Monthly Archives: January 2012

Review: Nights in Rodanthe

Recap: What if you had a second chance at love? Would you know right away? How long would it take you realize this person was “the one?” Nights in Rodanthe begs these questions in typical Nicholas Sparks fashion. It tells the story of a divorcee, Adrienne, whose daughter’s husband just died. Seeing her daughter struggle in her mourning encourages her to tell her the story she’s kept secret for 14 years.

Years ago, Adrienne spent a weekend at her friend’s Inn in Rodanthe to get away from her children, sick father, and remarried ex-husband. It just so happened to be a weekend that her friend rented a room to Paul Flanner, a talented, respected doctor. As Adrienne spends time with Paul, she begins to realize she’s not the only one with baggage. Paul is also divorced. He has a poor relationship with his son and stopped at the Inn to meet a patient’s husband, who is angry with him about his dead wife.

It sounds confusing, but Adrienne and Paul find simplicity and comfort in each other. And in just a matter of days, they are brought together by fate and love. But making it last beyond that weekend is where the complexity comes back to bite them.

Analysis: As I mentioned above, Nights in Rodanthe is a Nicholas Sparks novel through and through. It’s a love story — a depressing one. It inevitably involves loss and illness. It’s also very predictable. But you know what? It’s still good.

Every once in a while, I need to read a book that lets me clear my head, live in a fantasy, and enjoy. And for that, this is the perfect book. Each part of the story is expected, but it’s fun to live in a romantic fantasy world in which love conquers all, helps you grow, etc, etc, etc.

A few interesting things to note about this particular Sparks novel is that it’s the love story of an older couple. Those extra years means more experience and more baggage. For Paul and Adrienne, this is their second shot at a happy-ending love story. Most of Sparks’ characters die or become ill or go to war before they have a second chance. It’s exciting to think that maybe when you are older and wiser, you know better and fall for the right person — whether the timing is off or not.

MVP: Paul’s son, Mark. Though he has a seemingly minor role in the story, Nights in Rodanthe virtually revolves around him. And despite his youth, he’s one of the strongest characters. He’s not weak like Adrienne, and he’s not selfish like his father. It’s his actions that resonate at the end of the book.

Get Nights in Rodanthe for $8.

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NBC News To Publish Original eBooks

Finally, my two worlds of news and books collide. NBC News announced this week that it has launched a new unit, NBC Publishing. The company will publish e-books based on its own original programming, like NBC Nightly News, Today, and Dateline.

According to this article by Deadline, NBC will work with traditional trade publishers as they have in the past. It will also use products from every group under the NBCUniversal umbrella.  David Lieberman explains the reasoning behind the move.

“As the tablet and e-reader markets continue to expand exponentially, and as the definition of ‘what is a ‘book?’ evolves, we see opportunities to bring readers a unique and immersive content experience,” Gould says. “This business enables NBC to use video, audio, and current programming in creative new ways.”

So good move or bad? I think it’s pretty interesting, nonetheless, and would love to see the content they wind up producing. So would pretty much any reporter or news junkie, I imagine.

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Get The Descendants (Movie Tie-In) for Just $10

Now that the Oscars are only a month away, I thought it might be good to post good deals on the books that were adapted into movies this year. And as most of you know, there were a slew of them. In fact, six of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees were based on books. Kind of ridiculous, when you think about it. That being said, here’s my first deal.

The Descendants — which I’ve seen, but have yet to read — tells the story of Matt King, a man whose wife is in a coma after a serious accident. It’s during this already stressful time that his oldest daughter tells him his wife’s been cheating on him.

King is now forced to deal with his ill wife, her wandering ways, and raising his two daughters. King and his daughters venture out across Hawaii and grow together in ways they never imagined.

Now you can get The Descendants with the movie tie-in for just $10.

You can also get it on your Kindle for just $11.99.

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Apple Reinvents Textbooks

Ah, behold the power of textbooks — educational and valuable? Yes. But they’re also pricey, heavy, and often not used to their full potential. Students tend to avoid opening them at all costs, and even teachers only use certain sections from them. But Apple is reinventing the wonderful world of textbooks — or hoping to.

Last week, the techie company rolled out a new app called iBooks 2, which would allow students to download textbooks onto an iPad for only $15 each. That’s a price students are more willing to pay if it also means having more portable, interactive books.

According to this article by Huffington Post, Apple says the iBooks 2 app — the next step up from its iBooks app, which only offers non-textbook-books — will allow publishers to incorporate 3D models, images, and videos into the books. Students will also be able to look up words, highlight text, and search through the book.

The app is available for free download on the iTunes store. So far, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin have partnered with Apple.

The article only references high school textbooks for the iBooks 2 app. But Apple also announced an iPad and iPhone app for iTunes U that would allow teachers to create syllabi, upload videos from class lectures, and publish class notes.

Overall, this seems like an awesome plan. Yes, the kids will need an iPad to use the program, but many high schools have them now, and if not, the money kids will save from textbooks can now be put toward an iPad! I love the idea of interactive textbooks. It’s a modernized way of making learning fun, and I think that’s something any teacher, student, or parent can appreciate.

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Review: The Tiger’s Wife

Recap: Myth, fantasy, and reality collide in this fictional story about a girl dealing with the loss of her grandfather as she travels through the Balkan countries. Natalia — a doctor — is there to help  sick, war-stricken children. But as she interacts with the children, priests, farmers, and fellow doctors, she remembers the stories her grandfather used to tell her, particularly the one about the tiger’s wife.

Her grandfather had a special love for jungle animals — especially the tiger — because of his obsession with Jungle Book. He used to  tell Natalia about the first tiger he ever saw, as a child in his small village. He told her the tiger had a wife — a deaf, mute woman who was accused of killing her very human husband, Luka. Along with this story, Natalia also remembers her grandfather’s tale about the deathless man.

All the while, war rages on in the Balkans. Natalia tries to help as many children as she can, while also attempting to make sense of what’s real in these fables and what’s not.

Analysis: In doing some research of The Tiger’s Wife, it’s clear that the book is praised and well-liked for Tea Obreht’s interwoven mythical stories, details about the Balkan wars, and her own personal journey. But I disliked the book for the same reasons it gets praise.

I found the various stories and tales to be confusing and jarring. In detailing Natalia’s personal journey, Obreht would suddenly go back to a tale about the tiger’s wife or the deathless man. It took time for me to realize that Obreht had changed focuses to another subplot. Each chapter seemed to be a short story in and of itself, giving the overall book a disjointed feel. It made it difficult for me to keep track of characters’ names and their connections to Natalia and her grandfather. I found myself regularly flipping back through pages and chapters to refresh my memory on certain stories and characters.

And what’s worse; to some degree, I finished the book almost feeling as though nothing had happened. The end was ambiguous, and the story never seemed to reach a climactic moment. I kept waiting for it, but it didn’t come. The biggest plot twist came during the tale of the tiger’s wife, but in my mind, that story was mostly a myth, not something to be taken seriously.

And on top of it all, Obreht’s writing was difficult to follow. Typically, a writer’s actual writing doesn’t bother me; it’s the content I like to critique. But in this case, I couldn’t be more perturbed by the author’s lengthy, complex sentences.

MVP: The deathless man. Of all the plots and subplots in this book, the story of the deathless man was my favorite. His mystery intrigued, and I also enjoyed the relationship he developed with Natalia’s grandfather through their various meetings over the years. This mystical man was the highlight of the novel for me; he was the only part that left me wanting more.

**Note: After doing more research, I’ve also learned that this novel is praised for its use of magical realism. But in my opinion, only a great writer can truly pull off that genre, and Obreht did not with The Tiger’s Wife.

Get The Tiger’s Wife for just $9.

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Hunger Games Movie Marketing Boosts Book Sales

People are getting hungry for The Hunger Games (See what I did there?) The movie version of the bestselling book is still two months away from debuting in theaters, but the hype has convinced people to crack open the book.

According to this article by The New York Times, circulation of the series — including The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay — has more than doubled since the summer. That’s when production on the first movie began. At that point, only 9.6 million book in the series were in circulation in the U.S. But now, that number has climbed to about 23 million copies.

With help from the movie’s production company, Lionsgate, people are getting excited, as Brooks Barnes and Julie Bosman explain.

Tim Palen, the studio’s chief marketing officer, started adding kindling soon after, slowly doling out images of the characters — including Jennifer Lawrence as the young heroine, Katniss Everdeen — and sneak-peek film footage to MTV…The first full-length trailer made its debut on Nov. 18 (with “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1”), igniting Facebook and the blogosphere.

Scholastic officials say this isn’t all Lionsgate’s gates doing. The holiday gift-giving season and word-of-mouth also contributed to the spike in sales. Either way, there’s still more to come. Scholastic will release special movie tie-in version of the books February 3rd, which is sure to improve sales further.

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Overdue Library Books? You’re Under Arrest!

Holding onto overdue library books for too long is a federal offense. Kidding! But one Massachusetts woman opened her door one day to find an officer scolding her for a few overdue library books.

According to this article by CNN, the police paid the family a visit for two overdue children’s books that had not been returned after a warning letter was sent and multiple phone calls made. Granted, the books had been lying on the family’s bookshelf since April, but was that really necessary? Especially when, according to Kristina Sgueglia, it left a 5-year-old girl in tears for fear of being arrested?

Hailey — who was standing beside her mom when the officer arrived — then burst into tears.

‘Is that policeman going to arrest me?'” Benoit quoted her daughter to CNN affiliate WBZ-TV.

“I was scared,” added Hailey.

The library said the little girl’s father also owed $100 in late fees for audiobooks. Again, I completely understand the library using force to have these books returned, but I’m still not entirely sure sending a police officer to the house is the right move. Though it’s something the library in Charlton, Massachusetts seeming to be doing more and more, as Sgueglia explains.

Police Chief James A. Pervier said his officers have been asked by library personnel to make similar visits to at least 13 other Charlton households over library late fees.

Officials say the police-backed crackdown has since inspired more prompt book returns among library patrons.

What do you think? Is sending an officer to a home to get unreturned library books the best way to get those books back? If not, what else can be done?

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