Thursday, September 13, 2007

13 Pet Peeves of a Cranky Bibliophile and 1 Contest

13 Pet Peeves of a Cranky Bibliophile
Compiled by Ann Bruce

I'm about to break one of the cardinal rules of authors and blogging: Do not bash other authors' books. Generally, authors who do this come across as bitter and envious. Or so that's what I assume. And you always have the other authors' rabid fan girls come out and call you names and challenge you to write something better.

First and foremost, I'm a reader and an avid one at that. I read about five to ten books at a time and I finish about three a week. More if they're comic books. When I buy a book, I think of it as a tacit agreement between myself and the author that he or she has put in a great deal of effort to spin a tale to entertain me.

There's no guarantee that I'll enjoy the book, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. That being said, if a book comes across as being written by someone who couldn't be bothered to put in a decent effort, then the agreement is in breach and I get ticked off.

Unfortunately,in the last few weeks, I came across a bad batch of books. Many of them ended up flying across the room and slamming into a much-abused wall. A couple even went back to the bookstore because I wanted my money back for time I'll never be able to recoup.

So, what drove me to violate an author's cardinal rule? Oh, so many things...

    The Cranky Canadian

  1. Not everyone from Canada says "a boot"; the majority of us say "about." That's the equivalent of a non-American assuming all Americans say "y'all."

  2. "A boot" is pretty much confined to a tiny part of Eastern Canada. So, if your hero is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, which is in Western Canada, he will not speak with an accent and say "a boot." In fact, he'll sound more like a New Yorker because he probably watched too much Seinfeld.

  3. Canadians do not say "ice hockey." There is no such thing as "ice hockey" for us. It is simply "hockey." It is the NHL, not the NIHL. An NHL player will not say "ice hockey," especially if he's a Canadian from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

  4. The Cranky Francophone

  5. Accents in written French are NOT optional. "Bien sûr" means "of course." "Bien sur" is literally "good on" and that's gibberish. Anyone with a passing knowledge of French reading "Chere, desolee. Entrez, s'il vous plait" will find it as painful as an Anglophone reading "Its okay. It wouldve been easier if itd been hers."

  6. French nouns have gender. If your hero says to the heroine, "Cher, merci bien," I'm going to think your heroine is actually a man and maybe had a sex change. Really, I will and I will laugh.

  7. The free translation services offered in the Internet are not perfect, so please do not rely on them. For instance, "Look at me" should be "regardez-moi" or "regardes-moi," not "me regardes." The latter is very awkward and wouldn't be used.

  8. The Cranky Martial Artist

  9. Kick-ass heroes and heroines are not so kick-ass when they mix up martial arts styles.

  10. You cannot practice kung-fu moves with a katana. Kung-fu is Chinese and a katana is a Japanese sword.

    You would not address your kung-fu instructor as "sensai," but as "sifu." Once again, kung-fu and "sifu" are Chinese and "sensai" is Japanese.

    You cannot be a second degree black belt in a Korean karate. Karate is Japanese. Korean martial arts include tae kwon do, hap ki do, etc.

  11. You will not become a martial arts master in one season, despite what you saw in The Last Samurai.

  12. The Cranky Geek

  13. Anachronisms. *sigh* I'm not a stickler for historical accuracy, but if your Regency heroine travels to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower…well, I know you and your editor both need a refresher junior high history lesson.

  14. If your villain keeps his password right next to the computer and stores all his incriminating files in a folder called "Laundering" or "Private," he is so not a criminal mastermind.

  15. To access my computer, you must have the hard drive password. Without it, you cannot even get to the initial login screen and the hard drive will lock after too many failed attempts, at which point only the manufacturer will be able to unlock it. After you get past the hard drive password, you need a login ID and password. And after that, you will have to navigate through my folder system, which I named using the names of Greek and Roman deities. Good luck trying to find my bank account spreadsheets. If you persevered to this point and have found the file, you need a password to open it.

    Really, so if I'm just the average computer user, imagine what a real criminal mastermind's security system is like.

  16. When your computer system is being attacked, don't stand there and watch a pretty visual representation of it on a really big screen. Go pull your network cable or your power cord. Really, it is that simple. And no, your servers won't explode and you won't lose data.

