This Week, I Read… (2017 #28)

Dragon Seed Cover

#90 – Dragon Seed, by Pearl S. Buck

DNF @ page 112. I liked this better than I did last year’s The Good Earth; but I didn’t like it enough to finish it. The language was still plain, stiff, and formal, and while the characters were more like people and less like cardboard cutouts, the pacing of the plot was agonizingly slow. Just not a fan of Pearl Buck, I guess.

91 - The Poisonwood Bible

#91 – The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

This work is by far the best I’ve ever read with multiple first-person narrators. The mother and her four daughters all display wildly different personalities and levels of education through word choice, incorrectly-used words and idiom, observations, and the priorities of their narrative. I never had any trouble distinguishing one character’s tone from another, which is the major failing of most similarly structured books.

I enjoyed it, but I feel like I might like it better on rereading. This tackles a lot of heavy topics–religion, political upheaval, disease, and death–through the lens of a single missionary’s family: how going to the Congo changes them, and how they change (or fail to change) the lives of the Congolese they touch. It’s dense with symbolism, and I’m sure I failed to pick up a lot of it on the first go-round. I’m betting I’ll find plenty of foreshadowing I missed as well.

Where the book falls apart for me is the pacing. It has a strong opening, a fantastic middle, and a weak, drawn-out denouement. I felt a little like when I first saw The Return of the King, when every time I thought the movie would be over, that this had to be the last scene, the screen brightened again and another one started. While the long ending did qualify the books for this challenge task (the story follows the daughters from childhood to late adulthood, not quite birth to death but close enough for me), I was left to wonder how much of it was really necessary to show how greatly the girls’ lives had been shaped by their experiences in Africa.

92 - Verity

#92 – Verity, by Claire Farrell

This took too long to get to anything interesting (like, you know, the werewolf part) and made me cringe too much along the way.

Perdita, our main character and narrator, has a personality that can best be described as “inconsistent.” She stands up for herself to her controlling father, only to let her absolute bitch of a best friend steamroll over her. She whines and moans about how unpopular she is, how much of a freak and a loser she is, but more guys than just the curse-besotted love interest hit on her when she goes to a party. She’s sheltered and fragile, but then she straight up kills an enemy werewolf with a giant stick.

I’m even more disappointed in this book because it could have been interesting. The curse Farrell cooked up to explain the whole soulmate angle of this actually works for me! The curse is what makes Perdita and Nathan feel better together than apart, and (to some degree at least, it’s not super clear) feel each other’s emotions to create a sort of forced intimacy. They like each other, they’re drawn to each other, but after the secret is revealed (waaaaay late in the story, bad pacing) they both know that it’s not genuine…yet that doesn’t mitigate the curse’s effects. So the book ends with them together, at least in the sense that they’re going to (try to) take things slow and actually get to know each other. Which I like.

Too bad I had to wade through all that stupid, melodramatic angst, all that mountain-out-of-a-molehill false drama to get to the mildly good part.

93 - Yoga

#93 – Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann

Despite the high rating I gave this, I’m actually divided on it. As a guide to the poses of yoga, it’s brilliant, with clear photographs of each pose, and for the more difficult ones, a breakdown of working up to the poses in easier stages. It’s going to be invaluable as a reference.

As a text explaining meditation, daily routine, and all the non-pose-related aspects of yoga, I found it incredibly wordy, repetitive, and preachy. I understand that the pose guides need to be complete for the reference aspect, so I don’t begrudge them being repetitive; but the rest of the text? If I ever see the phrase “relax with intensity” again, I might scream. Which is clearly not the point of yoga.

Eventually I realized the book was written in the style of a teacher giving a class–out loud. And since the point of yoga practice is to live in the moment, to free yourself from tension and worry, I get that. Spoken direction for yoga is and would logically be incredibly repetitive over the course of a session. But in book format, it becomes tedious. Yes, I remember you told me to concentrate on my breath, to observe the sensations of it but not to control it. You don’t need to tell me twenty times…in the book.

But I can’t truly criticize it for this style, because for some people, it would be far more accessible and easy to understand than a drier text that lays out the principles once and moves straight on to the poses. It just irked me.

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