Monthly Archives: February 2012

Amanda Knox Signs $4M Book Deal

Amanda Knox is set to be a multi-millionaire. The American exchange student who was convicted of murder and later acquitted just signed a $4 million book deal with HarperCollins to tell her story.

According to this article by Huffington Post, Knox will, for the first time, tell her side, with the help of journals she kept during her time spent in an Italian jail. Publishers say her memoir will detail the murder, the trial, and the second trial that ultimately acquitted her last year, as Hillel Italie explains.

“Knox will give a full and unflinching account of the events that led to her arrest in Perugia and her struggles with the complexities of the Italian judicial system,” HarperCollins said in a statement Thursday.

“Aided by journals she kept during her imprisonment, Knox will talk about her harrowing experience at the hands of the Italian police and later prison guards and inmates. She will reveal never before-told details surrounding her case, and describe how she used her inner strength and strong family ties to cope with the most challenging time of her young life.”

The $4 million deal promises world rights for the book, which is due in early 2013.

As the article mentions, the legal process is not yet over for Knox and the case of her dead roommate. So who’s to say whether or not the book will help or harm her case?Either way, it’ll be interesting to get an inside glimpse into Knox’s life.

Also worth noting is that 20 publishers made offers to buy Knox’s story; yet no one wants to buy the rights to Casey Anthony’s story.

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Composite Sketchings of Your Favorite Book Characters

When you read books, you have an image of what each character looks like. But now, you can actually see them.

It’s time to give a shout-out to fellow book blog The Composites. The Tumblr site make composite sketchings of book characters, based on their physical descriptions in those books. According to the site’s “About Me” section, they use the same composite software that law enforcement agencies use.

As far as I can tell, there aren’t too many characters to view right now, and most of them are ones with which I’m not familiar. However, the site allows you to send in suggestions.

It’s pretty amazing, and I commend the site’s blogger for his highly original content.


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Review: Sing You Home

Recap: For Zoe Baxter, life is all about music and children. She’s a music therapist, who has wanted a baby with her husband, Max, for as long as she can remember. But the couple is plagued with infertility, and after in vitro fertilization, miscarriages and stillborn babies, Max decides he can’t take it anymore and divorces Zoe.

So begins Jodi Picoult’s most recent novel, which, as her novels do, revolves around controversial issues and family. Besides the infertility issues, the story follows Zoe and Max’s after the divorce. Zoe comes out of the closet and marries a woman. Max becomes a born-again Christian and moves in with his religious brother, Reid, and sister-in-law, Liddy.

The fact that Max and Zoe don’t warm to each other’s new lifestyles is no big deal. That is, until Zoe decides she wants to use the last few embryos she froze with Max’s sperm to have a child with her wife, Vanessa. Max has equal say, and as a newly religious man, he does not want to let Zoe raise their children in a homosexual home. What ensues is a trial that makes every character crazy, tired, and determined to get what they want.

Analysis: Jodi Picoult has a way of making interesting stories about families turn into dark, controversial tales that become legal issues. In this story, Picoult takes the debate of homosexual marriage and parenting head-on. She considers the legal and Biblical points of view. With Max, the reader is told that gay marriage is against the law of God, according to the Bible. According to Zoe, family is family, no matter how it’s composed.

She makes these points clear by sharing narrative duties among the characters — Zoe, Max, and Vanessa. It seems strange for Zoe to marry a woman after being married to a man for 9 years; it seems odd that Max — a recovering alcoholic — is born again. But as we read their stories through their eyes, it helps us understand why they’ve changed and how, no matter what happens, there’s still an underlying connection between Max and Zoe.

In Sing You Home, Picoult does an excellent job of taking us through this story of love, children, and the trial. The characters are described in depth, and the issues at hand take a number of turns throughout the story. Picoult also points out the hypocrisy and bureaucracy of the justice  system. The one aspect where the story falls short is in its subplots and the way they’re wrapped up in the end– particularly one about Zoe and one of the girls she counsels. Though the ending feels a bit rushed and predictable, it’s more than satisfying.

MVP: Zoe’s wife, Vanessa. Each character in this book is flawed, and Vanessa is no exception. But she’s the most liberal and understanding. She is madly in love with Zoe, but lets Zoe determine the speed of the relationship, and it’s Vanessa who pushes for Zoe’s dream baby. Vanessa shows how strong true love can be in a book that proves love sometimes can conquer all.
Get Sing You Home now for just $10.88, down from $16.
You can also get it on your Kindle for $9.99, down from $28.

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Get Moneyball for $9.72 or $8.29 on Your Kindle (Free for Amazon Prime Members)

There are only 5 days until the Oscars, and Brad Pitt maintains his status as one of the most talked-about nominees. After all, he starred in two nominees for Best Picture, including fan favorite Moneyball. I, unfortunately, have not had the opportunity to see the movie. Nor have I read the book. But it is a New York Times bestseller.

It tells the true-life story of the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who used good budgeting and undervalued players to outsmart richer teams and have an extremely successful season. It’s certainly an uplifting, underdog story — and when it involves baseball and a true story, how can you say no?

Get it now in paperback for just $9.72.

Or you can get it for your Kindle for just $8.29 — or for FREE if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

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The State of School Libraries

I remember the first time I visited my school library and was told by the librarian “This isn’t a library.”

“What is it, then?” I thought, as I looked around at the bookshelves fully stocked with books and a world of imagination and information.

“It’s a media center.”

At first, I had no idea what that meant. But as I got older and took on more research projects, I learned the true meaning of “media center” and came to appreciate it. The days we were given to do research in the media center were so fun, not only because it meant less lecturing, but  because we learned how to use all these programs I’d never heard of before — like LexisNexis, a large database of public records and information. Not to mention, the librarians — or rather, media center specialists — usually pulled for us the materials we would need.

But as school budgets are slashed and more teachers find themselves unemployed, school libraries and media centers face major cuts — no new books, no full-time staffing, no additional programming. I thought art education cuts were bad enough. Now this?

According to this essay by The Huffington Post, a group made a petition to fight education cuts that would force schools to be without fully operational media centers.

As a lover of learning and the daughter of a high school family and consumer science teacher, I’ll be the first to say how important it is to make sure our schools continue to get sufficient funding, no matter what kind of budget crisis our country faces. Children deserve it.

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Hispanic-American Authors Take a Stand Against Banned Books

The Southwest United States and Mexico are known for smuggling, but next month, authors will be smuggling books.

In January, the Tuscon Unified School District (TUSD) in Arizona allegedly banned books from the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) courses. According to this article by The Huffington Post, school officials ruled that MAS courses violated an Arizona law, requiring classes not to promote the overthrow of the U.S. government or to promote resentment toward a specific race.

But these books weren’t just banned. According to the article, school officials went into classrooms and took the books from students as they were reading. Here is a list of some of the removed books:

  • ‘Critical Race Theory’ by Richard Delgado
  • ‘500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures’ edited by Elizabeth Martinez
  • ‘Message to AZTLAN’ by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
  • ‘Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement’ by Arturo Rosales
  • ‘Occupied America: A History of Chicanos’ by Rodolfo Acuna
  • ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ by Paulo Freire
  • ‘Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years’ by Bill Bigelow

School officials deny that these books are “banned” per se.

Either way, they’re no longer being used, and now teachers and authors are taking a stand against the school. On March 12-18, protestors will form a “Librotraficante” (book trafficker) caravan, carrying the allegedly banned books back over the border into Arizona.

I think this is amazing. For literary and first amendment speech purposes, there’s no reason these books should have been taken from students in the first place. It’s unfortunate though that this is the first I’m hearing about the issue. I hope that when the “Librotraficante” happens, it makes national headlines. There’s something to be said for people standing up for their rights — and using books to do it.

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Take Your Child to a Library Day

It started with Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Then schools became more PC, and it became Take Your Child to Work Day. Not too long ago, someone created Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and now there’s Take Your Child to the Library Day.

This past weekend, a number of libraries nationwide held the first annual event, which offered story hours, scavenger hunts, craft projects, and guest authors. According to this article by The Norwich Bulletin, a library in Connecticut came up with the idea back in December, and emailed a few other local libraries on its Listserv. The idea quickly spread to the Midwest and as far north as Canada.

About 130 libraries in 15 states and Canada participated in the free event to spark interest in public libraries and raise awareness about reading.

Honestly, I think this is a great idea. But the real beauty of it is that going to the library is always free. We shouldn’t have to hold events to get people to visit.

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Review: The Hunger But Mainly Death Games

Recap: In a post-apocalyptic world, only one girl stands the chance to win the epic teen death battle against 23 other opponents: Bratniss Everclean. The Hunger But Mainly Death Games is a witty, ridiculous take on the popular Suzanne Collins trilogy The Hunger Games. Instead of Katniss Everdeen, the story follows Bratniss Everclean. While the overall story is basically the same — teenagers fighting each other to death in a nationally-televised event — the parodied version goes to new extremes.

For instance, the fighters kill each other through cannibalism, defecation, and strangulation with intestines. The book is at times grotesque and disturbing. The author seems to have some kind of obsession with defecation throughout the book. The characters often don’t shower, live in garbage, and eat moldy mayonnaise.

But there are other components of the story that are rather brilliant, such as its breaking of the fourth wall, its self-aware quality, and its jokes about young adult teen novels in general — not to mention cracks at Harry Potter and Twilight. It also uses very current pop culture references to make cheap, but hysterical jokes.

Analysis: To be honest, the potty humor and violence throughout the book was too much for me. Though it was funny, it was disgusting. But I also appreciated it in that it was the author’s way of pointing out how ridiculous the actual Hunger Games story is, when you really think about it.

But the highlights were the book’s references to other popular young adult fiction. For instance, the character Hagridmitch. He’s the parodied version of Katniss’s Hunger Games trainer Haymitch, but he’s actually Hagrid from Harry Potter. Somehow stuck in the wrong young adult teen novel, he constantly refers to Bratniss as Hermoine, talking about Harry and dragons. That is, until Oofie (the parodied Effie) stops him to avoid copyright problems. Hagridmitch appears throughout the book and almost always had me laughing. There’s also a scene that references Twilight author Stephenie Meyer in the most hilarious way.

The book also takes jabs at young adult fiction in general — like its emphasis on love stories — in The Hunger But Mainly Death Games, Pita (the parodied Peeta) is a crazy stalker, the popular use of first-person narration and the often ludicrous decisions made by the main characters.

Some fans of The Hunger Games may not like the book. The Hunger But Mainly Death Games, as I said, points out some of the ridiculous aspects of the original novel and obviously, makes fun of it. Some may also not enjoy the level of grotesque jokes. But overall, it’s a funny, quick read that’s sure to make you laugh at least a few times, whether you’re a fan of The Hunger Games or not.

MVP: Hagridmitch, without a doubt. The author was brilliant to include this character that serves as a metamorphosis of Hagrid and Haymitch. After all, the two characters serve virtually the same purposes in both teen series. Hagridmitch was consistently the funniest character in the book, and in a parody, that’s a perfect character.

Get The Hunger But Mainly Death Games now for just $7.79.

And get the e-book for just $0.99!


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Get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with Movie Tie-in for $8.86

It may not have been my favorite book but Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a huge bestseller. And now the movie version is getting a lot of attention,  with Oscar nominations and a star-studded cast of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.

The book tells the story of a young boy who loses his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. The boy struggles with the loss, but when he finds a key that his father left behind, he’s on a mission to find what lock it opens. The story details the journey of growing up and dealing with loss and pain.

I’ve yet to see the movie, but I’m interested to see how they portray the story onscreen. If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s your chance.

Get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with movie tie-in for just $8.86, down from $14.95.

Or get it for your Kindle for just $7.03.

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Showdown: Barnes and Noble vs. Amazon

Now that Amazon has a growing book publishing industry, authors will have to choose between selling their books on Amazon or in Barnes and Noble and other bookstores across the country. One thing’s for sure; they can’t have it both ways.

Last week, Barnes and Noble released a statement, saying it would not sell Amazon-published books in its stores. According to this article by The New York Times, the decision is the latest punch in the battle between B&N and Amazon. B&N’s chief merchandising officer, Jaime Carey explains the reasoning behind the decision.

“Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent. These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain e-books to our customers. Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content. It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest.”

Yikes; it’s clear that the tension between the two biggest booksellers in the country has been growing for quite some time.

Barnes and Noble will still sell Amazon-published books on its web site, but not all of them.

This move by Barnes and Noble may be smarter than it seems. Choosing not to sell Amazon’s books might seem like the company is limiting itself. On the other hand, a good number of authors will inevitably choose not to have Amazon publish their books if it means Barnes and Noble won’t sell them. That being said, it will be interesting to see how many books Amazon winds up publishing in 2012.

*Sidenote: Amazon’s latest publishing move is a book by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.


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