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?

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lists

Least Favorite Books of 2018

Let me be negative for a moment. It’s time for the worst book of 2018, according to Acqua!

I said that I wanted to get better at DNFing as a goal for 2018, and I can say that I did. I don’t have enough completed books I didn’t like to write this list! So I’m going to talk about completed books and some DNFs that I truly disliked (so, not the ones that were just not my kind of thing). Which means that maybe I would have liked some of these more had I finished reading, and while I doubt that, those mini reviews only cover the parts I actually read.

From the one I “liked” the most to the one I liked the least:


#15: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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Maybe I would have liked this more had I not been spoiled for every single detail and had I not seen all the Meaningful Quotes repeated to the point of nausea, so much that they lost all their meaning when I actually saw them. I’m not sure, though, because I also deeply not care about Hollywood, American history, or realistic adult fiction, don’t like time jumps, and didn’t want to read something with this amount of (realistic, challenged) homophobia. And Celia St. James got on my nerves in every scene she appeared.
I probably shouldn’t have even read this because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to care about it much, but everyone was loving it and sometimes I like trusting people. To this day, I still haven’t seen a bad review.

#14: Radio Silence

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Another case of me really not getting the hype. My main problems with this were the generic setting/complete lack of atmosphere and how this book was desperately trying to be relatable. It reminded me of Rowell’s Fangirl in that aspect, another book I didn’t like for similar reasons. Also, this book seemed to believe that Frances was so socially awkward, when in reality… she didn’t seem to be, not much? Some scenes did give me an unpleasant amount of secondhand embarrassment, but that wasn’t necessarily because of Frances or tied to a social interaction.

#13: Nice Try, Jane Sinner

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This book follows a girl with depression who ends up in a reality show, and while I loved the main character’s narration, it never made up for the boring plot and underwhelming second half. It’s one of those novel that start out well but don’t deliver, it’s monotonous, and I just wanted it to end. This probably had to do with the fact that all main characters but Jane were as interesting as cardboard cutouts.

#12: The Poppy War

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I don’t get it.
Ok, the first half of this was fun if not that well-paced. The second half? Dragged, spoiled itself multiple times and then tried to act like its developments were plot twists, was monotonous both in plot and in tone, relied on the violence to be interesting, and that wasn’t even worth it to me – I was just left with a sense of unease, wondering why I did this to myself. And because people are great, some decided to tell me that since I don’t like this book, it must mean that I don’t understand how war is actually like, which of course made me like this book so much more.

#11: The Unbinding of Mary Reade

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This f/f story about historical pirates sounded great; the result wasn’t. There was barely any adventure, which I think pirate stories should have; the romance was weak at best; the story was so full of queerphobic violence that I didn’t want to read it anymore (there were naked gender reveal scenes of crossdressing characters, character executed for being queer, casual homophobia…) Also, the writing just wasn’t that great.

#10: Web of Frost

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This was just a case of me thoroughly disliking Lindsay Smith’s writing style and finding the character development both forced (in the case of the main character) and lacking (for the side characters). Also, no atmosphere, which is really a shame since this could have been an interesting wintry read. But at least I liked the magic system?

#9: Song of Blood and Stone

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This book simply had no idea of what it was doing. And I don’t mean what I said just because of the writing, which was at times atrocious (this really does describes consensual sex as “the invasion of the heroine’s body”. What is your love interest, a bacterium?). I mean that because this book tried to be both a cute, tropey romance with all the clichés royalty romances are made of, a high fantasy story about mythology and discrimination, and a gritty dieselpunk story about war involving graphic sexual assault. It was like three different books put together and the mood and tone were a mess.

Also, I know it’s not the book’s fault, but my review of this was the one that got plagiarized and that was not a fun time.

#8: The Sisters of the Winter Wood [DNF]

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I don’t think I’ve ever disliked the writing of a book so much. I couldn’t continue even though I was interested in the story and liked the atmosphere. The writing prevented me from getting into the story, from getting to know the characters, from going anywhere. Also, The Sisters of the Winter Wood contains the least poetic poetry ever written. Many reviewers say that modern poets who became famous on social media can’t write poetry, but they wouldn’t complain about Rupi Kaur had they read this.

#7: Obsidio

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I described this book as a “twice-reheated soup” in my goodreads review and I don’t have much to add to that. I’ve already seen all the beats and twists this book has in the first two, the format isn’t that interesting anymore, the two new characters barely had any personality… So much here happens just for shock value, but as they were things I had already seen before, they just felt cheap.

#6: Sky in the Deep [DNF]

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This was… the definition of generic.
Not only it had no atmosphere and worldbuilding, it was also boring. Books that start with several chapters of non-stop, very dull action before you manage to get invested in the characters and then have no action whatsoever for the following fifty pages are not a good idea. What about the other way around?

#5: Rosewater [DNF]

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This book is about a very peculiar “alien invasion” set in Nigeria from the point of view of a mediocre, self-serving misogynist who the narrative acknowledges as a mediocre, self-serving misogynist. Sadly, this book never made me understand why ever should I want to read about a mediocre, self-serving misogynist. Lampshading that your main character is the worst does not make him any more compelling! Anyway, if I’m 30% into a book and I know more about various female characters’ breasts than I do about the plot, I’m probably not going to continue.

#4: That Inevitable Victorian Thing [DNF]

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And this is what happens when you don’t pay attention to your worldbuilding.
This was such a white North American attempt at inclusivity. It failed because it didn’t understand how discrimination, culture and assimilation worked. Which meant that the worldbuilding didn’t make sense. And it’s supposedly a book set in Canada about a less terrible version of colonialism… in which there isn’t one Native character in the first 40% of the book (which is the part I read). I just. Who thought this was a good idea.
Also, this book had some very weird priorities. Why have detailed discussions about theology in your world when the premise itself doesn’t make sense?

#3: Creatures of Will and Temper [DNF]

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I love how the reviews of this book neglected to mention that the main relationship in this book is between a seventeen-year-old girl and a woman in her late thirties. This was so creepy to read, especially since I’m just slightly older than the protagonist, and I’m not sure it was meant to be creepy (I want to think it was, but the reviews seem to hint that they end up together and… I hope not, why would I ever want to read that?)

#2: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

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This book made me discover that I really can’t read books about religious abuse and forced religion, because of eleven years of bad memories. I would have loved to discover that with a book that didn’t downplay their consequences and kind of excuse those things. Also, there’s an autistic character here who exists just to be abused.

#1: This Darkness Mine

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The most disturbing thing about this book is that it exists. The more I read, the more I realized that it had no point, or, its point was to make the reader gawk at this girl with delusions who is completely evil. You’re supposed to be entertained by how crazy!! she is. What about no.
I’ll be honest – this book has better writing that most of the books on this list, Mindy McGinnis knows how to write (that’s the main reason I didn’t DNF) but I won’t place this higher anyway.


Which were your least favorite books of 2018?

lists

Least Favorite Books of 2017

I love writing lists and I love unpopular opinions, but I didn’t love being disappointed by more than 15 books in 2017.

The ones I liked the least are at the end of the list.


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a magical realism family saga. I was expecting to love it, but what I got was… a manipulative sad story. It’s written to make readers cry, and it has some very descriptive violent and sad scenes that felt exploitative to me.
But, at least, the writing was beautiful.


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a really hyped adult sci-fi book. I didn’t like it because of its lazy worldbuilding, heavy-handed writing and lack of plot. Also, I really didn’t like that it portrayed the only character with sensory issues as whiny (we get enough of that already).
While I did have many problems with it, I didn’t hate it – I liked the friendships, even if I wanted more from the characters themselves.


Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

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Mysteries shouldn’t be boring, but this book had both pacing problems and bland characters. The book is built around the predatory character, who is the source of all the conflict: for most of the book no one is investigating the two deaths that happened at the beginning. This was really unpleasant to read because it wasn’t what I expected or wanted. Also, casual unchallenged xenophobia.


Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

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You might want to go into this without knowing anything. I don’t recommend going into this at all, but while I won’t spoil anything, you may guess something by reading the paragraph below. You’re warned.
This is the most overrated contemporary book I’ve ever read. I guessed what the supposedly mind-blowing ending was when I was reading the first chapter, and reading the whole book knowing/suspecting that was going to happen, I noticed how manipulative the writing was. Yes, doing that with a first person narration is cheating. The characters were flat, almost caricatures. Also, that ending had a lot of unfortunate implications and I didn’t like it at all.


Timekeeper by Tara Sim

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I didn’t have any problems with this. I just thought it was really bland and boring. The romance was rushed. I’ve heard the sequel is better, but I’m not going to read it.


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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If you haven’t already read this, it’s not worth your time – I think most of its hype comes from nostalgia. I read it for the first time this year and it was mediocre. It was probably something different a few years ago, but now it isn’t.


The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

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I loved the first book in this companion trilogy, the second one was good but nothing special, and the third… The Kingdom of Gods follows Sieh, the immortal god of childhood, and reading from the point of view of a grown-up child is uncomfortable. Also, 600+ pages are too many, and the plot was messy.


Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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I don’t have any strong feelings about this. Nothing about it stood out to me – not the premise, not the writing, not the characters. I didn’t like the romance, I didn’t understand why the characters liked each other at all.


The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

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This started out funny and became annoying really quickly. It’s one of the books I should have DNFed the moment I understood it wasn’t for me. I just don’t like this kind of comedic, over-the-top writing – it was supposed to be funny, but I hated almost every moment of it.


The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

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I liked the first book in the series. This one? I don’t remember anything about it. It was too long, I didn’t care about the love triangle, and I just wanted it to end. From now on, all the books on this list are ones I should have DNFed.


Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

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I didn’t think sci-fi could be so boring. The plot is so simple (see: find one macguffin after another) it felt repetitive halfway through, and it was quickly overshadowed by the romance – an AI romance that totally falls in the romantic-love-makes-you-human trope. The worldbuilding is lazy; there’s nothing interesting or new about the technology here, and every planet has only one climate and one distinctive feature.
But, more than anything, this didn’t need to be 500+ pages.


The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

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I liked the first book in the series, but this was just boring. I mean, the main character doesn’t even decide to start training until around page 100, and nothing happens until the ending.


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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I appreciate what the author was trying to do – a really diverse contemporary with a fat protagonist who isn’t shamed for her body size – and I know this book is important for many people.
But I really don’t want to read 300+ pages of a straight girl making marriage equality about herself and complaining that while her moms are getting married and her sister has found a girlfriend, she is alone. I just… don’t do that.
That wasn’t my only problem with this. This book equates having a happy ending with being in a romantic relationship, and the writing made me cringe a lot. The main strength of this book is being “relatable” and to me it wasn’t.


A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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After highlighting more than ten quotes for bad writing in the first 200 pages, I DNFed it. I consider it a win.


Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

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This is the only book that managed to make me angry.
It’s set in a mansion made up of pieces of other houses around the world, including the true Venetian courtyard, taken from a true “demolished” Venetian house. You know we don’t demolish our historical buildings and give away pieces…? Do you know that rich foreigners paying people to steal pieces of our art/buildings/parks (where I live, they stole seven ancient Dwarf Cycads from the botanical garden…) is a thing that actually happens because people think anything Italian is cool but they hate Italians?
Just like this book, which uses a xenophobic stereotype as a plot device. This isn’t acknowledged at all – one of the character says “it’s not fair to Italians, but it’s effective” (actual quote). Yes, xenophobia is effective, and so are racism and homophobia, but you shouldn’t use them as a plot device in your book without dealing with them.
These weren’t the only problems I had with this (bad writing!), but I don’t want to write six paragraphs to explain what I didn’t like. I have a review.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What were your least favorite books of 2017?