Tag Archives: Books

My Reading Alphabet Challenge – sum up

I had terrific fun with my alphabet challenge. It made me look beyond the books and authors I always choose, with the result that I’ve found some absolute treasures that I’ll be looking out for more from.

Rachel E Carter's Black Mage series
Start with the prequel and I bet you won’t want to stop.

Having to (mostly) stick to a particular letter of the alphabet provided some structure and there was a lot less dithering over what I was going to read next, which probably gave me more time to actually read. Although to counter that, there were a couple of letters where I spent far too much time trying to find something that fit the alphabet criteria but also seemed bearable to read. I admit to being fussy, but I was also surprised by how incredibly difficult it is to browse Amazon if you don’t know what book or author you’re looking for.

One book/review a week felt like a hectic schedule at times, but I managed it pretty much consistently (even if there were a couple of weeks where I needed to cheat mildly). I do read a lot and this challenge demonstrated that a book a week is more than do-able for me.

Cover of David Kudler's Risuko
Click to start reading

I will definitely be back with another challenge, although I’m not sure what. Shout out if you have a suggestion, otherwise I’ll think something up for myself in a week or two. Until then, though, I’m going to have fun reading more from some of the new writers I’ve discovered. Rachel E Carter and Rhonda Sermon are priorities (I’m halfway through First Year already), but I also want to find out what happens next in the Clearwater world created by Madeline Freeman, I hope David Kudler will be releasing a follow-up to Risuko soon, and I just saw on Facebook the other day that there’s a new Kitty Peck novel available.

Cover of Rhonda Sermon's The Midnight Society
Click for the preview (bet you’ll love it)

Maybe that’s the best result of my alphabet reading challenge – it’s reminded me what terrific writing talent is out there and what wonderful worlds are waiting for me to step into them. Now, please excuse me, I have reading to get on with…

Summer Scavenger Hunt

Summer is nearly upon us. Have you got your summertime reading lined up? If not (and even if you have), check this out.

In June, the Alliance of Young Adult Authors is sponsoring a massive young adult scavenger hunt. This is a chance to meet some new authors, grab a bunch of free books, and sign up to win a whole bunch of epic prizes!

The whole thing is going to be fabulous fun.  So, please, check back on June 1st and join us!

RULES
Each author will be given a special keyword, which will be bolded and all caps like this: BUTTERFLIES.  All you have to do is visit all the author’s sites (below) in this order, write down the special keywords to discover the short story, then enter the giveaway with the completed short story HERE (not yet live – check back as the link will be posted soon).

There will be one main giveaway for the main prize, but most of the participating authors will also have smaller giveaways for free books and author swag (three lucky readers can win a signed copy of Discord from me, for example), so make sure you read their post carefully to see what else they’re offering while you’re on their site for the keyword.

THE MAP (participating authors)

