Bookish Pet Peeves #4

A miscellaneous assortment of more pet peeves of mine that relate to books!  Didn’t realize I had so many strong feels about this sort of thing.

1. Double stacking bookshelves.  This is a personal thing, but I like to see all my books, so I could never stack books in front of other books on my shelf!

2. Lack of physical descriptions, or descriptions being told more then 50 pages after character is introduced.  Sure, I rarely ever picture characters (with the exceptions being when there is good cover art of the character, typically hand-drawn art (TP example here)), but I still like to know what they look like!  And not after I have had the chance to picture them wrong for chapters before being told.

3. Vague descriptions of characters.  Similar to above, I hate vague descriptions.  If your character is black, say so!  Don’t hint at things (she is dark/swarthy or his skin was a different shade then mine) in the hopes that your readers will figure it out because everyone will interpret it differently and that is why there are arguments about whether Hermione is black.  Authors/editors might think it will make the characters more relatable because you get to picture whatever, but that is part of why I can never picture characters in my head as anything more then a bloob.

4. When a book does not clearly state that it is in a series and which book in the series it is.  First books will sometimes get a pass if the author and publisher didn’t know at the time there was going to be more, but this is often a rare case, and does not apply when the covers are remade.  I get the reasons for NOT clearly indicating these things: you sell more books.  But you also catch more flies with sugar water then vinegar. 

5. Unpronounceable names.  This is a me problem that is based on my lack of language skills and my terrible ability to spell and pronounce unknown words.  Basically I’m talking about names with letters in an arrangement I’m not familiar with because it’s more typical of a language I cannot speak and I acknowledge this is a me problem, a person that learned English from birth and only has a bit of other language experience, but that is French which has similar letter arrangements and predictable pronunciations as English (kinda?).  Now when names are inspired by other languages with different letter arrangements I get confused and don’t know how to pronounce the character’s name and I don’t like it.  But it’s a me problem.  

Pet Peeves #3

listThese are obviously personal pet peeves, others may love what I hate!  If you do, tell me why you love it. 

Extensive song lyrics or poems.  I don’t know the melody or the beat and they are 99% of the time written in italics which is hard to read and focus on.

Stickers that are not removable and cover key parts of the cover.  Pretty sure this is a carry over from my last pet peeve, but this time I’m talking bookstore stickers.  With library books, it’s the library’s book, with books you buy, it’s your book and you want it perfect not all sticker’ed up.  Thankfully the stickers used at Chapters, the largest bookstore in Canada, they use a certain type that come off really easily without residue!  

‘Authors’ posting ‘books’ that haven’t even been written yet on Goodreads.  To specify: it’s a bit different when it’s an established author who is under contract for the book in question, but there are a few newbie ‘authors’ with ‘books’ up on Goodreads they haven’t finished (even a first draft), aren’t signed for and already have rated it 5 stars.  Like what I said in my first pet peeves list (about authors rating and reviewing their own books), I think it’s tacky.  It’s hard to write a book and I get they are excited, but the chances it’ll actually end up in print is, unfortunately, tiny. 

Cliffhangers.  Especially when I have to wait another year for the next one.  I get why they are there but I just really hate them and honestly, is often pisses me off so much I’m less likely to read the next book. 

Brand names in books.  Things like Youtube, or Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks etc.  Even though its a contemporary story (normally) which takes place in our world where these things exist it just bugs me.  I get it’s supposed to make the book more relatable, but to me it doesn’t and is more likely to throw me out of the story and be annoyed then to add to the story.  I don’t have patience for ‘book commercials’.  There are exceptions to this, when an author can do it and make it seem effortless, but most authors can’t satisfy me.  

 

Pet Peeves #2

Reading is awesome.  However, I do have some petpeeves with books and reading.  Here are 5 more:

1. Maps in hard cover books on the inside cover pages.  It’s handy and super convenient to find when it’s your own book, it absolutely sucks when it’s a library book since the dust jacket is taped over the map and you can’t see 40% of the map.  Publishers should have fold-out maps for fantasy books. 

2. When the text on the spine of a book across a series does not line up.  For example when the book number in the series is at the top of the spine but one of them is 2 millimetres further down the spine then in the other books. 

3. Similarly, when one book in a series is slightly smaller then the rest thus the spines and the writing on them don’t line up on the shelf.

4. Book covers that are essentially stylistic font on a fairly plain background.  A cover sells the book and these covers tell me nothing about the book and definitely don’t sell the book to me.  They bore me. 

5. Stickers on library books that cover critical parts of the cover.  Like the name of the book.  Or the author.  Or what that interesting thing is in the cover model’s hand. 

Book Synopses

thoughtsThis is supposed to be a Top 5 Wednesday post, but since I can’t off the top of my head think of a good list of books for this topic (the only one I can think of is the first Harry Potter book, the synopses in the Scholastic book flyer made it sound really boring and then our teacher read it to us….), I though I’d do a discussion post instead!  ….On a Thursday!

Let’s face it, a book summary can make or break a book.  Yet, writing just the right thing to summarize a book in order to appeal to the masses is the hardest part of of the entire process.  Or so they say.  It’s  delicate balance of giving enough detail to entice readers but not give away any major plot points as most people hate spoilers.  When done just right even a mediocre book will have flocks of people running out to buy it.  Done wrong and the book’s sales and reviews will reflect that.  

Every book is (hopefully) different, thus there is no right way to write a book summary and some books forgo the summary altogether and opt for an excerpt.  That being said, there are a few general no-no’s for book synopses and I thought I’d share with you some of my pet peeves. 

Firstly (and something the author doesn’t really have much control over), I hate reviews on the back of books, I wish that trend had died before it started. When I look at the back of a book I want to see a blurb or a summary of what is inside the book not a review of often times not even the book I’m holding but praise for the author’s previous novels.  When I want to see reviews I look at Goodreads or Amazon. 

I also can’t stand when the blurb/excerpt picked to entice readers is the first kiss of the two main characters.  It’s boring since it’s 90% of the excerpts I have read.  It personally makes me not want to read the book because I want more then just romance and a short kiss scene doesn’t actually give you a feel for what the book is about.  It also often spoils a moment that the author is trying to make you feel ~something~ whether it’s the ‘finally they kissed’ or the second-hand embarrassment or the ‘cuuuute’ feeling they are trying to get out the of scene.  Since you have no context you don’t get that feeling.  You don’t know the characters yet so you have no connection to them or what is happening.  

Generally speaking I dislike excerpts for this reason because they involve people that you have no connection to yet or events you have no knowledge of.  However, when done right excerpts can be very powerful.  Just read one of my personal favourites:

‘Commanders. Good ones, people with a knack for it […] they’re as rare as heroes. Commanders have an eye not just for what they do, but for what those around them do. Commanders size up people’s strengths and weaknesses. They know where someone will shine and where they will collapse. Other warriors will obey a true commander because they can tell that the commander knows what he- or she- is doing.’ Raoul picked up a quill and toyed with it. ‘You’ve shown flashes of being a commander. I’ve seen it. So has Qasim, your friend Neal, even Wyldon, though it would be like pulling teeth to get him to admit it. My job is to see if you will do more than flash, with the right training. The realm needs commanders. Tortall is big. We have too many still-untamed pockets, too curse many hideyholes for rogues, and plenty of hungry enemies to nibble at our borders and our seafaring trade. If you have what it takes, the Crown will use you. We’re too desperate for good commanders to let one slip away, even a female one.

It’s something like that, I don’t have the book handy and I know it’s edited down more but that is it.  To me, this summary sucked me right in. 

 

Another thing I dislike is when the summary of the book is comparing it to other books to try and sell it to you.  All of the ‘This is the New Hunger Games!!” and the ‘mix of Throne of Glass and Red Queen” or what-have-yous.  Sure they give you a sort-of idea of what the book is about but you go into it expecting something that likely isn’t there.  Or you go into the book knowing there is a high chance it’s a rip-off or mash-up of other works and not original.  Plus if you didn’t like the book it’s being compared to (Twilight, anyone?) the odds of you picking up that book are very slim.  

However, one thing that does work for me is if the book is sold to me ‘if you like these authors then check out this book’.  It’s a subtle difference, but for me it’s comparing the writing styles and the genera of the books and not the books themselves and makes be much more likely to pick up the book.  

Straight up lies about the book is something unforgivable and while very few books will lie in the summary, there are a good handful that will bend the truth, pitching the book as something it is not or over- or under-emphasising something major. Past character cameos is one of the things I can’t stand.  Sometimes the summary will play up the fact that old characters from a previous novel or series will show up in this one to get you to read it, and it’s true they do.  But there has been a time or three when I have read a book and the cameo is small and unimportant to the story.  Nice to see but not really what I was lead to believe it would be. 

The final thing I will mention before this post becomes too long or negative, is when the book does not clearly indict it’s in the middle of a series.  Sure this is also a cover design flaw (a way to sell more books because if you don’t know its the third book and not the first one the odds of you tracking down and buying the first one increase) but it really should be a higher priority to emphasize that the book is not the start of the series.  Doubly so when you really do need to read the first one for the next one to make sense.  Thankfully most books do a decent enough job of telling you ‘here there are other event before this book takes place, you might want to check that out’ but not all books do so, which is a great frustration to me. 

 

 

Book commercials

thoughtsSadly, this blog post is not about commercials about books like you would see about movies.  If only that was a thing.  Instead ‘book commercials’ is a term I have used to describe when you are reading a book when there is a sudden mention of a modern-day, relevant product.  In other words, similar to product placement, but not really for financial gain on the part of the author but more to set the scene or to make the book more relatable.  

An example.  In the New Millennium Edition of So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane there is a scene that goes like this:

“A lot of kids got video of it on their phones, and there’d been much discussion about whether it was worth putting up on Youtube.” 

Personally, I generally dislike when things like Youtube Coca Cola, The Big Bang Theory and the like are mentioned in books, though there are a few exceptions mostly for contemporary books.  When I stumble into a mention of a modern-day product it more often then not throws me out of the story rather then adding to the scene the author is trying to create.  I think in part it has to do with branding and it sounds like a commercial in the middle of my novel, hence ‘book commercials’.  It’s not a technology thing as mentions of cells phones and texting in books don’t bother me but mentions of Facebook and Youtube do.  A phone is a pretty generic and expected word to find in a story set in a time and place they should be a part of and not mentioning them would seem more out of place at this point in human history then mentioning them.  It’s more when a brand or business is name-dropped in the middle of the text that it becomes an issue for me.  

In the case above, it would have been better, in my opinion, if it was mentioned they wanted to put the video on the internet; it keeps the book up to date without throwing in ‘book commercials’ in the middle.  If Duane would have written “put it on the internet” of course I still would have though of Youtube but it opens the text up to other places/cultural niches on the internet based on the reader’s personal experiences.  It also seems less like product placement which I find throws me out of the story.

For example, someone from China reading “put on the internet” they might not have thought YouTube because (I believe) they have different major video and certainly have different chat sites then we do and it would make the book more personal to them.  Sure the main character if the story the above quote is from is explicitly stated as living in New York and thus would be most likely to use a site like YouTube over the a preferred site in China, but at the same time having the ability to embellishing the details of the story, the grey areas, is part of the reading process and not leaving as many grey areas that are open to interpretation give the reader less of an opportunity to make the story something they can relate to.

I guess what I’m failing at saying is there is a fine line of setting the place and time of the story and giving enough details to get a clear picture of what is going on so the reader can imagine it and leaving enough out that the reader can embellish the story to suit their life and experiences. Also I dislike product placement in that books I read because most of the time it’s not done well and throws me out of the story.  

So, am I making a mountain out of a molehill or are their others that feel similar to me?  Additionally, would you like to see advertisements on TV or elsewhere featuring books, real-life book commercials?  

Book reviews petpeeve

thoughtsA bit of a controversial blog post today, so things might get interesting, but I have been thinking about this for a while and I thought I should the thoughts into words and throw them out to the world.

I dislike Booktubers and Book reviewers that consistently give 4 and 5 stars to the books they read.  

I’m talking about more than 80% of the books they read end up with 4 or more stars.  Booktubers and Book reviewers that pretend to love every book they read, ever.  They never seem to dislike a book, and when they don’t give a book 4 stars (or more!) it was because they only ‘liked’ the book, but didn’t ‘love’ the book.

While I admit that I rarely read a book that I dislike or outright hate, I do have issues with a lot of books, and as a result many books of the books I read fall into the average book category (of around 3 stars).  When I feel a book is just average I say as much.  I don’t want to read a lot of average books, I want to read as many great or excellent books as possible, therefore I try to say how I really feel about the book so that others may be informed before reading it after me.

On one hand, I get that publishing is a hard business; authors don’t make a lot of money and a good review means more sales.  However, I’m less likely to trust reviews from reviewers that love every book they read.  For me, the reviews become less meaningful.

A reviewer that loves every book they read seems like they want to be friends with every author and publisher than to review books in a meaningful way.  Loving every book is a good way to be trusted by publishers as they know you will give the book a good review even if it is not the greatest book and therefore the book will sell better because it has good reviews.  Fair enough.  But I feel like for buyers/readers/followers/friends/whatever you want to call them it is dishonest as to me it seems as though the reviewer is out to get free books rather than say the book had a flaw or two.  It makes it hard to differentiate what books are really good and that the reviewer really really loved versus the ones that are average.

Review videos do help distinguish great books from average books, as it is fairly easy to tell based on face, voice and mannerisms if they person truly loved the book (plus its a lot of effort to go through for a book that was not truly loved, unless the reviewer wants to talk about why they didn’t like the book as much as they would have liked).  A written review is harder to trust, though again, it’s harder to give a lengthy meaningful review about a book that is not truly loved.  Pair a generic star rating and maybe a few words on the book compared to a lengthy, glowing review and it’s fairly easy to tell which reviewer liked the book more.  However, I want to be able to take a star rating with those few words and give them as much weight as a lengthy reviews as not everyone is great at putting into words why they loved I book.  I will admit it up front, I’m terrible at saying how or why I love a book and much better at talking about how I don’t like a book.

Perhaps I’m just over thinking the whole situation.   I don’t want to go pointing fingers at other people as they are books lovers the same as me and that is not productive.  When I find I am trusting certain people’s reviews less and less I stop following them on Goodreads.  It’s a simple solution and there is no need to make a fuss.  But at the same time I also wonder if I am the only person that feels this way.

And as an added disclaimer: I don’t normally read reviews before I read new book but I like to follow people on Goodreads to get new ideas for books to read that I might not have heard about.  Additionally, I do read books that people dislike (not just read books that everyone loves) however I like to know why the book is disliked before I read it.  Sometimes I will then read the disliked book because the reasons people dislike it are reasons I would like it (an example I can think of are Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi for being predictable, but I was in a predictable book mood).  Other times I want to read a disliked or controversial/mixed review book in order to form my own opinion about the book (such as Carry On by Rainbow Rowell).  Then there are times I read reviews on a liked book or a disliked book and decide it’s not the type of book for me.

Cliffhangers

thoughtsCliffhangers.  Readers or TV watchers know them all too well.  You are sitting there enjoying your entertainment when a new big, intense plot line is happening. Maybe you know that it can’t re resolved in the time/space remaining or maybe it sneaks up on you.  Either way the book or the show ends before that Big Thing is wrapped up.  I’m not talking about some plot lines still having major questions left unanswered, I’m talking your favourite character was thrown off a cliff and the next page is blank, not telling you if they lived or died.   

 

I still remember the first novel I read that had a ‘cliffhanger’.  It’s still sitting on my shelf and happens to be one of the first, if not the first, major book that I bought myself.  Definitely the first book I bought in a book store and not at a school book fare.  Now this ‘cliffhanger’ was not so much someone being thrown off a cliff as the novel finished without tying up all the loss ends and I hadn’t realized it was a series.  In other words it’s not really a cliffhanger, but it introduced me to the concept of them. More recently, I have read several novels back-to-back that have ended this way.  

I will say it out loud and proud.  I really hate it when novels end in cliffhangers. 

 

Cliffhangers are not inherently bad and should be avoided at all costs.  It’s a way to get readers excited/interested/anxious to pick up the next book and know what happens.  It can be a way to push the plot forward.  I do actually like so called ‘mini cliffhangers’s within a novel, typically at the end of a chapter, that push you to continue reading and resulting in you being miserable the next day because you stayed up all night reading. 

However, most of the real, genuine cliffhangers I have experienced have not been necessary: they did not add to the plot lines going on in the series and resulted in more anxiety then anything else.  Often times the next book has not yet been published and it just makes the wait uncomfortable. 

I believe books should be able to stand on its own.  Some books, it seems, have a cliffhanger at the end just so that they author can sell the next book.  If your book does not entice me to read the next one a cliffhanger is not going to either.  Often times if I’m not enjoying the book or think it’s just an ok book which ends with a cliffhanger at the end I’m even less likely to read the next one.  If the next book is not out yet and will not be out soon I am very likely to lose interest or be so mad at the authors for putting me unknowingly in that situation that I won’t read the next one to spite the cliffhanger. 

When a book ends in a cliffhanger and the next one picks up well after whatever it was finished and brushes it off as if it was no big deal that we waited for at least a year to figure out what was going to happen, I lose faith in the author.  This has happened to me recently and I have stalled in finishing off the book because I’m so disgusted with it, though I will admit I have predicted why the author choose to do this (I predicted this well before the ‘cliffhanger’ actually happened to be fair, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened) but I haven’t cared enough to finish reading the novel to determine if I am right. 

So please, please authors. Think long and hard before including a cliffhanger at the end of your novel.  Are you doing it because it is necessary or because you need a way to get readers to buy the next book.