Back when I was tripping youthfully through my university campus with my whole life ahead of me, I was pretty snooty about what I was willing to read. Had anyone handed me a mass market paperback or some popular thing that had recently been turned into a movie, I'd have gasped, stuck my nose in the air and claimed that I didn't read trash. The one time I broke my own rule, it was to read the horrendous Bridges of Madison County (Oprah TOLD me to!), which successfully put me off of reading popular fiction for years afterwards.
Now that I'm hurtling towards 40, I read whatever I like. The best part about growing older is how much it frees you up. Creating the illusion that you're an intellectual isn't nearly as important as it used to be. My inner snob just doesn't have the energy for it anymore.
When the Captain and I discovered bookcloseouts.com a few years ago, we were in book-lover's heaven. And while we can still get some of the award-winners and classics there, it's really more about the treasure hunt. When they have sales, you can get all sorts of books you never even knew existed for sometimes $2 or less. So a couple of times a year, we treat ourselves to a big book order, and I just randomly choose titles from all kinds of genres that look interesting. This method has netted me enough really fun reads to be considered a success.
But there are also duds.
My goodness, I am shocked at what some of these publishers are willing to print, when so many talented authors have to struggle just to get a foot in the door! Go visit Stephanie's blog and please tell me why on earth this woman wasn't published YEARS ago, when there are people out there with almost NO talent whatsoever making a good living at it!
I'm not going to name the terrible books I've read in the last couple of years because it would be mean-spirited, but to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, let's take an anonymous look at my current read.
I found a romance novel with a murder-mystery as the backdrop for a couple of bucks and added it to my cart. I have to admit, the idea behind both the romance and the mystery is clever, and is actually the only reason I didn't give up after one chapter. I want to see who did it. The title of the book is also mildly witty. Sadly, this is where the positives end.
My first complaint is about the severely underdeveloped characters. It must be one of the harder parts of writing fiction, because this is a problem I've had with almost every bad book I've read so far. In this case, the main character has all the personality of a whoopie cushion. She comes off mostly as an uptight prude, and then suddenly she's doing things that suggest she might have been a hooker in a former life. I can suspend my disbelief just this far, but there's an even bigger problem. Her love interest, the hunky police chief trying to crack the case, is the WORST POLICE CHIEF EVER! In a sad attempt at creating some sexual tension, this author has opted to have the chief completely ignore and dismiss every single OBVIOUS piece of evidence our heroine has brought to his attention. Yeah, yeah, they fight about it, then they smolder, but I would seriously have trouble trusting this guy to issue a speeding ticket, let alone head up a murder investigation. And what is less attractive to any woman on earth than a man who is INCOMPETENT at his job?! It's primal. The caveman who couldn't figure out which end of the club to hit the wooly mammoth with was not the one coming home with a stylish fur for his wife and a roast for dinner that night. We are instinctively looking for certain qualities in a man. Not being able to perform even the most basic tasks in his job description isn't one of those qualities.
My other beef is with the writing itself. For all the snobby guffaws the romance industry receives, it's a damned hard genre to write well. This author misses the mark. The dialogue is stilted and awkward, no one's actions make any sense, and I swear, if I have to read about one more "sensation" travelling to someone's "nether regions", I'm going to shoot myself. People want something a little subtle. I get that. But the euphamisms shouldn't be so cheesy they make you cringe and wish you were reading the dictionary instead.
But on the plus side, I am now eagerly awaiting my latest shipment of books. There will likely be a dud or two in the bunch, but this time I made sure to order a few Philippa Gregory titles for some guaranteed guilty pleasure. Plus (and I am really excited about this), they had a Bob Ross book available this time, so I snapped that up too! Before you know it, this harried-mom-turned-blogger will be doing even less housework and creating masterpieces of "happy little trees"! I might even copy his hairstyle!
There's a lot to be said for letting go of my inner snob.