Review: Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading

Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading
Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading by Jason Merkoski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone who loves to read and prefers to read using an e-ink reader (currently a Paperwhite 2), I found Burning the Page fascinating. The author describes the Kindle’s early days, offers kudos for Barnes & Noble’s innovative contributions (via their Nook e-reader), and describes his perspective for how ebooks are changing the way we read, learn and publish. Recommended.

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My favorite gadget of 2013: Roku 3

R3 frontAs a Netflix streaming video fan, I’ve picked up every version of the Roku (streaming video / audio) box that’s been released. I upgraded to the Roku 3 this year and consider it one of the best consumer tech buys out there.

Why do I love the Roku 3? Read on…

  • Inexpensive: The Roku 3 is normally priced at $99.99 — today it’s even cheaper at $10 off (89.99)
  • Fast: When I sit down to watch streaming video, I don’t want to watch the buffering symbol… I want to watch the movie! Roku 3 is fast, fast, fast. Very little buffering and steaming video / audio loads quickly.
  • Great video quality: Roku 3 is designed for use only with HDTVs and the video quality is gorgeous. Of course, the video source needs to be good quality, too.
  • Roku offers numerous streaming video sources (most are free): I love Amazon Prime Instant Video and have found Roku to be the easiest way to watch these movies and TV shows on my TV. Best of all? Roku is constantly adding new channels. Here are my Roku 3 channels:
    • Netflix (subscription)
    • hulu plus (subscription — sign up for free trial)
    • Amazon instant video (subscription / paid)
    • Crackle
    • Roku Newscaster (news from several different sources)
    • cnet
    • soma fm (internet radio)
    • tuneine (radio)
    • classical tv
    • livestation
    • CNN
    • WSJ live
    • Ted
    • TWIT
    • MIT unofficial OpenCourseware
    • NASA (which I used to watch the recent spacewalks)
    • Amazon cloud player (for my Amazon tunes)
    • iHeartradio
    • Smithsonian channel
    • CNN International
    • Nowhere TV
    • vevo
    • Rutgers
    • Frightpix
    • indieflix (Indie films)
    • Radio Paradise
    • Congressional video stream (by Sunlight Foundation)
    • Supreme Court audio stream (by Sunlight Foundation)
    • University of California’s uctv.tv
    • Pandora
    • Slacker
    • PBS
    • Russia Today Europe (news)
    • CNBC RT (real-time)
    • MHz networks
    • livestream
    • AOL On
    • Film Movement (award winning Indie films)
    • Youtube (currently only available on Roku 3)

Frankly, Roku offers so many channels that I use Roku Guide to keep up with new additions.

Aside from my smartphone and TiVo Roamio Pro, the Roku 3 is the gadget I use most often. At less than $100, it’s a steal. If you’ve never bought a Roku box and have an HDTV, I’d say go for it! If you have an earlier Roku box, I still say go for it… the speed improvements are significant enough to make it worthwhile. 

Review: Walking with the Mailman

Walking with the Mailman
Walking with the Mailman by Austin Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Several years ago, I bought a house in an older neighborhood… the kind of neighborhood where the mailman walks his route and delivers mail to boxes mounted on houses (rather than street-side mailboxes). I quickly learned there’s one person who knows *everything* about the neighborhood: The mailman!

Austin Brown shares his “day in the life of a mailman” experiences with humor and kindness: From the aggressive dog whose owner swears it won’t bite, to older residents who fret over his well-being when he misses a day on his route, to the antics of his more experienced colleagues. He mentions what he sees on his route: Children grow up, older residents become ill, tragedies that can befall the residents, and because of his role as their mailman, “feels a measure of their pain.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Walking With The Mailman, and highly recommend it. It gave me insights into my mailman’s experiences and an even greater respect for his role in our neighborhood.

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Review: The Aquatic Labyrinth

The Aquatic Labyrinth
The Aquatic Labyrinth by Alastair Fontana
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Aquatic Labyrinth is the story of Jacopo, a man wrongly suspected of murder in the fourteenth century, and his adventures following that ill-fated event. This was a very fast read because the story is so mesmerizing, with many masterful plot twists. The prose flows lyrically and poetically, with historic details of Venice sprinkled throughout. I found The Aquatic Labyrinth to be a fascinating novel, and I await Mr. Fontana’s future work with anticipation.

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Review: The Calling: A Supernatural Thriller

The Calling: A Supernatural Thriller
The Calling: A Supernatural Thriller by Robert Swartwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received this audiobook for free in return for an honest review.

Some books spend so much time focusing on backstory that I begin to wonder when the action will start. The Calling, most decidedly, is NOT one of those books! The story begins with Chris’s discovery of his murdered parents and follows his journey after that event. The Calling includes references to Bible passages as well as supernatural elements — those details flesh out the story and also make Chris’s journey even more dramatic. I found the narration enjoyable and didn’t want to stop listening because I wanted to know how it all ended. The Calling is a good story, well-told.

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Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went back and re-read The Shining before I read Doctor Sleep; doing so reminded me that The Shining is really intense and scary. Doctor Sleep strikes a slightly different tone, very suspenseful but not “I’m afraid to turn out the lights” scary. The story is first-rate. It focuses on grown-up Dan Torrance and a little girl with “the shining” whom he helps, not unlike how Dick Halloran helped Dan as a child. I don’t want to give away the story, and will wrap this up by noting I literally couldn’t put this down. I listened to the audible version narrated by Will Patton and his narration made this compelling story even more fascinating. A great read, and highly recommended.

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Review: Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy

Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy
Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy by Rebecca Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received this audiobook for free in return for providing an honest review.

I began listening to Ted and Ann thinking it would focus mainly on Ted Bundy. After all, I’d spent my teen years in the Pacific Northwest, where Ted Bundy was often cited as a cautionary tale for not accepting rides from strangers, no matter how attractive or clean-cut. As the book progressed, I became immersed in the story of Ann Marie Burr, an 8 year old Tacoma girl who went to bed one night, went missing, and was never found. Ann’s disappearance haunted her parents throughout their lives, and suspecting but never knowing for sure whether she’d been a victim of Ted Bundy compounded their grief. While Ted and Ann offers insight into Ted Bundy’s background and behavior, it shared a perspective I’d never considered before: Families who’d lost loved ones in areas where Ted Bundy had murdered others, but ultimately never found out what happened to their missing loved ones. I found Ted and Ann to be a profoundly touching book, and at times was moved to tears by the story about little Ann Marie Burr and her family’s struggle to learn what had happened to her. Recommended.

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