Linkage – Mostly Self-Pubbed and SFF

Posts that have caught my eye over the past couple of weeks (with an unintentional self/small pub and SFF focus):

Debra Doyle & James D Macdonald’s THE PRICE OF THE STARS

363059I’ve been skirting the question of blogging and reading slumps recently, but I’m been wondering if I just needed to take a proper break.  And then I stumbled across this book in my TBR pile.

It was an impulse selection – having finished a not-very-exciting YA*, I thought SF would be a nice change of pace, and I recalled Debra Doyle & James D Macdonald‘s THE PRICE OF THE STARS being mentioned in several SF recommendation threads.  And I realised I had bought the ebook** some time back.  So I clicked on it and…

Best decision I’ve made this year.  Seriously.  (Though that may say more about my year so far than this book, admittedly.)

THE PRICE OF THE STARS feels like the first book that I’ve read in ages which had me really excited about reading the next book – maybe more so because I actually thought it was a standalone book (much like Helen Wright‘s A MATTER OF OATHS – sequel please?) and then found out not only was this the first book of a trilogy, but there was FOUR more books in the series (plus two short stories)***.  At which point, I undertook a good old-fashioned glom and have been surviving on the bare minimum of sleep required because I needed to finish the story, dammit.

And then I obviously had to get on my blog to tell all of you about it. What blogging slump?

Right, after all that build-up – here’s the (accurate) back cover blurb:

Freebooter at heart, spacer by trade, Beka Rosselin-Metadi doesn’t want to hear about how her father whose rugged generalship held back the Mageworlds — or her highborn mother whose leadership has held the galaxy together since. Beka pilots spacecraft — as far from her famous family as possible. Then Beka’s mother is assassinated on the Senate floor, and her father offers her the title to Warhammer, prize ship from his own freebooting youth — if she agrees to deliver the assassins to him “off the books”.

Looking for assassins has a tendency to make assassins look for you. In doing so, Beka’s arranged her own very public death and adopted a new identity; now all she has to do is leave a trail of kidnappings and corpses across five star systems, and blow the roof off the strongest private fortress in the galaxy.

Firstly, it’s space opera.  It’s a sub-genre I love (and I kind of feel that it’s seen as the non-trendy thing nowadays with very few new releases****) so I’m thrilled that I discovered this series.  There’s full-on adventure and non-stop action as Beka, her siblings, and their companions race around the galaxy and try to stay alive while figuring out who the bad guys are and getting their revenge.  There’s a bit of romance, lots of derring-do, and even some old-fashioned sword and staff fights amidst the starship battles.  And it’s not pure SF – there’s equal action there on the magic front with some rather sneaky Adepts.

It’s very much a ensemble cast-type of story – there are multiple POVs and subplots, but I was never lost.  I didn’t really have a particular favourite amongst the many characters, so I was perfectly happy just going with the flow and jumping between the different storylines. Maybe that was a weakness, in the sense that no one character completely won my heart, but this style worked for me.

It’s not perfect writing, but the story’s immensely fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It is satisfying story-telling, and if certain things stand out as being too obvious, there are also some out-of-nowhere twists that left me blinking – and needing to know more.  Having finished the final book of the trilogy, I love the way the authors set up certain things in the first book to come to fruition in the third.  THE PRICE OF THE STARS works rather well as a standalone, but there is some good payoff if you stick with the series.

So there you have it – one of my favourite reads of the year so far.  I’m off to read the rest in the Mageworlds series now.

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

*Sarah Dessen’s new release THE MOON AND MORE – okay but a bit on the bland side

**This is why I love ebooks.  This was published in 1992 – without ebooks, what are the chances I would actually have this to hand?

***And the authors have written more series!

****Unless I’m missing out, and in which case, recs please?

Summer Ramblings

Now that Wimbledon is over*, I figured I should do a post to prove I’m still here.  And I do actually have a couple of things to talk about!

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

Lois McMaster Bujold (finally) moved her blog from MySpace and is now posting on Goodreads.  As a result, you get LMB-related linkage:

An interview at Amazing Stories – I liked this part where she talked about her writing style:

Paragraphs have their own internal structure and rhythm, like little prose poems, flowing out of what went before and pointing to what’s next. Sentence length gets varied for cadence and effect.

1416728Also LMB-related – her book SHARDS OF HONOR (the first Vorkosigan book)** is part of the current SF ebook Humble Bundle (four more days to go).  If you haven’t heard of the Humble Bundle concept, key points: pay what you want, DRM-free ebooks, a portion of the proceeds go to charity (you can choose the percentage), and pay more than the average (currently $10.48) to unlock six additional books.

I bought the first Humble Bundle, but am still pondering this one – I already have two of the books and the others aren’t really that appealing to me, but I love the concept and want to support it (though with 51,000+ bundles sold, they probably don’t need me).  There is another SF bundle at StoryBundle (slightly different rules but same concept – not sure when this one ends), but I like the Humble Bundle selection better.

LMB and some of the other authors in the Humble Bundle also did a Reddit AMA (hint: click on the poster’s name if you want to see all of his/her replies).  Is it just me or are Reddit AMAs becoming more popular as a promotional tool?

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

I did a bit of a blogging experiment during June, which you may have noticed – I accepted several ARCs for review.  I’ve done that before on a very occasional basis, but this was the first time that I had more than one at the same time (which may make me a rarity in the book-blogging world?).  I was trying to shake up my blogging habits a bit, and was wondering whether focusing on reviews/ARCs would change my sporadic blogging patterns and inspire me to blog more.

Ummm… no – I think I came out with a new-found respect for those bloggers who regularly post reviews.  While I selected books that appealed to me, it still felt a bit like homework – I would turn on my Kindle, the NetGalley arc would be sitting there, and I’d feel guilty if I chose to read something else.  I feel the same about reading challenges – as soon as I have to read a specific book within a set timeframe, I start finding excuses not to read it.  And even though I gave myself a decent amount of time to get the reviews up, I ended up cutting it very fine.

Conclusion?  While I’m glad I did it so I can now stop wondering if the reviews/ARCs route is something I want to pursue, it’s not something I’ll repeat anytime soon. 

While on the subject of blogging, two posts I liked:

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

*Tennis-related thoughts:

**I liked SHARDS OF HONOR and it is the first book in the series, but I tend to recommend THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE as the gateway book into the Vorkosigan series (though I do know lots of other people suggest SHARDS).  I think it’s because of my personal experience: I read SHARDS (as part of the CORDELIA’s HONOR omnibus) first, and while it was decent, I wasn’t hooked on LMB’s books until I read THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE.  At which point, I promptly went out and bought every single remaining book in the series.

Books for July

The July new releases I have on my list…

16130105Lisa Lutz‘s THE LAST WORD (mystery): It’s been a while since the last Spellman book – I wasn’t sure if there would be another one, so was delighted to see this new installment pop up.  The Spellmans are just on the right side of crazy-hilarious, and I love how the story is told through transcripts, case notes, and numerous other devices.  I also have a massive soft spot for Izzy, and this is one of the very few books I’ve pre-ordered this year.

Isabel Spellman is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of her boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that the Spellmans would lay off after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such shenanigans behind her.

In The Last Word, Izzy’s troubles are just beginning. After her hostile takeover of Spellman Investigations, Izzy’s parents simply go on strike. Her sister, Rae, comes back into the family business with questionable motivations. Her other employees seem to be coping with anxiety disorders, and she has no idea how to pay the bills. However, her worst threat comes from someone who is no relation. Within months of assuming control of the business, Izzy is accused of embezzling from a former client, the ridiculously wealthy Mr. Slayter, who happens to have Alzheimer’s, which Izzy and he are diligently trying to keep under wraps. Not only is Slayter’s business and reputation on the line, but if Izzy gets indicted for embezzlement, she’ll lose everything—her business, her license, and her family’s livelihood. Is this the end of Izzy Spellman, PI? The answer makes The Last Word, hands down, the most thrilling book in this bestselling, award-nominated series.

Out July 9

*

17237161Juliet Marillier‘s RAVEN FLIGHT (YA fantasy): I’ve been enviously eyeing the early reviews appearing on this one. The first book, SHADOWFELL, may not have been my favourite Marillier, but it’s still a Marillier, and I need my fix.

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows.

Out July 9

*

Magicrises_UK-184x300Ilona AndrewsMAGIC RISES (urban fantasy): I don’t really think I need to explain why this book is on my list at all.  The authors say they will be uploading the ebook version for the UK market as soon as the US version is released, which makes me happy.  Love the UK cover as well – that’s one fierce Kate.

Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

Out July 30

*

16078584Ben Aaronovitch‘s BROKEN HOMES (urban fantasy): If you’re looking for a proper British UF, this series is probably it.  His London feels real and I’m looking forward to more.

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

Out July 25