Fabric Book Art by Candace Hicks at Lawndale Art Center & The Hobbit releases a New Trailer!

(photo by: Alex Luster)

The Lawndale Art Center, which is arguably one of the most photographed buildings in Houston with a fabulous full-wall mural created by a group of Houston artists who call themselves the "F" team, currently has four art exhibits. Althougth they are all excellent, my choice of which to introduce was an easy one. Any avid reader or book lover will appreciate, ponder and perhaps fantasize about owning their own fabric book after seeing the exhibit Compositions by the artist Candace Hicks. The pieces that stood out to me were the books that Candace Hicks made completely out of fabric. On these each word and phrase is hand sewn. They vary in size. The one in the photograph is about the size of a traditional hardcover. There is also a book which fills a large conference table and then an even larger book which is adhered to a wall in the exhibit space.


She calls these hand-stitched books Common Threads. I wan unable to find a description of which books the texts were taken from or about the significance of the lines chosen. The concept however, was enough of a thrill for me.
"Sewing every line, letter, and illustration in the books enhances their status as objects." -Hicks

The exhibit offers white gloves for attendees to wear so that you can turn the pages, feel the stitching and admire the handy work and of course, read the books. Doesn't the idea of having a fabric book offer up a whole new meaning to the idiom "Curl Up with a good book."

*For more information regarding the exhibits, hours, etc visit the Lawndale Art Center website by clicking on the link above!*

A new trailer for the much anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel- The Hobbit was released this morning. The film by award winning film-maker Peter Jackson is based on the children's book, originally published in 1937 by J.R.R. Tolkein. The playful nature of the book is visible in the trailer.

This film will star Martin Freeman who many now know as the new Watson, side-kick to Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. Not to fear, if you prefer Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch is also in the film as Smaug.

Jackson has a lot to live up to with this film as each of the three pictures leading up to this release was more critically acclaimed and financially successful than the last. This is the first in a two part series telling the Hobbit story.


Controversy also surrounds Jackson for filming the picture at a brisk 48 frames per second. He made the choice because he argues that it creates a much more crisp and realistic picture and many in the industry have been fighting to get 48 frames per second as the new industry standard. The backlash comes from another set of film-makers and film-goers who argue that the extreme reality of the visuals make it obvious that you are viewing a set. The quick film rate detects too much detail and doesn't allow for the ambiguity and muddiness of a traditional viewing experience.The process has also been described as making things appear glossy. I'm looking forward to seeing the film, based on one of my all time favorite books and deciding for myself.

The film is slated for release on December 14, 2012.

Dark retelling of fairy tales for ages 14+ in Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is a collection of modernized and deftly spooled re-told classic fairy tales. The first tale, The Stepsisters, lets you know that this is not your kiddie, Disney-fied fairy tale. It explains how Ella is desirable “a little thigh showing here, some soot at her cleavage.” The story goes on to explain how Mother wants the girls to find “…anybody, really, with a penis and a pulse.”


Some of the tales are more effective than others. I particularly appreciated the Rapunzel tale which was told in five parts each from the perspective of a different character.

One of the least effective tales for me was the Hansel & Gretel retelling in which the kids “…promise to be brother and sister forever. And Murderers. And Thieves.”

The stories are complimented by exquisite paper-cuts created by Andrea Dezso. The non-traditional shape of facial features and use of shadows help seal in the folk feeling for the reader.

The book could be of interest to high school or young college age students who are curious about alternate versions of the classic tales, but I don’t see that there is a large market for this collection and as it is a slim volume, under 100 pages, it would get lost in many library collections.

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Melissa Marr Shares her Inspirations for Carnival of Souls and Dishes on Great Books to Read!


Melissa Marr’s new book Carnival of Souls is described as a tale of lush secrets, dark love, and the struggle to forge one's own destiny. Ms. Marr shared that her inspiration for the book came to her after a visit to Rome.

“It (Rome) has this weird juxtaposition of life and history.”

