Category Archives: Books

Book Notes – January & February

Back in mid-February I decided it would be fun to post short thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. It’s taken me this long to do it because I keep reading (surprise!) and the list keeps getting longer.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – This had been on my to-read list for awhile and I finally got around to it because it was the monthly selection for a book club on Goodreads. I’m glad I did because it was a lot of fun. I’m not a fan of books where girls have to disguise themselves as boys to get to do cool things, but the things she got to do (spoiler: flying whale!) were cool enough that I got over it. I kept wondering how the SPCA will develop in this world of highly modified animals.

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson – I listened to the audiobook on my way to and from Confusion in January, where Johnson was the guest of honor. The characters were interesting people, and I liked the family interaction and the glimpse inside the wealthy DC world. And of course, the conspiracy.

The Bride Wore Size 12 – This is the final book in Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mystery series about a former teen pop star in her mid-20s who now works as the assistant director of a college dorm in New York. A dorm where people keep getting killed, because Wells is the Jessica Fletcher of former teen pop stars. These are cute, funny, and fluffy. I read the opening of the first one in a writing class and got sucked in by the voice.

White Night – Book 9 in Jim Butcher’s Dresden files series – It took me five or six books to get into the series, but now I’m really enjoying it. That’s more than I usually give a series by at least 5 books, but I’d heard so many good things about it, and they’re quick reads, so I kept going. I’m halfway through book 10 now.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman – My audiobook nonfiction for December and January. All the ways criminals are going to use technology to screw us over in the future. Or even now. Full of great ideas for SF writers.

Patterns in the Sand by Sally Goldenbaum – A cozy mystery set in a seaside town full of artists in New England. The town sounds like a great place to visit for a summer vacation. The mystery plot worked well–I figured out part of it, but hadn’t quite put all the details together. That was partly because the huge number of knitter / artist characters were hard to keep straight. That’s what I get for starting with book 2 in the series.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Gah. Thinking about this book still makes me sad, but it’s also a very hopeful book in a lot of ways. It’s the kind of book where you get to the end and have to immediately flip back to see what was really going on. I love that. Another one that had been on my to-read list for a while.

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The Ghost in the Woods – Urban Fantasy novel coming in 2019

I’ve mentioned this in a few places but not put anything official here yet. I’m writing a book for Ed Greenwood’s Onder Librum project. The Ghost in the Woods is currently scheduled for publication in early 2019.
Winterknight Towers Logo
I’m thrilled to be a part of this project, which is ambitious and exciting: 15 different settings from fantasy to SF to horror, each with novels, short stories, games, and more.

It’s a weird feeling to have a publication date for a book I’ve only just started writing. In the meantime, the first several novels in the first setting have already been published–and right now they’re 20% off. Enjoy!

My book is in the Winterknight Towers setting. It takes place in central Illinois, so I’ve been enjoying reading up on local history while I do research. Here’s the blurb for the setting:

Death is not the end. The stately manors, castles and centuries-old buildings of our modern world are more than just landmarks of our past… they are homes and waystations for the ghosts of our ancient dead, connected by a mysterious network of otherworldly gates.

When the flesh-and-blood residents of these grand locations become ensnared in the plots and schemes of these wayward specters, they discover that the passions and desires of life do not end at the grave… and can become most inconvenient, perhaps even deadly, complications to the world of the living. In the world of Winterknight Towers, the crossroads of Life and Death is a busy intersection where love, laughter, and murder collide.

The schedule of book releases will be posted soon. If you want a heads up when that happens, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know!

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Recent reads: Ironskin and mystery stories

I met Tina Connolly this summer at a novel workshop and was excited to hear about her debut novel, Ironskin, which came out this fall. It’s a reimagining of Jane Eyre, with fey that feel very alien and an ending that kept me up way too late. The world is an interesting place, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

I might read Jane Eyre one of these years, too.

I’ve been reading mystery short stories recently. After reading several in Ellery Queen and an anthology from Sisters in Crime, plus listening to some podcasts from Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock’s, I have a question:

Is it really so uncommon for the story to involve a protagonist who is *not* the criminal or the victim? Is that old-fashioned? Every single story I read was from the point of view of either the criminal or the victim. Except for one where the reader was supposed to think the protagonist was the murderer. (The tipoff there was that the protagonist suspected himself too, so obviously wasn’t it.)

They’ve been mostly good stories, but not quite what I was looking for.

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Roundup, minus raccoon

It’s the last Wednesday of the month! Here are my posts from the All Rights Reserved blog for the past few weeks:

As always, go read the posts of my partners in crime. They are far more interesting than I am.

Apparently November was book release month, at least among my writing buddies:

I’ve got some reading to do!

Other links of interest:

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Sony (finally) has an iOS app

Reader for iOS is a pretty standard ereading app. I’ve used the Kindle app, the Nook app, and the iBooks app, and honestly, I have no preference. Logging into my Sony account made my previous purchases appear; I only downloaded a few to the app for now, just to try it out.

Reader is nicely done. The bookmarking/note system is good–it doesn’t really distinguish between the two, and highlights appear in the same list. Very convenient.

Like their physical ereaders, it provides actual page numbers that (I believe) correspond to the print book, rather than an x% read bar. Page turns are fast. They provide a large assortment of color themes–though most of them are lower contrast than I would like. Happily, both font color and background color are adjustable, so now I’m reading in sharp black on light gray.

And in a SANS SERIF font as God intended.

Adding non-purchased books to the app requires a drag and drop into iTunes, which is actually much easier than adding them to the physical reader.

I do like my physical Sony reader, a PRS-600. It was definitely the right purchase for me at the time (I considered an iPad then, but wanted the longer battery life). It’s significantly lighter than the iPad, which I can’t hold for long in one hand. And having something that I can only read on is relaxing.

