Thursday, August 5, 2010


As my last entry says I am the proud mama to a brand new bouncing baby e-reader, naturally then I have been on the prowl to stuff said e-reader with lots of nutritious e-books. One gem of a storehouse I have come upon is GirlEbooks. The brainchild of Laura McDonald and her mum Joyce GirlEbooks aims to make classic and contemporary works by female writers available to a wider audience through the e-book medium. This is what they have to say about the e-books they provide.

You can get ebooks in lots of places on the internet, but our ebooks are hand-crafted and professionally formatted. Each ebook has a linked table of contents and text reflow for small reading devices. We create covers, correct errors introduced by digital conversion, and offer the ebooks in multiple formats to accommodate most ebook reading devices. All of our ebooks, even the ones in the ebook store, are DRM free (no digital rights management). This means that once you download the ebook, it is yours forever.

That is an amazing service and the e-books are FREE. There are some to purchase books available on the site but most are free to download, gorgeous covers and multiple formats included.  Here are my picks from the selection on offer...

My favourite Austen, it's no secret to those who know me that I have a bit of a crush on Henry Tilney. I can't help it, I have a weakness for witty, sarcastic men and this one is particularly adorable.
Northanger Abbey, written around 1798 but actually published in 1817, follows Catherine Morland on a visit to Bath and later to Northanger Abbey, the house of new acquaintances, the Tilneys. Because she has been reading Ann Radcliffe's gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, Catherine expects her visit to be full of fantastical mystery, murder, and romance.

The only Austen I have yet to read due to it's scarceness in publication, along with lady Susan, which conveniently is packaged in there as well.
Also known as Sand and Sanditon, this unfinished novel was written in 1817, the last year of Jane Austen's life. The novel ends at Chapter 11, after a promising introduction of the seaside village of Sanditon, a few major characters, and several intriguing minor characters. Also included are The Watsons, Lady Susan, Frederic and Elfrida, Love and Freindship, Lesley Castle. The History of England, A Collection of Letters, and Scraps.

I love this book. This is the book Catherine is reading in Northanger Abbey. It's almost comical in it's gothic clicheness. A really fun read and a perfect companion book for Northanger Abbey.
Set in 1584, The Mysteries of Udolpho tells the story of Emily St. Aubert, a young French woman who is orphaned after the death of her father. The novel is a quintessential Gothic romance, replete with incidents of terror, castles, seemingly supernatural events, a brooding, scheming villain, and a persecuted heroine. Jane Austen featured The Mysteries of Udolpho and other similar Gothic novels that were popular at the time in her own work, Northanger Abbey.

Seen the mini series, adored the mini series, but still haven't read the novella's. Time to get onto that.
This collection of novellas centers around the fictional English town of Cranford and surrounding areas and forms the basis for the 2007 BBC mini-series of the same name. The first novella, Cranford, was first published in 1851 and tells the story of the Jenkyns sisters and their nosy neighbors. Next is Mr. Harrison's Confession, a witty piece about a young doctor who recently moves to the town of Duncombe and is involved in many misunderstandings. My Lady Ludlow, written in 1858, is set before the other two novellas. In it the narrator recounts her childhood growing up in Lady Ludlow's household while documenting her observations of political and country life at the time.

I've only recently discovered Georgette Heyer. I know, I know, how could I never have heard of the amazing wonderful talent that is Heyer before. It baffles me too. I read my first Heyer, The Grand Sophy, earlier in the year and loved it. High time to try another I think.
The Black Moth, first published in 1921, is Georgette Heyer's first novel and is also the first novel in a four-part series including These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, and An Infamous Army. The Black Moth is set around 1751 during the Georgian era and comes disguised as an amusing but uncomplicated romance. The story appears so straightforward that you may be inclined to read it with half a mind, but that would be a mistake.

