Monthly Archives: September 2013

‘Today’ To Start Its Own Book Club

Though Oprah Winfrey resurrected her famous Oprah’s Book Club last year with Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, producers at NBC still felt TV viewers throughout the country were lacking in the book club department. Hence, the new Today book club.

According to The New York Times, it’s part of The Today Show‘s attempt to revive and substantiate the show, adding something Good Morning America doesn’t have. The Today book club will feature roughly one book a month, and will air interviews with the books’ authors during the morning show. The books will feature stickers, so they’ll be easily recognized as a Today Show pick.

Oprah’s Book Club brought a lot of success to the publishing industry — most of her selected books skyrocketed to bestsellers — and to Oprah herself. Publishers, authors, and the staff at Today are hoping to mirror that success with the new book club. The only problem — Oprah had Oprah to help boost the sales. People listened to her. Today doesn’t have that one person to make people listen. Either way, books and authors are starting to, once again, get the media coverage they’ve been lacking for so long.

According to the L.A. Times, the blogging site Tumblr is following suit, starting its own book club.

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Billy Joel to Publish Previously Cancelled Memoir

It took a couple years, but now it’s finally happening. A Billy Joel biography is due to be released next year. A memoir/biography was originally set to be released in 2011.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the drama started when HarperCollins paid Joel $3 million to publish a memoir, entitled The Book of Joel, with co-writer Fred Schruers. But Joel cancelled the book at the last minute, placing the blame on HarperCollins, as Tim Appelo explains.

Joel told The New York Times that HarperCollins editors caused him to kill the previous book.

“They said to Fred, ‘We need more of the sex and the wives and the girlfriends and drinking and divorce and the depression.’ I covered it all. But I didn’t go into detail about my personal life. If they want to poke Fred with red-hot needles to get him to make up salacious details, go ahead, but I’m not going to do it. I’m not a psychoanalyst. I don’t know why I drank so much.”

So why now? Well, back in 2011, he had a spat with Elton John over cancelled tour dates because of hip pain. And now, it seems that Billy Joel is on a roll. He recently performed at the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert, and this year was selected as one of the Kennedy Center honorees.  Not to mention, many classic rockers like himself are having success with recently published books — Keith Richards, Bruce Springstein, Paul McCartney.

Crown, a division of Random House, is now publishing the book, which is due in the spring of 2014.

After waiting for the longest time (see what I did there?), there’s a good chance a Billy Joel bio (especially one with as good a name as The Book of Joel) is bound for greatness.

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J.K. Rowling Keeps Busy With Wizarding Movie Series

After each of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books was turned into a movie, it seemed like the HP days were over. But things haven’t stopped for Rowling (she’s since published The Casual Vacancy and detective novel The Cuckoo’s Calling), and now, it appears, the wizarding world must also go on.

According to the Associated Press, J.K. Rowling will write the screenplays for a new movie series for Warner Bros. based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Then, the fictional textbook she created in the Harry Potter series.

In the Harry Potter books, the Fantastic Beasts was written by fictional author Newt Scamander. But this new film series won’t have anything to do with the character Harry Potter at all. It will take place 70 years before the start of Harry’s story, in New York.

Rowling didn’t write the screenplays for any of the HP films, so this will be a first for her. But she’s also returning back to her fantastical comfort zone of wizards, and with her built-in audience, my guess is these movies will be hits.

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Recap: It’s a death that has as much media coverage as the death of a One Direction member would warrant. Lula Landry, one of newest, youngest, and most gorgeous models in Britain has died. Lying on the ground next to her apartment building in London, Lula Landry appears to have fallen from her balcony. But was she pushed or did she jump? Considering her troubled history with drugs and mental instability, it is widely assumed that she jumped. After all, who would want to kill Lula Landry? But with all her fame, money, and beauty, the better question is who wouldn’t want to kill her?

That’s where Detective Cormoran Strike comes in. He’s hired by Lula’s adoptive brother, John Bristow, to delve deeper into Landry’s death. The offer couldn’t come at a better time for Strike, who’s been recently dumped, kicked out of his apartment, and is on the verge of bankruptcy. Considering how long it’s been since he’s had regular work, he’s a bit rusty. But when a new temporary secretary, Robin, starts working for him, she becomes more of an asset than he ever imagined a secretary could be.

Ultimately Strike and Robin unravel the case of Lula Landry, with lots of key players and lots of evidence previously overlooked by police.

Analysis: In one of only two books in her post-Harry Potter days, author J.K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) proves yet again that her easy-to-follow writing and complex web of characters with oh-so-many motives makes for a book that’s tough to put down. The more each character is described, the more we want to know what happens.

That being said, The Cuckoo’s Calling is — for the most part — your average detective novel. It also feels quite a bit longer than it needs to be. Written in third-person, the book comes from the perspective of Strike, so as readers, we get to play detective right along with him.

But Rowling/Galbraith does one thing that sets The Cuckoo’s Calling apart from the rest of today’s detective novels: considering Strike’s recent professional misfortune, it’s unclear if he’s actually capable of doing the job. Usually in a mystery like this, the detective is described as being one of the best, so it’s no surprise when he solves the case. Here, there’s some uncertainty – can Strike solve the case? Is there even a case to be solved? Those are the questions that keep the book moving.

MVP: Strike and Robin, collectively. The two make a good team. Even with little history or experience working together, their determination makes for a solid bit of detective work, while a friendship between them blossoms.

Get The Cuckoo’s Calling in hardcover for $15.19.

Or get it on your Kindle for $5.99.


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‘Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee Settles Copyright Lawsuit

The story of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee’s copyright lawsuit has come to an end. As I earlier reported, Harper Lee filed a lawsuit against her former agent’s son-in-law, for not properly protecting the copyright of To Kill a Mockingbird.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the author and the defendants in the case have reached an agreement. The details of the settlement are still unclear, but a court filing regarding the case was dismissed last week.

There you have it — drama-free Harper Lee. I wonder if recent talk about the lawsuit helped boost sales?

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Jason Priestly to Pen Memoir with ‘90210’ Scoop

Leave it to the stars of yesteryear to jump at the chance to write a memoir. Jason Priestly, of Beverly Hills, 90210, is the latest actor to jump on the bandwagon.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Priestly, who played Brandon Walsh on the beloved hit series (which ran for 10 years, from 1990 to 2000), agreed to a multiple six-figure advance with HarperCollins to write the still untitled memoir. The book will include details about his struggles with alcohol — including a drunken driving charge from 1998 — and his tumultuous relationship with 90210 creator Aaron Spelling.

The memoir is expected to be released in spring 2014.

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Amazon Announces Kindle Matchbook Service

Expanding the digital library on your Kindle just got a whole lot cheaper. Amazon announced a new service this week called Kindle Matchbook.

According to Entertainment Weekly, people looking to buy e-books for their Kindle that they’ve already bought in print can now do it through Amazon for a discounted price. Amazon Matchbook applies to any print book a customer has bought from Amazon since 1995, when Amazon first started. Matchbook will allow customers to check their purchase history to see what they’ve bought and buy the books in e-book form for $2.99 (some are even free), rather than paying full-price for the books they already own.

The program is set to launch next month. Amazon spokespeople say it will have 10,000 e-books available for discounted prices.

On a personal note, I think this is a great idea. I’ve always thought it was bad business to have to buy two copies of the same book if you want it on your e-reader. I wondering how long it will take for Barnes & Noble to come up with a similar plan for its Nook?


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Review: Then Came You

Recap: Life has an interesting and surprising way of bringing people together. Such is the case for Jules, Annie, India, and Bettina. Then Came You starts with India, a 38-year-old (actually 43) woman who wants to have a baby with her new — and very wealthy — husband. But her stepdaughter Bettina is convinced — and rightfully so — that India’s reasoning for the baby has more to do with money than love. Enter Jules and Annie — the women who make the baby happen. Jules donates her eggs, in the hopes that she will earn enough money to help her sick father. Annie becomes a surrogate to support her own family of four.

All four women work together without even knowing one another to bring another person into the world. Some are doing it for the right reasons. Some are doing it for the wrong reasons. Some are doing it for simply selfish reasons. But when the baby is born, the bond between the women changes. Suddenly this new life impacts them like they never expected, and not only do they get a baby, but they also get three new friends to go along with her.

Analysis: With revolving first-person narration between the four characters, Then Came You gives the reader a good look at each person involved — what their story is, where they come from, what motivates them to do what they do. Initially it’s difficult to understand how the women are connected, but the picture starts to come into focus about halfway through the book. Possibly more interesting than the hard work that goes into creating this baby is each of their motivations for it doing it. It’s fair to say that each woman gets out of the experience much more than just a baby and some extra financial cushioning.

So much of this novel is about women, maternity, life and death. With the new life these women are bringing into the world also come several deaths — all by male characters. With her charm, author Jennifer Weiner uses Then Came You to make a statement about the importance of women in continuing the natural life cycle. With technology and science advancing the way things are these days (donor eggs, surrogates), women are now even more powerful and independent.

Each character learns something — Jules learns who she is and realizes that some people never change. Annie realizes the importance of making sacrifices. Bettina learns to accept others, despite her initial judgements. India learns it’s better to be honest than to keep secrets. But most importantly, they learn the importance of love and strength.

MVP: Annie. Though timid, not well-educated, and the one with the least personality, she is the strongest. She is the person most willing to help make this baby happen — willing to selflessly make sacrifices for her family, help others, and strive to be a better person.

Get Then Came You in paperback for $12.09.

Or on your Kindle for $10.38.

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