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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How A Book Interests Me

Now, I should come right out and say two things:

One: I am a creature of impulse and instinct. So far, when it comes to books, my gut has only failed me a couple of times. I'll get to that in a minute. For the most part, it's lead me to pretty straight to all kinds of wonderful books.

Two: I'll read almost anything. When I start a brand new book, one I've never read before, I look for a few essential elements.

1) A engaging lead character, with well-drawn secondary characters. It's the mark of a good writer who can handle a sizable cast and make every person distinct and clear-cut or have someone inexplicably fade into the background.

2) Some kind of interesting element that leads to the conflict.

3) A compelling and urgent conflict that leads the characters to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Now, that being said, my book senses usually do not lead me wrong. I will invariably pick out something that satisfies one if not all of these criteria. Case in point: one of my dear friends Mary gave me a twenty-five dollar gift card to Amazon for my birthday. As a treat to myself, I bought two books that I really liked the look of and the reviews were overall positive and glowing. Defiance by C.J. Redwine and For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund.

Pretty cool, no? I could go on and on about how much I adored these books, but for now, I'll stick to Defiance by C.J. Redwine. This is her first ever novel, and she's done a fantastic job. Rachel (pure coincidence, I tell you!) and Logan, our heroes, are intelligent, strong, and real. They react to the situations they're put in like real people would. They have strengths and weaknesses. In this world, there is a Cursed One, a huge, terrifying beast that comes to the surface without warning and summoned by vibrations in the ground. The best description is a dsytopian future, though that puts the book in one small genre and it stretches across many. Rachel's father goes missing on a courier mission, assumed dead, and she is assigned to her childhood friend Logan's care, the boy who broke her heart at fourteen. Rachel is independent and fiery, taught by her father who to defend herself in a world where women are assigned "Protectors" and forbidden to go anywhere without them. Logan is rational, logical, a genius inventor who can hold his own in a fight. They go through all the spectrum of emotions and take the reader with them. That's what good storytelling does. It's the first book in a trilogy, so I await with bated breath for the next few installments.

Now, on a trip to the library this weekend, I picked up a new book, Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White. It had a key element that I look for: an unusual, original element, the Victorian language of flowers, something I've always been fascinated with. I thought, Oh this could be interesting. And I checked it out.

I tore through Forget-Her-Not pretty quickly, but to be completely honest, I wasn't all that enthused. I found the main character Laurel flat and somewhat uninteresting, despite the sudden loss of her mother to cancer and the awakening of a strange new gift in a unfamiliar setting: a boarding school. She doesn't react very well in a crisis, and the main male lead, her love interest, got almost next to no face time. He just drifted in and out of the story without purpose. The secondary characters were also flat, one-dimensional. The bullying mean girl trying to take advantage of Laurel's gift, Laurel's snarky logical cousin, the back-and-forth friend who can't make up her mind to be on Laurel's side or not.  This is not the say the book doesn't have its good points. There's some lovely descriptions of flowers and the renewing, healing power of gardens. So there is that.

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion. I'm sure they are people out there who want to disagree with me. But I like to have a certain kind of standard when I read books, what I expect and what I want from a book that makes me happy. And if I find a book that does that, I'll be its friend for life.

Over & Out,