This and That

I’ve had one of those periods where it feels as though I haven’t read an actual book for ages. I think it’s because I’m a bit of a late-night reader and work has been totally killing me these past couple of weeks, so I’ve been falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow instead of opening my latest book.

24358527But there’s light at the end of the tunnel – I just picked up Marko Kloos‘ ANGLES OF ATTACK, and it’s the kind of story that quickly draws you in, which makes sense as it’s fast-paced MilSF that drops you into the action right from the start.  So my mini reading slump might be ending.  I also admit I feel a bit better about picking up his third book after he withdrew his acceptance for the Best Novel Hugo nomination – I’ve been reading some of the SP/RP arguments over the past few weeks (yes, as opposed to reading books!) and some posts just make me feel, well, icky.  I’m looking forward to the publication of the Hugos longlist when Worldcon rolls around – I think we’ll see which works got pushed off the Hugo shortlist because of the SP/RP slate, which would give me a better idea of what 2014-published books I’ve missed off my reading list.

To stop this from being purely a whiny woe-is-me post, here are two books I enjoyed over the past month (evidenced by over-usage of the word “fun” over the next few paragraphs – sorry).

21416690One was by a new-to-me author, Genevieve Cogman – I’d heard lots of buzz over her THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY (let’s face it, the title alone would make it an easy sell to the book-loving community) but only picked it up when the e-version was on sale earlier in the year.   Here’s what I said on Goodreads:

So – this book was just so fun.

I loved pretty much everything about this book – character-wise, we had Irene with her steadfast loyalty to the Library and its mission, her sidekick Kai (full of youthful exuberance, but also with secrets), and while I’m not usually one for Great Detectives, Vale started to grow on me as well. And then you have the Library itself, the secret librarian Language, and an action-packed romp through alternate-London in pursuit of a mysterious book.

The most tantalising part, though, is the hint that the next books in this series get a bit deeper than just superficial spooks-with-magic fun – I’m looking forward to them.

21331590The other book was Eloisa James‘ recent historical romance release, FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE.  This one… I think you’ve to be in a certain mood so it’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the right mood, it’d be just ridiculously OTT fun.  The last third of the book was unfortunately the weakest part for me – too many misunderstandings (rinse repeat), but it did leave me with a smile on my face.

25321367Oh, and Martha Wells also released a collection of her short stories and novelettes – one new story, with the rest previously-published.  Most, possibly all, were new-to-me, and I really enjoyed revisiting her Ile-Rien and Cineth worlds.  This one was part of a recent Kickstarter, by the way – I passed on it as I was really only interested in Martha Wells’ contribution, so I’m glad she’s released her collection as a standalone.  Definitely worth picking up if you’re a Wells fan, and I suspect they’ll also work well as an introduction for those who haven’t read her Ile-Rien/Cineth books before.

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A Linkage Post…

…because it’s been a while since I’ve done one of this.

Maureen E @ By Singing Light did a lovely post titled “On Libraries”:

Here’s the thing about public libraries: they are so much messier and weirder and funnier than you think.

They are kids throwing up on the brand-new carpet; kids missing the toilet entirely; mysterious substances smeared on the covers of books, on the pages, on the inside of DVD cases. They are a full bag of poop tied shut and shoved into the book drop. They are left behind trash and bedbugs crawling out of books and used condoms in the bathroom trash.

161696202X.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL400_Tachyon Publications seem to be doing quite a few single-author short story collections, and now it’s the turn of Kelley Armstrongtable of contents @ SF Signal.  Two original stories, with the rest being reprints.  I suspect I have most of her existing short stories already, so I’ll have to figure out how much I want to read the two new ones…  Also, the cover’s not as striking as the Kate Elliott collection, but I suppose it does say UF.

Speaking of genre branding (well, kind of – I’m trying for a smooth transition here!), Kameron Hurley wrote an interesting post on the importance of book titles – her books are on my to-read list, but I’ve not managed to get around to them yet.

And to wrap up, I enjoyed Renay’s review of Sarah Rees Brennan‘s Lynburn Legacy trilogy @ Lady Business – it’s a great non-spoilery review if you haven’t yet read the books.  This summary list was pretty much the highlights of the books for me as well:

But I— liked it a lot? I was really entertained!

  • sassy teenagers
  • broody love interests! with different flavors of brood!
  • interesting parental relationships
  • badass team of ladies!
  • girls being friends!
  • kissing!
  • telepathy!
  • the complications of mind-reading powers!

I found this so delightful.

I liked the trilogy (it was full of SRB’s trademark humour, yet more epic in scope than her previous books), but think I’d have liked it better if I had been able to read all three books together.  Partly due to those dratted cliffhangers, but also it was very much a single story IMO – maybe that’s just the trilogy structure…

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Andrea K Höst’s THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON

12390040I’m a diehard AKH fan, but I admit to feeling a bit nervous about her latest book THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON when I first read the blurb – talk about everything and the kitchen sink…

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 New Republic’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 makers, 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.

But I needn’t have worried.  Although it’s the kind of book that drops you in the middle of the action, and trusts you to work out the details for yourself (my favourite!), it was never overwhelming, and everything fell into place fairly quickly – yes, vampires, pyramids, airships, and well, everything else somehow worked together in this incredibly inventive alternate-history setting.  And characterisation or story isn’t sacrificed for world-building either.

PYRAMIDS features what I’m starting to think of as trademark Höst – strong female protagonists, a diverse cast of characters, and as bonus, a narrative that subtly challenges gender assumptions*.  Or at least, it challenged mine – specifically, I liked how it made me think about how often I unconsciously default to assuming male for certain occupations.

Story-wise, I was caught up from the start – we begin in the POV of Rian (or Arianne), who’s trying to investigate her brother and his wife’s deaths by infiltrating a vampire’s household (though not vampires as we know them…), but her plans rapidly goes awry.  Massively awry.  The other POV character is Eluned, Rian’s orphaned niece, who, together with her siblings, is determined to gain justice for her parents, while coping with the upheaval of being sent to live with an hitherto-unknown aunt.  The plot is a complicated one (one could even say painfully complicated at times), but it all comes together satisfyingly in the end.

I’m of two minds around the use of dual POVs – my main objection is along the lines of “I love Rian! I don’t want to switch to Eluned’s POV… oh heck, I love Eluned, I don’t want to go back to Rian”.  But I also enjoyed seeing the characters from different perspectives – Höst tends to write stiff upper-lip kind of characters (you can tell she hits all my buttons, right?), so this was an interesting way of seeing behind the facade, so to speak.

I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in this book, because a large part of my enjoyment came from not knowing how the story would unfurl as it takes several unexpected directions.  All I’ll say is that I’m glad this is the start of a series, because it feels as though there’s so many more stories for Höst to tell in this world – and I want to know what happens next.

Disclosure: I’ve exchanged the (very) occasional tweet with the author.  I bought this book pretty much as soon as it hit the virtual shelves.  I don’t generally state when I’ve bought a book (basically, if I don’t say it’s a review copy, assume I bought it with my own money or borrowed from the library), but I thought it was worth mentioning again.

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*I wrote this review when the whole Hugos controversy kicked off – to me, the (simplified) SP slate argument appears to be that “we want good stories, not books that push an agenda, and that’s why we’re doing this”.  My view is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but there’s no need for me to write an essay on this when there are a whole load of blog posts on this topic (with accompanying screeds of comments, finger-pointing, personal insults etc).  But one comment that really stood out to me was Marie Brennan’s contribution @ John Scalzi’s blog:

[…]

“Heavy-handed” is often shorthand “politics I don’t agree with, which therefore draw my attention.”

Politics you don’t notice in a story are the water you swim in, the air you breathe: they’re still there. You just don’t notice them because you take them as the natural state of the world.

Politics absolutely permeate stories, at every level of their creation *and* reception. Because “politics” are not just a matter of what you vote on at the ballot box, but what values you hold, what rights you take for granted, which fights you think are heroic and which are foolhardy, who makes a good protagonist and who a suitable villain. Saying you are just evaluating the “quality” of a story, or how much you “enjoyed” it, as if that were completely divorced from the extent to which it supports or challenges your assumptions about the world, is either massively disingenuous or massively lacking in self-awareness.

Which, apart from it being an incredibly sensible comment, struck me as very apt for my experience reading PYRAMIDS.  The emphasis on female characters stood out for me because it was different to other books.  PYRAMIDS isn’t what I’d class as a “message” book at all, but I liked that it made me think a bit more.

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Links of the Spoilerific Kind

The book blogosphere is doing its best to keep life interesting, huh? I thought I’d seen it all with plagarism, piracy, and other scandal-of-the-week-type events, but obviously not.

