Have you ever read reviews or had people recommend books, and then you read them and can't understand what all the fuss is about? What works for one reader might not work for another. And there's nothing wrong with that—that's why there are so many different books!
While I was in Los Angeles, I had time to hook up with a friend from high school. We discussed reading and writing, and we got started discussing the male-female thing. He'd read books by a well-known female mystery author, and he said he rushed through all the "emotional" stuff because he wasn't interested in that. He wanted the "mystery" stuff, not all the "feeling" stuff.
I recently read two "out of my normal genre" books in anticipating of attending a book club meeting. I'll be interested in seeing how the book club works, especially since the woman who invited me stressed that they served a delicious breakfast rather than extolling the brilliance of the book discussions. I've never joined one before, since they remind me too much of assigned reading in high school.
One of the books I read would, by today's standards, probably be considered poor writing. But it was a memoir written by someone born just after the Civil War, who had very little formal education. The publisher had opted to leave the manuscript virtually intact rather than edit it for spelling or grammar.
However, I managed to get beyond that almost immediately, because the character was fascinating. And since a lot of the book took place near where we now live, it was even more fascinating to think about how she either walked or rode in open wagons along routes we drive by car now. And how long it must have taken to get from one place to another. Where we drive for about 25 minutes to our Sunday morning breakfast café would have taken her the better part of a full day.
The other book was "literary" fiction, and beautifully written. But it bored me to the point where if I hadn't finished before I had to return it to the library, I wouldn't have minded. I almost stopped reading after 30 pages. Why didn't I like the book despite the quality of the writing? For the most part, because I didn't care about the characters. The pacing was slow, and the author had a tendency to use names that started with "A" so I kept getting the characters mixed up.
As far as books I've chosen to read—I'm finding other things that pull me out of the story. In one, the author spends way too much time on description for my taste, especially at the beginning, where I'm trying to figure out what the story is going to be about. Show me the conflict, not the sunsets. To me, description needs to be integrated into the story, not bring it to a halt while the author shows me around.
In another, as I tried to analyze why it didn’t work, since the character had plenty of conflict, and everything that "belongs" in a mystery was there, I decided it was primarily because the character was too self-centered and whiny. My reaction was more, "shut up and get over it" rather than, "oh, I feel your pain." I did check one of the major websites for readers, and I noted that when someone gave the book a 3 star review (out of 5), the protagonist's behavior and attitude were usually mentioned as the detracting factors. Others didn't seem to mind, focusing more on the mystery plot. Same book, different readers, different reactions.
I remind myself of this every time I get an email that says one of my books has just been reviewed! And of course, I'm thrilled when they're like this one.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society