Amazon Kindle 3

About a year and a half ago, my wife purchased an Amazon Kindle for me. I loved this device and it was always in my computer bag. There have been several occasions while traveling that I was happy that I could simply add another book to my device and not have to worry about carrying extra books or finding a store that had a book I wanted to read.

For example, last Thanksgiving my wife and I traveled to visit our parents (we live several hundred miles from where we grew up). While there, I spent a significant period of time in bed, sick. I read four books during this time. When I finished one, I simply logged on to the Amazon Store, bought another, and continued reading. One of the surprising aspects of this was that the cell service where I was is pretty bad, however, my Kindle had no trouble at all logging on and downloading my books.

The import is that I have had a Kindle for quite a while and I love it. Recently, Amazon released their third generation Kindle. Knowing how much I liked my Kindle, my wife bought a Kindle 3 for herself. She had hers for about two days before I ordered one of my own. In fact, everyone in our family seems to enjoy using our Kindles.

Reading a Kindle

My Daughter Reading Her Mother's Kindle

I have now had my Kindle 3 for about a month. I believe it is an improvement over the Kindle 2. In addition to the things I liked about my Kindle 2, let me count the ways I like the Kindle 3.

  • The pages turn more quickly. This may not seem to be a big thing. However, I can see a difference between the two devices.
  • The screen contrast is better. I thought the Kindle 2 was easy to read. The Kindle 3 is better.
  • The Kindle 3 is smaller. It’s not a lot smaller, but it is smaller and the difference is noticeable.
  • I like 5-way navigator without the joystick. I think it’s easier to use.
  • I can get a lighted cover for the Kindle 3.

The lighted cover may not seem like a big deal, but I thought it was wonderful. In fact, it’s what really convinced me to get the Kindle 3. One of the drawbacks to using e-ink is that the screen is not backlit. This means that you have to have ambient light to read the Kindle. I have clip on book light that I used with the Kindle 2. The problem was that the light never seemed to be where I was when I needed it.

The new cover solves this problem. The light is built in to the cover and runs off the Kindle battery power. Further, it is situated to properly light the screen. I love this and use it almost every night before going to sleep.

I don’t want to imply that the Kindle 3 is perfect. I still think that it needs a touch screen. Everyone I have ever handed the device to tries to control it by touching the screen. That’s simply how our devices work today. Also, they have removed the number row from the keyboard. I do not like this decision. I rarely type anything on the keyboard. However, when I do, it almost always includes numbers. I don’t like having to go into the symbol chart to enter numbers.

If you like reading, you should try the Kindle out. You will likely be surprised how much you enjoy reading on it.

For another view of the Kindle 3 check out this post from Michael Hyatt.

My Wife is Awesome

This week my wife and I are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary. Although we typically don’t do the gift thing for our anniversary, we decided to give each other a gift this year. Last night we exchanged our gifts. To my surprise, my wife bought me a Kindle.

I have been intrigued by the Kindle for quite a while. Plus I know that both Ernie the Attorney and Michael Hyatt love their Kindle. Thus, I was quite excited to get my hands on it and try it out.

My first impressions, after using it for less than 18 hours:

  • I love the sleek, thin design.
  • I love the pictures that are displayed on the screen when it is in sleep mode.
  • The e-ink is crisp, clear, and easy to read.
  • Buying a book is a very easy process (perhaps way too easy for me).
  • I wish the bottom (where the keyboard is) was tapered slightly. I think it would be easier to hold and type on if it were.
  • I wish it had a touch screen. the 5-way navigator works fine to move your cursor around the page, however, it does not work nearly as nicely or elegantly as it would if it had a touch screen.

Although I have the second generation Kindle, I recognize that this technology is really still in its first generation. I an anticpate that in the near future, we will see these devices with color screens, touch screens, and the ability to take notes on the screen. I know Plastic Logic is working on some aspects of this now. On the other hand, the Kindle has a market and appears to be selling well. Plastic Logic doesn’t expect to hit the market until 2010.

Anyway, I love the Kindle so far and my wife is awesome for getting it for me.

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

Jack Kilborn is the alter ego of J.A. Konrath, the author of the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series of crime novels. I am a big fan of those. Thus, I was happy when I was able to snag a review copy of his new book, Afraid. With Afraid, Konrath brings us a book that is quite different from the Jack Daniels books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who wants to add a little horror to their reading selection.

