Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

I was lucky enough to get a galley copy of Daughter of the Pirate King, by Tricia Levnseller, via Netgalley.com prior to the books UK publication by Pushkin Children’s Books in September 2022. (This was originally published in the USA in 2017 and is available via Kindle Unlimited in the USA.)

Seventeen-year-old Alosa, daughter of the feared Pirate King, is on a mission. She must retrieve an ancient hidden map, the key to a legendary treasure trove. The catch? Alosa needs to conceal her considerable combat skills and allow herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But luckily, she has a few tricks up her sleeve- and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

This book is intended for the YA audience but as an adult I enjoyed the story and found it to be well thought out, with no plot holes, well paced, and quite enjoyable. The story was written in a way that is appealing to all ages not just the intended audience. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a fantasy story with mythic elements and swash buckling pirates. I will happily be looking out for the sequels to this.

The PDF received was well formatted with a clear font and no obvious spelling or grammar mistakes. Some of the page numbers did not appear to be formatted correctly.

Pencil carboot bonanza – graphite edition. Sept. 2021.

During this weekend I had a good haul of coloured and graphite pencils from our local car boot sale. I bought around 120-150 coloured pencils from WH Smith (there old highly pigmented ones), Crayola, Grafix, and others, plus 10 graphite pencils for £2.50 (including £1.50 entry) in an old biscuit tin. This post is going to be about comparing the graphite pencils. Looking at the tin in total I would age the pencils from the 1980s to 2010s with the majority in the 1990s.

All the writing sample were written in a Clairfontaine A5 plain pad and the photos were taken in natural light on a cloudy day. Prices mentioned were researched in September 2021 from Amazon, manufacturers website, or WH Smith.

Grading

Below are some comparisons of the grading using heavy to light pressure. The worst pencil in the bunch was the Amazon Basics HB which felt like a H pencil so was discarded from the rest of the testing. Two pencils that did not have any identifying marks on them were also not further tested although they both had nice rich graphite. When writing with them as a group the Q Office pencil and the Berol pencil felt nicest to use. The WH Smith pencils performed well but two pencils were nice and a third was a pleasure to use and gave out thicker results so I guess they came from different batches.

The Pencils which I tested

Staedtler Noris school GB HB

Availability: New version available in a school pack of 150 pencils for £10 or in 12 pack for £4.50 and in several different types of geometry set and other packaging. Current version appears to be Made in Germany instead of GB as the one tested. WH Smith have a set of 10 for £6.99 or a graded set available for £6.99 at present containing HB x 2, 2B, B, H, H, 2h, rubber, ruler, pencil sharpener, 6 coloured pencils, and a blue and black stick pen for £5.99 (half price normally £11.99).

WH Smith silver HB pencils

These pencils were all nice to write with and gave the same results when writing – a nice dark line and no hard bits when sharpening. Two of these pencils were nice when drawing but one was a standout. These are hex pencils with an uncovered end cap.

Availability: Currently sold in a 12 pack for £1.49 (normally £2.99) half price start of school year sale at present.

Berol Handwriting pencil HB

There were two of these pencils in the box and the graphite was nice to write with but was not as dark as the others excluding the Amazon Basics HB. The pencil was hex in shape and the end was capped. They were nice to grip, well balanced, and sharpened well without any hard bits or gouging.

Availability: This is available with a slightly different external appearance in a classroom pack of 200 pencils for £15 or a handwriting set of 2 pens, 3 pencils, rubber, and pencil sharpener, for £5.

Stabilo Swano 307 HB

This was a hex pencil that was comfortable to use and gave a nice dark line when writing.

Availability: This exact model does not appear to be currently in circulation. A 306 version is available for £2.76 for 12.

Ryman HB

This was a hex pencil with a rubber on the end. The graphite performed well drawing and writing and was mid-range overall. The pencil gouged slightly when sharpening.

Availability: This appears to be a Kraft pencil which is sold in a 12 pack for £2.99.

Q Office HB KF26072.

A hex pencil that performed well. The pencil in the tin was quite abused but laid a nice dark line when writing and drew well.

Availability: New version in red for £0.68 for 12 in a new red body style. I like this natural wood finish.

Conclusion

Pencil

Comment

Rank

Staedtler Noris school GB HB

Nice performing pencil best in this selection gave a nice dark line, felt comfortable in the hand, and was easy to sharpen.

1

Berol Handwriting pencil HB

Comfortable pencil to write with, was lighter than most of the other HB pencils in this group when writing, and it was easy to sharpen.

2

Q Office HB KF26072

The pencil in the box was in poor condition but gave a nice dark line and felt comfortable in the hand.

2

Stabilo Swano 307 HB

Nice basic pencil but was not outstanding.

3

WH Smith silver HB pencils

Nice pencils, two gave results in the average range and one gave an exceptionally dark line, easy to sharpen, uneven results.

3

Ryman HB

Nice basic pencil.

4

 

More photographs

Inky Thoughts: Diamine Earl Grey

Laying down some ink using Diamine Earl Grey ink.

Nice grey colour, which shows some depth and flex. I liked the variations in the stroke when drawing and will be using this for writing and sketching. There was no bleed through when drawing the flowers or flexing the pen.

Photo taken in natural light.

 

Scanned on a MFC Scanner; written in a Kokuyo Campus book with a Baoer fude pen.

 

Scanned with a Brother MFC printer; Fabriano A4 notebook; Baoer fude fountain pen.

Here’s a photo of the pen.

Playing with a Pocketbook 740 Inkpad 3 eReader – installing linux services and network shares.

Introduction

I wanted to set up my eBook so that I could access the devices file system whilst plugged into USB so that I could play around with CSS styles in KOReader software (and possibly write some software for it). Ezdiy at MobileRead has made this doable (view https://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=325185) so that you can “make use of configuring the device in fancy ways, such as running custom stuff for linux, or advanced mods to the GUI” by installing some tools and dependencies.

Installing network share

After following Exdiy’s method by rooting the Pocketbook and turning on the services I installed the network drives as follows:

In Pocketbook:

  • Click on SETTINGS > ROOTED DEVICE SETTINGS > SYSTEM STATUS and note the IP address and the ROOT PASSWORD.

In Windows:

  • WinKey E
  • Click on “This PC” > “Map Network Drive”
  • Enter the IP address and USB extension eg: http://192.168.0.32/ext2.
    ext1 is the main memory; ext2 is the SD card; ext3 is the HTML share.
  • Click Finish and enter ROOT as the username and the PASSWORD noted from the Pocketbook. Eg 1234.
  • When looking at Windows File Explorer you now have the network shares installed and viewable when Wifi is turned on in the Pocketbook.

View your files in a web browser

You can also use the IP address to view files in your web browser.

Enter the same Sign in details as above “root” as USERNAME and PASSWORD eg “12345” and your files will be viewable. Below is my Pocketbooks SD drive in the browser.

Koreader Settings

To edit the CSS properties within Koreader they are located under ext/applications/koreader/data in the epub.css file. You can open this in Notepad ++ and edit the settings.

Epub.CSS file in Notpad ++.

Two other important files are CR3.INI and CR3.CSS which have settings you can edit.

Conclusion

That’s the end of this entry – in the next one I’ll play about with CSS code in KOReader.

Sketch of AngloSaxon square brooch

This pencil sketch is based on the top of a square headed brooch at the British Museum (https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1867-0729-5). “Silver-gilt square-headed brooch. The head is decorated with a framed Style I panel between scrolls and animals; the foot is lobed and ornamented with a with mask; geometric terminal.” This item is discussed at https://blog.britishmuseum.org/decoding-anglo-saxon-art/.

I like doodling with patterns and will scan this one and edit it digitally.

The original item looks like this (Photo © British Museum):

Using a Tandy WP-2 Wordprocessor in Windows 10

I picked up a Tandy WP2 to do some distraction free writing. This machine was released in 1989 (when I was a teenager) and was aimed at “From board room to corporate jet, library to home office, you can take notes, prepare reports and write memos in style.” It also boasts “Only 1 inch thin” chassis and was all for the princely sum of US349.95 according to the Tandy RSC-21 1990 catalogue. This unit runs on four aa batteries with a cr2340 watch battery for backup.

