Friday, August 10, 2012

Reader's block

Not sure if this is similar to writer's block or if it even really exists, but I'm having trouble finding a book that keeps my interest. I know that reading can be moody -- sometimes you're just in the mood for one kind of book or writing and not for others -- but I'm having more trouble keeping my interest in books that I'm happy to start.

For instance, I discovered the limits of my enthusiasm for Candice Proctor, after finishing the three books she co-authored with her husband Steve Harris under the pseudonym C.S. Graham, by plunging into the first of her historical novels featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, What Angels Fear, which she writes under the name C.S. Harris. As with the other series, this is well-written, with vivid descriptions and good sense of place, though perhaps a little richer with adjectives and adverbs. What I realized as I got further into the book, however, is that this is closer to the romance fiction the author writes under her own name than it is to the thrillers I like. While not exactly a bodice ripper, there's a bit too much focus on the characters' attractive attributes and the plot itself seems overladen with the interactions between people rather than the mystery lurking there somewhere. In short, the author fails to sustain any sense of real suspense as she gets caught up with St. Cyr's relations with his former lover. So I've abandoned it for now.

Because I really liked the four books by Jess Walter that I've read, I've had a fifth, Land of the Blind, sitting on my shelf for sometime. This is his second published novel and features the Spokane detective from his first novel, Over Tumbled Graves, Caroline Mabry. Or so I was led to believe. In fact, Mabry, at least in the first part of the book, is only the frame for what becomes a first-person coming of age story by a somewhat unsympathetic individual that is picked up as a homeless derelict. It still benefits from Walter's glittery prose, but I found myself developing a distaste for the character and the world he inhabits. This may be a tribute to the author's creative power, but the fact is I'm not in the mood to be in that world right now. It is a legitimate plot device -- though of course a stretch to accept that this derelict is actually writing out the narration on a legal pad -- but it's a bit of a bait and switch as far as I'm concerned. In addition, while it is accepted in detective fiction for the protagonist to the anguished and depressed, Mabry is a bit too downbeat considering we don't get to see much of her. Perhaps the book goes on to give her a greater role and a way out of her funk, but that will have to be for another time.

So now I've gone back to my iPad and my collection of indie e-books, returning to Red Right Return by John Cunningham, a first-person story about a discredited pilot based in Key West. So far, so good, so we'll see if he can get me over my reader's block.

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