Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ethics Police: Pedophile Author Arrested for Obscenity

Some of you might recall back in November when a self-published book on pedophilia popped up on Amazon. The book, which was a how-to guide for pedophiles by a Colorado man, was pulled off the site as soon as it was acknowledged.

Now, the author--Phillip R. Greave--has been arrested on charges of obscenity, opening a huge Bill-of-Rights can of worms, no matter how morally justified it may be.

The Associated Press reports:
A Colorado man who wrote a how-to guide for pedophiles was arrested Monday and will be extradited to Florida to face obscenity charges, after deputies there ordered a copy of the book that has generated online outrage.

Officers arrested Phillip R. Greaves at his home in Pueblo on Monday on a warrant that charges him with violating Florida's obscenity law. During a brief court appearance, Greaves waived his right to fight extradition to Polk County, Fla., where Sheriff Grady Judd claimed jurisdiction because the author sold and mailed his book directly to undercover deputies. Judd said Greaves even signed the book.

"I was outraged by the content," Judd told The Associated Press. "It was clearly a manifesto on how to sexually batter children ... You just can't believe how absolutely disgusting it was."

The book — "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct" — caused a flap when it showed up on Amazon in November. The book was later removed from the site.

Greaves, who has no criminal record, writes in the book that pedophiles are misunderstood, as the word literally means to love a child. He adds that it is only a crime to act on sexual impulses toward children, and offers advice that purportedly allows pedophiles to abide by the law.

Judd said he was incensed when he heard about the book and that no one had arrested Greaves for selling it. The book, Judd said, included first-person descriptions of sexual encounters, purportedly written from a child's point of view.

"What's wrong with a society that has gotten to the point that we can't arrest child pornographers and child molesters who write a book about how to rape a child?" said Judd, who keeps a Bible on his desk and is known throughout Florida as a crusader against child predators.

Florida' obscenity law — a third-degree felony — prohibits the "distribution of obscene material depicting minors engaged in conduct harmful to minors." Pueblo County sheriff's spokeswoman Laurie Kilpatrick said Greaves would leave for Polk County later in the day.

Legal experts questioned whether Greaves' right to free speech would come into play if there's a trial. If prosecutors can charge Greaves for shipping his book, they ask, what would prevent booksellers from facing prosecution for selling Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita," a novel about a pedophile?

"As bad as this book may be, the charge opens a very big Pandora's box," said Dennis J. Kenney, a former police officer in Polk County and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "The charge sounds to me like a significant overreach."

Greaves was among a group of prisoners who made brief appearances before District Court Judge David Crockenberg in Pueblo on Monday, all of them represented by the same public defender. He was the only one not wearing a striped prison uniform although his wrists were handcuffed in front of him.

Dressed in a cream colored T-shirt and khaki pants, Greaves said he understood the extradition process. When Crockenberg asked him if he understood he would be taken to Florida, Greaves responded, "That is correct, your honor."

Judd said his undercover detectives got Greaves to mail the book to them for $50; he told officers it was his last copy.

"If we can get jurisdiction ... we're coming after you," Judd said. "There's nothing in the world more important than our children."

Read the article on Yahoo! News HERE
It's unbelievably disturbing to me what people are capable of. And as Judd points out, we have a responsibility to protect our families and society's youths, and I agree that we should do whatever we can--within reason--to do so.

But I'll admit it is a blurry line to toe given our country's "freedoms." The question is: what is "within reason"? The conditions set out by our founding fathers seem more detrimental than anything else in cases like this, but what can we legally and morally do about it?

As our country is wont to do, I'm sure they'll find other, more "just" and "appropriate" charges on which to take action against Greaves, but they may be sticking their hands into a giant honey pot in doing so.

The Ethics Police are baffled...and sitting here with the creeps, to say the least.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Story of Obama

Today marks a significant day in GLBT rights in the U.S. as President Obama signed a repeal for the unjust "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. (Yay!)

But that's not the only thing I found about him in the news for when surfing the net on my lunch break. It seems he's also "lost his narrative," according to the Daily Beast, and needs some pointers from the pros:

Obama has a "narrative" problem. Or at least that's the media's storyline.

"Presidential politics is about storytelling," Politico's John F. Harris said last year. "No one understands this better than Barack Obama and his team, who won the 2008 election in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition."

But, as the saying goes, you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, and before long, everyone wants to edit.

Obama has a "narrative" problem. Or at least that's the media's storyline.

"Presidential politics is about storytelling," Politico's John F. Harris said last year. "No one understands this better than Barack Obama and his team, who won the 2008 election in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition."

Take the moment this summer during the Gulf oil spill when Obama seemed upended by calamity. "He'd better seize control of the story line of his White House years," opined Maureen Dowd. "Woe-is-me is not an attractive narrative."

Click on cable television or flip to the opinion pages, and you'll discover that whenever things aren't going the president's way, it's because he has lost control of the narrative. In other words, the Obama camp is desperately in need of a re-write.

But rather than listen to the political journalists, who rate the president like National Book Award judges, we decided to ask some veteran novelists for a few hints of how to improve his plot in 2011.

Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, said it's time for Obama to look at his earliest chapters.

"When I am writing and floundering, with no sense of where to go, I look back to the beginning of what I am working on, and ask: Where did I start? What set this all into motion? Obama could do the same with his novel, of which we are all characters," he wrote in an email.

"The answer would be, 'Oh, yeah, I promised change, I promised to fight some very righteous fights, I gave my supporters [the reason] to believe that I would be tough enough, or at least magical enough, to rout the armies of the evil Republican wizards, even though I would try to be nice first.' Then I think he would 'find' his 'narrative,' and perhaps find the will to finally go berserk on these thugs, these goons of the oligarchy, and save the kingdom of the middle class. And people far and wide would say, 'Have you read Obama's latest? It's a great read!' He might even get on Oprah. In short, when you lose something, it's usually where you've been, not where you think you're going."

Canadian poet and author Margaret Atwood at first demurred, claiming her nationality disqualified her from meddling in her neighbor's affairs. But when pressed, she offered that a more interplanetary story line might serve the president well.

"Ask the Sci-fi writers to do some plots whereby the President has been taken over by the Pod People," she told The Daily Beast by email.

Spy novelist Alex Berenson, who published The Midnight House this year, said the way forward might be the creation of an enemy.

"The number one way you change the narrative is give him a villain," Berenson said, pointing out the way in which the country came together behind George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks.

"I'd give him something to push against. Give him an enemy who is not John Boehner. Maybe he needs an alien invasion. We can all be against invasions."

For Berenson, the story line from the White House remains fuzzy.

"If you came in with that book, your editor would tell you, you needed to focus," he said. "You need to know who your hero was."

Read the rest of the article HERE

I'm not sure why but when I first started reading this article, I couldn't stop laughing. I found it incredibly amusing to compare a presidential term in office to a narrative in a book. But as I read, I realized it made more and more sense. Everything has a story arc to it, a character arc, a conflict, and a lesson. Each and every day can be compared to a narrative, really. And maybe it should be. Maybe it'd help us all be a little more objective, productive, and meaningful...

Monday, December 20, 2010

You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch

Everyone and their mother is coming out with a "Best Books" list of 2010--Entertainment Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Telegraph, etc. etc. But amidst all the favorite titles being called out and recommended, among all the "yay for books" end-of-year buzz, there's at least one agent whose holiday cheer is less than cheerful.

Betsy Lerner of Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner Literary Agency seems to be taking a lesson or two from the Grinch this December in a shocking rant about what she feels about being an agent:
Sold my last book of 2011 today. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa. I know many of you hate agents out there and I get it. I hated most agents when I was an editor. Taking them to lunch so they could shit on your face, if you feel me. I once took an agent out to lunch who looked at the menu and said, “If I have one more cobb salad, I’m going to kill myself.” Another pulled a bill away as I was figuring out the tip and said, “Gimme that, I know 15% of anything.”

But you didn’t ask me about agent lunches. You didn’t ask about anything. I’m not proud of it, but I am an agent. I’m proud of the job I do for my clients, but being a professional sleaze bag is a drag. You know the one about the guy who comes home to discover that his wife and children have been raped and murdered, and his house has been burned down. The cop explains that his agent had come to his house. The guy gets all excited, really, he says, my agent came to my house.

Just for fun tonight, just because I think a little pre-holiday raging is called for, I wonder if you would share your worst agent story and no need to mention names (especially if it’s me).

See the original post HERE

I had heard rumors of this post last week--authors, editors, and fellow agents alike all had something to say about Lerner's extreme candor. And now that I too have read it, my mind is quite frankly boggled.

Though her agency represents titles like The Lovely Bones, I'm Down, and Belong to Me, Lerner shows a lack of professionalism and lucidity--how she manages to actually maintain a career, I haven't a clue--that I've known many an agent to possess. And I know a lot of agents. I like a lot of agents. A lot of said agents love being agents. There are, of course, agents here and there that I'd much rather never deal with again, but all-in-all I've had pretty good experiences with the people on other side of the biz. As a result, Lerner's claims ring less than true in my ears.

Whether her rant was due to a forgotten pill or an honest hatred for her job, no one can really say. But one thing is for sure: if you don't like you're job, don't do it. The publishing industry is not typically a lucrative one--it's not a biz people get into to make money. There's no incentive to staying in if you don't love it. As cliched as it is, there really are a thousand plus people who want to fill those shoes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

E-Readers: The New Big Brother

I'd never even heard of the EFF before yesterday. But on the morning edition of "All Things Considered," NPR's Martin Kaste opened my eyes to a recent report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and an e-reader ability I had not yet heard: the devices can--and do--track user reading habits:

E-books are quickly going mainstream: They represent nearly one out of 10 trade books sold.

It's easy to imagine a near future in which paper books are the exception, not the norm. But are book lovers ready to have their reading tracked?

Most e-readers, like Amazon's Kindle, have an antenna that lets users instantly download new books. But the technology also makes it possible for the device to transmit information back to the manufacturer.

"They know how fast you read because you have to click to turn the page," says Cindy Cohn, legal director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It knows if you skip to the end to read how it turns out."

Checking Someone's Alibi, Tracking A Device

Cohn says this kind of page-view tracking may seem innocuous, but if the company keeps the data long-term, the information could be subpoenaed to check someone's alibi, or as evidence in a lawsuit.

And it's not just what pages you read; it may also monitor where you read them. Kindles, iPads and other e-readers have geo-location abilities; using GPS or data from Wi-Fi and cell phone towers, it wouldn't be difficult for the devices to track their own locations in the physical world.

But it's hard to find out what kind of data the e-readers are sending. Most e-book companies refer all questions about this to their posted privacy policies. The policies can be hard to interpret, so Cohn and the EFF created a side-by-side comparison. It's just been updated to include Apple's iPad.

