Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Out with the Old...In with the New

We're doing some redecorating in our home this month. My youngest child is finally at the age where he doesn't spill everything he touches. New carpet, new furniture. Yeah!! One of the rooms we are recarpeting is the one where I keep all my books. While the prospect of temporarily moving over 2000 books is daunting, it also provides a much needed opportunity to pare down the TBR pile.

I started collecting books around 1990. Before that, I would read and toss. I hadn't started any of that crazy glom behavior yet. Then I went to work part-time in a used bookstore. A customer would recommend an author and the books were right there on the shelf waiting for me to take them home. I don't think I ever took a paycheck home from that place. Back in the early 90's I collected Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Barbara Delinsky, Elizabeth Lowell -- all the usual suspects. When I glommed an author, I bought it all, no half measures for me. Unfortunately, I didn't really enjoy all those early books by most of these authors. Why was I reading those alpha jerks from Krentz? Maybe I would have enjoyed them in 1982 but not in 2006.

I remember bidding furiously on eBay in the late 90's for the Jayne Bentley books. Winning those books at the oh-so-cheap price of $125 gave me a lot more enjoyment than actually reading one of them ever could. So came the realization that I would probably never read these books and it was time for them to find new homes.

My reading tastes have changed through the years. I used to read almost any book from one of my favorite authors even if it didn't interest me. I am attempting to break that habit with this move. Out the door goes any book set in the American West -- I can't find anything romantic about the period but my mother won't read anything else, so she gets those. Out goes lots of romantic suspense with serial killer plots -- I've decided I like action adventure not grisly murders.

I've gotten rid of almost 600 books in the last week and I feel much better about what's left on my shelf. I might actually get around to reading a few...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reading Slumps

I'm in a reading slump. No book can hold my attention for longer than a chapter. I have 7 books sitting on my nightstand with bookmarks in them. I'm reading books by authors that I normally love, so what's wrong with me?

Reading slumps usually happen around once a year for me. In a normal month I'll read between 10 and 15 books -- not bad considering I work full-time and have 2 small children. Last month I only read 4 books and this month I'm not doing much better.

Since I haven't been reading much, I've been watching movies. I signed up for the new Blockbuster movies by mail service and have been having a blast. We have a Blockbuster store about a mile from us and with the new program you can return your movies to the store and get a free movie to take home. So for the same price I was paying at Netflix, I can get twice as many movies. Since I can never get near a TV set in my house, I've been renting the TV shows on DVD and watching them on my portable DVD player. I have been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and am now starting Season 4. It's funny to me that I'll watch movies and shows in a genre that I would never read in. Take Buffy -- I really love the show, but can't stand vampire romances. What's romantic about falling in love with a dead guy?

When I'm in a reading slump, I spend a lot of time trolling review sites looking for the book that is going to get me out of the slump. I tend to try a lot of new-to-me authors hoping that I just need a fresh voice to get me going again. So far it hasn't worked. I tried Julia Ross last night, an author whose books had recommendations from some of my favorite authors, but couldn't get past the third chapter. Any little historical inconsistency throws me off these days and the book hits the pile on my nightstand.

Hopefully this nasty slump will end soon and I can return to regular reading. Until then, I can find out how Buffy will survive without Angel...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Overlooked...

We receive a lot of e-mail regarding recommendations for new features. Usually it is something that we've already thought about and put on the enhancement list or rejected as not something we see for FictionDB. But every once in a while, someone e-mails us with something that we'd just plain missed. This happened recently with the Anthology section of our site.

I read anthologies by author. I will read the stories by the authors that I like and then discard the book. So when I designed the anthology section, I designed it for me and the way I read anthologies. Obviously a big mistake! I have now rectified this problem. You will find a new anthology title search area on the Advanced Search page. For those of you using the Bookshelf area of FictionDB, you can now search your personal collection by ISBN which will find the anthology for you.

The ISBN searches throughout the site are now tied to the reissue data, so typing in an ISBN for any issue of a book should pull up the main FictionDB listing. If we're missing an ISBN, please let us know. The reissue data is the newest on our site and so may not be completely up-to-date.

So, if there's something you'd really like to see on FictionDB, let us know! Maybe we haven't thought of it yet.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reading Until the Wee Hours of the Morning...

It's rare that I stay up most of the night finishing a book. It's even more rare when it happens 3 nights in a row, but that's what happened this week.

