“Cold Days” by Jim Butcher (Roc, 2012)

Cold Days
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Harry Dresden, wizard for hire, is officially no longer a ghost.  Back from the dead, he’s alive and relatively well, recovering from not being in the land of the living, and everything that happened to him when he was killed.  But he’s not your usual wizard anymore, he’s the Winter Knight and under the rule and thumb of Queen Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness.  And this is also a Jim Butcher book, so in the blink of an eye, Dresden up you-know-what creek with nothing to paddle with.

When Dresden is finally somewhat back to normal, and enjoying his new superpowers as a Winter Knight, he is charged by Queen Mab with his first assassination, to kill an immortal.  Someone who cannot be killed, the perfect seemingly insurmountable job for Dresden.  He returns back to Chicago to meet up with some old friends and try not to get them too involved, because then they’ll be used against him.  He also travels his his personal, powerful island, Demonreach, though he is more summoned.  It is there he learns the true history and reason for this island located at a nexus of ley lines, and also that things are reaching crisis that could result in the end of Chicago and the surrounding area.  And then there are a bunch of people out there who just want Dresden dead, as usual.

Cold Days is a return to the classic Dresden book, after the interesting and introspective Ghost Story.  At times is seems like Butcher may have put a little too much into this book, as it can leave the reader exhausted in parts, with it feeling just too much at time.  But then this is what fans have come to expect from Dresden and his world.  There are also some hints and references to something much bigger brewing, something that will come to fruition in future Dresden books.  Of course, for now, fans will just have to wait.

Originally written on February 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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Bookbanter Column: Goodreads and Amazon Living Together . . . Mass Hysteria!

On Thursday, March 28th, it was announced that Amazon is buying the popular social networking and book review site, Goodreads.  Founded in 2007, it now has more than 16 million members, and will logically serve as an advantageous addition to the growing Amazon juggernaut.

On the Goodreads blog, the CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler said the site “will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish.  We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site – the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors – and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads.  And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.”

Unsurprisingly, reactions from various types of people in the book industry were both visceral and volatile.  There was shock from many on Facebook and Twitter, and lots of vocal disappointment.

Many announced that they had instantly cancelled their Goodreads accounts, and I wonder now how many have since renounced their love of Goodreads and how much that 16 million-member number has dropped.

What is perhaps most hurtful about this merging is the Goodreads CEO said, “We could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and appreciation for the authors who write them.”  Chandler makes it sound like Goodreads had many different groups coming to them with hopes of working together.  Amazon may be a place where one can buy books and see what people think and have to say about them, but “love of books” and “appreciation for the authors who write them.”

Yeah, that’s not what I think of when I think of Amazon.

On his blog, Jarek Steele of Left Bank Books had this to say: “Really Goodreads?  You’ve forsaken all the other opportunities to partner with independent bookstores, Kobo, even Barnes & Noble and the Nook?  How about iPad?  Also, who at Amazon has a love of books and authors?”

I’ve been an avid book reviewer for over a decade now, and have my reviews up on a number of sites online: my website, The Sacramento Book Review, and Amazon.  In November of 2007 I learned about this new site and community called Goodreads.  I now have 683 book reviews up on Goodreads, have rated 992 books, and have 2,759 friends.  I have also listed my self-published books on there and received reviews, as well as interacting with the readers.

About every three months or so, I will spend time uploading all my new reviews to Goodreads and Amazon.  Over the years I have been doing this, I continue to receive comments from readers on the review, whether they liked the book, as well as other thoughts and discussions.  What is interesting about this is that while I have not conducted a physical survey to prove it, I have discovered a couple of interesting things about posting my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

  • Goodreads seems to have more commenters on book reviews, giving thoughts and ideas about both the book and review; there is more interaction and discussion involved.  As compared to Amazon where comments are rare and terse.
  • Goodreads comments tend to be polite and complimentary, while Amazon comments are invariably angry, spiteful, and mean spirited.  I would estimate that this is true for over 95% of my reviews.  I can think of hundreds of positive and interesting comments I have received on Goodreads, with only a few negative ones.  While on Amazon, I have received a number of acceptable and appreciative comments, but far more negative, reactionary comments that seem either unfounded or unnecessary.  It’s a review of a book; it’s one person’s opinion.  And yet apparently this really gets to the types of people who hang around and troll on Amazon.

I am certainly not happy about this news of Amazon acquiring Goodreads, but I also don’t know what it will mean in the future for Goodreads.  Will it become one entity with Amazon and just one place for reviews?  If so, what does that mean about the thoughtful commenting and engaging discussion I’m used to with Goodreads?  Will this die away, or will it fight against those other types of commenters on Amazon?  Or will there be some strange, peaceful coexistence?

It’s just one of those things that only time will tell.  The good thing about the Internet and those 16 or so million members of Goodreads is that if Amazon does something really stupid to change or mess up Goodreads, you know us 16 million strong are going to be on the offensive against Amazon, and that’s a lot of pissed off vocal people.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.