Kathleen Smith

Peculiar magic, royal adventures and Bohemian intrigue dominate the pages of The Cabinet of Wonders, Marie Rutkoski's debut children's novel and the first installment of her new series, The Kronos Chronicles. Rutkoski offers an imaginative look at the Early Modern era with a cast that features the inquisitive Kronos family and their army of tin pets, gypsy friends with curiously magical talents and one chillingly ambitious Hapsburg prince.

Magic is a luxury reserved for the elite in Bohemia, but a few artisans such as Mikal Kronos have managed to develop their abilities without schooling. Petra Kronos envies the magical abilities of her father, a local metalworker who uses invisible tools, builds objects with his mind and gives life to an amusing menagerie of metal animals. But after the ruthless Prince Rodolfo commissions Mikal to build the grandest astronomical clock in history, he returns to his daughter without reimbursement and without a pair of eyes. After learning of the clock's destructive powers, Petra escapes to Prague with the goal of recapturing her father's eyes and destroying his creation.

Slaving for weeks on end in the bowels of the castle as a dye worker, Petra uses patience and some plucky exploits to lead her into the acquaintance of Rodolfo. In his inner chambers she discovers the Cabinet of Wonders, a curious collection of magical artifacts, as well as the holding cell for her father's eyes, which the prince wears to harness Kronos' powers. Petra's success is greatly owed to clever characters like Neel, a gypsy boy with invisible finger extensions perfect for lock picking, and friend Tomik, who can trap floods and lightning into tiny glass marbles. In this adventure, however, the sidekick steals the show. Hiding in Petra's gnarled hair is her pet tin spider Astrophil, an amusing travel companion whose appetite for books and distaste for brazen heroics make him the best fictional spider since E.B. White's Charlotte.

Though Rutkoski wraps up her magical tale beautifully, her lovable cast and intriguing scenarios are certain to bring readers back for a second round in The Kronos Chronicles. How else will readers retrieve the contents in that curious Cabinet of Wonders?

Peculiar magic, royal adventures and Bohemian intrigue dominate the pages of The Cabinet of Wonders, Marie Rutkoski's debut children's novel and the first installment of her new series, The Kronos Chronicles. Rutkoski offers an imaginative look at the Early Modern era with a cast that features the inquisitive Kronos family and their army of tin […]

Who knew that a 108-year-old vampire and an unsuspecting high schooler were the perfect twosome for horror and romance? Stephenie Meyer had a hunch, and while many writers before her have popularized the vampire tale, her internationally best-selling Twilight Saga has taken vampire love to an entirely new level. The saga will come to a conclusion on August 2, when Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in the series, is released, with a huge first printing of 3.2 million copies.

In Meyer's previous novel, Eclipse, Bella was forced to choose her love for Edward, a reformed vampire, over her friendship with Jacob, a werewolf; this decision could lead her to become a vampire herself, but eager readers will have to wait for the release of Breaking Dawn to learn Bella's final fate. To celebrate the release of the book, Meyer is holding a Breaking Dawn Concert Series, a sold-out, four-city concert tour featuring the music that stimulated Meyer's muse while she was writing the story.

An unknown Mormon mother who was raising three sons in Arizona when Twilight was published in 2005, Meyer has become one of the most talked-about authors in recent years, earning a devoted following of readers who mob her book tours. She was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2008. Interest in the characters Bella and Edward spans the globe, with more 30 countries purchasing translation rights for Twilight. Sequels New Moon and Eclipse claimed the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks, and her most recent novel and first adult book, The Host, topped the fiction list as well.

Interest in Meyer's work is expected to reach a new high in December, when Twilight lands on the big screen. The film will star Kristen Stewart (Into the Wild) as Bella and Robert Pattinson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) as Edward. Meyer also is currently writing her next novel, Midnight Sun, a companion novel to Twilight as told from Edward's perspective.

 

Who knew that a 108-year-old vampire and an unsuspecting high schooler were the perfect twosome for horror and romance? Stephenie Meyer had a hunch, and while many writers before her have popularized the vampire tale, her internationally best-selling Twilight Saga has taken vampire love to an entirely new level. The saga will come to a […]

Escape to the enchanting beaches of Nantucket Island with best-selling author Jane Green's latest novel, The Beach House. Nan, a spunky 65-year-old, has outgrown her beauty as well as the inhibitions of youth, and earned a reputation as the crazy woman of the island. When her seemingly endless finances dwindle, she is forced to rent rooms for the summer to keep her beloved home. To her surprise, Nan finds delight and comfort in the new faces of her adopted family and one very unexpected guest.

Originally self-published by real estate agent-turned-novelist Maryann McFadden, The Richest Season aims to reach any woman who has toyed with thoughts of leaving home for self-discovery. With the kids grown and her workaholic husband facing another transfer, Joanna decides to shed her corporate-wife image and leaves husband and home for stunning Pawley's Island, South Carolina. Living with an elderly widow and courted by a local fisherman, she anticipates the happiness that has always seemed to elude her – until her penitent husband arrives on the island.

Nancy Thayer's dramatic Moon Shell Beach proves there is magic to be found when years of estrangement are finally bridged. Bound by their love for a secret hideaway on Nantucket, Lexi and Clare had the closest of childhood friendships. But when Lexi returns to the island at age 30, recently divorced from her wealthy husband, Clare must find the courage to forgive her lost friend and open her life and home to the struggling woman.

Escape to the enchanting beaches of Nantucket Island with best-selling author Jane Green's latest novel, The Beach House. Nan, a spunky 65-year-old, has outgrown her beauty as well as the inhibitions of youth, and earned a reputation as the crazy woman of the island. When her seemingly endless finances dwindle, she is forced to rent […]

This fall, the fourth Nicholas Sparks novel-turned-screenplay, Nights in Rodanthe, will open in theaters nationwide. The love story stars film greats Diane Lane and Richard Gere, reunited for the first time since the sizzling 2002 film Unfaithful. Their onscreen chemistry should help lure Sparks' fans back to the theater for the movie's October 3 premiere.

Sparks' novels have become a lucrative franchise for movie makers during the past decade. A Walk to Remember earned a respectable $47 million in 2002, and blockbusters Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Notebook (2004) grossed more than $100 million each at the box office. Sparks has also reportedly sold the film rights for novels True Believer and At First Sight and is currently working on an unsold screenplay for The Guardian. With an additional $100 million in DVD sales for the first three movies, an excellent turnout at theaters for this fall's film could send Sparks' work toward the half-billion mark in movie earnings. Avid fans certainly wouldn't be disappointed to see all of Sparks' 14 books come to life on screen someday, and it is safe to say that Hollywood wouldn't mind either.

Based on the 2002 novel Nights in Rodanthe, the upcoming movie is another of the love stories skillfully imagined by Sparks. Most of the novel is set in 1988, the same year Sparks and his wife Cathy first met. Protagonist Adrienne Willis, played by Diane Lane, is a middle-aged librarian and divorced mother of three. When her errant spouse seeks to return to her, and her teenage daughter grows ever more indignant, Adrienne escapes the chaos to an inn owned by a friend on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she tries to gain clarity and a moment of peace. Just as an ominous storm begins to roll into the coast, Dr. Paul Flanner, played by Richard Gere, arrives at the inn as a guest, also searching for respite from an inner crisis and a troubled past. As the two lone guests find consolation in each other, they embark on a romance that will echo long after their separation.

Readers who want to savor the full romance of the novel before seeing the movie have several options to choose from. Nights in Rodanthe is available in hardcover and paperback editions, with a new movie tie-in paperback set to go on sale in August. In audio, the book is available unabridged on CD.

Directed by George C. Wolfe, the film will also star James Franco, Scott Glenn and Christopher Meloni. The movie was filmed at various locations along the North Carolina coast, including Rodanthe, a small community on Hatteras Island. The locations are not far from the home in New Bern, North Carolina, where Sparks and his wife Cathy live with their five children.

