Kythe42's Astral Library

I've been a book worm for pretty much my whole life. I've read many types of books over the course of my life, but currently the sorts of books I enjoy the most are fantasy and science-fiction. I particularly like it if these genre's are mixed with comedy like the style of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. I definitely can enjoy more serious fantasy and science-fiction though. I also enjoy vampire books, but not quite as much as I did when I was younger.

 

I'm not going to add any books to my shelves that I read before 2012 just because I've read so many books in my life and it's difficult to remember when I read them and how well I liked them, and I'm sure there are a great many books that I've read in my life that I've completely forgotten about.

 

The editions that I have displayed on my shelves do not necessarily correspond to editions that I actually own. I generally just use whatever edition has my favorite cover which may or may not match the covers of the books I actually own. If I own more than one copy of a book, in most cases I won't have multiple editions displayed on my shelves. An exception to this would be collective books/omnibuses in which the individual stories are all available separately. In this case I will probably use the individual books for tracking my reading, but will display the omnibus or anthology just as a book that I own.

 

Because BookLikes does not have any suitable way to track re-reading books, I have created a shelf called "all books read" in which I will permanently place every book that I have read. Books that I am re-reading will get transferred back and forth between the official "read" shelf and the "planning to read" and "currently reading" shelves.

"We cannot choose what we are, yet what are we, but the sum of our choices?"
Backwards - Rob Grant

~Rob Grant, Backwards

A Few Tips For Independent Authors

This is really more of a post about my pet peeves regarding independent authors on various book sites, but I figure it's probably helpful for authors to know what readers don't want to see when they are promoting their books.

 

Joining a number of social book sites is a good way to promote your books, especially if you join discussion groups. Before promoting your books in a discussion group though, take some time to look around the group to determine what the group's policy on advertising is. Some groups don't allow advertising at all. If this is the case, please respect this policy and don't promote your books here as it will be considered spam. Many groups do allow advertising, but only allow it in a specific section of the group. Please respect this and don't post advertisements outside of the designated section or it will be considered spam. If you've looked around and a group doesn't have any policies against advertising and doesn't have a designated advertisement section, then feel free to promote your books in the main group section.

 

Don't promote your books too often. Even if you stick to groups that allow advertising and only promote your books in the designated areas of the groups, promoting your books too often still looks like spam. Also try to get involved in the group discussions. This doesn't bother me much, but some people aren't very receptive to authors who join groups for the sole purpose of promoting their books.

 

If you are having a sale or a free giveaway for your books that only lasts a few days or less, please give advanced notice before the sale/free giveaway starts. Many people don't have time to check the book groups for new messages everyday and some rely on daily or weekly email digests to keep up with the group activity. So unless your intention is to only get your books out to a limited number of people, I'd recommend giving at least a week's notice before a limited time sale or giveaway.

 

Make your ebooks available in as many formats as possible. A number of times I've seen authors offering copies of their ebooks only in pdf format. I know there are plenty of people out there that like pdfs for whatever reason, but for many people, including myself, it's the last choice of ebook format we'd want. There are many reading devices that either can't open pdfs or are difficult and awkward to read pdfs on. If you make readers go out of their way to read your books, they will be less likely to want to read them at all. Epub and mobi are two of the most widely used ebook formats right now and it would be good to provide your ebooks in those formats at the very least and branch out into other formats if possible. While epub and mobi formats can easily be converted back and forth, it would be preferable to provide your ebooks in both formats for those that lack the knowledge to do conversions.

 

Don't use unsuspecting readers as beta readers. Take the time to revise and edit your work before publishing and/or giving away free copies for reviews. If you want someone to beta read your work, then find a specific writing group for that, but don't pass off your books as finished and then use reader reviews and feedback to go back and put out a second revised edition of your books. This is unethical regardless of whether someone actually paid for your books or received free copies. If you want to look for beta readers in discussion groups, then make sure you are clear about your intentions.

 

Don't get bent out of shape if someone gives you constructive criticism. If you lash out at someone it only makes you look bad and readers are less inclined to read books from authors that act like asses. Whether someone is giving constructive feedback on your book, the book's cover, or your marketing practices there are only three acceptable responses. You can thank the person for their feedback, you can calmly explain why you chose to do things the way you did, or you can choose not to respond at all. Picking one or both of the first two options will make you look like an open minded gracious author. Picking the third option might not give the best impression, but it's certainly better than lashing out in anger.

Review of Last Human by Doug Naylor

Last Human - Doug Naylor

Last Human by Doug Naylor is the third book based on the British science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf. The crew of Red Dwarf accidentally end up in an alternate dimension and they find an alternate copy of their transport ship Starbug with all the crew dead inside except for Lister. They set out on a quest to find what's become of the alternate Lister, but when they find him, he turns out to be a lot more different from Lister than they had imagined. I would say that overall this book wasn't quite as funny as the first two, but it still had parts that really made me laugh and it was full of exciting adventure, so was a pretty good read overall. I think it's definitely worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books.

 

This book picks up right where Better Than Life left off, so you should definitely read it and Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers before reading this book. There are bits and pieces from the show in this book, but the storyline itself is very different. It's not necessarily a bad thing though. It's pretty cool to read storylines that were never in the show. I'd just recommend not starting this book(or the others before it) until you finish watching the show to avoid confusion.

Review of Better Than Life by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Better than Life - Grant Naylor

Better Than Life by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor is the second book based on the British science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf. The crew of Red Dwarf's journey to return to Earth gets interrupted when they find themselves trapped inside of an addictive virtual reality game and they must find a way to escape before their real world bodies die. This proves to be no easy task though since they can't leave unless they want to, and even after reaching that state they face many additional obstacles preventing their escape. This book was pretty funny and I enjoyed reading it just as much as the first book. Like with the ending of the first book, it didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it did make me want to read the third book right away.

 

This book picks up right where the first one left off, so you really do need to read Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers before reading this book. There are differences between the show and the books, so if you plan on watching the show as well, I'd recommend watching all of the seasons before starting on the books as going back and forth can get confusing.

"Don't trust Time. Time will always get you in the end."
Better than Life - Grant Naylor

~Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, Better Than Life

Review of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers - Grant Naylor

Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor is a novel based on the British sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf. Dave Lister, a lowly technician on the mining spaceship Red Dwarf, gets put into stasis as a punishment for smuggling a cat on board. When he emerges from stasis he finds that a nuclear accident wiped out the rest of the crew and it is now three million years in the future. The only other survivors are a feline-humanoid life form that evolved from his cat, and his bunk mate who died but was revived as a hologram. Tensions are high as they do their best to survive and navigate the various obstacles they must face as they try to make their way back to earth.

 

This was a quick but fun read. The ending wasn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it did make me want to read the next book right away. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or anyone that just enjoys British humor. Though I did enjoy the book a lot, I thought the show was funnier. I think this is mostly due to the fact that sometimes humor translates better in an audio-visual format than the written word and for this reason I also found The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio plays to be funnier than the books. I don't think it's necessary to watch the show before you read the books, but it's more fun that way because it's easier to imagine the character's voices and what they look like. The book does give some background story to the show, but it's different in a lot of ways. Some events happen in a different order than they do in the show and many plot details are different. If you do decide to watch the show before reading the book, I'd recommend watching the entire series before starting the book. I started reading the book after I'd only watched most of the second season and then started going back and forth between the show and the book. I started to find this rather confusing due to the differences between the show and the book and it became harder to keep the storylines of each one straight in my mind. I'm hooked now though and I definitely couldn't wait to finish watching the entire series before starting the next book.

Review of Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle

Meet the Austins (Austin Family, Book 1) - Madeleine L'Engle

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle is an episodic type book about events in the lives of the Austin family. The book starts off with them being informed of the death of a close family friend and then shortly afterward they take in a little girl who was orphaned due to the same accident that killed their friend. The child turns out to be a difficult spoiled brat and it takes the family a long time to adjust to her living with them. Each chapter tells of different random events in the lives of this family until the future of the orphan can be decided. For the most part I found this book to be rather dull and I was glad that it was a fairly short read so it didn't take me too long to get through it. I probably would have rated this book as two stars, but there were some parts of the book that were really quite funny and made me laugh, so I gave it an extra star for that. I doubt I'll be reading it again though. I still plan to read the other books in this series because there are some character's that overlap with the author's Time Quintet series which I love, and I recall reading other books in this series as a child and enjoying them much more than I did this book. I probably wouldn't recommend this book unless you are a big fan of the author or a completionist as far as series go.

 

I also have some additional thoughts on this book. I found a lot of similarities between the family in this book and the family in the author's other book, A Wrinkle in Time. Both families have four children and multiple pets and they both live in similar types of houses. They both live in small towns and both live in the same part of the country. The main character in both books is the eldest daughter and both of them are rather plain looking and insecure about their appearance. I also noticed at least three character names that were used in both books, though there were some variations in two of the names. I'm not saying that all of this is a bad thing necessarily, but it did give me the impression that the author had some creative difficulties. I can overlook most of the similarities, but I found the name thing a bit annoying and feel it shouldn't have been too difficult for the author to come up with more original character names.

Review of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Small Gods (Discworld, #13) - Terry Pratchett

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is the story of a dimwitted novice priest of the god Om, named Brutha, with an eidetic memory who becomes a prophet rather against his will. Unfortunately when Brutha meets his god, Om happens to be trapped in the form of a tortoise and is almost powerless. It's up to Brutha to help Om figure out why this happened and to help restore his god to his former glory. In the process Brutha learns the truth about his religion and that much of what he had been taught was false.

 

This is a very funny religious satire. It made me grin a lot and at times even laugh aloud. I'd definitely recommend this book to Discworld fans as well as anyone who enjoys British humor, provided you aren't sensitive about the subject matter.

"Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you."
Small Gods (Discworld, #13) - Terry Pratchett

~Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Source: http://sorelatable.tumblr.com

Review of Out of Avalon by Jennifer Roberson

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic & New Myths - Various, Diana Gabaldon, Mike Resnick, Eric Van Lustbader, Michelle Sagara West, Rosemary Edghill, Judith Tarr, Jennifer Roberson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diana L. Paxson, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Laura Resnick, Samuel R. Watkins, Katharine Kerr, Adrienne Gormley, Kristen Br

Out of Avalon edited by Jennifer Roberson is a collection of Arthurian short stories by various authors. One story entitled The Heart of the Hill is set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's version of Avalon and takes place sometime in the middle of The Mists of Avalon during Morgaine's training to be a priestess. This story was the sole reason I purchased this book and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It should be noted that none of the other stories in this collection have anything to do with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon, which I was aware of before reading this collection. Many of the other stories are retellings of familiar Arthurian tales, though sometimes the focus is on original characters within those tales. Other stories are merely inspired by Arthurian legends and that particular time period.

 

Of course some stories I enjoyed more than others, but I would rate most of them as three or four stars. Besides The Heart of the Hill, I also particularly enjoyed The Secret Leaves which is about a young girl that becomes Myrddin's(Merlin's) apprentice and lover, and The Mooncalfe which is about a child with strange abilities born of a human mother and an otherworldly father. The only story that I really didn't care for at all was Me and Galahad which was a search for the holy grail story taking place in an American Western setting. I enjoyed this collection overall, but at times it was a bit confusing just because the stories were all written by different authors, and as such there were many details that were inconsistent from story to story. It was mostly things like differences in character's names and differences in how characters were related to each other, but of course there were even plot details that varied from story to story. After the first few stories though, it was easier for me to go with the flow and not worry so much about the details. I'd definitely recommend this collection to fans of Arthurian or medieval fantasy.

Revisiting Paper Books

I made the switch to ebooks years ago and pretty much exclusively read them over paper books. I can't even remember the last time I read a paper book. There were so many things that I liked better about ebooks that I didn't really miss paper books despite the fact that there was a time in my life when I swore that ebooks could never replace paper books. Two major advantages ebooks had for me is that I didn't have to worry about my hands cramping up from holding the book open and I could make the font bigger to reduce eye strain. There's also none of that musty smell that older books get which really doesn't agree with me. I also love the fact that I can just click on a word I don't know and easily look it up. Reading ebooks on my tablet also means I can read easily in the dark without awkward book lights. It's also extremely convenient that I can carry hundreds of books around with me. Granted I don't actually need hundreds of books with me at once, but it's good because if I finish a book when I'm away from home and I'm not sure in advance what I want to read next, then I have lots of options. Probably the only thing I miss about paper books are physical bookmarks. There are so many beautiful and awesome bookmarks out there and I have some that I really love, but I obviously can't use them with ebooks. Though physical bookmarks also have the disadvantage that they can sometimes fall out of the book and you'll never lose your place with an ebook.

