Author Archive

Cloud versus device

- September 18th, 2014

I have  a question for readers of this blog? If you have an e-reader, or tablet, do you like to leave your books int he cloud or do you download them to your device?

I use the iPad mini and for a couple of years, I kept my books on my device. But Kindle app users will note that at the bottom of the screen is a toggle that allows you to go back and forth between cloud and device. Books download so quickly that I started to only access my books from the cloud. The only books on my device were the books I hadn’t read yet. But if for some reason I wanted to browse my library, it was easy enough by simply tapping the cloud button.

Then I started to get paranoid. What if Internet access was down? What if Amazon just decided to delete my books, which they can do if you’re violating any of their policies (which I don’t think I am). What if I went on vacation and forgot to download some books ahead of time? Yes, I know, most hotels have free Internet. But recently I decided that I want all my books with me and the best way to guarantee that is to have them all on the device.

So what type of reader are you? A cloud reader or a device reader? Let me know.

Book bucket challenge

- September 16th, 2014

I saw on Facebook a thing called the book bucket challenge, a takeoff on the ice bucket challenge. The idea is to list the 10 books that have influenced you the most. I’d have trouble coming up with my 10 because I’ve read so many books over the years and I don’t remember them all. But here are five that stand out.

Hunting for Hidden Gold: This Hardy Boys books was one of the first books I received from my mother who passed away when I was 12. I don’t remember my mother being a reader but it’s not necessarily something I would have noticed at that age. I actually received quite a few Hardy Boys books over the years and I still have them.

The Dynamite Flynns: Written by Leslie McFarlane, this is a book about two hockey playing brothers that I got as a kid. It was a book I had for a long time. It might be with the Hardy Boys at my sister’s house.

Great Apes: This was the first Will Self novel I read. I think it was 1997 when I bought it on a trip to Florida for a job interview. Up until that time, I was mostly a mystery reader. I had tried some literary fiction, but often was bored. I needed action. I needed a story to move in an obvious manner. I needed something solved. Reading about a slice of life, I just didn’t get the point. But reading Great Apes opened my eyes to other genres other than mysteries.

The Dreadful Lemon Sky: This Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald opened my eyes to what I call smart mysteries, novels that focus on character and observation as well as action or plot. I was 13 or 14 years old and I spent every weekend at the family cottage. Two young people — although I thought them old at the time — lived in an old run-down farm house nearby. We called them hippies because they matched the stereotypes. They didn’t work. In the summer, Randy would pick tobacco in Ontario, then live on EI or something through the winter. Often they weren’t up until mid-afternoon and stayed up all night. Or so it seemed. Randy took a look at my book and record collection and then started making some suggestions. The Dreadful Lemon Sky was one of those books. He said it was significantly better than any Ian Fleming novel I had been reading.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. This was a real challenge at the age of 13, or at least it was from me, but Randy considered it a must read. I still have his copy of the book all these years later. He also gave me a copy of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (That’s six books I can think of)

So how did these books influence me? Well, the books I got as a child simply opened my eyes to reading. It was fun to read. I enjoyed it. It’s something I still enjoy and look forward to doing on most days.

The last three books opened my mind to the power of books, how they could change your thinking or the way you viewed the world. Even if I didn’t agree with the author, I knew that there were other beliefs out there a lot different from what was in my own little world.

Great Apes made me realize books didn’t have to be easy reads. Great Apes was not an easy read. In fact, Will Self is not always an easy read, especially when the author is on record saying he doesn’t write for readers.

I’m sure there are many other books that had made an impact on me. I’ll do some thinking and see if I can come up with four more.

Young people read

- September 15th, 2014

A new Pew Research study concludes that more millennials read books than their elders.

That’s quite interesting. I’m curious as to whether they read a print edition or an e-edition.  The report says 88% of Americans between the ages of 16-29 have read at least one book in the past year. And about 43% of those millennials read books on a daily basis. Only 79% of people older than 30 read at least one book in the past year.

Interesting numbers. It could be that younger people have more free time to read. Once you’re 30 or older, there’s a greater chance you’re married, maybe have kids. And that means less time to read.

Personally, I think we all have a little more time to read. We all have what I call disposable time. Some choose to listen to music, others might exercise or go play a sport, others catch up on chores around the house, some garden … and some read.

Inspired by children

- September 12th, 2014

Former journalist Nathalie Trepanier, who also did a stint with the Ottawa Sun, came out with a children’s book earlier this year called My Heart Never Lies. I had a chance to do a Q&A with her by e-mail. Here is the first Q&A of the interview.

Q. First, congratulations on the book and the website. They look great. Kids often say things that amaze us for their clarity and profoundness. Do you remember one of the first things your daughter said that made you stop and think, wow, this is something I need to share?

A. When Dominique was five, she did something to her sister that wasn’t nice. I was surprised because she is usually a very considerate and sensitive child. I sent her to her room as punishment and told her to consider her actions. On the way, she ran into her father, who asked her why she would do something like that. She thought about it very briefly and explained: “You know Daddy, I just didn’t listen to my heart. My mouth doesn’t always tell the truth,” she confessed. “But my heart never lies. My heart was telling me not to do it but my hands wouldn’t listen.” I happened to overhear the conversation and was truly struck by how simple and yet how profound her insight had been. In a few short words and at such a young age, my five-year-old daughter had essentially captured our basic impulses. As we age and perhaps get a little overwhelmed by the complexities of life, I think we over-complicate our responses. Sometimes, we just need to listen to our heart. My daughter had just taught me a valuable lesson. As parents, we are conditioned to assume the role of teacher. Obviously, that is usually appropriate but occasionally we need to take a lesson from our children. They have a simple, untainted perspective that can be as inspiring as it is sometimes funny. We need to empower children to use their voices and influence those around them to perhaps make the world a better place. I have a tendency to write down the cute things my children say as a sort of keepsake so I was quick to put Dominique’s words on paper. But I started to think that it was almost selfish to keep her message buried in a book only I would see. I wanted and needed to share those words more broadly. The seeds of a children’s book were first planted.

 

Lee Child’s Personal

- September 11th, 2014

Here are some initial thoughts on the latest novel in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.

As usual, it’s a great novel. Crisp writing, great dialogue, crazy situation. I remember when I read the first Reacher novel. Although I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but think, seriously, this guy has decided to move around America aimlessly, and on one of his first days, he’s picked up for murder, and his brother turns out to be the victim? Come on, Lee. You want me to buy all that? I can’t remember why, but I moved onto book 2. I think it might have been as simple as Amazon had the earlier novels selling for less than $10. By book 4, I was hooked.

I’ve actually come to love Reacher’s self-assurance and his zen-like approach to violence. And the dialogue. There are times I re-read passages. I read them to my wife. I say, listen to this, and then I launch into it. I try to deliver it dead-pan, as I imagine Reacher doing. Isn’t that great, I’ll ask. The response: I’m glad you’re enjoying your book.

Okay, so she’s not too excited. But that’s okay. Because I am enjoying this book. The bad news is I’ll be finished it tonight and I’ll have to wait some time for a new Reacher novel.