NEW YEAR! NEW YOU! NEW READS?
Its been many years since I’ve written a blog post. In all that time, I figured most of my readers already know how I feel about books and my mindset on how I arrive at the book reviews I give. But, after speaking with other avid reader fans, I’ve discovered there are some things about the book world that really sets our mind’s eyes on fire.
Going forward, I’d like to advise authors of some of the pet peeves that many of us avid readers are a bit tired of and hopefully some of our gripes will not fall on deaf ears. Or, become imagination crushers. We’ll see.
For me, here are the ingredients that make a five-star good read. 1) strong plot; 2) unforgettable characters; 3) exceptional detail (but not overly done); 4) well thought-out chapters; 5) excellent editing; and 6) well-balanced mystery/suspense to keep the readers on the edge of their seats. Again, these are my opinions on what makes a story not just good, but great! The type of stories that can go on your all-time favorites list. I’m happy to say I’ve read many five-star books. What sets them apart is the fact that I can still recall the great moments of each of those books and often find myself thinking about those characters that I loved so much. Novels that touched me so deeply that I sometimes forget the characters weren’t real. That’s what makes a five-star good read.
At least, that’s what used to make a five-star good read. I’m not sure what has happened in the last decade or so, but the authors of today aren’t quite like the ones of yesteryear, and I’ve been struggling with this. I’m finding the books I’ve read within the last five years aren’t making it to five stars. In fact, I’ve been struggling to even get to four and a half. I’ve been doing good to get to three (the dreaded fence) as I prefer to call it. What has happened in the world of imagination? What’s going on in the novel universe? Has the pandemic affected the way we writers’ think? Has our psyche become damaged due to the ugliness of the real world? Is it me just struggling to find great stories anymore or are you experiencing the same thing? What is going on? Let’s explore together. Here are the gripes I’ve learned from speaking with other avid readers. Authors, please take note!!! 🙄
Note to Authors
Too Many Characters
Great characters make for a great story. You can’t have a story without strong characters. That would be like building a car without brakes. Think of all the movies you enjoy or books you’ve read where the characters were so memorable, it will still bring a smile to your face. But as of late, I get books that have about six or more characters to keep up with and it becomes so confusing. I must go back and see what character this is and how do they relate to the story. When I must go back and figure out who a character is, that’s too many damn characters. OMG! Three or four characters to learn is about enough and even sometimes they can be confusing. Try to keep the characters to a level that the reader can follow and want to invest time in. When I can’t keep the characters straight in my mind, I’m abandoning the story! Point! Blank! Periodt! I’m over it! 😴
Too Much Detail
I’ve already explained what makes a five-star rating to me. There’s a fine line between giving the reader too much detail or not enough. Those authors who master this are truly great writers, but there are so many of us out here that really need to examine what “detail” is. I can’t stand when an author tells me everything, i.e., lint that is on the character’s clothes, a scab the character picked at, running their fingers through its hair, the streets the character drove down to the point of giving us GPS coordinates of where the character is driving, how much food they are eating, every facial expression the character is making, etc. You get the point. OMG! We don’t need to know all of that. Some authors excessively give too much detail, and they don’t let the reader do any work for him or herself. It drives me insane with all the detail. There are some authors who give you so much detail, that I must go back a few paragraphs to figure out what were these characters supposed to be doing in the first place? When I must go back and try to figure out why this character is doing what it's doing, that should tell you it’s too much detail!!!! 😫
Who doesn’t love mystery and a little suspense. Hell, a story wouldn’t be worth its salt if you don’t have some mystery to keep the reader wanting more. Oh, but authors today have this “gimmick” where they will offer the reader (in some cases) the beginnings of a new story or series for free to bait us. Once we bite, what they neglect to tell us is the free story they’ve offered has a cliffhanger and for us to get to the rest of the story, they advise we must pay to read the rest of the story. Well, ain’t that rich! When this has happened to me, guess what?! Not only will I never read anything that author has written again, but I also refuse to pay for the rest of the story because I was hoodwinked to begin with. Perhaps if the author was upfront and said, “Hey this story isn’t going to end, and if you liked what you read thus far, I’d appreciate you paying for the rest of the story,” I would gladly do it. But no, I’ve got to be lied to and once an author breaks my trust, there is no going back! You only get one shot to fool me once and that’s all she wrote!
How do you expect to gain readers’ trust with those types of games? That may work for some readers, but I’m a vet and ain’t no way in hell will I be played liked that. Not today! No ma’am!
Also, along those same lines, most authors have a series of books out. Another huge pet peeve of mine, that is, unless those stories read as standalones. If you try to play me and not advise that the first book in the series is a cliffhanger and I must read book two, three or four to finish it off, guess what?! Right…you guessed it, I will not finish that author’s series. I want to know what I’m getting upfront, otherwise, if you fool me, I’m out and I’ll never read their work again nor will I recommend their work to other readers. 😝
Every author knows that to get your work out there, your synopsis must be strong. How else will readers know what your book is if they don’t know exactly what it is they’re reading? Which brings me to one of the biggest gripes I’ve heard from avid readers, besides being hoodwinked, and that’s the inappropriate handling of the genre an author’s work falls under. Out of all the pet peeves I’ve outlined today, I think this one bothers me more than all the rest. A classic example of this atrocity is when you read the synopsis and the reader thinks this is a murder mystery, only to find out the book had little to do with any murder, but was more like a contemporary romance, immediately my Spidey-senses get to tingling. I’m a huge horror reading fan and my readers know how serious I take my horror books. It galls me when I go searching for good horror books and I read the synopsis that says it clearly is going to be about horror and then suddenly, there’s no guts, gore, blood, or fear at all. How the hell do you write a so-called “horror” book and none of the things I mentioned are in it? Once again, some authors put the wrong tags on their books to get readers to bite and when we do, they think they’ve won.
Wrong! You’ve lost and you’ve lost quite a lot. Once I find out I’ve been hoodwinked by having the novel misclassified under the wrong genre simply to gain readers and money, I immediately will stop reading your book. I will give it the worst and lowest rating possible, and I’ll shout it from the rooftops to every reader I know to never purchase that author’s books again. Do you know how horrible that is to do that to a book reader? All for the sake of getting money and followers?! You’ll be left penniless messing with me like that.
If you’ve written a romance novel, then make sure you advertise it as such. Don’t say it’s romance and it turns out to be a sci-fi novel with not so much as a sprinkle of romance in it. It’s those types of games some authors do that is really aggravating us avid readers and we’re tired of being silent about it.
So, this is a brand-new year bringing along new promises. It is my hope that the writing world gets a whole lot better. I truly haven’t been happy with the books I’ve been reading in the last five years. Of course, I find some jewels among all the lumps of coal, but I miss the days when books were good and made me want to jump to the next one. Reading is a huge part of my life, and I don’t know where I’d be without books. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t enjoy reading anymore because of all the games I see being played out here in the book universe. Please tell me this is just a rut some authors are in, and things will get better at least. I don’t know.
Side Note: Many new authors like to use the tags "If you liked 'Gone Girl', you'll love this story." I'm here to tell you. When I see those words in the synopsis, on the cover, or written in very fine print anywhere on a book I'm thinking about selecting, I will pass your book up faster than the speed of light. That book was one of the best five-star/three-star books I've ever read. Click link to read my review of Gone Girl.
Here's hoping for a better reading year than the last five. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I get to read at least 15 books that are five-star out of my 2023 book challenge. Am I setting myself up for failure, Nerds? Hmm…I don’t know? Authors, please take heed to what we’re saying. We want great books to read and not games to play.
Until next time, Nerds, wishing you a great 2023 reading year! Let’s go! 😘
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