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Category Archives: Reading

Managing your Kindle Collections

I love my Kindle. I do not love its way of handling collections. It’s a hassle to organize books into collections, and I like having my books organized, so just having all of them in the “root” of my Kindle wasn’t going to work for me. On previous ereaders it was possible to create folders while having the ereader connected to my computer, and organize the files that way. The Kindle didn’t work that way. Besides, collections are more like tags than folders, as each book can be assigned to more than one collection.

Fortunately there are various programs out there that help you manage your Kindle collections. I’ve tried out three of them and will give a brief (or not so brief 😉 ) review of each.

Kindle Collection Manager
This was the first one I found. It’s free and does the job it was made for. It’s main disadvantage is that it doesn’t visually show which books have been added to collections, so if you’re looking at the main overview (“all books”), you have to remember how far you’ve come and which books you’ve already sorted.

Kindle collection for Calibre
I thought this would be perfect! A plugin for Calibre to keep my books organized, what could go wrong? Quite a bit unfortunately, and this turned out to be the least useful manager of the lot. In fact, it ended up undoing quite a lot of the sorting I’d done.

The problem arises if you have books on your Kindle that aren’t in Calibre (which I do) and want both types of books to be in the same collections (which I did). Calibre overwrites the collections on your Kindle, so rather than just adding extra books, it deleted the original collection and added only books from Calibre to the new collection – leaving me with hundreds of books no longer sorted :-/

As an additional hassle, the plugin doesn’t seem to be able to handle books in multiple collections. Instead it creates a new collection that is a concatenation of the two original ones (e.g. “Currently reading, fantasy”). I quickly stopped using that one.

Kindlean
Last, but definitely not least. Kindlean is so far without a doubt the best collection manager I’ve found. It’s free for the first 100 books, if you have more than that (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) it costs US$19.95. I’ve found it to be well worth the price though!

Kindlean offers a nice-looking interface that allows you to edit the meta data on books as well as adding the books to one or multiple collections (either by drag-and-drop or by editing the meta data). So far I’ve encountered a few books where I couldn’t edit the meta data (I got either an “UNKNOWN” error or the ever popular “Object reference not set to an instance of an object” error which all programmers know to hate), but out of 475 books I think I encountered 5 of those, so I’m assuming corrupt books rather than an actual bug in the program (appart from usability issues anyway 😉 )

Of the three, I would recommend Kindlean as the best program, but the two others do have the advantage of being free, and can be equally helpful once you’re aware of their limitations.

If you know of any other collection managers, I’d love to hear of them 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Reading

 

If You Liked… Try…

I love giving out book recommendations, and fortunately people seem to enjoy asking me for them 🙂 This seemed like as good a reason as any to add a new feature to this blog.

If You Liked [book] try [book].

I do, of course, take requests 🙂

All links go to GoodReads.

If you liked The Maze Runner by James Dashner: try Singularity or House of Stairs by William Sleator.

If you liked Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: try Erec Rex by Kaza Kingsley or Companions Quartet by Julia Golding.

If you liked Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder: try The Year of Plenty by Rebecca LeeAnne Brammer.

If you liked Divergent by Veronica Roth: try The Giver by Lois Lowry or Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

If you liked The Host by Stephenie Meyer: try Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (and vice versa).

If you liked Room by Emma Donoghue: try Still Missing by Chevy Stevens.

If you liked The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: try The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

If you liked 11/22/63 by Stephen King: try Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis.

If you liked Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs: try Divas Don’t Knit by Gil McNeil.

If you liked The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis: try by Lev Grossman

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Reading, Recommendations

 

Top Ten Literary Pet Peeves

10. Abundant Grammatical Errors I don’t mind the occasional typo, but do have your book proofread! I’ve mentioned the horror that was The Christmas Wish before and that is a perfect example of how to convince me NOT to just ignore mistakes. And don’t ever, ever, ever write could/would/should of. It literally makes me want to shudder, and I hate that I just had to write it here myself.
Worst offender: “The Christmas Wish” by Karen Farrell Jaworski

9. Unnecessary Unhappy Endings Some books have to have unhappy endings, I get that, but if everything looks as if it’s going to end perfectly, only to fall apart within the last 5 pages, then that’s unnecessary.
Worst offender: “The Partner” by John Grisham

8. Unrealistic Happy Endings I’ll be honest and say that I generally prefer a happy ending to an unhappy one, but I don’t want a happy ending by any means possible. I hate reading books where 95% of the book has people being utterly mean and cruel to each other, and then have everything fixed up, lickety-split in the last 5 pages. I don’t want to have to read through 395 pages of unhappiness to get 5 pages of happiness! It’s just not worth it!
Worst offender: “My Sweet Audrina” by V.C. Andrews

7. Lack of Pacing I guess this one is linked to the two above. Don’t try to fit the closure of a long novel into two short pages. Give the resolution the page-time it needs, or the book will end up feeling rushed and badly written.
Worst offender: “The Nany Diaries” by Emma McLaughlin

6. Love Triangles From Gone With the Wind to Twilight and pretty much every paranormal romance since. Give it a rest already! Love triangles and a love for “Wuthering Heights” (which is pretty much a literary pet peeve all in itself!) do not a good novel make! I could cope with it in Twilight because at least the chemistry was believable – NOT something I can claim for most of its subsequent clones.
Worst offender: “Evermore” by Alyson Noël

5. Evil Characters Who Aren’t Brought to Justice for Their Evil Deeds Also known as the “Death is too good for you, so why did you just die?” pet peeve. I know real life isn’t like that, but in books I’d like my villains to be held accountable for what they’ve done, and too often authors end up just killing them off instead. Deeply frustrating.
Worst offenders: “Still Missing” by Chevy Stevens and “A Week From Sunday” by Dorothy Garlock

4. Umbridge I couldn’t figure out how to sum it up, but really to anybody who’s read Harry Potter, her name explains it all. Characters that are too evil to become villains we love to hate. Characters that we hate to hate and who end up ruining an otherwise good book for us. I doubt I’ll ever reread OotP.
Worst offender: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling

3. 10.000 Book Series I love series as much as the next person, but I want to be sure that there is a resolution to whatever main arc the series is about before I start out on the journey. One thing I loved about Harry Potter is that we knew from the start that there would be only 7 books, so we would eventually get a resolution to Voldemort. Whenever I start a series that’s a WIP I worry that the author tires of the series before its completed, and we will forever be left without closure.
Worst offender: “Animorphs” by Katherine Applegate

2. Cliffhangers Look, if there was too much plot to fit into a book of a given size, then write a longer book! Don’t write us off with a cliffhanger that basically turns the book into half a book! There are exceptions, of course. I don’t mind it in “Blackout”/”All-Clear” because Connie Willis originally intended for it to be one book, but was told to split it up into two by her publisher. Nor do I mind series where the main plot is left unresolved until the last book, but the plots of the individual books are solved in each one. An example of a series that does this perfectly is Harry Potter. Each book is a book in itself as well as a chapter in the longer book that contains the entire series.
Worst offender: “A Voice in the Wind” – Francine Rivers

And my all-time biggest pet peeve…
1. “And Then He Woke Up And It Was All A Dream”-Endings Or the lesser known but almost as annoying “And Then It Turned Out That He Was Schizophrenic”-Endings. Thankfully they are few and far between, but they absolutely ruin books for me. Especially if – as was the case with one memorable book – I saw it a mile off and kept thinking, “No! They can’t pull that one. Really? They’re going THERE? Sheesh!”
Worst offenders: “Thr3e” by Ted Dekker and “Tell Me Your Dreams” by Sidney Sheldon

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Reading

 

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart A Little
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult I know this book gets a lot of flack for being emotionally maniputive, but it honestly worked for me. I loved it, and it broke my heart.

Rilla of Ingleside – Lucy Maud Montgomery I have to warn Lars whenever I’m reading this so he knows not to worry if (when!) I start crying.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger I never fully realized how tragic the book actually is until I watched the movie together with somebody who hadn’t read the book. I still love it though.

The Other Side of Dawn – John Marsden The final book in the “Tomorrow” series. I can’t remember when I’ve last sobbed this hard over a book. All Ellie and her friends have to go through… Horrifying!

Flowers in the Attic – Virginia Andrews This book was a trainwreck! I was horrified but couldn’t look away. One of the few books that broke my heart and didn’t put it back together again.

The Last Battle – C.S. Lewis Okay, this is heartbreak of a very different kind, but this description of Heaven is the most beautiful I’ve ever read, The term is over, the holidays have begun. The dream is ended, this is the morning.. Amen!

New Moon – Stephenie Meyer Those four pages with just “November”, “December”, “January” and “February” written on them? Shivers down my spine every time. Stephenie Meyer could not have found a more poignant way to describe exactly how those four months were for Bella. Sometimes less really is more. Elaborating would have made it too heavy-handed. I know Stephenie Meyer isn’t the best author, but those four words show better writing skills than I’ve seen almost anywhere else.

Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon All the Outlander books are heartbreaking in some way, but this one more than most. Jamie and Claire are such an awesome couple!

If I Stay – Gayle Forman One of the few books where the heartbreak wasn’t contained to just a couple of chapters, but was spread out throughout the book. An amazing book, but so very, very sad.

Hate List – Jennifer Brown A different kind of heartbreak than most of the books listed above. This shows what can make a person crack, and the repercussions not only to the obvious victims, but also to people thought on his side.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Reading

 

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Language of choice

One question I get on a fairly regular basis is why I read so much English and so little Danish. Fair enough question, and as the answer is a composite of many different factors, I thought it appropriate to answer here.

In the following I use “English” as an umbrella to cover all books written in this language. I know that some are English, some are American, some are Australian etc. etc. etc., but it just gets to cumbersome to have to write that out every time.

Reason One: Whether English or Danish, I generally prefer to read books in the language they were written. The only exceptions are books I grew up with before I learned English (e.g. the Narnia chronicles) and authors like Shakespeare where the level of English is just a tad above my capabilities. I don’t care to read books in Danish just for the sake of them being in Danish (same goes for English though).

Reason Two: English books are generally cheaper Even in Denmark. This goes double for ebooks.

Reason Three: There is a larger selection of books by English authors This means that even if the percentage of good books is the same, there is a larger number to chose from (I know the same is true of bad books though…). And the selection of Danish ebooks and audiobooks is ridiculously small.

Reason Four: It’s harder to find books by Danish authors. Not just because there are fewer in number, but because in pretty much all bookstores, libraries etc. novels in Danish are all lumped together, so it’s not immediately obvious whether any given book is written by a Dane or merely a Danish translation. Books in English (here at least) are more likely to be English in origin.

Reason Five: I have very few favourite Danish authors I know, I know, what is cause and what is effect? But regardless, I know of four Danish authors I’d include on my “favourites” list, one of those is only there because of exactly one book, and another stopped writing books some 40-50 odd years ago. I know of no contemporary dependable* Danish writers of chick-lit or fantasy for instance.

* = always read-worthy.

Reason Six: Most of my owned books are in English See reasons 1-5 above. And as I want to get through my tbr-mountain, I read a lot in English.

Reason Seven: I like sharing books with other people One of the very best things about reading is sharing book recommendations with other people. Pretty much everybody I share books with in Denmark are able to read English, but pretty much nobody I share books with elsewhere are able to read Danish. So if I want to discuss books online, I have to read books that are either in English or have been translated to English.

Reason Eight: Not all the books I read are even translated to Danish And the collary: even if they are, it may be ages before they’re published in Danish. Not all books are as popular as “Harry Potter” that they’re translated immediately. I don’t have the patience to wait for Danish translations to be ready when the English ones are right there.

Out of all of these, reasons one and seven are the two most important ones. Reason seven determines my choice of author, and reason one determines which language I read that author in. They all count though; and in fact, I’m sure I’ll think of more the minute I click “Post” here.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Reading

 

Organizing Books

If you’ve known me for even a brief amount of time, you’ll known that I’m ever so slightly OCD when it comes to arranging my books. At home my books are sorted into four categories: fiction, non-fiction, textbooks and cook-books. Within each category (with the exception of cookbooks) they are sorted first alphabetically by author, and then alphabetically by title (with the exception of series which are arranged by reading order instead of alphabetically). I love organizing books, and my sisters have been known to ask me to come over for the sole purpose of getting me to arrange their books for them! (Love sisters who know me!)

As the Internet became more and more versatile, book listing sites began to slowly pop up around the place. During the years I have been a member of several – some with more success than others.

I think the very first one I joined was Chainreading.com (I also think this site is no longer active as I haven’t been able to access it for quite awhile). It was very basic and unfortunately not all that good. On Chainreading you could list books you wanted to read, books you were currently reading, and books you wanted to recommend to others. There was no way of listing books you had read, but didn’t like. And so, even though I liked the interface, I quickly moved on.

Lists of Bests wasn’t much better though. At least here you could list whether a book was “worth consuming” or “not worth consuming”, but that was it. Again, I quickly moved on.

The first site I really fell in love with was Bibliophil.org. Now we were talking! Finally a site where apart from just adding books to a list, I could sort into sublists according to genre, add a rating and a date for when I read the book! The interface was pretty primitive, but I could live with that, considering that it had all those other things going for it. It wasn’t really much of a social site, but I could live with that, as long as I could properly organize my books 🙂 I think this one is slowly going too though – I can still access the site, but I can’t log on…

Then suddenly along came LibraryThing. I clicked over to see what that was all about, and loved the look and feel of the place, so I was all ready and eager to sign up… until I discovered that the site was only free for the first 200 books added. Any more than that, and you had to pay for a permanent account. I don’t remember the amount any longer, but more than I was willing to pay when I had other options. Since then I have actually signed up because of their First Reader program, but have to say that while they do have their interface and a few other things going for them, as a whole, it doesn’t seem as ‘polished’ as site as others.

Same goes for Shelfari. Again, I like their way of displaying books, but that’s about it.

Finally I found Goodreads! And I’ve never looked back since! Goodreads let me do everything that Bibliophil did, but was much more userfriendly and had a much nicer interface. So now I’ve found my little spot on the web. I can organize my books to my heart’s content, it’s easy to add new books even if they aren’t in the database originally, I can write reviews and add quotes. In addition to all this, I can share my love of books with others. Goodreads is a very social site, and I love sharing book recommendations with others, commenting on their reviews and getting comments on my own. One of the best things about reading, is sharing my love of books with others – this site makes it even easier for me to do so, and I love it there 🙂

That’s not to say it doesn’t have its disadvantages. I’d love a more advanced search and an option to list writer aliases, and add reread dates, but I can live with that.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Reading

 

Booklending.com

Shortly after I received my Kindle, I discovered Booklending.com – a site where Kindle-owners can put selected ebooks up for loan and borrow from each other. You sign up and link your account to your Amazon account, and books you loan will automatically be available for download to the device of your choice.

At first glance, Booklending.com seems a terrific site. A library for ebooks, what could go wrong?

Fortunately, not much. It does mostly deliver what it promises, but there are a few glitches it would do well to get sorted out.

The biggest problem is their search function. With one field for both title and author search, and no option for combined or advanced searching, searching for a book is a bit hit-and-miss. You might be lucky that the book you are searching for is the very first result, or you may have to browse through page after page of irrelevant results. This is of course especially noticable if you search for a book with a name in the title, because you will invariably also get all books by authors of that name.

This is a huge detraction to the useability of the site. At the same time the search is also rather slow, which wouldn’t be too big an issue in its own right, but is annoying when combined with the other issue – especially when the search ends up returning no results! I have not quite been able to figure out when this happens, because it is not a matter of whether or not a book is lendable – perhaps it’s whether or not it exists as an ebook at all? That would make sense, and would seem a reasonable filter to put in.

A smaller problem is the availability of books, but I do know that this is not the fault of Booklending.com but rather that of authors and/or publishers not wanting their books to be available for lending. Still, it does get frustrating to look up book after book and receive the result, “Ask the publisher to make this book lendable.”

For books that are lendable, there tends to be only very few people offering the book up for loan – if any. This means a long waiting period – I requested a total of fifteen books back in July, received 2 within the first week, and then none since. Again, this is only Booklending.com’s fault insofar as it hasn’t advertised sufficiently, so not enough people know of the site.

Before you ask, no, I haven’t put any up as being available to lend myself. Not because I don’t want to, but because Kindle books are only lendable if you have an Amazon account with a US address.

Thankfully I haven’t yet encountered a book that wasn’t available for loan outside the US. I don’t know if that will turn out to be an issue or not. I hope not, but could fear that it will. Amazon’s fault rather than Booklending’s except if it turns out that I’m only told this when I attempt to download it, rather than when I request the loan.

However, with those big but still workaroundable issues out of the way, the loaning process itself is a breeze. Apparently I got lucky with the first book I requested, because within half an hour I received an email telling me that the book was now available for download through my Amazon account. I accessed the account, acknowledged the loan and had the book sent to my device exactly like any other book I’ve bought from Amazon. Since a loan is, by definition, temporary (or ought to be, anyway), the book remained in my account for two weeks from the time I acknowledged the loan, but in that interval, I could donwload it to as many devices as I wanted to. After the two week period was up, the book was automatically removed from my Amazon library, and returned to the owner. I didn’t check, but I would assume this meant that it also disappeared from my device the next time I synced it.

So A+ for idea and lending process, C- for search function and useability of site.

And publishers – please make your books lendable. I promise you that it’s a good idea! Of the two books I’ve had on loan, while one was only so-so, the other was so terrific that I immediately recommended it for translation into Danish! Surely that’s a desirable outcome?

For the rest of you – by all means sign up! My complaints aside, it’s a terrific idea, and as one of the issues is the lack of people with books to lend out, the more people I can get to sign up, the better! 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Reading

 

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