Books,Web Sites »All The Buildings in New York

AllBuildingsAn attempt to draw all the buildings in New York by James Gulliver Hancock

All The Buildings in New York could really threaten make one sentimental about just having left the big city…

I love the drawing styles, the colors, and most especially recognizing a place from the decade we spent there.

It’s recently been made into a coffee table book (good for them!) but I personally haven’t seen it yet.

1all

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Posted on May 1, 2013

Books,Style Icons: Female »The Cat at Night, Dahlov Ipcar

catatnight350by Dahlov Ipcar (1969)

I always relish in discovering a beautiful children’s book and Dahlov Ipcar‘s The Cat at Night is exceptionally lovely.

Her colorful illustrations are truly inspiring as is her multi facited career. Im intregued with every new piece of information I read about the Maine native: She had a solo exhibit at the museum of modern art when she was just 21. Her other children’s books look as amazing as the cat at night and she’s even written some sci-fi/fantasy with intriguing titles like The Queen of Spells and The Warlock of Night.

Thanks Meghan for the gift of this book which has introduced me to such an interesting talent.

catnight

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Posted on February 5, 2013

Books »Chas Addams Mother Goose

charlesaddamsmothergoose1by Chas Addams (1967)

Alright, alright so this Christmas gift was for me much more than Van but I couldn’t resist The Chas Addams Mother Goose.

Addams’ clever and ghoulish illustrations lend humor and bite to classic rhymes. One of my favorites is Mary quite contrary (pictured).

Worth noting that the book is currently for sale on Amazon used for $75 up to $900! We paid no where near that (maybe $12) so don’t get suckered into buying at such insane prices.

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Posted on January 27, 2013

Books »City of Saints and Madmen

by Jeff Vandermeer (2001)

I truly don’t know how City of Saints and Madmen ended up in on my radar. I saw it was the only fiction book on Jim’s wish list and got it for Christmas for him only to learn he’d never heard of it. Maybe I added it by accident after some mention, maybe it was just fate – but however it happened, I’m glad because this is one of the most intriguing novels I’ve come across recently.. Even if it doesn’t always seem that way as your reading it. 

Based on the fictional city Ambergris, the novel is a patchwork of styles and faux historical texts: from meta short diction to city guides for tourists, from “classic” fables to standard sci-fi fiction. The book covers a range of the unusual city’s history giving the reader a immersive portrait of an amazing place. 

Deadly festivals, giant squids, mushroom people who live underground, hostile takeovers, plagues.. There’s so much interesting stuff here, my only complaint is that some segments worked better than others. I’d sometimes be taken out of the carefully constructed world Vandermeer has created. But the novel is sum is greater than its parts and the novel is best a few days after you finish it and thoughts of Ambergris come bubbling into your dreams. 

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Posted on August 26, 2012

Books »Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

by Susanna Clarke (2004)

I wish I was more excited about the hit novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It’s very pleasant, very imaginative and most impressively – I read the whole huge hard bound thing (since having limited spare time, I tend to give books the ax quickly if I’m not feeling it) yet it didn’t leave me overwhelmed with delight as charming as it can be.

Often engrossing, I can imagine lots of people would love it more than me.

Sorry, not much to go on, I know – but (as you can tell from the infrequency of this blog’s posts) I’m getting late in my pregnancy and loosing all eloquence and patience.

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Posted on August 14, 2012

Books »What Do People Do All Day

by Richard Scarry (1968)

I have fond but vague memories of Richard Scarry books, but revisiting What Do People Do All Day? with Van has shown his work to be even better than I recalled. There’s nothing better than cut away illustrations of how things work. Personally, I’m fond of the cityscapes of Busytown that show all the people in their offices and homes. Meanwhile Van, a gadget man, is enthralled with the bisections of boats and houses.

We forget sometimes, that little ones are just starting to figure out how the world works (why else is a remote control infinitely more interesting than a plastic light up toy?) and this book is absolutely perfect for curious minds.

My only complaint is that only an abridged version is readily available (unless you can find it used) and it ends rather abruptly making us wish for more.

The drawings are quite charming too – that little worm in the Peter Pan hat particularly tugs at my sentimental-about-childhood heart strings.

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Posted on August 4, 2012

Books,Style Icons: Male »Ray Bradbury, The Vintage Bradbury

RIP

I’ve been wanting to write a little tribute to Ray Bradbury after his passing, but realized that it’s been some time since I read his books and thought revisiting his work was long overdue.

Jim and I have amassed quite a collection of his books from our teen years and I settled on The Vintage Bradbury, which I enjoyed immensely and only made his death sadder.

The stories I always most vividly remembered were of far away places like Mars or distant futures with wild (but not completely unrealistic) technologies (as in the memorable story The Veldt) but this time around, I responded more to his universal and terrestrial imaginings.

Many of his stories tackle relatable human fears and paranoia, whether giving birth or simply becoming aware of ones body, whether losing one’s status and sense of safety or finding out who you really are in your last moments – the horrors that face us daily.

A Vintage Bradbury is a “best of” collection, but one curated by the author himself and is a varied and thoroughly compelling read.

He was a prolific writer who helped bring speculative fiction to the main steam. A true original and an inspiration.

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Posted on June 15, 2012

Books »Taro Gomi Box Set

by Taro Gomi

There’s a lot of junky stuff made for kids but for every poorly written and illustrated book, there’s one as charming as the work of Taro Gomi.

I found this adorable box set browsing the children’s section at Word and fell in love. Van and I adore the simple, quirky, colorful watercolors and short stories.

His personal favorite of the three, which includes Spring is Here and My Friends, is Bus Stops.

This is a most fabulous gift to new parents and likely one they won’t already have.

Gomi is a prolific Japanese children’s book illustrator best known in the states for his classic Everybody Poops, which I will be getting once potty training begins.

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Posted on June 10, 2012

Books »The Hunger Games Trilogy

by Suzanne Collins (2008, 2009, 2010)

I couldn’t resist seeing what all the fuss was about and besides a young adult romance set in a dystopian future where kids are forced to kill one another sounds exactly up my alley. There’s a prevailing and annoying habit of people, mostly men, around my age to flat out despise anything too popular (usually without ever having read or seen the offending pop hit) but I like to read before judgement (I even gave Twilight a chance) and found The Hunger Games spectacular.. Mostly.

The first book is riveting with well written action (usually hard to write and the part in most books that loses my interest) and the romance is nothing short of brilliant. I can totally understand how this captured the hearts of teen girls everywhere and frankly, it left me feeling a bit like a teen girl myself.

The plotting is smart, the heroine is complex and pishaw! to those complaints about similarities to the Korean gore fest Battle Royale. I’m a big fan of that too but feel they’re very different. Besides I ask you to name one sci fi theme that hasn’t been explored by more than one author.

The first book is intimate, exciting and heart breaking and left me very curious about book two, Catching Fire which surprised me by being equally great if not better. Collins moves the story forward in unexpected and inventive ways. After a whirl wind it ends in a cliff hanger which leads us to book three: Mockingjay and the downfall of the series.

I can’t help but wonder if Collibs was severely depressed while writing the final installment. With my love for dark material I’ll rarely say something like this but: couldn’t she have kept things a bit lighter? Given our beloved characters more satisfying justice and more romance? I mean really, this book is bleak.

Still, it’s worth reading the trilogy which takes about three days – you just may want to fabricate your own happy ending.

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Posted on April 10, 2012

Books »That’s How!

by Christophe Niemann (2011)

Van loves books but none make him as excited as That’s How!: A charming book about a boy’s imaginative explanation for the way things work.

It features delightful illustrations that will make anyone of any age smile.

Christophe Niemann is fantastic. I can’t wait to get more of his children’s books for Van, though his clever I Lego NY book, which has been a hit with the blog scene is perfect for adults.

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Posted on March 27, 2012

Books »Henri’s Walk to Paris

by Saul Bass and Leonore Klein (1962)

Ever wonder what Saul Bass would do with a children’s book? Well, wonder no more because he illustrated one called Henri’s Walk to Paris.
It’s predictably delightful with unique designs and charming colors.

It’s also quite fun to read to Van saying “Hon-reee’s walk to Par-eeee!”

Thanks to Brain Pickings for calling our attention to this tiny masterpiece.

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Posted on March 10, 2012

Books »Mothers and Other Monsters

by Maureen McHugh (2005)

I’m on a bit of a Maureen McHugh kick, finding her one of the most compelling and innovative writers today. With Mothers and Other Monsters I continued to be awed.

The collection includes genre defying stories that are often truly brilliant: the off world saga The Cost to be Wise left me stunned and Interview: On Any Given Day which takes place in a future where the aging are reversing the process and partying with actual young people – which leads to unexpected complications.

She is a fresh, amazing voice in science fiction but, defying categorization, most of the other stories barely dabble in the genre, like Eight-Legged Story and Presence which take on the very real dramas of being a step parent and watching a loved one struggling with alzheimer’s.

The latter is particularly depressing, though no less brilliantly written. (I just needed a breather and a dose of something happy after finishing it.)

I look forward to reading her novel Nekropolis soon (and refrained from reading the short story that lead to it in this collection).

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Posted on March 9, 2012

Books »City Primeval

By Elmore Leonard (1980)

It’s always a good idea to pepper your reading list with a few Elmore Leonard novels. His snappy crime sagas are always entertaining, always satisfying.

In City Primeval, he takes us to Detroit, where handsome detective Raymond Cruz is on the trail of the seriously dangerous “Oklahoma Wildman” Clement Mansell. Cruz suspects Mansell is responsible for a random double killing and is determined to get justice after Mansell walked away from an air tight murder case based on a technicality. He’s not afraid to go beyond the law to see him pay either.

Throw in a larger than life and corrupt judge, a sexy lawyer, and a bunch of really angry Albanians and you get the kind of thriller we know to expect from Leonard. It’s smart, it’s tense, it’s funny, it’s a perfect quick read.

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Posted on February 11, 2012

Books »After the Apocalypse

by Maureen McHugh (2011)

After the Apocalypse has solidified Maureen McHugh as one of my favorite current authors. I recommended her novel China Mountain Zhang a while back and have only grown fonder of it over time.

Her latest, well reviewed collection of short stories is bookended by more well worn apocalyptic scenarios: zombies and refugees walking through abandoned, dangerous suburbs towards (hopefully) a safe place.

With McHugh’s unique prose (she’s got an amazing ability to speak believably from a wide range of points of view) and creative mind, even zombies can be new again.

The other stories, which take on the apocalypse in different ways, are unique, humorous, and very human. There’s a debilitating disease transmitted through chicken nuggets, a woman struggling to get by in a shattered economy by making custom baby dolls and dildoes, a boy who develops amnesia after a dirty bomb explodes in Baltimore, and a group of people that get the unnerving sudden ability to fly.

While the stories are paranoid and frightening, they’re also almost optimistic. Each one is about survival, not in a Rambo sort of way, but how normal people under horrible circumstances just manage to carry on.

I really love this book and want to run out and get more of her work. It’s been truly inspiring to me (especially as I am writing short stories myself) and I’ve even contemplated writing a fan letter (which I never do).

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Posted on February 1, 2012

Books »Red Shift

by Alan Garner (1973)

A young troubled man in love in the 1970′s, the violent siege of a church during the English civil war, and a berserker and his fellow deserter soldiers during Roman times; the elements of Alan Garner‘s slim but substantial novel Red Shift are interesting even if I had a hard time getting a concrete grasp on them.

It’s a little like reading poetry… You’re thrust into conversations that can be vague and complex, using language and history forgotten and the narrative jumps from one story to another without warning. Rather than always “getting” everything that was on a page, I’d (sometimes after re-reading) get a resonating feeling of what was taking place instead.

It’s not a simple, easy read but it is rewarding. Symbolism is rarely this effective and the bitter, violent themes are haunting.

Jim got this for me after hearing about it on Gawker, so I had no idea what to expect–but even if I had read a summary, it wouldn’t have prepared me for the interesting use of language and ideas here.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it until I’d finished, and even now it grows more interesting as I look back on it… it’s exciting to be surprised, challenged and rewarded by a book.

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Posted on January 19, 2012

Books »The House Book

by The Publishers of Phaidon Press (2001)

While I sometimes bemoan the waste of my days of dual incomes and thoughtless spending (where’d it all go??) it’s nice to still reap the benefits.

In particular I have a great collection of beautiful art books and Phaidon’s The House Book is one of my favorites.

It’s a comprehensive but friendly to limited attention spans with large beautiful photographs and brief synopsis of architects and architectural styles.

Heavy hitting household names like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry are here as well as less well known masters like Daniel Grataloup and Osamu Ishiyama.

There’s plenty of fodder for dream house building in your mind though it might also make you feel dismayed that our country is such a wasteland of cookue cutter blandness.

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Posted on January 18, 2012

Books »Best of 2011 – Books

I read less than usual this year – but number one of my list was about 10,000 pages, so I don’t feel so bad.

If you’re looking for good reads, you’ll not only find a partially genius, mostly amazing, spiraling unfinished sic fi epic, but a terse sci-fi classic of a different sort.

You’ll read about rich people doing bad and bad crooks getting in too deep.

There are curious stories that will haunt you and a high school required reading that I missed in my youth.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire

2. The Forever War

3. Bonfire of the Vanities

4. A Rage in Harlem

5. The Elephant Vanishes

6. Things Fall Apart

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Posted on January 1, 2012