Darkside, by S. K. S. Perry

Originally, asthma this was supposed to be a review of Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, surgery Little Brother. Unfortunately, he decided to do something rotten like take his newborn kid to visit the family, so he hasn’t had time to release the online Creative Commons (read: free) version of the novel and I haven’t read it yet. (This is Free Books on the Internet Week, anyway.) So instead I’ve had to move Thursday’s review up to Wednesday, and add another one on the end. I haven’t decided what, quite yet, but I’ve got choices.

This novel is one of the last type that I mentioned in my initial post: when one gets an individual novel off of an individual author’s website. Darkside is even rarer, in that Perry has not published any novels, to my knowledge, and I had never heard of him/her. I found a link off of someone else’s blog a week or so ago and thought, Why not?

James Decker is dead. Only not really: he’s still walking, talking, breathing when he feels like it, and eating. Of course, he isn’t bleeding anymore, and now he can see ghosts, vampires, trolls, and things that go bump in the night. Of course, the reason he isn’t dead is that he’s fallen into a mythology unlike anything he’d ever quite heard of — a world of Innocents, of which there are very few, and Eternals, of which there are also very few. There’s an Innocent named Alex that he must protect, though, and there are some pretty awful things going after her. Continue reading Darkside, by S. K. S. Perry

Farthing, by Jo Walton

This novel was one of the first few that Tor sent out in their current campaign of sending out free e-books. I’m hoping it’s a prelude to them having all these books available on their website, this web also for free, shop like yesterday’s Baen. So while I can’t give you a direct link to this book it’s available in print, pilule and at least vaguely available free on the internet. Jo Walton has written quite a few books, in various aspects of the SF genre (fantasy, alternate history,etc.). I’d read about this book, and being a fan of alternate histories, I made a note to buy it if I ever found a copy. When I saw that Tor was going to give me a copy for free, there was much rejoicing.

In this novel, before America could get bombed at Pearl Harbor and decide to enter World War II, England made a strange sort of truce with Germany. Hitler could have the whole of the Continent, as long as they stayed on that side of the Channel. Unfortunately, situations in England weren’t all that great for the Jews who were there. Lucy Kahn (nee Eversley), one of the main characters in this book, is married to a Jewish man named David. She and David and a number of seemingly random people were invited to her parents’ house, Farthing, for a house party, and one of the more important members of the House of Lords, Lord James Thirkie, turns up dead. Obviously David comes under suspicion; he’s Jewish, of course. And he certainly didn’t do it, but who did? Continue reading Farthing, by Jo Walton

Sympathy for the Devil, by Holly Lisle

This book is available at the Baen Free Library, visit this site directly here. I’ve read a few other books by Holly Lisle, ambulance including the other one available at the Baen Free Library, and enjoyed them in the past, so I thought I’d give this one a try. Generally speaking, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Baen books. They all seem a bit formulaic, but primarily I’m offended by the overly lurid covers. They’re probably getting better — the cover of John Ringo’s The Centurion (a book I will never read, by the way) looks almost normal — but generally speaking, the covers are definitely not to my taste.

Anyway, this book begins with a brief scene in the life of Lucifer — yeah, that Lucifer. It’s a sort of a prologue, though, and the real story starts with Dayne Kuttner, a nurse, attempting to save the life of an unsavable patient. She is so disheartened by what she is forced to do by her doctor-boss that she goes home and sends up a desperate prayer to God, asking him to give everyone in Hell a second chance. God therefore informs Lucifer that he is allowing 58,851 of Hell’s creatures to go about in the human world (North Carolina, to be precise), and get a . . . second chance. The overseer of all these creatures is one fallen angel, named Agonostis. The trip out to the surface has two purposes: first, it’s a punishment for letting fornication drop off in the human world, and secondly, Agonostis must capture Dayne’s soul for Hell. If he can’t do the latter, he’ll be suspended from a pit for a very long time. Can Dayne resist the Lord of Lust? What will North Carolina do with that many new inhabitants? Continue reading Sympathy for the Devil, by Holly Lisle

Free (Legal) Books on the Internet

Welcome to Free Books on the Internet week! There are, pulmonologist surprisingly, price many places to find free books on the internet. I’ll go through a few of them — even a few more interesting ones — in this entry. Don’t worry; I’ve merely delayed the posting of the book review by one hour. You’ll still have it by breakfast time.

