Category Archives: Books

March Update Reading Challenge

Just over two months in and I’m ahead of schedule. I’m now reading my 23rd book, of the 100 books that are my unofficial target. I’m a little bit ahead schedule with page count, too, compared to the previous years (except for 2013, which was my best year so far). Which means I’m doing well.

My ongoing series list was long at the start of the year. I did manage to finish a couple of them, mostly those where I had to read the latest release which had been published in the last couple of months. Last month I noticed there were four series that I had almost finished, three had only one book left to read and one series had two books left. So I devised a mini challenge to get these four series out of the way. I made a reading list, allowing for a free choice read after finishing two books from the reading list. At the moment I’m working on the last book of the list. After finishing it I only have four active series on my list, five if you count the Commonwealth Saga.

After finishing the challenge I’ve decided to focus on reading more stand alone books. I’ve got a lot of those on my Kindle at the moment and because I’ve been focussing on series so far this year that list is growing. I also want to tackle my “interesting series” list. Which is over 20 books long, consisting of first books of series that I might possibly like. My aim is to have an active series list that has about 7 series on it and I want to make it more diverse than it has been, where most series were either crime or mystery series (often combined with other genres). I know from experience that I won’t be continuing with those series on the list after the first book, in recent years I’ve become more more selective about what I want to read.

Reading Challenge 2016: update

Just over five months into the year and I’m overdue on an update about my reading challenge progress for this year.

When looking at the statistics I’m going well. I’ve currently finished 57 books, so I’m well passed the half way point of the 100 book challenge I set myself on Goodreads. I’m also almost at the half way point of my challenge of reaching 40000 pages, just 400 pages to go.

My theme challenge is also going well, I’ve finished 6 themes so far. This means I’m one theme ahead of schedule. I’ve added two more themes: wishlist (where I have to read 4 books from either my Amazon or Goodread wishlist that I added before June 1) and Calibre (which I can only read books I already own for a full month).

So far this year I’ve haven’t given up on any books, there were a couple of close calls but I was intrigued enough to finish them. My favourite series, so far, this year is Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q. The first two books were slow read, but the third and fourth I read quickly. I’m doing okay with finishing series, but that’s mostly due to reading the latest releases of series I was up to date with. This month I’m hoping to finish the Odd Thomas series, just one short story and one full length novel to go.

This summer I also want to reread Stephen King’s It, it’s been a long time since my last reread. It will fit in both with the Calibre and Old Time Favourites theme, so I’ll be able to finish two themes in one month again, probably in July.

Next week I’m on vacation, I’ve booked a cottage and I’m calling it my reading retreat. So hopefully I can get even more ahead than I am now. In July and August I’m also dog sitting for several weeks, and from experience I know that I read more than I normally would during those weeks.

Reading Challenge 2016 – Goals

The start of a new year also means the start of a new reading challenge. The last couple of years I didn’t do any real challenges beyond the 100 books challenge and read 4 long books. This year I wanted to have a real challenge, but not one that would put me off. I’ve learned that I don’t do well with prescribed reading; I tried the challenge where you have to read a book published in each year since you were born and I found that too constricting and gave up.

Last summer I set myself the challenge of reading 4 horror books in one month. That would leave me with enough other books to read to mix it up a bit. This year I will do something similar; I’ve made a list of 20 themes (if I think of more I will allow myself to add those), each month I will choose one theme and I will have to read at least 4 books in relation to that theme. Books of over 800 pages will count as two books for this challenge and books of over 1200 pages will count as three books, that way I won’t shun longer books.

In addition I will have the usual goals of trying to keep the number of series to a reasonable amount. For the Goodreads reading challenge I opted to read 100 books this year, but for my own challenge I want to read at least 40000 pages.

Although not really a challenge but more something I want to pay attention to at the beginning of the year is my active series. There are several I didn’t read a lot of book of in 2015, so I want to pick up pace on those.

And last, but not least, I want to have fun. Books I don’t like I won’t finish and series that start to go downhill (for me) I won’t continue.

Reading Challenge 2015 – progress

Already the first three months of 2015 are gone, which means it’s time to see how my reading challenge is going.

So far I’ve read 27 books, 9674 page and have given up on 1 book. Compared to 2013 and 2014 I’m behind (in pages read) and just a little ahead of 2012. However, last year I went on a lazy vacation in March where I got a lot more reading done than I normally would. I did read works by 8 authors new to me, I’ve started 6 new series (2 of which I’m probably not going to continue with) and finished 5 series.

So far this year I’m enjoying both crime novels and fantasy/paranormal novels. Lately I’m reading a lot of horror books.

I am behind on my 700+ page books challenge. I want to at least 4 of those this year, but I seem to be drawn to shorter books so far this year. I have started the second book in the Outlander series (almost 1000 pages long) and I usually read one or two long books in summer when I’m house sitting, so I should be able to finish this challenge.

Also, at the end of this month I’m going to Antwerp for a couple of days. I should be able to read more than I normally would both on bus trip to and from Antwerp and at the hotel.

One of my favourite books so far this year is Sycamore Row by John Grisham, which is the sequel to A Time to Kill. I also like the Lincoln Rhyme series, the first book of this series, The Bone Collector, has been made into a film (the book is better).

I abandoned Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting after I realized that I didn’t care if the little boy in danger lived or died. I also felt the story, after reading over half of it, didn’t go anywhere.

That said, I generally liked the books I’ve read so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep picking the right books.

Reading plans 2015

There are less than two weeks left in the year, which means it’s time to set my reading goals for 2015.

Like the previous two years I won’t set a number of books I want to read; I want to have fun and not feel pressured to skip longer books and feel I haven’t got time to pursue my other hobbies. For my GoodReads challenge I’ll probably initially set it to 52 and up it if I get close.

First of all I want to have fun. Read whatever I feel like, be it classics, “literature”, or fluff.

Second, I want to keep the number of “active” series to a reasonable amount. I did well in 2014; I currently have only 5 active series. It does help that I have become a lot more picky about which series I want to invest time in. What a reasonable number is is hard to define. It really depends on how many series I have active that are either made up out of long books (like the Outlander series) or series that have a lot of books in a series that I haven’t read yet (like the Guido Brunetti series).

Finally, I do want to read some of the longer books that have been lingering on my To Be Read list, so my only real challenge is that I want to read at least 4 books which are longer than 700 pages (so far I’ve read eight 700+ page books).

I was thinking of instead of having an X number of books challenge to have an X number of pages challenge. But I’ve decided against it because some books read a lot faster than others. I feel both the number of books and the number of pages I’ve read doesn’t say much about my reading.

Kindle Paperwhite 2: first impressions

I always loved the idea of having an ereader with build in light. When Amazon announced their first Paperwhite I was very excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Luckily, Amazon release their Kindle first in the US before the rest of the world because after reading the reviews I decided not to get one. There were a lot of problems with the screen; pinholes (holes in one of the layers, resulting in bright light shining out) and colour blobs (green, blue, yellow and pink patches on the screen). In 2013 Amazon released the second version of the Paperwhite (PW2), but again there were problems with the

In September Amazon announced the Kindle Voyage. Which didn’t only have a build in light, it also came with page turn sensors (which all the previous touch screen Kindle didn’t have) and some other nice options but it had a very hefty price;  €199. This time I decided to wait for the reviews. Again there seemed to be screen problems, this time the top is yellow whilst the bottom is blue-ish. But also there are a lot of reports of Kindle Voyages freezing and having to be exchanged. The reports on the updated PW2 were good. Amazon secretly upped the storage from 2gb to 4gb and the screen problems seem to be mostly in the past.

When Amazon opened their disappointing Dutch webstore it also resulted in us being able to order Kindles from Germany or the UK, a lot cheaper than having to order it from the US. That same week I was on vacation and the apartment didn’t have very good lighting. At night I had to move a floor lamp next to the sofa so I could read on my Kindle 4. After seeing that Amazon.de had the PW2 on offer for €99 I decided to get that one instead of a Voyage. Last week I ordered it and on Friday it arrived. And I love it.

Screen & lighting
One of the most important things on an ereader is the screen. You don’t want any pinholes, dust between the layers, uneven lighting or colour blobs that distract you from your reading. The text is very sharp and mine doesn’t have any colour blobs or pinholes. If I look very carefully I can see a bit of spotlighting at the bottom of the screen when I have the light on. You can see cones of light where the LEDs are at the bottom of the screen, resulting in slightly darker triangles between the LEDs. I had expected this and I only see if if I have the light at a certain level, turning it up or down helps reduce it. I can live with this.
The screen of my PW2 is also a lot whiter than that of my Kindle 4, which was more sepia toned. When the light is on at a level you can see it it has a cooler hue (this differs from Kindle to Kindle).

Font
Whereas my Kindle 4 only had three different fonts to choose from the PW2 has six options, but the same three settings for line spacing and margins and eight for font size. Although I love Kobo’s options when it comes to font settings after setting it up the first time I hardly ever changed it. I don’t want the text to fill the full screen, like many people do. I find it much more readable with margins (I use the widest margins) and a bit of space between the line (middle setting).

Touch screen
Although I haven’t used my Kobo Aura HD since May I still have to get used to the Kindle touch screen, where to touch to go back (on the left side of the screen, the area is narrower than on the Aura HD) and to pull up the menu. But everything is in a very logical place. It’s also a lot faster than the Aura HD, selecting a word to look it up in the dictionary is easy, as is selecting text to save it. It’s a lot more precise. The Aura HD had an IR touch screen, so it will respond to anything that touches the screen. The PW2 has a capacitive touch screen, which means that if you got some dust or crumbs on your screen you want to get rid off you can swipe it off with a bit of cloth without have a menu pop-up or a page turn. I also  love the feel of the screen, which is very paper-like and seems less sensitive to fingerprints than the screen of the Aura HD.

Software
So far my PW2 has been as stable as my other Kindles. No crashes, reboots or freezes. Besides the dictionary you can now also look up words in Wikipedia (wifi must be on) and if it’s enabled on the book you’re reading there is a feature called X-Ray. Where you can look up names, see how often this person is mentioned in the book. But also places and other things. With the latest update Wordwise is introduced. When switched on it gives short definitions of difficult words between the lines over the word. I have this switched off. Also new is the Family Library, where you can link different accounts and share your books. There is also GoodReads for those living in the US and Canada.
What I do use, often is Page Flip. You have to open the menu by tapping at the top of the screen, then on the bottom, above the chapter title is an arrow upwards. If you press that a new window pops up where you can scroll through the book without losing your place. It’s great to look up a map or drawing. I also discovered that when you choose the Go To option in the menu there are now page numbers next to the chapter titles. This makes it easy to check how many pages you have to read to finish your chapter.
At the bottom of the screen you can see how far you are in the book. By tapping the lower left corner you can select different views: page number, time left in chapter, time left in book, location and nothing. The first four options also display the percentage of pages read in the lower right corner.

Miscelaneous
Although the PW2 weighs more than the Kindle 4 it isn’t too heavy and feels like a good quality device. The Kobo Aura HD always felt a little too plasticy to me. The on and off button has a nice clicky feel to it. The one on my Kindle 4 never really clicked and is, at times, unresponsive. However, if you buy the right case you hardly ever need to use the power button because the PW2 can be switched on and off by the case if there’s a little magnet in it (like many tablets and other ereaders).
I bought the official Amazon case for the PW2, in black. It’s an okay case, but I would have like the front to be thicker to protect the screen better. I think I’ll end up ordering an Oberon case for it. Which is a lot heavier and bulkier than the official case but, in my opinion, offers more protection and is a lot prettier.

All in all I’m very happy with my PW2 and I’m glad I waited for so long to buy it. The lighting makes up for the absence of page turn buttons. Now, if only Amazon improves their Dutch webstore (wishlist, payment by iDeal, etc) I would happily switch my account to it.

Amazon.nl is finally here

Amazon has finally opened their Dutch webstore. Other Dutch webstores were afraid of this, the current sale many webstore have at the moment is reportedly because of Amazon being about to open their Dutch webstore. This opening turns out to be a bit of a disappointment (in my opinion) and many webstores shouldn’t be afraid, yet.

Only Bol.com should be afraid because Amazon.nl is currently only selling Kindles and ebooks. And even then Bol has the advantage of accepting payment by iDeal (a Dutch online payment method for debit cards) and Amazon.nl only accepts credit cards. A lot of Dutch people don’t have a credit card and iDeal is the standard method of online payment in the Netherlands. Hopefully giftcards will be available soon so people can use that to pay for their purchases.

A big disappoint for me personally is that there is no option to put ebooks you want on a wishlist. On Amazon.com I have a long wishlist of ebooks I find interesting.

Also, they only sell Kindles and ebooks. Not even accessories for the Kindle, such as chargers and cases can be ordered.

Because I read only (e)books in English I’ll be staying with Amazon.com for now, if it’s possible. I will be ordering a new Kindle soon (I know I said it was going to be a Paperwhite but I’m now again leaning towards getting the Voyage), but I’ll be registering it at the US website.

Selective reading

In the past when I started a book series and I even remotely liked it I would continue and unless the series became really bad I would finish it, at least all the books that were released up until I started the series.

