It’s totally OK to burn these books

Game of Thrones candle book

When burned, these books give off a charming smell.

Like pumpkin souffle, clean cotton, and ocean breeze.

These are the smells of Hagrid’s Pumpkin Patch, Dobby’s Socks, and Gatsby’s Shoreline — all candles, and all great holiday gift ideas.

You can also find lip balms and wax tarts in the Etsy seller’s shop, From the Page.

Plague World: What constitutes a ‘good’ book ending?

tackyIn August, author Dana Fredsti released Plague World, the third and final novel in her Ashley Parker girl-kicks-zombie-butt series. Years ago, the first book, Plague Town, caught me by surprise as I wasn’t expecting something so good — Resident Evil novelizations have taught me that zombie fiction is usually kind of corny, while The Walking Dead comics and countless movies about the undead have convinced me that any visual probably suits the genre best.

Thankfully, I was wrong, and the Ashley Parker series is as good or better than any zombie movie (although it’s still a little corny, in a good, fully-conscious-of-its-corniness way of course).

Still, as much as I love Fredsti’s writing, I was a teensy bit hard on the second book, Plague Nation. I was worried that — with the zombie outbreak spreading so fast and then going airborne — maybe this thing was getting too out of hand for her or any of the characters to manage.

I didn’t know it then, but that was kind of the point.

plague town

Not everyone was happy about the trilogy’s ending. One reader on Goodreads left a one-star review (warning: it’s here, but spoilers!) and asked, “How on earth is that conceivably a good ending? An appropriate one? I … I can’t even … I’m so pissed off I wasted all this time just to end up with THAT! […] I will NEVER recommend this series to anyone (even my enemies) again. It was that wrong. If I could go back in time and unread the Ashley Parker series I would.”

So, yeah, strong reaction.

Let me first say that, without revealing any specific details, I thought Dana Fredsti did a beautiful job on the ending to Plague World. So big hint here: Somebody dies. Was I shocked by what happened? Yes. Was I OK with this death? Not so much, and I can understand why someone else might outraged.

But was it a good ending? Yes, yes, yes — because first, it was indeed “appropriate.” OK, minor spoilers here, but not really: It’s an apocalypse. People tend to die. Secondly, the ending wasn’t good because the characters died or lived. It was good because it was believable. I was expecting Fredsti to try to find a way to “resolve” the huge Zombie problem with a capital Z, but that wasn’t giving her enough credit. Would we be able to fix something like that in real life with a wink and two swings of a paragraph? No, I don’t think so. The consequences of a catastrophe that huge would last a long time.

I understand the reviewer’s disappointment. I even understand her anger. But to say that the ending wasn’t worth the journey because you disagreed with it — well, that’s like saying your whole life is shit just because something bad happens. And, hey, we all totally do that sometimes. I’m as guilty as anyone. But you’re going to drive yourself crazy unless you realize that you got some good stuff out of the experience, too, and maybe you learned something, and that has to be enough. Life isn’t fair, and frankly, the author doesn’t owe you anything — except maybe a conclusion to all hanging plot threads (which Fredsti addressed). Be happy you got a third book at all.

Take The Hunger Games, for example. I love that trilogy. But hell if I don’t think Mockingjay is the biggest insult to Katniss and readers everywhere. Do I hate it so much that I wish Collins had never even bothered, or that I hadn’t read a single word? No. Because the story wasn’t a waste. It provided me with some entertainment for a while, and I got to disappear into a world and become close to imaginary characters that mean so much to readers that they might as well be real. It’s the mark of a good author when you give a shit what happens to a character. If you’re angry or sad or scared or even happy — the author has done her job.

So if Fredsti made that reviewer that upset, she obviously wrote some good characters because the reader was attached to them. But to wish you had never picked up those books and met those characters is like saying you wished you had never met Dumbledore or — hell — anyone in real life. Because we all die sometime. And we’re all worth knowing, for however long or short of a time that we’re here.

Grade: B

Dear book: I’m just not that into you

grumpy catWe’ve all been there. You’re reading a book and it’s just not doing it for you.

Do you …

A) Grind your teeth and finish it even if it’s taking you forever and you’d rather read anything else but this.

B) Stop immediately because there’s so many other things you could be doing, and this book sucks.

Right now I’m somewhere in the middle and having trouble deciding which to do. Will the book redeem itself? Am I just wasting my time? What to dooooo?

On one hand, I’m determined to finish it just so I can say with 100 percent certainty that I didn’t like it and/or the protagonist. For all I know, there’s a few chapters at the end that would totally change my mind.

Then I think, well, probably not. And I’m procrastinating reading this, so I’m never going to get to the end, and waiting too long between reading sessions could skew my impression of the book anyway.

What do you usually do in this situation? Were you totally happy with your decision, or did you regret it later?

Quick! I need book recommendations …

… for the following genres. So I can get with it and complete the Eclectic Reader challenge already.

  • Historical mystery
  • Romantic suspense
  • Made into a movie
  • New Adult
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Dystopian
  • Memoir
  • LGBT
  • Action Adventure
  • Humor

I can probably count The Curse of the Wendigo under action adventure and Prophet of Bones under new adult, maybe. What exactly does “adult” entail, anyway? Boring grown-up stuff like jobs? PoB has cool work stuff …

Thoughts on books to read in these categories?

Bad cover? Forget reading the book

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Tables of books in stores are the ultimate proof that covers matter. If customers like what they see, they might even bother to read the description.

I like to showcase my favorite covers every Friday, but there’s more to it than good art. Some people believe that good designs conceal good books — or at least ones that are worth your time.

“If the cover seems to be nothing more than a catalog photograph with block lettering, I bypass it,” Naomi Blackburn, one of the top Goodreads reviewers, told The Huffington Post. “If the author didn’t care enough to dedicate time/effort to their cover, I wonder how much time they put into the book itself.”

Simply put, good covers sell books.

“In addition to promising what a book will deliver, the [cover] image also promises — or fails to promise — that the author is a professional, and that the book will honor the reader’s time,” said Smashwords founder Mark Coker.

Investing in an amazing cover can fool readers into thinking you acquired a publisher rather than self-published, which can negate the “it’s indie and crap” logic. A quality design can even interest retail merchandising managers, which can equal more sales. It also makes a book easier to market.

“The art shouldn’t fight the typography,” said Kris Miller, the designer for the Saima Agency. “A romance novel shouldn’t look like a thriller or visa versa.”

And strong, simple images “pop” best.

I gotta say — a beautiful, striking, or fun cover can make me interested in a book when I had no reason to be. So if you want people to take you seriously as a budding author, make sure you have the best picture to sell your many thousand words.

Did you ever find a beloved book by judging its cover first? Do you agree that a good cover usually means a good read?