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Romantic reading? …not so much.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Today’s Booking Through Thursday had me pretty well stumped, which I found interesting. I mean, I know I’m not a big fan of capital R “Romance,” but you’d think, being the complete sap that I am, I’d be able to rattle off plenty of examples of beautifully “romantic” reads.

Ummmm…. No.

The first one that came to mind was Message in a Bottle. Really, though, there was only one bit of the book that stood out in my memory (which was left out of the movie – boy, did that burn my biscuits), and that doesn’t seem to make it a fair contender.

Next up, Tipping the Velvet. A better choice, as it’s one of the few books I’ve read with a storyline that somewhat parallels my own love life (queer, butch-femme, the way one of the relationships develops), but still, the romance I found compelling in that one is only really covered in a small bit of the book. That doesn’t count, right?

So I visited my trusty LibraryThing catalog. Surely something in my 4-5 star range will be more…. romance-y. But really, the “love stories” that exist as sub-plots in the books I love are messed up. Like, seriously codependent, or abusive in some way, or otherwise unhealthy. What gives? So this got me thinking about how “romance” is portrayed in books and media.

As for me, yes, I have a tendency toward codependence. Yes, I have stayed too long in an abusive relationship. Yes, I have plenty of work to do in therapy to make sure I’m the healthiest “me” I can be, in general and for my partner. But I don’t elevate my behaviors to “devotion” or “truly in love” or “unconditional” or whatever other crap is used as justification for ignoring our own needs because of a partner. Almost every book I’ve ever read with some romantic thread has an example of one of these unhealthy behaviors masked as something desirable. Is that just because of the genres I read, or is it across the board? Are we unsatisfied with healthy relationships because we aren’t throwing aside our lives to prove our love, like we see in books, film, and television?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I’ve seen many bloggers say that what draws them to certain books or authors is good writing, and what causes them to stop reading a certain book or author is bad writing. What constitutes good writing and bad writing to you?

My idea of “good” writing is writing that makes me stop and re-read a sentence because of how beautifully or powerfully it conveys its meaning. Additionally, writing that breaks the conventions of “traditional” language structure as a part of the overall experience typically strikes me as exceptional, though it has to be well-crafted and consistent (Zuzak’s The Book Thief comes to mind).

“Bad” writing is tough to nail down, because while I don’t always think writing I don’t enjoy is “bad,” I wouldn’t call it “good,” either. I suppose standard, “He said this. Then they did this. The next day, this happened,” would technically be considered mediocre. For truly “bad” writing, I’d say poor syntax, redundancy, inconsistencies throughout the text, and underdeveloped characters or plot lines are all super pet peeves of mine. While a mediocre book’s author may get a second go-round if I liked the story, a bad book’s writer doesn’t get another shot. Life is too short to read bad books!

What are your thoughts? Share them here, or post on your own blog and drop me a link!

Booking through Thursday

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Today’s question is suggested by Mae.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I just read and read, day and night … it was there I began to divide books into day books and night books,” she went on. “Really, there are books meant for daytime reading and books that can be read only at night.” – The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, p. 103.

Do you divide your books into day and night reads? How do you decide?

In the past, I’ve had at least one new book that I read during most of the day and a re-read for before bed, so if I get sleepy and forgetful I’m not really “missing” anything :) Lately though, I’ve only had one physical book going at a time – very rare for me – and whatever book I’m working on goes with me into whichever room I’m in throughout the apartment. My audiobook is for the walk to and from work, as well as for when I’m performing tasks like dishes, cooking, etc., and my hands aren’t free. So I suppose I determine what to read based more on convenience than the mood a book evokes.

How about you? Do you designate certain books for certain times? Do you feel certain books lend themselves to a time of day?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

You’ve just dropped your favorite, out-of-print book into a bathtub, ruining it completely … What do you do now?

Ack, terrifying question!!! First, I probably wouldn’t put a book like that in danger – I’ve worked very hard to obtain some of my books, particularly butch-femme and other queer works, and I know just how difficult they can be to find. My wish list includes many such titles, and I can’t even explain the excitement it creates when one turns up somewhere! This has actually prompted me to pipe dream of owning a small press that specializes in obtaining the rights to such books and running small batches every decade or so, to increase their circulation and accessibility.

Now, pretending that I actually would have done such a horrific thing, I’d likely first run to the computer and search for repair/preservation options and try everything I could find. Should the book truly end up an unreadable pulp (I’m crying a little bit, here), I would begin the hunt for a replacement on every site I know – swap sites like BookMooch, used/rare sites like Alibris, and monster aggregate sites like Amazon – and put in a word with all of my local independents that buy used books.

