This Week, I Read… (2017 #13)

48 - Kiss Me Hard Before You Go

#48 – Kiss Me Hard Before You Go, by Shannon McCrimmon

A lackluster effort riddled with redundant filler, spelling errors, incorrectly used words (“libel” is not the same as “liable”–no one is libel to do something) and unnecessary stage direction. This is a first-draft level story that needs several layers of editing.

First, the plot holes. Why is there a skating rink on the farm? (“To make extra money,” I know, but since we hardly see Evie or her father doing actual farm work, maybe they should start there?) What nights is it open, and does anyone else run it when Evie’s not there? Because she only seems to be there when a plot point needs to happen at the rink. It never stops her from being somewhere else when she’d rather be. Then there’s her best friend, whose pregnancy subplot is thin and pointless–as near as I can tell, she’s only pregnant so Finch can punch her jerk of a boyfriend once to impress/defend Evie. There’s no other relevance to the main plot.

Second, the writing clean-up. There’s so much filler. People “remember” something in one sentence then start “reminiscing” in the next. They take whole paragraphs to move across a room, every motion requiring description. Missing or misplaced commas abound, clauses dangle wildly, and I had to reread many sentences due to pronoun confusion, leading me to believe one character was performing an action when it was someone else.

Evie and Finch were dull protagonists who I never got excited enough about to root for, and honestly, there wasn’t even that much conflict in their relationship. Her dad’s prohibition on the “carnies” talking to Evie is abandoned right away (or else there wouldn’t even be a story) but the father doesn’t even give Finch a hard time when they meet before one of Evie’s dates. And Finch leaving with the carnival isn’t addressed at all until right before it happens, then the weeks he’s gone are compressed into about a chapter, leaving the reader to feel it’s hardly been any time at all before he’s back.

Had I not been reading this for #readselfpublished in order to give an honest review, I would not have finished this.


Yeah, so, I only read one book this week? That’s unusual for me, but I’ve been spending quality time on editing WWNTR again, after the writing slump, and I’ve also picked up knitting again after several years away. I used to knit TONS and now that I’m doing it again I think it was an unconscious self-medication for my then-undiagnosed anxiety. Because man, knitting feels good, so I’ve been doing that (while bingeing on Person of Interest) instead of reading. But I will read at least one book for next week!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #12)

46 - The Princess Saves Herself in This One

#46 – The Princess Saves Herself in this One, by Amanda Lovelace

The emotion is real, the topics are heavy, but the packaging? Simple, obvious, even at times juvenile. I suppose I’m too much of a classicist when it comes to poetry. I know styles change, and I know everyone has their own voice, but the poetry I studied was, at its heart, filled with memorable imagery and keyed to the sounds it would make being spoken, even when it didn’t rhyme.

This, to me, doesn’t have any of that. It’s brutally honest, it contains valuable messages of self-love and empowerment that have obviously connected with a great many people, and it’s framed thoughtfully as the emotional progression of a life; but this is more like reading someone’s diary than a book of poetry. The single- or double-word lines strike me as space-filler; each page has no more than a sentence or two of text total, and I read this in fifteen minutes.

I don’t doubt it was a labor of love, but I can’t help wishing it had more sophistication and polish.

47 - Welcome to Paradise

#47 – Welcome to Paradise, by Rosalind James

It’s rare that I like a book better as it goes along, but this story started out with two major strikes against it: a HUGE cast of characters, and Mira, who as our heroine was on the borderline of TSTL. Or at least, too stupid to date, because Scott is never anything but a Grade-A controlling asshole. It was hard for me to believe anyone could fall for his blatantly obvious emotional manipulation.

However, like any contest-style reality TV show, the huge cast of forgettable characters quickly gets pared down to a small handful of memorable ones, so I guess the initially overwhelming amount of names is forgivable. I mean, I love Top Chef, I can probably name all the winners if I dig through my memory banks, but the people who got eliminated in the first few challenges each season? There’s no way I remember their names.

