July 13th, 2011

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Book Report (70) and Middling on Intensity...

For those of you who happened to Google your title and ended up here, please know that one star is not a bad thing in Robin's world -- just the fact that I picked up your book and started it means that somewhere it's getting good buzz (or that your blurb was really cool). 'R' means it's a re-read. Different colored font means it's an ARC for 2011 (and I'll try to remember to put the month it's released, as well). I'm linking to Tattered Cover's pages for the ARCs.

If you'd like to see my year-to-date four-plus- and five-star recommendations, visit Robin ReadsnWrites. (just updated, finally)

* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.

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Hourglass, by Myra McEntire ***+ So this was very intense (thus the middling) -- I'm very impressed with how the author creates the intensity practically from the first page. It got to the point where I had to skim because it was almost too intense for me. This doesn't mean I didn't like it -- and now that I know about it, I'll wait until I'm in an intense mood and pick it up again (because I want to read it more thoroughly). The story: Emerson has struggled since her parents' deaths (and even a little before) with seeing people who aren't quite there, but they don't appear to be 'normal' ghosts, either. If Emerson tries to touch them, they dissipate. Her much older brother took her in, and now she's living with him and his wife -- but he's not content to leave her to her mental struggles, and he's hired yet another 'expert' to help her. The expert, Michael, brings about a reaction in Emerson she never expected, and before long, he's drawn her into his organization (Hourglass), and she's experiencing things she never thought possible -- and the mysteries are only beginning. (YA paranormal/suspense, released 7/11, publisher: Egmont USA)

It's rare that I read a book which such intensity. I don't think that's on purpose, though it's true that I often am not in the mood for super intense stories. But as I read it, I kept wondering what made this book so different from so many others as far as intensity is concerned.

Yes, the MC had issues right off the bat (but that isn't so unusual).

Yes, there was tension because you don't know exactly what's going on with her 'ghost seeing.'

Yes, there's romantic tension right away when she meets Michael -- plus, by then, she's also had an encounter with a handsome 'ghost' who knows her name (the first time that's happened).

Certainly there's sympathy for Emerson because of all the pain she's endured.

But most books start out with a similar formula, I'd say. So I'm not sure what made this different. Was it the constant bombardment of problems? It seemed, at times, like Emerson never really caught a break -- something was always going wrong. I know that many people suggest that when you're writing, you do that do your MCs -- never let them rest. I'm not a huge proponent of that, myself, and perhaps that's because I personally have a hard time reading about (and experiencing) such an onslaught of intensity.

And I've read other books where it seems like the MC never gets a break, and yet the intensity isn't ratcheted up quite as high...so it's something I'm still pondering. What about you? What do you think builds serious intensity in a book? Do you like that, as a reader?