I’ve Been Reading…

That blogging urge, it comes and goes.  But why have a blog if I don’t actually blog? So let’s talk books, specifically books I’ve bought and read recently:

 

51cK3p09dL._SL160_Diana Peterfreund’s “Morning Glory”: The first book I’ve bought via my Kindle!  I did the Kindle sampling thing, and liked (surprise, surprise), so hit the Buy It Now button.  Seconds later, the entire book was on my Kindle.  So the same way I remember Catherine Asaro’s “The Ruby Dice” as being the first ebook I read, “Morning Glory” is now the first ebook I’ve downloaded wirelessly onto my reader.

I know, I’m a geek.  Moving on swiftly…

It’s slightly strange reading a book knowing that it’s a novelisation – I read a scene and then wonder how it gets played out on screen.  I think it’ll wear off soon, I’m only a couple of chapters in at the moment.  Ms Peterfreund says on her blog that “Morning Glory” has a similar, snarky tone to her Secret Society Girl series – I’m tending to agree at the moment.

 

511JdeLKGvL._SL160_ Sharon Shinn’s “Troubled Waters”: Ahhhh.  I really enjoyed this one – I find it so easy to completely immerse myself in Sharon Shinn’s writing.

Estara asked if this was similar to her Twelve Houses fantasy books – answer is yes, IMO, though this reviewer thinks “Troubled Waters” is less action-packed.  Certainly I thought this book was more akin to Twelve Houses than her previous two YA fantasy releases (“General Winston’s Daughter” and “Gateway”), which – and I’m not sure whether this is because they were specifically YA books or not – were more “issue” books to me.  Don’t get me wrong – I liked them, but I felt the way the messages in the books were conveyed was just a bit too heavy-handed.  Do YA books have to include a message?  Discuss*.

Back to “Troubled Waters”, I tend to love elemental-type magic systems, so was fascinated by the elemental/corporeal blessings incorporated here.  I’m stating my bias upfront, because I don’t know whether another reader would find the emphasis on the blessings slight overkill, but it worked for me.  And it’s Shinn, so yes, there’s a rather lovely romance.

Jennie’s review @ Dear Author is pretty reflective of my thoughts, though I probably found Zoe more sympathetic from the start, and would grade the book a notch higher.  I would so love to read more stories set in this world, though we may have to wait longer as I think her next project is an urban fantasy (I am very curious about how this will pan out, I suspect it will be a very good read).

Something else: In the short book intro on her site,  Ms Shinn mentions her favorite scene, which was actually one that stuck in my mind – it’s interesting she says

It doesn’t do anything to advance the plot, but it’s just so sweet, and it really illustrates the power of the blessings.

Completely agree, and when reading it, I actually thought that scene would make a great short story or teaser for the book.

 

612xamlJyjL._SL160_Mercedes Lackey’s “Intrigues”: I read “Intrigues” just before “Troubled Waters” (yes, making good progress on my October must-reads) and it was interesting to compare the two.

The worlds and writing styles are very different, but the plots are essentially similar: Young girl/boy slowly discovers his/her place in the world with the help of conveniently-placed friends and conveniently-discovered skills (albeit the Lackey story is spread over three books as opposed to the one book for Shinn).  What I was pondering were characters – how Ms Shinn avoids Zoe falling into the Mary-Sue trap, whereas Ms Lackey’s Mags so obviously is one.  Oh, and if you’re talking heavy-handed messages, Lackey is the writer for this.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it sounds as though I’m picking on the Lackey book, but it was a decent read, even though I really shouldn’t have bought the hardcover.  I am a complete sucker for white Companions and anything Herald-related.  And even the annoyance of Mags’ dialect being spelt out all the way through (“… ye’ll be wantin’ me t’ find ye a silk‘n’velvet blanket ‘cause wool just don’t show off yer coat good ‘nough” – ack) didn’t negate the secret thrill of meeting one of Vanyel’s descendants in this book.

Err okay.  Must. Grow. Up.

 

**************

*That was slightly tongue-in-cheek.  Only if you really want to.  I’m well aware this is a topic raised now and again in blogland.

My personal take?  Books are like food.  You have M&S Percy Pigs on one end (i.e. zero nutritional value, but you know, still good) or umm… blueberries (superfood!) at the other.  I’m inclined to think YA books tend to be more heavily-clustered at the superfood end (oh, this is a bad analogy and I am really not sure where I am going), but better a good message than a bad one.

Books for October

Yes, I’m aware that sidebar to the right still reads August Books I Want.  How on earth did October sneak up on me?

The new releases this month that I’m all excited about:

 

51J4L3Ke1ZL._SL160_ Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cryoburn” (SF): I know, after all that agonising about whether to buy the e-ARC from Baen, I managed to hold off.  More to do with lack of free time than anything to do with willpower, I hasten to add.  And probably also helped along by the fact the release date has been moved up to Oct 19.

The first edition of the hardcover is somewhat insanely accompanied with a CD that pretty much holds Ms Bujold’s entire backlist and more.  I’m serious – you apparently get all the Vorkosigan books, except “Memory” (which actually is one of my favourites), various essays, speeches, and interviews. 

The back cover blurb:

Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble!

Out Oct 19 (excerpt)

 

51Z7J7ZRV3L._SL160_ Deanna Raybourns “Dark Road to Darjeeling” (historical mystery): I admit Deanna Raybourn’s previous standalone book, “The Dead Travel Fast”, is still sitting in my TBR pile (no idea why – must get to it soon), but I’m planning on bumping the latest book in her Lady Julia Grey mystery series to the top of the pile.

Note that there are slight spoilers in blurb for previous books in the back cover blurb:

For Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane, the honeymoon has ended…but the adventure is just beginning.

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia’s eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly-widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband’s family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband’s death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

Out now (excerpt)

 

511JdeLKGvL._SL160_ Sharon Shinn’s “Troubled Waters” (fantasy): I’m not entirely sure if this is the start of a new series or not, but I’ll read anything Sharon Shinn writes.  I fell in love with her writing with the Samaria books, and although it took me a while to settle into her Twelve Houses universe, it’s now one of my favourite fantasy series.  So new Shinn fantasy book = must-get.

The back cover blurb:

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.

Out now (PDF excerpt)

 

612xamlJyjL._SL160_ (1) Mercedes Lackey’s “Intrigues” (fantasy): I’m one of those girls who grew up reading about talking white horses (and completely swooning over angst-y Vanyel), so yes, I am a total sucker for a new Valdemar book, faults and all.  The previous book, “Foundation”, kicked off the Collegium Chronicles series, and while it wasn’t quite the same as the early Valdemar books, I’m still getting this one.

The back cover blurb:

Magpie is a thirteen-year-old orphan chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar and taken to the capital city, Haven, to be trained as a Herald. Like all Heralds, Magpie learns that he has a hidden Gift-the Gift of telepathy.

But life at the court is not without obstacles. When Mags is "recognized" by foreign secret operatives whose purpose is unknown, Mags himself comes under suspicion. Who are Magpie’s parents-who is he, really? Can Mags solve the riddle of his parentage and his connection with the mysterious spies-and prove his loyalty-before the king and court banish him as a traitor?

Out now (book details on author’s site)

 

51lfKgVNNFL._SL160_ Mercedes Lackey’s “Trio of Sorcery” (urban fantasy): And look, a second Mercedes Lackey book, but something quite different.  Ms Lackey is one of those authors who wrote urban fantasy before we named it as such, and this book comprises three novellas, two with existing characters and one new.  I remember enjoying her Diana Tregarde books, so am glad she’s starting to write in these universes again.

The back cover blurb:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mercedes Lackey presents three exciting short urban fantasy novels featuring three resourceful heroines and three different takes on the modern world and on magics both modern and ancient.

Arcanum 101:  Diana Tregarde, practicing witch, romance novelist, Guardian of the Earth. Studying at Harvard, Diana is approached by Joe O’Brian, a young cop who has already seen more than one unusual thing during his budding career. The distraught mother of a kidnap victim is taking advice from a “psychic” and interfering in the police investigation. Will Diana prove that the psychic is a fake? Unfortunately, the psychic is not a fake, but a very wicked witch—and the child’s kidnapper.

