Archive for October, 2014

This week I have been continuing with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series which I’m reading as a mixture of Kindle ebook and Audible audiobook.  Have I mentioned before how much I love Whispersync for Voice?  The ability to switch between the two media without having to worry about finding your place is pure awesomeness.  Anyway, I digress.  I finished Outlander this week and have moved onto Dragonfly in Amber.  I have to say, my rereading of the series is enhanced by the Starz series.  When reading about Claire and Jamie’s adventures it’s great to be able to imagine Catriona Balfe and the deliciously edible Sam Heughan in the roles.  It might even be able to get me past that point in Voyager where I lost interest in the series.

This week I’m back on nightshift for a week to cover a coworker’s vacation.  I fully expect to spend my time monitoring servers in the company of Jamie, Claire and the others of Clans Fraser and McKenzie.

In other news, I’ll be going on blog hiatus for the month of November, so this will be my last entry for a while.  I have decided to take part in NaNoWriMo.  For those of you unfamiliar with this project, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you challenge yourself to write a 50,000 page novel during the month of November.  I have set myself that challenge.  I won’t be able to do both reading/blogging and writing a novel, so my reviews will be on the back burner.  I have not yet decided if I’ll share my work in progress on my blog – it’s likely to be quite rough!  I’m thinking along the lines of Bridget Jones meets Lord of the Rings.  I have a few ideas brewing so we’ll see how they turn out.  This is my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, so wish me luck!

Added to my library this week/next week

I realised I didn’t have the audiobook to go with Dragonfly in Amber and came across a bit of a hitch.  Even though I had the Kindle book in my library and it said WhisperSync for Voice enabled, it still wanted to charge me full price for the audiobook.  A quick MayDay call to Amazon’s customer support soon had it fixed and I was happily listening to both.  

This week an audiobook I’d put on hold at my local library became available – it was The Long Way Home by Louise Penny.  From what I can gather it’s a mystery series set in my home province of Quebec.  I’ve not listened to it yet, but should be fun.

For the other books I’m expecting to hit my Kindle/Audible libraries in the next week I’ll just direct you to my September 26th reading roundup

That’s all for this week folks.  I’ll see you at the other end of NaNoWriMo!

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – ReviewThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Genres: Cutesy romance
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Dan O’Grady
Length: 7 hours and 32 minutes
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five-stars

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion tells the story of the romance between Don, a university professor clearly on the autism spectrum, and Rosie, a young woman he assists in her search for her biological father.  Their relationship is complicated by Don’s insistence that any potential partner prove her compatibility by completing and passing a multi page questionnaire.  Causes for rejection as a potential partner include; being a vegetarian, smoking, being continually late, all of which apply to Rosie.

I adored The Rosie Project – it engaged me in the characters and had me at times giggling at Don’s antics, and generally rooting for them. I listened to it in audiobook format which was excellent.

What I liked

The characters.  I adored them.  Don’s social ineptness was very endearing (although I don’t think I’d want to deal with it personally on a day-to-day basis) and Rosie was such a lot of fun.  I was rooting for them, both in their romantic relationship and their quest to identify Rosie’s biological father thanks to Don’s genetics know-how. Even the minor characters, such as Don’s friends Gene and Claudia, had their own issues which kept them interesting as well.

Don’s character development.  I know this particular aspect did turn off some readers, especially those familiar with the autism spectrum.  For me, personally, I was happy to go along with it.  Social interaction is hard for Don.  He knows he is wired differently.  Given that it is such a struggle for him, he makes a conscious decision to embrace his quirkiness – it’s only through his love for, and interactions with Rosie, that he feels more confident to attempt to fit into the neurotypical world.  it doesn’t always work, but it’s nice to see him really trying.

The writing style.  This is written from Don’s point of view and he has his own imitable style.  Given that’s he’s on the autism spectrum, the writing style leans more towards the scientific report rather than a journal.  For example, he would say “Rosie was 8.5 minutes late.  We left the apartment at 6.24pm, which resulted in a 3 minute delay in arriving for our dinner reservation.”   The humour of the  novel is based on the assumption that the reader/listener is more socially adept than Don.  The social disasters in which Don ends up are all obvious to the reader a considerable time before poor Don realises that he has put his foot in it once again.

The narration.  The Rosie project is set in Australia with Australian characters.  It makes sense, therefore, that it was narrated by an Australian, Dan Grady.  I am used to narrators speaking with US or British accents, so I found this was a welcome change and kept my interest in the book.  At one point, Don and Rosie take a trip to the US and Grady uses American accents for the characters they meet there.

I loved The Rosie Project and gave it five stars out of five – my first five star review in quite some time.

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So this week I finished a couple of books, one of which left me thinking, “oh… OK.  What happened exactly?” and the other received my first five star rating in quite some time.  The first of these was Unraveled by Gennifer Albin, the final book in her Crewel World YA dystopian trilogy.  I think it would require a second reading to understand fully what Albin was trying to achieve.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel strongly enough about it to care about a reread.  I loved the first book, second one was so-so and the third.  Hmmmm.  I probably won’t review this one.

The second one was the audiobook of Graeme Simsion’s quirky romance The Rosie Project.  I adored this, so expect my full review next week.

Other than reading, I’ve been indulging in my new secret obsession; the British quiz show QI, which I discovered recently on UK Netflix.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it’s a cross between standup comedy and a quiz show.  The quizmaster is the always engaging Stephen Fry with regular panelist Alan Davies.  The other panelists are standup comedians generally from the UK.  Each episode has a theme, and panelists gain points by answering trivia questions in an amusing and unexpected manner and lose points for giving the boring, standard answer.  Check it out, it’s highly addictive.

In the manner of Emma Approved and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries I recently came across a vlog based on Anne of Green Gables, Green Gables Fables.  While not quite as clever and brilliant as the other two, it is very well done and very engaging.  Go ahead, check it out.

Added to my library this week

This has been a very quiet week for my library.  My new Audible credits arrived, and only things I’ve added were:

Silver blind by Tina Connolly in audiobook format.  I really loved Rosalyn Landor’s narration of the first book in the series and found Connolly’s worldbuilding fascinating.  I look forward to listening to Dorie’s adventures.

Talon by Julie Kagawa (Audible preorder)  This is a new series by Kagawa and the premise sounded very intriguing.  Dragons posing as teens!  This is a multi-narrator book, and I’m familiar with one of them.  I look forward to this.

Have a good weekend and see you next week!

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – ReviewBlood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Chamian
Length: 14 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Children’s, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne’s rating:

three-half-stars

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus saga.  In this book the seven demigods of the prophesy finally have their confrontation with Gaea.  I listened to it in audiobook format – perfect for a sick day from work where you don’t feel like doing much.

If you enjoyed the previous books, it’s very likely you will like this one, too.  It’s more of the same, with resolution of lots of plotlines.  It seems this is the final book in Percy’s world, at least for some time – Riordan is moving onto a series on Norse mythology (sign me up for that asap) – so it is nice to get some closure on these characters with whom we have spent five and in many cases 10 books.

What I liked

The writing style.  A Rick Riordan novel can be characterised as a mixture of humour and adventure, and Blood of Olympus is no different.  I often found myself chuckling out loud at a particularly amusing turn of phrase.  Riordan’s books are definitely a quick, fun read.

The resolution.  Riordan resolved the main conflicts efficiently and pretty much as predicted, throwing in a few character resolutions in as well.  I particularly enjoyed Nico’s and Leo’s character arcs.  There is some suggestion of what the future might hold for our favourite demigods, although sadly there are no more books to see if they are able to follow through with their plans.  As the main character of the new Norse series has the same surname as one of the Percy Jackson series main characters, maybe there will be some crossover.

The narration. Nick Chamian did the narration for Blood of Olympus.  I enjoyed it, but would characterise it as proficient rather than awesome.

What I didn’t like

Lack of narrative tension.  Despite the fact that this is the last book in the series and the fact that at least one death was prophesied, there was no point at which I actually felt one of my much loved characters might not make it.  Admittedly, the series is aimed at younger readers which might explain this.

Efficiency rather than brilliance.  Throughout the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan has been laying the foundations for this final conflict with Gaea, and it followed pretty closely the pattern he set.  There are no unexpected twists or turns at this stage in the game.  Most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development has also been done by this point.

