Random Thoughts

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Archive for the category “books”

Tor.com’s ebook for May

It’s that time, again! This month’s free ebook from Tor.com is A Fire Upon the Deep  by Verner Vinge. It sounds like it will be more to my liking than the books of the last couple months. Now’s your chance to get it, so why not give it a try?

April reading, part 2

Well, it has taken a little while for me to get back to this, but here goes.

I read two pieces of speculative fiction:

  • Ambassador 1: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen is a book I have owned for a while but never got around to reading. I finally decided to change that, and I am glad I did. The book is billed as a Space Opera Thriller, and it was! I really enjoyed this book.  Cory Wilson is a diplomat, headed out on his first mission when the whole universe seems to fall apart, taking his mission with it. He continues to fight for what he feels is right until he gets to the truth. It is a good book, and I will read more in the series.
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente was another Tor.com ebook club selection. It was easier to read than the March book was, but I didn’t enjoy it any more than I enjoyed that one. As I have said, though, the experience of reading these books has made me realize that I need more realism in my books. Which is interesting in that I am thinking about reading One Hundred Years of Solitude  again since it is the Guardian’s reading group selection for May. But back to Deathless… I cannot really recommend it. I am sure it is wonderful, but it didn’t work for me at all.

For Historical Fiction, I read The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner. I really like these books. They are mysteries set in the early 1800s. As is always the case, the mystery was good, and the glimpse into England at that time was quite enjoyable. Captain Lacey has taken a job at a boys school, apparently to solve the problem of serious pranks being played on people at the school. It ends up being much more complicated than that, as the title would imply. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

I read two pieces of shorter fiction:

  • The Signal and the Boys (a prequel to the Earth’s Last Gambit Trilogy) by Felix R. Savage was a good story. You can get it for free on Savage’s website.
  • A Cry for Help by Adam Croft was another Kempston Hardwick mystery. And, as usual, I loved it. Actually, I may have enjoyed this one more than some of the others. I can’t find this one on Amazon to provide you with a link. I guess it is one I got for signing up for Croft’s newsletter.

I also got back in to listening to books, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy this month. It was an interesting story of how the world might have been in the year 2000. Bellamy had much higher hopes for us than we deserve, I’m afraid. I got the audio version from Librivox.org.

So April wasn’t a bad month for reading, but it wasn’t great, either. Let’s see how May goes!

April reading, part 1

I didn’t do a lot of reading in April. My classes took a lot of time, getting the students all settled and comfortable with the courses. But I did some, and I’ll tell you about it here.

I read one non-fictoin book, Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.  It was read a research for the books. The edition I read was a poorly done one, but it was free, so I guess I can’t complain! It was an interesting read, but by now it seems familiar. If I were going to read this again, I would opt for a different edition.

I read 4 mysteries:

 

  • An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax was a fun read. It is the first in the “Matchmaker Mysteries”. I had some difficulty with the matchmaker part of it, but the rest of the story was good. The bad guys were really bad and crazy. This wasn’t a book that made me want to rush out and read the rest of the series, but it was fun.
  • Chimera by Celina Grace is the fifth volume in her Kate Redman series. It’s only the second one I’ve read, I think. It was a good story. I had some trouble with some of Kate’s personal issues this time, but that could be because I haven’t read these books in order. I will be back to read more of these.
  • Big Game by Robin Barefield was a surprise. I honestly didn’t expect a whole lot from it, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It starts with the protagonist driving down the road, watching a car speed past her and not make the curve. She stops to help the driver of the car, of course, and ends up hearing his dying words — which were to give a message to no one but Andy. Problem is, none of the cast of characters seems to be named Andy. Come to find out, the guy was an FBI agent, but no one seems to know what he was working on.  It is a little convoluted, but it definitely kept me reading. I think you might enjoy it.
  • Zia Summer by Rudolfo Anaya was by far the best book I read last month. The mystery was a good one, but the books was so much more than that. Knowing many of the places Anaya write about and knowing about some of the incidents he mentioned made this even more interesting. And, of course, on top of all that you have Anaya’s beautiful writing. I cannot recommend this book enough.

OK, that’s all I have time for today. More tomorrow?

 

eBooks vs. paper

I read an article on the Guardian today that has me thinking. The title is “How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’. Unfortunately, I am not sure what I think about it.

The author talks about the resurgence of physical books, stating

figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%.

Overall sales of books in Britain have risen, she goes on to state, which is the good news in all of this as far as I am concerned. The format of the books isn’t as important as the reading of books.

What irritated me was this:

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it.

