The Icy Hand by Chris Mould

Title: Something Wickedly Weird, Vol. 2: The Icy Hand

Author: Chris Mould

Illustrator: Chris Mould

Unjacketed Trade Hardcover: 176 pages

Publish Date: September 2008

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (div of Macmillan)

ISBN: 9781596433854

The yellowy-white translucent light of a long-dead and well respected scoundrel began to form by the side of Stanley’s bed until it was the fully formed (but headless) figure of a man. Of course, Stanley was blissfully unaware of this. It was three in the morning and he was wrapped in his bedclothes preserving warmth and dreaming furiously.

…The spirit felt for Stanley’s sheets, and when he was sure he held them in his hand, he unrolled the tight chrysalis with a prompt jerk. Thrashing wildly, Stanley rolled on to the floor.

… His dead uncle lifted the forefinger of his right hand and drew four words, on inside each small square pane that ran along the bottom of the window. I need my head.

-The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, pp 33-39

When I first came across a banner for The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, I thought it would be an incredibly fun book. With a werewolf, a headless ghost, angry pirates back from the dead and a talking fish, how could it possibly go wrong?

*sigh* Let me tell you how…

Within the first 30 pages, this book was off to a bad start. Part of its problems are poor transitioning. There are times when it goes from one event to another, hours later, without any break. The pacing and tempo is either all over the place or completely M. I. A. from this book. My thoughts on this issue were that, given it’s listed for ages 9-12, maybe it’s a style that works for the younger, less patient audiences?

So I grabbed my 9-12 year old (Maggie, age 10), and read her the books description. Like me, she thought werewolves, headless ghosts and pirates sounded promising. However, after only a few pages, she brought the book back to me saying, “It’s not my thing. I like stories with main characters in them.”

Which brings us to another problem with this book. The characters are poorly developed and rather two-dimensional. It is possible that they were developed in book one, which I have not read, but I’m disinclined to believe that. Again, with the characters, this book is all over the place. They do this then that… sometimes seemingly without purpose.

There is a bright spot with this book. The illustrations are fantastic. They’re dark and creepy, but still maintain a safeness that keeps them from being terrifying to small children. In some ways, the illustrations remind me of the Lemony Snicket series (though I don’t know exactly why), but they are uniquely Mould’s creations.

While The Icy Hand by Chris Mould has a few problems, it’s not entirely unlikeable or readable. I’d be willing to bet, though, this is one of those books that would make a much better movie. I definitely think it’d be a really cool movie, but it’d probably be better to make one of the whole series instead of just one book. I give The Icy Hand 3 out of 5 stars.

I found an interesting video to go with this post, but the embedding is disabled. Watch as Chris Mould creates the cover art for The Darkling Curse, another book in the Something Wickedly Weird series.

The Stettheimer Dollhouse by Sheila W. Clark

Title: The Stettheimer Dollhouse

Author: Sheila W. Clark

Photography: Ali Elai of Camerarts, Inc.

Hardback: 64 pages

Publish Date: April 2009

Publisher: Pomegranate Communications, Inc.

ISBN: 9780764948022

One of the most celebrated and distinctive objects in the Museum of the City of New York’s Toy Collection is the Stettheimer Dollhouse, made between the world wars by Carrie Walter Stettheimer (1869 – 1944).  The dollhouse reflects a remarkable life lived during a remarkable time in the city’s history.  Along with her mother Rosetta and two of her sisters – Florine (1871 – 1944), an artist, and Ettie (1875 – 1955), a scholar and writer – Carrie hosted one of the most notable literary and artistic salons of early twentieth century New York society.  The Stettheimers’ sophisticated gatherings brought together a vibrant group of modernist intellectuals and artists of widely varying backgrounds, among whom were leading avant-garde painters, writers, and musicians, both Americans and European émigrés.

…Over the course of almost two decades, Carrie devoted what spare time she had to decorating the dollhouse’s interior, transforming it into a three-dimensional work of art.  Ettie later said she believed the dollhouse served as the outlet for Carrie’s artistic expression, a substitute of sorts for the career she aspired to in set design… Etti’s conjecture proves exceptionally revealing, and in this light the house may be seen as a series of fully conceived and executed stage sets, each awaiting the entrance of the players.

…Unlike most dollhouses, which are played with by children, this one was intended to be appreciated by adults, even by connoisseurs of art.  It’s decor reveals the sophisticated sensibility of its creator, combining different styles in the eclectic taste that was the epitome of New York fashion in the 1920s.

-The Stettheimer Dollhouse by Sheila W. Clark, pages 7-8

The Stettheimer Dollhouse by Sheila W. Clark is a darling little informative book about one of miniaturists favorite buildings.  Complete with near-impossible photography, this book brings the dollhouse’s minute details into focus, from the weave of the needlepoint rugs to the optical illusions of the foyer wall decor.  I was continually delighted and impressed by the room by room descriptions and pictures.

My first reaction when I pulled this sealed book from the mailing envelope was childlike wonder.  I quickly tore the plastic wrap off of it and began to flip through, examining each beautiful image after the next.  Maggie peeked and peeped with excitement over my shoulder and is now intent on buying her own dollhouse from a soon-to-open pawn shop here in town.  The Rose Bedroom is one particularly adorable room we’ve both decided to live in.  If the impressive photos weren’t enough, the story behind the house is a rather interesting one, too.

The second thing I did after flipping through the book was to stick my nose into the middle of the book and breathe in deeply.  Silly as this may be, the scent of the book brought back memories of my mom’s craft room where she built several dollhouses, as well… two of which were my Christmas presents (she made a Barbie house for me out of a metal workshop shelf when I was 5 or 6, then a miniature dollhouse when I was 10 or 11).  The smells of wood glue and balsam, fabric, lacquer and turpentine, all brought back memories of shopping at hobby and craft stores, making trips to Indianapolis to buy special order dolls and hard to find pieces because I had to have a redheaded family or a bow window.  Not only was this book a treat intellectually, but it provided me that proverbial “walk down memory lane.”

The only complaint I could possibly have about it is that the writing is a bit dry. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t expect anything could change that.  I’d expect it’s rather difficult to describe chintz, chiffon and taffeta an keep your readers riveted, so I won’t hold that against the book.  Quite a joy of a book, and Maggie won’t let me mooch it away ;-) I give The Stettheimer Dollhouse by Sheila W. Clark 4 out of 5 stars.

The Stettheimer Dollhouse is on exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York.  The following is a promotional video for the museum:

Emoti-CATZ and Other Silly Pet Pics

First off, I want to thank everyone for their well-wishing and concern for me while I battled the belly bugs. I am much recovered and am almost back to 100% normal again… though, still a little nervous over any bubbles or sounds my stomach makes for fear of a recurrance. I walked to the grocery store yesterday and had steak, brussel sprouts, baked potato, garlic dinner rolls and yogurt for my first real meal in nearly five days… it was delicious! :-p Invigorated by the great dinner, I went exploring for some funny pics to use on my LibraryThing Profile, and had to share some of them!

First off, the whole emoticons thing can be confusing for me. Smiley :-), Big Grin :-D, Surprise 8-O, Angry D-:, Frustrated :-S, tongue (or tasty) :-p, sick :-x, and frowny :-( are the ones I use most often. I also have a page bookmarked with an expanded list. (Oh, I also use :-/ for meh).

As actual face-to-face conversations have been replaced or exceeded by electronic communications, we’ve lost the facial expressions and body language received from conversations in person, and even the tone of voice clues from phone chats. If I were to say, “Wow, I just love my job” you wouldn’t know if I were being genuine or sarcastic, and thus emoticons were born.

Behold! My new emoticon reference chart!

emoticatz

Lol…. I forgot, I ;-) a lot, too…

Some other funny pics I came across….

catz in cagez catz bunz
catz halp, not camzcatz and mowzcatz poutzcatz in accidentzcatz kill

And since I’m The Kool-Aid Mom, a couple Kool-Aid pics…

Whacha flava?
Spart-Aid

How do you feel about emoticons? Which do you use most often?

The Sunday Salon ~ Survey SAYS!

The Sunday Salon.com

As I’ve been struggling for the bulk of this past week with a stomach bug, I didn’t get much reading accomplished. However, I did pick up my emails and blogged a bit… very little bit, lol… and in Friday’s Shelf Awareness newsletter, there was a bookie-survey given to Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife. I love those kinds of things, so I snatched it, filled in my own answers, and made it my Sunday Salon post :-)

BTW… those of you who’ve asked where us bloggers get out hands on ARCs, Shelf Awareness is one of my favorite sources :-D

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1. What book is on your nightstand now?

lol… I don’t actually have a night stand.  I have one of those high-class, bedside-furnishings found in college dorm rooms everywhere.

The Ubiquitous Milk Crate
The Ubiquitous Milk Crate

But… at any rate… upon said “nightstand” is a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Maggie borrowed from the library and has YET to read, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, and Great Jewish Short Stories.  They’re not there because I’m working on reading them, however.  Rather, they are there because I was sick and didn’t carry them the three feet around the corner to Mt. TBR shelving unit 2 (as, the original book shelf filled up long ago).

I think the meaning of this question is more, “What are you reading now?” And the answer to that is:   I am currently almost halfway through Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, Custard and Company by Ogden Nash, Neil Zawacki’s How to Be a Villain, and From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz.

From the ARC-alanche on deck pile, I’m also reading Something Wickedly Wierd: The Icy Hand by Chris Mould… OH! and, as I glance over my shoulder, I see this one is actually ON the milk crate, too.  I’m a little over 1/4 the way through it.

2. Favorite book when you were a child?

I was not a very prodigious reader as a child… I didn’t really start becoming a reader until I was about 15… but there are a couple books I read until they fell apart.

One was called Nothing At All by Wanda Fag
nothing-at-all

another was How Fletcher Was Hatched by Wende and Harry Devlin

fletcher

and Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule

Never Tease a Weasel

There’s another that I read religiously, but I can’t find the name of it.  It had a girl chipmunk, I think her name was Suzy, and a toy soldier in it, but I can’t find it on the net.  It’s particularly enmeshed with Never Tease a Weasel, and I can only guess I read over and over together.

To this day, I unconsciously quote from Nothing At All when I feel like I’m running around in circles, “I’m busy getting dizzy!” is what Nothing At All, the main character of the book, says.

3. Who’s on your “top five authors” list?

Do I hafta limit it to five?!?! Waaaah! ‘kay, I’ll try:   Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, C. S. Lewis and…. Dr. Seuss.

4. What book have you faked reading?

LOL… I’m guessing this means What book did I pretend to read for a grade or book club?  Well, I didn’t exactly “fake” reading it because I admitted to my professor that I didn’t read it but it always sticks out there in my mind as a great “fake”.  In our 20th century American History class we were assigned Eleanor Roosevelt: A Personal and Public Life by J. William T. Youngs.  Try as I might, I was never able to get into the book… I’ve always hated biographies, like I want to know a person’s personal life! blech.

5. What book are you an evangelist for?

okay… those of you who’ve been to Mt. TBR before, say it with me:  The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

6. What book have you bought for the cover?

Erm… None that I can think of, not for the cover art.  I have grabbed a few for the titles, though.  It’s fun to tell people, “What am I reading? Talk to the Hand!”  Actual book title by Lynn Truss, and very funny in that dry brit-wit kind of way.

7. What book has changed your life?

Any book worth the paper it’s printed on cannot fail to leave its mark on the reader’s life, however I’d have to say the book that has had the most effect on who I am would have to be The Bible.  Second to that… I read a book that greatly helped me to stop cutting called Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation by Steven Levenkron.

8. What’s a favorite line from a book?

I just came across a line from Brisingr that every book lover will agree with:

Books should go where they will be most appreciated, and not sit unread, gathering dust on a forgotten shelf, don’t you agree?

erm… *glances at her shelves full of hoarded books and gulps* yeah… sure! I swear I’m gonna get to them all!! :-D

9. What book would you most want to read again for the first time?

easy, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Friday Fill-Ins ~ The Cheeky Dark Hand of the Spanish Galleon

This week, Friday Fill-ins took the first sentence in 6 of Janet’s favorite books…you fill them in…with the right words or even better, ones of your own.

And…here we go!

1. “In a hole in the ground there lived one of the wickedest and cowardly men (if you could even call him that) that ever lived.”

2. “I think the swirling mist in the cemetary might mean there are ghosts  but that ain’t no matter.”

3. “After dark the rain began to fall again, just like the Universal Weather Program Department programmed it to do.”

4. “Look!  I found a pinata from the hold of the Spanish galleon.”

5. “There was a hand in the darkness, and I slapped it for being cheeky.”

6. “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, but the men in white coats ambush those always suspecting.”

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to hopefully finally kicking this stomach flu so I can read some, tomorrow my plans include going to the grocery store and doing some housework and Sunday, I want to watch a movie together with all my girls!

BTT- A Sick Little Gargoyle

Suggested by Janet:

The opposite of last week’s question: “What’s the best ‘worst’ book you’ve ever read — the one you like despite some negative reviews or features?”

I’ve been sick with a stomach flu, so this will be short and sweet. Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle did not fare well when it went on sale. Some have suggested this is because it may be too far fetched, too out there, for the average person. It could also be that it is rather graphic in describing the burning flesh and the whole experience of skin grafts, healing process, etc.

However, I think it was one of the best books I read last year, best first author book last year, and is on Mt. TBR Hall of Fame list in the sidebar. I’ve been thinking about re-reading it, even!

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Title: Doctor Faustus

Author: Christopher Marlowe

Paperback: 56 pages

Publisher: Dover Publications, Inc.

