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Monday, February 28, 2011

Two Award Shows. One Weekend. A Whole Lot of Portman.

On Saturday night, The Soup and Community funnyman Joel McHale hosted the Film Independent Spirit Awards. The following night, charmingly dorky Anne Hathaway and (purposefully?) aloof James Franco hosted the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. The two shows shared many of the same nominees—Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, and Winter’s Bone; however, different films seemed to steal each show. One thing is for sure, though: audiences and Hollywood alike love Natalie Portman.

Black Swan Cleans Up at the Spirit Awards
I saw Black Swan when it first hit theaters nationwide, and the haunting film captivated me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. The ballet thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky won every award it was nominated for at the Spirit Awards, including Best Feature. Five-months-pregnant Natalie Portman, who had already accepted the BAFTA Film Award and the Golden Globe for her role as Black Swan’s Nina Sayers, accepted the honor for Best Lead Actress.

Other winners included James Franco for Best Male Lead in 127 Hours, Dale Dickey and John Hawkes for Best Supporting Female and Best Supporting Male in the gothic Ozark piece Winter's Bone, Tennessee drama Get Low for Best First Feature, and Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko for Best Screenplay for The Kids Are All Right.

Controversial Exit Through the Gift Shop (is it a documentary or simply a huge prank?) received the award for Best Documentary, and much to viewers’ disappointment, mysterious street artist Banksy did not show to claim his prize. Instead, the film’s main character Thierry Guetta (AKA Mr. Brainwash) accepted the award on Banksy’s behalf.

Shop the winners:

The King’s Speech Tops the Night at the Oscars
Now it’s time for Oscar talk. I hardly critiqued the Spirit Awards because, honestly, the show was solid all around. Maybe it was the Jameson whiskey served on the red carpet, but the Spirit Awards just felt more intimate and honest.¹ The Oscars, on the other hand, were not good, to say the least. I mean, we expect a long runtime, but this year was excruciatingly slow.

James Franco seemed to be channeling Saul Silver from Pineapple Express, and Anne Hathaway, determined to pick up the slack, tried way too hard. Presenters’ dialogue was monotonous—except for Kirk Douglas, who arguably stole the entire show²—or chopped short due to out-of-place tributes to former Best Picture winners. Banter between presenters was generally soulless (except for Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.), and acceptance speeches were mostly ill-prepared. Case in point: Melissa Leo.

There were a few highlights. Nervous Robert Stromberg, who accepted the award for Best Art Direction for Alice in Wonderland, opened his acceptance speech with "Why didn't I lose those 20 pounds?" Luke Matheny, who accepted the award for Best Live Action Short, God of Love, “similarly lamented his lack of a haircut. He then thanked his mom, who was in charge of craft services, and the lovely sounding girlfriend who scored his film.”³ David Seidler, Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech, and Randy Newman, Best Song for Toy Story 3, also gave entertaining speeches.

The reason why the show was truly a bore, though, was the predictability of it all. As forecasted in just about every Oscar picks article, The King’s Speech ran away with the show, pulling in Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Actor. Natalie Portman, who, as stated above, has been raking in the awards for her performance in Black Swan, was one of the easiest picks to make in one’s Oscar pool. During her acceptance speech, she sweetly thanked her fiancé, Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied, for giving her the most important role of her life: motherhood.

Throughout the evening, favorite after favorite waltzed up to the podium and graciously accepted their awards. Even the Academy’s attempt at “going rogue” was completely expected. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross produced an incredible score for The Social Network, and while the two are Hollywood outsiders, it was entirely expected for the Academy to go with this “unconventional” nominee. With so many questioning the genuineness of Exit Through the Gift Shop, it was no surprise it didn’t win Best Documentary.

The lackluster show, though, should not be confused with the caliber of the nominees. There were some incredible films this year, and the competition was steep. As Steven Spielberg pointed out, being a Best Picture nominee is quite an accomplishment. Whether a film wins or not, nominees join the ranks of some of history’s greatest cinematic works, and that is why, no matter how bland the show might get, the Oscars are still worth watching: films receive much-deserved honor and mainstream exposure.

Shop the winners:

¹ Film Independent’s Spirit Awards: Do Black Swan’s Wins Mean an Oscar Coup Tonight?

