18th December 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Anna Sheehan
No Life But This (A Long, Long Sleep, Book 2)
Hachette Orion Gollancz (UK: 18th December 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Rose Fitzroy woke from her long sleep to a changed world and new life. Her friend Otto watched her from afar, longing for what he felt he couldn’t have. But just when things seem to be going right, his own biology backfires, sending him into a deathly spiral that neither of them can stop. His only hope lies on the distant ice moon of Europa, where an experimental treatment might bring him back from the brink. But Europa is in a state of revolution, and Otto’s brother Quin is tangled up in it. With Otto going slowly insane, and Rose haunted by ghosts of her old life, more than one world may soon be destroyed around them.

15th December 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Kelly Gay
Hell’s Menagerie (Charlie Madigan, short story)
Simon & Schuster Pocket Star (US, UK, CA, & AU: 15th December 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA)

First appeared in the Carniepunk urban fantasy anthology.

[REVIEW] A Shiver of Light – Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton
A Shiver of Light (Merry Gentry, Book 9)
Random House Transworld Bantam (AU: 2nd June 2014; UK: 3rd June 2014); Penguin Berkley (US & CA: 3rd June 2014)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Hardcover) Buy (US Paperback) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Hardcover) Buy (UK Paperback) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Hardcover) Buy (CA Paperback) Buy (Worldwide Hardcover) Buy (Worldwide Paperback)

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, torture, murder (including that of children and babies), gas-lighting, racism.

Princess Meredith NicEssus has given birth. And instead of the twins she expected, Merry actually has triplets. More babies, more problems; right?

Any trouble getting the kids to nurse? Of course not – Merry may be a first-time mum, but she has MagicBoobs.

But there are three babies and only two breasts. Is there enough breast-milk to go around? No worries. The most petite must have all-natural things, so she can only feed directly from Merry. The older girl screams if you make her feed from a bottle. But luckily the baby boy doesn’t cry as much as his sisters, so he’s always the one bottle-fed. Also, the girls have magical powers, and he does not. He doesn’t add anything to the storyline, so maybe he exists just so some fathers can say one of the babies is biologically theirs.

And yes, the most petite female is the most powerful. This is an LKH novel, after all.

Any post-natal depression? Difficulty getting the babies to settle? Sleep deprivation? Left alone with the babies and feeling hopeless? Never. There are nannies, as well as the babies’ fathers: Doyle, Frost, Rhys, Galen, Mistral, Sholto, Royal, Kitto… (Well, the first six of them are definitely the biological dads – can’t remember if the last two are, but they’re fully integrated into the family.)

Oh, and Merry’s lost all the baby weight…except for the extra cup size. MagicBoobs, you know. She complains about them, but only half-heartedly.

The characters often seem interchangeable, but Rhys stands out – just not in a good way.

From page 183: “Let’s just say my sithen is in a bad section of L.A. and I’m blond and blue-eyed and don’t exactly look like I belong.”

Eff you and your racism, Rhys.

But wait – there’s more. His son died in battle, due to an explosive. Rhys did not deal with this in a healthy manner…

From page 194: “I hunted down every member of the tribe that had fought against us. I killed them all, down to the last baby. I destroyed them as a race, do you understand that, I killed their entire people, even the children, while their mothers begged for mercy.”

I’m pretty sure those kids had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Rhys’s son, yet he killed them anyway. You would’ve thought a mourning parent wouldn’t wish a child’s death upon their worst enemy…

Oh.

But there were no parents left to mourn the children because RHYS KILLED THEM, TOO.

And in this scene, Merry and Galen COMFORT Rhys – he who destroyed an entire tribe, including many innocents. But because Rhys’s son died, albeit not killed by him, Rhys is the one for whom everyone feels sorry.

I do not have enough middle fingers to aim towards this book. My two are just too few.

P.S. In case you wanted to know the plot, here it is:

Authors with FB: How to Avoid the New Changes

(Flight of the Conchords GIF from Buzzfeed.)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not very techy, so these tips may not guarantee 100% success. Please consult someone who knows more than I do.

TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ: Alter how you use Facebook, or use other websites. For feck’s sake, use a blog!

VOCABULARY LIST
RSS feed:
Enables people with a feed-reader to subscribe to the site.
Feed-reader: A site to read all your blog subscriptions in the one place. The layout is like an email inbox.
Facebook Profile: Your personal account, with which you can Friend others, and be Friended. And with which you can Follow, and be Followed.
Facebook Page: Your professional account, which others can Like. (They can Like AND Follow, but NOT just Follow. They MUST Like.)

