Bemused vs Amused: Do you know the difference?

discussion posts

This is such a huge pet peeve of mine. Authors use the word “bemused” when they really mean “amused” all. the. TIME. Let’s review definitions, shall we?

amused definition

bemused definition

 

 

 

 

I read a book recently where the author used the word bemused TWICE. Now, I’ll say giving the author the benefit of the doubt, bemused could hypothetically have fit the situation. However, in the context of the story, amused would have made much more sense. And here I am, as a reader, wondering how nobody knows the difference between these two words! Not the author, not the editor, not anyone else who read this book before it got published.

But to be completely transparent with you, when I looked up bemused on Dictionary.com, this is something else that popped up:

The verb bemuse (usually as the adjective bemused)is similar in sound to amuse, and has in fact taken on the meaning “to cause to be mildly amused.” Many usage experts and traditionalists consider this a misuse of bemuse, pointing out that its proper meaning is “to bewilder or confuse.” However, the history and use of bemuse has shown that is meaning is often ambiguous. It’s often the case that one’s feelings are a combination of bewilderment and amusement: Their customs bemuse most Americans. Even when it clearly means “to bewilder or confuse,” bemuse usually retains a lighthearted tone: one would not typically say: I was bemused by his motive for the murder.

So apparently, because everyone keeps using this word wrong, it’s starting to mean what everyone has been using it to mean. Isn’t that weird? It’s just so…frustrating to me, because it’s wrong! Just because people keep getting a math answer wrong doesn’t change what the answer actually is, right?

I was telling my husband about this strange phenomenon and he told me that the same thing happens with travesty vs tragedy. A lot of people use the word travesty to mean an even bigger tragedy, when in reality it means: “a false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.”

Anyway, there’s my rant for the day. Are there any words that you’ve noticed authors (or other people) consistently get wrong? Why do you think editors don’t catch that kind of thing?

DISCUSSION: Is the term “clean” harmful?

I read an article from Book Riot the other day discussing why the term “clean” is harmful. The author explains that sex, underage drinking, and swearing are not “dirty” things and so calling books that don’t contain those things “clean” is harmful.

discussion posts

I understand the author’s point completely and, to an extent, I agree. My main issue with the article is that she ends with this paragraph:

Publishers and authors are in the business of words. I trust they can find a better, less holier-than-thou way to say what they mean. Unless, of course, this is exactly what they mean.

Honestly, this paragraph feels a little “holier-than-thou” to me, but that’s beside the point. My problem is that she never offers an alternative to the term currently being used. I live in a super religious and conservative community. We have patrons coming into the library EVERY DAY looking for “clean” reads. That’s just the term they understand and we have to call these books something. I’d love to use another term, but…what other descriptors are there? This is not a rhetorical question, I’d really like to know. I discussed this very thing with one of my fellow librarians and we were pretty stumped.

In library school, it was very heavily emphasized that a librarian’s job is to be discreet and that no patron should feel judged in any way for what they choose or choose not to read. With that being said, obviously no self-respecting librarian wants a patron to feel dirty or less-than if they choose not to read “clean” books. Because of this, I almost feel like if a better word were out there, then librarians would have found it already?

Another point where I kind of disagree with the author is where she says how all books that aren’t considered “clean” must, in fact, be dirty.

And the word “clean” when applied to books is a clear value judgement against books that aren’t clean. Not “clean” = dirty. “Those books” are deemed less-than, worthless, like a used tissue.

I don’t really think it’s that black and white and I don’t think that the existence of “clean” books necessarily implies that not “clean” books = worthless. The way I see it, the term “clean” is more a descriptor of what the book is than what other books aren’t. However, I can see the point that labeling a book “clean” may imply that the acts of sex, drug/alcohol-use, and swearing are “unclean” or “dirty” (which, again, is not how we want patrons to feel).

In the end, I agree that “clean” isn’t the best term, but I don’t agree that it’s the worst. Sometimes I feel like we’re in a world that is so sensitive about the littlest things (and this is coming from a POC who has lived for the last seven years in a very white community). I’m not saying we shouldn’t be sensitive to things, and I’m not saying that this specific example should be something we ignore. But I feel like every alternative to the word “clean” that I’ve come up with, could be argued as insensitive to someone, somewhere. And thinking about that makes me so very exhausted.

What do you think? Should we move away from the “clean” label? What would you use as an alternative?

The eternal struggle of rating books

In March I’ll have been running this blog for 4 years. That’s so crazy to me! It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but I guess it has. I started this blog shortly after I graduated from college and before I was working full-time or had completed my Master’s. Apparently that was 4 years ago! Over that amount of time, I feel like my ratings have become more consistent. Early on, I definitely gave more five star ratings than I do currently. This is basically a short rundown of how I rate books these days.

discussion posts

Firstly, if it was just up to me, I would probably give half-star ratings (and I do occasionally). But since Goodreads doesn’t allow half-star ratings, I try not to do that unless I have to. I want my ratings on here to match the stars I give a book on Goodreads.

One Star

I rarely give out one star ratings. That’s just because if I dislike a book enough to give it one star, I’ve probably DNFed it and I don’t give ratings to books I DNF. Here’s a link to my post about why I DNF books.

Two Stars

I finished it, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t absolutely HATE it, but I wouldn’t generally recommend it.

Recent(ish) two stars: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett, Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howard, Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

Three Stars

This book was okay. Pretty good even. I didn’t hate it, but there’s still room for improvement in my opinion. Maybe the writing wasn’t great, the characters were a little annoying, the world wasn’t convincing, or the plot was lacking. It’s not something that I would necessarily recommend, but it was fine.

Recent three stars: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Love á la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Four Stars

I liked this book a lot and would highly recommend it! Maybe there were a couple little things that didn’t make sense or jive with me, but I’m willing to overlook them!

Recent four stars: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

Five Stars

As I said earlier, I have definitely become more selective with my five star reviews. At this point, a five star comes when I absolutely LOVE a book. If I finish it, close the cover, and then hug the book (or my Kindle) to my chest (possibly holding back tears, but that’s optional), it’s a five star book.

Recent(ish) five stars: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

How do you rate books? Do you find you’re freer or more stingy when handing out five star ratings? Do you ever one star books or do you just DNF? Do you do partial star ratings?

To reread? Or not to reread?

I almost exclusively buy physical books that I’ve already read and liked. I just don’t want to waste money on a book that I end up not liking, you know? So unless it’s one of my auto-buy authors (Sarah Dessen) or part of a series that I’ve been reading and enjoyed, I’m only going to buy something if I already know that I like it. But then a lot of my books just sit on my shelf unopened because I already read the ARC or the library copy or whatever and I don’t get around to rereading.

discussion posts

Pros/Cons of Rereading Books

Pro – You know what you’re getting

You’ve already read the book, you know how the plot is, how quirky the characters are, how swoony the romance is, you know how it’s going to make you feel. You can purposefully pick a book to perfectly suit the mood you’re in.

Con – There are no surprises

Chances are you remember that mindblowing twist at the end of the book. It is never going to be exactly as satisfying as the first time you read it because you know what’s going to happen.

Pro – Additional insights

Sometimes you get something else out of a book on a second or even third read-through. I think this is especially true with books you may have read when you were much younger or with series’ where you had to wait years between books. For me, Harry Potter fits both those categories.

Con – Time constraints

Who has time to even think about rereading books when new books are being published EVERY DAY. If you’re spending time rereading a book, you’re not spending time reading a new book–a book that would probably become your new favorite book of all time.

Pro – Can help you out of a reading slump

This is definitely the case for me. If I’m ever in a bad slump, I can pick almost any Sarah Dessen book off my shelf and I’m back. Rereading a favorite book can be like slipping into that cozy, old sweater you only wear on rainy days. There’s something very comforting about losing yourself in those worn pages.

