Mini reviews — or, hey, I’ll never finish this book! Vol. 2

Everyone has their certain level of “tolerance” for books that just aren’t grabbing their attention. While I’m not the “I absolutely must finish this novel, no matter what!” type, I’m always hesitant to drop a novel like a bad habit.

But sometimes, it must be done.

I usually give the novel a solid 50 pages or so. If by that point, I’m fighting the urge to slam the stupid thing against a wall or can barely keep my eyelids open while wading through the dense or terrible writing, I just have to call uncle. And while I’ve definitely finished my share of bad books, I have my limits.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Where I stopped: page 70

I know this one is going to land me in some hot water, mostly because just about every review I’ve read of the novel has been positive. Bloggers I greatly respect have called it one of their favorites of the year, and to that end, I ask . . . did we read the same book?

So far, I’ve found the overtones regarding the Mr. Dodgson/Lewis Carroll friendship with the Liddell girls to be totally creepy and alarming, and I think that might have been the point . . . but I just couldn’t get past that unsettled feeling in my stomach. Seriously, ick. Beyond that, I didn’t connect with any of the characters and felt awkward and sad for Pricks, the Liddell sisters’ teacher/caretaker.

Jen told me if I could tough it out past the chapters regarding Alice’s childhood, things would get better, but . . . I just couldn’t do it, friends. I just didn’t care. I borrowed this one from the library; it’s in the backseat of my Corolla, waiting to be returned. And I only feel a slight bit of remorse about that.

But on a positive note! Reviews elsewhere:
S. Krishna’s Books
Devourer Of Books
Good Books & Wine
Bookworm With A View

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
Where I stopped: page 30

Sweet Lord. After the opening chapter of this British novel, I felt like I could burrow my head under a sea of blankets and never come out. And not in a good way.

Just . . . depressing. There isn’t much more to say than that. From the opening chapter detailing a pouring rain that soaks the London suburb of Arlington Park to the introduction of our main (bitterly unhappy) couple, I couldn’t find anything redeeming here to make me continue reading. I was bored — BORED — and found my mind wandering to anywhere but the page in front of me, and after I’d re-read the same paragraph three or four times — and failed to grasp any meaning from it? I called it quits.

I’ll also point out that while the book was a hit with critics, it ultimately failed to move readers — especially if the low LibraryThing score and negative commentary there is any indication. Basically, it was pedantic and, as a reader, I felt like Cusk was trying to pull one over on me with the dense prose and condescending tone. Next!

But on a positive note! Reviews elsewhere:
catching days

16 thoughts on “Mini reviews — or, hey, I’ll never finish this book! Vol. 2

  1. I was really excited to read the Alice book but after reading a few reviews I’m not so sure that it’s something I need to rush to read or even want to read.


  2. The blog Vulpes Libris also had a negative review of Alice I Have Been recently. It didn’t sound like my kind of book from the get-go, though I wondered about it when, like you, I kept seeing positive reviews everywhere. I will pass on it though.


  3. I just started listening to Alice I Have Been last night while loading the dishwasher. I was having a hard time getting into it. It could be because my two children chose that time to ask every question they had saved up from the whole day. I am not giving up quite yet, as I give a bit more wiggle room to a questionable audio than an iffy book. I am hoping that I am on the liking side, since a good audio makes yucky chores go by faster. Sorry you didn’t like it.


  4. I finished it and really enjoyed it, but as you know, I thought like you that Mr. Dodgson was a little creepy. However, I think Melanie Benjamin did a great job of taking actual facts and controversies surrounding him and his relationship with the Lidells girls and make it into a story. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you though.

    After those two books, I hope you found something to enjoy to read!


  5. Thanks for linking my review! I agree about Dodgeson being creepy, but I sort of felt that was the point. I guess we’ve all got our tolerance levels for different things, ya know?

    I do hope you find an awesome book to read 😀


  6. i admire your strength and ability to ‘quit books’. i’m such a willful idiot that i plow through books even if they are intolerable. i have no idea why i waste my time like that…i guess it’s the family compulsive gene rearing its head. hahah. i’ve only broken up with two books ever: house of leaves and the book thief. i feel awful about the book thief, so bad in fact that i made it my 2010 resolution to finally READ IT. everyone loves it. what’s wrong with me??


  7. Okay, I don’t know what I hit, but I swear it wasn’t the submit button. Anyhoosie, “sweet lord” and “boring” pretty much sum up my feelings about Melville.


  8. Meg, what a great idea to offer your readers posts that present a different opinion on a book you’ve read. And thanks for the mention of my post on Arlington Park, a book that you know I loved. It’s nice to know about your blog.


  9. I purchased “Alice I Have Been” (a decision I may regret after reading your mini-review). Later this month I’ll give it a try. Aloha from Rob


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