Okay, so Facebook’s apparently doing something in the New Year where having a Page on Facebook means YOU are a business – looking at you, authors! And because you’re a business to them, Facebook will claim that you can’t build/keep your business without FB…and that means paying money so that your Followers can actually keep up with your updates.

(And no, as a reader I don’t use the “Get Notifications” option. I care about you, but not enough to flood my Inbox. I follow a LOT of authors. My INBOX only needs to know about publication info – NOT what TV shows you watch.)

Let’s review what I guess you want to do with social media:

1. Post updates.
2. Have the website actually make your updates visible to those who Follow you.

You may have other things in mind but these are the basics, and if a website can’t even do that…you need to assess your situation.

PRIORITY: Have a website.
Yes, an actual website. It can be hosted on a blog, if you prefer. In fact, it’s better if your website IS a blog, because then it SHOULD have an RSS feed – and an RSS feed is ESSENTIAL if you actually want people to be updated. (I don’t exactly know what “RSS” means – just that without it, I can’t subscribe to the site.)

Let’s talk feed-readers. Yes, I mourned the loss of Google Reader. I trialled a few readers, but the only one I’ve stuck with since is Feedly. And it’s so bloody frustrating when you can see on the author’s website that they have a blog, but no way to subscribe to it. I’ve noticed this with websites made with Wix or Weebly.

I recommend WordPress. I use the free WordPress.com, but you can pay money to get more control at WordPress.org (note the different suffix). Blogspot is also acceptable. Basically you should pick a site that’ll give you an RSS feed, and multiple pages so that it can operate like your headquarters. (Those pages should include: Bio, Books, Blog, and Contact. You can have a resting home page, or link it to your blog.)

Some people use Tumblr as their HQ/blog, but I strongly do NOT recommend that. Admittedly, Tumblr is geared towards a younger demographic, so possibly I’m too old to “get” it. While it does have an RSS feed, it sends to the feed-readers ALL the posts you ReBlog from other people. Which generally consists of fandoms I have no interest in (TV shows, film, ‘ships), so you fill people’s feed-readers with faff when all we really want is YOUR content. (Yes, I sound like a grumpy old woman here – get used to it.)

ALTERNATIVE/EXTRA PRORITY: Newsletter
As far as I know, newsletters cost money to run, especially if you have a large subscribership. (I see mostly Mailchimp.)

Of course, a newsletter should be used sparingly – only for NEWS. E.g. You’ve just sold a book to a publisher, your cover has been revealed, your publication date confirmed. The more news you have (the more books you have upcoming), the more frequent your newsletters. Once a month is fine. Once every three months is fine. If your newsletters are more frequent than once a month, maybe call it an Updates list, and warn of frequent mailings. (And if they’re Updates, you don’t have to format them like a newsletter – you can be brief and to-the-point, with no graphics or excerpts. I never read excerpts, by the way.)

OPTIONAL: Twitter
This isn’t like a website – it’s just for short notes, and doesn’t have to be all business. (Please refrain from live-Tweeting TV shows/films, though.) And you can ReTweet (ReBlog in Tumblr language) as much as you like while Followers can opt-out of seeing them.

As a reader, my Twitter blessing is that there’s always the option to turn OFF ReTweets, so they don’t show up when reading the home feed. It can be labour-intensive – you have to visit every profile you Follow, click the gear next to “Following”, then click on “Turn off Retweets”. There’ll be a confirmation if that works, and you can “Turn on Retweets” from the same menu anytime if you change your mind. Of course, instead of clicking the “Retweet” button, some people actually type “RT @”, so while they’re practically ReTweets, they aren’t TECHNICALLY, which means they show up in your feed even if you’ve turned off ReTweets. Pain in the arse, I know, but we can’t change that.

Twitter tip: If you want your Followers to actually see your images, click “Add photo” and upload them to Twitter. A lot of people just link their Instagram to their Twitter, so their photos don’t actually show up – just links to them. So for the more important photos, such as your book cover reveal, I recommend you upload it to Twitter instead of just putting it on Instagram.

OPTIONAL: Facebook
Unlike Twitter, Facebook has an option so you can customise the security of each post: Private, Friends-Only, Custom, or Public. (If you don’t adjust the settings, it’ll default to your most recent post’s setting.)

Facebook Pages may become obsolete for many authors, but just in case…

Facebook tip for READERS: Install FB Purity, check your Pages Feed daily, and arrange your News Feed by “Most Recent” daily. Details here. FB Purity gets rid of ads! It may also get rid of “People you may know”, etc.

Authors may want to consider a Facebook Profile instead. Because it’s personal, not a business, there’s a better chance of your Followers actually being able to see your posts in a timely manner. Profiles have a Friends cap at 5000 (I think?), so make sure you have the “Follow” button enabled – this way, everyone who Follows you (and you can block users) will get to see your Public posts. And enabling the Follow button means you may not feel obliged to accept every Friend Request ;-)

Facebook tip for AUTHORS: Always check the security of each post before clicking “Post”. This way, something that you intend to be Friends-Only won’t be Public.

If checking the security setting for each post is getting your goat, consider having two Profiles – one strictly for Friends-Only, and one for Public. If so, perhaps give them different names, and DEFINITELY DIFFERENT AVATARS. This may prevent people accidentally tagging the wrong account.

[REVIEW] Captivated by You – Sylvia Day

Sylvia Day
Captivated by You (Crossfire, Book 4)
Penguin (US, UK, & CA: 18th November 2014; AU: 19th November 2014)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Paperback) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Paperback) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Paperback) Buy (Worldwide)

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, sexual abuse, stalking, psychological abuse.
SPOILER WARNINGS: For the series, and this book in particular. But considering there’s not much plot, there’s not much spoiling.

Having grown up reading crime novels, I’m accustomed to the occasional point-of-view from the creepy guy. In the case of Sylvia Day’s Captivated by You, the creepy guy’s POV is every odd-numbered chapter. Yes, half the entire novel is narrated by the creepy guy…who is supposedly the “hero”. And this is supposedly a “romance”.

A common misconception of romance is that it has only one rule: The people in the relationship (commonly a couple, but also with multiple partners) must live happily ever after, or “happy for now”. Fair enough. But to me there’s a second important factor: The reader has to WANT the people in the relationship to live happily ever, or happy for now. If the reader doesn’t care, or would actually prefer the relationship NOT to continue (i.e. the characters would be better off on their own or with other people), the author hasn’t sold the romantic relationship convincingly enough.

Everyone reads subjectively, so what works for some readers may not work for others. But you know which category Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell fall into for me.

I’ve heard the author talk about how the Crossfire concept came along: a statistic regarding abuse survivors; that they often end up in relationships with each other. (As for the rest of the series…if I remember correctly, E. L. James is named in the dedication/acknowledgments for Bared to You. That explains a lot of problematic shiz in this series.)

I’m fed up with this new trend of book summaries written in the first-person and saying pretty much nothing about the plot. (It’s not just this series – I noticed it with J. Kenner’s Stark trilogy, too.) But I guess it’s honest advertising, when you read the novel and realise that there’s not much of a plot.

Let me save you 357 pages: Gideon and Eva’s engagement goes public (even though they’re secretly married), Gideon sees threats to their relationship everywhere, and Gideon keeps everything secret from Eva in order to “protect” her (or some shiz). Meanwhile, Eva realises her true calling: to help abuse survivors. Conveniently, Gideon’s business includes a foundation for that, so he offers Eva’s boss a job with him, hoping Eva will come along.

Eva has put up with a lot of Gideon’s faff, but she finally stands up for herself in this instance, and doesn’t let him off easy for potentially rendering her unemployed. It’s here, in the last third of the book, where the novel actually has a story and Eva asserts herself as being something other than Gideon’s doormat. She actually WANTS independence, including a life outside of Gideon, with HER friends, and work at a business that HE doesn’t own.

Gideon, meanwhile, already has his independence, and seems intent on keeping Eva from hers. And my word, he’s so freaking annoying for most of the book. He’s definitely psychologically abusive (trying to keep her from friends, trying to force her into working for him), and borderline sexually abusive, too (see the bottom half of page 9, and part of Chapter 14).

From page 9:

She stiffened and pushed at me, rejecting me. “Gideon, no…” […]
She struggled and I growled, “Don’t fight me.” […]
“Let me go.” She rolled onto her stomach.
My arms banded around her hips when she tried to crawl away.

Also, Gideon victim-blames Eva’s friend. Megumi was in a bad relationship, got out, and reluctantly returned, hoping the guy had changed. Instead, he becomes more abusive and harassing.

