Lately it’s nearly impossible to find a good book. I tried A Pho Love Story because it looked kind of normal on the front and the premise seemed real enough. It did have a good solid foundation: a boy and a girl with competing restaurants across the street from each other fall in love. It could work. The writing was just not there. It didn’t pull me in and keep me in the story. The writing was all awkward and twitchy, like someone with three elbows trying to keep their hat on in the wind. There’s a good lesson here for beginning writers. Don’t try to switch points of view. Even if your point of view is all first person and you’re switching from one character to another each chapter, it isn’t something a reader will want to read unless you have an incredibly lyrical style or some other crutch to prop up such a dated idea as switching characters every other chapter. Or the story might survive if you have a writing style that taps the vein of popular culture and gives the reader that type of ichor infusion they’re looking for to wash away the usual bloodless drudgery of their life. When writing fiction, try to be entertaining.
Another I tried to read but couldn’t continue was titled Ten Low. I couldn’t get into it for similar reasons. It too was written in first person style. I’m going to just jump in here and blame Stephanie Meyer for this trend. Her vampire diary about the girl who met the Seattle vampires who glitter because they’re under constant cloud cover was successful enough to spawn a horde of books with characters similarly impotent as that Edward vampire who apparently had zero vampiric qualities as well as zero of the seven deadly sins (weird, right?). How in the literary world does a vampire inspire fear if he or she doesn’t do anything but play sports in the rain? Inspire is the correct word here. The book titled Ten Low had a main character which did not inspire. There was nothing about the main character that was at all interesting—and if you’re writing a book in first person, you might as well put them six feet under. It’s like writing about a corpse. It doesn’t do anything. What reader picks up a book to read about a character doing nothing? Don’t readers want to be entertained? Don’t we choose the fiction books because they’ll be less mundane than all the mundane things surrounding us? But if a book doesn’t deliver that, where will we turn for our entertainment? To movies? Books like this could kill the literary world and encourage more people to stop reading altogether.
Not all the books I’ve picked up recently have been poorly written. I read one titled The Music of Bees and it was lively and fun. The writing was flowy, smooth, and yes, lyrical. The book was quick to read and was indeed about all aspects of bees. Caring for bees isn’t even a passing interest of mine, but this book was written well enough to keep me reading. I’d probably give it four or five out of seven stars. It was fun to read. On the other hand, I’m probably not going to read it again.
I also read one called Mean Baby by Selma Blair. It was kind of funny, but not as funny as all the reviews I read about it suggested. All in all it was an average memoir. When I go to read a memoir I have an expectation of some embellishment and chest-thumping. There were moments of that in this book, but not as much as others in the biography section, which is a good thing, and yes it has my endorsement for this reason. I skipped a few parts because some of her stories were dull. Not all were dull, just a few. She’s had an interesting life, regardless of whether I’m interested in it or not. The main reason I picked up the book is because it details how she was given what could only be called an amateur diagnosis. She was called a mean baby because she was always pulling mean faces. They weren’t mean faces, they were pained faces. She, like so many people, was assumed to be one thing, when she was really another. And this sort of misdiagnosis is only going to be more common in the future as we see psychology getting softer and softer, allowing the street diagnostics to reign.
Last, and best of all, was a book titled Like Water by Daryl J. Maeda. It’s actually a very interesting book despite being written in textbook fashion. The first chapter hits the premise of “transpacific” human currents really hard. Like any textbook, you’ll want to put the book away forever and never hear the word transpacific ever again, but if you don’t you’ll be rewarded. The author lets up on his pet theory of transpacific currents and digs in to the details of the life and times of Bruce Lee. There are some fun facts in the book such as: for one of Bruce Lee’s films, his salary was the biggest portion of the budget, second biggest was the budget for fake blood. This book, of the five I’ve mentioned, is the only one I could highly recommend.