The Flood of Free Ebooks

I’ve been slightly alarmed at how the number of ebooks on my Kindle appears to be growing exponentially over time.  And because I swear I’ve been keeping to a book budget (ahem), the cause is probably the number of free (or bargain-priced) ebooks that are available nowadays.

Remember those days when freebies (especially if you were in a country outside the US) were a rarity?  That’s no longer the case – instead of grabbing every single free ebook on offer, I find myself being rather selective about the books I actually download.  But despite this new-found selectiveness, I still find my virtual TBR pile increasing by leaps and bounds.

It’s not just free ebooks though.  If it’s priced low enough, I have a bad habit of clicking that Buy Now button. My tipping point for impulse purchases (usually new-to-me indie authors) tends to be £1.50 or below.

Part of me is feeling slightly guilty that you know, I download all these freebies and never post about them* when I’m guessing the author/publisher views the promotion as, well, promotion spend.  So I’ve been pondering whether I should start a sporadic feature here where I actually Review a Free Ebook now and again (technically Review a Free (or Cheap) Ebook, I suppose).

And because I was bored (and this post lacked pictures), I made a little button**.

I thought the best way to kick this feature off was to share where I get my free*** and/or cheap ebooks.  So that your TBR piles can also spiral out of control.  You’re welcome.

Starting with the obvious – there’s always public domain books, i.e. books out of copyright, though be aware that copyright laws vary depending on where you live, and what may be legal in one country may not be in another. Project Gutenberg is probably the primary source for PD ebooks, but I like ManyBooks.net (who use the Project Gutenberg texts) because of their ebook formatting.  MobileRead is also a great source of beautifully-formatted ebooks. Public domain books I love:

  • DADDY-LONG-LEGS by Jean Webster: I have a soft spot for this charming epistolary-style novel about an orphan whose college education is made possible by a mysterious benefactor.  And I really liked her JUST PATTY and WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE books too.
  • Anything by LM Montgomery: Everyone’s heard of Anne of Green Gables, but I have a personal preference for LM Montgomery’s Emily trilogy (which doesn’t appear to be PD, alas). As much as I liked Anne-with-an-e, there is something about Emily Starr’s vivid imagination and quiet pride that spoke to me when I first read these books.

Not one for the classics?  There are various places where you can find new(er) releases on offer:

  • I’ve found some bargains (free or otherwise) via the Daily Deals posted by Dear Author.  I like that these are targeted towards the genres I read, and also the quick commentary offered on the books.
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  • Back at MobileRead, they also have a pretty active Deals, Freebies & Resources forum where people post offers (including audiobooks, if that’s your thing).  The posters also sometimes comment on the books in question, so you know they’re not duds.
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  • Willing to pay a bit more?  Fictionwise, which is mostly used by small publishers nowadays, has weekly codes that offer x% off their books and this can be pretty good deals – last week’s was 55% off and this week is 45%. The MobileRead forum tends to have the most recent code, else you can make a guess – it’s normally the date of the Friday (mmddyy American-style).  I like the fact that E-Reads and Belgrave House (author backlist re-releases generally) books are available there – I probably wouldn’t pay full list price for these books, but they’re worth it if there’s a good coupon code.
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  • The Amazon Kindle forums usually have a daily thread (or at least the Amazon UK website has) where people post free Kindle ebooks.  It’s a bit more of a slush pile and covers all genres, but worth flicking through if you’ve a spare few minutes.
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  • Mills & Boon has free ebooks on Everyone’s Reading – they refresh these periodically.  Needless to say, I recommend the Kelly Hunter that’s currently available – MISBEHAVING WITH THE MAGNATE (I know, ignore the title).

So those are my main sources for free/cheap ebooks – do you have others? What’s your e-TBR pile like – do you succumb to cheap ebooks too?

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*Though to be fair, (a) I don’t post that often and (b) there are some books that you really don’t need to know about.

**My very first attempt at some sort of button in five-plus years of blogging.  The pretty font is Clipper Script courtesy of mawn.com.

***I hate the fact that I feel I have to state this, but just to be totally clear – I don’t condone ebook piracy.  Can’t afford books?  See above for sources for free AND legal ebooks.  Need to read a recent release?  Use your local library.

