Wednesday 30 April 2014

Ten Kindles I have known

I do love a Kindle, as I’m sure you know by now if you have ever visited this blog before. I think I’ve used at least ten different Kindles, but let’s see. I write this knowing it won’t interest anyone but me. But I will find it fascinating.

1. The iPad Kindle app, which by checking my iTunes receipts I can see I got in the week of 13 May 2010. In fact, it’s the very first item on my very first iTunes receipt. I’d had a pair of Sony Readers and though I used them a lot, I only bought a few books in that format (from WH Smith, weirdly), because they were so expensive, such a faff to get on there, and I had lots of review stuff to keep me occupied. I did give iBooks a try (another iTunes receipt tells me that on 12 June 2010 I bought Neal Asher’s Shadow of the Scorpion) on there, but the iPad was a bit big for reading at length, and I couldn’t conveniently take it with me anywhere to read. Even now that it’s 37 generations behind the times I’m still reluctant to get it out in public. Funny now to think that when it first came out, sensible people were calling the iPad a Kindle killer. More like a stalking horse.

2. International Kindle (version 2). After settling for that pair of Sony Readers while impatiently waiting for Amazon to release the Kindle here, and then using the iPad app, this was my first actual Kindle. At this point they were still being shipped from the US. There’s a lot to like about this Kindle, not least that it still, even now, has absolutely free 3G internet access, and unlike more recent iterations it’s not restricted to browsing the Amazon store and receiving publications. You can use it to browse the wider web, albeit fairly slowly. It also has a nice little pair of speakers and a keyboard (which was a big selling point for me after struggling to make notes on the Sony Readers), sits nicely in your hand because its width lets it balance, and it has nice big buttons for clicking forward and back between pages. I still use this one from time to time.

3. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). Retrospectively renamed the Kindle Keyboard, the first of these I bought was for Mrs Theaker, and I was jealous of its wi-fi, which for the first time let documents be emailed to it without incurring a charge, and the ability to change the contrast of text in pdfs – useful for many review pdfs. One thing I don’t like about Mrs Theaker’s Kindle version 3 is that the keyboard buttons are a bit scratchy.

4. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). This one was mine. I just got too jealous of Mrs Theaker’s and bought myself one. Not quite as easy to hold as the v2, and the keyboard lost the number row, but as well as the features mentioned above it had one that made it ideal for an internet addict for me: it could only access the internet if the wifi router allowed it, and I made sure it didn’t. That meant no breaking away from reading to check my email just one more time before sleeping. The v3 had nice speakers too, and plenty of room for audiobooks.

5. Kindle (version 3, wi-fi only). Being an idiot I once put my v3 under my pillow and then leant on it with my elbow. Amazon let me have a new one for £40 in return for sending them the broken one, and I still use it quite often, especially for reading comics (the panel view is glitchy on the Paperwhite) and listening to audiobooks and music (I keep the new Pixies MP3s on it).

6. Kindle Android app on Google Nexus. I want to like this, and it’s slowly getting better, but it has problems. It doesn’t use the full height of the Nexus screen, and you can’t turn the brightness of the screen down to a bearable level. If I’m reading on the Nexus, I tend to use Play Books instead, which doesn’t have those problems.

7. Kindle Android app on Samsung phone. I want to like this more than I do, but the phone is always running out of power and slow to respond and by the time the app has loaded itself and loaded a book I’m often past the point where I needed something to read.

8. Kindle Paperwhite. I wasn’t that impressed by this model at first: it certainly didn’t live up to the promise of its name, and was quickly dubbed the Kindle Ghostlight in our house. The backlight caused strange shadows at the bottom of the screen, and could never be switched entirely off, giving it an eerie green glow. But it grew on me very quickly, for a few reasons. Its case is lovely, and switches it on automatically. All the screen, except left and top bars, can be tapped for next page, so you can hold it in lots of different positions and there’s no need for irritating swipes. No internet browsing on 3G, only book shopping, which means I don’t waste time checking my email on it. The downside: from the day I got a Paperwhite I had to negotiate in order to read in bed with the lamp on, and that’s made me very, very slow to read paper books, to the point where I’ve told publishers to stop sending them to us for review.

9. Kindle Desktop. I would like this a lot more if you could access your personal documents on it, since review copies make up a lot of my reading. It’d be really handy to browse my notes on the Kindle Desktop, side by side with the reviews I’m writing. Instead I have to cross refer to a physical Kindle. Disappointing.

10. Kindle Cloud Reader. Quite handy, but again suffers from a lack of personal documents, for me at least.

That’s a lot of Kindles. There are quite a few Kindles I’ve never tried, but the two I wish I’d had were the original, and the big Kindle DX. I was desperate for a DX at one point, but the lack of wifi and the way it couldn’t annotate pdfs meant it was never going to be a sensible use of my money. Still want one though.

Kindles that don’t yet exist that I would like: Kindle on Xbox, a little phone-sized Kindle, and Kindle on Google Glasses. That’s what I’ve always dreamed of – to be able to read while walking around, without walking into lamp-posts.

Wednesday is occasionally list day on the blog, though not as frequently this year because I have been so busy, and this is list #17. I would describe this as our most boring yet, but I fear my muse would take that as a challenge.

Monday 28 April 2014

La Vallée Infernale by Henri Vernes, read by Stephen Theaker

La Vallée Infernale (in Tout Bob Morane 1, Les Éditions Ananké, ebook, 10,308ll) by Henri Vernes is the first novel in the long-running Bob Morane series, which doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact in Anglophone countries. Post-WWII Bob is working as a courier pilot for a shifty operator who has him run some scallywags to Papua New Guinea.

It’s supposed to be an flyover, but upon arrival they demand to land, and when Bob declines they force a crash, into an area cut off by mountains, ruled by dangerous tribes, and far from safety. His honour forces Bob to attempt the protection of the idiots who have landed him in the mess.

Monday 21 April 2014

Wonder Woman Unbound, by Tim Hanley, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

In Wonder Woman Unbound (Chicago Review Press, pb, c.322pp), subtitled The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, Tim Hanley takes a look at the history of DC’s best-known female superhero, with a particular focus on her earliest stories and the man who created her, William Moulton Marston, and his interest in an idiosyncratic brand of bondage-led feminism. The book explores Hanley’s theory that “every version of Wonder Woman has been simultaneously progressive and problematic”, with parts devoted to the Golden Age, Silver Age and Bronze Age versions of the character.

Monday 14 April 2014

Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Her travel guide to New York having done well, despite a series of supernatural calamities that occurred in the course of its writing, Zoë Norris is given a new assignment by her editor at Underground Publishing: the supernatural tourist’s guide to New Orleans. She takes a hand-picked team of writers with her: two vampires, one of whom would kill her now if it wasn’t against company policy, a goddess of death, a Valkyrie, and a baby dragon, Bertie.

Friday 11 April 2014

Template by Matthew Hughes, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

There are few things I find more enjoyable than a Matthew Hughes novel, and it’s a struggle to stop myself gorging on them at the expense of everything else. Template (self-published, ebook, 4865ll) is a book from 2008, new to me, recently republished. Like most of the Hughes books previously reviewed here, it is set among the Ten Thousand worlds of the Spray, under the subtle rule of the Archonate.

Conn Labro is an exceptional sportsman, brilliant at everything from fencing to chess, and he takes on all-comers at Horder’s Gaming Emporium – which owns him. Hallis Tharp has paid in advance for a lifetime of his services: a weekly two-hour game of paduay. On one occasion, Tharp is not ready for the game, and Conn goes to investigate.

Monday 7 April 2014

Divergent, reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Chicago plows dauntlessly into young heroine-driven dystopia subgenre

We Chicagoans recently endured one of our worst winters in recorded history. I wonder how many of us, clomping through the slush-laden Loop streets or stuck on bleak highways, saw the Divergent ads on billboards and bus wraps as not only an exciting way to launch spring, but also as a potential to extend our city’s reputation for innovation.

Friday 4 April 2014

BFS Journal #11: out now!

Sorry that things have been so quiet on the TQF blog this year – paying work has been keeping me very busy (can’t and won’t complain!) but work is progressing on the next issue of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction – and about 25 reviews I have at various stages of unreadiness.

One distraction has been that I was asked to help out on the BFS Journal for a couple of issues after it had stalled, to give the new managing editor time to train up. You can only get this 184pp paperback if you’re a BFS member, but we’ve ordered a handful of extra copies, so if you join today there’s still a chance of getting it.

Sarah Newton is the editor of this issue’s fiction:

  • The Switch, Mark Lewis
  • Electricity, Gary Couzens
  • Pawnarchy, Mark Huntley-James
  • The Eden Paradigm, Allen Ashley and Madeleine Beresford
  • A Barrow on the Border, Rima Devereaux
  • The Need to Create, Emma Newman
  • The Lost Name, Sandra Unerman
  • Baby 17, Jonathan Oliver
  • The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, M.E. Lerman

Stuart Douglas edits the non-fiction:

  • Jennie Gyllblad, interviewed by Max Edwards
  • Freda Warrington, interviewed by Alex Bardy
  • The Adventures of Brak, Mike Barrett
  • Tim Powers, interviewed by Stuart Douglas
  • Nick Campbell on The Child Garden
  • Forbidden Fruits, Ray Cluley

And Ian Hunter edits the poetry:

  • Cybernetic Mary, Deborah Walker
  • Protecting Veil, Megan Kerr
  • A Paranormal Romance, Allen Ashley

There’s also a controversial editorial by Max Edwards, a controversial chairman’s chat by Mark Barrowcliffe, and a BFS news section that has not yet attracted any controversy (but maybe no one has read it yet). Cover art by Jennie Gyllblad.