Book I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 2

Last week I made the point that real readers are becoming frighteningly uncommon, so in an effort to get people to read more, I thought I’d share with the world why I love some of the hot and hated books right now – and, therefore, why I think they’re worth reading.  Last week’s post was about Stephanie Meyer and her books, the Twilight Saga and The Host (click here to read last week’s post!), and this week’s topic is going to be about Christopher Paolini and his books, the Inheritance Cycle (a.k.a. the Eragon books)!

Now I know this one might not be hated as hotly as the Twilight books are, but (in my experience, at least), I’ve gotten a lot of sneers for confessing my love for these books (and I know a lot of friends who have gotten sneers for liking them, too).  Some of the arguments I’ve heard most often against Paolini’s books (there are four: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance) are that he uses too much description, the language he uses is hard to understand, his characters/the setting/the world/the storyline are not believable, etc., etc.  There are many more things I’ve heard people say about how “bad” these books are, but the ones I listed are what I’m going to address, so I’ll stop there.

For one thing, I thing it’s pointless to argue that a book’s plot or characters or setting is unbelievable – especially when that book is clearly fiction.  The whole point of setting a novel in another world is so that your readers aren’t always worrying about whether something in the story is “believable” or not.  And I’m making this argument as both a reader/book-lover AND writer/aspiring-novelist.  So don’t call something in a fiction book “unbelievable” unless you know that the author intended the story to be accurate to life… or unless you mean it in the “this book is so awesome!!” sense.

Description has always been a matter of opinion to me – some people like to read longer descriptions that paint pictures in the reader’s mind, and some people like less description so that they can let their imaginations fill in the details that were left out.  It’s the difference between describing (for example) someone’s eyes as “the green-blue color of the ocean, shaded by thick, dark lashes” or simply as “piercing.”  So in the case of Eragon and Paolini’s other books, I would agree that he has a lot of description – but I would also argue that his description is eloquent, beautiful and appropriate.  He’s not another Melville.  (If you don’t get that reference, go read Moby-Dick… or at least try.)

Which leads me to my next point – there’s nothing wrong with good, well-educated and well-used diction and vocabulary.  Yes, I do think Paolini uses a lot of vocabulary that the average public high-schooler might not know, but so what?  When you don’t know a word, look it up!  (It’s called “LEARNING!”)  I grew up reading tons of books that were technically “above” my reading level, so I learned a lot of words sooner than most other kids my age, and it actually gave me an advantage in my high school literature classes.  Sure, you can call me a nerd if you want – or you can ask me what a word means and learn something yourself.

Ok, I can’t let this topic go until we talk about the film version of Eragon.  Unfortunately, this is one instance where I agree with the general public (and in this case, the general public’s opinion is by far the majority opinion)  – the movie was terrible.  Bad acting, bad accuracy to the book (and I mean worse than usual, Hollywood), low budget, they never made the other books into movies (so we have no sense of how much better it could have been), and it just wasn’t very well made in general.  Now don’t get me wrong – there are actors in there that I loved when they were in other films, but they just weren’t the right ones to play these characters…  The books were epic and really well anticipated when they were still coming out, but I don’t think this movie was very highly anticipated – and of the people who did have high expectations, it turned out to be a sorry disappointment.

So those are my thoughts on Christopher Paolini and his Inheritance books!  I’d be very interested to hear what your opinions are of these books, or, if you haven’t read any of them, whether my post has made you any more motivated to read them now!  Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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Books I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 1

Reading is becoming a lost art.  FAR too many people have told me “I don’t read” or “I don’t think I’ve ever actually finished a real book before,” and it makes me want to cry.  And rant.  And (of course) write about it.  (Even though the only people who will read this are actually readers…)

I’m one of those people who became a bookworm and bibliophile the moment I learned to read.  I have my own personal library at home (I have about 140 books), and I’ve read all of them at least once (some of them more than 4 or 5 times).  Needless to say, I’ve read quite a few books – many of which have been novels and series that became popular within the last 5 years.  Of these books (the ones that have recently become popular), a few have been made into movies and therefore become hotly debated topics of conversation because of their added publicity and popularity.

So, in an effort to persuade people who “aren’t readers” to pick up a book “everybody else” is reading, I thought I’d start a series of posts about books I’ve come to love, but others love to hate.  I don’t know how long this series will last (it’s at least worthy of 2 or 3 more posts), but I’ll only cover one book (or series, or author) in each post.

For this post, it seems appropriate that I start with Stephanie Meyer and her books – The Twilight Saga and The Host.

Yes, I’m a Twilight fan – but not for the reasons I know all of you are thinking.  First off, I hate how people tend to lump the movies in with the books and call them the same thing.  They aren’t the same thing!  And this is coming from someone who has actually READ all the books!  Now I must admit, I do like the movies.  Yes, the first couple got off to a rough start because the cast wasn’t that great and they had small budgets, but once they got a little momentum, I think they’re a series of pretty well-made movies with mediocre-to-okay acting.

The books, however, are a whole different story (no pun intended).  I consider Stephanie Meyer to be a good author.  She’s simply a fantastic writer, and even though she’s been accused of taking cliches and somehow “remaking” them without actually remaking them well, her stories are deeper than that.  Beneath those first person narratives, there’s a pervasive theme that’s present in both the Twilight Saga and her novel, The Host: what does it mean to be human?  It’s a prevalent question!  All Meyer does is explore it in the context of a series of fiction novels.  In the Twilight books, the question is about whether vampires are still “human” in the sense that they retain essential elements of their humanity even after they’re changed into vampires.  In The Host, the question is whether the alien species that has invaded the earth and taken over humanity actually has elements of humanity in themselves, and whether being intimately linked with humans makes them more human.

Whether or not you care about these deeper topics, though, I think Meyer’s novels are worth reading simply because they capture a character’s perspective in a way that makes them easy to identify with and easy to understand.  Bella of Twilight and Wanda of The Host are admirable characters, and they have nuances to their personalities that you’re still discovering even as the story is coming to a close.  In short, Meyer’s characterization skills by themselves are worth witnessing.

One final note – because The Host was written after the Twilight Saga, the quality of writing is noticeably better, and it’s written more for an older audience than the Twilight books were.  Even if you’ve read the Twilight books and not liked them, I would still recommend reading The Host simply because it’s so different from the Twilight books.

What are your thoughts on this author?  What was your reaction when you read these books or saw these movies? Does my argument make you want to read them any more than you did before you read this post? I’d be very interested to hear your answers!  As always, thanks for reading!