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[sticky post] Fashionista Piranha Book Blog

Welcome to Fashionista Piranha Book Blog, where a good book is always your best accessory!  Life is too short to waste reading bad literature, especially when there's so many good books out there. If I can keep you from reading one atrocious novel, I've done my job. But if I help you find something you'll enjoy, even better. I've achieved my goal.

I have been reading, writing and reviewing since 2008, so there's a lot to see here.  To read the latest reviews, simply scroll down; in the sidebar to the left I also have the reviews grouped chronologically.  If there's a specific title or series you have in mind, I also have the reviews indexed by the author:

Book Reviews by Author, A-H
Book Reviews by Author, I-P
Book Reviews by Author, Q-Z

Sometimes I will wander off-topic and talk about theater productions I've seen.  Usually - but not always - it'll be Shakespeare-related (most commonly the plays from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) or a stage adaptation of a classic book.  But if I see a show and I'm super-excited about it, odds are that it'll show up on Fashionista Piranha.  Less frequently, movie adaptations of books will make a similar appearance.

I always enjoy hearing from visitors to the blog, so please feel free to leave comments or email me at fashion_piranha @ livejournal.com.  This includes you, publishers and authors!  I am always happy to discuss your projects with you; feel free to check out my review policies here and drop me a line.
Thanks for stopping by!
Suzi the Fashion Piranha
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Fashionista Piranha on hiatus for a while

Life and work have been so hectic lately that I haven't had a chance to really read, let alone write up reviews. I know that things will only get busier the closer we get to the holiday season, so rather than dig myself into a deeper pit of guilt because I can't keep up, I'm just going to go ahead and put the blog on hiatus.

Fashionista Piranha will come back in some form, but as part of the break I'm going to take a long, hard look at the blog and what I want to accomplish with it. My husband and I have been developing a concept for a Youtube project that we hope to launch next spring, and until I see what time commitments that requires I don't know how often I'll be able to update my book reviews.

I will return with either reviews or a fresh update in March 2017.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: Elsa Schiaparelli by Meryle Secrest
2013: Limit Vol. 6 by Keiko Suenobu
2012: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
2011: Another little break for school…
2010: News?: Leaves of Grass
2009: Doodle of the Day: Twilight
2008: Dream Jungle by Jessica Hagedorn


Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 62: The Mothers

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett
Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett's mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.
"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season."
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a "what if" can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

There was so much buzz about this book at BEA!  I didn't have a chance to pick up one of the galleys, or one of the beautiful canvas tote bags with the cover art screenprinted on one side, but the strong graphic style kept the book lodged in my memory.  I know you shouldn't judge books by the cover, but let's face it - sometimes that's what will linger.  I've read some excellent reviews of The Mothers and I've wanted to read it, so I'm happy this was an Indiespensable choice.

THEO Organic Fair Trade Orange Dark Chocolate
THEO Organic Fair Trade Cherry Almond Dark Chocolate

This is exciting!  I was at a trade show recently and one of the vendors was carrying Theo Chocolate, so I had the opportunity to try several of their holiday bars.  The chocolate was sooooo good!  I can't wait to eat these.  Chocolate orange is definitely my preference between the two bars, but either one should be delicious.

I'm so glad Powell's threw some candy in this box.  I love snacking while I read, and it's been a while since they sent anything for me to nibble with my book.

Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more about it, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Chronicle Books Spring Preview
2014: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
2013: Limit Vol. 5 by Keiko Suenobu
2012: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
2011: Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
2010: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
2009: Giveaway: Sorrow Wood by Raymond L. Atkins – WINNERS
2008: News and Discussion Question: Rare Books For Sale

In Memory of Natalie Babbitt, 1932-2016

I was so sad to hear of the passing of Natalie Babbitt a few days ago. Babbitt's book Tuck Everlasting is one of the most haunting I've ever read. When I first encountered it in elementary school, its beauty and poignancy hit me hard. It was the first time I fully understood the power of the written word, and from then on I judged books by whether they could strike as deeply to my core as that book did.

Here's Publisher Weekly's obituary for her. Original link here:

Obituary: Natalie Babbitt
By Shannon Maughan | Nov 01, 2016

Esteemed author and artist Natalie Babbitt, whose 1975 novel Tuck Everlasting remains a lauded work of the modern children’s literature canon, died of lung cancer on October 31 in her home in Hamden, Ct. She was 84.

Babbitt was born Natalie Zane Moore in Dayton, Ohio on July 28, 1932. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, the family moved many times to various cities and towns in Ohio driven by her father’s work opportunities or misfortunes, affected by the Great Depression. In recalling her early years in an autobiographical essay for Something About the Author, Babbitt notes that her father’s great wit and her mother’s artistic talent were big influences on her and her older sister, Diane. Babbitt’s mother was discouraged from pursuing a master’s degree in art by a group of women at her church who thought such aspiration was not appropriate. “She was a woman of great intelligence and energy and talent, with nowhere to put it all,” Babbitt wrote. “So she turned the intense searchlight of her ambition onto my sister and me. We grew up with the idea firmly implanted that we could, should, and would have it all—a first-class education, a strong marriage, a family, and an active career.”

Babbitt’s mother made every effort to expose Natalie and her sister to music and literature—via the symphony, opera, library, and art museum—and Babbitt said that early on, her mother had decided that Diane would be a writer when she grew up, and that Natalie would be an artist. At age nine, after a brief fascination with creating pin-up art in the style of Luis de Vargas, Babbitt received an edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by John Tenniel. That book made her a convert, she said, and she quickly decided that, “I would become an illustrator of children’s books, and work, like Tenniel, only in pen and ink.”

Babbitt and her sister both graduated from the Laurel School, a private academy for girls near Cleveland, and in fall 1950 Babbitt entered Smith College in Northampton, Mass. During her sophomore year a friend set her up with Sam Babbitt, who had left Yale after his sophomore year to join the army, and served in Korea. They married in June 1954, just after Natalie’s graduation from Smith, and moved to New Haven, Ct. where Sam began a noted career as a college administrator. Son Christopher was born in 1956 followed by son Tom in 1958, and daughter Lucy, who arrived in 1960.

After stints in Nashville, and Washington, D.C., the Babbitts returned to New Haven where Natalie was inspired and empowered by her female friends, who were all embracing the feminist movement in various ways. Following a particularly spirited lunch, Babbitt recalled saying, “By God, I’m going to do what I’ve always wanted to do,” and in effect launched her children’s book career. Back at home she quickly came up with a title—The Forty-ninth Magician—and asked her husband Sam to write a story to go with it. She created pen-and-ink pictures for the project and it sold to Pantheon, acquired by a young editor named Michael di Capua, who published the book in 1966.

Di Capua would go on to be Babbitt’s only editor and one of her closest friends in a relationship spanning more than 50 years. It was urging from di Capua that convinced Babbitt to start writing her own prose. Her first full-fledged effort became The Search for Delicious, which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1969. Next came Kneeknock Rise in 1970, which was named a 1971 Newbery Honor book. In the early 1970s, her novels flowed in quick succession—Goody Hall and The Devil’s Storybook among them. Babbitt’s family relocated again to upstate New York where they bought a piece of land and a small vacation home in the foothills of the Adirondacks. The bucolic spot “appears almost exactly as itself in my story Tuck Everlasting,” Babbitt noted in her autobiography. The novel features a fantastical woodland freshwater spring that grants eternal life. In an article about marking the book’s 40th anniversary last year, Babbitt told PW: “My youngest, Lucy, had a scary time wondering what it would be like to die,” in recalling her path to imagining the fantastical freshwater spring in the woods that grants eternal life. “I had long before that made up my mind about what was going to happen when I died. But I wrote Tuck to help Lucy understand what life is all about—that we all get born and we all have to die. It’s a subject I never thought I’d write about, but there it was. I wanted to be sure Lucy would not grow up scared.”

The subject matter—is living forever a good thing? —was somewhat controversial when the book was published in 1975, especially in schools, but strong word-of-mouth and support from educators and librarians helped it grow into an enduring favorite. Tuck Everlasting was adapted as a Disney feature film in 2002 (a project that Babbitt did not like); and made its debut as a Broadway musical earlier this year, with a book co-written by children’s author Tim Federle.

When Di Capua spoke with PW for Tuck’s recent anniversary, he offered this sentiment about his dear friend: “I can’t imagine my life without Natalie in it. What a blessing we found each other way back when.”

In addition to her novels, Babbitt wrote and illustrated several picture books, including Nellie: A Cat on Her Own (FSG, 1989) Bub; or, The Very Best Thing (HarperCollins, 1994), and Elsie Times Eight (Hyperion, 2001).

