Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mini-Reviews: The Meh Strikes Back
I want to start off this latest round of mini-reviews with the disclaimer that my reading mood is all over the place right now.  Now, I know me.  I suspect if I was in the best of reading moods I'd likely still have had a similar reaction to both of these books - but given that I seem to be in the extreme minority with one (if not both) of them - well, I figure it's worth the disclaimer.

Mini-Review #1: The Truth About Him by Molly O'Keefe

The Meh: OK, so I really, really liked the first book in this duet (Everything I Left Unsaid) and given that it ended on a cliffhanger, it was pretty much a guarantee I was going to dive into this follow-up book immediately afterward.  I didn't dive so much as slog.  You know how sometimes you get hooked into a series and inevitably there's an entry where you find yourself feeling "full up" with the characters?  Yeah, that.  And this was only book two.

The stuff I loved in the first book just didn't carry over to this one (for me at any rate - every other review I'd seen for this has been SQUEEEE!).  Annie's innocence and naivety were totally understandable in book one, but in book two I was just over it.  Given the stuff that goes down at the end of book one and the beginning of book two?  I started thinking of this as Poor Little Innocent Good Girl Rescue Me Schtick.  Also, what I really loved about the first book was that it was a blend of erotic romance, suspense and women's fiction.  With this second book - way too much time spent on the erotic romance.  In fact I found every single sex scene in this book to essentially be filler.  As in, blah blah blah don't care get back to the good stuff.  What I wanted was much more of the "personal relationship stuff" between Annie, Dylan and all the secondary characters.  Dylan's father.  Dylan's brother.  The residents of the trailer park.  Joan.  DEAR GOD I WANT ALL JOAN ALL THE TIME!!!!

I finally found a reading groove in the final third of the book when the suspense kicks up and the author spends more time putting Annie and Dylan on page with the secondary characters - but the ending kinda ticked me off.  Yes, Dylan and Annie ride off into the sunset - but every other secondary character (save one) is left twisting in the breeze.  Also the epilogue takes place three years into the future, so some stuff was "told" to the reader after the fact, which I found very frustrating.  Especially given how invested I became in the secondary players.  I wanted to read that stuff in "real time, on page" and not have the author tell me what happened after the fact.  No idea if O'Keefe plans to revisit this world in future books, but frankly I'm glad to leave Annie and Dylan to their happy ending and move on.  But if she revisits the world?  Especially if she writes about Joan?!  Shut up and take my money.

Final Grade = C+
Mini-Review #2: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

The Meh: Earlier this year I listened to the first book in this trilogy, Mr. Mercedes, and enjoyed it tremendously.  I had some quibbles (mostly repetition and pacing issues) but by the end of the book I had bitten off all my fingernails and was thinking about taking up chain-smoking.  There were some minor twinges of horror, but essentially King had written a bang-up thriller and totally deserved his Edgar Award.  So it was inevitable I would listen to Finders Keepers, the second book and....meh.

The set-up here is pretty good.  In 1978 a whack-a-doodle breaks into the country home of a reclusive writer (think JD Salinger) with some compatriots.  His partners just want the rumored cash the old guy keeps on hand but our villain is after the rumored unpublished writings.  Bingo bango - author dead, compatriots dead, but before our villain can spend the money or read the stolen unpublished writings?  He's sent to prison for another crime entirely.  He buried his loot before he got nabbed however, and it's eventually found by a young teenage boy whose father was badly injured during the events of Mr. Mercedes.  He uses the money to help his family, but keeps (and reads) the notebooks for himself.  Everything is going along swimmingly until our bad, bad man gets paroled.

As good as the set-up is, the pacing is a real issue.  Remember those great characters we meet in Mr. Mercedes?  Bill, Jerome, and Holly?  Yeah, they don't even show up until halfway through this book.  Prior to that it's all set-up.  Then once we finally get to the "cat and mouse" portion of the story?  It lacks all the urgency of the previous book.  With Mr. Mercedes I couldn't wait to start my commute to and from work so I could listen to more.  With this book?  I pretty much listened because I had it in the car and wanted to return it to the library on time. 

The teaser for the third book also doesn't inspire much hope.  Half the fun of Mr. Mercedes and the concept of this trilogy in general is that King was writing suspense.  A crime novel.  A thriller.  In other words he was doing something a little different.  But the teaser for book three pretty much goes whole hog into supernatural territory and....meh.  Look, I'll likely listen to it because at this point I feel like I want to finish the trilogy - plus more Bill, Holly and Jerome.  But supernatural woo-woo?  Meh.

Final Grade = C


Hilcia said...

RE: The Truth About Him. I read both books in a row and loved the first one, except for the cliffhanger. That was definitely a personal no-no.

This book on the other hand was not such a thriller for me. I also slogged through the beginning and was able to put the book down (something that did not happen with the first book).

Like you, I also became emotionally invested in those secondary characters: Ben, Joan, Max, Blake, Margaret. I wanted to know how things turn out for them! Except for the one, as you said, we know zilch by the end of that epilogue. I was happy for Dylan and Annie, but dang if it didn't feel like another incomplete ending. I hope O'Keefe follows through with another book set in this world and with these characters.

Wendy said...

Hils: Ha! I'm so behind on responding to blog comments - I've been meaning to let you know about Max & Joan (O'Keefe posted about the book after my review went live) and I see you found out about it and sent me a GR recommendation.

Joan, Joan, Joan! I'm kinda obsessed about Joan. I need to mellow out and not hype myself up to much.