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Jenny Davidson Enters "The Magic Circle"

DavidsonGuest blogger Jenny Davidson is the author of four novels and two nonfiction books about 18-century British literature. Her new novel, The Magic Circle, follows three young women at Columbia University as they get involved in an unusual and dangerous game.

One of the strange things about working on a college campus is that you constantly overhear the same snippets of information as you pass by tour groups. I've been teaching at Columbia University since 2000, and I must have seen a tour guide point to Buell Hall a hundred times and identify it as the oldest building on campus, the only vestige of the insane asylum that used to stand where Columbia does now.

I don't believe in ghosts, but I couldn't help thinking about the influence the asylum's history might exert on contemporary characters living on the same site. I wrote The Magic Circle to find out what would happen if three young women—two longtime friends whose relationship has been strained by the arrival of the third in New York—became fired up by the story of the asylum and decided to work out their obsession in the form of a live-action role-playing game, or LARP.

LARPs are relatively new. They have something in common with live theater, but they can accommodate elements of everything from scavenger hunts to urban exploration. The LARP I'd most like to have participated in was a month-long Swedish game called Momentum whose players embraced the roles of dead revolutionaries in an occult battle to save the world. Others that have caught my attention are a massive location-based Japanese game, Mogi, in which players used mobile phones to stalk one another and poach items for virtual collections; and Jane McGonigal's reconceptualization of her recovery from a serious head injury as a kind of game, with tasks and levels to complete at each step.

The games my protagonists play are darker and more violent than any of these. For a long time, I've been fascinated by Euripides' play The Bacchae, which describes a confrontation in which secularism and sanity are completely overwhelmed by the sacred madness the god Dionysus triggers in his followers. What if these three women fed The Bacchae into a game system that already included the history of the mental asylum and the notion that Morningside Heights might have a secret occult history bound up in its architecture and landscaping?

Intellectuals and urban explorers, Ruth, Lucy, and Anna are desperate for stimulation—even when it means risking their own physical and emotional safety. The term "magic circle" refers to any field of play where special rules apply. But when the boundaries of the magic circle become porous, games can have fatal consequences.

Jenny Davidson

Top 10 Kindle Books for August

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This month's editors' picks include cheerleaders, double agents, and a trio of marvelous debuts, as well as more new choices for every reader in the dog days of summer.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between OceansWhen a childless couple in an isolated Australian lighthouse discovers an infant on the beach, the choices they make have a profound impact on their lives, hearts, and souls.




The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

The Dog StarsHig survived the flu that killed most everyone else. Now this solitary pilot must follow his instincts to survive in a world where nature--not human connection--is the only real solace.




Double Cross by Ben Macintyre

Double CrossThe story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of soldiers, tacticians, and generals. Now a master of nonfiction offers a new take on this epic event: How did a band of oddball spies pull off the greatest double cross in history?



Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare MeAward-winning novelist Megan Abbott explores the dark side of the all-American girl in this taut, suspenseful tale of a head cheerleader knocked unceremoniously off her throne.




When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald

When It Happens to YouThis smart, moving series of eight interlinked stories captures the rupture of a marriage, the onset of an affair, and the eminently breakable bonds between loved ones.




Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Winter JournalAt nearly 64, one of our greatest modern writers is feeling his age. As he chronicles shifts in his body, mind, and passions, Auster paints a vivid, intensely personal portrait of what it means to experience the passage of time.



The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

The Double GameIn Dan Fesperman's sensational new thriller, a failed writer turned PR man finds himself on the trail of a fellow novelist who once hinted at a side career in Cold War espionage.




Dreamland by David K. Randall

DreamlandJournalist David K. Randall's unexpected foray into sleepwalking inspired this thoughtful, entertaining exploration of what happens to us when we slumber.




We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen

We SinnersTwo flawed parents, nine quirky kids, and one extreme sect of evangelical Lutheranism--what could possibly go wrong in this debut story of an exceptional family?




City of Women by David R. Gillham

City of WomenIn World War II-era Berlin, most men have joined the fight. One woman left behind faces desperate choices, finding new lovers and friends as she makes an attempt at salvation.


UNO Comes to Kindle E-Readers

UNO for KindleFor more than 40 years the family card-game UNO has captivated friends and family members around the world with its fast and fun action, rule variations, and portability. It's an undisputed classic game for all ages that never grows old and consistently inspires big smiles and bursts of raucous laughter.

Now, UNO has been faithfully reproduced for play on Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle DX, and second generation Kindle devices.

Instead of the game's traditional card colors of red, blue, yellow, and green, UNO for Kindle features four easy-to-see patterns customized exclusively for the Kindle e-ink displays. In addition to the four different patterns, UNO for Kindle cards are numbered from 0 to 9, just like in the original card version of the game.

For the uninitiated, play begins when you place a card from your hand into the discard pile to match either the color or the number laid down on the pile by the previous player. The first person to get rid of all their cards is the winner.

