Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;...
Whether we read in Middle English or Modern English, I'm sure teachers glossed over Chaucer's sly humor and more ribald jokes (mine did). Instead of laughing over bickering tradesmen and hypocritical churchmen, Chaucer came off dry, boring and a little stodgy.
Enter Peter Ackroyd. Known most recently for his geographic biographies, Venice, London, and Thames, as well as The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Ackroyd gives the reader a prose translation of Chaucer's poem. Not a line-by-line translation packed into paragraphs, with annotations and definitions, but a story that emphasizes the human characters that pout and whine, take offense, pontificate, and generally enjoy telling a naughty story or two. Ackroyd's uses modern prose and sentence structure while keeping the original narrative structure, characters and setting of The Canterbury Tales intact. This is a great introduction to Chaucer for those who might be hesitant to tackle the poem, to become familiar with the characters and the enjoy the stories without worrying over rhymes and poetic metaphor; on the other hand, those already familiar with Chaucer will appreciate Ackroyd's interpretation for the warmth and humor of the language without any loss of Chaucer's wit.
Enter also Penguin USA. Penguin has recently launched new paperback "packaging" of many classics and the paperback release of Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales wasn't left behind (the original hardcover design is at the bottom of this post). Designer Ted Steam created a cartoon cover showcasing all the pilgrims from Chaucer's tales as they pass by the reader on the cover. It's a wrap-around design and worth every chuckle (I particularly like the richness of the Wife of Bath, the silliness of the three monks sharing a horse, and the student doggedly reading while on horseback). It reminds me of old movie posters like that of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Animal House where the actors' characters are charicatured in the drawing. Steam also paneled out "The Man of Law's Tale" and "The Miller's Tale" on the interior flaps. You can see an image of the entire cover at the Superpunch blog (The Canterbury Tales is the third set of images in the post; the whole post is a great overview of some of the new Penguin covers).
Chaucer is a favorite of mine and I own a number of different editions but this one shines a little brighter for the warmth of its story and clever cover art.
The women of the Waverley family—whether they like it or not—are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.
For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business—and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life—upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.
As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.
It was fortuitous, then, that It's a Book, the new picture book from Caldecott Honor illustrator Lane Smith arrived at my store on Friday. Filled with subversive humor and bold clever illustrations, It's a Book is delightfully contrarian in its celebration of the printed page at a time when customers, retailers, and publishers alike are jumping on the digital bandwagon with gleeful abandon.
Smith's prose adopts a simple call-and-response format as the younger, tech-savvy Jackass peppers his older companion Monkey with questions about what he's reading ("Do you blog with it?" "Does it tweet?"), to which Monkey always answers, "No. It’s a book." The illustrations are equally simple, yet richly textured. In this regard, It's a Book is a perfect example of why eBooks won't completely replace print books (at least, not yet). I shudder to think how Smith's illustrations — which frequently take advantage of the two-page spread by having Jackass on the left-hand page and Monkey on the right — would be completely mangled on the six-inch grayscale display of a Nook, and would even lose something on Apple's iPad (which has a full-color screen and can be rotated to show a two-page format).
Smith, best known for his frequent collaborations with author Jon Scieszka, really strikes a blow for "dead tree books" with It's a Book. Kids will love the illustrations (and snicker at a certain word), while parents will be able to relate to Monkey's patience and perseverance with a child who's grown up in a world of digital ubiquity.
I have always loved fantasy novels. Growing up I loved to spend time in Narnia, Middle Earth, and Redwall, and even now as somewhat of a grown up, some of my favorite haunts can be found between the covers of a fantasy novel, And maybe that is why I fell in love with The Magicians so quickly. I could really relate to Quentin Coldwater, who even though he is near the end of high school he is still in love with the books of Fillory (think Chronicles of Narnia) even though they are much to young for him. Of course he knows that magic isn't real, that is, until he finds himself in upstate New York at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.
This isn't just Harry Potter dressed in a new robe. Lev Grossman has created an original, engaging story that melds literary fiction with that of the fantasy genre while paying tribute to some of our favorite fantasy worlds. The narrative really zips along, and I found myself reading it at every opprotunity. Don't expect any "happily everafters" here though, as this one is certainly for the adult audience. Quentin and his friends often find themselves in darker and darker places, as growing up is never as clean and simple as we pretend it will be.
If you are looking for that next fantastic place to escape to, you can't go wrong with The Magicians.
Grace was attacked by wolves when she was eleven years old. Given her young age and the traumatic nature of it, her memories of the event are sketchy. But she knows there was a single wolf who saved her life that day. What she has always remembered is this: his yellow eyes. I thought I'd never see them again.
The wolf has also never forgotten seeing members of his pack tearing the life out of her while she just held his gaze, letting the other wolves mutilate her. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, a tiny, bloody angel in the snow, and they were going to destroy her. So he stopped it.
Six years have passed, and Grace still feels a connection with her wolf. She watches him at the edge of the woods every winter when the earth is bitter with cold. She spends her summers mourning his absence. However, this peaceful seasonal pattern is interrupted when the wolves attack and kill a human. The community now feels threatened and a hunt ensues. When Grace realizes this, she does everything she can to stop it, lest her harmless wolf be slaughtered. She knows she may too late, though, as she's already heard many shots fired followed by the painful howls of wolves. A police officer forces her to go home that evening, and she is shocked by what she finds on her deck: her wolf, twisted and bloody...and human.
Here's the part where I must curb my compulsion to tell you every heartrending detail of this book (and there are so many!). But I will say that what follows is an exquisitely written story of discovery, love, and loss. This fairy tale unfolds offering ethereal delights and shocking revelations not just about our newly inseparable duo, but also the peculiar events that have been transpiring around them.
Shiver is easily the best Teen Fiction book released so far this year. A bold statement, I know, but I genuinely believe it. A must-read, especially for the Twilight-obsessed reader, any lover of paranormal romance, and those who just enjoy a well-written book.
It will make you shiver.
THE CADET OF TILDOR, Alex Lidell's debut novel, was everything I hoped for and more. When I first heard about the publishing deal, I was intrigued. Tamora Pierce meets G.R.R. Martin, really? I'm not sure that it's too similar to Martin, but there are strong threads tying Lidell to Pierce, and I mean that in the best way possible. In high school, two of my all-time favorite series were the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Protector of the Small quartet (. In both, Pierce creates strong female heroines who stand alone among boys as they go through school to become knights and serve their kingdoms. Pierce's heroines Alanna of Trebond and Keladry of Mindelan would be great friends were they to come across Lidell's Renee de Winter, and rightfully so. If you're a fan of Pierce, and especially of these two series, you will absolutely adore CADET. Unlike Pierce, who takes readers on adventures from the very first year of training, Lidell drops in on senior year. Renee used to be at the top of her class, but now, she's fallen to the bottom, no longer as strong as the boys. She wants nothing more than to become a Servant and serve the Crown, making sure to train extra hard to build her endurance. Her father tries to keep her home where she "belongs," but Renee defies him, cutting family ties in order to return to school. When she finds out that her new instructor is none other than Commander Savoy, one of her role models, she's excited and idolizes him, but traumatized to realize that he sees her as weaker than her peers. As a plot against the kingdom unfurls, Renee must come to terms with her own limitations while still paving her own way and attempting to achieve her dreams. There is so much to love about CADET, which reminds me of why I love this sub-genre of fantasy so much. Fantasy doesn't have to be about sappy romance and eye-rolling love triangles, which I seem to have forgotten after all the like-minded YA novels crowding the genre these last few years. There are so many layers to CADET that each layer pulls back like an onion, revealing something deeper and truer at its core. Renee is so blinded by her dreams and her wants that she's unable to see the reality of the way things are. She'll never excel in life if she can't come to terms with her own limitations and learn to work with them, not against them. She grows in so many ways over the course of the novel, and I truly became invested in her plight. There are so many characters and settings that on the surface, it seems as though it would be easy to become overwhelmed. In reality, however, everything is well-crafted and bonds together to form a fascinating, gritty story at the underbelly of a kingdom in need of saving. Lidell seamlessly blends right and wrong to the point where readers are constantly guessing and wondering which characters can actually be trusted. It's hard to talk much about the intricacies without giving much away, but I truly love the way this book unfurled. Whenever little things came together, whether I saw them coming or not, they managed to slip into place like a well-greased cog. Even character development was superbly brought out. While I was always rooting for our underdog Renee, there were characters I went from liking to disliking, and others I had an on-again, off-again relationship with. Definitely on-again by the end, however, and I want more books from Lidell! While CADET easily stands alone, it ends in such a way that more adventures are sure to be had, especially after reading the novel's final line (perhaps one of my favorite lines in the novel, and one I can't share for obvious reasons. It is, after all, the final line!) I'm seriously hoping that Lidell brings us more books in this world and returns all of her characters to us. I wonder if one character will be a villain, if another will become something more, if a third is destined for greatness. Etc, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed CADET and now want to go back and re-read other books with female knights at their core to keep this feeling close to my chest. What a great debut!
