Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Blogger, Tara Hart: Books I Have Loved Before

Did you have a favorite book when you were a child? Can you still see its cover in your mind? Have you ever wished you still had a copy so you could read it aloud to yourself one last time?

My favorite book when I was learning to read was called Simon's Book by Henrik Drescher. Simon's Book is the story of a sketch-drawing of a boy named Simon, a monster, and what happens when they are left to their own devices on a piece of paper overnight. Luckily for Simon, the fountain pens and ink bottle decide to help him by drawing his escape from the monster. But when that escape plan goes awry, everyone is pleasantly surprised to find that the monster is FRIENDLY! In the morning the illustrator awakens to find a book in place of the sketch he left the night before.

My original copy of Simon's Book was lost along the path of childhood. I don't remember exactly when it disappeared or what happened to it, but I often found myself wishing I could re-read it and visit my old friends: Simon, the monster, the fountain pens, and the good ole ink bottle.

One day, several years ago, I was leaving a grad school class that was held in a library, and as I often did, I stopped to peruse the pile of books the library had culled from their shelves to give away. While looking through the pile of picture books, I couldn't believe it--there was Simon! I was delighted but also sad that my friends had been discarded. I knew they needed to come home with me that day.

Over the years I have thought about gifting Simon's Book to one of my friends' children, to introduce them to the wonderful illustrations and the fun story of Simon and the monster. Every time I go to take the book down off the shelf and wrap it as a gift, though, I stop and think about how sad I was without the book. So, I re-read it "one last time" and fall in love with my old friends all over again. Back the book goes on the shelf.

Maybe someday I will be able to give them away freely, but for now Simon and his friends live on my shelf, and from time to time I take them down and have a visit just so they know that I still love them.

What was YOUR favorite book as a kid?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Little Personal News on This Wednesday Afternoon

Hi, all. So, I made an announcement today over at the Book Country blog that I wanted to share with you. I've been keeping it under wraps for a while for a variety of reasons but on April 6th I'll be stepping down as Book Country's editorial coordinator and moving into a new position on the 9th as the QA Specialist for Penguin's tech team.

It's a big change for me (and we all know how well I deal with that haha) but I think it will be a good one. Give me more structure, shift my life a bit so I can spend more energy on my own writing and freelance work, etc. And it's always fun to learn something new and be a part of exciting new projects. I won't lie though--it is very hard for me to step away from the community I so love and believe in. There are such wonderful people and promising writers that make up Book Country. I plan to stay a part of it as much as I can though, participating on my own as a writer and editor as well as continuing as an official moderator.

Anyway, take a look at the post and you will also meet the new Book Country assistant, Nevena Georgieva, who is totally amazing and will be a great member of the team!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

So yesterday's book club meeting to discuss The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith was a success. Lots of great conversation and interesting opinions. But what I want to share with you now is...the CAKE.

I had originally planned to make a themed dessert--a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I made some slight alterations though, settling on a devil's food cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting, adorned with chocolate-covered strawberries and raspberries. Oh, and it was shaped like a heart.


Thanks for giving me even more motivation,! =)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Guest Blogger, Gloria Loman: Little Things...Like Knowing Your AUDIENCE

Why, hello again, Booklanders!

It’s time for us to chat about something a bit more serious—and infuriating—about the state of the book biz these days.

Earlier this week, B&N announced who the typical Nook customer is: women a little afraid about technology who value content. They nicknamed her “Julie.”

Well, well. Isn’t that nice? Publishing seems to have finally caught up with most other commercial businesses in knowing their customer!!!

A few years ago, I had a savvy entrepreneurial author ask me if the publisher I worked for planned to test her title or cover through focus groups. I laughed, even though I thought it was a great idea. The truth is that all the important decisions made on any book—covers, titles, subtitles, even what gets acquired—are made by publishers, editors, publicists, and marketing managers. These people may not have read the manuscript in question, may not read the genre or category, and may not even have set foot in a bookstore for the past six months. Frankly, I feel that most of my colleagues in publishing have no idea what the average reader is looking to read or how they browse a bookstore.

There are many problems ahead for legacy publishing (Amazon, fewer bookstores to sell more books at, the availability of self-publishing options, e-book pricing) but for me, the elephant in the room is not knowing who our customers—readers—are, and what they are willing to spend $27, $15, $9.99, or $1.49 on.