UNO for Kindle--game playA selection of special cards keeps the game play fresh and adds an element of surprise; whenever a Wild, Reverse, Skip, Draw Two, or the dreaded Draw Four Wild card is laid down, fortunes quickly turn! Just as someone thinks they're about to win the game, the momentum can suddenly swing against them. Another hallmark rule twist is the need to call out "Uno!" when you're down to one card. If not, you'll be forced to draw two cards.

UNO for Kindle lets you pick up and play a round right from your Kindle's main menu with the choice of either "Quick Play" or "Tournament Mode." Once selected, UNO for Kindle gives you the choice of nine different varieties of the game, including 7-0 (if a zero card is played, all players give their cards to the next player) and Jump-in (if you have a card with the same number and pattern in your hand as on the discard pile, you can play it at any time).

With smooth game play, sharp graphics, easy-to-learn rules, and loads of in-game achievements, playing UNO for Kindle continues the game's tradition of fast fun for everyone.

Best Kindle Games & Active Content of 2011

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We've chosen the Top 25 best Kindle Games & Active Content titles for the year and we are excited to share our picks with you.

Word Search by Oak Systems 
Fun for all ages, with categories from Animals to Best Movie Oscar, there are 50 themed 13x13 puzzles included in Volume 1 covering a wide variety of subjects. People who like puzzles and word games will enjoy playing this fun game on Kindle.

Mahjong Solitaire by Mobigloo 
In Mahjong Solitaire, you match pairs of identical tiles in order to remove them from the board. Only free tiles can be matched. Tiles are considered free if they do not have other tiles to either the left or right of them, or on top of them. The objective of the game is to clear all the tiles from the board. The game ends when all tiles have been removed or when there are no more free tiles left to match.

YAHTZEE by Electronic Arts 
YAHTZEE for Kindle has three modes to enjoy. Play in Classic Mode and brave the luck of the roll, or remove luck from the game and play in Duplicate Mode where each person plays with identical die rolls and only your strategy can make the difference. You may also compete in Battle Mode, where your goal is to reduce your opponents score.

Calendar by 7 Dragons 
Calendar lets you see events and to-do lists quickly and easily with day, month and week views. It lets you create events (including recurring events) and daily to-do lists. You can set reminders that show up when you start Calendar; and sort and search tools make working with your data a breeze. US Holidays are included, but you can turn them off if you want to do so.

My Yoga Studio by Nickel Buddy 
My Yoga Studio is like having a personal yoga teacher on your Kindle. My Yoga Studio will guide you step-by-step through a series of poses illustrated with a picture and a text description. As you move through the routine, a timer will count down, showing you how long to hold each pose before gently transitioning to the next. 25 different poses are included.

For a limited time, all Top 25 best Kindle Games & Active Content titles are only $0.99 each. Offer ends January 2, 2012.

See the whole list of Best Kindle Games & Active Content of 2011.

All-New Kindle Family: Four New Kindles, Four Amazing Price Points

We're excited to announce three all-new Kindle e-readers that are smaller, lighter, and more affordable than ever before, and a new class of Kindle – Kindle Fire – a beautiful full color Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games, web browsing and more.

Kindle New Latest Generation Kindle -- Fits In Your Pocket -- Only $79
The new latest generation Kindle is for readers who want the lightest, most compact Kindle at an incredible price.  The latest generation Kindle features a new design that is 30 percent lighter at just 5.98 ounces, 18 percent smaller, and turns pages 10 percent faster.  Kindle is now small and light enough to fit easily in your pocket and carry with you everywhere, yet it still features the same 6-inch, most advanced electronic ink display that reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight. 

Kindle is available starting today at

Kindle Touch -- Touch Screen Addition to the Kindle Family -- Only $99
Kindle Touch is a new addition to the Kindle family with an easy-to-use touch screen that makes it easier than ever to turn pages, search, shop, and take notes – still with all the benefits of the most advanced electronic ink display.  Kindle Touch is also lighter, smaller, eliminates battery anxiety with extra-long battery life and holds thousands of books. 

Kindle Touch is available to customers in the U.S. for pre-order starting today at and ships November 21.

Kindle-touch Kindle Touch 3G -- New Top of the Line Kindle e-reader -- Only $149
Kindle Touch 3G is a new addition to the Kindle family for readers who want the top of the line e-reader.  Kindle Touch 3G offers the same new design and features of Kindle Touch – small and light, easy-to-use touch screen, storage for thousands of books, and extra-long battery life – with the unparalleled added convenience of free 3G.  Kindle's free 3G connection means you never have to hunt for or pay for a Wi-Fi hotspot – you simply download and read books anytime, anywhere in over 100 countries around the world.  Amazon pays for the 3G connection so there's no monthly fee or annual contract. 

Kindle Touch 3G is available to customers in the U.S. for pre-order starting today at and ships November 21.

All three new Kindle e-readers also come with special offers and sponsored screensavers that appear when you're not reading.  Customers enjoy special money-saving offers delivered wirelessly, including discounts on local services, products, and experiences from AmazonLocal, Amazon's local deals marketplace.  Customers can also choose to purchase a Kindle without special offers and sponsored screensavers.

Kindle Fire -- New Class of Kindle -- Only $199
Kindle Fire is a new addition to the Kindle family that offers instant access to Amazon's massive selection of digital content, Amazon's revolutionary cloud-accelerated browser, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, Whispersync, 14.6 ounce design that's easy to hold with one hand, brilliant color touchscreen, and a fast and powerful dual core processor -- all for only $199.

Kindle Fire puts Amazon's incredible selection of digital content at your fingertips – enjoy over 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books, and magazines in vibrant color.

Customers in the U.S. can pre-order Kindle Fire starting today at, and it ships November 15.

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Limited Time: $0.99 Kindle Game Sale

From now through September 12, select games for Kindle are available for $0.99.

Check out all 12 bestsellers, customer favorites, and new releases--just in time for the holiday weekend.  Below are just a few of the games included in the sale:

SCRABBLE's simple controls make it easy to play any way you want, whether you're a casual or experienced player. With the number one name in crossword games, you'll sharpen your vocabulary in a fun new way.

Roll the dice with YAHTZEE, a game in which players roll five dice to try and make 4-of-a-kinds, full houses, and straights. Keep the dice you want and re-roll the rest, but think carefully to score the best combination and the most points.

The objective of Word Quest is to find words hidden in a grid full of letters. Words are placed horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, and can even be spelled-out backwards.  Fans of word games will enjoy this word puzzle on Kindle.

Presented by New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, KenKen is a challenging follow-up to SudokuKenKen is a puzzle in which you combine simple math and logic skills to fill in a grid of numbers.

POGO Hearts Spades and More lets you can play Hearts, Spades, Canasta, Gin and Euchre on Kindle. Learn and master each game through in-depth tutorials with rules and tips on how to improve your play and track your stats across all five games. What game are you going to play first?

Browse all games included in the sale.

New on Kindle: Hidden Expedition: Amazon

Hidden Expedition Hidden Expedition: Amazon is a hidden object game set deep in the jungle.

Featuring a story never before told in the Hidden Expedition franchise, you join the Hidden Expedition Team in search of a professor lost in the Amazon rainforest. You get to explore cities, temples, and ruins while unlocking the secrets of the professor’s groundbreaking research by finding objects hidden within pictures. With a tattered passport as your only clue, embark on an adventure and investigate 19 beautiful levels and 4 brain teasing mini-games.

You can invite up to 3 your friends and family to create their own profiles so they can play without disturbing your own adventure. Take advantage of the dynamic Hint system whenever your search becomes too difficult. Enjoy a scene? Replay any level as many times as you wish with the Chapter Select feature and pursue randomly selected items in that scene.

If you’re seeking adventure, lush landscapes, and a good challenge, journey into the wonderful world of Hidden Expedition: Amazon.

A New Kind of Text Adventure: Inheritance

  Inheritance Inheritance is a text adventure in which you use the items you find to solve puzzles that help you advance through the game.

In the game, you play a character whose crazy uncle Osmo passed away recently, leaving you everything. But there's a catch. He has turned his house into a series of crazy challenges that you'll have to overcome if you want to see a dime! What is the deal with that elevator? How do you get past the tiger? And most important of all, where can a person find a decent pair of sneakers?

 Inheritance uses an innovative new input system to make moving through the adventure fast and easy. Now you can enjoy all the laughs and fun of classic-style adventure games without all the typing and guesswork.

Play Inheritance and discover a lighthearted adventure filled with puzzles that will delight clever readers.

New on Kindle: Puzzle Pack 1

Puzzle Pack 1 Enjoy a variety of classic puzzles on your Kindle.

This pack contains 100 puzzles: 20 Sudoku (5 each of Very Easy, Easy, Medium and Hard), 8 American Style Crosswords, 7 British Style Quick Crosswords (which contain more black squares than American Style puzzles), 15 Word Searches, 10 Codewords, 10 Cryptograms, 10 Symbol Blocks (Easy to Hard), 10 Compass Points, and 10 Criss-Cross puzzles.

Play at your own pace or against the clock. Your game is saved, so you can pause partway through a puzzle and return to where you left off. You can also reset each puzzle and try it again as many times as you like. If you get stuck on a more challenging puzzle, you can get hints or give up and see the correct solution.

People who like puzzles and word games, or people who want to try a variety of puzzles will love this fun collection of games on Kindle.

New on Kindle: Yahtzee

Yahtzee Now you can play Yahtzee, the classic dice game on Kindle.

Roll the dice with Yahtzee, a game in which players roll five dice to try and make 4-of-a-kinds, full houses, and straights. Keep the dice you want and re-roll the rest, but think carefully to score the best combination and the most points!

Yahtzee for Kindle has three modes to enjoy. Play in Classic Mode and brave the luck of the roll, or remove luck from the game and play in Duplicate Mode where each person plays with identical die rolls and only your strategy can make the difference. You may also compete in Battle Mode, where your goal is to reduce your opponents score.

Play solo or Pass 'n' Play with up to 3 other players. Track stats like best scores, total victories, win ratios and more. Share the fun with 3 difficulty levels: easy, medium and hard.