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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

A movie adaptation of 2010 book 'Heaven Is For Real' will star Greg Kinnear as father Todd Burpo. (Evan Agonistini/Invision/AP)

'Heaven Is For Real' is adapted into a film starring Greg Kinnear

By Staff Writer / 07.24.13

The bestselling book “Heaven Is For Real” is on its way to becoming a film.

The book, written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, tells the story of Burpo’s son, Colton, who underwent an appendectomy at the age of four and later told his parents that during the operation – while unconscious – he traveled to heaven, talked with Jesus, and returned with knowledge of a sister they had never told him that he had.

“Heaven Is For Real” was originally released in 2010 and is still at number 12 on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list.

Now “Little Miss Sunshine” actor Greg Kinnear is set to star as Todd Burpo in the film adaptation of the book, which is being released by TriStar Pictures. The movie is being directed by Randall Wallace, who also directed the 2010 film “Secretariat” and the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers.”

“Sherlock Holmes” actress Kelly Reilly is portraying Burpo's wife and first-time actor Connor Corum will play Colton, while “Sideways” actor Thomas Haden Church will play family friend Jay Olson. The movie is currently in production in Canada.

In 2011, the Burpo family took part in video interviews which played at Lifetree Cafes, areas dedicated to conversation which are located around the country. In the video, Todd Burpo addressed those who doubt his son’s story and his reasons for publishing it. 

“As a pastor and as a dad, I want my son to know I tell the truth,” Burpo said. “He can read the book. He knows if I exaggerated or if I didn't. My son is forever going to believe that I'm an honest person or I'm a liar by what I wrote in that book, because he can read.”

Goodreads recently announced that it had doubled its membership, jumping to 20 million members from 10 million 11 months ago.

Goodreads doubles membership despite Amazon controversy

By Staff Writer / 07.24.13

Despite a furor in the literary world when the social media reading website Goodreads was acquired by Amazon, Goodreads has doubled its membership in 11 months, from 10 million to 20 million, according to the site.

When Amazon became affiliated with the website in March, many in the reading community were angered, with some vowing to close their Goodreads accounts. 

“Too bad,” a commenter named Wendi wrote on the site at the time. “Another good independent thing bites the dust. Happy for you and the money you'll make off the cool thing you started; sad for me, and sad for the internet, which will soon be owned by Amazon and Facebook.”

Goodreads founder Otis Chandler said he saw three factors that led to the website’s increase in membership. The site has “a critical mass of book reviews,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch, meaning that chances are good a visitor will find a review for the title they’re looking for. Chandler said the site had also experienced increased visibility internationally and that the growth for mobile devices has been
 “explosive.”

Chandler told TechCrunch the site plans to offer versions of Goodreads that are tailored specifically to foreign countries soon.

TechCrunch writer Anthony Ha wrote that Chandler “expects that being owned by Amazon will also contribute to growth.”

The comments left on the Goodreads blog post which announced the membership growth were almost uniformly congratulatory.

“Congratulations,” a user named Sarah wrote. “Wonder how many new members joined after the Amazon acquisition compared to the previous 6 months. Looks like maybe Amazon was a good thing after all."

Meanwhile, a user named Jeanine posted, “Thank you so much for a great job – I recommend you continually to my friends! Here's to many more years and many, many more members!!!”

'Fight Club' was originally released in 1996.

Chuck Palahniuk will release a sequel to his novel 'Fight Club'

By Staff Writer / 07.24.13

Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk will write a sequel, possibly more than one, to his 1996 novel, which will be in graphic novel form and will feature the return of all the “Fight” main characters.

Palahniuk revealed that he will be writing the sequel, which could become a series, during a Comic-Con panel titled “Ode to Nerds.”

In a statement on his website, the author offered a summary of the new work. (Warning: spoilers for the “Fight Club” story are included.)

“It will likely be a series of books that update the story ten years after the seeming end of Tyler Durden,” Palahniuk said. “Nowadays, Tyler is telling the story, lurking inside Jack, and ready to launch a come-back. Jack is oblivious.  Marla is bored.  Their marriage has run aground on the rocky coastline of middle-aged suburban boredom.  It’s only when their little boy disappears, kidnapped by Tyler, that Jack is dragged back into the world of Mayhem. It will, of course, be dark and messy.”

Palahniuk said in the same e-mail that “Chelsea Cain has been introducing me to artists and creators from Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, and they’re walking me through the process,” but no publisher has been determined for the graphic novel. “We haven’t started to court a specific publisher, not until I hammer out the complete story,” the author said.

Readers will most likely have to wait for the first installment. Palahniuk said in his e-mail that “since the Fight Club sequel will appear serialized in graphic form, my book publisher might allow me to launch it earlier than 2015.” The author has other works scheduled for release between then and now, including a book titled “Doomed” (a sequel to his previous novel “Damned”) that will come out this October and a novel titled “Beautiful You” that is scheduled for a 2014 release.

"Fight Club" was adapted into a 1999 film starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham-Carter.

Two of the nominees for the prize include 'We Need New Names' by NoViolet Bulawayo and 'Five Star Billionaire' by Tash Aw.

Man Booker Prize long list includes writers Colum McCann, Tash Aw

By Staff Writer / 07.23.13

The long list for the 2013 Man Booker Prize was recently announced, with 13 contenders vying for the top award.

The Man Booker Prize is bestowed on an author from the UK, Ireland, or one of the Commonwealth Nations (including Australia, Canada, and India).

Last year’s prize was won by popular author Hilary Mantel for her novel “Bring Up the Bodies,” which followed Tudor courtier Thomas Cromwell. The author made history for being the first woman writer and first British author to take the prize twice.

This year’s long list features writers from seven different countries. Nominees include “Five Star Billionaire” by Tash Aw, “We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, and “TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann.

In a statement, Robert Macfarlane, who is serving as the chair of the judging panel this year and is a writer as well as a member of the faculty at Cambridge University, noted the diversity of this year's list. 

”This is surely the most diverse long list in Man Booker history: wonderfully various in terms of geography, form, length and subject," Macfarlane said. “These 13 outstanding novels range from the traditional to the experimental, from the first century AD to the present day, from 100 pages to 1,000 and from Shanghai to Hendon.”

Two writers of this year's nominees have previously appeared on the Man Booker Prize short list. Colm Tóibín, who is nominated for his novel “The Testament of Mary,” and writer Jim Crace, who received a nod for his book “Harvest,” have both been Booker nominees in the past.

Three writers – Donal Ryan of “The Spinning Heart,” NoViolet Bulawayo of “We Need New Names,” and Eve Harris of “The Marrying of Chani Kaufman” – were nominated for debut novels.

Other nominees include “The Kills” by Richard House, “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki, “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton, “Almost English” by Charlotte Mendelson, "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri, and “Unexploded” by Alison MacLeod.

The list will be cut down to six for the short list, which will be announced in September. The prize is scheduled to be bestowed on Oct. 15.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our reviews of "We Need New Names," "TransAtlantic," and "A Tale for the Time Being."

One participant in the Omnivore's literary dating website said he was currently reading 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens in an effort to 'make up for my misspent youth in front of screens.'

Looking for literary love in London?

By Staff Writer / 07.23.13

Do you live in London and are you looking for love among other reading aficionados?

If so, book review website the Omnivore has you covered. With its new section titled The Omnivore Pin-Up, the Omnivore now allows London-based readers to post dating profiles on their site. In addition to standard questions like age, those who submit are asked what authors they admire and what they’re currently reading. Lucky readers will then be selected by the site's editors to have their profiles featured. 

One woman on the site, Jessica of West London, chose a picture of herself with the classic children’s book “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle for her profile picture, while another, Rob from South London, mentions on his dating profile that he’s reading “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. “I’m going through a ‘read things you definitely should have read’ phase to make up for my misspent youth in front of screens,” he adds.

Interested parties can contact those featured in the dating profiles through the Omnivore.

Anna Baddeley, who works for the Omnivore, told the Los Angeles Times that the site's editors take time with the profiles being posted on the page.

“To us, professional criticism and matchmaking are two sides of the same coin,” she said in a statement. “We curate our Pin-ups as carefully as we compile book reviews.”

Fleur Macdonald, editor of the Omnivore, said in a statement that using a love of books to match couples was a no-brainer.

“What’s on your bookshelf is so much more revealing than acronyms such as GSOH,” Macdonald said (referencing the “good sense of humor” abbreviation that’s often used in personal ads).

The Omnivore is also the sponsor of the Hatchet Job award, which is given yearly to the best-written negative book review.

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' stars Jennifer Lawrence (l.) and Josh Hutcherson (r.). (Murray Close/Lionsgate/AP)

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' trailer is revealed (+ video)

By Staff Writer / 07.23.13

A new trailer has arrived for the second film in the “Hunger Games” trilogy, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

The second film shows the futuristic country of Panem in a state of unrest, as its citizens have been inspired by protagonist Katniss Everdeen’s show of rebellion against the government. Katniss and the other previous winner of the deadly Hunger Games, Peeta, are now being forced back into the arena along with other former champions.

The trailer begins with Katniss’s beloved little sister, Prim, telling her that “since the last Games, something’s different. I can see it. Hope.”

Scenes such as citizens burning the country’s flag and graffiti reading “The odds are never in our favor” (mocking the Games’ slogan of “May the odds be ever in your favor”) are shown.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is also seen threatening Katniss.

“You fought very hard in the Games, Miss Everdeen,” he tells her. “But they were games. Would you like be to be in a real war? Imagine thousands of your people dead. Your loved ones gone.”

The prelude to the new "Hunger Games" film includes presentations by host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and the new participants training.

“I think these games are going to be different,” Katniss and Peeta’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), tells Peeta. 

Check out the full trailer.

'The Cuckoo's Calling' was billed as written by Robert Galbraith but later discovered to have been penned by J.K. Rowling.

J.K. Rowling's 'The Cuckoo's Calling': What are reviewers saying now that the secret's out?

By Staff Writer / 07.22.13

Few titles make reviewers sit up and pay attention more than a new book by J.K. Rowling.

So when it was revealed that the novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” billed as written by Robert Galbraith, was actually by the “Harry Potter” author, some publications that had originally failed to review the book (that is, most of the big players) went back to take a second look at what had originally looked like a low-profile mystery by a debut novelist.

Most of the critics now taking a look at the book are saying that they're impressed.

New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani enjoyed it, calling “Cuckoo” “a highly entertaining book that’s way more fun and way more involving than Ms. Rowling’s sluggish 2012 novel, ‘The Casual Vacancy’” and calling detective Cormoran Strike “an appealing protagonist.”

“In ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ Ms. Rowling – er, Mr. Galbraith – seems to have … studied the detective story genre and turned its assorted conventions into something that, if not exactly original, nonetheless showcases her satiric eye … and her instinctive storytelling talents,” Kakutani wrote.

Entertainment Weekly writer Thom Geier was also favorably impressed, awarding the novel, which he called “cleverly plotted,” a B+, though he said he was less impressed with the character of Cormoran Strike than he was with secretary Robin.

“Rowling is better at developing Robin, a resourceful Yorkshire gal thrilled to be in London and helping a real live PI, and at capturing the colorful celebrity culture,” Geier wrote.

USA Today writer Charles Finch gave the novel three-and-a-half stars out of four for his review.

In the book, “she returns to the strengths that made Harry Potter great – the beautiful sense of pacing, the deep but illusionless love for her characters – without sacrificing the expanded range of 'The Casual Vacancy,'” Finch wrote. “In doing so, she's written one of the books of the year…. 'The Cuckoo's Calling' presses too hard on the theme of fame in the tabloid era – not an unworthy subject, but stale by now and without fresh treatment here. Still, that barely seems to matter when the characters are so full and when Rowling has never written more nuanced, considered prose.”

However, NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan was not as enthralled, running her review with a headline that read “The only surprise in Rowling’s ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ is the author.”

Corrigan remembered shipping off her review copy of “Cuckoo” with others she had donated to a library weeks before.

“The library is welcome to my review copy and whatever funds it may raise,” Corrigan wrote after reading “Cuckoo” via her Kindle. “'The Cuckoo's Calling' falls into that vast middlin' range of fiction that I mentally shelve in the "I've read worse, but I've read better" category. I couldn't even find a memorable quote from this novel.” 

Corrigan said she was put off by what she saw as old-fashioned behavior on the part of secretary Robin.

“Throughout much of the story she serves coffee to clients, makes cow eyes at Strike, and tidies up the office loo,” she wrote. “The most intriguing unsolved mystery in 'The Cuckoo's Calling' is why, in this post-Lisbeth Salander age, Rowling would choose to outfit her female lead with such meek and anachronistic feminine behavior.”

