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January 03, 2011

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Book CoverI recently popped in the audiobook version of Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning. I have not read any of the earlier books in the series, and perhaps that is partially where I went wrong, but I frequently start with later books in this type of series (i.e. semi-episodic paranormal romance/thriller) without trouble.

After listening to the first two CD's of this audiobook, I found I simply had no motivation to continue. The problem I had with this book, I have come to believe, is the writing style. Usually audiobooks make up for a lot of sins in terms of writing style because the actors can change intonation for emphasis and clarity. Occasionally an audiobook narrator can affect my feelings on a books, but no complaints about the audiobook actress on this one. This book had an essential disconnect with my reading affinities.

The first issue is the fact that it's written in present tense narration. Now, present tense itself is not a fundamental deal-breaker. But the present tense gives story-telling a more fluid, immediate quality. It lends itself well to faster paced story-telling as it gives the reader a sense that the story is happening right now up to the minute. The downside is that present tense narration loses a sense of the concrete, a grounded feeling that past tense (the much more frequently used narration style in fiction) storytelling gives.

The second issue is that Moning's narrative style hinges predominantly on internal monologue. There are bits of action and dialog sprinkled throughout the internal monologue, but these are few and far between and told in such an internal monologue style that it's easy to get lost. Most of all, I feel these first few chapters I read lacked a concrete sense of scene. The quick return to internal monologue after any snatch of concrete scene development made this story hard to follow; this problem is exacerbated by the use of present tense narration. The lack of definitive scene creation and the more fluid sensation of the present tense narration made this story too ethereal for me. There was nothing to grab hold of in terms of scene or character interaction, and the story kept losing my attention until finally, I stopped reading.

November 18, 2010

New Column on ARWZ!

We are pleased to introduce our newest feature here on ARWZ: Unfinished Fiction.

Many of us reviewers here on ARWZ are fiction writers ourselves, and so we know that one of the necessities of good storytelling is to keep the readers' interest, to create a sense of urgency so that the reader feels driven to find out what happens next. 

Unfortunately, even this fundamental element of storytelling is difficult to achieve. Crafting a compelling story is the first challenge, of course, but the writer must also avoid pitfalls and roadblocks, ill-conceived storytelling decisions that get in the way of revealing the story to readers in a way that will inspire them to continue. Of course, some stories inspire certain people to read voraciously, while other readers just don't get the appeal. Oftentimes it is primarily a matter of taste whether we continue with a story or toss it back to the book pile unfinished.

Here at ARWZ, we pick up a lot of books in the course of our reading adventures, but not all of them make it to the website as review subjects. Some stories lose our interest or turn us off. It is, of course, not good policy for a writer to review a book that he or she hasn't finished reading, and yet, we find ourselves fascinated by the perils of fiction. What makes us stop reading a book? What confluence of circumstances results in our giving up on a book forevermore? 

Those are the questions this column seeks to answer. In this column, our regular reviewers will have license to tell you about what makes them stop reading. You will find out what books we attempted to read and why they lost our interest. We'll tell you which ones lost us right away, and which ones we put in an earnest effort to finish before finally giving up.

Earlier articles are available in our archives. Please see our archive pages for more ARWZ content: Reviews Archive; Articles & Interviews Archive; Editorials Archive.