holygrail As many of you know, I compose a list of all the books that I am looking forward to reading. It is like a security blanket or comfort item knowing that there are some books out there that I want to read. For the next three months I only have six books on my list, which is not good. There is not much security in that unless I plan on doing a lot of re-reads.

Years ago, I read The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold and loved it. That book is definitely an A book for me. After reading it I couldn’t stop talking about it, and recommended it to just about everyone I knew. But I lost the book, and forgot about the story, until someone on Speaking of Audiobooks posted that the audio book was on sale. Off I went and rediscovered the love. After I finished, I wondered why can’t I find books like this anymore: books not so much with tortured heroes or heroines, but imperfect human being facing tasks that require heroic efforts with an underlying theme of good against evil, with an underscoring premise that human lives have purpose. Then I thought of my upcoming list, Blythe’s blog and then Maggie’s blog.

What is the connection? At first glance there doesn’t seem much of one, since Blythe talks about supporting authors who are attempting to break out of some of the rigid imposed restrictions by publishers, damping or extinguishing the creativity in our genre. And while a little off topic, if you don’t think that it exists, just check out what Julie James says in her interview at Under The Covers Book Blog:

“One of the screenplays I wrote back in the day is a romantic suspense about a woman (an attorney) who goes on safari in Africa and discovers that one of the people on that safari is a hitman hired to kill her. There’s a really hot ranger in the story—but the heroine doesn’t know if she can trust him because he could very well be the hitman. I came up with the idea after going on safari in South Africa—that was the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken and would love to set a book there. I’ve pitched the idea, but have been told that books set in exotic locations don’t sell well. But I haven’t given up hope—maybe some day!”

But back to my light bulb moment. What I also took away from Blythe’s blog is to be a little more adventurous. When I first read her blog, I thought of myself as a pretty versatile reader. I read contemporary, women’s fiction, some science fiction and fantasy, and political intrigue and tiny bit of historicals. Then I read Maggie’s blog, where she talks about how one recipe can be completely different in two different authors’ hands.

All three concepts sort of converged in my brain, being adventurous, the recipe, and why I haven’t read a truly great book this year, and I realized that I follow a recipe in picking the type of books even with reviewing. It is not that I don’t venture outside my comfort zone. I am continually trying new authors. But I still use that recipe to pick a book. I want heroic not tortured, sexy, but with more story than sex, and in fact I can be perfectly fine with kisses stories. Forget the big misunderstandings, or the too stupid to live characters, and the blood drinking, which rules out most vampire stories. Ditto on the end of the world, unless the world is restored in the end, which I find highly unlikely. See what I mean. . .I have a recipe. It is ironic that in my last three forays into urban fantasy this year, I ended up with a heroine with a very large snake, (snake phobia), a TSTL heroine, and then a blood drinking hero. Since I am like a Pavlov’s dog in that if I go too long without a reward, I quit reading that type of story, I haven’t yet ventured back into urban fantasy.

And I haven’t found the perfect book this year. I have read some truly good books that have touched me, made me laugh or cry and just plain entertained me but I want that book with meaning. So, I am thinking that maybe I need to adjust my recipe. I know that this is a common affliction, since many readers participate in 11 in 2011 to get them out of their comfort zones . And I also see others posting on the boards asking for a certain type of story. So many of you are just like me.

So I have many questions for you. Do you have a recipe or photoype of books that you enjoy? Do you feel adventurous in your reading or you stuck in a rut? If have been in a rut before, how did you get out of it? Most of us find books through our preferred genre, word of mouth and reviews. Which one has been the most successful for you in getting you to try a new author or new type of book? And if you have found your perfect book this year, what is it?

– Leigh Davis