Friday, July 6, 2012

Ever Liked a Book In Spite of its Best Efforts? Me Too.

by Sara N.

What is wrong with me?

No, really. I'm actually asking. I just logged onto my local library's website to request a sequel to a book I griped about the entire time I was reading. You see, even though I thought the book was poorly paced and lazily plotted, I ... I want to see what happens next. 

Why? Why do I do this? And do any of you do this, too?

My theory is that some books are interesting in spite of themselves. Take, for instance, the books in questions here: Deborah Harkness' All Souls trilogy. The first book, A Discovery of Witches, was so lauded in the popular media, that I thought, At last! A genre novel that the wide public will read and love! This could be the book that helps introduce non-genre readers to the delights of fantasy novels!  

Alas, I found it to be a chore to read, particularly the first half. (Our heroine goes to the library. She eats a meal. She goes rowing. She naps. She goes back to the library. She does yoga. She naps. Eats. Rows. Library. Naps. Eats. Yoga. So dull!) How disappointing to find that the book that was getting such glowing reviews in the mainstream media turned out to contain one of the most clich├ęd immortal romance tropes,* wherein the ancient vampire, after centuries alone, finds himself inexplicably drawn to a mortal woman — a mortal woman who discovers she may just have the specialest of all special magical powers out there. Gee, how often have I read that before? I couldn't believe that this mediocre book was earning such praise from big-name book review outlets, especially with more worthy genre fiction out there being ignored in the mainstream media.

And yet, the sequel, Shadow of Night, is winging its way to me as I type this. So why, you may ask, am I going back for a second dose of trite paranormal romance? Well, Discovery ended in a cliffhanger that I won't spoil here, but it's one that I find irresistible. Even though the pacing was torturous and the love story was unoriginal, Harkness raised enough intriguing themes that I want to see where she goes with them. In this universe, relationships between vampires and witches are taboo, perhaps because of the ancient origins of both creatures. I want to see how this evolves, and what the origin stories will reveal. The death of the heroine's parents seems to have an untold story behind it; I look forward to that onion being peeled. And of course, I'm wild with curiosity about the big cliffhanger/twist that happened in the final pages of book 1. That particular plot element is like catnip to me, so I'll put up with quite a bit of badness just to explore what happens in this new setting. (Sorry for being so mysterious; I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might be thinking of picking up the first book. I mean, how could you not after this glowing recommendation?)

Anyway, when I do pick up Shadow of Night, I fully expect to roll my eyes the whole time over the "I have crossed oceans of time to find you" immortal romance crap (which, to be fair, was incredibly sexy when Gary Oldman said it in Dracula). The good news is that the book's new setting should at least keep the heroine from incessantly doing yoga and rowing, so my fingers are crossed for a zippier pace and more action.


Am I the only person who will stick with subpar writing in the pursuit of bigger ideas? Do any of you have a book series you've kept reading despite annoyance with parts of it? Or am I just a masochist?

*As always, a caveat: I read and love many romance novels. Please don't view this post as critical of the whole romance genre. Some novels are better than others, and I try to stick with only the good ones. A Discovery of Witches is not one of the good ones.



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12 comments:

  1. I read "Artifacts: A Faye Longchamp mystery" by Mary Ann Evans recently and realistically, it's just not very good. The heroine is TSTL, the characterizations are weak, the motivations are murky, the continual POV jumps are annoying, the plot is somewhat obvious (although there was a nice twist that I missed) -- but wow, the archaeology and history and science in it just caught me and wouldn't let go. Bought the second book -- similar problems. Characters that didn't make any sense at all as people, confusing behavior, some stilted language, but I was completely fascinated by the history and the research. Bought the third, bought the fourth. They are getting better, in my opinion, which is good, but still, as mysteries, I just wouldn't care. As a really cool way to learn about archaeology, though, I keep reading.

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  2. Yeah, Spider Bites by Estep. The whole time I read it I was rolling my eyes over the fact that these little lust scenes had to be added. I mean, right from the start of the book, she's in the middle of an assassination attempt and she's mooning about the muscles or some such on a guy's arms. Yeah, right. It went on most of the book, including a tawdry public display in a whorehouse. Annoying as all get-out because...well, I liked the plot. I wanted to find out what was going to happen--who would die, who would live?

    So...when the opportunity came to win a copy of the second book...yup. I won. Guess I'll be reading it.

    I'm a dork. (P.S. I have nothing against romance or the genre. But you gotta make the scenes work. I wasn't getting the hot and heavy moments in the middle of important investigations...)

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  3. I had the same problem with Discovery, that first half slogged. I actually think if I started it today it would be a DNF, but I finished it and it picked up so much at the end that I'm like you, I'll need to read the second one. Its a library read, though. Not blowing my book budget on it.

    The first time I read Carolyn Crane's Disillusionist series, I loved the world and the side characters. The heroine, not so much. But I needed to know what happened next. Before the 3rd book came out I re-read books 1 & 2 and found I liked it a lot more, and I understood the MC better than the first go-round.

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  4. This happens to me a lot, unfortunately. Hence THE PILE.

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  5. I finally had to get rid of my Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton because of this love/hate relationship. They got really lame about book 8 or 9. No plot, lots of sex with multiple partners at the same time, still no plot (how are you supposed to kill bad guys when all you so it have sex?). So I shelved them, and waited. Then I re-read them about 6 months ago. Nope, same disappointment. I'm still sad they changed, because I loved her writing style. It disappointed me so much I refuse to read any of her newer works.

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    1. I agree. I was so excited to have an original heroine who did her job despite being outclassed. She had morals and fears and was completely interesting. Then she started having sex with every guy out there, no choice-sex or die. I refuse to read anything further. If I want sex scenes I'll buy a bodice ripper, not something that pretends to be horror/fantasy..

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  6. I ended up reading a whole series this way. It wasn't bad it was just so slow. Painfully slow sometimes. But each book was just interesting enough and ended in just enough of a cliffhanger for me to want to read the next one.

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  7. That's how I ended up reading most (though not all I think, they come out so fast) of the House of Night books by PC Cast. I spent a lot of time snerking and going "these are pretty silly" but buried in the silliness were sort of interesting ideas so I cringed past the terrible teen dialogue to see what she was going to do with the rest of it. I still feel vaguely guilty for reading so many of them.

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    1. I know that feel. I just finally HAD TO STOP. Like, I kept going until the girl turned into Anita Blake-lite and then was like, okay, I cannot do this. NO MORE. YOU CANNOT PASS. Then I read one more. ><

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  8. ha! your local library has a website!!! How lucky...
    My is a dark ages "paper only" one...

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    1. Let me make you even wilder with envy: My library texts me when my books are due, and I can renew them by texting back. We are living in the future!

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  9. I actually seem to have the opposite problem. There are many series that I have read where I absolutely love something about the first book in the series, but the second is completely sub-par, so now that I've invested my life into 2 books of the series, I am faced with the dilemma of will the third book be more like the first, or continue the downward trend of the second. I almost always end up giving that third book a chance, just in case it redeems itself.

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