Category Archives: Books, Poetry & Language

Infinite Directions

A week or three ago there was a brief conversation on Facebook about fantasy and science fiction. Someone said something about not liking the direction that a lot of modern fantasy is going. I responded, saying that I don’t read a lot of fantasy but that the same was true of me and science fiction. But then, later, I thought, “Why did I say that? Is that really true?” I was thinking of some of the near future sci-fi and “hard” sci-fi (No FTL) that I’ve seen in recent years and which critics seem to be saying is “the future of science fiction,” the direction it’s going, and some of that is really good, but more often I’d rather just read some good old fashioned space opera. Damn the scientific plausibility and just entertain me!

If you ignore the critics and the hard “SF” nerds and really look at what’s out there, you see that there are books to take you in any direction you want to go. One of the first authors I thought of when I was rethinking my comment on Facebook was Neal Asher. Definitely original, what you could call “a new direction”, and yet, at their heart, his stories are good, old fashioned space opera, with strange planets, weird aliens, and FTL to get you there in less than one lifetime.

Independent and self published books are becoming more common. I have mentioned a few of these before: A Door to Truth by J.S. Johnson and The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter, to name just two. These authors have been inspired by the same books, movies and TV shows many of us have loved and they have their own original ideas so you get some really good stories (in spite of the fact that some of these authors really need to improve their proofreading skills) that might never have made it into print if they had been stuck trying to get past the traditional gatekeepers.

But what I really wanted to talk about is the book I just finished reading and one that I am eagerly anticipating. Let’s start with the one I just finished: Space Chronicles: The Last Human War by Dean Sault. The story begins some 300(?) years after Earth was completely destroyed in a war between several interstellar empires. The surviving few thousand humans are living in benevolent slavery on the planet Tanarac. The Heptari, a reptilian race, have apparently just discovered that there are still a few humans left alive and want to kill them all. Or at least they’re using that as an excuse to attack Tanarac. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot so I’ll just say, if you like space ships and especially epic battles between space ships you must read this book.

I have two more sci-fi novels and a non-fiction book (no wait… two of those also) in the queue, plus all those classics that I’m going to read someday, and I’m not sure what I will read next. But the big important one that I’m waiting on – and I have to wait until November for it – is Stardancer. I have been reading Kelly Sedinger’s blog, Byzantium’s Shores, since 2002, I think, and I have read some of the short stories he has posted there, and I think I know something of his taste in fiction, so I know this will be good. I’m going to try to time my reading to be done and ready for Stardancer when it comes out but if I’m in the middle of something at that time I will likely drop it to read Stardancer immediately. I don’t seem to be very good at reading two books at once. I usually end up dropping one even if I don’t intend to.

Maybe We Should All Be Reading Stone Tablets

The real books vs. e-books debate gets scientific. I have no doubt that if there had been psychologists back when bound books were replacing scrolls they would have have been presenting all kinds of scientifically valid evidence that scrolls were better, healthier and more natural. I am equally certain that when scrolls were first introduced there were people who criticized them for their impermanence compared to stone tablets. The new will always be bad and scary. At the same time, it’s true that, often, embracing the new means losing some useful or merely pleasant features of the old.

I like both paper books and my Kindle. What I miss most when reading a book on the Kindle is the ability to flip back to an earlier chapter to re-read something related to the latest thing I read. When I’m reading a paper book I often miss Kindle’s dictionary. I also like Kindle’s size and weight. The standard size paperback, which is the perfect size, seems to be disappearing. Many of the books I want to read are only available in hardback or the heavy, over-sized paperbacks. People say they like the way real books feel in their hands. Well, I like the way the Kindle feels in my hands. I didn’t at first. It felt awkward and there didn’t seem to be any good place to get a grip on it, but I got used to it and now I like it. Funny how that works.