Who doesn't love a good Agatha Christie novel? There are two on the site so far, two of the lesser known mysteries but this one had a cup of tea on the cover, how could I not get it?
In this first novel by Agatha Christie, published in 1920, she introduces the inimitable Poirot, who would go on to appear in 33 Christie novels and 54 short stories. The plot of The Mysterious Affair at Styles deals with a straightforward case of an old woman poisoned with strychnine for the obvious reason: her money. The way Christie handles a plot, however, nothing is ever straightforward. The story spirals round and round, leading the reader in one direction, then another, convincing the reader that first one character, then another is the guilty party.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Kobo, e-reader

I have recently purchased my first e-reader, a pretty little white Kobo. It was an exciting purchase; I’d wanted one for a while and decided to treat myself after a particularly horrid hospital stay where an e-reader would have been a most welcome companion through the long nights in recovery where sleep stubbornly eluded me. Never having used an e-reader before my expectations were simple, I expected it to behave like a book. Look like a book, read like a book, feel like a book… well a book for the 21st century. I’m not a technological genius, I am still not even sure how to answer my cell phone, I hit about 10 different buttons and hope for the best. Therefore I didn’t want to faff around with programming things, I didn’t want complicated operation and I didn’t want hassle. What I did want was a storage device for my e-books, I wanted turn on and insta-read, I wanted simple operation, convenience and pleasant aesthetics. Pretty much it had to be functional and pretty.

The kobo delivered on all of the above and at an extremely pocket friendly price. If you are looking for an entry level e-reader at an affordable price the Kobo may be worth a closer look. It comes pre-loaded with 100 ready to read e-books a full list of which can be found here. I found this a big draw, 100 free books that I don’t need to load on myself, yes please. Included were all my girl Jane Austen’s books, some Bronte, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, The picture of Dorian Gray, in short all my favourite classics all ready on there, no work needed from me other than clicking on them and reading them.

The kobo supports ePub and PDF formats and it’s as easy as pie to transfer your books to your device using either a desktop app or adobe digital editions. I prefer to use the later as the desktop app is slightly lacking in features. I do use the desktop app though when buying books, it’s a breeze to do, too easy in fact. This could get dangerous.

There is a slight issue with reading some PDF’s, they show up too wide for the Kobo screen and require you to scroll to see the whole page. I found the easiest way to overcome this is by using a small programme called Calibre. It’s an e-book conversion programme that will convert many file types into ePubs for you. You can also use it to add your own cover art to your books before you upload them to your device.

The kobo is the perfect size for holding in your hand, it’s book sized. Logical you say. Indeed. The whole thing is a little smaller that an A5 sized piece of paper with a generous enough screen that you get a whole page to read in pretty much book sized text. You can adjust the text size and the font but I prefer the pre-loaded settings. The e-ink is an easy on the eye dark grey.The screen is not back lit and while this is fabulous for the eyes in preventing eye strain it makes it a wee bit difficult to read at night without a night light or a clip on reading light. The back of the kobo is a pleasant to touch quilted hard rubber making the tablet easy to grip. The navigation button sits in the lower right corner and you give this a little click when you want to turn your page, just like where you’d turn an actual page on a real book.

The refresh rate is a little slow. After you click you get a negative image of your page before the new one appears and it did take my eyes some time to adjust to this nuance but now I’m not bothered by it. I click the button as I’m digesting the last sentence of a page and the new one is up by the time I’m ready to read on. I believe this is an issue with most e-readers due to the nature of e-ink and not specific to the kobo.

The kobo doesn’t have wifi or built in dictionaries, it doesn’t come with a keyboard or the ability to play mp3’s but then I didn’t buy it for that. I bought it to read books on and it does that superbly. It’s slim build and convenient size makes it easy to slip in my purse and it has an exceptionally good battery life, two weeks or eight thousand pages worth of reading in fact.

Overall I'm very pleased with the Kobo and would recomend to anyone who wants an actual e-reader. If you want the games and the internet and the text ability then the iPad store is to your left.

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