Books that don’t engage me. I’ve tried to stop reading critically. I’ve tried to get back into where I enjoy reading as a reader, not as a writer analyzing every word on the page to see what I like or don’t. So when I have a book that I cannot put down, I literally find an excuse to carry it with my everywhere until I end up lying awake at 2 in the morning finishing it.
Even though I’ve stopped trying to pick apart books and sit back and enjoy the story, I know a book has lost me when I start skimming huge chunks. If I get to two hundred pages and have no idea what I just read, it’s really close to me putting a book aside. If I scan to the end just to find out what happened and that’s all I care about, the book is a goner.
Because I’ve discovered so many authors this year that I absolutely adore (translate will be going on a backlist glom as soon as I get home and can enjoy two day free shipping), I have also discovered that when I’m just not engaged in a book that I simply won’t finish it.
I don’t have readers that are expecting a critique. For myself, I want to really get pulled into a character’s world and care about them, to the point that I will forego sleep to find out what comes next. I love Julie Kenner’s Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series. I can not wait to get home and pick up her next book, Torn as well as the 5th Kate book. Julie world builds in a way that has me forgetting that I’m reading first person and am living in the story. Her character’s pain and laughter is real to me.
Laura Kinsale (as you know if you’ve read this blog more than once) is another author that really pulls me in to where I’m enjoying the journey, not just wanting to know what happens next. Her characters are alive to me and their problems matter. Roxanne St Claire’s Bullet Catchers radiate sensuality, not raw sex, and I love a good sensual story packed with action. Allison Brennan is my go to gal for suspense. Her stories hook me and I long ago gave up trying to figure out who done it and simply enjoy the ride with the characters. These are examples of authors who I enjoy because of what I get from the story. If something jars me, I have enough faith in the author to pull me back in. Laura Griffin’s Courtney Glass is one of the best wounded heroine’s I’ve ever read. She’s a train wreck and still I find myself rooting for her in the end. I’ve reread Whisper of Warning three times this year.
The point of this post is not to discuss which authors lose me but rather why? What went wrong that I was distracted from the outset and simply could not care about characters? In some cases, maybe it’s a jarring personality that I could not get past. Or maybe I had reader expectations that were quickly stomped on and the book never recovered. Or it’s an overuse of exclamation points in dialogue. And what is it that makes me put the book down rather than keep reading to see if I reengage?
I can’t tell you what goes wrong when I put a book down, I only know that I no longer feel like I’m committing a cardinal sin when I do. A book I might not like, someone else might love. My opinions, likes and dislikes are my own and as I think about what went wrong in this book or that, I know that most likely, it’s simply something I did not like. I try to identify why and what I might have done to change things, but mostly the author wrote a book a certain way because that’s what the author felt needed to be written. I’m not going to criticize but I will try to learn from it.
But I won’t necessarily finish it.