Booking Through Thursday: Serial

We are only as strong as we are united

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks an interesting question, and not one I’d have thought of writing about on my own—”Series? Or stand-alone books?”

All things being equal—quality of writing and interesting plot and characters, I vote for series. I enjoy making friends with characters and watching them grow over time, as with the Harry Potter series, or emerging victorious after a protracted fight, as with The Hunger Games series. Of course, it’s disappointing when the books diminish in quality, as with Lois Lowry’s Giver trilogy and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Most of the series I’ve read have been enjoyable. I particularly liked the Outlander series, though I have only read the first four, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (though I have a complicated relationship with that series—I like the first four, though).

I think I like series because it’s fun to get to know characters better over a longer span of time. I know even as a child I read all the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and the Fudge books by Judy Blume. I think I have always liked series. I was so excited when I learned A Discovery of Witches would be a series. And who among us hasn’t wished for a sequel to a beloved book just so we could find out how things turn out later on? Shoot, I still want more Harry Potter books.

photo credit: Juliana Coutinho

Booking Through Thursday: Multitasking

Multitasking in the Park

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks

Do you multitask when you read? Do other things like stirring things on the stove, brushing your teeth, watching television, knitting, walking, et cetera?

Or is it just me, and you sit and do nothing but focus on what you’re reading?

(Or, if you do both, why, when, and which do you prefer?)

My husband will tell you I can’t multitask. I can! I can read and walk at the same time and have been known to do so (and I’m still alive). But how does one knit? Really watch television and not just leave it droning in the background?

I used to have a friend who read while driving, and not at lights either. While driving. It was insane. He would have the book open, reading it, all the while barreling down the road at 60 mph.

I had another friend who once described The Thorn Birds as the kind of book you read while you stirred the pot. I can see it. I think I could handle stirring a pot while I read, but I don’t remember ever doing it.

So the short answer is that I’m not much of a multitasker when I’m reading, but I do listen to audio books during my commute. In fact, I’m really enjoying Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches.

photo credit: CarbonNYC

Booking Through Thursday: Cheating


I was amused by this week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt, which asks “Do you cheat and peek at the ends of books? (Come on, be honest.)” I immediately thought of Jenny, whose tagline, after all, is “I read the end before I read the middle.” Who can forget her experiment last September? My mother confessed that she always reads the ends of books. You know what? I don’t really do that. I admit to doing it if I absolutely must see if someone dies so I can prepare for it. I vividly recall doing it when I read Gone with the Wind for the first time (seventh grade). It’s too hard to do on my Kindle, so I never do it when I’m reading an e-book. For whatever reason, I am usually able to resist the temptation to peek at the ending. You know what I do do a lot though (only when I’m not reading an e-book) is peek to see how many pages or what the last page number is. I do a lot of page number math when I’m reading—one reason I think I read faster on the Kindle is I spend more time reading and less time calculating. I won’t say I never cheat, but I don’t do it much. However, I should also add that readers have the right to read however they want, and I don’t consider it cheating to peek at the end so much as perhaps ruining the ending for yourself.

photo credit: » Zitona «

Booking Through Thursday: Something Old, Something New


This week’s Booking Through Thursday Prompt asks: “All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical specimen, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?”

My answer isn’t terribly deep, and I’m afraid it will disappoint anyone who has romantic notions about the way books smell and how the pages yellow, and all of that, but I just like to read. I don’t really have a book fetish. I am attracted to pretty covers, and I prefer a book I purchase to be new. If it’s going to be marked in or damaged in any way, I prefer that I am the person to do it first. I know used books can be cheaper, but there it is. I don’t collect old books, either, and I guess I’m one of those folks who doesn’t much see the point in doing it. Autographed copies are different to me. I love to get my books signed by authors.

After I bought my Kindle, I had some friends who thought I had gone over to the Dark Side. I kept hearing things like the books smell so good, and you can’t beat the way paper feels, and, and and… And I don’t get books to sniff them or touch them.

I have a strong romantic streak about just about everything. Except books. Weird because of how much I love to read, I know, but there it is.

I can actually hear you clucking your tongue, and it’s not bothering me. Not even a little bit.

photo credit: Ian Sane

Booking Through Thursday: Romantic

I love to read ........

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “What’s the most romantic book you’ve ever read?” I’m tempted to be snarky and say Passion by Jude Morgan because its about the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats, but I know that’s not what the question’s asking about, especially because Valentine’s Day was Monday.

I had to think about this one. I would not say the most romantic book I’ve ever read was a romance novel. Those are OK, but they don’t really do it for me. If we’re talking about a couple in in a novel I’d hold up as the most romantic couple, it’s probably Jamie and Claire Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. What a romance!

On the other hand, the first book that came to mind when I read this question, and the one that seems to be my best answer to it is Possession by A.S. Byatt. I find it romantic for all the following reasons:

  • The relationship between Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte was romantic—a meeting of the minds.
  • It was the first book my husband ever recommended to me. He might not know that, but I’m pretty sure it was. (Aw, mushy!)
  • Victorian poetry. “Natch,” as the kids say. All that repressed passion.
  • The love affair with academia, books, and poetry.
  • It has a gorgeous cover, The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones.

