My Reading List for the 2019 Hugo Awards

I’ve a supporting membership for Dublin 2019, which gives me access to this year’s Hugo Awards voter packet (basically a collection of most of the shortlisted works in a mix of e-formats).

The packet came out over the weekend, so here are my musings about what I want to read between now and August (end July being the voting deadline).

Err… it’s ambitious to say the least.

Best Novel

  • Naomi Novik’s SPINNING SILVER is the only one I’ve read so far in this category (in fact, it was one of my favourite reads in 2018).
  • I already have the Becky Chambers but in paperback, so am grateful to get my hands on the e-version which makes it ever-so-slightly more convenient to read.  I think RECORD OF A SPACEBORN FEW is a companion book as opposed to a sequel, so I don’t have to read her other two books (which are both included in the Hugo packet as she also has a nomination for Best Series, and err… I also own but not read).
  • I also already have Yoon Ha Lee’s REVENANT GUN, but haven’t yet read the second book RAVEN STRATEGEM (which is queued up on my Kindle – okay, yes, I do have a TBR problem).  This is definitely a trilogy, so I should really try to finish both.
  • I’m more on the fence for Catherynne M Valente’s SPACE OPERA (tried an excerpt previously and it didn’t work for me), but hey, it is Eurovision this weekend so I may be in the mood for it!
  • Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING has been on my to-buy list for a while, so I’m really pleased the full book’s in the packet.  The only reason I haven’t one-clicked it yet was because I heard it straddles the fantasy-horror boundary and horror isn’t really my thing, but on the other hand, it’s had really good reviews.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s THE CALCULATING STARS is provided only in PDF format, which is an utter pain.  I’ve had a go at converting this via Calibre, so we’ll see if it’s worked.  I haven’t bought this one because umm… it sounds stupid but it’s a prequel to her short story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, which I loved, and therefore I didn’t really want to read the run-up to the events in the short.  Ha.  I’ve enjoyed her novels previously, so I will try to read this – it’s also recently had a UK release so my library may have a copy.

So that’s four books I’m definitely going to read + possibly the Valente and Kowal, depending on whether I bounce off the former and if I can get a readable version of the latter + the two other Becky Chambers for the Best Series nom.

Best Novella

  • Again, I’ve only read one of the shortlist previously (the Aliette de Bodard).
  • I’ve Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy in hardback, so will definitely make time to read all three novellas.
  • Martha Wells’s ARTIFICIAL CONDITION is currently retailing for around £7, hence me being delighted to see it in the Hugo packet (I’ve just whizzed through it).
  • I’ve been interested in the P. Djèlí Clark and Kelly Robson novellas for a while, so ditto on being happy to see them included.
  • And I’ve the first of the Seanan McGuire novellas, so I probably should read it before BENEATH A SUGAR SKY?  Loosely-connected though.

Possibly seven more novellas to get through here – all have been highly-rated though, so I suspect I’ll fly through them!

Best Series

  • Okay, the first thing to say is that ALL TWELVE of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books are in the Hugo packet (via NetGalley so time-limited admittedly, but still!).  The second thing to say is that I own all of them already (you know I adore Toby, right?)… definitely a top contender for my vote.
  • I’ve not heard of Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle books before, but definitely keen to give them a go – all three are included.
  • I’ve eyed the Charles Stross series previously but have never read them – I think four novellas are provided, so will see what they’re like before deciding if I want to get hold of the novels.
  • I’ll be covering the Becky Chambers and Yoon Ha Lee books as part of the Best Novel reads (useful overlap, this!)
  • I think I may have read a few of Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya works before.  I like but don’t love them, so we’ll see.

So really it’s only the Older and Stross works here for me to read, perhaps some of de Bodard’s stories as well.

Lodestar Award (Best YA)

  • Ha, broken record but again, I’ve read only one book in this category (Holly Black’s THE CRUEL PRINCE).  The publisher’s provided an excerpt for the packet, so that’s rather fortunate on my part (also I thought it was rather generic YA fantasy, so not top of my list).
  • Rachel Hartman and Tomi Adeyemi’s books are provided via NetGalley, so yay – I haven’t read either one and want to read both.
  • Dhonielle Clayton’s is marked “To be provided” so perhaps something will follow?
  • Peadar O’Guilin’s duology comes across as more horror to me, I’ll give his books a a go, but they may not really be my thing.

I’ve not really read much YA fantasy recently (or so I think anyway!), will definitely read at least two here.

And as for the other categories

  • I’ve read most of the shortlisted works in the Novelette and Short Story categories already – I just need to have a think!
  • Campbell Award – I’ve read SA Chakraborty, have the first Katherine Arden book, and may read RF Kuang’s THE POPPY WAR (apparently grimdark-ish?).
  • No real thoughts about the rest of the categories, I’ll read through the pieces provided in the packet to decide on my votes.

So that’s me (it may be an SFF-heavy couple of months…) – if you’ve signed up for Dublin 2019 and plan on voting, what are your thoughts?

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Recent and Upcoming Reads

Andrea K Höst, whose books are an autobuy for me, posted a couple of weeks ago about hitting 15000 stars on Goodreads.

I’d been meaning to re-read her backlist this year (fitted in between all the new books that I really need to stop buying*) and that was just the prompt I needed.  I was going to start with the Touchstone series, which are probably the most popular of her books, but ended up picking HUNTING because I was in the mood for a standalone fantasy.

13456081This was one of those re-reads where I’d only had a vague memory of the plot outline, and it was a joy to refamiliarise myself with the world and its characters.   HUNTING is packed full of my favourite things really – it’s filled with secret identities and half-truths, murder mysteries and red herrings, all alongside the rekindling of old friendships and making of new allies (and potentially more), so of course I ended up staying up way too late to finish the book.  Now if only there was a sequel…

*Pre-orders that have appeared on my Kindle over the past week (nicely-timed for the Easter weekend, I have to say)

Alex Acks‘s WIRELESS AND MORE STEAM-POWERED ADVENTURES (steampunk fantasy) – the first collection of stories was so much fun, so I’m really looking forward to diving into this one

Jordan Castillo Price‘s MURDER HOUSE (paranormal romance) – I wasn’t blown away by the more recent installments, but I have loved previous PsyCop books so we’ll see!

 

Kindle Unlimited Recommendations

I’m aware Kindle Unlimited isn’t without controversy, especially from an author perspective.  For me as a reader, while this subscription-based model has its cons, I’ve been subscribed for over a year now, and it’s still worth it IMO.

I find the main downside for me is that I’ve found myself reading through series that I wouldn’t really have finished if I actually had to purchase the next book.  I’m a lot more aware of when I’m doing that now, and have stopped!

Once you find the right authors though, there is nothing like whizzing through their backlist, so I thought I’d list the KU authors I’ve discovered and love.

38097007I’ve recommended Kate Stradling and Glynn Stewart previously, and that still 100% stands.  Stradling’s books need more love – they’re not the most commercial of plots, but she has a talent for storytelling.  BRINE AND BONE, which was her take on The Little Mermaid was one of my favourite reads of 2018, and I have just seen that she’s released a Cinderella retelling – err, excuse me, I’ll be right back…

As for Stewart, I’m pretty sure he’s raking it in when it comes to sales.  His books are always KU bestsellers even though his name doesn’t appear to be well-known in the online SFF community, so while he doesn’t need more publicity, his space operas are always release week reads for me.

Here are a few more suggestions if you’re looking for KU books (I may have mentioned some of them before):

Rachel Neumeier (UF – or as UF as you get in the countryside) and Mary Burchell (period contemporary romance centred around music and opera) – I talked about both of these series previously.

Ellen Emerson White: Angie gave a heads up the other day that EEW added more books to KU (which I’m obviously snapping up), but her Echo Company and White House series are totally worth glomming as well.

British Library Crime Classics: For some reason, not all of their catalogue are in KU, but quite a few are.  If you’re travelling, you could do a lot worse than borrow some of the short story anthologies edited by Martin Edwards, they’re lesser-known Golden Age crime fiction (think Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle, and you’re in the right ballpark).

Tanya Huff: I love her books, and she’s a few novels in KU (with the caveat that I’ve not read these novels for a while, so not sure how they’d hold up to a re-read).

AJ Lancaster: She’s a new-to-me author and her Stariel series isn’t finished yet, but if you fancy an alt-historical whodunnit-type book, give the first a go.

What about you – any KU recs you have would be very welcome!

