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C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Does The Job, 26 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I replaced my damaged 3G Keyboard Kindle with a newer Wi-Fi only model I also had to buy a new cover for it. Having owned one of Amazon's own covers for my old Kindle I decided to go for an Amazon cover for the new unit too. However, this time I decided to go for a lighted version.

I'm generally pleased that I did. The design and quality of the cover are both great. The flexible plastic 'tray' that the Kindle sits in is a great improvement on the old hinge mounting of the covers for the 3G Keyboard Kindle. It feels far more secure and my new Kindle doesn't flap around like the old one did.

The light also works well. Its more than bright enough to read by in a completely darkened room, but is positioned so that it is focused on the Kindle and doesn't blind the reader or anyone close to them. The flip up design is good and to me looks like an improvement on the 'slide-out' corner mounted units on the old 3G covers, which always seemed a bit fiddly. Use of the light doesn't appear to reduce battery life greatly either.

Weight-wise the cover has far less impact than the old 3G cover, which had a noticeable impact on the bulk and weight of my old Kindle. Even with the light unit making the Kindle & cover combination larger it still feels light and sits nicely in the hand.

There are a few minor niggles with the cover. The lack of any way to secure the front when its closed is a shame. The elasticated band on the 3G covers was lo-fi but effective. Equally the shift from rough to smooth leather may also prove to be a backward step in the long run. The 3G cover felt tougher and better able to withstand scratches than the new version, which feels like it will mark easily and get shabbier quicker. Only time will tell on this front. Finally I find that the design of the 'cut outs' in the plastic tray that allow access to the page turn buttons aren't perfect. The right-hand buttons in particular feel slightly awkward to use when the Kindle in its case. Deeper cutouts might have worked better.

These are minor issues however, and overall I'm pleased with the cover. I do agree though, that the price of both the lighted and un-lit Amazon covers is a little steep. If it wasn't the best design out there, in my opinion, I don't believe it would be worth the cost.


Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi, Graphite
Kindle, 6" E Ink Display, Wi-Fi, Graphite

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smaller, Lighter...Better?, 26 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having managed to damage beyond repair my Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, 6" E Ink Display, after several years of heavy use, I was forced to purchase a replacement. After considering a like-for-like replacement (the Kindle Touch wasn't yet available) I eventually plumped for the Wi-Fi only 6" version. Whilst the 3G functionality had been a nice extra on my original Kindle, I hadn't used it very much and decided that it really wasn't worth the extra money. Having bought a 6" Wi-Fi Kindle for my wife a few months earlier, I also liked its smaller size and lighter weight.

I don't regret my choice. The 6" Wi-Fi Kindle is a great piece of kit. It sits perfectly in the hand and is also small enough to slip into your back pocket if necessary. Despite being smaller and lighter it feels more solid and of a higher build quality than the keyboard version. There may well be improvements to the quality of the e-ink display and to the speed of page turns but to be honest if there are I can't see them.

The lack of a keyboard hasn't proved a hinderance yet. I'm not one for annotating the books I read, and entering collection titles or the other little bits of typing I need to do is easy enough using the cursor button and on-screen display. The battery life, wi-fi connection and download speeds are all at least as good as my old Kindle.

So would I rate this newer version as better than the 3G keyboard unit I replaced. Yes, but only by a hair's breadth. I prefer the higher quality feel and the reduced size of this Kindle, but otherwise the two models are pretty much even on everything apart from price. I would therefore say that unless you have a deep desire to connect your Kindle when away from a friendly Wi-Fi node or are heavily into annotating your e-books, keep your money and go for this version. You can put the difference you saved towards a Kindle Fire when it finally hits the UK.


So Much Pretty
So Much Pretty
by Cara Hoffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.88

3.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed Crime Thriller, 26 April 2012
This review is from: So Much Pretty (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
So Much Pretty is at heart a pretty standard contemporary murder mystery; the sort of thing that gets turned into a three part special on ITV and is described as 'dark and disturbing' or 'gripping' in the promotional blurb. There's an attempt by the author to freshen it up by recounting the story from multiple viewpoints and in various different styles. This lends a certain novelty factor but also leaves the narrative feeling disjointed. Under this veneer however, this is a competently written but unremarkable crime thriller. If tales of kidnapping and murder are your thing then it will probably appeal. For me it was mildly diverting but nothing much more.


