There Are Two Sides...

From what I'm reading, everyone loves their Kindle.  From the first DX model to the second-generation Kindle 2, the e-book reader by Amazon appears sleeker, lighter, more user-friendly, and more versatile than the competing brands by Sony or Barnes & Noble.  You can even use it internationally now.  My personal favorite function of the Kindle 2 (if I had one) would be the built-in dictionary.  I think I would use that for every "page."

The Kindle has been hailed as the "future of reading."  By whom, I'm not sure.  I can't find the exact quote anywhere online.  I'm sure the Amazon marketing people could.

The Kindle is supposed to be the beginning of a brand new culture of book-lovers.  One where we do all of our reading on computerized screens...but we're no longer limited to cords and outlets and CPUs.  We can take our electronic reading devices anywhere, and buy books whenever we want.  I'm not necessarily for that type of culture, exactly, but if that's where the world is headed, I don't know if I'd be unmovable.  I like new ideas, and I've been kind of interested in this whole green technology thing lately.  I mean, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, would it?  To have books stored in an electronic device rather than on our bookshelves?

Ok, maybe it would be.  Thinking of my house without actual books in it makes me a little shaky and my heart rate goes up.  I also don't think I'd want to take any kind of e-reader to a beach, even though the girl in the Amazon ad portrays that as a completely normal Kindle 2 activity.  What do you do when you get sand in the minuscule cracks where it's put together?  I can't even get sand out of my bathing suit, let alone a Kindle.  And then there's this:

I was sitting in the cafeteria at work today, eating lunch with friends, when one of them brought up something I had never even thought to consider.  Amazon's e-book reader is called the Kindle.  The Kindle.  "Yeah," I said.  "You, like, sparks your imagination.  Ignites education and creativity! [And sales.]"


The Kindle.

According to my friend, it turns out the hottest tech toy of 2009 is actually some well-laid subliminal plot to get all us consumers to ditch paper books forever.  FOREVER.  The Kindle.  Kindling.  Book burning.  The figurative book burning of a culture of readers, to be exact.  My culture.  And it will probably go down in history as the biggest, most successful book burning of all.  Why?  Because I can't even see the Kindle for its own name.  We're so enthralled with the concept, we're missing the consequences.  And its name.

As I stated in a past post, book burning is viewed as a form of violence against a culture; it serves a demonstrative purpose, as a way for an oppressive power to force its influence onto a group of people.  I just bought three CDs from Amazon today.  Am I feeding the fire?  Should Amazon be viewed as a brutal regime, out to quash my appreciation for "real" books? 

Or is Amazon a friend to the forests, and the Kindle just a vehicle for expression?  Is their purpose simply to keep us all up-to-date, current with not only the trends in reading and technology, but in business, and with communication tools, too?

And on top of all of this, to properly sort things out, you then have to ask the question: "What makes a book?"  Is it really the paper and binding?  Or is it the words?  Is it the message?  Or a combination of all of it?  When did reading get this complicated?

So do you have a Kindle, or another e-book reader?  Whose side are you on?  Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

And where are we going now?

Teaser Tuesday!

Props to MizB at Should Be Reading for giving us readers this fun meme.  Too bad I forgot to post this earlier and we're now officially twenty-two minutes into Wednesday.  But here goes...I give you: "Whodunit Wednesday" (what? It was the only "w" synonym for teaser on
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!

This week's teaser showcases... ::drum roll! buhduhduhduhduhduhduh::

The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods by Kate Inglis!  I was fortunate enough to win this book through a giveaway on Kate's web site, Kate...Tells Stories (and for those looking for more of her writing, she also runs the blog sweet|salty).  It finally arrived on my doorstep yesterday, and I just started reading it, but we're off to a good start!  I didn't even open the book at random for the teaser this time because I wanted to share how much I absolutely love the first sentence of Chapter 1. (Sorry, rule-sticklers, but I think if you've already made peace with Whodunit Wednesday, you'll also be ok with me not following Normal Teaser Procedure -- or NTP, as we in the biz like to say)

"The boy was never seen without his backpack, although naturally, no one knew what it was for, because a pirate tracker is only a pirate tracker if that pirate tracker is so in secret."

If you're into YA (or pirates), you should pick this one up!  I'm so excited I could squeal.

Books for the Holidays

I started doing my Christmas shopping last weekend, but it was nearly impossible because I don't have anyone's list yet (yes, the family goes by lists, we take all the fun out of everything, blah, blah, blah.  I tend to end my list with "And lots of surprises!"...just to mix it up a little).

Anyway, I stumbled across this web site called Buy Books for the Holidays a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share it with you, as we'll all soon be struggling to claw ourselves out from the hellish pit more popularly known as the holiday shopping season. I think the concept of buying people books for the holidays is pretty cool, for two reasons: A) it will relieve me from the humdrum, mindless shopping fueled by THE CHRISTMAS LIST; and B) who doesn't like "lots of surprises"?  Everyone's list should end with lots of surprises.  The web site is really cool, giving new gift ideas every week, which are often organized by age group or trend.  The site also features some great bookish charities, reminding us that giving, the biggest hallmark of the season, extends beyond the close circle of family and friends.

