Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

I was going to just share this link, but I can't fit my bile into 140 characters.

Bank of America just settled, to the tune of $8.5 billion dollars, over their handling of the complex, toxic mortgage-based securities -- you know, the ones that ruined the economy as they enriched a tiny group of bankers?

And who gets the money, one might ask -- the folks that got stuck with ridiculous mortgages on balloon-priced homes? People who lost their jobs in the meltdown and are stuck upside-down in BoA-overpriced houses?

Nope -- it all goes, as bank money always does, to a group of 22 investors who control a total of $424 billion already. Money is like gravity: it only goes where it already is.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surveying E-Books

Easily-offended British writer Stephen Hunt released the results (PDF) of his "survey" of ebook users today, claiming that 71% of people are now using ebooks.

Of course, since his poll was entirely self-selected -- and, even more so, because it took place entirely on the Internet, as part of discussions about books and ebooks -- it's utterly unreliable as proof of anything in the wider world, as two seconds' thought would prove. All that this survey actually says is that people interested in the ebook question online tend to be already reading ebooks, which should be thoroughly uncontroversial and non-newsworthy.

His comments -- claiming that ebooks will soon "top out at over 90% or market size in the near future," among others -- further prove that he has no idea what he's talking about, and that he hasn't been listening when his editors and agents have described his own book sales to him.

But, if you wanted actual numbers, you were also in luck today: Pew Research Center did a real survey (randomized and everything) of US consumers, finding that 12% of respondents owned an ebook reader (up from 6% in November). Tablet computers (such as iPads) were owned by 8% of respondents (up from 5%).

Once again: ebooks are a strongly growing market, and some categories (particularly the most mass-market categories, like romances and thrillers) have seen immense growth. But physical books are still roughly 50% of the sales of even those most e-driven categories, and consumer books will not tip over to primarily e-books until readers and tablets are much more ubiquitous than a total 17% of the potential market. (Some professional categories, and many reference works, are nearly all-digital now, but those are database businesses, and very different from the impulse-driven consumer market.)

Let me say that again: only 17% of the US population owns an e-reader or a tablet. (And only about a third of the population has a smartphone, the other potential e-reading device -- note that tablet/e-reader owners are highly likely to have smartphones as well, so those numbers are not additive.) The growth curve of e-books is going to slow down, before too long, and paper books will not go away.

And, more importantly, it is entirely possible for something new to come along and not destroy existing media -- more than possible, it's common. After all, Broadway -- that most old-fashioned of all of our entertainment media -- had a possibly-record year in 2010, bringing in $1.037 billion in sales.

The sky is not falling, and thinking that it is blinds you to the actual opportunities and threats that really exist.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/25

I'm back to my usual schedule on these posts, so what you'll see below are the books (and a few odder items, at the bottom) that arrived in my mailbox last week, all of which I really should read and review at some point but not all of which will manage to reach that exalted state. Because of that, I do these posts, to call your attention to this stuff in a reasonably timely manner and to assuage my conscience over not actually reviewing more of them.

First up this time is Kitty's Big Trouble, the ninth novel in Carrie Vaughn's urban fantasy series about a talk-radio host who is also a werewolf. (It's vastly less gimmicky than that makes it sound; for more details, see my review of Kitty Raises Hell, the sixth book -- yes, I have fallen behind.) Tor is publishing this one in mass market this week.

Also from Tor, and also a book that I saw in galley form (and still have not read) is Steven Gould's new novel 7th Sigma. It's a near-future SF story set in the desert southwest (of the USA) colonized by some kind of alien "bugs" that eat metal and avoid water. Gould's career -- which started so well with the YA-ish, thrilling, deeply fun novels Jumper, Wildside, and Helm -- got sidetracked somewhat by the mediocre movie made from Jumper (and Gould's tie-in-izing his own world), but I hope that 7th Sigma sees him get back to his old standalone-novel mojo, since he's the kind of writer SF needs more of. This one will publish in hardcover on July 5th.

