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review 2017-01-16 19:11
Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend
Enchanted Islands: A Novel - Allison Amend

From the Tournament of Books longlist.

 

What a hot mess. Judging from reviews on Amazon, I'm in the minority with that opinion, but I found it difficult to follow protagonist Frances Conway's arc through the story. There's a huge gap between her 16 and 50-something year-old selves, decades briefly highlighted, and the two did not connect for me. Frances/Fanny goes from naive teenager to something of a resigned spinster in few pages. I never quite caught up from that whiplash.

 

The novel spans Frances's whole life, from child of Jewish immigrants in Minnesota, to Chicago with her best frenemy, Rosalie, to a farm in Nebraska, then onto California where she works at the Office of Naval Intelligence peri-WWII and is eventually asked to marry officer Ainslie Conway and move with him to the Galapagos Islands, where there are an awful lot of Germans (an awful lot for such a small, wild place), to engage in spycraft. The book's title indicates that this period will be the story's focus, but it comes in much later than expected. The first third or so of the novel therefore feels like it's treading water as we follow Frances and Rosalie's friendship, their "break-up," and reunion years later in San Francisco. I wish the book had been either larger, to more fully explore Frances's journey, or shorter, narrowing in on the time on the Galapagos.

 

I never came to care much for any of the characters or to get a grip on Frances and her shifting emotions. Add to that some cliche prose (though, judging by the highlights, often the very moments other readers found profound) and bizarre, unbelievable (even when true) additions to the plot, such as FDR's non-appearance of an appearance and the fact that, oh, by the way, Frances wrote some books (Enchanted Islands is based on a real person who did in fact live on the Galapagos and write about her time there, a fact which I learned only after completing the novel and doesn't excuse the haphazard way in which her writing is introduced), and you have a novel that I periodically considered dropping. Each time I'd think, "But I've already read this far, and I want to get to the Galapagos," or, "I want to see how this spy stuff plays out and what happens with Frances and Ainslie." I should have trusted my instincts and quit after the second eyeroll.

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text 2016-09-22 22:20
Innocents and Others, by Dana Spiotta
Innocents and Others: A Novel - Dana Spiotta

This book and I turned out not to be a good match, and I made the executive decision to stop reading (at 26%) today. Because there's so much else to read, not to mention I'm a slow reader, and wasting my time reading something I don't enjoy is dumb. My only regret is that I bought the book, so it feels like I am wasting money.

 

I read the sample before purchasing and was mostly intrigued by a protagonist's experiment watching the same film a crazy amount of times in a few days. I love film, and the idea of reading about (fictional) female filmmakers was exciting. But at a quarter of the way in, with three main characters introduced, I couldn't get a feel for what the book was about, its narrative thrust. I also didn't care enough about the characters to keep going, and the prose could feel like cliches wrapped in pretentious prose.

 

DNFing is painful, but it's time to move on!

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-05-05 20:24
The Stand - Stephen King

My favorite part of this gigantic King novel is the beginning: seeing how the superflu wipes out humanity and how the remaining characters survive and come together. After that, things got dicey for me. So much time is spent in the Free Zone that I wondered what was happening in Vegas, and when we got to Vegas in the last part, things were already falling apart. There's such a build up of some storylines that I think it was hard to make them pay off (perhaps the slimmer version of the novel worked better in that regard). Nadine's story in particular ended rather abruptly, and she was one of the more fascinating characters. In addition, Flagg is felt to be such a huge threat, but in the last part his power is already fading, and you know things will basically work out all right. I suppose pacing in general didn't work for me in the second half. By the end, what unfolds feels anti-climactic, and Stu and Tom's journey home dragged.

 

The other central beef I had with the book was the characters. I can't say I had a favorite or cared overly much for particular characters. Women in particular are generally given short shrift and stereotypical roles. I liked Dayna, the spy, but she's killed off quickly. Otherwise, the game ends up being in the hands of men, whose characters develop noticeably over the course of the narrative. I wish more post-apocalypse stories resembled The Walking Dead, where women aren't relegated to being only mothers or victims.

 

There were moments and sequences where I was thoroughly engaged, excited, horrified, frightened, but not enough for me to love this book. I don't read as much King as I used to, but I always wanted to read this one. I'm glad I finally did despite not liking the book as much as I'd anticipated.

 

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text 2015-03-16 04:38
Selling Your Soul for Fancy Bento Money
Sliver - Ira Levin
Berserk, Vol. 1 - Kentaro Miura

I sold what has to be less than 1/6th of my collection to my work place today and expected little.  1/6th of my collection translated into about 4.5 plastic crates, full mainly of the esoteric non fiction that I would never get to any way.

 

I got $75.

 

 

So I sold the vestigial parts of my collection that I have amassed over the years, like a sad hoarder that I am, and bought stuff to help me (hopefully) add to my luck with losing weight.  Like bento boxeeesss.

 

While I waited for my offer, I was reading more into the Levin book that I picked out during my last lunch break.  Color me surprised so far - I am not used to reading much, besides shorter fiction, that has such an adept use of just enough description so as to make you feel as though you can see the story as it unfolds.  I mean, am I the only one sick of pages upon pages of heaped on description so that the pace becomes bogged down and we're being forced to envision everything to the exact, minute, sometimes bullshit detail from the author's imagination?

 

I will say, the old timers of the thriller genre certainly know how to write cinematically. Oh, I also love the manga Beserk, or at least, the first one.  Guts gets shit done, something I can appreciate.

 

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text 2014-07-30 17:10
Reading progress update: I've read 308 out of 506 pages.
Jungfrustenen - Michael Mortimer

This book is perfect when you want to read something easy and fast pacing. I started it a couple of weeks ago and picked it up again and it's great with a easy read book when you are tired after work. 

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