Being short’s a good thing, right?

Cover of Kelly St Clare's The ReprisalWell, this week was another gorgeous reading week. I went straight from Sea and Sand to another new release, The Reprisal, by Kelly St Clare. This is the finale in her The After trilogy, and I’ve been waiting impatiently since I inhaled The Return the day it came out. It’s an utter delight. The relationships between Romy and her knot moved forward in fabulous ways, there was lots of humour, and the uncertain fate of those on earth and the space soldiers was resolved highly satisfactorily. Loved it.

And then I found a new series. I’d seen mention of Sarah K Wilson’s Dragon School on social media and thought it looked good. The premise is that a disabled teenager is determined to take on the highly physical role of a dragon rider – will she manage? It’s also fantasy with (you may have guessed) dragons, so there’s lots to love for fantasy readers.

Cover of Sarah K Wilson's Dragon School: First FlightThe books themselves are being presented slightly differently. Instead of novels, they’re novellas, but as a result of their shortness they’re being released more closely together. I’m finding myself growing more and more fond of novellas as I grow older. I daresay it’s just a perception, but it makes me feel as though I’m getting more new worlds in my life. Another positive is that most of them are available in KU, so I feel like I’m working my subscription hard by reading three books where I might only have managed one before!

The first three stories in the Dragon School series are available now (First Flight, Initiate and The Dark Prince), and I loved them. They’re very episodic, so you could think of TV just as easily as books. Amel is a great character (as is Raolcan the dragon), there’s stacks going on in the background so they rattle along at a terrific pace, and the writing is actually very visual so I found it easy to “see” what was going on. I want to read the rest, and I’m delighted to report I don’t have months to wait for the next episode, since it’ll be out at the start of February.

And then just last night (when I’d run out of Dragon School stories) I discovered that there is a book 4 in CN Crawford’s Fae FBI series. I kind of thought there must be another one coming, because book 3 left so many threads unresolved, but last time I looked on Amazon there was no sign. But it’s out now, so that’s what I’ll be jumping into once I’ve written this blog post. Can’t wait!

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Loving the end of the world

This week I have got firmly back into my groove of reading (I always think I’ll have loads of time to write at holiday time, but somehow, it’s much easier when I’m back in a routine of work/school).

I was helped by already being mid-way through Megan Crewe’s brilliant Fallen World series. As mentioned last week, I moved straight on to book two, The Lives We Lost, and because that was so entirely excellent I had to put all my other waiting-for-review books on hold so I could gobble up the finale, The Worlds We Make. Fallen World book 3 by Megan CreweOh my giddy aunt, I feel like I barely breathed while I was reading that. It was so tense I was constantly on edge in case Kaelyn and her friends didn’t make it. The resolution was utterly stupendous. I recommend you read this series even more now I’ve reached the end.

Because I’m eschewing my Kindle for late-night reading-in-bed, alongside Fallen Worlds, I also read Nicholas Bowling’s Witchborn. That was fabulous (catch my review).

Sea and Sand by Alex LidellAnd then yesterday I got back into my review reading and caught up with Nile, Dominic and Prince Tamiath in Alex Lidell’s Tides series. Sea and Sand is the third in the series and it’s out – wowzers, today or tomorrow, I think. It’s another glorious fantasy and while I didn’t warm completely to new-girl Kyra, I am now YET AGAIN waiting impatiently for the next instalment. If you haven’t read these books, you should check them out IMMEDIATELY.

Phew, back to normal has never felt so good!

Check back next week to see what I’ve been reading – and please do let me know if you try out any of these books. I’d love to know what you think.

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Books and chocolate, and other utopias

My Christmas was, basically, books and chocolate. Sounds like a perfect festive season, to me!

Except that now I’ve got an even larger TBR pile than usual. I guess I’ll just have to read as quickly as I can, sustained by Green & Blacks and dark chocolate brazils. It’s a tough life, but I’ll do my best…

This week I zipped through Megan Crewe’s The Way We Fall. I’ve read Megan’s writing before (A Mortal Song is ACE) and it really shouldn’t have taken me so long to pick up something else by her (except – mammoth TBR pile, did I mention?). The Way We Fall is completely different, and equally fantastic.

It’s told from Kaelyn’s point of view, a girl who thinks herself a misfit and is missing her best friend fiercely … and then she needs to deal with a strange virus that means the island she lives on is abruptly cut off from the rest of the world.

The thing with Megan is that she writes emotion so well. It was all very small and understated, and yet my heart was cut into teeny tiny pieces in the way that good books can do to a person.

I loved it so much I’ve moved straight on to the next, The Lives We Lost (sorry to everything else waiting on my TBR pile).

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Almost nothing happened.

