Top Ten Tuesday: Changes in Reading Habits

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is Changes in Reading Habits.  This is a good personal one for me because my habits have actually changed a lot in the past few years, and sometimes it’s hard not to default back to them.  I attribute a lot of these changes to joining GoodReads a few years ago- which I do think, when taken advantage of, can help people reach their reading goals.

Trying New Authors – This is probably the biggest change for me in the past five years or so.  I used to find an author I really loved and just read everything they’d write until I was forced to find a new author.  While my reading stats are currently out of date- at last count 69% of the authors I’ve read this year have been new to me.  (In 2018 it was 65% new-to-me, and in 2017 it was 63% new-to-me, in 2016 I think this number would have ben 15-25%).

Reading more women – For some inexplicable reason I have a tendency to read more male authors.  It isn’t something I’ve done on purpose and I don’t even think I realized I was doing it until I started tracking my reading stats.  At my last count I was at 45% women, 52% men, and 3% non-binary.  This is up from 39% women and 61% men in 2017.

Listening to audiobooks – I’m not a good listener.  It’s just not one of my skills.  I finally started listening to audio books in 2018 and that accounted for 10% of my reading.  This year my tally is only 3%, but I also haven’t counted a lot of the short stories I’ve listened to from Amazon (or the book I’m currently listening to: The Strain!).

Reading Graphic Novels – For a long time, I sort of detested the idea of reading Graphic Novels.  It just doesn’t feel like reading to me.  Like it kind of defeated the purpose?  I still don’t read very many, but the ones I do pick up I love!


I DNF – Okay- so before GoodReads I DNF’d quite often.  But not really by choice?  Typically I’d lose interest and just set the book down one day and not pick it back up again.  This year I decided to choose to DNF because I’m not having the greatest reading year and I’m tired of slogging it through books I don’t like.

So those are the five big ones.  Habits I’m still working on: seeking out marginalized and #ownvoices authors, as well as to stop requesting so many ARCs.  I prefer to be able to mood read- and there’s nothing stopping me from picking up new books at the library if I really can’t wait.

Which of your reading habits have changed over time?

 

 

Three Mini Book Reviews

I am way behind on my book reviews and just my blogging in general.  Can you tell?  Luckily with an added day in my weekend I might finally catch up.  So I apologize for the double posts.  A couple of these are just quick DNF reviews.  I just wanted to note down something about them in case they come up again later- writing the reviews helps me remember the book

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

This was a DNF for me so I’m not going to rate it.  This was my first experience with Rushdie, and while I think he’s a talented writer, his style is just not for me.

Quichotte is a retelling of Don Quixote, about a lonely pharmaceutical salesman who imagines a son into existence.  The son’s imagined mother is a soap opera star, who’s never met Quichotte in her life.

The story actually was starting to get interesting at about the time I quit, and I think in any other year, when I hadn’t already been so frustrated by my reading, I would have continued.  But Quichotte has the misfortune of coming after already having read two McCarthy books, and while this topic isn’t nearly as dark as anything McCarthy’s put out, their styles are very similar.  These sentences just run on and on and on…

To the point where I’d have to reread the sentence or paragraph to pull out the meaning.  The chapters are also very long, and the first six or seven chapters all introduce a new POV.  I just wasn’t in the mood for this kind of story.  As I said, it was starting to get interesting when I stopped, but with how busy I am I couldn’t make myself focus enough to read it quickly and I had other things I would rather have been reading.  So I quit.

I made it to about page 100 before I stopped.  I might pick it up again someday when I am in the mood.  Thank you to the publisher who sent an ARC in exchange for review.  Quichotte can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

The Outside by Ada Hoffman

This book and I were not a match right from the start.  I think somewhere on the first page it mentions that AI are treated as gods in this world.  I just really hate that premise. I know I’m going to come off as naive here, in our increasingly connected world, but couldn’t you just unplug the damn thing?  Doesn’t an AI that big need a warehouse full of servers?  Maybe not in the future I guess.  I don’t know.

Either way, there has to be some agreement on the part of humans to worship such an entity, and it just isn’t something I can relate to.

Adding to that was dialogue that I felt was very stiff and awkward, and characters and a story I just wasn’t being grabbed by.  This was a group read for the Sci Fi Fantasy Book Club, so I was able to spoil the book for myself and see if it was something worth continuing.  **SPOILERS**  In doing so, I learned that the book eventually goes on to discuss self harming cults of AI worshippers, another big fat NOPE from me.  (See my review of Ancestral Night.)