Ebooks has given me easy access to books; instead of waiting days, or even weeks, to get the book I want to read I can now order it and have it on my ereader within minutes. With the help of forums and recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads I’ve discovered a lot of series I (might) like. And there is the problem, not only have I discovered a lot of series I want to try but there are also the stand alone books I want to read.

Over the past year or so I’ve noticed I’ve become much more picky when it comes to series. Instead of giving it at least two or three book to see if I like it I usually decide after the first book if I want to continue or not. Unless I’m told by several posts/people/reviews that it gets a lot better after after the first book. I’m also not forcing myself to keep reading a series if I lose interest or the story goes into a direction I don’t like.

So far this year I’ve started 15 new series. Most of them were okay, a couple were a complete waste of time (for me), but I only decided to continue with six of them. There are also several series I do like but I know I’ll only read a book if I’m really in the mood, so I’ve taken those series off my “ongoing series” list.

I’m currently reading the first book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Although it isn’t a fast read it’s enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I want to continue with it. This might be one of those rare cases I will give the second book a try and decide then.

Reading Challenge 2014 – three months to go

Already three quarters of the year is over. Which means it’s time to take a look at how my reading challenge is going and to start thinking about next year.

According to GoodReads I’m 4 books ahead of schedule for 100 books (I really don’t care if I make it but it’s a number to fill in). In September I was ahead a bit more but the combination of a long book and a couple of days to Newcastle, so not much time to read, has made me slip a little. I’m still ahead compared to previous years in page count, too. But only just. In November I’m going away for a full week alone, I’ve booked an apartment in my favourite holiday park. Besides one or two trips to the nearby town of Harderwijk (depending on the weather, of course) I’ve can read as much as I like. Usually during one of those weeks I manage to read 4 to 6 books so I’ll be able to make up some lost ground, if I haven’t done so already by that time.

Lately, I’ve been starting new series without finished the one already on my active list. And my list of want-to-try series is growing and growing. There are two series I’ve almost finished, so I think I’ll concentrate on those for my next couple of reads.

My favourite new book series is Vera Stanhope by Ann Cleeves. I love the tv series based on the books and was apprehensive about starting them because often when I start reading a book series that has a tv series based on it the books disappoint (Midsomer Murder, Inspector Lynley). But I also love the books, even more than the tv series. I love how Vera is herself; ugly, blunt and nosy. That’s just who she is and people just have to live with it.

It’s also time to start thinking about what to do for next year’s challenge. A lot of people set as goal to read a certain number of books of a certain (sub)genre of even make a reading list of books they want to read that year. That doesn’t work for me. So I think I’ll keep going with the ones I already have; have fun and try to keep the number of active series to a reasonable number.

I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that the new Kindle Voyage will be available for order in the Netherlands soon. Either on the US website or, even better, on the maybe soon to open Dutch Amazon website.

Reading challenge: first 6 months

Statistics (up to July 16 of each year):

  • 2012: 62 books, 21790 pages, 2 book abandoned
  • 2013: 65 books, 21665 pages, 5 book abandoned
  • 2014: 53 books, 22140 pages, 1 book abandoned

Although it looks like I’m behind when looking how many books I’ve read, it turns out the book I’m reading this year are longer and I’ve read more, in pages, than the past two years.

Lately I’ve been reading slower than before. There are several other things that have taken up my attention; photography and Project Life, the World Cup, games and now the Tour de France. This month so far I’ve only finished two book, and abandoned one after nearly 200 pages. They were longer books, The Strain was over 400 pages long and A Discovery of Witches nearly 800 pages, so if I had read books of 300-400 pages and didn’t abandon one I might have read 4 books by now. In August I’m going house/dog sitting for friends for two and a half weeks and I always manage to read more than normal during that time.

For the first time I made a list of books I want to read this summer, mostly books that have recently been released:

  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (currently reading)
  • Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  • How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
  • The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (read the first book)
  • Skin Games by Jim Butcher

I’m still looking to add more books, I always tend to read a book set in Asia during summer and I got several of those on my TBR list, but I’m having a hard time to decide which I want to read.

I’m not doing well with my ongoing series challenge (to keep the number of active series I’m reading to a manageable number). I finished the Ruth Galloway series and started two new ones instead of just one. Luckily both are trilogies so I should be able to finish them this summer.

My favourite book I’ve read this year is the one I’m reading right now; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. It’s hard not to compare it to books by his father, Stephen King. It reminds me especially of It and The Stand. It’s become harder not to because he keeps referring to places and characters in his fathers work (Shawshank prison, Derry, Trashcanman).