Tag Archives: picky reader

Picky Reader Disappointed

ajtillock2013 012First on my list of disappointments were some of my recent library book selections.  I could only read two out of five.  One was a Lee Child Jack Reacher novel.  The other was Betrayal by John Patrick Hunter.  The rejected ones were, in no particular order:  an award winning (literary?) novel so bogged down in excessive description I’m not sure a story existed; a historical novel that looked intriguing but again was so bogged down by historical information that had nothing to do with the actual story I gave up.  Note to self:  beware of historical novels written by British history professors.  Number three was a British chick lit(?) book, again, bogged down in a slow- moving set-up and a heroine(?) so depressed and depressing I knew I wouldn’t be able to get interested.  Why do British authors take so long to get into the story????

Why do I choose at least five books on each library trip?  Because I hope I can get through at least two of them.  Sometimes it’s more.  Sometimes it’s less.

Now, for the even bigger disappointment:  I took a fellow author up on a free ebook offer I saw on Facebook for one of her mystery series books.

I’ve never read this author before and tend to think I won’t again.  It appears she indie published this mystery, which I would think would make a professional author even more vigilant about proofreading, but apparently that is not the case in this instance.   The misspellings, usage errors and repetitiveness nearly drove me insane.  Add to that a heroine who can’t get it through her head (even after the investigating police detective assures her numerous times) that she is a witness and not a suspect.  She’s convinced she’ll end up in the slammer facing the death penalty unless she solves the case on her own.  It’s like she has a mental block or something.  I wanted to smack her.

Many of us are doing indie publishing these days, myself included, with mixed results.  I applaud the effort, but I wish the standards were higher, because a book like this makes us look bad.  Or I thought it would at least make this particular author look bad.  But such is not the case.  This book has four plus stars as its average rating on Amazon.com.  I wish I could figure out why something I think sucks garners rave reviews.  Are these the author’s friends and family posting such positive comments?  Or are they readers who honestly thought this was a great book?  I wish I knew and I wish I had as many reader fans willing to post wonderful reviews of my books.

I won’t even ask my friends and family to read my books any more or to post reviews for me.  If they are inclined to do so on their own (most of them aren’t) that’s great and I appreciate it.  But if they don’t like my books, I don’t want them to lie on my behalf.  (Actually I do but I would never ask them to!)

I should no longer be surprised by the number of traditionally published books that are essentially about nothing.  By page 163 of a recent read I still had no idea what the point of the story was or where it was going.  I didn’t care about the main character or anything else.  I wish I’d given up on this one much sooner.

I’ve decided the test of a “good” book is how long it takes me to read it.  If I can’t wait to pick it up again, if I read to the exclusion of other leisure time activities (and that includes watching Sex and the City or Castle reruns while playing Bejeweled Blitz), then I’ve picked a winner.  Sadly, this doesn’t happen often enough.nqh-small

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#picky reader




Picky Reader Honked Off

I grew up in a household without a lot of money or luxury and learned early on to feed my reading addiction through the public library. I have a Kindle and occasionally I purchase books in digital format (usually when I have a gift certificate) but I still often seek out reading material at the public library.

Usually my library visit goes like this: I stroll the fiction aisles looking for something that snags my interest. A title, an author name, the design or color of the spine. It’s hard to say why I pull my choices from the rows and rows of books available. I’ve never figured out what attracts any one reader to any one book. I don’t think the experts have either.

Usually I leave the library with three to five books. I have to pad my loaned items with one or two extras in case any of what I’ve chosen proves unreadable.

On my most recent trip I chose three books. I started the first one, a novel about a woman’s disappearance. I read to page fifty-six and set it aside. It’s a possibility. I may go back and finish it, but it’s 372 pages and it’s moving sooooo slowwwwly I can hardly stand it.

I pick up book number two written by a male author. (You may recall from earlier Picky Reader blogs that I vowed to make myself read more books by male authors.) This one’s about a down-and-out member of the Hollywood paparazzi. I read until page seventeen and wonder if this is the kind of character I want to read about. A loan shark has had him beaten up. He’s outclassed by his competition. He can’t go back to his house for a variety of reasons. Depressing. I set the book aside. I may go back and finish it.

