Tag: 0/5- Abandoned

by Ernest Hemingway

Set in World War I, narrated by an ambulance driver on the Italian front who gets injured and falls in love with a nurse. I did not get very far- just past the part where he was wounded and in the hospital, about sixty pages. Then started to wonder why am I using up my time reading this? I thought I could see what the author was doing- showing how casual people kept their attachments when anyone might die senselessly at any moment, how pointless the war was, how inane their conversations- but I found nothing artful in the way he did it. The dialog particularly felt very stiff. I suppose the style was intended to be the way things were, but it was hard to stay interested in the words. So brief and matter-of-fact and unemotional. I couldn’t find it in me to care about any of the characters, and I wasn’t drawn into the surroundings or events either. Another case where a classic falls totally flat for me. I think I just really do not like Hemingway. I am baffled why he is considered a great writer- honestly. Even more baffled why this edition contains not only visual reproductions of his handwritten manuscript with crossed out lines and rewritten passages- so readers can admire how he crafted the novel- but also a myraid of alternate endings in the appendix (like movie outtakes, haha). I do like studying preliminary sketches by artists- sometimes I feel like I can see how their mind was thinking to lay down certain lines- and often I even like the sketches better than the finished paintings! but reading how phrases were different before the writer committed to his final draft, I get nothing from that. Probably because I didn’t care for the final product, here.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: Abandoned
330 pages, 1927

Night Angel Trilogy 

by Brent Weeks

I feel I ought to apologize to my youngest- that I didn’t care for this book. It was a gift from her to me (a year or two ago, so she was eight or nine). She picked it out for me “because it looked exciting!” she said. I am sure it is- but it’s just not my kind of read. I gave it a good try- got to page 106 and then argh, sorry, I just couldn’t continue. I failed to care enough about any of the characters and the complexity of this made-up world and its politics just lost me. Similar to Jhereg I suppose, it\’s about an assassin. Young man who lives rough and half-starving on the streets, wants something better but mostly just wants to not be afraid anymore so convinces the most skilled and deadly assassin in the city to take him on as apprentice. He has to learn to blend in with people of much higher status, to learn stealth and swordplay and the arts of poisoning and there’s also magic. I didn’t get to the magic. Alternating chapters tell the story from other viewpoints- including of some leading factions and rulers in this city or neighboring realms- I didn’t really keep track of what was going on with all the different ruling parties, varying cultures of the many countries and how they related to each other, even though the author dropped plenty of details and hints at such. Did kind of like the main character, at least his perspective starting out was somewhat sympathetic. I just couldn’t focus on it.

 Abandoned                     677 pages, 2008

by Glenn Balch

adapted by Ardis E. Burton

     Story of a native american boy, son of the chief, who gets to choose his own horse out of the herd. His father is displeased when the boy picks an unborn horse- he wants the black mare\’s foal, because he saw her running with a wild horse band earlier and figures the stallion sired her colt. His father advises hin against this, saying the colt will be wild and difficult to train. The boy stands by his choice, although people keep pointing out how long he will have to wait for his horse to be old enough to ride (suggesting he should change his mind and choose a grown horse right now). I kind of liked that he didn\’t go for the immediate, obvious reward but was willing to wait for something he thought would be better. Anyhow, the tribe travels to hunt bison and after the busy work with the meat and hides (he still has to help the women, not being allowed to hunt yet), the boy goes to check on his recently-born colt in the herd. The black mare and his colt are missing. He gets adults to help him read tracks and find out what happened. A fur-trapper had stolen the mare to carry his load to a trader\’s rendezvous. They find the trapper and the mare, but the colt is missing. It had been unable to keep up and the trapper just left it behind. By the time the boy finds his colt, it is weak and can barely stand. He stays behind while his adult companions go back to the tribe. Alone he nurses the colt back to health. 

I\’m assuming the story is going to wind up with this colt being devoted to the boy who saved his life (like Flicka), proving himself a brave steed, and going on adventures with the boy. I browsed through some of the pictures but couldn\’t finish reading the book. It has the sense of a good story, but didn\’t feel like I was reading Glenn Balch. Turning back to the copyright page I realized why. The edition I have is part of the Everyreaders collection \”selected from the great literature of the world\” which are adapted for \”the successful teaching of remedial reading\” with \”carefully controlled vocabulary and sentence structure [enabling] pupils to read the stories easily . . . \” Well. Yeah, I could tell the prose had been greatly simplified and it felt like a lot of detail and nuance was missing. It was dry and dull. I\’m disappointed I didn\’t pay better attention when I snatched up these Glenn Balch books a while back- I have two more unread and I already know one is also a shortened version of the original. I doubt I\’ll even try it now.

