Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Published by St. Martin’s Press, expected to release in November, 2017

Genre: Magical Realism

Pages: 352

I really need a win soon! This is the third time in a row I have to give a review saying I didn’t love a book, and I’m sad about it.

I do want to say that in the case of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, my reasons for disliking it are completely subjective. I know, I know, they always are, right? But this time it feels like it’s more-so than usual. My failure to connect with this book has nothing to do with the book, so I feel the need to describe exactly why, so you’ll know whether these things would make it difficult for you to connect, also. I am by no means saying this is a bad book. In fact, of the advance reviews so far, every single one I looked at said the book was excellent. So keep that in mind, please.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, a magical realism novel by Ruth Emmie Lang

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places, jeopardizing not only his own life, but the life of Mary, the woman he loves.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell: great storms that evaporate into thin air; fireflies that make phosphorescent honey; a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

I pretty much judge a book by the same things, over and over. Characters, plot, writing, pacing, message. But the most important to me, and I usually don’t mention it in these terms, is readability. How much did I want to keep reading this book. Did I have to keep reading? Here’s the thing, and again, let me say here that it’s not a bad book, I didn’t want to keep reading. Had it not been an ARC, I would almost certainly have DNF’d it, because I couldn’t connect and I was *whispers* bored. I’d rather hate a book than just be bored and meh with it. It’s such an unfortunate position. So here are my totally subjective reasons for feeling this way:

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

I felt a little misled, here. Given the description, I was just expecting something so completely different. Weylyn can manipulate weather, speak to animals, make plants grow… I just expected it to be more about that, I guess. Every chapter, save one at the end, is from the point of view of someone around Weylyn, watching his miracles unfold. My favorite chapter in the whole book was the one, at (nearly) the very end, from his point of view.

Through the whole thing, because Weylyn is a man of few words, we don’t have much of a sense of his intentions or feelings or agency. I thought the book was about Weylyn, but it turns out to be only tangential. It’s much more about the people around him and their reactions to him. Which is fine, just not what I expected, and not what I personally wanted. Because for almost the entire book we have no idea what Weylyn wants, it was hard for me to know where the book was going. And not in an Oh This Is So Exciting And Twisty way. I couldn’t find my bearings in an uncomfortable way.

With about thirty pages left, I found myself wondering what the point even was. Whether there would be a climax. Whether I would feel any resolution. That’s not a good place to be, with that little left. I expect to be entering wrap-up right about then, unless there’s a cliffhanger.

The ending was satisfying in it’s own right, though again, it wasn’t what I was looking for when I got the book. I think had it been marketed more as: the story of Weylyn and the love of his life and oh yeah there’s some magic, instead of: this is the story of Weylyn and his magic and oh yeah he loves a woman (I know they’re almost the same, but the distinction is important to me), I may have felt differently about the whole thing.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Because Weylyn is the fascinating one, the one raised by wolves and manipulating weather and everything, I really needed to hear from him. I couldn’t connect with him because, as I explained earlier, I don’t feel we were given the opportunity to. I want to know how much he knows about what he’s doing. I want to know whether he really ever thought the pig was magic. I want to know whether he meant to be rude or polite on his first day in human school. I felt a lack of closure because I never understood his motives.

The POV alternates between other characters, as I explained. Some of whom are fine, and some are more boring than others. Mary, the woman Weylyn loves, does have more page time than most, and I appreciated that because she was really the only character I cared about. We meet her at different times throughout her life, as a child and a young woman and an older woman, so we get to see her grow and change (although she’s always obsessed with her and Weylyn’s childhood together).

I did have some issues with their relationship. As I’ve expressed in former reviews, I can’t stand when people spend very little time together but decide they’re in love. Weylyn and Mary go through something traumatic together very young, so I can see how that would develop into the obsession they share later. But I didn’t like that Mary and Weylyn weren’t together much, and they stayed in love their whole lives (he says this in the first few pages, not trying to give a spoiler).

