Monday, May 29, 2017

Chipping Away At The TBR List

GoodReads Shelves as of 05/04/2017

GoodReads Shelves as of 05/25/2017

I don't know about you but I originally have 233 books on my Goodreads To-Read shelf. Not good. So, the last weekend of April, I went through all 233 books on my list and purged those who have fewer than 4 star-rating average. Those that don't have at least a 4-star rating but managed to stay on my TBR list are those that I still really want to read. It brought my list down to 172 books. Better.

Then, since my new Kobo Aura Edition 2 finally came in the mail after much delays, I noticed that a lot of books that I side loaded to the device are not even on my TBR list on Goodreads so I had to add those that I'm still interested in reading. 189 books to read. Still better than 233 books originally on that list. I feel better about that. The TBR list purging goes on. The night of May 4th, I was going through the TBR list to see which one to read first with the intention of prioritizing those already on my device and I noticed that there were still some books that I was pretty sure I removed last weekend but it's still there so I went through the list again and removed them. I also added the rest of the ARKANE books by J.F. Penn and the rest of the Leopold Blake books by Nick Stephenson. My TBR list is now down to 150 (way better) and I’ve also removed ebooks from my device that didn't make the cut on my newly purged TBR list. Hopefully both device and Goodreads TBR list remain the same tomorrow morning. I wonder if it was a Goodreads system glitch or maybe I was adding back all the books I purged in my sleep? Hmmm… I wouldn't put it past my “unconscious, sleeping self” to act of its own accord and add the books back. 

Speaking of eReaders (I don't think I ever mentioned the ones that I have used), I ditched my iPad Air and went back to using my Sony Reader PRS-T1 during the last quarter of 2016 especially because a single charge lasts up to 3 weeks instead of the iPad's 10-hour battery life and I can read clearly outdoors without having to deal with glare from the sunlight on the screen. Yes, I'm one of those who read everywhere (on a dog walk, walking to the grocery store, waiting in line at the checkout counter, waiting at doctor's offices, waiting at restaurants, etc.). Anyway, I'm not exactly sure what happened but all of a sudden, I'm having issues with downloading and reading public library ebooks using my Sony Reader PRS-T1 and the poor thing would only be recognized by the Calibre software on my Mac. The Sony Reader Desktop software and the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software don't even recognize it. It was telling me it's time for it to retire. My faithful and beloved 2nd eReader ever has finally retired. The first eReader I've had was the Sony Reader PRS-300 and it was very basic and slow compared to my PRS-T1 and now, the Kobo Aura Edition 2. The Sony PRS-300 only has 500mb of internal memory, no WiFi, so I have to connect it to my computer all the time to upload ebooks to the device (as if I don't do that now). Then I was gifted with the Sony Reader PRS-T1 for Christmas in 2011 with the book light cover so the PRS-300 got recycled at Best Buy. Sometimes, I wish I'd kept the PRS-300, for what purpose, I don't know. It's probably best to recycle stuff instead of keeping them around, cluttering space. And now, my PRS-T1 has retired. I am definitely growing attached to my Kobo Aura Edition 2 despite initial frustrations such as getting used to the new user interface (UI), issues with ADE ID and Overdrive. Click here to read my in-depth opinions on the Kobo Aura Edition 2. 

2009 Sony PRS-300: My Very First eReader

2011 Sony PRS-T1: My Second eReader

2016 Kobo Aura Edition 2: My Third and Current eReader

With all the many different brands of E Ink eReaders out in the market today, I chose to purchase the Kobo Aura Edition 2 instead of the better ranked Kobo Aura One and instead of the more popular Amazon Paperwhite because if an Indie Bookseller has a partnership with Kobo (like they have a Kobo affiliate link on their website), I can still support them by buying eBooks thru their special affiliate links and they will in turn, get a percentage of the sale. On top of that, I like how Kobo gamified the reading experience by having awards and badges for every milestone like Scout Leader award or Highly Decorated award or Deep Thinker award or Night Rider award or Fanatic award or the Papillon award or Total Recall award or the Juggernaut award or Page Turner award, etc., etc. Earning those reading badges is really fun. I still have a handful of badges to earn: Deep Thinker, Papillon, Witching Hour, Lost In Austen, Off The Wall, Quoth The Maven, and Author-ized Reader.

On the crafty side of things, for about 2 years now, a nagging thought has been telling me that I need to focus on one type of craft to be successful at making a living out of it but lately, a few months after reading the last Julia Cameron book from the library, I came to the realization that I don't need to give up any of the crafty things that I love to do in order to turn it into a business (like choosing between writing, crochet, watercolor painting or piano playing). I mean, look at Julia Cameron. She's into a lot of creative endeavors and she's managed to turn them all into something profitable that is part of her creative living. With that freeing thought, I've updated my blog's name from Booktalk 'n More to Ambidextrous Crafter because I want to focus my patterns to specialize in using both dominant and non-dominant hand and because I myself am ambidextrous. It feels like I've completely outgrown my blog's original name ever since I've fully embraced my ambidextrous nature and accepted the fact that a year for me consists of crafty seasons: I'm more crafty in the areas of writing books, playing music and crochet during the Fall - Winter seasons and then for the rest of the year, I'd rather read, bake, play music and crochet. So, with the new blog name, I've updated my blog's logo and my Ravelry store name to Ambidextrous Crafter as well. I've also uploaded PDF versions of my patterns to Ravelry (you can still find the patterns on my blog with the Ravelry download links on it) before I add my almost ready Ambi Crochet Blanket pattern. I'm really excited to share this blanket pattern with you all because it's really very pretty and I'm proud of how it turned out. I worked really hard on it to make sure the instructions are clear and I hope crocheters will love the construction technique.

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post

Currently Reading 

Currently Writing

  • No progress made on Chapter 4 of Helena and the Dragon - too much reading going on.

Finished Objects

  • Ambi Crochet Blanket

  • Anna Estella Mae's Baby Blanket - I used the same pattern as well as 3 of the same yarn colors I used for the Ambi Crochet Blanket.

Currently Crocheting

  • Elizabeth Bennet Meets Mr. Darcy Shawl - I'm currently participating in my first ever Crochet along (CAL) called Summer of Romance CAL (#SRCAL) hosted by the lovely ladies Claudia of the CrochetLuna podcast and Clarisabeth of the CrochetCakes podcast. I'm using the beautiful Virus Shawl meets Deichspielerei pattern by Angie Nelson of Bumbly Designs because the lacey sections reminds me of Lizzie's playfulness & femininity and the dc sections reminds me of Darcy's serious nature & masculinity. The yarn I'm using is Ella Rae Lace Merino Extrafine Superwash 100% Merino Wool in the 151 Peach/Deep Pink colorway because the color reminds me of their passionate relationship from the first moment they met to Darcy's declaration of love to finally Lizzie admitting to her dear father how she's so very much in love with Mr. Darcy. 

Virus Shawl Meets Deichspielerei Pattern by Angie Nelson

Ella Rae Lace Merino Extrafine Superwash Merino Wool Yarn

Product Reviews

My 2016 Kobo Aura Edition 2 eReader


Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Friday, May 26, 2017

[Book Review] An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series by Chanda Hahn

An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series by Chanda Hahn

My Average Rating: 4.4 of 5 stars
Ebook Edition
Genre: YA Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Part 1: From The Book Covers

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated; until she saves her crush's life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her it's next fairy tale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Who is the Fairest of them all?

In the sequel to unEnchanted, Mina Grime discovers that all is not fair when it comes to the Fae and their tales, especially when they don't all play by the rules. Barely surviving the Story's first fairy tale quest, Mina still has hundreds to go before she can end the curse on her family. But a new player arises to challenge Mina while new rules revamp the game she has just barely begun to understand.

All the while, people are mysteriously disappearing, including Jared, whom Mina must finally determine to be friend or foe. And with the loss of her greatest weapon, Mina must try to outwit a deadly hunter. Can Mina survive the most difficult quest yet while protecting those she loves from falling victim to one of the lethal tales of all? Or will she become a pawn when she strikes a bargain with the Queen of Fae?

All that glitters is not gold.

When something precious is stolen from sixteen-year-old Mina Grime, she will do anything in her power to get it back, even if it means traveling to the dangerous Fae plane and battling one of the strongest fairy tale villains yet.

However, nothing can prepare Mina for the dangerous obstacles she will face in the Fae world, or the choices she must make when love and life are on the line.

Going to the Fae plane against Jared's orders has cost Mina dearly. Her decision continues to haunt her as a new danger surfaces. The Grimms are fading.

To save her family's future, Mina Grime will have to travel to the past with the help of her Fae Godmother and a magic pair of shoes.

She must go to where the Story first began, to the beginning of the dark prince's reign. But can she finish her quest before her time runs out or will she be trapped in the past forever?

With the Godmother Guild destroyed by Teague's army, Mina finds herself without guidance of her Fae Godmother. Alone and confused, she must lean on her friends for support. The dark prince threatens their very existence with a show of power on the human plane that has everyone running for their lives.

