Top Ten

Ways to Read DRM-Free

The idea for this post came to me as I was searching for blog posts or articles on the latest in the DRM battle. I hoped that I could read library e-books without Adobe Digital Editions (the software required to download library books) collecting information such as how long I read a book and what percentage of a book I read. This, by the way, is in ADDITION to the regular information that is gathered by many apps these days: your IP address, your device ID, your account ID, and the app you use.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management – and it’s the protocol set in place that is supposed to prevent book piracy. The American Library Association explains the issues better. For the 101 course, go here. Interested in joining the fight against DRM? See Defective By Design.

Personally, I don’t see myself forgoing entirely reading library e-books or downloading free review copies from NetGalley and Edelweiss that have DRM and require me to use a program that makes me uncomfortable. However, I will continue to increase my vigilance when I make e-book purchases.

Collected below are ten resources you may find useful in your own search for DRM-free content:

  1. Book View Cafe. I’ve mentioned this one before, and this probably won’t be the last time. A group of authors set up this site to sell their works directly to their readers, DRM-free. This means Big Brother isn’t peering through your e-reader screen, and it also means you often get the books at a discount.
  2. Closed Circle. I only just discovered this one, but as another site founded by three authors (one of them C.J. Cherryh!), and focusing on fantasy, it looks like an excellent place to search for DRM-free books by the three authors (that’s Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, and Jane Fancher).
  3. Tor/Forge. As of 2012, Tor/Forge began publishing its e-books without DRM. YES. Binti, The Last Witness, Domnall and the Borrowed Child, The Builders, and Witches of Lychford are on my to-read list.
  4. Calibre. Open-source e-reading app that it is, Calibre supports DRM-free. They even have a catalog online.
  5. Baen. Super publisher of science fiction and fantasy, Baen has published e-books without DRM for a while. They also have a Free Library!
  6. Project Gutenberg. The original. In Canada? They have it there, too.
  7. OpenBooks. With a business model that relies on the honor system, you read first and then pay the author according to how much you believe the book is worth.
  8. Double-Dragon Publishing. An e-book publisher that is included in Calibre’s library, but whose website says nothing about being DRM-Free, they have an interesting and unfamiliar list of titles.
  9. Kevinbenyon.com. This site lists a number of DRM-free online shops and publishers that are entirely new to me.
  10. BookReader. Lastly, here is a more comprehensive list of places to find DRM-Free books for purchase, and for free! Dive in, adventurers. Dive in.

Do you know of any resources for readers looking for DRM-free genre fiction? Share in the comments!

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Top 10 Books to Read While You Wait for Outlander’s Second Season

I waited with so much excitement and anticipation for the first season of Outlander. When I finally got my copy from the library (yep, still without cable, still not torrenting, still not buying episodes on iTunes), I started watching it immediately. As excited as I was, I still had no idea how much I would love the series. Fellow book adventurers, I finished the whole season in a WEEKEND. I did not do so many things that I was supposed to do this weekend.

The series remains very faithful to the plot of the book, the costumes are perfect, the scenery is gorgeous, and the acting is so good I felt just as immersed in the show as I did in the book. Well, almost. I do remember “knowing” the characters better after I read the series the first time, than I did after watching the TV series.

Knowing how addicted I am, and how much more I am anticipating the second season than I did the first, I’ve decided to put together a list of books I (and you) can come back to whenever I’m (we’re) feeling withdrawal from Outlander.

The list (and more), after the jump…

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Comfort Reading

Whether it’s the dropping temperatures and coziness of an overstuffed armchair, a wool blanket, and a mug of tea; an increase in stress and busyness; or the sometimes unhappy effects of change (or, really, anything else) … there are reasons for comfort reading. It happens. Lately, it’s been happening to me. And so, instead of reading the new books I should be finishing for reviews, I’ve been reading new books and re-reading old ones that encourage escapism. Today’s post, then, is not a review – but a personal list of Top Ten Twelve Comfort Reads. In fact, some will be the ones I’ve read in this latest bout of comfort reading, while others are books I return to again, and again, and again. NB: Comfort reading may be enhanced when combined with comfort baking or comfort drinking. Urban paranormal fantasy is a huge draw for me right now. Recently, I’ve read and re-read the following, which may or may not have been influenced by my recent post on books with werewolves:

 

While I don’t read historical romance regularly, it does play a large role in comfort reading episodes. These two are among my new favorites:

When things get really bad, I usually turn to my favorite book EVER. It’s distinguished by a vivid historical setting, a superb romance, realistic and complex characters, a stubborn, independent, and intelligent heroine, and the best hero I’ve ever read.