She went on to describe a faerie market that she attended there where everyone was masked and in various levels of dress, some only wearing body paint.

Melissa was also inspired by the song Far From Home by Five Finger Death Punch which begins with the line “Another day in the carnival of souls.” The song made her think about how we are all born into a specific station in life, (by religion, gender, religion, class), and she asked herself, “What would you be willing to do to change your future?”

Ms. Marr said that she does have the follow-up book ready and it’ll be named Theater of Defeat. She also shared that she likes to do stand alone novels. It gives her the opportunity to enter into different worlds more rapidly.

“I write commercial fiction. I’m not planning on winning any awards. I’m telling a story.”

Melissa listed Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Stephen King and William Faulkner as some of her favorite writers. She also shared several titles that she has enjoyed recently:

Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (January 2013 release)
Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (December 2012 release)
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (October 2012 release)
Rachel Caine has a Romeo & Juliet based book due in Summer 2013
Romans and Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (I could find no info online)
Rags and Bones: a collection of short stories (slated for a Fall 2013 release from Little Brown)

There is an exceptional interactive website for the series called Enter the Carnival. It includes character profiles, excerpts from the book, and a playlist of songs that Melissa Marr listened to while writing the book. There is also a place to ask question which Ms. Marr checks and responds as often as possible.

Melissa Marr author of Carnival of Souls gives advice on writing, finding an agent and more!

“I do no outlining. Writing for me is all consuming; it’s like falling in love.”

Yesterday Best-selling author Melissa Marr had a book signing at Murder by the Books and it entailed much more the traditional author schedule; brief intro, description of book and answering a few generic questions. Ms. Marr read her crowd and adapted her session accordingly. The audience was full of bloggers, teachers, novice writers and discussions varied from finding a good agent and the myth that an optioned book will be turned into a film to advice on how to become a stronger writer and a list of recommended reads.
“This job can be completely chaotic and accidental.”

Melissa studied literature in college which gave her an appreciation for the story arc necessary to write a good book.

“A conflict is set up that must be resolved at the end of the book.
I don’t believe in cliffhangers just for the purpose of cliffhangers

Often writers are told that they should get everything down and not look back at their writing until the entire story is done. At that point they should dive back into the work and rewrite. That has never worked for Melissa.

“I don’t do rough drafts. I start each day at page one. My husband calls it taffy pulling.”

She explained how she starts at page one and fills out her text from there. Ms. Marr went on to explain that she thinks that creative writing classes can do more harm than good. She explained how many people who want to write end up so bogged down by the class rules that they can’t see which parts of their writing are weakening the story. They feel that because a section was in their original outline it must stay in the book. She recommends learning how to disassemble literature and study what works and why it works. Melissa agrees with Stephen King and numerous other authors that creative writing classes can be more detrimental then helpful.

“My best strength is that I know how to take my work apart.”

Ms. Marr’s honesty about the difficulty of the profession was refreshing. She discussed many aspects of the publishing experience from the harrowing process of coming up with an appealing cover with an image that reveals the true nature of the book to the significance of choosing the right agent who’ll work for your best interests.

“You want an agent who has legitimate records of sales to the big six publishers.”

Melissa also suggested that when you’re ready to choose an agent make sure that:

• They specialize in your genre.
• They are “scary” (will fight for you).
• They have a good record of significant and major deals.

She also suggested that before signing with an agent authors should Google the agent that they are considering. You may uncover interesting information about the agent’s work ethic, good or bad, by seeing what is written about them.

**Come back to my blog tomorrow to learn about some of Melissa Marr’s favorite books, what inspired her to write Carnival of Souls and to learn a bit about her pre-author life.**

The Breakthrough Book: Chopsticks is a MUST READ with Music, YouTube and an iphone App- Revolutinary

I was immediately attracted to Chopsticks with a full color photograph in soft focus of two beautiful people ready to kiss, gorgeous lettering for the title and it's size 8x9 1/2 is untraditionally intriguing for a YA book. Although this is categorized as a YA book I encourage, urge, demand, that any and everyone interested in avant garde literature give this book a read.