Con – It might ruin the book for you

Perhaps you read a book when you were younger and you remember really enjoying it. It’s been a few (or more) years and you decide to pick it up again. To your horror, you realize that the writing is not that good, the protag is especially weak, and the love interest is alarmingly problematic in a number of ways. Some things are just better left as a rosy memory.

So yeah, I’m still pretty on the fence about rereading. There are obviously points on both sides and readers should probably take it on a case-by-case basis.

How do you decide whether or not to reread a book? Any pros/cons that I missed?

Discussion: Thoughts on YA Novellas and Short Stories

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years where YA authors are putting out lots of novellas and short stories to accompany their series. Examples:

throne of glass novellas

The selection novellas

Please tell me, WHO ASKED FOR THESE??? I already have a hard enough time reading all of the books in a series, but now I have to read all of these novellas and short stories too? I know that I don’t HAVE to read them–nobody’s forcing me. But it feels like if the author’s putting it out there, then maybe I’m supposed to get additional information about characters or events from these stories.

However, I’ve found that a lot of times reading the extra material does not help or change my viewpoints about characters or events. If the events in the short story or novella were so important, then the author should have included that information in the book/series to begin with. To be completely honest–and I don’t really like feeling this way–it feels to me like these short stories and novellas are published purely to make more money by milking an idea that’s working for all that it’s worth. And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth where that author is concerned. I feel like I, as a reader, am being taken advantage of.

kim kardashian money gif

So my position is that these little “extras” are unnecessary and just create added stress as a reader (not to mention cost, because libraries don’t often carry these–you actually have to buy them). Let’s think about one of the greatest series that has ever been: Harry Potter. If she wanted to, J.K. Rowling could 100% write a million more stories about day-to-day life at Hogwarts featuring a variety of characters. But she hasn’t. Sure, she’s fleshed out the world and made movies, etc. but she hasn’t done anything else with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their time at Hogwarts. If she wanted to, I know for a fact that people would pay for that. So why hasn’t she chosen to do that while many lesser known and less popular authors with smaller fandoms have?

At the end of the day, I’m just sitting here pleading for authors to give me the whole story in one or two books (three max). I don’t have time to read four, five, eight book series anymore and I certainly don’t have time to read 50-100 page novellas and short stories.

What are your opinions on YA short stories and novellas? Are you a fan? Why do you think authors write them? Let me know in the comments!

To monetize or not to monetize?

Hi Everyone!

I’m still on my semi-hiatus and it’s felt really good. I took a step back from NetGalley and have almost completely disconnected from the blogosphere. I’ve just been able to relax a bit and not really stress about getting ARCs read on time, etc. I’ve also been able to read some books that I’d been meaning to read, but hadn’t been able to get to (and even reread a couple of old faves!).

But there are some changes looming on the horizon. Baby is due in May and at that point I’ll be quitting my full-time job to become a full-time mama. I feel that at this point I will need some kind of project for myself and I hope that reading and this blog can be that project.

Now I come to the question in my title. I’ve briefly thought about upgrading my WordPress account in order to monetize in the past, but I didn’t feel that I posted regularly enough or generated enough views for that to really make sense. Now I find myself thinking about it again and I just wanted to find out what experience you guys have had with monetizing/not monetizing.

To those who decided not to monetize:
What made you decide not to monetize? Do you ever see yourself monetizing in the future?

To those who did decide to monetize:
What made you decide to monetize? Do you feel that it’s worth it? How much time per week do you spend working on your blog? (And if you don’t mind my asking) how much do you generally make per week?

Thanks for the help!

DISCUSSION: Diversity in YA

Diversity in Books

This is a topic that I’m sure you guys have been hearing a lot about lately and I know you’ve all been wondering what I think about it…right? As a POC (person of color) myself, I do feel like I have a small sliver of authority on this subject. After all, I’m the kind of person who’s underrepresented, right? I came across a post myself just today and I left this long comment which made me think that I really just needed to write my own post. So here we are.

Just as an introduction, I’m half Chinese and a quarter Panamanian and I grew up near the Seattle area so there was a fair amount of diversity at my high school (mostly white, but a pretty large representation of Asian, some Hispanic, and some Black as well). I’ve always been a reader but it honestly never really bothered me that the books I was reading were all about white people. It’s just not something that I ever thought about. Growing up with parents and countless other family members who were part of interracial relationships made it so that race was seriously a non-issue for me growing up. Even now, despite the fact that I live in a very white area, I rarely feel uncomfortable or like I stand out because of my ethnicity. At the same time, I know that a lot of people have had a different experience than me. I know some people have acutely felt the lack of diverse characters in YA books–I’m just not one of those people.

Let me make sure to say that I do think we need more diversity in books. Absolutely. But I think we’re looking for that diversity to come from the wrong people. We complain about straight white authors who are only writing about straight white characters. Well…what else are we supposed to expect? For the most part, authors (and other creators–this can be expanded to television and movies) write about the things they know about. They write about what they have experience with. If they’re a heterosexual white person, then they’re most likely going to write about and focus on white people in heterosexual relationships. That’s just how it is. As a POC I would never write a book with 100% white characters because I don’t have experience living a 100% white life. I honestly don’t know what it was like to grow up in a white household. Anything that I would try to write would be inauthentic and probably stereotypical.

I think the worst thing that could happen is for authors to become so badgered by the “diversity police” that they start including diverse characters just to get people to shut up. There was a book I read not too long ago but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was…anyway, a character was included who had a diverse characteristic, but it literally had no affect on the character. The character might as well have not had that diverse characteristic. I don’t think it’s helpful to have characters who don’t embody the traits they’re supposed to possess. Just saying that a character is Asian doesn’t make the book more diverse if the Asian character acts like every other white character. I don’t just want to see diversity, I want to feel diversity. Despite my skin color, deep down I feel pretty white. I’ve never been to China or Panama. I don’t speak Cantonese or Spanish (to the disappointment of my grandmother). I don’t know how to cook authentic Chinese or Panamanian dishes. I live, basically, like a white person. That being said, my heritage and my culture still affects me. If everything else in my life remained the same, I would still be a different person if I had white parents. Those are the people I want to see represented in YA books. If white authors include characters who are diverse only on the surface, it’s not going to help diverse readers feel like they belong any more than a book full of not diverse people.

Then what is the solution? More diverse authors (and other creators). We need people out there who can tell our story because they’ve lived our story. It’s unfair for us to expect authors who aren’t part of “our group” to represent us. Instead, “our group” needs to step up to the plate instead of just complaining about how we’re underrepresented. We have stories to tell, but how are the white people supposed to know that? They’re too busy telling their own stories! I’m not a fan of everything that Jenny Han writes, but what I do love about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is that she incorporates Laura Jean’s Korean heritage. I love hearing about the food they eat and the special things they do over the holidays. Even though Laura Jean is American, she’s also Korean and Han does a great job of highlighting that in Laura Jean’s story.

I’m not discouraging straight white authors from doing the research and including diverse characters in their books. If they want to do that, I think that’s great. What I am saying is that it’s not really their fault if they don’t include diverse characters. It doesn’t mean they’re racist or homophobic. It doesn’t mean they don’t think diversity’s important. I honestly believe they just don’t think about it when they’re sitting down to draft a new book. So instead of complaining about how authors need to include diverse characters that represent us (and not them) in their books, let’s do something about it ourselves. Instead of saying we need more diverse books, let’s let the publishing houses know that WE WANT MORE DIVERSE AUTHORS instead and support the ones that we already have.

HW Assignment: Book Club Recap

Despite the fact that I really enjoy reading, I had never participated in a book club until this assignment. Some of the ladies at my church had just started a book club a few months before–I’d meant to go to the first one, but then didn’t make it. This month we were reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown which had been on my “To Be Read” list for a while. I figured this was a good way to kill two birds with one stone (completing my homework assignment and reading a book that I’d been meaning to read).

When I showed up, it was initially just me and the girl who was hosting (I’ll refer to her as T). We chatted and started eating the snacks that she had prepared. After about half an hour another lady (who I will refer to as A and who is more or less in charge of the book club) came by, but she had only managed to read half of the book and could only stay for about 30 minutes. I could tell that T was really eager to start discussing the book, but it seemed like A was more wanting to just chat and socialize. She asked me about myself and was very excited to hear that I’m studying Library Science—I think A is under the impression that I may be able to resurrect this book club. We talked about book club turnouts from previous months and why the turnout for this month may have been so low. We figured it was probably the book choice that had deterred people as probably not many of the women in our church were interested in reading about sports. It was then decided that I (first time participant that I was) should be in charge of hosting next month’s book club.

We finally did get into talking about the book, though we tried to stick to topics from the first half of the book so that A could participate as well. T had prepared some questions ahead of time and we started discussing some of those. We talked about the time period and what else was going on in the world during that period of time. We discussed the main character, Joe Rantz, and his early childhood. Overall, we felt very sympathetic towards him and the things that he went through at such a young age. The discussion was a little difficult because A had not finished the book. She didn’t necessarily understand some of the things that T and I would mention and we had to explain some of what happened in the end of the book to her.

After A had left, T and I were able to talk a little more in-depth about how we felt about the book. T did a good job of asking questions that really provoked thought and weren’t just yes or no questions. She also did a good job of letting me give my response and didn’t dominate the conversation. She obviously had some thoughts about the book and had been thinking about the questions that she wrote, but she still let me speak first.

The discussion that T and I had was really interesting because we both liked and disliked different aspects of the book. T really likes reading non-fiction and she found the history parts of the book fascinating but had to drag herself through the sports sections. I was the other way around. My husband graduated in Journalism and is currently working on the sports desk for a local newspaper. As a result, I have been exposed to a lot of sports writing and have developed an appreciation for it. I think having that base helped me to enjoy the sections of the book about rowing. On the other hand, I didn’t find myself enjoying the parts about Germany and Hitler’s Propaganda Department. T and I were able to have a good discussion about the book despite our differences, but I do think the overall experience would have been more enjoyable if more people had showed up.

After arriving back at my apartment, I immediately started thinking about what book I should choose for the book club that I would be hosting. I thought about all of the books that had been previously read (Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and The Boys in the Boat). It sounded like the first two books had a rather good turnout but the second two didn’t. An issue with The Boys in the Boat was that it’s a very popular book right now, so none of the libraries had available copies—in order to read the book, you probably would have had to buy (like T and I did). I knew that I wanted to pick a book that the library had available book club copies for and one that would be a fast and fairly easy read. In addition, since this is a church-based book club, I wanted to be really careful about choosing a book without any kind of questionable content in it like language or sexual content. I ended up picking Austenland by Shannon Hale. The book club is supposed to be next Tuesday and I’m hopeful that we’ll have at least one more participant than we did last month.

 

HW Assignment: Prompt 4

This week we were asked to read a variety of articles featuring book controversies and to respond to at least one of them. Topics included celebrity book clubs, fake memoirs, and author mills.

First, I would like to briefly talk about fake memoirs. My initial reaction is one of disgust–especially about the people who would write a fake holocaust survivor memoir. It seems disrespectful and kind of exploitative. At the same time, nobody would bat an eye if these works were published as fiction in the first place. It’s not the story itself that people seem to have an issue with, but the manner in which the story is presented as true. It makes me wonder why these people made the decision to present their stories as truth. Why didn’t they pursue the fiction route in the first place? The only thing I can think is that these stories wouldn’t be interesting otherwise. What makes these particular stories compelling, in the end, is that people think they’re true. They seem to be stories about people who have overcome great trials and just wouldn’t have the same emotional impact as a work of fiction.

