"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

Why oh why isn't there a 1/2 star rating option?!? The Darlings is a 2. And a 3. A 2.5 would have been perfect. I'm not terribly well versed in the world of investment banking. Talk of hedge funds renders me glassy eyed. I wish that weren't the case. I wish I were a financial wizard and fully understood the nuances of the markets and the players involved but I don't. I haven't been living under a rock so I understand the financial crime basics but since this isn't a topic of particular interest for me, it isn't likely that I would have chosen to purchase this book of my own volition. I was given the opportunity to read this by the Penguin Publishing Group and I'm grateful that they bothered to send me a copy because it was a generally positive experience. Plus, I LOVE getting mail that says Penguin Publishing on it, so there's that... 

What I loved: 
Knowing a little about many of the auxiliary characters. 
Liking the characters enough to want to know more about them. 
The family element. 
The clear, cut-to-the-chase writing style. 

What I didn't adore: 
Not knowing enough about the characters-all of them. You get a taste of a lot of very interesting people and then they're gone. That's it. They just disappear and then you never hear any more about them. You get a sneak peek into their family and then, snap! They're gone. I still want to know what happened with Sol's secretary and her oldest son. I want to know about Alexa. And David. And the guy who was initially discouraged from investigating. And I want to know what Paul is thinking after the ^%$& hits the fan! There are multiple chapters, all from Paul's point of view, leading up to the pinnacle of the disaster. The synapsis of the book says that Paul has to decide where his loyalties lie. This leads me to believe that I will read a lot about Paul and his decision and the results of that decision. But no. Paul has his multi-chapter run in the beginning and then-nothing. The beat goes on and we never hear what he thinks, feels, or even what he physically does. Before the disaster you even know when he wishes he had his scarf. 
Ultimately anticlimactic. There is a lot of build up then once the investigation starts it is a matter of about 30 pages and it's all over. 

The idea is there and the characters are there, with all their messy, lovely, humanness. This book could have fleshed out into a family's epic tale of financial evolution from the top to the bottom but it's cut short and left only half explored. I was left feeling like it was rushed, written against a deadline. It almost seems like writing this book was not a passionate undertaking for Alger but more a list item: "It would be cool to write a book someday. O.K., did that, check." 

Cristina Alger is certainly talented but if she is passionate, about either the subject or her current craft, it didn't translate in The Darlings.

You will find an official plot line description at: 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Oh...That was lovely! The Forgotten Garden is The Secret Garden for grown ups. I loved it. Kate Morton's female characters are full of life. The women in this tale are so completely developed and colorful, full of personality, emotion, and delicious human nuances. Getting to know each of them is a treat in itself. Even the less lovable characters are so dynamic I couldn't help but be entranced by them. 

This multi-generational tale completely swept me up in the journey of three generations. Morton transports readers back and forth, switching from one generation to the next, unveiling a mystery over 100 years old. Each chapter reveals a piece of the puzzle through the experience of a different character. At the hands of a less talented writer, this may have been difficult to follow but Morton so skillfully shuttles readers through time that each chapter becomes your new favorite, each character the new best one. 

I didn't figure out the end before it came but I often don't. Unraveling mysteries isn't a talent of mine. In a novel this well written I am too busy loving it to spend time anticipating the end. 

I have not yet enjoyed The Distant Hours or The Secret Keeper but am looking forward to both since closing the cover on this delicious read. Thank you, Kate Morton!

You will find an official plot line description at: 

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Sometimes I wish I could rate books in parts. Stop after the first 30%- rate and review. 65%- stop again, rate and review. And then a final. For some books that might be redundant but for books like The History of Love, rating parts would allow me the freedom to 4 and 5 star the sections I loved and apply 2 stars to the sections I found less inspiring. The History of Love starts with Leo as an old man, and I fell in love with him. I also fell in love with his lifelong friend Bruno and how they sustain each other through long, lonely years, tapping on the radiator to signal to the other that all is well. A few minutes into this book I thought, "I better get a pen; this is going to get quote worthy." Then the book moves on to young Alma and I didn't enjoy that portion of the story as much. Alma is introduced after Leo so the bar of my expectations was set very high and the adolescent Alma didn't get there for me. Consequently, each time the story went back to Leo my opinion of the book creeped up, up, up. Then upon return to Alma the rating began the downward slide. Portion rating this book would have resembled the trek of a sleep monitor: First part- 4 stars, second part- down to 2, then up to 3-3.5, down to 2.5, and at the close- down to 2 when the ending got very strange and even the Leo I had fallen in love with seemed to lose touch with the elements of his character that made him so easy to love initially.
I did notice and enjoy the synchronicity in the tale. The separate stories of the characters touch periodically throughout showing the threads that will ultimately weave them all together in a six degrees of separation way reminding me of the movie Crash and the breathtaking reminder that we are all connected.

You will find an official plot line description at: 

The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski

The whole time I was reading this book I felt like I was missing something. The characters were introduced with an air of familiarity that I just wasn't feeling and then I realized that this is part of a series and I had missed that point entirely and started in the middle. Duh. No wonder I felt like I had walked into a stranger's house in the middle of dinner... After that discovery, I had a difficult time deciding if I didn't love the story because it was a little convoluted and difficult to follow or if I didn't love the story because I started 4 books in. Either way I was not compelled enough to fill in the blanks by going back to number 1. I liked the characters. I enjoyed the banter and was interested in the mystery but as the plot got further and further out there I enjoyed it less and less. By the end, things had gotten too weird for me and I moved on without hesitation.

You will find an official plot line description at:

Temple of the Winds (Sword of Truth, #4) by Terry Goodkind

I'm finally in. It took four books and a prequel in this series for me to finally buy in but at long last I'm hooked. I have been listening to this series so this fourth one, done by yet another new narrator, threw me a little as many of the character names are pronounced differently than they were in the previous 4 (1-3 and the prequel). In book 5 the narrator changes again and they continue to change with each installment until book 9 from what I can tell. That's annoying. The narrator becomes the voice of the tale and can significantly impact the reaction of the audience- it significantly impacts THIS audience anyway! 
That aside, I did enjoy this one. There were long stretches of time that I sat listening, captivated and not wanting to move on to a task for fear I might miss something. I typically would not try so many in a series before deciding to love it or leave it but I already owned 1-6 so I committed to that many at least. Thankfully I am looking forward to number 5, despite another narrator change, and no longer view The Sword of Truth series as an exercise in reader endurance.

You will find an official plot line description at: