This Week, I Read… (2018 #15)

56 - Enchantress from the Stars

#56 – Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl

I was initially intrigued by the premise: a tale that was both science fiction and fantasy, fairy tale and space exploration.

But I got tired of Elana’s constant self-doubt, and her father’s endless moralizing. It was worsened by the fact that every time he had to explain something to her about their plan, or about her commitment to their service, or basically any moral choice she made, she then spent a few pages whining or agonizing about it. And then, sometimes, she also had to “explain” it again in vague, magical terms to Georyn, because his native/uncivilized status meant they couldn’t reveal themselves as alien.

The actual plot got lost for me in the psychological rigamarole. Too much introspection and not enough actually happening.

57 - Steering the Craft

#57 – Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, by Ursula K. Le Guin

I enjoyed working through this immensely. Each chapter’s topic is laid out clearly in introduction and discussion, followed by examples from worthy texts, and put to the writer-reader in the form of one or more exercises, with guidelines for working/critiquing in peer groups if the book is being used by a class or workshop.

It’s not a motivational or inspirational treatise such as Stephen King’s On Writing; this is a workbook, and should be treated as such. Do the exercises, don’t just read them through!

I found myself stretched and challenged often. Throughout, Le Guin advises repeating the tasks you find most challenging, to strengthen your writing brain in much the same way you would a muscle. I haven’t taken that advice yet, or gone back to edit/revise any of the passages I wrote (which is also included in some exercises, after some time has passed) but I look forward to it.

I had reasonable success using the exercises as warm-ups for my regular writing sessions, though YMMV on that, because some of them can run quite long, or involve several parts best done in succession, not spread over days. Not every writer is going to have the kind of time to devote to these as warmups.

Not every book on writing or piece of writing advice is going to be helpful to everyone, but Le Guin’s wry humor and elegant presentation made this a winner for me, which I recommend to every writer who wants to strengthen their craft through clear technical means rather than nebulous guidelines or iron-clad don’t break these rules.

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Camp NaNo April ’18 Progress Report #2

nano2

So, hey, campers, I’m still about 5K behind! I made great progress over the weekend, only to get stuck again (relatively speaking) yesterday and today. This blog post is, in fact, late because I didn’t want to report two days of nothing, so I wrote all afternoon.

I can still catch up. There is still time.

My two lady-loves are currently eating Japanese food and trading some serious are-they-flirting-or-not banter; even though I just hit 25K, I’m still early in the story, undoubtedly because I’ve frontloaded it with detail that will get cut/moved somewhere down the line.

But a first draft is the author telling herself the story, right? I’ll iron out the kinks in the second draft!

Down the TBR Hole #6

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

This month’s candidates for the chopping block:

#1 – The Book of Legendary Lands, by Umberto Eco

17621050A fascinating illustrated tour of the fabled places in literature and folklore that have awed, troubled, and eluded us through the ages. From the epic poets of antiquity to contemporary writers of science fiction, from the authors of the Holy Scriptures to modern raconteurs of fairy tales, writers and storytellers through the ages have invented imaginary and mythical lands, projecting onto them all of our human dreams, ideals, and fears. In the tradition of his acclaimed History of Beauty, On Ugliness, and The Infinity of Lists, renowned writer and cultural critic Umberto Eco leads us on a beautifully illustrated journey through these lands of myth and invention, showing us their inhabitants, the passions that rule them, their heroes and antagonists, and, above all, the importance they hold for us. He explores this human urge to create such places, the utopias and dystopias where our imagination can confront things that are too incredible or challenging for our limited real world. Illuminated with more than 300 color images, The Book of Legendary Lands is both erudite and thoroughly enjoyable, bringing together disparate elements of our shared literary legacy in a way only Umberto Eco can. Homer’s poems and other ancient and medieval texts are presented side by side with Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland; Tolkien shares space with Marco Polo’s Books of the Marvels of the World; films complement poems, and comics inform novels. Together, these stories have influenced the sensibilities and worldview of all of us.

I added this specifically because my sister-in-law had just found a copy at a used bookstore, and I got to see a little of it during the Christmas holidays together.