Kafka on the Shore left me breathless.
After years of an unnamed but horrific abuse, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura deliberately plans an escape from his father, a man so evil that he steals souls. As Kafka seeks both his fortune and answers to his past in the seemingly random city of Takamatsu, he finds refuge in the stacks of a library, becoming close friends with the assistant and fantasizing that the head librarian is his lost mother.
Though the magic realism of this novel begins right away - and is at times complex and seemingly random - about a quarter of the way into the book the plot and characters burst into focus and harmony. The secondary plot (involving a mentally-damaged man who can talk to cats and is on his own quest) all of a sudden aligns with Kafka's life, and the entire story dramatically rises in a tornado of crazy events and emotions: murder, incest, and oedipal prophecy.
The ending of this story was so beautiful that I couldn't read for a full day afterward from the emotional hangover. I can't wait to read more Murakami.
It's hard to believe Sesame Street is now 40 years old. When the show had its debut on NET (a predecessor to PBS) in the fall of 1969, it was a bold new experiment no one was quite sure would work. Over a generation later, it's an indelible part of America's cultural landscape. Veteran TV Guide scribe Michael Davis takes readers not just behind the scenes of this children's TV mainstay, but back to the beginning. He traces the roots of the show's core creative team — Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, Sam Gibbon, Dave Connell, and of course Jim Henson — as well as the evolution of educational children's TV, from Howdy Doody to Ding Dong School to Captain Kangaroo. The show's debut doesn't even occur until halfway through the book, but by taking this approach, the audience gets a clearer understanding of where Sesame Street came from, and the disparate paths that brought its creators together.
The show's early years are tumultuous, with numerous cast changes and character tweaks (in the first year, Big Bird was quite literally stupid, and Oscar was a sort of rusty orange color) as they fine-tune the format, not to mention behind-the-scenes battles to maintain the show's federal and corporate funding. Later years are marked by numerous departures, including the heartbreaking loss of Will Lee (Mr. Hooper), the painful downward spiral of Northern Calloway (David), and the untimely deaths of Jim Henson, songwriter Joe Raposo, and Muppet performer Richard Hunt. And then, there's Elmo. While I still can't stand the character, Street Gang certainly gave me a greater appreciation for his performer, Kevin Clash, who has taken up Henson's mantle as one of the guiding creative forces behind the show today.
Davis' love for his subject manages to seep from every page without the book coming across as fawning or a puff piece. He certainly doesn't shy away from things unpleasant (as his material on Northern Calloway clearly shows). Street Gang is a fast, entertaining read, and one that will deepen your appreciation for the show which made education fun.
(A chapter on actor Roscoe Orman, the third and longest-running Gordon, is available on the book's website, and will be included in the upcoming trade paperback edition of Street Gang.)
Delirium In Lauren Oliver's world of" Delirium "love is bad. It makes kids act impulsively , recklessly and makes them sick. It is a disease that must be treated by having an operation at 16 (read shock therapy) to cure you forever.
After the operation you pick your future spouse and live happily ever after without those annoying butterflies in your stomach and irrational behavior- right? Lena hopes that her upcoming procedure will go well and that the stigma of her mother's suicide will be gone forever. Until she ventures outside her comfort zone a bit with her friend and meets Alex. Once she feels the effects of amor deliria nervosa there is no going back. Delirium is a clever cross between the utopian society of "Matched" and the thrill of "Hunger Games".
