Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Trying Game

I don't like to write a book review too harshly, especially when it is written by an author I like. It's why I've hesitated, several times, in writing this review. I do believe in being honest with my opinions, though, even when it makes me uncomfortable to do so.

All that being said, I tried to love The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. I swear I tried. I enjoyed her other novels In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10. I was looking forward to The Lying Game, and I am the one who suggested it as a book club read. But, try as I might, I found myself a bit annoyed with the novel...and, thus, a bit annoyed with the author. Please allow me to explain.

I am a patient reader and not quick to judge until I've read an entire novel. Even then, I'm not quick to critique. I like to 'mull over' the story for awhile. I'm also used to novels dragging at some point, or the details becoming a bit more than I prefer, but I take that in stride. I can even break out what I don't like and set it aside to consider the rest of the novel. In other words, to use an old idiom, "I don't throw out the baby with the bath water" when it comes to novels.

For example, I love The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. For me, it is one of the  most well-written novels I've ever experienced. I fell more in love with the art of writing from that novel that anything else I've ever read. However, when he wrote the next novel in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, I felt he jumped the track a bit. I saw where it could've been better. It was, once again, a fabulous novel,...but I would have taken out about 75 pages that really didn't need to be in there. Now, there could be a reason for those extraneous pages, and it may reveal itself  in some kind of 'tie in' to the third novel, then no one cares. Including me. And, again (for the record), I think Rothfuss' writing is genius,...but no one is perfect.

With all of THAT being said (Do you see how I'm trying to justify what I'm about to say about The Lying Game? I don't like saying it, but it has to be said.), here's what was blatantly wrong with Ware's latest novel, in my opinion...

First, let me say what The Lying Game is about. The narrator in the novel is a woman in her 30s who is sent a text message one day by an old school friend. The same message is sent to two other women, also old school friends. These women attended the same girls' boarding school when they were 15 - 16 years old, and they became fast friends,...but have had little to no contact for numerous years. The mystery, of course, is why do all three of the women drop their lives to go running to the one who sent the text? The short answer, without revealing anything, is they all shared a part in 'The Lying Game' and the lies have finally come home to roost. What will they do next? (I'll tell you what they don't do next. They don't act like intelligent, educated 30something-year-old women. And that's part of the problem.)

At its core, when you strip away the unnecessary parts that bog down the tale, it's a good story. But as I read, I felt like Ware had a book contract with a 'minimum pages required' clause. There are elaborate descriptions that go on too long, but that wouldn't be so bad if they weren't repeated over and over again. By the end of the novel, I could perfectly describe Thea's legs, Fatima's hair and hijab, Kate's flat stomach, how a grown woman feels like a 16-year-old hormonal teenager, how a baby smells and coos and cries and smiles, and how to breastfeed. 

Now, if those were the only problems with the novel, I might not complain...too much. I would have just skimmed the repetitious parts. Sadly, those are not the only problems. The narrator, Isa, is ridiculous. Now, to me, this is not the same thing as being "an unreliable narrator," as I enjoy those types of novels. Isa's thoughts are ridiculous, yes, but that's believable because we all have absurd thoughts sometimes. It is how her actions play out that I found myself shaking my head again and again at how the author expected me to believe this is how a human being would behave, especially one as obsessed with her baby as Isa seems to be. It's just not believable. And, in realistic fiction, I should believe it. For me, it was distracting how unbelievable some of the novel's scenes played out. I found myself just wanting to "get through" the novel, and I didn't care about the characters anymore. And that's never a good sign.

Will I ever read another Ruth Ware novel? Yes, of course, I will. And while some people may not agree with this review, I have to wonder if they read her other novels. By comparison, the first two were much better. Even Goodreads reviewers show the other two rank higher in star ratings.

I'm going to mark it up as a 'life happens and writers aren't perfect' and hope Ware's next novel will be better. I believe in second chances. If the next one, though, disappoints me, I won't be trying again. One 'off' novel, I understand. I just hope there isn't another 'off' one after this. I'm good for two tries,...but not three. Life is too short, and my precious reading time is even shorter.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Steampunk Fiction

Book Review

The first time I remember hearing the word "steampunk" was when Will Smith and the gang came out with the new "Wild, Wild West" movie back in 1999. Wow, that was...almost twenty years ago! Even though the trend was started some time ago, it continues to flourish in a variety of ways. I have quite a few students who really like reading steampunk young adult fiction. I had never tried it, however, until recently.

One of my students, who has heard me say I'm an open-minded reader and will try anything once, gave me a well-worn (well-loved) copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. I asked what kind of book it was, and she told me it was a fiction mix of steampunk and fantasy. She had heard me say that I've experienced steampunk in movies and music videos and fashion, but I didn't recall ever reading a young adult novel in that genre. My student wanted to make sure she bridged that gap in my education, for which I am grateful.

The Mark of the Dragonfly is about an orphan girl, Piper, who lives alone in an old, dangerous, poor, steampunk-type world. She is a strong, likable character who doesn't take crap from anyone and has a bit of a sarcastic streak (two of my favorite characteristics in a girl). Piper has a talent for understanding mechanical things and has the tools and ability to fix them. This, of course, makes her very valuable in a worn-out world where new things can't be bought, and all things must be repaired.

One day, while trying to help a friend who is mining in the junk fields, she sees a caravan get hit by something falling from the sky. She manages to help rescue a couple of people from the wreckage, which ends up changing her life and forcing her into an adventure she was not prepared for. She makes some new friends along the way,...but she makes some new enemies, as well.

I enjoyed the novel, and I could understand why my student loves it. She had a another student, a boy, to read it before it reached my hands. She wanted to 'make sure guys would like it, too', and he did. Since I've read it and returned it, she's passed it on to others. All of the readers enjoyed it and gave it good reviews.

On a Personal Note

I do apologize for not posting much since the beginning of the new year. Life took a couple of unexpected turns.

First, I was pretty sick - which is very unusual for me (the last time I had to take time off from work for sickness was 2009). I won't go into all the details, but I caught one of the horrid viruses going around here and, even after I recovered, I had trouble getting my body completely back to normal. Thankfully, I'm fine now.

Second, we've unexpectedly decided to sell our home. We weren't looking to do so, but the timing is right, apparently. It's a good opportunity for us and all that, but...I'm still not quite used to the idea. It seems exciting sometimes, but other times it feels quite overwhelming. And there's so much to do! It's like wanting to sing out loud one minute...and wanting to throw-up the next. I'll let you know how it all pans out in the end. Let's hope I'll be singing! :)

That's all for now, see y'all next Sunday! Happy reading!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Happy February!

Yes, I know I haven't posted in awhile. Let me assure you, I have been reading,...just not posting. My life has taken a pretty dramatic change (all for the better, though). Please be patient with me. I promise to post this weekend...on Sunday. I'll give you a good book review and explain my absence. Hang in there with me. 

Happy reading! :)