How I Find New-to-Me Authors (with a bit on e-readers)

So, top of my want-but-don’t-need list is the new Kindle Voyage e-reader.

Based on the reviews I’ve seen, it’s better than the Kindle Paperwhite – but alas, not significantly better.  Definitely not £170 better.  Or even £230 better, because I know I’d spring for the 3G version.

The other thing that’s putting me off getting a new e-reader is the thought of transferring all my ebooks from my Paperwhite.  I had to do that when I bought my (beloved) Paperwhite a few years back, and it took me forever.  And I swear I lost a few ebooks in the move too.  Yes, I do need to organise my ebooks better.

Sorry, the point of this post isn’t really e-reader lusting.  I just needed to get that out because I’ve been spending too much time thinking about it, dammit.  Maybe I need to try and see the Voyage IRL – that may help me decide one way or another. A price drop would also help my decision *clears throat*.

Anyway, following my post on the whys of DNF’ing, I thought I’d talk about the flip side – what makes me pick up a book, especially a book by a new-to-me author?

Putting trusted reviewers to one side (as that’s how I hear about new-to-me authors in the first place), what persuades me to buy the book?

19286623If it’s a genre I’ve been eyeing, I’m easy.  Usually all it takes is a positive review, combined with a reasonable price.  For instance, I was curious about rockstar romances – unfortunately, Nalini Singh’s foray into this subgenre didn’t work for me* but I figured there must be a reason why rockstar romance is a popular subgenre.  Kylie Scott‘s name came up several times, and the second book in her Stage Dive series was a bargain at £0.50 at that time, IIRC (now all of them are at £2.40 @ Amazon – still a good price IMO).  Let’s just say I gulped down all three of the Stage Dive books within a week – I loved Scott’s voice, which meant the heightened emotions and just-about-plausible meet-cutes totally worked for me.  I have to mention that the copy-editing was not fantastic – there were a few of the your/you’re and know/now variety which annoyed me – but I adored the romances.

Another romance subgenre I’m curious about at the moment is MCs (Motorcycle Clubs) – any recs?  I know Kristen Ashley is popular, but I’ve never read any of her books.  I think the closest I’ve come to a MC romance this year is Kelley Armstrong’s VISIONS, which was slightly unexpected.  One of the love triangle contenders is the head of the local MC, IIRC – he’s also a ghoul who feeds on emotions, so possibly not a standard MC romance?  Or maybe it is.  Ahem.

0451418425.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL500_Moving on – if it’s a genre where I’ve been suffering burnout (see UF and/or paranormal romance), then it takes a bit more than that.  Multiple mentions work (which is why I guess blog tours are a thriving business?) – I may skim over an author’s name several times, but if I’m still seeing his/her name a few months later, I’m more than likely to give the book ago.  Two UF authors I’ve discovered via this method – Kalayna Price (who appears to have gone AWOL in the past year, fingers crossed she’s still writing) and ML Brennan (I’ve been going on about her Generation V series for a few months now, right?).

What else?  Excerpts work. Excerpts are fantastic.  If I can’t find one and I’m interested enough in the book, I hop over to Amazon and check out the book preview.  That usually helps me decide whether to one-click or not.

Prices – I mentioned the low price of one of Kylie Scott’s books persuaded me to one-click. I think $1 or £0.77 tends to be the psychological barrier for me.  (Free also does it, just to be clear.)  So first book in a series as a loss-leader is a marketing ploy that really works on me.  I’m getting a lot better at this impulsive one-clicking thing, but not quite there yet.

Oh, and ebook availability.  This is probably one of the biggest things.  It’s really rare I buy a physical book by a new-to-me author – not totally unheard of (see previous post on impulse book buying issues), but I wouldn’t go to a bookstore specifically to buy a book I’ve seen reviewed.  I’d be a hundred times more likely to get the ebook, especially if it’s coupon-able on Kobo – but then we’re back to price again.

So that’s how I choose my new-to-me authors – what about you?

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*Possibly for the same reason her Guild Hunter series doesn’t work for me.  Someone (can’t remember who/where now – if you do, let me know and I’ll link!) said something along the lines of her text promises high conflict, but actual risk/damage is low, which rings true to me – so all the drama tends to fizzle out and there’s no payoff.  Also the insta-love (which tends to be a trademark of her writing, I think) did not help – I can suspend disbelief when this occurs in her Psy-Changeling books because of the paranormal side of things. Change the setting to a straight contemporary one, and I find it very hard to believe in the instant connections.

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More of What I’ve Read Recently

I’ve managed to get through a fair few books recently, both good and not-so-good.

Good ones:

21840287ML Brennan‘s TAINTED BLOOD, the third book in her Generation V urban fantasy series – my Goodreads notes:

This series gets better and better. This one was centred around a mystery whodunnit (so obviously the mystery fan in me was satisfied), with some really intriguing family dynamics promising much for the next book. Plus more reveals about the wider supernatural community, and yes, more Suze.

It was one of those books that leaves you wanting the next book immediately.  One of the rare new-to-me UF series I started this year.

Kelley Armstrong‘s WILD JUSTICE, the final book in her Nadia Stafford trilogy – this came out earlier this year, but I put off buying it because I kept on remembering how the lack of personal pronouns in Jack’s speech (Jack being Nadia’s mentor – and possibly more) really got on my nerves in the previous book.  That hasn’t changed much – Jack still speaks in very short sentences and Armstrong makes a point of this being one of his characteristics. Digression alert: it bugs me when authors use physical shorthand to bring out a facet of someone’s personality and then emphasise this trait ad nauseam, e.g. X always speaks in very short sentences, Y always drops her h’s when stressed, Z always drinks coffee, etc. (Shall we play “guess the other two books…?”)

That aside, I thought WILD JUSTICE ended up being a strong suspense novel overall – there was a slightly over-convoluted plot, which had the benefit of keeping me guessing throughout, and it ended with an HEA that I’d thought would be impossible at the start of the trilogy.  The strongest of the three books, I thought, and a satisfying read.

23524655Comfort and Joy – I mentioned this holiday m/m romance anthology in my December releases post, and I ended up really enjoying all four stories.  So much so that I’d be hard-pressed to pick one… okay, it would probably be “Rest and Be Thankful” by Joanna Chambers – I fell for her take on the enemies-to-lovers trope and the small village setting.  But generally, lots of angst-ing and sky-high UST mixed with humour, and yes, romance in all the stories.  All four contributions are available as individual stories, but I honestly don’t see why you wouldn’t buy the anthology.

Books I didn’t particularly care for:

From a great holiday romance anthology to a so-so one – I also finished Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which I picked up on impulse.  The good part first – I really liked Kate Meader‘s contribution, “Rekindle the Flame” and have added her upcoming firefighters romance to my To Read shelf.  The other stories ranged between okay to DNFs – I ended up mostly skimming two and skipping the other two.  I’m on the fence as to anthologies – it does help me discover new-to-me authors, but if I end up not liking the majority of stories, it’s not the best use of my book-buying budget.  Though let’s face it, I’m never going to kick my anthology habit.

WINGER by Andrew Smith – a new-to-me author and another impulse buy (there is a reason why I should stay clear of bookstores).  So I was swayed by the number of awards this YA novel picked up, including a Top 10 YALSA Best Fiction for YA.  Really, I should have checked out the GR reviews. While I did have some problems with some of the views of the POV protagonist, I figured I’d never been a 14-year old boy myself, plus as the story progressed, there were signs of redemption.  So it was a fairly decent enough read until I hit the last couple of chapters.  And then there was a WTF twist (and not a good WTF, mind).  I’m probably in the minority here (considering the awards and Best Of lists), but I’d rather not have wasted an afternoon on this book.

DNF’ing Books

I used to be the sort of reader that had to finish every single book I started. Never mind if there was zero plot or if the characters grated or if I plain disliked the story – I had to get to the last page regardless.

Now… I just put the book aside. I’m pretty sure it’s partly because I read a lot more ebooks – it feels easier to stop reading when I don’t have the physical book front-and-centre on my bookshelf.  I also think lack-of-time and/or abundance-of-choice plays into this – I’ve now convinced myself that I don’t have to spend a couple of hours finishing a book when I have literally hundreds more waiting for me (which is also an ebook thing, admittedly!).

The obvious reason for me DNF’ing a book is that I’m bored – the plot’s not going anywhere, the characters are two-dimensional, etc etc.  But it’s also the smaller elements that can turn the book into a DNF.  Which makes me sound totally nitpicky, but well, it’s true.

So for example, books I DNF’d this year:

  • The one where all the characters were using contractions for names. For every single character.  I could just about see Air for Aaron, but Eee for Ian… really?  I gave up halfway.
  • The one where there were only two siblings in the family, but they were being referred to as the eldest and the youngest.  Constantly.  I don’t claim to be perfect on grammar myself (far from it if truth be told), but come on, it’s elder and younger unless there was a missing middle child somewhere.  I got about halfway through the book, but when I hit “eldest” for the umpteenth time, I decided the story wasn’t worth my heightened blood pressure.
  • The one with dialogue tags overkill.  If the text includes “X reminds”, “Y agrees”, and “Z exclaims” in the first three paragraphs of dialogue… well, I’m not convinced I’m going to make it through to the last page.  And even more so if combined with the POV character thinking of her BFFs by their full names in the first scene.  A tone thing perhaps?
  • The one where I get a “lack of research” feeling.  Which could be as minor as a mention of whistling backstage as a common procedure when there’s a superstition around not doing that.  I think this one depends on whether you’re familiar with a topic or not – I suspect that’s why a lot of sport romances work for me (i.e. blatant lack of familiarity with most sports!).

Well, I did say it’s the smaller stuff. I can forgive much if I’m caught up in the story and the characters, but if it’s just a middle-of-the-road story, then it’s the little things that grate.

So tell me, do you DNF books?  And if you do, what tips you over the edge?

Books for December

A bit late here, but here are the December new releases that I’ve been eyeing – fairly light pickings, which obviously gives me the chance to catch up on that TBR pile of mine… I tried to do a bit of a Kindle clearout the other day, as I’ve more than 400 books on mine with the majority unread.  Let’s just say that I ended up creating a rather large To Read collection with books I’d forgotten I had.  The only saving grace is that they are ebooks, not physical ones – I shudder to think of the amount of bookshelf real estate I’d need if it was a physical TBR.

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13542374NO TRUE WAY, edited by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy): Heh. Of course this would be on my to buy list, even though I haven’t read a Valdemar book for ages.  I always buy her annual anthology – it’s practically a December tradition by now, even though the stories tend to be a bit hit-or-miss.  This anthology has been centred around her other universes for the past couple of years, I think, so I’m glad we’re back to Valdemar this year.

In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.

Out now

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22922375Joanna ChambersTHE DREAM ALCHEMIST (m/m romance/fantasy): I’ve enjoyed her historical romance, so am curious to see what Joanna Chambers does with umm… I don’t know? Urban fantasy? Plain fantasy? Not entirely clear from the blurb. But sounds intriguing nonetheless.

When the sun goes down, their passion awakens…and so do their nightmares.

Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.

Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.

As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…

Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.

Out now

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COMFORT AND JOY (m/m romance): A holiday anthology by four of my favourite authors (Joanna Chambers (again!), Harper Fox, LB Gregg, and Josh Lanyon) – really, I don’t have to say more.  I’ve high hopes for this one, basically.  The stories are also being sold individually, IIRC.

Rest and Be Thankful by Joanna Chambers – Two stormy hearts find peace when feuding neighbors in the Scottish Highlands are trapped by a blizzard.

Out by Harper Fox – Can a stranger unlock the courage and passion in a young man’s captive heart?

Waiting for Winter by LB Gregg – Some mistakes are worth repeating.

Baby, It’s Cold by Josh Lanyon – Or maybe it’s the flu. Breaking up is hard to do — especially around the holidays.

Out Dec 7

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Also hopefully, Ilona Andrews will release the second Innkeepers book, SWEEP IN PEACE.  It’s down on Goodreads for a December release, if that counts for anything. I loved the first book, but haven’t been reading the free serial online as I’d rather wait for the full book.