Nice machine with a comfortable keyboard. This is a much better looking than the

After playing about with it today I got it to transfer text to Windows 10 as follows (at present cannot transfer the DO file, carry on playing):

Wires required

USB Null Modem – Male

USB Null Modem – Female

RS232C/Serial cable

RS232 gender changer (may not be needed if you buy a Male null modem as pictured in the first column).

http://shorturl.at/jpuFL

This link takes you to a null modem and RS232C cable set (May 2020).

 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Adapter-USB-zu-RS-232-Seriell-RS232-9Pin-Win-PC-Mac-Linux-Nullmodem-Kabel-USN/312617904223

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/DB9-Pin-Female-Male-RS232-Serial-Lead-Extension-Cable-10m/333242087479

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/RS232-9-Way-Female-to-Socket-Coupler-Straight-Adapter-Gender-Changer-DB9-Serial/330722816176.

Windows Setup

  • Install Putty for Windows from https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html.
  • Go to Windows Device Manager and look for Ports (COM & LTP) and note the COM number in brackets. In the image below COM5.
  • Open up Putty and use these settings under SESSION:
    SERIAL LINE: COM 5
    SPEED: 9600
    CONNECTION TYPE: Serial
    On the first use SAVED SESSION:WP2 and SAVE.
  • Click on the LOGGING tab and under SESSSION LOGGING select ALL SESSION OUTPUT.
    Under LOG FILE NAME type in a name to save the output from the WP2 wordprocessor.
  • Go to the SERIAL category and double check that the setting are as follows (SERIAL LINE TO CONNECT TO: COM5, or the COM number we found earlier):


Go back to SESSION and click on SAVE and the Windows side is complete for now.

  • In Putty click OPEN to have a place to receive the WP2 data.

Tandy WP2 Setup

The wording of this section is mainly from the manual at http://www.club100.org/library/doc/wp2man.html.#. At present, I cannot transfer the .DO/.DA file directly to my PC so I am only using the ASCII plain text version.

Creating a File to Transfer via Modem or Direct Connect

  • From within a file, press <F2> <=> to go to the file menu.
  • Press <F1> <N> to create a new file. Type in a paragraph or two.
  • Press <F2> <=> to go to the file menu.
  • Press <ENTER> on MEMORY to get a list of files.
  • Highlight the file you just created, or want to transfer to the PC, and type <F1> <A> to convert the document to ASCII format.
  • The file will now have a .DA extension instead of .DO. Do not go back into this file or the format will be changed back and the extension will be .DO.

Transferring a file to a PC

A direct connect transfer requires a serial cable, null modem adapter, and communications software on the PC to receive the file.

  • From within a file, press <F2> <-> to go into setup.
  • Highlight TELECOM and press <ENTER>.

    Set the parameters as below and be sure to press <SHIFT> <DOWN ARROW> to see the second page of settings. This is where the file transfer protocol is set. The two options are ASCII and CRC-XMODEM. ASCII sends information in 80 character lines. XMODEM will keep the format of document.
    The CRC MODEM transfer method does not currently work on my PC and I suspect that if it does I couldn’t open the .DA file anyway. -IDS.

    First Screen of settings:

Device

RS232C MODEM

Baud Rate

75 110 150 300 600 1200 2400 4800 9600

Word Length(bits)

5 6 7 8

Parity

None Even Odd Ignore

Stop bits

1 1.5 2

XON/XOFF

Enable Disable

Printer echo

ON OFF

Duplex

Half Full

Second Screen of Settings:

Tranfer

ASCII CRC-MODEM

Incoming CR

CR LF CRLF

Outgoing CR

CR LF CRLF

Mode

Answer Originate

Dial Number

 

LogOn Sequence

 
  • Press <F2> <backspace> to exit setup. This will return you to your current document.
  • Press <F2> <9> to enter Telcom.
  • Setup all parameters in communications program on PC. Make sure communications protocols are the same.
  • Press the button on the PC to start receiving the file.
  • On the WP-2, press <F1> <U> to upload, press <ENTER> for MEMORY, and type the filename with the .DA extension and <ENTER>. You should see the message “UPLOADING…” and get consecutive dots as the transfer proceeds.
  • When the upload is complete, you can press <F2> <backspace> to go back to the current document.