It gets points for being a neurodiverse #ownvoices book, and if Hoffman goes on to write more, I’d happily give her another try.  This particular book was just all wrong for me, but if it sounds like something you might enjoy, you can find it on GoodReads or Amazon.

Alone by Chaboute

Rating:  ★★★★

This is a graphic novel I heard about a year or two ago, that I recently discovered sitting on the shelves of a library that’s out of my way and don’t often go to.  Whichever review I saw spoke very highly of it.

The story itself is really sad, about a person living all alone in a lighthouse, because his parents, now deceased, once warned him the world would not be kind to a man who looked like him (he has physical deformities).  He spends his days dropping the dictionary open, reading definitions, and imagining himself in scenarios related to the word he opened to.  He goes through periods where he is seemingly okay with his life, and periods of depression and sadness.

Although the story seems terribly depressing, it is a story full of hope, and one I think everyone who’s ever been lonely, or down on themselves, could relate to.  My only real complaint here is that I wished at least some of the artwork had been done in color.

While I think the black and white art was adding to the bleakness and the tone of the book, part of the appeal of reading a graphic novel is seeing all the bright colors and pretty pictures.  And while they were well drawn, telling this story predominantly through pictures and almost no words, I found myself wishing for a little color.

Alone can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.

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This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

Discussion: The Dawn of the DNF

Maybe it’s just because September was overloaded with new releases I wanted to read.  Maybe it’s just because October is my favorite month for reading because it feels like a solid excuse to read only horror without feeling too guilty about it.  Maybe I just really suck at picking books I think I’ll enjoy.  Or to spin this in a positive light, maybe I am good about going outside my comfort zone and trying things I’m not sure I’ll like.

I don’t like DNFing.  But at the end of September I ran into a problem.  I started a bunch of books I really had no desire to finish.  One of them was a buddy read I’d been looking forward to since we scheduled it a few months back.  One of them was a new release I’d been pining for since I first saw it on Edelweiss and originally was declined for but later won in a GoodReads Giveaway.  One of them was an ARC I was approved for months ago, when I might have been more in the mood to read it but put off because I didn’t want to read it too early, and am now just not enjoying the way I want to.

I feel obligated to finish all of them.  But I know it will put me in a reading slump because I’ll come up with other things I’d rather be doing than reading a book I don’t actually want to read.

So I’m DNFing.

And you know what?  It’s probably one of the most liberating choices I’ve made in a long time.  It won’t result in some scathing review I have to put up because I forced myself to finish a book I didn’t want to read.  And because it won’t be some ranting-hate-filled review I’m probably at less risk of offending the poor author who poured countless hours, blood, sweat and tears into writing it.  Or the publisher, who selected that manuscript over a thousand others to publish, and then poured time and resources into putting that book in the wider world.

Do I feel guilty?

Yeah.  I do.  I was given at least two of these books in exchange for honest reviews.  And while there’s nothing dishonest about saying I didn’t finish, or that a book wasn’t for me, it feels half-assed.  Like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

But at the same time, I’ve given each of these books almost a hundred pages to make me care, and they just haven’t done that.

This isn’t a movie.  It usually doesn’t take a mere two hours to read a book.  It’s 10, 15, sometimes 20 hours of my life that I’m not enjoying, that I can say with reasonable surety is not going to become enjoyable, and I’m never going to get back.  I wouldn’t keep playing a video game that was no fun or riddled with glitches that made it unplayable.  I wouldn’t finish a meal that tasted bad.  I’m not going to continue reading a book I’m not enjoying.

I’ve seen some readers argue that if you don’t finish the book, you shouldn’t leave a review.  And while I understand the argument- anything could happen in those final pages – it could become enjoyable.  But can a book you dread picking up really perform that much of a turnaround?  Can you really go from hating a book to loving it?

I don’t think so.

I’ve seen books go from mediocre to awesome.  I’ve seen books go from good to bad.  It’s rare that I see a book go from awful all the way to enjoyable.

And it’s not even that a book has to be awful to make me want to DNF.  It could just be that it’s not for me.  I think that’s an even harder obstacle to overcome.

The fact is- I just don’t have the same amount of time to read like I used to.  And I’m making a conscious choice to spend those hours reading what I actually want to read instead of reading something that makes me miserable.

What I am confused about, since I’ve never really made a conscious choice to DNF, is what the rules are for DNFing?  (Are there rules?)  Does it have to happen around some significant plot point in the book?  For example, a scene of rape or child abuse that makes you not want to continue?  Do you have to give it so many pages before you quit?  Do you need to determine that the text is borderline unreadable?  As may be the case in something self published that wasn’t properly vetted by an army of beta readers and developmental editors?

So you tell me, fellow readers, what are your rules for DNFing?

