Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

by J.K. Rowling
October 18-December 9, 2012

By page two, Barry Fairbrother is dead. By page twenty-two, I was completely lost in the British vernacular. By about page 102, I realized I was no longer in the world of Harry Potter, or anything YA, for that matter. The f-bomb was abundant and the subject matter was pretty intense.

I was quite excited to open this book, a birthday gift from Joanna, and eager to jump in. When I posted this fact to Facebook, I started getting comments about this book being "pornographic" compared to the world of wizardry. I hadn't heard that? And of course, since I was still traumatized from the garbage that was and still is 50 Shades, I really wasn't sure what to expect.

Unfortunately, I had several issues with Vacancy. First, as mentioned earlier, was the British themes. Call me ignorant, but I had a very hard time understanding not only the slang, but also the social hierarchies and classes. To me, parish council is a group of leaders at church. Here, it's local government. Once I adapted, it flowed easier, but then I was beginning to feel indifferent.

Second, the characters. Oh, the characters. Would new ones ever stop being introduced? Would any of them be even remotely likable? (I'm going with "no" on that point.) In the beginning, they were added so fast and furiously that I completely missed one, and it wasn't until a few pages from the end that I figured out who the hell Maureen was. And by then, I had lost interest.

Third, the issues. Rowling covers pretty much every issue known to man. Child abuse (VERY difficult to read about, in my opinion), rape (of a teenager, no less!), cutting, child neglect, drug use (from marijuana to heroine), and domestic violence. The troubles continue at such a rapid pace that by the end, two unfortunate children are dead. We've plummeted into situations that are nearly impossible to read about.

Finally, the "vacancy" itself. While I know that the death of Barry and the subsequent vacancy of his parish council seat was just a vehicle to delve further into the lives of these selfish, flawed characters, I just didn't care. I think mainly because we were so inundated with political ads this year, but I really wasn't riveted by Pagford's local government.

I'm sad to say that The Casual Vacancy left me feeling emotionally vacant, and honestly, very glad to be finished with it. This string of bad books had gone on entirely too long.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn
October 21-November 19, 2012

I have never claimed to be a fan of mystery or suspense dramas. But the hype this book was getting intrigued me. A few chapters in and I was hooked. This isn't what I would typically expect from a mystery and I loved it.

Nick and Amy are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. When Nick returns from the bar that he owns with his twin sister, he finds the house ransacked and his wife missing. The police begin an immediate investigation and discover that the pieces aren't quite fitting together. It's not long before Nick becomes the prime and obvious suspect; while he continuously insists that he is innocent. Each alternate chapter is told by Nick and Amy respectively. Nick comes across truly set-up and scammed, yet a crappy husband who is incapable of showing proper emotion. Amy is an insipid, spoiled sociopath who is completely unlikable from the start. I can't say much more than that without spoiling pieces of the plot.

Flynn does such a great job at keeping the reader in the dark until the very end. The twists and turns never stop. The narrators, Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne, portray Nick and Amy flawlessly. This was the kind of audiobook that I listened to long after I pulled into the garage in the evening. I would also sneak a chapter or two here and there while doing household chores. I even listened to Gone Girl while running on the treadmill! For an avid reader like me, that says a lot. This isn't the type of story I'm normally drawn to, but what a great distraction from the usual.

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