Monthly Archives: November 2011

Author Attempts to Defy Odds, Opens Small Bookstore

In a time where Amazon and Barnes and Noble rule, the little guys are being shut down. That’s all well and good until it left Nashville, Tennessee without a bookstore. But now a local author is attempting to defy the odds by opening her own bookstore — one she says she doesn’t even want.

According to this article by The New York Times, Ann Patchett — the bestselling author of State of Wonder — is opening her own bookstore, called Parnassus. She couldn’t believe that this cultural city, which is also the home of Vanderbilt University, faced becoming a city with only a campus bookstore.

Between money she earned from her own book sales, the help of her business partner and publishing veteran, Karen Hayes, and six months of hard work, Patchett opened the store earlier this month.

Opening an independent bookstore in this day and age is hard, and Patchett knows it. But it’s also not impossible as Julie Bosman explains.

But she is aspiring to join a small band of bookstore owners who have found patches of old-fashioned success in recent years, competing where Amazon cannot: by being small and sleek, with personal service, intimate author events and a carefully chosen rotation of books.

In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Greenlight Bookstore opened in 2009 and reported sales of more than $1 million in its first year. The Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee was founded two years ago and has been profitable both years, its owner said.

For the sake of books and their industry, I hope that Patchett’s store succeeds. This may not be what she expected to do with her book earnings, but the people of Nashville will surely appreciate it.

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Movie vs. Book: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

By Jenelle Tortorella

Finally, we’ve reached the last installment of what could arguably be called the most popular love story of Generation Y:  Twilight.

Breaking Dawn is the final page-turning, vampire-loving, werewolf-fighting book in Stephanie Meyer’s saga that not only flew off the shelves, but has many a person, young and old, male and female, asking themselves one simple question: Team Edward or Team Jacob?

The books-turned-successful-movie franchise have followed heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), her undead love Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and best wolfy friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), as the trio navigates the realms of mythical creates, forbidden love, and, now, a wedding. The producers of the film wisely chose to split the fourth novel into two movies, giving themselves more time to develop plotlines; despite that, if you haven’t read the books or seen the previous films, you’re going to be lost.

Although many people I’ve spoken with disagree, the first part of the movie is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I was tired of the brooding, teenage-angsty mood that so dominated the first three movies, and finally wanted to smile while watching these films. The wedding is light, joyous, and at times funny.  Bella’s father Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) yet again steals any scene he’s in. There’s some minimal drama — a given with any family gathering — but it’s done well, muted, behind the scenes, and not attention grabbing.  I actually prefer the way the opening to Breaking Dawn Part 1 was done in the film more than it was explained in the book; you’re able to get out of Bella’s head and enjoy a truly beautiful wedding.

We then follow our lovebirds to South America as they begin a honeymoon unlike many: we’re unsure if Bella is going to make it past her wedding night alive — one of the many dangers of marrying a vampire. Spoiler: she does, although the headboard of the bed frame doesn’t. While the backdrop of Isle Esme is breathtaking, I felt that the movie lost some of its pacing here. The length of time spent on the honeymoon in the book is understandable because you’re hearing Bella’s thoughts; in the movie it just feels long.

As the film navigates through the problems that arise following the honeymoon, I think this is where this movie outdoes its predecessors. First, the acting feels much more natural, with each character clearly becoming more comfortable in their roles I hardly cringed at any of the lines. Second, the special effects prove how far this franchise has come with my mental pictures vividly coming alive on screen; ‘disturbing’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

Most importantly, the book is not lost in this film. Sure, there are some plot changes, like a completely unnecessary and random fight between the vamps and wolves, but the core of the story is still there. You feel the joy, pain, loss, and hurt at the decisions the characters are making, as it should be.

In all, this movie captures all of the good and bad of the Twilight saga. Drama-packed, it’s a perfect guilty pleasure. Just make sure you stay for the credits.


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Movie vs. Book: Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed is not only a story about friendship versus love, but about fate versus decisions and desire versus expectations. Those concepts hold true in both the movie and book. The story follows Rachel — a sophisticated, but reserved 30-year-old — who’s spent her entire life in the shadow of her exciting, but self-centered best friend, Darcy. Darcy gets everything she wants. So when Rachel meets the man of her dreams in law school and introduces him to Darcy, that’s the end of Rachel’s dream. Or so she thought.

Flash forward a few years later. Now this man, Dex, and Darcy are about to get married. And in a sudden act of spontaneity, Rachel and Dex sleep together, after years of unspoken feelings. The relationship — or rather, affair — continues. Meanwhile, Darcy is off, having her own affair.

It’s soapy, yes. But it’s also romantic, enticing, and thrilling, and that’s what made Something Borrowed a bestseller. Statistically speaking, the popularity of the book did not translate in theaters.

For instance, the movie uses flashbacks to tell the story of Rachel and Dex, but the affair still feels rushed. First, they accidentally sleep together, and the next thing you know, they’re saying those three little words. However, the book goes deeper into the character’s thoughts, so we understand their feelings as they develop. Not to mention, it takes longer to read a book than to watch a movie. That being said, in the book, the affair between Rachel and Dex feels much longer than it does in the movie, thereby making the book more more believable.

The movie — starring Ginnifer Goodwin as Rachel and Kate Hudson as Darcy — also made a few minor changes, like the role of Ethan. Ethan — played by John Krasinski — is Rachel’s other best friend. In the novel, Ethan doesn’t have a large role, but in the movie, he’s a major character. Despite the plot change, Ethan works well because he’s the comedic highlight of the film. (Though, the way the movie develops his relationship with Rachel is a little hard to believe.)

Despite its flaw and changes, I’m still shocked Something Borrowed did as poorly as it did in theaters.  Maybe it’s because we find ourselves rooting for the girl who’s sleeping with her best friend’s fiance. But it’s evident in both the novel and movie, that Darcy is a bad person, a not-so-great friend, and a horrible girlfriend. This is the story of the underdog finally standing up for herself. The movie version of Something Borrowed is still a fun, light chick flick. I found myself laughing and tearing up at all the right — and cliche — parts. If you read Something Borrowed and enjoyed it — which, let’s be honest; you probably did — it’s definitely worth checking out the movie.

Get Something Borrowed for less than $10.

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No More Kadhafi, No More Book Bans in Libya

Now that Moammar Kadafi is dead, the books that he and his regime banned in Libya are once again available to the public. Like many dictators who came before him, Kadafi made sure that Libyan natives would not be able to get their hands on a number of books and documents while he was in power. For more than 40 years, the Libyan people could not read books like The Secret Life of Saddam Hussein, Sex in the Arab World, and The CIA Files of Arab Rulers.

But according to this article by the L.A. Times, censorship in Libya is now a thing of the past. Last week, a ceremony was held at the Royal Palace in Tripoli, where the unbanning was celebrated. The Toronto Star reported on the ceremony.

“This place was used to distort culture. It was used to terrorize. And so this is the proper place to say Libya now is ready to embrace knowledge and thought without limits.”

Among the attendees was journalist and human rights activist Hassan al-Amin, one of the Gadhafi regime’s sharpest critics during his years of exile in London, who shared a bittersweet swirl of emotions as the books were revealed.

“This is a major moment for us because this is where we reclaim our intellectual freedom. We say goodbye to an era where free thinking was forbidden, where ideas were dangerous,” Amin told the Star.

It’s sad to think that censorship still happens around the world. But I’m glad to know that as this dictators are overthrown in the Egyptian and Arab region, freedom is being returned to its inhabitants.

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No One Wants To Publish Casey Anthony Book

In this day and age, whenever there’s a big news story, it means a book or made-for-TV movie will inevitably come from it. So it’s a safe bet that controversial, national trials fall into that category. Such is the case with Amanda Knox. But for Casey Anthony, don’t hold your breath.

According to this article by Entertainment Weekly, no one wants to publish anything that Casey Anthony writes. The public generally feels sympathetic toward Amanda Knox, and wants to know more about what happened to her overseas. But most believe Casey Anthony got off a little too easy. And with that kind of target on your back, no one cares to hear what you have to say.

The EW article also points out what happened with O.J. Simpson — who found himself in a situation similar to that of Casey Anthony back in the 1990’s — when he wrote a book.

If I Did It, the failed 2007 book — brought to the public by notorious editor Judith Regan — in which O.J. Simpson gave a supposedly “hypothetical” account of his role in the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. The book ignited a huge public outcry pre-publication, prompting the 400,000-copy initial printing to be scrapped by HarperCollins. (Soon after, Regan was unceremoniously dumped by the publishing house.)

Moral of the story: if people don’t like you, don’t bother writing a book about yourself.



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Review: The Prodigal Hour

Recap: If you were given a time travel machine just moments after your father was killed, what would you do? Go back in time, right? Fix it? Save him? Of course. And that’s exactly what happens to Chance Sowin in The Prodigal Hour. At the beginning of the book, Chance Sowin returns home to his father in New Jersey after 9/11 has startled him and made living in New York uncomfortable. But upon his arrival, his father — a brilliant scientist — is murdered. He quickly learns that one of his father’s inventions has something to do with it. He and his longtime neighbor — and childhood crush — Cassie Lackesis unravel the truth behind his father’s research.

His father had developed a time machine. Despite the consequences, the two go back in time to save Chance’s dad. When they do so, his father tells them about the dangers and beauty of time travel. And off they go — back to the time of Jesus and Hitler. With hopes to watch history happen, they instead become involved, and it changes everything.

But The Prodigal Hour uses dual narration. Besides Chance, we also learn about Leonard Kensington, another scientist and time traveler. But as we read the chapters he narrates, we realize he has a distorted sense of reality…or rather it’s different from our reality. It leaves us to wonder how Leonard is related to Chance and Cassie and when and where they will meet.

Analysis: Many novels nowadays tend to use 9/11 as a way to entice readers. It’s a depressing, relatively recent event to which we can all relate, remember, and grieve over. Often times, I feel 9/11 is abused in books and movies. While September 11th is the starting point of The Prodigal Hour, it’s not the focus of the story, and I like that.

And while I’m a big fan of the time travel concept, I must admit the beginning dragged a bit for my taste and was confusing when explaining the science behind the time travel. The Leonard Kensington narration intrigued me, but also left me confused about where he fit into the story.

That being said, the second half of the book was amazing. I had been lost as to why Chance and Cassie travel back to the time of Jesus and Hitler — and not happier moments in history — but I later realized it didn’t matter in the overall scheme of the story. And as the time travel concept came full circle and brought Cassie, Chance, and Leonard within minutes and cities of each other, I couldn’t put the book down. The last half was a whirlwind of crazy time, space continuum, in which I got caught up not only with when and where, but who, what, and why.

MVP: Chance Sowin. His character shows a lot of range, depth, and growth throughout the book. Initially, I am annoyed with him and his stubborn need to travel through time and change history. But he grows up and learns that who is more important than when.

Get The Prodigal Hour for under $15.

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So You’ve Heard of E-books, But What About E-book Shorts?

If you haven’t heard of e-books by now, you most likely reside under a rock. But just because you’ve heard of or have read e-books doesn’t mean you know what e-book shorts are.

E-book shorts are e-books that are longer than articles but shorter than books. Often times, they’re short stories excerpts from a novel. They’re also cheaper than a full-length book. Up until last week, they had been available  through Amazon. Amazon calls them Kindle Singles.

But now, Princeton University Press is jumping on the e-book short bandwagon, publishing 5 e-book shorts. According to this article by the L.A. Times, the shorts are all excerpts and became available last week. They include an excerpt from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Princeton University Press’s shorts are available through a variety of vendors, but are separate from Amazon’s Kindle Singles program.

The question here is whether or not these shorts hurt or help the book industry. On one hand, people will buy them and consider not buying the entire (and more expensive) book. But on the other hand, reading an excerpt may help a reader realize they want to read the whole book. I think it’s an interesting idea nonetheless and hope it means more business for the book industry. What do you think?


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Review: Little Bee

Recap: For a modern upper-middle class woman living in England, it’s rare that you befriend a teenaged, Nigerian illegal immigrant. But that’s exactly what happens in Little Bee, the story of a very unlikely, but beautiful friendship. The book begins with Little Bee, the Nigerian illegal immigrant, escaping from a detention center in England, where she has lived the past two years. She leaves with a few other illegal immigrants, but Little Bee is the only one who has ties in England. She met a British couple years ago and tracks them down in the hopes they’ll take her in and protect her from deportation.

But this isn’t just a story about Little Bee. It’s also one about Sarah — the woman who Little Bee seeks out. Sarah is a magazine editor, caught up in her own world, which consists of a depressed husband, a wonderful lover, and her 4-year-old son, Charlie.

When Little Bee finds Sarah, Sarah’s husband has just committed suicide. Despite her bittersweet bereavement period, she allows Little Bee to enter her life. They share a secret, a strong tie that is explained as their friendship grows and they become part of each others’ future instead of just their past.

Analysis: This book is gripping. The friendship between the two women is beautiful. But the novel also touches on a number of serious social issues — race, illegal immigration, the Nigerian oil conflict. Reading this, I learned about a number of issues I never paid much attention to.

It raises awareness about how difficult it is for a woman like Little Bee to get a fresh start, but the fact that author Chris Cleave makes her so positive, smart, and brave makes it a particularly exciting read.As the story continues, the reader starts to think maybe Little Bee really can start over in this new, modern country. And as the readers’ hope grows for Little Bee, so does the appreciation for Sarah, who initially seems rather selfish.

What pulls the reader in is the back-and-forth narration between Little Bee and Sarah. They both detail their secret bond in memories and flashbacks, keeping the readers on their toes.

But after such a great read, I was upset to find I truly disliked the ending. It was so ambiguous, I thought I had overlooked a major plot point somewhere. Upon finishing the book, I Googled it to find that I wasn’t the only who felt jipped. In fact, the ending is pretty controversial. After reading about these hopeful women who just want a happy ending, we can’t tell if the ending is happy or not — though it steers toward the “not” direction, and that is disappointing.

MVP: Sarah. Many people didn’t enjoy Sarah’s character, but as a journalist, I did. Initially Sarah is selfish and somewhat unlikable but her character develops throughout the book and reveals her good side. What she does for Little Bee is incredible.

Get Little Bee for as low as $5.


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Kardashian Konfidential Updated with Wedding Chapter…FAIL!

Last month, I told you the Kardashian sisters would be giving their book Kardashian Konfidential a wedding makeover.

Included in the updated version is a new chapter and exclusive photos from Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries’ “magical” wedding extravaganza.

But after 72 days of wedded bliss, Kardashian and Humphries are living in Splitsville. Unfortunately, the new edition of Kardashian Konfidential has already been printed up and is still set to hit bookstores on November 22nd.

According to this article in Entertainment Weekly, here’s some of what we can expect in the new edition.

  • “I’m so happy that I’m with a man who’s excited about his work and has such a full life.” —Kim
  • “Putting together a wedding is a huge job…. Still, I did manage to find some time along the way to really think about what was happening and where this next chapter of life was going to take me.” —Kim
  • “We were married! All of those years dreaming about my wedding…. And it was finally here. Just amazing!” —Kim
  • “There was so much going on at this moment…. But for Kris and myself, there was something else going on. Something sweet! Something simple!” —Kim

So what can we learn from this ghastly PR disaster — and marriage?

1. Don’t rush into marriage.

2. Don’t televise the wedding.

3. Don’t sign a special edition book deal until after at least a year of already having been married.

I’m pretty sure we can expect sales of the book to go through the roof for pure irony alone. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I like Kim Kardashian, and I feel bad for the girl. But when it comes to this marriage and the way she marketed it, there was certainly a better way to do it.

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First Came Smartphones, Now Come Smart Books

As if smartphones don’t already do enough thinking for you, now they will be equipped to assist with your reading.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, Atria will begin publishing books with smart chips inside. They will be compatible with NFC-enabled (Near Field Communication) smartphones to provide additional materials for the book.

Right now, the concept is mostly functioning as a marketing tool. Shoppers can use their phones at the bookstore to see what else the books have to offer. The ability to interactively connect with the book lures in the buyer, instantly sparking further interest in the material.

So if books that might otherwise be overlooked start to use this technology, they might do better in sales than anticipated. Though the author of the article brings up a few good points.

I guess this makes me old-fashioned: the way I decide to buy a book in a bookstore is to pick it up and look inside. Would it be possible for a book with a smart chip that adds enhanced content, rather than marketing? How could it be packaged if the book is sitting there on the shelf, easy to flip through?

The first smart book Atria is publishing is The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers and What Makes Them Buy by Gary Schwartz.

What do you think? If a book were a “smart book,” would you be more inclined to buy it?

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