Fight Magic Items Review

Done! I finished reading Fight Magic Items and gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Bottom line: if you like JRPGs, it’s a must-read. Pause your game on occasion and grind out some of the pages; it’ll be worth your time. Let me share why and also sprinkle some of my favorite quotes throughout.

The story — history — of how JRPGs were born, matured, and thrive today is closely recounted in detail from cover to cover. It focuses on the inception and influences of the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series and how they individually and collectively gave life to the JRPG genre gamers now enjoy, like Hironobu Sakaguchi’s (Mistwalker) recent Fantasian on Apple Arcade.

“Fight, Magic, Items is the story of how JRPGs brought a genre to the masses and reached meteoric success thanks to some of the most brilliant and bold creators in gaming history.”

If you’ve never played one of these series titles but you have enjoyed other JRPGs, you may still find Fight Magic Items to be an intriguing account of how such cool games came to life. But if, like me, you grew up in the “Golden Age” with Final Fantasy III (FFVI) on the SNES, for example, then you’re in for a real treat.

The telling begins all the way back with the first table-top role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons — you may have heard of that one — and how such western TTRPGs sparked the imaginations of game developers — nay, creators — in Japan to bring forth Dragon Quest and the like.

“Whether The Legend of Zelda and its sequels are JRPGs or not is hotly contested by fans, yet no one can deny its adventurous and far-reaching impact on the genre thanks to its highly explorable world, puzzle-based dungeons, and sword-and-sorcery setting.”

Fight Magic Items also details JRPGs outside of the DQ and FF franchises, so not to worry. Star Ocean and many more are all onboard: Super Mario RPG, Xenogears, Tales of… They’re woven through the history, with several given special text block call-outs.

The book follows a basic JRPG timeline throughout the 80’s to the present that coincides with each gaming generation: 8-bit (NES, Sega Master System), 16-bit (SNES, Genesis), 32-bit (PS1, Dreamcast), 64-bit (N64), and onward. It also includes, of course, handheld consoles and titles.

“If you grab a random sample of Final Fantasy fans, chances are they’d name one of Final Fantasy VI, VII, or X as the series best. And I’d bet my complete-in-box copy of Chrono Trigger that their answer is also the first Final Fantasy game they really fell in love with.”

I was personally very interested to fill in the missing gaps in my own gaming history as I, like author Aidan Moher, was at times sidelined from gaming by adulting and related life events. And I didn’t own every gaming console, so I missed out on many great JRPGs.

My favorite part of the book was where I learned about the “Dark Age” of JRPGs when developers struggled to transition to the HD level on PS3 and Xbox 360. I learned specific details and general factors that directly hindered JRPG development, and it all made sense. It so happens that during this time, I didn’t play video games at all, not even the Wii (that’s why I’m just now playing Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time). So this section of the book greatly informed me.

“…the rising popularity of handheld consoles provided JRPG creators an affordable and increasingly legitimate alternative to the high-priced consoles.”

So Fight Magic Items is very informative. It’s also fascinating and spurs nostalgia for a reader in my situation. The JRPG historical timeline is presented in a storytelling and structured manner, with the dots connected and highlighted between each point along the way. It utilizes interviews from those in the gaming industry and previously published references.

“The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 era was, in one way, a dark age for traditional home console JRPGs. However, there was a light in the darkness, and you could hold it right in the palm of your hand.”

While the content is detailed and historical, it’s not presented matter-of-factly as a rote academic paper. Instead, it’s shared with care and high esteem. About JRPGs, it’s not like asking, “How did this happen?” It’s like wondering, “How’d we get so lucky?”

“Many of these indie projects are finding success on Nintendo’s Switch console, with the hybrid handheld–big-screen console quickly establishing itself as a go-to platform for retro-inspired indie games.”

If you consider yourself lucky to enjoy JRPGs, then you’ll surely enjoy Fight Magic Items. A suggestion: use this book as your “palate cleanser” between epic JRPG playthroughs. 

Have you read this book? What’dya think?

Fight Magic Items

This new book by Aidan Moher was an instant purchase for me! I read a few words of the synopsis and skimmed a couple reviews and — boom! — I clicked Buy Now and sent it directly to my Kindle in a flash. It’s said to be “unputdownable” for someone who likes JRPGs and grew up playing them in the 90’s. Oh yeah. Pause game…read book…resume game.

The book was just released this October. I discovered it in November — thanks to the Thirsty Mage — and started reading it in December. I’m about 20% through it already.

So far, I’m really enjoying this good read. It is written with a lot of detailed history about how JRPGs came to be and arrived in the west. Sprinkled throughout are personal anecdotes or commentary about the state of JRPG gaming at different stages, such as the 80bit NES days. There are also info boxes here and there with specific game info.

The writing itself is done well. My kindle ebook has had zero errors thus far; links and formatting function correctly.

Here is an early quote:

“Fight, Magic, Items is the story of how JRPGs brought a genre to the masses and reached meteoric success thanks to some of the most brilliant and bold creators in gaming history.” — Aidan Moher

In particular, I’ve been really appreciating learning about the writers, artists, and developers who first pioneered JRPGs for the Nintendo in the late 80’s. Their talent and ambition was vital to success and I’m thankful it all came together against the odds at times.

One of the things I always look for in a published work on JRPGs is how it defines the genre; it can be hard to pin down. Likewise, I also look to see how it views Zelda games. In other words, is Zelda an RPG?

Here’s what Fight Magic Items says:

“Whether The Legend of Zelda and its sequels are JRPGs or not is hotly contested by fans, yet no one can deny its adventurous and far-reaching impact on the genre thanks to its highly explorable world, puzzle-based dungeons, and sword-and-sorcery setting.” — Aidan Moher

I’ve only ready through the very early days of video role-laying games up to the release times of Dragon Quest III and Final Fantasy III, as well as Phantasy Star and Mother.

If you really like to geek out with JRPGs, I’d already say this book is a must-read; go pick it up now. Though it’s hard to put down a controller sometimes, good books like this are also hard to put down. 

Like the JRPGs of this book, it always comes down to a good story, which everybody loves. Fight, Magic, Items is the story of playable video game stories!

Are you interested in this book? Is there another book you’re reading or looking forward to?

Reading Challenge Update 2022

It’s September, and I just now half-completed my annual reading challenge: 6 of 12 books read. Looks like I’ve got catching up to do. My next two books are bought, I’ve started one of them, and I have a few other recent additions to my list. I might reach 12 this year after all.

I recently finished re-reading Digital Minimalism. Then I read Biblical Minimalism. I mean, more about less is always good, right? Two books in the last month is double the average, which is promising.

Now I’m reading one that’s been on my list for a long time; apparently it was on sale so I grabbed it: The Secret Lives of Introverts. The author is creator of a site I like, Introvert, Dear. Being introverted myself, I hope this book is illuminating. I’ll be reading it alone. ;)

Next on the list is, “enough,” by Patrick Rhone. It’s short! So this one will help me reach my 12-book goal more easily.

After these, I’ve got a small stack of minimalism related books I want to check out. Hopefully, by year’s end, I’ll reach my modest goal of one book per month. At least I’ll get close. Either way, I’m enjoying what I read and enjoying my new Kindle Paperwhite. #blessed

Find me on goodreads if you like.

What are you currently reading?

Who Let The Blogs Out? Review

In the heyday of blogging, and the year (2004) Facebook first launched, Who Let The Blogs Out? was published. Author Biz Stone’s answer was, of course, bloggers, along with the early pioneers of the first blogging platforms. Blogging meant anyone could post anything, since it enabled the masses to publish online and en masse, which coalesced into the blogosphere. I enjoyed reading about blogging, from the view atop its pinnacle and in the rearview following the proliferation of social media.

The book covered both the big picture and the small details about blogging, such as: 

  • Its backstory 
  • How it was born 
  • How it grew 
  • What caused it to flourish 
  • Its effects on culture and society 
  • Its benefits 
  • Why blog 
  • Who blogs 
  • What to blog 
  • How to blog 

Biz Stone detailed what was likely the greatest impetus for the boon of blogging: the introduction of Blogger, one of the first of several blogging platforms, which was created by Evan Williams in 1999, later bought by Google in 2003, and is still alive and well today after 23 years.

The blog-o-what?

Stone pointed out how blogging enabled anyone to publish anything online because it didn’t require technical knowledge; “normal” people — who don’t know HTML, programming, or coding — could post online. This allowed more people to be on the internet, which expanded the world wide web.

He also rightly noticed that, besides individual blogs, there also emerged a natural interconnection between blogs through hyperlinking. This came to be known as the “blogosphere,” and the phenomenon of links was paramount:
“Hyperlinking is rooted not in technology but in our desire to make connections, learn, and share knowledge.” p9
“Links are the currency of the blogosphere.” p91
And on page 192:
“I propose a name for the intellectual cyberspace we bloggers occupy: the Blogosphere.” - William Quick, January 1, 2002
“The blogosphere is the network of blogs that lives within the World Wide Web — a web within a web — but it is more than documents and hyperlinks. Behind it all are many individuals who combine to form an aggregated entity with its own force; it is a new media ecosystem with a complex social culture based on knowledge, entertainment, and the sharing of ideas.”

What is blogging?

Biz defined and described blogs and blogging:
“A blog is a collection of digital content that, when examined over a period of time, exposes the intellectual soul of its author or authors… Blogging is the act of creating, composing, and publishing this content; and a blogger is the person behind the curtain.” p35
“Blogging is an information saturated lifestyle filled with contemplation and expression” p116
Stone went on to break down blogging into basic parts, and then he talked about something vital at its core,
“The real heart of a blog is that it represents a person — a blogger — whose thoughts, ideas, and commentary are being instant-messaged to the web as easily as they could an e-mail. p42–43
While reading these things, I couldn’t help but notice how much of what he described can also be seen in Twitter, which was co-founded by Blogger’s co-creator, Evan Williams, who later also co-founded Medium.

Blogging as social networking

Most fascinating to me, the author covered how blogging relates to social media, as some of its seeds are found in blogging. At the time the book was published, social media was nascent. Biz wrote on page 100 that social networking was inferior to blogging but had great potential. In comparison, he said blogging has been “the ultimate network tool for quite some time now.”

About blogrolling, a popular feature on blogs, Biz said on pages 101–102 that while social networking sites let you add friends, blogrolling was more significant because it represented an “intellectual attraction” and was more thoughtful than a friending or dating service.

Besides blogrolling, he also discussed how commenting and comment moderation, a feature initially absent from blogs, allowed more direct interaction between bloggers, giving blogs a more social aspect.

“…blogging is a naturally occurring social network based on intellectual attraction.” p192

Other blogging points

One topic that severely dates the book is called, “Moblogging” or mobile blogging. Before the advent of smartphones, flip phones had started to introduce rudimentary cameras and limited connectivity. On pages 128–129, Biz talked about the potential of mobile camera phones with web access for mobile blogging of info via text and photos. What he described was prescient, knowing how far technology has advanced since then; all the author wrote has come true and then some!

On blog design, Biz listed two keys, that blogs be easily readable and navigable. He also addressed how a blog’s design uniquely represents a person’s character or personality in some ways. The layout, theme, colors, fonts, icons, images, and even the particular widgets or gagdets in a sidebar all combine in a particular style suited to the blogger.

I point out that this contrasts greatly with social media profiles where everyone’s looks mostly the same, so it’s an aspect of blogging I greatly appreciate. And when the distinct look and feel of a blog is coupled with a blogger’s unique voice written in posts, the richness of blogging shines.

Chapter five discussed the importance of blogging in, by, and for businesses. Chapter six talked about the rise and influence of political blogs, called “warblogging” soon after 9/11. It also covered how blogging affected the educational industry and journalism. Finally, chapter seven talked about how blog posts went viral, in a time before there were “like” and “share” buttons made popular by social media and its network effects.

Summarizing stuff

Some concluding quotes and tidbits:
“Blogging kickstarted a revolution in hyperconnectivity and communication via the web — it was the spark of life that the Internet was missing.” p221
Blogging made the web not just readable but also writeable. And it flourished at a time when both social media networking and social bookmarking sites were in their infancy. The blogosphere then was more social or better networked than early social media.

I thoroughly enjoyed Who Let The Blogs Out? Its detailed content on blogging was historical, nostalgic, insightful, and in some points prescient since social media today is an ancestor of blogging and is partly based on the same foundational principles of the internet. I also like the book for its storytelling and presentation. Biz Stone wrote clearly, candidly, and used humor, like what you might find in a personal blog.

I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates web-surfing and the internet or has any interest in blogging or social media. Your call to action: read the book. :)

How Books Are Better On Consoles

What if I told you there is a game console for books? I don’t mean you can shove a paperback into the cartridge slot of a game system and play it. I’m talking about a single purpose device designed to do one thing, but instead of playing games, it’s dedicated to reading books.

The digital gadget for such wordplay is the…eReader.

The Book Console

As I rediscovered my Kindle Paperwhite recently, with the joy of long-form reading, I realized something about it for the first time. Besides being a unique kind of gadget, the reason I like it so much is because it’s tailor-made for book reading. It excels at what it does, which makes reading books super easy.

To get a better idea, consider the comparison: as a game console is to a computer, so is an eReader to a tablet.

A computer can play games well, but it also must take on many other tasks. It’s a system with much potential, which also means greater potential for failure. While it can be fun to geek out and tweak a gaming PC to play the latest first-person shooter at max settings, any number of variables can introduce a problem. Such a system requires more management or overhead to play games.

On the other hand, a game console, like the classic Nintendo Entertainment System, is a simplified and laser-focused gaming machine. It removes the many error-prone variables of a gaming PC to create a system that just plays games. There’s almost nothing a player must do to set up. It’s the epitome of plug-n-play.

Likewise, a tablet, smartphone, or a computer can display eBooks for eReading. Text on a screen is kind of a solved problem. But those multipurpose devices are also saddled with other tasks. This can cause distraction for a reader. And like a gaming PC, a tablet — though it’s a simplified computer — is still more complicated than an eReader and is likely more prone to technical issues.

An eReader, though, is much simpler than a tablet; it does one or two things. So I know what I’m going to do with my Kindle every time I pick it up. It’s so focused on book reading that it’s like picking up an actual book, whereas grabbing a tablet or smartphone is like picking up a slot machine for internet access, an entertainment hub, and a communicator all at the same time. At best, a tablet is an eReader with a split personality.

eReaders are like consoles. They make reading eBooks more accessible than other multipurpose devices do, which results in a simple and fulfilling experience. Like the Nintendo systems I’ve owned, which yell, “gameplay,” my Kindle always says, “bookread” (or something like that).

I’ll mention that when compared to either a tablet or an eReader, an actual physical book would be best for the purest reading experience. That said, I prefer eBooks for their added digital benefits.

All this is also another way to extol the virtues of single-purpose devices versus their multipurpose counterparts. After you weigh the pros and cons of them, you pick your preference. For me, a dedicated book console (eReader) is the best way to read eBooks. Its dedicated design is what allows for the best feature of eReading…eInk. And even if a tablet had full-color eInk, it would still also have the myriad of other features that can pull one out of a good book.

A tablet is a slab of glass that can become anything, such as a book. But fancy tablets have a tendency of becoming video playback devices or web browsers more than they do books, at least in my hands. An eReader, though, is a book from the moment I pick it up. My brain is already prepared to dive into a good read as soon as my eyes look for my Kindle. Such is the focus and fulfillment of a single-purpose book console.

Do you prefer to pick up a book, an eReader, or a tablet for reading?

Newest Kindle Ticks The Right Boxes

Alright, time to talk Paperwhite. And time to upgrade some tech! Recently I shared that I had ditched my Kindle Paperwhite and switched to Apple Books for all my eReading needs, but then in the last week I rediscovered my Kindle and rekindled my long-form reading. That’s all good, but greater still is the newest Kindle, which ticked all the right boxes I wish-listed years ago.

In my “Top Kindle Wishes” I shared in June 2020, I discussed several things I wanted to see Amazon bring to the Kindle, which would cause me to upgrade. Well, Amazon delivered. Basically, my wishes came true, so I plan to upgrade. My Paperwhite, released June 2015 (3rd gen. PW, 7th gen. Kindle), will move aside for the one released November 2021 (a 5th gen. PW but 11th gen. Kindle, I think).

Here are the wishes I listed in 2020:
  1. USB-C - the old Kindle uses Micro USB, but nearly all my other devices use USB-C, which is reversible.
  2. Waterproof - the newer Kindle at the time I wrote my wishlist was already waterproof, and that’s definitely a worthwhile upgrade from my current one.
  3. 7” screen - previously, this was only on the Kindle Oasis, not the Paperwhite. But now the PW has a 6.8” screen, so more words fit on a page yet it looks to remain easy to hold in one hand.
  4. Faster CPU - either the CPU is better or the eInk tech is better or both, but reviews say that the newest Paperwhite is faster in menus, turning pages, and all else.
  5. Wireless charging - this is available on the newest “Signature Edition” version of the Paperwhite. I wouldn’t go for this, but it’s nice to see it come to pass.
  6. Warm Light - you can now adjust the color temp warmer on Kindle for more eye comfort, day or night.
  7. Dark Mode - this was not on my list before, but the newer Paperwhites have Dark Mode for white text on a black background. I think when combined with the subtle glow light at night in bed, there will be even less brightness in the eyes, allowing easy reading for me and easy sleeping for my wife.
  8. Book Covers - the newer Kindles (sans ads) now allow the cover of the book currently being read to appear on the display when in standby. Excellent, and something I did wish for.
That’s seven great reasons (omit wireless charging) for me to upgrade my current Kindle Paperwhite, which Amazon still supports. I’ll trade it in, hand it down to one of my kids, or keep it for backup.The holy grail of eReaders, though, is to finally get color eInk for:
  1. Colored highlights
  2. Colored comics/manga
  3. Colored book cover art
Color eInk is the last feature I can think of on my wishlist that would cause me to upgrade. I guess Amazon is waiting for the technology to be optimized and more affordable. It’s likely to be a feature that first comes to Amazon’s most expensive eReaders, like the Kindle Voyage, Oasis, or whatever they call it. Then in time, color eInk would trickle down to the Paperwhite, which would then be renamed to the Papercolor? Oh, I got it, the Kindle Kolor!

One more thing that’d be nice are physical page turn buttons. I’m fine without them, but they would be nice to have on a Paperwhite.

Do you have eReader wishes?

Kindle Rekindled Again

I’m not reading books on Kindle anymore, because…Apple!

I said something like that in late 2020 after getting a new-to-me iPhone. I dove headlong into the Apple camp — nice walled-garden that it is — and decided it was natural to simply use Apple Books on iPhone to read eBooks. So my Kindle Paperwhite sat in a drawer for 18 months, untouched. Until last week.