'Ender's Game' director Gavin Hood (l.), stars Hailee Steinfeld (second from l.) and Asa Butterfield (second from r.), and producer Bob Orci (r.) attend a preview event for the movie at Comic-Con. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

'Ender's Game' director and star discuss the proposed boycott of the film

By Staff Writer / 07.22.13

During a Comic-Con panel, the director of the “Ender’s Game” film and its star discussed a proposed boycott of the film by those who object to author Orson Scott Card’s writings opposing gay marriage.

As noted by the Associated Press, no protesters appeared during the “Ender's Game” panel at the convention in San Diego.

When asked about the controversy, director Gavin Hood said because he has been a part of the Courage Campaign, a group which supports gay marriage, “I'm a little distressed by his point of view on gay marriage,” according to the AP.

“However, the book is not about that issue,” the director continued. “So I hope people can still appreciate the book because I think he wrote a great book, and the themes and ideas in the book, I think, are universal and timeless and applicable, and I hope the book will still be appreciated as a great work of art, even though I don't agree with the author. I optioned the book, not an author, and I love what the author said in that book.”

Hood said he was taken aback by Card’s views because “Ender's Game” presents such a clear message of understanding and reaching out to others. 

“I think it's slightly bitterly ironic that those themes that are present in the book are not carried through on his particular view on gay marriage,” he said.

“Ender's Game” star Asa Butterfield, who portrays the title protagonist, said he “agree[s] with rights for everybody.”

“You can't blame a work for its author,” Butterfield said.

The website Geeks Out has been attempting to convince its visitors to engage in a boycott against the film, titling the effort Skip Ender’s Game and asking visitors “Do you really want to give this guy your money?” According to its site, Geeks Out “rallies, empowers and promotes the queer geek community.”

Card had previously given a statement to Entertainment Weekly in which he said the recent decisions by the Supreme Court make the debate over gay marriage “moot.”

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984…. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state,” the author said. “Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

'Men of Tomorrow' is by Gerald Jones.

Comic-Con 2013: A look at past comic books and a glimpse of the genre's future (+video)

By Randy Dotinga / 07.19.13

It's that time of year again. You know, when every headline writer on earth breaks out the "BAM!," "POW!," and "ZAP!"

Yup, Comic-Con International – the world's biggest comic-book and pop-culture convention – is being held this weekend in my fair city of San Diego.
Visitors and reporters spend much of their time on the convention floor, but there's more to Comic-Con than booths, posters, and celebrities. Walk upstairs and you'll find dozens of serious-minded seminars about topics like the history of comic books and the evolution of superheroes.

Can't make it to America's Finest City to hear about these hot if geeky topics? Never fear. Gerard Jones, the San Francisco-based comic-book historian, artist, and author of 2005's "Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book," is in town and took questions about eight decades of comics.

Q: How did comic books first come into being?

A:  They came out of the newspaper comic strips, which were mostly humor along with things like Tarzan and Dick Tracy.

The first comic books were just reprints of the newspaper comics, a way for people to read their favorite strips with continuity. But some publishers couldn't sell newspaper reprints and began to commission new material.

The artists were largely guys who were trying to make it as newspaper comic strip artists but hadn't made it. They tended to be young, oddball, and not quite as sophisticated and polished; their work was seen as unfinished and not ready for prime time

For example, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were consistently rejected when they were peddling their Superman idea to the newspaper syndicates. One syndicate said it was an immature piece of art.

Q: Why did this kind of work become popular?

A: There was an audience that wanted this rougher, more peculiar stuff that wasn't refined by art school and years of experience. And a lot of kids wanted that raw connection with the fantasies of the artists who weren't much older than them.

Most of the guys who created the stuff that lasted were in their late teens or early 20s. They could tap into the action and adventure  that kids wanted but couldn't get enough of in the newspaper comic strips.

Q: How were comic books groundbreaking in terms of reaching kids specifically?

A: Newspaper comic strips were sort of like broadcast TV: You had to reach a broad audience. If a strip was only being read by 12- year-old boys, it wouldn't survive. They had to appeal to kids, older kids and adults to some extent.

With comic books, publishers discovered there was a big enough audience of just adolescents out there to support the industry. In a way, comic books were the first business built almost entirely by purchases by kids and teenagers.