Drums:  Jennifer Talldeer, shaman, private investigator, member of the Osage tribe. Most of Jennie’s work is regular PI stuff, but Nathan Begay brings her a problem she’s never seen before. His girlfriend, Caroline, is Chickasaw to his Navaho, but that’s not the problem. Somehow, Caroline has attracted the attention of an angry Osage ghost. Thwarted in love while alive, the ghost has chosen Caroline to be his bride in death.

Ghost in the Machine:  Ellen McBridge: computer programmer extraordinaire, techno-shaman. The programmers and players of a new MMORPG find that the game’s “boss,” a wendigo, is “killing” everyone—even the programmers’ characters with their god-like powers. A brilliant debugger, Ellen discoveres that the massive computing power of the game’s servers have created a breach between the supernatural world and our own. This wendigo isn’t a bit of code, it’s the real thing . . . and it’s on the brink of breaking out of the computers and into the real world.

Out Oct 26 (excerpt)

“Legends of Australian Fantasy” – The First Half

9780732288488 I wanted the anthology “Legends of Australian Fantasy” (edited by Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan) as soon as I saw Juliet Marillier had contributed a Sevenwaters novella, but balked somewhat at the £32 I would have to pay for shipping from Australia.  And then I saw the ebook version on Kobo – it’s £13 now, but I seem to recall it was slightly cheaper when I bought it (or I took advantage of the coupons they send out now and again).  I snapped it up straightaway.

I’m just under halfway through and very surprisingly for me, have not encountered a dud so far.  I should say here that although I love the idea of anthologies, when I actually end up reading them, I usually end up enjoying only a few stories in the entire book.  Not so in this one – though I’ve loved some stories more than others, all the contributions have kept me reading through to the end.  And even better, three out of the five read so far are by new-to-me authors.

 

Garth Nix’s “To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Story”: New-to me-author – and you can read his entire novella online for free at Kobo.  It’s a YA fantasy, a coming-of-age tale, and one that made me wonder why I’ve never read any of his books before.  Not that it was particularly original, but I liked the setting and story-telling.  I’m going to have to actively search out his other Old Kingdom books.

Trudi Canavan’s “The Mad Apprentice: A Black Magician Story”: I’ve read the first book in her Black Magician trilogy way back when, but it didn’t capture my interest enough to continue.  This novella is set in the same universe, though I believe it takes place long before the events of that series.  It’s a story that illustrates the consequences of saying “just this once” over and over again, combined with some conflict around loyalty to one’s family.  Slightly predictable, and I never quite engaged with the protagonist in this story (I recall I had a similar reaction to the first of her Black Magician’s trilogy).

Juliet Marillier’s “’Twixt Firelight and Water: A Tale of Sevenwaters”: I confess I dived in and started with this novella, which tells the story behind Fiacha the raven.  For long-time Sevenwaters fans, Ciaran plays a role in this one and we find out what Padraic did next as well.  I like how Ms Marillier played with present and past tense, alternating between Conri’s and Aisha’s viewpoint.  It’s whetted my appetite for her new Sevenwaters book, “Seer of Sevenwaters”, out in this December.

Isobelle Carmody’s “The Dark Road: An Obernewtyn Story”: New-to-me author, and one I’ve been meaning to try, as I’ve heard excellent things about her Obernewtyn series.  This was confusing in parts as I tried to piece together her universe.  And it had an unpromising start as I had no idea what was going on when I started reading.  BUT.  I stuck with it and then I realised the confusion was on purpose, and the story was being told in a back-to-front way.  I know I’m not making sense, but it was very clever.  I was completely engrossed by the end, though I think I would have had enjoyed this story more if I had already read her Obernewtyn books.

Kim Wilkins’ “A Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thrysland”: New-to-me author, and one I’ve never heard of.  I liked the story and writing well enough, but it felt sort of open-ended, as though it was just setting the scene – and her author’s note at the end indicated that this story kicks off a series of epic fantasy books.  I’m on the fence as to whether I would read them when they are published, but I would probably read something else by Ms Wilkins.

