I fucking LOVE books

Talking about the love of books. With a lot of swearing.

Archive for the tag “reading”

Short Stories


You should buy and read short story magazines. For lots of reasons.

The selfish reason first – I write short stories. The more people who buy and read short story magazines, the more money these magazines have for acquiring work and the more likely they are to buy mine.

But here’s the other reasons. Short stories are, perhaps, the best way to get into reading fiction. People who feel unsure about reading books will find that the shorter lengths (as few as 100 words, sometimes!) are less opressive.  Because they’re short, people can read them in a few spare minutes in their busy days.

Short story magazines are cheap. Usually cheaper than a book for dozens of seperate stories!

And they’re complete stories, with characters and a plot arc and all the things you love from TV and video-games, but there’s no unnecessary extras. Just the story.

Short story magazines cover all genres and interests. Upset that there aren’t enough fairy-tale retellings in the bookstores? There’ll be a magazine you can read.

As for why you should pay for them? Well, there are plenty of brilliant free ones out there, it’s true (I suggest popping over to 101 fiction for good, very short pieces, and not just because a story of mine will be going up there soon) but the competition for writers to get into the paying market is fierce. Which means you get the best of the best. The brilliant ones.

So, you’ll be supporting the careers of writers, ensuring hard working creatives get paid, and enjoying yourself at the same time. Win win!

Some of my favourites:

Apex

Shimmer

Penumbra

Arcane

Arcadia

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Podcastle

Scheherezades Bequest
Most of these publish spec fic, as that’s what I like to read and write. Some publish literary or have a small niche.

If you want to read short stories and don’t know where to start, a good place to look is duotrope. It exists mainly as a way for writers to keep track of submissions, but you can search it for specific genres and sub-genres, and you may well find a magazine you like that way.

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Lust: A detailed examination of my trip to a bookstore.


When I go through the door, it’s like entering a new world. Lots of new worlds. As many worlds as there are books.

I like the silence, the hush, the sense of expectation. People are quiet in bookstores, they stand alone and gaze at books, their minds already half away. SOmetimes they pick up a book and flick through it’s pages with a delicate touch. The book purrs under the notice, catlike. (Books are cats to me. Loved but indifferent to you.)

I wander in bookstores. I drift around tables, touching covers, picking up the odd book and reading the blurb. I spend a few minutes in front of the ‘beautiful books’ section, wishing I could justify another copy of Jane Eyre just for that pen-and-ink cover. I can’t. I drift some more.

I feel at peace in bookstores. A combination of factors – the smell, the colours, the presence of those books, all those billions of words – it has a weight to it, which no matter how unhappy I am makes me feel better. I usually find my way to one of three sections – Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Horror, or Crime. Sometimes I amble through the fiction section, but only when I’m looking for something in particular. When I just want to get a new book, not caring which. I go straight to one of the former three.

This is where I start acting like a Booksexual (Librosexual? Bibliosexual?) in earnest. I touch the books. I stroke them. Lift them to my nose and sniff them. I treat them like a person treats their lover. The only thing I don’t do is stick them inside me because a: don’t want to be arrested b: don’t want to be banned and c: papercuts OW. But I love them. In this moment I am poised on the edge of something magnificent – discovery, friendships, love, all of those things could wait for me in here. I stroke my thumb along the pages.

Once I’ve bought the book, I’m impatient. I get it home, and immediately sit down to immerse myself in its world, know it’s characters, feel it properly. It usually only takes me a few hours to read a standard novel if I have no distractions, and that first read through NEVER has distractions. If the book is good, I get lost in it and finishing it leaves me in that strange, disconnected space where nothing feels right.

If the book is bad, I am angry and disappointed in the same way as if I’d been lied to by a friend. My expected journey is spoiled. My love was misused. My money was spent on something not wothwhile. I am dissatisfied.

I’ve been denied my deserved climax, the emotional connection I want from books. The writer has taken it from me. I am furious.

