Can’t Get You Out of My Head

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Almost three months ago I started reading a book series that I’d been meaning to get to for a while. I’d read the first book in the series years ago, but decided to re-read before (finally) continuing with the rest of the books. Although I remembered liking it at the time, I noticed a lot of issues while reading it again. A lot. Still, the main character was a good one, the story was compelling and had promise, and I already had the rest of the books. I was going to read this series.

You may have noticed I’m not mentioning the author’s name, series name, or book titles. That’s because I do not recommend them. I don’t want anyone else thinking they couldn’t possibly be that bad and deciding to find out for themselves. Don’t waste your time on these, guys. I finished the series about a month ago and can’t stop thinking about it–and not in a good way.

I am bothered. I’m bothered on a personal level as a human, on a “customer” level as a reader, and on a professional level as both a writer and editor. That awesome character from the first book? Diminished into mediocrity. It’s six books of her being chipped away at until there’s nothing left. The compelling story? Bogged down in excessive fact spewing and repetition, unnecessary/superficial side characters, and ridiculous/pointless/nonexistent plot lines. The promise the story had? Disappeared without a trace. Besides that, the end of the series was so unbelievably infuriating I still can’t get over it. It actually left me feeling personally betrayed. I’ve never so wanted to contact an author and ask them wtf they were thinking.

What do you do when something you despise gets stuck in your head? As a reader it’s difficult not to get emotionally invested, especially over the course of six 500+ page books, one of which was actually decent. As a human who needs to get on with life, though, that kind of attachment is a problem. How do you let it go?

I’m still not really sure. I can tell myself it’s “just a story,” but that doesn’t help much. It’s a story that was also an emotional investment, time investment, and an actual financial investment too, since I bought the books. But it wasn’t an investment that paid off in any way. Maybe the best thing to do is to focus on the good parts: the character’s strong beginning, the one book in the series I enjoyed, and the intellectual curiosity inspired by the setting. Maybe I should take heart that even though the author gaslit the main character (and, by extension, tried to gaslight the reader), I didn’t fall for it. That might not have been the case had I read all the books when they first came out. Maybe appreciating the little wins in a giant fail is the best–and only–way to move on.

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How about you? Have you ever felt betrayed by an author’s choices? Have you ever disliked a book/series so much that you couldn’t let it go? How did you deal with that? Share in the comments.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Book Tag: Reading Habits

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Just something fun for today. Tag snagged from Dreamland Book Blog.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

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I mostly like to read in bed, but any comfy spot with decent lighting will do.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

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I prefer to use bookmarks, but I hate losing my spot, so anything will do in a pinch, including other books. I wish publishers would go back to including ribbon bookmarks inside hardcovers.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

When I need to take a break I like to stop at the end of a chapter, but if I can’t, then I try to stop at a spot I can remember to go back to.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

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If no one else is around, I’ll always read while I’m eating. I’ve messed up a few books doing that, though.

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

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Here’s the thing with multitasking–you might get more done, but you won’t get anything done well (feel free to stitch that on a pillow). If something is important enough that I want to appreciate or retain it, then I need to skip other distractions. People who say they can do ten things at once and concentrate on all of it are impressively self deluded.

6. One book at a time or several at once?

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I usually have two or three going: my main book, one I read a bit at a time between main books, and an ebook.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere I can. Reading at home is nicer, though–comfier chairs and fewer interruptions 🙂

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

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Unless I’m reading to someone, I read silently.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Funny enough, I’d never skipped ahead–until two weeks ago. I was reading a novel that was getting upsetting and for the first time that I can remember, I peeked at the end to see how it turned out (it ended the way I was hoping, thankfully). Then I went back and read it all the way through. I don’t know what it was about this book that made me feel the need to check the end.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

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I hate the sound of a cracking spine (not to mention the end result), so I try to keep them like new, but I’m not always successful.

11. Do you write in your books?

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No, because I’m civilized. I did highlight/underline passages in my textbooks when I was in university, and I sign copies of my book for anyone who asks, but those are the only exceptions. If I want to take notes, I do it separately. For anyone who likes to annotate the books they read, consider ebooks–they’re ideal for that.

12. When do you find yourself reading? Morning, afternoon, evening, whenever you get the chance or all the time?

Whenever I can, which mostly seems to be before bed or first thing in the morning.

13. What is your best setting to read in?

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Somewhere quiet, comfortable, and with good lighting. I like reading at the beach too, but it’s rare I get the chance.

