Monday, 19 March 2012

Book Discussion: Buzz Words and Deal Breakers

Buzz Words and Deal Breakers

This book discussion was started by Misty at The Book Rat on her Youtube channel. Buzz words are elements and words which really make you want to read a book, may they be in the title, plot summary, cover or blurb. Deal breakers are elements which really turn you off a book and make you not want to read it and go bleurgh and put down the book and step away...or maybe not even pick it up at all! Here are mine:

Buzz Words

There are a lot of themes/settings/plot elements which make me want to read a book. If any of the following are involved I'm almost guaranteed to pick it up...and probably enjoy it.

1. Collections and Collectors
For some reason I really love the idea of somebody who is obsessed with collecting something...particularly if it's something creepy or sinister.

Examples: 'The Collector' by John Fowles in which the main character collects butterflies (which is also something that intrigues me for some reason), 'The Bone Collector' by Jeffery Deaver, 'Crash' by J.G Ballard.

2. Anything with an abnormally long and strange/unusual/whimsical title.

I love books that have really strange and unique titles. Most of the books on my bookshelf are examples of this. 

Examples: 'The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making' by Catherynne M.Valente, '37 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear' by Walter Moers, 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness.

3. Books that have unusual formats and Metafiction

I love books that break the boundaries of traditonal structure of a novel and think outside the box to do something different. I like books in verse, books that are not in the right order, books with illustrations and different typefaces intersected, books including photographs, books that are an unusual size...etc. I also like metafiction which includes books that self consciously address the fact it is a book or include fake footnotes, prologues, references etc.

Examples: 'Tree of Codes' by Jonathan Safran Foer, 'House of Leaves' by Mark Z. Danielewski, 'The 13 and a 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear' by Walter Moer, 'Poor Things' by Alasdair Gray, 'The Selected Works of T.S Spivet' by Reif Larson.

4. Unreliable Narrators

I love it when you don't know if the narrator of the story is telling the truth/is mad/is making the story seem a certain way to make themselves look better. It's something that, when done really well, really makes you want to read right up until the end. The Shutter Island effect for books.

Examples: Charles Kinbote in 'Pale Fire' by Vladimir Nabokov and Humbert Humbert in 'Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov, the Governess in 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James, the Duke in 'The Underground Man' by Mick Jackson, 'Chief' Bromden in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

5. Fantastical/ Whimsical/ Magical/ Grotesque/ Carnival/ Peculiar/ Curious/ Circus

Any book which has any element of the above appeals to me. I like dark humour, stange warped things, unusual creatures, anything involving magic and witches, sinister characters...etc.

Examples: 'The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman' by Angela Carter, 'Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs, 'The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities' by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, 'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn.

6. Fairytale and Mythology

I think this is quite a common one for most readers to love but fairytales/fairytale retellings/myth retellings always appeal to me. 

Examples: 'The Sisters Red' by Jackson Pearce, 'The Penelopiad' by Margaret Atwood, 'Beastly' by Alex Flinn, 'The Princess Bride' by William Goldman.

7. Graphic Novels, Beautiful Covers and Illustrated Books

Any book that has a gorgeous cover, beautiful illustrations and artwork that is part of the plot is something I will check out. This includes comics and graphic novels- if the art is good then I know I will enjoy it even if the story is not so good.

Examples: 'Blankets' by Craig Thompson, 'Castle Waiting' by Linda Medley.

8. Comfort Reads: Books set in mansions, huge sprawling estates, castles, beautiful countryside or on islands.

When I want a book that will really cheer me up, I pick up 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M Montgomery or 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The first for its setting and the gorgeous location on Prince Edward Island, and the second for it's huge house and grounds that you can get lost in. These things really appeal to me when I am feeling down and always make me feel good! Escapism basically.

Examples: 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S Lewis, 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, 'The House at Tyneford' by Natasha Solomon.

There are lots of words which insta-attract me to a book, even if they are tiny elements of the story or barely feature at all. These include:

Deal Breakers

Now for the Deal Breakers which are elements/words which instantly make me not want to read a book. Yet they are not set in stone; all of them, if done well, can be good and I will like them...I would still read a book with the elements below if it was getting amazing reviews and was recommended to me by someone who knew my reading tastes.

1. 'Chick Lit' or 'Romance'

I just really can't read that stuff. It annoys me.  It nearly always includes references to shopping, shoes, bags, housework, cooking etc...things I have no interest in. Insta-love and cheesy romances do not appeal to me. Included here are also self-help books, astrology books, books about losing weight, finding yourself, finding your faith, you're inner chi or whatever.

Examples: 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert, Any Nicholas Sparks novel, 'P.S, I Love You' by Cecelia Ahern.

2. Books about Mothers/ Being a Mother/ Having an ill Mother/ Having a dead Mother

I don't really know why Mothers in particular don't appeal to me. I usually find these kinds of books to be overly sentimental and tedious. I have no interest in having children so I suppose that might be another reason! I am a bit of a black-hearted child hater.

Examples: 'Mum's List' by St John Greene, 'Mum on the Run' by Fiona Gibson

3. 'Real-life' stories about abuse (particularly child abuse/ Survival stories/ Cancer and other illnesses

I just don't like them and it does not appeal to me to read a poorly written novel contrived solely to pull on the heart strings. Yes, it does upset me to read about child abuse and cancer which is why I don't want to read about it unless in a work of fiction (even then I'm not likely to read it). Well done to them for surviving their ordeal but is telling the world really helping?

Examples: 'A Child Called It' by Dave Pelzer, 'Tell No One' by Sarah Cooper.

4. Books which have quotes or recommendations on the cover from any of the following publications: Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Closer, Vogue, OK, The Sun, heat [insert trashy women's or celebrity gossip magazine here]

This one is probably purely snobby. I just hate those kinds of magazines and I don't think that, generally, they recommend the kinds of books I would want to read. Saying that, sometimes I do read books recommended by these places and they are fine.

Examples: Lots of books.

5. Books written as Letters or Diary Entries 9an Epistolory novel)

This one can be really hit and miss. I generally find it boring and formulaic but I have loved books in this format such as 'Diary of a Part Time Indian' by Sherman Alexie. That book, though, was not written as diary entries as such. If I see that a book is written as a sequence of letters I immediately get alarm bells. Who would write such detailed and well-written letters that they could be made into the narrative for a whole book?  

Examples: 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky, 'The Boy Next Door' by Meg Cabot.

6. Aliens and Spaceships

I'm not much of a Sci-Fi reader and, even though there are obvious exceptions like 'Hitchhiker's Guide...' most books about space and spaceships and all things U.F.O don't appeal to me.

Examples: Many, many books! 

7. Books that use out-of-date slang and text speak/ Middle-aged authors trying to be cool

I find this really cringe-inducing. I just find that it is (usually) used wrongly and out of place and makes teenagers seem dumb and inarticulate, which most are not. This is always a hazard when middle-aged people write as teens. Generally any references to the internet annoy me or when texts are used as part of the narrative: I iz an old-fashioned soul.

Examples: 'Della says: OMG' by Keris Stainton, 'Ttyl: Internet Girls' by Lauren Myracle

8. Books that have photographs of people on the front (particularly girls in dresses)/ Film Covers

If a book has good reviews I will still read it if it has a photograph of a girl in a dress on the cover or a close up of an eye, but I don't like them. I prefer drawings and illustrations to pictures of real people: I like my imagination to create the characters not the publisher. This is purely personal preference: I know a lot of people love these covers. I also dislike covers that have photographs of actors from the film version of the book for similar reasons.

Examples: 'Fallen' by Lauren Kate, 'Before I Fall' by Lauren Oliver.

These words are all instant alarm bells for me. Unless the cover was beautiful and the words were in a particular context I wouldn't read books that had these words in the title/summary:

Shoes/High Heels
Mind/Body/Spirit etc
Dear [insert name here].
Lunch/Any food stuff.

Thank you for reading my 'Buzz Words and Deal Breakers' article! Please let me know in the comments what yours are- what really makes you pick up a book and what really turns you off? 


  1. EXCELLENT response. I love how much you thought about it, and how detailed it is. And I agree with SO MANY of them, especially your buzzwords. (What *is* it about the word 'cabinet'?)

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! I absolutely adore your blog and your youtube videos- I think we do have similar taste in books! I have no idea what I love about cabinets so much but I think it's because in my head I associate it with displaying collections (which I love) and oddities (like the cabinet of curiosities) which I also love. If I ever write a book I think I'm going to have to include that one in the title! x

  2. I'll never be able to look at a pretty dress on a cover again without thinking of you! Interesting post.

  3. I agree with so many of your choices. I love the idea of this post but couldn't think of what my own buzz words and deal breakers are but you managed to point out so many of my own! I especially love people who are obsessed with certain things, so any story with a collector is a must read. Great post :D

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