I Bought a Kindle (Part two)

KS-slate-05-lg._V389394900_I bought a Kindle with my birthday money in June and wrote a first impression review of it here.

Now that it’s almost Christmas, it’s a good time to present my follow-up review:

PROS

It’s small and light, meaning you can take it anywhere.  I went on holiday this summer and my kindle fit in my jacket pocket.  I travel light so I usually only have hand luggage and whatever I can fit in my pocket, so this was perfect.

You can carry hundreds of titles.  Again I found this handy going on holiday.  I don’t read that much on holiday.  I don’t do relaxing holidays; I want to come home exhausted! But I do usually take at least two books.  I read at the airport, on the plane and before I go to sleep.  I take two because I might finish one, or I might not enjoy one.  This year I also took a train to a small town called Halden on the Swedish/Norwegian border, about 90 minutes from where I was staying so by the time I got on my home flight I was on my second book.  The book I had been reading on the train was a bit heavy for bedtime reading so chose another.  That’s a big benefit!

You can purchase new titles instantly.  See a title you want on Amazon, buy it and it’s on your Kindle before you can blink.

You don’t have to use bookmarks (or fold the corner of the page, as I do *naughty*) as the Kindle goes back to the last page you were reading.  Even if you read something else on the Kindle, each time you go to any of the books you have it will remember where you left it.

On most books you can skip to the next chapter – great for text books or short stories.

You can change the font size to suit you.

You can make notes and highlights (I do this on paper books but I know some people are loath to do that to a book.  See here.) Whenever you underline or make a note, the Kindle saves it in ‘clippings’.

No paper = saving trees.

CONS

Books don’t have to have their battery recharged; Kindle does.  BUT it does use the same charger as a standard camera charger so on holiday you don’t have to take lots of leads and plugs with you.

It doesn’t feel like a book.  It’s not just the stories we love.  Books themselves are works of art, to hold and feel and smell!

AND THE REST

I read recently that it’s no good for special characters particularly for maths, science engineering etc.   I have read a couple of pages from a Swedish book but it did not seem to have this problem.  ø was not represented as o for example.

You can get pictures, but on most versions only in black and white.  You can also get travel guides for the Kindle, complete with map.  Again, very handy when on holiday.

You can get samples.  If you are not sure of you want to buy a book in a book shop, or check out a book from the library, you read a few pages first. Well you can do that free on the Kindle too!

You can read something trashy and no-one will know! But if you are reading something which would make you look super intelligent, no one can see you reading it because it’s hidden in a custom kindle cover!

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A Monster Calls – A Novel by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd

  What we are reading – A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

 This book is interesting for two reasons:

  1.   It is the first book to win both The Carnegie Medal and The Greenaway Medal.
  2.   The author adapted a story originally thought up by another author;       Siobhan  Dowd.

  

 Siobhan Dowd wrote in the young adult/teenage category of children’s literature.    Her books ‘A Pure Swift Cry’ shortlisted for The Carnegie Medal in 2007, and ‘Bog   Child’ which won the award in 2009 both deal with controversial, and social realist issues.  ‘A Monster Calls’ is aimed a little younger than a typical Dowd book – which is fine: – Ness was not trying to be Dowd; he was writing her story in his own style.  The result was a book which is deep, dark and intriguing.
 
 

 

 Ness worked in his own style, on a story he adapted in his own way, and let it go in its own direction. Yet it still managed to capture the heart wrenching drama and tragedy of a Dowd book.  Her books can touch teenagers and adults alike and this story is no different. Yes, the book is about a monster-tree.  But this book about a monster-tree DOES deal with serious issues. This book about a monster-tree CAN be taken seriously by adults. Like any Dowd book, it deals with subjects that are hard to deal with:
  
 Illness and death: “I can’t stand it anymore!.. I can’t stand knowing that she’ll go!”
  

 Bullying: “Harry had tripped Conor coming into the school grounds… And so it had begun…and so it had continued.”

 Feeling guilt: the need to be punished: “Why didn’t it kill me?..  I deserve the worst.”
  
 Anger: “TEAR THE WHOLE THING DOWN!”
  
 
 The book also contains three philosophical tales told by the monster-tree.  Each of the three tales has a surprising moral to it.  The conclusions about ethics, intentions, justice and punishment are debatable, and will make the reader stop and think. 
 
