Archive for October, 2013

My Kindle Paperwhite second generation arrived today so I decided to take a moment to share my thoughts.  My initial reaction is that this second generation of Amazon’s popular eInk eReader is more evolutionary than revolutionary.  The improvements to the screen and processor, while noticeable, are not overwhelmingly so.  I, personally, was not particularly bothered by some light shading at the bottom of the screen, but I know that many people are sensitive to this.  That is improved considerably on the second generation of Paperwhite.

Here are some screenshots:

The new Kindle is on the right.  The new version does seem to have a warmer sense about it.

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and with the new Kobo Aura

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The new combined Dictionary/X-Ray/Wikipedia screen seems really useful:

Screenshot 2013 10 10T17 57 40 0400

(Note – the shading at the top of that screenshot is not a faulty screen – it’s decorative shading on the book itself)

Probably the most useful is the new page scrolling function – you can now move about easily within a book with a new navigation tool.  

Screenshot 2013 10 10T18 07 41 0400

The feature that I am most excited about, GoodReads integration, isn’t yet here – it is “coming soon” via software update.  This takes me back a few years when we were all anxiously awaiting the update that brought Collections to our eInk Kindles! I’m curious though.  Amazon’s Paperwhite info page says Cloud Collections is also coming soon – I thought we already had that on the Paperwhites? I wonder if they’re doing something new or if it’s referring to the Kindle Fires.

All in all the new Paperwhite is a very nice device – I’m not 100% certain that it’s worth upgrading from the original Paperwhite, which was already excellent, especially if it also gets a software update to allow GoodReads integration and the other new features.  As a first eReader though, it’s hard to beat.

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My review of Irianeth

My review of Kiera Cass’s The Elite

The Elite by Keira Cass continues the story of America Singer and her participation in the Selection to win the heart and hand of Prince Maxon.  In this book America must deal with the consequences of her being torn between two men, she learns more of the political reality of Illea and makes a dangerous new enemy.  My reading of The Elite only served to consolidate my thoughts on the series as a whole.

What I liked

The concept. I continued to enjoy the Batchelor/Hunger Games idea behind the story.  In the Elite, the number of contestants has been reduced considerably, so we really get to know the main candidates. I found it interesting that Cass gives the impression that America might not necessarily be the best candidate for the role, at least in terms of maintaining the status quo.  Clearly though the caste system is being portrayed as inherently flawed, and America is likely the best candidate to change this.

The world. I enjoyed what more we learned about the world.  As part of their Elite status, the remaining candidates are introduced more and more into the politics of Illea.  This necessarily involves a widening view of the world outside.  I am interested to here where America’s connection with the foreign princesses will lead.  We also get to see a little more of the rebels and America’s encounter with the rebel girl is one of the most interesting hooks for book three for me.

The characters. America and Maxon continue to be interesting and engaging characters.  I loved what we learned about Maxon in this book and what that means for his character development.  Although America is a great character, at some points her naivety did frustrate me at some points in this book.  Often I felt she was uncertain about what she wanted from the situation in which she finds herself and even when she seemed to know, her actions were not necessarily the best chosen to further her aims.

What I didn’t like

The narrator. If the ebook rather than the audiobook had been available from my local library, I would certainly have gone for that rather than the audiobook.  I really felt that Amy Rubinate’s narration added little more to the book than Amazon’s text to speech.

The America/Maxon relationship. This really annoyed me in this book, but it was believable.  The lack of open and honest communication between America and Maxon really frustrated me.  It seems so much of the conflict in this book could have been avoided by a good discussion between the two.

Aspen.  I really disliked this character in this book.  He claims to love America, yet his actions consistently put America in real danger.  This danger is highlighted by Marlee’s storyline.  It really angered me that Aspen seemed incapable of keeping it in his pants for the few weeks that the Selection will last to preserve the girl he claims to love from severe consequences.  It also frustrated me that America was incapable of seeing the discrepancy between his words and his actions.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed The Elite and gave it four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

This has been another quiet week in my reading roundup. I really wish I didn’t need to work so that I could concentrate on my TBR list!

[book-info]

Steelheart is the first in a new series by Brandon Sanderson – sparks, that writer is prolific!  It tells the story of David, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his father at the hands of Steelheart, an Epic, one of many super powered humans in this new world.  Steelheart has taken over Newcago (a dystopian version of Chicago) and appears all but invincible.  But David has a secret; he has seen Steelheart bleed.  He teams up with the Reckoners, a group of people attempting to work against the Epics to bring Steelheart down.

I have commented on the free five chapter sampler and the full book does not disappoint.  I have said it before, and will doubtlessly say it again, Sanderson’s strengths as a writer are in worldbuilding, magic systems and pacing.  All of these are top notch in Steelheart.  Sanderson takes us through David’s tale at a brisk clip, and the twists and revelations are as well thought out and logical as you would expect from the writer of Mistborn and Elantris.  

The theme behind Steelheart is interesting – how would ordinary humans react if they suddenly gained superhuman powers?  Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely or can the human spirit overcome this?  The corruption of power is explored extensively in Steelheart.  I suspect we’ll see more of the human spirit overcoming it in book two, Firefight, and book three, Calamity.

After hearing the sample, I chose to listen to it in Audible format.  Macleod Andrews did a fantastic job with all the characters.  Living in Quebec, I was particularly pleased to see a main character hailing from la belle province!

Here’s a sample

I gave Steelheart an unreserved five stars out of five.

The Prince by Kiera Cass – ReviewThe Prince by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection – novella 
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Format: eBook 
Pages: 55 pages
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible • 
four-stars

Another book I read this week was The Prince by Keira Cass.  This is a short novella in the Selection series which tells the story of the first few days of The Selection from Prince Maxim’s point of view.  It’s pretty short and slim, but it does add a different point of view to the tale.  It was nice to see that Prince Maxon isn’t always as poised and polished as he appears in the Selection.,  

I gave it four stars out of five.

This week, of course, major spoilers were released for Helen Fielding’s upcoming third book in the Bridget Jones series Mad About the Boy, which caused a major outcry in the UK.  There were cries of “how could she do that to our Bridget?”  and obstinate refusals to purchase the book.  At first I was as upset and angry as any Bridget fan across the world, but then I began to consider.  Perhaps the choices made by Fielding will bring a greater depth to the character beyond her obsession with the number of her Twitter followers.  Maybe this will elevate Bridget beyond the funny, memorable heroine she is now.  I will certainly be reading to see how the storyline is handled.  

Added to my library this week

Enclave by Ann Aguirre.  I’ve not read this and not heard much about it, but the synopsis seemed good.  Amazon was offering it on Kindle for only $3.40 so I decided to pick it up.

As I mentioned last week, I had pre-ordered Sofie Kelly’s Final Catcall.  I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but I am looking forward to it.

One of my favourite series as a young girl was Helen Dore Boylston’s Sue Barton nurse series.  It is not available on Kindle, but I did decide to buy the first two in paperback.  Perhaps my niece may enjoy them some day.

My biggest excitement of the week was finding that Audible had released Kerstin Gier’s Emerald Green a whole week ahead of the hard copy and Kindle versions!  Actually, I needn’t have been so excited; this week I have been too busy to listen to or read much.  Marisa Calin does such wonderful work in bringing out Gwyneth’s spirit and humour.

The final book I picked up today was Destroy Me, a novella by Tahereh Mafi in the Shatter Me series.  I have the first one, and I keep meaning to bring it to the top of my TBR pile, but I just have so much to read!

What books did you read this week?  Let me know in the comments.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is about a young woman named America who ends up involved in a sort of Bachelor competition to win the heart and hand of the crown prince.

I hadn’t actually intended to read it.  I had tried the sample and didn’t get into it enough to want to buy it.  Then I watched PolandBananasBooks’ YouTube review and when I saw that the audiobook was available at my local library I decided to give it another shot.  After I got through the first few chapters I found the story sucked me in and I finished it in almost the one sitting.

What I liked

The concept.  I hadn’t expected to enjoy a teen princess version of The Bachelor but the main character was so engaging I found I really enjoyed it.  It helped that America’s motives for entering the competition were laid out pretty clearly – she has no illusions about marrying the prince and living a life of luxury.  She knows that the longer she stays in the Selection the longer her struggling family receives financial support from the state, and that is one of her main motivations.

The America/Maxon relationship.  I really liked that their relationship was based on honesty and friendship rather than love at first sight.  They are just so cute together!

The world.  I was intrigued by the world of The Selection.  There are just enough hints dropped throughout the book that the society isn’t as healthy as it pretends to be.  There is a strict class system and there are some neat little touches such as the names of those is the lower castes who do all the work describe the person’s occupation – our entertainer protagonist’s surname is Singer – whereas those in upper castes have more varied names.  I look forward to hearing more about the rebels in future books.

The characters.  I would have found this concept much more difficult to swallow with a less engaging protagonist.  America doesn’t buy into all the “he’s going to fall in love with me, he’ll pick me, we’rs going to be soooo happy, and I’ll get to be a princess and wear a crown and tell people what to do” nonsense.  She’s very grounded.

Maxon is also a very sympathetic character.  He is perhaps a little naive, but is basically a decent guy.  He and America seem very well suited.

What I didn’t like

The narrator.  I normally don’ t like to criticise a narrator, but I did struggle to enjoy Amy Rubinate’s narration of this story.  I personally found her voice flat and monotonous and with a less gripping story I would have turned off.  But that is just my opinion.  Here’s a sample to judge for yourself.

[audio http://samples.audible.com/bk/harp/F002844/bk_harp_002844_sample.mp3]

 

The love triangle.  Teen love triangles can be annoying and this was one of the worst.  I found it irritating because it’s crystal clear that there is absolutely no competition between Aspen and Maxon.  Maxon treats America with kindness and respect, can offer her and her family security and the opportunity to make a difference to Illea.  Aspen, on the other hand, manipulates her into breaking the law, uses emotional blackmail, makes false promises, can offer her less financial security and as soon as she turned the corner was making eyes at another girl.  America, of course, is all “but I luuuurve him!”  I really wanted to reach into my Kindle and give her a good talking to!

All in all I really loved The Selection and am looking forward to The Elite being available for me to borrow.

I gave The Selection four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Audible.

I had a pleasant surprise on Audible this morning. I had checked to see if the pre-order for Emerald Green was available, and not only is it available, it’s available NOW, a week earlier than the book. You can find it here

The narrator of this audiobook, Marisa Calin is wonderful and really brings our heroine to life. Here’s a sample.

For those of you uncertain about audiobooks, this is a wonderful place to start, and of course with an an Audible subscription you can cancel any time if it’s not for you.

Of course, the free audiobook can be Emerald Green!