If I’m feeling in the mood for science fiction, I turn to Sharon Lee and Steve Miller:

Fantasy (young adult fantasy, usually) works best when I want to resolve (or encourage) nostalgia:

Each time I go through a comfort reading phase, the books are different – slightly, or greatly – but there’s always a heavy amount of re-reading, romance, adventure, and happily ever afters. Do you go through comfort reading phases? What are the books (or characteristics, or authors) you turn to in stressful or nostalgic times?

Spooks, Spectres and Hauntings in these Ghostly Reads (Halloween Special Part 3)

Continuing on with our weekly Halloween special, this Saturday’s theme is ghosts (and one haunting), last week was werewolves, and before that vampires. I’ve encountered ghosts in many different genres, and my eclectic list below reflects that. Here’s hoping there’s a spooky read for many different types of readers.

My favourite author of ghostly tales is Simone St. James. If you’ve followed this blog at all, this will not be a surprise, since I rave about her all the time. To date, all of her novels have been set in post-WWI England and have focused on a ghostly haunting. These books are creepy (without being terrifying). And, they generally feature nice light romances. I recommend starting with The Haunting of Maddy Clare, but you can’t really go wrong with any of these atmospheric novels; see my full review on An Inquiry into Love and Death or Silence for the Dead.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare (more…)

Howl with Werewolves (Halloween Special Part 2)

In the second installment of our Halloween Special series (see the first, on Vampires), we look at my personal favorite supernatural: the Werewolf. Check out some good, better, and best werewolf stories in the list below. Word to the wise urban fantasy reader: Werewolves are sexy, so beware – many of these are romantic to varying degrees.

Just reviewed this week, a witty take on supernaturals living among us.

 

The Silver Wolf. The book that got me started on werewolves: a young, poor orphan, in the decaying Roman empire, sold by her family in marriage for well, the usual – money.

 

In Written in Red, Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet, finds sanctuary from the humans who tortured her in an enclave of the terra indigine, creatures like vampires and werewolves and other shapeshifters. Simon Wolfgard, leader of the enclave, doesn’t know why she doesn’t smell like food, or why he and the others find her so interesting. As Meg learns what it is to live in the wild, Simon discovers how much he wants to protect this strange human.

 

So, this one – not my favorite. But that doesn’t mean you won’t like it! It’s a humorous story about a witch just trying to get by, when werewolves nose their way into her orderly life.

 

The Mercy Thompson books are some of my absolute favorite stories, series, werewolves, EVER. Witty, sometimes dark, romantic, spooky, and upbeat, this is one of the best in the genre.

 

By the same excellent author, starring a different kind of heroine. Anna, victim of a vicious werewolf pack, is an Omega. Yup, that means she’s special. While not as stunningly amazing as the Mercy Thompson series, it’s still worth a read. You’ll want to start with the opening novella, Alpha and Omega. It may or may not be part of your copy of Cry Wolf.

 

Just started Silver, a serendipitous library find, and it has a different focus: Silver is a young wolf who has been tortured, poisoned, and is flirting (pretty sure I meant flitting there) between reality and visions. When Andrew Dare, enforcer for the East Coast packs, finds her, he’s driven to protect her and find out what happened.

 

Admittedly, I’ve only seen the TV series. But it’s a fun show! Might be a good book, too…

 

This is the second in a series about a former cop, who left the force to become a private eye because she developed a degenerative sight condition. In this one, her new sort-of-partner, Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of King Henry VIII and vampire, head out to the country to solve a mystery involving werewolves. Tanya Huff writes superbly drawn characters and complex settings and plots. A longer haul than most urban fantasy, this is totally worth it.

 

Sort of a tongue-in-cheek comedy of manners set in a steampunk Victorian England where the Queen has werewolf investigators and deals with vampires, Soulless begins a fun series about a soulless young woman, Alexia, and her encounters and involvement with the supernaturals in the community.

 

Crimefighting meets werewolves again in this one by Eileen Wilks. Lily Yu, a police detective, needs the help of Rule Turner to infiltrate the werewolf clans and find a killer.

 

I nearly forgot this one, though I don’t know how! The Psy-Changeling series is a truly enjoyable series that mixes humans, weres (mostly panthers and wolves) and a psychic race, in an alternate, sort of futuristic United States. Each book pairs a new hero and heroine, so if you’re into urban fantasy romance, you’ll probably enjoy these. Start with Slave to Sensation.

And if you want to get your werewolf fix in 5 minutes or less, here is the famous music video werewolf:

Top 10: Spies & Spying

Spies and spying is another popular trope that’s used across genres, and it’s one that I’ve learned to have a healthy appreciation for. It’s also a trope that I’ve actually read across the many subgenres of romance. Yes, it’s shocking to know that I read something besides historical romance. *sigh*

To date, the following are the top ten books that I’ve read that feature a spy or the act of spying. As usual, it’s a mixed bag of stuff from across genres, of course historical fiction (well, historical romance) is well represented.

The Deception of the Emerald Ring (Pink Carnation, #3) Master of Crows (Master of Crows, #1) Enemy Within (Enemy, #1) Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #1) Touch of Steel (Clockwork Agents, #2) (more…)

The Great War Reading List

This August marks World War One’s Centennial. I’ve always been fascinated by both world wars, and it’s impossible not to see how both events have influenced fiction. I remember reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down as a kid and having my teacher point out to me the comparison to WWII; the same goes for The Hobbit. I’ve always loved making those kind of connections in my reading, and to date, I’ve probably read much more fiction related to the second world war than the first. However, with the centennial year here, there has been explosion of WWI fiction. Today’s top 10 is my Great War reading list. As usual for me, it’s a mix of the serious and lighthearted. I like the books that take a hard look at the war, especially the aftermath, but I also want some that show the happily-ever-after for those affected. Without further ado, here’s my wartime reading list in no particular order:

Wake Somewhere in France Three Day Road Silence For the Dead Overseas (more…)

Top Ten Books with Airships: for flying adventures!

In no particular order, our top ten steampunk books/series that have airships! (Note: multiple books in one series will be collected and listed as one)

1. The Spritwalker trilogy is one of my favorites. And it’s steampunk, and it has the occasional airship, so I’ve decided to include them all here. The series follows young Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee, around a world similar to our own but very much re-imagined. There are gates between mortal and spirit realms, shapeshifters, superbly drawn sibling relationships, love stories, revolutions, and more.

2. In The Iron Duke, Detective Inspector Mina and “Iron Duke” Rhys Trahaearn join forces to save England from conspirators and zombies. Along the way, they fall in love. The subsequent books in the Iron Seas series also feature airships, so read those too!

The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas #1) Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2) Riveted (Iron Seas, #3)

3. In Conspiracy of Alchemists, Elle Chance is a dirigible pilot. When she picks up suspicious cargo, she becomes embroiled in the Shadow’s plans to sacrifice a young woman to plunge the world into darkness. Irritating Warlock Hugh Marsh helps (and hampers) her. (more…)

Book Adventures in Egypt!

Today, Jaclyn, our friend Koren and I have teamed up to bring you our Top Ten Favorite Adventures in Egypt. Mystery, history, and romance backed by lush and exciting scenery. So, if you’ve ever wanted to go to Egypt, or you’ve been, and you miss it, or even if you just want to read about an exotic, historical locale this summer… check out one of these books!

Jaclyn’s picks

The Other Guy's Bride (Braxtons 32)

The Other Guy’s Bride by Connie Brockway. If you enjoyed The Mummy at all, you will find this historical romance an absolute fantastic adventure. This book is funny and romantic and exactly how I fantasize an Egyptian adventure would unfold. This one likely isn’t the most historically accurate of the bunch, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Shadows on the Nile

Shadows on the Nile by Kate Furnivall. Although I read this one quite some time ago, it has continued to stay with me. It’s set just after the first world war and has more of a mystery element to it. Quite a bit of the novel actually takes place in London, England, but I loved seeing the heroine’s reaction to traveling to Egypt.

