The second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. This...moreThe second star is because the writing wasn't awful and there were three or so lines that actually got me chuckling.
Otherwise, I hated this book. This is the first book I've so actively hated in a long time. Look, it's even generated a review! So yay?
Now, it's been sitting on my shelf since just after rode the first wave of popularity (meaning I found it at Costco). And when I first started, I suspected that my high-school self actually might have enjoyed it. Because my high-school self was a terrible, terrible person.
All of the characters are despicable, but especially the narrator Quentin. So whiny, pathetic and useless. I wanted to beat him. From first page to last he didn't grow at all. Apparently, I'm supposed to believe he was depressed? He apparently started at seventeen and ended at, what, twenty-five? Even younger? He may as well have been fifteen.
Side note: one of my few Harry Potter favorite fan fictions gave one canon character and an OC depression. That story? It was beautiful, and heartbreaking. The characters didn't go around why are you so depressed, you're so depressed, look at me, being depressed.
But Quentin existed to waste space. All the female characters were barely characters and rather thin compared to the over-whelming male characters—and I'm not entirely sure what gave me this impression because numerically speaking the numbers were fairly even. But all the named women felt rather auxiliary.
I even hated the world-building. Fillory was just your generic anti-Narnia, and for that, rather inoffensive. Lame, but meh. But the "real world" just...just...I hated it, I hated all the magicans. These magicians can do approximately everything with magic (except, for plot reasons, body modification)—
— and now that I think about it, that's especially odd to be so common a trope. You may not approve of plastic surgery, or foot binding, or any of the other things cultures have found attractive over the millennia, but it's clearly been going on a while. Why is that the one thing magic can't do. Hint: in this case, it's a naked plot point.—
—but for some reason, magicians in the "real world" do absolutely nothing practical. Well, the narrative mentions that some do, but mostly in a condescending sort of way that doesn't seem like it's ever accomplished anything at all.
Oh, and to be a wizard magician, you have to be genius-level smart...but if you never got an invitation, don't worry, all magicians also have to be profoundly stupid in any useful kind of knowledge. So there's that.
And the sort of geek-popular references: Harry Potter, Star Trek, Magritte.
I know in the reading I had other complaints, but thanks to this review and my rum-and-coke, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment and can let it go. (less)
A well-written novel, with a strong first-person voice—unfortunately, not a voice I wanted to spend so much time with.
A False Sense of Well Being is...moreA well-written novel, with a strong first-person voice—unfortunately, not a voice I wanted to spend so much time with.
A False Sense of Well Being is a character driven novel in the traditional sense; the plot barely exists except as a framework for the emotional growth of the narrator. But, perhaps because this is a first-time author, it takes a good third of the book to even get to the authors main issue, and there's lots of filler. The secondary characters are well-drawn and strong, but they obscure the main theme of the novel (to say more would be spoilers), and then it doesn't get resolved, such as it is, until the last three pages. It's too little time.
Basically, all that time wasted made me just want to smack the narrator upside the head (and perhaps it's not the best sign that I can't remember her name). It's like...just grow up lady! She worries so much and so long about why she isn't happy without figuring out what it would mean for her to be happy, or what her real issues are.
Jessie's (there, I looked it up) story starts when she is 38 and dissatisfied with her marriage, or assumes she must be, because she keeps dreaming up ways for her husband to die. Not murder, just...accidents. To get away from the situation, she goes back home.
Note: she calls her suburban-Georgia town 'small', even though she apparently grew up in the Georgian sticks—which still has a mall? Having grown up in a true small town, anywhere with suburbs cannot be described as small. So.
Well, after many and varied rural adventures, such as they are, Jessie confronts her own misunderstandings of the past, but it isn't until she makes it back to, at least, the same town as her husband where she understands her own difficulty—which, as I said, only happens in the very last pages. Now, she's supposed to be some kind of social worker, so it was frustrating how little she could understand her own issues, especially when I saw it the moment it was mentioned.
