Friday Fragments: Book Fast Reading & Lessons Learned

Angry “Birds”

I enjoyed the discussions about female anger and angry heroines, both here and elsewhere, prompted by my post on Lady of Quality. I don’t think of myself as a woman who has a hard time with anger, but I was reminded this week that sometimes even when I think my anger is justified, I have a hard time feeling that way. And I can feel guilty that I wasn’t “nice” about my anger. Turned out I needed that post.

Book Fast Update

With two weeks left in Lent, I am finding my book-buying fast surprisingly easy. I’ve added only 7 things to my wishlist. I’m pretty sure I won’t buy most of them once Easter comes, either. Some things I noticed:

  • A lot of my wishlist books are older. What’s hot in romance right now is mostly not my bag, baby. (I think I already knew that, but now I don’t even feel bad about not being into it).
  • I pick up a lot that I’m only mildly interested in simply because they are cheap. Once I couldn’t buy new books, I looked at things like Dear Author’s daily deals post and thought, “Eh, nothing I can’t live without.” I expected to want more of those books, because I usually pick up at least a couple every month.
  • I often buy a book by an author I’ve liked in the past as soon as it comes out, even if I still have some of that author’s books (including earlier books in the same series!) in my TBR. Why am I doing that? What if I don’t like those TBR books much, and decide I’m done with the author? Then I’ll be sorry I bought the latest, but still feel I “should” read it. Ugh.
  • I’m more swayed by what’s popular in my on-line circle, and on-line generally, than I thought–both for and against. For instance, when everyone started talking about a certain book, at first I felt left out and really wanted to be able to buy and read it and join the conversation. But because I wasn’t part of that conversation, it came to seem like too much noise. At this point I actively don’t want to read the book. It’s the hype conundrum again: if you’re in the circle, it’s great; if you’re outside, it’s annoying. I’m not sure what the lesson for me is. Don’t spend so much time on Twitter, probably.
  • There’s another book, by an author I’ve had mixed success with in the past, that many people I follow are reading/planning to read. I thought I would be buying it as soon as Lent ended. But I haven’t been interested in erotic romance lately, and the plotline of this one doesn’t appeal to me. I’m glad I couldn’t impulse-buy it. I “auto-buy” too much rather than deciding on a book-by-book basis. I don’t want to turn myself off an author I enjoy some of the time. Not every book by an author will be a winner for me. So why am I buying them all?

I might have changed some of the buying habits that have led to my too-big TBR woes, which was really my goal with this resolution. If I had it to do over again I would give up library books, because the real point for me is not so much not to spend money but not to acquire things I don’t really want. The library kept me from discovering the abundance excess that is my TBR.

What I’ve Been Reading

A lot of mysteries: on audio, Heyer, Footsteps in the Dark: meh, too farcical for me; Andrea Camilleri, The Age of Doubt: I like the Siciliy-set Inspector Montalbano series a lot, but haven’t read one for ages. I skipped over several books because this was what I found first at the library, and found reading out of order to be no problem. I love the descriptions of food and the crazy colleagues. These books are short and on the light side, but not weightless, thanks in part to Montalbano’s philosophical bent. I’ve already downloaded another. Jim Butcher, Storm Front: has been in my audio TBR forever. It’s urban fantasy, but I thought very much hardboiled-ish PI with magic. I would listen to more in this series, though I didn’t like it as much as Ben Aaronovitch. It’s an older recording and at first I found narrator James Marsters’ (yes, Spike from Buffy) breathing distracting–that gets edited out or not picked up in newer recordings–but in the end it seemed very human and intimate, which worked with the first-person narration.

In print: Malla Nunn, Let the Dead Lie. Second Emmanuel Cooper book set in 50s South Africa. I thought this was a bit stronger than the first one and continue to enjoy Nunn’s vivid depiction of physical and social setting (though the race relations can certainly be painful to read about).

Verdict on all these: I love mystery but I’ve had a run where women are very secondary characters, and appear mainly as femmes fatales, love interests, sex workers, or wives. I am tired of this. I’m craving a more woman-centered book.

I did read a couple of those: Marion Lennox’s linked Harlequin Romances (the heroines are sisters) Her Outback Rescuer and A Bride for the Maverick Millionaire. Lennox is a reliable pleasure for me and these were perfect for a stressful week. I liked the first better, maybe because I read them too close together, but I also thought #2 had too much external drama for such a short book. My favorite scene in HOR was a hike where ex-commando hero Hugo tries to outrun his feelings for the heroine; tiny ex-ballerina Amy matches him all the way. One of those symbolic moments good category authors do so well.

I finished both audio and print reads last night and can’t quite decide what to read next. I’ve got plenty of good stuff to choose from, though!

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17 Responses to Friday Fragments: Book Fast Reading & Lessons Learned

  1. willaful says:

    Your experiences really mirrors mine, as I’ve mostly forgone book buying for the time being. (The one time I gave in, I regretted it.) I too am compensating at the library, so the TBR isn’t depleting as I’d like. But I feel much better about not wasting money and time, I’m reading what I feel like reading, and I’m making inroads into some neglected series. And yes, all the buzz about books I have no interest in is very wearying. Perhaps I need to cull some of my GoodReads friends.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Why is it so hard sometimes just to read what we feel like reading? Isn’t that the point? I get cranky when my over-developed senses of guilt and duty work their way into my leisure pursuits.

      I’m trying not to complain about buzz because I don’t want to begrudge others their pleasure. I do my best to tune out what annoys me.

  2. Erin Satie says:

    A word about the Jim Butcher series — I am a huge fan, so biased obviously, but it’s one of those series that really gets stronger from book to book. I thought the first was silly and waffled about reading the second, which is where I really got invested. I’ve heard other people say it took until book 4.

    At the time when Butcher started the series, 10+ years ago, I think the selection in Urban Fantasy was small enough that a few weak books were easier to overlook. That’s not really the case anymore, so lots of people try Storm Front & move on, but the later books in the series are pretty amazing.

    Mind you, I’ve been meaning to start book #2 in the Aaronovitch series for ages & haven’t gotten around to it, so I know how that goes.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Yes, if I’d been clearer, my feeling on the Butcher was that it was a decent start to a series, and I expect the series to get better. So I didn’t love it, but was intrigued enough to read/listen more (I wish my library had it in audio–it’s a big investment at this point!).

      Do later books feel more distinctly Chicago-set? I didn’t feel the setting was that well-realized. The London setting/history is one thing I love about Aaronovitch (and also a reason I love one of my favorite female-PI series, Sara Paretsky’s, which is very much grounded in its Chicago setting).

      • Erin Satie says:

        Chicago set…maybe not? I don’t know. I don’t know Chicago so I don’t have any sense of what would make the setting feel more or less authentic.

  3. Reading e-ARCs from Edelweiss and Net Galley has made it difficult to keep up with what “everybody” is reading: my book choices are months ahead of everyone. As a result, my reading tastes are then shaped by the future releases I am reading right now (e.g. when I finished Beatriz Williams’ 1930s romantic historical, I wanted to read a romance set in the 1930s), so current releases don’t seem very interesting, lol. Also, My category romance reading has increased, which, outside of a few authors, isn’t exactly a hot topic amongst general Romancelandia.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      That’s one reason I don’t read ARCs. I don’t want to be “ahead” or feel there’s no one to talk to about what I’m reading–even if “talk to” just means checking out what other readers on GR have posted. Of course, some people post cryptic Goodreads reviews of books that aren’t out for months.

      • SonomaLass says:

        I think that’s why I often wait to read ARCs until right before the book comes out, if it’s something I think I’ll want to talk about. I read the upcoming Deanna Raybourn book much too early, because it just fit my mood, and I haven’t been able to discuss is with anyone, which I regret. I’ll have to at least skim it before I can review it, which isn’t bad but also isn’t very effective use of my limited reading time.

        On the other hand, I am enjoying some books that I got as “deals” a while ago but didn’t read right away, mostly because I got them for my Kobo rather than my Kindle, and then the Kobo died and took weeks to replace. And it is good to have some books squirreled away for nights when I am in a picky mood and need to look at several options before anything catches my fancy. Especially Harlequin Supers and Presents.

        • Liz Mc2 says:

          I have so many category books from various sales squirreled away! But they’re great to discover in certain moods. Sometimes a short book that can be finished quickly gives me a necessary feeling of accomplishment. “Yes! I read something! And it didn’t take a week.”

