KingMidget's Ramblings

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Two Book Reviews At Once

Yes, that’s right.  It’s getting a little crazy around here.

I went to the library last week without any idea of what I would check out.  I walked through the new releases section and checked out The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas and Shark by Will Self.  So, here you go …  (but, wait, stick around for the second review, it’s a keeper.)

First up, The Illusionists.  Here’s what the Amazon blurb has to say:

 The intoxicating new novel of magic and intrigue by “a master storyteller” (Cosmopolitan), for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants

Over the course of three decades of writing, bestselling novelist Rosie Thomas has earned an untold number of awards and the devotion of millions of loyal readers. Her new novel, The Illusionists, set in London in 1870, is a thrilling step forward—a captivating tale of passion and fantasy set in the theater world.

At the start of The Illusionists, we meet Eliza, a young, beautiful woman of limited means. Eliza is modern before her time. Not for her the stifling if respectable conventionality of marriage, children, domestic drudgery. She longs for more. Through her work as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and irascible Devil—a born showman whose dream is to run his own theater company.

Devil’s right-hand man is the improbably-named Carlo Bonomi (a note from me — this is somewhat shocking. A traditionally published book in which they haven’t checked this out.  His name isn’t Bonomi, it’s Boldoni.), an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion. Carlo and Devil clash at every opportunity and it constantly falls upon Eliza to broker an uneasy peace between them. And then there is Jasper Button. Mild-mannered, and a family man at heart, it is his gift as an artist that makes him the unlikely final member of the motley crew.

Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked: the fortune of one depends on the fortune of the other. And as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life, which is soon thrown into peril.

It has a lot of those quality reviews from those high-falutin’ sources like Publisher’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan and The Literary Journal and many others.  And on Amazon, it’s overall rating is only 3.5 stars even though there are no one star reviews.

So, this was a book I enjoyed.  It’s a good story with an intriguing cast of characters, but then I am a fan of stories about the circus and magicians and performers, particularly of the long ago era.  So, this was a book that was in my wheelhouse.  There’s a good mix of characters and a lot of different story elements that come and go.  A murderer.  Competition over the girl from several directions.  The theater and competition and disruption that goes on there.  Marriage.  Family.  A lot of stuff and the story was good.

Until the end.

And I’ll leave it at that.

I finished The Illusionists last night and this evening picked up Shark.  Let me stop here for a moment.

I believe in the one and only fundamental rule of writing — there are no rules other than this.  Write a good story.  But, still, I expect certain things when I pick up a book.  One of the things that is bothering me lately is how many authors don’t bother with quotes around dialogue.  But with Shark I have a new complaint.  I opened the book and looked at the first page.  There was something about it that made me thumb through the book.  And this is what I saw: one 466-page long paragraph.  Not an indent in the entire thing.  Just one long, never-ending paragraph, with a whole bunch of ellipses scattered about on every page.  No thanks.  I’ll find something else to read.




6 responses to “Two Book Reviews At Once

  1. Carrie Rubin April 21, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I recently read Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ She didn’t use quotes for any dialogue that occurred in the past. It took several chapters for me to get used to. Funny how our minds become so accustomed to something. We don’t really pay attention to the quotes when they’re there, but we sure notice it when they’re not.

    • kingmidget April 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      I agree. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but when I read a book like that, I frequently find myself stopping and wondering why there aren’t quotes and then I have to remind myself that’s the way the author writes. It’s the kind of thing, to me at least, that makes reading more difficult — which is one of those things writers shouldn’t do. Not that’s a rule, of course.

      • Carrie Rubin April 21, 2015 at 8:01 pm

        I also just read ‘Tinkers.’ I know it won a Pulitzer, but it just wasn’t for me. Paragraphs that went on for pages at a time. Two pages spent describing two paintings in a room. And yet others loved it. Guess that’s the beauty of reading. Something for everyone.

      • kingmidget April 21, 2015 at 8:11 pm

        Yep. Every book I have reviewed in the last few months that I wasn’t very positive about has plenty of fans if you look at their Amazon reviews.

  2. sknicholls April 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I’ve become a picky reader and I don’t even like reading present tense. I’m trying to read Carla Norton’s “The Edge of Normal”, it’s present tense and I’m only through chapter two and just can’t seem to get into it. Supposed to be a page turning thriller. There’s also lots of headhopping around (she feels, he thinks, she wonders, he notices, all in the same paragraph), not sure whose POV, and I’m tired of slogging through it already. I admit, I’m jaded.

    • kingmidget April 22, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      As I said, I struggle with this because as a writer I really like the concept of there being no rule other than write a good story. That’s my mantra. But at the same time, there’s this thing that’s not necessarily a rule, but a necessary corollary to the one rule. I don’t even know how to express it, but when I see a story that is one entire paragraph, I just feel like the author is too cute for his own good. Even in the absence of rules, there are still certain things one should do when writing a story if an author wants to attract readers.

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