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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Kobo Aura

Introduction and First Impressions: Let me begin by saying, I have tried nearly every e-reader on the market. Sony Reader Daily Edition that took 20 minutes to turn a page, a terrible weekend with a Kindle that resulted in tears, a Nook that became annoying far too quickly, the Kobo Aura HD which I loved but only got to use for 10 minutes while setting it up for my Mother and a migraine inducing use of an iPad to read a book. I was on the point of giving up on e-reading but then Kobo came along and made everything better. It's not without some faults though—they are very minor though.

I was surprised when I opened the box how slight the e-reader itself is. It's so thin and light. It fits perfectly in my hand. Most e-readers feel a bit unwieldy and heavy in my smaller hands but this is perfect. The back is also designed to give a nice firm grip so I can read while walking—this is actually very important to me because I read while commuting.

Some basics about the Aura before we get started. The Aura has 4gbs of space—expandable with an SD Card up to 32gb, it has a 6 inch high resolution Pearl E-Ink Clarity Screen, it has 1GHz processor, and it can read ePubs, Pdfs, Mobi and txt. I haven't really used the PDF reader but I do have a few on there that I will read eventually.

Screen-One of my great frustrations with other readers has been the screen quality. Either they weren't sharp enough or they were too sharp and too bright. I am also particularly sensitive to backlight and too much can give me a migraine fairly quickly. I can absolutely say without any bias that Kobo has provided the best screen out of any I've tried. It's honestly only beaten by the Kobo Aura HD which features 265 ppi to the Aura's 212. It's almost as comfortable as reading a paperback. As someone who avoided e-readers for the longest time, this is very important. I need to feel as if I am reading a book—not a document—and the Auro provides me that experience. There is also very little eye-strain. In fact, the only eye-strain that occurred was when I decided to read a book straight through for 10 hours. It was the Anne of Green Gables series so it was acceptable. 

Reading Experience-I absolutely love how everything is so customizable within the book. You can change fonts, size of text, spacing, margins, sharpness of's just beautiful. You can even add your own fonts. I have to admit that I geeked out and found a Jane Austen font and used it on her books. Yes, it improves the reading experience dramatically. The processor is also excellent. It's a 1-GHz Freescale 1.MX507. Yes, I know, jibber jabber. But the page turns are so quick, faster than a blink of an eye, the keyboard is very responsive and there is very little ghosting. I appreciate this because my Sony Daily used to take forever to turn the page or highlight or do anything really. I could knit a sweater before that thing turned a page.

I also love the enhanced reading features. There is a dictionary of course. And it is responsive and quick. It doesn't take much effort for the word to be highlighted and defined. You can also add your own preferred dictionary as well. I also love that you can highlight a word or phrase and the Kobo will give you related information like articles and related books. I haven't had an e-reader that featured that before and I found myself using it very often.

Dashboard: I absolutely love how Kobo sets up the homepage. It's like my bookish world in a snapshot. It has all my collections, all the books I am reading at once, recommendations from Kobo...everything you want to see. It's more organized than anything I can come up with in my paperback reading world. I organize that with post-its and prayer.

Backlight: I am a nocturnal reader. I am an insomniac and I can often be found reading in the dark at 4am. A backlight on an e-reader is especially important to me and a good one doubly so. The backlight on the Aura is excellent. It tops out at 405 lux—beating even the Aura HD. Also the brightness is pretty even from the top of the screen to the bottom. 

Battery Life: This is probably one of the things that impressed me the most about the Aura. It's kind of nerdish of me but the battery life of the Aura is unbelievable. Staggeringly good. Kobo advertises two months but I think I will go another two without charging. I have been using my Kobo on a fairly regular basis for about two months and I have only had to charge it once in the beginning of October. It is currently sitting at 96%. So, in almost two months it has only used 4% of the battery...with wifi and backlight off most of the time. That is just ridiculous good.