How about you; what’s your go-to for finding or replacing a rare title?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

The books I buy are almost exclusively based on recommendations from family, friends, and book bloggers whose opinions I value. Rarely do I pick up a book without having heard anything about it previously, though I’ve been broadening my horizons that way with audiobooks recently.

I’ve been reading quite a bit of memoir and “creative” autobiography, as Rachel is a huge fan of Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and James Frey. We also have Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee on its way from AudioFile for us to listen to and review. Neil Gaiman’s Stardust was a recent read based on a recommendation from my roommates, and I think everything I have lined up for anytime soon was suggested by my partner, one of my closest friends, a new colleague at the magazine, or someone from the blogosphere. What on earth would I do if I had to choose my books entirely from scratch??? :)

Now it’s all you – what turns you onto the books you read?

Booking through Thursday

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half.

What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens?

Or, cut your losses and dump the second half?

I used to have such a hard time leaving a book unfinished, but in recent years, I have forced myself to abandon a book if I’m just not feeling it. There are far too many books I know I will actively enjoy, even love, and my reading time is precious. Why spend it trudging through something I’m not getting any pleasure out of reading?

This comes at an apropos time, as I’ve been struggling with my guilt around having only read part of The Mayor of Castro Street. It’s not Harvey, it’s the author. I’m just not into his journalistic style, and the attempts at making it sound more like a biography than a news article fall short of the mark; they’re clearly not his natural voice, and thus they stick out like sore thumbs. I needed a reminder that it’s okay to leave the book unfinished, and this served the purpose. Thanks, Deb!

Booking through Thursday

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

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God* comes to you and tells you that, from this day forward, you may only read ONE type of book–one genre–period, but you get to choose what it is. Classics, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Cookbooks, History, Business … you can choose, but you only get ONE.

What genre do you pick, and why?

*Whether you believe in God or not, pretend for the purposes of this discussion that He is real.

First of all, thank all higher powers that I will never actually have to make this decision! Were I forced though, it didn’t take long to decide that I’d choose fantasy (provided I didn’t have to distinguish between adult, YA, and youth titles). The realm of fantasy is so broad that, though “it’s all been done” and of course there will be some formulaic plots and regurgitated settings, there is much more scope than with other genres, in my opinion.

How about you?

WWW Wednesday

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

WWW Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three questions…

What are you currently reading? I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, A Million Little Pieces, The Mayor of Castro Street, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and listening to Aesop’s Fables.

What did you recently finish reading? I most recently finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

What do you think you’ll read next? Because five books in the works doesn’t keep me busy enough until next Wednesday??? :) I’ll probably finish HP6 this week and move on to book 7, and hopefully get through the Twain as well, which I’m reading on Stanza on my iPod. I feel bad for abandoning Harvey, but I’m just not great at soldiering on through non-fiction; I really ought to keep that one in my bag so I’m forced to read it on the bus, and have to be home to read the “fun” stuff.

What’s your WWW this week?

Free-form Friday

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about audiobooks this week, and I’m curious about the other bookish bloggers out there. Do you listen to audiobooks? How do you choose which books to listen to and which to read? Do you have favorite narrators whose audiobooks you’ll seek out? What resources do you use in order to choose your audiobooks? Do you get them from the library, buy them, use a web rental site? Have you ditched an audiobook because of the narrator? Do you think the quality of the reading affects your opinion of the book’s content?

Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

I suppose the one benefit of insomnia is being able to post weekly memes early enough that being on PST doesn’t serve as a penalty, so here we are –


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“For all the complaints his neighbors came up with, Allan thought Castro Street was getting more like it used to be when he was a kid; for the first time in years, it seemed like a small town again where everybody knew each other and said hi on the street. Now Castro Street could also show that gays and straights could live together and get along just fine.”

This teaser is from page 94 of Randy Shilts’s The Mayor of Castro Street, a biography of Harvey Milk, which my partner and I are both reading right now. I’m only 40-some pages into it, and I’m enjoying the story bits more than the politics, which is typical for me – in books, and honestly in all aspects of life, my mind tends to wander off and get lost when too many names and dates are thrown my way. Rachel and I are both finding that this one reads quickly in some places and drags pretty significantly in others; Shilts’s style flops between journalistic and conversational, which seems to contribute directly to the “easiness” of the read in various spots. Though he tries to present the facts in a manner that is at once informative and engaging, he hasn’t much of a unique voice, in my opinion; it feels like more of a data dump than a storytelling, which is really too bad. Reading this definitely makes me want to watch Milk again, though, which is as good a reason as any to have picked it up. Maybe I’ll see if Rachel’s up for it when we both finish the book, and I’ll point you to her review over on Popcorn Popper.

Also, linking to LibraryThing above made me realize that we own three copies of this book, and not one of them is in the catalog yet – must remedy the LT backlog!

So how about you, what are you reading this fine Tuesday?