The Joys of Book Sampling, 2014
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.
RECENT BOOKS THAT I HAVE SAMPLED
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 Runner. Jogger 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.
BOOKS I DECIDED NOT TO SAMPLE
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?