Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leapin' Birthday

Josie Taylor's birthday is today, but is she 4 or 16?  She may feel like every other teenager at times, but only her and a few others share this rare birthday of February 29th. With her driver's test, an audition, scaveneger hunt, and 16th birthday initiation at the lake, it's a birthday to remember.  The unique factor in Leap Day is that the point of view shifts from various characters, inviting the reader to percieve many situations from various sides.  And often, you may be surprised about how often you misread situations or over-worry about them.  Or not.

If you haven't been swept away by author Wendy Mass, you must give her a chance -- especially female readers 10 and up.  The only complaint I have had about this author is from A Mango Shaped Space -- only because this young lady's best friend wouldn't shut up about how great it was.  I recommend Leap Day for readers twelve and up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Magical Angry Robots of the UBC

I was putting books away in the UBC when I came across this bad boy:
First of all, the design is awesome. I guess that's what caught my eye. So many sci-fi books look exactly the same, but this one stands out. Clean, simple, all white. It's summarizes the action up front and gets you excited all at the same time. And then I realized the publisher was called Angry Robot and they are based in Nottingham. I have fond memories of Nottingham from my Europe trip, and Angry Robot? Basically the coolest publisher name I've ever heard. Sorry, Penguin. 

So I thought I'd delve a little deeper and check out their website. And lo! This publisher is making it happen! Check out this Tom Gauld cover: 

They had me with the first line of the summary: "After accidentally summoning a demon while playing poker, the normally mild-mannered Chesney Anstruther refuses to sell his soul… which leads through various confusions to, well, Hell going on strike."  Umm, yes please!


Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.
Like, whoa. 
That's the magic of the UBC. Finding one book down here can spark additions to a reading list I'll never see the end of AND a lifelong loyalty to rad publishers that don't get a lot of attention otherwise.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Team Zoe Gets Real About Easter

Forgot today was my blog day, so here's a picture of Team Zoe modeling
 the latest in abstract Easter bunny ear headbands.
Visit our store to see what else we have available for your Easter/St. Pattys day needs!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eco Baby!

That's right, we have even more toys this week -- now for the younger ones -- brought to you by Hape!

"Toys are made to make children happy.  But for Hape, a toy means much more.  Each toy we make is a combination of high-quality materials, unique design, educational ideas, fun and ecological behaviour..."  All toys are solid wood or bamboo and printed with soy inks or water based color.

Happy Hour Clock

Not only are the numbers puzzle pieces, but it is a great way to learn how to tell time.  With movable hands, seconds and minutes shown, and stating when "quarter past" is, it makes for a great learning tool. (ages 3+)

Little Drummer
It's your basic toy snare drum and a great way to introduce music and learn rhythms. (ages 1+)

So many parents claim their child is too smart for games deemed as three and up.  Try this one.  It takes more than skill, it takes balance.  All of the bamboo sticks -- square green sticks, half round blue sticks, round sticks, and triangle yellow sticks -- must be placed on the panda, but they can't fall off.  Sometimes you must place two sticks on his rocking body, but that's up to the dice.  It's a lot harder than it looks! (ages 3+)

The first person to catch and match the balls in their catcher, based on the pattern of their card, is the winner. (ages 3+)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Destination: The Open Road

Afghanistan may not be on the top of many of our lists of Places to See Before We Die. The country is not exactly promising to flourish into a tourist destination in any near future. Even if you wanted to travel there, you might find your road difficult, perhaps dangerous. Unfortunately, not all roads in life are open to us. That's why we have books. Others have gone to the places we've always wanted to see before us, paving the way for our own travels--if not by car, train, or airplane--by armchair.

In 1939, Annemarie Schwarzenbach and Ella Maillart made the journey from Geneva to Afghanistan by car, becoming the first women to travel Afghanistan's Northern Road. Both women were writers and preserved their experience for those of us who can only dream of making such a venture into unknown territory. Maillart published her account in The Cruel Way, and now, for the first time, Schwarzenbach's record of the journey has been translated and published as All the Roads Are Open.