Thoughts of the Rambling Type

In no particular order:

43208022You may have noticed that I’ve given up on posting a monthly list of new releases I’m planning to buy – while that was a useful reference point, it was, well, too much like enforced blogging for me (if you want to see my list though, I basically use Goodreads to keep track).  However, two upcoming April releases that I have to mention as they have me rubbing my hands together in glee (and also releasing within a few days of each other, help!) are Lucy Parker’s THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK (her h/hs just spark off each other) and Jodi Taylor’s HOPE FOR THE BEST (it’s the 10th book in, and the series is still as madcap fun as ever).

*****

40957180Related to this, I’ve been meaning for a while to do a post about passion in books and why I need it to connect with the characters… no, not that kind of passion.  Lucy Parker and Jodi Taylor’s books could not be more different in genre and plots – the former is contemporary romance, while the latter is slightly futuristic time-travel.  But I love both equally and the common theme is passion.  Parker’s characters are passionate about theatre and performing, Taylor’s are passionate about history and discovery.

It was a Twitter comment by an author that clarified this for me (apologies, can’t remember who now), who said something along the lines of “people care about things and so should your characters”.  Like if I was putting myself in a book, even if it had nothing to do with the plot, I’d make sure to reference my slightly obsessive love for bookstores.  I think this explains why I sometimes bounce so badly off a book – the characters may be doing and saying the right things, but there’s no depth.  It also explains why I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s SF books and Elizabeth Peters’ historical mysteries equally, despite them being shelved in completely different areas in bookstores – Miles Vorkosigan and Amelia Peabody have their own obsessions, and they propel the story forward.

Is this another term for character-driven stories?  Maybe.  I’m just late to the party!

******

Finally, a topic that has been done to death, I know, but price points for e-books – I was all excited about Alexis Hall’s fantastical take on Sherlock Holmes and was ready to pre-order… then I saw the £9.99 price, and came to a screeching halt.  Eeeuurrrghh.  For a trusted author, and I’m talking known quantities so really, an ongoing series that I’m loving, I would pay around £6?  Okay, perhaps £7 max.  Scanning down my recent Kindle orders list (and it’s a very long one), I think I’m probably averaging around £3 per ebook – some higher, others lower.

What I do when an expensive e-book lands on my radar is either:

  • Place the book on my ereaderiq price watch list – this is a free service that tracks Kindle price drops.  They run on donations, and I donate as they save me so much money!  The link is to the UK version and they also have US and Canada versions. More often that not, the initial price will drop, either when a new book in the series is released, or when the mass paperback version is released.
  • Reserve the book from my local library – a bit hit or miss, as they usually only purchase books if there’s a UK publisher.  Also they’ve changed their reservation system, which means you can’t reserve pre-orders, only when the books actually arrive, which in turn means I’ve to really remember to do this.

What I don’t do is pay full price.  And if by the time the price drops come through, I’ve forgotten my initial excitement about the release, I don’t buy – there are so many books out there.  I know this sounds a bit me, me, me and people must be buying enough e-editions at £10 to make the pricing strategy worthwhile, but it’s one I really struggle with.

Gloms Galore

It’s barely March and I’ve flown through the backlists of three authors so far this year.  That has to be some kind of a record.  I will caveat this by saying most of the books have been in Kindle Unlimited, which helps!

31311850The first author is probably no surprise if you’ve read my previous post.  I started Rachel Neumeier’s BLACK DOG on an outward-bound flight, and by the time I flew back from holiday, I’d read all three novels in the series, plus the two short story collections.  I’ve had the first book on my Kindle for ages (I suspect I picked it up when it was free at some point), and for some reason, it’s never really appealed – it’s a rather unevocative title, perhaps?  But once I opened the book, Natividad’s story grabbed me and I was hooked.  This is Neumeier doing urban fantasy, so it’s not your standard UF – I loved it.  Yes, there are werewolves and action, but it’s full of feels and relationships, and of course, great worldbuilding.

And having read all Neumeier’s KU books, I’ve tracked down the rest of her backlist in print, mostly because the (traditionally published) e-versions are being listed at silly prices, and umm… the covers are beautiful.  I’m easily swayed like that.  I’m now the proud owner of four Neumeier hardcover/trade paperbacks, which is probably the most print books I’ve bought for a while.  Totally worth it, I have to say.

