Not so hostile witness

Guest post by Erastes


Not Erastes

Most people who read books get to choose what they read.  There are many ways we are tempted to pick that book off the shelf, as we know – a cover, a blurb, a tempting display, that kind of thing.  Within our genre, too, there’s only just enough to satisfy the hungriest of readers.

For those of us who do reviews however, we have to read whatever comes along.  I’m lucky here on Wave’s blog, because she treats me like the fussiest of Persian Cats: she waves tasty morsels under my nose and says “would you like to review…?” so I can review what I like the look of–but over on Speak Its Name when a historical comes my way I generally have to read and review it no matter what my opinions are of its outward temptation.

They say, never judge a book by its cover, and we’ve covered that many times on this blog and elsewhere, but I can’t help it – I do!  So if the cover is covered with ugly buglies, or nonsensical skulls it creates the same feeling in me as I discussed last week, where I want to push it to the side of my plate and put it off until later.  In last week’s post, I said that this is my default mode for Westerns – and what I’m trying to say is that despite everything, I often pick up a book which I’ve done EVERYTHING to avoid reading, only to find myself sucked, giggling like a loon, and enjoying myself immensely – so really – you’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you?

Take the book I’m reviewing this week (on Thursday); I wasn’t mad on the cover and I read the blurb and made a face.  “That’ll never work. That’s just silly.” I said to myself. And I have to admit, I started to read almost like a hostile witness–and the book charmed me.  So much so that within a couple of chapters I was entirely won over by a device that I had thought was entirely implausible.  The book isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed so much that I’m now looking forward to the author’s next book.

I’m also put off by hype.  I resisted reading Swordspoint for ages because of this, and did myself a disservice so it serves me right.  Right now, I’m reading “The Lunatic The Lover and the Poet” by Myrlin Hermes which I have had for 2 weeks and I have put off reading because I have issues with “fanfic” and … well – lots of reasons that would probably need Niles Crane to sort out – and it’s actually really rather brilliant.  Not to everyone’s taste, to be sure, but I would have been cutting my nose off to spite my face if I hadn’t read it, and I am glad I did.

Same with westerns–I have to be frogmarched to the PC, and I sit there scowling at the page as I read, but 9 times out of ten, I find myself enjoying myself–I would never have discovered Kiernan Kelly’s wonderful “In Bear Country” series or Mark Probst’s “The Filly.”  I’m also stupidly prejudiced (due to some horrible experiences in fandom) over jointly written stories, but without them, we’d not have Jamie Craig, or many of the other hugely talented writing partnerships we have around.  Covers don’t mean nuffin’ after all – some of Parhelion’s novellas have the worst covers I’ve ever seen, and yet I’d crawl over broken glass to read Parhelion’s next book.

So one of my new year resolutions is (OK – it’s a bit late…) is to have a much more open mind.  I haven’t actually EVER been repulsed by a book that I was expecting to be repulsed by (that’s always come as a surprise) so I shall remember this in future and when I read a blurb that sounds a little trite, or see a poser cover that makes me want to stick pins in my eyes, I’m going to kick myself in the teeth and tell myself not to judge by first impressions, and scoff my way through all my reads. Ok that would be a BIT difficult with no teeth, and the imagery sucks, but I know you know what I mean.

Nom Nom Nom

What do you think? I know you shared your coffee creams with me last week, but have you ever been delightfully surprised by a book you were expecting to hate?


Erastes is an author of gay historical fiction. Her novels cover many time periods and locations. She lives in Norfolk UK with demanding cats and never seems to have enough time to serve them.


  • I’m a voracious m/m reader and will often pick up books after only a quick glance at the blurb… when I finally get around to reading the book I’ll often think it sounds like crummy rubbish and can’t figure out why I bought it. But then I’ll completely surprise myself by really enjoying the story. So I figure it’s a choice of believing either the author was so skilled (s)he was able to turn a silly concept into a great book or I’m an unacknowledged lover of crummy rubbish. Let’s go with the former.

    I love a good cover! It can make or break a purchase. I have a very hard time with Poser covers. Ugh.

    I thought HP7 was particularly bad.

  • I usually find it’s the writing that’s a deal maker or breaker for me. Although I have a natural aversion to some genres, I can get sucked into most anything if the author has a feel for the language and can turn it into the stuff of magic. Wonderful prose leaves me spellbound.
    On the other hand, even if I’m reading something in a favorite genre, I can’t get past the second page if there are repeated errors or the dialogue sounds stupid or the sentences just woodenly limp along. For me, it’s like having to listen to someone vomit. (Uh…sorry. :-))

    • Yes, I think that’s exactly it, KZ – I may loathe a particular genre (or think I do) and then I start reading and I’m simply lost which is the case with the Hermes book I’m reading right now.


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