To save them, Mina must make a deal with the prince to become his prisoner or lose her friends forever. But is there any hope for Jared and the love they briefly shared, or must beauty destroy the beast she created?

Part 2: Recommendation

This YA series was an amazing experience for me overall. I enjoyed how each book was such a page-turner that by the end of UnEnchanted, which I got for free, I was compelled to buy Fairest, the second book and by the end of the it, I ended up buying the rest of the books in the series except for Jared's Quest, a short story about Jared's whereabouts when he's not helping Mina fight off fairy tale villains or annoying her in school since I'm not too keen on reading about what he does apart from Mina. 

This series by Chanda Hahn for me has been a breath of fresh air in the sense that my YA reading habits went down ever since reading Always You by Kirsty Moseley (you can read my review of this book here) in May of 2013 and the decline can easily be attributed to utterly stupid characters and the lack of interesting plot lines. Between June 2013 and today, I've been really picky about reading YA books as I love the genre and I hate seeing it destroyed by insipid, stupid characters. 

Hence, I call this series a breath of fresh air because Mina Grime/Grimm is a very likable and relatable character. Not overly dramatic, protective of her family and friends, slightly wary of new people, loyal, brave when she needs to be, and she easily earns the reader's trust and sympathy right away. The main supporting characters that form Mina's immediate support group consist of her younger brother Charlie, her best friend Nan Taylor, and her long-time crush Brody Carmichael for the humans and Jared, Nix and Ever for the Fae. These support characters are just as likable. You can't help but admire Nan and Brody for their unconditional loyalty and friendship and though newer to the group, you can't help but find Nix quite adorable and brave. And Ever, OMG, Ever is just freaking amazing. As for Jared, I still have mixed feelings about him. 

Now, the plot. It's not your usual fairy tale retellings and it's not like the Grimm TV show either. I have not yet come across a fairy tale retelling that is more focused on the point of view of the Brothers Grimm in a whole new way. The plot line was not about collecting the stories but more like reliving the stories that the Brothers Grimm collected in a contemporary way in quest format where Mina could either be the hero or the villain and as the books progressed, you can clearly see Mina develop as a character as she discovers her Grimm powers, her heritage, and what she must do to save both the Fae and human worlds. 

To conclude this review, Chanda Hahn cleverly weaves in famous and not so famous Grimm fairy tales throughout the books in the series and it is up to Mina and the readers to figure out what the fairy tales are. If you are a fan of fairy tales and their retellings, this series should be on your list.

Monday, May 8, 2017

[Product Review] Kobo Aura Edition 2

Kobo Aura Edition 2 eReader

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: Description and Technical Specs

Discover a simple and natural eReader experience with Kobo Aura. Get lost in your story on the 6" Carta E Ink touchscreen that's lightweight and comfortable to hold for hours reading. With a print-on-paper look, you can read in direct sunlight without glare; and with the built-in, adjustable ComfortLight, you can read late into the night with minimal eyestrain. The Kobo eBookstore gives you access to over 5 million eBooks and your Kobo Aura lets you store up to 3,000 eBooks so you'll never be without a great read. Discovery is easy with personalized recommendations based on your reading habits, plus you can read ratings and reviews from Booklovers like you.

Screen: 6" Carta E Ink touchscreen, 1024 x 768 resolution 212 ppi
Weight: 180g
Size: 159 x 113 x 8.5mm
Storage: 4GB  on-board memory, holds up to 3,000 ebooks
Front-Light: Built-in, fully adjustable ComfortLight with micro-thin coating for durability and even light distribution
Customizability: TypeGenius: 11 different fonts and over 40 sizes to choose from; Exclusive font weight and sharpness setting
Supported Formats: 14 file formats supported natively (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, & CBR); Read ebooks from borrowed from Public Library
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Micro USB
Battery Life: Up to 2 months depending on usage
Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish
Other: No advertising, no interruptions

Part 2: Recommendation

It was actually anti-climactic when I finally received my Kobo Aura Edition 2 in the mail because it got delayed in Hodgkins, IL and the UPS facility in Colorado Springs, CO sorted my package incorrectly and so it went all the way to Englewood, CO instead so that added 1 more business day for a total of 2 business days that it was delayed in getting to me. So in short, it took a total of 7 business days to arrive, though still reasonable and within the timeframe Kobo specified in the confirmation email, my excitement in receiving the Kobo Aura Edition 2 has significantly waned. 

When I opened the packaging, the actual box was no longer sealed (and I'm assuming this was due to customs?), and there's a very noticeable damage to the side of the box. Inside the box was the device itself with a clear plastic film on the screen, some documentation and a micro USB cable to charge and transfer data to and from the device.

