Book Reviews





It's not you, it's me...

Rifling through the back of my wardrobe at the weekend on the hunt for shoes, I found something I wasn't expecting to find there: a copy of The Blue Book - a novel so pretty, so blue (!) and so critically heralded, but ultimately, to me, unfinished. It's one of the very few books I just could not reach the end of.

It's rare that I do not finish a book, and there have been plenty of books I wouldn't recommend in a lifetime that have had my eyes scour their final chapters. The Blue Book, however, is not one of them. Others that I have given up on include some high profile titles: The Life of Pi,The Alchemist, Rebecca, The Island and Sacred Hearts.

So what makes these books different?

On the face of it, these books are things I should like - escapist surrealism, spooky settings, historical fiction, confined environments and deep character study.

I have had a little think about it and I have come up with a few things that don't suit me personally as a reader. As  bloggers, readers, consumers, markets and peers we spend a lot of time defining ourselves by what we are, but what about the things we are not?

Wouldn't knowing what to avoid in our quest for entertainment, education and fulfillment help us just as much?

Here are some of the things I have come to realise I do not like as a reader, and have each in some way contributed to my giving up on the afforementioned books:

  • Tenous tangents that last for pages
  • An assumption that the reader is just like your character. That they have an "understanding", so actions are missing motives.
  • Using the physical book as some sort of symbol for it's fictitious self
  • Free-flowing thought as a conversational style

If I told people those four points, as well as the usual "ghosts, dark, gothic, historical" definitions of taste, would my recommendations be more relevant? Would the number of "not recommended" reviews diminish? Would, dare I say it, authors get to stop chasing bad reviews because they disagree with one star ratings based on style over substance?

We all know what we like, and what we turn to for the comfort of reading, but perhaps we might start needing to look at the reverse of this as more and more content is commissioned, published and publicised. There will soon be so much out there, that finding the perfect read will become a much harder task (if it's not already!) We know our "pull factors" but what are the "push factors"?

What books have you not been able to complete? Have you ever asked yourself "why"?

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