Oct 27, 2010

Library Loot October 27 to November 2

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week.

And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!



This week saw my first foray into borrowing and downloading audiobooks from the Yarra Plenty Regional Library, my first choice for reasons of file size as much as subject matter is




The Dark Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, Vol. 1: The Dunwich Horror & Call Of Cthulhu
It's narrated by Wayne June who has a voice like he's swallowed razor blades with a scotch chaser. 
















My other find for the week was an interlibrary loan from my local community library; Stephen King’s, On Writing.


On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

Oct 25, 2010

Up and Coming Reviews

This is just a heads up of up and coming reviews.  I registered at Netgalley and requested two titles for review.  The first of these is:

The Best American Mystery Stories 2010 (The Best American Series (R))
The Best American Mystery Stories 2010, Edited by Lee Childs.   It looks to be a good collection, though I note that the contributions are mostly male.





The second is

Future Minds: How the Digital Age is Changing Our Minds, Why this Matters and What We Can Do About It
Future Minds by Richard Watson.  This appears to be a book on trends drawn together around the theme of technology's influence on young and thus future minds.  I'll probably cross post this on my other blog as well.  My intention is to view with a skeptical eye.




Shaken (Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Mysteries)The final title is Shaken by JA Konrath.  I received this ebook for taking part in Joe's latest book marketing experiment.  He's experimenting again with this title, giving the reader the option of reading it in traditional linear/chronological format or  in a non linear format - something that an author can really only achieve with the freedom of having no page length restrictions.


I have also had three separate requests from authors to review their work.  So I think I might have to draft a review policy to give authors some guidelines on whether or not I am likely to review their work.



Oct 21, 2010

Horrifying Reads

By which I mean scary.

I have only ever read one book that I have had a physical gut wrenching reaction to - A manual written by evangelical Christians for exorcising the mentally ill.  Even that didn't scare me, just made me ill.

I am reading quite a bit of horror at the moment, and while some of it is truly good writing, it's not scaring me.

I want your recommendations for horror that will scare me witless.  Give me the best book that you have read that's made you want to walk to the bedroom with the light on.

Oct 19, 2010

An Australian eLending experience

One of my primary reasons for getting an e-book reader was for reading the wealth of classics available at the Gutenberg project.  Then at same stage in the future I hoped that libraries in my state would cotton on to the idea that ebooks and eLending were  here and I would be able to borrow ebooks from the library.

No more waiting
No, South Australia still hasn't got round to sorting out eLending, although I hear it's on the horizon.  As some twitter followers and fellow bloggers will know, I was able to join as a member of an interstate library and access their ebook catalogue.

What,Where Who?
I was able to join online as a member of the Yarra Plenty Regional Library who in partnership with the Brisbane City Library provide a download collection.  Now I filled out my contact details truthfully, stating my correct home address in South Australia, so I presume that at this stage they are happy to have me as an extra statistic member.

How does it work?
Very similar to signing up to purchase books through any online book retailer.  You have a user ID and a password.  You browse the online catalogue and add books, if they are available, to your account.  If the libraries copies are all booked out, you can go on a waiting list and you will get an automated email that will let you know when the book is back in.  You have 3 days to accept and download the book. Otherwise I presume it defaults to the next person on the waiting list.

When you are ready to download your books you go to the checkout and begin the download process.  You download an .acsm file which can be opened by Adobe Digital Editions(ADE).  When you access it in ADE it displays the number of days left before the file becomes unreadable.  I haven't yet reached the expiry limit on the first book I borrowed, so I am not sure whether I will have to delete the file form my reader/computer or whether it will remove itself, I presume the former.

How about your reader?
I have successfully transfered three titles from ADE to my Sony Prs505.  The sony displays a little timer symbol counting down the days for any borrowed books.

Does it work for kindle?
Libraries in Australia appear to only offer ebook downloads in epub or pdf format.  I haven't tried converting one of the files using Calibre, I assume it has some form of DRM on it though.

Audio books
Before I forget you can also access audio books through the same process.  I haven't tried it yet due to the rather large downloads, but for those of you with partners who like listening to audio books(Amanda), it might be worth joining up.


E-book adventures is my weekly series post outlining my exploration of the e-book format. See other posts here and join in the discussion.

Losing Books

Nylon Angel (Parrish Plessis)I moved just over a year ago.  


Understandably some things are still in boxes.  


Now I was over visiting Marianne de Pierres site having stumbled over a tweet about some of her newer work.


I asked whether or not her kindle titles were drm'd wanting to buy them via kindle and convert to epub for my Sony reader.  

Bear with me...


Marianne kindly took the time to ask her agent if they were (they are) but mentioned that her newer series Sentients of Orion was going to be released on Smashwords (woot!).  I thanked her for her time suggesting that I would probably round off my collection of the Paris Plessis series with the final paperback as I already had Nylon Angel, and Code Noir 


or at least I thought I did.


I never throw books away


and I have at least a couple of shelves of absolute trash to testify to this.  I have spent at least half a day checking every box in the frigging house,but to no avail Nylon Angel and Code Noir are nowhere to be seen.


The frustration is palpable - though in reality its a first world problem™.

Tell me what books have you lost?  Does losing books induce migraine forming frustration? Or do you favour a Buddhist approach and consider the book as already lost before you buy it?

John Marsden on the Adaption of Tomorrow When the War Began

John Marsden wrote Tomorrow When the War Began in 1993. Peter Mares  interviews him on the ABC's book show here.









Marsden talks about:

  • his concerns regarding transition to the screen
  • the aspects of the film he would have liked to change
  • potential racism
  • political agenda he had while writing the book



You can buy the first in this series from the links below:

Hardback: $14.95 from the Book Depository
Paperback: $8.52 from the Book Depository

Oct 17, 2010

eBook Review: Draculas by Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, F. Paul Wilson and Jeff Strand

This ain't your teenage vampire romance...
I hate what has been done to the Vampire myth.  I read Twilight, I didn't hate the writing(or love it for that matter), I just quietly mourned another stake in the heart of this particular slice of the horror genre.


Vampires have become Fabio-esque love leads for the emo generation.


So I was hoping when I heard about Dracula's, that it was would be a return to the classic vampire; the evil, seductive, bastard that needs to be staked through the heart.


So is this your traditional bloodsucker?
No not really.  It's been a while since I read the original Dracula, but the similarity ends pretty much in Transylvania.


Which isn't a bad thing.


The story is an adrenaline fueled thriller fest with the only slow part (by comparison to the rest of the story) being the introduction.   


An oddly deformed humanoid skull is found in a farmer field near the town of Brasov, (it's in Transylvania) its mouth brimming with shark like teeth and two large hollow canines.  It's largely dismissed as a hoax.  


A powerful  recluse dying of cancer buys the skull for a undisclosed amount of money, on the pretense of studying it.  In reality he is a member of an ancient order who knows the true story behind the skull.  


The skull carries a virus, a contagion spread though the blood. The recluse chooses to infect himself by puncturing his own neck with the skull's canines.  He is transported to Blessed Crucifixion, a  small country hospital in a town whose name really isn't important to the story.


The virus spreads through his system transforming him into a bloodlusting beast with increased strength and senses - oh and a face splitting skull full of sharklike teeth.  One of these Dracula's in the confined halls of a hospital would be terror enough, but of course the virus spreads via contact with blood, and the authors have made sure there's an abundance of  that flying around.


What I loved
The characterizations are memorable, particularly Clay, the gun nut cop and Randall the chainsaw wielding hick. 


But my favorite is Benny the Clown, the image of a sadistic, blood covered, vampire clown stalking the surviving patients of Blessed Crucifixion is etched in my mind for ever, the sound of squeaking clown shoes the harbinger of horror.


Extreme reading
The pacing of the book suggests the term extreme reading.  It's that full on from start to finish that I find it hard to describe it any other way.  It's rare I think to find books that can continue pace at this level for so long. 


What I wanted more of
A little bit more of the back story, how the original Dracula came about and how the Order of the Dragon and the central villain's membership of it fit into the larger story.  


I realize though, that this would have distracted from the pace of the book. 


Too many chefs? Nah !
Dracula's has four authors, four capable exponents of the horror genre throwing their skills into the ring.  You'd think this type of arrangement would be a minefield of bruised and bloodied egos, not to mention a work that would seem disjointed to the reader - after all each of these writers brings with them a distinct style.


The book, however, hangs together so well that without knowledge  of the above, you'd think it was written by one author


How did they do it? According to the extra's (yes this book has extra's just like a DVD) at the end of the novel they chose particular characters to write for the length of the novel.  The book isn't structured in normal chapters but rather told from the points of view of the various main characters and specific villains.


Value for money
Now I received a free review copy, but I would have been more than happy with paying $5-6 (it actually retails for $2.99)for the book.  In addition to the story you get:

  • An interview with the 4 authors
  • Bio's and excerpts for their latest individual works
  • 3 short stories
  • Deleted "scenes" and author commentary on why they we left out or altered
All up it amounted to about 591 pages of content on my Sony.


If you like fast paced thriller action, a touch of gore and dark comedy I think you'll really enjoy this work.


Oh and did I mention that it's:


  • DRM free so you can convert it using Calibre for the device of your choice.
  • The book website can be found here


Disclaimer: This is a review copy of the final product, provided by the authors.

Oct 13, 2010

Library Loot October 13 - 19 Windfall

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. 


And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!


I had a bit of a windfall this week.  My local bricks and mortar library was stocktaking and I happened to find a hardback copy of Stephen King's Rose Madder for less than a dollar.


Rose Madder

My next bit of good news was the receipt of my membership card from the Brisbane/Yarra Plenty download collection.  You will note that I live nowhere near either of these two places, but they were kind enough to let me join.

So I have downloaded two epub titles and transfered them to my reader, they are

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction (Writing Handbooks S.)


and 

'Salem's Lot

in preparation for my reading tour of the Vampire myth.


Oct 8, 2010

eBook Review: Origin by JA Konrath

Being a recent ebook convert (don't know if this is the right word, I still want to get Behemoth in hardback), I have only recently stumbled across blogger, and thriller author J.A. Konrath - check him out at his blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing.

Putting his money where...

Now Joe's not backward when coming forward, he has a lot to say about ebooks, publishing/self publishing - check out his posts.

Joe is a fan of lower prices( and better distribution of royalties) for ebooks, and he's willing to back up his bluster with action, hence I was able to get Origin, one of his early books, for free via his website.

Satan awakens
Origin is a modern technothriller with a dash of theological horror thrown in.  While digging the Panama canal, the Americans unearth a sleeping demon.  The find is transported back to the US and a top secret facility is built to house and study it.

And so it remains until the present day when the beast awakens and all hell (come on perfectly valid pun in the context) breaks loose.  The central characters are the latest staff in a long line of specialists who have studied the beast (nicknamed Bub -short for Beealzebub) and they are a bunch of misfits.

The characters are selected to work at the facility due to their expertise in addition to the government having something over them - an excellent device that allows Bub to exploit the characters weaknesses and play them off against one another.


What I loved
I loved the character of the Demon, Bub ), I think that Konrath got this just about perfect, especially the voice and the psychological games played.

What I didn't
It was possibly a bit light on the ancient history, it felt ever so slightly rushed ( well it is a thriller) I would have liked more ancient history and less of the science of genetics.

In Conclusion
It feels like a touch of Indiana Jones, mixed with a generous dose of Mathew Reilly and a pinch of Michael Crichton.  It is possibly the best never published, at least not traditionally, book I have read. Better in fact than I lot that have been .

Indeed if I was to compare the thriller aspects of Origin to Reilly's Ice Station I'd say Konrath comes out ahead.

Read it, it's a roller coaster ride.

Buy it through Amazon ($ 4.99 US) Kindle format
Buy it Through Smashwords ($2.99 US) Every format known to man or woman

Oct 4, 2010

Blio - Raising the stakes in e-reading apps

Over six months ago I signed up to a mailing list for a company that was going to release an e-reading application that promised to kick the competition out of the park.


Time wore on and the memory of the promised software faded away, I assumed that it had gone the way of a thousand other pieces of vapourware.

Enter Blio
Blio is an e-reading application available for windows pc's.  Though there are apps in the works for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. At the moment there's only a North American release - meaning that the rest of the world can download the application and read free e-books, but will have to wait if you want to purchase new books.

The Features

  • Blio displays books in full color, with fonts, pictures, and layout as the publisher intended.
  • Blio lets you sync up to 5 devices so your books can go wherever you go.
  • Blio’s BookVault lets you access all of your content, and download it to your device from anywhere you have an internet connection.
  • ReadLogic mode intelligently zooms to the next logical text block to simplify reading even on the smallest devices.
  • Multiple reading views, including: text only mode, single page, dual page, tiled pages, or 3D “book view” for realistic page turning.
  • Create a personalized list of reference websites for one-touch look-up of highlighted phrases.
  • Look up phrases or topics in the included browser, without ever leaving the context of your book
  • Have Blio read the selected book to you, highlighting each words as it does.
  • Insert text, image, or hyperlink notes directly into your content. These are saved, and can be exported to create lists or study materials.
  • Full support for audio and video embedded within interactive books
  • Supports touch interaction for touch-enabled devices
What I like
The interface is smooth, easily superior to  Kindle for PC, and Adobe Digital editions.  The note taking functions that incorporate, image and links, search thesauruses from within in the app, makes me think that this could become the got to app for reading and reviewing on the laptop.  The automatic text to speech function was interesting (it kept mispronouncing wind ), not sure if I like being read to by Stephen Hawking.


Reservations
Well aside from being locked out of purchasing and preferring to read e-ink, not many.  I did find it odd that there didn't appear to be a function for searching within books. 


Edit:  Nathan at the eBook Reader has picked up some other drawbacks that are worth considering.


Conclusion
Has potential, perhaps as an app for the Ipad and used in an educational setting.  It will be interesting to see if there will be publishers who will take advantage of some of its more advanced multimedia features.


E-book adventures is my weekly series post outlining my exploration of the e-book format. See other posts here and join in the discussion.

Oct 1, 2010

A small slice of humble pie... or how I was able to download an ebook from Borders

Photo by Bucklava
Earlier in the week I complained about Borders Australia's and Angus & Robertson's e-book purchasing experience.

I still have not received any customer service response from Angus & Robertson other than an automated email.  Borders have been slow but at least I have spoken to a (probably over worked) human.

Free e-books through Borders
In short don't bother unless you have a kobo reader or want to read them on the kobo desktop app (which is worse then the Sony desktop app).  I am still not able to sync my reader with my Borders library to download the free e-books.

Download from Gutenberg instead.

Purchasing e-books
I took a punt and decided to purchase a cheap title to see if the procedure for downloading purchased e-books is any different from the instructions for trying to download free titles- it is.




Above is the screenshot from my eLibrary at Borders online.  The Vampire Collection that I purchased has some text under the 'open book' button, it's a text link that allows you to download an .acsm file which you can open in Adobe Digital Editions and then transfer to your reader.  Not pretty, but it worked.

There have been issues with links not working for some purchasers but for me it worked okay.

Will I be shopping at Borders in the future?

Not unless its the only place I can secure a particular title or they drop their prices and compete with the Book Depository.

Book Beginnings on Friday - October 1st

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners.

Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

This weeks book is Lee Child's Die Trying (Jack Reacher, No. 2).  It's my first purchase of an ebook to be read on the Sony Prs 505 that I received as a gift.  The purchase was made through the book depository, whose point of sale was second only to Amazon as the most pleasant I have come across.
But here is the first sentence:

Nathan Rubin died because he got brave.
This is the second Jack Reacher book I have read and I am getting the feeling that Lee Child likes hitting you with a death upfront.  Right away you are in the action.


Are there any other Jack Reacher/Lee Child fans out there that can confirm this for me? It's a classic way to start a novel, but I wonder if its over use will become a bit of a drawback.

Stephen King on E-books - Books just a delivery system



The interviewer says that:

"The Internet in many was killed the music industry, so why won't it do it to books"  

I thought this was interesting for two reasons. The first - has the music industry been killed off or did things jut change?  Did it we lose shop fronts to internet stores?  Artists are still producing music and media companies are still finding new talent and promoting them.

I think e-books are and will continue to impact the market and I think one of the casualties will be the small independently owned bookstore unless they can figure out a way to get in on the action or perhaps change the service they provide.

Second I like King's answer - that the internet or more specifically the use of it to facilitate the purchasing of digital books may well kill the book industry as we know it and there may not be much anyone can do about it.

If you read a bit of Joe Konrath's musings on the situation, a shake-up of the publishing industry might just be long overdue.

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