5 Reasons I Don’t Like Hardbacks (And One Reason I Do)

IMG_9156When I used to work in mobile crisis, we periodically had downtime. One day, when my partner was out for the day, I worked with an older guy. When he asked if I wanted to go to a bookstore, I couldn’t say “yes!” loud enough.

We ended up in this dim, narrow bookstore which mostly had hardback books. It smelled the way old bookstores should: book glue, dust, and leather. This guy explained that he liked this store because they had so many hardbacks, and he could get them “wrapped.” As in, wrapped in some kind of plastic to preserve the cover.

I was perplexed. This might be a naive thing to say, but I didn’t think people voluntarily bought hard backed books. I thought people only bought hardbacks when they couldn’t wait for the paperback. And in the Kindle age, even that’s not necessary.

Another friend of mine prefers hardbacks because she likes to keep things neat and new-looking, and hardbacks are easier to do that with. I suppose I should be a good supporter of other authors and buy the hardbacks, but I’m just not into them. Even if I find a cheap copy of something I want at Goodwill, if it’s in hardback, I’ll probably pass.

  1. They take up too much room on my bookshelf. I only have a limited amount of space, and I want to maximize the number of books they can house.
  2. They’re too big/ bulky/ heavy. Hardbacks are heavy! I have to hold them two-handed, which is annoying, since I like to read when I eat, am in the bathtub, sometimes when I’m outside playing with the dogs. Plus, hardbacks weigh down my purse and make it feel like I’m carrying bricks.
  3. The paper cover! Do I leave it on and let it get raggedy? (I’m really hard on books) Or do I take it off, likely put it in a safe place (so safe I can’t find it) and then lose it?
  4. I have to wait. Or buy it twice. I wanted to buy Our Dark Duet when it was released back in July, but I have This Savage Song (the first in the series) in paperback. Since I prefer series to match, when possible, I knew that no matter how I bought it, I was going to have to re-buy it in paperback. The library wouldn’t get it quickly enough to suit me. So… I went with Kindle. It doesn’t take up any room on my shelves, and I won’t have to get rid of it when I buy it in paperback.
  5. They’re not recyclable. This isn’t a huge issue for me because the idea is that I’ll keep my books. But I know, from reading bookstore blogs, that sometimes they throw out books because there are just too many of them. The DaVinci Code and Twilight come to mind. (I’m not hating on either of these books; I just remember the article identified these two as ones they get too many of.)

A caveat:

Hardbacks are more durable. They’re normally made from better paper, and the binding is put together better. So, if I owned my collection in hardback, I wouldn’t have tape holding together my copies of Watership Down and Lightning (by Dean Koontz). I actually own Harry Potter and most Dean Koontz books in both hardback and paperback for that reason.

Are you Team Hardback or Team Paperback?

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E is for Einstein

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

FullSizeRender.jpg-1In Watchers, by Dean Koontz, Travis Cornell isn’t sure he has anything to live for. When he goes to the woods to recapture a feeling of life being meaningful, he doesn’t expect much. While there, he runs into Einstein, a remarkable dog who saves him from what he believes is a wild animal.

Einstein is actually a lab experiment who escaped, a super intelligent dog. When he escaped, another creature escaped, one that wants to track Einstein down and kill him. As Einstein starts to trust Travis, he reveals his intelligence and gives Travis clues as to his past. They go on the run to avoid the other creature and the government, who will do anything to recapture him for further experiments.

The title comes from a passage in the book where one of the characters talks about how people are meant to watch over one another, and we all watch over those we love. It’s a wonderful novel about family and hope, and how people can change. Einstein is a catalyst for the two main characters changing.

Einstein is bright and amazing, but he’s still a dog, which is possibly one of the best things about him. The author doesn’t make him a human trapped in a dog’s body. His humor and wit is what I would imagine an intelligent dog would have. This was the first Dean Koontz book I read, back in the late 80’s, but it’s the one that’s had the most lasting effect on me.

When I was a kid, I wished I had an intelligent dog. Now I don’t wish that. I’m happy for my dogs to be uncomplicated. But I still love to visit with Einstein.

 

 

K is for Dean Koontz

Unknown-4.Anyone who knows me, knows that Dean Koontz had to show up in this list.

I read my first Koontz book when I was 12.  I happened to pick up Watchers off the rack in some store, probably K-mart or the grocery store.  The book amazed me.  It had everything I could have imagined wanting in a book: romance, a dog who could communicate with people, science-fiction, and horror, with undercurrents of philosophy.

From then on, I was hooked.  I read everything I could by him, and bought his hardbacks when they were released every November.  I praised them and recommended them to anyone who’d listen.

Koontz was the first author I’d read who blended genres.  He was considered a horror author, but he really wasn’t.  His stories did evoke fear and dread at times, but there was almost always some sort of happy ending.

Koontz usually has multiple “parts” to his books, and starts them with a quote or a short poem.  While I loved all those quotes, my favorite was when he’d quote The Book of Counted Sorrows.  In the pre-internet days, I drove myself crazy trying to find that book.  In 1992, Koontz publicly explained the the book didn’t exist, but I didn’t hear about it until many years later.

Searching for this non-existent book was something I didn’t give up on.  Oh, I didn’t think about it every day or anything, but it popped back into my consciousness with regularity.  When I finally found out it wasn’t real, I felt let down, like I’d lost a friend.

I moved on, and through the magic of the internet, was able to find the collected quotes from the books.

I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.  But Koontz helped me figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be.

I want to be someone who writes uplifting stories, sometimes about dark and strange topics.  I want to write across genres.  But mostly, I just want to tell a good story.

“Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem… Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example. Each smallest act of kindness… reverberates across great distances and spans of time… because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.”

-Dean Koontz, from

 

What I’ve Been Reading

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:  I’m not sure why I’ve never read this book before.  This is one of those books that I’m pretty sure everyone has read except me.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The narrator has an interesting and unique voice.  He’s writing letters to an unknown person, and at first I thought that would annoy me, but it was done well enough that I liked it.  The characters were quirky and memorable, and I found the teenage drama believable.  I definitely recommend.

The Face by Dean Koontz:  This is one of my favorite Dean Koontz books.  An anarchist has a plot to mess up the life of the world’s biggest movie star.  The head of security is a nice guy who has to match wits with him.  Add in some paranormal stuff, like the head of security’s recently deceased ex-best friend, who might not be so dead after all, and it’s a book I can’t put down.

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks:  If you’re a fiction writer, you have to read this book.  A friend recommended it, and I figured it would be like every other writing book ever made; chock full of good writing advice, but lacking any concrete tips.  Wrong!  This book is so useful, and has made me love writing even more than I did.  It’s gotten me excited about storytelling because it tells me where all my ideas should go in the narrative.  I’ve tried outlining a million times, which has never quite worked for me.  This one has.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls:  I’ve been wanting to reread this one for awhile.  It’s technically young adult, though it was published when that genre didn’t exist.  If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read it, it’s a coming of age book about a young boy who works to get hunting dogs, and their bond and adventures together.  It makes me laugh and cry, no matter how many times I read it.  There are always certain parts I hope will magically change, so that when I read the book this time, I don’t have to be sad.  I read it anyway because there’s magic in the pages.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This is one of my favorite new books.  (Okay, it’s not new, but it’s new to me.)  Neither Eleanor nor Park quite fit in, and they don’t like one another either.  Until they do.  They’re wonderful characters, with a sweet, believable romance.  I didn’t realize that I’d read until 3 a.m. until I finished the book and realized I was half asleep.  It was that good.

Have you read any of these?  What’d you think?

With Age, Comes Wisdom… Right?

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I’m not old, and I’m not saying I am.  But I really don’t feel my age.  I have friends who are all different ages, including two who are still in their mid-20s.  I really do sometimes forget my age.  And then sometimes I’m reminded, and I have to laugh.

I have a 25-year-old friend who knows EVERYTHING.  He’s smart and makes good arguments.  So good, that I sometimes find myself wanting to believe what he’s saying, even when I know he’s not right.  As I listened to him say something the other day in that arrogant so-sure-I’m-right tone, I realized that I was listening to my 25 year-old-self.

I was really annoying.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a know-it-all.  But I’m able to keep my mouth firmly closed and my opinions to myself on occasion.  That’s what happens as you get older, I guess.  You learn that not every pearl of wisdom that enters your head needs to be shared with the world.

And that they’re not all pearls.

A long time ago, I remember reading that Dean Koontz hated some of his early novels and let them go out of print.  That he didn’t want them re-issued because he didn’t like them.  I thought he was crazy!  Why not let your early works be re-published?  If people want to read them, they can’t be bad.

With age comes wisdom.  I get it now.

I look at some of the stuff I wrote in my 20s and cringe.  I wasn’t a bad writer.  In fact, for school papers and stuff like that, I was way above average.  So much so that I thought my fiction writing must be exemplary as well.

