May 29, 2008

A Giveaway, a Read-a-Thon, a Meme and a Question

First of all, Christine at She Reads Books is giving away five books to celebrate her 62th post! And they're very interesting sounding books. To be entered, leave her a comment here before the 3rd of June.

Secondly, Dewey is hosting the second edition of the Read-a-Thon on the 28th/29th of June. Unfortunately I won't be able to participate, but you all should, so that I can experience it vicariously through you. It will be lots of fun for sure. You can participate either as a reader or as a cheerleader. Go here for more details.

Third, a meme: Heather at Errant Dreams came up with a great meme about favourite authors. I saw it at Robin's blog and decided to steal it. I'm not going to tag anyone, but let me know if you decide to do it. I'd love to hear all about which authors are your favourites, and I'd be even more interested in hearing why.

1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?
Neil Gaiman, for a bunch of different reasons that I will now try to sum up without turning this into a 2000 words essay. First of all, I love his writing in itself. I also love his ideas, his characters, his sense of humour, his ability to be moving and disturbing all at once, his imagination, his use of mythology, folklore and fairy tales. I love the fact that he comes up with great stories, period.

But more important than this is the fact that I feel at home in his books. And I feel at home because in them I find a worldview that mirrors my own more closely than that of any other writer. I love the fact that he writers about characters finding out who they truly are and what they care about and then living lives that are faithful to that. I love how often his heroes are kind and decent people not because they are trying to live up to any ideal of Goodness of Perfection but because they believe in being kind and decent for its own sake. No moralizing, no fuss made, no thinly disguised sense of moral superiority.

And above all I love how most of his stories reflect the belief that stories are a major part of what being human is all about - we are stories, our lives are stories, and telling stories is essential for, well, our sanity, among other things. For our humanity. And our imagination is the greatest gift we have, and things that don't exist can be all that matters, and their non-existence doesn't make them any less precious or any less important. And "we owe it to each other to tell stories, as people simply".

This is long enough as it is, so I'll stop here. I just want to add that the above could also be said of Terry Pratchett, and that's the reason why he's a very close second in my list of favourite authors. He has other things going for him as well, but I will leave my mini-easy on why I love him so much for another day. (In fact, I think I have posted several mini-essays on that here in the past.)

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?
My first favourite author was Anne Rice. She stopped being my favourite because I discovered other writers whose work I felt closer to, but I can't deny that the book Blood Canticle had something to do with it too. I'll spare you the details of that tale of literary disappointment, though.

Do I still consider her a favourite? If we're talking top five, no, but in a longer list she'd pop up for sure. Some of her books remain among my all-time favourites, and she'll always be special for me. I started reading her very young, I must have been 14, and in some ways she shaped the person I was to become. She helped me discover what it was that I liked, and why. Fantasy, for example. I think her books are more dark fantasy than horror, really. And it was after reading her that I decided to try other things along those lines. I mostly missed out on fantasy during my childhood, and it was thanks to her that I first discovered it in my teens.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?
Daniel Wallace. The Watermelon King sealed the deal. I just love his writing. I love his subtlety, his imagination, his delicacy, his insight. And in his books I also find the belief in the power and importance of stories. Big Fish and The Watermelon King are so good that even if I happen to hate all his books from now on (which I highly doubt - I ordered Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician a couple of days ago, and I'm willing to bet I'm going to fall in love once again), he will always have a place among my favourites. Another potential addition is Kurt Vonnegut - I need to read more before I can say for sure, but I strongly suspect that he'll make it.

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Jeffrey Eugenides and Douglas Coupland would be the first I'd think of. Then Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Truman Capote, Douglas Adams, Bill Waterson and Anne Rice.

Finally, a questionfor those of you on BookMooch. I know from experience that most BookMoochers are friendly and helpful, but how do you deal with the less than pleasant ones?

Until recently I was inclined to be extremely tolerant, much more so than I would be when buying a book from the Amazon marketplace, for example. I wouldn't say anything if a book arrived in worse condition than described (this only happened once, fortunately), or if a moocher said they'd send a book "soon" and then took over a month without letting me know there'd be a delay. I understand that people are busy, and I really appreciate the fact that they are willing to send books halfway across the world for me, and I don't want to be ungrateful.

But then recently I read something on the BookMooch Wiki that struck me as true. Books on BookMooch are not free. Points are a form of currently, and you pay for the books you mooch in postage. People should be flexible, of course, but it's perfectly fair to expect a decent service. Not to mention honesty and common courtesy from the people you are dealing with. With this in mind, I'm not quite sure what to do about a recent situation in which the book owner marked the book as sent and then turned out to have forgotten to send it, and - and this, not the absent-mindedness, is what bothered me - wasn't exactly polite about it when I e-mailed them, a month and a half and no book later, asking what'd happened.

So my question is, in which situations, if any, do you give people negative feedback? Do you ever cancel mooch requests because you're tired of waiting or simply realize don't want to deal with that person anymore?


