Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read an eBook Week starts Sunday!

Read an eBook WeekI saw a mention of Read an eBook Week on a Facebook page I follow, and sure enough, it starts Sunday, March 4th!  If you remember from last year, Smashwords and other sites celebrate the week by offering tons of books for free and on sale.  I still haven't gotten through all of my acquisitions from last year.

The website has a bunch of really cool banners you can put on your blog to help with promotion.  I will also update my blog with information about ebook sales and free offerings throughout the week.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Auschwitz by Miklos Nyiszli

iconiconAuschwitz came to my attention mostly because it was a sale ebook at BN.com, but it intrigued me because of the description.  It's a memoir by a Jewish doctor who was pressed into service at Auschwitz, and lived to write about it afterward, helping to expose many of the terrible things that went on there.  It's not very long, but it is well written and compelling, and it isn't as hard or as horrifying to read as I had feared.

The introduction to the memoir is pretty harsh, condemning the author for his professional vanity and for allowing himself to be forced into helping the Nazis.  Personally, though, I found I couldn't blame the man.  He wasn't forced to kill anyone, only to perform autopsies on people the Nazis had killed, mostly in their quest to prove their theories of the degeneration of the Jewish people.  He also had to provide medical care for the Nazis themselves, but a good part of his duties were also providing medical care for the prisoners, so you can see why he might be willing to help the Nazis if it put him into a position to also help his own people.

But the biggest reason why I thought his actions were excusable was because it gave him the opportunity to save his wife and daughter of Auschwitz.  He was favored by the Nazi's head doctor at Auschwitz, which enabled him to get special privileges, and he was able to get his wife and daughter onto a work detail that took them away from the camp.  And of course, later in the memoir, it turned out that the head doctor's favoritism saved his life more than once, and enabled him to be reunited with his family.  With all of that in mind, I didn't find him nearly as much to blame as the author of the introduction evidently did.

In any case, it's an interesting if sometimes horrifying memoir.  I'm glad that, so many years after its initial publication, this book is still so popular — it seems like it ought to be widely read, so that we never forget the horrific things that were done to other human beings at Auschwitz.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To Walk the Night by E.S. Moore

iconiconThe difficulty of reviewing books I read so long ago is that they get to be rather difficult to remember, as much else as I read!  That's another reason why these reviews may be a bit shortened until I catch up.

Anyway, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed To Walk the Night.  It seems to have been inspired by Underworld and Blade, as the tone of the whole vampires-and-werewolves setting reminded me a little of both, in addition to many similar details — vampire and werewolf blood not mixing, for instance, and the lone supernatural taking out entire vampire covens.

I liked the main character, though, a reluctant vampire with a kick-ass attitude.  I always do like tough heroines, and Kat is definitely tough.  I also liked the dynamics of her relationships, too — with her human sidekick, and with a couple of the supernaturals that seem like they will be in future books.  The next book isn't due out until summer, though, so I will have to wait!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

India Black by Carol K. Carr

iconiconI was really impressed by Carol K. Carr's India Black. There seem to be a lot of steampunk and vampire series lately, but instead, Carr has made a mystery/espionage series out of the "ordinary" Victorian world and an unlikely heroine: a whorehouse madam.

When she is unlucky enough to have one of her clients die on her premises, while being serviced by one of her prostitutes no less, India ends up in more trouble than she'd bargained for.  Initially impressed into service against her will, she teams up with a British agent named French to try to keep Russian spies from stealing British intelligence.  The book's setting is excellent, ranging from the filth of the streets of London to the opulence of the Russian embassy, and even includes an exciting car(riage) chase through the snow.

Like I said, with dark fantasy series multiplying like rabbits, this one really stood out for me.  There is a second book out in the series, and I am really looking forward to reading it — just as soon as my reading list clears out a little!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I almost forgot to say...  Happy Valentine's Day!  Hubby and I are planning to spend the evening tucked away at home, enjoying homemade pizza and watching a movie together.  Afterward I'll read for a while before bed, as always, so there will definitely be books involved in my Valentine's Day!

There are, of course, some ebook deals to be had today, especially in the romance genre.  For instance, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are offering Twilight for only $2.99 today only.  You can find some other ebook deals on Karen's Books on the Knob.

However you celebrate the day, enjoy!

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

iconiconOnce again, I fell behind on my reviews.  The problem is that I'm enjoying reading so much lately — I've been blazing through books one after another, and with less time available for various things these days, that has meant less time to blog.