Consider this: do any of the Big Five publishers (Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette or Penguin) really know who their customers are? No. Should they? Yes.

The best example of how this works successfully is in retail—Bloomingdales’ staff knows the general profile of their customer (suburban/urban, affluent, elegant) as does Wal-Mart (suburban/rural, price conscious, conservative). But smart suppliers know their customer too, even in creative industries. Donna Karan knows who buys DKNY and who buys her couture; why can’t publishers know exactly who we are publishing books for?

Some of the problem lies in publishing folk having the wrong idea about who buys our product. We like to pretend that everyone reads as voraciously as we do and that each individual believes that books are as necessary to life as air, but neither is true. We should be able to target specific audiences, from the lady who is in four book clubs (our most devoted and regular customer base) to the college kid who buys the huge bestseller only after it’s made into a movie (the occasional customer). We need to know why people buy our books in order to give them what they want.

Thanks to technology (which “Julie,” apparently, is scared of), we can easily and cheaply find out. Once again, retail shows us the way. We could work with different sales channels to reward repeat customers. Buy three Vintage books, get one free by redeeming it through Random House’s website, no matter where you buy the other three titles. Continue to offer $1.99 e-book specials each month, but require that readers sign up for the HarperCollins email newsletter (which not only promotes future titles, but also registers a customer’s preferences upon subscription). Imprints at S&S and Penguin could offer a free book if customers take a survey about their reading habits on Twitter. Publishers could even require retailers to tell us what they know about customers (gasp!). All of these techniques could help publishers sell more books, from being able to make better acquisition decisions to improving publicity and marketing campaigns. Retail figured this out long ago: knowing your customer is the key to getting and keeping that customer—and essentially to making more money.

Publishing people rely on each other as “taste-makers,” to intuit the audience for a book—guesstimating at its best. However, most people at the Big Five rarely act like everyday readers: They don’t read their favorite authors anymore (because they’re too busy reading for work); they browse bookstores looking for specific books instead of seeing what catches their attention; and worst of all, when they talk about a popular book, they discuss publishing strategies rather than its plot, characters, or why they enjoyed it (or not).

Hello, publishing people? If we want to save this industry, we need to become readers again. Maybe all you Booklanders can even help publishing folk get back to the true reason we’re all in this business.

Let’s encourage each other to read one book a month that’s not for work, simply something you would have picked up on your own before you read constantly for your job.

Let’s encourage the savvy publishers we work for to use a simple technique that has been successful for so many other businesses: Know your customer and produce product that they love.

If we get to know “Julie” and successfully entertain her, then we will continue to thrive and be relevant. But if we maintain a distance between ourselves and our readers, we are likely to not only fail “Julie” but the readers we all are too.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Classic Authors + Reality TV = Solid Entertainment

The awesome Dan Cabrera sent a fun link my way this morning: Flavorwire's post about which authors we'd watch reality TV shows about:

Are you more interested in the Brontës than the Kardashians? Does your heart embrace only one Millionaire Matchmaker — Becky Sharp? (Okay, two. Undine Spragg, for name alone.) We lit geeks at Flavorwire see the canned drama of the Basketball Wives, and pooh-pooh. We’d rather tune out, turn off, and reminisce about Faulkner’s drunken Pulitzer Prize speech, or the time Hemingway and Wallace Stevens got into a fistfight. Now, there’s drama we want to DVR! After all, why do reality TV stars enthrall the American public? Our guess is their affluence, good looks, and constant conflict. Well, you know what we say to that? Edith Wharton, Lord Byron, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Literary history roils with glamor, wealth, and — above all — enormous egos. It’s the perfect stuff of entertainment (and art, apparently). So which writers would be on your dream TiVo? Check out our own fantasy list after the jump!

Scott Loves Zelda

Announcer: “Next week, see Zelda start some DRAMA when Scott ignores her at their anniversary party!”

Video: Zelda Fitzgerald throws herself down a flight of stairs, while Scott stands below, talking to a group of friends.

Series highlights: Zelda pulls a Black Swan, frantically doing pliés while her mind deteriorates. Zelda and F. Scott have a major fight when he plagiarizes her diary for This Side of Paradise. The epic, heart-breaking series finale covers Zelda’s death while locked in a burning mental hospital. The actual footage is omitted. The crew survived.

