I hate it when this happens - I started TWO different books last night and had to put them both down. Much like television - if I'm not at least remotely interested in your characters by chapter three or even five, as an author I feel you've failed me. I don't want to turn the page (or watch another dismal episode about dead people chasing live people and eating them - enter "The Walking Dead" dullness).
But, nevertheless, just because they aren't my cup of tea doesn't mean they won't be yours and so I want to share about them anyway:
Chasing the Sun by Natalia Sylvester
I didn't star the review because I didn't finish this book and I don't believe it's fair to do that to an author. This book was not for me. The language and force of culture was too overt and not organic. For me, it became more about "hey - we speak Spanish" than about the characters or the plot. Marabela was to narcissistic for my taste to become a character I cared about and the hero, Andres, was dull.
I'm not alone here though. Other reviewers have said similar thoughts to this - a reviewer on Amazon notes:
"The backdrop of the situation in Peru was nothing more than a gimmick with no real purpose...a kidnapping of two women and the only reason was to make the characters realize that they were wrong for each other. I kept expecting the story to lead somewhere. It didn't."
But, a quick summary of the novel might be what snags your interest. (This summary is not my original work; it is a reproduction of text):
Andres suspects his wife has left him—again. Then he learns that the unthinkable has happened: she’s been kidnapped. Too much time and too many secrets have come between Andres and Marabela, but now that she’s gone, he’ll do anything to get her back. Or will he?
As Marabela slips farther away, Andres must decide whether they still have something worth fighting for, and exactly what he’ll give up to bring her home. And unfortunately, the decision isn’t entirely up to him, or up to the private mediator who moves into the family home to negotiate with the terrorists holding Marabela. Andres struggles to maintain the illusion of control while simultaneously scrambling to collect his wife’s ransom, tending to the needs of his two young children, and reconnecting with an old friend who may hold the key to his past and his wife’s future.
Set in Lima, Peru, in a time of civil and political unrest, this evocative page-turner is a perfect marriage of domestic drama and suspense.
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Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
I'm really disappointed in this one. I should have known it wasn't going to be a good read when it was immediately available for checkout via my Kindle through the library. Nothing else I want to read is EVER available and I'm on waiting lists that seem they'll never end - that should have been the HUGE RED FLAG!
The book opens with a great line - so full of promise: "My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us."
Excellent - had me hooked from the get-go. And then that's it. The mother deserts her eleven year old daughter with her part time father. His other daughter, Iris, that is sixteen doesn't question this AT ALL even though they seem to live in Suburbia U.S.A. and a random extra daughter showing up on the doorstep might cause the current daughter to at least say, "Hey Dad -you cheated on mom?" And then the father starts stealing money from Iris all the time (even though prior to Eva's arrival he'd only done it once and there is NO justification for his escalating behavior, it just happens) and so they run away to California where Iris is going to make it big one day. By chapter three, or five - I can't recall, Iris is at a huge orgy party and has fallen in love with a woman because she ran her hand up her thigh and played in her panties and at that moment I went - REALLY????? And closed the book. It wasn't just the orgy, although I'm not onboard with overly erotic text and this was stupidly written in my opinion (I've read plenty of sex scenes that were graphic but aptly written and this wasn't one of them, Nora Roberts write good sex, I'm not a prude), it was the total lack of believable progression.
Fiction writing does ask us to suspend some reality, but when you write as real characters I can't suspend everything about my world like I can for Middle Earth. Creating a concrete setting and then splashing through it like a Unicorn doesn't align (or a Narwahl if you prefer).
And again, I'm not alone. Another review comments:
"...I found it boring and manipulative. The characters seemed written to deliberately provoke - but were rapidly sketched with reactions that seemed cliched and unbelievable . The book attempts to create the 1940's, but again, it draws quick pictures without much depth and seems to deliberately try to draw several alternative subcultures - without creating a realistic sense of either the normal or the unusual. Several other reviewers described the author as a great writer. This is the first of her books that I have read, and while she is competent, I would not consider her great or even very good. No phrases or descriptions caused me to stop or to re-read them; none of the characters were deeply drawn; none of the plot lines were particularly rich..."
One of my biggest issues with this book is the Jazz Club of the 1940s? Yes, I know they existed. Yes, I know they didn't end with the 1920s. But if you're going to write with the backdrop of a "jazz age" get it in the right decade.
But in case you'd like to dive into this book, here is a quick summary (This summary is not my original work; it is a reproduction of text):
Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.
With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.
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