eBooks and You, Part 2.

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is offer book reviews. I read a lot, and I love sharing books–and I hope this will be a way to show off some lesser known titles, as well as books by some indie authors who are several steps of where I am now. To get started, I’ll focus on some quick notes on some books I’ve recently read.

All of these are available through the Kobo store (which I’ve linked to), and other eBook retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

Ice Cracker 2 (And Other Stories) by Lindsay Buroker is an excellent introduction to her Emperor’s Edge series (the first book of which is offered for free at her website). Amaranthe is a cunning heroine on the run from the Empire, having been wrongly accused of crimes against the throne. With the help of master assassin Sicarius, she wants to clear their names.

To be honest, I’ve only read the title story of this collection so far, but am instantly invested in these characters. I especially like Amaranthe, a great leader who doesn’t yet realize the impact she has on people, or realize that she has the potential to change the world. I’m looking forward to diving into the entire series.

Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella  by Mira Grant. If you haven’t read the Newsflesh books–about zombies unleashed in a world where bloggers are the news, the entertainment, and the heroes–do yourself a favour and go get them now. Zombie stories are a dime a dozen, but Grant has managed to make them fresh and exciting–not to mention based in some brilliant and accurate science. This novella was released in 2011, but reading it before the trilogy will put everything into perspective–though there are also lots of throwbacks to the books one wouldn’t understand until having read the trilogy.

It’s a short but very finely woven story that focuses much less on the horror of a zombie apocalypse, and more on the almost casual coincidence that makes t come to bear. It’s also very heartfelt and moving–especially the scenes with the dog. Definately a must–and keep an eye out for Grant, she’s a definite up and comer.

The Science Fiction Megapack by various authors. There are actually a lot of “megapacks” out there–just go to your favourite eBook store and search for them. There’s one for vampires, horror stories, the Cthulhu Mythos (a personal favourite), westerns, detective stories…and more. Best of all, they’re all only $0.95!

I picked the Sci-Fi one here because I’m partial to classic science fiction stories. Across the four megapacks they offer, you’ll find stories by Issac Asimov, Ben Bova, Phillip K Dick, Murray Leinster, and dozens more. How can you pass that up for a buck?

Siddhartha: The Prince who Became Buddha by Hermann Hesse. This has been one of my favourite books for years. It’s not as short as the others in this list, but I wanted to include it because it’s just such a great book–and the Kobo store offers an epub for free!

This is the story, obviously, of the man who would become The Buddha. For those who don’t know about Buddhism, the Buddha wasn’t, and never has been, considered a deity. He was just a man who came to some startling revelations about the disparities in his life, and strove to become a better person. Struggling between hedonism and strict asceticism, he finds enlightenment in neither, but keeps pursuing it. It’s a breathtaking book.

Don’t Eat Cat: by Jess Walter. This short story is ostensibly about zombies (see a theme?) But really, like any good speculative fiction, the horror is only a convenient frame to hold a great human story. Owen has just received some bad news, and it’s gotten to him harder than he’d want to admit. Trying to come to terms with it, he seeks out his girlfriend–who left him years before after becoming addicted to a party drug that literally turned her into a zombie.

The first few pages read like a tongue-in-cheek parody of the very concept of a zombie thriller, but it quickly turns into one of the most touching short stories I’ve read in recent years (and like I said, I read a lot). Again, for only a dollar, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

And there you have it. Not the most in depth (or, admittedly, objective) reviews, but there you go. If you’ve been reading eBooks for years, you may have already seen some of these. If you’re new to this whole thing, these are great introductions…and cheap, too.

But, as LeVar himself would say…you don’t have to take my word for it!

And once again, stay tuned next week for five days of Writer’s Tools!

eBooks and You!

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past few days since I started this blog about how often I’ll be posting. Some blogs post daily, some once in a while. I haven’t posted in my other blog–Anything But Falafels–in a while, but am totally getting to it.

For this one…I think it’s important to post regularly in an effort to develop my audience–and to keep myself accountable and motivated. So I’m going to try to post daily, even if it’s something quick. Like today.

When eBooks first became a thing, I thought it was a ridiculous idea. I’m one of those guys who loves spending time in bookstores and libraries. Ask my wife; we go in, I won’t come out for hours. I love the smell of books, I love the way books feel, I love the heft of them in my hands. For probably close to two decades, I haven’t left the house without a book.

So my first thought–shared by many, I’m sure–about eBooks was “why on earth would you want to carry another electronic gizmo in place of an honest to goodness book?” And for years, I stubbornly refused to get into the tech.

But it started creeping under my skin. It started with .pdf files and smartphones. I work at a job that requires extensive knowledge of certain laws and policies pertaining to liquor service, and have the Tome itself on a bookshelf in my office. When I heard I could get it on my phone–and search for text, highlight text, and save changes, all on the go–I was intrigued. A phone isn’t an ideal platform for this sort of thing, but it showed me the potential–and it’s a slippery slope from there. A year or so later, I bought my first Kobo, and was an instant convert. I still read “real books,” but the convenience of having them all with me at once is indispensable.

You see, I’m a collector of books–between digital and hard copies, probably over 500 and counting. I love to research things, so having a digital library at my fingertips is a great idea. Being able to compare translations of the Tao te Ching or highlight passages in books that give me ideas for stories or other things to research,  or making notes within the text to draw comparisons from one text to another; all of this is very exciting to me. Time was I could only do this at the library, having requisitioned a bank of desks to myself, piled to the rafters with books, spending eight or ten hours by myself in a dusty corner. Now it’s all in the palm of my hand.

Another thing I love about Kobo is that it’s easy to explore. Browsing is one of my favourite bookstore or library activities; you never know what you’ll find by scouring the racks. Online it’s different; you have to have a place to start, and often you won’t get too much further from where you already are. But algorithms for suggesting new books are improving. With the option to Preview books from the Kobo store, you can even try out dozens of titles for fee and only buy the ones that interest you…kind of like checking them out of the library.

The technology isn’t perfect. pdf files don’t display very well on my Kobo. Sometimes the pages don’t turn, or turn more than I intend. The Preview feature is sometimes useless, because the only pages previewed end up being the copyright and Table of Contents. But the technology is growing fast–and so is the base of readers using it, not to mention the huge number of people writing specifically for the eBook market. Which is exactly why I’m here, isn’t it?

So what are your experiences and opinions on eBooks? Hurting the publishing industry? The next new fad, only to fade? Wave of the future, one step away from downloading text directly to our brain (how cool will that be)?

Next week we’re going to kick off a feature: Writer’s Tools. I’m going to try to post five articles, each featuring a different tool that writers can use to hone their craft. Because, after all, you can’t publish anything if you have nothing to publish. Stay tuned, and have a great weekend!