Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is the very entertaining weekly meme hosted by the gals over at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Every week they pick the Top Ten subject matter, then we all join in. Take a look to see what other book bloggers are writing about today's subject: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves.

I wonder if I have as many as 10 Bookish Peeves in me. Yeah, probably. (HA!) Okay, in no particular order, here goes:

1) Ugly book covers. An ugly, badly designed book jacket makes me think the publisher didn't give a damn so why should I? There is NEVER an excuse for bad design. (Bad is probably just as expensive to create as good.) I am a BIG fan of letterpress and artist hand-lettering when it comes to covers. But now with everything being done on computer, the use of uninteresting type face for example, is paramount. There is a flat blandness and sameness to computer done covers that I dislike. (I also dislike the look and feel of certain magazines run off on computer.) Not all new covers have this, mind you, but enough so that I notice. Examples of great covers that have the 'richness' of great design and artwork: the Harry Potter covers.

2) The 'sameness' of women's books, including their utterly boring covers. Why is it so easy to 'tell' a woman's book sitting on a rack, from thirty paces? The same pastel covers and 'gentle' imagery. The first few times this worked and was interesting. The 1000th time, it leaves me indifferent. There is also a certain 'sameness' of content which is one of the reasons I rarely read the best selling 'women's' books. I know I am probably overlooking lots of good writing, but honestly, the subject matter in most of these books leaves me cold. I know I am probably in the minority but, there it is. By the way, I read both male and female writers in a kind of 50/50 ratio (more or less).

3) A hundred million viewpoints. Okay, I exaggerate. But you know what I mean. I am not an admirer of multiple viewpoints to tell a story. I will tolerate it from my very favorite writers but only because they are excellent in their craft and mostly know what they're doing. But I would still prefer to stick with one character OR with a third party overview. I am overly fond of first person story telling so I am prejudiced in its favor when I pick up a book and read the first page to see what's what. If you write good first-person, I will likely read you.

4) Happy hitman books. I am not a fan of professional killers telling their side of the story. I am not a fan of 'reformed'' hitmen telling their side of the story. I am not a fan of hired killers or serial killers becoming the 'heroes' of their own books. Even if they are handsome and dress nicely. I just can't get around the fact that characters who kill for money or because they have some strange compulsion to do so, cannot be entirely trusted to tell me anything that will enrich my life. I am just not that sophisticated.

5) Genre disrespect. As far as I am concerned, there are only two types of books: good and bad. I do not like it when I feel hemmed in or 'forced' to apologize for what I read. Okay, that hardly ever happens anymore, but yeah, occasionally it still does. I dislike most of the uses of classification. I don't mind qualifying a book as a 'mystery or western or science fiction, etc' - that's fine. (Especially if have an affection for a certain sort of books to begin with.) It's when the classification itself is used to denigrate, to make one book somehow 'less than' another simply by the fact that one tells a certain sort of story and the other doesn't. There is good writing and there is bad writing. One of those is the only thing that interests me.

6) Book endings where everything just sort of peters out. Jeez, I hate that. I also prefer a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, if at all possible. (And why this should be impossible I simply do not know.) I am a HUGE fan of linear story-telling.

7) Telling the story in the present tense. No, no, a thousand times NO! I think I've yet to finish a book written in this popular style of writing. This combined with stream of consciousness is enough to make me run screaming from the room. Well...almost.

8) Paperbacks that fall apart after one or two readings. Yeah, it still happens. The paper is usually crap thin (feels like newsprint) and the pages are falling out almost before you get to the end. I know, I know, with Kindle this will never happen. Puh-leeze!

9) Dialect. Don't like it. Far as I'm concerned, it's not necessary. (Unless it is done extremely well. There is always the exception to this and any other sort of writing rule - talent and genius can get away with just about anything.) Although I do like sometimes when a writer is having a bit of fun with it, THEN it's okay. As in Alan Bradley's new Flavia de Luce book. One of the characters being 'grilled' is a three year old kid slurping on a stick of candy so when he says his name is Timofy (for Timothy) I have no choice but to laugh out loud.

10) Animal cruelty. I simply will not read a book which has this sort of thing as a feature of the plot. If by some chance I run across this in a story and the situation is not immediately fixed and the miscreant drawn and quartered, I stop reading.

Since I seem to have a peevish nature to begin with, I probably could have come up with 10 more (in fact, I can think of several right off the bat...), but these will do for the moment. So, what are YOUR favorite book peeves?


  1. I have dialect done on my list as well. It drives me nuts and I can't figure out what's being said at all.

  2. I confess I've bought the same book twice because I liked the second cover better. Maybe you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I do.

  3. Red: Yes, when it's done to extreme it drives me crazy. You almost have to 'sound' the thing out. Don't like it.

  4. Mythical Monkey: Aren't we shallow? HA! Well, a bad cover won't stop me reading a book if I think the book's any good. But it does make me pause, that's for sure. If I can replace a mass market hideous with a nicely designed trade edition, I will do it.

  5. Agree, agree, agree with all of it, and more.

    Will have to think these over.

    I also cannot stand when an ending goes off the edge of a cliff, either with a coincidence or an accident (suddenly the suspect dropped the gun 50 feet down a cliff, or help shows up from Mars or something, or an impossible conclusion that comes out of left field or just could not happen.

    Also, I can't stand book covers full of gratuitous violence, especially against women. Many publishers, I have read in online book websites/blogs ask artists to do covers with women dead or tied up, stabbed, in terror, etc., even if the victim isn't a woman.
    They think this sells--that is weird to me if it's true. But a ban on these covers is needed.

    I just finished a book where people who were about to be killed were saved because the gangsters suddenly had a coup against their boss and shot him instead. And all of a sudden a teen-ager has say to an older gangster over who lives and who dies! I was aghast.

    I think the endings should be a realistic extension of the plot and make sense. And work. It may take more creativity and imagination, but, gee.

  6. Kathy: I agree with your comments as well. I hate covers with women in violent situations. By the way I don't like covers with blood splatter much, but I'll put up with them and do.

    I like endings with surprises, but not endings with impossible out of the blue occurences.

  7. Carol laughs as she reads no.7 on Yvette's list. She agrees.

    I think of publishers the same way I think of film and television producers. The easiest thing to do is turn out more of the same, even if more of the same is not innovative or interesting. Writers have little or no control over their covers (unless they happen to be best selling authors, of course). I'm speaking from (limited) personal experience here. I'd guess it's a matter of luck whether your cover is assigned to a good artist or not. You can only pray that it is, and that he/she doesn't put Fabio in the picture.

  8. Carol: I laughed too. Writing it. Ha!

    I know the writer is not to blame for the cover art or design - except, as you say, for the BIG name people. I'll tell you what I liked hearing though, that J.K. Rowling made sure that the wonderful artist who did her American covers got a percentage of the royalties.

  9. Love your list and agree on all points. I mention covers and stream of consciousness too. I am a BIG fan of plot. And #7 is a definite favorite!

    Here's my complete list: http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-tuesday-bookish-pet-peeves.html

  10. Now I'm trying to remember if I've read any books that used the present tense - it really isn't a popular choice, is it? For good reason, of course!

    I like your #5 immensely.

    I think writing from a serial killer's perspective can make an interesting read, though I don't know how realistic such portrayals are. "Dexter" is a pretty addictive show based on a serial-killer-as-hero book series.

  11. I didn't know Rowling did that. Classy!

  12. I have to agree with the genre disrespect. I'm a fan of fantasy, where are a lot of talented writers thrive. They never seem to get the respect that other "literary" authors, who may not be as good, do.

    My issue with covers, isn't neccesaryily that they are bad. My problem is how many of them end up looking identical. I noticed, and I think I even commented once, on how many recently published books featured a woman's back. It seemed everywhere I looked, there were at least 1 or 2 more that I never saw before. I think I lost count at 50 something.

  13. Ryan: Yes, if you look at a book rack from a distance, you can really see the similarity of the covers. Boring. This is especially true in what is called women's books. Blech!

    I think sometimes that genre disrespect is really genre envy. ;)

  14. Bev: Yeah, it never makes any sense to me to tell a story in the present tense. What - is the narrator on a speaker-phone announcing the story at the time it's happening? How does that work? I find it hard to suspend my disbelief so I tend to not read this sort of thing at all.

    My feeling is that doing away with plot is an easy way out if you're not a natural born 'plotter'. And you might get away with it if you have a LOT of talent or are a genius in some way that makes what you have to say interesting despite no plot. I've read a couple of those, but they are rare and far between far as I'm concerned.

    And oh yeah, if you're going the 'stream of consciousness' way at least make sure your 'stream' makes some kind of sense!!!

  15. Dani: I'm just not a fan of DEXTER. I read the first book in the series and that was enough for me, thank you very much. The tv series features an actor I don't like, so that might have something to do with my not watching it as well.

    But I'm just not fond of these types of books.

    Yeah, present tense story telling: UGH! :)

  16. Carol: Far as I know, Rowling did this. I read it somewhere and I'm assuming it's true. Illustrators sometimes get short shrift when it comes to popular series. The writer cleans up while the artist has to settle for a settled fee for each book. Now this can be lucrative, but it's always better to have a royalty deal if you can get one. NOT easy to do when it comes to the art.

    This doesn't apply to picture books where, I believe, the artist generally also gets a royalty. Usually.

  17. Went back and reread this. I agree on the stream of consciousness and present tense. Why are we interested in someone's stream of consciousness? We have our own daily internal monologues we have to tiptoe through. Do we need other people's? Of course, thinking is okay, but not pages and pages with no dialogue or action or another person.

    I completely agree on disliking serial killers or hitmen's point of view. In fact, I will not read books with alternating chapters with them and then the main protagonist. Don't want to know their points of view at all. Not interested. (I handed a book which included alternating chapters to a friend and said "throw this out, and do not give it back to me.")

    I stopped reading one author between the psychopath's point of view and the graphic violence against women--and this was a woman author, no less.

    And genre disrespect: I ignore it. Mystery fiction is becoming more acceptable, and there's lots of good stuff out there, so just discern between good and bad writing, pick your genres and read.

    I also cannot stand, as long as honesty prevails here, when a book is non-stop action, no character development, no feel for the people, no thinking. There has to be a balance.

    And, yes, I am a fan of good plots, character development, puzzles, rational endings. Sometimes I think the problem is bad writing and lack of imagination. Instead of writing more brutality or bizarre nonlogical endings, or stream of consciousness, how about more good plotting and quality writing?

    I also can't stand a book written to a 5th grade reading level, the case with many books.
    (Maybe that's too old; many 10-year-olds read adult books.)

    Today, publishers want best-sellers and sales and often quality writing suffers, which is really a shame.

  18. Kathy: I agree completely. Sometimes I wonder why women authors give in to the prevailing fashion for over-the-top violence against women.
    There are a couple of women authors who really excel in this sort of ugliness. They make money so they'll keep doing it. That's the way of the world.


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