Charm School with Truman Capote

Announcer: “Can Truman Capote make SILK PURSES out of these SOW’S EARS?”

Video: Several teens sit at a fancy dining table. One burps loudly and unapologetically. Another curses so much almost all of her dialogue is bleeped. Wearing an impeccable Tom Ford suit, Capote watches them, shaking his head with dismay.

Season highlights: Capote has a rap battle with several of his students. He’s surprisingly good.

Dandy Eye for the Bro Guy

Announcer: “See Baudelaire LOSE HIS MIND when a client ignores his advice!”

Video: Baudelaire takes one look at his client’s outfit, and storms off set, shouting expletives. The man in question wears cargo shorts, a ratty t-shirt, and socks with flip-flops.

Season highlights: Baudelaire and Kanye West meet-cute while reaching for the same fashion cane. Baudelaire starts an internet beef with Rachel Zoe.

Edgar Allan Poe Goes to College

Announcer: “Watch this famous COLLEGE DROPOUT try to fit in at TEXAS UNIVERSITY.”

Video: Poe enters an Austin coffee shop. A girl looks at him, and loudly says, “God. I am so sick of hipster mustaches.” Poe looks wounded and confused.

Series highlights: Poe goes to SXSW, and discovers his love for Black Heart Procession. He wins a beer pong tournament at a fraternity. Poe graduates with honors, despite doing all his classwork at the local bar.

Keeping Up With the Whartons

Announcer: “This season, FAMILY RULES as Edith returns to her parents’ New York brownstone, but can she SURVIVE when her EX, Teddy, suddenly returns?”

Video: Teddy drunkenly enters Edith’s private box at the opera. She picks up her opera glasses and demurely ignores him.

Season highlights: Edith finds out that the phrase “Keeping up with the Jonses,” coined about her father’s family, has been replaced with “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” She makes a lot of snide comments about the nouveau riche. When Edith hosts an exclusive dinner party, the Kardashians are snubbed. There is significant show-to-show crossover.

I’m Ernest Hemingway… Get Me Out of Here!

Announcer: “Tune in to this year’s HOTTEST show (insert clip of a desert) and see if Ernest Hemingway is man enough to outlive the tropics!”

Video: Hemingway runs frantically from a wild boar.

Series highlights: Gaunt and sunburnt, Hemingway searches the island for a hidden “Moveable Feast.” Hemingway accidentally eats a psychotropic plant, and thinks he’s on assignment for The Kansas City Star. The hilarious season finale rewards Hemingway with a trip to Brasserie Lipp; he cries at the sight of steak tartare. freaks out.

A Shot at Love with Jane Austen

Announcer: “Come back next week for more HEARTBREAK as SHOCKING TRUTHS are revealed!”

Video: Jane’s favorite suitor admits his engagement to another woman. Jane runs out of the room, sobbing.

Season highlights: Jane recovers from her heartbreak with the help of her sister and best friend, Cassandra. Jane bonds with a real estate agent. They fall in love as he escorts her across his vast acres of land.

The Simple Life with Lord Byron

Announcer: “This season, see Lord Byron give up his life of EXCESS for one of ACCESS — to the SIMPLE LIFE.”

Video: Lord Byron rides on the back of a garbage truck. He serves fast food. Farmhands wake Lord Byron, asleep in the barn. They laugh at the curling papers in his hair.

Season highlights: Lord Byron tries to seduce a local Arkansas hottie. She assumes he’s a “disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I’m saying?” and rejects him. Lord Byron then sleeps with her brother. Their parents kick him off their farm.

The Real Housewives of Ex-Pat Paris

Announcer: “Who starts THROWING STONES when Alice shows up to a concert (insert video of pot leaves, psychedelic music) STONED?”

Video: Alice B. Toklas’ loud snoring overshadows Cole Porter’s music. Spectators glare at her. Embarrassed, Gertrude Stein nudges Alice awake. Immediately, Alice asks where to get food — loudly. Audience members shush her. Cole looks livid.

Season highlights: Picasso shows his Portrait of Gertrude Stein at the Met in New York. An art critic comments that Gertrude doesn’t resemble the painting. Picasso replies, “She will.” Alice laughs. Gertrude gives them both the cold shoulder, and Alice sleeps on the couch that night.

Growing up Brontë

Announcer: “Tune in this season as DISASTER STRIKES. Can the remaining Brontës COPE with the LOSS?”

Video: Charlotte cries while Emily comforts her. Anne stands forgotten in the background.

Series highlights: Charlotte makes advances on her married ex-headmaster, Constantin Héger. Their brother, Branwell, seduces the wife of Anne’s boss. Anne confronts Branwell, but the illicit love continues. Anne is eventually forced to quit.

See the original post HERE

Which of these would YOU be most interested in seeing?

Or is there an author you'd ADD to the list?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A "Wacky Wednesday" Indeed

Man, I loved that book, Wacky Wednesday. It was so random and weird and, well, wacky. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised though, given most of Dr. Seuss's books are a little off the deep end. AWESOME. But certainly odd.

I was reminded of this book today when my friend Allison sent me a link to this recent GalleyCat post:

Someone mailed more than eleven pounds of marijuana to Macmillan’s St. Martin’s Press offices. The Smoking Gun broke the story today.

Bound for a fictitious employee named Karen Wright, the shipments had a potential street value of $70,000. We performed a few Google Books searches, but couldn’t find any clever literary allusions hidden in the fake employee’s name. Now everybody wants to know–who is Karen Wright?

Check it out: “The pot parcels, mailed from San Diego, never made it out of California, however. A post office employee contacted postal inspectors after alerting to the distinctive scent of the two packages. According to mailing labels, the boxes were purportedly sent by ‘ABT Books,’ a San Diego firm that listed a return address that investigators determined to be fictitious.”

See the original post HERE

Ahhh, just another Wednesday in publishing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jay-Z and Kanye Parody About Bookstores? Ok.

I was planning to write a real post today--there were a couple of timely topics of interest to me, like celebrity ghostwriting and eBooks for children v. adults. I actually have some opinions on these topics to share. But my day today is full of stress and overwhelming drama, so those more in-depth posts will have to wait, sadly.

Instead, I am going to share with you a funny parody I found on the

Kanye West once infamously said, "I would never want a book's autograph." In light of this, we wonder how he would feel about Annabelle Quezada and La Shea Delaney's book nerd parody of his and Jay-Z's song "N*ggas in Paris."

Dubbed "B*tches in Bookshops," the girls make countless book geek references: Goodreads, Friday Reads, Foucault, Proust, Barthes...we could go on and on.

With lines like, "Read so hard librarians tryin’ ta FINE me­ /They can’t identify me/ Checked in with a pseudonym, so I guess you can say I’m Mark Twaining," we're hoping that these ladies make a follow up.

Check out the video below, and click here to visit Annabelle's blog, which also features a transcript of the lyrics:

See the original post HERE

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reading is Delicious

Books and food.

Two of my favorite things in the world.

So, imagine my delight when I learned about the blog, where "classic literature is re-imagined as dinner" ( newsletter). When taking a peek around the site, I found a number of great posts like the very timely Hunger Games Cherry Pistachio Baked Alaska and Jane Eyre Cardamom Seed Buns.

Cara, the blogger over at Yummy Books, takes readers step-by-step through preparation of whatever delicious treat is at hand and weaves in interesting and compelling tidbits about the book that inspired the dish. She even shares some relevant quotes.

I definitely recommend checking it out--and Cara, if you're reading, I'd love to see you continue to post more frequently! Your blog is fab. =)

I myself try to do things like this (with much more simplicity) for my book club meetings, attempting to make snacks that fit with what we are reading. I have been a bit of a slacker the past several meetings in that arena but this coming weekend am excited to be baking a "The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Red Velvet Cake." Hopefully it will turn out as well as I'm imagining...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Blogger, Dan Cabrera: Book Review, "Underworld" by Don DeLillo

When considering America in the twentieth century, trash probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. By “trash” I mean garbage, refuse, or waste. The thrown away, tossed aside detritus of everyday life that, when assembled together, paints a complete portrait of who we are. This is what Don DeLillo does with his 1997 novel Underworld*. He takes the discarded, the peripheral, and brings it into full view. He looks at America in the second half of the twentieth century--and our own inner lives--by sifting through the remains. For DeLillo, one nation’s trash is his treasure.

Underworld is a grand tome that is deservedly called a “Great American Novel,” a “Masterpiece,” or just “Very Long.” At 827 pages, DeLillo packs his dense novel full of fascinating characters, richly detailed locations, and enough emotional heft to carry at least five books. DeLillo, along with Cormac McCarthy, is rightly considered one of the titans of late twentieth century American literature. His prose is straightforward and unadorned, yet his language is so evocative and descriptive that you can feel everything he writes. His brilliance lies in his ability to probe the psyche of a person, a nation, an event, or even an object. A master of aesthetics, DeLillo is a pointillist painter with words.

While DeLillo can hone in on a moment and extrapolate reams of data to understand that moment from all angles, he still manages to paint a sweeping picture of Cold War America. Told in reverse-chronological order, Underworld begins in the modern day (which was then the late 90’s) and goes backwards through the decades until 1951. The prologue, practically a novella, focuses on a fateful day in 1951 when “the shot heard round the world” took place. The “shot” refers to a baseball home run during a playoff game between the New York Dodgers and Giants, which, coincidentally--amazingly--took place the same day the Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb. Truth is stranger than fiction, but DeLillo uses the day to capture the grandeur, paranoia, and interconnectedness that follows in the rest of the novel.

The home run baseball from that 1951 game connects most of the players in the novel. DeLillo retraces the baseball’s ownership through the decades, going from a local Bronx man to a memorabilia collector to one of the protagonists, a man named Nick Shay. Nick, originally from the Bronx, lives in Arizona where he works for a waste management company, specializing in storing nuclear waste. A soul adrift in the American West, Nick is burdened with a tragic past, much like his country. And like America, he is also burdened with an existential crisis, unsure of the future and unsure how to define himself in this new, modern age.

It’s nearly impossible to summarize the plot, not only because there are many subplots, but because doing so would take so much time that you’d be better off just reading the book. The novel is composed of vignettes, snapshots in time that, when stitched together, tell the story of its characters. Each chapter could work as its own short story, which, for me, made reading the long novel breezy and refreshing. Rather than being taxed with remembering who’s who and what’s what, I was able to enjoy each chapter as its own pearl. In fact, what’s important isn’t necessarily plot points, but the truths behind the stories. On practically every page you could find DeLillo’s thesis statement and also a universal truth (sometimes they’re one in the same). In 827 pages, you would hope that some sentences jump out at you, but in Underworld you get more than you anticipate, and each gem snaps your head back with its profound wisdom.

What general truths, then, does the novel espouse? It’s easy to forget that the 1990s were an innocent age. America, emerging victorious from the Cold War, was the lone superpower. There were little or no threats looming over our heads, and the fear of total annihilation suddenly disappeared overnight. America was in a bubble, a still limbo where we didn’t know our place in the world. We had time to reflect back on the past fifty years, when nuclear bombs were the norm. In the 90s, as in today, with enough time and distance, the thought of a nuclear warhead raining down on us, destroying civilization, seemed preposterous. It was mad. It was also very real. But, despite the fear of global meltdown, people went on living their lives.

Underworld examines those unsung heroes of the Cold War: the everyday people. The men and women who scraped by, trying to make sense of their own purpose while trying to make sense of the hectic, chaotic world around them.

Now, though, in a post-9/11 world, we’re thrown into a different “Us vs. Them” mentality. The world is again in chaos (is it ever not?), and we’re slowly (hopefully) emerging from the terrible shadow of fear. So, while the idea of Underworld may seem quaint and dated now, we can still appreciate its message. In fact, by reading the chapters that take place in the 90s we can see both a prescience and a timelessness in the way DeLillo imagines a nation as eerily paranoid about the future. And today, with the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the novel regains its immediacy.

While DeLillo easily paints a maco picture, he specializes in the micro moments. Interior thoughts, small conversations, quiet reveries, even the minute description of a work of art: these moments make up the underworld of our existence. DeLillo captures them effortlessly, almost stream-of-consciousness, which made the novel flow quickly.

