These days, I enjoy reading a larger number of writers than I did when I was younger. Back then, the only books I bought were in book stores, and I always looked for my favorite authors. I didn’t experiment often. It pained me to pay for a paperback, get a few chapters into it, and then realize I didn’t like it, but since I paid for the darned thing, I almost always finished it. I couldn’t bring myself to throw a book away, so I usually stuck it on a high shelf on my bookcase that I didn’t look at often, or I tossed it on the table at a local store where people traded used paperbacks.
Now that I have a Kindle, I’m more adventurous. I’m more willing to pay $2.99 to $5.99 for a book that I’m not sure I’ll enjoy. If it doesn’t grab me in three chapters or if it just isn’t my thing, I stop reading there and don’t mind sending it into cyber archives. I don’t feel the need to finish a book I start anymore, but since I’m trying more authors and more styles, I’ve had more luck finding new writers I like.
There are many, many authors I read just for entertainment at the end of the day. I consider these writers storytellers. They keep me engaged with their characters and their exploits. So much so, that I often buy the next book in their series. But what a joy it is when I find a writer with finesse. For me, finesse is a book where the elements of writing all come together in a serendipitous symphony of harmony. A hard thing to accomplish. I can count books like that on my fingers and only a few toes. Even the same author can’t pull it off every time.
These are some of the things I feel elevate a book from the usual to the extraordinary:
- Characters who are memorable
- A storyline that’s captivating page after page, either through beauty or tension
- Layers that deepen the book’s main question
- A theme that challenges the reader and makes him think
- Pacing that never tempts him to put the book down
- Language that lingers on the tongue and in the mind.
- And all of these things need to blend into one cohesive, wonderful whole
And these are some of the books (I’m not listing classics) that qualify for finesse for me:
- Alice Hoffman’s PRACTICAL MAGIC with its mix of magic and lyrical language.
- Sarah Addison Allen’s GARDEN SPELLS. Another blend of magical realism and lyrical writing.
- Elizabeth George’s literary mystery, A GREAT DELIVERANCE with its deeply flawed characters.
- Mae Clair’s END OF DAY in her Hode’s Hill series, as beautifully written as it is plotted.
- Staci Troilo’s third book, THE STONES, in her Alien Invasion series with characters, tension, and action masterfully mixed.
- Julia Donner’s, (a close friend of mine), AVENUE TO HEAVEN. Yes, I’m biased, but I think she writes historical romances and Regencies exceptionally well.
- P.J. Parrish’s Louis Kincaid series (I’ve only read books 2 and 3 so far, but mean to read more)
- And I have to mention Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series.
Reading is personal and subjective, so what I consider a standout might not stir someone else to even turn a page. So what about you? What author do you read because you admire their writing? What books do you consider exceptional?