Reading Habits Meme

Today I’m stealing another meme from Lynn (who blogs at Little Lion Lynnet’s).  Previously it was the 7 Deadly Sins (of Reading), and today it’s some questions about reading habits…

(1) Do you have a certain place for reading at home?

I’m such a creature of habit–so yes!  Always curled up on the same spot on the couch.  It has the best light, which is good most of the time, except in summer when my western-facing window makes the room very warm.  So sometimes I’ll read on my bed instead.  And I read in bed at night, and before I properly get up in the morning.

(2) Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper?

I have a homemade collection of bookmarks, each featuring a favorite character.  I swap them in and out, and when I’m in the mood, I try to pick the character who would best fit the book I’m reading.  When I’m not paying attention to that, I’ll just keep transferring the same one along as I move from one book to the next.

(3) Can you just stop reading or does it need to be at the end of a chapter or a certain number of pages?

If I see I’m close to a chapter end or section break, I’ll read to there, but otherwise I’m fine with stopping mid-scene (barring a page-turner, which is a different matter).  I have a pretty good instinct when I pick a book up again for turning my gaze immediately towards whatever line I stopped on–unless I think about it, and then it doesn’t work!

(4) Do you eat or drink while reading?

Absolutely.  I read over breakfast every morning, and often with snacks.  I’ve developed a bad habit about watching TV with other meals, but sometimes I read instead.  And if I’m ever in a restaurant alone, I always have a book.  I have one very expensive book I’ve forbidden myself to read while eating, but otherwise I don’t worry about it–and I’ve never gotten a serious stain on a book anyway!

(5) Do you read one book at a time or several at once?

Sort of one.  I have an audiobook in the car, a book to read a chapter from right before I go to bed, and one book I’m properly reading.  So really that’s three, but there’s only one I’m properly reading.  Sometimes if I’m reading something nonfiction, a chapter at a time, the number will go up to two properly and four total, but that’s not very common.

(6) Do you read out loud or silently in your head?


(7) Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?

I’m pretty compulsive about not reading ahead–it’s like cheating somehow!  And I rarely skip pages, unless the book is clearly on a non-plot-related tangent (I’m looking at you, Victor Hugo!)

(8) Breaking the spine or keeping it new?

I never deliberately break a spine…but some of my cheaper paperbacks do have lines on the spine.  And it amuses me that the spine of my copy of Maskerade broke on my favorite page (!!!!!)

(9) Do you write in your books?

Never!  There are a very few nonfiction books that have so many wonderful quotes I end up highlighting or underlining, but otherwise, no writing.  If I just want to note one or two quotes, I cut a triangle off a sticky note to put in the top corner–sort of the inverse of dog-earing the page.  Maskerade, for instance, has several of those…which may account for the spine break!

(10) What are you currently reading?

At the moment of writing, A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett on audio, The Little Minister by J. M. Barrie before bed, and The Wishing Thread by Lisa van Allen properly…though I’m sure all of those will have changed by the time this is posted.

Your turn!  Answer any of the questions you like…or let me know if you decide to put this on your blog too!

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Classic Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Since I’m spending November working on (hopefully) the fourth book of my fairy tale-inspired series, Beyond the Tales, it seems like a good time to revisit one of my very favorite retellings!


“Beauty and the Beast” has always been one of my favorite fairy tales–probably because the retellings are so good.  If you go back to the original story, it’s almost as flawed as any other traditional fairy tale.  But the retellings…are SO good.  Beauty by Robin McKinley is a particular favorite of mine.

The basic story is familiar, if you’ve read the original or even if you’ve seen the Disney movie.  From the Disney movie you’ll recognize the part about the terrifying Beast living in the castle in the woods.  A lost traveler spends the night and, upon offending the Beast, agrees to bring back his daughter, Beauty, to stay at the castle.  From the original story you’ll recognize the part about Beauty’s father being a rich merchant who lost his fortune, forcing them to move out to the country.  And Beauty had two sisters as well, and it was Beauty’s request for a rose when her father began his ill-fated journey that, in a way, put everything else in motion.

