Friday, January 23, 2015

National Readathon Day Takes Off Tomorrow

Happy friday, fellow readers! This upcoming weekend is an exciting one for the book world, so I hope your week has prepared you to curl up on the couch (especially for those of you who are expecting a snowstorm this weekend!) with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. And while I wish that type of relaxation for you all the time, there is an additional reason this particular weekend is so special...

Tomorrow is the first annual National Readathon Day!

Initially created by the recently merged Penguin Random House, National Readathon Day is about more than just reading a book, though. It's also about fundraising for literacy, GalleyCat points out:

Proceeds will support the National Book Foundation’s education programs, including an after-school reading program called BookUp. Fundraisers will win prizes from The National Book Foundation. 
More than 200 bookstores and libraries across the country will be participating in the event. To find out where to participate in your local area, check out this map. 
Fifteen bestselling authors including: Khaled Hosseini, Jacqueline Woodson, Delia Ephron, Harlan Coben and Simon Doonan have supported the cause in this #timetoread video.
See original post HERE 

The National Book Foundation website tells us more about the celebration:

Consider this: 53% of 9-year-olds read for pleasure daily, and by the time they turn 17, that number drops to 19%. Without your help, book worms may soon become an endangered species.  
That's why Penguin Random House and the National Book Foundation are launching National Readathon Day. We're asking book lovers across America to pledge to read for four hours starting at noon (in respective time zones) on January 24, 2015. 
Make your commitment here on FirstGiving and fundraise to support the National Book Foundation's efforts to create, promote, and sustain a lifelong love of reading in America. Proceeds will support our education programs, like BookUp, our after-school reading program which has given away over 25,000 books to middle schoolers since 2007. 
To show our appreciation, we're delighted to offer some exciting rewards at a variety of fundraising milestones. 
Individual fundraising premiums for National Readathon Day are awarded at the following levels:  
$100 - an I Love Reading tote bag  
$250 - a copy of a 2014 National Book Award winning book   
$1000 - a tote bag plus all four 2014 National Book Award winning books. 
$2500 - 2 tickets to the invite-only 2015 National Book Awards ceremony, dinner, and after-party  
$7500 - 2 tickets to the invite-only 2015 National Book Awards ceremony, dinner, and after-party plus hotel and airfare (from anywhere in the continental United States) 
Additionally, the top fundraising team will have the opportunity for an exclusive reading (in-person or online) with Phil Klay, author of Redeployment, the 2014 National Book Award Winner for Fiction. 
Thank you for joining us for National Readathon Day and in celebration of how important reading is to American culture.

The mission of the National Book Foundation is to expand the audience for literature in America. Its programs include BookUp, 5 Under 35, the Innovations in Reading Prize, and the National Book Awards. 
If you need more information about the National Book Foundation or National Readathon Day, email bsamuel@nationalbook.org. And for press inquiries, email syoung@nationalbook.org.
See original post HERE

As of a week ago, there were already more than 120 teams that had "raised more than $20,000 as part of the event" (GalleyCat).  As of today there are 153 teams, raising more than $40,000 according to the FirstGiving website. There is still time to get involved and get excited, so hop to, folks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Perfect Cookie for the Perfect Book

Lately I have been hearing an awful lot about Girl Scout cookies. And I always hear an awful lot about books, of course. So when I saw that someone over at Book Riot put the two together, pairing different GS cookies with certain reads, I was delectably intrigued:

Girl Scout cookies are great no matter what they’re paired with, but I think we can all agree that everything is better with books. As a former Girl Scout, I know that people have their favorite cookies (Reppin’ Samoas, what what!). After some extensive taste tests, we here at Book Riot have found the perfect book/cookie pairings – no matter what your cookie preferences may be!
 See the original post HERE

Some of these pairings are utterly fantastic, I must say. Others, I admit, I don't quite get because I don't know enough about the book. :( Buuuut I do think a fun pairing for Savannah Smiles, though, would be "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" by Aimee Bender. :-p Ahh irony. Gotta love it.

