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2017 Nomination for "Worst book you read, or tried to read."

The Green Dragon

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Dec 13, 2017, 8:34am Top

Posting these threads a bit early, but you know: holidays. I won't actually list mine until later in the month, probably after Christmas. Putting a little star here so it won't get lost in the shuffle.

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 8:58am Top

I don't seem me struggling with horrid books the rest of the year so I'll list my votes now. :)

Waiting Game: The chronicles of Covent by J L Ficks -- A horrid attempt to take a RPG from tabletop to book form. There is no fail, no difficulty for the MC. The writing wasn't the greatest either.

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (I know I'll get flak for this one.) -- I read to ESCAPE life. When characters mirror memories or bad life moments, I just can't. I don't think I got more than a third in before I gave up.

Imager by L E Modesitt -- Too much backstory, authorial preaching, and a poorly executed "magic school cause everyone else has one" book. Reached a third then gave up

Dec 13, 2017, 8:52am Top

>2 gilroy: I seem to have had a run of books not working for me this month, that's why I'm waiting. I'm not familiar with those books, what was it that put them on this list for you?

Dec 13, 2017, 8:53am Top

The Atlantis Gene. What a train wreck.

Dec 13, 2017, 8:56am Top

>3 MrsLee: I'll update the post with the reasons. :)

Dec 13, 2017, 9:38am Top

attribution and white death both ER titles.

If you're really interested in why they're so bad I had to fully review them for ER. Overly ambitious in plot whilst lacking the skills in characterisation or worldbuilding to support it.

chaos awakens spectre of war and legends of dimmingwood not really much better - mostly storybundle offerings of limited skill if not quite as badly overreached as the first two.

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 10:23am Top

Patriot Game by John De St. Jorre. This is the first book I have ever thrown across the room and bounced off the far wall.

"And let me tell you for why!"

This book will stay with me all my life. It is the first book I physically threw across the room because I was so disgusted with its inaccuracies and total disregard for reality.

The author was giving detailed descriptions of his protagonist's car journey through Belfast. He had his hero driving along roads he would not have been able to access; stopping for a smoke at the side of the "Belfast to Dungannon road", which is a motorway; viewing the aftermath of a restaurant bombing that he couldn't have seen from where he was; coming up to a border crossing where the "border guards raised a barrier", something that at the time of the story was not the case. Even through the roughest times of the troubles the type of barrier he described was never used at border crossings.

It appears this author wrote his descriptions from a map never having visited Northern Ireland.

This book scarred me and made me intolerant of bad books.

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 10:30am Top

>6 reading_fox: I'm being fairly picky in what I go for in ER. I only go for what I think I will like or an author I like. Mind you, I didn't much cotton onto the Mindy Klasky I won; partly because it was YA and I found it too simplistic with an unsympathetic (to me) lead character. I think I remember that StoryBundle - it was one I didn't go for.

Regarding wider acquisitions, I haven't found much I truly dislike - with one exception - Silver Linings. The only good things I found about it was that it was short and (at the time) was free. Let's put it this way: I'm not going to get any of the rest of the series.

Dec 13, 2017, 10:51am Top

>7 pgmcc: A book like that sticks in your mind like a horrible customer in the retail business. It takes hundreds of wonderful ones to make the pain go away.

Dec 13, 2017, 11:52am Top

>9 MrsLee: I read it in the 1970s and I still get the shakes when I think about it. It and The Chronicles if Thomas Covenant are the only two books have given a half star to; I define a half star rating as, "I HATE IT!".

Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 12:08pm Top

The Man in the High Castle: Dick throws so many ideas at the reader that any semblance to plot was completely lost on me. Furthermore, I never felt the slightest rapport with any of the characters and didn't really care about what happened to them, not helped by the fact that most of the non-Asians protagonists had adopted the stereotypical speech patterns of Japanese, which I thought highly irritating. Abandoned roughly a quarter of the way in.