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography(find me on FB

Booking Through Thursday: Ground Floor

Descending Memories

I know it’s Friday. Stop giving me the shifty eye. It was a hectic week. Sick children, missing Girl Scout sash, AP Information Night at the high school. I really like this week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt: Which authors have you been lucky enough to discover at the very beginning of their careers? And which ones do you wish you’d discovered early? I needed some time to think about it. I am not often the person who discovers a new author after his/her first novel, but I did get in on the ground floor, so to speak, with both Matthew Pearl and Katherine Howe. I read Matthew Pearl’s first novel The Dante Club probably when it had been released in paperback. He found a blog post directed to my students recommending the book and invited me to a reading/signing at the Decatur Library here in the Atlanta area for his new book—The Poe Shadow. It was great to meet him and have him remember that I was the “Ms. Huff” who mentioned his book to my students.

I was browsing at Borders and Katherine Howe’s first novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane caught my eye because it has a gorgeous cover. I saw that Matthew Pearl had written a blurb for it, and I grabbed it. Eye-catching cover, Matthew Pearl liked it—how could it not be good? And I truly did enjoy it. I have met Katherine, and she’s very friendly both in person and on Twitter.

I also read Kathleen Kent’s novel The Heretic’s Daughter after seeing it everywhere in Salem last summer. She has a new novel out called The Wolves of Andover. Kathleen Kent is a great example of how mining a fascinating family history can reap great rewards. I met her at the NCTE Conference in Orlando in November, and she was very friendly.

I was really lucky to discover Brunonia Barry early. I had an ARC of The Lace Reader and was able to read it before a lot of other folks did, although she had also previously published it with a smaller press. Those folks that read the very first edition must feel like they truly discovered her and that people like me are just posers.

What’s cool about all three is feeling like I haven’t missed out—and I’ve picked up all of their other works (except Katherine’s—she’s still working on her second).

You know, I’m such an English teacher nerd that most of the folks I wish I had discovered early are dead. For instance, William Shakespeare. How cool would it have been to go to the first production of the first play he wrote? Or the Beowulf author and Pearl Poet. Just to find out who they were. Or Shelley and Byron and Keats (oh my!). Or Oscar Wilde?

Psst. If you are so inclined, you could get in on the ground floor with me. I have one complete novel, a second that needs editing, and a third that isn’t finished yet. You can check out my novel here and see if it looks like something you’d like to read.

photo credit: bogenfreund

Booking Through Thursday: Periodically

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “What magazines/journals do you read?”

I have subscriptions to several magazines through the mail: Newsweek, Wired, Mental Floss, and Jane Austen’s Regency World will be most familiar to readers, but I also subscribe to education journals in my field. Right now the only one I read is English Journal, which is produced by the National Council of Teachers of English for secondary school English teachers.

I will pick up a lot of magazines to read occasionally, particularly if there’s a story I really want to read. I like history magazines (BBC History is great, and I sometimes read Renaissance Magazine). I admit to glancing through People on occasion. I have been a subscriber in the past, and I’ll own up to it. I like magazines. They’re easy to pick up when I don’t have time to read a lot—I hate to put a book down in the middle of a chapter. I also like to read them in the tub where I don’t care if they get wet (unless they’re my Jane Austen’s Regency World magazines, which must stay pristine). I sometimes grab cooking or cross stitch magazines on impulse.

I also downloaded The Guardian‘s iPhone app yesterday, and I am looking forward to using it a lot. The app is free in the US because The Guardian is trying to expand their readership in the American market. It does have ads. UK readers have to subscribe to it. I like UK newspapers better than US ones, though I occasionally read articles in The New York Times.

You know what I don’t read, though? Women’s magazines. I used to look at them fairly often, but I haven’t read them in years. Just not all that interested I guess. I can’t stand the way they’re crammed with perfume samples. Ugh.

My son likes to look at Newsweek. He is only seven, but he’s a budding graphic designer, and I think he enjoys their design and page layouts. My daughters don’t really read magazines, and I haven’t noticed that Steve has a huge interest in them, either.

What magazines do you read?

photo credit: Joel Bedford

Rascal, Sterling North

Booking Through Thursday: Firsts

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “Do you remember the first book you bought for yourself? Or the first book you checked out of the library? What was it and why did you choose it?”

I’m not sure I could remember the very first because my mother took us to the library often, and when I was old enough to ride my bike there by myself, I went whenever I could. I was also a frequent patron of the school library.

When I was in elementary school, fifth graders had three jobs and rotated these jobs by class on a cycle. The jobs were Safety Patrol, lunch helpers, and office helpers. When it was our class’s turn to be Safety Patrol, we were responsible for ensuring the other students at our school could cross safely at the four intersections surrounding our school. The other two fifth grade classes were lunch helpers and office helpers at that time. We would rotate, and our class would next be responsible for either lunch or office. Lunch helpers left for lunch early and helped the cafeteria workers prepare lunches for the students. We had a free lunch on the day we helped. Office helper was my favorite job. I would be allowed to sit in the office and complete my school work for the day, and since I could work at my pace, I usually finished by 11:00 or so. Then I could read for the rest of the day (when I wasn’t delivering messages or forgotten lunches). The office staff would allow me to go to the school library to check out books.

All of this sharing is a roundabout way of leading up to a book I remember checking out of the library more than any other, and it’s a book I checked out and read in the school’s office. The cover was a nondescript brown, and to be honest, I’m not even sure why I picked it up in the first place. All that business about not judging a book by its cover and all that is nice, but we all do it, kids especially. The cover had nothing inviting about it. Inside was a wonderful story of a boy who made a pet of a wild raccoon and, sadly, had to let it go when he realized it would never be a tame animal. It was called Rascal, and it was written by Sterling North.

Rascal, Sterling North
A new edition of Rascal

Sterling North’s story of the raccoon he loved and had to give up moved me so much that I wanted to write him. He was to be the first author I had ever written. I didn’t try to write him until I was in sixth grade, and I remember asking the media specialist at my middle school for help so I could figure out how to do it. She was so enthusiastic. She excitedly pawed through some book that displayed writing addresses, probably literary agents or similar, for authors, and I remember how crestfallen she was—more than I was, truth be told—when she discovered Sterling North was already dead by the time I thought to write him. In fact, he had died several years before.

As an adult, I am quite aware that raccoons make terrible pets, and I wouldn’t want one. I wanted a raccoon desperately as a kid, and it’s Sterling North’s fault.

Booking Through Thursday: Life-Changing

36.52: The Blue Room

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt is “Which book changed your life?” I’m not sure I can pick just one book, but I’ll talk about a few books I’ve read that I considered monumental or life-changing in some way.

Gone With the Wind was the first “adult” book I’d read. I remember my mom had it out in the living room, and I was turning it over and looking at it. She asked me if I wanted to read it. It was really thick. The mass market paperback copy my mom had was about 1,000 pages long. It never occurred to me I might be ready to read an adult book, or that my mom thought I could. I am not sure why because my mother never tried to prevent me from reading anything. She always encouraged me to read. Because it opened the door of adult fiction to me, Gone With the Wind will remain important to me.

To Kill a Mockingbird opened some doors for me, too. It was the first book I read for school that I can remember enjoying—and I didn’t read it until 11th grade, so that’s a sad statement in itself. I loved the characters. I love the voice. I loved everything about it.

The Lord of the Rings opened the doors of fantasy fiction to me. Prior to reading this epic, I hadn’t really read much fantasy, but I truly enjoyed this book. Another benefit to my reading this book has been a connection with my father. It’s a favorite of his as well, and it gave us many great discussions.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been influential to my own writing. I learned a lot about the craft of writing from Diana Gabaldon, both through examining her choices as a writer and in reading about them in The Outlandish Companion.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has brought me a great deal of joy. I began reading it at a time when I wasn’t very happy, and it was something I shared with my oldest daughter. I will always treasure our first read of it together. But beyond that, it’s given me a hobby and interest that I’ve enjoyed. I owe J.K. Rowling many, many countless hours of happiness. It has been nice to escape into her world from time to time. I’ve been mocked both directly and indirectly for being an adult fan of this series, and the only thing I have to say to those people is that I’m sad they have nothing better to do than to scrutinize anyone’s reading choices, especially when they’re relatively harmless—I mean, it’s not like I read instruction manuals for how to build bombs or get away with nefarious crimes.

photo credit: by Janine

Booking Through Thursday: First Editions

Rare 1st edition of 1984This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asks “How about First Editions? Are they something special? Or ‘just another book’ to you?”

I admit I’m not really a book collector. Maybe some feel having a first edition of a book you really love is special. I don’t really care if I have a first edition, however. To me, they’re not really all that special. What I find more special is a signed edition or an edition that means a lot to me. For instance, I have three copies of Wuthering Heights, but in many ways, the one I like best is the first I read, even though it’s a mass market paperback and has tiny print. It represents my first experience with the book. On the other hand, I love the gorgeous cover art of Ruben Toledo in the newer Penguin edition, too.

On the other hand, the first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has an error due to an editor’s mistake. This error was corrected in later editions. The error, if you’re interested, is that James Potter comes out of Harry’s wand first when Voldemort’s wand begins to regurgitate spells because of its association with Harry’s wand. If the spells are regurgitating in proper reverse order, Harry’s mother should come out before Harry’s father because he was killed before. I like the correction better.

Books are to be enjoyed and read. If I had a first edition and needed to keep it under wraps and handle it with gloves, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I keep my signed books safe, but I still read them and enjoy them. I don’t know how valuable they would be to someone else, but they’re valuable mementos of my opportunity to meet an author and talk with them about their books.

photo credit: Debs (ò‿ó)♪