Reading Likes and Dislikes

Recently I jotted down a list of “What I like in a novel” and “What I hate in a novel” in an attempt to explain why I’m such a picky reader. As a bookworm with evolving tastes, these reading preferences are not carved in stone. And remember, these are MY preferences. Please do not be offended if you love your sluggishly paced novels with trolls and heroines-who-are-too-stupid-to-live. Because I like to bum ideas off like minds, feel free to make your own list and we shall rub grey matter…

I like novels with:

  • Sharp, witty dialogue.
  • A multi-dimensional villain painted in shades of gray. The ultimate turn off is a lame villain.  Speaking of which, the story must contain complex characters. The more three-dimensional the better. Please no cardboard cutouts or stereotypes. Flip the archetypes around: give me flawed heroes and sympathetic villains.
  • Dynamic characters! Characters who grow, change, and transform. The main character must have learned something by the end of the book.
  • Fast but not too fast pacing.
  • A cliffhanger or dramatic unease at the end of every chapter.
  • Romantic tension which includes sexy bantering between lovers. Trust me, sexy vibes are more crucial to the story than the actual consummation. Or, if sexy times are inevitable, break the happy couple up! Happy couples are dull, unhappy couples make for something to look forward to.
  • 1st person or 3rd person limited POV.  I’m not big on 3rd person omniscient but I’m not against it.
  • If the story contains betrayal or redemption.
  • Smart, unpretentious prose. Prose that is simple yet lyrical. Prose that reads like butter. Engaging description, narrative, and dialogue that dashes away reality and draws me into the story.
  • Economy of words. No extraneous words! I admire authors who can convey images and advance plot in as few words as possible. In other words, authors who can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Well-executed humor. Nothing is more awkward than a bad joke or pun.
  • Plot twists that actually SURPRISE. In the same league: authors who are not afraid to throw their characters under the bus, i.e. authors who GO THERE.
  • Nail-biting suspense.
  • Strong heroines who are actually… strong. Don’t tell me she’s strong and give her a stallion to ride then have her snivel in the corner while the hero saves the day. I want a hero girl with strength from the inside out.
  • Finally, the novel must entertain. For my invested time and money, I demand amusement.

I abandon novels with:

  • Stilted, wooden dialogue. Also, cheesy dialogue. Awkward dialogue. Cliché dialogue. Dialogue that does not advance the plot and serves no purpose but to showcase the writer’s pyrotechnics.
  • Stagnant, flat, lame, whiny characters.
  • Purple prose.
  • Plot that crawls.
  • Plots/characters that make you scratch your head in WTFery.
  • Hard to pronounce character names (I’m not a big fan of fantasy names. Sorry fantasy lovers. There are too many vowels!).
  • Cop-out or anticlimactic endings. If you promised me a trip to Disneyland and then take me to Santa’s Secret Village, there will be blood!
  • Predictable plot. Cliché plot.
  • HEROINES WHO ARE TOO STUPID TO LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Books with talking animals (The Knife of Never Letting Go is an exception. My ONLY exception).
  • No dialogue attributions for the sake of art. I am not smart enough to distinguish who is talking if you don’t “quote” your lines of dialogue.
  • Too much interior monologue (especially if thoughts are in italics).
  • That being said, books with a cavalier use of italics. I see italics and I run for the hills.
  • Books where the heroine violates the dress code and decides to wear something lame like a…wig.
  • Elves, dwarves, fairies, trolls. Again, sorry fantasy lovers. I cannot frolic in the enchanted woods with the rest of you. Not that I haven’t tried. Trolls just rub me the wrong way and I’m allergic to fairy dust.
  • Books with free verse poetry embedded within the prose. Said poems can only lead to depressing subject matter.
  • Also, depressing subject matter. ENNUI with no light at the end of the tunnel. There are books that are so depressing that I want to throw myself off a cliff. These books usually have no relief from said depressing topic. A book must have highs and lows. Let us carve this in STONE. Highs and lows, not all lows.
  • Books that begin with the main character waking up in the morning.
  • Books using handicap people in poor taste.
  • The heroine is gorgeous but she doesn’t know it, not even when supporting characters find every opportunity to tell her she’s gorgeous and she’s all “No, I do not believe you. I am a hag. Even though I can pass for an actress on the CW, I am still ugly.” Granted, there are a lot of pretty people with low self-esteem and an easy way to humble your heroine and make her relatable is to make her question of her looks. But that’s an old writer’s trick that’s been done and redone. I would just like to see authors change it up: give me a heroine who OWNS up to her beauty.
  • I will refrain from naming names: YA books with the perfect hot (paranormal) guy. Stop. Being. Perfect. Am I the only one with eyes? Do you see that Mr. Perfect is actually kind of douchy?  By now, I’ve read about so many idolized vampires/werewolves/zombies/merman that I crave the polar opposite. Give me an Average Joe or Ugly Joe who grows more attractive as the heroine gets to know him.
  • Too many pop culture references. Sean Williams Scott?! Who’s that? MySpace? Are we living in 2005?
  • Books with minorities as sidekicks. I am not a sidekick! I object!
  • Long, drawn-out scenes that serves no purpose to the plot.
  • Gratuitous sex/violence/drug use for the sake of shock value.
  • Preachy novels, i.e. novels with a hidden agenda to teach readers a lesson. I object to learning. Entertain me!

6 thoughts on “Reading Likes and Dislikes”

  1. I love this post! I see we love and hate some of the same things. I’m not crazy about 2rd person narrators. I can only read a few sentences of any book that tries it before setting it down forever. I’m just like you about pop culture references. Ugh! Nothing ages a book more.

  2. Vasilly: Good point. I need to add 2nd person narrator to my list of “ICK.” I haven’t read many books with 2nd person; I avoid them like the plague.

  3. This is a fantastic list. Please though, add DRAGONS to the DO NOT WANT list. Jeeze. I srsly dislike dragons, haha. Yet, I can handle maybe only one or two stories with them. Otherwise, we have an exact matching list 😀

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