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Book Blogger Hop,
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What to Do
1.) Post on your blog answering this week's
To you, what qualifies a book
as good or bad?
Are some books objectively better
than others, or is it purely
a matter of opinion?
2.) Enter the link to your post in the
Linky list on Bill's blog.
3.) Visit other blogs on the list and
comment on their posts.
4.) Be sure to find out next week's
question when you visit Bill's blog!
I think this is a matter of subjective opinion, to a certain degree. There are books that are universally considered bad, but on the other hand, there are others that some people might love, while others heartily dislike them.
For me, there are several factors involved.
There's the matter of style, for instance. I happen to love poetic prose, so I tend to prefer books containing beautifully structured sentences and vivid word pictures with memorable metaphors and similes. I hate vulgar language, so I do tend to avoid profanity, and sentences such as, "He hauled ass." make me climb the walls! (I actually found this sentence in an urban fantasy novel. The author shall remain nameless.) The English language is far too rich and beautiful for an author to be throwing such garbage at readers.
Unfortunately, this brings in the matter of grammar, syntax, editing, and punctuation. I will immediately put down a book if it has editing issues, because these things just take me completely out of the story! Authors should be experts at writing. If that's not the case, then they should try to get the best editing possible within their budgets. It's simply inexcusable to find errors such as "it's shadow covered there house", or "then she through the ball to him"! (These are not quotes from any books, but represent the types of glaring errors I've come across.)
Here's a short sample of some great writing, from Falling, by J. Bennett, a book I recently reviewed:
"Mostly, the hunger is a song with a secret melody only I can hear. The music clings to each breath of wind and the calm in between. It hums along the spongy corridors of my brain, each note jumping from one stalled synapse to the next. At night, when the sun cannot feed me its thin soup, the song grows loud as thunder captured in my bones. Destruction concealed beneath the beauty." (From the Prologue, pg. 3)
Now, that is truly great prose! The grammar is flawless, the sentences beautifully constructed and flowing, the metaphors vivid and powerful. Of course, I gave this novel a glowing review!
Another quality I look for is strong, consistent characterizations. If there's one thing that turns me off a book in the blink of an eye, it's discovering that a character has said or done something completely contrary to the behavior the author has already established for said character. I also dislike weak characters, unless, of course, they're supposed to be that way within the context of the plot.
Needless to say, cliche characterizations are also a huge letdown. Characters have to be original, yet, they also have to feel real. If I can't connect to a character's feelings and thought processes, then I can't relate to that character, and, of course, he or she will not be very memorable.
There are numerous examples of great characterization, in which the reader comes away from the novel feeling moved by the joys and struggles of the protagonist. Novels that exemplify this for me are, to cite a few, Jane Eyre, Crime and Punishment, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield. These are all classics. In the popular fiction genre, The Lord of the Rings immediately comes to mind, as does The Twilight Saga and the Harry Potter series.
Yet another important quality is that the plot be plausible, even if the book is a fantasy or science fiction novel. Again, consistency is the key. Within the given parameters of a fantasy world, certain things have to be believable. Furthermore, if there's fantasy mixed in with the real world, as in urban fantasy, the real world has to be believable. Cats might fly in a fantasy realm, but not in the real world, unless the author has previously established that the fantasy world has now invaded the real one, for instance.
On a more subjective note, there are genres that I simply don't like, such as erotica and horror. I just don't see the point of having an entire plot line revolve around such emotions as paralyzing fear, or perverted sexual desire. To me, such emotions make for a very unpleasant read!
Last but definitely not least, a book has to have a good, solid plot. Action for the sake of action doesn't cut it; there have to be reasons for the action. However, too much lengthy description, with nothing much happening, is liable to put me to sleep, so I think there's a need for balance.
I've concentrated on fiction in this post. Of course, there are other characteristics to be applied to nonfiction, but I don't want to make this too long....suffice it to say that authors of both fiction and nonfiction have to engage the reader enough for that reader to continue reading the book. They should also seek to amplify the reader's horizons in some way.
In the final analysis, I think those are the very best books, really -- the ones from which one can learn something new. This applies to fiction in the sense of truly original, imaginative settings, events, and characters. In the case of nonfiction, it's the way the author presents the material, as well as the thoroughness of research done.
What do you think of my answer?
Do you agree or disagree?
What qualities do you think make a book good or bad?
Drop me a comment and
let me know!