two DNFs for August

The Distance by Helen Giltrow
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Doubleday!!)
Summary: A dark, ultra-contemporary, and relentlessly paced debut thriller about a London society woman trying to put her secret criminal past behind her, and the hit man who comes to her with an impossible job she can’t refuse.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller
Rating: DNF

This should have been a book I loved; everything about it screams LEAH. Unfortunately I made it 100 pages in before finally calling it quits.

Meet Charlotte Alton, fabulously wealthy socialite who mingles with the Who’s Who at operas and dinner parties. What the the upper crust doesn’t know is that, by night, Charlotte is Karla, criminal extraordinaire who specializes in making information disappear. She’s managed to keep her double-life hidden as long as she has by never allowing her face to be seen by clients. ..only she dropped her guard. Just once, but one time was all it took.

Now, years later, that man has come back into her life and he needs her help. Johanssen, ex-special forces turned killer-for-hire, took on a job at an experimental prison colony. The only problem? The woman he was sent to kill doesn’t seem to exist. There are no records of her, no files, nothing. To make matters worse, the mob boss Johanssen angered all those years ago? Turns out he’s at the prison. With Johanssen’s life on the line, Karla needs to act fast.

The Distance has been getting some really rave reviews…but I just don’t get it. I wanted to love this one, but there was nothing to keep me entertained. When it came down to it, The Distance was flat-out boring. The organization Karla works for has to fabricate an entirely new identity for Johanssen with a reasonable explanation for why he’s being sent to this prison. Why the need for all this secrecy? The prison itself was confusing to: it seems to be run by the prisoners and whether you made it out depended on whose good side you were on.

As much as I wanted to find out what the deal was with this mysterious woman Johanssen was sent to kill, I couldn’t spend any more time with this book.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Pub. Date: September 16, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Doubleday!!)
Summary: A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in “Alphinland,” the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In “The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom,” a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In “Lusus Naturae,” a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In “Torching the Dusties,” an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in “Stone Mattress,” a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: DNF

WEEPING over this one. This summer I became obsessed with short story collections (Andrew Porter’s The Theory of Light & Matter is entirely to blame), so when I heard MARGARET ATWOOD had an upcoming collection, you bet I was intrigued.

It breaks my heart that I couldn’t finish it. The blurb makes the later stories sound great! The first three though…they were enough to turn me off completely. These stories are loosely linked, giving me the (incorrect) impression the entire collection would revolve around these characters. Had I realized that wasn’t the case I’m sure I would have enjoyed the stories much more.

The first three however, dealt with a writer, her ex-boyfriend, and a woman he cheated with. In the first, the writer – now widowed – hears (or is convinced she hears) the voice of her dead husband. There’s a bad storm coming and she walks to the corner store to get some salt for the sidewalk, only they’re sold out. So her husband tells her to get some kitty litter instead. She walks back home, gets a call from her son. The brief glimpses into her sci-fi novels was interesting, but the rest was brutal to get through. The second story focused on her college boyfriend, some artsy-fartsy poet who made it big but now hates his work. A grad school student asks to interview him. He wants to know if she has a cute butt. Charming.

The third – and my final – story was about a set of twins, the woman had once had an affair with the crotchety poet. What does it say about these stories that I honestly cannot remember names? I know the twin was Marjorie, but in this story she goes by Jorie or something ridiculous like that. I don’t even remember what this one was about.

I wish I had paid attention to reviews. If I had known the other stories weren’t about these characters I would have continued – and might have even had a great time! Sadly, Stone Mattress didn’t cut it for me. My introduction to Ms. Atwood was a whopping disappointment.

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3 thoughts on “two DNFs for August

  1. […] August’s DNFs Helen Giltrow’s The Distance all but screamed my name, but this thriller did nothing for me. With a plot going nowhere, I ended up more confused than excited. Margaret Atwood’s short-story collection, Stone Mattress, is probably one I would have liked if I had stuck through to the end. With the first three stories interweaving, I mistakenly assumed the rest would follow suit. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine A fairy tale retelling set in the Jazz Age! While I didn’t dislike it, keeping track of twelve sisters was near impossible. Unfortunately, these girls became little more than character traits. Neverhome by Laird Hunt One of my most anticipated releases this year turned out to be the biggest disappointment. The only way I finished was because it was so short. A Civil War novel where the wife leaves her husband behind to go off and fight for the Union…and that’s where the awesome ended. There were so many scenes where logic clearly didn’t come into play and for a wartime novel there wasn’t much fighting at all. I wish I could erase this novel from my memory. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle Another novel I was super excited about, another novel that completely disappointed me. I’m a big fan of The Mountain Goats so I was eager to see what Darnielle’s fiction would hold. Not much, it turns out. ..but that cover is absolutely gorgeous. The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki September’s saving grace. I love historical fiction that deals with real historical figures. In this case, Peggy Shippen, Mrs. Benedict Arnold, is the star and her tale was incredible. I actually loved this book so much I went and bought my own copy – something I RARELY do. The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien The start of a new series that didn’t really do much of anything, characters I couldn’t connect with, and an evil boarding school. I was sick while reading this one and I think that were it not for the DayQuil in my system, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this one too much. As it was, however, this was a great novel to read while feeling crappy: I didn’t have to put much thought into it and the pace was super quick. Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer One of my favorite series came to an end…and it was a letdown. :( Talk about a bummer! […]

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