The gun control debate is coming to a bookshelf near you.
After going to the President, Congress, and the press, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is taking her fight for gun control to Americans with a new book set to hit shelves this June.
The staunch gun control advocate – and gun owner – is collaborating with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, on “Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence.”
“'Enough' was one of the first words Gabby said to me after we learned about the Newtown, Conn., massacre," Kelly said in a statement issued Tuesday by the book's publisher, Scribner. "As Second Amendment supporters and gun owners ourselves, we hope our book rouses the long-overdue conversation our country needs to make responsible changes to our gun laws so that no more precious lives are lost.”
The gun control debate is personal for Giffords. In 2011, she was shot in the head during an attack on a public meeting the lawmaker was holding with constituents in a Tucson mall in which six people were killed and 13 injured, including Giffords, who was left partly paralyzed with impaired vision and speech.
Giffords and her husband are active gun control advocates, having founded the pro-gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which uses media ads and political campaigns to encourage lawmakers to pass greater gun controls.
“Enough” is based on an essay Giffords wrote for the New York Times last April in response to the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six teachers dead. In the essay, Giffords chastised the lawmakers who blocked gun legislation like expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Giffords also wrote a more recent essay for the Times in which she shared details about her recovery and vowed to continue fighting for gun control despite key measures failing to pass congress last year.
"Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined. We'll pay attention to the details; look for opportunities for progress, even when the pace is slow. Some progress may seem small, and we might wonder if the impact is enough, when the need is so urgent," she wrote.
"But every day we will recruit a few more allies, talk to a few more elected officials, convince a few more voters. Some days the steps will come easily; we'll feel the wind at our backs. Other times our knees will buckle. We'll tire of the burden. I know this feeling. But we'll persist.”
Giffords has one prior book, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," which came out in November 2011.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The list looks familiar to anyone who looked at the 2012 data. In addition to Washington taking number 1 both this year and last, Seattle again took the second spot as it did in 2012, while Minneapolis held onto third place.
Boston slipped a spot, from seventh to eighth place, while San Francisco rose to tenth place from its eleventh-place finish in 2012.
Miller compiles the data from such information as the number of libraries and bookstores in a city, as well as access to the Internet, newspaper circulation numbers, the highest level of schooling finished by the residents, and other sources.
Miller told USA Today he’s planning on studying the world next year and compiling a list of the most literate countries.
Everyone’s familiar with the concept of binge-watching – settling in for an evening or weekend (or, if you’re committing to a long-haul series, a few days) and getting through multiple episodes or seasons of a TV show as if you were downing handfuls of candy.
So has binge-reading now arrived?
The “Fifty Shades of Grey” series, erotic bestsellers by author E.L. James, set the template by releasing the three books within only a few months of each other (the first came out in June 2011, with “Fifty Shades Darker” following in September and “Fifty Shades Freed” coming out that next January). Now this month’s “Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer, which was named one of Amazon's 10 best books of February and follows scientists journeying to a locale known only as Area X, will be followed by the second book in the series this coming May. The third book is scheduled to arrive in September.
Publisher Dutton is releasing a sequel to the new novel “Archetype” by M.D. Waters five months after it published the first, and Dutton associate publisher Christine Ball told the New York Times they’re just filling a need.
“Consumers want to be able to binge-read or binge-watch,” she said. “We wanted to give the consumers what they wanted in this case.”
Sean McDonald, an editor at “Annihilation” publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, was the source of the idea to release all three novels within a few months of one another. He said it’s a way to satisfy readers who are intrigued by an author’s ideas but who then wonder if the writer has an endgame in place.
“I think people are more aware of series storytelling, and there is this sense of impatience, or maybe a fear of frustration,” he said. “We wanted to make sure people knew that there were answers to these questions.”
There is a risk – if a book isn’t a hit, publishers have already committed to the next installments, and as noted by Krys Tourtois of Michigan’s Schuler Books and Music, sometimes a novel needs time for the word to get out.
“I know in the past that the one-year mark seems to increase a lot of hype and buzz, and it gives it time for a title to build,” Tourtois told the NYT. “You think about what happened with ‘Harry Potter’ – the timing helped make a phenomenon.”
Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for 21 years, from 1939 to 1960, where he wrote some of his most famous books. Recently, a set of 2,000 records that reveals a fuller view of his life in the country has been digitized and was released yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of the awarding of the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for “The Old Man and the Sea”. The materials had remained in a damp basement in Hemingway's house near Havana since the Nobel Prize-winner died in 1961.
Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Hemingway's editor, Maxwell Perkins, founded the Finca Vigia Foundation in 2004 to help preserve Hemingway’s literary records. The Boston-based organization, named after the author’s estate in Cuba, was able to get permission from the US Treasury and State departments to send conservators to Cuba to recover Hemingway’s belongings.
Phillips negotiated with both the Cuban and American government to gain access to the collection. “Scholars have been trying for years to see what’s there, and because of the political situation between the two countries, the Cubans held on very fast to what they had there," she said. "I think this is an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind collaboration between the two countries."
The records include copies of papers, groceries lists, bar bills, notebooks full of weather observations, and documents, such as files that reveal more about Hemingway’s role in World War II and his passports showing his travels.
The newly digitized files include some of Hemingway's personal correspondence, including a letter from American editor and literary critic Malcolm Cowley. "'The Old Man and the Sea' is pretty marvelous," Cowley wrote. "The old man is marvelous, the sea is, too, and so is the fish."
Poet and writer Archibald MacLeish wrote Hemingway a telegram in 1940, praising him for his work. "The word great had stopped meaning anything in this language until your book," MacLeish wrote. "You have given it all its meaning back. I'm proud to have shared any part of your sky."
In 2008, other documents from Hemingway’s estate had been digitized, uncovering fragments of manuscripts, including an alternate ending to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and corrected proofs of "The Old Man and the Sea."
"This is the flotsam and jetsam of a writer's life — it's his life and his work," Phillips told the Associated Press. "All these bits and pieces get assembled in a big puzzle."
The newly recovered items will be housed at Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which has a Hemingway collection of over 100,000 pages of writing and 10,000 photographs.
In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, a junior senator from Illinois, a young nobody with minimal experience and a name no one had heard of, crushed Hillary Clinton, the known quantity, the experienced candidate, the better half of the nation’s most famous political power couple.
That resounding defeat was supposed to have finished her career.
But it didn’t. Clinton became one of the president’s most high-ranking cabinet officials; a steel-willed stateswoman; an admired, influential, and authoritative figure. And she just might be our president in 2016.
It is, arguably, one of the greatest political comebacks in recent history and it’s recounted in “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton,” the hot new political book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
“HRC,” which Crown Press released Tuesday, draws on more than two hundred interviews Allen, formerly of Politico, and Parnes, of The Hill, conduct with Clinton’s colleagues, backers, and enemies. The result, according to reviews, is a thoroughly reported and well-written chronicle of Clinton’s comeback and her tenure at the State Department, albeit one that discloses few real revelations or raw personality.
The book opens with a classic scene of Washington vengeance, in Clinton’s empty campaign headquarters after her demoralizing primary loss to Obama in 2008. A pair of campaign staffers compile an Excel spreadsheet of Clinton’s supporters and betrayers, assigning them gradations of loyalty and disloyalty on a scale of one – for ultimate loyalty – to seven – for unforgivable treachery.
Then-Senator John Kerry and late Senator Ted Kennedy earn sevens. “Claire McCaskill — well, let’s just say that there is a special seat by hell’s fire reserved for the Missouri senator, who broke down in penitential weeping after she commented, on national television, that she would not want her daughter near Bill Clinton,” the Washington Post writes in its review of “HRC.” “But her greater sin was being the first female senator to endorse Obama.”
That scene underscores a major theme of “HRC,” the book and the woman: loyalty. Perhaps ironically, given President Clinton’s personal indiscretions, political loyalty is paramount in Hillaryland, the book’s authors contend.
As the UK’s Independent said in its review, “That one aide is quoted as saying 'the Clintons are into loyalty' is a bit like acknowledging that Bill enjoyed side-dishes.”
Loyalty is also the reason Clinton finally, after scores of refusals, relented to accept her position at State, according to the authors. In a blushingly flattering scene they describe a selfless Clinton as “so reluctant to take the job that Mr. Obama had to beg to get her to accept,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Hillary’s deference won out,” the authors write. “The new President asked her to serve her country and she couldn’t turn him down.”
Besides her painful primary loss and painstaking comeback, the book narrates Clinton’s time at the State Department, a tenure that wasn’t particularly glamorous or extraordinary but that was conducted in an industrious manner to restore both the position of the State Department in the administration and the position of the US in the world.
Allen and Parnes describe Clinton’s steady, steely performance at State as a “workmanlike enhancement of diplomacy and development” with real, if understated “deliverables.” There was, for example, no “marquee peace deal.”
Though it deals little with Hillary Clinton’s reaction to and decision to remain with President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, the book hits shelves at the same time as the diary of Diane Blair, a political science professor and late friend of Hilary Clinton’s, is made public. In the papers, the late Blair presents insight into Mrs. Clinton’s thoughts at the time the scandal occurred, based on conversations the Clinton confidante had with the first lady.
And in that regard, the papers have something “HRC” does not, some reviews have suggested: the emergence of Clinton’s own personality and character, still largely unknown to the public despite her celebrity.
That, as well as a dearth of new revelations, may be due to a lack of access. “HRC” is comprised largely of previously reported old news, reviews have suggested.
“There is some new reporting,” writes the Journal, “but it's buried in mixed metaphors and cliché-ridden praise of Mrs. Clinton's brilliance.”
The review continues: “Mr. Allen and Ms. Parnes appear to have fallen in love with their subject. ‘Hillary knows one gear: overdrive,’ they write, adding that she is ‘like a veteran hitter who remains even-keeled under pressure, her steadiness is born of her experience.’ She is ‘a woman who got up every time the world knocked her down’ and is ‘unwavering in her support of the 21st century statecraft concept.’ This is the kind of stuff that would make Mrs. Clinton's image mavens blush.”
Still, “HRC” presents intelligent analysis, and a highly readable account with some gems, like this description, from an unnamed insider, of working with Clinton, dubbed ascending the “stages of Hillary:”
“You know, you first dread the prospect of working with her, then you sort of begrudgingly begin to respect her, then you outright respect her and her incredible work ethic. You know, she’s inexhaustible, she’s tough-minded, and then you come to actually start to like her, and you just can’t believe it, but you actually like this person, and she’s charming and she’s funny and she’s interesting and she’s inquisitive and she’s engaging.”
“This,” writes the NYT, “also happens to be a pretty good description of the arc of 'HRC.'”
Fortunately, those eager for more insight don’t have long to wait: the former first lady is publishing her own account of her time at the State Department later this year.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
A film adaptation of the “Vampire Academy” book series by Richelle Mead has stumbled both financially and critically.
The book series consists of six books, with the first, “Vampire Academy,” having been released in 2007. The novels follow Rose Hathaway, who attends St. Vladimir’s Academy with her best friend Lissa.
The movie stars “Beautiful Creatures” actress Zoey Deutch as Rose and actress Lucy Fry as Lissa.
“Vampire Academy” debuted Feb. 7 but grossed $4.1 million domestically, a poor box office report that most likely means a sequel won’t be greenlit. Reviews were mixed, with New York Times reviewer Manohla Dargis calling the film a “genre rehash.”
“[The movie] takes a helping of 'Harry Potter,' a measure of 'Mean Girls' and elements from various teenage adventures, monster movies and queen-bee stories and recombines the borrowed parts into an unsurprisingly familiar tale,” Dargis wrote. “What is surprising is that while the patchwork whole creaks terribly in places, the parts also show signs of life.”
Dargis called actor Danila Kozlovsky, who portrays mentor and love interest Dimitri, “appealing,” but writes that the struggle between vampire factions in the film is “formulaic and uninvolving” and that director Mark Waters “clearly didn’t have the budget to make what little hocus-pocus there is magical.” However, Dargis says Waters “manages the material with a winking irreverence that makes the movie breeze right along.”
Los Angeles Times critic Gary Goldstein called it a “likable comedic-thriller” but says that the complex rules of Mead’s vampire world are something the movie “continually strains to explain.”'
“Director Mark Waters (Daniel's brother) of 'Mean Girls' fame keeps the mayhem and magic moving apace so things are never boring; head-scratching maybe, but never boring,” Goldstein writes. “Deutch … is enjoyable formidable, bringing beauty, smarts, and charisma to her all-purpose heroine…. [T]he rest of the cast ... is a bit more forgettable.”
Entertainment Weekly writer Owen Gleiberman was less enamored, giving the movie a C.
“The most annoying thing about 'Vampire Academy' is that simply to watch this featherweight horror soap opera of mean-but-not-too-mean bloodsucking ingenues, you have to absorb an entire franchise cosmology – it's popcorn escapism as homework,” he wrote, though he calls Deutch “spunky.”
If a sequel is indeed not pursued, "Vampire Academy" would be the newest YA franchise hopeful for which a franchise may not happen. The studios behind 2013's "Beautiful Creatures" and "Ender's Game" have not announced sequel plans for the movies. Fellow young adult film adaptation "The Mortal Instruments" did disappointingly at the box office and filming on a sequel was pushed back, although Constantin Film's Martin Moszkowicz said the studio hopes to begin production sometime this year, according to Entertainment Weekly.
The interview with J.K. Rowling conducted by “Harry Potter” actress Emma Watson for Wonderland Magazine has now been released in full and the text may offer some solace for those Harry Potter fans who weren’t pleased by Rowling’s comments that she’d wondered whether characters Ron and Hermione would have been happy together romantically.
Some fans immediately cried foul when an excerpt was made public in the Sunday Times in which Rowling told Watson, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”
Watson agreed, saying, “I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”
In the full interview for Wonderland Magazine, which Watson guest-edited, Rowling discussed her misgivings about the relationship further.
“I think the attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it.... I'm not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility,” she said.
However, fans of the romantic pairing can hold on to some hope. In the Sunday Times teaser, it merely stated that Rowling thinks the two would have gone to marriage counseling. However, after stating that "maybe she and Ron will be all right with a bit of counseling" (and musing, “I wonder what happens at wizard marriage counseling?”), the author said, “They'll probably be fine. He needs to work on his self-esteem issues and she needs to work on being a little less critical.”
In addition to Rowling’s previously published remark that she thinks Harry and Hermione might have been better together, the author discussed her feelings about a scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” in which Harry and Hermione dance together in a tent while on the run from villain Voldemort’s forces. Some fans liked the scene; others disagreed with what they saw as subtext of feelings between the two.
However, Rowling said she was surprised by the scene (which is original to the movie) because she’d also thought there might have been attraction between the two in the time when Ron was gone.
“When I wrote Hallows, I felt this quite strongly when I had Hermione and Harry together in the tent!” she told Watson. “I hadn't told [Steve] Kloves that and when he wrote the script he felt exactly the same thing at exactly the same point.”
Watson then tells Rowling that she expressed concern to director David Heyman at the time that the scene strayed too far from Rowling’s original intent.
“I liked that scene in the film, because it was articulating something I hadn't said but I had felt,” Rowling said. “I think you do feel the ghost of what could have been in that scene.”
Check out the full interview here.
Good news for Chris Christie lovers and haters alike: the larger-than-life New Jersey governor with a rock star-like cult following will be the subject of a new biography featuring his latest scandal, “Bridge-gate.”
Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Matt Katz will write a biography of the outspoken Republican governor and prospective presidential candidate, to be published in spring 2015 by Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Christie has become a national figure for his brash manner as well as his performance during Hurricane Sandy, which hit the New Jersey coast in 2012, and his (criticized) performance during a traffic-related scandal in fall of 2013.
Coined “Bridge-gate,” the incident centered on a traffic-blocking operation, reportedly directed from within Christie’s administration, which caused massive backups near the George Washington Bridge, which connects northern New Jersey and New York City. The gridlock, which lasted days, was reportedly done in political retribution, targeting the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who declined to endorse Christie’s 2013 gubernatorial re-election bid.
Christie has adamantly denied any involvement in the traffic blockade. Still, the scandal appears to have tarnished his reputation as a straight-talking politician and may impact his expected 2016 presidential election run.
The incident drew widespread attention, dominating headlines and punchlines, acquiring a Wikipedia entry and memorable moniker, even drawing comparisons to great political scandals of yore, including President Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky and President Nixon’s Watergate scandals.
While information is scarce on the as-yet-untitled biography, what is clear is Katz’s authority on the subject matter.
The prize-winning journalist has covered Christie and his high-profile governorship extensively. As a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, he created a popular blog, the Christie Chronicles, with more than 500 entries on the politician. He currently covers all things Christie for WNYC radio, a local NPR station, and New Jersey Public Radio.
According to The Blaze, “Katz has been a devoted member of the Christie beat,” a job Katz himself describes “like watching a 24/7 made-for-TV production.”
He describes the New Jersey governor as “his own news outlet.”
In other words, plenty of fodder for a juicy, no-holds-barred account of the straight-talking, joke-cracking, headline-making governor from New Jersey.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is having a moment.
First it was the basis for the Disney animated musical “Frozen,” which was released this past November and became a smash financial and critical hit, grossing more than $360 million domestically. And now author Karen Foxlee has used it to inspire her children’s novel “Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy,” which we here at the Monitor selected as one of the 10 best books of February.
Monitor fiction critic Augusta Scattergood called the book, which was released on Jan. 28, “magical,” writing that Foxlee’s novel has “gorgeous writing and complex storytelling.”
“The Anatomy of Wings” author Foxlee told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that “Queen” was always her favorite Andersen tale.
“I think the thing that attracted me most was the theme of love and friendship,” she said. “Gerda is just a little girl, yet she embarks on this treacherous journey to rescue Kai. She never gives up on him, even though he is so changed by that splinter of mirror in his eye.
“And I think the Snow Queen was my first-ever true villain. I was so fascinated by her as a character – she's a woman, and she's riding around stealing kids! I can remember just being left breathless by the horror of that. But there was always something so sad and lonely about the Snow Queen – why was she all alone in that icy palace?
“In many ways too, that fairy tale played to something much deeper in my heart. My grandparents came from Finland to Australia in the 1920s, and each time I read 'The Snow Queen,' especially as Gerda draws closer to Lapland, I was imagining where part of me came from.”
Foxlee said she was inspired to create her heroine, practical Ophelia who has a hard time believing in magic, because of her own personality.
“I've always got a hundred questions in my mind and, when it comes to magic, they always seem a little scientific,” she said. “Where do Snow Queens come from? Do they have mothers? What is the life cycle of a troll? Is there a hierarchy of magical things? So in many ways, it was me sorting myself out as well.”
However, an important part of her story is her heroine learning to accept the extraordinary, she said.
“Much of the magic in the story is about Ophelia opening her heart to new possibilities – trusting her instincts, not questioning everything, just being,” Foxlee said.
“Game of Thrones” fans, your morning is about to get a little better.
HBO has delivered a 15-minute behind-the-scenes look at the fourth season of the show, with new footage as well as extensive interviews with the cast and crew.
The new clip begins with footage of the fourth season (some of which was seen already in a trailer for the show) and then segues into interviews with many of the cast members as well as executive producer, director, and writer David Benioff, with the network using questions from fans sent via Twitter.
(Beware: spoilers for seasons one through three follow.)
Some cast members share their reaction to the Red Wedding episode from the previous season, which included several shocking character deaths.
“I knew it was coming, and it ripped me up inside,” actress Gwendoline Christie, who portrays female warrior Brienne, said of the sequence.
Actor Peter Dinklage, who portrays schemer Tyrion Lannister, noted, “I know how important the Red Wedding is to so many fans of the show and the books, but we pick up the pieces and top it in many ways.”
Dinklage and others noted that this season is a difficult one for Tyrion. As he falls from favor, his close relationship with his brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a positive one in contrast to those with his father and sister, will get more screen time.
“He helps Tyrion a great deal this season,” Dinklage said of Jaime.
Actors also discussed how new character Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), a member of the ruling house of the country of Dorn who arrives for King Joffrey’s wedding (another major event, says the cast and crew), will be important to the story.
“I think Oberyn’s feelings for the Lannisters go beyond disdain and into hatred,” Benioff said.
Meanwhile, Daenerys’s struggle this season will be to maintain control over the cities she liberated, said actress Emilia Clarke, who portrays the queen hopeful.
“It’s all well and good going in and cutting the tie and seemingly breaking people free, but if you don’t leave them with any kind of a structure or any kind of a commander who shares the same morals and views of the person who liberated them, then it’s a free-for-all,” Clarke said.
Jon Snow (portrayed by actor Kit Harrington), a member of the military group the Night’s Watch, will struggle with his actions from the past season, said Harington.
“He’s in a very bad place … not only breaking his vows to the Night’s Watch but breaking his vows to [love interest Ygritte],” he said. “But he has to make good.”
In addition, the actors shared some of the less serious moments that take place behind the scenes.
“Nikolaj and I tried to do a dance number walking down the steps of the court,” Dinklage said. “But the crew was really tired. I don’t think they responded.”
Check out the mammoth full preview. The fourth season of “Thrones” debuts April 6.