Book Stuff

Finishing #PaperVsPixels

papervspixels-graphic-pixelsAs today is 1st May, the #PaperVsPixels challenge has come to an end. In my post at the beginning of the month I talked a bit about how my heavy, deadline-filled final uni workload was zapping my time and brain space for both reading and blogging, April was probably the most intensive study month I’ve had throughout the whole degree.

I did manage to read 6 and a bit books, I finished the rest of that bit today but obviously can’t count it fully. That total does actually mean April is, so far this year, the month in which I read the most books. Was this down to the fact I solely read eBooks? I’m not sure.

Taking part in the challenge definitely meant I was more focused on getting my book count up, knowing this end of month check in post needed to happen was a big motivating factor for me. The Easter weekend also had an impact on my reading – I managed to organise my time so I didn’t study at all on the Saturday or Sunday, and read a book on each day. I was mindful of the length of books I read – my total includes one novella and one middle grade book, I deliberately avoided books like The Luminaries and The Goldfinch!

Did I learn anything from the challenge? Well not in terms of my preferences for reading format. I’ve blogged before about my feelings about my eReader, both when I first got it and a year on. It’s been a few more years of reading both physical books and eBooks and I still read lots on both formats. I still think there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and I’m aware the my personal perspective is influenced by my reliance on my eReader to counteract the problems I have with heavier books as a result of my Hypermobility Syndrome.

One thing I definitely did learn is that I want what I can’t have. No sooner had the month started then books on my to be read bookcase started calling to me. Books I’ve had waiting for my attention for years suddenly became incredibly appealing, but I stayed strong – even when a couple of really exciting books came in the post I was very good and put them to one side. The challenge for me was definitely in being restricted to one format, I’m very glad to be going back to free choice!

Book Stuff

The Kindle – A Year On.

I said in my previous post about my Kindle that I would post again later in the year after I’d used it a bit more, I went on to forget all about that until I saw other people starting to post their thoughts in the run up to Christmas.

My major concern about the Kindle was how much I would actually end up using it. I loved the idea of it and the experience of using it initially but I was a little worried that it was just the novelty value and that after a couple of months it might have worn off. This definitely hasn’t been the case, so far this year (I’ve got a couple of books to go before the year’s end I reckon) I’ve read 100 novels. 40 of these were eBooks, 60 were physical books. A pretty high proportion of the physical books I read were books sent for review by publishers, if they had been books I was choosing myself I think I probably would have ended up reading more on my Kindle – there are currently around 50 books on there waiting for my attention. I did read some review books on my Kindle both using NetGalley and having books provided directly from the publisher.

After a year of using it my pros remain pretty much the same as they were after the first week of using it:

  • Being able to read books that would now be too big and / or heavy for me to hold is wonderful.
  • Only needing to throw my Kindle in my bag for weekends away means I’ve been travelling much lighter this year on my various trips away, and has meant my handbag is lighter to carry on a daily basis (I rarely go out without a book in my bag).
  • Whereas in my last post I’d only nearly missed my tube stop, on my next trip to London I did actually miss my tube stop, and the one after it, the one after that and the one after that one too.
  • The regular Kindle sales that Amazon holds have meant that I’ve been able to try new authors and new genres cheaply (and gone on to read more books by authors I’ve discovered that way). The same goes now for the Kindle Daily Deal offer.

But like I said, nothing’s perfect and my quibbles with the Kindle are:

  • There have been formatting issues in quite a number of the books I’ve read, I hope that this is something I’ll start to see less and less of – physical books wouldn’t get through the system with these sorts of issues.
  • It’s very easy to stockpile books without even thinking about it, like I said I have around 50 unread books on my Kindle at the moment and I think that figure would be far higher if I wasn’t watching my spends.
  • You can’t flick through the pages on a Kindle, when I write reviews I tend to flick through the book to find specific bits and I can’t do that with my Kindle. I’ve started making notes as I read instead which is actually making reviewing easier overall.

So overall my issues with my Kindle are all really minor. I’ve been so happy with my Kindle this year, I just wish there was some sort of commission scheme available – every train journey I’ve taken this year has ended up with me chatting with a fellow traveller and singing the Kindle’s praises. I’d have been quite happy to accept commission in Amazon credit!