Although Afraid does not include the amount of humor that is found in the Jack Daniels book, there is enough snark to bring just a little levity to the book. Afraid involves a helicopter crash near Safe Haven, Wisconsin. That crash releases a merciless force on the town that endangers all of the residents.

Konrath does an excellent job of pushing a variety of psychological buttons to invoke fear in the reader. He does a particularly good job of placing people in danger and making it impossible for their loved ones to assist them. The action in this novel is virtually nonstop. There are no chapter breaks in the book. As a consequence, the scenes cut from one person in peril to the next person in peril.

I don’t want to go into details as to what the killers are or who lives. However, I will say that the killers are quite efficient and their body count is quite impressive. Additionally, I enjoyed the variety of methods of attack (for lack of a better term) that were used by both the killers and the citizens.

I also liked the fact that Konrath was not afraid (no pun intended) to kill citizens. I went through the entire book never knowing if the character whose viewpoint I was experiencing would be dead on the next page.

If you like horror and don’t mind a little bloodshed in your book, then you will want to check out Afraid.


Also, for the month of March, Konrath has been on a blog tour to promote the release of Afraid. If you have not checked out that tour, I urge you to do so at his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. Konrath covers a wide variety of topics in his typical humor-filled manner. It is really engaging reading.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, by Charlie Huston

I have read seveal of Charlie’s other books and I would recommend his book Six Bad Things to anyone who has any interest in crime fiction. However, I was not thrilled by his last stand alone novel (The Shotgun Rule). Thus I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up his latest novel, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.

What I got was full bore Charlie Huston. I am pretty sure that my affinity for Charlie Huston novels lies somewhere in the fact that they are dialogue heavy and most of the dialogue is either cynical or sarcastic or both. Those are traits I can appreciate and they are present in spades in this book.

The plot involves an unemployed slacker who gets a job as someone who cleans up the remains of dead people from crime scenes. Of course, he gets tangled up with an attractive woman and a smuggling deal gone bad.

The plot, however, is not what makes this book good. Instead, it’s the characters and the dialogue. In his review of the book, Stepehn King said:

There are many things to love about Charlie Huston’s fiction–he’s a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins–but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars.

That’s about as accurate of a decription that can be found. Plus, who am I to try to improve upon what Stephen King said.

If pressed, there are two things that I would have to say about this book. First, if you like crime fiction or you like good dialogue, read this book. Second, if curse words make you uncomfortable or excessive violence bothers you, don’t read this book. If you have read any of Huston’s other books, you know what I am talking about. If not, just be warned that his books contain a lot of violence and swearing.

Books: A Review of 2008

In 2008 I read only 29 books (down from 40 in 2007, and 46 in 2006). I am quite disappointed by this and plan to aim for my 2006-07 level in 2009. Nevertheless, I did read some really good books in 2008. Of the 29 I read, my favorites were, in no particular order:

I highly recommend any of these books to you. Additionally, if you know  young reader, both Little Brother and Zoe’s Tale are perfect for the YA crowd as well as adults.

This year I also reached the conclusion that I will read anything that Michael Lewis writes. I read The Blind Side and The New New Thing. Both were excellant and just missed my top 5 list. If you are at all interested in business planning, visions for the future, or technology, I urge you to read The New New Thing. The book deals with the height of the tech industy in the late 1990s. In so doing it is an excellant lens to view the vision that the industry pioneers had for us a decade ago and how that compares with the technology that we are currently using.


Andy Nulman believes that surprise is a great way to market yourself. He has a new book espousing this philosophy. he has offered to send a copy to each of the first 200 bloggers who posts about the book.

I was not familiar with Andy today, but I will try reading just about anything. So, Andy, if you would like, I would love to receive a copy of your book. Feel free to send it to me at: Bryan Sims, 1001 E. Chicago Ave., Suite 111, Naperville, IL 60540.

Book Review: Chronological Study Bible

This is another book I received through Thomas Nelson’s Blogger Book Review Program. I was very excited to see it on the list when I signed in. I have long wanted a Chronological Study Bible and this seemed like the perfect fit.

When I was in college, my Con Law professor told us to always remember historical context when reading supreme court decisions. Since then, I have never failed to take that advice. Since then, I have come to believe that placing events in historical context is quite valuable for understanding them and the point that is being made.

The Chronological Study Bible helps put those historical contexts in perspective by arranging the Bible (to the extent possible) in chronological order. This means that books are not necessarily kept together, but instead that portions are arranged with portions from other books. Similarly, a book such as Jeremiah has been reordered to be chronological rather than its current arrangement.