And that, children, that feeling? That is where vicious reviews come from.

Old books can be kinda (very) racist/sexist/homophobic


So, how do I  reconcile liking them?

It’s NOT enough to justify it to yourself as an attitude acceptable at the time. I mean, sure it WAS an acceptable attitude at the time (though, to think there weren’t individuals fighting that long before it became a societal push is foolish.) but we, nowadays, know it’s not.

I like to think I’m as unracist as is possible. I mean, I accept I have priveleges others won’t (I’m a white girl born in the UK) but I reckon any racism I perpetrate will be accidental and out of ignorance rather than hate.  I think it’s impossible for me to say I’m not racist at all, and talking about how racist you aren’t always leads people to believe you are… but as things go, I am fairly unprejudiced.

Bear in mind, I’m not talking about a character being prejudiced in some way- that’s just being honest to your character. I’m talking about the BOOK being prejudiced, which is a much trickier thing to realise or analyse. Very simplified:

If the book mainly puts one type of person into villain/hero roles, or only has one type of person in it as a vaulable character, it may be prejudiced

For example where all the bad guys are black and the good guy is white may not mean to be, but probably is prejudiced. There are much better and more in depth discussions online, and I strongly recommend a read through. ANYWAY back to what I was talking about.

How do we deal with being a fan of an author (especially one from a previous time period) while disliking their personal politics? Especially if those personal politics are very prevalent in the books?

Read more…

Some books are dangerous (but we still shouldn’t ban them)


Some books are dangerous, in the same way any media can be dangerous. Find a person whose mind is easily turned, and introduce them to some powerful and unwholesome rhetoric, add a sense of displacement from society and an obsession with proving themselves, and you can have a problem.

But, similar to the video games=violence ‘debate’ simply saying ‘this book is dangerous’ isn’t actually correct, and that’s why even the nastiest of books should be available for purchase. Obviously, some information should be kept away from the general public (like how to build a nuclear weapon) but in general we shouldn’t ban even the most distasteful of information.

Read more…

Best Books for Weird Teens.


I’ve noticed an unpleasant trend in YA books. They are filled with young women who lack agency, who believe their first love is to be their only love, who are controlled by the men around them. Obviously, there are those that aren’t – and those are the books I want to talk about today.

THE RULES: Every YA book in this post will:

  • Feature a woman/girl as one of the main characters
  • That woman may have a romance, but it won’t be the defining thing of her life
  • She lives her life for herself, even if it requires hard choices

My choices may not be yours, and thats fine. Feel free the recommend your favourites, ideally within these rules. THIS IS A TWILIGHT FREE ZONE. I LOATHE those fucking books and the message they send to young women, and I have no wish to get in an argument on the subject. Besides, this man can better explain my hatred. Read all of them.

Some of these books are older, some are newer. If you have a teenagerl, you could do worse.

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Rainy Day Books


On cold, rainy days when you don’t have to work, there is nothing better than a book. I have a tendency to wrap myself in a quilt on the sofa, use the fact that it’s raining as an excuse not to go for a run (My ankles are weak and I might twist one!) put on the TV to something like The Mentalist – something I can enjoy and follow with only a quarter of my attention – and read something. Usually not a new book, but something I’ve read a dozen times before. Something comforting.

 

However, my choices on the comforting may seem odd to other people, so I will explain them here. This will be very dull unless you enjoy people gushing about books and writers, and if you don’t – why are you reading this blog?

So, below the cut, I will explain.

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The first fictional character I loved.


Well, this is going to be a bit of a nerd girl cliche, really, but when I was around nine, I fell in love with Aragorn. Most teen or preteen girls are getting those first all-consuming crushes on an actor, or maybe an animated character, someone whose face you can actually see. But not me. I crushed on a man whose face I would never see, a man who was nothing more than ink on paper.

It would never have worked out. We just came from two different worlds, and besides, there was the whole Arwen thing.

