Top Ten Tuesday: Ten random thoughts about reading, summer, and life in general

TTT summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. The broke & bookish folks are on break from TTT for the summer, but I thought I’d write a list of my own anyway.

I only had a brief vacation this summer, but even though short, it gave me time to think deep(ish) thoughts and come up with a few random realizations.

1) After allowing my IPhone to run through my music in A-Z order during long car drives, I came to three conclusions:

  • I haven’t updated my ITunes in a really long time.
  • I seem to have stopped listening to music about the same time that I started listening to audiobooks.
  • I have a disproportionate amount of Kate Bush songs on my phone.

2) Diet, shmiet. I will stop for ice cream every single day that I’m on vacation. My view seems to be that I’ve earned all the indulgences while I’m away from home.

  • Bonus points for obsessing over the local flavors. In Montana, it was huckleberry ice cream — day in, day out.

3) Different family members are different types of vacation reading buddies.

  • I just traveled with my husband. With him, we read before bed, and maybe if we have some lounging around on the porch time in the afternoon.
  • With my son, I fight for every moment of book time. His mantra seems to be “Mom! Stop reading and do something fun!” (*weeping in despair*)
  • With my daughter, it’s all books, all the time. Books go in the backpacks. Stopping for coffee? Read a book. Sitting by a pretty stream? Read a book. See a cute bookstore? By all means, go spend several hours browsing!

4) Luckily, my husband has had many years to accept how much reading I do. Because otherwise he’d find me incredibly rude.

  • My rule of thumb on airplanes? Sit down, fasten seatbelt, stick nose in book. Stay that way until landing.
  • I definitely don’t talk to people near me on planes. And sorry, even the husband barely gets an exception.

5) Have you seen the t-shirts that say “my brain has been replaced by Hamilton lyrics”? It’s so true. At least five times a day, I feel a line from a song dying to come out of my mouth… which can be especially annoying to my travel companions who are not at all familiar with the show.

6) Why does binge-watching start feeling like a chore? The fact that the entire season of a series is available at once makes me feel SO pressured to churn through it all without stopping. And it’s not necessary! The episodes will still be there if I take them one day at a time.

7) I read the news, I follow latest stories on all the social media outlets… and yet I really don’t want to talk about it for more than a few minutes a day. I think I’ve reached my saturation point. How many times can you say “what the hell?” in one day? In one hour? Honestly, I think I read and watch TV so much to hide from reality… needed now more than ever.

8) I know I’ve posted about this many times before, but seriously — I am so much happier as a reader once I let any sort of schedule or planning go. Once again, I requested a bunch of ARCs at the start of the year, and once again, I started feeling less and less happy as the months went by and I had to keep looking at publication dates to make sure I was staying on track.

  • Why do I do this to myself? I know that I hate reading on a schedule.
  • I’m also (again) swearing off ARCs. Bad formatting drives me bananas. And look, it’s not doing anyone any favors if I sit down to review a book I’m mad at because it can’t get its line breaks to make sense.
  • I’m so much happier when I don’t have a list to stick to. I love the freedom of picking up whatever catches my eye, suits my fancy, tickles my funny bone…

9) It’s been interesting having no group reads going on this summer. With Outlander Book Club, we usually have one classic read and one re-read of a Gabaldon book going at the same time, two chapters each per week, and those go on FOREVER. Well, the two most recent wrapped up in June, and I’ve been free as a bird ever since.

  • I do love our group reads! And I truly am looking forward to starting up again with a classic (Ivanhoe) in August, and the Lord John books in September.
  • But man, it’s been nice to have no obligations to anyone but myself!

10) And finally, back to the subject of binges… I love reading graphic novels, but I find they go in one ear and out the other (or I suppose that should be in one eye and out the other?) pretty much immediately.

  • I can remember overall story and character arcs, but details? I can’t seem to keep these straight for more than a day or two after I read them
  • I love the Saga series, but I end up having the re-read the previous edition each time I get the newest book… which means that I’m two behind by now.
  • I read all volumes of The Walking Dead trade paperback editions over the last couple of months, and I can tell you the big picture of what happened, but I seem to have lost the particulars within a week of finishing. No idea.
  • I read the very entertaining limited series We Stand on Guard in June, six issues right in a row. It was fun at the time, but I don’t think I could identify a single individual character at this point, just the overall plot and resolution.
  • Maybe this is why I still haven’t finished Locke & Key. I can’t read the final volume without going back and rereading the first five, and I just haven’t felt like it so far. Which sucks, because I love this series.
  • Why don’t these stories stick with me? Is it me? Is it the format? Is there something about the graphic novel approach that leaves me with memory gaps?
  • Please tell me it’s not just me and my silly brain.

Happy August to all! I hope you all enjoy these last weeks of summer.

