Digital Magazines

I’ve been considering subscribing to a few magazines, namely, National Geographic and the Smithsonian. In looking at digital delivery options, I came across a few cool new-to-me services:

  • Zinio - huge selection of magazines that you can subscribe to, and they can be read on the website, as well as the usual mobile devices. They also have a feature call Z-Pass, where you pay $5/month for 3 magazines. I almost went for those one, but continued to dig around some more.
  • Next Issue – basically, Netflix for magazines. You pay a flat monthly fee (either $10 or $15, depending on whether you want weeklies), and can read everything they have in their catalog. Pretty nifty deal. However, I can’t tell if you lose all of your past issues if you unsubscribe, and it doesn’t appear that you can read stuff on their website. Instead, it looks like it’s only available on actual devices – iPhone, iPad, Kindle, etc. Bit of a bummer, that. Still, quite the deal.

Bonus find: my public library has a bunch of their periodicals available through Zinio, including Nat Geo. I can “check them out,” but they’re never actually checked back in, so they stay bound to your personal Zinio account forever. I essentially landed a free digital subscription to Nat Geo, Popular Science, and a few other things I wanted to check out. Cool.

I’m still considering Next Issue; they have Wired, Time, and Entertainment Weekly, all of which I wouldn’t mind having easy access to. And hey, they also have Golf Digest and the Oprah Magazine. What’s not to love?

Stoic Week

I’ve been slowly reading through Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and have found it to be a great read, with lots of things in it that make sense to me. I’ve made notes to myself to poke around some more into Stoicism, and took some preliminary looks at some Wikipedia articles, but that’s about it.

As luck would have it, however, Monday kicks off Stoic Week, during which people sign up to try to put Stoic philosophy into action in their daily lives. It’s a neat idea, and I think I’m going to give it a go. There’s a handbook to get you started, if you’re entirely clueless, along with some videos and audio bits and bobs to check out. The project can also be found on Twitter right about here, if you’re into that.

Bookish stuff (Saxon Stories / Star Trek)

I’ve been on a reading streak lately, burning through more books than I had in a long while. I feel that I can attribute this to finally finishing up that monstrosity of a book, A Dance with Dragons.

Anyway: I finished a few Star Trek: New Frontier books, as well as the first three books of the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. The Trek books are kind of a very guilty pleasure – sort of my equivalent of trashy romance novels that people read, but kind of want to hide that they’re reading them. They’re just fun books, period – book junk food, more or less.

The Saxon Stories have been a partial reread, as I had read the first book a number of years ago, started the second one, and quit. I decided I’d give the series another go, and have enjoyed it, even though my original gripes remain. Most notably: the run-on sentences, my God, they’re everywhere. Take a gander at this:

Amazingly, at least to me, it seemed that none  of our men was [sic] struck, though I could see their shields were stuck with arrows and spears like hedgehog spines, and still the three wedges advanced, and now our own bowmen were shooting at the Danes, and a handful of our men broke from the ranks behind the wedges to hurl their own spears at the enemy shield wall.

That one isn’t that bad, but there are far worse cases to be read. I understand that he’s going for exciting action with these gargantuan linguistic beasts, but it just doesn’t work for me. All it ends up doing for me is making me feel like I’m going to run out of breath before the sentence is over (if I were to be reading it out loud, but you get my point).

Still, they’re enjoyable books, and are set in a time period I’m interested in, so I’ll probably finish up the series. They’re basically adventure yarns stuffed into a Viking-era setting, and that’s okay with me. I just wish there were a few more periods sprinkled throughout them.

A (Disappointing) Dance with Dragons

(There’s one major, major, major spoiler in this post, so if you’ve not read the book and plan on doing so, turn back.)

Well, after many, many months of chipping away at it, I finished A Dance with Dragons a few weeks ago. Sadly, I’m not sure it was worth the time and effort. As people around me can attest to, I grumbled a great deal about the number of characters and the seemingly lost main plot. Things didn’t really get better as I worked through the latter half of the book. More new point of view characters, hooray; more “endings” that lack any real sense of closure, woot. I get that there are more books to come, but some kind of closure at the end of 1000 pages would have been nice. But alas, no – the book doesn’t end, it more just… stops. Reading, reading, reading, and hey, I’ve ran out of pages to read. Honestly, if I described my feelings right after finishing the book in a single word, it would have to be disgusted.

And I have to say – that’s a bummer. I loved book 1. Books 2 and 3 were good, too, if not as amazing as book 1. Books 4 and 5? Something has gone awry. These aren’t page turners any more, at least not for me; they’re work. I enjoy the multiple point of view characters, but there are simply too many now. With so many POV characters to jump between, ultimately, the actual story slows to a crawl.

One final thing that irked me? Who Martin killed off. I’m all for some characters dying – it keeps things interesting, at least to an extent. But for me, it’s reached the point in Martin’s books where it just feels cheap. It comes across like he’s just killing off characters for the shock factor – “aha, look who I’ll kill now!” – and less like he’s doing it for any real plot purpose. It seems baffling to me that he spent thousands of pages building up Jon Snow from nothing to him being the commander of The Wall, only to kill him at the end of book 5. And, even better? Now whenever book 6 comes out, we’ll end up getting a new point of view character to replace Jon Snow’s lost viewpoint.

At this point, I’m not even sure if I’ll read book 6. If I do, it’s going to be after I’ve watched critical reviews roll in. If book 6 is more of this meandering, “I need ALL THE CHARACTERS!” crap, I may sit it out, and just catch the rest of the story via the HBO show.

Ball has been dropped, George. Pick it back up.