Three Things That’ll Make Me Put Down a Book (For Good)

I used to hate the idea of not finishing a book. HATED it. I’d slog through books that made me want to bang my head against the wall because I thought it was another notch on my bookshelf.

Now, I’m pretty discriminating in what I read. If I’m not enjoying a book, I’ll put it down. Simple as that.

But the writer in me has recently decided that it might be a good idea to figure out what it is about a book that makes me put it down. Then I’ll be able to use that knowledge towards my own stories. And hopefully prevent readers from putting my books down.

While there are a million reasons for me not to like a story, I found three consistent reasons for me to let a book gather dust on my bookshelf.

 

1.  It lacks tension
Tension makes the story go ’round and keeps me turning the page even though it’s well past my bedtime. Tension comes from the uncertainty of a character achieving their goal by the end of the story. When failure’s a very real option and the character has a stake in the story ending a certain way, it drives the reader and the story forward. Without it, the story falls flat.

2. There’re more info dumps than story lines
Sometimes it’s okay to tell readers snippets of the story rather than show them if showing will slow things down. But too much information–whether its background on a particular character or information on a historical event–can bog the story down. It can take the reader out of the story and even bore them.

3. It’s just not for me
One reader is inherently different from another. And while readers will enjoy a number of the same books (that’s how authors sell books to more than just their friends and family), they’re going to have differing opinions on books. Not every book is going to click with every reader. It’s normal. It’s okay.

What I’ve Been Reading… March 2017

I’ve got so many eBooks on my Nook that I planned on ignoring my bookshelves for a month. And…. that didn’t happen. I think my Nook is probably dead by this point and in desperate need of a charge. That’s one thing that paperbacks have over their digital counterparts: I never have to wait for them to charge.

440316When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg by George Sheldon
~A look at the experience of civilians before, during, and after the battle at Gettysburg during the American Civil War.
Funny story: I bought a copy of this book in 2013 but it experienced the wrong end of a glass of water. Not only was this book informative about how Gettysburg residents experienced the battle, it told their stories in a way that wasn’t boring as can happen with history books.

11783484Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
~Oscar Britton spends his days helping the U.S. Army bring in men and women who manifest magical powers, until he manifests prohibited powers himself.
I’ve been aware of Myke Cole thanks to Twitter for quite a while, but I was leery about his books because they came off as too high-fantasy for my tastes. I’m so glad that I picked it up, though. It had great tension and a beautifully conflicted main character.

30142139Nemesis by Brendan Reichs
~Every two years, a man in a black suit murders Min and Noah on their birthdays, but neither stays dead.
Conspiracy theories? People who don’t stay dead? Sign me up. I also loved how I couldn’t figure out what Project Nemesis was before the characters.

Soulless by Gail Carriger18295869
~Alexia Tarabotti lacks a soul, which tries her gravely but gives her an edge when sparring with vampires and werewolves.
My copy of Soulless is a paperback that’s 370 pages long, and I read it in a day. The humor lightens the story enough that it wasn’t a challenge to binge it. Plus there’s steampunk and a handsome werewolf, so that also helped.

My eBook Haul

When it rains, it pours. Or in the case of my Nook, when I buy one eBook, I buy ten. I went on an eBook-buying-spree at midnight a few Saturdays ago, and now my eReader is chocked full of things to read. Not that I didn’t have plenty to read on there already.

The Marriage of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King ($0.99)
I cannot get enough of Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. So it made sense to get a short story about them getting married.

Squirrel Terror by Lilith SaintCrow ($4.99)
I’ve had an eye on this book for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. I’ve already read it and really liked it.

The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter (Free)
The cover got me interested while the summary made me hit “buy”. A mail order bride for a vampire? Count me in.

The Crown & the Arrow and The Mirror & the Maze by Renee Ahdieh (Free)
I enjoyed both The Wrath & the Dawn and The Rose & the Dagger, so I decided to head back into the universe with these short stories.

Extracted by Tyler H. Jolley & Sherry D. Ficklin (Free)
I’ve liked Sherry D. Ficklin’s books, so I figured that I’d give this book a try. The fact that I’ve been on a steampunk kick also helped.

