A couple of weeks ago I asked for recommendations for dragon books. Then I was flipping through my Kindle books (I download a lot of free ones from Amazon) and I saw Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb. Amazon gave it away for a while and I downloaded it and never read it. I read it and I loved it. So I went to buy the sequel. I was quite willing to pay $9.99 – it’s still in hardback – for it but when I discovered it was $15 for a digital version I decided I wasn’t buying it. I checked all the local libraries and ended up on the waitlist. Last Saturday I was up in Fort Collins to meet friends and I found a copy in the Fort Collins library. I made my 3 year old run upstairs with me to make sure we got to it before any one else snagged it. I have to say I enjoyed Dragon Haven as much as the first book.
I feel like there’s been a lack of really good new science fiction and fantasy books (that aren’t about vampires and werewolves) and Dragon Keeper & Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb was just what I was craving.
Why did I enjoy it?
- It’s definitely a fantasy book. There are dragons and people genetically change by either the world or the dragons. A what if book.
- There’s life on the river – and I’m always fascinated by people living on water.
- It’s got lots of different societies and social classes and I’m fascinated by how classes and societies interact. Robin Hobb also does a good job creating societies affected by having to live in trees and suffering from lots of genetic birth defects.
- While it’s a fantasy book, things seemed based on science. It seems like it could be life on another planet or genetically altered life.
- The character development is pretty good. There are lots of interesting characters, some more developed than others. Some a bit more naive (too naive?) than others. But all interesting. And some tension and romance thrown in for good measure.
- There’s lots of strong female characters. I enjoy reading books about women and science fiction and fantasy books with strong female characters are less common than those with strong male characters. I think it’s one of the reasons that many of my favorite science fiction authors are women. (I also enjoy books with strong male characters. But it reminds me of this post I saw today. 64% of girls and 100% of boys draw scientists as men.)
- There’s adventure – they are on a quest!
- There’s intrigue, sabotage and mystery.
So if you like fantasy books and books about dragons, I recommend Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven.
Photo by wili_hybrid. Taken in Ljubljana, Slovenia. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wili/2628869994/
I watched How to Train Your Dragon yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I plan on reading the How to Train Your Dragon book series. I started thinking of all the dragon books I’ve read … and realized that while I know a few really good series, I know fewer than I thought. (I must be forgetting some …)
Here’s the ones I’d recommend. Which ones would you add that I could read?
- Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. This is my favorite series. Pern is a world settled by humans who have lost technology and discovered dragons. I really liked the Mellony series which started with Dragonsong. A young girl runs away runs away from home and discovers little dragons and a whole horde adopt her.
- Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen. Another series about a boy, Jakkin, who is forced to work in the dragon pits where they train dragons to fight. He steals a dragon egg to train his own dragon.
- Eragon. Most people know of this one from the movie. Eragon, a farm boy, finds a dragon egg and ends up bonding with the dragon. When his family is killed, he goes to war as the last dragon rider. My nine year old read the whole series. I have to admit I only read the first one. It’s written in a some what Tolkien style with a lot of history and names.
Others that have been recommended to me:
- Dragon’s Milk by Susan Fletcher. This is about a girl who needs some dragon milk to save her sister’s life. She has to negotiate with the dragons.
What dragon books would you add to the list?
Here’s a writing tip from a reader: do not make things too easy for your protagonist.
I’ve been reading fiction books by new authors. They often make the protagonist struggle throughout the whole book and then suddenly give them super powers. Or sometimes they sporadically give them superpowers throughout the book. Or have magical creatures come to their aid just in the nick of time.
For example, in the book I read yesterday, the main character struggled with demons (the mythical creatures) her entire life. They killed people, they raped her, they chased her, they beat her up. And then suddenly, after several hundred pages of this, she realizes she needs other people and yells “I’m a soul catcher! Demons be gone!” and they all explode. Huh? Why didn’t she just tell them to all be gone 200 pages ago? The author could have saved us all a lot of agony.
Characters are interesting when they suffer. Especially if the problem is their own fault. We like to read about how they struggle, learn, adapt and eventually evolve and handle their problems. But the solution should not be superpowers, especially superpowers that don’t cost the character anything, no matter how much the author would love to say “demon be gone!” The solution has to be something the character has learned to do. Preferably a skill that’s hard to master and hard to apply. Otherwise, why are we reading about it?
What’s your favorite bad author pet peeve?
(Note that the book in question was well written. Dialog was good. Storyline was good. And the character did evolve – she realized she needed other people. But really, “demons be gone!”?)
Barcelona Library at Sarria
When I lived in Spain, I would have given anything for a good public library – especially one with English books. Well, now they have them!
There are very nice public libraries in Barcelona. They were quite popular – people were waiting outside for the one I visted to open. Inside they were light and spacious with lots of magazines, computers, a children’s section and foreign language sections … in addition to the regular books you usually find in a library. Every floor and section had a lot of people in it on the Saturday I visited.
My friends say they also see more people reading in public places like the metro.
Dear Kindle developers,
Please make it easy for me to buy the next book in a series.
