Monday, March 15, 2010

This weekend I...

...completed week one of Couch to 5K; revised and finished one section of dissertation chapter, outlined the next, baked gluten-free bread, installed Adobe CS 4 Design Premium, taught myself more InDesign, and proofed/did minor revisions on a Blake Society publication, sang in a Sunday evening service, caught up with an old friend, went to Purple Cafe, saw Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI, and wrote back to a student about his grant application.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire

This will be a quick review. But you know, I hope, that if I'm allowing myself to write a review as a reward for dissertating, that it must be good, right?

First, here's the update on the ebook situation that was so vexing me in my last post. I was still grumpy about the delay, but it occurred to me that I could make an unfortunate situation into a good one by buying the print edition and giving it away to a local women's shelter (and that this was more important than my stupid frustration with Daw Books), and secondly, that if A Local Habitation were a trade paperback for sale at approx $15, the cost of the print and Kindle editions combined, I would have bought it without hesitation.

When I finished it yesterday evening, I was very pleased with myself for making the decision to go ahead and get it. The worldbuilding continues to be great. I think that this is the first time I've read a novel about fairies set in the "real" non-faerie world, and believed it. The concerns and issues are that carefully thought out, as are the mistakes that people make in trying to navigate both spaces.

The characters are great. We see Toby dealing with new situations, quite different from those in Rosemary and Rue, and learn more about her in the process. There are not too many characters, but I almost wish that it were possible to know more about the ones in this novel than I found out. That's meant as a compliment.

The mystery is interesting, and good. I did, admittedly, figure out whodunnit kind of early, because (obligatory ROT13: Vs Tbeqna vf gur bar jub pna svk cubarf fb gung gurl jbex bhgfvqr bs gur Xabjr, gura vg znxrf frafr gung fur jnf gur bar zrffvat jvgu gur cubarf fb gung Wnahnel pbhyqa'g trg guebhtu gb Flyirfgre. Vf guvf nyzbfg gbb boivbhf? Lrf, rkprcg gung tvira Gbol'f ynpx bs grpu-fniil, vg qvq znxr frafr gb zr gung guvf jbhyq gnxr ybatre sbe ure gb tenfc.)

But I wasn't positive until I figured out why, and that took much longer, though the clues were indeed right there in front of me. And that, for me, makes a damn fine novel. I look forward to the next book, and hope we find out more about why the Queen of the Fairies seemed so mentally unstable in Rosemary and Rue.

But in the meantime, I'll happily reread ALH again in a couple of weeks. For me, that means that it's in a class with books by Joan Aiken, Noel Streatfeild, Sarah Monette, and Scott Lynch. Books that make me really, really happy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Publishers behaving badly.

I can't remember where I heard about Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, but I liked it so much that when I got to the end of the Kindle sample chapter, I clicked "Buy now" as though I were just turning another page. No hesitation.

It didn't disappoint. McGuire's urban fantasy is full of fairies: caite sidhe, rose-goblins (like cats, but with bodies formed from rosebush branches, thorns and all), mixed race changelings -- and not a hint of twee in the whole thing. Instead: political intrigue, delayed revenge, and the tension surrounding relationships that have been left hanging. Someone described it as fairy noir, and that description is dead-on accurate. I was so happily drawn in that I didn't feel the need to speculate on who was behind the murder that's the main focus of the volume. There's another, larger plot that McGuire introduces, and I have the feeling that the two are probably connected. But enough is resolved in the first volume that I was happy to sit and wait for a sequel. A couple of weeks later, I read Rosemary and Rue over again, and liked it just as much. I told my friends about it. Even though it's part of an unfinished series, I said, you'll love it, and feel satisfied.

Fast forward to January, when I remembered that I should start looking for the second volume. Amazon listed the Kindle edition of A Local Habitation as being released on March 2, 2010, simultaneous with the printed edition. I pre-ordered. I love pre-ordering books on Kindle. At midnight on the day of release, they instantly appear, and I can read a chapter, maybe five, before waking up to finish on the day of. Or, I can start reading the next day without getting out of bed at all!

Don't get me wrong. I loved Harry Potter release parties. But the decadent pleasure of having a book appear as though someone had set it by my bedside, knowing that I would wake up excited about it? Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

Of course, that didn't happen this time. On February 25th, an email from Amazon arrived:

We're writing because the publisher has changed the release date for the Kindle version of the book listed below:

'A Local Habitation' by Seanan McGuire
Link to the Kindle Title:
The old delivery date was: 3/2/2010
The new delivery date is: 3/9/2010

Disappointing, especially because I'd scheduled a minor medical procedure (MMP) for March 2nd. I'm supposed to rest after this MMP, and while I normally hate lying around in bed, having a new Seanan McGuire book would have kept me blissfully, patiently still, and happily reading.

But then the MMP had to be rescheduled - for March 9th! All was right with the world. Until I woke up this morning to the new email from Amazon:

We're writing because the publisher has changed the release date for the Kindle version of the book listed below:

'A Local Habitation' by Seanan McGuire
Link to the Kindle Title:
The old delivery date was: 3/9/2010
The new delivery date is: 3/16/2010

I understand that publishers are worried about losing profits on ebooks, especially when they're having to negotiate with Amazon and Apple, who are each trying to outdo each other. But changing the Kindle release date each week is the worst sort of buyer manipulation, and at the moment, I don't feel much like buying "A Local Habitation" at all. McGuire's own suggestion that Kindle owners buy a print copy, and then donate it to their local women's shelter is great, and I may eventually do that. But at the moment, I've cancelled my Amazon order, and am not buying at all. It's less frustrating than waiting for another email to show up, informing me that the new Kindle release date is March 23rd. March 30th. April 6th?

I used to buy fewer than 10 new books per year. As a graduate student, my budget for them is pretty limited. But I love books, and my apartment is full of them. Therein lies the other reason for not buying more new books: my apartment is full of them. Books on the shelves, under the bed, on the floor...and the fact that I'm finishing a doctoral degree makes it likely that I'll be moving somewhere, maybe somewhere far away. Buying printed books is, in general, a bad idea for me. When I buy used, at least I'm spending less money on something I'll probably have to get rid of anyways.

I got the Kindle for iPhone just about a year ago. In that year, I have purchased not just 10, but 65 brand new books. At Christmas, I got a full-sized Kindle. If I total up the money I've saved in discounts, the Kindle mostly paid for itself. I never used to browse bookstores looking to see if there was anything new. Now I do so regularly. Surely, publishers, I'm not the only one whose book buying habits are changing. But I've also never felt so jerked around by a publisher, and so reluctant to spend money on a book at all.