Though I don’t know for sure, parts (especially later parts of the novel) felt autobiographical to me. DeLillo was born and raised in the Bronx, in an Italian-American family, much like Nick Shay. The later chapters that take place primarily in the 1950s Bronx felt a bit removed from the rest of the novel. It was a little too specific, a little too much of a departure from the grand scheme of the rest of the book. Too much time was focused on certain characters while we lost track of others during these chapters, but it’s hard to complain given that the writing and the characterization were still top notch.

DeLillo brings his story back to the present at the very end, and he tries to tie everything (technology included) together in a way that does work, but it actually feels a little quaint given the age we live in now.

There is, of course, a lot more that can be said about Underworld. It’s long, but well worth your time (and I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better about the time I spent on it). It’s a big book and a Big Book, one deserving of all of the praise heaped on it (in 2006, a group of prominent writers named it the number two book in the past 25 years, behind Toni Morrison’s Beloved).

If you see a ragged copy of Underworld in a used bookstore or see the book littering a for sale rack, pick up a copy. Or order a new one and keep it on hand. The small stories that get tucked away shouldn’t be lost forever. Sometimes, they’re the stories that really matter.

*In case you were wondering, this has nothing to do with the vampire vs. werewolf movies of the same name.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hunger Games Webcomic from

With the Hunger Games movie on the brain (I bought my opening night tickets yesterday--w00t!) it's no surprise that @Tordotcom's tweet regarding The Hunger Games and a short comic by @faitherinhicks caught my eye.

The tweet linked to a post on, sharing Faith's comic:

The forthcoming film version of The Hunger Games has produced a lot of excitement, but its suprising density for a young adult trilogy has also produced a lot of reflection. In Faith Erin Hicks’s case, this reflection is very, very personal. (Contains spoilers for the end of the series.)

Faith Erin Hicks is the author and illustrator of a number of webcomics, including Demonology 101 and Zombies Calling. Her comic Friends With Boys is now available as a graphic novel from First Second.

Be sure to check out her other comics on, as well, including her fantastic tribute on A Wrinkle in Time (“Punch of love!”) and Aliens.

See the original post HERE

This is definitely an interesting concept (and powerful statement of hope). But there's one important thing to remember when creating a parallel between The Hunger Games and war as we know it:

In The Hunger Games, all of this violence is done for sport, not to end some kind of conflict or eventually better the world (NOT saying war does that, but for some, that's how it's viewed!).

Sad on so many levels.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reading Nooks Rock

For the first time in I don't know how long, I went to a cafe this weekend to just sit and read. It was lovely. I camped out at little tea shop in Columbus Circle (Argo Tea) for about three hours, sitting in the sunshine, relaxing and enjoying some solitude with my book.

I wish I could find more places in NYC to sit and read like that but that are even more relaxing, comfortable, and unrushed. I need a little NYC reading nook, if you will. I've found a few cafes I enjoy, but they aren't quite reading areas.

Truth be told, I became very jealous when I saw a post on about what makes a great reading area and the accompanying slideshow of some of the best reading spaces:

There's nothing more relaxing than curling up in a blanket with a good book. And though you can immerse yourself in story anywhere, maximize your reading experience in a calm, quiet and relaxing space. A home library would be a wonderful and ideal place for your literary endeavors, and you wouldn't need a card for instant membership. Instead, look to the walls around your home and the comfortable seating you already own to design the perfect reading space. Here are a few tips to remember when planning a literary escape.

Comfy accoutrements. To let go and fully immerse yourself in a story, you need to be comfortable. And whether that's on your bed, sitting on the couch or lying on the floor, make sure you have enough cushions or pillows. If you're relaxing on an expansive couch or armchair, make sure there's a side or coffee table nearby to place any beverages. Also, you may want to choose a color palette that is serene and subtle. It can be hard to focus when the sequence pillows and fuchsia walls keep drawing your eyes.

Bring in light. Reading tiny text is already straining your eyes, so don't make it worse with a dimly lit room. Choose an area next to a window to get as much natural lighting as possible. If dark moody rooms are more your style, install hanging pendant lights over your armchair or place table lamps on a side table. The extra lighting will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Search for silence. If you can help it, avoid creating a reading space around your TV or computer. Constant sound and pretty moving pictures can be tempting when you're trying to concentrate.

And, finally, flip through the slideshow below to see 16 stunning libraries and reading areas that are inspiring us lately, ranging from the ultra modern and minimal to the cozy and charming.

