The Lightning-Struck Heart

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Lightning-Struck Heart
T. J. Klune, 2015

Premise: A magician's apprentice balances his growing power with his ridiculously huge crush on the captain of the guard.

I read this book on a friend's recommendation, and if I hadn't, I might have quit halfway through the first chapter. As it was I did finish reading the book, and I did somewhat enjoy it by the end, but it's really not my thing overall.

Mostly, the humor is really not my style. I hesitate to call it unrealistic because it is the way that, in my experience, some flamboyant gay men speak to each other. Specifically, the dialogue is often almost entirely composed of superficially cruel teasing, sexual innuendo, and extremely graphic sexual humor. I found this especially distracting because it wasn't just a characteristic of the main character and his friends, but nearly all characters at one time (or at most times) spoke this way. This included the main character's parents, politicians, villains, and the king. This meant that most of the characters sounded much the same.

It also took a long time for the main romantic plot to grow on me. The book spends a lot of time assuming that you will accept that the main character deserves the love interest because he is attracted to him. It later becomes clear that they are attracted to each other, but it takes a long time for anything more to grow there. Also everyone, and I mean everyone, is attracted to the main character for no discernible reason. And comments on it. At length.

The plot doesn't go anywhere unexpected, but if you're mentally categorizing this as a romance, that could be fine. But it kept bothering me to think of it as a romance, and it took me a while to figure out why. It's because we never get the love interest's point of view. This is also why the central romance felt so one-sided and unapproachable to me.

The book is meant to be a somewhat farcical romp, but the fact that I didn't enjoy the humor meant that my brain was constantly considering questions and plot holes. Questions like why in a country that completely accepts homosexuality and gay marriage would you still have a hereditary monarchy, especially where the heir to the throne must marry but does not apparently need to produce children?

There are some poignant scenes and some character growth by the end of the book - enough to keep me reading to the end. However, I doubt I'm going to read anything more by this author. It's not necessarily badly written (although I would argue that the dialogue sameness is an issue); it's just really not my taste.

2 Stars - an Okay Book

Baby Books: Surprise Stars

Monday, April 20, 2020

I registered a few mild complaints last week (don't misunderstand, I still like all those books), but I also wanted to give a shout out to some other board books that I think are especially impressive in unexpected ways.

I Love My Bunny

The story of this book is very simple - Anna and her toy bunny have a tea party. However, the interactive bits on each page are very effective. The fluffy bunny tail was an obvious source of fascination, and a flap that's easy for my little one to work meant that this book became an early favorite. There's a scratch-and-sniff panel that hasn't come up yet, but the sparkles on another page and the soft blanket on the last page are also lots of fun.

(Side note: This is part of a series, but I was less impressed with I Love My Puppy, the other one I tried.)

Usborne Very First 1 2 3

I know, it's a counting book (up to five), like a hundred other counting books. That's what I thought at first, too. On second look, though, each page not only contains the labeled item, but a bunch of others to notice and count. For example, the page for "2" says "two cars." But the picture also shows two houses, two trees, two bunnies, two butterflies... The page for "4" doesn't have as much detail as the others, but the variety in the illustrations makes this more fun to read and explore than other counting books I've seen, and I anticipate it will give the book a longer useful life.

Home for a Bunny

While not anywhere near as popular as Goodnight Moon, this book is also by Margaret Wise Brown, so you'd think I wouldn't be surprised at its quality. (Also, I apparently had this book as a child, but I have no memory of this.) But the first few times I flipped through it, it seemed just fine. Cute, fine, nothing special. However, for my little one, this book has the perfect balance. Not too long, not too short. The text has rhythm, but also story. There's an opportunity for some special voices, but they blend in easily. The illustrations are detailed, but clear enough that each element stands out.

Starlight Sailor

I picked this book up for two reasons: rhyming couplets and pretty art. When I brought it home, my husband was skeptical at first, because reading the text to yourself as an adult highlights some weird choices and inconsistencies. However, once you start to read it aloud everything falls into place. It's like a dream - lush, detailed illustrations and lilting text that flows like the waves in the pictures. I freely admit the text is a bit odd in spots, but the pictures have so many subtle details to spark interest and imagination that I'm still finding new things to look at after many readings.

Baby Books: Objections and Quibbles

Monday, April 13, 2020

Some quick thoughts, because I haven't been reading too many full-length adult novels recently. I have been reading many, many board books.

Most of these are fine. Some of them are great. However, I do have a handful of small criticisms I would like to lodge.


Never Touch a Dragon

This book is a hit with my nine-month-old. The bright colors and especially the textures on the cover and on every page make it excellent baby bait. I have two small criticisms though. The fonts are so whimsical that I think it'll be hard for her to read as she gets older. And the first page.

The first page is different from every other page in that the part of the dragon described in the poem on this page is not the part with the texture, plus the poem on this page does not rhyme properly. Disappointing.

Dear Zoo

Lift-the-flap books are very popular with my little one so you'd think this would be a hit. However, these particular flaps are a little hard for her at this age.

In this book, the zoo sends the reader a series of inappropriate pets that they return for various stated reasons. This is where my actual criticism comes in, as one page says the snake is "too scary."

This is clear anti-snake propaganda, and I feel the need to mention the fact that snakes aren't actually scary every time we read this.

Disney Baby: Peek-A-Boo Winnie the Pooh

The "Disney baby" art style is a little bit disconcerting, but the flaps in this book are very sturdy and easy for her to work with. The simple sequence follows the various Hundred Acre Wood pals finding each other in sundry hiding places.

However, on one page the reveal is that Tigger is "bouncing behind the tent." That is clearly not a tent, that is clearly Eeyore's house. Who writes these books?