  1. Cindy Ray Hale
  2. Katherine Bogle
  3. Melle Amade
  4. David Kudler
  5. A.M. Yates
  6. Alethea Kontis
  7. Stevie Rae Causey
  8. Katlyn Duncan
  9. Debbie Manber Kupfer
  10. Meredith Rose
  11. N.M. Howell
  12. Lara Ann  
  13. K.M. Robinson
  14. J.A. Culican
  15. Heather Karn
  16. Rob L. Slater
  17. Dylan Keefer
  18. Sarah K. Wilson  
  19. L.J. Higgins
  20. Gina Marie Long 
  21. Em Kazmierski
  22. Travis Hall
  23. Heather Young-Nichols
  24. Anna Santos
  25. J.L. Weil  
  26. Jo Schneider 
  27. Rebecca Fernfield
  28. Kristin D. Van Risseghem
  29. Martine Lewis 
  30. Tara Benham
  31. Stacy Claflin
  32. Beth Hammond
  33. Erica Monroe Cope
  34. Nicole Zoltack
  35. Char Webster
  36. Sabrina Ramoth
  37. T.J. Muir
  38. Raquel Lyon
  39. Beth Rodgers
  40. S.L. Beaumont
  41. Eva Pohler
  42. Melanie McFarlane
  43. Cheryllynn Dyess
  44. Audrey Rich
  45. Amanda Zieba
  46. Sandie Will
  47. Elle Scott
  48. Angie Grigaliunas
  49. Ashley Maker 
  50. Mandy Peterson
  51. Audrey Grey
  52. Elisa Dane  
  53. Amy McNulty
  54. Melinda Cordell
  55. Monica Leonelle
  56. Claire Luana
  57. Frost Kay
  58. Preeti C. Sharma
  59. Bentz Deyo 
  60. April Wood
  61. Lena Mae Hill
  62. Angel Leya
  63. Wendi Wilson
  64. Wendy Knight
  65. Chogan Swan
  66. Tamara Hart Heiner
  67. Norma Hinkens
  68. Patti Larsen
  69. Megan Crewe  
  70. Jamie Thornton
  71. Jessie Renée
  72. T.A. Maclagan  
  73. Lydia Sherrer
  74. Phyllis Moore
  75. P.D. Workman
  76. J.A. Armitage
  77. K.N. Lee
  78. Angela Fristoe
  79. Rhonda Sermon
  80. G.K. DeRosa 
  81. Erin Richards
  82. Ali Winters
  83. Larissa C. Hardesty
  84. Kristine Tate
  85. Debra Kristi
  86. Bella Rose 
  87. Cortney Pearson
  88. Jeff Kohanek
  89. Kristal Shaff
  90. Rachel Morgan  
  91. Emma Right
  92. C.L. Cannon
  93. Joanne Macgregor
  94. Lindsey Loucks
  95. Farah Kuck
  96. Erin Hayes
  97. Jesikah Sundin
  98. Dorothy Dreyer
  99. Danielle Annett
  100. C.J. Ethington
  101. L.C. Hibbett 
  102. Madeline Dyer
  103. Katie John
  104. Nicole Schubert  
  105. Rachel Medhurst 
  106. Tee G Ayer  
  107. May Freighter 
  108. Heather Dyer
  109. Jen Minkman  
  110. J.L. Gillham
  111. Karen Tomlinson
  112. Katy Haye
  113. Tom Shutt
  114. Martina Billings
  115. Jo Ho
  116. Brian King
  117. Inna Hardison
  118. Rachel Bateman
  119. Sally Henson  
  120. J.L. Hendricks 
  121. A.L. Knorr  
  122. T.M. Franklin  
  123. Konstanz Silverbow
  124. felisha Antonette
  125. Jake Devlin
  126. S.F. Benson
  127. Laurie Treacy
  128. Emily Martha Sorensen 
  129. Leia Stone
  130. T. Rae Mitchell
  131. J. Keller Ford
  132. Kat Stiles
  133. Jessica Hawke
  134. Elyse Reyes
  135. Sophie Davis
  136. Bianca Scardoni
  137. Jenetta Penner
  138. David R. Bernstein
  139. Olivia Wildenstein
  140. Derek Murphy

 

TIMELINE

Authors will have their post up and visible on their site/blog, with their keyword, by June 1st. Readers just need to go through the list, find the words, and use the story to enter for the grand prize.

B is for … barely a story

Okay, that’s rather unkind, but there is a danger this post may turn into a slight rant.

My “B” book selection was BR Paulson’s Barely Alive. Now, one thing I’m loving about this challenge is that I’m finding all kinds of new and wonderful things. Barely Alive was pitched as a zombie romance – now, maybe that’s your go-to genre, but I was tickled to begin with by the idea that zombie romance is even a thing. How wonderfully diverse literature is growing, in topic if nothing else.

A lovely pile of novels
Loving my bookish challenge!

And actually, I thoroughly enjoyed Barely Alive. The zombie-ness was easy to suspend disbelief over (I know almost no science so I didn’t even try to pick holes in the virus that created the zombies) and the romance was low-key (appropriate when flesh-eating monsters are on the loose, I think) and convincing.

My beef came with the ending. There is a series, which is fine, but whether it’s a stand-alone book or a series in the vein of Bella Forrest with 37 books to work your way through, it is my absolute conviction that each book should tell its own story: beginning, middle and end.

I don’t even mind open endings where you have to exercise a bit of imagination about next steps for the characters as they head out of the pages and into the sunset, but Barely Alive cut off in the middle of the story with all plot arcs still underway and unresolved, which just left me grumpy, I’m sorry to say.

So am I Mrs Grumblepants, or am I right to be annoyed? Do you mind an unresolved story, or should the endings be tied up? Let me know in the comments.

Check back next week to see how I got on with my C book – Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman.

Free Reading Challenge: How much is too much?

