Thursday, January 14, 2010

Slogging Through a Great Book

Am I the only one who has trouble getting through some really good books?

I don't mean the kind of "good" book that's a classic, or something the critics have raved about -- the kind of book you feel you should like, even when you don't. I mean the kind of book you're really enjoying, where you like the characters and the plot is interesting and all that, but for some reason it's just really easy to put the book down and wander off to do something else, like, every few pages. :/

I just finished a book like that. It was m/m romance, which is a genre I enjoy. I liked the characters and their relationship arc -- I particularly liked that the writer never took the easy path to shoving them together, but made them legitimately fight for it all the way through, with good reasons on both sides for doing so. The writing itself was clear, with few or no confusing or annoying bits. I finished it pleased and satisfied, and looking forward to getting the next book in the series. Which hopefully won't take me months of on-and-off reading to get through.

About the only legitimate criticism I can think of is that the setting was kind of spotty and confusing. The book was a fantasy, set on an invented world, and the characters travelled through a number of lands, kingdoms, etc. There were different peoples, each with their own culture and language and such. All this would usually be good, but I had a hard time keeping track of who was which and where they were, so a reference to a Blah from Wherever would have me pausing to wrack my brain for a memory of when the Blahs had been mentioned before, and where Wherever was in relation to the lands 80% of the story took place in. I could tell that the writer put a lot of work into her worldbuilding, and did a good job of it; she just had a hard time communicating it to me as the reader in a coherent manner which would let me grasp her world as a whole, and see how all the pieces fit together.

If this had been a hardcopy release from a New York publisher, it probably would've had a map in it, and I would've referred to it fairly often. Having that graphic showing exactly where different places were in relation to one another, which land this town is in and where exactly the river by the protag's village runs, would've helped a lot. I felt like I was expected to know exactly where the protag was going when he travelled north along the winding coast road, but the lands or towns up there had been mentioned some number of pages back, and I didn't remember them; a map would've let me check quickly and easily, and then get right back to the story. I've never seen that kind of map in a fantasy e-book, although they're common in hardcopy books; this is probably something e-pubs should consider.

But most of the time when I wandered away from reading, it wasn't at a point where the writer had tossed out the name of a people or a place I should remember but didn't, so I can't really swear that was the reason I had such a hard time getting through the story.

I don't know. I liked it, and I do want to read more of the series. I just had a hard time sinking into it for any length of time. Does that happen to anyone else? Any ideas why?



Charles Gramlich said...

I felt that way about Cormac McCarthy's Blood meridian. the writing was beautiful and lyrical and I enjoyed it for that reason, but I wasn't overly compelled by any forward motion in the plot.

writtenwyrdd said...

Yes! In fact, just the other day. I got an ARC of Robin Hobb's Dragonkeeper, and kept wanting to put it down. Had to force myself to keep reading it, even though I liked the book. Maybe my problem was I didn't like most of the POV characters?

But, yeah, I do occasionally find a book I rather like yet which I don't care about or find I easily wander away from it.

Angie said...

Charles -- I've had that happen before too, but that wasn't the case here. I was interested in the plot, I just had a hard time keeping my attention focused on reading more of it. [wry smile]

WW -- Well, you and Charles are two others, so I'm glad it's not just me. :D I liked the characters in this book I just finished, I just... I dunno. The only way I can describe it is that it was very easy to put down. Frustrating.


Spy Scribbler said...

I hear you. I'm often so... startled that I start wondering what's wrong with ME, lol.

Angie said...

Natasha -- that's exactly it, LOL! I'm thinking, "I like this book, I like the characters, I want to know what happens next, so why do I keep walking away??"