Frey by Melissa Wright (Free)
This book is farther into the fantasy genre than I typically stray. However the cover is pretty freaking cool, and I just get a good feeling about it.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes, and Corpse by Harper Lin (Free)
Again, the cover got me interested enough to read into the summary. It’s a cozy mystery, which I’ve been craving recently. Plus it’s set in my home state of Massachusetts.

What I’ve Been Reading… February 2017

How the heck is it that February has already come and gone? I know that it’s the shortest month of the year, but it still went by faster than I could blink. I’m okay with it, though, because I’m ready for spring.

I also managed to read more books than I expected this month. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading:

22318363Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
~Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes thought they finished their investigation they for the future Emperor of Japan in 1924, but the appearance of a decorative stone and a dark-haired woman a year later speaks to the contrary.
I haven’t come across a Mary Russell book that I didn’t like, and Dreaming Spies was no different. It was refreshing to see Holmes and Russell on equal footing when it came to learning about Japan and its culture.

11330806Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
~Mara is a witch whose luck just keeps getting worse, even after she inherits a mysterious cottage after her Aunt Tillie dies.
I had a blast reading this urban fantasy romp, even though the GoodReads summary gives away a bit too much. Mara is such a likable character who obviously is doing the best she can with what she has to work with.

23460958Zeroes by Chuck Wendig
~Five hackers are recruited by Uncle Sam to work as cyber spies for the next year, but they soon find themselves hacking the U.S. government.
Zeroes had the right blend of tension, enough to keep me turning the page but not enough to make the pacing frantic. Plus all the characters  had enough personality that I didn’t get confused with who’s who in the huge cast.

18627360Squirrel Terror  by Lilith Saintcrow
~A series of blog posts from Lilith Saintcrow’s website that chronicle the goings-on in her backyard.
I’ve kept up with Saintcrow’s blog during the past six months and absolutely love the stories about the squirrels that frequent her backyard and her dogs. Squirrel Terror is just as much fun, with different squirrels and birds getting into loads of trouble.

What I’ve Been Reading… January 2017

6617104Persuader by Lee Child
~Jack Reacher is tasked by the DEA to rescue their agent from an undercover mission gone wrong.
This was the first Reacher book written in first person that I’ve read. It humanized Reacher, which was a different experience than his “mysterious stranger” aura and raised the stakes. I actually doubted his ultimate success more than once.

15790895The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
~Zoe Norris thought finding a job in New York City was tough, but surviving her coworkers and the new world of the undead.
I loved how Zoe interacted with the fantastic creatures from the very beginning. Plus the mix of absurdity, humor, and tension made it tough to put this book down. It’s guaranteed that I’ll be reading the second Shambling Guide book.

31423215Taking the Titanic by James Patterson & Scott Slaven
~A pair of thieves pose as newlyweds aboard the Titanic to pull off the biggest heist of their lives.
Despite a slow start, the story eventually picked up to become interesting. There were a number of subplots, and the historical elements felt genuine to the story. My one complaint was that the end was pretty unrealistic.

23308084The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
~After being separated from Khalid, Shahrzad must figure out two things: how to break the curse and get back to her husband.
I knew that I wanted to read this book as soon as I finished The Wrath and the Dawn. It was just as good as the first book, with fantastic romance and plenty of action. Plus the ending was absolutely perfect.

29214703Let’s Play Make Believe by James Patterson and James O. Born
~Divorcees Christy and Martin embark on a wild, romantic game of make-believe that won’t end well.
The best part of this novella was that it didn’t feel like a novella. It was intense from the very beginning, and I didn’t see the twist coming.

23341259Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor), Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenhoff, Delilah S. Dawson, Trish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elsa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Brandon Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, and Christine Johnson
~It only took twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to change his high school forever, but it took a whole lot longer than that for him to become a monster.
This book was nearly impossible to put down, and it painted a multi-dimensional picture of Kirby and the others impacted by a school shooting.

What I’ve Been Reading… December 2016

I embarked on the Goodreads Challenge this year (like I have the past few years) and decided to read 30 books. I read 52 books the past couple years, but I knew that there’d be far too much happening–between moving and everything else–to realistically read a book a week. Thanks to cramming three books into my head the last week of December, I officially completed the challenge!

32370233The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
~Shahrzad must enchant Khalid–her husband and the Caliph of Khorasan–with stories night after night if she hopes to stay alive.
This book is one part “Beauty & the Beast” and one part “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. The characters–along with their different agendas–jumped off the page, making me want to pick up book 2.

28186322A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
~Veronica Speedwell finds herself inexplicably bound to a boorish natural-historian named Stoker to solve a murder and the mystery of her past.
I’m a sucker for historical mysteries, especially if they’re set in Victorian England. This one also had a badass female lead and a compelling male sidekick.

23719489Arsenic in Assinippi by John F. Gallagher
~A non-fiction book about the trial of Jennie May Eaton for her husband’s murder.
Though obviously well-researched, this book was a bit dry for my tastes. But it was still a fantastic study of a high-profile trial that took place near my hometown in Massachusetts.

24885744Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
~Miriam Black must track down a serial killer before he starts killing teen girls.
Miriam Black is one of my favorite anti-heroes, and the only anti-heroine that I can recall coming across. There’s such a frantic energy that follows her–and the story–throughout the 300 or so pages, making it easy enough to read in a day.

21848263The One You Want by Gena Showalter
~Kenna Starr wants nothing more than to overcome her reputation in her small town, but heartthrob Dane Michaelson’s arrival in town throws a wrench in her plans.
This had everything that I could ever want from a contemporary romance: a sweet heroine, a smoldering hero, and a sappy ending. It’s a novella (only 109-ish pages), so it’s a quick read.

 

 

What I’ve Been Reading Lately…

I’ve gotten into the habit of always keeping a book in my purse, which means I’m getting a whole lot more reading done. Before work. During lunch. Even for an hour before bedtime. Here’s what I’ve read over the past few weeks.

30269117Inferno by Dan Brown
~Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory and a military force chasing him for a secret only he can unravel.
Short chapters, multiple points of view, and the premise made for an entertaining read. However I was pretty disappointed with the ending. For a book with so much promise, it felt like a cop out.

 

6979934

The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts
~Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must untangle a web of lies and tragedy to catch Lord Blackwater’s murderer.
This felt like a classic Sherlock Holmes story, written in the same style as the canon. And as a history nerd, I was hooked on the chapters depicting life penal colony Australia.

 

27983358In Too Deep by Sherry D. Ficklin
~Farris is willing to write off a classmate’s death as suicide until she gets a cryptic note that begs her to find the killer.
This book was an impulse buy on my Nook, even though I wasn’t necessarily interested in continuing with the #Hacker series after reading the first book earlier this year. I’m glad that I did since this book became very, very hard to put down.

 

15396970Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
~Ruby has only been able to rely on herself through most of her life, but can she change now that her sister and brother-in-law are giving her a future?
I love every Dessen book that I’ve ever picked up, and this book wasn’t any different. In addition to making characters deal with pretty big issues, Ruby’s journey was engaging from the first page.

 

10869746Rise of the Governor (The Walking Dead #1) by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
~Brian Blake knows that his brother, Phillip, is the only reason he’s survived so far, but he soon sees how the zombie apocalypse is changing his brother.
The Governor is my favorite Walking Dead character, despite being off-his-freaking-rocker. I loved seeing into both Brian’s and Phillip’s psyches, and the ending was fantastic.

What I’ve been reading…

I haven’t read nearly as much as I would’ve liked over the past few months. Sure, I’ve added plenty of books to my bookshelf through trips to Books-a-Million and orders from Barnes & Noble’s website. But the book-buying has far outpaced the reading side of the equation.

Even though I haven’t read as much as I would’ve liked, I’ve still been reading. Plugging along through books. This is what I’ve been reading:

26792189The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
~A collection of feminist essays dealing with writing, the science fiction and fantasy genres, and life itself.
I loved, loved, loved this book. It spoke to me not only as a writer but as someone who writes female characters. I’ll be rereading select essays–if not the whole book–in the near future.