I don't want to be a spoiler but this story will continue and I for one can't wait.
The Flynn City Egg Man It's Easter 1969, and no one is more excited than Cyrus Flannery, the eccentric peddler known as, The Flynn City Egg Man. He's packed up the old panel truck with Easter goodies, and if everyone forgives him for his past business dealings, he just might make the rent this year. It all looks good until...Sandy True, the head cheerleading diva, and maximus drama queen of Flynn City High decides to plot a kidnapping. Her own kidnapping It may allow her time to get to Hollywood, and seek her dream of becoming an actress.
The last person she was seen with happens to be The Flynn City Egg Man, and Sandy's boyfriend, Tyler Armstrong has plans of the peddler. If the cops can't help, Armstrong will take matters into his own hands. After all, it was blood he saw in the Egg Man's kitchen.
Cuffy Landers, a seventeen-year-old reluctant hero enters the fray, and soon befriends the Egg Man. The two are pitted against a suspicious town, and a boyfriend who is hell-bent on revenge.
Recommended for adult, teen, and young adult reading with humor, suspense, and inspiration.
A few weeks ago I was browsing through new books coming out and had to do a double-take when I saw "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". After rubbing my eyes and refreshing the screen I saw that the title was correct. I was intrigued to say the least and wanted to know more. After reading the synopsis I knew this was a book I wanted to read. Needless to say, I was eagerly waiting for this book to come out. On the day of it's release, I scooped up a copy and immediately found myself captivated.
Seth Grahame-Smith does it again with another unique twist after his best-seller "Pride And Prejudice And Zombies". Historians always speculated that there was a secret diary written by Abraham Lincoln, and they were right. The journal reveals a background of the man and history we never knew. Intertwined with actual historical events and characters, Seth Grahame-Smith takes the reader on a fast-paced riveting account of the life of Abraham Lincoln and his secret mission to rid the world of vampires who took his Mother and family members from him. Weaved in with actual historical accounts, we find another agenda and motive behind the man and his decisions.
This is a great, fun read. But be forewarned, it's difficult to put down once you start and definitely leaves you wondering "What if . . .?"
Divergent Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Matched, Delirium and now Divergent- young adult dystopia at it's best! Imagine a world where everyone is split up into five groups -Abdignation (selfless), Candor (truth seekers), Dauntless (fearless warriors), Amity (party people) or Erudite (scholars). You are sixteen and must make a choice but remember that if you leave the group your family is from you will not see them often and their point of view will not match yours. Now, imagine that you are split between two or more of these groups- divergent. You must keep this a secret because to be different or a hybrid is not allowed and could mean your death. Beatrice (Tris) is one of these people and is trying to settle into her new life at Dauntless but other factors keep getting in the way and her feelings are not so black and white. The plot moves as quickly as Hunger Games or Maze Runner and has that screwed up world that we all crave. I would guess that this will be the first of three and I could see a movie deal coming out of this as well. Violence is a big part of the book but I would recommend it to anyone who wants more after the end of Hunger Games.
Tatiana de Rosnay takes the reader on two journies simultaneously. One is of Sarah, a young Jewish girl in 1942 France who find herself thrust into the horrors of the Jewish Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup in Paris by French soliders under Nazi orders. The other is Julia, an American journalist who married a Frenchman and has lived in France for the past 25 years. Julia is given the task of reporting on the Vel’ d’Hiv’ rounup for the upcoming 60 year anniversary. She finds a country that has just about forgotten about this shameful time and an intersection bewteen her's and Sarah's lives.
The book is truly difficult to put down. The characters instantly draw you in. The stories are captivating, educational, and definitely leave you thinking deeper. A great book for discussion groups.
Being an ardent Jane Austen enthusiast, I was nonplussed when the news hit the Internet about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, combining Jane Austen's classic novel with bone-crunching zombie mayhem! What? Did two genre's ever seem more incompatible? Even though it did not appeal to my genteel sensibilities, I was intrigued and thought it worth a look. The co-author Seth Grahame-Smith had taken about 85% of Austen's original text and interwoven a zombie subplot. I have to admit that the first line had me smiling. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What follows is quite a surprise. He has changed feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy into ninja warriors, ready to spar in the ball room as well as the battlefield against the sorry stricken who they delicately call unmentionables. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and gore abound, so the delicately minded take heed. If you enjoy a good ribald parody, the play between the original text and the new storyline is hysterical. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sure to please those who live to make sport for their neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn! Read my complete review at my literary blog Austenprose.
