jane austen fragment

New Jane Austen Scrap Discovered

Go ahead and list this discovery in the “could never happen with an ebook” column. Earlier this week the Jane Austen museum purchased a book about Austen that was written by her nephew. Inside the book they found a five inch by one inch piece of paper with writing on it.

Scribbled on the scrap, in Jane Austen’s handwriting, is the following:

“Men may get into a habit of repeating the words of our Prayers by rote, perhaps without thoroughly understanding – certainly without thoroughly feeling their full force & meaning,”

jane austen mansfield parkWhat is so neat about this, is the insight it could possibly give to how the thoughts and development behind now-classic book Mansfield Park came about.

Jane Austen experts say:

  • the scrap was written in 1814, which is the same time Mansfield Park was released
  • the words seem to be from a sermon Jane Austen’s brother was preparing.

So they are not her words, but they certainly echo much of her thinking put forth in her book. So did the whole Austen family feel this way too? How heavily was Jane Austen’s book influenced by her brother? Or (was it the other way around) how heavily did Jane Austen influence her brother’s sermons? Or was Jane writing a note in church and got caught? (Just kidding… I’m no Austen scholar.)

ereader apps

Two eReader Apps You Should Check Out

Here are two iOS ereader apps that I think you should try. Both Readmill and Marvin read ePub files and offer features that iBooks is nowhere close to rolling out.


This app has quickly become my favorite app to read in. The design of Readmill is fantastic and they have pioneered many of the highlighting-type features that kindle and iBooks have adopted.

readmill ereader appsWhat really makes Readmill great is the community and sharing aspects. Basically, (if you turn on the features) it turns any book you’re reading into a book club. You don’t necessarily “follow people” (though you can), but while in a book other people’s highlights and comments pop up, just as if they were scribbled in the margins of a paper book. In Readmill you can reply to their marginalia or highlights and then others can respond to you, etc. You’ll have a full blown discussion before you know it… all centered on this shared experience of that very book you are reading. Of course, you can also ‘@’ people not reading the book to help promote the book or spur interest/discussions among your friends, but the idea of a group of people gathering around the shared reading of a book is fantastic. I really like the notion of discovering people to follow based on their ideas and observations alone.

readmill ereader appsI have always read business books in paper. I need to scribble and make notes in non-fiction books. But I recently gave Readmill a go for a business book and can honestly say I was better for it. I stumbled on a few people, in the Readmill community, who had read it before me and made some fantastic connections inside that book. These were ideas that  I may never have come up with on my own. It was a cool experience.



Marvin is a fun app to read in as well, but for totally different reasons. You do have amazing controls over the color, brightness, etc. and the design is solid. Plus, they have some nifty features to help folks with dyslexia or near-blindness. Marvin also allows one-click downloads from free eBook sites, Dropbox, Readmill, ODPS, and Calibre integration.

marvin ereaderBut my favorite feature of Marvin is the Deep View. Once you click ‘OK’ the Marvin app will quickly read your whole book in about a minute. It will then offer you a list of every name in the book with external links and how the names appear to be related in the book. It will also offer you a summary of the book (free Cliffs Notes!) if you’d like one. It will also compile a list of articles about that book, article about the author, and other internet content related to the book. It’s like setting your own private wiki-pedia for the book you happen to be reading.

marvin appOnce you integrate that with IMDB, etc. it gets to be very very fun. I’ve found I enjoy reading older books in this app as I’m always amazed at how many author “from the days of yore” knew each other, hung out together, berated each other, or mentioned each other in their books and reviews.

For every Brat Pack in Hollywood, there were at least 10 groups of authors paying attention to each other.


While neither Readmill or Marvin have direct access to a robust bookstore like iBooks or kindle, these two ereader apps are worth the extra two clicks to getting an ePub side loaded to read. Check them out. I’d love to know what you think.


Romance Readers & Writers Event

Tickets for the 2014 Romance Readers Luncheon, Birmingham, AL, are on sale now. The Romance Readers Luncheon isn’t until November 1st, 2014, but with the line-up the SouthernMagic crew have put together you’ll want to mark your calendar.

Romance Readers Silvia DayAuthor Sylvia Day is the 2014 Keynote Speaker. Day is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. She also has written more than 20 novels which have been translated into many languages.

Day is best known for her Crossfire series of romance books.

Romance Readers Naima SimoneSouthern Magic‘s own President  and author Naima Simone has
already been slated to deliver the open remarks. Simone writes erotic romance and romantic suspense.

It sounds like there is limited seating, so click through the links to see about getting tickets at the Early Bird rates, if you’d like to go. And romance writers take note – they also have opportunities for published authors to get their books seen at the event.

You can follow Southern Magic on Twitter as well.


Judge a Book by Its Lover – Book Review

Lauren Leto’s book Judge a Book By Its Lover is one of the fastest reads I’ve read this year… And it’s all about books.


The book feels like it’s collected from a bunch of blog posts, which it may be I haven’t checked. The first half of the book focuses on the “social” part of books and reading. Lots of pieces in the vein of “how to pick someone in a bookshop” kind of thing or “what you’re reading says about you”.

It felt like it was aimed at female readers and I was close to putting it down and giving it a 2-star review, but I stuck it out and am glad I did.
Once I hit the single largest section of the book “How To Fake Reading An Author” the book really got good. Leto is very well read and funny as well.

That section alone of How to Judge a Book By Its Lover was worth my time with the book. It was crammed with smart conversational observations about well-known authors and their works. And then I got to the essay about leto’s family and her grandmother. It was fantastic. (Ms. Leto, if by chance the Google long-tail-search-algorithmic-gods every bring you to this site, my choppy review can be summed up simply – more like this essay please. I’d buy that.)

I’m recommending this book to my female friends who like books and reading. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

book festivals 2014

Four Southern Book Festivals

If you live in the South then you know the value of sweet tea and front porches. It’s those values that the following four book festivals, no matter how big or small they are, has in spades. Plus, you get to meet authors, listen to readings, buy books, and get your books signed. Did I mention there are books there? Check out what these four Southern book festivals have to offer in 2014:

Alabama Book FestivalAlabama Book Festival  Saturday, April 19, 2014 – for its 9th year, it will be held in Montgomery, AL’s, beautiful Old Alabama Town . It’s a wonderful venue, with walking paths between period buildings filled with authors giving talks and books to be bought. The Alabama Book Festival also has a great Children’s area with costumed characters and free books for kids. All those front porches in Old Alabama Town also mean that you never have to fear the rain as there’s always a place to gain cover.

Decatur Book FestivalDecatur Book Festival August 29th – August 31st, 2014 – this is a pretty large event, in Decatur, GA, and worth making the trip, if you don’t mind crowds. They have yet to publish a schedule or list of authors who will be attending, but they always have a list of big names that are fun to see (and have sign copies of your books!).

Southern Festival of BooksSouthern Festival of Books October 10th – October 12th, 2014 – this is another big event, in Nashville, TN. They always have 250+ authors, plus the added bonus of hosting a special venue for readings, literary performances and music (hey, it’s Nashville). I’ve heard that the hotel rooms are already all booked up. But they’re also planning an Authors in the Round Dinner, where you can buy a ticket to eat and chat with 40 visiting authors. That sounds kind of neat.

Mid-South Book FestivalMid-South Book Festival September 27th, 2014 – this one is a bit of a dark horse… a start up… a black swan, maybe? Held in Memphis, TN, this will be the inaugural year for Literacy Mid-South’s new book festival.  I don’t know what to expect, but I’m excited, because the folks organizing sure seem excited. It’s 2014, everyone should be in start-up mode, right!? I can’t wait to see what these folks put together to promote books and a life-long love of reading.

strahov library

Largest Photo Is of the Inside of a Library

One of the largest indoor photos ever posted online comes in at over 40 gigapixels and is a fly-around-the-room tour of a library! How awesome is this place?

strahov library largest photo

This single image is made up of more than 3,000 images stitched together. If they were printed out the site claims the photo would be 78 feet long!

strahov largest library photo

This gargantuan gigapixel image has been online since 2011, showing the world the largest and smallest details of the Strahov Library. The Strahov Llibrary is in Prague inside the Strahov Monastery.

largest photo of a library

I could just watch this image all day checking out all of the spines in such detail. What an amazing library. This 40 gigapixel image is very cool, but I bet this place is something else when seen in person.

250 words business books

New Site Focuses on Business Books

Simon & Schuster has launched 250words.com, which professes to be a “publisher agnostic” site focused on business books.

Staffed by five folks from with in S&S’s ranks, they report they will deliver daily a short single 250-word single post sharing some business wisdom or inspiration gleaned from a business book.

250words.com bookshelf

At launch, the seem to already have dozens of posts written. No doubt there will be no shortage of topics and titles to discuss. It’s amazing how many business books get published every year.

This year book publishers are aggressively going after “verticals” or “niches” or “silos” or “walled gardens”, etc. This is a tactic to answer the way people search and buy books these days. It’s something that has been refined by tor.com (one of my favorites) and narnia.com, plus a few others.

I’m anxious to see what the folks at Simon & Schuster make of 250words.com. They are also on Twitter and Facebook, if you want to check them out there.

If 250words.com doesn’t fit the bill for you, I would recommend you check out:

  1. 800CEOread – a blog about business books that I really enjoy. It’s certainly one of the most consistent ones out there
  2. Todd Sattersten – he’s a consultant for writers of business books, but his posts and twitter feed are always on my “to read” list
Amor Towles Rules of Civility

Amor Towles Talks Writing

Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility was one of my favorite books I read in 2012. It’s such a good book and so well written. I just ran across this very short interview with Towles asking about his writing and writing habits. I was surprised that Rules of Civility was written in just a year! And it was intentionally done so:

I gave myself one year to write that first draft because I wanted to maintain the brightness, the lightness, the nice poetic urgency that is part of the first draft.

You see, that makes sense to me. That’s actually encouraging. In the interview, Towles also offers some thoughts on inspiration and finding time to write (he had two young kids when he wrote Rules of Civility).

Amor Towels

But I also like what he had to say about revising his work:

I revised Rules of Civility from beginning to end three times in three years. All of that revision work was driven by the goal of economy.

It wasn’t about just the poetry or turn of a phrase, though if you read Towels’ book you’ll see he nailed those as well. I like the idea of writing with economy in mind. That has a very ‘newspaper’ feel to it. A feel that a reader would find useful and appreciate when reading a long novel.

Go read the full article. It’ll only take you a few minutes, but it’s packed (economically so) with wonderful insights that are immediately applicable to your own writing. And Amor Towels pulls no punches when it comes to “being a writer”:

Writing is a craft. It’s not a mystical state. It’s not a single emotion. It is craft.

And a craft can be learned. Very insightful and encouraging!

gifts for book lovers

Book Trivia Board Game

Here is a great “gifts for book lovers” that I stumbled upon: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, is a book trivia board game all about books.

book trivia game

I haven’t played this one yet, but it sounds like something I’d enjoy. Basically, you and your friends move around the board while trying to identify books by their opening lines or book covers.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night has been for sale via a few sites around the interwebs for a while. The price floats around the $30 mark. A few of the book trivia categories are:

  • novels
  • poetry
  • mysteries
  • children’s books
  • science fiction
  • books made into movies

I have to admit that identifying a book simply by its opening line sounds tough, but maybe it’s all multiple choice. That’d be better.

Good luck and let me know if you’ve played It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. I’d like to know if it’s as fun as I want it to be.

google explore for book lovers

Google Explore For Book Lovers

Last week Google launched a new search feature for their Google+ social network. Basically, it adds groupings, tags, etc. and makes the network all searchable so that you can skim through all of the content generated on Google+.

So what’s the first thing I did? I did a few simple searches through Google Explore to see if I could find any books and book-related content that was of interest. I really wasn’t looking for people “curating” (like pinterest or tumblr), but for real content that harkened back to the days of book blog rings and such.

So I clicked on the “Explore” button up top…

google explore book search

and searched for “Books”. I was thankful for the Google Explore displayed all of the books-related tags that I could follow and check out.

google explore books

Early on I found these not worth following because of all the ads, spam and sales pitches:

  • #free
  • #eBooks
  • #kindle
  • #kindlebooks
  • #author

The rabbit holes I really enjoyed falling down through Google Explore were:

  • #Reading
  • #BookReview
  • #AuthorInterview
  • #BookLovers (the best of the bunch)

google explore book lovers

As you can see, once you click on #BookLovers you’re presented with a whole new slate of sub-categories and tags to click through. As new as the feature is (and as under-used as Google+ is) it’s not hard to quickly separate the signal from the noise and find folks worth following. From there it’s a single-click to add them to a new (or old) circle to keep up with them.

When I next have a few free moments I’m going to click around with category, subject and book genre searches. Hopefully those will yield more leads to books worth reading. So check it out and let me know if you find any bookish folks worth following.

fight club sequel

Fight Club Sequel Finished

Chuck Palahniuk said yesterday that he has finished his Fight Club sequel and sent it to a publisher for review. I’m glad to hear that Tyler Durden is still clicking along with his reboot society sentiment.

All we know at this point is that Palahniuk’s Fight Club sequel takes place 10 years after the big implosion at the end of the first book and that Tyler is stuck in Jack and bored in the suburbs, ready to make a comeback!

Fight Club cover

Though I have to admit that I’m a little bummed that the story is planned as a seven issue graphic novel release and not as a comprehensive novel/novella. Maybe that will change if things take off for Tyler and crew again? Of course, according to a quote in that Guradian article, Palahniuk is stressed about the graphic novel format and the implications it has on story telling. I’m just curious: I wonder how long of a straight-text book a 210 graphic novel converts into? I’ll have to look up some math on that.

I’m anxious to see what impact Durden (and the books) have, on the world.

book trivia

Book Trivia Quizzes

If you like book trivia, here is a quick classic novel quiz with just 17 questions (and it’s multiple choice!). All you have to do is read the opening line from a classic novel and then check the box of the book you think it came from.

book trivia

Your score is tallied at the end with all of the wrong answers in red and the correct answers showing up with green boxes.

I missed 7 of them. I’ve never been very good at “opening lines” quizzes, but I do enjoy taking them. I just never really pay attention to opening lines, though I know there are some great ones. It’s definitely something I want to pay closer attention to. Trivia is always fun, but it’s even better when all the questions are book-related.

book trivia quizup appAlso, if you haven’t played it yet, there is a new app out called QuizUp (it’s only on iOS right now, but an Android app is coming). It has a Literature category with 27 sub-categories and more being added weekly. This is waaaaay too much fun and I’ve lost waaaaaay too much of my life to this game. Some of the book trivia subcategories are General Lit, Classical Lit, Batman comics, Twilight, Science Fiction, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games.

Anyway, chime in with how you did on the 17 question book trivia Classic Novel Quiz game.

Books, Publishing and Birmingham