Here’s a surprise: I normally hate spring, but it hasn’t been too obnoxious so far, so I actually don’t mind it too much this year. That’ll change when my allergies kick in, but at the moment the change in seasons is rather pleasant.
A note on this particular book tag: I always credit tag creators, but in this case I have no idea who created it because the original video is inaccessible. The text was pulled from Literary Weaponry.
The Struggle of Getting Started: A Book or Series You Struggle to Begin Because of its Size
Well, I’ve already complained about all things Brandon Sanderson, so this time I’m going to have to go with literally anything by Robin Hobb. Her work represents a significant investment – both financial and temporal – that I am not willing to make. I counted six separate series on the first page of her goodreads bibliography, every single one of them is too many damn pages for any man to understand, muddling through her apparently 50 million books would seriously throw off my diversity count, I don’t have enough room on my shelves to start collecting any of her series, and I only have so much time in a day. I have nothing against her personally, but this is a hard pass.
Cleaning Out the Closet: A Book or Series You Want to Unhaul
I don’t want to unhaul anything, that’s the problem. I’ve been collecting extensively since my mid-autumn book unhaul, and the best I can say right now is that maybe I’ll unhaul my Magicians box set, but don’t hold your breath because I haven’t read it yet.
Opening Windows and Letting Fresh Air In: A Book That Was Refreshing
I haven’t finished her yet, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (V.E. Schwab) hooked me H A R D last night. I don’t know if she really qualifies as light and refreshing, given that I’m on page 56 and she’s already sold her soul to some form of the devil, but I’m just coming off a month-long slog through A Clash of Kings (George R.R. Martin) and The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson), so “light and refreshing” seems like the perfect way to describe Addie LaRue.
It doesn’t hurt, of course, that part of the book is set in France. I looooooove the French chapters. I seem to recall having a similar reaction when I read Chocolat (Joanne Harris, also set in France) last year. There is just something really fresh and addicting about stories set in France, and I have no idea why but I am here for it.
Washing Out the Sheets: A Book with a Scene You Wish You Could Rewrite
Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood). Alias Grace is a speculative retelling of the life of Grace Marks, an Irish maid tried for the 1843 murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper/mistress, Nancy Montgomery. It has never been clear how much Grace was actually involved with the murders, as she and her alleged accomplice gave conflicting evidence, and she was eventually pardoned after spending thirty years in prison. There’s been a lot of speculation as to how Kinnear and Montgomery were actually murdered (and by whom), and Atwood’s version offers a rather different approach to the case.
As much as I love this book, there are some things about it that I do not like, particularly the chapter at the very end, where Grace takes a minute out of her day to explain why victims of violent crime are responsible for the crimes committed against them. (?!?!?!?!) I do not understand the purpose of this chapter, which seems at odds with the rest of the book, in which Grace is portrayed as a victim of supernatural circumstances. I also could’ve done without Dr. Simon Jordan, an original character who is supposed to be psychoanalyzing Grace in order to definitively prove her innocence but punks out halfway through his assignment and eventually manages to get himself shot in the head while serving as an army surgeon during the American Civil War. (Spoiler alert: he’s never the same.)
Simon is the main reason I don’t love Alias Grace with the same fervor I devote to other Atwood books. Grace’s chapters were fascinating. I could read those all day. Dr. Jordan on the other hand was the perfect example of a well-bred man who is secretly disgusting. I didn’t need his internal monologues about the Good Old Days when he used to poke around his family’s maids’ personal belongings, or his attempts to distance himself from his overbearing mother, or his thoughts on the girls who are presented to him as potential brides. I didn’t need him. I know why he’s there, but I don’t think he’s absolutely irreplaceable.
Throwing Out Unnecessary Knick Knacks: A Book in a Series You Didn’t Think Was Necessary
I’m having a hard time justifying the existence of Red Queen (Christina Henry) because it doesn’t actually do anything for the Chronicles of Alice series. It’s supposed to be about the fantabulous emancipation of one Alice Lidell, and she does spend most of the book by herself, but in the end that counts for nothing because she still ends up with the not-entirely-suitable Hatcher. I don’t wike it.
Polishing Doorknobs: A Book That Had a Clean Finish
The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller) holy crap that ending was absolutely perfect. It was sweet, satisfying, beautifully done, and it made it very clear that there is absolutely no need for a sequel. I had zero questions by the end of the book, and that was just fine. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS A SEQUEL.
Reaching to Dust the Fan: A Book That Tried Too Hard to Relay a Certain Message
I probably harp on this too much, but, dammit, this is the one that first comes to mind: The Priory of the Orange Tree. I have written extensively on the highs and lows of this book and will not be rehashing my earlier thoughts here, but suffice it to say that Priory had some lofty goals that it didn’t quite meet. The “trying too hard” part is most evident in the book’s most obvious message, which is “Diversity is great! Diversity is great! Diversity is great!!!” Yes!!! I agree. The problem here is that the diversity was done badly.
Priory tries to take on the behemoth that is Representation in Fantasy, and, to give it credit, it really, really tries. There are many different countries, cultures, and languages in this world. There is international cooperation. There are women of several different races coming together to save the world. That’s all awesome. Unfortunately, the Asian characters are so heavily stereotyped that their part of the world smells more like tokenism than genuine representation. If your pseudo-Japanese characters give off the impression that you’ve only encountered Japanese people in old samurai movies, it’s time for a rewrite. I appreciate Shannon for trying, which is more than other authors have done, and I certainly wouldn’t discourage her from trying again, but in the end I was left puzzled and annoyed rather than empowered.
Of course, to be perfectly fair, diversity is hard to nail down and nobody is going to get it exactly right the first time. Mistakes are going to be made along the way, and, like I said, Shannon at least made the effort. That being said, Tané’s habit of bathing directly in the hot spring was a gross breach of Japanese bathing protocol, and I’m still mad.
The Tiring Yet Satisfying Finish of Spring Cleaning: A Book Series That Was Tiring But Satisfying to Get Through
A Song of Ice and Fire is exhausting but it feels so good finishing each book because they’re so damn long. I just finished A Clash of Kings and now I’m taking a breather before I start A Storm of Swords, and after I’ve caught up on the main series I’ll be reading Fire & Blood. Onward!