Category Archives: Ebook

Stay at Home!

It’s not only sourdough bread that has happened over the last three months. Many authors have come up with online material to offer readers. In fact, there’s been such a glut that I’ve not been able to keep up. I just know there is much to find.

Small Scottish publisher Cranachan Publishing has a free ebook offering a wide variety of things to read. Their ‘Stay at Home! Poems and Prose for Children in Lockdown is a a free, illustrated anthology of poems and stories for children aged 8-12, comprising specially written lockdown-themed contributions by 40 writers based in Scotland.’

Try it! There are household names, and there are names you might not have heard of. Yet. But this is a nice collection, and what’s almost nicer still, is how people have pulled together to make it happen.

Screen or paper? Free or buy?

Could you tell? Which of my recently reviewed books were ‘real’ books? Quite a few of them weren’t. And I’m a bit surprised, to be honest.

Review copies on the screen need to be either fairly short, so I can sit and read on* the computer in comfort. Or they need to be fully Kindle compatible. I received a few that were pdf novels and have designated the iPad for those, seeing as they went crazy on the Kindle.

Because the commonest thing for publicists to say these days is that they can’t send out hard copies of that book they are about to convince you to read. It’s OK. Their job is to get me the words, so that I can read those words and then say something here about them.

It’s more fun, and convenient, to read on paper. And the Kindle gets hard to sign. But the way things are, I won’t be seeing anyone to sign anything, will I? Besides, it’s not the publisher’s task to provide me with something for an autograph. Even if that is nice.

And now that I am buying more books, I can choose whether it’s an ebook or a paper book. And what I was thinking when I bought the new Skulduggery Pleasant as a hardback, is anyone’s guess. When I could have had it on the Kindle! My arms ache. The table next to my armchair is groaning under the weight. But I expect I was on autopilot. Have always bought ‘real’ books and am not stopping now.

Can’t take the Kindle to Oxfam. To give the books away, I mean. But if they are ebooks, I don’t really have to. My dusty shelves can lie in peace.

Speaking of which, Daughter has sort of promised she’ll climb the tall stool and dust the top shelf. And the books on it. They won’t know what hit them.

*That’s reading on the computer screen. Not me sitting on the computer, however comfortably. Obviously.

A Poison Tree

Beware what goes on in charity shops.

I had no idea that used, donated shoes could lead to so much trouble, but I happen to know that Jon Mayhew is someone who knows about these things. Hence the major role played by an ‘innocent’ Wirral charity shop in A Poison Tree, the new adult crime novel by J E Mayhew as he calls himself here.

Jon – J E – is another children’s author who’s switched to killing for adults, on Kindle. (Once I’d read J D Kirk’s ebook, I just happened to buy J E’s as well. Only to check it out and see who’s best and all that.)

The opening scene is great, and the charity shop setting provides a fresh change from all the waterlogged corpses I have encountered recently. In fact, the old shoe boxes with shoes in them (‘What else?’ I hear you say), has a rather menacing quality to them.

DCI Blake is a good detective, not so keen on poetry, and even less keen on cats. His cat, at least, or his mother’s cat. We don’t know what happened to the mother, but Serafina the cat is vicious. Quite a few dead bodies in the Wirral, and plenty of secrets. Just about everyone Blake talks to seems fishy.

Blake has a good team, and they eventually work out who did it. And, you know, proceed with caution when you get to the charity shop. Don’t buy the red Converse boots, whatever you do!

A Litter of Bones

When I saw Barry Hutchison seemingly flogging someone else’s books, some chap called J D Kirk, I was concerned. Shouldn’t he talk more about his own? Turns out he was. He is J D Kirk. Too. He quite sensibly got himself a new name for when he writes adult crime fiction. Five books in the last year. Yes, five. The man’s unstoppable.

I caved in last week, and ordered the first of the five, A Litter of Bones. I played it safe and got the ebook, to make sure I wasn’t wasting my money on a paperback, in case I didn’t like it. (Wouldn’t have been a waste.)

We have DCI Jack Logan, somewhere in the Glasgow area. We meet him as he’s talking to some loony he put in jail for kidnapping and murdering little boys. Creepy type. The murderer, I mean.

Then Logan discovers there are more crimes just the same, happening now, when he knows for a fact his criminal is inside. Jack is dispatched off to Fort William to lend a hand with his expertise on these crimes.

It’s good. I wasn’t sure I was up to reading about child murders, but J D handles it as well as you can, when some depraved person does to small boys what this person does.

Jack puts together a team in Fort William. Well, he’s mostly handed a group of detectives, but they work well together, and he adds a constable who looks promising.

This being an admirably ‘not too long’ novel, progress is swift, and it’s all the better for it. Jack learns a bit about Fort William, and he learns that little boys are a lot better with smartphones than he is, and both Jack and his new constable sidekick drive really badly when the need arises.

I could see that things would go wrong when X said he’d do that thing, but it didn’t actually matter. Being forewarned just meant you knew something dreadful would happen, but the tension when waiting for the bad shoe to drop was quite something.

Even being quite sure from early on that YZ was most likely involved, was another thing that didn’t matter.

I might have to buy the next instalment.

Turning an ebook into pasta

From Good Friday you can buy a new ebook by Claire McFall, Making Turquoise, a post-industrial retelling of Romeo and Juliet.

For the next three months all proceeds will go towards food banks supported by The Trussell Trust. By buying the right kind of pasta one book will pay for more than one pack.

Go on, it’s cheap enough! You can order it now, and like an Easter egg, it will pop up on your Kindle on Friday. Or so I hope anyway. You know what I am like with ebook buying…

(Thinking about it, I doubt that very many Easter eggs will be popping in any e-readers at all. It’s not the way of eggs.)

I’m guessing it will be a good, if short, read. There is a warning that it contains ‘strong language and elements of drug taking, teenage pregnancy, abortion and abuse.’ But you’re fine with that.

Last Victim of the Monsoon Express

The fact that I actually bought an ebook is testament to my fondness for Baby Ganesh, my most favourite baby elephant. I discovered that Vaseem Khan had published a novella about Ganesh and his Inspector Chopra, [retired]. And I had to have it. (Took me a while to manage to get it to climb into my Kindle, but that’s my lack of IT skills.)

And it’s set on a train! What could be better? Well, according to Chopra, the size of the dead birds they served for dinner could be greater.

Like the Orient Express, this is luxury train travel, Indian style, and very lovely. Or it is for those who don’t end up murdered, or are suspected of having done the deed. To make up for it, there is of course Ganesh. Because there is nothing strange about taking your elephant on board a train. At all.

An unpleasant man dies. Before too long it seems as though just about everyone on that train had a reason to want him dead. Chopra just has to choose which one it might have been.

Attaboy!

She even has a temporary flamingo. That’s Daughter, with the flamingo. And it’s only temporary because it’s not hers and it’s going to stay in the temporary place when she moves on. Otherwise I’d like to think it’s very much a permanent flamingo. If only for its sake.

I’m mentioning the flamingo because there were several of them in her last place as well. One wonders if she attracts them.

It’s pink. Pink-ish, anyway.

Dean Atta

Whereas the flamingo that brought this on is black, as in the book title The Black Flamingo. By Dean Atta. You might recall Daughter and I went to hear him talk at the Edinburgh book festival in August, and she ‘just had to’ have the book.

I mentioned taking Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust instead of drugs, last week. Well, Daughter did too. Her own copy, I might add. When life is stressful, it really does help.

But then she went and finished the book. And in temporary places, even those with flamingoes, there are not so many books to choose from when you want to read. But I urged her to pick one of her other two (!) works of fiction, for her continued drug-taking.

