Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski – Book Review

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading by Jason Merkoski
Published by Sourcebooks

Eventually the “e” will be dropped, and books will be assumed to be digital, just as most music is now digital; after all, we don’t refer to music as e-music.

You have to ask yourself whether you trust these men (because they are mostly men – and mostly white men, at that). Do you trust them to make decisions for you on what books you’re permitted to buy?

Jason Merkoski, Burning the Page

Once upon a time, Jason Merkoski worked for Amazon, where he helped make the first iteration of a little product you might have heard of, something they call the Kindle. Actually, Merkoski was involved in ebooks even pre-Kindle, and as someone who has been dealing with this technology for decades, Merkoski not only has information about the format’s past, but also a vision for its future.

What I really like about Burning the Page is the way that Merkoski is somewhat ambivalent about the digital future. For instance, the above quote about white men and their hold over ebook stores and distribution means. However, he clearly sees ebooks as the wave of the future, and something that will quite likely completely supplant new print books. I can’t say I’m crazy about the idea of print books completely disappearing (after all, I still don’t trust my ereader in the bathtub), but some of his ideas of exceptionally social reading or essentially livestreaming books from an author to a reader basically terrify me as a reader. Socialization around reading is great, but having it completely integrated into every sentence goes so far beyond the past changes in format that it seems completely recreate reading, rather than simply recreating books.

Although I had issues with some of Merkoski’s predictions, I think Burning the Page is an important read for those interested in the past, present, and future of digital books.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.


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Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman – Audiobook Review

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman, narrated by Kathe Mazur
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, both imprints of Random House


November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly set off to travel around the world in less than eighty days, an attempt to break the record set by Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg from the novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Bly’s travel was paid for by the paper she worked for, Joseph Pulitzer’s World paper in New York. Although the idea originated with her, by the end of the day Nellie Bly was not the only young woman traveling around the world. The publishers of The Cosmopolitan decided to send Elizabeth Bisland, who wrote a books column for the magazine, on her own journey heading west instead of east, in at attempt to beat not only Phileas Fogg, but Nellie Bly as well.

Thoughts on the story:

I love it when authors find fascinating historical events about which I know nothing and tell it really well. I knew a bit about Nellie Bly before Eighty Days, but interestingly not about her race around the world. My knowledge was limited to her expose on the insane asylum on Blackwell Island, a reference it is possible I learned from my massive The West Wing marathon earlier this year. Goodman lays his story out very clearly, alternating between the two women’s stories in a way that is faithful to the timeline while still maintaining a good flow. While the book itself is rather long, it has a good pace and is continually interesting.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kathe Mazur does a wonderful job narrating. Like Goodman’s writing itself, she maintains a good pace and, while she doesn’t do much vocal differentiation between the stories, it isn’t really necessary or called for here, and there is no problem keeping the narrative straight.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.


A long book, but well worth the read. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Double Time by Jane Roper – Book Review

Double Time: How I Survived – and Mostly Thrived – Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins by Jane Roper
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

After trying in vain to have a baby and enduring fertility treatments, Jane Roper finally learned that she was pregnant. With twins. Following the initial moment of panic, Roper – a writer and reader – searched for a book that was, at the time, nonexistent: a memoir of the first years with multiples. Roper’s own first few years with her twin daughters were filled with many exceptionally joyful times, but also with renewed depression and professional hardships.

Double Time is a funny and insightful look into life raising twins. Much of what Roper discusses will be relevant to all parents, life with young children viewed through Roper’s wry sense of humor:

After extracting what cat food I could from Elsa’s mouth – not that it mattered, really, but the idea of one’s child eating horsemeat and fish eyeballs and whatever else is in dry cat food isn’t terribly pleasant, especially when, as Alastair pointed out, we hadn’t formally introduced those foods yet – I grabbed the dishes and went into the kitchen to find a towel to mop up the water. –p. 109

Of course, Roper also brings in the challenges that are unique to parenting twins, or children very close in age in general, such as the inability to be in two places at once as twin babies grow into toddlers, and both decide to engage in risky or disgusting behavior at the same time.