Hot This Week

The Academy Awards bumped several films, including The Social Network, up the list, and “The Biebs” nabbed the top spot on the charts once again.

  1. Megamind
  2. Inception
  3. Toy Story 3
  4. Bambi
  5. The Social Network
  6. 127 Hours
  7. Secretariat
  8. Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
  9. Burlesque
  10. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  1. Justin Bieber, Never Say Never: The Remixes (EP)
  2. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
  3. Now That’s What I Call Music 37 
  4. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
  5. Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops & Hooligans
  6. Eminem, Recovery
  7. Various Artists, 2011 Grammy Nominees
  8. Justin Bieber, My World 2.0
  9. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
  10. Rihanna, Loud
Fiction Books
  1. Tick Tock, James Patterson  & Michael Ledwidge
  2. A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
  3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
  4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  5. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
  6. The Confession, John Grisham
  7. The Inner Circle, Brad Meltzer
  8. Room, Emma Donoghue
  9. Secret Soldier, Alex Berenson
  10. A Heartbeat Away, Michael Palmer
Non-Fiction Books
  1. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  2. Known and Unknown, Donald Rumsfeld
  3. I Beat the Odds, Michael Oher
  4. Decision Points, George W. Bush
  5. Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
  6. How the West Was Lost, Dambisa Moyo
  7. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
  8. In the Blink of an Eye, Michael Waltrip and Ellis Henican (currently unavailable on audiobook)
  9. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond
  10. Life, Keith Richards with James Fox

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SmartCart: Moving Carts and Product

Previously in this SmartCart series you learned the basics of SmartCart and how to customize your cart with columns. Now you will learn how to quickly modify and share your cart and its contents. Here are five examples of how moving products and carts can make your ordering process more efficient:

I want to combine my fiction and non-fiction audiobook carts.
Instead of reselecting your titles manually, SmartCart makes it possible to merge multiple carts into one single cart.

1. Once you are in your cart, select Merge Carts from the Cart dropdown menu.

2. Select two or more source carts you want to merge using the checkboxes in the carts to merge column.

3. Choose a final cart from the final cart column. The other carts will be merged into the final cart, making it your active cart.

4. Click the Merge button at the bottom of the page; you will now be viewing your active, merged cart.

I want to share my cart with other members of my acquisitions team.
Other account holders can add to and edit your carts when you share them.

1. Select Share Cart from the cart dropdown menu. Or, click the Share Cart icon in the command toolbar.

2. Check the first box in the dialog box. If you plan to order this cart, make sure you set an expiration date. You won’t be able to order from this cart until it is unshared. Here you can also add optional text.

3. Select with whom you want to share the cart.

4. Click Lock Down to set restrictions for non-administrative users.

5. Click Send Invitations.

I want another account holder to have full use of my cart.
SmartCart lets you relinquish your carts to other users. However, once you send your cart you will no longer have access to it.

1. Select Send Cart from the Cart dropdown menu.

2. Specify to whom you would like to send the cart. You can also rename the cart and add additional comments. Click Send Cart.

I don’t want to order a certain title yet, but it’s in my cart now.
Instead of deleting a title from your cart and trying to remember to reorder, SmartCart lets you move the product to a different cart for later use.

1. Select Move Products from the Products drop-down menu.

2. To move multiple products, check the titles’ corresponding boxes and then click the Move icon in the command toolbar.

3. Choose whether you want to move the titles into an existing cart or a new cart, and then click Move. The titles will be removed from their initial cart and placed into their new cart.

I want to duplicate titles in my fiction cart to a new suspense cart.
Copying products in SmartCart allows you to keep products in your original cart while adding them to another.

1. Select Copy Products from the Products dropdown menu.

2. To copy multiple products, check the titles’ corresponding boxes and then click the Copy icon in the command toolbar.

3. Choose whether you want to copy the titles into an existing cart or a new cart, and then click Copy. The titles will stay in their initial cart and be placed into their new cart.

Now that you know how to modify your cart and its contents, look for our last installment of the SmartCart series about incorporating Workflow Solutions into your checkout experience. In the meantime, explore SmartCart yourself and share your thoughts and insights here as comments.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 in Preview: Films TAKE TWO!

