Bad Blogger Take n

I’ve been neglecting my blog recently.  And I don’t even have the excuse of the Olympics or Wimbledon or, well, anything else being on.  But here’s a quick catch-up on a new release, a new-to-me author, and new books (despite a fangirl fail):

 

510v2-gYD-L._SL160_First off, yay for Carolyn Crane a.k.a. CJ @ The Thrillionth Page’s “Mind Games” debut release! From her website:

Mind Games heroine Justine Jones isn’t your typical kick-ass type – she’s a hopeless hypochondriac whose life is run by fear.

She’s lured into a restaurant, Mongolian Delites, by tortured mastermind Sterling Packard, who promises he can teach her to channel her fears. In exchange, she must join his team of disillusionists – vigilantes hired by crime victims to zing their anxieties into criminals, resulting in collapse and transformation.

Justine isn’t interested in Packard’s troupe until she gets a taste of the peace he can promise. Soon she enters the thrilling world of neurotic crime fighters who battle Midcity’s depraved and paranormal criminals.

Eventually, though, she starts wondering why Packard hasn’t set foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant for eight years. And about the true nature of the disillusionists.

A very cool premise and I’ve already bought my copy – ummm… okay, I’m going to admit it.  I would have bought a copy regardless of reviews,  because I love Carolyn’s blog and her wickedly funny posts.  But it is an added bonus that fantastic reviews are popping up all over the place – I’m very excited about reading this.

 

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51xZgCAG9VL._SL160_Next, I’ve fallen completely for Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels, so thank you to those of you who said things along the lines of “one of the best new UF series I’ve read last year” whenever I mentioned I had the first book, “Rosemary and Rue” in my TBR pile.  You were right.

LesleyW reviewed “Rosemary and Rue” recently, and said:

I think I’d almost despaired of finding something new and original in UF – preferably ferret free – and yet here it is.

51wXdzXN0L._SL160_And I completely agree.  Too many UF series nowadays seem to blend into one another and there are only so many vampire and werewolf mythologies out there, unfortunately.  Ms McGuire focuses on the world of Faerie, seamlessly bringing the fae into an urban setting, and in the process, creating a fresh new world.  I loved that this is really a mystery whodunnit-type plot wrapped up in an urban fantasy, and a very-well realised cast of characters ticked the final box for me.

I bought the second book, “A Local Habitation”, pretty much as soon as I finished R&R, and can happily say it is as good, if not better, than the first.  The third book, “An Artificial Night” is due out in September, and I can’t wait.

 

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Finally, new books for me…

51VgbfEvzTL._SL160_Megan Whalen Turner’s “A Conspiracy of Kings” arrived on my doorstep today *happy dance*   I may have stroked the cover several times, and peeked at the inside jacket blurb, but I haven’t yet opened it properly.  Because I know as soon as I start reading, I’m not going to want to put it down, and unfortunately, I can’t afford the time to do that today.  But this weekend, most definitely.

51opJaC77NL._SL160_ And I have Kelley Armstrong’s “Tales of the Otherworld”, her second short story collection.  It’s officially out in a couple of weeks, but Ms Armstrong was in London for a signing (thanks Nath for the heads up) and Forbidden Planet had out the paperback version of “Frostbitten” as well as this for the event.  Anyway, I turned up at about half-six (the signing started at six) and the queue was halfway around the store.  At which point, I decided to get the (unsigned) book and disappear, because as much as I like her books, I realised that didn’t quite extend to waiting 30 minutes or more to get the book signed.  I fail at fangirl-ness.

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Ebooks – Another Model?

Not another ebook post, I hear you groan.  I am aware many people out there don’t care about ebooks, but ebooks are now such a big part of my reading life that I can’t not blog about them.  And hey, Ebook Week!

Unless you’ve been steadfastly ignoring all things ebook-related for the past few months (in which case, you’ve probably not reading this, having quickly glanced at the title), you’ve probably aware that pricing and distribution models for ebooks have been causing some controversy recently.  And I think we’re still some way off in gaining consensus as to what the future state model will end up being.  But anyway…

I’m on a few reader panel-type email lists for some publishers and bookstores – the kind where they send out questionnaires now and again to gauge public opinion on various topics, ranging from cover designs to newsletter content.  Recent ones have been focusing on ebooks (and yes, I suspect I probably skewed their results a bit and ended up as a bit of an outlier).  While I wasn’t going to blog about the first one, I had a similar questionnaire from a second organisation, so it sounds as though the major publishers and booksellers are thinking along the same lines and it’s not a super-secret experiment (I know – sending out email questionnaires to hundreds of people does not equal super-secret, but still, I thought I would practise some discretion).

Err… get to the point already, you say?  Basically, the questionnaires were around a subscription model for ebooks – you pay x amount each month and can borrow x number of books – and they were trying to figure out where the right price points would be.  There were some variations, for instance, what if you were also allowed to keep a certain number of books from the population you borrowed, or more interestingly, what if they tossed in a free ebook reader which you could then keep at the end of your subscription?

Now the latter interested me more, because I can quite easily see me buying that as a gift for someone.  But I was still a bit meh on the idea of subscribing to some sort of ebook borrowing service, and having thought about it a bit more, it comes down to me committing that I would (1) read a certain number of books a month (2) selected from a population of books I have no control over.

I struggle enough with getting through the books I borrow from the library within the library loan timeframes, and I hate feeling pressured to finish a specific book by a certain date (oh look, a clue as to why I’ve pretty much given up on reading challenges).  And with geographical restrictions and the like, I’m not convinced that the selection of books provided would actually be books I’d be interested in reading.  So overall, I’m not convinced I would go for the above – although it may be a cheaper way to trying a new ebook reader.

What about you?  If you’re an ebook reader, would any of the above appeal to you?  And if you’re not an ebook reader, do you think an ebook subscription service would convert you?

The New Co-Op

One internet trend I’m closely tracking is the concept of an authors’ co-operative, where authors band together to publish and market their works, usually backlist titles or shorter pieces of writing.  I know of three so far (feel free to add others) – Book View Cafe, A Writer’s Work, and Closed Circle.  All three offer a mixture of free reads and titles for sale.

Closed Circle and BVC are mainly SF/fantasy-focused, with quite a few familiar names – the former has just three authors (CJ Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, and Jane Fancher), while BVC’s author list appears to be growing by the week!  Too many to list individually, but Sherwood Smith is one (and I’m a fan of both her YA and adult fantasy books).  Seanan McGuire is another, and everywhere I turn nowadays, I’m seeing glowing reviews for her October Daye UF series (I’ve the first one and really need to get around to reading it).  Finally, I haven’t spent much time on AWW yet, but it’s listing a variety of genres and I am tempted to get Patricia Rice’s “Lost Love” short story collection (she certainly gets around as she is also a member of BVC!).

crownduel It is also currently Ebook Week, and BVC is having a 50% sale on selected titles.  I was already planning on getting an e-copy of Sherwood Smith’s “Crown Duel” (with additional material!) and $2.50 is a complete bargain.  I’m also having a closer look at the other titles on offer, and at the moment, am tempted by Phyllis Radford’s “Lacing Up for Murder”.  Any opinions on this?

I will be honest though, and say that if it wasn’t for the fact I was already familiar with some of the authors on each site, I would take a bit more persuading to look past the website design and ebook covers (not all of them, but certainly some!).  I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but it does go to show the oft-overlooked contribution by publishers in terms of cover art and marketing.

Also, it probably depends on the author, but more promo wouldn’t go amiss.  For instance, one of the reasons I want the “Crown Duel” ebook version is because it contains additional scenes from another character’s POV (yes, I’m a sucker), but it only says that on the author’s bibliography page, not on the Smashbooks page for "Crown Duel".  I mean, this is exclusive material – why not emphasise it?

I’m going to stop grouching now and actually head off to buy the ebooks.  But do you have any opinions on this trend?  Bought any books from a co-op?  Excited about backlist titles becoming available? 

Books for March

Though I was bemoaning the lack of new releases in February, March more than makes up for it.  Seriously.  Here are the books I’m getting this month:

 

51srWbCExCL._SL160_ Deanna Raybourn’s “The Dead Travel Fast” (historical mystery): I’m a big fan of her Silent books, and while I’m ever-so-slightly disappointed that this new book isn’t the latest installment in that series, it sounds just as wonderfully gothic and fascinating:

A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.

With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.

She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle’s master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.

Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora’s imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.

Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal…and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51hl6F3qqL._SL160_ Lisa Lutz’s “The Spellmans Strike Again” (mystery): I became addicted to this off-the-wall series last year – I liked the first book well enough, but it was the second book that hooked me.  They’re hilarious with heart, and as a reader, I’m very invested in Izzy and her family.  “The Spellmans Strike Again” is the fourth in the series and here’s the blurb:

At the ripe old age of 32, former wild child Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has finally agreed to take over the family business. Let’s just say the transition won’t be a smooth one.

Her first priorities as head of Spellman Investigations are to dig up some dirt on the competition—slippery ex-cop Rick Harkey—and to track down a stolen screenplay called The Snowball Effect. Next, faced with a baffling missing-persons case at the home of an aging millionaire, Izzy hires an actor friend to infiltrate the mansion as an undercover butler. Only he enjoys the role a little too much.

Meanwhile, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother, who threatens to distribute photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994 unless Izzy commits to regular blind dates with promising professionals—an arrangement that doesn’t thrill Connor, an Irish bartender on the brink of becoming ex-boyfriend #12.

At Spellman headquarters, it’s business as unusual. Doorknobs and light fixtures are disappearing every day, Mom’s been spotted crying in the pantry, and a series of increasingly demanding Spellman Rules (Rule #27: No Speaking Today) can’t quite hold the family together. Izzy also has to decipher weekly "phone calls from the edge" from her octogenarian lawyer Morty, as well as Henry Stone’s mysterious interest in rekindling their relationsh … well, whatever it was.

Just when it looks like things can’t go more haywire, little sister Rae’s internship, researching pro bono legal cases leads the youngest Spellman to launch a grass-roots campaign that could get an innocent man out of jail—or land her in it.

Out March 16 (excerpt here)

 

41xrXP7zSL._SL160_ Patricia Briggs“Silver Borne” (urban fantasy): I’ve already pre-ordered it (and yes, I’ve gone for the UK paperback, even though I’m madly envious about those who get the US hardcover version – I’ll just lust over the cover online).  It’s a close call between the Mercy series and the Anna & Charles one for me at the moment, but Mercy just edges it, so to say I’m madly excited about this fifth book is probably an understatement.

Being a mechanic is hard work. Mercy Thompson, for instance, just spent the last couple of months trying to evade the murderous queen of the local vampire seethe, and now the leader of the werewolf pack – who’s maybe-more-than-just-a-friend – has asked for her help. A book of fae secrets has come to light and they’re all about to find out how implacable – and dangerous – the fae can be. OK, so maybe her troubles have nothing to do with the job. But she sure could use a holiday…

Out March 30 (excerpt here)

 

51VgbfEvzTL._SL160_ Megan Whalen Turner’s “A Conspiracy of Kings” (YA fantasy): Speaking of wildly excited, I cannot wait to get my hands on the latest book in MWT’s Thief series (or whatever the “official” series name is).  I completely appreciate that I’ve only had to wait a year or so (probably less, actually) whereas die-hard fans have been waiting years for this, but still!  Just reading the blurb gives rise to this massive sense of anticipation:

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

Out March 23 (excerpt here)

 

51NsvV6rNNL._SL160_ Anne Bishop’s “Shalador’s Lady” (fantasy): I’m getting this one because I’m a long-time Black Jewels fan, but I will admit her more recent books have not quite done it for me.  Still, I do want to see where this storyline goes (this book is the sequel to last year’s “The Shadow Queen”) and I’ve been hearing good things about this one.  The blurb:

For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. And even though the refugees found sanctuary in Dena Nehele, they have never been able to call it home.

Now that Dena Nehele has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore the land and prove her ability to rule. She knows that undertaking this task will require all her heart and courage as she summons the untested power within her, a power capable of consuming her if she cannot control it.

And even if Lady Cassidy survives her trial by fire, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land—and Lady Cassidy—forever…

Out now (excerpt here)

 

51MD6vXXEIL._SL160_ Richelle Mead’s “Succubus Shadows” (urban fantasy): Ms Mead’s Vampire Academy YA series seem to be getting more attention nowadays, but I read her Succubus books first.  A lot has happened since the first book – heck, a lot happens in each book, and I really want to know what happens next. 

Georgina Kincaid has formidable powers. Immortality, seduction, shape-shifting into any human form she desires, walking in heels that would cripple mere mortals—all child’s play to a succubus like her.

Helping to plan her ex-boyfriend’s wedding is a different story. Georgina isn’t sure which is worse—that Seth is marrying another woman, or that Georgina has to run all over Seattle trying on bridesmaid dresses. Still, there are distractions. Georgina’s roommate, Roman, is cluttering her apartment with sexual tension. Then there’s Simone, the new succubus in town, who’s intent on corrupting Seth.

But the real danger lies in the mysterious force that’s visiting her thoughts, trying to draw her into a dark, otherworldly realm. Sooner or later, Georgina knows she’ll be too weak to resist. And when that happens, she’ll discover who she can trust, who she can’t—and that Hell is far from the worst place to spend eternity…

Out March 18 UK,  March 30 US (excerpt here)

 

And the maybes? 

Jenna Black’s fifth book in her Morgan Kingsley series, “The Devil’s Playground” (urban fantasy, out March 23) – this series has been a bit hit or miss for me, with more misses than hits recently.  I have heard this is the final book in the series (though I can’t remember where now, and could be completely wrong), so I may get it to see how it all pans out.

Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book (suspense), “61 hours”, is out in the UK on March 18.  I usually end up buying these books sooner or later, though the recent ones haven’t grabbed me the way the earlier ones did.

“Warriors”, a fantasy anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois, with some excellent contributors, including Diana Gabaldon and Naomi Novik.  The reason I’m hesitating on this one is the price, it’s showing up as £21 on The Book Depository.  And as much as I love those two authors, that’s a bit too pricey for me – fingers crossed for a UK edition.

Library Musings

I’m feeling very lazy on this lovely Saturday afternoon.  I was going to post on the March new releases, but I took one look at the looooong list of books on my I WANT NOW list and decided to do it another time.  Who me, procrastinate?

I did stop by the library earlier today though, and have checked out some books I am looking forward to.  Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I’ve decided to (a) start using my library more and (b) use it in a slightly different way. 

The books I used to borrow from the library were those that I didn’t really care whether I got them immediately or after a few months.  Not books written by new-to-me authors, those written by authors who I’d read previously, but were no longer on my auto-buy list.  And then I ended up returning most of the books unread, or forcing myself to finish the book.  Yes, it took me a while, but I finally figured out that the fact I couldn’t be bothered to actually buy the book in the first place should have been telling me something – bear in mind most of the books I read, I buy new.  It’s an indulgence.  Or vice.

So I needed to change my library habits.  At the same time, I also discovered my library’s online reservation pages, which also allows me to request books from other local libraries.  What I’m now doing is borrowing books by new-to-me authors that have been recommended by other bloggers.  And this is actually working out very well.

 

Ramblings over – the books I currently have on loan:

513H6V2xYiL._SL160_ Ariana Franklin’s “Mistress of the Art of Death”: Keishon loves this historical mystery series, IIRC, but I have never managed to get around to buying the first book because I have only seen it in trade paperback, and it is very rare I buy a new-to-me author in trade.  There were quite a few copies of this book in the library system, so I’m guessing this is quite a popular series.

 

 

41dSvk0aUwL._SL160_ Jennifer Echols’ “Going Too Far”: A YA book that has been getting rave reviews around the blogosphere.  And when Angie tried but didn’t love Sarah Dessen’s “The Truth About Forever”, this book was one of those she listed as similar but better in her opinion.  I loved TTAF, and therefore made a mental note to try Echols. 

 

 

 

51wSX7YZ7xL._SL160_ YS Lee’s “Spy in the House”: It’s been a while since I added it to my reservations requests, so I have to admit that I can’t remember what spurred me to request this.  It was definitely an online mention somewhere – anyone?  It’s a historical mystery and first of a trilogy called “The Agency”, and the blurb from the author’s website is excellent:

It is May 1858, the beginning of London’s “Great Stink” — a blend of river pollution and heat wave that paralyzes the city. Tucked in the attic of a nondescript girls’ boarding school is the Agency, an intelligence service with a difference: it’s an elite, all-female group of private investigators with a reputation for getting things done. And it’s just hired a hotheaded, 17-year-old ex-thief whose on-the-job training goes completely wrong…

New agent Mary Quinn’s task is to pose as a lady’s companion and observe a merchant suspected of smuggling. But this straightforward assignment goes awry when Mary gets impatient and exceeds her mandate. Almost immediately, she finds competition in the shape of James Easton, an arrogant young man who’s doing some snooping of his own. They first tangle — literally — in a closet.

When pressed, Mary reluctantly joins forces with James. But as useful as the partnership may be, it’s also dangerous: their mutual attraction threatens to distract them from the real secrets of the merchant’s household. Eventually, they reveal a plot that threatens James’s life, as well as Mary’s own dark secrets…

 

So three books by three new-to-me authors to read in the next three weeks, and I’m looking forward to each one in different ways.

Any thoughts on any of the above, or libraries in general?