And Mira, well, we get to know Mira, and it turns out she’s not as stupid or naive as she first appears. I’m not entirely sure I ever really liked her, but by the end I could tolerate her.

So why does this book still get four stars from me? GABE. I like my heroes thoughtful and considerate, and boy howdy, is Gabe just about the best of them. Can I marry Gabe? Because I would.

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: March 2017!

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This month was rough.

I read twelve books. No problem there. When the weather cooperates, I’m reading outside, which is nice.

I did not finish editing or start the publishing work on What We Need to Rebuild. I was on track to, but early in the month, our family suffered a loss. I don’t want to say anything more than that–I’m still processing, and it’s been difficult. But I couldn’t summon the energy to do any writing or writing-adjacent work for over two weeks.

Depression bites.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but that’s not easy, either, because I was so driven before to have this done by now, to write(/rewrite/edit) every day, and the gap does feel like a failure. It’s not, on one level I know it’s not, but it’s still hard to accept.

I am working again, that’s the important thing. April is the second annual #readselfpublished month, and last year it was such a boost to my sales and my fan base, I’m looking forward to participating in the expanded version this year. (I’m hosting a read-along for What We Need to Survive, if you missed that announcement!)

Journaling and exercising have been a total wash this month as well, but it’s sunny today, so I’ll be heading out for a walk shortly.

Given how spotty March was for my social media presence, I hope to write all my blog posts in April, on time even, and keep up with all the #readselfpublished goings-on. More on that Wednesday.

Until then, tell someone you love how much they mean to you, and if possible/appropriate, give them hugs. Many, many hugs.

This Week, I Read… (2017 #12)

43 - The Waste Lands

#43 – The Waste Lands, by Stephen King

THAT CLIFFHANGER. OH GOD.

At times, I thought the pace of the story dragged, but the last 100 pages flew by in a blur of fascination, action, and dread. I was amazed. Mid-World gets more interesting every time I go back, and if I’m not mistaken, my darling old villain Randall Flagg made an appearance! (Was it the Trash-Can Man who was always saying, ‘My life for you’? I have to reread The Stand at some point.)

I would have to have read this just before #readselfpublished month, so I can’t jump right into the next book in the series. It will have to wait until May!

(…to be fair, some people had to wait six years for Wizard and Glass, so I’m not actually complaining.)

44 - The Recipe

#44 – The Recipe, by Candace Calvert

I picked this novella up during one of my sweeps of the free romance “bestsellers” last year and never quite got around to reading it. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a Christian romance, or I might not have bothered–I’ve read a few, and sometimes the preachiness puts my back up. (I’m not Christian, btw.)

But this was cute and sweet and the “Christian” aspect was mild. It was more like the characters happened to be Christian than the romance itself, and the novella length was just right for a clean romance that culminated in a first kiss instead of a romp in bed. I don’t have to have sex every romance I read to be engaged, but neither do I enjoy slow-burners that are simply too slow to ever ignite.

So, if clean/Christian romances are your thing, definitely add this one to your list. I liked it well enough to finish, but since this isn’t my genre, I probably won’t be investigating any other of the author’s works.

45 - Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words

#45 – Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting It Right, by Bill Bryson

If anyone could make a “dictionary” amusing, it’s Bryson. The entries are filled with his wry humor and deliciously atrocious quotes from primary sources, their spelling or grammar gone horribly awry.

Was it a bit of a slog to sit down and read the whole thing straight through? Yes, but now that I have, that’s not something I need to do again. Next time I have a question about whether the proper spelling is childrens’ or children’s (it’s the latter), or how to choose whether to use amid or among, I have a resource right there on the shelf, no Internet necessary.

#readselfpublished 2017: I’m Hosting a Read-Along!

WHAT WE NEED TO SURVIVE READ-ALONG

I had such a good time with (and good sales numbers from) #readselfpublished last year, I’m participating again. The organizers have planned more activities this year, and there are more authors involved–more on that when the main site goes live in April.

