I've been spending too much time reading lately. I was so relieved to get my final edits done on Changing Worlds that once they were in, I completely shunned all my own work and started eating up other people's. Now I know I have to get back on task (yes, I'm constantly thinking about Cinders, it's on its way) but I thought I'd take a moment to mention a few things that appeal to me, personally, in what I read.
There are times when I read a story and it simultaneously fills me with pleasure and depresses me, because it's so good and so different that I know nothing I write could ever compare to it. And comparison isn't the point, every author is meant to have their own voice and I like the way I write, but sometimes I read something and I just go, "Oh wow. Damn."
BTW, these aren't reviews or necessarily recommendations, they're just things I've taken away from some recent reads that I've particularly enjoyed.
One thing I try to be comprehensive with in my own writing is worldbuilding, and it's probably the biggest selling point for me when it comes to other people's stuff. Before plot, before character, I like a setting and a scene. I want to smell and taste and hear what's going on. Descriptions don't have to drone on, but they do have to be relevant and interesting. I just finished The Time of the Singing by Louise Blaydon, and I absolutely loved her setting. One of her main characters was a Catholic priest and the way things were described, from his various duties to Latin mass to how he felt about his own homosexuality in the context of church law, was all amazing. I had to read the Latin parts out loud just so I could feel them roll off my tongue and increase my sense of atmosphere. This writer was someone who knew Catholicism, or at least did enough research to make it seem like she knew it to me, a non-Catholic. I loved it.
Did I love everything else about the book? No, I thought some of her characterization was rushed, and that she presented an unfeasably mature and forward 17-year old as a bit of a device for action. But I read it and I will read it again, with pleasure, because of how evocative her setting was.
I appreciate a good action scene. A lot of people try to write them, but often they come off feeling contrived and sort of "And then they were here" or "And with a feat of heroic ____, he killed his enemy." One series I follow is Andrea Speed's Infected stories, concerning werecats in modern society, and while I love her writing for the realism she brings to an unreal subject and characters who are memorable and well rounded, her action scenes are great. Even the ones that aren't meant to be anything special, just the description of someone walking, dancing or picking out their clothes, are all wonderful. She doesn't overuse words (not everything we do is sexy, not even in a romance), she doesn't overuse angst (I know your life sucks, but seriously, time to get over it or die) and she has a wonderful sense of flow. Good flow is something I'm working on, and reading her stuff just makes me more determined to get it right.
The last ones I'm going to bring up here are very popular in the genre, and rightfully so, because these books embody a sort of nebulous concept in writing, which often comes down to, "You either have it or you don't." The Cut and Run series starring FBI agenty Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are some of the most fun you can have while reading. The characters are delightful, the plots are interesting, the sex is very hot, and nothing is rushed--these are some long books, people. Very satisfying to read, and satisfaction is important in erotic romance. Again, are the books perfect? No. Because they're written by two authors, Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux, there are two distinct voices in the text. In the case of dialogue this can work very well, but sometimes it can be jarring. They're an impressive accomplishment of collaboration, however, and so much fun to read. In fact, as an author who's never successfully coauthored with anyone, I read them a little wistfully too.
So! Just thought I'd throw this out there, since it's been a while since my last post and Cinders isn't ready for you. Feel free to throw some recs my way if you can think of something that might appeal to me, I love knowing who else is in the library of my readers.