Archive for May, 2013

I was recently shown a little tool that lets you automatically track new releases from your favorite authors – http://getpushpig.com
 
 

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I received a free review copy of The Cobweb Bride via Netgalley.

The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian is a fantasy novel which tells the story of Death’s demand for his Cobweb Bride.  The premise of the book is that Death has refused to take any more dying people or animals until his Cobweb Bride presents herself to him at his hidden fortress.  It follows the journeys of several potential Cobweb Brides as well as those interested in aiding as well as thwarting them.

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Today a friend alerted me (thanks Stèphane!) that Amazon has sneaked its 7inch Amazon Kindle Fire tablet into the Canadian store for pre-order.  I have put one on pre-order for your reviewing pleasure.  I may return it as I did the Kobo Aura, but I do want to check it out.

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Where Madness Roosts is a stand-alone novella in the Flameforged saga, of which I received a free review copy.  I have not read the other two novels in the series, Within Ruin and Everautumn, but that did not impact my reading of this novella.

The story centres around two elven twins, Merrill and Almi, whose master/lover/husband Virgil is apparently murdered at a high-level diplomatic conference.  It follows their investigation into and attempts at revenge for, the killing. The twins are aided in in this by their psychic bond.  

The world building is interesting with anthropomorphic furnishings and other creatures.  The characterisation of the twins is also nicely done.  They are clearly not  human, and do not think in human ways, but yet are generally relatable.  The description of the grief and depression into which the twins fall after Virgil’s murder is a highlight of the novel.   

Mr Drake has a distinctive writing style that may not appeal to everyone.  He makes use of his extensive vocabulary which some may find distracting.  This for me did detract somewhat from the story and the characters and for me, personally, did impact my enjoyment of the story.

For this reason I gave Where Madness Roosts three stars out of five.

Ereading still causes a lot of confusion.  I thought it might be useful to put together a post of some common questions regarding ereading and to do my best to answer them.

What is eReading?
Simply put, ereading is reading a book, comic, magazine or other similar content on an electronic device rather than in hard copy.

Why should I give up my paperback and switch to ereading?
Like many things, ereading is not an either/or activity.  There is no reason why you cannot read books in both hard copy and ebook formats.  It is very much a personal choice.

Having said that, there are pros and cons to ereading.  I have listed some here to help you decide if ereading is right for you.

Pros:
Convenience
.  With ereading you can carry your entire library around with you on your eReader, smartphone or tablet.   Can you imagine carrying around all 14 hardback books in the Wheel of Time series?  With ereading that is no issue. Likewise, if you’re living in a small space, an ereader takes up much less room than forty shelves of books.

Accessibility.  Most ereaders and ereading applications allow you to adjust the font size to suit your eyesight.  This is a real lifesaver if your eyesight isn’t what it was.

Never lose your place.  Most eReaders and devices keep your place for you, and some automatically synchronise over multiple devices.  Amazon even synchronises between the Amazon Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

Additional cool features.  eReading gives you lots of extra features.  These range from such inbuilt dictionaries (if you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, click or tap on it and the definition will pop up) to additional background information and references and social sharing of your reading.

24-hour bookstore.  Imagine the scenario.  You finish a real page turner of a book at 2am and you really can’t wait to see what happens next.  With eReading, a few clicks later you can be reading the sequel, often by 2.01am.  Also, if you’re anxiously waiting for that hot, new release by your favourite author, most new release books are released at 12am PST (in Canada) and delivered automatically to your device at that time if you pre-order.  Of course, if you’re trying to watch your book budget, that Buy Now button can be more of a con…

Millions of free books.  That’s correct.  Thanks to efforts like Project Gutenberg, there are millions of legally available free ebooks for your ereading pleasure.   

Free ebooks on Amazon
Free ebooks on Kobo 
Free ebooks on Sony 

Your books are backed up by the store.  If anything happens to your eReader, you can rest assured that you have not lost your entire library.  Simply log back into the store and redownload them.

Cons;
You’re renting not buying.  When you “buy” an ebook, you’re actually buying a licence to read that ebook on your devices, not an actual ebook.  This means that, in theory, it’s easier to lose access to your entire library if, say, your ebook provider goes out of business.

Read eBooks cannot be resold, donated or regifted.  Linked to the above, the licence you buy cannot be resold, donated or regifted to another person, at least not at this point.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you who like to share your reading material with others.  Amazon Kindle customers in the United States do have limited options to lend Kindle books to others, but this is highly restricted by the publishers and usually allows only one loan per ebook, and on very select titles.

DRM is a pain in the neck.  DRM – or digital rights management –  is software applied to ebooks to prevent your illegally sharing them or changing their format.  It locks the ebook to a specific format and sometimes account and device.  It means, for example, that you cannot read a Kindle book on a Kobo eReader and vice versa.  There is no way to legally convert the ebook to make this possible.  

eReaders and devices are more fragile than paperbacks.  If you drop a paperback in the bath, you’re only out $7 or so.  That cost is considerably more if you drop your eReader…

These are what I see as the pros and cons.  It is really your personal preference if any of these are deallbreakers for you.

I like to borrow my books from a library.  I can’t do that with eBooks, can I?
Certainly you can!  Let me refer you to my post on borrowing eBooks.

I need a specialised eReader, don’t I?
Not at all.  If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet you can get started on eReading.  You would need to download an application.  Many are linked to a specific eBook store.  Here are some of the most popular.

AmazonKoboSonyBarnes & NobleApple

There are other, more general applications, but if you are new to eReading, I would recommend you begin with one of the major providers.

You may also prefer to start off with a free application to see if ereading is for you before investing in a dedicated eReader.

OK, I’m interested.  How do I get started with eReading?
Excellent!  The first thing you would need to do is choose an ebook provider.  I would recommend you try some of the free ebooks from one or two providers to see which one best suits your needs and is best for you.  

Here are links to the main stores (for Canada):

AmazonKoboSony 

In each case the steps are very much the same.

  1. go to the site for your preferred ebook store
  2. register for an account if you don’t already have one (look for a sign in or register link)
  3. download the application for your computer, smartphone and/or tablet
  4. sign in to the application with the store account
  5. browse the store for a book you’d like to buy
  6. add to cart and go through the payment process.  
  7. in the ereading application look for a “sync” function to have the book downloaded to the application if it doesn’t appear there automatically

And there you have it – your first ebook.  Congratulations!

Which dedicated eReader should I go for?
This is a very personal decision.  It really depends on what you want and what is important to you.  Please check out my eReader reviews for some suggestions or please feel free to get in touch with me if you have more specific questions. 

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The Kobo Aura is the new premium ereader from Kobo. It is marketed as follows:

The eReader, Re-Imagined. Kobo Aura HD is the only premium eReader, offering an unprecedented immersive reading experience for the book lover. Unlike other eReaders, Kobo Aura HD elevates the reading experience by combining the most advanced, highest resolution, extra-large screen with a book-inspired design that feels natural and comfortable to hold.

The Aura is an eInk reader with a 6.8 HD backlit screen. Comparing its specs with those of the Kobo Glo and the Kindle Paperwhite we see the following:

Kobo Aura 6.8″ Custom WXGA+ Pearl E Ink Screen ClarityScreen+: 265 dpi, 1440 x 1080 resolution 240 g (8.4658 oz) 1 GHz; 20% faster processor than other leading eReaders 4GB internal storage

Kobo Glo 6″ XGA Pearl E Ink touchscreen; 1024×758 resolution; 16-level grey scale 185 g (6.5 oz) 1 GHz 2GB internal storage

Kindle Paperwhite 212 ppi, optimized font technology, 16-level gray scale 7.5 ounces (213 grams) 2GB internal storage

So, the main improvements you get for an extra $40 is the larger screen – 6.8 inches compared to 6 inches and higher resolution. Kobo has also made a change to the standard padded backing of the Kobo line. Here are some photos to show the comparison.

Kobo Aura vs Kobo Glo IMG_0822

Kobo Aura vs Kindle Paperwhite IMG_0823

Shaped back of Kobo Aura IMG_0824

Thickness comparison IMG_0835

Now, it has to be said, the screen on the Kobo Aura is gorgeous. I’d say it is slightly better than the screen on the Paperwhite, and better than the Kobo. The lighting I’d say is considerably superior to both the Paperwhite and the Glo.

The OS has been updated on the Kobo Aura so that more info is displayed on the home screen; rather than the four books you’re currently reading and links to other content, the Aura shows new reading rewards, recently added books, and recommendations. I liked this and hope it will come to the Glo soon.

Now, personally, I’m not so fond of the Aura’s larger screen and waved back. I love that my ereader fits easily in my handbag, and I like the 6 inch form factor. The weight is not a big difference, although I don’t have a cover on my Aura right now. That being said, I tend to read epub format books, primarily novels, and not PDFs. For those of you who read a lot of PDFs or comics on your ereader, the larger screen may be a worthwhile investment.

