Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading what Resonates

So, a month ago (after I finished my edits/re-writes on Project #2), I posted a list of books I had waiting on my Kindle to read while on holidays.

I finished the list and then some. Actually, part way through the list I got distracted, bought another few books, read those, then went back to my original list.

I just finished 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness last weekend. As soon as I read the last page, I hopped onto my laptop and bought the second two books in the trilogy. Until that moment, I didn't even know it was part of a trilogy. To be honest, knowing a book is part of a series or a trilogy actually kinda turns me off, for reasons I might go into at a later date.

Out of all those books I've read in the last month, only four made it onto my 'what I read and love' list in the side panel of my blog. That's a less than 40% *love*.

...and by that, I mean less than half the books really resonated with me. Sometimes I don't even know why in particular I connect strongly with a book... but I can recognize it. When I'm reading a book like that, I don't once think of the writing. I get so drawn in I just keep reading and reading. I lose track of time and if I have to put it down and go out/interact with people, I'm really only there in body... my mind is back on the book and I won't remember a single conversation until I have finished the very last page.

'The Knife of Never Letting Go' was such a book for me. I can't explain why I liked it so much, I can just recognize the intense drive I felt to finish it, to know what happened... and after my brief flash of anger at realizing it wasn't a self-contained book, I bought the last two immediately. I already know that if the second book is terrible, I will still read the third to find out the ending... that's how strong I feel the pull of this book.

I think it's easier to put a finger on what doesn't work... what technical and aesthetic points will throw up hurdles and make the word jolt and clunk and disconnect.

To use one of those classic books where that happened... 'Ender's Game', and I can point out exactly why. When the story was in Ender's perspective, I was totally absorbed, but the problem was whenever it swapped out to the generals vaguely talking about their plans and about Ender. The dialogue felt so insincere and unrealistic, specifically because it seemed to be intentionally holding information back from the reader which would make me irritated. Every single time it swapped perspectives, I would get jolted back to reality and remember I was reading a book. Just words on a page. Characters. Plot points. Growth arcs. Scripted emotion rising and falling to slowly build until the climax.

What are some of the things that bother you in books you read? Are there certain plot devices or character types that set you off? Or is it things like unrealistic dialogue, whether it seems to be not-in-character, overly snarky, sickeningly sappy or lines that make the character seem too dumb to still be alive?


  1. Things that bother me in books...I'd have to say unrealistic or under-drawn characters. I've been reading the Hunger Games Trilogy (I'm reading Mockingjay at the moment), but in the last two books, Peeta's character annoyed me to no end. He just seemed too "morally perfect" in comparison to all the other characters. He didn't seem real.

    I also don't like it when all the characters in a book seem to talk the same way. Every character should have their own distinct voice.

    Surprisingly, I don't mind flowery prose or prose that draws attention to itself. You just need to have a good reason for doing it, is all.

  2. Stopping by as part of the Campaign from MG?YA group 3.
    I love it when I find a book that makes me completely forget about the writing itself. Those definitely do not come around all that often.
    Nice to meet you!

  3. Plot inevitability. I just finished the not-very-easy read THE WIND UP GIRL (Bacigalupi), in which lots of unpleasant things happen for very good and very specific reasons. Prophecy-devices tend to make me less than interested in what's happening, because then the ending kind of Has to Happen.

  4. Hey, partner! Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

    I don't enjoy unnecessary information in books. You know, they describe something and not use it.

  5. Great to meet you fellow campaigner! So glad you stopped by my blog.

    A lot of books have aspects I don't care for, but for the most part I try to enjoy the story without letting the irks get in my way. A few books I've tried reading are just too far down on the resonating scale and I don't finish them - but that's not very often.

    To me, the most important thing about finding a book I love is to give a book a chance no matter what anyone else says about it. And here's why - we all have different needs down deep in our souls (dramatic, I know, but true) so while some aspects of a book might irritate one person, another person will love them.

  6. I <B Knife of Never Letting Go. I hated the dog thing though. I'm a dog person. However, everything else I gobbled up.

    Glad to meet you during the Campaign. Thanks for stopping by the Write Game. Hope to see you again.

  7. I can't stand melodrama or the characters acting too angsty even if their circumstances really are unbearable. Waah waah, my life is so terrible, everything falls apart and people always die because of me, or I hate everyone because I've been hurt too many times. (Hmm, I know a few people like that in real life too. LOL) I want to like the main character if I'm going to stick with him or her throughout the whole book or series, so please don't make him or her unlikeable simply because they whine too much or take everything out on their co-characters. A bit of whining and angst is fine, but overkill will make it hard to read because I'm rolling my eyes too much.

    I'm also not a big fan of the love triangle. It can be done well, but I tend to find them tedious and irksome. That's just my own opinion though, I guess.

    I'm almost finished with the Hunger Games series now, and I find these qualities in Katniss a lot. I still can't read through Mockingjay fast enough, because the story itself is so captivating. Yeah, I still want to slap Katniss sometimes. :)

  8. I have my pet peeves, but they usually involve unrealistic characters or cliche dialogue or overly, overly, overly descriptive passages. But when I find a book that draws me in, where I forget I'm a writer ... awesome! :) #alsoamasteratwork

  9. Yeah, the only thing that really sets me off is a character who acts out of character. Oh, or political agendas. I'm sorry but if the story has an underlying political agenda I'm going to burn it when I'm done. =)

  10. Ha Ha! Thanks everyone for posting your replies.

    @ Brenda Sills, yes, I agree that people really have different reactions to different aspects... every time my critique group gets together, we'll end up arguing about what we like/don't like in on of our member's writing :)

    @ Susan Kaye Quinn, yes, that moment of forgetting you're a writer :) Excellent way to put it. It's a vague goal, but I'd love someone to feel that way about my stories one day :)

  11. Hey there, fellow campaigner!

    Glad to read a review of The Knife of Never Letting Go--I checked it out of my public library this summer but never got around to it (I also heard it was more violent than the Hunger Games, which was a bit of a turn-off). I'll try to give it another shot over Thanksgiving break. I completely understand what you mean about books that resonate. For me, the recent book that fits that category was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I'd heard great things about it for years but just never got around to reading it until this summer when I casually picked up a copy and read the first couple of pages...and I was hooked. I honestly cannot remember the last time I fell in love with a character's voice that quickly; it was astounding. I laughed, I cried, and I read the whole thing in one afternoon. :-)

    As for stuff that bothers me in books...well, illogical character decisions and irregular character behavior. I enjoyed Veronica Roth's Divergent for the most part, but there were so many points where I simply didn't grok the MC's logic. For instance, there's a moment...

    (***SPOILER ALERT***)

    ...where the MC is given the opportunity to kill an enemy by shooting him at blank-point range. The MC (whose flip-flopping sense of compassion was one of the things that bothered me) decides to be merciful and instead opts to shoot him in the foot, merely disabling him instead. Okay, fine. But then shortly thereafter, she is threatened by a friend who does not recognize her, and rather than merely disabling him in a similar way, SHE SHOOTS HIM IN THE FOREHEAD. WTF?

    (***END SPOILERS***)

    Sorry for the rant. There's more to the scene that bothers me as well, but I'll leave it at that for now.

    Anyhow, I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail! :-)


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