See the original post HERE

These are my faves from the slideshow (I do, however, wish they would tell me where these rooms/libraries are located. FAIL.) :

Where do YOU like to read? (New Yorkers, recommendations welcome!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Blogger, Gloria Loman: Government Drama. Again.

It's been a while, Booklanders! But when I heard about the DOJ's lawsuits against five major publishers and Apple yesterday, I just couldn't keep my trap shut any longer.

GalleyCat sums up the sitch:
According to a bombshell report in the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice could sue Apple and five major publishers for breaking antitrust laws with agency model pricing for eBooks.

A number of civil lawsuits have also been filed against Apple, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA), Macmillan and HarperCollins for allegedly colluding to fix eBook prices in 2010. Some of these publishers have already spoken with the DOJ in hopes of striking a settlement before the case ever reached court.

Here’s more from the article: “William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, gave a deposition to the Justice Department in which he testified that abandoning the agency pricing model would effectively result in a single player gaining even more market share than it has today, according to people familiar with the testimony. A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble declined to comment.”

If you want to explore some of the legal issues behind the potential suit, consumer rights firm Hagens Berman filed the first agency model lawsuit in 2011–alleging that the agency model for eBook pricing is “in violation of a variety of federal and state antitrust laws, the Sherman Act, the Cartwright Act and the Unfair Competition Act.”

In court filings, the firm speculated that damages “could total tens of millions of dollars.”

Read the original post HERE

Now, let me just say...what the??

Ridiculous, if you ask me (not that anyone ever actually does. I offer my two cents pro bono!). If the book biz as a whole agrees that changes need to be made to agency models or pricing models of any kind, then maybe there's a good reason for it. Maybe the reason such big players are on the same side of this e-book issue is because it's what's best for the industry.

I know, I know, there's more at play here than e-book prices. It comes down to whose selling the e-books and a possible monopoly situation (or at least that's this critic's understanding). And I can see how some people might think publishers and Apple are in "cahoots" but really, let's think about it for a second people. Apple doesn't hold all the e-book cards in the business. Have you heard of a little company called Amazon? Seriously. A new pricing structure industry-wide will change things for all players, not just one.

I see it the way the pubs do, in this case, when they "told investigators that the shift to agency pricing enhanced competition in the industry by allowing more electronic booksellers to thrive" (WSJ).

That's the important piece here, people. Books. Selling more books so the industry can thrive as one.

Just let people read their damn books in peace. The pros will figure out what's best for this changing market. Let's cut the government drama.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Judy Blume Moves to the 21st Century, E-book style

Ahhh, Judy Blume....

Like many women my age, I've read my share of her books. My mom awkwardly gave me a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret when I was ten, to prepare me for "womanhood." It was kind of a cop out in a way, but I'd probably do the same to my daughter, if I ever have one. Why? Because it did actually help. I still have it on my shelf at home, in fact. I learned a lot from Judy Blume. As have likely millions of girls. There's even a book of essays out there called Everything I Need to Know About Being a Girl, I Learned from Judy Blume.


Anyway, all that said, it made me smile today to hear the news on GalleyCat today that her books are finally coming out as e-books:
Random House Children’s Books is publishing 13 eBooks from children’s author Judy Blume. The first 10 books will be available on March 21st in the U.S. and Canada.

This includes classic books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Deenie; Blubber; and Tiger Eyes. Later this year, Random House will release eBook editions of The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, Freckle Juice, and The Pain and the Great One, a picture book.

Blume had this quote in the release: “This is an exciting day for me. I’m happy that my readers, many of whom have been patiently waiting, will now be able to choose which format works best for them to enjoy their favorite books.”

Beverly Horowitz, VP & Publisher, Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, stated: “Judy Blume’s voice has universal appeal. Her honest and witty books will continue to encourage reading, with an expanding reach in this format.”

See the original post HERE

With this digital age upon us and the growing popularity of e-reading, it's becoming more and more important to ensure that important books like these, books that can be so impactful and comforting while coming of age, are available in a variety of formats.

