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The Joys of Book Sampling, 2014

March 12, 2014
Just because I have a copy of the books doesn't mean that I'll finish them.

Just because I have a copy from the library doesn’t mean that I’ll finish it.

In the old days, it was difficult to read samples of books.  If I tried to read the first few page of a novel in a book store, the clerk would clear his/her throat and say something snide like “This isn’t a library.”  Sampling books at the library was easier, but the selection of newer books was kind of sparse.  Consequently, if there was a new book that I wasn’t sure about, I pretty much had to buy it before I could decide if I wanted to read it.

Times have changed.  Now I use an Amazon Kindle (or any other e-reader), and I sample each book for free before I (occasionally) purchase one.  Life is much simpler now.

At the end of last year, I realized that I hadn’t read any books published in 2013.  It’s tough to read books the year they’re published because that’s when the books are most expensive.  But sample a book?  It’s just as cheap (free!) to sample a new book as it is an older one.  Now if I don’t read any books published in 2014, I will at least have read samples from books published in 2014.  I figured that’s the least I can do since I have a blog about… you know, books.


The Counterfeit Agent– by Alex Berenson

The book starts off with a couple spy novel clichés, the seemingly heartless but beautiful female (possible antagonist) and the aging superspy who is losing some of his physical ability.  Plus, the aging superspy proposes to his girlfriend.  Uh oh.  When a superspy tries to get married, bad things usually happen.

Apple Tree Yard– by Louise Doughty

A court scene and a murder set-up and a husband/wife situation.  I can see why this one is a best-seller, but I don’t have much to say about it.

Caught– by Lisa Moore

A guy escapes from prison with help from a relative.  I was interested in the details about how he escaped because it sounded kind of easy.  I don’t think escaping from prison is easy, but I don’t know anything about Canadian prisons.  Maybe Canadian prisons are easy to escape from.

Runner– by Patrick Lee

Another thriller with a one word title.  The protagonist, who was running/jogging right before he rescues a teen girl,  now will probably have to “run” instead of “jog” some more since the title is RunnerJogger is probably not a good title for a thriller. The protagonist makes a critical mistake in the first few pages of the book.  I like it when the protagonists screw up.  Too many books have perfect action hero protagonists.

This Dark Road to Mercy– by Wiley Cash

Whew!  It’s tough for an adult (especially one writing literary fiction) to write from a kid’s point of view.  The entire time I read the sample, I thought, this sounds like an adult writing from a kid’s point of view.

In the Blood– Lisa Unger

From the dramatic title and the opening scene, I think I know where this book is going. But the main character is a college student, and the antagonist (I think) is a teenage boy, and I’m getting older and grouchy, and I don’t feel like reading about a college student and a super-intelligent/ maybe-evil teenage boy in a mystery/thriller.

The Good Luck of Right Now– by Matthew Quick

I like the author’s writing style, but this is a personal journey novel, and I’m not into those right now (because I’m getting older and grouchy).  Plus, the Richard Gere thing seemed a bit overdone, and this was only in the first 30 pages.

Worthy Brown’s Daughter– by Phillip Margolin

For a legal thriller, there seems to be no moral ambiguity.  The protagonist’s side is clear-cut right, and the villains are always wrong (so far).  Plus, there’s a poorly done scene where a 15-year-old girl discovers her… yeah, that didn’t need to be in the book.  At least it should have been written better.


The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman

If you’re going to retell a historical or Biblical story in modern times, at least have the creativity to change the protagonist’s name.  Even James Joyce changed the name of Odysseus when he retold the tale of The Odyssey in his novel Ulysses.  The name Ulysses has nothing to do with The Odyssey, and I respect James Joyce for coming up with a completely unrelated name.  And I appreciate my public school education which taught me that the name Ulysses has nothing to do with The Odyssey.

It’s this kind of knowledge that allowed me to start a blog like Dysfunctional Literacy.

Chance by Kem Nunn

The protagonist’s last name is Chance, and that’s all I need to know.

The Bat– by Jo Nesbo

The protagonist’s name is Harry Hole.  I think this is supposed to be a serious crime novel.  I refuse to read a serious crime novel with a protagonist who has a joke name.  Is Andrew his middle name (Harry A. Hole)? If Harry Hole has a wife, I… I…  I don’t know, maybe I SHOULD read a Harry Hole book.

I know that NOT reading/sampling a book because the character’s name is Harry Hole or Chance or Noah is a bad reason, but there are a lot of books out there to read/sample.  I need to have standards.


Hey, I might not finish any of these books this year, but I now know a lot more about books published this year than I did last year.

But enough about me!  What books have you sampled?  What books would you like to sample?  Do you agree with the concept of sampling?  Which books do you wish you had sampled instead of read?  What books have you read that I sampled, and what do you think of these books?

  1. I’ve started quiet a few samples this year, but I couldn’t finish any of them.

  2. dreamfarming permalink

    I sampled The Curiosity: A Novel. I don’t understand why it says A Novel in the title. Its about a frozen guy from the past who gets woken up in the present. I wanted to read it but it was nearly thirteen dollars for the kindle version and my library doesn’t have it. So I will wait until someone is selling the paper back for next to nothing.

    • If you’re waiting “until someone is selling the paper back for next to nothing,” then you have truly embraced the philosophy and tactics of book sampling. $13 is too much.

  3. I’m going to assume that you are taking a shot at the public school education which failed to explain that Ulysses and Odysseus are the same name. Ulysses is Roman and Odysseus is Greek. Well played. Did you study these works in high school? That would seem a bit much.

    • I didn’t really mean it as a cheap shot against public schools, but I can see how it looks like I did. I was just being stupid. I had to read The Odyssey in 9th grade (I think). I tried reading Ulysses and stopped (as an adult, not when I was in 9th grade). I wouldn’t have even made it through the sample of Ulysses (if they had existed back then).

      • No no, not a cheap shot at all. I can totally see a school system that would fail to explain something like that. Man, I admire you for trying to read Ulysses, even as an adult. I studied Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in University and did not care for it. Joyce is fancy Irish and I come from not fancy Irish.

  4. I think Canadian prisons are nicer than most so escaping isn’t as big of a concern. Except you can’t smoke in a Canadian prison. I don’t know what they use for money.

  5. I sampled your book The Writing Prompt. I think I will buy it.

    • Thank you! Normally I don’t recommend purchasing a book right after you finish reading a sample, but if you’re going to buy a book right after finishing a sample, I appreciate that it’s with The Writing Prompt. I hope that you don’t feel like throwing The Writing Prompt across the room when you’re done with it.

      • I know I won’t.

      • I have purchased The Writing Prompt and Having a Few and Getting Some ( great title). I don’t know when I’ll read them as my reading schedule is jammed at the moment, but when I do I will give you feedback. Cheers.

        • Thank you! I like the name of your blog too (“Get off my Lawn!”). I was going to write a short story called “Get off my Lawn,” but now I think I’ll change it to “Turn that Crap Down!”

  6. I almost burst out laughing when I read “Harry Hole.” I don’t think I could read that seriously either, although I might read it and mock it, which is fun to do if a book isn’t that good. I’m sure there are real people with terrible names like that, but that’s why truth is stranger than fiction.

  7. I had not considered sampling. I might now. I have always tried to support sci-fi/fantasy writers. But…after traveling over to the sci-fi writer’s website….and finding out what the general feeling about reader/reviewers is….I just might sample. Except, I will still purchase correia, butcher, green, or any of my other favorites.
    Plus I have read some STINKERS in the last month or so. Wish I had sampled Apocalypse cow and bayou zombie werewolves. Could have saved money and brain cells. What was I thinking?

    • Apocalypse Cow? I had to check Amazon to make sure I was reading your comment correctly. I guess you don’t agree with the 4.3 star rating it has right now. I have to do a better job keeping up with “zomedies.” That “zomedy” pun is not mine; I stole it off Amazon. Please don’t punch me in the face.

      • Nowhere near 4.3, unless reviewed by friends and family. I guess comedy is as good a pun as any. I prefer to think of my reading choices as a survival guide for dealing with surly teens…I teach.

  8. I read and really liked Apple Tree Yard on your list, but it seems like a story that appeals more to women. Of course, I think it would be great if any man picked it up and gave it a try!

    • I remember your review and a couple things you mentioned about the book on your blog (and your review was SPOILER-FREE; I appreciate that).

      If it’s free, I have nothing against sampling a book that might appeal more to women. I was interested in Apple Tree Yard enough to read more when it’s cheaper or if it shows up in the library.

  9. eBook samples are one of the best ideas ever. I know it has saved me a few $$ ….

    • No kidding! And I’m also more familiar with current books and authors than I’ve ever been. And I’ve even bought a couple of them (once the price has come down).

  10. Dumb question: what is a thriller? is it any relation to a mystery?

    • I think a mystery is one form of a thriller. Other readers might disagree with me, but thrillers can also be legal dramas, spy novels, military action novels, anything that has a lot of suspense… I think. Now that you mention it, it is kind of ambiguous.

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