Last week I chronicled numbers 25 through 13 of the Top 25 Films of 2011. Who made my top 12? Will a superhero reign supreme? Or will some other supernatural film take the cake? Read on to find out!

Behold the top 25 of 2011! (12–1)

12.) Hugo Cabret
Martin Scorsese is literally bringing the bestselling book The Invention of Hugo Cabret to life—it’s in 3D! Staring Hit Girl from Kick-Ass (Chloë Moretz) as well as Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Christopher Lee, Hugo Cabret is about a 12-year-old orphan who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in 1930 and happens to go on a wonderfully fantastical adventure. This film will be significantly more family friendly than Scorsese’s last film Shutter Island. I’m hoping it is far better than that film as well.

11.) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
In December, I discussed the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I personally don’t think it’s necessary. The nearly new Swedish version is great, and I’m not sure Rooney Mara can fill Lisbeth Salander’s shoes. Either way, I can’t ignore the fact that this flick made Screen Rant, The Daily Beast, and Coed Magazine’s lists, so I suppose I’ll get excited about it. I mean, it does have James Bond (Daniel Craig) in it, and it’s directed by David Fincher, who did The Social Network, my favorite flick of 2010.

10.) Super 8
Dear J.J. Abrams,

Please make Super 8 better than Cloverfield. Let’s have it live up to its hype. I know Steven Spielberg is the producer, but please don’t let this just be a modern day E.T.
Also, I know you didn’t direct it, but please don’t let little Elle Fanning scream nonstop like her sister annoyingly did in the horridness that was War of the Worlds.

Do not—I repeat, do not—make this anything like the finale of Lost.

9.) Sucker Punch
“The producers describe this effort from Watchmen and 300 director Zack Snyder as ‘Alice in Wonderland with machine guns’ that blends dragons, B-52 bombers, and brothels.” In Sucker Punch, reality and imagination combine as a young girl attempts to escape a mental institution and her impending lobotomy. The visuals and action are sure to be spectacular, but I sincerely hope this flick has more heart than 300.

8.) X-Men: First Class
OK, I loved the X-Men film series once, but the last two films (Last Stand and Wolverine) floundered. The franchise did pretty much kick off the superhero boom that has occurred this century thus far, though, so I won’t entirely lose my patience with this next attempt.

“X-Men: First Class is a prequel based in the 1960s and tells the story of young Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier as they meet and recruit other mutants to form the first X-Men and explore their different views on humanity.”² It will be directed by Matt Vaughn of Kick-Ass fame and will star Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) and James McAvoy (Atonement). Here’s hoping this film returns to the glory of the franchise’s first.

7.) Thor
Natalie Portman turns things into gold, I swear, because this movie doesn’t look any more spectacular than the rest of today’s superhero flicks. And yet, Thor is in the top five of almost every 2011 movie list. I think most of the buzz is due to the impending Avengers movie, starring numerous superheroes, including Thor and Iron Man. Still, I suppose we can get little excited about a superhero flick with mythology worked into it.

6.) Cowboys vs. Aliens
This movie is about cowboys and aliens in Arizona.

5.) The Muppets
Jason Segel of Forgetting Sarah Marshall penned the script and James Bobin of Da Ali G Show will make his directorial debut for this reboot. They’re hoping to make this newbie like the glorious Muppet movies of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. If that alone doesn’t make you excited, then the plethora of cameos should do the trick:

“While the main cast includes Segel as a human named Gary whose best pal is Walter, a new, geeky puppet, Amy Adams as his girlfriend, and Chris Cooper as evil oilman Tex Richman, the film is peppered with appearances from what seems like every actor in Hollywood. Jack Black will play himself as a kidnap victim, Zach Galifianakis plays a hobo, Alan Arkin plays a tour guide, Emily Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Billy Crystal, Jean-Claude van Damme, and Sean Penn will also appear. And last but not least, Lady Gaga herself is rumored to be making a cameo, with Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet and The Office’s John Krasinski and Ed Helms as members of her entourage.”⁴

4.) The Hangover 2
The Hangover made me laugh out loud in the theater. Few movies do that. It is smart and hilarious; it also managed to make a bunch of unknowns well known. This was The Daily Beast’s and Coed Magazine’s number one pick, and I too am ranking it quite high.