Based on personal experience, I disagree with the article’s claim that e-book readers “inhibit reading comprehension” and even make it harder to remember what we read, but the article does present some interesting things to think about – about the way the brain works when reading. These are things future developers of e-book readers should take into consideration. I do think (or hope) real books are going to still be around for a long time. There is really no reason for debate. This is not like electing a president. We can have both.

Random Silly Thought

People often talk about being “overwhelmed” and occasionally people say they are “underwhelmed,” which doesn’t seem to mean exactly the opposite of “overwhelmed,” but no one ever mentions being simply “whelmed”. No one is ever perfectly whelmed or evenly whelmed; they’re always either over or under. Interestingly, Firefox spellchecker did not flag “whelmed” so it is a real word. I started this just with the intention of being a smart-aleck but I then I wondered…

So I did what everyone does when they wonder about something: I Googled it. It seems that “whelmed” kinda means the same thing as “overwhelmed,” not, as I thought, the state of being not overwhelmed. So I’m thinking people started saying “overwhelmed” as a superlative – “Whelmed just doesn’t quite say it; I am overwhelmed” – and that became the standard and the word “whelmed” was just forgotten.

The English language is endlessly entertaining, isn’t it?

Oooo! A New Book!

I have irrefutable evidence that my family is the coolest in the world. My son gave me the What If? book! How many sons would give their mom a cool, geeky gift like that?! How many moms are cool enough to appreciate it? Um… well… Enough bragging. This is getting embarrassing.

This is a great gift because I love XKCD and What If? but I often forget to read it for several weeks. (There’s just too much to love on the Internet.) The book has stuff that was on the website plus some extra stuff not on the website, like Weird and Worrying Questions, to which the author gives short, smart-aleck answers. The funny thing about that is that many of the questions to which he gives serious answers are equally weird and worrying.

I got the book this past weekend and I’ve been reading one or two questions and answers a day because that seems like a better way to enjoy this book than a marathon read. Besides, I’m also reading a novel, trying to catch up on several back issues of Smithsonian Magazine, and there’s the Internet. (And there are all those other things that can’t be done with a book or a keyboard.) Anyway, very cool and interesting book. You should get it.

From the Other Side

I enjoy reading Mind the Gap: A Brit’s Guide to Surviving America because, although it’s written specifically for British expats, it gives a pretty good sampling of how they see us. In some cases it’s hilariously obvious that the writer of an article really hasn’t seen much of America or had much contact with Americans but that’s fun too.

I was especially delighted by the latest article Which American Literary Classics Should Every Brit Read? It’s a short list. Of the six books listed I have only read one: Of Mice and Men. The author asks for more suggestions and the commenters add some good ones and, inevitably someone complains that the list is too highbrow and gender biased, even though the list includes three female authors. I was tempted to respond to that person with, “Highbrow is not a bad thing you lowbrow twit,” but I’d probably be banned for being a troll.

Reading

I do not know J.S. Johnson, author of A Door to Truth but there is what you could call an indirect family connection. Without that connection I probably never would have read the book simply because the title does not appeal to me at all. So perhaps I shouldn’t judge a book by its title? But if you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a book by its title how does one choose which books to read? Anyway, I am glad that I read this one. It is an interesting story.

Because of the connection I mentioned, I feel hesitant to write very much about the book. It honestly is a very good story so that’s no problem. It’s just, you know… talking about a book written by someone I could very likely end up sitting next to at a family picnic someday. This situation really lights up the “what if I say something stupid?” node in my brain.

You can read a little bit about the book in the author’s Introduction. Here there is something that bothers me and, though I am very reluctant to say anything, at the same time I have to because trying to make people understand what science fiction is is sort of a cause for me. Johnson writes:

“A Door to Truth” can be loosely defined as a science-fiction story. I’ve struggled with categorizing it from the moment I knew what I wanted to write about. The story has to be called science fiction, because it requires some science and is certainly fiction.

[...]

But it is a story of “why” vice “how,” and this is where I struggle to justify it as science fiction.