Acknowledgements

My electronic learning and note taking set-up for Windows 10.

I am doing a maths course which has switched online due to the Covid 19 epidemic and in this post I am going to list my go to programs. Unfortunately, the GCSE retake has now been cancelled with only a partial refund in the offing.

Free note taking apps

Xournal++ for editing PDFs
https://github.com/xournalpp/xournalpp

Windows/Linux/Mac download: https://github.com/xournalpp/xournalpp/releases

“Xournal++ is a hand note taking software … with the target of flexibility, functionality and speed.” -company website

This app is especially useful for writing on past exam papers and saves a good amount of printing out paper that would only go into the recycling bin.I like the layout and design of this app. It feels nearly as good as writing on a piece of paper and saves a few trees at the same time. You can also type notes, draw shapes, and add recorded notes. There is a good selection of background templates (lined paper, dot grid, blank, graph, etc) and three pen sizes (thin, medium, thick). The app does not write on the oringal pdf (I would recommend making a backup anyway) but to its own file format which can then be saved to a new PDF.

Onenote 2016 has been released for free software from Microsoft and can be downloaded from https://www.onenote.com/download.
I prefer the 2016 version to the version that come pre-installed in Windows 10 as the scree layout is clearer. See picture.
This allows you to type, write, and speak notes which are saved in separate pages. You can search for previous subjects. I also find the print to function from another program very handy. When doing Math, it is best to turn the calculator off in the options as when typing it will answer for you.

Windows 10 hardware

For a non-touchscreen PC my main recommendation is to buy a pen tablet that will plug in via USB. Price quotes are from May 2020.

No screen tablets which plug into a pc cost £35 new on Amazon or £5-£20 used, £17+ new, on eBay. I use a larger working area Huion but this H420 is the current starter model with 2048 levels of pressure. The higher pressure equals better drawing lines produced. This is great for drawing, a mouse replacement or writing on your pc screen. The area you have to draw on is about the size of a credit card, 10.2 x 5.7cm, which is small so you will end up using your wrist for drawing instead of your whole arm. If you draw a lot I would recommend using a larger version. Video review – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d7MjGRtsOs.

The Huion H640p no screen has 8192 levels of pressure and cost £40 on Amazon or from £20+ used on eBay. The working area of the tablet is 16 x 9.91 cm. (To compare, a piece of A5 paper is 14.8 x 21 cm.) Video review 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJoqPi0-K8w. Not the best review video but current model. Video review 2 – previous model – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS1f-xM8Ntg.

The next no screen model size is the Huion H950p with a working area of 22 x 13.7cm (approximately A5 in size) costing £80 new on Amazon, or from £20 on eBay used.

Graphics screen tablets, like the Huion Kamvas Pro 12, are a computer screen that you are drawing directly onto. These have 8192 levels of pressure and are more user friendly to use than a no graphics version. They start from around £150 used, £200+ new, so I would only recommend buying one if you are seriously studying art or graphic design as the H640 does a similar job for half the cost. The work area quoted is quoted at 25.6 x 14.4 cm and is a nice size to work on. (To compare, a piece of B5 paper is 17.6 x 25 cm so this is between A5 and B5 paper). Video – https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/C1eQ4xJGGAS.mp4.

Other makes of graphics tablet are available but I find these Huion models quite reliable and affordable to use. The latest drivers are available from the manufacturer’s website. XP Pen tablet are priced similarly and are also available on Amazon.

The drawing tablets that you can buy on the high street are over priced in my opinion for hardware that does the same thing but you do have better legal protection if things go wrong.

Some of the best free drawing programs which use pressure sensitivity are Krita, Autodesk Sketchbook (went free in 2018), my paint w64, and Paint.net.