Discussion

Recent [Disappointing] Reads

I read a few really good books at the end of July – you can see the highlights of July in this post – but so far, August hasn’t been the best reading-wise.

Today, I’m going to talk about two books I tried that didn’t work for me recently. I’m not going to give them a rating, but if I had to, they both would be around three stars.

These are not reviews – they’re more a discussion focusing on some specific aspects of the book or of my reading experience.


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I decided not to write a review of this one, because if there’s a thing that really bothers me about the book community, it’s the tendency to put books on pedestals and then be rude/condescending to those who don’t like them, because that of course meant they didn’t get it, or that they’re a bad person (especially if it’s a diverse book, because if you care about diversity, it must mean that you have to like every single diverse book that isn’t considered problematic™ – you’re not allowed to have preferences unless you can justify them with social justice-related language, and if you have them anyway, you’re problematic™ because you not liking a book must of course mean that you think the book should be cancelled™!). It happened last year with The Poppy War, and I have no interest in going through that again on goodreads.

But this is my blog, and the nice thing about my blog is that I can easily moderate the comment section (and that it isn’t read by as many people as the review section on goodreads’ page of a book).

So, what went wrong with me and The Fifth Season.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you might already know that I don’t do well with grim. And I knew this book was going to be grim, and even if I didn’t like that, I didn’t have a problem with that, because that’s what this book is and has every reason to be.

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But then, I got to this quote. [highlights are mine]

“There passes a time of happiness in your life, which I will not describe to you. It is unimportant. Perhaps you think it wrong that I dwell so much on the horrors, the pain, but pain is what shapes us, after all.”

First: Unimportant? Really?

Second: to give you some context, this quote is talking about Syenite and the years she spent with the people living on an island, who value people with her powers. This book wants me to believe that she is exactly the same, with the same aims and the same way to see the world and nothing that could bee seen as character development, that she was before getting into her first relationship and having a child?

That’s… unrealistic, that’s what it is.

(I would also say that “pain is what shapes us” is an inaccurate generalization – personally, there’s a lot of stagnation in pain, more than there is when I’m not in pain, and trauma is… less of a source of growth that fiction would have one think, but this is my experience; if you feel differently, it’s not my intention to ever make you think you’re wrong.)

I feel like my main problems with this book are summed up really well by that quote, and have a lot to do with… the book community’s tendency to value pain over everything (in this, and in so many other aspects, including the creepiest ones like “you’re not allowed to write about trauma unless you disclose details about your own on social media”) and I don’t even feel like I’m the right person to talk about this because I can’t put together something that makes sense. I still think The Fifth Season is worth reading for other aspects, but I won’t be continuing with the series.


Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

I made a mistake, and that mistake was trying to listen to the audiobook. You might already know that my previous experience with audiobooks (with Sadie by Courtney Summers) wasn’t the best, but I absolutely loved listening to the novella In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire, and so I thought, why not try again?

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As it turns out, some stories really don’t work well on audiobook. This is a novel with many side characters, most of which are women, and something about the narration made them sound really similar. Was that Rosa’s mother? Her grandmother? Her best friend? One of the other women from her small town? I often didn’t know, and kept getting confused, and there were just… so many characters.

When I got around 40%, I realized that I kept zoning out and understanding nothing, so I quit, and I feel bad about it, because it’s not even really the book’s fault. This isn’t bad – it’s a perfectly fine contemporary story, and a really atmospheric one at that, and I loved what it said about how different generations in diaspora have different relationship with their culture – it’s just that I don’t feel strongly enough about it to purchase another copy and start it again.

TL;DR: if you like contemporary novels, it’s worth trying. Don’t listen to it on audiobook if that’s an option.


Have you ever had a bad experience with an audiobook narration? Have you read any of these?

19 thoughts on “Recent [Disappointing] Reads

  1. Not all books are for all people. I tried reading the fifth season and I couldn’t really get into it. I am still not sure if it be me mood that day, the world, or the character in general. I am going to give it another try in audiobook form at some point and see if that helps. But I am not in a rush to get back to it. I write unpopular opinions all the time. Have one up today actually!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OMG! I thought I was the only person on the planet who disagreed with The Fifth Season…. there was one scene in particular I really didn’t appreciate despite me reading 100 other books with similar scenes. I think I just thought for all the 5 star reviews it gets it wasn’t that dark.

    All that aside the world building never particularly grabbed me and I felt like I saw the twist coming. Still haven’t moved on to books 2 or 3. Having read her short story collection my appreciation for Jemisin goes much deeper and I think I’d like to return to it someday.. but in the meantime- I’m so glad you posted this. I really felt crazy for not enjoying it more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought the plot twist/the whole set-up of the book felt somewhat gimmick-y, and I won’t be reading the rest. For the most part, it was just… fine for me.
      But I’m glad to hear you liked her collection more! I liked some of Jemisin’s previous books, so maybe I’ll try that one too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you like short stories, her collection is definitely worth reading. There’s even a story in there related to The Fifth Season that seemed to give me a better idea of the world building there- which is part of why I felt so crazy for not liking it after reading that. But yes, The Fifth Season was fine. I ended up giving it 3 Stars I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. oh so the audiobook you were talking about on twitter earlier was Don’t Date Rosa Santos 😭 i saw it on Spotify and thought about listening to it (because i don’t own a copy of the book yet and i have spotify premium, why not) but i don’t want to listen to a confusing audiobook. i’m already struggling with a perfectly fine audiobook as it is. i guess i’ll just stick with e-book for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So sorry to hear that The Fifth Season turned out to be pretty disappointing for you 😦 I still haven’t read this book (it kind of intimidates me and part of that surely is because a lot of people love the books), but the overfixation that only pain shapes people definitely isn’t something I agree with as well. Still giving the book a shot, but it might be a while as it’s not on my priority TBR 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had been wanting to read it for years and was really intimidated by it as well. It was easier to follow than I thought (the writing is really good), but just as depressing as I feared. Anyway, I hope it works for you when you end up trying it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry you didn’t like The Fifth Season, but I can totally understand why not. I enjoyed it, to the extent you can enjoy a book about endless pain and horror, but I haven’t read the third one because I’m too scared to go back into that headspace.

    As for poopy audiobooks—the worst audiobook that I finished was by far “The Decoy Princess” by Dawn Cook, with “The Mermaid’s Mirror” by LK Madigan coming a close second. The narrators were horrific and there were certain phrases (“check my top knot for my darts” and “Ah!”) that were repeated ad nauseam and were annoying AF.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard of either, and that’s probably a good thing, it seems.
      And not wanting to go back to the headspace is one of the reasons I’m not going to continue with The Broken Earth – there are plenty of real-life things that can already make me feel this way for free, I don’t particularly feel the need to seek out more…

      Like

    1. I think some forget far too often that they’re talking to other people with their own preferences and not just “an account on the internet”. Apart from that, I mostly like being here, or I wouldn’t be.

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  6. I had a similar reaction to The Fifth Season (and actually ended up DNF’ing it for other reasons, although I am open to trying it again sometime).

    You’re not alone. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so sad you had a bad experience with Don’t Date Rosa Santos! Audiobooks are always tricky. I’ve recently found that I only like books narrated by British people? When you feel ready, I’d highly recommend trying Rosa again. Maybe you could check the book out from the library instead of having to purchase another copy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t have the option of borrowing an English book from a library, as I don’t live in an English-speaking country (and our libraries have very few YA books to begin with even in my language), or I would – I was liking what I understood of the story.

      Like

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