Thursday Rambles: Samplers and First Chapters

I have never been so appreciative of samplers and Amazon’s “Look Inside” than when I’m considering to purchase some books. Or the library. Or a First Chapters ezine.

These four–samplers, “Look Inside”, the library, first chapter peek–allows me to…well, sample the story, the author’s writing style, etc in order to make informed judgments before parting with my hard-earned $$$. I usually read reviews before buying, but there are always contradictory voices, and until I find a reviewer whose tastes runs similar to mine, a peek into the book is always very welcome.

Like Monica Burns’ Forever Mine. I love Jude Devereaux’s Knight in Shining Armor, being one of the first romance books I’ve read. I love the way I was swept into the past, the fun times the heroine got up to living in history and amazing them with modern-day tricks. So, when I saw Forever Mine in the ezine, I dug eagerly into the first chapter, and the mystery of the paintings, the entire situation set up in the chapter, the author’s writing style drew me in, compelled in me an urge to know more about Nick and Victoria, and what would happen to them. It’s a romance, so we know they would have an HEA, but would it be in the past or the present? How would they get there? I immediately went to get a copy and I can’t wait to read it!

When I need an adventure, I go hunting for fantasy books. But I’m not well-versed in them, and I don’t like hard-core fantasies. I like fantasy books with a bit (okay, maybe more than a bit) of romance in them. So, I went to browse the reviews on Amazon, but due to the abovementioned conflicting voices, I couldn’t make up my mind. And reading the first few pages of the book via Amazon and the library helped me make up my mind about these books:

Well of Darkness by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Sadly, the reviewers were right. Prince Dagnarus (one of the main characters) is a spoiled brat, and I don’t like the way he treated his whipping boy, Gareth. At first, when Dagnarus took Gareth’s side, I thought the reviewers were mistaken and that there was something redeemable in Dagnarus. I can live with that. However, when he changed Gareth’s name to Patch, it was unacceptable. Perhaps that is something common in this world, with him being a prince moreover, but it speaks to me of a lack of respect. And I can’t continue reading a book where I despise the main character. So…No.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Robin Hobb, and despite mixed reviews on Amazon, I wanted to start this book a lot of times, but just never found the time. So, as I was craving for fantasy, I decided to try this and checked it out from the library.

Perhaps I hadn’t read enough reviews but I hadn’t read any that said this book was written in the first person perspective. I don’t dislike this POV, but it’s not my favorite, and certainly not in a fantasy book (IMHO). And coupled with the hint of bitter commentary in the character’s voice, erm…No.

Thursday Rambles: What I Hate About YA Books

I have to admit, with YA books, I read mostly dystopian or fantasy since last year. And the problem with these books is that it’s not enough to tell the story in one book. No, there has to be three books!

And because I started the series when the authors have only the first book out, it’s gonna be tough to wait until the series is completed. Or perhaps I should thank my lucky stars there’s only 3???

I guess I should be happy Death Sworn has only one sequel–DEATH MARKED–and the series is done. Yay! I can’t wait to get into it.

“Leah Cypess grabs the reader from the first page, first paragraph. You identify immediately wtih Ileni, with her fears and hopes and trepidation, and the mystery of her situation draws you in to turn the pages. Moreover, the author layers the clues like tidbits, inexorably drawing the reader forward in a compelling read.” Read more of my review.

I’ve started several YA series, but the first-book-in-the-series that I enjoyed and that I will be hunting down the sequels are:

Thursday Rambles: Cover Mirror: Judging A Book

<Edited 9/29/2018: book cover of Dear Stranger by Elise K Ackers removed due to DMCA notice filed by either publisher or author>

The first time I saw the pic of this couple was when I read Dear Stranger in February 2014, as it was a Valentine’s Day book. I thought the cover was beautiful and perfect for the story. I couldn’t stop looking at the cover, at the sheer joy the two people on the cover have being with each other. My review of the book echoes my sentiment of the cover.

Some time in the latter part of 2014, when I saw this same couple in this same pose on another book cover, I was amused. Does everyone (or at least the artist) feel the same way I do? Sorry, I forgot the title of the book, and I didn’t think to check if it was the same artist re-using his stash of stock photos.

This year was the third time I saw this same couple in this same pose on yet another book cover (check out the right side for the cover of Slow and Steady Rush), and I was ready to throw up. Again?! Is there a dearth of stock photos featuring romantic couples? Enough already!

Take note I’ve got nothing against these books.

The thing is, I understand how hard it is to have a unique cover. Photo shoots involve huge expense that self-pub authors can’t afford. Small pubs probably can’t afford it either. But the funny thing is, the two books featured here are put out by two of the big pubs–Harlequin (Dear Stranger) and St Martin’s Press (Slow and Steady Rush). One would’ve thought they’d put more effort into the covers, seeing as how they already invested a lot in editing, distribution, marketing, etc. But I guess the big pubs are cost-cutting, too, especially in these times when thousands of books are flooding the market each month and the reader’s $ is stretched thin as it is.

However, a cover is the first thing a reader sees. For me, it certainly is a factor in my decision to click on the book to read the summary/description. So, reusing stock photos is fine, but I think it should be done with greater care to make it unique and deserving of the book it is representing.