Free fantasy novel: The Winds of Khalakovo

I’m not a Kindle girl, myself, but I just noticed that Amazon is offering up the Kindle edition of Bradley Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo for free right now! I have no idea how long this will last, but it’s really an interesting fantasy novel and a great read—not overly simple. I wrote a review after I read it last summer (having found it as one of Barnes & Noble’s Free Fridays selections—their best one still, if you ask me), so have a look at that if you want to know a little more. But goodness, dear reader, it’s a free, good fantasy novel!

If you have a Kindle or one of their reading apps, by all means, go download it.

The Winds of Khalakovo is the first of what—I believe—is supposed to be a trilogy. The second volume, The Straits of Galahesh, comes out within a couple of weeks.

Edit: Winds isn’t the only thing being given away, it turns out. Beaulieu RTed my tweet about the free Kindle edition, so (naturally) I checked out his profile, where I found this tweet from earlier today:

The response to The Straits of Galahesh Giveaway has been amazing. Still time to enter! Prizes of a Nook Tablet, Kindle

Turns out the author and his publisher, Night Shade Books, are running a free contest with prizes of ebooks, signed paperbacks, even a touch reader or B&N or Amazon tablet. (And there’s an interactive map with Easter eggs. whee 🙂 ) Pretty impressive for a giveaway to hype a book release! It’s open for entries through April 3, the release day for Straits. Follow to link above to give it a shot.


Free screensaver for your Nook: Water Lily

Been awhile since I posted one of these! This image is from a photograph that I took at the Denver Botanic Gardens around Thanksgiving (I posted the color version here). As always, you’re welcome to use it as a background/screensaver for your e-reader; I just ask that you don’t change it, try to profit from it, or pretend that you made it.

Click the image to get the full size (600×800) version.

Bookishness manifest

Well, it’s December 31, GRAIL-A (still unnamed?) has just entered moon orbit, and I haven’t written a word about the science books I’ve read this year. Slap on wrist.

I have read a few science or math-related books, namely Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist (yeah, I’m counting that); Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour (winner of the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa book award in science); and Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. Not quite the same, I also worked my way through a GRE math section prep book (Nova GRE Math Prep Course), which I did review…and, after completing it myself, recommended and lent to a fellow alum of my alma mater. (I’d like it back, still… 😛 )

So I still owe the science reading challenge some reviews, but for now, I would recommend any of these books as good to excellent reads. Harford’s is easy (kind of econ-light), Sagan’s is easy to medium and ranges over a broad territory of subjects circling around critical thinking, and Mitchell’s is medium-hard (but as much worth reading as Sagan’s, which is saying something).

Had some good non-science reads this year, too, mostly fiction but including the newly released nonfiction book on typefaces and typographical design, Just My Type (Simon Garfield). The fiction books were The Winds of Khalakovo (fantasy novel by a new author, Bradley Beaulieu), A Game of Thrones (G.R.R. Martin), The Blue Light Project (Timothy Taylor), Juliet, Naked (Nick Hornby), War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells), What Is the What (Dave Eggers), Faust Eric and Witches Abroad (Terry Pratchett), and an unpublished novel by an acquaintance (I was a test reader–just finished and need to get feedback to him still). This, if you’re curious, is a year in which I did not read nearly as much as I wanted to. Of course, I spent a few months prepping for the GRE, which took approximately all of my spare time, and soon after was selected to attend the GRAIL NASATweetup, which spurred me to read up online about the mission. I also spent a lot of time for a few weeks in between the GRE and GRAIL making Zazzle gear for the SaveJWST campaign (enough of which has sold so far to make $75 in donations to the American Astronomical Society for public policy advancement–much more than I expected!).

I’d like to say what book was the best one I read this year, but that’s an impossible task for a bookworm with wide-ranging interests. I wouldn’t recommend against any of the published books. Pratchett’s Discworld series is endlessly entertaining and frequently insightful. The Winds of Khalakovo surprised me, as I got it as one of Barnes & Noble’s “Free Fridays” selections, which don’t usually appeal; it’s a fantasy novel in a Russian-esque setting, with airships and magic and politics and betrayals. It’s meant to be a series, and I’ll look for the next one when it’s released next year.

What Is the What would have shocked me, coming from the author of Heartbreaking Work… (which I found arrogant and tedious…it oozed false bravado), had I not already seen Eggers’ TED Prize talk. He’s actually a pretty awesome person. What Is the What isn’t a light read; it’s a survivor’s tale, and a good one. So maybe I should give HB another go. I probably don’t need to say much about Game of Thrones; it is incredibly gritty for a fantasy novel, though, and I look forward to reading the second novel (if I can find time to read another brick–that felt as long as Atlas Shrugged, and I’m one of those who say you didn’t read Atlas if you skipped over the 60-page Galt rant). I want to own Complexity so that I can read it again; it covers a lot of different interwoven subjects, and is very interesting, but also quite a bit to absorb.

…And when I do leave my current employer, I might just buy everyone there a copy of The Demon-Haunted World. They could use it–no one batted an eye when an associate gave everyone a copy of the near-death experience story, Heaven Is for Real. But of course they didn’t; the CEO consults a psychic about the business every year and insisted that the office be designed based on feng shui–as a result of which the walls are pretty colors but there’s an extreme lack of functional space and light–and another employee believes in auras and ghosts and “cleansing the energy” of a place, and claims, with encouragement from credulous coworkers, to have some sort of paranormal “powers.” Incidentally, according to the thinking profile the office does, you might expect her to be second in logical bent only to me–she has the “know-it-all”/”I’m-the-smartest” profile. (Her copy should include details on the James Randi prize…)

Anyway, good books this year, though I’d have liked to read more. So here’s to good reads in 2012. And go GRAIL!

Free screensaver for your Nook: Otago

Here’s another freebie screensaver image for your Nook – 600×800 pixels and 16-shade grayscale, so it should look pretty much the same on your Nook as it does here. As before, I just ask that you don’t change the image and don’t pretend you made it.

This is a view across the bay from the Otago Peninsula on New Zealand’s South Island, taken in March 2005. Definitely a place I would not be sad to revisit. 😉 There’s more of this one in my Zazzle gallery here. I’ve also signed up over at and am uploading these screensavers there, too, so you can find me there if it’s a site you frequent.

Image no. 4: Otago — click for full size

Free wallpaper for your Nook: Trillium

Here’s a screensaver image of a trillium that I found at the edge of the Redwoods in May 2008. You can’t tell from the black and white image here, but it’s a purple trillium–I’d only ever seen white ones before. 🙂

As before, you’re quite welcome to download this picture and use it as a wallpaper/screensaver on your Nook; just don’t change the image or pretend you made it. If you like the image, there’s more of it (in color! 🙂 ) in my gallery over at Zazzle.

Image no. 3: Trillium