In the sequel, Stu is getting hitched and the gang is heading to Bangkok for the wedding. Liam Neeson has joined the cast, and there are cameos expected from Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, and Bill Clinton—reason enough right there to see this comedy.

3.) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1
Vampire-human marriage + vampire-human wedding night = vampire-human baby, an enraged Volturi, and a divided clan of werewolves where one imprints on the fastest developing baby ever.

There’s a lot to tackle in this last installment, which is why they’ve divided Breaking Dawn into two movies. I’m curious how they’ll handle the more adult scenes—particularly Nessie’s birth—while maintaining a PG-13 rating. I’m also curious how Kristen Stewart will become graceful and confident when she turns into vampire Bella. Impossible, I say.

2.) Green Lantern
Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds slaps on a green ring and becomes a green-masked super hero. Let’s go on a cosmic adventure.

1.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
It’s the end of an era, and it’s time to destroy the final horcruxes and battle it out at Hogwarts. All in 3D.

And there you have it: the Top 25 Films of 2011. Did I miss any? What would you have picked as number one? What’s your library most excited about?

¹ Sequels among most anticipated films of 2011
² Screen Rant’s 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2011
³ USA Today’s 11 Films to Lift 2011
2011's 11 Most Anticipated Movies (The Daily Beast)
Movie Moron’s 2011 Movies Guide

Additional Lists:
Coed Magazine’s Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2011
11 Movies People Will Be Talking About in 2011: 'The Green Lantern,' 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' and More (MovieFone)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hot This Week

Scott Pilgrim conquered the DVD chart this week after taking on the world, and Donald Rumsfeld topped the Non-Fiction chart.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
2. Megamind
3. Inception
4. Toy Story 3
5. Secretariat
6. Unstoppable
7. Red
8. Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
9. Downton Abbey
10. Rich Man, Poor Man

1. Now That’s What I Call Music 37
2. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
3. Justin Bieber, My World 2.0
4. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
5. Pink, Greatest Hits…So Far!!!
6. Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops & Hooligans
7. Eminem, Recovery
8. Rihanna, Loud
9. Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
10. Justin Bieber, My Worlds Acoustic

Fiction Books
1. Tick Tock, James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
2. A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
5. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
6. Secret Soldier, Alex Berenson
7. The Inner Circle, Brad Meltzer
8. The Confession, John Grisham
9. A Red Herring without Mustard, Alan Bradley
10. Room, Emma Donoghue

Non-Fiction Books
1. Known and Unknown, Donald Rumsfeld
2. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
3. Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
4. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
5. Decision Points, George W. Bush
6. I Beat the Odds, Michael Oher
7. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond
8. The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene
9. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Mark Twain
10. In the Blink of an Eye, Michael Waltrip and Ellis Henican (currently unavailable on audiobook)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 in Preview: Films TAKE ONE!

Inception blew our minds. Toy Story 3 brought nostalgia-soaked tears to our eyes. The Social Network captured an era and helped make the “Zuck” Person of the Year.

What will the films of 2011 achieve? What stories will resonate with us? While time, critical reviews, and box office revenue will surely tell, I can still guesstimate! Below is the first half of my list of the most anticipated films of 2011.

Behold the top 25 of 2011! (25–13)

25.) Cars 2
This sequel to the 2006 Pixar film features McQueen venturing out of Radiator Springs on “a kind of James Bond-style spy adventure around the world.”¹ With Disney “dedicating a section of its California Adventure Park to Cars,” a lot is riding on Cars 2 to perform well after its first installment had to make up average box office bucks with commendable consumer product sales.

24.) I Am Number Four
Even though I Am Number Four is based on a book that just hit shelves in August and it doesn’t release during the summer blockbuster season, this YA fantasy flick is garnering a lot of buzz. It was even number one on USA Today’s list of “11 Films to Lift 2011.” In addition to staring Glee’s Dianna Agron, this film—about teenage aliens with special powers doing battle with other aliens in Paradise, Ohio—has the potential to make Alex Pettyfer a household name.

23.) Sherlock Holmes 2
What do you get when you add Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, and Jared Harris to a cast already starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. and then have Guy Ritchie run point? You get a sequel ripe for the 2011 holiday season. The first one was loads of fun, and this one is certain to match with Harris playing Watson and Holmes’s fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty, and Fry playing Holmes’s smarter-but-lazier older brother.

22.) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Fair winds, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly! Ahoy, Penelope Cruz! In the fourth installment of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Jack Sparrow returns in all his Keith Richards-knock-off glory along with once-enemy Barbossa to find the much desired Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately for these two swashbucklers, the terrible pirate Blackbeard and his con artist daughter are after the bounty too.

While I lost interest in these films long ago, this series continually performs well and folks can expect nothing less from this next installment.

21.) Moneyball
Egad! Another film based on a book based on a true story by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side)! If that association isn’t enough, Moneyball also combines two things America loves: baseball and underdog success. The film “centers on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who takes over as general manager of the cash-strapped Oakland Athletics baseball team and, through analysis and a new, nontraditional Sabermetric approach to scouting players, creates a competitive baseball team.”² Add Philip Seymour Hoffman and the comedic relief talents of Jonah Hill and you’ve got Oscar bait, my friends.

20.) Captain America: The First Avenger

19.) Transformers: Dark of the Moon
This is the third and final (thank goodness) installment of the series, and Michael Bay is gunning to end on a high note after a terribly terrible second film. He kicked Megan Fox to the curb (or she quit) and enlisted Victoria’s Secret supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The film will also be in 3D; but it has the same scriptwriter as Revenge of the Fallen, so I’m not sure how improved the plot will be. Nothing you can’t cover up with some explosions and 3D, though, right? Right?

18.) Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol
I can’t tell you much about this fourth flick in the MI series as it’s fairly under wraps. However, I do know these things (thanks to Screen Rant):
  • Tom Cruise is returning as Ethan Hunt.
  • Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner is joining the cast along with Lost star Josh Holloway.
  • This is a planned start to a series re-launch—a whole new trilogy—with Renner as the franchise’s new leading man.

17.) Battle: Los Angeles
Awesome effects, cool song, Aaron Eckhart (AKA Harvey Dent), the tough helicopter pilot from Avatar, and apocalypticism via alien attack.

16.) Conan the Barbarian
This is a reboot of the 1982 cult classic. To quote Screen Rant, “the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Stargate: Atlantis star Jason Momoa can live up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stature and become a Hollywood action star from this film.” I just hope the film and Momoa don’t take themselves too seriously. I mean, c’mon, it’s Conan.

15.) Scream 4
Say what you want about Scream 2 and 3, but the original was awesome. Scream rebooted the horror genre, and it didn’t need any creepy kids, crazy effects, or implausible paranormal-ness to do so. It was also “one of the first horror films to acknowledge the genre and its fans.”³ For all these reasons, I say “Yay, Scream 4!”

14.) Your Highness
This didn’t just make my list because Pineapple Express is hilarious (and underrated, I might add) and this movie is from the makers of that comedy. It also stars current Oscar nominees Natalie Portman and James Franco as well as “Hollywood’s current most sought after comedy actor Danny McBride.”⁴ In this sure-to-be lewd and funny flick, Prince Fabious (Franco) teams up with skilled warrior Isabel (Portman) and his useless brother Thadeous (McBride) to rescue his kidnapped bride (Zooey Deschanel).

13.) Contagion
I had never heard of this flick. But when The Daily Beast, Coed Magazine, and all listed it on their 2011 guides, I figured it was worth investigating, and I discovered that there is a great deal to buzz about:
  • Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven) is directing—and it may just be his final film.
  • The writer (Scott Z. Burns) of The Bourne Ultimatum is writing the script.
  • Jude Law, Matt Damon, and Gwyneth Paltrow are reunited for the first time since The Talented Mr. Ripley.
  • The cast also features Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, and John Hawkes.
  • The film was shot in 10 countries and is about “a deadly disease and the international team of doctors contracted by the Center for Disease Control to deal with the spread.”⁵ It’s also about the spread of information virally online.

Ta-da! Twenty-five through thirteen on my list of the Top 25 Films of 2011. Who will make my top twelve? Stay tuned for next week’s post!