On to book number three which looks promising. It has the kind of contemporary romance-y/womens’ fiction-y cover I’m attracted to and I think it has possibilities. Until the first line in the second chapter stops me cold. “Tom pulled his eyes from Sarah’s, and it wasn’t easy.”* Huh? What? Are their eyeballs stuck together? Sticky eyeballs. It’s all I can think about. Any author worth her salt should know after the first three books she’s had published (this appears to be her fourth) that “gaze” is the word we use to keep “eyes” from doing things we don’t want them to do. If she didn’t know this, her editor should have.

But…this is a potentially appealing story, so I’ll keep reading. Until I’m stopped again on page thirty-seven: “…a chasm between her and God.” Rats. Is this a Christian romance?

Usually I check the publisher before I take a book home. Nothing about the publisher’s name sends up red flags, but when I look at the back cover I see it in teeny tiny print: FICTION/Christian/Romance. Grrrr.

I don’t have anything against Christian romance novels. I just don’t like to read them. They so often strike me as “preaching to the choir” and not quite true to life. I often have to stretch my believability so far to buy into the characters behaving the way they do in a contemporary setting that I can’t do it. I also wonder why this isn’t more boldly advertised as a Christian romance. Why that barely readable print on the back cover? Is the publisher afraid readers will avoid the book if they know?

So here I am stuck with three potentially losing books. It isn’t the writing, necessarily, and it isn’t always the editing. It’s that indefinable something that draws one reader to rave about a book and another to rate it with half a star.

I decided to stick with the Christian romance because… I don’t know why. Because. Because sometimes when you know a book isn’t that great, you read it anyway just to see how the author gets herself out of it. Another gem: “Tom steadied her, his hands burning the skin on her arms.” Ouch! I’m more than halfway through the book and this isn’t the first time this has happened. Between the sticky eyeballs and his hands burning her, this poor woman is scarred for life.

Did I mention this book is based on a lie of deception on the part of the heroine…a withholding of the truth on the part of the hero, another lie of deception on the heroine’s part as the plot thickens and she brings her cousin into the scheme. The cousin, at least, partially comes clean pretty quickly.

“It had been a task keeping his eyes off her.” This makes me think, (since I already know he has sticky eyes) that they are detachable and he can stick them on her anywhere he wants. Velcro, maybe.

“…and she felt his eyes on hers.” How uncomfortable that must have been.

In the end I finished all three books. The book by the male author? By far the one I enjoyed the most and, dare I say, the best written of the three. This appeared to be a first novel by a television writer with a lot of impressive credits. The slow-moving book’s pace (also a first novel by an award-winning writer) never picked up. I skipped a lot of it, especially the in-depth character studies, couched as character reminiscences to make me understand why they are the way they are.

All I can say to my Picky Reader self is better luck next time.

*Names of characters have been changed.

You can find out more about the books I’ve read and visit my author page on Goodreads.

Picky Reader – 25

Flirting in Cars by Alisa Kwitney. Sort of a women’s fiction/romance story. I liked it.
Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I thought I’d read everything of hers, but I must have missed this one. True to form, SEP never disappoints her readers.
Violet by Design by Melissa Walker. I don’t normally read young adult fiction. This was a pretty good book, although if young adults tend to annoy you, don’t bother. The character of Violet is full of contradictions and waffles between being wise and immature. But that is the nature of young women her age.
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. I enjoyed this book. It has a lot parallels in it and connections made from past to present through the main character who owns a vintage clothing shop. She heals her own emotional wounds by helping a dying woman put her past to rest.
Fools Paradise by Jennifer Stevenson. I read this on my Kindle. It is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about stagehands and union infighting. There is one bedroom scene in particular which I found wildly hysterical. Fun and entertaining.
Picky Reader - 25 Here is another book I’m recommending. Scattered Moments. I am still working on a good blurb for it. (Don’t get me started on the angst of writing effective blurbs.) What’s a married woman to do when she meets her soulmate thirteen years too late? Sure there’s lots more to the book than that, a frenemy with her own agenda and a hidden camera, a husband she doesn’t know as well as she thinks she does, and vows she made to herself long ago which she now must re-examine. Scattered Moments is available for 99 cents on Amazon.com and bn.com right now. P.S. I would have posted this blog much earlier if WordPress wasn’t being a pain and not letting me upload my gorgeous cover. I still don’t know how I did it!
Visit me at http://www.barbmeyers.com

Picky Reader – 24

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  My daughter bugged me and bugged and bugged me to read this book until finally I relented and bought the Kindle version and read it months later.  Is it as good as my widely read, discriminating daughter insisted it was?  Yes.  Not only is the premise an unusual one, the writing is exceptional.  Clear and concise.  I am always amazed by authors who can essentially create an entirely different version of the world than the one we know and make it appear effortless.  Thank you, Danielle, for broadening my horizons.

Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockman.  I read a bunch of Suzanne’s Brockman’s excellent Navy Seal hero books in years past, but I hadn’t read her in awhile until I found this one.  Some of the Navy Seals are now in the business of private security with a company called Troubleshooters, Inc.  It was fun to see what happened to some of the characters I remembered from the earlier books, and also refreshing to not be reading another Navy Seal hero book.  Brockman keeps several balls in the air in Dark of Night, especially as we watch more than one romantic relationship progress while dealing with suspense and intrigue all the way.  You have to admire an author who can do what Brockman does, although I admit the prologue and the beginning of the book threw me for a loop.  If you’ve read past Picky Reader blogs you know I’m a sucker for good romantic suspense and I love suspense in general, so this is like a double dip for me.

Facebook & Twitter for Seniors for Dummies.  I would like my effort to become more computer savvy noted.  I sort of have a handle on Facebook.  I can negotiate it and I can understand its appeal to a certain extent.  I will keep my personal opinion of the medium to myself. 

Twitter is still a bit beyond me.  I don’t get it.  I may never get it.  It’s good to know there are books like these out there for non-techie dummies like me.  This one does break down the process and procedures in a language even I can understand.

Rules for Renegades by Christine Comaford-Lynch.  I’m reading this as part of my motivate yourself/be yourself campaign.  Lots of good insights and the author revels in giving you the benefit of her broad experience in the business world and helping you see how it might apply to your own situation.  Also good goal-setting and motivational tools in the book and also offered on her web site.

visit me at www.barbmeyers.com


Picky Reader – 22

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming  by Joshilyn Jackson.  I read Gods in Alabama by this author a year or so ago.  Jackson is a subtle writer and writes with a haunting lyricism.  She never comes at you directly, never spells it out for you.  Evidently, she has enough respect for her readers to trust they will figure things out if she gives them enough information along the way.  A few days after I finished this book a friend mentioned that her mother creates a world for herself which is much happier than the reality in which she actually lives.  This is a recurring theme in The Girl who Stopped Swimming.  My first thought was art imitating life, but I realize we all create our own reality in one way or another, don’t we?

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.  I bought the sequel before I read The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo.  Larsson has the ability to transform a rather complex plot with a lot of characters into something that’s easy to follow and grasp.  I enjoy his books, although I sometimes think he goes off the rail describing rather minor characters, but that’s his style and it successfully works for him.  Lisbeth Salander reaches super-hero status and one wonders, is there anything she can’t do?  For someone so young she seems to know or have some sort of experience in just about everything.  If you can suspend believability enough to get past that, you can enjoy the book.

A Wanted Man by Linda Lael Miller.  I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book by this author before.  A reader kindly compared my writing to hers (a massive compliment) so I thought in case I haven’t read her in the past I should.  This book was very easy to read.  One thing I like especially is the writing isn’t bogged down with tons of detail and description even though it’s a Western historical.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Widow by Anne Stuart.  I haven’t read anything by Anne Stuart in quite a while, mostly because I haven’t been reading a lot of romance novels.  But I remembered what a talented writer she is and her books are consistently good.  This one is no exception.

Picky Reader and a Kindle Book – 1

For my birthday almost two years ago I received a Kindle.  I hardly ever use it.  For one thing, I’m not good with technology of any sort.  For another thing, being a poor, struggling author myself, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on books.  But occasionally, I download free books or ninety-nine cent books and occasionally I read them.  Mostly when I travel because one thing I like about the Kindle is it’s easy to pack and it holds a lot of books.

I took it with me on a recent weekend trip, and I read Saving Rachel by John Locke.

The story starts off strongly and is uniquely compelling.  It rolls along and is a real page-turner.  I followed the character of Sam Case through some unique plot twists and turns.  I arrived at “Part Two” which is Donovan Creed’s turn to tell his side of the story.  And “tell” it he does.  He tells the whole story.  Plus it’s almost all back story.  It’s interesting to a certain extent, and again, it’s unique.  But suddenly, I sort of don’t care.  After being yanked out of Sam Case’s story so abruptly, I’m a little disappointed.

Basically, what we’ve got here is two separate stories.   I’ve been accused of doing something similar in my early, unpublished work.  Perhaps it’s common among new writers.  Although I don’t know John Locke’s history as a writer and I don’t know how new he is to the business.  I did read yesterday that he’s sold a million ninety-nine cent books which is something I’d love to do. 

While I enjoyed Saving Rachel and I didn’t pay much or maybe anything for it, I do believe it could have been better written if the author had incorporated both stories into one.  John Locke has good ideas and good twists, but I think Saving Rachel would have benefited from a better story structure.

I have another of John Locke’s books to read on my Kindle, however, so stay tuned.

P.S.  Today I read John Locke doesn’t care if he’s a good writer.  My next blog might be about such an attitude.




Picky Reader – 21

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray.  I think I’m noticing another trend in the “inspirational” novels I’ve read.  Not enough set-up.  Whether this is an editing or an author issue, I can’t say.  All I know is the heroine’s motivation seems weak at best much too often.  In this particular book, the heroine flees a controlling, abusive boyfriend.  She’s twenty-four and lives with her parents who have pushed her to maintain the relationship and don’t believe there’s a problem.  She allows the man to buy her diamond earrings and designer clothes, although it’s not clear what she does in exchange for these items.  She’s changed her job to part-time work to be available to this man.  There’s more, but you get the gist.  He punches her (in the face) and she flees to find refuge with an Amish family and lies to her parents that she’s going on vacation and forgot to tell them. Seriously?  The boyfriend is running for Congress and is wealthy and influential so she can’t go to the local cops.  We are told this is not the first time he’s hit her.  But lots of details are left out, probably intentionally, because I think most parents confronted with a daughter with a bruised jaw at the hands of a boyfriend, would do something to help her.  Her parents pray intermittently but don’t seem particularly religious.

Not understanding why a protagonist behaves a certain way makes it difficult to relate or to care about her.  Otherwise, I might enjoy the story more.

Off the Chart by James W. Hall.  Good suspense.  Second book of his I’ve read.  Very well written. 

Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge.  I have to start reading the back cover blurbs before I pick up books.  I didn’t realize this was inspirational.  Frankly, I’d decided to give up on Christian/inspirational novels before I read this one which succeeds where so many others I’ve read fail.  It’s a fun read and gets its message across without being preachy or sanctimonious.  Although I was initially thrown when God shows up in the story, it works because it’s set up well.  The heroine has a clear, realistic and understandable goal from the beginning.  We understand her motivation and her conflict.  Why can’t more inspirational novels be written this well?

The Punch:  A Novel by Noah Hawley.  If you like big words, sophisticated writing and theological references, this is the book for you.  Especially if you enjoy family relationship stories.  The writing is thoughtful and deliberate.  The author pinpoints the dysfunction which exists in all of us by exploring the issues between two brothers and their parents.  Early on what the characters believe but cannot prove was starting to get on my nerves until the scientific theory behind it was explained in a later chapter.  Warning:  This book might make you take a closer look at your own family dynamic.





Picky Reader 19

Picky Reader’s Latest Reads 

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner.  I think I’ve read every book Lisa Gardner has published.  If you enjoy suspense, read her.

Blood by Patricia Traxler and The Distance Between Us by Bart Yates.  They are both well-written and enjoyable reads.  If you like moody, sort of dark, thoughtful novels, read these.  Must have been my time to read books without happy endings.

The Search by Nora Roberts.  Another Nora Roberts winner.  Heroine is a dog trainer and runs search and rescue missions, which is an interesting twist.  Hero thinks she’s training him as well and unlike most men, he proves himself to be trainable. 

A False Sense of Well Being by Jeanne Braselton.  I’m going to say one thing because it must be said.  Who ever told novelists that it’s a good idea to include lots of dreams in their stories?  Occasionally, there’s probably a reason for it, especially if it’s a recurring dream that has something to do with the plot.  But quite often, it is a bad idea.  Relating what a character dreamed does not move the story forward.  Worse than that, it’s boring.  Who cares?  It seemed to me there was a lot in this book that didn’t move the story forward and I wasn’t sure where it was going.   This is one of those books I just didn’t get.

Without a Backward Glance by Kate Veitch.  For any woman who’s ever wanted to walk away from the demands of being a mother to her young children (four in this case) and a husband who isn’t right for her, get a look at what happens to that family after you leave.

Rules for Saying Goodby by Katherine Taylor.  This is less a novel and more a series of anecdotes about the heroine who bears the same name as the author.  The pacing seemed a bit jumpy to me, racing ahead and then relating previous incidents.  I kept wondering why, what is the point, where is she going, what does she want?  Surprisingly, even the books I don’t get can be enjoyable reads as this one was.

