Monthly Archives: December 2011

Get Harry Potter Page to Screen Coffee Table Book for Less Than $50

The story of Harry Potter may be complete, but our interest in the character, books, and movies has not subsided. And if you’re still looking for a Christmas or Chanukkah gift for that die-hard Potter fan, here’s the perfect present: Harry Potter Page to Screen. It’s a coffee table book with behind-the-scenes and never-before-seen photos, plans, and sketches about the transition from novel to film. It sounds kind of amazing.

The full price is $75, but it’s now available for just $41. Get it while you can, Muggles.

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Get Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy in Hardcover for Under $40

If you haven’t read Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy yet (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), you must take yourself out from that hole and get a copy. If you have read it, you know how thrilling and valuable this series is.

Set in modern-day Sweden, a journalist teams up with a troubled girl to crack mysterious, vicious crimes. But the girl with the dragon tattoo has a dark past of her own, and the story that ensues finds the two fighting for their lives.

Now you can get the entire trilogy – plus an additional book including essays by and about author Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004 — in hardcover for just $34.74. That’s a 65% savings.

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Review: The Age of Innocence

Recap: New York City in the 1870’s is nothing like the Manhattan we know today. And that’s what Edith Wharton shows us in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence. An American fiction classic, The Age of Innocence tells the story of Newland Archer, an upstanding New York lawyer who comes from a family of wealth and aristocracy. Archer is set to marry the lovely, fair, and innocent May Welland. But when May’s “foreign” cousin Madame Ellen Olenska returns to New York after her marriage fails in Europe, things get complicated.

Because Ellen Olesnka wants a divorce, she is black-labeled as the scandalous member of the family. On top of that, her time spent in Europe makes her “different” from the other women in New York. While most are embarrassed by her, Archer is intrigued. Their relationship quickly falls into the realm of flirtation when he is asked to deal with her divorce. But because divorce is so vehemently frowned upon, he encourages her to stay married to her husband but to continue living away from him in New York.

As their relationship progresses, so does Archer’s insistence that May move up the date of their wedding. In 19th century New York, the only thing people discuss more than divorce is an affair, thereby making Newland Archer, Ellen Olenska, and May Welland the talk of the town.

Analysis: The Age of Innocence is a classic story of expectation versus desire, and this is mostly due to the setting of the novel. In 1870’s New York, there are certain things that are expected from members of the high society. For instance, marriage, children, trips to Europe and the opera, and dinner parties. But Archer’s relationship with Madame Olenska opens his eyes to a world where people make decisions based on what they feel, rather than what they’re expected to do.

Madame Olenska is the woman he most obviously loves. He admires her strength, beauty, and passion. But May represents what’s expected of him: a nice New York girl who’s beautiful, has done no wrong and comes from a good family. As tempted as he is, the story does not turn out the way a modern day love triangle story would. In that period of American history, avoiding scandal was a priority.

So it seems that the story’s setting itself is its own character in the novel. The time and place directly control the characters’ actions. But because we live in modern times, it also makes the story suspenseful, thrilling, and above all, romantic, in the most heartbreaking of ways.

MVP: Madame Olenska. She’s the only character in the novel who truly shows strength and bravery. Yes, she’s “different” from the other New York women, but it’s because she’s willing to stand up for herself by getting out of a bad marriage and befriending those who she legitimately likes, rather than those who come from good family backgrounds. She speak her mind, when everyone else’s mouths and minds stay shut.

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CliffsNotes Comes to the Web…In Video Form

In case you ever wanted to see a classic book or Shakespeare played out in cartoon form, you can now. That’s right. CliffsNotes is coming to the web.

According to this article from Entertainment Weekly, Producer Mark Burnett has teamed up with CliffsNotes, AOL, and Coalition Films to create web videos of all the classic novels and plays, mostly read by high school and college students.

Producers say they don’t want to replace the books by any means. But for the students who won’t read the books anyway and already plan to read the CliffsNotes, now they can just watch them instead. Not to mention, they’ll also be funny, which could pull people in more than the original book might. Stephan Lee explains.

Burnett got involved in the project after seeing a need for this sort of content. “There’s no question that there’s no replacement for reading the actual books,” he told EW. “But kids do use CliffsNotes worldwide, no question about it. It amazed me that there was no digital version of these CliffsNotes.” In addition to being quick and informative, the series aims to engage its audience with humor.

Only six Shakespearean plays are currently available, including Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But Burnett hopes to eventually have hundreds of shorts on his site.

I can’t decide if I think this is good for the industry — because more people will likely learn the stories — or bad — because they won’t be reading the originals. What do you guys think?

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Tina Fey, Betty White Get Grammy Nods for Audiobooks

They’re funny, they’re cute, and they both have bestselling books. So there’s no reason Tina Fey and Betty White shouldn’t be nominated for awards for the memoirs they released this year. But for these two lucky ladies, it’s not their written words that are being admired; it’s also their spoken words.

