Pros and Cons of the Sony Digital Reader

Sony Digital ReaderI’m a fan of technology and try to keep on top of new technology; unfortunately my bills would not get paid if I decided to buy everything that caught my eye. When I won the Sony Digital Reader at HohoTO on December 16, I was excited because I was curious about eReaders, but hadn’t decided if I was going to buy one or not.

I tested out the Digital Reader by reading “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” and afterward, came up with a pros and cons list for the device. If you have more to add please share.

Pros

  • Great for travel/space saver – They’re perfect for long trips where I would not want to pack a few books and riding the subway in the morning can be quite the sardine in a can experience, so lugging around a large hardcover book can be hard to read. With the eReader I had no problem holding on to one of the poles while reading on the jammed subway. This leads to more reading getting done!
  • Environmentally friendly – Of course books are made of paper, so if everyone had an eReader, the effect on the environment would be astonishing, I’m sure. I’m not sure what goes in to making an eReader, so I can’t comment on that being more dangerous to the environment or not.
  • I returned to the library – The Toronto Public Library has eBooks, so being cheap as I am, this is a good option when I don’t feel like spending money and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to return the book.
  • Book-like screen appearance – The difference between the Sony eReader and the iPad for example, is that you don’t have the annoying computer screen shining in your face. I was shocked at how realistic it looked when I turned it on for the first time.
  • Great battery life – The battery on the reader is amazing. While reading the book I had it in standby mode most of the time and I believe I only had to charge it once in the (give or take a week) month I was reading the book. That was a pleasant surprise for me.
  • Touchscreen – My iPod Touch, now iPhone 4 have made using anything without a touch interface difficult, so having the option to swipe the screen or click a button to change the page was perfect. There were times when I preferred one over the other and I was happy for the option.

Cons

  • Not a real book – One of the reasons why I hadn’t bought an eReader was simply because I like the tactile feeling of reading a book. Turning the pages and seeing the progress made to the end feels like more of an accomplishment to me than just clicking ‘next’ 500 times and finishing.
  • Lack of ownership – I like to buy books and have them on my shelf; I own them. With digital content, for any device, not just eReaders, it doesn’t feel like it was worth buying because I don’t have it in my hand. I got over that for music, but I still have DVDs and books on my shelves – something I don’t see changing any time soon.
  • Harder to share – eReaders have the option (I believe) to send a book to a friend, but that means your friends have to also have an eReader. With books I like to lend them out to friends and family when I can, so until everyone has an eReader I’ll stick to the old fashioned way.
  • Not great in all light situations – While the screen looks great, I found with an actual book I was able to read in bed with my not-so-bright lamp, but with the device, I had to lie awkwardly so the light hit it better. I tried adjusting the settings but it didn’t compare.
  • No more shopping for books – I enjoy going to book stores for the fun of it – just about the only shopping I can tolerate for long periods of time. If I had to search through an online store I’d be missing out on that great in-store experience.

Overall I had a good experience with the Digital Reader and I’m definitely ‘for them’ in theory, but I prefer to an old-fashioned book more often than not; I can’t justify buying ebooks just to read them on the subway (but if I could find them in the library’s online archive I would gladly do so). Also, for long trips I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my Digital Reader with me because I think it is perfect for that situation.

A journey to The Lake of Dreams

Kim Edwards - Chapters IndigoMy journey began on February 7 when Kim Edwards, author of “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter“, came to Chapters-Indigo at the Manulife Centre in Toronto to discuss her latest book, “The Lake of Dreams” with the Globe & Mail’s Sarah Hampson. Since her first book was such a memorable read, I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend. Looking back at notes I took from that night, the discussion was focused a lot on Edwards’ usage of time in the two novels. Here are a few of the points where the two parallel:

  • Edwards spoke of the main characters being drawn to the past. Nora from Memory Keeper clung to the daughter she believed died at birth, and often wondered what would have been, always feeling that longing; Lucy clings to the past through notes she finds, and hopes to find a history of her family that gives women a voice.
  • The era’s the characters were in came with a lot of social change. Nora’s story began in the 60s where women were fighting for social changes and Lucy was looking back on a time where Rose, her long-lost ancestor was a suffragette working to get women the vote.
  • There is also a large time span seen in both novels. In Memory Keeper it begins in the 60s but eventually ends in the latter part of the 20th century and spans many changing values in society. The same can be said for Lake of Dreams which spans nearly an entire century from the early 1910s until present time.

My review

“The Lake of Dreams” was another example of Edwards’ excellent writing skill, and while the story itself wasn’t the most exciting for me, this made up for it, when I could have easily gotten quite bored.

The story is mostly set in modern day upstate New York where the protagonist, Lucy, finds herself feeling lost at sea, having never gotten over the death of her father years prior, and more recently having trouble adjusting to her new life with her boyfriend Yoshi in Japan. While visiting her mother in the small town she grew up in, Lucy finds a link to a bit of family history that was long-forgotten. Looking for meaning in her life, this was a chance for Lucy to connect with her past in a way that pretty much pre-occupied most of her time.

