Judging Books By Covers

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The first book I picked up because the cover was pretty. The second, because I like the way the vines look.

I have some strong opinions when it comes to books, possibly about many things that other people don’t care about.  That’s okay; I can live with that.

One of the things that drives me crazy is when a movie comes out, and suddenly the book is released with a different version of the cover to reflect the movie.  I get why they do that; it’s to increase sales.  Associating the book with the movie makes good sense from a marketing standpoint.

But I still don’t like it.

In general, I prefer the older covers, and when I go to used book stores, I can spend several minutes choosing which cover I like best.  For example, I accidentally bought two copies of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.  This was a great book, but I obviously don’t need two copies of it.  However, I can’t decide which one to sell back to Half-Price Books because I like both covers.

People say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” obviously meaning not to judge something’s content by what it looks like on the inside. It’s true, but I confess that sometimes a book cover will catch my eye, and that’s the only reason I read the description on the back of the book.

These things matter. If they didn’t, all books would be in a plain brown cover with simple black writing. A good cover can hint about the contents. When I’m in the mood to read horror, I’m unlikely to pick something with flowers on the cover, no matter what the title says. Well, unless they’re dead flowers. Or blood spattered… you get the idea.

One of the best choices I made, based on the cover, was John Dies at the End. I spotted it while walking through the library, and when I read the back, I had to give it a try. It was a fantastic book. Runners up are the ones pictured above.

Is the book cover important to you?  What are your preferences?

My Relationship With the Library

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A partial stack of my most recent library books. There are others… somewhere.

Dear Library,

We’ve had an on again-off again thing for years. When I’m into you, I’m all in. When I’m not into you… well, let’s just say, it’s not you; it’s me.

When I was much younger, I had a thing going on with a huge, gorgeous old library. I remember it as having like 5 stories (though that may be the memory of youth) and checking out stacks and stacks of books.

As I got older, it became easier to just buy books when I wanted them. I stopped visiting that library, and eventually, I moved away.

My next library was small and unimpressive. It was one big room in a repurposed building. It had none of the character or history of my first library. I borrowed books sometimes, but I just wasn’t that into it.

You don’t need every detail of my history, do you? The next serious relationship I had with a library happened in Arizona, where I joined my first library with a network. Even if my library didn’t have what I wanted, I could log on and “reserve” any book in the system, and they’d bring it to my library. This worked for books, CDs, and DVDs. Suddenly, I was in love again. I was borrowing like crazy, stopping by the shelf of librarian picks and grabbing books based on their covers. (This is how I discovered John Dies at the End).

When I moved, we had to end that relationship. It was tough; I’d grown accustomed to how… well… easy it was. I was afraid that the next one wouldn’t be as accessible.

Lucky for me, my current library is super easy. It has the same “reserve” feature. It also has digital borrowing, so I can get library books right on my Kindle! This is great for me, since sometimes, I have to read something RIGHT NOW, and if I don’t own it, this can be a problem. Often, I’m able to get it from the library when I want it.

I still buy a lot of books, especially ones I want to mark up or reread. But the library is a great source for me to feed my book habit without having to buy every book I ever want to read.

So, Library, I guess what I’m saying is that, for now, I’m committed to you. I can’t be exclusive because you don’t meet all my needs, but I want to see you regularly. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Love,

Doree

Why I Didn’t End Up Doing a Book Challenge This Year

img_7065In 2015, I did the reading challenge, and I enjoyed it.  There was a different theme every month, and I did about 10 months out of 12.  In 2016, I started the Read Harder challenge, and ticked a couple categories off.

And then I lost interest.

I ended up reading a book I didn’t like.  I tried and tried and tried to get through it, and I couldn’t.  As of this writing, I haven’t finished it, though I still want to.  It wasn’t that I hated the book; it was more that it had no discernible plot.

After putting that book aside, I thought about going back to the Read Harder challenge, but I’d lost my taste for it.  I realized that I have a lot of book lists I’m working on.  I have a classics list I’m working my way through, a book club, and a friend and I who choose books together.  That’s not including the fact that I read a lot of YA books to stay current on what’s being published (since I write YA) and reading books for fun.

