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text 2014-11-11 03:49
Memes I've Memed

I only participate in a few memes at Amara's Eden (though I'm sure someone who participates in no memes at all would probably have a different opinion!), and participation in all of these is sporadic. Here are the memes I've participated in at least once at Amara's Eden, and clicking on the meme image will take you to the corresponding posts. For another overview of the memes (and other posts) I've posted since the inception of the blog, check out the Archive page here. Memes can be found toward the bottom.

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text 2014-04-11 00:28
[Thoughtful Thursday] How do you dispose of your books?
Thoughtful Thursday is a weekly meme from Reading is Fun Again.

What do you do with the books that you have read? Do you keep them? Donate them? Gift them? Return them to the library? Throw them away? Make them into arts & crafts projects? Has this changed during the years? Have you noticed a change in your perspective regarding read books?

To explain what I do with books that I've read, first I should explain how I get them. There are two primary ways.

Method #1: Library Books

I'm a huge fan of the library. I was raised that way. My family has always been some degree of poor-to-middling, financially, and buying books was a luxury. But I was always drowning in more books than I could ever hope to read anyway; I'm lucky to have grown up in an area with a well-stocked library system and, since sometime in the late nineties or early two-thousands, a reasonably efficient website. So buying books never really became part of my reading lifestyle, especially since the nearest Barnes and Noble, Borders, and/or Books-a-Million was almost forty minutes away. (We do have a secondhand bookstore, but it's grown increasingly snobbish and overpriced in recent years, and I no longer shop there.)

Nowadays, then, most of my reading is of library materials--mostly physical books, though I started patronizing their new e-catalog last year or so. So most of the books that I finish reading--and a shameful amount of books that I checked out and never got around to reading at all--are simply returned to the library at the end of the check-out period.

Method #2: Secondhand Books

Until recent years, my family and I only bought books we was dying to have, with very few exceptions. Baby-sitters Club, Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, etcetera--books and series that I was a die-hard fan of at the time of purchase or books that my mother bought with the intention to pass them on to her hypothetical grandchildren some day. Then we started visiting two slightly less local libraries, both in towns adjacent to mine, but a bit out of the way of my normal routine. Both of these libraries have deals on books that are discarded from the system and/or donated by patrons; I can fill an entire canvas bag up for two dollars. It used to be $1, but they raised the price last year; I'm hoping they don't do it again, or else I might have to rethink my spending habits... because this is the one area I genuinely splurge. Books range from excellent condition to slight wear to significant wear, but it's given me the opportunity to own a lot of books I never would have bothered reading otherwise. The majority of space in my room is currently devoted to these secondhand books, and I'm very slowly making my way through them.

But since these are books that I'm taking a chance with--some are beloved favorites that I happened to find copies of, but many are relatively or completely unknown titles that looked interesting--I have no interest in keeping many of them once I've read them. Some are books that I genuinely hated or just didn't enjoy, so of course they have to go. Others are books that were enjoyable, but that I likely won't be reading again. And some are simply books that I simply lost interest in ever reading. All of these books end up in my "to get rid of" box. (Books that don't are either new favorites, series I'm collecting, or books so obscure that I expect I won't be able to find another copy of if I want to someday reread.)

For a while, the "to get rid of" box was a book purgatory. I genuinely had no idea what to do with these books. When I was younger, my mother donated a lot of books to a local thrift store, but that's long gone. I contemplated eBay, but I honestly don't like the format or the risks of working with Paypal. So I was at a loss for a while.

Now, though, there's a new thrift store in town. It's the place I go to get rid of my books, and I have no qualms about taking a bit of a loss on them, because the loss is so terribly small. At a dollar per bag, I'm getting used books at ten to fifteen cents a pop, so refusing to donate in hopes of greater compensation is a waste of my time and space--not to mention rather amusingly greedy.

Fortunately--or unfortunately, if you consider how little space I have left for new books!--that thrift store is also a great, rather cheap place to get used books, too!

I'm definitely still keeping my eyes open for another way to dispose of books I no longer want to keep, but for now, donating is totally working for me. At the very least, my current methods are supporting both my local libraries and the charity organization that runs the thrift store, so there's certainly no harm in that.
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text 2014-04-04 00:34
[Thoughful Thursday] Can you enjoy an unlikable protagonist?
Thoughtful Thursday is a weekly meme from Reading is Fun Again.

Assuming that the protagonist is well written, do you need to like the protagonist to enjoy the book? Does the protagonist need to share similar values to you or be an extension of you in some way? Can the protagonist be completely different from you and you still enjoy the book?

This was a tough question to answer. My gut reaction is to say, no, of course the protagonist doesn't have to be like me or even likable for me to enjoy a book. But on further introspection... that's just not true.

First and foremost, it depends on what kind of protagonist we're talking about: hero or villain. Am I supposed to be rooting for this person? If so, I need to actually be able to root for them in order to enjoy the story. And I can't do that if the character is the epitome of everything I despise in humanity.

If I pick up a book and find that the supposed hero is an unapologetic bigot of any kind--racist, sexist, homophobic, etcetera--I won't enjoy the book. This happened to me with Storm Front, the first Dresden Files book. I was so excited to read it, because I'd been promised that the series was amazing... and within the first few chapters, there's a passage in which the main character, Harry Dresden, identifies himself as a proud misogynist.

At that point, I genuinely do not give a crap if the rest of the book is filled with Xenas and Buffys. I don't care if the plot is so perfectly crafted and meticulously foreshadowed that it will literally blow my mind. I don't even care if it's the last book on earth. If your protagonist is a bigoted piece of shit and doesn't get any direct and acknowledged as deserved comeuppance for it, I'm checked out. I will not enjoy the book. Period.

On the other hand, if I pick up a book and find that the protagonist is a villain--and acknowledged as such--go for it.  Spew hate. Murder people. Commit that heist. Be a terrorist. Whatever. As long as the character's clearly the bad guy and the ending suits his/her crimes (i.e., a sympathetic/tragic villain gets a bittersweet ending and a brutal villain gets brutal justice/revenge enacted upon him/her), I'm totally game.

...that said, there are a few things I won't stomach even from a villain. Those would be graphically written, violent rape (if it happens off-screen or is written to focus on the psychological horror more than the physical, I can usually handle it, but I nope out at graphic violence); graphically written, extreme torture (if it involves maiming, I'm gone whether or not it's off-screen); or any form of animal abuse (it's never necessary for the plot).

So basically what I'm saying is that if I'm expected to sympathize with the protagonist... well, I damn well better sympathize with that protagonist. If he or she is spewing hatred or committing injustices from the powerful position of "main character" or "POV character", I don't really care how awesome the rest of the book is. Strong distaste for the protagonist is enough to kill even the best plots for me, I think.

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text 2014-03-28 00:40
[Thoughtful Thursday] Do you DNF?
Thoughtful Thursday is a weekly meme from Reading is Fun Again.

Do you DNF (do not finish) books? Do you call it that or do you call it something else? Do you tell people when you DNF a book or do you act like you never read it at all? How have your DNF habits changed over the years?

In a word, yes. I have a DNF shelf at Goodreads, and there are currently ten books on it. They're not all there for the same reason, but more on that in a minute.

For me, DNF means any book I quit halfway through that I don't consider myself "currently reading". Now, things tend to linger on my currently reading shelf for quite a while, many long enough that they could be considered on hiatus for large stretches of time... but the difference between a temporarily hiatus'd "currently reading" book and a temporary DNF for me is investment: Do I feel as if I am currently invested in finishing the book? If so, it's a current read. If not, it's a DNF.

My DNF habits haven't changed much, honestly. I've never done it much in the past, and I don't do it often now. My last DNF was at least six months ago, if I recall correctly--possibly a year. In the future, I may fall head-over-heels in love with the convenience of the DNF; for now, though, I definitely prefer to push through boring books. (It helps to be a swift reader with a tendency to binge.)

But like I said, I do DNF, and I have several reasons for doing so. Here they are, in no particular order:

Reason #1: I totally wasn't enjoying the book and have no intentions of ever picking it up again.

Demon Vampire by Virgil Allen Moore was the first book I ever received for review, and I DNF'd it within the first fifty pages or so. As I explain in my review (also my first!), the lack of editing combined with my lack of interest in the plot made me procrastinate for days, and eventually I simply gave up and admitted my very first DNF--at least, my first DNF after learning that it was a thing.

