Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have by Tatiana Schlossberg

Inconspicuous Consumption

Information

Goodreads: Inconspicuous Consumption
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2019

Summary

How much energy is used by an internet search? Does cotton really have a lower environmental impact than synthetic materials? Have ride shares lowered or raised our collective carbon footprint? Tatiana Schlossberg delves into the environmental impact we have every day, whether we realize it or not.

Star Divider

Review

Inconspicuous Consumption by Tatiana Schlossberg attempts to draw attention to the everyday areas in which we consume goods, use energy, and impact the environment. Though some readers may already be aware of many of the issues raised–microplastics in the ocean from our synthetic fabrics, the carbon footprint of eating meat and dairy, the destruction of global forests to fuel our lifestyles–Schlossberg provides value by digging a little deeper into issues that may have puzzled readers.

For instance, is it less impactful to stream a movie or to buy the physical DVD? Have ride shares actually decreased traffic and pollution as promised, or have they raised both? Is buying cotton clothing actually a more environmentally-friendly choice than buying synthetic materials? Schlossberg explains how all of our choices have an impact on the earth, often making it difficult for consumers to figure out what they should do.

Schlossberg’s book is refreshing in that it admits that consumers alone will never be able to save the planet. The reality is that big corporations have been doing the most polluting, often disproportionately affecting communities of color and people who have the least political protection. So far, most governments have allowed these companies to do as they please, meaning they can make large revenues while passing on the environmental costs (polluted groundwater, increased illnesses and birth defects, etc.) onto their workers and the people who live next to their factories. Companies then claim that they have no responsibility for their actions, that consumers must put pressure on them to do better–even though most companies will never make it easy for consumers to figure out what their environmental policies actually are. It’s depressing to hear, but also a relief that someone is finally acknowledging that we cannot fight our way out of climate change just by turning off our lights and doing less laundry.

Schlossberg admits that the facts of the matter can make the situation seem bleak, but the book’s ultimate argument is that informed consumers can do more to put pressure onto their political representatives and the companies they are currently protecting. Informed consumers will be able to tell when they are being deceived, or being fed “solutions” that are just greenwashing. For real change, we need collective action. Books like Schossberg’s help draw attention to the problem, and hopefully are the start to a real solution.

Star Divider

Fascinating Facts

  • Nearly half of purchases that are returned to the store actually end up in a landfill.
  • It’s believed about 31% of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, though some believe the percentage is higher.
  • Much of the food that goes unharvested is because Americans are unwilling to eat produce that looks “weird,” even if nothing is wrong with it.
  • In Europe, burning wood counts as “carbon neutral,” even though it isn’t. Schlossberg says the U.S. will soon decide the same.
  • About 70% of the world’s e-waste (used or old electronics) is assumed to have been thrown away, as it remains unaccounted for.
  • The Super Bowl causes a disproportionate amount of e-waste from Americans buying upgraded TVs (that they don’t really need) in order to watch the big game.

In the Hall with the Knife: Clue Mystery #1 by Diana Peterfreund

In the Hall with the Knife instagram photo

Information

Goodreads: In the Hall with the Knife
Series: Clue Mystery #1
Source: Publisher Giveaway
Published: October 8, 2019

Official Summary

A murderer could be around every corner in this thrilling YA trilogy based on the board game CLUE!
 
When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic film will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern reimagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

Star Divider

Review

A YA mystery inspired by the CLUE board game sounds like fun, but ultimately In the Hall with the Knife was bland and predictable, and I will not be continuing with the series.

The CLUE connection is itself tenuous, and it feels as if Peterfreund is trying to force allusions rather than having them naturally occur in the book. First, many of the character names are a stretch. Some are actually the character’s names while others are nicknames, but even the characters themselves think it’s a bit ridiculous. Peacock and Mustard, in particularly, get ribbed on for having absurd names. Peterfreund then tries to give her characters some of the personality traits of the original board game characters, but it all comes across as a faint flavoring rather than a convincing adaptation. “Plum,” for instance, is one of the top students at the school, and Mustard just transferred from a military school. Overall, however, I think Peterfreund could have just told this story without making it a “CLUE story,” so it didn’t really work for me as something inspired by the board game.

