measured by how much I am compelled to talk to the book while I read it. Now you know my secret - I talk to the books. Actually, I'm talking to myself, or occasionally a cat (the cats love to snuggle while I'm reading). Either way, I feel that there is a direct relationship between how much I'm enjoying a book and how much I'm vocalizing while reading it ( I talked a lot during Boy Meets Boy and Stardust). Towards the end I was philosophizing with the cats about my theories of what would happen. FYI: my guess was totally wrong. Ms. Werlin's ending was way better than what I was cooking up.
Nancy Werlin is an award winning young adult author and has written a bunch of books. They all seem to be crime-mystery type deals. Her website claims that her speaking fee is an insane $2500 ( I would like to note that no one ever pays me to talk, in fact, I occasionally think people might pay me to shut me up).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 10, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0375832998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375832994
  • List Price: $8.95
  • I finished this book on Mar. 24
Wow, I'm currently trying to think of my favorite type of candy right now so that I can compare this book to it. Hmm, chocolate truffles? candy apples? chocolate covered cherries? Honestly, I think I am in love. Once upon a time I sat down before class to read a book having no idea what it was about. I read the whole thing sitting there in the hallway at school with rapt attention. When I finished I was borderline weepy. That book was Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (who I am also in love with) and the comparisons don't end there, my friends.
But I digress. I'm not sure how to tell you about this book so that you will get how wonderful, how delicious it was. Paul lives in a sort of wonderful version of the way the world should be, where gays and straights and in betweens are accepted for the most part. In his high school the quarterback of the football team is a 6"4' transvestite named Infinite Darlene, and the clubs at school include the quiz bowling team and a school cover band competition (Dave Matthew's covers, of course). Anywho, like the title says, Paul meets a boy and there is loving and losing and romance ensues. The prose reminds me of Weetzie because of its originality and beauty. It is almost its own descriptive language. I heart the characters and I wish I lived in this town. Not everything is dreamy and perfect, of course. Paul has a friend who lives a town over who's parents cannot accept his sexuality. But of course, there is a sugary sweet ending that makes me think of gorgeous and decadent desserts.
First off, I want to be in a cover band competition. I read this one in one sitting, and if you intend to read it, that's the way I recommend it. It's not long, and it' s a bit like sitting down and enjoying a big glass of delicious wine. (Coincidentally, that's the absolute limit of times I can say the word delicious in one post, I think) I dunno, this book just really got me, I would be lying my foolish face off if I said I wasn't all misty at the end. I would like to share with you a quote, "I find my greatest strength in wanting to be strong. I find my greatest bravery in deciding to be brave." That was one of many passages that I had to re-read. Sometimes, in books I find things so beautiful I have to look at them again and let them wash over me a bit. There were many of those in this one.
I am excited to read more of David Levithan's books, and he is slated to be at the book festival too. It appears that his website has not been updated for a while, but it does have excerpts from his books, so that's fun. I also friended him on Myspace.
That's all for me, I'm going to go moon over this book elsewhere.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618723927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618723928
  • List Price: $16.95
  • I finished this book on Mar. 24
I first encountered this book in the fall in the vendor tents at the NYLA conference. The cover caught my eye. I stood and looked at it as long as I could before some shifty Houghton Mifflin guy started skeezing around me and I had to leave. After that it earned a spot on the ever growing list of books I want to read. (I heart books, and I heart lists - this list is like a living breathing post-it monster that I carry bits of around like a total nerd) Anywho, this one got bumped up on the list due to Mr. Lyga's impending appearance at the Teen Book Festival that's coming (sort of near) here soon. Good times.
So, okay, first off: points for an excellent title. More points for having a funny, nerdy absolutely realistic and believable narrator. I am a little in love. Here's the rub, our hero (nerdy sophomore Fanboy, who's real name I think is Don but that's totally not important) is writing a graphic novel. More accurately, he's birthing a graphic novel he's been cooking up forever. He works on it constantly, trying to perfect it even though he has to use a sub par computer. His plan is to show it to his hero/comic book god mentor guy Brian Michael Bendis at an upcoming comic con. His plans are altered when he meets Kyra (goth girl), a sort of rude, unpredictable, smart, disenfranchised girl at his school. He ends up showing her his graphic novel (which he hasn't even told his best friend about) and she tries to help him. Only her help is not the kind of thing one exactly thinks of as 'help.'
I've got to say, from my cursory glances at it back in the Fall, it wasn't what I expected. It was actually a totally different kind of things. I'm not mad though, I actually think I'm happier with what it was than with what I was expecting. In addition, the book uses Fanboy's IM conversations: which is a new(er) thing in YA books. I've seen it used copiously in some places, but it was just right here. I think there may have been more if poor Fanboy wasn't struggling with such a POS computer.
The whole time I was reading it I was concerned that something bad was going to happen. While there was darkness, nothing overly tragic happened. The end left an enjoyable taste in my mouth. There was some making fun of wanna be goth girls who love Gaiman (at which I looked around shocked and went..."Who, me?") so that was funny too.
The more I think about it, the more I really liked the book. I'm not the only one, either, School Library Journal listed it as one of the best books of 2006. This is Lyga's first published YA novel, and I'm looking forward to more. I encourage the checking out of the following websites: Lyga's own site and the Fanboy and Gothgirl site.
I only wish that I was reading Fanboy's completed graphic novel. I'm just saying...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Various titles by Nancy Carlson

So, okay, I'm student teaching, and we've been preparing for this author visit for about three weeks. Nancy Carlson is the author of over 50 children's picture books. We have about 30 of them in this particular library, and I estimate that I have read all of them at least once, and some of them approximately a gajillion times. I think the titles I've read the most are Think Big, Loudmouth George and the Fishing Trip and Louanne Pig in the Perfect Family.
I must say this outright, I do not love books. Okay, actually I like the Harriet books fine, and I don't hate Luanne, but: here's the thing. The characters are not cute. That bugs me. They are mostly animals. Luanne is a pig, Harriet is a dog (modeled after Carlson's golden retriever) and George is a bunny. Sure, some of them, like Henry the mouse, are cute. But it literally took me three weeks to decide what kind of animal Arnie even was (turns out he's a cat). I do not hate them or anything, I'm just not enamored with the characters. However, Ms. Carlson does her illustrations in colored pencils, and they are super colorful, and textured. I like the backgrounds and wallpapers much more than the characters themselves. Perhaps I am so critical of them at this point because I read them on average 5 times a day for a week and a half. I'm just saying.
Either way, it was really cool hanging out with her today. She was good with the kids (she did 4 presentations to 7 grade levels, something I would not want to do) and they all seemed into it. She showed them all how she drew the pictures, and I have to say that was neat. Her drawings (though, like I said, not all that cute) were flawless as she did them on a big easel with markers. She also personally signed many of the kids' books and drew a little picture in each of them. I totally appreciated that. Meeting her totally upped my opinion of her books.
The moral of this whole story had two parts: number 1, I'm glad I don't have to read Nancy Carlson books out loud anymore (too much of a good know?) and number 2, I heart meeting authors!
Now, for your viewing pleasure, an additional photo of Ms. Carlson and I together.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Environmental Children's Book Double Feature

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 12, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394823370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394823379
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 29, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395533082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395533086
I finished reading both of these on Mar. 19

So, my lucky lovelies, you are getting two books for the price of one. That's right, it's a crazy Booknerd two-for. I was pulling books today for a recycling unit, and came across Just a Dream, which I had never seen before. All the environmental love made me think of The Lorax, which I knew only by reputation, so, when I was at my library I picked up a copy (because that's what I do). They get a super special combo-blog because they are are birds of a (slightly mismatched) feather, and well, because I can.
Just a Dream is the story of a litter bug little boy who does not recycle. Instead of separating the garbage, he watches a movie about cool future robots on TV. That night he dreams of the future, but it is not the future with cool gadgets, but a future of a sad brown wasteland. There is little text and large expansive illustrations (this is all I could find) done with colored pencil. They are beautiful and hit the point home hard with pictures of our desolate planet-to-be if we keep on abusing it. There is also that device that I love in children's book (not sure if it has a name) where there is a little animal in most pages who is not mentioned in the text. In this case it's the boy's cat, who seems to be judging and teaching the boy, though it remains mute and shadowy. I always like to look for things like that in picture books. (I especially like Little Critter's Spider friend.) A google search tells me that this book is widely used in classrooms, so apparently I'm the last to hear about it. I must comment on the end though by saying that one boy planting a tree does not a planet save.