From page 102:

“Sounds like bad judgment all around,” I said. “One of them should’ve known what they were doing.”

From page 103:

“She broke it off, and then took him back. He might not realize she’s serious this time.” […] “I don’t have the whole story…”

Fark you, Gideon.

To his credit, Gideon begins to speak openly with his therapists, and realise that even Eva needs at least some degree of independence. But this comes far too late in the novel. Instead, most of the book is filled with repetitive shiz: “I love you more”, “I need you more”, “you’re the sexiest”, “YOU’re the sexiest”… Those scenes have absolutely no conflict, and don’t move the story forward. They don’t assist with characterisation, either, so they’re purely filler. Speaking of, that karaoke chapter is just terrible. Note: name-checking songs and musicians doesn’t make you cool – it ages your book, and I judge you for your song choices ;-)

Gideon and Eva finally realise that a therapist had a point, when he said the couple needs to communicate with each other in ways that aren’t sex. (Sex talk doesn’t count, either.) They need to TALK to each other, WITH each other, ABOUT each other. And LISTEN, instead of just mindlessly reassuring or ignoring. And even their sex is repetitive (minus the swing scene, which needs more explaining). Mind you, the BDSM seems a bit thrown in via checklist, and doesn’t impact the story at all. Even Gideon tying Eva to the elevator handrail was half-heartedly BDSM. (He claims he does it to prevent Eva from touching him because “I’ll lose it,” which seems to suggest he would’ve raped her. So he tied her up “for her own good”, or whatever.)

I intend to read Book 5, Only with You, whenever it may be published. (I imagine it’ll have the same shoddy scheduling as this book – the release date only announced when the manuscript’s sent to the printers. For other authors and novels, their publication dates are announced whilst they’re still revising/copyediting.)

Credit to Sylvia Day: she’s created a series that makes me FEEL. Makes me feel ANGRY, but that’s better than feeling meh about it, right? If you want to yell at characters, you’ve come to the right book.

Now Available for US Pre-Order

V. C. Andrews: BITTERSWEET DREAMS: 1st October 2015: Buy (US)
Jessica Brody: THE HUMAN ENGINEER: 4th February 2015: Buy (US)
Cecil Castellucci: USELESS WINGS: 24th February 2015: Buy (US)
Katie Coyle: VIVIAN APPLE NEEDS A MIRACLE: 1st September 2015: Buy (US)
Bailey Cunningham: PRIZE OF NIGHT: 30th June 2015: Buy (US)
Em Garner: MERCY MODE (paperback): 25th August 2015: Buy (US)
Megan Hart: DON’T DENY ME: 10th March 2015: Buy (US)
Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher: NEVER NEVER: 11th January 2015: Buy (US)
Liz Maverick: HOT AND BOTHERED: 10th February 2015: Buy (US)
Carrie Mesrobian: CUT BOTH WAYS: 1st September 2015: Buy (US)
Caragh M. O’Brien: THE VAULT OF DREAMERS (paperback): 15th September 2015: Buy (US)
Caragh M. O’Brien: THE RULE OF MIRRORS: 15th September 2015: Buy (US)
Amy Christine Parker: ASTRAY (paperback): 25th August 2015: Buy (US)
Madeleine Roux: SANCTUM (paperback): 1st September 2015: Buy (US)
Madeleine Roux: CATACOMB: 1st September 2015: Buy (US)
Jessica Verday: OF MONSTERS AND MADNESS (paperback): 4th August 2015: Buy (US)
Rachel Vincent: MENAGERIE: 29th September 2015: Buy (US)

Random Tez

Trialling an idea that may, or not, become semi-regular: things on my mind this week. I often share this kind of stuff on Twitter or Booklikes, but blog-readers may be interested.

GOODREADS RECOMMENDATIONS
Goodreads has an option where users can share recommendations. I used the function to ASK for recs once, when I wanted to read more fiction set in asylums – that’s how I found out about Dan Wells’ The Hollow City, which I really liked. (Tried his two YA series, but they didn’t work for me at all.)

But there’s also an option where users can send out a recommendation to all their friends (or all the people who follow them). PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS OPTION. If I ask for recs regarding something in particular, chime in. But sending unsolicited recommendations feels a lot like spamming, from my point of view as a recipient. The first time this week, a publisher recommended something they’d published. The second time, an agent recommended something by an author that they may or may not represent. (I didn’t bother checking, because it was SPAM, and I don’t want to research something spammed.) The third time was by someone not in the biz (as far as I know), but still unsolicited.