But I’ve been doing most of my reading on the iPad for a long time. Since I use it for so many other things, it’s simpler to switch to a book app than pick up a new device (the physical Sony has a longish load time, esp. if I haven’t used it in a while). It’s also much easier to put books into iBooks than onto the Sony, which is old enough that it doesn’t have wifi. The touch screen is more sensitive, making highlighting faster and more accurate.

So I’m happy to have a Sony Reader app. I have quite a few books in it that I’ve purchased and not read; maybe having the app will move them up my to read list. On the other hand, trying out the app made me dig out the physical reader again, and I might just stick with that.

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Reading time

I used to read a book or two a week, when I was in college, and felt like I didn’t have enough time to read. Then came more school, and jobs, and a house, and putting more time into writing, and now I’m lucky to finish a book or two a month. Even counting a bunch of short stories every week, that isn’t nearly enough to keep up with everything I want to read.

I’d have more time if I stopped reading the newspaper during dinner, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Blogs have replaced the reading I used to squeeze into the little bits of time while I’m waiting somewhere, though I’ve been slowly cutting back on my rss subscriptions and keeping the books on my iPod up to date.

Most of my reading happens before bed. I’m not very good at walking away from the computer at a reasonable hour, but I try to spend at least 15 minutes–30 would be better–reading a book before I go to sleep. I fall asleep faster when I unwind first, and it helps me get my reading in. If it’s a really good book, I stay up late on the weekend to finish it in one big chunk. If it’s a…not good book, I fall asleep extra fast, and then pick a new book the next night.

When do you read?


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What I’ve been reading

Some time ago I decided that I should read the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy nominees each year. Do I actually do it? No. I still think it’s a good idea, and of course I do read a fair number of them anyway, but I haven’t gone out of my way to read everything: there are already so many things on my to-read list that I don’t need to add more.

This year, though, I’m going to Worldcon, so I get to vote for the Hugos for the first time. So for the past month, I’ve been reading the fiction nominees in the Hugo packet–it’s kind of hard not to when they package everything up for you as a collection of ebooks.

I’m almost done (or as done as I’m going to get–one novel and one novella I decided not to finish, and I’m not sure I’m going to read Deadline since I haven’t read the previous book in that series [1]). I have a third of one novel and most of another novel left. Not sure why I thought it was a good idea to start with the short stuff. I suppose it built momentum.

Once I’m done with those, I have some mystery magazines and anthologies to read (I realized a short story that was giving me plot problems would work as a mystery, but it’s been a long time since I read one), I’m signed up for a class on fantasy and science fiction at Coursera that I will do at least some of the reading for, and then I want to bury myself in the eighteenth century for a month or so for the next few things I’m writing.

What are you reading?

[1] Then I can debate whether I should vote for that category if I haven’t read one of the books.

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Books: Results Not Typical, Before I Fall

Results Not Typical, Catherine Ryan Howard

I found this by accident, after someone linked to one of her posts about publishing. It’s a self-published book that could have benefitted in places from a professional editor, but was still a fun read.

It’s a corporate satire that spoofs every diet plan company out there, veering from hilarious to completely over the top on the way. She has five free chapters on her website.

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver

This was on my want-to-read list for ages, and I finally got to it on Friday, reading through it in one evening. It’s a Groundhog Day story. Sam dies in a car accident and relives the last day of her life several times, trying to figure out what she can do differently to make things turn out better.

Sam and her friends are the popular girls at their high school, which is a generic school that actually has popular kids who know who the unpopular kids are. (Maybe it’s because my high school was huge, but there were so many different cliques it was impossible to say who was the “most popular”.) At times it’s hard to sympathize with Sam because she doesn’t always see anything wrong with the bullying her gang perpetrates. Though she does eventually try to do better, mainly because she thinks that will let her stop repeating her last day.

I loved the book, spent the last section in tears, and then sat around after I’d finished it starting to think “but that doesn’t actually make any sense…” At which point I decided I’d better stop thinking about it because that wasn’t the point. It was still fantastic.

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The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells and Bewitched, Blooded, and Bewildered by Robyn Bachar

The Wizard Hunters is the first book in Wells’ The Fall of Ile-Rien, Ile-Rien being the country she’s set several novels in. I was first introduced to her through short stories in Black Gate, and as it turns out, these stories involved two of the characters from The Wizard Hunters. It made the mentions of their backstory less mysterious, but that didn’t harm the book. The world of Ile-Rien is engaging (I’m a sucker for magic-as-a-science), the Gardier are a creepy enemy, and the whole thing feels almost hopeless (as you might guess given the title of the series) but…it’s clearly not all over yet.

Of her other novels, I’ve only read The Death of the Necromancer, and I mean to remedy that soon. (So many books, so little time.)

I tore through Robyn Bachar’s second Cat book, Bewitched, Blooded, and Bewildered in an evening–it helped that I’d read a big chunk in our crit group already. So I’m not entirely objective. But it has a trip to hell, the all-Harrison psychic radio, and dragons fighting helicopters, what more do you want?

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Books read

The Magicians, Lev Grossman – Kind of a cross between Narnia and Harry Potter with older characters. I’d like to read the Fillory books (which his universe has instead of Narnia). They sound like the kind of books I’d have loved before I got tired of the whole kids going to another world thing.

Unveiled, Courtney Milan – A historical romance, even though I don’t read romance. My friend Diana made it sound good, and it was. Though I had to ignore some of the common romance tropes that drive me nuts. I might read the sequel, as it focuses on one of the secondary characters from this book who I liked a lot.

And a bunch of other things that I may or may not comment on someday.

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