Archive for June, 2013

This week I finished The Gem Trilogy by Kerstin Gier, which I absolutely adored.  I will say though that it is one long book divided into three parts rather than three separate books with an overarching storyline – the first two novels don’t really have a strong ending.  For this reason you may wish to wait before starting the trilogy as the final book, Emerald Green, is not due out in English until October – unless you read German, that is.

There were several twists in the final volume, some of which were clearly signposted along the way, others more surprising – I found that Gier had a nice balance there. I continued to enjoy the character of Gwen and her adventures.  The fact that the subtitle of “love throughout the ages” can be applied to more than one couple was very appealing to me.  I would certainly recommend this trilogy, although I recommend waiting a few months until the English translation is available!  Check out the Gem Trilogy on Kindle, Kobo, iBook and Audible formats.

The next book I read/listened to was Brandon Sanderson’s new YA novel The Rithmatist.  As an aside, I would not recommend listening to this book on Audible.  This is nothing to do with Michael Kramer’s narration; as usual he is very good.  Rather, the novel depends on “rithmatic diagrams” which are illustrated in the book.  Although Kramer does describe them, if you only listen you will miss a lot, perhaps key story points.

This isn’t one of Sanderson’s best works.  The magic system, usually one of Sanderson’s key strengths, didn’t grab me the way some of his others have.  I also didn’t feel very engaged with the main characters who are after all only sixteen.  If you’re new to Sanderson I’d recommend starting with Mistborn or Elantris rather than this.  Brandon is one of my favourite authors, so it’s worth checking him out on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible.

Through Netgalley I was offered a free copy of Finding Colin Firth, a new chicklit novel by Mia March.  Well with a title like that how could I say no?  I hadn’t intended to start it yet, but I started flicking through it and was immediately hooked.  I will write more once I’ve finished it.

While browsing my Twitter feed I came across an interesting blog post by author Mark Lawrence on heroes, anti-heroes and villains.  His Prince of Thorns has been on my TBR list for some while, and because I liked what he had to say in his blog post I have started listening to it.  I’m only a couple of chapters in, but so far so good.

This week I also revisited Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Roth’s Divergent series is tipped by some to be the next Hunger Games, and it is easy to see why.  The post apocalyptic world Roth creates feels real – and scary – and her characters are engaging and multi dimensional.  I found it an excellent read.  You can find Divergent on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Audible.

Added to my Library this week

The Lord of the Rings, BBC Radio production – Audible format
The Hangman’s Daughter – Audible format
Austenland – Audible format
Unfettered anthology – Kindle format
The Companions – free to review
The Godborn – free to review

Technorati Tags:

Advertisements

MyPicture Some of you kind enough to check out my writing may not know me personally, so I thought it was probably about time to tell you a bit about myself.

To get started, here’s a fun fact. I have read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings right through – all 1,200+ pages – in four different languages; English, French, German and Dutch.  Normally, I don’t like to be pinned down to a favourite book, but if you really, really REALLY pressed me, I’d probably have to answer Tolkien’s masterpiece. 

My handle is Scottish Bookworm in Quebec.  Yes, I am Scottish, yes, I am a bookworm and yes, I do live in Quebec.  In order to fund my book habit I work in technical support, although I’d much rather be reading with my cat Isis curled up on my knee.  

As a youngster, I always had my nose stuck in a book.  It was hardly surprising then that I studied Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh where I spent four years dissecting classic French and German literature.  For some time after I graduated I refused to read anything deeper than the latest issue of Cosmopolitan.  

It wasn’t until I bought my first Kindle back in early 2010 that I really began to read voraciously again.  Now, however, my book budget is a source of, um, friendly discussion shall we say between my husband and myself.  I often reread books – indeed, going back to some of my favourites is like catching up with old friends – so I like to have a copy to hand.  I used to refuse to be beaten by a book and would finish it to the end.  Now I believe life is too short to waste on a poorly written book, or even one that doesn’t engage me personally.

My preferred genre is fantasy, and I’ll read anything by George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, the usual suspects.  What I look for in a book is either a strong plot line (a la Weeks), interesting worldbuilding (Sanderson’s speciality) or fascinating characters (Tyrion anyone?), and preferably a blend of all three.  Of course if there’s humour in there too, that’s even better.  I’m put off by characters with little more depth than a playing card, uneven pacing and quick fix resolutions that have not been well set up.   

When reviewing books I try to be fair; I appreciate that not everyone will be looking for the same things in a book.  I also try to remember that the author has spent many months if not years creating this story and characters and I try to respect that, even if I find it is not appealing to me personally.  If I am ever less than respectful in a review please call me up on it.

I hope you enjoy my comments on the books I read.  I am active on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, so please feel free to look me up there.  I look forward to hearing from you.

This week could more easily have been described as “listening roundup” as I’ve been listening more than reading – or rather I have been listening and reading along on my brand spanking new Kindle Fire.

Here is what I have been reading and listening to this past week. 

I recently finished Siege and Storm in both Kindle and Audible by Leigh Bardugo, the followup to Shadow and Bone.  To be honest I was rather disappointed in this book.  I loved the Russian-style setting of the first book, and my enjoyment of this continued into the second book.  However, I found the pacing of this second book rather slow.  After a promising start, the story slows down to a crawl.  It also annoys me when young protagonists suddenly find themselves in a leadership position with no training or experience, just because they have some unrelated power.  

On a positive side some new and very interesting characters were introduced, especially Sturmhond.  Also the ending picked up again dramatically and I will certainly read the final book in the Grisha trilogy to see how it all ends.

I listened to Graceling by Kristin Cashore from Audible which was marked as a full cast production.  I have to say it really irritated me. Clearly the cast wasn’t in the room at the same time, so there was a pause waiting on the next person speaking.  That really threw me out of the story.

This week I was also directed to the Gem trilogy by German author Kerstin Gier.  Originally written in German, it is set in London and tells the story of Gwyneth, a young girl whose family carries a time travelling gene.  Thanks @katytastic for the recommendation.  I LOVED this book.  Gwyneth is a fun character, and for the audiobook Marisa Calin’s narration really brings it to life.  I particularly appreciated that, unlike her cousin, Gwyneth hasn’t been inducted into the family’s secrets, so we learn at the same time she does, often by her mistakes.

I have finished the audiobook for the sequel, Sapphire Blue, and also started the German ebook of Smaragdgrun (Emerald Green).  The English translation of the book doesn’t come out til October and I don’t want to wait that long!  My husband must be irritated that I have my headphones on the whole time listening to it.

I have also started to read/listen to Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist.  It’s early days yet, but so far so good.

Added to my Library this week

  • Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier – both Kindle and Audible formats
  • Smaragdgruen by Kerstin Gier – Kindle format (Amazon Germany)
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore – both Kindle and Audible formats
  • Infinity Blade by Brandon Sanderson – Kindle format
  • Blood Skies by Stephen Montano – Kindle format

// <![CDATA[

// ]]>

&amp;lt;img src=”http://wms-na.amazon-adsystem.com/20070822/CA/img/noscript.gif?tag=scotbookinque-20&#8243; alt=”” /&amp;gt;&lt;span id=”mce_marker” data-mce-type=”bookmark”&gt;&lt;/span&gt;

I have now had my Kindle Fire fir several days now and this is my update to my initial impressions.  Once I got over my disappointment in the lack of Audible integration for Canadians, I began to really enjoy the device. My other two tablets are an iPad 3 and a Nexus 7. I find the smaller form factors of the Nexus and the Kindle Fire very comfortable to use.

Until  now, my main tablet of choice has been my iPad 3.  I use it around the house, and if I’m travelling I take it with me.  However, I find it’s rather bulky to carry around, and I usually end up taking my Kindle Paperwhite too, as I really don’t enjoy reading books on the iPad.  I really don’t use my Nexus very much at all.

Perhaps the the best way to approach this review is to discuss how the tasks I usually undertake on my iPad translate to the Kindle Fire. I don’t use the iPad for work/production related activities.  There are many apps I use on my iPhone to check a few quick things.

Checking email

I was able to import all my personal accounts – two Yahoo emails, Gmail and a non standard account for my evelynne@scottishbookworminquebec.com email – with minimal hassle.  I have not been able to access my work Exchange email, but i generally check that on my iPhone rather than my tablet anyway.

Surfing the web

Surfing the web is fine on both devices.  On the Kindle I miss my synced iCloud bookmarks, but I can live without them.  I find no major difference between using Safari and the Amazon Silk browser

Checking social networking sites

I am active in Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads.  All of these have apps available on iOS and Android and are great to use and look at in both environments.

Reading magazines

Although I prefer reading novels on my Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo, magazines are a delight to read on tablets.  I use Zinio for my magazine subscriptions and have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly as a standalone app.  Both are great on the iPad and Kindle Fire. Despite the smaller screen size, the high  resolution of the Kindle Fire’s screen means that the text is still easily legible.  

Watching videos

This is one area in which the iPad has superiority with its larger screen.  On my iPad I watch iTunes movies and Netflix as well as use the remote app to control my Apple TV.  The lack of Amazon Instant Video and inability to purchase movies from Amazon means that I am limited to Netflix on the Kindle Fire.

Most of my non book content is in iTunes, which I have not yet managed to access on my Android devices.  Other than Netflix, the only movie I’ve been able to get on my Kindle Fire is the one I have in my UV account.

Checking on the news

I usually get my news from the BBC News app.  Again, the app is available for both iPad and Android and is gorgeous to browse.  I noticed the La Presse app is available for Android and iPhone but not yet on the Amazon app store.  It may take a while for Canadian specific apps to make their way to the Amazon app store – I noticed the  Cineplex app is also not yet available – as it’s so new still.

What’s better on the iPad

Integration with the Apple ecosystem.  I’m a Mac girl, and I do appreciate the tight integration with Apple products.  I like that I can add a bookmark on my Mac and it’s available to me on my iPhone and iPad.  This includes movies and music.  

What’s better on the Kindle Fire

Integration with Amazon.  Kindle Fire is designed to promote access to Amazon content.  The Fire makes it very easy to access purchased content and purchase more.  Shopping on Amazon on the Fire is a real pleasure.  I almost never shop on my Paperwhite or the iPad; Apple has blocked in-app purchases from Amazon, so this requires leaving the Kindle app to go to either the website or the Kindle Store app.  On the Fire this is all integrated.

Reading novels.  I still prefer long form reading on the Paperwhite, but the Fire’s high res screen makes reading not too painful. I find the iPad a little too heavy for long form reading.  I would certainly be happy to take the Fire away for a weekend and leave the Paperwhite and iPad at home. 

The notifications. I find them much more subtle and unintrusive on the Kindle Fire, which is nice if I am engrossed in a book.

Book and app recommendations. I love books and reading, and I’ve always enjoyed Amazon’s recommendations.  Yes, I know, they’re just trying to get me to pay them more money,  but they do seem to suggest some great books.  This is all integral to the Fire experience.

Typing.  I really love Android’s suggested words when typing – I find this system much less typing intensive than iOS’s

So what about the Kindle Fire vs the Nexus 7?

Perhaps a fairer comparison would be between the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 as they are both Android and 7 inch.  As I mentioned, I’ve not really used it as much as I would have hoped.  I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Perhaps it’s more that other than a few functions I tend to focus on content.  The Nexus can’t access my iTunes content easily and although I can access my books with no issues, it’s not the core function of this device.  

And the iPad Mini?

I do like the smaller form factor.  If the Apple iPad were in a similar price bracket to the Kindle Fire and had the same high res screen I would certainly consider it.  However the Kindle Fire beats it in those two regards

In summary then, while the Kindle Fire is not my perfect device – I don’t think they’ll make a device which can switch from eInk to LCD, has a month long battery life and is integrated fully into both Amazon’s and Apple’s ecosystems – I can see it will fit quite nicely into my range of devices.

Today the Kindle Fire launched in multiple countries including Canada, and one was delivered to my door for your reviewing pleasure.

My initial impression is that, although the device is nice, for Canadians it is still very, very limited.  It is a lovely device, but the Amazon services which distinguish it from the other tablets out there are sadly missing.

There is still no support for Amazon’s music or movie store or Amazon Instant Video for Canada.  iTunes movies will not play on the Kindle Fire due to DRM.  Through the movies for Flixter though you can view any movies you have on your UV account.  They do not have the cool X-Ray for Movies feature that gives you details of the actors in a movie when you hit pause.

For the last few years, iTunes music has been sold without DRM so can easily be copied to the music folder and will be available in the music section of the Kindle Fire.

For me, personally, I was very disappointed that the Audible integration is missing for Canadians.  The whole Audiobooks section is missing from the top menu, and although Whispersync for Voice continues to work, immersion reading is not available.  Audible advised me that right now, this feature is for US-only. It hopes to expand to Canada in the future, but no ETA yet. 

As with the Nexus 7, the Kindle is not recognised by Adobe Digital Editions on the Mac, making transferring epub books to the device very difficult.  I have not yet tried the Overdrive app on the Kindle to try to borrow library books.

On the positive side, the device feels solid in my hands, I found it responsive and I did like the ease of shopping on it.  I’m not certain I could consider it a full tablet – lack of multitasking, decent organizational system – it’s definitely more of a multimedia Kindle, but what it does it does very well.

At this point, I’m not certain if I’ll keep it – the lack of Audible integration is a real blow to me, but I will work with it over the next week or so to see what I think.

 

Thieves’ Quarry is the worthy follow up to Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles)  by D.B. Jackson of which I received a free review copy courtesy of Tor.  It is a blend of historical novel, murder mystery and fantasy which continues the story of Ethan Kaille, a thief taker in 18th century Boston.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to have read  Thieftaker prior to reading Thieves’ Quarry, although it does help to appreciate the solid character development and deepening understanding of the magic system.

What I liked

Unique blend of murder mystery, fantasy and historical drama.  This mixture appealed to me in Thieftaker and it continues to work well in the continuation.  This time the stakes are higher with the murder – it could have ramifications on the stability of the city of Boston.

The setting.  Speaking of the city, the author has evoked the setting beautifully.  It was easy for me to imagine Ethan walking down the narrow cobbled streets of Boston. It’s incredible to realise this wasn’t the original setting for the series.

Character development.  Although it’s not necessary to have read Thieftaker before Thieves’ Quarry, by not doing so, you miss out on the subtle but excellent character development.  You can see how Ethan’s thoughts and attitude have developed as a result of what he’s seen and done.

Relationship development.  The above also applies to Ethan’s friendships in the series.  I particularly enjoyed the professional relationship he has with fellow thieftaker Sephira Pryce.  I look forward to seeing how that develops in future books. I also enjoyed meeting Ethan’s sister and nephew.  His nephew’s ignorance of his magical heritage promises some excellent development in future books.

Development in the magic system.  In this book, Ethan learns some new tricks about using his magic.  It’s always good when the fantasy element isn’t static.

What I didn’t like

In all honesty, there was nothing I didn’t like about Thieves’ Quarry.  I found it a solid followup to Thieftaker, with an interesting setting, engaging characters and an intriguing plot.

Some people however, may feel that the blend doesn’t work so well for them if they were expecting a traditional historical drama or murder mystery.

 buy on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible

 buy on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible (listen to a sample)

Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCullochOathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch
Series:
Genres: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Buy from
three-half-stars

I received a free review copy of Oathbreaker’s Shadow via Netgalley.  Oathbreaker’s Shadow is a young adult fantasy novel by Canadian writer Amy McCulloch.  It tells the story of Raim and how he falls foul of his society’s taboo against pathbreaking.  A key part of the novel is Raim’s friendship with the young heir to the realm.

(more…)

I received a free review copy of Oathbreaker’s Shadow via Netgalley.  Oathbreaker’s Shadow is a young adult fantasy novel by Canadian writer Amy McCulloch.  It tells the story of Raim and how he falls foul of his society’s taboo against pathbreaking.  A key part of the novel is Raim’s friendship with the young heir to the realm.

(more…)