In general, this seems like a throwback to the days of people having libraries or bookshelves filled with books that were there to impress, not to be read. That doesn’t seem like progress to me. Books are for reading, not as a kind of art. It shouldn’t matter what the cover looks like; the story is what matters.

And I have to wonder why she didn’t like her Kindle. Was it because it was unhip or because reading on it was not pleasurable? Did she give the Kindle a chance or just abandon it right away?

Buried way down in the article was a very important statement:

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

Most of the authors I read are self-published. Part of that is because there are some awesome self-published authors out there, and part is because traditional publishers often price their ebooks at or higher than the paperback editions.

There is another side to this discussion, too, and that is privacy. My husband sent me a link to a First Monday article by Clifford Lynch on reader privacy in the age of reader analytics. I will admit to not having read the whole article, but his closing thoughts include these:

At some point it’s worth asking what readers of various kinds will actually tolerate before the creepiness factor becomes overwhelming and repulsive. Suppose, as a thought experiment, that Amazon said it would share every purchaser’s e-mail address with the author of books they purchased? (Pick your own opt-in or opt-out boundary conditions). How about sharing this information with the book’s publisher? Would a discount on the purchase price or some other reward make most readers more comfortable? What conditions (enforceable or not) might be imposed on the author or the publisher regarding reuse of this purchaser information, and would this make any difference to readers’ comfort levels? What choices would customers make in such situations?

I probably don’t worry as much about privacy as I should. Do I need to worry about Amazon or Kobo selling my data? Would I be better off switching to paper books? Amazon could still sell my data if I buy my books from them.  I don’t see much way around it: we have very limited privacy anymore.

My husband loves to buy and read physical books. He only reads used books that he buys or gets from lending libraries without any paper trail. He is very concerned about privacy and, although he has had two ereaders, never got into ebooks. His approach is a fine one, I think. But it doesn’t work for me.

I love my ereaders. I love my ebooks. I buy mostly genre fiction by independent authors, so ebooks are right for me. What about you?

 

Maybe I was wrong!

I had thought that Deathless, this month’s free tor.com ebook club selection would be easier to read than Shadow and Claw was last month, but I think I spoke too soon. I am over half way done with it — just over halfway done with it. It is going very slowly for some reason.

I think it is because the fantasy isn’t realistic — as silly as that sounds. It is too fantastic for me. The book is based on Russian folklore, and it just isn’t working for me. Maybe if I knew the stories behind the book, it would be easier to follow. But I don’t know the stories, so…

I am going to finish this book just like I finished last month’s. And I will get next month;s book and read it, too.  But I will begin to lose interest in them if they keep being too strange for me. Even a free book isn’t worth struggling through if it isn’t enjoyable.

I hope, if you happen to have read this book, that you will leave a comment and tell me what you thought. I am completely open to believing that the fault is mine, not the book’s. I just need for someone to help me see it through different eyes!

Give it a try!

If you were considering reading Deathless while it is available from Tor.com’s ebook club, I encourage you to do so. I am more than a quarter of the way through it, and I have been pleasantly surprised. In some ways it reminds me of Shadow and Claw, but it is much, much easier to read. I can’t say that I really love it so far, but I am enjoying it. So if you were wavering, I encourage you to give it a try. After all, it isn’t going to cost you anything! Remember, it’s only available through April 16. Get it here.

A great deal on Brandon Sanderson books!

Humble Bundle just advertised a bundle of Brandon Sanderson ebooks, audiobooks, and even a game! I bought it, of course! For $15 you can get 9 books, both Elantris and Warbreaker in audio format by Graphic Audio, and the Mistborn game with more game resources. It is a wonderful opportunity, and I encourage you to take advantage of it!

April Tor.com ebook

The free Tor.com ebook can he found here. After last month’s read, I was hoping for something this month that would be easier to read. Not sure that this month’s is going to be any easier. But I will try it.

The book this month is Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. It is set in 20th Century Russia and is based on Russian folklore. Not exactly my normal reading material (Although I’m not really sure what my normal is!), but I will give it a try.  If you are interested, go to Tor.com’s ebook club page and sign up!

March reading, part 3

Hopefully this is the last installment in the report of my March reading!

I only read one piece of historical fiction last month, and it was another book that I almost put in the “Other Fiction” category. It was Silence by Shusaku Endo, translated by William Johnston. In the end, I decided to call it historical fiction. It was a fascinating book. I had wanted to see the movie but it didn’t play in my small New Mexican town, so I decided to read the book instead. And I am very glad I did. The story, as you probably know, is of Portuguese missionaries to Japan and their struggles with their faith in the face of persecution. I imagine I would like the movie if I saw it, but I question whether or not it could really do the book justice.

