Something like a million books were published last year. A million books. How does a reader find quality reading material buried in all that noise? Some people use best seller lists. Others judge books by their covers. Still others take their recommendations on Goodreads to heart. Me, I have an sj.
No method is infallible. New York Times bestsellers are often nothing more than books that have had the greatest pre-release buzz generated rather than the book’s actual merits. ** I’ve read my share of bestsellers that were total disappointments. Judging books by their covers works about as well as reading blurbs, I have learned. Both are 50/50. Sometimes the novel inside lives up to the gorgeous cover. Sometimes the blurb is the best part (I, Saul, I’m looking at you). And Goodreads recommendations appear to be based on books you’ve read, not books you’ve actually liked.
All these books?
Because I read this one:
Note the stellar rating i gave it. Make that a three-stellar rating.
The drawback with having an sj is having to wait for her to get around to reading something first. As her TBR list is enormous, it may take 6 months for her to
convince me to read it get to a particular book, even though she burns through books at an astonishing rate.
When she recommended The Collector series, I was hesitant, and I’m not sure why. The covers are, of course, delectable. When my books are published, I hope I have cover art that’s this good. The blurbs were even intriguing. Maybe that was part of the delay. If I ever skim a blurb, I’ll leave the book on my TBR list until I have completely forgotten what the book was about. I hate spoilers.
But if I were to be honest (and this is so very embarrassing), my main reason for eschewing this series was because it comes from a small, indie publisher. How good could it be if it’s not Harper Collins, right? Let me just say I have learned this lesson well. Small does not equal substandard. Do not confuse small publisher with poorly edited vanity self-pub. **** I won’t again. Ever.
So what author schooled me on the quality of indie publishers? Chris F. Holm and his Collector series. There are three in the series. sj has reviewed them all, too, of course. Here, here, and here. And each time I thought “Huh, that sounds kind of cool.” And I moved on to the next book in my queue without a second thought. Until recently.
I sat down a couple of weeks ago with Dead Harvest. I devoured it in a day and a half and was so very sad that my library didn’t have the next in the series. Just as I was considering selling my own soul to the devil to get my hands on The Wrong Goodbye, I opened my email and saw this:
Click to enlarge if you need to. Best present. Best surprise ever.
I did a happy/thank you dance and downloaded it immediately. I zoomed through that one, too, and was ever so happy I had the eARC to dive into thanks to Angry Robot books. What a gift. The surprise present, the eARC, the series itself.
I was immediately engaged by the story. It’s intriguing. A guy makes a decision that he may spend eternity paying for. Note I didn’t say he made the wrong decision. Read it. We’ll debate. Anyway, Sam Thorton has been sentenced to collect the souls of the damned. Sometimes his targets don’t cooperate.
I won’t get too much into plot points because I don’t like spoilers myself. I will say that this series is a hidden treasure, and anyone who loves Urban Fantasy and good writing needs to give it a try. Seriously. Even if you don’t know if you’d like Urban Fantasy, try it anyway. You might be surprised. The books are under $5 each for digital versions. Do yourself a favor and get all three of them (The Big Reap drops on July 30th. You can preorder, and it will arrive on your device that morning.)
Why do I love this series? The writing. It is so, so solid. Holm has a way with a phrase. All three books are rich with detail; enough to create a world and pull us into it without hammering us over the head. I felt like I was there. I could see it. I could smell it.
The story. A delicious adventure, the plot drew me in and kept me there. It takes many twists and turns, but none are overly complicated, so it’s easy to follow without being at all predictable. Underneath it all is an undercurrent of hope, a guy trying to make the best of a bad situation, and the feeling that maybe things can turn out alright for him in the end. I always wanted more. I am already looking forward to the next in the series (oh, please say there will be a 4th!).
The author. I’ve followed him on Twitter for a while, and he’s actually a decent human being. He interacts with his readers with respect and humor. Since I’ve read his books, every time he responds to one of my tweets, I get all fan-girl giggly and think “Chris Holm is talking to ME!”
And here’s the greatest mystery. How has this talented writer gone relatively unnoticed? Seriously. The guy has fewer than 2,000 followers on Twitter. That he is going to be huge, I have no doubt. I am planning to sacrifice some shelf-space in my house and buy hard copies of this series because his first editions are going to be very valuable one day. If I can somehow get him to autograph them, so much the better. I am not kidding. Get in on the ground floor, because this author is going places.
So how do you know I am not just a mindless sycophant who agrees with whatever sj tells me? I’ll let you in on a secret. I only finish about 1/2 of the books I start. I have a deep-seated belief that life is too short to read bad books. If I don’t like it, I leave it. Unless I feel compelled to finish it in order to convince others NOT to read it. I enjoyed this series immensely. Whether or not I would finish was never a question.
How much did I like it? I stopped reading a Harry Potter book to take on this series. And I didn’t miss HP at all. Friends, there is no higher praise.
And that’s coming from THIS chick.
*** One book I do hope debuts on every bestseller list is Allie Brosh’s upcoming work.
**** Note: I said vanity self-pub. Not all self-pub is created equally. There are plenty of writers who self publish to retain more control over their material who still invest the time and money to produce high quality work.