I’m one of the authors hosting a read-along for the event! If you’ve been meaning to read What We Need to Survive and haven’t gotten around to it yet, this will be a great chance to join other fans and share the experience. Hop over to the Facebook page for the event and sign up!

(And while you’re there, maybe you could Like and Follow the page for the whole series as well? I’ll be using it to post updates about the event as well as the forthcoming release date for What We Need to Rebuild!)

It’s an even better time to read WWNtS, because if you don’t already have a copy, the e-book is on sale for 99 cents! (Paperback available through Amazon.)

After the plague, the world became a web of silent roads stretching between empty towns.

Paul discovered he had a knack for living on the move, finding supplies and trading them with other survivors, never staying long in one place, or with one person. But he wanted to. Life would be easier with someone to watch his back.

Nina found her own way to survive in the ruined world, but the choices she made left her guarded and mistrustful. Not a woman likely to care for a handsome stranger who falls in with her group of survivors.

Attraction can be ignored, and trust has to be earned. But the days spent searching for food and shelter, and the nights spent keeping watch, don’t satisfy their truest need…

Each other.

When danger is never far away, is love a luxury they can’t afford? What We Need to Survive captures the tension, fear, and hope of two people struggling to build a new way of life from the leftovers of the old, deciding what to hold on to, and what to leave behind.

If that sounds interesting, I hope you’ll join the read-along, we’d love to have you!

 

This Week, I Read… (2017 #11)

41 - Poison Study

#41 – Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder

OH MY GOD THIS BOOK. So many things to say.

  1. When have I ever been truly surprised by the presence of a romance subplot? Never. Not until now.
  2. Our protagonist Yelena isn’t magically good at everything already! She learns things! She studies! It’s right there in the title!
  3. The mind games. I was constantly on the (mental) edge of my seat trying to read between the lines.
  4. FRIENDSHIPS. SHE HAS ACTUAL FRIENDS BEYOND HER LOVE INTEREST. THEY ALSO HAVE OTHER FRIENDS. THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND HER.
  5. The worldbuilding is on the simple side, but still interesting. Numbered military districts are nothing new to fiction, especially YA, but here it’s acknowledged from the get-go that this is a result of a military coup that put a dictator in power whose goal was to impose order on the people through a strict code of behavior. So it stands to reason that he wouldn’t go for fancy place names.

I was excited but hesitant to finally read this, as it’s come so highly recommended to me from multiple sources, but I’ve been burned all the same by other YA books before. However, it did not disappoint in the slightest–I had a hard time putting it down!

42 - My Dream of You

#42 – My Dream of You, by Nuala O’Faolain

DNF @ page 163 or so. I hung on longer than usual for a clear DNF book because I wanted to get to the section introducing the second time period before I threw in the towel. Sadly, the past was equally as boring as the present.

The present narrator finds herself at loose ends after her coworker dies and she takes a hiatus (quits? It’s referred to both ways) her travel-writing job, and she decides to research a historical divorce case she ran across years before in a prologue that felt needless and expository. She has sex with a bunch of random people (including her landlord in an incredibly cringe-worthy scene) and whines constantly about how the world expects her to be in a relationship when she’s fine with random sex. I think. I didn’t get far enough to be sure, but the tone strikes me as “the lady doth protest too much.”

While I am unequivocally a fan of romance, I don’t require it to enjoy a story–I’m fine with a protagonist neither being in love, nor finding it. But take a stand, authors. If the point is that your protagonist is okay with being Forever Alone, then own it. Don’t be wishy-washy. And if the crux of the story is that she’s actually not okay with it, well, own that too, and don’t waste my time with faux-Strong-Woman bullshit.

On top of my issue there, the prose was heavy and stilted. I recognize some of that is likely on my end, being unfamiliar with Irish idiom, but even if I ignore some of the phrases that snagged me, the narrative is still pretty lifeless, bogged down with inconsequential detail and heavy internal monologue. Also, it never fails to bother me when authors choose not to use quotation marks for dialogue. Honestly, how does that make my reading experience better, when I start a paragraph not knowing whether or not a character is speaking until I reach a comma-they-said phrase? Just use the damn marks!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #10)

38 - Tiny Pretty Things

#38 – Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

  • Read: 3/10/17 – 3/12/17
  • Challenge: PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than me
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

This story follows three ballet students scrambling for their shot at the spotlight, and two of them are PoC, solidly qualifying it for the task. Giselle (Gigi) is black, June (E-Jun) Korean-American, and Bette whiter than the driven snow.

