Books 9 and 10 and 11 (oh my)

Book 9: The Romance of Tristan and Iseult - Published 1945, New York, NY

This is one of those stories that I've read a dozen times, and will probably read a dozen times more. This review is not going to address the story; rather, I will talk about this particular translation.

While this is not my favorite interpretation of Tristan and Iseult, I did enjoy it. It read less like a medieval romance (or indeed, a romance at all) and more like a fairy tale from The Brothers Grimm. As with any Grimm fairy tale, very little detail is given. The language is very plain. I thought it was very interesting to read this epic tale of treachery and battle and adventure and romance and suffering (oh the suffering!) and have the prose remain so stiff and detached throughout. It has the same feel as a Grimm fairy tale... I am especially reminded of "Briar Rose" (aka Sleeping Beauty) where the hedge of thorns that has grown around the castle is described, and it says how many suitors tried to break through the thorny barrier, only to have the thorns hold fast to them, "as it were with hands" and they could not break free. "They died wretchedly," is added almost as an afterthought.

Rating: B

Book 10: Naked Heat by Richard Castle

This is the second novel by the fictional character Richard Castle, which comes from the very awesome tv show Castle. For those who haven't seen the show, it's about a mystery writer who tags along with a homicide detective, seeking inspiration for his new series of books. The first one was entertaining enough that I picked up the second.

For a book supposedly written by a New York Times bestselling author (albeit a fictional one) the writing was pretty sloppy in parts. The writer/editor in me was constantly adjusting syntax and swapping diction in my head. It wasn't sloppy enough to really impact the enjoyability of the story (here's looking at you, Stephenie Meyer!) but it was just bad enough to be noticeable.

The story itself was pretty good. It had an over-the-top pulp fiction detective feel to it that I really dig. Whoever wrote the book did a great job of evoking feelings of that genre without going overboard on it. Mad love to them for it. Also, more love for the Firefly references.

Rating: B-

Books 11 and 11.5: Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English and Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing, both by Patricia T O'Conner

These were both pretty quick reads so I'm bundling them together in one review. As a writer, I am always looking for ways to improve my writing. The primary way I do this is by reading as much as I can. Occasionally I'll read books that are actually about writing.

Words Fail Me was, for the most part, unhelpful. The first section of the book focused on the methods for writing, overcoming writer's block, etc etc. I've already got my methods down, so that didn't do anything for me. The rest of the book focused on a lot of the nitty-gritty writing details of writing. Clarity, sentence structure, using strong verbs, so on and so forth. It's mostly things that I knew already, but it's good to be refreshed every once in a while. And as for the few things I hadn't realized, well, any improvement is welcome, no matter how small.

Woe Is I focuses exclusively on grammar. I am in kind of an odd position when it comes to grammar. I was never formally taught anything about grammar in all of my years of schooling. However, I am and have always been an avid reader and, as a result of learning grammar only by reading properly constructed sentences, my grasp of grammar is based solely on what "sounds right" to me as opposed to any of the rules or reasons behind it. So, it's intersting to me to read about why a correctly structured sentence is correct.

Both books were written with a straightforward attitude, a dash of humor, and (obviously) grammatically correct sentences abound.

Rating: B