This Week, I Read… (#13)

30 - Love, Loss, and What We Ate

#30 – Love, Loss, and What We Ate, by Padma Lakshmi

  • Read: 3/24/16 – 3/26/16
  • Provenance: Borrowed from family
  • Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
  • Task: A food memoir
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I am an avid Top Chef fan with a great fondness for Padma on the show, and when she did an interview on The Daily Show to promote her book, I knew I had to read it. (I had originally planned to read Yes, Chef for this task, but I’ll get to that later.)

Knowing what I did about the book going into it, I expected more recipes and more about the show, and I was disappointed in that regard, but in the best way possible. What I actually got was a moving and eloquent recollection of the deep emotional ties Lakshmi has to food, her complicated relationship with it because of the strange trajectory of her career, and glimpses–more than glimpses, really–into the troubles and losses that have shaped her throughout her life.

I cried, reading this, something memoirs can only rarely accomplish. I don’t think I’ve ever read someone who could write so beautifully about what are incredibly personal, painful, and sensitive topics–coping with divorce and the feelings of failure that rippled outward from it, struggling with endometriosis, the experience of a later-life pregnancy.

My fondness for her from Top Chef feels shallow, now that I have seen what lies beneath.

The major flaw that I see in this book is that of structure–a new chapter will introduce a new topic or stage of her life, brush against the main theme, then dive off into a tangent that seems completely unrelated before slowly circling back to the main point. It always makes it back to the topic at hand, but sometimes the tonal shift is jarring, or the strolls down memory lane take too long or feel a little too indulgent.

31 - Rock Addiction

#31 – Rock Addiction, by Nalini Singh

  • Read: 3/27/16 – 3/28/16
  • Provenance: Library (ebook)
  • Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
  • Task: The first book in a series by an author of color
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I had meant to read the first Psy-Changeling book for this task, but my library’s digital service only had the audiobook, and I am not an audiobook person. Then I saw the ebook available for this series instead, so I gave it a try.

Aaaarrrgh. So many issues.

Over-the-top prose. Instant attraction (which is a thing that happens) that turns into near-instant love (which is a thing that doesn’t happen nearly so often.) The pace of the story moves so fast that the heroine picks up her life in New Zealand and moves to Los Angeles to be with her rock star in less than a month. Yep, less than a month.

And speaking of New Zealand as a setting…well, it would have been awesome if I’d learned even one thing about NZ from the book before the story switches to LA, but I didn’t–whatever “city” Molly lived in (either it was never mentioned, or I missed it) didn’t feel at all different from LA.  The only reference, really, to her having to adjust to a different country was the obligatory “I have to learn to drive on the other side now” moment. Shallow and disappointing.

32 - Shatter Me

#32 – Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi

DNF @ 30%. What is this, even?

I understand that highly stylized prose has its purposes. Here, Mafi seems to intend it to reflect the narrator’s fragile mental health. (I didn’t get far enough to know if she’s actually insane or not, so I’ll reserve judgment on that.)

But that doesn’t make it pleasant to read, or easy. The constant use of numerals instead of the spelled-out words, I might have been able to forgive, even if it was jarring when they began sentences. The lack of commas to separate clauses was probably meant to indicate the words tripping through her brain quickly–but again, that only makes the prose harder to read.

It was the heavy-handed use of strike-through text that killed me. I like seeing the occasional use of it to drive people crazy to indicate the conflict between a thought and a vocalization, for instance.

But nearly a full page of I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. Holy hell, that gets old fast.

And then, there’s the story, or what passes for one. I finished a third of the book and almost nothing happened. The dystopian flavor of the world-building is heavy-handed ham-handed downright ridiculous in its obviousness, all fact, no subtlety. I almost feel like I’m cheating to use this book for “A romance set in the future” because where’s the freaking romance? Everyone character in this book is horrible and hates each other! (So I’ll have to assume that sometime later, at least two of them stop hating each other long enough to fall in love. Blech.)

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5 thoughts on “This Week, I Read… (#13)

  1. There’s poetic writing and there’s trying too hard to be poetic writing. Guess which category I think Shatter Me falls into. The overstylized prose distracted, too, especially the strike-outs! FWIW, Mafi employs those much less as the novel progresses. Maybe it was due to experiencing the world through the POV of an usuaual alien-like person but to me there was something dry about the storytelling, as poetic as it was.

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    1. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to describe that prose as poetic, I was so bogged down in its stylization. I guess, for me, it boils down to style vs. substance–I’ll put up with nearly anything that enhances the substance of the story, but all this did was detract from it. And I can definitely see the point of front-loading that kind of experience, then having it taper off as the story progresses, so I guess it’s good that that level of insanity doesn’t continue…but there was just too much of it for me to keep going.

      Liked by 1 person

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