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Rereading and rethinking

I do love to re-read my favorite books. Don’t we all?

But have you ever re-read a book you didn’t love the first time around?

In thinking about it, it’s hard to come up with reasons to do so. After all, if I didn’t think it was great, why would I want to revisit it?

That’s been my take on the issue up to now. The only reasons I can think of to reread a book that wasn’t a favorite would be:

  • for a book group or discussion
  • after reading someone else’s take on the book and realizing I might have missed something
  • when there’s a new TV or movie adaptation coming out and generating a lot of buzz
  • wanting to give a favorite author another shot
  • trying the book in a different medium

My most recent experience with re-reading books that weren’t huge hits the first time around have to do with the last two bullet points on my list.

The author in question was Gail Carriger. I adored her Parasol Protectorate series — but found that two books in subsequent series, Espionage & Etiquette and Prudence, just didn’t appeal to me as much. (Want proof? Check out my lukewarm reviews!)

But recently, Gail Carriger released a couple of shorter fictions that I wanted to read (see my write-up, here), and those stories pulled me right back into her steampunk/supernatural world. What’s more, I was dying to stay in that world. And that made me think — had I really given those other books a proper chance?

I’ve become more and more convinced that reading doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What sort of mood was I in when I read a particular book? Where was I? What else was going on in my life? Maybe, in some circumstances, the main reason I didn’t take to a particular book has more to do with my own situation. In other words: It’s not you, it’s me.

(Not always, of course. Some books are just not good, and there’s no prettying it up.)

So, in the case of the Gail Carriger books, I decided to try again. This time, I thought I’d go with audiobooks.

Amazing decision.

I started listening to book 1 in the Finishing School series, Etiquette and Espionage, and absolutely could not stop. I loved the first book, and continued on straight through until I’d listened to all four books. (For why I loved them, see this post.) In fact, I was so in love with listening to this series that I was in dire need of a Carriger fix to feed my addiction once I’d finished, so I hunted down the audiobook of Prudence pretty much the second after finishing Manners & Mutiny.

Oh, my parasol. LOVED it. How could I love Prudence so much when I didn’t love it when I read it the first time? For me, there’s no getting around the fact that the amazing audiobook narrator, Moira Quirk, is a big factor. She does such a great job of capturing the different voices, the snippy/snarky banter, the nuances of aristocratic Victorian society — certain of her voices, in particular, leave me rolling on the floor in helpless laughter.

But would I love the printed books too? Probably. It could just be a mood thing, as I mentioned earlier. For whatever reason, my mindframe was such that I didn’t enjoy the books when I first read them — but right now? I’m having a ball. I’m totally in the mood for this level of silliness, combined with an underpinning of true emotions and friendship (and in the case of book #2, Imprudence, which I’m listening to now, some super sexy flirtation doesn’t hurt a bit).

Anyway, all this has made me wonder: How common is it to have strongly different opinions about the same books?

I do think it’s fairly common to re-read a book we remember loving, and find it a let down when rereading years later. But how about the opposite?

Have you ever felt “meh” (or worse) about a book, and then felt really differently about it when you read it again? And further, do you ever re-read books that you didn’t love the first time you read them?

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences! Please share your thoughts.

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Serious series reading: A look behind and a look forward

shelves-2

Resolutions come, resolutions go… but one that I’ve been getting better and better about sticking to over the last few years has to do with reading book series.

Last year, one of my bookish resolutions was:

I resolve to (attempt to) read series as a whole — all books in a row — rather than reading them as they come out and then forgetting all the details in between volumes.

This was not meant to be an absolute, of course. I do have some ongoing series that I’m crazy about, and I’ll continue to read those whenever new installments become available. But the intent of the resolution is clear — whenever possible, I want to resist the urge to start new, incomplete series, and focus instead on series that are already published and complete, so I can enjoy them as a whole instead of in bits and pieces.

How did I do? Let’s take a look at the series I read in 2016:

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: I had read the first book in the trilogy years ago, but had lost interest by the time the 2nd came out. This year, I listened to the audiobook of book #1, then continued in print with the 2nd and 3rd. (These books really must be read in hard copy in order to get the full experience, since the illustrations are really a part of the story.)

final peregrine banner

The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow: I got involved in this excellent series in 2015, and finished up the 20th and most recent book (as well as the four books in the spin-off series) by mid-2016. Such a fantastic reading experience — and I’m thrilled that #21 will be out in 2017!

kate 2

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: This is another series that I started years ago, and just came back to this year. Prompted by the TV adaptation, I decided to give The Magicians another chance, reread book 1 and then went through 2 and 3, and ended up loving the trilogy as a whole.

The Magicians MAgician King 2 Magician's Land

The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: I didn’t love this duology nearly as much as everyone else did, but I’m still glad that I read them together.

Wrath & the DawnRose & Dagger

The Giver by Lois Lowry: My son read The Giver for school last year, and I realized that I remembered almost nothing about it — so I went ahead and reread The Giver, then read the rest of the books in the quartet.

lowry-giver-quartet

And now, looking ahead…

Series I plan to read in 2017:

This is partially a plan, partially a wish list. I really do want to read all of these, but we’ll just have to wait and see how many I can actually commit to while still reading everything else that grabs my attention. My priority series for 2017 are:

Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: I love Scalzi’s writing, and now that I’ve read all of his stand-alones (I think), it’s time to finally dive into the series that’s supposed to be his masterpiece!

old-mans-war-series

Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch: After reading and loving Dark Matter this year, I absolutely have to check out this trilogy!

wayward-pines-series

Bill Hodges trilogy by Stephen King: I’ve had Mr. Mercedes on my shelf since it was published. At some point, it seemed to make more sense to wait for all three books to be available before starting. And now, I’m out of excuses!

bill-hodges

And maybe…

I have a few series openers that I’m interested in — but not quite ready to commit to at this point.

leviathan-wakesrosemary-rueTemeraire 1

Last but not least…

Let’s not forget two series I’m already committed to, and look forward to continuing in the New Year:

Ross PoldarkThe Poldark series by Winston Graham: I’ve read the first five books so far. That’s five down, seven to go! I find that I need to space these out, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of the TV show, so perhaps I’ll just tackle another one or two in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my very, very favorite:

silence_fallen_layout.inddThe Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs! Silence Fallen, the 10th Mercy book, will be out in March, and I cannot wait. I hope Patricia Briggs continues to create adventures for Mercy (as well as her spin-off series, Alpha & Omega) for many, many years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone else read series as a whole, rather than as they come out? What’s your preferred approach to reading book series? And what series are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Whatever your series-reading style, here’s wishing us all a fantastic year of reading!

Saturation point

satpoint

Saturation point…

Might I add another variation of the definition?

  • the stage beyond which no more book content can be absorbed by the reader’s brain.

Which pretty accurately describes my current state of being, which can also be described thusly:

brain-full

For the past few years, I’ve been able to successfully juggle multiple books at once — a book for fun, a book for book group, an audiobook for while I drive. I never thought I’d reach the point where my brain feels maxed out, but now I know:

My magic number is: five

Yup, I think I’ve reached my reading saturation point — the point at which my brain will not accept a single additional plot line, character, theme, or main idea. And symbolism? Foreshadowing? Don’t make me laugh.

I haven’t had quite this problem before. I usually do have several books on the go — typically, a big huge book from the Outlander series as part of my group read with Outlander Book Club; a classic read, also with the book club; whatever book I happen to be reading just for me (just for fun), and an audiobook for while I’m driving or exercising.

So why do I suddenly feel maxed out at 5?

Consider this: Of my five current books, 4 — yes, four — are brand-new to me.

The Outlander book (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) is a re-read, and although we’re reading and analyzing two chapters per week, it’s not taking up a huge amount of grey matter. I already know what happens. It’s not that I don’t have to think about it, but it’s still not taking in new concepts and information.

Then there’s the group classic read. Our last group classic was Emma by Jane Austen, which was oodles of fun — but which I’d read several times before. It was a blast reading it with the group, but again, it was a re-read for me. Hey, if you know any neurologists, can you ask them if re-reading a book uses different parts of the brain than reading a book for the first time? I’m no brain doctor, but I’m betting the answer is yes.

brain-girl

Our current classic read is A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway… and it’s completely new to me. I know nothing about the plot or characters, and I’m definitely having to put more effort into learning what’s what, getting the rhythm of the writing style, and understanding the shades and nuances of the story.

Then there’s the audiobook. I do a lot of re-reads via audiobook. I find that my mind is often slippery when it comes to listening to books, especially while I’m driving. If there’s bad traffic or I get stuck looking for parking in a crowded neighborhood, I can’t concentrate at all on what I’m listening to. But if I’m listening to the audio version of a book I’ve already read, I can relax, not worry too much about hearing every detail, and just enjoy revisiting something that I loved already the first time around.

At this moment, however, I’m listening to a new-to-me audiobook, The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. Granted, this is a pretty silly and light-hearted science fiction novel, but even so, I find myself getting caught up in the story… and even when I get out of the car or remove the earbuds from my ears, my brain does not want to disengage.

Plus, there’s my book book — whatever I’m reading right now, either via physical or e-book — my normal, everyday, just because I feel like it book. Basically, my daily reading fix.

And finally, I’m now tackling Moby Dick via the Serial Reader app, and I think it’s this one that’s pushing me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really loving Moby Dick! And I love the serial approach to reading such a huge book, getting manageable bites delivered each day.

The problem, I think, with my current reading, is that with 4 of my 5 reading commitments being completely new material, my engagement is getting split in way too many directions. I read a bit of Moby Dick, and I want to know more… but then I turn on the car and start listening to The Android’s Dream, and I can’t get the action sequences out of my head. When I have a few minutes of down time, I pick up my current novel (right now, The Magician King by Lev Grossman) and get totally into it… but then in the evening, I read the next day’s chapter of A Farewell To Arms and want more of that too.

brain4So…

Saturation point.

I think I’m there.

Five plotlines and sets of characters may finally represent my breaking point… my saturation point… the point beyond which I absolutely cannot absorb one more detail or shred of story.

Not that I’m willing to drop any of my five reading projects. But man, my head feels full to bursting sometimes.

Remind me to STOP THE MADNESS next time I need to choose an audiobook or rethink my reading commitments. Maybe it’s time to scale back on the amount of new fiction I’m trying to cram into my brain.

Meanwhile…

brain-is-full

Reading habits: Serial monogamy or open relationships?

book love 2

I’ve been unfaithful.

Oh, the shame.

book loveI’m usually a serial monogamist when it comes to my reading habits. Give me a book and time to read it, and I won’t look up until I’m done. Hand me another while I’m still reading the first, and straight to the book pile it goes.

I know plenty of readers who need a few books going at any given time, but that’s not me. I like the immersive experience of diving into a fictional world, hanging out with the characters, and devoting all my love to my one and only. Trying to maintain more than one relationship just doesn’t work for me.

And yet…

Yesterday, I cheated. I’m two-timing, and now I’m torn between two relationships. They each want my time and attention. There’s something so attractive about each. They fill different needs in my life, and they both make me feel good. Don’t make me choose!

Hee. Melodramatic much?

The mundane background is this: Yesterday, I had to drive my son to what was supposed to be an all-day event taking place in a town about an hour’s drive from home. The plan was that I’d drop him off at 10 in the morning, and pick him up at 10 pm. All good so far. About 15 minutes after leaving home, the kiddo expressed doubt. Normally, I’d tell him to suck it up and live up to his commitments… but he struck where it hurt: If he stayed for the entire event, he wouldn’t have enough time to do a good job on a school assignment. Wow, sneaky. I agreed to pick him up after the first part of the event, at which point it wouldn’t make sense for me to drive home and then go back, so it was off in search of a Starbucks I went to while away a few hours.

Problem? No book.

I was mid-way through a sci-fi/detective story that I was really enjoying, but anticipating just driving there and back, I didn’t have the book with me. Silly me. I normally NEVER leave the house without a book. What was I thinking?

Stuck in a coffee shop with hours to kill, I simply had no choice. I opened up the Kindle app on my phone and started a new book, an ARC I’d received for a romantic story by an author whose works I’d enjoyed previously.

And it was good.

I read about 35% while waiting to get back on mom duty. And then I had a dilemma: Keep going with the new book, which I was into at this point, or go back to the original book I’d been reading?

Either way, my heart and mind will only be halfway devoted to the book I’m with. I may be reading one, but I’ll be wondering about the other. Am I doing the right thing? What if the other one isn’t as good when I go back to it? What if it pales by comparison — but if I’d never strayed, I might have been perfectly satisfied? How can I be happy with just one when I know there’s another one out there that I feel drawn to?

Oh, the torment of a cheater’s heart!

I’m sure I’ll get through it, but I have to ask: What’s your relationship style with the books in your life?

Are you a serial monogamist — one book at a time, no room for another, until you’ve gotten all the way to the end and you’re ready for something new?

Or do you prefer an open relationship — why limit yourself to just one when there are so many options? Do you read several books at once, going from one to another as the mood strikes?

Right now, as I debate which of my two books to continue with today, I’m thinking that I’m not cut out for the two-timing lifestyle. Once I finish one (or the other), it’ll be back to monogamy for me!

The Trouble with Trilogies

I have a problem with trilogies. But not just trilogies.

Sequels, series, you name it. Anything that’s to be continued is just trouble for me right now.

Why?

Because after a certain point, I just don’t care. If I have to wait a year to find out what happens next, most of the time, I simply won’t still be interested enough to bother with it.

Why are there so many trilogies in the YA fiction world now? Why is it practically the norm to turn every potentially good story into a series? Whatever happened to a beginning, middle and end all in one book?

I loved The Diviners by Libba Bray. I preordered book 2, which was supposed to be out this summer. Lo and behold, the release has been delayed until 2015. Guess what? By the time Lair of Dreams comes out, I don’t know that I’ll feel like bothering any more. Sure, I loved the characters and the setting of the first book. The plot was different and interesting and made me want to know more. But I was also mostly satisfied with how it ended, and in fact my only quibble about the book was the fact that it was clearly building up to an ongoing story, even though the main plot of The Diviners did have a pretty great wrap-up.

Another example: I just DNF’d a book that concludes a YA trilogy that I’d enjoyed so far, by an author whose writing I admire very much. But yeah… I read the first two books, and I liked them a lot. But time has gone by, and I don’t feel a burning need to know more about the story, and when I read the first couple of chapters, I realized I’d be totally fine with not reading the book. Just. Didn’t. Care.

So what’s this mini-rant all about? I guess I’m just fed up with stories being stretched into three (or more) books when they could be told in one. The trilogy I just walked away from could have made one really good book, and I can think of a few others where the same would be true. Is it just publishers wanting to sell more books? Does a series have a glamor to it that a stand-alone doesn’t?

Look, I do read series. Take Outlander or A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance. These books are huge, and the worlds they contain are vast, and each book is an event. Or, for example, some of the great ongoing urban fantasy series, such as the Dresden Files books or the Mercy Thompson series. Each book in these is a new chapter, a new adventure, in a carefully created world that continues to grow and expand. I love all of the above — and will keep reading them until the authors are done, or until an asteroid wipes out life on Earth, or something equally cataclysmic occurs.

The problem with so many of the series out there, particularly (but not exclusively) in YA, is that a lot of them feel like filler. With many of the YA trilogies I’ve read over the years, the story is stretched and padded and chopped in order to make three books out of a story that, with some good editing and tightening up, could have been one great book. I’m tired of the “to be continued” ending that exists just to keep us coming back for more (or, to put it more cynically, exists just to keep us taking out our credit cards).

Not that my complaint is about the money, really: It’s about the storytelling. Tell me a great story, make me care, introduce me to amazing characters, and have a compelling story arc. With an ending.

Like I said, some series are great and deserve every page and every volume. But sadly, there are a lot that miss the mark by a long shot.

So, yeah, today I walked way from book 3 in a trilogy that I actually thought had a pretty good start.

If it’s been a year and I haven’t thought about the earlier books in all that time, even if I liked them when I read them, then chances are when the big finale finally rolls around, I won’t be around for it. Because I just won’t care any more.

Just something to think about.

2014: My bookish resolutions for the New Year

stamp-143189_640I never used to make New Year’s resolutions… other than the usual vague statements about working out more, eating healthier, and cleaning out my closets. But since entering the world of blogging, I have a bit more motivation to put my intentions into words, especially when it comes to my book-related and blog-related plans and commitments.

Without further ado, my bookish, bloggy resolutions for 2014:

1) Organize, organize, organize!  At the risk of sounding completely geeky, I must admit that Excel has been a lifesaver this past year! After seeing a big upsurge in ARC approvals, I realized I was losing control, and finally came up with a tracking system that works for me. Now all of my upcoming review copies are listed in a nifty little worksheet, sorted by publication date, review status, and source, and I can always tell at a glance where I’m on target and where I’m falling behind. Plus, it’s easy to see when I’m becoming too swamped, so I know which months to avoid for future ARC requests. For 2014, I want to expand how I use my system, adding in other key reading targets — such as new releases that I’m excited to read, or older books that I’ve vowed to get to — so that I don’t end up frustrated when I never seem to have the time for what I truly want to read.

2) Ease up on the requests. On the positive side, I now get approved for a lot more of my NetGalley and Edelweiss requests. On the negative side, I haven’t yet adjusted my requesting volume to reflect this. I used to request a lot of books, based on the assumption that I’d get turned down for many of them. Well, now that I’m getting approved more, I suddenly have more than I can handle! It’s okay — with the help of my handy-dandy worksheet, I’ve got it more or less under control, but I cannot allow myself to continue adding to the backlog!

3) Attend more author events. I think I made it to four book signings and/or author appearances in 2013, and I loved them all. I happen to live someplace where there are always amazing events going on, so I just need to make more of an effort to keep track of what’s happening and then actually GO.

4) Show my shelves some love. Without picking a specific number of books or a definite ratio of new to old, I’d like to just state a general goal of hitting my bookshelves more often and making sure to leave time for the unread books I already own, rather than always moving on to the next new thing.

5) Diversify. This was a resolution from last year that didn’t go very far, but once again, I’d like to make a point of reading 3 – 5 books from outside of my usual fiction comfort zone. History, science, sociology, memoirs? We shall see.

6) No challenges! If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself as a reader, it’s that I don’t like being told what to read — even if I’m the one doing the telling. This is why I suck at book groups. Sure, I’ll read the group book… if it’s something I want to read anyway. In the past, I’ve signed up for challenges, but I’ve never stuck to them. Because as soon as some other shiny new book comes along, I ditch my older reading plans and just read whatever I feel like. So in 2014, I’ll just be realistic, concentrate on reading whatever I feel like reading, and not enter any reading challenges! Even though there are some really good and clever ones out there… but no! Not for me! I’ll remain challenge-free!

7) No new series. This is a continuation of one of the resolutions I actually stuck with in 2013: I vow not to start any new series this year — with the following exceptions (because, of course, any good rule has exceptions):

  • New series by authors I love are allowed.
  • It’s okay to start a new series if the entire series has already been published.
  • It’s also okay to start a new series if the final volume will be released in 2014.
  • Obviously, if new books come out that are part of a series I already read, they’re totally fair game.

8) Take stock and take a step back. I’m still working through this one, but starting early in 2014, I plan to take a fresh look at my regular features on my blog, figure out what’s working (and what’s not), and really think about what should be kept, what should be tweaked, what should be replaced, and what should be added. Very vague, I know, but this resolution is really just a way of noting the fact that it’s a good idea every once in a while to reevaluate and try to avoid getting stuck in annoying or unproductive ruts.

nyres9) Breathe, relax, enjoy. I vow to continue to remind myself throughout the year that first and foremost, I read for my own enjoyment. When the blog stress starts to mount or I feel like I have to read something that I’m not excited about, it’s time to hit the pause button, take a few deep breaths, and then do what makes me happy. I read because I love books. And every once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to say that out loud!

May you all be blessed with health, happiness, laughter, and great reading in this wonderful new year!

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Another Day, Another DNF

I seem to have stumbled upon a hot-button issue when I tweeted earlier today:

Based on some of the responses I received, DNFing is a thing to be both feared and desired.

So… the dreaded Did Not Finish….

Why do we avoid it? When do we embrace it? When is it just absolutely necessary?

For me, I used to be a big believer in Just Finish The Damn Book. I kind of prided myself (in my young & foolish days) on always finishing whatever I started.

But now that I’m older and wiser (or really, just older and busier), I just can’t justify taking the time when I know — I mean, really KNOW — that a book just isn’t happening for me.

Different emotions apply in different circumstances. Take my two most recent DNFs:

In the case of the first, I was reading a review copy of an upcoming YA novel. It was… just okay. I thought it sounded like fun, but the writing didn’t grab me, the plot wasn’t terribly believable, and by about the halfway point, I realized that I didn’t care. Would it get better within the next few chapters? I peeked ahead about 25 pages. Nope, still didn’t care. Would it at least have a great ending? Skipped to the final pages. Nope, still didn’t care. And what’s worse — it didn’t actually end! On the final page, it became clear that this book was the first in a series. Oh, hell to the no! That was all it took for me to put the book aside.

Still, I did feel a bit remorseful, as I’d requested the ARC and  have been trying my best to read and review everything I’ve requested. I did do what I thought was right in this circumstance: I sent feedback to the publisher explaining that I wouldn’t be reviewing the book because it wasn’t a good fit for me. I have featured the book in a few “hey, look what I’ve got!” type of posts, so in my own meager little way, I have helped spread the word. And, although I mentioned in that week’s Monday Agenda post that I didn’t finish and why, I tried to make it clear that the book would certainly appeal to some readers — it just wasn’t for me.

All in all, I walked away from it feeling a bit let down over not liking a book that I thought would be fun — but I wasn’t at all sorry not to finish the book itself.

In my most recent DNF scenario, my feelings are a bit more complicated. I bought a book by an author I admire — in fact, I preordered the book months ago, and was so excited to get my shiny new hardcover edition as soon as it was released! I’ve read everything by this author, and either loved, really liked, or mostly liked all of her previous books. But this one? Well. Today, I reached page 150, and just kind of sighed and moaned and then realized — that’s it. The plot has gone nowhere. There are so many made-up words that I feel like I need a glossary. The world-building is incomplete and not terribly comprehensible. Really, to be blunt, I’ve come this far, and I just don’t care. So I face a choice: Push onward, or quit?

If you’d asked me 10 years ago, then of course the answer would be: Onward! But I can’t really think that way any more.

I work, I’m a mom, I read tons, and I blog. I also try to have a bit of time for goofing off, hanging out with my family, watching TV, and kicking back.

Life’s too short to read books I don’t like!

So with this current book, I’m afraid it’s going to have to be a DNF, again. This one really breaks my heart a little bit, both a) because I bought the &*^%$ hardcover! and b) because I’d been looking forward to it so much.

I’m putting it aside — for now? — and moving on. Perhaps the mood will strike me in another week or two and I’ll go back to it and finish. But I doubt it. (PS – I cheated a bit and started reading Goodreads reviews once I hit the wall today — and nothing I read made me feel like I should reconsider or give it another go.)

The DNF issue seems to be a big one for a lot of readers. Press on? Give up? Is it failure to DNF? Is it a lack of commitment? Or is it a gift to yourself (as I’ve come to feel) to acknowledge that your time would be better spent on something else?

Sometimes, it’s just the mood. This book isn’t working for me right now, but maybe another time. Sometimes, it’s the book itself: I can’t stand the writing. I don’t like the characters. I realize that I’m just not interested in xyz.

Whatever the case, I always want to feel like I gave a book my best shot… but I’m not too proud (or for me, stubborn is probably a better word for it!) to walk away when it’s time to move on.

Charleen at Cheap Thrills wrote an excellent piece on How To DNF in Two (Not-So-Simple) Steps. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to finish a book that, in your heart of hearts, you just don’t want to read any more, then definitely check out her advice!

So, how about you? Do you force yourself to finish a book even if you’re not enjoying it? Has your attitude toward the dreaded DNF changed over time? How do you approach the decision to put a book aside, and is it hard for you? And do you find yourself going back to your DNF pile — or are you more of a “if I’m done, I’m done” kind of reader?

As for me, I think I experienced a semi-epiphany the day that I first gave myself permission to stop reading a book that wasn’t working for me, and while I don’t do it often, I do happily feel that DNF is a valid choice… and certainly one that has saved me hours and days of unhappy reading.

And happy reading? That’s what it’s all about.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things That Make My Reading & Blogging Life Easier

fireworks2Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Things That Make Your Life as a Reader/Book Blogger Easier. This is a toughie. Can I get to ten?

1) Goodreads: What is there to say? I love being able to keep track of my reading, love seeing what my friends are reading, love the great resources. One nifty aspect (yes, I used the word “nifty”) is being able to access so many cool stats about my reading. Author I’ve read the most? Check. All books I’ve rated 5-stars in 2013? Check. No end to the awesomeness of Goodreads.

2) The public library. I love my neighborhood branch. It’s clean, it’s bright, it has views of the ocean, and it has everything I could possibly want! I especially love being able to put in requests and have books transferred to my branch.

My library. I love it so.

3) Good book sections in the newspaper: My local newspaper has an excellent Sunday book section. In addition, a couple of years ago I treated myself to a mail subscription to the Book Review section of the Sunday New York Times. Both are wonderful resources for me to use to stay current on new releases, see what’s being promoted and what’s coming up, and keep up with all the various bestseller charts. Maybe (okay, more than likely) I’m a dinosaur for continuing to rely on paper resources, but I do find these invaluable.

4) NetGalley: A huge and heart-felt THANK YOU to NetGalley for providing access to all those wonderful pre-release review copies. Even though I don’t always get approved for the books I want, I get approved for a lot — and have read and reviewed some wonderful books thanks to this terrific resource. Plus, their Wellness Challenge earlier this year was so helpful!

5) Other bloggers: Oh, you guys! You rock! It’s such a thrill to interact on a regular basis with so many smart, funny, insightful people. I’ve found the book blogging community to be so warm and supportive in the 1+ year I’ve been blogging. Couldn’t do it without y’all!

6) Free tools: How I love the free stuff! My superstar go-to resources right now are Pixabay for free public domain images and Picmonkey for awesome photo editing tools. Of course, every once in a while, I’ve wanted a special something that I couldn’t find via a public domain image library — and I’ve found some great items via IStockPhoto. The prices are reasonable, and the selection is terrific!

7) Social media: For keeping up to date, as well as heaping doses of pop culture wackiness and nerdgirl fun, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are endlessly helpful — and totally diverting, especially when a little procrastination is called for.

8) Post-It flags: Silly, right? But since I prefer to do my reading with physical books, and since I refuse to highlight or underline, these little flags are my go-to item for marking pages or passages that I want to find again. Especially for books I know I’ll be reviewing, they’re essential. (You should see my current book — it’s like a little rainbow flag all along the edge!)

photo 2v

I get a bit carried away sometimes.

9) Kindle/E-reader: I really do prefer physical books, but most of my review copies are e-books. On the down side, the review copy formatting is often problematic. On the plus side, I do love Kindle’s highlighting feature, which makes it so easy to mark and return to passages of interest.

10) My family: Much as they may mock me at times (“Reading? Again???”), my loved ones are pretty good about giving me quiet time when I need it to read, to write, to edit… so long as I come back and play board games or otherwise make myself useful when I’m done.

Oh, and I guess I’ll add in a #11! This one occurred to me on the late side, and I don’t want to delete any of my first ten…

11) Authors who rock! I really, really appreciate the authors who take the time to answer questions, interact with readers on a regular basis, and respond with warmth and friendliness when contacted. And the authors who’ve appeared in my local bookstores, signing books, and even taking pictures with fan after fan? Priceless!

