Monday, January 18, 2010

Delayed eBook Release - The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves: A NovelA big controversy is heating up in the ebook market - delayed ebook releases by the publishers, who say that low priced ebooks are cutting into the high-margin hardcover profits. Big publishers today keep shooting themselves in the foot these days, and frankly, I'm pretty content to sit back and watch them collapse. In cases like this, I smack my forehead and think, why? Let's use Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves as an example. I see a blurb on this book and go, "Ooh, that sounds interesting!" I have not read The Historian yet, but The Swan Thieves sounds like it's right up my alley (I love art history). So I amble my way over to the Sony eBookstore and my search comes up empty. Hrmm, that's weird, I thought it was out already. Well, yes and no. The publisher is delaying the ebook release for three months, so more people will buy it in hardcover.

Here's where I have a problem: I would never have bought this book in hardcover. I don't buy any hardcovers actually, unless they are used or on the bargain table. The one thing I love about ebooks is that I can buy a book that's out in hardcover, for about the same price as a trade paperback. I'll even pay a little bit more of a premium on one if I don't want to wait til the price drops to $9.99 (I did this recently for Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever, and if you've read this series you'd too pay the extra $3 to have it a few days sooner). But now I'm stuck. I refuse to purchase this book now, because I want to make a point. Usually in circumstances like these, I'll email the publisher stating my thoughts, and pointing out that I bought the book used (no profit for them) or skipped it all together. I've never gotten a return email.

Now, a group of people have tried a different tactic - they are leaving one star reviews on expressing their displeasure (article here). I'm torn on this tactic. On one hand, people use amazon reviews heavily to decide whether to read a book or not (I recommend using a site like GoodReads instead), not to mention that it also affects the author, not just the publisher. On the other hand, I can see this as being very effective, considering the clout that amazon reviews have and the amount of press it's getting.

So what do I do while publishers get their act together? Read something else! I picked up The Historian at a book sale last week, although I have no idea when I'll get to it. But since I'm in the mood for some art history, I picked up The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick (and it's available in ebook!). I can't think of a good alternate read in historical fiction, so if you think of one post it in the comments!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So you want to read...True Crime

Want to read true crime, but unsure of where to start? Here's a few books to get you started.

In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood  by Truman Capote
"With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reportage from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy."
This book is credited with starting the entire true crime genre, and what better place to start than the beginning? When I told my mother I was writing this post (she's a big true crime fan), she took the opportunity to admonish me for the umpteenth time for not reading "In Cold Blood." Mom, if you're reading this, I promise I'll get to it soon.

The Cases That Haunt UsThe Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas
America's foremost expert on criminal profiling provides his uniquely gripping analysis of seven of the most notorious murder cases in the history of crime -- from the Whitechapel murders to JonBenet Ramsey -- often contradicting conventional wisdom and legal decisions.
A great book combining all of the famous unsolved murders: Jack the Ripper, Zodiac, Black Dahlia, the Lindbergh baby, etc. There could be no one better to come up with theories on these cases than John Douglas, and his expertise in the profiling field shows here.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaAuthor Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
If you have not read this book yet, please, do yourself a huge favor and run to your nearest bookstore. This is also a good choice for those who want their true crime with a side of American history.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Books about Books, v 2.0

A few more selections for the bibliophiles out there. I noticed while I was compiling these that they all had to do with bookstores in particular. After years of working in a bookstore (and missing it terribly) I felt like I was home again reading these books.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a HistoryIn The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore—the smell and touch of books, getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with ordering through The Weekly Reader in grade school. Interwoven throughout is a fascinating historical account of the bookseller’s trade—from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which led to the extraordinary effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses during the 1920s. Rich with anecdotes, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is the perfect choice for those who relish the enduring pleasures of spending an afternoon finding just the right book.
Genre: Non-Fiction - Memoir. This is a must-read for any former bookseller, or anyone who gets that shaky feeling every time they walk into a bookstore.
Murder Is BindingMurder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

The streets of Stoneham, New Hampsire are lined with bookstores...and paved with murder.
When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.
Genre: Mystery - Cozy Mystery. I read all three books in this series in one week. Need I say more?

