Hi all! So it’s day 2 of Armchair BEA and I’m back with another new post for you guys. Today I will be talking about what readers want, although obviously I can only really speak for myself and not for all readers, since we all want different things out of books, and what I want from a book will not be the same as what someone else wants out of a book.
1. What makes or breaks a book?
For me, there are many things that can make or break a book. First off is the cover. I know it sounds shallow, but a pretty cover really attracts me to reading a book. That’s not to say that I won’t read a book if it doesn’t have the most gorgeous cover, in fact I have read books that don’t have pretty covers that are really brilliant, but it definitely puts a book on the back foot with me if they don’t have a pretty cover. With all of the amazing covers out there now, there is no reason for publishers not to step up their game on this one, I expect a lot more from cover art now, just because there have been so many brilliant ones recently.
For me, I’m a really plot driven reader. You can have the most brilliant characters in the world, but if your book is slow paced, it will bore me. I want to feel like I’m being swept away, like I’m being totally immersed in the book and that only happens for me if the plot is fast moving and engaging.
Characters are still obviously very important to me, I need to feel like I have a connection to the characters because otherwise I cannot root for them, and it will be impossible for me to be fully immersed in their story, which is essential for me whilst reading. I want to read about complex three dimensional characters, after all, just because they’re fictional, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t feel real! The best drawn characters for me are the ones that when I walk away from the book, feel like friends to me. But I’m not a particularly visual reader, I don’t get a sense of what characters look like in my head, I just get a feeling from them. They need to make me feel something, whether it’s happy or sad or excited or angry, I just need to feel something. If I feel totally indifferent towards the main character in a book, I won’t enjoy the story either. Ideally, there should be a balance between plot and characters, though I would definitely still choose a fast moving plot book over a slow moving character book (the characters would have to be really, really good).
As a mostly fantasy reader, world building is also really important to me. I might not be particularly visual, but again, it’s all about the feeling. I want to feel swept up in this world, I want to feel like I’ve become a part of it. It needs to feel natural, not just dumped in there, infodumping about world building is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves. If I feel immersed in a world then I’m much more likely to enjoy a book than I feel indifferent about it. Terrible world building will definitely break a fantasy book for me, it’s one of the most important things, if the world building is bad, it doesn’t matter how good the plot or the characters are, I won’t feel immersed enough in the book to enjoy it.
Romance is also a big thing for me because I’m very picky about it. If a romance is going to work for me, I have to feel like the characters have a genuine connection, it has to be a slow burn and it needs to be in the background, not overtaking the main plot. I’ve come to accept that pretty much all YA will have some romance in it, whether I like it or not, so if it has to be there, then I want it to be done well. I’m so sick of love triangles and characters who fall in love after like one day of knowing each other. It’s not realistic and will guarantee a lower rating from me. What I really want from books, more than romance, is strong friendships and character dynamics, I will be far more likely to want to read a book with strong friendship themes than I will a book with strong romance.
I also do like certain styles of writing more than others, although it’s not as big of a deal for me as some of the other things I’ve mentioned. I’m not big on purple prose, I prefer more simple writing. I do like it when I can find pretty quotes in books, but they’re not the be all, end all for me. I’m actually more into dialogue than I am into description, if authors can write sharp, witty, interesting dialogue and have great character dynamics, then I’ll be more likely to like their work than if they string a bunch of pretty descriptions together. I think this again goes back to me not being a particularly visual reader, an author can describe things as prettily as they want to, and it just won’t make a difference to me. Poorly written books with a lot of typos really bother me, because it just feels like no one has bothered to edit them, so they are definitely a break it for me.
2. How Do I Rate Books?
I rate books on a 1-5 scale, like the star system on Goodreads, it just makes it easier to keep track of my ratings that way. This is what my ratings mean:
1 star-DNF. I could not finish the book.
2 stars-I finished the book, but I really didn’t enjoy it.
3 stars-I liked the book, but I still had quite a few problems with it.
4 stars-I really, really enjoyed the book, it just didn’t have the extra “something” that a 5 star book has.
5 stars-I absolutely LOVED the book.
Ratings are honestly kind of arbitrary for me, because I might rate a book the same, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I liked it the same as another book I rated that way. There’s a spectrum, there will be some 3 star books that I like better than others, or some 5 star books that I don’t like as much as others, My ratings generally mean that the books made me feel a similar way. I like to think I’m kind of a mix of analytical and emotional reviewer, I will analyse certain technical aspects of the book in my review, but I also rate based on how a book makes me feel and that’s honestly more important to me. I’m not really looking for “great literature” when I read, I read for enjoyment and what I really want is just a great story. It doesn’t matter to me if the author isn’t going to be the next Dickens or Austen, if the story is good, I feel connected to the characters and the world and the author manages to make me feel something, no matter what that feeling is, then that is great literature to me, whether it’s won awards or not. Because that’s the most important thing about reading for me, it’s a way of making you feel, and emote and connect to other people.
3. What do I want from an author event?
I’ve been to a few author events over the years and they’ve all been lovely. For me, all I need to make an author event enjoyable is that it’s well organized, you don’t want to be kept waiting too long before going into the event room, or be kept waiting to long once you’re there. You also want the author to be interactive and engaging, I want to come away from the event having learned things I didn’t know before. You want them to feel like they’re really excited to be there and connect with you, not like they’re bored and simply doing the event for book promo. I know it’s hard for authors who have long signing lines to actually talk to you for a long time, I don’t necessarily need that to enjoy an event, just a few nice words to show that they appreciate you coming is great. I’ve learned over the years that authors are such lovely people and just going to an event and hearing how passionate they are about their work is the best thing!
4. How does diversity representation fit into all of this?
I’ll be honest, I don’t pick up books specifically for diversity. I love it when I do read a book with diverse representation but I don’t necessarily always go out of my way to look for it. I tend to pick books based on authors and genres I like, more than diversity. It’s easy for me though, I’m in a place of privilege so it’s easy for me to find representation. Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in fiction somewhere, we’ve been making progress with that but there’s still a long way to go. Authors should definitely make the effort to incorporate some diversity into their books, we shouldn’t have to go out of our way to have to find good diverse representation, it should just naturally be a part of literature. Because it’s a part of life. I think it would definitely help if author events had more diverse panels, most of the panels that I have been to have been mainly white authors and it would be nice to see more diversity in that respect. I can’t particularly say that diversity has an effect on my rating of a book, it’s all very good having diverse characters, but if those characters are flat or the plot isn’t very good, it’s not going to matter much that the characters are diverse. Just because a book has diversity doesn’t mean that it’s given a free pass to suck in other ways. If anything I want a diverse book to be even better, because it already has that good aspect, you want everything else to measure up as well. I think I would honestly feel worse if I didn’t enjoy a diverse book than if I didn’t enjoy one that wasn’t, just because you really want the rest of the book to be as good as the diverse rep.
Over to you? What do you as a reader want? Let me know in the comments!
Tomorrow, the topic I’ve chosen is Dining With The Authors, so stay tuned to see who I’d want to have a meal with!