Monday, June 25, 2012


I kind of think a book takes as long as it takes. It'll get written when it gets written. But this is still pretty funny. Maybe because you can still feel the love.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Into the Darkness - Under the Microscope

Peter Zivonjic was a journalist riding on a subway in London, England. A daly like many others, with the bustle and flow of traffic in a large city. People absorbed in their own thoughts, their own lives, biding time as they hurtled through the darkness toward light and work and the continuance of the day. But then, as Zivonjic's train passed by another, a bomb exploded on the train opposite.

Both trains ground to a halt. Zivonjic's train was damage, and people were thrown about. But in the car opposite, on the other train, there was a scene of horror. That train had been blown open by a bomb and there were dead and dying people everywhere. Zivonjic and a few others climbed from one train to the next, and for the next hour, deep in the earth and the darkness, they tried to save lives and piece people back together. And yet... all the king's men would not be enough for some of these people, who would never see the light beyond this darkness.

And yet, even once returned to the light, this darkness would always cling to Zivonjic, cling to all the people who climbed out of the tunnel that day.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Down Around Midnight - Under the Microscope

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This is a memoir about a plane crash, and about the survivors who walked away from it. And while the immediate action (the crash, the dead, the living) is vivid and captivating, what is just as interesting about this book is the hidden damage, the tucked away wounds that the survivors carry away with them, often buried deep in their subconscious. It is these hidden wounds that tie the survivors together, that form links between them as the author, Robert Sabbag, searches them out years later. These are the wounds they hide from themselves, even though to the people around them they are all too obvious.

While none of the survivors could deny the facts (that their plane wrecked its landing and crashed in the middle of a forest a long way from anywhere) of what happened, they all, at times, seemed to deny that these facts had an important impact upon them, as if unfazed by the dead and their own precarious lives.

This is a book about those broken bits of time, those shattered moments, and how they live on, and how sometimes they must be met again at a later date. Sometimes memory and healing comes in shared moments between intimately connected strangers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

As the Bookworm Turns - A Guest Post

A guest post by Meredith Towbin

My kids are obsessed with Batman. I’m not talking cartoon Batman (way too dark and scary violent for the wee one). Around here we’re all about the 1960s live-action series starring Adam West. All the camp, none of the gore.

Now I don’t usually watch the amazingness that is the Batman with the kids, but the other day I overheard something that made me take notice. Batman’s nemesis in that particular episode was the Bookworm. What a villain! His hideout is a library with hundreds of books lining the walls! His getaway car is a bookmobile! He rigs books to emit poisonous gas when opened! Holy tome!

As for his super villain costume, he wears a brown leather suit (to look like book binding) and a matching hat complete with a book light attachment. And to make things even MORE tremendous he’s played by Roddy McDowall (of Planet of the Apes fame). Amazing.

Why, you might wonder, is Bookworm a villain? Why would someone with such a vast and unmatched knowledge of the classics turn to a life of crime? I’ll let Batman do the talking: “I know how this fiend’s mind works. He prepares every super crime like the frustrated novelist that he is.”

There it is. Bookworm is a frustrated novelist. When his lady friend asks him why he doesn’t write his own bestseller, he freaks out and tries to clock her on the head with a giant book, screaming, “Because I have no originality!”

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that all of us writers identify just a tiny bit with Bookworm. Ever had writer’s block? Been rejected by an agent or publishing house? Trashed by a beta reader or reviewer? Don’t deny it, people. These things can get to you. They can make otherwise normal, mentally healthy people go a little loony.

So to all you Batman fans out there, I urge you: Don’t judge Bookworm too harshly. Maybe his literary agent dumped him. Perhaps for the life of him he couldn’t make his main character likable enough. It just goes to show that there’s a very fine line between a New York Times bestselling author and a totally awesome super villain.

Meredith Towbin has written two (yet unpublished) novels. She blogs about writing, her quest to get published, and random things like her hatred of schmoozing and her love for Rick Steves at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Monster Calls - Under the Microscope

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This is a gorgeous book -- and gorgeous in many ways.

First, if you're a lover of books, of books as physical things, of books as artwork in paper and glue and ink, this might be for you. This is a beautifully crafted book. It's heavy, and has a firm weight about it, a solidity and presence. It's here. It can't be ignored. Much like the monster in the story. And the book has fine paper, a gloss that somehow has a matted feel and appearance. The layout and design is perfect, the cover is stunning, and the artwork that fills it is just as good. The shadowed wonder and menace of the art perfectly suits the story.

It even has as apt epigraph: You're only young once, they say, but doesn't it go on for a long time? More than you can bear. Hilary Mantel

Yes, this book is about that, about the pain of youth and loss and fear, and how the carefree idles of childhood are often a lie. And it's about stories, about the stories that make us and shape us and change us. It is about the truth we tell in stories, and the truths we hide.

Conor's mother may be dying from cancer, but he doesn't want to think about this. Everyone at school knows and their pity follows him around. And then a monster -- something ancient and wild -- comes to call. It knows about the nightmares and it has stories to share. And it wants something from Conor: the truth.

This is a beautiful novel, elegant and spare and perfectly captured. It's advertised as a YA novel (isn't everything these days?), but it's one of those books that anyone can read. A lot of books for young people portray simple emotions simply. My favourite of such books, though, portrays complex emotions simply. I think this simple complexity is what draws in adults and yet still allows younger readers to properly experience the story. Sometimes books are just books and stories are just stories. Labels and advertising and marketing and buzz are unimportant. There is just a book, a creature of paper and ink and glue, and it is coming to call on you, reaching a dark hand in through your bedroom window.