I'll admit it, I like a melancholy story. If a book ends too happily, I mistrust it. The hero can triumph, but I need a sense that something has been lost along the way.
On the flip side, I hate feeling like every thread of hope has been completely decimated. When a book ends in complete destruction it feels like a cheap out. It reminds of the stories kids used to write in elementary school when they killed off all their characters to make an ending. Misery porn. Bleh.
I think there's something about the human mind that rebels when you offer it too much or too little hope. It can recognize the untrue thing, just as it can spot bad CGI.
I like ensemble stories. I'm interested in seeing how an author can successfully drawn me into a group of people and invest me in their dynamics. So many book characters are lonely, trying to make it through the world on their own. But the loneliness of characters in a group is rarer to read.
I like the fantastic. I like wild ideas that will draw me into plots I couldn't have imagined. I like seeing the same old human conflicts given new complexity through crazy worlds and different belief systems.
I like powerful questions. The author doesn't have to answer the questions, but I love it when they thoroughly explore them. I especially like ambiguity. A question is raised and there is no clear solution. Every choice brings the potential for collapse. I feel that way every time I fill out my ballot.
What I don't like: anything heartwarming. If a book or movie uses the word heartwarming to describe itself, I'm probably going to put it back. Apparently my heart doesn't like to be warmed.
What themes or patterns do you find yourself drawn to over and over again. Which ones do you reject? Does this plant you within a few genres, or is there a lot of overlap?