I enjoyed reading about Lucy’s (and Rose’s) journey, and her finding some meaning in her life, along with closure to drama that had been bubbling for years, but to me it isn’t a memorable novel that I look forward to reading multiple times, like “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”. That being said, I can’t wait for Kim Edwards’ next novel because of her writing style and great characters. I give “The Lake of Dreams” a 3/5

The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest: An end to the Millenium

It took a while, but I finally got around to reading the final book in the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest“. Before continuing, feel free to check out my reviews of “The girl with the dragon tattoo” and “The girl who played with fire” if you haven’t already.

I don’t recall reading too many trilogies, outside of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Christ Clone Trilogy“, but one thing I’ve come to notice the third can be a bit of a let down, since the second usually contains the meat of the story. This one was no different. Throughout the final book, Lisbeth Salander is kept out of the action, and Mikael Blomkvist is thrust into the forefront as he uses his investigative skills to help dismiss the many charges laid against her. To me, what made the books work best was the combination of Blomkvist and Salander working “together”.

One other piece of criticism I had with the book was way too much repetition. I understand that authors like to give readers a refresher of the story, but I found myself skipping paragraphs as they went through a constant rehashing of events.

All that being said, the final scenes in the courtroom were entertaining, and helped end the series off well. As was expected, the storyline cleaned itself up conveniently and the good guys got off scott free and the bad guys went to jail for their crimes.

I hate giving this one a low score but overall I just wasn’t that into this third installment: 2/5

For the series though, I just have to do the math (4/5 + 4/5 + 2/5) = 10/15

What did you think of the series? Were you let down by the final book or did you think it was a good end to the series?

Adiga brings it with Between the Assassinations

Between the Assassinations

If you have read The White Tiger, you won’t be disappointed Aravind Adiga‘s followup, Between the Assassinations. Adiga takes his readers to the fictional coastal city of Kittur in Southwest India and gives a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of some of its residents.

The stories in the book take place “between the assassinations” of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and her son (who became prime minister in 1984) Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. While the city and the people may be made up, the issues they face are very real for those in India. The book deals with everything from issues of caste, sexual disease, drug problems, political corruption, the influx of villagers seeking a better life in the city, and much more.

Coming in to the novel I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get into it, due to the jumping from one short story to the next. Fortunately, Adiga managed to write compelling stories with strong characters and I was hooked on the majority of them. The one criticism I can point out was that there didn’t feel like any conclusion or tying up of loose ends, which I’m so used to. I understand it was a glimpse into the daily lives and not meant to be a long tale, but some cases they felt clipped and left me wanting more (in a bad way).

If you decide to read Between the Assassinations, it’s great for travel or the daily commute into work. You’ll be able to read each story and feel a small sense of accomplishment each time you finish a story.

I’m happy Adiga’s sophomore output wasn’t a disappointment, as many are, so I’m anticipating his next release, which I hope comes sooner rather than later. I give Between the Assassinations a 4/5.

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought.

Top 5 books I’ve read in 2010

I love to read. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this clear over the last while, and if you’re regular reader of my blog you’ll see my many book reviews. I tried to read 26 books in 52 weeks, but it appears that may have been too lofty of a goal – it might have something with me reading books that are 800+ pages too.

Anyway, I think I’ve read enough to compile a serious top 5 list of my favourites. This is a list of the top books I’ve read this year; they didn’t necessarily come out this year. I’ve included a link to the previous reviews I’ve given so as not to repeat myself again and again:

5. The Girl Who Played With Fire

This is the second book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and I felt the character development of Lisbeth Salander was much better than the first, where she was still a bit of a mystery. Find out more from my review which I posted on July 23.

4. Gratitude

A great World War II novel that takes place in Hungary, which I liked, because anytime I read something, fictional or non-fictional, that happens outside of countries like Germany, England or the United States, I have a better appreciation of what happened during the war. Here’s my review which I posted on February 24.

3. Secret Daughter

An amazing book about the culture clash that occurs between couples coming from very different backgrounds and how that can affect families as the children of those couples grow and want to adapt to one culture or the other. My review of “Secret Daughter” was posted on September 29.

2. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

An amazing story about a father who made the decision to give up his first born daughter because she had Down’s Syndrome. He lied to his wife and told her she was a still born, but for years he held the secret, and his wife went into a deep depression, which affected her love for the boy they later had together. You can read the rest of my review, which I posted on May 5.

1. Through Black Spruce

In 2009, Joseph Boyden’s first novel “Three Day Road” made it to number two on my top five list of fiction books, in 2010, he’s improved on that with “Through Black Spruce”.

To steal from my earlier review of the book (my first review of 2010), “This is story is a universal one of self discovery. The path the characters take aren’t ones they’d want to go through, but because of those experiences they have a  stronger understanding of who they are and what’s important to them, in the end.”

I’m anxiously awaiting the planned third book in this series, and who knows, if it comes out in 2011, it may make the top of the pile again!

What is your top book you read this year? Did any of the books I read make it?

%d bloggers like this: