Kindle With Special Offers... Wait, What?

Ok, I know I'm way late to the game on this one. Amazon's Kindle with Special Offers has been on the market for several weeks (months?) but as any of my regular followers will note, I've been living under a rock made of work lately and have been missing out on all the bookish conversation surrounding such things as the release of the Kindle with Special Offers.

And let me tell you, from what Amazon is saying, this thing is a real gem. Now you can get a Kindle for less money and receive special offers shipped directly to your device! It's like, win-win, right? Totally... for Amazon.

First off, these aren't "special offers." They are ads. Sure, ads often include "special offers" (i.e. Click here for 10% coupon! or Find out how to make thousands as a stay-at-home mom!), but those are merely hooks to get customers to click through. So. Special offer = ad. Sponsored screensaver = ad.

Hell, we're already smacking advertising on school lockers, state license plates, and yes, even sheep... why not books, too, right? But maybe there's a side to this I'm not seeing, in my stubborn refusal to a) like the Kindle and b) like the concept of putting ads anywhere near my reading materials (this from someone who works in advertising, too). Let me know what you think. I'm sure there's flip side here.

Book Review and Giveaway: Johnny One-Eye by Jerome Charyn

Johnny One-Eye is a rollicking novel of the Revolutionary War, following the oft confusing but always entertaining adventures of one John Stocking, son of a whore from New York. Stocking, who earns the nickname Johnny One-Eye after losing - you guessed it! - an eye, finds himself an unwitting double-agent in the American Revolution, caught between loyalty to his Crown and a growing respect for both the American cause and its leader, George Washington.

Johnny's adventures take readers from the whorehouses of 18th-century Manhattan to the prison ships on the East River, from New Jersey to Canada, from schoolyard to battlefield. As Johnny takes beatings both literal and figurative from friends and foes on both sides of the fighting, we find him discovering his own path, making decisions based on his own values rather than those imposed upon him by the debts he feels he owes to others.

With Johnny One-Eye, Charyn has shown his wit and charm in a way that lay buried beneath the surface of his biography, Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil. The novel is unique not only because it is one of few recent works of fiction to center on the era of the Revolutionary War (although I'd be thrilled to hear I was wrong in that statement!), but because he tackles the narrative through the point of view of one who is not merely undecided in which side he will choose, but rather loyal to both. In revealing all of the contradictions of this predicament, Johnny One-Eye is an enlightening glimpse into the politically charged atmosphere of 18th-century America. Though confusing at times and slightly jumpy, Johnny One-Eye is ultimately a success, and bound to be enjoyed by those with a love for American history (read: people like me).


The giveaway! Courtesy of Nicole at Tribute Books, I have one copy to offer in a giveaway. Simply leave a comment to enter. Retweet, post on your blog, share on Facebook, etc, for an additional entry. Winner will be selected randomly. Open to US residents only, sorry.

Entries due by 8PM 6/29. Winner will need to send address by 6/30. Please be sure to leave a valid email address with your entry!


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Tribute Books June Book Tour


More from Jerome Charyn:

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil


I received a copy of this book from Tribute Book Tours, though that did not sway my opinion of the book. You can tell because Tribute Book Tours also supplied a copy of Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, and I didn't really like that one. That's proof positive.

The Borrowers Arrive on BBC

Does anyone else remember The Borrowers, that darling book in which little people live in the walls of a house and borrow items from the owners? I'd say it offers a perfectly plausible explanation for all those items that seem to disappear from my house for no apparent reason: an earring back, one sock, the tweezers, that rubber band band you know you left on your desk. Seriously, borrowers. Where is my rubber band ball?

I loved this book when I was a kid, and I vaguely remember loving the 1997 movie version featuring John Goodman. And now BBC is bringing the stories to the little screen with a 90-minute adaptation of The Borrowers set to air this Christmas season. Who's excited!?

Reading Outside Is Better For You, Anyway

This week, the New York Times ran an article on the effects of too much time spent indoors (and therefore with artificial indoor lighting) on myopia. In short, it argued, scientists believe that too much time spent with artificial light, and therefore not enough spent in natural outdoor light, results in higher rates of nearsightedness.*

The suggestion, therefore? A recommendation to "satisfy tiger and soccer moms alike: if your child is going to stick his nose in a book this summer, get him to do it outdoors."