¹ Sequels among most anticipated films of 2011
² Screen Rant’s 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2011
³ USA Today’s 11 Films to Lift 2011
2011's 11 Most Anticipated Movies (The Daily Beast)
Movie Moron’s 2011 Movies Guide

Additional Lists:
Coed Magazine’s Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2011
11 Movies People Will Be Talking About in 2011: 'The Green Lantern,' 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' and More (MovieFone)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 in Preview: Books

Jonathan Frazen’s Freedom. Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay.

Each of these books helped to shape the literary landscape of 2010. But what publications will make their mark on 2011?

Welcome to the second installment of News & Views’ 2011 preview. In the first installment, music expert Mike Rankin discussed hot upcoming albums. Here, I tackle the big books of the New Year.

In 2010, W. hit a surprise slam dunk with his memoir Decision Points; now it’s time for Donald Rumsfeld to dish. Known and Unknown “promises previously undisclosed details on the inner-workings of the Bush administration, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 9/11 attacks.”¹ Will 2011 mark the beginning of the literary dissection of the Bush administration?

Veering from the political lane on the avenue of nonfiction, we venture to the land of travelogues with Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, a historical examination of Hawaii and a discussion of the year the U.S. truly became a superpower. Known for her sarcastic wit and quirky reporting, Vowell has staked a claim in the nonfiction genre and gotten people excited about historical travelogues, achieving both comedic and captivating narratives on topics often overlooked or forgotten. Both The Daily Beast and The Millions Magazine listed this book on their 2011 previews.

During my freshman year of undergrad, I read the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and while creepy, it resonated with me. It made me want to write, and it definitely made me remember the name Joyce Carol Oates. Making pretty much every preview I’ve encountered, Oates’s new release is far different from anything she’s written before—it isn’t fiction. It’s a memoir about coping with loss. After nearly half a century of marriage, Oates lost her husband, and A Widow’s Story is her narrative on widowhood.

Several other nonfiction titles—mostly memoirs—garnering a lot of buzz include:
  • True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski
  • Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
  • How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance by Parag Khanna
USA Today, The Millions Magazine, The National Post, and The Daily Beast all listed Tea Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife as one of the most anticipated books of 2011. Why all the buzz? As The Millions explains, “Of all The New Yorker’s choices for the “20 Under 40″ list, none was more surprising than Obreht, the youngest on the list and the only author chosen who had not yet published a book.” The novel, which is about a young doctor working at an orphanage in the Balkans, is literary fiction, but mainstreamers may find themselves pleasantly surprised with this gem.

With True Grit reviving America’s love of the Western genre, it’s not surprising that The National Post listed The Sisters Brothers on their 2011 book preview. Set in 1850s California, this novel stars a pair of outlaw brothers who are hired to track down and kill Hermann Kermit Warm. Chock full of gunslingin’, killin’, and humor, this book has received plenty of advance praise and “looks ridiculously cool.”⁵

In her ninth novel, The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitzer uses the ancient Greek play Lysistrata ("wherein the women withhold sex from their menfolk until they agree to end their war”) as her inspiration.² After a New Jersey high school performs the play, the women of the town lose interest with their male partners. As proven with her previous novels, Wolitzer’s narratives definitely entertain, and The Millions and The Daily Beast are both expecting this one to truly shine.

“The final, posthumous novel from the post-modern genius,” David Foster Wallace, The Pale King is about a man named David Foster Wallace who goes to work at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois.³ Wallace’s longtime editor Michael Pietsch delicately arranged the original manuscript into the final novel, and USA Today, The Millions Magazine, The National Post, and The Daily Beast are all labeling this quixotic tome as the most anticipated book of 2011.

Here are some other fiction titles hitting several book preview lists:
    Children’s & Young Adult
    This year is hereby the year for Cassandra Clare! She’ll release two monumental titles in 2011: City of Fallen Angels, which is the fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, and The Clockwork Prince, the second installment of her Infernal Devices series. Both of these fantasy series have already been optioned for movies, and the fan base is expected to grow to Twilight proportions.

    In the midst of vampire-fever, Maggie Stiefvater emerged with a big win for werewolves. Shiver and its sequel Linger both performed remarkably well, were optioned for movies, and received high praise for not only chronicling the romance from Grace and Sam’s point of view, but also flipping the script on some clichés of the genre. The trilogy wraps up in 2011 with Forever.

    Who doesn’t love a good dose of steampunk? Scott Westerfeld revived the genre with Leviathan and he’ll wrap up the entertaining trilogy in 2011 with Goliath.

    Now let’s journey away from fantastical young adult books to a children’s adventure series that truly gets audiences involved through online gaming. The 39 Clues unleashes its eleventh (or is it first?) installment in 2011. For this transitional piece entitled Vespers Rising, authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman, and Jude Watson combined efforts to connect the original series to the new secondary series, Cahills vs. Vespers.

    Here are some additional much-anticipated kids and YA titles:
    Stay tuned for my list of most anticipated films, and be sure to post comments here. What book are you most anticipating? Did it make my preview?

    ¹ 2011's Most Anticipated Books (The Daily Beast)

    Additional Lists:

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Hot This Week

    The charts saw little change this week as old favorites returned to all formats.

    1. Inception
    2. The Town
    3. Secretariat
    4. Red
    5. Toy Story 3
    6. Downton Abbey
    7. Unstoppable
    8. Salt
    9. The Social Network
    10. Life As We Know It

    1. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday
    2. Red, Until We Have Faces
    3. Ricky Martin, M.A.S.: Musica + Alma + Sexo
    4. Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops & Hooligans
    5. Rihanna, Loud
    6. Kidz Bop 19
    7. Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
    8. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
    9. Pink, Greatest Hits…So Far!!!
    10. Eminem, Recovery

    Fiction Books
    1. Tick Tock, James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
    2. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
    3. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
    4. The Inner Circle, Brad Meltzer
    5. Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy
    6. Fatal Error, J.A. Jance
    7. Strategic Moves, Stuart Woods
    8. Shadowfever, Karen Marie Moning
    9. The Confession, John Grisham
    10. Room, Emma Donoghue

    Non-Fiction Books
    1. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
    2. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond
    3. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
    4. Decision Points, George W. Bush
    5. Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
    6. The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene
    7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
    8. Autobiography Of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Mark Twain
    9. Life, Keith Richards with James Fox
    10. Decoded, Jay-Z (currently unavailable on audiobook)

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    SmartCart: Customizing Your Cart with Columns

    In the SmartCart series’ first installment, you learned the basics of SmartCart. Now that you are feeling comfortable with SmartCart, I’ll show you how using columns can easily organize your cart, making for quick and easy modifications.

    I can’t see the full title of product in my cart.
    SmartCart allows you to adjust the width of each column individually.

    1. Place your cursor between two columns and drag the mouse to the desired width.

    I want the author column to come directly after the title column.
    SmartCart gives you the option to rearrange the order of columns.

    1. Hold down your mouse on the column header you want to move. A box should appear with the corresponding column name in it.

    2. Drag the column to its new position.

    I want to organize the products in my cart by sales rank.
    Every SmartCart column can be sorted in ascending or descending order.

    1. Click the column header (sales rank) by which you want your products sorted. Clicking once will sort the products in ascending order; clicking again will sort in descending order.

    I don’t want to see the box office column when I am ordering audiobooks.
    With SmartCart you can eliminate columns that aren’t helpful in your ordering.

    1. Click the Columns icon in the command toolbar.

    2. Select which columns you want to be visible. The columns will automatically update as you make your selections. Note: We recently added the following columns: Line Items, Spine Label, Call Number, and Processing Notes.

    3. Click Close to return to SmartCart. Your selected columns will now become the default until you decide to change your selections again.

    Now that you know how to utilize columns, look for our next installment of the SmartCart series about making modifications to your carts and their contents. In the meantime, try SmartCart yourself and share your insights and experiences here as comments.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    2011 Tech Trends: New Year, Same Gadgets

    2010 was the year of eReaders and 3D entertainment–and guess what? 2011 will be too. It may be a new year, but our favorite technology trends from 2010 will stick around for improvements. Below I recap this year’s latest and greatest trends detailed at the Consumer Electronics Show and ALA’s Midwinter Meeting.

