Friday, October 21, 2016

Matt's Toast

"I read Sandman when I was thirteen, in the wrong order, snuck out from the library out of sight of my mother. I didn't understand a bit of it, but it all merged together into some kind of wild-magic-soup in my head, thrilling and strange. I became a fan, and devoured everything he'd ever written, and at some point I even returned to Sandman and discovered that if you read it in order it actually makes a bit more sense.

But if you say 'Neil Gaiman' to me, the first thing that pops into my mind is a day three years ago. I had traveled to London with a childhood friend of mine; we had tickets to see Neil Gaiman do a talk at the Royal Society of Literature. Only it turned out, upon arriving there, that that was not the place it was actually being held. But we weren't the only ones to make that mistake--and so we found ourselves swept up in the wake of three others fans, equally lost. We christened ourselves the Gaimanites, and we set off on a quest across London to find the venue (which we did, with minutes to spare.) And as usual, Neil was spellbinding, inspiring and acerbic, and we left with the feeling of being able to put pen to paper. Our little handful of strangers reunited, and wandered into the dark together, with a night that took in London's oldest pub, climbing stone lions, mysterious street food, and a set of six foot tall M and Ms, amongst other wonders.

It felt for all the world like we'd fallen through the cracks into London Below, wandering the Neverwhere. But then that's always been Neil Gaiman's particular talent, to conjure that feeling of mystery and magic, following just behind at your heels, waiting for you to turn and follow it." - Matt

Matt and I were introduced on Facebook through our mutual friend, the author Paul Magrs. Paul was right in that we'd get along, both of us being graphic designers we have endless things to say to each other from the use of stock photography to why there's so much bad cover art on NetGalley. Though oddly we disagree on almost every single book out there, so I'm sure if you lined up my favorite Neil Gaiman books and Matt's they would be diametrically opposed. There's a podcast in there somewhere. Matt is also an editor and writer, if being a graphic designer wasn't cool enough, in fact there's a Kickstarter campaign right now for a Steampunk Anthology that has a story of Matt's in it! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

American Gods Reminiscence

My grandparents had a farm on County Highway JJ in Lone Rock, just twenty some minutes from one of Wisconsin's weirdest attractions, The House on the Rock. The House on the Rock is a shrine to one man's weird collections and architectural dreams. The house itself is like some shag pile automated party house for Austin Powers, while the outlying warehouse-like buildings are crammed with everything from creepy dolls and dollhouses to mannequins wearing some of the oddest outfits to Eastern shrines and vast copper kettles surrounded by little walkways and staircases that go nowhere. And then there's the carousel. It's the world's largest indoor carousel that features 269 carousel animals, 182 chandeliers, over 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling. I spent much of my childhood hoping to ride that carousel, but alas, they don't allow it. I literally don't know how many times my parents took me there, it was a way to divert my brother and me for hours. I loved getting lost in the recreation of old streets and looking into fake houses, always wondering about other places and other people's lives.

The last time I went with my parents was for one of my brother's birthday parties. I remember it was sometime after the movie Big came out because I was 100% convinced that my fortune from the Esmeralda Machine, like Zoltar, would come to pass. In fact, it kind of did. I scoffed at it saying I'd end up in theatre and then I went and got myself a degree doing theatre tech! Though I am to this day grateful the card didn't say:


Years later when I was out of high school I went back with my friends and was still awed by the weirdness of it all. Last fall I went for what I am claiming will be my last time. The place was dusty and dilapidated, hot and overwhelming. And so cacophonous with the om-pah-pah music reverberating everywhere. But it's been a part of my life for so long it's no surprise that when I heard there was a book set there written by Neil Gaiman I ran to the bookstore and bought it. I am glad that American Gods wasn't the first Gaiman book I read because I have a feeling I would never have read anything else by him. He has often stated that American Gods is his most polarizing book and I can see that just among my friends. Some view it as the best book they've ever read and some have never been able to finish it. I just feel stupid when I read it, like I need a PHD in mythology to grasp the plot. I even tried to re-read it last fall before my final excursion to The House on the Rock and failed after the first section. But American Gods does hold a special place in my heart because Neil perfectly captured a place that was part of my growing up and immortalized it. So when the dust and decay and faulty wiring finally consume Alex Jordan's vision it will live on through Neil's writing.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The highly anticipated new standalone novel from Martin Cruz Smith, whom The Washington Post has declared “that uncommon phenomenon: a popular and well-regarded crime novelist who is also a writer of real distinction,” The Girl from Venice is a suspenseful World War II love story set against the beauty, mystery, and danger of occupied Venice.

