This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Bad Books

After a good run of amazingly entertaining books, I have entered a streak of bad ones. I don't finish them so I don't usually rate them on goodreads, and since I haven't made the time to keep my blog up-to-date, surely, I won't make the time to write up books that I don't like and especially, finish.

But I also don't like to lose track of what was attempted. My brain is not as fresh at keeping memories as it used to so it's best to at least cite the book title and my attempt to read it.

These will have 'spoilers' but how can one spoil a terrible book?

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
This was supposed to be a scary book. It could've been scary - there were parts that were creepy - but it was weird. I gave it up about halfway through the 378 pages and went to to find spoiler reviews so I could find out how it ended.

The book started off pretty good: a pilot's account of taking his plane off, only to hit geese and lose his engines. He decides to follow Captain Sullenberger's miracle landing on the Hudson, but on a different lake. However, just as he was about to land on the smooth lake, a wave from a passing boat hits the plane at the same time causing it to turn over and over and break apart...and kill 39 of the passengers. I _think_ that's how many but regardless of the exact number, that number and that incident replays over and over throughout the book.

The family move to a town somewhere away from the lake, and where he would live with that memory. Here we meet some weirdos of the town: supposed witches or women who do stuff with herbs from their greenhouses. The pilot's wife is forewarned about these strange people but she continues to ignore the people who warn her, and doesn't seem uncomfortable with the fact that the weirdo witches are obsessed with her twin daughters. The weirdo adults invite the family over for socials but only devote their insane behavior and attention to the daughters.

Also, the pilot continues to replay the plane crash...with the ghosts of those who died. One being a young girl, about the age of his twin daughters, and the father and/or mother tells him that the ghost girl is lonely and needs playmates. The pilot dad goes, literally in a matter of a few pages, from 'no way will I kill my daughters' to attempting to kill one of the daughters in a eeny-meeny-miny way.

I couldn't take anymore. It just sucked. Stupid characters. When I found a spoiler, I found that the story had these two literal, separate paths: witches who were trying to sacrifice the twins (as they did previously with the town's twins), as well as the separate storyline of the PTSD pilot seeing ghosts and trying to kill his own daughter (whichever one that gets the tiger toe).

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
I read, what I thought, were the first two chapters of this book. I don't know if it was at the second chapter that I realized this was a book of short stories, or if I decided to _read_ the second chapter and give this book of short stories a try. Regardless, I don't like short stories. Seems weird not to since it's like a big book full of different novels but, there you have it, I absolutely do not like short stories.

The first story didn't really do much for me _anyway_ and I was considering tossing it while I was reading it. Basically, the story was about a cheating couple, who's two families were best friends for years, who eventually marry. It took a long time to get to the marriage part; it was a lot of writing about the woman, about the man, blah blah blah. They finally end up married, despite protests from their grown children. And then the guy dies. And the new wife spends the rest of the short story obsessed with his memory within her home and never leaves. For anyone. The end.

The second story I don't really remember. I looked for spoiler reviews again and most people seem to like this one. There are a handful, like me, who were not thrilled. And apparently there's one love story about a woman who has an affair with either her friend's son or her son's friend. Yeah. Not interested in these stories...

American Purgatorio by John Haskell
This one started out intriguing. "Something happened" according to the protagonist of the book. He was at a gas station, while his wife Anne waited outside in the car, as he purchased candies and snacks for them. When he comes out of the gas station, Anne and the car are gone. His journey begins to search for his wife Anne. Instead of going to Anne's mom's house, as they intended to go, he figures out how to get back to their home and replays the events to figure out what happened to Anne.

Do you like how much I name his wife Anne? He does this all the time. Anne, Anne, Anne. And the journey to find Anne is to go from NY to California. He saw a  map where Anne had drew a line to the coast of CA so that's where he decides to go. He rents a car, starts driving, and ends up meeting people along the way. Sometimes seeing Anne in their car and trying his best to turn his car around -- but goes on for miles because he can't find an exit ramp - before he tries. It's like a bad dream...

It was well before page 134 (of only 239 pages) that I was so fucking annoyed with this guy. He was going nowhere slowly and this book's dialogue was annoying as hell. I just couldn't stand it but I wanted to find out where the fuck Anne was so I skipped to the end to see what happened.

What happened was, the two of them both died at the gas station. As he made his purchases and got into the car with Anne, a car hit them and they both died. So all that shit about him coming home, getting a rental and searching for Anne was just him trying to get used to being dead. Wow. So bad!

I again read spoiler reviews and more than a few did as I did, although it seems I got further in the book: they stopped reading and jumped to the end.

Here is an example of the dialogue:
I wanted to find Anne, or the scent of Anne, hidden somewhere in or on this person. But there wasn't any Anne. I could feel the old despair imploding inside me, and I wanted a glass of water. But there wasn't any water.
I was able to overlook the knowledge that she wasn't Anne, so that to me, she _was_ Anne. In the back of my mind was the fear that she would say something or do something to wake me up, but because this new reality was preferable to the earlier one, I was able to maintain it. I settled into the more comfortable mode of lying with Anne, and the reality of Anne, such as it was, because more solid and stable, and when it got to the point where I was sure of its solidity, that's when she decided to go to the bathroom. 

So here's hoping for no more bad books.

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