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25th November
written by Steph

I first read a review of this book a few months ago on Write Meg! and left a comment saying it sounded like a fun read, and one I’d consider taking a peek at myself in the future.  Enter, Nicole, publicist extraordinaire who then contacted me asking if I would like a free copy of Only Milo to review on our site.  I said yes (thanks, Nicole!), and here we are! November has been an abysmal month for me in terms of reading.  We’ve been really busy with traveling and work, and that certainly hasn’t helped me with turning the pages, but moreover I think I’ve just kind of been on reading burn out.  It’s a terrible thing when it happens, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that voracious reader that I am, there are still going to be times when my reading ebbs and I just need to take a break from books.  It’s never a divorce, mind you, just a temporary separation while I recuperate and reenergize before diving back into the endless ocean of books. So after taking THREE WEEKS to read a single book (Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, if you must know, and no, it didn’t take that long because I wasn’t enjoying it, but rather the aforementioned reading slump is squarely to blame, and yes, I did really like it a good deal, but unfortunately that’s all I can say for now and you’ll have to wait for the Jan issue of BookPage to hear more of my thoughts on the matter, but basically if you are already a longstanding fan of Fforde then it pretty much follows that you will like this one too…), I decided it was time to turn my attention to something that would be a quick and easy read. And Only Milo certainly doesn’t disappoint on the fast read front.  I read it in the span of about two hours, and I can’t see it taking anyone much longer than that.  Billed as a “Hitchcockian thriller”, the basic premise is that Milo is a fairly old man who has written several manuscripts over the years, but never attempted to get any of them published.  He winds up being recruited to translate a manuscript from a poorly known Mexican author for a small independent publisher, but when Milo discovers/decides that the original manuscript is not very good, he makes the executive decision to swap in one of his own novels in its place.  The novel winds up being a huge success, but when the author of the original novel shows up on the scene, Milo fears the jig might be up, and he decides he will do everything in his power to keep what he has done a secret… Now of course, things wind up escalating and veering out of control pretty quickly, but to say any more about any of that would ruin much of what the novel has to offer, so I’ll leave my summary as is, even if it really only encapsulates the first 50 pages or so.  I have to say that in terms of plotting, I feel somewhat ambivalent here, because while I can’t say that I necessarily found the twists predictable here, I can’t say that I found them especially surprising when they happened either.  Partially, I think the writing style of the novel failed to fully engage me and so I never felt really invested in what was happening.  The sentences are short and terse, very matter of fact, with little description; in some sense, it was almost like reading bullet points that make up a plot synopsis for a book, rather than reading a book itself! And I felt that even though everything is told from Milo’s perspective, I felt he had very little “inner life” and that there wasn’t much development on his part, nor much insight into what made him tick or why he did the things he did.  I mean, elements of the story gelled and were fun, like his all-consuming desire to get something published and the ways he attempts to achieve this, but I felt there wasn’t much depth beyond that, so his actions as well as his character just felt incredibly one-dimensional, and consequently, I didn’t care very much about him. In the end, I wound up tearing through Only Milo, mostly because I could, and was then left feeling a little empty.  Sure I had read a novel in 2-hours, but in a way, I kind of feel like one can’t form a sustained and enduring connection with anything, never mind a book, after investing so little time.  It felt like a very passive reading experience, and I wasn’t all that satisfied after all was said and done.  I want to liken it to those little puffed rice cake snacks people sometimes buy – you eat them because you feel peckish, and while they aren’t horrifically foul, once you’re done with them, you feel full in an insubstantial way and then are hungry again 10 minutes later.  Such was my experience with this book; because things move so quickly, there’s little to no suspense, and I just felt there wasn’t very much for me to latch on to here.  I certainly wouldn’t say it was a bad book — if you’re looking for something that is solely plot driven and really easy to read then this will do just fine — but I feel like your time would almost certainly be better spent reading anything else, because while 2 hours isn’t a huge chunk of time, you might as well put it towards something that is ultimately more rewarding. Rating: 2 out of 5


  1. 11/25/2009

    Sounds like one I can skip although I do have to say that I love the cover…all the sticky notes remind me of my desk at work…minues the pencil stabbing the sticky man in the heart of course!

  2. 11/25/2009

    Sorry to hear this wasn’t as good as it could have been. I know what you mean about reading burnouts and suspect I’m going through one myself. On a side note, I love the fact that you have a “meh” tag, lol.

  3. I haven’t heard of this one before, but I agree – there are much better ways to spend two hours. I’ll give this one a miss.

  4. 11/30/2009

    Sorry this one didn’t stand out for you. It sounds as though it was almost not worth the effort, despite it’s ease. Hopefully you will get over your reading slump soon and be able to read something a lot more satisfying.

  5. 11/30/2009

    @ Kathleen: The cover is great! Definitely one of the things that made the book seem so appealing… If I had the creativity to put such a post-it voodoo man together, I can think of quite a few people I might target… 😉
    @ Nymeth: Sometimes a “meh” really sums it up, don’t you think?
    @ Jackie: Nothing wrong with this one, but nothing especially great either. I know you’ll find a far more fulfilling way to spend those 2 hours!
    @ zibilee: It’s the kind of book that if you were hanging around at a cabin or were on a flight and had it with you, then sure, go ahead and give it a read. But would I recommend actively seeking this one out and investing time in it? Not so much.

  6. 12/03/2009

    I hear you on reading burnout and I’m glad this book, although not a favorite, may have helped get you past it.

  7. 12/03/2009

    @ Rebecca: Yes, definitely a point in the book’s favor was that I was able to sit down and read it cover to cover, which is something I’ve been having a hard time doing (really, reading for more than 15 minutes at a time has been a stretch). It’s always the worst when one doesn’t feel like reading, so any book that helps push me out of that is much appreciated!

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