Monthly Archives: June 2012

Get ‘Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway: Stories of the Inspiration Behind Great Works of Literature’ in Hardcover for $7.20

After reading a whole bunch of modern and recent bestsellers, it’s always nice to come back to a classic. Recently, I read The Age of Innocence and Wuthering Heights. Now I’m re-reading The Great Gatsby, in preparation for the new Baz Luhrmann movie coming out this fall. But now there’s a book that has the backstories of all your favorite classics. Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway: Stories of the Inspiration Behind Great Works of Literature offers the inspiration behind fifty classic books, including Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, The Bell Jar and even Winnie-the-Pooh.

Some examples are listed in Amazon’s description of the book.

Gabriel García Márquez was driving to Acapulco with his family when he slammed on the brakes, turned the car around, and insisted they abandon their trip so he could return home to write. He had good reason to cut the trip short-a childhood memory of touching ice had suddenly sparked the first line to a novel that would become his most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, spent decades pondering the scene that inspired The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When Lewis was sixteen, he had a peculiar daydream: a faun carried a bundle of parcels and an umbrella through snow-covered woods. Lewis was almost forty when he decided to write a novel that grew around the vision.

If you’re a lover of literature — like I am — this book sounds awesome.

And now it’s available in hardcover for only $7.20.

And on your Kindle for $10.99.

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Authors File Class Action Suit Against PublishAmerica

A group of authors have filed a class action lawsuit against a publishing company they claim misled them. According to The L.A. Times, three authors are suing PublishAmerica, a company which maintains it is a traditional publishing house (it doesn’t charge author fees) with untraditional aspects (it is print on-demand, similar to self-publishing). There are number of issues the authors are claiming, as Carolyn Kellogg explains.

The Frederick [Maryland] News Post reports:

The plaintiffs claim the company misrepresents its services in  its contracts with authors, which gives PublishAmerica the rights to  their work for between seven and 10 years. Fees that authors paid ranged  from less than $30 to several hundred dollars.

They allege that  the publisher, among other things, charges for services that traditional  publishers perform at no cost to promote and sell books, misrepresents  the company’s ability to get writers’ work on bookstore shelves or into  the hands of larger publishers or celebrities, and publishes books with  little or no editing and then charges the authors to have corrections  made.

A total of 267 complaints have been filed against PublishAmerica with the local Better Business Bureau in Maryland over the last three years. The BBB gave it an F rating.

But PublishAmerica claims it has happily served 47,000 authors in the last 12 years, almost 15,000 of whom have decided to publish their next books through the company. PublishAmerica intends to keep litigation within the courtroom, rather than sharing it with the media. So anyone planning to report what’s happening must cover the case as it heads to court.

What do you guys think about the suit?

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New Mitch Albom Book Coming Soon

Bestselling author Mitch Albom has another seemingly-awesome tearjerker coming out this summer. The author, best known his book, Tuesdays with Morrie, is releasing The Time Keeper August 28th.

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Time Keeper tells the story of Father Time during his childhood years. Albom has explored the supernatural in some of his previous novels, like The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day.

So will The Time Keeper be yet another one of his bestseller? My guess is yes. See for yourself! EW included an exclusive excerpt of the book in their post.

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Review: The Last Song

Recap: When you’re about to turn 18 and live in New York City, a summer in a small North Carolina city with the father you haven’t spoken to in three years does not sound ideal. But that’s how Ronnie is spending her post-high school summer. Already an angsty teenager, Ronnie leaves New York for Wilmington with her younger brother Jonah, expecting to have the worst summer of her life .

But instead, her summer is life-altering. Her first night in Wilmington, she meets Blaze, another moody teen like herself and Will, the picture-perfect, popular pretty boy. She also meets Marcus, Blaze’s boyfriend who makes a pass at Ronnie. In a matter of days, Blaze turns on Ronnie, misinterpreting what’s going on with her and Marcus, and Ronnie and Will naturally “find” each other.

Ronnie’s summer drama escalates as she begins to fall in love for the first time, while Marcus and Blaze set out to ruin her life. And all the while, she begins reconnecting with the father she only knew as a little girl. Each plotline climaxes at the same time, rocking Ronnie’s world into one of heartache and caring for a sick loved one.

Analysis: A Nicholas Sparks novel wouldn’t be a Nicholas Sparks novel if there wasn’t a terminally-ill character, a Southern setting, and a deep, meaningful romance that happens almost overnight. But this Sparks novel goes deeper than most, not only focusing on a romance, but on a father-daughter relationship as well. Even though the romantic portions of the novel are the real page-turners, Ronnie’s relationship with her father is the true crux of the story. It emphasizes the depth of a relationship between a parent and child compared to one between two teenagers.

As usual, Sparks’ writing is easy to follow and mostly predictable. But no matter how many common themes I find in his books, I keep coming back. The romance sucks me in every time, despite how completely unbelievable it is. And in a shocking twist of events, this romance actually ends on a somewhat happy note — unlike A Walk to Remember, Dear John, and Nights in Rodanthe. There’s also a nice musical aspect to the story that incorporates a character’s discover, or in this case rediscovery, of talent.

MVP: Will. He’s basically flawless in every way. Though Ronnie overcomes her biggest flaws and learns from them, Will is naturally a good person. He tells the truth, makes good choices, and is kind to everyone.

Get The Last Song in paperback for only $7.99.

Or on your Kindle for $7.99 as well.


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Get ‘Everything Is Illuminated’ by Jonathan Safran Foer on Kindle for $8.53, Paperback $10.87

Jonathan Safran Foer is widely known for his novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was made into a movie last year. I read Extremely Loud and didn’t enjoy it very much. When I dislike a big bestseller, I tend to do a lot of research to find out why people liked it. In my findings, I learned that many critics liked Extremely Loud, but still felt that Safran Foer’s first novel Everything Is Illuminated was better.

Everything Is Illuminated tells the story of a young man who sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from Nazis. Like Extremely Loud, Everything was also turned into movie, starring Elijah Wood.

Now the bestselling novel is available for only $8.53 on your Kindle.

It’s also available in paperback for $10.87.

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David Sedaris Scrutinized for “Realish” Nonfiction

When you’re a humorist who writes memoirs, how much of your storytelling must be true? That’s what NPR is asking themselves about David Sedaris, the bestselling writer who reads some of his stories for the radio station. Sedaris is best known on NPR for his now classic Christmas story about the time he spent working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s.

But Sedaris is now under fire for how much of his stories are true and how much is fabricated. It all started when, according to The Washington Post, another writer, Mike Daisey, fabricated some of the facts in his story, which aired on NPR’s This American Life, as Paul Farhi explains.

According to host and producer Ira Glass, “This American Life” began discussing Sedaris’s contributions to the program after an embarrassing episode in March, in which it acknowledged that a monologue by writer Mike Daisey contained numerous fabrications. The show “retracted” the program it aired in January, in which Daisey described harsh working conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other products. Glass told listeners that Daisey had invented scenes, facts and people — which is exactly what Sedaris has said he’s done.

In fact-checking some of Sedaris’ tales, NPR found that he, too, had fabricated some details and characters. Sedaris admittedly called his stories “realish.”

But Sedaris is a humorist. Daisey is a journalist. Therein lies the difference. Is Sedaris — who has never been considered a journalist — allowed to exaggerate parts of his stories? Or does his title not play a factor since his work airs on NPR’s This American Life program, which airs true stories about people? It’s a tough call, and one that NPR is now closely investigating to decide the best way to proceed.

I personally think NPR should just label Sedaris’ work as partly fiction or “exaggerated” before it airs. What do you guys think? Would love to hear your opinions on this one.


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Get ‘Gone Girl’ in Hardcover for $13.98, Down from $25

In addition to books, I also spend much of my time reading magazines, immersing myself in mostly trivial, but highly enjoyable pop culture news. When reading a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, I came across a review for this seemingly enticing novel, Gone Girl.

Gone Girl tells the story of a woman named Amy, who goes missing and her crazy, self-centered husband, Nick. The thriller is told from two perspectives, both Nick and Amy. And as the reviewer explains, author Gillian Flynn expertly makes them sound like two different people.

Apparently on page 219, everything changes, and the book flies by. That notion alone makes me want to read this book that Jeff Giles says will turn Gillian Flynn into a star.

Get Gone Girl in hardcover now for just $13.98, down from $25.

Or get it on your Kindle for just $12.99.

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Amazon’s Best Read Cities

Just because you live in a big city does not mean you read. That’s what I gathered anyway from Amazon’s list of best-read cities. Topping this year’s list? Alexandria, Virginia. Here’s the list of the top 20 via Entertainment Weekly.

