Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 30, 2014

Orange is the New Black is the memoir by Piper Kerman detailing the year she spent in a women’s prison.  The drug related offences date from 10 years prior to her incarceration and in the meantime, Kerman had built a life for herself with a rewarding job and supportive fiancé.  The book has also been adapted into a successful Netflix Original television show, of which I have seen season one, and plan to binge watch season two in the very near future.  It should be noted that the TV series and the book, while both excellent, are very different beasts.  There is a lot of dramatisation in the TV show not present in the book, which, on the other hand, gives a very thoughtful, measured introspective into Kerman’s emotional journey during her incarceration. I listened to the audiobook during my coach trip from Montreal to Toronto – a trip of about eight hours – and not only did it hold my attention through the trip, but I wanted to continue listening when I got home.   What I liked The narration.  Cassandra Campbell does an amazing job of providing the voiceover for Kerman’s emotional journey as well as creating distinct…

Reading roundup – 27th June 2014
Reading Roundup / June 27, 2014

So, I missed last week’s reading roundup because I was on vacation – I had a couple of long coach rides and so I really appreciated my audiobooks – I listened to Ruin and Rising, the final book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and the audiobook of Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black.  Reviews have been posted/will be posted soon. Added to my library this week I’ve added a few books to my library over the last couple of weeks.  Recently, I have been watching the addictive Orange is the New Black on Netflix and so I had placed a hold on the audiobook.  It came in just in time for my trip, so I enjoyed listening to it. Two YA trilogies had their final books published last week – the aforementioned Ruin and Rising and Joelle Charbonneau’s Graduation Day, the final book in The Testing trilogy.  I’ve enjoyed these series immensely, and I added both to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats. Given the current dispute between Amazon and Hachette, I wasn’t too certain if my preorder for Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J.K. Rowling’s) The Silkworm would be honoured.  I had ordered this in Kindle format rather…

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 25, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is the third and final book in the Grisha trilogy.  It completes the story of Sun Summoner Alina Starkov and her fight against the Darkling.  In it Alina and her group of trusted friends must escape from the Apparat and his ragtag army of religious zealots, and track down the third amplifier, the firebird, before confronting the Darkling.  Along the way, Alina learns more of Morozova’s background and his secrets. I enjoyed Ruin and Rising far more than Siege and Storm, which suffered from middle book syndrome and patchy pacing. What I liked The Russian style setting.  As in the previous two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, I loved the world that Bardugo has created for her characters.  The writing and descriptions really give a feel for Russia with a twist. The characters.  We’ve been with these characters for three books now, and I appreciated the way they’ve grown and developed throughout the series.  Their changing relationships were also very well drawn.  Who would have guessed meeting Zoya in book one just how much Alina would grow to rely on her?  I liked that their experiences have left their marks on…

My thoughts on the Amazon Fire Phone
Tech Reviews / June 24, 2014

 As expected, Amazon launched its new Amazon Fire Phone last week.  I watched the launch video and have a few thoughts on the device.  Like the Kindle Fire tablets, the Fire phone is geared towards those who are already heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.  Bezos made a point of stating that one year of Amazon Prime will be included with the purchase of the phone.   The two defining features of the Fire phone are Firefly and dynamic perspective.  I understand from various other reviews that the hardware specs are middle of the road for smartphones. Firefly does actually seem quite useful.  The phone uses its camera to match real life objects with the Amazon (and third parties’) databases to bring up additional information on the object and – naturally – to allow you to purchase it from Amazon.  It can recognise objects, sounds, movies and TV shows.  Examples shown by Bezos include identifying a hard copy book and linking to buy from Amazon, recognising a song playing and matching it to the IheartMusic database for streaming, picking up the X-ray for Movies from an episode of Game of Thrones and bringing up details on a piece of art….

Half Bad by Sally Green – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 18, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green tells the story of Nathan who is the son of a white witch mother and a black witch father.  In Nathan’s world, black witches are hated and feared and Nathan’s parentage makes him a pariah, someone to be caged and studied.  To make matters worse, Nathan’s 17th birthday is approaching by which time he must receive three gifts and the blood of a family member – or die. The story starts off with Nathan in a cage and trying to escape before flashing back to recount his earlier life.  The story is told primarily in the first person present, almost stream-of-consciousness – with some diversions off to the second person when Nathan is trying to distance himself from what is going on, such as during torture.  The narrative style is deliberately simplistic to reflect Nathan’s lack of book learning. What I liked The narration.  I LOVED the audio narration of Half Bad, which was done by Carl Prekopp.  Written as it is in the first person present, the narrator IS Nathan, and it’s as if the protagonist himself is speaking.  This is emphasised by the simple, informal language. My heart rate did shoot up during…

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 16, 2014

Prince of Fools is the first in a new series – The Red Queen’s War – by Mark Lawrence who wrote the Broken Empire trilogy.  This new series is set in the same world as The Broken Empire, but focusses on a different set of characters.  Emperor of Thorns was one of my top reads for 2013, so I had high expectations of Prince of Fools – I’m happy to say it lived up to them. What I liked The setting.  Both Red Queen’s War and Broken Empire trilogy are set in a world which is strongly implied to be ours many millennia after a cataclysmic event (the “thousand suns”) in which magic plays a part.  Some references to our world bleed through but often in an almost unrecognisable form.  It’s a great deal of fun spotting these references.  These are very subtle – for example our protagonists meet a circus elephant, who is, of course, called Nellie.  A week later I still can’t get the children’s song out of my brain and now you can’t either.  You’re welcome.   Anyway to return to the setting.  One very interesting choice Lawrence made with the Red Queen’s War trilogy is to set…

Reading Roundup – Friday 13th June 2014
Reading Roundup / June 13, 2014

This week I have been switching between three books; Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig – this is the story of Scarlett O’Hara’s Mammy.  This supporting character in Gone with the Wind gets her own story.  So far I’m really enjoying it – a full review will be forthcoming.  The second book I’m listening to is Half Bad by Sally Green.  It tells the story of 16 year old Nathan Byrn who is the son of a white witch and a black witch, which is not a great legacy to have.  So far it’s very good, and again a review will be forthcoming. With the publicity machine ramping up for STARZ’ Outlander, the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I decided to relisten to the first book again to refresh my memory.  I am really excited about this adaptation – it’s being helmed by Battlestar Galactica’s Ron D. Moore, and the casting I’ve seen is fantastic.  I think Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan will do excellently as our protagonists Claire and Jamie.  Roll on August!  I had hoped to attend the signing in Ottawa with Diana Gabaldon, but unfortunately it’s a little too tight with my vacation. Added to my library…

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 11, 2014

I actually found this review of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass quite difficult to write.  It tells the story of assassin turned prisoner Celaena and her participation in the competition to become the King’s Champion.  I LOVED the book and got caught up in the story and characters.  However this made it rather tricky to analyse why I liked it so much and what made it work.  Nevertheless I’ll give it a go. What I liked The characters.  I found our protagonist Celaena Sardothien very engaging and fun to follow.  She is strong-willed, smart, resourceful – and very funny.  It’s clear her experiences in the prison of Endovier have left their mark on her, both physically and emotionally.  Maas did however add in a few quirks to keep her real.  I liked that she wasn’t immediately up to full physical strength after her imprisonment and had to balance physical weakness with smarts.  The fact that she was terrified to stand on the glass in the glass castle was interesting. The setting.  Now, I am a person who has a stronger affinity with words than with pictures, but I loved the mental picture that Maas conjured of the glass castle…

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks – Review
Audiobook reviews , Book Reviews / June 9, 2014

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks is a YA fantasy novel which tells the story of Emma McIntosh who after a tragic incident at a beach meets Galan Forza, one of the Syrena, or merfolk, who believes Emma may be a Syrena of the line of Poseidon, putting her in a position to end wars between the merfolk.   Emma, on the other hand, knows nothing of her heritage.  I did enjoy Of Poseidon, and will very likely read the sequels at some point.  However, I wouldn’t say the book was fantastic or a must-read.   What I liked Fun protagonist.  I really liked the way Emma was written.  She is fun, sparky and realistic.  I enjoyed her interactions with Galen and the rest of his entourage.  I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more of her friendship with Chloe – that would have been fun to read about.  I felt the tragedy gave Emma more depth than she might have otherwise had. Interesting subplots.  There are several subplots woven throughout the story and they were well done – it was also great the way they were woven into the main plot in the end reveal.  The worldbuilding.  I enjoyed…

Reading Roundup – June 6th 2014
Book Reviews , Reading Roundup / June 6, 2014

First of all, my apologies on the delay of the Throne of Glass review – it’s coming, I promise!  Also my apologies for the confusion on the Ruin and Rising release date. This will be released on June 17th. This week Amazon announced a product launch for later this month.  The introductory video is deceptively vague, but most analysts seem to agree a 3D smartphone is likely.  For the first time Amazon is also inviting customers to attend this launch in Seattle.  You can sign up for an invite.  I have put my name down, so we’ll see if I’m lucky. [book-info] One of the books i did read this week was Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.  I loved her Eleanor & Park and enjoyed Attachments very much, too.  This novel is split between two interwoven strands.  We have the traditional third person narrative of Lincoln’s story and the other strand follows Jennifer and Beth through email exchange.  The two are connected in that Lincoln’s job is to monitor his company’s email and so he gets to know the two women through their email exchange. What I liked  Fun, realistic characters.  As in Eleanor & Park, Rowell has a talent for writing…