July 31, 2011

Review: Original Sin

By Beth McMullen
Available now from Hyperion
Review copy

Book Cover

Lucy Hamilton lives in San Francisco with her husband Will and son Theo. She's a stay-at-home mother who just got a call from her old job. When she quit, she knew that she could be called back at anytime. That's because Lucy Hamilton is actually a spy known by the codename Sally Sin. Her old nemesis Ian Blackford has been making trouble, despite being dead, and her boss needs her help. (At least he's willing to help with finding a baby-sitter.)

ORIGINAL SIN is no gritty, realistic spy story. It's funny and moves along quickly so that you don't dwell on the more ridiculous happenings. I liked Lucy's voice - she's competent and tough, but a little frazzled and sleep-deprived due to the pressure of taking care of a three-year-old. Children in stories can be annoying, but Theo and Lucy's interactions were cute. I also liked her husband Will and felt bad that he was left out of the loop.

In ORIGINAL SIN, frequent flashbacks are used to flesh out Lucy's backstory as Sally. I enjoyed these sections, but I wonder if Beth McMullen revealed too much in the first back. It seemed as if Sally Sin's career highlights were covered by the end of ORIGINAL SIN.

Many elements of ORIGINAL SIN are predictable. The domesticity often adds a pleasant twist, but doesn't change the overall trajectory. If you like spies and want something quick and light, it's well worth picking up. If you're more of a Ludlum or le Carre fan, McMullen's debut probably isn't your speed.

July 27, 2011


I am so excited for this book, you don't even know. (And it's not just because I'm a fan of the Decemberists.)

Book Cover

The AV Club seems excited too. After all, they have an exclusive trailer. The voice acting is terrible, but the animation is superb.

You can read the first four chapters on Facebook. I haven't read them myself because I don't do well with excerpts when I can't buy the book immediately. The suspense, it kills.

Not too long now, luckily. WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis will be available August 30th.

July 22, 2011

Brazenhead Books

There's No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books from Etsy on Vimeo.

A friend in my magazine workshop group just shared this video. I love it! A secret, illegal used bookstore hidden in an apartment in New York City? I'd say that I'd look up the shop and explore there tomorrow, but I'm planning to hit up some of the Harlem Book Fair events. Maybe Sunday? (So much to do, so little time out of class.)

Nifty Links!

These tabs have been open on my computer for awhile because I wanted to share them but kept getting distracted by school things.

Philip Hensher eloquently defended fiction in The Independent. I don't think this is anything ya'll don't know, but it's well-written and I like it when people talk about why fiction is compelling and useful.

British author Jen Campbell tracks weird things customers say in bookshops. There are several posts full of quotes and all of them are hilarious. She's announced a book deal, and other booksellers can contribute. Timely:

Customer: Which was the first Harry Potter book?
Me: The Philosopher's Stone.
Customer: And the second?
Me: The Chamber of Secrets.
Customer: I'll take The Chamber of Secrets. I don't want The Philosopher's Stone.
Me: Have you already read that one?
Customer: No, but with series of books I always find they take a while to really get going. I don't want to waste my time with the useless introductory stuff at the beginning.
Me: The story in Harry Potter actually starts right away. Personally, I do recommend that you start with the first book – and it's very good.
Customer: Are you working on commission?
Me: No.
Customer: Right. How many books are there in total?
Me: Seven.
Customer: Exactly. I'm not going to waste my money on the first book when there are so many others to buy. I'll take the second one.
Me: If you're sure.
One week later, the customer returns
Me: Hi, did you want to buy a copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban?
Customer: What's that?
Me: It's the book after The Chamber of Secrets.
Customer: Oh, no, definitely not. I found that book far too confusing. I ask you, how are children supposed to understand it if I can't? I mean, who the heck is that Voldemort guy anyway? No. I'm not going to bother with the rest.
Me: ... right.

Finally, I just learned about KidLitCon from Jen Robinson's Book Page. Fellow bloggers might want to check it out.

July 21, 2011

Crush Control

By Jennifer Jabaley
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
Review copy

Book Cover

The beginning of CRUSH CONTROL is winning. Willow returns to her hometown after years as her mother's assistant in Vegas. She knows how to hypnotize a crowd, but not how to interact with people her own age. And she desperately wants to fit in, because her hometown contains Max, the boy she stayed in touch with and secretly crushes on. The boy she hypnotized to be her best friend forever.

Then Willow meets Quinton, who is hot, available, intelligent, and athletic. Perhaps there are other guys out there. She also makes two good friends who have her back in all things romantic: TV addict Georgia and cheerleader Mia. Just when things are coming up Milhouse, Willow starts to use her rudimentary knowledge of hypnotism on her peers without thinking about the consequences.

To this point, I devoured CRUSH CONTROL. Seriously, I got through the first half in thirty minutes or less. Then the story becomes very conventional and Willow misplaces her brain. No really. She starts trusting in e-order witchcraft to solve her problems. Even that is not as frustrating as knowing where everything is going. You know how Quinton's condition will go wrong. You know how Mia's requests will go wrong. Jennifer Jabaley's voice is charming, but not enough to overcome the thin plot. (Nor is it enough to make the final plot twist anything other than lame. Max really needed more to do during the story.)

Strangely, I cannot remember anything in the first half that was noticeably unconventional. I think there was the potential for a more unusual story. Part of the problem is that Willow is the only dynamic character. Her mom and grandmother reconcile, but they're still the same people as when the story began.

CRUSH CONTROL is excellent summer reading. It's a book to sit back with and have a few laughs. There's nothing more to it than that. It could be any of a million beach books. But for a moment, I thought it might be something more rare.

July 9, 2011

The Book Cover Archive

I discovered this site last night and I've been pouring over it since. The only covers represented are lit fic, but they're beautiful. There also links to other great sites/blogs about covers.

Now we just need someone to take over for Jacket Whys for children's and YA covers since it hasn't been updated since October.

July 8, 2011

Harry Potter and the Work of Fans

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 has led to a variety of articles about HP fanworks.

This article in Parade is disappointingly slight. A group of fans created rules for a magic-less version of Quidditch. Their creation is now played at the intercollegiate level. It's an amazing story, but there are no details about how what the rules are.

Book Cover

Lev Grossman, author of THE MAGICIANS, wrote an article for TIME based on the more controversial subject of fanfiction. He covers a great deal of information in a short amount of time and does it without being judgmental. It's the most balanced view of fanfiction I've seen in a major publication.

For anyone wondering why I don't hate fanfiction when I want to go into publishing, please remember: the people who write fanfiction are fans. They buy the books, they buy the dvd box set, they buy movie tickets, they buy shirts, they buy whatever their fandom has to offer. They make a work more profitable by spreading the word. Fans introduce fans to other fandoms. They're passionate about the original work, which is infinitely valuable.

July 7, 2011


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