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Category Archives: Adult Fiction
I have a confession to make. I’m reading the True Blood books by Charlaine Harris, and I’m doing it totally out of order. When I mention this to people, I get the impression that reading out of order is tantamount to that other sin of reading (which I’m also guilty of)–peeking ahead to read the ending.
I don’t read all series out of order. In fact, this is kind of a rare occurrence for me, but I have no regrets thus far. I watched True Blood seasons 1 and 2, so I figured I got the gist of the story from HBO, and no need to repeat it for the sake of saying I read the actual words.
In the library, I browsed through the True Blood paperbacks, reading the back of each book to see which one piqued my interest. I wasn’t totally committed to even trying the books, so I wanted to pick the most interesting one possible. My eyes lit up at the summary of Book #4, Dead to the World. It looked like Sookie and Eric would finally get it on this book! So I was sold. Or, er, borrowed.
Now, Book #4 wasn’t the best thing I ever read ever, but it was funny, entertaining, engaging, and I liked the characters and setting. Perfect for a summer beach book. It’s on to Book #3, Club Dead. From there, I’m not sure what to do. Go back and read Book#2 anyway, since I heard it’s somewhat different than the TV series? Or forge ahead through the series based on what interests me the most? I might go that route.
I’m not worried about the typical concerns of reading out of order, like not understanding the plot. It’s clear that most authors embed recaps, some better than others, for the forgetful or blatantly non-linear readers. I figure that this time, those annoying recaps telling me what happened in the previous book won’t be so annoying anymore (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter).
I highly recommend tackling a series out of order if the following inclinations apply to you.
1. It’s a sequel or continuation of a popular movie/TV show and you dread the thought of backtracking. Don’t worry about bucking the numbers! No one is making you read in a particular order! It’s your free time, so pick up the story where it starts for you.
2. You have a feeling you might like a series, but the beginning sounds boring (for whatever reason). Why not pick up the book that does sound interesting? If the author recap isn’t good, there’s always Wikipedia.
3. It’s a long long series, and you can’t picture reading all of it. But you can picture reading Book #5…
4. You’re at the library/bookstore with a flight/beach trip/boring evening looming, and they don’t have the next book in the series in stock!!! NOO! But they do have some other books in the same series. Hmm….
If you’re still feeling guilty, consider that sometimes authors even write their books out of order. When I was a teenager, I read both The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, both EXCELLENT books. I read the Blue Sword first, and it happened to be published first too, in 1982. Later, I read the Hero and the Crown, the prequel to the Blue Sword, and was surprised to see it was published in 1985. (I didn’t read the books when they came out, so the dates were afterthoughts to me). There are times when authors write the story that moves them first, and I think it’s a good move for readers to follow their hearts too, even if it’s a zig-zaggy path.
I picked this book up because it seemed to promise beautiful writing, complex characters, and a satisfying mystery. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations and left me unsatisfied after turning the last page. I have to give it kudos for beautiful writing though.
In the Woods tells the story of Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox, two Murder detectives on an Irish squad. When Rob Ryan was a kid, his best friends Jamie and Peter disappeared one day in the woods. They were never found. Rob was found, though, with blood-soaked sneakers and a blank memory of the incident.
Now, twenty years later, Rob has a friendly/flirtatious relationship with his partner Cassie, and the old case has come up again in connection with a new one. A young girl has been murdered, and her body was found on the altar stone at an archeological dig site. Rob keeps his identity to himself and teams with Cassie to close both cases.
The premise intrigued me and held my interest, although the book seemed to slow at times for lengthy description and bantering dialogue. For the most part, I didn’t mind the descriptions. I really revel in high-quality writing, the kind where a vivid picture is summoned to mind at the words of the author.
On the other hand, the banter between Cassie and Ryan became tedious. Sure, at first I marveled at the wit of their conversations, but eventually I felt like the author was trying too hard to have ravishingly interesting dialogue, and that realization took me out of the story. It didn’t feel like real life, or even the distilled parts of real life that dialogue is supposed to capture.
Over the course of the book, Rob showed promise of developing as a character, but that promise was never fulfilled. I think that’s part of why the story left me deeply unsatisfied. I understand that happy endings aren’t the only endings, but I look for characters who at least move forward in their personal development. As for Cassie, she was almost perfect in every way. Witty, wise, playful, kind, quirky, etc. I can’t hate a character who drives a Vespa, but it’d have been nice to see some human flaws in her.
I could have lived with the characters if the plot had blown me away. However, there are three major components to the book’s narrative, and only one of them was even somewhat resolved. The rest were left dangling, and after putting down the book I felt cheated. I believe that a complete narrative arc is a universal, ancient quality of writing. I had so much hope for this novel, but I just couldn’t like it after seeing how it concluded. Still, the atmosphere of Knocknaree and the woods was rendered well, and I might consider reading another book by the author, as long as there’s a real ending.