The characterizations are also incredibly flat. That’s not entirely unusual for a mystery, where often the plot is more the point than any sort of in-depth character study or development. However, Peacock is so flat that she comes across as some sort of tennis machine who thinks only about tennis, her diet, and her exercise schedule. Even when someone dies and she becomes one of the suspects, her thoughts are on tennis and training for tennis. Peterfreund tries to give her slightly more dimension by the end of the story, but by then it’s too late.

The other characters are only marginally better– and unfortunately it’s actually a flaw that so many of them have chapters from their own POV. I get that the author is probably trying to mirror the board game, where it’s all the players trying to find the culprit, so she didn’t want to have a single narrator or master detective, but it kills some of the suspense when there are so many characters writing from their own POV to the effect of, “OMG, I am so scared there is a murderer here! Who is it?? What should I do???” It makes the reader feel as if, well, those characters certainly are NOT the murderer! Even worse is that most don’t really have great “plausible motivations.” Am I really supposed to believe someone killed the headmaster over something like not getting an A on a test? Actually killed him? I think not.

In the end, the mystery was easy for me to solve, and I was bored most of the book. I wouldn’t recommend it, and I will be on the lookout for better YA mysteries to read.

Briana
2 star review

Should High School Readers be Assigned Classics Originally Written for Adults?

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

Should high school readers be assigned classic books that were originally written for an adult audience?

Star Divider
Should High School Readers Be Assigned Classics Originally Written for Adults

Classics in the classroom are controversial for a variety of reasons, not least because of the belief some readers hold that classics are just too inherently difficult for anyone to want to read, let alone students. The complexity of the texts and the unfamiliarity of the language is good reason, many argue, for teachers to stop assigning classics altogether. Often unacknowledged in the conversations around reading material, however, is the fact that a large number of students have not acquired the reading skills deemed necessary for their grade level. This means that it is not simply classics that might be too difficult for students to read, but a large number of more recent titles, as well. If teachers were to assign modern adult books to students, many would likely still struggle for the same reasons they struggle to read classics.

Every four years, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests U. S. students in grade 12 to see where their reading levels are at. Students may score in four ranges: Below NAEP Basic, NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, and NAEP Advanced. A Basic score indicates that students have partial mastery of the material, Proficient means they have a solid mastery, and Advanced means they have exceptional mastery. One would hope, then, that most students would at least score on the Proficient level. The 2019 results, however, (the most recent available) show that 30% of 12th graders scored Below Basic, 33% scored at the Basic Level, 31% tested as Proficient, and 6% tested as Advanced. In other words, 63% of 12 graders, about two-thirds, have not mastered all the literary skills they ought.

Students may, at a Basic level, be able to “identify elements of meaning and form,” “make inferences, develop interpretations, make connections between texts, and draw conclusions, and “provide some support for analysis.” But they have not yet mastered “locating and integrating information using sophisticated analyses of the meaning and form of the text” or “providing specific text support for inferences, interpretative statements, and comparisons within and across texts.” 30% of 12th graders have not mastered even the Basic skills. Is it any wonder, then, that they find reading a classic book difficult? They might find reading and interpreting any book difficult.

Some have suggested that teachers replace classics with YA books. The argument made is usually that this will be more “relevant” and “relatable” to students. However, one might also consider that YA books are usually written more simply than adult books, making them easier for struggling readers to access and interpret. Yes, of course, YA books often deal with difficult content–anything from teenage pregnancy to death to the nature of humanity. However, the way YA books are written is actually usually more simplistic than adult books. Typically, sentences are easier to understand and any “message” or “theme” is spelled out for the reader. In fact, spelling out the message is so common in YA, that readers now get upset if an author does not do this, and instead expects readers to interpret something like, “This character said something sexist so he is the villain” rather than explicitly writing, “Bob is a sexist jerk who is imposing the patriarchy upon us by suggesting that we adhere to ideal body image standards, and we intend to stop him because he is wrong.” Because YA books now typically spell out any thematic messages, they actually may require less interpretive work from the reader, making it easier for struggling students to understand the main point of the story and write a paper about it.

This is not to say, of course, that students should not be expected to improve or that we should ultimately lower standards and never expect readers to be able to do the bulk of interpretive work on their own. However, there is a fine line between challenging students and making something so difficult that they simply give up. Every teacher will have to determine where their students are at academically, and what books it makes sense to connect them with. Some classics might actually work well for students who have difficulty interpreting texts and making connections because they do provide clear-cut examples of techniquess like symbolism (think The Great Gatsby) or have the characters reflect out loud on important themes. In other cases, however, YA books might be a more reasonable school assignment.

