Meh Mashup

I am knee deep in the middle of studying for my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. I should be studying like my life (or at least my October trip to Disney) depends on it. Here’s my problem: since I applied for the opportunity to take the exam and hopefully add the letters PMP after my name, I have lost my studying mojo. Crazy or not, the slim chance that I might not get the green light has put the brakes on my attention span. I need a looming deadline. Since the 7th grade, when I remembered on a Sunday night at bedtime that I had an as yet unstarted project on Michigan Indians due the next day, I’ve been the kind of student who pulls all nighters. I procrastinate until my “OMG! What have I done?” adrenaline kicks in to do the work. As soon as I hear back from the powers on high at the PMI and I schedule my test, I’ll be off the grid until I come up for breath with my certification. Until then, I’m working very hard to messily tread water.

In my attempt to do anything but spend my time studying, I logged on to LibraryThing and looked at the books I need to review. There are 20, which sucks. I am quite positive that this is the most in the hole I have ever been. Just like that, I found an immediate “OMG! What have I done?” moment.

I broke down each of the books into three categories: Liked to Loved, Meh to I’m Not Sure, and Most Definitely Did Not Work for Me. There weren’t any DDNWFM books. The rest broke down to 75% Liked to Loved and 25% Meh to I’m Not Sure. In this post, I’m going to discuss the 25% that just didn’t quite jive with me over the past few months. Welcome to my Meh Mashup with special thanks to Erin Blakemore for coming up with the title.

Just Meh

There was only one book I have finished recently that was a firm meh.

Cover of When She Was Gone

When She Was Gone by Gwendolen Gross. There was a lot of potential in this book about a teenage girl who vanishes from her neighborhood without a trace. The book followed three neighbors and the missing girl’s family as the mystery was unraveled. In the end, I only really liked one of the missing girl’s twin brothers. I never thought the more obvious red herring was responsible either. Although it was cleared up, in the end I didn’t care that much about what happened to the missing girl. The more salacious side issues that did peak my interest were left open-ended. There was enough there to keep me reading, but I haven’t really given it that much thought since I closed the book. Although you could do much worse than read this book, I would rather read something that has has a punch in the end or is simply a feel good kind of read from start to finish. If you’re looking for something with an impact, I would suggest reading Gone Girl if you haven’t already.

I’m Just Not Sure

There were several books I’ve read recently that I’ve enjoyed discussing, but my reaction to them and my lingering thoughts about them are so undecided that I can’t consider them books I would recommend, at least not for reading for enjoyment.

Cover of The InterestingsThe Interesting by Meg Wolitzer. I read this book with my online book club called The Hashtags. We had some really great discussions about this book. I enjoyed reading this book with them, but I’m not too sure I enjoyed this book in and of itself. As a jumping point for conversation it did its job. We talked about status, envy, mental illness, regret, generational changes, growing older. For me, though, I felt that the prose kept me at arm’s distance from most of the characters and their lives. I just couldn’t get invested in their stories the way I would have liked to. I’ve seen this book compared to The Marriage Plot and there are definitely correlations. I read The Marriage Plot twice and loved it each time. Had Jonah been at the forefront of this story or at least more prominent I think I would have enjoyed The Interestings as much. I will always be glad to have read this book because of Jonah, but the rest of it left me cold. I’m leaving myself room to change my mind, though. This is a book with many layers and there is a possibility that I read this book at a less favorable time. If you were interested in reading something by Meg Wolitzer, I would still recommend The Uncoupling over The Interestings right now.

Cover of The Other TypistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. This was another book I read together with The Hashtags. Unlike previous months, I opted to read this book in audio since a copy unexpectedly arrived on my doorstep just days before we were beginning to read. The audiobook was narrated by Gretchen Mol. It was my first time listening to her work. I think the Meh to I Don’t Know factor has more to do with her than with the story itself. She was certainly competent. I understood who was speaking at all times and her voice and tone made it easy to listen. The problem is that they also made it easy for my mind to drift as well. The story of Rose and her work as a typist for a local police precinct in the 1920s was very dynamic and there were many WFT moments that kept me listening simply because of the story. When the story slowed down, my mind wandered. There is a lot to love in The Other Typist and we had some great conversations about it. I think in this case I would have been better off reading the book in print.

Cover of Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson. Theoretically I listened to this audiobook along with Bob, but he listens so darn fast that in comparison I was like an old woman toddling down the hall of my nursing home using a walker with shaky sticky front wheels. Narrator Fenella Woolgar is wonderful and I would definitely pick up more of her audiobooks. For me, Life After Life fell into the I Don’t Know category because I just don’t know how I feel about it. The beginning was quite slow for me. Once I picked up on what was going on in Ursula’s life, however, there was a good section of the novel that had me hanging on every word. I was engrossed and at times vengefully angry. Then, when situations were corrected without the retribution I so desired, I felt cheated when I should have felt glad for Ursula. After that, the wind was knocked out of my sails and the scenes of Ursula’s life during WWII felt repetitive enough to bore me. This novel was really an exploration of what life would be like if we could go back in time and make different choices. It was thought provoking and most certainly out of the ordinary. There are so many people I know, love, and trust who loved this novel. If you’re interested in picking up the book, I think you should give it a try. It just didn’t live up to the hype for me.

SCover of Still Midnighttill Midnight by Denise Mina. This book is the first in Mina’s series featuring the Scottish Detective Inspector Alex Morrow. This is the series that Jen and Nicole are featuring for their Book Club. As these books are all published, I thought it would be fun to join them via audio. I’m a sucker for Scottish accents and I do enjoy police procedurals. I had difficulty finding a hold into the story. Some of this had to do with the rapid action that starts off the novel. Once I got the basic storyline down, I still didn’t get into the zone so to speak with the story. As with most detectives in novels like this, Alex Morrow is flawed and for a while I thought she might be too flawed to appeal to me. By the end of the story, I felt more comfortable with her as a character. Jane MacFarlane narrated this audiobook. She has a pleasant reading voice and had good tone and inflection. While good narration typically enhances mediocre books, it was the discussion hosted by Nicole that ultimately made me want to read the second novel in this series. I’ll be reading The End of Wasp Season in print. I’m curious to see if I’ll find Mina’s series more compelling in print.


  • At 2013.07.02 07:24, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    Life After Life started slow for me but I ended up liking it a lot. I wonder if it would have worked better in print so you could flip back and check on things like I did.

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    • At 2013.07.02 08:41, Jennifer said:

      I stopped listening to The Engagements a couple of weeks ago because the narrator was so annoying to me that I was worried she would ruin the book. I never felt that way with Life After Life, but I think it’s fair to say that I might have connected better in print. There are just some books you need to read in print.

    • At 2013.07.02 10:46, Teresa said:

      I know what you mean. I have so many reviews started in my drafts folder and I just can’t quite get them done. I think its because I just don’t know what to say about them. I like what you’ve done here. I agree with you on The Interestings, there was a lot to talk about, but the book itself didn’t do much for me. I enjoyed The Typist and am glad the we picked it up, but some of the WTF moments really left me baffled and I don’t know what to think.

      • At 2013.07.02 11:54, Ti said:

        I have three of the books you listed here and I probably haven’t picked them up because of the potential meh factor. I just feel as if they may not pan out.

        Good luck on the certification. You know you will be fine, right?

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        • At 2013.07.02 13:15, Bob said:

          I think for Life After Life most people agree that there are sections that could have been cut, I just think those sections would be different for every person. There was an almost Choos Your Own Adventure style, where the reader could pick what they liked then discount what they didn’t. I actually really liked the repetitive Blitz scenes brilliant, but was totally meh about the Eva Braun and Nazi Germany, although I thought the ending part of that segment was stunning. It’s just an odd book.

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          • At 2013.07.05 11:05, Hillary said:

            I am like you, I need pressure to get my self motivated to do anything. Good Luck on your exam!

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            • At 2013.07.07 13:30, Melanie said:

              OMG, I LOVED!!! The Interestings! I grew up going to a summer camp similar to the one described in the book, and related so much to the goings on at camp and the friendships moving into adulthood. I thought the characters were so engaging, and I wanted to know what happened to them after the book ended. Have to politely disagree on this one, Jen.

              • At 2013.07.13 20:42, Lu said:

                I love the idea of a Meh Mashup. There are some books that just don’t work for you! I haven’t read any of these, but I felt very similarly about Meg Wolitzer’s last book for the most part. I might read this one because I know someone who loved it very much, so I’m hoping I’m pleasantly surprised!

                • At 2013.07.17 04:00, Numbers Be Damned said:

                  […] all that much to say about every one of those books. That’s where the Meh Mashup came from in my last post. Those books were sitting on that list making it feel all that much heavier because they didn’t […]

                  (Required, will not be published)

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