Monday, April 30, 2012

April Reading Wrap Up

Books Read: 9
Difference from previous month: -6
Avg Rating: 3.20 Stars
Difference from previous month: -0.09 stars
Pages Read: 2,9877
Difference from previous month: -631 pages

Oh boy... April was even worse than March for reading. I read fewer books and overall liked them less... Here's hoping that May will be better!

For the Real Life Bookclub:

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very interesting and informative. It was my first Picoult book, and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well-written, and intriguing, and that it fairly portrayed Asperger's Syndrome as well as how it would affect a family and a community. I definitely look forward to more of her books, now that I have an idea of what I can expect.

The Awesome:

The Alienist by Caleb Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great book, and I'm very glad I read it. There were great characters, a very interesting and perplexing series of horrific murders, and reasonable theories used to solve them. Add in the awesome detailing of 1890s New York city and its inhabitants, and their mindsets, appalling as they may have been, and this was definitely well worth reading.

The Good:

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So... Y'all know I'm a huge, huge Brandon Sanderson Stephen King fan, right? Because if I saw that man walking down the street, I would probably start babbling in adoration and drool all over myself in the most embarrassing way possible. I LOVE HIS BOOKS. Love.
(Yeah, I just copied this from last month's post about Brandon Sanderson... because it's just as apt for Stephen King as it was for BSands. Actually, more so. ♥)

I thought that this one was a good addition to the Dark Tower series, but I admit to wanting more with the ka-tet. This was more of a Mid-World/Multiverse story, and didn't do much to move the ka-tet along their path, but it was good, and worth reading nonetheless.

The Bad:

Children of Men by P.D. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

You may never, ever see this again from me, because it goes against pretty much everything I believe to be true... but in this case, I'm going to say it, because this book is the exception to the rule.

Just see the movie. It's more concise, more entertaining, more exciting, and more interesting. Plus Clive Owen. Win.

The Did Not Finish:

No DNFs this month... woo! :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King ★★★★

The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5)3.5 Stars
Believe it or not, there was a time when I hadn't read the Dark Tower series... but we don't talk about that. It's a painful time in my history, and polite company lets me keep my shame to myself. But I mention it because since stepping foot into the Tower multiverse, everything changed. I thought I was a Stephen King fan until I read the Dark Tower series, but I had no idea how much I could love King and his books. I adore this series. No other series or book can claim a higher spot in my heart (not even Harry Potter, though that's a very close second), so when I learned that there would be a new book in the series, I SQUEE'd all over the damn place. Messy clean-up, but so worth it.

Dark Tower is bittersweet. It is. But that's one of my favorite things about King; he makes it real. So I couldn't wait, nay... COULD. NOT. WAIT. to read the shit out of this book and finally see the ka-tet again. To go on another adventure with them, to see what this new interlude holds... despite knowing ka-shume is coming down the path of the beam for them. But then... I admit to feeling a bit cheated after I started. Maybe that's not fair, probably not, because had I read the book description, I'd have known that likely wasn't going to be what I'd get... But those of you who know me well, those who share my khef, do it please ya, will know that I wouldn't want to know, that I'd want to just go where Ka's wind blows. And so I did... but I can't help wanting more of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy.

As a ka-tet book, low marks for this one because there's just so little of them here... but as a Mid-World/multiverse book, high marks, because there's a lot here in that regard, and it's quite interesting to piece together.

What we have here is a story within a story within a story. Not my favorite thing. I love Wizard and Glass, but the Mejis flashback storyline is long. W&G is my least favorite of the series for this reason, and I always get to a point where I'm ready for the Young Roland story to be done so I can get back to Present Roland. But saying it's my least favorite is not saying much, because every book in the series is fantastic in its own way.

So coming on the heels of Wizard and Glass, in internal story setting order, is The Wind Through the Keyhole, where our ka-tet takes shelter from a starkblast and has another episode from Roland's seemingly endless cache of Adventure Stories From My Youth and Other Relevant Tales from Before The World Moved On.

The first story Roland tells is of being sent on another mission by his father to take care of what's rumored to be a Skin-Man (a shapeshifter) terrorizing one of the baronies. Within this story is the story from which this book takes its title, which is the story of Tim Ross and his encounter with the Covenant Man, whose horse is called Blackie. Just sayin'. This story ties into both the Young Roland story, and the Present Roland story... in different ways, which was interesting.

These two stories make up the bulk of the book, which is short (for King) to begin with. But these are interesting, particularly Tim's The Wind Through The Keyhole, because of how other multiverse books might, and probably do, connect with it. I counted quite a few references to other books in the three stories, including Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, and Desperation, just to name a few.

I won't go into much more detail, since everyone should read it for themselves. Overall for me, this was worth the read, although my heart still wanted more of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy. Maybe... Maybe Gan will bless King with another Dark Tower book?

A girl can dream...

The Reading Plan: Week of April 30

Goal: Read 3 books a week to meet my goal of 160 books for 2012.

Apparently I'm still recovering from that hellacious drive... because I just haven't really been able to settle down and really READ anything. I've read, but I feel jittery and unfocused and odd. I did get my three books in this week, which is good, but I'd hoped for more.
Still working on Ghost Story, too... That one is... tedious so far. Hoping it picks up soon... ever. LOL

Here's what I read since the last post:
  • House Rules
  • Light in August
  • The Wind Through the Keyhole
Coming up:

Ghost Story by Peter Straub
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

What is on the agenda for your reading list this week?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wait, wait - Don't tell me!

Last night at my bookclub, my friend Jen announced her choice for next month's selection, "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. She then proceeded to talk about how it was a story of a mother's struggle to come to terms with her son's actions, and...

...And then I tried to stop listening. Not because I was trying to be rude, (though some people take it that way, I'm sure), but because I'd rather experience the book on a clean slate without "spoilers" influencing my experience.The less I know before I start, the better.

I rarely even read book descriptions, because too often, I find that they give too much away.

I'm very open minded about my reading otherwise, which is something of a contradiction. I want to know nothing about what I want to read, yet I'll read just about anything. Yeah, think about that one a minute...  *Head explodes*

I just like to experience whatever a book has to offer for myself first. I don't want to go in thinking a certain way, or expecting anything in particular. I just want to live in that book while I'm reading it and let it share its story with me. Afterward, I'm all for someone telling me all the themes and concepts and symbolism I missed... but I don't want to go into a book looking for it, if that makes sense.

So my questions are:
- How much information about a book is too much?
- Does knowing more detail about a book make it easier to choose what to read, or harder?
- What's your level of tolerance for spoilers?

Let me know in the comments... I'm OK being an odd duck (obviously!), but I'm curious what other people think! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: House Rules by Jodi Picoult ★★★★

House RulesConfession time: I had no intention of ever reading a Jodi Picoult book. To me, her books were pretty much equivalent to Nicholas Sparks' books.* Formula: Mix one part "issue" with one part "sap" and one part "luuuuuurve", then swallow. If nausea occurs, try Pepto to keep it down.
*Sparks' books are still ones that I have no intention of ever reading. I watched 'A Walk to Remember' and 'The Notebook'. That's enough for one lifetime. There's like 50 movies based on his books now or something, and you know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel when Miley Cyrus is the best they can get to star act be filmed in one. *shudder*

So when this was chosen for my bookclub, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it, and prepared myself to be reticent at the next meeting.

Aside from that, I was worried about the portrayal of a teen with Asperger's Syndrome, particularly because the only other book that I've read with an autistic character was very disappointing for me. I couldn't help but mentally compare the two books, and my opinion of that other book was constantly reinforced: it just lacked substance, depth. It was just mediocre. House Rules was anything but mediocre. It was interesting, insightful, informative and fulfilling.

