More Linkage

Okay, so I am failing at this one review a month thing, but I have had no time to even think recently.  To clear my backlog of interesting links:

Ilona Andrews posted about her take on author responses to readers’ reviews.  Very sensible.

An Eugenides fanfic which imagines how a scene in Megan Whalen Turner‘s “Queen of Attolia” could have played out.  It’s rare to read a piece of fanfiction that feels just right – I think this one is spot on.

Kelley Armstrong‘s limited-edition novellas for Subterranean Press are also available as ebooks.  While “Counterfeit Magic” is still in stock, “Angelic” is out of print and I have never been able to convince myself to pay $25 for a novella.  I’ve bought the Kindle editions for both and liked, though they are probably priced slightly on the high side for short stories.  Still, probably worth the cash for fans who wanted to read the novellas (that includes me).

And sticking with the ebook novella theme, Jo Beverley has also re-released “The Demon’s Bride”, a Georgian-set story, under Penguin’s eSpecial programme.  I’ve bought it, but not have had a chance to read it yet, though I am wondering if I have the original anthology it appeared in (“Moonlit Lovers” according to her website).

 

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Around the Web – The Cover Edition

I am not handling this back-to-work thing well.  Especially since it’s pretty full-on at the moment.  So many things to do, so little time…

I want to review Eileen Wilks‘ “Blood Challenge”, which I will, but probably not today, as I’m finding myself yawning at odd intervals, and will probably cave in and have a bit of a nap soon.  So in lieu of actual content, here are some links:

Jennie has posted new Mary Stewart covers at her Mary Stewart Novels fansite, and I am totally in love with them.  I am very tempted to get another copy of the “The Ivy Tree”, which is possibly my favourite Stewart!

At Sounis, the Megan Whalen Turner livejournal fan community, they’ve put up the concept art for the cover of  “A Conspiracy of Kings”, which is all kinds of fascinating.

And sticking with the cover art theme, here’s a new-to-me group blog called Muddy Covers, by some of the cover artists I love, and again, it’s really interesting behind-the-scenes stuff.  For instance, Dan Dos Santos (who does the fantastic Mercy Thompson US covers, amongst others) blogs about his covers for Gini Koch‘s Alien SF books, which I am meaning to read at some point.

Books for January

I’m a bit late putting this post up, but there aren’t that many January new releases I’m excited about (for a change!).  The two that I’m getting are continuations of existing series:

Eileen Wilks“Blood Challenge” (urban fantasy): Eileen Wilks’ Lupi series appears to fly somewhat under the radar (or maybe I’m just hanging out in the wrong places?), as I don’t see them appearing on many review sites.  On the other hand, this is the seventh in the series, so it must have an audience.  It’s an autobuy for me – I love the Lily/Rule relationship and the Lupi world created by Ms Wilks.

Back cover blurb:

Lily Yu and Rule Turner’s engagement announcement is stirring up ugly passions in the Humans First camp. There’s hate mail. Death threats. Lily’s car is vandalized. But professionally, things are going smoothly . . . until a lupus in Tennessee goes on a killing spree.

Then Rule’s brother, Benedict, catches a lovely intruder–twice. The first time she’s sneaking around the home of the leader of Humans First. The second time, she sneaks into Nokolai Clanhome with a mysterious potion.

It may not be possible to deal with the rapidly escalating situation the way Lily always has: through the law. Especially when she’s pulled off the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. Lily’s loyalties will be stretched to the breaking point when she discovers that the deaths in Tennessee were only the opening skirmish in an all-out war.

Out now (excerpt)

Julie Hyzy‘s “Buffalo West Wing” (cosy mystery): I was more on the fence about this one, because while I loved the first of these White House Chef mysteries, the previous release, “Eggsecutive Orders”, didn’t quite work for me – I thought the story itself felt disjointed and Ollie, the main character, frustrated me with her unwillingness to trust other characters without any real reasons.  However, I recently read and enjoyed one of Julie Hyzy’s backlist books on the Kindle, which reminded me that I do like her writing.  And I really like how these mystery books gives us a peek behind the scenes at the White House.

Back cover blurb:

With a new First Family, White House executive chef Olivia Paras can’t afford to make any mistakes. But when a box of take-out chicken mysteriously shows up for the First Kids, she soon finds herself in a “no-wing” situation. After Olivia refuses to serve the chicken, the First Lady gives her the cold shoulder. But when it turns out to be poisoned poultry, Olivia realizes the kids are true targets.

Out now

2011: What Next?

At the beginning of 2010, I didn’t bother with a New Year’s resolutions post.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I did one the year before either.  Mainly because I don’t generally do resolutions, full stop.

But I want to reinvigorate my blogging habits and this feels like a good time to ponder on how 2010 has been blogging-wise, and what I want to do going forward.

I posted less frequently over 2010 than in previous years.  It’s probably not a massive surprise, but I came rather close to announcing a blog hiatus at several times over 2010.  I didn’t because, well, I don’t like closing the door on something.  Never say never – or something like!  And also, I think if I had made it official, I probably would have dropped blogging for good.

However, writing my 2010 recap posts reminded me of what I enjoy about blogging and why I started in the first place – I get a space of my own to shout about the books and authors I love, possibly the books I didn’t (though I don’t spend much time writing about these), and share book-ish links of interest.  I get to write about topics that interest me – at the same time, putting my opinions out on the Internets makes me think more (and that’s usually a good thing).  I get to interact with all of you lovely people who comment on my posts (I don’t think there exists a blogger who doesn’t love comments), and get new recommendations and make new connections.

I want to get back to that, and hopefully I will in 2011.

My blog isn’t super-organised, and I very rarely plan or schedule posts in advance (the recent 2010 ones excepted!).  I’m comfortable with that, because I don’t have the time to work to a strict schedule.  But I think I need some goals, or else I will drift along as I have in 2010.

So goals for 2011 – write more reviews about what I’ve read, especially the books I’ve loved.  I’ve said, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that you know I loved a book when I actually blogged about it – well, I’ve loved a lot more books than I’ve actually mentioned on this blog in 2010.  I will aim for at least one review a month (I never did say I was setting high targets – and hey, that’s twelve whole reviews a year).  And while I’m at it, I will also aim to write more general opinion or discussion posts.  Err… maybe once every two months.  Or when inspiration strikes.

And bearing in mind what I said above about comment-love, I’m going to try and comment more.  I am a big-time lurker*.  Let me put it this way: if your blog is on my sidebar, I definitely read it; if your blog isn’t, well, I probably do as well.  Ahem.  Seriously, I did try and update my blogroll over the holidays – you may have noticed it’s looking a lot healthier.  If I’ve missed your blog off, let me know and I’ll add it.

Finally, I mentioned previously that I opened a Goodreads account fairly recently – I need to figure out how to incorporate that into my blogging, or actually, if it works together.  At the moment, I’ve added upcoming releases to my bookshelf – this may be an easier way to track the monthly new releases that I want (at the moment, I just note them in a Google Docs document).  But what about reviews?  And tracking books I’ve read?  So a question for you: if you have a blog and Goodreads account, how do you use the two together?  Or do you keep them separate?

Right, that’s probably enough introspection for now – the summary for 2011 is blog more and comment more.  I’m all full of good intentions, here’s hoping they will last!

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

* So if you read my blog but don’t comment, I TOTALLY understand.

Feeding the Kindle

I’ve spent a couple of days transferring books onto my Kindle and I (still!) have not finished.  It’s partly due to the fact I just have too many books, but also, well, let’s just say I’ve not been too organised and have no single comprehensive list of what’s on my ereader (except of course, by actually going through the books on my ereader).  This is probably the last time I’m changing my ereader.  It’s just too much hassle (until, of course, the next latest ereader comes out and I cave).

But this inspired me to think about my ebook shopping habits, specifically now I have my Kindle – beware, random musings ahead:

I’ve spent so much more at Amazon than before I bought my Kindle.  I can’t swear to it, but I think the selection of books for UK customers has expanded over the past few months.  I was looking up the January releases I wanted to get and all – okay, both – of them were available on the Kindle, which made me very happy (and yes, I’ve pre-ordered them).

The one publisher that really needs to get its books onto Amazon UK would be Tor – the number of Tor books I’ve passed on because they’re not available in e-format…

ETA: I’ve recently signed up to jungle-search.com’s free Kindle books alert (via Teleread) and am finding it very useful.  The link is to Amazon UK, but they also have Kindle alerts for the other Amazon sites Amazon US.

I like that epublishers are releasing their books for Kindle on Amazon UK as it makes it so much easier for me to purchase their books.  The main ones I’ve noticed are Carina Press, Samhain, and Loose ID.  I think the first two do simultaneous releases on their own sites and Amazon, but I’m not sure about Loose ID.