So should we keep assigning books written for adults to teens? Maybe. Many teen boys actually already read adult books because YA is primarily written by women about girls, and these books do not resonate with them as much. So teens are capable of reading these more difficult texts. On the other hand, we have the statistics showing that many teens are struggling academically. Every school, every class, and every student is going to be different. Some may find that classic books are challenging, but manageable. Others may find that different texts are more appropriate for their needs.

Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim (ARC Review)

Ravage the Dark

Information

Goodreads: Ravage the Dark
Series: Scavenge the Stars #2
Source: ARC from publisher
Published: March 2021

Official Summary

Step into an opulent world filled with risk, romance, and revenge and find out whether two unlikely heroes can save the world and stop corruption.

For seven long years, while she was imprisoned on a debtor’s ship, Amaya Chandra had one plan: to survive. But now, survival is not enough. She has people counting on her; counting on her for protection, for leadership, for vengeance. And after escaping Moray by the skin of her teeth, she’s determined to track down the man who betrayed her and her friends.

Cayo Mercado has lost everything: his money, his father, his reputation. Everything except his beloved sister. But he’s well on his way to losing her, too, with no way to afford the treatment for her deadly illness. In a foreign empire also being consumed by ash fever, Cayo has no choice but to join Amaya in uncovering the mystery of the counterfeit currency, the fever, and how his father was involved in their creation. But Cayo still hasn’t forgiven Amaya for her earlier deception, and their complicated feelings for each other are getting harder and harder to ignore.

Through glittering galas, dazzling trickery, and thrilling heists, Cayo and Amaya will learn that the corruption in Moray goes far deeper than they know, and in the end the only people they can trust are each other.

Star Divider

Review

Ravage the Dark picks up where the first book left off, with Amaya and her allies headed to a new country in an attempt to uncover the truth behind a deadly conspiracy. Readers need not be overly familiar with the events of the former book, as its events are not particularly relevant to this story. Once the author sets the scene and reminds readers of everyone’s relationship status, that proves enough for readers to get the gist of the plot. As with the former book, worldbuilding details are scarce, with different nations, cultures, and politics being hastily sketched just enough to make it seem like the characters are not walking through an empty earth. The plot and its drama are the main focus of the book, and readers are really just along for the ride, whether it makes sense or not.

Initially, I worried that I would not be able to understand this book, since it has been so long since I read Scavenge the Stars. Incredibly, however, the main fallout from the first book seems mainly to be that the love interests Amaya and Cayo are not ostensibly mad at each other. As is typical in many a YA, they spend the book alternately flirting and then yelling at one another, repeatedly crying that they no longer have any trust, but not doing a whole lot to rebuild it, either. Ultimately, the hormones seem to win out and that is supposed to be enough for readers to feel invested in the love story, even though it has to be admitted that Amaya and Cayo do not seem particularly compatible, in the end.

There is also a whole lot of drama, plot-wise, to keep readers engaged. There’s a deadly plague ravaging the nations, a shady counterfeiting scheme, some international politics that don’t make much sense, and a new sub-plot about a side character’s past, her journey to find her sister, and her desire to wreak revenge on the man who helped subjugate her country. Frankly, it’s all a little too much for one book to address adequately, and a bunch of the loose threads end up being resolved “off stage” in the end, with characters simply reporting that they have discovered the solution to all their problems and enacted it. After reading two books about these problems, readers might very well feel cheated that they do not get to see the resolutions actually happen.

Ravage the Dark entertained me immensely while I was reading it, and I think it is a stronger book than Scavenge the Stars. Objectively speaking, however, I have to admit that the worldbuilding is close to nonexistent and that the plot structure is a little too unwieldy. I think fans of YA fantasy will enjoy this one, but it may not be the type of book one wants to return to again and again.

Readalikes

3 Stars

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells

Information

Goodreads: A Ceiling Made of Eggshells
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: May 2020

Summary

Paloma (Loma) lives in the judería of Alcalá de Henares, where she dreams of one day becoming a mother and having children of her own. But her abuelo wants her to travel with him, to see the king and the queen of Spain, and to help Jews across the country. Loma agrees, because her abuelo insists it is for the good of the Jews. But, as the years pass, she wonders if she will have to give up her dream forever.