It wasn’t.  At all.  Really.

I had an immature writing style, and yes, I have some things published online that I wish I could go back and edit, because they’re not as good as they could be.  But the thing is, that I believe that throughout our lives, we should constantly strive for improvement.  Perfection doesn’t exist, so all any of us can hope to do is be a little better today than we were yesterday.  As long as I’m striving for improvement, my writing will never be as good today as it will be tomorrow, and so on.  I can’t just keep going back and changing what I wrote; when would it end?

I enjoy writing.  Most of the time, it’s fun.  My goal is to keep it fresh and fun, and to write for myself first.  Maybe I won’t like what I wrote in the past; maybe I’ll see all the flaws.  But you know, I don’t think that matters.  Yeah, I was annoying at 25, but I wasn’t boring.  And as well all know, friends, boring is about the worst thing I can imagine being. I have great affection for my 25 year old self (even if I would sort of like to go back and slap her.)

So I’m older and wiser, and in another 10 years, I wonder what I’ll think of what I wrote today.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Here's a cat picture, for absolutely no reason. Photo credit: Doree Weller

Here’s a cat picture, for absolutely no reason.
Photo credit: Doree Weller

Once I read one book by an author, if I don’t like it, I’m unwilling to try another book by that author.

I know that’s unfair.  Dean Koontz is my all time favorite author, yet there are some of his books I don’t like at all.  Same goes for Stephen King.  Though I loved Watership Down, I’ve never read another Richard Adams book.

So, I know authors can be hit or miss.  Not every book that a good author writes will appeal to me.  But my gut reaction to reading other books by the same author is “ugh, no.”  On the flip side of that, I’m more likely to stick with an author I know I like, even if the book isn’t filling me with joy.  Remember I mentioned Dean Koontz?  I read all his books, whether I love them or not.  I’m loyal like that.

Because of my book club and various book challenges I’m participating in, I’ve actually been reading more different things, and it’s a good thing.  I’ve found some new books I’ve loved, and some I most emphatically have not.  But it’s always good to try new flavors and textures to expand my palate.  Plus, there’s something invaluable about being able to discuss books with other people.  I’m not surrounded by very many readers, and discussing a book as if it were real, critically analyzing character development and the events that surround them, is stimulating and allows me to see the book from other perspectives.  That alone will push me to finish a book I otherwise may not have.

How about you?  Are you willing to give an author another try?  Or are you like me, telling an author, “I’m just not that into you”?

S is for Stories

So many books!  They're everywhere.

So many books! They’re everywhere.

For me, it’s all about the story.

I don’t care what you’re talking about: books, movies, people.  I love a good story.

I’m more liberal than most people about what makes a good story.  I don’t really care if there are plot holes or if the story has been done before.  I just care about how well the story is told.  Ordinary can be interesting in the same way that extraordinary can be boring.

A lot of people complained that Avatar was a cliched story, but I loved it.  Even if it’s a story I’ve heard before, I liked the way it was told, and it had enough new and interesting elements to keep it fresh.  People complained that Twilight had poor writing, but if it did, I didn’t notice when I read it.  I was too drawn in my the story to worry about the fact that Bella and Edward have an unhealthy relationship dynamic.  The story was interesting and fun.

I like literature.  I like reading about psychological theories.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy things at the other end of the spectrum, and everything in between.  As long as there’s an interesting story, I don’t mind if it’s cliche.  I enjoy stories I’ve read before, and I enjoy reading them in different forms, from different perspectives.  But then, I’m also the person who can read the same book over and over again and still have emotional reactions to it as if I were reading it for the first time.  (Where the Red Fern Grows makes me sob every. single. time.)

Stories connect me to the past.  Growing up, I loved Cinderella and Snow White, and remembering those stories gives me warm memories of my parents and grandparents.  I love sharing stories (discussing books and movie plots) with other people.  We all see the same story in different ways, and it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on a story.

I know people who love sitcoms and comedy memoirs, but it can be hard for me to get into those things because I feel like too often, they focus on the punchline rather than the story.  There are always exceptions, of course, but my favorite stories are the ones that make me feel deeply, that make me cry or touch my heart.  I love characters who feel so real to me that they become part of my life even after I’ve closed the book.  Harry Potter, The Fault In Our Stars, Watership Down, Me Before You, and Watchers are just a few of the books that made me feel this way.

What’s your favorite type of story?  Do you have a book whose characters feel like part of your life?