When I finish a book, if there’s a sequel or another book in the series, please say “Click here to purchase the next book in this series.” I would click here.
Now I have to make sure I know how to spell the author’s name, go to the Kindle store, search for the author and then figure out which book is the next one in the series I’m reading.
Thanks very much.
P.S. If your software was open source, someone would have done this for you and Amazon Kindle users would be happier. Amazon might even make more sales.
My blog post about Kindle covers brought in enough revenue in December to pay for my Kindle. It now brings in enough every month to cover my Kindle reading habit.
Granted, I could use that money for something else, but I like to think of it as my Kindle paying for itself. I mean, I wouldn’t have written a review of covers if I didn’t own a Kindle.
Amazon pays a healthy 10% affiliates fee for any Kindle product sales that you send them. Those affiliate fees have encouraged a huge number of Kindle blogs. All people hoping to get rich from Kindle sales.
They fall into a number of categories.
- Books. There are blogs that just talk about books available for the Kindle. Since Amazon makes it pretty easy to find Kindle books, I don’t understand the point of these blogs at all. If I want advice on what books to read on my Kindle, I’m much more likely to read a blog about the genre I like to read, not about the reader I like to read on. These blogs can be useful when they point out free books, but you can find those easily on
Amazon’s site too. Or just check the bestseller
list – the good free books hit the bestseller list fast. (Interestingly enough, Amazon’s own
Kindle blog falls into this category of mostly about available books.)
- Merchandise. People have created entire blogs about Kindle accessories. I can see a blog about home accessories for people that like to decorate, but a blog about Kindle accessories? How many can you add to the little thing? A cover, a light, a screen protector, and then what? These blogs must live off searches. Much like my cover review blog post does.
- Kindle news. These blogs try to update you on Kindle news but there isn’t much. Some also offer tips and tricks for your Kindle and some of these are rather useful. I enjoy being able to check the time on my Kindle. (Now if they would just release the source code so I could make the time display permanently at the top of the screen …)
- E-reader news. Some blogs cover all the e-readers and the news about the industry including DRM issues, debates between publishers and distributors, etc. I think these are the only blogs that are going to live long term. Ones like the Kindle Review. If you want to try getting rich off Amazon Kindle affiliate sales, this is the long term category to be in. (I don’t think your chances of getting rich off Amazon Kindle affiliate sales are really good though.)
But even if most of those blogs don’t work out … Amazon’s affiliate program has given them enormous amounts of cheap advertising.
So the real question is how can you create an affiliates program around your product? Can we add an affiliates type program to Friends of GNOME? To GNOME? To Kids on Computers?
I was looking at my Paperbackswap wish list and discovered some interesting things:
- There are 182 books on my Paperbackswap wish list
- 28 have more than 100 requests, only about 25% of these are nonfiction
- Some have 100s of requests like:
- 632 people want Silver Borne which hasn’t even come out yet … I bet a good many of them end up buying it.
- 362 want Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I should get a copy some time in the next couple of years … in an estimated 83 weeks.
- The waits for these don’t bother me as I have plenty of books to read in the meantime! (And I could get the older ones from the library and I could buy copies of the newer ones.)
- And then for some books, 13 to be exact, books I thought sounded good, I’m the only person waiting for them. I’ve been waiting for several of them since 2007, so obviously nobody is reading them either. These vary widely according to topic. As a sample:
What’s your wish list dynamic look like?
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School definitely gave me lots of pointers for presentations – and lots of trivia for conversations. (It's also quoted often in the book on public speaking that I'm reading now, Confessions of a Public Speaker.)
Some of the points I found interesting:
- The brain cannot multitask. I knew this but I always think it bears repeating as we act as if we can.
- 10 minutes is the ideal lecture length. The author recommends breaking presentations into 10 minute topics to help the audience pay attention. (Other presentation hints in the same section include organizing your information hierarchical and giving an outline or plan at the beginning of the lecture.)
- Sleep. The author included a lot of interesting data on sleeping. For example, we definitely rehearse things we have learned during the day. And scary facts like
"if healthy 30-year-olds are sleep deprived for six days (averaging, in this study, about four hours of sleep per night), parts of their body chemistry soon revert to that of a 60-year-old."
- Audio and visual together are the best way to learn. "If information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65 percent if you add a picture." Good reason to use images and graphs in your presentations!
- Gender changes how people judge actions. When people are described, we judge their actions differently depending on if they are a man or a woman.
- Thinking is the same as doing – to at least part of our brain. When we think about doing something the same neurons fire in our brain that would fire if we were actually doing it.
- Babies less than an hour old will stick their tongue out at you if you stick your tongue out at them. (Wish I had known that when my son was born …)
Brain Rules is an interesting and fun read.
I decided to read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
because I find human bodies, anatomy, medicine, forensic science and how different cultures act fascinating.
Stiff was entertaining and funny but not riveting. I listened to the audio version and it took me months to finish it. And while I laughed at parts of it and I remember lots of stories, I can't remember any particular detail that I think you need to know.
But 393 people gave it an average of more than 4 stars on Amazon, so others must have had a better impression.
I'm on to listen to something else.