Posts Tagged ‘used books’

Library Book Sale Finds: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

I think I picked this one up because it sounded like it might be magical realism, though I’m not sure where I got that impression. It’s not; it instead falls into that category of family/personal drama.

As kind of an aside, I noted when I started reading the book that Eleanor Brown is a local author, and I happened to read in the newspaper a few days ago that she’s hosting some sort of writing class at my local library tomorrow. How random is that? Coincidences work in strange ways.

Title: The Weird Sisters
Author: Eleanor Brown
Genre: This one goes in my “general literature” category.
Publication Year: 2011

Pros: Interesting first-person plural viewpoint, doesn’t get trite or depressing like so many family/personal dramas
Cons: Doesn’t quite justify the interesting viewpoint

I actually enjoyed this quite a bit, so I was interested to note on Goodreads that it actually has a lot of one-star reviews. It just goes to show how arbitrary people’s reading preferences are. Maybe people like those sad, depressing dramas that I want to throw across the room. And I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read a book of this type without a dead baby anywhere to be found.

The book is about three adult sisters (in the late 20s-early 30s age range) who all find themselves returning back home because of their own issues, as well as their mother’s breast cancer. The narration is from a plural first person, which I haven’t seen before, from the perspective of the sisters. This kind of works because each of the sisters regards herself against the other two, but because the sisters don’t really function as a collective unit, sometime it feels a bit weird. (Har.)

The title comes from Shakespeare, and there are a lot of Shakespearean references throughout the book, though they don’t actually seem to have anything to directly do with the plot.

So I’d recommend this book for people who like their drama to not be of the soul-crushingly depressing kind. I found it an easy read, and it’s worth it to give it a try to see the interesting viewpoint, though I will warn that it’s hard to get used to.

Anyone else read this and have opinions? How’s your 2016 going in terms of reading? I’ve finished two novels (including a BFFN–big fat fantasy novel), am in the middle of three nonfic books (whoops), am still very slowly working through a SF anthology, and am reading Web of Air, which is the second book in the scifi!steampunk Fever Crumb series.

Library Book Sale Finds: The Grail Tree

It’s that time of month again, Squiders. I’ve dug into the library book sale books from this summer and read another, and now I’ve come to tell you about it.

(One might ask why the library book sale books are still sitting on their own on the floor in front of the book case instead of being put away, but to that I say, uh, look over there!)

The Grail Tree tells me it is the third of the Lovejoy mystery novels. Now, my father is a big fan of British mystery series (Rumpole of the Bailey being his favorite, I believe) and I can remember watching Lovejoy with him when I was much younger, which is why I picked this book up. Nostalgia! Except I don’t really remember anything about the TV show except I think Lovejoy had long, curly hair.

(I have looked it up on Google now, and it’s really more of a mullet, in retrospect. Also I was apparently four when the series premiered.)

Title: The Grail Tree
Author: Jonathan Gash
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1979

Pros: It was short? And the writing pulls you along well.
Cons: Highly confusing at points, main character occasionally is too unlikeable

I’ve never really run across a book before where the phrase “I am obviously not the audience for this” has been so true. This is first person from Lovejoy’s point of view, and Lovejoy comes across as kind of a sexist jerk that doesn’t seem to think well of, well, anyone. As I said, I don’t really remember the TV show too well except for the father/daughter bonding time, but maybe it wasn’t as apparent in the show because television, through the very definition of the media, adds a layer of distance between a viewer and a character which you don’t normally get with a first-person narrative.

(Also, now I have been to Wikipedia, and it says they toned down the lechery and violence, so there you are.)

If you are unfamiliar with Lovejoy in either book or TV form, the character is a rogue-ish, normally down on his luck, antique dealer. He also has an almost supernatural ability to tell if an antique is real or not, or merely a clever forgery. That’ll get you pretty far.

The premise for this particular adventure is that Lovejoy has been contacted by an elderly gentleman claiming to have the Holy Grail, because he wants Lovejoy to look at it and see if it’s the real thing. Whether it is or not, it’s certainly a valuable antique, so of course the poor man is offed before Lovejoy ever actually sees the thing.

I found the story very confusing in places–there’s a lot of female characters, most of whom occasionally dally with Lovejoy in some manner or another, and aside from three or four I found them impossible to remember, and of course there’s no introduction. In other places the book gets so caught up in antiques lingo or other specialty dialect that I just literally could not tell what was going on. And, as I said, Lovejoy is sometimes too much of a jerk for me to sympathize with him at all.

So! Not for me. I shall see if my dad wants the book when I see him next Saturday. If you like mysteries, and you don’t mind a bit of sexism and generally unfriendliness in your main characters, you might like this, but otherwise I’d give this a pass.

Library Book Sale Finds: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Most of what we grabbed at the library book sales this summer were scifi and fantasy, but I love a good mystery and so I ended up with a fair amount of those as well. And I love Agatha Christie, but somehow seem to keep reading the same books over and over (accidentally).

This is the first of the Miss Marple novels, none of which I’ve managed to read before, though I have read the short story collections a few times. Or so I assume, because that’s what the front of the book said. Also, randomly, I went and saw Curtains at a local theater last Thursday night, and they referenced Murder at the Vicarage during it, which was a bit of an odd coincidence.

Title: Murder at the Vicarage
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year:
1930

Pros: Very classic murder story with interesting twist
Cons: Feels a little old-school and dated at points, which is perhaps to be expected

Wikipedia tells me that it was not particularly well received upon publication, but I liked it.

Anyway! The book is from the vicar’s point of view, which I find is generally the case with the Miss Marple stories. I mean, not necessarily from the vicar’s, but not from Miss Marple’s. Which I guess is somewhat common–none of the Sherlock Holmes stories are from Holmes’ point of view. Obviously the idea is that it’s more interesting to be the outside observer. Anyway.

Universally despised Colonel Protheroe is murdered in the vicar’s study. Hence the title! And, of course, since everybody hates him literally anybody could have done it, though the vicar knows a secret about some of his parishioners which gives them a strong motive. And the book is perhaps more interesting from the vicar’s point of view, because he is at the center of the whole thing, and his insider knowledge as vicar gives him insights into people that others wouldn’t necessarily have. And so he spends more time wondering whether various people are capable of the crime, and it reads very authentically, as well as serving to throw the reader off.

The solution is a twist on a rather common mystery trope, which was a nice touch.

Miss Marple is probably one of the most recognizable mystery protagonists, so it was interesting to read the first book with her in it. As I said, I’ve previously read the short stories, and I used to watch the TV show (or was it merely part of PBS’ Mystery! series?) with my grandmother (a mystery enthusiast) back in the day, so it’s interesting to see the “beginning.” (Some of the short stories predate the novel.)

If you like mysteries, Christie, and/or Miss Marple, I’d give it a read. Why not? It is interesting to note that the character is not in its final stage as of yet, and that Miss Marple is different in later stories.

Library Book Sale Finds: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

The problem with the library book sale books (now I’ve been to another one) is that I’ve got a whole bunch now, and I can’t tell which ones I picked up versus which ones my husband picked up (unless they’re mysteries. The mysteries are all mine).

That’s the case here. I don’t remember picking up Nine Princes in Amber (it has a large sticker declaring it the property of a Minnesota library, which is fairly distinctive) but it seems like something I would have, since Zelazny is one of those authors I’ve heard of but never read.

Title: Nine Princes in Amber
Author: Roger Zelazny
Genre: …fantasy?
Publication Year:
1970

Pros: Excellent hook, very strong beginning, interesting family dynamics
Cons: Book gets more tell-y as it goes on

Nine Princes in Amber is the first book in a long series called the Chronicles of Amber. We meet our main character in the hospital, where he remembers nothing. The beginning is excellent, with the mystery of who he is making for a really interesting read.

The problem is that that mystery is solved fairly quickly, and the book kind of devolves from there. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s interesting family dynamics, some fascinating world building, and some great character interactions. But we get several long passages of exposition or telling what happened over a period of some time, and nothing that happens after the main character figures out who he is is quite as compelling as what happens before.

I guess there’s such a thing as too strong a hook?

At the same time, the book ends on a note that almost makes me want to read the rest of the series, if I can find them anywhere, even though the main story arcs seem like they may not be things that necessarily appeal to me.

So I’m generally conflicted. I really liked the beginning, but the rest of the book wasn’t so hot. Squiders who have read this series, what did you think? (Please note at the beginning of your comment if you are including spoilers.)

Library Book Sale Finds: The Kingdom Keepers Book 1 by Ridley Pearson

IT BEGINS

I’d like to preface this by saying I did not pick this book out myself; my husband noticed it while paying for our bag o’ books and stuck in the bag because he thought it sounded ridiculous.

First, some random info:

Title: The Kingdom Keepers
Author: Ridley Pearson
Published: 2005
Genre: Middle Grade (MG), oh, let’s go with Science Fantasy
Other Pertinent Details: Published through Disney Editions, and the “Kingdom” in question is the Magic Kingdom

Pros: Excellent pacing that keeps you entrenched in the action
Cons: More telling than I’ve ever seen in a book, significant headhopping, key plot details occasionally a bit muddy
Best for: Disney obsessed preteens who like an adventure story

Here’s the basic premise. Finn, almost 14, has recently been chosen by Disney to become one of their newest bits of technology for Disney World, a Disney Host Interactive, or DHI. The DHIs are holograms that walk around the park and help visitors out. However, now that the DHIs have been activated, Finn finds himself crossing over into his hologram self at night, where he meets an Imagineer named Wayne. Wayne tells him that the DHIs were created for a specific purpose, to be part human, part park attraction, in order to fight what he calls the Overtakers. Now, what an Overtaker is is a little muddy, but I think what it comes down to is that they are parts of the park (such as animatronic characters) that have started coming to life due to people’s beliefs.