When I powered on the Edition 2, it has a battery life of 97%. I wanted to try setting it up over WiFi without having to connect it to my Mac but since my home network is setup differently for security purposes, I connected the Edition 2 to my Mac, launched the Kobo Desktop App and from there, followed on-screen prompts to setting up my Edition 2. Setting it up was really easy and didn't take long. I did have to leave it to charge for 4 hours as prescribed. 

Once it was fully charged, I side-loaded the eBooks that were on my Sony Reader PRS-T1 onto my Kobo Aura Edition 2. Then played around with the user interface (UI). At first, it felt strange not having that physical home button and navigating through my device's library did take some getting used to. It frustrated me a bit because I would swipe at the screen to move on to the next page of my list of books but instead of moving to the next page, it would open up the book. And it did that several times. If I swipe towards the top where the header/sorting options are at, it would sometimes select the sorting option. Other than that, the Kobo Aura Edition 2 was okay. I think I still prefer the UI on my Sony Reader though and having the option to use the physical page turn buttons are very helpful. I didn't realize how helpful they were until I started using the Edition 2.

Reading under direct sunlight during my lunch break walks with my dog, Mowgli, is better because of the higher screen resolution and with the front light compared to the Sony Reader because whenever I step under the shade of a tree or my Sony Reader falls under the shade of my own shadow, there's a bit of a strain to see the words on the screen. Very minimal and almost negligible but with the Edition 2, because of the front light, it gives you enough light to be able to read in any lighting condition and because it's E Ink, you can obviously read clearly under direct sunlight. So that was a real pleasure in having upgraded to the Edition 2. Reading on the couch in the front room of the house in front of a large window when the afternoon sun is setting and the light is changing, it handled the changing light conditions very well. I didn't have to manually turn it on (because I never bothered to turn down or turn off the front light) and I really loved that experience. Definitely front lit E Ink readers is the way to go. 

When it comes to the browser and downloading ebooks from public libraries, the browser is pretty fast for a beta feature and you can save favorite sites like your favorite Indie Book Store's Kobo link, Goodreads, your public library's overdrive link and Dropbox. Other reviewers on YouTube have suggested to use Dropbox to side load ebooks if you don't want to use the USB cable. I have not tried that yet but I did try downloading ebooks from the public library (which uses Overdrive) but somehow, that did not work. I was able to download the same ebook file to my Mac and open it on Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) and I was able to download and open the file using the Overdrive app on my iPhone. The Edition 2's browser showed that it did download the book but when I looked in my device's library listing, the borrowed library ebook was nowhere to be found. I tried transferring the file via USB cable and it took several tries to get the Edition 2 to list the book but when I tapped on it to open it, it kept showing me an error message about the ID issue not matching which is not true because everything uses the same Adobe ID that is authorized on the Edition 2. So I'm not sure what's going on there. It worked all the time on my Sony Reader's browser and it would show up on the Recently Added books on the home screen of my Sony Reader but somehow, it did not work on my Edition 2. I'll probably try that again later. Or try the Dropbox workaround. Or wait until ADE sends out an update.

Despite the initial frustrations surrounding Overdrive and ADE (to the point where I wanted to send the device back for a refund), I think I will keep it because it is faster, it has a higher memory, higher screen resolution and way better front light than my Sony Reader with the reading light cover combined. Besides, I can't download ebooks from the public library anymore on my Sony Reader because of the ADE ID issue and because the browser keeps disconnecting from the WiFi every time the Sony Reader attempts to download the ePub file. And with the ADE ID issue going on, there's no borrowing public library ebooks on both devices except thru the Overdrive app on my iPhone. I would have rated it 5 stars if I could download Overdrive public library ebooks directly via the browser and until now, my Kobo Aura Edition 2 still has yet to be updated to the new UI that Kobo released last February 2017.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Update:

My Kobo Aura Edition 2 UI has not updated to the new one yet but last week, a public library book that I recommended became available for me to borrow and guess what? Not only did I manage to download the file to my Mac but I also managed to successfully transfer the ePub file to my Edition 2 and read it. No ADE ID error messages this time around. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 Update:

My Kobo Aura Edition 2 UI has finally updated to the new UI and it looks like, in order to read public library ebooks on the device, you have to download the file using your PC/Mac, open the .ACSM file using ADE then transfer the converted EPUB file to your Kobo Aura Edition 2. It should open without any ADE ID error messages. Apparently, you can't download the file to any other device even though you're using the Overdrive App on another mobile device. But isn't that the whole point of signing up for an Overdrive account so you can access the same digitally borrowed library book on multiple devices?