Edited to include my all-time low point: A Discovery of Witches – awful, boring and self-indulgent twaddle about witches, vampires and daemons, alchemy, and how each creature is supposed to shun the company of the other two groups, but how a witch and a vampire defy convention and fall in love while looking for a 17th-century book. Written by a serious academic who thinks she can also write fiction, it features page-long descriptions of a yoga class and what sort of tea the main female protagonist drinks – yawn! In hindsight I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did (past p. 100); I guess I was hoping the story would actually start to get interesting.

Dec 13, 2017, 2:43pm Top

There's still time for one or two more this year, so I won't call the winners yet. But I abandoned an unusual number of books during 2017 for various kinds of awfulness, from banal to sheer.

Did I perhaps have less endurance than usual to spare? Yes, but these would have been awful in any year.

Dec 13, 2017, 4:39pm Top

>11 passion4reading: Dick is far better at ideas than execution

Dec 13, 2017, 4:40pm Top

Dec 13, 2017, 4:42pm Top

>10 pgmcc: I disliked Thomas Covenant enough to get rid of both series when I had a early clear out (probably before I moved to Cambridge in 1990). The only book of his I kept from that era was Daughter of Regals. I won't say I hated the books (I actually read both series) but I found them depressing and TC an unsympathetic hero.

Dec 13, 2017, 4:57pm Top

>15 Maddz: I read both trilogies too. I felt so mad at myself when it didn't get any better. I have never been so stupid with respect to reading books since.

Dec 14, 2017, 9:28am Top

I'm only listing three so far, because I'm not sure it's fair to list the more recent books I didn't like. My dislike of them may have been influenced by my mood, although I think not. Still. These listed books are those which if/when I hear others praise them, I will look at them askance.

California Bloodstock by Terry McDonell
Fabulous Memories of a Truly Adventurous Life by Bruce Barron
A Body in the Bath House by Lindsey Davis

If you are interested, I believe my reviews will make it clear why they are on my "naughty" list. Or perhaps not. Usually I try to be nicer in my reviews than I feel inside about books I don't like.

Dec 14, 2017, 12:28pm Top

>17 MrsLee: Unlurking to laugh at one of your choices, FMoaTAL. Guess it wasn't so fabulous, huh?

Dec 14, 2017, 4:54pm Top

>18 mamzel: Let's just say the author has high opinions of his actions.

Edited: Dec 15, 2017, 8:34am Top

There were only 2 books that I rated as bad this year.
The Jennifer Morgue was a huge disappointment - how can a James Bond spoof with Lovecraftian nasties be dull? This book managed it.
The little Paris bookshop had pretentious, unlikeable and unrealistic characters who behave ridiculously for the sake of the plot. I wanted to like it because it was a gift from a good friend and hey, bookshop on a narrowboat!, but no.

ETA I don't remember us having a "worst books of the year" thread before, but I like it!

Dec 15, 2017, 8:41am Top

>20 Sakerfalcon: I am sorry to read your comments on The Little Paris Bookshop. I picked it up last year thinking it might be fun.

Dec 15, 2017, 9:17am Top

>21 pgmcc: It is such a great premise, but I just didn't like the execution. If you do decide to read it in spite of my comments I will very interested in your thoughts on it.

Dec 15, 2017, 9:44am Top

>22 Sakerfalcon: I haven't read that one but I did read The Little French Bistro by the same author, which suffers a bit from two-dimensional characters. The setting is nice though, and for a light read it wasn't too hard to finish in one sitting.

My low rated books of the year:

Threads West and the next two in the series. I liked the idea of a wagon train adventure, but this goes on and on and nothing really happens.

Daisy Miller by Henry James
I can't at all figure out why this is a classic. I really didn't get why it was supposed to be funny.

Ulterior Motives by Mel Parrish
A monthly challenge category called for a "book title that starts with the letter U". There really isn't any other reason to read this.