However, upon reading some reviews, this doesn’t seem like an in-depth assessment of imaginary and mythical lands, merely a coffee table art book catalogue of them. Which is fine, if that’s what you want; but it doesn’t sound like something that would interest me.

Finding out about this book did spark an interest in me to read the author’s works at all, and since then I’ve found used copies of two of his novels–Baudolino and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. So having this on my TBR was a benefit, even if this isn’t what I end up reading. It goes.

#2 – Havana Blue, by Leonardo Padura

785053Lieutenant Mario Conde is suffering from a terrible New Year’s Eve hangover. Though it’s the middle of a weekend, he is asked to urgently investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rafael Morin, a high-level business manager in the Cuban nomenklatura. Conde remembered Morin from their student days: good-looking, brilliant, a ‘reliable comrade’ who always got what he wanted, including Tamara, the girl Conde was after. But Rafael Morin’s exemplary rise from a poor barrio and picture-perfect life hides more than one suspicious episode worthy of investigation. While pursuing the case in a decaying but adored Havana, Conde confronts his lost love for Tamara and the dreams and illusions of his generation.

I end up with a lot of books going on my TBR from seeing author interviews on TV, and this is the case here. Padura spoke to Anthony Bourdain during the Parts Unknown season six episode in Cuba, and I found the author to be engaging and interesting, so I searched through his works and picked something more or less at random.

Since then, like with Umberto Eco above, I’ve found a copy of one of Padura’s other works, The Man Who Loved Dogs, so I’m going to read that instead. This goes. Though if I like Padura’s style, it may come back!

#3 – The Just One Day series, by Gayle Forman

When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left.

Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines. [Just One Day]

I’ve read Forman’s If I Stay duo, and I definitely enjoyed them, but the style didn’t wow me. All of my Goodreads friends that have read these love them, and since I’m diehard for romance, I feel like I should, too–but looking at the criticisms leveled of the works in this series (especially the second book) I’m getting a profound feeling of meh. Doubly so because readers who came to this after If I Stay seem to be the ones most disappointed.

I’m not giving up on contemporary YA, but the premise here doesn’t excite me. I’m making an effort to devote more of my YA time to diverse titles, and this doesn’t tick that box. They all go.

#4 – Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler

52318

Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.

 

 

 

It’s a pretty sparse blurb to be excited about, but I’ve read Kindred and Parable of the Sower, so I know this is going to be creative and fascinating. Butler’s work so far hasn’t hit five-star perfection for me, but it’s strong and eye-opening, and that’s plenty. It stays.

#5 – The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken

10576365

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

I have mixed feelings about this deserving a place on my TBR right now. I’m reasonably sure that I added this after reading Passenger, which I loved. But when its sequel came out and thoroughly disappointed nearly everyone I knew in the book community, I didn’t bother to pick it up myself. And the reviews on this first book in an earlier series are decidedly split–either it’s the best thing since sliced bread, or the most flawed YA dystopia ever written.

I love dystopian works, so I tend to be hard on them when they don’t live up to the hype. (Yes, Fahrenheit 451, I’m still looking at you. I will always be looking at you when I say this.) So when I read that the heroine is dull, the pacing fast but the story insubstantial…well, I’m not really looking for dystopian fluff reads. It goes.


So, this time around, I axed a lot of books. Have you read any of them and have thoughts you want to share? Leave me a comment!

This Week, I Read… (2018 #14)

54 - The Thirteenth Tale

#54 – The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

A modern(ish) take on gothic literature, there was a lot I loved and, simultaneously, a lot that disappointed me.

Margaret, as a character, failed to impress me. She does have some defining traits, including obvious intelligence, but all too often she’s relegated to the role of reader stand-in, because the bulk of the book is someone telling her a story. Having recently read Frankenstein, I’m well aware of the usefulness of that literary device, but it’s not used as effectively here, because it’s so easy to forget that it’s actually Margaret listening to the story and not us–until she’s the one to figure out the eventual puzzle of the Angelfield/March family.

If the reader had it figured out before then, Margaret’s an idiot for being so slow; if they didn’t (I was close but not quite on the money), then Margaret either appears to be a genius, or, if the reader missed some of the clues sprinkled throughout, she makes an absurd leap of logic that ends up being correct.