  17. 128-bit encryption is not double the encryption of 64-bit.

  18. RAM is not where your save all your files and it does not crash. That's your hard disk drive.

  19. Black is not all colours combined. White is. A rainbow is light that has been refracted, usually by water, which is why rainbows normally appear when it rains. Black is the absence of colour.

Every item on the list could've been avoided with research that involves more than just watching the telly (sorry, I spent some time living in Europe and haven't gotten either "dodgy" or "telly" out of my vocabulary, yet). The Internet is an author's best friend. Please use it because if you can't be bothered to do the basic research, I can't be bothered to buy your books.

Now, if anyone feels like flaming me, go right ahead. I'm wearing my big girl pants; I can take it.

If you read something I wrote and it's completely wrong, feel free to email me. I'll be the first to admit I'm far from perfect.

The Contest!

So, what ruins your reading experience?

One cranky commenter will win a print copy of Fall Dead. Winner will be announced Monday, September 17, 2007.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

  1. Shofar, So Good

  2. Alasandra

  3. No-Nonsense girl

  4. Buck Naked Politics

  5. Working At Home Mom

  6. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)


Alasandra said...

Hi, My TT is up.

Loved your list. My pet peeve is authors who misspell words or use poor grammar. I'll be the first to admitt I am not a perfect speller and my grammar is far from perfect, but at least I try.

Pamk said...

errors in books, or people that change name mid book

Carolan Ivey said...

I agree with everything on your list.

Having said that, though...

I love the movie "A Knight's Tale." Chock full of historical innacuracies and anachronisms (Come on, boogying to "Golden Years" at a post-jousting match banquet? Helloooo...) but there's something so charming about it you can't help liking it. :)

Nicholas said...

I'm a fragile reader! If it seems to me that the author has just not taken the trouble to check his facts, that to me destroys his credibility. In a recent book I was quite enjoying, the writer had set a chapter in England. I didn't get to the end of it! British judges don't use gavels. British people talk about playing football, not soccer. And we give street names in full: "I live in Mulberry Street" not "I live on Mulberry" Such simple things, that would have taken but a few minutes to check, but he couldn't be bothered; so I couldn't be bothered to read the rest of his book.

Katherine Kingston said...

Great list. What really pushes my buttons are authors who can get the details of their historical settings right but show no actual understanding of the times. PC characters in historical settings make me grind my teeth. Sorry, but in Medieval England, women--especially noblewomen--did not expect to be treated as the equals of men, they had few legal rights and little say in the whole marriage mart. On the other hand, clever creatures that we are, the women weren't nearly as downtrodden as some historians would have us believe. But they went about doing things WITHIN the context of their own society and found ways around the constraints.

BTW: I love A Knight's Tale, too, especially since it so clearly isn't meant to be taken too seriously.

Katherine Kingston

No Nonsense girl said...

I'm a french canadian and I have the same pet peeves as you do in regards to the french language.

Bonne semaine!!!

WorksForMom said...

Really interesting list. I think if an author doesn't do his fact-checking - the whole read is one big scam.

Lori said...'re right:) Happy TT.

julia said...

It's a wonder so much junk gets published when good books are waiting in the wings for a chance!

I absolutely loved your list! I also learned a lot reading it.

Happy TT!

damozel said...

I so agree. My pet peeve is very specific: Steven King (American) incorporating British phrases into his foreword ("codswallop") because...why? I don't know. I can't stand people who affect British words and phrases or accents if they're not British.

Though I am married to a Brit, I try very hard not to sound as if I am trying to pass for British, MADONNA.

I can't leave a link because you don't have your comments enabled to allow links to non-blogger blogs.

We're #9, where my blogging partner has done an excellent T13.

Joy T. said...

I'm from Edmonton, Alberta Canada and I'd burst out laughing if I ever heard someone say ice hockey. How strange. Great list for TT!

Anonymous said...

Carolan, Katherine - I enjoyed A Knight's Tale as well, but the anachronisms there were deliberate so they were acceptable.

Nicholas - Too many people don't understand that just because a country's national language is English, we don't all speak the same language!