 The story is not only told with Ness’s words, but also with Jim Kay’s pictures.  Each picture, scattered with minute detail is not only a superb piece in its own right, but also compliments and enhances the feel of the story.  The illustrations are thicker and darker when Conor is feeling gloomy; light and minimalist when there is hope in his life.  When Conor is feeling under pressure, the drawings engulf the pages and surround the words creating an almost claustrophobic atmosphere.

 

 This is a thrilling yet moving read, full of twists and irony.  The way the story is told is excellent.  Children will be enthralled within its world of magic and fantasy,   while adults will accept it as realistic and allegorical. The illustrations are dark and detailed; harsh yet elegant.

I wrote this for the library blog as part of Children’s Book Week (1st – 7th October 2012).  The original blog post can be found here

Oscar Wilde and all the terrible beauty of a Greek tragedy

Oscar lounging on a rock in Dublin. Picture (c) Hannah Meiklejohn, 2011

Oscar Wilde Double Review: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

I read the play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ when I was in my late teens. Having very little knowledge of Wilde at the time, I had no idea I was about to read such a funny, witty and thoroughly enjoyable play. The plot line; a man leading a double life, is in itself an intriguing idea, and Wilde spins within it his tongue-in-cheek humour and Shakespearesque confusion.  From the very beginning lines such as the one below gave me a glimpse of the comedy and nonsense that was to come:

Jack: …some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to choose for herself. You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt…

The play is about the double life of Ernest.  But who is Ernest?  Jack Worthing who lives in the country and becomes Ernest Worthing when in town? Or townsman Algernon Moncrieff who goes to the country as Jack’s own creation; Ernest Worthing?

The two men not only pretend to be another person; both men also pretend to have obligations to another person:

Algernon: You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to the town as often as you like. I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may go down into the country whenever I choose. (Act 1)

What makes ‘The Importance of being Earnest’ so good?

Witty dialogue: Lady Bracknell: To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life… (Act 1)

Cheeky conversation: Gwendolen: Had you never a brother of any kind?

Jack: Never. Not even of any kind. (Act 2)

Tongue-in-cheek humour:  Lady Bracknell: …he was eccentric… and that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion… (Act 3)

And high farce: (The two young women both have dreams of marrying a man named Ernest)

Jack: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest? (Act 1)

Cecily: I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest. (Act 2)

Although I enjoyed ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ so much that I rang my granny once I’d finished to tell her how good it was, I didn’t read Wilde again for a few years (as I’ve said before – so many books, not enough time). Then, earlier this year I picked up ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’; a book waiting on my bookshelf many years for my attention.  This is a very different book from ‘Earnest’. Apart from it being a novel, it is dark, peculiar, and has none of the humour of ‘Earnest’ (but all of the fascination with the London upper class circles).  Like Jack and Algernon, Dorian also leads a double life, although far less innocent.  The double life of Dorian is steeped in corruption, disrepute, blackmail and scandal.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ has an unusual plotline.  All the signs of age, signs of a cruel or sinful person, grow on a painting of the protagonist, instead of on his own face:

“…the face appeared to him to be a little changed…there was a touch of cruelty in the mouth.” (Chapter 7)

All physical unpleasantness appears only on the painting, allowing Dorian to become as despicable as he pleases, as few people would believe a man with a lovely face could be so corrupt:

“Those finely-shaped fingers could never have clutched a knife for sin, nor those smiling lips have cried out on God and goodness. He himself could not help wondering at the calm of his demeanor, and for a moment felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life.” (Chapter 15)

What makes ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ so good?

Murder: “…and dug the knife into the great vein that is behind the ear…” (Chapter 13)

Suicide: “She had no right to kill herself. It was selfish of her.” (Chapter 8)

Hedonism:The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield it.”(Chapter 2)

Loose morals: “A man maybe happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.” (Chapter 15)

Verdict

While ‘Earnest’ is a light-hearted, comical play, ‘Dorian Gray’ is a dark, and gripping novel.  Both stories are masterfully written.  Ernest will leave you laughing, while Dorian will leave you thinking.  Well worth reading.
Importance of Being Earnest

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics)

Collins Classics – Complete Works of Oscar Wilde