Tuesday, July 14, 2015

in which all books feature a tragedy

I'm not sure why, but I read a lot of books with serious subject matter this month (murder, suicide, right to die, more murder, terrorist attack, spouse dying...). Looking at this list, every book I read had a major tragedy. What does that say about me? I'm trying to get better about writing review-type thoughts on Goodreads and listing more feelings and personal biases here, but some thoughts may overlap. Books are listed in the order they were finished, (A) means it was an audiobook, and my favorites were Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies.

Reconstructing Amelia - This book was on so many lists, I thought it had to be great. The story was intriguing enough - a mother pieces together her teenage daughter's life after her alleged suicide. I feel like there were too many characters and too much going on to really flesh out any one story line beyond its surface. It was one of those books where everything happening at once was just way too coincidental, and I didn't like the end.

Sharp Objects - Another Gillian Flynn book. This time, I didn't find the main character as awful as I did in her other books. I thought her... affliction was an interesting piece to the puzzle of who she was. You can tell it was Flynn's first book. I noticed a few typos which drove me crazy and the story wasn't as intricately woven as it was in her other two books. I felt the ending was a little abrupt, and fairly easy to see coming, though perhaps that's due to understanding the author's formula by this point. I can't decide how I feel about the way the ending was handled, which I don't want to describe in any way in case you want to read it. This was still a worthwhile book if you like novels in this genre, but Flynn's other two books are far superior.

(A) The Goldfinch - This book is on tons of lists because it won the Pulitzer in 2013. I decided to give it a shot but I was shocked when the audiobook was 32 hours long (most that I listen to are around 15!). This book is s-l-o-w. It's been called Dickensian, probably because a lot of words are used but not a lot happens. There is TONS of characterization and while the narrator at first got on my nerves, I grew to really like him and all of his accents. Kate said that she really liked it, so I decided to see how much of it I could read during my two week check-out time. I ended up wikipedia-ing for a summary to see if I liked what was coming. I did, and I ended up wanting to see how the author got there. I know it's a weird way to read a book, but it worked for me on this one. I ended up having to finish it via ebook since I couldn't renew the audio version, and I definitely preferred it as an audiobook. It's a strange book - the main conflict happens in the background and isn't a part of many of the characters' stories. I didn't like the end much. I wanted a more definitive resolution after spending so much time on the story.

The Girls of Mischief Bay - This book is like a frenemy - I didn't really like it, but I kept it around anyway. I like books with beautiful prose, interesting narrators, and a unique voice. This book didn't have any of that. It has third person narration and follows three women at different life stages as they deal with the things in life that happen to people in books. I mean, they happen to real people, too, but they really happen to people in books. I neither loved nor hated the characters; they were just there. I was mildly interested in how their lives would turn out (again, like a frenemy) and it was an easy read, so I kept at it, but I don't know that I would recommend it.

(A) True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa - A NY Times reporter gets discredited for a story he's written; meanwhile, another man who's accused of murdering his family assumes the reporter's identity when he flees from the crime to Mexico. Once the alleged murderer is caught, the two start a jailhouse friendship where the reporter tries to get the real story of what happened to the other man's family. The author narrated the book, and he wasn't a great narrator, so I would have rather read this one on my own. The story is fast and engrossing, but very sad since it actually happened. It was interesting to see an alleged murderer humanized and how the reporter built a true friendship with him, even though he suspected him of being a monster the whole time.

The Promise of Stardust - After all of the glowing reviews, I expected to love this. I really didn't. It was fine, but predictable. The characters were flat and even when they changed (in really big ways), the rationale was glossed over. The outcome seemed predictable to me from the first chapter, so I kept waiting for a twist; instead, the author just piled on more drama that really ruined my suspension of disbelief (really, her ex-boyfriend was a big enough jerk to take her husband to court? Really??). That said, I'm definitely in the minority on my opinion of this one so if it sounds intriguing, you might like it.

Big Little Lies - Wasn't it just last month that I said I would stop reading Liane Moriarty books because they were all the same? Well, I had been on the waiting list for this one since January so since my turn came and I had nothing else in the queue, I decided to give it a shot. Of the three Moriarty books I've read, this was my favorite. I figured out the plot twist pretty early (at 31% , I checked) but I enjoyed the way the narrative was told. The book deals with themes not often seen in "chick lit" type books - domestic violence, bullying, and sexual consent - in a way that makes you think seriously about the issues. Yes, it is still a mostly silly and fluffy book, and those who have experienced some of those serious things may take issue with some of the lightness surrounding the real issues, but I thought the painful aspects were handled well and not as flippantly as some critics seem to think (though that ending was a little unrealistic, but it worked for the book).

