Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Start Out Smart, End On Brain-numbing

I went on yet another vacation last week.  I know, I know...I'm super lucky blah blah blah...

Anyway, I was heading to a gorgeous lake in Northern Minnesota where I planned to do nothing but eat, drink, sunbathe, and read.  In the week before I left, I felt the urge to read something a bit more respected.  Something the complete opposite of what I intended to read on my vacation...no offense to beach reads but lets be real, "respected" and "beach read" don't tend to be used in the same sentence.

Enter: The Odds by Stewart O'Nan.
Short and very well reviewed, I figured it was the perfect time to squeeze it in.  It was a lovely book.  Art and Marion Fowler are a long married couple on the verge of collapse.  They are facing bankruptcy and the demise of their marriage.  They've returned to the sight of their honeymoon, Niagra Falls, in order to win enough on roulette to save their home and, in Art's mind, give their marriage one last try.  The short chapters are filled with missed opportunities and unspoken grievances on both parts.  I felt a dull pain reading about Art's longing to win Marion back and her seeming lack of interest.  Being a lousy gambler, I also felt anxiety at the prospect of them losing all of their money and their future along with it. Many reviewers before me have pointed out the symbology of the falls and gambling in relation to the Fowler's life...I get it.  It's fairly obvious when you think about it...but it doesn't glare at you while reading.  It's the pit in your stomach instead of the screaming migraine.

I won't spoil the ending but I will say that I was disappointed.  I thought sitting on it for a day or two would help but I don't think my disappointment has lessened.  This is one of those books where I'd like an update on their future.  I did love the simplicity, sadness, and hope in this book though.  It was still worth it.

It reminds me of By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair...although, not nearly as heart-wrenching, The Odds will definitely be the dull ache you feel for days after.

Immediately after finishing this book, I took on the task of reading The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay for a LJ review.  I haven't actually written my review yet but I think it can be summed up by saying it reminded me quite a bit of State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  I say this in the best way possible.  I loved State of Wonder.  I think The Map of Lost Memories will be a good recommendation for those looking for something similar.

This is where things start to go downhill.  Where I start to feel like a dirty, trampy librarian. This is the point where I started reading brainless beach crap.

Enter: Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis (otherwise known as written by David Ellis but James Patterson slapped his name on it for money purposes (?)) and Home Front by Kristin Hannah.

Let's be clear, I feel much less guilt for reading the Kristin Hannah book than I do the Patterson et al book.

Jolene Zarkades is a stay at home mom with a side job as a helicopter pilot in the National Guard.  Her husband, Michael, is a very-busy-never-home lawyer.  Their marriage is also falling apart and shortly after a blowup fight, Jolene is told that she is being deployed to Iraq.  Long story short, she ends up being wounded overseas and returns home not only with devastating injuries but to a marriage she isn't sure will continue.  Kristin Hannah consistently writes books featuring families in turmoil, a little bit of romance, and just a itsy bitsy bit of smut.  Meaning- there are a couple low level swear words and maybe one almost steamy sex scene that lasts about half a page.  I've always compared her to Jodi Picoult in the family drama way but now I'm starting to think she's more like Nicholas Sparks.  Really, either comparison is fairly accurate.  I don't have a major problem with Home Front...it was pretty much what I was expecting but I did find it fairly preachy on the military front.  I guess that was to be expected as it's largely a military themed book but I started feeling like I was reading about the author's political views...which I find intrusive.  Not Kristin Hannah's best, not her worst.  I'll probably pick up the next one when I need another simple read.

Yup. I read it.  At first, I didn't even feel bad about it.  It was moving along at the fast Patterson clip and it was set in Monte Carlo.  Add in some women blowing through some cash and low morals, I'm indulging like it's wavy Lays and french onion dip...greasy, guilt inducing, and definitely not healthy for any part of you.  But whatever. About 2/3 of the way in was when I started to realize I'd made a craptastic decision.  The "wives" have been framed for the murder of the president of France seemingly by their husbands.  The majority of the book focuses on Abbie Elliot, the one wife who didn't give up and is determined to prove her innocence.  Being as she spends the majority of the book in jail, this means that most pages are filled with stories of how the warden is trying to take her down or the guards are attacking her.  This is interesting for approximately 20 pages but brutally repetitive after the 200th page.  Shocker- she breaks out of jail, runs around figuring out who the killers are, and narrowly escapes being caught until a detective in charge manages to put the pieces together himself.  Blah blah blah.  Thank god for the short chapters because I was ready to be done with this book about 100 pages before it actually ended.  I don't have a problem with James Patterson books in general. The ones that he is the sole author of tend to be fairly entertaining.  It's not Pulitzer worthy material but usually a good quick thriller. I've just come to feel like his co-authored books are simply a way for the other author to get recognition/published. I'll stick with my opinion-- if you aren't good enough to get published on your own, you probably just aren't that good! That same opinion goes with self published books.

Anyway, I'm now back at work and trying to get back in the swing of serious reading.  I think the fact that I checked out Melissa Rycroft's memoir (remember her? of Bachelor/Bachelorette fame?) signals that I'm not quite there yet.  But next on the list is MWF seeking BFF: My yearlong search for a new best friend by Rachel Bertsche.  I'll let you know if I learned anything!  Or maybe I won't because I'll be busy hanging out with my new bestie....

p.s. Read By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair. It's amazing.  It will break your heart completely but it's worth every minute.

No comments: