Saturday, September 11, 2010

Your Mileage May Vary (4 Books That Didn't Work for Me)

I almost decided to sweep these books under the rug. I don't like talking about books that I don't finish because each and every author sweats blood over their work, and I do appreciate that. 99% of the time they all make me very happy.

However, people taking a look through my reviews may wonder if something's up. Most of the books I read are rated A's and B's, with an occasional C thrown in. Normally you just don't see me talking about books I wanted to throw against the wall, or books I didn't even finish.

This is because I'm selective about what I read. Since I know what I like, I'm seldom disappointed.

Recently I've had 4 books I couldn't finish, and I thought I'd at least make short mention of them. All of them. In the same post so that one author's name and book won't be singled out in the title.

Please keep in mind that we're all individuals, and things that drive me to stop reading may be exactly what you look for in a book. If, on the other hand, the same things drive you to stop reading, I may save you a little time.

Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn is the second in the Chet and Bernie mystery series featuring P.I. Bernie Little and his canine sidekick, Chet.

I absolutely loved the first book in the series, but I read just 84 pages of this one because the descriptions of Chet's behaviors were much too repetitive and really slowed the story down.

Are dogs' behaviors repetitive? Do they tend to get up and stretch the same way after a long nap, for instance? As a dog owner, I can say yes, their behaviors are very repetitive. However, when I start counting the number of times the canine character is napping and stretching, etc. in the book that I'm reading, that's not a good sign.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I read a lot of really good reviews of this book, and I do enjoy dystopian fiction, but I just wasn't in the mood for this one, reading only 104 pages.

Mary the heroine always seemed to want what she couldn't or shouldn't have, but she always went after it regardless of the consequences to herself or others.

I also found the religious terminology off-putting, and to be repetitive, I wasn't in the mood for some sisterhood hiding things from everyone else "for the Greater Good." I've always found that keeping secrets is one sure way to foul things up.

Since I wanted to slap both Mary and the Sisterhood, I decided that it was best for me to read a different book!

Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund was another book that I had very high hopes for, but I read only 70 pages. I absolutely loved her novel, Ahab's Wife. It was one of the best books I read that year, and I recommended it to everyone. Unfortunately Adam & Eve just didn't work for me.

The action in the book kept switching back and forth, and Adam's storyline seemed muddled. It wasn't long before I became confused.

The other thing that distressed me was the fact that I always felt Naslund behind the scenes like a puppet master. The story had no natural flow to it.

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten lasted 42 pages for me. I was really looking forward to this story about a mother trying to save her autistic son from a murder charge.
However, I didn't like the character of the mother. Before I go any further, let me preface my remarks by saying that I'm not a mother and never have been, so I may give this character a harsh appraisal.

At the beginning of this book, the mother behaved in a guilty manner as if it were her fault that her son is autistic. Of course, this is probably a very normal reaction, but lady, your son is a teenager. Get over yourself already because you're doing him no good. You're also doing him no good by making excuses for his violent behavior and willfully refusing to see how much he needs help until the situation comes close to critical mass.

In addition, it didn't help that (1) I recognized the Bad Guy the first time he walked into the scene, and (2) all loose ends seemed to be tidied up in the two-page epilogue. (That's when I decided that I wasn't emotionally equipped to deal with the mother and went looking to see if I was correct in my identification of the aforementioned Bad Guy.)

Please don't take my opinions of these books as gospel. They are merely my opinions and wouldn't buy you a cup of coffee in your local Starbucks. It's not going to be difficult to find rave reviews of each one of these titles. Read a few of them so the decision you make about reading them will definitely be an informed one.


  1. I haven't tried the others but I had much the same reaction as you do Saving Max. I have an ARC and usually try a bit harder to stick with those as I feel some obligation to the publisher but I just didn't buy the character of the mother at all and I don't think there was enough emphasis on story telling. I thought the book was being very manipulative and I gave up not long after you did in terms of page numbers (around 60 I think).

