Category Archives: fiction

Murder on the Orient Express

I first read Murder on the Orient Express in college, when I went through a phase where I read a loooot of Agatha Christie mysteries. I started with And Then There Were None (as it came highly recommended by one of my best friends’ mom, who was one of two sets of extra parents I was fortunate enough to have growing up), and then moved on to Murder on the Orient Express.

I revisited it in preparation for the movie that, at the time, was coming out in November. Spoiler alert: I never saw the film.

The book is considered one of Christie’s two best (along with And Then There Were None) and upon revisiting, it’s definitely one of my favorites.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I like limited settings. They require a lot of interesting dialogue and a clever plot. Murder on the Orient Express takes place on a train! A train that is caught in a snowstorm!

For those who don’t know, the Orient Express was a long distance passenger train that originally ran from Paris to Istanbul. The line made a lot of changes through the years and eventually was shut in 2009, the last version of the line running from Strasbourg to Vienna.

Our favorite Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who ends up on the train when his plans are changed, is called in to solve the murder of Samuel Ratchett, by his friend Bouc who operates the train line and who is on board. Ratchett, who believe his life was being threatened and tried to hire Poirot and was refused, is murdered on the second night of the trip when the train is caught in the snow near Vinkovci.

The story moves on from there. The story involves a kidnapping and a ransom and another murder. It was very reminiscent of the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932 and may have inspired this part of the book.

I was glad I revisited this story. It really isn’t very long and was quite a nice break from the near constant stream of non-fiction books I usually involve myself in.

Christie’s murder mysteries aren’t usually solvable by the reader because of some piece of unknown information that the reader isn’t privy to until the big reveal towards the end. In this case it was details of the other murder relevant to the story. That said, you could guess at the ending better in this story than with many of Christie’s other stories.

Not being able to solve the mysteries doesn’t usually bother me. I never enjoy something I solve half way through…sometimes less than halfway through. Like the movie Fracture with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Solved it half way through. Knew how it would work out. Was psyched with my own cleverness but sad that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the film.

While the mystery here isn’t solvable, exactly, the solution is particularly interesting. It’s cleverly done, and very satisfying.

One thing that always sticks out in Christie’s mysteries, though, is how dated they are. Not, necessarily, in a bad way. I’m obsessed with train travel, so the idea of a rail line that goes from Paris to Istanbul is fascinating to me. What is a little off-putting, but not book destroying, is how constantly stereotypes are adhered to in Christie’s writing. Poirot is Belgian, and constantly referred to as “foreign.” It’s done all over her works with regard to nationalities, ethnicities, and gender. It isn’t inherently negative, but to someone who isn’t used to these references, it’s a little bizarre. It’s done here.

As I said, it doesn’t ruin the story. It’s just a little off putting if you aren’t used to it. And the books are nearly 100 years old. It was a very different time.

I really loved revisiting Murder on the Orient Express. It isn’t a long read, so if you haven’t read it and are looking for a clever story, it’s a lot of fun.

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The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress

Another one of my weird interests: people who disappear. I don’t think I’m actually unique in this but I will admit it, which I think makes me unique. And kind of weird. But knowing you’re weird makes it ok, right?

Anyway, this is one of those cases.

Joseph Crater was a New York Supreme Court Justice who disappeared on August 6, 1930 and whose body was never found. There is no proof he was murdered, but most people of his stature who disappear without a trace and are never found are frequently murdered.

His disappearance was a factor in the downfall of the Tammany Hall political machine, a New York City political organization started in 1789 and dissolved in 1967. By the time of Crater’s disappearance, Tammany Hall was a thoroughly corrupt enterprise tied to organized crime. Its influence really began to wane not long after Crater went missing – they engaged in a losing battle with reformers looking to clean up the political process in the city. One of the reform leaders was Franklin D. Roosevelt, first governor of New York, then President of the United States.

Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress builds a mystery novel around the three major women in Crater’s life around the time Crater disappeared – his wife, Stella, his maid, Maria, and his mistress, Sally Lou Ritz.

This was a very entertaining novel. Crater was presented as complete asshole, so his disappearance is really no loss. The characterizations of the three women, however, was a fascinating picture of three women, each who are unable to really exercise any agency in their roles in the early 20th century, taking control of something in their lives as they react and deal with the disappearance of this man they were all, in some way, dependent on.

The story moves between the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1960s, where Mrs. Crater and Maria’s husband meet in a cafe. IIRC, Mrs. Crater is telling Maria’s husband, a non-corrupt NYC police detective who helped investigate her husband’s disappearance, exactly what happened in the months leading up to August 6, 1930.

I’m not going to give away the ending here, although it was an immensely satisfying explanation, because it’s never fun to read a mystery when you know the end. But the book itself, despite the dark subject matter, isn’t particularly dark, and is really more about these three women, their relationships with each other, and their efforts to improve their lives. The characterizations were fun and their relationships, particularly with each other, are so well developed.

I did this one via audiobook at work and in my car, which I very much enjoyed as I traveled all over two counties, working and apartment hunting. This a great book for the beach – an intelligent, not too dense, page turner.

The Woman in Cabin 10

Another book that was so promising but turned out so, so underwhelming.

Typical thriller premise – woman sees another woman on a boat who disappears and doesn’t appear in the passenger manifest, nobody believes the first woman – and the story goes on from there. I think I picked this up because I’m terrified of boats/open water and will never get on a cruise if I can avoid it. Plus, the premise implies murder. It’s a boat. There’s only so many places someone can hide, no matter how big the boat is. I also tend to like settings that are somewhat claustrophobic where the setting is a huge part of the story. There’s the movie ‘Clue,’ books like The Haunting of Hill House and The Shining, and so on and so forth.

I think the biggest problem with this book is the main character, Laura Blacklock, or Lo, as she’s called. She’s a travel journalist (which is how she ends up on the boat), she has a stupid nickname (you need to shorten ‘Laura’…really?), she’s conceited, she has absolutely no idea how to handle anything without being hysterical and/or completely ridiculous, and she wasn’t really compelling in any way. Even her panic/anxiety attacks were annoying.

Another problem is pacing. At least when I read trashy Dan Brown thrillers, they’re exciting and keep a good pace. This book starts with a burglary. Great! Then we spend WAY too much time rehashing it and returning it. Then Lo sees a mysterious, unexplained stranger who is not accounted for in the ship’s passenger list. Okay! Then we spend waaaaaay too much time wandering the boat looking at the crew.

And on and on and on.

Add to that the resolution of the novel sucks, and well…you get The Woman in Cabin 10.

I have heard good things about Ruth Ware’s debut novel In A Dark, Dark Wood but this book doesn’t incline me to read it much. I will probably skip Ruth Ware for the foreseeable future.

 

The Magicians

I listened to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians because the book I originally wanted to listen to wasn’t available at the time and this was labeled as “the adult Harry Potter.”

I’ll stick with actual Harry Potter.

It’s weird though. I didn’t hate this book. The story was interesting, I liked the premise, and there was magic, terror, and some pretty good actions scenes. I feel like in some ways it was a lot more true to real life – particularly the parts about being in a hyper-competitive, highly exclusive school (studying is something that JK Rowling glosses over in the HP universe – only Hermione’s study schedule is ever detailed and not many words are devoted to that either – and Hogwarts is the public school of magic in the UK, meaning everyone goes whether they’re good at magic or not).

But there was a lot of stuff that was tough for me to get past. Our hero – anti-hero? – is Quentin. And Quentin is suffering from depression. Boy oh boy, is he suffering from depression. And consequently, so are we. In addition, Quentin is selfish, brooding, narcissistic, and an overall miserable prick. He’s not very likeable.

This, in itself, isn’t necessarily a problem. The thing is, everyone at this magic school Quentin attends, called Brakebills, is a huge asshole in some way or another. Seriously. There is almost nobody to like. At all. I don’t mean that they just have some asshole qualities. All of them are fucking awful in almost every way. They are also brave and smart, which makes them just this side of tolerable, but overall? They’re all negative, brooding, asshole-y douchebags who have too much free time and drink too much.

The other thing I struggled with too was the length of the novel. According to Amazon, it’s 432 pages. I don’t remember how long the audiobook was, but by the end I just wanted it to be over. It drags out too long. Grossman crams 5 years of schooling into this novel with much of it not being particularly noteworthy. Magic is hard, complicated to learn, and requires endless hours of practice and study. But I feel like, maybe, we don’t need to go through every hour? It wasn’t well paced. For every good scene of significance, there was one that was bad and could have been cut. Maybe two.

Interwoven into this whole thing is Quentin’s obsession with Fillory, a Narnia like place he read about in stories as a kid that featured a family called the Chatwins, specifically the children. As I said, it’s very Narnia-esque. This obsession eventually becomes relevant (and it takes quite awhile for it to become relevant) when Quentin and his friends discover they can travel to Fillory. I honestly wish Grossman had gone more into the Chatwins. They couldn’t have been worse than the main characters in this story.

Anyway, Quentin manages to be miserable in Fillory too – no joke. The magical land he’s been obsessed with since childhood, and Quentin manages to fucking be miserable there. There’s a villain in Fillory, called ‘the Beast’, who Quentin and his friends end up seeking to outrun and destroy. They’d met the Beast before in school, when (IIRC) a spell goes awry and the Beast eats a student before the faculty can vanquish it.

Magic is much more dangerous in this book than in the Harry Potter universe because it seems to be a lot less…stable, I guess is the word I’m looking for? Or maybe it’s more wild? Anyway, in Harry Potter books, you use the right gesture with your wand, say/think the right incantation, and boom, spell. Intent of the spell also matters. If you’re going to cast an unforgivable curse, you know you’re doing that. In The Magicians universe, magic has a lot of complex variations that change with things like phase of the moon. Messing up a spell near the wrong body of water, even one meant to do good, can be catastrophic. Spells gone awry is hinted at as a possibility in the Potter universe (Luna’s mother dying as a result of an experiment gone wrong) but in this one it has real consequences when the Beast is released and kills a student.

Anyway, the whole thing is eventually resolved in a neat little bow. Okay, not that neat, but a bow all the same. Grossman clearly didn’t know he’d be writing a trilogy. Yes, there are two more ‘Magicians’ novels – The Magician King and The Magician’s Land.

I’m not sure I’m going to get to the last two books of the trilogy. I thought I was. But even though I didn’t hate this book, I can’t really say I liked it either. Plus my favorite character became a freakin’ niffin. And no. I have zero interest in the television adaptation.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

I started Steig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy back when it was still a trilogy but after Larsson was already dead, and I read all of them in a total of about a month in college? Or just after college?

Anyway, I really enjoyed them.

So when I saw that Larsson’s work was being continued under a different author, this time David Lagercrantz, I was really excited.

I immensely enjoyed The Girl in the Spider’s Web, although not as much as any of the original novels and I think that is because Lagercrantz supposedly went out of his way to humanize Lisbeth and Mikael, and while that was ok, I preferred their more fantastic versions. They’re like regular people who are also superheroes!

Anyway, there were some really cool elements to this, including that we get to meet Lisbeth’s estranged twin sister, Camilla. Camilla is…interesting. Without giving away too many details, I hope to find out in the future why Camilla is…the way she is, and why she dislikes her sister so much.

The story also features an NSA officer, an idiot-savant child, a murder, and the usual tech aspect of the story that may not be devastatingly realistic but adds excitement to the story anyway. I don’t really read works of fiction (or watch fictional films, for that matter) for their strict adherence to reality, so the tech stuff that isn’t necessarily real? No big deal for me.

Lisbeth naturally bonds with the child, she having limited social skills herself. When his father is no longer able to care for him, she brings him safely to his mother…who is being abused by her new significant other and, IIRC, gets rid of him.

In spite of mellowed out Lisbeth and Mikael, the novel moved at a good pace and there was enough going on to keep me turning pages. Well, I originally started listening on audiobook at work, but owned the novel at home and hadn’t gotten the chance to read it yet, and finished it at home on paper because I was so into it.

Also exciting about this book: a renewed friendship between Lisbeth and Mikael! This was my absolute favorite part. I always liked their dynamic.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the book. I can’t wait to read and/or listen to the next one, that came out a few months back. I love Lisbeth, even “mellow” Lisbeth, so as long as she keeps appearing in novels, I’ll probably keep reading them.

Norse Mythology

There are about a million books on Norse mythology out there. I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology as a more formal introduction because I love Neil Gaiman.

Sadly, I was not overly impressed with this book. It’s a very basic retelling of most of the stories I was already familiar with. It wasn’t terrible. I just…I don’t know, expected more?

I thought the book would go deeper into these myths and thought they’d be told more elaborately than they were. This may be my fault; world building in Gaiman’s novels is adequate but not necessarily over the top Tolkien style stuff, which actually kind of makes sense, since most of his novels are set on Earth, but like…a more magical version of Earth. It felt like Hemingway wrote the book – short sentences, not a lot of rich detail, etc…

So I’m not sure if this book was disappointing as much as not what I was expecting. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t feel much about it either way. I didn’t love it the way I loved Neverwhere or American Gods.

Thor is my favorite Marvel character, so I did enjoy reading more about his drinking and carousing and eating, but again, I did kind of already know he did that.

These Norse Gods come across as very human, with the same vices and virtues of those of us who aren’t divine. And the book can be very funny. One of my favorite exchanges in the book was this one:

“Loki, who plotted and planned as easily as other folk breathed in and out, smiled at Thor’s anger and innocence. ‘Your hammer has been stolen by Thrym, lord of all the ogres,’ he said. ‘I have persuaded him to return it to you, but he demands a price.’

“ ‘Fair enough,’ said Thor. ‘What’s the price?’

“ ‘Freya’s hand in marriage.’

“ ‘He just wants her hand?’ asked Thor hopefully. She had two hands, after all, and might be persuaded to give up one of them without too much of an argument. Tyr had, after all.”

It was very readable, and I enjoyed it. It’s quite a good intro to Norse mythology, but if you’re looking for something more in depth, you might prefer another book.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Hollow City & Library of Souls

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls are a trilogy of young adult novels written by Ransom Riggs which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I picked Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, the first book in the series, up off the table at Barnes & Noble because of the cover. It was a little girl levitating. And I bought it because of the pictures inside, which were all of children in pictures doing hard to believe things. Some of the pictures were funny, some were creepy, all were in black and white, all were intriguing, and it convinced me to buy the book without really investigating it first.

So when I started it, I had no idea it was a YA book.

People piss all over YA books as if they can’t be enjoyed as adults because they aren’t sophisticated enough, and act as if you are an immature neophyte simpleton if you do enjoy them. While I find a lot of them not so good (paranormal romance isn’t much my thing – romance in general isn’t much my thing), every so often I find a YA book (or series of books) that I really, really enjoy. People are really snobby about this, but I have nothing against YA books, just STUPID YA books. But, to be fair, I’m pretty against ALL stupid books, YA and adult alike.

The premise of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is that 16 year old Jacob Portman watches his grandfather die, killed by a monster that only he can see. It sends him into kind of a PTSD depression, which is understandable, since after telling his story, everyone thinks he’s crazy. Following a series of clues, some suggestions from his psych doctor, and taking advantage of the fact his parents are desperate for him to recover from his illness, he convinces his father to take him to Wales, where his grandfather had supposedly survived in a children’s home as a Jew during the Holocaust.

Exploring the house, which is now in ruins, Jacob meets and follows a girl who can create fire with her hands and who calls out his grandfather’s name upon seeing him. Jacob is later confused to find that the inn where he and his father were staying is different, as are the town residents. He’s rescued by the girl, named Emma, and a boy, Millard, and finds himself transported to the children’s home of the stories his grandfather told him when he was a kid. The children in the home are all “peculiars” (children with some sort of supernatural/enhanced/strange ability; Emma can create fire, Millard is invisible,  Olive can levitate, etc…) and the headmistress is Miss Alma Peregrine, an Ymbryne (a woman who can transform into a bird and create time loops).

After some investigating, Jacob discovers that his grandfather was also a peculiar, with his  ability being that he can see hollowgasts – monsters that feed on peculiars for their souls. Jacob realizes that he has inherited his grandfather’s gift and that the monster that he saw kill his grandfather was a hollowgast.

The story goes on from there over the course of that book and the other two books.

I loved these books – loved, loved, looooved. They were a fun story with all the things that make a great fantasy story – fun, adventure, epic consequences, quirky characters, friendship, loyalty, and even a dash of romance (fairly well done romance, as far as romance goes).

I also enjoyed the appearance of new characters throughout the series, but not so many it was overwhelming (looking at you, George R.R. Martin). One of my favorite characters was introduced in Library of Souls. Sharon is a boatman who ferries and guides the kids through Devils Acre. I find Sharon very darkly funny and very relatable. The books had a lot of humor in them as well – some of it rather dark, which always appeals to me.

So it’s YA lit but it’s enjoyable for any age. If you want something fun to read with your kids, or just for you, these books are it.

Legends of the Dragonrealm, Volume I

Richard Knaak’s Legends of the Dragonrealm, Volume 1 was another book I proudly quit in 2017.

I am obsessed with dragons. Obsessed. You wouldn’t know it looking at me – I don’t have a dragon tattoo or any weird piercings or anything of the sort. I have no pictures of dragons up anywhere. I have some dragon figurines/statues/sculptures/whatever and some jewelry. But I’m obsessed with dragons. I have been since I was a little kid. I look at pictures of them, for awhile I tried to draw them, I know a ridiculous amount about them considering they’re not real, and I read about them.

This book has been sitting on my shelf forever. I bought it for a great price when Borders was going out of business and that has to be…jeez…6 years ago now? This summer, I finally sat down and started it.

It.was.awful.

Not the dragons. The dragons were interesting. So were the maps in the front of the book.

Everything else? SNOOZEFEST. Cabe, the “hero,” was very boring. Supposedly he was a magician? Or a wizard? But he didn’t know. Also, something about his hair. And his dad, who was a dark wizard? And a beautiful sorceress who was going to help him defeat his dad? And a gryphon king. Or something.

It was all too boring for words. I was at page 200 of about 900 when I put the book down and decided life was too short. I’m glad I only bought the one book and not the second and third volumes, which I think were also available at the time. Sometimes my mother is right.

“Why don’t you see if you like it before buying Volume II and Volume III?”

Saved some money there.

I’m sure someone out there likes that book. I’m sure multiple people do. It gets 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads. I’m not one of those people.

The Shining

I keep telling myself I’m going to read more of Stephen King and so this was part of my attempt to keep that promise to myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Stephen King (what I’ve read) and I don’t look down on him for not being high literature or anything of the sort. I’m just bad at commitment. But I did TWO Stephen King books this year, the first being this one.

This one was really good.

Stephen King is remarkable at pulling you into a story. In the first few paragraphs, he can hook and reel you in to his stories the way an experience fisherman can reel in a trout. That happened to me here.

The Shining reminded me a lot of The Haunting of Hill House – except much more elaborately fleshed out – and I remembered later that King was a big fan.

Anyway, this has been out for a long time, book and film alike, so I’m not too worried about spoilers. Basically, Jack Torrence is an alcoholic and a screw up, and in an ongoing effort to rebuild his life, brings his wife, Wendy, and their six year old son, Danny, to the Overlook Hotel, where he’s to be the caretaker for the winter.

The Overlook is nestled in an extremely picturesque but remote part of the Rocky Mountains and nearly impossible to reach safely once winter comes and the snow starts in earnest (November-ish). The family will be months without contact from the outside world.

The story is told from several points of view, the main one being Jack’s, but also with Wendy, Danny, and a gentleman name Dick Hallorann, who, like Danny, has what he calls “the shine.” The shine is telepathic abilities that allow Danny to read minds and have premonitions, both awake and asleep. Each person’s “shining” varies in strength and ability, but Hallorann tells Danny that Danny’s is very strong.

Meanwhile, strange things start happening at the Overlook once all the guests are gone, and we learn more and more about its history, which is fairly dark. At first, things begin strangely. Stuff just seems off, and Danny won’t go to certain parts of the hotel and its grounds because, unbeknownst to his parents, he sees things there. Wendy and Danny both figure out before they’re trapped that it would be best to leave the hotel, either with or without Jack (who is on his last chance from his last remaining friend) but decide to stay because they think in the end the experience will help the family.

But things begin to spiral in earnest once the family is trapped by the snow, and Jack, Wendy, and Danny all start seeing ghosts from the Overlook’s past. While Wendy and Danny are both also experiencing hallucinations and ghosts from the Overlook’s checkered past, both remain the same in terms of behavior. But Jack’s alcoholic habits all reappear without actually drinking, including constantly wiping his mouth, popping Excedrin without water and verbally abusive, sometimes physically violent, outbursts.

Long story short, Jack loses his mind entirely, Danny has to call for help to Hallorann using “the shine” because this story was written before cellphones and the phone lines were out and Jack destroyed their radio, and they barely get out of the Overlook alive. For those who aren’t familiar (all five of you), I’m not clarifying who “they” are, but they do make it out alive.

The Shining is an older book at this point, 40 years old, and Stephen King seems pretty evolved on his social takes, so I wonder how he set out to write Jack and how he views him, then and now. We learn pretty early on in the book that Jack broke Danny’s arm after an alcoholic binge for a minor infraction, and while Jack has spent years trying to make up for it, I never really liked him after finding that out.

Wendy spends a lot of her time as narrator telling the reader about the “real” Jack, but I always viewed Jack as a violent guy who can control himself when he isn’t drinking but whose “real” personality rears its ugly head whenever he meets up with his buddies Jack, Jim, and Johnny. I didn’t like him. And since I did know the premise of the story by just knowing pop culture basics, and knew what was eventually going to happen, I just kept waiting for it.

It was a really good story, but was I supposed to like Jack? Or feel sorry for him? I didn’t. I’m not sure I was supposed to. Wendy’s tolerance of his behavior made me dislike her too, but not to the same extent.

I have a thing about books and movies in closed in spaces where there’s a limited set of characters and circumstances. ClueThe Haunting of Hill HouseThe MousetrapMurder on the Orient ExpressAnd Then There Were None, etc… are some of my favorite stories. Characters are “trapped” in a specific setting and the story has to be clever enough to take away movement as a plot point.

The Shining follows in that tradition. I didn’t like Jack, but I really liked The Shining. And I liked it much better than the film with Jack Nicholson. If you’re going back and forth on picking it up, pick it up.

The Goldfinch

I decided early this year that I was not going to finish books I wasn’t enjoying.

Generally, I have always finished books I didn’t enjoy (except Moby Dick, fuck that book). I have a pretty strong sense of what I like, and most of what I didn’t like I was reading for school (again Moby Dick). Plus:

Image result for sansa mama didn't raise no quitter book meme

I didn’t actually set out to make this decision. I made it after listening to four hours of the audiobook of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I enjoyed Tartt’s debut novel The Secret History so much. I read it back in college, I related very much to the predicament of some of the characters (some, definitely not all), and the story was so interesting that I could barely put the book down.

