Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TTT - Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

Today's topic was a little tricky for me, because I'm not really one to give up on books. In theory, this should have meant that it was easy - finding books that I really didn't want to keep reading - but I wanted to find a list that was balanced between books I ended up loving and books that I ended up really not enjoying. And finding the ones I ended up loving? That was complicated... (All images from Goodreads)

1. The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

I foresee this turning up on a lot of lists today. It was so massively different to reading Harry Potter that I struggled through the first hundred pages or so with very little idea of what was going on. Hell, I don't think I really got into the story until about half way through the book! Plus, there were just SO MANY CHARACTERS OMG. But I ended up really enjoying it, though I think ultimately it suffers from a deceptive blurb that gives you a totally different sense of the book.

2. The Selection - Kiera Cass

To be perfectly honest, I should have put this one down the second I discovered that the main character was named America Singer and that she had a talent for singing. Unfortunately, I kept reading and basically hated All The Things. The characters were boring, about a third of the book was dedicated to whether or not America would get chosen when it basically tells you in the blurb that she does, and it was pretty misogynistic at times (You're property now! Your caste position is determined by your father or husband! Prove that you're a virgin before we'll let you in! But don't say no to the prince if he wants sex, we'll throw you out on the streets!). It ended up being a total hate read despite how pretty the cover is. 

3. The Enemy - Charlie Higson

This, as it turns out, is a zombie book. Zombies make me indescribably squicky. As a result, this book gave me nightmares. The sitting-bolt-upright-in-bed-contemplate-going-to-sleep-with-your-parents-even-though-you're-thirty-one kind of nightmares. But I kept reading (during the day) and I ended up absolutely loving it, despite the zombie factor. 

4. Side Effects May Vary - Julie Murphy

Honestly? The only reason I finished this one was because it was an ARC and I felt obliged to actually finish it as a result. I hated Alice so much. So, so much. She manipulates and uses everyone around her. And Harvey is a total doormat who can never say no, even when he blatantly disagrees with Alice's decisions. From a psychological perspective, it's an interesting book - the idea that getting a second chance isn't always a good thing. But it was SUCH A TOUGH READ because I hated both the main characters...

5. Love and Leftovers - Sarah Tregay

I've talked about this one before - it's a novel that's written in verse. Poetry isn't my thing. There are too many metaphors and too much talking around the topic. Just say what you mean, dammit! So I nearly put this down the second I opened it. But Marcie's voice was so brilliantly crafted and it was such a fast story (given that most pages only had about 100 words on them) that I finished the whole thing in less than two hours.

6. Winter Be My Shield - Jo Spurrier

I bought this one as a Kindle deal of the day, and only the fact that I'd actually paid money for it got me to the end of the book. It dragged on FOREVER, was riddled with violence, and there was almost no world building. It was about 75% people wandering around in the snow and 25% action. It took me 11 days to read this 460 page book, and I usually average around 250-300 pages a day without a struggle.

7. Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein

Much like its prequel, Code Name Verity, this book is brutal. Except in a lot of ways, I found it harder to read than Code Name Verity. There were, in fact, moments when I put it down because I couldn't cope with the brutality any more. I had to take a break for a couple of hours before I could stand the idea of picking it up and continuing. Most definitely a five star book for me, but so bloody hard to read.

8. Going Bovine - Libba Bray

I've read all of Libba Bray's books and, with the exception of this one, I've loved them all. But this one? I never cared about the characters, I never felt engaged with the story, and I had no motivation to keep reading it. I made it to the end, but I sort of wish I hadn't bothered because the story didn't get any better.

9. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I've read this twice now, all 1,275 pages of it. And I've been on struggle street both times. Part of the problem is that I know the story from the stage show, so all the extra stuff made me all "Ugh, hurry up and get to the interesting bits, Hugo!!". Part of it, however, was that Victor Hugo loved him a tangent. There's 100 pages on the bishop's back story when his basic purpose in the story is to give Jean Valjean some candlesticks. There's a huge chunk on the history of the nunnery where Valjean and Cosette hide out. There's a history of Waterloo. There's like 40 pages about the Paris sewer system. Yes, it's ultimately a story about social justice, so it's not entirely surprising that he goes off on tangents about philosophy and history. I love this book and I love the story. But OH MY GOD, when you can go over 100 pages without encountering a single character that actually matters to the story? Yeah, this is one of the few times I'd actually encourage people to read the abridged version.

10. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Oof. This one has the potential to be contentious, but I did NOT like this book. I didn't mind the first half of it, although Jaime pushing Bran out the window for seeing his incestuous sexytimes was pretty much a dealbreaker for me. But about half way through, I reached a point where no matter how much of it I read, I never seemed to make any progress and there was always 300 pages to go. By the end, I was utterly bored and the only character I even remotely cared about was Arya. 

Honestly, it doesn't really surprise me that I didn't like it. I have this problem a lot with epic fantasy books, where despite an entire new universe, everyone is white. Or where the first fifty pages are straight world building. Or where there's almost no world building, leaving the reader wondering what the hell is going on. Or where everyone has almost-but-not-quite-Medieval-English names. Or where length seems to be more important than pacing and plot. In short, I have a love-hate relationship with epic fantasy. And this one fell firmly on the why-didn't-I-put-this-down-500-pages-ago side of the equation.

What books did you almost put down?

K xx

11 comments:

  1. Wilhelmina UptonMay 13, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Somehow, I'm not so sad I didn't (couldn't? don't remember) get the ARC for Side Effects May Vary.

    And there is a reason the first GoT book has been sitting around my shelves for a year now...I can't bring myself to read itbecause I've heard so much about it, both good and bad. But I have to suck it up with that one and give it a try just to build my own opinion.

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  2. eh, frankly, I'm scared to read Rose Under Fire because I was SO EMOTIONALLY DESTROYED after Code Name Verity. You and me both for Side Effects. Bleeeeh. I wish I had never read that. It still makes me angry. And America Singer?! Like....what. WHY did they call the character America when the COUNTRY was still America. *headdesk* It confused me a lot, actually.

    My TTT!

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  3. I did finish The Casual Vacancy but I didn't like it at all. I'm about to give my copy away.

    Les Miserables' weird tangents just make me laugh at this point. Several chapters on the battle of Waterloo when there's exactly one detail that's relevant to the plot- WTF? But I still love it. Aside from the plot, which I knew when I read it from seeing the musical, there are some really lovely lines.

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  4. I always have to tell people to push through The Casual Vacancy. It's a great book, but it takes awhile to get into and it is SO NOT HARRY POTTER. And I really need to read Rose Under Fire. Also, I got through like 90% of Les Mis in high school but didn't finish for some reason, so that's on my to-read list. Funny side note, I'm actually watching Les Mis right now. Fantine just met ValJean.

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  5. I'm just about to start reading A Casual Vacancy but have only recently finished re-reading all of the Harry Potter books so maybe I should wait for a bit longer in case I struggle with it not being HP!

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  6. That might be wise. The first couple of chapters are, from memory, filled with sex, swearing and masturbation. Basically, everything she couldn't write about in HP crammed into like 40 pages!

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  7. Yeah, I think a lot of people go into The Casual Vacancy expecting a more grown up version of Harry Potter. LOL NOPE. And I can totally understand not finishing Les Mis. IT'S JUST SO STINKING LONG.

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  8. Oh man, the Waterloo section felt like it went foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever. I think I skipped it the first time around because I just didn't care any more.

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  9. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight there with you on the residual anger over Side Effects. Blurgh. And I think Rose Under Fire is a different kind of emotional destruction to Code Name Verity. Which probably doesn't increase your desire to read it much...

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  10. Yeah, I know a lot of people who adore GoT, so maybe you'll have a different experience than I did. Especially as I read it on a plane/while jetlagged/while dying of the flu. Definitely not the book to read under those circumstances. Maybe if I revisited it, I'd think differently? But I have so many ugh-worthy feelings about it that I don't think I can...

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  11. Wilhelmina UptonMay 16, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    Usually when people are SO OVER THE MOON with a book, I tend to not enjoy it as much. Maybe because I have too high expectations.

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