Saturday, January 31, 2009

Books from uncommon sources

Self-published and small press books

Having received my Kindle in February, I've been following the forums at MobileRead and have become aware of a number of authors who have either self-published or published through a small press rather than waiting to be discovered by one of the big publishing houses. I've acquired a number of books (either freely distributed by the author or purchased) and even have read a couple of books from these authors.

As my previous post says, one of these books was a surprisingly excellent book, Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder. I'm quite surprised that Batchelder couldn't attract a literary agent or publisher, since his novel has none of the awkwardness which I found in other independently published first novels.

So far this year, in addition to Soul Identity, I've read April Hamilton's Snow Ball, The Onuissance Cells by Steve Jordan, MotherShip by Tony Chandler, and MaidenFlight by Bianca D'Arc.

April had posted an introduction at MobileRead, so I decided to purchase Snow Ball from Amazon for my Kindle. The plot is creative and April has a real knack for capturing the speech patterns/cadence of her primary characters. The dialog was nearly brilliant. Unfortunately, her opening paragraphs are stiff and stilted; someone picking up the book for a quick look might think that the entire book was written in this manner and pass it by. I wrote to April in mid-April (doesn't that sound really strange?) and in her reply, she indicates that she actually took this approach deliberately, "trying to set up the ladies and place as very ordinary, and the tone as very nothing-much-happens-around-here." Here's where I think a good editor could have helped her accomplish her goal without producing such an awkward passage.

About MotherShip, Lisa DuMond's review at The SciFi Site says, "One thing: more aggressive surgery by an editor would be a huge improvement. This is yet another small press project that seems to have received the spell-check-only treatment, when it needed and merited more." Lisa may be correct, but I didn't find any serious problems with the book. I enjoyed the plot, the characters, and the action. An author can't ask for much more than that from his audience. The sequel is finally available, and I plan to purchase it this year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Making use of my Kindle

Most of my reading this month has been on the Kindle or Sony readers. It is so convenient to just grab the reader and go; and when I finish a book, there are others available with no hassle. The biggest down-side is that I can't swap the electronic books the same way I do paper books.

After finishing Dragon Bones, I read The Dragon Delasangre by Alan F Troop. So, I wound up reading two dragon books back-to-back—and not a sequel, either. Figuring that was enough fantasy for a while, I then read Suspicious by Heather Graham; a suspenseful romance that I picked up for only a dollar. I've been lucky enough to pick up quite a few free or steeply discounted eBooks since I bought my Kindle. Harlequin has even announced that they're giving away 16 titles on 29 January to celebrate their 60th anniversary.

Quick summary of the books I've read this month:

  1. The Host by Stephenie Meyer (Kindle)
  2. Miss Julia Strikes Back by Ann B Ross (Trade Paperback)
  3. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson (Hardback, Bookring)
  4. Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn (Kindle)
  5. Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey Carver (Sony)
  6. Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity (Sony)
  7. Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs (Kindle)
  8. The Dragon Delasangre by Alan F Troop (Kindle)
  9. Suspicious by Heather Graham (Kindle)

I'm now reading Strange Attractors by Jeffrey Carver on the Sony reader and Oleander House: Bay City Paranormal Investigations #1 by Ally Blue on the Kindle. Since I owe a dozen books that I haven't read yet, I'm going to have to get started on those as soon as possible.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meeting reading friends

I met Nessa and Becky for supper tonight. I've known them online for a little over a year at the BookObsessed site where we swap books and chat about them in the various forums. I'm working this week in Dublin, OH (at the NW corner of Columbus) and they drove up from Cincinnati to meet me. Nessa suggested we meet at the Food Court at Prime Outlets in Jeffersonville. That's about 40 miles south of Columbus and I don't know, maybe 70 miles north of Cincinnati.

After we ate dinner in the Food Court, we marched over to the Border's Outlet, each of us saying "I have no will power". While they didn't have a great selection, many of the books were BOGOF (buy one, get one free). I picked up two audio books (unabridged on CD) marked $3.99 each and discovered at the checkout that they were buy one, get one free. Heck, four Lindnor chocolate truffles cost almost as much as the books. Of course, since we weren't good at suppressing each other's buying inclinations, I went back to the shelves and picked up a book as well.