Skeptical readers have suggested that the characters and plot for the novel were influenced by The Bridges of Madison County, though Sparks, who acknowledges similarities, has denied any such connections. In fact, he has revealed that the novel is not entirely fiction, with certain events having been inspired by his own romantic pursuit of his wife. Much of the novel is, in fact, a parallel to their real-life courtship.

Nicholas and Cathy met in a small coastal town while on spring break during their college years.

For the novel, however, Sparks was inspired to write about middle-aged characters for the first time. The names of Paul and Adrienne are actually the names of Sparks' in-laws, who asked for the gesture as a Christmas present.

Like Paul, Nicholas admitted to Cathy the day after they met that he wanted to spend his life with her, and like Adrienne, Cathy was dubious of his declaration. After spending five days together, Nicholas and Cathy left the small town where they met, but continued to call and write to each other daily. Several of the letters included in the novel contain excerpts from Sparks' original love letters to his future wife. "Love comes at any age, at any time, and often when we least expect it," reads the novel's flap, a statement which Sparks attests through his own life story and marriage of 19 years.

Sparks' next book is The Lucky One, which features a man who finds a photograph and becomes determined to track down the woman pictured, convinced that she holds the key to his happiness. The novel is due for release on Sept. 30.

This fall, the fourth Nicholas Sparks novel-turned-screenplay, Nights in Rodanthe, will open in theaters nationwide. The love story stars film greats Diane Lane and Richard Gere, reunited for the first time since the sizzling 2002 film Unfaithful. Their onscreen chemistry should help lure Sparks' fans back to the theater for the movie's October 3 premiere. […]

Travel trivia
For those who want to make this summer's family road trip a little less grueling, tag along with the fact-filled Farley family in Go, Go America. This appealing picture book family guides young readers through all 50 states, highlighting their wild customs and strange histories. Inspired by his own family's road trips from his childhood, award-winning author and veteran illustrator Dan Yaccarino combines each of his hundreds of trip tidbits with bold and entertaining illustrations, from a fire-hydrant-eating horse to one very large boll weevil statue. The guide combinescultural history and local flair, introducing facts from bizarre festivals and strange tidbits from state law books. Did you know, for example, that it is illegal to tickle a girl in Norton, Virginia, or tie a giraffe to a telephone pole in Atlanta, Georgia? Whether it's the Middle-of-Nowhere celebration in Nebraska, the world's largest frying pan in Delaware, or the Great American Bathtub Race in Alaska, Go, Go America captures the best and the strangest of the U.S.A. in all its glory.

For the birds
For a glimpse of America from a bird's-eye view, Hudson Talbott's United Tweets of America presents 50 state birds who have a little to say about each other and a lot to say about the states where they nest. Meet a Louisiana pelican with a taste for jambalaya, a Minnesota Loon who confuses lakes with mall parking lots and a New York bluebird with his sights set on Broadway. The parade of bird pageantry also includes a number of mammals, reptiles and humorous mythical creatures, from a bucking jackelope to the terrifying Mothman who roams West Virginia. Though many states share the same bird, no two are alike in Talbott's eyes. The American Robin may march to a fife and drum in the Constitution State, but he is behind the wheel in Motor City. Talbott's collection of amusing illustrations also introduces the peculiarities of bird fashion, from cheeseheads in Wisconsin to bird boots in Utah. This guidebook captures the charm of American birds and the flair of American talent in a unique tour through the states, which erupts into one big bird brawl for top tweet but ends in one sweet song from the trees.