While, sure, some of the things discussed will be outdated here in the 21st century--they were outdated even when I read them--the core concepts are the same. And if that can help even one girl be more confident about growing up, well then I say it's worth it. Bring on the Judy Blume e-books.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Beloved Children's Book author Jan Berenstain Dies, 88

One of my favorite things to read as a kid were the Berenstain Bears books. Heck, I still like to read them as an adult. To my little sisters, of course, but still.

There is a book for nearly every life lesson and I found comfort in the pages whenever I was struggling--whether it be having a fight with my brother, getting in trouble sneaking too many sugar cubes, or not accepting the fact that I was going to have a sister and not be the baby anymore. The books were there.

Sadly, though, last week we lost one of the beloved authors of this timeless series. Jan Berenstain, 88, passed away a week ago last Friday (2/24) after suffering a stroke.

I know I'm a little late with this news, but I wanted to share it anyway, as I know I'm not the only one out there who was impacted by her contributions to children's literature.

The Associated Press reported on her death:

Jan Berenstain, who with her husband, Stan, wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers and their parents for 50 years, has died. She was 88.

Berenstain, a longtime resident of Solebury in southeastern Pennsylvania, suffered a severe stroke on Thursday and died Friday without regaining consciousness, her son Mike Berenstain said.

The gentle tales of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear were inspired by the Berenstain children, and later their grandchildren. The stories address children's common concerns and aim to offer guidance on subjects like dentist visits, peer pressure, a new sibling or summer camp.

The first Berenstain Bears book, "The Big Honey Hunt," was published in 1962. Over the years, more than 300 titles have been released in 23 languages — most recently in Arabic and Icelandic — and have become a rite of passage for generations of young readers.

"They say jokes don't travel well, but family humor does," said Jan Berenstain told The Associated Press in 2011. "Family values is what we're all about."

Stan and Jan Berenstain, both Philadelphia natives, were 18 when they met on their first day at art school in 1941.

They married in 1946, after Stan Berenstain returned home from serving as a medical illustrator at a stateside Army hospital during World War II. During that time, Jan Berenstain worked as a draftsman for the Army Corps of Engineers and as a riveter building Navy seaplanes.

Before their family of bear books was born, the young couple had already built a successful career in periodicals. A cartoon series they produced called "All in the Family" ran in McCall's and Good Housekeeping magazines for 35 years, and their art appeared in magazines including Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post.

Stan and Jan Berenstain created hundreds of books until Stan Berenstain's death in 2005 at the age of 82.

Mike Berenstain is an illustrator who collaborated on the books with his mother in recent years. His elder brother, writer Leo Berenstain, is involved with the business end of the family franchise.

The books in recent years have tackled modern subjects such as online safety and childhood obesity, and the bears (or their human helpers) answer children's emails and letters, but the goal is to tell enduring, universal stories. Perennial favorites cover challenges of getting kids to doing chores, defuse fears of the first day of school and teach values of kindness and generosity.

"It's wonderful to do something you love for so many years," Jan Berenstain told the AP in 2011. "Not everyone has that."

About 260 million copies of Berenstain Bears books have been held in the hands of children and their parents since the earliest books were published with the help of Theodor Geisel, a children's books editor at Random House better known as Dr. Seuss.

Mike Berenstain said his mother worked daily at her home studio in an idyllic part of Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, which served as inspiration for the books' setting. He said he will continue writing and illustrating future Berenstain books.

"Every day she was very productive," he said. "She was working on two books and had been doing illustrations until the day before she passed away."

Jan Berenstain is survived by her two sons and four grandchildren.

Read the re-posting in the SF Gate HERE

Rest in peace, Jan. We'll miss you.

What is YOUR favorite "Berenstain Bears" book?

(Mine is The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room.

Yay for organizing!)

Friday, March 2, 2012

SLIVER OF SHADOW Giveaway "winners" selected!

Hi, readers. Apologies for my absence this week (and the absence of a guest post today). I've been sick as a dog at home in bed, looking like this:

I did want to announce, however, now that I am feeling slightly better, the winners of this week's A Sliver of Shadow giveaway!!

*drumroll please*

And the set of awesome trading cards go to commenter......Kerensa!!!

And the copy of A Sliver of Shadow goes to commenter....Ashelynn Hetland!!

Congratulations Kerensa and Ashelynn! Please email me at with your mailing address to claim your free gift!

Thanks to all who participated. =)