This Week, I Read… (2018 #11)

39 - Greywalker

#39 – Greywalker, by Kat Richardson

Clumsy, chunky action broken up with long bouts of worldbuilding exposition. I’m not saying a great paranormal/urban fantasy book won’t have any, but this one definitely delivers it in long blocks that can be hard to digest–some of the ideas piqued my interest, but the rest became a mush that didn’t seem consistent (although I can’t tell if that was reader error, because I was getting bored by the end, so maybe I missed something key to my failed understanding of the climax.)

A main character with any personality would have gone a long way towards rescuing this. Coming out at the end, I feel like I could describe two of the supporting cast (specifically Quinton, the jack-of-all-tech, and Cameron, newborn wobbly vampire boy) better than I could tell you about Harper. She’s bland. She has a ferret named Chaos, which is a brilliantly clever name, but other than that… she gets beat up a lot? She’s terrified all the time?

I have no interest in reading the rest of the series after finishing this.

40 - The Giver

#40 – The Giver, by Lois Lowry

I read this in a single day, coming awfully close to a single sitting, which is a rarity for me even with such a short book.

The language was clear, simple, and direct in the best possible way. I was impressed with how smoothly the world-building went, and not simply because I’m already familiar with so many dystopian settings–this had original points that I found both beautiful and terrifying, and the nuances were conveyed naturally through Jonas’ exploration of his expanded role in the community.

I did feel like it came to a climax rather quickly, and I understand the criticisms leveled at the work that say it’s an oversimplification of a complex societal issues–and it is, but no more so than any other dystopian works I’ve read, and it has more of a cohesive story and more compelling characters than some (yes, Fahrenheit 451, I’m looking at you.)

Do I agree wholeheartedly with its ideology? Not entirely. Was it a hell of a ride anyway? Yes, yes it was.

41 - The Word for World is Forest

#41 – The Word for World is Forest, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Davidson is the worst. The absolute worst. And that’s really the flaw here–one man has been designated to represent the vilest qualities humanity has to offer. He’s sexist, racist, imperialist, paranoid, and and downright gleefully homicidal. He has no redeeming traits whatsoever.

The core messages of environmentalism and anti-colonialism wouldn’t be hard to spot over the course of this story, even without Davidson’s heavy-handed depiction, and it’s the lack of nuance there that bothers me most. Other aspects fare better: I appreciate the contrast between him and Selver at the end, when Selver claims they are both gods, because Davidson was the one who first taught them murder, and Selver the one who learned it.

I loved the wide swings in tone between chapters, as the POV cycles through whoever is best suited to tell the next arc of the story. That made this a real page-turner, as I anticipated who might be next, and what we might learn.

I do wish we’d gotten to spend more time with the Ashtheans and their culture, because what little there was fascinated me. But I do see that this plot wouldn’t have supported a much longer book–Le Guin is adept at trimming excesses and getting to the point.



Writing Homework #15 — Studying Pacing


Pacing in writing can be a tricky beast to wrangle. It’s often hard to know how your story flows by the end of the first draft, and even if you do, there’s probably a lot about the pacing that needs work. A solid rhythm might not even take shape until multiple rewrites are done.

And it’s a difficult thing to sum up in a quick homework assignment, but I’ve got an idea.

Pick a book from your shelf that has never bored you. It doesn’t have to be your absolute favorite book ever, or one you know by heart, but it does have to be one you’re reasonably familiar with, and most importantly, IT’S NEVER BORING.

Pick a chapter from the middle. Not the end, where it’s likely to be more action (for most genres, anyway) or the beginning, where it’s likely to lean into world- or character-building. Pick a chapter from the part of a story that so often sags, the part that gives so many writers, myself included, terrible fits of frustration–the middle.

Reread it. While you are, make notes about any obvious hooks–bits of foreshadowing for the end, payoffs of earlier foreshadowing, subplot resolutions or new subplot introductions, new characters, new settings. Depending on the exact chapter of the exact book, not all of these will be present–but if the middle’s not boring, something is happening. What? What is happening to keep you so engaged?

If you have the time and inclination, re-reread the same chapter, but break it down page by page. What is most of each page devoted to? Action, conversation, description, exposition? Is there a balance between two or more of them? Does the balance shift as the chapter goes on?

And in your future reading, use these questions to study books that are boring you, to see what it is that’s failing. Too much exposition at once usually an obvious flaw, for example, but it could be something more subtle–are the characters talking, and it should be helping the plot move, but it’s really just filler? Is there too little action, or is there too much, and it whizzes by so fast you don’t feel like you absorbed any of it?

If you study stories with good balance first, ones that keep you engaged, it will be easier to identify flaws both in less intriguing books, and in your own work as you rewrite and edit.

Need to get caught up on your assignments?


Down the TBR Hole #5

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?

Now that I’m doing this once a month, it’s a sort of bibliophile housecleaning. Granted, I’m eliminating books I don’t actually own, but mental housecleaning is good too! Since my TBR list on Goodreads is currently just over 800, clearly I need some editing.

On to today’s candidates!

#1 – The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan


A newcomer to the tiny village of Tocurra befriends a young man whose deafness has left him isolated from his fellow villagers.

Marnie and Raver learn to communicate through a series of hand gestures, but when a death shakes the village, their special, silent bond causes the two to fall under suspicion of witchcraft.

A compelling, romantic, and revealing story for young readers, Sherryl Jordan’s The Raging Quiet is an ideal kids’ feature for a month of romance.

I found this on a list of books with deaf/HoH characters, and it sounded interesting, so it went on the TBR. A while later, when I was picking out titles for a Thriftbooks order, I bought it. So it stays. I intend to get to it soon.

#2 – Blue is the Warmest Color, by Julie Maroh

17465574Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.


The movie adaptation came to my attention through Netflix, but I didn’t quite get around to watching it–I’m prey to binge-watching television episodes because I feel like “oh, just one more, it’s only 45 minutes” while committing to a movie seems harder.

But when the original graphic novel showed up on a queer recommendation list (I really do pay attention to rec lists!) it immediately went on my TBR. And I do want to read more graphic novels anyway, they’re a nice change of pace from standard novels. It stays.

#3 – The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Empower, and Enhance the Mind, by Michio Kaku


The New York Times best-selling author of Physics of the Impossible, Physics of the Future and Hyperspace tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain.

For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist.

The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics. One day we might have a “smart pill” that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a “brain-net”; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe.

Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about “consciousness” and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness.

With Dr. Kaku’s deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, The Future of the Mind is a scientific tour de force–an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience.

That’s a doozy of a blurb, am I right? This originally went on the list because Dr. Kaku was a semi-frequent guest on either The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, or possibly both–his appearance for this particular book was several years ago, and I honestly don’t remember on which show I saw him and exactly when. But he’s an engaging and charismatic speaker/interviewee, and I was intrigued enough to ping this title.

However, looking through the reviews, it appears to have two major points against it–broad, nonspecific appeal to laypeople (which is a negative in my case for hard science I’ve already studied–my degree is in biology) and hand-waving futurism. When I read about science, I want facts and diagrams and research avenues, not wild speculation. So this goes, with the caveat that I’ll look into Kaku’s other works to see if he doesn’t have something to offer I’ll find more appealing.

#4 – The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

23301545A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

An illustrated, reimagined fairy tale by one of my all-time favorite authors? The question isn’t should I take this off my TBRit absolutely stays–the question is why haven’t I read this already?

#5 – We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

22738563What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

I already consider myself a feminist, but I’m at times painfully aware of just how Standard White Feminist the views I’ve grown up with are. I’m slowly unlearning the harmful parts of that mindset and searching out more intersectional feminism sources. So this stays.

And a bonus book because I only axed one so far today–

#6 – Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson


It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.

Marcus Samuelsson was only three years old when he, his mother, and his sister—all battling tuberculosis—walked seventy-five miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Adaba. Tragically, his mother succumbed to the disease shortly after she arrived, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and one year later they were welcomed into a loving middle-class white family in Göteborg, Sweden. It was there that Marcus’s new grandmother, Helga, sparked in him a lifelong passion for food and cooking with her pan-fried herring, her freshly baked bread, and her signature roast chicken. From a very early age, there was little question what Marcus was going to be when he grew up.

Yes, Chef chronicles Marcus Samuelsson’s remarkable journey from Helga’s humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France, from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. But Samuelsson’s career of  “chasing flavors,” as he calls it, had only just begun—in the intervening years, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs and, most important, the opening of the beloved Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fufilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents and prime ministers rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, bus drivers, and nurses. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, living in America, can feel at home.

With disarming honesty and intimacy, Samuelsson also opens up about his failures—the price of ambition, in human terms—and recounts his emotional journey, as a grown man, to meet the father he never knew. Yes, Chef is a tale of personal discovery, unshakable determination, and the passionate, playful pursuit of flavors—one man’s struggle to find a place for himself in the kitchen, and in the world.

