Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Librarian Speaks Out in Favor of Comic Books

This article (via Reader's Advisor Online) is not only about the benefits to kids of reading comics, but also a short history of comics themselves. Despite the association of comics with children, the article says they were originally developed for adults.

According to Carol L. Tilley, a professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois, "Comics were originally an adult medium, since newspapers reached a primarily adult audience, but they very quickly turned into something that was appropriated by kids. Certainly by the first decade of the 20th century it had become a kids' medium."

There's lots more about the evolution of comics over the years in the article, as well as the occasional mention of the graphic novel.

The article notes that comic book elements--such as frames, thought and speech bubbles, and motion lines--are working their way into more mainstream children's fiction, creating a hybrid format. (Would this essentially be like graphic kids' books?)

According to Tilley, "There has been an increase in the number of comic book-type elements in books for younger children. There's also a greater appreciation among both teachers and librarians for what comics and comic books can bring to the classroom. For example, the National Council of Teachers of English sponsors an instructional Web site called 'Read, Write, Think,' which has a lot of comics-related material. Instructional units like these would have been much more rare 10 years ago."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Case of the Lost Agatha Christie Story

Did you hear the one about the long-lost Agatha Christie short story featuring the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, called "The Incident of the Dog's Ball" (not to be confused with this story, which is completely different)?

Apparently, the 5,000 word manuscript for the story was discovered by Christie's daughter while she was rooting around in her attic.

The Strand Magazine was reportedly to publish the story for the first time in the U.S. last week. "Dog's Ball" (as this article refers to it) was already published in Britain in September.

Poirot's reappearance in print is interesting, considering his author killed him off in 1975 (a year before her own death at 85).

And The Strand Magazine considers itself to be the reincarnation of a British journal from the late 19th century that published the first Sherlock Holmes short stories.

The magazine folded in 1950--but was revived again 10 years ago in the U.S.

So, a story by a deceased author about a character she killed off has (presumably) been published by a magazine that went out of business twice, but has come back to life. Sounds like a lot of resurrecting going on here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Don't Overlook Those Backlisted Books!

Just a gentle reminder that you can find as many (if not more) great books to read on the backlist, as on the bestsellers list.

This blog, Shelfrenewal, was started by Karen Kleckner and Rebecca Vnuk, a couple of librarians (and readers advisory experts) in the Chicago metro area, who felt kind of sorry for all those neglected books that weren't on the front burner of media attention anymore (if they ever were to begin with). Plus, like most librarians I know (myself included), they were really excited about the idea of letting readers know about some seriously overlooked books.

So (though this pains me as a person who wants to sell books), I hope this site will help you find some really interesting gems you might not otherwise know about.

(Sigh. Like I didn't have enough choices already??)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sometimes it's all we Need, Singleton Hippie Art

Words and Artwork (c) Singleton 2009 I woke up this morningto the cool quietdamp sounds of a new daystretchingstewinglazily nudging me hello... And in the distance, a sun risingto remind me... Sometimes,all we needis Love A little hippie peace~love for you, 5 x 7 doodles of markers, colored pencils, ink

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yeah, Sure Gatsby was Just 'Great'

Got a kick out of this site that features titles of classic books rendered sarcastic by strategically placed quotation marks.

I wonder what this blogger would have to say about these.

Can you think of any other good classic book titles that could be made sarcastic?


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dual Narratives Make 'Tower' One Compelling Crime Story

Review: TOWER (Busted Flush Press 2009)
Author: Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

TOWER was jointly written by award-winning masters of noir, Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (who also writes under the name Tony Spinosa). The authors create two memorable characters in TOWER and tell each of their stories, one at a time. The beauty of this approach is that, although the reader sees quite a bit from one character's perspective, there's a whole lot of story left to be revealed from the other's.

Nick and Todd have been life-long friends. They fall into a life of crime, working for an Irish mob boss named Boyle – a Bible-reading gangster whose sidekick Griffin gives new meaning to the word "sociopath."

The story starts (after the prologue, that is) in Nick's perspective. He's a guy filled with rage and bad family history (particularly with his father), who comes off as something of a criminal "wannabe." He and Todd (the seemingly more self-assured of the two) run into a bit of trouble trying to pull a job for Boyle. And Boyle puts Nick to a kind of test – one involving Todd. Meanwhile, Nick gets involved with a woman and wants to make the relationship work. But Boyle's test is putting him under pressure. And Todd has some surprises for him, as well.

Things that come out during Nick's part of the story are further explored from Todd's perspective. And (true to form for both authors) the whole picture ain't so pretty.

For more, go to

Monday, November 9, 2009

'The Way Home' Rings True as a Family Portrait

Review of THE WAY HOME (Hachette Audio 2009)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence

hor, George Pelecanos; read by Dion Graham

Some nice, hard-working middle-class parents don't end up with the stereotypical kids who take the stereotypical road to adulthood. I didn't, for instance. So I can identify with George Pelecanos' latest. Although it's set in the Washington, DC, area, a Pelecanos trademark, the protag, Chris Flynn, son of the owner of a successful carpet installation company, is not African-American, a departure of sorts for this author, who has also written for The Wire on HBO.