(A) Love is a Mixtape - This was narrated by the author, who is a writer for Rolling Stone. It was his memoir, but he wasn't the best reader. Sheffield used mixtape playlists to look back on his marriage to Renee, who passed away unexpectedly when they were both in their early 30s. Parts of the book were lovely and heartbreaking, and other parts I just wanted to speed through and move on. If you came of age in the 80s and early 90s, you might have more of a connection with this book than I did - I wasn't familiar with a lot of the songs he referenced - but I still liked the way the music was interwoven with his experiences. If I ever had a friend unexpectedly lose their spouse at a young age, I would likely recommend this to them.

This month was kind of eh for me, bookwise. My husband likes to ask me how my book is and many times this month I told him I was simply trying to get through it. Life is too short for bad books - there are a few I quit and didn't even mention this month - but sometimes you just hope they'll get better for so long you reach a point of no return. Hopefully next month is better, though I really wanted to read Go Set a Watchman and now I'm afraid to. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading for some ideas!

Thanks as always to Steph and Jana for keeping this going!

Life According to Steph

18 comments:

  1. I tend to read books with heavy subject matter and I always wonder what that says about me! I've read the first two on this list but it sounds like I'd like some of the others as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wasn't sure whether I liked Sharp Objects or not it was so icky, I had to read fluffy non-sense afterwords to get over Sharp Objects.

    I have The Goldfinch on my list, 32 hours seems like a super long time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Isnt it crazy when people love a book & you're like, Maahh.... makes me feel like I'm missing something :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am on the fence about Go Set a Watchman as well. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my absolute favorites. I do not want the prequel to mess it up for me. (If that makes any sense)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've liked all of Flynn's books, and I read them in the order they came out.

    I couldn't deal with Mischief Bay for one more minute. BLAH.

    I have zero desire to read Goldfinch.

    I'm going to read Go Set a Watchman because I find myself unable to not read it. I am going into it as though it stands alone. I pre-ordered it from Amazon the first day you could.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I felt the same way about Reconstructing Amelia, actually I didn't even finish it. I know people loved it though. Also The Goldfinch which people rave about, was just too depressing for me. I just kept thinking, okay now what is going to happen to this poor guy?? It was too much. I liked Sharp Objects better than Gone Girl...such a disturbing family though! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  7. I LOVED True Story!! Probably my favorite nonfiction of the year, along with The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. I also loved Sharp Objects (seriously, how messed up is Gillian Flynn?), The Promise of Stardust, Reconstructing Amelia (not sure if I'll see the movie). Big Little Lies was enjoyable. The Goldfinch is one that I started and got distracted and then had to return and haven't tried again.

    I read a lot of heavy subject matter books, too. I figure if that's what I'm drawn to then I'll just roll with it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have Meh months too. No worries. More books out there. Good for you for listening and reading Goldfinch. I don't think that length of book is suited for me since I read in bits and pieces and this book might take me months to finish. I lose connection with books when I do that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmm, Love is a Mixtape sounds interesting...I'll probably check that one out.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I often feel like all the heavy books come available in a row. I've only read a few of these, Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies. I liked both of those. I actually liked Sharp Objects over Dark Places.True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa sounds quite interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. The Promise of Stardust and Big Little Lies have both been on my to read list for awhile, I really need to get to those. I have yet to read a Gillian Flynn book and I feel like I may be the only one on the planet who hasn't. You listened to a 32 hour audiobook? Kudos to you!

    ReplyDelete
  12. i hate when a book gets rave reviews and then i read it and i'm all "eh" or i don't even finish it...then i think something is wrong with me because i wasn't over the moon with it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sometimes disappointed by the books that get the ravest blogger reviews. I don't know why...
    So maybe I'll put The Promise of Stardust on the back burner. I was going to add it to my list.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love Gillian Flynn, but Sharp Objects was my least favorite of her three books so far. Big Little Lies is on my to read list.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, how I adored Love is a Mixtape. I loved it so much that I read the author's other two books. They weren't as good, but still entertaining enough and quick reads. As for Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl was actually my least favorite. I actually liked the movie better, and that rarely happens. I know. I'm weird.

    ReplyDelete
  16. True Story sounds interesting and I like that it is based on a true story. Sharp Objects has been on my list for far too long, need to get to it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow- I've read all of these except Mixtape and True Story! I might check True Story out!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Don't you hate when you get in a rut like that? Its like, what the heck am I reading and why do I keep picking these up?!?

    ReplyDelete

I like comments and read them all but I'm not great about responding to them, so please don't be offended. I would much rather visit your blog instead!