In a statement, Samuel F. Babbitt shared this reflection: “Natalie was a remarkable woman. While more than fulfilling her roles as wife and mother, she sharply observed her fellow humans, shaping stories that helped her and her readers grapple with both the trivial and fundamental trials of life. Words were precious things to her, and she chose them, shaped their facets, and set them on the page like a master jeweler.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: November 3rd, 2015
2014: Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
2013: The Rape of the Nile by Brian Fagan
2012: My Country Vs. Me by Wen Ho Lee and Helen Zia
2011: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary
2010: Discussion Question + Happy Halloween!
2009: Totally Off-Topic: Steepster.com
2008: Bread & Chocolate by Philippa Gregory

2016 Nobel Prize Winner announced!

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature winner has been announced! This year, the prize goes to Bob Dylan. The American singer-songwriter was so honored "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Congratulations to Mr. Dylan! I have to admit, I never would have guessed he'd be an Nobel winner, although I grew up with his songs in the background of my childhood because my father was a fan of Dylan's early work. It seems so outside of the box - but not in a bad way. I'm quite pleased.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: October 13th, 2015
2014: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott
2013: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
2012: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins
2011: Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
2010: Captivity by Deborah Noyes
2009: Random Ranting: Why is it so hard to find a good place to read?
2008: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield


Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 61: Here I Am

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

HERE I AM by Jonathan Safran Foer
In the book of Genesis, when God calls out, “Abraham!” before ordering him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham responds, “Here I am.” Later, when Isaac calls out, “My father!” before asking him why there is no animal to slaughter, Abraham responds, “Here I am.”
How do we fulfill our conflicting duties as father, husband, and son; wife and mother; child and adult? Jew and American? How can we claim our own identities when our lives are linked so closely to others’? These are the questions at the heart of Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel in eleven years―a work of extraordinary scope and heartbreaking intimacy.
Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia Bloch and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the meaning of home―and the fundamental question of how much aliveness one can bear.
Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers loved in his earlier work, Here I Am is Foer’s most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet. It not only confirms Foer’s stature as a dazzling literary talent but reveals a novelist who has fully come into his own as one of our most important writers.

I recognize Jonathan Safran Foer's name, but I've never read his books.  I can't decide if I think this sounds like something I'd enjoy, but I might give it a try since he has become quite the darling of the literary world.  If I read at least a little of the book, it'll help me fake my way through being a literary hipster, right?

Each Indiespensable featured book has an autographed page added to the book, which is pretty neat.  It's a feature I really appreciate with the subscription.  Unfortunately, in this instance they didn't do a very good job gluing the page in - you can see some damage from stray glue spots along the page edges at the spine.

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town in the center of the state―the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: it’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.
But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets―an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store―she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”
Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look. And, indeed, in the middle of each movie, the screen blinks dark for a moment and the movie is replaced by a few minutes of jagged, poorly lit home video. The scenes are odd and sometimes violent, dark, and deeply disquieting. There are no identifiable faces, no dialogue or explanation―the first video has just the faint sound of someone breathing― but there are some recognizable landmarks. These have been shot just outside of town.
So begins John Darnielle’s haunting and masterfully unsettling Universal Harvester: the once placid Iowa fields and farmhouses now sinister and imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. The novel will take Jeremy and those around him deeper into this landscape than they have ever expected to go. They will become part of a story that unfolds years into the past and years into the future, part of an impossible search for something someone once lost that they would do anything to regain.

I usually dislike receiving an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in Indiespensable boxes, because these promotional books are free from the publishers to booksellers so I always have plenty of them around the house.  However, I am a sucker for good promotional packaging, and the decision of some marketing smartiepants to put the ARC inside of a video case, just like the ones used by Blockbuster and Hollywood Video back in the day, makes this a somewhat collectible item and a pretty neat idea.  Plus, I enjoy horror novels, so I would have happily read this one anyway.

This is the second month in a row that the box has only contained books, no special items like candy or water bottles. I miss that extra touch - it set the box apart.


Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more about it, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.

Read the Book Before You See the Movie!

Thank you IMDB.com for providing the movie plot summaries.

Date: September 2nd
Adapted From: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Plot Summary: A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.

Date: September 2nd
Adapted From: The 9th Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
Starring: Jamie Dornan, Aiden Longworth, Sarah Gadon
Plot Summary: A psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality.

Date: September 23rd
Adapted From: The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Starring: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving
Plot Summary: A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

Date: September 30th
Adapted From: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot Summary: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: September 1st, 2015
2014: The Demigod Diaries by Rick Riordan
2013: Utah Shakespeare Festival: Love’s Labour’s Lost
2012: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Marvel Illustrated) by Oscar Wilde
2011: Love*Com Vol. 1 by Aya Nakahara
2010: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
2009: Giveaway #10: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
2008: The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield


Ghostly Echoes
by William Ritter

The third book in the Jackaby series

Nearly a decade ago, Jenny Cavanaugh was brutally murdered in her home. Ever since, she has haunted 826 Auger Lane. After all this time, she has finally asked Jackaby and Abigail Rook to help her remember the circumstances of her death so that she can identify her killer. As Abigail begins to experiment with possession so that she can access Jenny's locked-up memories, a series of deaths erupt that curiously mirror the circumstances of their ghostly investigation. Realizing Jackaby and Abigail may be able to protect future victims from the her fate, Jenny urges them to partner with the police to solve the gruesome crimes. Jackaby and Abigail will probe deeper into the supernatural than ever before on a mystery that will take one of them to the depths of the Underworld itself.

This series is always so good! Each story blends mystery, suspense, and humor with fast-paced adventure and a rich Gothic atmosphere. Ghostly Echoes goes a little deeper and a little darker, introducing more creatures from folklore into New Fiddleham. I really came to appreciate Ritter's depth of research as he pulls from all cultures of the world for his otherworldly characters.

His human characters are equally captivating. The mystery of Jenny's death has been building for the past two books, and as Abigail and Jackaby dig deeper into the past, we experience more of the personal history not just of our favorite spook Jenny, but also of Mr. R. F. Jackaby himself. When Abigail stumbles across his record of his own work as a Seer, as well as the seers before him, we finally catch glimpses of his childhood, his origins, and the rich history of his work. It's so...well, for lack of a better word, so cool. So well done. So exactly what you'd expect of Jackaby.

I don't think I've ever commented on the covers of these books, but they're so beautiful. When I saw the blue cover of Jackaby on a shelf, I was immediately drawn to it, and that distinctive silhouetted cover was the hook that finally got me to start reading. (Let's not pretend we don't all occasionally judge a book by its cover.) I was so happy that Beastly Bones and now Ghostly Echoes have continued in the same vein. I've not seen it confirmed officially, but I believe we see the profiles of Jackaby on the first cover, Abigail on the second, and Jenny on the third. It makes me wonder which character will be on the next book. Charlie Cane? Lydia Lee? I can't wait to see, although I don't like thinking about how long that wait will be, since this book just came out on Tuesday and who knows when the next one will hit the shelves.

5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Ghostly Echoes, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Rain (Paper Gods #2) by Amanda Sun
2014: Subscription Box: Comic Bento, August 2014
2013: The Lost Sun (United States of Asgard #1) by Tessa Gratton
2012: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
2011: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
2010: Discussion Question: Favorite Opening Line
2009: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
2008: RuneWarriors by James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker
The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Book One in the Selection series

In the kingdom of Illéa, the future queen is selected through a random lottery. Thirty-five girls are chosen from different districts throughout the land, and they compete in a Bachelor-style reality TV show for the chance to become the wife of the prince. At seventeen, America Singer is the perfect age to be entered into the Selection for Prince Maxon, the only son of the king and queen and heir to the throne of Illéa. The problem is that America is already madly in love with a boy from her hometown. Inclusion in the Selection will bring upward mobility for the Singer family, and with the strict numbered caste system in place, America can't turn her back on the opportunity. After all, even if she IS chosen, what chance does she have with thirty-four other girls, nearly all of whom come from higher castes?

The Selection is like the Hunger Games if the violence was removed and replaced with the glimmering gowns and splendor of the Capitol. Instead of tributes fighting to the death, we have pretty girls trying to seduce a prince. Both competitions are broadcast to the general population in the ultimate reality TV.

I love this book for the guilty pleasure that it is. It's as addictive as chocolate, and really captures the drama and energy that makes it so difficult to turn away from reality TV shows. The descriptions of the luxuries of palace life contrasted with America's humble origins makes me eager for the inevitable movie adaptation. There are a few forehead-slapping moments when I want to shake the characters for saying or doing something stupid, but in the world of reality TV this is all part of the entertainment, so I find myself far more forgiving of America's bone-headed moments.

Prince Maxon is every inch the perfect, sensitive, well-meaning royal searching for true love from girls who desire him for the money or fame his position brings. I can't help but pity the poor guy; he's under tremendous pressure PLUS his love life is on display for all the world? How humiliating. I kept waiting for some darker aspect of his personality to surface, but other than a few haughty moments that I would expect from a boy from such a privileged, sheltered background he's pretty much a perfect gentleman.

I don't quite know what to make of America, our heroine. She's an interesting young woman. Initially, she enters the Selection because both her mother and her boyfriend think she should for the potential prestige, but no expects her to be a serious contender. By being honest with Prince Maxon about her wishes for the competition and offering him an alliance of friendship instead of romance, America manages to secure her position in the Selection. It's very cleverly managed. But a pretty young woman in a YA novel inevitably ends up in a love triangle, and America's moping over her sweetheart Aspen and her burgeoning feelings for the Prince are quite predictable.

The world-building is a bit vague, but if further developed it could be quite intriguing. Illéa, built in the ashes of a fallen America, is at war with New Asia. The country is also imploding, with rebels attacking the palace with a frequency quite disturbing to contestants in the Selection.

I ripped through this book with rare speed, and immediately started hankering for my next fix in The Elite. I don't pretend this is great literature, but it is delightful and entertaining, the perfect antidote to the more serious novels with important messages that I must read for work.

4.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Selection, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: Book Store Stories: Watch Your Placement
2013: Tides by Betsy Cornwell
2012: Fashionista Piranha is on a break until August 14th...
2011: Tales of the Tudors Book Giveaway
2010: News: Press “Pause” on Fashionista Piranha
2009: Ashland 2009: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
2008: Discussion Question: Explain Your Screen Name!

News: August Book to Movie Adaptations

Read the Book Before You See the Movie!

Thank you IMDB.com for providing the movie plot summaries.

Date: August 5th
Adapted From: DC Comics' Suicide Squad comics
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie
Plot Summary: A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated criminals to form a defensive task force, with their first case leading to a potential apocalypse.

Date: August 5th
Adapted From: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd
Plot Summary: A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Date: August 19th
Adapted From: Ben-Hur Lew Wallace
Starring: Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro
Plot Summary: Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army, returns to his homeland after years at sea to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: The Book of Heaven by Patricia Storace
2013: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban
2012: Fashionista Piranha is on a break until August 14th...
2011: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
2010: Jeane Westin, author of His Last Letter
2009: Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
2008: Contest: Neil Gaiman Extravaganza!


Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 60: Barkskins

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

From Annie Proulx—the Pulitzer Prize-­ and National Book Award-­winning author of The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain,” comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world’s forests.
In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
Proulx’s inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid—in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope—that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.

There's been some positive buzz for this book at our bookstore, and I do like a good masterwork of historical fiction.  I haven't read any of Annie Proulx's previous books - or see the movie Brokeback Mountain, for that matter - but that just makes me feel more curious.

Like all Indiespensable books, Barkskins is signed by the author and comes in a custom slipcase with a small chapbook that includes an interview with Proulx.

From “quite possibly America’s best living writer of short stories” (NPR), Ninety-Nine Stories of God finds Joy Williams reeling between the sublime and the surreal, knocking down the barriers between the workaday and the divine.
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams has a one-of-a-kind gift for capturing both the absurdity and the darkness of everyday life. In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, she takes on one of mankind’s most confounding preoccupations: the Supreme Being.
This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbitrary God. It’s the Book of Common Prayer as seen through a looking glass―a powerfully vivid collection of seemingly random life moments. The figures that haunt these stories range from Kafka (talking to a fish) to the Aztecs, Tolstoy to Abraham and Sarah, O. J. Simpson to a pack of wolves. Most of Williams’s characters, however, are like the rest of us: anonymous strivers and bumblers who brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there. The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination. At turns comic and yearning, lyric and aphoristic, Ninety-Nine Stories of God serves as a pure distillation of one of our great artists.

Hmm.  Not sure I'm interested in this second book.  Joy Williams is not an author I'm familiar with, but one thing I've learned about myself is that I'm not a big fan of short story collections.  Well, that's not entirely true...I like compilations of many authors, but if it's just one author I tend to get bored after 3-4 stories.  But I'll give this a try, since Powell's sent it.  I can trust their booksellers' judgement, right?

Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more about it, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Subscription Box: Powell's Indiespensable #53
2014: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
2013: Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant
2012: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell
2011: The King’s Witch by Cecelia Holland
2010: Giveaway #14: The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion
2009: Best Intentions by Emily Listfield
2008: Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels by Frances Kermeen

News: July Book to Movie Adaptations

Read the Book Before You See the Movie!

Thank you IMDB.com for providing the movie plot summaries.

Date: July 1st
Adapted From: Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie
Plot Summary: Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

Date: July 1st
Adapted From: The BFG by Roald Dahl
Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton
Plot Summary: A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Date: July 1st
Adapted From: Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré
Starring:  McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård
Plot Summary: A couple finds themselves lured into a Russian oligarch's plans to defect, and are soon positioned between the Russian Mafia and the British Secret Service, neither of whom they can trust.

Date: July 22nd
Adapted From: Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
Starring: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella
Plot Summary: After a massive power outage, two sisters learn to survive on their own in their isolated woodland home.

Date: July 27th
Adapted From: Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade
Plot Summary: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of "watchers."

Date: July 29th
Adapted From: Indignation by Philip Roth
Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Melanie Blake Roth
Plot Summary: In 1951, Marcus, a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey, attends a small Ohio college, where he struggles with sexual repression and cultural disaffection, amid the ongoing Korean War.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation #3) by Lauren Willig
2014: News: World Book Night to Suspend Operations
2013: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
2012: News: Your eBook is Reading You (WSJ)
2011: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus for a while…
2010: Opinion: “Read” that classic novel by listening to it
2009: Contest #8 Winner
2008: I, robot by Howard S. Smith


Savor the Dark Book Club
June 2016

Quarterly Co. is a subscription box service company that partners with celebrities to "curate" boxes, usually themed around food or fashion or cool gadgets, which are mailed out four times a year. For their book and chocolate-themed box, Quarterly partnered with Ghirardelli.

Chocolate and books are two of my favorite things to consume. I go through both in absurdly large quantities. Pairing the two items in a subscription service? That's a match made in heaven! I found out about Quarterly's Savor the Dark Book Club, a subscription box limited to only three mailings, and immediately wanted to sign up. I did question the wisdom of shipping chocolate bars in the summer heat, but after considering the amount of candy I've had sent to me and the fact that I can't think of any major meltdowns, I thought it would be safe enough.

I opened the box and it looked like there won't be any problems with melted chocolate. It was packaged separately in its own box, next to an ice pack and wrapped in another bag. I turned my attention to the letter at the top of the box, a note from Miranda Beverly-Whittemore welcoming readers to her novel. Attached to the letter was a list of discussion questions for her novel June and several recipes that I think must tie into the novel, because not a one calls for Ghirardelli chocolate.

JUNE: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore
Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery's vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

Sounds OK. It's not a novel I would have been likely to pick up on my own, but it sounds interesting enough. I'm sure I'll find it diverting enough on a lazy summer afternoon.  The book was not autographed by the author, but a bookplate that she had signed was thrown into the box. It's not nearly as collectible, but the fact that they thought to include it was a nice touch.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety chocolate in Ghirardelli Intense Dark is made by selecting the highest quality beans to create our all natural exclusive bean blend. Experience a moment of timeless pleasure as the intense chocolate pleasure lingers and time stands still.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK Cabernet Matinee Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate in Cabernet Matinee is infused with the tart flavor of blackberries and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity. Experience a moment of timeless pleasure with Ghirardelli's Intense Dark chocolate.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK Hazelnut Heaven Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate in Hazelnut heaven is infused with crunch, deep roasted hazelnuts delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity. Savor a moment that will carry you through your day.

All three of these chocolate bars sound delicious. I've had some of the Intense Dark chocolate bars before, and they always have a nice balance between the bitterness of the chocolate and the added in flavors like blackberry and hazelnut.

The Savor the Dark Book Club is a nice enough idea, but it's rather a poor deal. Each box is $45 ($40 + $5 S&H) and the value of the items inside is nowhere near that. June is a $26 book, and 3.5 oz Ghirardelli chocolate bar sells for $3.95 at the grocery store (and often will be on sale for $$2.50 or $3). Most subscription boxes have a value higher than the price tag, since it's likely that the recipient will like every single thing in the box. After seeing the contents of this box, I immediately canceled the subscription. I can pick my own book and my own chocolates without the risk of getting something I don't want.

It's too bad, because the box idea was a good one. If another company attempts something similar in the future, I'd be open to trying again.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation #3) by Lauren Willig
2014: The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
2013: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
2012: The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: The Queen’s Lover by Vanora Bennett
2009: Contest #8: Diggin’ Up Reading
2008: New Moon (Twilight #2) by Stephenie Meyer
Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 59: Homegoing

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

I'm really excited about this month's selected book! I don't know much about Homegoing but one of my co-workers has been absolutely RAVING about it for weeks, and her enthusiasm makes me want to drop what I'm currently reading and dive in.

Like all Indiespensable books, Homegoing is signed by the author and comes in a custom slipcase. It's so simple, yet elegant.  I love the way these slipcases look when they're all lined up on my shelves.  A small yellow chapbook is also included with the book that includes an interview with Yaa Gyasi.

This is just the sort of notebook I'm always looking for!  It has unlined blank pages, a pocket on the back cover for miscellaneous bits of paper, an elastic band so the book won't fly open when jostled in a bag, and it's roughly 8" x 6" so it's quite portable.  This is great!

When I'm not geeking out about notebooks, I can get pretty obsessive about pens.  I'm not a snob, by which I mean I don't have a brand that I'm strictly loyal to, but one of the easiest ways to put a smile on my face is to tell me to go to Office Depot and pick up some new pens for the office.  I'll spend an hour poring over the different features and testing the smoothness of the ink flow.

I think it's so cool that Powell's is encouraging Indiespensable subscribers to express themselves.  Whether this notebook gets used for taking notes on books while you're reading or for making diary entries or observational sketches, it's a fun, bookish thing to include.

Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more about it, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: New Releases: June 30th, 2015
2013: Narcoleptic Sunday by Jeremy Haun and Brian Koschak
2012: Sailor Moon Vol. 3 by Naoko Takeuchi
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Bite Me by Christopher Moore
2009: Winner: Diggin’ Up New Reading
2008: The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman

New Releases: June 28th, 2016


A CERTAIN AGE by Beatriz Williams
As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor.  Historical Fiction

THE SWAN BOOK by Alexis Wright
Oblivia Ethelyne was given her name by an old woman who found her deep in the bowels of a gum tree, the victim of a brutal assault by wayward local youths. These are the years leading up to Australia’s third centenary, and the woman who finds her, Bella Donna of the Champions, is a refugee from climate change wars that devastated her country in the northern hemisphere. Bella Donna takes Oblivia to live with her on an old warship in a polluted dry swamp, and there she fills Oblivia’s head with story upon story of swans. When Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, invades the swamp with the promise of salvation, Oblivia agrees to marry him, becoming First Lady, a role that has her confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.  Fiction


When Sylvie Furst and Cassandra Puffin meet at Bennington College, that Vermont haven for well-to-do young eccentrics and liberal-arts students, they firmly believe theirs will be a friendship for the ages. From the heyday of college through those first delirious post-college years, the two girls have nothing but each other and their charmingly decorated apartments to keep them afloat.  Fiction

THE HUMMINGBIRD by Stephen P. Kiernan
Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightmares, anxiety and rage. At the same time, Deborah’s primary patient is Barclay Reed, a retired history professor and expert in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He tells her stories from that long-ago war, which help her find a way to assist her husband in battling his demons.  Fiction

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime.  Historical Fantasy

MUSE by Jonathan Galassi
Paul Dukach is heir apparent at Purcell & Stern, one of the last independent publishing houses in New York. Working with his boss, the flamboyant Homer Stern, he learns the ins and outs of the book trade. But Paul’s deepest admiration has always been reserved for one writer: poet Ida Perkins, whose longtime publisher (also her cousin and erstwhile lover) happens to be Homer’s biggest rival. When Paul at last has the chance to meet Ida, she entrusts him with her greatest secret --- one that will change all of their lives forever.  Fiction

Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’ wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.  Fiction

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2015: Quarterly's Book Riot Book Box #7: July 2015
2013: Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice by Maggie Anton
2012: The Mummy Case (Amelia Peabody Mysteries #3) by Elizabeth Peters
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Discussion Question: How Big Is Your Library?
2009: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
2008: The White Mary by Kira Salak


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