I’ve seen Samuelsson as a guest on any number of cooking/travel shows, and I know he’s a big name. I added this in my flurry of interest in food memoirs, but having read quite a number of them now, almost all of which were lather-rinse-repeat disappointments, I’m soured on the genre as a whole.

Plus, skimming reviews, this seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it book, and the negative reviews are particularly scathing. I think the time when I truly wanted to read this has come and gone, so it goes.

Have you read any of these and have an opinion you want to share? Let me know in the comments if you think I’ve made a mistake!

This Week, I Read… (2018 #10)

35 - Corambis

#35 – Corambis, by Sarah Monette

All the tension between Mildmay and Felix, every harsh word, argument, physical altercation… all of it was finally paid off in the last book in the series, when Felix is arguably at his lowest (knowing exile, compared to his earlier unknowing madness) and decides that it’s time he tried harder to be a decent person.

His faults and his transgressions are not wiped away–quite the opposite, in fact. He’s less able to forgive himself for what he’s done than others are, especially Mildmay. It comes out, in a short but beautifully emotional conversation between the two of them, that basically Felix did so much to push his brother away because he couldn’t believe anyone could ever accept him as he was, and the fact that Mildmay did felt undeserved, unwarranted.

I am wholeheartedly satisfied with this conclusion, and it was a real pleasure to watch the two of them interact like friends, even like family, rather than brothers-by-chance who were thrown together by circumstance.

On top of that, what made this final book a standout for me in the series was a twist on worldbuilding I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. The first three books seemed to have the same rough level of technology as say, Edwardian England–carts and horses and boats for travel, at best. Then, in exile, Felix and Mildmay go to a country totally unknown to them, and there are trains! Corambis has a higher level of technology, and while steampunk is nothing new (and technically they’re steam- and magic-powered) I’ve never read anything involving higher technology without alien visitation being involved.

Also, Monette uses a very similar structure for the books throughout this series, many seemingly unrelated plot threads that gradually (or suddenly, in some cases) come together in a spectacular ending. While I criticized the previous book for doing this badly, here, it’s handled much better. While I couldn’t see all the specifics of how the ending would play out, I did at least get some sense of where things were going, instead of being bewildered about the importance of a character or an incident for most of the book.

I look forward to rereading the entire series in the future, hopefully picking up more of what confused me the first time, now that I know how it all works out.

36 - The Hate U Give

#36 – The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

I can’t fault this story for the reality of the world it presents. Life is hard living in the ghetto. Life is hard when you’re code-switching constantly. Life is hard when the institutions meant to protect you are in fact dangerous to you.

This book matters.

But I don’t understand who, exactly, the audience is. I’m white, and almost all the cultural references in this flew straight past me without leaving any marks. I don’t know who these artists are (the current ones–I’m of an age with Starr’s parents, so I know Jodeci and Tupac and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but that was about it.) I don’t know what a “dap” is. I didn’t always understand why what Starr considered important was important to her, where it fit into a larger cultural context. And the narrative did nothing to explain it to me. So in that respect, it felt like the target audience wasn’t white, it wasn’t out to educate us on what we don’t know and should be told about black life in the ghetto.

But if the target audience was black, if it’s out there for positive representation and giving young black readers their own heroes, then why was so much time devoted to explaining what would be obvious to most of those readers, like code-switching or microagressions? The whole time I was reading this, I was remembering the gut-punched feeling I had when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me which was unequivocally and unapologetically written for a black audience, and brilliantly so. I felt uncomfortable reading it, an interloper peeking into something I could never fully understand from the outside, but something I should do my best to educate myself about anyway.

I didn’t get that feeling from this, and I’m not saying I should have–they’re vastly different works. But I felt like this book was straddling the fence, trying to be everything to everyone, and that diluted the experience. It bears out in the million subplots, some of which are incredibly weak–did it matter, really, if Starr had slept with her white boyfriend Chris or not? What did their fight early on in the story about his bungled attempt at getting her into bed add to the larger themes of the story?

In trying to depict so much about Starr’s life as a black teenage girl, the weight of the story was scattered in so many directions that it pulled emphasis from what seemed, at the outset, to be the main message–the effects of police brutality on black families and communities.

37 - The Little Paris Bookshop

#37 – The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

Great premise, too bad that’s not actually what the book is about. I was so disappointed by this.

In skimming other reviews to see if I was the only one, I came across a lot of anger about Manon’s infidelity, and Jean’s complicity in it–but polyamory is a thing, and if Luc (the husband) consented to an open marriage, as it’s explicitly stated several times that he did, then I don’t have an issue with that.

