Monday, March 30, 2015

Mondays on the Margins: Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst

Yesterday I finally fell into a book and sank through it like a stone instead of glancing across it like a smooth, flat skipping rock. Trying to read with anxiety and pain, especially on the ipad, leads to way too much hopping from book to book, or to the internet to check something that I thought of and must know RIGHT THIS MINUTE before I forget about it, or to Netflix to get even more thoroughly and comprehensively sick of Supernatural (sorry guys, I love you but I have surfeited myself to the point of nausea).

It wasn't the best book ever. It was better than the last book I read by this author, which was also the first book I'd read by this author. I talked about starting that book in this post, and it did indeed begin very promisingly, but then it all went horribly, mushily, disappointingly wrong. The character, who was flat and without agency at the beginning of the book for understandable reasons, continued to be flat and insipid for way too long, and the big reveal about the Big Terrifying Menace was more of a splat than a fireworks explosion.

Chasing Power was not fantastic, but it was more even and held narrative tension to the end with some nice twists. The character was more developed and at least had opinions and acted in her own interest, but was still not extremely deep or nuanced. The set-up - Kayla exercising her telekinetic power for shoplifting and general screwing around, in defiance of her mother who is terrified they will be found by Kayla's father who already killed her sister Amanda - is attention-getting. Daniel showing up needing her help to rescue his kidnapped mother and starting off blackmailing her deepens the plot nicely, and Selena is a classic smart-assed smart-mouthed best friend with issues of her own who really raises the novel's quality a notch. The quest is well laid out, the relationship between Kayla and her mother is quite well-done, and the resolution is fairly satisfying.

The writing and characterization don't quite rise above 'good' to 'really good'. A couple of times I wondered if I was just missing things. Daniel uses the word "amazing" to describe Kayla way too many times, but then at one point he said "you are..." and she says " Yes, yes, amazing, I know", so maybe the author meant to do that, but it doesn't do much to make him seem like more than a vocabulary-limited dolt. At one point when Kayla discovers that he's lied to her about something, instead of flipping out about it she says that she actually sees why he lied about it and thinks it was a reasonable decision - I LOVED this, since one of my pet peeves is when people go ballistic over being lied to when, if they thought about it for a second, they probably would have lied similarly in the same situation.

But anything I admired was only on a cerebral level - I didn't really feel any of it. This might be just due to my mental and emotional state right now, but I don't think all of it was. This is an author who has a knack for plotting; if she ever steps up her writing game, she might be amazing.

Memorable quotes:

-"'You know, if you worked for me and you made me wait that long, I'd have flogged you.' Kayla hopped into the car and buckled her seat belt. 'No, you wouldn't. You have people to flog your people.' 'Yes, yes I do. I have floggers.' 'And slappers, for anyone who doesn't deserve a full-out flogging.'"

-"Kayla had felt as if she were a pillow, battered and damp. She'd slept badly, racked with guilt, and she'd woken to an empty house... After that, Kayla had started to feel angry. And the anger ate the guilt for goddamn breakfast."

-"'Of course it's not over. Don't you know how these things work? The wise old woman gave you cryptic advice to start you on your quest. Now the trusty sidekick, who is far smarter than the heroine, finds the pertinent information our beloved lead needs. Or she at least checks Wikipedia.'"

-"She wanted to fall into that smile. It made her want to frolic through fields with him, and Kayla had never frolicked through a field in her life. Oh, good grief, am I falling for him? How completely prosaic."

-"'This is serious. You have the common sense of a dim-witted lemming, and I don't want you to plunge off a cliff and die.' A corner of his lips quirked up. 'Hey, you do care.'"

-"'Don't listen to her. This is your destiny. This is what we've worked so long and so hard for. This is our chance at greatness! Every great achievement requires a great sacrifice.' 'What fortune cookie did you read that in?' Kayla asked. 


Steph Lovelady said...

I'm glad you fell into a book.

Sasha said...

First - also glad you fell into a book. I desperately need to do that. I'm hoping Ove fits the bill.

Second - I am so intriuged by your description of the first book that I'm perversely tempted to read it.. just to see what you're talking about. Which I'm pretty sure runs counter to my need to fall into a good book. But whatever.

Sasha said...

(Ok, so I can never write one comment without thinking of something else: part 2 reminds me of the time I was at a restaurant with about 10 friends. This restaurant had a distinguished and varied cocktail menu, and we went to town with it. One person ordered a "Michelangelo", which had Campari in it. He tasted it, it was awful. The person next to him said "how bad can it be?", and had to try it. They both thought it awful. This escalated to the point where, the more people said it was awful, the more everyone else had to try it. We subsequently sent it back. Half empty. Fortunately, they still took it off the bill.

Sasha said...


Sasha said...

(Sorry. I couldn't leave that parenthesis dangling there.)

Nicole said...

I'm glad you're getting your reading mojo back :)