Books

Sideloading eBooks Onto The Kindle Reader

kindle_paperwhiteThere are a couple of reasons why Amazon grew to dominate the e-book market early in the game.  First, the store’s selection is first-rate.  A ton of content is key.  But the real brilliance on the part of Amazon was the way the store tied into the Kindle Reader.  Buy a book online and the Amazon website makes it very easy to pop that new book onto a Kindle compatible reading device.  It doesn’t matter if that reading devices is a Kindle branded reader, iPad, iPhone, Android device, or even a laptop/desktop Mac or PC.  Just click the buy button on Amazon.com and select your destination device (assuming you have more than one device registered in your Amazon account).  Amazon’s backend infrastructure takes care of the rest.  Just buy the book and start reading… very easy.

But what if you buy a book from Smashwords or you download it directly from an author’s website?  If that book wasn’t purchased through the Amazon store, getting it onto your device suddenly becomes a lot less intuitive.  Actually, it can be a down right painful experience… Until you know the tricks.  But there is good news.  There are a number of ways to get those books onto your Kindle compatible device.
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Grey Lady, by Paul Kemprecos

paul_kemprecos_grey_lady_iconThere’s something about a detective story that’s told in the first person.  When it’s done right, it just works.  That is, hands down, the case with Grey Lady.  But it’s far more than you classic who done it? mystery.  It’s also a wild ride with a riveting plot that pulls you in at the start and keeps you locked locked within the pages for the duration.  Everything centers around a character named Aristotle Socarides, better know as “Soc” to his friends and adversaries alike.  And while this is book 7 in a series, that shouldn’t prevent anyone from jumping into the series right here.  I haven’t read the earlier books yet (Though they have all been added to my to-read list now).

This a tale of murder, a rich man’s mental break with reality, and the search for the great white whale immortalized by Herman Melville.  What do all of these things have in common?  Not a single thing, unless you’re Paul Kemprecos.  But for an author with his pedigree, they’re the base ingredients for a fantastic mystery thriller than involves lost American history, scrimshaw, hive based drone technology, and cannibalism.
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Omega by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour

omega_book_iconI have so many things that I want to say but I can’t because I don’t want to spoil this amazing novel for anyone.  So no spoilers here.  It’s enough to say that this book takes the team, and a couple of characters in particular, to some very interesting and unexpected places.  Adding to the fun, Omega takes what we know about the series so far— and some of the characters— and just turns all of that on its ear.  There’s some really brilliant stuff that you wouldn’t expect to see surface this far into a well-established series.

Of course we get the requisite gun toting, ass-kicking that we expect from our favorite special-ops team, and a few things are revealed that threaten to make us look back at the earlier books in an entirely different way.
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Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight, by Kane Gilmour and Scott P. Vaughn

warbirds_iconI picked up Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight without knowing exactly what to expect.  It’s a collection of short stories that are all set in the same world, each written by a different talented author.  Additionally, the book contains some outstanding original artwork that was inspired by each story.  Together they make for a unique and engaging experience.  And while I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started reading this nearly 500 page novel, it was a book that surpassed even my wildest expectation.

Warbirds of Mars began as a web comic.  Stories of the Fight marks a substantial change in format for the content, but one that serves the story at least as well as any comic.  Warbirds of Mars takes place in a world where an alien force invaded Earth in the middle of World War II.  At that point, history as we know is shifts from all that we know to have been true.  Nazis side with the alien invading force while much of the free world struggles to remain free from enslavement or outright extermination.  Along the way, a resistance force rises up to bring the battle to both the Martians and the fascist regime.  They call themselves the Martian Killers— a larger than life, comic book like group of resistance fighters who champion mankind’s rebellion against an enemy equipped with superior technology and manpower.

What makes this book particularly interesting is the collaboration of a group of disparate and talented authors and artists.  Each one bringing his or her own style and flair to subject matter.  As a result, every chapter of the book is unique in content and tone.  For fans of genre fiction, this is nothing less than a unique and thrilling experience.  No single author could’ve created a story with such scope and diversity.  Some of the perspectives chosen by the authors border on brilliant.  Some stories offer seat of your pants action and thrills, others offer chills, while at least one will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.
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Kindle Automatic Book Update Feature

kindle_iconI just noticed something interesting in the Manage Your Kindle section of the Amazon Store:

Automatic Book Update
Opt in for automatic book updates to receive new versions of your books when we have confirmed that improvements were made. In order to retain your notes, highlights, bookmarks and furthest reading locations, ensure that all your Kindle devices and reading apps have the “Annotation Back Up” setting turned on.

This new feature (or feature that is new to me) would then automatically grab the latest updated copy of any book you have bought through the Kindle store. It’s an optional feature that is turned off by default. Still, you might be wondering why it is off by default when it seems like an amazing and useful feature.