Internet: the Kobo Aura comes with a 802.11b/g/n wifi connection. It's pretty quick. I bought a couple of books from the Kobo store and they downloaded to the Aura in less than 10 seconds. It kind of makes 3g seem superfluous—but what do I know, I don't even have a smartphone. The Aura also comes with a browser in Beta. I haven't used it much but I tested it by opening and logging into Booklikes. It's quick but it wouldn't be my preferred way to access the internet but it would do in a pinch.

SD Card: The only issue I had with my Kobo is a problem with the SD Card. And my Mother had the same problem with her Aura HD as well. Almost every time I turn the Aura on with the SD Card in, a message pops up saying that I have to format the disk to FAT32. The SD Card is brand new, just out of the box, and bought especially for this Kobo. I have also reformatted the disk and it works on other devices. It's not every time but it seems to be when the device starts up rather quickly. Almost like the processor is too quick and the SD Card reader needs to catch up. It does show in the device settings that it is there but I wish Kobo would fix this in some way with a software update. Because while it does not hamper my enjoyment of the device, the constant pop-up is obnoxious. 

Customer Service: I did have to contact Kobo's Customer Service a couple of times. Both of them had to do with the SD Card. Both times the customer service reps were kind, helpful and courteous. Whether by Twitter or by chat on the Kobo site, they helped me along and were patient with me. I think good customer service is as important as a good product and Kobo provides that.
Extras: The Kobo Aura comes with a few bits and pieces that are pretty interesting. Reading Life is one of my favorites. It keeps track of how much you've read, how long you've read, how many page turns etc. I love these stats. I geek out at them. You can also get rewards based on these stats. Pretty awesome.

The Kobo also has a pretty neat recommendations feature via the Dashboard. Seriously, it sees you when you're reading and it knows when you like something and it curates a collection of recommendations for you. It's just beautiful. It's picked some books for me that I would never have picked up before.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Kobo Aura is the new connection to Pocket. I am always coming across articles and blog posts that I want to read but put off till later but inevitably, I forget what it was, where it was located etc. Kobo's connection to Pocket eliminates that by connecting my Aura to my Pocket account and I can read all of those saved articles offline on my Kobo Aura later. I am becoming addicted to this feature just on blog posts alone.

Overall Impressions: This is one amazing little device. It really is. It is everything a serious reader would love in an e-reader. I don't think anything can mimic the feel of reading a book but the Kobo Aura comes quite close. I love my Aura. I'm planning on buying multiple family members and friends Auras of their own for Christmas. I am not going to rate this as I would a book but I am going to say that this reader converted someone who hated reading on an e-reader to a fan. A big one. The only flaw is with the SD Card but that isn't even close enough to being big enough to effect the rating. If I were to rate, it would get my highest rating--cupcakes. 

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton

When She Was Wicked (Honeycote, #1)Publisher: Forever
ISBN: 1455513326
Pages: 416 pages
Genre: Romance/Historical/Regency
Series: Honeycote
Challenges- 2013 150+ Challenge , 2013 Read-A-Latte Challenge ,Romance Reading Challenge 20132013 Outdo Yourself Challenge
Buy this Book: Amazon, Indiebound, Powell's



A dressmaker in London's busiest shop, Miss Anabelle Honeycote overhears the ton's steamiest secrets-and (occasionally) uses them to her advantage. It isn't something she's proud of, but the reluctant blackmailer needs the money to care for her gravely ill mother. To make up for her misdeeds, Anabelle keeps to a firm set of rules:

Never request payment from someone who cannot afford it.
Never reveal the secrets of a paying client.
Never enter into any form of social interaction with a client.

Her list keeps her (somewhat) honest-until she encounters Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford.

Not only does Owen nip Anabelle's extortion plans in the bud, the devilishly handsome Duke soon has the sexy seamstress dreaming of more than silks and satins. With Owen Anabelle enjoys pleasures she never imagined. . . until a scandal from the past resurfaces. Now her rules could mean his family's ruin. Owen's searing kisses carry the promise of passion, but how will he react when Anabelle's most devastating secret is finally revealed?

My Review:

Beginning Babble: I have to admit that I have read this book once already without reviewing it. The second time is the charm, I guess. I didn't really enjoy it the first time around. And to be honest, I don't even know why because this time I ended up loving it. In a big way. In a this is one of my reading highlights of the year way. In a Anne Barton is a new favorite author of mine and I will devour her books in a voracious kind of way.


Heroine: Annabelle- She was one of my problems the first time around—based solely on margin notes. I couldn't make a connection to her and couldn't figure her out for the life of me. But, and I will be saying this a lot, it was completely different the second time around. She seemed a bit cold and withdrawn last time but now, I understood the reasons for her aloofness and empathized with her.

Hero: Owen-The one thing that did not change from my first reading to my last is my love for Owen. He was a pretty great hero. He was a bit stodgy—which I really like. But he did have a softer side even if it took a bit for it to be obvious. He is extremely protective of his sisters which just served to endear him to me more.

Chemistry: At first, I was kind of on the fence about the whole blackmail issue and how it would be used but I really love how Barton worked it in but didn't make it at all seedy or unsavory. It definitely added an extra dimension to Owen and Annabelle's relationship. I also loved how Owen's slight stodgy nature played against Annabelle's.

Chemistry Rating:

Ending Babble: I really did enjoy this one. I mean, it's nothing I haven't read before but it's done so well that I really don't care. The writing is excellent and the characters are so well-drawn. There is just enough angst to be interesting but not so much that it becomes exhausting. I also adore Anne Barton's writing style. It reminds me a lot of Lisa Kleypas' for some reason. Barton is definitely going on my auto-buy a big way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: A Lady's Secret Weapon by Tracey Devlyn

A Lady’s Secret Weapon (Nexus, #3)Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402258283
Pages: 363 pages
Genre: Romance/Historical/Regency
Series: Nexus Series- 1,2
Challenges- 2013 150+ Challenge , 2013 Read-A-Latte Challenge ,Romance Reading Challenge 2013, 2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge
Buy this Book: Amazon, Indiebound, Powell's


Seduction is His Duty to King and Country

Ethan deBeau has charmed his way into the beds of countless women, enticing them to whisper all kinds of state secrets in his ear. But his latest assignment is completely different: find a missing young boy. It's practically child's play for a master spy such as Ethan. Until Miss Sydney Hunt threatens to unravel all his carefully laid plans. Who in the world is this woman?

But Tempting Her is All for Pleasure

Sydney has worked hard to maintain a facade of respectability—all while keeping a network of contacts among London's underground world. When she hears of strange activities at a local home for orphans, she's determined to find out what's really going on. Until she runs headlong into a notorious rake eager to expose every inch of her...

My Review:

Beginning Babble: I read this one at the start of my epic writer's block so I have let this review stew for a while. I don't know whether that is a good or a bad thing but at least that travesty of a writer's block is over now.

Heroine: Sydney-I liked her a lot. She was smart, brave and all those good things but I loved that she had her own purpose. She was just as involved in the spy plot as Ethan was. It's so different from everything else I have been reading lately—many bodice rippers. I was so happy to see that she was not a damsel but a heroine in her own right.

Hero: Ethan-I liked him as well. I did. But not as much as I liked Sydney. There was just something missing with him. I mean, he was all of those good things-kind, brave, smoldery but there was something missing from him that made me really like him. I never really made a connection to him at all.

Chemistry: I didn't think it was lacking necessarily. I actually really liked Ethan and Sydney together but there was an element of “I want more of them.” They had this amazing chemistry and were really sweet together but I think it got a bit bogged down by the mystery. That's not necessarily a bad thing in a book where the mystery was done really well but I do prefer a more romance-focused book.

Chemistry Rating:

Ending Babble: I really did like this book. It was one of the rare occasions where the romance was not the part of the book that kept me interested. The mystery was and that is so totally odd for me. I do wish that there had been a bit more romance but overall it was okay that it played a background role. I will definitely continue following Tracey Devlyn's books.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: A Song at Twilight by Pamela Sherwood

A Song at TwilightPublisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402273258
Pages: 416 pages
Genre: Romance/Historical/Regency
Challenges- 2013 150+ Challenge , 2013 Read-A-Latte Challenge ,Romance Reading Challenge 2013, 2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge
Buy this Book: Amazon, Indiebound, Powell's


A love too strong to let go...

Aspiring singer Sophie Tresilian had the world at her feet—fame, fortune, and true love—until the man of her dreams broke her heart. Now she's the toast of Europe, desired by countless men but unwilling to commit to any of them. Then Robin Pendarvis walks back into her life...

Four years ago, Robin had hoped to make Sophie his bride, but secrets from his past forced him to let her go. Seeing her again revives all the old pain—and all the old passion. It might be against every rule, but somehow, some way, he will bring them together again.

My Review:

Beginning Babble: I have been a bit remiss with my reviews for the most part. I have had the worst writer's block that I have ever had. Writing a single review has been a big giant pain.  I think it was just a phase because I seem to be over it. But I did love this book so very much so this review was pretty easy to write because it's so gushing.


Heroine: Sophie-Usually when I come across heroines who happen to be talented at something, it ends up grating on my nerves because they keep trumpeting it. It tends to verge on the “Mary Sue” but not with Sophie. She was one of the more well-developed heroines I have ever come across. She had a really great emotional depth to her that I really loved.

Hero:Robin-I loved Robin. He was just such a great hero even though the situation he was in was pretty terrible and, on a not so great hero, would have made me dislike him. I loved how he buckled down when his wife returned and took care of his responsibility even if he had to sacrifice his relationship with Sophie.

Chemistry: This was an angsty one in a not so bad way. It wasn't painful to get through even though they had their moments. I just loved how Sophie and Robin acted like two mature adults. They didn't throw fits or have an epic big misunderstanding even though their situation would have warranted it. They also had their sweet moments and just the right amount of angst to make it interesting.

Chemistry Rating:

Ending Babble: I just loved this book to bits and pieces. I loved both Sophie and Robin. They had such perfect chemistry and worked so well together. They had a deep connection that was both gut-wrenching and sweet at the same time (if that's even possible). The pacing of the story was spot-on. It was slow but it wasn't watching the grass grow type of slow. It was perfect---I could go on and on about this one—so I am just going to say that Pamela Sherwood is going on the auto-buy list. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Guest Post: CJ Lyons, author of Broken

What's it like working in an ER?

CJ: Becoming a doctor was amazing—I come from a small town in Pennsylvania and worked three jobs to put myself through medical school—but becoming a writer was a dream I'd had all my life, so being able to make it come true has been fantastic beyond words.

My writing career hasn't been smooth sailing, in many ways it's as hard as being a doctor (I actually work longer hours now!) but it has been fulfilling in so many ways.

As a doctor the greatest rush came from those rare moments when I actually saved a life. As a writer I get the chance to touch hundreds of thousands of lives—and I can't begin to describe the feeling I get when I hear from fans about how my stories have done more than provide entertainment but have inspired or empowered them. Talk about your dreams come true!

But real life in the ER isn’t always that exciting—and definitely not as glamorous as they portray it on TV. For instance, the popular TV show Grey's Anatomy has interns, who'd be maybe 25 years old, sleeping with "world renown" surgical attendings…well, to be a "world renown" neurosurgeon you'd have to have 12 years of primary education, 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 7 years of residency, probably another 3 year fellowship, and then be in practice a long time, at least 5-10 years…so the 25 year old intern's love interest would be old enough to be her father! Gross!