The solution: I'm going to do fairly quick reviews on everything in order to get caught up.  Once I'm caught up, I will need to assess my time constraints, and may continue doing shorter reviews than usual when there isn't time for longer ones.

I read Grave Peril weeks ago — to give you an idea of how long ago, our monthly book club is coming up this Thursday, and Grave Peril was January's book!  This is the third book in Jim Butcher's Dresden series; our book club read the first two books, Storm Front and Fool Moon, last summer.

I liked Grave Peril just as well as the first two — like them, it was fast-paced and fun, with a bit of flip humor here and there.  In this book, Dresden is hunting ghosts, which are suddenly popping up all over the place.  When he realizes the sudden influx of ghost activity is not coincidental, he has to try to figure out who (or what) is behind it.  I don't want to give anything away, but as we agreed in the book club, the ending really makes this book!  It's a big ending, you might say.

This book also introduced some new characters that will supposedly be in future books as well.  I'm looking forward to reading more about them!  I don't know if our book club will read another of the Dresden books — I think we've already chosen our books for the entire year — but if it looks like we won't, I might continue the series on my own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

iconiconI've read a lot of YA dark fantasy romance — vampires, werewolves, you name it.  This one was about zombies, and it was a really different take on zombies.  I loved it!

Lia Habel's zombies are infected with a disease that causes their death, and then reanimates them.  Depending on how long the brain goes without oxygen — before the reanimation — and whether the person is able to keep from going mad, many zombies are actually no different in death than they were in life... except for the inability to heal, of course.

The story takes place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, yet steampunkish world where society has returned to Victorian values and culture.  In New Victoria, Nora Dearly is the orphaned daughter of an important scientist.  She finds out about the existence of zombies when she is kidnapped by a group of them, but as she learns to trust one of them, a young man named Bram, she discovers that they are the good guys, and actually saved her from a group of the "bad" zombies.  Now Nora is involved in the battle that is going on in the border territories, unbeknownst to the regular citizens of New Victoria, and there are quite a few surprises in store for her.

One of the things I liked about Dearly, Departed was, like I said, the portrayal of zombies as something other than mindless, man-eating monsters.  I also loved the way Habel switched periodically between narrators — although Nora was the main character and the primary narrator, a few others carried the story forward at times when Nora would have been unable to.  The fact that the story was also often told from Bram's point of view actually helped to make him one of my favorite love interests in any book I've read recently.

I'm really looking forward now to the next book in the series (because of course it's the first book of a series — everything is part of a series these days), Dearly, Departed, but unfortunately the listing on Barnes & Noble's website doesn't have it coming out until September 25, 2012!  Such a long time to wait!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dorchester Publishing in its death throes

I have a lot of books to catch up on, made worse by the fact that I barely posted at all last week, but before I get to that I have a fairly important announcement to make: According to a post on the Barnes & Noble forums, Dorchester Publishing is going out of business.

Dorchester is a publisher of mass market genre novels, such as romance and Westerns.  Apparently as far back as 2009, though, they started showing signs of financial difficulties.  Dorchester was continuing to sell ebooks that they had no rights to, and wasn't paying authors their royalties.  A boycott of Dorchester books started in March 2011, and the SFWA delisted Dorchester last month, the second organization to do so.  Now it sounds like they are in their final death throes: According to the B&N forum post, their editorial staff and sales/marketing VP are gone.

It's unfortunate, but it seems like going out of business is long overdue.  Essentially they stayed in business as long as they did by throwing their authors under the bus — no doubt failing to pay royalties allowed them to pay their other bills, at least for a while.  But that kind of behavior tends to catch up with a company after a while, and now it sounds like they're done.

The forum threads on B&N advocate backing up all of your Dorchester ebooks — they've offered quite a few free ones over the last few years, so you might have a few, even if you aren't aware of it.  The thread also suggests buying any books you want while they are still available, though someone else immediately posted saying not to do so because the authors likely won't get paid.  My suggestion is to try to evaluate how likely it is that the author will show up later with another publisher.  Well-established authors probably will, but from what I know of the publishing industry, more obscure authors probably wouldn't have had enough negotiating power to get a contract that readily returned rights to them.

If you ask me, this is a pretty scary justification for self-publishing.  You'll never find yourself in publishing rights limbo that way!