I probably will not read Rhiannon Frater's The First Days, I'm sorry to say: it's a zombie novel in which one of the two female protagonists discovers her husband has been zombified and is snacking on their child. If you tell me that on your back cover, you have just guaranteed that I'm not going to read your book. However, there's probably millions of you who do like zombie stories, and are in the market for one in which two strong women battle their way across Texas in search of a safe place. (Though that same back-cover copy hints very strongly that First Days is not so much with the happy-ending-ness.) This one is also from Tor, coming as a trade paperback on July 5th.

Last year I reviewed Resistance, the first book in a graphic novel series about French kids fighting against Nazi occupation in World War II, and this year brings the second volume, Defiance. Like the first, it's written by Carla Jablonski -- writer of many novels and plays for younger readers -- and illustrated by Leland Purvis. First Second will publish Defiance in July, and the publicity materials note that this is a trilogy, so one more book will be coming.

Last of the actual books I got this week is The Monster Corner, a new anthology of original stories from the point of view of monsters and other unpleasant creatures, edited by Christopher Golden. It has nineteen stories from such writers as Kelley Armstrong, Kevin J. Anderson, Dana Stabenow, Tananarive Due, Michael Marshall Smith, Simon R. Green, and Sharyn McCrumb, all of them brand-new and never-before-seen. This is not from Tor...but it is from their corporate siblings St. Martin's Press/Griffin, and will come as a trade paperback in the very monstrous month of October.

This week, I also got two things that aren't books, but I feel like I should mention them anyway:

First is a stack of odd little pamphlets, entitled Five Simple Steps to Greater Joy in This World of Sorrow, credited to Wayne Alan Brenner. I'm supposed to pass them along, and I'm going to do that, as soon as I figure out the best way to do so. (I'll bring them to Worldcon, so, if you see me there, ask me for one.) Oh, and you will be happy to know that they are gravitationally secure.

The other thing is somewhat more conventional: it's a blad (pre-publication booklet meant for publicity/marketing/promotional purposes) for the book What the Hell Are You Doing? by artist David Shrigley. Shrigley's art, from this sample, is somewhat outsider-y, with lots of rough black lettering that doesn't quite turn the pieces into cartoons and drawings with a similar rough finish. Shrigley is an honest-to-Ghu artist, as anointed by galleries around the world, so I suppose one has to take this seriously as "art" rather than as "drawing" or "cartooning," and that's lucky, since, even with my slapdash knowledge of the latter, Shrigley doesn't come off terribly well from these samples. This one is coming from W.W. Norton in October as a big hardcover.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Eternal Conundrum: What to Read Next?

There are a bunch of things competing for the next slot in my reading schedule, all of about equal importance, so I figured I might as well make it a poll. (I'll start reading something before the poll closes, and probably even before there's any sense of which way the poll is going -- but it would still be interesting to see.)

The Contenders:

What Should the Hornswoggler Read Next?

Vote early, but, please -- do not attempt to vote often! Arguments, pro or con, can also be made in comments.

Update: You don't need to stop voting, but I should probably mention that I'm now reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was in the lead when I had to pick, and I see is in the lead again now. Swamplandia! will almost certainly be next, since it's a library book and the clock is already ticking. After that, I may need to set up another poll; it's the rest of those books and then another few (Butcher's Ghost Story, Block's A Drop of the Hard Stuff, and Swanwick's Dancing With Bears) that are already settled in my head. And, unless I can find a way to read vastly quicker than I currently do, that will take me most of the way through the summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hugo Thoughts: Short Fiction

I've been working my way through the gigantic 2011 Hugo Packet over the past few weeks -- since, if I'm going to grab the thing, I might as well use it -- which has left me fairly quiet here. (I didn't want to post thoughts about individual stories in isolation, for various reasons.)

I just finished the short fiction the other day, and I have to wonder if this is a particularly weak year, or if these are the kind of stories that Hugo nominators are generally choosing to honor these days. I hope it's the former, since many of this year's nominees don't rise above "No Award" for me.

This is not my mostly-annual "Handicapping the Hugos" post, which I hope will follow once the voting period closes. It's, instead, the first in what I plan will be a series of posts looking at the nominees this year from my own perspective -- and, as I usually do, finding everything inadequate. There will certainly be discussion of plot points, for those who are grumpy about such things.