While I liked the idea of the Read Harder challenge, in the end it just didn’t work for me.  I may look at the challenge for 2017, and if I like it, I’ll give it a try.  Or maybe I’ll look for a challenge that doesn’t have as many books on it, or fits with my tastes a little better.

I think I lost sight of the fact that the challenge was meant to be a game instead of a task. It became work, rather than a scavenger hunt. I love books that make me think or books that make me see the world differently. I love discovering books I wouldn’t have read on my own. But I don’t like taking it all to seriously, and that’s what I did for a little while.

What do you think of book challenges? Are you planning to join one for 2017?

L is for Libraries

“Doree, you like libraries?  What a surprise!” -said no one.  Ever.

I don’t remember the first time my mom took me to the Reading Public Library, but I do remember my sense of wonder at the huge old building.  The kids’ section was in the basement, and it was a big room filled with books.  I loved browsing shelves and reading the backs, trying to find interesting books.  I think the limit was 50 books at a time, so I could pretty much check out as many books as I wanted.  I had a few favorites, that I would check out over and over, but I also liked finding new friends on the shelves.

Reading Public Library

Reading Public Library

Graduating from the kids’ section to the grown-up library was a bittersweet day for me, as it meant I could no longer check out kids’ books.  Because the adult area was completely separate from the kids’ section and my parents weren’t really readers, I got to experience the adult section for the first time when I got my adult library card.

The Reading Library was a real library, three or four floors high, with more books than even I could conceive of reading in my lifetime.  They had computer stations, back when that was something new.  The library was well-lit, not like the dusty old, dimly lit libraries that feature in good horror and fantasy stories.  But the lighting didn’t dispel the magic.  It still lurked in the stacks, borne out by the mythical numbering system that no one but librarians understood.  I remember looking up books in the card catalog, and while I appreciate the efficiency of the digital system, there was something undeniably cool about having the card in the back stamped with a date.

When I moved the first time, I was disappointed by the small library in a modern building, and each time I’ve moved, it’s been the same.  I love my current library, and appreciate that I can go online and order books from any of their partner libraries, place “holds” on books, or even borrow something digitally.  I can appreciate technology, and still feel nostalgic for that big library in the old stone building.

Magic

Skagway, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Since I was a little girl, I’ve believed in magic. My understanding of it has changed over time, but my belief in it has persisited. When I was a child, I called that magic “Santa Claus,” “Easter Bunny,” “mom,” and “dad.” As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned other names for it, like “love” and “friendship.” Some magic I’ve learned about can’t be named, only felt. I feel magic in certain secret places in the woods, near water. I feel it brush along my skin when I hear poems that speak to my soul.  I feel it in the warmth of bonfires and in the coolness of an autumn evening.  I see it in the white fur on my dog’s face, white fur that wasn’t there before.  I taste it when a new flavor melts on my tongue.  I hear it in my grandfather’s voice, long gone, but not forgotten.

One type of magic that has never changed for me is that magic of books.  Before I continue, I want to be clear that I’m not talking in metaphors here.  I literally mean magic, which is defined as “1.  Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural. 2.  Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.”

Science fiction talks about transporters and tardises, of teleportation and apparation, but only books transport you somewhere else, somewhere you can really feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin.  I’ve smelled smoke and caramel.  I’ve heard birds sing and voices speak to me.  When I finish a book that really means something to me, I can tell that I’ve changed.  The magic that is contained within the pages is hard to describe to someone who’s never felt it.  To some people, books are just books, and words are just words.

I’ll admit that not every book contains magic.  I’ve read some where the spell flickers and fizzles, and some where I never even get a whiff of any magic at all.  It can be hard to tell which ones will have magic by the cover.  Sometimes a book I thought would be utterly ordinary weaves a spell so intricate that it never quite lets go.  And other times, a book I was convinced would show me new things was merely a bunch of pages and words after all.