14. What do you do first – Read or Watch?

Almost always read. I did watch the first Harry Potter movie before I read any of the books, though, which is what got me interested in the books (and ultimately led to a slight obsession).

15. What form do you prefer? Audiobook, E-book or physical book?

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I like physical books (although the paper dries out my hands like mad). Ebooks are also good (and great for travelling), but as a writer I’m staring at screens all day long, so I try to limit my screen time when I can. (If I can find the charger, I’ll start using my Kindle again–those screens are very easy on the eyes.)

15. Do you have a unique habit when you read?

Not that I can think of, although I do have a tendency to (over)share what’s going on in my books with my SO, which probably drives him crazy (he’s very patient about listening to me talk about the trials and tribulations of fictional characters he’s never heard of, though).

17. Do book series have to match?

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I assume this is referring to the covers/formats matching. Yes, I’d rather all the books in a series match, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t.

 

How about your reading habits? Tell me your answers in the comments (or let me know if you’ve posted this tag on your own blog).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

How to Get Books Cheap (or Free)

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You might remember a few months back when a certain minimalism peddler debuted her show on Netflix and then went ahead and called books clutter, telling people they should get rid of all but a laughably small number in their homes.

Yeah, I wasn’t impressed, either. And neither was writer Anakana Schofield, who tweeted that “every human needs a v extensive library.” You’d think people would rally around that kind of noble sentiment, but before Ms Schofield had finished hitting send on the tweet, people were calling her out as “elitist” for suggesting people needed their own home library.

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Allow me to gently point out that “needs” an extensive library does not mean “must have” or even “should get.” But whatever your stance on the issue, if you agree that books clutter up your empty space, please feel free to forward them to me (seriously, though, please give them to someone–don’t feed landfills for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic).

For those of us who do know the value of books and a home library, we also know that building a collection can get pricey. But it really doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can get “a v extensive library” for next to nothing.

Before I get to that, though, just a quick note to say that if you can afford to buy books at full price, please do so. Authors (other than a lucky few) make hardly anything from the months and years of hard, gut-wrenching work they put into a book. Authors also make nothing from most of the suggestions I’m about to share. Give the author a reason to keep writing by buying their book(s). If you like an author’s work but really can’t afford it, you can still support them by posting reviews, sharing on social media, and telling your friends about the latest great book you just read. There’s many ways to support authors and we appreciate every bit of it ❤

Now, how can you get books cheap (or free)?

 

yard sale books

Yard/Garage/Rummage Sales

I’ve never stopped by one of these sales and haven’t found books. The selection varies and you won’t always find something good, but if you stop by toward the end of the day, you’ll get great deals (or stop by early for the best selection). You can (usually) haggle too.

Best Bets: Kids books, older bestsellers, books on obscure topics that were clearly unwanted gifts

 

Aspasia S. Bissas website

Estate Sales

These aren’t as common as other sales, but they’re well worth seeking out. Although they sound like something exclusively for the wealthy, that’s not the case, and sales can take place in any neighbourhood with items available at all price points. Not all estate sales will include books, but the ones that do can be like hitting the jackpot. As with yard/garage/rummage sales, go early for selection and late for deals (you can luck into entire boxes full of books for only a few dollars). Tip: Consider moving sales too.

Best Bets: Entire collections, vintage books

 

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Library Sales

My personal favourite, these happen when libraries need to cull older/less popular books to make room for new additions. My local one also accepts donations from the public and donates the proceeds to an adult literacy program. Tip: bring small bills/change and your own bag(s). Also, look into specialist organizations that have their own libraries. Our local botanical garden has a book sale a couple of times a year featuring gardening books and magazines. If a group specializes in a topic you’re interested in, you can score some fantastic finds, cheap.

Best Bets: Fiction in all genres, large-print books, kids books, a bit of everything the library carries

 

thrift shop books

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores always seem to have more books than they can handle, and prices tend to reflect that. If you’re willing to look through disorganized shelves/piles, you can find some sweet deals.

Best Bets: Obscure older cookbooks, vintage craft books, loads of interesting books donated by people getting rid of “clutter”

 

Munich 24.06.2017 Lisar (reading at Isar) book flea market, just for one summer day in June

Flea Markets/Swap Meets

Flea markets aren’t my favourite places to shop, but you can find some bargains (haggling is also expected). It’s easy to get distracted, so focus on finding books before looking at anything else. Going at the end of the day will also result in the best deals. Swap meets are apparently very similar to flea markets, although some of them actually involve trading items instead of buying and selling–a great idea if you can find one that includes books.