I'm not a night person by nature. I have two small children and my schedule tends to follow theirs. In bed by nine, read till ten and then up again at six. Even before children, it was rare for me to stay up all night reading -- after all, I had all those early evening hours to read :)

Finding a book that I'm willing to risk zombiehood the next day for happens maybe once or twice a year. I don't know if I'm just jaded from having read so much for so many years or what, but I can finish a chapter and put most books down for the night. When I find a book that keeps me up, I get really excited. I think it reminds me of my youth when finding these kinds of books was a regular occurrence.

So what were these rare reads that have turned me into a zombie this week? I don’t often read chick lit or women’s fiction for that matter, but I had heard about Emily Giffin and decided to try her first book, Something Borrowed. The basic premise of the book is a woman who sleeps with her best friend’s fiancĂ© and deals with the repercussions. I should have hated this book and I’m actually surprised I even tried it. This plot line doesn’t quite hit my Ick Factor but it does hit my Disgust Factor. Maybe since I knew this book was not a traditional romance, I was willing to give it a shot. I am so glad I did. I loved this book from start to finish. Maybe I’m just getting older and am more tolerant :) The characters and their problems were ones I could empathize with. Giffin wrote about people that I could know and she wrote a very realistic work environment which is another big plus for me. People actually work in her book!

I started the second book, Something Blue, the next night thinking that there’s no way that the second could be as good as the first. At 2:00 a.m., I had to disagree. Then came day 3. I at least started reading Baby Proof earlier in the evening so I was finished by midnight.

I’ve read over 60 books so far this year and these were my first all-nighters, so I guess I was due. Hopefully, tonight’s book won’t be as good and I can get some sleep…

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Amazing New Library Links

I found the most awesome site today -- WorldCat.org -- and I've now added book specific links to it.

What is it? It's a library catalog site -- lots of catalogs in one place. They've taken all the libraries in the country and put their catalogs in one place. This may not be important to you if you don't live in a major metropolitan area, but I live in L.A. If I want a book from the library system, I have to check 6 or 7 different web sites. Now I can go to 1 place and see which library in my area has the book. For instance I just found Georgette Heyer's old contemporaries that have never been reissued. It took me 10 seconds!!

Of course, I had to add this amazing site to FictionDB. Click on the anywhere on the site and you will be taken to the Buy page. We've now added direct links to WorldCat from this page.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Ick Factor

There are just certain kinds of books that I cannot read no matter how good the writer. I've encountered several of these over the last couple of months and it got me to thinking about the exact plot device that makes me say "I think I just threw up in my mouth" (a brilliant line from that classic movie, Dodgeball).

The other day I picked up one of the new Silhouette Bombshells. I'd never read one before so I picked one written by a writer I usually like, Ruth Wind/Barbara Samuel. I know that the Bombshells aren't traditional romances which is fine with me. I like action adventure books and have been reading a lot of Vince Flynn lately, so this book should have been a good read. Well, it was, until the throwing up in my mouth part.

So what causes this thoroughly disgusting reaction in me? Huge age discrepancies between the main romantic characters where a parental or close relationship had previously been involved. I'm fine with May/December romances where the characters meet as adults, but tell me that the man was the guardian of the girl and then had the hots for her when she became an adult and I just lose it. I don't care how good a writer is, this disgusts me beyond belief. In my little Pollyanna world, you don't lust after kids you've known since they were in diapers and Daddy's best friend is not a candidate for sex (the case in the Wind book). I barely finished an older Iris Johansen Loveswept with this same plot and threw away a Meagan McKinney and a Karen Robards.

This particular plot device used to be fairly common and I'm almost okay with the guardian who's never actually spent any time with his ward. But anytime the two characters knew each other well when one was a child, the ick factor sets in and the book goes in the trash.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Searching by Cover

A woman in my book group has been looking for a book for the last 5 years. She remembers several things about the book, but she knows she can recognize it by its cover. Everyone in the group has tried to find this book at some point and today was my turn. I created a link from the Advanced Search results page to another page displaying all the cover images from those same books. Yippy!! Now in just a couple of minutes, my friend can find the book she's been looking for.

It seems that all enhancements to FictionDB come from someone's need to get the same data in a different way. Hopefully, my friend's request can help you find the books you've been looking for :)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Authors Behaving Badly

I tend to spend a lot of time on the internet trolling for information, mostly for FictionDB but sometimes just because. I visit quite a few author sites and blogs as you can imagine. What always amazes me is the way some people behave on the internet. In some ways the internet is very anonymous -- you can browse without anyone knowing what you're doing or where you're going. But in other ways, the internet is very public. Take for example a recent rant I found by an author in a blog. The author was upset about a book of hers being sold on eBay. She was obviously furious since every other word was of the four-letter variety. While she may have had cause to be upset, was the internet the right place for her to vent? Would she have spoken the same thing in front of the annual RWA convention? I seriously doubt it! Copies of her blog will forever be available in some form on the internet and new readers interested in her work will probably see this rant. For me, I wouldn't want to read a book by someone who spoke like this let alone wrote it down for the world to read. I would assume that if writing is your occupation, you could get your point across just as successfully without using such extreme profanity. The scariest thing of all is that this author is a high school teacher.

The author has lost a potential reader in me and I'm sure I'm not alone. Now I am not opposed to free speech, far from it, but writing is a business. The goal of most authors on the web is to promote themselves and their books. Many authors are always professional and gracious in their communication no matter how they really feel. They'll probably retain and acquire more readers than someone who throws hissy fits. Over the years I have seen other authors behaving badly and I've always wondered if it affects their sales at all. Maybe it doesn't. After all, the bulk of the buying public doesn't spend a lot of time reading author blogs. Most of these authors behaving badly are midlist authors who come and go frequently, so it's hard to tell if it's the writing quality or not. Some readers may be able to completely separate the author's personality and behavior from their reading experience, but I can't. I don't even like meeting my favorite authors because I will hear their speaking voice when I read their book rather than their writing voice. Authors behaving badly may entertain me on some level, but they will never get me to buy their books...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Never Say Never

You've heard the old adage -- never say never. Well, it's true. Every time I've said "I'll never do ____ with FictionDB", I've had to eat my words. I usually say "Never" when I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed with enhancements that need to be made. Then, when things die down again, I start looking around for new things. Now, most of the enhancements don't require a huge time commitment. It's usually just some programming. When I want data enhancements, then the time factor really kicks in. That's why I say "Never" to those requests that require major changes to the structure of the data.

Then along comes some technological advance that allows me to rethink my original "Never" position. Then I start telling myself, "See it wouldn't take that long." And then it happens. Well, it happened this month and ta da -- FictionDB has the publishing history of the books on the site.

On the bottom of the book detail page, you'll now see the recent (post-ISBN) publishing history for each title. You'll see whether it's been reissued, been reissued in another format, or been reissued in an anthology. Of course, with any undertaking this big, there are going to be glitches. The data is not complete for every book in the database -- that will take time. But in the meantime, let us know what you think of the new data.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reviews -- Do they really influence readers?

FictionDB doesn't review books. Why? There are so many sites out there already who do a pretty good job of reviewing new releases. We do, however, provide links to over 60,000 reviews. Which brings me to the point of this post.

A review is just one person's opinion about a book. We all have different tastes, hot buttons, and ideas about what constitutes a great read. I've read reviews for years, but a single review rarely influences my purchase of a book. What does influence me is volume. If 5 reviews say the book is great and one says don't bother, I am more willing to try it.

This past week, I added RT's reviews to the FictionDB database. As I was going through them, I noticed that they had given one of my favorite Regencies 2 stars. This is a book that I have given to many people who have all loved it. The book is Lord St. Claire's Angel by Donna Simpson. RT's reviews are only 2 or 3 lines which is why you won't see them as review buttons . Given their brevity, it is often difficult to determine the reason for the rating. This gets back to using a single review source. Several other sites loved this book as much I did, so looking at a variety of reviews gives a better idea as to the quality of the book. I also tend to look at who is reviewing the book. There are some reviewers who I always disagree with -- we just have different taste in books. I think in the case of Lord St. Claire's Angel, the RT reviewer didn't think the hero's actions were acceptable for the time. I didn't get this impression at all. The setting of the book is a country estate. If we were talking about behavior in the middle of a ball in London during the season, I'd be much more of a stickler. But even if this were one of my hot buttons, I wouldn't downgrade a book this far -- I certainly didn't for the Samantha Saxon books that did hit my hot button. A good story and great characters can overcome almost anything!

So, can a single review really influence buying behavior? Let's hope not!

That's why you'll see links to several review sites on FictionDB. We've now made reviews searchable. Visit our Advanced Search page to search by review site, rating and more.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Awards! Awards! and More Awards!

Tis the season for awards. They're certainly all over the Tv and the news. What was the best _____ of 2005? I'm always entertained by awards and how different my tastes are from the actual winners. We've included awards on FictionDB for awhile, but without much focus. That has just changed!

We've added all the major awards for all four genres. There are obviously a million awards given to books, so we've stuck with the majors from each genre. To access the new awards area of FictionDB, you can visit the Advanced Search page or click on the Awards link from an author page. There are several search options to help you find exactly what you're looking for.

Awards aren't always given to the best book, but you may just find a few new authors to try...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What are my books REALLY worth?

I used to be a book collector until the day I ran out of space. I'd track down an author's complete backlist and stack them on a shelf somewhere. I'd get around to them eventually.

Before the likes of Amazon and eBay, I used to locate hard-to-find books the old-fashioned way -- I drove from store to store. But this could take quite awhile. No matter how difficult to locate, I knew I'd find it eventually. Now, of course, with so many people selling books online, those little gems are a lot harder to find in stores, but they're only a click away on the internet. I picked up Mary Balogh's complete backlist last year in a couple of weeks -- this would have taken me years on my own!

The problem was I kept finding new authors and I couldn't read them all fast enough. Something had to give. Since I don't reread books, the books I'd already read were the obvious choice to get rid of. I knew many of them were supposedly worth a lot of money, but which ones? Well, now I can find out!

FictionDB will now show you the used price of all the books you've organized in My Bookshelf, My Archive, and My Wishlist. Click Here for the direct link or go to My Account and then to Value My Books.

Some books I thought were worth something aren't and vice versa. It sure was fun having a look. I have a new reading strategy now -- read the expensive ones and sell them :)

Let us know if you find a diamond in the rough!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New vs. Used -- That same old story

I was asked recently how much money I spend each month on books. The answer was $5.00-$10.00. Given that I buy 30-40 books each month, I obviously don't buy new. I almost felt bad about it for a minute, but then I got over it...

I've read countless articles on this topic on the internet. The authors don't get recognition or royalties from used books, blah, blah, blah. If the publishing industry's royalty model is broken, is it my responsibility as a reader to fix it? Absolutely not! You don't hear GM or Honda complaining that consumers are not buying their products new. They've already factored that into their business model. It seems to me that authors should take up the issue with their publisher instead of trying to make readers feel guilty. Frankly, they should be happy someone wants to read their book.

Given that I never have trouble finding any book I want used, someone is buying those books new. There are some people who don't like reading anything but a brand new book and I say great! It ensures I get the book I want that much quicker!

I am lucky enough to live in Southern California where a tremendous amount of books are available used in Like New condition for $0.25-$0.50. These books are made available through library book sales. I am a huge supporter of libraries. When I started reading at the tender age of 3, my parents couldn't afford to buy me 15 books a week. But they could take me to the library where I could check out my 15 books absolutely free! Maybe this is why I'm unwilling to pay a lot of money for books. 20 years later when I could afford to buy books new, it just seemed like a waste of money to me. I would much rather give my money to the Library Friends who support those kids who can't afford to buy new books. It's a win-win situation and the MBA in me loves the practicality.

Hooray for libraries!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year -- New Features

Several new features went online in the last couple of days. We hope you'll check them out and let us know what you think.

One of the joys of going to the bookstore is browsing all the new book covers. Well, we have created a similar environment here at FictionDB. From the New Releases page you can click on Cover Gallery and be taken to a page displaying all the new covers for a given month. Cover galleries now exist for new releases and new in paperback releases.

I tend to add to My Wishlist from the New Releases pages as the books become available. Sometimes I forget whether I've added the new month's titles to My Wishlist. Or sometimes I think I've added a book to My Bookshelf but I really haven't. Now I can catch all the discrepancies easily.

Meet our new icon:

If you are logged in to your FictionDB account, you will see these checkmarks throughout the site. They indicate that the book is on My Bookshelf, in My Archive, or on My Wishlist. I have been going through all my favorite authors and making sure I haven't missed any of their books. Luckily only a few have slipped through :)

Like to request a book be added to the site? Click Here to suggest a book. We'll do our best to get the title added in the next update.

We will also be updating our printed reference guides within the next couple of weeks. Check Here to find out if the new books are available.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!