Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘The Rock Star in Seat 3A,’ ‘Girls In White Dresses’

The Rock Star in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman
Source: Publisher
Where I stopped: Page 82-ish

The Rock Star in Seat 3A was one of my recent vacation reads, but I quickly regretted bringing so few books. This one was most definitely lacking for me.

The premise: the morning after her thirtieth birthday, narrator Hazel happens to be on a flight seated next to her rock god crush-to-end-all-crushes. Never believing she’d see this guy in the flesh, she’s dumbfounded — but the two have an instant connection, talking the whole time and sharing hopes and dreams, blah blah and so forth. On the surface, this totally works for me; I mean, should I find myself seated next to John Mayer en route to L.A., I’d be fixing my makeup and practicing my most alluring small talk. The opportunities to live vicariously through Rock Star are very appealing.

But what I found in Kargman’s novel was an awkward, unpolished manuscript desperately in need of an editor to whip it into shape and tone down the language. Look, I’m not a prude — but Hazel couldn’t seem to have one conversation without cursing to beat the band. It wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t cute. Plus, the writing was all tell, no show — and therefore boring.

It’s a slim book and a quick read, though. I could have finished it on my own plane ride . . . but I fell asleep.

Other thoughts:
Toothy Books
Leeswammes’ Blog
Chick Lit Central

Girls In White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Source: Audio borrowed from library
Where I stopped: Disc four

Even with its awkward and interchangeable characters, I was willing to stick it out with Girls In White Dresses — especially since it had been heralded as representing the quintessential 20-something struggle to launch and create a fulfilling life, especially in our turbulent times.

But what I found were irritating characters in whom I saw little and expected nothing. Yes, “everyone” our age seems to be getting married and having kids; yes, it’s easy to feel left out and frightened we’re failing. Failing at life. Had these issues been explored through less obnoxious and superficial characters, Girls In White Dresses may have resonated with me. Goodness knows I’ve felt that way myself. But as it stood, this audio version was returned to the library unfinished . . . and without a trace of guilt. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Other thoughts:
Cover To Cover
S. Krishna’s Books
Book Addiction

Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘Falling Together’ and ‘My Name Is Memory’

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
Where I stopped: Page 110

Having read and loved Marisa de los Santos’ first two novels, I eagerly anticipated grabbing Falling Together. While the plot was slow-moving and cumbersome at times — even confusing — it’s impossible not to appreciate the lyrical quality of her writing. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to redeem this one for me.

Though the novel is ostensibly about three best friends who have drifted apart since their tender college days, Falling Together focuses mainly on Pen, a wounded single mother working to maintain an amicable relationship with her ex for the sake of their child. Having recently lost her father, Pen is a walking open wound. She bravely pretends to have forgotten about Will and Cat, her beloved college friends, but her split from them was worse than any pain she felt in love. Pen grieves as much for her father as she does for the loss of Cat and Will.

Here’s my main issue with Falling Together: the tension between the three friends feels so melodramatic and forced. We spend pages upon pages waiting for an explosive reason for the dissolution of their almost obsessive bond with one another, but it never comes. Or, rather, it’s just a let-down. Pen and her issues grated heavily on my nerves as she reconnects with Will, someone she’s so obviously in love with, and I found myself growing really frustrated with her. Plus, it was hard to understand the dynamic between them. An outsider jokes once about them being in a three-person romantic relationship, and there was some sort of unsettling vibe there I couldn’t shake. Not even by the end.

The action picks up in the latter half of the novel as several characters go on a hunt for a missing member, but it wasn’t enough to save Falling Together for me. Marisa de los Santos crafts lovely prose, but her characters here were enough to set my teeth on edge. If you’re new to her books, I recommend Belong To Me. It moved me to tears.

Other thoughts:
S. Krishna’s Books
The Book Chick
Jenny’s Books

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
Where I stopped: Audio disc three

Chalk this up to bad timing or awful narrators. Whichever you choose, I couldn’t pop My Name Is Memory out of my car’s stereo fast enough. To begin, I felt the audio narrators weren’t appropriate choices, age-wise; I know Daniel is supposed to have been alive for thousands of years, etc. and so forth, but the point at which both he and Lucy are interacting as teenagers makes him sound like a creeper.

Okay, that’s harsh. But true. When we got through the awkward moment where Daniel appears in a darkened room after a stabbing at a school dance (?) and he’s all, Look at me, I’m lurking here. And btw, I love you. Even though we never talk and you have no idea who I am, I thought things would improve. Alas — they just got incredibly boring after that. By the time Daniel was recounting crazy stuff that happened back in the time of Christ or something, I was mentally checked out. Not interested in a long-winded history lesson, thanks.

