In a pinch, your phone can read to you

Back in May, all of a sudden, I was going to be spending about 12 hours on the road every week shuttling between Oregon and Washington to care for my parents.  Add to that, the daily commutes between homes, appointments, and errands.

What better use of the time than to listen to books.

But I didn’t have Audible, didn’t have time to look up books, and didn’t have unlimited funds. AND I had a teetering pile of ebooks that I hadn’t read. Hmm…

Can I have my antique, cracked iPhone read to me?

The answer was YES.

The Pros:

1. I “read” a bunch of books that were languishing in my Kindle file.

2. A book doesn’t need to be an audiobook to listen to it.

3. I accessed the books through the Kindle App on the phone.

4. It’s easy to do (mostly).

5. The reading speed is adjustable.

6. Now I can listen to books while making dinner or weeding the garden or exercising. So, I’m “reading” more.

7. It doesn’t cost anything.

 

The Cons:

1. According to author/blogger Andrew Joyce, he wouldn’t wish the phone’s “robot voice” on his worst enemy.   iPhones don’t read with any inflection. It is, indeed, Siri reading to you in her droning monotone. I’ll admit, the first couple of books were tough, but my brain eventually compensated and started focusing on the story and characters despite robot-voice.

2. Siri messes up some words. “Putting” is pronounced like the golf stroke. “Tasting” rhymes with “lasting.” Forget hyphenated words – Siri doesn’t understand hyphens.

3. Siri doesn’t transition well through chapter or scene changes. She just barrels through them, which can be disorienting.

4. Poetry is impossible. Don’t even try it.

5. The iPhone has a problem activating the speech function, and it can take a lot of tries. It will also occasionally decide that it’s done after one page instead of flipping to the next.  Apparently, these issues have been a problem for years and Apple doesn’t care. I occasionally need to hard-reset or restart my phone, or both, to get it to read.

 

How to set up your iPhone for speech:

(If you don’t have an iPhone, I can’t help you, but the internet might! This is part of the accessibility function for visually impaired phone users, so I think most brands will have something similar.)

Click on the System icon.

Select General.

Select Accessibility.

Turn on Speech.

Open your Kindle app and select your book. Go to the first page you want to “read.”

Swipe down on the phone with two fingers (possibly multiple times, like 30).

If it works right, the phone will start reading to you, including flipping your pages.

If it doesn’t work, do a hard reset of your phone, restart your phone, or both. This is totally annoying but worth it in the end.

And don’t wrestle with any of this while driving. Pull over, please. 🙂

Happy Listening!

The parental saga continues.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to blogging full-time but I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I’m reading with Siri. ❤

Indie Book Reviews: Part I

The best thing about spending the last 2 months driving between Oregon and Washington, living out of a suitcase, and ignoring my bossy muse has been catching up on reading. Indie books were gifts from heaven!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. These are in no particular order. And there are more to come!

 

A Thousand Yesteryears

by Mae Clair

Intriguing plot and believable characters. At the death of her aunt, Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant to sell off the family hotel. Not only is the town known for sightings of a fantastical creature, the mothman, it’s also the location of a bridge collapse that, fifteen years ago, claimed the life of Eve’s father and friend. That tragedy still hangs over the town, and Eve has no plans to stay.

But her old crush Caden Flynn still lives in town, a man haunted by the events of the collapse that took his sister’s life. The truth about what happened that day begins to unravel when the home of Eve’s aunt is vandalized, and she begins receiving threatening notes. Someone wants her gone, even if he needs to kill her.

The story is a high-paced paranormal thriller with vivid worldbuilding and a touch of romance. The plot holds together well with all pieces falling into place. The characters are emotionally rich and thoroughly credible, not only the main characters but those on the periphery. I was intrigued by the mothman and its mysterious relationship to the events. Excellent fun and highly recommended. I’m eager to read more of the series.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Survival of the Fittest

by Jacqui Murray

Fascinating world-building. I seem to have developed a taste for prehistoric fiction. After reading Murray’s Born in a Treacherous Time, I was looking forward to her next foray into the dawn of man. This book takes place 850,000 years after Born in a Treacherous Time and is the first book in a trilogy. It’s not a stand-alone novel so be prepared to move on to Book 2 when it comes out.