What would YOUR perfect pairing be?


As a side note, my littlest sister, who has been selling GS cookies for years, won't be doing so this year. But I'm stoked that GS has finally moved some cookies sales online, so those of us who don't know any Girls Scouts aren't missing out on the deliciousness itself and on helping out such a great organization!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Give the Man a Break

And by "the Man" I mean Nicholas Sparks.

Earlier this week my social media feeds blew up with "news" of novelist Nicholas Sparks's marriage split. I saw a lot of callous remarks being made about the irony of it with Sparks's penchant for hopeless romanticism in his books, and it seemed the trend was to chastise him, many people almost reveling in his pain. And then there were those who claimed that love couldn't ever last if Sparks couldn't make it work. Honestly, I was ashamed to even be reading such commentary.

That said, I'll keep this short and sweet.

Leave the man alone. Just because he writes about enduring love doesn't mean he isn't human. It doesn't mean he has some magical power to make love last that the rest of us don't. He had a twenty-five-year marriage, which is more than most people can say.

So, to Nick Sparks, wherever you are, I'm sorry for what you're going through. It's a sad thing for a relationship to unravel and it's painful and scarring and it takes time to heal, even when you're a bestselling author.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome to 2015

With 2015 now upon us, "Best of 2014" lists are coming out our ears, making it hard to focus on what's to come in the year ahead. While I like "Best of" lists just as much as the next booklover, the start of a new year is a time to look forward, not back.

But where do we start? There are so many amazing books hitting the shelves this year! If you're struggling like I am (despite the giant TBR pile that is basically every room in my home), Book Riot has given us readers a fun challenge to get us started with the "2015 Read Harder Challenge":

Whatever your preference for reading challenges, we here at the Riot enjoy the odd challenge. We’ve written before about the benefits of a reading challenge; they can stretch your reading, whether the intention is to push you to read more of your TBR, more classics, more backlist, more new releases, or just to read more. Or even if the intention is to read less. 
January 1st brings with it both an abundance of challenges for the new year and an abundance of resolutions. These are often connected for readers, many of whom – Rioters included – make reading resolutions. As many of us here resolve to read more diversely, in any number of ways, we thought it would be a good idea to come up with our own reading challenge for 2015 to help you stretch your reading limits. 
I’ve included 24 tasks, averaging out to two per month, that will hopefully inspire you to pick up books that represent experiences and places and cultures that might be different from your own. We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is – a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself. 
Where applicable, I’ve linked to previous Book Riot posts, to Goodreads lists, or other resources that might help you find books to fit the tasks.* 
We hope this challenge will help you not only to read more, but to Read Harder. 
We’ll be checking in here on the Riot periodically throughout the year, but we’ll also be talking about this challenge on social media with the hashtag #ReadHarder. Share your books, share your challenge plan, share your recommendations.
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 
A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) 
A book published by an indie press 
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ 
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own 
A book that takes place in Asia 
A book by an author from Africa 
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.) 
A microhistory 
A YA novel 
A sci-fi novel 
A romance novel 
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.) 
An audiobook 
A collection of poetry 
A book that someone else has recommended to you 
A book that was originally published in another language 
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you met Panels?) 
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) 
A book published before 1850 
A book published this year 
A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”) 
*Goodreads lists are user-created and the books on them may not fit the challenge requirements. Double check any book you’re using, just to make sure. 
Have ideas for what books you want to use for certain tasks? Leave 'em below! 
Editor’s note: we’ve created a Goodreads group for this challenge! Give it a join!

See the original post HERE

I think I might give this challenge a try! What about you? Any books spark to mind when you hear these categories?