Would I have enjoyed this one more had I read it in print? Doubtful. I probably wouldn’t have even made it as far as I did with a borrowed audio version.

Other thoughts:
Belle’s Bookshelf
At Home With Books
The Girl From The Ghetto

Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘The Ninth Wife,’ ‘Comfort Food’ and ‘This Must Be The Place’

The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
Where I stopped: Page 36

Something about this book rubbed me wrong from the beginning — and as sad as this is to admit, I can’t really tell you what it was. It wasn’t any one thing, I guess, but a culmination of things — and I just had a feeling that, as a heroine, Bess and I weren’t going to get along. Plus, it’s a big book and I guess I was just feeling lazy. As time marches on and my bookcases fill up, I’m getting more discriminatory about the books with which I spend time. And, I’m sad to say, this one felt like a slog.

Other views:
Cat’s Thoughts
Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
Where I stopped: Page 53

I love foodie fiction. Books with cupcakes, breakfast or dinners on the cover usually go on my “to be read” stack immediately, and I’ve had Comfort Food hanging out in my bookcase for quite a while. Though I wanted to give Jacobs my Stern Angry Face over the ending of The Friday Night Knitting Club, a novel that was quite the hit a few years back, I overlooked my anger and snagged a copy of this one from BookMooch.

And I don’t know. Again — I just don’t know. If a book is giving me a cold, “meh” feeling after 50 pages, I’ve decided I really need to throw in the towel. As a main character, Gus came off as condescending and slightly holier-than-thou, despite her working-class background and hardships. I wanted to like her and her daughters, but something about them all just screamed “elitist” and annoying to me. I set this one down and haven’t looked back.

Other views:
Bitchin’ In The Kitchen With Rosie
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia
Where I stopped: Page 41

After just about 40 pages, I decided this one was just too sad to continue. It’s not the fault of Racculia’s writing, which I found fresh and witty. And it’s not the fault of her characters, which seemed unique and quirky enough to be interesting.

It’s just the “fault” of the plot, I guess — the fault that my heart was already breaking for Arthur and I’m fragile most days and I just didn’t think I could handle this one. Plus, I guessed Amy’s secret from the onset — then read ahead to see if I was right. And I was. And once I had that knowledge, I had to set this one aside.

Other views:
Books and Movies
Always With A Book
Reading For Sanity

Did-not-finish mini reviews: ‘Staying At Daisy’s’ and ‘You Were Wrong’

Jill Mansell’s Staying At Daisy’s
Where I stopped reading: Page 52

So I’m a huge Jill Mansell fan. Her wit always shines through in her fiction, which is decidedly (and gloriously) British chick lit. But Staying At Daisy’s, originally published in 2002 and now reprinted by the lovely folks at Sourcebooks, just wasn’t working for me.

Here we have Daisy, a young divorcee running the hotel owned by her father. Still smarting from the demise of her relationship, she’s thrown herself into her work and friendships — and that brings her to some steady hours at the hotel.

I guess that, with so many books lining my shelves, I was probably too quick to give up on this one in favor of another — especially considering how much I loved Mansell’s Millie’s Fling and Rumor Has It. Still, I found the opening pages to be a struggle and the length was daunting. Once I realized I hadn’t become invested and had the vast majority of the book to go, I threw in the towel. But I still love you, Jill — and will try again with one of her others.

If you’re  new to Mansell, I highly recommend Millie’s Fling — nothing has dethroned it as one of my favorite chick lit novels of all time.

Other views:
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Life In The Thumb
Minding Spot

Matthew Sharpe’s You Were Wrong
Where I stopped reading: Page 40

From the opening paragraph informing me that Karl Floor “had had a hard life,” I had a sinking suspicion that the two of us wouldn’t be getting along well. Sharpe’s quirky novel is about a stifled, boring teacher and the beautiful “robber” who enters his home, informs him that she’s taking stuff — but can’t leave without chatting with him first.

I got about 40 pages into this one before flipping to the end, slightly annoyed by the pretentious writing style and seeming lack of plot. As I originally worried, Karl wasn’t a guy I liked, felt for or cheered on — and Sylvia, Karl’s robber, wasn’t any better.

I didn’t really know what to make of this one. It’s short, yes, and would probably be one read quickly. But I made nothing of it, putting it down in favor of something else. Didn’t work for me.

