Observations on the Beach: Electrons vs Paper


The beach is the perfect place to read, and in June, I was able to spend two weeks of blissful sun ray soaking, sandy toe stroking, gentle surf sounding, reading time. I even broke my personal reading record: five books in two weeks. As you can imagine, it was hard to leave that perfect reading environment behind.

Each day, after diving in to a good book for a couple hours at a time, when I finally came up for air, I did some people watching on the beach. And, nosey gal that I am, I took a peak at what they were reading. Mainly, paperbacks. Yes, there were Kindles and Nooks (I saw three of one and two of the other on the first day), and a spattering of hardcover books (three throughout the week), but by and large, beachers were reading paperbacks in every genre.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask someone. Well, okay, a few someones that had fatefully unfolded their chairs near mine.

Rachel from Virgina, reading Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, told me she owns a Kindle, but would never bring it to the beach because of the sand. “Even if you don’t drop it, there’ll be sand on your hands when you’re touching the screen.” She said a paperback is lower risk and just as satisfying.

Mark from N. Carolina, reading The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal, sitting next to Maggie with a Nook reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, said a paperback felt better. “The sun warms the pages. It feels good. Better than that machine she’s got there.”

Maggie, on the other hand, was all for portability. “I got too much to lug around as it is. And this thing holds an entire library.”

Finally, Carla from S. Carolina reading Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks, said, “I’ve always brought a new paperback to the beach, ever since I was a kid. I pass them around when I’m done and someone hands me off another. The condo I’m staying at has a bunch and you can tell they’ve been well read. It’s recycling.”

So there you have it. My completely non random non statistical sample of the books and book format people read on the beach. And me? I was one of the three with a hardback book. Dust jackets repel sand as well as dust.

How about you? What do you bring to the beach?

Photo © Alex Bramwell

When You Hate “The End”


Recently, I finished watching the second season of the Anime series “Black Butler” and I absolutely despised the end. I wish I’d stopped watching at the end of season one. Both the protagonist and the antagonist (who is completely likable, he does battle with utensils and makes a great cup of tea) had “the worst thing that could possibly happen” to them and that’s when the story ended. I was left with HUH?! WHY DID THEY END IT LIKE THAT? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! Yes, I know, it’s a passionate response, but when you fall for wonderfully deep dimensional characters, you develop certain expectations.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like my heroes (or anti-heroes) to overcome the grand obstacle at the end. Otherwise, what’s the point of the build up all along the way? Yes, it’s true, real life has a nasty habit of kicking you down, but in the books I read and the movies I see, I want at least a sliver of hope. Call it the Hollywood ending if you like, but that’s what I want. It’s the reason I gravitate to the middle grade and young adult genres. They usually end, you know, sorta happy.

My mother feels the same way about Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein Series. She had to call me up to tell me when she finished it so she could rant about how dissatisfied she was about the end. Her words went something like this, “Oh, Karin, it was awful. Just awful. He (the author) completely ran out of steam and the whole series just ended.” She’d spent her money, mostly she spent her time, and she wanted a payoff at the end.

I’m waiting for her to finish the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy to see what she thinks about that ending. No spoilers here, but I wish I’d stopped reading after book two . . .

So when one of the women who is in my writing critique group who read my recently finished WIP said something to the effect of “Please, please change the ending,” I took her very seriously. And I changed it.

Yes, I write for me, but more importantly, I write for readers, and my desire is for them to be satisfied when they get to The End. I know I can’t please everyone. I’ve learned that after years of teaching: some students will love you, some student will hate you, most fall somewhere in the middle. But in this age of e-books, print on demand, and increased writer/reader social interaction, maybe in the future we’ll have more “pick the ending you want to read.” Elle Lothlorien did it with her book “Sleeping Beauty.” Will we see more of this? Should we?

PS: I’m reading the Black Butler Manga now. I’ve heard the storyline goes in a different direction than the Anime series!

Photo © Redbaron

I Read Banned Books


What do the following titles have in common:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

They’ve all been challenged, moved to the “restricted section” or out and out banned from schools and public libraries. Notice some of the newer titles listed above? Yeah, that’s because censorship happens today, right in your own community.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 348 in 2010; the ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.”

This directly from the ALA website:

Over the past ten years, American libraries were faced with 4,660 challenges.

1,536 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;

1,231 challenges due to “offensive language”;977 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;

553 challenges due to “violence”

370 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 121 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 304 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,720 of these challenges (approximately 37%) were in classrooms; 30% (or1,432) were in school libraries; 24% (or 1,119) took place in public libraries.There were 32 challenges to college classes; and 106 to academic libraries.  There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups.  The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 48%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% each).

Obviously, I wouldn’t read Catcher in the Rye to my 6 year old, but I sure wouldn’t keep you from having access to that book at your public library. Today is the beginning of banned books week, Sept. 24- Oct. 1. Jump on the official website at http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ for lots of information. You can even participate in the Virtual Read Out, where you can upload up to a two minute video of you reading from one of your favorite banned books.