Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Coliloquy & Its First Books

Hello! You may or may not have heard of Coliloquy, a publishing company that launched earlier this month and has its own Kindle-specific platform focusing on what they call "active fiction," which means that at various points in the story the reader is asked to choose between two or more options. (Example: The doorbell rang. Was it Hot Guy 1, Hot Guy 2, or Hot Guy 3?) Sort of like those old choose your own adventure books. They kindly sent me a Kindle so I could check out their platform and initial offerings.

Disclaimer: They sent me a Kindle! Obviously I am not going to claim that that doesn't give me some fuzzy feelings toward them. But I have done my best to not let that affect my feelings about the books, and the gift of the Kindle was absolutely not contingent upon giving them a good review, or any review at all.

So! My thoughts...

On Kindle reading in general:
This was the first time I read on a Kindle, and I liked it better than I expected! I'm not philosophically against ebooks or anything, but I just don't tend to find the experience as enjoyable. (I've read ebooks on my iPad and laptop before.) But reading on the Kindle was really not bad. I'm still not going to switch over any time soon, but it's fine and I've been using it for some library books, ebook only books, and NetGalley.

On the Coliloquy format:

Honestly, my feelings are mixed. I guess I concluded that they do a good job of what they set out to do, but it's just not my kind of thing. It's not them, it's me! Really! The way it works is that when you get to the decision points in the story, you get options presented on your screen, and you use your Kindle controls to pick which path to take. Afterward, if you want, you can go back to any of the points and pick other options and see how it affects the story. At least in these first four books, the choices don't make huge differences to the outcome of the story, which makes sense because that would make way more writing for the author. But it's definitely fun to see how your preferences affect things! Also, the author and publisher get information about how many people picked which option, which is an unprecedented amount of feedback for specific issues within a story, and it would be interesting to hear from the authors later about how that data affected their writing of the later books in the series.

My issue was really just that I'm the kind of person who feels compelled to read a book from cover to cover, so I wound up spending a lot of time going backwards and forwards making sure I had read every possible option. You totally don't have to do this. I'm just insane. But a lot of people I know will LOVE this format, so if it sounds appealing, definitely give it a try! Personally, I'll probably read this kind of book occasionally as a novelty, or when authors I like use the format, but I won't be clamoring for everyone to switch over.

Now, the books! Actually, first, a note: All the books could have used a decent copy editor. I'm hoping that this was because I had review versions and the finished versions are cleaner, but I felt like I should mention just in case.

Okay, the books:

Witch's Brew by Heidi R. Kling: Lily and Logan are a teenage witch and warlock - but all their lives, they've been taught to hate each other. Now the big battle they've both been training for is approaching, but when they meet, they realize that their respective authority figures haven't been exactly truthful and start unraveling the mysteries of what's actually going on. Oh, and, of course, they fall in love, even though they don't quite trust each other. The forbidden romance is very swoony, and Kling is particularly strong when writing about high school social situations and the complicated friendships between teen girls. The magic was very nature-based, and I wished there had been more information on exactly how the magic system works in this universe, but perhaps that will come in later books. I would particularly recommend this one to fans of L.J. Smith.

(Disclaimer: Heidi and I know each other a little, and she's the one who asked Coliloquy to send me review copies.)

Arcania by Liz Maverick: Adia is from a magical family but has no magic herself, so she's trying to live more or less a normal life and take care of her little sisters - until her magical twin dies and Adia inherits her abilities. She's sent to a sort of boarding school for training, and she has to try to catch up with the others her age while figuring out all the interpersonal politics among her peers. The training is especially tense because of a war between Adia's people and a different magical people, and some of the "practice" situations are seriously dangerous, and it's all actually pretty terrifying. (Also: I'm a wimp.) At various points, this reminded me of both Divergent and the Vampire Academy series, so if you like either of those, you might want to try this.

Getting Dumped by Tawna Fenske: This is the one non-YA in this set of titles: it's an adult contemporary romance about a woman who loses her office job and takes a job driving equipment at the landfill, which causes her to rethink her relationships and a lot of things about herself. There are quirky coworkers, hot guys, and even a sort of movie not-quite-star. If that's not enough, she gets caught up in a mystery involving counterfeit purses; the mystery is better-done than many mystery subplots in romances, so that was a nice surprise. This was a quick, fun read, but it ended with a little too much of a cliffhanger for me, so be forewarned if that sort of thing bothers you.

Dead Letter Office by Kira Snyder: This is a YA southern Gothic mystery ghost story, and it was my favorite of these four books. When Celia's father dies, she and her mother go to live with her father's family in New Orleans, where Celia has to learn to fit in with the complicated social structure of old New Orleans families - and deal with the fact that ghosts are suddenly asking her for help. The world is extremely well-constructed, and Celia and the supporting characters were nicely complex. There are a few different love interests, and I got why Celia liked each one and couldn't decide which I wanted her to be with, so that was refreshing. And the ending definitely left things open for many more stories but wasn't too much of a cliffhanger. I'm looking forward to more of this series.