Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rant: Used Book Dealers

I have a cold. Ergo, I am crabby. Ergo, I want to complain about something. I am convinced that all great reformers had perpetual head colds.

Where do used book dealers get off? I mean SERIOUSLY! Used car dealers don't key their name on the doors of their merchandise! Thrift shop owners don't write the price in black magic marker on the front of every piece of clothing. And yet used book dealers seem to think nothing of defacing the covers of their stock!

Here are some of my biggest pet peeves:

1. Stickers that don't peel off easily and leave fuzzy remains and sticky adhesive patches on the covers.

Exhibit A: Does it really cost that much to get stickers that peel off?

2. Using a fat black marker on the cover

Exhibit B: They've already got a huge sticker - couldn't they have used it to cover the barcode and forgone the marker?

3. Making a HOLE in the cover.

Exhibit C: What's the matter, guys, couldn't get your big, nasty sticker to stretch far enough? Or was it just a love affair with a hole punch?

4. Stickers whose adhesive is so powerful IT TEARS THE BEAUTIFUL FRONT COVER with any attempt to remove it.

Exhibit D: Weep with me. Just Weep.

It's not that I don't appreciate used bookstores and sellers. Believe me, on a graduate student stipend I give them a LOT of business. But does having used merchandise mean it's ok to vandalize it?

(I should qualify that not all used book dealers are offenders. Half Price Books, for example, does a pretty good job of using small, easily peel-offable stickers.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: A Bear Called Paddington

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, first published 1958, 128 pages

Tonight, I'm delighted to point the spotlight at one of my very favorite children's books. A Bear Called Paddington and its sequels are stories that have transitioned well for me: I loved them when I was a kid, and I appreciate them just as much (perhaps even more) as an adult.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown (your typical middle class British couple), first meet Paddington on a railway platform. When they learn that he has just emigrated from Darkest Peru and has nowhere to go, they promptly adopt him into their family, renaming him Paddington after the station where they found him. Hilarious misadventures ensue, from Paddington's nearly drowning in the bathtub, to his dabbling in high art, to his sailing across the Atlantic in a bucket. But no matter how bad things may look, they are sure to come right in the end. As Mrs. Bird, the Brown's crusty but gold-hearted housekeeper remarks, "Bears have a way of landing on their feet."

Although Paddington may look like a typical, cutesy animal hero, his character is surprisingly complex. Michael Bond describes him in this way:

"The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. Paddington is not the sort of bear that would ever go to the moon - he has his paws too firmly on the ground for that. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn't take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves. As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn't possibly be 'human'. It just wouldn't work."

I think this surprising sophistication is a large part of why I still enjoy the books. Interwoven with each of Paddington's child friendly adventures is an adult joke that pokes fun at the often silly ways we choose to run our society.

But even more than that, I love the sense of well being that pervades these stories. Although Paddington tumbles into a lot of tight spots, he gets back out of them with the help of his own self confidence and the assistance of his staunchly loyal friends. For Paddington, good will makes a good world, and although I wouldn't want to read myself into it all the time, it's nice to visit every so often and revel in the comfort that a good cup of cocoa and a chat with an understanding friend can bring.

Official Paddington Bear Web Site

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carrot, carrot, carrot, and absolutely no stick

I'm trying a new strategy to help me meet word count goals. In the first place, I'm making my goals small and not quite immediate.

In the past, I've chosen large, far away goals:

Me: Brain, produce 15,000 words by the end of this month.
Brain: I'll do it tomorrow ... tomorrow ... tomorrow ... There are only two days left in the month! I can't 15,000 words! I'm a failure! Feed me chocolate to soothe my lousy self image!

Or daily goals:

Me: Brain, write 500 words every day this week!
Brain: I'm too tired tonight, I'll catch up tomorrow ... I can't catch up! I'm a failure! Feed me chocolate to replace my shattered sense of self worth!

So instead of either of these, on Monday I'll set a goal of something like 3,000 words by Saturday.This eliminates room for procrastination and is much less overwhelming, but gives me more wiggle room than a daily goal.

More importantly, I'm trying out a new reward system. I've tried rewards in the past with limited to no success. But I think it's because I chose the wrong kind of reward. It would go something like this:

Me: Brain! Produce 1,000 words before we go to bed, and we will eat a piece of that chocolate that's in the refrigerator!
Brain: If we ate a piece of chocolate now, it would inspire me!
6 pieces of chocolate later ...
Brain: I give up! I'm going to bed! I'm a lousy slacker AND I'm fat!