Star Divider

Review

Gail Carson Levine’s latest book, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, is a historical fiction set in the Spain of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. It follows young Paloma–known as Loma to her family–from the age of eight to the age of sixteen, as she travels with her grandfather, a man who works tirelessly for the good of the Jews. Unfortunately, it is difficult to discern what age range this book is meant to appeal to, and the characterization of Loma is not strong enough to make her seem particularly interesting. A Ceiling Made of Eggshells does draw attention to a period of history not often covered in middle grade books. However, while the premise is intriguing, the execution ultimately falls short.

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells has a slow start, covering the days as they pass Loma by in the (relative) safety of her home. The plague visits her family and she witnesses some anti-Semitic action in the neighborhood. As a child, however, she is mostly concerned with the household, and obsessed with her all-consuming desire to one day be a mother and have children of her own. To that end, she always volunteers to look after her nieces and nephews, as well as her mother’s new babies. This peace is finally interrupted when her abuelo declares Loma a smart girl who must travel with him “for the good of the Jews.”

Here the book exhibits a flaw: Loma’s grandfather insists she is unusual and that her traveling with him is of the utmost necessity. However, as the book progresses over eight years, Loma exhibits no incredible talents, no quick thinking, no exceptional intelligence–until the final chapters of the book. Most of the time, it is unclear why she is traveling at all. The reality is simply that her abuelo likes having her around; Loma is not doing anything directly to help her people, except being a comfort to her important relative.

This dynamic introduces the main conflict of the story. Loma desires to have children, but her grandfather insists that her “work” with him is more important. I think readers will largely appreciate Loma’s selflessness, her desire to do good for others. Unfortunately, to build up this conflict, Levine relies on one of her signature writing moves: the constant repetition of a single trait to define a culture or a character. In this case, Levine wishes to define Loma as child-loving, so Loma spends the entire book obsessing over children. She notes every time she sees one, every time she wishes to speak with one, every time she gets to share a bed with one on her travels. A lot of people like children and many people want to have children. But I don’t know anyone who can’t see a child pass by in the street without obsessing over their extreme desire to be wed and finally be a mother. It’s just…weird.

Because the book covers eight years, it is a little difficult to determine who the audience is. Loma starts out as an eight-year-old and ends as a teenager. She starts as a naïve child who believes in magic amulets and ends as an almost-woman who worries over what unsavory men might do to her on her travels. Annoyingly, however, despite this change, her voice remains exactly the same throughout the book. One can only assume Loma is meant to be narrating years later, though this is never specified. This large gap, along with the slow pacing of the story, makes the book rather unusual for the modern market. Older titles such as Little Women have covered the transition from girlhood to womanhood, of course, but I cannot say that A Ceiling Made of Eggshells does so with the same fluidity.

Ultimately, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells will probably appeal to readers who love Gail Carson Levine and readers looking for a historical fiction set in Spain–something not commonly found on the market today. However, I admit that, even though I am a fan of Levine, I do not believe A Ceiling Made of Eggshells lives up to her previous works like Ella Enchanted or The Two Princesses of Bamarre. It was interesting to see what Levine is up to today, but I am not overly impressed.

3 Stars

Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie

Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie

Information

Goodreads: Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery
Series: None
Source: Borrowed
Published: October 1, 2020

Official Summary

An all-new collection of winter-themed stories from the Queen of Mystery, just in time for the holidays—including the original version of Christmas Adventure, never before released in the United States!

There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter . . . It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fire with these wintry whodunits from the legendary Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests. This chilling compendium of short stories—some featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple—is an essential omnibus for Christie fans and the perfect holiday gift for mystery lovers.

INCLUDES THE STORIES:
– Three Blind Mice
– The Chocolate Box
– A Christmas Tragedy
– The Coming of Mr Quin
– The Clergyman’s Daughter/Red House
– The Plymouth Express
– Problem at Pollensa Bay
– Sanctuary
– The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge
– The World’s End
– The Manhood of Edward Robinson
– Christmas Adventure 

Review

Midwinter Murder is an atmospheric selection of Agatha Christie short stories that take place around the holidays or generally in winter. As someone who has never read any of her short stories (though “The Chocolate Box” seemed familiar; perhaps I read it in school?), I enjoyed the variety of tales, as they ranged in style and substance and featured a number of the protagonists from her longer works.

