Some books aren’t quite up to snuff

As a birthday present to myself–71 today–I’m taking time to update my blog.  Today I thought I’d add three books I was not so thrilled with.  We’ve all heard the mantra “show don’t tell,” but evidently you can get a book published even if you “tell.” Again, please let me know what you think and whether you agree with my reviews or am I just full of beans?

World’s End

Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Make use of any sleepwalking tendencies you may have.  Could be you’re actually from Dormia, where people do their best work when they’re sound asleep.  Alfonso discovered in “Dormia,” the first book of this series, that he is the land’s Great Sleeper and saved the people from dying by bringing a new Founding Tree. But now new problems confront the country which is nestled in the Ural Mountains, so Alfonso is once again lured home to save the day and also his – father.  Though the series will make great fantasy movies, this book, at least, was a chore to read.  The writing is stilted and frequently repetitive, making the mechanics of the plot hard to follow—when were the protagonists asleep and when awake, for instance.  Writers are berated at conferences and in writing classes to not use adverbs, yet this book abounds in them and the narrative often “tells” rather than “shows” the action.  On the other hand, the play on words having to do with sleeping was fun and inventive.

BIBLIO: 2011, Houghton Mifflin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 12 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-547-48037-4

Viola in the Spotlight

Adriana Trigiani

Viola has just spent a school year in a Midwest boarding school while her parents were filming a documentary in Afghanistan and is thrilled to be reunited with them, especially since they’re heading back to her beloved Brooklyn, NY.  She’s looking forward to catching up in person with her two best friends, but the summer of chilling out with her friends turns out not the way she planned.  First off Andrew is going to camp and then Caitlin, whose ultra-strict Indian parents won’t even let her have a cell-phone, falls for a British boy, Maurice Longfellow, living in the basement apartment of Viola’s row house.  Which leaves Viola stuck lying to Caitlin’s parents so Caitlin and Maurice can have time together.  And that is the biggest problem Viola has all summer.  Her relationship with Andrew is changing, but that never really goes anywhere in the story.  Viola is a likeable girl, with kindness and loyalty in her make-up and I would be happy to know her, but as far as a protagonist for a story she doesn’t have much punch and the plot has very little arc. Having not read Viola in Reel Life, the first book in this series, I can’t say whether it has more pizzazz.  And at the risk of being too picky, there were some glaring copy editing mistakes—such as not remembering whether Viola’s grandmother is called Grand or Gram.  Oh well, might do for light summer reading.

BIBLIO: 2011, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 13 to 15, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-06-145105-8

The Lighter Side of Life and Death

C. K. Kelly Martin

Sixteen year old Mason Rice loses his virginity the same moment his best friend Kat Medina does, when they get carried away after drinking at a party. To further complicate his young life, Kat won’t have anything to do with him after that because she’s so freaked by what happened.  And their mutual best friend, Jamie, is mad at Mason, because he—not so secretly—has the hots for Kat.  Plus, Mason’s dad’s fiancée and her kids are coming to live with them.  So now his peaceful home life is disrupted by an angry thirteen-year-old stepsister-to-be, Brianna, her equally angry cat, and a happy six-year-old stepbrother-to-be.  Mason’s mother used him to fulfill her fantasy of being a model when he was younger, but then left .  He sees and talks to her occasionally.  In the meantime, Mason gets involved with a twenty-three-year-old woman, Colette, who teaches him a thing or three about the joys of sex.   Eventually, he and Kat and Jamie sort their drama out; Brianna sees him with Colette, which causes him to fess up.  He has already realized that Colette just likes to toy with boys/men and is really quite a self-centered, callow person.  The title of this book is an adult perception of Mason’s problems, because, to him, these problems are not light at all.  I had a hard time drumming up any sympathy for any of the characters and feel boys will be very disappointed in the lack of titillating sexual description.

BIBLIO: 2010, Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Ages 14 +, $16.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-375-84588-8

ISBN: 978-0-375-95588-4

ISBN: 978-0-375-84589-5

ISBN: 978-0-375-84590-1

2 thoughts on “Some books aren’t quite up to snuff

  1. Happy Birthday Sarah. Thanks for the reviews. I just finished with a self published children’s book I didn’t care for. The writing was substandard and made me sad that anyone can publish when they haven’t a clue.

    Self publish in my view should still hold a standard that requires decent writing. I opted to not write the review and the person who wrote this particular book became extremely angry and agitated with my decision and opinions.

    All of these books you have posted are with large publishing houses. I suppose when the writing is reasonable the content likeability is in the eye of the reader. With so many self published books that have no structure, the content likability just isn’t there at all.

    You would think with how difficult it is to be accepted by a large publishing house that the author’s content would be very much up to snuff. Go figure.

  2. Thanks for your honest opinions, Sarah. I myself have been reading recently published books that I’ve put down after 10 pages. As an author myself, I feel I need to respect that they have put their heart and soul into their writings, even though it might have missed the mark. It makes me think that they must have had great contacts and a pitch / query letter that wowed an agent / editor. And being young and close to the teen years helps in the eyes of agents and editors, I think.

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