Tuesday, June 14, 2016

in which most books have too many narrators

My book choices were drawn from many places this month - I really tried to bring some new offerings to the link-up, but when it's your turn for a hold at the library, you have to pick it up. Several stories were told using multiple narrators, and quite honestly, I'm tired of that trend. I'll specifically look for books in the next few weeks that keep with one POV the whole way through. Unless it's my time for something I've been waiting for... no promises.

Maybe good for you, but not for me:

Dept. of Speculation - What the hell, you guys? You know how sometimes you come across a social media account for someone you kind of know, so you go down the rabbit hole of being inside their mind for like, ten minutes, and then you get bored so you move on? This book made me feel like that, only I was stuck with it for far longer than ten minutes (though it was quite short, for a book). It's a spillage of thoughts - some beautiful, but many mundane - and there was no characterization or description. Readers had to infer some of the action, and the main character just felt like a disembodied voice. The POV changed about halfway through so I kept reading to see if I could understand why, but it never happened. I wanted a book I could get lost in, and this definitely wasn't that kind. It was far too jagged and real.

Lilac Girls - Another book with fascinating subject matter that didn't work for me. This book takes place just before, during, and after WWII and is told from the points of view of an American socialite with ties to Paris, a female Nazi doctor at a concentration camp (I use that word loosely as she conducted horrific experiments on women in the camp), and a young Polish woman sent to the concentration camp in which the doctor works. The first two characters were based on real people. I hated the socialite's storyline and too much time was wasted describing people at parties that did nothing for the plot. The way the doctor went from being a normal, albeit brainwashed German Nazi supporter to a blind follower of Hitler conducting experiments and causing pain would have been an interesting plot point to speculate on and dive into, but it was glossed over. The Polish woman's storyline was the one I liked reading about the most, but it was so sad that it's hard to say I really enjoyed it. The subject matter is something that needs to be remembered, but I don't think this book is the way to do that.

If I had to describe it in a word, it would be "fine."

What She Knew - The story of a woman whose young son has been kidnapped should have been engrossing, but this suffered from poor characterization. The plot was good enough with some twists thrown in to keep the reader guessing, but I just didn't care for the mother of the missing boy like I should have. It was an okay read, but I don't think anyone should drop everything to grab it.

Hidden Bodies - (Skip to the next book if you haven't already read You and you plan to.) I really liked You so I was pumped to read this book. I guess what I liked about You - Joe basically stalking Beck via social media and becoming who she wanted - would have been boring in a second book. I get that. But I still didn't like Hidden Bodies that much. I felt like Joe was less of himself and I got tired of the formula that he thought something awful was going to happen and he was wrong. I get that it was set in LA, but the pop culture references were too frequent and too current and distracting to me. In You, I cheered for Joe despite him being a horrible person and a murderer. This time around, I found myself hoping he would get caught. Also? Love is an annoying character and I was ready for her to die after about 20 pages.

Consider these:

(A) All This Life- While I could have gone without the author really, blatantly driving his point home at the end (please trust that your readers are intelligent!), I liked this book. As a blogger and person who says she lives much of her life on the internet, I appreciated so many of the sentiments - that life should be lived and the personal connections we make matter far more than the people who live inside our phones and provide passing likes and notices of our being. This book is told from different points of view using characters who are only tangentially connected. Each one is interesting and relateable and was at a place in life with something going on that I wanted to hear about, from a dead sister to a released sex tape to being a runaway mom.

(A) All There Is - I love NPR and slices of life, so this was perfect for me. This book was put out by StoryCorps, which is a public radio initiative that encourages listeners to bring a loved one to one of their locations to talk about love. A copy of the conversation is sent to the Library of Congress and visitors are given another. All There Is is made of stories people have shared in this project about falling in love or losing their love. It made me smile and almost made me cry. The audiobook was really unique in that it sounded like a show on NPR and the actual recordings were used to tell the story; from what I gathered on Goodreads, they were transcribed in the book. I think hearing the emotion and the accents added a lot. Best of all, the book is 150 pages or one hour as an audiobook, so I knocked it out on a particularly traffic heavy drive. A few of the stories were fantastic and will stay with me.

(A) Necessary Lies - Apparently, as recently as the 1960s, poor women were sterilized without their consent in the United States. Necessary Lies is the story of a poor teenager and her family and the social worker who is supposed to get her sterilized simply because she is poor and deemed too simple to ever life a life outside of the welfare system. There are plenty of books about racism during this time period, but I have never encountered anything that examines relationships between social classes. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, so you get both sides, and I really liked hearing about the social worker's marriage and how she tried to juggle working and being a wife when that was rarely done. This definitely had moments where I didn't want to stop listening.

