Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Posted by Simcha 1:11 PM, under | 1 comment

I just discovered the most wonderful short film that I have ever seen, thanks to Biblio. It even had me tearing up in the end.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 9:00 AM, under | 2 comments

Friday Finds

I can't remember where it was that heard about this book (I really need to start keeping track) but whatever it was that I read it was flattering enough that I immediately added The Troupe to my wishlist.

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

George Carole ran away from home to join the Vaudeville circuit. Sixteen years old, uncommonly gifted at the piano, he falls in with a strange troupe -- even for Vaudeville.
Under the watchful eye of the enigmatic figure of Silenus, George comes to realize that the members of the troupe are more than they appear to be. And their travels have a purpose that runs deeper than entertainment.
George must uncover the mysteries of Silenus's Company before it is too late. He is already entangled in their web of secrets and if he doesn't learn where they are taking him, he may never find his way out.

This one hasn't come out yet but it already has some really great reviews.

The Scar by Sergey Dyachenko

Reaching far beyond sword and sorcery, The Scar is a story of two people torn by disaster, their descent into despair, and their reemergence through love and courage. Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him.

Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice. Unable to end his suffering by his own hand, Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the curse and the horrible damage he has caused, which can only be repaired by a painful journey down a long and harrowing path.

There are a lot of fairy tale retellings that reimagine the story from the perspective of the princess but I've never heard of one that focuses on the prince. I can't wait to see Christopher Healy does with the fairy tale prince's in this book.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Words without translations

Posted by Simcha 7:04 PM, under | 4 comments

When I was about eight years old I suddenly became preoccupied by the desire to find something in the world that hadn't yet been named, and to name it myself. Unfortunately every time I asked my parents what a particular item or idea was called they were able to give me answer, and eventually I gave up on my quest.

A couple of days ago Publisher's Weekly  tweeted a link to a blog post on ALTA highlighting ten words that they consider to be particularly difficult to translate into other languages. After looking through this list I was reminded of my childhood dream to name the unnamed because there so many fantastic words on this list which described ideas or situations that I would have never thought to have given a name to. How clever of these other languages to do so and perhaps I can create an English equivalent.

These were some of my favorites: (Quoted from this article on

  • Mamihlapinatapei : From Yagan, the indigenous language of the Tierra del Fuego region of South America. This word has been translated in several ways in English, always implying a wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start. ( I need to learn how to pronounce this one so I can begin using it immediately)

  • Prozvonit :In both Czech and Slovak language, this word means to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back, allowing the caller not to spend money on minutes.

  • Tartle:  A Scottish verb meaning to hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name. ( This would definitely be *my* word)

  • Tingo : From the Pascuense language of Easter Island, it is the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them. (For that friend of yours who keeps borrowing your books and never returns them.)

  • Saudade: A Portuguese word which refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost. (I wish I could think of a way to use this one in a sentence)

This article also got me thinking about some of the English words which don't seem to have a real Hebrew translation and vice versa (unfortunately I don't know any other languages to compare with). For example, while in English we have the words "like" and "love," in Hebrew there is just the one word ahava, which can mean either. This really confused me when I was a kid, growing up in Israel. I frequently tested my mother by asking her if she liked a particular friend of mine, and then if she loved that friend. I remember how confusing I found it to try to understand the difference between the two words and their meanings.

When I returned to Israel as an adult and struggled to relearn all the Hebrew that I had forgotten I kept tripping up (and still do) on the words that I wanted to say but didn't have a Hebrew equivalent. I always had trouble figuring out how to tell my son to share because there is no real Hebrew equivalent but instead the use the word for "divide." And in many cases the English word has become a part of the Hebrew vocabulary, just pronounced with an Israeli accent (those are the worst to remember because if you don't pronounce it just right no one will have any idea what you are saying even if the word is really an English one)

And one of my favorite Hebrew words is the word stam which literally translates as "just" but it's a word that can be used to infer all kinds of meanings depending on your tone of voice or on the sentence. It's a great word that fits in everywhere and I even find myself throwing it into my sentences when speaking English, which is really embarrassing when it happens to me in America.

I'm now curious about what other cool words there might be in other languages, but which don't have an English (or Hebrew) equivalent. 

Do you know of any?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime #1) by Jasper Fforde

Posted by Simcha 6:14 PM, under | 3 comments

Thursday Next, the protagonist of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, is one of my favorite book heroines. And while I've really enjoyed all of the books that I have read by Fforde so far, I've held off from reading his Nursery Crime series because its protagonist is so different from Thursday that I was afraid I would be disappointed. But when my e-library recently got in a copy of The Big Over Easy I decided it was time to bite the bullet and give the book a try. I figured, even if I didn't enjoy it quite as much, I'd always have Thursday.

Description of The Big Over Easy:

Things haven't been going very well lately for Inspector Jack Spratt of Reading's Nursery Crime Division. His recent failure to convict the Three Little Pigs of premeditated murder has made him a laughingstock (everyone else rooted for the cute pigs) and his growing reputation as a giant killer is not scoring him any points (though it was really one giant, the others were simply tall). It doesn't help that that Jack is a happily married man with a loving family and no bad vices, because well-adjusted detectives don't make for good story-reading and good stories is what the public wants. If Jack could get an exciting case worthy of being published in Amazing Crime Monthly then he might finally get some respect, as well as a membership to the Guild. And as Guild member Jack could get some budget increases for Nursery Crime Division.

When Humpty Dumpty is found shattered by his wall, with a bullet wound in his shell, Jack may finally have the kind of exciting case that he needs. With the help of his new side-kick, Detective Mary Mary, Jack begins an investigation which reveals shocking love affairs, dirty business dealings and some very dangerous foot fungus. But just as thing heat up Jack's former partner and current nemesis, the popular Detective Friedland Chymes (whose stories in Amazing Crime Monthly are the most popular), arrives on the scene, demanding a piece of the action. When Jack refuses to hand over the case things turn ugly and time begins to run out for Jack and his Nursery Crime Unit.

The Big Over Easy seems to take place in the same world as the Thursday Next books as there are the occasional references to Thursday as well as to several other characters from the other series, most notably Lola Vavoom. But I don't recall there ever being talking animals or nursery rhyme characters in the Thursday Next books so I was a bit confused as to how Jack Spratt and Thursday Next could really be sharing the same world. Though I didn't let this issue bother me too much. I have learned that sometimes the best way to enjoy a Jasper Fforde book is to just take what he throws at you without asking too many questions.

As I had suspected, Jack was a very different protagonist from Thursday Next, and while I didn't feel quite the same connection to him as I did to Thursday, he definitely earned my affection. At first Jack comes across as staid and somewhat boring, lacking the charisma of his colleague, Detective Chymes.  But once we get an inside look into Jack's personal life, meeting his wife and children, as well his mother, with her fondness for cow paintings (you may see where this one is going...) Jack's personality develops a bit more color. As Jack works on unraveling the increasingly complicated case of Mr. Dumpty's murder, other admirable qualities begin to surface, such as Jack's strong loyalty to his employees and his dedication to truth and justice. By the end of the book Jack had surprised me several times and and he turned out to be a character that I have much enjoyed getting to know.

Just as Thursday Next and Jack Spratt are vastly different protagonists, so do the two series differ in their focus and tone, though they both deal with the solving of mysteries. In the Thursday Next books the mysteries and jokes involved literary fiction while The Big Over Easy was all about detective novels and mysteries. Since I don't read mysteries I probably didn't appreciate all of the references and sly jokes about the genre as much as those that do read mysteries, though it didn't keep from enjoying the story. And while I intend to continue on with the series I don't think I'm going to feel the same passion for it as I do for the Thursday next series, just because the territory is not as familiar to me.

     The entire crime-writing fraternity yesterday bade a tearful farewell to the last "locked room" mystery at a large banquet held in its honor. The much-loved conceptual chestnut of mystery fiction for over a century had been unwell for many years and was finally discovered dead at 3:15 a.m. last Tuesday. In a glowing tribute, the editor of Amazing Crime declared, "From humble beginnings to towering preeminence in the world of mystery, the 'locked room' plot contrivance will always remain in our hearts." DCI Chymes then gave a glowing eulogy before being interrupted by the shocking news that the 'locked room' concept had been murdered--and in a locked room. The banquet was canceled, and the police are investigating."

