Serial Reader (app review)

Happy Monday and happy New Year!

Being a broke university student (formerly) and a broke professional writer (currently) it probably goes without saying that I am a big fan of free books.  Last year whilst going to uni I was told about Project Guttenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/) which I primarily used to read books in the public domain.

Public Domain Books

A public domain book is a book with no copyright, a book that was created without a license, or a book where its copyrights expired[20] or have been forfeited.[21] Every book and tale written prior to 1923 (or 1947 in most countries) is in the public domain, among them, every book written by Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells. (source: wikipedia “public domain”)

However as much as I love and support the work Project Guttenberg does, I have always struggled to find a good Project Guttenberg reader app for my phone/tablet.  I have tried the Guttenberg Books app for android and (SURPRISE: DOUBLE APP REVIEW) it’s awful.  It frequently crashes, looses my place in books, has a very poor search function, and generally kind of drives me insane but as per the hardness of my head I toughed it out with the Guttenberg Books app for a year.

borderland
I love this cover art.

Then one day whilst reading this really brilliant book called The House on the Borderland and after loosing my place in the book several times in the first 50 pages (I read slow AND have a job AND a family, it’s hard for me to put down more than 5-10 pages in a sitting), I got really fucking frustrated.  This frustration drove me in, what I anticipated would be a arduous hunt for the right reader app that wasn’t kindle(1), to the digital pages of “Serial Reader: Classic Literature in 20 Minutes a Day”.

The idea behind Serial Reader is that each book available in the app is “subscribable” meaning that each book you subscribe to is broken into chunks that are under 20 minutes to read (I have yet to see any over 15minutes in my feed but I only subscribe to one book at the moment) which is usually about a chapter, and each book you’re subscribed to is sent to you in a daily “issue”.  It’s a well established tradition in literature to release novels in serialised episodes, this is how Wilkie Collin’s classic detective novel “The Moonstone” was originally published in Charles Dickens’ newspaper (yes, that Charles Dickens) All The Year Round and Dickens himself even earned his literary success with the serialisation of his novel The Pickwick Papers.

Serial Reader is itself simple and easy to use and has a minimum of bugs (there is this one where it remembers my previous stopping point but when I swipe the next page it

IMG_20180108_115504
I love these features.

jumps back to my actual stopping point, it’s my literal only complaint about the app) and has wonderful little features like being able to highlight and take notes on text in app but the features that are my FAVOURITE are when you highlight a word or phrase, a prompt pops up asking if you’d like to define or look up on wikipedia IN APP(2) which leaving a reader app is the number 1 reason I don’t look up the definition of more words or look up the wikipedia entry on unfamiliar phrases.

There are other minour features such as progress bars, badges of reading completion, and a variety of fonts (this is a surprisingly great feature, I’m not usually a font person but I really like “OpenDyslexic”), which are great but most of them didn’t leave as much of an impact as being able to define/wiki a highlighted section of text in the app.

Overall if you’re looking for a Kindle alternative, again I am no authority I have very little experience with the Kindle reader despite hearing near universal praise, Serial Reader is an extremely solid choice.

Feel free to share with me your experiences with Serial Reader and/or other reader apps (including Kindle, I guess but I get enough feedback on that from literally every other reader in my life) in the comments below.

Keep reading, folks. Even if it’s in 20 minute chunks.

-Fin

Footnotes:

  1. I really don’t know why I have had this unofficial kindle reader boycott, maybe it’s because I avoid apps that want me to enter payment information or something.  I think it’s a money-fueled-fear aversion. Or maybe I’m a trend setter.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  2. Okay so results may vary, as I discovered whist writing this.  The copy/define/wikipedia/etc feature works on my LG android phone but doesn’t seem to work on my MI phone.  Screenshot_2018-01-08-11-55-54-298_org.mschmitt.serialreader
Advertisements

Durak (card game)

Happy Monday folks!

