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Blogging & Musing...

Books On Demand

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 09:38

books-on-demand12By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
Now here's a neat idea: a subscription service that identifies specific books just for you—and delivers them straight to your door!

The website, Just The Right Book, chooses titles—based on your personal reading preferences—and sends them to you once a month. Real books...you know, the ones with pages? The things we still love to hold in our hands?

This is how it works: head to the site and place your order for the type of subscription you want. As you navigate through the checkout process, you’ll be prompted to fill out a questionnaire about your favorite genres, titles, and authors. Once they have your reading profile, they’ll begin shipping you personalized novels on a monthly basis (or bi-monthy or quarterly—it's up to you).

For something more daring...there's Book Riot, another subscription service. This one requires a more open-minded reader—it's NOT personalized to your tastes but based on its own editors' monthly picks. Which means you get a surprise every month!—a package that includes the book (usually fiction), a description of that month's theme, author interviews, and other related articles.

So if you’re feeling adventurous give one (or both!) of these services a try. Think you could trust someone else pick your next read? And if you like it, a subscription makes a great gift, especially one from Just The Right Book, which has categories for adults, teens or kids.


 

Call Me Ishmael

Friday, 15 August 2014 06:44

call-me-ishmael-1By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
What if Ishmael  had a cellphone, or any phone for that matter? What kinds of messages would he receive?

That’s the basic premise behind callmeishmael.com—a site where readers call in to share powerful moments they experienced in a favorite book. Maybe the book inspired a new way of thinking or offered comfort during a rough time.

Call Me Ishmael is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the U.S. It's as easy as leaving a voicemail: just dial 774.325.0503, then go to voicemail. After listening to a brief message, record and share your story about what's made your favorite book special to you. Each weekday, "Ishmael" chooses one story to transcribe, record and upload onto the site.

Listening to readers share stories gives us a deeper appreciation of the power of books. It's a terrific way to celebrate literature's unique ability to shape our lives.

But don’t just take our word for it—give it a try yourself. Take a few moments to check out some of the transcriptions on Ishmael. And, of course, leave a story of your own.

So...what story would that be?

*Photo image courtesy of Billy Brown.
 

Race to the Finish?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 14:08

race-to-finishBy Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
We've all been there—slogging our way through a lofty tome, every turning page feeling like it's 50 pounds. (Moby-Dick, anyone?) So you've got to wonder: why are we doing this to ourselves?

Sure, we love that high we get when we slide past the finish line at the end of a task, but is reading a task? Isn't it something we should derive pleasure from?

So here's the question: Is it okay to abandon a book if you don't connect with it? Two writers recently took up the question in the The Guardian (of the UK)—and in a nutshell, here's the gist of their debate:

Alex Cross: The best books ...deserve more than being treated like a passing bit of entertainment.... I've nothing against reads that are quick and dirty fun, but seriously good books are immersive experiences, demanding of time and patience. Respect them.

Tom Lamont: But there is a masochistic sense out there—isn't there?—that it's somehow bad form or disrespectful or helpful to Hitler not to finish books. Very austere, very British. Very clear your plate.

If you're in the mood for delightful snark and a sprinkling of wit, do take a look at the full article.

Here's what we think: Some books take a while to get off the ground; others hit slow points along the way. Give those books time. But if chapter after chapter you feel no real emotional pull, we say put 'er down. Find something new.

Some LitLovers readers have told us on Facebook and on their Featured Club page about books they couldn't make their way through—here are several:

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
Last Night in Twisted River (John Irving)
Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)
One Hundred years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Open City (Teju Cole)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)

What about you? Are you determined to finish a book once you start it? Or are there some you've given up on? Let us know?

*Photo image courtesy of umjanedoan.
 

The Publishing Blues—and more blues

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 08:48

By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
In case you you thought our previous post "Publishers Feelin' the Blues" was overstating the case, take a another look. No, we're not crazy: there really is a BLUE THING going on in the publishing world.

still-blue-water still-blue-whales still-blue-close-eyes still-blue-long
still-blue-ava-lavender still-blue-orphans still-blue-fortune still-blue-remember-me
 (Click on cover
 image to see
 Reading Guide.)
still-blue-tempting still-blue-carry  

It's weird...just sayin'. One of our readers commented that there must have been a sale on blue ink. Best explanation so far! Anyone else got an idea?

 

Lit TV—Read it and watch it

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 08:28

Turns out. . . TV script writers need a little more help than we realized. After flipping through the TV Guide recently we’ve come to an astounding conclusion—a large chunk of our favorite TV shows started out on a library shelf. Curious which books you’ve been watching nightly? Keep reading to find out. (Images, courtesy of Amazon).

Books to TV
True BloodDead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris is the inspiration behind TV's True Blood. The story follows waitress Sookie Stackhouse through Bon Temps—a factional Louisiana town inhabited by both vampires and humans.
Dexter—The first novel in Jeff Lindsay's series Darkly Dreaming Dexter, provided the inspiration for the popular TV show. The story chronicles the life of Dexter Morgan, a blood- splatter analyst for the Miami police department who moonlights as a serial killer.
Game of Thrones—The first installment in The Song of Ice and Fire series penned by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones, inspired the hit HBO series. The story follows the leaders of several noble houses as they battle for the throne of the seven kingdoms.
Orange Is the New Black—Piper Kerman's memoir spawned the Netflix original series by the same title. The plot revolves around Piper Chapman after she is sentenced to 15 months in Federal prison for her involvement with drug trafficking.
Boardwalk Empire—Set during the prohibition era of the 1920s, Nelson Johnson's novel, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, centers around "Nucky" Thompson. The HBO series returns for its final season this fall (2014).
Sleepy Hollow—Most everyone knows Washington Irving's tale of the headless horseman that terrorizes Sleepy Hollow. The FOX series of the same name gives the legend a modern facelift with a few new surprises.
Justified—Based on Elmore Leonard's three works—Pronto, Riding the Rap, and Fire in the Hole—the TV series follows Raylan Givens as he enforces his own form of justice in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky.

