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Accessory Review: Snugg iPhone pouch case
April 12, 2014 | 10:46 am

snugg iphone pouch caseMy husband says if I had my way, I'd change cases and covers for my devices like other people change clothes. He's probably right. Good thing I occasionally get review copies for free, like this one: [easyazon-link asin="B0091T1HQ2" locale="us"]Snugg iPhone 4 / 4S Leather Pouch Case in Black[/easyazon-link] Let's get the "leather" claim out of the way. The case isn't real leather. It's synthetic leather, and it does have an odor, however, I don't find it unpleasant. I've been using the case for almost two weeks now, and the smell has faded. I do wish companies would stop including leather in their...

Book Review: Fear of the Dark: An Anthology of Dark Fiction
April 11, 2014 | 4:25 pm

fear of the darkI'm not generally a short story reader. I prefer to curl up with a novel-length work, but when a friend lets you know his story is in an anthology, what do you do? Well, if you're me, you buy it. [easyazon-link asin="B00IU6MHOS" locale="us"]Fear of the Dark: An Anthology of Dark Fiction[/easyazon-link], published by Horror Bound, is an anthology of 20 stories with the theme of, well, like the title says, fear of the dark. Some of the stories match the theme better than others, but, with just a few exceptions, the stories were excellent. "Dark Horse" was my favorite, since it is...

Review: FlipBelt. Who needs pockets anymore?
April 1, 2014 | 4:25 pm

flipbeltSince I've been listening to more audiobooks because of my FitBit, I've run into the problem of how to carry my phone on my walks. I don't like armbands, and the belt clip case is fine, assuming I'm wearing a belt, but what if I'm not? Fortunately, the folks at FlipBelt anticipated my needs and sent me one of their products to review. What is FlipBelt? This image demonstrates it pretty well. (And no, I'm afraid my stomach doesn't look anything like that.) Basically, it's a way to keep phone, keys, money and other small items secure while you're on the go....

Kindle Paperwhite Case Review: Magnetic Leather Smart Case
March 24, 2014 | 12:20 pm

kindle paperwhite case reviewI hadn't planned to review this case. I purchased it because it was cheap, and I returned it because I was dissatisfied. As far as I was concerned, there wasn't enough of a "story" to make it worth my time to write or your time to read. Then I received an email from the seller that changed my mind. Let's start with the case itself. As you can see from the picture, it's a standard magnetic cover in synthetic leather (which is not clear from the name of the case, but real leather rarely costs $11.99, so I wasn't expecting the...

Kindle Paperwhite Review
March 17, 2014 | 10:18 am

kindle paperwhite reviewI've had my new ereader for a little more than a week now, plenty of time to have evaluated it for a Kindle Paperwhite review. Short version? I like it lots. It's much better than my old Touch and a worthy upgrade. Screen It took a bit of getting used to. For the first few days I didn't love it. The lighting is dramatically different based on the ambient lighting conditions. In direct light, the screen has the gray hue I'm used to from prior eInk readers. In indirect light, it's the white you've seen in the advertising. In low- and no-lighting,...

Review: Labato Leather Stand/Cover for iPhone 5
March 5, 2014 | 4:25 pm

labato stand/cover for iPhone 5I recently received a Labato Leather Stand/Cover for iPhone 5 for review. As you can see from the image, it's a folio-style case, which I love for tablets and am not as crazy about for phones. However, I really liked the stand idea and wanted to give it a try. Let's start with the basics. Unlike many inexpensive case options that call themselves leather, this one really is. Both smell and feel confirm it. This isn't a PU leather product. I don't know if it's actually lamb skin like the Amazon entry says (my nose can't distinguish between cow and lamb), but...

Review: Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner
February 28, 2014 | 6:58 pm

coverIf you type the words into Google, you’ll find that random story generator sites are everywhere on the Internet. It seems like people have discovered the randomness of computers can help them shuffle up a bunch of basic archetypes and come up with a plot outline they can write to. But there’s a set of random story generation tools out there that pre-date the Internet by most of a century—and while not as old as some people claim they are, they’re nonetheless old enough, and well-used enough, that they can make a great tool in any writer’s toolbox. I’m...

Review: HooToo Tripmate Elite: 5 devices in 1
February 28, 2014 | 12:25 pm

hootoo tripmate eliteEver been travelling and looked at how many device accessories you needed to carry? Charger, cable, external battery, portable hot spot, etc. The list goes on. Well, check out this Indiegogo campaign for the HooToo Tripmate Elite. Looks like they are lagging in their funding right now, and that's too bad because this is a nice device. They were kind enough to send me a pre-production model to review. Here's what it does, all in one package: 1. Personal Cloud Storage 2. Portable Travel Router 3. Wi-Fi Hotspot 4. 6,000mAh External Battery Charger 5. Built-in AC Adapter Let's start with that personal cloud storage. We go camping...

App Review: Duolingo
February 22, 2014 | 5:05 pm

duolingoInspired by Joanna's article on reading French, I decided it was time to brush up on my long-neglected college-level French. I was looking for a good book or app when I stumbled across Duolingo. It's free (with no in-app purchases), and more important, it's fun. I like their approach to learning. Unlike my long-ago (and much despised) French classes, the app doesn't start you out with conjugating verbs. Instead, they use an immersive approach and let you dive right in. The exercises are varied and teach reading comprehension, writing and speaking, assuming you're using a device with a microphone. My favorite...

App Review: Lego Friends Story Maker (iOS)
February 21, 2014 | 3:37 pm

Lego Friends Story MakerA very sweet valentine gift from the Beloved has ignited a new obsession with me. I have become a Lego fan! So when I saw this neat-looking app from the Lego people, I was all over it and downloaded it for our school iPads. Lego and literacy skills building all in one app? What a great idea. The app is simple in concept and execution, but cleverly conceived. It allows kids to write their own little ebooks and illustrate them using characters and settings from the Lego Friends series. Once you have the project set up, all you have to do...

UK snark awards celebrate Hatchet Job of the Year for harshest reviews
January 15, 2014 | 10:30 am

In a welcome sign that snark survives this side of the Herring Pond, UK book-lovers' site The Omnivore has announced its latest Hatchet Job of the Year Award shortlist "for the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months." And there are some wonderfully brutal, unsympathetic, attacks in line for the final award, which will be presented in early February, with the grand prize of "a year’s supply of potted shrimp." The Omnivore's own manifesto for the Awards makes for some very interesting reading - not least for what it defends. "Newspaper book pages are...

Review: Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution
December 22, 2013 | 11:11 am

coverI finished reading Fred Vogelstein’s book Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, which I mentioned in my post yesterday. I quite enjoyed it. Even though I read the news reports of the events it describes as they happened, you don’t get the big picture until you read a book like this, that looks back and puts everything together in the proper context. The book covers the development of the iPhone and Android phones, touches on the iPad and what it meant, goes over the Apple vs. Samsung patent lawsuit, and then wraps up...