Tuesday, June 30, 2015

1633 (Weber, Flint)

1633, by David Weber and Eric Flint, 2014

The second in the Ring of Fire series, 1633 offers a lot of promise with its gleaming cover comprised of a knight on horseback backed by a naval vessel, ready for war. It delivers on the action, but it doesn't (quite) on that image. However, it does give you an idea where this is going.

After the events in the first book, the Powers Than Be in Europe have stopped blaming deviltry and witchcraft and accept the fact that Grantville is here and that a new entity, the United States, now exists in Germany. They have brought weapons and technology from the future. They also brought back history textbooks. (And other library books with more information than your average high school history text might actually have.)

Having the knowledge of a possible future changes the course of "present" events. France and Spain, seeing that the results of a pointless, prolonged conflict, skip the Franco-Spanish War of 1635-59 and turn their attention to other targets. Richelieu is still cunning and angling for power.

At the start of the novel, representatives of Grantville are scattered about the continent on diplomatic missions, which go about as well as one could imagine in those troubled times. War is inevitable. However, Grantville hasn't rested on its laurels. It started developing an Air Force (by first reinventing the airplane) as well as a Navy, under the direction of John Simpson, who goes from mere antagonist to major player.

If you liked 1632, you'll probably like this one as well as it takes Grantville and its people to the next step. (If you didn't like 1632, then don't waste your time. If you didn't read 1632 then go back and find it because this one won't make any sense.)

It isn't as standalone as the first one. Obviously, you need the background from the prior book, but also there's a bit of a soap opera feel, making sure that the favorite characters are there, even if there isn't much to do. There are the brushes with historical people and events, which either have to be mentioned/acknowledged as happening or setting up future events. Where the first book had a satisfying finish but was open-ended for the series, this one has a major finale that doesn't disappoint but it doesn't end the story that it started. It's one battle: the war is still going on, and the steps Grantville is planning haven't been taken yet. Yes, I wanted to see the Old World's shock at seeing the full force of the United States Navy, instead of just a few speed boats with guns. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Again, look at the cover of the book!

I'll probably take some time off to read other things before getting back to the series. But, yeah, I will probably be back to this series, at least for another book. The major question in this chaotic shared-world series may ultimately be: Just which book is the next one?

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Make Your First App (Philabaum)

How to Make Your First App, by Ben Philabaum, 2014

This was an unusual ebook in terms of its content. While the idea of making my own app for my iPad intrigues me, this book is missing one little detail that may seem crucial to completion of this task: how to make an app!

Now before you cry foul, or con, or bait and switch, let me tell you that it does give you everything you need if you want to have an app to sell and make a few extra bucks -- and by a few, I mean a few, not a few million or possibly not a few thousand. At least, not with your first app.

There is more to creating, publishing and successfully marketing an app than just writing some code. In fact, the code might be the least important part because you can pay someone else to write it for you.

Again, this isn't a cop out. Think about it. The creators/owners of many businesses don't actually make their own product. They just come up with the idea, get it made, and then market it. Better marketing will increase sales, and if you get someone who makes it better than you, even better.

There are people who will write code for you for a flat fee, and the book includes a few places where you can go. Keep in mind that most of the examples the author uses for very simple limited apps that fill a need. Starting small can help you build a client base. And can keep your losses down if it turns out that this isn't for you.

So this was an interesting read, but a little disappointing. I used to be a programmer, so, yes, I was hoping for coding tips, or even instructions. However, Philabaum does deliver on the promises in his introduction, even if the book's title is a little misleading.

Again, this was another "book to read between books". Actually, I started reading this because I left the print book I was reading home, and this was on the device I was carrying on the train.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

BAM! How to Write an Ebook and Upload to Kindle (Hill)

BAM! How to Write an Ebook and Upload to Kindle, by Jamie Hill, 2014

This ebook was basically a book to read between books. Something quick and possibly interesting before I decide where I want to go next.

If where you want to go in making ebooks on Kindle, then this might be the book for you. On the one hand, Jamie Hill has five titles available, so something is going right. On the other hand, I downloaded it for free, so maybe so, maybe not. On the gripping hand, I'm talking about it, so there is that.

The book is more than just instructions for uploading. It's about picking a topic, one that others might be looking for, creating an outline, sticking to a schedule and doing your research. Instruction on how to format your Word file so it translates into kindle's format are there, too. Covers are tricky -- so don't make your own. There are websites to go to where you can get one done cheaply enough.

Overall, some good information, much of which can crossover to other types of projects, and I couldn't be the price (although I think it's $.99 now).

Quick read, worth your time if you're thinking about getting into e-publishing.