Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lists and adventures

I was reading this this morning (Crazy Aunt Purl), about how she loves to re-read books and watch movies over and over, and some of her commenters said they don't do that. I do have favorite movies that I can watch many times, but I almost never re-read a book. I think it seems like wasted time to me. But it got me thinking, because I do have a few books that I have read more than once. So I made a list. I could only come up with five.

Ten Five Favorite Books

  • Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
  • Miracle and Other Christmas Stories - Connie Willis
  • Timeline - Michael Crichton
  • Under the Dome - Stephen King
  • American Gods - Neil Gaiman

It was easier to come up with ten movies.

Ten Fifteen Favorite Movies

  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua
  • Bolt
  • The Phantom Menace
  • The Money Pit
  • Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Christmas With the Kranks
  • Love Actually
  • School of Rock
  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Terminal
  • Home Alone
  • The Commitments
  • Robots
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • The Incredibles

I've been working my way through the free Kindle books that I've downloaded from Amazon over the last year or so. I don't download every free one that is offered, but if I think there's a possibility that I might enjoy it, I do. Sometimes I'll read a few pages and decide I don't like it, and will delete it, but there have been some that I've really enjoyed, and have gone on to buy other books from the same author, so it seems that, at least from my perspective, the strategy works.

The latest series that I've been reading is Elizabeth Moons "Vatta's War" series. I would never have purchased the first book, "Trading in Danger," at the bookstore--it looks very military, very much a "space opera." But I tried it, and I loved it. So much so that I'm reading the rest of the books in the series. I'm currently reading the third one, "Engaging the Enemy," and finished the second, "Marque and Reprisal" over the weekend. There are two more.

The series is about a young woman who is something of a black sheep in her very business-minded family, a family who owns a very successful shipping company. The woman, Kylara, declines to join the family business, and instead decides to go into the military, and enrolls in military school. Through what was basically a misunderstanding, she's thrown out of the school, and comes home in disgrace.

In order to get her out of town until the scandal blows over, her father asks her to take command of an old spaceship that needs to be take to the scrapyard. He assigns her a basic crew, and sends her off. All hell breaks loose after that. I'm really enjoying reading about Ky and her adventures.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ranting about ebooks

I have read all the books in Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series, and was looking forward to the latest, "Black Magic Sanction," which was released in February. I don't buy hardback books anymore (except for Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" books that I buy for Bob); I either put the book on hold at the library and wait, wait for the paperback, or, increasingly, wait for the ebook version.

Publishers are now tending to hold the ebook version for a period of time after the hardback comes out; this seems to have started with Stephen King's "Under the Dome" (which I ended up buying in both hardcover, audio, and ebook versions). Before that, it seems that the ebook versions were released at the same time as the hardback. But I can understand the motivation--it appears that the publishers believe that if the ebook version isn't available, people will just go ahead and pay for the hardback version, although I don't think that's true.

In any event, it isn't true for me. I'll wait. I was looking forward to Ms. Harrison's latest book, and the release date for the ebook version was April 6. I could have pre-ordered it a month or so ago at $8.65, but since most Kindle books at Amazon are $9.99, I figured that wasn't a huge savings, and I might as well just wait and pay the money when it comes out. But April 6 came and went, and now Amazon is showing the ebook version of Black Magic Sanction as "no longer available." I also noticed that the Kindle version of Charlaine Harris' "Dead in the Family," her newest, due to publish in May, also appears as "no longer available," and the Kindle version of "Changes" has disappeared also, although I see that the hardcover version is listed at $9.99. I ordered it for $12.99 at WalMart, plus a couple of dollars shipping; with all the book pricing volatility it's just impossible to know if you're getting the best deal or not.

When Black Magic Sanction was theoretically available to purchase in ebook form, the latest price at Amazon was something like $12.65, and another book that I'm interested in reading, Jennifer Crusie's "Wild Ride," is $12.99. When I saw those prices, I thought, well, I'll wait and they'll come down, like the hardcover prices tend to do. Ebook version of most backlist books are available at Amazon for around $6.50. But after reading this, I suppose they won't, or maybe they won't for a year or more. I just have no idea.

I guess one thing I don't understand is, if Amazon and other online retailers are discounting the hardcover versions so steeply, what difference does it make if you pay $9.99 for a hardback or $9.99 for the ebook version? I don't pretend to understand or know anything about the publishing business, but it would seem to me that publishing a hardback book would cost quite a bit more than producing an ebook version. I'm not going to get into that argument, because I know you're not paying for the paper itself, but for the work that went into writing and producing it, but an ebook, being only bits, obviously contains less physical production cost, so if they're being sold for the same price, why not release them at the same time?

There's a page at Kim Harrison's blog where she has opened up comments for people to rant about their dissatisfaction with ebook pricing, ebook delayed releases, etc. Either of things are certainly not the author's fault, and I hate to see people direct their comments at her, or at any author. They're as much a victim here as anyone.

I just wrote an extensive review of iPhone ereader apps over at my iPhone blog yesterday. As I said, I love books, and I love ebooks. I love the convenience of reading books on apps on my iPhone. I'm very conscious of price, though, and will very seldom pay what has, up 'til now, been the "normal" ebook price, that is, $9.99. Still, there are a few books that I will pay that price for. I bought Patricia Briggs' "Silver Borne" last week, and I see that it's still listed at $9.99 for the Kindle version at Amazon. "A Local Habitation" by Seanan McGuire is $6.39, but there was no hardcover version, it was released in mass market paperback.

While I was reading Kim Harrison's blog yesterday, I discovered that I could buy the "enhanced" combination ebook/audiobook version of Black Magic Sanction for $16.99 in the iTunes store. I do have about $6.50 worth of credit in my iTunes account, so that would make it cost about $10, but I was going to buy Swankolab . . . And the thing is, I hate the idea of buying a dedicated app for one book. I don't have that much real estate space on my iPhone, I definitely don't want to start loading it up with an app for every book that I want to read. I guess I could read them, then delete them, but I kind of like hanging on to the ones I like.

I don't know. I guess it will be an interesting issue to follow. I hope they figure it out soon.

Update: "Black Magic Sanction" came out in Kindle on April 7, just one day late. I still haven't bought it, though. I think I may wait to get it from the library.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

A weekend off

Sadly, the high winds that we had here on Thursday knocked the wreath off the nail that it was hanging on, and broke the eggs that were in the nest. When I came home Thursday evening I saw the wreath lying on the front porch, and asked Bob to go out and look. I don't think he was going to tell me that there had been eggs in it, but I had to ask. I know it's stupid, but it made me cry.

The day had just been awful. I've got a former client threatening to sue me, and saying terrible things about me, and I've been worried about the medical bills that are piling up. Coming home to find the little nest on the ground was kind of the last straw, I guess. I cried a little bit, then shook it off and changed my clothes, and we went out and ordered a pizza, then drove around a little before coming back to pick it up. It turned out to be a nice night anyway.

After the stress of last week, I ended up really taking the weekend off. I got the oil changed in the car on Saturday, did some grocery shopping, went out and saw my folks today, cooked chicken and rice for dinner, and read three Kindle books on the iPhone.

I've been having trouble sleeping; it seems that no matter when I go to bed, I wake up at 4:00 or 4:30 and can't go back to sleep. It happened Saturday morning, so rather than lie there sleepless, or get up, I got my iPhone and read. I read Patricia Briggs' "Silver Borne," which was great. Briggs is one of my favorite authors. Silver Borne is the latest in her "Mercy Thompson" series about a shapeshifter--Mercy shifts into coyote form--who was raised with werewolves. The series is really well written. She's started another spin-off series called Alpha and Omega which is wonderful, too.

Then I read a couple of books that I had gotten for free. Publishers have started offering Kindle books for free to introduce their authors and hopefully generate some interest in their other books. I don't download all of the free ones, but if I see one that looks like it might be interesting, I do. I read You Can't Stop Me, by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens (although I see that it's no longer free), and The Dark Tide, by Andrew Gross (which is still free).

I enjoyed both of them, and ended up buying a second book by Gross, Don't Look Twice, which I'm reading now. I really like reading on the iPhone. If I'm in bed, and I don't want to turn on the light and wake Bob up, I switch the font to white type on a black background, and increase the type size a little. I like that I can hold it in one hand and touch the screen to flip the pages. It's getting so I don't really want to hold a big book, I'm so used to reading on the phone.

After I came out of surgery, I really felt pretty good. I actually thought that once I was home I could start working and expected to get a lot done the week I was home. Ha. That turned out to be VERY far from what actually happened.

The surgery was on Sunday, and I got to go home on Monday. The way they do laparoscopic surgery, they blow your abdominal cavity up like a balloon with gas, then make several incisions through which they insert the surgical instruments, fiber optic lights, and something that feeds images to a television monitor. Or something like that. Anyway, they fill you up with carbon dioxide gas, and it takes awhile to dissipate.

It feels like really awful heartburn, and you just have to wait it out. We filled my pain medication prescription, but taking them made the heartburn worse, so after the first day, I didn't take them. Everything tasted awful to me. Bob had gone out and bought pudding cups and jello, and the first night I was home he made me a grilled cheese sandwich and cream of mushroom soup, but I couldn't eat anything. The only thing that sounded--and tasted--good to me was fruit, so he got me some canned peaches and pineapple and grapefruit, and I ventured out one day and bought some ready-made smoothies, and that's what I lived on for most of the week.

I couldn't get up enough energy to do anything at all, so I spent most of the week on the couch watching television. I watched a lot of television, mostly old sitcoms--The Golden Girls, The Cosby Show, like that. One day I ran across "Early Edition" on the SyFy Network, the show about the guy who gets tomorrow's newspaper each morning, and then goes out and tries to stop all the bad things that are going to happen. I must have watched five or six episodes in a row.

I had a hard time sleeping, and spent a couple of nights in the recliner in Bob's office, reading. One night I didn't sleep at all, I read Barbara Bretton's Laced With Magic, which she had sent me and which I had been saving. One day I stayed in bed all day and read Blackout, by Connie Willis, which I had gotten from the library.

I spent the whole week like that--watching television, resting, reading--and made a couple of short trips out to the grocery store for fruit and milk and cereal--Rice Krispies was the one other thing that sounded good to me, with bananas. An hour out was about all I could do before I started really fading, but Bob said it was good for me to get out a little and try to build my strength back up. I went back to work the next week, and except for getting tired easily, didn't have any ill effects.

I'm feeling fine now, and seem to be able to eat anything I want. I assume that the reason food was tasting so weird to me was the anesthetic still working its way out of my system; everything tastes fine now. I lost about 15 pounds while I was in the hospital, and have put 4 or 5 back on, but that's fine. I'm just glad to be able to eat again!

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