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Reading Apps


A couple days ago, my friend Mr.Book (aka Jason Vigorito) posted a question on Litsy asking everyone to list their favorite reading or bookish apps. I dutifully went off to look at my Reading folder, and realized I might have a teeny-tiny problem.

I have A LOT of book-related apps. However, they are all there for a purpose, meaning I use most of them at least once a month. Some are better than others, some are spectacular. I thought I’d share them with you here.

Apps for Reading E-Books

I source my e-content from multiple locations, and some require different apps to download and open the content.

  • Kindle – probably my most frequently used app. Judge me if you will, but I adore Amazon.
  • Bluefire Reader – an alternative to Kindle which I use most often to open advanced reading copies from NetGalley.
  • Aldiko Reader – another alternative, when Bluefire won’t format the content in a readable size.
  • Adobe Digital Editions – the Momma of PDF readers. Sometimes a little quirky depending on which device I’m using.

Apps for Acquiring Content

I read widely – current fiction and non-fiction, stories, essays and recipes published in earlier centuries, self-published work, longreads, shortreads, and so on. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Overdrive/Libby – The BEST source of free content, offered through your local public library. As a New York resident, I have library cards for my home (Monroe County), New York Public Library, and Brooklyn Public Library, which triples the amount of content I can access. The Overdrive app has dramatically improved since it was first launched so downloading and opening content is a breeze.
  • BiblioBoard/Self-e – Provides access to classics, rare volumes, and independent publishing.
  • Playbooks – Provides access to reading content via GoogleBooks.
  • Audible – The best source for quality e-audiobooks. Pricey, but they often run amazing deals.
  • BookShout – Another source for purchased content which frequently offers great deals.
  • Open eBooks – I have access to this huge database of children’s books because I am a librarian and have worked to make this content available to kids who qualify for it. This was an initiative of the Obama Administration.
  • Serial Reader – Very like “Chapter a Day,” an email reading “club” from the 90s. A portion of a selected title (usually a classic) is pushed to your app daily. This is one I use less than most. I have found that Wuthering Heights is no more engaging in small chunks than it is in full.
  • Simply-e – The fabulous app from New York Public Library that makes selecting, downloading, and reading from their enormous e-book collection a total snap. You’ll also find content here that is not available in other library collections.
  • Gutenberg – Gives you access to a variety of public domain books.
  • FanFiction – A treasure trove of fan fic, heavy on the sci-fi/fantasy side but still entertaining.

News Readers

I use fewer news readers, but do find different content on each that I regularly check.

  • Pocket – You can save longreads from various websites to Pocket so you can go back later when you have time to spend with your selections.
  • Flipboard – Aggregates stories based on my preferences; I really like the grid layout of the app.
  • Feedly – Sort of a grown-up version of a RSS aggregator.
  • Medium – My current favorite for longreads written by real people on topics that matter. Each article tells you how long it will take to read. Slightly similar to Reddit in that articles get more exposure as people “like” them.

Miscellaneous Apps

  • NYPL Biblion – This was an early product from NYPL that opened access to some of their marvelous collecitons of images and documents. Get lost in the World’s Fair, or Frankenstein collections. My iPad keeps telling me Biblion is not compatible with future versions of iOS, so I hope NYPL updates it.
  • BookOut – This is a neat little app that lets you track how long you spend reading.
  • Litsy – I’ve saved the best for last, so I hope you’ve read all the way through. Litsy is the best thing to happen to Readers…maybe ever. Simply put, this is a mashup of Instagram and Goodreads and is a community of people who (gasp!) are nice to each other! There’s no judgment – people share romances next to graphic novels next to classics next to whatever.

So, are you beginning to see why I say I am a Reader with a capital R? I hope you check some of these apps out and find one or two that speak to you.


goblinHow could I resist a book inspired by one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing, Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market? Molly Ringle’s reimagined Market takes place in the forests of present day Washington State, where we are introduced to Kit Sylvain, a young man bound by a family curse to take care of a tribe of goblins. By “take care of” I mean provide them with gold or whatever else they want to prevent them from messing around with the nearby humans. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, since goblins are wily, deceitful creatures.

While Kit is tending to the goblins, sisters Skye and Livy Darwen have grown up in the small town of Bellwater, and spend hours exploring the forest, where they imagine “teeny-tinies” call to them. One day, Skye follows a path that wasn’t there before, drawn by the call of the “teeny-tinies,” which turn out to be goblins who ensnare her into their world. Kit, Livy, and Grady (Kit’s cousin who is unwittingly drawn into Skye’s drama) eventually come to understand that Skye has been cursed and join forces to keep her from becoming a goblin.

