Reading tastes vary. A lot. When all is said and done, I’d like to think I’m an open-minded albeit critical reader. With all the press given to Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, I am giddy to give it a read and see how it strikes my sensibilities. So when I come across a wildly popular book that makes me cringe, it’s not enough to not like it. I must analyze the reasons for my loathing. Hey, what can I say. I am editor and that’s how I roll. Analyzing a text is just as fun as being entertained by one.
Here’s a list of books that left a bad taste in my mouth. I hope you’ll feel compelled to share yours in the spirit of good-hearted book bashing. In this age where too many people take offense at everything, let’s let loose and do our best to offend each other by putting down books others have loved. Ready?
Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
Ugh. Just ugh. I wrote a scathing review of this title back when I posted regular book reviews. I never could bring myself to read the other two books in the series, though I do plan on watching the movie to revel in its shortcomings. As for the recent release of Grey (a re-telling of the first book from the male’s perspective), it’s no stretch to imagine how amateur the prose and how vanilla the sex. I love a steamy read as much as any woman with a pulse, and I edit lesbian romances for a client, but there’s just no denying the writing and the sex isn’t up to par. I guess it’s a good thing if Fifty Shades can act as a gateway book to better erotica.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Yet another book I reviewed here back in the day. My reaction to this book really made me question my reading radar. I remember the frenzy that literally swept the nation when it was released. EVERYONE loved this book. My reaction was meh at best. I was left wondering how such a readable book could be so bad. The characters struck me as flat and stereotypical, misguided elements of suspense, and the narrator’s lack of substantial conflict. The use of dialect, historical inaccuracies, and the deal with the “chocolate” pie left me to conclude that I “had just ingested the literary equivalent of sugar-coated cereal.”
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
I credit Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children Series as a major player in stoking my love of books and for making me resort to lies to learn the author’s name. I must have watched the movie version countless times on HBO when I was in the fourth grade. This led me to ask my teacher who wrote it because I told her my mom wanted to read the book. I knew the librarian would never let me check it out, so I kept that post-it note for over a year and bought the first three books the summer before sixth grade when I was visiting my older sister in San Diego.
The adventures of Ayla and later Jondalar had me hooked. The amount of research required impressed me at a young age, though I readily liked all the pre-historic steamy sex that took place as well. And then, after thirty years since the first book, the sixth and final book in the was released in March of 2011. It was the third book I ever downloaded to my first Kindle. And it was horrible! The major impression I got was that Auel’s editors didn’t try to polish it much since it was going to be guaranteed bestseller. The book rehashes past romantic conflicts, incessantly summarizes its five predecessors, and get this… most of the action is of Ayla being high on Shaman juice and studying cave paintings. No. Just no. Such a disappointing end to a great series.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This is the type of book that should be right up my alley, but alas, it’s one of the few books I have ever given up reading. I’ve been trying to get better about quitting books I can’t get into. The writing is top-notch, but the premise struck me as tedious. The main character Ursula Todd is born and then dies… again, and again, and again. I found it hard to invest much in a character that keeps starting her life over. My eyes kept glazing over and dreaded sigh after sigh resulted as I tried to push forward to the next chapter and read about a character I couldn’t feel a connection with. It’s a divisive book with reviews running the gamut on Amazon.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Woot! What’s not to like about random zombie action thrown into a literary classic? Apparently a lot since this is yet another of the few books I’ve ever shelved. The approach struck me as too gimmicky and the zombie elements too plunked in with not enough connection to the story. Granted, I read a sliver of the book, and I love zombies. I just don’t love zombies taking over the work of Jane Austen. If I had to pick something I liked about this book, it would be the zombie illustrations. However, literary mash-ups like this are indeed an intriguing idea not to be ignored.
Do tell. What popular books have rubbed you the wrong way?