See the entire piece or listen to it HERE

I already knew, of course, that Google, Amazon, and pretty much every online search engine or online retailer tracks our activity in order to give us the most relevant information for each individual. But I had no idea that some e-readers were able to gather so much additional information on users. Something about that fact feels very, very wrong to me. Intriguing, I'll admit, but wrong.

ReadWriteWeb tells us more:

Since WikiLeaks released 250,000 secret U.S. government cables a little over a week ago, the world is suddenly terribly concerned about what we may or may not be reading. Some countries - and some U.S. government agencies - are blocking their people from accessing the Wikileaks site, for fear of reading.

So the EFF's E-Book Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy comes at a good time - not just for holiday shopping, but for those of us that want to read that other famous trove of classified materials, The Pentagon Papers (or, okay, perhaps read other things too) with some assurance of privacy.

EFF's guide provides a review of the privacy policies of various e-book providers - both hardware and software makers - from the Amazon Kindle, to Google Books, to the Internet Archive. The report is based on what the policies say themselves, not on how they're enforced in practice.


The data that many of these e-readers gather does help them deliver a better experience in a lot of ways. iBooks needs to track the last page you've read, for example, if you expect it to be able to sync across devices. Amazon tracks what you search and purchase in order to make suggestions for items you might like.

But one's reading habits, perhaps because reading has been such a private endeavor, have typically been closely guarded. We may want to disguise the fact we never finished Ulysses (I confess). We may want to disguise having read all the Twilight novels - twice - (I haven't, I swear) or having a penchant for really low brow science fiction (no comment). And of course, we may want to read books that are politically unpopular.

Read the entire article HERE

Not only do these revelations surprise me (they probably shouldn't at this point, but they do!), but the timing is quite ironic as well. I've actually been thinking lately about trying out my e-reader for some actual book-reading, instead of just word document viewing--editing and reading friends' manuscripts for feedback. But this privacy breach is making me think twice. So much of what we do is already being watching and recorded by "Big Brother" types that extending their reach into reading--something I consider a very personal and private endeavor--disturbs me to my core.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Celebs, Celebs, Everywhere

This week, Boldtype and Flavorwire just had too many hilarious and/or interesting articles to choose from! But after much deliberation, I've decided to share with you a little something called "The Year in Disturbing Celebrity Book Deals."

As the year winds down, I can think of several celeb memoirs or novels that lack literary merit, if you will. I can also think of another dozen-plus number of celeb proposals that were nixed by the editorial board at my last job. Weekly meetings at publishing houses all throughout New York get the frequent proposal claiming to be the next celeb bestseller.

Some of these ideas percolate in-house where an editor then reaches out to a manager or an agent, and some come from the celeb directly. Some are hits, some are massive bombs. And some, you just can't believe ever made it through the grueling acquisitions process.

Boldtype/Flavorwire present what they deem the worst celeb books of 2010:

Celebrity book deals practically exist to piss us off. While there are certainly exceptions to the rule (such as the recent, glowingly reviewed tomes by Jay-Z and Steve Martin, as well as Patti Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir), most stars just aren’t writers. And few things are more annoying — especially for those of us who write for a living, or have aspirations of doing so — than the news that a functionally illiterate reality TV star is preparing to “write” a memoir, children’s book, or novel. After the jump, we take a look at the year’s most irritating examples, from the Salahis to Snooki.

Susan Boyle

Curious about what Boyle, who rose to fame as the frumpy 47-year-old virgin with a beautiful voice, has been doing all her life? We aren’t, but that didn’t stop British publisher Transworld from handing the singer a deal to write the memoir The Woman I Was Born to Be about the making of an unlikely diva. As she said in a statement, “When I strutted on to the stage for that audition, I was a scared wee lassie, still grieving for my mother, not caring how I looked. I think I’ve grown up a lot in the last year, become more of a lady, and I’m not so frightened anymore.” Okay, we stopped reading after “wee lassie,” but — “wee lassie”! There is someone in the world who actually talks like this! Sold.

Tyra Banks

Because she thinks she’s Oprah, Tyra Banks is trying to conquer all spheres of media as quickly as possible. So, back in May, she signed a deal with Random House to write a trilogy of YA books, beginning with Modelland, about “a fantastical place you’ve never seen, or heard about, or read about before … Where dreams come true and life can change in the blink of a smoky eye.” This sounds like it’s going to be really great for teen girls’ self esteem!

Michaele and Tareq Salahi

Apparently, being stupid enough to crash a state dinner at the White House will now win you a book deal. In June, we learned that the pair would be writing a memoir about the stunt — because that will surely provide hundreds of pages worth of material — with the help of investigative reporter Diane Diamond. The resulting book, Cirque du Salahi, came out in September and was credited solely to Dimond. It currently has a whopping 1.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The Situation

You might ask, “How is it possible to write a book when you’ve never read a book?” It’s a good question, and one that Sitch’s “co-author” Chris Millis might be in the best position to answer. Back in July, welearned about the book deal, and less than four months later, publisher Gotham crapped out Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting in Your GTL on the Jersey Shore. If nothing else, it would make a good Christmas present for someone you secretly hate.

Paul the Octopus

Yes, the octopus who accurately predicted the outcome of every single German World Cup game landed a book deal for his trouble. Unfortunately, the two-and-a-half-year-old sea creature died back in October. Perhaps he’ll be releasing material posthumously, like Biggie and Tupac?


