Sunday, September 13, 2009

Page turning

On Saturday night Andrew and I intended to watch a movie. I was to do the dishes, while he took our cat for a walk, then we would sit down and watch something (while I knit). I finished my task before Andrew did and decided to fill the time with Maria Snyder's new book, Sea Glass. (Note: I attended Seton Hill at the same time as Maria. During her first semester [my second] her first book Poison Study was about to be published. I remember Maria, but I'm not sure she remembers me. I like to purchase her books to support a once fellow student, but also because I like her writing.) By the time Andrew returned with the cat I was onto chapter 3. He joined me on the couch and picked up the Blue Beetle comic book series, lent to us by some friends. Then it was 10:30. I was half way through chapter 10 and we weren't going to watch a movie. Unsure about what my blog topic would be this week I started to ponder what I like to read and why.

I humour myself by thinking I like a wide variety of genres. I have Canadian authors like Margaret Attwood and Jane Urquhart on our bookshelf, 19th century writers such as Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell, contemporary British writers such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (Andrew is trying to collect them all), children's writers such as Diana Wynn Jones and Hilary McKay and fantasy writers such as J.K. Rowling and the affore mentioned Maria Snyder. These authors and their genres overlap, of course, and we have more books on our bookshelf than what I've mentioned. We also have North American comic books (Sandman, the Watchmen), Japanese managa (Hana Yori Dango, Ranma 1/2) and a small collection of picture books. We're under represented in the science fiction category, although we're both Trekkies and I loved Quantum Leap when I was younger. Also, I do not do horror. This is for the same reason I do not watch horror--I have an over active imagination.

After some consideration, I have come to the conclusion that one of my major hooks into a story is the characters. This became aparent to me when I tried to read Heart of Stone, which is a Luna title about gargoyles. I couldn't get into this book. I read at least half, if not more, before I finally gave up. I didn't care about the main female character or the romantic-interest gargoyle. I liked the poor detective who was definitely going to get the stiff and I couldn't compel myself to read further. Going back to my first reading of Gone With the Wind I recall I probably read about half of the book overall. At thirteen I found the descriptions boring and tended to scan for scenes where Rhett was involved, as they were always more interesting. I also noticed while reading Storm Glass, the book preceding Sea Glass that I didn't care so much about finding out how the conflict was going to be sorted out, but was much more interested in which romance angle was going to succeed.

I think the second feature I look for in a story is the world. I absolutely adored Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I could related to Rae (if this PhD thing doesn't work, I could totally see myself working in a bakery) and so I didn't mind that I felt the story itself was rather slow moving. I also enjoyed Rae's world, even though I would never, ever want to live in it. I think this is also what I like about the Harry Potter series. I don't have a favourite character (although if I was pressed to name one, I would probably actually say Harry--very unoriginal, I know) but I loved the world. I loved the idea that people can use magic and there's a whole magic-using world hiding in plain site of ordinary people. I want to go to Hogwarts. If I had to guess, I would also say this is what suckered me into Twilight. I find the idea that gorgeous, non-people sucking, vampires could be out there, rather appealing; however, now that I'm out of my Twilight haze, I can't see many other redeeming qualities about the books.

Plot seems to come third on my list of reasons why I would read a book. I guess this is a little odd, since I hated Lord of the Rings, which I feel has a very unimaginative plot and an over-described world. I will reign in my tirade against LoTR here, as I think I'm about the only person on the planet who does not like it. I sympathize with those of you who do not like Harry Potter, all 6 of you who aren't religious nuts--it can be frustrated to hear people gape over a story you personally don't like. I think my low plot-priority may be why I enjoy 19th century novels, which aren't necessary light in plot, but certainly don't move very fast. This again begs the question why I couldn't finish Mrs. Dalloway if I consider plot so low on my list. It may have been the time at which I tried to read it. I suspect it may have come directly after an Attwood novel--very different in style and tone and couldn't get my brain into the right mindset. When I get the chance, I'll try Woolf again sometime.

My final thought is on the series. I've had differing success with the series. I endured it quite happily with Harry Potter, but gave up after the fourth book of the Outlander series by Diane Gabaldon. I also found Maria's third "Study" book a little frustrating. The problem is that characters sometimes fall into what I like to call: "the most unlucky person in the world" syndrome. In this situation everything terrible can and will happen to the main character just because they're the main character and even though this scenario already befell them two books earlier. I've also given up on the Hendee's Dhamhir novels. I felt like the third installment was dragged out far longer than necessary, and accomplished far less than possible just so there could be a fourth book. I do, however, like Pratchett's novels, set on the Discworld, which are perhaps a serial rather than a series. The world is the same, but the possible cast of character's is so large that any given book can include only two or three, or a dozen or more established individuals. The stories are related, but storylines don't stretch across the entirety of the Discworld collection.

So there's a look into some of my reading habits and some thoughts about what I like to read. I think I will end off here, so I can go and read, in my favourite place and time. In bed, half an hour before I go to sleep.



Favourite 5 books (in no particular order):

1) Alias Grace
2) The Graveyard Book
3) Nightwatch
4) A Northern Light
5) Sunshine

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