 

So if I love ebooks so much, why would I ever go back to paper books? Well unfortunately there are some books out there that just aren't available in digital format, either legitimately or as bootlegs. In these cases I have no choice but to use paper books. There are quite a few books I own that I'd like to read again that I can't find as ebooks, and recently I acquired several out of print used paperback books that were also not available as ebooks. I started reading one of these paperbacks yesterday and it was the first time I'd read a physical book in I have no idea how long. I have to say I'm not really enjoying the experience. My hands are cramping up even more painfully than I remember from when I used to read paper books years ago. I think I'd probably do better with hardback books as they would be easier to keep open, but unfortunately most of the books in question were never available as hardbacks. The strain on my eyes doesn't seem too bad, but I'm finding that I have to reread passages much more frequently than I do with ebooks. The musty smell of the book is quite irritating and makes me cough periodically. Of course it's also annoying having to make sure I have an external light source and having to keep my tablet next to me in case I need to look up words. I'm also reluctant to take my paperback books with me when I leave the house for fear that something will happen and they will accidentally get damaged. The only thing I'm really enjoying about reading a paper book again is that I get to use my favorite bookmarks that my grandmother gave me which hold great sentimental value for me. I'm doing the best I can to enjoy the content of the book despite all these frustrations, but I'm finding that I just can't wait to get to the end of the book and be done with it. I'll definitely be happy when the day comes where all the books I want to read will have digital editions.

Review of Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

In Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett an old fairy godmother dies and passes on her wand to the young witch Magrat. She travels, with the other two witches in her coven, to a far off city to complete the work her predecessor started. The trio encounter lots of strange events on the journey and things get even stranger once they reach the city. Someone's been making stories out of people's lives and they must be stopped before it's too late. This story is basically a retelling of Cinderella done Discworld style with a bunch of other fairy tales thrown in for good measure. There's lots of laughs on this adventure, and as always the footnotes are very amusing. I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Discworld, British humor, and fairy tales.

"A mirror can contain the reflection of the whole universe, a whole skyful of stars in a piece of silvered glass no thicker than a breath."
Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett

~Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Review of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is an Arthurian tale told from the perspective of women, including King Arthur's mother, aunts, sister, and wife. The story tells about their lives and their struggles, hardships, and romances both before and after the birth of King Arthur and the various ways they plot and participate in shaping the future of their kingdom. This is a very long and slow paced book, but I didn't find it at all tedious to read, which is more than I can say for other books in this series. I enjoyed nearly every minute of reading this book from start to end, and when it was over I felt such longing wanting to read more. I thought that most of the characters were very well done and had lots of depth to them. I especially connected with the character of Morgaine, the narrator and King Arthur's sister, and felt she was a kindred spirit, or as much of one as a book character can be. I also really connected to the spirituality of this book and many of the pagan beliefs described resonate closely with my own eclectic spiritual beliefs. This is definitely one of my favorite books and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Arthurian fiction or medieval fantasy.

 

It is not necessary to read any of the other books in Bradley's Avalon series to enjoy this book, though the other books do give a lot of background history to Avalon and even to some of the characters in this book. If you want to read the other books in the series and want to read them chronologically as I did, then The Mists of Avalon should be the last book you read. If you prefer to read the books in publication order, then start with this book and work your way back chronologically.

 

I re-watched the made for TV movie after I finished reading the book and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the fact that there were many changes. I would say that the movie stayed fairly true to the first half of the book, but the movie changed and left out a lot of things from the second half of the book. Also some of the characters were altered and were nastier than they were in the book and things like that. There were a lot of instances where I could see why things needed to be changed or removed for the movie format, but there were some parts of the book that I really wish had been included in the movie. I suppose if they had included all of the stuff they left out, the movie would have been twice as long as it was. It's still a great movie though and I'm able to enjoy it in and of itself.

Review of Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh is a collection of hilarious short stories and essays about the author's life that range from her crazy antics as a child to her current outlook on life as an adult. I was a fan of the author's blog and was excited when I found out she had published a book as well. There is all new hilarious content in the book not available on the blog which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was a bit disappointed that some of the stories from the blog did not make it into the book. Here's hoping the author puts out a second volume.

 

This book made me laugh so much and I'd highly recommend it. To get an idea of what is in the book, visit the author's blog at http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/. Don't let yourself be scared off by the juvenile illustrations. I assure you that it's all a part of the humor. If you enjoy the blog then you should definitely read the book.

Currently reading

The Case of the Killer Robot: Stories about the Professional, Ethical, and Societal Dimensions of Computing
Richard G. Epstein
Progress: 23%
A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction
Terry Pratchett
Progress: 66%