Thursday, September 03, 2009

Close... but no cigar.

I’m two-thirds the way through a book that came highly recommended. Yet another break out historical romance (where can I just say all the buzz seems to be happening lately.) I don’t want to give the name of the book or the author – because my review of the book is not all positive. And I feel really bad about that.

This author took SUCH a risk. It was just a mind blowing, no-way-would-it-work, risk that I have to bow my head to her for even trying it. And as I’m reading the book I think… she almost got it. The hero is almost the most fascinating one I’ve ever read.

Almost a perfect book… but not quite.

Of course this just my opinion. I’m sure others believe she nailed it. But I think my disappointment comes from wanting to read that perfect story, with the perfect hero and the perfect heroine and the perfect story and just not finding it.

As a writer it’s not possible (at least for me) to be completely non judgmental as I read a book. I’m always looking for what works and what doesn’t. Partly as Eileen spoke about on Tuesday because I’m trying to learn what makes it successful – so I can steal that and have my own success.

And then it makes me realize how freakin’ impossible it is to really get to perfection. It’s not just about having an interesting hero and heroine, but also how they work together. It’s not just about having a fast moving plot, but does every element of it make sense. Does their conflict work? Does the resolution work? Was the sex (or lack thereof) pertinent to the story?

On what planet did anyone deciding to be a writer think this could be done!!!! We are all insane!!! I know this is not news. So you all have to tell me… what in your opinion has been the perfect book? Flawless, in all regards from beginning to end. For me most recently it would be… The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. Flat out if I had gotten that book to judge for the RITA it would have been a 9. And in terms of a category book I’m going with Worth Fighting For… by Molly. (See fancy widget at the bottom). As the end of a series and all the things that had to be “emotionally” wrapped up that for me that was a perfect book.


Alli said...

Planet Insane I believe is the name of the planet you are looking for, Stephanie. I am the same as you - reading for pleasure turns into reading to study what does and doesn't work. It's very hard for me to read a book or watch a movie and not dissect it (it drives DH crazy!).

The closest to perfect for me would be A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth. But the end sucked severely - I won't spoil it, but believe me, the end really, truly was disappointing. If it wasn't such a thick book I would have thrown it across the room (didn't want to put a hole in the wall).

Wow. The perfect book? To be honest, I can't think of any - I am sure I have read some others close to it, but I'm probably too critical and picky (I blame that on studying for my own writing). Oh, actually.... Laura Caldwell's THE GOOD LIAR and THE ROME AFFAIR were pretty close to perfect in my eyes.

Great post!

Kimber Chin said...

Loretta Chase's Lord Of Scoundrels. I can reread that book a million times and discover another layer.

I read small and mid press for innovation. I think that's where all the cutting edge writing is being published (because, well, there's no proven market for it).

As for perfection... I don't think there's such a thing. Make me laugh or make me cry. That's challenging enough (I'd say about 10% of romance accomplish that)

Sinead M said...

Lately for me, The Hunger Games, was the perfect book. I literally could not put that book down.

Great post, Stephanie.

Stephanie Doyle said...

See... little did you all know this is post is my sneaky way of obtaining new great books to read...

I've read Lord of Scoundrels - LOVED IT - and Hunger Games is on my list. Thanks to Alli I've now got some more titles.

Excellent. You are all falling into my evil hands... (mwhahhmwhaaa)


Maureen McGowan said...

The more I learn about writing and storytelling, the more I expect from myself, the more I expect from books I read, too...

I think I know the book you're talking about Steph, and I think I was on the same page as you. The stuff that was brilliant was brilliant, but then a few weak plot points and all the magic was gone. (But if we're talking about the same book... I did like the sex scenes...) It was the quasi mystery plot that made me a little crazy. Too bad it was there, really. The book didn't need it.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - I think it's the same book. Because the sex scenes were great. And I agree about the mystery. But for me it was also the heroine. There was just something... not quite right. I never bought into her. And to showcase this hero you needed a really special heroine.

Oh well... I'll keep searching.

Eileen said...

The perfect book just doesn't exist. I can ALWAYS find something to cavil at. While learning writing craft has made me more critical of some things, actually writing has made me more forgiving of others.

I have trouble forgiving whiney self-involved heroines, but will forgive slightly outrageous plot points. The book has to be really good for me to forgive messing around with point of view, but I will forgive it if the book sways me enough.

Now . . . on my almost perfect list are Lucky's Lady by Tami Hoag. I refuse to reread it as my memories of it are so overwhelming. Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Ditto on the rereading thing for that. And possibly the Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I know I'm leaving a bunch out, but that's what comes to mind right now.

Maureen McGowan said...

I liked that she was a widow... and already enjoyed sex and had been missing it... But you're right. Something was missing. Just not a fully formed character perhaps?

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, the Time Traveler's Wife. LOVED that book. I'm afraid to see the movie, because I just can't see how they could possibly capture it.

Eileen said...

I'm not going to see the movie. I felt the same way about Atonement (another amazing book). There was so much subtlety and so many amazing things done with the language. I'm sure it was a great movie, I would just constantly be comparing it to the book and finding it lacking.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I LOVED Atonement, too, but also liked the movie.

It didn't capture the book, to be sure, but parts of it were even better for me. It was done by the same director who did the more recent Pride & Prejudice and I love the little details he fits in... There's this moment near the beginning when Kiera Knightly (playing Cecelia) gets out of the fountain and James McEvoy (who plays Robbie) touches the water she'd come out of. Amazing. Showed everything you needed to know about how he felt about her. Keep meaning to check to see if it was in the book. But I doubt it was, because weren't we in Briony's POV at that point in the book? She'd never have seen that. Also... they used a typewriter as a percussion instrument in the transitions between scenes... I thought that was interesting foreshadowing for that story, to say the least. :-) You should see Atonement, Eileen... Love to hear what you think.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hunger Games -- pretty damn perfect.

Lord Of Scoundrels- I remember loving with all my heart, but don't need to reread.

City of Thieves - perfect book. Perfect.

Kinsale is my most reread author and she's not perfect at all- but what is perfect has set the bar so high it boggles my mind. Everytime I read her books my heart flips ove in my chest and the fact that every single plot in her books falls apart simply doesn't matter -which only proves that getting every plate spinning is nearly impossible.

Steph - I am totally humbled. Thank you.

Scott Rivera said...

I like the book The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger."The Time Traveler's Wife" is one of the most interesting, powerful books I've read in a long time. Audrey Niffenegger did a beautiful job taking some of the most complex ideas - time travel, marriage, love, children, friends, literary and artistic allusions, religion, death, drugs, childhood, growing, loss, and what it means to be human - and weaving them together poetically and with amazing clarity. Her characters are wonderful, "real" people with strengths and flaws, and I really grew to adore them. Despite skipping around time at the same rate as Henry, the time traveler, the events are sequenced in such a way that you still witness each character's growth as a person, as well as discover many surprises along the way. Clare and Henry's story is one of the best love stories I've read in a very long time. This book also echoes important modern-day questions about the appropriateness of gene therapy, and what it means to be a human being. I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book.My favorite pass time is to read this kind of books with my cigars which i buy from online Cigar Shop.

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