Oh, this is a hard one from The Broke and the Bookish …
I’m taking this as a request to write about books bluntly, rather than with tact. Be prepared for some opinionated statements!
- High Rhulain by Brian Jacques. I hadn’t read the Redwall series in years when I saw this in the library. Within pages, I was increasingly convinced that the book had not actually been written by Brian Jacques. The pace was too hurried, names were crammed in without tag characteristics (one character was named but not given a sex or species for another page and a half!), there were so many female characters (I would have appreciated that, but – ) and the characters were not developed in depth but began (and remained) for the most part shallow and uninteresting. I really wanted to like the protagonist but she didn’t do much, and the narrative was stretched between several potential focal characters, none of whom managed to be fully captivating in the way that Jacques’s early characters were. I read the entire story (weirdest climactic kill-the-villain battle scene ever), then went online to prove my theory. Apparently not – the theory was disproven instead! Jacques really did write High Rhulain but it is not at all up to the standard of the earlier Redwall books. *Sigh* I loved those books, and this one wasn’t quite good enough.
- Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Okay, I didn’t nearly put these down, but I nearly didn’t pick them up. I liked The Hunger Games, that wasn’t the problem – it was the knowledge that most of the characters were going to die. Mockingjay was especially hard to start reading, since I had a horrible feeling that pretty much all of the surviving tributes would be killed. And I was right, wasn’t I!
- Deerskin by Robin McKinley. I’d read her Beauty and a few others, and, thinking that Deerskin was similar, read it at a young and sheltered age. Bad mistake. It took a long time to get over the horror of the first third (or so, I haven’t got a copy on hand) of the novel. I can appreciate the healing journey that comprises the rest of the story, and I like the scenes in Ossin’s parents’s castle very much, especially the ones with the puppies, but this appreciation took years and a few rereadings to acquire. The beginning of the story for the first time through was dreadfully ominous in a way that made (and still makes) me uneasy. There was something so completely wrong just behind the scenes, and reading was just waiting for the darkness to come out – and then it was worse than I could have imagined.
- Fallen by Lauren Kate. I think this was the romance novel that Nafiza lent me last summer so that I could see exactly how bad paranormal YA novels were. I’d been avoiding the genre on the basis of a few scathing glances I’d thrown at front cover, back cover, or first page – any of these would do to inform me that the book was definitely not of interest – and, in the interests of being fair in my dislike of paranormal YA, it was about time I actually tried reading a few again. Well. I very nearly wrote about the genre during horror month, as I had a pretty good argument for why paranormal YA romances that masqueraded as actual stories were the truly horrifying genre, much worse than thriller-horror-creepy stories. Then I realized that my mind had so successfully blanked the memories of what had annoyed and angered me so thoroughly, and in order to write a post on the subject I would have to actually read the whole thing again. So no go. But if you want to inculcate a passive, romance-dependent, star-crossed-fated-lovers-you-are-the-one-and-only-man-for-me-and-without-you-I-die, abusive-relationship-tolerant mode of thinking in yourself or any other girl or woman you know, hey…
- Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver. I kept waiting for the writing to get better. It didn’t. Much too predictable.
- The Lies That Bind by Lisa and Laura Roecker. Went from bad to worse, and I ended by not caring – at all – about any of the characters. If the school had caught on fire and every single character had died, I would have been relieved that it was over.
- The Casual Vacancy by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling. I actually did put this one down. It may be a clever expose of certain segments of English society, but I hated every last one of the focal characters. If the entire town had caught on fire…*
* Disclaimer: I feel that I should say that I am not an arsonist, nor do I advocate burning other people’s land, possessions, or other people themselves. At times, however, it is useful to ask: If this character died, would I care? If the answer is no, then continuing to read is probably a waste of time, unless the character is supposed to be unlikable, as with Holden Caulfield. Life is too short to waste on bad books. Especially when there are so many extraordinary books waiting to be read.
Like Janet, I’m going to speaking rather bluntly about the books I have read. Not all of them are bad experiences but some of them are and I’m going to say so (well, I always have). Here goes nothing:
- The Bone Dragon – Alexia Casale
I actually did put this book down because it just wasn’t doing anything for me but then, curiousity got the better of me and I picked it up and I was glad I did so. The ending is so…ambiguous and so different from the normal platitudes littering children’s literature that I am still surprised. I don’t want to give anything away so let me just say that if you want to read something firmly outside the box, try this one. It’s…whoa.
- You Don’t Know Me – David Klass
I usually avoid books that deal with realistic issues like they’re the plague because I just don’t like reading sad stories. But I’m so glad I didn’t because I would have missed out on language like this:
“But something cannot be made out of nothing. Dust rose in the air, caught the rays of the sun for a brief moment and sparkled, and then returned to the earth as mere dust.”
― David Klass, You Don’t Know Me
- Cruel Beauty – Rosamond Hodge
Okay, so yeah, the cover is terrible. I mean, red rose, running girl and what is up with that tagline? So I wasn’t too keen on reading it but then I read a review of it, a review with superlatives fairly falling over themselves from a trustworthy source so I decided to check it out and whaddya know, it’s actually quite a palatable read – it is a paranormal romance but it is an exception rather than the norm – it’s fun! I’m glad I didn’t put it down!
- Stormdancer – Jay Kristoff
I didn’t put this down but I wish I had.
- The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon
There was a lot of hype about this one and I picked it up because I was curious. The first half dragged on and I stopped reading for a bit hoping the book would get better and because of my eternal optimism, I continued reading because hey, if so many people liked it, there had to be something about it that impressed me. The book ended and I was still waiting for something awesome to happen. :\
- Carnival of Secrets – Melissa Marr
I forced myself to continue reading this because I couldn’t believe the book was actually seriously portraying the stuff it was. I was wrong. It was and it was horrendous.
hmmm, I usually just put it down or don’t.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was summertime, probably the worst time to read one of the bleakest novels of all time.
- Blindness by José Saramango. The lack of grammar is offputting but there is also a tinge of worry throughout the story will slow down because of the blindness – the pacing feels like it was tricky for the author, so it became something that I constantly thought about.
- Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Yup. I read the whole thing, all four of them. I was CONSTANTLY tempted to just put it down but then I kept thinking – I can’t criticise it if I haven’t read the whole thing.
- Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. This is, so far, my least favourite of this classic author’s works (I hadn’t read any before I started my master’s and I’m still getting through them in honour of her death and because Janet is a huge fan and I trust Janet – find a friend and trust their book choices). Anyway, this is my least favourite simply because it was so darn distracting. This is one of those books that references other books and stories so often that I get distracted googling and reading other things, JUST so I can really understand this story. I mean, this is like the children’s literature version of James Joyce’s Ulysses :)
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. Because, where is Lyra? I really thought I was reading the wrong book, haha. The narrative really changes in this second instalment of His Dark Materials and, while I’m glad I stuck it out for the rest of the series, the first remains my favourite because of it’s mystique, it’s POV and the building of the mystery.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling: No kidding. I disliked it at first. It probably had something to do with the fact that I had picked the third book at random instead of going in order. Once I did, of course, it was my favourite of the series.
- The Sandman (Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes) by Neil Gaiman: It is a completely different space of fantasy and horror that I had never encountered before. I guess it kind of weirded me out at first. But then I totally fell for it. I mean, I still have to read these books slowly but I enjoy that process too.
- Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel: I did not expect all that psychoanalysis. It kind of put me off and I eventually I had to force myself to finish it. I don’t think I liked it as much as Fun Home … but that’s just my personal preference.
- The Homecoming by Harold Pinter: I had to read it for an undergraduate class on Contemporary British Literature. I got very frustrated with it because I just couldn’t “get it”. But then we watched a clip from the movie in class and I managed to revisit the text with a new perspective. I no longer care to “read books first”. Sometimes a different medium just helps something click.
- Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark: Yup. That book that I recently reviewed. It just got too intense for me. I worried for every character. It broke my heart that some of what she writes is someone else’s reality. I had to take a break from it … and then I realised that some people don’t have the option of taking a “break from it”, so I went back and finished reading it. And I loved it.