Q: When did comic books begin to seem disreputable?

A: Early on. For the most part, comics were frowned on by pretty much everyone. No one would even have linked them to movies or even early television as a respectable medium.

Some early publishers did really sleazy pulp-fiction magazines, and there were shoddy, bottom-end publishers. The comics were vivid and energetic but very unpolished, and a lot looked crass and vulgar to people. 

And a lot were about guys fighting. They really leaned heavily on violence, more nonstop combat than you'd see in a movie.

Q: Comic books came under fire in the 1950s as contributors to juvenile delinquency. That seems silly now, but were the critics onto something about how the comics were violent and sexualized?

A: Some were very gruesome and very sexualized, with cruelty and sadism going on in a lot of stories. Parents were legitimately alarmed with some reason. But there was this huge backlash that gutted business to the point where nothing that wasn't safe for an eight year old would see print.

It was really a little kids' medium until you get to the '70s, when the older fans become a bigger part of the audience – the old, hardcore beleaguered fan boys who kept arguing that this stuff was worth looking at and saving.

Q: When did comic books take a turn toward the dark side?

A: That came out of the mid-1990s, when it became the style to do the self-referential, queasy-making, rough, dark and violent comics.

Part of it was the pop culture movement of the times, when you can see the similar things in action movies. You get more and more of the scary and gritty approach, the "Terminator" style.

It was the point when the audience became almost entirely people over 20, those who had read a ton of comics when they were younger and grew tired of the old templates. They wanted to be startled.

Q: Where are comics going now?

A: The big superheroes – Superman, Batman, the Avengers – aren't changing much. Not that much inventive stuff is being done. It's in a conservative phase since it's so much being driven by the movies. What you see on the screen is similar to what you see in the comics.

There's also a movement toward more lightness which shows up in things like the "Avengers" movie, "Iron Man" and "Thor" – more of a sense of the superhero as light and funny as opposed to dark and haunting.

Q: What else is changing?

A: One of the great things about comics is how they've been such an easy-entry and democratic field.

It's always been so easy to get work out in comic-book form that you couldn't get out as a movie. The gatekeepers tend to be loose and new and untutored talent can get out there. That's increasing as web comics become more popular. Eventually what they're pioneering will be reflected by Marvel and DC.

Q: Superheroes like Batman and Superman have been around just about forever. Are any new ones being developed that could have staying power?

A: Spider-Man and X-Men are about 50 years old and those are the most recent popular superhero creations. I don't see anyone really glomming onto new superheroes.

There is this fascination with old heroes who have been around for longer than many of the fans have been alive. They have almost a mythological quality because they have been around forever, but it's exciting to see them re-injected into the present.

Q: Is this a good thing? 

A: It's nice to have a sense there are these heroes who have been there for a long time and link us all the way back to World War II and the Depression. Past generations knew the same heroes, and that's a good thing.

J.K. Rowling said in a statement that she 'feel[s] very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced' in the law firm Russells. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

The person who leaked J.K. Rowling's pen name is revealed (+video)

By Staff Writer / 07.19.13

The mystery of who leaked J.K. Rowling’s secret writing identity has been solved.

A partner of Rowling’s law firm, Russells, named Chris Gossage was aware that Rowling was behind the novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” that was billed as written by Robert Galbraith, according to Reuters. According to the news agency, Gossage told the best friend of his wife, Judith Callegari, and Callegari was the person who tweeted at a Sunday Times columnist last week, stating that she knew Rowling was behind “Cuckoo.” This prompted the newspaper to launch its own investigation and eventually uncover the fact that Rowling was behind the book.

“Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly,” the law firm said of Gossage in a statement. “On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified J. K. Rowling’s agent. We can confirm that this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither J. K. Rowling, her agent nor publishers were in any way involved.”

Rowling made a statement about the leak as well and did not sound happy. 

“A tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know,” the “Harry Potter” author said. “I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced.”

Rowling’s publisher, Little Brown, is reprinting “Cuckoo” to meet demand now that the author’s identity has been revealed. Before it was known that the “Potter” author was behind the book, reviews were extremely positive but sales lagged. However, now that the truth is out, the book is currently at the number one spot in sales on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In her initial statement on the revelation that she was the “Cuckoo” author, Rowling mentioned she “had hoped to keep this secret a little longer.”

“Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” the author said. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

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