It’s not every day that The New York Times features a story about book technology on the front page. This morning, however, there was an interesting piece about reader-driven social network technologies that highlighted a YA novel featured in the October issue of BookPage.
The Amanda Project, which today is our featured children’s review on bookpage.com, is a new mystery series by Stella Lennon which HarperCollins is calling “the first collaborative, interactive fiction series for girls aged 13 and up.”
A quick plot summary (thanks to Emily Booth Masters, our reviewer): In the first book in the series, Invisible I, new-girl-at-school Amanda disappears. Her classmates “begin to discover that very little of what they believed they knew about Amanda is actually true, and they start to wonder if they ever really knew her at all. United in their desire to find Amanda, the girls decide to stick together and embark on what they eventually term ‘The Amanda Project.’”
“As the series continues, some of the reader comments may be incorporated into minor characters or subplots... Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, predicted that ‘there is going to be a popular kind of literature where the author is seen as the leader of a large group and will pick and choose from these suggestions’ by readers.”
Sounds kind of fun. I know when I read Nancy Drew novels, I would have loved to weigh in on a mystery. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book… where your choice may actually have an impact on another reader’s experience, if the author chooses to take your suggestion. Any readers plan on participating in The Amanda Project?
Here’s a YouTube trailer of the book:
Today, British newspaper The Guardian reported the top 10 books that people have tried to ban across the United States throughout 2008. Philip Pullman, of the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, et al), came in at #2. (To see the rest of the list, click here.
From the article:
“Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, has leapt to the top of the target list of would-be censors in the new rankings issued this week by the American Library Association. It tracks cases where individuals or groups have attempted to have books stripped from bookshelves in schools and libraries across the US.”
When The Guardian contacted him to comment on the ranking, Pullman responded that he’s “very glad to be back in the top 10 banned books.”
The article briefly mentioned Pullman’s upcoming adult novel (which is likely to inspire controversy): The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. The New York Times ArtsBeat Blog wrote that this novel will be “a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus that will differ from the version presented in the New Testament.”
In a statement on his website dated Sept. 14, Pullman writes:
“I've always been fascinated by the two parts of the name of Jesus Christ, and by the difference between them. Another thing that's interested me for a long time is the way in which the Christian church began to formulate its beliefs and establish a canon of scripture.”
The novel will be published by Scottish publishing house Canongate. Publication date is around Easter. So far, no American release has been announced.
Any Pullman fans want to weigh in on the new book? Are you surprised that Pullman ranked so high on the banned books list?
The 2009 selections for Great Group Reads are out:
Appassionata by Eva Hoffman
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Cost by Roxana Robinson
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
Several of the books have been featured in BookPage. About The Secret Diaries, reviewer Carla Jean Whitley writes:
“James adapts Brontë’s voice, telling Brontë’s story as though it came straight from the great writer. Living with an alcoholic, drug-addicted brother and a deeply eccentric father, Brontë—and her sisters—still managed to write some of the most famous novels of their time. With The Secret Diaries, James offers a satisfying—if partly imagined—history of the real-life experiences that inspired Brontë’s classic novels.”
Julie Hale calls Out Stealing Horses “forthright, simple and tinged with melancholy… a poignant, beautifully realized narrative.”
And about Cost, reviewer Arlene McKanic writes:
“The most used word in Roxana Robinson's brilliant and devastating novel Cost is ‘unbearable’ and its variants. The word sums up perfectly the emotions, choices and horrible ironies that buffet a patrician, buttoned-up family whose youngest son is a heroin addict.”
NRGM started in October 2007 and will include events in WNBA chapter cities: Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
According to a statement from the WNBA, the mission of NRGM is to “foster the values reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.”
Any readers plan on participating? Or have suggestions for a great book club read?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) – the print-on-demand machine that, essentially, spits out books in 4 minutes flat. (Says the EBM website: “Espresso: something made to order, one at a time, at point of sale, quickly.”) Owned by On Demand Books, the EBM was one of Time magazine’s “Inventions of the Year” in 2007, and today there are a handful of EBMs in bookstores, universities, libraries and newsstands around the world.
