It’s Complicated?

It’s been an interesting week in romancelandia, eh?  I’ve been pondering whether to post on the whole Jane Litte/Jen Frederick thing, because there are a lot of opinions out there already, and I don’t think I’ve any additional insights to add, but hey, my two pence FWIW.

Like a lot of DA readers, the news caught me by surprise – I was already impressed by how Jane managed to run a large blog, on top of her day job and family commitments.  Add to that the fact she’s been writing (and selling) books in her spare time – I’m doubly impressed.

I personally don’t have an issue with the fact she’s both an author and a blogger, nor with the instances cited where Jen Frederick’s books have been (peripherally, IMO) promoted via DA.  I can completely understand why she did what she did – it was a bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma for Jane when it came to coming out as an author.

Some people have argued that the DA tagline “for readers, by readers” should be changed.  I disagree – so because Jane’s an author, she can’t be a reader?  I know there’s been a lot of discussion around reader/author spaces (and ironically, a lot of that has probably taken place at DA) – this is where I don’t always agree with DA’s opinion posts (and also acknowledge that DA doesn’t speak with a single voice).  Quite a few of the reviewers I follow at Goodreads are authors, and I love the way they dissect books with their reader hat on.  I think it’s perfectly valid for authors to interact as either writers or readers, but acknowledge that it’s not an easy line to follow.

As for promotions, if you visit any of the larger blogs (romance or otherwise), it’s obvious that blogging’s a business nowadays – they have established relationships with publishers (I’m including self-pubbed authors in that category), whether that’s only via the provision of ARCs or if it includes advertising and so on.  Honestly?  Regardless of whether disclosures are made or not, my starting assumption is there’s always going to be some bias.  We’re human beings.  We’re naturally inclined towards bias.  As to the effectiveness of said placements, I vaguely recognised Jen Frederick’s name.  I’ve had a look at my mountainous TBR and I haven’t bought any Jen Frederick books – I recall checking out one of them (which wasn’t one of those mentioned mentioned on DA, so it must have been another blog) and passing on it, as the plot sounded way too angst-y for me.

And as for the OTT claims around DA promoting NA and killing off historicals as part of a bigger conspiracy to promote Jen’s books *rolls eyes*

However.

I think the lines blur where Jane/Jen had relationships with the same person without revealing she was one and the same.  I don’t have a personal relationship with Jane/Jen.  I do read DA posts (and am a very occasional commenter, though probably more on the other contributors’ posts as her tastes don’t match mine), and we had a brief exchange of emails when she thanked me for my contribution to the DA/EC legal defence fund.  I completely get that anyone who has had more frequent exchanges with Jane and/or Jen may feel very differently, and that’s on Jane/Jen’s plate to work out.

The other piece that made me think twice was the fact that Jen was being included in author loops that wouldn’t have admitted Jane.  Jane did say (on the DA comment thread) that the author loops being referenced are large ones, with hundreds and hundreds of authors, which I think adds a different context on the initial claim.  Again though, this doesn’t impact me personally so this is not one where I can really opine on.

To be clear, I don’t think Jane comes out squeaky-clean on this.  I work in an industry where the focus has shifted so heavily to conflicts of interest that it’s not enough to have processes and procedures in place to prevent them.  It’s not even enough to know that you’ve managed conflicts of interest appropriately – you need to evidence that you have.  So while I do believe in Jane’s integrity – that is to say, I believe she drew the line between Jane and Jen in her head, and kept them separate, and that no information that Jen accessed was explicitly used in Jane’s blogger capacity – it’s because of what she’s built up over the years.

TL;DR – it’s complicated.  For me personally, it’s not a big deal.  For other people, depending on how they’ve been impacted, it is a big deal.

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Five (Book-ish) Phone Apps I Use

After years of having a phone that took forever to start up, rebooted at random intervals, and required charging every few hours (okay, I exaggerate slightly, but not by much), I caved and got an all-singing all-dancing smartphone recently. I have now become one of those annoying people who whip out their phone whenever I’m waiting in a queue, waiting for the train, or really, waiting for anything.

One of the first things I did with my fancy phone was download all the apps.  And now I’ve gotten them configured to my satisfaction, I thought I’d talk about the reading/blogging-related ones I have.  (I’m totally going to lose my phone now, right?)

Note I’ve an Android phone, not an iPhone, so links here are to the Google Play store.  Also, they’re all free ones (at time of posting, anyway) – I’ve never felt the need to pay for an app (yet).

apps

Amazon Kindle

Kind of a no-brainer, seeing that I’m so hooked into the Amazon eco-system (don’t ask how many Kindles I have).  You need your Amazon account details to set this one up, and then it’s synced with your Kindle library.  And the Kindle app does what I expect it to do – it allows me to download any books I’ve purchased on Amazon or emailed to my Kindle.  Admittedly, I don’t need much from a phone reading app – just the ability to adjust the background (I find a sepia-ish tone easiest on my eyes), margins and font size.

Amazon Kindle for Samsung (link to Samsung website)

Why yes, I have a Samsung phone (and this one is only for Samsung phone owners).  And the reason why I have a Samsung-specific Kindle app?  Because it gives me a free book a month (from a selection of four).  It takes a bit of configuration (you need a Samsung account and an Amazon one, IIRC), but once you’re set up, it’s simple – I “buy” the free book from this app, and then can download the book from the cloud onto my Kindle Paperwhite (which is still my main ereader).  Functionality-wise, I don’t think there’s any difference between this one and the Kindle app – different skin, but that’s it as far as I can tell.

EverAfter

I can’t remember where I first saw this posted, but EverAfter Romance app offers various benefits, including a free book every now and then – I downloaded it a month or so ago, and have three free books so far (you have to use a code that they email you to redeem them).  As the name implies, it’s centred around romance books, so good if you’re a romance reader!  If you have a Adobe ID, you can use that as part of the installation process – I forgot mine, and so the app created a new one for me.  That may cause problems down the line, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…

The range of books? I haven’t explored in detail, but it appears to have the same freebies as I see on Kindle, so probably down to which app you prefer.

Aldiko

I downloaded this to access the ebook collection at my local library.  I needed my Adobe ID (this time I managed to use my existing one) and my library logon credentials.  Once set up, it was really easy to browse my library’s catalogue and download books.  To be honest, I’m not noticing any difference between the reading experience on this app, EverAfter, and Kindle – it’s just that I’ve different ebooks accessible via each one.

Feedly

Not strictly a book-ish app, but I love Feedly.  I use this to catch up on blogs during my commute to and from work – it’s really user-friendly, and well, pretty!  I log on with my Google credentials, so really straightforward.  The Save for Later function is the one I use most often – either for posts that I want to go back and read in more detail or ones that I want to comment on (I need to figure out how to comment easily from my phone – Belle did a post on setting up phone shortcuts that I’ve been meaning to try).

So that’s me – tell me your must-have apps for your phone?  Preferably ones that are available on Android (I’ll get all envious if they’re iOS only) and they don’t have to be book-related!

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Bonus one for UK-based readers: WeBuyBooks.co.uk is a website that buys unwanted books (and computer games, DVDs etc).  They’ve an WeBuyBooks app that allows you to scan barcodes and immediately lets you know if they’re accepting the book, plus price.  I used it when I re-organised my bookshelves – slightly random acceptance criteria (they didn’t want a lot of my genre titles) and it didn’t exactly make me a fortune (the offer price for most paperbacks ranged from 5p-10p, with a surprising £2 for a M&B), but it helped me with the clearout of some books.

(And also, I played around with PicMonkey to make the button (banner?) above.  Tweaking the various elements is surprisingly addictive – I foresee many more wasted hours in my future.)

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New-to-me Authors and New Books

Most, if not all, of the books in my new releases posts tend to be by authors I’ve read previously – I’m boring that way.  But I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me authors, and obviously, the internet makes that too easy.

Here are three books by new-to-me authors that have caught my attention recently – any thoughts?

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22668755Marshall Ryan Maresca‘s THE THORN OF DENTONHILL (fantasy): I saw this at the (unofficial?) DAW Books LJ – basically, magic university + secret identities = I have to read.  I’m easy like that.  The GR ratings are skewing high (4-ish at time of writing this post), but are mostly early reviews.

Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.

With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle.  Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.

So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.

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24504048Elle Kennedy‘s THE DEAL (NA romance): Okay, I’m cheating on this one – Elle Kennedy’s not exactly a new-to-me author, but I’ve not read any of her NAs before (has she written NAs before?).  I read one of her books a year or so ago, and have been meaning to explore more of her backlist, but never quite got around to it.  Jane and Kaetrin @ Dear Author really liked this one and it’ll probably be the next book I pick up when I’m in the mood for an NA romance.

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

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21996355Cori McCarthy‘s BREAKING SKY (YA SF): I spotted this one in tor.com’s March round-up of SF new releases - again, the blurb caught my attention because it sounds as though it could be good.  I haven’t had the best track record with YA SF, so we’ll see. GR reviews are mixed – again, early reviews as it’s a March release.

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled debut thriller, America’s best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy

Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx,” is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental “Streaker” jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She’s tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There’s a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn’t play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

 

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Shelving Habits

One of the (few) things I did during February was organise my bookshelves.  Despite me buying most of my books in e nowadays, I somehow still have piles of books stacked haphazardly here, there, everywhere.  Which meant I was running out of space, and so during a rainy afternoon, I made an attempt at organisation.

I say attempt, because, well, it’s not easy.

I’m not one of those people who need to have all the books in a series in the same format.  I’m a bit too much of an impatient reader – basically I just go for the format that’s available the soonest.  So I happily have US and UK releases, hardbacks and paperbacks (and ebooks) in the same series (yes, I’m talking about you, Mercy Thompson).  But when shelving my books, this means I can’t do everything by series/author because of the different-sized books (okay, I could, but what a waste of bookshelf real estate!).

However, I still want to make it easy for me to find whatever books I want quickly, so I try to shelve broadly by genre – romance, mystery, fantasy, SF – if possible.  But then there’s also a bit of an instinctive grouping happening.

So my Lois McMaster Bujold SF hardcovers are next to those Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody mysteries I have in hardcover as well – different genres, but with protagonists that somehow strike me as very similar.  Next to Amelia Peabody are my Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum mysteries (the few ones I bought in hardcover, before I started borrowing them from my library) and then my Lisa Lutz books – both offbeat contemporary mystery series, though quite different in style.

My paperback Elizabeth Peters mysteries are shelved separately – I have them with her romantic suspense books written under her Barbara Michaels pseudonym, which are in turn next to my collection of Mary Stewart paperbacks, because again, they have a similar feel.  I’m toying with adding my Susanna Kearsleys to that shelf as well.

21528313I have my Juliet Marillier hardcovers with Sharon Shinn‘s Twelve Houses and Elemental Blessings books as neighbours (and hey look, Goodreads has the the cover for the third book in the series, JEWELED FIRE!).  My smaller Shinn hardcovers (which tend to be more YA in feel) are with my Kristin Cashore books, a couple of Tamora Pierce hardbacks, and the two Cecelia and Kate books I have in hardcover.

And I could go on and on… but it’s probably only interesting to me.  I love how I can now lay my hands on the books I’m after so much more easily – my shelves now match how I think of the books in my head.  (Though we’ll see how long this state of affairs last…)

I’d love to hear how you shelve your books (or how you’d like to – if I had a whole wall of shelves, I’d totally follow Angie’s example and do this)!

Non-book related link: This post (and comments) totally cracked me up.

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Books for March

So – it was only two months ago when I was having a bit of a moan about the dearth of new releases?  March more than makes up for it.

