A Book Lover’s Tag

In a few days I leave for a nice long vacation to sunny beaches and dockside restaurants with good seafood and drinks sporting tiny umbrellas. I’m taking a few books with me that I’ve had on my read list for a while. Top of the list is The Life She Was Given followed by Everything We Lost. If I make it through those, I’ve got plenty of others in the wings. Plane flights and beaches are great for disappearing into good fiction.

Which brings me to today’s post. D. Wallace Peach ( a lovely blogger who you should follow 🙂 ) tagged all her followers with the Book Lover’s Tag, and I was so intrigued, I had to play along. Who doesn’t like discussing books and reading habits? You’re already interested, right? 😊

Consider yourself tagged should you like to play. Just answer the questions on your own blog, but while you’re here I’d love to know your all-time favorite book. Yeah, I know it’s a tough question, but Diana posed the same one and I made myself chose a single title.

Before we get to your answer, take a look at my reading habits:

Soft cuddly tabby cat lying in its owner's lap enjoying and purring while the owner is reading a bookDo you have a specific place for reading?
Not specific but I do have a favorite. I’m happy to read anywhere, but my regular way of unwinding each night is to read in bed before I fall asleep. It’s the perfect way to end each day. Bonus points if my cat, Raven, decides to snuggle.

book mark for author Mae Clair with spooky house at top, eerie inside setting at bottom Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Normally a bookmark. I had my own created for swag, so I normally grab one of those when I’ve got a paperback or hardback. I’ve always been someone who likes colorful bookmarks, so even before having my own, I always had something artsy, usually bought from a bookstore. I still have a collection. Of course, these days, a lot of my reading is done on my Kindle. When I e-read I don’t use the bookmark feature.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?
Most of my reading is done before I go to bed, so no. If I’m reading at other times (camped out on my deck or on the living room sofa), I always have something to drink and occasionally something to munch.

Music or TV whilst reading.
Occasionally, I’ll play soft instrumental background music when I read, but other than that, any sound is a distraction that must be squashed immediately!

One book at a time or several?
Only one. It’s the way I write, too—one story at a time.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?
Most of my reading is done at home but books are so easily transported, I have no objection to reading elsewhere. I never go on an appointment (doctor, dentist, hair stylist) without taking a book along.

Read out loud or silently?
Usually silently, but sometimes when I’m caught up in a story I “whisper read” without even realizing it. I’ll also do that thing where your tongue forms the words against the roof of your mouth but your lips stay closed, Weird, I know.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I read page by page unless a section really drags. When that happens, I’ll skim the pages that follow until the story picks up again. Not really reading ahead, just skimming. With a great book, however, I am riveted word by word right up until the close.

Break the spine or keep it like new.
If it’s a nice fat paperback, I have no qualms about folding the cover back which usually results in a creased spine and pages that waffle upright into a fan. If it’s a hardback, I’m far more careful. I’ll remove the dust jacket to preserve it, and take care not to break the spine.

Do you write in books?
Only if the book is non-fiction. I normally read those for research (or because the subject fascinates me) and then I write all over the pages, highlight passages, draw arrows and gleefully post sticky tabs for easy reference. If it’s a work of fiction, the pages stay pristine. 😊

What books are you reading now?
I’m just finishing up Keeper of His Soul by Lauralynn Elliott, a paranormal tale with a conflicted vampire—the best kind. After that I’ll be reading the books I mentioned above, The Life She Was Given and Everything We Lost. They’re going on vacation with me.

What is your childhood favorite book?
book cover of Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg
There were two books that made a huge impression on me as a child. Planet of Death by Robert Silverberg which I read in fourth grade. The vivid cover sucked me in, and decades later, I still remember it as an adult. The book was my first experience with science-fiction and I was enthralled.

The other book is The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden by Mary Chase, also read when I was in elementary school. It opened my eyes to magic, spooky houses, Victorian ladies, and a bit of time travel. Once again, I was enraptured. Those two books, coupled with my own imagination, and encouragement from my parents, really opened the door to writing.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciersWhat is your all-time favorite book?
This is such a hard question and my favorite has changed over time. I have a number of favorites, but if I have to chose a single title, it’s The Terror by Dan Simmons. I’ve never read anything like it—a blend of historical fact, folklore, mystery, horror, even a bit of romance. Simmons penned a fictional account of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage and did it in manner that is haunting, lyrical, gruesome and brutal. It’s a mammoth tome topping 900 pages, but well worth the journey.

That’s it! You’re all tagged. 🙂
Remember to share your favorite book in the comments with your reason why.

Guest Blogger Carmen Stefanescu: The Qualities of a Good Book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my good friend, Carmen Stefanescu back to my blog with a post about the qualities that go into a good book. I’d love to get your opinion in the comments, and I know Carmen would too. So….

To be or not to be a good book?
By Carmen Stefanescu

The question What makes a good book? has been popping up in my head quite a bit lately while reading, and especially, writing my own books.

I stop writing only to reread what I’ve written and wonder, “Is this good?”

Now, what is a good book? I think it’s a legitimate question to ask ourselves. What defines good? Should it be my own definition, someone else’s, or based on popular opinion? The opinion of what makes a good book is almost entirely subjective.
Think of an old favorite book you’ve read again and again. Can you picture it in your head, almost as if you had a copy in your hands, ready to open and start reading right now?

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colors

Think about it for a while. Pick the story apart and mull it over a bit. What makes  you love the story? What makes you keep coming back to it time and again? What makes your mind wander back to the story and muse about it? What qualities of that book do you love and cherish?

What are the elements of a good book for me? Well, here’s what I have in mind, speaking from a reader’s POV:

PLOT
The best kind of plot is one that keeps people reading because they are so engrossed and intrigued that they just can’t put the book down. Personally, I like when I don’t know what’s going to happen in a plot. Predictability is something I tend to dislike because, in my eyes, nothing kills a story faster than too much predictability. Predictability in small doses is fine – but readers don’t want to be right all the time. Unnecessary scenes that don’t add to the plot or character growth in any way, shape, or form should be edited – or cut out completely.

ELEMENTS YOU RELATE TO
It doesn’t matter whether I’m reading  mystery, paranormal or fantasy as long as there are realistic and relatable elements to the plot and characters. Realism may not apply to realms of fiction, but elements of realism always should. Nothing is perfect, not even in a utopian setting, because people are not perfect. The imperfections add a relatable element whatever story is being told.

Emotion is probably the highest relatable factor for me when I’m reading. I may never have met a vampire or kissed a shapeshifter, but I know the tugs of love and the irrational thoughts and passions that come with it. The circumstances don’t matter as long as readers feel along with the characters. It’s a challenge for writers, yes, but it leads to more of a deep and meaningful story.

CONSISTENCY
Storytelling needs to have a flow to the writing – and there’s nothing that breaks a flow in storytelling like inconsistencies in characters, backstories, or the writing style itself.

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a book that’s keeping you guessing – only to hit a snag and get thrown out of the story completely because you read something that just didn’t make sense?  Writers need to know their worlds, the worlds’ rules, and the characters inhabiting said worlds. Readers will settle for the  easy resolution but they don’t like them because they don’t reflect real life, which almost always bears struggle and conflict. Happily ever afters are preferred by readers, but they’re much more meaningful if the characters have ‘paid their dues’ to earn the HEA.

conceptual idea with an open book standing on a hillside, with clouds above and 3D images of a chair and trees within the bookWRITING
I often know a book will be good if I am envious of the writing. While that sounds a weird thing to say, keep in mind that I am a writer myself. If I can read a first passage in a book and think, “Wow, I wish I could write like this,” then that’s saying something, isn’t it?

Though tastes vary, descriptions aren’t a bad thing since a writing style can help give a book its own specific kind of atmosphere. The point, is less is more. Not many readers like to barrel through paragraphs of description, no matter how beautifully written, because it slogs down the story.

CHARACTERS
I may be a bit critical, but I always fall hard for characters. I look at it this way: why read about characters I don’t like? I want to root for that character no matter what. I want to stand behind him/her and his/her decisions. I want to follow him/her on whatever journey is unfolding in his/her life.

Flaws  and ambiguity. They’re necessary. Why did so many of us Pride and Prejudice fans come out loving  Darcy, arrogant man that he could be? Because he was flawed and ambiguous only to show greater depth and emotion than any reader had likely imagined.

To conclude – I leave the question to all your followers: what makes a good book for you? Make it a big question of the day, because, honestly, isn’t a good book what anyone is hoping for any time they sit down and open a book to read?

Keep your reader reading.

Author, Carmen Stefanescu smiling for cameraAUTHOR BIO
Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

High school teacher of English and German in her native country, and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

Books by Carmen Stefanescu

shadowsofthepastbkBook cover for Till Life Do Us Part by Carmen Stefanescu shows a trees at night framing a full moonShadows of the Past
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery

Till Life Do Us Part
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery


You can stalk the author at the following haunts:
Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Amazon

BONUS THOUGHT:
I don’t know about where you live, but here, in Romania we experienced a heat wave this past summer with temperature over 45 Celsius degrees. Hot! The weather brought thunderstorms and lightening strikes. Did I say I was happy for summer to end, even though I don’t really like autumn? Here are my feelings about autumn:

AUTUMN AGAIN 

Autumn has turned up

on my doorstep.

Again !

country lane on a wet rainy autumn day,Drenched, tempestuous, frowned.

Rusted leaves are coiled

in her dripping hair,

a gray, foggy cape

wrapping her to the ground.

She pierces my soul with

cold, distant eyes.

Her breath smells of

rottenness and rain.

Dejected I bend my head,

and I sigh.

My hopes she forgot

where I lived were in vain.