Monday, October 2, 2017

Microsoft Ends Groove Music Pass

This was a surprising headline to read today: Microsoft Ends Groove Music Pass, Offers Transition to Spotify via Thurrott.com

Not only that, but the story also includes that Microsoft will stop selling music in the Microsoft Store. That really surprised me considering Microsoft has really been pushing that there store has a lot to offer for Windows 10 users and Xbox users. I guess Microsoft has decided to try the Google thing of shutting stuff down.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Revisiting my to-read list

I use the website Goodreads to keep track of books I have read and keep a list of books I would like to read. I joined the site at the end of December in 2010 and added a bunch of books to read in 2011. After that, I found myself reading all sorts of random stuff that came out. Joined NetGalley to find books to write reviews about and promote, and then I hit a phase where reading wasn't fun anymore for me, so I stopped and focused on other things like playing video games and watching videos.

During the years, I never stopped adding to my to-read list even though I was reading other things and not really going back to the beginning of my list and reading the stuff I added six years ago. In the last couple of months, I decided to go back to the beginning of my list and start to read the stuff I originally added.

It's been an interesting experience because I can't always remember why I added a book to my to-read list from six years ago. I can tell that my influence was on thrillers at the time because it seems that almost all of the books I added back then were in the vein of Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, and Vince Flynn. As I have been reading these books, I remembered why I have thriller on my favorite genre's to read. These types of books just have a  way of grabbing my attention and not letting go. I managed to read three of them in the past week, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next one.

I also looked down the list to the books that I was adding back in 2012. At that time, it appears I had a fantasy kick because there is like three months of added books that are all in the genre of fantasy, so it will be interesting when I get to that part of my to-read list. I do enjoy fantasy, but not as much as I used to, so I will be intrigued to see my reactions to the books that I added back then. Who knows, maybe I will rekindle my love of fantasy once more.

Either way, it has been an interesting experience to revisit my to-read list and start knocking out some of the titles that have been on the list the longest. I think my focus will remain in that area for awhile now with the occasional new book from time to time. We shall see if this trend continues, or if I get bored and go back to reading random stuff.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Random Book Update

So, I’m not going to write full reviews because I just read a couple of books for the fun of it, but I still want to mention them because they were interesting reads.

12903325The first is a book called the Unwilling by C. David Belt. This one was a little hard to get into because it has a heavy Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) influence, which usually wouldn’t be a bad thing, but there isn’t much explanation to the Mormon terminology or activities used in the book. That can make it hard to follow along. Luckily for me, I live in Utah, so the influence is all over the place and the book made a little more sense to me than it probably would to someone that doesn’t know a lot about Mormons.

What made the book interesting was the Mormon twist on a vampire story. I never thought I would read a book about a Mormon vampire, but here I am. Just finished it a few days ago. The story was a bit slow to get going, but it did get much better near the end.

8138071Now, contrast that with the next book I read: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison about a witch, a vampire, and a pixie fighting crime. Well, in this book it was more like the witch fighting for her life and existence as everyone is out to kill her because they don’t like the fact that in this world she has discovered the witches come from demons. The Hollows series has actually been one I randomly enjoy when I’m not sure what to read. This book was number nine in the series and was a very fun read.

My goal was to pick up where I left off in the Mitch Rapp series, but the book is currently on hold at the library, so I decided to read these other two while I wait. Was quite a change from reading about tough American guys kicking terrorist butt to a Mormon vampire and then a world where vampires, witches, elves, and pixies exist in an alternate dimension where tomatoes killed regular humans.

I guess that’s the fun with reading books. You move from one world to the next rather quickly if you want. Since the next book in the series I want to read is still not available, I will probably move onto a series I’ve been wanting to try for awhile from James Patterson. It was recommended to me by a friend about three years ago, and I never got around to reading it, so I figure now would be a good time to give it a try.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book Review: Memorial Day by Vince Flynn

6329941I love Mitch Rapp and his no nonsense approach to taking out the bad guys in this book, but this one really takes the cake. I feel like Vince Flynn accurately captured the frustration that many Americans feel about the federal government and the constant game of politics in the way he portrayed Mitch's constant battle against politicians who only end up slowing him down. The scenes where Mitch lets those in positions of power have it made me feel really good and wished someone could do that to our current leaders.

As usual, the book was amazing. The pacing and suspense in this thriller kept me coming back for more until I couldn’t take it anymore. I waited until a day that I had off where I could just get this book finished and over with. I’m glad I did. The stress of wondering if Mitch would save the day kept me turning page after page. It amazes me that this book was published in 2004 because it seems so relevant to the events of today that it is kind of disturbing. And the action in the book is awesome.

I am starting to see a trend in these books, however. The last few that I have read seem to have a similar breakdown with the plot. Something is uncovered by the CIA. Mitch goes in to stop it and everyone is happy, but something was missed and more ends up happening before Mitch can go home and relax. This book followed the same order of events, but it seemed to handle it better in this book because this time around Mitch knew that someone was up, but he couldn’t quite get to the bottom of it until other events unfolded.

I will always give a Mitch Rapp novel a recommendation for those of you who like suspense, political thrillers, or action. Even better if you like a combination of all three. And like I said above, even though the book was published 13 years ago, it doesn’t feel like the story has aged at all.