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
The Secret of Lost ThingsEighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city.
Genre: Fiction - Literary Fiction. I'll be honest, I couldn't really get into this book. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads. I'm including it here because it fits the topic, and who knows? Maybe you'll love it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good Deal - Smart Women Read Between the Lines

I usuallly track my books on an excel spreadsheet and have a black book I carry around with series orders and notes on books I'm interested in, but I'm tempted to switch to this just for it's awesome cover. Here's the product description:
Smart Women Read Between the Lines: A Reader's Journal
With this handy, totable reader's journal, keeping tabs on literary adventures is a breeze. Track and review books read and books recommended. Jot down favorite passages and authors. Keep literary lists, including books lent and borrowed, a book club selection log, and must-attend literary event dates. With inspiring quotes from outstanding smart women sprinkled throughout, plus an A to Z list of great books by women, this journal is a must-have for smart readers everywhere.
And it's cheap, too. I think I just might have to have this.
Price: $5.83 - (Book picture goes to Amazon listing)

My Library Haul

Fault Line: A NovelI've been dying to get over to the library, but for the past few weekends it's been closed for the holidays, and I can never get over there during the week. So after paying about $9.00 in fines, I checked out the following books:

Fault Line by Barry Eisler
Not something I would pick up normally, but I saw on a few blogs he's been trying to get romance readers to check out his books. This intrigues me - does he recognize the buying power of the romance reader? Does he think simply because that there's some hot scenes in his book that the romance community will love his book? I've started it, but I'll hold my judgement until I finish.

Monet Talks by Tamar Myers
Monet Talks (Den of Antiquity)I'm on the worst kind of cozy mystery kick right now, and I heard about Myers' "Den of Antiquity" series and had to check it out (with that series title, how could you not?). Unfortunately, the first book Larceny and Old Lace is way too much in ebook form, and the library didn't have it. So I'm just going to read the series out of order. Hopefully it won't be an issue.

The great thing about my local library is that it has an ongoing book sale. It doesn't have quite the selection that other library book sales have, but I usually come out of there with a handful of books. Immediately I saw A Lady of Persuasion and Surrender of a Siren: A Novel by Tessa Dare, which I've heard good things about but haven't gotten around to checking them out. Even better, they were in almost new condition. I also grabbed The Fax of Life (Molly Masters Mystery) by Leslie O'Kane in hardcover. I've never heard of this author, and considering the title and the publish date ('99), I'm hoping for some spectacularly dated technology.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

1001 Books You Must Read Before You DieI found this book at the library last year, and was interested to find out how much of the book universe I was missing. Flipping through, I figured I had tackled a decent number of the books. I spent a day compiling the book into spreadsheet form, and at the end I was shocked to learn that I had read less than twenty. Needless to say, I felt pretty depressed. What have I been reading all this time? Apparently junk, if this book was any indicator. So slowly but surely, I've been attempting to tackle some of the titles listed in this compilation. My number is now up to 34, and I've picked out a few specific books to read this year with my other goals for 2010.

1) The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. I just read Murder Must Advertise for my book club and really enjoyed the character of Lord Wimsey, so I was happy to see that Nine Tailors also featured him, and even better, I could cross another book of the 1001 list. It's in the public domain, so if you have an ebook reading device, it's free.
2) The Plague by Albert Camus. Book about the bubonic plague? I'm there.
3) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. I read the first book, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency last year, so it's about time I read the second. I'm never disappointed with Douglas Adams.
4) The Bonfire of the Vanities: A Novel by Tom Wolfe. Grabbed this one at the library book sale, and it's just waiting to be cracked open.
5) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
6) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Still can't believe I haven't read this one yet.
7) The Secret History by Donna Tartt. My mom's been trying to get me to read this one for years, and I grabbed a copy of it at the book sale. Maybe I'll read that first, so she can stop bugging me.

If you want to see the full list for yourself, check out the google doc here. I do highly recommend the book itself, which is beautifully illustrated and has nice essays on each book. There's some glaring omissions and questionable entries, but all in all it's a good place to start if you want to start reading more "classics." Also, there's a big group on GoodReads dedicated to finishing these books, which you can find here. I'll be tagging this post "1001 books," and in the future I'll spotlight some more entries.

Happy reading!