Saturday, July 01, 2006

Reading--Pleasure or pain?

I've been a reader since...well...since forever {g} On a good week, I can devour 3 or 4 books. Unfortunately I haven't had a *good* week in quite awhile. Between the day job, home life and my own writing, I've been lucky to get one book a week. That's probably true for all of us.

If you visit my website Lynda K. Scott or join my newsletter LyndaKScott-Newsgroup, you've seen books I've read recently and how I've rated them. What you won't see are books I've read that I absolutely hated. Why?

There are a couple of reasons. First: Any review-good or bad-is publicity for the author and her/his book. If I hate it, I won't be giving publicity to it. That simple. Second: A review is only one person's opinion. What makes my opinion any more important than yours? Nothing.

I've no desire to be the new Mrs. Giggles and I've no desire to trash a book no matter how bad it is.

So...what constitutes a bad book for me?
1. An inane or insane plot.

When I read a book, I expect to be able to follow along with the story's action without scratching my head wondering how in the heck did the hero get from here to there? Now...I love ff&p style books so I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief for long periods. I will, in fact, overlook a lot of things I classify as 'unlikely to happen'. But if an author tries to force an impossibility down my throat without even an attempt to explain.... The book will end up in the trash.

2. Unending sex scenes.

I love sex, okay? {g} And I love reading sensual, erotic scenes in our books. But sex scenes do not a plot make. And, worse, if there's no real characterization, I won't give a hoot about the characters 'doing' it. More than likely, I'll grow bored and the book will end up in the trash.

3. Scant characterization and this is the most important part.

I used to review books for the Writer's Club at AOL among other places. In general, I was a 'kind' reviewer. Very seldom did I blister a book--until I was given a book that was SO bad that I could barely force myself to read it. In fact, I was only able to torture myself up to the halfway point in that book (which shall remain nameless). Why? Because the author didn't make me care about his characters. Or the plot. His particular M.O. seemed to be--Hey, I know a lot of big words and I'm going to show you each and every one. Well, I've had more fun reading chemistry, calculus and {shudder} economics books.

I don't mind learning some new fact(s) while I'm reading and I don't mind picking up a few new words (I have a large vocabulary but it can always be extended)--I will, in fact, relish it. But I read for entertainment. I want to be transported to new worlds, new dimensions. I want to fall in love with the characters. I want to feel my heart pounding with anxiety if they're in danger or pounding with unbridled lust if they're making love. When the book comes to an end, I want to be able to put it with my already-too-extensive collection of Keeper books.

If an author can make that happen when I read their book, they'll get a mention on my site/newsletter. If not, they'll end up in the black hole of my trash can never to be seen/heard/remembered.

But, as I said earlier, what makes my opinion more important than anyone else's? What do you think makes a book good or bad?

5 comments:

Skylar Masey said...

Ditto on not enough time to read with everything from "life" getting in the way!

I did recently finished reading Stephen King's ON WRITING. In it he suggests that one of the most important parts of a book is theme. I agree. I want my readers to remember my book for a) what it may have taught them and b) because it helped them in some way. And believe in large part that is what makes "keepers".

I enjoy learning new things. It's one of the reasons I used to read Harlequin Presents (way back when) because I wanted to learn about the world. True romances don't always paint the picture in strict detail, but it does give you a flavor. When you're in a small, Southern town, you don't get much excitement. Who wouldn't want to escape to Paris, Egypt, or even Manhattan?

As for sex. I enjoy reading about it, but I agree that unending scenes do not make a book good. I had one book I did chuck across the room because it's plot lacked any substance and it was nothing but a where-can-we-get-it-on play-by-play. And that's saying a lot, because I usually stick it out with any book until the end.

SpecRom Joyce said...

For me, Inconsistency is the killer of reading pleasure.

Inconsistency of characterization is the worst. If an author's made a connection between me and a fictional character and then causes that character to betray his or her presentation for the sake of the plot, or even worse, genre convention, I do not forgive.

Through another blog series I've discovered that for me reading is almost entirely about the characters, whether romance or horror. So I demand a lot from authors in terms of characterization. Consistency is top on the list!

SpecRom Joyce said...

For me, Inconsistency is the killer of reading pleasure.

Inconsistency of characterization is the worst. If an author's made a connection between me and a fictional character and then causes that character to betray his or her presentation for the sake of the plot, or even worse, genre convention, I do not forgive.

Through another blog series I've discovered that for me reading is almost entirely about the characters, whether romance or horror. So I demand a lot from authors in terms of characterization. Consistency is top on the list!

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

I don't read nearly as much as I'd like to anymore, and my TBR pile looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

For me, a TSTL heroine makes the book a wallbanger. I can't deal with shrinking violets, women who allow the men in their lives to walk all over them, or who do things for love that no sane woman would be caught dead doing. I read a book years ago where the heroine found out the man she'd just slept with was her new boss [okay, I can deal with that] but when HE found out, he fired HER! The fact that she didn't march right to a lawyer's office and sue his butt right off the page killed me. She let him treat her like dirt for 90% of the book, but still melted into his arms when he finally admitted that he loved her. Give me a break.

MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

Oh, where do I begin! A few years ago I read a book I'd gotten from a book club - or should I say I started to read it. The dialogue was stiff, the characterization wooden, the heroine I wouldn't be friends with in the real world if she paid me to be her companion. At the time I had not been published yet, and I remember holding the book up and screaming across the unit (it was in a lull at work) .."How did this woman ever get published and who did she f*** to do so?" I was so appalled that whenever I see a book written by this same author..(Oh, yes that's the biggest tradegy of this story that she is still being published....) I just shake my head in disbelief. I just don't get it.

I read a book recently by a very popular author (NYT Best Seller!) who I've loved for years, and the book sucked eggs. Big Time! The entire book was a series of characters doing what I call 'shifty eyes'. During a tense scene all the characters would do would be to look at one another. I couldn't take it. To me, it felt like the author had written the book years ago and just brushed it off and sent it in without revising.

My biggest pet peeve has more to do with heroines who are too self-sufficient or willfully misunderstand the hero throughout the book.

The first one; the too self-sufficient heroine makes no bones about the fact she doesn't need a man and spends 99.9% of the book pushing the hero away on just the fact he's a man. No other conflict needed, just a penis. Then suddenly he gets her into bed and the clouds part, the sun shines, and a choir of angels sing. Now I've had great sex in my time...but I've never had sex good enough to change my entire outlook on life and philosophy thereof.

The second one; the willful misunderstander. Oh, this is going to build into a rant, I can feel it in my bones. I can't stand a book where the heroine spends all her time arguing with the hero and not about plot points...just to argue. Talk to the man, but don't stand there and argue. To me it screams that the character never grew beyond an adolescent emotional level. If I wanted to read about ill-tempered teenagers I'd read some of the edgier YA books out there.

That all I can think of for now. I'm sure more will come to me...but after reading Lynda's post, I feel really blessed that she's complimented me on my books. : )

-Kat