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Dark, Hopeful or Different?

December 10, 2016

 

This is the trio of books I read the past week. It took me a shamefully long time to discover my local library, but now that I have, they can't get rid of me, and I get my hands on all these lovely new release hardbacks without spending a penny, which is just the way I like it. Before this revelation, I felt a compulsion to finish every book I bought, but now I can read the first few chapters and won't feel I've wasted $25 if I decide to abandon it. If you are the same, I recommend investing in a library card:-)

 

Anyway... I read The Hopefuls, Today Will Be Different, and Dark Matter and though two better than the third, I finished them all, so they clearly all had something going for them. Check out by reviews below:

 

 3***

Where'd You Go Bernadette was one of my favorites last year, so my expectations for Today Will Be Different were admittedly quite high, which may be the reason I felt more disappointed than I would have had this been written by another author. The story revolves around Eleanor who is married to Joe, a surgeon, and the mother of Timby. They live in Seattle, which Eleanor doesn't seem to like all that much - in fact, she doesn't seem to like anything much. That is where the problem arose for me. In a way, the style of this book, even the plot is not very different from Where'd You Go Bernadette, but in the latter, I cared about the characters, and their moodiness felt understandable. I could sympathize with the sad points as well as laugh at the funny ones. In this book, however, the main character is just plain unlikeable. That would be okay, not five stars probably, but I can get something out of even such a book. Unfortunately, I found the plot very slow and uneventful, and the revelation that could have rounded out Eleanor's character came much too late for me to care a whole lot.
That being said, Semple's writing and observations are clever and well-done. I am definitely not giving up on this author, I was just a little underwhelmed. Then again, I wonder whether I would have felt the same had I read this book before Bernadette (or would I not have felt compelled to read Bernadette at all then?)
Anyway . . . not a bad book, but sadly not what I was hoping for either.

 

 

4****

Dark Matter is definitely not my usual fare. In fact, I can probably count the number of sci-fi novels I've read on one hand, however, those few have been quite remarkable, as is the case with this one. The story revolves around Jason, a college professor, who gave up a very promising career to start a family. he is happily married and has a son, but one night something happens that shakes up his whole existence. I don't want to go into the details for fear of spoiling this page-turner for anyone, but it definitely held my attention and was quite clever. The one niggle I have is that is is very violent at times, which I think took away some of the sophistication of the story, however I could see arguments why it might be necessary to build an atmosphere of anxiety.
The character of Jason is interesting because he is essentially an ordinary man, until something very out of the ordinary happens and tests him in unexpected ways. I liked him and I liked how the author showed his way of thinking, and allowed readers insight into his being that I was rooting for him the whole time, even if some of his decisions were slightly questionable, his motives were honorable.
I think books like Dark Matter, or another favorite, The Martian, could convince me to devote myself a little more to the genre of sci-fi. Any recommendations?

 

 

4****

The Hopefuls is a story that appealed to me when I first read about it, since it focuses on recent DC transplants, which I count myself to be, too. The couple in The Hopefuls, Matt and Beth move from NYC to DC for Matt's job in government. Beth is reluctant, and initially hates everything about her new hometown, until she and Matt meet another new couple in the same situation, Jimmy and Ash. Their friendship slowly changes who Matt and Beth are, jealousy arises, manipulation and backstabbing, all the while the veneer of friendship is maintained.
This is not really a book where much happens, despite this description. It is slow, but never dull, and told by Beth, who is much more an observer than active figure in the story, at least the way I read it. She also struck me as a fairly reliable narrator, which I enjoyed. This is my first book by Close, but I'm definitely curious to read more. She has a style that gripped me instantly and felt very accessible, for lack of a better way of describing it. I was definitely turning the pages way after bedtime. There are a few clichés, a little predictability, but this isn't really a story about plot twists, it's about observation, about nuance and characters, and on that score it delivered!

 

 

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