Barnes and Noble to Team Up with Microsoft

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how the future of books depended on Barnes and Noble.  Recently I heard some encouraging news: Barnes and Noble is joining forces with Microsoft to battle industry giants Amazon and Apple in the eReader market.

Barnes and Noble stock rose when the company announced late in April that Microsoft will invest $300 million in the development of  the Nook and B&N’s digital book division.   Both companies should benefit: B&N will get a much needed infusion of resources, and Microsoft will gain access to new content.

Publishers are excited about the deal, and so am I.  As much as I enjoy Amazon and Apple products (I just got a new iPad- love it!), I know that a healthy market needs competition.  I’d hate to see Amazon take over the book world, control the cost of books, and therefore control authors.  Now I have hope that it won’t.

The NPR story that shared this good news warned that the new B&N/ Microsoft company, called “Newco”, has a lot of catching up to do, since Apple has perfected its tablet over the past decade. Wes Miller, an analyst at the independent research firm Directions on Microsoft,  says that Microsoft has a tendency to put out products that are “good enough” to turn a profit, but if it wants to seriously compete with Apple in the tablet market, it needs to step up its game. 

I can’t deny that I like the iPad and the Kindle.  The iPad has that nice big screen, and although the backlighting could make one’s eyes weary with regular use, it comes in handy at night when your spouse wants to sleep and you want to stay up reading!  I’ve never used the Nook, and welcome anyone’s review of the product. 

Of course, I will always love old fashioned, “hard copy” books, but I hope that if B&N can stay afloat through its eReader, that will not only help the company, but also the future of traditionally printed books.

Which tablet / eReader do you prefer and why?  How do you respond to the news of a partnership between B&N and Microsoft?  Do you fear an Amazon takeover?  Share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link below.  And as always, thanks for stopping by.  Happy reading, in whatever format you choose!

Related Posts:


Children’s Book Week 2012

My kids have spoiled me; they eagerly seek out books and love trips to the library.  But I know not all moms share this luxury, and that for many kids reading feels like a chore.  Parents of resistant readers, don’t give up!  If we can find the right books, we can unlock the magic of reading.  This week, Children’s Book Week (CBW), is all about getting the right books in those little hands.

The idea for CBW started almost 100 years ago in 1913.  Franklin K. Matthiews, who was the librarian for the Boy Scouts of America, proposed starting a weeklong celebration of books and reading.  Matthiews chose prominent figures in the literary world, including Frederic G. Melcher, the visionary editor of Publishers Weekly, to help start up his project.  Fortunately, the idea caught on, and every year, CBW promotes special events at libraries and bookstores to encourage young readers.  You can also find several “blog hops” and giveaways on the web. 

“A great nation is a reading nation.” Frederic G. Melcher

Since children read most enthusiastically when they choose their own books, every year CBW includes the announcement of the Children’s Choice Book Awards.  These awards are special because the kids pick the books, not editors or authors or other professionals from the literary industry.  Over 900,000 children and youth voted this year!  Hopefully something on this list will appeal to your kids too. 

The winners of the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards:

· K-2 Book of the Year:  Three Hens and a Peacock by by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole

· 3 – 4 Book of the Year: Bad Kitty Meets the Baby by Nick Bruel

· 5 – 6 Book of the Year: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

· Teen Book of the Year: Clockwork Prince: The Infernal Devices, Book Two by Cassandra Clare

· Author of the Year: Jeff Kinney for Diary of A Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever

· Illustrator of the Year: Brian Selznick for Wonderstruck

You can read samples from the winning books and the finalists by going to the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards finalists page of the CBWwebsite.  I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret and can’t wait to read Wonderstruck.   Clockwork Prince has received lots of love in the blogosphere, so I’ll have to add that one to the (getting very long) TBR list. 

My friend Lori tells me that her son never enjoyed reading until fifth grade, when he found L.R. Stine’s Goosebumps series.  Since then, he has been an avid reader.  Although Lori wouldn’t have chosen those books for her son (much like I would not choose the Diary of a Wimpy Kidbooks for my children), they accomplished what no one else could – they opened the door to the wonderful world of reading. 

To give you more ideas, let me share the official
Tomiak Children’s Choice BookAwards for 2012: 
(imagine drum roll and giggles here)

·         Preschooler:  Should I Share My Ice Cream?  by Mo Willems

·         2nd Grader:  Showoffby Gordon Korman

·         4th Grader:  The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan

·         Middle SchoolerThe Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles Book 1 by John Flanagan

Can you share a book or series that helped you or your child discover the joy of reading?  Is there another recently published book that you could add to the ones I’ve listed here?  Have you read or can you comment on any of the official Choice Award winners?  Click on the comments below to add your thoughts and recommendations!  Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find some great books for summer reading.

Related posts:

Helping Guys Read  Note:  Guys Read: Thriller is now out and includes short stories from Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider series), James Patterson, and Margaret Peterson Haddix (The Missing series)

Walter Dean Myers, Ambassador for Young People’s Literature


Liebster Awards

Besides being a word nerd, I’m also an extrovert, so I love meeting new people.  Thanks to the power of modern technology, I don’t have to live in a densely populated city to find other folks who enjoy reading, writing and all things wordy.  The blogging world has brought me in touch with many other talented, experienced, and most importantly, helpful and supportive word nerds. 

Last month, I participated in a “Platform Challenge” through Robert Lee Brewer’s excellent (and very popular) My Name is Not Bob blog.  Robert offered daily challenges to writers who wanted to improve their platform (aka online presence) and give focus and direction to their writing.  Through that challenge, I have “met” many more writers.  Two of them, Michelle Pond and Bonnie Vesely, graciously nominated me for the Liebster Award, a “pay it forward award” to recognize blogs that deserve more attention!  (More specifically, blogs with less than 200 followers.  Let’s think of them as budding blogs.) 

I am honored and flattered; thank you ladies.  You can learn more about  Michelle at her poetry blog and Bonnie at her life coaching blog.

As a recipient of the award, I must:
1. Thank the one who nominated me by linking back.
2. Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.
3. Let the nominees know by leaving a comment at their sites.
4. Add the award image to my site

Now it’s time to share the love (note the heart in the image above).  I’d like to recognize the following blogs for having interesting, inciteful, and helpful content.  (It’s not the suggested 10, but it’s close.  Did I mention that I have four children and it’s the end of the school year?)
One Trailing Spouse:  Emily McGee’s travel and relocation blog.  Great pix and reflections  for a homebody like me to enjoy.
Milk of Moonlight:   Kris Swanguarin’s beautiful poetry and writing blog
The Artistry of Education  Mary Bauer offers teaching resources, book suggestions, and other great info for teachers and parents interested in the education of their children!
Travels with Books  Elizabeth Saunders  shares photos and historical information from the research she’s doing for her historical fiction book set in colonial America.
Blogmama Susan: great tips for starting and establishing a blog
Kim’s Ponderings Beyond Breast Cancer: insights and inspiration from a woman who has walked a long and challenging road
Read, Write, Repeat: book reviews and recommendations from avid reader and reading professor Lori Oster
Strong Women Grow Here:   by Mona Alvarado Frazier.  The title says it all. 
Happy reading and writing everyone!

Improving Vocabulary with The Night Circus, Part 2

I know I should have moved on to my next book club book, but I found another vocabulary word from The Night Circus that I really want to share: amalgamation.

Maybe it’s just because this word reminds me of dentist bills (ever have to pay for “amalgam” fillings?), but it sparked my curiosity when I read it. Here’s how Morgenstern used it:

The image in the glass, which could be a grey-haired man in a finely tailored coat, or could be an amalgamation of reflections from customers and waiters and bent and broken light from the street, ripples slightly before becoming completely indistinguishable. 1

Here’s the information from Webster’s:

Amalgam \ə-‘mal-gəm\ n, from Middle English amalgame: an alloy of mercury with another metal that is solid or liquid at room temperature and is used especially in making tooth cements; a mixture of different elements

Amalgamation \ə-mal-gə-‘mā-shən\ n : the state of being amalgamated or the result of amalgamating.

Clearly, Morgenstern isn’t talking about tooth cement, but rather the combinations of reflections and colors that could suggest the image of a man.  Such a lovely word!

Word Nerd Workout: use amalgamation in a sentence.  (Well, maybe first you have to practice SAYING it.  I did include the pronunciation guide.)  Here’s my try.  You moms out there should enjoy this:

When I pulled the fabric cover off of the car seat, I found a multicolored blob, an amalgamation of goldfish crackers, pretzels and cheerios held together by raisins and an unknown yellow substance.  *gross*

Now your turn, and thanks for stopping by.  Be sure to come back on the first Friday of June for a vocabulary REVIEW; it’s been six months folks, we need to see if we’re retaining any good vocabulary knowledge!

Related posts:

1.  Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus, New York: Random House, Inc. 2011, p. 379.

Enter the Fantastic World of The Night Circus

Chocolate mice.  Cinnamon pastries.  A cloud maze to explore.  These are only some of the exciting treats waiting for you in The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.  After reading the sober, but worthwhile, Unbroken, I couldn’t wait to devour every fantastical page of Morgenstern’s wonderful story.  Great for reading, very bad for getting adequate rest!
Here’s the premise: near the turn of the 20thcentury, two young magicians, Celia and Marco, are chosen by their masters to compete in a challenge staged at The Night Circus.   At the onset, Celia and Marco don’t know the rules of the game, but as “play” progresses, they realize two important things.  First, many people’s lives have been affected by their challenge, and, second, they have fallen in love.  Unfortunately, they do not know until it is almost too late that the game must end with only one survivor.    
Morgenstern’s narrative jumps around in time, which reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife, another favorite of mine.  It’s different and a little confusing, but mirrors the disorientation visitors feel when they enter The Night Circus.  Instead of presenting acts to seated observers, The Night Circus invites patrons to wander the concentric paths around its tents, allowing them to choose what they would like to see, yet at the same time manipulating their perceptions. 
Like those patrons, we as readers see many different perspectives on the circus and the game, and Morgenstern invites us to determine what is real and who to trust.   Ironically, everything in The Night Circus, from the costumes to the tents to the food, is either black or white, suggesting simplicity and clarity.  Yet, in this color scheme, the circus achieves its biggest illusion. 
The Night Circuscloses with an interesting commentary on the nature of stories.  A character complains that modern tales no longer have clear winners and losers, or heroes and villains.  The notions of good and evil have evolved into a complicated web that readers cannot easily untangle.  Ultimately, truth is determined by perspective.
Do you agree?  Have stories in modern literature gotten more complicated, or can we still find and enjoy straightforward tales of good versus evil?  Does the much loved Harry Potter series fit neatly into the format of good versus evil, or does it allow for some gray?  (think Professor Snape)
I enjoy a book that challenges me to think, even if I have to flip back and forth between pages and reread certain passages to pick up important clues.  (Note: Do NOT read this on an eReader!)  This book has so much fun and mystery, I would like to read it again.  It’s an excellent example of a novel that uses setting to compliment its plot.
Please click on the comments button below to add your thoughts about The Night Circus or the nature of stories.  Thanks for stopping by!


PS:  For our book club meeting, I made these delicious strawberries that follow the color scheme of The Night Circus.  Here’s the recipe for Tuxedoed Strawberries.  Special thanks to Crystal for helping me brainstorm the idea!

Honoring National Poetry Month

In last week’s post, I tried to get you in touch with your inner poet by sharing some great works of poetry to read.  This week, I’m going to encourage you to write some.

Breathe.  It’ll be okay.  In fact, I hope it will be fun.  If my 10 year old daughter can do it, surely you can at least try.  You don’t even have to show anybody (but I’d love it if you did, especially here.)

The poems I cited in my last post were quite long: 12 lines of iambic pentameter with a specific pattern of rhyme.  That’s a sonnet for you.  Today, since we’re thinking about actually creating our own poetry, let’s try a shorter form.  How about Haiku?

Modern Haiku started in the late 19th century with Masaoka Shiki, but the form has deep spiritual and cultural roots in its home country, Japan.  Various rules and forms have existed over the years, and in it’s most basic structure, Haiku  is deceptively simple.  Three lines, no rhymes, but a syllable requirement:  5, 7, 5.  It should also have a “cutting” component, a sense that there are two parts to the poem with a clear splitting point.  Traditional Haiku often uses nature as a muse, but poets can focus on any theme.  (This brief description does not address all of the subtleties of the form; for more information see or Haiku for people
Seventeen syllables.  Now, that’s not a whole lot of space to work with, so you have to choose your words carefully.  And yet, what a great exercise- shouldn’t we be doing that all of the time, anyway?

I love my daughter’s fourth grade science teacher, Mrs. Susan Jones.  When the class studied plants, they didn’t just read about them in a textbook.  They went outside to the school garden and dug some up.  Then they did leaf rubbings.  Finally, they wrote poems about the leaves- for science class!  Cross – curriculum instruction is such a beautiful thing.

This January, as the class studied weather, Mrs. Jones invited her students to write Haiku poetry about winter.  And here’s what my daughter came up with:

In winter snow falls
To form a polar bear’s fur
So penguins can play. 

Now, it’s our turn.  I’m not a poet, nor have I ever taken poetry writing classes, but this is how I suggest starting:

·         Think of a topic – weather, seasons,  a specific emotional event

·         Brainstorm words about that topic, especially lots of verbs and adjectives

·         Link a few of those words together in phrases that fit the syllable structure for each line

Don’t laugh, here’s my attempt:
I empty myself;
Precious head against my chest
Fills me with peace.

Now, your turn! Let the words flow and don’t allow that critical voice to stifle your creativity.  Also don’t be afraid to share your wonderful poems with us here.  I can’t wait!  

Note: those sweet baby fingers are now almost six years old.  Turned in kindergarten registration forms today.  *Sigh*