Resurrection

Resurrection by Tucker Malarkey. Is another Egyptian adventure that’s similar to Shadows on the Nile. However, the novel is set completely in Egypt. What I liked about this one is that readers are treated to a more involved look at colonial life in Egypt. Again, there’s a dash of mystery here, but on the whole, Resurrection is much more introspective.

The Sacred River

The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace. I recently reviewed this one and I recommend it if you’re looking for a quieter adventure. While on the surface this one is an adventure to Egypt for three very different women, this journey is a metaphor for the internal transformation that each woman goes through. This one is beautifully written.

Koren’s picks

Memoirs of Cleopatra

Memoirs of Cleopatra: This is a long haul, but worth it. A dying Cleopatra recounts her life following her personal and political struggles (sometimes one and the same) up until her suicide. George paints a brilliant, detailed picture of Egyptian court life and politics during this period, from the relationships between the pharaohs to the strengthening hold of Rome over the country. If you really want to get to know Cleopatra, Memoirs does a great job of connecting the reader with the famous pharaoh.

The October Horse: A Novel of Caesar and Cleopatra (Masters of Rome #6)

The October Horse is the sixth book in McCullough’s Masters of Rome series and though the title suggests this is the story of Caesar and Cleopatra, that is only a portion of the book. It also covers Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination, as well as the rise of Octavian. Cleopatra and Caesar’s relationship is a different than what is usually portrayed – it is a lot more calculated (on his part) and Cleopatra comes off as more of a girl in love than a “sex-pot” set on securing her own power. McCullough makes ancient history so readable. She’s able to take oft-dry topics of ancient politics and military campaigns and makes them come alive.

The Queen of the Damned (The Vampire Chronicles #3)

The Queen of the Damned is the third book in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Akasha, the titular “Queen of the Damned”, is an ancient Egyptian queen who is cursed to become the mother of vampires. I love Rice’s vampires – sparkly they ain’t – and this origin story is fascinating.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah (and Rachel, and Zilpah, and Bilhah). Through the teaching of Rachel and others, Dinah becomes a skilled midwife. Her life takes her into Egypt where, unknown to her, her brother Joseph (of the technicolor dreamcoat) is prime minister. There’s only a brief mention of Dinah in the Bible, but Diamant has fleshed out her story so that we have a vivid picture of the lives of women in the ancient world.

Stacey’s picks

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is an enchanting ancient historical romance about a proud, determined young slave named Mara. In her quest for freedom, she becomes a double agent, spying for two masters – and finds herself falling in love with one of them. I loved this quick, evocative tale that brought to life not only this clever young slave, but also the world of ancient Egypt. Marked as, and written for, young adults, it works equally well for adults.

The Beacon at Alexandria

The Beacon at Alexandria features a woman who disguises herself as a man to enter a “man’s” profession, travels to Alexandria and moves on to become a doctor on the Roman war front in Thrace. It is a wonderful tale that will surely please historical fiction fans. Bonus: it covers ancient Roman history and the war with the Visigoths.

 Honorable Mentions (by Stacey)

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Twelve Rooms of the Nile – the fictional tale of a passionate meeting between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert as they both travel down the Nile. Based in fact – they both traveled up the Nile at the same time – it weaves in a beautiful story of how they might have met and become soulmates. I’ve only read part of this one, but what I did read had wonderful imagery and great, boating-on-the-Nile pace.

Cleopatra and Antony

I haven’t read Cleopatra and Antony yet, but it appeals to me because the focus (even in the title) is (supposedly) on Cleopatra. This is a historical nonfiction, about the life and times of Cleopatra, Octavian, Caesar, and Antony. Have you read this? Did you like it? What were your impressions?

Happy Fourth of July! Now, go read these…

Just three days after Canada Day (happy birthday, Canada!), its southern neighbor celebrates its own origins. Often, with barbeques, friends, family, and fireworks. I’m here to add books to your list of ways to enjoy the holiday. Most of these are historical fiction, but I’ve thrown in a graphic novel, a couple of histories, and an alternate history, too.

Into the Wilderness (Lake in the Clouds #1) Celia Garth Blindspot Jack Absolute (Jack Absolute #1) The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale The Shadow of Albion (Carolus Rex #1) Thirteen Moons Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America The Turncoat (Renegades of the Revolution) Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation