Book Review of “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”

“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” was published in 2009 and was written by N. K. Jemisin (http://nkjemisin.com). Ms. Jemisin has published 6 novels, this is the first of her “The Inheritance Trilogy”.

I obtained a galley of this novel (as part of the combined Trilogy volume) for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Mature Situations and Violence. This Fantasy novel is set in a world other than Earth. The primary character is Yeine Darr who is 19 at the time the story begins.

Yeine comes from the barbaric far northern lands. She comes to the capital city of Sky at the summons of her grandfather, Dekarta, who is head of the powerful Arameri family. For all practical purposes he is the ruler of their world.

Yeine is unexpectedly named as an heir, putting her into contention with her two cousins. Only one can be the head of the family, and nothing will stop Yeine’s cousins from achieving that goal, including blackmail and murder.

Added to this intrigue are Gods and Godlings with their magic abilities. They are under control of the Arameri family, almost as slaves and they all greatly resent the position they are in. There are also a few humans that have magic abilities, though not as powerful as the Godlings. Yeine sees little chance for herself to survive, but she desperately wants to find out what was behind her mother’s mysterious death.

The story is full of action and political intrigue. There is also a good deal of philosophical discussion regarding the Gods, Godlings and humans. I enjoyed the nearly 9 hours I spent with this first installment of the trilogy. The Godlings were an interesting twist to a Fantasy story. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

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Do you have Broadband?

On Thursday January 29, 2015 the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set new standards for the
classification of “broadband”. To qualify as “broadband” a service
provider must provide download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. This was done because the FCC felt that the US was not keeping up with available speeds in much of the rest of the world.  By the FCC’s estimates, 17% or 55 million Americans do not have access to the newly defined “broadband” capability. Are you one of the few who has “broadband” per the new standard?

There are many sites that you can use to test your connection. One
of these is http://www.speedtest.net/, this website will test your connection (NOTE: The site does require both Flash and JavaScript). If you have an iOS device, then you can install the FCC Speed Test App from the Apple iTunes store. The App is free and runs on iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad.

I used the FCC app on my iPad connected to my home network over Wi-Fi and the results were 7.61Mbps down and 1.44 Mbps up. To verify that the Wi-Fi connection was not limiting my bandwidth, I duplicated the test from my Mac Mini which has a cat 5 hard wired connection to my ATT Uverse router. Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.53.37 PMI visited the SpeedTest URL mentioned above in the Google Chrome browser. That test gave nearly the same results: 7.61 Mbps down and 1.43 Mbps up.

Clearly my home internet connection is FAR from the new “broadband” standard. That hardly surprises me when the US shows up ranked number 26 on a list compiled by OOKLA of countries by network speed (the US is rated at 32.65Mbps, we are tied with Bulgaria). The speeds that I measured actually puts me with the same connectivity as Bangladesh, which is ranked number 112 on the list.

Short story Review of “The Battle of Dorking”

The battle of Dorking” was published in 2013 and was written by George Tomkins Chesney.

I obtained a galley of this short story for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this Alternate History short story as ‘R’ as there are instances of Violence. The novel is written in England of the 1870s.

The story is told of how a German-like country successfully invades England. I only spent 2 hours reading the story, so there is not a lot to it. It is interesting and reminds me of HG Wells “War of the Worlds” in some ways. It would have been better if it were longer. As it is, I felt like I had read a chapter out of a longer book without benefit of knowing what came before or after.

I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Book Review of “Test of Magnitude”

“Test of Magnitude” was published in 2014 and was written by Andy Kasch. Mr. Kasch has written three novels, this is the first of his “Torian Reclamation” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this Science Fiction novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Violence. The novel is set in contemporary times, but in a universe that is full of alien races.

The primary character, Brandon Foss, becomes one of several earthlings to be taken by the Torians on visits to Earth. All Brandon remembers are some strangely dressed characters that he followed into a park. He is woken up to find himself with another human who seems to be from the 60s of Earth. They soon find that they are the first and last of earthlings to have been abducted by the Torians.

They have been woken up from deep sleep after a few decades because of the request of Arkan9, a Sheen living on Banor. Bangor is one of the two worlds that make up the Tor system. Akron9 is thought to be the first prophet in many years, and his predictions are dire.

Brandon soon finds himself involved in a political struggle within the Tor system, and before long involved in the first space war in hundreds of years. Even though the Torians kidnapped him, Brandon finds himself in the position of helping protect their planets and culture. He also sees his assistance as a way to setting the remaining humans free.

I spent about 6 hours with this novel and found it to be enjoyable. The major plot lines of this novel were wrapped up, but certainly there is plenty left for the follow on novels in the series. I liked the characters created for the novel, they were all unique. I also felt that the plot kept me engaged. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

iPhone Tip – The Built In Level

I have used the built in Compass App a couple of time on my iPhone, but recently I came across a feature of that App I was not aware of. The Compass App has a built in level!

If you have iOS 7 or later on your phone, then open the Compass App, then once you see the compass on the display, swipe the screen left. That will bring up a level.

ece46f02f4d92f79eb6dd5226a9cf516976aeac5Lay your iPhone flat on a surface and you will see a pair of disks that shows the angle of the surface the iPhone is laying on and the slope of the surface.

