Three Links

I try to keep this blog focused purely on book-related stuff, but… it’s been a grim start to 2017, hasn’t it?

This tweet helped though:

On to other links that have caught my attention:

13515074A good source of book recs for me are award longlists – the RT Book Reviews Award Nominees list was released recently.  Despite the title, it’s not just romance titles – their SF/F lists are always worth a read.

Tanya Huff is one of my autobuy authors (THE SILVERED was one of my favourites).  She’s also very versatile, switching between SF, high fantasy and urban fantasy with ease, and this Reddit author appreciation thread is an incredibly comprehensive summary of her work.

And finally, this post by KJ Charles titled “Your Politics Are Showing” was smart and on point.


randombookrec

Kate Sherwood’s SACRATI: Sherwood’s books are a bit hit or miss.  Some of them really work for me, while others leave me cold.  SACRATI is in the former camp, as you may have guessed – it’s a M/M fantasy romance, with a lot more depth and world-building than I expected going in.

A Minor Accomplishment (and Links)

Look!  It’s only taken me eleven months to log all my 2015 reads on Goodreads.  Ha. *eyes 2016 notes*

I think I’ve mentioned my “process” before – I basically jot down some rough notes (and rating using GR stars) in a Google Docs document and then transfer over in a (much) more coherent form to GR when I’ve some time to spare.  (This excludes those books that I feel strongly enough to blog about here, obviously!)

What I have found myself doing when transcribing my notes a year some time later is that I occasionally adjust my original rating for a book – rarely upwards, usually downwards.  Not very often – it was maybe for ten or so books when I was finishing off my 2015 updates?  In a way, distance helps me to calibrate my ratings – if I can barely remember the plot a few months later, that 4* was probably a bit too generous in hindsight.  Does anyone else adjust ratings retrospectively too?

Anyway, a couple of links for the weekend:

Book Randomness

October is flying past for me. In fact, all of 2016 appears to be progressing at 2x speed – anyone else feel that way?

I’ve sat down several times to try and compose a blog post, but have given up on anything coherent.  So here’s a random set of book-ish thoughts for today:

akh1) An Andrea K Höst new release!  Seeing her post about The Towers, the Moon pop up today was a pleasant surprise – I love her writing, and let’s face it, a set of short stories sounds about my speed lately.

2) Having said that, a new book want – Angie’s post about Beth Brower‘s THE Q made me want to run out and buy it immediately.

3) Old news, but I am loving Neil Gaiman‘s retro cover re-dos.  STARDUST especially!  I have such a soft spot for those old-school covers.

4) And finally, anyone on Litsy?  I joined after Chachic posted about the Android release (I’m meandmybooks), but I’m struggling.  Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, and I figure there’s only so many “arty” shots I can do.

Here’s my first (and only) Litsy contribution…  (also my reading list as of a week or so ago)litsy

Summer Check-in

We’re currently in the middle of the second mini-heatwave of summer, which feels like it should be some sort of record for London.  I’m also in a post-Olympics slump, and trying to remind myself what I did before there was cycling/diving/pentathlon on TV every evening…

26853604The Olympics has meant I’ve done very little reading during August.  I did finish Kate Elliott’s brand-new release POISONED BLADE though, which I count as a win!

It’s the sequel to her YA debut COURT OF FIVES and even better than the first, IMO. I felt COURT OF FIVES was more straightforward adventure; in POISONED BLADE, she brought the layers of complexity I expect from an Elliott book, while continuing to build on the relationships established in the first book.  The slight threads of romance (or attraction?) worked better for me as well, perhaps because more ambiguity and growth (on all sides) was introduced.  At times though, there was so much arguing between Jessamy and other characters that it frustrated me.  But maybe that’s what I’m meant to feel – anger is tiring, and the conversations made sense in the larger context of the story. TL;DR: Good installment and I look forward to the next book!

Links of interest:

 

Bank Holiday Monday Links

Despite the doom-and-gloom weather predictions, it’s turned out to be a good Bank Holiday!  Lots of sunshine (where I live, anyway), and it feels like spring is finally here.  And not a moment too soon…

A few Monday links:

Sarah Rees Brennan talks about women and worldbuilding – she makes some interesting points.  Hand-wavey worldbuilding is one of my pet hates (I can overlook it if I’m really invested in the characters, but it takes a lot!).  I haven’t seen a male/female divide on “good” worldbuilding but then again, my reading skews heavily towards female authors so IDK.  Anyway, she mentions THE TURN OF THE STORY, which is one of the very few online serials I fell for (primarily because it wasn’t a serial until it was…) – definitely worth reading if you haven’t already.

Speaking of worldbuilding (or lack of), Marko Kloos talks about how his Frontlines military SF series started out.  Which made me think a bit about what I consider to be worldbuilding.  I don’t need to know the nth detail of a world, but I appreciate consistency between characterisation and the setting.  How characters think and react should be shaped by the society and culture in which they live, which in turn is influenced by history, technology, the physical setting and so forth.  When any of these are out of sync, it feels slightly jarring to me – does that make sense?  Do you think of worldbuilding differently?

Finally, an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold, who’s an author who does amazing worldbuilding IMO.  It’s a great interview and covers quite a few topics.  On backlist books, I found this piece interesting – not surprised, though:

So, yes, I now make much, much more from my self-pubbed backlist e-books than backlist paper books. None of them sell more than modestly, but I have 20 or 30 titles up, depending, and they do add up. A frontlist (new) lead book publication with good push from a major publisher can still top that in the first years of a book’s life-cycle. By my current calculations, after about five years e-versions go back to being more advantageous.

 

A Couple of Cover Reveals (and Links)

I will stop linking all the cover design articles at tor.com one day, promise.  Just not today.

AnAccidentOfStars-CoverHere’s a Julie Dillon cover for this upcoming novel by Foz Meadows. AN ACCIDENT OF STARS sounds really intriguing – one for my to-read list, I think:

When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl—an accidental worldwalker—really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

8-Sand_Malice_Front_Cover_FinalAnd I’ve not read any of Bradley P Beaulieu‘s books before, but enjoyed reading this post about the making of his cover for OF SAND AND MALICE MADE.  Love the title too (and have noted the Robin Hobb blurb!).  I think I’ve a book of his in my very large e-TBR pile, will have to dig it out now.

And in non-cover linkage:

Re-imagined Covers and Short Stories

Happy February!  Or rather, how in the world did January pass so fast?  Possibly because I spent too much time clicking on links – here are a few that caught my attention recently:

This cover reveal post @ tor.com for Jay Kristoff’s new book led me to Meg’s cover redesign project.  I am so impressed by her re-imagined covers for Rae Carson’s Fire & Thorns trilogy and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle quartet.  They’re gorgeous (and totally rival the originals!) and I really hope she does more.

maidenthief_fullAnd two free short story reads:

Three Fun Links

27781572Do you know what a “larrikin” is?  I had no idea – my vocabulary obviously doesn’t stretch to Australia slang!  Kelly Hunter explains what a larrikin is (and isn’t).  There’s also an excerpt from her new-ish contemporary romance A BAD BOY FOR CHRISTMAS (I really enjoyed this one – she always manages to pack so much story (and chemistry) into a category-length romance).

You’ve noticed the new Vorkosigan covers, right?  The cover artist Ron Miller wrote an interesting post on good cover design.  I’m a bit on the fence about the new covers – they’re better than some covers Lois McMaster Bujold has had (understatement of the year, possibly) but I’m not entirely sure they’ll appeal to new readers.  Here’s LMB’s post talking about the alternative cover concepts (also interesting!).

And this totally made me smile.  Olivia Hunyh is such a great illustrator, and I adored her Google Doodle tribute to LM Montgomery.  Check out the Anne of Green Gables scenes she captured in the second two doodles – they are so perfect!

Links: New McGrath Cover and Book Promos

GhostTalkers_comp_webHappy October!

Look at this beautiful cover for Mary Robinette Kowal‘s upcoming WW1-set fantasy novel, GHOST TALKERS (out July 2016).  She talks a bit more about the input she provided the Tor art department at her blog.  I’d be tempted to get this in hardcover just so I could admire it on my shelves.  She has had some very good covers from Tor.

Artist is Chris McGrath – I kind of recognised his style, but the lighter colours threw me off a bit.  I guess I’m more used to his dark and brooding urban fantasy covers.

Oh, and the book itself sounds pretty good too.

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Writer Unboxed has a couple of posts up on Bookbub (Part 1 and Part 2) – while they’re aimed more at authors, there’s some interesting information and stats on how they select books for inclusion in their promotional emails.  They get 100-300 requests a day, which is pretty amazing.  I think they do a good job of curating deals and targeting preferences – or rather, I find myself clicking through on their links more often than I do on other book promo services.

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Speaking of book promo-type services, Kobo just started a new loyalty/discount programme, Kobo SuperPoints, where you earn points for spend, which you can eventually redeem for books.  They also have a VIP version, where it’s £6 (or local equivalent?) for a year, and you get additional points together with 10% off various titles (I assume books which are discountable).  I haven’t done the calculations, but signed up out of curiosity (as I had a spare discount code that brought the annual membership down to around £4) – I’ll let you know if the cost’s worth it in about a year’s time.  Has anyone else signed up?

