The Secret Treehouse Where Readers Are Born

Very early this morning, I was reading JT Ellison’s article on Murderati, entitled ‘The Value Of A Local Bookstore‘ and I realized my comments were definitely long enough to deserve a post of their own. Essentially, JT meditates on the message of the movie You’ve Got Mail (dir. Nora Ephron, 1998) and asks readers to talk about their favorite local bookstores, and perhaps what constitutes a ‘bookstore’ itself. So here I am! Blogging, again.

You've Got Mail Movie Poster

You've Got Mail Movie Soundtrack

(If you do comment on JT’s article, you could win an Advance Review Copy of her upcoming gothic-style psychological suspense novel Where All The Dead Lie. Sounds like a riff on Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca — and we all know how I’m a JT Ellison fangirl, especially for her ability to take a cliché-sounding premise and transform it into brilliance. I’m kind of swooning already. So seriously now, you want to win this ARC, because no one wants to wait until it comes out on September 20th!)

Taylor Jackson #7 Where All The Dead Lie by JT Ellison COVER

So, without further ado…

I love reading, obviously, or I wouldn’t have this blog right here. But the thing is, I grew up a reader. And a big part of why is The Odyssey Bookshop of South Hadley, MA. Long before I wrote this post — actually I think it was one of my first actions upon creating this blog last year — I linked to the Odyssey on my website’s Blogroll page as an indie bookstore that I wholeheartedly endorsed and encouraged others to patronize (without them paying me to say so, of course). My Mom grew up in this area and getting cider donuts from Atkin’s Farms was always a traditional thing. One day, when I was along for the delicious journey (it’s a guaranteed foodgasm not to be missed if you ever find yourself in Western Mass) we stopped at the Odyssey on the way home. My Mom was part of that proactive camp of parents who read to their children before said children were even able to understand the meaning of the words themselves, so I was essentially a reader from birth. But the transition from being read to, to being the reader proper, was difficult for me. (I found out quite randomly in 5th grade that I had been dealing with undiagnosed dyslexia the whole time…but my voracious reading habit essentially worked to ‘cure’ me. So that’s pretty awesome right there. Thanks, Mom!)

The Odyssey was a transformative experience for me. First of all, it’s located across the street from Mount Holyoke College and it’s situated right on the green green grass of the town common. It’s literally the quaint New England stereotype come to life, in dazzling technicolor with the brightest sun you can imagine. Have you seen the town of Stars Hollow on the TV show ‘Gilmore Girls’? Yeah, like that. Only better because it isn’t fiction. Walking in, the air pulls on you like a vacuum and the resulting breeze envelops you with the scent of the current season. For my first time, it was spring and the scent of lilacs was intoxicating! *happy sighs* It was — and still kind of is — a bit dark when you first come in. Your eyes need a good 30 seconds to adjust to the black and the cool. When you’re a little kid, this is immediately intimidating because on top of it all you are thrust straight into the rows and rows of books taller than any bookcase you’ve ever seen in your life. (And by ‘in your life’, I clearly mean ‘in your house full of readers.’) My Mom sent me right off upstairs to the children’s book section. Whoever had the idea to put the kids up there was a genius because it harmonizes with the architecture perfectly. The windows are big and bright and all you can see are treetops; the bookshelves are shorter so all of the choices within reach without a grownup’s help; and the chairs are overstuffed and fluffy yet exactly the right size for your child-size rear end. The effect is that of a secret treehouse, the kind you never want to leave. Before you know it, you have a stack of ‘Mom you must buy these for me immediately’ books half your height next to you and you’re so engrossed in reading the first one in your dreamy secret treehouse comfort that you have no idea over 2 hours have passed and your Mom is tapping her foot at you that it’s time to go. Wait, what…?

The Odyssey Book Shop of South Hadley MA

When the Odyssey remodeled a few years ago and took over the lower floor and closed off my little treehouse, I was crushed. It’s the perfectly designed lure to get kids in the door and reading. Like shooting fish in a barrel. (Only please don’t actually use firearms on the tiny humans! — I write as I *sigh* to myself and lament the problems of school shootings.)