2f4ab3881dd1f47b537bd184fdf651f8ac983071If you set your iPhone on edge on a surface, you get a display that is more like you are used to on a bubble level.

This isn’t something that I will use every day, but it adds one more feature to my iPhone.


See my other iOS articles


Book Review of “Ghost of Sephera”

“Ghost of Sephera” was published in 2014 and was written by J. D. Tew. This is Mr. Tew’s second publication and the second novel in his “Theodore Crane” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this Science Fiction Young Adult novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Mature Language and Violence. The novel is set in a the current day. The primary characters are Theodore Crane, Lincoln Royce, Drey Richerz, Nilo Tannon and King Trazuline of Karshiz.

The story picks up shortly after the first novel in the series ends. Theodore and Lincoln are being held prisoner, as is King Trazuline’s daughter. Much of the story revolves around Theodore’s recording what has happened while a prisoner.

There is a lot of action and adventure through the story. Not having read the first book in the series created a challenge, but this book did include a “Prolog” section that provided a very helpful overview of what had happened in the first book. That is something that I wish all series did.

I liked the characters that were developed in the story. I think this would still qualify as a Young Adult story as the characters from Earth started in the first book during their mid teens and are just now in their late teens. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

iOS: Khan Academy

I have recenly begun picking up my 6th grade granddaughter from school and occasionally helping her with her homework. Working with her made me notice an announcement a few days ago that Khan Academy now has an iPad App that allows free viewing of it’s videos.

What is Khan Academy? As Wikipedia says:

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere”. The organization produces micro lectures in the form of YouTube videos. In addition to micro lectures, the organization’s website features practice exercises and tools for educators. All resources are available for free to anyone around the world.

In the past few days the free Khan Academy iPad App has become available with access to over 150,000 exercises. I downloaded the App to my iPad and watched one of the videos yesterday (6th grade Algebra on inequalities). I think the video was well done and will be of value to my granddaughter or other students. There are many videos in each grade level to choose from including math, science, history and art.

I plan to watch some of the history videos as that is a subject I am interested in and had far too little of in school. If you are wanting to supplement formal K-12 education, or you are interested in learning just for the sake of learning, Khan Academy is a great place to start.


See my other iOS  and Continuing Education (CE) articles


FOSS Under OS X: Audacity

audacity-macosx-smallI have occasionally had the need to edit audio files. A great tool for that is Audacity. Audacity is a cross platform (Windows, OS X, and Linux) multi-track audio editor and recorder. The features of Audacity include:

  • Recording live audio
  • Recording computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine.
  • Converting tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Editing WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.
  • AC3, M4A/M4R (AAC), WMA and other formats are supported using optional libraries.
  • Ability to cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Ability to apply numerous effects including changing the speed or pitch of a recording.
  • See the complete list of features.

Should you ever have the need to edit sound files, Audacity is an application that you should consider.


See my other OS X articles


Book Review of “Darke Mission”

“Dark Mission” was published in 2014 and was written by Scott Caladon (http://www.darkemission.com). The is Mr. Caladon’s first novel and also the first in his “JJ Darke” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Mature Language and Violence. This Thriller novel is set in contemporary times, with action taking place in London, Scotland and North Korea. The primary character is JJ Darke, a former MI5 agent, now working in finance.

There are two main plots that are going on through the book. First, American intelligence finds evidence of a Russian nuclear missile submarine in a port on North Korea’s west coast. Deciding that the North Koreans are up to no good, a risky plan is put into place to steal the submarine.

The second plot deals with the UK government on the brink of bankruptcy. JJ Darke is head of portfolio management and investment at MAM, in London’s financial district. Drake has held many positions and has been successful at all. However, he finds himself blackmailed by a treacherous former MI5 colleague into a crazy scheme to steal billions in gold from North Korea. This will save the government from downfall, as well as give him a chance to skim off some of the billions to line his own pockets.

These plot lines have many ups and downs, and they cross paths in unexpected ways. I enjoyed the 13 hours spent reading this James Bond like thriller. I did feel that there was just a little too much included with the plot, but overall I enjoyed the story and I liked all of the characters. I give this novel a 4.5 (rounded up to 5) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Austria, Vienna: Sacher Cafe

Sacher CafeYou may or may not heard of it, but Sacher-Torte is a world famous type of cake. This was created by the staff of the Sacher Hotel in 1832 and the exact recipe remains a well kept secret.

I was fortunate enough to be in Vienna in early December of 2014, it being one of the stops of the Viking River Cruise we we taking. It was a cold and wet day, so we decided to make our way to the Hotel Sacher and sample some of the deserts at the Cafe Sacher.

12 desertsWe were traveling with another couple and the four of us were seated in the dining room near the table that held their various deserts. Looking them over and not being able to decide which to order, and being “Crazy Americans”, we ordered one of everything. We ended up with 13 different deserts. We each sampled them all, and each ended up with a different favorite. The picture only shows 12 of the deserts as the 13th was a refrigerated desert.

I was fortunate to find the Sacher-Torte my favorite and ended up with almost all of it to myself. I can heartily say though that all of the deserts were wonderful. If you find yourself in Vienna, I can readily recommend a visit to Cafe Sacher.


See my other Food related articles


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