Other views:
Largehearted Boy
Los Angeles Times
Shelley The Book Snob

Did-not-finish mini reviews: ‘The Book Of Tomorrow’ and ‘Salting Roses’

Cecelia Ahern’s The Book Of Tomorrow
Where I stopped: Page 151

Having read (and enjoyed) Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End years ago, I was looking forward to reading this story of a spoiled teen’s conversion to a quieter life after her father’s death. Not long after arriving with her grief-stricken mother to her aunt and uncle’s house in the Irish countryside, Tamara discovers a journal written in her own handwriting — and detailing the events of the following day. Day after day. Shocked out of her mind when her diary’s “predictions” begin to come true, Tamara struggles to find out why she’s been given this new glimpse at life . . . and what to do with it.

The premise sounded great — and Ahern is such a popular author. That being said, I made it about halfway through this one before realizing I couldn’t care less about any of the characters and felt like the book was one giant circle . . . we kept repeating the same plot points over and over. Once I realize I have no emotional investment in a novel, the book is killed for me. And this one? Abandoned.

Other views:
Barbara Ann
Badass Bookie
Stories & Sweeties

Lorelle Marinello’s Salting Roses
Where I stopped: Page 56

Sucked in by the gorgeous cover, I opened this one with a hopeful bubble rising in my chest. Gracie is a Southern belle abandoned at birth who, on her twenty-fifth birthday, discovers she’s actually the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy Yankee — and, considering her biological father’s recent passing, there’s $650 million with her name on it. A P.I. arrives in small town Shady Grove, Ala., to break the news, and from there it’s a whirlwind of scheming relatives, tabloid journalists and chaos.

Another novel that couldn’t grab me. Gracie seems like a hopelessly naive young woman who initially turns down her inheritance, fearing that money ruins people, but Marinello’s plot meandered along and confused me. I spent the first 30 pages trying to figure out who all these people were and what their connection was to Gracie — which just frustrates me. If the book had been written from Gracie’s actual perspective — in her own, unique voice — I might have latched on better. As it stands, the third-person omniscient point of view left me feeling detached.

Other views:
The Literate Housewife
The Calico Critic

Miniature reviews: Four books I haven’t finished and may abandon forever

Let’s chalk it up to the holidays. Between wrapping, buying, eating and visiting, I’ve found myself with very little time to read — and what I have been picking up? Well, nothing has grabbed my attention or heartstrings. Even Bet Me, which I’m almost halfway through, is not clicking with me. A few miniature reviews, but bear in mind that I’m probably in the minority of readers by abandoning (most) of these!

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me
Where I stopped: Page 147

Okay, I feel bad about this one. Every review I’ve ever read for a Crusie novel has recommended Bet Me has her best and most enjoyable work and, after finishing Maybe This Time, I was intrigued. Plus, the reviews have all been stellar. It’s the story of Min, a “healthy” (read: chubby) actuary, and the man who made a bet that he could escort her out of a dingy bar: Cal, a womanizing businessman with a serious desire to please others.

It’s funny, light and humorous — but something turned me off here. Maybe it’s all the really, really annoying talk about Cal feeding Min and how she gets this “rapturous” look on her face when she bites into a donut. Um? I know the girl is starving herself to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress for her annoying little sister’s wedding, but come on. Donuts? Really?

Plus, I still feel like it’s a big joke somehow. Cal seems hot, but still like a jerk. And there’s constant talk about Min being plain, ordinary, non-descript, heavy, etc., and I think — is this a prank? Is the bet really still on? Cal doesn’t think it is, but obviously . . . it is. Plus, the constant shoe talk irks me. We’re supposed to believe our girl is in a black pantsuit that makes her look like a boxy reverend but she’s wearing high, clear heels with cherries or flowers or something on them? Did she get dressed in the dark?


Deborah Wiles’ Countdown
Where I stopped: Page 139

Takes place at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, which is about fifteen minutes from me — and a place I’ve driven past ten thousand times. With a local angle and awesome time period — the 1950s, when the Cold War touched everything and threats of nuclear attack were commonplace fears — I fully expected to love this one. Kathy at Bermuda Onion gave it a glowing review, and Lord knows I take her opinion seriously.

Maybe I was too old to identify with 12-year-old protagonist Fanny? I don’t want to believe that’s what it was, and yet . . . I don’t know. Another disconnect. It’s a fast read and one that I was originally fascinated by, but somewhere along the line I started picking up other novels rather than crack Countdown open again. And then I was going too long between pages, forgetting what happened, realizing I was ambivalent, etc.

But with an average rating of 4.12 on Goodreads and many glowing reviews, I’m obviously missing something.