As for the whole nursery rhyme theme, I have to admit that I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as I was about having characters from classic novels come to life (that's Thursday Next, again). Something about it felt too cutesy and gimmicky, with the different nursery characters popping up and chapter intros describing different nursery crimes. After a while it felt like just a little too much. By the end I was wondering what material Ffode will use for future books since he seems to have thrown almost all the nursery rhymes into this one already. Though I did enjoy the unexpected profile of Humpty Dumpty as a Lothario with a trail of broken hearts behind him. Not what I would have expected of a giant egg.

While the Thursday Next books still remain my favorite of Fforde's works The Big Over Easy was still a lot of fun and I am glad that I have finally read it. I would particularly recommend it for mystery readers with a sense of humor.

Mr. Pewter led them through to a library, filled with thousands of antiquarian books.

“Impressive, eh?”

“Very,” said Jack. “How did you amass all these?”

“Well,” said Pewter, “you know the person who always borrows books and never gives them back?”


“I’m that person.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of February 12- 18

Posted by Simcha 5:07 PM, under | 2 comments

Science Fiction

Ashes of Candesce (Virga, #5)
Karl Schroeder
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: February 14

A world of endless sky, with no land, no gravity: this is Virga. Beginning in the seminal science fiction novel Sun of Suns, the saga of this striking world has introduced us to the people of stubborn pride and resilience who have made Virga their home; but also, always lurking beyond the walls of the world, to the mysterious threat known only as Artificial Nature. In The Sunless Countries, history tutor Leal Hieronyma Maspeth became the first human in centuries to learn the true nature of this threat. Her reward was exile, but now, in Ashes of Candesce, Artificial Nature makes its final bid to destroy Virga, and it is up to Leal to unite the quarrelling clans of her world to fight the threat.

Ashes of Candesce brings together all the heroes of the Virga series, and draws the diverse threads of the previous storylines together into one climactic conflict. Blending steampunk styling with a far-future setting and meditations on the posthuman condition, Ashes of Candesce mixes high adventure and cutting-edge ideas in a fitting climax to one of science fiction’s most innovative series.

The Fourth Wall (Dagmar, Bk 3)
Walter Jon Williams
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: February 13

Dagmar Shaw got out of the game... and into the movies.

Sean is a washed-up child actor reduced to the lowest dregs of reality television to keep himself afloat. His life was a downward spiral of alcoholism, regret, and failure... until he met Dagmar.

Except Sean has secrets, dark even for the Hollywood treadmill of abuse, addiction, and rehab. And Dagmar is a cipher. There are dark rumors about her past, the places she's been, the things she was involved in. People tend to die around her and now, she wants Sean for something. A movie, she says, but with her history, who's to say what her real game is?


Elves: Rise of the TaiGethen (Elves, Bk 2)
James Barclay
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: February 16 (UK)

The Elves have been driven out of their capital. The invading forces of Mankind, backed by the terrifying power of their mages have taken hundreds of elves as hostages and have now begun to plunder the sacred jungles of Calaius. The remaining free Elves have gathered, under the leadership of the Taigethan warrior Auum, in the jungles around the city and have begun a hopeless guerilla war to harass the invading forces. But for every man killed dozens of captured Elves are slaughtered. There seems to be no hope. Even Takaar, Lord of the Taigethan, returned from self-imposed exile seems overwhelmed by madness. But perhaps salvation lies with him afterall. James Barclay's Elves are lethal warriors, skilled in bushcraft, mystically linked to nature. But now they face their sternest test: a magic that breaks all of natures rules. A magic that mankind uses without fear or discretion. Is this the end for the Elven race?

From the Deep of the Dark
Stephen Hunt
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: February 16 (UK) 

The sixth marvellous tale of high adventure and derring-do from the master of steampunk literature, set in the world of The Court of the Air.

A daring underwater chase ends in a battle for the Kingdom itself…
The streets of Middlesteel are under attack by an unseen enemy, leaving bloodless corpses in its trail. The newssheets scream vampire, but the truth is even more deadly than anyone knows.

Charlotte Shades, Mistress of Mesmerism, is a thief – and a darned good one at that. When two mysterious men ask her to steal King Jude’s Sceptre from the Parliament vaults, the challenge (and reward) is too great to pass up. After all, Charlotte’s natural charm and the magic of the gem she wears – the mysterious Eye of Fate – have never failed her before.

Only consulting detective Jethro Daunt and his steamman companion Boxiron know there’s more to these two men than meets the eye. Yet even as they rescue Charlotte from a fate worse than death, they are thrown into a plot thicker than even they realize. They escape beneath the waves in an ancient submarine led by Commodore Jethro Black, where they encounter stiff resistance from the strange people who inhabit the vast underwater kingdoms. But man, woman, seanore and gillneck alike must band together if they are to defeat a danger that might not even be from this world…

Urban Fantasy

The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal, Bk 3)
Publisher: Headline Pb
Release Date: February 16

Johannes Cabal and his rather inexact powers of necromancy are back once more. This time, his talents are purchased by The Fear Institute as they hunt for the Phobic Animus - the embodiment of fear. The three Institute members, led by Cabal and his Silver Key, enter the Dreamlands and find themselves pursued by walking trees plagued with giant ticks, stone men that patrol the ruins of their castles, cats that feed on human flesh and phobias which torment and devastate. The intrepid explorers are killed off one by one as they traipse through this obfuscating and frustrating world, where history itself appears to alter. Cabal, annoyed that the quest is becoming increasingly heroic, finds himself alone with the Institute's only remaining survivor, and after a shockingly violent experiment, begins to suspect that not everything is quite as it seems...

The Wolf Gift
Anne Rice
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: February 14

The time is the present.

The place, the rugged coast of Northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.

A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer . . . An older woman welcoming him into her magnificent family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . An idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence, the young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation, as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing what he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.

As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf” by authorities, the media, and scientists (evidence of DNA threatens to reveal his dual existence) . . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there may be others like him who are watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time who possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge. And throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.

Young Adult

Arcadia Awakens (Arcadia, Bk 1)
Kai Meyer
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: February 14

To Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic and wholly unknown. But when her life in Brooklyn begins to fall apart, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where centuries of family secrets await her.

Once there, Rosa falls head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both fascinate and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Hidden caves, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a history of familial bloodlust mean that Rosa can’t trust anyone. Torn between loyalty to her family and love for their mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love…or run as far and as fast as she can.

Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles)
Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 14

Bewitching can be a beast. . . .

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t.

I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age.

You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out.

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it.

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.

The Nightmare Garden (Iron Codex #2)
Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 14

Everything Aoife thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn't going to succumb to madness because of a latent strain—she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn't human. She is a changeling—half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her.

When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she's ravaged on the world that's about to poison her.

Thief's Covenant (A Widdershins Adventure, Bk 1)
Ari Marmell
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: February 14

Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces—human and other—stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder.

Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers.

But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her—but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first

The Galahad Legacy (Galahad, Bk 6)
Dom Testa
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: February 14

Council leader Triana Martell returns after her mysterious journey into the wormhole—and she’s not alone. She is accompanied by the emissary of an advanced alien race who offers the crew a choice—one that will determine the fate of humanity.
This sixth and final volume of the Galahad series brings the epic journey of 251 teens across the galaxy to a satisfying conclusion.

The Vanishing Game
Kate Kae Myers
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: February 14

Jocelyn's twin brother Jack was the only family she had growing up in a world of foster homes-and now he's dead, and she has nothing. Then she gets a cryptic letter from "Jason December"-the code name her brother used to use when they were children at Seale House, a terrifying foster home that they believed had dark powers. Only one other person knows about Jason December: Noah, Jocelyn's childhood crush and their only real friend among the troubled children at Seale House.
But when Jocelyn returns to Seale House and the city where she last saw Noah, she gets more than she bargained for. Turns out the house's powers weren't just a figment of a childish imagination. And someone is following Jocelyn. Is Jack still alive? And if he is, what kind of trouble is he in? The answer is revealed in a shocking twist that turns this story on its head and will send readers straight back to page 1 to read the book in a whole new light



Adam Baker
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: February 16 (UK)

Iraq 2005.

Seven mercenaries journey deep into the desert in search of Saddam's gold. They form an unlikely crew of battle-scarred privateers, killers and thieves, veterans of a dozen war zones, each of them anxious to make one last score before their luck runs out. They will soon find themselves marooned among ancient ruins, caught in a desperate battle for their lives, confronted by greed, betrayal, and an army that won't stay dead...


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