Anyhow, I always wanted to come back to the Odyssey as I grew up. And I did. (Buying my Mount Holyoke College textbooks there was a surreal experience, let me tell you.) Back to the point! This local bookstore has been in business longer than my 24 years of life. It has survived the encroachment of big chain bookstores  — like the Barnes & Noble with its built-in Starbucks Café and free wireless network over by the Holyoke Mall — and the boom of internet megastores like Amazon.Com, where no book is ever really out of stock. Any you know why? Because like me, the locals of Western Mass see that the Odyssey has value. It’s a real, physical bookstore. One where you can, quite literally, stumble upon a new book — and not because some magical little formula on the interwebs told you that it was your taste. One where the staff actually knows books. They all take turns writing out cards pointing out their favorite book on the shelf and the reasons why you should check it out…kind of like an Easter egg hunt, but for grownups too, and year round, with no chance of confusing bunny droppings for chocolate. When famous authors like Stephen King go out on book tours they regularly choose to appear at the Odyssey instead of the chain stores where they might have bigger expoure and higher sales, which shows how much they get it too. (It’s easy to forget that all authors start out as readers, as buyers of books just like you and me, before putting pen to paper and turning into sellers.)

Local bookstores have value, pure and simple. It’s just not something I could quantify with standard units of measure. It’s part of my heart and soul, as a reader. That’s all.

It’s a lovely slice of serendipity that this topic should come up now. With my back injury formally diagnosed as degenerative disk disease, they outlook is pretty bleak. And it’s been taking its toll on me in the past few months, as evidenced by my lack of posting as much. I was discussing the logistics of traveling to Cape Cod with my family for a week in July and I was dead set against going until my Mom brought up how I would be missing a chance to visit my two favorite indie bookstores out there, The Yellow Umbrella and Where The Sidewalk Ends. Now… I’m probably 90% sure I’ll be making the trip. It’s worth the effort.

It Starts Raining I Start Reading

As I was saying on Twitter earlier this morning, The Yellow Umbrella is super-small but it has the best selection of autographed books of any place I’ve ever seen (and if I’m in a new place I tend to track indie bookstores like a heat-seeking missile…one that ends up burning up her credit card rather than the store, of course). They seem to have great connections with not only writers who stop by on book tours but those that live, or at least vacation, around Cape Cod. In particular I’ve picked up a few books that had been autographed by Mary Higgins Clark there; and if you’ve been reading throughout her career you will recall several of her earlier books being set on Cape Cod. And of course, my newest discovery are the Martha’s Vineyard mysteries written by Cynthia Riggs starring the 90-something sleuth Victoria Trumbull. Her spot-on descriptions of the flora and fauna of the area are lush and detailed without overpowering the plot of the book, which is often a difficult balance to strike. In fact, one of the things I love about JT Ellison’s books are her descriptions of the Nashville scene. They make me want to visit but without weighing me down and distracting me from the rest of her novel.

The other shop I love is Where The Sidewalk Ends (named for both the lovely Shel Silverstein poetry collection and its actual physical location at the end of Chatham’s famous Main Street shopping district sidewalk). It’s a considerably larger operation than The Yellow Umbrella, but with the same attention to detail and quality that makes indie bookstores so beloved in the community. Many shops have a regional section, but here the attention to Cape Cod culture is perfection. There’s a tie-in to anything and everything you can imagine. Since this year is the 50th anniversary of President (and Massachusetts native!) John F. Kennedy designating the beachy Cape Cod coastline as a nationally protected environment — hence it’s name, the Cape Cod National Seashore — I would expect a fine array of nature books commemorating the event. The are the expected books on the history of the Pilgrims and whalers with their scrimshaw and the seashore homes’ classic architectural feature ‘the widow’s walk’ and gorgeous photo arrays on the native whales, etc. But then there are the unexpected items. If you’ve never been to Cape Cod, you might not know that it’s home to the Cape Cod Baseball League, the last summer college league to use wooden bats, and for that reason a huge draw for major league scouts. (In fact, my first season as a fan I watched future Red Sox shortstop and now-ESPN broadcaster Nomar Garciaparra play for the Orleans Cardinals, now called the Orleans Firebirds because the MLB decided to be jerks about liscensing when the league is run on endowments and donations., ex. it’s 100% free to attend games — no ticket necessary.) You also might not know that the Cape is a prime spot for birdwatchers because of it’s prime position within migratory patterns. Cute children’s books commemorating the first time a kid sees the ocean and such fill out the display. It’s really a wonder to behold. Maybe I also love Where The Sidewalk Ends for its secret treehouse-like upper floors…also where their main children’s section is. Coincidence? I’m telling you, this is how you hook in readers when they’re young’uns!

Crap. I guess I better start planning the logistics of getting my cripple butt out to the Cape. July is right around the corner.


Update 6/15/2011: I won!!! I never win things. Ever. This might be a sign of the Apocalypse but I’m too overjoyed to care! Like Christmas…in June!

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Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

As you may have heard, a tornado cut through my hometown and much of Western Massachusetts on June 1st. Four people died, many were injured, and property damage (including to my friend Kim’s brother’s house) was estimated to total over $90 million dollars. My family and friends and I are just fine otherwise, thank you to all who reached out to make sure of this. Your friendship is much appreciated. It’s nice when the internet is so…imaginary, I guess would be the word…that you really cared about me. Staggering to think about.

Here are some (pretty disturbing with explicit language) amateur videos of the tornado outbreak:

But with every cloud comes a silver lining…

Massachusetts Mayor: “Library Service Is Essential After Tornado”

American Libraries Magazine (Online Edition)

June 8th, 2011


American Libraries received an email from Springfield (Mass.) Public Libraries Director Molly Fogarty June 3 about the aftermath of a tornado that devastated several neighborhoods there June 1. The storm killed several people, injured many more, and destroyed and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses. The next day, Fogarty said, Springfield City Libraries’ Central Library and nine branches provided regular service hours—with the blessing of Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

Fogarty wrote:

“On June 2, in the aftermath of the tornado that hit Springfield in the late afternoon of June 1, the Springfield City Libraries were open. Residents were encouraged to visit the library if the conditions in their neighborhoods permitted safe travel. Residents in some neighborhoods are stranded without electricity and access to the outside world.

Mayor Sarno had declared a state of emergency in the City of Springfield and all nonessential city employees were told to stay home. I consulted with the mayor’s office and it was determined that the libraries could and should provide essential services in an emergency situation, and all library employees reported to work.

Many families were left homeless by the tornado and are being housed in temporary shelters. We are working with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide activities, programs, and reading materials for these families.”

Springfield budget analyst (John M. Burt) emailed June 3: “By the way, I did pull up outside the Forest Park branch about 6 a.m. Thursday morning to use the wireless service on my laptop. I needed to check my work email and there was no power in East Forest Park [a Springfield neighborhood].  Thank you, Springfield Public Library!”

According to the June 7 Springfield Republican, early estimates of damage to Hampden County, where Springfield is located, total $90 million based on insurance claims.

It’s really nice to have the Springfield mayor recognize publicly and explicitly the need for public library service for all. I wish more politicians, well, regular folks too, would get on board with this train of thought.

And while we’re at it, I must also wholeheartedly agree with an anonymous commenter on the above article:

And yet the budgets of Springfield Library, and libraries everywhere are facing slashing and layoffs. If they are so important as to keep them open in a state of emergency, then they should be facing the same layoffs that police and fire are: None.

This dovetails nicely with the recent United Nations report declaring internet access an undeniable and universal human right. After all, where else are you guaranteed you to that for free other than your local public library?

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The Cat Who Will Live On Forever

Lillian Jackson Braun 1

The Cat Who Killed Lillian Jackson Braun Parody Book by Robert Kaplow

Siamese Cat 1

Siamese Cat 2

RIP Lillian Jackson Braun (1913-2011)

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The Support Of Viewers Like You

Why Support The Continued Funding Of PBS?

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Walk Like An Egyptian

Etsy hokeystokes Book Carving Los Egipcios 1 by Julia Field $150

Etsy hokeystokes Book Carving Los Egipcios 2 by Julia Field $150

Etsy hokeystokes Book Carving Los Egipcios 3 by Julia Field $150

Etsy hokeystokes Book Carving Los Egipcios 4 by Julia Field $150

I’m in love with this book carving, “Los Egipcios” by Julia Feld. I wish I could afford the $150 price tag… It’s for sale in her Etsy shop, the hilariously named Hokey Stokes.

” ‘Hokey Stokes!’ is a phrase used to express wonderment or surprise in situations when ‘Holy Buckets!’ is deemed too explicit or crude.” ~Julia Feld

You can read more about her and see more examples of her stunning works of art in her blog, also named Hokey Stokes.

So. In a related story. My birthday is April 21st…hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge…and all that jazz!

Honestly, I would make such a terrible rich person. I would spend all my money on beautiful works of art and just go hungry. Art is far more satisfying to my soul than any foodstuff could ever be.

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You’re So Fine You Blow My Mind

I’m art nerd-ing out again. Etsy‘s very own Team Librarian is having an Ides Of March sale with 15% off everything in all member shops. To make the incentive that much juicier, I’m highlighting my favorite item in each shop for you. Please to enjoy…

Etsy Team Librarian Logo

1. Excessively Diverting —Where classic literature becomes novel accessories!

Etsy excessivelydiverting Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice 4in Christmas Ornament $8.50

Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" 4in Christmas Ornament $8.50 from Excessively Diverting

2. The Little Big Vintage Shop

Etsy littlebigshop Mod Daisy Tray with Bowl $21

Mod Daisy Tray with Bowl $21 from The Little Big Vintage Shop

Continue reading

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Get Your Hands Dirty!

It’s odd how serendipity strikes us sometimes. After ogling some gorgeous pieces of book-centric art not one week ago, the very cool website Lost At E Minor posted this amazing trailer for a documentary on origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding. Between The Folds is available for instant streaming on Netflix at this very moment. Please to enjoy…

I tried to keep this post light-hearted, because I sense that we could all use that. But…I just can’t help myself, I have to share all the best information that I can get my grubby little hands on.

First and foremost, disaster relief efforts require an endless supply of money. The widely-known anime website Crunchyroll is offering to match every $1 dollar you donate via their website with $1 dollar of their own, so I strongly encourage you to donate here so your efforts count for twice as much.

In addition, I would like to offer the following links to reputable charities to help fund disaster relief efforts:

  1. The Japan Society
  2. The American Red Cross
  3. AmeriCares
  4. Global Giving
  5. Doctors Without Borders
  6. Mercy Corps
  7. Oxfam
  8. The Salvation Army
  9. Save The Children
  10. Unicef USA — (I know this isn’t *technically* for Japan, but it’s an excellent charity for children nonetheless. It should be on your permanent giving radar.)
  11. Ali Express — Donate specific items necessary for disaster relief workers to do their jobs safely and help aid the victims they care for.
  12. World Vets — Helping rescue animals is a completely different ballgame than rescuing people. This organization is already on the ground in Japan. (See their Facebook pictures!) Their work is amazing. If you’re an animal softie like me, who cries at the ASPCA‘s commercial with Sarah McLachlan and has to immediately change the channel from the heartache, I highly encourage you to give a little to them. Click the image below to give!
  13. Japan Cat Network — In addition to World Vets, this another animal rescue charity that CNN is promoting!

Paws For Japan WorldVets.Org Charity Donation Logo 03.17.2011One of my favorite sources for original gallery-quality artwork, 20 x 200, is selling these two gorgeous photos of Japan. The 8 x 10 inch sizes start at $20, with larger sizes costing more. All net proceeds will go to The Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund, as mentioned in the list of reputable charities above.

20x200 Shinjuku 6.43 (Japan) by Joseph O Holmes

"Shinjuku 6:43" by Joseph O. Holmes


20x200 Imperial Palace Gardens With Wall Tokyo (Japan) by Emily Shur

"Imperial Palace Gardens With Wall, Tokyo" by Emily Shur


Per Apartment Therapy, you can also buy this print by Max Erdenberger for W + K Studios, where the base price is $25 but you can pay as much more than that as you wish.

Apartment Therapy W + K Studios Japan Earthquake Relief Poster $25+

W + K Studios Japan Earthquake Relief Poster

And on an important note, because this is a book blog, after all… Author Richelle Mead is auctioning off autographed copies of her books through eBay’s Giving Works Program, with 100% of the money going to either Save The Children or the American Red Cross. Please consider bidding on what she has to offer.

According to publishing website GalleyCat, author Maureen Johnson has launched a ShelterBox charity campaign where any donation registered with her will enter you into a drawing to win all kinds of cool book swag like signed first editions by Neil Gaiman (aka @neilhimself on the Twitters)!!! Yeah… I’m amazed too! FYI, there are different donation links for the United Kingdom versus the rest of us in the world, so make sure you have the correct website. If you choose this venue to make a donation, please Tweet about it using the hashtags #TheLastLittleShelterBox or #NameOfTheShelterBox and follow @MaureenJohnson and @ShelterBoxUS. As of approximately 8 hours ago, they had raised over $6,000. Your generosity is just astounding to me. I’m such a grouch but at times like these, I can’t help but love humanity.

My favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, has four Japanese pitchers on the squad. The Red Sox Foundation is currently working to help fundraising efforts for Japan. Please help out if you can, citizens of Red Sox Nation! Below, from left to right: Hideki Okajima, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Itsuki Shoda and Junichi Tazawa bow their heads during the moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan during pregame ceremonies on Saturday March 12th before the spring training game between the Red Sox and Florida Marlins. Additionally, Okajima and Matsuzaka have filmed video messages in Japanese and English expressing support for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.


Photo Credit: Brita Meng Outzen for the Boston Red Sox.

Or if it’s easier, you can use you phone addiction for good instead of evil by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999. A charge of $10 will be added to your next monthly wireless bill, with the proceeds going to fund the American Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts. Canadians can do this too, by texting “REDCROSS” to the number 30333 instead.

If you have a website or a blog that you run, Mashable has instructions on how to install a “Hello Bar” on your blog, so each new visitor is prompted to click on whatever link you choose. Using this resource for disaster relief efforts to help Japan right now would be awesome; You can always change the prompt to your favorite charity in the future.

How do you know that a charity is on the up-and-up? Consult Charity Navigator, Give Well, or the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the United States before you whip out your credit card. Please report any disaster-related fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center online or by calling 1-866-720-5721.

(All of this info will have a permanent home over on my “Worthy Causes” page, so it will remain easily accessible if and when this blog post is replaced with more current content.)

Please help out if you can.

If you’re trying to get into contact with someone in Japan, Google has launched the 2011 Japan Earthquake Person Finder for just that purpose. Similarly, if you need help locating a friend or family member in Japan who is a US citizen, you can e-mail the US State Department at They also encourage you to call 1-888-407-4747 or 1-202-501-4444 for current information on security or travel in Japan. Local Japanese resident Masafumi Matsumoto offers advice on his Posterous blog about dealing with this crisis for those of you who live in Japan but don’t speak Japanese.

If you’re in Tokyo right now and need a place to stay, the unbelievably generous Twitter user @yakuza5910 is offering a crash pad. For serious:

Japan Earthquake Twitter User Yakuza5910 Offers Shelter In Tokyo

If you live in earthquake-prone areas, like the West Coast, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) earthquake notification system, which generates an automatic e-mail to you any time there are rumblings in your area. Even the tiniest bit of warning could save a life, and since we all seem to live on the internet, especially we iPhone and BlackBerry (or should I say CrackBerry?) users, this little system might actually make a big impact for future disasters.

You can follow their @USGS main account on Twitter, as well as their dedicated account @USGSLive for live-Tweeting events like the current situation in Japan. They’re also on Facebook. If you’re a major geology nerd, check out their master list of USGS-affiliated Twitter accounts as well as their Flickr photo account, as they are relevant to your interests.

The National Oceanographic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers similar services in their field. They are available on Twitter @USNOAAGOV and on Facebook, with additional pages for the National Ocean Service and the US National Weather Service.