As  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to make my Monday posts “Mystery Monday” partly because I haven’t read anything I’ve wanted to write about that I haven’t already written extensively about for class(1) and partly because my life is just not exciting enough to write a memoir piece every week.  So I wanted to leave a day where I could surprise you my reader, because who doesn’t love a good surprise?

In line with the spirit of mystery I decided to write about a card game one of my flatmates taught me before leaving for winter holiday called: Durak(2).

Durak(3) is Russian for “idiot” or “fool”.  When I asked my flatmate why it was named this, he told me “It’s because this is a game where there are no winners, only a looser and only a fool would play such a game.” It’s a game of some skill and some luck however of the 5 rounds we played, I was overwhelming the durak.

Objective: Do not have any cards left in your hand at the end of the deck.

regular_durak
1. Deck; 2. first attacker; 3. defender; 4. next attacker (this game has a learning curve)

Number of Players: 2 – 7

 

Rules of Play:

  1. Each player is dealt 7 cards. Each player will keep a minimum of 7 cards in their hand until all cards from the deck and the power card (the face up card under the deck, this is simply the top card of the deck after the deck is shuffled and cards are dealt) are drawn.
  2. The first player initiates an attack to the left (player 2 attacks player 3). To attack player 2 lays down a card from their hand. The defending player (player 3) defends with a card of higher value and same suit or can deflect the attack to their left (player 4) with a card of the same value (obviously this card cannot be of the same suit). Any power suit card can defend against a non-power suit card. (Example: if player 2 attacks player 3 with a 6 of clubs, and the power suit [as determined by the power card] is hearts, player 3 can defend with a 2 of hearts)
  3. If player 3 cannot defend, then em takes the card and puts in their hand. If player 3 can defend then player 2 and/or player 4 can attack with more cards of the same value as any card in battle. If player 3 deflects the attack then the attacking card and the card used to deflect attack to the left, player 4. (Example: if player 2 attacks player 3 with a 6 of clubs and player 3 deflects the attack with a 6 of spades, now player 4 is defending against two 6s).
  4. If player 3 successfully defends, then all cards in battle go to the discard pile (a pile off to the side, these cards are now out of play for the rest of the game). If player 3 cannot defend or deflect, then em takes all cards in battle and puts them in em’s hand.  Everyone draws cards until they have 7 or more cards in hand starting with the attacker then clockwise.
  5. Now player 3 is the attacker and attacks player 4, to the left. Repeat.
  6. Players play and draw until the deck and the power card are drawn.  Once there is only one player left with cards in hand, they are declared the durak.

The game is a lot easier to understand once you play a hand or two and is a lot of fun.  It’s a really interesting game that utilizes game mechanics similar to trading card games except with the dynamic of using a regular 52 card deck, the playing field is relatively even.

I’ve picked up quite a few games and some card tricks but only a few are games are really unusual like this one.  If you have any unusual card games, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Footnotes:

  1. I just finished a 3000 word literary analysis essay about the critical effectiveness of Darko Suvin‘s definition of Science Fiction (for the specific quote the prompt was taken, see 2.2) as a literary genre in his brilliant essay “Estrangement and Cognition” with regard to Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Wells’s War of the Worlds (which if you haven’t read it and aren’t already familiar with The Gutenberg Project you can read it for free along with literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of other classics; it’s brilliant and you now have no excuse but wait until after reading my post to go drool over the quantity of free reading over there, please) and as much as I enjoyed both texts I just cannot be asked to look at them again much less write about them for a while.
  2. I’m going to show you how the game was taught to me, as there are many variations this is the one I learned and will share with you.
  3. Here’s how I’m going to describe pronouncing it even though I was told many times that I’m saying it wrong but I think I finally got it.  It’s two syllables, the first “dur” sounds like “door” if you replace the two “oo” with a long “u”.  The second syllable borrows the “r” sound but just barely and sounds like “rack”.