Halfway through the year and I haven't found too many books that I love enough to shout from the rooftops. I'm currently reading The Nest and just got LaRose as an audiobook, so perhaps one of those will be something I can't get out of my head. Linking up with Steph and Jana so I can see what everyone else has been reading.

Life According to Steph


  1. I also wanted Love to die a grisly death but I still liked Hidden Bodies.

    I'm intrigued by All This Life.

    I do hate when authors don't trust their readers and keep slamming things in your face.

  2. I've added Necessary Lies and I did realize the poor were sterilized in American History. I've heard it mentioned on the local news because NC was sued for taking part in the practice in recent years.

  3. Books with multiple narrators are difficult for me too. Sorry you haven't been too impressed this month, hopefully the link-up will give you some good picks!

  4. you need to read The Cartel. i've been screaming at everybody to go get this right now because it's so freaking amazing. i haven't been able to put this book down at all. in fact, i'm reading this right now at my desk and don't give a shit who sees me, this book is THAT good!

  5. i am the same with multiple povs and such.. honestly, sometimes i get annoyed with something specific or book related and i can't stand it for a few months, and then i'm all about. like lately, i have been really annoyed with series. why is everything a freaking series? i mean, not everything, but i just want a certain kind of book that stands on its own, but all of the books like the one i want to read are part of a series and it makes me cranky.
    necessary lies is on my list, i had no idea that is what it was about though, interesting. Lilac Girls is on my list, i keep going to start it but then changing my mind. but it's netgalley so i really should read it.

  6. I have the same multiple narrator problem, lately. I always lose interest. I still haven't read You yet, although it's on my list.

  7. Multiple POVs are really becoming a tired trend. In some instances it works but in the wrong hands it can grow old quickly or we spend too much time with someone who doesn't matter. Lilac Girls was a questionable read for me but I can't handle the subject matter right now but agree that its important these types of books exist. Necessary Lies sounds intriguing and I"m adding it to my TBR.

  8. Necessary Lies sounds interesting. In my psych seminar in college we did a lot of research into eugenics and learned about sterilization and it's so sad!

  9. Lilac Girls sounds interesting but I'm not sure if I'm in the mood for it these days. I appreciated reading your thoughts on it though. Hope you get some more enjoyable books (for you) soon!!!

  10. I'm reading Lilac Girls and it's oddly heavy. Sarah's Key was the most depressing book ever and that's what they keep comparing it to. I put it down to read something less complex over the weekend.
    I didn't love You, but might read Hidden Bodies if it was right in from of me.

  11. All This Life sounds intriguing. I liked You a lot, but haven't read Hidden Bodies yet. I think multiple POV can be done really well, but it's like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and it gets overused.

  12. Lilac Girls has been on my list to read for awhile and now I am not so sure I want to bother. I am interested to see what you think of The Nest because I have read mixed reviews on it this month and I know you will give it to me straight.

  13. I feel your pain regarding books on hold at the library. I usually get too ambitious and add a ton that I really want to read all at once with the thought, “It’s not like I’ll get these for a while.” (Well, assuming the wait list is pretty long.) Then they all seem to come at once, and I usually end up returning at least one or two without reading them and hopping back on the waiting list. My library does (thankfully!) allow you to pause holds, though, so I’ve been utilizing that feature a lot more these days.

    YES to your review of Hidden Bodies. There were things I enjoyed about the book (and I will say that I disagree with you about Love because I actually mostly liked her), but I hated the Hollywood setting and some of the weird over-the-top things (like what happened in Mexico, for example).

    All This Life and Necessary Lies sound really intriguing … I’m adding them both to my list! What She Knew and Lilac Girls are already on my list, so I’m kind of bummed to see that you didn’t really like them that much. I’m sure I’ll still get around to them at some point, though.

  14. I went to add Necessary Lies to my "to read" list. Yep. Already there. That happens to me ALL the time!

    I didn't like You. I hated Hidden Bodies. You could say that Joe and I have broken up.

  15. I have Lilac Girls from Netgalley, so I'll have to keep in mind that some of the stuff might be pretty tough to read. I'm currently right in the middle of You, and I'm loving it so much! It sounds like pretty much everybody hates the sequel though, so I think that I'll steer clear of it.

  16. I had Dept. of Speculation on my list last year, but kept hearing not very great reviews about it, so for now I definitely think I'll keep skipping over it. Necessary Lies was so good- I keep saying I'm going to read something else by Chamberlain, but haven't yet.


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