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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Am I getting too persnickety about what I read?

I've recently DNF'd three books that I'd been very excited to read, and two of them were just today, so I'm starting to wonder. Am I getting too picky?

I don't want to name the books because a) having not finished any of them, I can't give a fair opinion- maybe they all got better, and b) these are matters of taste, I think, and everyone's is different. So, the things that got on my nerves might have delighted other readers.


The first book was the beginning of a science fiction trilogy. It was adult fiction, but the main character was just out of her teens, I think, and the whole book had a YA flavor to it. There was a good deal of sarcastic banter that bugged me- were any of these characters over 20? And the thing that really bugged me took me some time to figure out- it was the italics. So many italics. The reason that it took me so long is that, being a sci-fi, there were lots of made-up words that were italicized like foreign words, so the overflow of unnecessary italics had some cover.


The second, first one this morning, was partly only a mistake on my part. From the review, I thought that it was a literary fantasy based on one of my favorite works of classic literature, but it was a romance novel with a paranormal slant. I figured that out within a page or so but decided to give it a try because romance novels aren't really my thing but can be fun. I thought that the literary references would draw me in, but the thing about this one that bugged me was the really, really short sentences. So short.

It's like this- a normal paragraph, probably short but that's fine, and then the last sentence or two are really short, followed by a paragraph of one tiny sentence.

Example paragraph, blah blah blah...

[skip a few lines]... But I don't do that now. Not anymore.

Not since the fire.


It's fine used sparingly, in my opinion, because throwing off the rhythm like that can have a very dramatic effect. But this book had it in ALL THE TIME. I think that my tolerance is about once every twenty pages, but I think that less is more. I felt like I couldn't fall into the story because it jarred me out- in fairness, not always something as jarring as a fire.


The third book, this afternoon, was better, and I stuck with it longer. It was a sort-of sequel to another classic book. It was darker than the original book, and I was very interested, but it had some of the short sentences again- not as many by a long shot- and it felt out of order. The narrator came to a conclusion and then immediately came to it again by a slightly different route, and then considered it from a slightly different angle. This was during an emergency.

It wasn't so bad, but that wasn't the only repetitiveness in the first thirty pages. I wanted to take that scene where she kept going over basically the same ground and cut up the pages. It could've been better. Put all three considerations together with the actually interesting conclusion at the end, and then she gets on with the emergency.

Also in that same 30 pages, she had the exact same description of someone's eyes at least three times. It wasn't necessary to describe them so often.


So, possible conclusions from this include that I'm just mean. Maybe. But I think that this is the result of the reading challenges that I've set for myself over the last few years, since starting this book blog. I've been trying to read a wider variety of books, and even the ones that I didn't like have helped me to recognize what I do like- to think about it instead of just enjoying it. (Of course, I'm still enjoying the titles that I do click with, as much as ever.)

I guess that language is more important to me than I ever realized. When the rhythm of the language was cut up it drove me crazy. I do re-read Jane Austen and Tolkien a good deal- longer sentences and longer words. A good deal of Tolkien reads like a song. I remember worrying when I was younger that I'd read too much Austen and was spoiling myself. (I've written about my decision to branch out and read more widely before, and I'm so glad that I did it!) Maybe I've really solidified a taste of longer, more complex sentences, but a variety in length also helps.

I do like some genre fiction, but I tend to like the more literary end of genre. I occasionally like a mystery, a sci-fi, or a fantasy, but I know that I'm less likely to get into a historical fiction and not likely to want to read a romance. But at the same time, there are some books in those categories that I might like, so I need to read the first ten pages to see if the book and I are a good fit- a conclusion that I came to a long time ago when I was writing up one of my book challenges. I just need to start doing it more often.

In this case, I did read some of book three and it fooled me because really, it wasn't bad. I just couldn't get into it. And the second I put a hold on before it was in the library, so I checked it out without cracking it open.

Another factor that grated my nerves was that each book had an interesting premise, and two of them had interesting settings. I love a good setting. So not being able to connect to the books was disappointing, and maybe it made me more critical.

I hope that this is the answer- that my taste is developing because I've read so many different things, and now I know better, and sooner, what I do and don't like. Maybe I'm just mean.

Or persnickety.

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