Reading Matters: Fiction and Links

Reading matters a lot to me. This post is about some current fiction and about some related websites.

A Conjuring of Light is the just-published novel by V.E. Schwab. It’s a fantasy set in Londons: yes, there is more than one London, and there is travel between them, and there is magic. Like many fantasy novels, it’s part of a series. The Kindle edition of the first novel in the series is currently on sale, and the cover illustration is wonderful, so a graphical link to that book seems in order.

I’m looking forward to Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer. It’s a sequel to Too Like the Lightning, my favorite novel of 2016. I recommend you sample the first few pages of TLtL (follow the link and look inside the book). If you like the the narrator’s voice, and the way in which he “gazes back” to the 18th century from the 25th, you’ll probably love the novel (or novels, since I don’t think that the forthcoming one will disappoint).

Now for those reading-related websites.

  • Goodreads, where I keep track of my reading, write the occasional review, and see what other people are reading.
  • Tor.com, “a site for science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers”. Tor is a publisher, but the site tries to engage interest, rather than to sell books directly. And it often gives books away!
  • Amazon. Yes, those links above are affiliate links, and I’d love to cover my hosting costs from such links. But if you get the books elsewhere, that’s great, because books are great, and so are bookstores and libraries.

A Darker Archive of Viciousness

Victor readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave. His trench billowed faintly, brushing the tops of tombstones as he made his way through Merit Cemetery, humming as he went. The sounds carried like wind through the dark. It made Sydney shiver…

He stopped humming, rested his shoe lightly on a tombstone, and scanned the dark. Not with his eyes so much as with his skin, or rather with the thing that crept beneath it, tangled in his pulse.

That’s from the first page of Vicious, a novel by V. E. Schwab. Perhaps I should just let the writing speak for itself, but I’ll add a couple of things. First, while the quote suggests that Vicious falls within the horror genre, it actually draws more from the superhero genre. Second, the most horrifying (to me) revelation comes a few pages in to the novel, when we find out what Victor’s parents do.

I have so far read three of Schwab’s novels, and been impressed by each of them. I just finished Vicious. I previously read A Darker Shade of Magic, also “by V. E. Schwab”–and hence also “for adults”.

I started with The Archived, “by Victoria Schwab”, the name under which the author publishes her Young Adult (YA) fiction (and the name on her main Goodreads account). Strange though it may seem, I’d say that The Archived is the most likely of the three books I’ve read to give the reader nightmares.

I’m glad to say that each of the three is the first of a series. I am sometimes wary of prolific writers who write series, rather than standalones, but Schwab writes well and distinctively, while being able to find the right tone for each particular book/series.

Summary: I recommend the fiction of Victoria E. Schwab, whatever the book cover calls her.

The Ask and the Answer, and Other Goodreads

The Ask and the Answer is the second book of Patrick Ness‘s Chaos Walking trilogy. The first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, impressed me.

The distinctive feature of the Chaos Walking world is telepathy, with the interesting twist that women don’t broadcast. Crucial to the second book is the further twist that some men don’t broadcast either. One such is the evil and manipulative President Prentiss.

That word manipulative is particularly important, because it brings me to the main way in which Ask didn’t work as well for me as did Knife. The main characters Todd and Viola are manipulated by Prentiss and by his arch-enemy, Mistress Coyle. That would be fine, had the author’s manipulation of these and other characters not seemed intrusive.

That said, I found Ask engrossing, and Ness does move the pieces into place for a cliffhanger even more dramatic than the one on which Knife ended. So I’m looking forward to Monsters of Men, the third book, which is due out next year.

I gave Ask a four-star rating, while I gave Knife the maximum five. I refer to ratings at Goodreads. I’ve just resumed activity there thanks to prompting from uberbibliophile Nicholas Whyte.

BookSprouts, GoodReads, etc.

There are already several book-oriented social media sites. I favor Goodreads these days, while others prefer Library Thing or Shelfari.

My first impression of BookSprouts was that it’s entering an arena in which there are already several strong contenders. But I followed the link from the TechCrunch article, signed up, added a few books to my collection, and otherwise tweaked my BookSprouts profile.

BookSprouts differentiates itself from the other sites mentioned above with its emphasis on book clubs. In fact, for those steeped in social media, I might liken it to a book-specific Ning (and in fact, some of the social networks at Ning are book clubs).

BookSprouts is of course also different because it’s newer. In fact, BookSprout emphasizes its beta-ness and love of feedback. So I wasn’t surprised to find that it currently lacks some of the features I sought first, such as:

  • Import from other bookish sites, where many already catalog their books.
  • About page: who’s behind BookSprout?
  • Help: there is a link, but it doesn’t seem to lead to any help.
  • An API.

I mention the (lack of) API because the time may be ripe for a way of spanning the bookish sites, a sort of Book Connect. I note that Goodreads has an API. I also note that Goodreads has groups, which look rather like book clubs.

Goodreads Widget

WordPress.com, the host of this and millions of other blogs, does not allow Flash. That makes it impossible to use widgets such as the one that shows the books I’ve told Goodreads that I’m currently reading.

But is it really impossible? You never know until you try…

[clearspring_widget title=”Widget” wid=”491d034eec108fe6″ pid=”491d18bd94f24381″ width=”400″ height=”500″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Bookish

I love (semi-obligatory Valentine’s Day reference) books, and have a few book-related things to inflict on you. First, I have an account at Goodreads. Actually, I’ve had one for a while, but I’ve recently started using it, thanks to a couple of friend requests.

Second, I’m delighted to report the blog-to-book deal for Strange Maps.

Third, Adam Koford’s recent post at Drawn! might have been written for me. That’s not just because it recommends a Complete Idiot’s Guide. It’s because it concerns people who think that they have a children’s book in them (and there do seem to be an awful lot of us), realize that such books are usually illustrated, and think that this means that they need to find an illustrator before submitting to a publisher.

Adam states that “publishers never want to see unsolicited manuscripts with art.” He also refers to the problem of requests to provide illustrations for someone’s book, or idea for one. I’m glad I didn’t ask him if he wanted to work with me on mine. I’m also glad that he has already done an illustration for one of my stories.