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  • September 24, 2016, 10:54:08 PM

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Author Topic: Reading/Book Pet Peeves  (Read 529558 times)

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Yarnspinner

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3165 on: June 02, 2016, 04:07:46 PM »
I read a book that sounded interesting, but quickly realized it was one of those "unreliable narrator" books. Even the (annoying) main character doesn't know what's real and what's not, and I didn't understand the ending. The author also cared more about imagery than story. It was my own fault though. When I saw the book compared to Black Swan, I should have known better than to pick it up.

I don't like mind trips. I like books that's straight forward, even in fairy tales, fantasy, ghost stories, etc.

See, I love the unreliable narrator trope, but I resent it when the book cover spells out exactly why they are unreliable.  I started an Unreliable Narrator Series for my book club (in the high and unrealistic hope that it would tempt a few people to come back--another story for another time).  The very first book is "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler.  The book cover casually gives away what turns out to be a rather BIG plot twist .
I started reading the book (which is very good) and kept saying to myself, "why doesn't she refer to X as really being Y?"  until I finally realized that the whole reason the narrator is unreliable is because it isn't until page 80 or so that she finally comes clean about the plot point referred to on the book jacket.  So you go into the story thinking okay, I already know about X, so I wonder why she's an unreliable narrator--and it's the X factor that makes her the unreliable narrator, not some new revelation further down the road.  Ugh!

Authors don't design their own book covers, or really have any say in them at all, especially if they are new. So it's possible this author really did intend the twist to be a twist.

That said, I haven't read that particular book, but agree it would really annoy me to have it spoiled like that!

Definitely aware of the cover issue.  I guess I am annoyed with the publisher who decides to spoil the story.  On another cover related issue, I remember a panel discussion at a fantasy convention where the author told about having to write a novel that was "Conan-like" but turned the genre on its head.  Or something like that.  So he created a tough hulking barbarian--who had at least one big difference from the others.  He was a short, skinny hulking barbarian who happened to also be g*y.

He was properly horrified when he saw the proposed art for the cover which featured a big strong body builder type standing on a mountain side with a shapely female slung over his shoulder.  The artist saw him staring at it in horror.  She whispered "I tried.  You can't see it unless you put your nose to the canvas, but he's wearing an earring."



Lindenharp

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3166 on: June 02, 2016, 09:20:13 PM »
That reminded me. Years ago, a romance author (I forget who) wrote a series of books. When she wrote the book of the handsomest fittest character in a series full of handsome fit characters, the cover featured a man that was, well, heavy and plain. The author humorously put a smiley face sticker over the picture.

That was "Get Lucky" by Suzanne Brockmann. You can see that cover (and other winners in a worst-cover-art contest) here: http://www.likesbooks.com/w-results-2000.html.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3167 on: June 02, 2016, 09:22:52 PM »
Okay, so there's this thing in publishing, often discussed/debated, and it revolves around books with white characters often featuring the characters on the cover but books about non-white characters having landscapes, inanimate objects, or - at best - silhouettes instead. Nobody can agree on why and everyone wants to say THEY are all for more diversity but it's not personally their call, etc. I'm saying this as background, not to bring up debate on this particular topic.

So.

A good friend of mine - a straight white male - wrote a book in which the main character is an African-American woman. He got the cover back . . . with a picture of a white guy (very minor side character) on the cover. He called his agent, who called the publisher, and they agreed to try again. This time he got a landscape. Called again, saying basically "I liked the first cover if only they could actually put my protagonist on it." Third attempt was a silhouette, very far in the distance, which if you squint could probably be taken as the main character maybe. That's the one they ended up going to press with.

The most recent book my friend just sold features a non-white lesbian who's essentially a space race car driver - I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it  :P

MommyPenguin

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3168 on: June 02, 2016, 09:35:17 PM »
A good friend of mine - a straight white male - wrote a book in which the main character is an African-American woman. He got the cover back . . . with a picture of a white guy (very minor side character) on the cover. He called his agent, who called the publisher, and they agreed to try again. This time he got a landscape. Called again, saying basically "I liked the first cover if only they could actually put my protagonist on it." Third attempt was a silhouette, very far in the distance, which if you squint could probably be taken as the main character maybe. That's the one they ended up going to press with.

I may have already mentioned it earlier in this thread, I forget, but Piers Anthony has a Xanth book with a female teenager who is black.  It is *very* clear that she is black, as she comes from a village of people who were former slaves, and I think it may even have an obvious name like "Black Village."  The cover of the book features a dark-haired, dark-eyed *white* female character.  And it has to be meant to be the main character, there's nobody else it makes sense for it to be.
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atirial

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3169 on: June 03, 2016, 03:37:39 AM »
A good friend of mine - a straight white male - wrote a book in which the main character is an African-American woman. He got the cover back . . . with a picture of a white guy (very minor side character) on the cover. He called his agent, who called the publisher, and they agreed to try again. This time he got a landscape. Called again, saying basically "I liked the first cover if only they could actually put my protagonist on it." Third attempt was a silhouette, very far in the distance, which if you squint could probably be taken as the main character maybe. That's the one they ended up going to press with.

The most recent book my friend just sold features a non-white lesbian who's essentially a space race car driver - I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it  :P
We work with a lot of writers, and I know one who's book ended up changing their cover not because of the publisher but because of bookshops.

The original cover showed the main character: a mixed-race girl in a hoodie. The distributor and bookshops ignored the genre, the description and the entire rest of the cover image and shelved it under urban fiction...where the out-of-genre story sold as well as you'd expect. I'll give the publisher props, they fought hard for months to get it re-shelved, but every time they got the classification changed, someone at the distributors changed it back. In the end they changed the cover to not show the main character, and suddenly it was happily shelved in the right place and selling. The problem seems to be through the whole system.

rose red

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3170 on: June 03, 2016, 07:04:45 AM »
Along the same vein, Wen Spenser wrote a book where the "traditional" roles of men and women are reversed. Women are the warriors and protectors with short military style hair, and men are the pampered and protected with long hair (men are rare so they must be protected at all costs).

On the cover, a short haired man is carrying a frail wounded long haired woman. Although there is a scene sort of like that in the book (the main character finds her wounded from battle), you can just tell the cover is intended to give a different impression than the real plot.

That reminded me. Years ago, a romance author (I forget who) wrote a series of books. When she wrote the book of the handsomest fittest character in a series full of handsome fit characters, the cover featured a man that was, well, heavy and plain. The author humorously put a smiley face sticker over the picture.

That was "Get Lucky" by Suzanne Brockmann. You can see that cover (and other winners in a worst-cover-art contest) here: http://www.likesbooks.com/w-results-2000.html.

Ha Ha! A blast from the past. Thanks! The guy's not bad looking; just not for this book.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 07:14:02 AM by rose red »

mandycorn

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3171 on: June 03, 2016, 10:55:00 AM »
This isn't a book pet peeve exactly, but it's really interesting anyway!

Along the lines of cover art, the young-adult author Maureen Johnson (not of RENT fame...) has a huge online conversation going about gender-swapping covers - making books with a female author have more masculine looking covers and vice-versa. Here's her original post on it: http://maureenjohnsonbooks.tumblr.com/post/49786559615/lets-do-the-coverflip

It's really interesting to see some of the ideas people have come up with and how they change the perceived tone of the story, even for books I'm really familiar with. This article has a great summary: http://www.slj.com/2013/07/books-media/breaking-bias-maureen-johnsons-coverflip-challenge/
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Winterlight

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3172 on: June 03, 2016, 09:14:35 PM »
Fantasy author Jim Hines did a great series of blog posts where he's talking about how women and men are portrayed on covers, which sparked several other great posts. He tried to replicate the women's poses he saw, and while humorous, they also point out how impractical and s@xualized women's cover poses tend to be.

http://www.jimchines.com/cover-posing/
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EllenS

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3173 on: June 03, 2016, 11:33:58 PM »
P.S. I love the unreliable narrator trope when it's done well and is left for the reader to discover.  I'd even recommend some examples here except - that would be spoiling all of them for you! ;)

I'd recommend Wake Up, Sir, by Jonathan Ames. It's no spoiler that the narrator is in his own little world. He's self-aware enough to admit that right up front.

Elisabunny

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3174 on: June 04, 2016, 10:51:39 AM »
This isn't a book pet peeve exactly, but it's really interesting anyway!

Along the lines of cover art, the young-adult author Maureen Johnson (not of RENT fame...) has a huge online conversation going about gender-swapping covers - making books with a female author have more masculine looking covers and vice-versa. Here's her original post on it: http://maureenjohnsonbooks.tumblr.com/post/49786559615/lets-do-the-coverflip

It's really interesting to see some of the ideas people have come up with and how they change the perceived tone of the story, even for books I'm really familiar with. This article has a great summary: http://www.slj.com/2013/07/books-media/breaking-bias-maureen-johnsons-coverflip-challenge/

Yet another reason for female authors to use their initials in their pen names.
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Amanita

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Re: Reading/Book Pet Peeves
« Reply #3175 on: September 07, 2016, 03:55:07 AM »
I've been reading some Urban Fantasy, and I've got a peeve now. Even in the most fantastical urban fantasy setting (The Skyscraper Throne trilogy by Tom Pollock for example), authors can't seem to do much with skyscrapers other than use them as background scenery and giant punching bags. In the aforementioned trilogy, there are so many fantastical urban beings- animated statues, train spirits, glass and electric lamplight people, even individual bricks seem to have personality- masonry men and women. Skyscrapers are mentioned, but again they don't get used as anything but backdrop or punching bag when something needs to get destroyed. If even a train or streetlight gets to have a personality and be an active player in the story, why not the skyscrapers too? If there's a war brewing between various factions of city spirits, you would think such conspicuous landmarks would want to choose up sides too, or perhaps make a show of NOT siding with anyone- "Okay guys, we Tower-folk don't care which of you has a problem with who, just leave us out of it!", although if the other creature's squabbling were to cause collateral damage, the skyscrapers might change their minds right quick-like.

Writers of Urban Fantasy, you seem to have a real creative block when it comes to skyscrapers, even when everything else in your city is alive and kicking. Do something more interesting than just trashing them!