Archive for August, 2013

So now that Kobo has announced its new lineup, I’m pretty confident Amazon won’t be too far behind.  I have some updates I’d love to see in the new lineup.

My absolute dream device would be an eInk/LCD hybrid.  I’d love to be able to switch between a tablet and eReader.  I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.

For eInk readers, I’d love to see audio support reinstated.  I didn’t miss it when it disappeared from the Paperwhite, but at that point I wasn’t as heavily invested in Audible and audiobooks as I am now.  I would also love to see full Audible integration as we have it on the Fire, immersion reading included.  I would snap that baby up in a New York minute.  I ADORE the Audible integration on the Fire, but I do prefer reading on eInk.

In terms of the Fire, of course any improvement in specs and screen would be welcome.  Not that the current Fire isn’t excellent.  I would also welcome a better way of organising content.  The Favourites drawer isn’t nearly flexible enough.  I like Kobo’s idea of a Reading Mode where you can switch off all other distractions and optimise battery usage.  On the other hand, the Fire has something similar already – it’s called Airplane mode…

What would you like tot see in the new Kindle devices?  Let me know in the comments.

Advertisements

Something happened this week that doesn’t often happen to me – I gave up on a book.  I had been reading Fire by Kristin Cashore, and I just couldn’t get into it at all.  Her previous book, Graceling, was one I’d quite enjoyed.  The world she’d created with Gracelings was fascinating.  For some reason though, I just couldn’t enjoy the slightly different world of Fire with its multicoloured monsters and rather bland heroine.  On Amazon though it gets a good 4.2 stars out of five and on GoodReads 4.11 so perhaps it was just me.

Upcoming September releases

There are a few good books coming out in September that I have on pre-order.

First up is The Transfer – a Divergent Story by Veronica Roth.  Ms Roth is releasing four short stories in the Divergent world and this first one in which the character of Four is given more screen time.  I’m excited for Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy which is due out in October, so I’ll certainly be enjoying this additional material in advance.

Despite having been out in the UK and Audible since March, the Kindle version of Luke Scull’s The Grim Company only gets its North American release on the 2nd of September.  I enjoyed this book on Audible, and am looking forward to reading it on my Kindle.  The characters are fascinating and I look forward to meeting them again.

[mp3j track=”http://samples.audible.com/bk/adbl/011841/bk_adbl_011841_sample.mp3″ volslider=”y” title = “Listen to a sample”]

The final book coming out in September that I’m excited about is Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart.  This is the first in a new series – good grief that guy is prolific!  From the synopsis it seems to be dealing with power and how ordinary people are affected when they suddenly become powerful.  Audible has released the first five chapters for FREE.  I will certainly be checking it out.

[mp3j track=”http://samples.audible.com/bk/adbl/011758/bk_adbl_011758_sample.mp3″ volslider=”y” title = “Listen to a sample”]

Added to my library this week

I picked up the Audible five chapter sample of Steelheart – it’s free, folks!

Since I enjoyed Cold Magic by Kate Elliott so much, I picked up book two in the trilogy, Cold Fire.  I will probably wait until it’s released on audiobook as well before reading it.

I’ve been hearing good things about The Archived by Victoria Schwab, so I downloaded the free sample to test.

That’s all I have folks.  Happy reading!

I recently came across a fun thing to do – a Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt.  This was something created by BookTuber The Library of Sarah, and here’s her introductory video.  My bookshelf is more virtual, but it sounds such an interesting idea, I thought I’d give it a go.  So without further ado, let’s get started:

Find an author’s name or title with the letter Z in it
My bookshelf contains both ebooks and audiobooks.  For this one I chose the audiobook of Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny.  This is a fun series – each time you think you’ve got to the heart of the matter, another layer is pulled away.

Find a classic
This one’s easy.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  A classic if ever there was one.

Find a book with a key on it
I struggled with this one for a bit.  I was even going to suggest the Wheel of Time’s Winter’s Heart which depicts Rand working with the Choedan Kal which is the access key to huge amounts of the One Power.  However, I thought that was stretching it somewhat.  Eventually I found this:

Find something on your bookshelf that’s not a book
As my bookshelf is virtual, I’ll have to pass on this one.

Find the oldest book on your shelf
This I will interpret as being the book which was originally published earliest.  For me that would probably be Evelina by Fanny Burney originally published in 1778,  I’ve not read this one yet.

Find a book with a girl on the cover
I’m spoiled for choice here.  It’s amazing how many young adult fantasy books have a girl on the cover.  As I’m on a Cassandra Clare kick right now though, I’ll go with Clockwork Princess.

Find a book that has an animal in it
I have a soft spot for gentle mysteries in which the protagonist’s cat helps to solve it.  For this let’s go with File M for Murder by Miranda James in which librarian Charlie is ably aided and abetted in his sleuthing by his Maine Coon cat, Diesel.

Find a book with a male protagonist
Two words.  Harry Potter.

Find a book with only words on it
This was surprisingly difficult.  It’s amazing how much cover art is part of the book experience.  The closest one I have is probably Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  This is an excellent book, by the way, and worth checking out.


Find a book with illustrations in it
Hmmm.  Let’s go with Harry Potter Page to Screen.  This is a simply gorgeous book of how the Harry Potter films were made.  It was a gift from my husband and definitely one book I’m happy to have in beautiful hardback.

Find a book with gold lettering
Gold seems to be a popular choice for lettering.  Let’s go with The Gathering Storm from Wheel of Time

Find a diary (true or fictional)
I was torn between The Diary of Anne Frank and The Bridget Jones Diary.  Both are excellent books for very, very different reasons.  As the sequel to Bridget Jones is coming out in a few months, let’s go with Bridget.

Find a book written by someone with a common name (like Smith)
I assume “Dan Brown” counts?

Find a book that has a closeup of something on it
Shatter Me by Taheri Mafi is a new addition to my library.  I’ve not read it yet, but I’m hearing excellent things about it.  The cover shows a closeup of an eye


Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period
Without a doubt, this would have to be Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series, which is set in the Ice Age.  I enjoyed the first couple of books, but after that I found they got bogged down somewhat.

Find a hardcover book without a jacket
My virtual books all have virtual dust jackets

Find a teal/turquoise colored book
One thing I love about my virtual library is that it can be sorted at the click of a button.  One of the sort options Delicious Library has is to sort by cover colour.  This helped me to find this:

Find a book with stars on it
How about The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.  This was an interesting concept, but failed slightly in the execution.

Find a non-YA book
I borrowed 50 Shades of Grey from the library, so cannot say it’s on my bookshelf, even if I would admit to it.  Of the books in my library, I’d say the least YA friendly would be possibly The Time Keeper by Mitch Alborn.  While I’m sure young adults could read and enjoy it, I’d say a few more years of life experience would help in the appreciation of the themes explored.

There you have it.  Thank you, Sarah, for coming up with a fun and imaginative exercise.  I enjoyed the fact that it showed how varied my library is.  What would you scavenge from your bookshelf?  Let me know in the comments.

I received a free copy of Dream of Time by Nancy J. Price from Netgalley to review.  It tells the story of modern day wife and mother Robin from San Francisco who, when she sleeps, inhabits the body and life of turn of the century Jennie diMedici.  It relates her attempts to prevent tragedies and crimes using knowledge gleaned from her present day life.

What I liked

The basic concept.  I loved the main idea and felt it was very well thought out and executed.  Price wove Robin’s two lives together very well and I enjoyed her attempts to correct the past.  I liked the way limitations were built into the time travel scenario so that Robin couldn’t just fix everything straight away.  The fact that there were consequences in Robin’s present for the actions she took in the past also helped to up the stakes.

The relationship with Travis.  “Jennie’s” relationship with Travis was beautifully written and very touching.  It felt very real, and I enjoyed watching them build up trust and love.  The techniques they used for communicating across the years was particularly inventive.

The Victorian setting.  The Victorian setting for Robin’s alternate life was wonderfully described.  It is clear Price had done a lot of research into the subject.  There were some beautifully descriptive passages about the architecture and lifestyle of early twentieth century San Francisco.  The particular ebook I have included links to the book’s website where more detail is provided.  It was fun reading about Robin’s trying to adjust to life in turn of the century San Francisco.   I actually would have welcomed reading more of this, but Robin’s culture shock was put to the side fairly quickly in favour of the time travelling crime solving plot.

The ending.  I loved the way everything was brought together and the impact Robin’s time in Jennie’s life had on those around her.

What I didn’t like

The writing style.  The book is written from Robin’s perspective and uses a very informal, colloquial style.  While I understand that this was almost certainly a conscious choice to fit with the protagonist, I personally would have preferred a slight more formal way of writing.  At times I cringed inwardly at a particularly informal turn of phrase which jolted me out of the story somewhat.  That is just my own personal opinion, however, and others may have no issue with the style.

Two dimensional characters.  I felt there were some wasted opportunities for some character development in the book.  The two main protagonists are pleasant enough, but the villains of the piece were almost cardboard cutouts.  You could almost see them twirling their moustaches and chortling evilly.  There were a few half hints that they did have more depth, but they were not explored fully.  A similar issue occurs with Jennie’s neighbours.  Just as Jennie – and the reader – was beginning to get the impression that they are unique individuals with their own goals and desires they disappear from the scene.  I would have welcomed hearing more about them.

All in all, while I loved the main plotline and setting, the narrative style and uninteresting secondary characters lessened my enjoyment of the book, so I gave Dream of Time three and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon or Kobo

 

Kobo held a press event today entitled “Beyond the Book.”  in which it announced three new variations of its popular Kobo Arc tablet and a new version of its eInk Kobo Aura.  I hadn’t been expecting a refresh at this point as both their eInk readers (the Aura) and their tablet offerings (the Arc) were refreshed earlier this year.

For me, the Kobo Aura seems very interesting.  It retains the HD pixel density of the 6.7 inch Kobo Aura HD released earlier this year but reverts to the traditional 6 inch screen.  It is priced at $150 as opposed to the original’s $169.  I have placed my order – it took a while as the devices are newly up for preorder.  The Aura will be delivered on the 11th of September.

In addition to SD and HD 7 inch Kobo Arcs, the company is now offering a 10 inch tablet.  The specs are higher on the new version.  Check out http://goodereader.com/blog/ for full details.  Personally, I won’t check out the tablet – I adore my Kindle Fire HD and see no need for another.

Additionally, the company is also launching value added content with Beyond the Book, which will include links in the books to further material of interest.  I’m not certain how I feel about that.  When I’m reading, I like to get immersed in the story and I would find such links distracting.  On the other hand, it could be very interesting.

The company announced also that it is adding magazines and a special children’s bookstore to its service.

I will of course keep you updated with reviews.

Kobo Devices

As I mentioned in my Clockwork Angel review, I had problems getting into City of Bones.  I have now read it all, or rather listened on Audible, and I have to say my initial reactions have not really altered much.

What I liked

The worldbuilding. This, for me, is the highlight of the book, and probably what will keep my coming back for more.  Clare has done an excellent job in defining her world and the history and beings in it.  I loved hearing about the Nephalim, the Moon’s Children and Night’s Children and look forward to hearing more about them.  

The pacing.  This was something I thought worked better than in Clockwork Angel. The plot setup was done efficiently and well, and the narrative tension was well maintained.  It’s amazing how well the old trusted and true “good guys need to prevent the bad guys from getting their hands on the McGuffin” works!  However, it does depend on the execution though, and I felt Clare did this excellently.  The importance of this particular McGuffin, the Mortal Cup, was clearly defined as were the consequences of its falling into the wrong hands.

What I didn’t like

The main characters.  I’m sorry, but I struggled to like Clary and Jace.  Clary I found often immature and whiny, whereas Jace comes across as just plain arrogant, even more so than a Nephalim has a right to be.  I believe that a good judge of a person’s character is how he  treats those he feels are inferior to him, and Jace failed that test time and time again.  On the positive side, it does leave a lot of scope for character development for later in the series, and I do see definite signs of it, which is encouraging.

The narration.  I didn’t enjoy Ari Graynor’s narration as much as that of Jennifer Ehle for of Clockwork Angel.  I found it lacked inflection and at times I struggled to retain interest.  It should be noted that Ms Graynor doesn’t narrate the other books in the Mortal Instrument series.  

In summary, although I didn’t find City of Bones itself compelling reading, I felt that some strong seeds had been sown for a very interesting series.  I will likely read more of the series at some point, even if it is not immediately.

I gave City of Bones three and a half stars out of five

  buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes or Audible

Edited to add:

Last weekend I went to see the City of Bones movie and I must say I found it a lot of fun.  The script and Jamie Campbell Bower’s interpretation made Jace a lot less annoying than in the book, and to a certain extent likewise with Lily Collins’ Clary.  I felt the script put across the main points and themes of the book very well, and the visuals were superb.  

Codex Born by Jim C Hines is the sequel to Libriomancer which tells of Isaac Vainio, a libriomancer with the power to access magic from within books.  If you have not read Libriomancer, I would strongly suggest you start there.  While it is not impossible to enjoy the story without having read the first book, it builds upon concepts, characters and events detailed in Libriomancer.  Codex Born continues Isaac’s story and develops what we know of libriomancy.  Feel free to check out my thoughts on Libriomancer.

What I liked

Lena’s backstory.  We learn much, much more about Lena Greenwood through brief snippets before each chapter.  For me, this was one of the most beautifully written and touching parts of the books as she learns to come to terms with her nature and the accommodations she has to make to achieve a little freedom.

The visual imagery.  Hines has a real talent for describing scenes that had me flat out giggling like a schoolgirl with the picture it evoked in my mind.  An example was “She appeared to be holding off a small swarm of bugs with a drinking straw and a yo-yo.”  I’m snickering even now at that mental image.  If you are interested in the quotes I found most amusing, feel free to follow me on my Kindle Amazon profile where I share notable quotes from the books I’m reading.

The magic system.  One of the attractions for me about Libriomancer was the magic system.  The idea that the love of books is so powerful that certain people – libriomancers – can harness that to draw magic from the book really intrigued me.  I felt it was handled slightly better in this book than in Libriomancer, where sometimes I felt that the rules and limitations weren’t fully explained before being broken.  In Codex Born I felt these were more clearly defined which meant I felt the ending was less of a deus ex machina.

What I didn’t like

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about Codex Born.  The plot did get a little complex at times, and it was a little tricky to keep track of who was manipulating whom and who wanted to kill whom.

I gave Codex Born a solid 4 stars out of 5.

 Buy amazon Buy kobo Buy audible

It certainly isn’t a good week to be a bookworm in Quebec.  Canada’s Globe and Mail is reporting that Quebec’s legislature has opened a hearing on pricing for new books.  Being discussed is the question of whether or not to prevent the price of new books being discounted by more than 10% for the first nine months after release.  The stated intention behind this is to protect the smaller bookstores, especially smaller Francophone ones, from the big hitters such as Amazon and Walmart.  Now, while I can appreciate the sentiment, I’m really not certain that keeping book prices high is really going to help anyone.  Smaller bookstores are never going to be able to compete with Amazon on price, so perhaps the government should concentrate on supporting them other ways.  For example subsidising author signings in the province, sponsoring book groups, or subsidising the cost of Quebecois francophone books.  Most Quebec produced books are still noticeably more expensive than their English counterparts.

This week I have been working nightshift.  As my job is very reactive – sitting around waiting on servers burping, not many human callers – I find it’s a perfect time to enjoy some audiobooks.  The books help to keep me awake, but I can keep my eye on my computer screen at the same time watching for issues.

I couldn’t decide what to listen to.  I was torn between Insurgent – the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Summer Knight (Dresden Files book four), Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic or Golem and the Jinni.   Now, I can often tell by the sample provided by Audible how much I’m going to enjoy the book so I went and took a listen.  It was a very close call, but Summer Knight just edged out Cold Magic.  Here’s the winning sample.

[mp3j track=”http://samples.audible.com/bk/buzz/000005/bk_buzz_000005_sample.mp3″ volslider=”y” title = “Summer Knight”]

James Marsters’ narration of this series is pitch perfect, and this sample is an excellent demonstration of the talents of both writer and narrator.  It rained toads.  Let me say that again.  It rained TOADS, great big slimy TOADS!  And, of course, things don’t get any better or easier for poor Harry.  If you have not yet started this series about Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only consulting wizard/private eye I can strongly recommend it.  It’s also an excellent one to start on audiobooks thanks to Marsters’ wonderful work.  

The sample for Cold Magic also drew me in and had me wanting more – it will be one of the next books I listen to.

Added to my library this week

Audible gave me a free $5 voucher, so I spent it on Hammered, the next in the Iron Druid series.

With Cold Magic, I’m on a bit of a Kate Elliott kick, so I added King’s Dragon to my library.  This is the first in a the Crown of Stars series, one I’ve read before apart from the last book.  I had been reading it in hard copy, and they got donated to a secondhand store when I left New Zealand.  This is why I love my Kindle!

I made the mistake of browsing Amazon’s monthly deals on my Kindle Fire, and ended up purchasing two cat mystery books.  One, Murder in a Casbah of Cats apparently tells the story of a PI who cat sits for a millionaire thinking it will be an easy job.  Sounds like famous last words… I have a feeling he’d rather be back with the criminals!  Sounded like a fun read for a couple of dollars.

The second one I picked up was Kitty Kitty Bang Bang about a pet therapist dealing with upper crust kitties in Laguna Beach whose owners keep turning up dead.  That sounded fun, too.  Again this is on special for a couple of dollars.

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season.  Some people are even calling Shannon the next J.K. Rowling.  That’s high praise indeed.  I couldn’t resist, so I added it.  I will of course let you know what I think.  I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Sigh.  My TBR list keeps growing rather than getting less.

What did you add to your library this week?  Let me know in the comments.

