3 mini reviews: Leaving Time, The Middle of Somewhere, and Fates and Furies

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18816603Well, honestly! I did not see that plot twist coming! Honestly. Hints were dropped, now that I go back and reflect, but I just did not pick up on them at all!  That was a good twist! There were all kinds of twists and turns to keep you guessing, so that in the end they elevated the story to a higher level, for me.

Originally, I started this one in audio: multiple narrators, including Rebecca Lowman, had me happy that I was able to listen to it in this format. Having distinct voices for Jenna, Alice, Serenity and Virgil made it a great listening experience. However, at about the halfway mark, I switched over to the hardcopy (thank you to Random House Canada for sending). I did this because the details about the elephant research, and on elephant matriarchs in particular, were starting to become too numerous and sometimes too repetitive. By then, I just wanted to know where the heck was Alice??? So the many, many details about the elephants, and especially those details of the elephants that were mothers, while appreciated and very interesting in the beginning were becoming more like having a hammer hit over your head repeatedly. The joining of the traits of the elephants to Alice together as mothers was done with a very heavy hand. I needed to read over those parts quicker to get to the meat of the story – Jenna finding her mom.

Jenna Metcalf is now 13 and has been searching for her mother for years. Her mother, her father and two other elephant caretakers, worked on an elephant sanctuary built by Jenna’s father, and following a serious accident at the sanctuary, Jenna’s dad is now in a psychiatric facility, one of the elephant caretakers is dead, (trampled by an elephant) and her mother has disappeared without a trace from the hospital. Jenna spends her days checking all the missing persons databases, doing a significant amount of online research and reading her mother’s journals (her research on elephants) daily. She enlists the help of a formerly celebrated celebrity psychic and the former police officer, now private investigator, originally on her mother’s case, to help find her. There is a great little mystery involved here and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the different perspectives throughout, and as mentioned above, some of the elephant research was very interesting. There were a good many twists and turns and then that one big giant twist in the end! Without giving too much away, watching The Sixth Sense would make this a great book and movie combo! That is only sharing maybe a wee bit, but really not enough to spoil it at all! 3.5 stars = very good read. This is only the second Jodi Picoult book I’ve ever read too! I read a number of years ago, Nineteen Minutes. That was a book that has long stayed with me! I do recommend that one for sure too.

24612059I absolutely adored Sonja Yoerg’s debut novel, House Broken. I was anticipating another fantastic read when she graciously offered The Middle of Somewhere. It was said to appeal to those that read Wild. Now, I never read Wild, never did see the movie either, or had much interest in it really, but I figured if Sonja gave us House Broken, The Middle of Somewhere might give us something special as well.

Unfortunately, there were way too many highly implausible situations and events that happened so I just could not get behind this story, or its characters. :-(  I struggled from the beginning, first in engaging with Liz and her boyfriend, Dante, but then I really struggled after reading through three or four unrealistic (to me) situations and events.

In the beginning Liz is suffering from significant personal struggles and wishes to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) on her own, in order to work through them. There is the death of her husband for one, and now an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent abortion with her boyfriend, Dante. Both of these things (pregnancy and abortion) she has kept from him, and knows that telling him may signal the end of their relationship – but is this something that Liz wants anyway, deep down? Dante doesn’t want her to go on her own as he too feels this will mean the end of their relationship. This is the first time he’s ever gone on a hike, but to come on one as challenging as the JMT is something he is intent on doing.  He doesn’t last very long, and it’s now on Liz to finish the hike on her own, as she originally planned to do.

There is also the introduction of two brothers that are hiking the JMT. Liz doesn’t like the Root brothers from the outset and there is something quite sinister about their presence. When Dante leaves the hike because of blisters, Liz continues on the hike, alone. This was implausibility #1 for me: knowing her leeriness about these two brothers, why wouldn’t she have stayed back a day or two, let them get a head start and ensure she doesn’t cross their path when she’s out hiking, alone. I would imagine personal safety would be the number one consideration when taking on a hike of this magnitude. Liz also carries no cell phone, no GPS, so really, there is no way of contacting her, or knowing where she is on the trail, in case of emergencies or in the need to contact her. And, all throughout, Liz reminds us that after every camp out you are to leave no trace of you being there. Ever.

