Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When Time Stops

This is Tempting Tuesday . . . what AM I reading?

Like CJ, I'm judging the Thrillers (and the RITAs). I have two criteria when I judge a book. First, did I lose myself in the story? Second, did I not want to put it down and, if I had to, was I thinking about it while doing other things?

All the things CJ mentioned yesterday are important, such as character and plot. They go into making a book "a good read." I have my own pet peeves. Stereotypical villains, for example. Too-Stupid-To-Live females. Men who are TOO alpha or TOO beta. Contrived meetings between the hero/heroine.

But when I lose myself in a story--when the characters are so well-drawn, so real and the writing flows so smoothly--I can overlook a lot of "flaws." Because really, are a few awkward POV shifts or a too-perfect ending that big of a deal when you close the book and think, "That was good. I'm glad I read that."

I ALWAYS finished a book I began until I started seriously writing. Between my writing schedule and my kids I didn't have time to waste. I hate thinking that way, but a book that doesn't grab me is a waste of time. I HATE putting a book down unfinished. I'm the type of reader that when I start a book, I usually finish it that night. If I'm going to invest 4-5 hours--my entire evening and some of my sleep time--I need to be lost in the story.

Authors who always pull me in include JD Robb, Tess Gerritsen, Kay Hooper, Linda Howard, Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter and Michael Connelly. These are established authors, and for good reason--they all know how to tell a story. They know how to draw me in so deep that I don't notice the passage of time, and all of the sudden it's two in the morning and I'm wide-eyed as I'm reading the last chapter. I want to find out what happens, but I don't want the book to end.

Time stops.

I can't talk about all the books this happened with because I'm still in the judging process, but the last book that I haven't judged where this happened was THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly. I started it on the plane ride from Atlanta (RWA) last summer, and that night after everyone was in bed, when I was exhausted from travel and the time change, I stayed up to finish the dang book because I couldn't get the characters out of my head. I HAD to know what happened or I'd never sleep.

This also happened with a book I was asked to blurb. I started it at nine one evening, planning on reading about a third of it. All of the sudden, it's one in the morning and I'm frantically flipping pages of the ARC, dying to know what was going to happen next, completely lost in the characters and the story, laughing out loud and giggling. That was BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY, the debut novel by Toni McGee Causey that's coming out in May. (Aside: yes, I'm very jealous. This is her DEBUT book and it's so damn good!)

What was the last book you read where time stopped and you couldn't put it down until the last page was turned?

P.S. Now for something completely different . . . blatant self-promo. Today the first book of my new trilogy is released. It's already out pretty much everywhere--I saw it at my grocery store yesterday and at Target. People have emailed me that they've bought it over the weekend at Walmart and Borders. So it's out there! SPEAK NO EVIL is a romantic suspense that touches on current events: online safety. In my story, a college girl is found brutally murdered and dumped on the beach, her much older ex-boyfriend the primary suspect. As detective Carina Kincaid and Sheriff Nick Thomas dig deeper into the victim's life, they learn she has an online sex diary that isn't as anonymous as she thought.


Xuxa said...

I found this blog through Allison's regular blog.

Is it possible for y'all to publish a feed so I can read this everyday at work?

Oddly, blogspot is blocked but not the site of my reader.

Samantha Hunter said...

The last book I read that held me like that was the Maria Snyder books -- the first one (Poison Study) more than the second (Magic Study), but the second was still excellent. Looking forward to the third.

The down side of a book that grabs you like that is you lose sleep if you are a bedtime reader, which I am... LOL


Samantha Hunter said...

Ugh, sorry for the lack of noun/verb agreement in that first post... still early, pre-coffee! God, we need an edit feature on this thing, LOL


Allison Brennan said...

Samantha, you should have seen the first draft of my blog . . . I had so many grammatical errors. Shows me I really SHOULDN'T write at 1 in the morning!

Hi Xuxa! I know nothing about feeds. I'll forward your note to our web guru and see what we can do about it. It's blogger. I don't know how limited we are. Thanks for stopping by, though!!! :)

Allison Brennan said...

BTW, Samantha, you're the SECOND person in two days who has mentioned POISON STUDY to me. That's good word of mouth!

Alexis Morgan said...

For me, the last book that stopped me in my tracks was LOVER AWAKENED by J.R. Ward. Zsadist's character growth over the course of the three books in the series was one of most amazing story arcs I've ever seen.

For me, the best books are the ones where I worry and wonder about the characters long after I've read the book. Another example is Izzy in Suzanne Brockmann's last book.

And I also hate to put down a book unfinished--so when I am uninspired by something I'm reading, I read the last chapter to give myself some closure and then move on.

Allison Brennan said...

Alexis, I just can't read the ending if I don't read the book. It feels like cheating. :)

I absolutely HAVE to read JR Ward. I have the first and/or second book here, I just haven't had time lately between deadlines and judging the Thrillers, and now I have my Rita entries to judge. But SOON. I try to bring pleasure reads on plane rides, and I'm going on a few trips this spring. Maybe I'll get all 3 or 4 of her releases and do a binge read. That's how I "caught up" on the JD Robb books when I discovered them at about book 5 or 6.

cj said...

LOL! Allison, it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who won't finish a book if it doesn't grab me. I still feel so guilty about it!

But there just isn't enough time in the world for all the books out there!

CJ (who's saving FIND ME by Carol O'Connell to read next because all her books make time stop for me!)

Maria, Lover of All Things Romance said...

The last book that kept me hooked was 'A French Affair' by Susan Lewis. It had everything, and it was so wonderful, I recommend that you go to Amazon and order it now, it is so worth reading!

Cheryl Bolen said...

Life's too short to spend time reading unenjoyable books.

As a historical author, I spend a great deal of my reading time on non-fiction diaries and such from the Regency era. But as for fiction, I probably finish only one of each ten books I start. I'm just too critical.

That being said, the last novel I couldn't put down was, surprisingly to me, an inspirational romance by newcomer Deeanne Gist, who's in my local Romance Writers chapter. It's no surprise this lady was awarded the Christy Award and has gone into 13 trade-size printings. She's a fabulous story teller. I don't normally read Christian romances, but this gal is a wonderful author.

Allison Brennan said...

Cheryl, thank you for the recommendation! I have a lot of friends who enjoy Christian romances. I read some faith-based suspense (like Frank Peretti--he scares me, in a good way!) but I don't read a lot of the romances. I like being able to recommend good writers.