Some months ago a friend recommended Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series to me.  I picked up City of Bones, the first book, from Audible, and found it hard to get past the first few chapters.  In all fairness, that might have been due to the fact that it was the book I selected to listen to at the gym, and for various reasons (my lack of willpower mainly) I didn’t go as often as I should have.  It’s also true that City of Bones didn’t grab my attention immediately.  I will probably try again before the movie comes out.  Clockwork Angel is the first in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments set many years earlier in Victorian London.

Unlike Mortal Instruments, Clockwork Angel hooked me immediately from the Audible preview, so much so that I immediately invested in the entire trilogy in Kindle and Audible formats – Whispersync for Voice is available on these titles.  This is partly due to Jennifer Ehle’s excellent narration, and also that I found it easier to connect with Tessa than Mortal Instruments’ Clary.

What I liked

The setting/worldbuilding.  Clare evokes Victorian London with a twist beautifully.  I also really loved the worldbuilding – the history of the Shadowhunters, Downworlders and mundanes was very well done.  I look forward to reading more of the world in both Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices.

The characters. I connected more easily with the Tessa of Infernal Devices than Clary of Mortal Instruments.  Although they are around the same age I believe, as an adult reader I found Tessa, concerned about starting a new life in a new country, more like me than Clary who in the chapters I read was more concerned about boys and dance clubs. I freely admit that it is unfair of me to judge the characters when I’ve only read a few chapters on Clary, and I suspect my opinion may change as I get to know her better.   I will, of course, update you when I’ve read City of Bones.

The narration.  It was partly Jennifer Ehle’s wonderful narration which drew me into this book, and I’m truly sorry she does not continue on for the next two books in the series.  She easily distinguishes between the characters, some with an American accent true to the book and others with a British one.  The emotions of the characters comes through clearly as she narrates.  I certainly found it a lot more interesting that Ari Graynor’s narration of the chapters I listened to of City of Bones.  Again, it’s very unfair of me to judge just on the chapters I heard of City of Bones, and I will let you know if I revise my opinion.

[mp3j track=”http://samples.audible.com/bk/sans/003979/bk_sans_003979_sample.mp3″ volslider=”y” title = “Listen to a sample”] The writing. There was a lot of information about the world to get across to the reader and I thought Clare did this quite well – she managed to avoid massive info dumps and yet put across an understanding of the new world in which Tessa finds herself.

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  The book started off excellently, and I was quickly drawn into Tessa’s predicament.  I loved learning with her about the Shadowhunters, The Institute and about this whole hidden world.  However, after that, though, I found the action dragged until the last couple of chapters.  Personally, this drop in narrative tension rather spoiled the book for me.

All in all I liked the book, but I would have enjoyed it better had the pacing been more consistent.  I gave Clockwork Angel three and a half stars out of five.

Which did you prefer, Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices?  Let me know in the comments.

  buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes or Audible

 

Codex Born by Jim C Hines is the sequel to Libriomancer which tells of Isaac Vainio, a libriomancer with the power to access magic from within books.  If you have not read Libriomancer, I would strongly suggest you start there.  While it is not impossible to enjoy the story without having read the first book, it builds upon concepts, characters and events detailed in Libriomancer.  Codex Born continues Isaac’s story and develops what we know of libriomancy.  Feel free to check out my thoughts on Libriomancer.

What I liked

Lena’s backstory.  We learn much, much more about Lena Greenwood through brief snippets before each chapter.  For me, this was one of the most beautifully written and touching parts of the books as she learns to come to terms with her nature and the accommodations she has to make to achieve a little freedom.

The visual imagery.  Hines has a real talent for describing scenes that had me flat out giggling like a schoolgirl with the picture it evoked in my mind.  An example was “She appeared to be holding off a small swarm of bugs with a drinking straw and a yo-yo.”  I’m snickering even now at that mental image.  If you are interested in the quotes I found most amusing, feel free to follow me on my Kindle Amazon profile where I share notable quotes from the books I’m reading.

The magic system.  One of the attractions for me about Libriomancer was the magic system.  The idea that the love of books is so powerful that certain people – libriomancers – can harness that to draw magic from the book really intrigued me.  I felt it was handled slightly better in this book than in Libriomancer, where sometimes I felt that the rules and limitations weren’t fully explained before being broken.  In Codex Born I felt these were more clearly defined which meant I felt the ending was less of a deus ex machina.

What I didn’t like

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about Codex Born.  The plot did get a little complex at times, and it was a little tricky to keep track of who was manipulating whom and who wanted to kill whom.

I gave Codex Born a solid 4 stars out of 5.

 Buy amazon Buy koboBuy audible