They're grrrreat!
Pop artist Michael Albert demonstrates how learning more about America can be as simple as opening the pantry in An Artist's America, a collection of pop artworks which incorporate cereal boxes, candy wrappers and other icons from American consumerism. Aptly named Cerealism, Albert's work began with mosaics of familiar cereal box covers, from Kellogg's Frosted Flakes to Cheerios and Trix. In this collection, he expands on that style, incorporating faces of consumerism like Cap'n Crunch and Colonel Sanders into patriotic collages of the "Gettysburg Address," the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. In "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence," Albert explains, he chose "fifty-six characters from our modern consumer world to represent the fifty-six statesmen" who signed America's founding document. The resulting collage, which features Mr. Clean, Sugar Bear and Fred Flintstone, would certainly give John Hancock a shock. Albert's swirling mosaic recreations offer an entirely unique portrait of America, and their intricate designs and pop culture references will appeal to adults as well as children. Instructions on how to make collages are included, and Albert's style should prove easy to mimic for young artists who have a cereal box, glue and the right imagination. With this book as a guide, young readers will never look at Tony the Tiger in quite the same way again.

Travel triviaFor those who want to make this summer's family road trip a little less grueling, tag along with the fact-filled Farley family in Go, Go America. This appealing picture book family guides young readers through all 50 states, highlighting their wild customs and strange histories. Inspired by his own family's road trips from his […]

Working as a waitress at T.G.I. Friday's, Ann Patchett couldn't help but wonder why she had landed in such a line of work after six years of higher education. Based on the commencement address she gave at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, What now? follows the renowned novelist through college and beyond, with inspiring and humorous anecdotes of the many stops and starts in her career as an award-winning writer. Patchett's essays prove that the greatest life lessons occur at the oddest of times, such as when you're scrubbing dishes with a graduate degree. This gift book is ideal for the anxious college grad who could use a reminder that there is joy to be found in unplanned moments.

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS
Tanner Stransky has found a way to convert those couch potato hours into tools for the young professional. In Find Your Inner Ugly Betty, the Entertainment Weekly writer gleans lessons from popular TV shows like "Ugly Betty," "The Office" and "Grey's Anatomy" for eager grads who want to climb the career ladder those first few years after college. With style lessons from the fabulous Carrie Bradshaw, employer relationship challenges with the grouchy Lou Grant and goal-setting strategies a la Betty Suarez, Stransky has fashioned a humorous yet valuable set of on-the-job tips. Who would have figured that the folks at Dunder-Mifflin held the secrets for career success?

For the L.A.-bound graduate harboring delusions of tabloid grandeur, The Hollywood Assistants Handbook aims to turn blindly optimistic dreams into diligent reality. With the book's 86 insider rules, a new grad can learn how to live for free, pimp her looks and assemble an army of interns at her disposal. Authors and former Hollywood assistants Hillary Stamm and Peter Nowalk dish out advice on all aspects of the job, from striking up the right conversation with George Clooney to turning Target wear into Barneys fashion. For these successful power players, name-dropping, shameless flirting and suck-up strategizing are tools of the trade and not for the weak of heart or stomach. The balance of humor and reverence for old-fashioned hard work make the guide a valuable asset for those headed for the Hills.

THE PERFECT FIT
What's That Job and How the Hell Do I Get It? doesn't waste time with career anecdotes, offering "the inside scoop on more than 50 cool jobs from people who actually have them." David J. Rosen's research provides the honest, and sometimes hard to swallow, truth about achieving success in some of the most envied jobs as well as offering a peek into the daily lives of those who claim them. Also provided are characteristics for the ideal candidate, salary information and ratings on "the ol' stress-o-meter," so eager job hunters can determine whether they really want to get their foot in the door. Whether one hopes to be an actor, a psychologist, a real estate broker or even a headhunter, this lengthy guide may prove helpful to clear confusion about many glamorized careers. Readers can aim high, aim correctly and avoid the career that just will not fit, because you don't want to pursue headhunting only to find, as Rosen quips, that there are no blow darts involved.

For a slightly more serious and comprehensive career guide, look for Michael Gregory's The Career Chronicles, which offers a candid view of what it's really like to work in fields from engineering to health care. More than 750 professionals confess the best, worst and most surprising parts of their jobs, giving graduates an insider's view before they start their own on-the-job training.

Working as a waitress at T.G.I. Friday's, Ann Patchett couldn't help but wonder why she had landed in such a line of work after six years of higher education. Based on the commencement address she gave at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, What now? follows the renowned novelist through college and beyond, with inspiring […]

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