I also love the fact that authors are starting to self-publish their backlists on Amazon – I’ve bought Sherwood Smith and Julie Hyzy‘s out-of-print backlist books at very reasonable prices.

The Amazon shopping experience is scarily user-friendly – I find myself sending samples to my Kindle all the time, using this functionality partly as a wishlist and partly to remind myself that I’m interested in a book.  And then using one-click to purchase directly from the Kindle… I sometimes think I should disable that functionality.

And what price convenience?  That actually isn’t a rhetorical question as I’ve discovered it’s probably around 30p for me – if the price difference between Amazon and other sites (be it publishers’ own sites or Smashwords in the case of self-published backlists) is around that, I just buy from Amazon.  More than that, I become a bit of a cheapskate and spend time pondering whether I should buy from a different site and email the file to my Kindle…

It’s not all Amazon though – I still buy at other ebookstores and the ones I frequent:

Baen’s Webscriptions: Baen makes it almost as easy as shopping on Amazon – you can enter your Kindle email address on their site, and they’ll email the book to your Kindle.  And I am in love with their pricing policy.

Fictionwise: Although their selection has decreased massively and they only have the latest releases in eReader format, I still get ebooks from smaller publishers there when they offer discounts (which are usually publicised on Mobileread).

Kobo: The main drawback is that they only sell books in epub format.  However, I’ve discovered they sometimes sell ebooks not available elsewhere, so it remains on my list and they do offer discounts on non-agency books pretty regularly.

I used to shop at WH Smiths, Waterstones, and BooksonBoard as well – not so much now because I can usually get the same books on Amazon…

Any other ebookstores I should add to my list?

2010: Lists and Numbers

Without further ado, here are the various lists and numbers that encapsulate my 2010 reading:

My very favourite books of 2010

You’ve probably guessed most of these, but the ahem… official list, roughly in the order in which I read them:

  • Diana Gabaldon‘s “An Echo in the Bone” (2009)
  • Sean Kennedy‘s “Tigers and Devils” (2009)
  • Steve Kluger‘s “Almost Like Being in Love” (2004)
  • Sarah Dessen‘s “The Truth About Forever” (2004)
  • Jennifer Echols‘ “Going Too Far” (2009)
  • Lisa Lutz‘s “The Spellmans Strike Again” (2010)
  • Patricia Briggs‘ “Silver Borne” (2010)
  • Ilona Andrews‘ “Magic Bleeds” (2010)
  • Sarah Rees Brennan‘s “The Demon’s Covenant” (2010)
  • Josh Lanyon‘s “Fair Game” (2010)
  • Seanan McGuire‘s “An Artificial Night” (2010)
  • Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “Cryoburn” (2010)

I struggled to keep it down to twelve (okay, I tried for ten and couldn’t) and ended up limiting myself to one book per author.

New-to-me authors I’m glad I read this year

  • Sean Kennedy
  • Steve Kluger
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Jennifer Echols
  • Sarah A Hoyt
  • Meg Burden
  • Harper Fox
  • Suzanne Collins
  • Jaclyn Moriarty

Again roughly in the order in which I read them.

Author most glommed during 2010

I didn’t go mad and read dozens of backlist books this time around – it was a tie between Sarah Dessen and Diana Wynne Jones, with five books each.

Warning: The final two sections are probably of no interest to anyone but myself…

The stats

2010 2009 2008
# of books read during the year 141 115 155
# published during the year itself 77 (55%) 55 (48%) 73 (47%)
# of authors read 88 71 88
# of new-to-me authors 29 (33%) 22 (30%) 27 (30%)
# of library books 20 (14%) n/a n/a
space space space space

I wasn’t consciously aiming to read more than I did in 2009, and to be honest, I’m surprised I did.

The proportion of 2010 v. pre-2010 books remained pretty constant, as did the number of new-to-me authors.  I am trying to read more new-to-me authors so I’m glad that number went up – I’m looking forward to more in 2011.

A new stat I started tracking this year was number of library books read.  I’m determined to make better use of my local library, and while I only read 20 books from there, they were a mixture of new-to-me authors I’m glad I tried (and will probably buy their books in the future) and also authors on the verge of jumping the shark, so I’m glad I saved my money for another book!

And finally, the graph…

Because I like it, and not because it actually says anything.

And that is it for 2010!  I will do a 2011 post at some point about blogging resolutions and all that (which, to be honest, can probably be summed up as “blog more”) but looking back at the year as a whole, there were some really good books I’m delighted to have read – and I’m excited about what’s coming out in 2011.