Okay, maybe Manon was only setting up Jean for disappointment by casting him as the other man in her life–she didn’t strike me as a particularly likable character for that, even after reading her diary entries…which also surprised me with their sudden introduction? And we don’t find out why they’re included until the last few pages, which struck me as a cheap hook.

What irked me most was the lack of depth to anything. The basic pattern of the style was:

1. Description of scenery or weather in vivid terms just short of purple prose
2. “Jean felt X— feeling.” Telling. No showing.
3. Another character does or says something quirky
4. More florid description
5. More of Jean being introspective or philosophical
6. Some odd calamity occurs, and I’m supposed to feel emotional about it, but I don’t (for example, the deer drowning)
7. Yet more overdone description

When was I ever supposed to connect with these flat and frankly bizarre characters? Where was their space for me, the reader, to interpret their actions and build an image of them myself, rather than having everything spoon-fed to me?

38 - Fire and Fury

#38 – Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff

DNF @ 20%. If I wanted to write my review in the style of this book, I would call it the most slapdash, hyperbolic, nonsensical, pandering, rushed-to-print-to-make-a-buck book I’ve ever attempted to read.

I am aware this was quite literally rushed to print, and boy, am I glad I borrowed this instead of buying it, because it shows.

The first chapter alone had three spelling and grammatical errors; did anyone do more editing than simply a spell-check? Because that doesn’t catch words spelled wrong when they spell something else right (“subtly” for “subtlety”) or missing words in a sentence. Verbs, for the love of god, give me verbs! Many sentences have so many dependent clauses that by the time I do find the verb, I’ve read most of the paragraph and forgotten the subject.

I also called it pandering, because it’s clearly sensationalist, and not in an interesting way. I don’t have a high opinion of my nation’s current president’s ability to govern, but this book is obviously intended to further fan the flames of those who believe the president and everyone he employs is moronic. Which could be the truth–Wolff was in the White House doing interviews, I wasn’t–but the bias in the narrative is notable, especially when he adopts a surprised tone whenever he has to talk about someone actually doing something right.

I’m not on the ramparts screaming “fake news!” but if that battle cry has taught me anything, it’s that I need to be more critical of my sources of information, and it’s honestly difficult to take this book seriously (whether it’s factual or not) because of the hyperbolic tone and shoddy workmanship.

Dialogue Prompts: Hearthstone Edition


I got back into Hearthstone recently after several years away–go figure that novel-writing means I have less time for gaming!

As I was trying to rack up some Paladin wins for a daily quest, I kept playing my Argent Protector over and over, hearing him say “This is my responsibility” in a stern, manly voice. It’s a good line, simple, direct, and delivered well by the voice actor.

And it occurred to me then that since most cards say something when played, and many have another line when they attack, Hearthstone was suddenly an excellent source of dialogue prompts!

A comprehensive list of every line attached to every card would be long and difficult to compile without outside help–I don’t have anywhere near all the cards, especially after years away–but I jotted down my favorites from my last week or so of matches, to get us all started.

  1. “This is my responsibility.”
  2. “Not on my watch.”
  3. “Join or die!”
  4. “Meddlesome insects.”
  5. “Reporting for duty.”
  6. “The light dims, but we fight.”
  7. “I hope you like my invention.”
  8. “Follow the rules.”
  9. “Excuse me, you are on fire.”
  10. “Someday I’ll be just like you!”
  11. “Who dares summon me?”
  12. “Is this really necessary?”
  13. “I’ll show them. I’ll show them all!”
  14. “Don’t tell me what to do!”
  15. “I’ll give it a shot.”
  16. “This guy’s toast.”
  17. “This is our town, scrub.”
  18. “At any price.”
  19. “Where shall I strike?”
  20. “Total corruption, total power.”

Yeah, okay, some of them (especially the ones coming from Warlock cards) are hard to imagine normal people saying in normal conversation, but why shouldn’t we all right weird little drabbles about summoning demons or fighting the darkness, you know?

Have fun, and if you write something based on one of these, feel free to share!

End of the Month Wrap-Up: February 2018!


The weather has been all over the place for the last week, but spring is definitely on its way, and not at all too soon.

My writing continues to not go well, in terms of output–Real Life has been busy throwing us curve balls, and while the changes in my life are generally positive, change of any kind, good or bad, is stressful. On the upside, I have a new story idea that I’m thinking a lot about, and should help ease me back into my creative process when I’m ready to start it.

On the reading front, I am still blazing ahead through my challenges. In February I read sixteen books; fifteen of which counted for Mount TBR, six for the PopSugar challenge, and of course the four for my own Expand Your Horizons challenge. Clearly, when times are tough, I read a lot!