Personally, I love this recommendation. Though Shelf Awareness Pro suggested that instructions to spend more time reading outdoors could mean a higher demand for e-readers than can be read outdoors, I find that my good, ol'-fashioned p-books work just as well indoors as out, and I aim to spend as much time as possible sitting outside reading this summer. Of course, I can't see more than 5 feet away from me without glasses anyway, so maybe it's too late to avoid myopia. But I'll be outdoors with my book(s!) regardless.

What about you? Do you read outdoors when weather permits? Do you have specific books that are better for reading outdoors?


*In which "eyes fail to grow correctly and the distance between the lens and retina becomes too long, causing far-away objects to look blurry"

The Oh-My-God-It's-the-Best-Bookcase-Ever Bookcase

A bookcase that spells words. Modular. Customizable. = Must. Have. Now.

(By Saporiti, price unlisted - though as my mother-in-law says, "If you have to ask how much it costs, it costs too much.")

So... if price were no object, what would your bookcase say?

Audiobook Review: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

This is how things in Burroughs' teenage life seem: crazy, fucked up, strange, twisted, bizarre, strange, screwy, abnormal, difficult... (I'm running out of an internal thesaurus on words to replace "just plain weird.").

All of these words and more can be used to describe Burroughs' teenage life, and his accounting of those experiences in his first memoir (which I am totally late to the game in finally reading), Running with Scissors. Seriously, how has it taken me ten years to discover this little gem of an essay collection-cum-memoir?

Running with Scissors
recounts Burroughs' bizarre tale, in which his mother goes off the deep end and gives him to her therapist, where Burroughs then lives out his teenage years in a school-less, rule-less anarchy, befriending the doctor's children, sabotaging the pink Victorian house in which the doctor lives, exploring his sexuality (with the aid of a 30+-year-old), and living an all-out chaotic existence while pondering the future and his path.

Burroughs jumps from one tale to another, reminding me of an essay collection more than a straight memoir. His stories are straight (though he is very openly not) and true (not to mention funny, touching, and at times even thoughtful). He attacks the wildness of his past with a satirical gusto; his tone throughout says, "I know this is crazy, and you're tempted to feel bad for me. But don't. Let's all just have a little laugh about how surreal this all sounds. Because really, who lets a 14-year-old knock a hole in the kitchen ceiling in order to self-construct a skylight?"

And because Burroughs refuses to pity himself in his reflections, the stories in Running with Scissors are not overwrought or dripping with emotional goop. They are straight and witty and funny and telling; but because this is one of the most bizarre teenage experiences I've heard about (seriously, Holden, you got nothing on this kid), the stories also give pause and force the reader (or in my case, listener) to think about friendships, family, and belonging - not to mention mental illness and its impact on both the patient and his or her loved ones.

Bottom line: Running with Scissors is a rip-roaring success; I'm just ten years late in realizing it. The audio version, narrated by Augusten Burroughs himself, is excellent; Burroughs' dry tone shines through, and (not surprisingly, because he's narrating his own writing), is the perfect fit for the stories he recounts.

Pottermore, Pottermore, Pottermore

It's everywhere. Pottermore chatter. Pottermore tweeting. Pottermore website. And a JK Rowling Youtube announcement.

Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? What is it?

My Library was Dukedom Large Enough (Quote of the Day)

"My library / Was dukedom large enough." - Shakespeare, The Tempest

Shelf Awareness launches "Enlightenment for the Book Trade"

Fellow book bloggers, I know you are all avid Shelf Awareness readers. Who isn't really? A daily newsletter full of bookish gems, industry news and book reviews? What more could we possibly ask for?

You guessed it: an edition of Shelf Awareness targeted for the general reading public. Check out the very first episode (today's!) and be sure to sign up for future mailings (sent twice a week). Edited by Bethanne Patrick, and book reviews edited by Marilyn Dahl, and even the occasional book review from yours truly -- I promise it won't disappoint.

Promoting Summer Reading With Movie Rewards

National Amusements, "a motion picture exhibition company," has announced its 13th summer of Bookworm Wednesdays, a program designed to promote summer reading for children by rewarding them (and their parents) with free movies every Wednesday at 10 throughout the summer. Children are required to present a book report on what they have been reading. If they are not at the reading/writing age, they are encouraged to draw a picture about a book that an adult has recently read to them.

