Archive for eBook Reviews
Verdict: 4 Stars
Game developer and author Jeff Kinney has done it again with a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid title, Hard Luck (Amulet Books). In this go around, life is even tougher for everyone’s favorite cartoonish middle schooler. Not only does he have the usual obstacles to juggle, like unpopularity, not doing well in school, and the proverbial middle child problems, this year, and even bigger threat has invaded: a girlfriend.
Specifically, Greg’s best friend’s girlfriend. Rowley, who could be counted on to be Greg’s wingman in all situations, somehow has attracted someone of the opposite sex, and therefore dropped Greg like third period French.
Part of the fun of the Wimpy Kid books is that they are completely relatable to both current readers and to adults who remember the angst of middle school. Apart from that, readers can also enjoy the “you, not me” aspect to Greg’s misadventures. While the book series has been banned in several US schools and libraries due to the attitudes and misbehaviors of some of the key characters, the entire series and this title in particular are perfect for reluctant readers who might identify with the constant uncertainty Greg feels.
Hard Luck is available now, and currently holds the number one bestseller spot on several retailer and book lists.
Verdict: 5 Stars
Fans of the author’s suspenseful legal thrillers will love this title that revisits one of the settings that made John Grisham a household name. Almost twenty-five years after the release of A Time to Kill, Grisham takes us back to Ford County and back into the fray of legal dramas.
From the book’s description, “Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.”
Critics of the book have argued that this one is “typical Grisham” and that it follows the plot lines that we’ve gotten really, really used to from him. Having said that, there are a couple of surprises in the book, as well as some unanswered questions from the first round that the author springs on us. The courtroom drama and masterful depictions of well-researched settings more than make up for any predictability in the plot, as does his handling of a fairly common plot line of an elderly dying man leaving his entire fortune to a random fringe character, in this case, his maid.
Sycamore Row is available now in print, audiobook, and ebook.
Of Dice and Men is a compelling novel chronicling the rise of Dungeons and Dragons. The essence of the book tells the tale of TSR who originally made the first rule book back in 1974 and later sold to Wizards of the Coast. Approximately 30 million people have played the game in its many iterations and has spawned many imitators.
I have always played Dungeons and Dragons during my formative teen years because the game allowed the Dungeon Master and Players to work together to craft unique stories and shared experiences. Humanity at its fundamental core is a story telling species and before books were written, cavemen told stories around the campfires. Dungeons and Dragons is a game about telling stories and envisioning in the minds eye the sights and sounds of battling Lolth the Spider Queen in the depths of the Underdark.
David Ewalt is the author of the book and played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and then gave it up for a good 15 years while video games and life started to replace it. In writing the book he got back into playing the game with trepidation because he did not want it to dominate his life again. The book tells the tale of the original creators of the company, their trials and tribulations of a small startup to making millions of dollars a year. You find out the various legal battles, living beyond your means and the crash of role-playing games that had Wizards of the Coast purchase the company and all of their assets.
Of Dice and Men is a book that gives an accurate tale on the history of storytelling games and how Dungeons and Dragons captured the imagination of millions of people. It talks in-depth of the pitchforks coming out as the game went mainstream and the social stigmas. The Author executes the history of the game better than anyone and a book like this was long overdue.
Verdict: 5 Stars
This book should come with a warning: Don’t even open the cover until you’ve got your adult diapers firmly in place. Even from the Introduction, Brosh will have you crossing your legs while you laugh.
Fans of Brosh’s blog, Hyperbole and a Half, turned out to purchase the author’s debut graphic novel (Touchstone), complete with her intentionally crudely drawn illustrations that just put the finishing touches on her amazing storytelling capability. In what is probably not even close to the weirdest thing about this book, it is at this very moment the number one bestseller on Amazon in the Love/Sex/Marriage, Satire, and Biography & History Graphic Novels categories. There’s not a metadata genius on Earth who can explain that.
For the most part, Brosh’s writing serves as an amazingly hilarious cautionary tale for the rest of us. Our lives look stellar in comparison, and that’s even if we were facing jail time for a minor but repeat offense. However, the author also pours open several veins when she tackles the topics of self-loathing and clinical depression, even while making you laugh.
Some of the criticisms of this graphic novel have been that there’s not enough new material, citing that most of the content within the book has been posted previously on the author’s blog. While frustrating for longtime fans of the site, new readers will delight in the side-splitting stories; additionally, a number of well-known bestselling titles that were curated from popular blogs contain previously published content. Readers will still enjoy having a collected volume of their favorite Brosh stories.
The Hyperbole and a Half book is available now.
Verdict: 5 Stars
You can keep your billionaire’s with their torturous red rooms any day…I want to hang out with the riotously hot characters in author duo Christina Lauren’s Beautiful series (Simon & Schuster).
In this installment in the series, nerdy grad student-slash-recluse Hanna Bergstrom is practically forced by her own family to agree to get out more, experiment with dating, build a social life, and essentially get her nose out of a book. Unbeknownst the Hanna’s brother when he sets her up to hang out with his best friend from college, Will Sumner, Hanna has had a crush on Will since she first met him at age twelve.
Now, at twenty-four, Hanna still comes across as the best friend’s baby sister to thirty-one-year-old Will. What begins as an experiment in understanding dating for Hanna and an obligation to his best friend for the notoriously womanizing playboy Will quickly turns into one of the hottest but most confusing relationships either of them has ever had, with neither one willing to admit that the “rules” they established from day one no longer apply.
True to form for books by these two authors, what follows is a confusing twist-and-turn that leaves you wondering if these two people can ever be happy together. Along the way, characters from other books in the Beautiful series make an appearance, with a few bombshells from those people dropped along the way.
Of course, it’s just not a sexy Christina Lauren title without a smoldering update at the end from their first power couple, Bennett Ryan and Chloe Mills, as chapter one of their next book is included at the end of Beautiful Player, available now.
Verdict: 2 Stars
Just when you think you’ve endured as many pages of suffering and hurting as is possible to squeeze between the covers of a book, it gets worse.
Allegiant is the long-awaited final book in the Divergent trilogy, a young adult series by author Veronica Roth. Without having to write the dreaded words “spoiler alert,” let’s just say that Roth spent a great deal of time torturing many of the characters that readers already suffered alongside in the first two books.
Interestingly, part of the problem with this final installment was the amount of time it took to come to readers’ bookshelves, a by-product of the spoiling nature of digital- and self-publishing. Where readers are growing more and more accustomed to the rapid release dates afforded by ebooks, having to wait for a traditionally published sequel–especially one whose title wasn’t even released by the publisher until this fall, as if titles are now top secret–was not exactly agonizing, but more like irritating. In the time I’ve waited since first falling in love with Tris and Four and rooting for the factions and factionless alike, I’ve found twenty other authors that I like better, and just as many story lines and compelling characters to keep me entertained.
Okay, fine…spoiler alert: I feel ripped off by the publishing industry over this book. I became a fan and a believer, only to spend two years of my life waiting for THIS ending to the series. Read at your own risk.
Allegiant is available now from ebook and print distributors everywhere.
Verdict: 4 Stars
The dubiously inappropriate title aside, How Not to Be a D*ick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide (censorship mine) is like Emily Post for normal people, people who don’t go around presenting their calling cards to household butlers and waiting in the drawing room for their lady friends to descend the stairs. No, this book features actual daily life application social norms. It contains important chapters on topics like how to get along with peers and co-workers, how to cook your food in the office microwave so as not to offend people, even little reminders like get in the bathroom, do your business, and get out…don’t tweet while chatting to someone using the facility. And don’t forget to wash your hands.
Doherty’s guide is a fun, tongue-in-cheek look at the manners that we all just assume everyone learned at home but in truth–if the comments section on YouTube or Yahoo! News is any indication–they didn’t. Part of the fun of the guide is the appearance of Dick, Jane, and Spot-era line drawings of the characters in these exact social scenarios, acting out the right and wrong way to behave for our reading pleasure.
Published by Zest Books, whose titles are distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is known for publishing edgy-but-instructional non-fiction for teens. Doherty’s title definitely speaks to a broad age range, covering cliques and bullies at school and the appropriate way to ask someone to the dance, as well as how to behave on an airplane or little things to keep in mind if you’re using your local Starbucks as a temporary office. Perhaps most important of all are the many reminders of how to not get drunk at the office party and snatch your boss’s toupee before running around the room with it and declaring it to be a flying cat. If the worst should happen and you do, in fact, snatch the toupee, there is also information on how to recover from that little faux pas gracefully the next day, all while hoping you still have a job.
How Not to Be a D*ck will be available on October 1st.
Verdict: 5 Stars
If you asked four different world-renowned chefs to cook a duck, you would probably end up with four very different–but still wonderful–meals, each involving the chef’s own unique talents. The same is true for Four Summoner’s Tales (Gallery Books). Born out of a conversation between two skilled writers, the anthology required four writers to begin a story with the same premise: a promise of raising a town’s people from the dead, for a price.
What that conversation gave birth to is a collection of four very different stories all focusing on the same central plot. With the stories penned by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry, the book offers four very distinct looks at the horrors associated with getting what you think you want.
The stories included in the work are “Suffer the Children” (Armstrong), “Pipers” (Golden), “A Bad Season for Necromancy” (Liss), and “Alive Day” (Maberry). Each has its own unique setting, from a 19th century trapping village outside of Toronto, to present-day fighting in Afghanistan, but all four stories weave a chilling tale of what happens when the dead return at your request.
Four Summoner’s Tales will be available on Tuesday, September 17th.
Sony will be officially releasing their new 3rd generation T3 e-Reader next week in the US, Canada and overseas. The overall build quality mirrors the previous iterations of the hardware and most of the differences are software related. With minor tweaks and updates, how does this e-Reader stack up against the competition?
The Sony PRS-T3 features a six inch e-ink Pearl display screen with a resolution of 1024×768. This is not quite as fancy as some of the new devices hitting the market in the next few weeks and seems to be using outdated technology from last year. It also is lacking the front-lit display that allows you to read in the dark. Instead, Sony has covers that have a built in reading light and will retail for $60.00 when they are released at the end of October.
Sony made a very odd design choice with the new sleep covers and other cover accessories. If you device to remove the cover you will have the battery, SD Card and other ribbons poking you from the back. Sony basically has mandated that you must always have a cover on the device. It does not have the same backing as every single e-reader on the market.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ Freescale processor and 512 MB of RAM. Sony says that the built in memory is 2 GB, but when you take it out of the box for the first time, you only have a paltry 1.2 GB of storage space. If you are a voracious reader, you must invest in an SD Card.
As e-Readers have processed over the years, most have scrapped physical buttons to go with capacitive touchscreen displays. Tablets also have followed suite and all common functions are accomplished with software. Sony has buckled the trend by sticking with the page turn, home and settings buttons. This allows you to simply hold the device with one hand and are able to turn the pages, quickly and easily.
The hardware basically mirrors the Sony PRS-2 and there are really no differences in the overall aesthetics. If you have had a prior model, you know what you are getting yourself into. The main allure of the T3 is the software.
The Sony PRS-T3 is running on Google Android, which maintains the same theme as their entire modern line of e-readers. Nook is the only only mainstream brand that has their OS, much to the enjoyment of hackers who like to root their devices.
If you like to take notes and make quick annotations the T3 is the right e-reader for you. You can use an official Sony Stylus to augment any type of eBook, whether it is a PDF or EPUB. Any changes you make will be saved to your device, but you cannot export the books with all of your notes. Sony has always had deadly support for handwriting and note taking. The one drawback, is unlike previous models, this does not come with at Stylus. Instead, you must buy one from Sony and they normally cost $20.00.
There are a few key software features that make the T3 stand out from the competition. The first is Evernote, which allows you to connect up your account and sync notes, books and text changes directly to your account. The second main element is an Overdrive shortcut, that takes you to the Sony website with a stripped down version of the digital library lending service. You simply just need a library card and your four digit pin code, and you can select your library. Anything you borrow, you can read directly on your Sony e-Reader, and they are the only company that has a longstanding relationship with Overdrive.
The one thing that made me dig this e-reader was a very small factor, but is very unique. Most e-Readers if you are connected to WIFI have a timeout. This preservers your battery life, but automatically shutting off the internet. Kobo Readers are notorious for doing this and if you need to connect to a website, it often takes a good three minutes for everything to reinitialize. Sony has a cool option to let you disable the timeout.
The PRS-T3 has a dedicated homescreen that lists the four last books you have purchased or open. At the very top is the book you are currently reading and displays the page you are on. The main menu is simply designed and a bit elegant. Kindle e-Readers often have links to books you can buy, directly on your main page, which can be dis concerning to always be prompted to buy something else.
You basically buy this e-Reader for EPUB, PDF and FB2 files, it supports little else. Still, you can buy books from other websites and load them directly on it with Adobe Digital Editions.