  1. I've cancelled requests when I'm tired of waiting: I usually just leave 0 feedback. And I once had a different edition of an Agatha Christie show up, when it was marked as the edition in which all of my other Christies were. I was not amused, so I marked it 0 (not even -1). This woman was frigging upset, and she offered to refund me a point in order to change the feedback to +1. When I said that seemed like a good way of dealing with the situation, she still was very angry. If someone was rude to me when they'd forgotten to send a book, I'd cancel and leave them negative feedback, unless it was a book I desperately wanted. In that case, when I received it, I'd mark still mark it -1. I've had instances of people forgetting to send out books (and I once thought a big batch had been sent out, when it was in my trunk! that was so horrible!), but they've always been very sorry and polite about it, so I didn't worry too much about it.

    I've been having an issue with bookmooch lately, because two or three of the books I've sent have been lost. It's very upsetting to me, since before this none have been lost, and I've also been having issues receiving mail. So I think I'm going to set it to vacation for awhile, until I figure out what's going on my post office.

  2. I loved reading your answer to question one of the meme! As with your reviews, your answer was so have a way of making me see things that are there but that I hadn't noticed before.

  3. "...I feel at home in his books."
    PERFECT! This is exactly what makes Gaiman so special - he has a wonderfully rich imagination and he writes beautiful prose - the people he writes about and the worlds he creates DO seem real on a level that few writers manage to reach.
    I'm gonna make a prediction - Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician will land somewhere in your all-time top 20, maybe inside the top ten.
    I don't use bookmooch (yet), but there's no excuse for being rude.
    Have a great weekend!


    Here is my response.

  5. I enjoyed reading your meme answers, Nymeth! I just knew you'd mention Neil Gaiman! ;P Heck, I'd have came up with the same answer too! And the best thing is, you've listed out the reasons why and I've to agree all with you! He's such a talented and versatile author!

    As for BookMooch, I'm quite fortunate to say I've never met anyone like that before, but if I were you I'll just cancel it and mooch from other Moochers there... it's no point mooching from an irresponsible (and rude) Moocher, well that's just my .2 cents. ;)

  6. I've cancelled requests that went unanswered for more than two weeks or after several pokes to find out what was taking so long. I also have mentioned in comments with ratings that I would've appreciated a condition note about books that come in crappy shape. Like you, I try not to be ungrateful, but sometimes people can be ridiculous.

  7. This may sound like I'm being mean-spirited - but have you tried reporting to the Bookmooch adminstrators about the rude Bookmoocher? A warning from the administrator may sober them up a bit on being more responsible.

    If you prefer to do it this way, you should retain your email correspondence as evidence - and only after all civil solutions to settle the issue has been exhausted.

    Or you can just choose not to deal with them.

    Sometimes it can be hard if it's a book a lot of people are fighting for. But I found that it helps to email the person before mooching. Usually how efficient/fast they reply to my request will give an indication of how fast they will send out the books.

  8. I've been wondering for a while if I may ask you a personal question:
    are you Portuguese writing in English, or an English native speaker living in Portugal? And if you're Portuguese, do you read book always in English?

    I'm asking because I'm Italian, but find it very difficult to find books in English, unless I buy them (at a very expensive price).

  9. Must read Neil Gaiman soon! I honestly don't know what is wrong with me that it is taking so long to pick up one of his books. Grrr! I loved reading your answers the the meme. I've never read anything by Anne Rice, although I do have one of her books on my shelf. I've always thought they might be scary. :)

    I haven't tried bookmooch--maybe I'll check it out this weekend. But, if someone deserves negative feedback, then you should provide it. I'm not exactly sure how all of that works, but I know that I wouldn't want to "mooch" or purchase from someone who has a bad trackrecord of sending books months later--I'd appreciate knowing someone else's experience.

  10. I was not surprised at the Gaiman answer lol.. these are good responses, I will ponder this and maaaaybbeee do it too lol

  11. Eva: Yeah, normally when I have any minor problems or the person doesn't answer I just leave +0 feedback. And wow, that woman was really unreasonable! That's too bad you've been having problems with books getting lost lately :/ And speaking of which, let me e-mail you about something.

    Debi, thank you :) I'm glad you liked it!

    Ken: They do seem real, and not only that, they are people I wish I could meet. Well, not Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, for example, but you get the point :P And I predict that your prediction will be correct :P Have a great weekend yourself!

    Becky: Thanks for the link, I'm going over to read your answers now :)

    Melody: I knew some of you would agree :P And yes, versatile - I forgot to mention that, but it's another thing I love about him. I was tempted to cancel, but they are no other copies of the book available at the moment and I kind of really want it, so I guess I'll just be patient for a while longer.

    Andi: They really can. So far I've cancelled two requests after the book owners accepted the mooch but then didn't send the book for over a month and wouldn't reply to e-mails. In one case, I got an e-mail 3 months later from the person, saying they'd "forgotten all about this bookmooch thing" and had given the book away elsewhere.