I think what I like most about this idea is that it actually forces you to really think about the person you're buying for.  Books are very personal, very intimate items.  It's very hard for one person to comprehend another's taste.  I feel like even if the person you're buying for has been your best friend since you were three years old, you still have a pretty good chance of f*ing it up.  That's why I always asked for gift cards to Borders or Barnes & Noble.  Not even Santa Claus knew what I liked to read...and he knew it all.

I'll bet it's because books are our great escape.  We read when we want to get away from the world we're in...or to draw us closer to a part we don't yet know much about.  Even when we read a book for the familiarity of its topic we're escaping, in a sense, because we're withdrawing deeper into a part of ourselves.  To make things more complicated, our fantasy destination is always changing.  For instance: sometimes I'll be in the mood for a lighthearted YA novel, sometimes I'll be in the mood for symbolic literature, sometimes I'll be in the mood for girly chick lit...sometimes I'll just feel like learning something.  And sometimes -- not often -- I'll even feel like reading nothing but the funnies.  Hell, yesterday all I felt like doing was finishing a crossword puzzle.  That's the kind of book I needed.  That's the kind of escape I was craving.

So how do you buy books for someone, when your theories on what they will and will not enjoy have a 96.8% chance of blowing up in your astonished but good-intentioned face?

Here's how I plan to do it:
  1. Don't think too much.  Let the ideas come naturally; let them spark in your mind.  (I'm convincing myself this provision is necessary, despite how worrisome it makes me...the Dec. 25th deadline and all.)
  2. Take a lot of time to browse.  Plan a day if you have to.  You won't know what to buy if you don't know what's out there.
  3. Don't set limits, especially on things like "year published."  Some of the best books I've ever read were at least 5 years off the presses.  This does not mean throw all caution to the wind.  For example, if you're going to buy a history book or a book about science, pay attention.  Some genres will be best read if the information is up-to-date.
  4. Know what you like to read, but don't use your preferences as a defense for buying the same book for someone else.  You and your friends or family may have similar interests when it comes to reading, but you may not enjoy the same authors.  I feel that the holidays are not a time to be making recommendations, because I often get the impression that recommendations are just another way of saying, "Hey, I love this book.  Everyone else should also love this book.  Here, read this book, because I love it."
  5. Look through old journals or old photo albums, watch old videos.  It may jog your memory and give you an idea by reminding you about the person you love...and what they love.
  6. Pay attention.  Take a real interest in your conversations with the giftee and see if you can't transform it into a book.  If your Secret Santa loves knitting, there's a sweet-looking murder mystery series out that has knitting as a central theme.  Could be by Maggie Sefton?  I can't remember.  Anyway, get creative.  Just because she likes knitting doesn't mean you have to buy her a how-to book.
And that's all I got!  I know the list makes it look like I've done this a million times and really have my shit together, but I am just as lost as you.

But it's fun to get lost among books, isn't it?

Teaser Tuesday!

This novel-writing thing is a bitch and a half.  I am so far behind I think I might puke.  Again.  Because I was home sick for three days last week, and my queasiness followed me into the weekend, too, so needless to say...writing was not the number one thing on my mind.  Finding the toilet at the right time took some precedence there.  And what the hell am I going to do about the rest of November?  November = Thanksgiving.  November = scrambling to start Christmas shopping.  November = decorating the house.  I am thinking about taking another night off from writing in order to put together a scathing petition to the NaNoWriMo bosses.  Can't we change the month to May?  To February?  To some other month that doesn't occupy my time so completely already?  How do real writers do it?  I'm already bored with my storyline.

You'll have to excuse my bitching.  I'm being really juvenile just trying to get into character.  Writers are moody, right?  With glasses and berets?  (That's another thing.  I HAVE NO BERET.  How can I even hope to succeed?  I must be a giant fool, because I'm still not giving up.)

This is pathetic.

Anyway, it's Teaser Tuesday again!  Live it up:
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!

This week's teaser showcases Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr.   I've had this series on my mind lately, so what better way to memorialize it than to take a teaser from the first of the books?

"And in a while," the master went on, "she'll die to that other world and be born again to this one.  I can't know if your paths will ever cross again."

Thanks to MizB at Should Be Reading for providing the meme.  Until next time, everybody!  ::Reading Rainbow theme song::

Ohio for Libraries!

I have not been feeling well recently, and so did not get out to vote this week...but seeing this article has revived my spirit, if not my physical health:

Library Levy Landslides Make History in Ohio

I'm especially excited for Hamilton County in Cincinnati, which is where I'm originally from.  I hope the favorite "Don't Trash the 'Nati" slogan was appropriately expanded to apply to this campaign.  Whatever they did, it worked.

Let's also keep our hopes up for Paulding County Carnegie Library, who is going through a recount.  Power of bookworms, unite!

My Own Little Pep Talk

I have finished writing my required 1,667 words for the night.  After uploading my current word count to the NaNoWriMo web site, I discovered that Cleveland, OH has collectively written over 384,000 words in the past three days.  That is amazing.