I stumbled upon an article by Jason Snell over at Six Colors where he reviewed the newest Kindle along with some Kobo eReaders. If anyone is “all-in” on Apple stuff, it’d be Jason Snell. Surprisingly, he eReads not on Apple Books or iPad. Instead, he was all about the Kindle. Then he switched…but not to Apple Books; he switched from Kindle to Kobo!

Why would a dedicated Apple fan not use Apple Books to read? The app is built-in, it’s elegant, and it has all the features one might need. Because Apple devices, excellent as they are, lack one key eReading feature:


I know, right? The high-yet-low-tech feature is what makes digital books resemble paper books as much as possible. If you read long-form content, even if only casually, an eInk display is best. Apple makes excellent displays, but Retina resolution, Wide P3 Color Gamut, ProMotion, and Fully-Laminated Glass are not enough to top the paper-like quality of eInk text.

Over the last year or two, I focused on playing “long-form” content in the medium of role-playing video games…and neglected reading books. So even though I switched from Kindle to Apple Books on my iPhone and iPad, I didn’t read much at all.

Now I’ve rediscovered both my Kindle and long-form reading at the same time; I’m resuming my fondness for reading good books. That means I’ll pause my gaming sometimes, which is fine.

I just re-read Glenn Reynold’s very short booklet, “The Social Media Upheaval,” on my Kindle. My favorite eReader updated its software — nice — but the simple eInk text is as wonderful as ever.

Now I’m reading a longer book, “Who Let The Blogs Out?” It’s in physical paperback form instead of an eBook — unfortunately — but it’s a great read so far. The point is, I’m back into long slow reading, going deep into a subject or story. It’s a world of difference from scanning hundreds of news headlines or skimming hundreds of Tweets.

Suffice to say, I’m happy and enthusiastic — ecstatic? — about rediscovering the joy of eReading with my Kindle. And there’s more. I have the 3rd gen. version, but the 5th gen. version is available and has the upgrades I’ve wanted. But that’s for another post.

Do you read books on Kindle? And are eBooks book replacements or book enhancements?

Who Let The Blogs Out?

This week, I found an old book (copyright 2004) about blogging by Biz Stone, who helped create Xanga nearly two decades ago. Amazon was selling the paperback for $5 so I grabbed it.

Through reading it, I hope to find a good bit of blogging history and gain a better idea how the popular weblog and blogosphere were understood and appreciated between blogging’s infancy and adolescence — or its height in the internet zeitgeist.

The book was written around the time Google bought Blogger, so I hope it sheds light on that in some way (my first blog, with Blogger, was circa 2006). And if nothing else, I think it will be worthwhile to absorb some of Biz Stone’s mind about one of my favorite hobbies. 

I’ve mentioned a blogging renaissance before, and I hope this book will spur me further to call for a blogging resurgence. For all of social media’s convenience, I still think most people would be better without it and should rely on good old-fashioned blogging instead. The web itself is the social network.

Do you remember blogging in its heyday?

Books Gave Way To Games

We’re about half-way through 2021. I figure it’s a good time to check on my annual reading challenge. I set the bar at the bottom, one book per month for a total of 12. So how am I doing so far? I’m sitting solid at one. Which is better than zero. Yeah, I’m not gonna make my goal this year. But it’s not for lack of stories, oh no. I’ve been reading plenty of fiction…through video games. True, that doesn’t count, really. Yet I’m getting my escapism either way. So there’s that.

There are many books on my to-read shelf. Good ones. But I’m focused on my backlog — all the games on my to-play shelf. And the ones I love most are role-playing games, the kind that devour time. If I were rocketing to Mars on a months-long journey, I’d take RPGs instead of books.

RPGs, the best ones, have engrossing stories. And text. Lots of text. I read it all, even though these days, most of the dialogue is spoken by voice actors. So I’m “reading” fiction, sure. But as mentioned, I know it’s not the same as a book, which makes the imagination conjure every sight and sound in a story. But I’m cool with that.

Maybe I could squeeze a good read into my schedule, at least a short one. But I don’t think taking only one hour a day for reading would work out too well. I’d be stretched too thin, like the last sliver of ice in tea. No, I prefer a simpler to-do list, one focused on a stack of RPGs to grind through with glee.

I’m now about 62 hours into Dragon Quest XI S on my Switch — a superb RPG, one of the best. And based on average play-throughs (main game plus extras), that means I’ve clocked around 2/3s of the game. I estimate it’s a 100 hour affair. Seriously, that’s 50 2-hour movies for just $45 (the price I paid at Walmart). I doubt $45 worth in books would get me 100 hours of reading.

All that said, I’m sure I’ll return to book reading. It will likely occur when a new must-read book debuts. I also can’t escape the general doctrine that book reading is a healthier endeavor for the mind than gaming. And sometimes, I just feel like reading a simple short story in a book. Until such time, my RPG backlog beckons. So I’ll keep mashing those buttons.

Not Up To The Reading Challenge

Today, I’m here to talk about books or the lack thereof. Every year, I eagerly join the goodreads annual reading challenge. My goal is often simple, just one book per month. Twelve books in a year is feasible. But so far in 2021, I’m behind.

I did manage to start strong, having read a book in January. But since then, my bookish trend nosedived. Or is it nosedove? Anyways. Now, near the end of March, I should be about 3 books done, but I’m still at one. One and undone.

So what’s up?

Oh, I’m reading a lot. Mostly stuff on the web. Nothing long, no fiction. Well, actually, my real focus has been on a different form of media entertainment: video games. I’m focused on role-playing games, which typically are very story driven. That means I’ve been reading fiction, sort of.

No worries though.

We all have backlogs of sorts: a list of video games to play, a pile of books on our to-read list, or a stack of movies to see on our watch-list. It’s quite a privilege and a luxury to have so much entertainment queued up!

Escapism is easy to run to.

Well, I certainly am not too concerned. I go through phases anyways. I’ll watch movies constantly for a while. Then I’ll read book after book. Next, I’ll immerse into gaming. Other times, I only surf the web, fall in a YouTube rabbit hole, or even focus on fitness or house projects instead.

I might dust off my book-reading habit eventually. But I intend to keep enjoying RPG video games because they’re one of my faves of all amusements. That said, I am very interested in trying out LitRPGs. This genre of fiction is written in a style like an RPG game. I might even try writing one…someday.

Kicked My Kindle To The Curb

Hey, what’s your fave device to read eBooks on? Mine has been Amazon’s kindle, especially the Paperwhite. I’ve talked about its advantages over other options before. But I changed my mind (surprise), deciding to embrace only Apple Books. Yet this move isn’t totally practical, like shopping only at Target instead of Walmart.

As mentioned, I’ve waved the kindle/eReader flag here:

eReaders Are Not Dead
The Kindle Rekindled
Digital Bookstore Conundrum
Torn Between Two eReaders

But here’s the deal. Last November, after living on an Android phone for several months, I switched back to iPhone and went all-in with Apple. Again. (I do that!)

One area I decided to fully embrace Apple was in the eBook department. And I didn’t really even think about it. Like, I had zero qualms with ditching the kindle cold turkey even though it’s great and I love it.

I just thought, ya know,

  • The Apple Books app is really nice
  • It’s built-into my iPhone
  • The book covers are all in color
  • My phone is always with me for reading anytime, anywhere
  • Buying eBooks on my iPhone is easier via Apple Books than kindle

No, I don’t think strictly in bullet-point list format. It just helps to type that way.

Anyways, it all boils down to simplicity, elegance, and convenience. That’s why it struck me so easily and quickly to ditch my kindle and switch to Apple Books.

It just makes plain sense.

Sure, reading on a phone, even a phablet, isn’t the best. But it’s not bad at all. Besides that, I plan to get an iPad this year. The larger screen will let Apple Books shine brighter.

Even though it’s simple, this is a profound change, especially if I stick with it. I tried using only Apple Books on my iPad Air 2 not long ago but wound up back on kindle.

So how practical is it to only read eBooks outside the kindle-verse?

Well, even though I had chosen Apple Books exclusively for both buying and reading eBooks, I then bought a new eBook…on kindle! Okay, I got it on Amazon’s kindle store (because it wasn’t available on Apple Books) and I read it in the kindle app on my iPhone; I didn’t touch the Paperwhite for this. I guess it was sort of a compromise.

Can you imagine what it’d be like if you bought a physical hardback at Target but then you were not allowed to enter Walmart with it? Too bad you can’t simply read a kindle eBook in Apple Books. Maybe they should be called kBooks… Anyways, I digress.

Let me leave you with this. I found an article where someone else recently chose to settle on Apple Books over kindle. At least I’m not the only one!

Bradley Chambers writes,

“I was not too fond of the purchasing process on iOS for Kindle.”

Uh, yeah. That’s for sure. If you want to buy a kindle book in the kindle app on an iPhone, sorry, not gonna happen! While technically possible, it’s not an available option. I call that user-unfriendly. Apple and Amazon should sort this out, for the user.

Basically, everything in Bradley’s article is something I can echo here; you should read it.

The biggest reason for a kindle eReader is the eInk display. The biggest reason for the kindle eBook store is the vast selection. Can I live (mostly) without those?

Cutting The Track Review

A new year, a new annual reading challenge. As usual, I’m sticking with my one book per month goal at a minimum, so 12 books to read this year. And I’m happy to say I just finished my first one! So I’m on track. Speaking of, this first bit of fiction is called, Cutting The Track, by Cheri Baker.