I’d usually say that’s one of the reasons I hate mysteries, and usually that would be true. But here, the mystery elements didn’t bother me so much, I suppose because this isn’t a typical genre murder mystery, and because these elements heighten the book’s resemblance/homage to the gothic literature which inspires it.

On that note, while I love Jane Eyre, the allusions to it and other similar works did become increasingly heavy-handed as the story unfolded. This is a book by a bibliophile, for bibliophiles, that much is plain; even so, I felt Setterfield was laying it on a bit thick.

So what did I like? Miss Winter. Her sharp and bitter personality hid a heart full of love, and her storytelling was genuinely compelling, most of the reason I managed to tear through this book in only a few short days. And I loved Hester’s scientific subplot, which highlighted neatly the historically dismissive attitude men (and society in general) had towards women’s intelligence (or perceived lack thereof) while also being accurate about the relatively amoral stance science had towards its test subjects at the time.

Also, on the subject of time, I do like that the narrative is blessedly technology-free, giving it a loose setting in history. This obviously isn’t set in the present, because Margaret never had to lampshade to the readers why she didn’t use a computer or cell phone, so it’s safe to assume they didn’t exist in their present forms–especially at the end, when the telephone wires are down because of the snow. But there are telephones, so it can’t be too ancient–while I never tried to pin down an exact era as I was reading, I assumed Miss Winter would have been a child in the late 1800’s or at most the earliest 1900’s, to suit the novel’s gothic sensibilities, which would have pegged the novel’s “present” somewhere in the 1950’s to 1980’s, given her age. Which jives completely with the lack of technology evident in Margaret’s daily routine.

55 - The Awakening

#55 – The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

When I finished this, I was left with the same bad taste in my mouth I got when I gave up on Moby Dick–why do people still read this?

I understand the historical context. For a woman to have written this, and to have gotten it published in 1889, is remarkable. The story paints a picture of a woman realizing she is more than society expects of her; that she doesn’t need to conform to those expectations; and that marriage and motherhood do not need to define the limits of her being. All of those things defy the conventional wisdom of Western womanhood at the time, and that fact, coupled with the reception the book received, have turned it into a classic of American literature.

I wish I could add something to that list: “that love is possible no matter when you find it.” But I can’t, because the ending ruined my hopes for the story.

I found the prose flat and plodding–even before the revelation of the end, I wasn’t truly enjoying the read, but I kept going, because this has to be so highly regarded for a reason, right?

I have never hated an ending so much as this. What is the point of following Edna through her “awakening,” wading through all of those bird-based metaphors for freedom, reveling in her slow discovery of her individual power, only to have her commit suicide in the end? My problems with this ending:

1. If this is a story about self-actualization, then the ultimate point of it, because of the suicide, becomes that Edna, in becoming a fully-fledged individual, became free to choose to die. Which is valid, if depressing. But why couldn’t she run away with Robert instead, scandal be dammed? She could have chosen to do that, as well, or at least to try to persuade Robert to do it. Choosing death instead seemed impulsive (see #3 for more on that) and even counter-productive, since killing herself couldn’t be all that much better for the standing of her remaining family than running off with a lover would be.

2. If this is a story about romance instead, then Edna’s “awakening” from her loveless marriage and general indifference to her children needs the completion of a happy ending with a lover instead. She still would have to run away with Robert, and by committing suicide immediately after his good-bye to her (made for both their sakes, as he’s unwilling to defy societal expectation and ruin her marriage), she loses her newfound freedom in death, and all because of a man and his rejection of her. What’s innovative or liberating about that?

3. Healthy human individuals don’t commit suicide. We’re wired to survive–for someone to choose death instead, knowingly and willingly, implies some pressing reason (altruistic acts) or some mental imbalance (depression and other mental illnesses.) I don’t say that disparagingly; I’m not decrying suicide victims as anything other than people who didn’t get the help they needed. If we read Edna’s final act as a symptom of mental illness, such as the general “disorder” her husband suggested to their doctor earlier in the book, then so too do we have to attribute her “awakening” to that illness as well, because her husband took the change in her for sickness. Which, again, undermines the entire point of the story, makes it not about Edna striving towards living fully free as herself, but as a woman acting out the strange impulses of her disease. That robs the narrative of her choices, her drive, and turns the entire book into a long, ponderous decay of the societal standing of an ill woman, ending with her death.

On top of all of that, it deserves mentioning that this tale of a “surprisingly modern” woman is horribly, casually racist. (Which, to be fair, was perfectly indicative of the times…) However, the everpresent-but-unimportant black or mixed-race characters were constantly referred to by the derogatory terms of the time (mulatto, quadroon) rather than their names (most didn’t have any) or even their positions: Edna’s children’s nurse, once being established as “the quadroon nurse” was forever after referred to simply as “the quadroon” with her employment left out. And sprinkled throughout the book are several stronger slurs referring to black people.

In pointing this out, I’m not criticizing Chopin for her racism; she is a product of her times. What I am criticizing are the modern readers who can hold this work up as feminist and declare it relevant for modern reading–that’s pretty much the epitome of White Feminism (TM), which only cares about furthering the goals of rich white women–which Edna is. Not filthy rich, but rich enough to abandon her husband’s home and possessions to buy a new (if smaller) house to live in, around the corner from her husband’s residence, to begin severing herself from her restricted life, just because she could. And she could afford to live on her own, if not as lavishly.

So why should we still be reading this book? What does it truly have to offer that isn’t grossly problematic by modern standards?

Camp NaNoWriMo April ’18: Progress Report #1

campnanoprogress1

I’m 5K behind. In my history of NaNo events, this is actually, literally unprecedented.

I blame a few things–busy life, lack of preparation, and lack of discipline. But catching up 5K? Totally doable. I didn’t squeeze as much writing time in yesterday as I would have liked, but I did make time. Instead of looking at how busy my day was and skipping writing entirely, I wrote.

And I’m going to do it again today, and again tomorrow. Writing is going to be a habit again for me, after so many months away from working seriously on anything.

Even if I don’t hit 50K, and I’m confident I will, at least Camp NaNo will be Boot Camp NaNo, where I get myself back in (writing) shape.

The Book Robin Hoods: Going Strong!

calling allauthors

Are you an indie author looking for a wider audience for your works, or a community of fellow indies to share advice and support? You can find both at #thebookrobinhoods!

Sign up here to become a featured author and put your name and novels out there to a strong and dedicated base of book bloggers who want to support authors like you!

BRH personal request fixed

On the other side of the coin, are you one of those book bloggers who want something to read from outside the box? From independent authors who aren’t afraid to take chances, mash together genres, or tell stories beyond the usual scope of mainstream publishing? Do you want to support independent authors and promote them to your friends and followers?

Sign up here to become a featured blogger and declare your willingness to read and review indie books. You’ll be able to request the ones you’re interested in (including mine!) and authors will be able to find you to request reviews. You’ll never run out of things to read again!

This Week, I Read… (2018 #13)

46 - Rocannon's World

#46 – Rocannon’s World, by Ursula K. Le Guin

While this is the third book in the Hainish Cycle according to the setting’s internal chronology, it’s actually Le Guin’s first novel, and it shows in the quality. The sparseness of detail and direct action I’m used to from rereading my beloved Earthsea books is there–but I didn’t see the same depth of story or worldbuilding. In fact, since one of the intelligent races of the planet is man-like, another vaguely dwarf-like, and a third vaguely elf-like, it wasn’t hard to see the strong influence of Tolkien and his (unintentional but lasting) codification of basic fantasy races.

The only stretch of the book that really kept me engaged was when the worldbuilding diverged from that standard model, introducing an insectoid species that seemed to have a considerable civilization, yet only interacted with the other beings on the planet by draining them of their life-force, trapped in the massive domes of their cities.

The story is a pressing journey cloaked with a thin layer of anthropology and a hefty dose of myth-in-the-making. I didn’t think it was terrible, but I did find myself unexcited to go back to it after I’d started, which is why so short a book still took me four days to read.

47 - Frankenstein

#47 – Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

There’s a lot I can forgive the text in terms of laborious exposition and slow pacing, because hey, this isn’t even as wordy as Jane Eyre and look how much I love that bloated beast.

What I found harder to take was simply the melodrama of it all. Each character, regardless of their other traits, seems to suffer the same high-strung excess of emotion. If this were limited to Victor, who by far is the worst of the bunch but also has the best reasons, I could believe it. And I don’t expect the monster to have mastered control of himself since he’s essentially a toddler trying to be an adult. But Walton, Victor’s family, Henry–they too make decisions based on nothing more than impulse and vitriol, which gave everything a kind of sameness of attitude.

The thematic elements are what stuck with me throughout this, more than its cumbersome style. There came a moment, when Victor began to relate the monster’s tale to Walton as it had been told to him when he met his creation, when I realized that the entire narrative had been (and likely would be) one character telling another their tale. We begin with Walton writing his sister letters detailing his expedition. Next comes Victor’s rescue, and his recitation of events to Walton, including the monster’s tale nested within it. We the reader can only know what has happened through the words of a storyteller sharing them, and that reinforces Victor’s crime in turning away from his creation at its birth. If Victor had not, if he had sheltered and taught the monster instead of recoiling in terror and fleeing, everything would have changed, and likely no crimes would have ever been committed, no trials, no hangings. All the monster wanted was human connection, and the structure of the story brilliantly echoes the necessity of that connection in, and through, storytelling.

48 - With a Twist

#48 – With a Twist, by Staci Hart

Y’all know I’m hyper-critical of my own genre, because there are so many half-assed romances out there. But this one, guys, this one.

It soothed so many sore spots for me. It’s friends-to-lovers, but not the common unrequited crush kind–neither of them has any clue at the beginning that they’ve been falling in love for who knows how long. Both leads are from the same massive group of friends–but the friends are introduced in small batches and have distinct personalities. I cannot begin to tell you how rare that is, usually the friend-group is basically a list of names and hair colors that can talk. Both leads have jobs, and they actually do their jobs, and growth in their jobs is important to the story, not just window dressing because people are supposed to have jobs.

It’s billed as a rom-com and it actually made me laugh out loud. Even more rare.

The dialogue is natural and believable, especially between the leads. I completely buy the idea that these two fictional creations have been friends for years. And even the inevitable setups for future couples in the series didn’t irritate me, as they so often do, because the foundations are laid naturally, though friends being concerned for each other’s lives, and not because all the planning was done in a separate chunk/chapter that seemed entirely unconnected to the story.

If I weren’t on a book-buying ban, I’d already be reading the rest of the series.

49 - Inhibitions

#49 – Inhibitions, by Kimberly Bracco

I haven’t even read 50 Shades of Grey and I can spot this as a rip-off, thank you media osmosis. The two leads are a reporter doing an interview she doesn’t want to, and a star football player who doesn’t like doing interviews. Sound familiar?

They fall in love and start banging on every available surface almost instantly, with the whole premise wrapped up in her history of not asking for what she wants out of sex, and his alpha-male dominance opening her up to who she really is. Neither of them has much personality beyond that, and the sex scenes were cringe-worthy, especially the dialogue, which was about on the level of badly-scripted porn. I have no problem with dirty talk, but it shouldn’t sound that fake.

50 - Faking It

#50 – Faking It, by Jennifer Crusie

DNF @ 25%. In media res is a fine place to start, by all means, throw me into the deep end of the pool. But don’t drown me in a sea of names.

Everyone in Tilda’s family sounds alike, and even a quarter of the way through, I couldn’t tell you exactly how they’re all related. Maybe the information isn’t there, maybe it’s there and I missed some of it because it came in a flood. So many characters are introduced so quickly that I was completely overwhelmed.

And honestly, I didn’t like Davy at all. Con men are supposed to be sharp-witted and clever, and he was–but he was also a creep. It turned my stomach when he was on the phone with his niece teaching her the basics of buttering people up for a con, or in her case, a favor. I’m not into a romance between a chronic manipulator and anyone else, even if that anyone ends up bettering or reforming him.

