Not really. I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey, for instance. I’ve never read Barbara Cartland. I actually have more of the opposite problem: widely lauded books that I absolutely hate. I don’t know why this should be. I’m just contrary, I suppose. Or I look for something odd or quirky in my reading. But it’s happened to me many times over the years: a book receives rave reviews, but when I come to read it, I really don’t enjoy it at all.
Examples? The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. So many people rave about it, and there were elements I loved – the magic system was awesome, for instance, and there were a few moments that just took my breath away. But then there was Karris, the main female character, who was super-strong and the first woman to do something or other, but… what drove her to that was that her betrothed had a fling while off fighting a war and conceived a bastard. I mean, pur-lease, just get over it. Then there was Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott, which introduced a wonderful, vibrant, intelligent female character, and then turned her into nothing but motivation for the male character. Or we can mention Wolf Hall, which was exquisitely written award-winning tedium, for me.
The one that really broke my heart was Daughter of the Empire by Janny Wurts and Raymond E Feist. Janny’s one of those wonderful authors who pops up all over the place on blogs and forums. She’s a generous contributor, always thoughtful and interesting, a lovely person, and I was so excited to be reading one of her books. It had great reviews, everybody loved it, feisty female main character, right up my alley. And I hated it. The problem was that the main character was just as ruthless, conniving and plain evil as the bad guys. That was the whole point of it, because the society was set up that way, but I really can’t root for someone who’s indistinguishable from the villain.
If, at this point, you were to say: but Pauline, that’s just you being awkward and cussed and finding fault for some trivial little detail that doesn’t really affect the story, I can only agree. Yes, I’m awkward and cussed and some really odd little things trip me up. But then I only have limited time to read, and I don’t want to spend even ten seconds of it tutting and fussing and muttering, “Well, really!” at every verse end. So as soon as I start getting cross, however irrational, out it goes.
I do have some guilty pleasure reads, though. Mostly, these are light, genre books that provide a quick, easy read as a palate-cleanser between bouts of epic fantasy. I enjoy Regency romance, for instance, or cozy mysteries of the Agatha Christie kind (not the modern trend of eccentric quilting/baking/cat-loving amateur sleuth, which tend to be more about the quirks of the main character than the mystery).
And sometimes my guilty pleasure is in reading anything at all, given the half-completed books awaiting my attention. I should be writing, dammit! The twin pulls of reading and writing: if only there were more hours in the day.