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Posts Tagged ‘Nook’

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to be Rory Deveaux for Halloween. I already have the basic looks — dark hair, fair skin, round face. Clothes are no problem — jeans, T-shirt, vintage black velvet jacket — because they are my clothes.  Red lipstick? Check. Southern accent? Got it. Just need to pick up a few props — iPod, old cell phone, Mardi Gras beads. Voila! I’m 17 again (quick, dim those lights), an American schoolgirl in London, soon-to-be fledgling ghostbuster.

Rory doesn’t know about the ghost stuff at the beginning of Maureen Johnson’s nifty new paranormal thriller, The Name of the Star, the first volume  in the Shades of London trilogy. As she tells it, she’s just feeling like a fish out of water at the posh boarding school Wexford in London’s East End. But she likes her roommate Jazza, and one of the prefects, Jerome, has a great grin and floppy curls. Now, if she can just survive field hockey and English food. Also Jack the Ripper.

Yes, Jack’s back, or rather a serial killer bent on duplicating the famous Victorian murders in the Spitalfields area near Rory’s school. Despite the omnipresent closed-circuit TV cameras, the industrious efforts of the police, and intense media scrutiny, the Ripper has yet to be spotted. Then Rory sees a drab bald man outside the school as she and Jazza are sneaking back in the girls’ dorm on the night of another murder. Jazza doesn’t see him, probably because she’s scooted in the window, which leaves Rory the only witness. Soon she’s working with a super-secret security force of young officers with a specific skill set. Stephen, Callum and Boo are charged with keeping Rory away from the Ripper even as they go after the killer. They want him dead or alive. He may be both.

Johnson’s clever plot is grisly and goofy in equal measure, with plenty of grins to balance the gore. The climax in a closed, or “dead” station, of the Underground near London Bridge is followed by a stunning finale at the school that sets up a sequel. I see dead people in Rory’s future.

Open Book: I borrowed a digital copy of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star (Putnam) from the Orange County Library System’s online catalog. Once I checked it out online, Overdrive delivered the book in Adobe Digital to my laptop in S.C. , and then I sideloaded  it to my Nook. What a cool trick!

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When writer Robert B. Parker died in January of 2010, I was still a couple of weeks from launching this blog. Otherwise, I’d have been one of the many remembering Parker, who created tough-but-tender Boston P.I. Spenser in 1971’sThe Godwulf Manuscript. It was the beginning of a long-running series that revived detective fiction, linking the classic to the contemporary.

Many of the affectionate tributes were from writers whom he’d influenced or journalists who had interviewed him over the years; everyone it seemed had a “Bob” story to share.  I had one as well — he was the first big-name mystery writer I ever interviewed, back in 1983, at the annual book/publishing  covention known then as the ABA for American Booksellers Association. Now it’s BEA — BookExpo America — and it’s going on this week in New York City, and yes, I kind of miss it because it was an opportunity to meet writers whose books I admired and enjoyed.

The 1983 ABA in Dallas was my first, and I couldn’t understand why there were only a couple of other reporters at Parker’s late afternoon press conference. For that matter, I was the only one asking real questions. Didn’t other people know who this guy was? They did, but unlike me, they knew to to arrange ahead of time for one-on-one interviews.

Actually, mine turned into just that, because when the allotted 15-20 minutes were up, Parker and I left the press room still in deep conversation about hard-boiled crime fiction, Raymond Chandler, Boston (my parents had just moved back to S.C. after seven years in the area), the Red Sox, English lit, and, of course, Spenser. He could tell I was a fan, and we ended up in a couple of comfy chairs and continued talking until his publicist found us and carried him off to some party or dinner in his honor. He said he looked forward to our next meeting. I said, “me too — and the next Spenser.”

There were a few more meetings and a lot more Spensers, as well as two more detective series (Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall), several westerns and historical novels –60 or so books in all. I just finished what I think is the last one, No. 39 in the Spenser series, Sixkill.

It’s not great Spenser, but it’s pretty good, and much better than the few in the late middle that read as if Parker phoned them in. Hawk, Spenser’s laconic, violent sidekick, is in Singapore, alas, but Spenser still has long-time love Susan Silverman to cook for and banter with. And when police pal Quirk asks for help on a case, Spencer also begins training a new squire to his white knight.