  2. I am also one of the very few people who didn't fall head over heels for The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Slapping Mary was exactly what I wanted to do. I can tell you one thing, you made the right decision by not sticking with it. Mary stays this way all along (talk about no character development whatsoever).

    Also, I absolutely love Ahab's Wife too. I'm surprised more people don't talk about it.

  3. Ha! I've only read Forest, and I *did* like it! Oh well. I listened to the audio and may be that made the difference ...

  4. These aren't books I would typically read (not my genre), but I do appreciate knowing the *bad* along with the good in a book. Thank you.

  5. Cathy - Thanks for your honest appraisals. I know what you mean about wanting to fair to books, especially considering that authors do work very hard on them, and that people's tastes vary. But I can understand why you didn't like the books. I'd not made up my mind about a few of these, so it's good to have your input.

  6. I also tried starting Adam and Eve, and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on, so I stopped and placed it in the DNF pile!

  7. I totally appreciate this post. I have 4 books in my DNF pile also, I decided to do 1 post at the end of the year.

    I had considered Forest.... but realised I don't enjoy dystopian so took it off my list.

  8. I haven't read any of those, but a couple of them are in my TBR pile. Sorry they didn't work for you.

  9. I know what I like, too, so most of my books are rated on the higher end. Saving Max is normally one I'd be drawn to, based on the synopsis, but I've heard a lot of others say they didn't like it either. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. I absolutely LOVE your candid honesty. It is totally refreshing and fun to read!

    I will disagree with you though on Saving Max
    and The Forest of Hands and Teeth both which got 5/5 stars from me.

    Though I do agree that the Sisterhood needed slapping as they are not the good guys here. And with Saving Max, the book was promoted too much as a book about a kid with Asperger's when really the book was about a completely different psychological issue (trying not to give spoilers) and just happened to have an autistic kid as a character.

  11. I tend to feel really bad about not liking a book too because, like you said, authors put in so much work and emotion.

    I hope to read The Forrest of Hands and Teeth. Adam & Eve sounds like such a great premise, it's too bad you didn't enjoy it!

  12. Bernadette-- I always try harder with ARCs, too. 2 of the 4 in this post were ARCs. :(

    Lilly-- I don't feel so alone now. Thanks!

    Beth-- Like I said, YMMV! :)

    Misfit-- You're welcome. :)

    Margot-- Thanks for understanding. I've been attacked by authors a time or two when I haven't bonded with their books.

    Rhapsody-- Yes. It was very confusing, and actually kept putting me to sleep!

    Marce-- That's one thing about dystopian fiction: most people either love it or hate it.

    Kathy-- My "success rate" is still very high, so I don't mind.

    Lynne-- You're welcome. :)

    Nicola-- It sounds like I'm going to look forward to reading your review of Saving Max. This is the major reason why having the whole spectrum of opinions available is so important!

    Lola-- Yes. Let's face it: it's a whole lot easier to read and review than it is to write the book. I admire writers so much!

  13. I like honest reviews very much, and as I know that I like many of the same books that you do, this post will influence me. On the other hand, I might see glowing reviews on other blogs and decide to take a look at the book in question out of curiosity.

    I try not to be too harsh when it comes to debuts and mid-stream authors, but I don´t feel obliged to praise bestsellers if I think they are rubbish.

  14. Dorte-- I don't feel obliged to praise anything if it's rubbish. I will try to be kinder on a first attempt, but I'll still say I didn't like it.

    I've done the same thing-- see a bad review from a trusted source and then see glowing reviews from others. If I'm tempted, it's because the glowing reviews mentioned specifics about the book that I normally enjoy.

  15. Cathy, I thought this was a very fair and informative post...I have two of these titles in my TBR pile; the other two I was not familar with...

  16. Sounds like you had a hard time with these.

    I generally like to hear about DNFs or bad reviews because it helps temper some of the hype I hear from other bloggers, etc.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  17. TBG-- I"m very glad you found this post to be informative. :)

    Serena-- I have a hard time with all the hype sometimes, so I'm glad you brought that up. I won't be quite so hesitant to make these sorts of posts in future. Thanks!


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