I should also like to comment on battery life. I found I had to recharge it after just four days. In all fairness, I was off work sick so I was reading for a solid eight hours over those four days, and I had the light on. This matches up with Kobo’s claim of two months at 30 minutes a day. I cannot believe though that a hard core reader (as you’d have to be to invest in the Aura) would only read 30 minutes a day. That’s something to bear in mind.

The processor in the Aura and Glo are both 1Ghz, so I found no discernible difference in page turn speed. It has double the internal storage of the Glo or Paperwhite, which might be useful for those using it for large PDF files.

In summary, the Aura is a nice reader; I’m not certain that it justifies an extra $40 over the Glo, especially for me as the Kobo is my secondary ereader – my primary ereader is my Kindle. I’m still undecided whether to keep the Aura or return it. If this product were from Amazon and therefore the ereader I would use most often, I’d be more likely to keep it.

Clearly it’s targeting a readership who reads PDFs or comic books. If that is you, the Aura is certainly worth looking at. For those who read primarily epub novels, I personally don’t feel it brings much more to the table than the Kobo Glo or the Kindle Paperwhite.

Let me know what you think.

Kobo Aura

The Kobo Aura is the new premium ereader from Kobo. It is marketed as follows:

The eReader, Re-Imagined.

Kobo Aura HD is the only premium eReader, offering an unprecedented immersive reading experience for the book lover. Unlike other eReaders, Kobo Aura HD elevates the reading experience by combining the most advanced, highest resolution, extra-large screen with a book-inspired design that feels natural and comfortable to hold.

The Aura is an eInk reader with a 6.8 HD backlit screen. Comparing its specs with those of the Kobo Glo and the Kindle Paperwhite we see the following:

Kobo Aura
6.8″ Custom WXGA+ Pearl E Ink Screen
ClarityScreen+: 265 dpi, 1440 x 1080 resolution
240 g (8.4658 oz)
1 GHz; 20% faster processor than other leading eReaders
4GB internal storage

Kobo Glo
6″ XGA Pearl E Ink touchscreen; 1024×758 resolution; 16-level grey scale
185 g (6.5 oz)
1 GHz
2GB internal storage

Kindle Paperwhite
212 ppi, optimized font technology, 16-level gray scale
7.5 ounces (213 grams)
2GB internal storage

So, the main improvements you get for an extra $40 is the larger screen – 6.8 inches compared to 6 inches and higher resolution. Kobo has also made a change to the standard padded backing of the Kobo line. Here are some photos to show the comparison.

Kobo Aura vs Kobo Glo
IMG_0822

Kobo Aura vs Kindle Paperwhite
IMG_0823

Shaped back of Kobo Aura
IMG_0824

Thickness comparison
IMG_0835

Now, it has to be said, the screen on the Kobo Aura is gorgeous. I’d say it is slightly better than the screen on the Paperwhite, and better than the Kobo. The lighting I’d say is considerably superior to both the Paperwhite and the Glo.

The OS has been updated on the Kobo Aura so that more info is displayed on the home screen; rather than the four books you’re currently reading and links to other content, the Aura shows new reading rewards, recently added books, and recommendations. I liked this and hope it will come to the Glo soon.

Now, personally, I’m not so fond of the Aura’s larger screen and waved back. I love that my ereader fits easily in my handbag, and I like the 6 inch form factor. The weight is not a big difference, although I don’t have a cover on my Aura right now. That being said, I tend to read epub format books, primarily novels, and not PDFs. For those of you who read a lot of PDFs or comics on your ereader, the larger screen may be a worthwhile investment.

I should also like to comment on battery life. I found I had to recharge it after just four days. In all fairness, I was off work sick so I was reading for a solid eight hours over those four days, and I had the light on. This matches up with Kobo’s claim of two months at 30 minutes a day. I cannot believe though that a hard core reader (as you’d have to be to invest in the Aura) would only read 30 minutes a day. That’s something to bear in mind.

The processor in the Aura and Glo are both 1Ghz, so I found no discernible difference in page turn speed. It has double the internal storage of the Glo or Paperwhite, which might be useful for those using it for large PDF files.

In summary, the Aura is a nice reader; I’m not certain that it justifies an extra $40 over the Glo, especially for me as the Kobo is my secondary ereader – my primary ereader is my Kindle. I’m still undecided whether to keep the Aura or return it. If this product were from Amazon and therefore the ereader I would use most often, I’d be more likely to keep it.