Not only is TV’s favorite pickle-loving Oompah-Loompah the second Jersey Shore cast member to break into publishing, but she’s writing what she might call “a friggin’ novel.” Titled A Shore Thing, the book, which was announced in September, is supposedly coming out in January and “will revolve around a girl looking for love on the boardwalk (one full of big hair, dark tans, and fights galore).” Hey, write what you know, right?

Christine O’Donnell

The year’s final insult is one of its worst: instead of disappearing forever after losing the election, the tea party Senate candidate from Delaware is going to write a book. According to Politico, the book will recount her experience in the 2010 election — because, you know, we didn’t hear enough about it while it was happening. “I plan on making my book one of the revolution’s catalysts,” O’Donnell said. So… goody. Look for it in August of next year. Or, you know, don’t.

See the original piece HERE

I'm pleased to see the two, why-the-heck-are-they-famous-they're-so-freakin-annoying "Jersey Shore" disasters on there, I must admit. Those were the first two I thought of when I saw the headline for the piece.

What do YOU think are the biggest celeb book mistakes of the year?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Between the Sheets: Romance Heats Up E-book Sales

I've always known that the romance books were not only something I enjoy but also that the genre was one of the best-selling segments of the book biz. It also was kind of a given that romance readers would be some of the top buyers of e-books, given the unfortunately stigmatized nature of the genre and the flashy, less-than-subtle covers.

But I'll admit that I never expected the front page of the New York Times to tout the trend. I gotta say it made me grin like whoa when I heard about this morning's article (I also adore Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, so that didn't hurt either!):

Sarah Wendell, blogger and co-author of “Beyond Heaving Bosoms,” is passionate about romance novels.

Except for the covers, with their images of sinewy limbs, flowing, Fabio-esque locks or, as she put it, “the mullets and the man chests.”

“They are not always something that you are comfortable holding in your hand in public,” Ms. Wendell said.

So she began reading e-books, escaping the glances and the imagined snickers from strangers on the subway, and joining the many readers who have traded the racy covers of romance novels for the discretion of digital books.

If the e-reader is the digital equivalent of the brown-paper wrapper, the romance reader is a little like the Asian carp: insatiable and unstoppable. Together, it turns out, they are a perfect couple. Romance is now the fastest-growing segment of the e-reading market, ahead of general fiction, mystery and science fiction, according to data from Bowker, a research organization for the publishing industry.

Publishers and retailers, spying an opportunity, have begun pursuing in earnest those enthusiastic romance readers who have abandoned print for digital.

“Romance,” said Matthew Shear, the executive vice president and publisher of St. Martin’s Press, which releases 40 to 50 romance novels each year, is “becoming as popular in e-books as it is in the print editions.”

When “Maybe This Time,” a lighthearted ghost romance by the best-selling author Jennifer Crusie, went on sale in August, it sold as many e-books as hardcover books in its first week, Mr. Shear said, a phenomenon that he began noticing this summer with other romance titles.

At All Romance, an online retailer that sells only e-books, sales have more than doubled this year, and the most sought-after titles are usually the raciest.

“It’s easier to check out some naughty little title online than in a brick-and-mortar store where your pastor could step up in line behind you,” said Barb Perfetti, the chief financial officer of All Romance. “We’ve had lots of customers write to us and say, ‘Now I don’t always have to show my husband what I’m reading.’ ”

Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, is courting romance readers more aggressively than ever. William Lynch, the chief executive, said in an interview that until recently Barnes & Noble was a nonplayer in the huge romance category, but that it now has captured more than 25 percent of the market in romance e-books. Sometime next year, he said, he expects the company’s e-book sales in romance to surpass its print sales.

“This is a new business for us,” Mr. Lynch said. “Romance buyers are buying, on average, three books a month. That buyer is really, really valuable.”

Dominique Raccah, the publisher and chief executive of Sourcebooks, an independent publisher in Naperville, Ill., said her romance e-book sales had grown exponentially this year, outpacing any other category. In the first quarter 8 percent of total romance sales at Sourcebooks were from e-book sales. By the third quarter that number had gone up to 27 percent. (Major trade publishers say e-books now make up about 9 to 10 percent of overall sales.) “You’re seeing the real development of a market,” Ms. Raccah said.

Romance is a natural leader here. The genre took off in the 1980s, when it expanded from the typical dreamy or bodice-ripping historical novels to include contemporary, plot-driven stories with characters drawn from real life. (Happy endings, though, are still required.) In 2009, when more than 9,000 titles were published, romance fiction generated $1.36 billion in sales, giving it the largest share of the overall trade-book market, according to the Romance Writers of America, which compiles statistics on romance books.

Nearly 75 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008, the group said. (Ms. Wendell and her co-author, Candy Tan, wrote in “Beyond Heaving Bosoms” that romance novels are “easily the most-hidden literary habit in America.”)

Romance readers tend to be women ages 31 to 49 who are — contrary to the popular image of Miss Lonelyhearts living vicariously through fictional tales of seduction — in a romantic relationship, according to the writers group. They frequently fly through a book or more a week, and from the beginning they have jumped at the chance to store hundreds of titles on a single device — where the next happy ending is a download away.

Read the rest of the article HERE

I applaud you, New York Times, for bringing the genre to the forefront--literally--and setting the record straight to a certain extent. It's about time.

For you readers out there who haven't delved into the romance genre just yet, don't be shy--take a peek and enjoy!

