Monday, May 10, 2010

Box of Surprises

The before photo for my work surface

 And after (alas, this was an earlier "after" and it's messy again)

My efforts at organization resemble one of those flow charts with lots of if/then arrows.  Thus, if what I want to do is work on the quilt for my friend Laura, I end up thinking about it like this:
—> In order to start the quilt, I need to iron all the pre-washed fabric.

—> In order to iron the fabric, I need to clean off the ironing side of my work surface in my office/sewing room.

—> In order to clean off the the ironing side of my work surface in my office/sewing room, I need to sort through the books currently piled there.

—> In order to sort through the piles of books, I need to join Paperback Book Swap so I'll have some way of getting rid of the books I don't want to keep.

At which point -- and tell me you didn't see this coming! -- I spent several days happily posting books on PBS, printing out mailing labels, packaging up books for mailing, buying more stamps, inquiring about the federal regulations on packages over 13 ounces, etc.

And because I liked doing all that crap more than cleaning my office, I nattered on happily about this to Brit Hub 2.0, who surprised me by saying, "Well, do you want to do the books under my desk?"

You might be forgiven for assuming the boxes of books under his desk are his books, but no, it turns out they are books I culled out from the herd when we moved here three years ago, boxed up, and offered to Brit Hub 2.0 in case he wanted to list them on Amazon.  (He didn't.)  I had forgotten those boxes were even there.  So, the next thing I know, I'm pawing through two boxes of books that I don't remember reading.  (And it doesn't help that I am one of those readers who leaves the book looking like it's never been cracked open.  Good for the person who gets it next, but confusing as hell when I'm trying to figure out if I've ever even seen that book before!)

This provoked an odd reaction in me, I'll confess: When I can't remember reading a book, I can't remember why I didn't like it, so I'm not entirely sure why I packed it for disposal.  What if I really would like the book?  Maybe I should read it again to be sure I want to get rid of it?
Cue the men in white coats...

Okay, so I managed to convince myself that yes, I really did mean to get rid of all of these books.  But there were some surprises in there.  Books by authors I now know personally, which is triply embarrassing because at the time I met the authors (nope, no names) I really had no idea I'd read even one of their books.  But to have read it and forgotten it completely?  Those books I've set aside for rereading; I owe these nice women that much loyalty.

I also had some books in there I now wasn't sure I wanted to give away, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Hot Shot.  Yes, it's one of her "women's fiction" books and no, I didn't like it, but I have other SEP books I don't love and I keep those.  More loyalty, I'm afraid.

And then there was the complete shocker.  In the box was a book I would have sworn up and down I read for the first time in 2009 as a result of rave reviews in Romlandia.  A book that got me hooked on this author's work, exactly as Romlandia said it would.  A book -- okay, I will admit that I don't adore it the way some people in Romlandia adore it, but I understand its appeal.  (In contrast, I'm swapping both copies of Lisa Kleypas's Dreaming of You; I bought it, tried it, couldn't finish it then forgot about it so thoroughly that when someone else raved about it, I bought it again and relearned why it is a DNF for me.)

Guessed which book it is?  Well, I've already ruled out Dreaming of You, and as I have two copies of To Have and To Hold (and am keeping them both), and you know I hate Judith Ivory, there is only one book it can be.
Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels

Yes, you read that right.  I actually bought Lord of Scoundrels years ago, read it, didn't like it, didn't think I'd like anything else by her and actually rejected the book.  At least now I can understand why, when I was reading it last year, it seemed vaguely familiar -- although at no time did I actually think, "Oh, I'm sure I've read this before." As I say, it's not my favorite L.Chase book -- I vastly prefer Lord Perfect -- but I had no trouble in 2009 seeing what a good writer she is.  What was my problem back when I bought it?

Yet another reason why it's a good thing I'm not reviewing books -- this would shake my confidence that I know anything at all about which books are good and which aren't!

4 comments:

  1. Tell them that will be an order for white coats for two! I totally understand what you're talking about. And actually [shhhhhhhhhhhh] Lord of Scoundrels is not my fave either.

    Sometimes you're just in a different place when you read a book for the first time versus years later. It doesn't have to make sense.

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  2. Haha that's too funny. I tried reading a book others have raved about in Romlandia but I couldn't read word-for-word after about two chapters, so I started skimming, and then I started skipping, and then I went to the end and didn't like that so I quit. lol

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  3. I'm so glad to find other people who aren't fans of Lord of Scoundrels. I read it because so many people raved about it, but I couldn't get more than halfway through without getting frustrated and giving up. I told myself I must have been in a bad place and to give it another try down the road. I did that and same result. I find that so funny because I've read other stuff by her and really liked it. But I just don't like that book. I wonder if it would have made a difference had I read it without knowing all the hype?

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  4. Hah! I'm sure other people read this post, shook their heads and murmured "Poor deluded Magdalen," while the three people who commented feel the same way.

    Well, Elizabeth, I should be the control for your experiment. I *did* read Lord of Scoundrels with no knowledge of any hype and clearly I didn't like the book enough to a) read anything else from her then-backlist, b) keep the book, or c) remember even having read it. When I reread it, I did so with all the hype in mind.

    Now, I would imagine hype effects people differently, but for me it tends to encourage me to like a book. I'm cranky, but I do trust the judgments of fellow readers (like Janet and Keira!) so I start hyped books with some faith there's something there worth reading. But I can just as easily imagine some people start a hyped book with a degree of skepticism so that the book has a bit more work to do to meet heightened expectations.

    What was stunning to me is this: Lord of Scoundrels isn't just hyped, it's REVERED! It's at the top of most Top 100 Romance Novel lists that I've seen. And I actually have no idea what I thought of it the first time I read it because it made no impression at all. None. Which is pretty extraordinary, if you think about it.

    I have no explanation, just a worldly shrug.

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