Sarah B.'s blog

No More Dirty Looks

No More Dirty LooksHave you ever read the back of your shampoo bottle and wondered what all those ingredients actually are? Then No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt is for you. The beauty product industry is both huge and powerful and generally don't want consumers to know that most of their products contain thousands of chemicals that can readily be absorbed through our skin. Many of these chemicals are known irritants, and some are possible carcinogens. Read more »

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer SurburbiaWho says suburban living has to be dull and unimaginative? Welcome Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, which takes traditional suburban ideal living and turns it on it's head. This book is bursting with imagination as it tells 15 short, illustrated short stories filled with wonder, loss, peace, hope and redemption. Not to make it sound all like butterflies and flowers, there is a slight bizarre and surreal edge to these tales that will leave the reader both wondering and and inspired. Read more »

April Books Plus - National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month"Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." --Thomas Gray

It's National Poetry Month! We'll celebrate poetry in various forms including haiku, villanelles, sonnets, and sestinas. Please bring a poem or two that you really enjoy. Reading poetry out loud is the best way to experience poetry. Join us during April's Books Plus meeting led by Dory Lynch this Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m.

As always we'll have healthy snacks and Amal's delicious cake, and good fellowship. For more details, see below. Hope to see you there.
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Cleopatra: A Life

CleopatraForget what you know about Cleopatra - she was neither Egyptian, nor did she commit suicide with a live snake (though it remains a tenaciously romantic symbol) - and discover a much more complicated and interesting person. She was not the beauty as Elizabeth Taylor would make us believe, but was able to charm two of the most powerful men in history, and was lucky enough to bear sons by both. Stacy Schiff argues in this new remarkably readable biography, Cleopatra: A Life, that her death marked the end of an empire, the end of a dynasty and the end of ancient history. Read more »

National Book Critics Circle Awards 2010

Goon SquadThe National Book Critics Circle Awards was announced this week. This award is to promote the finest books published in English for the previous year. The winners include:

Fiction:
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Biography:
How To Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
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Repackaging the Classics

Wuthering HeightsHow important is the cover of a book? Will romantic new covers and bonus quizzes like "Are you destined for a love like Catherine and Heathcliff's?" be enough to appeal to young adult readers? HarperTeen thinks so. They have recently rereleased several classic books including Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet with covers no doubt reminding teen girls of the Twilight series.
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Altered Books

Playing With BooksAmazon's blog Omnivoracious is a great read to keep up with not only what is happening at Amazon, but also generally in the publishing world, complete with reviews of reviews, author interviews, and other literary minded topics. Today's post was exceptionally astonishing and beautiful. Profiled is Chicago based artist, Brian Dettmer, who sculpts old books into amazing works of art. Check out both the blog entry and his website to see the images. I don't want to generally advocate cutting up books, but his end result is truly extraordinary.
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March 2011 Books Plus Discussion

Let the Great World SpinThe seasons are turning again, and it's almost time for our 2011 One Book One Bloomington selection--Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. Set in 1974, this National Book Award winner chronicles the day Philippe Petit tightroped across the space between the two World Trade Towers. In masterful prose, McCann chronicles how various strangers reacted to this event. It's a book about the interrelationships between the residents of a great city, and how one man's quest for adventure brings hope, fear, and wonder to the people standing below. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times called it "one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years."
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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia TateI admit to being a streaky reader - I think this time last year I was on a World War I fiction kick. And this winter I read three books in a row about the Johnstown Flood including both fiction and non-fiction titles - Three Rivers Rising, In Sunlight In a Beautiful Garden, and The Johnstown Flood. The latter is by David McCullough, a famous historian and two time Pulitzer Prize recipient who is from Pittsburgh near the area where the flood occurred.

Recently though it seems I am reading a lot of coming of age novels featuring girls as the main character. E. Lockhart has written some wonderful contemporary coming of age novels, but for something historical I also have recently fallen for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.
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Newest Most Favoritist Young Adult Author

Fly on the WallThe teenage female protagonists of E. Lockhart's novels are funny, smart, interesting, questioning and underneath it all resilient and strong. They don't always make the best initial choices, but are willing to learn and adjust as they go. These coming-of-age novels feature a romance (or two), but not at the cost of ignoring other similar and frequently troublesome themes of any young life - parents, school, friendships and finding your niche.
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