 

Weekly Wrap Up: June 2 – 8

I don’t usually do a weekly wrap up post- and don’t really plan to make it a habit, but it was a busy week for me and I had some things I wanted to share!

Blood Eye Raven 1 by Giles Kristian

First, I did my first ever guest post for Andrew at On My Book Shelf and covered the historical fiction Viking novel: Blood Eye (Raven #1) by Giles Kristian.  Unfortunately the book itself was kind of a dud, but I had a lot of fun working with Andrew.  On My Book Shelf covers a wide range of topics from writing prompts to favorite quotes, and books reviews from fantasy and historical fiction to thrillers and manga.  He’s got lots of fun, unique content and a little something for everyone, so stop by and say hello!

Books I DNF’d:

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley: I’m going to qualify this by saying, Queen of Kings is not a bad book.  I’m guessing it’s a solid three star read.  It’s just not what I wanted right now.  I read The Mere Wife a few months ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  I thought the premise (Cleopatra possessed by a god and out for revenge) would provide an excellent opportunity for Headley to give me another ferocious and fully realized female character.  Maybe Cleo becomes that eventually, but I read about 30% of the book, and it was a lot of Cleopatra bemoaning her fate and missing Antony and not taking any real discernible action.  Add to that a whiny Caesar Augustus, and I just wanted to move on.  I will maybe revisit in the future, but for now my curiosity is sated.

Books I Finished:

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Reviews to come!

Books Reviewed:

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena: 3 Stars – Not as surprising or shocking as I would hope for in a thriller.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney: 4 Stars – A super fun roller coaster of a ride that I think most readers would enjoy.  A little far fetched in its conclusion, but hey, we’re talking fiction here.  Who cares?

Lists:

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Fantasy Reads

Pride Month: Favorite LGBT+ Couples and Characters in Fiction

Book Hauls:

Barnes & Noble Memorial Day Sale Book Haul

And that’s my week!  I feel pretty accomplished this week.  Hoping next week will be just as great!

 

Book Review: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

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Rating:  ★★

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Blurb (from GoodReads):

Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.

She thinks she knows who she is.

She is wrong.

Admittedly- I left out a lot of that blurb (you can read the whole blurb in the link above).  I only put in what I felt was actually relevant to the book.

This was a DNF for me. I made it to 70% and I didn’t even have the desire to skip to the end and see how it played out. I’m putting the content warnings up here in case you don’t want to read my spoiler laden review: suicide bombings, death of partners, abduction, references to a hive mind/cult, murder of children.

This is not what I expected it to be. In the full blurb, I saw space salvage and space pirates and expected a thrilling action filled plot. Maybe a cat and mouse game, maybe some subterfuge. Some twists and turns.

There are twists and turns, but they are not the kind you’re thinking. This is not an action driven plot. This is the character study of a woman who was raised in a cult (called clade in the book). Turn back now if you don’t want spoilers because I can’t explain why I’m not finishing this without them.

It’s five hundred pages of mostly inner monologue: Haimey suffering anxiety from past trauma, second guessing herself every step of the way, and auto-tuning her brain chemicals as a form of medical treatment. I mean- it’s by no means my kind of book no matter how you look at that, and I was bored to tears, but even that was not why I quit reading.

(Again, major spoilers ahead.) I quit reading because at some point the person holding Haimey convinces her to let her unblock memories that were “reconned,” (buried/blocked/written over). When Haimey remembers what actually happened she finds out her clade was basically a terrorist cult (I mean all cults are terrorists of a kind, but I’m referring specifically to the suicide bomber sort.)

When the full truth of Haimey’s identity is realized, she remembers that when the clade is caught, instead of allowing themselves to be separated and reconned themselves, they kill each other, and all the children.

That’s a hard pass for me. I’m sorry. It’s a hard pass for me in tv, in movies. I just don’t want to deal with it or think about it for any period of time.

I do have a lot of respect for Bear as an author, I think she is incredibly talented and imaginative. I liked her book Carnival for the society and world building. There was some cool tech and some hints of societal structure here, but none of it was straightforward enough to really grasp and analyze which is what I was hoping for.

I don’t think it was all pointless. There is probably a very interesting discussion to be had about the implications of medicating or the possibility of overmedicating as a way to avoid confrontation and coping with life. (And I am not passing judgement on any of this- you’d have to read it to understand what I mean.)

So- I’m giving it two stars even though I didn’t finish. I think for someone that isn’t bothered by what I’ve stated above and goes into it expecting a character study will have a field day with this novel. It just isn’t for me.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Saga Press for providing me with an eARC to review.