Category Archives: up for discussion

Why can’t book one mean book one anymore?

This isn’t a review. I’m stating that up front. But I’m going to take a moment and use this as launching point to have a little rant. As with other such rants, this is my opinion. I’m claiming no authority beyond that. But I am a reader, a voracious reader and when I encounter the same things irritating me over and over I need a place to vent.

Prophecy: Blood Moon Madelynne Ellis‘ book Prophecy: Blood Moon was supposed to be the fifth book in my Blood Moon Reading Challenge.  It was the book I had the highest hopes for in the list of seven I planned to read. Which is saying something; I have found an imperfect, but perceptible correlation between books with common names and common, uninspiring stories. This means when I set out to read seven books with essentially the same title, I knew some would be flops. But I held out hope for this one.

And based on the writing, I may have been right. It seemed fine. Unfortunately, I only made it 15% in before I decided not to finish it. And if you knew how bad the last two Blood Moon books I read were, but still finished, you would understand this is not something I do easily or happily. So, if I’m willing to slog through poor plotting and bad writing to finish a challenge, why did I give up on this one? Because I had no idea what was happening.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 10.38.05 AMHere’s the thing, this is very clearly labeled as book one, but it’s not the beginning of the story. There is a prequel called Broken Angel available in a compilation titled Possession. Anyone who has read many of my reviews has probably hit at least one in which I’ve stated loudly how much I hate this trend toward teaser prequels. I hate picking up a story and reaching the end without followed any sort of complete arc. It leaves me feeling cheated.

Here we have just the opposite problem. Apparently, Broken Angel, rather than being a little teaser about the characters, or an extra side story IS THE BEGINNING of the story being told in Prophecy. So, without having read Broken Angel I can only scramble along and try to keep up with the goings on of Prophecy, ignoring all references to things I don’t know. This makes for a very poor reading experience.

And it’s not just prequels that cause this problem. Anyone who has followed my twitter lately might think I’m a little obsessed with complaining about spin-off series.

I felt burned because two books (No Boundaries and Dragon Fall) in a row, despite being labeled #1, first in a series, turned out to be the first in a spin-off series and neither stood alone well. You were very obviously meant to have read the books in the previous series to fully engage in the new series. As with the second tweet, how could that not be the case? No matter how conscientious the author is, there is simply no way to integrate the knowledge and information of 10 previous books into one new one.

So, I started thinking. Why do authors or publishers do this? I’m not in the publishing industry, as I said, I’m a reader. So, my guess may not be correct, but it will be indicative of what these actions on the part of authors and publishers feel like for readers. And here’s my guess, it’s all to trick you into buying more books.

The simple fact of the matter is that I can no longer go to the book store or library, scan the shelves, pick up something that’s numbered one, buy it and trust that I’ll be able to sit down and read it. These days there is a better than average chance that I’ll need to either also have bought a prequel or the previous series the book is based on.

Because let’s be logical. When a publisher puts out a book that is number eleven in a series, there is a limited audience: predominantly those who are following the series and read the previous ten books. I don’t think I’m the only one who would be wary about putting money out for a book ten volumes into a storyline. But, oh, if they call it a spin-off and label it number one, a certain number of uniformed buyers won’t realize it’s part of a larger series and buy the book when you wouldn’t if it was labeled (what I’d deem) more accurately. Make sense?

I feel the same way about prequels generally and the fact that they’re often free doesn’t negate the feeling of being manipulated for me. Often you read a prequel and it’s only part of a story. You have to buy the next book to finish it. Or in the case of Prophecy, you need to have bought the prequel in order to read book one in the series.

It’s not the spending of money that is an issue. I have a limited book budget, but I have no qualms supporting artists by paying for their work. It’s the attempt to entrap me, trick me, manipulate me into buying something I wouldn’t have otherwise that infuriates me. Not to mention that all of this is chipping away at my reading enjoyment. The number of books I’m reading that are unsatisfying because they are only part of a story that an author/publisher decided to break up or number in some artificial manner to make more money is steadily increasing.

It brings less-than-cordial utterances like these out of me.

