November 3rd, 2009

princess

Do not want...but why not?

Recently, I picked up a book that looked interesting. It hit many of my "sweet spots" for plot, description, and cover blurbs from people I trust. The cover didn't do it any favors, featuring, as it did, a generic Urban Fantasy Hot Girl standing in a Playboy circa-1984 pose, but I've enjoyed books with way worse covers. I entered the text in good faith.

By page two, I was ready to fling the book across the room. Why? Because the author had chosen to scramble the spelling of a common-to-the-genre word in a way that made it look not only pretentious, but difficult to read. This is a personal bug-a-boo of mine, since I really do feel that spelling was standardized for a reason, and while I managed to soldier through, it colored my ability to sink into the text for several chapters.

(As an aside, seriously: not all words become more interesting and mysterious when spelled with a vestigial "y." The worst example I've ever seen was in a YA series full of "mermyds," and the fact that I made it through all three volumes is a testament to the power of raw stubborn.)

One reader of Rosemary and Rue posted a lengthy, positive review, more than half of which was taken up by complaints about the pronunciation guide. Specifically, I didn't write down the correct pronunciation of "Kitsune." It's a fair cop—if you pronounce the word as written in the pronunciation guide, you'll be saying it wrong—and it's been corrected for A Local Habitation, but it was, for this person, as bad as if I'd spelled Toby's name "Aughtcober" and then claimed it was pronounced just like the month. Bug-a-boos for all!

Kate recently delivered a long and eloquent diatribe on "back cover buzz-word bingo," which I really wish I'd had a video camera running for, because it was awesome. The summation is that she watches the back covers of books for certain "buzz-words," and, if the book works up to a magical bingo score, she doesn't read it. I do something similar with bad horror movies, since there are specific buzz-words that mean "soft core porn" and "gratuitous torture," and those really aren't what I'm watching the movie to see.

So what are your bug-a-boos? Terribly twisted spelling? Pronunciations that you don't agree with? Buzz-words oozing off the back cover and getting all over your shoes? How about heroines with ruby hair and emerald eyes who aren't appearing in an Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld fanfic epic? Inquiring blondes want to know!