However, not all unexpected events are unpleasant ones – there still are surprises of the pleasant book kind!  Specifically in this case, the new Vorkosigan book from Lois McMaster Bujold as well as the upcoming third book in CS Pacat‘s CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy.

2jebdwjLinks for the latter first:

As for the LMB Vorkosigan book – well, the non-spoilery bit first:

I was practically bouncing in glee when I read LMB’s post about the new Vorkosigan book, GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN.  I’d pretty much thought the series had come to an end, especially as LMB has been refusing to comment on the possibility of a new book for quite a while.  It’s one of my all-time favourite series – up there with Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books.  I love so much about her stories – the sheer pace of her plots, this knack of hers for capturing that quiet moment that reveals so much, how her characters live and breathe… well, I could go on and on.

And then I read the spoilers coming out from her first reading, and O_o doesn’t even begin to reflect my reactions.  I cannot wait for next February.

Spoiler links follow. I mean it.  Don’t click unless you want to be spoiled….

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Books for April

April – finally.  It’s about time Spring arrived.

It’s also awards nominees season in genre-land – both the RITA (romance) and Hugo (SFF) award nominees have been announced. I haven’t had time to look at either list in detail yet, but from the buzz around both, it seems that the RITA list is more diversified than ever, while the Hugos have taken a step backwards?  So yay and boo respectively.

But back to new releases, here are the April ones I want…

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22891368Jo Beverley‘s TOO DANGEROUS FOR A LADY (historical romance): I haven’t adored her more recent releases, but she still remains one of my very few historical romance auto-buy authors.  Her romances tend to be on the quieter side, but it’s the realistic period feel that draws me in.

The new novel in the Rogue Series from the New York Timesbestselling author—and five-time RITA Award winner…

Lady Hermione Merryhew, daughter of an impoverished marquess, already has her share of problems. The last thing she needs is an intruder in her bedroom, especially not a fugitive thief. She should scream, but the shabby rascal is a man from her past.

Six years ago, at her first ball, dashing Lieutenant Mark Thayne failed to steal a kiss, but succeeded in stealing a little of her heart. She’s older and wiser now. She can’t toss him to the wolves. Besides, she wants that kiss.

Now Viscount Faringay, Mark has never forgotten Lady Hermione, but he mustn’t involve her in his dangerous life. He’s infiltrated the Crimson Band, violent revolutionaries who plan a bloodbath in London, and if he survives the night he will be able to destroy them. Hermione is involved, however, and only he can protect her.

Out April 7

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22221136Susanna Kearsley‘s A DESPERATE FORTUNE (romance): Was it only last year when I fell for her amazingly romantic stories?  I’m not usually a fan of time-slip romances, but I make an exception for her books.

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal’s cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal’s reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn’t hold the secrets Sara expects.

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise.

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary’s tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take… to find the road that will lead her safely home.

Out April 7

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24358527Marko Kloos‘s ANGLES OF ATTACK (SF): IIRC, I read the first book in this series when it was self-pubbed, so before it was picked up by Amazon’s 47North imprint.  Last year’s sequel is part of the slightly-controversial Hugo finalist slate I referenced above – FWIW, I enjoyed it though I’m surprised it finalled.  Politics aside, I’m looking forward to the third book.

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

Out April 21

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24283222Tammara Webber‘s SWEET (NA): If I’m honest, I prefer Tammara Webber’s Between the Lines books to this series – I liked EASY well enough, but the spin-off BREAKABLE didn’t really do it for me.  But I really like her writing, so this is on the to-buy list for me.

He’s the love of her life, but he doesn’t know it.
She’s his one moment of sacrifice in a lifetime of survival.

He was damaged and wild, but resilient.
She’s always been obedient. Now she’s restless.

Home for the summer between college and med school, Pearl Torres Frank knows two things: Boyce Wynn is the embodiment of everything she should run from, and everything she wants to run to. Rebellious and loud. Unconcerned with society’s opinion of him. Passionate. Strong. Dangerous.

And one more trait he hides from everyone but her:
Sweet.

Out April 27

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So that’s it for my new releases this month – a short and sweet list! Any new releases you’re really looking forward to?

 

 

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Alex Gabriel’s LOVE FOR THE COLD-BLOODED

It took me a while to get into superheroes.

