Audiobook Review: Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Thieftaker Chronicles
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of Publication: July 3, 2012 (Reissue)
Author Information: website | twitter


My Rating: 4 of 5 stars – An excellent historical urban fantasy that managed to meld the magic and history in a way that felt realistic without succumbing to vacuous pitfalls. 

This book marks the first book I’ve completed using Audible’s Whispersync, which allows readers to switch between listening and reading (the Kindle version) without losing their place. It’s a great feature to have and one that is particularly useful for people like me who often end up leaving the audiobook to read the book. This gives me an incentive to come back to the audiobook, though, since it saves my place, which means I can listen to it when I can’t read the book or just feel like listening and then resume the book when I’m ready.

Thieftaker starts in 1765, eight years before the Boston Tea Party and eleven years before the Revolutionary War. Civil unrest is stirring, growing from a mewl to a roar, as the colonies begin to rebel against the taxes forced on them by the British crown.

The story centers around the thieftaker Ethan Kaille. As a thieftaker, Ethan is tasked with finding the stolen property of others in exchange for payment. Ethan’s true power rests in his ability to conjure spells–a power that damned him in his former life as a sailor, but has aided him in his current profession as a thieftaker.

During one of the late-night riots against the crown that are starting to plague the city, a wealthy businessman’s daughter is found dead in the streets without a mark on her, and a brooch is taken from her possession. While “witchcraft” is frowned on, Abner Berson, the businessman, is well aware that his daughter’s death is probably magical in nature and requires Ethan’s talents to find his daughter’s missing brooch and her murderer.

Finding the culprit proves to be quite the challenge as Ethan realizes he’s up against a conjurer of immense talent paired with the fact that a powerful rival thieftaker named Sephira Pryce has it out for him.

Could one book hold any more things that I love than this one? It’s a historical fiction, but wait, it’s also an urban fantasy set in historical Boston. Why don’t we just throw in a little alternate history to sweeten the pot?

As a history nerd, I liked that the story is set around factual historical events. Ethan may not be real, but his profession is seeded in historical fact. Jackson uses the events leading up to the Revolutionary War as the backdrop for his story, so there are cameos by people such Samuel Adams and James Otis, Jr.

Ethan’s case itself is tied heavily to the politics plaguing the city. Even though he tries not to get mired into politics himself, he’s finding it hard to avoid as his investigation seems to move deeper and deeper into politics. One thing I really enjoyed about the political aspects of this story of this story is that Ethan’s opinion of the historical events around him are very gray.

The history isn’t painted with a patriotic slant, if that makes sense. Ethan considers himself a servant of the crown, but he does understand the plight of the people in the colonies. The activities of Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty aren’t assumed to be correct and aren’t written to make a heart bleed red, white, and blue with all the patriotism. Instead it focuses more on the everyday man’s outlook and how it does or doesn’t affect his life.

Jackson also does a commendable job with combining the magic and history. He’s managed to make the magic feel believable without falling prey to some of the pitfalls of other stories that have taken a similar approach. It doesn’t feel forced or trite in contrast to its setting, which can often happens when trying to base a magical story around actual historical fact. Usually, I find with books like this that the magic feels out of place in the story, but that wasn’t a problem here.

This book features a colorful cast of characters, and I really liked Ethan whose trying to do the best he can after living a very hard life prior to returning to Boston. One thing that I’m often guilty of is giving male characters in an urban fantasy setting the “Harry Dresden” test and making unjust comparisons. I think part of this reason is because so many male urban fantasy leads have similar qualities that make it so easy to compare and contrast (and this is true of many female urban fantasy characters, too). I didn’t do this so much with Ethan because after a while he felt like a different breed of male protagonist. His experiences, his views on his own magic, really made his character feel a bit distinct. Jonathan Davis, who recently made it to my favorite narrators list, did a wonderful job of bringing Ethan to life with his narration, so that might’ve helped my view.

