Literary Cage Match: Part 1

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been reading…kind of obsessively lately. This is partly because I was on vacation last week and had time, and partly because my finals are all over for this semester, and I’m free [aka I’m just working full time instead of working full time & going to school part time] to do a lot more ignoring of my hubby in the evenings.

So I was lying in bed last night with all these characters & books racing through my head—and March Madness, of course [GO BLUE]—and it occurred to me: I don’t have the attention span to do a whole tournament, but what if these books were in individual cage matches? Who would win, for example, between The Pink Hotel and Mom & Me & Mom? Both talk about moms, right? Or which character would win a no-holds-barred fight, Mae from Gameboard of the Gods or Yagharek from Perdido Street Station?

Suffice to say I had some really weird dreams last night.

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I thought I’d give it a try as a feature, and debuting here tonight….

LITERARY CAGE MATCH!

I figured we should have so guidelines around what criteria I’m actually using to judge these suckers. Besides the random meaningless points I’ll give out for things that I like about the book, I’m keeping this two things in mind:

  1. Successfully accomplishing what the author sets out to accomplish. If this is supposed to be suspenseful, was it actually suspenseful? If it’s supposed to be sad, did it make me sad? If it’s a comedy, did it make me laugh? And so on. We can go into the whole complicated mess of authorial intention later; I want to keep this as simple as possible.
  2. Speaking truth of some kind. I know this is vague, and it’s intentional—but I mean that it reveals something true about life; it’s timeless; it’s realistic. I’m talking about awesome descriptions that take your breath away, thoughts that make you stop and ponder, realistic depictions of relationships—that kind of thing.

These are intentionally simplistic and vague because dangit, this is my cage match, and it gets to be what I want it to be.

 

WITHOUT ANY FURTHER ADO…OUR FIRST CONTESTANT!

 

SEDUCTION

I picked up this ARC at Net Galley because, well, it has a pretty cover.

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See? Pretty. & It did what covers are supposed to do, which is to attract attention. What I didn’t know until after I’d already read this sucker is that it’s actually fifth in a series, which explains some of the vague references to earlier happenings in the main character’s life that I had no clue about. Whoops, my bad.

Seduction: A Novel of Suspense (that’s the subtitle according to Goodreads) follows Jac L’Etoile, a young woman with a television show about mythical happenings & where they came from. Kind of like Mythbusters, but with like, actual myths instead of urban ones. Anyway, she gets a call from an old friend that takes her to Jersey, which is NOT the same as New Jersey, which I figured out very confusedly after a few pages and a Wikipedia search. Jersey is actually an isle off the coast of Normandy that’s owned by the UK. Courtesy of Google Maps:

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Obviously I do not have the best grasp of geography. That’s England on the top side, there, and France in the bottom right.

Anyway, in Jersey, she gets to know the Gaspard family, which is troubled in many ways. Her present-day story is interspersed with flashbacks to 1885, where Victor Hugo is also living on Jersey, in exile from Paris, and getting increasingly immersed into the world of séances & spiritualism (see: crazy ghosties) world.

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What I didn’t like about this book: in the first five pages of this book (so I’m claiming this is not a spoiler), Victor Hugo finds out that his favorite daughter has drowned, and honestly, I found his grief in the first few pages really boring. & I may be a horrible person, given, but I was completely untouched by the whole thing. Maybe it was just that I didn’t have time to get to know the characters before he was having a meltdown. I found the first fifty pages, in general, really tough to slough through. They were awkward in parts, completely overdramatic in parts, and I certainly did not myself unable to tear myself away from the plot that was developing.

What I did like about this book: woven throughout this book is a love of scents; both Jac and one of the characters from Hugo’s time, Fantine, are perfumers by profession/family trade, and so much of the book is described in terms of the scents that are found. I saw some comments on goodreads that there was too much description, but I really enjoyed the thorough description of the location in terms of multiple senses: olfactory, auditory, visual.

I’m also a sucker for mythology and history, and I really don’t know much about Celtic mythology or history at all, which is super sad because it seems awesome. Big huge mystical rocks? Druids? Women in respected positions of authority? I am so there.

So did M.J. Rose succeed in weaving a “atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart,” like the publisher claims? At least mostly. Once I got through the first 50 pages or so, I was at least 90% hooked through the rest. Fans of Kate Mosse and Kate Morton—maybe even Elizabeth Kostova—will love this one. I’ll give it a B.

Did M.J. Rose tell a story that spoke truth of some kind? More doubtful. Fantasy is tough, because it requires a buy-in on the reader’s part to the world that you’ve created, and I just didn’t get one hundred percent there. At some points I was still like

skepticaloprah

You expect me to believe what now?

Although I won’t be looking out myself for the next book in the series, I would still recommend it to certain of my friends that I think would enjoy it.  For truth-telling, though, I’m gonna give it a C.

TOTAL SCORE: B-

UP NEXT: CONTESTANT NUMBER TWO COMING SOON!

Sorry folks. This post is just getting WAY too long.

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