Need recommendations? Check out my list of all-time faves HERE. Or just leave a COMMENT on this post! Us romance fans will happily oblige with some great recs for your tastes!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Steal from Your Child's Bookshelf? Why you should DO IT

When my friends Lisa and Fia came over for girls' night yesterday, the last thing I thought we'd do is discuss fantasy and dystopian YA. But it turns out that my friends had just experienced their first real crossover-YA novels with the Hunger Games series and were lamenting finishing up the trilogy and having no other series to read.

"What?!" I said in dismay. "Come to my bookshelf. I will show you the way."

So, after I thrust book after book in their faces, talking to them about plot synopsis, tones, and which ones are must-reads, they were both optimistic about diving further into the crossover-YA pool. With my lesson successfully taught, I was ready to get back to our girls' night plan (vino, beef bourguignon, the movie "Julie & Julia," and chocolate chip cookies), but then Fia announced that she had gotten the Hunger Games suggestion from Oprah's list of books to steal from your teenager. The tables had turned--I had never heard of this list!

This morning, of course, I scoured the internet for said list. I was saddened to find it only has four books on it--and to find it's not really "Oprah's" picks but those of a guest writer for O Magazine, YA author Lizzie Skurnick:
The Lost Conspiracy
By Frances Hardinge

J.R.R. Tolkien has nothing on fantasist Hardinge, who creates a complex universe of tribes and lands and codes of conduct, into which he then drops two very different sisters out to save their world.

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins

Reading Collins's massively popular thriller/survival narrative/romance is like enjoying a blockbuster movie you didn't think you wanted to see. This one stars surly loner Katniss Everdeen, a courageous, cranky, and accomplished heroine who also happens to look great in a dress.

I, Robot
By Isaac Asimov

Don't laugh! If you think Asimov is meant only for 13-year-old boys obsessed with computer games, it's time to look at this classic collection of brilliantly plotted gems t
hat anticipate not only our completely gadget-dependent world but also the philosophical implications of turning our lives over to smartphones.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
By Elizabeth George Speare
Laurel Leaf

When her grandfather dies, proud but penniless Kit Tyler must abandon her Caribbean plantation to bunk with cousins in a drab Connecticut colony where her brilliant silks and haughty manner go over like a bowl of corn gruel. Living in 1687, amid Royalist clashes and timeless romances, a persecuted Kit eventually finds the sweet spot between strength and will.

See the article HERE

All good reads, Skurnick's list is solid. But there are some I personally would've added to this baby:

The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse) - An amazing futuristic trilogy jam-packed with adventure, emotion, and thought-provoking ideals. I couldn't put it down and have shoved it at the majority of my friends...and my book club.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) - Powerful and heart-wrenching, this dark contemporary novel is told from the perspective of a mute teen who suffered some serious trauma. One of my all-time favorite crossover-YA's. The film adaptation actually is pretty good too!

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Knopf Books for Young Readers) - A clever and creative trilogy that "attacks" the Catholic church and serves as a spiritual allegory, all while providing readers with an exciting and fantastical
story. Definitely a must-read for anyone new to the genre.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf Books for Young Readers) - Taking you back to the dark days of the Holocaust, Zusak's incredible tale of a young girl with a penchant for stealing books. It made me laugh and cry and just run the gamut of emotions as I savored each page.

I could probably continue this list for hours, but seeing as I have a bunch of stuff to do before I head off to a hockey game (Go Sens Go!), I should probably cut myself off.

What are YOUR must-read crossover-YA novel recommendations?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hilarious and Oh-So-True Satire Hits YouTube

In my past four years in publishing, I've worked with a variety of different authors--some are kind, funny, stubborn, open, angry, paranoid, confident, self-absorbed, humble...I could list the possible characteristics all night if I wanted to (I do not). I've heard numerous stories about diva authors complaining because their hotel room on a book tour stop was on an odd numbered floor or their stylist was using the wrong brand of hairdryer. I've seen letters from authors after they've been rejected, kicking and screaming and throwing a tantrum because their book is "guaranteed to be a bestseller" and we "are morons to reject it." It's unbelievable how some people behave in this industry--in any industry in the public eye really.

And all of these experiences and stories came rushing back to me just now, when I saw a link on HuffPo about a new You Tube satirical sensation about the book biz. When I first read the article, I was ready to be offended. Instead, I fell off my chair (in laughter, not shock or just plain stupidity ).

With that lovely image in mind, enjoy this short video from aspiring author David Kazzie. Just don't drink anything while you watch--trust me. The animated bear-pig-dogs and their monotone computerized voices will likely make whatever liquid shoot out your nose.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Best Friends, Bookstores, and Beating the Odds

With more and more independent bookstores closing monthly, this article caught my eye instantly when I headed over to the Huffington Post today...and, I'll admit, it made me a little teary:
After years of buying books at Narnia Children's Books in Richmond's Museum District, best friends Jill Stefanovich and Jenesse Evertson have bought the entire store.

"I just couldn't imagine living in Richmond without this store," Stefanovich said.

The two took over the store on Kensington Avenue at North Belmont Avenue this month and have renamed it BBGB.

It will essentially remain the same, though the partners are expanding the store's reach and selection.

Among those changes are a website, a social-media presence and an increased number of titles, particularly from overseas.

They also plan on holding readings, workshops and author events at the store, as well as planning to host sales and other events at temporary locations elsewhere.

"We'd like to get our books out to the places where you wouldn't expect to see them," Stefanovich said.

They also are working on programs to get books to children who don't have access to them, including getting books as gifts for children with special needs through Greater Richmond ARC.

Stefanovich and Evertson took over ownership of the store from Kelly Kyle, who opened the store in 1984. Narnia, which originally opened in Carytown, moved to its current location in 2002.

This year, a retiring Kyle put the store up for sale. Without a buyer, she would have closed the store.

The partners were told in the early part of the summer that Kyle had found a buyer. But on Sept. 21, Stefanovich and Evertson found out that the sale had fallen through.

"We knew we had to do it," Evertson said. "We couldn't lose this store."

Keeping the Narnia name was not an option, the partners said. In 2006, copyright holders of the Narnia series of books tried to stop Kyle from using the name. The dispute was settled -- Kyle was allowed to use the name as long as she owned the store.

The new name BBGB is purposefully cryptic, the partners say.

Officially, the initials stand for Bring Back Great Books, but "it can be anything. We want people to come up with their own interpretation," Stefanovich said.

While the two decided they wanted to buy the store, there was one fairly substantial obstacle: Evertson doesn't live in the U.S.

Evertson had lived in Richmond for several years before her husband was transferred to Europe. She lives in London now, though she plans to eventually return.

The partners talk -- and Evertson attends meetings with designers and lawyers -- via online video chat service Skype.

The separation won't hurt the business, the partners say. In fact, it allows them to focus on what they are good at individually.

"It works because we have different strengths," Evertson said while sitting at the store recently during her first visit since they took over the shop.

Stefanovich, along with two employees who worked at Narnia for years, will run BBGB and create outreach programs. Evertson, who has a doctorate in literacy and a master's degree in children's literature, will work with publishers to unearth new titles and will write the store's blog.

Both are avid readers.

"The real test is going to be what happens when we're together," Evertson said, laughing.

Read the article HERE

You go, Stefanovich and Evertson!

It makes me smile that despite all the changes in the publishing industry, there are still people out there who are fighting to save the indies, to get back to the beauty of hand-selling and recreating the feeling of comfort and homeyness of a good, personally driven bookstore.

Stories like this are wonderful reminders of why the industry--and printed books--will never truly die, as some cynics have claimed in the past.

Gotta love it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review: Glimmerglass

When all I needed was to get away from my life, sink my teeth into a good book and be transported, Glimmerglass by Jenna Black was the answer to my prayers. Not only is Black's world-building believable and seamless, her story filled with high-stakes adventure and exciting duplicity, but her grasp of the teenage voice, of the everyday struggles of dealing with alcoholism, single-parenthood, and feeling like you don't belong is astounding.

When I met Dana on page one I was hooked. I could already relate to her and nothing had even happened yet. The power of her emotions was palpable, and I wanted to turn the pages just to know where her journey was taking her. And then, to my extreme delight, the rest of the story exceeded any expectation I could have had.

Normal: It's all she’s ever wanted to be, but it couldn’t be further from her grasp...

Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with…until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again... (Cover copy, St. Martin's Griffin)

Charming, witty, and intelligent, Black's writing is brilliant and readable, keeping me in rapt attention as I followed Dana, Noah, and Kimber through the streets of Avalon. I zipped through this book in four days, much quicker than I had any book in a while, and found myself disappointed to put it away every time I had to stop reading for the day.

The only exception to my glowing review of this wonderful book is that the ending left me a bit unsatisfied, with the loose ends all still dangling and the necessity of a sequel very clear. Cliffhanger endings, in general, I don't have too much contention with...if it's done in such a way that I'm still satisfied that the book was complete enough in itself. Sure, I'll know another book in the series is to come, but when I close the binding, I need to be able to see the story as it's own whole. Glimmerglass left me unable to do that, my love for the story suddenly being outshined by my shock at the abrupt ending.

Looking back (I finished the book about a month ago *blush*), it's the love that I still recall--the phenomenal writing, the nonstop thrill, the depth of emotion. With that in mind I can wholeheartedly recommend this read to any fantasy or YA lover. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be snagging a copy of the next book, Shadowspell, as soon as it's released in early 2011.

The Last Word: A bright and bewitching page-turner with enough magic to draw a reader happily under its spell despite a somewhat surprising and unfinished ending.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Long-Awaited Apology...and Promises of Change

I know it's been a while, dear readers. I'm sorry for that. Things over this way have been a whirlwind, for a variety of reasons really. But one in particular stands out from the others: Tomorrow is my last day at my current job.

It's the nature of the business, really. In the publishing world people bounce from house to house, zig-zagging their way up the ladder. It's a small industry and often you find yourself working again with someone you worked with years before or in the very same office you left several years prior.

In my case, though, it's more of a lateral move, a judgmental call that was not easy to make. I'm leaving Pocket for Penguin, but more than that, I'm leaving editorial for business development.

Trust me, that's a fact I'd never thought I'd ever face. I came into publishing with one goal: to be an editor and as such make a difference through books. And four years in, I find myself going down a new path, not one I looked for but one that found me, one that is exciting and scary and that holds great opportunity and potential reward.

I won't try for a second to claim I'm not sad about leaving because I am. I'm going to miss my bosses, my co-workers, and of course, my wonderful authors tremendously. Heck, I have one more day and I miss them all already. But as we all know, publishing is ever-changing and quickly evolving--just as we are as individuals. It's a change and adventure that, despite my tendency to stay put and hide from anything unfamiliar, for whatever reason the universe compelled me to attempt.

