Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: Multiple Editions

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

Have you ever bought multiple editions of the same book? What inspires you to do that (e.g., covers, language, author revisions)?

I’m pretty form agnostic when it comes to books. I’ve never had much preference for hardbacks over paperbacks aside from their availability and price. When I started reading the Wheel of Time, Eric and I decided to seek out good used copies in full-sized hardbacks, which is more difficult than you might think. Likewise with Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire and Herbert’s Dune books. Unfortunately, I’m too cheap to be a collection completist and still have a mish-mash of paperbacks and hardbacks.

I have a passing interest in translations and have several different translations of Beowulf and some Russian poetry. There are other “classics” I’ve owned in a myriad of editions: Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, various copies of The Canterbury Tales and random Shakespeare plays, collections of Poe. Some have been gifts, some have been upgrades from Dover $1 editions to hardbacks, some have been repurchases when, in college, the original was residing in a different city.

Lately, of course, I’ve begun to acquire Kindle editions of some of my favorites. I mean, really, what’s better than having a library of your comfort books in your purse/backpack? Of course, my most ironic moment of ebook collecting has come when I was a little annoyed that there isn’t an electronic version of 84, Charing Cross Road. Considering Helene Hanff’s opinions of paste-board hardbacks, I can’t imagine what she’d think of a Kindle or PDF.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: Protagonists & Gender

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

Do you prefer to read books with a male or female protagonist? Does the author’s gender matter?

Two innocent little questions…

First, some stats. In 2013, I read 63 books. I excluded mixed anthologies and books about non-person subjects (13 books). In the case of non-fiction about a particular person, I counted the gender of that person as protagonist gender. In some cases, like Gone Girl, I counted a book as having both male and female protagonists. This doesn’t count books that I did not finished.

  • Percentage of books read with Male Protags: 78%
    • average rating for books with male protags: 3.14 stars (out of 5)
  • Percentage of books read with Female Protag: 28%
    • average rating for books with female protags: 2.5 stars

For comparison:

  • Average rating overall in 2013: 2.96 stars
  • Percentage of books by Female Authors: 22%
    • average rating for books by female authors rating: 2.46

Is last year a good indicator of my reading habits? In 2013, I reread a bit of Sherlock Holmes and a few Doctor Who novels. I read 18 books that were related in some manner to stage magic and/or spiritualism. All these things are male-heavy. But these are things I *wanted* to read. So, yes, fairly indicative of my reading habits.

I want to say that male/female doesn’t matter, but obviously it does. I’m not the girly-ist of girls and I’ve never required a protagonist to be female in order to relate to the character. In light of the previous plot v. character question, I’d say that I’m less interested in character development (often tagged as a “thing female authors do”) than in how characters consistently interact with the plot and the world.

The following are things I associate with female writers and stories with female protagonists that I am not interested in: YA, first person perspective, too much discussion or description of clothes, petty politics. I’m not saying those associations are valid, but those are my prejudices. I’m not saying that there are no female authors I like or that I never choose to read female characters,  but male authors just seem to write more stories I want to read and those stories usually feature male characters.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: Book Covers

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

What features do you like in a book cover? Do you like plain covers? Do you like covers with drawings on them? Do you like covers with photographs on them? Do you like movie-tie in covers?

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2)
Who *are* these people? Were they in this novel?

Considering how many conversations I’ve had with my husband about the art for our novels, I have to admit that I don’t really have any strong feelings about book covers. I *will* make some judgements about a book based on the cover, but it’s not a function of whether I like the cover or not. For example, I’m as much of a fan of pretty Victorian dresses as the next girl, but I know many of those books are not the right fit for me.

Once I start reading a book, I don’t pay much attention to the cover. People on the cover, whether drawings or photos, don’t affect me at all, possibly because I’m a little face blind. Generally, I don’t hold a concrete picture of characters in my mind, so it doesn’t matter if the cover matches the text. I remember finishing one of the Wheel of Time books and then looking at the cover and thinking, who are these people?