The plot of the story is something of a quest as three separate groups of early man abandon their home-bases in search of safer ones. A changing climate, dwindling resources, and danger from a growing number of aggressive tribes drive them onward.

To some extent, the first half of the book is three separate stories, one for each group. They join into one larger group about mid-way through the read, and the rest of the book deals with the choices made to procure peace and ensure their survival. Subplots and characters add flavor to the story, all in the well-researched context of prehistoric life where, naturally, the norms are different than they are today.

One group dominates more of the book than the other two. The main character is a female leader, Xhosa. Her responsibility is to protect her people from a variety of dangers, particularly from other humans, while they search for a new home. She’s a complex character, thoughtful and ingenious, and callous as needed in a world where the weak jeopardize the entire group.

Secondary characters have distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks which add complexity to the “human” tale. There are power struggles, deceptions, kindnesses, and wisdom. The world-building is a fascinating foray into prehistoric landscapes. Though fiction, Murray deftly brought to life a time we have little record of. Highly recommended.

Global Link to Amazon

***

 

Short & Not Always Sweet

by Dorinda Duclos

Stories to savor. Duclos offers a generous selection of over 60 short stories, pieces of poetic prose, and flash fiction in a compilation that kept me enthralled for an entire afternoon. The writing is lovely, evocative, and in many cases emotional. Some pieces are lyrical and heartfelt reflections with themes centered on nature, serenity, and empowerment. Others are dark forays into ghostly hauntings and the realms of murder and revenge. Some of my favorites are Patience, Dusk, Wilted, and I Am. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon or to savor over a week, one page at a time.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Happy Reading!

Tranquil Cove #Writephoto

photo by Sue Vincent

The beach parking lot was jammed with cars. Outside their blue rental, Samantha stretched her stiff limbs while Jeff rummaged in the back seat for snacks and towels. A tow truck clanked its chains and ground its gears in the midst of hauling away one of several abandoned vehicles, the windshields dusted with a week’s worth of windblown sand.

According to the glossy pamphlet, the rocky headlands and clustered islands sheltered turquoise waves, and the soft sand welcomed blankets and picnics. All inviting. But after days of battling crowds of tourists, the feature that most appealed to Sam was the promised solitude. Unfortunately, Tranquil Cove didn’t look like it would live up to its reputation.

She sighed and read the sign pounded into the sand at the lot’s edge. Someone had hand-scrawled a sloppy “g” on the otherwise formal warning.   “Beware of the grocks. No swimming.” She glanced at her new husband. “What are grocks?”

Jeff smirked and started up the dunes through the quivering beachgrass. “Come on.”

She climbed after him, willing to make the best of it, her toes sinking into the path’s velvet sand. The sound of a gigantic belch reached her ears, and she groaned at the prospect of a mob of drunken rugby players. But when they crested the dunes, an empty beach lay before them. “I can’t believe no one is here.”

“Someone was. Look at all the blankets and towels.”

“And footprints. Where is everyone?”

“Probably exploring the grocks.” He chuckled and headed across the sand to a sweet spot out of the breeze.

Sam helped him spread out their towels. They chowed on granola bars and shared a beer. The beach remained delightfully theirs, and as the sun peeked through the midday clouds, she napped in the rising heat.

Jeff nudged her awake. “Let’s go for a swim. I need to cool off.”

“The sign said ‘no swimming?’”

“Because of dangerous grocks.” He pulled her to her feet. “The sea’s calm, and I can see the bottom. Not a grock in sight.”

She gave in without argument. The water was refreshing, and other than a few rounded rocks, the bottom descended in a gentle slant. She wiped water from her eyes and drifted toward him, pulling herself along the shallow bottom with her hands. He sat on one of the submerged rocks near the shore, staring down at the water.

“What are you looking at?” she asked.

He leaned over for a kiss and then resumed his study. “There are bubbles coming from under this rock. What would cause that?”

She sat next to him. Sure enough, tiny air bubbles leaked up around their hard seat. “I have no idea. Some kind of mollusk?”

~

Eric and Penny unloaded their car in the packed parking lot as a tow truck hauled away a sand-strewn blue rental car. A huge belch split the air and Penny laughed. “You didn’t tell me your brother was here.”

“Ha ha ha.” Eric rolled his eyes. “This place isn’t supposed to be crowded.”

Penny glanced up from reading a sign. “Hey, what’s a grock?”

***

Update:

I’m still on hiatus, but figured I’d post something. And what better than a little story based on Sue Vincent’s Thursday #Writephoto prompt?

I’ll be visiting the blogosphere more often and should be back into a routine by mid-August. I miss you! But I’ve been reading between all the busyness, and that’s been wonderfully relaxing.

My parents are doing a little better after 8 months of health issues. Unfortunately, in a couple of weeks, I have to move them a second time. Their new housing will be more suited to their needs, and we’re all eager to get this last change in place.

Happy Blogging!

A Blogging Hiatus

Right about now, I should be gearing up to post June’s speculative fiction prompt. I had a challenging image ready to go and couldn’t wait for the barrage of wonderful stories and poems.

But once again, my parents’ health challenges are requiring my undivided time.  Recent complications have meant I’m providing almost 24/7 care.  I’m just plain tuckered out, and though prompts and blogging are a major source of fun in my day, I need to step back until things stabilize. 

I have a few book reviews to share, and I will visit when I can, but I already know I’ll be scarce, at least for June.

On a lighter note, have a happy, peaceful, creative, and healthy month ahead! 

This pixabay image cracked me up. I couldn’t resist.

 

 

May Speculative Fiction Round-Up

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

Another month of great stories! Thank you to everyone who participated. And to those who stretched their imaginations, congratulations. Below is the round-up of all the May poems, flashes, short stories, and some artwork too! If I missed yours for some reason, please add a link in the comments and I’ll happily reblog. I invite everyone to enjoy some unique stories and meet some wonderful writers.

**

May Round-up

Pensivity – The Awakening

Cosistories – Different

The Dark Netizen – The Future Man

Steve Tanham – A Strong Right Arm

Thea by Me – Being Another You

(Note that Thea has a series of posts continuing the story. You can catch the links from the first one above.)

Trent McDonald – A Whir in my Ears

Robert Goldstein – Trina and the Android at Saks

Balroop Singh – In Love with Myself

Dorinda Duclos – Human Extraction

Robbie Cheadle – Extract from the diary of John Saunders

Sadje – The Tattoo Man

Jomz Ojeda – Reborn

Anita Dawes – Difference

Greg – Heartless Tin Man

Miriam Hurdle – One Hundred Million Dollar Man

C.E. Pereira – What I thought was perfection

Barbara – Frozen

Ritu Bathaul – Mechanical Tart

Len – Body-sculpture

Brad – Cyber Man

Helene Vaillant – Draft Model

Ethan Dale Edgar – Hunger (Part 2)

GM Cleary – Millefeuille

Geoff Le Pard – The Unfortunate Outcome of Gender Neutrality in Algorithm Design

Teagan Geneviene – Hidebound Hum Day: The Guardian

Sally Cronin – The Enhancement Project

Daisy Bala – In the Future

Hugh Roberts – Hot Dates (adult content)

Von Smith – Jules meets Hal (Chapter 1-10)

Jessica Bakkers – Homo Cerebrum

Jen Goldie – Metaman104

Betul Erbasi – The Robot in me

HRR Gorman – The Bone Forge

Sonia – Watch Shield

Deepa Kadavakat – Is This The Future?

Wilnako – A Changeling King

C.E. Pereira – Awake, Bronze Gladiator

Anneberly Andrews – Figment

Amanda Reilly – Empty Promises

Kerfe – are we not what we are

Jane Dougherty – Creation

Joanne – Cyborg Your Future!

Pamela Wight – The Bodyguard

D. Wallace Peach – Defining Human

Entangled Designs – The War Within

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Diana’s May Story: Defining Human

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

Defining Human

by D. Wallace Peach

“I don’t know why you keep that decrepit thing around.” Delia sipped her iced tea and glanced out the window of her friend’s home. On the manicured lawn, Sherri’s cyborg pushed their children on side-by-side swings, a human arm heaving on one small back while a mechanical arm pressed on the other.

“His name is Carter, and he’s part of the family.” Sherri angled her head for a view of their laughing boys. Dainty sandwiches adorned a platter at her table’s center, and Delia nibbled though she wouldn’t feel hungry until noon. Sherri poured more tea. “I grew up with him, and he—”

“Saved your life.” Delia patted her friend’s hand in understanding, though honestly, she’d survive without hearing a repeat of the story.

The cyborg had pulled Sherri from a fire and sacrificed the flesh on half of his face and body. The repair costs for an archived model had been prohibitive, but rather than purchase updated technology, the family had elected to preserve the damaged thing. Out of gratefulness. As if it possessed human feelings. The mawkish sentimentality was disturbing, and the cyborg’s exposed gears hideous. “They’re wired to protect us, you know?”

“I know,” Sherri said. “But he’s generous with his time and kind-hearted, and he has a fun sense of humor. He’d do anything for us, and we love him.”

Delia rolled her eyes as she finished her tea.  Her internal clock struck noon, and she helped herself to another sandwich. Her friend’s affection for the machine irritated her, and as usual, any attempt at reason was an utter squandering of her time.

The cyborg ushered the breathless children in for lunch, and Delia was thankful for the distraction. Not long after the meal, she packed her dawdling son into their transport. “Home,” she instructed. The vehicle hummed into travel mode, and she reclined in her seat with an e-mag.

“I like Carter,” her son said while fiddling with his recliner’s buttons. “He plays with us, and he’s nice.”

“He’s a machine.”

“He acts like a human.”

“Well, he’s not. We are human, superior to him and all his kind.”

“What’s the difference?”

Delia huffed at the obvious. “Quiet now, I’m reading.”

The transport glided to their front door. Their arrival home was later than planned, but she’d anticipated the delay and programmed naptime for optimum flexibility. Why carry the child when his feet were perfectly capable of walking?

She escorted her son to his room, tucked him into bed, and plugged his link into his temple. After several software adjustments, she retreated to her suite and flung herself down on her bed. She needed to reconsider her relationship with Sherri’s family. Their beliefs were having a radical impact on her son, and his confusion about what defined a human being was troubling.

Stress had taken its toll, and Delia decided to nap as well.  She set the timer for forty-five minutes, chose a pleasant dream sequence, and inserted the interface into her port. Her eyes closed as the software began its upload.

**

Note: I’m on the road again, helping my parents. I won’t be able to respond to comments or return visits until the evenings. Please bear with me. ❤ 

The Bodyguard

The last story for May! And we’re ending on a sweet note and a little kindness. I hope you enjoy Pam’s story. Have a great weekend.

roughwighting

steampunk, science fiction, blog storyPixabay image by Brigitte Werner

“You’ve got to do it. Let me find one for you,” Savannah suggested.

Eve rolled her eyes. “I’ve already interviewed five potential bodyguards. They were all Neanderthals.”

Eve stood, all five feet of her in her billowy blue caftan, and faced her agent. She knew Savannah thought her eccentric; but hell, that’s what authors were supposed to be.

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