Unsolicited recommendations are spammy, and make me LESS likely to want to read the recommended book. Which defeats the purpose of why you’re recommending them – because you want people to read them, or at least pay attention to them.

Believe me, if those books you spammed about are good enough, I’m sure to hear about them in a non-spammy way from other people.

AYELET WALDMAN
During my teen years I read a lot of crime, including some Mommy-Track Mysteries. I also liked a standalone novel (“women’s fiction”/mainstream/general) by this author, though I can’t remember anything about it except that in one scene the character ate cupcakes in New York City.

My teens are long over, as are my days of reading this author’s books. So it was kind of a blast from the past this week when the author posted some Tweets that made news on The Daily Dot and other sites. It was kind of the same thing that Chelsea Cain did earlier this year: publically mope about not making a special list. For Ms. Cain, it was a bestseller list. For Ms. Waldman, it was a “notables” list. Because that publication had rated her novel highly, she expected her book to be on the notables list, but it wasn’t. She didn’t understand why some books with less-favourable reviews were considered “notable” and hers wasn’t.

But instead of simply asking what “notable” meant her Tweets came across as rather…well, a number of people have referenced tiny violins.

Social media is both the best thing and the worst thing when it comes to authors and publicity. Sure, people have now heard of Ms. Waldman when they previously hadn’t, but not in a positive light.

ZOE SUGG
The first time I’d heard of her was when Penguin Teen Australia announced they’d bought the rights to her book and spoke of her in the context of celebrity. Apparently she was a beauty blogger, but the novel was fiction. Whatever.

Then she hit the news for circa-80,000 copies of her book sold in its first week in the UK.

With it came rumours of the novel being ghost-written, to which the publisher replied, “to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”. So either a ghost-writer wrote it all, or at the very least co-wrote it. This isn’t the newsworthy bit, but ghost-writers exist for a reason, and deserve to be properly compensated for their work.

Basically the problem is lack of transparency. The ghost-writer/co-writer (whom it’s been suggested is Siobhan Curham, who’s mentioned in the acknowledgments, but her specific role isn’t said) should have their name on the cover, or at least the title page. I’ve heard Ms. Sugg’s brand is built on “authenticity” (which is weird, because I thought the more prominent beauty YouTubers were paid/sponsored to positively promote specific products), and having her co-writer/ghost-writer not openly named/credited comes across as Ms. Sugg and her publisher not being upfront. This means that her “authentic” characteristic may not be entirely truthful.

And then there’s the matter of payment. It’s been said that ghost-writers are generally paid a flat-fee, but are there bonuses/commission if the book becomes a bestseller? Contract stipulations and whatnot likely prevent ghost-writers from speaking about their work, so the world of ghost-writing is rather secretive.

To reiterate: Was your novel co-written or ghost-written? That’s fine, but at least have the decency to be transparent about it – in the form of their name on the cover, or at least the title page.

But the situation reminded me of something Tara Moss recounts in her non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman. Back when her first couple of novels were published, there were rumours that maybe they were ghost-written. Ms. Moss was (and still is) a fashion model, and often mentioned in the society pages of publications – and some of the public could not quite trust that she could also write.

Ms. Moss submitted to a polygraph test. And yes, she did – and still does – write her own novels. (She also writes non-fiction.) But why was speculation focused on her, rather than other authors? The Fictional Woman (published in 2014) examines public perceptions of all kinds, and though it’s been months since I read the book, Ms. Sugg’s situation reminded me of it.

Is speculation ever fair? Some would say it was fair in Ms. Sugg’s case, since the official word came out that her book isn’t solely her writing. But had the co-writer been publicly credited from the start, there may not have been speculation. Should there ever be? In the case of Ms. Moss, people saw a crime that wasn’t even committed.

How does the public determine whose books are up for speculation? Only when an author is also known in a different, publically-prominent profession? The best way to eliminate speculation would be more transparency regarding ghost-written/co-written books.

Ghost-writing is not a problem. But it is when authors and publishers aren’t upfront about it before journalists ask them.

#PENGUINHOTLINE
Tried out this online recommendation service. Perhaps I didn’t give them enough info, because the results were pretty disappointing: One book was already on my wishlist, the second was already on my maybe list, and the third was by a do-not-read author.

But perhaps you will find this service more useful than I did.