Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Oops, you lost me

As usual, I've been doing a bit of reading lately. Not all of it good. But that's the problem with trying new authors, I suppose.

Just before we left on vacation, I picked up a book that I thought was by an author I'd read before. (Lisa Gardner - who I really enjoyed) Browsing the shelves in the mystery section, I noted only the "suspense" on the spine and missed the "romantic" part. But in truth, the suspense was pretty low and the romance was the worst kind. This Lisa just about killed me with the melodrama. The heroine ran through every emotion known to man in the first ten pages, sometimes hitting two or three in one paragraph. Gah. When the hero "arched a cynical eyebrow" on page 37, I knew it was only going to get worse. And it did.

I don't mind romantic suspense. I read it by choice fairly frequently. Some people do it well (Holly Lisle comes to mind) with plots that make sense rather than relying on soap opera plot devices, and characters who act like reasonable people instead of moronic stereotypes (the shy, nervous, emotional woman - the self-centered vamp - the trust-impaired man).

I recently read a book by Elizabeth Lowell that I would class as romantic suspense, though the cover just claimed "fiction". I enjoyed her book, as the characters were interesting and entertaining, despite their drift towards stereotype. I mean, wtf does "dangerously male", "extremely male", "so deliciously male" mean? Gag. Puh-lease. Either you got the bits or you don't, generally speaking. (Romantic suspence doesn't usually include transgendered men and women, so I'm not including that in this rant, 'kay?) Pretty much, I figure, if the author describes the characters as male and female, it means they're going to be using their tender bits in an interlocking fashion. And that's another rant entirely.

Moving away from the romantic suspense rant... my current read came from the horror shelf in my local bookstore (which doesn't mean much, as they're a bit confused about genre there). So far, so good, except for one thing that just booted me COMPLETELY out of the story. Lemme 'splain.

Book published in 2002. Main character 26 years old. No mention of special circumstances, so assume college graduation at age 22. Character comments about traveling in Europe post-graduation. I put that travel sometime between 1994-1998, with variance based on possible publication delay. Character makes a comment to this effect: "backpacking through Europe after graduation, and even with picnicking on cheese and bread for lunch, Italy was almost supernaturally expensive." To which I have to say "In what alternate universe?" When I traveled in Europe (8 trips between 1993-1998) Italy was about the only place I COULD afford. Cheap hotels ran between $25-$50/night, with the hostels being slightly cheaper. With a little bit of searching, you could find a four-course meal for $10-15. The open markets allowed for haggling, and some of my nicest and least expensive souvenirs came from Italy. So when this author claims that Italy was super pricy, my bullshit meter snaps on. Because the plot is so interesting and the characters likeable and, more importantly, believable, I'll definitely keep reading, but my suspension of disbelief has taken a hit. This is not a good thing.

Anyone else have this problem, or have any other pet peeves in books you've read? Or am I the only one here who's so picky?

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