As If I Needed More Books To Read

Free books. We need them, we want them. How to get them? Well there are a number of websites that have free books, though they tend to be older out of copyright “classics”. Nothing wrong with that. I like to read a few classics each year. There are other websites where people self publish and offer their books for a review and some sites where publishers offer a small number of copies of books, both paper and eBook for review.

LibraryThing was the first one of those that I found. You can catalogue your books, join forums, and submit your user id for a chance to win a free copy of an early release. There are publisher releases and member releases and those are often self-published. You do have to filter the publisher releases by country because they don’t always send copies to non-American members. That often eliminates the best books but what can you do?  I’ve found a few gems at the early reviewers section, from the publishers and the self-publishers lists, and a few stinkers, too. I was cataloguing my books until I hit a wall of 200. Apparently, though I didn’t realize it when I joined, LT has a limit of 200 books for free members. As I wasn’t willing to spring for a paid membership, I’ve drifted away from LibraryThing though I do look at the Early Reviewers list now and then.

Now I’m on Goodreads which was bought by Amazon a few years ago, I think. I originally joined a group focused on Canadian authors via a CBC Books which has now been removed from GR but someone from that group then started up another independent group and many of the former members gravitated there. We post what we’re reading on Friday, we have monthly group reads, monthly challenges and a year long Bingo Challenge that regular readers here will have seen me mention (four more squares to go!) I’ve discovered some really talented Canadian authors and writers from other countries too. Our group members read a wide variety of things though we do like to encourage support for Canadian talent. Again, I’ve found some superb gems through investigating what other people recommend.

Goodreads also has giveaways from publishers and authors and I’ve won a handful or two of free books through that aspect of the site. They’ve always been hard copies, paper or hard cover versions that they mail to you in exchange, they hope, for an honest review. For a long time I didn’t win too many but this year, I’ve been quite lucky. Free books! What’s not to like!

Professional ReaderI’ve also seen people’s reviews that mention NetGalley ARCs. (Advanced Reader Copy) Today I decided to investigate NetGalley. They primarily aim for professional readers in the industry, or librarians etc but if you have a blog or if you publish your book reviews somewhere like Goodreads or Amazon, you can still join for free. You build a profile and make a list of the types of books you like and go browsing. I thought it was all request submissions but that seems to be mainly for pre-publication books. I found a couple that looked interesting that have been on NetGalley for a little bit and requested them and lo and behold, I now have another free book on an app on my phone with another waiting!

NetGalley is all digital, no hard copies. They will send to Kindle or you can download using Adobe Digital Editions. I did see that the copy of the one I have expires in 55 days. That’s more than enough time to read it but I will have to remember not to leave a book on my “shelf” too long before downloading. Another thing I discovered is that the app they recommend for Android is Aldiko. You can create a login or log in with Facebook or Google+ and it automatically authorizes that device for the DRM locked copy of the book. Digital Rights Management. That locks the eBook to you and your device so you can’t share it or send it to anyone else. Purchased books from Kindle or Kobo have that as well, most of the time. It’s a copyright thing. Occasionally, an author or publisher releases their book DRM-free.

Anyway, I was about to download the book to Aldiko but was also given the choice to download to Overdrive which I also have for borrowing eBooks from the library. Oh, well then, I’ll use that since I like it and am familiar with using it. It worked and opened the book cleanly. I tried to download the second book into Overdrive but it’s a PDF and Overdrive didn’t like that so I had it sent to Kindle which I can read on my phone through the Kindle app.

My first book is The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle. It’s historical fiction set in World War II. The other book is Gone Astray by Michelle Davies.

So there you are. You can request new releases from LibraryThing, Goodreads or Netgalley and the free books you can get are all based on the country where you live as well. It doesn’t mean, for instance, that the only books I will be able to request are those from Canadian publishers, just publishers that also release in Canada. Penguin, for instance, is global.

Of course the ultimate in free books is your local library but that’s a given. Also keep an eye out for a Little Free Library.