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Kelly Hunter’s Bennett Family series: Mini-reviews

It’s been a while since I last cross-posted my reviews from Goodreads here – I blame that on summer really. The Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon, the Olympics, the Paralympics… next summer has a lot to live up to.

I just had a look at my October 2011 reads and it was mainly my Kelly Hunter glom – oh gosh, that brings back memories.  I remember being utterly stressed out at work, and these books were the perfect distraction.  They were relative quick reads because they’re category-length, yet each of them was packed full of wit and romance.

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled over the first book now, especially since I hadn’t picked up a category romance in years, but I hunted down her entire backlist within days (yay for digital editions!).  I started with her Bennett Family series as the first book in the series, WIFE FOR A WEEK, was the first Hunter I read.

So here are my Bennett series reviews from Goodreads – I posted these separately so forgive the slightly disjointed nature of the reviews here.  Note that her North American releases have had different titles and there are now various omnibus editions, so worth bearing that in mind if you decide to check out her books.

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Wife for a WeekWife for a Week by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book appealed to my sense of the ridiculous. When passages make you laugh or reread, you know you’re on to a keeper. Hallie and Nick kept me up late – I loved the banter and chemistry between them, and couldn’t put the book down. One of my favourites and made me want to read the next Bennett family book immediately.

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Bedded for Diamonds (Harlequin Presents Extra)Bedded for Diamonds by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Hunter does it again. This had everything – humour, chemistry, romance, and great storytelling, and the (small) subplot around stolen diamonds tugged at my heartstrings. Both the h/h concede gracefully at the end and both end up winners. I haven’t been reading any Kelly Hunters before now – obviously I’ve been missing out.

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The Maverick's Greek Island MistressThe Maverick’s Greek Island Mistress by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love how Kelly Hunter writes strong alpha males coupled with women who give just as good as they get. As usual, the main romance was wonderfully convincing and sizzling, but the secondary romance and subplot was just as good. I loved the setting in this book as well – it had the great small-town feel, in this case, the small town being a Greek island populated with relatives and friends.

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Untameable Rogue (Modern Heat)Untameable Rogue by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fourth in the Bennett Family series, and just as good as the previous ones.

I liked how Kelly Hunter inversed the usual M&B tropes here, with Maddy, the heroine, being the insanely wealthy one. Luke was a very alpha hero, which could so easily have gone wrong, but I think it was pulled off perfectly here.

The (unusual for an M&B) Singapore setting and the secondary characters also stood out, especially Maddy’s housekeeper, with her hilarious pokes at Luke and references to the Chinese zodiac. And there was a sly nod to events in the first Bennett book (funeral vases!) which made me smile.

The story also did an excellent job of setting up the fifth Bennett book, Red Hot Renegade – good thing I had that to hand and could start reading immediately.

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Red Hot Renegade (Modern Heat)Red Hot Renegade by Kelly Hunter (contemporary romance)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The final Bennett book, and possibly the only one of the series that can’t be read as a standalone – in a way, I’m glad I discovered Kelly Hunter so late, as I could read the whole series in one go!

Jianne and Jake’s relationship was so intense, yet their story was leavened with the humour that I’ve come to expect in Kelly Hunter’s books. I’m a sucker for marriage-in-trouble plotlines – it’s the shared history and what-could-have-beens that always gets me, and this book delivered angst and romance in spades.

As with the previous book, Untameable Rogue, I liked the Singaporean setting and the freshness that it lent the story. The friendly rivalry between the Bennett brothers continued to keep me entertained, and while there was a bit of a Bennett reunion, it was kept to the minimum – which had the opposite effect of me wishing more of the family had turned up!

Normally with category romances, I end up bemoaning their shorter length, but with this one, I thought Kelly Hunter packed so much story into this one and it was the perfect length for Jianne and Jake’s romance.

So, an extremely enjoyable series overall, and this book ended up being one of my favourites in 2011.

Books for September

This is one of those posts that fall into the “better late than never” category – here are the September new releases that I’m getting.