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23524861Patricia BriggsDEAD HEAT (UF): Sadly, we don’t get the Dan dos Santos cover here in the UK.  It’s the inside that counts, anyway. Or so I keep on telling myself.  The important thing is that we finally get more Anna and Charles. Right?

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, or at least it starts out that way . . .

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up – and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Out March 5 (for the UK anyway), March 3 for those lucky enough to get the Dan dos Santos cover…

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21457243Anne Bishop‘s VISION IN SILVER (UF): I’ve seen this third book in Anne Bishop’s The Others series appearing on a lot of March want lists.  I stumbled across an early copy in my bookstore the other day, and grabbed it (obviously).  I hate to say this… but I didn’t love it.  Anyone else read it yet and want to discuss?

The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Out March 3

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22729664Elizabeth Wein‘s BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN (historical fiction): Both of Elizabeth Wein’s previous historicals left a lasting impression on me, and I suspect this one won’t be any different.  Also, unusual subject matter – it promises much!

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.

Out March 5 (UK), March 31 for the US (I like to think of this as payback for the DEAD HEAT cover *tongue firmly in cheek*)

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16085457Rachel Hartman‘s SHADOW SCALE (YA fantasy): While I didn’t love SERAPHINA, it was a refreshing take on a dragon-centred fantasy, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Rachel Hartman does as a follow-up.

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Out March 10

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24580376Sarina Bowen‘s SHOOTING FOR THE STARS (contemporary romance): I think this release was temporarily derailed by Harlequin stopping its Harlequin E programme (anyone know what happened there?).  I’m glad Sarina Bowen’s self-pubbing this.

For one night she had everything.

Pro snowboarder Stella Lazarus has always loved her brother’s best friend. But the one time she tried to show him, she was shot down faster than you can say “competitor disqualified.”

Until one blissful night in Tahoe, when Stella finally gets her man.

Or does she? In the morning, Stella and Bear wake up to horrible news. The sort that sends them racing back to Vermont, and straight into the arms of guilt and family obligations.

For all of Bryan “Bear” Barry’s life, three natural laws held true: his best friend Hank was destined for greatness, Hank’s sister Stella was off-limits, and Bear would always manage to negotiate the rocky paths that life threw his way. In the space of two days, that’s all shattered.

Bear can’t believe he slipped up so badly with Stella. Even if his best friend wasn’t lying broken in a hospital bed, it would still be unforgivable. Determined to do better, he devotes himself to his friend’s recovery, denying himself the very person he loves. And the very thing he needs.

Out March 16

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18461986Kylie Scott‘s DEEP (contemporary romance): It’s no secret I totally fell for Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive rock star romance series last year, and I’m very excited about the final book in this series.

Positive. With two little lines on a pregnancy test, everything in Lizzy Rollins’ ordinary life is about to change forever. And all because of one big mistake in Vegas with Ben Nicholson, the irresistibly sexy bass player for Stage Dive. So what if Ben’s the only man she’s ever met who can make her feel completely safe, cherished, and out of control with desire at the same time? Lizzy knows the gorgeous rock star isn’t looking for anything more permanent than a good time, no matter how much she wishes differently.

Ben knows Lizzy is off limits. Completely and utterly. She’s his best friend’s little sister now, and no matter how hot the chemistry is between them, no matter how sweet and sexy she is, he’s not going to go there. But when Ben is forced to keep the one girl he’s always had a weakness for out of trouble in Sin City, he quickly learns that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay there. Now he and Lizzie are connected in the deepest way possible…but will it lead to a connection of the heart?

Out March 31

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21331590Eloisa JamesFOUR NIGHTS WITH A DUKE (historical romance): I may not read a lot of historical romance nowadays, but Eloisa James is still very much on my autobuy list.

As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia’s audacious proposal, but there’s one thing he won’t give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil’s bargain…he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can’t afford to lose.

Out March 31

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Maybes

  • I usually enjoy JL Merrow‘s Brit-flavoured stories, and she has a new M/M romance/mystery this month – HEAT TRAP  (out March 17).
  • Seanan McGuire‘s POCKET APOCALYPSE (out March 3) – I’ve not loved her InCryptid books the same way I adore her Toby Daye series, but I’ll probably get around to reading this at some point.  Not running out to buy it though.
  • Ebook bundle FIERCE: A FANTASY COLLECTION is one of those multiple-author boxed sets that I’m trying to stop buying, but for $0.99, you get 16 stories, including one by Mercedes Lackey (which I’ve probably read already, to be fair).  I’ve been meaning to read Kate SparkesBOUND (after this review @ Fantasy Review Barn), so that’s my excuse (out March 10, for a limited period of time).
  • Kate Meader‘s FLIRTING WITH FIRE (contemporary romance) – her novella in the Christmas anthology BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE was its one saving grace for me, so I’ve got her full-length novel on my radar (out March 24).

 

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A Collection of Links

I’m not quite sure how we’re in the last week of February – just where has the month gone?  I had a quick glance at my reading log for the month and it has a grand total of four books on it, with half of those (i.e. two) read this weekend (Brandon Sanderson‘s FIREFIGHT and KJ CharlesJACKDAW, if you’re curious).

It’s just been a really hectic month, so let’s wrap up February with links, shall we?

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I always find Rachel Aaron/Bach‘s posts about the writing industry interesting – she compares the promotional benefits of Bookbub v. Amazon’s Kindle Big Deal in this one.  I subscribe to Bookbub and occasionally click through to purchase a cheap-ish book or get a free one, so I guess it works.  But I tend to see a lot of the Bookbub promos (or those that I’m interested in, anyway) also mentioned in daily deal posts/forums so I’m not convinced it reaches new audiences – then again, I’m probably not the average reader.

22162129I loved Kate Elliott‘s cover for her short story collection THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT – so this sketch to final cover post @ A Dribble of Ink was a fun read.  Julie Dillon is an amazing artist, and her covers always make me take a second look.

Courtney Milan compares the research she does for her historicals v. her contemporaries.  Fascinating, and not something I’d have thought of before, but it does make a lot of sense.

An interview @ Time magazine with Rainbow Rowell, where she talks a bit about her upcoming novel CARRY ON (how many days is it until October again?).  I kind of think she’ll be spending the intervening months answering questions like this:

TIME: So what do you call a book like this?

Rainbow Rowell: I think it’s just straight-up fiction. Some people have said, “Oh, you’re writing fanfiction for your own book!” I don’t think it’s fanfiction, I think it’s more like canon! Because even though Simon Snow is fictional inside of Fangirl, I still had to make him up. He still feels like he’s my character.

And finally, a bit late, but this post at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about their new Lady was fantastic – love the peek behind the scenes, and the amount of effort that went into making the image just right sounds incredible.

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Five Kickstarters I’ve Backed (and What Happened Next)

The recent-ish umm… discussions around Kickstarter reminded me that I’ve had this post kicking around in draft mode for a bit. Basically, it’s my personal experiences of the (few) Kickstarters I’ve backed so far, in reverse chronological order.

I’ve mentioned Kickstarter briefly a couple of times before on my blog, and have contributed to a few book-related ones.  I view them more as a pre-order mechanism for books (with the (slight) risk of not seeing anything for my money), as opposed to funding the arts or anything remotely altruistic!  I’ve seen a few Kickstarters (or similar crowd-funding campaigns) with rewards that have made me raise an eyebrow, but I usually assume best intentions and just close the tab…

So, FWIW, here are the five I’ve backed to date and the results, plus overall thoughts below.

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24642986Fiction River Subscription Drive: I’d bought a couple of Fiction River anthologies previously (just don’t ask if I’ve read them…), so I was happy to buy a year’s subscription.  I chose the $30 level for six volumes, plus I also got one previously-published volume as they hit a bonus funding goal.