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Picky Reader – 18

Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax.  Gosh, there’s a lot going on in this novel.  Lots of sub-plots and characters.  All the characters seem to have something to hide.  Secrets, if you will.  I guess ultimately, that’s the theme of the book.  We all have this convenient ability to avoid the truth when we want to even if we’ve made a living of digging it out when it’s someone else’s life.  I can’t say I was a hundred percent crazy about this book, but there was enough there and it’s well-written enough that I was intrigued enough to keep reading to the end. 

Sweet Dream Baby by Sterling Watson.  There’s a pall hanging over this book from the first page.  It’s haunting.  Beautifully written and compelling.  There’s an intensity that almost made it uncomfortable for me to read.  But read it I did.  I’m surprised it didn’t have a reader’s guide at the end because there was an awful lot of symbolism going on that even I could pick up on.  The lead character, Travis, grows from a boy to a man frighteningly and disturbingly fast in 341 pages.

Local Knowledge by Liza Gyllenhaal.  This is a well-thought-out, well written novel.  Don’t be surprised if you see pieces of yourself in the author’s depiction of small-town life, family relationships, friendships and careers. 

Come visit me at www.barbmeyers.com

Picky Reader – 9

I started reading The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman thinking I wasn’t going to like it.  The heroine, Sophie Miller, was portrayed as a bit too ditzy for my liking (and I’ve been accused of writing ditzy heroines).  She seemed naïve in the extreme about how to deal with a couple of young children, professing to have no idea what they might eat or wear or how they might express themselves. 

Sophie moves past the early ditz stage pretty quickly and becomes a responsible adult, although she has a high learning curve dealing with two children thrust upon her after their mother dies. 

Ms. Coleman throws in enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it interesting and gives us a heroine that’s fun to watch as she grows by leaps and bounds throughout the story. 

There’s a lesson for us all here.  Don’t judge an entire book by the first three chapters.

I have no criticism of Smash Cut by Sandra Brown, another of my favorite authors.  Envy was one of the best books I ever read.  My only comment is to ask if you aren’t reading her, why aren’t you?  Read just one of her books and you’ll be asking yourself the same question.

I’ve read all of Marsha Moyer’s books featuring the character of Lucy Hatch starting with The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch, and enjoyed them all, each being a continuation of the one before.  Return of the Stardust Cowgirl was no exception although the story is rather divided between Lucy’s current life drama and that of her step-daughter, Denny.  These books are full of heart and are sort of a sweet, soulful reflection on the various directions in which small-town life can take you.  They’re just plain good reads so enjoy them.

Smoked by Patrick Quinlan is my “guy” book.  It’s a thriller with unique, entertaining characters and a rather high body count.  On occasion I found I had no reluctance putting it down because I’m a wuss and I didn’t want to read about something bad happening to one the characters Quinlan had made me care about.  I find myself rooting for the bad guys because guys who are even “badder” are after them.  This kind of book reminds me a little of the TV show Burn Notice.  The heroes aren’t angels, but you root for them anyway because even more dastardly individuals are after them.  We don’t want the greater evil to win, right?  Smoked also has a bit of, it’s not exactly humor, but light-heartedness to it.  Let’s face it.  When you’ve got a character who’s spent his life as a hired killer and who’s now lost his taste for it, it’s kind of amusing and intriguing to see where he ends up.  The other thing to like about Smoked is the two kick-ass female characters who start out as unwitting pawns and not only survive but thrive through to the end.

Moving on to Leaving Eden by Anne D. LeClaire…I’m torn.  There’s a lot to like about this book if you like this kind book.  It’s told in first person by a 16-year-old girl living in a small Virginia town whose mother died four years before.  A lot of her experiences are relatable.  A lot of the story is the girl’s memories of her mother.  And of course, what story like this would be complete without a few secrets, some belonging to the girl’s mother and one big one belonging to a prominent family in the town.  There’s a lot of character building and it’s done well, giving flavor and color to the small-town setting.  I guess the one issue I had is the slow pace which is consistent throughout and what you’d expect from a book like this.  But especially by the time I was halfway through it (or so it seemed) I wondered if it was really going anywhere.  There are numerous flashbacks to a period where the mother left the family for several months, and as we all know flashbacks slow the pace of any story.  I loved the main character’s “book” where she wrote down important pieces of life advice she didn’t want to forget. 

Is there a way to say I liked the story but didn’t exactly enjoy reading the book?