An actor is also introduced into the story. He has never hiked before either, but is trying this out for a movie role he hopes to land. He is also completely alone. And again, has never hiked before. He’s taking on an advanced hike from the get go and he’s on his own. Hmmmm. Dante, also never having hiked before, is left to find his way back from where they are at now on the hike, to the place where they started. He also somehow knows where to meet up with Liz 3 days later to say he’s changed his mind and wants to continue on the hike.

All characters are now becoming known to each other and find their paths crossing often. The uneasiness towards the brothers continues and there is one kerfuffle between the brothers and the actor, because the actor has unknowingly broken a known-to-hikers-code. Later on, this actor is found dead, potentially murdered. Now this is a major event. Would you think not? A hiker is found potentially murdered, on the trail. That’s a big upset for your planned hike isn’t it?  Liz and Dante simply wrap his body in orange cloth so that he will be noticeable for the park rangers, fear it could be murder done by one of the two brothers, but…..proceed on their hike, intent on completing it.

And that is where it completely unraveled for me. Unrealistic reactions and actions abound following this event. For instance, when Liz and Dante wake up the next morning, after having discovered a (probably) murdered body, Dante’s first comment was “what a beautiful morning!”. Okay, here was where I was really ready to pack it all in after reading that statement. I also found the ending to be too neatly wrapped up complete with the happy ending. I am in the great and wide minority for my feelings about The Middle of Somewhere. This is easily discovered after seeing the numerous 5-star ratings it has on Goodreads. I’ve missed it, clearly, and perhaps I just read it at the wrong time? But all I know is that right now, no, there were too many plot holes here to turn this into a good read for me.

24612118Ah, Fates and Furies. How you tormented me so! Here’s another one where I seem to have completely missed the boat on finding glory in it that others found within its pages. Fates and Furies is another one with very high ratings, and has even been named Amazon’s Best Book of 2015!

For me, I found it tedious and more than once wanted to throw it against the wall. Sure, I was able to find some spots where this “examination of a marriage” occurred from the perspectives of a husband and wife.  Those were sparse and few and far between for me however. First, I had to pick through the sex scenes (the many, many sex scenes) and thought that I could see what Groff was trying to do. But let it be known, there are all kinds of sex scenes to pick through. A plethora. A multitude. Indeed, within the few opening paragraphs we endure reading the newlywed’s sex-on-the-beach scene. It continues, often, and at this point my reaction to it more along the lines of exclaiming that if I wanted to read page after page of sex and more sex, I would have turned to an erotica novel. But, I don’t read those! And I truly do despise reading about it in literary novels. (You’ve heard me complain about this before. Sorry, but I truly.do.not.like.it. For me, it cheapens the story in my opinion.)  

The first perspective is that of Lotto, the husband. There are a few moments here in this part where you see this examination of the marriage: the joy, the misunderstandings, the jealousy, the complexities of a marriage within the couple’s two families and from the husband’s point of view. But generally, Lotto’s part was painfully too long and highly annoying. There are a lot of Shakespearean references throughout and I will truthfully say that those went right over my head. Lotto is also a caricature of a self-centered, egotistical pretty boy with all the clichéd references that type of caricature comes with.

I was told however to hang on, that it would get better. Stay with it. I read in the reviews, (yes, I started reading them because I was clearly missing something. Why was I detesting this novel so much when so many others raved about it?) that once it switches to Mathilde’s perspective, it improves. Yes, while Mathilde’s story is initially an interesting one, any improvement is only marginal. Despite her interesting past, Groff continues to bog down the story with an even greater amount of distracting sexual chatter. Mathilde has sex with anything and anyone that does not move out of her line of vision fast enough. Le sigh.

I also found there to be an extraordinary amount of extraneous jibber jabber filling the pages. Overall, (can you tell?) I truly, truly did not like it, and could not find the greatness in it that so many have celebrated. :-(

It does sound like I swallowed a bitter pill here doesn’t it? Apologies for all of this unintended bitterness, but I do have to say that most of my reads lately have been hitting this wall and have launched me into a reading slump. (It sadly continues with this audiobook I’ve got on the go right now, but that is going to be written about separately.) I now only hope to finish off and salvage this reading year with some spectacular reads, and ones that will help to launch me from this slump.

Literary Hoarders Penny rev