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  • Top 5 Books From 2015

    I’ve been asked for book recommendations a few times recently so thought I’d share them here too.

    I read some really great books last year but here are 5 that really stood out for me.

    In no particular order…

    Masters Of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture – David Kushner

    I’ve read quite a few books recently about the back story of classic games but was the best of the lot.

    Doom is the most definitely a classic and hearing how the team that put it together came into being as well as the highs and the lows and their eventual split was fascinating. I received this as a gift and could not put it down.

    This was also a real trip down memory lane as like a lot people my age I sunk a lot of hours into playing ID games! If you’ve spent any period of time playing Doom this is certainly a recommendation.

     

     

    Nexus (The Nexus Trilogy Book 1)  – Ramez Naam

    In this story taking a pill can install an operating system into the super computer that is your brain! Imagine the applications you could run, especially if you could network with other people.

    All of this could also be used for much more sinister purposes by shady government agencies and the like.

    What I loved about this is that the story is based on actual research. Technology that may be in the not too distant future.

    The end of book also has a nice section on some of the research that provided the author with inspiration.

    This is the first of the three books and I raced through all of them.

     

    Static Push (The Push Series Book 1) – Richard Horsley

    A decent British Sci-Fi book!

    With a story that covers aliens destroying the earth with some great comedic writing it’d be easy to mistake this as a Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy clone but it’s certainly more than that.

    It also has a great set of characters who really come off the page. I can’t wait for the next one!

     

     

     

     

    Beacon 23 – Hugh Howey

    I think this was my favourite thing from last year. It’s a basically a lighthouse story in space. It’s only short as it was originally released as series of Kindle Singles but it packs so much into it and goes over a whole range of emotions. I loved reading it and when I got to the end I was really disappointed there was no more!

    I recommended it to anyone asked me if I’d read anything decent recently and it’s highly likely I’m go back and read it again.

    I’m a big Hugh Howey fan and can also recommend pretty much everything else he writes!

    Check it out.

     

    The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

    A Zombie road trip story.

    It’s difficult to talk about this one without spoiling it but underneath it’s a fascinating story about people and relationships http://www.ourhealthissues.com/product/strattera/ and how their moral viewpoints may or may not change when it’s the end of the world.

    The ending also wasn’t quite what you’d normally expect to see either but it made a refreshing change to do something different.

    It’s pretty brutal in parts but this is zombie-fiction so kind of needs to be.

  • Packt eBooks and Videos – Level Up!

    The good people over at Packt Publishing have a special offer on at the moment.

    Basically the more ebooks or videos you buy the larger the discount!

    ALL eBooks and Videos are just $10 each or less.

    • Any 1 or 2 eBooks/Videos –$10 each
    • Any 3 to 5 eBooks/Videos – $8 each
      • Any 6 or more eBooks/Videos –$6 each

    These prices are in dollars but if you’re shopping in a different currency the discount is still applied (I checked!)

    landing-banner-level-up_0

     

    You can check it out here. The landing page has some suggested development collections but if you scroll down the page there are various categories you can choose from to find something to your taste.

    The offer runs until October 2nd so get on it quick!

  • Reading List For 2013

    This will be last post about stuff from last year…honest…maybe.

    It’s safe to say i was very happy with trying to hit my target of trying to read at least one book a month for 2013.

    According to GoodReads I’ve read 44 “things” in 2013.

    I’ve recommended quite a few of these to various friends and family so thought I’d do some mini-reviews of the books I’ve particularly enjoyed. I’ve read quite a few series so will group them together where appropriate.

    In no particular order;

    Ex-Heroes Series by Peter Cline (comprising Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriot and Ex-Communication)

    Love superhero stories? Love Zombie stories? If so this is most defiantly your sort of thing!

    Set in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse in a world where people with super powers is normal this book follows a group of survivors (normal and supers) as they try to carve out an existence where they don’t get eaten! As the series progresses zombies aren’t the only things they need to be wary of. This series really had me hooked. I finished the three that are available in a very short space of time. Book four (Ex-Purgatory) has just been released and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it. No pun intended.