I'm no Asperger's expert, but I thought that the book worked on many different levels at portraying not only the thought processes and behaviors of one who has it, but also of everyone that is affected by it. I felt that Picoult did her homework, and that she presented the traits, and possible causality, fairly and honestly. There are perspectives on whether heredity, or immunizations, or just randomness cause autism to develop, and I liked and appreciated that it was not treated as an excuse to demonize vaccines.

I particularly empathized with Emma and Theo. Their perspectives were so raw and honest that I couldn't help but love them for it. Emma's raised two sons on her own for 15 years - something that is hard enough without throwing autism into the mix. Her whole life has centered around it. She's done everything in her power to give him the best life she can, and if she suffers for it, that's just part of the job.

There were points in Theo's chapters where he'd be thinking something that an outsider would think is horrible, and even berating himself for it, and I would just sit there commending him for the things he didn't say. For example:
"True confession number four: I don't sit around thinking about having kids, nor­mally, but when I do it scares the shit out of me. What if my own son winds up being like Jacob? I’ve already spent my whole childhood dealing with autism; I don’t know if I can handle doing it for the rest of my life."
This is a superficially selfish thought, yes, but then I read the subtext to be that he's assuming he'd be around to take care of any kid of his who has autism. He'd stick it out, not leave like his own father did. He'd try to do the right thing, even if he doubts his abilities to do it. It makes me proud of him, and sad for him, at the same time. Because he's lived on the sidelines of autism for his whole life already. His childhood was constantly colored by the routines and the contingencies and the chaos of his brother's condition. To never have "normality" would have to be a terrifying, daunting thought.

Regarding the mystery aspect, I pegged it pretty quickly - about 30% in. All the clues were there, and it wasn't hard to figure out. But I was still interested to see if I was right, or if there would be some twist, other than the one I predicted, to shock me. I kept being a little frustrated with the investigation too. This kid is extremely literal, and extremely honest. Why did nobody think to just ask him directly? I guess I understand why, honestly, but it was still kind of frustrating. And so for that, I knocked off a star. But the rest of the story, the personal and familial aspects, were fantastic. I loved it.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, and I will probably be picking up more of Picoult's books now that I know they aren't likely to be tapped for maple syrup anytime soon. ;)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I ♥ You... You Complete Me.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish is themed:
Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters

Seriously? I'm supposed to narrow it down to only 10... of ALL TIME?? O_O

I can pick ten from the Harry Potter series alone! Watch: Ron, Snape, Fred, Hermione, Sirius, Harry, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Voldemort (what?), and Neville. See? Done.

OK. I can do this. *deep breath*

Here goes nothin'. I'm not gonna explain why I love these characters so much, because really, the answer would be "Because of the awesomeness!" for all of them.

- Eddie Dean / Dark Tower series by Stephen King
- Roland Deschain / Dark Tower series by Stephen King
- Jack Torrance / The Shining by Stephen King
- Ron Weasley / Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
- Atticus Finch / To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(Halfway already?? This is impossible!)

- Edmond Dantes / The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Marianne Dashwood / Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Aragorn / The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

(Crap... Only two left... THE PRESSURE!!)

- Thomas Lang / The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
- Tyrion Lannister / A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

Oh man... I feel like I've betrayed so many awesome characters by leaving them off this list.
I still love you all, characters I didn't name. Really!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Reading Plan: Week of April 23

Goal: Read 3 books a week to meet my goal of 160 books for 2012.

Yeah... remember how the week before last I was 4 books ahead of my goal, and I just needed to keep up momentum? Yeah, that didn't work out so well. Granted, driving 1,200 miles to attend my Grandma's funeral (and then another 1,200 to come back) kinda threw my plans off a little bit. :(

So I didn't get a whole lot of reading done the past two weeks.

Here's what I read since the last post:
  • Children of Men
  • Timeless
Coming up:

Ghost Story by Peter Straub
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Light In August by William Faulkner

What is on the agenda for your reading list this week?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Author Interview: Jolene Perry, Author of Night Sky

After losing Sarah, the friend he’s loved, to some other guy, Jameson meets Sky. Her Native American roots, fluid movements, and need for brutal honesty become addictive fast. This is good. Jameson needs distraction – his dad leaves for another woman, his mom’s walking around like a zombie, and Sarah’s new boyfriend can’t keep his hands off of her.

As he spends time with Sky and learns about her village, her totems, and her friends with drums - she's way more than distraction. Jameson's falling for her fast.

But Sky’s need for honesty somehow doesn’t extend to her life story – and Jameson just may need more than his new girl to keep him distracted from the disaster of his senior year.


Jolene Perry is the author of Night Sky. Jolene grew up in Wasilla, Alaska. She graduated from Southern Utah University with a degree in political science and French, which she used to teach math to middle schoolers.

After living in Washington, Utah and Las Vegas, she now resides in Alaska with her husband, and two children. Aside from writing, Jolene sews, plays the guitar, sings when forced, and spends as much time outside as possible.

She is also the author of The Next Door Boys and the upcoming Knee Deep.

Q: Can you give a description of what the book is about in 5 words or less?
A: Boy. Girl. Mess. Another girl.

Q:  What about Night Sky do you think would appeal to those who are not Young Adult contemporary romance readers?
A: Jameson was a blast to write. I love that it took place in Las Vegas, and the bits of Sky's heritage were also a lot of fun. The thread of honesty weaves throughout - something that could be a part of any type of fiction.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Native American culture?
A: Mostly the idea that we're all part of something a lot bigger than ourselves. I love people who are connected to the beliefs and the traditions of their families who are long gone.

Q: Jameson seems to have a lot of changes going on in his life - what advice would you give a teen going through something similar?
A: No matter how crappy life seems, it'll get better. We have a hard time seeing outside of what's happening in our lives at any given moment, but when we can, no matter what's happening now, will seem a little better.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A: That my hobby is my job, AND that I get to tell stories all day.

Q: Is there any particular message or theme that you hope someone would take away from Night Sky?
A: I love the idea that when people are really, truly, honest with each other, it can be a lot more exciting than being secretive.

Q:  If you could be a character in any book, which character would you be, and why?
A: This is a hard question to answer, because in a way, I get to be each person that I write, so I feel like I spend a lot of time in other people's shoes. The other thing is that stories tend to be real life, only with more drama. I honestly have enough drama, and prefer to be me. Kind of boring, but true.

Thanks so much for giving me the chance to be here today!!

~ Jolene

Where To Find Night Sky:

Purchase Links: For Your Kindle | For Your Nook | From Smashwords | PDF
ISBN: 9780983741862
ISBN: 9781466052338
Pages: 247
Release: March 1, 2012 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

R.I.P Grandma (1933-2012)

On Thursday night, my grandmother passed away. She was 79 years old.

She had 6 kids. 3 girls and 3 boys.
She had 13 grandchildren.
She had 25 great-grandchildren.
She had 1 great-great-grandchild, and another on the way.

My grandmother was amazing. She was the epicenter of her family. She was divorced, and with 6 kids relying on her alone, worked two jobs until she was in her 60s and health problems forced her to retire. But despite her health problems, she never complained, and she was never still. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, quilted, crocheted, made dolls, and babysat her grandkids and great-grandkids.

My grandma was also a miracle worker when it came to making do with very little to next to nothing. She raised 6 kids all on her own, and so innovation was key. My grandma could make full meals out of scraps. I remember calling my grandma and telling her what we had in the fridge, and asking her for meal suggestions. It would go something like this: "Grandma, I have 3 cans of corn, a sleeve of saltines, a can of cream of mushroom soup, mustard, and some chicken nuggets. What can I make?" And she would come up with at least three different meals that could be made with those ingredients. And it would always be delicious!

For as long as I can remember, I've never seen her house empty. It was always hectic with people in and out, kids everywhere, clutter and sewing supplies and chaos everywhere, and grandma in the middle of it all, loving every bit of it. With the TV on (usually to either the Weather Channel or a soap opera), with the doors and windows open, box fans circulating hot summer air, and a baby on her knee, grandma would be in her glory.

But I wouldn't want to give a false impression of her as a sweet little old lady. My grandmother was tough and took zero shit from anyone. If she had something to say, she said it. If she didn't like something you did or said, you knew it, and there was absolutely no confusion about how she felt.

There are lots of "legends" surrounding my grandma and her wicked temper and deadly aim. For instance, when my uncle was a kid back in the 60s, he liked to bother grandma while she was on the phone. She'd tell him to knock it off, but he was a pisser and didn't really listen. So, one day, he was pestering her, and she got tired of it... and so she whipped the phone at him, hitting him in the forehead, and caught the phone on the rebound without even missing a beat in the conversation. It didn't hurt him, but it sure as hell got his attention.

Or there was the time that my brother decided that he didn't want to march with his graduating class. He was adamant, and nothing anyone said or did would change his mind. So dad said that my brother had to OK the decision with grandma. So my brother says, "Fine. I'm not walking with them. I don't want to, and I'm just going to pick up my diploma and leave. Grandma's not going to change my mind."

So when my brother tells grandma, she says, "You're walking. Order your cap and gown. This isn't up for debate."

And so my brother walked with his class. There is no telling grandma no when she's got her mind set on something.

My grandma's wake is tomorrow, and I'm not looking forward to it at all. Not just because it will be sad, and it will be the last time that I will ever see my grandma, but also because my family can be very... difficult. They all love grandma, and unfortunately, they see it as something of a competition, which is frustrating, especially for those of us who live so far away and are sort of made to feel as if we're outsiders and interlopers in the family's grief.

But tomorrow isn't about them, it's about my grandma, and how much she was - is - loved, and how much she will be missed. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had her as my grandma and I will miss her terribly.

Love you, Grandma! ♥

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ★★★

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
You know that thing, the thing that everyone else thinks makes you the nerdiest nerd to ever nerd? That thing is what this book is all about, and it's awesome.

Mostly awesome.

This book celebrates the geekdom of the 80s. The music, the movies, the books, but especially the games and technology. Because the 80s were full to the gills of new technology that allowed games to move from boards to computers and game consoles. It allowed awesomeness like this to exist:

Announcer: Are you tired of dad?
Boy: Dad, no one wants to hear your stupid Vietnam stories!
Announcer: Are you tired of mom?
Mom: Hi angel, do you want to read a book or go outside?
Boy: No!


Announcer: The arcade comes to your living room, only without the creepy guys offering to show you puppies.
Boys: Awesome!
Announcer: With the Degenatron, you can play video games just like you are in the arcade!
Kids: Excellent!


Announcer: The Degenatron gaming system plays three exciting games including Defender of the Faith where you save the green dots with your fantastic flying red square.
Boys: Cool!
Announcer: Monkey's Paradise where you swing from green dot to green dot with your red square monkey.
Boys: That's rad!
Announcer: And Penatrator where you smash the green dots deep inside the mysterious red square.
Boys: WOW!
Announcer: The Degenatron brings arcade realism to your living room. It can even take quarters and a strange sweaty man comes by to empty the machine on Fridays.


Announcer: Degenatron, fighting the evil of boredom.

Boys: I'll never go to school again!

If you're not familiar with this, it's a fake commercial played on one of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's in-game radio stations. GTA Vice City is set in 1986, and there are tons of references contained therein... Mostly of the 'did-they-really-just-say-that?' variety. The one above is a reference to the awful graphics of 80s computer and console games, and the creepy guys usually found around arcades. Speaking of which, anyone looking for a puppy? I know a guy...

Anyway. This book is exactly what GTA:VC isn't. It doesn't make fun of the atrocious 80s... it celebrates it. It celebrates the huge amount of innovation and change that occurred in that decade, and the huge amount of geekdom that fueled those changes. This book celebrates all that the D&D players have always dreamed... that they can do exactly what they love and hit it big by doing so.

That's what James Halliday did. He took his love of 80s pop culture and made it into the Moste Epice Queste EVAR before he died. He created the world's first truly immersive virtual reality game and free education system that is as vast as imagination itself, The Oasis, and promised to leave it and his megabillions (really) to the first person who successfully completes his quest: Find 3 keys, go through their respective gates, and then find the egg.

Enter 'Parzival' aka Wade Watts, 18 year old orphan (does one still count as an orphan once they've hit their majority?) who is obsessed with finding the egg and winning the ultimate prize. But maybe more than the desire to win is the desire to prevent the Sixers from winning. The Sixers are employees of The Oasis's rival corporation, who would love nothing more to win the Oasis cash cow and then start milking it dry. Instead of free use (services, such as transportation, is paid for in the Oasis, but logging in is free), there'd be a monthly fee, higher fees for everything and ads galore, which in the hard times of economic collapse shown in the book would reduce the availability to only those rich enough to pay. In other words, they'd ruin the only sanctuary that millions of people have from their hard day to day lives.

The first 3rd of this book was AWESOME. The parts of the book pertaining to quest and battles were awesome. The concept and the detailing and the story was all awesome. There were some parts that were so exciting I couldn't put the book down, but then there were others that were a bit frustrating or (dare I say it?) boring. So brace yourselves... I'm about to start inventorying my complaints.

This book seemed to go in waves. Something thrilling would happen, and then it would shift to very not thrilling. Then after a while, it'd start to build momentum again, and then the same thing again. So it was a little hard to keep my interest going the whole time, because I don't think that I need to know every single detail of the components of Wade's apartment or his gear for logging in and using The Oasis. I don't know what any of it means anyway, though I can guess it's pretty cool. It just got a little tedious and I got impatient to get back to the quest.

Likewise with the romance. Let me just say up front that I know Wade is 18, and has never really interacted with girls before, let alone an awesomely popular famous hottie girl who just HAPPENS to have all of his same interests and hobbies and whatnot in common with him, so I know it is unfair and unrealistic of me to get irritated by the romance element to this story... but I did. I just didn't much care. Just ONCE I'd like to read a story with a young adult protagonist that doesn't have a romantic theme, or at least not an insta-love one. It just got a little tedious and I got impatient to get back to the quest... again.

Then, the dialog. Oh goodness. It was awkward. It FELT awkward. Too forced and too "hip" and too everything, especially Aech's slang, and it felt fake. Didn't work for me there.

Finally, we come to the issue of death. I feel like the way death was portrayed in this book was somewhat ridiculous. First, let me say that there were two kinds of death: avatar death and real world death. Avatar death means that your Oasis character dies, you lose all your stuff (status, inventory, credits/money), and you start over from no0b status. Real world death means you, the person who exists in the real world, actually die, for realzies, no do-overs, no resets, no reloads, you're just dead. D-E-D, dead, as my daddy would say.

Now, there were a couple of RW deaths, and it was one of these where I couldn't put the book down. It was crazy intense and I just had to know what was gonna happen next. But for all the intensity, it didn't seem to register much on Wade's "Oh Shit!" scale, at least not when it came to avatar death. There's a scene where a big battle is going down, and avatars are rushing in to do battle without hesitation, knowing that it could mean their death, and it was portrayed as really brave and harrowing. And I wondered to myself... So what? Why the dire reaction? It's just some data in a server somewhere that would be zeroed out and that person could create a new one. It's not a real life-or-death situation, so I don't really feel like it was all that brave.

But then on the other side of the coin is the fact that the bad guys could go after Oasis players and Real World kill them. Yet at the end, there's no tension around this possibility, because deus ex machina arrived to provide the way, or it was just conveniently forgotten that the real world existed in the heat of battle... or probably both.

So... While I really did enjoy this one, obviously I had some pretty large issues with it. It was a fun story, and I have already recommended it to a few of my friends that I think would enjoy it, but I admit that I wish I'd enjoyed it even more than I did.

I'm very curious to see where Cline goes from here though. I'd definitely pick up his next book, and in the end, that's really all that matters, isn't it?

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Day As A Kindle Touch Owner

Ooooo... Shiny!
For all of my e-reading life, I've been a loyal Nook owner. I have never been drawn to Kindles at all. Until they made a touch model with a web browser, and X-Ray feature, and MP3 player, and Audible support, and downloadable games, and... and everything! Plus, I liked the sleek look.

And so I researched. I read reviews, I watched YouTube unboxings and reviews and comparisons, I even went to three different stores to play with display models! I did my homework. And you know what, none of that stuff helped at all. Playing with the display models was practically useless. There was no option to leave the demo and play with the actual working device! Grrrr! >_<

And let me just say that the demo on the Kindle Touch is... less than helpful. It didn't go over any of the features that the device has. Instead it covered how to use the touchscreen to change pages while reading, how to use the touchscreen to access the menu, how to use the touchscreen to change the font size, how to use the touchscreen to shop the Kindle Store from the device and how to use the touchscreen to select a book from the library.

All things that are intuitive to touchscreen users and are easy to figure out without the guided tutorial.
So, I decided that I would take the plunge and just buy one, play with it at home, and see how I liked it. I bought at my local Staples store, because not only are they insanely helpful there, but they have a kick-ass return policy. Yay Staples! (Plug, plug)

Obviously, from the title of this post, I didn't keep the Kindle. There were a lot of features, but they just didn't really impress me enough to justify switching from Nook to Kindle. Mainly this was because of the interface. I'm used to my Nook's layout and customization, but I'm open to change if the change is an improvement. I don't think the Kindle's interface was an improvement over the Nook's. Here's why:
  • Both have sortable ability to view books by shelves (collections on the Kindle) or by title, or by author, but on the Kindle, everything is in a text-only list view. On my Nook, I can view either text or covers.

  • On my Nook, there's an actual homepage with the Currently Reading book, current page number, new reads and recommendations (click for example image), whereas the Kindle's "home" screen is the library. It just felt like something was missing.

  • On my Nook, from ANY screen outside of a book, there's a quick-jump button to return to the page I was last reading. If I go to my homepage, the settings, shopping, whatever... my page in a book is only one tap away. I LOVE THIS FEATURE. I really had no idea how much I used it until I tried the Kindle and continually had to find my book again in the library to go back to it.

  • I could not find any way to see the percent of the battery remaining. Both have "Device info" areas in the settings, but the Kindle doesn't display the battery info there, whereas the Nook does. I use this a lot as well, considering that the icon isn't exactly the most precise at showing the remaining charge. It's just a little icon, so what looks like a 50% charge may really be 35%. Also, on the Nook when I unplug the USB or charger, it tells me the battery's charge in a pop-up. The Kindle doesn't.

  • Searching the Kindle's library for a book was... weird. I searched for a book's title, but instead of taking me to the book in the library, it showed me instances inside the books in my library where the phrase ("Ghost Story") was found. I thought maybe I was doing it wrong, so I tried several more times, and even had my boyfriend try, and got the same thing every time. Maybe there was another option somewhere that I didn't see, but search usually means search, and I was sure that I was searching "my files" in the dropdown. Scrolling through the library list got pretty old pretty fast.

  • The responsiveness of the touchscreen wasn't as good as my Nook either. Sometimes it would respond to the lightest touch, but other times I would need to tap several times to get a response. Often there was a delay, so I wasn't sure if it was just slow or if I needed to tap again.

  • Also, the Kindle took several minutes to load and display the 200 titles I sideloaded on the device.  I wasn't sure it was even working at first because nothing at all happened for almost 45 seconds after Calibre said the transfer was complete. Removing the titles from the Kindle was the same way. When I load books onto my Nook via Calibre, once the transfer is complete, the titles are there and displayed immediately.
Regarding the other features, the Nook doesn't have a web browser, MP3 player, Audible support (or sound support at all). It does not have the X-Ray feature, or Text-to-Speech, or Easy Reach (for page turns). I did really like that you could pinch to resize (in-book and in the web browser), and also zoom in on images. Also, the e-ink display was crystal clear and crisp - very nice. And the Kindle's internal storage capacity is 4GB compared to the Nook's 2 GB (segmented to allow only 256MB for non-B&N content). So these things were all points in the Kindle's favor. (However, the Nook wins overall for storage space since there's an expandable memory slot.)

The MP3 player and TTS aren't very loud, and the controls were accessed in the menu by touchscreen, so there's no way to control volume without interrupting your reading. Also, I wasn't able to find the X-Ray feature to try it out, so I don't know how it really is to use. I found a video review showing the feature, and it looked cool, but not really something I think I'd use often, since I read for pleasure. I do think it would be useful for reviewers or college students.

Finally, regarding the keyboard, I thought they were pretty similar, except that the Kindle's keys were smaller and spaced out more, and the save/cancel/delete buttons were above the keyboard on the little text window rather than part of the keyboard as the Nook's cancel/done buttons are.

Overall, the Nook may not have all the bells and whistles, but as an e-reader (and e-book storage device), it does the job and does it very well. So I ended up returning the Kindle. I'm glad that I gave it a try though, because the Kindle is really an attractive e-reader, and for someone who is used to the Kindle interface already, I would definitely recommend it. For me, it just doesn't beat the Nook, though. Plus my Nook allows me to customize my own screensavers, which is awesome.

Shadow felt a little betrayed that I'd sized up the competition, but he retained my love, so in the end, that makes him...

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    The Reading Plan: Week of April 9

    Goal: Read 3 books a week to meet my goal of 160 books for 2012.

    I hit my 3 book goal, and I'm currently sitting a nice 4 books ahead. Woohoo! Now I just need to not lose momentum. O_o
    Here's what I read last week:

    • Ready Player One
    • The Case of the Missing Marquess
    • Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus
    Coming up:

    Ghost Story by Peter Straub
    The Children of Men by P.D. James
    Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
    The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
    Timeless by Gail Carriger

    What is on the agenda for your reading list this week?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Teaser Tuesday (2)

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

    "But it turned out that I was no longer on Middletown, I was no longer in the OASIS at all. My locator icon was in the middle of a blank screen, which meant I was OTM - off the map."

    Pg. 121 (e-pub edition), Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    The Reading Plan: Week of April 1st

    Goal: Read 3 books a week to meet my goal of 160 books for 2012.

    So... as we know, last month's attempt at cramming all the reading in the world into one month didn't work.

    Positive reinforcement, that's the way!
    So, back we go to planning for the week.

    For April, in my Goodreads Historical Fiction group, we're doing a TBR challenge, which basically consists of listing 20 books from our To-Read lists and then reading them.

    In an attempt to chisel down the height of Mount TBR, I'll be reading from this list for April, and hopefully my lack of win will go away. Maybe.

    Last month, I did actually manage to finish some books from my list, but not many:
    • The Lions of Al-Rassan
    • Promise Me Eternity
    • The Enchantress of Florence
    Coming up:

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
    The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
    Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus by Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood
    The Children of Men by P.D. James

    What is on the agenda for your reading list this week?