Maelstrom (Destroyermen (eBook))
Maelstrom (Destroyermen (eBook))
by Taylor Anderson
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Unevenly Paced But Enjoyable, 19 April 2012
Don't read this book unless you've read the two previous 'Destroyermen' volumes, Into the Storm (Destroyermen) and Crusade (Destroyermen). It is a direct continuation of the same story covered by those two books and therefore events will make little sense for anyone who hasn't read them.

If you have read them and enjoyed them then there's a good chance that Maelstrom will appeal to you too. Its a little unevenly paced, with too much inaction in the book's first half followed by an action packed denoument that goes on too long, to the point where it becomes a tad wearisome. Anderson's writing style also leaves a little to be desired. His love of extremely long descriptive paragraphs and slightly clunky internal monologues also hasn't abated. These are minor issues however, and are easily outweighed by some great world building, interesting plot developments and the generally satisfying tying up of various plot strands.

In fact, despite there being more Destroyermen volumes to follow and plenty of subplots left unresolved (plus a few new ones started) Maelstrom has the feeling of a proper denoument to Part 1 of the USS Walker's adventures. This makes it a more satisfying reading experience overall.

Of course if you didn't enjoy Into The Storm or Crusade then you're very unlikely to enjoy Maelstrom either, and I'm not sure why you're even reading this review.


Lunchtime
Lunchtime
by Rebecca Cobb
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange But My Son Seems To Like It, 19 April 2012
This review is from: Lunchtime (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As an adult I found 'Lunchtime' a somewhat strange book. Reading it for the first time with my two-year old son I wasn't sure exactly what message or ideas it was trying to convey. Little girl doesn't eat lunch, imaginary creatures eat it instead, girl gets hungry so eats all her supper instead. That seemed to be about it and it felt a strangely empty and slim affair, with little repeat value. The vaguely sketchy, angular, pencil and watercolour illustrations were fine too, but nothing spectacular. I foresaw it being read a couple of times and then consigned to the 'once in a while' pile.

However my son had different ideas and whilst he's not obsessed by the book (that honour goes to Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever) he has asked both me and his mother to read it to him several times. Whilst Lunchtime's appeal was was lost on me, a man in his late thirties, it seems to speak to a child of 24 months, which I guess is what its meant to do.


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
Price: 2.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick With It, 12 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I started A Game Of Thrones I was worried for two reasons. I was worried that, having watched the excellent TV adaptation my knowledge of the plot would diminish my enjoyment of the book. I was also concerned that the book couldn't possibly live up to its reputation as a modern classic and would prove to be a sizable anti-climax.

Whilst my first concern was partly borne out the second proved to be unfounded. A Game of Thrones really is an excellent book...as long as you're prepared to be patient. That's because this 800+ page first of what will ultimately be seven volumes does take some time to get to grips with.

Partly this is because George R. R. Martin takes his time establishing the multiple narrative strands that will play out over this and the other books. Its also because it takes a while for the reader to get to grips with the world Martin has created. There is so much depth to Westeros, the Free Cities and the Dothraki grass sea (to name just a few places) that its a struggle in the early passages to keep up with who's who, what happened when and why. There's also a distinct lack of real 'action' during the book's first half, unless you count political machinations and hidden skulduggery as 'action'.

I will confess that in the course of getting through the first half of A Game of Thrones I actually read several other books in parallel because I wasn't wholly gripped by events on the page, especially as I already knew where those events were ultimately leading. However, as the various plot threads Martin had established began to unfold I found myself sucked in more and more by the book to the point where I was reading nothing else. The pace of the narrative hadn't increased markedly but I slowly found the story more and more gripping. Yes, there was more incident and action but also I had grown to care about the characters Martin had created, good, flawed or down-right bad, and the stakes they were playing for. All that time setting up the story had served it purpose and created a world that felt real and vivid, where actions had real consequences and I was emotionally invested in characters' fates.

It helps that Martin's prose is excellent. Unhurried and rich in detail he is brilliant at evoking a sense of place, people and atmosphere. Characters both major and minor jump off the page and even more fantastical places such as The Eyre feel real. Dialogue pops and crackles too. There's no cod-medieval 'Thou's and 'Ye Olde's but Martin also avoids modern vernacular. There's also intelligence and wit and the reader is expected to keep up without being spoon fed huge chunks of exposition.

If you've seen Game of Thrones - Season 1 [DVD] but haven't read the book then like me you might be worried that the written version will suffer by comparison or due to foreknowledge of the story. In the case of the former it doesn't. Whilst the TV show is excellent the book is better; providing a far richer and more epic experience than they could achieve on television (although they gave it a pretty good go). As for knowing what happens, as I said before this does diminish the story's impact slightly but the extra insight you gain into the characters, the places, the history and everything else that makes up Martin's world outweighs any negatives going in.

Having taken months, on and off, to get through the first half of the book I devoured the second half in a matter of days and I have now moved on to A Song of Ice and Fire (2) - A Clash of Kings (Song of Ice & Fire 2) without a break. That's how much A Game of Thrones has sucked me into its world; by the end I really didn't want to leave.


StarTech.com Universal Laptop USB Docking Station with VGA Audio Ethernet
StarTech.com Universal Laptop USB Docking Station with VGA Audio Ethernet
Offered by LambdaTek ComponentShop
Price: 55.94

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Strobing, 9 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought the StarTech.com Universal USB Docking Station to connect my Dell Vostro laptop to my desk monitor and various peripherals. I had gotten tired of having to disconnect half a dozen cables every time I needed to take my PC away from my desk.

I have to say my short experience of this docking station was not a happy one. On the positive side the driver software was easy to load and the hardware connected up easily enough. The USB ports also all functioned as required, and I had no problem connecting up my Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 Keyboard and Mouse Combo through the dock.

The problems occurred when it came to setting up my monitor through the dock. For a start the user instructions supplied with the Dock were for XP and didn't apply to Windows 7. Once I'd gotten around that minor issue I had a great deal of difficulty adjusting the display settings to my requirements, with my laptop screen and monitor running in parallel. Standard adjustments that take seconds when my monitor is connected directly into the VGA port on my laptop seemed impossible to implement using the StarTech.com driver. I finally got both screens set up in something close to how I normally have them but it happened more by accident than design.

However those were not the main failings of the dock. I could have lived with little niggles like that. What I couldn't live with was the affect running the signal to my monitor through the dock had on the quality of the image on screen. After about five minutes of trying to work with the monitor connected through the dock I began to get a headache from looking at the screen, something that had never happened before in the 12 months I've used my HannsG HW191D 19" Widescreen LCD TFT Monitor, Silver/Black, 1440x900, 5ms, DVI, VGA, Speakers, 700:1. I quickly realised that this was caused by imperceptible strobing on the screen and that the source of this had to be the dock. Despite trying to adjust the screen resolution, brightness and contrast I couldn't correct the problem and within half an hour of trying I decided to disconnect the dock entirely. As soon as I reconnected the VGA cable back into the laptop's port the strobing effect disappeared and so did my headache.

The StarTech.com Universal USB Docking Station is now back in its box and waiting to be returned to Amazon.


Fun and Games
Fun and Games
Price: 4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and a bit strange, 8 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Fun and Games (Kindle Edition)
I can see why some people would enjoy Fun & Games more than I did. It moves at a breakneck pace, is full of action, has blackly-comic moments and twists and turns. Its also crisply written in a spare, economical style. I found that rattled through it in the space of a few days and I was never bored.

However neither was I ever fully engaged by the book. None of the characters really grabbed me. Nor did their predicament or how they would get out of it. The whole thing just felt rather shallow and superficial. Even the author's attempt to give his characters back stories felt slightly formulaic. Former law man with a troubled past. B-list actress past her prime. None it felt terrible fresh or original.

Fun and Games is not a bad book but nor was it such a great read that I'm going to pick up the next volume Hell and Gone (Charlie Hardie Trilogy 2), despite the cliff hanger ending to Fun & Games. The book just didn't make me care enough about Charlie Hardie to have to know his ultimate fate.


Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising: Shock of War
Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising: Shock of War
by Larry Bond
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part 3 of 4, 8 Mar 2012
Note: Red Dragon Rising: Shock of War is the third of four volumes that make up a single story. It is not a stand-alone tale and there is no point in reading it unless you have tackled Shadows of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising) and Edge of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising) first.