This book comes with some excellent explanatory notes that explain the choices made by the arrangers. I am sure that Biblical scholars can endlessly debate how to chronologically arrange certain elements of the Bible. However, the notes explain the different options available for placement and why one option was chose over the others.

In addition, the Bible also contains large numbers of sidebars that detail information about topics such as agriculture, architecture, culture, society, daily life & customs, family, and politics. Also included are some great photographs of relevant locations, timelines that help put historical events in context, and a variety of maps to place things in a geographical context.

The book is beautiful, with full color pictures and illustrations throughout. Additionally, color is used to make the pages attractive and easy to read. Most importantly, however, the tops corners of the pages are color coded to allow easy access to each of the nine epochs into which the book is divided.

This book is well put together and would be an invaluable aid to anyone in their Biblical studies. I found the information included in the various sidebars to be quite informative and believe that they do an excellent job of providing additional information to help place the various passages in a greater context of the time period involved.

The only quibble that I have with the book is that the scripture index is found only in the back of the book. Every Bible I have ever seen includes a table of contents at the front that tells you where to find the various books of the Bible. I understand that this Bible is quite different in that it is chronological. However, I think it would be nice to have the index that was at the back, also included at the front.

If it matters to you, the translation used is the New King James.

On the whole, however, if have any interest in Biblical studies at all, I would highly recommend this book to you.

Book Review: Holding Fast by Karen James

I recently read Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James. I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s blogger book review program.

In December 2006, three climbers lost their lives during a terrible storm on Mt Hood in Oregon. One of the climbers was named Kelly James. His wife, Karen, is the author of this book. When I first learned of the book, I was excited to read it. I typically enjoy books such as this that recount actual events in a novel form.

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me because it was not what I thought it purported to be. The subtitle for the book is The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy. I don’t think that this is accurate. This book is not about the tragedy, but instead is about Karen James’s loss of her husband in a mountain climbing accident. As the story of a wife who loses her husband on the mountain, who waits in fear and anticipation with here family, and who finds solace and comfort in her relationship with God, this is a great story. It just should have been billed in that manner.

With respect to the tragedy, the book falls short, however, in that it barely devotes any time to the other two climbers who perished on the mountain. Besides finding out that one of the climbers was a close friend of Kelly’s and that they met the third climber during a different mountain climb, the other climbers get virtually no mention.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the number of pictures. The center of the book contains several pages of color photographs, including several from Kelly’s camera that was recovered with his body. Additionally, there were many additional photographs sprinkled throughout the text of the book. I thought this method of sprinkling the photos throughout the book worked really well and added to the book.

In sum, if you want a book about a wife’s journey in losing her husband to a terrible tragedy, this book addresses that perfectly. If you want a book that addresses the tragedy suffered by the climbers, then you probably want to take a pass.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

John Scalzi has twice had novels nominated for the Best Novel Hugo. He placed third the first time and most recently, he lost the Best Novel Hugo by 9 votes. He also won the John W. Campbell Award for the Best New Writer, largely on the strength of his first novel, Old Man’s War.

Having read all of Scalzi’s novels and enjoying them, it is not without an understanding of his accomplishments that I say that his latest book, Zoe’s Tale, is the best thing he has written. Zoe’s Tale takes place during the same time as the events in The Last Colony. However, instead of focusing on John Perry and Jane Sagan (as he did in The Last Colony), Zoe’s Tale focuses on John and Jane’s adopted teenage daughter Zoe. Because of the difference of the perspective of the main character, there is very little interaction between the events of The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale. Sure the same events are happening, however, they happen quite differently for Zoe than they did for John and Jane.

Although I have never been a teenage girl, I thought Scalzi did an excellent job of capturing her voice. Further, he expertly retold the same story found in the Last Colony without making it boring or sound like the same story again.

Not only does this book fill in some great details about Zoe and her life, it also answers some unanswered questions I had from The Last Colony, in particular, what happened to the werewolves.

Despite the fact that there not a lot of combat action (like we saw in Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and the Last Colony), there is enough happening in the book to keep you engaged in the story. Further, I found the book more emotional than any of Scalzi’s other books (this includes The Sagan Diary). In fact, there are two chapters of the book where I was crying as I was reading it.

In sum, Zoe’s Tale, is an excellent companion to The Last Colony and is Scalzi’s finest work so far. This should be the book that gets Scalzi the Best Novel Hugo.