So with this post, I suppose I’m ending 2016 on a bit of a negative note. But after seeing a similar post from Jess @ The Mud and Stars Book Blog, I thought it might be interesting to come up with my own list of my least favorite books read this year.
Check out my favorite reads here.
Some of these I’ve already ranted about; others I read before I started my blog and I just haven’t gotten around to mentioning.
With that, here’s my list …
“Away” by Amy Bloom
(Random House, 2008)
I picked this one up at book swap because it’s set in the Jazz Age, an era that fascinates me. As soon as I started reading, I was immediately sorry I’d brought it home. But oddly enough, I also couldn’t put it down. It is pretty fast-paced and frenzied, and … well … I finished it in two days. I think part of me just wanted to be done with it.
I know, I know, life is too short to read a book you don’t like – unless you’re going to review it when you’re done. And I didn’t review this one, so I don’t remember much about it, except that it was kind of trashy and I didn’t like any of the characters.
I thought I’d be OK with the book taking totally weird detours from New York to Seattle to Alaska, of all places, but I was kind of depressed when I finished it (it does not have a happy ending – not that I require that). I mean, it ends very poorly, and the setting is just one reason. I mean no offense to those who live there, but yikes.
“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Books, 2015)
Admittedly, I’d heard several book-savvy friends make fun of this book before I read it, so right off the bat I was a bit prejudiced. So, would I have liked it better otherwise? Who knows? Imma rant some more about it anyway, because this post allows me to do that.
How … HOW did this book become so popular? Just .. how?! I still don’t understand. Of all the scads of psychological thrillers that have been penned in recent years, why has this book garnered so much attention? Oh, that’s right. It’s yet another book that touts itself as ideal “for fans of ‘Gone Girl.’” Hey, guess what, “Gone Girl” was incredible. Gillian Flynn is a flipping genius. So if you’re trying to set the bar above “Gone Girl,” you’re going to have to try a lot harder than Paula Hawkins’ lackluster debut (yeah, I went there).
Or, you know, how about everyone stops trying to write the next “Gone Girl” and just aim to write some more top-notch books about crazy people and their crazy lives. You do you.
“Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith” by Anne Lamott
(Riverhead Books, 2007)
3 (generous) stars
Mkayyyy, so I already panned this one in today’s other post, my end of year reading survey. Therefore, I’ll be brief.
I did the pseudo-hipster Christian thing and tried an Anne Lamott book. Not for me. I picked it up at a used book sale and it gathered dust for a couple of years before I finally decided to read it (earlier in the year, my habit was to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, and I figured this one had been sitting on my bookshelf long enough).
No. 1 takeaway: I will not be reading any more of Lamott’s drivel. Lesson learned. Moving on now.
“All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Bryn Greenwood
(Thomas Dunne Books, 2016)
I’ve developed an appreciation for, shall we say, grittier books over the past couple of years. I love some of the characters I meet because of them – some true diamonds in the rough. (That sounds so cliché; I’m using it anyway.)
I’d heard this one was pretty insane, and some of the books I’ve liked best in recent memory have fallen under that category. The main character is the daughter of a meth dealer; I figured that, having lived most of my life so far in a community where production of the stuff runs rampant, it would give me some insight.
I just didn’t realize how creepy the main premise would be. Said main character falls in love with one of her father’s “business associates,” who seems like a decent guy in comparison to the rest of the crowd. It’s kind of cute until he drops his defenses and decides the feelings are mutual.
I get that stuff like this probably happens all around me and I have no idea. But I just felt like this book glorifies it, and that grosses me out. Again – sorry, not sorry.
I gave it three stars because it was well written. It was compelling. But otherwise … no me gusta.
“She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb
(Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster/etc., 1992)
I’m not saying men should never write chick lit, although I kind of did say that after finishing this book because I was just fed up with it and feeling harsh.
I’m just saying maybe Wally Lamb shouldn’t have written this one.
