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.

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