Monthly Archives: March 2012

Introducing Classics To Babies

They’re called “board books.” By the name, you might not know to what I’m referring, but you’d recognize them. They’re the little square-shaped books for babies and young children that are made out of thick cardboard. The pages are more like slices of wood than pieces of paper. And now it seems, publishers are taking to these board books to introduce the literary classics to young children.

According to this article by The Montreal Gazette, BabyLit books are now featuring stories by Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), and Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice). As Bernie Goedhart explains, publishers say this is a good for young children.

The series, we’re told on the back covers, “is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.”

Is it though? Do children at the ripe old age of 3 really need to know about Romeo and Juliet and their willingness to die for each other? I understand getting the kids to read the classics early, but I hardly think waiting until they’re 10 and 11 years old is late. What do you guys think?


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Review: The Long Hello and Looking Into Your Voice

Recap: It’s a growing disease and it’s one of the most devastating, not only for victims, but for their families as well: Alzheimer’s Disease. In two books, Cathie Borrie details her experience with the disease, from which her mother was suffering. Borrie recorded many of the conversations she had with her mother, most of which don’t make sense and confuse her mother. But many of them also reveal an underlying layer of wisdom that her mother maintains, despite her memory loss. They also depict Borrie’s commendable patience, frustration, and love for her mother.

Looking Into Your Voice is a transcription of these conversations in poetic form. But The Long Hello incorporates the conversations into an overall story, complete with flashbacks and memories from Cathie’s childhood — allowing the reader to understand what her mother was like before the Alzheimer’s took over.

Analysis: The beauty of these books is again, not just an inside look at Cathie’s mother, the Alzheimer’s patient. But it also shows us how the disease affects Cathie, the caretaker. She gives up her life to care for her mother; there is no man, no job, just a commitment that she’ll be with her mother everyday to make sure she makes it through. Not all caretakers are so generous or willing to make that kind of a commitment, but her conversations show how mentally debilitating the disease can be and often, how necessary it is to have someone with an Alzheimer’s patient at all times. Caring for a person with Alzeheimer’s can take a lot of our of a person, both physically and emotionally.

And as angry and frustrated as Cathie gets — especially when she has to remind her mother that no one is going to take her house away from her — she’s always there. I admire her patience with her mother and those repeated, confusing conversations.

I really enjoyed the way Borrie organized her mother’s quotes and conversations in Looking Into Your Voice. It shows that her mother may not be the same person anymore, but she’s still a mother. She’s still able to give advice — in a nonsensical, yet nurturing way. She’s still able to love her daughter — when she recognizes her. She’s inherently a mother, and that never goes away.

MVP: Cathie. Her selflessness is admirable. Her attitude is mostly positive. And when it’s not, we, as readers, can understand why. As someone who has Alzheimer’s in my family, I know how hard it can be to deal with, and I am envious of Cathie’s patience and tender loving care.

Get The Long Hello for $14.99, or on your Kindle for just $8.15.

Get Looking Into Your Voice for $9.99.

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J.K. Rowling Sure Knows How to Make Headlines

The beloved Harry Potter series may very well be over, but author J.K. Rowling certainly knows how to keep her name in the news. The author recently announced that she would be writing another novel — but this one, for adults. Then there was the announcement that her Pottermore web site won’t be ready to open to the public until early April — 6 months after its scheduled opening. And now, according to Entertainment Weekly, she’s no longer a billionaire — sadly just a millionaire.

EW reports that Rowling has given away so much money to charity and taxes — an estimated $160 million — she was removed from the Forbes Rich List.

But with Pottermore set to open to the public in April and a new book on the way, her profits will surely boost again.

The reason for the delayed Pottermore opening is simply because it wasn’t ready yet. A beta version of the site opened in October, but had a number of major glitches that needed to be ironed out.

And as far as the new, adult book is concerned — not much has been released about it. It does not yet have a title or publication date. All we know is that Little, Brown is publishing it and that it will be “very different” from the Potter series, according to Rowling’s statement, below:

“Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world,” she said. “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.”