Finding Free

I’ve spoken before about how I’ve found books to read for my free reading challenge. I’ve surfed Amazon (not a brilliant success), found books from e-mail promotion companies, and from recommendations on Facebook and Twitter and signed up to blog tours (much more successful). Just lately, I’ve also signed up to several author newsletters to get the free book they’re offering (usually the first in series offered to make you fall in love with the series world and characters). As a writer myself, I’m also using this as research to see what other people are doing with and for their subscribers.

Most authors mail periodically, and it’s clearly the recommended approach to send other free stuff to those who’ve signed up (I’m not sure if there’s some kind of a rule – give people so much for free, then ask them to buy a book, maybe?). To a degree I understand this; keep your customers reading and pleased to hear from you. However, in the past week or two I’ve had a newsletter inviting me to enter a draw to win sixty two physical books (how much shelf space?) and other offering fifty free ebooks to download to my Kindle. This morning came the pinnacle of current offers: a hundred ebooks to choose from.

Too much choice?

Am I the only one who finds offers like that a bit overwhelming? I spend a lot of time reading, but – sixty two? All at once? I was bad enough when I got a boxed set of twenty ebooks for 99p last year. I think I read one in its entirety, and about five more I read for long enough to know they weren’t my thing (the quality was REALLY variable). The rest faded into the depths of my Kindle. They might one day resurface, but personally I wouldn’t bet on it. And that’s the thing. I don’t want books to languish, unread. Books aren’t real until they’ve stepped into the imagination of the reader and been given new life. So I really only want to get 3 or 4 books at once, and then replenish once I’ve read them or decided I’m not going to read them.

A cornucopia of sci-fi and fantasy books. Click to check them out.
A cornucopia of sci-fi and fantasy books. Click to check them out.

However, just in case this works as an approach (I’d hate to miss the next big idea) I’ve joined an Instafreebie giveaway with lots of other sci-fi and fantasy authors. If you’re interested, check it out: there are more than a hundred books to choose from, but you can be as picky as you like and just take one or two. Of course, if you aren’t overwhelmed by too much choice you’re free to grab them all!

My free reading challenge: giveaways

My endeavour to spend no money on books for myself until Christmas continues…

Cover of Michelle Madow's Elementals

This week I found another fabulous source of free books: giveaways. I entered a contest run by several YA authors I’ve heard of but haven’t yet read, and as well as being in the draw to win a kindle (I think that’s it – I never win anything so didn’t pay much attention – I was far more interested in the free books offer), I also grabbed the chance to download YA books by 10 new-to-me authors, and my Kindle is now bursting at the seams.

Cover of Kelly St Clare's Fantasy of Frost

This seems a great way to try some new authors. I haven’t committed myself by specifically asking for a review copy, so if I don’t like their book no one’s any the wiser, but as I kind-of know several of these authors on Facebook I really hope I will like them – and if I do I can ‘pay’ for the book by writing a review. Authors LOVE reviews – don’t ever underestimate how thrilled you can make an author by writing a few words on Amazon or Goodreads!

Cover of Melissa Craven's Emerge

But back to free books. If you like cracking YA books (and who doesn’t?), give it a go. Click on the link or any of the covers to find the details and enter if you’re interested.

Be quick, though: the contest (and download offer) ends 31st August.

And now I need to follow my own advice and post some reviews from the free books I’ve read recently!

3 reasons I love my library

Libraries are a hot topic in the UK at the moment, with the government and councils seeming to view them as pointless moneypits which can easily be dispensed with without any derogation to life or culture. I’m not going to add anything dramatic to the debate, but I wanted to articulate why libraries full of books are important to me.

For books I want to read

I discovered Leigh Bardugo recently. I bought Six of Crows after reading the first few pages in Waterstones, and it is utterly superb (check out my review if you want to know why I think so). I then bought Shadow and Bone, the first of the grisha trilogy (same author, same world, different story and characters) and consumed it with equal haste and delight.

Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy
Just ask for books and your library will get them for you. Magic!

Finances then drew me to a bit of a stop, but I requested Seige and Storm and Ruin and Rising from the library and I’m halfway through Seige and Storm already.

Without a library, I’d be broke or bereft.

For books I might want to read

When I bought Six of Crows I also scanned the blurb and first few pages of Snow Like Ashes on the promotions table in Waterstones. It had caused quite a buzz on my twitter stream, and I liked the sound of it. But I wasn’t quite convinced in the bookshop and Six of Crows won the day.

So when I saw Snow Like Ashes in the library, I snapped it up … only to set it down again after reading a couple of chapters. Not for me, I’m afraid (too much backstory for my taste).

I’ve just picked up The Sin Eater’s Daughter for very similar reasons. I like the sound of it (and I’ll review it as it’s shortlisted for the YA Book Prize), but I’m not convinced enough to buy it and keep it forever.

Read without risk - I might like this, I might not...
Read without risk – I might like this, I might not…

For books I have no idea I want to read (but I do!)

I have found so many treasures in my local library. Browsing in the “just returned” section has brought books to my attention that I would never have read otherwise. Charlaine Harris’s “Grave” series was one of those finds. It’s completely out of my genre because I don’t read crime (ordinarily) – but I liked the cover, picked it up, enjoyed the first few pages, took it home and fell in love.

I’ve checked it out of the library about half a dozen times, so with Christmas book tokens this year I finally bought my own copy, and it’s now on my (overflowing) “keeper” shelves.

A cool premise, and never mind the crime, it's the relationships that keep me reading.
A cool premise, and never mind the crime, it’s the relationships that keep me reading.

There are so many other happy discoveries made through my library it would be worth my taxes just for that.

So that’s why I love my local library – do you love yours? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Words are magic, that’s why it’s called spelling

Wide-range reading

I’ve been reading out of my genre this week – Longbourn caught my eye (and who wouldn’t want a chance to escape back into the Pride and Prejudice universe?) and I’ve absolutely loved it.

As well as the story (it’s Pride and Prejudice seen from the servants’ point of view), I’ve loved the language of the book. I mostly read genre fiction in large part because I’m addicted to pace. You don’t get a cracking, breathless read from literary fiction (feel free to correct me, anyone!). But the other element I love about books is the words, the actual building blocks of our language.

Some words are simply gorgeous

There are some words I particularly love. I wrote the word ‘gumption’ in a letter recently (yes, an actual, paper letter; rarity in itself) and regretted that it doesn’t get out more. My all-time favourite is probably ‘prestidigitation’, which I adore so much I wrote a story around it (named – what else? – The Magic Word). Longbourn revisited another of my favourites, dropping the word ‘meniscus’ into its description with charming confidence – and there aren’t many occasions when that’s going to work.

I write genre fiction and, like the books I enjoy most, my focus is mainly on creating a stonking, fast-paced read, but my love of words shines through with the occasional guest appearance of ‘supercilious’ or ‘insatiable’ glinting brightly amongst all the mundane ‘justs’ and ‘thats’ which creep in despite my best efforts.

Words are a gentle sort of magic

Words build together to create another, more power enchantment: stories. Stories cast spells across cultures and ages and galaxies, drawing us together, letting us experience lives very different from our own. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Words are magic, that's why they call it spelling

I’ve shown you some of my favourites – what glorious words do you think should get out more often? Tell me in the comments below.

Spread the (book) love

I love books. You might have noticed. I don’t love ALL books, though, that would be impossible (and ambitious, given how many now exist in the world). I have my go-to genres, and even within them there are books I pick up and put down, books I abandon after reading the first couple of pages, those I read and enjoy, and those I LOVE.

We all have them – books you adore and want to foist on complete strangers in the street because they are SO GOOD.

Now, I’m British so I would never dream of foisting anything on a stranger, which may or may not be an opportunity lost to the authors I love. But there is another way of shouting about brilliant books.

It’s reviews, of course – a way to tell the world about a great book and help recruit a new audience for it. I participate in a book blog (as one of the Paisley Piranhas, check us out), and I also post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Please, if you enjoy a book, tell people so. I promise, you will make the writer’s day.

Tell the world

This next bit is for hardcore fans, or book reviewers who want to get a bigger audience for their reviews because, I’ll be honest, it is a bit more work. However, it’s not a lot more work for the impact it has.

I’ve just discovered (apologies, I can’t link to the original post because I didn’t save it – I didn’t think it couldn’t possibly work until I actually tried it – my bad!) that it’s possible to share reviews across numerous Amazon platforms with very little effort – and given that you’ve exerted yourself to compose a review, don’t you want the biggest possible audience for it?

If you want to shout about a favourite book or writer and make sure EVERYONE hears, all you need to do is follow the steps below:

1. Open up your local version of Amazon and find the book you want to review. I’m using Kim Curran as my example because her books are fabulous and should have a bigger audience (i.e. everyone), and also because this is the first review I’ve done using this method and I’m wired that it works.

2. On the address line, you’ll have something that looks like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/GLAZE-Kim-Curran-ebook/dp/B00K9UYLR4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1453468983&sr=1-1&keywords=glaze+kim+curran

Yeah – snappy or what?! Remove everything except for http://www.amazon.WHATEVER/dp/B00K1REF321/, so it looks like this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00K9UYLR4/

3. Copy this shortened address and paste it into a new line. Change the .WHATEVER to the alternative Amazon location where you want to leave your review (I ended up with a row of address lines with .com; .co.uk; .ca; .com.au to cover the main English-speaking sites.

4. Write your review at one of the addresses.

5. Cut and paste it to the other locations. Save them all.

Ta da – four reviews for the price of one, and a couple more continents full of readers have the benefit of your views on the book you loved so they can decide whether to try it.

I’ve just done my second review, for the equally fantastic The Territory by Sarah Govett and it was even faster than my first. Do give it a try!

 

Superpowers

Creating the world of Fane has made me ponder about superpowers, because everyone on Fane (and fanes when they visit other planets) demonstrates some extraordinary abilities that human beings would consider superpowers.

Cover of Katy Haye's The Last Dreamseer

Deena, the heroine of The Last Dreamseer, has probably drawn the short straw. Her superpower is the ability to see the future in visions. Now, this ought to be a cool ability: book your holidays for the sunny weeks, and never get caught in the rain without an umbrella ever again. But it hasn’t worked out that way for Deena. Being able to see the future made her the focus of a lot of attention by Fane’s rulers. All they cared about was that the future worked out the way that most benefitted them. If she foresaw something the queen didn’t like it was often her who suffered (shoot the messenger and all that).

If I were to be granted a superpower, I’d give seeing the future a miss in favour of the superpowers all fanes enjoy – control over the elements. Thanks to their anima crystals, all fanes can control earth, air, fire and water to a greater or lesser degree. The coolest way this manifests itself is in bounding – controlling the air and ones own body weight to be able to jump miles at once.

I based this ability on fairy tales of seven league boots – footwear that lets you step 20-odd miles at a time (my hero, Cal, says he can go twice that distance in one bound, but he’s a bit showy that way). Bounding is a kind of flying without wings and would be an absolutely brilliant superpower to possess – no need for cars or waiting for buses or trains when you can get wherever you want to go in a couple of steps.

So that’s my preferred superpower let me know yours in the comments below. And check out my friend’s Rhoda Baxter’s blog where she tries to decide which superpower she’d most like.

Find her views at: http://rhodabaxter.com/?p=3332

Book Lovers Rock

Okay, so we all know that books are fabulous and the people who read and write them are brilliant, too. This isn’t something new, I’ve just been particularly reminded of it recently.

Firstly, I’d run out of things to read. Yeah, I know, my TBR pile is always huge, but nothing on it leapt out and demanded to be read. I put a plea on Twitter for recommendations and within moments had downloaded the sample and then the whole of Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? (It’s a wonderful book, do check it out). Then I went on a UKYAchat and got loads of new suggestions. Book lovers love to share the books they’ve enjoyed and it’s wonderful to be on the receiving end of that.

Tell the world

Then there’s the sanity-preserving team of Paisley Piranhas. We’re four writers of YA who got together when we decided to self-publish to provide moral support and pool ideas. My fellow piranhas are worth their weight in gold (or at the very least, in chocolate) as they’ve stopped me tearing my hair out on many occasions along the distinctly bumpy path of self-pubbing.

PPiranha red

And the third book-loving incident that’s bouyed my spirits lately is setting up Book Bites with the piranhas, which is a monthly newsletter with YA news, author interviews and giveaways. We had the idea at YALC and have been working on it since, ready to launch in September. As a result, I’ve been approaching YA authors with requests for interviews and books and I’ve been greeted with unqualified enthusiasm and agreement which has made me fall in love with the idea of Book Bites even more than I already had.

I know we know it, but it’s always worth a reminder – books and book lovers are the best!

The Book Bites giveaway prize

And if you like the sound of Book Bites, you can join up and have a chance to win our launch giveaway book bundle (YA books, an Amazon giftcard and chocolate) by entering our draw on Rafflecopter. Details are here.