Personally, I have never solved an Agatha Christie mystery (though, to be fair, there are many I haven’t read), so I was thrilled to have multiple opportunities to finally become a worthy detective with this collection of short stories. However, it turns out that some of the stories are truly mysteries; there is some plot going on, and the reader might be trying to figure out what is going on, but mostly there’s a lot of talking and characters putting together an intriguing string of events. This is particularly true of the stories featuring Mr. Quin, who is a Christie character I am not familiar with, but perhaps that is in keeping with how the author normally structures his stories.

The first story, “Three Blind Mice,” is the longest and the most like what I would expect a mystery to be: there are clues the reader can pick up, multiple motives, multiple suspects, etc. Alas, I didn’t figure this one out anyway, but my friend who read it did, so really I’m just a terrible detective, and perhaps one day I will finally read enough of Christie’s work to figure out how her mind works and guess the culprit!

The other stories are still interesting, and I don’t think one needs to be familiar with the protagonists to enjoy and understand them; there’s generally enough exposition for one to understand at least generally that Poirot is a famed detective with a keen mind, that Miss Marple is an amateur who dabbles in solving murders, that Tommy and Tuppence are a young husband and wife detective duo. Anyway, characterization is never really Christie’s focus; it’s her plots, so who is solving the mystery hardly matters in some sense.

I’m not sure if these stories are commonly in other collections, but as someone who hasn’t seen any of them (or perhaps only one?) before, I thought it was a great anthology for reading in winter.

Briana
4 stars

Fox and Rabbit by Beth Ferry, Gergely Dudas (Illustrations)

Fox and Rabbit

Information

Goodreads: Fox & Rabbit
Series: Fox & Rabbit #1
Source: Giveaway
Published: April 21, 2020

Official Summary

A graphic-novel series for emerging readers about the simple magic of true friendship
 
Easy-going Fox and anxious Rabbit seem like total opposites. But, somehow, they make the perfect pair! Whether searching for hidden treasure or planting a garden in their own backyard, Fox and Rabbit find everyday magic at every turn. On this first adventure, the pair will discover some new favorite things like sunsets, dandelions, and cotton candy. And they’ll face new fears like heights, swimming, and (poisonous!) frogs. Thankfully, there’s nothing Fox and Rabbit can’t do together!

Star Divider

Review

Fox & Rabbit is such an adorable celebration of friendship and the small things in life that I just want to read it again and again.

The five chapters in the book are five stories about a little adventure that Fox and Rabbit go on together, and the sense of whimsy is infectious. Watching Fox and Rabbit go with the flow and explore whatever each new day brings them actually made me really sad I have a job and can’t simply head off to the beach or to set up a lemonade stand because the mood struck me or something in the universe seemed to be suggesting I do it.

However, the book did bring back to me a feeling of childlike wonder and feeling that each new day could bring something fun and unexpected, even if that something is small.

I also loved watching Fox and Rabbit go on their trips together. From the very first page, the reader can tell they’re best friends and just get each other. Even if they disagree or don’t see eye-to-eye, that always have each other’s backs. They know when to push each other to try new things and when to just sit and wait.

The artwork is also incredibly adorable. Fox, Rabbit, and their other friends are so expressive, and one can read so much more into the story by looking at their faces. The artist also does some creative work with the use of frames, which I think visual readers and fans of graphic novels will appreciate.

This may be a series intended for “emerging readers,” but it brought a little sunshine to my soul, and I think anyone would enjoy it.

Briana
5 stars

5 Things I Hate Seeing in Books

I love reading, and I like a lot of books, but here are five things that drive me nuts when I encounter them in a novel!

1

Narrator/Author withholding Information to Create “Suspense”

This is so tiresome. A character will refer for 150 pages to “the incident” without actually telling the reader what they are talking about, generally in a bid to keep readers turning the pages so they can finally discover what “the incident” is. The character will say how they haven’t been the same since the incident, or they haven’t gone back to the ice cream store since the incident, or they haven’t spoken to their best friend since the incident. The incident is the explanation for all interesting things in the character’s life and colors all their thoughts, actions, and decisions, but they can’t tell the reader what that incident was. The worst part — generally it’s not that interesting of a reveal anyway, once the protagonist gets around to it.

2

Illogical World Building

This is a huge pet peeve of mind that I know a lot of readers do not share at all, based on how many books that have world building that makes NO SENSE end up quite popular and are even praised for their world building.

Often the praise comes because the world building is “so original,” but I’m here to tell you that if no one wrote a book before where a single country is ruled by twenty-five monarchs each from one to twenty-five years in age, each of whom is solely in charge of a different segment of the country, so the laws on one street don’t apply to a street one mile over, and the laws a baby makes by spitting up milk onto the proposed bills she likes best are equally as revered as the laws made by adults…that is not because this is such wonderfully creatively world building sprung from a uniquely imaginative mind. It is because it is completely illogical, and any real country with this supposed “government” would fall apart in weeks, probably taken over by a military coup.

Freaky Twins – A Sideshow More than Actual Characters

I wrote about this issue at length in this post about why I hate so many twins in books, but the gist is that SO MANY authors still act as if twins are a weird phenomenon instead of actual people. This happens enough in real life — if you know any twins, you can ask them how many people act as if they’re one unit in two bodies instead of two different people, or how many people don’t bother to figure out their names, or how many people act like they’re supernatural and ask if they’re telepathic or whatever. Literature is almost worse. Authors also act as if their twins are interchangeable, or mystic, and they finish each other’s sentences and either have the exact same personality or GASP polar opposite personalities. Please, stop. Twins are just people, and, like most siblings, most of them will have some interests and hobbies in common with each other and some that are not.

four

Flowery Descriptions that Don’t Seem to Actually Mean Anything

I am a big fan of “lyrical” writing. I love classics, and I don’t think “convoluted” or “complex” sentences are a problem. In fact, I often prefer them and find them much more interesting than bland, straightforward writing that can sound the same from book to book, author to author. However, I am NOT a fan of when authors seem to be trying to be “lyrical” and end up with bizarre descriptions that don’t seem to actually describe anything, or even to mean anything, if the reader takes time to think about them rather than skimming past.

It’s hard to come up with an example off the top of my head (so perhaps I should give credit to writers who do this often, for having some type of skill), but imagine someone writing a description like this: “The opulent raindrops lustered on the verdant leaves, shimmering and shaking like bees waltzing across their honeycombs before a storm.” Uh, what? What is an “opulent” raindrop? Is “luster” definitely a verb? And what is a waltzing bee? Do bees act differently before a storm? And how does comparing a raindrop to a dancing bee convey anything useful to me??? I have so many questions!

The Fight that Breaks up the Love Interests to “Build Drama”

Can we…not do this? I understand that some authors think that having a romantic couple get together and just…stay together is boring, and adding some fights and a quick “break up” will add some conflict to their story, but I hate that couples just being together and being in love is considered “boring” at all. I’m sure most people in healthy relationships would not say their relationship is “boring” because they actually like each other! Add drama to the plot some other way. Or have the couple fight but not literally end their relationship over the fight.

Worse, this trope is so common it’s predictable and, therefore, not even that “exciting.” I dread reading some books because I know eventually the author has to pretend to break up the couple just to put them back together by the end, and it seems unnecessary and is often extremely forced (in the vein of, Well, yes, I could explain to you why I have your dead mother’s necklace and it would make sense and prove I am not a thief, but I am offended you are asking, so I’m just not going to give you my reasonable explanation to solve this fight. So there! We have now broken up!). Sigh.

What are some things you dislike seeing in books?

Briana

The Invisible Chimes by Margaret Sutton

The Invisible Chimes

Information

Goodreads: The Invisible Chimes
Series: Judy Bolton #3
Source: Library
Published: 1932

Summary

When Judy Bolton meets a strange girl who cannot seem to remember her own name, Judy is determined to find out her identity. At first, she wants to help the girl she has named “Honey.” But Honey was found in the company of thieves. Could it be she is not telling the truth about her past?

Star Divider

Review

The third book in Margaret Sutton’s Judy Bolton series continues the adventures of teenage Judy as she attends high school and solves mysteries in her spare time. In this episode, Judy meets a mysterious girl who seemingly cannot remember her identity. Judy names the girl “Honey” and is determined to figure out where she comes from, so she can notify the girl’s presumably worried parents. As with the previous books in the series, the mystery is rather formulaic and thus easy to solve. However, that familiarity is part of what gives the series its charms. The Invisible Chimes will delight readers who enjoy serialized mystery stories like Nancy Drew.

For me, serialized mystery series like the Judy Bolton books are comfort reads. They follow a predictable pattern and often present mysteries that rely on incredible coincidences, meaning the protagonist can wrap up two seemingly unrelated cases at once, by the end of the book. So far, the Judy Bolton books have followed this formula, allowing Judy repeatedly to connect people and places that ought not to be connected at all. It’s a little unbelievable, of course, but it’s also comforting to know that, by the end of the story, everything will be resolved. Families will be reunited, lost property restored, and justice done. Sometimes one just needs a book where everything comes out all right.

This series is also fun because Judy is not a static character, but one who grows over the course of the series. She’s still in high school in book three, but so far she has already moved towns, changed schools, integrated herself into elite society, and caught the attention of two men, both of whom are subtly vying for her affections. While Judy’s personal life does not get as much attention in this book as it has in previous installments, readers can rest assured that she will continue to face personal problems that make her come to life as a protagonist.

The Invisible Chimes is well worth a read for those who enjoy books of this nature. And the best part is that there are over thirty more books to come! So readers who enjoy Judy can continue to watch her grow up and take life head on.

4 stars

Do Genre Fiction Classics Receive the Respect They Deserve? (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

Do you think genre books receive the respect they deserve, even if they are considered classics?

Star Divider

Even though many classic books are what one would consider genre fiction (for example, Sherlock Holmes mysteries or the Hornblower naval adventures), I would argue that many of these books do not receive as much respect as one might think they would, considering their “classic” status. After all, when one thinks of the classic books typically taught in high schools and even in colleges, genre fiction does not often make the cut. Rather, books like The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, and Of Mice and Men continue to define the American educational experience, even as the teaching of classics in schools has been placed under increasing scrutiny. It is far less common to see a book like The Hobbit or And Then There Were None regularly placed on a school reading list. And, since high school is the one place many Americans will have their first (and perhaps last) taste of the classics, these reading experiences define for many what a classic book is.

Aside from the issue of school reading lists, we must also consider the canon. Of course, many people vehemently dislike and disagree with the canon, but its legacy carries on, and people do still tend to use it as a way to measure the value of a book. Readers often conflate the canon and the classics, but the two are actually separate categories or lists. The canon (supposedly) exists on a higher plane. It is the body of works that is believed to have been influential in shaping Western culture (if there is such a thing). In other words, these books are understood to have had large-scale effects on the culture and they are the works that other influential authors would have drawn upon in creating their own work. There is actually no official list of the canon, but generally accepted authors include Socrates, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Joyce. Female writers have traditionally included only a few names such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and Charlotte Brontë. Genre fiction writers are not as likely to be included in lists of the canon.

Classics are, in a way, considered a step below the canon. They are believed to be important and “timeless” and worth reading as a depiction of the “universal human experience.” But they are not seen as influential as something like Shakespeare. I would argue, however, that genre fiction classics are still considered a step below even the classics. The mere fact that one usually has to add a descriptor to talk about genre fiction classics suggests that they are not held in as high regard. The Red Badge of Courage might be a classic. And The Catcher in the Rye might be a classic. But something like The Lord of the Rings might often be referred to as a “fantasy classic.” It is seen as influential and important in its own genre, but is not accorded quite the same status a regular old “classic.”

Perhaps most telling, however, is the fact that many readers of classic genre fiction do not even realize they are reading classics at all. It is not uncommon to see someone say that they “hate the classics” and that “classics are too difficult” and “school made them hate classics.” And yet, many of these classic-hating individuals have actually read and enjoyed classics! Books such Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn, and The Scarlet Pimpernel are beloved by many readers who are convinced they would never pick up or like a classic book. The way classics are taught in school has apparently left scores of readers with the idea that 1) children’s and genre fiction cannot be classics and 2) that anything they find enjoyable cannot be a classic, either!

Of course, many people hate the very idea of the canon and of classics in general. These labels are usually very exclusionary and they do not adequately reflect the many amazing writings by women and people of color. The idea of the canon and the classics persists, however, affecting the way people continue to talk and think about books, and their relative merits. And, right now, these labels, along with the way they are taught in high schools, serve to suggest that classics of genre fiction are not quite at the same level as the other classics.