Purchased at Border's Outlet:

  • The Religion by Tim Willocks (21 CDs)
  • Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain (9 CDs)
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

The lady working at Border's was fun to talk with and Pepper asked her to take our picture to post & share. I need to find out if she's going to post the pictures anywhere & then I'll link to them.

Oh yes—I got swap books, too, since both Nessa and Becky brought books to me.

  • The Aware by Glenda Larke from PepperVL (SFF VBB)
  • Drinking Midnight Wine by Simon R Green from rebeccaljames (SF Swap)
  • Full Tilt by Janet Evanovich from rebeccaljames (Everybook VBB)
  • Camulod Chronicles #1: The Skystone by Jack Whyte from PepperVL (RAK)
  • Camulod Chronicles #2: The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte from PepperVL (RAK)

It was lots of fun to meet BOers.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

BTT: Best books of 2008

This week's Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?”

Now this is a different perspective on “Best Books of 2008”. At BookObsessed, I posted these as the best books I had read during 2008:

  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • Full of Grace by Dorothea Benton Frank
  • The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder

I've made no attempt to rank these against each other. They were simply the very best books that I read all year. They are books that I gladly recommend. The two that were in paper (Full of Grace and The Ruby Ring) have already been swapped and mailed to other readers. Unfortunately, I can't do the same with the electronic books, though I should point out that Little Brother is freely available via download from Doctorow's web site. It was also released with a Creative Commons copyright that allows its distribution, so you can download copies formatted for various electronic readers from MobileRead and Feedbooks. I also wrote short reviews of Little Brother and Soul Identity.

Now, if I take the prompt literally and look at my favorite books of the year, then I'd have to add a couple that aren't in the same class as best books.

  • Bishop Special Crimes series by Kay Hooper

I signed up for a bookring circulating the nine books in this series. The first two books, Stealing Shadows and Hiding in the Shadows arrived in February and I was immediately hooked. The last three books arrived in November and I quickly read them to get them on the way to the next reader in the ring.

  • Stealing Shadows
  • Hiding in the Shadows
  • Out of the Shadows
  • Touching Evil
  • Whisper of Evil
  • Sense of Evil
  • Hunting Fear
  • Chill of Fear
  • Sleeping with Fear
  • Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

Another guilty pleasure I indulged this year was reading PUF (Paranormal and Urban Fiction). It's a genre I had not explored prior to 2008, but I'm really enjoying most of the books I've been reading. Many of these books are romances, and the Twilight series was aimed at a young adult audience. These particular books were all the rage and after hearing about them for a while, I plunged in and read them quickly, purchasing the last in the series a day or two after the publication date. I topped off my Twilight experience by going to see the movie with my sister and her daughters over Thanksgiving weekend.

  • Twilight
  • New Moon
  • Eclipse
  • Breaking Dawn

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 --- the year in review

I have to admit, 140 books for the year is a nice round number. That's how many books I finished reading during the year. I started ever so many more. Most of those I'm considering “in-progress” rather than “abandoned”, but only time will tell. And, I resumed reading a couple of those in-progress books as December was coming to an end so that I would have a higher probability of finishing them and being able to add them to my list for the year.

It's not the highest number of books that I've read in a year, but it's probably a little bit higher than my recent average. And, since the number of books can be deceptive if I read a lot of young adult fiction, I decided to keep track of the number of pages as well as the number of books. The Chunkster Challenge also encouraged me to include some really long books as well as shorter ones.

To keep a record of what books I have completed, I keep a text file on my laptop. Here's one entry from 2008:

99. Justice Denied, J A Jance (13 Sep, MMP) (My) 420 pages : 36,250
It's probably quite obvious what information is recorded: The book number, title, and author. Then the date I finished reading it and the format of the book. Next is the genre, number of pages in the book, and the cumulative page count. I also keep some running totals by month and by genre, and for electronic books I record the source of the book file—whether I purchased it or downloaded it for free.

So here are some statistics derived from this data file.

Summary by genre:

  • Adventure: 2
  • Chicklit: 6
  • Classic: 3
  • Fantasy: 23
  • Historical: 6
  • Mainstream: 9
  • Mystery: 50
  • Romance: 3
  • SciFi: 37

Percentage by genre:
Pie Chart; 2008 by genre

Summary by format:

  • Audio: 5
  • Electronic Books: 56
  • Hardback: 4
  • Mass Market Paperback: 59
  • Trade Paperback: 16

Percentage by format:
Pie Chart; 2008 by format

Fourth Quarter 2008 - Reading Update

Now that the fourth quarter has come to an end—and therefore the year as well—I need to post a couple of entries here. First is the list of books read during the last three months of 2008. Later I'll add a “year in review” post.

From October through December, I completed 35 books. Almost half of those were read in December; which can be attributed to a cross-country car trip and the long Christmas holiday at the end of the month. Those 35 books contained approximately 12,362 pages—and I say “approximately” because I had to estimate the number of pages in electronic and audio books. Where the book was also available in a print edition, I used the page count from's summary of the paperback edition. Where the book was not available in print, I had to estimate based on comparative length.

106. All Mortal Flesh, Julia Spencer-Fleming (2 Oct, Kindle)
107. MotherShip, Tony Chandler (4 Oct, Kindle)
108. I Shall Not Want, Julia Spencer-Fleming (6 Oct, Kindle)
109. Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris (8 Oct, Kindle)
110. Full of Grace, Dorothea Benton Frank (11 Oct, TP)
111. Daughter of the Sun, Barbara Wood (13 Oct, TP)
112. The Bookman's Promise, John Dunning (17 Oct, MMP)
113. Wolf Tower, Tanith Lee (19 Oct, TP)
114. Shakespeare's Landlord, Charlaine Harris (22 Oct, MMP)
115. The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant (26 Oct, TP)
116. Staying Dead, Laura Anne Gilman (29 Oct, MMP)
117. A Dress to Die For, Dolores Johnson (1 Nov, MMP)
118. Say It With Poison, Ann Granger (3 Nov, MMP)
119. Soul Identity, Dennis Batchelder (5 Nov, Kindle)
120. Once a Hero, Elizabeth Moon (10 Nov, Blackberry)
121. Hunting Party, Elizabeth Moon (13 Nov, Kindle/Sony)
122. Sporting Chance, Elizabeth Moon (17 Nov, Kindle/Sony)
123. 4th of July, James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (19 Nov, MMP)
124. Winning Colors, Elizabeth Moon (27 Nov, Kindle)
125. Girl's Guide to Witchcraft, Mindy Klasky (1 Dec, TP)
126. Shakespeare's Champion, Charlaine Harris (2 Dec, MMP)
127. Rules of Engagement, Elizabeth Moon (3 Dec, Blackberry)
128. Hunting Fear, Kay Hooper (3 Dec, MMP)
129. 5th Horseman, James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (5 Dec, MMP)
130. After Long Silence, Sherri S Tepper (7 Dec, MMP)
131. MaidenFlight, Bianca D'Arc (10 Dec, Kindle)
132. Master of the Night, Angela Knight (12 Dec, MMP)
133. The Parting, Beverly Lewis (14 Dec, TP)
134. The Forbidden, Beverly Lewis (16 Dec, TP)
135. Kingdom of Cages, Sarah Zettel (19 Dec, MMP)
136. Chill of Fear, Kay Hooper (21 Dec, HB)
137. Sleeping with Fear, Kay Hooper (23 Dec, MMP)
138. A Shadow in Summer, Daniel Abraham (27 Dec, MMP)
139. Club Dead, Charlaine Harris (29 Dec, Kindle)
140. High Noon, Nora Roberts (31 Dec, Audio) (My/Ro)

As in the earlier quarters, I read several books that qualified as Chunksters. The 5 that helped me meet this challenge this quarter were Daughter of the Sun with 453 pages; The Bookman's Promise with 469; Rules of Engagement with 512; Kingdom of Cages with 588; and High Noon with 496 pages.

I believe that one reason for keeping this data is not only for the record, but also to provide an summary. So here are a couple of statistics from the books read in fourth quarter 2008:

Breakdown by genre:

  • Adventure: 1
  • Fantasy: 8
  • Historical: 2
  • Mainstream: 3
  • Mystery: 13
  • SciFi: 8
Breakdown by format:
  • Mass-market paperback: 14
  • Trade paperback: 7
  • Hardback: 1
  • eBook: 12
  • Audio book: 1
Sources for eBooks:
  • Free from Amazon: 1
  • Purchased from Amazon: 6
  • Purchased from Baen: 5

140 / 120 (116.67%)