I'm all aflush and proud to be part of this.  And I'm actually not hating my work so far.  Bonus!

Teaser Tuesday!

Brought to you by MizB at Should Be Reading.

And we're off!
  1. Grab your current read.*
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
  3. Share with us two (2)** "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  4. Share the title and author of the book, so we can investigate on our own if we like the teaser you've given!
  5. Please avoid spoilers!
*To keep this feature periodic, I will be using both teasers from current reads, and from books I've read before, but haven't discussed on this blog.

**Quantity of sentences may vary, depending on how long it takes to finish the thought within those line parameters. Teasers should still make sense!

This week's teaser showcases Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  My first(?) honest-to-goodness classic!

"She shut her book and slowly looked up; her hat-brim partially shaded her face, yet I could see, as she raised it, that it was a strange one.  It looked all brown and black: elf-locks bristled out from beneath a white band which passed under her chin, and came half over her cheeks, or rather jaws; her eye confronted me at once, with a bold and direct gaze."

Shivers.  I'm definitely not that far into the book, but I am pretty excited about getting there!

Happy Tuesday. 

(Got your own teaser?  Post this meme on your own blog and leave a link in the comments here...or just add your teaser to a comment by itself.) 

REVIEW: 'Free Food for Millionaires' by Min Jin Lee

This book definitely surprised me.  In a good way.

Let me paint the story for you in the nuttiest of nutshells: Casey Han, a young Korean-American woman, has just graduated from Princeton.  So begins her journey to identity.

About a fourth of the way through the book, I started calling it my "Sex and the City with Ethnicity."  The lives of the characters were certainly drawn to this angle -- the rich, enviable Wall Street brokers, and Casey's taste for high fashion were certainly reminiscent of the popular collection of essays.  But there was a humbleness and familiarity to Lee's writing, where Sex and the City left me feeling cold and distant when I read it.  The only part of Lee's book I truly struggled with was the dialogue.  At times, she seemed to be writing too "fairy tale" -- some of the dialogue didn't seem genuine to me.  On the other hand: I couldn't get over how well-rounded Lee is, how well she did her research.  Everything she wrote about Wall Street, about golf, about music, about the hierarchies of business and dare I say all made sense.  I couldn't count how many subjects she broached and how believable she made it all.  Lee truly has a gift.

The novel was definitely a unique read; for me, it was especially different in its narrator's 3rd-person omniscience.  I don't know about you, but I think the last time I read a book written from that perspective was in the 6th grade.  It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, getting used to being in every character's head at some point, no matter their role, major or minor.  But I loved it in the end because it created a better sense of the world they lived in.  It made them all real, and no one was completely evil or completely good (except maybe Ella, whose character proved a good foil to many of the others).  It was an especially helpful aid in the theme of assimilation I found throughout the novel.  You could see each character working to be something, attaching a certain importance to their goals...and you learned what took precedence, where their lines were.  And then there was Casey, without goals, without lines, floating in the middle of it all.  It was a very interesting way to read.  I was amazed at how much having no mystery in terms of the characters' thoughts actually lent itself to the overall mystery of the plot.  What was going to happen next?  Where is she going with this? I often found myself asking.

Just now, while writing this review, I learned that Middlemarch is also written in the 3rd person omniscient point of view.  I don't want to give too much away, but I find that very interesting because Casey Han's character is always re-reading Middlemarch.  It makes me respect Lee a great deal more, the way she incorporated that sort of subtle detail into her storytelling.  And really, I'll bet a lot more of the book is the same way -- meticulously planned, but effortlessly executed.

Above all, I liked the book because you were on the journey with the characters.  The scenes were well-drawn, and each action cleanly and realistically led to an appropriate, if socially unacceptable, reaction.  I will admit I was a bit baffled by the ending.  But, c'est la vie.  It's not the ending that matters.  It's what happens along the way.

Next up:   Not sure yet.  Most likely: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


The acronym for this event reminds me of the Nano Babies that were popular in gradeschool.  Actually, the Tamagotchis were the popular toy, Nano Babies were for those of us who couldn't afford the more stylish electronic pet.  Anyway.

November is National Novel Writing Month.  Fifty thousand words in 30 days.  As you may have already guessed, I signed up to participate last  week.

I am not in any shape to begin writing a novel today (who came up with Halloween, anyway?), but I must.  I signed up to participate and I like to think of myself as a non-welsher.  I have to complete 1,667 words per day to stay on track for the assignment.  For me, the hardest part of the whole exercise will be rule #2:

Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it's hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn't. Every book you've ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

At least I have an idea for my story this time.  It's so hard for me to come up with ideas for my writing.  This one I actually thought I'd use for a short story, but since I do have such an awful time thinking up plots, I am going to see if I can't expand it into a novel.  Don't worry, I'm not cheating -- I have not started writing this story yet, I only have the idea.

So what say you?  Will you be joining me in this quest for authorship?  I've always wanted to write a novel, but never felt it was the right time.  But I've come to realize it's like having a Nano Baby: it's never the right time.  So I'm starting now.