What I’m Reading 1.13.17

Getting into 2017 and the reading binge continues.

It has slowed just a bit as I’m in one book I’m not as excited about but need to finish and work has picked up a bit. For reading, at least, it was a good and productive break.

Again, all of these came from local library but the links are to Amazon. My next post may be about how much I love the library.

My next editing/revising project is a Young Adult novel, so I got online and researched some more recent YA novels that were supposed to be good. Then I switched to a novel suggested by my brother in law.

 

Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

This is not a YA novel. I was in the middle of reading it during my last post, so posting it here.

This is a Lynley novel, of which there have been several. Lynley is a Scotland Yard detective and so these are crime/mystery type novels. This is the first I’ve read, so I played catch up a little with the characters … kind of like starting to watch friends on season 8. Lot of stuff happened before this.

George is British, so her writing takes its time to a degree. The story was solid, and while parts lagged, the writing was excellent and drew you along enough until you really had to know who the murderer was. The story was pretty disturbing, which is a theme among these “adult” books. Not sure why so many have to possess these disturbing elements of sexual abuse. I know things happen that are tragic and disturbing, but it seems like a prerequisite to “good” modern writing. Doesn’t have to be. Seems to be overused at times, and that lessens its impact. Just a thought.

Back to the novel, however, the mystery ending was satisfying and wrapped up nicely. Recommended and I could see reading other novels by her.

 

And I Darken by Keirsten White

The first of the YA novels I read, And I Darken is re-imagining the “Vlad the Impaler” history as if he were a woman. It begins with Lada’s birth and continues through her teen years, her education and training and first love. This one also lagged in parts, although White isn’t British, and while I liked the concept, not sure I’ll read the next books in the series, of which this is the first. It was interesting but not as fully realized as I would have liked.

 

Riders by Veronica Rossi

What if you found out you were one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse? Gideon does and the drama ensues.

The references to actual Revelation and the Four Horsemen are few, so that was a little disappointing. They’re really heroes and out to save the world, not signify its doom? Not compelling. I give Rossi a little credit for at least mentioning that if the Four Horsemen exist, then so must God, but it’s not explored enough for the context, in my opinion.

The story moves quickly, and it is something I need to do a better job with … keeping the story moving from one crisis to another. The characters are a little forced in their diversity. I liked the setup a great deal, but again, would have loved better development on some themes. Ending was slightly awkward.

 

Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan

Right off the bat – I loved this book.

It also did a great job keeping the story moving from crisis to crisis with little twists and turns that kept it interesting. The setup: Max is an average high school kid with few friends and less motivation in life. He loves heist movies like Ocean’s 11 and gets drawn into a world of elaborate high school pranks. Dinan is a first time author and an English teacher of 20 years, so his perspective and expertise shine throughout. It is told through the eyes of Max, but the quirks of high school life are real and vivid. The voice is well done. The pranks are hilarious. Everything about this book is great. Highly recommended for YA.

 

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

This book was interesting. Nix is a girl on a ship. Her father is the Captain, and the boat can sail to different times and places if they have a certain kind of map. Her father is trying to get back to his wife, Nix’s mother, to save her from death, and this alienates Nix. The novel is about the search and its consequences between Nix and her father.

Again, I loved the setup (one of the reasons I chose this book out of the big YA lists), but it could have been better explained and developed. I liked Nix and some of the other characters. I would have enjoyed a bit more explanation about how the time traveling ship worked, and some of the time manipulation stuff wasn’t as clear as it should be. The ending was good, but it didn’t have the impact it wanted to have since we weren’t led to it well, for me.

 

My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Based on a suggestion by my brother in law, I started this series. The reviews claim it is revolutionary writing, and I’ve heard about the book before. I’ll try to be brief in my summation and thoughts, but there is a lot to digest.

Remember how Seinfeld was this well written sitcom about nothing? And how they even made fun of it in later seasons how the show as about nothing, just everyday life sort of things? Same concept, except instead of an American sitcom, think a European high literature novel and that’s what you’ve got with My Struggle.

What I liked: I loved the beginning. While the book is a stream of consciousness kind of thing, the first few pages of discussion on death and life were insightful and set up the rest of the book perfectly. The writing is amazing, and part of the credit must go to the translator (the writer is Norwegian), Dan Barlett. His recollections of his father’s death are heartbreaking and brutal. He is transparent and honest, at least appears to be so, about his feelings and inner thoughts.

As others have noted, his writing meanders, and his descriptions can be painful. The meandering can have its charm. The lack of chapters and organization seems more pretentious than effective or genius. While it reads like an autobiography, the book is listed under fiction, and it probably should be. Some events are too detailed to be true and real, however “real” the emotions might be.

It is controversial for a couple reasons, mainly the title is the same as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, My Struggle, and his unfettered honesty ruffles feathers, as it usually does. Obviously, it is thought provoking, which has its value, as well.

I’m mostly through with the second book. Not as impressed, overall. The first book, however, is worth a recommendation.

 

So out of all these books, what did I learn? Most or all of the YA novels were in first person, and the better ones had great voice and the story moved well from crisis to crisis.

Banquet of Consequences and Knausgaard both showed, on the other hand, how taking time and exploring the emotions and meaning of a single scene or event can have value, as well. For Knausgaard, the subjective honesty he is so bold about is one of the reasons we like to read, seeing into the thoughts and motivations of another, even if they are not so pretty or pure. We identify with that, and as a writer, I should have that as part of the arsenal of writing skills. Well placed, it can be very effective.

Peace.

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