Best Short Story:
  • “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010)
  • “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
  • “Ponies” by Kij Johnson (, November 17, 2010)
  • “The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)
The Vaughan is a pleasant but (I thought) minor story set in a world that makes no sense at all -- given all of the buried assumptions in it, the population in that world should be crashing hard, and have been aging and crashing for two or three generations. And that demographic pressure could have informed this story, and driven it in slightly different ways -- but it didn't.

Kowal's story is another sentimental piece (like Vaughan), but doesn't have any buried landmines trying to blow it up. I didn't love it, but it was smart and professional at a high level.

The Johnson is a taut, spiky piece that makes great use of the length of the form, and I respected it the most of the stories in this category.  I think you have to have been a teenage girl for it to be really visceral, though.

And the Watts is our first backwards-looking story of this year -- there have been far too many backwards-looking SF stories over the last two decades -- which retells a famous old story in a new way. Watts is an essentially contemporary writer, unlike most of the SF folks peddling old wares in new bottles, so his backwards looks aren't as egregious as those by some others. But it's still more clever than smart, especially with it's look-how-far-over-the-top-I-am last line.

Best Novellette:
  • “Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010)
  • “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)
  • “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010)
  • “Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, December 2010)
  • “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010)
The McMullen was a fine, worthy story, with both decent science and interesting ideas. And I don't mind historical SF as long as it's not special pleading about the space program. So this was the first story I hit in this year's reading that I was entirely in favor of.

Steele, on the other hand, recycles a title from Kage Baker and an idea from himself (the much better, though still backward-looking and self-indulgent "Days Between") into a story that I've seen done a dozen times before. Steele tells it well, as always -- he's a smooth, facile writer with a good ear for dialogue and a knack for grounded characters -- but I nearly always feel like he's just not trying hard enough, and that came out here, as well. This is the first really egregiously "gosh, wasn't yesterday's future so much better than ours" story this year, flattering all of those aging Boomer SF readers who didn't become the space-station jockeys and planet-hopping businessmen they all thought they'd be when they were twelve.

de Boddard's story is possibly the best thing on the entire ballot this year, despite a background world I couldn't quite piece together in my head: tight, dramatic, strongly structured and working hard from the very first page to the last. This is what short SF is supposed to be.

The Kelly story is another medium-future grunts-in-near-space story, which made it immediately feel dated -- monkeys in cans is so 1970, and even "Plus Or Minus" realizes that -- but Kelly, as always, drives his story through his characters and their interactions. It's a good story well-told, but Kelly has done much better a number of times before, so it was very slightly disappointing to hit the end and realize that was it.

Stone's story has attracted criticism online for being particularly Mormon, but the bigger problem is that its main character is a catalyst for events that aren't adequately explained or described. Stone posits a great SFnal idea -- a galaxies-spanning civilization of gigantic, vastly long-lived star-dwelling "swales" -- and then cheats at every turn to tell a roadshow "Case of Conscience" with added woe-is-me over the narrator's inability to find a suitable wife. And the fact that the narrator, when faced with a creature that plausibly claims to be the creator of all life in the universe, doesn't even have a twinge of doubt over his faith makes the whole thing insufferably smug and hermetic.

Best Novella:
  • “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
  • “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow)
    “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010)
  • “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)
Swirsky's story struck me as trying to do something very SFnal -- the leap-forward story, in which a single character moves from a base situation further and further onward through time until finally reaching the end of time, as in Sheffield's "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" -- and to start from a very SFnal feminist position (reminiscent of Tepper), but all cloaked in fantasy terms. (I don't want to get into the general argument of whether fantasy is "easier" than SF here, but this particular story took some ideas and forms strongly associated with SF and put them into fantasy terms that allowed Swirsky to drive her plot via a kind of magic she could define entirely.) I liked its ambition and reach, and thought it achieved pretty much what it set out to do -- it's a strong long piece.

