Wednesday, August 12, 2020

(2) interesting but just so so reads - The Operator; Gretchen Berg and The Party Upstairs; Lee Conell



The Operator; Gretchen Berg
Harper Audio - 2020

The premise of this novel really appealed to me:  small town, 1950's, nosy switchboard operator  and secrets exposed. 

Set mostly in the 1950's (some 1920s), in the small town of Wooster, Ohio lives Vivian Dalton, husband Edward and daughter Charlotte.  Vivian works as a switchboard operator for Bell.  Although it's against company policy, one day Vivian listens in on a call of Betty, a woman who thinks she's better than everyone. What she hears involves Edward, Vivian's husband so she is shocked to say the least but, she's determined to get to the bottom of the rumor.

What I liked about the story was that it took me back to my childhood (born in the 1950s); we too had a party line and could listen to conversations of the other party although I don't think we knew who the other party was. I liked the small town references and happenings of those earlier times but, overall the writing felt choppy and slow. The (2) timelines were a tad confusing as well on audio.  Although I am not sorry I tried this one, overall it was somewhat disappointing. The audio narrator: Allyson Ryan did a good job.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars


The Party Upstairs; Lee Conell
Penguin Press - 2020

Set on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where Martin, his wife Debra and their 24 year old daughter Ruby live in a windowless basement apartment where Martin has worked as the building's superintendent. For over 30 years he's catered to the needs and complaints of the building's elite residents. Martin's a hard-working but bitter man who likes to meditate each morning before things get busy in the building (he's on call 24/7)

As the story begins he has asked his daughter Ruby to join him in some meditation. She has an art history degree but is unemployed and has plenty of college debt.  She's about to interview for her dream job with the Museum of Natural History, while her affluent childhood friend, Caroline, who has lived in the penthouse apartment prepares for a big party that evening. Caroline is also unemployed.

Played out over the course of 24 hours, The Party Upstairs is an interesting look at social classes and the class divide. Some of the characters are arrogant and just plain obnoxious and others hostile and offensive. I also found the writing style a bit off-putting at times.  This is another book that I had high hopes for but, I ended up underwhelmed.

Rating - 3/5 stars

16 comments:

  1. Ahh. The premise does sound good. I've had quite a few underwhelming books lately that I've abandoned. Maybe I'll come back to them. Sometimes I'm simply not in the mood for certain books, which may or may not be a just evaluation of the book. I'm loving the Kate Shugate books by Dana Stabenow and find it hard to tolerate books that don't immediately engross me.

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    1. I'm like you lately; I have less patience for a story that doesn't hook me early on. It's all about my mood as well. I think I read a Stabenow mystery several years ago. I should try more.

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  2. Well, I can certainly see why you tried these novels. It's all part of the reading game, right?

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  3. They do sound somewhat interesting!

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  4. It's always frustrating when a great premise just can't carry a mediocre story or mediocre writing. Sometimes we just roll the dice, although reviews from others help weed out the duds. Better luck next time!

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    1. Jane, they were interesting enough yet, annoying in some ways as well if that makes sense.

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  5. I was all ready to take a harder look at The Party Upstairs until I got to the bit about you being disappointed in the writing itself. I don't have the patience for those anymore, no matter how appealing the plot may be.

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    1. I feel the same way Sam but, sometimes when I've invested a bit of time I try to finish even though deep down I know I won't be happy in the end LOL Other times, I'm turned off early on and just let it be a DNF.

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  6. I have The Operator but I've read so many horrible reviews of it that I've lost interest in it.

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  7. I think The Operator sounds good. Party lines - haven't thought of those for years. We didn't have one, but my maternal grandmother did. I can remember my Mom telling me that if I picked up the phone and someone was talking I should hang it up. We don't listen she said. I'm not sure I obeyed her completely. LOL

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  8. When we read a lot of books, it is probably inevitable that some will disappoint us. I try to screen my reads carefully and only invest time in those I'm pretty sure I will like. Even so, I sometimes I pick a dud. The Operator review did serve to remind me of party lines which I grew up with and hadn't thought of in years.

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  9. I had The Operator on my list for a long time before it was even published. I loved the idea of the operator listening in on conversations, but also because I lived in Wooster for a while when I was little. I ended up not reading it because of some reviews, but still may still pick up a copy.

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  10. I saw The Operator on another blog and thought it looked so good, but both of you have only given it so-so reviews so I think I'll skip it.

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  11. I like the premise of both of those too, disappointing that they weren't better.

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  12. I've had both of these on my watch list. I admit I think I was curious about The Party Upstairs due to the cover! I may not rush off to read them but would still check them out.

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