51 - One is a Promise

#51 – One is a Promise, by Pam Godwin

DNF after the first chapter, which is far earlier than I usually give up on a book, but Trace isn’t a love interest, he’s a criminal. I don’t care how powerful you are in your own corporate bizarro world, trespassing is still trespassing, and a crime. Danni should have called 911 on him, but it’s hideously lampshaded in a paragraph about how this incredibly powerful businessmen couldn’t possibly be there to rape or murder her.

…why not? I mean, if he’s that powerful (which he repeatedly says he is, and Danni seems to believe) then why the hell couldn’t he have barged in on Danni’s date specifically to victimize her? His driver and the business associate who originally approached Danni know he’s there, but if he’s that powerful I’m sure they’d give him an alibi for Danni’s murder when the body’s finally found. Yeah, Danni’s lackluster date saw him at her place, too, but why stop at one murder? Some random dude in the wrong place at the wrong time would be easy enough to clean up, right, if you’re that powerful.

Trace is immediately characterized as a power-tripping sociopathic stalker who uses intimidation to get what he wants and isn’t above bullying someone in their own home WHERE HE IS A CRIMINAL TRESPASSER.

And Danni spends the whole time annoyed by his attitude while simultaneously lusting after him with every fiber of her body.

ROMANTICIZING ABUSIVE BEHAVIORS IS DANGEROUS. STOP DOING IT.

52 - Crown's Chance at Love

#52 – Crown’s Chance at Love, by Mayra Statham

I have many complaints. First off–this is simply too long. Because I DNF’d my previous two reads, I made myself finish this one, and IT’S OVER SIX HUNDRED PAGES.

If it had been properly edited, it could have easily been two hundred pages shorter. There is so much repetition of both narrative and dialogue. Both leads use the same phrases to repeatedly describe the same thing, even when they should view them differently–I mean, how many times do a man and a woman call something the exact same color name? I realize I’m generalizing, but in my experience, I’m more likely to give something a “fancy” color name (ice blue, baby blue) whereas the men of my family and acquaintance would be more likely to call the same color simply “blue” or maybe, at best, “light blue.”

And that sort of thing happens a lot. Instead of being in the character’s head, both characters are showing us the author’s brain.

If it had been properly edited, it wouldn’t have switched randomly between past and present tense, which it does as often as several times a chapter for no obvious reason; it wouldn’t have switched randomly between first and third person perspective, which it does slightly less frequently than tense shifting, but still far too often, as in at all; it wouldn’t have misplaced or missing commas, leading to unintended meanings. For example:

“I won’t do that Mike.”

From the context, the speaker obviously means that she doesn’t intend to perform the action previously mentioned; however, the actual reading is that she won’t do that Mike, but maybe she’d do a different Mike, wink wink, nudge nudge.

I wouldn’t harp on about it if it had only happened once or twice, but a lack of comma setting off a name in direct address was constant. I think there were only a handful of times the comma was correctly in place.

And it was exacerbated by the fact that the characters use each other’s names in conversation every few sentences. Sometimes as part of nearly every exchange. Just taking out some of those names would probably save five pages at least!

So, after all that, why was this a two-star read instead of just a measly one? Well, having forced myself to read the whole story, a lot of it was painfully contrived, but it did do one thing well, that I rarely see in these days of insta-love romances–an actual slow burn. Mike and Sabrina do take the time to get to know each other (even if I hate that phrase now, because that’s how they both describe their early proto-dating stage, repeatedly) and Mike even goes out of his way to learn about and befriend Sabrina’s three children.

I just don’t think he needed six hundred pages to do it.

53 - The House on Mango Street

#53 – The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

I can appreciate the beauty and brevity of the language, but when I finished, I was left scratching my head about how this constitutes a novel. It’s not even that it’s a series of vignettes, because so is one of my favorite novels, The Martian Chronicles, where the structure works brilliantly.

It’s just that here, there’s no story. There’s a lot of characters, and a lot of snapshots of setting all around the titular Mango Street, but very little happens, and most of it has no direct connection to any other events.

I just read the book equivalent of the three-to-five-minute montage at the beginning of the movie, establishing the neighborhood that the protagonist is desperate to get out of.

But then the movie stops. Who’d be satisfied with that?