I thought it would be fun to write out how I prioritize and classify my fiction reading.
1.) Will get it in hardcover if it's mainstream, or got it as an e-book and will get the print book as well. Highest classification of book shopping goodness.
2.) Was happy I got it as a print copy of an e-book, and shelved it on the keeper shelf. Collect books from the author's backlist and look for new books to come out. I really like the instant gratification of e-books, so I may well get future books in a series as e-books rather than wait a year for the print copy. That's what I did in the "With or Without" series, got With Caution as an e-book rather than waiting several more months for it to come out in print. I don't regret doing it that way.
3.) Was happy I got it as a paperback or e-book. Note: If I get a paperback genre novel, I feel no need to also get it as a hardcover. If I get it as an e-book and like it, it's rather rare that I think it's necessary to get it in print as well. Category three here also covers books where I've gotten some or all of a series from the library, and ended up buying some or all of the books in that series, just so I can always have them at home. As an example, that's what I did with Christine Feehan's "Dark" (Carpathian) series of books, read them at the library first, then got them for myself. I was sorry I got the second-to-latest one, Dark Possession, as a hardcover, although I rather liked the Christmas one before that, Dark Celebration. Now I'm waiting for Dark Curse to be available at the library. I'll keep getting her GhostWalker series in paperback. (Edited to add: I got Dark Curse from the library, and it took me a long time to get into it. Once I did, I stayed up all night reading it. There was a little too much female bonding about babies and "males must protect the females while the females stay home to have the babies" attitude for me. It advanced the overall plot arc somewhat, but I just didn't care for how several of the heroes and heroines acted.) Back to books in general: If it's an e-book, buy other books from that author in the series, consider trying books in other series by the author.
4.) Look for it at the library if it's mainstream or buy it as an e-book when I have extra book budget money.
5.) Lowest classification: Donate it to the secondhand bookstore and hope someone else likes it better. Consider it a learning experience in which I remember that sometimes the blurb really is that much better than the book, and think twice about buying others from that author.
Going back to the higher categories, there are quite a few authors that I've liked the books I got from the library enough to buy some or all of the books in the series: Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) series -- oh, and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I still had some of Janet Evanovich's books from back when she was writing category romances, so I knew I liked her writing. I did this with Roberta Gellis' Roselynde series -- and eventually went on to collect as much of her backlist as I could, and get some of the Magdalene la Batarde series in hardcover. I've done this with several historical mystery series, though I haven't collected mysteries too much lately. I did collect Ashley Gardner's Regency mysteries, and Victoria Thompson's "Murder" series, though I'm mad about the romance stalling out in the latter. It's quite a different proposition getting e-books -- I really miss being able to read the books at the library first -- but I'm learning which reviewers I can depend on, and have a number of authors I know I like. If the authors have free stories available, I think that's very helpful for the reader.
A few days ago, I wrote out a longhand rant on plots in m/f romance. I suppose some of these play on archetypes, and some are just common fantasies that strike a chord for many women.
This seems to be one of the most common plots: Weak doormat of a girl meets strong alpha male who wants to protect her, even though she's totally uninteresting. I realized that I haven't really been naming names if I find fault with characters or plot, but I just named one on Nose in a Book when I said that Marissa and Cormia in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series were "limp dishrags of boringness." The heroes in the series are much more interesting, and the series itself is addictive like crack. But out of six books, two of the heroines have been vacuous. Oddly enough, I don't mind it in m/m romance if one of the guys is kind of dumb, as long as he's cute, good-natured and enthusiastic. I don't mind romance stories -- m/m or m/f -- where the hero (or one of them) is a virgin, as long as it doesn't take long for him to lose his virginity, and he's eager to lose it. But I'm so tired of the shy, sheltered, frightened female virgin in m/f romances. I just start thinking, "Get a personality!" or rooting for the hero to find a more interesting woman.
Here's another plot that doesn't especially ring my bell: Pregnant woman gives birth by the side of the road, helped by a man who comes along, and instantly falls in love with her, and wants to marry her and adopt the baby. I just don't see how the guy can find this sexy -- am I missing something? I can see why it's a common fantasy, given the divorce rate of the last few decades and teenage pregnancy rate of the eighties and nineties -- women wished that a guy would come along and love them and their children by another father. But the man finding a nine-months-pregnant woman that hot? Especially if she's already in labor when she meets him? There was also the very common theme of a woman who has sex with a guy once, he goes away, she has his child or children, and he comes back years later thinking she's a slut, when she's never had sex with another guy. Can he not do the math to figure out that the rugrat is his? Perhaps this also goes back to that teenage pregnancy rate. The hero in these was often the town "bad boy" or scapegoat, usually illegitimate, and/or with a drunken father, and comes back angry and vengeful. And immensely financially successful, despite leaving town as a teenager with a spotty education. Eventually, he realizes that the child is his, and that's the only time the woman ever had sex. Perhaps a bit more updated is the plot where man and woman are both divorced, through no fault of their own -- widowed is a common one, too -- have custody of the children, and make a blended family with either the collusion of the children or over the objections of the children. Perhaps it's that I don't have children, but stories that focus as much on the children as on the romance? Meh.
The Beauty and the Beast plot -- yes, there's a reason this is a classic. I have a soft spot for the war-scarred veteran who comes home and is brought out of some reclusiveness by a determined heroine. I think I like even better the ones where the war-scarred veteran isn't that much of a recluse, but is trying hard to go on with his life. The ones that kind of throw me are the ones where the hero wears a mask to hide his scars, and it turns out that the "scars" are essentially the equivalent of a dueling scar. Why even bother to hide that? One novel that took that theme to new heights was when the reclusive masked man was drawn out of hiding enough to go out in public -- still wearing the mask! I don't know how the other lords didn't laugh at him. And yes, it turned out that his scars were just thin lines on his face. I don't remember the name of that book. But I know it cracked me up. Semi-related are the stories in which the hero is somewhat disabled. I have less and less of a tolerance for the ones where he's full of self-pity and yells at everyone. I really prefer the ones where he's going on to live his life the best he can. It also bothers me when his disability is miraculously cured at the end of the story. If that doesn't happen, he generally turns out to still be an overachiever in the alpha department despite the disability. I like the ones where he still has confidence that he has attractive qualities, and something to offer, and he and the heroine come to realize they agree on that fairly quickly.