Update Schedule

There was once an update schedule. It lived a good life, a peaceful life. A quiet life. But then... things began to change. It became more and more erratic, sometimes completely disobeying its very reason for existance. And at last, the update schedule could take no more. It cast off its chains and went free, seeking new lands where it would be appreciated. This message it left where once it had lived, to warn other schedules of the peril.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Read this before upgrading (Windows 10)

Yes, I know, I'm supposed to be reviewing books, not endlessly reading Windows 10 feedback. I swear, I'm reading books too. Just...more slowly and with lots of feedback in between.

Just a few notes:
I am not in any way connected to Microsoft. I have sent them a link to let them know that these are why I wouldn't necessarily recommend Windows 10, but I have zero expectation that they'll read it. This is for people who aren't sure whether to upgrade, so that they know the truth. There are a lot of excellent reasons to upgrade to Windows 10- here are the cons.
The bottom list is unlikely to get much longer than the one item it already is... but it's a common issue and I thought I'd post the solution somewhere because really, it's not a big deal.
And now onto the list. I don't pretend it's complete, but you should know what you're getting into and I haven't seen a more complete one.

Real problems you should upvote instead of repost, and consider before upgrading:
1. Combined mail option doesn't exist, and there's no delete all button.
2. No dark theme (in a lot of apps).
3. The tops of windows should be colored and/or transparent like they were in Windows 7 (right now they're plain white, and it's a weird contrast to your themed taskbar and start menu).
4. The new calculator is awful (useable, but ugly).
5. Cortana uses Bing with no option to switch, can't tell you who the president is, searches automatically and in the most irritating way possible, and is basically not very functional.
6. Touchpad drivers across the board are messed up with no way of reverting to an old one. (Some computers, particularly Lenovo ones, lose scrolling- I did with my Acer, but a restart fixed it. Anything more complicated than two-finger scrolling is likely not to work in Windows 10.)
7. Edge doesn't support adblockers (or any other extensions) or Google.
8. Notifications are iffy at best (don't show up, are unclear, vanish randomly).
9. Live tiles don't work right, especially the mail one.
10. The new OneNote doesn't sync and lacks most of its options (no font changing, rotary wheel is gone).
11. Google Calendar doesn't sync shared calendars in the calendar app.
12. Settings and control panel still aren't integrated.
13. You can only revert to your old OS for a month- so keep this in mind if you're just trying it out and might want to switch back.

Solutions to common "problems" on Windows 10:
1. No insider hub. This one baffles me, since our good friend Gabe Aul emailed us all the solution... then again, I don't usually read his emails either. But regardless, here's how you get the insider hub in Windows 10 (taken from here):

  1. Go to Start Windows Start icon, enter the word Settings, then select Settings.
  2. Select System > Apps & features.
  3. Select Manage optional features > Add a feature.
  4. Scroll down the alphabetical list and select Insider Hub, and then select Install
2. How to import your stuff from another browser to Edge:
Open Edge. Go to settings. Click "import favorites from another browser". It's actually incredibly quick and (for me, at least) works perfectly. Note: this only works with IE and Chrome... not good for Firefox users.

