Book Tastings

I generally know very quickly whether I'm going to like a book or not.  When I was younger, I'd soldier through a not-so-hot title out of a sense of duty.  Not to finish the book was a sort of failure, and as a perfectionist, failure is a shameful thing (I know, I know, I'm working on it).  I figured there must be something wrong with me, not with the book.  In those days of yore (ha!), I had the time to plow through pages of mediocrity.  I commuted to school, so on the hour bus ride to and from the parking lot, I had the time to read things that today I would never finish.

Supposedly, whenever somebody says, "It's not you, it's me," that means it really is you.  It's a bizarrely passive-aggressive cut. However, in the case of books, I take it at face value.  It's not me, it's the book.  Which means it's the book.  So I don't feel so awful about leaving it behind.  Someone else will find it and enjoy it.  I think.

I request an inordinate amount of galleys from Netgalley and Edelweiss, and that does have a purpose.  I need to see what the publishing trends are for YA literature in particular, and then skim through some of the titles I'm unsure about for the collection to evaluate them.  My evaluation process is not "I hated it, so we're not buying it."  It's not my collection.  It belongs to the taxpayers.

However, I don't want to buy items that are poorly written and edited (from a technical standpoint) or that belong to a genre or subgenre that have been statistically proven to be unpopular in our area.  In fact, many of the books that I've blogged about personally disliking I've ordered because they've been requested or I know they will go out.  However, since there is a limited budget for books, it's really helpful to get a sneak peek.  There's also a finite amount of space, and I have to keep a sharp eye on my collection and rotate things around our branches in order to keep the shelves from exploding.  And that's with tons of things already checked out.

But enough about collection development!  On to the book tastings!  These are a few titles I began recently and then put aside rather quickly.

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Kirkus, whom I normally agree with an alarming percentage of the time, gives this a good review.  I got 5% of the way in and was rolling my eyes.  I received this as part of the Amazon First Reads program, and it seemed the least bizarre of this past month's offerings, so I picked it.  I generally go for their sci-fi or action books, but that category was lacking in September.  Girl on a Wire was already on my radar as a YA book anyway, so, hey, why not?

Sometimes--okay, rarely--I do things against my better judgement.  99% of those decisions are book-related.  Here's the thing: I do not like circuses.  I find them creepy and exploitative and cruel.  So why in the name of Cthulhu did I pick a book set in a circus?  Well, there was the free e-book aspect of it, but otherwise, I'll call it a momentary lapse of sanity.

The premise of this book is that the MC (who is rather boring) is a tightrope walker in her family's traveling circus, the Amazing Maronis.  They receive an offer to join the Cirque American (no, that's how it's spelled in the book; we'll get back to that in a moment), which is like the Harvard of circuses or something.  But (you knew there was a "but" coming!), the CA is run by MC's family's mortal feuding enemies.  What is this, Borgia Italy?  I think Bond was trying to do some sort of Capulet and Montague (main girl's name is Jules, main boy's name is Remy) thing but I didn't read far enough to know or care.  I got hung up on the fact that the MC runs away from home, hitches a ride at a truck stop, and totally puts her life in danger just to force her father to join this other circus.  It's an epically stupid temper tantrum.

Anyway, the Amazing Maronis go to California to sign a contract with their enemies, the Flying Garcias (I am not making this up) and Jules is mesmerized by a dark-haired boy she knows to be a Maroni, and therefore off-limits.  Then there's a weird masquerade dance, where Jules ends up with Remy (of course), who "tangoed us into the crowd with steps that weren't a tango."  What does that mean?  This was just beyond bizarre.

And then there's the whole thing with the name of the circus.  Cirque is French for "circus," and Jules says they want to be "continental," so I would expect the name of the circus to be in French: Cirque Américain (although technically it would be américain but let's just roll with English capitalization for now, okay?).  However, Jules says it's "pronounced Americ-ah-n."  Rhymes with:

7% and done.

The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond

This received poor reviews from the journals, and because I am a glutton for punishment, I had to see for myself.  Or read for myself.  Whatever.

It's not awful.  It's just awkward.  It could have been better.  The premise is that the Nazis won WWII (I love a good alternate history!) and are running what used to be the United States.  Zara lives with her Uncle Red on their farm.  One day, she encounters a German Sentinel in the field.  Sentinels are genetically enhanced humans (Übermenschen!) who gave Germany the advantage in the war.  He delivers a message that all the townspeople should gather in the square.  Now, why the Nazis haven't rigged up some better sort of communication system is just beyond me (super soldiers? Yes.  Communication infrastructure?  Eh, not so much).  Anyway, everyone shows up and finds out that the current Hitler has fired his right-hand man (who was also a Hitler).  This is a Big Deal.  At the meeting, Zara sees "a tall boy with a flop of messy blond curls ... It was Bastian Eckhart, the Colonel's son."  Bastian is clearly being set up as the Forbidden Love Interest.

Meanwhile, people are being tortured and Zara begs her uncle to let her formally join the American Resistance.  Being a Grumpy Grown-Up, he says no.  She, being headstrong and mildly TSTL, decides to do things herself!  She follows a family friend through the forest to the Nazi camp on a raid for medical supplies.  When a security camera almost catches her friend on tape, Zara uses her magical wind powers to blow the camera back into place.

And that's where I stopped.

There were other issues as well.  For example, Zara is the Cluelessly Hot Girl ("Oh, my brown hair is ugly! No one will ever love meeee!" as men throw themselves at her.)  When the sentinel arrives, she has this gem of an observation: "There were a few townspeople--always men, it seemed--whose gazes lingered on the shape of her eyes and at the slight curve of her hungry waist."  I'm a bit puzzled by the phrase "hungry waist."  I assume it refers to the fact that Zara usually doesn't have enough to eat, but what does that do with having curves?  "Hungry waist" sounds like her waist is a predator.  Oh, wait, that's all the men around her.

DNF at 19%.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

tl;dr: It's not me, it's the book.


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