That’s why I write.  I feel the magic in my fingertips at times, and can almost capture the feelings of prisms in my brain.  There are times when I write that I’m transported and transformed at the same time.  There are times when I hear music in my head, and my senses are on hyper alert.  And there are other times when everything fades so completely into the background that I’m not really sure where my body is anymore.

Because I pay attention and believe, I sometimes find magic in surprising places.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there for everyone, just that we all have choices on what to see and what not to.  Magic is easy to ignore, and if you ignore it, sometimes you start to believe it’s no longer there.

My understanding of magic has changed, but luckily, just as much continues to be a mystery.  Magic should never be separated from mystery.

Where do you find magic?

Books and Relationships

Turn the page, wouldja?

Turn the page, wouldja?

Zoë Heller and Anna Holmes recently posed the question: Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book?

I found the idea intriguing, and as they both present some of the arguments they’ve had with significant others over books, I envy their passion, at least a little.

You see, I confess: I’ve never dated a man who likes to read.

I don’t know why this would be.  I’m known in my circle of friends as reading more than any human being should have time for.  I devour books.  I read them walking around my house, in the bathtub, in my backyard, and at stoplights.  I read them in line at the grocery store and waiting at the doctor’s office.  To me, waiting is a cause for celebration, not a reason to get upset, because I always have a book in my purse.  And should I forget my book, well, I have a whole stack of books on the Kindle app in my iPhone.

I’ve had friends who like to read, but they usually don’t read the same things I do.  I have several friends who read high fantasy, which is too slow for me, and several friends who read literary fiction that goes over my head.  So I don’t really have people I can discuss books with, or get mad at when they disagree.

I’m part of an online book club, and while I enjoy it, it’s just not the same as sitting down with a good friend over a cup of coffee and discussing why literary fiction is so damn depressing.

Then again, I also can’t imagine getting so passionate about my opinion on any book that I’d break up with someone over their opinion.

Unless they said I read too much.  Then… they’re dead to me.

 

Locked in a Bookstore

Innerspace Cavern, Texas Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Innerspace Cavern, Texas
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Did you hear about the guy who got locked in a bookstore in London?  He was apparently upstairs, and staff locked up without checking on him.  Twitter blew up as he waited to be let out, and it took about three and a half hours.

It sounds like the beginning of a good book, doesn’t it?  Why don’t things this ever happen to me?

Part of me thinks it would be the most awesome thing ever, that I’d find a cozy corner and flip through lots of books.  Part of me things I’d be so worried because I wasn’t supposed to be there (I’m a rule follower) that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.  Either way, take a look at the Twitter feed… it’s laugh out loud funny.

Continue reading

Things That Make Me Happy

Flowers!  I love flowers too!

Flowers! I love flowers too!

I’m a firm believer that the best things in life aren’t things, and the happiest people are the people who are happy for stuff other than things.  Things can’t make you happy long term.  Things break, get lost, don’t work as well as they used to, and aren’t the latest and greatest after a minute.  Things are not the key to happiness.  Being grateful for the little stuff is they key to happiness.

What makes me happy, in no particular order:

1.  Thunderstorms- I love the flash bang, and I love the sounds of rain.  One of my best memories is sitting on a porch in a rainstorm with my feet on the railing getting wet, and a laptop on my lap while I wrote a story.

2.  Music- Sometimes it’s Mogwai, sometimes it’s the Beatles or Enya or Tiffany.  But no matter what, I love surrounding myself with music.  I love creating playlists of all the random stuff I like for all different times.  I may not sing well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know all the words.  Or that I don’t sing them.  Because if I have headphones on, I’m not the one that has to hear it, am I?

3.  My dogs- They’re always happy to see me and give unconditional love.  Without them, who would paint my laptop screen with nose smudges?

4.  Books-  Okay, yes, they’re things, but it’s not the books themselves that make me happy; it’s the stories.  I don’t go buying first edition hardbacks; I actually prefer used books, and if they have personality in the way of marks on pages or even better, something written in them, I’m thrilled.  Nothing I like better than finding a secret treasure in a book.  A receipt, a name, a message… it’s a link to someone else who loved that book too.