The Lorax is a little Wilfred Brimley looking environmentalist (no really, compare.) who warns against deforestation. See, the Once-ler just wants to make Thneeds, and to do so he must cut down all the Truffula Trees and this causes environmental mayhem. All the Seuss-tacular animals leave (in rhyme of course) and the world is a dark and sad place. This book was critically panned when Seuss released it, and was banned in California because it "criminalizes the forestry industry" (seriously) which it certainly does. However, I wrote a huge paper on Seuss (nee Geisel) once and I believe I read that this was one of the books he was the most proud of (though I clearly have no citation and am therefore the worst librarian ever).
I must say that I'm partial to the Seuss here, I like the illustrations and poetry and I think the message is handed out a little cleaner. Though I still give high marks to Van Allsburg because it is beautiful and a little scary.
Both stories are a bit heavy handed with their moral message, but I do not begrudge either of them. I feel that there are some messages with which we must scare children, this happens to be one of them. These are like child friendly versions of Mr. Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Though really, let's be honest, kids should like that because Al Gore looks like a Muppet.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st ed edition (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380977281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380977284
  • I finished this book on Mar. 18
Okay, so I'm a big fan of the Neil Gaiman stuff I've read before, like Sandman and Coraline. I also happen to heart his blog. He's cool and funny and links to neat stuff, in addition to saying something during scrotum-gate about loving librarians.
So, being the flaming nerd that I am I felt it only prudent to read more of his stuff (the good news is, he's written approximately a bajillion things). I interlibrary loaned a bunch of his books, and Stardust happened to be the first thing to arrive (there's another one waiting for me as we speak, which makes my day). Guys, two pages in I was in love. There's many reasons, so here goes. Number one, the design of the book is great (though I've since learned there are illustrated copies, I do not have one of those). The pages are that cool uneven rough cut which I find oddly satisfying. The author and title info are in a weird place, which is also neat. I also love chapters that have descriptive names, and I double love ones that are titled "In which..." and then cryptically detail what happens in said chapter. love. it.
So, besides all that stuff we have a funny, sweet and captivating little fairy tale. Tristan makes an impossible promise to the most beautiful girl in town and sets off into the land of Faerie to retrieve a star for her. The good news is: he finds the star (who is a young woman like creature) the bad news is, he's about six months walk from home and trying to bring an obstinate star with a broken leg back with him. There are also other story lines that of course come flawlessly together in the end. There are some ghosts, many people changing into other things and back again and even the mysterious unknown lineage of several characters, so, basically, all the components of a great fairy tale. Not to mention that Gaiman's prose is funny, weird and perfect. Reading this pasted a goofy smile on my face and gave me the warm fuzzies. I can't wait to read more of his books.
I have since learned that they are making this into a movie. I hope it will be good, though it seems like the story has been changed marginally. Claire Danes plays the star, so that's cool, I imagine she should look like she did in Polish Wedding, and looks like she will, so I'm psyched about that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (February 13, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0061147931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061147937
  • List Price: $24.95
  • I finished this book on Mar. 13
So, okay, remember in my last post where I was groaning that I needed a good old ghost story to help me get over wasting 320 pages of my life reading about rich, snobby....zzzzzz. Oh! Sorry, fell asleep a little bit there. Anyway, this little beauty totally hit the spot for me. Thank you, Mr. Hill!
Judas Coyne (best rock star name ever?) is an aging rock star who specializes in gothy darkness in the vein of (my boyfriend) Trent Reznor. Mr Coyne keeps a collection of macarbe artifacts; so when the opportunity comes up to buy a ghost online (in the form of the dead man's would-be burial suit) he jumps at it. Long story short this is a real and terrifying ghost and there is more behind the ghost buying scheme than meets the eye. Crazy scribble eyed ghost man comes and menaces Jude and his girlfriend Georgia (yeah, that's right, they both have myspace pages. dig it.) Okay, so the dead people with black scribbles over their eyes really creep me out. Why is it always the eyes? Remember creepy button eyes? Cripes. So anywho, many personal demons as well as actual ghosts (I was tempted to call them flesh and blood ghosts there, but I thought better of it) are faced and the whole thing is really a good ride.
Now the truth: I read this book because someone left a review of it for me in the inbox at work (pays to be a vocal booknerd). We are both Stephen King fans, and guess what? Joe Hill happens to be Mr. King's son. Apparently, everyone in that family loves pseudonyms (right, Richard Bachman?) But I can't blame him for wanting to distance himself from his father's giganticized shadow. And the book really surpassed my expectations. The answer to the big question? Is it like his dad's books? A bit. Is it his own as well? I think so. There is only a faint sniff of SK in there, not an overpowering stench.
But I have to say this about that: he totally sounds like his father and shares the strange (Maine accent, I'm guessing) cadence to his speaking voice. Where did I hear it? On his super cool website where he talks about the new book. There is a cool song and cool graphics. There is also a trailer for the book, and I love that. It reminds me of book outtakes, which I also love. Well played, Mr. Hill.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (July 1, 1995)
  • ISBN-10: 068480154X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684801544
  • List price: $10.00
  • I finished this book on Mar. 11
  • This book is number 28 on the list.
So, let me admit something here: I have read all the books on the list that remotely appealed to me, and am now plodding through with the rest. I chose this Fitzgerald because I had liked The Great Gatsby. Unfortunately, I did not find this book to be nearly as interesting.
This might make me seem stupid, and that's fine with me: but I did not get this. I mean, I understood what was going on. But I did not understand why I was supposed to care, I was all: "Why am I reading about this?" I still don't know.
Dick and Nicole Diver are this 1920's expatriate power couple. Rosemary, an 18 year old actress finds them charming and immediately falls in love with Dick within the first few pages. When this happened, I was already mad. I wished she was going to fall for the other guy, Abe North, don't ask why but I found him way more interesting. A about a hundred or so pages later still no affair, though they both love each other. End book one, and I'm all: "What?" Anyway, we find out that Dick married Nicole after treating her for being a total nutbar and they don't ever really seem to like each other except for one overheard moment of two sentence sexiness. Later, Nicole goes astronaut diapers crazy again for a few pages. She eventually gets better while Dick gets less successful, less attractive and more of a lush. Boo to that.
I do not appreciate a book in which my romantic lead A. never has good sex B. never gets anything he wants and C. in fact becomes a total loser. I also do not appreciate the shift of perspective to a character whom I never liked (ie: Nicole). Though, I must say, I did like her tryst with Tommy at the end, because I love when a woman breaks from convention and does her own thing, a la A Doll's House though in this one Nicole keeps her kids. I get that there are messages here, or I am supposed to feel something for Dick's descent into mediocrity, but I'm not feeling it.
So, yeah, not a fan. I'm sure there are many people who would like this one, but I am not that girl. For anyone reading, I recommend using the SparkNotes page on the book as a guide, because there sure is some stuff that happens that I didn't get the first time. I am sorta starting to dread the idea of reading more books like this. Alright, I have to go find a good ghost story or something to get this taste out of my mouth...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

300 by Frank Miller

  • Hardcover: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse; 1098 edition (December 15, 1999)
  • ISBN-10: 1569714029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569714027
  • List price: $30.00
  • I finished this book on Mar. 7
So, in honor of the movie coming out this week (which I'm super stoked about) and my love for graphic novels, I wanted to check this out. I however, being a broke college student had to wait for one of my more economically comfortable pals shelled out the $30. That seems like a lot for something that's under 100 pages, but fyi: it's totally worth it.
Miller's telling of the epic battle between 300 Spartans and approximately a zillion Persians centers around Spartan King Leonidas. He is an incredible badass and takes his army of cohort badasses to certain bloody death on the name of his beloved home. You've got to appreciate that. It kind of makes you feel guilty when you complain about jury duty. At least no one's asking you to spend your whole life training to die in a battle you have no hope of winning. I'm just saying.
The illustrations are complex and bloody and breathtaking. The books is also a sort of weird rectangle shape, and it's so big it doesn't quite fit in my bookbag. It does, however, have a nice heavy weight to it, which I appreciate. At the end there is also suggested reading, and I love things like that.
My only hope is that the movie is as interesting and entertaining as this. Having read this, I now have even higher hopes than before.

**Update** I saw the movie last night, and I know that this isn't 'movienerd' but I have to tell you that it was amazing. It was stunning and beautiful. I wanted to lick it. That is all.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New Ed edition (March 24, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0752864270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752864273
  • I finished this book on Mar. 2
Okay, so this another one by James M. Cain, the author of The Postman Always Rings Twice. I had been pretty impressed by that one, so I was looking forward to this one, having seen the 1944 movie version and loving it.
So this one is written as a confession, like Lolita, or Postman, but you don't know it until the end. It's narrated by Walter Huff, a wayward insurance salesman, who speaks in that 40's kind of manly man talk that has now become cliched. Huff goes on a routine call to renew an existing customer's auto insurance and meets his wife. Right away she's offering him tea and asking about accidental insurance. This sets off about a billion flags in Huff's head, but he decides it's a good idea to continue seeing her. Soon, they're planning the husbands' murder, with Huff trying to go for the maximum insurance payout, double indemnity. Apparently people were nervous about trains in the 40s (the way they are about planes now) but statistically very few accidents actually happened on trains. (This is akin to that you're more likely to die in a car crash then in a plane adage, I guess). So, most insurance policies offer double payout on a train accident because people think they're getting a deal, and they so rarely have to pay out for it.
The thing that's odd about this is how fast Huff is willing to become a murderer. It's like one chapter in and he's kissing this dame and then, boom, let's kill him. Weird to me. There's not even wanton sex acts, like in Postman so you can't argue that it's that making him crazy. Anywho, they stage an elaborate train accident and of course hi jinks ensue. Turns out that our femme fatale is not the kind of girl we think she is (of course) and that the pretty young daughter is more charming than we thought.
I have to say that all in all, I actually like the movie better. The book is actually chilling in some scenes, mostly due to Barbara Stanwyck's incredible performance. Because I have a crush on here, here's more pictures, of her, here and here, and one from the movie with her and Huff from the movie. I thought the book was suspenseful and enjoyable, but I'm not in love with the ending, which was slightly different in the movie. The movie ending was changed to reflect both characters getting their just desserts, due to the production code of the time.
All in all, a good read, but I would recommend the book version of Postman before I'd recommend this one. If you're really interested, I believe you can get both books published together with another of Cain's popular pulp novels, Mildred Pierce, and have a good old triple feature. Mildred Pierce was also made into a movie with Joan Crawford.

Horray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss

  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1st ed edition (April 20, 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0679890084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679890089
  • I finished this book on Mar. 1.
So, first off, I'm a little late getting this one in. However, I think it's important to note that yesterday (March 2) marked Dr. Seuss' 102 birthday (were he alive) and the 50th anniversary of one of his most popular books, The Cat in the Hat.
Onto the story: this is actually a book that Seuss began writing a long time before he died, but never quite finished. He'd left behind a good deal of pages, sketches and snippets of the rhyme. His managers and family really wanted to release it because it had been important to Seuss. So, they enlisted the help of famous children's poet Jack Prelutsky and children's book illustrator Lane Smith. Smith illustrated Seen Art, that I read a while back, and approximately a million other things in his distinct and somewhat unattractive style.
So, anyway, they took this skeleton of a story and Mr. Prelutsky filled in the poetry, which he did in a distinctly Seussian and pleasing style, and Mr. Smith illustrated it using some of Seuss' illustrations in the collages. While it's not as pleasing to read a Dr. Seuss that has no Seuss pictures it was still a cute and fairly long tale about a unique school. The book discusses the importance of teaching kids to learn rather than teaching them only what is included in standardized tests. It's clear that Seuss had a love and respect for teachers and little love for standardized tests, because really, who does.
The story was long enough to be a good read aloud, and not so long that kids would get antsy. There are plenty of good old Seuss made up crazy words to say and that's always a plus, because I heart made-up words. After the book there is also an interesting section including many of Seuss' original sketches and prose, telling how they adapted the material.
While not the full Seuss experience it is still worth your time. Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!