Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Trip Wednesday! Every Wednesday YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. This week's topic:


What was the best book you read in February?



February has been a slow reading month for me. It’s so much easier to browse for books in a book store than it is on an e-reader, and I scored a hardback copy of John Green’s Paper Towns on the discount rack. I grabbed it so I could enjoy Green’s writing without crying for a week afterward like I did with The Fault in Our Stars. I’m about halfway through, but I’d say it’s the best book of the month for me.


Earlier this month I put down a book without finishing it. It was a sad thing, because I’ve only done that two other times in my life. I won’t tell you the title, because I am all about only showing love in book reviews, but I’ve really been pondering why I put the book down and how that understanding can help my own writing.


The story was interesting and well written, but it just didn’t click with me. It was missing that magic spark. That may be a starting point, but what were the concrete reasons?



  • Too many characters. There were no less than twenty named characters introduced in the first two chapters. Stephen King is about the only writer I know of who can pull off that many characters, and he doesn’t introduce that many that fast. (George R. R. Martin is maybe the only other one.)


  • Strange pacing. One scene could span either a few hours or a few minutes in time, and then the next would jump ahead several months without any warning. Pacing is one of John Green’s greatest strengths, so having read two of his books in the same month really made this stand out.


  • Too little explanation of the “rules.” As writers we constantly hear ‘show not tell.’ Usually I would say that the best fantasy and paranormals thrust the reader into a world and show the rules without explanation. Holly Black is one of the best at this. But if the fantastical elements aren’t clear, you lose the reader very quickly. I could have kept reading this book with just the first two issues, but when you put all three together, it was just too much work to keep reading.


What about you? If these were the issues that caused me to abandon a book this month, what were the strengths that made your choice for the best book so great?



Music for today: Get Burned by Sleeper Agent


Sleeper Agent ‘Get Burned’

18 comments:

  1. P.S. I hopped around to a few of the other posts today, and the book I put down was on someone else's list for best book of the month, which just goes to show how subjective tastes can be.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've had that happen with Shiver! I loved the concept but couldn't get into the writing, and yet I adore her Scorpio Races--think it's the best-written book I've read in a long time. But Shiver pops up pretty regularly on these RTWs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an interesting post! I've only stopped reading a couple of books in my lifetime as well, and that's only been in the last couple of years when I've realized the value of my time... So curious to know what the book was!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, I just didn't want it to come across like, this book was so bad that I couldn't finish it. It's not a bad book at all... (Obviously, someone else listed it as a best of the month.) I just didn't connect with it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh wow yes I hate when a book just isn't working for you. I feel the same way about books and movies. Even if I don't enjoy it too much my nature makes me want to finish it, I don't like leaving things unfinished, so if I don't finish...there was something seriously not working for me.

    Haven't heard of the other book. Will have to goodreads it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good writing tips, Laurie. What were my book-of-the-month's strengths? Voice, storytelling, and a stylistic connection I just couldn't put my finger on.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've totally abandoned books before. I never did for a long long time, but it feels like a waste of time forcing myself to finish books I don't like.

    I actually went through a huge reading slump in the late fall, because every single book I picked out just wasn't resonating with me. I think that it can have a lot to do with where you are in your life, in addition to the story and the writing. Sometimes if I am in a bad place, I really can't get into books that I would otherwise not have a problem with.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh. I love the definition you gave on the pacing issues. I've wondered if it was okay to skip ahead a week here or there, especially if a protagonist is just going to school and you need to get to a certain time of the year for something to occur. But maybe that throws out the pacing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I think it can be done. In the book I'm referring to, a scene would start, and you might assume it was just the next day, and then they would mention that it was a totally different time of year. I think you need a transition.

      Delete
  9. Eve, I really think you would like Paper Towns.
    Colin, Gaiman does have an awesome voice!
    Crystal, I totally agree. I usually read at least six books a month, and between this one and how sad I was after TFIOS, I only read three.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've nominated you for two awards! http://onceuponatimelit.blogspot.com/2012/02/im-just-honoured-to-be-nominated.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. I, too, hate having to put down a book, but every once in a while I just can't bring myself to finish it. I like how you've outlined your reasons. Agree on too many characters....very hard to pull off.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have a hard time moving on to the next book when I'm at the end of another. It just seems like I should wait a "graceful" period between them. Silly, I know.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had to do that recently too...yuck. I miss RTW. It's been a while since I've participated. My debut novel, Oppression (Children of the Gods #1), came out a few days ago. Maybe you'd like to give that a try? It's actually a best-selling teen NOOK book right now :) http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s?view=grid&dref=5594&store=ebook&SZE=10&SRT=sa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually already have it on my Nook, Jessica! I just haven't had time to start it yet.

      Delete
  14. I put down two books this month for many of the same reasons. The last one I stopped reading was the victim of either really bad editing choices or unforgivable use of flashbacks. The story flipped back and forth so many times it gave me whiplash.

    Oh well, I have hope the next read will be better. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think flashbacks are really difficult to edit, just because readers link them together so differently.

      Delete