Sunday, March 31, 2013

March recap

First of all, my sidebar widget lists aren't up-to-date because (1) I've been neglecting the blog and (2) I got an inexplicable error message each time I've tried to update them today. With any luck this issue will get resolved sometime in the near future.

Now for a bit of disclosure -
1. affiliate links (for more information see this post)
2. mentions of books I may have received for free

Books read in March

25. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty (post forthcoming) - Netgalley
24. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress (post forthcoming) - library book
23. The James Joyce Murder by Amanda Cross (post forthcoming) - BookCrossing book
22. Currant Creek Valley by Raeanne Thayne (post forthcoming) - Netgalley
21. Green Corn Ceremonialism in the Easter Woodlands by John Witthoft - library book via interlibrary loan
20. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi (see post) - borrowed from my dad
19. Grave Consequences by Lisa Bergren (see post) - Netgalley
18. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (post) - personal copy

I gave up on -
The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair
reason: I hit my renew limit before I finished it so I had to bring it back to the library unfinished

Notes from the field
or, the not-so-secret travels of BookCrossing books

(see this post for more information about this feature)

- This copy of Divided in Death found a new reader is Mississauga, Ontario on March 29th.
- This copy of Possession by A.S. Byatt was handed from one friend to another in W. Henrietta, New York on March 16.
- This advance-reader copy of Kabul Beauty School was wild-released in Hamilton, Ontario on March 10.
- This advance-reader copy of The Space Between Us was reviewed by a reader who's had it since May 2007 on March 24th.
- This copy of Time's Arrow arrived in Marshfield, Wisconsin on March 11th.

2013 (so far) in Books 

books finished / abandoned - 25 / 3
- library books - 10 (8 finished, 2 abandoned)
- review copies - 9 (8 finished, 1 abandoned)
- personal copies - 4
- bookcrossing books - 3 
- borrowed copies - 2
- non-review ebooks - 1

books purchased
- for self - 1
- as gifts - 0

books otherwise acquired
n.b. ebooks don't count here as they don't take up physical space
- as gifts - 2

- books read - 3
- books registered - 1
- books wild-released - 11

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader's demise and the FTC's need for clear[er] and [more] conspicuous disclosures

Two headaches in two days have shriveled my desire to blog going forward.

So, yesterday Google announced that it will be killing off Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. Now, if you use Google Reader you've no doubt been apprised of this news since you (like me) were greeted by a pop-up announcement when you logged in to read your feed last night. There are lots of other options (Lifehacker's Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives post discusses some of them and provides instructions on how to migrate over your feeds), but I'm unhappy on principle. I spend more time in Google Reader than I do on Facebook and I hate having it ripped away from me. I'll use this forced change (Reader-substitute to be determined) to weed my subscriptions, but I remain stubbornly resistant.

Also this week (Tuesday actually, but I didn't learn about it until today) the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a document explicating disclosure requirements for online advertising. The blog Beauty and Fashion Tech has a thorough overview of the new guidelines and how they impact bloggers: For Bloggers: How to Comply With The New FTC Guidance on Disclosing Products Provided For Review.
Now, as I understand it, if I want to continue posting reviews in my usual manner, I will need to make the following changes:
  1. explicitly state next to each Powell's link that I would receive a 7.5% commission on what you buy if you buy anything at after clicking through to the store via my link
  2. make the first line of my post a statement that I received a copy of the book in question from someone/some entity to review if I happen to be posting about a review copy of that book (first line because I usually start the post with a title and author header that includes a link to the book's listing at, 7.5% commission) while also keeping the end-of-post disclosure statement I already use in these instances
Of course I could also stop linking to any store sites, which wouldn't be too onerous considering that I've made all of $100.13 in the 6+ years that I've had this blog.  In the interest of full disclosure, $93.04 (plus ~$5 of my own money) was used to buy and ship the prizes for my 5-year anniversary giveaway and $7.09 is sitting unclaimed in my partner account.  But what of all the older posts?  I have neither the time nor the inclination to go back and edit ~930 posts to remove or annotate links.

The need to include the disclosure statement both at the beginning and at the end of the post irks me. It's unnecessarily repetitive, I think, especially given the clientele of a book blog (i.e. people who actually read and, hopefully, pay attention to what they are reading).

And, what bothers me more than anything else is that I have to worry about this when makeup companies can get away with using false eyelashes in mascara ads.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

dad: you've got to read this book

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They're hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.
So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.
Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, its quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, hes going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
A few weeks ago I was at my parents' place watching television with my mom when my dad came down the stairs brandishing a paperback, which he'd clearly just finished reading.  The book in question was Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.  He clarified his initial exclamation (see post title) by saying "all of you [which I took to mean Russell, my mom, and I] have got to read this book."  Rather than leave it at that, Dad expounded on the merits of Agent to the Stars and of Scalzi in general, who he classically referred to as having become famous for writing "science fiction for old people" (too true, see Old Man's War novels).