1.        Alexandria, Va.
2.        Cambridge, Mass.
3.        Berkeley, Calif.
4.        Ann Arbor, Mich.
5.        Boulder, Colo.
6.        Miami
7.        Arlington, Va.
8.        Gainesville, Fla.
9.        Washington, D.C.
10.        Salt Lake City
11.        Pittsburgh
12.        Knoxville, Tenn.
13.        Seattle
14.        Orlando, Fla.
15.        Columbia, S.C.
16.        Bellevue, Wash.
17.        Cincinnati
18.        St. Louis
19.        Atlanta
20.        Richmond, Va.

Now that’s not to say there aren’t big cities on the list. Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta are there. But neither New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, nor Dallas make the list. So what’s the deal?

Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but many of these cities are big college towns. I definitely think that plays a factor in this year’s list. What do you guys think?


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‘Fifty Shades’ vs. Library Battle Continues

Last month, I told you about a library in Florida that decided not to offer the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. And it’s certainly not the only one. But now according to The New York Times, more and more libraries are changing their policies to start offering the series.

For example, the collections manager for a library in Greensboro, NC has begun offering them because of the demand from readers, despite his opinions on the books. Julie Bosman explains.

But despite misgivings about the subject matter — the books tell the tale of a dominant-submissive affair between a manipulative millionaire and a naïve younger woman — library officials feel that they need to make it available.

“This is the ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ of 2012,” Mr. Cole said. “Demand is a big issue with us, because we want to be able to provide popular best-selling material to our patrons.”

There are still those libraries who are keeping the books out. And that’s causing a First Amendment uproar across the country.

Joan Bertin, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, said in an interview that it was unusual for a library to remove a book from its section for adults.

“The vast majority of cases that we deal with have to do with removing books to keep kids from seeing them,” she said. “That’s what makes this so egregious. There are some possible arguments for trying to keep kids away from certain kinds of content, but in the case of adults, other than the restrictions on obscenity and child pornography, there’s simply no excuse. This is really very much against the norms in the profession.”

So which side are you on? Make it available or not?


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Review: Perfect Skin

Recap: It’s not often that you come across a book about a single, domestic father. But that’s the premise in this tale about a dermatologist, named Jon, who’s lost in life and suddenly thrust into single fatherhood. The story opens with Jon performing surgery on a patient, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s not totally focused. We come to learn Jon’s got a 6-month-old baby at home, named Lily — though he affectionately calls her Bean.

Their relationship is the only relationship in his life that he’s truly sure of; it’s a relationship that thrives on unconditional love. His closest friends are his co-workers, who are also in their 30’s, but a bit lost. But things start to change when Jon meets Ash, a graduate student who attends class where Jon runs. The two become running buddies, just as one of Jon’s quirky acquaintances develops a crush on him.

Suddenly a life that was so simple has become complicated. Jon becomes more uncertain than ever, trying to navigate all the women in his life, while dealing with a dark past.

Analysis: This is the first time I’ve read a book about single fatherhood. As common as it is in real life, we don’t often come across it in literature. It’s a unique perspective into family life and one that author Nick Earls handles well. He demonstrates that it’s not easy and certainly not predictable. Jon stumbles. He forgets things. But he loves. And as nervous as he is about what kind of father he is and if he’s doing everything right — especially without the help or guidance of a wife – he learns and grows.

His daughter helps him mature into a proper adult. But so does his “running buddy” Ash, who often puts him in his placs and teaches him about life, despite their difference in age. Jon’s job is to fix skin; he is a dermatologist after all. But he comes to learn that no one has perfect skin and no one is perfect.

Earls’ writing not only properly captures the emotional rollercoaster of adulthood, relationships, and family, but he does it in a funny way too. There are hilarious moments — like when Jon pees on a cat or when he sings in grocery stores while choosing the right toilet paper — that we start to think “Jon is such a dork. But he’s just like me.” Whether you’re male or female, the main character is relatable and real.

MVP: Ash. Initially, she seems like a girl who’s far too young and equally as lost at Jon. Well, she still may be a little unsure of the future, but she’s certainly not unsure of herself. She speaks her mind. She openly adopts Jon and Lily into her life. She doesn’t run because of fear or intimidation, and her courage, openness, and knowledge beyond her years makes her the perfect yin to Jon’s yang.

Get Perfect Skin for your Kindle for only $4.99!

Or in hardcover for only $8.23.

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