As the soon-to-be mother of twins, I found Double Time to be an honest and open look at twin parenthood. It is reassuring, even when Roper discusses the challenges, because she explains how she and her husband, Alastair, were able to meet those challenges without loss of life or limb. Her approach is descriptive, rather than prescriptive, which is also reassuring as she shows a picture of a family making it and being happy, rather than an unattainable picture of familial perfection. Towards the end of the book, she says something that sums up perfectly why Double Time is so reassuring, when responding to the eternal ‘how do you do it?’ question:

Of course the answer to all of these questions – in any context – is that raising twins is not a matter of being some kind of superhuman wonder parent. We simply don’t have a choice. We just do it…. Not always well, and certainly not always with the amount of patience and perspective or consistency we’d like. But we do it. –p. 259

I would absolutely and unequivocally recommend Double Time to new parents of twins, but I think many parents – perhaps mothers in particular – will resonate with Roper’s experiences. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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After the Workshop by John McNally – Book Review

After the Workshop by John McNally
Published by CounterPoint

Have you ever wondered how authors get from the airport, to the hotel, to the bookstore in an unknown town when their publisher sends them on tour? In some cases, at least, they are sent with a media escort like Jack Hercules Sheahan. Sheahan is himself an aspiring author, having graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop some twenty years ago. Back then, Jack’s life was very promising, he even had a story published in the New Yorker. After graduating, he took a job as a media escort and subsequently failed to finish his novel or do really anything in publishing besides drive authors around Iowa. Suddenly, though, the failures in Sheahan’s life seem to be coming back to haunt him. He is trying to escort two authors in the same weekend when one of them disappears with her baby, causing her slightly crazy publicist to all but stalk Jack, while the other reminds Jack of all he despises yet somewhat wants to be as well. Just as he is confronting his professional failures, Sheahan’s personal failures – largely through the person of his ex-fiancee – reappear as well.

“After the Workshop” is a highly entertaining account of a side of publishing about which I had never before thought. Media escorts! It makes so much sense, but it really never occurred to me. It sounds like a really fun job, actually, until you start reading “After the Workshop.” Authors sending you on embarrassing errands, crazy people, authors who lord their success over you…makes me feel very lucky about the personalities of all of the authors I have met!

McNally’s book is very entertaining, I really enjoyed his wry humor. I wouldn’t hand this to every reader, though. There is a very ‘inside baseball‘ feel to the book, so that I would really recommend it more to people who are interested in the ins and outs of publishing and book marketing. If you are happy to just have books show up at your door or on the shelves of your local store, this book might not really interest you. If, however, you like hearing about the politics of publishing, the little details of getting books published and making  book tours work, you might very well really enjoy this book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

John McNally’s website

Other Books by John McNally:
“Ghosts of Chicago”
“America’s Report Card”
“The Book of Ralph”
“The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide”
“Who Can Save us Now?” (coedited)
“When I Was a Loser”
“Bottom of the Ninth”
“Humor Me”
“The Student Body”
“High Infidelity”

This review was done with a book I purchased.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan – Audiobook Review

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, narrated by Erik Davies

If you posted an audiobook review today, Thursday June 24th, please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.


The mysterious David Loogan comes to Ann Arbor, Michigan to lead a quiet life and recover from his past. Unfortunately, he gets drawn into a working relationship with Tom Kristoll, publisher of the literary magazine Grey Street, which is devoted entirely to mysteries, who makes him an editor of the magazine. Oh, and he also gets drawn into a more intimate sort of relationship with Tom’s wife.

In pretty much every Grey Street story the same formula appears: ‘plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die.’  When this same formula begins appearing in Loogan’s own life, things get messy.

Thoughts on the story:

Here’s where I admit that I listened to this back in JANUARY of 2010 and am just not writing the review in June. Oops. Clearly I can’t tell you anything really detailed about the plot, since it has been six months. But here’s what I can tell you: if this book hadn’t been spectacular, I wouldn’t be bothering to write ANYTHING about it 6 months later. I love, love, loved this. It was this fun sort of gritty crime drama that had the potential to be a little cheesy but totally wasn’t.

Thoughts on the audio production:

As much as I enjoyed the story, probably the thing I loved most about this audio was the narrator. Erik Davies has this sexy sort of gritty hardboiled voice that just kept me absolutely enthralled. He was absolutely perfect for the story.


I highly recommend this, especially in audio!

Note: Mr. Linky doesn’t seem to be working properly today, please leave links in the comments

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Audio/Print*
Amazon: Audio/Print*

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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