No-nonsense girl - I bought a book based on its numerous rave reviews and ended up wanting to tear my hair out because the author left off EVERY SINGLE ACCENT on the French words. Since she used New Orleans as the locale, that was a lot of words. And she kept getting the sentence structures wrong. Ugh!

Julia - It will kill you to know that most of these authors are bestsellers and multimillionaires. One's even in the 9-digit range. You'd think at that point they'd be able to afford a fact-checker or a decent translator.

Damozel - Unfortunately, a few English/Irish/Australian phrases have worked their way into my vocabulary from my travels. But I don't affect any of the accents!

Joy T - Cool! I used to live in Edmonton.

This author's books were touted as authentic portrayals of the NHL and its players. She was apparently a big "ice hockey" fan and my blood pressure almost went through the roof when I read that on her bio.

WAHM said...

this was a great read.

my 13 is up on

ChristyJan said...

I agree with and loved your list.
I was reading a romance novel the other day where it first described the heroine as a brunette ~ several chapters into the book she had blonde hair.

nascarandbeans said...

well my pet peeves are simple. I tried to read a regency here a while back that in the first chapter tried to introduce like a million characters to us, with these long long confusing names, the plot was throwing me off, if there was one, and then before i could even get a grip on characters names, they were changing them to nicknames.. it was an extremely wordy wordy book, which made Shakespeare look like a bedtime kids story.. needless to say i put the book down and have never made it past chapter one..
keep it simpler
i read to escape, not have to reread it ten times a page to get it..

Madame Rubies said...

For me, it is when a book SEEMS like a serious story, but the more I read, the more bodice-ripping romance I find. And not even GOOD romance, but complete crap like I read in cheap books when I was in 6th grade. "Throbbing manhood" and "heaving bosums."

Cathy said...

I don't read a lot of historical romance, but modern sayings thrown around willy nilly, disrupt the flow of the story for me. Then I had another paranormal story that was moving right along until the story caming to a screeching halt to introduce a new character with a huge back story, that one I just stopped reading.

Chris said...

Ice Hockey. C'mon! Hockey is supposed to be on ice. Does anyone say Turf Football? Or Asphalt NASCAR?

A boot, drives me insane as well.

And a photograph shouldn't turn up in 1805.

Thank you! I needed to get that out. (Out not oot)

KimW said...

I'm actually a "light" reader and I don't often catch inaccuracies, especially historical ones. I don't like to see a lot of spelling errors in the books I read. If I see a few I find myself looking for more. lol Then, I can't get into the story.

blackroze37 said...

my pet peeve , no 1 has ever thanked me, at the beginning though lol

Jen said...

We recently chatted about this, in regards to romance, on the Dorchester boards. I'll mention some of the things I wrote:

I get so frustrated when the hero or heroine is about to tell the other something, and s/he's interrupted, or for no discernible reason, chooses not to! Or, they just don't explain things that should be.

I hate when there's too much passive voice used. I'm okay with some, but too much is uncreative. I also get annoyed with overuse of "said," "asked," etc. (It's usually pretty obvious if something is asked or said, so it's redundant to use those.)

It's not always the author's fault, but it drives me crazy if there are a lot of typos, misspellings and bad grammar. I don't expect perfection--I'm not perfect about it--but it's like eating watermelon with seeds...the food (story) might be good, but you get distracted by and have to spit out the seeds (mistakes). This is one reason I won't read a book by vanity presses, subsidized presses and self-published books. I might make an exception here and there--I have a friend who recently got her book published by PublishAmerica (*groan!*), and I'm not saying those who use those services don't have good stories and aren't good authors, but I've seen and heard how bad these books are edited, and how many authors who aren't publishable use these services, and it's just not worth my time.

Another thing I hate are stupid characters. I read a horror novel not that long ago with an intentionally dumb, bubbly blonde big-boobed teen, and she was so cliche, I didn't even care that she got killed. I like stupid characters to be killed off, but first, I have to care about the stupid character.

I love colorful descriptions, but I do not love loooong descriptions. I don't need a page to tell me what a character is wearing, what the location looks like, or what a character is feeling.

And I can't stand a totally submissive heroine, either. I can take submissiveness in the bedroom--I often like that--but in regular life, it drives me nuts!

Jen said...

After reading some of the comments, I want to add some general comments myself (not really in regards to the contest):

I read a book a while back that many people reviewed on, saying how great it was. I don't know what they read, but I didn't find the story that engaging. It was quite annoying, really, and there were historical inaccuracies; while I'm not a dummy when it comes to history, if I can pick up on a bunch of them, you've done a bad job, at least in regards to the history. This author's characters spoke in rather modern terms, even though she was in Ancient Egypt. I realize that maybe I was supposed to "understand" that the characters heard her speaking in their language and using their terms (and they sounded pretty modern in the translation of their speech), meaning the same thing, but I found it annoying. I want to "hear" the accents, and older way of speaking. Also, everything happened too quickly; while I was glad to finish this book, the story idea was good, and should have been worked into a longer tale.

I find, the more educated I am in history and knowledge of any topic, the more picky I am about those things in a book. I don't worry about historical inaccuracies if I don't spot them, and may enjoy the story very much; but if I know something is amiss, it bothers me.

Jen said...

Oops...left out one thing I wanted to mention. One of the historical inaccuracies of the aforementioned book was the heroine's friend (from the Ancient Egyptian times) offered to get her Aspirin at one point! They had treatments that were, perhaps, Aspirin-like, but not Aspirin itself! This is an example of why it annoyed me.

Charlene said...

I had this same rant last week on LJ (which makes me wonder if we were reading the same book). The highlights from what you haven't already touched on:

1. If you're going to create an anglophone Canadian character, it is not necessary to have him come from Toronto and have an Anglo-Scots name. Honestly. The rest of the country is not untamed wilderness. 20% of anglophone Canadians live in Toronto, which means 80% don't. Why, then, is every anglophone Canadian character from Toronto, white & nerdy, and Anglo-Scots? Why?

2. Your francophone character is probably going to be from Quebec, but he could be from New Brunswick or Ontario, and conceivably might even be from the Prairies (like the late Jeanne Sauvé, who was from Saskatchewan). It is however extremely unlikely that he's from British Columbia. Why, then, have I read four books in the last 20 years featuring French-Canadian loggers, and ALL have been from BC?

3. Nobody in Canada will call your francophone character "French-Canadian". That's a term Americans use.

4. Your character will not go to a "college" football game in a "college town", and the students will not all live in "dorms". Students studying for degrees go to university, not college. Universities are in the largest cities and are often near city centre. Most students will not live in res (not "dorms", please: the word is "residence", shortened to "res") but will instead either live at home or rent.

5. An American would talk about a "Canadian accent", but a Canadian would be more specific, since there is more than one Canadian accent. Listen to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine: as a friend just reminded me, he has an absolutely perfect rural Alberta accent. Then listen to William Shatner (Montreal anglo) and Rick Mercer (Newfoundland). There are dozens of others.

Charlene said...

Also, about historical fiction:

If you're going to create a character who is a lord or lady, get the person's title correct. Lord Bexborough will never be known as Lord John Bexborough. Lord Johnson's wife is Lady Johnson, not Lady Jane Johnson. Also, the heir to a title inherits it the instant the old titleholder dies, not when the heir turns 18. Most titles can't be inherited by women, but some can. If you can't be bothered to learn how a peer or a peeress would be addressed or referred to, perhaps you shouldn't be writing about one.

This is especially true because too many historical writers dot their stories with too many peers and too few clergymen and officers.

Mechele Armstrong said...

Wow, what a list. I do hate books where I catch an inaccuracy or a huge change of name, character, hair color, etc. Grammar errors pull me out of the story, too.

Moondancer said...

A lot of those thing most of the time are a lack of research...aka laziness. If you are going to use a fighting style or other culteral referance then if you do the proper research you shouldn't run into these issues. I'm Cherokee and when I write about people from other tribes then my own even, I most certainly do my research. It's an insult to the culture being talked about not to. HUGE pet peeve of mine.

Ina said...

What ruins my reading experience is when the author tries too much to put humor in her stories..and err..fails!