Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Mini - Comments

The last two books I've read couldn't be more different, but both made me think that the execution wasn't as special as the premise. I always feel a little indifferent to these types of books, because while I could imagine different paths or elements going in a direction which would appeal more to me, the overall feel of them isn't as captivating as making me want to spend that much time thinking of them either...

Portuguese cover
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a short story, which I brought from the library and since the book is really small, it was easy to read it very quickly.

This is the story of Keiko, a 36 old Japanese woman who has worked for years at a convenience store, where all the rules are easy to follow and where, despite the doubts of her family and of those she knows,
she feels she can be a good worker and accomplish her tasks well. As the pages go on, we clearly understand Keiko has some form of autism, although that word is never mentioned and we learn she has never been diagnosed. Her brain works in such a way that her whole life makes sense while she is at the store and she does learn coping mechanisms so she can feel accepted by others, mostly by coping mannerisms and facial expressions of her co workers. 

Things change for her when another socially challenged worker joins the store but his work ethics are quite different. Still, Keiko sees in him someone who could help her put an end to some of the questions which keep being asked, such as when will she get a better job, when will she get married and have children, but his personality proves to be even weirder than Keiko's.

I liked this short story for its premise: how someone, seen by society as not fitting in, can be and feel worthy by having a job and be independent. I wasn't put off by Keiko's mind process but it is true we cannot escape society's expectations nor the cultural aspects we can't run from. I think this was the cleverest element in this story, how we got to see a little bit of Japanese culture in such a small slice of a unique character. My biggest disappointment is with the end, which felt too abrupt for me. I think the end is suitable, but it feels as it stops before we got to have closure on it, right after Keiko makes a decision.
Grade: 6/10

The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton is the first book in a fantasy trilogy which has been in my radar since the early 2000s, when I attended university. Back then, after a wonderful discovery on the fiction section of my faculty's library, I started devouring many books and those I had no time to request/read, I added to my TBR, being this author one of them, especially since I didn't imagine the content of the gorgeous fantasy covers could be very academic...

I finally got to it and this fantasy novel sounds like any traditional fantasy beginning, where a young protagonist is determined to seek answers by going on a quest, replete with adventure and challenges, mostly related to how to avoid the fae/magical traps on the way. The premise isn't new but I figured the tale is always the best part anyway, so I was bent on being dazzled but quickly understood the writing style of this author is very rich and detailed, to the point where I felt it was exaggerated. I found myself bored plenty of times and slightly bothered by so much time "wasted" in unnecessary or pointless descriptions, when three or four sentences would have done the deal. It doesn't feel a good author would be left down by editing, if the work is good.

While the story develops we barely learn anything about the protagonists, the secondary characters are even less developed and when I thought the folklore and cultural elements would be a way to enrich the plot, it was the other way around, meaning nothing significant really happens, nor do we have any idea on why this quest is important or what is the point in doing it in the first place.

Since finishing, I've been entertaining myself reading reviews of other readers on the second and third books in the trilogy and I feel that that is enough to satisfy my curiosity. It seems the writing style will be the same and knowing the explanations for some situations alluded here makes me happy enough that I don't feel like reading the books. This is a well planned trilogy, just by checking the author's notes and the research sources she indicated at the end of the book, but I don't feel like going further.
Grade: 5/10

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