But let’s start with the only thing I did like about the book (I can usually find one thing). And that one thing here is that the book led me to the painting. The Goldfinch is an actual painting (which, after looking at for awhile), I’ve decided I really like. It’s one of the few surviving paintings of Carel Fabritius, an extremely promising and talented student of Rembrandt’s, but who was unfortunately killed in an explosion that destroyed much of Delft, a city in the Netherlands, where he was living and working. Most of his paintings were also destroyed in the explosion.

But the book itself? No. And it’s my own fault, really. There were signs. I ignored them.

The first sign I wasn’t going to enjoy The Goldfinch was that my friend hated it. She would have put it down, but was trapped on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and so hate-read it the entire way there. My friend and I have different taste and different opinions on a lot of stuff (for example, intersectional feminism) but being from similar background and having similar interests and education usually means we like a lot of the same novels. She, too, loved The Secret History. She, too, based her choice on her love of that novel.

The second sign I wasn’t going to enjoy The Goldfinch was I read the first couple of chapters and switched to the audiobook. Usually, I listen to the audiobook at work and if I’m really enjoying it, I end up picking up the book to finish it at home (as I did after this with The Girl in the Spider’s Web). It’s not good when I read a bit and decide “Ugh, maybe listening to this will be better.” I now find this is just about never the case. There are books that are enhanced by their audiobooks – actual examples for me being David Sedaris reading his own work, Amy Poehler reading her own work, etc… but I’ve never not liked reading something and enjoyed the audiobook better.

Here is the cliff notes summary of the book, because even the cliff notes are too long:

A boy (Theo) and his mother are victims of a terrorist attack at the Met. Theo’s mom doesn’t survive, and in the chaos following the explosion, Theo, in an effort to comfort a dying man, takes a painting called ‘The Goldfinch,’ puts it in his pocket or his backpack, and forgets about it. The entire rest of the novel is about how this one innocent action, which could easily be solved by returning the painting to the museum, ruins his life.

So I got about four hours into The Goldfinch. A lot can happen in about four hours. You can do several loads of laundry. You can watch an entire ‘Lord of the Rings’ film. You can fly from New York to several other destinations within the northern hemisphere.

The Goldfinch barely got past the terrorist attack. No joke, it took two hours to get to the defining moment of the story, and in book time, we’re barely a month or two past it. The kid’s deadbeat dad hasn’t even shown up yet, and there’s like 12 more hours at least.

It was another awkward meal with the Barbours when I decided to call it quits. Theo’s friends with a Barbour kid from school and his friend’s wealthy parents take him in for awhile while authorities try to figure out what to do with Theo, and Theo, suffering from PTSD, barely speaks to them. In his own head though, he whines incessantly and is incredibly obnoxious, and it was around this time that I realized that I just don’t care about Theo.

I stopped the audiobook, went into the app, returned the book to the library (yes, I’m sure I want to return it early – TAKE IT BACK, STOP ASKING ME!) and called it a day.

I know The Goldfinch won a Pulitzer. I know it was critically acclaimed. I know. I know. I know. Supposedly the story deals with the nature vs. nurture debate as well as the fate vs. free will debate. I don’t care.

I know somebody out there likes this book. I disagree. It’s boring and awful and I highly suggest skipping it if you require anything in your novels beyond the psychological development of a traumatized 13 year old boy – you know, stuff like a plot. I learned that The Goldfinch is a genre of literature called ‘bildungsroman,’ which is a coming of age story in which character development was extremely important. There was not enough character development at a fast enough rate to justify continuing.

I live in the minutia of daily life. I don’t need to read it book form.

And so this is how I decided that life is too short to read/listen to books I don’t enjoy. I’ve quit a couple books this year, and I feel so free!

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