[Book Review] Why Consider Phlebas did nothing for me.

Book Review: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Culture 1.jpg

So. After everything I’d heard about the AI-driven utopian world of “The Culture” in Iain M. Banks books…I was expecting a bit more, well, utopia in my Science Fiction read.

Instead, Consider Phlebas delivered a gritty military science fiction: A disconnected protagonist, rotating cast of loosely sketched out supporting characters, relationships based on alienation, violent conflict, lots of slow-build tension and suspense, and a loosely connected series of action sequences. Oh and a bunch of exposition on democracy vs theocracy (life vs AI, systems vs chaos, the meaning of being alive, etc etc) that I grimly power-read my way through.

Continue reading

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This month in the mine shaft: April

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  • That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn ★★★★☆
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson ★★★★☆
  • Good as Gold by T.J. Land ★★★★☆
  • Pirate Nemesis by Carysa Locke ★★☆☆☆
  • Origins by Ilona Andrews ★★☆☆☆
  • Penric and Desdemona Series ★★★★☆
    • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher [Reread] ★★★★☆
  • Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews ★★★☆☆
  • I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly ★★☆☆☆
  • Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews ★★★☆☆

 

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Onward to May! What are you reading right now?

 

 

Penguin shuts down FirstToRead, and a look at what’s next

firsttoread

I can’t decide if I’m more surprised that Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead early reader access platform is shutting down this July, or that it took so long. I took a dive into FirstToRead’s point and review system in 2016, and even then, the signs weren’t great; the program’s social media accounts had been abandoned, the books on offer were also available on NetGalley, and the site went down for two whole days in the middle of my investigations…

Still, FirstToRead’s system of getting people to read and review its books appeared to be working. From my 2016 math, for every 100 free advanced galleys released per available book, the review feedback rates were in the 20-40 percent range. That review rate seems to be on par with NetGalley review rates for small or coop publishers.

And yet, and yet. For an established publisher like Penguin? The payoff probably wasn’t enough to justify staffing, hosting and maintenance—especially since FirstToRead merely replicated some of Penguin’s NetGalley offerings. 

And so the FirstToRead platform is being officially shut down this July.

Where To Next: Reader Rewards

Even as FirstToRead enters its end days, Penguin is advertising its new program, Reader Rewards, a pay-to-play rewards system in which you register eligible purchases to earn points for a free book.

According to the website’s FAQ, earning “120 points (the equivalent of uploading proof of purchase for 12 books)” gets you “any eligible book(s) on penguinrandomhouse.com for free (up to a $30 value).” Points expire after two years, and code expires within six months of issue.

So, What Now?

If you have a FirstToRead account, check in and use up any spare points on May’s book lotteries. They won’t carry over once the program shuts down in July 2019.

If you’re a regular buyer of Penguin Random House books—and any of its insane number of imprints—then sure, sign up for ReaderRewards and take advantage of your purchases.

And if you’re mostly looking for ARCs, there’s always NetGalley.

Canaries, have you ever used any of these platforms?

What’s been your experience?

 

 

This month in the mine shaft: September

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  • This Is an Uprising by Mark Engler, Paul Engler ★★★★★
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela ★★★★☆
  • Omega Rising by Jessica Meats ★★★☆☆
  • Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox ★★★☆☆
  • If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda ★★☆☆☆
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde  ★☆☆☆☆

 

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Onward to October! What’s on your to-read list?

Want to buddy read something?

 

 

[Pitch Slapped] A look at 600 recent review requests

600 Book Review Requests

I’ve been checking the canary review request inbox periodically, browsing around for jewels to catch the eye, but last week, I decided to get serious about it.

The Unread pile had grown to a little over 600 emails since February, and I wanted to do something about it. Over the next hour or so, I cut the pile down to a more manageable 100 review requests that had piqued my interest, then down again to some 50 books to check out and try.

I thought I’d share some general observations about my process and what worked and didn’t work to intrigue me as I powered through the requests. Here are some things that immediately struck emails from consideration:

1. Not the right genre. Poetry anthologies, political thrillers, historical literature. Gone.

2. Couldn’t find the blurb. If I couldn’t immediately see what the book was about, or if it asked me to open an attachment to read the blurb, or if I had to click a link, I moved on. Continue reading

[Book Review] Conceptually intriguing, casually terrible

Eyre Affair.jpgBook Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

So many things to dislike, so little time to talk about them all.

(Spoilers ahead. All the spoilers, because idgaf.)

I rarely try books more than once, so I should have trusted my gut when I got stuck a couple chapter in – not once but twice. But this week, I got the audiobook, because I really wanted to get through this book about a murder mystery in an alternative history fantasy world of time travel and literature. Lesson learned, because this book was terrible.

I grit my teeth through the prose style and weird perspective shifts. I was willing to suffer through the self-indulgent literary babble and fangirling, because, okay, literature is as religion in this world, and as a book lover, I totally get it. I even powered through the weird inconsistencies: Okay, this universe has casual time travel, and yet the biggest mystery in Fforde’s world is the identity of the true author of Shakespeare’s plays? And Thursday is the first person ever to ask a time traveler to check? Fine, whatever. Continue reading

This month in the mine shaft: August

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  • The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita, Alastair Smith ★★★★☆
  • The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey ★★★☆☆
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen ★★★☆☆
  • Omega Rising by Jessica Meats ★★★☆☆
  • The Rook by Daniel O’Malley ★★☆☆☆

 

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Onward to September! What’s on your to-read list?

Want to buddy read something?