So in summary, while I enjoyed Blood of Olympus, I didn’t love it.  I gave it three and a half stars out of five.

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three-half-stars

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!  An extra day to read!  Woohoo!  Have a great weekend and safe travels if you’re visiting family.  We already have the pumpkin pie ready.

As my regular readers may know, this week saw the release of some books that I had been anticipating.  See below for details.   Unfortunately I was also sick with a nasty headache and ended up taking Wednesday off work.  Fortunately, listening to the audiobook of Blood of Olympus was much less taxing than assisting people with their technical support issues – and, let’s face it, a lot more fun.

So let’s cut to the chase and talk about this week’s books.

Added to my library this week

Tribulare by Anne Robillard.  This is the sixth book in her contemporary fantasy series.  I really look forward to reading this, and I see the next two are due in ebook format at the end of the month!  Yay!  I have been collecting Robillard’s books in Kobo format.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  This was rather an impulse buy with my last Audible credit for this month.  It’s about a socially inept geek who develops a scientific plan to find the perfect wife.  I’ve started listening to it and it is very sweet and amusing.  I loved the sample I heard on the Audible website so picked it up in audiobook format.

The Blood of Olympus, the finale to Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series.  If you’re not familiar with Riordan’s work, go check it out.  I have already finished this and did enjoy it very much.  Look out for the review next week. I picked this up on both Kindle and Audible formats.

Unraveled, the third and final book in Gennifer Albin’s Crewel World series.  This is a YA fantasy/dystopian series with an interesting magic system and politicking. I didn’t enjoy book two as much as book one in which the world building was excellent, but I am still interested enough to want to read the end of Adelice’s story.  I have this on Kindle and, with Whispersync for Voice, also Audible.

A Midwinter’s Tail by Sofie Kelly, the next in her series of cute cat mysteries. I am a sucker for these and this is a good series.  I’ve already started reading it.  I have A Midwinter’s Tail on Kindle.

Silverblind by Tina Connolly.  This is the third in Connelly’s fantasy series, the first of which was based on Jane Eyre meets the fae.  I picked up Silverblind in Kindle format, but I will likely wait til my next Audible credits hit and buy the audiobook instead as I enjoyed Rosalyn Landor’s narration of Ironskin so much.

So there you go.  Have a  great (long) weekend.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – ReviewStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Genres: Dystopian
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Length: 10 hrs and 41 mins
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four-half-stars

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is an apocalyptic tale about the fall of human civilisation and the struggle of the survivors after a pandemic wipes out 99% of the population.  It follows several characters as they attempt to survive in this new world and come to terms with what has happened to their civilisation.  I Iistened to this in audiobook format and enjoyed it very much.

What I liked

Interesting narrative structure.  Rather than have a straightforward linear narrative, Mandel tells her story through a series of non sequential vignettes taking place before, during and after the Collapse as it is called.  These snapshots are loosely connected through the character of Arthur Leander.  Although Arthur dies in the very beginning, shortly before the Collapse, his presence is felt throughout the book.  These snippets of life give more of an impression than a comprehensive narrative, but it is very effective at conveying the idea of a society after a collapse.

Interesting characters.  Mandel has a wide cast of characters with each given his or her moment in the spotlight.  The points of view covered include characters who remember society before the Collapse, some who have only vague memories of how things were and those younger people who have only known this broken society. This creates a very interesting range of attitudes and experiences.

The audio narration.  The narrator for Station Eleven was Kirsten Potter and I felt she did a fantastic job.  I enjoyed hearing the tale spoken out loud and Potter was great at distinguishing between all the characters.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Station Eleven and gave it four and a half stars out of five.

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Last night Amazon’s new Fire HD 6” arrived on my doorstep.  Here are my first impressions of the new budget tablet.  I will direct you to Amazon’s main Kindle page to get the full specs.

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The good

The 6” format is darned cute and practical.  Here are some pictures comparing it to the Fire HDX and Kindle Paperwhite.

IMG 1301

IMG 1304

IMG 1302

IMG_1305

The format is going to be very practical for sticking in a handbag or pocket to take around.  It is blockier than the Fire HDX or Paperwhite – no tapered edges but it is very compact.  In terms of weight though, there is very little difference between the 6” HD and the 7” HDX – a mere 0.6 of an ounce.