I have been reading science fiction for well over three decades and I have read hundreds of books. Science fiction is very much about “why”, far more so than “how,” though “how” certainly plays a part. So many people have this mistaken idea that science fiction is all about space ships and blasters and cartoon-style heroes and that it’s full of techno-babble. Science fiction is as much about spaceships and blasters as mainstream best sellers are about houses and furniture. Science fiction explores human nature, culture, and the “why” of things by putting people in situations that could not happen (at least not yet) in the real world. It explores possible futures and speculates about the ways people might behave in those futures. Sometimes it questions what we are doing in the present and warns about where it might lead in the future. Science fiction is an extremely broad and inclusive genre. Sometimes it’s just for fun but it is often serious and often very political.

A Door to Truth is unquestionably classic near future science fiction. And it’s good. Read it.

Reading and Rambling

I have been a very lame blogger lately. I mean, seriously? I’m resorting to cat pictures as early as Tuesday? Anyway…

I finished reading Dandelion Wine about a week ago. Great book but I don’t have a lot to say about it. Even though I grew up in an entirely different time and place from the kids in the novel there was a lot that felt familiar. This is what my childhood was like only a lot more boring. No murders happened near us and there wasn’t even a scary ravine. And we had TV. And of course I was a girl which made things just a little bit different. But other than that, childhood was pretty much like in the book and I wish every kid would read this book so they would know what childhood used to be like before day care, computers, smartphones and before we thought every waking moment must be filled with some kind of organized activity.

I haven’t read enough Ray Bradbury. In fact, only two books (The other one was Fahrenheit 451.) and a few short stories. And of course, my favorite essay ever! I can’t say I love the two books I’ve read but I do like his way with metaphors and the way he could paint a picture with words. So, sooner or later I will get around to reading more of his stories.

Right now I am craving some good, weird modern science fiction but I still have a couple of books I got as Kindle monthly specials so I might as well read those. The one I just started is historical fiction. I’ll wait until I’ve finished it to say anything about it.

Have you ever considered “unliking” a Facebook page because it has too much interesting stuff? I already read the Brain Pickings blog occasionally but a few weeks ago I “liked” their Facebook page, so now I have all these really good articles coming up on my “news feed,” not just recent blog posts but a lot of older ones that I missed and I keep thinking, “Oh that looks so interesting; I’ll read that later.” Well, now I have quite a backlog of Brain Pickings articles that I’m “going to read later.” Also, they make me want to buy more books. Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? looks so great! And there are a few others that I think I’ve already mentioned.

Anyway, you know the lament… so much to read, so little time, and so many other things to do.

Two Unrelated Videos That YouTube Thought Were Related

I was going to embed this video, Worst Words in the English Language, but the embed code wouldn’t ever load. Then I noticed an even better video in the “related” column, If The Art World Had to Deal With YouTube Comments but the code for that one won’t load either. So it wasn’t just that one video.

Regarding the “worst words” video: My post title was going to be “Well, When You Say It Like That.” Most of those words never bothered me at all but the video makes them sound really “EEEWWWWWW”.

Regarding the art video: So true, but I kind of had to agree with the first two comments about Jackson Pollack.

The Future of Reading, from 1951

E.B. White, on reading, from a 1951 essay:

In schools and colleges, in these audio-visual days, doubt has been raised as to the future of reading — whether the printed word is on its last legs. One college president has remarked that in fifty years “only five per cent of the people will be reading.” For this, of course, one must be prepared. But how prepare? To us it would seem that even if only one person out of a hundred and fifty million should continue as a reader, he would be the one worth saving, the nucleus around which to found a university. We think this not impossible person, this Last Reader, might very well stand in the same relation to the community as the queen bee to the colony of bees, and that the others would quite properly dedicate themselves wholly to his welfare, serving special food and building special accommodations. From his nuptial, or intellectual, flight would come the new race of men, linked perfectly with the long past by the unbroken chain of the intellect, to carry on the community. But it is more likely that our modern hive of bees, substituting a coaxial cable for spinal fluid, will try to perpetuate the rave through audio-visual devices, which ask no discipline of the mind and which are already giving the room the languor of an opium parlor.