My mom called dibs on Agent to the Stars. She read the novel fairly quickly and when I asked her what she thought of it, she was decidedly less enthusiastic (the word "silly" was used). Now my mother is a woman who has absolutely no qualms about giving up on a book (even one enthusiastically recommended by her discriminating daughter) so the fact that she finished Agent to the Stars belies her damnation by faint praise.

I started Agent to the Stars last night and finished it this afternoon and I have to say that I loved it. Agent to the Stars is silly (which is apparent from the synopsis), but it is also smart and very approachable, definitely one I'd recommend for people who [think they] don't like science fiction. Parts were laugh-out-loud funny and I particularly liked the character of Joshua.

One other thing makes Agent to the Stars particularly noteworthy: it was Scalzi's first novel. I admit that I often skip right through books' frontmatter in my rush to get to the story, but Agent to the Stars' "Author's Note and Acknowledgments" (in my dad's 2008 Tor edition) is definitely worth a read as it describes the strange publication history of Scalzi's "practice novel."

Monday, March 04, 2013

a few romance novels

Recently Russell commented on the fact that I hadn't read any romance novels lately. While his observation was in fact correct,1 I was a bit taken aback because I didn't think that Russell payed all that much attention to what I read on a daily basis. Then it occurred to me that it is actually quite obvious (to him) when I have a romance in progress because I can't help but read aloud the most over-the-top descriptions for Russell's amusement if he happens to be somewhere in the general vicinity.

In any case his comment spurred this post (and will likely result in more romance reviews in the nearish future since I requested a few books from NetGalley's romance offerings).

Love Unscripted by Tina Reber
series: Love (1)

female lead: Small-town Rhode Island bar owner
male lead: Hollywood A-lister
filling out the (love) triangle: Bodyguard

I actually read Love Unscripted last year and I can safely say that it is what put me off romance novels in the near past. The novel was simply far too long (officially 592 pages). It could have easily been broken in two, there was even a natural place to do so (and seeing that Love Unscripted is actually the first in a series, which continues the story of this same couple, obviously the author didn't take issue with breaking up the story in principle). The protagonist's secondary love interest never felt like a real option (even early on it was obvious to me as a reader that he wasn't good for her), so her wishy-washiness becomes a bit unbearable in the second half of the book. After a certain point even her passionate, hot-and-cold relationship with the primary love interest ceased to amuse me. I remember thinking "will this book ever end?" I probably should have given up on Love Unscripted, but I am a glutton for punishment.

Lady Gone Bad by Sabine Starr

setting: 1880s Texas
male lead: Deputy US Marshall
female lead: [see title]

Lady Gone Bad was the Nook "Free Fridays" offering for February 22nd. I often forget to check the weekly freebie, but conveniently enough the first Friday after Russell's observation this wild west romance was on offer. Lady Gone Bad is a pretty standard historical romance. It's not heavy on historical detail (or accuracy) and some plot points are never properly explained, but both leads are sympathetic (and their relationship is appropriately passionate).  Cringe-worthy cover, though.

Grave Consequences by Lisa Bergren
series: Grand Tour Series (2)

setting: Europe, circa 1913
leading lady: A Cinderella-like heiress not comfortable with her new elevated position in society
bachelor #1: Dashing French nobleman
bachelor #2: Tour guide

Grave Consequences continues the story begun in Glamorous Illusions (which I haven't read) of a young woman on a tour of Europe with her newly discovered half-siblings. It is a combination of romantic suspense (the opens with the group fleeing from a kidnapping attempt) and historical inspirational romance. The novel isn't particularly preachy, but the two main characters have enough examinations of consciousness to keep the reader from forgetting that the novel is Christian fiction. I found the suspense a bit melodramatic and I pinpointed the hidden bad guy early on, but I did appreciate how strove to incorporate the educational aspect of the grand tour into her narrative and the fact that the love triangle was well-balanced.  I imagine that my sister would like this series.  I think I'll recommend it to her.

  1. Even though I don't often post about them on the blog (usually they're "nothing to write home about" as they say, I do read romance novels somewhat regularly.

disclosure: Via NetGalley I received a review copies of Grave Consequences and Love Unscripted from David C. Cook and Atria Book respectively.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

a couple of new YA books from
favorite non-YA authors

Russell and I have good about reining in our tendency toward excessive book acquisition since we moved (very good with the exception of the Borders-liquidation splurging).  In recent months I have purchased two books for myself, intentional purchases from from bricks-and-mortar book stores.  Both of these books were on my to-buy list because I love their authors' other work and knew that I'd want these new releases for my library. After reading both of them, I know that I made the right decision to skip the library and go straight to the bookstore.

I bought The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde (released in October) for myself in December and wrapped it up as a Christmas present. I bought Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (released on February 5th) on Presidents' Day weekend. These two novels have quite a lot in common. Both are written by authors who are famous for zany, alternate history-type fantasy novels. Both are their respective authors' first foray into YA fiction (though I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Carriger and Fforde's other novels to teens). Both are first in a planned series. And, both have really fantastic (in my opinion, at least) cover art.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
series: Finishing School (1)

Etiquette and Espionage is set in the same world as Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (see post), though at a slightly earlier time (alternate 1851). In it we meet some of the Parasol Protectorate series' secondary characters as children.

The novel opens with 14-year-old Sophronia Temminnick ensconced within a dumbwaiter, from which she hopes to eavesdrop.  When Sophronia's plans go disastrously awry, resulting in a ruined dress (hers) and a ruined hat (Mrs. Barnaclegoose's), Sophronia's mother unceremoniously packs her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. That Mademoiselle Geraldine's is no ordinary finishing school becomes apparent before Sophronia arrives as the academy.  If the natterings of her fellow debut weren't enough to make Sophronia suspicious, their coach being beset by flywaymen (airborn highwaymen), demanding they hand over a prototype, sealed the deal.

I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage immensely (a school that teaches espionage alongside etiquette and has both werewolf and vampire instructors is so very Gail Carriger) and look forward to buying Curtsies and Conspiracies, Finishing School installment the second, for my library in November or December.

The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde
series: Chronicles of Kazam (1)

The Last Dragon Slayer is less obviously a series opener. I know that it is the first book in the Chronicles of Kazam series only because the publishers tell me so, but it makes sense since Fforde does love to write in series.

The Last Dragon Slayer takes place is a completely different world than any of Fforde's other series, but that world is appropriately eccentric and fully realized.  If you like Jasper Fforde, you'll like this new series, but it is a bit like Fforde lite. Acutally The Last Dragon Slayer would be a good introduction to Fforde as it is a more approachable than The Eyre Affair, The Big Over Easy, or Shades of Grey (which is probably Fforde's least accessible opener).

15 year-old Jennifer Strange is an orphan indentured to Kazam Mystical Arts Management. She's been running the company, which hires out magicians for miscellaneous odd jobs, since the mysterious disappearance of its director, Mr. Zambini.  Mystical arts management isn't the most promising of career fields given that magic is losing its potency, but Jennifer only has a few years left in her servitude.  However, when her name is connected with the prophesy of the imminent death of the last dragon, it becomes clear that Jennifer's immediate future will involve more than paperwork and contract negotiation.

The second book in the Chronicles of Kazam, The Song of the Quarkbeast, will be released in the US in September (it's been available in the UK since 2011).

February reading recap,
notes from the field, and statistics

Still not doing so well on the post-about-books-as-soon-as-I've-read-them resolution, but c'est la vie
I bought one book for myself this month (Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger) and received two as gifts (Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore and Literary Knits by Nikol Lohr).

Books read in February

17. The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas - public library
16. Lady Gone Bad by Sabine Starr - free ebook
15. Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende (post) - bookcrossing book
14. Knitting Through It edited by Lela Nargi (post) - borrowed copy
13. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (post) - personal copy
12. A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay - bookcrossing book
11. The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes (post partially written) - Netgalley
10. Astray by Emma Donoghue (post) - public library

I gave up on
- Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath - public library
reason: only because I'd hit my renewal limit on it.

Notes from the field
or, the not-so-secret travels of BookCrossing books

background: The neatest thing about Bookcrossing is that the site sends you notifications whenever any of the books that you've logged gets a new journal entry. I thought it might be kind of fun to share these on the blog since I always enjoy hearing back from one of my books.
In case it isn't obvious, my posts appear under the name morsecode on the Bookcrossing site.

- This copy of The Swallows of Kabul was sent from Queensland, Australia (where it had been since January 2010) to New South Wales (arriving on February 16).

2013 (so far) in Books 

books finished / abandoned - 17 / 2
- library books - 7 (6 finished, 1 abandoned)
- review copies - 6 (5 finished, 1 abandoned)
- personal copies - 2
- bookcrossing books - 2 
- borrowed copies - 1
- non-review ebooks - 1

books purchased
- for self - 1
- as gifts - 0 (I did give a book this month, but it was purchased last year)

books otherwise acquired
n.b. ebooks don't count here as they don't take up physical space
- as gifts - 2

- books read - 2
- books wild-released - 5