Read more…

BOOKS (give lonely children friends)


There isn’t a surface in my house that doesn’t have a book on it. My ereader has 86 on it now, and most of those were free. The concept of a reading pile confuses me, as in order to buy more books than I could read I’d have to buy two or three a DAY. I am a fast reader. I am often reading several books at the same time. Some books are favourites that I re-read over and over again, others are one off reads that I can take or leave.

When I say I FUCKING LOVE BOOKS, I mean I FUCKING LOVE BOOKS.

This can be a problem. I have been late for work because I was nearly finished with a book and I just had to keep going. I have stayed up till 6 am reading something. And sometimes good books can so affect me, that they disturb me for days or weeks after I’ve finished. For example, I love ghost stories, but reading a very good one (Dark Matter) while alone in winter was probably not the best plan. Reading the Zombie Survival Guide left me sleeping with a machete under my pillow for seven days (and indirectly is to blame for my writing for In Case of Survival).

I am, in many ways, the stereotype of the bookish, clever girl who lives too much in her head.  I am socially… different, and throughout much of my life my best friends have been between the pages of books.  When I read, I am not just reading a book – if it’s a good one, I am watching the lives of people, real people, who I loe and hate… I have cried at books, screamed at them, thrown them across the room in rage, been forced to put them down because I’m emotionally exhausted.

I was a pretty lonely kid. Children like me usually are, so my world was full of books. I’ve always been grateful for that. Loneliness was bad enough, if I hadn’t had an imagination and a love of reading to carry me through, I might have been a statistic. Reading and books made my childhood bearable.

 

 

Wide Reading (makes you a better writer)


First things first, apologies for radio silence. It was easter bank holiday weekend and I spent it getting drunk and going to funfairs. I may love books and reading, but it doesn’t stop me being a bit of a party girl.

I want to talk about one of the negative aspects of reading a lot. They do exist!

They exist because not every book in the world can be a mind-expanding piece of glorious literature. That’s fine! Sometimes all you want is a bit of brain candy, especially if you’re having a hard time of it lately. And bear in mind, this is not a literary/genre thing, there are beautiful, soul enriching books among even the most poorly treated bits of genre fiction just as there are dire, emotionally mean and beige works among literary.

As I said, there is nothing wrong with these books. There is nothing wrong with reading something just for entertainment. The problem comes if you JUST read these books. It’s why I say a wide reading habit is the best thing you can do… it tests your beliefs and makes you think about different things, which has the effect of broadening your horizons. But if you ONLY read one type of stuff, ONLY read generic, brain candy books, you’ll do as much damage to your thinking as a diet of pure sugar would do to your body.

But why? Surely any kind of reading is good?

Well, yes and no, and if you’re someone who doesn’t really read (freak) then reading even imaginatively narrow and poorly written stuff is a start. But, in an ideal world, you would be increasing your reading habits to include things NOT in the favoured genre. Why? Because narrow reading= narrow mind.

Certain genres of books have their tropes – techniques they use to tell the story. The best examples of genres use these tropes well, abandon out dated or unpleasant ones, or outright subvert expected tropes. The average merely use those tropes competently. The poor, however, use them with no subtlety, and it often leads to unpleasant attitudes going unchallenged by the work. For example, thrillers often have a tendency to treat women like set dressing. They’re victims or seductresses, there for the man to win.  If you only read that one genre, you won’t have any opposing points of view to offset that. This can lead to problems. For example, recent controversies about racism and rape apologism in some Urban Fantasy books.

It becomes more important to read widely if you are a writer. It’s only through reading widely you can develop taste – by which I mean the ability to tell when a type of writing is bad or good –  and if you only stick to one genre of fiction, you artifically restrict your writing ability. Sure, you should read a lot of books in your chosen genre (and there’s a hell of a lot of sci-fi and fantasy on my shelves) but you should also read outside it. For your readers sake, if not for yours.

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