what I like in a book
First of all, thank you so much to all the Ravelry users for the warm response to my pattern! There are 40+ likes and lots of queuing as of this morning. I really didn't expect so much! Now that it's there, I'm feeling a little more confident, I think it looks quite nice. I have to give Mr. HeyLucy some credit for helping with the photography, too.
And now, I think it's about time for a book report. I didn't read nearly as much in 2011 as I did in 2010, but I did read a few very good books. I've also gotten a couple advance reader's copies from publishers, so I wanted to be sure and let you know about those. There were two, in particular, that I recently read, and they got me thinking about just what makes a good book. The Night Swimmer was just released, and is the story of an American couple that win an Irish pub on the southern tip of Ireland. They have high hopes, but things don't quite work out as expected. Matt Bondurant is an eloquent, gifted writer, but there was a subtlety to his storytelling that I never really understood. I'm still not sure just why certain things happened as they did. I found it interesting to read a story told in a female voice, written by a male author (as I would if roles were reversed). He was convincing, and yet I never really cared all that much for Elly, and I didn't understand her attractions to swimming in the ocean and to her husband Fred. I need to feel like I know and understand the characters in a book to really like it. So my review, in this case, is a totally subjective two-and-a-half out of five stars. I think some readers will love it, in all its subtlety, but even the intriguing location of the story wasn't enough to win me over.
And now, a brief intermission, so we can enjoy this entertaining video:
Okay, next up on my ARC list, History of a Pleasure Seeker, which comes out February 7. It's just after the turn of the century in Amsterdam (+1, I particularly like this time period and location), and handsome, talented Piet is attempting to rise above his station and secures a job as tutor to a troubled boy in a very wealthy family (+1, I can get behind that, it's an interesting challenge). Told in vivid detail, the author successfully brings a glamorous world to life (+1 for descriptive writing). Ultimately, however, the negatives are glaring. Piet is quite devious and while he admires his employer, he takes advantage of his trust (-1, first and foremost, he is a selfish bastard). He does succeed in helping some of the other characters, but often inadvertently, while single-mindedly pursuing his own interests (-1 more for more unlikeability). There's also an awful lot of excruciatingly detailed sex, both hetero- and homosexual (-1 for unexpected erotica). I prefer a more subtle approach, and there was just more than I thought was necessary to move the plot forward. I don't want characters in a book to be perfect, but when they succeed time and time again, despite their flaws, I find that they grow tiresome. So the pluses and minuses end up cancelling each other out. I'll be generous, however, and give it three out of five stars.
My very favorite book of 2011 was Ready Player One. I actually listened to the audio version of this one, read by Wil Wheaton, who was pitch perfect as the voice of Wade Watts, treasure seeker/hacker/80s pop culture expert. Set in a bleak and hopeless 2044, most of humanity spends it's time plugged in to the virtual OASIS, where they attend school, work, and socialize. The developer of this virtual world has died and his will stipulates that the person who can unlock the three hidden gates and solve the subsequent puzzles will inherit the entire thing. It's been years, and so far no one has made any progress until one day when Wade finds the first gate, and the competition heats up fast. As a child of the 80s, the nostagia factor was high for me. I really grew to care about the characters, and the action and suspense kept me listening. It was just so, so much fun.
Currently, I'm in the middle of Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, and I'm loving it so much. She has a way of giving her characters a voice that really expresses who they are. I recently finished Year of Wonders, and had the same feeling. I enjoyed the whole book, until the ending, which felt rushed and was so unlikely, I found it hard to believe. Fingers-crossed that it doesn't happen again, it was so perfect up to that point.
What was your favorite book of 2011? What do you like in a book.