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‘Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee Takes Copyright to Court

Well folks, it looks like Atticus Finch is returning to the courtroom. Sort of.

According to Deadline, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee is suing for the copyright of her 1960 classic To Kill A Mockingbird. She alleges that after her former agent got sick 10 years ago, his son-in-law assigned the copyright to himself and a firm he manages. The 87-year-old author claims he took advantage of her poor eyesight and hearing.

Now she’s suing to get her copyright back as well as money for damages.

With a book like Mockingbird, it makes sense that she’d want to hold on to that copyright. After all, between the Oscar-winning movie and the book, which is still read in most high school classrooms, I imagine a copyright like that would bring in a lot of money.

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Movie vs. Book: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

****Spoiler Alert: Because so many people are familiar with the bestselling novel, the Swedish movie version and the American movie version, I felt no obligation to refrain from spoilers. They are included. Consider yourself warned.

It’s a story that begins when a well-known journalist is asked to investigate a 40-year-old murder mystery. But readers of the Millenium series know The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not just about journalist Mikael Blomkvist, but also his research assistant and computer-hacking friend/lover Lisbeth Salander.

Not only is this a murder mystery, but the beginning of one of the most adult relationships either character has ever had. They round each other out, thus helping to solve the murder of young Harriet Vanger, the niece of a wealthy Swedish entrepreneur.

The movie version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows the plot of the murder mystery in close detail. Blomkvist’s discoveries with the old photographs and Lisbeth’s research into the Biblical references in victim Harriet Vanger’s journals are played out in the movie. What’s changed here are some of the aspects of the characters’ personal lives.

For instance, in the novel, Blomkvist is much more of a playboy, sleeping with not only his co-worker, Erika Berger, and Lisbeth Salander, but also Cecilia Vanger, one of the many relatives of murder victim, Harriet. But the movie doesn’t acknowledge the sexual relationship between Cecilia Vanger and Blomkvist. The movie also leaves out the subplot about Lisbeth’s mother dying. The movie doesn’t feel lost without it — in fact, it’s very jam-packed — but it would have been nice to see that played out, if for no other purpose than to give viewers a glimpse into Lisbeth’s personal life.

Despite the relatively minor plot changes, the movie not only does justice to the book, but enhances it. The only problem I ever had with the novel is that keeping track of the Vanger family — and all the characters, really — grew to be exhausting. But seeing it onscreen and being able to put faces to names helped.

A few other highlights of the movie are the performances, the music, and the graphic scenes. Rooney Mara kills it as Lisbeth Salander, in the way she speaks, works, and even carries herself; and Daniel Craig as Blomkvist is a perfect fit — believable, smart, and sexy, just as I imagined Blomkvist to be. The strange and ominous music, written by Trent Reznor (The Social Network), helps to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The soundtrack is as uncomfortable and piercing as some of the scenes are.

David Fincher does not shy from the graphic style of the book, clearly portraying the scenes of Lisbeth’s sexual abuse and rape, her violence against her abuser, and the torture of Blomkvist at the end. I admit, I had to close my eyes for much of these scenes, and the rape had me so upset, I cried. As a woman, reading that scene was extremely difficult. But to see it played out onscreen was excruciating.

All in all, the power of the novel comes through on camera, and whether you loved the book or couldn’t quite get through it, the movie is definitely worth seeing — especially before awards season starts.

Get The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for just $9.


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Review: Dear John

Recap: It’s a story we’ve all heard before. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy goes off to war. Sadness ensues. But the story of Dear John goes a little further. Not only must the soldier and protagonist, John, return to his duties in Germany and leave behind his new girlfriend, Savannah. He must also say goodbye to his father, who suffers from Asberger’s syndrome.

Dear John is a love story between John, who’s on leave from the military, and Savannah, who’s building homes during her spring break from UNC. The unlikely two fall in love in just a few weeks. But in that time, Savannah — who is studying psychology at school — points out to John that his father may be autistic. Even though that would explain his father’s isolation and awkwardness, the suggestion erupts into a fight that ultimately brings John and Savannah — and John’s father — closer together.

Before they know it, John and Savannah are two halves of a (very) long-distance relationship. After a year, John returns to Savannah, and though things have changed, their feelings for each other have not. John, once again, goes back to the army. But then September 11th happens. And though he promised Savannah he wouldn’t re-sign, he feels obligated to venture off to Afghanistan. And that one decision is the one that would change both of their lives forever.

