I’m still working on my project; reading through various titles of a Goodreads list.
My object is to sample recommendations from various genres with minimal bias or preparation. Since I’m reading only e-books downloaded from the library I don’t see the summary notes on the inside jacket, the glowing reviews, or more about the author. Just a cover, the title, and the author’s name.
Reading e-books is different than reading physical books. With a physical book you automatically have an idea how far you have progressed because you can feel more pages read or more pages yet to read, whereas with an e-book you have to consciously check your progress to see if you’ve made it half way yet. The cover of a physical book, with the title and the author’s name, is much larger so that each time you pick it up you are reminded of what you are reading, but with an e-book, the picture is so small that I pay so little attention that often I don’t remember the cover or the title or the author after I’m done.
But when the title is Play With Me (With Me In Seattle), by Kristen Proby, and the cover is a hot young couple, the woman’s leg—naked below the hem of her shorts—lifted to the guy’s hip and pinned there by the guy, all eyes closed, wet in the rain, … well, even I can figure out what genre we’re in.
The prologue surprised me. From a purely line editing-sentence variety-paragraph construction-writing consistency perspective, the romances that I’ve read so far in my quest have been anywhere from awful to poorly written. This one is not. The grammar is good, the sentence variety good, everything flows well. Eventually, though, I start gagging: on the descriptions, “keenly aware of Will’s eyes on me, running up and down my body …”, on the clichés “I’m a charge nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital in the cancer unit …” and eventually on the plot—arrogant appearing football player tries to convince heroine that he’s a good guy by taking her home when she’s had too much to drink, puts her to bed, doesn’t make a play at her, has her car delivered to her house—became too much for me to take.
I suspect the author has written other things, under another name, that might be more worth reading.
To catch up on other project results; after watching a recorded appearance that Zsuzsi Gartner made at a university class and her passing reference to “A Game of Thrones, I decided to pull that up in my list. Fantasy/horror is not one of my preferred genres and so I had intentionally avoided the novel until she referred in a joke to the television program.
“Game of Thrones” is also surprisingly well written, at least at the opening. Interesting characters, good, compact descriptions of as the characters appear.
“Yoren had a twisted shoulder and a sour smell, his hair and beard were matted and greasy and full of lice, his clothing old, patched, and seldom washed. His two young recruits smelled even worse, and seemed as stupid as they were cruel.”
But the characters are not very deep (maybe because there are so many of them, but even with as many characters as “War and Peace” has, the author can give us depth in the central ones; Pierre, Natasha, Andrei, Marie), and by the time I got two thirds of the way through my interest in the world, the characters, and the conflict had worn out.
I speed-read the rest just to finish it, then went to Wikipedia to read the summaries of the rest of the series. That’s when I realized that this is not some huge plan like the Harry Potter series, or Wagner’s Ring cycle, “Game of Thrones” is a soap opera, and should be more accurately compared with Dallas or The OC.
Two others to note briefly.
The Round House: A Novel by Louise Erdrich was a good read, but it was another Pulitzer winner that got into the collection (which has more than just the Goodreads list). Again, I don’t know anything about these when I start reading but when I get a sense of the writing I usually research the author to see what other people think of them. That’s when I discovered that Erdrich (and Jane Smiley earlier in my list) won prizes.
And The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M. L. Stedman is, at the moment, unfinished, but it’s also well written. It’s interesting that the author is female and yet I feel that the female character is under-presented, that I, the reader, am lacking in my understanding and sense of closeness and my empathy for her.
The other interesting thing is that my inner editor questioned some things in the first couple thousand words or so. Small things, like the use of passive voice in one sentence early on, and some other similar writing question, but I thought, ah well, this is a published novel, well written, it must have been edited and there must be a reason for these things. But it turns out that the author is a lawyer and this is her first published novel. It’s not another Pulitzer winner that snuck into my list, but the first publication of someone like me. One giant step beyond me, but I admit to some (unwarranted) pride in being able to see some tiny questionable items in a literary first publication.