It's a hot book, but you might find yourself dozing off to "The Historian," the best-selling and weighty-looking Dracula novel by Elizabeth Kostova.
Here's a book that certainly looks substantial, not to mention lurid, what with all its talk of Vlad the Impaler. But it could have just as well been named "The Librarian," because it's so full of research and letter-writing and stalling. In the words of one disappointed Dracula fan: "I'd rather dig a ditch than read that book again."
But the good, exciting books can be just as hard to spot as the duds are.
Take "The Traveler," a mysterious sci-fi adventure with a famously mysterious author who uses the pseudonym John Twelve Hawks. That gimmick alone is enough to make the whole thing suspect, and so are any comparisons to "The Matrix" or "Star Wars" or "The Lord of the Rings." But this writer has come up with the summer's real hit: a book with enough new ideas to stage a fresh cosmic battle between good and evil. Get hooked on this first installment, and you'll sign on for the rest of a projected trilogy.
The so-called "beach book" genre also makes its winners hard to spot. Partly, that's because there are so many of them: glossy-looking escapist stories of the rich, famous and wicked. Among these, the season's sharpest stiletto would appear to be Tilly Bagshawe's "Adored," a book as decorative as its characters. It's a great-looking throwback to the Hollywood of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann.