This Week, I Read… (2019 #20)

61 - Children of Earth and Sky.JPG

#61 – Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay

  • Read: 5/6/19 – 5/13/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (42/100)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Kay is always an author deeply concerned with displaying the inner lives and complexity of his characters, but even for him, this is a gravely introspective novel, which leads to my only real criticism of it–all the characters read the same after a while, as uniformly thoughtful people.

Some were cleverer than others, some managed to approach impulsiveness from time to time; but mostly, everyone ponders everything at length, be it the political motives of a rival person or rival nation, the play of light on tree leaves, the love of a man or a woman who may or may not be awaiting their return.

It’s beautiful. It’s all beautiful. But there’s little variety in tone.

The plot sets out to accomplish a great number of things, and it does. Depending on which angle you consider this novel from, it’s about journeys. It’s about family. It’s about how small decisions can shape nations. It’s about how no one’s future is predictable in the moment, how even a simple life can go wildly off the beaten path. It’s about power, both political and personal, and yet, it’s also deeply about love, especially finding it, or its lesser shadows of affection and tenderness, in unexpected places.

That’s what I’ll carry with me away from this book, far more than what actually happened. But I do wish it weren’t quite so saturated with introspection that the individuality of the characters gets washed out by the scope of the themes.

62 - Random Acts of Crazy

#62 – Random Acts of Crazy, by Julia Kent

  • Read: 5/13/19 – 5/14/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (43/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF after two chapters, 10%.

Listen, I swear. I swear a lot. But not even your most stereotypical pirate swears more than Darla Jo here, and SWEARING IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A PERSONALITY. Neither is instant and excess horniness, because she picks up a random nude guy on the side of the road, turns out he’s higher than the highest kite and doesn’t remember the last 24 hours, and literally all she can think about is climbing on his dick.

If you’re going to sell me that ridiculous and ridiculously unsafe premise as the beginning of a romance, these characters have to have more personality than “always swearing” and “stoned out of his gourd.” Also, when Darla suddenly and viciously smashes the fourth wall, I wasn’t impressed, I was irritated.

It’s terrible, don’t read it.

63 - For the Record

#63 – For the Record, by Charlotte Huang

  • Read: 5/14/19 – 5/16/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (44/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ll be honest, one of the reasons this book made it onto my TBR in the first place was that (at the time) I was drafting a rock-star romance novel, and I’d seen several reviews saying this novel was heavy on practical tour logistics and other aspects of “real” rock-band life.

Having finished it, I can agree that it seems far more grounded in reality than most other band-focused novels I’ve read. However, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

There’s never any sense of place. Chelsea will narrate an entire tour stop as two throwaway paragraphs before moving on to a brief scene in whatever city something important happens in. Famous places are name-dropped but rarely described, and never in any depth, so if I don’t already know what they look like or what their history is, does it matter that they’re real places? Even recurring locations, like the band’s tour bus (or later, Lucas’ bus,) are barely sketched out, and I’m just not familiar enough with the inside of a tour bus (I knew I should have been a rock star!) to imagine it all myself without any guidance.

On top of that, scenes can be so short and so stacked on top of each other, rapid-fire, that the pacing is chaotic. I can appreciate that it might be a deliberate choice, to echo the chaos of what a tour is probably like–but does it serve the story? Spending two minutes on the bus in rushed conversation with band members who alternately tolerate or hate her before running away to do something on her own doesn’t do Chelsea any favors as a character. It doesn’t lend any weight to her active relationship with movie-star Lucas or her background attraction to band-mate Beckett. She doesn’t ever develop any real chemistry with either of them, mostly because there isn’t time devoted to showing that kind of growth. Since those two guys and her relationships with them are supposed to be central conflicts in the story, it all ends up feeling flat.

It’s a real mark of how uninvested I was in these characters, that when the ending is hopeful for a happy future for Chelsea with a new band, I realized I wouldn’t want to read the sequel it might be hinting at. (Or not, I have no idea if there’s any plan for this to be a series. Just that if it were, I wouldn’t read it, because I should care about shiny-happy-romance, but I don’t. They didn’t hook me.)

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