I remember reading Vicki Petterson’s THE SCENT OF SHADOWS way back when it first came out (just checked and it was 2007 – now that makes me feel old…), and feeling distinctly unimpressed by the number of life-changing events that the heroine experienced in the space of one book (in hindsight, that book was probably designed as the origin story for the protagonist).  Then, well, came Marvel’s Avengers movies (shallow, moi?) which opened up this whole new world of superheroes/villains for me.  More recently, Brandon Sanderson wrote a couple of superhero-based novels which… I quite enjoyed, and I started to get a feel for some of the tropes of the comic book world (at this point, I imagine some true-blue comic book fans are raising their eyebrows and thinking “seriously..???” – hey, everyone has to start somewhere, okay?).

24031448So as I’m no longer the superhero-averse reader that I was eight years ago, when Alex Gabriel asked me if I was interested in a review copy of her M/M romance LOVE FOR THE COLD-BLOODED, I scanned through the blurb and excerpt, and thought “heck yes, it sounds like a lot of superhero fun”.

Superheroes. Evil minions. And one hell of a conflict of interest.

Being related to a supervillain isn’t a big deal to Pat West. So what if his mom occasionally tries to take over the world? All Pat wants is to finish university and become an urban designer. That he moonlights as an evil minion sometimes – that’s just a family tradition.

Then Pat accidentally sleeps with superhero Silver Paladin, otherwise known as reclusive billionaire Nick Andersen. It’s a simple misunderstanding. Pat never means to impersonate a prostitute, honest. But soon Pat is in way over his head, and threatening to fall for the worst possible guy.

When Pat’s mother returns to bring the world to its knees, Silver Paladin races to stop her… and all of Pat’s secrets threaten to blow up in his face. How can Pat reconcile being a minion with wanting a hero? Will Nick’s feelings for Pat overcome what keeps them apart? Or will they both lose everything?

“Love for the Cold-Blooded” is a light-hearted jaunt through a world of superheroes and villains, android dolphins, mind control rays, eldritch artifacts stolen from the tombs of ancient gods, and young men loving not wisely, but well.

The alternative title for the book is “The Part-Time Evil Minion’s Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero”, which pretty much captures both the plot and the tone of the book (actually, it works a lot better than the more generic title of LOVE FOR THE COLD-BLOODED, which implies a vampire story?).  Like a lot of people out there, Patrick West really doesn’t want to go into the family business – it just so happens his family’s business is super-villainy.  He’s keeping his head down, working his way through university, and hoping it’ll become clear somehow that his plans don’t align with the plans his family has for him.  And while his part-time job is in the Silver Paladin’s household, it’s in a really lowly capacity and the Silver Paladin isn’t even aware that Pat works for him.  And then when, through a series of misunderstandings, he ends up sleeping with the Silver Paladin Nick, it turns out to be something that could be more than a one-night stand, and Pat really needs to figure out how to reconcile his opposing lives.

The book really got going for me when Pat’s carefully-constructed house of cards start falling down (it was going to, of course!).  From then onwards, it’s a fantastic action-packed romp through superhero/villain land, all leading up to an excellently OTT final showdown scene.  I loved the supervillain setup – the behind-the-scenes preparation that the supervillains (or challengers, as they prefer to call themselves) put into place for their (not) evil schemes was hilariously organised, for example, minion rotations, selections, and assignments.

It did take me a couple of chapters to get into the book – possibly a pacing thing as the book’s on the longer side (~135k words).  Also, the first sex scene caught me by surprise early on.  I think I had figured this for a YA book based on Pat’s voice (dude! cool! etc), and then the steam level upped the book to adults-only very quickly.  I found the juxtaposition somewhat jarring at the start, but ended up going with the flow.  Which was easy to do – the writing’s smooth and Pat’s a easy-to-like protagonist, self-deprecating and snarky.  He may not want to be an evil minion, but he still takes pride in doing a job well.

Nick/Silver Paladin was harder for me to pin down, especially as we only see him through Pat’s eyes – he was more of a two-dimensional character.  On the other hand, Pat’s family dynamics were masses of fun.  Pat is the youngest of four siblings and the only boy, so he’s had a lot of practice with managing interfering sisters who make their presence felt.  Plus despite Mum being the feared Serpentissma and Dad her right-hand man, there’s a lot of love in the family, which was great.

If you’re after something slightly different in the M/M romance genre, and especially if you fancy a superhero story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is the book for you. I had a lot of fun reading LOVE FOR THE COLD-BLOODED, and will have to check out Alex Gabriel’s backlist now.

Review copy courtesy of author

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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.

7841670So 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.  6571644Next 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.

7839024I 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!). 21528313 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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Filed under My Bookshelf, Random Thoughts