I would guess at least a few of you have heard of Project Gutenberg. They’re a not-for-profit organization that is putting e-forms of as many public domain books as they can get on the internet. These aren’t all old books, adiposity either — I got Cory Doctorow’s novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town there, and he’s not the only one. Browse for yourself. They come available in many formats — .txt files, .pdf files, on the web itself, and usually in .html format as well. I generally prefer books in .html format; they’re more adaptable, smaller than .pdf files, and don’t require conversion before you read them.

A corollary to Project Gutenberg is DailyLit. They will send about two pages of a novel to you every day by email. A good deal of what they have is free, although there are also books you can pay for on the website as well.

Manybooks.net also has free e-books, pre-formatted in .pdf form or many other forms that are good for ebook readers (the Sony E-Reader, Mobipocket readers, Palm Pilots, etc.). I think they get most of their books from Project Gutenberg, but I found a few later works there, as well.

Another good place to get free books on the internet is your local public library. I know that two out of the three libraries I have ever had lending privileges at both have ebook collections. They’re not extensive, but they exist, and I would suspect that the more patrons that use them, the more they will expand them. These books you can’t keep, though — you download the book and can read it for three or four weeks (whatever your library’s typical lending period is). At the end of that period, the book will be locked up, and you might as well delete it. Larger library systems are more likely to have these books, and because they are DRM-protected, I think you have to have a certain program (Adobe, Mobipocket) to read the books. Still, for best-sellers, this can be a good way to read them.

Some publishers have started offering free books on their websites. Harper Collins does occasionally, but more importantly, there’s the Baen Free Library. After a book has been out for a few years, and it stops producing significant royalties, a Baen author has an option of putting his or her book on the website. Many authors have chosen to do so. Tor appears to be doing something similar; at the moment they’re giving away free books by email, while they redesign their website. I’d be interested to see what the end result is.

A more time-intensive way to find free books on the internet is to find single titles given away by authors. These vary in quality; some people aren’t published for a reason, obviously. Many are very good, though; one of the books I’ll be reviewing later this week is an unpublished novel by Diane Duane, of So You Want to be a Wizard fame.

Why do authors do this? Well, many of them are dead, so they have no choice. More relevantly, Cory Doctorow gives his books away for free on the internet for moral reasons, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his print sales or his personal wealth. Recently, John Scalzi had a book of his (Old Man’s War) given away by Tor.com (I’m sure he agreed to it), and he saw a significant uptick in print sales — we’re talking 30-odd percent, and in the hundreds of books per week range. Moral reasons, financial reasons, public domain reasons — I have to admit, I love free books in any way, shape, or form. So this week, I’m reviewing five of them. Enjoy!

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, book 1), by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs has written, purchase in addition to this series, resuscitator several highly-rated high fantasy volumes, obesity and she was also on my list of ‘writers I’d get around to reading eventually’. The Mercy Thompson books, which are urban fantasy, came recommended by other review sites, and ‘eventually’ came around. Briggs lives in the Pacific Northwest, and has degrees in German and history.

Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is a Walker — of Native American descent, she can turn into a coyote, but she’s not a werecoyote: her shifts aren’t tied to anything, and she was born that way. Like most people with few manners, she was raised by wolves — well, werewolves. She works as an auto mechanic during the day, and it is at this day job that she meets a young man named Mac, a new werewolf. He needed somewhere to stay and something to do, because he was so new that he didn’t know a darned thing about being a werewolf. Mercy just happens to live right next door to the local pack Alpha, and she eventually gets the boy to Adam. Unfortunately, that was after Mercy had killed a werewolf, but not one of Adam’s pack, luckily. That werewolf — and those who had turned Mac into a werewolf — were involved in some sort of conspiracy, that culminated in Adam being attacked and his 15-year-old human daughter, Jesse, being kidnapped. Can Mercy save Adam and rescue Jesse without getting killed? Continue reading Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, book 1), by Patricia Briggs

Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage (book 1), by Alma Alexander

This novel is the first in a trilogy; Alma Alexander, dermatologist I have to admit, was not an author I’d heard of prior to a few months ago, but it seems she’s published five or six books prior to this one. According to her back-of-the-book bio, she was born in Yugoslavia, grew up in the UK and Africa, and now lives in Washington state. The last seems like a bit of a let-down, but at least there’s a much lower possibility of getting shot to death out there.

