Tour’s Books Blog

May 11, 2019

On Reading More

Since my cataract surgery, I’ve been doing a lot more e-book reading and just reading in general.  The problem I’m finding with e-books, aside the egregious formatting issues, crap editing, awful proofreading, and total lack of spellcheck (Or authors really DON’T know the difference between imminent and eminent or the fact a point is moot, not mute!) is that authors tend to write long novellas or very short books, under 200 pages, that leave characters undeveloped, no time for world building, secondary characters that have great promise become a flash-in-and-out shallow non-entity, and I’m left feeling like that should have been really good, but it ended up little more than a dog’s dinner of a slightly fleshed out outline.  Shallow, empty, unable to engage me completely the whole thing is little better than a piece of cotton candy in print.

Reading more has also shown the weaknesses of many highly acclaimed and/or bestselling authors.  Take Janet Evonavich.  Her most recent bit of fluff, Look Alive Twenty-Five was so bad I ended up skimming it.  Trite, reusing sentences and partial paragraphs in every damn book, predictable plots, everything a series that should have retired gracefully 15 books ago becomes, added the final insult – not one thing was truly funny.  Her fans will consistently overlook all these flaws and rave about Steph, Morelli, Ranger, and Lula – never looking at the downward spiral of the quality of the plots and increasingly absurd ‘set pieces’ designed as humorous skits within the book, but unrelated to the story.  Her fans are rabid, but sales are declining with quality.  Evanovich has made her millions, it doesn’t matter.  The stories can be on life-support and her ardent fans will buy and rave about them.  I get free e-books or I don’t bother.  Look Alive Twenty-Five – which gets a D- (0.8*) from me – wasn’t even in the review listing. Why?  Her fans just don’t care.  As the Bard would say, “There’s the rub.”

There are some real quality authors doing e-books at novel length, but the short attention span of readers seems to push publishers and authors into a short format.  Publishers of print books rarely give new authors a chance to build a following.  The result is astounding mediocrity.  Or as I said to my doctor, “Short and predictable.”  There is no greater condemnation than that.

It also says a lot about readers.  They will settle for a steady diet of bland ‘fast food’ books rather than take the time to find something worth the effort to read and be willing to wait for a well-crafted novel that is fully visualized and researched with three-dimensional nuanced characters and creative world building.  98% of ebooks are the equivalent of a fast food drive-thru window items thrown together by people who know nothing about food, managed by people who care only about time (not taste), owned by a soulless company, and consumed by people indifferent to anything except a quick refueling of their stomach.  The meal is forgettable and tasteless but they can claim they ate something resembling food.

Why this rant?  Well, as I said, I’ve been reading more, sometimes 15 books in a series in 3 days – yeah they’re that short!  You quickly realize that every genre has been infected.  UF, paranormal, and cozy mysteries have a pandemic of lousy books.  Not far behind are books that ‘borrow’ a character or element from a bestselling author and spin empty stories around them.  One of the worst offenders is The Jack Reacher Cases by Dan Ames.  Ghastly is giving them too much credit.  I began reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books before anyone knew who Lee Child was or heard of Jack Reacher.  Jack Reacher, like Robert B. Parker’s Spencer, became an iconic character.  Why Lee Child allowed the use of his character as a plot point is beyond me.  The books are so badly written and plotted (There was a PLOT????) they can’t even be called average.  AVOID THIS SERIES!  Oh yeah, avoid Diane Capri’s The Hunt for Jack Reacher series too.  She still hasn’t found a decent plot or a coherent story.

Seeley James, an action thriller writer of average or slightly above skill, start the Sabel Security series.  I had issues from book one but gave the author time to develop the characters and the over-arching plot.  I tell you, the whole concept was so OTT I struggled from book 1, but Book 5, Death and Secrets had me once again trying to figure out how to throw an ebook against the wall in outraged frustration.  The heroine is the owner of Sabel Security, a business started by her adopted billionaire father and named for her.  Pia Sabel isn’t just a former world-class Olympic soccer champion, she’s natural at security and working out arcane plots.  Yes, she even learns her REAL momma is now the evil VP of the US!  So a soccer champion heiress turned security company president and field operator (with zero experience) not only outwits all these super-villains, she looks great doing it and teaches kids soccer when she can!  BARF!  The books ranged from D to C+ (2-3.2*) and only if you suspend all credibility.  If you can get past Element 42 (good luck with that) it doesn’t get worse till book 4 and 5 and that’s where I gave up.

Now you know I had some good reads too.  Here they are:

Kill for Me (Victor, Bk 8) by Tom Wood gets a solid B+ (4.2*) recommended read from me.  Victor the assassin remains steadfastly in character through the series, adhering only to his own ethics while hunting and being hunted.  A fascinating character, not likable but not repulsive either.  Tom Wood does a fine job keeping his plots tight and interesting.  A recommended series for anyone who enjoys the anti-hero genre.

Fortune Furlough by Jana DeLeon sees Ida Belle, Gertie, and Fortune off on that long talked about vacation in Florida on a fictitious island called Quiet Key – which has a geographical description that seems to move it around but sounds like Sanibel/Captiva mixed with Little Palm Island (wrong location, right rescription) and Longboat Key (same problem).  Other than that, the plot is pretty good and there are enough laughs that you can enjoy the mystery of who killed the conman.  It gets a B- (3.8*) as it’s still not quite up to the early books but is an easy, fun read.

In a Badger Way is Shelly Laurenston’s latest shifter humorous romance and bless that author, she does make me laugh.  We were introduced to the MacKenzie sisters in Hot and Badgered that featured the oldest half-sister Charlie.  This installment features Stevie, the neurotic musical and scientific genius.  Stevie is not one of my favorite characters, but the book is fun and funny and loveable Panda Shen Li who we met way back in Bite Me.  Stevie decides Shen is her boyfriend.  He simply has little say in the matter, even after seeing what she shifts into.  But pandas are among the most easy-going shifters so, in many ways, Shen is Stevie’s best choice and truth be told, he’s not exactly averse to the idea.  Good fun with the usual slam-bang ending.  It gets a solid B (4*) and recommended read from me.

One of the series I gang read is still in progress, the Ascending Mage series by Frank and Rae Lea Hurt.  Book 1, Changeling Justice starts the story of Ember Wright, the younger daughter of two high ranking mages, her father who works with numbers for the Counsel, and her mother, a Class 5 Healer.  As a child, she shows no talents at all.  Come he testing day Ember is ready to declare herself a lost cause, but the man doing the testing is the most respected Investigator alive, called by one and all, The Legend.  While all mage tracks have 6 levels, Investigators have only 3.  And that is what Emmy is, an investigator.  The story starts with her apprenticing with The Legend himself.  They are chasing a culprit in a cemetery when Ember says the name of the person whose gravestone she tripped over – and calls forth his ghost.  Wallace knows she’s far more than a simple investigator and is carefully guarding her secret.  When she reaches Senor status in just 10 years, he sends her to Minot to do the census of Dru – mages and changelings and things go sidewise from the start.  Ember becomes relentless in her pursuit for justice and with her mentor so far off she finds another one in the cemetery and the real plot begins unfolding through Changeling Hunter and Buried Truth.  So far the series is getting B- to B (3.8 to 4.0*) from me and book 4 is on pre-order.  It’s a definite cut above the typical UF fluff.

OK, that it for now and I’ll try and do more series reviews in a month or so and update any here I’m still reading.

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