Tina Fey and Betty White both received Grammy nominations in the “Spoken Word” category for their audiobooks: Bossypants by Tina Fey and If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White.

Though this year’s other nominations in the category include audio performances, it seems that in recent years, audiobooks have taken the lead.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, former President Bill Clinton won the 2005 Spoken Word Grammy with his book My Life. In 2006, it went to then Senator Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father. Jimmy Carter’s audiobook won in 2007. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope won in 2008. The 2009 Spoken Word Grammy went to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, 2010’s award went to Michael J. Fox for his audiobook, and 2011 went to Jon Stewart for his.

It seems that the Grammy panel really enjoys listening to politicians, comedians, and celebrities while driving their cars. And really, who can blame them? So if you had to choose, who would it be? Betty White or Tina Fey?

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Review: Dear John

Recap: It’s a story we’ve all heard before. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy goes off to war. Sadness ensues. But the story of Dear John goes a little further. Not only must the soldier and protagonist, John, return to his duties in Germany and leave behind his new girlfriend, Savannah. He must also say goodbye to his father, who suffers from Asberger’s syndrome.

Dear John is a love story between John, who’s on leave from the military, and Savannah, who’s building homes during her spring break from UNC. The unlikely two fall in love in just a few weeks. But in that time, Savannah — who is studying psychology at school — points out to John that his father may be autistic. Even though that would explain his father’s isolation and awkwardness, the suggestion erupts into a fight that ultimately brings John and Savannah — and John’s father — closer together.

Before they know it, John and Savannah are two halves of a (very) long-distance relationship. After a year, John returns to Savannah, and though things have changed, their feelings for each other have not. John, once again, goes back to the army. But then September 11th happens. And though he promised Savannah he wouldn’t re-sign, he feels obligated to venture off to Afghanistan. And that one decision is the one that would change both of their lives forever.

Analysis: In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, Dear John is a love story that not only deals with the hardships of love and the questions about fate and destiny, but with disease and chronic illness. The story focuses on the effects of autism, pertaining to John’s father. It also deals with physical illness — cancer — from which Savannah’s friend, Tim, suffers. Throw war on top of that, and you’re dealing with a book that has a lot of heavy issues.

The first part of the book focuses on the love story between the two main characters, but the latter portions are much darker. The characters brood, yearn for each other, and generally make the reader depressed. Not to mention, John and his father are rather likable, but I didn’t love Savannah. She was too much of a “goody-goody,” and an annoying one at that. The problem here is that if I don’t love her, it’s hard for me to understand why John does. Therein lies a major flaw.

I still enjoyed the book regardless. There’s really nothing like a romance — no matter how annoying the characters are. And the parts about the war were also done well. Though I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I understood that it was reality. Sometimes our lives don’t go the way we plan, and sometimes it’s our own fault. But that’s the way it is, and that’s what Dear John is really all about.

MVP: John’s dad. As Savannah blatantly points out throughout the novel, John’s father did an excellent job of raising him, despite his autism. As more and more illnesses are discovered, doctors realize that older patients were overlooked in their youth. That seems to be the case here. When John’s father was young and a little “off,” there was no reason to believe anything was actually wrong with him. The idea of this character is a good one, and Sparks does it the right way.

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Nasty Amazon Review Has Author Suing

Every once in a while, I come across a story that makes me think “REALLY?!” This is one of those stories.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, a British author is suing someone over a negative book review they wrote on Amazon. Yes, really. Apparently, British libel laws are completely different from those of the United States, and this lawsuit is somewhat warranted there.

Author Chris McGrath is suing Vaughn Jones for writing a review — which has since been removed — of his book The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need to Know. He’s also suing Amazon, Richard Dawkins, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation — for whom Jones also wrote an article.

The article also mentions that Jones could not afford representation. That, and the fact that Britain’s dafamation laws generally work in the favor of the claimant make it seem like McGrath is the likely winner here.

To me, the fact that an author could sue over a bad review is ludicrous. Freedom of speech is an obvious right in the United States, and critical reviews are a daily occurrence. The fact that this could cause an uproar in modern times just blows my mind. What do you guys think?

 

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Bill Gates: Book Critic

Bill Gates is best known for his computer work. But now he’s entering another field: book reviews.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, Gates has been reviewing books on his personal web site, The Gates Notes, since March of this year. It seems that the majority of the books he’s read and reviewed are nonfiction and align with his philanthropic interests, like healthcare, education, and technology. Just a few of the books he’s read include Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing by John Houghton, and The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa by Deborah Brautigam.

When I first read this article about Gates’ new venture into book reviews, I thought “What does he know? I thought he only knows computers.” But he is a Harvard dropout, and his worldly interests and opportunities have given him a real-life perspective into many of the topics he’s reading about and reviewing. That being said, his reviews are pretty good and eloquently written.

So if you ever get sick of me, just know you can always go to The Gates Notes and see what Bill Gates has to say about the latest nonfiction reads on prevalent social issues.

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