What Makes a Book Good

Today’s post is brought to you on behalf of book review responsibilities. I’ve signed up to read several books for review and I’ve had one of them on my nightstand, reading a chapter a night for about a month. Or at least that’s what I shot for. Imagine my shock when I realized I was not even halfway through a comparatively short book! I’m afraid I find all sorts of reasons not to read it before I go to bed. It’s too late, I’m tired, I have to get up early in the morning and write my own stories. The real reason is, the book has endless chapters where nothing happens. This was brought home to me last week when I picked up a different review book to take with me while I’m on errands. This second book, “Hidden Voices,” (if you’re interested in music or Renaissance Italy, take a look at it. I will have a full review up within a week at Historical Novel Review, but not here because of the setting) is a joy to read. The characters are so well done and the author clearly knows Venice and music. So I’m faced with the juxtaposition of these books and I know why I dislike one and have devoured the other. But I enjoy other books for different reasons, which does lead to this week’s question:

What are must-have points for you in a good book? One of my best friends and I discussed this a while back. For one of us, setting was important, but another wanted stronger characterization. I wanted some sort of plot if either one of these weren’t a strong-point, but she didn’t care. For me to love a book, I need to identify with or admire the characters and be lifted up emotionally by them. So what draws you in?

Who Are You Reading?

Dragon SeedMy friend, Sangu has a great post today and I think it’s so important as a writer to do the sort of exercise she suggests, that I want to recommend you visit her.
She takes apart Daphne Du Maurier’s “Frenchman’s Creek” and discovers what moves her in the book and how she can use what she’s learned. I’ve done this many times in the past. I’m sure many of us have and all of us should. My “go to” book is sometimes “Tigana,” by Guy Gavriel Kay, sometimes “Pride and Prejudice” by the immortal Jane Austen. I’ve also done it with Pearl S. Buck’s “Dragon Seed” and “The Good Earth.”

What novels do you study after you’ve devoured them?