Result: I’ve received the bonus volume (I haven’t actually read it, but we’re not going there, right?) and I’ve had the first of the 2015 volumes come through in January.  No complaints – I suspect I’ve my commuting reading materials sorted for the year.

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22105447Athena’s Daughters: Women in Science Fiction & Fantasy: $5 for a female-positive ebook anthology sounded very do-able, and by the time all the bonus goals kicked in, I got a lot of reading material for my money.

Result: All the additional digital downloads were delivered promptly, IIRC, followed by the completed ebook anthology.  I’ve liked the stories I’ve read so far, and the art has been a nice bonus.  The Kickstarter creator (Silence in the Library Publishing) seem to use Kickstarter quite a bit, which means I get updates on both their projects as well as related ones – some people might not like that, but I don’t mind (and I’d change my update settings if I did).  They just finished another Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters Volume 2 – I didn’t contribute to this one as the additional Kickstarter rewards didn’t appeal to me and I figured I’d just purchase the ebook once it was released.

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18660656The Great Way, an epic fantasy trilogy by Harry Connolly: Heh. I can’t remember why exactly I backed this. Possibly a weak moment.  No, seriously, I was familiar with his UF work, and while I’d normally balk at $12 for an ebook, the reward came with a few other (already-written) books.

Result: The book was delivered in December 2014, so slightly later than planned.  I haven’t read it yet, but am looking forward to doing so! (Also, writing this post prompted me to check that all the books were actually loaded on my Kindle, which is always a good thing.)

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16485694Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera: I have a soft spot for space opera (surprise, right?) and Seanan McGuire was a contributor to this anthology.  It was $5 for a copy of the ebook.

Result: No issues with delivery, the ebook came out more or less on time, I think.  I felt the stories in the anthology were a bit uneven, but haven’t finished reading the whole anthology yet.

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15715749Tales of the Emerald Serpent: Shared World Mosaic Anthology: This was me dipping my toe into the Kickstarter pool.  I can’t remember where I first read about this, but I was prompted to toss in $5 because I was keen to read a couple of contributors in the list.

Result: Ebook came out sooner than I expected, IIRC, and I liked the anthology.   There was a follow-up Kickstarter for Volume 2, which I passed on because the reward level for an ebook increased to $10.

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Main takeaways from my very limited sample of Kickstarter campaigns… I buy too many books?

Okay, seriously:

  • I lean towards anthologies, which makes sense, as they have broader appeal than a single-author book.
  • I back campaigns where I’m fairly certain that the creator is going to deliver the product, usually because of a good track record and/or if the book’s nearly done.
  • Conversely, I’m not too bothered about delivery timelines (YMMV) – it probably ties into the fact I’m not massively invested in individual campaigns.  Also, I manage projects in my day job, and if someone’s new to Kickstarters/projects, I suspect they’ve under-estimated the amount of work and external dependencies involved in doing one.
  • I do consider value for money – I wouldn’t pay extra for an ebook than I’d pay in the normal manner (taking into account any extras/add-ons).  In that sense, I suppose the “premium” the creator gets from me is the cash upfront, as opposed to any additional money for non-tangible rewards.
  • I go for digital rewards because of the international shipping costs associated with physical ones.
  • And really, yes, I do have a book-buying habit.

I should also say that I’ve chosen not to back a project many times – either I didn’t care for the subject matter (I’m very unlikely to back anything involving zombies, for example) or I just didn’t feel that the reward levels made sense to me personally (e.g. $10 for an ebook or rewards I didn’t want).  I also feel quite strongly that no one should feel obligated to contribute towards a Kickstarter, even if it is for a “good cause” – there are always other ways to support causes.  At the end of the day, it’s your money and you choose how to spend it.

So there you have it – everything you ever cared to know (and more) about my views on Kickstarters.  Tell me your thoughts – love them, hate them, don’t really care?

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Books for February

There is something rather uplifting about leaving work when it’s still light outside.  (I’m pretending the freezing temperatures don’t exist.)  It’s felt like a very long dark gloomy January, and even the tiniest signs of spring cheer me up. So yay for a new month… and of course, new releases.

Here are the ones for February that have caught my attention:

22162129Kate Elliott‘s THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOT short story collection (fantasy): I’m slowly making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist (JARAN has been my favourite so far), and this one sounds like a must-read.

Also, the 10/10 review by Ana @ The Book Smugglers didn’t hurt.

Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (“Crown of Stars,” “Crossroads”). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.

In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.

Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

Out Feb 10

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23524359Amy Bai‘s SWORD (YA fantasy): I admit it was the cover that made me take a second look, but the back cover blurb makes this book sound right up my alley.  Debut novel, I think.

Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .

For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.

For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.

Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.

Out Feb 10

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22885333KJ Charles‘s JACKDAW (M/M paranormal romance): KJ Charles is an autobuy author for me – I love how she gets the balance between romance and conflict just right, regardless of whether she’s doing historical, contemporary, or paranormal. Plus I’m guessing we get to see the protagonists of her Charm of Magpie series from a different perspective in this book.

If you stop running, you fall.

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a policeman who should know better, a thief who may never learn, Victorian morals, heated encounters, and a very annoyed Stephen Day.

Out Feb 17

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12390040Andrea K. Höst‘s THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON (fantasy): I really don’t want to get my hopes up, but this has a release date of Feb 28 on Goodreads.  Another auto-buy author for me, if you hadn’t figured that out already.

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the Imperium’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton crafters, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

Out Feb 28 (fingers and everything else crossed)

And then the possible buys

  • Elizabeth Harmon‘s PAIRING OFF (contemporary romance): Remember when I mentioned my fondness for sports romances?  Here’s one featuring figure-skating Olympians by a new-to-me author. I’m tempted.
  • Viv DanielsISLAND BORN (NA romance): I’ve the (free) prequel ISLAND ESCAPE still sitting unread on my Kindle, so I’m holding off until I’ve read that. Also, it’s a series of four books – I’ve no idea how they link together and want to avoid cliffhangers if any…

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Sports Romances and Other Links (and I Get a Bit Wordy)

I was scanning through my Twitter timeline and apparently there was this thing called the Super Bowl happening yesterday?

Ha. Just kidding.

Kind of.

No, seriously, I know what the Super Bowl is (just don’t ask me to explain it), but know very little about American football. Though the tweets made me laugh. I gather there was some drama at the end.

You could probably swap “American football” in the paragraph above with practically any other sport (apart from tennis! I love tennis! I can talk about tennis for days!), and it would still be true. Which makes my love of sports romances all the more puzzling.

I’m not sure why – I think it’s that competitive spirit, coupled with the fact that if an author loves a sport, that passion comes through in the details and this whole new world springs to life in my mind.

So I’m always on the lookout for good sports romances and there were a lot of recs in this Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast (with transcript if you’re like me and can’t listen to podcasts at all – I’m missing the audiobook gene). I was doing my best to refrain from one-clicking every single book mentioned.

downloadAs for sports romances I’ve read:

  • I’m a big fan of Miranda Kenneally‘s Hundred Oaks YA romance books (it’s a loosely-connected series, most of them centre around a different sport)
  • Erin McCarthy‘s steamy contemporary Fast Track books (stock car racing, or NASCAR under a different name?) started off really well, and then dipped for me – I just read the last book and liked it a lot though
  • I enjoy Sarina Bowen‘s voice and her (just re-launched with new covers!) Gravity series have winter sports (skiing and snowboarding IIRC) as a background
  • And you may recall I adored Julie Cross‘s YA romance LETTERS TO NOWHERE (gymnastics), and her more recent WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU (baseball) was a good one – sweet but non-saccharine YA romance

I think that’s it – do you have any sports romance recs? I’d love to hear.

ETA: I forgot Allison Parr‘s New York Leopards NA romances (American football – ha!) – love them.

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Speaking of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, they’re celebrating their 10th(!) anniversary and Kate Elliott wrote a lovely post about discovering the SBTB blog and what it meant to her and what it meant to her. She also mentioned this experience:

I well recall the time I was on a panel at an sff convention (on what subject I can’t recall) and a certain male writer of hard sf (whose name I will not share), in answer to a question, suggested that he and the other man beside him at *that* end of the table wrote real sf as opposed to us two women at the other end (he waved contemptuously toward us) who wrote material tainted by romance.

I was flicking through my Feedly on my way home, and may have choked out loud on the bus when I read that sentence (no one looked at me though – it’s not the done thing on London public transport to admit your fellow commuters actually exist).  I’d love to believe that kind of attitude doesn’t exist nowadays, but…

Anyway, Kate Elliott’s post got me thinking about my early days exploring online reading websites – SBTB was one of the first romance blogs I read, and I also kept tabs on the All About Romance and (the now-defunct) Suzanne Brockmann message boards.  I was very much a lurker, but I read all the reviews, made obsessive lists of everyone’s recommendations, and nervously posted the very occasional comment.

We’ve come a long way since then.  The book blogging world has exploded (I feel like I stumble across a new-to-me one every other day), but I’m glad that we have places on the internet – that we have a community – where we can share and celebrate genre, and for me, SBTB was one of the pioneering blogs.

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And last but not least, here’s an interview with Robin McKinley @ SF Signal.

I don’t click with all the McKinleys I’ve read (*hides*), but loved THE BLUE SWORD and THE HERO AND THE CROWN, and she talks about winning the Newbery Award for the latter here, amongst other topics.  It’s a fantastic interview – really thoughtful questions and equally thoughtful answers.

 

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A Few Links for a Monday

JMTTJuliet Marillier‘s TOWER OF THORNS just got a bit more real.

Here’s the cover posted on her Facebook page – it’s a lovely evocative one!  The artist is Arantza Sestayo, who also did the cover for the first book, DREAMER’S POOL, I think.  It’s going to be a long wait until November…

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It feels like everyone’s talking about Courtney Milan‘s NA contemporary romance TRADE ME this week, so why not join in, right?

I liked her answer here about why she’s writing a story with an Asian heroine.

Yet the questions I’ve been asked over and over are about Tina: Why are you writing a Chinese heroine? At Berkeley?

Nobody has asked me, “Why a billionaire? You’re not a billionaire.” Nobody has said, “This is your tenth full-length book and up until this point, I had no idea you were Asian. What took you so long?”

I finished TRADE ME earlier this week, and have thoughts.  Not least because of the diversity of characters in the book and how it wasn’t in your face, it just was (it reminded me of Andrea K Höst‘s AND ALL THE STARS in that aspect).  As I suspected, Milan’s voice* really suited contemporary – the narration was clean and smart, and some scenes were so on the money.  I loved the interactions between Tina and Blake and how their conversations felt real, as did their chemistry.  And the story caught me up (especially the last third or so, when it felt like the plot was on the verge of spiraling out of control… but didn’t).  However, the world-building around the billionaire aspect felt a bit hand-wavey and non-authentic to me (obviously I’m speaking from a position of knowledge here), and it was almost like the main characters existed in a vacuum.  We had Blake’s dad (loved their complicated relationship) and Tina’s mum (ditto), but everyone else felt a bit placeholder-y.  I’m glad there are two more books in this series planned, because I really want to get to know the secondary characters a bit more.

*Though I have to wonder at the first-person POV present-tense narration – is this an NA thing?  For the record, it’s not something that bugs me (I used to detest first-person, but once I got past that, present v. past tense didn’t even make me blink), but first-person/present tense is so prevalent in the YA/NA genre nowadays, it’s like someone dictated that it was the only way to go.

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I’ve a post drafted around Kickstarters which will hopefully see the light of day soon (I’ve a lot of posts stuck in draft mode, come to think of it).  But ICYMI and if you like SF short stories, the Queers Destroy Science Fiction Kickstarter is good value for money (IMO) with a wide selection of rewards at various levels.

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