Joyce Maynard’s The Good Daughters
Where I stopped: Page 37

I was bored. Really bored. I guess other people were, too, though reviews were mixed — with plenty of positive ones in there, too. I stopped reading this one in November and can’t tell you much about it, other than I recall it was about two daughters — friends — who grew up in the same town and in different families, and somehow it was . . . all connected? And there was a tornado? I don’t know. I just . . . am not sure.

Rosy Thornton’s The Tapestry Of Love
Where I’ve paused: Page 77

I’m cheating by including this one here, because I’m not actually giving up on this one. Thornton is a skilled writer and I really enjoyed Crossed Wires, her previous novel — plus, as I mentioned, Amanda really dug this one. I’m enjoying a look at one British woman’s adjustment to France, but I haven’t yet discovered what made her run away from busy life in England.

As much as I’m enjoying the plot and Catherine’s talks with her neighbors and acclimation to the French village she now calls home, there’s an emotional component missing. I haven’t identified with Catherine or her plight, and nothing has happened to endear her — or anyone else — to me. That’s usually my biggest issue with a book I’ve abandoned: I don’t feel close to any of the characters we’re focusing on.

I’m taking a short break on this one to pick up some novels for the Indie Lit Awards, and plan on returning to The Tapestry Of Love later in January.

Mini reviews — or, hey, I’ll never finish this book! Vol. 3

It’s time again to catalogue the books I’ve tried to read — and I mean really, really tried — but just couldn’t stomach in the end. It’s just a personal preference, friends; my massive dislike of these books may translate to a total romantic love affair for you.

But as it stands? They’re on my bad list. Or, you know, my “could not finish” list.

Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
Where I stopped: page 104

Oh, Laurie Notaro . . . Laurie Notaro. Why are you doing this to me? I’m completely obsessed with your memoirs, which are easily some of the funniest things I’ve ever read in my life — but your novels? They’re just dry. Drier than pork chops. I hate pork chops. And I really disliked this book.

I picked up Spooky Little Girl without even a vague idea of the plot, which turned out to be a mistake — because hey, this was weird. Lucy has recently come home from a vacation to find all her worldly possessions tossed out on her front lawn — and her fiance, or ex-fiance, is nowhere to be found. After moving in with her sister, Lucy has a particularly bad day . . . when she’s suddenly killed and winds up in purgatory. Or is it? Nope — it’s Ghost School, and Lucy is expected to be a star pupil. She winds up there, some stuff happens, I get confused . . . and put the book down.

After reading more than 100 pages, this just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Plus? Well, it was morbid. Attending your own funeral — a funeral which no one, including your recent ex-fiance, attends? Ghost school? Dead people in general? Meh. I don’t know. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood. Though it sounds like if I’d stuck with the book I could have been introduced to Lucy’s funny, fresh grandmother, I couldn’t make it that far.

The third-person perspective also failed to move me, thereby strengthening my prejudice against any novel not told with an “I” voice. I want to feel the feelings; I want to be the character. I’m selfish and want an all-access pass to someone’s brain. Unless done incredibly well, third-person narration just doesn’t work for me.

Currently, it has an average score of 3.59/5 on Goodreads based on 374 ratings.

Other takes:
S. Krishna’s Books (4.5/5 stars)
HuntingtownNews.net (positive)
Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews (positive)

Secret Lives Of Husbands And Wives by Josie Brown
Where I stopped: page 81

Picked up at the Book Blogger Convention this year, I was initially eager to tackle Brown’s women’s fiction novel. That enthusiasm quickly faded, however, as I was struck down by my most dreaded of all literary problems: Too Many Characters-itis.

I’ve complained about it many times. When you bombard me with too many women who are way too similar, I can’t discern one from the other — and I quickly lose interest. If I feel like I have to make a map and scrawl attributes next to each name, I’m going to get annoyed. And then? And then I stop reading the book. Not always, sure, but this time — I couldn’t stomach it.

I started this book more than a month ago and plowed through more than 80 pages before I gave up. It was obvious exactly where it was going, and I had no vested interest in any of the characters I was currently spending time with. The bit of “mystery” surrounding one man’s divorce in Paradise Heights, an uppity California neighorhood, was no real mystery to me — and, when I was sure I wouldn’t be finishing this one, I flipped to the epilogue. And everything I’d guessed from the beginning? Yep. True. All true. If I’d stuck with it, I can’t help but feel like I would have wasted my time.

Currently, it has an average score of 3.81/5 on Goodreads based on 54 ratings.

Other takes:
Amy Reads (2.5/5 stars)
So Many Books, So Little Time (3.5/5 stars)