The article that I really thought was interesting was the James Patterson article. I honestly had no idea that he has collaborated with other authors and has perhaps contracted out some ideas. It seems to me that James Patterson has created this brand and is actually taking a risk by attaching his name to books that he didn’t fully write. If the book ends up being a dud due to the coauthor, James Patterson is probably even more implicated than the coauthor would be. At the same time, I do see the argument about Patterson reaping the benefits without necessarily earning it–taking credit for other peoples’ work. In the article, though, PW spoke with at least one of Patterson’s coauthors and he didn’t seem to mind or be angry about it. So I guess that makes me feel like, if the coauthors don’t care, then why should we? The last point I’ll make is this: how is this situation different from a singer “taking credit” for songs that they didn’t fully write? Let’s be honest, do we really know how much Taylor Swift actually does in the songwriting process? But we definitely recognize “Shake It Off” as a T-Swift song, ignoring the fact that there are two other names listed under “writers”. This is normal in the songwriting industry, so why the double standard here?

DISCUSSION: Bookish Pet Peeves

Hello everyone! Today we’re going to talk about pet peeves. I know that it’s hard to write a book (I myself have tried on an occasion or two and it is no simple task). That being said, there are some things that I just read and a small part of my soul dies. Why did the author have to include that? What does it add to the story? JUST WHY???

petpeeves

I’ll split my pet peeves into two categories: Things Authors Do and Things People Around Me Do.

Things Authors Do

1) The Weepy “Tough” Girl – I don’t mind when girls cry in books or when they have a weak moment, but I cannot stand when a female character is portrayed as being super tough and then proceeds to cry/break-down at every plot twist/fight with her romantic interest. Too many times have I read “I never cry” and then two pages later…crying. It’s just not consistent. That’s my real issue. The consistency.

2) Unexplained Skills That Happen to Save the Day – Katniss has an awesome skill–she’s super deadly with a bow and arrow. It is explained to the reader that she was taught to hunt by her dad and that her skill with a bow and arrow had been necessary to keep herself and her family alive. This is a skill that makes sense. But there are a lot of times when a character has a seemingly “learned skill” with no explanation of how they learned it. I don’t know about you guys, but I actually wasn’t born being able to fix all things mechanical. That’s something that I’d have to learn and do a lot of to become good at. Apparently, that rule doesn’t hold for some fictional characters…

3) “This boy is so beautiful” x One Billion – Just…no. Repeatedly exclaiming over the beauty/hotness of a boy does not move the story along. I don’t care if that thought actually goes through the mind of a teenage girl twenty times a chapter–the reader does not need to read it that many times. Just edit it out. Please. It’s like when you read through a paper and realize that you start every paragraph with the same word. No good. You need to mix it up, right? Same goes here. MIX IT UP.

Things People Around Me Do

1) Dog-Eared/Folded Pages – Why do people do this? Bookmarks can literally be made out of ANYTHING. Dog-eared pages are bad enough, but I have legitimately seen people fold pages in half to mark their spot. Can I please supply you with a post-it instead?

2) Constant Interruptions – I’m reading. Like, obviously reading. My book is out and I am dead to the world. I haven’t been responding to anyone for at least half an hour. This is NOT the time to ask me how my job is going! Okay, in reality I can usually stand for one or two interruptions. If you want to talk, that’s fine, I’ll set my book aside and we can talk. But it’s the interruptions that come every five minutes and only last about thirty seconds–just enough time to yank me out of the book. Then, once I’ve finally gotten back into it, I’m yanked out again! So if you want to talk, just tell me and I’ll talk with you. I’m more than happy to set my book aside (actually, some times I might not be, but I’ll still do it to be polite).

3) Damaged Book Covers – Cover might not be the right word for this…maybe book sleeves? Whatever, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the cover that comes around hardback books. Personally, if I am reading a hardback, I remove the cover and leave it on my bookcase until I’m done with the book. This prevents the cover from receiving any wear or tear. Also, if I happen to spill something on my book (not that I’ve ever accidentally done something like that…okay, but rarely) then I have a nice cover to…you know, COVER any damage. I just don’t understand when I see book covers that are completely mangled. It could have been prevented so easily!

Do you guys agree with my pet peeves? Disagree? What other bookish pet peeves do you have?