What to read? That is the question… (the picky reader)

book-of-books-vladimir-kush
“Book of Books” by Vladimir Kush

When you’re looking for something to read, do you normally have specific criteria in mind? Sometimes I spend hours at the library looking for a novel that I think I will like, only to leave empty-handed. Once upon a time, I used to pick up any book on the shelf, without considering whether or not it is the “type” of book that I would enjoy. Most books held appeal to me, if not my 100% enjoyment. Now-a-days, it’s like I’ve trapped myself into prejudgments of books. I hate it. I don’t think it’s a good attitude to have, especially if you want to be a writer. I feel like I should be more encompassing in terms of genres and writing styles, and I shouldn’t dismiss books on the bases that I normally do. For example, the following is some of what I avoid:

1) When the book sounds too “epic”. There is no other way I can describe it. I just don’t like books where THE END OF THE WORLD is nigh and only a small band of warriors or a lone girl/boy can make any difference. Of course there are some novels where this works, but most of the time I find myself rolling my eyes.

2) Novels that put a magical item or weapon into too much importance.

3) Novels where the names are too complicated and full of hyphens and quotation marks, and the cities are too elaborate. I’ve had too many bad experiences with that and I’ve started to link it with the author having too much fun with creating the “world” at the expense of character and plot development.

4) Where the main character is essentially perfect, but the author tries to make him/her appear “real” by giving him insignificant “flaws”.  The character is invincible to embarrassment and never gets wounded and everyone around him/her either loves him or is jealous of him.

5) Novels where there are way too many books, and no definite ending in the horizon. I just get the feeling that the author is just trying to exploit his beloved characters by making as much money out of them as he/she can before the series loses popularity.  Sometimes the series starts off very well, but the books in the middle might as well not exist because they were so half-heartedly written.

Well, I guess I can go on and list a few more, but the point of this list is that I think I want to change my ways. I’m sick of this narrow, unreasonable point of view. I suppose I’ve developed this list over time, from reading books that I just didn’t enjoy. In fact, it’s come to the point that, the moment I don’t like something about the story, I find it extremely hard to have the patience to keep on going and hope for the best. Most of the time I just want to throw the book across the room and fume.

But I don’t want to stereotype novels or authors so unyieldingly anymore. I want to start afresh. With no more angst, just innocent and non-jugemental. I mean, the authors have put so much effort into getting their work published, the least I should do is give it the benefit of the doubt and read it, right?

That was the reasoning behind why I choose to read the next book.

The novels I usually go for are the ones where the subject matter is sort of light-hearted. I like playful reads, with light wit, adventure and romance, and the sense that the author knows the story is not to be taken that seriously. Even the more serious fantasy that I read tends to have a mythic, poetic sort of style so as to give it a fairy tale, unreal quality (think Tanith Lee and Diana Wynne Jones). I don’t normally read series, preferring trilogies at most. There are the rare occasions of course, like Harry Potter and Redwall, but normally I like to know that the author has planned for the story to end sometime and not drag it on.

I thought I’d try to read something a little different this time, though,  so, as suggested by a family member, I read Homeland by R.A. Salvatore. Basically, upon reading the synopsis on the back of this novel, I thought I would be breaching at least 3 out of 5 of the criteria in the above list. But I thought, screw it, I was going to read it anyway.

 

iHomeland/i by R.A. Salvatore

Homeland is about the subterranean realm of the drow, dark elves that see in the infrared spectrum and honor their goddess of chaos and evil the Spider Queen Lloth. Drizzt is the main character of the story, from the House of Do’Urden, and the story follows the House’s rise in power and the ruthless immorality that guides their actions. Drizzt is different from the rest of his clan. Not only does he look different and possess wondrous skills with the scimitar and with magic, he does not share the cruel vision of the Spider Queen that all drow follow. This first novel of dozens is about Drizzt’s struggle to come to terms with his different perception of the world, the cause of his loneliness and confusion.

I actually quite enjoyed this first novel. The story was intriguing from the beginning, and I immediately wanted to

Drizzt
In the Cave – Drizzt Do’Urden by CG-Warrior

know more about this lone drow who was so different from the rest. In many ways the story was a struggle to read, because there was so much cruelty and violence. The gore and the general atmosphere of terror and mistrust, made many of the scenes very nerve wracking to read. But, it was worth it to see Drizzt struggle to triumph through it all. I can see the makings of a hero to write a series about. Intelligent, courageous, pure in morals and compassionate, it is no surprise that Drizzt has much in store for him in this dark world.

I’m finding myself actually excited to find out more about Drizzt. I like him. He’s “cool”. Though his name is resplendent in quotations marks (Drizzt Do’Urden or Drizzt Daermon N’a’shezbaernon), and the world of the drow was very complicating and riddled with customs and assorted details to remember, I still like him. Normally I resist liking characters like him, because, I confess, I think they’re a little too cool.  I mean, this elf can fight wickedly and cast magic and he’s pure of heart and has a boon companion (in the form of  a black panther) to boot. You’ve got to resist rolling your eyes and making preliminary judgements about someone like that. But, for once, I just let myself go. I thought, what the heck, I’ll just trust the author knows what he’s doing for once, and just enjoy the darn story. And I did! Now, there’s a certain character by the name of Artemi Entreri that I’ve heard talked about and I want to read about him too. I guess I’ve overcome my fear of reading the “bad” book for the moment. I think it’s about time I stop being so “high and mighty” about such plotlines and just read it!

What is your “picky” list? And do you feel like you’re being too selective?

Rating: 4/5 Wicked Elves

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2 comments

  1. my picky list:

    1. sounds dreary or depressing based on the blurb.
    2. no blurbs – i don’t buy all those good reviews plastered on the back cover instead of blurbs!
    3. too thick
    4. uninteresting covers
    5. unknown authors – kinda biased but i don’t take this into account if the plot sounds interesting enough

  2. My picky list:
    1. Creepy covers
    2. A synopsis less than three sentences long
    3. Anything that doesn’t sound like high fantasy
    4. Too thin
    5. Absolutely no decoration inside
    6. Authors that have written a ton but don’t get any praise

    Okay–I’m a pretty picky reader!

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