If we’re talking loyalty programmes, I think AllRomanceEbooks “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” programme is a good one, especially if you buy a lot of indie/self-published books.

None of these are affiliate links or sponsored, BTW.

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Non-book related, but really fascinating: The Simpleton (a design blog) talks about schema theory (yeah, me neither) with user guides on self-service shopping (1950s) and on using a telephone (1920s).  It makes you realise how everyday events, like shopping in supermarkets and answering phone calls, would have been viewed as truly extraordinary in the early half of the 20th century.

September Links

I thought I’d have more time for blogging now that summer’s over… and then Davis Cup happens.  It’s been an edge-of-seat type of TV spectating over the past couple of days.

Also, rugby.  I’m not a massive rugby fan (understatement of the year).  Let’s just say that I can barely describe the rules of the game (“you need to get the ball to the other side of the field and then you can kick it through the posts for a conversion” is pretty much the extent of my knowledge), but somehow, the fact the World Cup is taking place in the UK has meant I’ve been watching more rugby matches in the past two days than I have in the past year?

So that was a roundabout way of saying that I was planning on writing a couple of reviews*, but instead here are some links and musings…

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1277695Lois McMaster Bujold posted the new cover of FALLING FREE – the first book in her Vorkosigan series, if you go by internal chronological order.

I’d never recommend starting the series with FALLING FREE though – IMO it’s probably best read once you’ve finished all the other books because (a) it’s pretty stand-alone and (b) it’s not her best book by far.  It helps fill in some of the blanks and history, but I tend to suggest new readers start with THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE.  I started with CORDELIA’S HONOR myself (an omnibus version of the two books set before TWA) and while I liked both Aral and Cordelia, I didn’t feel the need to continue with the next books.  And then I read TWA, and pretty much devoured the entire series in a couple of months.

Anyway, new cover!  I like it a lot better than her previous self-pubbed versions – the cover artist, Ron Miller, posted in the thread:

…  As I told Lois, too many of her past covers have scarcely done her justice (and not just because they weren’t accurate in details—that’s not really a prime consideration—they were just plain bad art). After two or three false starts where I was going in a more realistic direction, I realized that what she was after was a graphic style that I’d always admired—and have had little opportunity to indulge in. Which made the whole project immensely fun and rewarding for me. The goal, of course, was to create images that were not only meaningful to existing readers, who would be already familiar with the stories, but also attractive to brand-new readers as well…a sometimes tricky balancing act. I can only hope we succeeded!

I totally agree LMB’s not had the greatest luck with covers (though I quite liked the CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE cover).  I’m glad she’s found an artist who can translate her vision into (hopefully) commercial covers – am looking forward to seeing the next set.

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I haven’t been watching the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon‘s OUTLANDER, mostly because it’s not on free-to-air TV here in the UK.  But from what I gather, it’s been a pretty good adaptation?  Also, casting appears pretty good in terms of matching the mental images I have of Claire and Jamie.

Diana Gabaldon’s writing the script for one of the Season 2 shows, and she posts about the experience here – it’s an interesting read, even if you haven’t been watching.  Also, funny:

P.S. I had breakfast with George R.R. Martin shortly after the agreement that I’d do a script, and mentioned it to him—knowing that he’d done a good deal of television writing before taking to novels. He laughed and said, “Oh, so you’re about to learn the Great Secret of screenwriting!”

“Reckon so,” I said. “And what’s that, George?” He leaned toward me conspiratorially and said, “It’s MUCH easier than writing a novel!”

No, I haven’t watched GoT either.  Yes, I live under a rock.

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I love the intricate world-building of Seanan McGuire‘s Toby Daye universe, and was thrilled to see her do more Q&As  about Toby’s world in the lead-up to the release of A RED-ROSE CHAIN.  It’s always fascinating to learn more about the fantastical world that she’s created, especially when it becomes obvious that we see in the books is only the tip of the iceberg.

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*One of those reviews is for Kate Elliott‘s COURT OF FIVES, which I won in a giveaway.  Notable as I very rarely win anything, and then a month later, I won Groupee’s Open Road Media SciFi bundle (offer’s closed now, but it was an excellent bundle).  It was a good month! I promise I’m not saying this because I won the Groupee giveaway, but I love Open Road’s SF/F catalogue.  They publish backlist SF/F, and whoever curates their selection has very good taste.