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose
I hated the main character of this book when I started it. Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular people in her school, but she is spoiled and mean and I didn't think I could read chapter after chapter about how awful she was to her classmates and family. But...then she died and that's when I realized this was not your normal story about a stuck up high school girl.
Sam ends up reliving the last day of her life seven times as she tries to figure out what happened and why. Lauren Oliver writes a beautiful and heart-breaking story (or, stories). I was worried that each time Sam woke up on 12 February I would be bored by the same details of her day as she went through it, but even if some things didn't change, Oliver made it seem new. I ended up finishing this novel in a fervor as I just had to get through Sam's last few tries along with her. Like her, I desperately wanted to figure out the mystery surrounding her death and began to see the beauty she was missing in her life.Before I Fall touches on many different emotions and has depth that is not always seen in teen novels.
How does memory constitute identity? What is it to be human? Such immense questions underlie much of the gripping drama in Stephanie Meyer's latest novel, The Host. Melanie, a protagonist of this psychological thriller, guides her other part using memories and her internal voice. She helps her other part to adapt to new challenging emotions, pains, and relationships. Trapped between two societies, they find themselves on a quest to find loved ones and learn who can be trusted. If you did not find any interest to read Meyer's Twilight series, than perhaps you were waiting for her to exhibit her talent in this science fiction novel that is likely to be the premiere of a new exciting series.
A long loved adult author has made her way into teen fiction with the recent Darkest Powers series. Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series), shows she can impact all age groups with heroine Chloe Saunders.
The Darkest Powers series, The Summoning, The Awakening, and the newest installment The Reckoning, follows a group of supernatural teens as they battle to survive. Armstrong incorporates several supernatural elements including werewolves, witches, sorcerers, and necromancers.
It is a great follow-up series to anyone who is having difficulty finding something to read after finishing the addicting Twilight series (you know what I mean!). It features exciting characters with twists and turns all the way through.
I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it spectacularly!
Beautiful Darkness Look for some excitement in teens! First ,the look of the teens department will be changing in October. It will be much easier for everyone to find a great new book based on the genre you are looking for. Fantasy/Adventure, Paranormal Romance and Teen Fiction signs will grace the teen shelves as well as sections that feature the very newest titles you love. Here is just a taste of some of the great sequels that are hot off the presses. Book number two in the great steampunk alternate history Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld - Behemoth. It takes us where Leviathan left off with Alek and Deryn working together to avoid World War I and keep Alek away from those who would like to see him disposed of. Will Deryn's secret remain a secret? Read and find out in this action packed thriller that includes some wonderful illustrations. One of my all time favorites last year was The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The sequel will take up where we left off with the kids escaping the compound but entering into what? This is a great pick for those teens who loved the Hunger Games. Last but not least is Kami Garcia's sequel to Beautiful Creatures- Beautiful Darkness. We left Ethan and his new witch girlfriend Lena in their small southern town jam packed with witches both good and bad.
Will their high school life get any easier? October is shaping up to be a great read !
The Unwanteds Lisa McMann's new series for younger audiences is going to be a big hit. The beginning is a bit dark but once you are past the first 10 pages you will be hooked. Imagine a world where when you turn 13 your future is decided- wanted and you go on to government or science or unwanted and you go to your death. Your family puts you on a bus to go to the lake of boiling oil and all you can hope for is a quick end. The good news is that the end is really the beginning for these creative kids and they soon discover that they are going to a wonderful magical world , carefully hidden, where their creativity is cherished and they will learn the arts and magic. The academy has talking mirrors, transportation tubes and magic everywhere.
The kids must learn their magical weaponry quickly in case their world is discovered
and attacked. The first of many books to come and I can see anyone who is a Harry Potter, Narnia, Percy Jackson fan loving this.