So, as you can probably imagine, it's been an emotional and difficult few weeks making this decision and then trying to accept the decision I made. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly excited about this new venture, working on the digital side of things and being at the forefront of some innovative an exciting new projects (one in particular of which I was hired on for but it's top secret at the know I'll tell you the moment I'm allowed!) is going to be such a new and different experience for me, and all the signs point to it being a great move.

But it's a biiiig life change. So it's had a little tied up in knots, hence my absence. One thing this new will allow though, is for me to have my free time back, to have a little more motivation and energy to get back into doing some of the things I love--pleasure reading, writing, and chatting with all of you.

So, get ready. Because RBtL is gonna be kicking it back into gear pretty damn soon.

I have two book reviews on deck, a couple of guest bloggers in the works, and some new article topics percolating up in that crazy-full-of-emotion brain of mine.

Can't wait to share it all with you!

In the meantime, enjoy this adorable book trailer for my dear friend and fantastic author Jill Myles's upcoming release, My Fair Succubi. Her artist husband--who seems to be the sweetest man on earth minus his chosen NHL team allegiance *wink*--actually made it for her, which just makes it even more awesome.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Tuesday Chuckle

It's been one heck of a month so far, at least for me. So, I thought I'd share a little lunchtime Tuesday chuckle with you all.

Better Book Titles is a clever website that retitles some classic--and some not-so-classic--novels and non-fiction titles based on the layman's perception of the book. Everyday BBT posts a new title.

Definitely take a peek at their archives for a good laugh--or take a stab at it and submit your own! Each Friday the bloggers will choose a reader's title to share!

Some of my favorites:

Go HERE for more Better Book Titles

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bond's Backwards Adventures?

It's somewhat of a rarity to have a film turned into a book--it's usually the other way around. But there are occasions where television shows or video games, in particular, have been novelized--"World of Warcraft,""Star Trek," and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to name a few.

So, when I saw an article in USA Today about Jeffery Deaver writing a James Bond novel, I was all "Whoa! Jump back! Really?"

But it seems that, due to what I will call my youthful ignorance , I hadn't ever known that the Bond films were originally books by author Ian Fleming that were then adapted to film and now being turned back into books--talk about backwards!

USA Today's feature on Deaver and Bond is a bit long but no one can say they weren't thorough:

Jeffery Deaver looks more like a brainy villain in a James Bond movie than a "00" agent in Her Majesty's secret service.

Best known for his thrillers starring quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, Deaver has a new mission: Bring Bond into the 21st century in a new 007 novel.

The yet-to-be-named book is cryptically referred to as "Project X" by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., which owns the rights to Fleming's work.

How did Deaver, who grew up outside Chicago, land this top-secret mission?

The family-owned Fleming business took notice when Deaver won the U.K.'s Crime Writers' Association's coveted Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Garden of Beasts (2004), a thriller about an American assassin sent to Berlin during the run-up to Hitler's rise to power.

In his acceptance speech, Deaver talked about Fleming's influence on his work.

Most of the details surrounding Project X, to be published in May, are being kept under wraps, but under intense interrogation (more like gentle coaxing) Deaver begins to spill his guts.

"The novel," he says, "is set in the present day, in 2011. Bond is a young agent for the British secret service. He's 29 or 30 years old, and he's an Afghan war vet."

That in itself is big news. After all, if Bond were aging in real time — he first appeared in Fleming's Casino Royale in 1953 — the now doddering (although assuredly still handsome) 007 would be nearly 90.


Sipping coffee while seated on a leather chair in a sitting room decorated with portraits of his dogs and show ribbons, the mild-mannered author who writes about murderers and serial killers talks about his career and the solid fan base that has allowed him to pursue writing full time since 1990.

"I may not sell as many books as John Grisham (although he has sold a cool 20 million), but I have a very loyal fan base," says Deaver, 60, who wrote some of his novels while working as a Wall Street lawyer.

Deaver's initiation into the Bond family — more than 100 million 007 novels have sold worldwide — could significantly raise his profile.

Other novelists have written Bond novels since Fleming's death in 1964 — including Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and, most recently, Sebastian Faulks (his 2008 book Devil May Care reached No. 38 on USA TODAY's best-seller list) — but they all took place in the original era. Deaver is taking a new approach.

"There's no more Cold War to fight," says Deaver, so his new Bond, of the Fleming estate, will fight "post-9/11 evil."

"I want to stay true to the original James Bond, who many people don't know much about," he says, referring to the secret agent Fleming portrayed in 14 novels, and not the movie Bond. "People know Daniel Craig, they know Pierce Brosnan, they know Roger Moore and Sean Connery, all of whom brought a great deal to the stories of 007. But the original Bond was a very dark, edgy character."

Otto Penzler, proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, says Deaver's writing style can only enhance the Bond franchise.

"The main thing he can bring is a greater sense of suspense to the books," Penzler says. "A lot of the books and movies are becoming basically chase plots, and Jeff really has the ability to create suspense better than almost any writer working today."

Explaining why Deaver was tapped for the latest Bond adventure, Fleming's niece Kate Grimond says: "He has a great understanding and appreciation of Fleming's original creation. We feel sure that he will produce an exciting page-turning 21st-century Bond mission — and a Bond for the present day."


Deaver, who is single, shares some of Bond's predilections: driving fast cars — he has owned a Jaguar and a Maserati— shooting guns, scuba diving and downhill skiing.

