I spend a lot of time thinking about why I like certain books and dislike others. I am so in awe of people who have the talent and the courage to create, like writers, that I really don’t like giving low ratings or bad reviews so I want to make sure I clearly understand what I like and don’t like about a story. It improves my likelihood of finding my next 5-star read!
Sometimes, books that are beloved by #bookstagram #booktube or Goodreads don’t really work for me which also inspires me try to figure out specifically why. I’m sure every other reader has the same experience but recently, I was jotting down some notes in preparation for writing a review of Mary Kubica’s newest release, The Other Mrs. and I ended up making a list of the tropes and plot devices in that book that I didn’t like (it was a 2-star read for me). That made me think about the flip side so I promptly wrote down a list of the tropes that I do like and voila, this blog post was born.
Tropes I love in books:
- Assassins or assassin schools. It doesn’t matter what genre of book, I like anything with an assassin or a character with special fighting abilities and skills. Some good examples are The Gray Man by Mark Greaney or Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Both also include another character type that I love, the anti-hero aka a character who lacks the more conventional or traditional characteristics of a hero but really, is a hero at heart.
- Mysteries where the detective is not from law enforcement. Not that I don’t love a good police procedural every once and a while but I really love when the person trying to figure out the mystery is a journalist, a psychologist, a student or a teacher…you get the point. I really enjoyed Blue Monday by Nicci French and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens precisely because the main character was not law enforcement but was compelled to solve a mystery that they were drawn into.
- A book within a book or really, any story about books, book shops or libraries. I love books and so it’s probably not surprising that I love stories about books. Genevieve Cogman writes a terrific series starting with The Secret Library where the main character is a protector of books across multiple realities and time lines. Anthony Horrowitz actually went one step further and inserted himself into his books. I loved it and if it sounds like something you might like, please check out The Word Is Murder or The Sentence Is Death.
- Books set on islands or in other isolated locations. Sometimes the isolation can be manufactured by the author using a snow storm or some other natural catastrophe – it all works for me. Throw in a mystery or even better, a murder and I likely won’t be able to resist. My love of this plot device probably started when I was much younger and read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Another book that ticks this box and that I highly recommend is Wilder Girls by Rory Power. Two very different stories but with a creepy island setting in common.
- Books set in schools, boarding schools – with or without a magical element. Since Harry Potter, this particular trope probably appears on a lot of peoples “favourite things in books” list but aside from Harry, there are a number of other books that use this setting really interestingly. Maureen Johnson has a great series that starts with Truly Devious. One of my favourite series of all time is Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.
- Books that feature women private detectives. Modern day settings work for me but I really love a female private detective story set in Victorian London. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn is a lot of fun. The Lion’s Courtship by Annelie Wendeberg is more thriller than mystery and definitely a darker read but equally as enjoyable. I’m currently about half way through Jess Kidd’s Things In Jars and suspect that it will make this list too.
Please, let me know if you have any recommendations for books that fit my sometimes very specific list of tropes I love. Happy reading!