The overall reading experience lacks when you stack up the T3 head to head against the Kobo Aura or even the Kindle Paperwhite. Text seems to be a little dim, also there are plenty of advanced options to adjust There are a very options that you change the darkness of the text and background. None seem to really make a huge difference, might may offset the glare from the reading light.
There are nine different font sizes and when you select one, it updates live. This means the text changes in real time and provides the reader with an indication on any changes you make. There is seven different font types, but you would be hard pressed to really know what they do, without trying them out. I mean, when is the last time anyone used “Really No. 2″ or “Frutiger Neue” or even “Univers Next”? I have used over a hundred e-Readers and have never seen such a woeful attempt to not license any official fonts.
There are eight different dictionaries that are loaded on the T3 by default, but will really differ depending on what region you bought it from. The Canadian edition has different versions of French, English and Spanish. If you don’t know what a word is, you can long-press on it and select the dictionary you want to use.
The T3 does not have an accelerometer or gyroscope. Instead, if you want to get out of the standard portrait mode, you can hit a settings button and visit landscape. This may suit different types of media better, such as newspapers, magazines or graphic novels.
The PDF experience allows you to re-flow the text with settings options. You have to really go through a series of trial and error configuring, until you find that sweet spot. You can also pinch and zoom to more quickly find the perfect viewing perspective. When you are in the process of zooming a small notification area appears, that gives you a sense on where you are within the document. It pales in comparison to Kobo’s options that actually lists text and images in in the preview pane, instead the Sony just has white on black. Once you find your ideal prospective you can use the page turn keys to flip a page and maintain your settings. You cannot use touchscreen swiping and gesturing to turn a PDF page, if you are zoomed in.
The Sony PRS-T3 really feels like the company isn’t even trying anymore. They are using hardware internals that e-Readers in early 2012 were using and haven’t really updated it in any significant way. Considering the new Nook, Paperwhite and Kobo Aura are using cutting edge technology, this feels sluggish in comparison.
Sony used to have the BEST PDF support in the business for many years, but have quickly become a distant number three. They haven’t been able to solve the refresh issues with constantly turning pages or zooming in. This is mainly because they failed to use e-Ink Regal technology, which drastically reduces “ghosting” and refreshes.
You should buy this device if you have a panache for using a stylus and taking notes. The T3 really shines when you are drawing or just drawing arrows and diagrams. I can see this being very useful for people who need to augment technical PDF files or for school. This reader is also perfect who just want to read and don’t need a ton of distractions with games, lights and all the other gobbledegook. If its your first e-Reader, it is a solid investment.
If you are a fiendish reader and looking for a hot new item to really use as your main digital book reading device, I would go with something else. Turning it on for the first time and using it for a few hours, just felt like a dated unit. A few days of using it, and I long for the Aura, which is superior in every way.
Solid Stylus Support
Internet Experience is great
Faded text and weird font options
$60 for a lighted case?
If you remove the sleep cover, it back internals jab at your hands
Verdict: 2 stars
One of the most highly anticipated recent book launches has been Shields’ and Salerno’s Salinger, billed as an exhaustive biography of of one of the most reclusive writers of our time. What was actually published, unfortunately, was nothing more than transcripts written in interview format of discussions about the author with people who claimed to know him, nearly 200 people, in fact.
While there is the occasional insight into the author’s life or the briefest of pieces of new information about the man, a lot of the material uncovered is very anecdotal tabloid-quality stuff. Was it really vital to share the status of Salinger’s testicles? No, I think not. (spoiler alert: apparently Salinger only had one, and for some reason, the authors of the book felt that knowledge was somehow important to our understanding of their subject)
Over the years, Salinger’s son Matt has developed quite a reputation for taking his father’s privacy to extremes, even going so far as to disparage his own sister’s memoir as “gothic” and “unsupported.” At one point, he even sued for the return of a letter his father had written after a collectibles dealer put it up for auction, claiming that it was his father’s writing and therefore the property of the estate. Given that Salinger is the end result of not blocking the publication of information about a very private man, it’s easy to understand why Matt Salinger may have felt the need to be so protective.
On a brighter note, the book is apparently almost a word-for-word transcript of the documentary film on the life of J.D. Salinger, and the film might be far less difficult to wade through given that it will be presented in video by the people who actually claim to have stories to share about the author. The film was released September 6th.