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Friday, March 29, 2013

The Comfort Zone

I love when I am surprised by a book. I tend to read in my comfort zone, or at least I have been lately. If it doesn't follow my strict parameters, then I usually put it back on the shelf and walk away. 

Which is awful

Since I recognize how limiting that is, I have recently joined a book club. I'm hoping since there are about ten of us, and each one gets to choose a book to read, that I will be forced to broaden my horizons. The first book we are reading is The Shoemaker's Wife. It's Edwardian/pre-WWI and I have high hopes for it, based on the raving of my friend.

Occasionally I will buy or borrow a book that is out of my comfort zone. I borrowed I Am Legand from the library last week, thinking it would do just that, since the movie can only be called post-apocalypse horror. I do not ever read that genre. It's so not my thing. I get nightmares very easily. So I was really surprised when I started reading and the book was mostly in the main character's head, and very existential. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. Oddly, I'm a little disappointed by that. I was bracing for the scary stuff and telling myself I was so, so brave

Another book that surprised me lately was Marko Kloos's debut novel Terms of Enlistment. I bought it because I like to be supportive of new authors who I am acquainted with (through Twitter) and because the blurb looked interesting. But it's science fiction, sort of futuristic military, and I didn't think I'd really enjoy it. 

But I did. I really, really did.

If you want an example of how to build a fiction world for your characters that sucks the reader in, and unloads massive amounts of vital info while making it sound like you guys are just shooting the bull while having a beer, go get this book. The sheer volume of detail was amazing, especially because I have no idea how Mr. Kloos kept it all straight. A notebook? A data base? A vault full of house elves filing his notes? 

And it was fascinating. By all rights, I should have been asleep by the the sixth chapter that described his experience in boot camp and the army, but I was glued to my Kindle. Seriously. I read the whole novel in two sittings.

Anyway, the book took me by surprise and made me a big fan. It reminded me of why I devoured Anne MacCaffery's Pern and Rowan/Damia novels. Relatable people in extraordinary situations. Not only am I eager for the next book in what I'm told by Mr. Kloos is to be a trilogy, but I've rediscovered my old love for science fiction and fantasy. I'm thinking about digging out my worn copy of The Rowan and rereading it. Maybe this weekend. 

Have you had a book take you by surprise? One that, even though it wasn't in your "comfort zone", you couldn't put it down? Do you have any recommendations for us?  

25 comments:

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by the Rita selections I was given to judge this year. I'd never read a superromance and I was drawn in by the ones I was given. They are a little heavier subject matter than I would expect a romance novel to be. They also had great characterization.

    Before that, I was surprised by Embraced by Jennifer Shirvington. It's a YA romance and I'm not a YA reader. I'm probably one of the few that didn't like Twilight and didn't make it past the first book. Embraced was in the books at given away at RWA last year and the cover drew me to it. I was only going to read a chapter before bed, but I had to make myself stop reading at 1 am.

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    1. That happened with me, Samantha, with Terms of Enlightenment!I knew I should go to bed and stretch the reading out to a third night, but I just couldn't. I HAD TO KNOW HOW IT ENDED. ;D

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  2. I tend to stick within my likes, as you used to. But you've given me the push to branch out and try something new! Thank you. :)

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  3. Yes! I read Warm Bodies (a book told from the Zombie's POV). It was so, so good and the author made R so endearing and conflicted.

    So brilliant.

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    1. Oh, I'd like to try that! I think I will.

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  4. You've described me to a T in the beginning of your blog. I, (like old you) have a hard time moving beyond my comfort zone. When I do, I'm always pleasantly surprised and yet oddly, I still struggle to move beyond it even when I AM surprised. Does that make sense? I loved all the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games series when I swore I'd never pick them up because they 'weren't my type'. : )

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    1. I'm still resisting The Hunger Games even though I'm positive that I'll love it. ;)

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  5. I like to live in the fictional little world in my head most of the time, and especially when I read. ;) There are two non-fiction books that I absolutely loved - MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (though the movie SUCKED - and you won't find a bigger Kevin Spacey fan than me.) and FREAKONOMICS.

    So then I start thinking I like non-fiction and I buy more non-fic, and then I don't like it. So those two books stand out for me as something special. :)

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    1. Yes, I don't read non-fiction either. I also don't watch reality TV (except The Voice). I wonder that says about me, lol?

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    2. Oh Ava, I love FREAKONOMICS! Their comparisons are amazing and totally makes sense. It's insane. They also have a documentary on Netflix instant watch.

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    3. I LOVE the soundtrack to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, even if the movie wasn't the greatest. But I agree--great book. :)

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    4. I never knew Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was non-fiction. I've never read it. Maybe I should check it out.

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    5. Yep. Non-fiction. The author was a reporter who'd gone to Charleston to write a magazine article (I think on architecture, though it's been a long time since I read it) and he happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong time) to have met the accused killer BEFORE the crime, be in town during it, and then cover it after the fact.

      The movie focused on just the one thing, but the book had a lot of snippets with the colorful people who lived in/around the area (though they didn't have anything to do with the murder trial, etc.)

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  6. Olivia,
    Love the idea of branching out of my comfort zone--the implementation makes me nervous. ;} Although, I used to read only horror (ADORE Stephen King and Dean Koontz!) and after much badgering from a friend (think a couple years of her nagging me to try something), I tried paranormal. Fell. In. Love. And now it's my genre of choice. I agree broadening horizons can lead to new loves. :)

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    1. I used only fantasy and sci-fiction, but then I tried historical romance and fell in love! Then I branched out to (almost) all romance, and then started writing it. But I got caught in a rut and tended to stick to romance only when reading. Now I feel like I'm expanding again.

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  7. That's the whole reason I went to a book club on base. I was reading a lot of romance and figure I need a change. I still love the happily ever afters, but I found some other books that I loved. For instance I loved THE BOOK THIEF. Then I was getting in a romance rut and need a change, so my friend suggests I read this werewolf story. Oh goodness it was awesome! That's why I'm partial to werewolves.

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    1. The Book Thief? I'll have to check that out. Thanks! :)

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  8. I'm with Ava-I don't normally read non-fiction. Then I read Random Family almost 15 years ago and I was blown away, and immediately started hunting for other books like it (I think you'd categorize it as narrative non-fiction). Some have been complete hits, some have been duds. But whenever someone tells me they don't like non-fiction, I tell them to read Random Family. And they like it. A lot.

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    1. I haven't heard of Random Family either. What is it about?

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  9. I've become a big fan of certain out-of-my-comfort zone sorts of books. I'm not really a fan of most magical realism, but I freaking adore The House of the Spirits. I tend to shy away from reading anything even relatively sci-fi or fantasy, but The Lord of the Rings is an annual read for me, and I'm in the middle of Game of Thrones and having difficulty putting it down to get my work done. :)

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    1. Yay! I'm building a nice little list here...

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  10. For me it was Tom Clancy. I kept seeing Executive Orders in the bookstore and skipped over it, but it kept calling me back until I finally purchased it. I don't even remember which number it is of the Jack Ryan series but I found myself stopping at about the 200th page and going back to purchase the books that came before so I could read in order. I am still hooked on this series and it isn't even close to historical romance.

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    1. My dad reads a lot of Tom Clancy, I've read a few. You might like this book called Plum Island, if you like TC. I can't recall the author, but it's that same sort of genre...

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  11. I've branched out a lot more since becoming an author. Mainly, I don't like to read the same genre I write while actually writing, so it's led to a lot of new discoveries for me. YA is my fave, but there are also some nonfiction standouts too, like Malcolm Gladwell's books.

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