We Read and We Give Up and We Read Some More

Every Wednesday, I take a look at what my family and I have been reading over the past week.

Some of the books on my iBooks bookshelf at the moment.

Some of the books on my iBooks bookshelf at the moment.

This week, I gave up on two books out of frustration. Before I give you the titles, let me preface this by reminding you that I am a creative writing teacher who spends hours of my day coaching my students on how to write better prose. Because of this, my tolerance for my pet peeves in the things I read for fun is absolutely fucking zero. Life is too short to read things that you don’t enjoy. And when what you do for work is read rough drafts, reading for enjoyment is already an uphill battle. Before you do anything else, you’ve got to turn off the inner critic, and that sumbitch is one loud-ass motherfucker.

OK, so all that said, here goes: this week I gave up on Pentecost by J.F. Penn and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank. Pentecost, as I mentioned last week, is a thriller, while Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is a mystery.

The first mistake, I suppose, is mine. Thrillers and mysteries are not my cup of tea. So, maybe I just don’t understand the tropes. But there were also distinct moments that broke the fictive dream for me, and they had nothing to do with genre conventions.

There is a segment of Pentecost where a character smiles with her eyes, which, as I tweeted, is not a thing that eyes can do. Add that to the sudden and dramatic shifts in point-of-view—probably common in the genre, but not a habit to be encouraged—and the book just lost me. As I mentioned last week, the plot was strong, and that might bring me back to it someday—I do want to see how it turns out—but we’ll see. Penn’s comes across as a genuinely great human being online, and her enthusiasm for independent writers is infectious, so I want to like this book. I really do. I just don’t know if that’s enough.

In Grover Swank’s book, things were worse. Though I was initially pulled in by the fantastic in medias res opening, the main character soon pauses the narrative to tell us about her hair color. I actually yelled, out loud, “WHO CARES?!?” Maybe mystery readers. That’s all I could think.

Frustrated, I moved onto comics. I enjoyed the heck out of the first two issues of Low, a lived-in sci-fi yarn about a colony built on the ocean floor after the sun starts expanding. I also dug the shit out of Southern Bastards #1, as the Earth 603 Podcast promised me I would.

Dawn/Vampirella #1, which should have been a slam dunk with me, given that I’m a huge Joseph Michael Linsner fan, left me cold and disappointed. Right now, it feels like a cheap re-hash of Linsner’s Wolverine-Black Cat crossover, Claws, where two unlikely characters are drawn together by only the thinnest of plots. I’ll pick up the rest of the series because I’m a Linsner completist, but I’m not expecting much.

I also re-read Justice League, Volume 1, the Jim Lee-drawn reboot from a couple of years back, which was made available for free on the iBooks store upon the launch of iOS 8. I don’t know if it’s still free, but even as light on story as it is, I would give it a whirl if only to see Lee’s take on all of the iconic DC superheroes.

This morning, I gave the author known as J.F. Penn another try under her real name, Joanna Penn, and read the Author 2.0 Blueprint I received for subscribing to her mailing list. It was a good read, a nice primer for those interested in independent publishing, and it piqued my interest for her new book, Business for Authors, which I pre-ordered a little while back and is waiting for a read in my Kindle app.

Stephanie continued with Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart.

Kaylee finished Jessie: Crush Crazy, the first chapter book she’s read cover-to-cover in a good, long while. I really love that her teacher has made reading for 20 minutes a night part of the kids’ homework. I get the feeling Kaylee enjoys reading, but she needs to make time for it or else she won’t get around to it.

Kind of like her old man. Which is sad, but true.

Have tips on what we should read next? Email us at hq@clarkwoods.com