Overall I was pretty fortunate. I didn't run into very many that I rated lower than 3 stars.

Edited: Dec 15, 2017, 8:22pm Top

On books I've "tried" to read: I've tried
Burroughs's The Ticket that Exploded i don't
know how many times; i've lost count. Never
got beyond a chapter or two. I may
even try it again; I was intrigued by the title.

Dec 15, 2017, 2:24pm Top

Hi Green Dragon! It's been a while, although I still lurk from time to time.

My worst read of 2017, DNF, was The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't being BORED TO TEARS! And I generally like pomo or experimental fiction but this wasn't that, it was just a mess.

Dec 16, 2017, 2:10am Top

>25 littlegeek: Warms my heart to have you check in!

Dec 16, 2017, 7:13am Top

Blackbird by Molly McAdams. Easily the worst book I read this year, and it was a review copy, so I felt obligated to finish it.

The author believes that poor, foreign women who are abducted and enslaved by rich men usually like it - the heroine only reacts differently because she comes from a well-connected American family! Add the idea that people traffickers can be sexy in a 'dangerous' way... this is a nasty mess, with a world view that is appallingly wealth-fixated. It is also atrociously written, extremely repetitive, and the use of ultra-coy terminology in such a setting was absolutely ridiculous.

Dec 16, 2017, 8:58am Top

>27 Guanhumara: Eeew. Wow, that sounds awful. :P

Dec 16, 2017, 11:15am Top

I have a couple of candidates and not sure which one was worse so I'll name and shame them both:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Winkie by Clifford Chase

Of the two I think that Winkie disappointed me most as I was kind of expecting the third of the Divergent trilogy to be a bit of a damp squib but I had hopes that the Clifford Chase book would fit well with my sense of humour.

Dec 16, 2017, 4:56pm Top

>29 AHS-Wolfy: Oh dear. Allegiant is on my list to read next year...

Dec 16, 2017, 6:47pm Top

I'll start with the books I actually finished and move onto the dreadful DNFs later -

Only the Dead by Vidar Sunstol
OMG this was painful. If it wasn’t the middle of a trilogy I might not have persevered. It’s basically one long, dream or exhaustion fueled chase between brothers who are ostensibly out hunting deer, but end up hunting each other. I skipped A LOT just to have it over.

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman
The ending was good, but it was torture to get there. Cartoon villain, dippy heroine, heavy repetition in word choices and in actions/thoughts of the characters, bad narrator (I listened to this), melodramatic, histrionic, dumb.

Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Holy crap what a wreck of a novel that is extremely weak in the telling. If you’re going to write an experimental novel without first writing a straightforward one, don’t bother. Your poor talent and technique will show. Elaborate charades, signs and circumstances for absolutely nothing. The whole thing reads like some cutesy inside joke that was self-published for chucks with his bros.

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson
Billed as taut and terrifying, it is neither. Scandi crime is popular and the ONLY reason this ever saw the light of day.

Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron
Predictable and cliched. Yawn. Even though her second book was better, Ephron is off my list.

Dec 16, 2017, 9:53pm Top

>26Hi Lee!

Edited: Dec 18, 2017, 2:13am Top

>13 stellarexplorer: This was the second book by Dick I've tried (after Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and probably the last. Though I do like my authors to come up with novel and interesting ideas, there also has to be a semblance of plot to keep my interest.

>31 Bookmarque: Interesting to see you mention The Supernatural Enhancements as one of the worst offenders this year. I read this in 2014 and though I didn't find it an entirely satisfactory read, I think that a second reading is merited to find out whether it really is a jumble of various genres and a total mess, or whether I simply didn't pick up on certain clues that were left, but which would make all the difference. Just moved to my TBRR pile.

Dec 17, 2017, 9:36pm Top

>28 MrsLee: You have admirably summed it up in a single word.

I should have mentioned - it's long too.

Dec 17, 2017, 10:52pm Top

>33 passion4reading: Agreed. We’ve been the beneficiaries of his fertile and wacky imagination in the many successful films made from his work. I like them more than his books.

This is a good place to mention how much I’ve loved the Amazon production of The Man in the High Castle. To me, one of the best things I’ve watched in recent years.

Dec 18, 2017, 2:18am Top

>35 stellarexplorer: Couldn't agree more. Sadly, I've yet to see the TV production of The Man in the High Castle. It was the series' high profile in the media that prompted me to buy the book, along with SS-GB, to compare alternate histories centred on WWII.

Dec 18, 2017, 6:08am Top

I had a couple that got my "worst book of the year" tag but the most recent one, the one seared into my memory, is Light by Harrison.

Dec 18, 2017, 1:17pm Top

>11 passion4reading: passionforreading - A Discovery of Witches is up there for me, too. Definitely one of my worst of the past few years.

My worst this year is Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher. I kept reading because I thought it would go fast - it didn't.

Dec 19, 2017, 5:35pm Top

For me it wasn't that the titles themselves were truly awful, but that they just didn't live up to pre-publication hype. I tried to be fair to it, but I wasn't particularly impressed by Jane Austen: The Secret Radical for all that it was written by an expert. I just didn't buy into her thinking. I was expecting far more of the The Benedict Option based on the strength of a 2-hour discussion I listened to on C-Span or some similarly serious network, but found it overly simplistic or even just impractical, perhaps because of the position of privilege held by the author. But the reviewers in the New York Times thought both of those titles were very important books.

Then there was another one in the fiction category -- We Are Legion that others found enjoyable and for which I had great hopes. But NO. That said, my son liked it.

Dec 19, 2017, 8:44pm Top

>39 jillmwo: "Then there was another one in the fiction category -- We Are Legion that others found enjoyable and for which I had great hopes. But NO. That said, my son liked it."

Uh oh. I plan to read that one next...

Dec 19, 2017, 8:57pm Top

My only 1 star rating that I actually finished was Anna and the French Kiss. I read it for book club. Honestly, I don't know that the book was really THAT bad, but I'm not a high school girl. If I were, I *might* have sympathized with the whiny MC. But I just wanted to smack her upside the head.

Dec 20, 2017, 9:08am Top

>40 ScoLgo: For what it's worth, my husband, who is very difficult to find reading matter for, loved that book, and even asked me to buy the sequels.

Dec 20, 2017, 12:08pm Top

>42 MrsLee: Thank you, that is good to hear. I guess I will just have to dive in and make up my own mind.

Dec 20, 2017, 12:17pm Top

I didn’t read any truly horrible books this year. The lowest rating I gave this year was 2.5 stars, and there were four books I rated that way:

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
I actually liked the first half quite a bit, but the second half had too many preachy monologues and too much mysticism for my tastes.

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Grimm Brothers
I spread this one out over 6 months, and it still got tiresome. There were too many nearly-identical stories, exasperating attitudes due to the era in which they were published, and just general strangeness. On the bright side, its mind-numbing effects made it a useful book on those occasional nights when I couldn’t sleep. Since reading it, I’ve also recognized some fairy-tale based satire and homages that I think would have gone over my head otherwise.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
The main thing I remembered without re-reading my review was being terribly annoyed with the characterization of one of my favorite Discworld characters, Vetinari, who seemed like an entirely different character in this book. Apparently I also found the story pretty boring, which I had forgotten because I didn’t even remember the story until I re-read my review. Which I guess confirms I thought it was pretty boring!

The Science of Discworld II by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen
Mostly I think this was the case of my being the wrong audience. There was way too much repetition, both within this book and from the 1st book. It also focused mostly on theory and origin topics whereas I usually prefer more practical science topics.

If I had to pick the worst of the four, I'd probably go with The Science of Discworld II.

Dec 20, 2017, 1:29pm Top

So far, I have only had two below average reads in 2017...

- Up the Line by Robert Silverberg
- Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Both suffered mightily from poor characterization. The Yarbro villain was so hissably evil that it went beyond caricature. I don't recall the character names at this point but there is a side character - a husband of another side character. He has fallen under the sway of the villain and was so unbelievably rendered and stupid in his motivations that I was tempted to throw the book against the wall whenever he arrived on set. What stopped me was that I was reading on kindle and didn't want to break my device. I ended up giving the book 2 stars because there were some redeeming qualities to the story - but not enough for me to call this one 'average'.

The Silverberg, being a novel of its time, had some rather bothersome misogyny and racism that burrowed under my skin and refused to let me enjoy the otherwise well-plotted time travel pastiche. It was actually heading toward 1-star territory but the ending brought it up a notch because it was so unexpected. Silverberg has been very hit or miss for me. His Book of Skulls was a hit but, Up the Line was sadly, a miss.

Oh well... only two below-average reads all year. I'm currently on books #101 and #102. That is the most books I have read in a year during my entire life so it's turning out to be an excellent reading year in both quantity and quality.

Dec 20, 2017, 10:17pm Top

I didn't read any truly horrible books this year, except A Shiver of Light by Laurel K. Hamilton. I found it for $3 at the dollar store, so figured what the heck. I'd seen the reviews, so wasn't expecting much, and found it mostly "meh".

The all-time worst book I've ever read was something by Faulkner that I had to read in college. The professor (American Lit) greatly admired Faulkner and we had to read a couple of his books. Don't remember which ones they were; I hated them all.

Dec 21, 2017, 7:58am Top

Dan Egan's book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes got great reviews--NYT, Science Friday, Science News (below). He's a thorough, careful reporter on the problem of exotic species in the Great Lakes, so I was excited to settle in to read my copy. Maybe because I was too close to the subject, I was unable to finish the book--just scanning the last half and passing it on.

I think he downplayed/missed exciting developments in resource management, for example, Canadian Coast Guard leadership in managing ship ballast water to prevent additional introductions to the Great Lakes (guidelines, law, UN convention). Likewise, he missed importance of science-based consensus management by Great Lakes states, feds, Ontario, and tribes with fish management authority that followed the mid-20th c interventions, such as sea lamprey control, stocking of Pacific salmon and splake (speckled x lake trout hybrid hoped resistant to predation by sea lamprey).

More than the Michigander who first stocked the Great Lakes with exotic Pacific salmon, my hero is a fellow who managed Lake Erie fisheries for Ontario, Art Holder. (Ontario's commercial fishery was capable of decimating stocks, to its own detriment, as well as that of the important charter fishery which would not otherwise have developed in Ohio.) As Hg-based fishery closure ended (1972?), Art reached out to his counterparts in Ohio to establish an annual Total Allowable Catch for walleye (and eventually other species), and to agree on a geographical system for sharing the TAC.

Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, with support of the two countries and academics, blazed an approach now followed in the other four Great Lakes in which fish management options and interventions are guided by science, and managers take no action without the consent of all potentially affected jurisdictions. (Not to say that discussions don't get tense!) This voluntary, non-binding approach was the basis for A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries (1981)

Those exotic Pacific salmon? In later years, fish managers would forego planned imports because of others' concerns about importing potentially harmful genes and pathogens.


Here are our favorite science books of 2017
Science News Staff | December 17, 2017

Against the Grain
James C. Scott
Armed with the latest archaeological research, a political anthropologist argues that the rise of civilization came at a big cost. The initial switch from hunting and gathering to agricultural states brought poor diets, labor-intensive work, outbreaks of infectious diseases and other hardships (SN: 10/14/17, p. 28). Yale Univ., $26

The Great Quake
Henry Fountain
Historical records and interviews with survivors flesh out this tale of how a massive earthquake in Alaska in 1964 provided geologists with key evidence needed to verify the theory of plate tectonics (SN: 9/16/17, p. 32). Crown, $28

Frank Close
More than just a primer on the science of solar eclipses, this memoir chronicles a physicist’s lifetime fascination with the celestial phenomenon and introduces readers to the quirky world of eclipse chasers (SN: 5/13/17, p. 28). Oxford Univ., $21.95

Rise of the Necrofauna
Britt Wray
Resurrecting woolly mammoths, passenger pigeons and other extinct creatures isn’t just a technological problem, as this book explains. “De-extinction” is also rife with ethical dilemmas (SN: 10/28/17, p. 28). Greystone Books, $26.95

Big Chicken
Maryn McKenna
Antibiotics transformed chicken farming, to the detriment of the birds and of human health, a journalist contends. Widespread use of the drugs fueled the industrialization of poultry production and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (SN: 9/30/17, p. 30). National Geographic, $27

Angela Saini
A science writer makes a persuasive case that centuries of biased thinking and flawed scientific research have reinforced sexist stereotypes about women (SN: 9/2/17, p. 27). Beacon Press, $25.95

Caesar’s Last Breath
Sam Kean
Through fun historical anecdotes and lesser-known backstories of scientific greats, this entertaining book profiles the chemical elements that make up the air we breathe and traces the history of Earth’s atmosphere (SN: 7/8/17 & 7/22/17, p. 38). Little, Brown and Co., $28

Bill Schutt
The grisly practice of eating your own kind turns out to be widespread in the animal kingdom, a zoologist explains in this captivating look at cannibalism (SN: 2/18/17, p. 29). Algonquin Books, $26.95

The Lost City of the Monkey God
Douglas Preston
A journalist tags along on an archaeological expedition to search for the real-life remains of a mythological city in this rainforest adventure tale that morphs into a medical mystery (SN: 2/4/17, p. 28). Grand Central Publishing, $28

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes
Dan Egan
Invasive species, urbanization and other threats have wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes, but this book still finds some glimmers of hope in the scientists who are making headway in resuscitating the ecosystem (SN: 3/18/17, p. 30). W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

How to Tame a Fox
Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut
An experiment to replay animal domestication by selectively breeding wild silver foxes is lovingly retold, including by the researcher who has kept the project alive for nearly 60 years (SN: 5/13/17, p. 29). Univ. of Chicago, $26

Making Contact
Sarah Scoles
In the face of numerous obstacles, Jill Tarter still managed to spearhead the search for extraterrestrial intelligence for decades, as this biography recounts (SN: 8/5/17, p. 26). Pegasus Books, $27.95

A Crack in Creation
Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg
Two experts, including one of the pioneers of CRISPR/Cas9, discuss the science and ethics of gene editing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28


Dec 21, 2017, 11:26am Top

So looking back I discovered I've had 19 DNFs so far this year (16 according to LT but I think I deleted a couple that were library books completely from the system rather than adding them to my 'abandoned this year' collection.

I also had one 1/2 star read, three 1 star reads and eight 1 1/2 star reads, so it seems there were rather more than I envisaged - and how to pick just five?

Of the DNFs, it's hard to pick the 'worst' - a couple are there because they're just not my thing, so it would be wrong to say there was something the matter with them. The Dystopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather was a real let down. I'd acquired both it and The Atopia Chronicles at the same time and felt that I had to persist but in the end I couldn't bear it any more. Arctic Adventure & Safari Adventure by Willard Price. Out of date attitudes to child rearing and animal protection. I couldn't bear it any longer and had to give up. 1977 by David Peace - full of violence, swearing, racism and abuse of other people - I wasn't go to waste my tim eon it.

The 1/2 star read was Real World by Natsuo Kirino, the story of a bunch of Japanese teenagers following the murder of the mother of one of them. Tedious and unbelievable.