As I write this post, we’re waiting to hear if the nuclear reactor goes into meltdown. If you’re feeling super-nervous about the situation, please check out the Brave New Climate blog, which dispels fact versus fiction about the relevant nuclear issues.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scores of web pages with directions on what to do in the event of an earthquake, what to do in the event of a tsunami, and what to do in the event of a nuclear power plant emergency. They’re also on Twitter under @FEMA and on Facebook.

Do you have a disaster preparedness kit? It’s important that you do, even if you’re not in an area prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Because just the electricity or phones going out for a few days, like we’ve had happen here in the North East due to snow storms, can become an emergency situation. Ready America offers a complete list in addition to being a generally great website for checking your emergency IQ. The website 72 Hours offers similar information, albeit in a slightly more friendly and accessible format.

It’s not technically #FollowFriday (aka #FF) anymore, but in addition to those organizations and individuals linked above, I strongly encourage you to follow these people on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information:

  1. @SexyGeologist — My real life friend Laura is a geologist. (And sexy, in case you question her username’s accuracy. She has a boyfriend just FYI.) But the information she’s been supplying is unmatched, to the point of her calling correct assessments before major news organizations get the chance to Tweet it! Seriously, I’m so glad she switched her account from private to public for this disaster. Being able to share her talent with you all is really the only positive thing to come out of all of this. Feel free to ask her any questions you have; I promise she’ll respond when she has the time. (As I write this, she finally took a break from Twitter to sleep.)
  2. @BassEngD — Matthew Bass is a fossil fuel engineering post-graduate student who really knows his stuff.
  3. @DennilFlossDenis Fillion is a retired paleontologist.
  4. @ArcLight — An engineer with the best intel on nuclear power issues that I’ve seen anywhere in my Twitter feed. If you’re feeling panicky and overwhelmed, he’s the guy you want to explain it all.
  5. @GeorgeTakei — The famous from the original TV series “Star Trek” Japanese-American actor who survived the World War II internment camps. He’s been supplying awesome links the whole time this crisis has been going on. I admire his stamina, poise, and grace under fire. Plus also? In his spare time, he’s kind of a dirty old man. And I dig that.
  6. @BreakingNews and @Reuters — Self-explanatory!
  7. @Discovery_News — The Discovery Channel feed.
  8. TV’s @AndyLevy — For the righty side. He works for Fox News on the only program I tune in to their station for, “Red Eye.” Works as the show’s ombudsman and a generally good follow for news and comedy.
  9. @Maddow — For the lefty side.
  10. Cable news anchors @AnnCurry, @JakeTapper, and @AndersonCooper are also consistently reliable news sources.
  11. @ThinkProgress — I try not to go overboard on my personal politics here, but this is just necessary. Yesterday, the GOP just passed a 3-week spending bill that includes over $100 million dollars in cuts to the USGS and NOAA. No, I’m not kidding. This makes me feel all stabby inside.

Per one of my favorite architecture and interior design blogs, Apartment Therapy… Here’s a list of special earthquake hashtags for you Japanese speakers:

  1. General earthquake information: #Jishin
  2. Requests for rescue or other aid: #J_j_helpme
  3. Evacuation information: #Hinan
  4. Confirmation of safety of individuals, places, etc.: #Anpi
  5. Medical information for victims: #311care

As always… If you have a relevant link, please leave a comment to share it with the class!

(Last Updated: 3/17/2011.)

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In This South-Sea Meringue Melting Pot (REVIEW)

Towards the end of January, I was selected by GoodReads to be an advance reader of Cloaked by Alex Flinn. I’m not really sure why, as I haven’t written a review there. In fact, I had only made a basic account and I hadn’t started using the website to its full potential yet. I don’t think I’m optimizing it now… My plan is to use it to catalog all the books I’ve read in 2011, since one of my goals for this year was to read 300 books. I’ve never really counted how many books I’ve read in a year, but it seemed doable. And I do like a nice round number. So here we are.

Cloaked came out on February 8th. I didn’t get around to writing about it due to my health and all that jazz until now. Which I think means that GoodReads won’t be picking me as an advance reader anymore, but I’m okay with that. It’s a lot of pressure. And just to warn you, I have hardly anything nice to say about this book. So without further ado, please to enjoy my review…


Cloaked by Alex Flinn COVER



  • Title: Cloaked
  • Author: Alex Flinn
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • Release Date: February 2011
  • Hardcover, 340 pages (mine was the uncorrected paperback proof version acquired via GoodReads)
  • My Rating: 1/5 stars





For starters, I hate the cover art of the book. That’s often what draws me in, what prompts me to stop in my tracks, pick up the book, and read the inside flap to see if it’s worth buying. This is an image of a hibiscus growing out of the stylized thorn-covered Cloaked title text. Fun fact about the hibiscus plant? They do not have thorns. *headdesk* I understand that the story takes place in Miami and the Florida Keys so the hibiscus is a reasonable choice symbolically, but if you’re going to evoke the fairy tale side of things — the immediate visual that springs to mind is of the rose under glass in Disney’s Beauty & The Beast (1991)— could you at least choose a flower that actually has thorns? Awful. So before I even crack it open, this book has made a terrible impression on me.

Beauty & The Beast Fairy Tale Cursed Countdown Rose

Beauty & The Beast Fairy Tale Cursed Countdown Rose with Belle

Beauty & The Beast Fairy Tale Cursed Countdown Rose with Belle & Beast Dancing


Quoting the plot summary from the book jacket flap: “Johnny’s not your average hero. But a little magic changes everything. There isn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. It all starts with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess. And before Johnny knows it, he is on a mission in the Everglades, with only a flock of swans and a talking fox named Joe to help guide him against the forces of an evil witch.”

The book is filled with shoe-related quotations, because Johnny is a cobbler in his mother’s shoe store within a posh Miami hotel… Which is where he meets the dazzling bronzed and blonde Princess Victoriana of Aloria, who promptly asks Johnny to go on a quest to find her older brother, who has been turned into a frog by the evil witch of her oppressive suitor. Said suitor is trying to oppress Victoriana (oh God that name is just ridiculous) into marrying him; Johnny’s reward for successfully locating the princess’ brother and helping to turn him back into a human is, coincidentally, her hand in marriage. Which is great because (a) she’s this Paris Hilton lookalike which I guess is appealing to men these days and (b) Johnny and his mom are trapped in a life of poverty and said marriage would solve all his financial woes. Cloaked‘s title stems from a magic-endowed cloak that transports the wearer anywhere he or she wishes to go by sheer force of thought. Of course, Victoriana’s foil is present in the guise of Meg, the coffee shop girl next door, his best friend who’s secretly in love with him and who (SPOILER ALERT) Continue reading

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Doctor Frankensteins I Can Get Behind

I’m a huge art and design geek, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me (or at least has read my bio on this blog), since my previous career path was architecture. This visually stunning book-centric artwork was recently brought to my attention over at Oddity Central. Please to enjoy…

“The Book Autopsies Of Brian Dettmer” by Spooky

February 28th, 2011

Brian Dettmer, also known as “The Book Surgeon” uses knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve old dictionaries and encyclopedias into incredible works of art.

Born in 1974, in Chicago, Brian Dettmer studied art at Colombia College, where he focused mainly on painting. During his time working in a signage store, the artist started exploring the relationship between codes, text, language and art. He began producing paintings based on sign language, Braille and Morse Code, then moved on to layered works that involved pasting newspaper and book pages to a canvas, and it was just a matter of time before he would discover the talent he is now renowned for – expert book carving.

The Book Surgeon takes outdated books, dictionaries and encyclopedias that would otherwise end up at a landfill somewhere, and gives them new meaning and the chance at a second life, by carving them into intricate artworks. “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyors of content. When an object’s intended function is fleeting, the necessity for a new approach to its form and content arises.” Dettmer says, explaining the philosophy behind his work.

Reference works are Brian’s favorite material, because of the rich illustrated content, but regardless of what he works with, he never inserts any new material or move the content of the book around just to make it more interesting. Using his trusty precision tools, he cuts out unwanted content stabilizing what’s left with layers of varnish. In the beginning, Brian Dettmer focused on carving one book at a time, but in recent years his art has become even more ambitious, as he began using sets of books to create the images he desires.

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 1

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 2

Brian Dettmer Book Autopsies 3 Continue reading

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Library Propaganda Comic Book

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