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Unpopular Opinion: I Never Read Excerpts, Sample Chapters, Previews, Etc

Ok, this might take a little explaining. Because, from a blogger’s perspective, I love posting excerpts. Which I acknowledge chances being a little hypocritical. Over on Sadie’s Spotlight, a blitz or spotlight with an excerpt is probably the most common sort of post I post.

I like them from that end because they are usually brief, non-graphical, and give readers an idea of what to expect from the writing in the book. I can usually tell from a paragraph or two if I’m going to like the author’s writing style or not. So, I feel like excerpts serve a purpose. I’m not arguing against them. As a blogger who promotes books on her blog, I love them and assume (by their prevalence) that other readers appreciate them.

Hate defHowever, as a reader myself, I hate them. I almost never read them, even when I post them if I’m being honest. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sneak peek into the next book at the end of a finished book, an excerpt on a blog (like I often post), a page flip on social media, downloading a sample from a bookseller, or previews from a bookfunnel-like promotion. I am not at all interested.

This topic came up today because I was looking at a Bookfunnel promotion, and as I scrolled through, I found Preview, Excerpt, Free Chapter, Sample Chapters, Teasers, Short Story in the whatever series, etc. And I said, “Well, this is a waste of my time,” and stopped scrolling. Whatever books were past that point, I never saw.

I’m speaking solely for myself here. But I will never knowingly download any of those, and I’m super annoyed if I think I’ve downloaded a book and only later realize it’s the just first 3 so many books so little timechapters or something*.

There are several reasons for this reluctance. The most important of which is time. It’s most important because it’s relevant in several ways. First, I own literally thousands of books. If I’m picking up a new one, it’s an addition I really don’t need, I want. As such, I’m not going to put any significant time or effort into it. I will not spend half an hour reading the sample to decide if I want it or not.

While I realize X number of pages as a preview is offered as an extended chance to decide if I want the book. To me, it feels like an imposition on my time. I do not want to read twenty pages to make a decision I can make based on the cover and blurb. That’s their purpose. I don’t want to make the process more lengthy and time-consuming.

Second, I hate, hate, hate with an abiding passion starting things I don’t get to finish. So, putting half an hour into reading three free chapters and then stopping is anathema to me. I cannot stress how much I dislike even the thought of this. I am not neutral on the subject of preview chapters from this perspective. I am strongly anti-**.

As an aside, this holds true for books too. I have become increasingly disenchanted with series lately because there is a trend in which plots stretch over entire series instead of having any natural stopping point at the end of books. I even recently posted looking for recommendations for standalones and omnibuses to avoid this.

reading goal as of 4/7/16Third, I’m a list maker. I get a lot of satisfaction building my yearly have-read list. Spending half an hour reading a sample and not finishing the book feels like a waste because there is nothing to log at the end of it. And I could have put that time into reading half an hour of a book I could log.

I’ve seen quite a lot of discourse lately from readers saying that numeric reading challenges and the drive to read more have stripped reading of enjoyment and made it feel like a chore. But this is not true for me. I very much enjoy the feeling of accomplishment I get from starting January first with a blank page and ending the year with a full list of books I’ve finished. And all the excerpts, previews, sample chapters, etc, don’t contribute to this accomplishment. In fact, I feel like they undercut it.

So, while I acknowledge that excerpts serve a purpose and I’m thrilled for those that enjoy them. I am aware, after all, that some people enjoy them as an amusement of their own, separate from the book they represent. My unpopular opinion is that I hate them. I feel like they clutter promotions up, and I wish they weren’t there. But even more broadly, I just don’t want to read them.

This is, of course, an “if you don’t want to read them, then don’t” situation. But since this is also my blog, I get to take a page to vent about how much I don’t want to read them.

end Image by Colleen O'Dell from Pixabay

*I’ll acknowledge a certain amount of audacity here. The Bookfunnel promotion in question was for free books. As such, a person shouldn’t complain too much about what is or isn’t offered up for free.

** Again, for myself, not in general. Others can and should do as they please.

Review of Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall

I picked up a copy of Rachel HawkinsHex Hall somewhere along the way, probably Goodwill or a similar place. I was on a YA kick, at the time. But I’ve hence given that up. So, it and several like it, have just been taking up space on my book shelves.

Description from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. 

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. 

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

This is pretty standard YA fare—young girl who thinks herself average or below turns out to actually be extraordinary. Meanwhile, she catches the eye of the school hoty and makes enemies of the school’s clique of queen bees. There were no surprises or depth here. The most tension-laden scenes revolved around the creation of a dress for the school ball, while the villain was discovered, found and confronted in less than two pages, defeated in less than a paragraph. There are also some things that really needed to be address further, in my opinion, that characters jut let slide. But it was well written and I found it pleasantly amusing.

I do have to ask about the cat on the cover though. No one in the book has one. In fact, the main character is allergic to them. So, why is the cat on not only this cover, but every one in the series? Just to symbolize witches? But these witches would have found that so cliché. Covers that don’t match the story annoy me.

What I’m drinking: What the English might call Builder’s tea. One inexpensive bag of black tea, quite strong and a dash of milk. This is one of my comfort drinks. These days, I’m often off dairy. So, I don’t drink it as often, but my British relatives are currently visiting. There is lots of tea and milk in this house right now.

Isles of the Forsaken

Book Review of Isles of the Forsaken, by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Isles of the ForsakenI borrowed Isles of the Forsaken, by Carolyn Ive Gilman from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
The Forsaken Isles are on the brink of revolution. Three individuals are about to push it over the edge and trigger events that will lead to a final showdown between ancient forces and the new overlords of the land.

This was an interesting read with some intriguing complexity to the characters and a slow but engaging plot. I was a little uncomfortable with the Great White Savior set up though. And it is a set up, to come about in the next book, but by the end of Isles of the Forsaken I was a bit squinked out with Nathaway’s position. However, up to that point I’d found him pleasantly complex. He was naive and short sighted. He truly believed he was bringing a gift of the rule of law to the islanders and was completely blind to the destruction in his wake, because he simply couldn’t see that the cultures, beliefs and practices of peoples other than his own had value and place. He wasn’t malicious in any way, just utterly ethnocentric.

Then we have Harg, the reluctant hero. I have to admit the reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes, which made Harg my favorite character. And he too has some complexity of character. An outsider among his own people and ready for a peaceful period in his life, he instead becomes the leader of a rebellion of the very people who largely deny him, while laying claim to his cause.

This tendency of people to greedily grasp at something that would happily be given if not demanded is a theme we see with Spaeth too. She’s desperate to give of herself for the people, but no one will stop demanding from her long enough to let her gift herself instead. It’s an interesting conundrum. The same actions make her a slave in one scenario and a savior in another. And she’s so young and innocent that she has trouble navigating this confusing terrain.

I admit I’m always sensitive to representations of women in novels. It’s hard for me to look at them as individual characters in individual novels and not as one more in a collective of female characters. But the wide-eyed, beautiful, innocent, overly sexual creature of femaleness (created for a man’s entertainment) felt very cliched to me. The impression only got worse when she was constantly protected from herself by the men around her and her will was eventually subjugated to a man while she was unconscious (which she woke up thrilled about, of course).

I’ll be reading book two to see where the rebellion goes. Honestly, there is a political rebellion underway here, but the whole book is about rebellion. Everyone is rebelling in their own way and that subtle, undercurrent of frisson is what’s kept me going even through the weird dream-like scenes and slow passages that pepper this otherwise interesting book.