Annemarie Schwarzenbach
Schwarzenbach describes her awe at finally seeing the place names she had only read about as a child. "In the classroom, I stubbornly refused to believe the names I learnt and read on my map could take form before I'd seen them with my eyes, touched them with my breath, held them as it were in my hands," she writes, reminding me of something I learned about child development by watching my co-worker Paul's children grow.

As infants, we do not have faith in object permanence, believing that what cannot be seen does not exist. If a person leaves the room, they are gone forever; their reappearance is a shock and a thrill. Paul's two-year-old still gets a kick out of peek-a-boo: now I'm here, now I'm not, wait--now I'm here again! "The simultaneity of near and far confused me;" Schwarzenbach remembers, "I had grave doubts that at any given moment life might reign both here and there, on this side and that side of the seas and mountains."

As I read Schwarzenbach, I began to think that perhaps we do not grow out of our infant skeptism quite as quickly as we suppose. In the least, remanants remain, in the form of longing for the things we cannot see, the people who have left the room indefinetly, and for the places we have only read about. "Such doubts," Schwarzenbach speculates, "demanding resolution, may have inspired my earliest journeys: I went forth not to learn what fear was but to test what the names held and feel their magic in the flesh, just as, at the open window, you feel the miraculous power of the sun you'd long seen reflected on distant hills and spread on dewy meadows."

Lucky for us, Schwarzenbach's "going forth" led her into lands so foreign in their language, so breathtakingly beautiful in their epic landscapes, so full of fantastical characters and cultures, we have trouble understanding their reality. Even as adults with a firm grasp on the permanency of objects not seen, it can be difficult to remember that such places exist, far from here, in an everyday as we do here. By reading travel narratives such as Schwarzenbach's we can remind ourselves of that immense reality, and, more than that, participate in something of the magic of the journey itself. Come in to Booksmith and browse our Destination Literature section, where an open book is equivalent to an open road.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Julia and I have a cold.

Hello, fine followers of the Brookline Blogsmith. I am Julia, resident of our famous Card and Gift section and newest contributor to our lovely blog. I like cats, Japanese animated films, sewing, and not being sick. But alas, winter has bestowed upon me a cold that just won't quit. Thus, in the spirit of sickness, I will share with you some of my favorite books about disease--and some items to help you deal with it.

Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies doesn't really need an introduction, as it's already won the Pulitzer Prize and been a bestseller since its first release in November 2010. But man, can this guy write. Cancer isn't exactly the happiest of topics to spend your time reading about, but if anyone can make cancer look good it's this guy (I mean, not good, but... well, you know). From its very beginnings to the most recent research on the disease, Mukherjee covers pretty much everything. You'll finish this book feeling about as knowledgeable about cancer as you can be, aside from actually being a doctor or researcher. For me, this book just makes me feel better about the fact that I only suffer from a bad case of the sniffles.

And if cancer isn't enough to sate your appetite for the grotesque plagues upon mankind, check this out. David Grann's The Lost City of Z isn't specifically about sickness, but heck, if getting lost in the rain forest doesn't scream "creepy, deadly diseases and insects," I don't know what does. The book covers the history of one Col. Percy Fawcett, a member of the Royal Geographical Society who, in the early 20th century, made multiple trips into the Amazon, mapping out this mysterious part of the world, befriending natives, and displaying his superhuman powers of resisting any and all diseases that one can acquire in the rain forest (he later mysteriously disappeared searching for an ancient civilization, which is the main topic of the book, but that's beside the point right now). Needless to say, exaggeration was common in early explorers' descriptions of the flora, fauna and natives of this area, but stories of the hardships of Fawcett's unlucky companions (almost all of which contracted horrifying and nearly fatal diseases/infections on your journey) might just turn your stomach... so I'll spare the details for you readers who are faint of heart. Why hundreds of people of people would risk--and sometimes lose--their lives exploring this place is beyond me, but it makes a fascinating tale.

Now Julia, you may ask, do you only read such morbid texts? Well, I reply: all right, not everything that catches my attention is so gross. I will leave you with one more book, one that offers a glimmer of hope for that banes of human existence. Wendy William's book Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid gives a surprising amount of information relevant to us vertebrates. Okay, so the word "disturbing" may be in the title, but really, doesn't it intrigue you that researching the neurons of squid could help find a cure for Alzheimer's disease? That their brain cells are identical to ours, but we currently have no clue how to measure the intelligence of squid and their cousin the octopus? My inner nerd is showing here, but cephalopods are pretty friggin' cool. So, when you feel like learning about some of the most fascinating sea creatures out there, check out this book. Seriously.

For those of you concerned about catching my germs the next time you come to peruse our shelves, worry not; I have two days off coming up, and come Thursday I should be fit as a fiddle and ready to help you with all your card and gift needs. Tonight I plan to go home and heal up with some of our great gift products perfect for a relaxing evening. I'm thinking one of our Paddywax tin candles in a variety of calming fragrances; I'm partial to Paperwhite. These soy-based candles burn cleanly and last in the ballpark of 45 hours, so I'll be treated to relaxing, non-overpowering fragrance for as long as I want.

While I'm at it, perhaps I'll treat myself to a nice cup of hot tea from one of our Keep Calm and Carry On mugs--a mantra that applies quite appropriately to me and my fellow Card & Gift teammates, especially during our huge 50% off sale. And hey, last time I checked we even had a couple of these items on our sale tables (only slightly dinged up), so get them while they last!

Well fine readers, thank you for indulging in the rantings poor sick giftseller. Next time I promise to talk about something slightly less gross. I hope this will be the start of a very fond (and healthy) friendship.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I keep forgetting that the body remembers...

I'm realizing now how much this blog speaks to Zoe's last post, which I believe speaks to a larger shift that is happening either because of the seasonal ruminations, or perhaps a marked increase in my dairy consumption. Either way, if Zoe and I are thinking about this stuff, ya'll must be too. After all it is almost time for the rabbit, clover, Passover and Purim to make their way into the proverbial "candy aisle" of our collective third eye.

It is the season of waking up, and often times waking up means that weird tingling after you have been sitting on your foot for hours on end eating Cheetos. Such waking can be alarming and uncomfortable. It always involves the body making noise and moving and feeling stuff. Although it hasn't been a real winter, it has been a winter, and the fever of spring is a comin', especially today.

Usually before we open on Sundays I take a moment to browse and see what's new. As my interests have taken a serious about face in the direction of yoga, I found myself in our yoga & health section. What I found there was kind of amazing. I picked up Overcoming Trauma through Yoga, and realized after a bit that these authors were local, and that the institute they work for is literally down the road form this here!
Who knew this was right under our noses here in Brookline?

:Learn more about classes and services here:

Right next to that title was Ana Forrest's book Fierce Medicine.

Ana is famous for her eponymous brand of yoga which is touted for dealing head-on with internal walls and blockages that have kept the individual form realizing their true spiritual and physical capabilities. Ana herself is open about the trauma she endured in early life, and how she fashioned herself a a form of healing though her own yogic "fierce medicine". The book is radical and moving. I like the fact that she's a little more rough and tumble than the other famous yoga memes.

As the creator of Forrest Yoga , Ana T. Forrest has been transforming people’s lives throughout the world for more than thirty-five years. Her unique blend of physical practice, Eastern wisdom, and profound Native American ceremony takes her teachings literally off the mat and into daily life—to heal everything from addictive behaviors and eating disorders to chronic pain and injury. In Fierce Medicine, Forrest tells her own story of healing from the scars of abuse and physical handicaps, and reveals the proven practices that enabled her to move beyond her past into a life committed to helping others reconnect with their bodies, cultivate balance, and start living in harmony with their Spirits.

Sometimes this store is a deck of Tarot you are shuffling through the aisles you are likely to stumble into a pocket of meaningful directives; put there by some benevolent force to help guide you through this transition ino spring, that itchy overly-happy optimistic season of pastels.

(And by "benevolent" I mean bookseller.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yes, I Mean You Have To Take These Back.

Good afternoon my fellow blog reader[s]. It is I, Carl, the other half of the dynamic UBC duo filling in for Natasha to talk about a topic of much consternation: Book Donations.

It is a common misconception that one can simply leave their unwanted books here at the Booksmith; that with a wink and a nod we will quote/unquote Take Care of Them. Now, I can empathize with the desire to simply be rid of unwanted books. People travel long distances and some take public transportation and many more hoof it with overstuffed backpacks. I feel your pain. It can be an arduous task getting them here and then to have to take them back? Bah! Sorry Carl. No can do. I will simply leave them in front of your store like an orphan on a church step in the dead of night. Or better yet, tell you I'm going to Trader Joe's and that I'll be back later to pick them up (promise!) even though I know you're thinking "How is this dude going to carry his groceries AND this box of books?" well don't you worry about that because I'm a magician and my greatest trick is that I can go the grocery store and not only carry my groceries home but completely ignore the fact that I just left you with a box of unsaleable books. Ha! Suckers!

While it isn't a huge deal for dispose of unwanted books, it can't always be our responsibility - the balance of ownership doesn't tilt in our direction once they enter our store. Also, we don't have a lot of extra space to store boxes of books. That door behind the buying desk? It goes nowhere. Have you ever seen Being John Malkovich? It's sort of like that. But you end up in far worse place then the side of a highway in New Jersey. Trust me. It's ugly.

Again, I feel your pain.

So what to do with the books we can't buy? Here are a few suggestions:

Obvious, with little work involved:
-Donate them to a non profit charity, library, homeless shelter, prison or school program. There are many organizations in the Boston area alone that are in dire need of reading materials. We're actually working on a list of places and will post them online and in the store when finished.
-Bring them to another used book store! What we can't take another store might. One's trash is another's treasure.

Slightly less obvious, with a medium amount of work involved:
-Mail them to a buddy or several buddies as a gag. Its a semi-expensive gag, sure. But man, the look on their face when they open that box will be well worth it. Wow! A Dean Koontz omnibus and the last half of the Da Vinci Code. Great! Been meaning to throw these away! Careful when shipping as anything higher than media mail and the joke is on you.
-You could burn 'em. Normally I wouldn't suggest burning books but really that collection of '85 Honda Civic manuals ain't gonna just disappear on their own.

Even less obvious, with a fair amount of work involved:
-You could, over a period of time, systematically throw them one by one on to our roof. I've been suggesting this for years. There's probably a collection up there that would make the BPL weep.
-You could, over a period of time, systematically throw them one by one onto your own roof (works best if your's is flat). This acts as a sort of low budget insulation in the winter and summer months. Think about it: traps heat in the winter and keeps the sun from melting you in the summer. Spring and fall being your best heaving seasons. Note: requires a ladder if you have, say, tennis elbow or a bum shoulder. Or ungrateful children who forgot about all those times you drove them to the mall. Or whatever.
-You could sprinkle them about town like some high-brow, uber-literate Johnny Appleseed. Leave a few at the laundromat, a doctor's office, food court. get creative. But not too creative.

In conclusion, this whole messy situation can be avoided by first sorting through your books. Books with underlining, torn covers, broken spines, water damage, or mold should be left out. As should outdated materials (old almanacs, textbooks, or manuals), hardcover best sellers (we buy mostly paperbacks), audio tapes, magazines, random shoes, phone books, and small appliances. And as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to get us on the horn or electronically send us a letter.

I love you all,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Being Right Exactly Here, In This Spot, Right Now

In this life we want everything right now. It's not entirely our fault; it's the animal part of our brains, the id part that sees what it wants and goes for it. We want to be happy right now. We want to be better right now. We want a new job, a new car, a boyfriend, to feel better about ourselves, it all has to be now. I really struggled with that concept when I was a teenager; this idea that you have to already be what you are, you can never be in progress or in transition. Society wants you to wake up one day and just Already Be It. Not just society; we all wish for that. We all wish that we could just be better, but we are unwilling to begin the slow, agonizing process of being "better", whatever better means for you in this instance.

The problem is that that instinct is not really about "right now". I want to lose that weight right now because if I lose it now, then tomorrow, I will be happy because I will be thin. I want that new car right now because if I have a cool new car, my coworkers will respect me and I'll get a promotion and then in the future I'll be more popular. I want to stop missing my ex girlfriend right now, because I feel really crappy and people aren't supposed to feel crappy. The problem with those thoughts is that those thoughts are about a future you can't really foresee or control. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have dreams to lose weight or buy a car or what have you, it's just that the effects of those things are abstract. You'll be happy, you'll be loved, you will feel like getting out of bed again. Those are all the goal, sure, but there are so many ways to get there, some of which you can't even envision right now.

The proof of that concept is this: have you ever dated somebody from your friend group and then thought to yourself, 'if somebody had told me six months ago I'd be dating Bettina, I would have laughed right in their face'. That's because your relationship with Bettina and your relationship with yourself shifted in a way that you could have never predicted happening, because it was so far outside your realm of experience, but now here you are, no more or less yourself, here and now. Which is were you always are, you are always here, but sometimes your thoughts project you outwards as if you're also in the future. You're not. You're just here. But I don't want to get too new-agey on you. That's somebody else's job.

I don't know about self-help. Some things work for some people, and they don't work for others, and your only option is to pick your way through things to find out what takes hold for you. For myself, I try and force myself to be present wherever I go, especially when I am going through a tough time in my life. When I say force myself, I mean really, I have to force myself. It doesn't always work. Sometimes I can't stop worrying about tomorrow, and those are the moments when I am at my unhappiest. I didn't want to write this post in terms of "here are some self-help books that you can maybe read once, think are a really good idea, but then never learn anything from". Part of me really believes that self-help, like the diet industry, is one huge Goliath of people that think they know best, preying on the insecurities of others in order to separate them from their money.

 I'm not into it. The images of the three books I have placed here are books I stand by and believe in, because the three of them are basically talking about the same thing in different ways. They're all talking about right now. I highly recommend "Be Here Now", it's been one of my staff recs before and now everyone is going to think I'm some crazy new age hippie. The book was written in the 60's after Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) was done going through his acid-trip phase and changed his life by finding a guru and beginning the journey to enlightenment. The book has all the trappings of those elements; the writing is very groovy, and there are illustrations. I find it such a relief that the book is so flawed; the polished attitude of these self-helpers makes me deeply uncomfortable, and I don't like being told what to do by people that aren't paying me. Ram Dass isn't trying to change anyone's minds, he's simply stating some facts he finds to be true. You don't have to feel bad about yourself to read this book; that's important to me, as it is a cornerstone in the self-help pantheon.

I don't know how one betters oneself, frankly, but I do know that it doesn't happen overnight, and for some of us, may never be a muscle that is constantly flexed. I think, for myself and perhaps, for you, too, having negative thoughts about ourselves or about what we're doing in our lives is a knee-jerk reaction, and it takes work and practice to turn that kind of thinking into a fuel. The practice part is the most important; your mind, like your body, has a contact memory that you might not be aware of. The more dark thoughts you have, the more that will be generated. The more you encourage yourself to grow and explore, the easier that instinct will get. Once you get really good at it, perhaps you can start to believe that it is enough to just be.You don't have to do anything else. You just show up; and here you are.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting and waiting

Perhaps winter has passed us over with a brown kind of spring.  And Then It's Spring.  Like, really spring!  A green spring.

Presenting Caldecott award winning illustrator of  A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Erin E. Stead's, new creation:

I'm not sure how to describe how brilliant this picturebook is.  The text is just enough, but the true  charm is in the woodblock and pencil art.  Though it rains and shines, everything is a "just brown sort of brown."  The seeds are planted and "they are trying."  Will it ever be spring, when "the brown isn't around and now you have green, all around you have green"?

Perfect for gardeners new and old.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Destination: Love

There are many reasons to travel, not the least of which is love. While many of us travel to uproot, others go in search of connection. "I've traveled for love, and loved to travel, making it hard to disentangle cause from effect," writes Elizabeth Eaves in her prologue to Wanderlust, a travel narrative of her love affairs both on and with five continents. This Valentines Day, I've scoured the shelves of Destination Literature to bring you love stories--from the passionate to the platonic--set around the world.

Learning a foreign language in order to travel can often mean learning the language of love. This was true for Kirstin Espinasse, who fell in love with a Frenchman and moved to France to marry him, build a family, and learn the language. Words in a French Life tells her story of love and family life through heartwarming vignettes, each headed by a new French vocabulary word.

Deborah Fallows' Dreaming in Chinese begins with the Chinese symbol for Wo ai ni! (I love you!) and a chapter entitled "The Grammar of Romance," in which Fallows explores the complexities of both language and love.  Ai, the Chinese word for love, she discovers, has no tense. "'Love is existence,'" reads the definition for ai in the Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, "'holding past and future.'"

Jennifer Steil's The Woman Who Fell From the Sky begins in a bridal chamber in Yemen, where Steil, a New York City journalist, is helping her friend prepare for a Yemeni wedding ceremony. By the end of the book, Steil has fallen in love herself. In between, Steil teaches a journalism class to the staff of the Yemen Observer, becoming its editor-in-chief as she attempts to instigate a free-speech model of journalism in a culture whose traditions and beliefs often come in direct conflict with her own.

All of these books have the potential to be great companions for a lonely Valentines Day, or inspiring adventures to share with the one you love.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Inside Jokes

So these are some cool books that are in the UBC. Basically, they're awesome. They're sitting around waiting for a home. And I bet you a ka-trillion dollars that if you bought one, had it wrapped, and gave it as a gift it might work as an inside joke or it could even become one. Or maybe all the books together create some sort of inside joke, a wink perhaps, to a certain husband of the blogger who's turning 30 on Sunday. Just sayin' 'zall.

For your consideration: 

Ennui To Go, or, for $8 a collection of quotes from awesome people throughout the ages on the subject of ennui, published by Seattle publishing house Sasquatch.

F in Exams, or for $5.50 an exciting collection to prepare tomorrow's professor.

Copernicus: Philosophy and Science. For $9.50, a cool catalogue for an exhibition of prints, engravings and manuscripts. A perfect gift for the philosopher or historian of science. Lotsa words in here, too.

Or, my personal favorite, Space Shuttle. $3.50 FOLKS! Cross-sections, illustrations and facts from a bygone era. This book was written by a Ph.D., so you KNOW it's legit.

In closing, Happy Birthday to all you Aquarians born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin who like the movie Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, dark chocolate and coffee and whose favorite athlete is Maru.

Also: happy laughing to people who have friends and share jokes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Killer Stories

Kate put a galley of this into my mail box the other day. I was definitely talking to someone about it earlier, they said they were reading it and I emphatically mentioned I would like to borrow it after they were done, but apparently it wasn't Kate, because the blank stare she gave me when I asked her if I had had a conversation with her about it let me know she was not the one. Anyway, I was psyched to have it; I would not go so far as to say that I am obsessed with serial killers, or even have a penchant for their biographies, however, I must say, I find them fascinating. In no other particular way do these maudlin tones manifest themselves in my everyday life. I am ambivalent about horror movies, gore, any kind of viral what-have-you that might be running around on the internet at the time. Sure, I went through a goth phase in high school, but that was mostly just for laughs. There is something so interesting, however, about the character investigation of a real-life serial killer, and I find I can't ignore a good intrigue.
In 2010, for example, the night of our Booksmith holiday party, I was closing up the store for the night and felt terribly feverish. Tragically, I had to forgo the holiday party, in order to go home and sweat out the monsters for approximately two and a half days. I live on the fourth floor of a walk up, and my roommate was out of town at the time, so I was essentially isolated in what felt like a damp, sticky nest of decay until I begged my Dad to bring me Advil gel caps about 14 bottles of fruit punch flavoured Vitamin Water. During this time, I also happened to be reading "Helter Skelter", the true account of the Manson family murder investigations. This led to hours and hours of sitting up in bed, reading about atrocities and the general Manson family history, and then equal time spent tossing and turning, having surreal, almost comically gory fever-dreams of murders, screaming, and viscera. Eventually I was basically only leaving my room to streak (as fast as a very sick person can) to the bathroom, to stare, bleary-eyed and otherwise askew, at my gaunt reflection sweating back at me in the bathroom mirror. "Why are you doing this?" I asked myself. "Stop reading the book, you have hundreds of books, read another book." Then I would turn back, go back into my room, and watch clips of Charles Manson interviews on youtube until I fell asleep again and re-entered the malevolent dream circus of my own mind.

It's a car crash, is what it is. You know it's crass, you know you ought to look away while others suffer, but you can't. Your own morbid curiosity is so powerful that even though you don't want to know, you really want to know. Maybe not all the grimy, gritty details (or maybe, who knows) but the general impression of terror is enough to spark your terrible interest. "My Friend Dahmer" (which will be available in March) is a good, quick read. I do wish the narrative went deeper into detail about Dahmer's life, although it is written (and illustrated) by an actual friend of Jeffrey Dahmer and so is somewhat an autobiographical account. I recommend you pick it up when it becomes available, even though it will probably barely wet the whistle of your thirst for the gruesome.

That's all for this week, friends and lover. Don't forget our bi-annual coven and bake-off meeting this Monday. Satan and Sugar Frosting go together like horse and carriage down this way. All are welcome. Long live Beelzebub. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stay Creative

Stuck inside with nothing to do? Or, perhaps you would like something different for a time outdoors when the weather is deceptively springish? Art kits are wonderful. And, I love that most kids aren't afraid of art. If the sky is purple or the cat looks like a six-legged blue monkey, who cares! The joy is in the creation and finished product.

It is depressing, though, when somewhere along the line you “can” only create art if you are a professional artist. Seriously? Art is okay for kids but not adults? You don't have to be refined or professional to create great art. (Okay, maybe you need to be exceptional if you are a graphic artist or illustrator, but that's different). I'm talking about good old fashioned art time – a fun and creative outlet for thoughts, emotions, and energy.

I am happy to announce that we now carry the kits from Creativity for Kids. Allow me to sketch a a few highlights for the artist hiding within you:

Flower Press and Nature Cards
A perfect blend for a nature and art lover. All of the supplies are included to make greeting cards, gift tags, and bookmarks. Through use of some watercolor paints, a little flower press kit, and more, anyone would be glad to receive these creations. ($15.95, ages 6+)

Do Art Travel Easel
Welcome to the easel that houses many materials – Faber-Castell pastels, markers, chalk, a white board marker, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, a sponge, and a drawing pad. This two-sided easel can easily be set up on the floor or table and can be stored in small spaces or be tucked away in a suitcase for a trip. So whether your child loves chalkboarding, whiteboarding, or drawing, this easel just might be the right fit! ($34.95, ages 5+)

Finger Prints Finger Painting Set
This fingerprinting set is probably different from what you are used to. The finger printing – or, maybe smearing – takes place on a plastic board. When complete, a sheet of paper is placed over it and, using a roller, is transferred onto the paper. This way multiple copies can be made.

Don't worry, the 6 paints included are washable and there is an apron, so everything is ready to go. ($24.95, ages 3+)

2 Glass Bowls 4U2 Paint
Love to create, but need something useful to create it on? Me too. How about these glass bowls? Learn the technique of reverse glass painting and you will have a personal fruit, popcorn, candy, and/or chip bowl. ($24.95, ages 8+)

I love their motto: Childhood creativity lasts a lifetime!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dream Destinations

The other day, my coworker Ric dreamed he was in Haiti. He was walking on top of the water there, looking down at the fish swimming below. "Why Haiti?" I asked. He wasn't sure, but apparently the night before that, Ric's subconcious took him to Chile.

"Hey," Ric said, "it's cheaper than flying."

For the rest of us who can't afford the airfare, for those of us with a less inventive subconscious who can't depend on the thrift of dreamworld travel, there's Destination Literature.

If you haven't visited this relatively new section at Booksmith, and if the fresh springlike air of our uncommonly warm first of February had you restless to go somewhere new, check out the literature there, shelved geographically, and if not cheaper than a good dream-filled night's sleep, at least you won't have to pay for the hotel.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The battle is on!

Superbowl, schmuperbowl.

:Duck the angrily lobbed cheese curls of a region full of angry Patriots fans:

Sorry. Let's start again. I hear there's an exciting game on tonight. However, personally, I'm more interested in following another competition: School Library Journal's Battle of the Books.

The concept is simple: take a bunch of kids' books from the past year that had some form of "buzz." Assign brackets to some of the best authors in the business (judge list TBA). Let the games begin.

Come on, Inside Out and Back Again. Keep it going.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pre- Super Bowl Flash Contest ($, poetry, FAME)

Ok, take a receipt (from us)

  • write a short poem/ flash fiction on the back of it

  • send it to me

Kate Robinson
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02135

The winner will get:

  • a gift certificate

  • a book of poetry

  • their poem on our FB and blog.

You have till February 10th (postmarked) or just hand deliver it.

Go Pats!!!!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mexican Constitution Day!

February 5 marks Mexican Constitution Day, and what better way to celebrate than to (re)discover a fascinating Mexican artist?

Until a customer brought in a Dover clip art book of Posada's illustrations, I'd never seen his work before! How drab my life had been until now! Jose Posada was a printmaker and engraver who worked mostly during the 19th century. He created a lot of illustrations for Mexican tabloids, so while there are really great illustrations of goings-on in late 19th - early 20th century Mexico, there are also a grip of illustrations of folk stories (like a lady rumored to give birth to three children and four animals!), pop-art skeletons, advertisements and scenes from the Mexican revolution that are fascinating and detailed.

Here are some examples:

The UBC got in a Dover clip art book that can be yours for just $3.50, it's a larger format so you can see all the engraving details. We also got in a little box that has a tiny hardcover book of illustrations in addition to several postcards and full-size reproduction posters, all in mint condition. That one's $13. Great gifts, great coffee table items, a great way to celebrate Mexico's sovereignty!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Better Class of Garbage.

When I was a kid, there were a few movies that were non-negotiable in my house. My parents are both major cinephiles, so collectively we owned a lot of VHS tapes, and spent a lot of time watching movies and reading, respectively. One of the best things about my mom is that she has no criteria for what constitutes a "worthy" piece of media. She loves sappy romance movies, horror movies, old movies, she has shown me some of the best and worst films I have ever seen. I remember one year, for mothers day, I invited her over to my apartment and we got barbecue take out and she picked two DVDs for us to watch, and as my gift to her, I would watch whatever she picked without complaint. That Mothers Day I watched "Cloverfield", a sci fi thriller type about a monster that destroys New York City, and  "The Holiday", a droopy romantic movie in the romcom style starring Jack Black, Kate Winslet, and other adorable starlets. Was my Mom the only 50 something woman seeing "Cloverfield" in the theater by herself when it debuted? I'd wager she was. 
She showed me "A Thousand Clowns" when I was probably about 12, and ever since, this has been my favourite movie. It's purely character driven, based off of a play by the same name written by Herb Gardner. It's a story about Nick (played by Barry Gordon) and his uncle Murray (played by Jason Robards) whom he lives with and who is currently unemployed. The story is basically about how eccentric Murray must find ground between captaining his own alternative lifestyle (also known as unemployment) and being a good father and provider for Nick. It's basically a movie about having to grow up, just a little bit, and about negotiating how much of your personality and personal goals you should auction off for the sake of assimilating into a larger, but safer, culture.

The movie appeals to me because I don't really care about a plot; I'm a total character person. The movie probably has 4 or 5 different locations, I would say about 75% of it takes place in Nick and Murray's apartment. It's a flurry of quick dialogue, little quiet jokes, and meaningful looks. So of course, I love it. A Very Popular Website Whose Name We Dare Not Speak but Could Be Related To Certain Rainforests in South America just released the film on DVD, so I bought it immediately as a birthday present to myself. I'd like to recommend this play or movie to anybody that has ever had values that did not fit in with everybody else, to anyone that is creative or successful in a way that is not necessarily fiscally lucrative, or to people that bummed around a lot with their Dads and/or older, male role models when they were kids. The idling at the park and complicated inside jokes will strike those of us that spent a lot of time goofing off as charmingly familiar. I just want us all to think a little bit more critically about what constitutes "a waste of time", and why. Can you explain it? Is it about money or activities to hone potential money making skills? How much time do you have to 'waste' before you have 'wasted' time? As a fairly nonplussed and apathetic student and super passionate and creative doer-of-art and thinker-of-things, I'm curious about these questions, and "A Thousand Clowns" definitely got me thinking about them at a young, ripe age.