I still maintain that the therapist was a weirdo, though. I will not recant that argument.
To my knowledge, this is the first book I’ve ever read that was an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Dang, Oprah, if this is any indication of your taste in books, I’ll pass on your other selections unless someone convinces me otherwise.
“American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age” by Pete Davies
(Henry Holt & Co., 2002)
I figured it was only fair to give this one a middle-of-the road rating (see what I did there?), as this isn’t the type of book I’d normally pick up. But I thought, “Hey, I generally love reading about history. I like road trip stories. And this is, like, the ultimate road trip tale.”
It was SO. TEDIOUS. SO. DRY.
I get that Davies wrote about true events that were just plain excruciating (Day 1: We broke down. Day 2: We were in a parade. Day 3: We ran out of gas.). But I felt like I was attending a lecture given by the most boring history professor in the history of history professors.
But, hey, it’s OK, Pete Davies. We can’t all be Bill Bryson.
“No Good Son” by J.L. Vaughan
(self-published ebook, 2015)
Since I just posted a review of this one yesterday, I’ll be very, very brief.
Out of my comfort zone, but I like thrillers.
Lots of B.S.ing about cars, fighting, theft, etc.
SO MANY WORDS. Seriously, a pretty cool story was ruined because there were TOO MANY WORDS.
I know it’s self-published, and I’m not trying to be unkind. I just want to know if this guy showed his book to anyone before he sent it out into the world. And if he did, he should have called me instead. I’m the queen of the red pen. No mercy, y’all.
“Siracusa” by Delia Ephron
(Blue Rider Press, 2016)
4 stars (whaaa?!)
At the time I finished this book, I was either abducted by aliens or was just feeling generous. Or maybe I actually did like “Siracusa” upon finishing it.
But I’m wondering why I gave it four stars, because I no longer remember very much of it except that the youngest character, Snow, is pretty annoying (10 years old, going on 40). I think I really disliked her mother as well … I vividly recall that reading the chapters written from her perspective was the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Just … be … quiet. No one cares what you think.
And that’s it. Again, no review, so I have no idea what I was thinking or feeling at the time I finished “Siracusa.” Still, there are other books I read earlier in the year and didn’t review that stuck with me much more than this one did.
Basically, this one goes on my list of least favorites because – for me, at least – it was instantly forgettable.
“The Games (Private #11)” by James Patterson
(Little, Brown and Company, 2016)
Anyone who has spent any time at all in a bookstore or library knows that James Patterson is – I’m just gonna say it – the whore of the literary world. And it’s clear that he can’t possibly have written every single book that bears his name. There’s just no way. Unless he’s a robot. Hmm.
Anyhow, until late this past summer, I had happily avoided reading anything written (“written”?) by this crazy dude until my boss loaned me a copy of this novel about a mad scientist who tries to unleash a deadly virus during the Summer Olympics in Rio. (Smart, Mr. Patterson, look at you cashing in on a popular sporting event.)
This book didn’t make me think, didn’t really shock me. It just kind of pulled me along on a formulaic ride. The characters and dialogue felt ridiculous and over-the-top. Why the three stars? No clue. I may have rounded up from 2.5.
So, now I can say I’ve read something by James Patterson, which gives me license to say I don’t care for his work – kinda like when you’re a kid and you’ve decided you hate liver before you’ve tried it. (And no, I don’t, because yes, I did.)
“Burning September” by Melissa Simonson
(self-published ebook, 2016)
This was my first author review request experience, so I realize now I wasn’t being totally fair. I’m sure my expectations for a self-published novel were too high. Again, I wield my red pen mightily, so I think I was too distracted by the fact that “Burning September” read like a very rough draft.
Plus, I just really, really disliked Caroline. She’s done a great thing, raising her sister after the death of their parents, but she’s a total flake and goes through life using and lying to people. I wanted to see the good in her, but I couldn’t.
And the ending was like a hastily-tied bow on top of a thoughtlessly-purchased gift. It just didn’t click with me.