Book purchases: this week’s rundown

Writers are often curious as to how readers find their books and what makes them push the buy button or hand money to the cashier. Here’s my receipt from Kobo this week so far:

  • Before I Wake by Kathryn Smith
  • The Rogue Prince by Lindsay Buroker
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
  • Not Another Family Wedding by Jackie Lau
  • Dangerous by Amanda Quick
  • Outcast by Kiru Taye
  • Rock Rift by Elsa Jade
  • End Transmission by Robyn Bachar
  • Lady of Desire by Gaelen Foley

Dangerous and Lady of Desire are both historical romances I borrowed from the library when they first came out and I enjoyed them. They’re now on sale, so I’ll support that. In a similar vein, I loved Kathryn Smith’s historical romances years ago, and this paranormal looks like it could be fun.

Rosemary and Rue and The Rogue Prince have both been recommended to me: the former by a personal friend, and the latter by some SFRB members.

Not Another Family Wedding and Outcast are part of my personal desire to support writers of color, especially in romance.

I read the weekly Veronica Scott new SFFR releases, and picked up Rock Rift and End Transmission, both new releases by authors I like. Rock Rift is a new series in a shared universe that I heard about via the SFRB, and End Transmission wraps up the Galactic Cold War series.

I also bought Nier: Automata – Short Story Long by Jun Eishima from my local bookstore because I’m a super hyper mega fan of the video game.

Long story short cover image, has androids on it
!@#$ Square Enix, as Yoko would say.

I have gotten to the financial point where I don’t have a book budget anymore. If a book fulfills certain criteria, I buy it. I’ve given up the goal of reading every book I buy. There are just too many good books out there!

Back from Asia

I didn’t get as much reading done over my Asia trip as I would have liked. Four and a half books is plenty, but there were many times I didn’t feel like reading.

Escapism is a popular reason to read genre fiction. Maybe there’s a little escapism in my reading. I don’t read with it in mind, though. I read fiction so that I can experience reality more deeply, so that I can empathize better with others, so my mind is more flexible. I want to know how everybody feels, fictional or non. The more experiences I can think through, even if they’re not my own, make my life richer. They make me ask questions about what I am doing and what I want to do in life.

Travel can be the same for me. I am still busy processing my experiences in Japan and Taiwan. I learned a bit more about where and who I come from historically and presently. To those who don’t have Taiwan on your wish list, I’d urge you to add it, especially if you love cities and nature.

Unrelatedly, I accidentally got myself into DRM purgatory by downloading a book I purchased and accidentally authorizing it with my library account in OverDrive. Now I can’t read it in Adobe Digital Editions, among other things. I thought, well my bad, I’ll purchase another copy, but I can’t do that with the same retailer since it’s in my eLibrary, though not readable there. I sent an email to the retailer to see if they can remove it from my library or issue another key.

For the rest of the year, I have a few books published in 2016 that I need to read if I’m to do the SFR Galaxy Awards. I have some books on my short list, but I’m looking forward to more travel reading (I’m going to San Francisco in a week and then the East Coast mid-December)!

First milestone

I finished my first draft of my first novel! It’s over 100k words. There’s a story in there, but it’s going to require plenty of revision and then editing. I anticipate the process will take several years. I may put it down to work on other stories or games.

I adore big projects. Having finished phase one of this one feels wonderful. I baked a pumpkin bread loaf in celebration.

For now, I’m going to write filler scenes and perspectives, do some writing exercises so I can get to know the characters a little better. I’m working on the Nancy Kress prompt: describe a character through another character’s eyes. I’m working on multiple characters and multiple perspectives, and I’ve discovered some things already.

Then it will be November, and I’ll take a two month break from my novel. I might write a bit of something else, but I’m looking to read and review other books to fill my creative well. I’ll be traveling most of November, too, so I can make a dent in my to-be-read pile!

End-of-year trip East reading and gaming

Boston has been about seventy degrees for Christmas. This is all highly anomalous and the house I stayed at was been stuffy and warm. I’ve gotten some reading done and some gaming and plenty of knitting.

The reading’s pretty all over the place:

  • Sidney Halston’s Laid Out, contemporary romance
  • Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood, paranormal romance
  • NK Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, fantasy
  • Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin, alternate history
  • Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner by Yu Godai, science fiction
  • Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole, paranormal romance

I haven’t the wherewithal for full reviews of all of these, but I’ll make a few comments. I enjoyed Laid Out, but I wanted to punch everyone involved because they were too-human idiots. Believable flaws, but our protagonists are going to need to work hard for their future. Survivor’s guilt doesn’t just resolve in three months.

Frostbound wraps up, for now, Sharon Ashwood’s intriguing Dark Forgotten world. The hellhound hero is an excellent idea, and the heroine could really use some supernatural help for once. Although I could figure out the mysteries from a mile away, the pacing and some personal dynamics made it a fun read.

Go read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms if you haven’t already and can stand fantasy. Original ideas and world, fascinating characters, delicious layered plot. It was a library read but I went and bought the trilogy immediately afterwards.

Once upon a time I loathed steampunk for its Anglocentrism. Since then, lots of authors presented me with wonderful other slants on clocks, zeppelins, and the time of the Industrial Revolution. Clockwork Samurai is Chinese steampunk, set during an alternate Opium War. Lin presents wonderful ideas of acupuncture versus medicine, what patriotism means, and shows us the freaky isolationism that sadly dominated China and Japan during that era. There’s a bit of sweet romance for those who want it, even if it’s not resolved. I await the next novel eagerly.

Avatar Tuner is a light novel which was by the writer for Digital Devil Saga, retelling the story with some changes so far. DDS is one of my favorite games EVAR, so this book is a fun trip down memory lane. Hindu cyberpunk bizarre trip action plus wonderful cannibalism and existential questions. The translator never lets us forget how wonderful and horrible it would be to eat. This book’s part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. Yay!

My favorite cover of the year is the one on Sweet Ruin. I didn’t understand the red feather until late in the story, but I love how it’s integrated. Cole twists her formula a bit in that this time it’s the lady seeking her mate. Josephine is an excellent heroine whose emotional issues could fill several more books. Her man, Rune, is a bit tortured-hero-jerk, but he manages to redeem himself. The emphasis on familial relationships here is awesome.

As for games, I finally beat Pokemon Y. It’s a lovely adorable game that has me gardening and playing petting zoo and running around in grass and putting on cute outfits with my beloved pets. Perhaps this is because I do not have real pets? I have a special weakness for Pokemon and buy one game every few generations. This game was one of the bigger upgrades over past generations, and I find it satisfying just to toodle around and talk to people and their Pokemon. So cute!

Have you heard of Cinders? It’s a visual novel which retells Cinderella, except you can give our titular character some agency and choose her fate. The stepsisters and stepmother are pretty cool characters, as are the voodoo priestess, shady character, and love interests. Cinders can have several different personalities, and the art is gorgeous. I recommend it without reservations.

Happy new year. May it be one of creativity, joy, and discovery.

SFR book review debrief

I reviewed all the books I set out to from the raffle, plus some bonus Anna Hackett. Phew. I had several relatively uneventful weeks until my birthday, and then I slowed down a bit. Will I continue writing reviews? Yes, but at a slower pace.  Since I’m a member of Anna Hackett’s Launch Team, expect to see some more of that here. There are more authors I want to discover, and some authors I want to try something different by.

My taste in entertainment is not perfectly correlated to what I think is ‘good,’ nor does it dictate what I would recommend to others. I understand the desire for a quantitative score when reviewing material, but I don’t like giving one. To add to my difficulties, Amazon and Goodreads have different meanings for the same star ratings. I know that writing is difficult and I feel like I’m critiquing someone else’s child on the child’s personality. How can I be fair to writers and readers?

I decided to treat writing a book review as a matchmaking process. How do I connect the book with readers who will like it? What are the salient parts of the story that others may connect with? Let’s try breaking the book down so I don’t waste anyone’s time and the review reader can get what they want to. Read if you/Skip if you sections may help out prospective readers more than the summary and shouldn’t reflect my preferences. My personal feelings are in the Squees and Grumbles sections, so they are more subjective.

The majority of SFR I’ve read in the past month is space opera. Spaceships, lasers, and aliens pepper these stories. I felt a bit exhausted. I love quantum physics and astronomy as much as the next nerd who took astronomy for fun in college, but some of the aspects of space travel began to blur together after a while. Space opera explores the concept of discovery and of the alien. How do humans respond to situations with a good deal of the unknown? The books made me think about how I handle my fears, change, and the unfamiliar.

The alien invasion setup, which I encountered in some of my reading, overlaps space opera, but with lots of built-in urgency. It tends to be Earthside, grounding our setting in something more familiar with, and shows a struggle against the aliens, who usually aren’t sympathetic. This poses more traditional questions to me about resources and conflicts. How do we survive under threat, what concessions do we make in no-win situations, and how much of our character do we lose during protracted conflict? The stories I like best tend to show an understanding of the opponent’s way of life and acknowledge their personhood. A faceless enemy that operates inscrutably is less interesting to me.

Most of the characters I encountered were white. Of the human characters in the ten books I reviewed, only Michi (support character) and Lana of Lana’s Comet and Eos Rai of At Star’s End are people of color. Mirsee and Tyree of Tethered have coal-black skin but are aliens descended from humans. Are nonwhite people invisible in our future? This seems odd to me. Perhaps it’s author background? What would it mean to be a race that is currently a minority in the Anglosphere after several centuries or millennia? What would it mean to be mixed-race like me? Those are questions I would like to see more exploration of. When I started my first cyberpunk story, I wrote about a black female protagonist and a genderfluid best buddy. I have not lived the experience of what it means to be black, queer, or trans* today, so readers could question my authenticity. However, I would think the bionic corporate assassin bit would be even less authentic.

I was pleased to find several characters living with and coping with disabilities. Cyprus of Lana’s Comet, a major character in Inherit the Stars, and Gema of Alien Blood have some issues that interfere with everyday life that they need to make accommodations for. Disability may mean life would be a bit easier with more advanced technology and medicine…but those societies create new disabilities, too. It’s interesting that although males are often aliens, they are not shown with significant disadvantages in life that they cannot escape people knowing on sight. This could be sample size, but I think it’s an issue within the entire romance genre.

I’m so happy I found all of this. More reviews to come! Once again, thank you to Smart Girls Love Scifi blog for their birthday celebration, and all the authors who participated in the raffles!