Monthly Archives: August 2011

Controversial Children’s Book Targets Teen Dieting

When you read Bridget Jones’ Diary, you expect to learn about the character’s relationship with food. But when you crack open a children’s book to read to your 5-year-old, food and diet plans are the last things you expect to read about.

Maggie Goes On a Diet is a new book by Paul Kramer that targets just that: child and teen dieting.

The book — due out in October — is already making headlines for its controversial topic. While the author says it’s his way of teaching kids about leading a healthy lifestyle, experts say children under the age of 16 are far too young to be concerned about caloric intake. Though the country is leading the way in child obesity, they say writing children’s books about getting fit and thereby becoming popular, is not the right way to go about dealing with the issue.

According to this ABC article, experts also call the storyline unrealistic:

Weight-loss experts say that the storybook plotline doesn’t reflect what happens in real children’s lives. Joanne Ikeda is the co-founding director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Center on Weight and Health.

Highlighting imperfections in a boy’s or girl’s body “does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits,” Ikeda said.

In real life, dieting down to a smaller clothing size doesn’t guarantee living happily ever after.

In his defense, the author says this was his attempt at teaching kids to exercise, eat healthy, and feel good about themselves.

What do you guys think? Is this children’s book going too far?

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Borders Bust Hurting More Than Just Books

When Borders announced it would liquidate its remaining 400 stores earlier this summer, it was no surprise that it would hurt the book industry. But what some may not have realized is that it also hurts magazines.

As you may recall, there are walls of newsstands filled with magazines inside both Borders and Barnes and Noble. I can remember a number of Friday nights spent with my friends in high school, just flipping through magazines at our local bookstore. We read all the juicy, gossipy ones our parents wouldn’t let us subscribe to.

But among those newsstands are lesser-known magazines — ones like Mother Jones, Witches and Pagans, and Crone. They’re smaller publications that don’t get the popular placement in supermarket checkout lines like People or Cosmopolitan.

According to this article by The News Frontier, with Borders going out of business, these smaller publications are suffering. And they don’t have many other options, as Alysia Santo explains:

She says Borders’ closing leaves her at a huge loss because there are very few outlets interested in stocking magazines which are specifically aimed at “pagans, witches, and goddess worshippers.” “I’m not checkout stand material,” says Niven. “People aren’t necessarily going to want to see a magazine about witches next to their gum.”

Add to that the financial burden of the magazines that don’t get sold before Borders closes, and these publications are already halfway out the door. Now they’re relying almost solely on subscribers.

It’s a sad time for the little guys. Will they ever come out on top?

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The Line Between Print Books and E-Books Just Got Cloudy

As e-books continue to become more accessible and convenient, the Amazon Kindle reveals its latest development: the Kindle Cloud Reader.

Much like Apple’s iCloud — which weaves together your Apple products in a way that you can access your apps from whichever platform you choose — the Kindle Cloud Reader will allow readers to access their downloaded books on multiple platforms.

According to the L.A. Times, it will work with Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari. So whatever book you’ve downloaded onto your Kindle may be accessed via desktop or iPad.

That being said, the Kindle Cloud Reader solidifies a friendship between Amazon’s Kindle and Apple. With the app, those who own Kindles and  use Apple products will be able to directly access the Kindle store, instead of the current in-app purchase option, which is subject to additional Apple fees.

To be honest, it sounds a little confusing to me. But the idea of accessing already downloaded Kindle books online or through other platforms is intriguing. What do you guys think?

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Review: The Lost Symbol

Recap: The Lost Symbol begins in much the same way all of Dan Brown’s books in the Robert Langdon series do: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is abruptly interrupted to respond to a symbol emergency. In this particular novel — the third and most recent in the series — Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon, requests that he give a speech at the United States Capitol. So Langdon flies to Washington D.C. But he’s in for much more than he imagined. 

He soon learns he’s been tricked. In fact, Peter Solomon has no idea Langdon is in town. And as Langdon attempts to find him, he instead finds his mentor’s severed hand, lying in the middle of the Capitol Rotunda. In a moment of chaos, Langdon learns Solomon has been kidnapped by a man named Mal’akh. Mal’akh tells him the only way Solomon will be spared is if Langdon locates the Lost Word and Mason’s Pyramid.

And so begins a new symbolic saga for Langdon, who must find the Lost Word, the Mason’s Pyramid, Peter Solomon, and deal with the CIA in its attempts to find the kidnapper.

Analysis: It’s apparent that Brown uses a specific guideline for his Robert Langdon stories. They all start the same and take Robert Langdon to another city on a quest to find or decode something. Always, there is an exotic woman involved — in this case, Peter Solomon’s younger sister and brilliant scientist Katherine — and the entire long-winded story takes place in the course of an evening.

Brown not only uses similar formatting in his novels, but common themes as well: religion, symbology, ancient art, architecture, and history. The same holds true in The Lost Symbol, in which the reader is taught about the world of Freemasonry. Also included is information about the architecture in Washington D.C. and the art that adorns it. You know when you’re reading a Dan Brown novel, it’s going to be  heavy. There’s a lot for the readers to wrap their heads around. And as overwhelming and intimidating as it looks, the background information is necessary in the long run.

In The Lost Symbol, Brown also focuses a lot on character development. Learning about Katherine’s Noetic science research and the many transformations of Mal’akh are particularly fascinating.

But there’s nothing like Brown’s pacing and storytelling. The short chapters help the novel move along quickly, and the major twist toward the end is breathtaking.

MVP: Katherine Solomon. Girl power! This woman is brilliant and kicks ass. She works well with Langdon to try to uncover the Ancient Mysteries and the location of her brother. There’s an underlying tone of romance between her and Langdon, but Brown keep its realistic. But most importantly, Katherine’s emotional ties to their work –namely, trying to saving her brother’s life — makes the reader feel for Katherine and the pressure she is under.

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Positive Reviews for Pottermore!

If you’re still waiting for the email saying you’ve been chosen to enter the wonderful wizarding world of Pottermore, then you’re wasting your time.

It seems the Sorting Hat has already picked the special few who get an early look at the Harry Potter-infused web site. And so far it’s getting good reviews.

Writers from Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly got first looks (I’m not sure if that was purely by chance or because they’re writers for Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly), and it seems they had few bad things to say about it.

The cons: moments of slow connectivity, glitches in hidden content, trouble stirring potions, not much to do upon first entering the site.

The pros: character backgrounds, location histories, excluded plot lines, fun facts (like Hermoine’s last name was originally going to be Puckle), having a wand choose you (and match your personality traits), few ads, House points, House Cup, surprise video clips from J.K. Rowling herself, etc, etc, more fabulousness, etc.

It’s clear that the pros outweigh the cons here. But probably the most interesting thing I learned upon reading the reviews is that only Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone content is available at this point. I suppose content related to the other books will come in due time, but that’s kind of a downer. The good news is…October is just around the corner, and Pottermore will be free to all of us Muggles!

For more, here’s my take on the web site, the Huffington Post review, the Entertainment Weekly review, and more photos from Entertainment Weekly.

**Edit: It has come to my attention that all those who have signed up for Pottermore WILL gain full access to the site prior to October. The site is operating on a rolling admission. Please see comments below.

Get the entire Harry Potter box set in paperback for only $50 — a total savings of 43%.

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The Hunger Games’ New Mockingjay Mockup

The Hunger Games has a new look. Scholastic has put together The Hunger Games Collector’s Edition, featuring new and improved cover art.

The original book used the Mockingjay pin as its central focus, and the other books in the series followed suit. The new version still features a mockingjay, minus the pin. As we Hunger Games readers know, the mockingjay has much more meaning to the series than just being a pin.

In this Entertainment Weekly article, Scholastic editorial director David Levithan explains how the new mockup came to be:

“Amazingly, we chose the mockingjay image for the first book before we knew how crucial it would be in the trilogy, and we concepted the cover directions for Catching Fire and Mockingjay before we’d read a word of either book.” He  adds, “Now we have the opportunity to go back and create new icons for each book.”

Levithan adds that the pinless mockingjay teases the significant role of the bird in the series.

So is the new cover better or worse?

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iSteve: The Bio Has Been Moved Up!

There’s more news on the way from Steve Jobs. No, it’s not a newer version of the iPad, iPod, or iPhone, but rather a history of iSteve.

The uber-rich, turtleneck-loving Apple CEO’s biography will now be released November 21st, according to the L.A. Times. The book, written by Aspen Institute president Walter Isaacson, was initially set to come out March 6th.

With the release still 3 months away, the bio has already undergone a number of changes. First: its title — originally iSteve: The Book of Jobs — is now Steve Jobs: A Biography. And the cover has also changed from this (somewhat clever, but unrecognizable) mock-up to the one included in this blog post.

There’s no question that Jobs’ bio will do well, like all of his other products. In fact, it’s already an Amazon bestseller thanks to pre-orders.

But what’s most interesting is what will be included in the biography. According to this L.A. Times article, it’s more than just his rise to the head of an internationally-renowned technology company.

A quote from Jobs in the [Barnes and Noble] description seems to hint at what the Apple CEO has to say in the book.

“I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was 23 and the way I handled that,” Jobs said, according to the description. “But I don’t have any skeletons in my closet that can’t be allowed out.”

The Barnes & Noble listing said that Jobs was, at times, brutally honest “about the people he worked with and competed against,” and his friends and foes were the same.

Sounds like Steve Jobs had a juicier life than we all thought! He’s man who’s created so much and shared so little…until now.

So, are you going to read it?

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