Book Review

Book Review : Crash Into Me by Jill Sorenson.

Though he’s gone into virtual seclusion, Ben Fortune is still the world’s most famous surfer, known as much for his good looks as for his skill. He’s also a suspect in a series of brutal murders that may have begun with his late wife. Now FBI Special Agent Sonora “Sonny” Vasquez has been sent undercover to the elite beach community of La Jolla to make friends with Fortune. With her fierce beauty and take-no-prisoners attitude, she’s more than equipped for the job, and soon she and Ben have collided in an affair that is both intense and irresistible. But for the first time in Sonny’s career, her emotions are threatening to get the better of her. Could this passionate, wounded man, who is genuinely anguished over his troubled daughter, really be a killer? And could falling in love blind Sonny to the greatest danger of all?

When I first read the synopsis for this I must admit my thoughts jumped straight to Point Break. It was the whole undercover in the world of surfers thing, plus I’d only recently watched the film for the first time. Once I’d moved my attention back to the book I liked the sound of Sonny so I eagerly started reading.

The reader is introduced to Sonny in the first chapter, seeing her in the surroundings of the FBI training centre. Straight away it becomes clear that she’s quite a prickly character, very focussed on her job and maintaining her professional reputation. The chapter also sets up the mystery plot that earns the book its place within the suspense subset of the Rouge Romance list – there’s a serial killer within the surf community and Sonny must go undercover to investigate. To make things more interesting, it’s a return to Sonny’s roots, she grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in the same town that these murders have been taking place.

We initially get to see Ben through Sonny’s eyes, through her observations of him as she starts her undercover work. She has him in her sights as a possible suspect, his wife was killed in similar circumstances, though from everything she can see he seems like an unlikely target. She instead uses his daughter to get to him, and then once she has her way in gets to know him in every way.

I liked the plot, though I spent a fair amount of time worrying about what was going to happen when Ben inevitably found out about Sonny’s deception and lies. I liked that their relationship was a little more complicated than sparks fly, they fall in love, the end – they both came with stories and baggage, and were realistic characters.

In addition to Sonny and Ben the other characters were well created and interesting. Carly, Ben’s daughter, is a troubled teen who seems to be constantly challenging her dad. This sort of character could easily become cliched but Sorenson manages to avoid this pitfall.

From the mystery side of the plot I thought I’d got it worked out but discovered I’d got it completely wrong, and the reveal was a surprise to me. I know some people like to be able to work out whodunnit early on but I’m always happy when I don’t manage to work it out. There were however bits of the plot that I was less keen on, some aspects felt a little bit too convenient and at times unnecessary. These were fairly minor quibbles though.

I really enjoyed this book, I liked the surf setting – it was something a bit different. I’d definitely read more by Jill Sorenson in the future.

Wild Heat is published in eBook by Rouge Romance in the UK priced £4.80. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Wild Heat by Bella Andre.

Maya Jackson doesn’t sleep with strangers. Until the night grief sent her to the nearest bar and into the arms of the most explosive lover she’s ever had. Six months later, the dedicated arson investigator is coming face to face with him again. Gorgeous, sexy Logan Cain. Her biggest mistake. Now her number-one suspect in a string of deadly wildfires. As leader of an elite fire-fighting crew in Tahoe, Logan won’t back down from a blaze – or a woman. Maya Jackson may have seduced him with her tears and her passion, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before Logan lets down his guard again. Until Maya’s life is threatened and with his natural-born hero instincts kicking in, Logan vows to protect the woman sworn to bring him down. And as desire reignites, nothing – not the killer fire or the killer hot on their trail – can douse the flames…

Now whilst I am aware of the fact that firemen are not irresistible to all women I’m definitely a sucker for a man in uniform, I remember being hugely disappointed that when I got trapped in a lift the firemen who came to rescue us were all retained firefighters close to retirement age! The blurb for this book therefore hooked me straight away and I knew it was one that I would more than likely enjoy.

