#FridayReads for 9/11

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the girl in the spider's web blog

The Girl in the Spider's Web

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Ashley: A frenetic mix of excitement and apprehension surrounds this new Lisbeth Salander novel, written by David Lagercrantz a decade after series creator Stieg Larsson’s death. There are few things in life more tempting than the continuing adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, even if they’re penned by a new author. Basically resistance is futile, and that’s okay because The Girl in the Spider’s Web doesn’t disappoint.

Though Salander and Blomkvist made up at the end of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, they haven’t spoken to each other since then. Salander has been too busy hacking into the NSA, trying to uncover who stole the technology of artificial intelligence expert Frans Balder. While the NSA’s response to the hacking is pretty implausible, it plays into our fears about national security well. Like Larsson, Lagercrantz treats important issues and cultural flashpoints—like feminism, the death of reputable investigative reporting, and the treatment of mental illness and disability—with care and respect. Captivating characters have always been the franchise’s strongest suit, and in this Lagercrantz shines. Balder’s son—an eight-year-old autistic boy who can’t speak at all but has a rare gift for drawing and mathematics—brings out the best in our favorite leads as they come together to solve Balder’s murder. Other characters from Blomkvist’s magazine, Salander’s past, and the Swedish police force reprise their roles and new villains bring about all sorts of fantastic trouble in this worthy sequel to the original Millennium Trilogy.

the power of glamour blog

The Power of Glamour

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Alex: When I started reading The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, my view of what constituted “glamour” was pretty narrow. Postrel quickly dissuaded me of this misconception: “…glamour is not the same as beauty, stylishness, luxury, celebrity, or sex appeal. It is not limited to fashion or film, nor is it intrinsically feminine.” Instead, Postrel defines glamour as a “form of nonverbal rhetoric” that simultaneously generates desire, longing, and pleasure within a projected vision of a more idealized life. It’s a rather dense definition for a word that, up until this point, I’d associated most strongly with a song by Fergie.

But Postrel’s definition is compelling, especially as she delves into the word’s history—it’s Scottish in origin, and was originally used to describe the effects of an actual spell—and the way that “glamorous” describes everything from wind turbines to Moleskines to Barack Obama. It’s a provocative way of reading society’s evolving idealism, and of the ways marketers and celebrities manage to tap into it. For all this, I wouldn’t describe The Power of Glamour as a particularly glamorous read. But it is—to borrow a word Postrel describes as glamour’s sister—a pretty fascinating one.

on writing blog

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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Lara: You don’t need to be a fan of Stephen King’s novels to enjoy On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Right from page one, King welcomes you into his life as if you’re a guest and old friend, all at once. He’s humble—in spite of his mighty success—yet wastes no time in sharing his love for writing, along with everything he’s learned. Whether it’s a tip from his first editor: “Your main job (as a writer) is taking out all the things that are not the story,” or a tidbit of his own: “Don’t try to dress up your vocabulary,” King’s writing advice rolls out with ease. Thing is, you almost don’t notice, because King weaves his knowledge with tales from his life that are so honest, you’ll find yourself sometimes cringing or even aching with him. Grammar geeks might rejoice when reading On Writing, but even if you’re just someone interested in a talented man’s life, you’ll likely become a fan. You may even be inspired to write—and keep reading. King closes his memoir with a reading list of recommended books. And even in proffering the gem, he remains humble: “I’m not Oprah,” he writes. Nope. He’s Stephen King.

savvy chic blog

Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less

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Lyndsey: I’m in no way an authority on fashion. Instead I tend to emulate the style of others I admire. But there’s one thing I know for certain: minimalism is on the rise. It’s everywhere. And this less-is-more concept is especially dear to my heart because in San Francisco, rent is high and closet space is small. My closet will never look like Carrie Bradshaw’s, and that’s okay. (I wouldn’t know what to do with 90% of those items anyway.)

But thanks to Anna Johnson’s Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less, I now know which key pieces have staying power and are worth the investment. This book goes beyond the capsule closet and serves as the perfect guide for experienced and wannabe fashionistas alike. Her concept of “chiconomy” can be applied to all facets of life—how to dress, decorate, entertain, and travel in style without breaking the bank.

Just pages into the chapter on the “chiconomy wardrobe” I was ready to race home, purge my closet, and get back to focusing on the basics. For anyone set on enjoying the finer things in life—on a budget—it’s a must read.

sorcery and cecelia blog

Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

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Kiri: As a fan of Jane Austen and British Costume dramas, I’m always delighted to discover new takes on the genre. In Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, fantasy authors Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer bring their unique take on Regency Britain, where magic is somewhat acceptable in polite society, though not, perhaps, for ladies of good character in want of husbands. The story’s written as a series of letters between two cousins, Kate and Cecelia, who have been separated during the London season. Kate, in London, finds herself almost poisoned by a mysterious old woman. Meanwhile, left at home in the countryside, Cecelia begins to investigate why all the young men have started fanning over her neighbor, Miss Dorothea Griscomb. Slowly the cousins discover they’ve unearthed a magical plot and determine to get to the bottom of it before the season ends.

Though considered YA, the correspondences between Kate and Cecelia have a mature air, with witty banter rivaling that found in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and magical descriptions of London society like those found in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Initially written as a series of letters written in character between the authors, Kate and Cecelia both have unique voices, creating an authentic repartee between the cousins.