First and foremost, some folks don’t like the idea that their precious books could be changing without their knowledge. So it’s best to let people opt into the feature. Secondly, and most important to me, is that any notes, highlights, or bookmarks I’ve made to the book can’t carry over to the updated copy when it downloads. It’s an understandable limitation of the technology. If the books were updating on their own, that novel you spent hours annotating for your thesis, or even this months Group Read could suddenly see all of your hard work literally disappear overnight.
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The Adventures of Dodge Dalton in the Shadow of Falcon’s Wings by Sean Ellis


dodge_dalton_1_iconThis book reads is if it were written by an author in the mid-1900’s. This is made all the more fun, knowing that Sean Ellis is a modern day thriller author who has effectively revived genre fiction from a nearly forgotten age.

Shadow the Falcon’s Wings was fun and unique in so many ways. First of all, it’s a period adventure taking place in an unspecified time, apparently circa 1930’s or 1940’s. Secondly, it’s clear that Mr. Ellis had a great deal of fun with the technology of that time period while playing with what would’ve been considered futuristic technology to the people of that time. All of this plays out in a thrilling and fun adventure that is steeped in extreme creativity that is nothing short of riveting.
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The Emerald Scepter by Paul Kemprecos

emerald_kemprecos_iconThe Emerald Scepter is one of those rip-roaring adventures that I didn’t see coming.  It was a book that I found intriguing after reading its description online.  But it turned out to be one of those books that will never have a description that can do it justice.  We’re talking a 500 page novel that is cover to cover action and suspense.  The characters and interesting and engaging while the plot leaves the reader with a constantly evolving understanding of the protagonist’s past and present.

All of this is an exceptional treat for fans of the thriller genre as many will recognized Paul Kemprecos’s name from his collaborative work with Clive Cussler on The Numa Files (the Kurt Austin series).  And while it comes as no surprise that Paul is a gifted story-teller, The Emerald Scepter proves that he has saved his best work for his solo career.
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The Crypt of Dracula by Kane Gilmour

cyrpt_dracula_iconEvery once in a while I come across a book that is pure genre fun.  Being a big fan of classic monster movies, I’ve been disappointed at the way vampire fiction has devolved in recent years.  The target audience appears to have shifted and with it the content and quality of the fiction has degraded.  Whatever happened to classic vampire fiction?  I want the really old school stuff like Bram Stoker’s original novel, Dracula— or the low budget Hammer Horror films.  The current trend in vampire fiction is enough to turn me off the topic altogether.

If you’ve been feeling like I have, there’s great news!  Kane Gilmour’s, The Crypt of Dracula, is a novela that is just what we’ve been waiting for.  It’s the tried and true vampire story that gets your heart pounding and once again brings life to the things that go bump in the night.  This is the kind of story Bram Stoker would write if he were still alive and kicking.  Very much in the same vein (sorry, it had to be done) as Stoker’s original Dracula tale, this is a period story which takes place in Transylvania.  A grieving stone mason is hired by a mysterious Count to repair his damaged and neglected castle located outside a remote village populated by troubled, xenophobic farmers who have come to fear the night.
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The Problem with Star Rating Scales on Book Review Sites

Are star ratings arbitrary?

I think they are.  I have a feeling that many folks have their own idea of what the star rating scale represents when they assign a score to a book.  I think they do this regardless of the metric values of the review service they’re using and I think it’s because of two things.  First, the review services don’t agree on the rating scale.  Second, those services/sites don’t make the values of that star rating scale immediately obvious.

For example, here’s the scale from Amazon.com:
1 star: I hate it
2 stars: I don’t like it
3 stars: It’s OK
4 stars: I like it
5 stars: I love it

But here’s the scale from GoodReads.com:
1 star: didn’t like it
2 stars: it was OK
3 stars: liked it
4 stars: really liked it
5 stars: it was amazing

These are vastly different scoring systems!

What do I do when I score a book? I don’t even pay attention to each sites established scale because it requires more consideration than I want to give. Plus, I believe that a significant portion of the people scoring the books are doing it without regard for the sites supposedly accepted and established scale. I think it’s arbitrary.
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The Lonely Mile by Allan Leverone

lonely_mile_icon

An unpredictable series of events are trigger when hardware store owner, Bill Ferguson, interferes with the kidnapping of a teenage girl from a local highway rest stop.  The would be kidnaper turns out to be an elusive serial killer/kidnaper who has been eluding the FBI for nearly three years.

When Ferguson prevents the abduction, he puts himself and his family in the crosshairs of the deadly fugitive.  From there the story takes off as an FBI manhunt spares no manpower in the search for the famed “I-90 Killer.”  But it’s the direction the story takes after this that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Folks squeamish to child violence might be sensitive to parts of this book.  That said, the author has done a masterful job of navigating a very delicate line.  Both with his prose, and with the plot.  This is a story about a sadistic kidnaper and killer but it’s also the story of a hero and a man willing to do absolutely anything to protect his family.  So those sensitive should be warned but they should not dismiss this book outright.  This is one of those visceral empowering stories of good versus evil but it’s one you can have confidence in the outcome.  This is worth your time.  The resulting anxiety is well developed and properly rewarded.  It’s the sort of writing that makes for a successful thriller, and that is exactly what Allan Leverone has done.
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