Weekly Musing: Oh, Why Did I Read That?

I don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions just because it seems to me like an exercise in futility and a great way to end feeling guilty for not sticking to them. This year, though, I decided that if I did make any resolutions, they would be ones related to my new career. One of those was to read more and to actual log what I read because I often can’t remember if I’ve read a book or not. I have met my goal of reading at least 50 books this year and while there were many books I enjoyed, there were some I wasn’t enthralled with. So this week and next week I’m going to list my favorite and least favorite books I read this year.

I’d rather start with the ones I didn’t like because that means ending the year on a positive note. ‘Tis the season for sentimentality.

I’m excluding from my list books I didn’t finish because if I didn’t finish it, I didn’t like it enough to soldier through and it seems a bit unfair to list it. I’m also not counting books I only read parts of for research because that doesn’t seem fair, either.

So with a little drum roll , here is the list of my least favorite books I read this year. In no particular order they are:

Everflame by Dylan Peters: Really cool concept about a kingdom of talking bears (it’s a fantasy world, just roll with it) who adopt an orphaned human baby and raise him as one of their own. But the kingdom is threatened by evil, The Messenger, who is taking out The Ancients one by one. Evercloud (the human raised by bears) and his bear family and friends must find the evil and fight it. It’s the first book in a trilogy but I have no desire to read it further. The author has some really lovely descriptions and I do enjoy the world of the bears but things fell apart once the author shifted focus to telling the story of villain in the book called The Messenger (who is human). The Messenger’s origin story is violent and drags on for far too long. Cutting some of the back story would have helped the flow of the story. The characters are very black and white with only Evercloud showing any signs of potential for growth.

A Crowning Mercy by Bernard Cornwell and Susannah Kells: I love historical fiction and had heard Bernard Cornwell was a really good writer so I looked around his catalog to see what might appeal to me. I picked this book because it was set during a time period I’m not familiar with, mid-1600s England, and it sounded like it had an interesting female lead. I was wrong about the female lead. She was dull, boring, and irritatingly stupid but the authors seemed to blame that on her Puritanical upbringing which I think can only carry so far. Dorcas Slythe was orphaned at a young age and left in the care of relatives. Her mother was a Puritan who fell in love with a ship’s captain and ran off with him. They are strict Puritans and I hated the way they are portrayed. They were just over-the-top bad and plain greedy which seems to smack right in the face of what their religion believes. There’s some plot about a map and seals and whoever finds all the seals gets the map that leads to some treasure tucked up in the Netherlands. Of course Dorcas has one of those seals but doesn’t know it. Most of the book is her repeatedly trusting people whom she shouldn’t yet despite repeatedly getting burned, she continues to trust the same people. Oh and there’s some dopey romance buried in there. It reads as if two people wrote the book which if more than one author are going to collaborate on a book, their parts should flow seamlessly. It didn’t in this book.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Don’t fling things at me but I just felt this ‘classic’ was boring. I know it is supposed to be a reflection and commentary about the Jazz Age but I just wasn’t feeling it. I found it dull and I think for me, it is a case of if I lived during that time period, it would have worked have had more resonance. It was just meh and while the mystery around Jay Gatsby keeps you interested, it just doesn’t say much to me.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I discovered Neil Gaiman this year and utterly enjoyed his other works. This book, however, just didn’t quite click. Gaiman has a wonderful imagination and a great dreamy, surreal quality to his writing but this one just dragged on too long for me. It’s hard to describe the plot of the book other than it is a flashback to the narrator’s childhood and a very special friend who lives with her mother and grandmother. There is evil afoot inhabiting various earthly and unearthly forms. His oddball friend, though, is there to protect him. While it is widely imaginative and well-written, it just didn’t grab like American Gods or Fragile Things.

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn: This is a novel follow-up to the fun novella released earlier this called Far in the Wilds. While I really enjoyed the novella, I didn’t care for this one as much. This book, as well as Far in the Wilds, is set in Kenya in the 1920s, a departure from the Victorian time setting of Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey stories. The story centers around scandalous socialite Delilah Drummond sent to there by her equally scandalous mother who found even her own daughter’s exploits a bit much to handle. Delilah is the embodiment of the roaring ’20s: living life to excess by drinking, smoking, and sleeping with as many men as she wants to. She’s cheeky and fun which normally I like since I’m so not either of those but I found Delilah really dislikeable. She’s childish and immature and treats her much more prudish cousin, sent there to try to keep her out of trouble, with a lot of disrespect I found off putting and unwarranted. I finished the book because Raybourn’s descriptions are phenomenal. I felt like I was in Kenya and it was beautiful if dangerous. I’ve also noticed a trend with Raybourn with pulling some random plot twists toward the end of novels that aren’t foreshadowed at all (or they might be and I’m too slow to pick up on them) and don’t make sense in relation to the story.

Owain Glyn Dwr: The Last Prince of Wales by Peter Gordon Williams: When I bought this, I thought it was a nonfiction book and had it with the rest of my research materials. Then I looked at it again and noticed it was labeled as a novel. Okay, no big, shift it to a different bookcase. I read the book because I wanted to see what the author’s take was and so I wouldn’t try to repeat what someone else has already done. It’s not really a novel. It really should be classified as creative nonfiction because it is just a regurgitation of facts and dates with dialogue and descriptions of what people look like. The dialogue is wooden and is exposition with quotes around it. People come across as colossally stupid about what is going on around them. No character growth. Just lots and lots and lots of telling. At least I realized I was truly retaining what I had studied.

So there you have it. My list of the books I read this year I just didn’t care for. It is small which is a good sign I think. Thankfully there were a lot more books that I utterly enjoyed and having to narrow down my list to just a handful for next week’s post is going to be a fun challenge.

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