The Fire HD 6” comes with the new Fire OS 4 Sangria, which will be sent as a free update to existing Fire devices according to the note on my Fire HDX this morning. There are some really neat features to Sangria.  A backup feature worked well.  This will allow you to restore your device to a previous state if there are any issues.

The new About the Book feature which you can setup to open as you read the book could be very useful. It tells you brief information at a glance – author, number of books in the series, order in the series etc.

There are also badges in the Audible app again! Yay!  I am kind of a badge collector when it comes to my Audible listening.  What will be even better is when they sync badges across devices.  I also like that they now show the estimated download time when downloading an audiobook

GoodReads is more tightly integrated with your being able to add the book to your Want to Read/Currently Reading/Read shelf from within the book. Nice. It will still be even better when they allow you to access your own shelves from within there.

The bad

The Fire HD 6” is a budget device as you might expect from the price.  It has single band WiFi compared to the HDX’s dual band.  it has mono speakers – forget about listening to the device without headphones. Its processor is Quad Core up to 1.5GHz rather than the HDX’s 2.2 GHz.  It also comes with 8GB or 16GB of storage which is not great if you want to store content on the device rather than rely on Amazon’s Cloud.  My requirements for a Kindle tablet are pretty basic.  I need to be able to read my Kindle books, listen to my audiobooks, pick up my email, some basic web surfing, play the odd game.

When I was checking it out last night, I really felt it was struggling to meet those basic requirements.  I found the device to be at times unresponsive, with multiple taps being necessary to do something.  Browsing on Silk was painful.  It’s never been great at the best of times – often I will reach for my iPhone and use Safari on the small screen rather than deal with Silk – but last night it was particularly laggy.  Typing on the device was slower than on my Paperwhite.

However, I found this morning that it was much more responsive.  Maybe the device was doing some update in the background.  I will try using it as my main tablet for the next week or so to see how it performs.

That being said, it would be unwise to expect iPad like performance from a tablet costing $134.

The ugly

Fire OS 4 Sangria is very new.  While there are a few great new features, I have found my experience with it to be rather buggy.  The registration process when I first opened the device threw up errors.  It subsequently went through, but it was worrying.  I found the GoodRead apps crashing forcing a restart of the device.  I also found I couldn’t get Immersion reading to work.  For me that is a real deal breaker.  The issue is now with third level support at Amazon/Audible.

Although I have not had an altogether positive experience with the device so far, I do feel it has potential as a budget tablet if you set your expectations accordingly and wait a couple of weeks for Amazon to get the kinks worked out.

 

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – ReviewThe Silkworm by J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike #2
Genres: Mystery
Format: eBook
Pages: 455 pages
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four-stars

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith follows the mystery surrounding the disappearance of writer Owen Quine.  Strike and Robin are hired by Quine’s wife to find out where he has gone.  As Quine was on the point of publishing a new novel thinly disguised as a tell-it-all peak at the world of London’s literati, the suspects in his disappearance soon add up.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very inspired when writing this review.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book – I did – but I feel I have very little to add to my review of the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling.  In other words, if you enjoyed the first, you will almost certainly enjoy the sequel.  As in its predecessor, I enjoyed the writing style and the brisk pace set by Rowling.

What I liked

The developing friendship between Strike and Robin.  I found myself a little frustrated by their misunderstandings, but that was only because I felt invested in their relationship. I appreciated the fact that they both really respect and appreciate one another.  This continues to be explored and deepened in this second book.  I liked that their relationship remains platonic – at least this far – although I suspect we may see that change in future books.  I’m kind of on the fence on that one.  It’s refreshing seeing a pair who respect each other without the will they/won’t they tension that is all too common.

What i didn’t like

The perpetrator is pretty obvious towards the end.  Now mysteries are not my usual field and I’m usually very surprised at the endings.  However, I found I did identify whodunnit fairly easily.

I would certainly recommend The Silkworm – it’s a decent mystery and I find myself becoming more and more invested in the lead characters.

I gave The Silkworm four stars out of five.

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