Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good reads

Well, I only did a little writing during my vacation week, but I did a lot of reading! And it was awesome.

I am an extremely fast reader, but I am also the mother of a two-year-old. She thinks that all books should be read to her. And if she doesn't like the text of my book, she will declare, "and they all lived happily ever after!" and try to get me to read another book to her now that mine is "done." Cute, to be sure, but ultimately not helpful.

Worse, when I have free time, I often fall prey to the siren call of the internet. Or I go to bed early. Or I watch a movie with my husband, because if we try to read at bedtime, chances are we'll fall asleep and end up going to bed early when that wasn't actually what we wanted to do. I've made an effort to prioritize reading more this year, and I'm definitely improving, but man, the flashing t.v. screens and computer monitors are tempting. We cut off cable, but there's always NetFlix...

But this week, I read five new books, most while Serious Girl was swimming with my husband in the pool. Better yet, there was a mix of genres because I only brought two books with me and then selected the rest from the shelves of the place we were renting. Popular commercial fiction! I read my first Dean Koontz in years, and my first James Patterson book ever! I can see the appeal.

In particular, I can see the appeal of the recurring main character -- this week I was introduced to Koontz's Odd Thomas, and Patterson's Alex Cross (moviegoers know him as Morgan Freeman). This is sort of new to me, as I don't read that many books that have recurring characters. I mean, I've read Harry Potter, but that feels different to me, because the books were always intended to be a 7-novel set and then end. I mean, if you read Lord of the Rings, you're not really reading "books with continuing characters," you're reading the LotR trilogy. It's a package deal, and I'm used to seeing that format in YA and sci fi. You get a few years with a young character (Laura of the Little House, the Great Brain, Harry & co.) and then it's over.

Alex Cross and Odd Thomas, however, could just go on forever. There's no multi-book story arc, there's just a cool guy, and the potential for multiple stories within that cool guy's world.

Until last week, I couldn't have told you the last time I read a book that reads as a stand-alone novel (no hints of sequels or an ongoing pre-planned series) and thought, "I want to know what happens next in that person's life." But I plan to track down another Odd Thomas novel because the character held enough interest for me, all by himself, that it really doesn't matter what plot hits him next, I just want to learn more about the guy.

Are you a fan of the recurring character? Do you eagerly await the next Alex Cross or Odd Thomas novel? Or Jack Ryan, or the Shopaholic, or... umm... okay, I can't think of any others right now. Enlighten me!


  1. I have a few authors who I buy as soon as released.
    Alice Hoffman
    Stephen King

    I am never disappointed. The vacation sounds DIVINE. How I miss reading....

  2. Yuck I hate Dean Koontz. My mom was raving on about how good he is a couple years ago and MADE me read on of his books, and when I gave it back complaining about it she claimed to have never seen THAT one, here try this one.

    No thanks.

    On the other hand I haven't been disappointed yet with a Stephanie Plum (by Janet Evonovitch) book yet. I am two behind right now since I'm broke, so don't complain to me if you pick up one of the last ones and don't like it.

  3. Love your daughter's phrase, "They all lived happily ever after, the end." Too cute :)

    I can't wait to have chance to read, read, read on a vacation again.

    There are a few authors who I will buy without question, Bryce Courtenay,John Grisham, Stephen King and there are others. I love a recurring character, especially an evil one :)

  4. The only author I buy without question is usually Anne Rice. I'm not saying everything she prints is gold (a few of them, like Vittorio, bored me to tears), but even if she spread goat cheese on 200 pages and sold it at B&N I would buy it. I support her as a person and a professional, always. Stephen King is good too, but I usually wait for a friend to read it before I decide to purchase.

    Ongoing characters are the best, but they are very hard to let go of once the author moves on. For example, I am madly in love with Lestat de Lioncourt, the main character of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.

    Unfortunately I know that, after eight incredible novels narrated by my true love, there won't be anymore. Mrs. Rice has moved on to more religious ventures, and vampires don't really fit in. I respect that, but I still mourn for Lestat.

    She didn't pre-plan that series of books. When she wrote Interview with the Vampire in 1976, she had no idea that ten years later the antagonist of that novel would be her most popular character and narrator for the foreseeable future.

    If you like James Patterson I encourage you to look into John Grisham, as Tabitha said. Their styles are comparable and they're both talented suspense writers. However, the best work Grisham has published so far is A Painted House, a semi-memoir of childhood in the American South that is completely unrelated to his other work. I highly recommend it, I've read it several times!


  5. Hey, I like the new look of your sidebar! Very organized! And sounds like you had a relaxing and yet fun vacation! Welcome back!

    I prefer stand-alones. But that's me!

  6. I used to read John Grisham, but then I became a lawyer, and now I can't stand him. Ha!

    I fell for Dean Koontz after reading Watchers, which stars a super-intelligent golden retriever. (Awwww, doggy!) Plus, I do tend to go for the horror/supernatural genres to begin with. I used to read his stuff all the time, but then sort of moved on, and I'm glad to have rediscovered him! (P.S. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the t.v. movie based on Koontz's novel Intensity? It's starring John C. McGinley, who I adore, and I saw it once and would love to see it again...)

    I love this: "even if she spread goat cheese on 200 pages and sold it at B&N I would buy it." That's how I feel about Stephen King, and I think we can consider Castle Rock and his other fictional Maine towns to be recurring characters! (Fans will like this map of Stephen King's Maine.)

    Hijack... does anyone have a link to Anne Rice talking about how she perceives her own previous works in light of her new conversion? I'm curious about what she has to say about her former erotica writing.

  7. Shakespeare and Homer both had recurring characters, so it's not like the idea doesn't have serious street cred.

    Some great recurring characters I love: Holmes & Watson (of course), Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE, Decius Caecilius Metellus, Ged of Earthsea, Aubrey & Maturin, Corwin of Amber.

  8. I prefer stand alones, but controversy aside, I'm very fond of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon. I love history, so how he interprets and tells the stories of the symbols make me really happy. :0)

    I'm glad you had a great time on your vacation! Dean Koontz is one that I take on planes with me. His books are portable and most importantly, really interesting!

  9. Super popular, cheesy choice, I know, but Lisa got me hooked Eve Dallas and Roarke of the "in Death" series.
    Not in the "could go on forever", but still in the "recurring characters", I absolutely adore Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series - though, again, that is slated to end (much like H.P.) after a few more books

  10. I like recurring characters, but only if they're really good and really 3D.
    Other times, I think I want characters to continue on with their story, but then realize that I'm glad the author decided to not deliver a sequel because less is more. In those cases, I have been given the gift of a character to forever imagine continuing on in life.