Some of the other supporting characters felt a little flimsy and really only served one purpose to the story, but they were mostly likable, just not the type of characters who’d stick with you with a few exceptions. While I’m on supporting characters, I should get a complaint out the way. Sephira’s role in the story started getting on my nerves a little after a while. Sephira is definitely a character that you love to hate, but her motivations after a while just felt a little weak. I think she’s a great antagonist and rival to Ethan, but her involvement in his investigation after a while just made me raise my eyebrow even after her explanation.

As ubiquitous as her presence and influence is in this story, it felt like she was a little too involved with the matter and her impact started to kind of diminish when she kept showing up to try to dominate Ethan’s life or whatever. Her motivations seemed rather flaky and conflicting. However, I am interested to see how she further complicates Ethan’s adventures, and that really is a minor complaint for an otherwise engaging story.

In short, I thought this was an excellent historical urban fantasy that managed to meld the magic and history in a way that felt realistic. The magic isn’t so fantastic and in-your-face that it doesn’t mesh weld with the gritty world its set. Ethan is a wonderfully interesting character whose flaws run a bit deeper than a self-deprecating self-view hidden behind quirky humor. I’ll definitely be reading the next book soon.

4 of 5 stars
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Wendy’s Fall Reading List

I have a huge TBR pile, but these lucky pieces of literature have made it to the top for this season. My list for the fall isn’t quite as ambitious as Mogsy’s, but making the list definitely helps keep me on track. It’s so easy to be distracted by — oh Amazon is having a sale…..

I have far too many back issues of comics and graphic novels that I also need to catch up on, so, after closing my eyes and randomly poking a finger at the pile, I decided to start on Fables. And for lulz, I will see how it compares to Grimm Fairy Tales.

Mogsy’s Book Haul

Here are the newest additions to my library since the last time I did this feature, and as usual I like to talk about the books because you never know what might catch your eye! Let me know if anything here looks interesting to you. First, the physical pile. Isn’t it kinda weird how the predominant colors are mostly a shade of brown or that hue of dark mint green? I didn’t notice that until all the covers were laid out like that!

Steelheart if I can, I always like to buy the hardcovers of Brandon Sanderson’s books for my personal collection. This one was preordered a while ago and I was so excited when it showed up the day of release. I wasn’t going to tackle it until I whittled down my to-be-reviewed pile a bit, but I couldn’t wait anymore so I “leap-frogged” it over everything! My review is forthcoming in a future “YA Weekend”, so keep an eye out for that.

Irenicon – one of the books that arrived in my Jo Fletcher care package. This book is among the many fantastic titles short-listed for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut! I can’t wait to read it.

Path of Needles – another from JF, I grew interested in this book after very much enjoying Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough, also from the same publisher. I saw the two authors and their respective books mentioned in the same article about horror fiction over there, and Path of Needles looks to have that certain “horror/paranormal” vibe which immediately pulled me to it.

The Detainee – this looks fantastic from its description about a dystopia that dumps anyone who represents a burden to society (the old, sick, poor, even children) on an island to fend for themselves. So grateful for the publisher for sending it over.

The Diamond Deep – an unexpected arrival, this wasn’t on my priority list at first, but that quickly changed as I learned more about it. The author says the life of Eva Perón inspired the story behind it, and this looks to be a really cool class-oriented space opera with elements of action and suspense. I’m reading now and am enjoying it a lot so far!

The Summoner – won from a giveaway courtesy of Solaris Books. I’ve never read anything by Gail Z. Martin before (though her recent book Ice Forged has caught my eye and I’ve heard a lot of positive things about it) and this would be a good place to start!

Heartwood – epic fantasy by Freya Robertson. I’m going to tackle this ARC right after I finish my current read, and I’m looking forward to it!

And now for the digital pile. Audiobook and ebook deals are forever my downfall.

 

Horns – I did say in my review of NOS4A2 that while it was the first Joe Hill book I’ve ever read, it certainly won’t be the last. So when Horns was the Kindle Daily Deal a week or so back, I quickly jumped on it!

Three Parts Dead – yet another book for the TBR pile, and I blame my co-blogger for this. Yes, that’s right, Wendy, I STILL BLAME YOU. She had great things to say about this book in her review earlier this week, so when I saw the ebook on sale this month for $2.99 I couldn’t stop myself.

