#132 – The Secret Place, by Tana French
- Read: 9/20/18 – 9/24/18
- Challenge: Mount TBR (117/150)
- Rating: 3/5 stars
If you had asked me halfway through what I expected my rating for this to be, I would have told you five stars, no question. This is reading out of my comfort zone, but I was hooked, I was totally on board.
But all the stylistic chirps and flutters of Detective Moran’s POV, which impressed me early on, got old; and all the hyperbolic emotion of the girls’ chapters became exhausting.
This is a crime novel with a lot of moving parts, and I read it slowly (for me) so I could keep track of each cog and gear and piston, but in the end, this story simply went on too long and I got muddled. The motives and cross-motives and endless parade of secrets wore me out.
Fatigue aside, I still liked a great deal about this, especially in the early stages. I’m surprised and pleased to find a thriller that’s mostly populated with female characters, and I’m even more surprised to find a thriller whose core theme is friendship. Each major character in this story has a different view on what friendship is, what it means, and how it does or doesn’t affect their life, and that’s more depth that I’ve found in other works in the genre.
However, the flip side of that examination of women’s/girls’ friendships is that the boys basically get thrown under the bus. A hypothetical alien reading this book in translation, with no other knowledge of human relationships, would likely walk away from it thinking teenage boys are sex-crazed manipulators, evil, untrustworthy, and cruel; that’s a harmful stereotype perpetuated in far too much media, so I was unhappy to see it here. For all that the various girls claim Chris, the murder victim, was “complicated,” most of what we see of his actions fits the stock character of a boy willing to do just about anything to get into some girl’s pants–and in his case, just about any girl. The few moments of kindness he shows do little to balance the massive weight of evidence that he’s a liar, a user, and a cheater.
I also don’t think the supernatural aspects of the book were well-developed enough to warrant being there. At first, when the girls discovered their “power” it was a cool trick, and it was early enough that I thought it would get expanded, or at least be important somehow to the story. It wasn’t. All the stuff about Chris’ ghost appearing is easy enough to be dismissed as stress-induced hysteria, especially when you’re talking about a school full of teen girls; but dismissing the “power” isn’t so easy, when it’s presented from the girls’ POV as fact. If it’s real, why didn’t it matter? If it’s not, why was it there at all?
This was my first Tana French read, and looking through others’ reviews it seems like it’s not the most indicative of her overall ability. If I get a chance to pick up something earlier in the series, I’ll take it, but this was so-so at best.
#133 – Wilder’s Mate, by Moira Rogers
- Read: 9/24/18 – 9/25/18
- Challenge: Mount TBR (118/150)
- Rating: 1/5 stars
Nothing but sex, violence, and world-building so thin you could floss your teeth with it. The tech is steampunk-ish, but barely developed. The “romance” embraces the trope of Rutting Equals True Love–someone’s read Anne Bishop–but never feels real because the leads have no real personalities, they’re stock characters at best, the Brooding Dark Hero and the Spunky Girl Inventor.
Oh, and it takes until the action climax at the end to actually say that “bloodhounds” = werewolves. The word is thrown around liberally, and repeating the phrases “new moon” and “full moon” at every opportunity is of critical importance, but since Our Werewolves Are Different, they need a different name, and if you walk in not knowing that already, it’s actually not immediately obvious, because again, dental-floss-level world-building.
#134 – A Tapestry of Dreams, by Roberta Gellis
- Read: 9/25/18 – 9/26/18
- Challenge: Mount TBR (119/150)
- Rating: 1/5 stars
DNF @ 10%, page 52. The cover looks like a romance. The blurb reads like it’s a romance. And yet, in the first fifty pages, I’m more intimately introduced to a castle, an army, the King, and the state of the English-Scottish war of the time than I am the lady of the romance, who has about a two-page appearance in the first chapter, which is from her half-brother’s POV. She hasn’t even met her love interest yet, who did get two chapters of his own but has yet to have any personality other than “loyal to his master.”
Okay, I know this was published in 1986, so I wasn’t expecting it to line up with modern romance structure or use modern conventions. But seriously? 10% in and half the romantic pair has next to no page time? If I want to read about war, I have plenty of other books I can go to for that. I read romance for stories about women finding happiness, not men going to battle.
#135 – Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott
- Read: 9/26/18 – 9/27/18
- Challenge: PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: An allegory
- Rating: 3/5 stars
This was a weird little book about a weird little place–if you can call an infinite plane “little,” which may be intellectually dishonest. But Flatland is certainly confining.
I was fascinated by the first part, the setup of Flatland’s existence and rules and norms. Even if I hadn’t known it was satire of classist Victorian England, the (ahem) pointed nature of the commentary would have quickly given it away. I especially like how degrading Flatland is to its women, in recognition of how preposterously limited a woman’s role in society could be.
What I was less satisfied with was the second part, A. Square’s revelation of the Third Dimension and postulation of the Fourth and beyond. I recognize that it’s fabulous for its time, but it’s dull as bread and butter to me, and it comes to an abrupt and unsatisfying ending.