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Shift, by Rachel Vincent
This book is boring.
It shouldn’t be boring. It has all the elements of a not-boring book -- werecats with a thirst for revenge, political intrigue, a love triangle, even thunderbirds.
But it’s boring.
This books is mostly boring because it condenses all of the interesting elements into short chapters, and spends over a hundred pages on the boring parts that connect the interesting elements.
Before I give you an example, let me share a little bit of the plotline. In SHIFT, werecat Faythe Sanders is caught up in a love triangle, a siege, and a civil war. Her father, the Alpha of her Pride, is competing against a rival Alpha named Calvin Malone for a seat on the werecat Council. Her Pride is also seeking revenge against Malone because his Pride is responsible for the death of her brother, Ethan. As they prepare for Civil War between the Prides, Faythe’s Pride is attacked by a group of Thunderbirds, who Calvin Malone has tricked into attacking Faythe’s Pride as a way to distract and weaken them.
There are a lot of capital letters.
The Thunderbirds kidnap Faythe and her sort-of-daughter, a Tabby named Kaci, and take them back to their Nest. Faythe is let go and given forty-eight hours to find proof that Calvin Malone tricked the Thunderbirds into fighting Faythe’s Pride, otherwise they will kill Kaci and launch a full-scale attack on Faythe’s Pride, killing her family. Faythe is accompanied on this quest for justice by her fiance Marc and another Tom named Jace, who she accidentally slept with in the aftermath of her brother Ethan’s death.
There are so many elements of a good action book! And for the most part, the author actually ties them all together really well, so it doesn’t feel like a book with eight different genres all jammed together. All things considered, this SHOULD HAVE been a good book! The pacing is just so abominably awful that the book becomes intolerable. The book starts on the brink of a civil war, but we spend four chapters learning about Faythe’s relationship her various family members (this is not the first book in the series, by the way). When the thunderbirds attack and start trying to pick off Faythe’s Pride one-by-one, we’re treated to over a hundred pages about the love triangle and how mad Faythe is that her hand is in a cast. Faythe has forty-eight hours to find proof against Malone to save her pride and her daughter, and we spend three chapters sitting in a hotel room while Jace and Marc alternately go to get supplies and the other one wines to Faythe about how he doesn’t like it that the other is in love with her.
All of this just becomes SO INTOLERABLE by the end of the book that i’m not even surprised about the haphazard ending. Only one plot line is wrapped up, additional plotlines are added in throughout the last four chapters, we sort of forget about three of our main characters, and you close the book appreciative that it’s over because you weren’t entertained for long enough to actually care about anything that was happening to begin with.
Long story short, this book is boring.
I Shot You Babe, Leslie Langtry
I Shot You Babe is a book that fulfills its purpose dutifully, but completely comes undone in the final, unnecessary third, like a horse distracted by the Kentucky Derby infield. It constantly reminds you of better books and nigh-on suggests that you go read those instead. I would have taken the book up on its advice, had I not had a deadline looming over me.
The Sonny-and-Cher inspired I Shot You Babe is the latest in a four-book set of books named after your dad’s hidden shame record collection. It follows Excuse Me While I Kill This Guy, one of the most unwieldy titles in existence, Stand by Your Hitman, and Guns Will Keep Us Together. I am ashamed and very scared to find out that there are actually EIGHT titles in this series so far, and the song jokes don’t get any better.
I don’t have a ton to say on this book. It’s bad in the way that your coworker is annoying. Little by little, bad decisions and odd habits build up until you want to shout at the book for some minor infraction, but realize that you’d end up looking like the crazy person. If there’s one thing I can pick out, it’s the conversational tone.
I can’t quote, because we’ve already taken the books back to the library, but suffice it to say, our main character Coney Island Bombay (UGH UGH UGH GROSS) often speaks to the reader like he’s an old pal and also not a literary construction. “I bet you’re wondering why…” “Did I mention that…” “Maybe you thought…”
Stop that. Why is that allowed past fifth grade? It’s one thing if an omnipresent narrator makes some sly wink, but when a character who is an active participant in the book frequently stops and talks directly into the Realm of Thought, I want to get off. I see high schoolers do that all the time in their work, and it’s infuriating. I’m not here. You’re explaining to the universe, not to me. For one thing, I can’t talk back to you. For another, shut up, I don’t care and don’t like you anyway.
The plot is fine, I guess, until it hits a penny and completely runs off the rails. Coney “Cy” Bombay is a near 40-year-old free spirit, interested in his philosophy PhD, knitting, Guinea pig Sartre, and participation in the family business of assassination. Fine and good for a book, whatever. He runs into grad student Veronica Gale, they for some reason fall in love, and at the end have a son. Spoiler alert. Between that, however, no interaction ever suggests that they actually enjoy each other’s company. They’re constantly in legitimate arguments like they’re in the second act of a rom com.
She’s seductive and erotic because… the narrator tells us she is? She doesn’t do anything except cross her arms and look peeved, and he’s real into it. There’s no action, entendre, whisper, anything that would suggest she’s an active participant in his boners. What does she look like, act like, sound like, smell like? Nothing. She’s just kind of there as a cardboard cutout. Not in a “this book hates women” kind of way, but in a “this book is bad” way.
Once, they’re arguing about all the different women he’s had sex with (cause some chicks are into carneys despite his looking clean-cut and very not-carney), and suddenly they’re doing it. She removes her top, and wouldyabelieveit she’s got “perfect breasts”! Now, I don’t need a five paragraph description of areolas or anything, but there’s a lot of different breast types in the world and you’ve given me nothing but “perfect” to go on. It’s like she’s a YOUR FANTASY HERE outline instead of a character.
|Our female lead|
Anyway, they’re both accidentally in Mongolia together. What, I didn’t mention that? Yeah, he goes to participate in an indigenous fighting tournament and she goes because that’s what the plot said was going to happen. He’s contracted to kill a guy at the tournament, but there’s some intrigue about ooh maybe there’s going to be a love triangle or ooh maybe he’s going to have to do it in the ring but nope none of that happens. He gets in a fight, gets knocked out. The bad guy leaves Veronica until he doesn’t? And kidnaps her? And then tries to set up a showdown, but leaves Veronica and runs away.
This is where the book goes from eh to awful. Once Veronica is kidnapped, all semblance of acceptable plotting, pacing, and character development is thrown out the window. Why set up a showdown if you’re going to run away? The point of a showdown is to show down, not to LEAVE the GIRL you KIDNAPPED. Why kidnap her if you’re going to give her back? No ransom, no leverage, no nothing.
Then, he’s chasing the target down to kill him, catches him, doesn’t kill him, breaks up with Veronica because of reasons, uses the target as an armchair psychologist, and decides to let him go because Cy is so broken up by Veronica. The family of assassins decides they don’t want to be assassins any more, Cy whines a bunch about Veronica, and then goes back to her place and they decide they’re now living together. In the epilogue, they have a son. Also, they ditch the first-person narration style for some reason.
Look, I’m well aware I left out details, but the details don’t help to understand anything but page counts. Plots fall apart as soon as you’re aware of them. The entire back third of the book is an exercise in doing nothing constructive, like unchallenging yoga.
It could have been fine, but it wasn’t. It was straight up bad. Reach for the stars, because if you miss you’ll come crashing back down to earth in a huge crater.