Tag: discussions


Discussion: Regular Features

Posted 12 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

A lot of bloggers participate in various features every week — Stacking the Shelves, Top Ten Tuesday, What Are You Reading Wednesday… Personally, I kind of cooled on the Top Ten Tuesday themes I was seeing, but there’ve been a couple I liked recently, and maybe I should keep a better eye on that. I prefer to keep my blog mostly reviews, though at the moment it’s kind of half-and-half as I’m not posting a review as well on most days (been reading kind of slow, I guess — I don’t have reviews to post!) that I have another feature running.

At the same time, with features like this I get kind of lazy. I turn out my posts for the regular features and then don’t go and comment on others, and that just feels unfair. It helps if there’s interesting topics and I’m likely to meet other thoughtful bloggers who actually want to discuss (rather than just drop a random comment to get a follow), though.

So, out of curiosity, any you’d like to see me do? And conversely, any that you really hate and wish people would stop posting? I can’t think of any in the latter group for me, though I’m unlikely to participate in any that are just about posting covers.

Really, I’d like to participate in more that encourage talking about books and reading (or sometimes blogging) in a way that promotes discussion and exposure to other people’s thoughts. I do a monthly readalong on Habitica, for instance, and I keep wondering if I should post about that here as well, maybe even come up with some discussion questions, and try and make a bigger thing of it…

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Discussion: Film Adaptations

Posted 5 November, 2018 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed how I feel about movie adaptations in general. It’s a bit of a hot button topic among book lovers, isn’t it? “The book is always better” purists and those who just don’t trust Hollywood on principle (smart move)… Me? I don’t watch films or TV much at all, so it’s a bit of a moot point. I think comic book movies work really well: it’s a visual medium being adapted into another visual medium, so it’s not quite as tricky, and actors like Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans have done a good job at somehow embodying the larger than life characters from comics. When it’s done well, it can even bring a new cohesiveness to disparate material — I don’t follow how the fuck most of Marvel’s comics fit together most of the time, but the Cinematic Universe has allowed a lot more interlinking.

(On the other hand, maybe too much. Civil War was billed rather awkwardly as a Captain America movie when it was clearly an Avengers movie. It was about the whole team, not Cap as such. You wouldn’t get away with that in comics; a lot of people follow particular headline characters, not teams and crossovers.)

Books, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. They’re not a visual medium, and the translation can be harder. I think some movies have done it extremely well — Lord of the Rings, but not the Hobbit, for instance — by taking pains to be as close to the source as possible. Some have been super boring because they stuck close to a book that didn’t translate well, either through narrative voice or through much of the action being in thought rather than deed. Others have benefitted by going off at a right angle (Stardust, Howl’s Moving Castle). Some have just bombed by doing that (The Seeker).

All in all, I think adaptation is an art in itself, which you have to keep in mind as well as film-making. The same goes in the opposite direction — I’m sure a very good book can be written based on a movie, but it can’t just repeat the action word for word. It’s an act of translation to a new medium, and really you need to understand the needs of both media.

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Discussion: Likeable Characters

Posted 29 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 19 Comments

For ages on Goodreads I had a really annoying follower who would always complain when I reviewed a book on the basis of liking or not liking the characters. Honestly, I’ve lost track of why they felt that was the case, but it was based on some idea of how one should actually appreciate books, and particularly given the fact I was an English Lit student (and later graduate, and then postgrad).

Friends, it’s bullshit. You can like or not like a book for whatever reason you want on your own time. Personal reading for pleasure has nothing to do with an academic assessment of a book’s merits — if you even think that the job of academia is to sit in judgement over whether a book is good or not (which I think would’ve had the entire literature department at daggers drawn if it was truly what the study of literature is all about).

So yeah. I’ll come right out and say it: likeable characters are a big part of whether I enjoy a book or not. They don’t have to be perfect (that’s just boring), but mostly I do need to be able to root for them, care about what happens, and not just be waiting for them to hurry up and die. It’s part of what adds tension to a story. If you don’t care whether the characters live or die, that climatic scene with the big bad doesn’t mean very much.

There are books you like in spite of characters — and characters who are terrible people but engaging anyway, too! Likeable doesn’t have to mean in the right, either. And characters definitely don’t have to be relateable in the sense of sharing experiences with me: what’s important is that I can understand why they think and feel the way they do.

So, how about you guys? Characters? Or could they be cardboard cutouts for all you care?

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Discussion: Returning comments

Posted 15 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Normally, I have a policy of commenting back on the blogs of everyone who comments here. It slipped for a while due to complete lack of time between working, studying and moving, but I’m trying to get back into the habit now. However, during the last week someone commented on my blog and I blithely went to comment back on theirs… only to find that they hold views completely repugnant to me.

I’m (somewhat) okay with having friends who disagree with me, who even think that (for example) homosexuality is a sin, support Trump, support Brexit, think that trigger/content warnings are political correctness gone mad, etc, etc. But those friends are usually friends who mostly keep it under their hat when around me unless we decide to discuss it in a civil manner: they don’t openly rank homosexuality with paedophilia, or tell me my wife should have been turned back at the border, etc. I don’t usually make friends with people who openly declare that they think I’m going to hell, and to be quite frank, pushing one’s boundaries and not living in an echo chamber is one thing — putting up with someone who sounds honestly gleeful about how disgusting they find me and people I love is quite another.

And, being honest… I know another blogger can’t do anything to harm me, but going to their blog to find their comments about homosexuality being a sin and perversion felt like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over my head. I was scared. People like that make the world a frightening place for people like me. Even if they themselves do nothing but talk, people like them followed me and my sister around at school telling us we should kill ourselves; people like that leave people like me for dead on the side of the road, not just historically but now (with homophobic attacks in my own country up almost 80% in the last four years). People like me have to be careful.

It was a harsh reminder that sharing a love of books with someone doesn’t mean we share anything else. Maybe if their top review hadn’t contained a disgusted comment about the book involving homosexuality, we’d have had a short chat about books and parted none the wiser. But I did see that.

So, should I have commented? I don’t know. In the end, I decided that they too would probably prefer it if I didn’t comment, given the givens. I definitely felt safer not doing so.

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Discussion: What to discuss?

Posted 8 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 5 Comments

I know, this is kind of cheating. But I really was wondering — what kinds of topics would you like to see me write about? Is there anything I haven’t talked about related to books, comics, genre fiction or blogging that you’d like to see me write about? Right now my list of prompts is empty, and my brain is totally blank.

In apology for the threadbare discussion post, here’s one of my buns in their new hammock:

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Discussion: How Do You Review?

Posted 1 October, 2018 by Nikki in General / 13 Comments

I might have posted about this before, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve yet hit upon a way to review books that works for every book, and that really satisfies me looking back. After a while I read back some of my reviews and I’ve been so vague about what the book was about that it doesn’t remind me (although I can always tell whether I liked the book or not — but that usually sticks with me anyway) and a lot of my reviews come out the same. The past week I’ve started trying to be more descriptive: set the scene a bit more, for one thing, particularly because I don’t include the publisher’s summary when I post a review. I still don’t have a set procedure for myself, though — honestly, writing to a checklist makes my reviews feel all the same in another way, and makes the whole process even more mechanical and wooden.

How I go about writing reviews, generally… hmm: first, a sentence or two about how I came to pick up the book, or how I felt about doing so. ‘This book has been really hyped for months, so I finally succumbed when I saw it at the library’ — that kind of thing. Then I’m now trying to get in a bit of description — the major ideas of the book and what I think about that and the setting… I don’t want to put in spoilers, but I do try to give some idea of how it develops. And then last, what jumped out at me, for good or ill? Characters, plot points, did it remind me of something, did it go off the rails… And finally, I try and comment on who I think might like it, if the rest of my review hasn’t made it obvious. And at the ending, at the request of some of my earliest blog readers, a star rating out of five.

With non-fiction, of course, it’s a bit different; I try to explain why I’m interested and what my existing level of knowledge is, the stuff the book covers, whether the writing style is clear, and then maybe in the end who I’d recommend it for.

Of course, every so often I’ll lose my head and do something different, maybe even write a little story. But for the most part, the above is what I try to do, or am trying to do now.

So what do you put into your reviews?

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Discussion: Keeping Books

Posted 24 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

Do you hoard your books? Or do you keep everything you’ve ever bought in a massive book hoard?

While I do have quite the book hoard (ahem), it’s mostly books I haven’t read yet, or intend to read again. I try not to be overly sentimental, or precious about having spent money: even having paid full price for a book, I’m still quite happy to let it go, preferably to a charity shop or a library if I can’t recoup much of the cost. (There was a store in Belgium that bought a lot of my second-hand books as they were in good condition and in English, which people do want in Belgium but can get very expensive. I doubt that’s going to be as easy now I’m back in the UK full time!) Even having received it as a gift, I’m in line with Marie Kondo on this one: the purpose of the gift has been fulfilled, and it’s no disrespect to the gift to hand it on where it can be enjoyed more. In the case of books I bought myself, I’ve supported the author and now handing on their book has a chance of introducing someone else to their works for the first time.

I do keep a fair number of books, though. You can bet I still have Ancillary Justice and Assassin’s Apprentice and The Grand Sophy and Gaudy Night… and a whole succession of other books. If I’m pretty sure I’ll want to reread it someday, I’ll keep it. After all, there’s no point in buying it twice (though I have done that in the case of ebooks, to have a handy e-copy). Still, if it’s easy to get from the library and it wasn’t a 4-5 star read, I probably won’t keep it even if I could see myself rereading it (e.g. to finish the series). I’m not much for keeping books for pretty covers, either.

Personally, I have limited space (alas) and I always need room for more books. Donating them (or sometimes selling them, or giving them to a friend) is the best way to keep my library rotating. Okay, financially I shudder to think of the turnover, but the joy I get out of it is more than enough.

So how about you? Chronic keeper? Or do books barely touch the shelves before they’re out again?

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Discussion: Shelving

Posted 17 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

So I’m in the new flat and getting everything sorted, and of course the big question arises: how should I categorise my books?! I know some people who don’t bother, or even weirder to me, sort them via totally arbitrary criteria like spine colour, or the size of the book.

To me, the whole point of the shelves is to make the books accessible, so it needs to be useful as well. My books get roughly separated by genre and then alphabetised by the author’s surname — and within an author, I tend to go by publication order if I’m feeling really obsessive. Series definitely need to be together and sorted in order! Size and colour don’t matter to me, unless they don’t fit on the shelf, in which case taller books do go on a separate, taller shelf.

The breakdown for my books is pretty unsurprising: there’s four bookcases in the living room full to the brim with fantasy and sci-fi…

There’s a half-size bookcase in my office which is two thirds full of pop history books…

Comics go on the unit above, and I do have a separate section for library books as well…

Then the full size bookcase behind me is a bit of a miscellanea: a few shelves of crime fiction, some historical fiction, some romance, and then two shelves of pop science.

So how do you categorise your books? Please tell me it’s not by colour… (I mean, I kid. Do what you like. But what earthly use is that?!)

 

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Discussion: Too Many Books At Once

Posted 10 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 14 Comments

Too many books spoil the broth? Hmm… not quite right. Well, I mean, they would, but it’s not quite in the spirit of the proverb.

…Anyway, this week’s discussion post is about reading multiple books simultaneously. I know a lot of people hate doing that, feeling that they lose the thread of the plot or there’s just too much to pay attention to, and I get it. I just can’t sit still for long enough — I’m very much a mood reader, and that means if a book is taking me ages and isn’t something I’m super in the mood to read, I’ll pick up something else to fill in the gaps. The problem occurs when I then pick up another book to supplement that, and… on and on it goes.

Personally, I think you all know my Golden Rule of Reading: have fun, and don’t ever let it become a chore. I did try to reduce the number of books I had on the go at once, because sometimes it is a little stressful or I end up not making progress on a book for ages even though I was enjoying it… but overall, I prefer to give myself the flexibility to just put a book down and come back later, because I don’t ever want to feel resentful about reading or annoyed that I’m dying to pick up Book X but I’m stuck on Book Y. I don’t think it’d work if I read books all in the same genre — they might blur into each other — but maybe it helps that I’m all over the reading map.

So yeah, I refuse to have shame about my currently-reading pile. Vive la stack!

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Discussion: Buying a Series

Posted 3 September, 2018 by Nikki in General / 6 Comments

As with a lot of my discussion posts, this is basically prompted by authors posting on Twitter. In this case, authors are often to be found urging you not to wait for a series to be over before buying their books. There’s solid reasons for that, of course — if people don’t buy the first book in a series, publishers are probably not going to bother taking the risk of publishing the second book — let alone commit to an extended series in hopes that in ten years or so, once it’s complete, people will finally flock to buy the thing.

As a reader, though, I find authorial reproach on this topic… ugh, irritating isn’t the word, because it sounds unfair. But to me, it’s also unfair to expect readers to make an investment in a series right out of the gate, without it even being clear when the next books will come out, how long it’s going to take, how long the series might be, whether things are planned in advance… I would never bother to read the first book of a fantasy trilogy when it’s just the debut novel, for certain: I don’t want to be stuck in Scott Lynch-esque limbo. (I’m with Neil Gaiman — [author name] is not your bitch — but it’s been disappointing as a fan. And in that case, it wasn’t even after the debut novel that things slowed down. There were two books out in reasonably quick succession; it looked like a good bet!)

And of course, I don’t want to buy a book that I’m not going to read until I know when the next one is out. I have a backlog of over a thousand books; if nothing else, I don’t want to purchase something in order to have it sit there for five years inflating my counts and clogging my shelves.

Putting up a discussion post might imply I have an answer, but I really don’t. I don’t have a solid policy: I’ll buy a debut novel if it looks interesting, and I might even read it and risk spending five years waiting for the next book. But it’s something I really would like to balance out somehow: authors’ need for an audience, my desire to feel that I’m not gambling on the next book ever existing…

So hey, what do you guys do? Buy the first book and not read it? Buy the first book and read it and hope to goodness the next comes soon? Stubbornly hold out for the series’ end?

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