Nexus – I had a coupon code for Audible that would expire at the end of September, so I used it on this book. The bulk of my wishlist on there appears to be made up of Angry Robot titles, because they have so many that I want to read. In particular, Nexus by Ramez Naam came highly recommended.

The Plague Forge – recently there was another massive weekend sale on ebook bestsellers, and I’m relieved considering that I didn’t buy more. I couldn’t resist picking up this third and final book of Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle trilogy though. I’ve read the first two books and I’m itching to find out the conclusion.

14 – I knew I was in for it as soon as I saw that Audible was also implementing a Daily Deals feature. So far, I’ve been pretty good because not too many of them have been SFF titles, but when this one came around I didn’t hesitate. I’ve enjoyed Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes series and I’ve been wanting to check out 14 for a long, long time now.

Book Review: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of Gentleman Bastard

Publisher: Del Rey

Expected Date of Publication: October 8, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Earlier this year, I did a little happy dance when I found out that this book was going to be released in October, and to cut to the chase, this highly anticipated third installment of the Gentleman Bastard series was absolutely worth the wait.

The book picks up immediately after the events of Red Seas Under Red Skies, so bear in mind that this review may contain minor spoilers for the previous novels in this series. Last we saw Locke Lamora, he had been fatally poisoned, leaving his loyal friend Jean Tannen desperately trying to find a cure. Their salvation finally comes in the form of a sorcerer who calls herself Patience. She offers to save Locke — but for a price.

With the impending political elections in the Bondsmagi city of Karthain, factions are looking for pawns to help sway votes in their favor. Patience purges the poison from Locke in exchange for his services to help her side, but then reveals the identity of his counterpart working for their political opponents. It is none other than Sabetha, a woman from Locke’s past. She is his greatest rival — but also his greatest love.

Wherein I saw the second book as a deeper examination and study into the relationship between Locke and Jean, this third book is all about SABETHA SABETHA SABETHA. And about time, too. For the last two books, Scott Lynch has teased us with mention and scant details of this mysterious femme fatale in Locke’s life, but she has never made a true appearance until now. For a long time, Sabetha was just a name, and I find it incredible how so much anticipation has already been built up around her. I for one was very excited at the prospect of finally getting to meet this character, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Alternating in between chapters about Locke and Sabetha’s present entanglement with the Bondsmagi is also a separate plot line that focuses on the Bastards gang in the past. This half of the story follows Locke, Jean, Sabetha and the twins Calo and Galdo when they were thieves-in-training, and their guardian Chains sends them off to join a theater troupe to learn the skills of the trade. In truth, I actually preferred this story line a lot more than the other involving the political election. I’m not surprised that I devoured these chapters, seeing as my favorite parts of the first book The Lies of Locke Lamora involved the glimpses we got into Locke’s childhood, after all.

And so, it was just as great to be able to return to Locke’s past again in The Republic of Thieves. The Gentleman Bastards taking on acting roles in a play made for an ingenious idea, and as the central theme it provided plenty of humor and entertainment. Fun as it was, these flashback chapters were also bittersweet given how it features several old faces that we know aren’t around anymore. But it was also worth it to gain more insight into Locke’s character as well as a deeper understanding into his complicated relationship with Sabetha. We’re there from the moment they meet to the moment they become lovers. It’s pretty dysfunctional, as far as romantic journeys go, but Scott Lynch still had a way of making it feel very sweet and intimate.

As a whole, the series has matured with each book. This one came across as a bit more serious than its predecessors (at least to me), though that might have something to do with its slower start. Winding down from the adventures on the high seas in book two, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up and explain before the story could really get moving, which bogs the first half down quite a bit. The good news is, once you get over that hump, the rewards are well worth it. Both past and present story lines will pick up and the book then takes off like a runaway train. At this point, you won’t be able to put it down.

Bottom line: If you’re like me and enjoyed the first two books as much as I did, then picking up this third book is a no-brainer. You’ll learn more about Locke’s past, and some major things also happen at the end which involve his identity and might shake things up for future installments. And if you haven’t been acquainted with the Gentleman Bastards yet, I highly recommend these books, starting with The Lies of Locke Lamora. Probably one of my favorite fantasy series out there right now.

 

 4.5 of 5 stars
“The highly anticipated third book of one of my favorite fantasy 
series, and it was absolutely worth the wait” 

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Genre: Magic, Fantasy
Series: Craft Sequence #1
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: October 2012
Author Info: maxgladstone.com

Think of a law firm like Angel’s Wolfram and Hart, only with far more history and a solid framework and magical processes and fantastic depositions that take place on the astral plane.

Three Parts Dead is a unique tale that combines religion, magic and law in a world so very different from our own. It begins with the murder of a judge, the death of a god and Tara Abernathy, a skilled young Craftswoman, unceremoniously graduated from the Hidden Schools and ejected from their skybound walls. With no other choice left to her, Tara returns to her quiet farming village, but in an effort to help the villagers after a brutal attack, reveals her Craft and incurs their wrath. What did she expect would happen when she raises the dead? Fortunately, she is saved by Ms. Kevarian, a senior lawyer at Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao who offers Tara a job as her associate.

Gladstone casually throws the reader into this strange world. Tara nonchalantly raising the dead, the inconvenience of a dead god within the walls of Alt Coloumb. Ms. Kevarian’s unusual interview process. The carefree rescue by vampire pirates. This makes it sound all very comedic, but in fact, the story is woven together and the mysteries teased out so intricately that it was hard not to keep reading straight through to unravel all there is to know about Alt Coloumb, Craft, the gods, The Hidden Schools and everything in between.

One of the most fascinating bits of lore building is the religion, and the gods themselves. The main god of interest is Kos Everburning, who happens to be dead. The religious aspect is extremely practical in this story in that prayer actually does serve a purpose. The gods are fuelled by worship and sacrifice, but they are not simply all powerful beings sitting on some Olympic throne. The ones in question actually are benevolent and willingly give of their power back to the people in pragmatic ways. From steam pipes heated with Kos’s own fire, to bolstering city defences. Though you never get to meet and know the gods, you do learn how much they love and care for their people.

Secondly, there is the Craft. Where the gods use their own magic, certain men and women are gifted with the ability to channel the power of the earth and stars. Tara and Ms. Kevarian use these abilities in their attempt to find out how Kos Everburning died, his connection to the judge and more.

Initially, Tara appears rather immature in her use of Craft, though not in her skills as a lawyer. She is just recently graduated from The Hidden Schools, though the circumstances of her graduation are unusual. For her to be taken on by such a renown law firm implies that there is far more to her and when placed in the right environment, her expertise becomes quite evident. While there are a lot of legalities to deal with, it is not overwhelming or confusing and I loved the way Craft was ingrained into the process. Think of a law firm like Angel’s Wolfram and Hart, only with far more history and a solid framework and magical processes and fantastic depositions that take place on the astral plane.

Tara is surrounded by several other interesting characters, including a junkie, a gargoyle and a pirate captain and the novice priest who was present when Kos died. Each character seems to be created to fit into a certain mould, but Gladstone subtly and pleasantly surprises. Similarly, the setting does not fall into anything that can be pinned down. The fashion, locations and language make Alt Coloumb seem like a city we might easily recognize, yet there is a grandiose and profound feel to the stone buildings, a Victorian element to the horse drawn carriages and travel by pirate ship. I am so very intrigued by this world and am looking forward to further adventures within it.

Book Review: Your Brother’s Blood by David Towsey

Your Brother’s Blood by David Towsey

Genre: Fantasy 

Series: Book 1 of The Walkin’

Publisher: Jo Fletcher

Date of Publication: August 29, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I usually start off my reviews with an explanation of what initially drew me to the book, and in this case it was the words “Zombies” and “Western” used to describe it that had me tripping over my feet for the opportunity to check it out. To date, I’ve only read a few titles from relatively new speculative fiction imprint Jo Fletcher, but they’ve already set themselves apart in my mind as a very special publisher, thanks to books like Your Brother’s Blood which mix elements of sci-fi and fantasy with many other genres. Here, the result is something completely new and different, but I was also surprised to find this “Zombie-Western” to be quite literary and elegant at the same time.

