August 23, 2013

A Reader's Quirks #2: Five Steps to Reading a Novel

I'm back with the second installment of my random feature about the who, what, where, when and why of reading, where I talk about my own relationship with books/genres/authors, and ask my visitors to do the same if they feel so inclined. This could have been easily turned into a meme, but there's a reason why it didn't...I still don't see myself as an established enough blogger to host yet another meme. Even those with an impressive number of followers aren't necessarily overwhelmed with participation, so I'm not going there just yet. This doesn't mean "A Reader's Quirks" won't be promoted to meme status one day, should it be the case. It's all up to you, really :).

ARQ logo by digital artist Lissa

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This time I'm going to share my...


Because yes, there are a few different approaches. Lots of people fall in love with an enticing cover first thing. Lots stick to their favourite genre(s) and tend to read most of the novels that fall within it (or them). Lots are pulled by the most popular books. A smaller number, I guess, go by word of mouth (as in, advice from trusted friends/bloggers). Me? I'm a pain in the ass ;D.* Before a book comes my way, it usually has to endure a series of trials and pass them all with flying colours. Because yes, I have to spend my money on it.

* [I learned my lesson a couple of years ago - never buy on impulse. It often ends with less-than-3-star books for me].

So looking forward to this one!

STEP 1: CLEVER TITLE (hinting at something up my alley)

Most of the books I've read (or I'm positively sure I want to read) started their journey with a clever, alluring title
. I would browse through Goodreads (or other sites occasionally) and read titles like Anna Dressed in Blood, Deadgirl, Touching the Surface, How to Say Goodbye in Robot, Lucid, Man in the Empty Suit, Soul Beach, The Lost Girl, All Our Yesterdays...Some of them seemed to allude to my favourite genres/themes (like Afterlife or Time Travel); others were simply...evocative. Very few of them have turned out to be misleading.

...and to this one too

STEP 2: INTERESTING BLURB (promising a treat)

Of course, once the title did its job of drawing me, it's up to the blurb to make me stay. Thought-provoking sci-fi, new takes on the afterlife, not-overused multiverse plots, characters who don't fit in...But if I only read something that goes like “lonely girl endowed with powers falls for new, mysterious schoolmate who holds the key to her diversity” or such, I flee. Same for love triangles (though I can tolerate a small amount of them if need be) and lurve-driven plots. [...]

STEP 3: EARLY REVIEWS (a.k.a. digging for negative impressions)

Weak world-building? No thanks
And now, thanks to the lucky fellow bloggers/reviewers who managed to get their hand on a early copy, I want to know more. At this stage, I may have put my would-be future read either in my TR (To Read) list or in my NS (Not Sure) list, depending on the level of convincement the blurb was able to exert on me. (The TR list is not necessarily a safe house though, because I've been known to erase books from it too, though I must admit it's a rare occurrence). Now, what I need is...a valid reason why I shouldn't read my book. So I browse through the 1 and 2 star reviews on Goodreads, and I try to match my reading requirements with those of the most merciless reviewers. If they were put off by something that I wouldn't find annoying or pivotal, I move on to the good and glowing reviews, and try to understand what generated that amount of hype - or to see through it...

Excerpt won me over completely

STEP 4: SATISFACTORY EXCERPT (either engaging prose or exciting teaser or interesting characters...or all)
My would-be future read is close to release date at last. And I relentlessly stalk Amazon - or the author's site - begging for an excerpt that can nail down my choice. At this stage, it's not often that I cross a book from my list - also because early reviewers have already addressed any writing issue of said book - but it did happen a few times, simply because the style didn't work for me. Mostly, I only want to savour my future book while I'm waiting for it to be released ;).

Too love-driven? Not for me

STEP 5: MORE REVIEWS (if confirmation is required)

If my would-be read is still on the fence at this point, it doesn't necessarily mean a dark fate. I only need more reviews (yes! gimme more!). Or I only need the right one, for good or for bad. Because - aside from having to spend my money on the book - I need to commit to it. So I continue to relentlessly stalk Goodreads (ever tried that useful device? in your menu you enter Explore, then click on People > Recent Reviews > Recent Reviews of My Books, and then scroll down the page...that's what I do every day. Yes, I'm obsessed) for new takes on the novel. And sometimes I finally decide it's not up to my standards - which, of course, doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. Just not my thing.

Thank goodness I didn't miss this gem!

According to Wikipedia, between 5 and 8% of men and less than 1% of women are colour-blind.
I am totally cover-blind.
Not that I don't appreciate a good one...but when it comes to choosing my next read, a book could even come in a black package with a white title - or the reverse.
Now, my penchant for clever titles and absolute distrust of cute covers almost cost me one of the best stories I've ever read. Sweethearts (my review here) - I don't know how I made it past the title and the cover. I can't for the life of me remember how I managed to get as far as the blurb. Maybe the book was in some interesting-sounding list. The Sweethearts incident did teach me not to necessarily dismiss a book because of its title and cover - though I still suspect it is the exception that proves the rule...

Now, you. Yes, you. I'm curious about what makes you tick when it comes to a book. If you buy/read on impulse, or put your would-be future books through a filtering process. You're welcome to link to any significant review or post of yours that is somehow related to this one. C'mon. Told you, I'm curious...

For more Reader's Quirks click here.
Like to talk books? You might also be interested in this post. Comments are welcome!


  1. I think outside of the cover and blurb the thing I do to weed books out are read their reviews, ESPECIALLY the bad ones. I swear I will spend an entire hour reading reviews on amazon. My sister really relies on me for this because she just doesn't have the patience, but I hate to invest in a book that I'm not sure about.

    There have been a few books where if I relied on the good 4-5 reviews then it would have me thinking its a great book, but what I've noticed from some authors especially self published books is that the good reviews say how much of a great book it was without any complaints, like " Oh my god,this would make a great movie! Everyone will love with this book". But I haven't read reputable reviews where anyone has mentioned that a book would make a good movie. I never mention anything like that because when a book is so good, I'm always afraid that the movie won't live up to my expectations

    I think authors get their family members or friends to leave reviews so that it looks better to agents or publishing houses. But it's not really honest, ya know?

    So in short, I try to read what the people who didn't like it said, more than likely they will break down why and its up for me to decided whether or not ill challenge their opinion by reading it. If its not too bad of a reason they hated it, I'm good to go!!!

    1. LOL, I'm glad I'm not the only one obsessing over reviews - and digging for the negative ones ;). And you're totally right about the amount of 4-5 stars reviews where people only seem to gush about the book without giving a specific reason for it, or addressing a single negative point, slight as it may be. It also looks like many indie authors have fellow writers leaving positive comments about their books, in a mutual exchange. This is particularly noticeable on GR, because you can look at the reviewer's profile, and more than often another author will pop up...
      Also, you have a good point about the movie comment. What's a book to do with a movie? All right, many novels are made into movies, I get it. But it's not like being cinematic is all a book needs, or a valid reason to read it - and anyway, reading and watching are two completely different experiences...

  2. Covers really don't work for me anymore. They are almost all the same these days and if I see one more girl looking over her surlier in a beautiful dress I'll scream lol

    I usually see tweets that generally say OMG OMG OMG THIS BOOK. I then head over to Goodreads and read a few reviews from people I trust then I seek out the 2-3 star reviews to make my decision. I will never buy a book based on all 5 star reviews. That may seem unfair because if I love a book I give it that rating but I think negative reviews tend to go a little deeper and help me decide.

    I don't get to hung up on it though. I used to investigate a book to death lol but now I'm more laid back about it.

    1. Your cover comment was amusing. And the tweets one...too. Even on GR these OMG comments tend to pop up a lot...completed with gifs (often Supernatural ones, I noticed - or more specifically...Dean ones) I can only imagine what's like on T. Also, there's the huge amount of 5 stars freely given to books that aren't even out yet!

      I agree that less-than-stellar reviews are often the ones that go deeper...though I see that there are many people (like me LOL) who try to warn would-be readers about what the book is really like, even if they personally loved it to bits.

      I have to investigate books to death (love the quote LOL)...because I still have to buy them all! Only recently I got the chance to get three free PDFs via a GR group called "Making Connections"...but I'd still feel uncomfortable reading a book I'm not reasonably sure of, even a free one...

  3. I am bit shallow compared to everyone here...I am way too attracted to covers! ^_^

    Even though I love looking at pretty covers, the first thing that usually gets my attention is the title. (Have you read Lucid? I haven't...but I find lucid dreaming very interesting)
    And I agree with you on the early reviews! I do the exact same thing! I browse all the reviews on Goodreads but only read the one and two star reviews.

    Thank you for letting us know about the Recent Rreviews on My Books feature...I had no idea it existed! :)

    1. Well, there's no harm in being attracted to covers...if they match their content ;).

      Lucid, yes, I read it...still have to write a proper review...but I gave it 4 stars on GR. It was extremely well written, and I particularly loved the final chapters, where the two worlds start to collide. Recommended :).

      I only discovered the Recent Reviews of My Books feature a couple of months ago - one day I was bored and I decided to browse through all the links in my GR account to see what they were about. Glad I gave you a useful tip!

  4. I LOVE THIS POST. Seriously, Roberta, I pretty much have the same process. Not to just buy (since I do that rarely) but to prioritize my time since there seems to be so many to read all at once. Or interests of trying to find something to read, if that makes since. The title needs to hook me, the blurb needs to not confuse me or sound hokey, I want to see all kinds of reviews (because like you said, I want to see what's behind the hype, but also see what people had to negatively say about it and see if it would be too much for me), and then I judge A LOT on covers. If it doesn't LOOK like my type of book, no matter everything else, I might not read it...which is horrible, I know.

    Anyways, love it!

    1. Wow wow, thanks! :D

      To me the matter with covers is...I wouldn't want for books to get an easy appeal just because someone glued a pretty pic in front of them...I mean, if the publishers should suspect that an average (or bad) book can sell just on account of its cover, we could be easily fooled. But wait...maybe they already think so...?


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