I think I read Beauty before I read the original fairy tale, so when I did read the original, I kept thinking, “oh, now I see where McKinley got that detail or this part from!”  But, like any great fairy tale retelling, McKinley has taken the slender original story and embroidered and expanded upon it, bringing the characters to life and explaining the bits that never quite made sense. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Starting a Blog?

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Do you have any advice for new bloggers?

I’ll give you the same advice I give everyone I know who’s considering starting a blog: have a plan.  Plan your content, and plan your schedule.  I don’t mean you have to have every blog post already formulated, of course, but know what kind of content you want to write about (and make sure it’s something you can generate a lot of content around) and know how often you want to blog.

When I started this blog, I committed to two book reviews every week, and I’ve stuck to that for four years.  I knew how much I read (and have read) and knew that I’d be able to generate content around two books every week.  I honestly don’t think there’s any other topic I could manage that kind of volume of content around!  But for me, there are always new books (or a loooong list of old ones), so that always gives me something new to write about.

Blogging is just like any other writing.  You have to make it happen.  If you decide to write whenever inspiration strikes…well, you might be different, but for me, I find strikes of inspiration can be few and far between, especially if I’m not consciously striving towards producing a certain amount of content on a regular schedule.  When I started blogging, I also thought I’d do “Ruminations” posts on writing topics whenever the inspiration appeared…and those posts have been pretty few and far between!

Two book reviews per week may not be the right schedule or content for you–but know what schedule and content will be right, before you start blogging.

Other bloggers–what kind of advice would you give?


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Quotable Jane Smiley

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”
― Jane Smiley

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Book Review: Tales of the Little Engine

EngineTalesYesterday I did an interview with my friend and fellow blogger Lynn E. O’Connacht, and today I’m delighted to review her newest book: Tales of the Little Engine, a collection of closely-related short stories. The description was so adorable I knew I’d have to get a copy—and was so happy to find that the stories were charming and made me think.

The first story in the collection is “The Little Engine That Couldn’t,” about Jan, a little engine who tries and tries to achieve its dream…and reveals an important and rarely-heard lesson in the process. I’d really love to talk about it, but I don’t want to give too much away…although the title is a definite hint! Lynn included a personal essay at the end of the book discussing the inspiration and intention of the story, and I found that as fascinating as the short story itself.  (There’s more discussion on this in Lynn’s interview too.)

The other stories focus on the Bravest Little Engine, star of a series of stories Jan tells to children when they come for rides, and which Jan told to the narrator—who now tells us. It’s all very meta and layered! The Bravest Little Engine confronts the evil Nethertrain and makes friends with a dog named Mister Whiskers, among other adventures.

As you might guess already, this is a collection written for kids, with simple writing and a lot of sweetness–but as I always say of the best kids books, it has cross-age appeal.  There’s depth to the stories, especially the first one, and they’re just fun for adults too.  The voice is charming and stays light even when dealing with spooky monsters and difficult challenges, but doesn’t shy away from sadness either.

I love the narrative device of the storyteller speaking to the reader and relaying the story. That’s something I always enjoy and it’s particularly well-done here. In fact, the style and voice reminded me very much of J. M. Barrie—and regular readers will know that I don’t say that lightly! But the stories had much the same feel, that I was sitting down to be told a story, by a charming storyteller who wants to share something magical.

If I have any complaint, it’s only that I wish there was more!  The last story of the collection has a very open ending.  It does feel like an ending (in a “and then they continued down the road to new adventures…” kind of a way) but also like there could be so much more!  Lynn tells me there may be new stories eventually…and in the meantime, what we already have is a lovely read.

Author’s Site:

Buy it here: Tales of the Little Engine


Posted in Fantasy, Juvenile, Reviews | Tagged , | 2 Comments