Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Not You, It's Me: Vol. 1

Welcome to my new feature!  I thought I'd start out with some books from 2011 that I never got around to posting about for one reason or another--hope you find something to enjoy!

A Powell's Books Indiespensable selection in 2011, Bright Before Us had many components that should have made it a good fit for me:
  - a descent into paranoia & disillusionment
  - the idea of lost soul mates & the complexity of marriage
  - navigating trauma in adults and children

Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for me, mostly because the main character really bugged me.  I didn't sympathize with him, and wasn't curious about his story at all.  Additionally, the beginning was confusing to me--somehow I didn't realize that there were actually 2 female characters.  Whoops.  It all made SO much more sense once I realized that the dude's wife wasn't also his childhood sweetheart.  Duh.

Right, so...if the above ideas sound interesting, if you keep in mind that Francis' wife is not Norah, and you don't mind the occasional irritating character, check this new author out!

About a year ago, The Weird Sisters hit the shelves, and I was excited about the prospect of reading a story about a family of readers.  The girls were named after Shakespeare characters for goodness' sake--it's got to be good!

My issues?  1: The pov didn't work for me.  I've enjoyed plural-first-person in other books, but this one had too few characters & it was awkward.  2: I guess I really don't have any idea what it's like to have sisters, because the cattiness really got on my nerves.  3: The ending was a bit too tidy--I didn't think that it was wrapped up entirely realistically, and that made the characters seem more like tools than people.

BUT, if you are in the mood for a sweet little read about some modern women with Shakespearean names and don't care to get all critical like me, then give it a shot.  A good vacation read methinks.
With The Bride's House,  I had to wish a one-time favorite author farewell.  We simply don't see eye to eye any longer.  Perhaps we've both changed, but the heartwarming-heartbreak that I enjoyed in her earlier books has evaporated.

Part of the problem here was the number of main characters.  The story line is meant to revolve around the house, (interesting idea,) so the fact that we see 3 generations pass through it should further that idea, not detract from it; but I was left feeling that none of the characters were fully developed.

Actually, I take that back.  I loved the first character and was really stinking irritated when she only got 1/3 of the book.  I didn't give a flying flapjack for the other two girls.  I wish I could request a rewrite.  Ms. Dallas probably wouldn't appreciate that very much though, would she?
A Pulitzer Prize winner in the Fiction category for 2005, Gilead is a book that I was supposed to like.
  • Pulitzer?  (check) 
  • Character driven? (check)
  • Reflective/Introspective? (check)
  • Beautifully & Skillfully written? (check)
So what went wrong?  I was bored.  Everything took so looong (which was actually pretty realistic since it was narrated by an old man.) The parts I like the most were quotes like this:
There should be a law to prevent recipes for molded salad from appearing within twenty pages of any article having to do with religion.
Funny, right?  Or, maybe, more funny because the rest of the book was so even keel.  It was interesting and poetic, but we didn't connect.  In some ways made me think of Tinker (a more recent Pultizer Prize winner) except that Gilead took me longer to read.  Much longer.  So in the end, hmmm...it was alright.  Well-written, but just okay.

7 comments:

  1. Sadly, I will have a "just didn't work for me" post coming up. I had my first DNF of 2012. Ugg!

    Glad you posted these. Was not a fan of Gilead either.

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  2. I loved The Weird Sisters but I have sisters and I get that cattiness just fine. Thinking much the same about Dallas.

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  3. I like the new feature! I haven't been able to really get into any Contemporary fiction. I need to catch my eye on something fun--soon. I'm kind of curious to see if you'll like Night Circus. I haven't read it.

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  4. Andi, luckily I haven't had a DNF yet this year--that's no fun. We discussed Gilead for book club last night and the younger people had a harder time getting through it...makes me think it's the type of book that takes a certain frame of mind or place in life.

    Belle, one of my book clubs read Weird Sisters, and those of us without sisters felt that it was a little unrealistic, but those with sisters could really identify. :)

    Heidi, I finished it last night but since it's on the Indie Lit Awards short list, I'm not supposed to let my opinions loose until March. :( I hope that you find something to fit the bill. I'm in one of those phases where all books look irresistible (hoping it lasts).

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  5. I didn't enjoy The Weird Sisters either. Agreed that the ending was way too tidey and the pov did not work. It can be executed correctly (ie Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris) but Brown really didn't pull through. I also felt like the who Shakespeare aspect was thrown in to lure bookworms to read the novel, because it didn't feel like it fit in.

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  6. I don't think it was just you in terms of Gilead. I rarely ditch books after I've read them but that's one that I knew I would never be able to tackle again. SO SLOW!!! I noticed your comment to Andi--agree that maybe it's better suited for people of a different generation. ;)

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  7. Brenna I agree on both counts. I liked the plural 1st person in The Fates Will Find Their Way, but there were a lot more than 3 characters in the "we".

    Trish, Gilead was so slow that it feels like an accomplishment: I keep it so that I can say I read it. ;)

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