If you're watching any one or more of these Book-to-TV iterations—or if you've got a favorite—let us know.

 

What's My Book Age? — Reading YA Books

Monday, 30 June 2014 12:21

ya-debate2By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers.
OK, we admit it—we were with Harry Potter from beginning to end (all seven volumes), we cried with Hazel Grace as the cancer progressed, and we followed Katniss through her long ordeal. There's something about a well-written Young Adult (YA) novel that grabs us, no matter what age.

That's why we were so surprised when Ruth Graham (Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There) popped up declaring the YA genre inappropriate for adults. Graham claims certain lines shouldn't be crossed when it comes to the books adults choose to love.
Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children.     —Ruth Graham
Should we really "feel embarrassed" for picking up a well-written book—even one directed at a younger audience? Think of The Book Thief, When You Reach Me, Persepolis, or The Diary of Anne Frank, for heaven's sake. (It's not "classified" as YA, but technically?...a case can be made). And what about To Kill a Mockingbird?

Graham has her reasons: she believes YA fiction lacks the literary complexity of theme, plot, or character that reflects the adult experience.
[YA] books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple.... These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.
As you can imagine, the article has generated a pronounced divide between literary purists and writers and readers of YA books.

In defense of her craft, YA writer Kathleen Hale (No One Else Can Have You) rebutted Graham in a hilarious parody of her own genre. She confronts Graham "outside a graveyard before nightfall."
"Why did you say that about YA?” I asked, as tears streamed down my face like rain.

“Because it’s true!” she hissed. And I saw in the moonlight that her anger made her beautiful. This was before the war, when the oceans still had water, and the moon was still visible in the sky.

“YA is formulaic, worthless dreck,” she said, transforming into a vampire.
You get the gist. It's very funny. But Hale is serious when she retorts (while turning into a werewolf, of course) that Graham's complaint is hardly new. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in 1855, disparaged the "damned mob of scribbling women" and the books they wrote as "trash." Fifty years ago, Flannery O'Conner and others complained that Harper Lee's now classic novel—written for a youthful audience—shouldn't be handled by adult readers.

This is not to say that ALL reading materials are created equal. But surely finding pleasure in books with happy endings, romance, high emotion, or one-dimensional characters shouldn't be an embarrassment. If so, we might have to toss the likes of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters (Caaaa-theeee!), Charles Dickens and plenty others off our oh-so-adult reading lists.

What do you think?  Should an adult reader shy away from YA books? Is the genre a lesser art form? What about your book club—has it taken on any YA books? Let us know.
* Photo by L on Flicker.


 

He did what? No way! — Fanfiction to the rescue

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 09:00

frankly-my-dear4"I don't give a damn"? That's it? The end? A thousand pages (and let's be honest here: the 2nd section is nowhere as good as the 1st) ... just so Rhett can tell Scarlett to take a hike?

Sometimes we don't like an author's choices, but what's a reader do? Well, some take matters into their own hands and turn themselves into writers. Thus the birth of Fanfiction [fæn'-fik-shun].

Fanfiction is just what it sounds like—amateur stories crafted by a fan of a particular work, featuring the same characters but a different plot...or point of view...or ending. Critics may debate its merit, but fanfiction is gaining in popularity—and it looks like it’s here to stay!

Take a look at FanFiction, a site that hosts 100s-of-1,000s of stories created by readers who want something more from a book...or maybe who simply want to pit their own nascent talents against the pros. Here's a smattering of what's offered:

Original Works # of Fanfiction Spinoffs
Harry Potter 685,000
Twilight 216,000
Hunger Games   39,500
Pride and Prejudice    3,400
Gone With the Wind       838
The Fault in Our Stars       494
Kite Runner         57
One Hundred Years of Solitude          3
Room          1

Have some fun reading any of these re-works: Click HERE to see the complete list—1,000s of original works which have led to spinoffs. Then just scan down the list and click . . . wherever.

Though some in the published world support fanfiction (Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series got her start writing fanfiction), other well-known authors—George R.R. Martin and Anne Rice, to name two—resent budding writers who try to gain exposure by piggy-backing on their works.

On the other hand, where's the line in determining what stories are fanfiction and which aren't? Remember Gregory Maguire's Wicked and Jeany Ryhs' Wide Sargasso Sea? They're only two of a very long list of reimaginings of famous works. Even Gone With the Wind has its spinoffs.

For a better appreciation of just how much literary reworking is done, see our LitBlog post from 2010: Old Wine in New Bottles.

Still, while it can be flattering for authors to have their works emulated by an aspiring writer, it can be equally as frustrating to fight of iterations of a story that aren't what the author imagined.

What do you think? Is fanfiction good writing practice for buddingwriters? Or is it muddying the waters for readers?
—Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers

 

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