Venice, 1945. The war may be waning, but the city known as La Serenissima is still occupied and the people of Italy fear the power of the Third Reich. One night, under a canopy of stars, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across a young woman’s body floating in the lagoon and soon discovers that she is still alive and in trouble.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is on the run from the Wehrmacht SS. Cenzo chooses to protect Giulia rather than hand her over to the Nazis. This act of kindness leads them into the world of Partisans, random executions, the arts of forgery and high explosives, Mussolini’s broken promises, the black market and gold, and, everywhere, the enigmatic maze of the Venice Lagoon.

The Girl from Venice is a thriller, a mystery, and a retelling of Italian history that will take your breath away. Most of all it is a love story."

Oh, yes please! And era that I love and a city that I adore!

Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernières
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"As the world around it marches forward, the bucolic English village of Notwithstanding remains unchanged. It is, as it always has been, a place of pubs and cricket pitches, where local eccentrics—a retired colonel who has eschewed clothes, a spiritualist living with the ghost of her husband, and a dog named Archibald Scott-Moncrieff—almost fit in. In this delightfully evocative collection of stories, in which a young couple falls in and out of love by letter alone, an eleven-year-old boy battles a monstrous fish, and a man of the cloth has a premonition of death, Louis de Bernières conjures up a rural idyll long since forgotten. Funny, bittersweet, and deeply felt, Notwithstanding is the bestselling author of Corelli’s Mandolin at his most enchanting."

This book just sounds enchanting. Also, look at that adorable cover!

BUFFERING: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart
Published by: Dey Street Books
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The wildly popular YouTube personality and author of the New York Times bestseller My Drunk Kitchen is back! This time, she’s stirring up memories and tales from her past.

By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.

Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

Personal note:

Hello, my darlings! I am incredibly pleased to present BUFFERING: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded! As a big fan of memoirs, I wanted to try my hand at writing about the events of my life that deserve a little more consideration than can be accomplished in 140-characters or a 6-minute vlog. Now on the cusp of turning 30, I'm ready to expose some parts of my life that I haven't shared before. Before, it was all about privacy, process and time. And now the time has come! I’m ready to put myself out there, for you.

I'm a little nervous about all these vulnerable words going into the world, these tales about my love life, the wrestling I’ve done with faith, how I feel about sex and my family and myself. I’ve had a lot of trials, a lot of errors, but also a lot of passion. Here’s the thing--I've always found comfort in the stories shared by others, so I hope my stories, now that I feel ready to tell them, will bring you some comfort too.

And when you read this book please remember: Buffering is just the time it takes to process.



Hannah "

I love Hannah, but I feel like her forays beyond My Drunk Kitchen have been a little iffy. That Doctor Who hosting being the worst. Here's hoping this hits it's mark!

Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History 
Published by: Insight Editions
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is the definitive thirtieth-anniversary exploration of the beloved Jim Henson classic, featuring rare artwork, interviews, and on-set photos.

Journey back to Jim Henson's Labyrinth in this visually stunning celebration of the enchanting fantasy classic.

Three decades after its release, Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, continues to enthrall audiences with its winning mixture of fairy-tale magic, fantastical creatures, and unforgettable music. Filled with a wealth of rare and unseen behind-the-scenes imagery, this book explores the creation of the film as seen through the eyes of the artists, costume designers, and creature creators who gave Labyrinth its distinctive look. Featuring in-depth commentary from the talented crew and cast—including exclusive new interviews with Jennifer Connelly, Brian Henson, Brian Froud, and George Lucas—this deluxe book brings together a wealth of rare sketches, concept art, and candid set photography to form and incredible treasure trove for Labyrinth fans. With stunning visuals and unparalleled insight into the creation of a true modern classic, Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is the perfect companion piece to one of the best-loved fantasy films of all time. "

Yes... I might have already preordered this the second it was announced... so?

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Published by: Image Comics
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The most ambitious project yet from the award-winning team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, with acclaimed color artist Elizabeth Breitweiser -- Finally available in the gorgeous Deluxe edition their fans have come to expect!

