Thursday Thoughts: Readathons

Today’s Thursday Thoughts, as hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, is on the topic of “readathons”.

Have you ever participated in a read-a-thon? If so, which one was it and what was your experience? If not, do you want to participate in one? Do you like the idea of read-a-thons? What’s your strategy going into a read-a-thon or a period of time where you just plan to make yourself read more than normal? Are there any tricks you use to encourage yourself during read-a-thons?

I love doing readathons, actually. I’ve already hosted one hourly challenge for Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, and I always look forward to that event coming back round. Invariably, I read more than usual on that day, though I’m not quite sure why that does the trick, but planting myself firmly with books just for fun doesn’t (most of the time). I mean, it’s an activity I enjoy, so… brains, who understands ’em?

My problem in recent years has been that between my medication and my anxiety, it’s both hard to stay up and usually inadvisable. Quite often I’ll end up with intrusive thoughts, scared of random noises, etc. So lately I just read until I’m sleepy and then sleep, despite how much I’d like to keep participating.

When we’re talking less concentrated readathons, e.g. the Strange Chem one that’s coming up or ARC August, I… intend very strongly to do it, and then get distracted, usually. I need more intensive poking and prompting to keep to the goal. It helps for a week or two, but then I spot a new shiny and get distracted.

How about anyone else?

Thursday Thoughts: Bookish Shame

Thursday Thoughts prompt via Ok, Let’s Read, this week on “bookish shame”.

Do you read exclusively one of the following or a mix: Adult, New Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade? What are your opinions on shaming adults who read YA? Do you agree or disagree that adults reading YA deters actual young adults from reading because they may “feel as if their genre is taken over?” Do you think NA as a whole gets a bad reputation? Do you think it’s deservedly so?

I don’t read anything exclusively. I don’t really see YA, NA, etc, as genres: that’s more like fantasy, SF, crime, etc. I just view them as helpful pointers as to whether a book is going to be suitable for a given audience. Nothing that stops you reading outside that audience, and there’s no reason to discourage anyone from reading, no matter what. I think there’s bad books in all genres, for all ages, and good books too. We just tend to hear more about the big ones, like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey that a lot of people dislike.

Now, I do have problems with both of those books I mentioned, but not because of the genre or intended audience. I don’t like Twilight because it treats an unhealthy relationship as the epitome of romance; I don’t like Fifty Shades of Grey because whatever the author claims, it portrays an abusive relationship and makes excuses for it. It’s badly researched, at the very least. I’ve read both those books, too, though not the whole series, so it’s not as though I’m judging them based on nothing but the buzz.

I disagree that adults reading YA should discourage anyone else from doing so. Whether it does or not, I don’t know, but I don’t see why it would. I’ve read all sorts of books aimed at all ages since I learned to parse a sentence, and it never bothered me that anyone else was or wasn’t reading them. If nothing else, it proves the books are accessible and interesting, and not just narrowly targeted at teenagers’ problems or whatever like some books I’ve read that wanted to cram a moral down my throat.

There are some types of books I feel snobby about, but I try to keep in mind that every time I feel that way, I’ll end up loving a good example of the genre. Some markets are more flooded with mediocre books than others, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of quality out there.

Thursday Thoughts: Spoilers

This week’s Thursday Thoughts topic is spoilers. Now, I am weird about spoilers. I tend to want to know everything’s going to turn out okay, so I like spoilers in that sense, but… then there’s the problem I have with Supernatural, where things don’t turn out okay, or don’t stay okay for very long. I haven’t watched past early season five because of this, because just — my precious babies. So I’m somewhat the same with books. If it’s triggering my anxiety at all, I definitely look up spoilers (and find myself wishing book bloggers would just spill the beans, sometimes).

There are various studies actually showing that knowing spoilers doesn’t spoil a story for most people, which is interesting. For me, well, my academic focus was Arthuriana. I think everyone knows what happens there, the star-crossed lovers, etc, etc. I this for me that’s a lovely example of the way spoilers can’t spoil a story. You know what’s going to happen, you just don’t know exactly how, and you don’t know how the characters will react minute by minute. Some versions of the Arthurian story move me to tears (John Steinbeck, I’m looking at you), while some make me wish I believed in burning books (Marion Zimmer Bradley). And yet, it’s basically the same story; it has the same bones.

I’m a big fan of fairytales, too, and that’s the same sort of deal. You know that Sleeping Beauty’s going to prick her finger on a spindle, whether real or metaphorical, and fall into an enchanted sleep. It’s how exactly it’s going to come about that you read for.

On the other hand, I’m dodging Age of Ultron spoilers right and left while still trying to gawp at the pictures of the Avengers’ new outfits, so I guess it depends on the media. Knowing spoilers for some things will stop me from watching, not only because I’m nervous for the characters, but also if I know I’m going to be embarrassed for them. Early season three of NCIS, I’mma looking at you.

No Throwback Thursday this week because I was working too hard today to have time to set it up. (Aka, now you know my secret — I throw most of my posts together last minute.)

Thursday Thoughts: Book Tastes

This week’s topic from Ok, Let’s Read for Thursday Thoughts is “book tastes”. I’ve already kind of covered this here, but it never hurts to talk it over again. My rating systems post (or rather, the comments I received) convinced me to start putting quick ratings on my reviews, proving it’s always interesting to discuss stuff with other bloggers. Here’s the prompt paragraph:

Currently, do you feel like you have a set genre or type of book that is your go-to and people know as “your genre?” Is there a genre that you’ve always loved or been drawn to in particular? Have you noticed your taste in books changing over time? Is there a genre or type of book that you used to love, but no longer read/enjoy? If so, what genre and why do you think that is?

The answer to the first question is no. I think at one point people would’ve definitely pegged me for an SF/F person, but I read too much of everything else I come across for that now. Still, I’d say that’s the genre I’ve always loved and been drawn to, and that’s the section I make a bee-line for in the library or bookshop. My first bee-line, anyway, heh.

Over the last few years, I’ve developed more of an interest in non-fiction. I think that really kicked off around the time I read an article about the fact that curiosity is the antidote to anxiety. I can’t find it again now, which is annoying because I’m sure it linked a study and stuff, but it made me curious(!) about whether reading non-fiction engaged my brain and got me interested in helpful ways. Spoiler: it does. I was even able to read a book about deadly epidemic diseases, Spillover, by treating it with curiosity.

I also got more into romance books, via Mary Stewart’s non-Arthurian work. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it at first, but turns out, I prefer it to her Arthurian work, and I got really invested in getting all her books and reading them. I’ve finished them now, which is sad, but it encouraged me to branch out into other stuff like Georgette Heyer (brilliance!).

I don’t think there’s any particular genre I’ve abandoned. Not even a subgenre; I still read steampunk or military SF or whatever if it has interesting elements, even if there’s maybe too much of it in the market.

Thursday Thoughts

Today’s Thursday Thoughts (hosted by Ok, Let’s Read) are on “reading conditions”. Taking a tiny snippet of that post to start me off: Do you love rain when you’re reading? Are you able to listen to music while reading? If so, how?! I can’t for the life of me do that. Are you the kind of person who falls asleep while reading? What time of day do you read?

I like the sound of rain in general, but it does add a special cosiness to reading. It can cover up traffic noise, dogs barking, etc, and just surround you in a cocoon of noise that doesn’t demand your attention. For a morning in bed with a book, there’s nothing better. I like it in a car, too, when I’m a passenger, though then it makes me sleepy and makes it harder to focus on reading!

I only listen to music while reading when there’s something I need to block out. Like that dog barking. Generally I pick something unobtrusive by virtue of being very familiar but not too beloved: Sarah McLachlan works because I can let that just be soothing sound, but Dar Williams doesn’t because I want to sing along. Soundtrack music isn’t always helpful — the Captain America or Lord of the Rings soundtracks are too distinctive, somehow. The Mass Effect 2 soundtrack worked well, though.

I can’t fall asleep while reading. I sometimes get to the point where I can barely keep my eyes open, and I have fallen asleep with a book or my ereader on my chest, but there’s always a moment where I realise I’m too sleepy, and close the book before I close my eyes.

Otherwise, I read anytime, anywhere. I read while standing up at the eye clinic I volunteer at; I read in bed before I sleep; I read with my feet curled under me on my sofa; I read standing up by my shelves because a book hooked me in fast; I read while I’m chatting on my computer. Kobo actually has badges/awards for reading multiple times at various times of the day, and I have them all, even the late night/early morning ones.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to read, even when we were seeing family I hadn’t seen in ages. Guess I always had a very easily drained social battery. Anyway, there’d inevitably come a time when I’d go and seek out my quiet spot — and I was a creature of habit, it didn’t vary. At my nan’s house, it’d be the front room. That was often a little bit cold so there’d be huddling, and eventually I’d usually ask for the gas fire to be put on. Then I’d toast myself thoroughly. The good part of that — quite aside from eating up all the books I had with me — was that my nan’s dog would come on through looking for me after a while and often stay, putting his head on my feet to encourage me to stay put. (Mum says they could tell he was looking for me, because he’d push on the door to the passage between the rooms until someone let him through. He didn’t go to the front room if I wasn’t there.)

At Grandma and Grandad’s house, my place of refuge was the stairs. It was kinda close enough to hear people talking in a general buzz, but not so it was distracting. I got a lot read there. When I was being disturbed too often, I sometimes hid myself in their shower room. It was tiny, but so was I.

Actually, I quite liked stairs at home, too. There used to be a kind of magic in stacking up a bunch of Enid Blyton books and reading my way up and down the stairs. Read a chapter? Down a step. (Or up.)

I don’t really have any habits like that anymore. I just read whenever I can snatch a minute, which doesn’t always work well on the bus (I get travel sick easily). I used to read in school under the desk in maths, because that’s where I could get away with it (sorry, Mr Carter). I’d read while walking between classes if I could.

In short, reading conditions: preferably continuous and uninterrupted. Comfort optional.

(N.B. Due to the number of posts already today, I’m not going to do a Throwback Thursday post this week.)

Thursday Thoughts: Rating Systems

There’s getting to be far too many interesting weekly events. Next I’ll even be updating my blog every day… or more than once every day! So yeah, this week’s Thursday Thoughts, hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, are around rating systems. Well, anybody who’s looked at my reviews here will know that I don’t post ratings on here. I prefer to let my thoughts on the books I’m reviewing come through more than my arbitrary, very personal gut feeling, which is what my ratings on Netgalley, Goodreads and LibraryThing are.

When I rate on sites that do use it, I tend to pretty much use GR’s scale, since I’ve been posting there the longest:

  • 1 star: Didn’t like it
  • 2 star: It was okay
  • 3 star: I liked it
  • 4 star: I really liked it
  • 5 star: It was amazing!

I like that because it’s nice and subjective. If I had to rate books on their technical merits, I’d probably be very critical and end up giving low ratings to books I actually really enjoyed. Or sometimes I’d feel compelled to give them low ratings based on things that might bother other people (but don’t bother me in that specific instance), e.g. ratio of male to female characters. I do still dock stars for things that really get in my way while reading, of course, but it’s possible to enjoy less well-written and even problematic media, and I do. At least when we’re talking subjective ratings, you can’t argue that just because you gave a book five stars, everybody should.

On Goodreads, there’s often been discussion about the skewed ratings (i.e. towards the positive) and more granular ratings (half-stars/ten point rating system). On the former, I feel that it’s more useful to be able to separate out positive reactions to books than negative ones. You’re usually going to skew to liking books unless you pick books without regard to genre, blurbs, etc. — I do know of someone who does that — because you know your preferences. It doesn’t stop you coming across some real stinkers, but generally being able to separate out much you liked something is more important than quantifying exactly how much you disliked something.

In terms of half-stars, I’ve just never seen the point. Sure, you can always get a more complex rating system that arguably expresses your feelings more accurately, but that tends not to work well for people. I can’t find the link now, but I think it was Netflix that found that people used the rating system less the more complicated it got.

Honestly, though, I find that my own ratings are more useful to me than anyone else’s. I don’t know what standards people are using when they rate stuff on Goodreads — they could be using the site’s standards, but plenty of people use alternate methods which they state in their profiles, but are still treated as standard in the aggregate, etc. Sometimes it works okay when you know the person’s tastes — for example, I’ve been following Dan Schwent‘s reviews on Goodreads for years, so I know when he rates something four stars what he means by that, and I can sort of gauge how I’d rate the same books because we’ve had significant overlap — but mostly, the star rating doesn’t tell me that much without the review.

I can start including star ratings on here at some point if people seem to want it, but I try to be clear enough about my feelings on books that it isn’t necessary.