Booking Through Thursday: Personality

No Substitute

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt discusses yet another reason for folks to fear the rise of the e-book:

I was reading the other day a quote from JFK Jr who said on the death of his mother, that she died surrounded by family, friends, and her books. Apparently, Jackie’s books were very much a part of HER, her personality, her sense of self.

Up until recently, people could browse your bookshelves and learn a lot about you–what your interests are, your range of topics, favorite authors, how much you read (or at least buy books).

More and more, though, this is changing. People aren’t buying books so much as borrowing them from the library. Or reading them on their e-readers or computers. There’s nothing PHYSICAL on the shelves to tell strangers in your home, for better or worse, who you ARE.

Do you think this is a good thing? Bad? Discuss!

I think what we have on our walls will suffice to show our personalities, don’t you? Listen, I’ve made my feelings clear about e-books. I do not think they spell doom and gloom for civilization. In fact, I think they’re awesome. They haven’t stopped me from reading paper books, but I have found that I read more books because of my Kindle than I did before I had it. That can’t be a bad thing. I don’t think more library or e-books are good or bad. They’re just different. The convenience might make people read more, and I just don’t understand the whole anti-e-reader deal. I don’t have to browse books on people’s shelves to have a sense of who they are. It’s one factor among many, and perhaps not even all that telling.

photo credit: accent on eclectic

Ad-Supported Kindle

Kindle 3

Amazon is now selling an ad-supported version of their Wi-Fi Kindle 3. The wi-fi version regularly retails for $139, but buyers who opt for the “Kindle with special offers” can own a Kindle for $114.

The ads will appear on the home screen and on screen savers, but will not appear in the books themselves (thankfully!).

I am conflicted about this idea. We are bombarded by ads in our society, and throwing them into e-readers seems wrong-headed. We’re already paying for the privilege of reading on these devices, and over time, $25 doesn’t seem like enough money to save. I also think the price is strange in addition to not being low enough. I am with Michael Grothuas of TUAW: $99 might make the ad-supported Kindle more appealing, at least psychologically.

On the other hand, ads are ubiquitous, and I’m not sure if having them on my e-reader would bother me or not, especially if they were not in the books themselves. I block ads in my web browser using an add-on, however, so they must bother me at least a little, right?

In addition to the ads, other “special offers” include discounted Amazon gift cards and Audible books. How much do you want to bet the ads will be a much more common sight than the discounts?

Bottom line? The savings doesn’t seem worth it considering the potential for annoyance.

Audrey Watters of ReadWriteWeb also covered the news. Macworld’s Jared Newman offers a different perspective.

photo credit: kodomut

Marginalia

Ulysses, James JoyceI want to thank Stefanie for drawing my attention to “What I Really Want is Someone Rolling Around in the Text.” The headline caught my eye a few days ago, but I didn’t read the article because I expected it to be yet another screed about how e-readers are destroying civilization, and real readers won’t use them. It’s not.

Despite the fact that I’m an English teacher, I don’t usually mark up my books. I just feel weird writing in my books. Maybe it has something to do with the time I spent reading library books as a kid. I don’t know. Professional reading I mark up a great deal and always read with a pencil in my hand, but not novels as much. And why not? I can’t say. I really marked up Passion by Jude Morgan—or, I should say, I underlined a lot. On the other hand, I highlight and take notes all over my Kindle books.

As Stefanie noted, Anderson begins to go off on e-readers a bit, but he also acknowledges the possibility of sharing marginalia in ways that we currently can’t—or at least not as easily. Stefanie explains that with public note-sharing, users can see others’ notes and share their own. Anderson actually ends the article excited about the possibilities technology might offer for sharing marginalia. It’s worth a read.

Stefanie also shared the public notes feature at Kindle, and if you want to follow mine, here is my profile.

photo credit: cobra libre

Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

RevolutionAndi Alpers, one of the protagonists of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, is a guitar prodigy attending a tony private school in Brooklyn, but she’s haunted by the loss of her brother Truman, her mother’s subsequent breakdown, and her father’s absence. When she has decided not to write her senior thesis, which will prevent her from graduating, her father, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, takes her with him to Paris, where he is helping his historian friend G with a project—they are testing the DNA of a heart G discovered to determine if it belonged to the lost king Louis XVII, the Dauphin of France, who died in the last days of the French Revolution, imprisoned, mad, alone, and orphaned. Andi’s father hopes that access to primary sources and his strict guidance can help Andi make some progress on her thesis, which concerns the musical influence of eighteenth century composer Amadé Malherbeau on modern music. G gives her a guitar discovered in the catacombs, and Andi finds a diary hidden in a secret compartment. The diary belongs to Alexandrine Paradis, a performer hired by the French royal family to entertain the young Dauphin. As Andi reads the diary, she becomes entranced by Alex’s story. While in Paris, she also meets Virgil, a Tunisian musician, and forges a strong connection with him. One night when he takes her to the catacombs, the world of Alex’s diary suddenly becomes real when Andi discovers herself transported to the last days of the French Revolution.

I cannot describe how much I loved this book. I said in my last post that a gauge of how much I like a book is whether or not I can put it down. I didn’t want this book to end. I put it down only to prolong the pleasure of reading it. I could easily have finished it off in a couple of days if I hadn’t done so. The strongest gauge of how much I love a book is when I wish I had written it myself. I don’t know why I feel that way—I suspect I want the book to belong to me even more than it does if I’ve read it. Jennifer Donnelly is an excellent writer. She brings the life of a 21st Brooklyn teenager to life in ways I’ve seen few young adult authors do with as much honesty and realism. She also brings Revolutionary-era France to life in sharp-relief. The invented parts of her book fit so seamlessly with the historical aspects, that you will find yourself Googling references, unable to tell what is real and what is invented. Andi and Alex are likable, real protagonists, and I found myself falling in love with the characters. Donnelly managed also to kindle an interest in an era of history I have previously not been as interested in—the French Revolution. I know you’re thinking “How could I not have been interested it that?” I don’t know! I sure can’t figure it out after reading this book, but I know I want to read more now. This novel isn’t just one of the best historical fiction YA books I’ve read, or one of the best YA books I’ve read. It’s one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read of any stripe. Whether you think of yourself as interested in France, the French Revolution, or even music or not, you will enjoy this book. What’s not to love in a book that mentions both Jeff Buckley and “Ten Years Gone,” my favorite Led Zeppelin song, in nearly the same breath as Bach and Beethoven? My recommendation: READ IT!

Here’s the book trailer, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about the book:

Rating: ★★★★★ (I wish I could give it six stars. Out of five.)

I read this book for the Historical Fiction Challenge and for the YA Historical Fictional Challenge. I now have 13 books left for the Historical Fiction Challenge and 14 left for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

Mansfield Park (Penguin Classics)I finished Mansfield Park just under the wire with less than 24 hours remaining in the year, which means that I have also completed the Everything Austen Challenge.

Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, daughter of the poor sister of Lady Bertram of Mansfield Park. The Bertrams offer to take Fanny in as a favor to their sister, who has had the misfortune to marry poorly and have yet another child practically every year. Fanny is at first treated disdainfully by the Bertrams and her aunt Mrs. Norris, the other sister of Lady Bertram, but she proves her worth to the family through her constancy of character, her forbearance, and her usefulness. Her cousin Edmund, the second eldest son, is the only member of the Bertram family to love Fanny from the first. She develops a love for Edmund beyond the sort of brotherly love he feels for her and is appalled when Henry Crawford, a man with what Fanny deems to be a dubious character, begins trying to win Fanny’s heart. Even worse, Edmund falls in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Crawford. Will Fanny ever catch a break?

This book is very different from the other Jane Austen books I’ve read. I always enjoy a trip into her world. However, it is in this book that Austen truly shows us a peek into the lives of people outside the gentle class with her portrayal of the Prices. Mary Crawford is a nasty little piece of work, and I never liked her. Very selfish and vain. I never liked the Bertram daughters, Maria and Julia, either. They were spoiled and reminded me of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. In fact, their aunt Mrs. Norris compares well with the wicked stepmother in that story as well, and of course, Fanny is the too-good-to-be-true, long-suffering Cinderella. She always puts others before herself. I feel at some points in the book, she plants herself on a bit of a moral high horse. But worse, she doesn’t seem to have a single fault. It’s no wonder that some readers don’t like her. She’s a bit too perfect. On the other hand, she is spunky in defying the Bertrams in refusing to marry Henry Crawford. She alone seems to have the true measure of his character.

Here in this novel we have an elopement even more scandalous than that of Lydia and Mr. Wickham. I was extremely puzzled by that plot turn, even though I knew it was coming, because I didn’t feel the groundwork was properly laid for it. I didn’t buy that either Maria or Henry Crawford were interested enough in each other to run off together they way that they did. On the other hand, I did feel Jane Austen explored some issues in this novel that she didn’t explore in her others, and the ending is not nice and neat. Maria has irreparably damaged her reputation and relationship with her family. Tom is sick, and it looks like consumption. Julia didn’t fare much better than Maria. Definitely not a happy ending for all.

Ultimately, I liked the novel better than I expected to, but not as much as Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and Sensibility. However, now I can say I’ve read all of Austen’s complete novels.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Kindle Wi-Fi Woes

We had a little bit of trouble setting up Steve’s Kindle for wi-fi. He doesn’t have the model with 3G. In case anyone else is having the same trouble, I thought I’d describe how we got it up and running. Note: I am not Amazon tech support, and if you need help beyond what I share in this post, you should probably contact Amazon directly.

First, we tried connecting and entering our wi-fi network’s password. We kept getting an error message that said that the Kindle was unable to connect to the network and suggesting we either enter information manually or try the password again. I tried both. Neither worked.

Finally, I logged in to my wi-fi network and added the MAC address for Steve’s Kindle. You can find the MAC address on a Kindle by pressing Menu and going into Settings. It’s under Device Info. I went into Network Settings on my wi-fi network, and I found a section labeled “Add DHCP Reservation.” I checked a box labed “Enable,” and I entered an IP address that wasn’t being used by anyone else on our network. I entered the MAC address on Steve’s Kindle. Then I saved the settings. My wi-fi router restarted. After the wi-fi was running again after the restart, I tried to connect to the network again, and this time I was successful.

Your mileage may vary, but in case you’re having trouble connecting your wi-fi Kindle to your network, you might need to try this step out.

Juliet, Anne Fortier

JulietAfter the death of her Aunt Rose, Julie Jacobs is given an intriguing bequest—a key to a safety deposit box in a bank in Siena, Italy. As keys do, this key unlocks the door to a future Julie could never have imagined as she discovers her connection to the star-crossed lovers who inspired William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet is a fast-paced thriller that fans of William Shakespeare’s play will enjoy. Fortier weaves in references to Romeo and Juliet both obvious and subtle. The ending probably won’t surprise readers much, but the ride is a great deal of fun. Fortier’s research is meticulous. She brings Siena alive, both in the medieval past and present. She introduces the Tolomeis and Salimbenis, two prominent Siena families who really did have a feud. Reading this book made me want to teach Romeo and Juliet again this year, and here I thought I was a little tired of it.

I was puzzled by Fortier’s choice of Siena, when it is in fair Verona that Shakespeare lays his scene, but after doing some digging, I found the earliest references to a story involving Romeo and Juliet set the story in Siena, and Siena makes a great deal of sense with its history of feuding families and its ancient traditions, including the Palio, a horse race that originated in the Middle Ages. A sense of the connection we all have to history pervades this book. My interest in family history and in medieval history made this an enjoyable read. You’ll read reviews that compare this novel to The Da Vinci Code, which I suppose is inevitable because of the unraveling of clues bound to reveal surprising information that will upend long-held beliefs against the backdrop of a European city, but don’t let the comparisons fool you. This novel is much smarter than The Da Vinci Code, and the characters are much more fully realized. I did feel Julie’s sister Janice could be a bit of a caricature, and Eva Maria was a little over the top, but I enjoyed the other characters, especially the characters in the medieval portions of the story—Giulietta Tolomei, Romeo Marescotti, Friar Lorenzo, and the feuding Tolomeis and Salimbenis.

Anyone who enjoys Shakespeare-related fiction should enjoy this novel, but even folks who aren’t Shakespeare fans can enjoy this read.

Rating: ★★★★½

Reading Update: November 14, 2010

Autumn leaves

I drove around a bend on the Interstate yesterday and the beauty of the golden, orange, and red leaves on the trees near the road arrested me. I love fall.

I’m still plugging away on The Haunting of Hill House, and I might even finish it today. Not really enjoying it much. Such a short book, and I really had to push to finish it. I just don’t like any of the characters, and it can be hard for me to read books when I don’t like the characters. Wuthering Heights seems to be the lone exception. I think the trick there is that I actually do have a fascination for the characters even if I wouldn’t want to be friends with them. In addition to not liking the characters, if I’m honest, I’m a little unsure about what in the world is going on.

I had a bit of a freak out yesterday when my Kindle‘s battery had absolutely no charge, and I needed to reference a book on it. Then I remembered I do have the Kindle app on my iPhone (and my Mac, for that matter). I think I have mentioned this before, but my NaNoWriMo novel is speculative fiction of the Irish legend of Deirdre. It’s going well. I wrote so much yesterday that I could skip a day now with no detrimental effect on being able to finish on time, but I’m going to try not to do that.

Next week I’ll be seeing some of my English teacher friends in Orlando as I travel to the NCTE conference. I will be presenting a session on authentic assessment in teaching Shakespeare along with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s education department, and I’m finished with writing my presentation. I want to try to practice it and see how it goes.

I listened to Valerie Jackson’s interview of Ken Follett, and doesn’t he sound absolutely charming? I definitely want to read his Pillars of the Earth series.

Ken Follett on Betweeen the Lines

I also listened to her interview of Stacy Schiff about her new book Cleopatra: A Life, and it sounds very interesting.

Stacy Schiff on Between the Lines

Valerie Jackson is a great interviewer. I definitely recommend subscribing to her podcast. It’s a great way to learn about new books.

photo credit: MaxiuB

Reading Update: November 7, 2010

Today was productive. Because of Daylight Saving Time ending, I woke up before 9:00 AM. On a Sunday. I was awake all by myself. I did some work on my instructional technology portfolio. I played around fruitlessly trying to manipulate an image to use as my placeholder “bookcover” for NaNoWriMo. I cooked French onion soup and fixed a Greek salad for supper. I read a little bit of my last issue of Newsweek. And I wrote about 2,000 words of my NaNo novel. You can keep up with my running total in the sidebar to the left (unless you’re in an RSS reader, in which case you can see it if you click over to the site). I have managed to meet or exceed my word count each day, but today’s writing was the hardest. I didn’t think it would be, but my main character went on her first real date with the guy she’s interested in, and they were wrong footed and awkward around each other. I didn’t realize they were going to be so difficult. Still the story is coming together. I am halfway interested in printing it at work tomorrow to see where I am, but I also don’t want to lose momentum.

I’m still reading The Haunting of Hill House. For a slim book, it sure is taking me a long time to finish. Probably because I’m also writing this month. I re-read the story of “The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu,” also known as “Deirdre of the Sorrows” in Early Irish Myths and Sagas yesterday. I downloaded that book on my Kindle because I don’t know where my paperback copy of the book is. Other than that, I haven’t read much this week.

The day has felt off all day because of the time change. I keep looking at the clock thinking it must be later than it is. When are we going to quit changing the time? Doesn’t make sense in our modern times to worry about extending daylight during the spring and summer. Does it? Or am I missing something?

photo credit: karina y

How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill

How the Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill inaugurated his Hinges of History series with How the Irish Saved Civilization. When Rome fell, Cahill says, the Irish clerics not only spread Christianity, but also saved the great Latin works from being lost to the ravages of history. He also argues the Irish kept the flame of Western culture burning as the rest of the world descended into the Dark Ages.

Parts of this book were quite interesting. Cahill’s love for Irish mythology shines through in his description of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which made me want to return to the Táin again. His descriptions of St. Augustine, St. Patrick, and St. Columba were interesting and definitely had me searching the Web to learn more about them, but in the end, Cahill never really proves his thesis. The first half of the book is good, but somewhere during the chapter “What was Found,” Cahill loses the thread of his argument and ultimately admits most of what we retained could have survived without the Irish, then attributes the survival of Latin literature to the Irish without really explaining how. He also makes the leap that because the Irish had the oldest vernacular literature in Europe, they were somehow responsible for or influential over the vernacular literature that followed. Readers can learn a great deal about the lives of Patrick and Columba and a bit about early Irish literature, but they won’t learn how the Irish saved civilization.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge. This is my sixth book for this challenge, which brings me to the level of Litlover. I will not be able to read six more books before the challenge ends in December, so I’m going to call this challenge complete. I originally committed to just three books, so I surpassed my expectations.