Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: "If You Go into The Woods", by David Gaughran

"If You Go Into The Woods" is a short story by David Gaughran .  I came into reading this as it was part of a LibraryThing giveaway.  I feel the need to single it out here, and this is the reason why.  I've read a lot of books     through the years.  I'd even probably estimate the number in thousands, as I read quite a lot of books as a teenager. I've only looked into reviewing books as it was getting near time for the summer reading program at my city library, and they give prizes, so for two months I throw myself into reading as many books as I possibly can.  I tell you that, to tell you this, at which I'll finally get the point.  In reading these books I looked for a way to keep track of all these books I was buzzing through.  I found two websites I enjoy.  LibraryThing and Goodreads.  The wonderful thing about these sites is there are member giveaways and advance reader copies to be won.  The idea of reading books before anyone else seems almost impossible (remember I'm on Evanovich's 6th book and her 18th is to be released before the end of the year).  "If You Go Into The Woods", is the first book I won.  It is consists of approximately 16 pages and 2 short stories.  Finally, to my point. When I was done reading, I came upon the conundrum of how do I review this.  Before I started this blog I'd googled a "how to review a book", and one page I'd come across one writer who notes she only reviewed books that she enjoyed.  With "If You Go Into The Woods", I did enjoy parts of it, but as a whole I don't know that I'd recommend it, though I do have what one often refers to as "constructive critisism".  

The first story, "If You Go Into The Woods", has some very interesting and creative plot points but as a whole I personally thought somethings were unnecessary.  The first point I'd like to make is the choice of character names : Jiři, and Miroslav.  To me as I read the beginning of this story, I imagine a location more like India, I imagine a little boy running around in loose fitting white tunic and pants, grimy from the dirt ground and sandy buildings, sandels on his feet, but no that can't be right, there is a lake and a forest, more Indiana than India.  The second thing I take issue with is on the background story; a mother who seems wholly depressed and a character named Miroslav, who is mentioned but not at all explained.  Assumingly he is Jiři's friend?  As the naming choices of characters and places (Kolín and Časlav ) are quite irregular, it took me a moment to first divine which of these Miroslav was, and then who he was.  My third issue comes with the actual, what I'll refer to as "meat" of the story, the whole first part is completely unnecessary to get to what is actually in the woods.  I liked the idea here of what he finds but I thought the message he encounters could have been much more creative, or even more aboding.  
Final thought:  It has a few wonderfully written lines, thought provoking plot, but for me reads more as a book synopsis then short story.  I don’t know what other short story “critics” would think of that opinion, but i think the stories theme could have been built up more and the other background stuff could fall away.

The second story, “The Reset Button”, I enjoyed pretty fully.  The main character Linus is someone people can relate to, is for me someone, I can whole-heartily believe exists in real life, and someone we can empathize for.  The only qualm I had with this is the ending,  the story revolves around the idea that Linus wishes to have a “reset button” in life, but as the story goes on it’s as if someone has pushed a reset button already, and for me if that is the case why then does he wish to push it?  I think if the parts where he is forgotten were replaced with events he wished people would forget this story would have a more seemless flow. 

More about David Gaughran, links to his blog, and an excerpt from his next novel "A Storm Hits Valparaiso" can be found at his website.

Disclosure:  This book was receieved as a part of a LibraryThing giveaway.

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