Finesse

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:

  1. Characters who are memorable
  2. A storyline that’s captivating page after page, either through beauty or tension
  3. Layers that deepen the book’s main question
  4. A theme that challenges the reader and makes him think
  5. Pacing that never tempts him to put the book down
  6. Language that lingers on the tongue and in the mind.
  7. 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:

  1. Alice Hoffman’s PRACTICAL MAGIC with its mix of magic and lyrical language.
  2. Sarah Addison Allen’s GARDEN SPELLS. Another blend of magical realism and lyrical writing.
  3. Elizabeth George’s literary mystery, A GREAT DELIVERANCE with its deeply flawed characters.
  4. Mae Clair’s END OF DAY in her Hode’s Hill series, as beautifully written as it is plotted.
  5. Staci Troilo’s third book, THE STONES, in her Alien Invasion series with characters, tension, and action masterfully mixed.
  6. 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.
  7. P.J. Parrish’s Louis Kincaid series (I’ve only read books 2 and 3 so far, but mean to read more)
  8. 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?