I guess getting to ten wasn’t that hard after all! What’s on your list this week?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out our regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a blog hop or book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Goals For 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013

I recently did a blog post about my bookish resolutions for 2013, and at first thought this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic would be a bit redundant. But thinking about it further, goals and resolutions are not necessarily synonymous. After all, a resolution is something that I’m committing to seeing through, generally something that’s a stretch or that takes real effort. (I know, I know, resolutions are make to be broken. How well I remember those pounds I was going to lose last year…) But goals? Goals, to me, represent attainable results, maybe more of a work plan than a grand ambition.

So, in no particular order, my bookish goals for the new year:

1) Concentrate on reading books that I already own. Do less buying and borrowing. I love my public library and the wonderful used books stores in town, but really, I have plenty on my shelves to keep me busy. Time to tone down my obsessive need to get my hands on every new book that comes out.

2) Purge! See # 1 — I have plenty of books on my shelves (and spilling off my shelves…), but let’s face facts: There are books in my house that I picked up years ago, and every time I think about reading one of them, my first reaction is “nah, not in the mood”. When this continues happening with the same books for a really long period of time, it’s time for those books to go! One of my big goals for 2013 is to pull out all of those books that I’ll never get around to reading and find them a new home. If I donate my unwanted books to our local library sale, I’ll be doing a good deed as well as improving my overly-cluttered habitat. Two birds, one stone!

3) Organize! I bought beautiful new bookshelves earlier this year, assembled them, shoved lots and lots of books on them in an initial frenzy of moving books off the floor and out of boxes and bags… and I’ve done nothing since. My shelves lack any semblance of rhyme or reason. I look forward to a few leisurely afternoons of taking books off the shelves, figuring out a system, and reassembling my little personal library. Preferably while holding  a nice, hot cup of coffee. Or maybe something a wee bit stronger.

4) Find new ways to engage my child in reading. My adorable, smart, funny son practically runs in the opposite direction whenever I ask him to take time to read. He loves stories, loves being read to — just doesn’t want to sit and read himself. I think we may have achieved a bit of a breakthrough recently: I downloaded a book for him on my IPad, and suddenly reading became fun! I hate the idea that technology has to be involved, but I suppose I should count my blessings and be glad that he’s reading at all. Still, I know the newness of the IPad will soon fade and I’ll have to find new and creative ways to get this kid to read.

5) Read a classic that I’ve never read before. I’ve read all of Jane Austen, but only one book by Charles Dickens. I’ve read Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair, but I’ve never read The Grapes of Wrath or The Sun Also Rises. I don’t know what it will be, but I do know that I want to read at least one classic book this year. Which fits in with #6…

6) Read outside the box. I’m a fiction-lover, through and through, deep down to my bones. But I do enjoy other genres when I read them, even if I really have to force myself to depart from the fiction world. I’d like to branch out a bit, maybe read a little history, a science book, maybe some social commentary, a biography or two. Again, I haven’t picked anything in particular yet, but this is a good “note to self” to remember to make time to branch out a bit.

7) Attack the fairies! OK, that’s my cutesy way of trying to force myself to commit to reading the book I was so excited to get a couple of months ago: Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman. I have a well-documented problem with short story collections, and despite the fact that I love fairy tales and I love Philip Pullman, I still haven’t been able to sit down and open this book. Perhaps I need some serious psychotherapy to figure out why I have such a problem with stories… or perhaps I just need a good list like this one to force me into action. Time will tell.

These next two are really more blog-related than specifically bookish, but since I blog about books, it works for me.

8) Explore the blogosphere. My blog was born in 2012 and I’ve spent the first several months of its life just feeling my way forward. Now it’s time to reach out a bit more, try to connect with other readers and bloggers, and expand my reach and my online community. My goal is to participate in more blogging events, challenges, bloghops, etc. I hope to meet some cool and interesting people along the way, get some great new ideas, and really get a better sense of what’s out there and what I can do with a blog.

9) Get techie with it. Again, in the world of blogging, I’m sure there are a lot more resources and tools than what I’m currently using. My other bloggy goal is to explore the technical resources that can help make me a better blogger. (Ideas? Suggestions? Referrals? I’m all ears!)

Finally, the one that really matters, probably more than all of the above:

10) Slow down. Stop focusing on the numbers. Stop worrying about stats. Read for pleasure. Pick books because they’re what I want to read. Take as long as it takes to read, savor, enjoy, contemplate, consider, ponder, and reflect. Remember that I read because I love it, not because I have a challenge to meet or a blog post to write. When I stop enjoying my reading and start finding it more of a chore, I know I’m doing something wrong. READ FOR LOVE. That is all.