Fresh off the digi-press, the book was released last week, January 22nd, on Amazon’s kindle. I pre-ordered it…and did not read it on my kindle! Instead, I devoured this one in the kindle app on my iPhone phablet. And despite the lack of e-ink, my eyes did not bug out of their sockets. Whad’ya know? I decided to move from the kindle to Apple’s Books app anyways because, well, it’s Apple! Call me a fanboy. But that’s another story.

Cutting The Track is number four in the Kat Voyzey series, a cozy mystery genre. The series is one of several I’ve read by Cheri Baker. Like all of them, Cutting The Track is a quick read. I’ve come to love that about Baker’s short yarns. Chapters are brief and to the point, allowing for fast sessions in-between life-tasks and to-dos. Also, it’s easy to read just…one…more…chapter!

A cozy mystery is cozy because it typically avoids things like sex scenes or graphic gore. This one’s cozy-enough. It contains some expletives and suggested sex scenes (no real details). And there’s nothing violent or grotesque. I’m not one who can stomach a real murder mystery, and I generally don’t like horror.

The writing is tight, but not too much. Settings, action, and characters are all described well without being verbose or flowery. There’s good character development, and the overall pacing is done well. Dialogue is natural, it flows and isn’t forced. Action scenes are fitting, not overdrawn.

The story (without spoilers) is believable. The roller-derby theme was interesting but not ground-breaking. The video gaming references, for this geek, were sweet! The mystery part, though, might be not-so-mysterious (more on this at the end).

Kat Voyzey is a new private investigator. Being new at her job, the story rightly depicts her lack of skill and confidence at points. In turn, it also shows Kat’s character grow in her new role as a PI.

I really appreciate how the story, written in the first person, interjected Kat’s internal struggles. More than once, she wrestles a bit with the ethics of her job that requires some level of privacy invasion. Other weighty issues or themes include sexual harassment, trust, and justice. I think these are all treated well within the context of the story as its events unfold.

There’s some nice juxtaposition too, intentional or not. Without giving anything away, on one hand, a gross character turns out to have some redeeming quality, however small. But on the other hand, a polite character hides debilitating traits. This goes to show that, however trite, you can never judge a person’s character at face value; there’s always more beneath the surface.

This is something I like about Baker’s stories. I have a tough time deciding if they’re more plot driven or character driven. She has a knack for writing true-to-life characters, not mere cookie-cutter stereotypes.

The story has a flare of girl-power to it, which isn’t a bad thing. But the reason I gave this Kat Voyzey book 3 stars instead of 4 is because of the change in Kat’s character with her new PI role.

In the first three books, to me, Kat’s most endearing qualities were her spunk and somewhat clumsy awkwardness. And she was even more of “the underdog.” She had a different job with different demands or restrictions, which affected her character.

But now that she’s a PI, she seems more serious. In fact, she kind of started to resemble Jessica Warne, the MC from Cheri Baker’s other fiction series, Emerald City Spies. That one has a darker tone. Kat Voyzey’s stories have been more light-hearted, but book 4 felt less so.

Overall, I liked reading this book, and I will be glad to read a 5th one in the series. I’m interested to see Kat’s career grow. But I hope the next one will focus more on the mystery.

While the denouement of book 4 was on par for Baker’s writing, meaning nicely done, the mystery itself was weaker this round. There were different leads to follow up, different suspects to scrutinize, and dead-ends. But it lacked a good twist or surprise ending. Not great, but certainly not a deal-breaker.

If you want a good read, you won’t go wrong with Cutting The Track. It’s got fun parts, touches on meaningful themes, has interesting characters, and is easy to jump-in and read through. Even if you haven’t read the first three books, Kat Voyzey book four is like a fresh start in the series. I recommend it.

The Case Of The Lady In The Luggage Review

When you go on a cruise, you expect fun and relaxation. Not murder. But for Ellie Tappet, well, it’s truly a mystery why death always finds a cozy life around her. So it is in this 4th book, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage. Once again, Ellie’s sleuthing and relationship skills take charge. Whodunnit this time? Here’s my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

Story And Atmosphere

If you’ve read any of the previous Ellie Tappet books, you know what to expect here. It’s all good clean amateur detective work. No horror, nothing graphic or lewd, no cussin’. This story is about as comfy and cozy as can be for a murder mystery. And as always, I love how light and quick it is to pick up and read, especially in bite-sized pieces.

Want to breeze through a weekend while avoiding bad reports from the news media in real life? Easy! Grab this book and you’re cruisin’.

The story is also a wholesome one since it focuses more on Ellie’s relationships than previous stories in the series. I thought it was the huggiest of all – there are hugs happening almost every chapter it seems. It makes for an uplifting mood, something totally worth escaping into.

There’s also more drama in this story to accompany the cozy mystery. One character from the past, Violet, has quite a bit of relational baggage, which plays into the plot and keeps things interesting.

Character Developments

Among the several returning cast members, Ellie’s story-arc is best. Her character is challenged as she has more authority than before and must balance between taking charge and being overbearing. She also shows new open-minded growth, learning to work with people who are different from her. It brings a good level of maturity to the story.

There’s also levity and cuteness with a little girl aboard, Clara. She’s a precocious karate kid – don’t cross her! Her presence punctuates the story with glee.

Another new character, who I really liked, was a British guy named Julian. His was a refreshing personality. The writing of his dialogue really brought him to life and was very well done. I’d enjoy seeing him in future stories as he brought nice contrast to the returning characters.

So, yeah, I’d say this story is more character driven than plot driven.

The Mystery

Early on, I thought I had a clue as to whodunnit. As usual, I was wrong. Like the first three Ellie Tappet novels, you can expect this one to offer clues or info along the way that may or may not be obvious and will keep you guessing.

I must admit that one of the main antagonists, Murray the Magician, made me think that some elaborate illusion would be key to unraveling the story’s secrets: the who and why and how of the murder. But nope; I was tricked.

In the end, while loose lips sink ships, in this story, they keep things afloat. Want the truth to come out? Use alcohol. Works every time.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of Cheri Baker’s writing is the wrap-up at the end. Story-arcs, relationships, and the various plots are always tied-up with a nice bow. Closure is satisfying and complete. There’s heart in it, not just duty bound “i” dotting and “t” crossing.


Overall, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage was a delightfully easy story to enjoy; it made for a relaxing weekend.

I read the novel on my iPhone in the Apple Books app. It was a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). You can purchase a retail copy, now available.

This cruise ship cozy mystery is a recommended bit of escapism. And now’s a great time to read this short book for your annual reading goal. Even with busy holidays, this one’s easy to pick up and get into.

Rating on goodreads: 3 stars.

For more of Cheri Baker’s books, check out her website here.

Ready For Ready Player Two

This is interesting. Over the Summer, I read many books – ‘twas a season of readin’. Then I turned to role playing video games for stories – gaming! Now these two forms of escapism are coming together in another way: Ready Player Two.

A new book by Ernest Cline releases in just a few weeks, on November 24, 2020. Ready Player Two is a sequel to Ready Player One, which spawned a movie that, somehow, I’ve yet to watch.

In case you missed it, the story in book one is heavy on video gaming, virtual reality, and 1980’s nostalgia. Fun, sci-fi, action…what’s not to like?

The big question in anticipation is, will book two be as good as the first?

If nothing else, it’s solid escapism to look forward to. We’ll wait and see. I have already pre-ordered my kindle copy and will likely post a review here, on goodreads, and Amazon.

With the holiday season kicking off next month, I think this new fun book will be a great start! Check out Ready Player Two on goodreads. Some put it in the genre LitRPG. Like, a role-playing game…in a book?! NICE!

I must say, how can I not be a fan of the author? He’s a full-time geek, and he lives in my state of Texas. From his bio on goodreads,

“Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.”

Power Play Review

Escapism has many forms, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this next one. With the privilege of a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), I thoroughly enjoyed the book, Power Play, by Cheri Baker. Swiping the e-pages as fast as my little brain could absorb the words, I hit 100% in just over a few days. And what follows is my 99.9% spoiler-free review. I paused my video game for this.

The Story

This second book in the Emerald City Spies trilogy, Power Play, is cold yet sparkling spy-craft. It takes the groundwork laid in book one and builds a solidly written plot driven story.

It’s set in a drizzly cut-throat Seattle business scene. In this noir-ish book, the ambitious assistant, Jessica Warne, sees more of the truth about her prestigious yet ruthless job, a truth that hurts more than she could imagine.

Yes, there are surprises and secrets!

Her employer, The Duke Agency, promised the world, yet her world begins to close in. Will Jessica grow, will she even survive, in the shadow of a shady business? Are the rewards worth the costs?

Relationships are strained, bent, or in extreme cases broken. Familiar people from book one are here: Taylor, Andy, Cody, Carma, Lisa, Dana to name a few. There are new victims or victors too, like Wyatt and Priya.

Jessica, a.k.a Dollface, wrestles with lies versus discretion, subterfuge or subversion, and industrial or corporate espionage. Besides utilizing cool surveillance technology, Jess plays on emotions and hones her manipulative technique. But she also gets played and manipulated herself.

The city of Seattle does not play fair.

Emerald City Spies book one, The Assistant, was filled with tension, which never felt properly or fully released. Book two, Power Play, has tension, but there’s more stress and duress too. It feels like book one’s tense set-up is expressing itself in book two with higher stakes and greater risks.

If The Assistant was a yellow light of caution, Power Play is a red light of danger.

One of my first thoughts early on: you must read book one, The Assistant, to fully understand and really appreciate what Baker has written in book two, Power Play. Jessica and the supporting characters make more sense and have more meaningful impact; I can’t imagine liking Power Play as much as I did had I not first read The Assistant.

Also, there’s a pivotal plot point in book one that plays heavily into Power Play.

What I like about Power Play is Jessica Warne’s character because she shows much more strength. Her will and resolve feel more deeply settled. She’s not only ambitious but also resilient.

My eyes widened when I saw Jessica make a dramatic decision late in the story. You feel for her and more! It’s a raw, gripping scene, visceral in the way you see the emotional manifest in the physical.

Cody’s character has grown too. Before, he felt like mere tech and moral support. But his role now has more heart as he protects Jessica.

The Writing

Power Play is a well written book on its own, better than the first. If you read only one of the two books, I would recommend it over The Assistant. The pacing and plotting feel much better this time. The writing feels tighter, not wasting words.

It’s written in the third-person, with many short chapters you can snack on during a break. They’re like chips; it’s easy to say, “Just one more!” With a clear schedule, you could comfortably read the book over a weekend. (For ambiance, this story may best be read on a rainy day with a cup of coffee.)

Power Play is more mature than The Assistant, which made it more enjoyable to me. If it was a movie, book two would be rated stricter than book one. So maybe PG–13 over PG.

Throughout, the dialogue is clear, punchy at times, and believable. The story has good action scenes too. More than once, I was hooked to see how Jessica would pull off some tricky maneuvers.

There are memorable scenes, like the office party and the house party. They offer more interpersonal tension compared to Jessica’s solo spy scenes in an empty building. In all cases, the look and feel of the environment is described well enough so you are fully immersed. That good writing makes good escapism.

The book isn’t 5-stars to me because two chapters on familial connection and scheming felt boring or necessary. And the ending of the story lacks full closure and denouement because – cliffhanger! But that’s the nature of a trilogy, so it’s expected.

But yeah, I am for sure gonna grab book three when it’s available.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars!

Thanks for reading my review; now go read Power Play!

Book release date: September 10, 2020.

The Assistant Review

What happens when you put a young principled person in a shady job? Tension, lots of it. This is what Jessica Warne constantly encounters in The Assistant, an Emerald City Spies novel by Cheri Baker. And this is my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

Before I jump into the story itself, here’s some background. Spy novels are not my typical genre. But I have read all of Cheri Baker’s other books, which are Cozy Mysteries. One thing they all have in common: they’re short and easy to read, great for escaping reality or taking a break from binging Netflix. But I liked a key difference: The Assistant’s lack of coziness.

The Story

The setting is Seattle, a city driven by capitalism. And the protagonist, Jessica Warne, is a driven young woman, independent almost to a fault. Ambition plays a big part throughout the story. And at the outset, you read the catalyst – unemployment – that thrusts Jessica into the main plot line. She must get a job!

This premise is instantly relatable, but the job Jessica ends up with is far more interesting than your typical nine-to-five! It’s mysterious and shady. Throughout the book, it’s obvious something is up, many ‘somethings’ actually, and you keep wondering what it all leads to.

What is the true nature of Jessica’s employment? And how far is she willing to go to find out? What is moral, ethical, or legal?

As Jessica is put to the test over and over, her character remains consistent to the end. At first, I thought this apparent lack of progress was a problem. Her story-arc seems flat rather than showing growth. Her strengths remain largely the same, as do her weaknesses, which she kind of learns to squelch.

But then I realized that instead of evolving, she avoids devolving. Her progress is measured in a lack of regress. When challenged by the external conflict of the job, the internal conflict Jessica goes through forces her to make many decisions with high stakes. Above all, she never backs down but perseveres.

Nevertheless, Jessica does exhibit some growth. Early on she is literally outfitted for the job; she looks confident but feels inadequate. Yet by the end of the narrative, Jessica gains confidence in her abilities in more ways than one. She not only shows that she can do the job, she also can do the right thing. Success for Jessica is not selling her soul to the devil for an obscene salary.

The overarching sense of the book is tension! A story can’t exist without conflict. The Assistant provides lots of both the external and internal variety.

The Writing

As I’ve found in Baker’s other books, scenes and settings are described clearly, most characters are fleshed out well, and you often sense everything because Baker doesn’t tell you what’s happening, she shows you. You are drawn more into the story because you feel it, you’re in the action with the hero.

The Assistant is written in 3rd person rather than 1st; I found it engaging. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a story is character driven or plot driven; this one seemed to be more plot driven.

The pacing was mostly good, but the 3rd quarter felt monotonous as Jessica and one other character, Cody, seemed to dominate the main plot with training, gadgets, and more on-the-job-training.

Likes And Dislikes

There is, to me, a downside of this book. The main plot is clung to so closely that other teased side plots are neglected or abandoned. There were interesting minor plot points that I thought would go further. But it seems they only served to help develop the main plot or Jessica’s character. Fair enough, I suppose.

One example is the relationship, or lack thereof, between Andy and Taylor. Nothing happened! Early on in chapter 3, it’s obvious that Taylor, Jessica’s friend, is more than a little interested in Andy, Jessica’s boyfriend. Later in chapter 18, there’s a situation where you think this could go further, but it doesn’t. Also, Jessica and Andy’s relationship, while challenged, does not develop as much as I’d hoped.

Another example involves Taylor’s Dad. I thought his poor relationship to Taylor and Jessica would play into the story more, but it didn’t really. It explained the background of the two girls’ living situation to amplify their predicament and thus increase tension in the story.

Then there’s Cody. When you first meet him, you find out he’s got emotional baggage related to some heavy stuff. So you suspect this will be at least a minor plot point later on, but it turned out underutilized if you ask me.

In the latter half of the story, when you finally see the big shady thing Jessica must do, the actual task is relatively easy. There’s a quandary, Jessica has minor scruples, and that’s about it. Based on her strong character and ambitious desire to climb the ranks and make the big bucks, I am a bit surprised she didn’t hesitate less.

Shortly thereafter, you discover some truth…but by this point it was not much of a surprise. And when even more info is revealed, you realize things are pretty convoluted. The ending unfolds with revelation but omits good closure. This was disappointing.

And there was at least one event (Lance’s date with a woman) that left me with unanswered questions. Also, the ending was basically a cliff-hanger, raising new questions without another page to turn to, for now.

I felt like some of the drama was anticlimactic. The built-up tension felt gently eased off instead of suddenly released.


Despite some downsides to the story, which I gave a 3-star rating on goodreads, I liked it enough to look forward to the next book in the series, Power Play.

The overall tension is the highlight of The Assistant. It kept me turning the pages. The world-building met my expectations. Carma is a character I hope returns. I want to see how far Jessica goes in her career and in her personal relationships, and I hope they somehow get entangled in her work! Now that would raise the stakes even more.

Seattle, the Emerald City, is a tough nut to crack. Jessica Warne did it, she got into a lucrative job. But will she crack? Or will she persevere and discover more about her employer and its clients? I will read on to find out.

Hatching Twitter Review

Ah, Twitter. A cultural centerpiece for controversial “conversation.” Or a minuscule micro-blog masquerading as major social-media. Whichever. Don’t “@” me. #justsayin

But really, Twitter is something. You weigh its intrinsic pros and cons, you evaluate how it affects you personally, you see its impact on society, and you decide to use it or you don’t.

After reading The Social Media Upheaval, I felt like deleting Twitter! Then I read the book on how it started, Hatching Twitter, and felt like joining the conversation! #feelings #lovehate

No matter how I feel or think about Twitter, I can tell you that I loved reading its origin story! #goodread

If you’re intrigued by how something so big started off so small, discovering behind-the-scene details, then you’ll no doubt enjoy Hatching Twitter, written by Nick Bilton. Simply put, it’s the nitty gritty of the circumstances that gave birth and growth to the online grapevine where anyone can say what kind of donut they’re eating or share breaking news of global importance. #whatever

While Twitter is borne of nerdy internet wizardry, this book is less about technology and much more about people and their relationships. And the resulting drama in Twitter’s formative years is like some grand Shakespearean legend. #gripping

You’ll read about humanity’s greatest traits: use, abuse, trust, betrayal, back-stabbing, coveting, greed, manipulation, generosity, talent, creativity, loneliness, friendship, ambition, serendipity, hustle, careers, unemployment, stress, and also stress, and then some more stress. #life

The writing is straight-forward, the pacing is fast, and the facts are eye-opening.

Okay, so this book was easy for me to get into because it begins with one of the founders of Twitter, Ev Williams. It starts when he helped create a popular web service before social networking was even a thing, Blogger. And I happen to really like blogging, so, you know… #blogging

One thing that stands out about Ev Williams is his idealism (e.g. #freespeech), which inspires his noble ventures. The problem is that ideals are corrupted by competing realities. This is…less than ideal…but it sure does make for some good drama!

Another noteworthy item about Hatching Twitter is the classic truth that success in life is often based not just on what you know but who you know. It’s one thing to be a coder; that will get you into Silicon Valley. But to get into one of the tech companies, especially a start-up, it helps to rub elbows with the elite tech-savvy.

Social-networking online, after all, begins with networking offline.

But what makes the creation of Twitter so dramatic is the fact that the nerds are more than professional co-workers, they’re friends. Much more is on the line.