The book is actually set hundreds of years into the future after an oft referred to but unknown apocalyptic event, and pockets of humanity now live ruggedly in small communities spread out across a vast and arid land in a style reminiscent of the Old West. A war is currently being waged between two armies, and caught in between them is the complicated matter of the dead who come back to life, those referred to as “the Walkin'”.

Thomas grew up in Barkley, and at thirty-two years old he’d left to fight a war only to die and wake up again. He knows going home will put his wife and child in danger, but the pull towards love and family is too great; in the end his arrival in town sends him on the run again, with his daughter Mary in tow. It becomes a race against time as they try to evade their pursuers, because Barkley’s zealots do not suffer the wicked or their spawn to live.

Other than a very few exceptions, I don’t think I’ve come across many zombie stories that are told from the perspective of the undead, so this immediately makes Your Brother’s Blood stand out for me. As a Walkin’, Thomas’ heart does not beat, nor does he bleed or feel a thing, but he does possess emotions, intelligence, and awareness of everything around him. He remembers Mary even though he hasn’t seen her in a long time, and his love and devotion to her leads to many sad and touching scenes between father and daughter.

In this and many other ways, Your Brother’s Blood is not a typical zombie novel; in fact, it shares very few similarities with other books in this horror sub-genre. Towsey’s zombies aren’t the mindless, shambling and brains-craving kind to be feared, and much of my enjoyment was actually the result of how much I sympathized with Thomas and related to his concerns for Mary. It’s definitely a story that tugs at your heartstrings, but on the flip side there’s also a sense of danger and urgency, for at the heart of this plot is the desperate-chase-across-the-wasteland factor that’s so characteristic of classic Westerns.

There’s just such a strange but unique mix of elements here, making this a special book unlike anything I’ve read before.  There’s just enough detail in this book to make you wonder things like, what happened to result in this post-apocalyptic world, and what’s “in the blood” that makes a person more liable to rise as a Walkin’ when they die? I’m hoping future installments will explore these questions, but  I’d be okay too if some things are left as mysteries.

It’s always interesting to me when I see authors take what’s familiar and shake things up, creating imaginative characters and new worlds that lead to speculation. This was an enjoyable debut from David Towsey that not only surprised me with its originality, but also had a lot more feeling than I expected. I recommend it to anyone looking for something that’s different, resonant and not “just another zombie book”.

 
4 of 5 stars
“a ‘Zombie-Western’ that’s different, original and
surprisingly full of feeling”

 

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Waiting on Wednesday 10/02/13

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

World After by Susan Ee: November 19, 2013 (Skyscape)
Last month I was blown away by Susan Ee’s Angelfall; it’s not often I find myself so impressed with a Young Adult paranormal fantasy, and I couldn’t believe that it was a self-published indie. I knew I loved it when I went online right after I finished to see when the next book was coming out. Not too long to wait now for World After!
In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?”

October Book Club Read: The Mage’s Daughter by Amelia Sides

The LeVar’s Rainbow Book Club has become a bit of a writing club with a few of our members working on their own novels and making preparations for the upcoming NaNoWriMo. For October, our read is by our very own Amelia Sides!


After years of abuse, a young Mage finds that she has to forge her own way before she can be chained again. Forces from all sides are seeking to use her power and it will be up to her whether or not she fights or runs from her past. It will take all her knowledge and skill to stay alive in this time of war, political intrigue, and magic.


Mage is pulled from the constant travel and abuse from her Uncle when she is summoned to the capital to register as a Mage. She is made an Apprentice to the Master Mage Darius, one of the King’s advisors. Over the course of the next year she gains new abilities and new friends while trying to weather political intrigue and track down the Mage who attacked her as a child. Pulled into a confrontation with her attacker, she is forced to choose between protecting the castle she has come to see as home or capturing the man who destroyed her childhood.

10 Reading/Reading-Related Apps Tiara Can’t Live Without

I am a technophile to my core, and this translates into everything I’m passionate about from music to gaming to reading. I thought I’d share my favorite reading and reading related apps. There are probably more than 10 reading apps that I can’t live without, but I’m sticking to the main 10 I use frequently. This list excludes gimmes such as the apps for Kindle, Nook and Kobo because most people already know about those.

My reading format of choice is .epub for books outside of what I buy for Kindle and Nook. I convert any files that I may receive that are not in .epub format using Calibre. I even convert some of my Kindle books I bought to .epub to read in other readers. I am a big fan of that format. I know some of these applications will work with .pdf, but if you’re a fan of the .mobi format, I don’t think any of the reading apps here will be of use to you.
Aldiko (Android) – Aldiko is my one reading app to rule them all. I’ve been using this app for a few years now. It started out as just an additional reading app on my rooted Nook Color for reading DRM-free books, but soon became a staple on all my Android devices. Aldiko supports .epub and .pdf. You can also read Adobe DRM-encrypted books on it. You can adjust your background color, brightness, change font face and size,  change margins and text alignment, and search through your books among other things. Aldiko features the ability to tag books and add them to different collections, as well.There is an in-app store included that supports Feedbooks, Smashwords, and O’Reilly Ebooks with the option to add other online catalogs via URL. While there is a free version of the app, I use the premium version which adds highlights, notes, and widget options. Not a whole lot of additions, but I really just wanted to support a great reading app and felt it was worth the $2.99 . [Download: Google Play]


Bluefire (Android/iOS) – This is my iOS reading app of choice, but it’s also available for Android. I had some troubles with iBooks not wanting to recognize some of my .epubs, so I looked for other options. Bluefire came highly recommended by a friend. Bluefire features the typical options such as searching books, highlighting, and notes. You can change the text size and margins, switch to night mode, and lock the screen orientation while in app. It will also define highlighted words using Google search, which is a little annoyance of mine (and one that holds true of Aldiko as well). I prefer in-app dictionaries because, even though I am connected to wifi 90% of the time thanks to my phone being able to function as a hotspot, there are times when I’m not whether that’s by my choice or not.

Bluefire can also read Adobe DRM-encrypted books and can sort library books you’ve checked out by expiration date. I tend to get Kindle loans from the library, so I’m not familiar with that option. Like Aldiko, Bluefire offers a few in-app catalog choices powered by Books-A-Million, Feedbooks, and Diesel. Bluefire also appears to reach out to content distributors who may want to have their own branded app to sell their books. [Download: iTunes | Google Play]



Comic Rack (Android) – First things first, if you don’t know this by now, I love comic books. I have always loved comic books. I will always love comic books. The end. I have actually been reading comic books on my PC for years even before it became fashionable to do so. Now, there are better options for reading comics on mobile devices such as tablets and phones with many comic companies and online stores offering apps and first day digital releases of comics. I actually have many comic apps I like, but if Aldiko is my one book reader to rule them all, Comic Rack is my one comic reader to rule them all.

Comic Rack is actually an application I’ve been using for years on my PC and now, it’s become my main .cbr reader on Android. It has features such as color corrections, a very comprehensive library management system, smart page resizing and cropping for smaller devices, and  thumbnails of the pages for you to scroll through while in comic if you want to skip around with minimal fuss. You can synchronize with Comic Rack on PC via USB (wirelessly if you buy the premium app) to take comics you may have been reading with you on the go or just to produce smaller file sizes of comics you do want to take with you.

It can switch reading modes and function as a manga reader. It can create a live wallpaper from comics in your library that will actually go to the comic currently displaying on the wallpaper if you double tap. It will tweet your thoughts and screenshots to Twitter, and you can share panels with other services using the share option. The paid version, which is $7.89, eliminates ads and allows wireless sync. And yes, the ad does disappear while you’re reading a comic (so, no view obstruction while reading only when you’re fiddling with options and what not).

