Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spread Some Holiday Good Cheer With Ballou High School & Pledge To Read 5 Books With the Students

As many of you know, we are very big friends with librarian Melissa Jackson at Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC. Melissa has done an amazing job over the past few years of taking her school library from less than one book for each student to a ratio now of more than five. She will be moving into a modern library and media center next fall when the new Ballou High School is opened. (The old one was built in the late 1950s - almost SIXTY years ago!)

But while the facilities are truly impressive, the budget does not have room for new books. So, we have updated the Ballou Wish List at Powells Books and hope that many of you will consider buying a book for these worthy students as you do your own holiday shopping.

Before you head over to the wish list though, please take note of Ballou's We Read! Reading Initiative that includes a pledge to read five books by April. If you want to show your support of Ballou's efforts to get teens reading, then print out the pledge, sign it and send a picture holding it up to Melissa via instagram or on their facebook page. You can even send a tweet letting her know you promise to read books in support of Ballou.

And now, after the cut find out more about shopping the wish list for Ballou!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Readers and Filmmakers Go SNOWBLIND

 Attention filmmakers (and readers!)

Want to show the world what you can do AND spread the love of a good book? St. Martin's Press and Talenthouse are accepting 1-minute trailers for Christopher Golden's upcoming book SNOWBLIND. All of the submitted videos will be seen by some pretty cool folks - legitimate directors, writers, producers - and one will be selected to be the book's official trailer.

If you are interested, you should enter.

If you know other filmmakers - be they amateur or professional, adults or teens or kids - please let them know about this incredible opportunity.

Trust me. I've read the book, and it's amazing. With edge-of-your-seat tension and jaw-dropping twists, Christopher Golden's Snowblind blizzard is going to blow you away!

So what are you waiting for? Spread the word, gather a production team, and make that mini-movie!

Here's the official press release and all of the pertinent information. Good luck!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

Imagine a novel by the love child of H. G. Wells and Mary Shelley, one that rounds out the werewolf-sized hole in the pantheon of 19th Century classic monster speculative fiction, and you have some idea of the great gothic science fiction that is Kirsten Bakis's Lives of the Monster Dogs.

The premise is fantastic-- in all meanings of the word-- as well as absurd. In the near future, a small community of what are referred to as "monster dogs" show up in New York: cultured, dressed in elaborate Germanic clothing from over a century ago, and, due to extensive prosthetics, walking upright and speaking both German and English.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Battling Boy

Something happens to boys around the age of thirteen. For some its the physical transformations of puberty, the ungainly growth, the cracking of the voice. For others its the emotional and chemical roller coaster that creates lapses of judgment and awkward situations. It can also be marked with a ceremony of passage toward adulthood but is most often noted with the exasperation of adults. For he Battling Boy it means being plucked from the middle of his street games with his friends and sent without discussion to another world to serve as a superhero. Tough gig.

For Battling Boy that planet is Earth, and in this parallel universe where the youngest of teens are sent to weaker planets to help them survive, this planet has some serious problems. For one thing, there are monsters about. At first glance it appears these boogie men are little more than cloaked child snatchers, serious enough to require a curfew for children but hardly monsters. Very quickly though their victims are caught in nets, bound and gagged, and promised to be fed to spiders. Then along comes a flying hero to save them -- Haggard West --- in very much the garb and style of 1930s comic strips, with his leather flying gear and improbably gadgets. There's a pulsating variance between the comic and the serious where the expectation, like a serialized radio drama, is that the danger will be averted at the last minute and the bad guys will get away with a cliffhanger threat.

Instead, West is shot out of the sky, dead. The children do not escape their dreaded fates. And somewhere in the universe a boys is turning thirteen and about to be thrust into the middle of this mess.

This is how Battling Boy opens.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

I have a special subgenre of books that I call “gutwrench” books. This subgenre is reserved for books that literally (wait, that is what “literally” means, right?) rip your guts out when you read them. They are the antithesis of light and breezy, they deny facile endings, they are not “tweetable.”  Consider Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridain, or Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. These are books whose elemental truths stay with you long after reading, even when you might wish their discomfiture would let you let them go. To this subgenre I now add Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Computer Problems

Much of technology reporting is a kind of cheerleading. Isn't the Internet amazing? Look at all the stuff we can do! Look how fast we're developing new cool things! In a few years computers will be even super -faster! And super-smaller! And the Internet will be even super-cooler!

When anyone does get critical, it's usually to complain that technology is stealing too much of our attention, or our creativity, or something. Kids spend too much time Tweeting! Too much screen-time is frying our brains!

Jaron Lanier doesn't think technology is in such a great place. And he doesn't think the problem is with kids being addicted to their phones. For him, the problem goes much much deeper. In You are not a Gadget: A Manifesto he argues that our technologies have "locked us in" to a particular way of thinking. Our computers and gadgets, because they were not made thoughtfully enough, are now controlling us.

If you love your phone or your iPad or your laptop, you might be suspicious of this book, but do understand that Lanier is no Luddite. He is a musician and a technologist who has done a great deal of work in the field and has stretched his consideration of human/computer interaction into applications, virtual reality experiments and neurological studies. He is not critical of technology as whole, but merely of technology as it currently is. He believes our gadgets offer much more promise and possibility than is currently being explored.