Thursday, March 5, 2015

a trio of book reviews from "meh" to "nah"

It’s that time again, book review time!  I do hope that regular readers enjoy the reviews and readers who stumbled on looking for the specific book find their efforts rewarded.  I’ll admit I’m writing these in the midst of a “winter funk,” but it’s sadly a low scoring bunch.

One of the most widely read novels of 2014, Gone Girl introduces us to several fascinating characters.  After losing his writing job (bc papers are failing) Nick recently moved back to the small town on the Mississippi River where he grew up. His wife, a New Yorker through and through, is definitely displeased.  One day, Amy disappears.  Nick is eyed. There are lawyers, the press, a scavenger hunt, a diary.  While there is certainly action, the heart of the book is more of a character study, a look at modern marriage, the lies we tell even ourselves, violence and, of course, justice.

I found the psychological questions interesting but I’m a character-gal and, while rounded out and complex, the characters left a lot to be desired.  I don’t need to love all my characters, but some of these pushed me too far.  Further, I need to at least care what happens to the characters and I simply didn’t.  Still, there were intriguing “folds” to the characters that showed Flynn is a student of the human race. 

Three stars.  Not recommended for anyone too squeamish or who needs a book to have a hero and a rainbow.  Fits the mold of a psychological thriller and I don’t think it gives anything away to say it is something of a study in evil.

Middle aged sisters Lady, Vee, and Delp are planning a triple suicide to occur on 12/31/99, a fact we learn pretty early on in the book.  They tell us they come from a family of suicides, pointing the finger to one relative whose sins are being taken out on his descendants.  That relative abandoned Judaism because his love for Germany was stronger. He ultimately invented a process for creating synthetic fertilizer, a project that also led to the chlorine gas used on soldiers in WWI (he watched it do the work of many guns) and in the death camps of WWII, a gas later blamed for much of global warming.

Readers learn about some of the other relatives and about the sisters themselves through a joint suicide note-in-progress.  Vee is battling a recurring cancer and is in constant pain.  Of the women, she’s the only one to make a happy match in love, although that too has its tragedy.  Delph hides from the world beneath a mass of hair, only truly feeling free during a span of time partying with gay men, one of whom is probably her true love (from her side).  Lady is the eldest and is devoted to the boss she’s having an affair with after having had a bad marriage.  While distinct, the sisters are at the same time one entity.  They come home to each other, pad around their rent-controlled apartment with wine in hand, and often seem to have no interest in the world around them, although the truth is more complicated.  Their wit helps lighten a generally dark tome.

This novel had potential, but I don’t think it was realized.  I enjoy dark humor, which abounds. I did feel compelled to read, but not always in a good way…more like a mountain I was determined to climb.  Three out of five stars…..points for originality and scattered pieces of interesting tales among others that were kind of dull.  Advance reader copy supplied by publisher in return for honest review.

Meet Kitty, an independent and quirky woman who co-owns a small bookshop with her best friend in Denver in the early 1960s.  She paints her bedroom a cheery bright yellow, eagerly anticipates a daily note from her mother who is on an extended trip to Hawaii, and acts like she’s given up on love but is a hopeless romantic at heart.  When she falls asleep she enters a dream world, one set apart in Sliding Doors fashion by just one altered moment that makes a world of difference.  Here she’s Katherine, wife and devoted mother navigating a busy social scene that is notably missing some of the most important people in Kitty’s world.  Katherine’s story includes a bit of a twist that provides insight into some major societal changes over the past 50-ish years.

I wanted to like this so much more than I did.  It had some interesting themes and touched on some issues of major significance but still felt a bit too “fluffy.”  I wanted a bit more seriousness than I got and major elements simply didn’t feel realistic (ex. Katherine’s all-too-perfect husband).  While I try not to judge a book solely by its ending, the conclusion to this one was a sharp disappointment that clouds my opinion.  Two (maybe 2.5 since I didn’t struggle to finish it like most two star books) stars (of five).  “Chic lit” with a gloss on some serious issues.  Advance reader copy supplied by publisher in return for honest review.