    Last year the spotlight shined brightly on eReaders; however, this year the tablet will overshadow electronic reading devices. Gizmodo compares eReaders and tablets to pocket and Swiss Army knives: “Like a standard pocket knife versus its far more compelling Swiss Army cousin, a Kindle simply can’t touch a tablet, be it iPad or something else, when it comes to versatility.”1

    Tablets are slimmer, lighter, and more intuitive than laptops and offer more functionality than eReaders. Analysts estimate that 55 million tablets will be sold this year. And there will be more than just the iPad to choose from. At the electronics show, which was held in early January, 80 different units debuted.2 However, the Motorola Xoom was voted “Best in Show.” Walt Mossberg, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, declared that the convention should have been called the TES, the tablet exhibition show. 3

    High-tech entertainment and information systems are being built into everything—TVs, ovens, refrigerators, and even cars. Perhaps the most practical of these, however, is a device that links your computer to your television. Apple and Google both have dedicated receivers and enabled television sets that make streaming media and surfing the Internet seamless from your couch. Additionally, Vizio, LG, and Samsung will offer new sets in the future that offer full Web browsing.

    I’ve struggled with the idea of getting a Smartphone and joining the rest of society for a while now. Little did I know, though, that current Smartphones are already becoming passé. Impressive new mobile technologies will feature 4G capabilities, the fastest wireless data connection speed currently available. Nonetheless, it will take some time for consumers to grasp 4G. In a recent survey from Nielsen, only 29% of respondents intend on buying a 4G device in the next 12 months. This figure could easily increase, though, once the concept hits the market and there is more competition between service providers.4

    With larger screen sizes and full HD video playback capabilities, it will be increasingly easy to categorize these products as mini computers rather than dedicated phones. When you add in the many apps available, mobile phones have the potential to make libraries more accessible. You can learn how to incorporate applications into your library applications from our previous blog post, Mobile Technologies to Push Library Limits.

    Speaking of apps—they will take on a variety of new roles in 2011. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your apps are compatible with all cell phone interfaces. More so than ever, applications in the future will:
    • Reflect your geo-location and past preferences.
    • Allow you to “check-in” via photos.
    • Act as credit cards with the capability to make mobile payments by waving your phone over a wireless reader.

    3D Entertainment
    After making a strong debut in theaters in 2010, 3D entertainment should continue to gain momentum. However, in 2011, the focus will be more on content rather than products. 3D entertainment will become increasingly prevalent in the home with more Blu-rays and television channels devoted to in-your-face viewing. This year will see the premiere of 3net, the first 24/7 television channel dedicated to 3D content, and ESPN3D will go live on Valentine’s Day. Additionally, the following products may also make their 3D debut:
    • Video -on-demand services
    • Computer and video games
    • Smartphone screens
    • Laptops
    • Televisions that don’t require glasses
    Digital media should also make a few waves during this year’s upcoming technology boom.

    Digital Archives
    John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Library has gone digital. This process took more than four years and $10 million to digitize and scan over 200,000 documents (handwritten notes, typed memos on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and personal correspondences) and upload 1,200 recordings, reels of films, and hundreds of photographs.5 Before, the only way to access any of these documents was to visit the library.

    This is the first presidential archive digitized online, but certainly not the last—and since these indexes of information are stored digitally on the web, your library may see a higher demand for computers with Internet access. On a more personal level, patrons will depend on social networking sites like Facebook and services like Flickr to house their personal files.

    Social Networks
    Facebook and Twitter have enjoyed their time in the spotlight; now it’s Quora’s turn. Quora is a social Q&A site that implements an interest graph that allows you to follow interests in addition to people. A mesh of Twitter and Digg, users can post questions and answers on any topic and search from those already asked. Everyone can vote on the answers, so it’s easy to distinguish the best answers from the worst—the best answers get pushed to the top of the feeds. And in some instances you can get responses from the experts themselves.6 If used properly, this site could be used to gather market research as well as provide supplemental information to classroom activity. In addition, social network sites devoted to music, photos, videos, and, most importantly, privacy (like Instagram, Path, Ping, and Diaspora) are springing up everywhere.

    Cloud Computing
    As I mentioned in a previous post, workflows are going to start moving out of the office and into the cloud. However, workflows aren’t the only thing setting up shop in the sky. Google and Apple are working on “jukebox-in-the-sky” services, and soon patrons will be able to access their personal media collections anywhere through a stream. Additionally, full-text indexing of books and journal articles can now be stored in the cloud.

    How do you think these new technologies will affect your library’s operations? Have you heard about any additional tech trends? Share your thoughts with us here as comments.