Abandoned                 138 pages, 1962

by Gerald Durrell 

This is the first Durrell book that has disappointed me. It\’s about a fictional bird on a fictional island. The tropical island is just starting to work out its independence from British colonialism, it has a native king and two local tribes that are at odds with each other. The British have plans to build a military base which requires a dam to be built to provide electricity, part of the reef to be destroyed to open up the harbor access, and more changes. Some see this as progress, others as environmentally destructive. Then (I didn\’t get this far, but I read enough synopses to know what was coming) an endemic bird that was presumed extinct, is discovered alive and well in the forest. Planned construction projects will threaten the bird. There was already friction over the airstrip and dam project, but because of the bird tensions quickly escalate.

Unfortunately, I couldn\’t read this. I struggled thought the first three chapters and then started skimming. I really did not like any of the characters, and the only one who was tolerable (a visiting young man who\’s supposed to assist the king\’s political advisor) was also rather uninteresting. The rest were highly eccentric, to the point of being annoying or ludicrous. Presumably these are based on people Durrell met in real life, but I wonder how much he exaggerated their quirks. The made-up pidgin language used as communication between the natives and the Europeans felt cringeworthy, as did the native slurs casually tossed around, in particular wog was used so frequently I got tired of it. (I did see a similarity between the vociferous insults constantly spouted by the king\’s assistant to all his underlings, and the way Gerald addressed Lucy in Castaway– but although the king\’s assistant used very creative language in his insults, and G mostly just swear words, that\’s nothing to recommend this).
Not to mention, something about the prose (or lack of it) was a bit tedious. I found myself impatient wading through tiresome dialog hoping to get to something happening, and then bored. Sigh. Moving on.
Abandoned                      224 pages, 1981

Age of Fire Book Three
by E.E. Knight

Eh again. I thought I\’d give this a try because it was the one that initially caught my interest in the series. It\’s about the third dragon, maimed by his siblings at birth and shoved out of the nest. In the first two books he\’s portrayed as a traitor, but this one shows from his perspective, how the dwarves tricked him and he crawled away in bitterness at what he\’d done. Travelled for ages underground and fell in with a lot of bats that wheedled him into letting them suck his blood, in return for which they guided him to a hidden stronghold of dragons. So the part with the bats was engaging. The mishaps and scrapes along the way, dismissive. The encounter with dragon society, so dull. I just did not want to read a lot of what came across as court intrigue and power struggles- at some point, in spite of the constant fighting and mention of draconic characteristics- greedily snarfing down meat, snapping their tails around, caring for the health of their scales- it felt like I was reading about people, not dragons. As before, I liked well enough the first part, when the dragon was travelling companion with another animal species. Almost halfway through the book, when he joined the other dragons, I lost interest. I did skim enough to see where this was going- in spite of his outcast status and multiple physical shortcomings, the copper dragon overcomes the judgement of the other dragons to obtain a position of power among them and- presumably- lead them against their enemy mankind. But the execution was just so poor I never got there. Bummer.

Abandoned                  379 pages, 2007

by Amor Towles

I tried very hard to like this book, because it was highly recommended to me by two family members, but I just can\’t get into it. I did read as far as the first passage my dad or sister marked (p. 96) and flipped through to read the other marked passages. It\’s full of elegant language, insightful and clever remarks, unflappable characters who meet awkward circumstances with dignity. It\’s about a gentleman who is placed under house arrest by the Bolsheviks in 1922. His crime -as far as I could tell- is writing some revolutionary poetry so he is spared being shot and instead condemned to live in a grand fancy hotel. For some thirty years. So he watches a lot of history pass by, gets to know the various hotel staff intimately, and some of the other guests, including a nine-year-old who first shows him the rooms in the basement and where to sneak to spy on meetings in the old ballroom. The story wanders all over the place, in past reminiscences and current musings to stories told and heard by others. All very rich and fine and sometimes amusing or insightful, but somehow boring too. I\’m sorry to say I was relieved to give up on it. Could just be wrong timing for the reader. It\’s popular enough I\’ll always be able to find a library copy if I want to give it another try someday.

Borrowed from a family member.

Abandoned                             462 pages, 2016

more opinions:
Attack of the Books!
who else has read it?

by Ernest Hemingway

I could not like this one. I tried really hard- read a third of it. It\’s about a safari trip Hemingway made to East Africa with his wife (referred to in the book only as P.O.M. – Poor Old Mama- took me a while to figure that out) and a few friends, to hunt big game. Their goal was to get as many large animals as their license permitted during the allotted timeframe- rhino, lions, kudu, giraffe, zebra for their hides, etc. Hemingway was obsessed with getting a larger rhino than his companion, a kudu with bigger horns, etc. He took pride in making a good, clean shot- and while I can admire the skill- I found the attitudes overall very distasteful. Even though he describes in one passage having suffered a terrible war wound in the past, so he knows what it feels like to have been shot- and thus is determined to always make a clean kill so the animals don\’t suffer long. Yet he describes in detail how one of his companions always laughed hilariously at the sudden contortions animals made when hit hard from a far distance- stunned, in shock and agony, flipping head over heels or spinning in circles- I didn\’t find that funny at all. I\’ve read other hunting accounts that were interesting and showed enough respect for the animals, enjoyment of the challenge that I was okay with it. Yes, these were different times and attitudes but still. It was too crass for me. The descriptive writing of the landscape, environment and native peoples did not make up for that. The cursory manner Hemingway used to refer to his companions- barely describing them at all so I rarely knew who was who- and half the time had no idea what their conversations were about- didn\’t redeem it for me either. I did like reading his opinions on other writers- in the evening, after stalking and shooting at animals all day, Hemingway and his companions would sit around the camp getting drunk, reading books and discussing literature. Really full of their own opinions. Some great thoughts in there and pointed observations, but if I wanted to read literary criticism I\’d much rather have a book about just that, without all the amusement on the part of animals dying with their hides blasted open so he and his friends could get all the trophies they\’d paid for. I\’m feeling sore about this, as you can tell. Don\’t care for Hemingway now.

Abandoned                  207 pages, 1935

by María Dueñas
translated by Daniel Hahn

I saw this at Indextrious Reader, and wondered immediately if my nearly-fifteen-year-old would like it. It has a lot of elements my teenager enjoys in books: romance, a bit of drama, intrigue and spying. This is a war story, set during the Spanish Civil War. The main character, a young seamstress-in-training named Sira, flees the turbulence in Madrid and goes to Morocco with her fianceé. Where she gets unexpectedly stranded, betrayed and burdened with a heavy debt due to someone else\’s reckless behavior. She turns to her sewing skills to get herself out of the mess, and it evolves into something else, leading to connections that get her involved in espionage.

I didn\’t quite get that far. I read about a third of it and then began skimming, loosing interest and not willing to push through six hundred-plus pages. It\’s a good story, with a strong female character who remakes her life several times over, but I just didn\’t find anything I could quite connect to. The political events all felt like flat background material and Sira\’s personality never really felt alive to me. I suppose it could be the fact that the text is translated, or it could be that it\’s just not my usual type of read, so I didn\’t find it exciting. I did, however, get enough of a feel for it to surmise there\’s nothing I\’d object to my teenager reading! although I don\’t quite know if the author\’s style will be appreciated more than I could.

Borrowed from the public library.

Abandoned                   615 pages, 2009

more opinions:
Fantasy Book Club
Ardent Reader
anyone else?

by E.M. Forster

Just a quick note on this one. I tried to read it on a very long drive. Sixty pages in, after picking it up and putting it down repeatedly, I had to give up with a sigh. If this is Forster\’s best work, it makes me wonder if I should cross Room with a View and Howard\’s End off my want-to-read list. It\’s about a bunch of people in India nearing the end of colonialism, snobs of the British ruling class trying to mix socially with native Indian people (who are well-educated themselves) but nobody understands each other and it all goes wrong. At least, I gathered that much from the back cover text and glancing at a few reviews online. I just could not picture anything in my mind, or figure out what was going on, or keep the characters straight, while reading this. So I ended up disinterested and bored. Of course, it could just have been my mood and the surrounding circumstances (long hours in the car with a restless eight-year-old in the back seat) so I am re-shelving this one to try again at a later date. Do tell me if it\’s worth the effort of another attempt.

Abandoned              335 pages, 1924

by Mark Eastburn

Wanted to like this one, but I just couldn\’t get into it, probably because it\’s juvenile fiction and the writing just a bit too simplistic for my taste. Things were glossed over that I really wished had better treatment. Such as, when the main character\’s family is apparently kidnapped, his reaction is so flat. Well, he does go off on a quest to find them again, but I would have expected more shock or anger or something. Maybe- because he\’s not quite human? His family are were-hyenas, shape-shifters. I haven\’t read a lot of books with this concept, aside from Animorphs really. I was into it at first- the hyena boy faces off against a group of bullying werewolf kids at the school- his is the only family of were-hyenas in town so he gets picked on and misunderstood. Then his parents disappear during a sudden confrontation with harpies – that really threw me- and he goes off with a new acquaintance- a were-jaguar kid- and some others to find them again. Eventually- I gathered this from synopsis read elsewhere- he encounters a population of were-hyenas in another part of the country, learns more about his heritage, finds out that his quest is much bigger than just saving his family. A lot to like- but for some reason I lost interest when the harpies showed up. I don\’t know why I can suspend belief to read about people who change into wolves, hyenas, jaguars, coyotes, etc. but the inclusion of harpies makes me roll my eyes. Maybe because it\’s a different kind of genre? harpies seem like they belong in a fantasy story with magic, while shape-shifters fit into urban fantasy type? it\’s all fiction so I don\’t know why it matters to my brain. Oh well.

I had this one on my e-reader.

Abandoned                 288 pages, 2016

more opinions: Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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