If you enjoyed the two previous Red Dragon Rising volumes then you'll enjoy this one too. The usual caveats apply. This is just one part of a larger narrative, so don't expect all the plot strands to be nicely tied up at the end. Some sub-plots also receive more attention than others, with Zeus Murphy coming to the fore this time at the expense of Mara and Josh.

Otherwise its the usual mix of geopolitics, military action and espionage, with a few soapy elements thrown in. Some of the latter don't work brilliantly, with Zeus' romantic relationship with a Vietnamese doctor failing to ring entirely true. On the whole however, events move forward logically and the plot holds together. There's also plenty of exciting action on land and sea and in the air.

I will definitely be back for the fourth and final volume when its published.


Edge of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising)
Edge of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising)
by Larry Bond
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Improvement on Act 1, 8 Mar 2012
NOTE: This is a copy of my review for the hardback edition of 'Edge of War', originally published in Feb 2011

Let me start with some advice. Don't read Edge of War without reading Shadows of War (Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising) first. Edge of War is a continuation of the stories that commenced in Shadows of War and will make little sense if you haven't read the previous volume.

The next thing I would add is that the 1 star rating from 'rsasdr' seems a little harsh to me. Its the equivalent of saying 'I hate this book' and I would only award such a low rating to something I really disliked, that had no redeeming qualities and that I struggled even to finish. Whilst Edge of War has its flaws its by no means the car-crash that a 1 star rating would seem to suggest. Its certainly worthy of three stars, and scrapes a further star from me since I enjoyed the experience of reading it.

I can see however, why some readers might be disappointed by Edge of War. As a standalone novel it is definitely lacking. The structure and pacing feels all wrong and the various plot threads are left entirely unresolved. In one case the book ends mid-way through a significant military operation with characters still behind enemy lines. In that respect Edge of War is not a wholly satisfying reading experience.

To judge it on those terms however, would be unfair because it is not intended to be read as a standalone novel; it is a single episode in a story-arc that started in Shadows of War. As such it is a contemporary verion of the sort of serialised story-telling popularised back in the pulp-fiction of the 1930's and still found in graphic novels today.

On that basis it works just fine. It picks up the various plot threads at precisely the point they were left at the end of Shadows of War and gets running with them straight away. There's no preamble or prologue to reestablish the scenario; its as if you've simply turned the page from Act 1 of the story to Act 2. From there the pace of the storytelling remains rapid. The first half of the book is essentially a continuation of the chase that dominated the second half of Shadows of War, but with rural Vietnam swapped for Hanoi and Saigon. Events unfold quickly, but also logically and with reasonable plausibility. A shift in location half-way through marks a slight change in pace and a greater focus on political intrigue, but the book remains enjoyable. Bond and Defelice balance the various plot threads well, knowing when to bring different ones to the fore but not allowing any to drift or be forgotten.

Characterisation is on a par with Shadows of War but feels better because we're more familiar with the likes of Mara, Josh, Zeus, et al. In fact the familiarity of the tale and the characters is one of things that made Edge of War more satisfying that Shadows. Greater time with all the recurring characters also allows them to grow. Josh for example, becomes a far more sympathetic individual than he was in 'Shadows'. The only character who doesn't really work is Jing Yo, the Chinese commando. Not only is he saddled with an inspid romantic sub-plot but he seems to have undergone something of a personality change since Shadows. Gone is the supremely competent, driven soldier, to be replaced by an emotionally fragile, uncertain figure. In many ways it would have been better if the authors had come up with a new character for his role in the story.

As with all of Bond and Defelice's collaborations, the military, political and espionage details feel plausible and the bursts of action are well written and suitably punchy. The open ending, although mildly frustrating, left me wanting to know what happens next.

The book as a whole also made me reevaluate Shadows of War. In my original review of that book I accused it of lacking punch and spending too much time getting going. I now realise that was the case because it was providing the prologue for one single story spread over four volumes. With the benefit of hindsight I can see now that it was entirely justified. In fact for those who can bear to wait I would possibly recommend hanging on until all four Red Dragon Rising volumes have been published and then reading the entire story back to back. Based on Edge of War I suspect that will provide a far more satisfying and entertaining experience than tackling it volume by volume.


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