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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?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…

Today’s question is a good one – it sent me to my LibraryThing catalog in search of a book I rated highly, by an author I haven’t heard, read, or seen much about in all of the places I do bookish things.

I picked up a remaindered copy of D. M. Cornish’s Foundling on a whim, and found the book to be far more intricate, richly illustrated – both in word and artwork – and thorough than I had anticipated. I happily purchased the second book, in hardcover no less (but with a coupon, of course), shortly after finishing the first in this series, called Monster Blood Tattoo. While both Foundling and its sequel, Lamplighter, are considerable in length and complexity of language, I found them to move swiftly and with  great momentum. I’m looking forward to the third installment, and have only found one other reader in my on-line and real world travels who has read these books, as well.

My reviews for both books can be found on my reading challenge post for 2009.

What author do you think deserves more attention than he or she receives from mainstream booksellers, reviewers, and publishers?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

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Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

It depends on why I’ve picked up the book. If it’s something that caught my eye but I’ve not heard of, I’ll read at least the first few sentences of the flap. If it’s been recommended by a friend or blogger, I typically get enough information from them and prefer not to gain any additional details from the blurb. I don’t rely on the flaps to decide whether I’m going to enjoy a new writer, as they’re not written by the author him- or herself; I’ll read the first page, or flip to somewhere in the middle and read a few sentences to get a feel for their voice.

How about you, how much do you like to know about a book going in? Do you go on intuition or get the details from the blurb, reviews, other sources?

Booking Through Thursday

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

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When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?
Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)
And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I went through my entire library about two years ago, and purged all of the books I either (a) had read and knew I wouldn’t re-read, or (b) had never read and had no intention of reading (most of which I had no idea how I came by in the first place). I traded them primarily on BookMooch and also a few on PaperbackSwap, being more particular about the books I acquired through the same. It was the first voluntary book purge of my life, and it was painful, but necessary.
Since I joined LibraryThing and have been more deliberate about my reading selections, I’ve considered a second purge; having just moved myself, this is an ideal time. I have to go through my LT catalog and remove those books which were Mare’s or which she elected to keep that were ours, have those migrated to her new account, move the ones I’d like to replace to my Wish List collection, all that jazz. So, it’s going to be a huge project, but a very comforting one, a la Rob’s vinyl reorganization in High Fidelity.

Howsabout you?