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Tell me honestly authors; are those the emotions you want to be bringing out in your readers? I ask because, as the industry moves farther and farther in this direction, I feel like this more and more. I could fill pages with reviews in which I’ve been spitting mad about only reading part of a story and then expected to pay again to get the ending (or beginning).

And yes, I understand what a serial is. But they are OFTEN not accurately labeled as such and so readers are not fairly warned beforehand that they are in fact buying a serial. Take for example the review I wrote of Fated Nights:

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Three serial starters in one book and not one accurately labeled. Because to do so would discourage people form buying it. That’s not an allegation against any one author, but against the industry that’s making tricking the reader the new norm. And I am getting madder and madder.

I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it. I’m just one reader and maybe I’m the only one so bothered by the situation. New readers probably don’t even remember a time when they could trust the label on a book to be accurate. But I thought I just might bust if I didn’t give myself the chance to cry foul.

11 Things I Learned About Being a Bookworm by Living With a ‘Not-a-Reader’

I organized my bookshelves this weekend. For me this is big time drama. There are so many decisions to make. What order to put them in? Which have earned the right to prominence on the actual shelves and which have to be consigned to hidden niches among the dust bunnies and dog fur? Which to get rid of? When to read the ones that have to go, because giving away an unread book is a sin in my world. The struggle is real, people.

books

And I can’t even with my children’s shelves. OMG, I can feel the twitches coming on just thinking about it. I order them; they disorder them. I order them; they disorder them. This is a pretty regular cycle in our world. Maybe I shouldn’t buy them so many books. *<.< side-eyes that idea*

Children's shelves

But when my husband later asked what I’d done with my day and I proudly answered, “I organized the bookshelf” (Notice how now it’s the bookshelf, not my bookshelf? This is a small dishonesty I allow him to believe. It’ a form of kindness.) and he was devastatingly unimpressed, I had a revelation. He doesn’t get it. He has no idea why this lights me up and makes me happy. (Because drama and decisions be damned, I love playing with my books.)

So, what makes him different, I asked myself… what makes me different? Well, I am an unrepentant bookworm. He is not. I don’t mean he doesn’t read. He does occasionally. I think he maybe even enjoys it, on those rare occasions he dedicates himself, over months, to finishing a book. But it holds the same place of importance in his world as, say, swimming. Which he does with the kiddos a couple times a summer, or playing computer games. Which he loves in theory but almost never gets around to doing.

I however live to read.  It is THE primary (non-chore) activity in my day-to-day life. I would (and often do) forgo almost every other activity in order to finish the book I started that morning. And until I began living with someone who didn’t live this way, it seemed absolutely normal. On further consideration, I realized that there are a number of things I learned about my perception of self by comparison to him, a normal non-obsessive-reader person.

I considered making this post a fictional account from the perspective of the non-reader—11 Things I Learned Living With a Bookworm—but that wouldn’t really have been me, so it’s 11 Things I Learned About Being a Bookworm by  Living With a Not-a-Reader.