Happy new year, dear readers! May your year be filled with books to make you laugh, cry, and feel all the feels. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Clifford the Big Red Dog Creator, Norman Bridwell, Passes at 86

I don't know about y'all, but I always loved Clifford the Big Red Dog. He was awesome--the size of a house but the gentleness of a mouse! (Why, yes, I did just make that silly phrase up just now. :-p) The Clifford books were excellent books for me--and remain to be for others--to not only practice reading but to get me interested in the stories being told between the covers. That's why it saddens me today to hear that Norman Bridwell, the Clifford book illustrator and creator, has passed away at 86.

The Boston Globe posted a lovely article about Bridwell and his Clifford-driven endeavors online today:

To hear Norman Bridwell tell the story — and hundreds of millions of children around the world have read his tales for more than 50 years — Clifford the Big Red Dog almost never came to be. 
Mr. Bridwell was living in New York City in the early 1960s with his wife and their new baby, and money was short. He was working as a commercial artist when his wife, Norma, suggested he try his hand at illustrating children’s books. 
“I made some samples and took them to eight or 10 publishers and was rejected by every one,” he told the Globe in 2004. “One young editor said, ‘You’re not very good. No one’s going to buy your artwork. Why don’t you try a story, and if someone buys it, then you could do the art.’ She pointed to a sample painting, of a little girl and a big red dog, and said, ‘Maybe this could be a story.’ ” 
At home, he wrote the first Clifford story, making the title character even bigger. As for the dog’s color, “it was red because I happened to have red paint on the drawing table that night,” he said in 2004. 
After the manuscript sat for a while in the slush pile of one publisher, a freelance manuscript reader handed it off it to Scholastic books, which offered Mr. Bridwell a $1,000 advance for the story and $875 for the art. 
That first story grew into an empire of more than 150 titles, 129 million books in 13 languages, a popular PBS TV series, and an ever-expanding list of merchandise. Mr. Bridwell, so modest about his creation that he told the Globe he had “never been able to figure out why it was so popular,” died Friday in Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, after a fall in his Edgartown home, the Associated Press reported. He was 86. 
“A lot of people were Clifford fans, and that makes them Norman fans, too,” his wife told the AP. 
The late actor John Ritter lent his voice to the PBS “Clifford” series, which debuted in 2000. The Clifford character also has been featured in a movie, popup books, and coloring books, as plush toys and beverage napkins, in postcards and puzzles, and as dinnerware and underwear. 
The smallest in a litter of puppies, Clifford grows to more than 25 feet tall and is cared for by Emily Elizabeth, a character named for Mr. Bridwell’s daughter, who was an infant when he wrote the first book. The book version of Emily narrates the stories, in which she and Clifford go about rather ordinary family activities that are complicated by his size. 
“The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes,” Dick Robinson, chairman, president, and chief executive of Scholastic, said in the company’s statement announcing Mr. Bridwell’s death. “What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally.” 
Mr. Bridwell thought Clifford’s mistakes made him all the more appealing and hoped the books would help young readers become more forgiving. Though he brushed off suggestions that he based Clifford on himself, his wife thought otherwise. 
“He’s never been able to recognize that,” she said in an interview with the AP a few years ago. “Clifford tries to do the right thing, Norman tries to do the right thing, and he makes a mess of it. But he’s the most lovable grown-up man. He’s just a nice guy.” 
Their daughter, Emily Elizabeth Bridwell Merz of Carlisle, told the Globe in 2004 that “the whole spirit of Clifford is born out of my father’s sense of humor, which I always appreciated while growing up. To me, Clifford is sort of an extension of my Dad, and for that I have a great deal of love for the character.” 
Born in Kokomo, Ind., Mr. Bridwell took to drawing at an early age. 
“I was not good at sports and my high school shop teacher, after a few days of class, took my tools away, telling me, ‘Here’s a pad of paper instead. You seem to like to draw: stick to that,’ ” he said for his biography on the Scholastic website. 
Aspiring to be a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, he studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis before moving to New York City, where he took classes at Cooper Union. 
In New York, he met Norma Howard, who also was from Indiana, and they married. 
When Mr. Bridwell wrote the first Clifford story, he initially called the title character Tiny, a name his wife found too obvious for a 25-foot-tall dog. She suggested Clifford, “after an imaginary friend from her childhood,” Mr. Bridwell said in his Scholastic biography. 
Norma also bound the manuscript with a red gingham cover before they sent it to a publisher. 
“A lady called from Scholastic and said, ‘We have a book here called Clifford, and we’d like to publish it.’ I was completely stunned. It was a bad year, and we needed something. We had a new baby,” Mr. Bridwell recalled in 2004, adding that he “asked them, ‘If it doesn’t sell, do I have to give back the advance?’ ” 
He was so sure lightning might not strike twice that according to his Scholastic biography, he told his wife: “Now don’t count on there being any more. This one is just a fluke. I don’t know if there will ever be another one.’ ” 
Dozens of books and decades after that initial sale, Mr. Bridwell had not tired of finding new adventures for Clifford or of creating books for children. 
“I’m very thankful,” he said in the 2004 Globe interview. “I love the kids. You couldn’t think of a better audience to write for.” 
The Bridwell family moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1969, keeping a place on Beacon Hill as well. 
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Bridwell leaves a son, Timothy, and three grandchildren. Mr. Bridwell’s wife told the AP that a public service will be announced, probably next year. 
Scholastic announced that before his death, Mr. Bridwell completed two Clifford books that will be released in 2015: “Clifford Goes to Kindergarten” and “Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah.” 
When meeting with his young readers, Mr. Bridwell drew from his own experience of having manuscripts rejected to encourage children to persevere: “You might do a drawing today that you think is nice, and you show it to the other kids but they don’t like it, or the teacher won’t put it up. But don’t let that discourage you. That’s just today. You never know what you are going to do tomorrow.” 
Even after filling shelves around the world with Clifford books, Mr. Bridwell was matter-of-fact about how he wrote and illustrated each one. 
“A woman once asked me about my process in writing it,” he said in the 2004 Globe interview, “and I said, ‘No process at all. He just seems like the kind of dog it would be fun to own.’ ” 
Read the original piece HERE

Thank you, Mr. Bridwell for your inspiring tales and characters. Rest in peace. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

INSURGENT Trailer Released by Lionsgate

Oh man. Lionsgate Entertainment released the official Insurgent trailer today, and I cannot wait 'til this one hits theaters on March 20, 2015 (which is actually closer than it seems, and for once that thought is exciting! LOL).

Insurgent is the second installment of the Divergent series, and this sequel looks even more intense and action-packed than the first. Such a great series to be adapted for the silver screen!



Friday, December 5, 2014

Hmm...What to Do With Those Letters You Never Sent...

I recently found out that a dear friend of mine, Heather Winter, is working on a very cool nonfiction Letters I Never Sent will be a compilation of letters from people throughout the world, as well as from Heather herself, that were written in the heat of a moment, when wrapped up in the deepest emotions we possess as humans. Now this is a nonfiction book I can get behind for so many reasons.
book project. While I'm mostly a fiction gal, there are some NF titles that really speak to me and pull me in.

Heather and I met online in a Canadian Forces military wives and girlfriends chat room (it sounds random, I know, but I was once intending to marry a CF member LOL Oh life... How you change...), and we instantly hit it off. Years later we are still in touch, and hopefully we will soon meet in person for the very first time. *squee!*

Our friendship has always been filled with shared emotional experiences and helping one another not feel so alone. I was very lucky to have stumbled across her that day so long ago. And with her new project, people everywhere will be able to have that very same feeling, simply from reading a letter than someone wrote so purely from the heart and without censure.

She is currently collecting submissions to be included in the book on a variety of topics, so if you have a letter you'd like to contribute, please e-mail her. She would be thrilled to read your work. All letters will be anonymous unless otherwise requested.

Check out the project's website HERE and consider getting involved! Not only is it a great way to get your words out there and potentially support a stranger who is going through similar experiences as you have but it is sure to be an excellent study of human nature as a whole.