Because believing in something makes it real, you see.

Normal people can’t see the Overtakers or some such (again, a bit unclear on this part, because it seems like even if it were animatronic pirates stealing cars from other rides, that that would be perfectly visible to all), so the DHIs are needed to fight them. The Overtakers, like their name implies, intend to take over the park, and eventually move on to the world beyond.

However, some Overtakers can already be seen/interact with the normal world, which is where I am confused. Maybe someone else can read it and explain it to me.

The prose is extremely clunky in bits, and it switches POV willy nilly (it’s almost always in Finn’s, but takes detours to tell you how other characters are feeling, or follows someone else if Finn is not currently interesting enough), but it does engage you, even though the premise is a bit silly and the plot points are confusing.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5, I suppose. Not terrible, but would not read again, and it’s going to go in the Donate to Goodwill pile unless someone else in the household wants to read it. I suspect I am far from being the target demographic.

My Google Fu tells me that there are now seven books in the series (of which this is the first) and a few short stories available. If this sounds interesting, you could be entrenched in Disney holograms for a few thousand pages.

Stay tuned for more library book sale reading shenanigans! And remember to sign up here to get more fun stuff in your inbox!

The Dangers of Library Book Sales

Ah, Squiders, library book sales. Dangerous, dangerous things, aren’t they? One of our local ones, in celebration of Western Welcome Week, is having a week-long one where you can fill up an entire bag of books for $3.

Three. Dollars. For a bag of books! And they had a ton of old scifi and fantasy, authors I’ve wanted to read but haven’t gotten to because my normal library system doesn’t have them and they’re out of print.

(I also grabbed some mysteries because I love mysteries. Mmmm, mysteries.)

I come from a family of bibliophiles, and our local book sale was called the Whale of a Book Sale (I mean, it still is, but I haven’t been in forever), and they would take over the main building at the local fair grounds and fill it with books. My sister and I would indiscriminately go through the entire bunch, grabbing whatever had a cool title or a neat cover. Dozens of books each. I am still reading books that I picked up as a kid. I read one last month, in fact.

Of course, there are some who disapprove of such sales. These are the same people who dislike used book stores, because the author gets nothing from a resale of a book. The numbers don’t count toward their publishing record if they’re traditionally published and rely on such numbers to get their next book published.

As an author, I can understand that view. It would be nice to be able to get more money each and every time someone else paid for one of my books. But, on the other hand, I really really enjoy hoarding books and being able to pick up new books and authors that I might not otherwise. I have read some really excellent books that I might not have touched otherwise. I mean, I have also read some really strange and/or otherwise horrible books. But most have been good. And the hope is, if someone picks up one of my books, I’ll gain a new fan too.

(My husband misses the point. Every book he bought at the sale he checked out on Amazon first to see how they were rated. Where is the fun in that?)

(Also, I would recommend Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, which I picked up at one of those library book sales when I was younger and really enjoyed a few years ago.)

Anyway, it might be fun to do a segment here on the blog about the library book sale books as I get through them. So look for that in the coming months. I’m reading Lost in a Good Book (Jasper Fforde) and The Martian (Andy Weir) at the moment and I think I’ll pick one of the new books up  when I finish one of those.

Do you love library book sales, Squiders? Can you control yourselves? Ever picked up anything really excellent at one?

The Used Book Controversy

Some of you may be sitting there wondering how used books are controversial. Books are books are books, right? And sure, some of them have contents that might raise some hackles, but how are used books more controversial than new books?

Well, it comes down to royalties. You see, most authors get paid thusly: they receive some sort of advance when a publisher buys their book. Then, once they have earned through their advance, they begin to earn royalties, which are honestly usually pretty crap. You’re looking somewhere between 8-15% of what the reader pays for the book. So, if you pay $7.99 for a mass market paperback, the author sees somewhere between 64 cents and $1.20. Or less, if the publisher takes out some percentage to cover costs first.

If you sell 100,000 copies, great! But most books don’t.

So the controversy comes in when you buy a used book, because the author gets nothing on the second sale. (And, admittedly, used book stores don’t usually get much either.) And since so few authors can make a livable wage off of writing to begin with, there is occasionally an outcry that used book sales hurt the author, because it prevents potential readers from giving their money directly to the author (and publisher) to support them, instead of some random third party.

You hear this argument in video games and movies as well.

On the other hand, people who purchase used books may pick up authors that they wouldn’t otherwise, gaining authors new fans that may pay money when the next book comes out. Many people are more willing to take a risk on a book they pay a buck or two for than one they have to pay $10 for (which, coincidentally, is why ebooks sell so well). So the other side argues that used books allow the author more exposure than they would have gotten otherwise, resulting in a larger fan base.

What do you think, Squiders? Used books – evil tool that robs poor, starving authors of their rightful due, or convenient tool for readers to find new favorite authors?

(As a random statistic – 80% of my favorite authors, the ones I pick up new books immediately for when they come out, I first found through either a used book or a library copy.)