Camp NaNoWriMoUh, yeah, that was kind of a... total fail. AGAIN. But I did write slightly more than last year, so that's something, I guess. At this rate, I should be able to win my first NaNo in, oh, about forty years or so. Sigh. Momentum is SO important! (Also, I got struck by another Shiny New Idea. Oops.)
ReadingThese are the books I read in August:
I was super excited about diving into this stack, but unfortunately I found most of them incredibly disappointing, including the two books I was most looking forward to reading. Turns out that reading them in order of ascending average Goodreads rating did NOT actually result in a similar increase in my reading experience.
Here's the books I read, average ratings on Goodreads, and my own rating with links to my status updates (may include spoilers):
1.The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson | 3.55 stars | DNF and 1 star from me
2.Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma | 3.77 stars | 3 stars from me
3. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville | 3.78 stars | 3.5 stars from me
4. Wake by Lisa McMann | 3.78 stars | DNF and 1 star from me
5. A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman | 3.92 stars | 2.5 stars from me
6. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly | 3.97 stars | 4 stars from me
7. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... by Catherynne M. Valente | 4.06 stars | 1.5 stars from me
8. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak | 4.08 stars | DNF and 1 star from me
9. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai | 4.09 stars | DNF and no rating from me
10. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier | 4.14 stars | 2 stars from me
So yeah, like I mentioned in my Goodreads status update, it turned out that I didn't particularly like any of the books that had average ratings of >4 on Goodreads. Guess that means I have peculiar taste.
Anyway, this made me think about what kinds of things appeal to me or put me off in fiction. (Great post by Patricia C. Wrede on the subject!) The main categories that I think of when it comes to a book are: plot, character, writing, setting, and message. In order for me to enjoy a book, at least the plot or main character has to be stand-out excellent (by which I mean, a good match for my tastes) and the rest has to be decent-to-good.
So here's how my tastes usually run when it comes to books (though there are always exceptions):
I can love a book for plot alone. I tend to like mysteries a lot, and time travel stories with one consistent timeline (none of that changing history crap, thanks). I get impatient if nothing seems to be happening, or if things are happening too slowly, unless the other elements are strong enough to capture my interest. And no insta-love or love triangles, thanks. (See my post on romance pet peeves.) Plot holes and and cliffhangers also bother me a lot, and so does predictability (I was great at annoying my sister during family movie nights because I loved to predict what would happen next). Most of all, I am a sucker for really intricate, clever, twisty puzzle plots. Those are the best.
If the plot isn't mind-blowingly amazing, then I need to love the characters. I prefer to find them likable, admirable, intelligent, relatable, and engaging. I lose respect for protagonists that do stupid or hurtful things, and I tend to dislike feeling detached from the protagonist. I particularly despise characters who start doing dumb things because they've "fallen in love." I'm much more fond of sensible, capable, and funny characters who have a good grasp of logic. (No speshul snowflakes who whine a lot, thanks!) I also have a difficult time reading about characters who don't see the world, or social interactions, or themselves, the way most people do. For example, Jack in Room, Marcelo in Marcelo in the Real World, and Lia in Wintergirls. I think these are all worthwhile books that shed light on important issues, but they're just not enjoyable reading experiences for me. I know those characters don't see things the way I do, but it's frustrating for me to be able to see what they don't and not be able to do anything about it.
I am not a fan of description, lyrical, or flowery writing. I tend to prefer writing that's straightforward and clear, and doesn't call attention to itself. I care more about story than word-smithing, so I definitely notice when the writing is so over-the-top that it distracts me from my reading experience. I strongly dislike narrator interruptions, awkward and stunted prose, and overly creative/nonsensical metaphors. I do enjoy a gorgeous turn of phrase here and there, but great writing isn't enough to make me like a book if the rest was only ok (unlike with brilliant characters or plots). I don't think I have any strong preferences for POV or tense, other than my dislike of second person.
This, like writing, is something that would bother me if done badly, and best when it doesn't call too much attention to itself. I tend to skim description, I don't really notice if the details are on the sparse side, and I'd probably be bored by too much of it. I'm perfectly fine with filling things in myself, so setting only bothers me if there is so little there I have nothing to go on or if there are things that don't make any sense or if there is clearly a huge gaping hole that ought to be addressed but isn't. As long as the world building isn't too obviously lazy or implausible or unreasonable, I'll be fine.
I don't think I would love a book solely because I agreed with its message, but messages I don't agree with can definitely kill a book for me. I think a lot of this has to do with characterization, as well — if the protagonist gets away with being petty, whiny, or useless, I'm not going to be happy about that. I'm not ok with misogynistic messages, either, and I'd be annoyed if superstition plays a positive part in the story (hate chosen one/prophecy plot lines). Also, I hate when authors attempt to bash me over the head with their messages. It pulls me out of the story and makes me feel manipulated, which will definitely cause me to think poorly of the book.
So yeah, I tend to be a pretty picky reader. I am also easily swayed by positive reviews. This usually results in me reading a lot of books I don't particularly like, which is unfortunate and why I adore negative reviews.
BloggingI think part of the reason I didn't write as many words for NaNo is because I got distracted by blogging as a semi-acceptable form of procrastination (even though it isn't really). But still, I'm glad I got these blog posts out there. I still have some drafts in the works and ideas I'd like to blog about, but my motivation will probably decrease once I stop seeing blogging as procrastination and as what I'm supposed to be doing. XD
LifeI got a new bunny! And he is adorable! :D Meet Mochi:
Hope all of you enjoyed your August! :)