Archive for July, 2012

I have read Colfer’s first Artemis Fowl and found it quite a fun read. The Supernaturalist was reasonably priced on Kindle so I decided to pick it up.

Both the story (some nice twists and turns) and the characters appealed to me. I found Colfer’s world building to be excellent, too. His light, witty style reminds me a lot of Rick Riordan, whose series I also enjoy.

This book isn’t going to provide you with much food for thought, but it will pass a few pleasant hours.

I gave The Supernaturalist 5 stars out of 5

What a surprise; Peter Jackson announced today on his Facebook page that The Hobbit movie is officially being split into three parts rather than the two previously announced.

Now, I adored Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and am very much looking forward to The Hobbit. He commented at ComiCon that these are movies made by fans for fans, and it’s clear to see that this is the case.

Given the relative lengths of the books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I have some concerns that to stretch The Hobbit to three movies there may be a lot of filler required and that the decision to switch from two two three is primarily financially based.

On the other hand, I have tremendous faith in Peter Jackson and his team, and trust him when he says that he will be expanding The Hobbit universe to include material from other works of Tolkien as well as new material. I have been impressed in the trailer that they have managed to give each of the thirteen dwarves a unique look and personality. That is something that I’m sure extending the film will only help. I understand that some of the new material will include Gandalf’s confrontation with the Necromancer, something only touched on in the novel. That is something I’m looking forward to seeing on screen.

In general, I prefer to see the movie before reading the book. I find that, if I read the book beforehand, I feel frustrated watching the movie if the characters aren’t quite how I imagined them, or if they’ve missed out scenes that are important to me. In the case of The Hobbit, I don’t think that is something I need fear. Judging by The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trailer, Jackson and team have remained faithful to Tolkien’s vision and I know I’m in safe hands however many films they take to tell their story.

As you might have gathered from my title, I have the Nexus 7 in my hand and have been playing with it for a couple of days now.

i can’t believe how different my experience has been with this compared to my previous Android experience on the Kobo Vox. This machine is FAST. it is a Google sponsored product, so it comes with pure Android 4.1.1., Jelly Bean. The Google team has been focussing on lag in Project Butter, and although I can’t compare with anything other than the Kobo Vox, the user experience is silky smooth. In comparison to the Kobo Vox, when I changed screen orientation while reading a Kobo book, I was not faced with five seconds of white screen while the device caught up.

Two things I was anxious to check out in Jelly Bean were the Google Search (a Siri equivalent) and Google Now. I have had great fun with Google Search – I was particularly impressed when it hooked up to my Rdio account and will play any song I tell it to play. I was also blown away by Google Now when I checked it and found my bus times without my having to do anything.

One of my biggest complaints about the Kobo Vox was the lack of apps available in the official Kobo app store (it was recently opened up to the entire Android Market.) The Nexus 7 is linked to the Google Play store. In general I have no such complaints. Within a very short time of owning the device I had all my favourite eReading apps downloaded and installed: Kindle, Kobo, Goodreads, Overdrive. One rather annoying issue is that the Nexus does not show up on my iMac’s Finder when it is connected; I had to download the Android File Transfer app to be able to copy files. This means that I cannot authorise the device in Adobe Digital Editions, as it does not recognise the device, and so I cannot read non Kobo DRMed ebooks. However, I was able to download 50 Shades of Grey (don’t judge my reading choice, please!) from my local library and authorise it for the Overdrive Media Console.

In terms of battery life, I’ve been impressed so far. I charged it fully, and after a full day of playing with it (not much video, in all fairness) it still had 44% left. Of course, that can’t compare to my eInk Kindle or Kobo, but I didn’t expect it to do so. I will read my library book on it and see how it holds up from reading.

One thing I’m loving about Android is widgets. I have my home screen set so it shows me local time and weather information, my last few emails and my upcoming calendar entries.

As a long-time self-confessed Apple fan girl, I live in an iCloud world. I’d been wondering how to get my iCloud information onto the device. I found a couple of (paid) apps that synchronized my iCloud contacts and calendar. I wasn’t out of pocket thanks to the Google Play’s generous $25 store credit on purchase of the device. These two apps worked perfectly, and I soon had my iCloud contacts and calendar on my device.

All in all, I adore this device and will certainly be keeping this one. I had intended it as a multi-platform eReading device, but having played with it, I can see it will offer so much more. I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Those of you who have read my blog know that I am an Apple fangirl, and that I had been very disappointed in my brieftime with the Kobo Vox ereading tablet. That had been my first experience with Android, and although I was very disappointed in the Kobo Vox, I realised that was due to the tablet itself not the operating system.

I really liked the 7 inch size of the Kobo Vox, and I had been considering a more general Android 7 inch tablet. I had been seriously considering the Galaxy 2 tablet, but then I heard about the new Nexus 7 and was blown away by the presentation and reviews.

Just looking at the specs of the Kobo compared to the Nexus I can tell already my experience is going to be completely different:

Kobo Vox:

Operating system custom Android 2.3
CPU 800 Mhz
Storage capacity 8 GB
Memory 512 MB RAM
Display 7″ multi-touch FFS+ multimedia display; 1024 x 600 resolution

Nexus 7:

Operating system Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
SoC Nvidia Tegra 3 (T30L)
CPU 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 with additional low-speed companion core,[1]
GPU 416 MHz Nvidia GeForce ULP with 12 cores
Memory 1 GB DDR3 RAM
Storage 8 or 16 GB flash memory

For only $40 more, the difference is incredible. My biggest gripe about the Vox other than the poor performance was the limited access to apps (since my review the Vox has been opened up to the Android Marketplace.) As the Nexus is from Google itself, it is “pure” Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has full access to the Google Play store. Although I don’t yet have the device, I have checked on Google Play and all the major apps I use on a daily basis on my iPhone/iPad are there: Kobo, Kindle, GoodReads, Overdrive.

I was also blown away by Google Now. I don’t have access to Apple’s Siri yet (she will come to my iPad in the autumn with the iOS 6 update) so I am looking forward to checking it out.

Now, for the downside: I placed my order with the Google Play Store on Wednesday and as of yet, it still has not shipped. I really can’t wait to get it in my hands. I will keep you updated.

In defence of fantasy

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Miscellaneous

****NB spoilers on A Game of Thrones and the Harry Potter series****

As most of my regular readers will know, much of my reading falls into the category of fantasy both epic and contemporary and young adult literature. It is my belief that this is a reaction to being forced to read and dissect to death so much heavy literature while at university. For many years after I graduated I found it difficult to enjoy reading for pleasure, and when I did so, I tended to gravitate towards easy, light reading. Indeed it’s only in the last two years since buying my Kindle eBook reader that I have rediscovered my deep love of reading.

It seems that fantasy literature still has the reputation of being light and frothy, and that it has little to teach us, a reputation I feel is undeserved. I suspect this may be due to the thought that it would be more difficult to connect with a story or characters from an alien world.

This was brought home to me recently. Last Christmas I gifted my old Kindle to my parents, leaving it on my account as they don’t have internet. I copied some of my books to the Kindle that I thought they might enjoy, mainly mysteries and general fiction. I was pleased to note that my dad was reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which has mild fantasy in it with the time travel. When I spoke to my mother a few weeks ago, she commented that while my father had been browsing through my library, he’d started to read a book and exclaimed “oh dear, I think this one of those fantasy Harry Potter books.” Well, when I spoke to my father the following week he asked me for the titles of the second and third Harry books so he knew which ones to read next. Clearly, it struck a chord with him, and I am delighted he to took a chance on Harry. I imagine my next move will be to steer him in the direction of A Song of Ice and Fire.

While it is too early to tell for certain, I believe books such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire will continue to be read for many, many years to come. It doesn’t take a large leap of imagination to draw a connection between the crowds gathering at the docks to read the next instalment of a Dickens novel and the masses crowding the bookstores for the midnight launch of the next Harry Potter.

Now, some people may claim this is just clever marketing; it’s true that Dickens was the master of the cliffhanger, and J.K. Rowling has a multi-million dollar marketing machine behind her. History has proved that Dickens has stood the test of time, and Rowling has had continued success after the marketing machine kicked in for book four. This would would tend to suggest that there is substance behind the marketing.

At the risk of repeating myself, this, for me, boils down to character. A character conflicted whether to do the easy thing or the right thing is still interesting to me whether it is the sixteenth century court lady the Princess of Cleves or a young boy trying to come to terms with his role in the wizarding world he has come to join. Fans mourned the deaths of Sirius, Dobby and Eddard Stark just as much as that of Little Nell. I believe it was Diana Gabaldon’s and J.K. Rowling’s well developed characters that enabled my father to take the leap to reading fantasy.

In summary then, I’d say that fantasy does not deserve it’s light and frothy reputation and that just because an author chooses to set his characters in a world that is different from our own does not mean that it is more difficult to connect with them.

This is a mystery thriller in the style of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, so if you enjoyed it you might find this book interesting.  It borrows some themes from Dan Brown's work, notably SangReal referring to Royal Blood and Jesus' progeny rather than the cup of the Last Supper.  

The novel is fast paced, and the action keeps on coming.  The characters are sympathetic if somewhat black and white.  I did find myself engaged by the protagonists and wanting to read more of their story. This is the first in a series of novels, and I will likely read the others to find out what happens next.

I gave The Return three and a half stars out of five.

I learned about this book because I followed the YouTube book reviews of the author, Will Jordan.  Sadly, his reviews are no longer available online, but I had been very impressed with his sharp commentary and his clear understanding of character, plot and pacing.  The fact that he was able to present it in a fun and amusing way was an added bonus.  Naturally, when he announced he had been awarded his first publishing contract, I was keen to see if his skills as a reviewer would translate into those of an author.

The novel most certainly did not disappoint.  It is a riveting roller–coaster ride with interesting, well written characters.  Jordan switches easily from viewpoint to viewpoint, with each character having his or her own motivations and voice.  Although it is not a world I personally inhabit, the characters were believable and realistic.  The plot was well thought out, with one twist after another and kept me turning page after page.

One review I read mentioned that the language was often repetitive and uninspired.  I would say that is probably a valid criticism.  It's clear Mr. Jordan is no wordsmith.  However this is more than balanced by excellent characterisation, plot and pacing.  Personally, I would also have welcomed some of the author's natural wit to have come across in the novel.

In any case, I will certainly read the sequel when it is published.  I gave Redemption (Ryan Drake 1) four stars out of five.