I am a dreadful insomniac. I would love to find something that could make me drop off to sleep and stay that way until a decent hour of the morning, but until I do, I just consider the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning to be plotting time, when I run through what’s going to happen with my characters and resolve the holes in my stories.

Just recently, though, I’ve cracked down on my night-time screen time in a bid to sleep better. At 10:00 I turn off the TV, put away my PC and phone and the final half-hour before settling to sleep is for reading in ink and paper while my brainwaves settle to slumber (I think that’s what’s supposed to happen).

Cover of Elizabeth Buchan's The New Mrs CliftonThis week, I’ve been reading a book recommended by my mum. It’s another one that’s completely outside my usual genre (I think it would be classed either as “women’s fiction” or “general fiction”, tags which say next to nothing about what you’re getting. The New Mrs Clifton is set in post-war London and revolves around a German woman who marries an English soldier at the end of the war and comes to settle in Britain.

It’s a very good read, but it’s so entertaining to look at it beside my usual YA fare because almost nothing happens. I mean, that’s not true, there’s a pregnancy and a baby and someone winds up dead, but compared to the usual frantic pace of aliens or armies or assassins it was very subdued. I don’t mean that as a criticism, just a difference in how books approach that thorny matter of exploring something about what it means to be human.

Did I sleep better? Meh, not so I noticed – but planning for my next book is coming on a treat!!!

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Breaking my Audiobook duck!

Another first for me this week, as I finished “reading” my very first audiobook. It has been a fascinating experiment and insight into my psyche!

I wouldn’t ordinarily pick to consume a book via audio, but this was offered to me and I thought I’d give it a try. People who listen to audiobooks rave about them, and it’s the growing way to get your books, apparently, so maybe I was missing something.

Alex Lidell's Air and Ash

Grab it on audio now!

Maybe I still am, but audiobooks really aren’t for me. Air and Ash is a fabulous book, Kaitlyn Bellamy narrates beautifully and it’s very easy to listen to. But it took so long! I can’t remember when I started Chapter 1, but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say it’s taken 3 months to listen to it start to finish.

For comparison, when I read it on Kindle, I zipped through it in under 24 hours (it’s excellent – did I mention?).

I was fascinated by my response to it, because I can always find time to read and I get through a book usually in around 48 hours. Finding time to listen seemed to be a whole other matter. It seems that if I have a book/kindle in my hand, then I’m reading, but if “all” I’m doing is listening to something I should be doing something else as well (washing up, knitting, etc). Since I’ve usually got either the TV or radio on for those activities, it felt like a big logistic effort to get the audiobook running instead (it’s not; Audible is a doddle to use).

Several friends listen to audiobooks on their commute and rave about that to pass the time in traffic. I wondered if that might make a difference – but since my commute is 6 minutes in a car share with a colleague I couldn’t test that idea. However, if I ever return to my corporate life I’ll bear it in mind.

In summary, I’ve now “read” an audiobook, but I still don’t quite know what the fuss is about. Audiobook fans, please weigh in – how do audiobooks fit into your life?

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But sometimes, it’s better…

This week I finally got around to reading a sequel that’s been on my reading radar for yonks. Way back in the summer I read Ember Burning and loved it. I would love to psychoanalyse myself for this, because I’m not sure what drives me to go straight on and read more by the author IMMEDIATELY, or just to nod and say to myself, “Yep, I’ll look out for more from her/him.” I read Ember Burning, enjoyed it, put it down and that was the end of that, I’m sorry to say.

I wish I knew what triggered me to think, “I love this author and I know I’m in safe hands, where’s more?” versus, “I really enjoyed that, but, hmm, can their next one be as good? I don’t want to be disappointed…” because there’s got to be something.

Anyway, spool on several months and Oshun Rising jumped into my awareness and I actually loaded it onto my kindle and started reading.

Oh my giddy aunt, it’s AMAZING. Jennifer Alsever has outdone herself. Ember Burning was good, but Oshun Rising entirely blew my socks off. I think I hardly breathed through the second half of the story.

That’s a nudge to my cautious self. Sometimes a second book might disappoint. But other times it will catapult the author into, “Give me more. NOW,” territory.

And now I have to wait for the third in the series, which is a whole other kind of torture I’ll probably address in another post.

Share, readers, what book did you delay reading (for any reason) that you later wished you’d got on with?

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Reading in my own genre for once

While I’m writing, I generally try to avoid reading in the same genre. I don’t want to accidentally pick up influences and steal anyone else’s ideas. Because I’ve been so busy with the clockwork war series, that means I’ve hardly read any steampunk this year.

Now, I’m onto edits for the last book in the series (yippee!) and I decided it was time for some steampunk again. I picked Melanie Karsak’s Chasing the Star Garden and I picked well, readers, by plumping for a stonking good read.