The other book that falls into this category is The Company by Robert Littell. It was a big fucking book, and from the brief bit I read, it seemed super dense and super dull. I only read a few pages before realizing that sinking my time into reading that 800-page behemoth was probably a bad idea, and I eventually donated the book to a local thrift store. Hopefully whoever grabbed it after me was better suited to it than I.

Reason #2: The book bored me... but I may pick it up again.

The first time this happened to me was with Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. I'm honestly not sure how much of the book I got through before I returned it to the library, but I was definitely not connecting with the plot and decided to return the book to the library.

I intend to pick this one back up eventually, but it's likely going to happen in some far off, distant future. In all honesty, I may never get back to it. I like to think I will, though.

The second example of this for me is Everneath by Brodi Ashton. I believe I got about halfway through the book before I simply lost interest. The plot was boring me, and I wasn't connecting to the characters. I procrastinated for days, and then the book was due back to the library. I thought about binging on it the night before the due date... but I ultimately decided to DNF, at least temporarily, rather than waste a night on something I didn't expect to enjoy.

I may pick the book back up someday, but with so many other things on my list that I actually expect to enjoy, I can't say for sure whether it'll ever happen.

Who knows, though. Maybe someday I'll give it a second chance, and it'll totally click with me. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

The third example is What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz. It was the first Koontz novel I tried, and my interested tapered off about halfway through. I debated finishing it because I don't recall thinking it was bad... but I ultimately returned it to the library without finishing. I own a bunch of other Koontz novels, though, and after I'm finished reading them, I'm going to reevaluate whether What the Night Knows should stay on the DNF list or not.

My fourth and final example is The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I tried to read this on the recommendation of a teacher when I was fourteen, and in retrospect, I simply wasn't mature enough for the book. At the time, the themes made me very uncomfortable, and I abandoned it within the first few chapters.

I definitely intend to give this one a second chance, now that I'm equipped to handle the subject matter. I have no idea if I'll enjoy it, but that's an entirely different matter.
Reason #3: It was a school-assigned book, and I lost interest partway through. I'll revisit it someday.

You know the whole "brilliant but lazy" trope? That was me in high school. I took the advanced level classes and kept my grades in the A-B range... but I also didn't actually do much work. (Kind of makes me wonder what my grades would have been if I'd had even the slightest motivation.) The structure of the classes made it absurdly easy, especially on Lit tests; a brief overview of what happened in a particular book and the ability to use context clues in the questions/prompts was enough to create the appearance of having read the book. And once I figured out that I didn't actually need to read them, I just kind of... didn't. Assigned reading is the only boring kind of reading, at least to me.

Two of the assigned books that I started reading and abandoned fairly quickly because they didn't capture my interest were Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Both, coincidentally, were assigned as summer reading... and I had much better things to do with my few short weeks of warmth, sunshine, and freedom.

I intend to get back to both of these books, eventually. I didn't even abandon them because I disliked them; I simply disliked being told what to read, and that cast a serious shadow over both experiences. I definitely plan to pick these up again on my own terms, and I hope to enjoy them.

Because, seriously, assigned reading sucks the fun out of books.

Reason #4: It's on temporary hiatus.

This would be where Paradise Lost by John Milton falls. I started reading it during homeroom toward the end of my sophomore year of high school, and before I got very far into it, it was time to turn in our textbooks. As it was in my Lit textbook, I lost access to my copy... and somehow getting my hands on another never made it onto my list of priorities. I kept saying I would do it, and now here I am five years later, with Paradise Lost still marked as a DNF.

Hopefully it won't take another five years for me to finally get to it. (There's just so much other stuff to read!)
Reason #5: The Unwilling DNF

How do you DNF something unwillingly, you may be wondering. Easy! Lose access to your copy of the book. Lose access to the only copy of the book available to you.

That's what happened to me with Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon. I received a copy through my state-wide library database and binge-read it the night before it was due (I tend to procrastinate with library books, so this isn't unusual for me), but I only managed to get halfway through before I was simply too tired to read any more. I intended to request it again.

When I went to make the request a few days later, however, I was immensely disappointed to see that the library that owned the only copy had marked it non-requestable for state-wide patrons. Since I didn't--and don't--have the leisure cash to spring for a copy from, say, eBay... I'm out of luck, I suppose.

My library has recently changed their ILL system, though, so perhaps it's time for me to try once again?

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