I’m pleased with my efforts at art journaling as well, as I showed off last week. It’s fun, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and I get to experiment. I should have no problem making those posts a monthly feature, as part of my new effort to give my blog more structure and make keeping up with it easier for me.

I look forward this month to better weather, more writing, more exercise, and of course more reading! What are your plans for March?

This Week, I Read… (2018 #9)

33 - How Stella Got Her Groove Back

#33 – How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan

The things I didn’t like about this far outweigh the things I enjoyed.

Since the good list is shorter, I’ll start there. I’m not a black woman in her early forties, and I don’t have an ex-husband or any children, so I was surprised how readily I could relate to Stella. She’s neurotic and image-conscious and a “strong” career woman who’s nevertheless socially somewhat insecure. I liked how unexpectedly falling in love–even if she denied that was what was happening to her for 3/4 of the book–turned her on her head and shook up her life. Which, obviously, is the point of the novel.

Also, since I *am* old enough to get most of the ’90s references, this is a work solidly grounded in its time, and it made me nostalgic for quite a few things. I was more like Quincy’s age at the time, listening to tons of music and playing video games. (Also, I do like the Stella-Quincy relationship, he seems like a great kid, but he’s by no means abnormally perfect.)

However, Stella’s neuroses are displayed in the narration two ways, both of which rapidly became exhausting to me as a reader: run-on sentences/lack of punctuation in itemized lists (two forms of the same grammatical styling choice) and incessantly repeated self-criticism/doubt. The former started off to me as a way to signify Stella’s mind going a mile a minute, which is another reason I can relate to her–sometimes my brain won’t shut off, either. But it wasn’t reserved for moments of stress or intense emotion–it was all the time. And when I noticed other characters didn’t have commas in their dialogue, the same way Stella’s internal narration worked? Nope nope nope. If that’s a characterization thing, it needs to be limited to her. If it’s a style thing for the whole work, it’s even less effective.

The endless cycle of self-criticism and doubt was even more infuriating, because there was simply no reason for it past a certain point. It was reasonable for Stella to be nervous, for example, when she sent the plane ticket to Winston as a surprise–how would he react? was she being too forward, taking this too seriously? But whenever he didn’t contact her within a specific time frame (usually an unreasonably short window) she would instantly devolve into hyperbolic, frustrated anger at him which quickly became an examination of her supposed flaws that would cause him to abandon her. Even at the very end of the book, she’s still doubting him! Why? He’s flawless.

And that’s my final problem. Winston is portrayed as perfect, except for his age. That’s the only conflict. The long-distance aspect of their relationship doesn’t count, to me, because the whole thing moves so quickly, they’re not apart for long; also Stella spends a prodigious amount of money to see him again, first with the return trip with the kids, and then flying him out to stay with her. The separations are short and relatively insignificant.

But in all other ways, Winston is shown to be an ideal man. Maybe not to everyone’s individual tastes, but he doesn’t have any serious issues. He’s polite to a fault, handsome, sweet, apparently great in the sack well beyond what Stella expected, and so on. Towards the end, Stella goes on an internal rant nitpicking the flaws she sees over the course of his extended visit, but they’re all a) shallow; b) consequences of living somewhere unfamiliar/with someone new, that could be easily straightened out through communication; or c) not really flaws at all.

He’s so perfect, he’s boring. And in what is supposed to be this topsy-turvy romance, a boring love interest doesn’t cut it.

34 - The Children of Men

#34 – The Children of Men, by P.D. James

I saw the movie maybe a year or so after it came out, ie, a long time ago. I couldn’t have recited for you the exact order of events, but some things have remained fixed in my mind: the deer in the abandoned elementary school, the revelation of the pregnancy, Theo doing his utmost to get the child to safety even at the cost of his own life.

In terms of the plot, I did not recognize this book as the same work at all. Major changes were made for the film, especially at the end, and because I enjoyed the movie so much I can’t help but prefer its story.

However, the one thing they share is an ambience, or an aesthetic, I suppose. The vivid descriptions of the slow moldering of Britain in the book recalled to me the exact feel of the movie, a shabbiness, a despoiling, a pervading hopelessness that for some solidified into dread.

If you’ve seen and enjoyed the movie without having read the book, I wouldn’t recommend reading it afterwards. It felt exceptionally slow and ponderous at the beginning, and book-Theo is dreadfully boring with his long-winded introspection. The second part is livelier, more gripping, because there are some actual stakes; but the worldbuilding is the best thing about the book, if you’re into ruined worlds the way I am, and then I’d just recommend watching the movie instead.