Reading


Two years ago, I made a virtual visit to Shetland using Google Maps after watching a television version of Ann Cleves’s book, Dead Water.

This time, my virtual visit is to the Isle of Lewis. Lewis is far closer to the Scottish mainland than Shetland, but my overall impression was the same: wind, salt water, and weather.

Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

 

The reason for my virtual visit to the Western Isles is the book The Blackhouse by Peter May. I listened to it on Audible, and am now onto the next book, The Lewis Man.

In the book, Peter May writes so vividly that you all but cringe because of the drops of brine from The Minch shot into your face by the wind. My only connection to this part of the world is remembering my dad reminiscing about when we lived in England and he, like Mrs. Bale on the television show As Time Goes By, listened to the shipping forecast. My dad’s recollection of the information about the Scottish Isles was “gale force winds.”

The Blackhouse is a character-driven story. Everything hinges on Detective Inspector Fin Macleod’s background as he comes back to the Isle of Lewis to look into a murder with similar details to one he’s investigating in Edinburgh. In the reviews on Goodreads, this focus on character seems to be a love it or hate it factor. Some reviewers strenuously object to the focus on the importance of character rather than puzzle, but the book still has a solid 4-star (out of five) rating. As I’ve bought the next Audible book in the series, I can say that I enjoyed Peter May’s method of telling the story.

May’s story echoes historic events on the island. In my Google Maps drive around the island, I came to a beach I’d seen mentioned on road signs. Near the beach stands a memorial to a group of fishermen who were lost at sea.

A significant theme in the book is the culture of the island and the lore of the guga hunters, “guga” being the local name for the chicks of a seabird otherwise known as the gannet. May’s description matches the scenes in this video, but he doesn’t dwell on the “acquired taste” for the guga.

For my virtual travel, the combination of reading May’s story, my expedition via Google Maps, plus the guga video and article, provide an excellent (and passportless) outing to the Scottish Isles, with no jet lag.

Tickets, please!

Again, instead of making resolutions, I’m re-reading Barbara Holland’s 1995 book, Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences.

Happy New Year!

By no means am I on the cutting edge of anything.  In my literary life, I still haven’t recovered from:

  • the loss of my local bookstore
  • the disappearance of B. Dalton & Walden Books
  • A Common Reader going down in flames
  • Borders falling off the map
  • Barnes & Noble changing from a discount catalog for remaindered books into the local bookstore

Now it looks as if a Chrome extension has Amazon in it’s sights.

Chrome Extension Turns Amazon into a Catalog for Oyster’s eBook Subscription Service, 1 Feb 2015, Ink, Bits & Pixels

And thanks to the plugins, readers have the opportunity to ask themselves if they really want to buy the book they’re looking at, rather than read it in Oyster’s apps for Android, iPad/iPhone, and their web browser.

I can’t keep up with it all — probably a result of being one of those people who thinks 1990 was ten years ago. To put an even more elderly gloss on my situation, I was fifteen when Alvin Toffler first published Future Shock.

Yeah, yeah, I know: “Alvin who?

Mr. Toffler enlightened a generation about the awareness of information overload, coupled with the stress and disorientation of continual frequent change.  In modern parlance, remember when there were no smart phones to perpetually upgrade?  About the only consistent feature of today’s consumer environment is that whatever you’re using is almost guaranteed to be archaic long before it wears out.

Not so long ago, using old stuff just showed you were unfashionable, out of date, unhip.  You couldn’t get out of the box, man, because you were the box. At worst, you were L7 (hold up your fingers so that you have your left thumb & index finger as an L and your right ones as a 7 — put them together): a square.

Today, using old stuff doesn’t make you just uncool, it can leave you stranded (hence, why poor people need cell phones). You’d be left out of most loops because not only is your gizmo old (at least by one year), but it can’t connect to anything.  Just try getting that information off those floppy disks in the bottom of that drawer, or watch a VHS tape. How much longer will anyone bother producing devices to play DVDs or CDs?

Given Amazon’s effect on businesses-you-can-actually-drive-to, I don’t know that I’ll mourn the company’s possible twilight (although I love being able to find esoteric items that businesses-I-could-drive-to never had). The effect of always expecting future shock, though, has me already wondering not only what’s going to replace Oyster, but who is going to make it worthwhile for authors to produce any new work.

Magic.  E-publishing is magic.

Until about half an hour ago, I had a “Kindle app” only on my Ipod Touch I-gizmo.  For most purposes, reading on the I-gizmo was satisfactory but lately I’ve been buying instructional books and I wanted to make notes.  Using the I-gizmo to read books from which I want to take notes is do-able but the screen keeps turning off while I type (and if there is an off-button for the auto-off function, I haven’t found it).  If I take notes from the books, I also have to flip back and forth between reading the I-gizmo and typing on the computer.  Because of this, I bit the bullet and clicked on the Kindle app for computers.  Actually, I only clicked near the Kindle app button to find out more, but whaddya know, I’d downloaded something.

Seeing that I’d already taken that first step in putting a Kindle app on my laptop, I kept on clicking.  The app-fairies did their bit and, within a minute, all my e-books were neatly lined up awaiting my merest click.

I know that we all take for granted the stuff that we grow up with, which for my generation would be

  • Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor
  • televisions,  tape recorders and party-line telephones
  • supermarkets, yellow margarine and tv-dinners
  • Snoopy, Dagwood and Alfred E. Newman
  • Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
  • jet planes, the USSR and bomb shelters
  • Elvis, the Beatles and the Monkees
  • rock & roll, Dick Clark and teenagers (as a population demographic and not just as people older than 12 and younger than 20)

Just as all the above seemed as natural as air to me and my peers (but maybe not our parents), it seems as if the e-reading devices have been around for a long time.  In reality it has only been within the last decade or so that the computer capability explosion has magnificently rocked the amount of stuff — books, music, movies and games — made almost instantly available to customers.  The Kindle e-reader was introduced only in 2007.

I don’t know whether Hermione Granger could have conjured up dead-tree books any faster than my installation of the Kindle app, and if that’s not magic, [insert Harry Potter wand-wave] Publarium computatis!, I don’t know what is.

On an email list, the question of the week was what titles the members had read this month.  I decided to answer it, just for fun, out of curiosity about how many books I had read.  I didn’t think it would be many.

In searching my Audible books, my Kindle app, the Nook and my overdue library notices, I found that I could reliably say I’d read:

  1. Gunpowder Plot, Carola Dunn
  2. The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth (audio)
  3. The Woodcutter, Reginald Hill (audio)
  4. Never Tell A Lie, Hallie Ephron
  5. Still Waters, Nigel McCreary
  6. Pictures of Perfection, Reginald Hill
  7. The Clocks, Agatha Christie (audio)
  8. At Home, Bill Bryson (audio)
  9. Roseanna, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (begun)

Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope is an ongoing project, dipped into when I remember to do so, but it’s been going on so long that I don’t think I ought to include it in the August total.  (the photo doesn’t count, either, as I was 14 when it was taken — The Emperor’s Pearl by Robert van Gulik)

The audio books are listened to during my two-mile walk each day (or as many ‘each days’ as I insist that I do — willing spirit, reluctant flesh and all that), so I’m assuming they bump up the total.  Still, I’ve managed more than I expected.

Now, if only I’d written as many words as I’ve consumed.  Mr. Trollope, who held a full-time job while he wrote, would tsk.

I can’t write about my fiction because, first off, it’s not yet published and that makes the stories difficult to promote.  They are accumulating, but the process is slow.  I also can’t write about my fiction as that would decrease the pressure I’m feeling to have it published.  Telling you that my heroine will be doing this, that or the other thing soothes my itch to tell her story.

I have drafts of general-interest blog posts, but they languish on the hard drive because the very act of writing them to demonstrate my superior way of thinking about the topics showed me I was right.  Once I’d shown myself the validity of my thinking, I didn’t need to tell everyone else about it.   (you’re welcome)

All the reasons I have for not writing leaves me with a problem — a blog needs entries to keep it from being Just Another WordPress Blog.  To keep things active, I’ve put together a list of Other Peoples’ Writings for your reading enjoyment.  I found these blog entries either amusing, illuminating or fun (and yes, Scalzi’s the outlier, but so worth it).

Happy reading!

In other news, I am presently enjoying Donna Leon’s latest book Beastly Things.

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