Publish Date: 1994

ISBN: 9780486282084

Miscellaneous: Dr. Faustus takes its protagonist from the German Faustbuch (1587), which was based on the life of an actual German astronomer and necromancer named Johann Georg Faustwho died about 1540. Rumored to have exchanged his soul for supernatural powers, he entered German folklore as the consummate naughty trickster, usually indulging in callow mischief. In Marlowe’s play, however he is transformed somewhat, and possesses a certain tragic distinction, though in no way is he exculpated from his crimes. Marlowe is also credited with transforming the English blank verse line, giving it a vigor and range of expression that was to prove a strong influence on his contemporaries, including William Shakespeare.

FAUSTUS:The reward of sin is death?” That’s hard.
Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas.
“If we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.”
Why then belike we must sin
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this,
Che sera sera,
“What will be shall be?”  Divinity, adieu!
These metaphysics of magicians
And necromantic books are heavenly;
Lines, circles, scenes, letters, and characters,
Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
O what a world of profit and delight,
Of power, of honour, of omnipotence
Is promis’d to the studious artisan!

A sound magician is a mighty god…

-Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, Scene 1, lines 40-53, 60

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe is an age-old tale about a man who makes a deal with the devil, swapping his soul for knowledge and power. Initially, Faustus imagines all the things he will do with the powers he will be given, reroute the Rhine and maybe even give himself a kingdom for example, but in the end he is little more than a conjurer performing parlor tricks for people’s amusement.

Right from the start of the play we see Faustus, a man of incredible intelligence… too smart for his own good, debating the merits of various disciplines from medicine to philosophy and ultimately divinity. Having received his doctorate in divinity from a world-renown school, Faustus should have a better understanding of God’s mercy and the nature of Grace, but he seems to lack a grasp of the basic elementary concepts of Salvation, Redemption and God’s limitless, unconditional Love. Dr. Faustus’ arrogance and pride in regards to his own geniusness shines through and we get a picture of a man jaded by religion and desiring forbidden knowledge for his own personal gain.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?   -Matthew 16:26

For all Faustus’ plans, dreams and schemes of political influence and power, to be “a mighty god,” as the play progresses he becomes baser and more ridiculous until he is on the level of a clown and a jester, performing parlor tricks for the scholars and locals and using his unfathomable powers to play pranks on the unsuspecting.

Marlowe wrote Doctor Faustus toward the end of the Renaissance, a period of time that valued the pursuits of knowledge and self over relationship with God, and meant for the play to be both cautionary and commentary. Through Faustus’ questions put to Mephistophilis (his personal assistant from Hell… literally), Marlowe shows that all things have their origins in God. As the kingdom of Hell is set against Heaven, it because an exercise in futility and vanity for Faustus to pursue all the hidden knowledges because he can not follow them to their ultimate ends, God Himself.

Several times in the play (which covers a 24 year period as that is part of Faustus’ contract) Faustus shows signs that repentance is weighing heavy on his heart. Faustus is caught between the Good Angel’s council to repent and that God will forgive him, and the Evil Angel, who first tries to entice Faustus to follow Hell, and ultimately threatens him that if he repents devils will viciously tear him apart. All the way to the last few days, God continues to call to Faustus and tries to turn his heart to repent and return, but Faustus refuses every time. With the final call, Faustus shows how cruel and vulgar he has become by sending devils to torment and kill the old man who had tried to inspire him to turn back.

One of the fascinating things about Doctor Faustus is that it has historical origins. There really was a Dr. Faust who was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for supernatural knowledge and abilities.

While Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe isn’t one of the best plays of the Elizabethan era, it is intellectually and morally fascinating. It is possible that Marlowe would have become Shakespeare’s equal had he not died at the age of 29. Also, as I read this play it occurred to me why this type of literature can be so difficult for readers. Unlike novels, which include every detail of the story and make it much easier for the reader to be a passenger in its telling, a play requires you to imagine the missing information and to set the timing. Plays are much more interactive than novels. For flexing my brain and using “shoulder angels,” I give Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe 4 out of 5 stars.

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The name of Faustus’ familiar spirit is Mephistophilis, which reminded me of John Lovitz’ SNL performance in the following clip. What is hilariously funny about it is, it’s actually fairly true to the play. Of course, it’s an 18-year-old hair dresser named Vonda Braithwaite instead of Faustus, but for the most part it’s all there. Lol… the ending is different, too, though you have to wonder would Mephistophilis have stood a chance had the doctor taken his case to Judge Wapner?

 
I love the line “Now you listen to me. I’m Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness. When I start harassing you, YOU’LL KNOW IT!”

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