It’s time for Ketchup!

I need to come clean.  A while ago I was worried that I’d read too slow and I let myself accumulate a backlog of books in order to make sure that you didn’t have a big gap between posts.  Well, I think we all know that there was STILL a gap between posts and I gotta tell you, that backlog ain’t blogging itself.

So, I’d like to catch us up with some of the less memorable books in one large post.  I’d like to point out that less memorable doesn’t mean BAD, just means I can cover what I want to say in a smaller blip.  This means that we’re out of order but you should get better reviews of the newer stuff I’ve read.  And honestly, if I don’t catch us up, I’m going to start to get lost.

So, let’s get dippin!  (Ketchup, dip, get it?  ah.. nevermind)

*****

soul_identity_small Most people believe that their souls live on past their bodies, but what if there were a way to identify and track your souls progress across several lifetimes?  You’d be able to pass along things to your future ‘soul self’, building a bridge across the ages passing along wisdom and valuables.  Scott Waverly is a security expert and has been hired to protect the company from a suspected insider attack, but along the way he’ll need to figure out what he believes.

****

Not a bad book.  Bought it for a penny on the Kindle and it was worth a bit more than that.  Amazon is selling it in dead tree form for $10 and I like my price better.  It’s not a bad book but not the best.  This is one you could easily take on a plane and leave in the airport bathroom for someone else when you’re done.   Not that I’ve ever done that, but if you found a mediocre book in the ladies in the Little Rock airport, you’re welcome.

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder, 268 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

little brother cover-small In the not too distant future, citizens are RFID’ed, computer networks are monitored and the illusion of privacy is just that – an illusion.  Marcus, aka “w1n5t0n”, is just a kid who likes to push the boundaries – putting pebbles in his shoes to fool the programs that identify you by gait and cracking the browser security on his school issued laptop.  When he and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus gets a deep and dirty look at the inner workings of Homeland Security and the Government that is supposed to protect us all from harm.

What follows is a perhaps too logical path to a 1984- like societal monitoring that Marcus and his friends begin to question and, in doing so, begin to recognise that the only way freedoms can be taken is to stand by and do nothing.

*****

Free.  This book is free.  I’ve linked you all to a place where Cory has released this on a creative commons license for everyone to read.  So if you feel like it, go grab it and read it.  My personal take?  Honestly, I think it’s overdone.  I get it, we live in a world where fear has caused the general populace to put up with borderline personal rights intrusions.  And it’s a slippery slope.  Most people don’t complain about taking our shoes off at the airport (really.. are you safer, really?) but now there are x-ray scanners that can see beneath your clothes.  I believe that things like wiretapping under the guise of “safety” isn’t right, and so does Cory Doctorow, but this book practically beats you to death with it.

And I’m probably tired of him shilling it all over the place.  Anyway, I suppose it’s worth reading, but I can’t say that I’m buying it for everyone I know.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  384 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

Scarface’s Burden – Joseph Devon. No fancy artwork.  No page count (honestly it’s short.  Like… oh.. short).  But if you like Jonathan Coulton and you like the song “Skullcrusher Mountain” you will like this little story written by an oh-so-put-upon personal assistant to a mad scientist.

http://josephdevon.com/2007/11/29/short-story-scarfaces-burden/

*****

beautiful_red Meet Jack.  Office cube dweller working corporate security by day, technological tinkerer by night, Jack lives in a ever growing connected world.  People are constantly plugged into the web and one of her best friends she’s never actually even met.  But when she notices that someone has broken into her company’s computer system, she starts down an investigatory path that will lead her to the Reds – a group of people who don’t share her worldview.  As she investigates, she discovers a whole new perspective and is forced to examine her own beliefs.

*****

Good one.  Another creative commons license (which means free, folks), I first tried to get into this one when it was on Podiobooks.com.  Side note – Podiobooks.com is really cool.  Free serial audiobooks delivered to you weekly (or as the author writes the next chapter) and it’s a great way to find some new authors.  That’s how I found Scott Sigler (horror author) and a couple of others who are starting to hit mainstream.  Check them out, it’s pretty cool if you like audiobooks.

ANYWAY, Wehm has created a world that I think is (unfortunately) a pretty logical evolution of our own.  Personal interaction is much less important than the online world – in fact people have implants that let them be constantly on network.  But you know if that’s that case, there’s always going to be a faction that thinks that’s not night (get offa my lawn, you smoochers!!) and this book paints that resistance pretty well.  Plus, it’s got some nice little twists.

You can download it free on the link in the picture, it’s short so it’s worth reading if you have time.

Beautiful Red by M.Darusha Whem, 164 pages (per the download website)

*****

black dahlia Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in 1947 in an abandoned field.  After her death, she was known as the Black Dahlia.  Her killer was never found.   This novelization imagines the people who found her, the police who worked her case and what a strange and tangled web the Dahlia wove around the people she knew.

The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, an ex-boxer and current policeman, he finds himself drawn into the investigation.  His obsession with the Dahlia and her story threaten all the important things in his life, and in the end he learns something about himself – and perhaps more than he wanted about some people that he cares about.

*****

Ellroy is the master of this sort of writing.  A mix of truth and fiction, he’s woven a mesh of logic and almost unbelievable fantasy (not in that whole fairies and wizards way) into a story that feels like it could have happened that way.  Ellroy also wrote “LA Confidential” (which is somewhere in the “read me” stack) and both The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential have been made into really good movies.  I don’t know what that really says other than you can have a themed movie night if you read both of his books.  Or maybe it means that he writes compelling stories… and that I’d agree with.

(If you get the book with the afterward by the author, read it.  It’s worth it for an interesting insight into Ellroys relationship with the Dahlia… and it’s not what you think!)

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, 337 pages

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The Pillars of the Earth – and the Kindle

pillars In 12th century England, society is built around the Church and the King.  The working class build their towns and homesteads around the monasteries and lease the local Noble’s land to make their way through their lives.  It’s a violent, difficult and somehow simple time.

This is the story of one man, Tom Builder who dreams of building a cathedral.  It’s also the story of Prior Phillip, a man of the cloth trying to hold his own against the larger corrupt and vengeful religious order he’s part of.   It’s a story of conquest and greed, of splendor and destitution, of dreams realized and hopes dashed.  Across generations and landscapes, it’s a wide reaching story of the passions- ambition, faith, beauty- that drive the human spirit.

*****

So, this book was okay.  It’s a pretty ambitious story and it’s a fairly good one, but eventually Follett’s writing style annoyed me.  Have you ever read a story that seemed almost padded?  Like the author felt it was necessary to remind you of who was who when you were pretty sure you could remember them from that major thing that happened before?  Yeah, that’s the feeling I got.  It was too bad, because the story itself – which is really wrapped around the Cathedral and the lives that it impacts – was a good one.

Follett created a lavish world with good characters even if they are painted with a pretty heavy brush.  There are very few “sort of good, sort of bad” people in this book – they are either good or bad and you know it right from the start.  Personally, I prefer characters who are written a bit more realistically – no person is all good or all bad and to portray them as such pulls me out of the story.  There’s no potential for redemption or surprises with reactions.  I realize that’s not the purpose of this book, but I personally think that you end up caring more about complex characters than one dimensional cut outs.

This book is worth picking up in a used book store somewhere, I’m not sure I’d pay full price for it.  It would be good for a plane though, it’s long!

So, what was different about this book?  I read it on this:

kindle1 Yep, I bought a Kindle.  Okay, how many of you are really surprised?  I mean, I’m a techie dork and I like to read and it was only a matter of time, right?

So, I got this on April 1 and have been using it off and on since.  Let’s start with some specs from Amazon (the only place you can buy the Kindle)

Display: 6″ diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″.

Weight: 10.2 ounces.

System requirements: None, because it doesn’t require a computer.

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network.

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery. Book cover sold separately.

That’s the techie part.  Here are my thoughts and impressions after using it about a month:

1)  This thing is COOL!  e-paper is cool.  technology is cool.  cool

2)  This thing is thin, I’m scared to read it in bed (since I have a tendency to fall asleep with books in my hand) and I’m seriously thinking about getting the replacement insurance although I’m pretty cheap and probably won’t.

3)  This changes reading.  First, it lets me carry a bunch of books around with me at all times.  Second, it remembers where I am with all of them and I can sync that to an iPhone application that lets me read the same books and then sync back to the Kindle.  It lets me buy a book immediately.  And I can preview them to see if I think I’ll like it.

4)  It’s not like “tree book” reading, it’s a different experience.  The Kindle is light, but weighted differently than a book is.  You push a button to turn the page.  BUT, that being said, there were times when I found myself reaching my hand up to physically flip paper

5)  There is no eyestrain like reading on a computer.  Of course you can’t read in the dark – no light, no reading, just like real paper

6)  There are TONS of free books.  Between books that are out of copyright (like all of the OZ books and classics like Don Quixote and The Divine Comedy) and newer ones that are being released either as promos (via Amazon) or via Creative Commons licences on other sites, you could read for a long time and not pay a cent.  That’s cool, yo.

7)  The battery life on a “wireless on” Kindle is about 4-5 days but I leave my wireless off and I’m going on week 3 on the same charge.  Granted, I’m not reading this all the time, but the battery life kicks butt.

So, I’m still getting used to it, and you’ll start to see books listed here that I’ve read on the Kindle.  I’ll tag them for you, just so we can see if my reading habits change over time.  One note about “number of pages” on a Kindle – because you can change the font sizes, there aren’t page numbers – there are location numbers.  I’ll have to figure out how to convert them to pages.  If there is a print version available, I’ll use that number for my page count.  If I’ve had to derive it otherwise, I’ll tell you that, too.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, 973 pages (as listed by Amazon print edition spec page)

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 10:21 am  Comments (1)  
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