House of LeavesDark WaterFrom a simply aesthetic point of view, I prefer iconography, lower key art, and maybe the use of matte versus gloss. Those things will attract my attention. House of Leaves is a prime example. In the book store this is a matte black cover with the maze in black gloss. Sparse, but intriguing.  I’m also a fan of the subtle or hidden image. I had was on the last story of Koji Suzuki’s Dark Water before I saw the face.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: Reading a Series from Start to Finish

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

Assuming that you are late to the party with a book series (and the entire series is completed) and you want to read every piece of text within a series’ universe that you can get your hands on, in what order to you read the books, short stories, and novellas within the universe? Do you read the books first and then the short stories and novellas if you want more? Do you read the books, short stories, and novellas in order (either publication or chronological)? Do you read them in some other order?

Well, we’ve already established that I’m pretty crap at reading series. 😉 Honestly, I’m a little befuddled by the trend of having short stories and novellas as part of a series, although I suppose I shouldn’t be. I’ve been reading within certain fandoms (Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who etc.) for most of my reading life. In the case of those “series,” story chronology has never seemed very important, probably because there are many writers involved in creating the world instead of just one. The Song of Ice and Fire read-through included a couple of Martin’s shorter works set within Westeros, but I sort of ignored them even though I think I have one of the stories around here in a Legends anthology. I suppose, I’d probably read in order of publication. As a writer, I know how hard it is to keep author knowledge out of plot, and I’d probably count on some “insider” knowledge being helpful if I was reading a prequel that was written after several books in a series. (Speaking of fandoms, a question that keeps popping up among friends who have children is, what order do you show your kids the Star Wars films? I can’t really imagine seeing those movies in the plot chronology order.)

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite Change in the Book World

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

What is one of the best changes in the literary/book world that you have noticed, since you have begun reading? What makes this change so great for you? The biggest change for me in the last 15 years has been how I procure books. And it’s pretty much all because of Amazon.

Way back in my childhood, I had four ways of getting books: the library, Scholastic book flyers (and later my mom’s Science Fiction Book Club catalog), Waldenbooks at the mall, and the book section of Star Realm, a comic/gaming/SF hobby shop. None of these avenues were particularly expansive. I didn’t start frequenting used bookstores until late in high school when I started keeping a list of books I wanted to read. This list was gleaned from author bios and articles I’d read in magazine and Who’s Whos. My mom never cared for owning used books and had a poor opinion of fantasy and romances. Our nearby buy-sell-trade store was 90% those two genres, so they never got much of her business or mine. Moving from Omaha to Lincoln for college was the first big change. Lincoln had a Barnes and Noble. It was the size of  five Waldens. Downtown Lincoln also had three major used bookstores and two university bookstores.  This was not only more books than I had ever imagined and a totally different selection of books. I realized there was value in going to book store in other places. As late as the early 2000s, I always insisted in stopping at local bookstores when Eric and I traveled.

Then happened. Suddenly, any book I’d ever wanted to read was available to me if it was in print. When they started hooking up with used sellers, that circle grew larger. That book of poetry collected by T. E. Lawrence that I loved in college? Available. My Harlan Ellison, Helene Hanff, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Laymon collections? If they’re not complete, it’s only because I can’t afford those books at the moment. I know that Amazon wasn’t the first into the ebook/ereader market and has certainly not been the only one, but they proved that ebooks and ereaders can be a market. Where Amazon has paved, others have followed. Now, I use Paperback Swap to find books as well. I frequent elibraries more than physical ones. I’m publishing my own books through Amazon and Smashwords.

I know there are downsides to Amazon. Brick and mortar stores can’t compete; the market is flooded with  works of variable quality. There’s drama, drama, drama when it comes to rating and reviewing. But, man, all the books…!

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: What do you do with books that you’ve read?

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

What do you do with the books that you have read? Do you keep them? Donate them? Gift them? Return them to the library? Throw them away? Make them into arts & crafts projects? Has this changed during the years? Have you noticed a change in your perspective regarding read books?

I probably hold on to books longer than I should. There are very few that I’ll ever read again, but, you know, I *might.*

Back when I was in college, I generally engaged in a book sell-off at the end of every semester. These were mostly textbooks, but also some personal books. In December, it was usually because I needed extra money for Christmas and spring semester. In the spring, it was because I didn’t want to haul everything from my dorm to where I was spending the summer.  After nearly fifteen years in the same apartment, my books are fulfilling their Manifest Destiny: complete take-over of my living space.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.In 2006, in an effort to cull my collection and gain more books that I wanted, I joined PaperBackSwap. According to my profile I’ve sent 147 books and received 106. Wow. That’s…more than I expected. Unfortunately, PBS doesn’t accept ARCs and I’ve started to acquire a few of those. My plan is to volunteer them for Dewey’s Readathon, and if they’re not chosen as prizes, I’ll take them to my local used bookstore/charity store.

That only leaves some of the used mass-market paperbacks that are in really poor shape. I’m gentle with my books, but in many cases, I might be the third or fourth owner. They’re not in good enough shape to give away (certainly not through PBS), but I feel weird about throwing out books or using them in a crafty way.

[Edit: I didn’t even mention that my default for read books is keeping them!]

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Thoughtful Thursday: How Do You Read a Series?

Hosted by Pamela @ Reading is Fun Again

This Thursday’s question:

How do you read a book series? (Do you read each book as it comes out? Do you wait for a few books to come out in a series before starting it? Do you wait until the entire series is out and marathon it? Do you reread all of the books that are currently out before you read the next one?)

Bookish confession: I am terrible at reading series and tend to avoid them.

Part of the problem is that I don’t binge read. I am someone who might put down any given book (even a good, enjoyable one) in favor of any other given book. The gaps between volumes in a series, even ones entirely finished and published, are just excellent opportunities for me to read something else for a while. Since I’m also a slow reader, it’s then tough for me to reread a series to get back into the world.

Series I Recall Finishing:
Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, #1)

  • Timothy Zahn’s The Thrawn Trilogy: Three books. Read them as they came out in the early 90s because there was NO STAR WARS at the time.
  • Raymond Feist’s The Riftwar Saga: Four books. Read them after they were all published, short enough that I read them over a few years. Yes, four books, a few years…
  • Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings: Three books. Obviously read them after they came out, a part of a structured read-through.

Series I Have Not Finished…Yet:

  • George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: 3/5+ books. I’m reading #4 right now as part of a structured read-through.
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune Chronicles: 3/6 books. By all accounts, God Emperor of Dune is where most people give up. I’ve been advised to the read the Cliff Notes and move on.
  • Warhammer 40K’s The Horus Heresy (various authors): 3/28+ books. Okay, at 28 books and counting, I’ll probably never finish this series, but I have every intention of reading more. Just don’t ask me how long I’ve owned book #4.
  • Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: 1.5/3 books. A series by a very fine writer, but I put down Stone of Farewell and never came back to it. I would have to start over.

Series I Will Never Finish:
The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)

  • Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time: 10/14 books. Enjoyable for 9 books, #10 didn’t do it for me.
  • Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles & Lives of the Mayfair Witches: 4/11, 2/3 books. Stopped before much of the crossover.
  • Rachael Cain’s Weather Warden: 3/9 books. One of the few more “modern” series I’ve dipped into.
  • Other very popular YA vampire/dystopias that I read the first books of but did not catch on with me.


My habits may have been different when I was younger because I did binge read Sherlock Holmes in the 80s and had no problem reading the Thrawn books. But again, I loved Star Wars and, when Timothy Zhan’s triology came out, there was very little Star Wars to be had.

Structured read-throughs are the way to go for me. Basically, I read a couple chapters every week. No more, no less. Two chapters, put the door-stop books down, read something else for the rest of the week. It got me through Tolkien; it’ll get me through Martin.

Obviously, I feel no duty to finish a series. I don’t understand readers who’ll say, in the review of volume three, “I didn’t much care for books one and two, but I read number three anyway.” Sunk-cost fallacy, it never pays off.

Spoilers don’t bother me that much. Okay, I’d rather not know who bites it in A Feast for Crows, but I’m okay if someone lets that knowledge slip (*cough*Eric*cough*).