Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) Writes a Book

Colin Meloy, perhaps most well known as the frontman for the hit indie band The Decemberists, has just released his first novel. The musician has always been a bibliophile* -- just listen to any one of his songs for proof -- and now he has taken that love to a new level. Wildwood, the first in a planned trilogy, is a 600-page YA novel, with illustrations provided by Meloy's wife, Carson Ellis.

Clearly, I have to read this book. I love The Decemberists. I love artists trying out new things, new mediums, new adventures. I love fantasy novels. And the blurb has me thinking - or perhaps hoping? - that this could be the kind of YA novel that adults fall in love with, too. "Original and fresh yet steeped in classic fantasy"? Sign me up. "Warring creatures" and "peacable mystics"? Must. Read.

See for yourself:

Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her baby brother is abducted by a murder of crows. And then things get really weird.

You see, on every map of Portland, Oregon, there is a big splotch of green on the edge of the city labeled “I.W.” This stands for “Impassable Wilderness.” No one’s ever gone in—or at least returned to tell of it.

And this is where the crows take her brother.

So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend Curtis deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval, a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much bigger as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness.

A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Wildwood is a spellbinding tale full of wonder, danger, and magic that juxtaposes the thrill of a secret world and modern city life. Original and fresh yet steeped in classic fantasy, this is a novel that could have only come from the imagination of Colin Meloy, celebrated for his inventive and fantastic storytelling as the lead singer of the Decemberists. With dozens of intricate and beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Carson Ellis, Wildwood is truly a new classic for the twenty-first century.

What do you think? Will you read it? Any other lovers of The Decemberists out there?

*For more about Meloy's love of literature, and how it has influenced his music, and how this book is clearly really awesome, check out Paste Magazine's review of Wildwood, which is the kind of well done contextual review I wish I wrote more of in my life.

Book Review: The Missing of the Somme, by Geoff Dyer

This review originally ran in the August 19th issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe to this awesome collection of book news and reviews, click here to fix that. You'll receive two awesome emails each week (Tuesday and Friday).

There are countless books on World War I, and countless more on the wars following it, but The Missing of the Somme stands out among the crowd because instead of discussing strategy, timelines and numbers of the war, author Geoff Dyer (But Beautiful; Out of Sheer Rage) focuses on the remembrance of World War I.

Though short, Dyer's treatise is incredibly thorough--he draws on his experience traveling to the cemeteries and monuments across Europe; surviving photographs, films, letters and journals; and his own family history to craft a story about the impact of war on the generations that followed it. In doing so, he covers most, if not all, of the many ways we use both to remember and memorialize the war and the losses in which it resulted. Ultimately, The Missing of the Somme shows us how much our need to commemorate an event is capable of shaping our memories of it, even as the event is still in progress.

Originally published in the U.K. in 1994, this new edition is the first time The Missing of the Somme is being published in the U.S. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and lose the last remaining veterans of the war itself, it proves a timely and important look at both the memory and memorial of the war so terrible as to be named The Great War.


Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to Shelf Awareness, and to Shelf Awareness for providing a copy of the book to me for review.

Edible Books

I'm sort of in love with this idea, even though I don't like white chocolate and I'm not sure if I would actually be able to make mine look as pretty.

(Image from Hungry Happenings)

Full directions at Hungry Happenings, complete with recipe for white molding chocolate. It actually appears to be a pretty simple recipe, so don't let my lack of confience in my chocolate molding skills deter you. Perfect for your next book-themed party, yes?

Another Internet Addiction, This Time Known as Pinterest

A note to the interwebs: Please stop throwing things at me that insist that I drop everything that I am doing and immediately go look at pictures of pretty things. Yes, that means you, Pinterest.

That said, now that I'm on Pinterest, why not join me? Then we can all spend our otherwise productive time looking at pictures of pretty things together. And you can follow my board full of bookish pins, which pretty much adds up to one big page of pictures of book love. Trust me on this. It's a lot of fun.