Heh… If only he could see us now. I kinda like his “queen bee” fantasy but, on the other hand, I think I like the reality better. Being highly regarded and catered to can have certain drawbacks. Such behavior could interfere with your reading time.

This ‘n’ That

A couple of weeks ago Number Two Son and I were watching one of those nature shows about wildlife in Alaska. At one point, talking about the approach of winter, the narrator said, in the usual This Is Seriously Dramatic voice, “The temperature can drop as much as 15 degrees in just a few weeks.” And yes, I’m sure we heard him right. He enunciated very well. He said 15, not 50. We were too stunned to laugh. Fifteen degrees in a few weeks? We do more than that in just one day. In fact, I’ve seen the temp drop 15 degrees in less than an hour. Perhaps he meant the high temperature or the low, or the average. If so he should have said that but still, even if that’s what he meant we can still top it here in Oklahoma. Take yesterday and today, for example. Yesterday’s high was somewhere around 70°F. This morning at 6:30 it was only 40°F. Today’s high is supposed to be 80°. I have no doubt it will get there. How about that Mr. Serious Drama Narrator?

I thought I was going to have another new dress to show off today (Wow! Two in one week!) but it’s not going to happen. The pattern is very simple and I was sure I would finish it in one or two days but I kept taking breaks after each little step and the breaks kept getting longer and so it’s not finished yet. I really have no reason to rush but I’ve been feeling like, “Hurry! Get this one done! Start the next one! Get it done! On to the next one!” and so on. I have a bunch of sewing projects that I want to get done so I can wear them but I don’t really need to rush. I should just slow down and I will have enough things to sew to last all summer. But still, I keep feeling like I need to get all this stuff done. Almost like it’s a job.

I also have some outdoor things to do. Especially weeding! Yikes! Too bad I don’t feel motivated to rush to do that. And soon, planting. We tend to hold off until nearly May because late freezes happen, even hard freezes sometimes. But it is nearly May. Time to start playing in the dirt.

I didn’t manage to collect any quotes for this week. Maybe later I will look around and find a few. No promises. Some weeks they just appear all over the place and other weeks I have to work to find them.

I saw this on Facebook. I’m going to watch it over and over again until I can remember these. Well, most of them. Okay, maybe some of them. (And I did already know a few of them. Two, I think.)

Slow Reading

Fillyjonk has been thinking about slow reading and that reminded me of an article I bookmarked months ago titled “In Praise of Slow Reading” but, to my horror, I discovered that I have deleted the bookmark. Of all my gazillion bookmarks why did I delete that one? Fortunately, there’s that Google thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the article on the Google thing. I did find a NY Times article with almost the same title but that’s not it.

I also found In Praise of Fat Books and Slow Reading. Yes! Hooray for fat books! I consider 500 pages merely a good start. It takes me a long time to get through a book though. Slow reading is one of many things about which I can honestly say, “I was doing that before it was even a thing.” (That’s what happens to you as you get older. You start to realize that almost every new “thing” is really an old thing.) I sometimes wish I could read faster so I can get through more books in my lifetime but I don’t want to rush through books just so I can say, “Look, I’ve read all these books.”

Spritz, the new speed reading app that everyone’s talking about, makes me sad. And it makes me tired. I tried it and, yes, I could read about 400 or 500 words a minute but it feels like a test and after less than a minute I’m mentally worn out. Perhaps with practice I could get used to it enough so that I wouldn’t get the worn out feeling but I don’t think I could ever enjoy reading like that and I wonder how much I would be able to remember if I read a whole book or story that way. I like to be able to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph or turn back to something I read a few chapters back. (The latter is the one thing I don’t like about Kindle. You cannot easily return to a previous chapter.)

I see a lot of hand-wringing about fewer and fewer people reading books so it’s tempting to hope that new technologies will get more people reading but it seems to me that reading for entertainment has always been a bit of a fringe thing. People who read are weird. We get people asking us, “Why? Why don’t you just see the movie?” and strangers who see us reading in public and insist on talking to save us from “boredom”. And, the most bizarre thing to me, people who think that if you fall asleep while reading it must be because the book is boring and when you explain that the reason you fall asleep reading is because the book is so interesting you can’t put it down even if it’s 3:00 AM (or in my case more like 11:00 PM) and they don’t believe you.

Yes, we readers are weird to everyone else, always have been, and I am confident that there will always be weirdos in the world as long as weirdos keep having children and reading to them and raising them in homes filled with fat books. Getting people who weren’t raised this way to read? I’m not sure that’s possible. I think maybe a part of their brains didn’t develop properly, poor things.

One Author

If you could only read the books of one author for the rest of your life who would it be? Several writers give their answers.

Tough question. I would want to choose someone very prolific but also good. Those two things don’t always go together. On the other hand, I could pick someone not so prolific but highly re-readable. Or I could pick someone who writes really long books, like James Michener. But if I have to pick only one author I want it to be a really good, prolific science fiction author because that’s what I find the most entertaining. Best of all would be prolific, long books, highly re-readable. So… I haven’t really answered yet have I? Well, it’s a tough question.

A Very Mixed Review

The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter was on Amazon’s list of monthly (or was it weekly?) Kindle specials. It was very cheap, and it looked like my sort of thing. It is a more or less average colonial rebellion story. In this future all the nations on Earth have been consolidated into just three nations and there is a Council, which has its own military “to keep the peace.” Alden, a member of an elite unit in the Council military, ends up working with Lunar colonists who are fighting for independence. It’s actually a reasonably entertaining story. Not great but it is a kind of story that I enjoy.

On the negative side, this book needs some intensive editing. It is full of obvious mistakes that made me feel that the author was a high school student who struggles to maintain a C average in English. Just a few examples: He used the word “formerly” when he meant “formally,” “disposed” when he meant “deposed”, “diffuse” when he meant “defuse”, and, most hilariously, “yolk” when he meant “yoke”. There are a number of awkward or confusing sentences, especially near the beginning of the book. Worst: “They moved past him towards the large windows that faced the street.” There are only two people in this scene. If “they” refers to those two people, as it must, then who is the “him” that they move past? Another problem was that transitions between flashbacks and the story’s “present” are handled rather awkwardly. There are also what are clearly just typos, the most frequent being failure to leave a space between words, as in “itwas” or “threedozen”.

The ending leaves readers with a big mystery. There will be a sequel and I will probably read it in spite of all the very annoying flaws in the first book because, you know, I have to know what happens next. I just hope the author discovers the value of proofreading, editing, and correct vocabulary before he publishes the second book.

Travels to Faraway Places and Times

Thanks to Amazon’s monthly “$3.99 or Less” Kindle specials I have discovered some good books that I would not normally have searched for. One of these is Daughters of the River Huong by Uyen Nicole Duong, a novel about four generations of Vietnamese women. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, seeing images of the Vietnam war on TV every night. That formed my own mental picture of the country of Vietnam. I would like to be able to say that this novel has forever changed that picture but it hasn’t. It’s too firmly fixed. But it did introduce me to an earlier and much different Vietnam.

The novel begins in New York, with the central character, Simone, a Vietnamese-American, a successful corporate attorney, then quickly goes back in time to her childhood in 1960’s Vietnam, then further back to the time of her great-grandmother, a royal concubine. Later the book looks into the lives of her mother and grandmother and finally back to the present. I have to admit that I enjoyed the history parts of the story the most and found Simone’s teenage and adult years quite tiresome but, overall, it’s a good story and I’m glad that I read it.

A few 19th century photos of Vietnam

Next up? Well, I’m really craving a good sci-fi novel. It’s been a while.

Book Quiz

I saw this Book Quiz and immediately thought, “I have to answer this one on my blog!” Then I realized that there are a lot of questions I can’t answer but I’m going to do it anyway.