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Seanan McGuire‘s ASHES OF HONOR (urban fantasy): If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (or even for the past few weeks, come to think of it), you know I’ve been a big fan of Toby Daye ever since the first book.  Somehow Seanan McGuire gets better and better with each installment, and I’ve been so caught up in Toby’s story that it’s hard to believe this is the sixth book in the series already.  I’ve already finished ASHES OF HONOR – without wanting to spoil things, it’s oh-so-satisfying on so many levels.

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

Out now (author’s book page)

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Meljean Brook‘s RIVETED (paranormal romance): This is the third book in her Iron Seas series.  I hesitated a long time before I picked up the first book, THE IRON DUKE, because I stalled a couple of books into her other series (I do need to give them another go one day), but I really shouldn’t have.  Her steampunk world is so intricately crafted (Hilcia referred to these books as social science fiction, which is an excellent description) and she gives good romance.

A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon, flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return home . . . but that home is threatened when expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard

Determined to solve the mystery of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam…

Out now (excerpt)

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Sarah Rees Brennan‘s UNSPOKEN (YA paranormal): I’ve such love for Sarah Rees Brennan’s stories and this first book of the Lynburn Legacy trilogy sounds like a must-have.  I mean, modern YA Gothic?  Count me in, especially if the story’s laced with her unique brand of humour, which never fails to make me laugh out loud.

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Out now (author’s book page)

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Lee Child‘s A WANTED MAN (suspense): I’m always excited about a new Jack Reacher (and admit that I am planning to see the movie, despite the Tom Cruise thing).  I think the recent Reacher books have been a bit hit or miss (and have amped up the violence), but Lee Child’s still an auto-buy author for me.

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, eyes on the road. Another man next to him, telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And next to her, a huge man with a broken nose, hitching a ride east to Virginia.

An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified. Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there.

All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat—to both sides at once.

In Lee Child’s white-hot thriller, nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth. As the tension rises, the twists come fast and furious, keeping readers guessing and gasping until the explosive finale.

Out Sept 25 (excerpt)

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Finally, there are a number of books I’ve been eyeing:

  • The annual(?) anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni LP Kelner – this one is titled AN APPLE FOR THE CREATURE and has an Ilona Andrews contribution.  I’ve requested this from my library because I can’t justify buying a hardcover when I really only want to read one story
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  • I really liked Joanne Dobson‘s Karen Pelletier mystery series, which was set in a New England college campus.  She’s co-authoring a new series called Wartime in New York, and the first is out this month (FACE OF THE ENEMY) – I’m always a sucker for historical mysteries.
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  • I read Rae Carson‘s YA fantasy debut THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS earlier this year and liked it well enough, though I think the positive hype led me to have overly-high expectations.  The second, THE CROWN OF EMBERS, is out this month and while I do want to read it, I will most probably wait for the paperback.
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  • There’s a Christmas anthology called MISCHIEF AND MISTLETOE (less than 100 days to Christmas!) coming out this month – I wanted to get it until I realised it was around £8.  Contributors are the historical romance authors who blog at Word Wenches, including Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, so again, I’ll probably get it when it drops to a lower price point.

Linkage for the Week

My post for Holly‘s Seven Days for Sevenwaters is up today – go read why I didn’t really think Juliet Marillier‘s books were for me (spoiler: I was so wrong).  Big thanks to Holly for organising the event and for letting me ramble in her space – I’ve really loved all the other posts this week.  Some were touching, others hilarious, but all heartfelt – plus a wonderful bonus: a post by Juliet Marillier herself offering up her version of Oscars for the series.

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I had a bit of a dilemma this week when both Sarah Rees Brennan‘s UNSPOKEN and Meljean Brook’s RIVETED appeared simultaneously (well, almost – I think UNSPOKEN arrived a few seconds earlier) on my Kindle.  After much umm-ing and ahh-ing, I went for RIVETED (and then my Kindle promptly died, which is a story for another time – it is now working, so all is right with the world again).  But this is really a very roundabout way of telling you that although I haven’t yet read UNSPOKEN, there is another free Lynburn Legacy story available, which is making me very excited about actually starting on UNSPOKEN.

Also while on UNSPOKEN, I love this post about its cover so much.  It’s how I first heard about “cut-paper art” and I think Beth White (the cover artist) has incredible talent.

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And speaking of covers (note the smooth segue), this Dear Author post about digital publishing and covers was fascinating.

In a way, covers are less important to me than they were a few years back, because I rely so much more on blog recommendations as opposed to random bookstore browsing.  And with the rise of self-publishing, I’ve stopped automatically associating poorly-designed covers with bad stories.  There could be a wonderful story lurking behind that horrible cover with Comic Sans font (I know, cover snob much?).

But there is something about a great cover that makes me happy (and yes, sometimes acts as a tipping point for a purchase) and it was really interesting having a bit more insight into cover design decisions, especially for digital-only editions.

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I liked this review of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller‘s DRAGON SHIP by Liz Bourke at Tor.com, though I think she liked the book marginally more than I did.  Like her, I thought DRAGON SHIP was more of a bridging book, one that was setting up the next chapter to be told in this series, but I was left slightly unsatisfied by the number of plot threads still left dangling at the end of the book.  Having said that, it’s always nice to revisit the Liaden universe, so I’m glad that they’ve sold five (FIVE!!) new books in the series to Baen.  Happy times.

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Finally, if you’re like me and avoid Facebook like the plague, but still want a way to keep up with the authors who post updates on their Facebook page, here’s what you need to get their Facebook RSS feed so you can read updates in your feed reader.  I just discovered this and it works like a dream.

There’s also a way to get the Twitter RSS feed into your feed reader – use this URL:

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/%5Busername%5D.rss

So if you want to follow my (not very exciting) Twitter feed without actually being on Twitter yourself – you would subscribe to this link:

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/meandmybooks.rss

That’s my technology tip of the day!

Hidden Treasures #bbaw

Today’s BBAW daily blogging topic is around how book blogs have exposed you to books or authors you never may have heard of otherwise.

I’m kind of at a loss as to where I start.  It’s safe to say that the vast majority of books that I read nowadays are BECAUSE of blog recommendations, including some of my all-time favourites series.  I never would have picked up Seanan McGuire‘s October Daye books if it wasn’t for everyone* saying ROSEMARY AND RUE was so worth it, so I put aside my irrational dislike of fae-centred books and promptly fell in love.  Same with Ilona Andrews‘ Kate Daniels series – I didn’t really care for the first book, MAGIC BITES, but everyone* swore the series got better – and you know what?  So true.

But these are NYT bestsellers, and they probably would have popped up on my radar via other means – be it on my local bookstore shelves, Amazon recommendations, print reviews… though yes, it may have taken longer.

So what about the books and authors I never would have discovered if it wasn’t for blogs?  Here are three:

Andrea K Höst‘s TOUCHSTONE trilogy – and her entire backlist, really.  Estara was the one that (virtually) hand-sold her books to me, and I believe she first encountered Ms Höst’s books via the Book Smugglers’ blog and Ana’s CHAMPION OF THE ROSE review.  I read and loved the Touchstone books, and then raced through all her other books in a matter of weeks.  It didn’t matter that the Touchstone books were SF (or science fantasy) while the rest were straight fantasy (and also very different stories) – I just fell in love with the stories she was telling.  Now I’m waiting very impatiently on her next release, AND ALL THE STARS.

Tammara Webber‘s EASY (which I mentioned last week) – a brand new-to-me discovery via blog reviews.  The emerging New Adult sub-genre is hard to pin down or define, perhaps a bit more mature than YA but not quite adult contemporaries, but whatever it is, Ms Webber got the story just right in EASY and I can’t wait to dive into her Between the Lines series.

Josh Lanyon‘s Adrien English series, which in turn has led to me buying everything he writes.  I can’t recall exactly how I came across his name – I suspect an If You Like… kind of post at Dear Author, but his writing is the perfect blend of mystery and m/m romance, and it’s rare that there are any misses.

So yes, just three of my now auto-buy authors that I’ve discovered via book blogs – here’s to many more.  Tell me about who you now read because of book blogs – I’d love to know!

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*If you have a book blog and love these authors, everyone is probably you – so thank you.