73764Having finished with Rachel Neumeier’s backlist, I then picked up Mary Burchell’s MASQUERADE WITH MUSIC, partly because Jayne @ Dear Author had been singing Burchell’s praises for a while and also because it was free.  It turned out to be the twelfth book in what is rather grandly titled “The Warrender Saga”, but is really a loosely-connected series with the main characters from the first book making appearances (sometimes cameos, sometimes more) in the following books.

Needless to say, I inhaled the whole series (and yes, all in KU) – there was something about the old-fashioned charm and romance in these books, combined with the author’s very evident love and knowledge of music, which was just what I needed.  Reading all thirteen books in one go makes Burchell’s favoured plots quite obvious – there is liberal use of the Big Misunderstanding (which I quite like), as well as ones where the heroine deliberately conceals the truth and it all comes unravelled at some point (this, I like much less).  The books were written over the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and so are period-contemporary in nature; I love discovering books like these as I feel they give more of an unfiltered perspective on the era as opposed to being written through a modern perspective – does that make sense?

And finally, my latest explorations have been within Jonathan P Brazee’s military SF backlist.  He caught my eye when one of his stories was nominated for the Nebula awards, and I noticed most of his MilSF books were in KU.  It’s going to sound like damning with faint praise (and maybe it is!), but they’re fast-paced and undemanding reading, and the kind of books I need right now.

First Reads of 2019

How’s 2019 treating you so far?  It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to get through my first full five-day working week for quite a while – ah, January, I have not missed you at all!  Also my “bury head in sand” approach to Brexit is not quite going to work over the next few weeks, I suspect.  Aarrgghhhh.

3328803So it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been inclined to escapism reading-wise.  I started the year with a bit of a Rachel Neumeier glom, finally getting around to reading THE CITY IN THE LAKE.  Don’t let the cover put you off – I find it vaguely Scream-like (probably why it was languishing in my TBR pile), which is the complete opposite of the actual story.  CITY is a lovely and beautifully-written fantasy, with characters you totally root for.  It’s technically shelved as YA, though I didn’t really see why.

11965823I then flew through her Griffin Mage trilogy (UK readers – you can get the e-omnibus for the bargain price of £3.99, btw).  All three books are very much standalone stories, but both the world-building and characters grow more multi-layered and complex as the series progresses, with the final book capping off the trilogy on a very satisfying note.  I thought the third book was probably the strongest, with Miethe’s story pulling me in right from the start, though the ease of connection I had with her may be somewhat due to me being familiar with the setting and (at least some of) the characters.

I ended the week by reading her short story collection BEYOND THE DREAMS WE KNOW, which had stories set in the worlds of some of her previous novels (and as bonus, is available in Kindle Unlimited).  It was a delightful collection of stories – after my recent Neumeier backlist exploration, there was only one story where I wasn’t already familiar with the setting (and the story made me want to read THE FLOATING ISLANDS ASAP).

I’m having a tough time pinning down exactly what it is about Neumeier’s writing that so appeals to me.  Her stories have a different feel to a lot of other fantasies being published nowadays – they’re not OTT in terms of emotions nor are they action-packed, and they definitely don’t have unrequited love or love triangles as an integral part of the plot.  But they’re not boring either – her writing’s beautiful and evocative, her stories character-driven, and they’re all set against the backdrop of some really well-developed settings and cultures.

If I had to come up with authors who I think write in a similar manner, perhaps Sharon Shinn, Sherwood Smith or Andrea K Höst, with the caveats that I don’t think Neumeier’s romance subplots are as front-and-centre as Shinn’s, Smith’s books lean much more towards YA (IIRC), and Höst’s stories have a fresher feel to them IMO. If you’ve read Rachel Neumeier, which other authors do you think are similar?

2018: Lists and Numbers

It’s time for my annual navel-gazing post – indulge me as I look back at my year in reading…

2018 new-to-me authors

I read 45 new-to-me authors over 2018, a huge jump from 2017’s 36 (which in turn was way up on 2016’s 21).  A large part of that was due to my Kindle Unlimited subscription, which was a cheap way (cost-wise, if not time) of trying new authors.

