Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The ones that are better left hidden

Usually, you will see me commenting on books I love. Words are better used that way. But there are definitely quite a few books that I wish I would've never read; books that I have no idea how they were published in the first place. Books that make anyone think "Hey, I can be a writer, too!" Books that challenge you to finish them; that make you want to, not only quit, but warn everybody else not to waste their time. Books so incredibly bad that you are left baffled, speechless, and at a loss.
There are many reasons why books are bad: bad writing, incoherent, inconclusive or implausible plot, unsympathetic or unlikable characters, bad grammar, and bad or non-existing editing, to name a few. Well, I have had bad experiences, some worse than others, and below are a few of those. I know many people don't agree with me, and that's fine. For the sake of the writers and authors, it is a great blessing that tastes vary from one person to the next. Anyway, here's part of my list:

1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson:  Bad, oh so bad. I think one of the worst things about this one is that the author does not give us real insight into who the female lead, Ginny, is. She hardly ever speaks or interacts with the people around her and you are left wondering about her thought process, her intentions, what moves her, how she's feeling, what motivates her, because when reading this novel you are not her travel companion. You are a distant bystander who is not sure why you're following her.
Her aunt dies and asks her to travel around Europe (because as everyone knows, there is no way you can "discover who you are" in your own country, or hometown) to follow the route she took while she was there, to meet with strangers and people she knew while she lived there. She can't call her parents while she's there (she's 17), actually she can't communicate with anyone in any way from the States. She can't take money with her, either.
She goes through a lot, as you can imagine, being on her own for the first time, but nothing seems to get to her, except near the end when she learns a "shocking" truth, and she runs away. It was irritating, but I kept on reading because I knew there had to be something else, something better, a reason for everything. I mean, why did her aunt do this, ask her to do this? Well, the reason behind everything is so meh, blah, pfffft, that wasn't rewarding at all. Not worth it.

2. Face of Betrayal, by Lis Wiehl: "An FBI agent from Tennessee called Allison, speaking in a drawl so slow that she found herself gritting her teeth...
Allison wanted to crawl down the phone line and shake the agent."
My sentiments exactly towards the author. So I guess she knows the feeling well enough to describe it but not enough to avoid doing it to her readers. She just goes on and on about insignificant details (HD technology, a woman's love for boxing as an exercise, among many, many others). It took me forever to finish this novel just because I hated that. The writing is cheesy and pretty bad. You can throw away most of the first half of the book and still have it make sense. The ending, on the other hand, felt rushed and quite ridiculous and not at all unexpected.

3. Tuscan Holiday, by Holly Chamberlin: The characters are weak, not well written, and most of the dialogue is not believable: from the dialogues between the mother and the daughter to the dialogue between the lady from Chicago that the mother meets and the mother. Really disappointing. Also, although some chapters are narrated by the mother and others, by the daughter, the voice is essentially the same. It's hard to figure out who's narrating, until one refers to the other. And finally, at the beginning of each chapter there are different excerpts, quotes and the likes that add nothing to the story and are annoying and distracting. Really pretty bad.

4. The Potluck Club, by Linda Evans Shepherd: In  this one, most of the characters are very unlikable, starting with Evangeline and ending with her apparent nemesis, Donna. They are catty, gossipy, highly critical of one another, cliquish, and snobbish. They are supposed to be a prayer group, but they mostly gossip about others or talk behind each others back. And the few times they are actually praying as a group, they are interrupted almost immediately. They do get better by the end of the book, but barely.
There was a silver lining: Jan, the pastor's wife, and Lizzie were nice characters, as well as the story of Vonnie and Joe, and Leigh and Gary. The rest, no thank you. 

5. Fools Rush In, by Janice Thompson: Very, very bad. And it's a shame too because it has a nice premise.
The problem here for me was that the author tried too hard to be funny all the time, in almost very page. This tried to be a sort of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but with cowboys and Italians. However, it failed. It's supposed to be a romantic comedy, but the author should be aware that less is more. She had everything, from people fainting over silly and supposedly funny things to a foul mouthed parrot that some try to convert with sermons and the Bible on tape.
The main character, Bella, is 29 years old and very immature. She acts like a teenager. Also, the author feels the need to repeat herself a few too many times when translating Italian phrases and mentioning legal phrases, when giving the specials of Uncle Laz's restaurant, when stating that Bella has never worn cowboy boots nor listened to country music. Completely unnecessary.

6. Sweet Baklava, by Debby Mayne: Sadly, almost inedible. This is the story of a selfish girl who says she is still in love with the boyfriend who abandoned her to enlist in the Air Force, never to call or write to her again; as well as the story of a boy who comes home for vacation from his Air Force job or whatever, and is smitten by the girlfriend he left behind 10 years ago. He has always loved her, and she has always loved him. He never stopped loving her, ditto for her. He tries to win her back. And tries, and tries, and tries, and, yes, he tries some more. And she refuses, and refuses, and refuses. And he loves her even more because she is soooo determined. So again he tries, and tries, and tries. And she falters a little bit, but then refuses, and refuses, and refuses. And he can’t believe how much he loves her, and now loves her even more because she is soooo determined, but also kind, and smart, and speaks her mind. So once again he tries, and tries, and tries. And she kind of gives in, but not really, and then refuses, and refuses, and refuses. The boy's vacation is over, so he returns to his job. The girl realizes how selfish she has been so she finally gives in, and they (and everyone in their lives) live happily ever after. No big story, no big conflict, no big problem; just a few months in the life of this couple, this boring couple.

So there you have it. These are a few of the ones I really didn't like or just plainly disliked with a passion. 

1 comment:

  1. You know, I realized something afterwards: these were all written by female authors... Completely NOT intentional on my part, but it's kind of sad.