An epic graphic novel of Hollywood in the early days of the Blacklist, THE FADE OUT tracks the murder of an up-and-coming starlet from studio backlots to the gutters of downtown Los Angeles, as shell-shocked front man Charlie Parish is caught between his own dying sense of morality and his best friend's righteous sense of justice.

A picture-perfect recreation of a lost era, THE FADE OUT is an instant classic from one of comics most acclaimed teams.

This beautiful oversized hardback edition collects the entirety of Brubaker and Phillips serialized graphic novel, as well as many behind-the-scenes art and stories, sketches and layouts, illustrations, and several historical essays. "

I just discovered The Fade Out this summer, it was so good! Of course I own the paperback editions, but seriously, I NEED this deluxe edition too!

Black Dog by Dave McKean
Published by: Dark Horse Originals
Publication Date: October 18th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 120 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Best known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman, McKean defied expectations with his stunning debut as writer and artist in Cages, winner of multiple awards for Best Graphic Album. Dark Horse proudly presents a new original graphic novel by the legendary artist based on the life of Paul Nash, a surrealist painter during World War 1. The Dreams of Paul Nash deals with real soldier's memoirs, and all the stories will add up to be a moving piece about how war and extreme situations change us, how we deal with that pain, and, in Nash's case, by turning his landscapes into powerful and fantastical psycho-scapes."

Sometimes I find McKean's artwork a little too disturbing... which means it's totally perfect for this project! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Flávia 's Toast

"I never really liked sunny days.
When the skies were gloomy with heavy dark clouds... that's when I felt the happiest.
Mom never allowed me to dress in black, and I knew that that was the protection I needed.
Father always yelled at me to put down the volume, but I needed loud rock and roll.
I was sheltered for most of my life.

But then, The Sandman came.

My cousin, who I really admired (still do), would draw these very goth and interesting looking characters and I loved them! She then handed me DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING, and it changed everything. I was 13. I didn't know someone could write like that. I didn't know there was someone out there who thought like I did.

It sounds melodic and over the top, but I was a very sheltered child, 13 years old, living in a 3rd world country, in a city that did not have a single library. It was very hard, but one by one, I started reading all of his works that I could find throughout the years. But definitely, The Sandman series are special to me.

Neil Gaiman's writing touches that delicate line in between life and death with such gracefulness that the reader barely notices how fragile existence is. That is what I enjoy the most in his works. There's no death for the mind - that's what his work taught me.

I briefly "met" him once and got my books signed. He looked into my eyes and smiled. Little he knew how far I traveled to be there that day and smile back at him.

My "estranged" friend... soul as gloomy as mine, mind as endless as the sky.

Cheers!" - Flávia

Flávia and I met at MATC. For many semesters I'd seen this amazing work credited to a "Fly" and then one semester there was this girl in the back of my two classes named Flávia, easy to remember because I'd just read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie for the first time, and I realized she was the "Fly" I'd been admiring for so long. Since then we've remained friends, getting to meet Neil Gaiman together, talking over books once a month a book club. I'm forever in awe of her talent as an artist and a mother, and after this toast, as a writer too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Sandman Reminiscence

Of course I'd heard of The Sandman. Anyone with a passing interest in comics or who had visited a comic book shop knew what he looked like from comic covers to posters to statues. So I was obviously familiar with the iconography if not the story. Because, strange as it seems, at the time my story takes place I wasn't really into graphic novels. Nowadays I read a lot of them but am very particular as to what makes it into my permanent collection. But thanks to a well stocked public library I'm able to have a wide range of options, The Sandman included. At the time being fairly recently introduced to Neil's writing I hadn't yet made the leap from his prose when this story takes place. The year was 2005 and I had beyond all logic secured four tickets to a special sneak peek of Serenity in Chicago. The movie wasn't even done! Just a temporary score lifted straight off The Fifth Element. But that didn't matter, because Firefly lived again! The question was, which of my friends to take? Matt was my best friend and fellow Joss Whedon aficionado, so one ticket went to him. Another went to my friend Ann who tried to get one for her husband Bill but the show was already sold out.

