Monday, June 10, 2013

Thanks, I'll Pass

Time again for another post documenting books which I have mentioned around here as planning to read but have found myself unable to complete for one reason or another.


Oh, how I wanted to love The Keeper of Secrets! I was in the mood for some relaxing fiction and sat down to read this new novel from Julie Thomas. Set both in WWII and the present day, it tells the story of a Jewish family with musical talents who once possessed a rather remarkable violin. This violin was confiscated by the Nazis and the family has long since given up any hope of recovering it. The book flips back and forth between the family then and the family now, revealing their history as well as that of the violin in question.

Thomas presents us with interesting characters that are easy to care about. Her writing style draws the reader right into the book and makes it so that you truly do not want to set the book down. You want to know what becomes of the family and their confiscated possessions. You want to see the history play out and know what happens to each individual.

However, about half way through the book, I felt compelled to put it down for good. (I'm still annoyed by this. I'm still wildly curious about how Thomas manages to tie up her loose ends.)

For starters, I instantly relaxed upon opening the pages of this modern novel. The story flowed smoothly and I was not lambasted by foul language or sex scenes. My hopes rose that I had found a clean story and I was happily speeding along through the tale! There was some mild language scattered about (e.g., "hell") but nothing enormously offensive. I could overlook those few words.

But then.

Then I reached the middle of the book and in quick succession there is a scene wherein a young girl attempts to seduce an older man (couple of sentences but very vivid imagery), a rape scene (described in three sentences, but I got the picture!), and a strong hint at a homosexual relationship (again, 2-3 sentences but I knew). Also, regrettably, the language took a big turn for the worse. To say I was frustrated and annoyed by these additions to what could have been a clean and compelling story is an understatement. Not only was annoyed but I felt taken advantage of as a reader.

Books such as these, which start of so strong and sure and promise a reader a fantastic story only to dissolve into sexual activity and foul language, really rubs me the wrong way. I feel like the publisher and author are hoping to lull me into complacency. I almost want to give in because the author is clearly talented and can weave a wonderful tale. And yet I just can't won't do it. I am very interested in this story. I want to know the ending. But I'm going to have to make a guess and move along because I'm not going to spend time filling my imagination with sexual scenes and foul language. We're surrounded by enough filth in real life and I don't think including such things in their book makes a person a better writer. Tell me the story. Tell it well. Use intelligent language. Then, I will read your book and I will love it.

That said, I do appreciate William Morrow for giving me a chance with this title. Thanks for sending a copy my direction in exchange for my honest thoughts.


Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, by Pseudonymous Bosch is apparently the last in a "Secret Book" series that I've never heard of before. I thought the idea of this book sounded clever, being a book that encourages the reader to write their own mystery story.

Geared towards middle grade readers, the book quips and cajoles us through the steps necessary to write a book, from the preface, to the story, to the re-writing and editing process. It is means to be quirky and fun and in some respects I suppose it is that.

However, I have to say, the book fell flat for me. I like the idea of encouraging young readers to practice their writing skills. Familiarizing young people with the process of writing a book and having it published seems a noble endeavor. In the end, I just didn't care much for the style that is this book.

Whoever Psuedonymous Bosch is, he tries to be witty in a "I'm so cool, I don't have to care about anything if I don't want to" sort of way and that attitude is not one that I'm particularly fond of. I certainly wouldn't want my children picking up this book thinking that they had every right to be bored with life. I'd rather them read books that encourage them to think adventurous, imaginative thoughts that spill out into their ordinary - whatever that ends up being. I don't want them to be threatened and cajoled into writing or think that the only way that they will ever have to write anything is if I present the concept to them in a radical way.

That explained, I do realize that many children were not raised to expand their imaginations and/or explore the world with them. And so it may come to making a ton of dry, witty comments and arguing them into thinking that writing and telling stories is a "cool" exercise. So then, this book may appeal to some. In the end, I'd rather not need it with my kids so I'll not keep it on our book shelves.

Many thanks to LB-Kids for sending a copy of this title my direction in exchange for my honest thoughts.


Barbara H. said...

I share your frustration with the first type of book. A recent one from Kate Morton was similar - not much of those kinds of elements. but enough to spoil the book for me and to discourage me from reading anything else of hers, though I loved her style otherwise. I'd love to ask some of these authors, "What is so wrong with clean?" Has anyone who doesn't share our values ever gotten to the end of a book and said, "Good, except it needed more curse words and sex scenes"? It seems to me that even people who enjoy that kind of thing can enjoy a book without it, while its presence alienates the rest of us.

Julie said...

Amen to your comments on the first book! Starting a book and then coming across junk like that in the middle frustrates me to no end. Kudos for continuing to stick up for clean books!

BerlinerinPoet said...

*sigh* That first book DID sound promising. As for the second, I'm actually reading through a book right now that has the EXACT same feel and I think that's why I'm not liking it. It's for young adults (of course) and it's also, "I'm just so cool I'm over EVERYTHING" oriented.

Anonymous said...

I do appreciate the warning--I had the first one requested at the local library, and it's now in, but it doesn't look like I'll be reading it after reading your review. I hate when I like the story and the writing, and then elements like that are added and ruin it.

Cassandra said...

Bummer on the first book! I hate when it looks like it will be a clean read and turns out to not be. :( I wonder if authors would heed the more conservative readers if we started contacting them...

Bluerose said...

It seems like more and more books these days are throwing the bad content at you over halfway through, or worse, in the last book of a series. I can't understand why!

Thanks again for these posts. Very helpful! :)

Stephanie Kay said...

If you ever come across a GOOD write-a-story type of book for upper elementary/middle school please let me know. I've seen several that look good for high school but I'd rather start sooner than that.

Susanne said...

Bummer about the first book. I'd feel deceived too, though the jist of the story sounds super interesting!

Unknown said...

I haven't read Pseudonymous Bosch but Amanda loves that series, so I requested this one too, but haven't looked at it. But yes, I think you pinpoint the way he is correctly, which is part of his charm. But if you got it expecting a more serious-minded writing guide, I imagine you were quite surprised!

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