According to the EBM website, books from the machine are identical to factory-made books:
“Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges, with a full-color cover, trimmed to an exact size, and indistinguishable from the publisher’s version. As we say, ‘Hot off the press!’”
On Sept. 17, Google gave EBM customers access to 2 million books no longer protected by copyright from its digital library (a.k.a. “public domain” books). On Demand Books may gain access to even more titles from Google, depending on the outcome of the Google books settlement.
And if you're wondering if a vending machine book costs less than the real deal (OK, OK, I should put my snark in check; the machines are really nifty-looking, supposedly they cut down on CO2 emissions, plus it would be great to gain access to out-of-print books)... The Associated Press reported recently that EBM books will have a “recommended sales price of $8 per copy, although the final decision will be left to each retailer.” Google and On Demand Books both get $1 from each book sale. (The EBM also tracks payments to authors, publishers, etc.)
Looks like a few bookstores are hoping the EBM will contribute to sales. A week ago, the bookstore at the University of Missouri-Columbia got a machine.
From Mizzou’s student paper:
“Bookstore spokeswoman Michelle Froese said she sees a great deal of potential in the machine, which cost University Bookstore $75,000. Froese said it would allow the bookstore to reproduce course materials, such as out of print books and course packets at a lower price for students.”
And today, the folks at Harvard Book Store unveiled their own EBM. E.L. Doctorow was a special guest at the event.
What do Book Case readers think about the machine? Has anyone seen the EBM live? (For a video, click here.) Does a “book ATM” represent the future of publishing? Would you buy a made-to-order book?
By now, many of you know that we lost a great lover of language (and an expert on its quirks) on Sunday. William Safire wrote the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine from 1979 until earlier this month. Safire was also a speechwriter for President Nixon.
From 1973 until 2005, Safire wrote “his twice-weekly ‘Essay’ for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus.” In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Throughout his career, Safire gave many wonderful tips for writers and readers.
From “How to Read a Column” in 2005: “Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled ‘analysis’) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word ‘respected’ in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read ‘According to the disrespected (whomever).’”
And of course, there were Safire’s “rules for writers”: The passive voice should never be used; Don't overuse exclamation marks!!; Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors; Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague…
Many of us will greatly miss Safire's astute and often hilarious Sunday language columns. Most recently, he wrote about the phrase "bending the curve" (as in Obama's remarks: “it’s important for us to bend the cost curve").
Any readers remember a favorite “On Language” column?
We're officially becoming the last literary blog to link to the nifty new Google map that posts when and where every book challenge has taken place over the past two years. As Galleycat noted at the end of August, there's no red/blue state divide when it comes to this issue.
The closest challenge to the BookPage offices was in Murfreesboro, TN, where Peter and Iona Archibald Opie's I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book was challenged at the Cedar Grove Elementary School in 2007. Someone complained that the book's illustrations were "absolutely offensive in every way," though it sounds pretty harmless to me. According to the site, the book is a collection of schoolyard jokes, riddles, insults and jump-rope rhymes illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
How about your home state?
Attention Dickens fans: after an astounding performance at the Emmys last week (with 7 wins, including best miniseries and outstanding writing), the BBC's adaptation of Little Dorrit, which aired in the United States back in the spring, is now available for online viewing on PBS's website. The book was adapted by Andrew Davies, who is best known for his work on the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride & Prejudice.
Like many of Dickens' works, Little Dorrit deals with family secrets, class issues and of course, debtor's prison. That's where Amy (aka "Little Dorrit") grows up, since her father has been imprisoned at Marshalsea her whole life. She supports the family by sewing until a deathbed confession changes their social status and their fortunes.
Claire Foy, a relative unknown, is said to shine in the role of Amy, and Matthew Macfayden (who played Mr. Darcy in the Keira Knightly P&P) plays her love interest, Arthur.
As a fan of period drama, I might have to check this out over the weekend! The PBS site warns that it will be available for a limited time only, so if you want to watch, don't wait.
On the fence? Check out a preview here:
Whether we loved it or hated it, many of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s will never forget Francine Pascal’s perennial middle school soap opera, Sweet Valley High. The series, which began in 1983, included over 150 books about the beautiful Wakefield Twins, Elizabeth and Jessica.
What it lacked in depth, the series made up for in romantic subplots, cat-fights and descriptive gems such as:
“Jessica stared at herself in the full-length mirror and saw a picture of utter heartbreak and despair. But what was actually reflected in the glass was about the most adorable, most dazzling sixteen-year-old girl imaginable.”
SVH fans may soon be able to see their favorite blue-eyed-blonde heroines on the big screen. On Tuesday, Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety reported that Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) has signed on to write a screenplay of the series.
Over the past couple of days, Cody’s Twitter page has been abuzz with reassurances for die-hard SVH fans. A recent tweet reports: “Attn. Sweet Valley residents: I’ll need your guidance in this process, so please keep in touch.” Or a comment that many readers can relate to: “Like most girls, I’m a Jelizabeth.” (Don’t most of us waver between identifying with nerdy Elizabeth or fun-loving Jessica?”)
In any case, Diablo Cody is certain to add a little spunk to a movie that could be (in the words of Jessica) “boring as butter” in the wrong hands.
Any readers have a shoebox full of SVH novels lurking in their closets? Or ideas about who should portray real-life Elizabeth and Jessica?
How about a notable SVH memory? As a flute player in 8th grade band class, I used to get scolded for reading Sweet Valley High (the “Senior Year” shoot-off) during long rests.
While embargoes and strictly enforced publication dates are nothing new in the book world, Stephen King is trying something a little less common to generate excitement about his next novel, Under the Dome (which I gave a sneak preview of here). Note the "cover to be unveiled" notation on the current jacket. They weren't kidding. The actual cover for Under the Dome is going to be revealed in four stages over the next two weeks. The first element was released on Monday by Scribner and can be found here.
Scribner art director Rex Bonomelli says they found just the right designers to bring Chester's Mill to life on the cover: artists who had previously worked in commercial advertising. Watch their page for two more reveals on Sept. 25 and Sept. 28, culminating with the release of the One True Cover on October 5.
Early Word traced the origins of the "cover release" as a publishing event in a post today (the Harry Potter franchise was the first to blaze this particular trail, I think), wondering if the whole thing is just "silly." I suppose the announcement got Under the Dome another blog post or two...but overall it's the inside that counts for me.
Do you think this is a successful strategy for building excitement?
As many book bloggers (and book blog followers) already know, the week of Sept. 14-18 was the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The week was founded in 2008 by Amy Riley of book blog My Friend Amy.
According to the BBAW website:
"The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities."
The site announced many awards at the conclusion of the week on Friday, from "Best Literary Fiction Review Blog" (winner: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?) to "Most Eclectic Taste" (winner: Books on the Nightstand). The judges were a panel of bloggers, readers and authors. During the week, participating bloggers posted on coordinated themes.
As a new contributor to "The Book Case," I'm hoping to use last week's celebration as inspiration for compiling a list of great book blogs. Any readers have a must-visit book blog marked on their toolbar? In your opinion, what makes a great book blog? Commentary on new books? Themed blogs? (Only international authors, only children's books, etc.) Do many of you find your book recommendations from blogs, or do you rely on word-of-mouth or book reviews in print?
I'll report back with my new book blog favorites in a couple of days.
Another fun fact I found on the Book Blogger Appreciation Week site: Their team is in the process of organizing a potential Book Blogger Convention during the week of Book Expo America (May 29-31 in New York City).... anyone tempted to sign up?