Best Bets: Vintage and collectible books

 

recycling depot

Recycling Depots

I don’t know how other recycling depots work, but there’s one about an hour and a half from where I live that collects not only recyclables like glass and plastic, but also donations of all kinds of items, similar to what you’d find in a thrift store. They’re set up in a warehouse and have an ample collection of really cheap books. I haven’t been in a while but when I lived closer it was a favourite, and I’d almost always find something that was on my wishlist. Tip: bring your own bags or boxes.

Best Bets: Required reading for English classes, general fiction, quality nonfiction, kids books

 

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Secondhand Bookstores

Although the prices will be higher at a secondhand bookstore than at any of the other places I’ve mentioned, the selection and quality of the books will also be better. Bonus: you’ll be among fellow book lovers who can direct you to awesome books you didn’t even know existed. These stores sometimes have bargain bins (or even free books) to help keep things within budget.

Best Bets: Obscure and quirky books, vintage books, recent bestsellers

 

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Trading

At some point you’ll likely end up with books you no longer want. A good way to make room and get new books for nothing is to trade. See if any friends or family members might be interested. Swap meets that still involve swapping are an option. You can even try something like kijiji or craigslist (exercise caution when meeting strangers).

Best Bets: Hit and miss, but anything is possible

 

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Just Ask

Sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know you’ll take their unwanted books. Because people know I love books, they’ll often offer me the ones they no longer want. When a history teacher I was friendly with was retiring, he couldn’t take his personal collection home (his wife was decluttering before decluttering was cool). I scored boxes of history, geography and Canadian lit books. If you know someone who’s moving, spring cleaning, or who inherited a collection they don’t want, feel free to speak up. In most cases, the other person will feel like you’re doing them a favour.

Best Bets: Bestsellers, older books

 

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Random Sales

You need to keep an eye out for these ones. I know of at least one bank and a hospital that have permanent book sales set up. The money goes to fundraising/charity and the prices are cheap. Other places you visit might have a table or rack of books available too. Tip: have exact change–these sales tend to be based on the honour system and usually don’t have anyone around to make change.

Best Bets: Mostly older fiction, occasional gems

 

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Ebooks

These books won’t look pretty on a shelf, but you can find a lifetime supply of free and cheap ebooks online (and not the illegally downloaded kind, either, which will curse you with terrible karma anyway). I recommend Smashwords, which has an awesome collection of indie books at reasonable prices (or free), and available in all e-reader formats (even pdf and online reader). If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to read Kindle books, Amazon has a free app you can download for any device (they’re not all evil). You can start with my short story Blood Magic (available free everywhere except Amazon–they’re still a little evil) and my novel Love Lies Bleeding (only $2.99).

 

Where do you like to get cheap or free books? And how do you feel about books as “clutter”? Share in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

5 Awesome Fictional Librarians

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Librarians are awesome. They’re not only keepers of the world’s knowledge, but they’re also highly trained information scientists and invaluable resources, both in the library and in the community. They can help you find a rare book, an obscure fact, your distant ancestors, or even a job–and if you’d rather just google it, well, they can help you with that too (find out more about what librarians do). They work hard helping people of all ages and backgrounds, while not-very-bright politicians try to save a few bucks in the budget by claiming libraries are obsolete (hint: no, they’re not). Luckily, there are many people who still appreciate libraries and librarians–some have even immortalized them in books and TV shows. Here’s a sample of some of the characters who pay homage to those most unsung of heroes, librarians…

(Fair warning: spoilers ahead)

 

librarians are heroes every day
Design by Gene Ha for the “Librarians Are Heroes Every Day!” poster to promote literacy.

Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl/Oracle

Among all the related comic books, TV shows, movies, and reboots, one of Batgirl’s incarnations is as head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library. Batman may have a cave, but Batgirl has the whole damn library (bonus: no pesky stalagmites to trip over). After The Killing Joke, where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara (among other things sensitive readers will want to avoid), she goes from librarian-as-secret-identity to full on librarian-as-superhero, adopting a new persona, Oracle, and becoming a crime-fighting information broker. Batgirl might not currently be a librarian (although her past as Oracle is alluded to in the DC Rebirth), but anything can happen, and I hope they’ll bring that part of her story back.

 

rupert
Rupert Giles, Watcher and Sunnydale High librarian

 

Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Destined to watch over a vampire Slayer, and denied his preferred professions of fighter pilot or grocer, Giles follows youthful dabbling in dark magic with a job as a museum curator (as one does) before eventually becoming a high school librarian in anticipation of The Chosen One’s arrival. Multi-talented, Giles can explain (in several languages) why books are better than computers; research (or summon) demons; oversee multiple Slayers, Potentials, and Scoobies; and help students find copies of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When an ascending demon threatens the entire town, Giles takes time out of preparing for war and possible annihilation to get the books to safety. As one does.

 

mr ambrose
Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you’ll know Mr. Ambrose as the librarian (and cheerleading coach) at Wagstaff School. Although he doesn’t appear often, when he does it’s usually to start some drama or offer a revelation, like when he announced he’s a witch (supplying us with much-needed representation both for male witches and witch librarians). He’s also an aspiring scriptwriter working on a prequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. With not much screen time, Mr. Ambrose is still one of the more memorable, and interesting, characters on the show.

 

LIBRARIANS, THE
The Librarians

The Librarians

The Librarians TV series is based on The Librarian, another series of TV movies. The original Librarian, Flynn Carson, also makes appearances on The Librarians, which features four new Librarians and is set in the Metropolitan Public Library (or the Library), a library that exists outside of time and space but is also lost. Got it? Well, all you really need to know is that these Librarians kick ass, solving mysteries and fighting supernatural threats with their giant librarian brains. Finally, superheroes we can all aspire to be.

 

dewey denouement
Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s works are rife with libraries and librarians, but for now we’re focusing on Dewey Denouement, who made an appearance in The Penultimate Peril (Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events), as well as the TV show A Series of Unfortunate Events. Dewey is technically a “sub- sub-librarian,” who also manages the family business, the Hotel Denouement. His secret library is located under the hotel’s pond and he made it his life’s work to catalogue evidence against every villain. The hotel itself is organized along the Dewey Decimal system, and in the show Mr. Denouement insists the entire building is a library. As with many of the sympathetic characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events, our time getting to know Dewey is cut short, but as with all librarians everywhere, he is a force for good.

Who’s your favourite fictional librarian? Let me know in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Blogging Dead?

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Short answer: not really.

But it also depends on what you want out of it.

If you spend any time around the internet, you’re bound to come across at least one headline declaring that blogging is dead (those headlines have been around for years at this point). As a writer and long-time blogger (you may have seen my other blogs, Blood Lines and Whimsy Bower), this causes me some anxiety. But is there any truth to the rumours?

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From my research on the topic, if your aim is to earn a living solely from traditional blogging (that is, written articles on specific topics), you might want to hang on to your day job.

On the other hand, if you’re a writer who wants to share your work (and maybe market your books while you’re at it), carry on. Although traditional blogging might be less popular than it once was, there are still people who prefer to read a post than watch a video (which, ironically, most people watch without sound, so end up reading captions anyway). And while social media is a form of blogging, it doesn’t replace traditional blogs (but it is an excellent companion to them). The fact that most of the material debating the future of blogging is written on blogs should tell you something about their so-called demise.

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If you’re concerned your blog isn’t getting as much of an audience as it should, you can do a few things to help:

  • Promote it on social media. Make sure you’re active on at least a couple of different sites and always let your followers know that you have a new post up (don’t forget to include the link). Use hashtags to help a wider audience find you.
  • Be part of the community. If your blog is on a site like WordPress, find other blogs on that site and make sure to follow, like, and comment. That will help bring fellow community members to your blog too.
  • Post regularly. It can be once a day or once a month, but keep your blog active. Posting on a regular schedule gives readers something to look forward to.
  • Try a new type of post. Don’t feel you have to switch over entirely (especially if you’re a writer), but if you can manage the occasional voice or video post, it keeps things interesting. Or switch up the type of posts you do (if you’re usually word heavy, try a photo post).
  • Don’t write just what you want–think about what your audience might be interested in and give them a reason to engage with your blog.
  • Don’t try too hard. Imitating other successful bloggers or trying to follow a formula are both great ways to fail. The idea of “being authentic” is clichéd, but it’s also valid. Not everyone will like you as you are, but no one will like you if you try to be someone else (and you won’t be happy with what you produce, either).

Humans love variety–that’s why we don’t eat the same meal three times a day or read a single book repeatedly. And that’s why blogging won’t die. Even as blogs take on new forms, traditional blogs will always have an audience.

What do you think–does blogging have a future? What do you do to make your blog stand out? Let me know in the comments (and don’t forget to like and share)…

Further Reading:

Blogging Isn’t Dead but Old-School Blogging Is Definitely Dying

Is Blogging Finally Dead?

Are Blogs Dead? 5 Reasons Why the Internet Says Yes and We Say No

Are Blogs Dead in 2018?

Blogging Is Dead (Again)