Once she’d started she couldn’t stop, and it ended with her sheepishly calling me to say that she had, erm, read the whole flamingo.

So that leaves one book. Plus the Kindle, which apparently has now been fed, so it can dispense fiction, hopefully on demand. Because what’s the point of me having forced her to buy ebooks if the Kindle is hungry?

Death on the Edge

It was lovely to be offered a short story by Sara Paretsky last week, as we wait impatiently for her new novel Shell Game which will be out in four weeks’ time.

Death on the Edge features V I Warshawski back in her childhood neighbourhood, sorting out a fatal dispute with a school background, under the critical eye of her former boyfriend Conrad.

It’s a story that has all that you expect of a V I story, except that it is shorter.

Aimed at the American market (or did the rest of us just get forgotten?) it’s not entirely easy to buy this short e-story. But I set the Resident IT Consultant to work, and after masquerading as his younger brother for ten minutes, the story was in my possession.

Sara Paretsky, Death on the Edge

More George, and more Duffy

Great news on the crime front!

Today sees the publication of the fifth George McKenzie novel by Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge. It’s ‘only’ the ebook today, but don’t despair. On May 3rd we get the whole collected George on paper for the first time! I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. Except I just did. Sort of.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I imagine Marnie is equally pleased to see her first crime babies in actual print, after her Born Bad series which came last year.

I will get back to you when I’ve read about George’s revenge.

And on the Irish front, it seems we are to be rewarded with three more Duffy novels from Adrian McKinty. I had suspected the worst, but it would appear that Duffy didn’t sail into a permanent sunset after all. In fact, with news of three books, I will dare hope, and expect, that Sean Duffy lives through at least two and a half of them.

Adrian McKinty

So, plenty more Irish history for Duffy to solve crimes in, and no one could be happier than I am. Not sure how long a wait there will be, but it will be worth it.

Good news too for the Resident IT Consultant who has belatedly begun reading all six books. Don’t know what took him so long!

Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland

Had they even written those books they worked so hard to pitch?

I ask only because last year’s winner of Pitch Perfect apparently hadn’t. She pitched. She won. She got contract. And then she wrote. Or I hope she did, as the book is coming out in the spring.

I don’t know why I’ve never gone to one of these sessions before. Well, I do. They sounded too intimate, for some reason. A moment between hopeful writer and stern publishing person. Could be embarrassing to witness.

Pitch perfect

Except it wasn’t. Eight – slightly vetted – hopefuls using their three minutes as wisely as possible, trying to charm the four professionals, who in turn had three minutes per applicant to give their verdict.

The first pitch was really good, I thought. I liked the person, I liked his performance and I thought the book sounded promising. But maybe they’d all be like that.

Well, some were, in some respects, and others weren’t. Most were interesting in some way. But what fascinated me was that while what I liked best, the professionals also liked. I think. But they seemed to like what I didn’t go for, even more. Very illuminating. As far as the publishing world goes, I mean.

And the thing is, a personable potential author does not guarantee a good book, or sales. A good pitch still does not mean it’s going to be a cracking novel. And so on. Those publishing people could be wrong. Maybe?

Or rather, they know very well what is likely to work. But it doesn’t mean they pick the best story to work with. The choose what will fit in best with their business. And it’s from this readers get to pick what they might enjoy. I noticed how one of the panel was impressed by an idea that I at my age felt was anything but original, because I’ve been around for longer.

Pitch perfect

They liked the person who could say who her expected readers might be. Except she had young people in mind, and that makes it YA (the horror of it!), and young people don’t spend money. Probably right. What they overlooked – perhaps – was that authors are often mistaken about who will love what they have written. It’s a judgement better done by someone else.

The panel obviously wanted to tick boxes. It’s how business works. And the digital publisher understandably had different needs from traditional publishing.

That’s why they eventually picked two winners; one for a possible digital future, and one traditional. The latter was the one I liked best, the first one. Look out for crimes in 1930s Singapore!