Bookfessions Tumblr

Maybe I'm way late to this party, but have you seen the Bookfessions tumblr? The self-professed purpose of the site is so completely right up my (and I'd imagine your, if you are reading this) alley:
"These are confessions and/or thoughts of a book lover, bibliophile, book addict, reader, lover of literature, me what you will, but here they are."
The current confession count is at 702, and still climbing. Some are more fun than others, of course, but they are all gems in their own ways. A few of my favorites:

Book Review: The Magician King, by Lev Grossman

The Magician King is available tomorrow, August 9, from Viking. $26.95 / Hardcover. 978-0-670-02231-1. Preorder now from a bookstore near you via Indiebound.

Back in January, I read The Magicians for a book club meeting that never happened. Nevertheless, I loved it. Critics have argued that it relies too heavily on themes and plots from Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - and yes, it's true, it does - but I argue that pries the fantastical world of magical academies out of its previously fixed position in children's literature and launches it into a world of pseudo-grown-ups. Including the drugs, the drinking, the sex, and the rock-and-roll. No joke.

With the long-awaited sequel, The Magician King, Lev Grossman shows fans of The Magicians into the not-so-happily-ever-after of the first novel; Quentin, Julia, Elliot and Janet rule over Fillory as the kings and queens of the magical realm. Despite living a life of luxury, pampered in decadent rooms of an even more decadent castle, Quentin finds himself restless, itching for something bigger, something more. This restlessness, coupled with a growing concern over the ever-less-human seeming Julia, finds the two of them on a not-so-epic adventure to collect forgotten taxes the outskirts of his realm.

One thing leads to another (as it so often does), and soon they are chasing down a mythical golden key straight out of a fairy tale. Needless to say, things do not go as planned. Quentin gets his adventure - and so much more - as he finds himself on a quest to save himself, his world, his friend, and even magic itself.

The Magician King takes us back to the world of Fillory we came to love in The Magicians. Quentin and the others have grown, and learned, and become the people they were just breaking into in the first book. The Quentin of The Magicians is a tad unlikeable. Or maybe more than a tad. But watching him grow up and really become someone mostly redeems the unlikeable bits. And though the two storylines present here - one of Quentin and Julia's questing and one of Julia's past - don't always fit together neatly, Grossman manages to make it work, Tim-Gunn-style.

More importantly, the growth of these characters brings the hard questions that we all must face about growing up: What do we want to be? Who do we want to be? How do we want to be perceived? How can we find out where we belong? What does it take to be content? To be happy, even? The questions themselves, as much as the answers, prove that Grossman's most recent novel is as successful a fantasy novel as any: his is a fantasy that is eminently relevant to the real world dilemmas we all must face.

Grossman's writing is a treat to read, coupling masterful prose with the perfect touch of witticisms, humor, and pop-culture references. This is a fantasy novel of the 21st-century, and Grossman is not afraid to embrace that. Grossman gives credit where credit is due , and the characters of The Magician King often reference the worlds of Tolkien, Potter and Lewis in their own storylines. In embracing his inspirations, rather than hiding from them, Grossman has succeeded in moving the fantasy genre forward a notch, creating a world that is as uniquely his own as much as it is derived from the fantasy novels we've all already read and cherished.

While The Magician King might not be the best fit for a reader not predisposed to enjoy stories of magic, dragons, spells and secret worlds, it is an epic fantasy novel that will prove a joy to any fan of the fantasy genre -- especially those that have been waiting not-so-patiently (such as yours truly) for it since completing The Magicians. And in the style of the true great works of fantasy, the lessons here reverberate well past the magical world of Fillory and into the very real world in which we all live.


It's worth noting that if you haven't read The Magicians, the bulk of The Magician King will still be understandable. It's also worth nothing that if you haven't read The Magicians, you probably should.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Jenny's Books
Jenn's Bookshelves


You might also like:

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Among Others by Jo Walton
Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton


Note: Thanks to Viking for an advance copy of this book for review.

Reader Charms

The necklace that just about says it all:

I'm kind of loving this one, too: