For the past few months I’ve been trying to review every book I’ve read. The reason I became a book blogger was to be able to share my thoughts about the books I’ve read, and for the past long while I’d lost sight of that goal, getting distracted by all the other things that come along with blogging about books.
While I haven’t been completely successful in this endeavor, it hasn’t been a total fail. But the more reviews I write, the more it becomes obvious to me just how few words I have at my disposal to describe them all. Perhaps it’s because the books I read are too similar in genre or nature to warrant a different description. Or perhaps it’s because I’m very particular about my word selections.
I have been known to visit Thesaurus dot com in order to try and expand my brain’s limited vocabulary, but as I am so particular about the words I choose – they have to exactly convey what I want them to – I don’t often find it to be much of a help.
The books I read are generally those that excite. I like to be engaged with a story, to be thrilled by it, to be fascinated. I love when the writing is beautiful or brilliant. I love when the stories are rich with detail, the plots are riveting, the characters are charming or adorable or swoon-worthy. I prefer my stories to be filled with epic adventure. I must be entertained.
At times I am mesmerized, spellbound or bewitched. At others I am captivated, enticed, consumed. And on a few occasions my mind is blow.
But the word that often eludes me, that I see so frequently in other reviews, is compelling. And I’ve often wondered why I hesitate to use that word in my reviews.
One of the definitions of compelling is “evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.” I do find books interesting. I do find myself able to strongly connect to them. So, perhaps they are compelling. But yet I still hesitate to describe them as such. Because while I may find them compelling, my mind always jumps to the term “compel” and then I ask myself whether I feel compelled to read them?
The definition of compel is “force or oblige (someone) to do something.” And I certainly don’t feel forced to read any of the books I read. I do sometimes feel obliged to do so, but not in a way that involves force. So maybe it’s the negative description for the root word in compelling that is giving me pause.
Compelling is associated with something positive, compel is associated with something negative. In my mind perhaps I’m blending the two. Or maybe not.
I see both “compelling” and “compel” as very strong terms. And so, while I may be able to powerfully bond with a story or be drawn to read it, I feel like that’s one of those terms that has to be reserved for those once or twice in a lifetime stories with plots that are profound, meaningful, powerful. One of my favorite reads of all time, by my favorite author of all time, is still one I wouldn’t describe as compelling.
Sadly, it’s not the only word I struggle with using to describe the books I read. It’s one of many.
I find myself loathe to use “engrossing” when describing books that I actually find engrossing. My reasons for dislike of that particular word are childish and also snobbish, so I am going to refrain from elaborating on that. I don’t like to use “touching” or “moving” as I often worry I’ll sound stuffy or pompous. The list goes on… and on… and on….
But more often than not, it’s simply the fact that only a handful of words accurately describe the sentiment. As previously mentioned, much of what I read is exciting. If it was boring I’d quickly set it aside. But not all books are enthralling, thrilling or electrifying. Just because a word is a synonym does not make it a word I can supplement for another when I feel like I’ve said something was exciting or amazing or action-packed or epic one too many times.
I’ve only read one novel since I started blogging that I found to be “sweeping.” I’ve only read a handful of books that provoked thought. Just a select few were brilliant or masterfully written. I don’t believe I’ve read a single book that I could be comfortable describing as profound since 2010. And while that may sound sad, it’s really not. I have read some of the most wonderful, entertaining, suspenseful, chilling, romantic, tantalizing, heart-stopping, breathtaking, gorgeous, gruesome, horrifying, awesome, gripping stories since then. I just wish I had a few more words at my disposal to adequately and accurately describe them.
I often wonder whether some of the words I see in reviews truly match what the reviewer felt or whether they were just so tired of rehashing the same words over and over again and desperate to utilize something new. Even if it wasn’t as on point as one of those “go to” words in their repertoire. Was that story so irresistible as to compel them to read it, or was it merely fascinating, captivating or engaging? I’d love to know.
What do you think?
Do you struggling with coming up with fresh and new words to describe the books you read so that your reviews don’t sound stale or redundant? Do you find yourself using a word outside of your comfort zone simply to make it stand out from other reviews?
Do you have a hard time using certain words like engrossing, titillating, arousing or provocative because they bring to mind other things than what their definitions actually mean?
Do you vary your reads just so that you can use different words in your reviews? Or do you not worry about sounding one-note because they are your sentiments and they are your reviews and you’ve come to accept the fact that there are only so many words out there?
And what do you think about…
The term “pulse-pounding thrill ride” has been used (some might say overused) to describe films, television shows and even books. Do you believe it when a film/tv show/book is described as such? Do you roll your eyes and laugh out loud? Do you wonder about the reviewer’s originality? Or does it entice you to see or read whatever film/tv show/book could make someone’s pulse pound and give them a ride of a lifetime?
Just some of the many, many, many pulse-pounding thrill rides:
- The River Wild
- Blow Out
- Jurassic Park
- Sleepy Hollow (tv)
- Fire & Flood (book)
- Scandal (tv)
- Mission: Impossible III
- The film formerly known as: Edge of Tomorrow
- As Above, So Below
- License to Kill
- 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded
- Naked City
- Blood Rayne