5.  My laptop- Another thing, yes.  But I hate hand writing things, primarily because my hands hurt when I write too much (like anything more than a sentence).  So I need my laptop so I can write.  Because I can’t be happy if I don’t tell stories.

6.  Friends- I have a few friends who I consider “lifetime” friends.  I think I’m lucky to have a small group of people who I can be my real self with, and who can be their real selves with me.

7.  Quotes!-  I love quotes!  I have a notebook full of them, and I keep as many of them in my brain as possible.  Maybe some people get sick of me quoting things, that that’s just too bad.  It’s my way of spreading love and joy.

8.  Windchimes and prisms-  Another thing, yes, and two things in fact.  But they go together so well.  I don’t love them because they’re stuff; I love them because they make rainbows and soft noises.  How can you not love things that jingle and make rainbows?

9.  Hiking-  When I was a kid, I used to just go walking in the woods behind my house.  Then I’d just find a clearing, put my back against a tree, and read or write.  These days, I still love walking through someplace that hasn’t been tamed yet.  The desert here in AZ, back to cliffs and forest when I move to TX.

10.  Skating- There’s nothing quite like the feeling of skating.  It’s almost like flying.  For me, in-lines almost feel like an extension of my feet.

The thing is… what makes you happy is up to you.  You can always wish for the newest, latest, greatest, shiniest, brightest, but when the shine fades and it’s not the newest anymore, the happiness wears off.  Happiness doesn’t wear off love or memories.    They may end up tempered with sadness or melancholy, but that doesn’t change what was.

“The best things in life aren’t things.”

— Art Buchwald

I’m a Goodreads Author!

The Spirit Room, Jerome AZ

The Spirit Room, Jerome AZ

Not long ago, I joined Goodreads.  I don’t like to dip too much into various social media, but how can social media with books be bad?

When I opened my account, I noticed that I was listed as a Goodreads author, and listed are two of the books in which my stories have appeared:  In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream, and Blood & Roses.  And after the initial thrill of noticing that I was an author listed there, I didn’t do anything else for about two months.

Last week, I took another look at my profile and realized I could apply to have some control over my profile, linking my blog to it and writing an “about me” section (oh yay, that’s my favorite thing…).  So, I did.  You may have noticed that over on the right is a list of books I’ve read.  I’m trying to keep Goodreads posted on what I’m reading, as well as keeping a 2014 list for myself.  (I’m 18 books in for the year and have not yet managed to read any of the classics on my list.)

If you haven’t checked out Goodreads for yourself, now’s the time.  Like Netflix, once you let it know what you like, it makes recommendations.

Giving It a Chance

For absolutely no reason, here's a butterfly.  Museum of Natural History, Photo credit Doree Weller

For absolutely no reason, here’s a butterfly. Museum of Natural History, Photo credit Doree Weller

I recently watched the first two episodes of the Office.  And I HATED it.  Couldn’t even get through an entire episode.  I posted on FB how much I disliked it, and the responses were interesting.  Predictably, many people loved the show; it was popular for a reason.  One person mentioned that they didn’t like it at first, but then watched it again later and started liking it.

The TV Guy always gives shows a chance.  You’ll hear him say it from time to time that he watches the pilot plus a few shows to see if he actually likes it.

I don’t do that.

I avoid things I don’t like.  If I read a book and can’t get into it, I put it back down.  With TV, I’m even less patient.  You can’t capture my attention in the first 10 minutes?  We’re done.

When it comes to entertainment, I have a super short attention span.  If I’m supposed to be entertained, then entertain me!  I love stuff with a message, as long as they don’t forget the primary directive of entertainment.  V for Vendetta is one of my favorite movies.  Entertainment comes first, message is a part of the movie, not the reason for it.  Same with Fight Club (book and movie).  Entertainment first, message second.

I keep that in mind when I’m the one doing the writing.  It’s ironic then, that my first chapters always need the most work.  I can start right up with short stories, but for some reason, with novels, my beginnings drag and I don’t seem to know how to jump right in.

At least I know it’s a problem, right?  And I’m working on it.  I have to keep in mind:

“Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it…” – Michael Crichton