  1. Hoarding books is not the norm? Apparently, non-bookworms don’t cherish every page they own, even if they didn’t like the book. They think nothing of tossing the text when they’re finished, or even (gods forbid) if they didn’t.
  2. Having marked off over half the books in Emma Beare’s 5011419462 Must-Read Books isn’t considered impressive? Aiming to read them all eventually is just a random, shrug-worthy goal. Keeping this book for years, just for the occasional joy of marking a book out of the index is weird and maybe obsessive. Planning to get a new version when your done, because new books have probably made the list since you bought your copy in 2007, garners an eye-roll from the non-reader, normal person.
  3. Not-a-readers don’t care what order their books are on a shelf? Apparently, a bookworm’s need to have an understandable system, even if it changes regularly, is odd. They also obviously aren’t driven bat-shit crazy by random stuff, like tangled headphones or unopened mail, that gets tossed on them as if they are any other openly available flat surface.
  4. Books aren’t decorations in the not-a-bookworm’s world and a bookworm’s desire to decorate with them is often unfathomable.
  5. The ability to sit in sloth-like stillness for hours, while entire worlds unfurl in your mind is not an admirable skill? It’s, like, lazy or something.
  6. A book isn’t meant to be read cover-to-cover in as short amount of time as possible, preferably one day, so that there are no interruptions in the experience? Apparently, this is something only bookworms feel is important and not-reader, normal people think is gluttonous.
  7. reading goal as of 4/7/16Reading 300 or so pages in a day is not a reasonable expectation, nor is 300 books in a year? Not-obsessive-reader people often find these numbers shocking.
  8. Coming to the table for meals and discussing something other than the characters or subplots of the book you’re reading is considered good manners? A bookworm’s need to share what they’ve just spent six hours immersed in is somewhat off-putting to the not-a reader, normal person.
  9. Forgoing human interactions and declining social invitations in order to finish a book is considered rude? Some bookworms are apparently seen as antisocial in the non-literary world.
  10. Reading a book quickly and being able to pull out and discuss themes, genre expectations and tropes are apparently, under non-bookworm conditions, considered anathema?
  11. I never, ever want to have to live as a normal, not-a-reader person. Being a bookworm, for me, is important and gratifying. It is a way of life that I choose.

It’s this last point that was brought home to me most saliently. I could choose to not be a bookworm, which conversely means I choose to be one. I have an uncle in his late 60s, who I would characterize as a reader, maybe even a mild bookworm. He is loosing his eyesight. He’s facing the question of bothering to learn braille or if audiobooks will be enough to sustain him. He is living my nightmare, but it seems to me he is also facing the choice of whether to remain a bookworm or to move on to other forms of self-identity.

Bookworm is a way of life. Perhaps there are better names for it, but this is the one I decided on. This is the label I choose for myself. No matter what the normal, not-a-bookworm person thinks of me (us), no matter how odd or off-putting they find some of my (our) habits, I find it something to be proud of. I don’t want to live in a world where books have no order, or can sit partially read for months on end, or where going to a movie is preferable to snuggling up with a book. I don’t want to be a not-a-reader, normal person. I live at one end of the reader extreme and I plan to stay here.

Tere is a certain freeing aspect to recognizing this. I am a bookworm and if you’ve finished this post, you probably are too. Welcome to the community.

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I’m just gonna say it, “I hate prequels and serials.”

I am zen...It is apparently a week for complaints. I promise I’m not always so negative. Actually, I’m usually pretty easy going. But I have my moments of, Jeebus, just stop already!

Earlier, I wrote a post about how I’m noticing a downward trend in the quality of the books I’m receiving to review. I heard from a number of readers that I wasn’t alone in this observation and one person mentioned in a tweet that this was not limited to self or indie publishers, but that she’d had to DNF yet another book by a traditional publisher because it was so poorly edited. In fact, that publisher has a reputation for providing very little in the way of editing.

Today I’m going to have to have a few words about serials and prequels. Some of you might know that I’ve set a goal of clearing off my short story/novelette/novella shelf (basically anything under 100 pages that isn’t part of a longer series that I happen to also have). Most of these were purchased without realizing their length, because I’m not a huge fan of shorts. But however they came to be on my TBR, I have a TON of them.

I’m currently about halfway through writing my sixth such post. I’m reading them in order of length and am currently reading those that are between 70-79 pages long. And it would appear this is about the length that authors feel is appropriate for short serials and prequels to series. Which is fine…except that I hate them both and reading so many back-to-back is really highlighting this fact.

Now, lets be clear, I’m about to go on a little rant that is solely mine. I’m not talking with any particular knowledge of the industry or any voice of authority. I am espousing my opinion. But since I have a platform to do so, I get to write it up on a blog and post it for the world (or roughly six random people) to see.

With very few exceptions,* I HATE SERIALS AND TEASER PREQUELS. I just do. This is a fad that cannot die fast enough for me. And let me tell you why. I generally consider them pointless wastes of time to read, and it all comes down to one of my very strongly held beliefs about books. EACH ONE SHOULD BE A COMPETE PIECE OF WORK. This doesn’t mean it can’t have a cliffhanger ending, but it does mean the story has to have a feeling of completeness. Some aspect of the arc contained in it needs to wrap up.