Chiang's story, though, was the first disappointing piece by him that I've read: it plods along in a bland, pedestrian manner, making the point that developing real AI personalities will be very much like raising children over and over and over without any leavening humor or self-consciousness about its "and" plot. It also stops at an odd place, with the "software objects" about to enter their equivalent of adolescence -- as the father of a thirteen-year-old boy, I can say that's no kind of ending at all.

I wrote about the Hand novella briefly when I reviewed Stories back in October, so, this time, I'll just note that it's both smartly professional and yet another look backwards at failed 20th century space programs. (I could do with a ten-year moratorium on historical SF stories about NASA and the Russian space program.)

Landis's story has great scenery -- it's mostly set in a flotilla of cities drifting in Venus's atmosphere a few centuries forward -- but its characters are almost entirely cyphers, and their motivations either aren't clear or don't make sense. Its plot -- essentially "vaguely sinister all-powerful despot sets his sights on random foreign woman for inadequate reasons," which has been executed much better a thousand times in airport romances and thrillers -- is just an excuse for the tour of Venus, but Landis needed a better excuse, and characters who interacted with each other on some level. Also, a story that claims it's about sex in its last lines should have made some effort to be sexier than 1939 Astounding at some point along the way.

I should mention that Reynolds's story "Troika" exists because of me (in a very, very small way), since I commissioned the book that became Godlike Machines several years ago, in my prior life, and that editor Jonathan Strahan thanked me in his acknowledgements for that book. But that won't stop me from mildly grousing that "Troika" is another retro-future, with a reborn Soviet Union somehow lording it over a declining mid-21st century Earth and their sputtering space program a clear sign that Things Are All Going to Hell. And "Troika" is yet another Reynolds story about an enigmatic alien artifact -- after "Diamond Dogs" and "Nightingale" and others -- that transforms the people who enter it. Given that thematic repetition, Reynolds has a lot of work to do to make "Troika" stand out as its own story -- I think he does so, but I'm a fan of Reynolds's work, and may not be entirely reliable on that point.

All in all, though, this is not a line-up of stories that impresses me. There have been past years even more thoroughly steeped in space-program nostalgia, true, but there's not a whole lot here that really excites me. Filling out a Hugo ballot should be a wrenching process, forcing the voter to decide between several excellent candidates, and these categories will not make this voter make any difficult choices at all. But this could have been a quiet year for short fiction -- I read so little of it now that I have no independent idea -- and the only story that I should have nominated that didn't make it onto the ballot is Neil Gaiman's harrowing "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains." (And Gaiman has so many awards that either the nominators or he could easily have left him off this year.)

Next I have to dive into the novels -- I've already read Blackout and All Clear (which, if you've read my review, you might guess I do not think should be on this ballot) and Cryoburn (also reviewed; also a minor book by a major writer), which leaves The Dervish House and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, both of which I wanted to read anyway, and Feed, which I guess I do have to read to vote honestly. (I don't care at all for zombies, I'm afraid.) Look for writings on those within the next few weeks, if I don't decide to read Swamplandia! (which my library just told me is now available) first.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Be Ready for the Next Controversy!

NPR is asking SF/F readers to vote for the Best SF or Fantasy book, and, as we all know, this will lead to a list mostly consisting of dead white guys and a chorus of disapproval of same by people who are generally not dead, white, or guys.

So prepare your arguments now, folks -- be ready to explain why the winner (whatever it is) is illegitimate, because of the patriarchal hegemony, or the dead hand of the market, or the mind-control rays of the Alien Space Bats. Be inventive! Don't just demand that people stop supporting the status quo; have a manifesto and a plan to blow the whole thing to hell.

Because, if we're going to go through that damn thing one more time, it had better be entertaining this time around.

And, if you're going to vote, think really hard about your Tolkien-Asimov-Heinlein-Herbert-Bradbury list before pressing "send." Do you want to be seen as an enemy of the proletariat? I know I don't, so I won't be participating. If you have more energy than me, go ahead.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/18

Remember how I said, last week, that I'd be updating that week's (empty) "Reviewing the Mail" post to update it, once I got back from my long trip?