1. Your favorite book: The more books you have read, the harder it is to answer this question. I would have a hard time even coming up with a top 10. My favorite book is whatever book I happen to be reading when you ask the question, unless it’s one that is not particularly great.

2. Your least favorite book: What I said about favorite books – the more you read harder it is to answer – is true of least favorite books also, but Clan of the Cave Bear is the first that comes to mind. It stands out as being a real stinker.

3. A book that completely surprised you (bad or good): Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. It was the first Mieville that I read and I had never read anything like it before. Weirdest book I had ever read, (up to that time) full of “Wait! What?” and “WTF” moments and lots of big beautiful words.

4. A book that reminds you of home: Home, in the sense of where I grew up? Or where I live now? I can’t think of any. I mostly read books about places totally unlike anywhere I’ve ever been.

5. A non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed: Like Kelly, I think the wording of the question is strange and messed up. Why wouldn’t anyone enjoy non-fiction? In fact, my answer could be pretty much the same as my answer to the first question. I’ve read and enjoyed too many to have just one favorite. But, just picking one at random… The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson.

6. A book that makes you cry: Lots of them have at various times. I can only think of one and I didn’t actually cry just came close. It was The Death of Sleep by Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye. It’s about a woman who spends years in cold-sleep (not by choice) so her daughter grows up without her.

7. A book that’s hard to read: I’m sure there must have been a few (or at least one?) but I can’t think of any.

8. An unpopular book you believe should be a bestseller: I wouldn’t call this “unpopular” just relatively unknown (and, sadly, OOP) – The World Is Round by Tony Rothman.

9. A book you’ve read more than once: I’ve read The World Is Round many times and I used to be obsessed with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I’ve read the original trilogy and the Harper Hall trilogy at least a dozen times. But in recent years I’ve started to feel that there are too many books I haven’t read to waste time re-reading books. That’s not to say I won’t ever give in to temptation and go somewhere I’ve been before.

10. The first novel you remember reading: I can’t remember the first.

11. The book that made you fall in love with reading: I have no idea! I’ve been reading most of my life. That’s like asking, “Which breath made you fall in love with breathing?”

12. A book so emotionally draining you couldn’t complete it or had to set it aside for a bit: Oh gosh, such drama! Who but a teenager would ask a question like that?

13. Favorite childhood book: Mystery of the Haunted Mine by Gordon D. Shirreffs. I read this one many times. I still had the book for a while as an adult and it upsets me that I lost it at some time or other. (I still keep hoping to find it someday) Used copies at Amazon start at $40!

14. Book that should be on a high school or college required reading list: I occasionally read something that I think “everyone” should read but I can’t think of one in particular. I think every high school student should be required to read at least two good, and very different from each other, science fiction novels because so many people get wrong ideas about what science fiction is like and claim to not like it without ever having read any.

15. Favorite book dealing with foreign culture: I think, probably, the last book I read, This is Not that Dawn. But maybe I just thought of that because it is the last book I read.

16. Favorite book turned movie: Not sure. Can’t think of one.

17. Book turned movie and completely desecrated: Almost all of them. But I really don’t care. Books are books and movies are movies and I don’t expect movies to be completely true to the book. I think of the movies as being “inspired by” the books, not as accurate visualizations of books. No matter what, the pictures on the screen will never match the pictures in your head.

18. A book you can’t find on shelves anymore that you love: Well, I’ve already mentioned two OOP books that I love and those can be found if one is willing to pay the price.

19. A book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction): None I can think of except, I guess I could say Bill Bryson’s books changed my mind about travel writing. It can be interesting.

20. A book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/close-minded person: I wouldn’t bother. I just assume that anyone that ignorant probably doesn’t read.

21. A guilty pleasure book: I don’t even understand this question.

22. Favorite series: Currently, Neal Asher’s Polity series.

23. Favorite romance novel: I don’t read romance novels, though many of the science fiction novels I read include romance. Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody (fantasy) was quite romantic but sometime in the first sequel the romance part of the story started to get tiresome. People in love act stupid (at least in fiction) and stupid people just annoy me. That’s why I don’t read romances or watch “romantic comedies”.

24. A book you later found out the author lied about: No idea.

25. Favorite autobiographical/biographical book: This is a somewhat embarrassing question because I rarely read biographies. Hildegard of Bingen: A Visionary Life by Sabina Flanagan is one of the few I’ve read and it was interesting.

26. A book you wish would be written: China Mieville’s next novel, whatever it is.

27. A book you would write if you had all the resources: The book I already have in my head. Resources have nothing to do with it. It’s just that… well, actually I don’t have much of a story in my head, mostly just characters and worlds that I don’t exactly know what to do with.

28. A book you wish you never read: I don’t know… Maybe the fourth book in the Dune series. The original trilogy was incredible but everything after that was kind of pathetic and made me sad.

29. An author that you completely avoid/hate/won’t read: None in particular. There are, of course, many authors who simply don’t interest me.

30. An author that you will read whatever they put out: China Mieville, Neal Asher.

Reading: Other Times and Places

I have been reading The Middle Stage occasionally for a number of years, with the natural result that I got it into my head that I wanted to read an Indian novel. It took me a while to get around to it but I finally decided on This is Not That Dawn (reviewed here) as my first. That Chandrahas called it ” a plausible contender for the greatest of all Indian novels” as well as the fact that it is over 1000 pages made it irresistible for me.

The book begins at the funeral of an elderly woman in Lahore (now in Pakistan) and follows two members of the family, a brother and sister, through the years around and after the Partition. I quickly got caught up in the lives of the characters and started to care what would happen to them and that, to me, is an essential characteristic of a good story. The author was deeply sympathetic to the hardships faced by women in male dominated societies, especially during times of war and unrest. The book also explores changing moral values and the conflict between generations. Nothing really surprised me. I’ve already read enough to have a small clue as to what life in that part of the world is like but, lacking an actual time machine, nothing can take you to another time and place like a good book.

The only difficult thing about the book was that the names, nicknames and honorifics sometimes made it hard to keep up with who was who among the supporting characters. Also there were a lot of unfamiliar words for clothing and food which had me going to the dictionary often at first but Kindle’s dictionary does not know most of them so I soon gave up on that but I occasionally pulled out my smartphone to look something up on Wikipedia. I love modern technology, don’t you?

The English translation contained quite a few errors: “their” instead of “there”, “off” instead of “of”, singular when plural is called for and a lot of other things like that. Being somewhat OCD about such things myself I found this distracting. Overall though, it was a good book. I’m glad I read it and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in 20th century history, exploring other cultures, or who just likes a good story.

I have two more trips to two different Asian cultures waiting on my Kindle (both from Amazon’s monthly $3.99 or less specials) and I haven’t decided which one I will read next.

“This can’t happen with a real book”

That was my immediate thought last night when my Kindle, quite strangely, went back to the beginning of the book I’m reading when I exited the dictionary. I was 40% of the way through the book! I didn’t know what to do and it was late so, heartbroken and worried, I decided to deal with it tomorrow (which is now today) and turned it off.

The first thing I did this morning was to search the Kindle forums on Amazon. This error has happened to other people and there is no automatic way to go back to where you were in the book. The best suggestion was to search on a phrase you remember from the page you were reading. Well, of course, early this morning I couldn’t think of any exact words that I had read last night. But slowly, after morning tea, the fog began to lift and I remembered something that got me very close to where I was.

Now that the panic is over, really thinking about it, it was no more of an ordeal (maybe less of one) than finding your place again in a paper and ink book when you drop it and lose your place so, even though that should not have happened, I still love my Kindle. I’m a little bit peeved at it for losing my place and I still wonder how such a thing could happen but no technology is perfect. It’s so easy to get into the habit of trusting it.