This Week, I Read… (#47)

124-ysabel

#124 – Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay

  • Read: 11/10/16 – 11/15/16
  • Provenance: Library (hardcover)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I doubt I’m ever going to actually dislike a Kay novel, but this might be the closest I’ve come. It was weird, and it felt like it took forever to get started, and while the explanation of how the mystical elements worked eventually came along, I’m still not clear on the why.

The fundamental conflict underlying the story isn’t the sort of thing you can hand-wave past, and I didn’t get it.

That being said, the characters are gems. Ned wins second place in “Favorite Teenage Protagonist of the Year” behind Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I’ve never been a boy, but I remember being a teenager, and he’s an incredibly nuanced portrayal of one. His new friend/partner in crime/(minor) love interest Kate was both heart-wrenching and hilarious. And while you all know I adore romance, its subplot here was incredibly minor, thankfully, and utterly believable.

So the book has its up and downs. I’m glad I read it, but I won’t be rushing off to get my own copy.

125-in-bounds

#125 – In Bounds, by Bronwyn Green

  • Read: 11/15/16 – 11/16/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I love the Bound series. Full disclosure: after reading the first few books, I struck up a conversation with the author on Tumblr, which blossomed first into a mentor relationship–I was getting ready to publish What We Need to Survive at the time and she offered some advice–and then into friendship. Bron’s fantastic.

So yeah, she’s my buddy and I’m inclined to like her books even more now than when I was just a fan.

Okay, that’s settled.

Ivy’s adorable and Will’s hot. Great chemistry, hot sex scenes, check.

Love-love-love the setup of the second-chance romance aspect and how it subverts an incredibly common trope. Not going to spoil which one, because where’s the fun in that?

This particular entry in the series is somewhat lighter on the BDSM scale than others, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; for one, it lets us pare down the sometimes-tedious explanation of how everything works, which can get awfully old to the reader when they’ve seen repeated it across many books, and two, it avoids a 50SoG-style steep dive into the deep end of the pool when one of the participants is experienced (Will) and one is basically brand new (Ivy.) So cheers on handling that with grace.

My only real criticism that kept it from five stars is that it felt a little rushed, a little short. I would have liked to have seen their relationship grow a bit deeper before the resolution and the HEA epilogue, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

126-cold-mountain

#126 – Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

  • Read: 11/16/16 – 11/17/16
  • Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
  • Challenge: Mount TBR Challenge 2016 (9/12)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

I wanted to love this story. I never saw the movie, but I remember hearing enough about it to know the basic idea without reading–Civil War soldier deserting, traveling home to his prewar sweetheart. That sounds great. I want to read that story.

I just don’t want to read this one. The pace isn’t just slow, it’s glacial. The soldier spent almost three pages standing with his foot on the lowest fence of a rail, ruminating. While some of those ruminations certainly did provide backstory and insight, shouldn’t he have been walking? You know, trying to get where he was going? And couldn’t he have thought a little quicker or more concisely?

I made it to about 20% before I threw in the towel. At times the turn of phrase was beautiful, but the rest of the time, it was just bogging the plot down with excessive stage direction and detail about the landscape. Yes, both of those things are important to crafting a well-told tale, but please, moderation.

Two pieces of advice I’ve seen given to newbie writers are 1) Don’t let your characters be alone too much, and 2) Don’t let the reader see them traveling somewhere unless it’s critically important–just move them there and skip the time they spent on the way. This book blatantly contravenes both pieces of advice, and I don’t argue with that–the story is, in fact, about the journey, and it’s important for both Inman and Ada to be alone, because one of the major themes (so the back cover tells me) is the dangers of solitude.

A good writer can throw out advice like that, no problem, and I still would have wanted to read that story. The problem is, Frazier let his characters have too much space to expand into that solitude and make it their home, describing every detail of their existence without regard to pacing–which is exactly why those two pieces of advice are given to writers. Keep things moving.

127-beyond-pain

#127 – Beyond Pain, by Kit Rocha

  • Read: 11/17/16 – 11/18/16
  • Provenance: Owned (ebook)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I love this series a little bit more every time I read a new entry.

Talk about subverting tropes! I’ve never seen a BDSM relationship in a book where the Dom is the masochist, so bonus points there. Also, the licentious nature of the O’Kane compound actually makes jealousy and possessiveness into positive character traits in this one, which is not generally the case. (Possessiveness can be cute in small doses, I’ve used that one myself, but it’s easy to take it too far, and jealousy? Almost never hot, because it usually comes paired with controlling, and not in the good way.)

The overarching plot line of the series continues to be intriguing, and I’m definitely wondering what comes next.

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