This Week, I Read… (2019 #8)

29 - Unabashed

#29 – Unabashed, by Sasha White

  • Read: 2/15/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (20/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Almost a hundred pages, yet not much of anything happens. There’s very little conflict driving the story, there’s some growth in Ian and Ronnie’s relationship, and honestly for romance/erotica, there’s not even that much sex. So…what’s the point? They start out believing they’re in love because they found each other again after so many years, but the little growth we see is almost entirely sexual, not emotional. And there’s no real attempt to mesh their lives together, rather than just their bodies.

Even when viewed as Part II to Unfettered, I still feel like I’m not getting a complete story.

30 - H is for Hawk

#30 – H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald

  • Read: 2/15/19 – 2/20/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (10/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book about a hobby
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I have complex feelings about what was ultimately a complex book.

Pro: As an audiobook, MacDonald’s writing was powerful and compelling to listen to, especially in her own voice, which was pleasant and charming and so often amusingly dry when describing her own failings. She came across as accessible, a woman I might like to sit down with over a pint to spend an evening swapping stories. (I should be so lucky!)

Related con: Her attempts to mimic accents when relating the words of others usually made me cringe. Her American accent was particularly grating.

Pro: The scope of this is staggering, considering how personal it also is. It’s about grief and falconry and coping, just like it says on the tin. It’s also about depression and art, literature and identity, childhood and imagination, adulthood and responsibility, love and belonging.

Related con #1: It’s also hugely about T.H. White, which I did not expect, and often had trouble engaging with because I did not care much for The Once and Future King, have never read The Goshawk, and sometimes felt those sections were me attending a college English lit lecture rather than listening/reading for pleasure.

Related con #2: Structurally, I probably would have preferred reading this in print, for the book’s very complexity. Even when listening to the book at natural (1x) speed, the pauses between sections were short and didn’t have the same mental impact seeing a break on the page would have. This often left me disjointed, when the narrative train would leap from one track to another and my brain would struggle for a few sentences to make sense of the gap.

Pro: Deeply emotional most of the time.

Related con: Staggeringly pretentious on occasion as well.

Pro: I learned a lot about falconry in general, which fascinates me; though after listening, it’s clear I’d make a terrible falconer myself, because MacDonald spares no detail in relating the patience, diligence, and capacity for frustration that the hobby requires.

Related con: I also learned a great deal about poor falconry, thanks to her in-depth sharing and analysis of The Goshawk; I’m not sure repeatedly hammering White’s failings as a trainer to the degree she did was necessary.

In the end, did I enjoy it? Yes. But about two-thirds of the way through, I got impatient enough to get on with it that I bumped up the speed to 1.5x, even though it made a hash of MacDonald’s vocal pacing, because I felt the book was dragging and I just wanted to finish. If it had been 10-15% shorter, and if the material cut had been mostly the stuff surrounding White and his literary issues along with some of the overly repetitious landscape description, this book would have been practically perfect to me.

31 - Primal

#31 – Primal, by Sasha White

  • Read: 2/20/19 – 2/21/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (21/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Just like the previous two entries in the series, this is too short to really develop any kind of emotional resonance. Insta-lust becomes insta-love. Adam’s dark past, including a revenge killing, amounts to absolutely nothing because apparently Olivia’s okay with murder as long as it’s justified. The sex scenes aren’t bad, but they didn’t wow me. And while I wondered about the author’s note at the beginning of #2, explaining the ret-con about Ian and Ronnie, I was positively boggled by the presence of the (original) scene in this volume. It’s wildly out of place, having basically nothing to do with Adam and Olivia, and if the author moved/expanded it as its own story, why keep it here? Cut it and create a second edition!

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