Since I’m on a Vince Flynn kick right now, I will probably be moving right onto the next book in the Mitch Rapp  series. Here is looking forward to seeing how the events unfold going forward in the Mitch Rapp universe!

Remembering Old Software

I recently saw a post on Twitter about a blogging / journalism platform called Ghost. I had never heard of it before, so I looked into it and was impressed. I’ve played around with various blog platforms over the years from Blogger to Wordpress to Tumblr. I’ve even set up my own Wordpress sites in the past and wondered if I should run my website off of Ghost, but I didn’t really feel like getting into all the code stuff again. Using a blogging service does simplify things greatly. Ghost offers a paid version to run it off of their servers, but it is a bit above my price range, so I will stick with what I have these days.

I did notice that Ghost offers something that caught my attention and provided a bit of nostalgia. They have  a desktop app for writing blog posts, which is nice if you don’t want to have to use your browser to draft and post articles, and it reminded me of a piece of software I used years ago called Live Writer. Live Writer was a part of the Windows Live Essentials package that came out when Windows 7 was Microsoft’s current operating system. It was a package suite of free programs and tools you could use on Windows that connected in with various Windows Live services. I remember using quite a few of the programs like the picture gallery, Live Writer, and a few others.

Live Writer gave you a program to write blog posts and publish them without ever having to go to your blogging website. You could do it all from the comfort of your desktop. It was a simple way to draft and publish stuff, and I used it for a couple of years before I moved onto doing other things. Seeing the Ghost desktop app made me think of the program again, and I wondered if any had made anything similar to it over the years. I knew that the Windows Live Essentials package had been discontinued a few years back, so imagine my surprise when a quick Google search revealed that a developer had forked the code into a new project called Open Live Writer to help keep it alive. I was fascinated, so I downloaded it.

I’m now in the process of writing this post you are reading by using the Open Live Writer. It’s as simple as I remember it, which is a good thing. I don’t like complicated stuff, and it doesn’t look like a whole lot has changed over the years. I’m sure improvements have been made to the code, and it seems to run rather well. I may just have to give the software another go for the fun of it. It might encourage me to publish things a bit more frequently, which brings up a fun point I may try. As I was looking into this old software, I started remembering other types of software I’ve used over the years, and I just may share my stories of them in the next few posts just for the fun of it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review: Bonnie and Clyde: Resurrection Road

What if I told you that Bonnie and Clyde never really died. Instead, they ended up working for a secret organization that worked to defend the government. Well, working is kind of subjective; forced would be a better word for it.

The book follows Bonnie Parker and her recounting of the life she actually lived and not the death that everyone has come to know to a journalist (Royce) looking for his next big story. The book kind of shifts back and forth between Bonnie talking to Royce and the events that transpired in her past. It was actually kind of an interesting way to tell the story because you get to see Royce's skepticism slowly disappear as he becomes more enthralled by her story and what he does to dig even deeper into the truth. At the same time, we get to enjoy the events of what happened to Bonnie and Clyde after their faked deaths.

The book has a lot of close-call elements and plenty of thrill. I guess that is to be expected considering the type of known history that Bonnie and Clyde have as outlaws. I'll admit, I don't know much about the real Bonnie and Clyde, and I haven't read a lot of what-if books. In fact, this may be my first. I did find myself intrigued after reading the book to learn a little more. I've read historical fiction in the past and find that the good books will always get me interested in the actual history of the time. I guess that means I consider this a good book!

I noticed the story only covered the first real mission that Bonnie and Clyde had after becoming secret agents. I'm hoping this means we may see more to the story in a future book or two. I'd love to see what else Royce learns!

The book becomes available on May 15th! It looks like it is available for pre-order now. I'd recommend picking up a copy when it becomes available.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2qOcWeO

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: Operation Hail Storm


Operation Hail Storm book cover

I picked this up on the Kindle Unlimited program after the author invited me to read the book. I'm always willing to give a book a try, so I grabbed it back in mid-February. Unfortunately, I never really got around to reading it until about a week ago, but I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. The book turned out to fall into a category I enjoy quite a bit: political thriller. I'm not sure if it fully falls under that category, but it had some of the elements I enjoy from some of my favorite political thrillers.

The book focuses on a man named Marshall Hail who is viewed as a brilliant man who changed the nature of nuclear power. His ability to solve the nuclear waste problem and provide clean power turned him into a billionaire. After a terrorist attack took his family from him, he altered his company's focus a bit to also focus on bringing down those responsible for the attack. The book takes place a couple of years after the terrorist attack and where Hail is now in position to start taking down the bad guys of the world using a novel approach: drones.

The book starts you right in Hail's first mission to eliminate one of the bad guys. It was a little confusing at first when I started reading the book to know what was going on and why. The book goes back and forth over the first few chapters between a variety of players: Hail and his team, a CIA operative named Kara working a mission, and a few players in the CIA. It took me a bit to figure out what was going on, but the book eventually ties everything together. Once that happens, the story really takes off.

The book has all the right stuff to make the story good: terrorists, drones, a billionaire, the CIA, Russia, and North Korea. I was actually kind of sad when the story ended because I felt there were a lot of loose ends. Hopefully, this means the author will be making another book with Hail and his crew. By the end of it, I was really invested in what they were doing and what the political fallout may be from the actions of those involved with Operation Hail Storm, but it appears I may never know or I may have to wait.

Either way, the book is good. I recommend giving it a read. You can pick it up in paperback or e-book.