Five Reasons I Keep Turning the Pages

A while back (ok, too long ago), I posted about 5 reasons I set a book aside. To even things out, here are five reasons I keep turning the pages.

Sexual Tension. This is NOT the same as sex! Nothing ruins a romance for me quicker than characters who hop into bed too early. The very best romances keeps that sexual tension up until the last possible page. But I love it when something keeps the characters apart–as long as it is not misunderstandings. This is what has kept me coming back to The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson. In ten books, they only kissed once, and Sarah was under the effects of morphine and doesn’t even know if it really happened! And yes, Frank totally took advantage of her. It was so fun. I really need to get the next book.

I tried to read The Time Traveler’s Wife recently, but set it aside when the characters slept together after their first meeting. Yes, I know. To Clare, they were already married, and it was only Henry’s first meeting of her. But it was the first time I met both of them, and I ended up heaving a sigh, setting it back down, and returning it to the library several days later. If any of you can recommend it, I’ll try again.

Secrets. Tantalize me with a secret and I’ll be dying to find out the end. Especially if it is the kind of secret that the main character doesn’t even want to face. A good example was The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry. A man wakes up in a hospital after an accident with no memory of who he is. And as he learns who he was, he discovers that he doesn’t like himself. Why? You read to the end dying to find out. (My only quibble was this novel was its very abrupt ending right at the very instant that the main mystery was solved. Grr.)

Adventure. This is why straight romances often don’t work for me. I love to read about danger and adventure. Children like these kinds of stories for a reason, and one good way to get kids into the classics is through adventure stories. My own daughter is liking The Boxcar Children for its adventure, and she is what you’d call a struggling reader. Why does she like them? Because they are nothing but adventure. For an older reader, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer are, of course, great choices. In the fantasy realm, I’m really overdue for a good adventure-type fantasy novel. The kind where the character goes off and does something exciting. I’m reading the The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham, and I’m hoping it has the same kind of heroic adventure that was in the last book. I almost think it has no choice.

A character to love. I’ll forgive a lot of flaws in the book if the main character is wonderful. For that reason, the kind of multi-POV stories that have been coming out lately are slower to engage me. However, they still do. In George R. R. Martin’s series, I just loved Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion. (This is why A Feast for Crows was such a disappointment for me.) I prefer just a few viewpoints, and I’m not so crazy about seeing the world from the villain’s point-of-view.

Worldbuilding. I adore masterful worldbuilding. It’s what brought me over to fantasy, and why I love historicals. And really, anything goes. I have been enthralled by feudal Japan (Shogun), ancient Rome (I, Claudius), 18th century Paris (Les Miserables), the Depression (Maisie Dobbs), medieval England (The Once and Future King), deep space (2001), alien worlds (Sentenced to Prism), and, of course, fantasy worlds (too many to mention).

What do you think? Do these things keep you turning the pages, or is it something else for you, like solving the mystery (meh for me) or seeing the villain’s comeuppance?

9 thoughts on “Five Reasons I Keep Turning the Pages

  1. I hear you on the sex too soon! Last year I was reading a paranormal romance where the main characters met, had conflict, had sexual tension, resolved conflict, bared their souls to each other about their painful pasts, and had sex, all within the space of 80 pages. And I stopped reading and have never bothered going back. Why? Because it feels like it’s already finished. It was a nice little novella. Never mind the other 300 pages after that! LOL. Meanwhile, in a lot of my favorite urban fantasy series, it takes them 4 or 5 books to get down to business.

    I love secrets, and unreliable narrators, and good characters, and mysteries, and court intrigue.

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    • I recently read a book like that. I did get through it, but the whole thing just didn’t have much tension and energy. Might not read the sequel.

      Oooh, court intrigue. Have you read Eon? Chock-full of it.

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  2. You pretty much hit the nail on the head. One thing I’ll add is I like a strong theme; not `hit ‘em over the head with a hammer,’ just a sense that the book is about something that has meaning for the characters and changes them in some way. One of the reasons I adore Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles is the whole theme of honor, examined from every possible angle throughout the books.

    I got to add that I adore Anne Perry’s William Monk novels. Have you read her WWI series? The first book (No Graves as Yet) is a little slow, but the series is amazing once it gets going.

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    • Good point about themes! Books with themes certainly do make you think. I really do need to read another William Monk–I’m dying to read more about Hester. Anne Perry is such a talented writer that she makes me writhe with jealousy.

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  3. I tend to scan-to-skip passages from the villian’s viewpoint. I know I’m supposed to be missing important information the author put here for a reason, but I’m usually also missing a self-centered and nasty view of the world that I just don’t enjoy seeing. I figure that if I’m not enjoying what I’m reading, it’s time to either skip to a part I do enjoy, or shift to a different book entirely. {Smile}

    (Reposting here because I just realized the other comment box box posted on Goodreads, not here where others are talking, too. {Smile})

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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    • I am totally with you! Sometimes, villain scenes are just painful to get through. I just don’t want to deal with all that unpleasantness! Funny, I didn’t even bother with a true villain in Sevenfold Spell, or any of my dystopian stories, for that matter.

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      • Exactly. I’ve found very few villians pleasant to read about, so I read about very few villians. Some have insisted that this “wrecks the author’s vision.” Well, if I’m still reading, I’m getting some of the vision. If not… stopping reading wrecks a lot more of the author’s vision than skipping a few unpleasant scenes, doesn’t it? {lop-sided Smile}

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        • I remember skipped about half a book once (every other chapter) because I couldn’t stand the villain. Funny part was, I didn’t mind when the author had the villain’s viewpoint in other stories -just that one.

          Thinking about it, in those other books, the villain was actually doing important things, like revealing that he’d pulled a bait-and-switch with the treasure map. In the book with the villain I couldn’t stand, he mostly just brooded. I felt like I could skip him without actually loosing anything.

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          • Being able to skip the villian without losing anything does help me decide to actually skip him. However, in my case, even losing information can’t keep me reading about an unpleasant person. Since most villians are more-or-less unpleasant, that cuts them right out. {wryly amused Smile}

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