In this novel, we are set in a world roughly analogous to our own, but with magic. People transport; computers are used for storing spells; children study Ars Magica. Thea is a minor celebrity; she’s the seventh child of two seventh children. Unfortunately, she can’t perform any magic at all. Her next-older brother, Frankie, messes up magic as often as he succeeds, but he can still DO magic. Thea’s father, in a last-ditch effort, calls in a really big favor and sends Thea somewhere — or somewhen — to study with someone who should be able to teach her magic. Will it work? Continue reading Worldweavers: Gift of the Unmage (book 1), by Alma Alexander

What the Mouse Found, by Charles de Lint

Recently I’ve been reviewing old favorites by Charles de Lint, phlebologist but today’s entry — a collection of short stories published by Subterranean Press — is a brand-new book. So new, website like this as a matter of fact, that it won’t be released until either May, if you look at the back of the ARC, or October, if you ask a major online book retailer. According to the publisher’s website, though, it has just gone off to the printer’s and will be released next month. I trust them a little more.

I would like to talk for just a moment about Subterranean Press. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but they produce truly amazing book-objects. They are all fully cloth-bound; the covers are always exquisite; the insides, also, are well-designed. Many of their more expensive editions are printed in more than one color. They have a contract with some publishers (including Baen) to do limited, special editions of their works, and while I don’t have enough money to spend $125 on one book, I’ve been sorely tempted more than once. All of their books are available for purchase through their website, including this one.

This collection of short stories is very short — only 64 pages — and contains five stories and an introduction. (There is a sixth story in the limited edition, but the ARC doesn’t contain it, alas.) Each of these stories was written for a specific child in de Lint’s life, and they were written to accompany the dolls or stuffed animals that his wife, Mary Ann Harris, made as gifts. As such, each story centers around a child, normally no more than ten, and an encounter with something magical. Continue reading What the Mouse Found, by Charles de Lint

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, book 3), by Rick Riordan

First, this happy Earth Day!

Second, look! I’m reviewing a book that isn’t an old favorite! Unfortunately, I read it about two weeks ago, so the question is, can I remember it properly? I can easily remember that Rick Riordan has written two previous books in this series, and that they come highly recommended for boys and reluctant readers. They center around Percy Jackson, a hero in the demi-god sense, and his friends, some of whom are also demi-gods, others of whom are cyclopes and satyrs.

The book, if I remember correctly — okay, I checked — starts with Percy and a couple of his friends going to check something out for the heads of the camp. The heads believe that there might be a couple of unknown half-bloods at a military-type school in upstate New York, and it turns out there are. However, things go a little bit wrong, and Artemis and her maidens end up saving their skins. Shortly thereafter, Annabeth disappears (one of Percy’s halfblood friends), and a quest is set up to go find them, including some of Artemis’s girls and some of the halfbloods. Will they be able to save her? And, well, what on earth is going on with the cow serpent thingy? Continue reading The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, book 3), by Rick Riordan

Trader, by Charles de Lint

I love Charles de Lint’s works, ambulance which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone reading this. While Old Favorites Week ended last Friday, pilule circumstances have forced me to review another Old Favorite for Monday. Don’t worry; things should be back on track by tomorrow. For those who haven’t heard of him, drug de Lint is Canadian, writes urban fantasy, and has the most soothing speaking voice I’ve heard.

Max Trader is a luthier — he makes and repairs guitars from his little shop in the funky part of Newford. One morning he wakes up and finds himself not in his own body — he’s in the body of one Johnny Devlin, a small-time con artist and all-around jerk. How did that happen? Can he get back into his proper body? As it turns out, Johnny Devlin is in his body as well. Can they switch back? Continue reading Trader, by Charles de Lint

A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle

The final book in Old Favorites Week is by Madeleine L’Engle, allergist and most readers would expect this to be a review of A Wrinkle in Time. As much as I loved that book, sales though, advice A Ring of Endless Light is the book that had more of an impact on me. I originally wrote this review when Ms. L’Engle died (September of 2007), and here it is, again, for your reading pleasure.

Technically this is the third book in the Austin family series (of which there are four, with a tangentially related fifth book), but I believe it can be read on its own. Vicky Austin is fifteen the summer that her grandfather is dying from cancer, and the whole family goes to stay with him on the island where he lives. Her older brother, John, has a summer job on the other side of the island, working with dolphins. One of his coworkers is a young man named Adam Eddington, also an aspiring marine biologist. An old acquaintance of Vicky’s (from the previous book, The Moon by Night), Zachary Gray, also makes an appearance. Continue reading A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle