Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Books Like Whoa: When It Just Ain't Workin'

So this year has been a little bit of a mixed bag for me with the books I've been reading. I've read a few books that I've loved, a few books I've enjoyed, and to be honest, a few books I've just not dug. I feel a little ambivalent about talking about books I don't enjoy. It's hard enough out there for a book, right? They don't need me hating on them. We need to champion reading, period.

But at the same time, if you have similar taste to me, I want to spare you the time and money. It's disappointing to invest those things and then realize it's a dud or just not working for you. Plus, all of these are well established with readers- no real harm done. So here's few titles that have not clicked for me (though only one is truly terrible) and why:

Endless Night
by Agatha Christie

Why I didn't dig it: Okay, okay, you know how much I love Agatha. Basically, this just isn't the kind of book that I want from her. I want a cozy mystery, or an international intrigue, or a cleverly plotted caper. This is more of a spooky love story with the whole who is crazy? who is real? who is going to die? bit. Which I do enjoy. However, when I sign up for a mystery and I get a sensation novel, my expectations are not met and I get cross. I gave up after 100 pages and considered it a waste. Then, as I do when I give up on a book, I Googled the ending. And holy crap, it was a humdinger! So I quickly skimmed back through and realized that it wasn't a bad book. It was a good book spoiled by misaligned expectations.

Rating: 3 - Not my cup of tea, but I get why people dig it

Five Red Herrings
by Dorothy L. Sayers

Why I didn't dig it: I also do love Dorothy Sayers. Gaudy Night is one of my all time favorites. However, this particular Lord Whimsey mystery veered into a subtype that I just don't like - the endless repetition of the details of the crime so as to inure you to the one flaw in the timeline that solves the mystery. It's a super technical kind of mystery, and I just don't like that kind. I get bored and skim. My eyes glaze over and I route against the hero to solve the crime. It's a perfectly well executed little story, but it's not my bag and it was not fun for me to read.

Rating: 3 - Not my cup of tea, but I get why people dig it

by Douglas Preston; Lincoln Child

Why I didn't dig it: This is the only one of the bunch that I feel confident in saying is truly terrible. This book fails in basically every respect. I reflected on this on Goodreads... I would watch a movie of this- I could see it being a thriller in the vein of Jurassic Park. As a book? So terrible. The writing is abysmal and basically reads like a screenplay. These kinds of thrillers are dependent on the author's ability to get you to care about the "how" of what happens, because it is clear from the first 20 pages what the "what" is. Is there really any doubt as to what is going to happen in this book? No. That's just the genre. But successful titles in this area get you to care about the characters and keep you interested in how they are going to get there. I didn't connect or care about anyone - the characterization was thinner than Kate Moss and, generally, I found them all unconvincing. Thus, I didn't care about how they were going to drive forward to the inevitable denouement. I mean, for goodness sake, within 20 pages, an All-American little kid named Billy (you couldn't have even picked a less tired little kid name?) is dispatched purely to make you think, "Holy crap, no one is safe!" I didn't care that no one was safe. A dark part of me that I don't want to look at too closely wanted them to die. 

This includes Pendergast, who I found incredibly grating. Why anyone would listen to him is beyond me. That bums me out because I was hoping this would be a new series for me to get into. Not to be, alas.

All this being said, I could see this being a really entertaining movie. In the action film, characterization isn't as important and there's enough pure whiz-bang explosion fun to keep you going. I'd see it- it has some interesting set pieces and I could practically see the way the filmmaker would cut to ominous shots of the mauled bodies. But this is the prime example that "the book is better than the movie" saying is not always true - this is a bad book that could be a really fun film. I looked it up and there's a version starring Tom Sizemore - I'll have to Netflix it and see how that version holds up.

Rating: 0 - I couldn't even get through the whole thing

I always feel disappointed when I don't like a book. I spend a lot of time and effort researching what I choose to pick up (yes, I am a nerd- did you not realize this by now?), and when I don't like something, I feel like I've failed. Sometimes I feel like the author is the one who has failed me, but mostly, I blame myself for not being more selective.

Anyways, I know there are people out there who have read and loved all the above books, so I will alleviate my guilt by directing you to read any of the positive reviews these have received.

What was the last book you read that disappointed you? 

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