This Week, I Read… (2019 #10)

35 - The Night Tiger

#35 – The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo

  • Read: 2/28/19 – 3/2/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (12/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book that’s published in 2019
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I was completely enthralled by this novel.

It’s a mystery. It’s a love story. It’s a coming-of-age tale. It touches lightly on racism and colonial troubles, more heavily on domestic abuse and the societal limitations of being a woman. There are ghosts and myths and superstitions and murders.

The premise is weird, even outlandish, I won’t deny that. But once I got started, once I accepted that premise at face value, everything made sense. Everything flowed naturally, and I had no trouble keeping track of all the threads being woven through the story. I was sometimes surprised by never confused by a turn of events, and with a novel packing so much into a reasonably normal length, I feel that’s worth noting.

As for the somewhat taboo romantic subplot, I was gratefully surprised to find it at all–the blurb doesn’t really hint at it, and I love love–and I felt the subject was handled with more delicacy than I’ve ever found in any romance novel written to cater to that exact taboo, where the entire point is the forbidden aspect of the pairing. Are some people going to hate this part of the book? Probably. But to me, it wasn’t offensive, and it felt integral to the story, rather than shoehorned in to give the book some raciness.

36 - Magic Binds

#36 – Magic Binds, by Ilona Andrews

  • Read: 3/2/19 – 3/3/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (24/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book inspired by mythology, legend, or folklore
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

Since anyone who’s hung in for eight books already probably isn’t going to suddenly hate the ninth, I’ll spare myself the trouble of evangelizing this series and just squee over my favorite bits.

  • Christopher is now heart-breaking and I loved every second of it.
  • Slavic dragon? Awesome. A pegasus named Sugar? Also awesome. Plaguewalkers? Cool but in an entirely gross way.
  • Grateful for the brief (and not condescending) reminders of who side characters are when it’s been a while since we’ve seen them. I’d honestly forgotten about Jezebel.
  • Curran getting bigger and buffer and scarier for plot reasons? Sign me up! Lions forever!
  • PRINCESS KATE QUEEN KATE I’m glad we’re finally getting more history about Roland and the family dynasty.
  • Ascanio’s sass at the wedding. That boy. Such a smart-ass.

So, yeah, loved it from start to finish.

37 - Wild Seed

#37 – Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler

  • Read: 3/3/19 – 3/2/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (13/48)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ page 88. I’m really confused as to what other people see in this, because all I found was a morally repulsive man with no redeeming qualities and the doormat woman who let herself be manipulated by him. There’s no gray area in the gender roles here: men are evil in every possible way, women are always good. Neither can be the other.

I’m a feminist, but I’m not a misandrist. I don’t hate men, and I don’t want to read about men that are nothing but hateable. Doro is the worst, but not in any interesting way, he just wants to breed a race of super-beings and never talks about anything but a) his amazing or disappointing children, and b) how he can get more of them so maybe some of them will turn out better. Which is by breeding Anwanyu, the doormat woman. He intends to father children on her himself, and maybe somewhere down the line, from one or more of his better-quality sons.

Um, gross? Eugenics is wrong no matter who does it. If that’s his motivation as a villain, fine, but then shouldn’t he be characterized as an antagonist, and not Anwanyu’s new husband? She just goes along with whatever he wants, even if she balks internally. Doro should not be one of the protagonists, and he should not be the sole focus of every one of Anwanyu’s thoughts and decisions. The book is like a shrine to him, the worst possible man ever to have ever been created, who possesses no empathy, who doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone including his family, who uses and abuses people solely for his own ends.

I lost patience when Doro proselytizes on why his slave ship is better than everyone else’s, how his slaves aren’t mistreated like the ones going over to America for sale. It sounded dangerously close in tone to how the historical slavery narrative was taught to me as a child, how everything was softened and distorted to sound “not so bad,” to hide the truth and attempt to erase history.

Doro, you’re still buying people, shipping them across the ocean, and planning to breed them for super-children. Your slavery might seem gentler on the surface but is not any less wrong than the real thing.

The blurb definitely painted this as some sort of epic, love-hate struggle across the ages, but I don’t buy it. There’s no struggle! Anwanyu doesn’t do anything but “nurture” and “heal” and let Doro have sex with her. Every time she considers fighting back, she just doesn’t, and that’s boring and stupid.

38 - The Girl in Between

#38 – The Girl In Between, by Laekan Zea Kemp

  • Read: 3/5/19 – 3/6/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (25/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 23%. Where do I even start?

First, if the main character has a disease or other medical issue so serious that it affects every aspect of their life, and therefore the story, I would hope the name of the condition would be spelled correctly. I’d never heard of KLS before picking up this book, and I’ll admit, it sounded so “out there” that I looked it up to find out if it was real. It is. But it’s constantly spelled wrong throughout the text. I Googled “Klein-Levin Syndrome” only to discover it’s actually Kleine-Levin Syndrome. I wouldn’t take a book seriously if its main character was afflicted with AID or neumonia…just because I didn’t know the name of this condition before doesn’t mean the author should get away with getting it wrong.

I finally lost patience with the book when another medical error showed up: “What she lacked in precision she made up for in southern charm but it still wasn’t enough to coax one of my arteries to the surface.” If your nurse is trying to draw blood from an artery, she’s doing it wrong. Words have specific meanings. Artery and vein and blood vessel are not interchangeable terms.

This particular sentence also displays one of the two major grammatical failings that appeared constantly. That sentence lacks clarifying commas and is just trying to do too much at once. It’s far from the worst offender, but I’d put a comma after “precision” and “charm” if I kept the sentence that length. Were I the editor, though, I’d split the whole thing into two sentences. And fix the “artery” goof.

The other consistent problem was sentences with dangling clauses tacked on with no regard for their antecedents. There’s pronoun confusion a-plenty, one sentence where I swear the “it” meant three different things the three times it was used, but this problem seemed especially egregious whenever scenery was being described: “I looked down the beach to where the water seemed to disappear behind the tree line, and then just past the next sand dune, the beach giving way to tall grass and a narrow dirt road that spilled into a bright blue sky.”

I’m fine up until the first comma. Beach, water, water disappears at the tree line, makes perfect sense. But “and then just past…”? There’s no verb there. No subject. Is the narrator looking past the next sand dune? Does the tree line extend to the next sand dune? And what “next” sand dune when it’s the only one mentioned? Doesn’t there have to be a first sand dune in order for there to be a “next” one? Why on earth are seven different landscape features all a part of a single sentence? (1. Beach, 2. Water, 3. Trees, 4. Dunes, 5. Tall Grass, 6. Dirt Road, 7. Sky. In case you didn’t want to count yourself.) So, again, one sentence trying to do far too much at once.

And both of these issues are truly constant, to the point where I’d have to reread at least one sentence out of three to make sense of it. Some of them, I’m still not sure what the author intended to convey, and that’s a serious problem.

Okay, so I haven’t even touched the story yet. Because I’m 23% of the way into the book and there really isn’t much of one. Girl has KLS. Girl has issues with school and personal relationships because of it. Mysterious boy shows up in her “dreams” that she shouldn’t even be having, medically speaking. That’s as far as the plot has progressed in the first quarter of the book–but keep in mind, the boy shows up in the very first chapter, so the only progression of that storyline is that the girl and boy meet and talk to each other during one of her episodes. In the “real” world it’s all treading water, going to the doctor repeatedly, having episodes repeatedly, being miserable all the time, oh, and getting partially mauled in a closet at a party by her (maybe)(ex-)boyfriend.

I’m not hooked. I’m not even interested, because nothing about the story is engaging enough to make me want to wade through the constantly atrocious grammar.

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