Part of me loves this idea; after all, it is promoting summer reading (as well as writing about said reading), and demonstrating to kids that there is a reward for this reading. But another part of me (albeit a small part) balks a bit at rewarding reading with a movie. Not that I don't love movies, and recognize that kids love movies, but it seems like a fine line between encouraging reading as a habit and promoting the idea that once you get your reading done, you can move onto to the really fun things in life (like movies).

Maybe I'm being overly critical. And like I said, it's only a small part. And I should add that I do not have children and I naively insist on believing that the future little McHughs that run around my house will like to read more than anything else, so I've never faced the issue of encouraging children to read first-hand. I'd like to see what you all think.

So... what do you all think?

E-Reader Courtesies

So I'm sitting on an airplane yesterday, flying to Chicago (hello, Chicago!), and the man sitting next to me (and too close to me, if you want my opinion) pulls out an iPad and opens his Kindle reader. The angle at which he holds the device allows me to see that he is reading Matterhorn, a book I've had my eye on for some time.

Now, if this were a print book, I would not have hesitated to make a bit of small talk and ask about the book. But if this had been a print book, I would have recognized the book by its cover, not by looking over the man's shoulder (I guess I'm nosy like that). And I would have been able to see how far into the book he was - if only five pages, I wouldn't ask how it he liked the book, you know?

In the spirit of not being that obnoxious person that talks too much on an airplane and snoops into others' business, I let the matter go. But it left me thinking: what is acceptable in this (or similar) situations? Is it ok to admit that I can see your iPad screen perfectly clearly and am interested in what you are reading? Is it rude to peek in the first place?

Elsewhere on the Blogosphere: Reading Outside Ourselves

I haven't been doing much writing lately, but I have been keeping up with others' blogs. Steph at Bella's Bookshelves (a blogger I sometimes think is reading my mind and writing my thoughts in another blog) recently wrote an amazing, excellent, well-written, thoughtful, wonderful, very good post about reading outside our comfort zones, saying yes to books we don't think we'll like, and all that jazz: Reading Outside Ourselves.
"This is what I mean: if we can get past our assumptions, our fears, even our preferences, often we find ourselves with something more to talk about. We go from reading whatever everyone else is reading to cutting our own path, to telling people what awesome new things we’ve discovered... Now we understand our fellow readers with different tastes, interests, viewpoints."
I've posted in the past about books as a form of social currency in trying to argue why reading is important; Steph has developed the idea even further (and with better wording) in arguing not for reading but for reading outside our comfort zones. In light of the lack of inspiring content here, take a stroll through Steph's full post, and be sure to follow her too - everything she writes is excellent.

The New York Times Illustrates On-the-Ground Book Reviews

Check it out: A fully illustrated NYT article, in which Central Park readers give "on-the-ground" book reviews. Loving it.

The Books We Read Outdoors

Book Review: Into My Father's Wake by Eric Best

Into My Father's Wake records Eric Best's solo, 5,000 mile journey across the Pacific in a 47-foot ketch. Written years after the voyage was completed, Best reflects not only on his navigational abilities - or, at times, lack thereof - but the meaning of the undertaking, his standing with his family, and, perhaps most important in motivating him, his relationship with his father.

Best's memoir is at time hard to follow, alternating between recaps of his struggles with celestial navigation to recalling past conversations with an unidentified therapist, but as the pages progress, this bouncing between subjects becomes easier to follow, just as it becomes clear that this scattered recounting is actually an accurate representation of the journey itself. The back-and-forth also has the added benefit of preventing the memoir from ever becoming dull with detail or didactic in meaning-of-life-type reflections.

Overall, Into My Father's Wake is an engaging tale of a daring attempt to sail solo across the Pacific. Best has succeeded in capturing the details of his journey - from his trials with navigating by sextant to his woes attempting to make casserole during a violent storm - and placing those details within an overarching search for meaning. He reflects on his journey, his own attempts to understand his journey, and in doing so, comes to terms with his relationship with his overbearing and hard-to-please father.

While bordering on cliché, Into My Father's Wake succeeds in avoiding the over-trodden waters of father-son relationships with a healthy peppering of sailing lore. All in all, it's worth the read, especially if you have even a passing interest in sailing.