Of this group, the authors I’m really glad I discovered over 2018:

Robyn Bennis: Loving her steampunk-ish mil-fantasy series, and cannot wait for the next ones

Anna Butler: I’m potentially starting to sound a bit like a broken record, but I suspect I’ll read anything she writes in any genre.

Aster Glenn Gray: Her Beauty and the Beast retelling appears to be her only release at the moment, fingers crossed for more from her.

Rachel Neumeier: I know.  I could have sworn I’ve read her books before, but no.  Love her style of fantasy (and they’re standalone books as well!).

Megan Reddaway: I finished her take on Pride & Prejudice on Dec 31, and it was the best way to end the year.

Author most glommed over 2018

MCA Hogarth – I read ten books of hers (and yes, that boxset thing applies, so technically twelve?).

Next was Glynn Stewart (who topped my 2017 list) with nine books – I thought I had swept through his backlist in 2017, but he somehow managed to release nine(!) new books in 2018.  I’m not complaining.

Also worth mentioning is Mercedes Lackey – I (re-)read eight of her books (or technically ten – those boxsets are really messing up my counts!).  I did go on a bit of a Valdemar re-read spree over 2018 with mixed results – some were as good as I remembered, others less so

Kindle Unlimited usage

I’m sneaking this in as a new section, as last year was the first full year of KU for me.

As I said earlier, it was a low-risk way to try new-to-me authors, but I also had quite a few duds (and DNFs).  I read books by 23 KU authors, of which eleven were new-to-me – that’s a pretty high proportion.

I finished 43 KU books over 2018 – at £7.99/month, that equates to around £2.30 a book (not counting DNFs, which I don’t track).  Rating-wise, around a quarter was 4* or higher reads for me, so I think that’s a win!

I do suspect I finished a lot more 2* books than I normally would have though.  I’m going to make sure that I’m better in 2019 at calling it quits as opposed to forcing myself to finish a book (or series even).

And as for the numbers…

I read 179 books (give or take a few boxsets and short stories/novellas), slightly down on last year, but still a relatively high number for me.  Just over half of these were published before 2018 – yay for the backlist.

Breakdown by genre and numbers over 2018:

2018

And finally 2018 v. previous years – I’ve basically rediscovered my love for SF over the past couple of years:

overall

And that’s it – another annual tradition completed!  If you want to have a look at my 2018 reads in more detail, my Goodreads summary is here, with a few more random stats.

2018: My Favourite Books

Happy New Year – may 2019 be a happy, healthy, and safe one for all of you.

This is the time of the year when my TBR pile pretty much explodes as I read through everyone’s best-of lists.  Which, for the record, is perfectly fine – I’m of the firm belief that one cannot have too many books.

So to add to the lists, here are my very favourite books of 2018, in no particular order:

Jodi Taylor’s AN ARGUMENTATION OF HISTORIANS (fantasy): I swear that I’ve learnt more about history from her books than I did at school.  There’s maximum entertainment in this one, with some suspenseful moments and lovely touches on the relationships front – start with the first book if you’ve not read this series yet, and you won’t regret it.

Kate Stradling’s BRINE AND BONE (fantasy): The loveliest retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID – this one stayed on my mind for days after.

MCA Hogarth’s Her Instruments trilogy (SF): Technically three books and a novella, but I read it as a boxset and it made a very long flight pass very quickly.  This was pretty much everything I love – a fast-paced space opera centered around found family, plus a slow-burn romance with a stoic and mysterious hero.

MCA Hogarth’s FROM RUINS (SF): Also by MCA Hogarth, also set in the same universe, but wildly different in tone.  FROM RUINS caps off her Princes’ Game series – it’s darker than I would normally care for, but she pulled it off and in a entirely satisfying manner.

Anna Butler’s THE JACKAL’S HOUSE (romance): Anna Butler’s a new-to-me author and I’ve pretty much flown through her backlist this year.  This steampunk-ish historical fantasy was the perfect follow-up to The Gilded Scarab, but with more adventure, romance, and politicking.

KJ Charles’s BAND SINISTER (romance): Of course I would love KJ Charles’s take on a Heyer-esque romance.  She nailed it with this one – somehow combining big dramatic gestures with a quiet and wholly satisfying romance.

KJ Charles’s THE HENCHMEN OF ZENDA (romance): And of course, I would love KJ Charles’s take on a classic.  This was an utter joy to read from start to finish – sniping and swordfights, friendships and loyalty, and oh yes, the romance.

