This Week, I Read… (#40)

96-three-hard-lessons

#96 – Three Hard Lessons, by Nikki Sloane

  • Read: 9/22/16 – 9/23/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

The sequel to Three Simple Rules, which I reviewed earlier this year, made it onto my Kindle because I picked up Rules for free and enjoyed it more than I expected to.

Sadly, Lessons doesn’t quite live up to its standards. It still had the same lively, engaging style that makes for an easy read, and the steamy parts were still well and truly steamy, but I never connected with the characters the same way.

I think a good part of the blame lies in the far-flung locale. I praised Rules for actually showing the protagonists working for their living, but Lessons might as well take place in a bubble, if that bubble is Japan. Sloane made plenty of effort to include interesting details about Japanese food and culture and touristy stuff, and (knowing a bit about the country myself) it’s all accurate to my knowledge–but when I look back over this book, it seems to me like the only place anything important happens, past the inciting incident on US soil, is in Ethan’s apartment in Tokyo.

It feels insular, and that doesn’t help the characterization when you mostly see them interact in the same environment over and over again.

It wasn’t terrible by any means, but both protagonists felt blander than I like, and compared to Rules it was disappointing. Maybe it picks back up in the next book?

97-garden-spells

#97 – Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen

  • Read: 9/23/16 – 9/24/16
  • Provenance: Owned (paperback)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

So, I’ve tried getting into magical realism before, with mostly disastrous results.

This book, this is exactly what I wanted magical realism to be. I didn’t want the magic part to come at the expense of good characterization. I didn’t want to spend half the book on family history before anything relevant happened. I didn’t want it to be a skeleton of a fairy tale dressed up in the rags of literary fiction.

I wanted something enchanting, lyrical, and romantic, in both the personal and aesthetic sense. I wanted beauty, and charm, and graceful turns of phrase.

I got it here. Garden Spells is going on my comfort-read shelf, to be pulled out when I need a shot of warmth and sunshine.

98-seer-of-sevenwaters

#98 – Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier

  • Read: 9/24/16 – 9/27/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

It pains me to give this such a low(ish) rating, but the Sevenwaters series is near and dear to my heart. I read the original trilogy back in college, not quite as they were released, but bam-bam-bam after the third one came out, so I overdosed. Then, years later, came the fourth book, which I never expected to see and promptly adored.

I’m only now getting to this one, book five, and I have to say, it’s a weaker offering, both in plot, pacing, and structure.

First of all, I was completely thrown for a loop when I realized this was a dual-POV novel. All the previous books were single-POV, so being inside the love interest’s head was strange. I do think this particular story would have been difficult to tell from only Sibeal’s perspective, but having two first-person narrators is never going to be my favorite style.

The pacing. Oh, lordy, does this drag in the first half. Okay, so it takes Felix a while to get his act together, he’s the survivor of a shipwreck, I get it. But do we really have to see that much of his recovery? Could we pick up the pace a little?

And the plot. This was a stilted romance at best. I like the idea behind it–Sibeal and Felix are both cerebral, both creatures of the mind–I just didn’t buy that they fell completely in love, deep, soul-binding love, through philosophical debate and a single kiss. Debate can certainly arouse strong feelings; I remember clearly my most staunch opponent in my current-affairs class in high school, boy, did we get into it–but I didn’t fall in love with him. (Never even had a crush on him, actually. Probably for the best.) The physical attraction is handled internally for both protagonists, a lot of “I’m not supposed to be feeling this way, woe is me” that just gets tiring.

Again, it’s not terrible, I’m not going to throw it at someone I don’t like, but it’s not even close to as good as the series gets.

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