The historical narrative account in Hatching Twitter overflows with tech details and little stories that are surprising and remarkable, like when Snoop Dogg got Twitter employees to smoke weed during work hours in the office. #forreal

Despite the chaotic nature of Twitter’s story, Nick Bilton laid out all the parts neatly and then wrapped up the book with nice closure of all the founders’ lives along with some life lessons learned.

The attraction of this story is a feeling of connection to the people as you are swept up in their drama, turmoil, resolve, success, and failures. You share all the same feelings, but theirs are amplified because of their elevated status in the public sphere. So you are drawn into a book that’s hard to put down. #unputdownable

I highly recommend this book; gave it a 5-star rating on goodreads!

Darth Plagueis Review

Howdy, readers! It took me 7 years to finish reading a book… So I’m not the World’s Greatest Reader. I’m just glad I picked it back up and restarted my first Star Wars novel. It’s a great read! And this is my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

The Story

Remember the Star Wars movie prequels? Yes, the ones most people try to forget. In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine – aka Darth Sidious – tells Anakin Skywalker a little backstory about a previous Sith Lord named, Darth Plagueis.

That Plagueis story-tease has always intrigued me. I wanted Palpatine to tell the whole thing! As it turns out, in the expanded universe of Star Wars, the backstory of Darth Plagueis was told! The story-teller is author James Luceno.

You’ll never guess the name of the book: Darth Plagueis. It’s actually a subtle title because you might expect a boring biography of some fake Force wielding dude. But no. There’s much more to the story than just big bad-guy Plagueis.

The Force is with this book!

If you like Star Wars, then you’d like the story of Darth Plagueis, especially because it ties directly into the first three movies! It has characters you’re familiar with: Palpatine, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, Queen Amidala, and more. And it has new characters you might have heard of: Darth Bane, Darth Tenebrous, Darth Plagueis, and a lot more.

The story is steeped in the Dark Side of the Force. That’s the good part. The story is also steeped in politics; the bad part. But it’s not too bad.

Darth Plagueis has lots of action: spying, espionage, light sabers, force lightning, force chokes, running, hiding, sneaking, scheming, attacks, manipulation, scientific experiments, droid activity, cloning, midi-chlorians, life and death, etc. It’s all good stuff. It is the Star Wars universe you’ve come to know yet includes parts of the galaxy you don’t know.

What’s most fascinating about Darth Plagueis the book is how much the Force itself is a character, which is described in detail and nuance. You learn a lot about the subtle ways of the Force and its so-called dark side. Even better, you learn about it through the eyes of Darth Plagueis and Palpatine who are also learning as the story progresses. Plagueis delves deep, seeking the limits and true nature of the Force. I loved it!

This book is half about Plagueis. The other half is about Palpatine who becomes Darth Sidious. It’s basically the origin story of both Plagueis and his apprentice, Palpatine. The former focuses on the science and brute strength of the Force, the latter on the politics and people influenced by the Force. They are quite the dark side duo.

As you may know from the prequel movies, everything around Palpatine involves politics. There is a lot of political scheming and maneuvering in this story. That means following many names of people and places and the myriad connections between them all.

On some of those politi-parts, I admit I read faster to get through it because it was necessary political stuff. But some of it was extremely gripping! To watch Plagueis and Sidious masterfully manipulate important people around them was delectable.

Many characters involved were strong, high-ranking officials and magistrates with great power in the upper echelons of society. So there was often a feeling of high-stakes. Everything Plagueis and Palpatine did was delicate with great consequences, risky business.

Author James Luceno’s 3rd-person novel was written with cunning scenes and just-right tension building. His expanse of vocabulary was vast and varied throughout the book. Descriptions were precise, drawing me into settings on other worlds with alien beings. And the dialogue was tight. The overall tone was like sinister solemnity: Sithy.

Most importantly, as Palpatine mentioned in the movie Revenge of the Sith, you do read about how he was involved with the demise of Darth Plagueis. You’ll learn details of the greater context, the surrounding events, all leading up to the final moment. You feel the tension, the emotions, and the thinking behind it.

And rather than the story leading up to and ending right before the prequel movies, it actually overlaps quite a bit.

I really enjoyed my first Star Wars novel, Darth Plagueis. As I read, it was clear to me from the start that I’d found a new author I like. So I searched for other Star Wars books by James Luceno, trusting I’d find more good reads. And I did! Catalyst, a precursor to the Rogue One movie!

Luceno’s writing style is rich, and the story of Darth Plagueis is engaging Star Wars lore. If you’re a fan of a galaxy far, far away, then I recommend this book to you.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars.

The Social Media Upheaval Review

Like many, you’re probably weary of Facebook and Twitter. They’ve taken their toll on society. I know I’ve felt it. Their cultural influence is more bad than good; they need transformation. So I was stoked to find a concise booklet on the subject that resonated with me. After reading the first chapter, I felt like deleting Twitter!

As a blogger, my favorite parts of The Social Media Upheaval by Glenn Reynolds are at the beginning where the author contrasts early internet blogging with modern social media. He makes great points about their differences to show how blogging is a better form of digital communication. Pumps fists!

Along this line, Reynolds also contrasts social media with broadcast TV and radio to explain the problem with info transmission platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s because of the added interaction.

This non-fiction booklet is more like a really long blog post. You can read it in one sitting, take notes, and end up with a good idea of how social media should be transformed. And if you’re not already convinced that social media has caused upheaval or needs to be upheaved itself, you will be.

To that end, if you know someone who is unaware of the downsides of social media, this book might be worth handing to them. Maybe they’ve sensed a problem but can’t quite put their finger on it. This book shines the spotlight as needed.

The first part of the book focuses on the fundamental weaknesses of social media, that it’s:

  • Too Fast
  • Too Incomplete
  • Too Emotional
  • Too Untrustworthy

The second part of the book discusses the way to transform social media: Regulation. There are five types with pros and cons explained:

  1. End online anonymity
  2. Remove section 230 immunity
  3. Increase user scrutiny
  4. Increase content scrutiny
  5. Algorithmic transparency

But these types of regulation are content or speech regulation, which overall do not work well enough.

So in the third part of the book, the author proposes the only type of regulation that will work: Anti-Trust.

The arguments are straightforward and easy to understand. The author makes as clear a case I’ve heard. I’m convinced that policing speech on social media is a bad idea and that policing whole platforms by breaking them up into smaller ones is best.

I also agree with the author that social media can be safely ignored otherwise. We don’t need Facebook or Twitter to exist. The internet works fine without them, and society can too. Dismantling cancerous social media monoliths into small benign parts makes sense.

With increasing awareness of social media upheaval, in both the general public and mass media, and with recent gestures towards antitrust regulation in the federal government, I am hopeful that social media transformation will begin soon. It might start today!

Books like this one by Reynolds add fuel to the fire for social media reform. If you’re aware of other similar books, please let me know!

Goodreads rating: 5-stars.

The Everything Store Review

Do you remember shopping at Sears, K-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Hastings, or another recently bankrupt business? What happened? One answer is e-commerce. And what company represents that most? The prime example is Amazon. Because 2-day shipping!? Yeah, well, that’s part of it. But there’s much more. Read my 99.9% spoiler-free review of The Everything Store to find out!

Open For Business

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos And The Age Of Amazon is a book by Brad Stone that was on my to-read list for quite a long time. And a few weeks ago, I happened to notice on my kindle paperwhite that the book was on sale for just $3.99!

I snapped it up. Glad I did, too!

If you like Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, or books like Steven Levy’s Facebook: The Inside Story, then you will love Brad Stone’s The Everything Store.

Far more than mere fact-vomit, Stone’s book is written in true narrative style. Not only do you learn the data-points detailing the rise of Amazon, you know the story. Everyone loves a good story: this one is true!

The Everything Store is laid out chronologically except for a few key parts here and there. Author Brad Stone moves smoothly from one part to the next with transitional statements that clearly explain the overarching cause-effect relationships between each part.

To understand the growth and expansion of Amazon, Stone informs the reader of Bezos’ underlying principles that are core to his company vision. Stone also explains the surrounding context and culture that bring situational opportunities or restrictions affecting Amazon’s beginning, acceleration, contraction, and explosion.

The story is fast-paced during most of the book, with a few sections of slow-down so you can catch your breath and absorb the narrative.

Like any good read, this book has a colorful cast of real fleshed-out characters, the main protagonist being Jeff Bezos, co-founder of the company and CEO with a grand vision of “The Everything Store.”

And there’s conflict. Lots of conflict. And drama.

It’s a tale of survival against all odds: the dot-com crash cratered most businesses in the late 1990’s. But Amazon managed to survive.

The Everything Store is also a prime display of rivalry. Bezos pursues his company vision with fierce competitiveness. He is ruthless, relentless, and shrewd. Amazon’s prowess is largely all Bezos, because even though other Amazon executives and attorneys play key roles, it’s Bezos’ spirit and drive that infuse and inspire others’ actions.

And it’s crystal clear that these actions are not on behalf of the company; they’re on behalf of the customer! If Bezos does not sit on the throne at Amazon, customer satisfaction does.

Jeff Bezos’ brilliance is displayed repeatedly in the story by his counter-intuitive or unorthodox business savvy. He understood, and firmly believed amidst doubters, that the internet would change retail as it was known because it allowed business to conduct in entirely new ways. While most were adverse to change, Bezos and Amazon flourished in it.

The Everything Store is not just the story of Amazon, but it’s also a mini-biography of Jeff Bezos, the e-commerce pioneer who still runs the company over 20 years later. You learn about his parents, his schooling, and the early signs of his talents. You don’t learn about Bezos’ personal life outside of direct connection to the business of Amazon and Bezos’ early career endeavors.

And when it comes to Star Wars versus Star Trek, you learn Bezos is firmly on the Star Trek side. On that line, you also read about Bezos’ personal interest in space travel and his other endeavor, “Blue Origin”. Though there is not much detail on this. Blue Origin got a section or two plus some mentions but not a dedicated chapter.

For me, Amazon’s story is fascinating lore. I savored the behind-the-curtain view of the company. I basked in the surrounding nostalgia as I read of Amazon’s start in the 1990’s. The sparring between Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble makes you want to re-watch You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

I was pulled into the detailed development of the technology that fueled the advance of the juggernaut. You learn about the early internet, the book publishing industry, e-commerce, traditional retailing, Amazon Prime, Super Saver Shipping, Amazon Web Services, the kindle, parts of the tech industry, and more.

Steve Jobs and Apple have a role to play in the story too! Jobs’ concept of the whole music experience with the iPod plus iTunes influenced Bezos’ conception of the kindle e-reader plus e-books.

Side note: if you want to read in depth about the creation of the kindle, check out Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski.

The Everything Store is required reading for any tech-nerd. And it’s recommended reading for everyone else.

Finally, the story includes an awesome emotional touch in an unexpected pseudo plot twist closing. It involves Bezos’ family. This closure is well done.

I waffled between a 4 or 5 star rating because 5-star books are rare. You don’t just hand out 5-stars like they’re nothing. A book like this must really stand out above the rest. What tipped me to the max rating was asking, “If it’s 4-stars, what would make it better?” That’s when I realized the book earns 5 stars.

That said, there are some things not in the story simply because it was published in 2013. You don’t learn about the fire phone flop, and you especially miss out from the omission of Alexa!

In Closing

I highly recommend The Everything Store as your next good read if you want a true-to-life fascinating look at the rise of not just a single company but e-commerce in general.

Goodreads rating – 5 stars!

Dune Review

Dune…and done! Finally, I finished reading an epic and classic story of our time. Why did I pick this up to read? Because of accolades that it’s the best science-fiction ever – a fave genre of mine. And being praised on equal footing with The Lord of the Rings, it’s a literary duty to read Dune. Although it disappointed my science-fiction expectations, it was also a daunting delight.

The Story

Dune is epic, in the truest sense. It’s lofty and brilliant. The story is rich, a fully detailed and realized universe. I felt like a part of the world where the setting takes place. I was there, on a desert planet, getting sand in my hair and shoes. I felt the biting winds. Distance, danger, and isolation were familiar companions as I traversed the lands and anxiously avoided giant worms. The scent of spice teased my nostrils.

The protagonist’s story arc is a fulfilling journey. You join the main character, Paul Atreides, on his personal and grand quest to discover his many titles and roles to fill. And the dialogue is the best I’ve ever read, both in its content and form! That is no hyperbole; it’s magnificent.

But many times, I wasn’t sure what was happening. The levels on which the story plays are multiple. It’s full of religiosity, mysticism, politics, tribalism, and a solid cast of characters intertwined in the intricate plot’s schemes. There’s a lot going on in the story. If I didn’t already have an endless to-read list, I’d want to re-read Dune, peeling back layers.

Summing up the story synopsis well, here’s an excerpt from the Dune Wikipedia page:

“Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or “the spice”, a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. Melange is also necessary for space navigation, which requires a kind of multidimensional awareness and foresight that only the drug provides. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is thus a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.”

The Science

Dune is said to be the gold standard of modern sci-fi. That’s what intrigued me enough to take on a book in the same caliber as The Count of Monte Cristo.

Some of the characters have pseudo-psychic superpowers that are very similar to the Jedi’s abilities of Force manipulation in Star Wars! If I’m not mistaken, George Lucas was inspired by Dune when he “learned the ways of the Force.”

But my disappointment with Dune was the lack of science-fiction that I was expecting. Very early on, I was met with technology that seemed primitive by our modern standards. I thought maybe this was because the book was written in the 1960’s. But apparently it was a literary choice.

From Jon Michaud at the New Yorker, “Dune” Endures:

“Perhaps one explanation for “Dune” ’s lack of true fandom among science-fiction fans is the absence from its pages of two staples of the genre: robots and computers…This de-emphasis on technology throws the focus back on people. It also allows for the presence of a religious mysticism uncommon in science fiction.”

And from the Wikipedia page:

“The Dune series is a landmark of soft science fiction. Herbert deliberately suppressed technology in his Dune universe so he could address the politics of humanity, rather than the future of humanity’s technology.”

So the sci-fi is underwhelming. In its place are politics and ecology, which propel tribal feuds.

I first started reading this book in October last year. At the same time, I was preparing to write for NaNoWriMo while also blogging a lot. So reading-time for a somewhat disappointing and daunting book dropped off. Dune became buried in a pile of life.

But I’d read far enough into the book that the sandy story had wormed its way into my mind. Despite technology being downplayed, I was already entangled in the grand scheme of the people in the plot. The main character, Paul, compelled me. His story arc, his fate, somehow tied to the planet and all its inhabitants, was too big to ignore.

And I totally don’t want a DNF book (Did Not Finish).

So I returned to Arrakis, read in earnest, accelerating through the third act.

The concluding action in the final scenes was less climactic than I expected for such an intricate build-up. It held my attention while various plot lines came down to the last point. All was very good, but I wanted spectacular. I thought it would have more…spice!

The Conclusion

Dune gets a 5-star rating from me because I recognize that it’s a superb story written in excellence. Taking my sci-fi disappointment and my denouement dissatisfaction out of the equation, I appreciate the magnitude of this novel.

I’m not a literary critic, so my review doesn’t do justice for Dune. I tasted its breadth, not its depth. But I do recommend it for an involving read. You will be sent to another planet, filled with strange perils and intrigue. I honestly feel like reading it again someday, to put myself into the book more and get more out of it. I’ve only scratched its sand covered surface.

Goodreads: 5-stars.

The Case Of The Floating Funeral Review

If you’re missing Summer Blockbusters amidst closed theaters and have binged as much Netflix as you can take, may I suggest a good read instead? Rest your eyes upon a cozy book that goes well paired with a steamy mug of sweet caffeine. I have just the story for your escapism needs: The Case of the Floating Funeral. This is my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

Cheri Baker’s third cruise ship cozy mystery, starring Ellie Tappet, delivers another wholesome murder mystery to solve. Baker shows talent in repeatedly authoring varied plotlines with the same core cast of characters. She avoids falling into a formulaic rut and keeps the reader guessing!

This is what I’ve come to like about Baker’s stories. They’re dependable. You can count on them to let you easily escape into a fun bit of fiction, despite misfortune (every story must have conflict!).

The Case of the Floating Funeral is a prime example.

In this book #3, amateur sleuth and match maker Ellie Tappet again finds herself thrust into the center of a questionable death. Foul play is never far from her, and though it prefers to stay in hiding, the truth of the foul player always comes to light. Ellie proves again that she’s a natural at solving the “Whodunnit?”

Ever helpful, wise, caring, and observant, Ellie’s character remains consistent while also growing through adversity brought by her trials. Her patience is put to the ultimate test in the Floating Funeral, both on and off the cruise ship.

Locations are described pleasantly, from a lush jungle shore excursion, filled with sights and sounds that put your imagination right in the thick of it, to a funeral within the Panama Canal!

The action in the funeral scene was a hoot! The emotional characters were at their limits, driven to express themselves in both acute and obtuse manner. Alcohol-fueled eulogy? Wow – I bet that was fun to write.

The secondary characters from book #1 and #2 continue their support for the cruise ship, Ellie, and the plot that will truly surprise the reader!

To get the fullest impact of the plot twist in book #3, you must have read at least part of book #2. This was a delight for me! What I thought, and what others thought, was…uh, different.

Plot twist!

So as you read the Floating Funeral, your mind adjusts to…some revelation. And then the plot twists yet again!

This puzzle of a story is tied up in a pretzel knot.

As I read and took notes, one word that came to mind throughout the book was ambitious. Another one was smart. Cheri Baker’s third Ellie cozy mystery is without doubt more complex than her previous cruise ship pieces. She must have done much research.

Getting the details correct was a feat. It involved attorneys, business people, a funeral, a will, and a company with people’s fortunes and jobs at stake. And Baker met the challenge of writing it simply enough to stay a cozy and quick read. Bravo.

With the stakes raised in this story, Ellie and other characters have quite a few heated exchanges! It brings a lot of tension to several scenes. It’s gripping. I really enjoyed it!

As usual, Baker also spreads enough misdirection into the mystery plot to make everyone a suspect yet no one to pin the crime on. There was enough motive to go around for several characters.

While Baker did well overall to weave the ambitious and complex narrative in the third person, I did find the mystery-reveal to be somewhat difficult to grock. But people are complex, and Baker’s believable characters are no different. Under duress, they do things you don’t expect yet are not so surprising at the same time.

Some small downsides, it was hard to believe a few plot points in the story, like when Ellie had to keep a certain secret under pretense. Or when she snooped on one occasion. But these were not so bad that she was completely out of character.

Also, with those minor points, I’ll mention there were a few similes or metaphors early in the story that, while they technically worked, felt a bit forced. But to be fair, there were several later in the story that were much better. They fit the context and character of the scene.

You should not be deterred from picking up this good read, however. Baker wrote with great effect at several places where she didn’t tell me what a character was feeling, she showed me! This is fundamental writing and it made me feel like I was feeling the feels in the moment. Good stuff!

I especially enjoyed small touches, like the names of a few tertiary characters: Backpack man, Briefcase man, sock-guy, and flamingo-shirt guy. Some other thoughts and feelings: I felt sorry for Tobias… I strongly disliked Roberta…I would not work for her!

The end of the book where things are wrapped up and tied off kept with Baker’s standard: splendidly done.

Goodreads rating: 4-stars!

Bonus news: this isn’t a trilogy. Ellie Tappet book #4 is in the works!

Also, I want to go on a real life cruise again.

Reading books this Summer has been a totally not-guilty pleasure. Do yourself a favor and grab Cheri’s latest cozy mystery that costs no more than a coffee.

Thanks for reading my 99.9% spoiler-free review of The Case of the Floating Funeral.

Check out the website of Cheri Baker for more.

The Case Of The Karaoke Killer Review

Like chocolate and peanut-butter, cozy mysteries bring comfort and puzzlement together with satisfying taste. You may think that’s a stretch. But it’s what I’m thinking since I’ve read another book by author-in-the-city Cheri Baker. Read on for my 99.9% spoiler-free review of The Case of the Karaoke Killer.

Overview And Backstory

Having just finished my 5th cozy mystery by Baker, I can say this: the author keeps changing things up! You’d think she would settle into a formulaic pattern, especially within a single series of cozies. But no. She keeps you guessing about more than just whodunnit!

That’s what I’ve come to really like about Cheri’s sleuth stories. As you start reading, you wonder when the murder will take place? It varies every time. It could be at the very beginning, or half-way through the book. It could even be elsewhere – much to your surprise!

The author provides distraction, diversion, or misdirection to keep you guessing as to whodunnit. I’ve come to enjoy keeping my eyes peeled for clues!

Like the main character, Ellie Tappet, I took notes, jotting down hints. In one chapter, I suspected Jerome. The next chapter, I was eyeballin’ Tristan. Next, no wait, it could be Kate. Or Brooke. Maybe…it could be Violet!? Or how about that other guy, Victor?

You see, this is a good mystery.

Literary Devices

Something I appreciate about good writing is a golden simile or metaphor. These simple literary devices can pack a punch.

While reading The Case of the Karaoke Killer, I highlighted some similes Baker wrote because they stood out to me. Here are some of my faves:

“A breeze brushed along Ellie’s legs like a cat asking to be stroked.”

“His thick black eyebrows drew together like thunderclouds.”

“…the cruise director’s green eyes were a tempest of worry.”



As Ellie Tappet’s character-arc has developed, I’ve come to appreciate one of her strong traits. She’s got a lot of wisdomand knows just when to share it with others.

This matters because there’s a number of characters surrounding Ellie; they all need some insight to help them along their way. Ellie cares enough to do that.

This strength offsets her weaknesses that play into the story. At the very beginning, the conflict set-up brings uncertainty to Ellie. She must deal with doubt. How she handles it affects the plot. Other uncertainties appear. But Ellie is always certain about showing care to others.

At other times, Ellie must make choices to either listen to her head or her gut. When she consistently goes with her gut, it’s for the better. Yet the circumstances she’s involved in allow Ellie to struggle with the balance between head and heart. It’s realistic and makes Ellie a more believable character.


If you haven’t read book one, The Case of the Missing Finger, that’s okay. You can read book two as your first. But please do yourself a favor; don’t skip book one. Many of the supporting characters aboard the cruise ship return in book two. Relationships started in book one grow.

The new characters in book two impressed me; I connected with them more than I expected. The young 20-somethings were fun to read. Although they had minor traces of stereotype, they were varied and deep enough in thoughts or emotions to make them relatable. They’re neither cookie-cutter nor caricatures.

One person, Officer Gumbs, is a nice anchor. His role is simple and solid in book one and two. This makes him predictable. It brings balance in contrast to the questionable people. While passengers are flaky, tossed by waves of emotion, Officer Gumbs is a rock.

Plot, Scenes, And Dialogue

There was a funny and unexpected scene involving Ellie and some alcohol – she is decidedly out-of-character! It’s a well done change in the story. It also serves to foreshadow (and distract?) a key plot device later on. This is good plotting and writing. I think this scene kills two birds with one stone.

Also present were a few small plot twists along the way. Nothing major, but enough to keep things interesting.

The dialogue is simple, perfectly fitting the genre.

The Ending And Closure

Baker delivers an acceptable mystery reveal. It didn’t surprise me too much; the criminal was one of many I briefly suspected. And the motive was believable. It was nice to have the little puzzle pieces of the story fit together here.

But book two shines in the closure. I think it’s the best one out of the 5 cozy mysteries I’ve read by the author so far! It was emotional. Sadness, happiness, surprise, hope – it was all there! Excellent.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ll read Cheri Baker’s cruise ship cozy mysteries. You could do far worse with your time, like reading a social media feed. Don’t do that to yourself. Read a good book instead!

For the price of a Starbucks coffee, you can buy The Case of the Karaoke Killer. And If you have kindle Unlimited, you can just download and start reading this book!

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

My First Stephen King Read

Is Summer the best season to read books? Because I’m kind of on a reading kick. So I was wondering what books I’d like to read next. One of the most popular and prolific authors of our time is Stephen King. Yet I’ve never read a single one of his books!Shouldn’t I read such a widely known writer as King? Otherwise, I feel like less of an acculturated reader.

Scary Proposition

If I’m going to read a King book, the obvious question is, “Which one?” It should be known that I’m not much into horror and related unsavory fare. So the story should be one of King’s shorter works. I might need to muscle through a book that’s less than palatable.

I’ve seen some movies based on Stephen King stories, so maybe one of those books should be a top choice. Or maybe not.

One idea that strikes me is the fact that I tend to enjoy what my wife calls “miserable” movies. These often have the main character suffer a tragedy. Or if not, they are the victim of a lot of bad choices, either their own or that of others. (Let’s not get into the psychology of why I like these stories…)

With that, one of King’s best known books stands out: Misery.

I watched the movie decades ago, so I kinda know the gist. I’m intrigued by it because it’s about an author – writing! Should I put this on my to-read list? If not, is there a Stephen King book that is generally recommended as a first?

My Fear

I’m afraid that I would end up disliking any King book. In fact, I’m not interested in reading King for his stories or characters. What I want is to see how he writes, to get a full sample of the level of his writing skill as a fiction author.

I thoroughly enjoyed King’s non-fiction book, On Writing. It’s the only King book I’ve ever read. I want to experience first-hand his penned fiction.

What are King’s strengths in his storytelling? Is it his characterization? Are his plots simple yet with twist endings? What’s the pacing? How well does the master of fiction set a scene? Does he have killer dialogue!?

Those questions are driving my curiosity to read a King novel. But maybe I shouldn’t dare to read one. Do you have any recommendations? I will consider the risk. Thanks!

Top Kindle Wishes

The good folks over at the Good E Reader site asked a question this week. What would make you buy a new kindle? My white paperwhite is working well, but I’d trade it in for a new one if… Here are some of my ideas.

New Hardware

Here are my top–3 hardware feature requests!


The kindle paperwhite I have is not the newest one, which is waterproof. That feature is worth quite a lot, but not enough to make me trade up. It would take at least one more improvement. And that’s switching from micro-USB to USB-C!

What’s the big deal about the charge port type? It’s that most of my other gadgets now use USB-C, so this is about convenience and simplifying the cables around my house. Less cable clutter!

So just adding USB-C to the current waterproof design would likely tip me over the edge to upgrade.

But the one single feature that would outdo all the others: Color e-ink!

Color e-ink

Of course, I’d still want black text on white pages. But color would bring to life book covers! It would also enable colored highlighting in e-ink fashion. And, while not much benefit to me, it would promote color e-ink comics!

7” screen

Amazon already makes this, but it’s only on the high-dollar Oasis. This bigger display would be nice to have in the paperwhite, but I would not want to sacrifice its size. Instead, make the bezels a little bit smaller. Optimize them for finger-grip and a bit more screen.


  • More color options for the outer housing (bring back the white paperwhite)
  • Faster CPU for speedier overall performance
  • Include a free case/cover for Prime members
  • Wireless charging

New Software

The kindle has great software features: built-in dictionary and word finder, vocabulary builder, goodreads integration(!), and X-ray. It’s quite a list; I’m not sure what else to add!

My top software request is for the display to show the cover of the last book I was reading when turned off! I read that was coming soon, but I’ve still not seen it.

How about a progress bar? Add this option at the bottom of a book with the location/time/percentage indicators. A progress bar would be a simple visual way to show how far you’ve read. It could be a skinny line, or if thicker it could show tick marks at quarter or third points in the book.

I’d like to also see new incentives for purchasing. For example, each kindle could include one free ebook of your choice. Or, for Prime members, drop the free Prime Reading option, which offers only 1,000 books to read. In its place, offer kindle Unlimited, with its full catalog, for $5/month instead of $10. That would be a great Prime perk.

Finally, every physical book you buy from Amazon could offer the ebook version for at least 50% off the normal price. And vice versa, every ebook you buy could offer the physical copy for half-off! Some books you just wanna collect on a real shelf.


So I’ve listed several big-ticket items that I want in my next kindle. And I’m sure there are other good ideas out there – like cooperating with libraries for better ebook lending.

The kindle in its current form – 3 versions – is already a winsome ereader. I love my paperwhite! But Amazon shouldn’t rest on its laurels.