Naomi Novik’s SPINNING SILVER (fantasy): A magical fairytale retelling, with some swooningly romantic moments.

So in total, eight books (or twelve, depending on how you count boxsets!) and six authors.  I’ve listed the main genre, but all of them have a strong thread of romance running through them – I’m entirely consistent that way!

To follow – more general thoughts about 2018 reading-wise, plus my usual number-crunching.

Katherine Fabian & Iona Datt Sharma’s SING FOR THE COMING OF THE LONGEST NIGHT

42957404You may recall I read Iona Datt Sharma’s lovely historical fantasy short “Penhallow Amidst Passing Things” as part of the anthology THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY earlier this year.  It was one of my favourite stories in that anthology, very deftly mixing some old-school smuggling with romance and magic.

So when she offered me an ARC of her new novella (co-authored with Katherine Fabian) SING FOR THE COMING OF THE LONGEST NIGHT, I said “yes please!”.

The world you know is underneath the substance of another, with cracks in the firmament that let the light of its magic in…

Layla and Nat have nothing in common but their boyfriend – enigmatic, brilliant Meraud – and their deep mutual dislike. But when Meraud disappears after an ambitious magical experiment goes wrong, they may be the only ones who can follow the trail of cryptic clues that will bring him safely home.

To return Meraud to this world, the two of them will confront every obstacle: the magic of the wild unknowable, a friendly vicar who’s only concerned for their spiritual wellbeing, and even the Thames Water helpline. All of which would be doable, if only they didn’t have to do it together.

But the winter solstice is fast approaching – and once the year turns, Meraud will be lost forever. In this joyously queer novella, Nat and Layla must find a way to overcome their differences before it’s too late.

My quick scan of the blurb somehow left me with the impression that this was SF (goodness knows why, as having re-read it properly, there is nothing science fiction-y about it at all), which meant I was slightly thrown by the very contemporary opening at a London school nativity play and it took me a while to play catch-up.

Once I did, I was fully absorbed in Layla and Nat’s story, which wasn’t really about their quest to save Meraud.  Well, it was and it wasn’t.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Layla and Nat figuring out their own relationship, independently of Meraud.  For a novella, it packs in a lot – there’s great character growth and fantastic supporting characters, some very hilarious moments, and equally some rather touching moments.  The writing was beautifully smooth and brought to life the London I know, not a Disney version of it.  And I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that it closed on a feel-good note.  It’s a wonderfully queer novella that reminds you it’s really about the family you make for yourself, a perfect read for this festive season.

Review copy courtesy of author

A Rec, Plus New Kindle Paperwhite Impressions

33266523So off the back of the recommendations from the KJ Charles tor.com article I mentioned last week, I grabbed Anna Butler’s SF novel GRYFALCON – free on Kindle is always a great price.  With the caveat I’m still around the three-quarters mark, I’m loving it.

I found the first chapter was a bit hard-going, I admit.  It’s one of those openings where you’re dropped in the middle of so much action, and find it hard to figure out what’s going on or why you should care about the characters.  Plus she has this narrative quirk where she repeats scenes from different POVs, which confused me at first.

But there is excellent emotional pay-off, and I am also a sucker for space opera-type adventures.  I’ve already bought the second (it’s a five-book series) and I suspect I will fly through the series.

Also my new Kindle Paperwhite has arrived! I bought the basic wifi-only version as I thought the 3G-enabled version was way too expensive, especially since I am rarely in a place without wifi and I’ll probably use my old 3G Paperwhite when travelling.

First impressions – if your older Paperwhite is working well, you don’t need this one.

It’s definitely lighter, and possibly faster when it comes to opening books (there’s more storage space and my old Kindle was reaching its limit).  There are more fonts available (I think?) but I’m a creature of habit, and tend to stay with the default one.  Setup is very straightforward, as it’s been with all my Kindles to date.

I’m still getting used to the touchscreen – am occasionally flicking back on accident when I mean to flick forward, possibly because the screen is flat with no raised edges.  No issues with the backlight nor with charging (so far anyway).

Overall, I’ve no regrets about getting this version as my older one was starting to slow down, especially as it was discounted, but it’s not a must-have upgrade if you’ve one of the more recent Paperwhites IMO.