Previous 2010 wrap-up posts

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 3

And the final four months of 2010…

September

I’m not quite sure what happened in September – no, actually, I do, it was a complete nightmare work-wise – but I ended up only reading six books this month.

But they were good ‘uns – I read Seanan McGuire‘s third Toby Daye book, “An Artificial Night” (oh, I have some crazy love for this series), and also really liked Jo Beverley‘s latest Georgian historical, “The Secret Duke”.  I read very few historical romances nowadays, but Jo Beverley remains on my autobuy list because she brings her historical settings to life (and she writes in the Georgian period – I am a total sucker for men adorning themselves in lace and jewellery).

And I discovered Manna Francis‘s Administration series – a (free) online science fictional m/m series that I glommed over the month.  Some really excellent writing set in a dystopian universe, with two main characters (one rather damaged to start with) growing over the series arc, and eventually giving you a HEA you can believe in.  I know it doesn’t sound like the cheeriest of stories, and it’s not – it’s dark and violent and grim (I’m really selling this, aren’t I?) – but trust me, incredibly satisfying when you reach the end.

Oh – and I received my new Kindle, which deserves a whole other post of its own (there is one sort of fermenting away in draft status).  Suffice to say it has replaced my Sony Reader in my affections…

October

I read eight books during October – the highlight being the long-awaited new Miles Vorkosigan book, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s “Cryoburn”.   You know how I said I could not wait for Elizabeth Peters‘ new Amelia Peabody?  This was exactly the same, but even more so – seriously.  And “Cryoburn” didn’t disappoint.  It was perfectly-written on so many levels – it could be read as a straight Miles adventure/mystery (and Miles was very definitely at his “forward momentum” best in this one) , and then you hit the last pages and realisation comes crashing down on you, and you think “oh”.  And start re-reading all over again.

I also liked Sharon Shinn‘s latest fantasy, “Troubled Waters”, and Ilona Andrews‘ new paranormal romance “Bayou Moon” – the latter met with almost universal praise throughout the blogosphere, while the former had more mixed reactions, IIRC.

November

I went on holiday and read a massive 24 books over this month.  Bliss.

I glommed new-to-me YA author Jaclyn Moriarty‘s fantastic epistolary-style novels following a group of teenagers attending both private and public high schools in Australia – they were completely addictive reading, cheeky and irreverent, yet completely compelling and poignant at times.   I followed that up by reading four of Diana Wynne Jones‘ equally-addictive Chrestomanci YA fantasy novels – just so fun and inventive and plain good story-telling.  And then to mix things up, I read all three of Erin McCarthy‘s stock-car racing contemporary romances – which were steamy, funny, and yes, addictive.

Yes, I do glomming in a big way – why do you ask?

Other books I enjoyed this month – Nalini Singh‘s “Play of Passion”, her latest Psy/Changeling paranormal romance, which I thought breathed fresh air into this long-running series (and just in time for the big Hawke/Sienna book next year), new-to-me m/m romance author Indigo Wren‘s “The Trap”, based on the Dear Author review which promised melodrama and angst in spades (it delivered), and Sharon Lee‘s contemporary fantasy “Carousel Tides”, which is one of the books that has done that weird trick of “the more I think about it, the more I realise how much I liked it”.

December

I wrapped up the year with 20 books (yep, more holidays) .  However, not many books stood out for me – the biggest surprise was that I ended up reading a number of Joan Wolf‘s Regency romances.  I used to love her historicals and stocked up on her backlist when they were re-released as ebooks at Fictionwise – they’ve sat unread until now, when for some strange reason, I just felt like dark brooding heroes, horse-mad heroines, and sweet romances.

And finally, new-to-me authors this month included Elizabeth C Bunce‘s “Starcrossed” (YA fantasy), Kalayna Price‘s “Grave Witch” (urban fantasy), Marie Sexton‘s “Strawberries for Dessert” (m/m romance) – I didn’t fall in love with any of these books, but I would definitely read more by these authors.

And that’s it!  Next up will be the lists and statistics post, and maybe one about 2011 resolutions…

Previous 2010 wrap-up posts

2010: Recap of My Reading Year Part 2

Continuing my month-by-month recap of 2010 (the first third of the year covered here):

May

Amongst the ten books I read in May was the excellent “Magic Bleeds” by Ilona Andrews.   This series has grown in leaps and bounds – I remember not being impressed by the first book way back when, but am rather glad I persevered.  I think if I had to name my top three UF series, it would be this one, together with Patricia Briggs‘ Mercy books and Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye series.