Three Lists

Firstly, blogosphere events:

  • It’s not just Holly’s Seven Days for Sevenwaters taking place next week – the annual Book Bloggers Appreciation Week is on too (though it’s a more low-key version compared to previous years).  I haven’t participated in the past couple of years due to time pressures, but hopefully this time around, I’ll manage to join in on one of the daily blog topics.
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  • As a heads up, Bloggiesta is on for the weekend of Sept 28-30 (co-hosted by Danielle and Suey).  Sign-up post here, if you’re interested.  I took part in the April Bloggiesta, and it turned out to be a great way to do all those blog-type spring-cleaning tasks that I had been putting off for ages.  It was good fun because everyone was doing similar things, and also those mini-challenges were informative and useful.  And the peer pressure forced me to actually get things done 😉  I’m not sure if I’ll have time to take part this time around, but am certainly considering it.

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A couple of quick links:

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And finally, a couple of recent reads – good ones too:

  • Seanan McGuire‘s ASHES OF HONOR: Definitely worth sacrificing some sleep for.  I have crazy love for this series, and this was a fantastic installment, especially since Tybalt takes centre stage in this one.  But even without Tybalt (though I veer close to sacrilege here), I enjoyed exploring so much more of this alternate world that Ms McGuire has dreamt up, and Toby’s relationships with her friends – and enemies – were just engrossing.  It left me wanting more.
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  • Tammara Webber‘s EASY: Everyone appears to have loved this one, which usually tends to have the effect of me waiting until the hype dies down.  But prompted by the news that Razorbill UK (Penguin’s teen line) will be publishing Tammara Webber’s books, I decided to check this out, and ended up really connecting with this college-set story. While the plot was perhaps a tad bit on the predictable side, I was won over by Jacqueline and the realistic yet mature way she dealt with the cards handed to her – and of course, there is some rather sizzling chemistry on the romance side of things.  I’m going to have to check out her Between the Lines books now.

End of Summer Links

September already?  I think I’ve a touch of the post-summer blues – certainly I’m not in the mood to write any reviews (although I do recommend Sherwood Smith‘s DANSE DE LA FOLIE if you want a Heyer-esque Regency romp).  So in lieu of that, you get more links.

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I love Holly’s blog at the Book Harbinger – as proof of her excellent taste in books, she’s hosting a Seven Days for Sevenwaters week (from Sept 10), where we all get to talk about Juliet Marillier‘s amazing fantasy series.  I’m contributing a guest post, but I’m not the only one.   Go see what goodness Holly has planned – and she will be posting round-ups of Sevenwaters-related posts throughout the week, so if you want to join in the fun, please do.  I’m really looking forward to this.

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Mills & Boon’s RIVA relaunch is now live and here are the rebranded covers. “Fun, flirty, sexy and stylish” is the new tagline, and while part of me mourns the more traditional M&B covers, their replacements aren’t bad.  Of course, I’d recommend Kelly Hunter‘s WITH THIS FLING if you haven’t read it already – I don’t think I’ve read a bad Hunter.

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A bit late now, but I enjoyed reading this recap of the 2012 Romance Writers of Australia at Book Thingo.  There’s a bit about Penguin Australia’s new digital imprint Destiny Romance as well as Harlequin Escape.

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I loved this interview with Sherwood Smith at Tor.com.  It’s more in-depth than the standard author interview (I really liked the world-building insights), plus she (briefly) mentions a few authors who she thinks are doing interesting things.  I’m familiar with some (Megan Whalen Turner, say) but haven’t read the others – so yay, more authors to check out!

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A new (and free) Toby Daye short in anticipation of Seanan McGuire‘s upcoming ASHES OF HONOR. I cannot wait – and if you’ve already read it, gah.  Yes, I can be eloquent.  Also, if you missed it, she did a series of Q&A posts on Toby’s world on her livejournal.

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And finally, this is interesting – a Save the Scifi initiative to release out-of-print science fiction books in ebook form (if I read that correctly). A bit more info in this interview at the Tor Books blog.  I’m intrigued, but I would be more inclined to purchase single books as opposed to signing up to a subscription, and I don’t think they offer that option.