Well, I lied.

Instead, here's two and a half weeks of mail, all in one place, for your delectation. As usual, these are books that arrived in my mailbox, at least somewhat unexpectedly, and which I haven't yet read. Reviews of some or all may yet follow, here or elsewhere -- well, reviews by me, I mean; I expect every single one of these books will be reviewed by someone, somewhere [1] -- but this post, despite its title, is not, precisely speaking, a review.

I guess I now have to read Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century: Volume I: Learning Curve: 1907-1948: The Authorized Biography, a book by William H. Patterson, Jr. that utterly shatters the record for the most colons in a single book title. It's the first of a projected two-volume biography of Heinlein -- whose name I hope you're familiar with, if you know anything at all about science fiction -- that was originally published in hardcover last year by Tor and which is currently a nominee for the Hugo Award as "Best Related Book." (And, since I'm trying to be a conscientious Hugo voter for once this year, I should read it for that reason.) The reviews have been mixed, and Patterson seems to be more of an autodidact and devoted Heinlein fan than a trained historian and biographer -- but it also seems that it's exactly those qualities that got him to do the book in the first place, and got him access to Heinlein's widow, literary agent, and many others. (I should also say that I know Patterson's editor, and had lunch with him last year -- yet another reason I really should read this book.) Learning Curve is being published in trade paperback by Tor -- official publication date is tomorrow, as it happens -- just in time for Hugo voters to take a look at it themselves.

Pyr -- the SF/Fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, ably headed by Lou Anders -- continually reminds me of my failings, because they publish more books that I want to read than I have time to get to. They're particularly strong in fantasy that tends towards the sword & sorcery side -- a taste I know I share with Lou -- and it's killing me to see several series get going there that I really want to have time for. Case in point this week: Shadow's Lure is the second novel by Jon Sprunk for Pyr, continuing the adventures of assassin Caim, first introduced in Shadow's Son. The first book is sitting on my to-be-read shelves already -- along with books of similar appeal by James Enge and Pierre Fevel -- and now, with the publication of Shadow's Lure last week, I'm now two books behind. Life is just not fair. If you have time to read this series, try not to gloat too much where I can hear you, OK?

Sometime during my epic journey to three accounting conferences on two coasts, I also got the new mass-market paperbacks that long-running independent publisher DAW will be bringing out in July, which are:
  • The Snow Queen's Shadow, fourth in the loose sequence of fairy-tale-inspired novels by Jim C. Hines. (I think each book is a separate story, linked only by approach and style, but I could be wrong.) This one, as you might guess, is Hines's version of Snow White.
  • Diana Rowland begins what I expect will become a new series with My Life as a White Trash Zombie, which has a great Daniel Dos Santos cover with exactly as much attitude as that title needs. I'm not the world's biggest zombie fan, but, if the current craze leads to books like this, it can't be all bad.
  • And the third DAW paperback for July is the reprint of Tracy Hickman's Song of the Dragon, first in the new epic fantasy series "The Annals of Drakis." It's got evil, world-conquering elves; oppressed and nearly extinct humans; and a legendary hero who will arise to change all of that -- which is what an epic fantasy series should have.
When I think of the kinds of stories that comics are best at telling, one of the first things that comes to mind is "biographies of great physicists." And so I'm thrilled to see Feynman, a new graphic biography of the Nobel prize-winner, theorizer of Quantum Electrodynamics, and bongo player, written by ace science-comics writer Jim (Two-Fisted Science) Ottaviani and drawn by not-yet-as-well-known-to-me Leland Myrick. Feynman was one of the great characters of the 20th century, and there are piles of great stories about him -- many of them coming from Feynman's own books, like Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! -- so he's a great choice for a book like this. Feynman will be hitting stores in September -- just in time for fall projects -- from First Second.

Also in comics form is Black Jack, Vol. 14 by Osamu Tezuka, the latest installment of the series about an outlaw doctor and his grandly thrilling cases. (I reviewed volumes One and Two for ComicMix when they were published.) This one was published at the end of May, and it looks just as wonderfully over-the-top as all of the other Black Jack stories.