    Wool Series by Hugh Howey (comprising Wool, Shift and Dust)

    It’s very tough to put into words how much I loved this series and to how many people I’ve recommended it to. The story is set in the near feature where a major world catastrophe has forced survivors to live underground in a huge silo. Enough time has passed for it to become the new normal and talk of the outside world is forgotten (more like forbidden). The main character is unwittingly thrust into the spotlight and before long it turns out not all is as it would appear.

    The second book goes to cover how they all ended up in the silo and the final book wraps the whole thing together. I’m trying to keep this brief as I’d hate to spoil it!

    World War Z by Max Brooks

    Genius. Very different to any other zombie fiction book you’ve read. Written in the style of a series of interviews with the people involved it explores how the zombie apocalypse came about and how the world dealt with it. Also nothing like the film that shares it’s name. I enjoyed the film but I’ve very glad I read the book first.

     

     

    Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die (by Ryan North and various!)

    Imagine if there was a machine that could predict the manner of your death? Would it change how you lived your life? This collection of stories explores just that. A fascinating concept and each author put’s their own unique spin on it that makes it a real page turner.

     

     

    Spin series by Robert Charles Wilson (comprising Spin, Axis and Vortex)

    Another enjoyable series but it was the first book that I enjoyed the most. One night the stars disappear. After some investigation it turns out a “shield” has been placed around the earth. Further investigation shows that time on Earth has been considerably slowed. Every second on Earth is years in outer space. As well as all the question about why and how this has happened it also throws up interesting concepts into space exploration. A probe to Mars would in theory take a few minutes to arrive. The the events of the first book are continued in the other books but I can’t say anything about them without totally ruining the first!

     

    Doctor Who: Shada Gareth Roberts (and Douglas Adams!)

    I originally got into Doctor Who not through the TV series but through the books. As a youngster I read just about every Doctor Who book that was in our local library! Considering that I read so little Doctor Who nowadays it’s something that will certainly change after this one caught my attention. Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy fame wrote several scripts for Doctor Who. Something I didn’t know until I found this book. On reflection though it makes perfect sense! This particular script was never filmed so Gareth Roberts has adapted it as a standalone novel. The Douglas Adams style really does come through and it was a really enjoyable read.

     

    Story Time by Linell Jeppsen

    A book about the end of the world, literally and what happens to the people in it. It’s written in a similar vein to World War Z coming from the angle of a journalist going back and covering the events after they have happened. It does get a bit weird half way through but it sort of has to really if Earth is…broken.

     

    End of the News Flesh Series and the first book in the Parasite series

    (Comprising DeadLine, Blackout, Countdown, How Green This Land How Blue This Sea,San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box and Parasite)

    Basically everything Mira Grant has written! I’ve written posts about the first Newsflesh book in the past and how I happened to stumble across it. I’m glad I did!

    I love the characters and the world she’s created and I was gutted once I’d finished the main books in the series. It then turned out she’d written various short stories that happen in the same universe. Including a prequel that explains how the whole thing started.

    Mira then moved onto a new series called Parasite. While I didn’t quite connect with the characters in the same way as with Newsflesh I did enjoy it and I’m just disappointed I’ve got to wait so long for book two!

    If you want to see the rest of the list for 2013 it’s on GoodReads here.

  • The IT Marketing Crash Course – book

    it-marketing-crash-course-cover

    Last week I I got an email from Raj Khera who asked if I’d like to take a look at his new book which was due to launch and is aimed specifically at small technology companies and help them win new business by improving their marketing.

    Raj is the CEO of MailerMailer, who are an email marketing company so he certainly knows a thing or two about getting people’s attention.

    The title very much describes the book in a nutshell. It’s a starting point for owners and managers of IT companies who need a starting point when it comes to spreading the word about their own business and the services they provide.

     

    This is an area that I know lots of people I speak to at AMITPRO and similar groups have a problem with and this book is a broad overview of the things you should be doing to let people know about what it is you do.

    Each chapters covers a specific item and provides a check list of actions to complete so you can actually get something done straight away.

    Covering areas such as social media, blogging, in-person networking and newsletters the book helps to position yourself as an expert and stay in touch with potential clients.

    There are also several examples of how other companies have made changes to their marketing efforts and the results they have seen.

    At the end of the book is a master checklist you can use as your final take away to get started on putting renewed efforts into marketing.

    So what did I think after reading it?

    If you’re not already doing some marketing for your business this book it’s worth a read. It’s an area I know I’m not doing enough with at the moment and I enjoyed reading it. It’s aimed at a very specific audience so if you’re already doing some marketing it’s probably not for you but if you don’t really know where to start it’s very much a crash course. It’s jargon free and each chapter is short enough to read when you’ve got a few minutes spare. I particularly liked the checklist at the end of each chapter as it meant you could go and do something straight away.

    It’s available now Amazon either as an eBook (for free – at the moment) or as a paperback (£9.95)

    If you take a look let me know what you think!

  • Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

    So as part of my new year post I said I wanted to get back into the reading habit. I also said that once I actually started I wasn’t expecting it to be problem to read a book a month as the old habits would return. Looks like I was right! As of the of 8th of January I’d read two books already!

    Over the Christmas break I was in a book shop and spotted Blackout, the third book in the “Newsflesh Trilogy”. This reminded me that having loved the first (Feed) I hadn’t read the second one yet. This made it an ideal candidate to get started with.

    I’ll try and make this is as spoiler free as possible…

    The story focuses primarily around Sean, one of the main characters from Feed with Sean struggling to come to terms with events from the previous story. It isn’t long however before the fallout from the first book “hits the fan” and it’s not long before the team are back in the fray, fighting for their lives and apparently someone who is out to get them!

    Each of the characters is very different in their own way which made it really easy to follow them and want them to succeed. 

    As with Feed I was absolutely engrossed and I’d finished it over the period of two days and was straight into the final book before I’d even had a chance to write this up. 

    Whereas the first book worked as a standalone story the second and third really do go together otherwise you’re really left hanging as to all the questions you want answered! But this isn’t something I’m complaining about (well it might have been if the third book hadn’t been released yet!)

    You’ve probably figured out I rather enjoyed this book. Zombie fiction isn’t normally something I’d be interested in but the story is written in such away that I don’t really see it as a Zombie story. It’s about people and a possible, believable future where bloggers are considered mainstream news sources. That’s interesting enough to get my attention!

    The third book (Blackout) was read just as quickly as this one so review for that will follow soon.

    There are also a series of short stories based in the “Newsflesh” universe which fleshes out some of the back story (pun not exactly intended!) so I’ll be checking those out soon.

    Dead tree edition is available on Amazon or there is a Kindle version if you prefer.

  • Book Review: Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard, Configuring (70-169) Certification Guide

    The very nice people at Packt asked me to take a look at this book Co-authored by Drew Hills who is an active contributor to the SMB IT Professional community in Australia and Robert Crane of the excellent CIAOPS blog and “Need to Know Podcast”.

    (MCTS): Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard, Configuring (70-169) Certification Guide

    Having read the book I think it’s a title that’s worth grabbing a copy of if you work with SBS 2011, regardless of any plans you may have of actually taking the exam.

    There are six main chapters covering everything from setup and migration, server management to working with the premium add-on and each chapter has bite sized descriptions of all the tasks involved with some test questions to make sure you’ve taken it all in.

    It doesn’t go into massive amounts of technical detail, it is supposed to be a study guide after all but this is what makes it a great quick reference guide! That said the amount of areas it covers are numerous so it’s very comprehensive and from a study guide perspective it provides everything you’d need to pass the exam.

    It’s easy to follow, makes good use of screenshots and the bite sized nature of each task description makes it really easy to dip in and out of.

    The book is available directly from Packt in ebook and print format and there is also a discounted bundle if you wanted both.

  • Book Review–Roo’d

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    Look a book review!

    This is the review I’d started when I was hit with what I originally said was writers block and eventually attributed to being burnt out.

    I’ve avoided coming back to this but I really do need to get it out of the way so here it is.

    After the previous book I’d read I was pleased to say I really enjoyed this one! This was despite reading the description and being a little bit wary.

    The story is set in a near future where body modification is the norm and having your jawline reshaped is a common as having your ears pierced!

    The main character is Fed, whose defining physical characteristic is that he has prosthetic legs – despite living in a world where getting a new set of legs would be trivial.

    Fed is a bit of a loner, highly intelligent and a near genius with computers. His life is at a bit of a crossroads when he meets up with his estranged brother who convinces him to get involved in a what sounds like an impossible “get rich” ranbaxy generic ativan scheme. Fed agrees to get involved and drops out of school which is where the fun starts.

    Fed’s skill with computers a key part of the plan so this part of the plot was obviously of interest to me.

    The story is very much about how Fed grows as a person and tries to figure out who he is as he comes across a wide variety of weird and wonderful characters and they soon realise they are way in over their head.

    What I really loved about this book was the imagery it created of the world it was set it. I honestly think it would make an amazing film!

    The title of the book sounds a bit random but once you realise what the phrase Roo’d means it makes perfect sense.

    It all gets a little bit crazy towards the end but it doesn’t take anything away from home much I enjoyed this.

    As with a lot of the books I’ve read so far this year it’s available on a creative commons license so grab it and check it out!

    Highly recommended.

  • Book Review–Password Incorrect

    passwordincorrectThis was the first book in a while I didn’t actually like, hence the brevity as it wasn’t all that memorable either!

    I rarely give up on a book once I’ve started it properly because I like to give it every chance – some books redeem themselves after an iffy start this wasn’t one of them. I didn’t give up on it but I came very close!

    The book is a selection of very short purchase ativan online stories all based around a technology theme.

    My issue was that too many of the stories made little sense. Many of them were actually too short.

    It actually got reasonable reviews on GoodReads but this one wasn’t for me.

    It’s possible I just didn’t get the humour as the write-up said it was “tech absurd”.

    It’s another creative commons book so if you want to check it yourself it’s available here.

  • Book Review – Eastern Standard Tribe

    Another Cory Doctorow book!

    This book was another that I’d actually got on my Amazon wish list before I realised it has also been released under a creative commons license.

    It took me quite a while to get into this. I read the first half of the book with a frown on my face as I just didn’t get the underlying premise. The main theme of the book is based around groups of people living and working around a specific time zone, regardless of their geographic location. What’s the point in that you may ask but if you think about the modern world we conduct lots of relationships online.

    People always come together because of shared interests and the World Wide Web has allowed us to interact with groups with similar tastes all across the world. The only downside with this is that we all live in different time zones. If one of your best friends lives on the other side of the world how can you maintain that friendship if one of you is always asleep?

    So by living by the same time zone, regardless of where you are in the world this obstacle is easily overcome. There are obviously practical problems that go with this which the book looks into as well.

    Once I’d got my head around this concept the first half of the book that I’d read made a lot more sense. I’m not sure if the story was specifically intended to work like this or if it was just me being a little slow on the uptake.

    Anyway, the rest of the story – the main character Art is living in London but is part of the Eastern Standard Tribe. All is well in Arts life until he accidently hits a woman from Los Angeles called Linda, with his car. This throws the two together and they quickly become inseparable. They both have their own baggage however and through some double crossing Art ends up in a psychiatric ward!

    As I said earlier it took me a while to get into and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two Cory Doctorow’s I’ve read recently it was smart enough to hold my attention.

  • How’s the book reading going?

    Back in February I explained about the book reviews I’d started posted on the site. I was trying to be more consistent with my reading so thought keeping track of what I’d actually read would help. Also writing book reviews would help me keep in the blogging habit. Finally, I hoped that anyone who might be interested in my blog would have similar reading tastes so they would be valid blogging fodder anyway.

    The problem is the reading has actually gone too well. My more consistent reading habits coupled with my recent Kindle purchase means I’m finishing books quicker than I’m writing blog posts!

    I’ve read 18 books so far since the start of the year, which you can see on this page.(Books that don’t have any cover art on GoodReads aren’t displayed – you need to click through to GoodReads to see the full list)

    I’m conscious that I don’t want this to turn into a book review site so I’ve actually got a bit of a back log of reviews to write.

    I asked for some opinions on Twitter and the consensus was that reviews were ok, though obviously my main content area is still important so I’m imposing some rules on myself.

    For every book review, I’ll write at least one other post. If this is more than all the better but it’ll stop me posting book reviews one after the other.

    The side effect of this to me should be that it’ll help keep in the blogging habit even more as I’ll have to write other content.

    If you didn’t catch the Twitter conversation and you’ve got any opinions to share on my book reviews please do!