[Book Review] In which I re-evaluate my bias against magic libraries

 

Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Canaries, this is the book I was looking for when I had my ill-fated encounter with The Eyre Affair in 2017 and swore off all book-themed fantasy novels. Little did I know that The Invisible Library was out there.

Two years later, here I am, eating my words. Fantasy books about books can be excellent.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (and the rest of the series) combines the high stakes of a spy thriller with the shenannigans of fantasy novel, populated with colorful characters, an intriguing and competent main lead, and several series level mysteries that kept me hooked. Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] A blurb shouldn’t need a glossary

Today’s blurb is brought to you by sci-fi fantasy sequel The Anmorian Legends: Legacy of the Sentinels by indie author Dhesan Neil Pillay.

Here’s the blurb that landed on our sacrificial altar:

“Following the battle between Thaedis and Rezaaran, The Anmorian Legends: Legacy of the Sentinels sees the young War Mage embark on a journey of redemption. However, in the wake of Thaedis’s victory on Zynoo, the Intergalactic Revolution of Independent Systems (IRIS) has lost a considerable margin against the tyrant’s Obsidian Dominion. The hope of freedom seems ever more distant.

Despite the odds, Rezaaran remains steadfastly determined and endeavours to unite a group of fabled warriors. But will this be enough to save Anmor from the coming darkness and defeat the nefarious villain who has bested him once before?”

The first, feathery impressions:

Pitch Questions.jpg

You can probably tell that I was thoroughly confused.  Are Thaedis and Rezaaran names of countries or different factions? Is Zynoo a place? What’s the connection between the young war mage, Thaedis, Rezaaran, Zynoo, Anmor, Obsidian Dominion, and the Intergalactic Revolution of Independent Systems? what is a “journey of redemption” and why? How is finding fabled warriors a redemption plot?

I went back and read the blurb for book one to see if that might help me figure things out. Continue reading

Today’s Book Blurb: Shark punching and Sherlock?

The latest, greatest and (sometimes) strangest blurbs from the book world.

You don’t have to be a die hard Sherlock Holmes fan (which I am) to appreciate this blurb. (But before you read the blurb, check out the cover. For a split second, aren’t you convinced this is a story about Sherlock Octopus? Alas.)

Letter

“Upon returning to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years fighting a war in another universe, Captain John Wyndham finds himself looking for somewhere to live, and expediency forces him to take lodgings at 221b Martyrs Walk. His new housemate is Ms. Shaharazad Haas, a consulting sorceress of mercurial temperament and dark reputation.

When Ms. Haas is enlisted to solve a case of blackmail against one of her former lovers, Miss Eirene Viola, Captain Wyndham is drawn into a mystery that leads him from the salons of the literary set to the drowned back-alleys of Ven and even to a prison cell in lost Carcosa. Along the way he is beset by criminals, menaced by pirates, molested by vampires, almost devoured by mad gods, and called upon to punch a shark. “

—The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall

 

Canaries, what books have caught your eye recently?

 

Top 5: Who should win Game of Thrones?

It’s the question on everyone’s mind: Who should win Game of Thrones? Here are my top 5 contenders, based on no research, zero books read, and no episodes watched.

Let the battle for who would look best on the Iron Throne begin! Team least decapitated wins and gets to climb a wall to kill a winter king.

5. This Fire Cow

Bull.jpg

Fire Cow took the lead early in the polls, but failed to keep up its high score in the ice challenge. Fire Cow’s extra layers of wood, timber and open flames would have looked great on the Throne.  Alas.

4. These Sketchy Owls

owls

They advertise themselves as this year’s premiere feathery power couple. They say all their plots are collaborative affairs, but we all know who’s the brains of this outfit. Unfortunately, they failed to poll well with the crow demographic and ended up in fourth place.

3. This Explorer

Explorer.jpg

You might have to look closely to see it, but that mustache is everything. 

Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale gets a sequel

Testament.jpgNot to sound ungrateful, but after the success of the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, does it really come as a surprise that Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel?

Originally published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale was a standalone story – in fact, Offred’s story was framed as a collection of tapes found by an archaeologist in the far, far future. So it makes sense within that framing device that Margaret Atwood’s next installment, The Testaments, skips over to follow three completely new(?) female characters 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale ends. (Will we ever find out what happened to Offred? Unlikely. And I’m okay with that.)

Continue reading

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?

 

 

Today’s Book Blurb: Pretty Cover Edition (again)

The latest, greatest and (sometimes) strangest blurbs from the book world.

Okay, this is the second time in a row I’m derailing this series in favor of cover art, but seriously. This is some lovely design work. Who cares about story when you could have this on your bookshelf?

Storm

“They are the daughters of a king. Though they share the same royal blood, they could not be more different. Bluebell is a proud warrior, stronger than any man and with an ironclad heart to match. Rose’s heart is all too passionate: She is the queen of a neighboring kingdom, who is risking everything for a forbidden love. The twins: vain Ivy, who lives for admiration, and zealous Willow, who lives for the gods. And Ash, who is discovering a dangerous talent for magic that might be a gift—or a curse.

But when their father is stricken by a mysterious ailment, they must come together on a desperate journey to save him and prevent their treacherous stepbrother from seizing the throne. Their mission: find the powerful witch who can cure the king. But to succeed on their quest, they must overcome their differences, and hope that the secrets they hide from one another and the world are never brought to light. Because if this royal family breaks, it could destroy the kingdom.”

– Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

 

What books have caught your eye recently?

 

[Pitch Slapped] The fewer words, the more each one matters.

“I am wondering if I lost something in the whittling down of this blurb.”

If you’ve gotta ask…

From that sentence alone, I know author David Wozniak totally knew in his heart of hearts what would happened when he cut his 200-word blurb to his 50-word elevator pitch and sent it into our merciless canary claws.  The skies grew dark, women wailed in the streets, old men grew sorrowful and still.

Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing harder than trying to distill the essence of a 50,000+ word story into a few pithy sentences.

But let’s back up and take a look at David’s elevator pitch:

“Each year, Master Voider Democryos sends his brightest student into the war-torn countryside to work magic. But when the young Lady Marine leaves him for another man, he finds his own life ravaged.  Forsaking the comfort of the citadel, he seeks to find her–not to gain her back, but to gain understanding.

Nothing goes as planned.”

First thought: The fewer words, the more each word matters.

In such a short piece, every word carries huge weight. Protip: Avoid using words that have no meaning to the reader. An easy example of this is “Master Voider” – I don’t know what it is, and that’s distracting. Continue reading

Today’s Book Blurb: Pretty Cover Edition

The latest, greatest and (sometimes) strangest blurbs from the book world.

Who cares about book blurbs when there’s a pretty cover involved? This one’s a stunner. Sure, it’s from a third book in a series I haven’t read. But come on. Isn’t it gorgeous? (And, if you’re on Netgalley, it’s a free download.)

Chaos

“Ruxandra Dracula, a 250-year-old vampire, wants nothing to do with the fallen angel that created her. But when fellow vampire Kade tells her a group of magicians in Moscow is going to summon that angel, Ruxandra knows she must try to stop them.

In Moscow, Ruxandra finds herself caught in a web of political and supernatural intrigue. Empress Anna of Russia wants the vampires to be her spies. Her secret police have magic that is nearly impossible to defeat. A cadre of Russian nobles wants them to kill the empress.

And the Alchemist, the beautiful, whip-smart leader of the magicians, wants Ruxandra as more than just an experimental subject.

As the magicians prepare to summon the fallen angel, Ruxandra must choose: will she kill them to keep the angel from coming, or face the angel and find out her purpose on the earth?

– Mother of Chaos by John Patrick Kennedy

 

What books have caught your eye recently?

 

[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