Very Bad Reading Habits

I have a confession to make … I have some very bad reading habits. In a perfect world, I would be a perfect reader – the kind of reader who buys a book, dutifully reads it from cover-to-cover and reads in total silence. I am not such a reader.

My Bad Reading Habits are as follows:

I’m a skipper: I regularly take peeks at the pages ahead of where I am at in a book. I do this for several reasons:
• to see if a slow book is going to get any more interesting
• because I like to pre-empt where the plot is taking me and want to confirm my suspicions (I do this a lot when I’m reading crime or mystery books)
• if I am really enjoying a book where the heroine has a couple of choices for love interests (because I like to know which love interest I should be supporting from the start)
• because life is too short to waste on a book that isn’t reeling me in. If it starts getting better mid-way, I know to persevere and keep going.

Note: If I love a book, I usually refrain from doing this and will let the author take me on a journey where the destination is unknown. Even though I can barely stand the surprise!

I’m an abandoner: I buy the book. I start it. And if it doesn’t suck me in, I abandon it. This makes me feel incredibly guilty. It’s like buying an item of clothing that you never wear. Some women have a shoe habit, I have a book habit. The abandoned book sits beside my bed, looking at me reproachfully. Then it gets exiled to my bookshelf when another book takes its place in my heart. I think to myself that ‘one day’ I will pick it up again and read it. I seldom do. It sits there and eventually ends up being donated to a charity shop in pristine condition. I like to think that someone else will give it the attention I never gave it.

Books I have abandoned and should have read include: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

I’m a devourer: I read books like I eat cake – too quick for my own good. I should take more time to savour the words instead of gobbling them up so fast I forget what I’ve just read. Just think of how long some poor author has slaved away over one sentence and I’ve probably missed its beauty because I’m whizzing by.

I’m a judger: I tend to turn my nose up at snobbish books. You know the ones that are published dripping with literary praise and are accompanied by reviews that use words you’ve never heard before. If I can’t even decipher the review, I know the book will give me trouble. These books scare me. I fear that I will need a dictionary, thesaurus and a PhD to get through each sentence. They also stop me from doing my usual speed reading which then causes me to abandon them. I distrust books or authors who place themselves above the teeming reading masses.

But I feel I need to read more of these books. I need to get outside of my comfort zone and find out why the literati are raving about the kind of books you will never find for sale in Target. As long as it’s not a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Book’ where people think it’s cool to like something because no one wants to admit they have no idea what it’s about.

I’m a non-sharer: It’s MY book! All mine! My precious! No, you can’t lend my book because 9 times out of 10 you’re not going to return it … I don’t like to lend books unless you’re family and I can raid your shelf afterwards to get my book back. But if I am moving and need to offload 6 boxes of books then you’re welcome to take your pick!

I’m a multi-tasker: I admit to reading two books at the same time. I usually do this if the current book I am reading is in danger of becoming abandoned and there’s another exciting book waiting behind it, ready to prove its worth. I also have a nasty habit of reading whilst performing other tasks. I read on public transport and listen to music at the same time – usually to block out noisy commuters. I read during TV ad breaks so I can get in some reading time. (It’s difficult to find time to read.) And I read whilst eating lunch or dinner (often to the poor book’s detriment).

I’m a follower: I happily admit to jumping on many book bandwagons. Sometimes books are bestsellers and hugely popular for a reason – ‘cause they’re so good! I don’t mind being sucked into a massive marketing vortex and spat out the other side. Hell, I’ve even worked on book marketing campaigns and believed my own hype. While there’s something nice about discovering a good book or author before the masses and declaring ‘I liked them before they were popular’, as long as you enjoy the book, who really cares how you came by it.

Last confession … sometimes, very, very occasionally, I dog-ear the pages. And it makes me feel very, very bad.

What are your bad reading habits?

The No. 1 crime against books

Nora Roberts has the perfect writing formula

The Witness by Nora Roberts (488 pages, ISBN: 9780749955168, Pub 17 April 2012, Piatkus)

Reading a Nora Roberts book is like sitting down for a chat with a really good friend. You know it’s going to be entertaining; you know there will be a juicy story or two in there; and it leaves you feeling pleasantly satisfied.

Nora never lets me down. I know I’m going to get a plot which involves either a female or male protagonist with issues. The woman will be feisty and independent, yet vulnerable in some way. The man will be ruggedly handsome and instantly attracted to the woman – not without some angst. The story will be set in small town, beautiful America somewhere. The characters will cook a lot, eat a lot, fight a lot, make-up a lot, resolve a life-or-death situation, and there is usually a cute dog thrown in there as well. And it always ends with all the problems and issues resolved and happily ever after.

This is not a criticism. Nora is a fantastic storyteller and I keep on buying her books because I know what I’m going to get. In Nora’s latest book – The Witness – it’s the female protagonist, Abigail Lowery, who has issues. At the age of sixteen she witnesses a double-homicide carried out by the Russian mafia. She goes into protective custody and when her safe house is no longer safe, she runs … and keeps on running. The interesting thing about this character is that she is socially awkward and brilliantly gifted à la Lisbeth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (though not quite as messed up). She has an eidetic memory and can even computer hack her way into FBI records.

The love interest, Brooks Gleason, is the small town Chief of Police. He is intrigued by this woman who arrived in town a year ago and keeps to herself. He decides that despite her rudeness, social ineptness, and her complete lack of interest in him or anyone else in the town that she is the woman for him – and he pursues her relentlessly. (Where is this guy in real life? Note to self: move to a small town near the Ozarks, Arkansas, and act weird to attract a hot cop’s attention.) Will he learn the truth about her terrible past? Or will she run again?

There are other richly constructed characters populating the pages, a Russian mafia back-story and some other twists and turns. Oh, and of course there is a cute dog!

Nora Roberts may never win any Booker Prizes from the literary powers that be, but damn does she know how to construct characters and write believable dialogue. Perhaps after writing more than 190 books (according to the publisher’s website), her stories can sometimes feel a bit déjà vu to fans, but she always pleases. That’s why she has sold millions of books! If you want a good read with a smattering of suspense and a large dollop of romance, you’ll enjoy this book. I know I did.

J K Rowling Abandons Children for Adult Fiction – but at what price?

Harry Potter (character)
What do you mean there won't be any more Harry Potter books? Don't you know who I am J K?

I read yesterday that J K Rowling’s first book for adults will be released worldwide in September (see the article here). Entitled The Casual Vacancy it sounds like it will be a small English town/quirky characters/mystery story. And not one wand or flying broomstick will be seen.

I have to say that I want to read it. It’s J K Rowling. I mean it will be brilliant, won’t it? (With even the e-book priced over 20 USD, I think the publisher is hoping we’ll all pay for the privilege.)

But somehow I feel a little bit sad – it seems there is life after Harry. Maybe Harry Potter really is over. Done and dusted. No need to ever go back and continue the story. As J K Rowling wrote in the final chapter, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had kids and lived happily ever after.

Or did they? What became of them in middle-age? Did Harry remain a selfless hero once he was working the daily grind? Did Hermione manage to stay perky after a couple of kids and years and years of being married to the affable Ron Weasley?

If J K Rowling wants to write an adult book, why not make it an adult Harry Potter story? She can always use one of these scenarios:

  • Scenario One – Harry Potter and the Affair to Remember: Harry is 40, balding, slightly overweight and suffering a mid-life crisis. He has a feeling that the best years of his life were lived in his adolescence. He has now become the bore at dinner parties who people avoid. His wife Ginny is rudely dismissive: ‘Shut-up Harry, no one wants to hear about your duel with Voldemort. It happened more than 20 years ago. We all know the story.’ In fact, Ginny has recently dyed her ginger hair blonde and seems to always be at levitating yoga class. The class with the handsome male instructor who she swears is gay. Maybe that’s why Harry felt the need to go out and buy a muggles sports car. At least he childhood friend Hermione always listens to him. She feels similarly frustrated in her marriage. Ron is just not exciting any more. And he lacks ambition. He hasn’t been promoted in ten years and he never helps with the children. At least they have each other …
  • Scenario Two – Harry Potter and the Dead Wizard’s Society: Harry gets a job at Hogworts as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He finds that Hogwarts isn’t the place it used to be when he was a teenager. Kids these days have no respect for their teachers. The girls spend most of the class using magic to give themselves tattoos or to send the boys magical nude photos of themselves. While the boys openly mock him with taunts of ‘Voldemort’s bitch’ and ‘Scarface.’ They use their wands to give each other wedgies and to see who can create the foulest stench. He’d just love to hex the whole lot of the buggers. Instead, he is determined to educate them. He beat the most powerful, evil wizard ever known. Surely he can help a few pimple-faced teens grow some brain cells?
  • Scenario Three – Harry Potter and the License to Kill: Harry seems to have an ordinary life – on the surface. But what people don’t know is that he is MI5’s secret weapon. Yes, the muggles have discovered that witches and wizards walk amongst them. And of course they only recruit the best of the best. The name’s Potter, Harry Potter. And he’ll have his Butterbeer without the shaken and stirred part – thank you ever so kindly.

J K please feel free to use any of these scenarios – just bring the magic back!

Does anyone else have some ideas for J K?