The three one-star reads were Here We Lie by Sophie McKenzie, The City Between the Books & The Bridge People by Christian Ellingsen and Firesong by William Nicholson. The first was an awful story of three siblings. Set over different timelines, the story begins with the three main characters as teens, the eldest about to leave for university. There are then multiple timelines and viewpoints in the 'current' portion of the book with the story evolving around the death of a new character. My comments at the time were that the ending bore a resemblance to a Shakespearean tragedy with the number of dead bodies piling up around you as you finish the book.

The second was a free ebook and while the second title (first to appear in the book) had some potential for interest, it wasn't good enough to earn any stars and the other title was just plain disappointing.

The third was just the end of a trilogy - I should have given up earlier, it wasn't giving me anything to make me want to read on. I went go into the two star reads although they were still disappointing.

Dec 22, 2017, 11:22am Top

>48 Peace2: I quit reading 13 books this year, I feel your pain.

Dec 22, 2017, 1:57pm Top

>48 Peace2: I'm a slow reader, so am only at 8 abandoned books.

Dec 22, 2017, 3:21pm Top

>49 MrsLee: and >50 gilroy: I almost always feel guilty when I abandon something but I'm trying to rid myself of that guilt and acknowledge that some books just aren't for me and that I shouldn't feel like I have to soldier on with everything that I start.

Dec 22, 2017, 6:10pm Top

My worst book was The Amber Spyglass. What a strange way to end a series.

Edited: Dec 23, 2017, 1:25pm Top

Interesting topic! Sorry I missed it in other years. My horrible books of the year didn't get into half-star territory but in my rating system, two star books don't spend another day in the house. I haven't had a one-star book since 2016; that was a large, pretentious, expensive compendium of useless homesteading advice. It took me 20 minutes to evaluate it -- it was that egregiously bad.

In 2017, we have a 1.5 star book, Tell the Time with Miffy. Miffy has a really odd schedule and her mother's neglect verges on abuse, picking her up from school at 3, taking her shopping at four, bathing her at five, and putting her to bed at six. No supper and no food until breakfast at 8 the next morning. Good thing they give her lunch at school.

The next candidate got 2 stars. Charles de Lint's Harp of the Grey Rose contains the sentence "A darkness came washing over me and I knew no more"... and that's not atypical of the writing throughout. Very derivative story as well. One reviewer had me laughing out loud with the remark that it is "the story of one young hero's love for an otherworldly princess ... or perhaps it's really the story of Charles de Lint's love for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien." Nailed it. Good thing CdL's writing improved immeasurably later.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson attempted to flesh out Anne's backstory, but it was really better left unexamined. To make all the known data fit, Wilson made Anne into a monstrous prodigy in word, action, and size.

The Book Thief also made my list because of the highly annoying narration which spoiled the flow of the story... if the spoilers hadn't spoilt it already.

Eight Hands Round is a children's alphabet book featuring quilt patterns; both are genres I collect, but I couldn't like the content. Some of the choices were offensive and some were offensively presented; racism and insensitivity. It didn't get a pass for being a Book of its Time because its time was the 1990s and if the author didn't know better, the publisher should have.

The White Masai also suffered from cultural insensitivity. Perhaps I should say its readers suffered. Because we did.

Rounding out the list of 2017's two-star books is The Mini Farming Bible. Let me quote from my review: "This was a bizarre book. It seemed as if it was thrown together on some desktop publishing program and never edited. The wine chapter was hilarious. It was profusely illustrated with pictures of broccoli, raw, cooked, or growing in the field, with captions like "an example of blueberry wine" or "a typical carboy setup". Some of the pictures throughout the book are only partial, as you might see on a webpage which has not fully loaded. And the wine chapter was not the only one affected with mismatched photos and titles, just the funniest. If the fact-checking was no better than the rest of editing (and why should it be?) I don't feel I can trust any information in the book." It was also, for the most part, fairly vague and superficial. I realized I may have been overgenerous in awarding stars, went back and awarded it ONE.

Edit: I also realized I had missed a second 1.5 star book: Ghostwalk. It had some very good references to the historical life and times of Sir Isaac Newton, which bumped it up by half a star or more, but it was the most annoying book I have read in a very long time. Both the narration (first-person addressed to second-person) and the entirely arbitrary ghostly element made for an infuriating reading experience.

Thank goodness most of the books I read in 2017 were much better than that.

Dec 31, 2017, 10:45am Top

These are the books that deprived me of reading time I could have spent on better books - they were nearly all ones picked for my RL reading group. But I enjoy going and there have been some good ones, so guess that's the price I have to pay ;)

Rabbit Back Literature Society - just yuck.
Discovery of Witches - could have been good but wasn't and middle age woman behaving like teenager - Nooooo.
Pigeon English - DNF - tried but just not my thing.
Last Exile - a rather dull supposed thriller - even Dan Brown does it better.

Dec 31, 2017, 12:28pm Top

I realise I forgot to list two books in my original post that deserve dishonourable mentions, no doubt because I'd already cast them from my mind:

The Half-Drowned King: How anyone can make historical fiction, set in 9th-century Norway and hailed as a "literary Viking epic", boring is beyond me, but Linnea Hartsuyker managed it; admittedly, she had the misfortune of having an indifferent editor who decided to apply the same pacing to battle scenes as domestic ones, so that characters were having a "he said", "he replied" conversation during battle. A real chore to finish, I had hoped for a rich tapestry of Scandinavian folklore and myth along with decent plotting and characterisation, and was utterly disappointed. If I hadn't needed to write a review I would have abandoned it - not worth my time.

City of Circles: Jess Richards used to be one of my favourite authors with her unpredictable and weird tales, touched by the supernatural, until this book came along. It's clearly very personal but unfortunately the plot and characterisation are all over the place; if I hadn't needed to write a review I'm not sure I would have finished it.

Dec 31, 2017, 2:10pm Top

An epic year for DNFs -

The Sea, the Sea
Too dense.

The Ethical Assassin

The Paris Secret
Shallow and full of desperate name-dropping. Nasty “romantic” leading man.

Hated the way a central woman character was portrayed.

Surrender, New York
Awful dialogue. Info-dumpy. Narrator in love with the sound of his own voice.

Altar of Bones
Don’t write about guns unless you actually know something

Don’t Look Back
Lots of info repeated endlessly. Weird dialogue. Plodding, ham-fisted investigation.

The Accident Man
Leading woman just a vehicle for the man to feel better about himself and have something to win/attain for good behavior. Too much unnecessary detail. Formulaic, predictable, insulting.

Ew. Imagery just too gross. Domestic situation too hackneyed.

Usher’s Passing

Sweet Lamb of Heaven
Sick of ‘the voice’ already. Like dream sequences which I loathe and always skip.

Never Cry Wolf
Farley Mowat is a self-aggrandizing asshat with awful science methodology.

Just too stupid.

The Doll’s House
Preachy and info-dumpy. No reason to call protagonist when they did. Forced. Writing too hyperbolic. Psychiatrist knows too much about being a cop. Just make her a cop FFS.

The Ravens
Postcards an obvious ruse. Lost patience.

Behind Closed Doors
Ominous overtures and obscurity overbearing

Ways to Disappear
Conflict between siblings = forced & fake. If you have to point out what is funny and why it’s funny it isn’t funny.

Version Control
Too self-involved. Woody & Philip arguments are tedious. TMI about online dating. Gross.

Only the Dead
Disjointed and nonsensical.

An Unfinished Score

Jan 1, 9:13am Top

I tend to return truly disastrous DNFs to the library without giving them the dignity of any kind of a note. Two horrors did make it to my reading thread, however:

The Future: six drivers of global change -- bombastic, bureaucratic prose
Who was who in Durban street names -- the full gamut of horrors associated with self-publication, in one tidy package. I can't help thinking the author's name is appropriate.

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