sbowman's blog

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Who says suburban living has to be dull and unimaginative? Welcome Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, which takes traditional suburban ideal living and turns it on it's head. This book is bursting with imagination as it tells 15 short, illustrated short stories filled with wonder, loss, peace, hope and redemption. Not to make it sound all like butterflies and flowers, there is a slight bizarre and surreal edge to these tales that will leave the reader both wondering and and inspired.

Cleopatra: A Life

Forget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history.

Repackaging the Classics

Wuthering HeightsHow important is the cover of a book? Will romantic new covers and bonus quizzes like "Are you destined for a love like Catherine and Heathcliff's?" be enough to appeal to young adult readers? HarperTeen thinks so. They have recently rereleased several classic books including Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet with covers no doubt reminding teen girls of the Twilight series.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I admit to being a streaky reader - I think this time last year I was on a World War I fiction kick. And this winter I read three books in a row about the Johnstown Flood including both fiction and non-fiction titles - Three Rivers Rising, In Sunlight In a Beautiful Garden, and The Johnstown Flood. The latter is by David McCullough, a famous historian and two time Pulitzer Prize recipient who is from Pittsburgh near the area where the flood occurred.

Recently though it seems I am reading a lot of coming of age novels featuring girls as the main character. E. Lockhart has written some wonderful contemporary coming of age novels, but for something historical I also have recently fallen for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

Newest Most Favoritist Young Adult Author

The teenage female protagonists of E. Lockhart's novels are funny, smart, interesting, questioning and underneath it all resilient and strong. They don't always make the best initial choices, but are willing to learn and adjust as they go. These coming-of-age novels feature a romance (or two), but not at the cost of ignoring other similar and frequently troublesome themes of any young life - parents, school, friendships and finding your niche.

From Book to Movie to Award Nomination

Where does Hollywood get many of their ideas? Comic books? Yes. TV shows from the 1970s? *Sigh* - yes. But also from books! Real books! This year's Academy Award nominations were announced this week, including 5 films for Best Adapted Screen Play - 4 of which are based on books. The fifth film, Toy Story 3 is based on a original treatment of the first movie (or something).

If you liked these movies - you might try the original too! I know I am adding several of these to my to-read list.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
This memoir is the basis for Danny Boyle's film 127 Hours and tells the amazing true story of a hiker who had to make a terrible decision after being trapped and injured alone in the desert for over five days. As a sometimes solo hiker, I am intrigued by this story. Both movie and book are on my list.

Let the Great World Spin

Frank McCourt had this to say about this National Book Award winner, "trust me, this is the sort of book that you will take off your shelf over and over again as the years go along. It's a story of the early 1970s, but it's also the story of our present times. And it is, in many ways, a story of a moment of lasting redemption even in the face of all the evidence....I didn't want to stop turning the pages. I'm really not sure what McCann will do after this, but this is a great New York book, not just for New Yorkers but for anyone who walks any sort of tightrope at all. And yes, it doesn't surprise me that it takes an Irishman to capture the heart of the city." This novel captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, promise, and soon-to-be-ended innocence.

Graphic Novels for The Afraid

I will come right out and say that I do not like superheroes (movie or print) and I didn't read comic books as a kid, so I am not naturally drawn to the graphic novel format. Because I'm kind of a nerd, what I do like is big fat novels and dusty historical non-fiction. So color me surprised when recently I've been enjoying more graphic novels. Last night as I finished Mercury by Hope Larson I began to wonder and hope that the reason went beyond the fact that I can read on in a single sitting -- though that is very satisfying too! My rationale is that I've been craving something different. I have read enough fiction to be somewhat bored with a traditional storyline. I want to think while I read -- to be engaged! And picking up some graphic novels has been the way to do that recently. I've tried to compile a list of graphic novels for the hesitant -- for anyone who thought that they weren't interested. Give one a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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