Don’t you just hate it when you spend the time looking for a yummy read, a book to fire your imagination and sooth your sense of adventure, only to find the heroine completely unlikeable in the end? We all know the pain of flirting with a book we think we will love only to break up with it half way between the covers because it’s a big fat dud. What if the story is good, but the writing itself is dull or just one bald cliché after another? Fear not, gentle reader. We have tools and search engines, and even clever strategies to make good book choices.
So how do you judge a book by its, er, cover? As in any endeavor, it’s important to know what you like. Just now, I pulled a Google search for “debut novels, 2013.” Many selections popped up. I clicked on the one entitled, “10 Dazzling Debut Novels to Pick Up Now” because I love to be dazzled, and it sounds like a promise. How do I choose? I know my limits. I know what I love and know what I won’t go near with a red hot poker.
Here is a small sampler of the “dazzlers,” a brief description of the storyline, and my reasons to adopt or reject them.
- A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: “A neighbor saves an 8-year-old Chechen girl from the Russian soldiers who have taken her father, and together they seek shelter in an abandoned hospital.” Reject: too sad.
- Crazy Rich Asians: “Opulence and zaniness reign when one of Singapore’s richest bachelors invites his American-born girlfriend to travel from New York to vacation in his native country.” Reject: Zaniness aside, I’m not terribly interested in fictional adventures of rich bachelors.
- The Golem and the Jinni: “Two supernatural creatures accidentally unleashed in 19th-century Manhattan forge an unlikely alliance in this fantastical work of historical fiction.” Adopt: Magic + historical fiction. Yay!
- American Spirit: “In this first novel from the outrageously funny host of The Moth podcast, a 40-something media exec goes rogue after losing his job in the recession, taking up drunken residence in his car before embarking on a vision quest to Bali by way of Los Angeles and Yellowstone.” Adopt: Vision quest + Yellowstone + Bali. Oh, yes!
- The Execution of Noa P. Singleton: “In this grippingly off-kilter thriller, a young woman sits on death row after being convicted of murder until a high-powered attorney—the victim’s mother—intervenes, leaving everyone to wonder why.” Adopt: a young murderess saved at the 11th hour? Hells yes.
- Golden Boy: “A good-looking, athletic British teenager’s seemingly idyllic life gets turned upside down when his oldest friend betrays him, revealing a closely held family secret just as the boy’s father is about to run for political office.” Reject: Politics + betrayal. Zzzz.
And there you have it. Are my selections biased? Yes, without a doubt. I know what I like and life is too short for bad fiction.