Later this week, Deaver will do what he loves best: hit the road to meet fans. He'll be off on a week-long whirlwind of interviews and appearances in Japan — but not before he's pressured for just a few more details about Project X.

The 21st-century Bond, he acknowledges, does not smoke.

Does he drink? "Martinis will make an appearance in the book."

Does he wear a tux? "I'm not able to talk about that."

Does he have movie-star looks? "He's handsome in a craggy way. A striking-looking man."

Does he remind Deaver of any particular Hollywood heartthrob?

"Not really," Deaver says. "Fleming said that in his mind, the musician Hoagy Carmichael was who Bond resembled. That's kind of who I think of, too."

Hoagy Carmichael?

Read the entire article HERE

I will admit that I've actually never seen a James Bond film (don't worry, "Dr. No" is on my Netflix queue)--and also already admitted that I didn't realize it had originally been a book before the film--but I will say that I always have a hard time imagining action movies as books. They are so visual and visceral, and that cinematic quality fits the screen best for a reason. I would be interested to know, however, what some of you, my dear readers, think about backwards adaptations (film to book).

I'm so curious that I'm tempted to ask the resident media-tie-in editor at my office to share his studied opinion...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

T-Swift for Literacy

Those of you who know me in real life are likely aware of my love of Taylor Swift. And this morning, Publishers Marketplace is feeding into my obsession (if seeing her perform in Rockefeller Plaza earlier this week wasn't enough!) with an article from The Charlotte Observer that makes me love T-Swift even more:

Studying hard can bring sweet rewards, like screaming "We love you!" to Taylor Swift from seats that match the color of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The Grammy Award-winning superstar stopped by the headquarters of Scholastic Inc. on Wednesday and chatted and performed at the publisher's downstairs auditorium, where about 200 grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers, most of them girls, had received a break from class to see Swift talk about reading and writing. The children had been selected by their schools because of improvement in their reading scores.

"I think that smart kids are the coolest kids," Swift, wearing a dark-blue cotton dress with red and white flowers and two-tone high heel shoes, said to much delight as she was interviewed on stage by "America's Got Talent" host Nick Cannon.

The 20-year-old singer-songwriter, who has been busy promoting her new CD, "Speak Now," shared songwriting tips (imagine you're writing a letter, she advised), childhood reading memories and repeated plugs for books as a path to a better life.

"(Without books) You can let little things pass you by, little details," she said. "Like, say you're driving down the road and there's just this really beautiful autumn tree and it has these gorgeous orange leaves. You might just let that pass you by if you have never read books that describe how beautiful they are, from somebody else's perspective."

Swift did more than talk. She sang a few lines from one of her favorite songs, Faith Hill's "This Kiss," and was joined by her band at the end to perform her new single, "Mine."

The children made their own music, spontaneously singing along when Swift's "You Belong With Me" was played on the house sound system before she arrived.

Swift, a native of Wyomissing, Pa., whose first record came out when she was 16, said she had always been a reader and was encouraged by her parents and teachers. She started writing poetry in second grade and by fourth grade had enough courage to enter a poem, "Monster in My Closet," in a national poetry contest. (She didn't win, she says, but she did place.) Studying "Romeo and Juliet" in ninth grade helped inspire her Top 10 single "Love Story."

She also said she loved "Sesame Street" books growing up and was inspired by the stories of Dr. Seuss because of their rhymes.

"A lot of people who gravitate toward music are really, really sort of drawn to poetry because the words all have a rhythm and it comes together just right," she said. "I love poetry, because if you get it right, if you put the right rhymes at the right ends of the sentences, you can almost make words bounce off a page."

Responding to student questions, Swift said she enjoyed authors who had a "a very conversational style to their writing" and was drawn most to books that dramatized history, perhaps about a "girl during the Revolutionary War." She said reading made her a better songwriter because it helps you with "understanding metaphors" and "how to paint a picture with a song."

Asked how to encourage children who don't like to read, she suggested not taking on too much, perhaps starting with a short story or even a newspaper.

"It doesn't have to be a big, thick, long book," she said. "You don't have to pick up something that looks scary."

On stage, Swift cited Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a favorite. Interviewed briefly at a post-show reception, Swift said she loved the novel, set in the South in the 1950s, because of how it was narrated from a child's point of view.

"The main character didn't exactly know what was going on, but the reader does," she said. "It's all portrayed in an interesting way, all the huge issues in the book, like civil right, come from a children's perspective. It's an interesting way to tell a story."

Swift is part of a new Scholastic promotional campaign, "You are What You Read," for which authors, celebrities and public figures from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to "Percy Jackson" novelist Rick Riordan choose favorite books. Swift's picks include E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" and Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir on divorce and recovery, "Eat, Pray, Love," not a surprising choice for a songwriter known for her romantic laments and explorations.

Swift said during the reception that she was enjoying Gilbert's most recent book, "Committed," in which the author marries the Brazilian man she met in "Eat, Pray, Love."

"Listening to her talk at seminars, especially one that I YouTubed, where she was talking about trying to create her followup project, it made me cry," Swift said. "It was so inspirational."

See the entire article HERE

The "You are What You Read" campaign was initially launched as a social networking site and is part of a larger global literacy program "Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life."

I'm thrilled that so many celebrities are getting involved in this fantastic cause. They have an amazing--if at times unfair--amount of pull and influence, particularly when it comes to kids and young adults, and I love to see that power being used to encourage people to read.