At some point, I will accept that there were Maeve Binchy books that I loved and stop trying to find more Maeve Binchy books to love, because this is...moreAt some point, I will accept that there were Maeve Binchy books that I loved and stop trying to find more Maeve Binchy books to love, because this is a goal I am never going to achieve.
MINDING FRANKIE is one of Binchy's later books, and I truly believe after the success of books like Circle of Friends and the Oprah selection Tara Road (which I was also not a fan of), she got stuck in the rut of "how do I keep writing the same thing over again so people will keep buying my books?"
If you had told me MINDING FRANKIE was a Binchy parody, I'd have believed you.
For starters, there is a huge cast of characters. Huge. There had to be at least 11,000 characters and I don't even think I'm exaggerating. I lost track of them all. There's Noel, who's apparently an alcoholic. And he gets a call from this girl he shagged while drunk who claims he got her pregnant. And then she, in some bizarro fashion, is going to die when she has the baby.
I can't even make this up. Binchy surely had access to Wikipedia to look up things like "dramatic cancer-related death of woman during c-section" and then... didn't.
So Noel has to dry out and take care of this baby and he does so with this pathetic bunch of people who are all inexplicably saved by this American cousin of his who was fired from her teaching position in the States (because Binchy also doesn't understand things like "tenure") and comes to Ireland to learn more about her family.
And there are other factors like Noel's parents having this huge fund drive to build a statue for some rando saint and his roommate, who left her job to do things for this guy who does everything but hand her a copy of He's Just Not That Into You to convey his feelings, and his social worker has so much time on her hands she drops in on EVERYONE in this village in her Wicked Witch of the West routine to Separate Noel From His Child.
Not to mention that everyone both dresses and acts like it's still the 1950s (when many of Binchy's earlier books took place) and this book is confusing as all hell.
I watched soap operas for years, and there was less drama when Reba Shane was cloned on Guiding Light than there is in this 400-page book.
The thing is, Binchy always makes you care at least about ONE character, and I kept going because a) I paid for the book and b) I needed to make sure Noel ended up okay with his kid. But the rest? I need to remind myself to NOT BUY ANY MORE OF HER BOOKS and satisfy myself with the two I loved.(less)
Graeme Simsion's THE ROSIE PROJECT came highly recommended by friends whose opinions I generally trust. I'd avoided it at its release -- mainly becaus...moreGraeme Simsion's THE ROSIE PROJECT came highly recommended by friends whose opinions I generally trust. I'd avoided it at its release -- mainly because of concerns about the portrayal of those on the autism spectrum -- but decided to give it a shot.
THE ROSIE PROJECT is, at its heart, a romance, told from the perspective of the hero rather than the heroine. Don Tillman is a genetics professor with terrible social skills. He has few friends, and sets out on "The Wife Project," in which he determines he will find himself a wife by utilizing a detailed questionnaire. When his friend, the promiscuous Gene, sends him a woman named Rosie, Don assumes she's a result of his project. He discovers Rosie is searching for her biological father, and he offers to help her find out who her father is using DNA testing.
Don and Rosie set off on a wild adventure that ranges from their native Australia to New York City, and from Don's lab to bartending for a class reunion. Along the way, Rosie's chaos seeps into Don's regimented schedule, even as the two are sure they aren't right for each other.
On the surface, it's a cute, quirky love story, but it simply didn't click with me. I couldn't get past Don's stereotypical "autistic" behavior, and I realized after some thought that the issue was that the story had been told in the wrong point of view. Simsion takes a third-person viewpoint of how those on the autistic spectrum are thought to function and applies it to the internal monologues of his first-person narration. The problem is that Don is a caricature of autistic people, and the irony is that Simsion himself appears to lack the same empathy the character he's written lacks.
A quick look at the "Reading Group Guide" demonstrates this: Simsion says his experience with people on the autism spectrum is based on his armchair diagnosis of those he knew in his previous career and as a student. He doesn't mention actually talking to anyone diagnosed with autism, which might have given his character depth and avoided the caricature that kept me from connecting with both the character and the book as a whole.(less)
Say what you want about Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha series; it's compellingly readable. Once I started SIEGE AND STORM, I was unable to put it down unt...moreSay what you want about Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha series; it's compellingly readable. Once I started SIEGE AND STORM, I was unable to put it down until I knew what was going to happen.
That being said, I'm still not completely in love with this series. When we left our Sun Summoner Alina at the end of the last book, she and Mal had narrowly escaped The Darkling. SIEGE AND STORM opens with them captured by an apparent pirate called Sturmhond, who was working for The Darkling but reveals he has a better client on the hook for Mal and Alina.
The first third of the book is confusing; Sturmhond comes out of nowhere and is set up as a third potential suitor for Alina after The Darkling's nature is revealed in the first book. There are politics and convoluted set-ups for the remainder of the book, and it's hard-going, even when you read the books in quick succession. This is definitely not a trilogy where readers can hop in at the second book and hope to make sense of everything.
Once the whole Sturmhond situation is explained, however, the novel improves by leaps and bounds. There are multiple levels of treachery and political machinations, and no character can be trusted at any point, including Alina. It makes for a riveting read, and I'm eagerly anticipating the wrap-up for this series. (less)