Read: Vampire Academy (2-4)

I sped through these latest three books in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series this weekend in record time. Her books are such page-turners. I’m glad I gave the first book a second chance because these book #3 was so damn good.

Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2) Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2) by Richelle Mead
4 of 5 stars

The second novel in this series sets up the next ones nicely. The reader is introduced to more of the politics of magic usage. Just by reading this book, I can tell there’s going to be a big offensive magic showdown.

The whole Dimitri/Tasha angle was meant to be exciting and thrilling, but I kind of knew the way it was going to turn out anyway, so it wasn’t a big surprise to me. It was sweet to see Dimitri start to get more honest about his feelings though.

I’m glad that part of this book took place in a setting other than St. Vladmir’s because even though there wasn’t too much action going on, the change in scenery made the story more enjoyable.

The introduction of Adrian is great way to start a love triangle.

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3) Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3) by Richelle Mead
4 of 5 stars

What a cliffhanger ending! The action sure picked up between the 2nd book and the end of this 3rd one. The fighting scenes were fierce. There’s finally a pay-off with Rose’s love life. Rose kicking ass.

I’m constantly surprised that this is a YA book. There’s some mature subjects being touched on, and the violence is a bit PG-13.

Other than the agonizing ending, what’s not to like about this book?

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, #4) Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
3 of 5 stars

I initially rated this book a 4, but dropped it down to a 3 after thinking about it. I skimmed through half of this book because the Lissa parts were so awkward and dull. I could see the Lissa/Christian/Avery/Adrian plot line coming a mile away and just wasn’t interested in it.

Blood Promise suffers through the separation of Rose and Lissa, which I thought I could deal with because Lissa is actually one of my least favorite characters. But the fact that Rose had to constantly mentally check in on Lissa made those parts skippable for me.

The introduction of Sydney was also a bore. I could tell that she and her people are going to play an important role in the later books (why else mention her?) but she was just annoying in this book. I’m glad that Rose finally got to meet Abe and honestly, I didn’t see that one coming.

The last quarter of the book shows us just how good Mead is at making me feel like the characters are finally safe, then popping up another “Aha!”, rinse repeat. Add the next book to my “eagerly anticipating” list.

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Review: Sir Thomas More’s Utopia

Utopia Utopia by Thomas More

4 of 5 stars
I need to not have pre-conceived notions about books before I read them. For some reason, I thought this was a more contemporary book. I knew that this book was what a lot of dystopian books are influenced by, but I didn’t realize it was written in the 16th century!

The framing device More employed confused me for the first part of the book, but when once I got into the meat of the argument, I promptly forgot the outer frame.

Like most people who have read a lot of science fiction, I was at first mistrusting of the claims Raphael made of the island. But as I read more and more, the island sounds like a fantastic place to live. Only 6 hours of work a day, lots of time to pursuit intellectual pleasures, never going hungry, and religious toleration? Sign me up!

There were only two bits about the book that I had trouble with. The Utopians regard killing animals and butchering animals dirty, beneath them, and dehumanizing — which is why they get slaves to do it for them. With their capacity for reasoning and their penchant for farming and hard work, I’d think that the whole society would decide to become vegetarians.

The second part was how easily and quickly the Utopians adopted Christianity. For the most part, they seem to be self sufficient and pleased with their own thinking, which was why I was surprised how quickly they embraced Christianity. More explains it was because the core beliefs of Christianity so closely resembled Utopian religions, but I was still skeptical that it was More asserting his belief or placating his readers. In the 16th century, maybe people felt more nervous reading a book about distant men who were so superior but not Christian. At least he put in the bit about religious toleration.

For someone who likes dystopian novels, I’m glad I finally sat down and read Utopia. It certainly gives a different perspective to not having private property and living in a somewhat communist society. Sure, it’s very idealized, but at the end of the book, I was convinced if I could find a country like that, I’d be pretty happy living there.

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A Nook Review — not for me

nook

After using the Nook for a little less than a week, I can justifiably say that ebook readers, are maybe just not for me for the time being.  When the more known Kindle first came out, I had gadget-envy just because e-ink was so different than the LCD screens I’ve grown accustomed to.  It was certainly pleasant to look at. I didn’t get one because 1.) the price was too high and 2.) I calculated that I didn’t buy enough books in a year to justify the cost savings of buying ebook formatted books.

So when work got in one of those new-fangled Nooks, an ereader from Barnes & Noble, I borrowed it and tried reading a book on it.

Unfortunately, I was met with roadblock after roadblock. First, I couldn’t figure out how to get the .txt file of my book loaded on the darn thing.  I guess it only supports a handful of limited formats and a .txt file, one of the most simple text formats, was not one of them.

I had to use Calibre (an ebook manager/converter) to convert my .txt file into an .epub file and then upload it to the Nook.  (To the Nook’s credit, once I got the format right, uploading a file to it was just a matter of drag and drop.)

Then came another roadblock.  I had started reading my book in dead-tree format and was already 1/4 of the way in, so I wanted to find my corresponding place on the device. Now if you think about it, ebooks don’t actually have pages that directly correspond to pages in a physical book, but the pages on the ebook were still relatively numbered.  I could find no way to specify a page to skip to. Even a progress bar or slider that I could slide to represent what percentage of the book I want to flip to wasn’t present.  The only way I could move quickly through the book was to push the ‘next page’ button and watch the pages flip agonizingly by until it got to the right page.

Luckily, after about ten key-presses later, I realized I could just preform a text search for “chapter 4” and hopefully it would bring me to where I wanted to start reading.  This worked, but the text search did take a minute or two.

One of the advantages of e-ink is its low power consumption. Power is only used when pages are changed because the device needs to refresh the e-ink. It doesn’t make much sense that I have to use so much power flipping through pages just to get to my place in the book.

The placement of the next and previous page buttons on the Nook also took a while to get used to.  There are two sets of buttons on each side.  I would think that pressing one button on one side, and then the corresponding button on the other side which is in the same location, would do opposite things. For example, if I press the right button, I’d expect to go forward a page, while the left button would let me go back a page. The Nook says no.  Both buttons go in the same direction.  To change directions, it’s a matter of pressing the button at the top or bottom.  Now it makes a bit of sense if you hold the Nook one-handed, since it allows users to go forward and back by just having their hands on one side, but for a two-handed user, it takes a while to get out of the habit of accidentally pressing the wrong button.

It wasn’t till my fourth day with the Nook that I realized that swiping the bottom LCD screen, even when it’s off, also turns the page. But don’t bother using it because it’s unresponsive and slow.

Speaking of speed, I read somewhere that the latest update to the Nook, which I have, speeds up page turning so that it’s faster than turning a page on an actual book. It’s not.  Page turning is slow, slow, slow. Press a button, wait a second (during which you wonder if you pressed the button hard enough), and then the page reloads. It totally throws off my rhythm when reading.

When I first read about the Nook, I thought the bottom LCD screen was a genius idea.  Higher-res pictures of book covers, and being able to navigate faster? Yes please.  In reality, it just doesn’t work. The quicker-to-refresh LCD is jarring juxtaposed with the slow-refreshing e-ink. Using the bottom screen to navigate the top screen just doesn’t work. It feels clumsy and clunky.

Even though I had been pining for an ebook reader, I have to say that if my experience with the Nook, primarily the slowness, is any indication of the state of the devices currently, I’ll stick with my dead tree format for the time being.