No Voyage

Ever since the announcement of the new Kindle Voyage ereader I’ve been looking forward to it. I love the idea of a front lit ereader with both a touch screen but also page turn buttons. And it looking like Amazon was going to give us all that, be it at a premium price.

But just over a week after it’s release in the US (UK release will be on the 4th) I have decided I will go with the updated version of the Paperwhite 2.

User reviews report a two-toned screen, blueish on the bottom and yellow on the top of the screen. This ranges from “I really had to look carefully to see it” to “it looked like my cat peed on it”. This is very reminiscent of the release of the Paperwhite 1, which had problems with “colour blobs” and a lot of  pin holes in the screen. The latter doesn’t seem to be a big problem with the Voyage, though there are some reports that it happens occasionally. I’ve also read about problems with the Voyage freezing, hopefully this can be solved with a software update. What can’t be solved by new firmware are reports of the touch screen issues, where the screen doesn’t register touch properly and reports that the page turn sensors are places too low, even for people with smaller hands, to use comfortably when holding the Kindle Voyage in one had.

Because of these problems I’ve decided to buy the updated version of the Paperwhite 2. Amazon recently increased the disc space from 2gb to 4gb (which is not really that important to me since I usually keep less than 100 books on it) and people noticed that the screen is more even in colour and light than when the PW2 was first released.

Another reason to choose for the PW2 is because I want as little chance of getting a defective unit as possible. Living in the Netherlands I am currently still forced to buy Kindles from the US website. Returning a defective Kindle is a hassle, even if Amazon pays back the shipping costs.

I’m planning on ordering a PW2 plus case in a couple of weeks’ time.

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.

Kindle Voyage

Amazon usually releases its new Kindle line-up in September or October. However, this year there were strong rumours there wouldn’t be a new Kindle, at least not an ereader. There were two reasons often cited for this. First, what was there to improve on last year’s Paperwhite? Colour eInk screens are still not that good (muddy colours) and Amazon wants their products to be as perfect as possible. Second, there haven’t been any rumours or leaks of any new features.

Everyone was very surprised that suddenly the Kindle Voyage turned up on one or two Amazon websites and were quickly pulled again last week. With the proverbial cat out of the bag Amazon released the new Kindle Voyage and the new basic Kindle (touch screen) for pre-order.

The previous basic Kindle, without a touch screen, seems to have been retired and a (possibly) update version of the Kindle Touch has taken its place for $79/$99 (with and without special offers). The Paperwhite is also still available for $119/$139. The new Kindle Voyage seems to be Amazon’s new premium model at $199/$219 for the wifi model or if you want the 3G version $269/$289.

The Voyage brings back the page turn buttons, although they aren’t mechanical buttons anymore but sensors. They work on pressure and have haptic feedback to let you know when you pressed hard enough. According to the manual you can turn the sensor on and off, you can select how much feedback is given or switch it off and you can set how much pressure should trigger a page turn.

I’m glad the page turn buttons/sensors made a come back. Last year I bought a Kobo Aura HD and really missed them. Many people wanted the buttons back because it takes less movement and effort to press your thumb down than to move it to the right part of the screen to swipe or tap. I missed it mainly because I hate a smudged screen.

Another change is that the screen is now flush with the bezel. Which means no more crumbs, dust and cat hairs getting caught in the little space between the screen and the bezel.

A new feature that is “coming soon” to the Kindle Voyage is Word Wise. Where short definitions automatically pop up over difficult words. I’m not so sure I like this. How does the Kindle determine if I find a word difficult or not. I hope, and expect, it’s possible to switch this feature off.

Also you can now let the Kindle decide how bright the lighting should be. Unlike a tablet, there won’t be sudden brightness changes, Amazon promises that the light will slowly decrease of the ambient lighting in the room becomes lower.

The new Kindle Voyage is released in the US on 21 October and in the UK on 4 November. However, if you haven’t already pre-ordered in the US and  you want one you won’t be getting it until the week of 14 December. Despite it’s steep price it seems its very popular.

