May 19, 2013

Books of the Week:

  • The City, Stella Gemmell
  • Kitty Rocks the House, Carrie Vaughn
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris

I don’t believe I could have read three more diverse books if I’d picked them out of a hat. The City is a multiple POV science fiction novel, faintly reminiscent of the George R.R. Martin “Thrones” novels. Carrie Vaughn’s latest Kitty Norville novel is a worthy entry in a very entertaining series. And David Sedaris’s latest book is, well, typical Sedaris… a collection of sardonic, bitter, and amusing essays. As always, Sedaris pokes most fun at himself.

 

I was anxious to read Gemmell’s book after I read the synopsis. This is Gemmell’s first solo book. She has previously written with her now-deceased husband, fantasy novelist David Gemmell. The City has layers upon layers, much like the structure of the city itself. From the wretched people who live in the sewers under the city to the wealthy and powerful rulers who live in the most rarefied surroundings, Gemmell ties a complex story together with characters that age and change (and sometimes die in awful ways) over the course of the novel. Gemmell has a point to make, and it’s not subtle. This book is well worth reading. A fascinating example of world-building.

 

I always enjoy Carrie Vaughn’s books. This is one I liked quite a lot; Kitty is back in Colorado after her travels of the last book, and she’s surprised to find a stranger wants to join her pack. She has confused feelings about him, and the way he gloms onto a needy pack member arouses her suspicion. Her vampire friend, Rick, faces a personal challenge when another vampire from the mysterious Order of Saint Lazarus challenges Rick’s way of life. And Kitty’s buddy Cormac screws everything up royally, at least partly due to the passenger he carries within him, a witch. You can see the next set of challenges coming up for Kitty Norville.

 

David Sedaris is more fun than a troupe of dysfunctional monkeys. I love his collections, and though Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls may not be his funniest, anything Sedaris writes can make me laugh out loud . . . and that’s something I value more than I can say, especially in recent weeks.

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Writers have to be prepared to take their knocks when they put their work before the public, and some of the knocks are pretty hard. Some of them are sucker punches. There’s a line (and it’s not so fine) between constructive criticism and rabid attack.

 

I don’t intend to keep harping on the controversy surrounding the last book in the Sookie series, because I’m gradually putting the tension behind me, but I am thinking about issues that arose. I wonder if it’s even possible to offer constructive criticism about a 13-book series that’s at an end. Surely such criticism would only have been helpful if it had been offered earlier, so that if I felt it were valid I could implement it. I’ve read comments about past books that I really found insightful and helpful . . . but not this time, not about this book.

 

I tried to read the Facebook comments on my professional page, and I’m still trying to thank readers who were nice enough to say they read the book all the way through before they disagreed with me . . . because what really rankled was the hatred expressed by some readers who hadn’t read the book. They didn’t care about the thought process or the plot points that led to the conclusion of the book. All they wanted was an ending they had chosen. They ignored all the signs I’d planted so carefully to indicate where I was going. Then a vocal minority declared that the whole series was worthless if Sookie didn’t end up with the suitor they favored.

 

And an even smaller group demanded I explain and defend myself.

 

I considered that for 30 seconds.

 

Nope. Not gonna happen. At some point, I realized that nothing I did or said would even make the most virulent haters pause for a moment in their hating to consider any words of mine.

 

In the end, my sales went up. I would rather not have had to endure what I did, but did the controversy really hurt the book? No, it didn’t. It hurt my pride, and it hurt my feelings, and it provided me with some moments of anxiety. But I’m a grownup. I’ll recover.

 

So, friends and readers, onward! New books to write, new projects to consider, and new characters to create!

 

Charlaine Harris