Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Not You, It's Me: the Indie Lit Awards Edition

While it would have been a delightful experience to have loved the entire Fiction Short List, it's always a little more interesting to add a little repulsion and despair into the mix, isn't it?  Especially when my opinions aren't universal, and I need to abandon my middle-child-peacemaking-tendencies and stand by my impressions.  That's always a fun exercise.

Actually, it wasn't as dramatic as all that.  But every now and then exaggeration makes for a nice spice for normality.

The Last Time I Saw Paris
 Lynn Sheene
One thing that I find inconceivable, however, is the ability to exaggerate how many times I cried "Terrrrrrible!" while reading The Last Time I Saw Paris.  I do hope that Lynn Sheene will accept my apologies, because this was absolutely not a universal feeling.  This was very much a case of It's Not You, It's Me.  But maybe we can still be friends?

The characters were caricatures, the writing was simplistic and conversational to the point of being obviously and drastically different from the 1940s setting, much of the plot was improbable and dramatic, and the word "damn" was used more times than I think I've ever heard it in my life (cumulatively).

However.  The pace was sprightly, the period interesting, the juicy bits weren't overly tawdry (though I could've done without the juicy bits altogether), plus there were flowers and fashion (it was Paris after all).

If you can value plot and pace above the characters and writing (a talent I don't really seem to have) then there's a good chance you'll find this to be an entertaining, vaguely historical, romp through Paris.

Cross Currents
John Shors
Unfortunately, there was another title that simply wasn't for me, either, though I can imagine it being quite enjoyable for someone else.  I wouldn't be surprised if John Shors has a pretty solid fan base...a conjecture I've developed simply based on reading Cross Currents.

My main issue?  The catastrophe upon which the story hinged came too late in the book.  I wanted to know more about how everything pulled back together.  Having so much time leading up to the main event only gave me more opportunity to pick apart  the things that were bugging me.  The characters were pretty stereotypical, everyone was way too good, the writing was much more about telling than showing, and the ending was much too tidy.

I must say, though, that Shors brings the island to life. Even though the characters weren't very layered, I did want to know what happened to them, and was concerned about the devastation.  This would actually be a terrific beach read--easy to read and enjoy with only a small time commitment.

"Hanging from one wall were ropes, a fishing net, electrical cords, brooms, tools, and strands of holiday lights." [how 'bout this: let me just tell you about the hut instead of showing you!]

"Ryan walked past a jewelry store and into a shop the size of his bungalow.  A middle-aged woman wearing a traditional head scarf greeted him.  He'd seen a small mosque somewhere nearby and wished he knew more about Islam." [and then he continues shopping...]

[up next: The Night Circus]


  1. I love it! It was such a bizarrely diverse list overall, and it's wonderful to have a little fun with it all!

  2. Cross Currents is one I'm hoping to read when I get a moment. It's nice to see honest opinions of the books :)

  3. I also didn't care for The Last Time I Saw Paris... you're not alone!

  4. It was a strange list of books and I love how you did this post. The whole, it's not you, it's me thing applies to so much of what I read these days.

  5. Refreshingly honest! I love your humor...I'm sort out of the loop, and didn't know anything about either of these titles. I can't wait to hear what you think of The Night Circus....

  6. Carrie, I'm looking forward to reading your review of Paris--I love how you were able to see past some of the silliness and just have fun. I kept trying to do that (& failed). :)

    Sam, you won't need much than a moment to read it (it moves pretty quickly) but I do hope you enjoy it. Maybe now that I've helped lower your expectations you'll like it more!

    Lorren, as soon as I started reading it I was pretty sure that was the one you hadn't liked! There are a ton of great reviews for it (B&N, GR etc) so I can only assume that it isn't my type of book. Or yours. :)

    Ti, the list definitely didn't look how I thought it would--what a mix of books! I'm sorry to hear that you're experiencing this response regularly, that's like a reader's Twilight Zone...too much of it and I start to feel like I Need Help.

    Lisa, I thought I was completely in the loop for 2011 current fiction, but most of the short list I was mostly ignorant about. A good example of how many books (even newly published ones) are out there I guess. It was very interesting to compare them against the massively promoted Night Circus.


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