The final ticket was obvious. My friend Orelia was shipping off to Africa to join the Peace Corps in a few short months and wouldn't get a chance to see the movie when it was released in the fall. After all those years spent in Rivendell co-op watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later Angel I had my posse back for one last glorious adventure. Matt gets extremely car sick so for once I was ensconced in the back seat with Orelia, driving duties handed over to Ann. Orelia was in the process of re-reading all The Sandman comics before Africa and spent the afternoon while Ann drove us to Chicago telling me all about the series and in particular the volume she had brought along, The Sandman: The Doll's House. Even if I hadn't been familiar with Neil's work his sense of humor of having a Serial Killer Convention disguised as a "Cereal" Convention made me know that he was my kind of writer. I always look back on that day not as the day Joss callously killed off Wash, but of those quite moments in the backseat with Orelia talking about comics, or the amazing lightning storm we witnessed on the return journey. It was one of those days that I will always remember.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this gripping new novel in the New York Times bestselling series, Lady Emily travels to Greece where a ghost from her past returns to haunt her amid the ruins.

On a quest to distract her lifelong friend Jeremy from his recent heartbreak, Lady Emily organizes a holiday in Greece. As a lover of all things Greek, she quickly finds herself occupied with tours of ancient ruins, lively debates with Margaret, a devoted Latinist, and slightly more scandalous endeavors with her dashing husband, Colin Hargreaves. But the pleasantries are brought to an abrupt halt when a man long believed dead greets the party at their island villa. Lord Philip Ashton, Colin's childhood best friend and Emily's first husband, has returned. But can Philip really be who he claims, even if he has the scars and stories to prove it? Where has he been for all this time? And will his undying love for Emily drive him to claim what's his?

Intrigue mounts as Philip reveals that he has been plagued for the past few years by an illegal antiques trader who believes he is in possession of a piece of Achilles' helmet, a priceless relic that was stolen from him moments after he unearthed it on an archaeological dig. Emily must employ all of her cunning and expertise to thwart thieves who threaten not only her own safety, but that of those precious artifacts she holds so dear. A trail of overheard conversations, murderous assailants, and dead bodies leads her on a chase to uncover more than one buried truth."

New Lady Emily is always a reason to rejoice!

A Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Well, darling, who do you suppose will turn up dead this time?

With two murder investigations behind them and their marriage at last on steady ground, Amory and Milo Ames intend to winter quietly in Italy. The couple finds their plans derailed, however, when Amory receives an urgent summons to the English countryside from her cousin Laurel. At Lyonsgate, the country house of Laurel’s friend Reginald Lyons, Amory and Milo are surprised to discover an eccentric and distinguished group of guests have also been invited, led by the notorious socialite Isobel Van Allen.

After years of social exile, Isobel has returned to England to write a sequel to her scandalous first book, the thinly fictionalized account of a high society murder at the very country house to which the Ameses have been called. Her second incriminating volume, she warns the house’s occupants―all of whom were present when one of their companions was killed years ago―will tell everything that really happened that fateful night. But some secrets are meant to stay buried, and when a desperate person turns to murder, it’s up to Amory and Milo to sort through a web of scandal and lies to uncover the truth, and the identity of a killer."

Yeah for cozy murder mysteries! Plus a country house!?!

Death Among the Rubies by R.J. Koreto
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lady Frances Ffolkes is incensed when she finds out that her dear friends Gwendolyn and Thomasina have been subject to vicious threats. Promising to uncover their attacker, she travels with them to Kestrel's Eyrie, the fabled estate belonging to Gwen's family. But soon Frances faces an even greater problem, when Gwen’s father, a powerful diplomat, is stabbed to death with his prized ruby dagger.

Frances, with her loyal maid June Mallow at her side, jumps right into interrogating the estate's numbered guests: a charming Turkish diplomat with a habit of sneaking off into the night, a brash American heiress with lofty dreams of becoming mistress of the Eyrie, two gossiping widows with their own scandalous secrets, and Gwen's own aunt tasked with keeping the affairs of the estate in order among the chaos of the investigation. But as the case unfolds, Frances's righteous conviction might just be the very thing that leads danger--and even more death--to her own doorstep.

Old sins do indeed cast long shadows in Death Among Rubies, a delightful closed-room mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie and the second in R.J. Koreto's effortlessly charming historical series."

Locked Room mystery!!! 

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Published by: Amulet Books
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn. An ideal next read for fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners."

Yes yes yes!

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Pantheon
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The delightful seventeenth installment of the ever-popular, perennially best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Precious Ramotswe and her Chief Associate Co-Director, Grace Makutsi, have worked together for many years. Together, they have solved numerous complex cases, seeing eye-to-eye on most professional matters. But when a Canadian woman invokes their help in recovering memories of her early childhood in Botswana, differences of opinion arise between the two firm friends, and diplomacy is called for. And it’s not just clients who need Mma Ramotswe’s help—this is also sought by Mr. Polopetsi, her assistant, who becomes involved in a pyramid scheme, and Fanwell, the junior mechanic, who finds a stray dog that will not go away. Both, of course, receive the help—and sympathy—that Mma Ramotswe dispenses with the graciousness and warmth for which she is so well-known."

Has anyone told Alexander McCall Smith that if he's trying to beat James Patterson in books out per year he's allowed to have people helping him?

School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Alexander McCall Smith, beloved bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, delivers a delightful adventure on the high seas, filled with lots of mystery and excitement, perfect for middle grade readers! Children will be smitten with the charismatic characters, eye-catching illustrations, unusual circumstances, and exotic locales in this wonderful story about a school set aboard a ship.

Come aboard as the kids set sail for their first adventure!

Ben and Fee MacTavish are twins who’ve been homeschooled on a submarine. Now they’re heading to the school ship Tobermory. This is no ordinary school—it’s a sailing ship where kids from around the world train to be sailors and learn about all things nautical.

Ben and Fee make friends as they adjust to life aboard the Tobermory. When a film crew arrives on another ship, the Albatross, Ben is one of the lucky kids to be chosen as a movie extra. But after a day’s filming, his suspicions are aroused. Are the director and crew really making a film? Or is there a secret they might be protecting on the lower decks of the Albatross? Ben, Fee, and their friends set out to investigate, but are they prepared for what they might find?"

I mean really, how hard is he working?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Amy's Toast

"Every year for as long as I can remember, I'd eagerly look across the frozen Lake Menomin as we crossed the bridge to gaze at the Lions clunker. I'd spend hours thinking of what day and time it would finally fall through the ice. I grew up 25 miles north of town, so we would swing through about once a month to run errands. I especially got a kick out of seeing the car perched precariously on the ice with its front end taking a dive into the water. After reading American Gods, it gives the ritual a whole sinister feel but in a good way. I'd like to think of a giant monster, lurking under the pea green water, curled up, and listening to the stories being read aloud in the nearby library. Thank you for giving a childhood memory a fun and mysterious spin." - Amy

Amy and I met on Goodreads through our mutual love of Gilmore Girls, where it didn't take long to learn we have far more in common, including growing up in Wisconsin! Amy is a kick ass acquisitions editor at Llewellyn who spends her spare time doing all her amazing hobbies from knitting to going to Supper Clubs. And yes, those are Dalek ice cubes if you were wondering.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Neverwhere Reminiscence

Neverwhere is the beginning for me and Neil. An instance of just the right book at just the right time. In the fall of 2003 I was unceremoniously forced back into school. I say unceremoniously because back in May with full pomp and circumstance I had graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison only to find out a few months later that I was shy one class; my "ethnic requirement." Being adamant that I was fed up with all the different hoops I kept encountering I decided to take the course online and spent that fall reading many books from Southeast Asia. And then I spent January and February reading even more books from Southeast Asia and swotting up for my final. At the end of it all I was dying to read something different, something of my choosing. I chose Neverwhere.

One day I was at Barnes and Noble and the anglophile in my was drawn to the cover of Neverwhere. The pull-quote saying "[it] draws equally from George Lucas, Monty Python, Doctor Who, and John Milton..." instantly sold me. In particular the Monty Python/Doctor Who angle. So I finished my course work, bundled myself under my favorite blanket and dove into the 'London Below' of Richard Richard Mayhew Dick, Door, The Marquis de Carabas, and of course, the Angel Islington. What made this reading experience so special wasn't just the way the story flew off the page but by the fact that my cat, Spot, spent the entire time curled up on my lap. Now, this might not be weird to some people, but to me it was. Spot would gladly curl up on my lap for any reason unless I had a book. Something about me with a book made him shun me. So not only did this book reignite my love of reading but it gave me a sweet memory to remember my beloved Spotty by.

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