Please comment if you have a question or something to be added. 
To be updated...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot Salem's Lot by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried reading Under the Dome last year. I found it to be poorly written and full of gore rather than plot. I gave up around 200 pages in.
I had no plans to try Stephen King again, until last week, when I discovered a reference to this book in an article I was reading for a paper I should be writing instead of this review. I decided to read at least the scene that was mentioned because it sounded relevant.
A few days later, I had the book in my hands and I settled down to read it, not looking forward to it and hoping that the scene I wanted would come soon. The poems at the beginning did little to alleviate my doubts. Neither did the prologue which, although well-written, did not seem to me to bode well for the coming novel.
Fifteen minutes later, I was remarking to everyone I met that Stephen King could actually write. I only stopped because I wanted to keep reading the book and I had limited time. I didn't read it one sitting, but it only took two or three. The book is remarkably well-written, and it's exactly the sort of writing I like (except for the unnecessary stuff put in only to make it an adult book so it'll sell, but it wasn't hard to ignore). The setting was done beautifully, although the metaphors were sometimes a little too vague. The characters were well set up, and narrowly avoided going over the line from the perfect amount to far too many, which when it works is a good thing.
This book wasn't particularly scary, especially once the vampires actually showed up, but that was okay with me. It was suspenseful and interesting, and I didn't need it to be anything else.
It was more religious than I'd expected, which was a little weird at times since I wasn't expecting it.
The characters were well done, although a few were killed off for no particular reason (I thought Jimmy would serve a purpose since he was the only one Barlow didn't mention in the letter... apparently not). I didn't particularly like any of them, but I almost never like book characters. Matt's Van Helsing impersonation annoyed me, but at least it was conscious. I do wish Father Callahan's ending hadn't been so sad and vague, but oh well.
And, of course, the best part: evil vampires taken straight out of Dracula (well, sort of, Dracula walked in the day). The retroactive invitation bit was cool; I don't think I've ever seen that before (speaking of which, does anyone know where the invitations come from in the first place? No one seems to have any idea). He didn't go with the OCD myths (yes, Count Von Count is a real vampire after all), which was a little disappointing since no one ever does... but then again, no one ever does. The vampires were also modernly pale, rather than ruddy like in all the legends, but again, no one ever does.
Okay, this has gone on way too long and I really do need to write my paper. Basically, this book was surprisingly good and I plan to give Stephen King a second chance.

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Review: The Crystal Shard

The Crystal Shard The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't really like it, sadly. R.A. Salvatore's writing definitely improved between this series and the next. This book was rather dull and cliched, and skipped over all of the parts I actually wanted to read about. Drizzt wasn't likeable at all; I'm not sure why everyone liked him enough for the rest of the serieses (like hobbsitses, that's a word). He was just better than Wulfgar. I was going to read all of the Legend of Drizzt, but this may be the end. The later books are probably better, and I doubt these matter, but I've just lost my enthusiasm.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted this to be good.
I really, really did.
Unfortunately, it was nothing special. It wasn't even interesting. And the cliffhanger at the end was so contrived that I don't even feel particularly bad for not caring what happens next.
Let's start with my main problem: the main character. Yep, that's right, he hasn't got a name. I don't know why none of the children are named, but they're not. Henri does have a name, which we find out about two pages from the end. Not sure why it was delayed that long... also, Brandon is a completely normal Earth name. It even sounds sort of French. Why did he change it?
Next, on to Lorien. I shall write a short script detailing the problems:
Me: So... your planet is dead?
MC: Yeah, but it's pulsing in my magic crystal. I have lots of those that show up at various times with no explanation, by the way. Like my magic healing crystal and my magic caffeine crystal. And my magic fire-imperviousness crystal. I have lots more, but Henri won't let me look at them for unexplained reasons.
Me: ...cool. So you came here to survive?
MC: But we're going to go back and repopulate it.
Me: Your dead planet?
MC: Yes.
Me: You do know it can't support life?
MC: *Nods happily*
Me: I see. And these magical powers?
MC: Are very magical.
Me: Yes, but why?
MC: *Looks confused* What do you mean, why? We have magical powers. And charms. It's magical. We're aliens. It works.
Yes, this is actually the book's attitude toward this. There is no explanation at all. But my main issue was actually with Lorien's culture.
There are two classes: magical people and non-magical people. The non-magical people (with no choice in the matter) are in charge of taking care of magical people's children and training them. They don't seem to mind this. The MC routinely abuses his (Henri), and Henri hugs him and tells him how proud he is. They're all brainwashed, in my opinion. And the author carefully tiptoes around any suggestion that they might be servants or slaves.
Next, their supposed intelligence. The MC is a complete idiot. Despite being warned that morning, he fails to notice his Legacy appearing despite it being painfully obvious. Also, he doesn't notice his other painfully obvious Legacy until the very end. And- surprise!- all of them have telekinesis. So that's handy. His Legacies developed out of order, but that's okay. Probably due to the planet-magic not being quite plot convenient enough. Also, he tells everyone he can find that he's an alien. How are they not dead before the book starts?
And finally, the love story (the characters are so painfully flat that I'm going to skip them). Okay, maybe the MC's an alien. He might work differently. He can fall in love deeply and forever at age fifteen if he must (although Henri's advice that he basically play around with Sarah until his real soulmate comes along is disgusting). But Sarah? She can't be more than sixteen or seventeen. She shouldn't be dating a fifteen year old in the first place, but even if she is, she shouldn't be promising eternal love to someone she'll almost certainly never see again and has been lying to her for pretty much the entire time he's known her. Not to mention nearly gets her killed multiple times. She should go date what's-his-name the much maligned football player instead. Much safer.
Basically, the only thing I disliked about this book more than the book was the movie trailer. The more I think about the book, the less I like it. I'm going to stop before I give in to the urge to give it one start, which would probably be unfair.

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Review: The Dark Elf Trilogy Collector's Edition

The Dark Elf Trilogy Collector's Edition The Dark Elf Trilogy Collector's Edition by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We've already been through the long boring backstory of how I found this book, so I'll skip it and you can read my review for the first one if you're curious.
I never considered myself the sort of person who would go anywhere near a D&D novel, and had I known what they were before I read them I probably wouldn't have. Luckily, I didn't figure it out until afterward, when I read the author's note (can I just say, Drizzt Do'Urden is a pretty awesome name to make up on the spot) and I read these.
The third book was by far my favorite (and so I'll mostly be talking about it). The first I liked but it was a bit awkward at times. The second... it was fun, but it felt a lot like filler. A lot of it is just Drizzt running around being awesome, which is of course great but didn't do much overall for the character. The only major complaint I have in the third is that I felt Drizzt kept losing and gaining swordsmanship points (no, I have no idea if that's a real thing) and while he was at some points epic as always sometimes he was beaten very easily. I guess it was more realistic than the first two books, but the precedent had already been established.
I'm not sure that I like Drizzt (there aren't really any other important recurring characters other than the cat if you read them all at once, which I actually didn't realize until now)- he's a bit too violent and tortured for my taste, but I understand and respect him, which I think is more important in a character. He spends just a little more time than is normal hugging his cat, but I guess even Dark Elves can be crazy cat ladies if they want. I liked that he didn't know what happened to his family in the end- maybe he didn't have to leave the Underdark, but he doesn't know that and I doubt he ever will. That was kind of sad.
His coming to the surface I thought wasn't handled awesomely- there are a few moments where the author deals brilliantly with his lack of knowledge ("Bring me a...limb!"), and the eye thing is consistent, but I think it could have been better. Of course, then it might have been tedious.
I'm sure by now anyone who's spent five minutes anywhere near me or anything I've written knows where I stand on the idea that GRRM kills too many characters... well, I think he could take a few lessons from this book. The characters who die are all fully-formed characters who I thought would become major characters, and then they were killed for no real purpose. Usually horribly (poor little sprite thing). I think a lot of it is that these are prequels, so any character in danger of needing to recur has to go, but since I haven't read the original three yet that's just speculation.
Anyway, in general, I found these very enjoyable, from the evils of Menzoberranzan (I don't think I spelled that right...) to weird svirfneblin (couldn't make it up if I trired) who thankfully were left behind at the end adorable small children saying "drizzit" (way to take out your aggravation with people mispronouncing his name, R.A. Salvatore...) to the weirdness of the ending (poor dog). And now that I've overloaded on parentheses, I think it's time to wrap up. Yay for fantasy novels I could stop laughing at long enough to like. I hope the next twelve are as good. :)

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Hello all,
Good news. Today I got an email from Goodreads claiming that my automatic posting should be back up. I don't know why they didn't email me when it went down, but I guess if it works now I'll forgive them.
I'm currently trying to write a 10 page paper and finish another year's worth of math in a month, so I'm not sure how many books I'll get the opportunity to read, but at least the reviews should come consistently now. And I have two books (technically four) that I've been putting off, so those should come through soon.
And I'm going to try to be better about writing long reviews. And that's about all. Thank you to anyone still reading this.

Edit: Okay, so it's posting but the paragraphing isn't coming through. I'll edit them by hand for now.
Also, look how long they are! :)


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review of A Brother's Price

That's Jerin, in case you were wondering. The wimpy one with long hair being carried (that other one is his sister- her hair's actually longer than it should be- not sure which one, as this scene does not actually appear, but since it can be presumed to have happened I'll let it pass).

I love the premise of this book, and I think that it was carried through pretty well. The author had a little too much fun at times, but with this sort of book you have to expect that. It was much darker than I thought, with a lot of... well, Jerin insists it's not rape, but it's definitely sexual harassment even if no actual sex technically occurs.
I also didn't realize how young everyone was. Jerin is FIFTEEN and he sleeps with at least... 1...2...3...4...plus that creepy lady... and those others... see that problem? He's adorably innocent until it comes to actually sleeping with someone, and then he's good. It's a bit odd.
I did like that this book wasn't about Jerin overthrowing the oppressive society or anything silly like that. It's a love story within the boundaries the author set up, and although Jerin's a bit more adventurous than most males, it's not by his choice.
What I didn't like was that having multiple wives meant he could be as unfaithful as he pleased, and luckily it would turn out to have been another one of his wives and so he's okay. He literally feels guilty right up until it's revealed to be yet another wife, and then he's fine with it. It never occurs to him that maybe it's still wrong since he didn't know about it.
The girls were also all strong characters. My major issue with this book is that while Jerin's always going on about abusive wives and sisters, all the sisters we see are perfectly loving and sweet (to their own families, at least) with the possible exception of the Brindles, who never actually appear. On the other hand, we're bombarded with the story of the possibly only abusive husband in the entire country.
But all in all, it was fun. Kind of a cute love story, if disturbing (that last sentence... ew. Don't think of the three-year-olds that way, Jerin.) I did like how much time was spent on Jerin's clothing and other people saying he was pretty while he blushed and giggled.
Of course, the entire book existed to mock the genre. So in terms of literature... meh. But it was funny, and not a bad book in its own right.
I was disappointed by the fact that no advantage was taken of their being two Eldest Whistlers at the same time. Actually, no one even mentions it. I'm just assuming the other one was there. Such a missed opportunity.

^Look! A long review! I hope someone read that.
Now, back to Drizzt... (oh. Right. I mean, back to trig.)


Friday, July 17, 2015

Some more books

Another long list of short review, sorry. I'm busy. And no one's reading this. I should possibly give up.

The Last Leaves falling, by Sarah Benwell
Actually, I will post the cover, because it may not look great but in the context of the book it's a great concept:
I knew what this book was when I picked it up. I should have put it back down.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Ugly cover, not going to bother to find it and copy it. Boring, nothing new or original or good. Not sure why I read it. 2/3

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Interesting. It got very dark at the end, which I wasn't expecting. I didn't fully understand the curses, but I think that's because the jacket description was wrong and it confused me because I was trying to fit it in. A bit too many metaphors for my taste- they weren't integrated terribly well- but it wasn't badly written.

Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Ugly cover, won't make you all suffer by posting it.
Actually, I'm going to rant:
Why is that kisses are absolutely meaningless in YA novels? Girls run around kissing whoever they want, and the guy is portrayed as a jerk and overly sensitive for mistakenly assuming that this meant the girl cared about them. Meanwhile, the girl runs off and sleeps with someone else. And that's okay! Silly guy who thought that maybe someone loved him. He's clearly evil.
I guess the book had a vaguely interesting premise. But it was exactly like every other YA novel in the universe. Premise isn't everything. I want PLOT. Not the same story with names and setting changed.
Also, the beginning of this book was pretty much an exact copy of The Giver...

And A Brother's Price, which was actually interesting and cool and I'll give its own review (I bought it/ had my sister buy it and everything. True dedication.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

Wait a second... there's nothing about this cover I can call out as innacurate!
Ah, pure fantasy, that dying species. It's a bit like hard science fiction in that the author takes themselves so seriously I have to work not to laugh at them. But once I've gotten into the book I really do like it. (Are you listening, Brandon Sanderson? No one cares about Rithmatist. Give me my Stormlight.)
Anyway, so there's some backstory to my reading this book: A few months ago, my cousin had a baby. We went to visit her, and her parents-in-law were there. While we were eating dinner, I happened to talk to her father-in-law. We got onto the subject of books, I discovered that he was actually an interesting guy who'd read many of the same books I had. We talked about fantasy, and he told me that I should read the Dark Elf trilogy.
So here I am.
I enjoyed this book a lot. '90s fantasy is a category of its own, and this didn't let me down in that respect. I liked how it wasn't that Drizzt was somehow completely different from the other elves, because his mindset wasn't really human, either- his ideals were just a less corrupted version of theirs.
I didn't like how it seemed that there was one good person gene and if you didn't get it you were doomed. Specifically, if Zak wasn't your father, there was no hope of your ever having morals. So that was kind of depressing.
Also, driders? That was pathetic. And came too late. But I'll forgive it (sort of).
On to the next. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

And a lot more

It's kind of been forever since I last updated this. Sorry about that. I hope someone's still reading it.
I've been really busy doing things such as finishing all of geometry in eight days (although, come to think of it, that's not really an excuse since it only took me eight days). Anyway, I've read quite a few books in the interim, so it's time for another of those long multi-review posts.

1. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)
I kind of want to compliment the cover... but not really. Sherlock Holmes' niece plus Bram Stoker's sister plus time travel is the sort of combination that you can't really get wrong even if you do it terribly, and luckily this was actually pretty good. Ridiculous, of course, but good.
I'm going to stick the sequel in early because it's silly to separate them:

2. The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason
This one was fun. I actually want the third. The only thing I don't like about it is that I don't read ghost books and I wish that the author had chosen a different plot, but there are very few ghosts in it, so it wasn't a big deal. Also, this book is worth it just for Grayling saving the puppy.

3. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
I really liked this book. It was just a good book. I'm not a big fan of faeries, because a lot of the time authors cheat with them and start writing really vaguely instead of coming up with a proper ending, but luckily that wasn't a problem with this book. So... yeah. Great book.

4.  Mind Games by Kiersten White
Apparently this book was originally called Sister Assassin. Which is a terrible title, especially for this book. So let's all take a moment to be thankful that they changed it.
Anyway, another good book. I even sort of liked the ending.

5. The Changeling Prince by Vivian Vande Velde
I have a lot of respect for that name, by the way. Especially since it's apparently her real one.
So, I was at the library getting all those other books, and I saw this clearly misshelved little fantasy paparback amid all the YA dystopian stuff. So, of course, I dumped all my other books on the table and read this one instead of picking out more. And, luckily, this book was pretty good.
There isn't much to say about it. It's not the sort of book you purposefully read. It pretty much exists to be randomly found, read out of curiosity, and surprise people with how actually pretty good it is.

6. Okay, I can't even do it. Yes, I finally read Pride and Prejudice. There, I admit it, okay? I've been reading every YA novel I can find for years, with every single one of their references, and I understood not a single one.
And yes, it was really good. And I should have read it before. Happy?
I may be just slightly overly defensive about this considering that I doubt anyone else cares. Moving on.

7. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Oh, God, I actually wrote a review and originally gave it three stars. Not changing the stars, but here's the review:
So, this book was interesting. It was surprisingly okay, which I didn't expect. I spot no gaping plot holes aside from the absurd ending, but even that was less absurd than most YA endings (actually, I've discovered I really just detest book endings... so I've probably been unfair to everyone else. Also, this will be an issue for me as an author...) The main character was shockingly unlikable while excellently characterized. She was very real, I just hated her. Which made the book a bit less fun, because I really disliked everything she did and every thought she had, even though I was able to understand her.
The ending was silly, have I mentioned? There were so many better ways to do it. Of course, there were worse ways too, so I'll just leave at meh.
The twist reminded me a bit of the twist from The Ring and the Crown. As in I felt the book would have been stronger without the twist, although this one was much better than the aforementioned one (although that book was way better). But then, I hate pretty much all twists, too (except that one in the second Fifth Wave. Yay Rick Yancey.)
The love interest was also very unlikeable. Grumpy and annoying, mostly. And the main character (Alina! That's her name.) kept whining about how manly he'd become, but I think that's because she acts like a two-year-old around him. And the one time he stoops to her level they get robbed and nearly killed, so I'm not sure what she was complaining about.
The Darkling was weird. Actually, he was the most likeable one, but strange. I shan't say any more because of spoilerness.
Now, to my main complaint: the Grisha. I actually have just one major question, following which I will and this review and leave you to ponder:
Where are the Broccoli Summoners?

So that was fun. Good ending note, actually. Until I realize I haven't updated this in months, then.