Zebulon Sixkill, “Z,” is the Cree Indian bodyguard to badass actor Jumbo Fisher, on location in Boston and the No.1 suspect in a girl’s death in his hotel room. Jumbo sics Z on nosy Spenser, who easily takes out the former football player/bouncer without real fighting skills. Jumbo fires Z, and Spenser steps in as his new mentor. Maybe Z will eventually tell him what really went down with the girl, but Spenser also sees the potential coil of controlled violence. Before long Z’s becoming a toughened warrior, and he’s got Spenser’s back when the mob comes calling.

It’s too bad we won’t see more adventures with the new wingman, and way sad no more Spenser. Going to miss the snap-crackle-pop dialogue, the bullet-paced narratives, the moral compass that Spenser lived by.

Parker died at his desk at age 77.  Really miss him. I’ll probaby go back and reread some of the Spensers from time to time, and I saw the new Jesse Stone TV movie with Tom Selleck last night. Also, I’ve settled in with another old friend, Lawrence Block. His new Matthew Scudder — No. 17 — finds the ex-cop-turned P.I., recovering alcoholic looking back to his days on the job in the early ’70s and one case in particular. Equal parts loss and redemption, it’s aptly titled A Drop of the Hard Stuff. Recommended.

Open Book: I downloaded the e-book version of Robert B. Parker’s Sixkill (Penguin Group) to my nook. I’m reading a digital galley edition through NetGalley of Lawrence Block’s A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Little, Brown).

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Cousin Gail called just before noon. She wondered if I could do her a “teeny’’ favor. Remember how Caroline Cousins had a speaking engagement tonight? And since only two-thirds of us – herself and Cousin Meg – were actually going to be there in S.C. , would I, as the missing cousin, just shoot her a quick e-mail about how publishing has changed in the decade since our first book came out.

“And maybe put in something about the future and how it’s changing, too,’’ Gail said. “If you have the time, that is. Please.’’

Caroline Cousins, being a Southerner, is always polite, especially when asking for the moon.

Shoot, Gail, if I had the time and knowledge to write about everything changing in publishing, we might could publish it as a book – an e-book, that is. Furthermore, you and Meg wouldn’t be able to do our usual
dog-and-pony show that we all three know by heart so any one, two or three of us, in any combination, can rattle on about our books and writing experience at a moment’s notice. You’d be talking from now until Sunday, and the audience’s eyes would have glazed over yesterday.

So let me be brief. Or briefish. The Internet has changed every aspect of publishing, and continues to do so. Even if some authors continue to write longhand  (Meg, for example), eventually their words gets put in a computer and technology takes over from there, for better or worse.

Generally, I think better. Or maybe I just hope that because I love books – the real ones — just holding them, smelling them, listening to the sound of pages turning. Crisp new books high on ink. Musty old ones with paper like crumbling graham crackers.  Books printed in DTF – dead tree format.

But now I have not only stacks upon stacks of books like this, I also have a virtual library of books. They’re digital electronic editions – e-books – and you read them on computers – laptops, tablets, smartphones and dedicated e-readers, such as  a nook (mine) or  a Kindle (Meg). (There are differences, so do your research).

At last count, I had 140 books on my nook, which weighs approximately 11 oz. There’s room for at least a thousand, more if I add back-up storage.

And then there’s “the cloud,’’ where my e-books are archived in something like an Internet storage unit, and another cloud, where I check out e-books from my public library.

I’m not enough of a techno-nerd to understand cloud computing. But the future of publishing is up there in the clouds somewhere as writers,  publishers, booksellers, and readers all struggle to adapt to this new “platform,’’   where the wind blows every whichaway.

I don’t think books – the real ones – are going away soon, or for good. But e-books, in some form, are here to stay. They present challenges and opportunities in marketing, distribution and pricing. Piracy, too.  Caroline Cousins may be translated into Chinese for all we know.

What we do know is that we are happy that our books are available as e-books from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and as Google-e-books, which allows independent bookstores to get a piece of the digital pie.

Caroline Cousins loves books. And pie.

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My mother’s been visiting for three days and already has read four books, two of which — Kathy Reichs’ Spider Bones and Nicolle Wallace’s Eighteen Acres — are still on my TBR list. As for me, I finished re-reading Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone and the terrific new sequel, Moonlight Mile, but haven’t gotten around to blogging about them because I’ve been too busy reading about books.

Some days are like that, I told a class of UCF journalism students last night. I spend the day on the net, which is the now and future of book reviewing and reporting, as every article on the nervous state of publishing seems to believe. I start my morning with the wonderful  “Shelf Awareness,” which appears in my inbox, along with the recommended “The Daily Dose” from Powell’s Books, then move on to Facebook and Twitter. I update the nook’s Daily and check out bn.com’s Deal of the Day.

 Today, after reading reviews of the newspaper novel Rogue Island in the Washington Post and Antonia Fraser’s Must You Go, about her marriage to Harold Pinter, at NPR, I downloaded samples of both books to the nook for further consideration. Those samples joined about a dozen others. I pre-ordered Nora Ephron’s new collection. I checked in on some of my favorite blogs and commented on a post on “Moby Lives” about judging book awards. I took a survey on NPR’s book coverage. While at the NPR site, I listened to Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, reading from one of my all-time favorites, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which I reread a couple months ago. (Even as the new books stack up, I’ve vowed to do more reading from my older books, shopping my shelves, so to speak).

I signed in at NetGalley and spent awhile looking at what books are coming out in early 2011. I entered a book giveaway contest sponsored by Crown Publishing on Facebook because The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer reminds me how much I like playing with scissors if I ever stop reading long enough to do some art projects. I saw the New York Times “Paper Cuts” blogged about John Fowles’ The Tree, which I wrote about last week. The old reporter in me rejoiced at my “scoop.”

Then I looked at the TBR stack that Mom has been whittling away on. I picked up John le Carre’s Our Kind of Traitor, read three pages and fell asleep — not because the book is boring but because I needed one of my twice-daily naps. Mom kept on reading. And she’s reading now, although I’ve assured her that she can take the book home with her to S.C. in the morning. I’ll read it when I come up in December.

I started writing this because I couldn’t bear watching election results. A friend has just called with condolences. Time to go to bed. Like the sun, the TBR books will be there in the morning. Tomorrow is another page. . .

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Around the turn of this century, a lot of people were talking about “the death of books.” Audio books were booming, and the first e-readers were making their assault, unsuccessfully as it turned out. I declared myself a Patesaurus, an obviously threatened species that would go to its grave clutching a real book, perhaps Sven Birkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies. I did not think books were dead, but I was afraid, like Birkerts, about “the fate of reading in an electronic age.” 

I’m still worried, but that didn’t stop me from recently buying a Nook, the e-book produced by Barnes & Noble. I had been thinking about a Kindle, an iPhone, a Sony and, of course, an iPad. But then I walked into my local B&N, where I had previously played around with a Nook, and was greeted by a booth front and center. Nooks now had free 3G wireless and an Internet browser. And I didn’t have to order one. They were in stock in the store. A half hour later, I was heading home to charge my Nook. Within minutes, it found the nearest WiFi hotspot, downloaded its new software with no prompting, and I soon found myself reading Pride and Prejudice. Along with Dracula and Little Women, Austen’s novel came pre-loaded on the Nook, which I started calling Nanook, my new companion in the digital wilderness.

Since then, I’ve have spent a good many hours with Nanook, learning how to easily navigate the touch screen controls, discovering that sometimes you scroll up instead of down, or left instead of right. I have changed screensavers and wallpapers, played with fonts and type sizes, used the Internet to connect to this blog and Yahoo. I’ve also purchased and downloaded several books — Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, China Mieville’s The City and the City, Candace Bushnell’s The Carrie Diaries — and sideloaded from my computer a couple of digital galleys of forthcoming books. I’m having fun.

I also feel a bit like a traitor, even though I’ve been reading regular hardcovers in between. And I rather suspect the Nanook’s novelty will soon wear off, like that of my iPod. It will be great gadget for travel, and I won’t be lugging a heavy bookbag every time I leave home. But there’s enough Patesaurus in me that still loves the look and feel and smell of books, the security of all those volumes stacked every whichaway around the house, crammed on shelves floor to ceiling. Me and books go way back, and I expect that to continue.

I did, however, buy a cover for Nanook, a custom leaf-green leather folder that holds it firmly in place yet allows me to easily access its controls.  It’s more like a book now. And a quote from the 19th-century writer Martin Tupper is imprinted on the front and continues on the back: “A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.”

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