After returning to my simple, non-touch Kindle a while ago I did miss some of the Aura HD’s features. The backlight, which makes it easier to read in darker rooms and the automatically switching on and off of the device when opening or closing the case. I somewhat missed the ease of tapping on the screen for looking up a word instead of having to move the cursor to the right place. I was already thinking of getting a Paperwhite, despite it not having page turn buttons. I’m glad I waited because I really like the look of the Voyage.

However, it isn’t available for international customers. Because I’m Dutch and there isn’t a Dutch Amazon store, yet, I have to order from the US and the only options I get when wanting to order a Kindle are the new Touch, the Paperwhite and the Paperwhite 3G. I hope Amazon will keep a batch of Voyages aside for the international customers and we won’t have to wait until they are in stock.

I’ve decided to not order the official case. I’m not sure I would like the flip style and I don’t think I would use the origami prop up feature much. It’s quite expensive and for a little bit more I can get a really nice Oberon case.

With the new Kindles release and having to order it in the US I’ve been looking if there are any rumours Amazon will open their Dutch stores soon. I’d already read that Amazon was talking to several Dutch publishers about making their books available in the Kindle store but there are now also rumours that Amazon wants to open their Dutch store soon, some even say it will happen this month (but with only a couple of days left I’m not holding my breath). However, those rumours have been going around off and on for several years now. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will happen soon and I’m keeping the fingers of my other hand crossed that the Kindle Voyage will be available for (pre)order right away.

Kobo Aura HD vs. Kindle non-touch

Ever since I’ve got my Kobo Aura HD I’ve been using it exclusively and let my Kindle non-touch gather dust. However, lately my Aura HD started acting up, the area where the home icon is on the screen became unresponsive. The first time I solved it by cleaning out the space between the bezel and the screen (it might be that crumbs were interfering with the IR) and rebooting. A month or so later that didn’t work and ended up doing a factory reset. But the problem came back, connecting it to my PC seems to solve the problem for a little while, until yesterday. I tried various things; logging out of my account and logging in again (clearing the database), cleaning, rebooting, removing all the books on it (in case one was causing it). But in the end I gave up, I did a factory reset, put it aside and charged my trusty old Kindle NT.

It took a while to get used to again. The screen is smaller, the font is thicker, there’s no touch screen and no build in light. On the other hand it’s quicker turning pages (loading a book takes a bit longer), I like the physical page turn buttons on the side (no smudges on the screen) and it’s very stable. The only thing I really miss is the light, which makes it easier to read when it’s darker. I slightly miss that there are little options to adjust font, white space around the text and line spacing, but I got over that quickly.

I’ve been looking at the Kindle Paperwhite 2.2 (Amazon recently upgrades the disc space from 2GB to 4GB). It doesn’t have the page turn buttons and the screen isn’t as good as the Kindle NT because of the extra touch and light layers and it’s quite expensive (around €200 if I would buy it in the UK in September, a bit more if I order it from Amazon US). Also, in September the new Kindle line-up is usually announced and who knows, maybe a Kindle NT with light  or a Paperwhite with physical page turn buttons will be announced.

Another thing that has me hesitating is that with a previous firmware upgrade of the Paperwhite the Kindle starts nagging about sideloaded books, that certain functions aren’t available for those books. I have a lot of books that I get from other sources than Amazon and convert to the Kindle format to read. Even Amazon books I usually run through Calibre to adjust things to my liking before putting them on my Kindle and those books are also considered non-Amazon books by the Kindle.

Considering I’m reasonably happy with my Kindle NT for now I will wait for the new Kindle releases. If there’s anything interesting I’ll wait for the reviews of users. If I’m still interested (reviews of bad Paperwhite 1 screens put me off of buying one) it might warrant a short trip to a nearby country where they do sell Kindles in stores.

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).

 

Project Life: starting

Recently I discovered scrapbooking; a fun and creative way to work with your photographs. However, what to do with those photographs that aren’t good enough for a 12×12 inch project? Also, I don’t take pictures that often, mostly on days out, vacation, etc. I would love to remember to take pictures of everyday things. That’s where Project Life comes in.

Project Life is a great way, in my opinion, to document everyday life. I also hope it’s a great way to get into the habit of carrying my camera with me and take pictures of that cute ice cream car or the sign at the polling station during elections.

Yesterday I ordered the basics to start with Project Life; an album, a package of pocket pages (type A), cards, date stamp and some embellishments. I use the Becky Higgins Project Life system (other brands have similar systems). With Becky Higgins you use a core kit of cards that go together very well (the Heritage kit has a vintage design, the Rain kit is muted blues, greens and purples). A kit contains 500 3×4 cards, 40 bi-fold 4×6 journalling cards, 16 first and last page cards and 60 4×6 title cards. With that you should be able to make a whole year. Although I really love most sets that’s also where the problem lies: I love most of them and I think it’s boring to use just one core kit. Depending on the colour your photos, the time of year and/or your mood it’s fun to be able to vary. Luckily, my local scrapbook store divides the core kit into 5 sets. I bought 1/5 sets of the Rain, Jade, Honey and Heritage kits and I have other 1/5 sets on my wishlist (hopefully they’ll get the cherry set soon, because I love that one).

I started with the title page, with some first and last page cards from the rain and heritage kit (as long as it looks nice I’m not bothered what cards I use). I made a two page spread for the year until May 18, most pictures of my vacation in March, some of Lexie and the ticket to Bill Bailey’s show in Amsterdam. Last week I started taking pictures of everyday life for Project Life. I took some around the inner city during a really sunny day, one of the sign at the polling station and one of Lexie who fell asleep next to me on the bed on Sunday morning. I added only one 3×4 journalling card. While it seems “normal” to make a two page spread per week I decided to start out with one page a week. Hopefully when I get into the habit of making photographs I can start making two pages a week.

My biggest problem now is printing the photographs. I don’t have a photo printer so I usually upload them to be printed by the Hema (good price and they’re close by for an easy pick up). However, it takes a couple of days. Because I don’t take tons of pictures the initial cost of having photos printed (€1,50) is more than to have a couple of pictures printed. I can, of course, have the pictures printed every couple of weeks. But, first of all, I don’t want to fall behind and if I order pictures every couple of weeks it’s easy to keep delaying until I end up so far behind it’s hard to catch up. Also, I like PL too much to want to limit myself to working on it every couple of weeks. So my next big purchase will be a Selphy photo printer. It’s more expensive than having them printed, but it’s a lot easier for PL, I can easily plan one day a week for PL (e.g. every Monday), print the pictures and get going. For the bigger picture and the pictures I want to use in scrapbooking I’ll probably still order them online.

I had planned to start with PL tomorrow, Ascension Day (a public holiday in the Netherlands), but I started this morning, before work and it was hard to stop when I had to go to work and then I just had to continue this afternoon. I’m now all done and I can’t wait until next week. I’ll order the photographs on Sunday, then I can pick them up on Tuesday and have fun again.

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Scrapbooking

I’ve always loved making photo albums and travel journals. I always try to add extras, such as train tickets, postcards, bus passes, brochures, etc.

A little while back I got into colouring with markers and ordered markers from a website which also sell all kinds of stuff for scrapbooking. All the stamps, papers, tools and embellishments looked fun so I looked into what scrapbooking was. And it turns out it’s a more elaborate version of what I’ve been doing with my travel journalling and photo albums.

Scrapbooking is a combination of journalling and a photo album. Instead of just sticking your pictures on a background in a grid and maybe adding some titles with scrapbooking you can let your creativity speak. You can use patterned cardstock or just one colour. Besides your pictures you add stickers, embellishments (flowers, die cuts, embossing), stamps, ink/sprays, journalling, and anything else you feel like. In fact there is so much you can do with scrapbooking it’s all a bit overwhelming for someone starting out.

After some research I made a list of essential tools and supplies and found a scrapbookstore (ScrapDelight) only a short bike ride away. Since then I added to my collection, most notably a Big Shot die cutting and embossing machine. But there are still a lot of techniques I want to try out (stamping, embossing with powders, stenceling). I’ve been having a lot of fun making various lay-outs.

10-04-2014

I also discovered Project Life, which might have been a better, easier and cheaper way to start with scrapbooking. Instead of a big 12 by 12 inch piece of cardstock (there are smaller sizes but the 12 inch is the standard) you use pocket pages. The most common pocket page is one that has four 4 by 6 pockets and four 4 by 3 pockets. You usually use the big pockets for photos and the smaller for journalling. But you can do whatever you want, of course. Most people make one or two pages a week. You buy a set of mini cardstock, to use as fillers, journalling cards of as a background. The most common system, and the original one, is the one by Becky Higgins. She has sets with 600+ cards, with coordinating colours.

I really like the look of Project Life, you do not need a lot of embellishments, it’s fun if you do but by using colourful cards  your pages quickly look good and done. That way you can slowly get more stickers, tapes and other fun stuff.

Next week I’m ordering the basics; album, cards, stamp, pocket pages. The only problem was which card set to get, because I like most of them. But my scrapbookstore had the great idea to divide the sets into five or three sets. I’m going to get four or five 1/5 sets, that way I can mix and match and use colours depending on the photographs, season and/or mood.

I don’t expect to start out by making a two page spread each week, I plan on starting out with one a week but I’m flexible and if I have more photographs in a week I’ll add more pages.

Besides starting Project Life for the fun of it I also hope it will get me into the habit of taking more pictures. Now I usually take pictures on special occasions; days out, vacations, etc but not of the normal, every day things. It will also get me into journalling, which I haven’t been doing for my normal scrapbook lay-outs.

Reading challenge 2014 update

Almost a third of the year is gone already so it’s time to look at how my reading has been going.

Compared to last year I’m behind, both on page count and on the number of books. However, the books I’ve read are, on average, over 100 pages longer than by this time last year.

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been having a bit of a reading slump. It took me almost two weeks to read Phil Rickman’s December (which I loved). This is due to me (re)discovering other hobbies. I’ve been playing more computer games and I’ve discovered scrapbooking. The scrapbooking itself isn’t very time consuming, yet. I’ve only made one layout (I need more supplies for my next one). The time consuming bit is looking at what’s available to scrapbook, all the tools, embellishments and supplies and watching YouTube videos of how to use it all and other various techniques.

This year I’ve been quite good at picking books. I’ve yet to abandon a book and there have only been two books I finished because I wanted to know how it ended despite not really liking them.

I have been focussing on series a lot so far, only 9 out of 31 books were stand alone and I only managed that many because last month I decided to take a break from reading series by making myself read 4 non-series books (I’m currently reading the 4th). I think will do this more often. I’ve got a lot of stand alone books on my to-be-read list that have been there for a long long time and I never read them because I’ve been focused on series these last couple of years.

It’s hard to pick out the best book I’ve read this year, since there are a lot that I really liked. I’m really enjoying the Ruth Galloway series by Ellie Griffith and also Kate Morton’s books (all stand alones).

Reading challenge 2014 update

Time flies, it already is mid-March and I haven’t been posting about my reading as I wanted to. So it’s time to start doing that.

Up until now I’ve finished 20 books with a total of 8796 pages. I finally managed to finish all the A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books, the last one took me two weeks to read and now I’m sad that I can’t keep on reading. Hopefully George R.R. Martin will hurry up and get the last two books published quickly (although you will probably find a snowball in hell before that will actually happen).

I’ve also decided to quit my Age Challenge, of reading a book published in every year since I was born. I had made a list of books to read, though I was allowed to change it, but I just couldn’t get myself to read them, I tried searching for alternatives but I couldn’t find those either. And since I want to enjoy myself reading I decided to give up and read whatever I like.

This year’s discoveries for my include the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. I found her book by browsing the “readers who read this book also read…” section on Amazon for the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman. Although when reading the first book I figured out who was the bad guy early on I loved the book, the setting and Ruth. I’m currently reading the second book.

I’ve also, finally, started the Arturian Saga by Mary Stewart. I’ve had it on my TBR pile for a long time now but was always hesitant to start it because many of the Merlin/Arthur books I’ve read so far disappoint me. When scrolling through my booklist on my Kobo to find my next book to read I accidentally tapped on The Crystal Cave, opening it, and thought “why not”. I’m now glad I did because it was very hard to put down.

Although I haven’t abandoned any books this year so far, I have decided not to continue with The Mortal Instruments. I liked the first three books, but the fourth not so much. I found myself putting off reading the fifth book. I might return to it later, but not for now.