 

Still to read:

Sean Williams’ “The Spark (A Romance in Four Acts): A Tale of the Change”
DM Cornish’s “The Corsers’ Hinge: A Lamplighter Tale”
Ian Irvine’s “Tribute to Hell: A Tale of the Tainted Realm”
John Birmingham’s “A Captain of the Gate”
Jennifer Fallon’s “The Magic Word”
Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s “The Enchanted: A Tale of Erith”

Second Impressions…

So, I may have done a mini-squee over my new Kindle when it arrived a couple of weeks ago.  Now that I’ve actually read some books on it, here are my thoughts (obviously with comparison to my Sony Reader, which is the second-generation PRS-505).

 

The Good

Refresh rate

I know I went on and on about this in my first post, but the novelty hasn’t worn off.  And when I adjust the font size and spacing?  Pretty much instantaneous refresh.  My Sony would think about it for a minute or so before actually updating, so this is excellent.  And yes, I’m still loving the screen and the contrast as well. 

 

That wireless thing

Umm.  I’ve previously said that wireless connectivity was an optional when it came to ebook readers.  And I still hold that view.  But.  It is just so convenient NOT to have to hook your reader up to the PC when you want to transfer a book.  The sheer ease of emailing a book to your Kindle account and watching it pop up automatically.  Very nice.

 

The “experimental” features

Okay, this falls under what I’ve previously considered optional as well.  I tried out the web browser the other day and it was actually pretty good (see Refresh Rate).  I was expecting something really slow, but it was decent.  I’m never going to use my Kindle as my main internet device, but I like that I have it.  Fickle = me.

 

The Bad

Navigation within a book

With my Sony, I can hold down the page turn buttons, and jump forwards or backwards 10 pages at a time.  There’s no way of doing so with the Kindle (if I’m wrong, please tell me!).  So I either tap the page turn button multiple times or key in the location (see below for my next gripe) until I reach the passage I want, or just pass on the whole thing. 

I never noticed how much I re-read passages until I started reading ebooks.  My Sony Reader changed my habits somewhat, but I could still flip back and forth.  With the Kindle, it’s almost impossible.

And maybe a hangover from the Sony Reader, but I have found myself accidentally using the 5-way controller to turn pages.  Except it doesn’t work that way on the Kindle – that brings you to the next chapter break.  If you’re not reading a document with no chapter breaks.  Because if you are, you go straight to the end, and this leads me to…

 

Locations!

Arrghh.  Okay, I get that ordinary page numbering doesn’t work for ebooks if you change font size etc, but I am having so much trouble figuring out what 10627 locations mean in actual book length.  And if you’re on location 10346-10355, how many more pages do you have until you hit the end of the story???

Also, it’s not easy to remember you’re on location 6782-6791 in a book.  And if you – ahem – accidentally lose your place in a book (i.e. see above), I’ve found it massively difficult to get back.  The Sony kept the last 100 pages or so in history, so I could always get back eventually, but it’s a lot harder on the Kindle.

 

Organising your books

The Sony wasn’t perfect, but neither is the Kindle.  You have Collections, but it’s a bit of a faff adding books to a collection using the 5-way controller.  I’ve figured out the easiest way is to select the book and add the collection from there, as opposed to selecting the collection and adding the book.  I’m slightly obsessed with ensuring every book is in a collection at present, which means painfully tagging every newly-acquired book.

 

The dictionary

Well, this isn’t a Bad really.  It’s more of a “what’s the point”.  But then, I very rarely ever consult a dictionary when I read – if I do come across an unknown word, I make a guess based on context.  Which has led to some interesting interpretations – for ages, I thought laconic meant sort of lazy and drawling, hence all the heroes speaking laconically in historicals.  When I realised it meant terse, I had to do a mental readjustment.

But I digress.  The dictionary isn’t something I use and because definitions flash up automatically when you use the 5-way controller, it’s sort of distracting. 

 

So that’s it – my current thoughts on my Kindle.  Even though I’ve gone on a bit about the downsides, I’m still liking it very much and planning on moving all my ebooks to it at some point, but it’s not the perfect ebook reader.  Yet.

 

Oh, and before I forget, Jane @ Dear Author did an excellent post about converting PDFs so that they’re legible on ebook readers.  I don’t get why PDF is even sold as a ebook format, but I’m going to give her tutorial a go and see if it works.