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Hatchimal horror: Author's plan to buy, sell popular toys backfires

An author who hatched a plan to buy, then sell thousands of dollars' worth of a popular holiday toy has learned that cashing in on a Christmas trend isn't as easy as you'd think.

According to a Philly Voice article published Monday, New York Times best-selling author Sara Gruen spent more than $23,000 on 156 Hatchimals, which she had hoped to sell to raise money for the defense of a man she believes was wrongfully convicted of murder. 

>> Can't find a Hatchimal or other hot toy? Here's what you can do

The coveted toys, which retail for $59.99, are interactive pets that hatch and can be raised "from baby to toddler to full-grown Hatchimal," learning to "walk, talk, play games and more," maker Spin Master Corp. said in a press release. As the critters sell out in stores across the country, parents everywhere are scrambling to find them.

"It never occurred to me that I'd have trouble getting rid of them," said Gruen, who ran into listing limits and other barriers while trying to sell the items on eBay and other auction sites. 

Gruen ended up listing the items, now available for $189-$219, on Shopify. Buyers also get a free copy of one of Gruen's books.

>> Hatchimals coming to Target this Sunday

According to the store's website, all of the proceeds will go toward the legal fees for the man, who was sentenced to life without parole 23 years ago.

“I have a fortune invested, only one venue to offload them, and in only three weeks they will magically transform into useless pumpkins that will take up space in my office forever, and have caused my financial ruin," she said, according to the Voice.

But Gruen has gotten some good news in the days since: In a follow-up story published Wednesday, the Voice reported that eBay gave her permission to sell "as many Hatchimals as I want." Another shopping site, Bonanza, followed suit. 

>> Read more trending stories

"As of this morning, I've sold 40 percent of the critters and given away four to needy kids," Gruen wrote on Facebook early Wednesday. 

The bad news: She also has received negative feedback and even death threats, the Voice reported.

"I'm going to put my alarm on for a few nights, but I think it's all online bluster," Gruen told the Voice. "They're blowing off the wrongfully convicted man with the argument that their children 'need' these toys."

Read more here or here.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Here's a follow-up piece by Brian Hickey (from Philly Voice). As of this morning, I've sold 40% of the critters and...Posted by Sara Gruen on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Virginia schools ban 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' 'Huckleberry Finn' for racial slurs

A Virginia school has temporarily banned two American classics after a parent said her high school-age son was negatively impacted by the racial slurs they contain.

>> Read more trending stories 

The decision to remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee came after a parent filed a complaint, WAVY reported. The parent cited excessive racial slurs as the reason for wanting the books banned, Superintendent Warren Holland told the news station.

The parent, whose son is biracial, said that her concerns are "not even just a black and white thing."

"I keep hearing, 'This is a classic, This is a classic,' ... I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not -- or do not -- truly get the classic part -- the literature part, which I'm not disputing," she said at a Nov. 15 school board meeting. "This is great literature. But there (are so many) racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that."

The parent said her son, who was reading "Huckleberry Finn" for a high school assignment, couldn't get past a certain page in that story on which the N-word appeared seven times. 

A racial slur appears 219 times in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and 48 times in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"So what are we teaching our children? We're validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by (any) means," the parent said, also noting psychological effects language has on children. "There is other literature they can use."

The parent proposed a committee made up of parents and teachers of different cultural backgrounds come up with a list of books that are inclusive for all students. She also offered to donate books and raise funds in the case of budgetary concerns.

The complaint, which was "a request for reconsideration of learning resources," will go before a committee made up of a principal, librarian, teacher, parent and potentially others, according to WCMH. The committee will then make a recommendation to the superintendent.

Holland said that there is no set date for when the recommendation will be made.

Read more at WAVY.

Academy: Bob Dylan not coming to Stockholm to pick up Nobel Prize

UPDATE: Bob Dylan will not go to Stockholm to pick up his 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, according to The Associated Press.

Dylan told the Swedish Academy that "he wishes he could receive the prize personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible," in a statement released Wednesday.

Read the original story below.

For an artist who has released 37 albums and written (or co-written) 522 songs, it would seem unusual for Bob Dylan to be at a loss for words.

>> Read more trending stories

But the 75-year-old singer-songwriter said he was “speechless” when he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature. Dylan said “of course” he would accept the prize, the Swedish Academy said.

The academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told The Associated Press that Dylan contacted them to confirm he would accept the prize. Danius told Sweden's TT news agency that Dylan called her Tuesday evening and they spoke for about 15 minutes.

"The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless," Dylan told Danius, according to a statement posted Friday on the academy's website. "I appreciate the honor so much."

It is unclear whether Dylan will attend any Nobel events in Stockholm in December, Danius said.

Dylan at first was silent after the announcement, prompting a member of the Swedish Academy to call it “impolite and arrogant,” the AP reported.

Dylan has accepted many awards through the years, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for which he attended a White House ceremony in 2012. 

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Trayvon Martin's parents to release book about son

The parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin will release a book in January, nearly five years after their son was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.

>> Read more trending stories

Chris Jackson, editor-in-chief of Random House's One World, announced the book in an interview with the entertainment site.

"Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin" by Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will be released on Jan. 31. The book focuses on Martin's life as seen by his parents and the aftermath of his death.

>> Related: Officials: George Zimmerman punched in face for allegedly bragging about killing Trayvon Martin

"It's amazing," Jackson said. "Everyone who's been reading the manuscript is in tears by the second chapter. It's not just about the mournful story about losing a child, but it's also how that moment ignited this global movement."

Martin died on Feb. 26, 2012, after he was shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator in Sanford. Zimmerman called police to report that Martin appeared to be casing the neighborhood. A scuffle ensued and Martin was killed.

>> Related: Justice Department says no charges to be filed against George Zimmerman

The shooting stirred protests across the nation and sparked a national conversation about the criminalization of being black.

Public outcry led to Zimmerman's arrest on one count of murder six weeks after Martin's death. Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013.

'It' author Stephen King on Carolina clown sightings: 'I suspect it's a kind of low-level hysteria'

Horror master Stephen King can understand the panic caused by a recent rash of reported clown sightings in the Carolinas better than most.

>> Read more trending stories

King penned the 1986 horror classic "It," about a demonic clown named Pennywise who terrorizes children in Maine.

In an article published by The Bangor Daily News Thursday, King said the fears he drew from to create Pennywise were again at play in the Carolina cases.

"I suspect it's a kind of low-level hysteria, like Slender Man, or the so-called Bunny Man, who purportedly lurked in Fairfax County, Virginia, wearing a white hood with long ears and attacking people with a hatchet or an axe," King told the Bangor Daily News. "The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying."

>> Related: Afraid of clowns? You're not alone

Residents in a handful of North Carolina cities have in recent weeks reported seeing people dressed as clowns lurking in the woods. Police in Greensboro, South Carolina, have also fielded reports of clowns attempting to lure children into wooded areas.

Authorities have arrested at least one person accused of faking a clown sighting. None of the reports have been substantiated by investigators.

>> Related: North Carolina man accused of falsely reporting clown sighting

Actor "Lon Chaney said (or is reputed to have said), 'There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.' Meaning, I suppose, a clown seen outside of its normal milieu, in the circus or at the fair," King told the Daily News. "If I saw a clown lurking under a lonely bridge (or peering up at me from a sewer grate, with or without balloons), I'd be scared, too."

According to the newspaper, it's not the first time that clown scares have struck in the United States. In the 1980s, hysteria over phantom clowns prompted investigations in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Arizona, among other places.

Authorities continue to investigate the Carolina clown sightings.

Bruce Springsteen opens up about depression, throat surgery in new book

With the upcoming release of his autobiography, “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen is spending more time digging into his past, specifically his fight with depression and his health.

>> Read more trending stories  

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Springsteen opened up about his history with depression, saying that his most recent bout with it came from ages 60 to 64.

"One of the points I'm making in the book is that, whoever you've been and wherever you've been, it never leaves you," Springsteen told Vanity Fair. "I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can't ever get out. The important thing is, who's got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?"

Springsteen said the difficulty he has with living with depression is becoming more like his father, Doug, who he said had a tendency to drink and then fight with him.

"You don't know the illness' parameters," he said. "Can I get sick enough to where I become a lot more like my father than I thought I might?"

Vanity Fair reported that Springsteen spoke about the surgery that he underwent three years ago after he suffered a damaged disc in his neck. In the process, he said he had to have his throat cut open and his vocal cords temporarily tied off to the side.

