Welcome to the inaugural TBR Tuesday, where I virtuously read one of the hundred or so books on the TBR bench (yes, they've effectively taken over an entire piece of furniture) and blog about it. (More below on the photograph at left.)
Now, I don't review books (to see why, go here), but virtually everything I read makes me think about something, so I figure I should be able to generate a blog post no matter what I'm reading. First up (because it was the last addition; I'm clearly working on a LOFO approach to my TBR piles: Last On, First Off) is Julie James's Something About You. Which I liked, a lot. But which I didn't love, and that got me thinking about why not.
What is it about a book that makes us enjoy it but not love it? When and why do we fall in love with some books?
I will admit I have not been a wild fan of Ms. James's books up to now. I had a problem with Just the Sexiest Man Alive, in which a Chicago lawyer falls in love with the titular Sexiest Man Alive (a movie star); because Hollywood actors seem such a bad bet as "forever and ever" heroes, it was hard for me to believe in the HEA. I enjoyed Practice Makes Perfect a bit more, although the "I hate him I hate him I hate him - ooh, wait, I love him" story arc isn't my favorite. (And, as a lawyer, I found some of their antics to be distasteful. I was assured on Twitter that such antics do happen in some large law firms, but I guess that strikes me as a weak defense at best.)
Julie James is clearly improving and growing as a writer; Something About You is much better than its predecessors. The couple is believable together, the set up was interesting, the writing tight & well-paced, the sex was yummy, and the ending charming. I even found myself, in my RWA meeting, thinking, "Can't wait to get back to my book." That's always a good sign.
So why didn't I love it? I had a couple objections pretty early on, but I know they weren't the problem. [Just for the record, I am tired of her heroines all having uber-masculine first names: Taylor, Payton, Cameron, Jordan. It was particularly confusing in SAY, where all the FBI agents and police officers are known simply by their surnames. Wilkins, Pallas, Kamin, Phelps, Cameron, Briggs -- spot the girl's name? That's right, it's Pallas (as in Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and heroic endeavor). Wouldn't it have been cool if the heroine had been named Pallas Lynde, and the hero had been Jack Cameron? My second objection came from a couple places where it seemed a heroine with that skill set would have been a lot smarter about the criminal investigation, and one place where I thought the FBI would have been a lot smarter. Eh. All minor quibbles.]
At first, I thought it was just that odd alchemy between reader and book such that a book that thrills you to your toes on one occasion doesn't have that effect upon re-reading years later. (The converse can be true as well: I'm re-re-re-reading a book now and enjoying it for a whole raft of reasons I know I didn't have the last time I read it. I still love it, but now I appreciate it even more.) Maybe yesterday just wasn't the right day, or March the right month, or 2010 the right year for me to read SAY and love it. Maybe I'll love it next week or next year.
Maybe. But I don't think so. And I think I know why not.
As it happened, last night was my third meeting with my new chapter of RWA. The discussion was on public speaking, and we were requested to bring a book from which to read a couple pages. I took Island Nights by Glenda Sanders because its ending is so moving, and I love it so much, that I have twice tried to read it to my husband. (Once with each husband.) I've never been able to read it without crying, though, and thus this seemed the greatest challenge I could set myself for public speaking.
I've written about Island Nights over at Monkey Bear Reviews, so I won't do a compare and contrast with SAY. It wouldn't be fair to either book; one's a straight-up contemporary romance, the other a lighthearted thrillerish romance. (It might be fairer to compare SAY with Linda Howard's Blair Mallory romances, To Die For and Drop Dead Gorgeous; they share the dead bodies, hot detective & occasionally funny perspective.) But as I read the ending of Island Nights aloud for a third time (I teared up in a couple places but did not actually cry), I realized what was missing from SAY.
They never fall in love. Or, to be more precise, they fall in love but we don't read about it. With all the things that James does very well, in SAY she didn't even try to convey what it feels like to fall in love. It's still a fun book to read, and it's still fast-paced, well written, sexy as hell, and satisfying in its way.
It's just not very romantic.
I promised you an explanation of the TBR bench. Well, first of all, I couldn't photograph it as it had been: far too revealing about my inadequate housekeeping habits. Second, it wasn't intact; a significant number of books were hanging out uselessly on my bedside table. (I carried a full LLBean boat bag's worth of TBR books down and entered them into my database on Microsoft's OneNote.) And finally, a certain amount of tidying of the adjacent areas had to occur before this photo was snapped.
The books are now all nicely organized into historicals, contemporaries, mysteries & thrillers, paranormals/fantasy/sci fi, general fiction, and non-fiction.
And it yielded my first-ever contest. I have a brand-new copy of Eloisa James's Duchess by Night to give away. That's right -- a two-year-old book you've all read already. That's so perfectly consistent with me and with this blog that I can't resist offering the book to anyone who wants it. Leave a comment saying you'd like to get this book, and I'll pick at random.