This Week, I Read… (#42)

104-season-of-the-witch

#104 – Season of the Witch, by Natasha Mostert

  • Read: 10/6/16 – 10/8/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I was tempted to put this one down early, because the prose is so overwritten it’s edging towards purple. But I put that complaint aside and kept going, because the author was clearly striving for a Gothic feel, and that warrants a certain level of indulgence with adverbs and exclamation points.

What it doesn’t excuse is poorly-written hacker main characters who claim to be arrogant alpha males and roll over like puppies for mysterious women in their lives.

I know. I know. Witches in literature are generally a sign of female empowerment, and when they’re evil, they’re a symbol of the male fear of women’s power. I should be rooting for these witches, but I can’t. I just can’t! Because the central conflict of the entire plot is that Mr. Puppyhearted doesn’t know which of the witch sisters he’s in love with while he also DOESN’T KNOW WHICH ONE OF THEM IS A KILLER.

So how can I, the reader, not view both the women in this pseudo-love triangle with extreme suspicion? And there was little chance I’d figure out which was which before it was revealed, because, for all the time spent describing the two sisters, they still felt basically interchangeable to me. Mr. Puppyhearted assigned them each differing informed traits (one is more athletic, one more cerebral, etc.) but they both spoke in essentially the same dark, wryly seductive voice, and the physical differences between them weren’t critical to revealing the identity of the killer, so beyond Mr. Puppyhearted having a preference (hint: he didn’t, they were both gorgeous) it didn’t really matter.

Then the ending was bizarre and unsatisfying. Enough said.

105-second-chance

#105 – Second Chance (Penny’s Story), by Abigail Barnette

  • Read: 10/8/16 – 10/9/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

There was a lot about this book I didn’t like–the three-star rating is at least partly author loyalty, because I’ve read and loved so much of the author’s other work. I was charmed by the first book in this spin-off series, because Penny is positively charming! And the style is still eminently readable.

But something about this one fell flat for me, and I can’t even put my finger on exactly what. It wasn’t the heavier themes themselves, but it might have been the differences inherent in how Penny and Ian handled those heavier themes, and how their approaches didn’t mesh. It wasn’t pleasant to read through them fighting over their own grief, and I mean that as a true criticism; I might have been able to stomach it, if I felt it was resolved properly, but the ending feels rushed and a bit “oh we’re going to be fine now.”

If and when there’s a book three, I may give this a reread to see if I like it better the second time around and want to keep going with the series, but for now I’m skeptical.

106-the-october-country

#106 – The October Country, by Ray Bradbury

I always feel odd trying to assign a rating to an anthology of short stories, because the quality can vary widely between them, and so can my reaction. There were definitely pieces in this collection that didn’t resonate with me.

But overall, this was a thoroughly, chillingly entertaining read. While most of the stories are too tame to call horror precisely, there are still a few I’d feel comfortable labeling as such, and all of them lean heavily toward macabre, at least, making this a great spooky read for October. (As if it weren’t right there in the title!)

My favorites were “The Lake,” “The Scythe,” and “The Small Assassin.” All three had clear premises cleverly executed, all three played with hope and despair in their story lines, and all three had properly blood-chilling endings.

107-delicate-ink

#107 – Delicate Ink, by Carrie Ann Ryan

  • Read: 10/11/16 – 10/12/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Disappointing for several reasons.

#1 – Don’t label your book first in the series if there are two novellas that precede it THAT WERE NOT PUBLISHED AFTERWARDS AS PREQUELS. As I was reading, I was utterly confused by a string of chapters interspersed with the main story that focused on characters I wasn’t properly introduced to. Turns out, they’re the stars of the first novella. Only I didn’t know that existed at the time. Yes, this is the first full-length novel in the series, so it’s technically book #1. But it was published AFTER the novellas, and it draws heavily on the contents of one of those novellas. Not cool–don’t make it look like a starting point if it’s not.

#2 – Despite the respectable length (over 300 pages) the story still felt rushed. Why? Well, in part because several chapters were given to the novella characters, as mentioned, but ON TOP OF THAT a few were handed off to another family member (though he’s actually the canonical “family friend who might as well be a brother because they took him in because his life at home sucked”) in a horrendously obvious set-up for the next book in the series. Hey, I like romance series based around a single family or group of friends. But make them self-contained, okay? Their POV chapters don’t have to leak into each other if they don’t add anything to the main story line.

#3 – Too many subplots. Any one or two of them might have worked, if the others had been trimmed. None of them were given enough room to breathe because they were fighting for space with each other.

Not planning to read any more in this series.

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