"A little nerve-racking," Springsteen said. "But it's been very successful for me."

Read more at Vanity Fair.

Amazon to expand physical bookstores

Amazon is expanding its brick-and-mortar bookstores.

The e-commerce front-runner opened its first physical bookstore last year in Amazon's founding city, Seattle, and so far, reports say the store has been successful. 

>> Read more trending stories  

Now, the company is reportedly expanding Amazon Books to Chicago.

Amazon's claim to fame is its convenience. Customers can go online and find just about anything, so why move to physical bookstores? Some say it's about branding.

The stores stock their shelves based on data from Amazon.com. So reviews, number of sales and popularity decide what customers will see.

This is only the latest in a number of big steps to improve Amazon's reach.

Last month, the retailer unveiled its first branded cargo jet called Amazon One. The company plans to roll more jets out in the next several years.

Plus, the company's highly anticipated drone delivery service is finally going to be tested.

Amazon's expansion announcement comes after Barnes and Noble dismissed CEO Ronald Boire earlier this month. Barnes and Noble's stocks have plummeted recently, and the company determined Boire was "not a good fit" for the role.

Amazon's Chicago bookstore will join the ranks of other confirmed locations in San Diego and Portland.

Meet Jason Baca, the model with more romance novel covers than Fabio

Move over, Fabio. There's a new top model in town.

Jason Baca has now appeared on the cover of 476 romance novels, officially beating Fabio's record by 10. 

>> Read more trending stories

In a 2015 interview, Baca said he had to build up his muscles for his first cover gig.

"I wanted it to be so when a person would pick up this book with me on it, they would get hot flashes and feel like they would pass out at the sight of me on there," he said.

But apparently modeling isn't his sole source of income. He's also got a regular office job, which he calls "humbling."

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J.K. Rowling to release 3 new short stories

Remember when author J.K. Rowling said she was finished writing stories about Harry Potter?

Well, Rowling is now releasing three new short stories on her interactive website Pottermore.

>> Read more trending stories  

The stories, which for the time being are only being sold as e-books, focus not on Potter himself but on other characters in the wizarding world.

Word of the new releases comes just three weeks after Rowling's print version of the script for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" broke presale records and topped best-seller lists.

Rowling is no stranger to the short story format.

In 2001, she released two companion books: "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the latter of which is the basis for a new movie trilogy about the wizarding world that stars Eddie Redmayne. The first film in the series premieres in November.

Rowling's three new tales are available for preorder now and will officially be released for about $3 each in September.

Caitlyn Jenner expressed trans feelings back in 1985, ex-wife says

Video includes clips from E! and images from HarperCollins Publishers and Getty Images. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

Caitlyn Jenner -- formerly known as Bruce -- only let the world know she wanted to be Caitlyn last year, but she may have been hiding that desire for decades. 

Jenner reportedly told her second ex-wife, Linda Thompson, in the 1980s, "I am a woman trapped in a man's body." 

That's according to Thompson's new memoir "A Little Thing Called Life," of which People published an excerpt

"As we tried to work through our feelings," Thompson wrote in her memoir, "Bruce told me he was considering traveling out of the country, possibly to Denmark, to try to have the gender reassignment surgery anonymously and then come back as a female." 

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The memoir details the love life of Thompson, who also was romantically involved with Elvis Presley in her 20s. 

Thompson said Jenner also told her, "I have lived in the wrong body my whole life. It is a living hell, and I really would like to move forward with the process of becoming a woman." 

Jenner has said she started taking hormones during the '80s, before she met her third wife, Kris Jenner. 

But in several interviews following Caitlyn Jenner's transition, there seemed to be some confusion about exactly what she had told Kris Jenner in the past. 

And some of the Kardashian-Jenner family members have since said they knew about Jenner's desire to transition before she said anything. 

>> Read more trending stories  

Kendall Jenner told Women's Wear Daily, "I've known since I was a kid. He never confirmed it to me, but I've known for a very long time. It's the same person."

Kim Kardashian also said she knew after she came home one time to see Jenner wearing heels, makeup and a wig. 

Jenner told Vanity Fair  right after her transition, "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life, You never dealt with yourself,' and I don’t want that to happen.”

Thompson's memoir is expected to hit store shelves on Aug. 23.

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