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

was a pretty big let-down for me, and again, I think it’s because we never see it through Weylyn’s eyes. I need to understand things. I need to know how and why things happen, at least eventually.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

I know it’s a lot of information that’s not necessarily helpful, but it’s all I’ve got. Basically I feel this: make me happy or piss me off, but please don’t bore me. Unfortunately, for me, this one was just a miss.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang



 

 

As You Wish

As You Wish is Not My Dream Come True

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Published by Sourcebooks Fire and expected to release Jan. 2018

Genre: Magical Realism

Pages: 432

As You Wish

So! Hmm. I, umm. I don’t know, y’all. I’m getting really tired of writing reviews that are somewhere between good and bad. Maybe I’m the problem. I swear I’m only requesting books I’m sure I’ll like! And then, I don’t know. Ugh.

I will say I really enjoyed it for a while. The first chapter hooked me. There is A LOT to love about this book, but I was left feeling very “meh” about it. So… another pro/con list it is!

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

The Premise

I was immediately intrigued by this idea. Because while wish-granting is not even kind of a new idea, I hadn’t seen it like this before. I loved the concept of a whole town making wishes. Before I’d even received the book, I found myself thinking about how that may affect a town. Would they turn wishing into an obsession? A religion? Yes. And I love that shit. Because I’m a firm believer in everyone having something they put all their faith in. For these people, it’s wishing, though wishing seems to have ruined most of their lives.

I think there’s something amazing, too, about the age eighteen. These are kids who have to make the biggest decision of their lives. I know that my dreams and motivations at eighteen were nothing like what they are now, ten years later. What if we had to stick with the choices we made at this insane time where we feel like an adult but are really a child? Well, things would suck. I dig that.

The Characters

Now I’m going to tell you right away that I’m not in the majority here. I read the other reviews and people really don’t like Eldon, our narrator. I have expressed on many occasions that I don’t need to like a character to like a book. And while I don’t like Eldon and wouldn’t want to hang out with him, I understand him. I think that’s what is important. He has clear motivations for being the asshole he is. His confusion and angst make perfect sense.

His best friend Merrill (I can’t with these names, y’all) is great. Hilarious and exactly the weird little conspiracy theorist you expect to live in the middle of nowhere.

The people of the town have such horrific stories and so much regret and I think their brokenness is absolutely beautiful.

The Backstories

In preparation for his wish, Eldon gathers stories about people in the town and their wishes. Everyone pretty much knows everyone’s wishes, but he gets the backstories, the why’s and the wherefore’s. These chapters change voice and are, for me, the best writing in the book. A couple of times I said profanities aloud, reading these chapters. They’re beautiful, and they are the part of the book I will remember now that it’s over.

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Women

This is a BIG one for me. Women are not well-represented in As You Wish.  The guys make shallow wishes, yeah. (Eldo’s dad as an example.) But we also see a lot of men who made wishes that, while not necessarily good decisions, make sense. We only even get the perspective of a few women, and most are pretty absurd. Girls have dreams outside of being prettiest. Girls have dreams outside of making boys fall in love with them. We really only get two girls who seem to make admirable wishes? And one is one of the blandest characters ever and one is a little obnoxious and Eldon talks shit on her constantly.

There’s also a moment that could potentially really alienate asexuals, and I can’t stand that.

Pacing

It’s a long book, but I’d have a pretty hard time telling you things that happen in it. There are very few actual events, which makes it really easy to put down. The most exciting parts, for me, were the parts from the past. There just wasn’t enough really moving things forward in the present.

Because of this, a lot all happens at once. And Eldon flips all at once, and it makes his change a little hard to grasp. Does Eldon grow? I mean, technically, yeah. It’s not so much growth as an abrupt and complete reversal of who he was for the first 350 pages. It didn’t feel very realistic, and it left me feeling unfulfilled.

Missed Opportunities

I’m a person who needs closure. Not necessarily emotional closure, which we kind of? get here. But I really wanted to know SOMETHING about why the cave granted wishes. This is the hardest part to talk about without spoilers, because I can’t tell you what I WANTED to happen without telling you it doesn’t happen. So I’m just going to say I think there was a lot of cool stuff behind the concept that could have been explored, and wasn’t.

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti