Saturday, November 2, 2013

Looking for Mister Good-Read

How many times has a book blurb made you immediately think "been there, done that"?


As mentioned in some of my earlier posts here, I belong to a few sites that let me request advance reader copies of books, and in exchange, I review them. For the most part, I've been very lucky in that almost all of the books I've gotten have been surprisingly good. Some have even been amazing. But the down side of this is that the bar for books I might want to read has gotten higher.

I recently received from one site a list of upcoming books from one of their publishers. As always, the site asks me if there are any of the books on the list that I might want to read and review. So, like the avid reader anxious to get my hands on the next best seller before it goes into print that I am, I start going over the list.

I quickly pass over all the books with covers that look like advertisements for "The Game of Thrones" (no offense, it just isn't my thing). I also scroll away from the authors who, while I'm sure they've written some excellent stories, are just a touch too prolific for my taste, and I have my suspicions that they are, in truth, robots. I'm also not going to ask for a book that's part of a series, especially if it isn't the first one. Thrillers, adventure, crime and mystery… I think not. Sci-Fi… well, I love things like Doctor Who, but I prefer to see them on TV. What about romance novels? Well, some of them could be good but we can quickly rule out the ones with covers that have overly muscular, half dressed men in a heated embrace with a women wearing a gown (century of the dress style, notwithstanding). And most of the ones that have the pastel colors or hearts and flowers with childish drawings are probably also not my thing.

So what does that leave me with? Well, it should leave me with contemporary, literary and historical fiction. Okay, it may seem snobbish, but what do you want? That's the type of stuff I like to read. So why shouldn't those be the ones I ask for, right? Absolutely - and so I begin my perusal.

As I go down the list, quickly jumping past all those books that don't meet my stringent criteria, I soon realize that those I do stop to look at, seem to sound strangely familiar. No, these aren't books I've already read - they haven't even been published yet. But I do see something of a pattern here. There seem to be a bunch of books about everything being perfect and then suddenly something goes wrong and how will he/she/they cope with this. Or those who have difficult lives to begin with and suddenly find someone that can turn it all around, but will they take advantage of their chance or screw it up. I also find the ones where someone's past comes back to haunt them, and the ones where someone has great ambitions but can't achieve them until they find a way to be accepted. It all just seems so… done already.

Yes, I know people say that there are only anywhere from three to 36 basic plots. But surely these writers, if they're good enough to be published by a major house, could have approached the one they chose with just a little more creativity. Don't you think?

And then, hope springs. There they are - those gems that are almost hidden underneath the usual chafe. These are the books that sound like they've taken one of those plots and looked at it in a different way. Yes, those are the ones I'm going to request; the ones that not everyone else is going to ask for.

Watch this space, people - we could all be in for a truly unique ride!