So what do you think? Will J.K. Rowling soon be back on top?


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Review: Wuthering Heights

Recap: An 1800’s novel about romance, Wuthering Heights is narrated by Mr. Lockwood, a new tenant at the Wuthering Heights estate in England. His landlord is the gruff, unhappy Mr. Heathcliff. During Lockwood’s time at Wuthering Heights, he becomes ill and learns the history of the estate. He hears the story from Ellen, or Nelly, the maid who has served the families of both estates on the hill — Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.

He hears about Heathcliff, an orphan who was adopted by Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights. Earnshaw was the drunken father to two children — Catherine and Hindley. Catherine and Heathcliff become close childhood friends and siblings, but the bond they form goes much deeper. Meanwhile, Hindley hates Heathcliff for abruptly entering his family and forming such a close relationship with Catherine.

Enter the Linton family, who lives at Thrushcross Grange. When Heathcliff and Catherine one day decide to spy on the Lintons, Catherine is attacked by their dog and then stays at their estate until her condition improves. She returns to Wuthering Heights a changed girl — a girl that’s now formed a relationship with Edgar Linton. Catherine is a beautiful, but stubborn girl who’s now in love with and loved by two men from two different estates and two very different backgrounds: Heathcliff, a poor orphan and Edgar, a rich, upstanding boy.

When Catherine and Edgar ultimately marry, it changes the course not only for Heathcliff, but for Edgar’s sister, Isabella, and the next generation of children at Wuthering Heights.

Analysis: If you couldn’t already guess, Wuthering Heights can be confusing. In fact, for much of the novel, I continued to read Spark Notes and Wikipedia pages online to keep track of the characters. It seems like every other chapter, someone is either getting married, getting ill, or dying. Not to mention, many of them keep family names and pass them on to their children. At times, it’s hard to decipher who the author, Emily Bronte, is talking about.

That being said, Wuthering Heights has one overwhelming obvious theme: passionate love and passionate hatred, and the way these two ideas can implode on two families. When Catherine chooses Edgar over Heathcliff, it’s clear that she’s choosing status over love, a move that deeply affects Heathcliff. Always a mischievous boy, he grows up to be an upstanding gentleman in an attempt to change Catherine’s mind. But when that doesn’t work and she ultimately succumbs to sickness and death, Heathcliff feels empty. He becomes a horribly, angry man with no love to share — not even for his niece (Catherine’s daughter, Cathy) and nephew. That climactic moment also deepens the fury between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton, who hold grudges against each other for the rest of their lives until it affects their children as well.

Wuthering Heights is a modern-day soap opera in 1800’s novel form. It’s dark, complicated, and heated — complete with ghosts, visions, fickle, unhappy women, and the most unlikable main character — Heathcliff.

MVP: Ellen, the servant. She’s a little yenta, who details all the fights and romances at the Heights and the Grange. She knows it all and is willing to spill. But she maintains friendships with the characters nonetheless. She is the most dependable, likeable character, who bluntly tells it like it is.
Get Wuthering Heights now for just $5.95
Or get it for free on your Kindle.


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Movie vs. Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Often times, we think the book version of a story is without a doubt better than the movie adaptation. For me, they’re often on the same level. But in the case of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I found the movie to be far superior to the novel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of 9-year-old Oskar, whose father has died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Oskar sets out on a mission to locate the lock to a key he found in one of his father’s vases. The search brings him on a journey across the city — a hunt for something his father left behind, a mission to reconnect with his dad one last time.

Though I enjoyed the overall story of the book, I disliked the ending and had a lot of problems with the book’s subplots and characters. There are a number of details, characters, and subplots the movie left out entirely, and that’s why I think the movie is better. For instance, it eliminates the narration by Oskar’s grandparents and their backstory. I didn’t care about the grandparents in the novel. I found them to be unlikable and more of a nuisance than an addition to Oskar’s story. By eliminating that subplot from the movie, Oskar and his search are better developed. And let’s be honest; that’s the story we really care about anyway.

Another big change the movie made was deleting the character Mr. Black, who — in the book — explores the city with Oskar and makes sure he’s safe. Instead, the movie substitutes Mr. Black with Oskar’s grandfather. Though Mr. Black is one of my favorite characters from the book, I’m actually okay with the movie giving this role to Oskar’s grandfather. It allows them to build a relationship, and a grandson-grandfather relationship is far more important than a friendship.

Then there’s the ending. In the novel, the ending is heartbreakingly disappointing. After months of searching, Oskar finds out to whom the key belongs and what it opens. But he also learns it has no relation to his father. I remember feeling angry when I read the ending. But seeing it on film made me realize it was more about the journey than the end result. The movie and Sandra Bullock (as Oskar’s mother) also do an excellent job of portraying the moment Oskar’s mother tells him she knew what he was doing all along.  Up to this point, the reader/viewer thinks that Oscar’s mother must be completely self-absorbed and terrible. But when we learn that she made an effort to contact all of the people Oskar visits in his search, we realize how wonderful she is. Oskar and his mother have finally found a way to connect.

The movie also makes the ending more uplifting when Oskar finds a note from his father in Central Park. It was the final piece of a puzzle he had tried to solve before his father’s death. If I remember correctly, this discovered note was not a part of the novel. Though unrealistic, it gives Oskar closure, knowing he did, in fact, solve one of his father’s last puzzles. In the book, there’s no uplifting moment at the end. That’s why the movie is a beautiful look at relationships, family, and life’s mysteries, whereas the book is often times a depressing mess of emotions.

**Thomas Horn (Oskar) also shows off unbelievable acting chops for such a young age. His passion brought me to tears on multiple occasions and should not be overlooked.

Get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with movie tie-in now for just $8.79.


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The Outrage of “Chick Nonfiction”

Last month, a searing debate arose when one critic called Jodi Kantor’s newest book The Obamas a work of “chick nonfiction.” New York Times writer Douglas Brinkley used the phrase, saying The Obamas was “not about politics, it’s about marriage.”

And so began a heated debate about women’s writing — to whom does it appeal? Is it always about love? Can it ever be serious or liked by a man?

According to this article by Huffington Post, those two words — “chick nonfiction” — got female authors talking about their under-appreciation in the book industry. Author Jennifer Weiner took to Twitter and an email with TABLET magazine to say this:

“My suspicion is that if a male reporter had written a detailed, well-researched, revealing book about the First Marriage, it would have been praised as a serious work of journalism. However, when the old, pernicious double standards still apply, if it’s a lady doing the investigation, the personal can never be political … it can only be gossip, and the writer, however skilled a reporter, is still merely a chick.”

Weiner has a point. Why can’t a woman write a serious book without it being labeled as non-serious? If a man were to write a book about the Obamas, don’t you think it would have been necessary for him to include information about the marriage itself? No one would be calling it “chick nonfiction” then. It would just be nonfiction, truth, fact.

The double standard in the book industry is alive and well. Let’s hope female authors — particularly the ones with gusto like Jennifer Weiner — can stand up to that challenge and relieve women of the stereotypes they face.

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Get The Vow Ebook for $7.64 or in Paperback for $8.63

The movie The Vow ranked #1 in the box office during its opening weekend. And it hasn’t left the top 5 since. This romance movie tells the story of a recently married couple who gets into a car accident. The wife struggles with amnesia after the fact, and the husband must get her to fall back in love with him. The true beauty of this story? It’s based on real life events. And now you can get the book that details the true story. Written by the couple themselves, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter detail the time they fell in love …for the second time. The book includes a newly-added chapter and photo insert.

Now you can get it for your Kindle for just $7.64.

You can also get it in paperback for just $8.63, down from $14.99.

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