Archive for December, 2011

December 22nd, 2011

A Very Mark Billingham Christmas

by Gwen

photo of Mark Billingham

Or maybe I should really say that it is a very Tom Thorne Christmas. Tom Thorne is the middle-aged UK Detective Inspector that Billingham brings to life in his books and I have been spending some major quality time with him this month.

Thorne is a hard man to pin down, even Billingham has described writing him as “peeling back the layers of an onion” with each book. One of the coolest things about him is that he is different for every reader. Billingham purposely doesn’t describe him physically, so that we all can have our own version in our heads. Of course now that they have made a TV show on Sky, it sort of dims the neat trick for those that live in the UK.

There are 10 books in the series and having read a few out of sequence, (Bloodline, Death Message, & Buried) I decided that, this month, was going to be the one where I go back to the beginning and read the ones that I have missed, in order. Some might say that being mired in death, crime, and Alzheimer’s that the Thorne series brings isn’t very cheery at Christmas.  To those that say that … you have never met my family. Well, we haven’t had any murders, but some say that the Doc giving my Great Uncle George his chemical peel killed him.  (hmm, two references to “peel” in one post.)

There are learning the many benefits of reading a series, one right after another. Everything stays crystal clear in your mind and yet, my picture of Thorne still remains fuzzy, in a good way. One book may have him being tortured in his dreams by the victims of his current case, in the next, he can’t even manage sympathy. One has him so painfully inept at dealing with women that you want to put him out of his misery and the next he will be juggling more women than any man knows what to deal with. That is what, in my mind, makes Billingham an awesome writer, his books don’t become formulaic like so many others that I won’t mention. He hasn’t pinned down his character, so we can’t either. The reader never knows where the line in the sand is for Thorne or how far he will go to solve the case. About the only thing that you can depend on is that the outcome will leave an impression on you almost as strong as it does on Thorne.

Okay, enough with the blathering. I am hip deep in UK crime and slightly in love with both Billingham and Thorne.

Have you ever gone gung-ho on a series?

Merry Christmas to ya’ll.

December 20th, 2011

Playing with (the) Fire

by Gwen


I know, the book world is all ablaze with the “Amazon is evil” theme right now and I am indeed playing with fire by raising my hand to tell you that I bought a Kindle Fire. (Well, really, it was a gift, but I asked specifically for it, so same difference)

There were many reasons for me choosing the Fire and continuing my relationship with Amazon.

  • I already had a Kindle Keyboard that I loved and therefore, the books bought for that one would transfer easily.
  • I have an iPod touch that I use often and really wanted something like that, but with a bigger screen.
  • I already had Amazon Prime because I like my McCann’s Oatmeal by the case. Now I can watch free streaming movies and TV shows on the Fire.
  • To say that my budget is limited is an understatement.
  • There aren’t any independent bookstores near me. There are a couple used ones that I do go to once in a blue moon. Sure, I could drive the half hour to Barnes & Noble, pay for parking, and all that, but I don’t go into town that often for anything.

The Fire fulfills a need that I had, for a price that I could justify and seamlessly meshes with what I already own.

The Review

The Fire is a great entry-level tablet with the added customer support that all of the other low-priced tablets can’t even begin to match. While the low amount of onboard storage space concerns me a tad, the reality is that I just don’t need all of my books, videos, and music on a portable device at one time. (Even my Kindle Keyboard got sluggish when I had it loaded to the gills, so I have learned that less is better)

So far, it has been able to do everything that my Touch could do and more. That is what I wanted and needed. The Amazon App store is still a bit limited, but I can sideload apps from other places easily.

The reader app itself is the only thing that I think needs a bit of improvement. Since the Fire isn’t a 100% dedicated reader, the experience is more like using the reader apps that you may already have on your phone, PC, or iPod. It isn’t as full featured as my actual Kindle Keyboard.

Many have whined that it doesn’t have parental controls and therefore it is easy for Betty Sue or Billy Bob to buy books and videos that aren’t age appropriate, or for that matter to buy anything to their hearts content. I don’t have kids, so this isn’t an issue. However, I would feel comfortable handing this over to my step-grandkids without a problem. Since they aren’t genetically related to me, they are smart and know that when they click a button that says “buy” they are buying something.

So, have you made the jump to a tablet/iPad? What are your thoughts? Have any questions for me? Want to rant at me for supporting Amazon? Want to know why McCann’s oatmeal is the best?