I also read six speculative novels:

 

  • Decrypted by Lindsay Buroker was the final book in her Encrypted series. As was the case with the first two, I loved this book. Buroker’s heroines are all so smart, and Tikaya Komitopis is no exception! Even though she is smart, though, everyone around her assumes that she has been brainwashed by Admiral Rias Starcrest. He couldn’t possibly really love her, could he? This was a really fun read!
  • 12.21.12: The Vessel by Killian McRae was a good book. I should have loved it because it is exactly the kind of book I love: Indiana Jones meets Stargate. And I almost loved it. Some parts of it were a little confusing, I have to admit. I think that was intentional in some cases and accidental in others. In spite of some reservations, I have to say that I really enjoyed it and would recommend it if this sounds like your kind of thing at all!
  • Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe was, as I have said earlier, last month’s Tor.com ebook club  selection. I devoted two more posts last month to this book, detailing my struggles to read it.  I don’t think I need to repeat all that here. I have tried thinking about the book since then and find that I still have these mixed feelings about it. Actually, they aren’t that mixed; I really didn’t enjoy the book. But somehow I really feel like that is my fault, that I should have enjoyed it and would have enjoyed it if I were a better person or something. I know that’s silly, but it’s how I feel.
  • Her Own Devices,  Magnificent Devices and Brilliant Devices are the second, third and fourth books in the Magnificent Devices series  by Shelly Adina. I thoroughly enjoyed all three books. I read the first book in the series back in 2015. Don’t know why it took me so long to read these next three! In addition to fun stories in each of the three novels, the overall arc of the series shows real growth for the characters. That always makes a series more interesting to me because each book is then really a story within a story. As simple as that sounds, the books in some series don’t seem to build on each other that way; they are more just individual stories about the same people. Anyway, I really enjoyed these books and really recommend them.

So that finishes my March reading.  April is off to a little bit of a slow start, but it will pick up as we go along, I’m sure. I’ll let you know all about it next month!

 

March reading, part 2

OK, on to the mysteries and thrillers!

 

  • All Eyes on Me by Linsey Lanier was a good story. A Las Vegas performer is found dead off the side of the road. Two detectives are called in by a sergeant with the Las Vegas police department to solve the murder. At first that fact bothered me a lot. They were called in before the investigation even got started. The sergeant knew one of the detectives but didn’t seem to like him at all. And he certainly didn’t want a woman working the case. So why were they brought in? It took a while, but once I got past that, I really enjoyed the book. This is the first in Lanier’s Miranda and Parker Mystery series and, apparently, a spin-off if her Miranda’s Rights series. I plan to read more of these.
  • A Zen for Murder by Leighann Dobbs was  a really fun read. This was the first of several books I read this month with older women as the main characters. As I get older, I find I enjoy reading about someone closer to my own age who can still go out and, in one way or another, kick butt.  Claire Watkins definitely falls into that category. She and a retired cop work together to solve a murder. The story was good, as Dobbs’s stories always are. I hope you will give this book a try!
  • Under Fire is the second book in Rachel Amphlett’s Dan Taylor series that I wrote about yesterday. It was a very faced-paced story. Taylor is an interesting guy, and he seems to be willing to do whatever his (British) government asks of him. This time he is trying to stop computer hackers who want to stop the sale of Qatari natural gas to Britain in order to force them to buy it elsewhere. I really enjoyed this story. I have more in the series and will be reading them before long!
  • Still Kicking by Judith Arnold was another really good story. The main character, Laine Lovett, is another of those “older women” I was talking about. She is younger than I am but a lot closer to my age than most female character seem to be. Lanie is a real hoot! She tries to give information in a police investigation into a murder only to become a suspect in the case. Of course, she ends up saving the day and meets a really handsome guy in the process.  It was just fun!
  • Murder at the Mansion by Alison Golden and Jamie Vougeot also has a slightly older protagonist. Reverend Annabelle Dixon is only in her 30s, but, perhaps because of her profession, she seems a little older than that. Regardless of her age, Annabelle is a lot of fun. She herself does not come under suspicion for the murder of a new resident of Upton St. Mary, but she is suspected of another “crime”. Of course, solving one case leads to the solution of the other. I really enjoyed this book and I hope to read more in the series!

I also read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, which could be classified as a mystery. Since you don’t really learn anything about the actual crime until you know who did it (and even then there is nothing straightforward about it!), I wasn’t sure I wanted to lump it in with the other mysteries. It is so much more than that. It was a very good story told in a way that made the story even better. Too much knowledge as you go along would have made this much less interesting to me.

So that does it for today’s installment of March reading. Tune in tomorrow for the last of it!

 

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