Chasing the Star Garden had some adult themes with a protagonist, Lily, engaged in behaviours generally considered not good for a person.

But they were handled so well. There was neither condemnation nor glamourising; this was just how Lily was. And as the story progressed we saw how she’d become the determined, daredevil airship pilot we’d met (and, my word, she’d faced a lot). Her progress as a character during Chasing the Star Garden was right and lovely and extremely touching. My benchmark for a book is always, “Do I care?” And oh yes, I care in spades about Lily!

And aside from the fabulous characterisation there was the kind of good stuff you always get with steampunk: airships and artefacts and secret societies and dastardly villains and daring rescues. I loved everyone moment and I can’t wait for more!

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I read a Bookbub!

If you’ve never heard of Bookbub (where have you been?) they are a book promotion company. They produce a book recommendation newsletter for keen readers (or indifferent ones, as you’ll see later!). You sign up, tell them what genres you’re interested in and they’ll send you a daily e-mail of two or three books in that genre which are on sale or free.

As an independent author, Bookbub is “the business” – the sole book promotion company that consistently gets results. If you score a Bookbub feature, you’ll make hundreds of sales, or thousands of downloads if your book is free. They are a big deal and indie authors are always scrambling to feature in their newsletter (they’ve turned me down every time I’ve asked so far).

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s because having received their newsletter for the past two year, I finally read the first book I got from a Bookbub recommendation this week.

Way back when, I read Anita Oh’s The Truth Spell, a werewolf/high school mash up that was terrific fun. She was marked as one to look out for, so when I saw a boxed set of the first three books of the Werewolf High series on sale via Bookbub, I grabbed a copy. Scroll forward 6 months or so and I’ve started and discarded everything fresh on my Kindle and was stuck on a weekend shift at work with nothing to read. Tracking back, I found the boxed set and re-opened it to read The Tiny Curse and The Body Swap.

They are just as entertaining and easy to read as the first in the series. I loved slipping back into Lucy’s skin. Well recommended, Bookbub.

I’m still getting the Bookbub mails, although I do wonder if I’m their pickiest customer – one book downloaded over two years. Can anyone beat that?

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A life of crime

This week I’ve been mostly reading crime. After finishing Blood Oath (very good – I’ve reviewed it on the Paisley Piranha site if you want details), I had a cruise through my kindle to see what was lurking unread. I found The Big Overnight by Libby Kirsch, which I’d started and not finished weeks ago. I dug into that and enjoyed it so much I went straight on to The Big Weekend and polished that off in the space of a day.

Years ago I used to read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries (until she became too dithery and I couldn’t believe two intelligent adult males would genuinely remain interested in her), and I loved Jennifer Crusie’s small town romances which were full of humour.

Libby Kirsch’s mysteries have elements of both. Stella Reynolds is a fabulous character, intelligent and determined, and with an eye to the injustices and absurdities of modern life, while the plots are twisty enough to keep me interested as I try to figure out what’s really happening a step or two behind Stella.

If you read crime (cosy rather than gritty) these are highly recommended.

Now, it’s probably back to YA speculative fiction for me. Check back next week to see what I’ve been reading.

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November means nano

Another tricky week, this week, readers. The Shattered Worlds Read Along finishes today with Miranda Hardy’s Death Knocks, except that I’d already read that, having got myself a bit out of order (it’s fabulous, btw). So there wasn’t a book from the collection that I felt as though I needed to read.

So, I haven’t read a Shattered Worlds book this week. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading. I hope that will only happen when I’m no longer breathing! But this has been a week where I’ve focused entirely on myself.

As well as busily writing my nano words (I’ve hit 42k – OMG, crack out the choccie brazils, I have never written this consistently fast before in my life!) I was also on deadline to get my final clockwork war book to my editor ready for her to start work on Monday. So that’s what was on my Kindle, having a final read through to make sure that any plot holes big enough for me to see were filled in before it was sent off for a professional assessment. There will, sadly, be other plot holes that hid while I was reading, but that’s why I use an editor.

Being at 42,000 words when I’m aiming for a 50,000 word first draft means I’m actually on the home straight. I want to finish by next weekend, so I can actually slow down a lot and still hit my target. I hope that’s going to give me time to read, because I really want to lose myself in someone else’s worlds.

First off is the new release by one of my favourite writers – Kelly St Clare. Blood Oath (co-written with Raye Wagner) came out this week and I’ve only made it into chapter two so far (it’s great; Kelly’s books always are). With a bit less time writing and more reading going on in my life, I hope that will also be finished by next weekend.

Check back next week to see if I’ve met either or both of my new deadlines!

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