Did-not-finish book thoughts: ‘Longbourn,’ ‘Dressmaker’

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker
Source: Borrowed from library
Where I stopped: Audio disc 5 (of 11?)

Dull. There’s just no other way for me to describe my experience with this one. I went into it with high hopes, expecting a cross between Pride & Prejudice and “Downton Abbey,” and I suppose that’s what I got . . . but I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm for Longbourn.

I didn’t need a damp-shirted Darcy skipping between the pages or anything, but the lack of page time for the Bennets was disappointing. Putting that aside, I just wasn’t interested in housemaid Sarah, the mysterious James or the formidable Mrs. Hill. If I’d stuck it out a little longer, I may have been rewarded with a wee bit of romance . . . but when I found my mind drifting repeatedly while listening to the audio book, I knew it was time to cave.

Sorry, Longbourn; I barely knew ye, but I didn’t like what I knew.

Other thoughts:
Dear Author

Dressmaker Khair The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Source: Borrowed from library
Where I stopped: Audio disc 3 (of 7?)

Another doomed audio! Non-fiction centering on a brave, entrepreneurial woman in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan, I thought this one would be an interesting and inspiring read (listen?) last fall.

Unfortunately, I never emotionally connected with the principle players — and the audio book’s narrator had a distracting, WASP-ish accent that didn’t mesh at all with the strong-willed women she described. I might have enjoyed this one better in print, but I doubt I’ll take that chance.

Other thoughts:
Booking Mama
Reading on a Rainy Day

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

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)