      • I can’t help it–I’m nosy (and a writer), so I always know about books I want to read the moment I read its entry in Publishers’ Marketplace. 😉 I must also be frank and admit that I like free books, lol. My book buying budget is frustratingly slender these days, so I grab what I can get.

  4. VacuousMinx says:

    As is pretty obvious by now, I’m in the same boat when it comes to what’s hot in romance, and that’s been true for me for the last few months at least. There are still plenty of new releases left for me to read, since I’m always going to gravitate toward category romances and certain styles of contemps. But I did feel a little on the margins at first. I was heartened by the lively discussions of two recent DA reviews, mine for Mary Stewart’s Wildfire at Midnight and Jayne’s review of the Elizabeth Chadwick historical. It reminded me that there is definitely a constituency for not-hot books, it’s just quieter.

    There was a great column at All About Romance’s blog today, about hoarding and the TBR pile. I’m not going to say how big mine is, but I know I could read for years without buying a new book. So while my instinct is to pick up a hot book and see what the fuss is about, I’m going to try to avoid buying any book that isn’t clearly in my sweet spot.

    Sometimes the buzz is fun, sometimes it’s exhausting. I guess it’s like any social community that way.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      That column was so great! I identified, though I’m too scared/shamed to ever do that math.

      “I’m going to try to avoid buying any book that isn’t clearly in my sweet spot.” That is what I’m aiming for. Part of my problem is that getting an e-reader more or less coincided for me with discovering romance. I acquired a lot sort of aimlessly before I really understood my romance-reading tastes. Now I do much better at choosing books, buzzed or not, that are likely to work for me. I still do pick some up just out of curiosity, to see if I’ll like that kind of thing or to get a sense of the breadth of the genre. And because, as you know, the sweet spot can be a moving target.

      ETA: I added Chadwick to my wishlist and am eyeing the Stewarts I picked up used a while back. Those DA discussions were great! And a good reminder that friends who love some of the new things we don’t care for also have tastes that overlap with ours.

      • willaful says:

        My problem is similar, except it was paperbackswap. I acquired so many books from deals (also from library sales) before I understood my tastes. And the problem has continued with my ereader and getting involved in the romance community. The sweet spot is definitely what I’m aiming for, though even there I’m trying not to buy for now. It’s so much harder for me to get rid of books I already own than to not acquire them in the first place.

  5. Jen says:

    Dude, I need to go on a book fast! First step: turn OFF the one-click option on Amazon! 🙂 It’s too tempting. I’m making an effort to get more books at my library and I have two credits waiting for me at paperbackswap.
    The books that are on everyone’s radar are VERY much not my thing (as you probably know :P) and it’s super disappointing. It’s nice to feel as though you’re part of a community, but lately those books just seem to bore or underwhelm or offend me on some level so I just can’t deal. I’m trying to look outside the box, and seek out the books that really appeal to me instead of just following the leader. Been thinking about easing back on romance in general, and reading other genres.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I have definitely been mixing up genres more, and it’s helped a lot. And I noticed you’re reading things no one else in my Goodreads feed is!

  6. Lynnd says:

    Liz: I have not been as successful as you in giving up buying all books during lent – I bought four books that came on sale and one book I had been considering for awhile was free. Overall though, I think that the book buying fast made me realize that I get bored or in a reading slump, I am susceptible to the hype that happens around certain books that sound “interesting” – it’s amazing how the hype works. The four books that I did end up buying were by favourite authors (I already own the hardcovers for two of them, but they are my comfort reads and I have wanted to have them in “e” for a long time but I was not prepared to pay a ridiculous price for them). The other two were an anthology and one of the previous books in the series that I had borrowed from the library (I started a reread of the books and found that I had missed a lot the first time through). Looking forward, there just isn’t a lot coming out in the next few months that I am really interested in buying and if I do get lured by hype, I think that I will be using my wishlist much more than the buy button. Given that lent is a tme for reflection, I think that this book fast taught me much, and I thank you for the inspiration.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Thanks, Lynn, interesting to hear from someone else trying it. I did spend my Audible credits, and I downloaded a couple of free public domain Sayers books, so I feel I cheated a little. But I managed to restrain some buying impulses.

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