Bellwether: Connie Willis's classic, hilarious novel about the science of trendiness

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It's been nearly 20 years since the publication of Bellwether, Connie Willis's comic novel about scientists caught in the turmoil of bureaucratic fads. I had very fond memories of this book, though I hadn't read it in more than a decade, so I gave the DRM-free audiobook a whirl, and fell in love with it all over again. Read the rest

Humans, make room for Felines of New York!

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Felines of New York: A Glimpse into the Lives of New York's Feline Inhabitants by Jim Tews Simon and Schuster 2015, 240 pages, 7.4 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches (softcover) $11 Buy a copy on Amazon

A beautiful book with glossy pages, the photographs of the myriad cats in Felines of New York are as diverse as the cats themselves: single portraits that occupy a single page, several that spread across two, working cats, attentive cats, cats ignoring the photographer – all are portrayed. Lolo, a silver tabby in Park Slope, is quoted as saying, “For me, showing love is more about what I won’t do than what I will do. For example, if I love you, I won’t shit outside your bedroom door.” Jeddy, a cat from the Lower East Side, tells us, “My grandparents immigrated here from New Jersey with nothing, and now I have this box. I wish they could see me. They’d be like 'How the f--- did you get that box? We never had a box.' But I don’t know, the box kind of showed up and so I sat in it.”

Author and photographer Jim Tews takes snapshots of the cats he encounters in New York – both feral and community cats, as well as those that live with human owners. From the purebred to those with dubious origins, the photographs are beautiful portraits of cats in their habitats, and short interviews provide insight to their lives. Read the rest

A Burglar's Guide to the City: burglary as architectural criticism

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For years, Geoff Manaugh has entertained and fascinated us with his BLDGBLOG, and now he's even better at full-length, with A Burglar's Guide to the City (previously), a multidisciplinary, eclectic, voraciously readable book that views architecture, built environments, and cities themselves through the lens of breaking-and-entering.

Humans of New York - Photos of random strangers in NYC and their life stories

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See sample pages of Humans of New York at Wink.

Brendon Stanton started photographing random strangers in New York City in 2010. He treated each of them like a celebrity, portraying them in a classy portrait on the street. He then added a little bit of their life story in their own words. These mini-autobiographies were the secret sauce that transformed random snapshots of strangers into a remarkable series of portraits of real people that you could connect with. Brandon posted his photos-plus-bio on his blog, Humans of New York, which quickly went viral on social media until he had millions of followers. The 400 best of his portraits were fan-funded into this printed book.

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'Wizard in a Witchy World' is an urban fantasy love story

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Jamie McFarlane's Wizard in a Witchy World tells the tale of lost in love, current-era wizard Felix Slade.

Slade has a tough name, but thats about it. Generally having spent his life not in love, suddenly Felix is. Naturally, he falls in love with a witch, and they are hard to love. It doesn't help simplify matters that Slade has had a vision of the object of his desire dying, and must save her.

This cute, fast paced adventure includes a lot of strong world building. The lead character is not a big action seeking hero, and the story reflects that. It will be interesting to see where McFarlane takes this next.

Wizard in a Witchy World by Jamie McFarlane via Amazon Read the rest

An interview with Beverly Cleary about her inspiring books for children

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[Beverly Cleary is 100 years old today. Here's an entry I posted in 2006 about an NPR interview with the great children's book author.--Mark]

I'm over a month behind in listening to podcasts, so I just got around to listening to this NPR interview with Beverly Cleary. She just turned 90, and her mental acuity is better than most people half her age.

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Kickstarting Tak, a new Cheapass Game based on Patrick Rothfuss's "Wise Man's Fear"

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Carol from Cheapass Games writes, "About a year ago, James Ernest started working with Patrick Rothfuss to make the game Tak a reality. Tak features in Patrick's novel, The Wise Man's Fear." Read the rest

Rad American Women – Athletes, writers, rock stars and other heroines who helped shape our world

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Activists, artists, pioneers. Rad American Women A-Z takes readers on an alphabetized journey through the lives of women throughout the country and across time “who fought,” “who led,” and “who soared.” Every woman’s story begins with an action: there are no passive heroines in this historical feminist primer.

Each biographical sketch by Kate Schatz is accompanied by a crisp, black and white print from Miriam Klein Stahl. The author and illustrator team create a tone that is both conversational and immediate. The brightly colored background of each portrait seeps across from image page to text, highlighting each woman’s name and drawing readers into her story. This alphabet book meets call to action lends itself to a wide range of readers, using accessible, explanatory language (“A union is an organization that helps protect the rights of people who have the same kind of job.”), bold, dynamic illustrations, and a traditional walk through each letter of the alphabet (“J is for Jovita,” and “K is for Kate.”). I’ve been reading it with my three year old knowing that even on the days we use it only to practice the alphabet, she’s getting a dose of empowerment and diverse herstory. Though many of the women profiled are easily recognizable agents of change, Rad American Women introduced me to others I hadn’t heard of and began to flesh out the origin stories and broader social contexts of the women I already knew. Through the work of greats like Billie Jean King, Angela Davis, Temple Grandin, and Maya Lin, this book does an excellent job introducing the concepts of identity, intersectionality, and straight-up girl power, simply by telling the stories of real, radical women. Read the rest

Something New: frank, comedic, romantic memoir of a wedding in comic form

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Lucy Knisley is a favorite around these parts, a comics creator whose funny, insightful, acerbic and disarmingly frank memoirs in graphic novel form have won her accolades and admiration from across the field. With her latest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, Knisley invites us into her wedding, her love life, her relationship with her mother, and an adventure that's one part Martha Stewart, one part French farce comedy.

Supreme Court sends Authors Guild packing, won't hear Google Books case

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The Authors Guild has been trying to get a court to shut down Google's book-scanning/book-search program for more than a decade. Read the rest

Jack Hunt's 'The Renegades' is the 'Red Dawn' of zombie novels

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In Jack Hunt's 'The Renegades,' a small team of High School students survive the zombie apocalypse. At no point, however, will you be crying out "Wolverines!"

Castle Rock, Nevada has nothing going for it but an annual halloween-time zombie run. Naturally, several of the local High School's less-fitting-in sort have named themselves, titularly, "The Renegades" and are quite good at making it past all the fake zombies. The world has changed, and finally these bozos have a useful skill. Rapid fire teenage jokes and abuses result.

Hunt's story is someplace between Red Dawn and the Bad News Bears, except it needs Buttermaker. The Renegades filled a void I didn't know I was missing, sort of 'what would a John Hughes zombie story be?" Probably, something like this but with less poop jokes.

This is immature, but fun zombie comedy.

NOTE: The author of this post has only seen the 1984 Patrick Swayze 'Red Dawn' and not the 2012 re-make.

The Renegades (A Post Apocalyptic Zombie Novel) via Amazon Read the rest

The Everything Box: demonological comedy from Richard "Sandman Slim" Kadrey

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Richard Kadrey's got more writing identities than anyone has any business having: cyberpunk pioneer (Metrophage); master of hardboiled supernatural fantasy (Sandman Slim); young adult author (Dead Set). Now, with The Everything Box, Kadrey delves into supernatural comedy and shows that he's funny as Hell, and can make Hell funnier than you'd believe.

Secret Hero Society is Batman for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice is Batman for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd. Ostensibly a graphic novel, Study Hall of Justice adds to the format with pages drawn like diary entries, or web chats between the heroes. Some pages are flyers for school events and some are progress reports or official school documents that Bruce annotates. Most of the plot is in traditional comic panels, but the real clues of the central mystery unfold in these unique pages.

The story is about a young Bruce Wayne enrolling in a Gotham prep school called Ducard. Immediately he feels something is off about the school, as everyone there seems more interested in misbehaving than studying, and the faculty appears supportive of this misconduct. Sharp readers will notice many Batman villains both as staff and students, and you’ll quickly figure out what is going on behind the scenes. Bruce makes it his mission to get to the bottom of it and expose whoever is at the top running this nefarious school. Helping him are a young Clark Kent and Diana Prince, which sets up a cool origin for the future crime team. Humor in the story comes from Bruce’s repeated attempts to be a good detective, training for his later moniker as “world’s greatest detective.”

While the story is fun and enjoyable and kids should get a lot out of it, my major gripe with the book is that you probably can’t introduce Batman this way because of the ending. Read the rest

Barack Obama: Taking money from 1 percenters compromised my politics

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In last night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton defended her enormous super PAC fundraising machine by saying, "President Obama had a Super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations on Wall Street in many a year."

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From beyond the grave, Terry Pratchett orders Neil Gaiman to adapt Good Omens for TV

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After several false starts, including one that involved Terry Gilliam and a groat, Neil Gaiman has announced that he will personally adapt he and Terry Pratchett's oustanding, comedic apocalypse novel Good Omens as a six-part TV series. Read the rest

The world of invisible bestsellers

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“I’m a bestselling author!” That’s a statement bound to elicit cheers . . . but what does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that your book sold better than a lot of other books. But in what category? Tracked by whom? Backed by what data?

I am a bestselling author in the usual, traditional sense — on the New York Times bestseller list, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal, USA Today. But there are a lot of other bestseller lists… and they keep proliferating. Amazon in particular has launched so many esoteric bestseller categories it’s hard to keep track of them. (Like the Steampunk Short Story Collections Featuring Vampires bestseller list. That’s not a real one… at least I don’t think so.)

I am also a publisher, and my mid-sized house, WordFire Press, has released over 300 titles from 73 authors… and as such, I get to look at the actual numbers. One of our WordFire books was a #1 bestseller on the Amazon “holiday anthologies” bestseller list — a #1 bestseller! Wow! In actual numbers, that translated to about 80 copies sold. (But, hey, it’s still a “#1 Bestseller!” if I wanted to call it that.)

But I am also the author, and publisher, of a lot of “invisible bestsellers” — books that actually sell more than many titles on even the major lists, but are released through non-traditional channels and thus are never tracked. Right now, in fact, we have eighteen titles this week alone that have sold enough copies to hit the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists… but they are tracked by neither. Read the rest

Home – A quirky ode to the many structures we live in across the world

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See more sample pages from this book at Wink.

Home, the quirky triumphant solo debut of Carson Ellis, might look oddly familiar. You’re not mistaken – you’ve seen this charmingly wholesome artwork before. And it’s not because it looks as if it fell out of a Wes Anderson movie set and into your lap. Carson Ellis is the illustrator for children’s classics like Lemony Snickett and The Benedict Society. She’s also well known for her artwork in Wildwood, a children’s fantasy novel written by her husband, Colin Meloy, the lead singer for the Decemberists. You’ll recognize Carson’s contributions on the band’s album covers and merchandise, full of blossoming colors and quaint patterns.

Home is an ode to the many structures across the world that we dwell in, from the messy riotous nest of a sparrow to the peaked roof of the artist's own humble abode. Carson gives a nod not only to the cheerful graffiti and clustered bricks of urban sprawl but also the domed turrets of white marbled eastern palaces and the cozy cottages of the countryside. She indulges in the silly and the fantastic at every turn, with houses fashioned out of shoes that spill mischievous children across the yard or the Spartan spatial quiet of a lunar landscape. Peculiar characters people her pages; knights in armor astride seahorses, a Norse god in a winged, gold helmet, and a Slovakian duchess peeking grimly from beneath her hat while anchoring twins in her iron grasp. The final page is a culmination of the detailed illustrations that have preceded it, with an element from each scene included as a component of the artist’s own studio. Read the rest

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