The first chapter introduces Maya, she’s had to deal with the belongings of her brother, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. She’s hurt, confused and angry over his death and the somewhat questionable circumstances that surround it. It is this emotional turmoil that leads her to make the uncharacteristic move of getting drunk and having a hot one night stand. The second chapter properly introduces Logan, the man from the one night stand. We get to know that he is a specialised firefighter, part of a hot shot crew who deal with dreadful wildland fires. We also get shown just how dangerous this work is, the chapter is action packed and incredibly tense.

After the opening two chapters set the scene and introduce the main characters, the plot spins into a mystery – someone is deliberately setting the fires that the hot shots are fighting, and Maya is the investigator sent to find out who it is. I found the mystery aspect of the book pretty well done, there are plenty of characters introduced that could be the arsonist, whilst I had suspected a few of them I only very briefly considered the actual culprit.

In a romance novel the relationship between the two lead characters has to be a focal point, and has to work for the reader. I found that the relationship between Maya and Logan was pretty sizzling. After that first night together when they were reunited they both intended to resist the other, but of course that didn’t happen. I liked that Maya was a strong and determined woman, I am not a fan of female characters who simply swoon into the obvious hero’s arms. Logan also worked well for me, he’s definitely an attractive character. I liked reading about his role within the hotshot crew and getting to understand the relationships between him and his fellow crew members.

Whilst I really enjoyed this book it was far from perfect. There were a couple of scenes that left me scratching my head, but I could forgive it these as it was such an enjoyable read. This is the first in a series of books about this particular hot shot crew, I’m definitely going to be reading the others.

Wild Heat is published in eBook by Rouge Romance in the UK priced £4.80. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book News

Introducing… Rouge Romance.

For the rest of this week I’m going to be featuring a new digital list from Ebury, Rouge Romance.

The Rouge list is split into six sub-genres – Regency, Historical, Suspense, Contemporary, Paranormal and Occasions and includes many award-winning, New York Times best-selling authors. All the novels are full length and feature covers specially designed for the UK market. They released eight titles released when they launched on 29 September, and plan to publish four books each month with additional extra ones at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The list is eBooks only at the moment, but there are plans to release print versions of the most popular titles in the future.

They have a website which has details of all of the books they have published so far, and information about the authors behind the books. At the moment there is a PDF sampler available to download that gives you a peek at 8 of the titles currently available. In addition to the website they can be found on Twitter @RougeRomance and Facebook here.

I’ve read Bella Andre’s Wild Heat and Jill Sorenson’s Crash Into Me, both from the Suspense sub-genre. I’ll be reviewing Wild Heat tomorrow and Crash Into Me on Friday so make sure you come back to find out what I thought of them!

Book Review

Book Review : Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey.

Sean Kowalski no sooner leaves the army than he’s recruited by Emma Shaw to be her fake fiancé. Emma needs to produce a husband-to-be for her grandmother’s upcoming visit, and, though Sean doesn’t like the deception, he could use the landscaping job Emma’s offering while he decides what to do with his civilian life. And, despite his attraction to Emma, there’s no chance he’ll fall for a woman with deep roots in a town he’s not planning to call home.

Emma’s not interested in a real relationship either; not with a man whose idea of home is wherever he drops his duffel bag. No matter how amazing his “pretend” kisses are…

When I started reading this book, my initial thoughts were that the plot was absolutely ridiculous. After Emma’s grandmother moved to Florida, Emma made up a relationship to stop her worrying about her being on her own. The man in question was Sean, the soldier cousin-in-law of her friend Lisa. When her grandmother announces she’s coming to visit Emma knows that her deceit will quickly be found out, unless she can persuade Sean who has only just left the army to play along. It didn’t matter though that the plot was a little far fetched, it was also sweet and funny and has some real moments of sizzle.

I think the real strength of Yours to Keep is in the characters. Sean is part of the Kowalski family, this is the third book that Shannon Stacey has written about them. The relationships between the family members are all wonderfully written and the love that they all have for each other just jumps off the page, I found myself wishing that my extended family was more like the Kowalskis.

Emma is a great character, she’s determined and capable, and hugely likeable. Whilst some of her decisions are a little questionable, like the whole fake fiancé thing, they’re always made for the best of reasons. I fell completely in love with Sean, he’s a wonderfully caring and strong character. Then came the revelation that he carries post it notes and a sharpie everywhere and uses them to leave little notes – who could fail to fall in love with a man like that?

The book’s a quick read, it’s quite short at 201 pages long. Whilst it seemed fairly obvious where the plot was going to go I found that I was still really invested in it, and willing it to play out the way I thought it would.

I enjoyed reading this so much, I’m definitely going to be reading the previous two books about the Kowalski family and any subsequent ones that are written.

Yours To Keep is published in eBook by Carina Press in the UK priced £2.77. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey.

People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.

Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow is in charge of an investigation into a serial killer called The Oracle who turns his victims into macabre works of art. But Prosper harbours a dark secret of his own. He and his old school friends were members of a group called The Kult who made a pact to dish out their own form of vengeance on bullies. Now a member of the group puts their friendship to the test when he makes a far darker request: that they murder someone that raped his wife.

To get away with murder, the friends decide to blame it on The Oracle, but events take a chilling turn when the instigator turns up dead, his body fashioned into a disturbing work of art. Now, one by one, the members of The Kult are being hunted down.

Just when Prosper thinks things can’t get any worse, his wife is kidnapped and he knows that if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks his dark deeds being unearthed. If he doesn’t, he risks losing all that he holds dear.

When I was in my teens and early twenties I read a lot of thrillers about serial killers but in recent years I’ve found myself drawn to them less and less. When I read the synopsis for The Kult though I was intrigued, I liked the sound of a group of childhood friends coming back together as adults, so I thought I would give it a go.

The book starts by introducing The Oracle and giving the reader an insight into him and what he does. I found parts of this a little grizzly, but kept reading and was pretty quickly hooked. It then introduces Prosper, first as an policeman investigating The Oracle, but then as a member of The Kult – a club he and his friends set up as teenagers to right the wrongs they suffered. The other members want to carry out one more act but for Prosper it’s not an easy decision any more, he’s responsible for upholding the law but their plan will break it a few times over.

The decision to carry out their plan and frame The Oracle for it seems as sound as any plan to get away with murder does, but as is to be expected things don’t go to plan and the book quickly spirals into a tense thriller. The reader certainly gets the sense that time is at a premium for the characters, it’s not at all clear who is going to survive by the end of the book.

Prosper is an interesting character, he’s certainly drawn in all shades of grey. I found myself wondering at times what I was actually hoping for by the end of the book. I didn’t want for The Oracle to kill The Kult but I wasn’t entirely sure they deserved to get away with their crime either. I found this added to my enjoyment of the book, the sense of unease I had about the activities in the book meant that I became more involved with what I was reading.

In general this was a good read and I found myself eager to get back to it when I had to put it down. It is pretty grizzly in places, I don’t think I could recommend this to anyone who’s a little squeamish. I’m not sure it’s entirely reignited my taste for the genre, but I do think I’ll probably find myself reading more in it again.

The Kult has been filmed by independent film company Gharial Productions, the trailer can be seen here.

The Kult is published in eBook by Deshca Press in the UK priced £0.86. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Tessa’s Pride by Olivia Brynn

Two years after leaving home to make his own fortune, Joshua Bradley has finally returned to the Bradley Equine Ranch—and to Tessa McCade, the sexy ranch manager with whom he shared a single steamy tryst.

Tessa now owns the ranch like she’s always dreamed—but it’s in trouble. Dozens of horses have been lost and she’s on the brink of bankruptcy. To save his family’s business, Josh offers to buy it from her…and share the ranch house with her once again.

Tessa chafes at needing Josh’s help, but she’s never forgotten the taste of pleasure Josh gave her so long ago. Soon, neither of them can resist the desire mounting between them, and unleash a passion that is even more powerful than Tessa’s pride…

I’d heard about Carina Press and was interested to see what their books were like, so I was really pleased when they appeared on NetGalley and I got a chance to have a look at one.

The plot initially seems pretty simple – a story of damsel in distress, in comes a knight in shining armour to save her and after fighting the attraction between them she gives in and swoons at his feet. Just as I was about to dismiss the book as complete fluff however a twist came that changed my opinion of the book for the better.

In places the plot did take a back seat to the sex, whilst I had expected there to be sex in the book (the cover gave a strong hint of this) I wasn’t really expecting there to be quite as much as there was, particularly considering the slim size of the novella. It was at least pretty well written, I’m just not sure it was all needed for the book.

I liked Tessa, she was written as a strong and determined woman fighting for her place within a male dominated world. I found that I could identify with her, and liked her determination. I liked Josh, but I wasn’t as swept away by him as I wanted to be.

Overall I enjoyed this book, it was a quick and fairly entertaining read. I like the fact that Carina Press is publishing novellas in eBook form, I’ll certainly be giving a few more a go I think.

Tessa’s Pride is published as an eBook by Carina Press in the UK priced $3.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book News

Introducing… Loveswept.

Not a lot of people know this (until now at least) but if I was asked what my reading guilty pleasure was I would have to say it’s classic romance. There are times when all I want to do is curl up with a good old love story, especially one with a cowboy or two. I blame it on the summer I spent as a teenager devouring the box of Lucy Walker books my mom had saved from her teenage years. I was therefore very interested when I received an email from Kate at Transworld about Loveswept.

Transworld Publishers are relaunching romance imprint Loveswept today as an eBook only line. It’s a collaboration with Ballantine Bantam Dell in the USA and will be publishing titles by established authors as well as new voices.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s Loveswept was the imprint that gave many authors their break including Janet Evanovich, Tami Hoag and Iris Johansen. I wonder which of the new voices that are published by the new imprint will go on to have such successful careers?

The line is launching with eight titles, with further titles planned for Autumn 2011. On the website at the moment there is a preview of “Tall, Dark and Lonesome” – I’ve had a little look and it sounds like my kind of read. I think I’ll be reading at least that one, and probably a couple more from this first batch of books.

Book Stuff

The Kindle – My First Thoughts.

I, like many people, received a Kindle for Christmas. After reading some really interesting posts by other bloggers about their feelings about their Kindles I thought I would add my voice to the mix.

When the Kindle was first released I was really dubious about the whole concept, mine was one of the many voices bemoaning the fact that an ebook reader couldn’t possibly recreate the experience of reading accurately – the feel would be wrong, the smell would be wrong, the whole thing would just be wrong. I was quite happy to continue breaking my back on every train journey I took to visit friends (most round trips need 3-4 books I find) and using up my luggage weight allowance with books rather than clothes, shoes or other such practical things to take on holiday.

Time has meant that my feelings on the matter have changed a bit. I have realised that it is okay to love books and love gadgets, and that using an ebook reader doesn’t mean I won’t buy any books at all. Throughout 2010 I also began to see the joint problems that have affected my legs for years affecting my arms more and more, including limiting the size and weight of books I could hold to read. After having the opportunity to test drive an ebook reader for a couple of weeks and chatting to friends who had already been converted to Kindle users my mind was made up. It was good of Father Christmas to oblige really!

The things I love about my Kindle are:

  • I can read any book I want for as long as I want pain free.
  • My trip to London for my birthday and new years was much lighter without having to carry multiple books.
  • I can get as engrossed in reading on the Kindle as I do with paper books – I nearly missed my tube stop twice because I was so wrapped up in the book I was reading.
  • The fact that classics are generally free to download is encouraging me to think about reading books I’ve always meant to read but never gotten around to.

Nothing is perfect though, so for balance the things I don’t love about my Kindle are:

  • In the two books I’ve read so far the formatting has had little mistakes here and there; spaces in the wrong place, a single line of text split over two lines within a paragraph. None of these are big problems, but I do find they break my reading flow.

So far that is the only thing I’ve found that frustrates me a little. It’s a minor quibble, and definitely not one that would stop me recommending the Kindle. I am absolutely in love with my Kindle and quite happy to rave about it at length. I am aware that this may just be the wonderful honeymoon period though so I intend to follow Simon’s example and come back to this later in the year with another review once the honeymoon is over.

[picture from here]