Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Tale Of Two Novels

 What makes a book good?

It has been a week of illness in the Erwin household so I'm a bit off schedule with my blog posts. I missed my weekly goal posts. It was a mostly successful week but I'll catch you up on the particulars next week. For this post I want to discuss only one my goals. In my quest to read 75 books this year I finished two more this week to bring to total to 6 thus far.

Today I'm going to compare these two novels in tale of the tape fashion.

RESONANCE is a dark fantasy novel chocked full of demons, necromancers, and other worldly spirits set in Maryland.  The heroine is a self-centered rebellious young woman who struggles to accept the fate of mankind rests on her tattooed shoulders.

An Uncommon Crusade is an inspirational work of historical fiction with a trio of protagonists spanning from the dark forests of thirteenth century Germany, through treacherous alpine passes, to a sprawling estate in  Egypt.                             

Both are compelling reads that I had a hard time stepping away from.

RESONANCE was written by Avery Debow.I have never met Avery but I've read her blog for several years now. Avery is an edgy writer of dark fiction, a roller derby gal, and someone who at least seems to be the type to speak her mind even if that means ruffling a few feathers.

An Uncommon Crusade was written by Caron Guillo. Caron is in my critique group and I see her nearly every Monday. Caron is a mom, an international tour guide who spends a good bit of time in Italy, a mild-mannered woman of what I'd call a conservative nature.

Both are extraordinary writers of a vastly different styles and subject matter.

I purchased An Uncommon Crusade in softcover for $14.95 at Caron's release part a few weeks ago.

I purchased RESONANCE as a $2.95 ebook for my nook.

An Uncommon Crusade is of rather standard length for a novel, somewhere around 100,000 words I'd guess.

RESONANCE is much longer. I haven't read enough on my nook to be certain but hazarding a guess I'd say the novel is at least 180,000 words.

As you can see the differences in the two are many. And yet both captured me. Drew me in. Kept me reading until wee hours of the night.

Begging the question. Why? What was the common denominator that made me like them?

Sure both were written by friends, one an online friend of the blogosphere and the other a friend I meet with every week in person. But I have dozens of writerly friends. About every fifth book I read was written by a friend these days and not every one compels me to keep reading the way these two titles did.

Now these days I read as a writer first. Meaning I often stop at he end of every sentence and think about ways to edit the line. I did very little of that with these two stories. The writing was simply strong enough that compulsion was lost in my need to read more.

And the very root of that need was my vested interest in the characters.

The plots were good but I was drawn in by the point of view characters. In both novels their needs, fears, and motivations perfectly rendered. That is not to say any of them were perfect. Far from it actually and I applaud both writers for shining light on their flaws as it was those imperfections that made them seem real. Made me at times wanna slap some sense into them. Made me fear things would not turn out well. And they didn't. Not in either book. Both novels left a few unanswered questions at he end. Not so much that I said," Hey what the hell? You can't end here. I wanna know ...."

But enough that I finished the last word and pondered the fate and future for the stories inhabitants.

So while I already knew that characters were my favorite part of a story and that I'm more of a character driven writer than a plot person the exact dynamics of this were made even clearer by the enjoyment I found in two very different novels.


Melissa Marsh said...

I have an incredibly hard time reading a book as a reader and not as a writer. The only time that really changes is if the story is so compelling that I don't notice the writing at all (or I'm in complete awe).

I think characters are more important than the plot for one reason: if we don't care about what happens to them, then there's no point in reading the best plot in the world.

Caron said...

I agree with you, Melissa! Writing can ruin reading. :-)

And it sounds like we're the same type of reader--along with Travis--we want to care what happens to the characters.

AvDB said...

Thank you, Travis. I had a lot of re-writes trying to find the balance between Res' hardcore nature and making readers want to care about her. I'm glad you feel it worked out.

Caron -- I love historical fiction, actually wanted to write it once (before I realized how much research went into it). I'll be adding An Uncommon Crusade to my reading list.

Caron said...

Many thanks, Avery! Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a research nerd. :-)

I'm impressed that you captured both your character's grittiness and her likability--that's a tough one! I'm guessing I have something to learn from you.

KaHolly said...

The Uncommon Crusade really appeals to me. You had mentioned it when you first purchased it and I checked into it. I'm always looking for a good read. Thanks. ~karen

Old Kitty said...

I curse the day I started writing school cos now I read as a person who has been to writing school! LOL!!!! I'm forever - oooh shifts in pov there methinks and oooh run on sentence over here!!!

Great that you had equal enjoyment of these amazing books!!

I hope you feel better soon! Take care

Aleta said...

I have 2 books on my dresser waiting to be read. oh wait.. make that 3.... and I have 6 books in my iPad/iBook that are purchased and waiting for me. And now *sigh* looks like I'll be adding 2 more to the list! I love to read. Greg can't stand it when I'm reading.. because I can't put down a good book. Seriously. I'll read through the night!

Cloudia said...

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

Gung Hee Fat Choy!


Good Luck in the
Year of the Golden Rabbit!

Junosmom said...

Cool that you know these writers. Several writers live here in town - Karen Robards is one. I have read her books, but have to cover them with brown paper.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm looking forward to Resonance. I have it on my Kindle.

tripleZmom said...

I don't normally like reading reviews of books but I really liked this post. And I now I have two more books for my reading list!

The Happy Whisk said...

Hope you are all feeling better. And good luck and have fun with the reading challenge. I'm reading Wizard of Oz for the first time.