    Dark Orpheus: You don't sound mean-spirited. I would report it if the person has been more blantantly unpleasant, but they were mostly curt and unapologetic about the situation. Maybe that's the way they are with everyone, or maybe they were just having a bad day. And I like your tip about e-mailing the person first. Like you said, it's not really doable when something like 20 people have the book on their wishlist, but I think that I'll follow your advice in other cases.

    Alessandra: Of course you may ask :) I am Portuguese, yes. I don't always read books in English, but I read a good amount of them in English. First, because a good deal of translation leave a lot to be desired. Secondly, because many of the books I want to read and many of my favourite authors are not even available translated. And finally because Portuguese books are SO expensive - 15 to 20 euros most of the time, and this for paperbacks. Funnily enough, books in English here are less expensive than books in Portuguese. They are still overpriced compared to online stores, though, which is why I get most of my books from The Book Depository. They tend to be really fast with deliveries and they don't charge for shipping! I also find books in English at the university library, at a few bookstores in my town (do you have Fnac, the french megachain, in Italy? They're a bit overpriced, but sometimes there are some really nice bargains), and I also get them from BookMooch. Plus there are all the books I hoarded during my months living in England.. when my family visited I had them bring back about 15kgs worth of books for me :P Those should last me a while.

    Trish: Yes, yes you must :P Anne Rice CAN be scary, but she's much less so than she's made out to be, I think. And that's a good point about BookMooch - it's not fair to withhold information for the sake of the other members of the community.

    Deslily: lol, it's not surprising, I know :P I hope you do answer the meme!

  12. About your bookmooch question - I'm on paperbackswap and I've run into similar things. Sometimes there are just bad apples amongst the bunch. It would be nice if everyone treated everyone else the way *they* would like to be treated, but sometimes it doesn't happen. Even in the situations where I got a waterdamaged book, I've gotten annoyed but I've still tried to give the person the benefit of the doubt. I send them a note telling them sorry, but this is the rule - no waterdamaged books, maybe you didn't know that? And I've had people apologize profusely because they were newbies and really didn't know that, and then they ran out, bought the book new and resent it to me. Which made a crappy situation into an awesome one. So.. I guess my advice is to send them a polite note. If they still don't get it, well, you tried and took the high road.

  13. Janicu, I like your way of doing things. Communication is definitely important, and in most cases it does solve the problem.

  14. I wish my library had more Neil Gaiman... I loved the Sandman graphic novels, and Coraline....

    I went through a huge Anne Rice phase. I loved, loved, loved The Witching Hour and most of the vampire books, but then it started to go downhill....

  15. I don't know anything about Bookmooch, it's something I've heard about but not explored yet. So I can't say much except if it's really bad, I would advice Bookmooch people that you'd been experiencing problems (same for Eva, who sounds like she's having problems too)

    I love your answers for your meme. I love how you put that you feel at home in Gaiman's writing. And what a compliment to him that you feel that way when reading him! I really enjoy his work too, but i can't say I feel at home with him. I'll have to think if I feel at home with anyone. Good answer, Nymeth :-)
    And I loved the Vampire Lestat series by Anne Rice until the one after Queen of the Damned. It got silly and weird, and didn't work anymore. But Interview with a Vamapire remains a classic, for me.
    Good post!

  16. Neil Gaiman is such a diverse author. I have really enjoyed the two books I read by him. Now to make time to read more . . .

    I am still fairly "new" to Anne Rice, having only read five of her books so far. I loved The Witching Hour best of hers.

    I am having a hard time coming up with answers to Heather's meme. It's such a good one, but I'm not good at picking out favorites.

  17. Daphne: I loved the Witching Hour too. The whole Mayfair Witches series, actually. That was how I was first introduced to her.

    Susan: This particular situation wasn't bad enough for that, but if I ever come across something worse I will definitely report it. From what I've heard, they are pretty great when it comes to dealing with those things. Thank you, I'm glad you liked my answers :) I hope you do decide to do the meme, I'd love to see what you come up with!

    Literary Feline: I hope you continue to enjoy his work. And yes, I loved The Witching Hour as well :) I should revisit it,'s been too long. And I know what you mean about having a hard time narrowing down favourites.

  18. I am glad you still have a soft spot for Anne Rice. I am excited her new Christ book is out and am waiting impatiently for the paperback probably next year. I do like Neil Gaiman and he would be in a top twenty favourite authors poll for me I think, but not in my top ten. I hope you add either Charles de Lint and/or Juliet Marillier to your top twenty at some point if not higher :)

  19. I forgot to add in my earlier super-long comment that your explanation of Neil Gaiman is just beautiful.

  20. Rhinoa: I can definitely see those two entering my top after I read more of their books. I almost bought Wildwood Dancing the other day. But then I thought I should finish The Sevenwaters series before reading more of her stuff. But still kind of wish I'd bought it :P

    Eva: Thank you, I'm glad you liked it :) After posting I remembered that big post on Neil Gaiman you did a while ago..I should have linked to it, you summed up what makes him so special so well!

  21. I think I'll answer your bookmooch questions with a post.

  22. Dewey, I look forward to your post!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.