If you’re looking for solid representation, this is a pretty good book, because all three narratives deal with the character’s race, and Bette is practically a poster child for rampant white privilege. She is by far the least sympathetic of the three, because she is actively the worst from a moral standpoint. June does some bad stuff, but more minor, and her reasons were better (at least from my perspective), while Gigi is the primary victim and does basically nothing wrong. So it’s an interesting dynamic.

What’s not interesting is the extremely large cast of characters beyond the main three who are little more than names on the page attached to the most cookie-cutter of stereotypes. There’s the gay guy who’s in love with Gigi’s straight boyfriend and acts out of spite and envy. There’s the closet lesbian who’s a bitch to her object of affection after she’s rejected. There’s the “sophisticated” European boy who’s nothing but sex-on-a-stick and intrigue. The teachers have no personalities to speak of and the parents of the students, for the most part, are underdeveloped. There simply isn’t room, even in this wordy 400+ page novel, to manage such a large cast effectively.

And I was sorely disappointed by the “ending,” because it resolved absolutely nothing and, in fact, introduced a new wrinkle. I was not aware until after I finished that this book had a sequel (I added TPT to my TBR when it was new and the second one didn’t exist yet, and I simply didn’t know it was the first half of a duology) so I was completely sideswiped by the cliffhanger. And viewed as a cliffhanger, I still don’t think the ending is satisfying. I don’t intend to read the concluding book, because I simply don’t care about these characters enough.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

#39 – A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson

While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of coloring while listening, the book itself was underwhelming. Coming from a science background and continuing to self-educate outside of the classroom, a lot of this information was old news to me, but what was fresh was interesting. I began to tire of Bryson’s voice before the end–I can’t put my finger on what aspect of it irritated me, but at times I felt like a student in the lecture hall again, trying to stay awake when I was bored.

On the other hand, the parts I enjoyed, I enjoyed a great deal. Through the course of explaining how you and I came to exist, Bryson covers the beginnings of many of the disciplines of science we take for granted today. Not being my cup of tea, I had no idea geology and paleontology were so young, relatively speaking. There was enough to keep me engaged (and coloring) throughout the entire six-hour run, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a good listen unless you know almost nothing about science. And even then, watch Cosmos (either one!) instead.

40 - The Drawing of the Three

#40 – The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King

I liked it better than The Gunslinger, to start with. This story was far less of a fever dream and more of a coherent narrative. The three major parts concerning each of the titular “three” characters are each fascinating and fascinatingly different, though many elements connect each one.

The topsy-turvy nature of Roland’s own world is still in evidence–time and cardinal directions don’t seem to mean much–but I don’t object, because now I know a little more (not much!) about the Dark Tower and its nature. Things are going to be screwy, and that’s okay.

The strongest point for me of the book was Eddie and Roland’s growing camaraderie. (Eddie’s “romance” with Odetta came from left field and was woefully underdeveloped.) Eddie and Roland, on the other hand, have the entire book to forge a strange bond of trust and reliance that neither starts out comfortable with, given how they met and what Roland has drawn Eddie into. And especially given Eddie’s introduction as a drug mule and general reprobate, seeing him grow into a mature, confident man is brilliant. I mean, Roland even acknowledges Eddie’s potential as a gunslinger himself, which, given what we learn about Roland’s past and his culture throughout the book, can only be interpreted as a compliment of the highest order.

I want more. I want to see where this goes. And I’m so very glad I’m only starting this series after it’s complete, because man, if I’d been reading these early works during my first Stephen King phase back in junior high/early high school, I’d still have over a decade to wait for the final books. Ouch.