Not only that, a surgical intern doesn't have time to sleep or bathe (interns eat on the run) so sex isn't the first thing you think of doing when you finally do make it to a call room.

Don't even get me started on stories where a "doctor" can do everything from take x-rays (99.9% of us wouldn't even know where the "on" button is) to diagnose rare diseases from glancing into a microscope to doing brain surgery one minute and heart surgery the next…while I love the idea of doctors being heroes, let's at least make us human.

Real life in the ER is a lot of hard, hard work—and it’s teamwork that counts. The ER is a crucible that exposes the worst and best in people. My seventeen years of practicing medicine gave me the chance to witness courage first hand and really see what it takes for ordinary people to step up and become heroes. I owe so much to my patients and their families for teaching me the true meaning of courage, love, faith, and strength.

Those years also gave me the opportunity to work alongside men and women who became my heroes: police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, social workers, prosecutors…As well as a chance to come face to face with evil, whether in the form of sociopaths, sexual predators, even killers.

All of these experiences have influenced my writing and are why I chose to write what I call Thrillers with Heart. Fast paced novels that aren't about the car chases and explosions as much as they are about the people and their relationships while focusing on a truth I discovered for myself during my time as an ER doctor: Heroes are born everyday.

About CJ:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.
Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: My Lady Quicksilver by Bec McMaster

My Lady Quicksilver (London Steampunk, #3)Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 140227033X
Pages: 416 pages
Genre: Romance/Steampunk/Paranormal
Series:  London Steampunk-1,2
Challenges- 2013 150+ Challenge , 2013 Read-A-Latte Challenge ,Romance Reading Challenge 2013, 2013 Outdo Yourself Challenge
Buy this Book: Amazon, Indiebound, Powell's


In the mist-shrouded streets of a steam-fueled London, a clockwork army is on the rise, vampire blue bloods rule the streets, and war is brewing...

I Will Come For You...
He will find her no matter what. As a blue-blooded captain of the Nighthawk Guard, his senses are keener than most. Some think he's indestructible. But once he finds the elusive Mercury, what will he do with her?
It's his duty to turn her in—she's a notorious spy and traitor. But after one stolen moment, he can't forget the feel of her in his arms, the taste of her, or the sharp sting of betrayal as she slipped off into the night. Little does Mercury know, no one hunts better than the Nighthawk. And his greatest revenge will be to leave her begging for his touch...


My Review:

Beginning Babble: This is my benchmark series for steampunk. I don't claim to be very well read in the genre but I don't imagine many can come close to this one. I can gush like a crazyperson over this series and, while I am tempted, I will refrain.


Heroine: Rosalind-I loved Rosa. She was strong and she was brave. I love it when heroines are just as involved in the action as the heroes and Rosa definitely was. She also never acted like an overly brave ninny which I greatly appreciated. I do wish she had spent more time as herself with Jasper though.

Hero: Jasper: He was awesome. He was strong and brave but he had this wonderful vulnerable and sweet side. He was protective of Rosalind in all the right ways and he was just so perfect. And again both sides of his personality were so well balanced. I don't know if he is my favorite hero of the series but he definitely comes pretty close.

Chemistry: I always enjoy it when it the hero who falls buttass in love with the heroine. Usually it's the heroine with the stronger feelings and the heroes being all manly and detached. It was the complete opposite with Jasper. He was a smoosh when it came to Rosalind and I found it so endearing. I also loved how it was a slow build with Jasper and Rosalind. It took time and it was gradual but when it!

Chemistry Rating:

Ending Babble: Bec McMaster is awesome. I mean it. She's absolutely amazing. She singlehandedly converted me to a lover of Steampunk. I was a pure skeptic until I read 1st book in series. The world she creates is wonderfully detailed and beautifully written and I love how she weaves the paranormal aspect into her story. Lady Quicksilver is no different. It's excellent. 

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