Surprise revival in UK printed book sales, with ebooks dipping

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Ink on paper is a better product, at least for now, and it's showing at British tills. Sky UK's Lucy Cotter reports the first better year for print since 2007, and the worst one for ebooks since 2011.

Last year saw the first rise in sales since 2007, while digital book sales dropped for the first time since 2011.

Betsy Tobin, who runs the independent bookshop Ink@84 in Highbury, London, offers her customers a personalised service.

The bookshop offers coffee and alcohol and runs events and special author evenings.

Diversifying is part of her success but she says her customers also like buying in person rather than online.

They take pleasure from handling and owning books, she said.

I wonder if this has something to do with how well-run major UK bookstore chains are (small stores in high-traffic areas) compared to American ones (strip-mall big boxes, full of trashy ancillary merch and empty of foot traffic.) The literary retail culture there makes people want to drop in and fuss around with books, while the one here just means no-one is ever in a bookstore in the first place, so they just order stuff on Kindle. Read the rest

Knights of the Apocalypse, another Duck and Cover adventure

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The irreverent adventures continue! In Knights of the Apocalypse, Benjamin Wallace's former librarian is back and bumbling through the wreckage of civilization!

Jerry, Erica and their massive massif Chewy, have wound-up broken-down in the Kingdom of the Five Peaks. Southern Colorado's new ruler King Elias offers our post-apocalyptic nomadic warrior a chance to live, but there are always challenges. Cannibals, the power of steam, and a legion of knights all stand in their way. Watch Jerry mess it all up!

I've really enjoyed Wallace's Duck and Cover adventures. He takes some of the most fun tropes in post-apocalytpia and twists them on their side.

Knights of the Apocalypse (A Duck & Cover Adventure Post-Apocalyptic Series Book 2) via Amazon Read the rest

A new Bloom County collection of Trump-inspired reboot strips

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In the year since Berke Breathed came out of retirement to cover the 2016 election cycles with Opus, Bill, Milo and the gang, he's amassed enough material to fill a new 144-page collection: Bloom County Episode XI: A New Hope, which comes out in September. Read the rest

Jon Hunter is still at it in 'Hero at the Gates'

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Timothy Ellis' galaxy spanning space opera continues in Hero at the Gates! We're 9 damn books in and the central plot is finally about to get past its prelude!

I've really enjoyed this massive story. 9 novels ago Jon Hunter was a wet behind the ears kid on board his uncle's space trader. Now he's the Admiral of his own massive space flotilla, and ruler of several sections of space. The massive reveal about what the hell is going on, and what part Team Slinky Red Jumpsuits is going to play in it is near unavoidable, when our heroes set off in the exact opposite direction in this sometimes 2D universe.

The prize is tempting, but Jon can not miss the short window of time he's allowed to land on his home planet and consult the spiritual guys there who know all. How will it all work out? Gee... I'll have to start book 10.

Hero at the Gates (The Hunter Legacy Book 9) via Amazon Read the rest

Glass artist Dale Chihuly plays with fire and the audacity of beauty

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Chihuly on Fire by Henry Adams (author) and Dale Chihuly (artist) Chihuly Workshop 2016, 212 pages, 9.3 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches $40 Buy a copy on Amazon

For several decades now, art critics and casual admirers alike have talked about Dale Chihuly’s art in terms of its forms. Indeed, the artist himself organizes his work largely by their physical shapes, as does his latest self-published coffee-table book, Chihuly on Fire, whose chapter titles range from “Baskets” and “Sea Forms” to “Jerusalem Cylinders” and “Rotolo.” But thumbing the pages of this sumptuous, hardcover volume, and reading the biographical essay by art-history professor Henry Adams, one is struck by the importance of color to Chihuly’s work.

The shift to color began in 1981, when Chihuly and his team of gaffers and assistants produced the first of what would become known as the Macchia series. These often enormous vessels, whose sides were usually folded and deformed, featured solid-color interiors, lip wraps in contrasting hues, and thousands of “jimmies” of pure crushed colored glass, usually set against a background of white glass “clouds.”

Even in his early days, Chihuly’s ambitions for his chosen medium seemed larger than the modest network of glass-art galleries around the country would have the wherewithal to support. By the time his Macchia pieces came along, the so-called craft arts, of which glass art was but one, were allowed to be exuberant and even a bit zany, but they were ultimately expected to exhibit good table manners, to sit uncomplainingly at the kid’s table of the art world. Read the rest

Wherever you are on the the having guts scale, you can level up with Gutsy Girl

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul Bloomsbury USA 2016, 160 pages, 6.4 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

If ever there was a book I wished was around when I was little, it’s The Gutsy Girl. But I’m just as glad to have it in the world now. While I would have read it to pieces as a kid, it also gave grown-up me a powerful reminder: bravery and resilience are skills. Anyone can develop them.

The Gutsy Girl comprises author Caroline Paul’s stories of her own (mis)adventures, accompanied by short bios and quotes from other inspiring ladies, and helpful how-tos (make a compass outside, find the North Star, recognize animal tracks, etc.). All together, the book is everything it promises to be: escapades for your life of epic adventures.

Throughout the book, Paul models adventure through her own life, from racing a boat she made of milk cartons down a river as a young girl, to white-water rafting and working as a firefighter as an adult. And she shares what she’s learned along the way. While the lessons — about planning, communication, teamwork, knowing your limits and when to push them – and when not to — are valuable, I think the bigger idea is that all of her failures and triumphs are part of a learning process. With each new experience, Paul tests, hones, and ultimately grows her own bravery and resilience. Read the rest

Crowdfunding a second anthology of great UK sf magazine Holdfast

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Laurel writes, "Holdfast is an award-winning free online speculative fiction magazine that celebrates all things fantastic. We are trying to raise enough money to pay our writers and artists for their valuable work and also print a beautiful paperback. After a successful campaign for anthology #1 and winning the British Fantasy Society award for best magazine 2015 - we're hoping to create an even bigger and better anthology this time." Read the rest

Bookworm rugs

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The Bookworm Rug (100% woven polyester) come in 2' x 3' ($28), 3' x 5' ($58) and 4' x 6' ($79), and feature a selection of spines from some rather good books, including Iain Banks's debut "The Wasp Factory" some Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowksi and Haruki Murakami. (via Bookshelf) Read the rest

Marc "Half-Life" Laidlaw's gonzo cyberpunk is back in DRM-free ebooks

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Marc Laidlaw, the cyberpunk pioneer who went on to serve as writer on some of Valve's greatest video-game titles -- the Half-Life series, Portal -- has just posted his entire backlist to Amazon as $3, DRM-free ebooks, including his debut novel Dad's Nuke (think Fallout, but with religious extremist militants who subsist on "Host on a shingle," this being the cultured recovered foreskin tissue of Jesus Christ on fortified crackers) and Kalifornia, a brilliant and prescient novel about media, cultural disintegration, and celebrity. Read the rest

Shot in the '70s, North African Villages shows medieval villages unchanged by modernity

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

North African Villages: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia by Norman F. Carver Documan Pr Ltd 1989, 200 pages, 9 x 10.5 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $24 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the 1970s an architectural student drove a VW van around Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and northern Africa, recording the intact medieval villages still operating in their mountain areas. The hill towns at that time in Italy, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia kept a traditional way of building without architects, using indigenous materials, without straight streets, producing towns of uncommon attractiveness. The architect, Norman Carver, later self published a series of photo books documenting these remote villages which had not yet been interrupted with modernity. They looked, for most purposes, like they looked 1,000 years ago. All of Carter’s books are worthwhile, but my favorite is North African Villages. Here you get a portrait of not just the timeless architecture, but also a small glimpse of the lives that yielded that harmony of the built upon the born. It’s an ideal of organic design, that is, design that is accumulated over time. Read the rest

The new Lumberjanes book is sweet and badass, with a hell of a monster

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Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three -- collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success -- turned the series' reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.

100 African science fiction writers you should be reading

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Canadian/British science fiction and fantasy author Geoff Ryman, author of the incredible novel WAS, has begun a series in which he profiles 100 working science fiction and fantasy writers in Africa, place by place, starting with Nairobi. Read the rest

Coffee table book of photos of Brutalist architecture: This Brutal World

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Peter Chadwick -- he runs the @brutalhouse stream of loving photos of imposing brutalist monuments -- has teamed up with Phaedon to publish a coffee-table book of the biggest, most uncompromising hulking monsters of the bygone age of concrete futurism: This Brutal World. Read the rest

Kickstarting an indie graphic novel about John Brown and Harper's Ferry

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Wilfred Santiago and Sanlida Cheng are comics pros who've worked for the likes of Marvel, DC and Fantagraphics, but for "Thunderbolt: An American Tale," their dramatization of the life of John Brown and the militant abolitionist uprising at Harper's Ferry, they've decided to go indie and take it to Kickstarter. Read the rest

The Wolves of Currumpaw – A true story about Lobo, a wolf from the Old West

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The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill Flying Eye Books 2016, 80 pages, 9.7 x 12.1 x 0.6 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the early 1800s, half a million wolves roamed North America, but by 1862 settlers began pouring in from Europe and the landscape started to change. “These were the dying days of the Old West and the fate of wolves was sealed in it," begins The Wolves of Currumpaw.

The Wolves of Currumpaw, released today, is a true story about a wolf named Old Lobo, and a skilled hunter, Ernest Thompson Seton. Lobo was part of notorious pack of wolves in 1893 who, for five years, raided the ranches and farms of the Currumpaw Valley in New Mexico. Nobody was able to catch the stealthy wolf, and the locals began to think Old Lobo, or the King as they called him at the time, possessed supernatural charms. The locals finally offered $1000 to anyone who could catch him. Expert hunters set out to track him and hunt him down, but like the Terminator, Lobo couldn’t be killed – until Canadian-raised Seton came into town.

SPOILER paragraph: The story ends tragically, and might not be appropriate for more sensitive children. Seton does succeed in taking Lobo down, a section of the book that was hard for me to read. But then Seton has deep regrets and becomes a changed man. As a writer and sudden activist, Seton devoted the rest of his life to raising awareness about wolves. Read the rest

Warren Ellis's "Normal": serialized technothriller about futurists driven mad by tech-overload and bleakness

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In Normal, Warren Ellis (previously) sets a technothriller in a kind of rehab center for futurists and foresight specialists who've developed "abyss gaze" -- a kind of special bleak depression that overtakes people who plug themselves into the digital world 24/7 in order to contemplate our precarious days to come. Read the rest

Out today, "Necessity," the final volume of Jo Walton's Thessaly books, sequel to "The Just City" & "Philosopher Kings"

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The Just City is a gripping fantasy novel based on a thought-experiment: what if the goddess Athena transplanted all the people across time who'd ever dreamed of living in Plato's Republic to a Mediterranean island and set them loose to build that world? Read the rest

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