Friday, May 29, 2020

Book Review: The Stormcaller

Book Review: The Stormcaller

Contributed by Christina Nixon, Contributor

book review; teddy bear with glasses reading book

The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd
(Found on Bookshare)

Isak is a White-Eye-a race of people who are extraordinarily strong, violent, and short-tempered.  He struggles to control his weaknesses and grow into his strengths while learning to navigate court life in his new position as heir to the lord of the Fahlan.  He is aided and opposed by an interesting and diverse set of characters.  The setting and the plot make this anything but a typical epic fantasy.  Fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch will find The Stormcaller just as enjoyable.

The only disappointment is that the subsequent four books in the series aren't yet on audio.  If you feel likewise, you can visit Tom Lloyd's website at and let him know.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tech Tip - Time to Say Goodbye to IE

Tech Tips: Time to Say Goodbye to IE

Internet explorer Icons

Contributed by Jerry Price, Assistive Technology Specialist

Jaws users have been using Internet Explorer (IE) for decades, but the Internet browser has lost its functionality.  Many web sites will redirect users to early versions of web pages or simply not allow IE to interact with their sites, telling users to upgrade to a modern browser.  As an aside, IE will continue to be supported as long as Windows 10 exists, but the software lacks many utilities for navigation and security.  With Chrome and Safari dominating the web browser arena, screen reader users may want to put an end to their surfing frustrations and try something new.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Book Review: The Goblin Emperor

Book Review: The Goblin Emperor

Contributed by Christina Nixon, Contributor

book review; teddy bear with glasses reading book

The Goblin Emperor
By Katherine Addison
(Found on Bookshare)

Maia is the disregarded half-goblin son of the Elvin emperor.  The emperor and his three eldest sons died in an accident, leaving the unprepared Maia to assume the throne.  He faces many challenges in court-whom to trust, the resentment of his father and brother's widows, learning court politics, choosing a bride, and making the right choices for himself and his empire.  This is a wonderful story filled with intrigue and politics with a hint of romance.  The protagonist Maia is very well developed and he makes mistakes without appearing stupid.  The supporting characters are three dimensional and have interesting personalities and backstories.  Kyle McCarley makes each person come alive with his or her own voice.  Even without the explanatory text, the listener knows who is speaking based upon McCarley's narration alone.  Though the synopsis places this book in the young adult category, the writing, character development, and story are very mature and adult.  Maia is young and na├»ve and new to court but he faces his situation with remarkable courage and self-awareness.

The setting is highly developed and the dialogue realistic and engaging.  Addison's world contains some magic, some of which is spiritual.  The goblins aren't the typical short treasure-hoarding little monsters usually found in fantasy.  They are more civilized and have their own culture.  Though the goblins and elves are separate species, Addison depicts them more as different ethnicities.  I can't compliment this book enough.  I've been recommending it to everyone I know who has even the slightest interest in fantasy.  My only complaint is that The Goblin Emperor is a stand-alone title.  At this time, Addison doesn't plan to write a sequel.  The story ends very neatly; however, I am disappointed no further adventures are forthcoming.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Book Review: Of Anchors and Aspirations

Book Review: Of Anchors and Aspirations

Contributed by Christina Nixon, Contributor

book review; teddy bear with glasses reading book

Of Anchors and Aspirations
By Scott Kellmann
(Found on Amazon)

Of Anchors and Aspirations focuses primarily on several cadets during their first year of military training.  Minor aspects of the story include romance and mischief while the more prominent elements are strong character development, plot, and realistic dialogue.  This first novel in what I hope will be a series spends many chapters introducing the reader to the several heroes and heroines and their strengthening friendships.  Each cadet is unique, likable, and interesting.

The antagonists are well-realized and believable characters with intelligence, individual motivations, and flaws.
While this is a sci-fi setting with space travel and a military focus, the author does not fill the pages with long, technical explanations of space travel and other technology.  The military exercises that are part of the plot are described in such a way that a reader with no military experience can understand and be interested in them.  Though this story is about cadets, I would not classify this as a young adult novel.

I eagerly await the next book in Worlds Afire and look forward to learning what the characters will do next.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Book Review: Magic Slays

Book Review: Magic Slays

Contributed by Christina Nixon, Contributor

book review; teddy bear with glasses reading book

The Crimson Campain by Brian Mcclellan
(Found on Bookshare)

Magic Slays, (Book 5 in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews), was an enjoyable read but an overall disappointment when compared to this author’s other works.  The interactions between Kate and the other main characters such as Julie, Andrea, and Curran were interesting and amusing.  The romance was present but not overdone, new, distinctive characters were introduced, and the setting possessed its usual flare.  The book fell short, however, in its plot.  The subplot concerning what Kate learned about her background was not only unexpected but unwelcome and out of place.  The main plot of the story was more predictable and stereotypical than readers of Ilona Andrews have come to expect.  While the plot is uninspired, Kate’s personal interactions and the setting still make this a good read.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Podcast Review: TMA

Podcast Review

Contributed by Taryn Tranby, Patron Services

A long somber violin tune greets your ears and a low Londoner’s voice whispers “Rusty Quill Presents...The Magnus Archives.” This eerie welcome brings you into each episode of The Magnus Archives. If you start at the beginning of the series, it starts out as twenty-minute tales of horror that have been submitted to the fictional Magnus Institute in the form of statements. Most episodes are recorded by Jonathan Sims, the head archivist at the institute. 
I discovered The Magnus Archives after seeing a great deal of content on a social media platform I frequent. It was mostly fanart, but I was intrigued and added it to my Google Play podcasts. There it sat, for several months while I readily ignored it in favor of Ologies and The Adventure Zone. It was like having a pile of books next to my bed waiting to be read and consumed, but I had to be in just the right mood to be able to get to it. This is a podcast that you need to devote some attention to in order to be able to absorb the creeping dread.
I’ve never been a fan of horror; I didn’t really understand the appeal of jumpscares and gore. This podcast offers neither, instead relying on the slow torture of Sims’ voice not so much reading the statements as performing them. That isn’t to say that his voice itself is torture - quite the opposite! He’s excellent at evoking the feelings that the fictional writer might have and the editing and soundscaping only add to the excitement. Ambient sounds and slow, creeping instrumentals are played in the background at pivotal points during a statement or episode. Because Sims is recording in his fictional office at the archives, occasionally he’s visited by another voice, usually, a coworker butting in or an individual making a statement in person.
As the podcast proceeds, you begin to discover a pattern in certain statements and the world is slowly built through these short recordings. You learn to recognize the voices of Sims’ coworkers: Tim, Martin, Sasha, and their boss, Elias. What started out as some enjoyable eerie tales to listen to while working, became much more exciting than I was aware of with an overarching plot spanning several seasons. 

As of right now, it has spanned 160 statement and plot-driven episodes, with some Q&A following each season and a few tabletop gaming episodes as well. The Magnus Archives can be found on Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Tech Tips: Alexa and Help with COVID-19

Tech Tips: Alexa and Help with COVID-19

Amazon Alexa Logo

Contributed by Jerry Price, Assistive Technology Specialist


Alexa is the cloud-based personal assistant that is built into Amazon products such as Echo Dot, Echo Show, Amazon Fire Tablets, and other products made by numerous manufacturers.  The interactive personal assistant can help you with many tasks when it comes to the Coronavirus.  For example, you can ask it for cleaning tips, call the Covid hotline, and give me an update on Covid-19, what I should do if I think I have Covid-19 and others.  Recently, the May Clinic has added a skill called Mayo Clinic Answers on COVID-19.  You must enable this skill before using it.  Once enabled, Alexa will walk you through a series of questions concerning your health.

As many Alexa users have discovered, there are some skills that you can ask the assistant to enable while others must be granted permission by going into the Amazon Alexa app.  Unfortunately, at the
time of this writing, it is the latter option for Mayo Clinic Answers:

Voiceover Instructions for Enabling an Alexa Skill

  • open the Alexa App
  • double tap on the menu
  • double tap on the skills and games tab
  • now double-tap on the search button
  • type in Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic Answers to Covid-19 will be one of the choices. Enable the skill and save permission.

Just as an aside, the Mayo Clinic also offers an app called First Aid which you can have Alexa enable.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Book Review: The Crimson Campaign

Book Review: The Crimson Campaign

Contributed by Christina Nixon, Contributor

book review; teddy bear with glasses reading book

The Crimson Campain by Brian Mcclellan
(Found on Bookshare)

This book starts off with an action sequence and throws us right into the midst of the characters' struggles-Adamat seeking to rescue his wife and children, Taniel's attempts to forget what he's done, and Tamas' efforts to bring his piece of the army to Adro.  We see other familiar characters as well.  (No spoilers)  I have only two complaints about this book.  It is the second book in the trilogy so, while some problems are overcome, many situations remain unresolved.  Given the author's attention to detail and character development, I am certain everything will be wrapped up nicely in the third book.  My second complaint is that this book is too short and too good.  I want more in this series and I want it now.

This book contains sleuthing; military campaigning; characters sinking to greater depths or rising to heights of heroism, understanding, and bravery; a bit of romance, intrigue, treachery, and humor.  Fans of Promise of Blood are sure to love The Crimson Campaign.  I also recommend the Audible short stories set in the same universe-The Girl of Hrush Avenue, Forsworn, and Hope's End.