Steve Englehart had a long and productive career as a writer for comics -- including definitive versions of the Avengers, Batman, and JLA -- but has moved into more pure prose for the current phase of his career, with a series of thrillers about Max August, newly immortal nemesis of the sinister world-spanning cabal called The Necklace. The third book in that series is The Plain Man, which Tor will publish in hardcover tomorrow. (The series began in 1980's The Point Man and was relaunched last year with The Long Man.)

Did you know that Chicks Kick Butt? They most assuredly do, as editors Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes prove in an anthology of the same name, which collects thirteen -- spin that as either "unlucky" or "a baker's dozen, " as you prefer -- urban fantasy stories by and about women. The ones in the stories kick butt, as required by the title, and I bet more than a few of the authors would, as well, if you pushed them hard enough. The butt-kicking comes in a trade paperback from Tor.

Laurence Yep is a world-renowned, award-winning (two Newbery Honors) writer for younger readers who I'm surprised to realize that I've never read. His new book is City of Ice, the middle book in a trilogy that began with City of Fire and that takes place in a magically alternate world of 1941. Tor's Starscape imprint published City of Ice earlier this month.

And last this time out is a novel I was interested in from several directions: Bright's Passage, the first novel by the great singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. (I wrote about Ritter last year around this time, just before seeing him live for the first of two times that summer -- and just saying that is some kind of recommendation, too.) Ritter's songs have always been great stories, and carefully, intricately written in just the right words, so he's a songwriter who seems like he would be good at a novel. Bright's Passage itself is a historical, set in the aftermath of The Great War and following one veteran's journey with his newborn son. There's also what may be a fantasy element to it, in the angel that veteran thinks he has brought back from the war. Bright's Passage will be published in hardcover in July by The Dial Press, and I hope to review it before that month is over.

[1] Which, I have to tell you, is not necessarily the case for the books I deal with professionally every day. It can be difficult to find the right media ready to get excited about the fourth edition of Budgeting Basics and Beyond. (Which is, though, exactly the book you need for all of your corporate budgeting needs, and only the lamestream media are keeping you from knowing about it.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Incoming Books: Birthday Edition!

I was away from home on my actual birthday, and for some time afterward, so the family caught up with me today, holding me down and forcing me to celebrate. (I may perhaps slightly exaggerate my grumpiness about the situation.)

And I got a bunch of stuff, not all books, a list of which I'm going to inflict on you now:
(Both of those are bands I've been listening to a lot over the past few months -- my current obsessions, I guess -- so this was an excellent present.)
  • Lego Pirates of the Carribbean, after several months of heavy hints to my sons and an elliptical conversation with The Wife yesterday in which she essentially asked me if they really knew what I wanted and I told her they did.
And now we get into the book portion of the list, so those of you averting your eyes can stop now. (Bonus Disney geek reference: I'll read your mind while you tell the audience the number you just picked, but I won't hear you say it because I closed my eyes.)
  • 13, rue Therese, an epistolary novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro that's been getting good reviews. It's very much a novel-as-object -- with photos and handwritten letters and so on -- a style which I've always liked anyway (my college thesis was essentially about textual versions of that), and which is doubly interesting as a strategy for making a work difficult to replicate in an electronic edition.
  • Four -- count them, four -- books that I didn't have in the Sfar-Trondheim Dungeon series: The Night Shirt, The Barbarian Princess, Dragon Cemetery, and Armageddon. I'm now vastly closer to my plan of reading the whole series straight through, and have only two problems. One, what order to read them in? And, two, my older son (Thing One) wants to read all of these -- and has read many of them -- but the series now breaks (because of subject matter) uneasily into all-ages and mature-readers volumes. Eventually, I'll let him read them -- and, let's be honest, he now knows they're in the house and will be home all summer while I'm at work -- but I don't know if now is the right time.
  • And Pearls Blows Up, the latest treasury-sized collection of Stephan Pastis's Pearls Before Swine newspaper strip, complete with commentary on most strips.
Here's hoping your birthday celebrations, whenever they were or will be, were as fruitful as mine.