Now, I won’t be party to discussion about how to obtain .cbr files. Yes, there are many ways both legally and illegally to do so. However you go about getting your files is of no concern to me. Chaotic neutral always. That was long-winded. I’m not even sorry. [Download: Google Play]

 

Goodreads (Android/iOS) – If you’re an avid reader, chances are you already know about this social site geared toward readers. However, the site also has its own mobile app that allows users to read and write reviews, update reading progress, and search books, groups, and users. You can interact with other users and your groups on the app, read author blogs, and use the barcode scanner to do a quick book look up on the site to get more information about it. It also offers the ability to read books you may have bought directly on the site in the app itself.I mainly use the app to scroll through my friends’ updates and update my own status, but when I’m away from my PC with just my devices, it does a pretty fair job in allowing me to manage my account. There aren’t too many options that I can’t access with the mobile app, and it’s one of the first apps that I always download on my devices.  [Download: iTunes | Google Play]



Evernote (Android/iOS) – I use Evernote for many things, but the reason why I’ve listed it here is because I write most of my reviews in Evernote on my devices. Any notes I take or quotes I copy usually go into the application as well. The notes sync across all devices and PCs for easy access. While the app has tons of great features, I’ll stick to mentioning the ones that I find most helpful in regards to this site. (You can read a more comprehensive list of features on the download pages.)

Evernote allows me to create notebooks and tags which I use to keep up with reviews and other things I write for the site. I can save tweets to the app which is helpful because I might tweet random thoughts while reading that I want to expand on in reviews. It can snap pictures of books to remember while I’m out and about and record voice memos when I can’t type up things at that moment. Since I’m a premium user, I can choose notebooks to save offline to continue my work. At first, I didn’t think would use Evernote for much outside of work, but now, I use it for everything. [Download: iTunes | Google Play]



Fresh Comics (Android/iOS) – This is a great app for keeping track of upcoming and past issues of comics that I want to buy. The app also gives a little synopsis on issues you click. They have options that allow users to track specific writers, artists, and comics series. You can create lists, such as shopping lists and favorites lists, in the app. It’ll even show you local comic stories and the location of nearby comic conventions. I mainly use it for a list like function of comics that I have and want to buy as well as using to find more comics by a specific writer or artist. It’s a handy app for the comics lover. [Download: iTunesGoogle Play]



Audible (Android/iOS) – I have never been much of an avid audiobook reader. In earlier years when I tried, I get so annoyed that the narrators would talk so much slower than I could read. There’d been a handful of audiobooks that I really appreciated and a few I had to get through for media type classes I had when I was younger. I’ve had an Audible account for a few years and have listened to books on it here and there. Usually, I’d start a great book and then finish it by buying the ebook version, though. Whispersync, which syncs up your audiobook and ebook, is made for people like me, and I love it.Admittedly, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started to use the app frequently (and usually, I use on my iPod and Android phone). Since I’m busier now days, audiobooks come in handy when I can’t sit down and read a book such as when I’m cleaning. I’ve also come to appreciate certain narrators’ voices and have optioned to listen to them read rather than read the book. Biggest bonus, though? Audibooks are great for my kids! We listen to audiobooks on the way to school, after school during down time, and on roadtrips. They love it. We’re currently listening to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The kids are having so much fun with it. They act out the parts as they’re listening, and we discuss it. It’s worth it for that alone. [Download: iTunes | Google Play]

 


Hovernote (Android) – When I’m reading on my Nexus 7, I take tons of notes about what I’m reading from random thoughts to jotting down memorable quotes I want to keep. I can take notes in my reading apps, but the notes I make, especially something I think I’ll use in a review, I usually want to save somewhere like Evernote. I can’t have Evernote and my reading app open at the same time, and the switching back and forth can be a bit tedious. That’s where Hovernote comes in handy.Hovernote hovers (no pun intended) over whatever I’m currently using. It allows me to type and/or copy and paste notes into it. It’s resizeable and easy to move around. I can save my notes in the app or have it to export my notes to other apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Gmail, Twitter, etc. [Download: Google Play]

Dropbox (Android/iOS) – I use many cloud storage options, Dropbox is what I mainly use. It works across all my devices and on my PCs. As I mentioned, I have a ton of .epubs files. Instead of loading all of them on my devices, which would cause quite a clutter, I upload them to Dropbox and then download the ones I want to read to my devices. When I’m done, I remove them. If I ever want to add them again, I just snag them from Dropbox again. It’s as simple as that. No muss, no fuss. [Download: iTunes | Google Play]