The story is fresh and engaging, and the characters well-written. Ringle skillfully develops four likable characters and weaves their stories together to an exciting, nerve-jangling ending. The story moves along at a rapid pace, with the current dilemma of Skye’s curse being nicely woven into the older story of how the goblins became attached to Kit’s family. I especially liked the fact that all four of our heroes were essentially saved by the first goblin “victim” who was snared so long ago. There’s an extraordinary amount of sex here, more than I expected, but it fits with the darker side of fairytales that few dare to tell, and creates a sizzling romantic side to an otherwise folklore/fantasy-heavy story.

I give Ringle props for taking an old story and hanging new skin on it. This will appeal to fantasy fans, for sure and would make an awesome graphic novel. Highly recommended.


IMG_0160Here’s another series that I dropped down into without having read the earlier entries. I requested this one from NetGalley because I used to read Carolyn Hart all the time. I was especially fond of the Death on Demand series, until it became so formulaic and annoying I gave it up. I could not stand to read one more description of Max as “Joe Hardy, all grown up and sexy as hell.” Even so, I still enjoy Hart’s breezy, casual, tongue-in-cheek style of writing which is certainly evident in Ghost on the Case.

Bailey Ruth is a ghost. She died and went to heaven when her cabin cruiser sunk in the Gulf. Bailey seems to enjoy being a ghost because she can change her outfit at will, and appears as though she’s 27 (which was a very good year!). In Hart’s Heaven, ghosts are assigned to various “departments.” Bailey is assigned to the Department of Good Intentions, which means she gets sent back to Earth occasionally to help right a wrong which seems to involve investigating a crime. Here we find Bailey sent to her hometown in Oklahoma to help a woman who is forced into committing a crime in order to rescue her little sister, who is being held captive. Hi-jinks ensue, and through Bailey’s assistance, the bad guy is caught.

This is a perfect beach read – fast paced, clever, and fun. It doesn’t make you think too much, but certainly provided me with a couple hours of uninterrupted, enjoyable reading time. Is it a classic? No. But if you enjoy cozy mysteries with a sassy protagonist, give Bailey Ruth a shot. I’ll be going back to check out some of the earlier entries in the series.


IMG_0159Marcykate Connolly has begun a wonderful new series with Shadow Weaver, which tells the story of Emmeline, a child blessed with talent bestowed by a comet that passed overhead when she was born. Emmeline’s talent is, as the title suggests, the ability to control shadows. However, Emmeline’s parent consider her talent more of a curse than a blessing, and have kept her hidden away on their estate for years. Emmeline is an outcast in her own home, reviled and avoided by family and servants alike, with no friends other than her shadow, Dar. When Emmeline’s parents invite strangers into their home who claim they can cure her of her talent, Emmeline and Dar run. Emmeline is running from the very real danger posed by the strangers, emissaries of the much-feared Lady Aisling, while Dar is running for a very different reason. As Emmeline encounters others with talents and begins to understand that she is not alone, Dar becomes increasingly cantankerous and sly, urging Emmeline to help her escape the shadowland and become flesh once more.

Connolly has begun building a compelling but familiar world, where people with special talents are hunted by those who wish to use them to achieve power. It’s a familiar construct, but Connolly has done an excellent job of introducing readers to a new world populated by likable characters. There is potential here for this to grow into a well-loved series, with many possible storylines for Connolly to explore. Here, we meet a shadow weaver, a light bender, a wind whistler, and a shape shifter; and we hear about a fire breather and a magic eater. I look forward to seeing what other talents Connolly creates!

The story moves at a fast pace, with enough nail-biting action to keep even a reluctant reader engaged. Character development is good, with Emmeline receiving the most attention. We watch her grow from a sheltered, easily led child into a caring young woman who is becoming self-aware, loyal, and brave. I hope that Dar’s story is developed more in the next entry; I would love to read about how she and her sister fell out and Dar became a shadow. Overall, this is a winner and one I would recommend to readers in grade 6 and up. Well done!


IMG_0157Murder mysteries that take place in 19th and early 20th century England are some of my favorites, so when I saw this one available on NetGalley, I thought I’d give it a shot. I didn’t realize it is #23 in the William Monk series by Anne Perry, although I do recall having read one or two of the earlier entries, and have read Perry’s Thomas Pitt series.

There are Readers out there who, for a number of reasons, will absolutely not read a series out of order.

I am not one of them.

For me, a *good* series is successful often because of the meticulous world-building the author performs, but a *great* series is written in a way that you can dip in and out of the author’s world. That is what I found here, with Commander William Monk, his wife Hester, and “son” Will. Perry provides just enough detail about past history of the characters as is necessary for *this* story. She doesn’t give away plot lines of earlier stories, so I can go back and read those without knowing how they end. The plot is the key, the characters’ past is incidental.

Perry offers an interesting plot in Echo of Murder. Monk is called to investigate an horrific crime committed against a member of the Hungarian community. It is violent, the product of extreme rage. At the same time, Will (also known as Scuff), meets an old friend of Hester’s, a surgeon with whom she served in the Crimean War and who is now suffering from what today we would call a severe case of PTSD. As Monk conducts his investigation into the murder and moves deep into the Hungarian community, his path crosses with Will’s and Fitz, the Crimean surgeon, neatly braiding their stories together into a clever and neat climax.

Perry’s writing is top notch, as always. I did feel as though she used the xenophobia directed at the Hungarians as a bit of a soapbox regarding immigration, and I found the end to be rushed, but otherwise this is a solid entry into a much loved series that makes me want to go back and read the earlier Monk books. Recommended.


IMG_0137The plight of refugees is all over the new these days, so Judit Laufer’s tale of her family’s escape from Communist Hungary is particularly relevant. Laufer, an accomplished author of children’s books, has done a remarkable job of taking the bones of a story she has heard her whole life, a story she lived as a very young child, and layering on flesh to create a suspenseful, emotional story of courage and compassion.

In 1956, Laufer’s mother Kati Krausz Egett was the lever that pried her family loose from the early days of Communist rule in Hungary. Shortly after the failed Hungarian Revolution, when hundreds of thousands fled, or were imprisoned or executed, the Egett family realized their only chance for keeping themselves and their children safe was to flee the country. The decision was particularly poignant because the Egett’s were Jewish. Kati survived Hitler’s concentration camps, while her entire family, and Adolf’s sister, perished in the gas chambers. The unimaginable tension and stress of the Communist takeover happening so soon after the end of WWII is palpable in the whispered conversation between Kati and Adolf early in the book, when Kati asks “What if our parents had left when the rumors started twelve years ago?”

Laufer recounts the family’s secret journey from their home to the Austrian border, where they were met by the Red Cross. They managed to get to Vienna, where they were taken in by the Just family. Eventually, the Egett’s made their way to Canada where they built a prosperous life for themselves and their children.

I get the sense that writing this story was something of a catharsis for Judit Egett Laufer, and she has done a fine job of conveying the fear and emotion that drove her parents’ decision to leave Hungary. The fear and uncertainty were overwhelmed by the need and desire to have a better life – a free life – for their children. Laufer’s story strikes a chord today, given the numbers of refugees fleeing oppressive regimes, and it reminds us that those refugees are people first. They have hopes and dreams, and a fierce desire for a better life.

In telling her own story, Laufer has given us a poignant, powerful reminder that human kindness and compassion is always the way. I’d highly recommend this for a high school social studies class, as well as for general reading.


IMG_0110MJ Rose continues the La Lune series begun in Witch of Painted Sorrows with this story of Delphine Duplessi and her gift of painting people’s secrets. The pattern is familar to fans of the La Lune series – a passionate love affair gone wrong, a young artist struggling with her gift, and people who want to use her and her gift in nefarious ways.

We first meet Delphine in New York City, where she is engaged to a wealthy young man and is the current cause celebre at all the fabulous parties where she performs her “party trick” of drawing people’s secrets while blindfolded. That, you see, is her talent. Having been blinded at age 8, then her vision miraculously restored by her witch of a mother, she can see all the things people want to keep secret when she puts on a blindfold, or when she looks in a mirror. Her talent is a form of scrying and makes her constantly in demand at parties, until one night when the “party trick” reveals a dangerous secret that results in tragedy.

Shocked and numb, questioning her art and her purpose, Delphine slides into a deep depression, rescued only when her twin, Sebastien, arrives to take her home to France. Once there, Delphine continues to struggle with her art, refusing to put on the blindfold again in fear of creating more tragedy. At the same time, Sebastien, who is also Delphine’s manager, pushes her to put the blindfold back on and resume her work, specifically for Madame Calve, who wants Delphine to draw the secrets of her castle in order to find a valuable book hidden there for centuries. Underpinning all this is a failed and painful love affair, which is what initially sent Delphine to NYC. We learn about her passionate affair with Mathieu through entries in Delphine’s diary, all leading up to the two meeting face to face at Madame Calve’s.

Rose layers on more fascinating detail to the world of the Duplessi’s with each entry in this series, while still keeping some key elements common to each story. In addition, there are connections to and mentions of characters from Rose’s earlier books worked in throughout, which add a great deal to the world-building going on here.

My only issue is the pace of the storytelling, which is super slow for the first half, then very rushed at the end. For me, the best part of the story is what happens once Delphine and Sebastien get to Madame Calve’s, which doesn’t happen until halfway through the book. All the angst and self-pity Delphine experiences in the first half just bored me, as did her diary entries about Mathieu. Rose is known for incorporating some pretty steamy sex in her books, and that remains true here in the diary entries; however, I find it is getting repetitive and not adding much to the story. I wish there had been less of the first half and more of the second half of this book. I found the ending to be very rushed and would have liked to see a resolution between Delphine and Sebastien, given the surprising revelation that occurs near the end.

All that said, I continue to be fascinated with the world of the Duplessi’s and all who inhabit it. The story is, as always with Rose’s work, captivating. I expect the final entry in the La Lune series will focus on youngest sister, Jadine, who can read people’s tears. I look forward to it!