So my new rewards must meet the following criteria:

1. NOT something I already have (chocolate already in the fridge is not a good reward)
2. NOT something I normally buy or do (take a nap is not a good reward)
3. NOT something I actually need (new gym socks are not good rewards)
4. NOT guilt producing (too expensive or too unhealthy are not good rewards)
5. IS something that feels indulgent or luxurious

I started off with bang, awarding myself for meeting my Valentines' Day word goal with this book of culinary awesomeness:

Admittedly, if I hadn't had the help of a huge Borders coupon and a little Valentines money from the parents, I wouldn't have been able to get it without violating condition #4.

But the point is, that my coupon expired on February 14, and even though I felt tired and lackadaisical and did NOT want to push myself through that last 600 words, I really, really wanted this book, so I made myself do it. And it felt great.

(I won't say anymore about the book right now, since it will probably be the subject of a future review. But I do have to announce that it includes punch-out meat magnets. MEAT MAGNETS!!!! How bizarre and wonderful is that? I suppose vegetarianism would dampen the thrill ...)

At any rate, I will keep you all posted on how the new strategy works out. And now for some minor counting:

Fantasy WIP: 37,780
Pounds left to lose before I enter the heart healthy zone: 3.4 (Eep of happiness!)

A final note:

If you haven't indulged in any Beatrix Potter lately, get thee to Project Gutenberg! I recommend The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, which is slightly gruesome, tongue-in-cheek, and, like all of Potter's work, utterly charming.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Here it is, the shiny cover of the first book in Tera Lynn Childs' new Medusa Girls trilogy:

I love the subtle reference to the original myth in the twisting end of the braid - it looks as though it's writhing, about to hiss, but only if you already know the story of Medusa. It gives me a delicious sense of being in the know, and if a cover can do that, I think it's well on its way to being a success!

The Medusa girls are three descendants of the misunderstood (according to Childs) gorgon Medusa. Once ordinary teens, they now find themselves in charge of guarding the portal between the world we know and love, and the realm of monsters.

Sweet Venom will be released October 2011. If you'd like to find out more about the book, check out one of these links:

Sweet Venom Facebook page:
Synopsis on TLC's blog:
Character collages:
Sweet Venom Goodreads page:

Thanks for stopping by! Spread the word!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Update and promo for sneak peek

I can't believe I forgot to write my review yesterday! I'd been thinking all week about what book I wanted to do, and then on the day of, it completely slipped my mind. I think I was too busy luxuriating in being warm for the first time in what seems like forever.

Anyway, I will save the VSB (very special book) for next Sunday, but I wanted to pop on and announce that tomorrow will be a very special day on this blog. I'll be participating in a COVER REVEAL for the upcoming YA novel Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs. The book is the first in a trilogy about teenage descendants of Medusa (how great is that?)

Tera herself is a wonderfully sweet and encouraging person (I've been able to chat with her a couple of times), and I'm delighted to be able to help her out. Her books are perfect beach reading (and believe me, the wrong book ruins your day at the beach) if you're a sucker for lighthearted teen romance - adorable, funny, and definitely happy ending-y.

So tune back in tomorrow for a sneak peek at lovely new cover of Sweet Venom!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: Son of Interflux

The Superbowl threw off my blogging schedule, but I'm back on track!

Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman, first published 1986, 288 pages

Possibly my most favorite funny book ever. I fell in laugh-out-loud love with Korman's work when I was in middle school, and I've been reading and rereading his classic stuff ever since.

Simon Irving's dad is the vice president of Interflux - the world's largest manufacturer of useless things (useless by themselves, that is. For example: there was the seat, and there was the toilet - Interflux invented the device that connected the two). Mr. Irving sees a brilliant corporate career for his only son, but all Simon wants is to pursue his talent for painting at the exclusive Nassau School for the Arts. And when he finds a way to screw Interflux by buying a crucial piece of development land with the school's party money, he suddenly finds himself leading the highly talented and wildly eccentric student body in a crusade against the powerful corporation - and his own father.

I can't decide whether what I love most are Korman's crazy characters, his sense of comedic timing, or his eye for the ridiculous. Take heart breaker Sam, who could have any girl in school and gets himself kicked out of art class because he can't stop painting camels. Or Mrs. Irving, who tries one diet after another and drives her family to the haven of Burger King. And then there's Simon himself, a lovably average guy who screws up his second, third, fourth, and fifth chances with the girl of his dreams. Put them all together and I laugh until I cry. Ultimately, Son of Interflux is a celebration of creativity, friendship, and the utter unpredictability of life.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In which I persevere, despite not having much to count

I was, in fact, tempted to skip this week's counting session, since the numbers are rather depressing, but avoiding a cold, hard fact never did anyone any good. And besides, if I skipped it, I wouldn't get to post this lovely picture of my role model!

Pounds to lose to next reward sticker: .4 (Argh!)

Fantasy novel word count: 33, 063 (could be worse)

Dickens project word count: 1,785 (groan)

There, that's over with! And hopefully, next week's counting will be more prosperous. Until then, may your checkbooks balance the first time, every time.