1702013 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
~Ginny’s eccentric aunt has given her strict instructions that the 13 blue envelopes are her only road-map during a European adventure.
Despite the premise, this wasn’t as lighthearted of a book as I’d hoped. But it delivered on the reality of being sent through Europe by a family member you haven’t seen in years.

27272506The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
~A countess escapes her suffocating life in the old aristocracy for a new world in the frontier.
This book covered a lot of time in a short amount of pages. I would’ve liked to have seen more of the Glittering Court itself, but I did like the characters. And I’ll be picking up the sequel when it comes out in April.

32145Stiff by Mary Roach
~A non-fiction book about human cadavers.
There were chapters that fascinated me, like the ones about car crash tests and grave robbing. Others didn’t hold my attention as well. But overall it struck me as an informative book that provided a few plot ideas.

24819482Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
~Nettie Lonesome wants nothing more than to be a horse wrangler, but her whole life is turned upside down by a man who can only be killed by a stick to the heart.
This western made me itch to get on horseback and start hunting monsters myself. It has just the right mix of fantastic elements in a realistic setting. I’ll be buying book 2 soon enough.

What have you been reading?

Enough with the Love Triangles

Love triangles are the SwissArmy Knife of plot devices. Need a bit of comedy? That character just spilled chocolate sauce all over themselves while trying to flirt with their crush. Need some drama? The main character has to choose between bad boys from opposing packs of werewolves. And they’re just built for romance. I mean, “love” is in the title.

But there comes a point where enough’s enough. Not every story needs a love triangle. There’s been plenty of Edward-Jacob-Bella, Ron-Hermione-Victor Krum, and Katinss-Peeta-Gale to last readers a lifetime. (It happens outside the Young Adult genre, but those triangles tend to be amplified the most.)

I’m not saying they should be struck from every book past, present, and future. I’m just asking that authors think about writing a book or two without them. Like, does that girl who just moved to a new school really need to have two equally attractive boys fall head over heels for her? Or is fighting over a guy really the best way for those two former best friends to reconnect?

Why not add drama to the story by having the new girl be the only one who can see that her new high school is haunted? Or what if the two former best friends are forced to team up because they learn the suave, handsome stranger is actually a con-artist targeting war widows. Honestly, I’d like to read those stories more than about another love triangle.

I have nothing against romances or love triangles. I just prefer them in moderation.

What’s your opinion on love triangles? Love them? Hate them? Don’t care either way?

The Book Rules

Rule 1
Never regret staying up late to read a book. Call it a bad decision in the morning when you’re struggling against a sleep-fogged brain, but never regret it. Because if reading makes you happy, then you should never regret a moment of it.

Rule 2
Avoid starting a new book after 8 PM. Stories are supposed to get their claws in and not let you go, and it’s 2 AM before you know it. Feel free to ignore this rule on weekends or holidays. Or whenever.

Rule 3
When the price of an eBook and a paperback are close–and you can afford it–spring for the paperback. There are few things better in this world than being the first person to crack open a brand new book and stick your nose between the freshly printed pages.

Rule 4
Carry a book at all times: in a purse, on a phone, etc. You never know when you could be stuck waiting, and the articles in magazines left on waiting room tables are never as interesting as they seem.

Rule 5
Anything flat–or mostly flat–can be used as a bookmark. Those old Pokemon cards lying around, that receipt tucked into the bottom of a plastic bag, and the decal that never made it onto your car.

Rule 6
Bookmarks bought at bookstores or in souvenir shops never actually get used in books. Your inclination with something so pretty and shiny is to keep it in its plastic so that the edges don’t fray and the cardstock doesn’t bend. Metal bookmarks are the exception.

Rule 7
Splurge on autographed editions. With signed books becoming a new norm in bookstores and other retailers, they’ve never been easier to find. Far easier than hoping the author will be doing a signing within a reasonable distance from home.