I must confess, I have been a somewhat cranky reader recently. Here’s the thing: I hear complaints about the quality of books available in KU all the time. Having my own in that pool makes me wince a little when I see those criticisms. But…
It’s all true. You know what else is true? Traditionally published books have all those problems, too. Poor editing, multiple homonyms (wrong-word usage), flat-out typos. I don’t care about the occasional typo. I know from my own work that multiple passes by editors, early readers, and myself will still miss a typo. And I know that in trad-pub, your ‘editing’ is often done by underpaid (or unpaid) interns. But when I’m being thrown out of the story almost every paragraph by a word I have to stop and figure out WTH that word is there, then it’s a problem for me as a reader. And that book was put out by a small press, although it’s hard to tell these days.
What is even more of a big deal for me as a reader is deceptive genre placement. I’m very much a mood reader. Sometimes I want chocolate, sometimes I want fruit… oh, we’re talking books. So recently my craving has been for mysteries, the more hard-science the better. There are times I really enjoy a good romance (although rarely modern ones) but that’s not what I want right now. So it’s super frustrating to pick up a novel written by a well-known forensic anthropologist and find that it’s mostly fluffy romance. I wanted science, dammit! Not hare-brained heroines swooning over her pick of studly investigator and macho forensic scientist (not too mention that second makes me snicker). Also, I’d like plausibility and plot. Is that too much to ask?
So breaking down this particular book’s problems: it felt like it was being written to a word quota. There were times the story was being carried along well, and I was able to look past the quirky dialogue (ok, it was fairly wooden) to see what was happening. Other times… well, let’s put it this way. I really don’t care about curtain colors, much less type of fabric, kind of hardwood flooring, or flowers in the kitchen flowerbox, unless they contribute to the plot. They didn’t. And as much as I love food, I don’t want to read a description of every meal. So. Much. Fluff.
And then we get into plausibility. The general idea of the book was that Our Heroes were a pair of plucky heroines that have abandoned a career investigating mass graves in global locations where mass genocides had taken place, and had opened a non-profit agency toward identifying missing persons from unknown dead bodies. There are… nice ideas there. And there are some very odd ones. But anyway, these two are drawn into an FBI case by an agent who has decided that he doesn’t trust the internal lab because – I don’t know, because. It wasn’t fully explained why he and his partner had decided they couldn’t trust their superiors in Georgia, so they finagled a transfer to LA. And they had managed to stay together during that transfer. So… yeah. Um. Ignoring that this just doesn’t happen, we continue with the story. One of our heroines has a past with one of the investigators (so, really, his ‘hiring’ her is just an excuse to get closer to her again?”. And that same heroine has a thing going on with a former colleague who used to volunteer for the UN and surprise, surprise, worked for the FBI lab. So you can see where this is going? Oh, good, so it’s not just me. (Book to avoid: Freezing, by Clea Koff. Also, that cover is shudderingly bad)
That book? Traditionally published (admittedly, through a small press that works only with agents) and I checked it out through my local digital library.
I don’t always object to romance cooties in my mysteries. But I don’t want it to be front-and-center. And I really don’t care for characters falling in love within hours of their first encounter. Oh, I know, love at first sight and all that. Which is fine. And I totally appreciate attraction when you first meet someone – and that’s not always meet in person, by the way. My own life story bears that out. But for heaven’s sake, you shouldn’t have the hero angsting over whether the hot investigator chick (I use that word purposefully, here) could possibly like his geeky self during their first drive to a crime scene together. He’s supposed to be a brain, can we make him less shallow? And I won’t even get into the female character here who is supposed to be super smart and doesn’t show it. Ever. Through the entire book. (Book to Avoid: Body of the Crime by Jennifer Chase)
Speaking of stupidity, I did finally pick up a book on KU during this reading jag that had great promise. I made it to the 50% mark, and then it hit the wall (in my mind. I like my tablet, I’m not actually throwing it). First of all, I was gritting my teeth over the central premise of the main character. Does every female character HAVE to be the victim of domestic abuse, these days? Must they? I would so love to pick up a book with a happily married family woman who didn’t have some scary monster in her closet. Anyway. I was putting up with that, and for a change it wasn’t eye-rollingly badly done. I was actually flinching a little as it hit sore points from my past (yea, I know, I’m complaining about something I lived through. Escapism, people). However…
I’m not a fan of stupid hero tricks. And I am really not a fan of the main character deciding that since she’s the victim, she’s going to wander off on her own without telling her supportive friends and colleagues where she’s going, or why. So when our abused heroine jaunts off to confront her abusive spouse on the other side of the country – oh, yeah, the one who the book has made clear has killed at least three people at this point, one of which she is well aware of – I put the book down. I won’t pick it back up, and the author’s name is on a list of “Don’t Bother” for future reading. (Book to Avoid: Exhume by Danielle Girard. Although props for a fantastic cover).
So now I’m cranky. Because I haven’t been able to get my reading fix, and it’s Friday, and I’m at work. At least I have my podcasts to occupy my brain. I might even try an audiobook. Might.