Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What to Read? Part 1

How do we choose what to read?

It depends on the reader and the reason he or she reads. In this post, I will limit my scope to those of us who read for pleasure, specifically fiction.

As an author, I put great stock by word-of-mouth publicity. I remember vividly how a few years back, my students kept telling me about a series of books they loved and how I needed to try them. I did. That’s how I discovered the Twilight series. I also found out that YA books can be for adults too!

Another way I choose books to read is by how often I see them on display and how attracted I am by their covers. Harry Potter got me that way. After months of seeing stacks of it on display and hearing the hype on TV, I decided to give it a try. It worked for me.

A lot has changed since the early days of Twilight and Harry Potter. How I shop for books has changed dramatically. With the closing of most major bookstores, my book shopping has become primarily online shopping. Amazon has become my primary source for books. 

I still go on my semi-annual pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble each time I fly into Miami to visit my family, but Amazon is at my fingertips no matter where in the world I am and UPS delivers.

In shopping at Amazon, there are problems. There are over one million titles available, but only the ones the Amazon logarithms consider worthy are up front. You might not have a problem with that. You probably think that any book worth reading will be among the top sellers and vice versa.  

I usually head for the top titles in the categories I like. There will be a top-sellers list in each cat. I will click on the ones that catch my eye, and I’ll read the blurb. I’ll gloss over the reviews, paying attention to the average for all. If a book attracts my attention, I always download the sample. It’s free and in the two or three chapters involved, I can always decide if I want to read more. 

Do I rely on book promos that come to my mailbox from sites such as BookBub, ENT, Read Cheaply, and such? Not recently. I get overwhelmed by the promo sites. They send constant lists of FREE and discounted books. Often, these books seem to be carbon copies of the same: bear shifter romances interspersed with the billionaire’s baby romance, and the ever-present YA fantasy or the end-of-the-world newest.

Most of the sites have little appreciation for cross-genre titles. The ones that claim to be more exclusive, base their exclusivity on the number of reviews a book has and its selling rank on Amazon or the name of the author. Which brings me to the question: Is a book worth reading because it’s visible on Amazon?

The obvious answer to that is that “worth reading” is a concept totally determined by the individual reader. I will qualify my criteria for a book I consider worth reading. 

First, it must be grammatically acceptable. It need not be perfect, as many reviewers expect a book to be. J.R. Ward’s books are not perfect, but millions of fans, including me, love them. I can deal with missing commas but not with overwhelmingly bad grammar.

It must have a storyline that grabs me. It can’t be a rehash of the same old theme. If you’re writing YA, and you’re doing fantasy, it must be somehow different and original. The kids with super powers or the quest for the stone have been done to death.

It must have more than just speed, action, and short sentences. There must be good dialogue, compelling characters, and a sense of place and time.

It must hold my attention! That is the most important mark of a book I find worth reading. It pulls me in and makes me want to live in it. Last evening I sat at my favorite restaurant, all alone, twirling Fetuccini Alfredo with one hand while holding Tara Janzen's Loose Ends with the other.  I've read both her Crazy series and her Loose series many times, and they never fail to grab me. I'd rather stop eating before I stop reading.

Now, back to the original idea in my lengthy speech. Is a book worth reading because it makes Amazon’s best-sellers list?  The only way I could determine that is by reading those books. This would be beyond my scope because I can’t afford to buy them all. However, I can try the same experiment on the Top FREE Kindle downloads. 

Free books are suspect because they are free. If an author is eager to give away a book for free, then it must not be a very good book. If it were good, it would be selling like hotcakes and have a placement in the paid best sellers. Doesn’t that make sense? 

This is faulty logic. Many authors today are giving away first books in a series as a way of hooking readers into the series. That being said, some books are being driven to the top of the charts through “Click Farm” scams, as David Gaughran recently reported in his post Scammers Break the Kindle Store. This is true for PAID as well as FREE books, but it’s not a common practice. 

I intend to pick out books from Amazon’s Top Free rankings and let you know if, IN MY OPINION, they're worth reading. Remember: my opinion! Everyone has one, and mine is no more important than yours. Be warned, I'll not trudge through a book that doesn't grab me early on!  

Book for July 18th: Love on a Spring Morning. This book is #2 on today’s Top 100 Free at Amazon. It’s part of a series, but not the first. The author is tagged as a “New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.” The series is described as a “small town military romance.” This means that the setting is a small town, and the main character (male) is a soldier or prior soldier. This is in the major contemporary romance genre.


I also included the screenshot below. Interestingly, both #1 and #2 are non-fiction books. Love on a Spring Morning has 157 Reviews with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. I expect this book to be good!



This is my opinion: for whatever it’s worth.

Just finished Chapter 1. I had a really hard time staying with it. Main character Ryan Howard is having difficulties dealing with being a single parent after the death of his wife. The names of all the different children, the depressing topic, and the slow going are throwing me off. This read will be a good fit for readers who love extended pain. I don’t. I love suspenseful starts and beginnings that just grab me. Still, it does not mean the book is not worth reading.

Just finished chapter 2. This one introduces the female main character, Holly. She’s as tired and depressed as the male one, and she’s a movie star looking for something not Hollywood. I’m in pain, but it’s probably my fault.

Just finished chapter 3. Ryan visits his family and has a long talk with his brother. We find out that Ryan’s marriage was not happy. His wife was addicted to pot, and she was killed. He hasn’t had sex in a long time, and he’s not interested enough to make an effort. 

All right. I'm drowning here. Lack-luster writing, slow pace, uninteresting characters, and after three chapters, not a really clear sense of place. Too much minutiae and tired, unattractive personalities. We can find that in everyday life. Why look for it in books? I have to wonder how one makes it through the next chapter.

Chapter 4. Ryan sees Holly (the actress) in a sports bra and tiny shorts. His reaction? This is a direct quote: “And her breasts. Holy shit, he could see her breasts, and they were like an oasis in the desert.”  (He could see her breasts through the sports bra, of course.)

No more for me. The first four chapters were a struggle to read. It failed the biggest test: it failed to grab me and keep my attention. I am a fan of Debbie Macomber, whose small-town romances have never lost me.  Until the next book, guys!


Reminder: All my own novels, including the latest release, Thicker Than Blood, are on Kindle Unlimited. If you have a KU membership, you can read them for FREE!

If you've read Vampire, Not Monster, would you kindly log into Amazon and leave a review? I'd truly appreciate your effort. If you've not read it, you might give it a go! It's a free download and only about a 45-minute read.