Make it Right by Ron YatesThis review was written for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers. I received a copy of this book from the author to review.

“Good fiction presents plausible problems. Chekhov maintained that the artist is not required to solve the problem but to correctly formulate it. I feel cheated when an author provides a tidy package without allowing me to participate in wrapping it up. I’d hate to deny my readers the opportunity of struggling with the problems I’ve formulated. In grappling with them, the reader will decide if they’ve been correctly formulated.”

When I saw these words in the preface, my heart sank. I don’t want to grapple with problems. I do that all day. When I settle in to read I want all the hard work done for me. I guess I want to be cheated with tidy packages. It’s also been my experience that when an author or screenwriter makes these claims, it usually feels like they were just lazy and couldn’t figure out how to finish the book or movie they were working on. I’m very relieved this wasn’t true of Ron Yates and these offerings.

I really enjoyed these stories and didn’t feel I was left hanging after finishing any of them. That’s not to say it was all over as soon as the last page was turned. I still find images and thoughts of most of these stories popping into my head at odd times, especially “I Sank the Mandolin.”

I love the way Ron Yates writes — direct and to the point — and his style was quite refreshing. There isn’t a word in these stories that doesn’t belong and make sense; no verbose scene-setting to skim through. But you still get that feeling of, say, exploring the old abandoned barn. And you still know enough about the characters to actually care about what happens to them, or to realize you have people in your own life who are just like that.

This is a short book and a quick, thought-provoking read.

The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoI’m a little more than half-way through my first reading of this book and I’m so glad I didn’t read any of the reviews or the recommendations on my book sites before I started.

The reviews confuse me, and I’ll be taking a harder look at them after I’ve finished my own analysis. But what struck me in a cursory skimming of them is how negative they are. Not just that they didn’t like it, or wouldn’t read it again, or wouldn’t recommend it to friends — they HATED it! — and didn’t have very kind things to say about anyone who DID like it. I’d estimate five zealously negative reviews for every good one, which accounts for the 3-star (give or take) over-all rating.

Not a single one of my book sites thought I’d like this book. Interesting — maybe those algorithms aren’t as helpful as we’d like to think! Or maybe some of the books I have that would have tilted that scale haven’t been included in my book lists yet. I’m constantly finding some that I haven’t cataloged.

I obtained this book from a friend. It came up on my radar at least three times in a 24-hour period, which got my attention, so when she said she still had her copy and would find it for me, I took her up on it right away. She’s reliable when it comes to things like this, but apparently she brought it by within hours!

I started reading it that night. I was sold on the first page. Thirty pages into it, unlike most books, I knew it deserved more than one reading. It’s a quick read if you like, and at less than 200 pages you can get through it in one day if you’re so inclined. It has a “Sally, Dick and Jane” writing style, which I’m surprised doesn’t irritate me in this case. Actually, I was surprised it has a Lexile Measure of 910L — I expected it to be lower, though I *am* new to this measurement and don’t have a lot of experience with it as yet.

I should be finishing this up in a day or two. And I fully intend to read it at least once more. I might buy my own copy of it before then, however, as this one needs lots of scribbles, notes, highlighting and tags.