It didn't help that I could have little sympathy for her situation. After she married her husband, she went from the rural, small town girl, to joining her banker-husband's upper-middle class social strata, where she worries about impressing the neighbors and being the perfect, conventional housewife. She has all this free time, but never gets herself any hobbies or does anything to define herself. I wanted to shake her: get a life! And stop worrying about being 'happy' in the drugged sense, unless you intend on drugging yourself. She probably should have gotten therapy, come to think about it.
Anyway, most of the primary characters in the novel are difficult to sympathize with, but especially Jessie. All of her interactions with Wanda McNab made me intensely uncomfortable, especially the way she framed her views, and her limp reaction to her secret (to say more would be spoilers) frustrated me.
Still, I'm glad I read it for all my complaints. She did get somewhere, eventually, and I did think the resolution worked for the novel. I just think it could have been a bit more streamlined; and while the descriptions were good, I still think it could have taken place just as well in someplace like the suburbs of southern California. (less)
Well...the voice was consistent, if consistently shallow.
And while in part that was intentional—after all, it's positioned as a satire—the quality of...moreWell...the voice was consistent, if consistently shallow.
And while in part that was intentional—after all, it's positioned as a satire—the quality of the humor had no depth or sophistication. The Columnist has no more to say than the narrator does, and that's not much. While I suspected I wouldn't be impressed by the jacket flap, I liked the idea of a fictional author revealing more than he intended. Unfortunately, the narrator here is dumber than a rock; he not only lacks the slightest self-awareness, but he can't even fake intelligence or a personality even to the people who know him. And all of those people just ignore that because...?
But the prose is serviceable, and occasionally the commentary is amusing, but the narrator is tiresome and it could be a good 100 pages shorter—although since this is supposed to be the narrator's memoir, it shouldn't be much shorter than 500.(less)
Agnes has most things in life: a job at a fancy restaurant, a boyfriend who loves her, and a best friend whom she knows inside out. Or does she? All o...moreAgnes has most things in life: a job at a fancy restaurant, a boyfriend who loves her, and a best friend whom she knows inside out. Or does she? All of a sudden things begin to crumble, one by one, and soon nothing is as it was. Her boyfriend leaves her for a big busted singer, and she is fired by the sexist and abusive owner of the restaurant where she works. She gambles everything she has on the success of a newly opened restaurant, but the road to the glowing review which will open the door to fame and fortune has, to say the least, unexpected twists and turns.
In Yesterday’s News Kajsa Ingemarsson’s comic talent comes into its own. The book is one of the greatest bestsellers of all time in Sweden with more than 800,000 copies sold. Juicy and satisfying, Yesterday’s News is a story about daring and winning and about faith in yourself, a feelgood novel sure to please anyone looking for the antithesis to Stieg Larsson.
This popped up in my inbox for B&N's "Daily Find" which meant I got it for several dollars less, and I am so vulnerable to affordable books. Described as "the antithesis to Stieg Larsson", whose series I cannot bring myself to read after everything I've heard, this description won me over.
For back cover copy, it's remarkably faithful to the book. It doesn't overstate the drama or pull the other tricks often used to hook readers. This paragraph for the default description, in fact, names the part that won me over:
The woman in trouble is Agnes. In Yesterday’s News she will rebound from personal tragedy and find courage in the face of the unknown. In the end she stands there as the hero of her own life.
Agnes is the steady, reliable girl, without any overwhelming ambition to be somewhere else, though she had enough to get out of her isolated small town. She's a romantic, and in that stage of life that society arbitrarily names adulthood but is so hard to define and realize once you're actually in it. Make sure you're a reasonably productive member of society, and mark time until you know you're "there": like buying a house or winning the Nobel Prize.
But she's just lost her job and her boyfriend dumped her, and she's lost.
Actually, that all happens pretty quickly and the rest is Agnes defining her life thereafter. Where do we find direction? and of course, what's really important?
So if you've been reading..well a great many books with romantic plot tumors...and are sick of characters like Bella Swan not recognize they have a jerk for a boyfriend—I think you'll like Agnes. She's not really very Bella-like, she does have a backbone, but she also has little self-confidence and doesn't recognize her own worth. What a difference that makes, when she starts to take initiative in her own life!
I remember saying I fell in love with Agnes by first chapter. She's basically being groped by her boss, at work, in the wine cellar, and she's just so taken aback. A "what is happening?" kind of response, which made sense to me. She fends him off, but the victory isn't unsullied: after all, she's lost her job, and it's not so easy to find a new one.
All the side characters are great: her relationships with her parents and sister are easy and natural to read, but they aren't necessarily easy for Agnes. She doesn't always understand them, and finds they can take her by surprise.
There's the moment, about two thirds of the novel that made me cry, for several chapters. I won't say more, but Ingemarsson writes emotion well; the reader can relate to Agnes.
My favorite part of the book was Agnes learning she didn't have a handle on everything and didn't have to. She's emotionally dependent, at the start, pretty much on everyone around her. Once Tobias leaves her, she leans on her friend. When she finally gets a job, she starts taking control, but still treats it much like a crutch. Eventually, she realizes starts standing on her own, after finally hearing a few hard truths that she never really listened to before.
When I first added the book, the top shelf was "romance" and the entire 287 pages I was looking for it. Now, she does have a romantic arc, but this is not a romance book at all. In fact, even when the love interest showed up (which was fairly obvious to all but Agnes) it still barely counted as part of her character growth: there was no romance until she actually understood what she wanted in a relationship. I squeed.
Yes, I saw most of the plot-points coming, the twist was telegraphed fairly early on. But I'd still say a lot of that's on Agnes, on her prejudices and assumptions.
Yesterday's News stands best as a character study than even the 'chick lit' genre covers, at least in the US market I know. Calling it a story about "growing up" sounds ridiculous, when Agnes starts already a functioning adult. She's just unsure of herself, and her boundaries—she hasn't pushed herself for a time.
I gave Yesterday's News four stars because I loved it, but it didn't blow me away. Now I feel like the Grinch.
"Do you ever think about tulips?" he asked. "I think about tulips all the time. My mind is filled with tulips, the colors and variations."
I started th...more"Do you ever think about tulips?" he asked. "I think about tulips all the time. My mind is filled with tulips, the colors and variations."
I started this book on Easter, on a two hour drive: only about a chapter or two. I had to finish the last sixty or so pages tonight, because the lending period ended tonight.
And that was very hard because this is a suspenseful book. I just cared so much for the narrator and everyone her life touched. I wanted her to make the 'right' choice, or at least end well...and yet this whole thing takes place just before the economic meltdown. It's kind of devastating emotionally.
This isn't a novel of events or actions. It's an emotional arc, set, of course, on the dramatic background of high finance Wall Street. (less)
Five for the suspense, definitely, which kept me reading until I'd finished instead of getting anything else done....moreAlmost, almost gave this five stars.
Five for the suspense, definitely, which kept me reading until I'd finished instead of getting anything else done. Five for the foreshadowing that made me sick—in anticipation.
The foreshadowing is so unnerving, in fact, that I nearly reverted to my childhood habit of reading the last page to make sure my favorite characters survived (I restrained myself).
But I had to go to four because, while the novel is beautifully crafted, there was something unsatisfying about it. Too much pretty language for a rather familiar set-up, at least in the beginning. Once Rob got in the swing of things, the mystery picked up, but the characters otherwise aren't particularly strong or convincing.
You know those prime-time crime dramas? I watch a number of them, and this novel really fits in that kind of pathos construct. Suspenseful as In the Woods is, it isn't very original—which is in no way a bad thing, and I'd say this is a brilliant example of the genre, so I won't take away any points for the predictably. Especially, since unlike acting, French really plumbs the depths of her detective's psyche, which is delicious.
However, beware. As many great points as there are, the end is bloody depressing.*
*(view spoiler)[The worst is the inevitability of the depressingness, really. At the point you know for sure it's coming and he can't make it out—that's how I got so far, hope—everything's built to the climax and you can't stop. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)