Saturday, January 30, 2010


Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk is a sweet book. Sweet in the sense that it was written about a family. The Magyk that they do as a wizarding family is almost an aside. There is, of course, tragedy, stress and strain on the family, and a menacing Darknesse that they all need to deal with, and one can readily see some Harry Potter influences, but only just.

Some minor things, a little irritating for an adult reader, that I don't think younger readers would be bothered by, is the use of Bolde type and lots of extra and usurping Y's and E's, to annotate the various Spelles, Charms and other Magyks throughout the text. For my son and I especially, because I'm reading aloud, they don't do us much good, as he can't see them, and I am unwilling to stress the words whilst reading. Its annoying, no?

Another thing is the illustrations--nicely done by Mark Zug, no question--which only occur at the beginning of each chapter (à la Harry Potter), but the problem is: they repeat. The first 6 or 8 chapters are illustrated with a lovely pencil drawings, the subject of which relates directly to the chapter, but after a while... eh, what the heck, this one's close enough, and here's the same illustration again. Cheap.

And there are other subtle things as well. In the Wizarding Tower there is a spiral staircase that runs top to bottom and serves all of the floors in this massive structure, and one has only to step on and say where one wants to go, and the stair spirals you up or down to your destination. (Sound familiar?) In any case, fine. The problem is: one stair, lots of floors, hundreds of wizards, and now, a good way into the second book, Flyte, the stair has yet to be in use whenever it is called upon to deliver our hero, or any of the other characters, where they need to go. Its like an elevator in a modern office building, that pops open, ready to go, whenever you call for it. When I complained, my son suggested that, 'maybe its Magykal?'

Sounds like Bull Crappe to me.

Maybe I'm putting to fine a point on things, but I try to be fair. In fairness, Angie Sage has created an interesting world, that seems to have some depth, which I think can be capitalized upon as the series progresses. The second volume is interesting so far, and some things happened in Magyk that I'm looking forward to learning more about. Its fun, adolescent, and charming. And I'm just a grumpy old man.

Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

charlton bookmark

The Charlton Public Library started its life at it's present location in one room, at the center of the Charlton Town Hall. The town offices eventually moved out of the building and across the street to a old school building, giving the library some room to expand, but not much. The staff room was a closet. A coat closet. In the 2-foot deep space where the coats would normally hang, a series of shelves were built in, that held a small microwave, coffee pot, creamer, sugar, cups... you get the picture. Other offices in the building were used for a children's room, a local history room, or a conference room, but not accessible directly from the main library space; patrons had to go out into the corridors that wrapped around the library space and find the different rooms, which used to house the town clerk, and building departments.

The good news is, that Charlton was finally able to renovate, and put on a large new addition, which now houses, among other things, an expansive new children's department, a new reading room and stack spaces for the adults, and provides access to the unused auditorium on the upper floor, which for many years was closed to the public because there was no access for the disabled.

My office did the design, and headed up the design team. This bookmark was kindly contributed to support my addiction by our own project manager, Nicole. Thanks Nicole! And good job.

Friday, January 22, 2010

the sorceress

The Sorceress: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott is the third book in the series of the eventual six volumes planned, and the last volume that's been published so far. So we've got a bit of a wait to find out how it will all end for our heroes, but they're getting on reasonably at the halfway point. As good as can be expected I suppose. For more on whats next check Random House.

Scott has again introduced some new characters from mythology and history, and has also ended this volume with a particularly interesting twist, that neither I nor my son saw coming. So bravo to Mr. Scott for that. The story has moved along well and some interesting things have happened to the characters, and we learn a lot more about them in this volume. The fun twist at the end isn't the only one either, my son and I were pleasantly surprised a number of times as things developed in the narrative.

We're both looking forward to the next volume, and its not that far away. Its the fifth and sixth volumes we'll have to wait for. Well, we waited for Harry Potter, so I guess we can wait for Nicholas Flamel. In the meantime, my son and I are onto the Septimus Heap saga. There are five volumes in that series at this point, but I don't know if it ends there or not. I guess we'll find out. The first volume is subtitled Magyk.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ala midwinter boston 2010

We had a great show this year at ALA Midwinter in Boston. Thanks to all who stopped by to visit us, and thanks to everyone who brought bookmarks along! I was able to grab a few while I was there, and for those of you who I bored with my talk about my blog, a special thanks for your patience.

I can't scan them all at once, they wouldn't fit, but here's a sample of the bookmarks I collected at the conference. In this image, from left to right, top to bottom, are: Project Muse (they had like 12 different markers!), Tricycle Press, for This Book That Eats People by Mark Fearing, Teen Health & Wellness, Gareth Hinds for The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel, Northern Micrographics had this offering, silk screened on stainless steel, Public Affairs Books for Oceans, Better World Books for used books to fund literacy (type in coupon code WELLREAD for 10% off!), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, illustrated by Andrea Offermann, Beach Lane Books, for Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, and finally, Watson Label Products who put out this cool, 3-D number.

As always, if you click on the image, you can see a larger version. Thanks again to everyone!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

gone tomorrow

Gone Tomorrow, by Lee Child, is another installment in the Jack Reacher series of novels. Child can crank these bad boys out, that's for sure. I was turned on to the Reacher novels by my wife, who reads a book a day, so I can get my hands on the castoffs pretty quickly, especially when I need some mainstream stuff to break up my own reading list. I've got some stuff on my list that really needs to be pounded through, but some days, it just doesn't feel right. I picked up Fahrenheit 451 over the holidays, for example, and it was just too depressing. That one's going back on the shelf for a while, at least until life begins to go entirely too well.

Anyway, Reacher is obviously Lee Child's alter ego. A 350 pound, kick-ass-and-don't-bother-with-the-names kind of guy, who, now that he is no longer a military policeman, still solves crimes and looks into injustices where he finds them. Just because its work that needs doing. Who else is going to do it? And with his no address, detectionism, and the aforementioned ass-kicking skills, along with his outside the law status, who better, right? Reacher can do things to perps and witnesses that every well meaning cop and flag waving Jack Bauer wannabe wishes he could do. The Reacher novels are escapist, ass-kicking fun, that tickle the justice bone, and usually have pretty well thought out mystery/detective plots to them. In the vein of The Harry Bosch Novels, by Michael Connelly, a detective series also pointed out by my lovely wife.

electric sheep

Blade Runner has been a favorite of mine for years; the darkness, the architecture, the retro style, the sino-culture, and the soul searching Rick Deckard does as he hunts down illegal androids. I'd never read the book the movie was based on, and it was interesting to find how similar, and how different the original was.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, is classic, old-school SF, with questions about government tactics, the unfettered fruits of science, and organized religion, with a little of that mind trippy, 60s physcadelia thrown in for good measure. Plus electric sheep. What more could you want.

The story is fast, and follows Deckard through one real busy day. The stress Deckard is under is enormous, and it comes from all sides: the environment, his work place, his marriage, and lets not forget hunting down and killing androids. Who incidently, don't want to be put down, and are mostly inclined to fight back. And with everything else he has to do, actually searching for souls in androids may be one more thing Deckard has to add to his to do list.

Friday, January 15, 2010

hotel new hampshire

This book is great! I had a ball reading this one. I remember reading Garp years ago, and this one is similar in that it follows the lives of a family. An interesting one. I guess it wouldn't make sense to write about a family that isn't interesting, but this family is on the fringes.

The writing is sharp, elegant, and easy to read. And there is as much told by what isn't said. Irving doesn't take his reader for granted, but does expect that you'll bring something to the party. Therefor, I'm not sure that everyone will read this story the same way.

The depth and richness of this family's life, will probably have something that everyone can related to, and plenty that lots of folks won't relate to at all. But that's, I think, where the fun lies. There are things that I recognized from my own childhood and young adult life, and there were other thing that were just bizarre. Maybe so bizarre, that in another book, it may have been enough to turn me off, but Irving had me rapt.

It was fun, irreverent (and then some) strange, and, dare I say it, even madcap. This isn't a fast read, but it was a fun one. Read this book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

resistance is futile

Freebie from Harvard Book Store, who had a little naming contest for their book printing machine. The winner: Paige M. Gutenborg. The bookmark is to commemorate this august event, and is available online, from link in their newsletter. The newsletter story talks about three new bookmarks available from them, two now, and one to be released in February.

The name was selected by the store's owners from a list of about 500 entries, and nods to both the Guttenberg Revolution, the name given to the age of the printed book, after Johannes Guttenberg, who succeeded in printing his Guttenberg Bible in the 1450s, and the modern icon of technology infiltrating life; Star Trek. Of course.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the magician

The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott was a good follow-up to The Alchemyst. It keeps the story moving forward, and is just as interesting and fast paced, and has its own taste of intrigue and new characters to keep the interest up. As I said about The Alchemyst, Scott does a job job of recycling old myths into his new, and original story without them seeming either old, or borrowed.

New characters also appear from history, with names that most adults and some young adults will recognize, and add weight and color to the storyline. These new characters, and what they bring with them, also helps to fill in the back story, which, it seems clear, Scott has painstakingly researched and thought through. The story seems welded to the myths and legends we all know in an interesting and new way, and ties them together in the storyline neatly and rather simply.

Scott's writing style is easy to read, which is especially important to me and my son, as I'm reading aloud to him. We just finished The Magician and have begun the third book: The Sorceress. The fourth book, The Necromancer, is available for pre-order on Amazon, and is due out on May 24. According to the Random House site for the series, there will be a total of six volumes. This can probably change I guess, but for now they have volumes five and six listed as The Warlock and The Enchantress. I guess we'll have to find something else to read while Scott finishes the manuscripts, and Random House puts them out. What shall we read next I wonder?

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, was Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio, which he began in 1911 after returning from work and study abroad. He had built a home in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago--while working with Louis Sullivan--for himself and his wife, Catherine Lee Tobin, and their 6 children, but left his family for Europe, and when he returned, it was to the valley where he spent his childhood summers on his Uncle James's farm, to build Taliesin.

He lived at Taliesin with a woman he'd met and fallen in love with at Oak Park, Mamah Cheney, but a servant, unhappy with the arrangements at the home, started a fire which destroyed part of the home and killed Mamah Cheney, her two children, and four other people, in 1914. Wright however chose to rebuild Taliesin.

In 1924, Wright married for the second time, to sculptress, Miriam Noel.

In 1924, Wright met Olga Lazovich Hinzenberg... whom, of course, he later married, in 1928, the year after divorcing Noel. In 1925, another fire, this one caused by electrical wiring, burned Taliesin. And again, Wright rebuilt. Taliesin III, with wife number three. 1927 was also the year Wright built a small desert camp called Ocatillo, as a low cost living and studio arrangement, during the design and construction of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Ocatillo eventually grew and came to be know as Taliesin West.