Hate def

As an example, contrast this with the prequel I just read (and I won’t shame it by calling it out). It started out with a girl being dragged away by a mysterious entity, no idea if she lives or dies, she’s just dragged off. (In fact, you never even learn her name with any certainty.) The story then moves backwards through the day leading up to that point. You see people arrive in their cars, get off work, meeting up with their rides, etc. You never quite make it to, “she woke up,” but you do get to getting dressed to go out and putting makeup on. So, the only exciting thing to happen happens in the first pages and the story gets progressively less interesting with every page read. There is nothing about it that is anything but a beginning.

It turns out that this “prequel” is literally just the first chapter of the first book of the series. It’s not meant to be a stand-alone piece of fiction. It is not meant to be read as anything but a lead-in to the series. And though many such prequels aren’t actually contained in other books, many are just the very tippy-top, beginning of a larger story.

But suppose I don’t want to read the series. Suppose I just want a 71 page story, say enough for my commute,  how am I to know which I’m getting when I open it up? I can’t. It’s a game of literary roulette in whether a prequel will feel like a satisfying read of just leave me feeling cheated out of an hour or two of my time.  And you know what, I very rarely feel tempted to continue the series, because I don’t like to be manipulated and that’s what it feels like to me, like a bait and switch. “Oh, you thought you were gonna get a story?  Ha, think again and one click.”

And yes, that particular example is particularly egregious, but it’s often just various degrees of the same problem with any prequel you pick up. There is always the question of, “Is this a complete piece or work and worth my time or is this just an anchorless snippet with no sense of completion?”

Some people will argue, “Well, it’s a prequel, part of a series. It’s not meant to be read on its own. You can’t criticize it for being what it’s supposed to be.” To which I answer, “In my opinion, if it’s given its own ISBN/ASIN, its own cover, then it is its own piece of work and I should be able to read it as such. At the very least I should be warned if I can’t.” And I guess that’s the crux of the problem. There is no way to tell which is which.

My problem with serials is exactly the same. They are often poorly labeled, so I’m not even always aware if what I’m picking up is the first book in a serialization or the first in a series. And even if I do manage to find a “part one” that clues me in to the fact that it’s a serial, I still can’t know if each part, volume, episode, whatever will be a complete arc or not.

I read one yesterday that was just basically the first 75 pages of a larger work (and I have read many such pieces). Well, if it’s one larger work, why break it up? I just honestly don’t even understand the logic behind it. If you have several arcs or characters with their own storyline, sure fine, make them serials. Because it’s logical that each such part, volume, episode, whatever can have an ending of some sort.

But if you’re writing a book and then think, “Hmm, I think I’ll just chop it into four pieces”….I have to ask why? What do you hope to accomplish? Because the only thing you accomplish with me is to piss me off and increase the likelihood I’ll refuse to read anything else by you. I’m absolutely, 100% not going to go out and spend money on the next couple chapters of what is in effect a single book. Not gonna happen.

I realize that I may be alone in these opinions. After all, someone is buying enough of these works to support the authors and continue the trend. Heck, I know of one publishing house that specializes in episodic literature, in other words, stories that are written like TV shows. They have no pre-determined length or events. Parts, volumes, episodes, whatever keep getting written as long as people keep buying the serializations. Think this to it’s logical conclusion…as long as you buy the next part, volume, episode, whatever you will never be given an ending. Personally, endings to stories I’m invested in are the most satisfying parts. Why would I want to be denied that?

So I ask the authors who are writing these, the editors, the publishers to find some way, any way, to let readers know what they are in for; because I am becoming increasingly jaded with the whole industry at this point. I am so sick of reaching the end of a “book” and finding that nothing, nothing at all has concluded.

I'm slowly giving up

*Exceptions largely being when a magazine or blog or some such is publishing a story over time, as a feature. But I don’t see that those should be separated from their source and for sale on Amazon or B&N or Kobo without any explanation of what they are.