Clearly it’s targeting a readership who reads PDFs or comic books. If that is you, the Aura is certainly worth looking at. For those who read primarily epub novels, I personally don’t feel it brings much more to the table than the Kobo Glo or the Kindle Paperwhite.

Let me know what you think.

When I visited Scotland recently to visit my family I realised I had to make arrangements for internet access while I was there. I am a self-confessed internet addict, and my parents are not online.

I considered a few options: I could use my Canadian cellphone provider and pay for the roaming charges; I could rent a cellphone in the UK or I could use a service like Tep and rent a wifi device, allowing me to get online with my iPad as well. Two major providers in this area appear to be X.Com Global and Tep Wireless In the end I decided to check out Tep Wireless. I went online and verified that coverage was provided in the area of Scotland I was visiting – it was. For around $60 Canadian I arranged for one week’s unlimited wireless internet access.

Reviews of Tep Global seemed to be either glowing or shockingly bad, with the device not being delivered a significant cause of concern. I was rather relieved when my mother rang me to say that the device had been delivered on schedule a day or two before my arrival.

When I arrived on the Sunday evening I powered up the device only to have it display SMS only. Hmmm. After many, many, many attempts I finally got through to Tep support. Some basic troubleshooting was done, but I was still unable to get online. The Tep agent advised that a replacement device would be sent to me.

By the Wednesday I had not received any device or any further contact from Tep. Once again I attempted to contact them and it took from 9.30 am to 5pm to have my call actually answered. I was informed that there was no record of any new device being shipped to me. By this time, of course, it was already half way through my trip and any device sent now would barely arrive in time for me to use before I returned it. When I inquired about a full refund, I was informed that it was not Tep’s policy to issue refunds in such circumstances, only a credit note. Despite my insistence that this was unacceptable to me, he refused to budge.

However, he did some more troubleshooting and he was able to get me online. This lasted three hours until the device once again dropped the connection and showed SMS only.

At this point, I simply returned the device and demanded a full refund as well as repayment of the $1200 I had run up in roaming charges. I am still waiting for any response or refund from Tep.

So if you are considering Tep, perhaps you will be lucky and experience no issues at all. However, please consider this review and all other reviews out there before making a booking.

I received a free review copy of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau through Netgalley, and here are my thoughts.

The Testing tells the story of Cia Vale from a small village struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic future. The government invites Cia to undergo testing for admittance to the University, an opportunity which could change her life and that of her community. It soon becomes apparent that this is not an invitation Cia can refuse, and that she will become involved in a struggle for her very survival.

It is very difficult to read this book without comparing it to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Many of the same themes are there: dystopian society struggling after a cataclysmic war; young teens forced by an all-powerful government to compete to the death in a competition for a marvelous prize; heroine torn between two loves; shadowy rebel forces attempting to overthrow the government.

What I didn’t like

I felt at times this borrowed too heavily from The Hunger Games. The premise is very similar, and many of the same themes are explored.

Again, comparing The Testing to The Hunger Games, I felt the setup was lacking somewhat. In The Hunger Games, the government’s motivation for the Games is crystal clear; it’s a method of control. I struggle to see where Charbonneau is going in her setup. It is made clear that the post apocalyptic society is struggling to maintain population levels, so it seems very strange that the government would choose to cull a significant number of young people who could otherwise have made a positive contribution to the society. However, as this is just the first novel in the series I’m prepared to give the author a pass on this, on the understanding that this will be explained more fully in future books.

On the other hand, I felt the slow breadcrumbs trail hinting at the danger of the Testing was very well done.

What I liked

I found the heroine Cia to be very well written and engaging. Although she is a teenager, she has a good head on her shoulders and acts sensibly and thoughtfully in the situations in which she finds herself. She does have a tendency to trust where she should perhaps be more wary, but her thought processes are well described, so you can see her trusting as a risk she did consider. This makes her a much more engaging heroine than say Twilight’s Bella.

The love triangle was also very subtly and well written. Clearly, in this novel, the heroine’s first priority is survival, but enough groundwork was laid that this will become an interesting theme for future books. The whole question of who should she trust will be fun to explore.

The setup for book two is very intriguing. Cia will be in a very different situation, and I look forward to seeing how she handles it. It will also move it well away from Hunger Games territory, which can only be to the good.

In summary

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent it would certainly be worth your while picking up The Testing.

I gave The Testing four stars out of five.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.