Get “Savvy” for free, and get kids reading

Savvy book coverPenguin publishing sent me a leftover pre-publication copy of “Savvy,” by Ingrid Law, and asked me to help get the word out about an upcoming summer reading program for kids. I had seen “Savvy” mentioned in Reader’s Digest, as a “don’t miss this” summer read. And since I’m between installments of “Twilight,” and finished with “The Host,” I was grateful for something else to read in the meantime!

I’m only about halfway through, but I’m enjoying “Savvy,” so far. It’s definitely aimed at a younger audience (ages 9-12), and it’s written in a folksy storytelling tone. Here’s the quick summary:

For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” — a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity… and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus… only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up — and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

I don’t know how the story ends, so I can’t give anything away about the plot. The book is whimsical and easy to read, with a lilting and sometimes sing-song rhythm. The characters’ superpowers will appeal to young readers, who will imagine and wish for their own savvies.

download savvyIn an effort to encourage young children to read, “Savvy” will be available as a free download (pdf file) free online read next week, from July 14-20. If you’re looking for something to occupy the kids during the last “Mom, I’m bored” weeks of summer vacation, check it out! Get your free download of Savvy here, between July 14-20, 2008.

EDIT: Apparently, the publisher changed the download to a free online version, due to the size of the pdf. If you don’t like reading online, or won’t be able to finish the book during the free week, you should try printing from within the online viewer/reader. Sorry about that.

Sony Reader Digital Book: almost like the real thing

Sony Reader Digital BookI was recently loaned a Sony Reader Digital Book to try, and I liked it more than I thought I would. At first, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure I would be able to adjust to reading from a screen instead of paper pages.

Sure, I’m a technophile, but I couldn’t imagine replacing the look and feel of a good, old-fashioned paper tome with a sleek electronic screen.

Easy on the eyes

However, as I worked with the slim silver device, I was really impressed by the quality of the screen. I don’t know exactly how it works, but it’s not like reading a computer screen. Visually, it looks remarkably like paper. It’s not bright and backlit, and there is no flicker to irritate your eyes. It’s a comfortable level of contrast, which is easy to read for extended periods without eyestrain.

Easy to use

The Reader’s screen is about the size of a familiar paperback page, and the font size is adjustable. I had no trouble figuring out how to navigate through the pages, and the buttons for turning pages seem to be in just the right place. Bookmarking is easy, and the soft cover makes the Reader look like a book from the outside.

Load it up

There is an impressive library available for the Reader, and I assume that it will continue to grow. Right now, you can download 100 free classic e-books when you buy a Reader. Also, you can import your favorite photos and mp3s, as well as additional text documents, onto the Reader. I shared the Reader with a couple of my bookworm girlfriends, and they fell in love with it, and are adding it to their wish lists.

One little drawback

The only thing I didn’t like about the Reader was the lack of some kind of “night mode,” which would enable me to read in bed without bugging my Hubby. Since the screen is not backlit, you still have to turn on a lamp to read at night.

The verdict

All in all, though, I was pleasantly surprised and genuinely impressed by the Reader. I love being able to carry hundreds of pounds of literature in a 10 ounce device that slips into my little purse without a problem. If you’re a reader who’s been skeptical about e-books, you should take a look at the Sony Reader. It’s amazing how much the display looks like a paper page.

Where to buy it

You can get more information on the Reader from the Sony store, including detailed specifications and titles available for download.

I did not receive any compensation for this review.

My current obsession: The Twilight Saga

A slow start

Vampires, werewolves, and romance — and a heap of teen angst. A couple of my friends recommended Twilight to me last fall, and one even loaned me her copy of the book. I started reading it in October, but never got very far. It seemed slow, and too “young adult fiction” for me. It didn’t grab me like the Harry Potter stories had, so I set it aside.

Remember what it felt like to be seventeen?

Well, in April, I was convinced to try it again. I made it through the relatively slow first couple of chapters, getting to know the characters, and becoming accustomed to Stephenie Meyer’s writing style. Little by little, I became emotionally attached to the main character, Bella Swan, because Meyer does an excellent job of reminding me what it felt like to be seventeen. The self-consciousness, anxiety, emotion, and will-he-notice-me-today butterflies…

Impossibly in love

As Bella became entwined in the mysterious life of her crush, Edward Cullen (an irresistibly beautiful, and dangerous vampire), so did I. By the halfway point in Twilight, I was completely hooked on the story, and I couldn’t put the book down. Once the action started, it was genuinely exciting, and it didn’t stop until the end. It was like the first half had been a long, slow ascent on a roller coaster, and the second half was the screaming fast, twisty-loopy part. As soon as I was done, I wanted to go again! So I went right out and bought New Moon, the second book.

New Moon seemed to follow the same slow-start-fast-finish pattern that Twilight had. I finished that off in about a week, and I’m waiting for my favorite Man In Brown to deliver Eclipse today. I’m completely in love with Edward, the powerful, gentle, protective, beautiful vampire. And the way Meyer describes him, it seems to make perfect sense that Bella would want to be with him forever, no matter what…

The fourth and final book, Breaking Dawn, will be released in August, and I have already pre-ordered it.

Waiting impatiently for the movie

Edward and Bella from the movie TwilightTwilight, the movie, will be released in December 2008 November 21, 2008, and I am so excited! I can hardly wait to see the amazing story of vampires, werewolves, legend, and magic, come to life on the screen. This photo is of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who play Edward (vampire) and Bella (human). Aren’t they gorgeous?!

You have all summer to get caught up if you start reading now… Cheers!

GeekMom’s MOTO Q™ Gadget Review (hey, that rhymes)

MOTO QI love gadgets, and I was excited to have the opportunity to use a Motorola MOTO Q™ music 9m recently. Never heard of the MOTO Q? Neither had I, but now that I’ve had it in my hands for a week, I don’t want to let it go!

In a nutshell, the MOTO Q (I just call it “the Q,” now that we’ve become so close) is a handheld mobile device for communication, productivity, and entertainment. It’s a combination phone, mp3 player, camera, web browser, word processor, and more. Let me switch into Vanna mode while I give you a quick rundown of the Q’s best features, along with some notes on how it performed as I put it through its paces…

  • Full QWERTY keyboard, and the ergonomically “barrel-shaped” keys are amazingly easy to press — one at a time! — even though they are very small, and close together. For me, this is the most important feature, because the keyboard enables me to actually work on the device. It’s not just a cell phone.
  • Long battery life. I’ve tried using the online functions of my regular cell phone, but it’s pointless, because the battery runs down too quickly. The Q held up through phone conversations, Twittering, internet browsing, taking photos and video of my kids, and never ran out of juice.
  • Fun multimedia functions, including music, photos, video, and games. Download, shoot your own with the built-in camera, or import by SD card.
  • Productivity tools, including e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Seriously, you can view, edit, or create your own documents on the go.
  • Easy setup and out of the box use. I know this sounds snobby, but I didn’t think a non-Mac product would be so easy to figure out. After five minutes, my e-mail was configured and in sync.
  • Plenty of memory for all your games and videos — I mean, important work files — including 128 GB internal, and up to 32 GB SD card (you can’t get a 32 GB card yet, but the Q is ready for when it happens).

I’m not going to list all the details here, so if you want to read the full specs, go to the Motorola site.

My overall impression of the Q? It’s awesome! I’ve never had a QWERTY mobile device before, and this was so much fun that I didn’t want to give it back! (No, I did not get to keep the Q, nor did I receive any other compensation for this review.**)

One more cool feature that I didn’t have a chance to try, is that you can use the Q as a wireless modem. For example, if you’re traveling with a laptop, you don’t have to find a wi-fi hot spot to get connected. If your Q has service, you have your own hot spot. That could come in handy.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Q was the size of the screen, when it came to web browsing. Sites that were mobile-optimized were fine, but regular sites were somewhat difficult to navigate. I’m used to my widescreen desktop monitor, and sideways scrolling takes some getting used to.

If you’re looking to upgrade your mobile phone, or you’re saving up for a laptop computer, this MOTO Q might be just what you need. It does more than a phone, and is less expensive than a laptop, and wonderfully portable.

** A day after posting this review, I was contacted by a representative of Motorola, and they are giving me a free Q, for keeps! This was not part of any “deal,” explicit or implied, for the review. I am completely surprised and so excited! I just wanted to let you know, in the interest of transparency. 🙂