Monday, December 1, 2008

Post Nanowrimo Blues/Celebration: TAG & NON-LAUGHTER REVIEW

The 1st of December. How Apprentice Writer has longed for and feared it. Ambivalent much? Yes indeedy.

November gone up in smoke, thirty days that never ended at the same time as they screamed past. Did AW reach her goal of 50K? She did not. But it doesn't matter: all but one chapter of her WIP is now locked and loaded on the hard drive. This is very, very good. Almost on to the terrifying part of the process called Sending your Baby out to Languish on Slush Piles Everywhere. Fun, fun, fun!

To distract herself, AW is catching up on neglected cyberlandia responsibilities:

1. Bookworm Meme
Passed on by Julia at 'A Piece of My Mind':

Open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The closest book, not the coolest, or the one you think will sound the best. THE CLOSEST.

From DELICIOUS , by Sherry Thomas:

"The chocolate custard sat on a small table, glossy, serene, entirely indifferent to his laughable internal struggle. He dug in the tip of a spoon, destroying its smooth surface - and released a coil of rich, dusky odor.

Chocolate. He'd never had chocolate before he came to live at Fairleigh Park, but when he was seven someone had given him a shred of paper that had once been wrapped around a piece of imported chocolate. He'd pressed the wrapper to his nose and inhaled as deeply as his lungs allowed, dreaming of chocolate enough to bury him. Her custard smelled like that, a good smell made mythical by fervid imagination and true hunger."

A perfect little capsule of a reason why AW adores Sherry Thomas.

Any gentle readers who feel inspired to play - please let AW know of your excerpt!

2. Non Laughter Reviews:

DARK NEEDS AT NIGHT'S EDGE (Book 3: Immortals After Dark)

Kresley Cole

Vampire warrior of the superbad variety is drawn back from insanity by a jazz age ghost trapped in her New Orleans mansion.

Generic and (to this reader) uninteresting. Must be thankful for small mercies of obligatory manchest at least having a head attached, and some sort of trenchcoat around the edges.

Why Read
Won in a raffle and had encountered a fair amount of praise for this author and series.

What Worked
The author has created a fascinating urban fantastical world, comprising so many races with complex ties to one another that the story doesn't even begin until the reader has thumbed through a multipage glossary. Built great anticipation for what would happen.

Current conventional wisdom as it that when a novel contains (or is all about) a romantic element, there must be a powerful reason for the intended couple to be kept apart so they can fight to overcome the obstacle for their Happily Ever After. In this case, the challenge is a whopper: he is vampire assassin, so far-gone in self contempt due to being turned into what he hates most (he had dedicated his pre-turned life to fighting against vampires in his native Estonia) that he is in near-constant states of rage. His condition and murderous rampages have deteriorated to the point that his three brothers, also all vampires (of the not-so-superbad variety) stage an intervention and capture him for a sort of detox program and also to hide him from all the paranormal beings who want him dead. It takes place in the ghost Neomi's abandoned mansion, and he is, of course, the only one in the eighty years since her murder at the hands of a spurned fiance to be able to see her. The gradual way these two physically and emotionally wounded souls form an attachment to each other was the main strength of this book. Believable and touching. How will suicidal hero and incorporeal heroine manage to get togehter? They do, of course, but the manner leads straight into:

What Doesn't
Up to the moment that Neomi investigates how to get her bod back, the tone of the book was dramatic, melancholy, with a sort of light historical touch feel. The change in pace with the introduction of witches etc. who arrive to grant Neomi's wish was shocking to the point of offputting, due to the strong emphasis placed on humorous contrast (wording of their business card, manner of speech, etc.).

This may seem an odd thing for a comedy writer to complain about, especially since some of these aspects really were funny. Gentle Reader, imagine how strange it felt for AW to object to successful humor insertion. But it was just too jarring, broke the previous mood completely, and created curiosity about the new kickass (literally) characters which was then - insult to injury - not even satisfied. Here are all these marvelous, unique, unpredictable female characters - given hardly any attention. It was maddening, with the only possible consolation to imagine that their stories might be explained more fully in other installments of the series.

Apart from lack of exploitation of the paranormal raw material, AW's main difficulty with the rest of the book had to do with target audience; the story is so strongly focused on maintaining the narrative tension between the two main characters that other elements are sacrificed. For readers whose main goal in reading is the emotional rush, this probably doesn't matter. For readers like AW, it does. Conrad's brothers are captured; he allows weeks upon weeks to go by without a single attempt to find them,only taking action when he wants their help to rescue Neomi. After becoming corporeal and leaving her prison for the first time, Neomi goes to a huge, festive paranormal gathering (yay!) which has barely begun to be descibed before events transpire that send her straight back home (boo!) and she doesn't mind. Not one scene is devoted to Naomi walking around New Orleans thinking about how it has changed in 8 decades, and what little description there is of how her transformation feels (an interesting experience, one would think) is exclusively devoted to how it relates to Conrad (especially puzzling due to Neomi's repeated condemnation of her mother spending her life oriented to the man who abandoned her). This focus goes so far as to make things miraculously disappear: in a climactic, claustrophobic scene, Neomie's fear goes into overdrive when insects find their way in to her imprisoned spot. Yet when Conrad releases her, the talk is all of flowing hair and rose petals. What did she do, eat them?

This is an author who does not lack in imagination or storytelling verve. In this reader's view, some more balance would have made the story much more satifying and complete.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

First of all, I caved on NaNo in week 3 because I only had 10,000 words with no hope of finishing. But like you, I'm happy to have my 10,000 words.

Thanks for doing the Bookworm Meme - did I mention I love chocolate? I loved that excerpt.

It's funny how the humour element didn't fit in the Kresley Cole book. But I hear you on wrecking a tone where humour doesn't really belong.

M. said...

Hi, Julia.

Glad you liked the excerpt. I know you don't read much historical romance- but if I had to recommend an author you might like to try, you can't go wrong with Sherry Thomas.

Got my copy of 'Broken Wing' last night. Jumping right in.

Wylie Kinson said...

Hey M,
Congrats on being a mere chapter away from The End. You must be THRILLED! And scared...

I have this book on my TBR, so tried not to read your review,... but caved. I haven't read anything by KC yet so I'm feeling like the last one to the party.

Carolyn Crane said...

I really loved this book, but your points are excellent ones; why DIDN'T he search for his bros sooner? And why couldn't we get Neomi walking about New Orleans? Still, I keep reading this series. '

Congrats on being so close to the end of your WIP!!

M. said...

Wylie - I feel that way about many authors and series out there! Especially when I surf some blogs and think how it appears as though some people do nothing but read, judgign from the speed that they post reviews...

Carolyn Jean - Welcome! How excellent to have the thrillionth pager here, not to mention someone who actually has finished a MS!

I did like the KC book enough to look out for others, I just didn't like it enough to let them leapfrog to the top of the TBR pile!

J.K. Coi said...

I think the important thing about the KC books is that you really should read them in order (this particular one is book 6 or something). Reading from the beginning will give you a greater picture of the world and the overall atmosphere of the politics going on in the background, which has threads in each book. In some series, you can still read each book separately and not feel like you're missing anything, but I don't believe that this is one of those series. I still love her books though.

Evie said...

I caved in week 1 of Nanowrimo with 15k words, a workable outline and one crazy story! A little bit of my day job and a whole lot of doubt got in my way. BUT my words are saved for continued progress. Wish me luck.