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