 

Comic Zeal (iOS) – Comic Zeal is my iOS answer to Comic Rack. It features many of the same options such as grouping the same titles together, allowing you to automatically continue on to the next comic. You can load comics wirelessly, by usb, or by downloading from Dropbox. Other storage systems may work, but don’t quote me on that. Comic Zeal does library management a little better than Comic Rack by allowing you to group comics together in different categories/read lists–such as you might want to group all the comics that feature one character together for reading and you may want to create another category/read list that groups all the comics of a crossover arc together for easy reading. It also has a tagging system, which is very useful.I think this is the only app on my list that doesn’t have a “free” version. To use this app, you’re going to have to cough up $4.99. [Download: iTunes]

 
That’s it. Have any reading/reading-related apps you think I should check out? Let me know.

Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: October 1, 2013

Author Information: Website | Twitter

There are so many things I want to say about this debut novel by Ann Leckie, but first I just have to express my awe and admiration for some of the themes and concepts in this book. I went into Ancillary Justice after having heard a lot of praise for its originality and imaginative ideas, and now that I’ve finished it, I can only echo those sentiments.

The book follows Breq, a soldier who is more (and, I suppose, also less) than she seems. An “Ancillary”, Breq was formerly one of many corpse soldiers all linked up with an artificial intelligence as part of a massive starship called the Justice of Toren. So in a sense, she is the Justice of Toren. Breq as well as all the other corpse soldier “segments” who were treated as appendages connected to the Justice of Toren were collectively considered part of the ship. It’s a complex but incredibly elaborate concept to wrap my head around, but reading about it made me exultant.

Anyway, after an act of treachery, Breq was the only one who made it out of the subsequent disaster, making her the last surviving remnant of the Justice of Toren, left alone and isolated in a human body. Now she sets herself on a path of vengeance to track down and kill Anaander Mianaai, the multi-bodied and near-immortal Lord of the Radch who was responsible.

As I said, I think the ideas here are very inventive and original, and the way they are executed is also quite clever, if confusing at times. Breq’s narration reflects the fact that she is a part of a ship, a bigger whole. In chapters where she is linked up to the rest of the Justice of Toren, we see through the eyes of multiple Ancillaries, which in essence are all one entity. Because the ship’s Ancillaries are everywhere, the narrator is aware of things happening around all her different segments who are in different places at the same time. This “omniscient effect” is no doubt a challenge to write, and I think Leckie did as well as anyone possibly could.

There were many times, though, where this book made me feel completely out of my depth. The style of the narration I described above is one reason, but also because of other factors such as Breq’s approach to using only the female pronoun to refer to other characters. This gender ambiguity is another point to the innovation and cleverness of this book (and since we humans refer to our ships and other vessels as female, seeing it happen the other way around is so deliciously apropos!) but it also made reading this book a slow and purposeful experience, since I did not want to risk missing anything in the writing.

Added to this is the skipping back and forth in time, as well as the massive amount of information piled upon the reader in the first part of the book. To be fair, lengthy explanations and commentary are probably unavoidable given a book with a premise like this, and a part of me also wonders if Ancillary Justice might be better suited for readers with more experience with science fiction, who’d be better able to adapt to the peculiar pacing. I love this genre, and the details don’t get too overly technical here, but I still couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed and out of my comfort zone at times.

As such, it wasn’t until deep into the later chapters that I finally felt settled into the rhythm of the book. Once the time switches come to an end and the plot moves forward, I found myself a lot more engaged with the story. And indeed, this is a compelling novel, and it raises some interesting questions and themes about freedom, identity, independence and choice.

I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I didn’t hit so many speed bumps in the beginning, but working my way through to the end was worth it. The finale was pure action and suspense, and as a character, Breq has certainly made herself memorable. The ideas in this book will stay with me for a long time, and this is overall a great debut.

3.5 of 5 stars
“Original and imaginative, the concepts and themes in this 
book will stay with me for a long time”
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.