Analysis: In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, Dear John is a love story that not only deals with the hardships of love and the questions about fate and destiny, but with disease and chronic illness. The story focuses on the effects of autism, pertaining to John’s father. It also deals with physical illness — cancer — from which Savannah’s friend, Tim, suffers. Throw war on top of that, and you’re dealing with a book that has a lot of heavy issues.

The first part of the book focuses on the love story between the two main characters, but the latter portions are much darker. The characters brood, yearn for each other, and generally make the reader depressed. Not to mention, John and his father are rather likable, but I didn’t love Savannah. She was too much of a “goody-goody,” and an annoying one at that. The problem here is that if I don’t love her, it’s hard for me to understand why John does. Therein lies a major flaw.

I still enjoyed the book regardless. There’s really nothing like a romance — no matter how annoying the characters are. And the parts about the war were also done well. Though I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I understood that it was reality. Sometimes our lives don’t go the way we plan, and sometimes it’s our own fault. But that’s the way it is, and that’s what Dear John is really all about.

MVP: John’s dad. As Savannah blatantly points out throughout the novel, John’s father did an excellent job of raising him, despite his autism. As more and more illnesses are discovered, doctors realize that older patients were overlooked in their youth. That seems to be the case here. When John’s father was young and a little “off,” there was no reason to believe anything was actually wrong with him. The idea of this character is a good one, and Sparks does it the right way.

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Review: Water for Elephants

Recap:  There’s nothing like a good love triangle. Put that triangle in an usual setting, and you’ve got yourself a story. Such is the case with Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants. Elephants follows the story of a Jacob Jankowski, a man in his 90s who lives in a nursing home. The circus comes to town, and the mere mention of the word “circus” brings Jacob back to his young in the 1930’s — a time when circuses were all the rage.

After Jacob’s parents died, Jacob drops out of vet school at Cornell University and joins the circus on a whim. It’s the time of the Great Depression, and with no money, no parents, and no college degree, he decides to stay with the traveling performers. But he soon learns there’s a difference between the entertainers and the working men. He joins the ranks as a working man, serving as the vet for the exotic animals in the show.

In due time, he not only falls in love with the new, untrained, seemingly dumb elephant, Rosie, but he also falls for the show’s star performer, Marlena. One small problem: Marlena happens to be married to one of the show’s directors, August.

Analysis: In some ways, Elephants is a story that’s been written many times over — a love triangle in which the woman is torn between two men with starkly different backgrounds. But it’s the setting and animal subplot that add flavor to this book.

The 1930’s setting deals with a lot of historical issues, including the Great Depression, prohibition, and the technological hindering in the world of medical treatment. For instance, a number of men in the circus suffer from Jake’s leg, a disease caused by drinking contaminated Jamaican ginger that often made its way into alcohol at the time. When one comes down with Jake’s leg, he becomes paralyzed and dies. Not to mention, August suffers from schizophrenia, a disease that was known back then, but not properly treated.

And the animal plot delves deep into animal treatment. In the book, the exotic animals were often times beat to a pulp — something that simply would not fly these days — especially if they were circus animals.

Gruen’s telling of the story also makes it appealing. It reminded me of The Notebook in that it flipped back and forth between a story from long ago and the present day — in which the storyteller is old and reflecting back on his or her life. Water for Elephants is an exciting, engaging page-turner.

MVP: Kinko/Walter, Jacob’s bunkmate. Initially, Kinko is a grouchy, condescending performer — a dwarf — who wants nothing to do with Jacob. But his character develops, and we learn that he may be a dwarf, but he has a giant heart.

Now you can buy Water for Elephants for less than $10.

Not to mention, check out the movie, starring Robert Pattinson (Jacob) and Reese Witherspoon (Marlena).


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H&M To Offer Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Clothing Line

Anyone who’s ever read the Millenium trilogy (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books) is entranced by the story’s heroine, Lisbeth Salander. She’s the badass most women wish they had the cajones to be. She’s strong, fierce, and doesn’t take no for an answer.

But if you’re having a hard time inheriting her strong attitude, it’s okay. Now you can wear her clothes. Sort of.

According to this article by the L.A. Times, H&M is launching a new line of clothing next month, inspired by the wardrobe of Lisbeth Salander. The trendy international clothing store was established in Sweden, where the Millenium series and its author Stieg Larsson are from. The chain plans to release the Salander line December 14th, a week before the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is due to come out in theaters.

Lisbeth Salander is described as a punk, gothic character, and it seems that’s what shoppers can expect from the line — lots of leather, pleather, and deep, muted colors.

Not only is it an amazing marketing strategy for the new movie, but it’s also the perfect kind of clothing for winter. Not to mention, it fits in seamlessly with what H&M already offers. I’m definitely checking out the new line. Will you?


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Movie vs. Book: The Help

On the surface, it’s a story about civil rights. But really, it’s one of friendship. The Help follows the story of two black maids, Aibileen and Minny, Miss Skeeter, an aspiring writer, and their friends and families down South in the 1960’s. The book is a bestseller, and rightfully so. And the movie, a hit.

Normally, when a phenomenal book is turned into a movie, it’s terrible. The director doesn’t do the characters justice. But here, director Tate Taylor gets it just right. The movie does an excellent job of portraying the deep love between Minny and Aibileen. Not to mention, Minny’s attitude. But Taylor even managed to make Emma Stone (as Skeeter) ugly, which is a key point in the story. In the book, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the appreciation the maids and their employers have for each other. But when we see it onscreen — facial expressions and all — we realize there’s something there. Though they’re unwilling to admit it, these white women couldn’t live without their maids.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few changes in the movie. For instance, some of the plot points are a little out of order. Others are just a tad off from what actually happens in the book. But I recognize that when you’re making a complicated story a movie, there are things that need to be altered. For instance, the woman Minny works for — Celia Foote — miscarries her 4th child. In the novel, Minny doesn’t know Celia was ever pregnant, so the miscarriage is a complete shock. It remains shocking onscreen too, but in the movie, Celia tells Minny she’s pregnant when she hires her, undeniably stealing away from that surprise at the end.

Then again, some of the changes made in the movie version of The Help work. Like Sissy Spacek, who plays Hilly Holbrook’s mother. As readers/viewers, we all know Hilly (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is the least likeable, most devilish character. But her mother knows it too. In the novel, her mother plays a minor role — one that shows how cruel Hilly can be. But in the movie, there’s more focus on her. She’s funny and aware of her daughter’s cruelty. By showing disdain for her own daughter, we’re left feeling even more hateful of Hilly.

Overall, the changes the movie makes are minor. Like the book, I still cried at the end. I still finished it feeling like I needed to hang out with my girlfriends. And I still left understanding more about the life of the help than I ever had. And after all, isn’t that the point?

Click here to buy The Help in paperback for just $8.80 — a total savings of 45%.


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Get Robopocalypse in Hardcover for $15

I’ve yet to get my hands on it, but Daniel Wilson’s Robopocalypse has been on my reading list for a while. It’s gotten amazing reviews, and it sounds like one of the best science fiction novels of the year. The story centers around a robot uprising, which puts the robots in control of the Earth.

Sounds a little crazy, but it’s science fiction, so you’re sure to get what you asked for. Not to mention, according to IMDB, Steven Spielberg is already in the process of turning the book into a movie (production begins next year).

Right now, Amazon’s got an amazing $15 dollar deal for the hardcover version of the book. A steal! Especially for a brand-new bestseller. In a rare occasion, I’m going to go ahead and recommend you stick your nose into Robopocalypse, even though I haven’t yet had the chance.

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Review: One Day

Recap: All it takes is one day to fall in love. And so begins the story of Dex and Em, Em and Dex, as they so coyly refer to themselves. Emma Morley is a self-conscious, brilliant beauty who’s not sure quite what she wants out of life. Dexter Mayhew is a lost puppy himself, but he’s got all the charm, looks, confidence, and sex drive of an 18-year-old frat boy.

The story begins when the two of them fall into bed together just after graduating from college in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s July 15, 1988. The book follows their rocky relationship over the next 20 years, each chapter marking where they are on July 15th of a particular year.

It takes us through Em’s loveless relationships, Dex’s rise to and fall from fame, Em’s struggle to start a career in writing, Dex’s alcoholism, Em’s affair, and Dex’s divorce. Fate and their disdain for loneliness is what keeps them coming back to each other.

Analysis: The rollercoaster ride of Em and Dex’s relationship made me feel up and down about this book overall. Initially, I couldn’t put it down. The flirtation, romance, and awkwardness between the two of them was relatable and funny. Despite their glaring flaws, these two characters maintained likeability.

But as the story progressed and they both had moments in which their lives spiraled out of control, I found myself hating them more and more. I had to force myself to read in the hopes they would get together. It was like watching the movie Serendipity 10 times in a row.

In the third act, it picks back up, and I fell back in love with the characters. But there’s the ending. A shocking, depressing, and very unnecessary one (for those who haven’t spoiled it for themselves like I did). It simply forced drama in an already dramatic relationship. The very last chapter was well done — sentimental, romantic, and beautiful. But the fact that I was able to imagine the story done differently and still have the same poetic last chapter is not a good sign.

However, bonus points for the cool formatting of the story. To follow them on the same day every year was a new way of storytelling I had not yet experienced.

MVP: Emma Morley. As unlikable as she is at parts, she’s real. She’s beautiful, but sleeps with all the wrong men. She’s brilliant, but can’t find work. She’s awkward and cynical and downright British. And as she continues to explore her relationship with Dexter, overanalyzing it and both hating and loving it simultaneously, we realize we’ve all been Emma Morley at one time or another.

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Kathryn Stockett Loves Writing About Southern Women

If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That seems to be Kathryn Stockett’s rule to live by. The bestselling author whose first novel, The Help, is about to hit theaters, is starting to put some thought into her next book.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Stockett will be focusing on Southern women in the 1920’s for her upcoming novel. Though she hasn’t begun to write it yet, it seems she’s already determined her focus and format, and it sounds pretty familiar. Historial fiction. Multiple storytellers. Focused on high-class women who must learn the ways of their lower-class companions.

In this article, Stockett explains that the 1920’s and Depression area were an interesting time for women, who had just gotten the opportunity to vote for the first time. But those women ultimately went from riches to rags.

So it’s about a group of women who were raised in a rather white privileged home and then the Depression hit and suddenly they have no support. They have absolutely no marketable skills. So they have to figure out how to work their way up into the world and figure out how to earn a living and support each other and take care of each other.

It sounds like Stockett has a niche. But it’s too soon to say if it’s a profitable genre, or if Stockett just lucked out with The Help.

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Review: The Help

Recap: If you’ve ever wondered what it was like down South in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement, you’re in luck. If you haven’t ever wondered that, you need to read this book anyway. Kathryn Stockett’s The Help tells the story of a white woman and two black maids in Jackson, Mississippi, who surprise themselves when they decide to shake the town by writing a book about “the help.”

Skeeter, the white woman, is an aspiring writer and an outcast among her rich, white, well-educated friends. After graduating from college, she starts writing for a local paper, but can only get a job as the house-cleaning columnist, Miss Myrna. So she enlists one of her friend’s maids, Aibileen, for help. The two strike up a friendship, something that’s unheard of in those days.

Together they enlist a group of black women, including Aibileen’s best friend and outspoken maid, Minny, to write a book about the help’s experiences working for white women. But writing such a controversial book and keeping it a secret puts them in more danger than they ever could have imagined.

Analysis: I’m going to be honest. I don’t know much about the Civil Rights movement, nor do I know much about the South. I decided to read this book for the same reason everyone else did: it’s hugely popular and is about to become a movie. But I’m so glad I read it. It had me thinking about the differences between whites and blacks — or lack thereof —  like never before. And really, isn’t that the purpose? The fictional book that these women write gets the town talking about race. And now, 50 years later, Stockett strikes up the race chatter with her actual book.

I found myself asking my mother how she remembers life growing up. Did she have a maid? Was she black? How often was she at her house? What did my mother and her parents think of her? The book really made me think, and that’s something I haven’t had a book accomplish in quite some time.

Not only does Stockett get us talking, much like the people of Jackson in her novel, but she also writes in a style that feels real. Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny each tell parts of the story from their own perspectives. The book is a revolving door of personal reflections from the 3 major characters. Not to mention, Aibileen and Minny’s sections are written in their natural tongue, with phrases like “I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime” and “circling around the little island a grass at the end with they windows down.”

MVP: Aibileen. The Help begins and ends with Aibileen sections. She’s the real focus of the story here. It’s Aibileen who first agrees to help Skeeter with her book. It’s Aibileen who gets Minny and the others to jump on the bandwagon. She takes charge, and risks everything for it. And despite what she loses, she recognizes what she’s gained, and that makes her all the more likeable.


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