Happy Reading!

Review: Ava Comes Home by Lesley Crewe

2017: 50
3.5 of 5 stars
Published 2008

Ava Harris, aka Libby MacKinnon, is an Oscar winning actress who must come home to Glace Bay, Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) when she finds out her mother is dying. She has not been home in the 10 years since she left,  and when she left, it was sudden and secret, leaving behind her childhood sweetheart. Something obviously happened to send her running, something she never told her family or her boyfriend Seamus, and when she returns home, she must face it and the boy she left behind.

This is a fairly routine story in that you pretty much can predict how it’s going to go and that it’ll have a happy ending. The incident that Libby/Ava ran from is revealed a little over half way through but there’s still a twist which I didn’t see coming.

Lesley Crewe gives us good characters and dialogue and it’s set in my home province. I “know” lots of people like these lovely “Capers” (Cape Bretoners). Salt of the earth. I know the references to shops, locations, etc. For me,  because of these things, it’s a very relatable book.

Another book for my Cross Canada Reading Challenge, Nova Scotia and one for #20BooksOfSummer

Review: Gold Fever by Vicki Delany

2017: 49
3 of 5 stars
Published January 2010

Dawson City in the Klondike, 1898, is a bustling town filled with people on a quest for gold. It’s a town of wooden shacks, tents, booze, mud, dance hall girls, prostitutes, people intent on making a fortune one way or another, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who always get their man or woman.

Fiona MacGillivray has found Dawson City a good place to retreat to, a place to make some money and raise her son, Angus. She owns the Savoy, a successful dance hall. She is beautiful (and knows it and plays it to her best advantage), a bit haughty, strong, determined, and it sounds like she’s had more than a few scrapes and adventures in her life. She has secrets from her past, lived a rather scurrilous life and we get to hear a little more about it in this book. A face from her past shows up, reminding her of things she’d buried deeply inside.

Her son saves a native woman from suicide, a nosy writer comes to town, the notorious Madam has it in for Fiona and has decided to ruin her.  It all kicks off from there, including a murder or two.

This is the second book in a series about Fiona’s adventures in Dawson City. There’s some romantic overtones around the edges but it’s not about that because Fiona doesn’t seem to want anyone to get too close. She’s not altogether a sympathetic character, being vain about her looks and her clothing, jewelry etc but she does love her son above all else which gives her a redeeming quality. She also seems to have a habit of getting caught up in murders!  The Gold Rush setting is interesting and the plot moves along quickly. It’s an easy read with colourful characters and a murder mystery neatly wrapped up by the final chapter.

Review: Impact to Contact: The Shag Harbour Incident

2017: 48
3.5 of 5 stars
Published 2013

October 1967. Nova Scotia’s south shore. There is a small fishing village named after a local sea bird called Shag Harbour. On the night of October 4, 1967 strange lights were seen over the sky and it looked like the object crashed into the ocean at one point. They were also seen elsewhere that evening, near the town of Shelburne and in the sky in Halifax. This book looks at the incident and digs into the documentation from various sources including the government along with testimony from witnesses. It seems likely that it was a genuine UFO sighting but no official word will ever actually say so.

It is centered on the Shag Harbour incident but also on UFO sightings in the area and in general, presenting evidence, interviews and research in an easy to understand fashion. Some of it is very interesting, relating geological anomolies in various locations to sightings that seem to coincide. Some of the research is a tad dry and I couldn’t always read a lot in one sitting but for the most part, the book contains some very convincing arguments.

My opinion: It seems to me that it’s  very isolationist to assume we are the only planet with life and a society in the whole universe.  We all wonder if there’s life on other planets and moons. Some would naturally be more technologically advanced and some are still in the basic stages of evolution and all points in between. For the advanced species, surely they are just as curious and adventurous as we would be, if  and when we have the ability to explore.

You can decide for yourself. The Truth Is Out There.

Review: Baygirl – Heather Smith

2017:47
3 of 5 stars
Published 2010

Kit Ryan lives in an outport fishing village in Newfoundland. She’s 16 and it’s 1992 and life is difficult when your father is an alcoholic. It’s a life of being on an emotional roller coaster, never knowing what kind of drunk your father is today or how he’s going to react to any given statement or situation. Kit has a lifelong best friend and takes refuge with her grandmother often.

But the cod fishing industry is dying and with a government moratorium, Kit’s father can’t work and the family moves to St. John’s to live with Uncle Iggy who’s unemployed himself, sunk into depression and grief. Kit doesn’t fit in at school and things are no better at home. But there is an older Yorkshireman who lives next door who is always ready with a teapot. She does make a friend at school and there’s even a boy that likes her. The problem is, Kit has to learn to accept her father as he is and find a way to trust.

It’s a short novel and doesn’t go very deep into the issues behind the issues other than a brief look into her father’s background near the end. Kit’s got a lot of anger as you might expect and it’s clear that in some ways it holds her back. She spends a lot of energy pushing back against things she has no way of controlling or changing. By the time she begins to reconcile her feelings, it might be too late. There could have been a bit more depth to the story and relationships between Kit and her parents but there’s enough there to tell the story.

The next door neighbour is a bit of a stereotype with plenty of Yorkshire slang and “ee by gum”.  The nice boy dates the school bitch and sees the light pretty quickly. Having Kit around seems to lift Uncle Iggy up and give him a reason to clean himself up and find reasons to want to live his life again. A return to her home village 6 months after leaving finds all her friends changed completely, even her best friend which felt a bit extreme to me. Now she doesn’t fit in at her old home or her new one.

Overall, an ok story but it could have been better. I may not be the generation this book is intended for but that shouldn’t matter. Or maybe it does. I make this sound more negative than I should, I think. I did like it, but I would have liked a bit more of it.

The Handmaid’s Tale – the series


Only two episodes left for this series of The Handmaid’s Tale based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. Are you watching? What do you think?

We’ve really been enjoying it. I’m loving it and even my husband likes it quite a lot. It might not normally be the type of series he would have thought to watch but he’s interested in it though finds it difficult to imagine how a society could turn into what Gilead has become. I don’t think it’s so out of the question, considering how many places in the world already treat women in a not-so-different manner. Human rights, especially for women, in some countries, are being nudged and subtly undermined as we speak.

I reread the book earlier in the year to refresh my memory but it isn’t necessary to read it first, I don’t think. There are differences between the book and the series but there isn’t anything in the book that would make you miss something in the series which is doing an excellent job of covering all the details in flashback of the progress to where the series/book started. They have kept to the main points of the story very well. They’ve filled in a lot of background detail which I really don’t want to spoil for anyone that hasn’t see it yet because I believe the series has just begun airing in the UK, you have it all to look forward to, lucky you!

The series has even been renewed for another season to air sometime next year. Mind you, if the series ends where the book did, it’s hard to imagine where it could go. Well, I kind of can imagine it but it would be all new material and would be about what happens to Offred afterwards. The ending of the book left you dangling a bit as to whether it was a good or a bad ending for Offred. Either way, I guess we will find out what happened to her next. Will she ever reunite with her husband and daughter? The very ending/appendix of the book takes place about a hundred years in the future from the main timeline where Gilead has fallen and future researchers have found the journals of the Handmaid which makes up the text of the book. Perhaps they can do the second series from there with flashbacks, filling in the blanks about Offred and the fate of Gilead. It would definitely have to be in keeping with Atwood’s vision.

I also think I heard that Margaret Atwood is considering writing a sequel so if she’s doing that or planning that, she may be involved with the series to keep it synced, much like George R. R. Martin is with Game of Thrones. I wouldn’t want the story to continue if it was just random stories from Gilead. People will want to know what happens next to Offred and that’s where the story should follow, in my opinion.

In the meantime, there are two more episodes to sink our teeth into and things are ramping up!