Author Jessica Anthony and Illustrator Rodrigo Corral have taken an effective new approach to storytelling which breaks open contemporary bonds for what a book "should" look like. Using full color two page spread photographs, segments of sheet music, newspaper clippings, photo album pages, labels, paintings, recital programs and more we are introduced to the mysterious life and disappearance of Glory Fleming. Glory is a piano prodigy who we assume has been home-schooled by her father. We see that her mother, who was a wine distributor was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was a young girl. Glory meets a boy, Francisco, from Argentina and they become intimate friends who dream of running away together. We see the instant messages, photographs, postcards, mixed CD's and art that they exchange and watch the complicated tango of their relationship.

One of the beauties of this book and a truth that holds to most good art, is that it is open to multiple interpretations. We see that Glory is regularly sent away to a rest facility called Golden Hands. Does she suffer from mental illness? is that why she stopped playing a profound piece and slipped into the song Chopsticks while at a major concert? Is that why she had reportedly played the song Chopsticks for hours on end? It would also explain a mysterious email that we see between Glory's father and his friend which says "When you said you already lost Maria and were afraid of losing Glory too, I didn't know what you meant." That said the issue of Glory's sanity, Francisco's reality and the finale of the book are all at issue for debate, and what a delicious debate it is! Pouring over the book numerous times is a delectable treat for those that like to solve a mystery and who appreciate the complexities of everyday life. 

Some of my favorite sticking points of discovery:
  • Glory lives on Usher Street. This made me think of the classic short story The Fall Of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe. In the story Rodrick Usher suffers from acute anxiety and other mental disorders.
  • There is a marked theme to the films whose cases are shown in numerous photos. The Pianist, The Piano, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Corpse Bride all feature passionate characters who are arguably mad.
  • Paublo Neruda is the author often quoted in the work. His sonnet No I Love You is visible as well as a collection of his work and several quotes of his are scattered throughout.
  • Dandelions are symbolic for the young lovers. Although many think of the dandelion as a weed, historically they are thought of us a valuable herb. They are a positive symbol and if one dreams of a dandelion it means that they will have a happy union. Traditionally the dandelion symbolizes hope, summer and childhood

The lists of music both the songs that Glory plays and that the lovers give to each other also reveal secrets of their love story. I have created two plays lists based on the book on Spotify. One with the piano pieces mentioned I called Chopsticks- piano. It features all of the music that I could find that Glory plays on piano. The other list is simply called Chopsticks and features all of the songs that I could find that the lovers send to each other. I can share these with you via Twitter or Facebook.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that the book is also available as an interactive app. At my last checking the app was $6.99 and is completely interactive. You can read the book straight through or follow numerous links to view clips that the characters mention as well as hear songs that they discuss.

I could go on for days proclaiming the wonders of this remarkable book- definitely one of the most intriguing, beautiful, challenging and fulfilling reads of the year.

Funny read for Grade 3-7: Planet Tad and a "don't miss" blog link to an interview with Hope Larson!

“I also rented the movies Volcano and Dante’s Peak. Applying the scientific method, I now have a
hypothesis that all movies about volcanoes suck.”

Tim Carvell is an Emmy award winning writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart so it’s no surprise that his book Planet Tad succeeds at creating dozens of laughs. The book fleshes out Carvell’s series for Mad Magazine also named Planet Tad. The book consists of blog entries from twelve-year-old American boy Tad. We follow him as he flounders through the school year and into his summer which is in no way what he expected it to be. He has a smart and conniving younger sister, Sophie, whose adventures include a brief foray into vegetarianism and lending her brother a large sum of money with an exorbitant interest attached. One effective component of the book is that Tad comes off as being a genuine and intelligent person who is always trying to figure out life, love and what is going on around him.

“If you’re going to make up a mythical animal, why not make up bicorns, tricorns, quadricorns, and so on?”

If Tad’s charm, witty thoughts and self-deprecating humor aren’t enough to woo readers, perhaps the dozens of pop culture references will do the job. Varying from the movies Star Wars and Pocahontas to the videogame Sword of Valkyries to advertising characters like the Kool-Aid Man the book is chock-full of every-day references. Tad is by no means a perfect boy. He teases his sister and uses sassy and gross-out humor that will keep fans of the Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid's books satisfied. This is a fun, fast read for almost any young reader who is seeking a good laugh.

I also wanted to point out a blog entry: http://badassdigest.com/2012/09/03/badass-interview-wrinkle-in-times-hope-larson-talks-comics-and-her-new-shor/ which features the remarkable Hope Larson. She is the author/illustrator for the glorious upcoming graphic novel version of Margaret L’Engle’s masterwork A Wrinkle in Time. She is also a filmmaker and ice cream aficionado. The blog entry features an interview, photos and some insight into Hope’s first film. Stay tuned for my review of A Wrinkle in Time at the end of September.

Don't miss out on your LAST CHANCE to see It's Because I Love You: The Blue Dozen Collective

Don't miss out on your LAST CHANCE to see the show:

"It's Because I Love You"

The Blue Dozen Collective

Tonight is the last night: Closing Reception (no cover) from 6-11PM
East End Studio Gallery
708 Telephone Rd. Ste. C

"The show evokes themes of struggle and justification. Struggle is a constant in life, yet the rationalizations for reaction to struggle vary. The Blue Dozen Collective uses this as an impetus for creating paintings and installations full of observational narrative. The artists’ range of talent and style offer a diversity of perspectives to the exhibition. BDC artists have previously explored their individual paths to style and subject matter, but “Its Because I Love You” debuts their first holistic approach to sending a message with their artwork in a truly collaborative way."


The Blue Dozen Collective's first collective concept group exhibition, “Its Because I Love You,” opened on Friday, August 17, at 6pm, at the East End Studio Gallery. The BDC artists include Bryan Cope, Briks, Robert Kilsby, Teri Lazardi, Brad Maxfield, Moe, Bryan Lee, Tres Hoyt, Mike Johnston, Heath Speakmen, and Wiley Robertson.

(all photos by me- quoted text from the group's invite)


Skip the Archie Spin-Off Graphic Novel Jinx and Go Buy Sept. JUXTAPOZ magazine feat. Daniel Clowes!


I’ve read the reviews for Jinx many of which use words like “charming”, “realistic” and “a breath of fresh air” but the words that come to mind for me to describe this book are mundane, cloying and markedly unrealistic.

As a fan of graphic novels, it’s hard to understand the appeal of re-energizing a character from a series that has run its course. Jinx is a character from the Archie comic series and although the author and illustrator attempted to modernize her language and dress, she still reads like an old character.

Jinx is starting High School and begins her day by running into her friends, each fitting the mold of a stereotype. The gawky geeky friend Greg, the hippie happy (think Phoebe from Friends) Roz and the angry overweight creeper Charley who shows Jinx that he likes her by being rude to her. Jinx is confused that her friends are ignoring super dork Mort. Her next adventure is that she wants to play on the boy’s baseball team because the softball team isn’t good enough for her so she signs up for boy’s football. If you’re also confused by this- I can’t explain. I’m no sports fan but I’m pretty sure that baseball and football are completely different sports. She forges her dad’s signature on a permission slip to play, is injured and is in no way punished by the school or her Dad = unrealistic. The story continues with the “love interest” portion of the book which is as cheesy and old-timey feeling as the first half of the book. In a year when so many excellent, compelling graphic novels are being released it’s difficult for me to understand the necessity or desire to dive back into comics of the 1940’s for source material.
(This book was released in April, 2012).


On a cheerier note: The September Issue of JUXTAPOZ magazine has hit the shelves and it has a great piece on avant garde comic artist Daniel Clowes. Clowes is iconic in the comic industry for taking an intelligent approach and writing interesting comics for adults. Known for his books Ghost World, Art School Confidential (both were turned into films) as well as Ice Haven (which I reviewed this summer) and Eightball. The piece includes a lengthy interview, a photo of Daniel in his studio and several samples of his work. It's on the shelves now!

Majestic Book Darts and App advice from the App Yeti

I have always been one to mark pages in books while I read. Up to now I've found plastic tab arrows and post-it strips to be the most useful. The problem with both of those products is that eventually the stick would wear out, often leaving a residue on whatever I was using it on, and they could rarely if ever be re-used.

At my last visit to Blue Willow Bookshop I discovered a fabulous product that they've just started carrying called Book Darts. They are a light .25 weight fold-able metal that are sold in a tin (in this case with the Blue Willow logo). 50 come in a package for $7.95 and they come in an assortment of 5 colors. The tin is small enough to tote around easily and yet large enough to spot on a cluttered desk. They are simply put- indispensible to the avid reader.

A new blog is out called the App Yeti which is definitely worth checking out. It has brief but thorough descriptions of and reviews about new and discounted apps as well as iphone accessories and tools. Covering apps that range from Zombies to Instagram, this is a worthwhile blog that help you to weed through the constant unflux of changing app options with an informed opinion.

Get Your Spook On! July Releases: Haunted Histories and On the Day I Died Will Haunt MG Readers


Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces*
by J.H. Everett and Marilyn Scott-Waters.
(Release date July 17 - Ages 9-12)

The opening page displays the "Ancient Order of Ghostorians Creed" which explains that the group encourages research
and fact. In the introduction we meet our narrator, Virgil Dante who rides the border between seductive and creepy. He tells the reader that his cursed pocket watch allows him to control time and place and more importantly, it allows him to talk to ghosts.

After the introduction including a quote from Shakespeare, we delve into the world of castles. From Japan to Syria and finally to the infamous Tower of London we fly with the narrator around the world learning about the histories of the buildings and the societies that created them. The text is brief and colorful and there are humorous and informative illustrations throughout including diagrams of the class system in Medieval times and an annotated map of a traditional castle layout.

Told in a whimsical voice, there is a balance of humor and horrible fact that keeps the pages turning. Physically the book is small, 5.5"x 7.125", which will be appealing to non-readers. It can be read in a short time period which will be appealing to most readers. Another strength in the content is that it has everything that one would hope is included but chooses to sprinkle in un-necessary but relevant fun facts such as the origin of the word "goth" and the secret code of heraldic symbols.

This is a great read for kids that like the dark side, are interested in history or studying castles.

(*Not to be confused with the wildly popular DVD series from the History Channel with the same name)

On the Day I Died
by Candance Fleming (Release date July 10 - Ages 11-14)

Mike Kowalski is driving when a girl appears in the road. He stops to take her home and ends up meeting a series of ghosts who died as teenagers in different ways, in different eras all around the Chicago area. Each chapter segues into the next as the ghosts tell their own tales in their own voices about their lives and deaths.

The setting is both a strength and weakness. For adults that live in or are familiar with the Chicago area the discussions of familiar landmarks, (Wrigley field, The Chicago State Asylum), are fascinating but I'm not convinced that student readers will be as appreciative of the specifics.

The voices of the different ghosts were both a strength and a weakness. I appreciate the idea of dialog being true to the era of the character's life and the word choices expressing the depth of the characters but some felt so outdated that I don't think students will understand the references. 

My favorite story is David's (1941-1956). With mentions of the pink counter-top and the Moms in the neighborhood getting together for card night a sense of time and imagery was instantly set. (Perhaps for me more from picturing Tim Burtin period pics like Ed Wood and Mars Attacks). David's story involves a comic book mail-order Insta-pet gone terribly wrong. 

Overall I recommend the book. It fits the bill of being spooky without being too scary. The prelude is another nice touch in which Candance Fleming explains her love of scary stories and shares her inspirations for each character's story.


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