The story opens on Chris in juvie—having tested and broken his parents' hearts several times with stupid adolescent decisions. Now he's inside the system and they are outside, confused, angry, and hurt. Chris drops his verbs, adopts some street intonations and casually informs his dad at one point that he "knows how to jail." His Dad corrects him each time. Personally, I hate the expression "where it's at" and correct it every time!

As their paths diverge, parents and son, they also braid back together when Chris gets out. The young man even goes to work with Dad's company and his Dad hires some of Chris' pals from juvie. But don't bring out the pleasing pastels for the family portrait just yet.

One day, after installing a carpet in an empty house, Chris and a friend from jail, Ben, discover a compartment under the floor with $50,000 in it. Uh-oh.

Chris remembers some movies (A Simple Plan comes to mind, but was not mentioned) in which keeping found money like this comes to no good. He talks Ben into putting it back.

But fate has spun the Big Wheel. Click, click, where will it stop?

I leave it to you to read or better yet, listen to his story, one of Pelecanos' most involving, at least for me.

Dion Graham reads it and does not overdo the street gab. His voice is quite hypnotic in fact, and like someone who speaks in low tones, draws you in and makes you listen carefully.

You are not going to want to miss a word.

Star Lawrence reviews more audiobooks on She can be reached at

Saturday, November 7, 2009

'When the Sacred Ginmill Closes': An Up-Close Look at NYC and Alcoholism

Author: Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block has had a long and distinguished career as a crime novelist. He's written multiple series about different protagonists and done so in very different styles. He's written the light-hearted Bernie Rhodenbarr series of capers about an erudite burglar. He's also written the edgier stories about Evan Tanner, a man who can't sleep due to brain trauma suffered during the war. He's even done a series about a hitman named Keller.

But his most haunting and intriguing character is probably Matthew Scudder, an alcoholic ex-cop who quit the force after shooting a bullet that ricocheted and killed an innocent child. As a result, Scudder drinks too much and works as an unlicensed private eye, who earns a living by doing favors for people. (Then donates 10 percent of the proceeds to random churches, as a form of penance.)

The story starts off with a bang – literally. Scudder and a group of friends are sitting in an after-hours bar, enjoying their usual round of drinks when an explosion shakes the place. This particular explosion doesn't seem to connect with anything in particular related to the plot (which could be said of much of what happens in the book, actually).

However, the explosion seems to put the characters on edge, prompting dialogue that feels so real, it's about as close as you get to overhearing actual people talk. Soon afterward, two masked men with guns charge into the bar, rob the place and make their getaway. This robbery turns out to be one of three cases Scudder ends up investigating, the two others being a blackmail scheme against one of his friends and a murder case in which he's gathering evidence for the defense.

For more, go to

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sometimes I'm All I have, Singleton Hippie Art

Sometimes I'm all I have(C) Singleton 2009SOLDCrouched in the corner,I'm everday darkness.Heaps of yesterday's clothes,flopped like lazy monsters on the floor,loll,and laugh at me...Their colorsshapesstorieschanging,their memories bangingon my brainuntil all I can hear is ascreamsothinit's a guitar stringwailing....Colored pencils, markers, ink on a page from Dancing on My Grave.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'New Orleans Mourning': Murder and Social Politics in the Big Easy

Review: NEW ORLEANS MOURNING (Fawcett 1990)
Author: Julie Smith

For readers who enjoy tough female detectives, Skip Langdon fits the bill. She's the protagonist in NEW ORLEANS MOURNING, born to a couple on the Crescent City's social register, though she's rejected their ways in favor of becoming a cop. Not at all your conventional Southern Belle, Skip's a tall and large-boned woman and a mass of neuroses, who just doesn't fit into the whole New Orleans society mileau.

Although Skip's just a city beat cop when the story opens, she has ambitions of making detective. So when the King of Carnival at Mardi Gras, a political up-and-comer named Chauncey St. Amant, is murdered by a gun-toting Dolly Parton look-alike and Skip's put on temporary homicide detail, she's all over it like red beans on rice.

Chauncey St. Amant is a man of humble origin who married into New Orleans society through his wife, Bitty – a woman who enjoys a nip from the bottle now and then (i.e., almost always). Chauncey is highly-regarded, but somewhat controversial, for his progressive views on racial equality. He and Bitty have two children, Henry and Marcelle. Altogether, they make a most intriguing (and secretly) dysfunctional family. (Along with Uncle Tolliver, who has his own issues and is almost a part of the family.)

Skip's job is to use her society connections (such as they are) to gather inside intelligence that may help crack the case. As one brought up among the New Orleans society set, Skip knows the St. Amants personally, and Marcelle seems to warm up to Skip (though they were never close as kids), while Henry tries to freeze her out. Meanwhile, Skip gets involved with a visiting L.A. filmmaker who has managed to capture the shooting on film. However, the filmmaker's mugged and the only copy of the film stolen.

The story is more than a mystery. It's an exploration of New Orleans society and politics . . .

For more, go to:

Pageviews Last 30 Days