This Week, I Read… (2017 #22)

69 - The Ocean at the End of the Lane

#69 – The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Another example of Gaiman doing what he does best–creating a world that is both our own and not quite our own, making magic seem so believable that it’s almost (but not quite) ordinary, and telling a story though the eyes of a child so well I can remember, as the narrator does, how wonderful and terrifying the world seemed when I was young.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about it, other than it was brilliant.

70 - Be Careful, It's My Heart

#70 – Be Careful, It’s My Heart, by Kait Nolan

The trouble with basing a story around some other real-world media is that sometimes, no matter how famous or popular that iconic thing is, there will be a reader who hasn’t ever seen it.

Just like I have never seen the movie White Christmas, so when the two main characters are cast in a last-ditch, save-the-theater musical version of the movie (very pointedly NOT the original musical) I was adrift at the story references.

On the upside, I’m a former musical theater geek myself, so it won some points for that. I was never in a leading role and I certainly never got to have a musical-fueled romance, but I’m absolutely down with that as the basis for a story, color me swooning.

On the downside, this is a second-chance romance based on a breakup that was A STUPID COLOSSAL MISUNDERSTANDING THAT COULD HAVE EASILY BEEN SOLVED IF THE CHARACTERS HAD ACTUALLY TALKED TO EACH OTHER.

They did at least admit that, when it came out that their entire eight-year interlude of misery could have been prevented, but my feelings on misunderstandings as conflict are dim at best.

So this was a mixed bag for me, because I loved some parts while hating others. Definitely continuing on with the series, though.

71 - Snow Falling on Cedars

#71 – Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

Mixed feelings about this one.

The story structure is intriguing. A short current narrative about a small-town murder trial, liberally seasoned with key flashbacks, it actually manages to keep the reader in the dark about whether the accused is guilty or innocent for most of the book, so that’s a win. And using that murder trial and the history of those involved to explore American racism toward the Japanese during and after WWII was an inspired choice. Sometimes the actual dialogue invoking the racism seemed heavy-handed to me, but then this is set in the mid 1950s, and I was nowhere close to being born yet–even my parents were children then. So I guess people really did talk like that.

Unfortunately, draped over the bones of this gripping story was layer after layer of unnecessary detail and repetitive imagery. Some aspects of boat layout and net fishing are key to understanding the ins and outs of the trial, and some are just filler. I didn’t need a treatise on the subject. And in the first chapter, wind is mentioned seven times over just four pages: a wind from the sea, wind-whipped, the sea wind, wind-whipped (again), wind-beaten, the sea wind (again), and finally, wind-driven.

Okay, it’s windy there, I get it.

Sadly the level of description never really improved, but finding out how the trial turned out did keep me going. The denouement was short, repetitive, and ultimately weak, but the climax of the trial itself was satisfying. Glad I read it, not going to keep it.

72 - Good Girl

#72 – Good Girl, by Mira Stanley

I picked this up for free last year when it was newish, and I didn’t realize at the time it was only a novella. Good thing I didn’t pay the $2.99 asking price for a mere 75 pages, especially when it ends on a silly cliffhanger without even the slightest hint of story resolution. If your pricing model is to give me a book over ten parts (as the author’s note at the end states) then you’d better not be charging me $3 each, stretching one story into a $30 investment. That’s predatory pricing.

(If you’re not as current with digital romance pricing norms as I am, I don’t blame you–but for novellas, they’re generally either free or 99 cents. The free ones are usually by authors with established series trying to get you hooked with a taste, or offering extra, nonessential content involving side characters.)

Which is too bad, in a way, because I do kind of like the foul-mouthed narrator, Joe. This is one of the only romances I’ve ever read with a male first-person POV, and that part of it was refreshing. As was his strong emphasis on consent.

What I wasn’t as crazy about was his constant and total (internal) insistence that Sunshine/Kelly was a “good” girl based on her appearance, clothes, and the semi-random assumptions he made about her. In a full-length novel, this could work as a flaw for Joe that he could learn to move past–but in a quick, half-hour read, there’s no time for character development.

Write the whole book and charge me five or six bucks for it, next time, and I’ll bite. I want to support independent authors. But I don’t want to be deliberately exploited by a cliffhanger serial designed to part me from my money.

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