Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, Sept. 21, 2010
Each story in Zombies vs. Unicorns is about either zombies or unicorns, although Garth Nix's story "The Highest Justice" blurs the boundaries a bit with a unicorn who can bring the dead briefly back to shambling life. Other contributors include Cassandra Clare, Naomi Novik, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot and Libba Bray, whose "Prom Night" is a standout. By turns gory, sensual, funny and somber, these stories may surprise, disgust or delight you, but they'll surely change the way you think about zombies and unicorns. And vampires? Who needs vampires?
Here's an excerpt from "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, an impressive story by an author who was new to me:
Think of it like the best macaroni and cheese you've ever had. No neon yellow Velveeta and bread crumbs. I'm talking gourmet cheddar, the expensive stuff from Vermont that crackles as it melts into that crust on top. Imagine if right before you were about to tear into it, the mac and cheese starts talking to you? And it's really cool. It likes Joy Division more than New Order, and owns every Sonic Youth album, and saw you in the audience at the latest Arctic Monkeys concert, though you were too stoned to notice anything but the clearly sub-par cheesy mac you'd brought with you.
There's a bad drawing beneath the words, nothing like the blurry photos on the news, or the pictures you've seen of the corpses. The unicorn on the sign looks like one from the old fairy books, white, rearing, its mane flying out behind it in artful spirals. Just like a fairy tale, except for the fangs and the blood red eyes.
..."Maybe [it's] a fake one," says Katey, clinging to her boyfriend, Noah. "They have this patented process where they graft the horns of a baby goat together, and it grows up with one horn. Like a bonsai tree. We learned about it in Bio class."
I shudder and move away from the tent. Before unicorns came back, people used to do that and pretend it was this gentle, magical creature. No one realized the old stories were lies.
A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor addresses the "summer slide", or the learning loss that often occurs in children during the summer break from school.
Here at BookPage, we were particularly interested in one reported study:
In a study that compares students who received free books over the summer with students who didn’t, Richard Allington, an education professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, found encouraging results. He tracked low-income first- and second-graders in Florida who chose a dozen free books at their reading level for three summers in a row.
“The effect was equal to the effect of summer school,” Professor Allington says. “Spending roughly $40 to $50 a year on free books for [each kid] began to alleviate the achievement gap that occurs in the summer.”
The study couldn’t show how many of the books the students actually read, but the students who sent in reading logs answering brief questions about the books showed even stronger achievement gains.
Super Sad True Love Story is Gary Shteyngart's third novel (after The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan), and it is "scary but exhilarating," according to BookPage contributor Alden Mudge. Alden interviewed the author for our August print edition, and we'll post that conversation in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, check out this hilarious trailer for the book—featuring cameos by James Franco, Jay McInerney, Mary Gaitskill and others:
We wondered how Shteyngart got such a big crew of superstars to appear in his book trailer, so we asked Jynne Martin, Associate Director of Publicity at Random House, to give us the dirt. She wrote:
Gary had cabin fever this past winter and wrote the original script in January. He wrote in all the funny cameos—James Franco, Mary Gaitskill et al—and then we just had our fingers crossed that everyone would find the script as funny as we did. Amazingly everyone in the all-star cast immediately said yes, except Salman Rushdie who had scheduling conflicts, so the moment of Gary asking Salman if he writes his books in Indian is forever lost to the imagination. It was filmed this spring in the Random House offices and in Gary's actual NYC apartment. The actual footage we filmed is far more extensive than the 5 minute book trailer, and it was a terribly sad process trying to edit down so many funny moments to fit into a short trailer. Happily we'll be releasing some of the outtakes in the coming weeks, including Gary teaching James Franco how to roll a joint, and Gary discussing his "relations" with Simon AND with Schuster.
Will you read Super Sad True Love Story (on sale July 27)?
This year, there was a little something extra going on at the American Library Association's annual conference. Random House Audio's Listening Library decided to have an open call to let fans read a page of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for a new audio recording—which would be completed before the weekend was over.
By Sunday evening, they'd recruited 301 amateur voice actors, including authors like Newbery Medalist Rebecca Stead, Libba Bray, Grace Lin, Jon Scieszka and Ken Burns. The youngest reader? Six-year-old Lillian Imhoff.
And another clip from Christopher Paul Curtis.
The clips will be edited together and released as a digital download. Will you listen?
Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, announced today that Knopf will publish the memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Here's more from the press release:
The book, as yet untitled, will be a coming-of-age memoir by an American daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants. Sotomayor will write about growing up in the South Bronx; her relationship with her mother and the loss of her father when she was nine years old; her inspiration as a young girl to become a lawyer; her journey to Princeton University (on a full scholarship) and later to Yale Law School; and finally, to a life in the law, culminating with her appointment to the federal bench. . . The book will be published simultaneously in a Spanish-language edition by Vintage Espanol.
In November 2009, Atheneum published a bilingual picture book about Sotomayor titled A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx, by Jonah Winter.
Are you interested in Sotomayor's memoir? What's your favorite memoir by a public figure? (I'll stick with Dreams From My Father.)
If you thought Lionel Shriver couldn't come up with a more provocative topic than health care to use as inspiration for fiction, think again—the author is planning to frame her next book around the issue of immigration.
In a March interview with Chicago's Victoria Lautman, Shriver said that she had an idea for her next book, although "it's not very advanced."
She continued, "For many years now I've wanted to tackle the subject of immigration, and especially to try to be a little sympathetic with this side of the equation where you're the host population and you're a little uncomfortable with it. This is political dynamite and I'm sure I'm going to hate myself for taking this on. It is self-destructive to come anywhere near this topic, but I can't resist it." Turns out she's already come near it at least twice in articles that hint at the ways she might tackle the issue. The Standpoint Magazine interview in particular provides a lot of food for thought.
Shriver said she plans to start the book after the publicity for So Much for That dies down. Although I find the premise intriguing, I can't help but hope immigration is handled with a lighter touch than health care was in So Much for That, where the dialogue occasionally crossed into preachy polemic territory. (Read my BookPage review of that book here.) But who am I kidding? I'll read it regardless; Shriver's fierce intelligence and priceless observations on human nature make anything she writes a worthwhile read.
What blog posts did you enjoy this week? My picks include. . .
Looking for Salvation at the Sip ‘n See—Susan Gregg Gilmore’s Ideal Book Event
Posted on The Book Lady's Blog
I was first intrigued by Susan Gregg Gilmore's The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove when Trisha blogged about it in her roundup of "faceless" covers. Then I got really intrigued when I realized that the novel's jacket image has a picture of Nashville's (beloved--at least to me) Parthenon looming in the background. So, I read Gilmore's recent guest blog post on The Book Lady's Blog with interest, in which the author discusses her idea of a perfect book event: "the beloved, soon-to-be famous, Sip ‘n See." Check it out.
A Third-String Quarterback's Lookshelf
Posted by Lookshelves
Thanks to a link on largehearted boy, I have just discovered Lookshelves, a blog that examines other people's bookshelves. As site creator Meghan Beresford writes, "Lookshelves isn't exactly the same as thumbing through a friend's books or peering at a stranger's shelf (and it's certainly harder to borrow books this way). But it is probably as close as you're going to get online." Just for fun, do any of you want to share a tidbit about your own bookshelves? I'll go first: I recently moved to a new apartment, and its selling point to me was its built-in bookshelves.
We've posted quite a bit leading up to the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird; see this "Happy Birthday, Harper" post or Lynn's description of re-reading the classic novel with her book club.
And now the big day is finally almost here--July 11, the actual date that To Kill a Mockingbird was published. To celebrate, Monroeville, AL, is hosting a weekend-long celebration, starting today. If you're somwhere in the vicinity this weekend (about 100 miles southwest of Montgomery), it'd be worth it to drop by Harper Lee's hometown. There will be a silent auction for a signed edition of the novel; a screening of upcoming documentary Our Mockingbird; a public reading from the judge’s bench in the old courtroom where Lee’s father practiced law; and more. Visit this website for information.
The July 2010 edition of Southern Living has an interesting essay on the festivities, with perhaps more anecdotes about the ever-elusive Lee than is typical in a magazine piece. There's an excerpt of the article online, although it leaves out my favorite section, in which former Auburn football coach Pat Dye describes a conversation with Lee. She tells him, "I never could finish another book. I started two or three more." He responds that that's probably a good thing; "I don't think you could ever have matched the masterpiece that you wrote," he says. Lee answers, "You're probably right."
Anyone heading to Monroeville this weekend?
We've written about blurbs here on The Book Case before, most recently when our editor Lynn Green admitted that in spite of some skepticism, they led to her discover of A Mountain of Crumbs.
Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I’ve ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. To the End of the Land is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.
Whoa. Not only is this a bit . . . intense, one has to wonder if it caused any tension in the Krauss-Foer literary household. The Guardian notes that Grossman's story—"of an Israeli mother, Ora, who sets out for a hike in Galilee with her former lover in order to avoid the 'notifiers' who might tell her of her son's death in the army"—sounds interesting in its own right, and he's received many accolades for his past works for fiction and nonfiction. Still, as someone who's looking forward to Krauss' own October release, Great House, this recommendation, however effusive, does make me more inclined to pick up this 592-pager.
What about you? Does a blurb like this make you more or less likely to read the book?
This week's recipe comes from Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas, a book that makes using that organic produce you find at the farmer's market even easier. Just "select a recipe from the more than 225 offered to showcase what you’ve harvested or chosen at the market," says Sybil Pratt, and you'll be just fine. Certainly this summery sangria will put a smile on your face.
A glass of sangria on a hot day is such a refreshing treat. It’s a classic combination of red wine and sparkling water augmented with plenty of tasty fresh berries and stone fruit. Salted almonds are an appealing accompaniment to this classic Spanish cooler.
6 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons sugar
1 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup pitted cherries
1 cup diced peaches
1 orange, unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
10 medium strawberries, hulled, quartered lengthwise
5 cups dry red wine
1? 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1? 1/2 cups sparkling water
In large pitcher, combine all fruit, wine, juice, liqueur, and cooled sugar syrup. Gently stir. Serve or cover and refrigerate up to 5 hours.
To serve, place several ice cubes in each of 10 glasses. Use slotted spoon to remove most of fruit from pitcher and add about 1/3 cup of fruit mixture to each glass. Add sparkling water to wine mixture in pitcher and gently stir; pour over fruit and ice in glasses. Serve.
Nutritional information (per serving): Calories 220, fat calories 0; total fat 0 grams, sat fat 0 grams, cholesterol 0 milligrams; sodium 0 milligrams; total carbohydrates 29 grams, fiber 3 grams, sugars 21 grams; protein 1 gram; vitamin A IUs 4%; vitamin C 70%; calcium 2%; iron 2%.
From Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas; reprinted with permission from Wiley Publishing.