Nothing else stands out during May.  Scanning the titles I’ve jotted down show that I ranked all the rest as “Glad I read”, which is pretty much what it says – I’m glad I read the book, it wasn’t a waste of time (or money!) but it’s not one that really stood out for me.

Oh, I’ve experimented with a new grading system this year (it was a very quiet experiment and I don’t think I mentioned it anywhere!), moving on from letter grades (A, B, C, etc) to a statement-based one (“Glad I read”, “Wish I’d passed”, and so on).  This was because I never really used the full extent of the letter-based grading scale, and wanted to try something more meaningful as opposed to marking everything a B grade (obviously I’ve just moved on to “Glad I read” instead).

Seriously, I’ve found this more useful, but I’m thinking of moving to the equivalent of 1 to 5 stars in the New Year because I’ve started a Goodreads account (err… one review and one friend – hi Estara! – at last count, so don’t all rush over at once).  We’ll see – I don’t shout very loudly about what grades I give books and it took me a couple of years to actually change my grading system, so it’ll probably continue being rather unobtrusive here on the blog…

June

After that slight detour into my grading system, back to books read… I read ten books this month, unusually two re-reads amongst them, though very different ones – Louisa May Alcott‘s “Eight Cousins” and Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s “Conflict of Honors”.

“Eight Cousins” was inspired by Angie’s review of its sequel “Rose in Bloom”, and it was fascinating to re-read this as an adult – it is very much a product of its times (1875), for example, when talking about what a woman’s role should be, but at the same time, surprisingly modern in its views on, say, fresh air and exercise.

“Conflict of Honors”, on the other hand, is very much a comfort read for me, and re-reading this book straight after the authors’ latest release “Mouse & Dragon” gave me a slightly different perspective – I’ve always loved how the authors somehow manage to combine space opera with a fantasy of manners, but this time around, having just read the prequel, the events just prior to the start of this book (avoiding spoilers!) felt more immediate and hard-hitting, so there was more of an emotional impact.

New-to-me author – I read Meg Burden‘s “Northlander”, again based on an Angie rec, which turned out to be the type of coming-of-age YA fantasy that presses all the right buttons for me.  Loved.

Oh, and I think I may have finally kicked my Laurell K Hamilton‘s Anita Blake habit this month as well.

July

There were some good ones in the nine books I read this month.  I remember very much enjoying Julia Quinn‘s “What Happened in London”, even though I actually had to go and look up the book to try and remember what the plot was about.  Ahem.  I do recall liking it very much at the time, and thinking it had her trademark Quinn humour.

I loved Sarah Rees Brennan‘s “The Demon’s Covenant”, so much so it was one of the very few books I actually blogged about this year – bearing in mind how much I blogged this year, you know I really really liked it if I posted about it.  Oh, and I enjoyed Kelley Armstrong‘s latest Otherworld novel, “Walking the Witch”, though points deducted for yet another blasted cliffhanger ending.  Seriously.  I have stopped reading series before because of cliffhanger endings – I completely detest them.

August

Wrapping up a post that turned out to be slightly longer than anticipated – I read another nine books in August, including my first books from Carina Press, which has been an excellent addition to the epublishing scene.  I loved both Josh Lanyon‘s “Fair Game” and new-to-me author Harper Fox‘s “Life After Joe” – Josh Lanyon was already an autobuy m/m romance author, and Harper Fox’s lyrical writing and fantastic sense of place makes her another one for me.

I also got around to reading my second Steve Kluger, “My Most Excellent Year”, which was just as good as the first – a very feel-good book.

And I finally read Suzanne Collins‘ Hunger Games trilogy, all three in a month – it didn’t exactly disappoint, but I’m not entirely sure it lived up to all the hype.  On the other hand, what book could?  I ended up liking the middle book, “Catching Fire”, best, but all three were very good summer reading.

So that was the middle third of 2010 – final four months next…

Around the Web

Happy New Year all!

Two links I came across recently – one made me laugh and the other made me think:

Real-life Quidditch (and yes, it involves broomsticks) – I read the article, then watched the video, and oh dear, I think I want to have a go.

Jo Walton reviews Sharon Shinn‘s “Archangel” at tor.com – I love Jo Walton’s reviews at tor.com (which makes me wonder why I have not read any of her books before, I think I have “Farthing” sitting in my TBR pile) because she has a knack of approaching books from a slightly different angle.  This time around, she tackles the “God is a spaceship” subgenre in conjunction with “Archangel”.