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Dec 19, 2010, 9:48am

And also for the 5th year in a row, here's the place to post your 'clunkers' (however you define this) of 2010. Post one or several and tell us why it gets your vote as a clunker.

Remember! One reader's clunker is another's treasure!

The 2009 Clunker thread is HERE

The 2008 Clunker thread is HERE

The 2007 Clunker thread is HERE

The 2006 Clunker thread is HERE

Dec 19, 2010, 3:17pm

First eh? I'm game! I had a pretty uninspiring reading year, here are the worst of the lot.

The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick--Dick takes what could be a really interesting alternate universe and populates it with the sort of people you try to get away from at your company Christmas party. A total snore.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski--Danielewski must really think he is something special! He writes at a funny angle and his main character has a lot of sex! :o Color me unimpressed. I do want to finish this eventually, but only because it was expensive.

The News from Paraguay, Lily Tuck--One would expect a book about South America's bloodiest war to be quite action-packed, yes? Wrong! Instead of writing about the war, or the fascinating President López, Tuck focuses on the president's mistress. Watch Ella be the toast of Paraguayan society! Listen to her wax poetic about her horse! If you're going to write about the mistress of a famous political leader, choose one who has something to say--this woman can't hold a candle to Boleyn or du Barry.

Cold Earth, Sarah Moss--A well-written, creepy little novel about an archaeological dig gone awry ruined by the author inserting a thinly fictionalized version of herself into the story and spewing political rhetoric.

Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter Høeg--Smilla might be the most frustrating protagonist I have ever read about. I don't know why I kept reading--any ending would have been unsatisfactory.

Edited: Dec 30, 2010, 8:23pm

I tend not to finish books that I really don't like, so the books listed below fall more into the category of disappointments -- they didn't live up to my hopes, which were based either on recommendations or hearing about the book some other way.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson I found the characters unappealing, the Jewish issues presented in a stereotypical and sometimes offensive way, and the "humor" not funny.

Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford Joking about Hitler still isn't funny, and they should have known better, even then.

The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer -- fun idea, didn't work (for me)

Memoirs of Hecate County by edmundwilson::Edmund Wilson -- Wilson should have stuck to criticism.

2017 by Olga Slavnikova Despite some parts that I really enjoyed, the plot was hard to follow, the mixture of reality, myth, and science fiction not to my taste, the writing dense and often overloaded with adjectives and analogies, and the characterizations not psychologically believable.

The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State by Shane Harris Despite the intriguing title, this book was not a serious history and analysis but a journalistic look at some of the key creators of surveillance technology and its "hero" was John Poindexter of Iran-Contra fame.

Edited: Dec 19, 2010, 5:33pm

In my 25 book challenge I kept track of the books that were sufficiently inadequate in some respect that they didn't count towards the 25 books. They are:

The Book of the New Sun, a hammered together linkage of plot elements that the author hoped to be interesting, most, but not all, of which were not.
A History of the Ancient Near East, bad for all the reasons high school students say history is boring. This was a list of wars and sovereignties.
Shadow Elite, a two sentence idea that shouldn't have gone beyond maybe a paragraph without there being more information.
Essential Dr. Strange, a comic book hero that I admit to liking to read, but it's really stupid.
Spider World, a hammered together...
Wishful Drinking, had some charming bits but not enough to merit a book.
My Horizontal Life, I had read her second book and laughed. I downgraded this one when I didn't laugh.
Happy Hour is for Amateurs, and book writing is for pros; he should have hired one to write this for him.
Did Time Begin? Will Time End?, published in Singapore because it didn't deserve to be published anywhere else. Textual errors and gaps in explanations made this a waste of paper.
The Theory of Clouds, some Frenchman thought he could be clever, found a trope, and wore it out.
Inside the Stalin Archives, self indulgence rather than revelation.
Snoop, self indulgence rather than revelation
The Prisoner, not related to either prisoner teevee series and not strong enough to stand on its own.
Superstrings and Other Things, not about superstrings and not competent at what it was about.
I Was Told There'd Be Cake, so you didn't get any cake, go get a job.

There were other things I read after I stopped counting that also didn't deserve to be counted. I don't want to face them again. I didn't say much about anything, but I commented a little more on each book I read in Club Read 2010.


Dec 21, 2010, 8:59pm

There were a few clunkers this year, but just off the top of my head:

Alligator by Lisa Moore. Great imagery and wordsmithing but no content. People are mean to each other. So what else is new?

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Self-destructive, unlikable people, self-destructing. Most of the travelling scenes read like an article for National Geographic. Self-indulgent and boring. If I hadn't been reading it for my Prose Forms class, I would never have gotten past page 10.

Edited: Dec 21, 2010, 10:28pm

Over all it's been a lack luster year for me. But here's a few of my clunkers for the year. Hope I don't trend on to many toes.

Victorious (The Lost Fleet, Book 6 of 6)
This book was predictable and long winded. At times I was getting frustrated with the long convoluted conversations about what was happening and what might be happening and why it was happening (I guess I've read to many of these type of books. I know what is happening.)
One of the things that attracted me to this series of books was it was supposed to be a six book series (meaning there would be and end). But the author is going to do two spin off series. One about the fall of the syndac worlds and to continue with the story of "Black Jack" Geary.

Last Space Ship by Murray Leinster
From the start of the "golden age" of science fiction. The story has not held up and would only be of interest to the person who's interested in science fiction literary history.

Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome (Novels of Ancient Rome) by Steven Saylor
Having read several other of Saylor's books and enjoyed them I was looking forward to reading this one. I wanted to like this book ( I really did). But in the end I didn't.
I know that these types of books tend to be a long group of related short stories. But but it never "grabbed my interest or let care for any of the characters or stories.

Dec 22, 2010, 2:44am

I had a surprising number of clunkers and so-so books this year. I'm looking forward to a dazzling 2011!

City of God by E. L. Doctorow - I hate to mention this book because it had some incredible, breathtaking parts, but overall it was a drag to get through.

The Butterflies of Grand Canyon by Margaret Erhart - Have you ever read a mystery where you don't find out what the mystery is until the end? Lame.

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz - unbelievable

Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood by Laurie Notaro - It was supposed to be funny but it just put me off. The mom constantly slapped her daughter in the face (as a punchline?) but I didn't find it amusing.

Dec 22, 2010, 11:41am

>7 PaperbackPirate: Autobiography of Fat Bride sounds like an abuse memoir from the point-of-view of the abuser. Very creepy.

Dec 22, 2010, 2:19pm

I read quite a few that were mediocre, but one that I hated almost instantly was The Swan Theives by Elizabeth Kostova (author of The Historian). It's about a psychologist determined to figure out why an artist attacked a painting at the National Gallery in an apparent attempt to ruin it. It's just ridiculously convoluted and the protagonist is quite annoying.

I was reading it for a book group and was determined to finish it. I was relieved to find out later that I would never be forced to finish a book again - it's totally acceptable to them to just quit if it is otherwise a waste of time!

Another one that was much talked about that I didn't care for was The Lace Reader. It felt to me like the author didn't know if she was writing a mystery, a memoir, a story about magic, mental illness, twins, death, etc. It just didn't have enough of a focus to hold my interest.

Dec 22, 2010, 2:31pm

I have had some clunkers this year, but since the year isn't over, I will come back later to post them.

Dec 23, 2010, 7:50am

I seemed to have managed to get this far in 2010 without reading any complete turkeys, but Tony Hawks A Piano in the Pyrenees was pretty tired and Gorky Park disappointing given the high regard in which it is held. It wasn't all that, I thought.

Dec 23, 2010, 3:31pm

Books not finished:

The Poetry Lesson by Andrei Codrescu. Just did not like the character of the professor.

O Genteel Lady! by Esther Forbes. Victorian era story written in 1926. It was just too sentimental for me.

Serena by Ron Rash. I like Ron Rash and I could find no good reason why I couldn't get through this book except that I thought the pacing was pretty slow. Might just have been the timing or my lack of concentration at the time. It is certainly well-written and has a good story. I may yet still go back to it.

This Night's Foul Work by Fred Vargas. I thought the first Vargas okay but I wasn't very far into this one before I decided that Commissionaire Adamsberg, who doesn't rely on deductive reasoning, is just too "foo" for me.

Dec 23, 2010, 6:06pm


I don't read CLUNKERS....

I give every book 50 pages to prove itself...if it's not "working" by then....i set it aside (unless it's a total pile of s**t....then it's.........exiled)

Having said that...if the book is an ARC, for which I owe a review..I'll cut the pathetic bastard a little slack...but not much.

I am going to turn 60 in a few weeks, and don't have time to waste on *crap* (as defined by me, of course) CLUNKER LIST for me

Dec 23, 2010, 7:06pm

#13: jdthloue, I would counter that those abandoned books *are* your cluckers! Like you, I have a 50 page rule (sometimes I give it up to 100), and as I keep record of everything I start reading, regardless of how far I get, my DNFs (Did Not Finish) are by default my clunkers. And as the year is not yet over, I'll be back to post my list sometime next week...

Dec 23, 2010, 10:09pm

I had a couple of clunkers in amongst the many great books I read in 2010.

Ladysmith by Giles Foden - A book about the besieged town of Ladysmith during the Boer War, I had high expectations for this one, yet the book ultimately bored me. Clumsy, dull and unsatisfying.

Jemina J by Jane Green - What I didn't like about this book was basically everything! I enjoy Chic-Lit now and again, but this book's main storyline was about a lonely, overweight young woman who, once she starved herself into a size two lands both the man of her dreams and the job she always wanted. Unreal, silly and a waste of time.

Dec 26, 2010, 7:49pm

I had one or two books that were clunkers for me in 2010.

I have to agree with Mr.Durick in that My Horizontal Life clunked. The only time I laughed was the bit where her dad is talking to the dog calling him a good Jewish doggie.

I struggled through The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon after having high hopes for it and found The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny annoyingly repetitive after reading Dead Cold by the same author earlier in the year.

Dec 28, 2010, 10:59am

Change by Design by Tim Brown -- the design expert who’s terrific in TED talks is dull, dull, dull here

Huck by Janet Elder -- essentially a 300-page Acknowledgements section

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel -- it didn’t know if it wanted to be an epistolary or expository novel; didn’t know if it wanted to be for ‘tween or adult readers

Dec 28, 2010, 11:52am

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson was not only the worst book I read in 2010, but probably one of the worst books I've ever read in my entire life. It claimed to be nonfiction, although "historical fiction" would have been more accurate for two of the story lines. The third story line was Patterson's agent and wife telling him how his theory of King Tut's death was so, so, so brilliant. Badly written, badly researched, badly conceived, badly executed, total crap. Hate.

I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I also really disliked The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike. I didn't like one single thing about it.

And, another one that everyone loves and I hate: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen - it was too choppy and disconnected and boring.

There were other disappointment, but these are the ones that I actively dislike.

Dec 28, 2010, 12:34pm

Message 18: jfetting

I wasn't a big fan of The Witches of Eastwick either, especially since I had seen the movie first and was expecting it to be better than the movie.

Dec 28, 2010, 1:02pm

>18 jfetting:,
I totally agree with you about The Murder of King Tut, that is on my clunker list this year too, it was absolutely terrible in every way. The only thing it had going for it was decent copy editing.

Dec 31, 2010, 3:21pm

I’ve read 75 books this year. Some good, some okay. But a handful of these were insufferably bad and made me wonder why I ever wasted my time with them.

Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman and The Black Mask by E. W. Hornung - A. J. Raffles is a gentleman thief, à la Arsène Lupin, operating in late Victorian London. The character of Raffles lacks charisma and Raffles’ sidekick, Harry "Bunny" Manders, has got to be the stupidest sidekick ever. And that is saying a lot considering the history of literary sidekicks. I was never sure about what I was reading. It’s not funny, it does not quite fit in the crime/mystery genre and the sentimental ending to Raffles’ character just left me extremely annoyed.

Miss Pym Disposes and To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey - I found Tey’s writing uncomfortable to read. Her plots seemed rather contrived. It all feels kind of forced.

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë - The ever wandering narrative grated on my nerves. It was dull and unnecessarily detailed. I nearly stopped reading the book at least half a dozen times.

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope - The whole atmosphere The Prisoner of Zenda is so dated. Though barely 200 pages long, finishing the book was an uphill battle for me. True classics remain timeless. Something The Prisoner of Zenda is, definitely, not.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens - David Copperfield is by far my least favourite of Dickens’s books. Dora Spenlow has got to be one of the most annoying literary characters ever to exist! Every time she opens her mouth I felt like hitting myself!

Dec 31, 2010, 4:21pm

These are some of the worst I can think of:

The Season of Second Chances was pretentious and obnoxious, elitist and arrogant. Similarly, The Bird Catcher was full of obscure art references that make even an art student feel stupid, although the plot was better.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane felt childish, especially on reflection. Homer and Langley was disappointing.

That's all I can think of...

Dec 31, 2010, 4:39pm

I completely agree with jfetting and others about The Murder of King Tut. I only finished it for two reasons: it was an ER book that I had to review and it was a quick read (especially since I skimmed as much of it as possible). I'd have used it for kindling if I had a fireplace. As it is, I gave it to someone who likes to fall asleep at night reading "mysteries," along with a strongly worded caveat and a plea not to return it to me. Ever.

Dec 31, 2010, 11:33pm

My major clunker this year was Lucy by Laurence Gonzales. I started reading it for my local Book Club, but had to stop 1/3 of the way through. A friend kept me up-to-date with the plot and we were both aghast at the awful writing. Essentially a half monkey /half human girl is taken to the United States where she attends high school until the TRUTH is discovered about her... Everyone in the book club thought it was awful, including the person who recommended it.

Jan 1, 2011, 10:03am

My clunkers of 2010 include five DNF (Did Not Finish) and one disappointing read by an author whose earlier work I enjoyed. In chronological order...

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: I love Sedaris, have had the occasion to hear him speak several times, thoroughly enjoyed his previous books, but just didn't like this one. DNF

Possession: A Novel (no touchstone) by A.S. Byatt: Cannot pinpoint exactly what I didn't like, but I didn't make it 50 pages in before I abandoned. DNF

The Mommy Myth" The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels: Interesting points, but would've been much better as a lengthy piece in The New Yorker or even an academic journal. Also I felt like they were preaching to the choir in my case. DNF

The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips: I had very high hopes for this novel, as I'd loved Phillips's earlier work, Prague, but I was severely disappointed. I persevered to the end, hoping to find redemption, but did not. 2 stars

Flourish: Discover the Daily Joy of Abundant, Vibrant Living by Catherine Hart Weber: I've still not finished this ER read from the August batch, and as I was flipping through it again a few days ago, I realized I never will. Much like The Mommy Myth above, there are interesting points, but they could have been better shared in one lengthy article, or even a short series of articles or blog posts. Also, the extreme overuse of the word "flourish", and the stretch to tie the definition of flourishing to that of "shalom" was off-putting. DNF

City of Masks by Daniel Hecht: Very interesting plot and good writing, but I'm a wimp when it comes to horror, and I couldn't stick it out. DNF for me, but has lots of promise for others!

Interestingly, three of the DNF books (Sedaris, Byatt, Hecht) were for my book club. This is the first year since I've joined that more than one of my clunkers was a club read.

Here's to happier reading in 2011!

Jan 1, 2011, 11:09am

No doubt about it. The Emperor's Body by Peter Brooks tops my list. So disappointing.

Jan 1, 2011, 12:57pm

I enjoyed just about everything I read this year. The few clunkers were:

Queer 13: Lesbian and Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade edited by Clifford Chase. God, this book was exhausting. The few stories in this book that took place outside the US tended to be my favorites, but for the most part I found this book just as tiring as actually being a queer 13-year old was.

A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid. It's about a mentally handicapped boy who saves ALL THE DOGS FOR CHRISTMAS and he names his CHRISTMAS and then it FIGHTS OFF A COUGAR to protect a dog that was giving birth in their barn. Everything about this book pissed me off, as both an animal rescuer and a book lover.

Cat Miracles by Brad Steiger. This was a gift that I felt bad not reading, so I trudged through all the horribly sappy stories about people's cats. Again, if you work in animal sheltering you should not read this. It will make you angry.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett. Now, I love Sherlock Holmes and I enjoy the various scholarly takes on it, but The Game, such as it is played in this book, is ridiculous. It is utterly insane to write a whole chapter on why this one house you picked out on Baker Street is 221 because the house across the street has a particular alleyway behind it like in "The Empty House". Completely. Bonkers.

But beyond those I think everything I read this year was pretty good.

Jan 1, 2011, 2:27pm

Slo Mo by Rick Reilly, one of my favorite sportswriters, was mostly just a repetitive joke about a naive white teenager who joins an NBA team. A few funny moments, but not nearly enough.

Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need was not up to his usual standard.

I read several pretty mediocre mysteries this year. That's a result of trying a bunch of new authors: some are less than superb. The ones I liked least were The Crime at Black Dudley, The Foggy, Foggy Dew, The Horizontal Man, and Playing for Keeps.

Jan 2, 2011, 8:18am

Clunker of the Year? The Return by Victoria Hislop, no question about it. An implausible storyline, plodding narrative and wooden characters. I only struggled through to the end because of the reading group.

Jan 2, 2011, 8:44am

My worst books of the year, I finished them all, except for one book.

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson
Just mindbogglingly bad for Historical Fiction, beyond belief for something that calls itself 'non-fiction'.

The Sky People by S.M. Stirling
Neanderthals with Kalashnikovs - Book club pick, couldn't finish.

Red Snow by Edward Topol
Cold war thriller in the north. Very superficial, and poorly done.

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch
Great premise, LA city kid moving back to small native Alaskan village. Terrible execution. Series of shorts that don't blend together, characters not done well.

Havemercy by Jaida Jones
Boring, cliched, too long fantasy.

Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert
Nasty premise, poorly written, pointless urban fantasy.

The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
Confused, awkwardly written fantasy. Love this writer's SF, very disappointed.

Jan 4, 2011, 11:40am

I don't finish clunkers either, usually. This year, hands down, A Reliable Wife was the WORST BOOK I EVER TRIED TO READ.

Ever. Reprehensible characters, repetitive, obsessive in a bad way. I don't know enough profanity to curse this book as it deserves.

Jan 4, 2011, 3:04pm

#21 I agree with you about Miss Pym Disposes, in particular, and Josephine Tey's writing in general.

The biggest clunker I read this year was Anthony Adverse. It is the only book I've ever read that I willingly would submit to Reader's Digest for condensing.

There were so many mini essays, travelogs, etc., that got in the way of the story. The only reason I finished it was because it was the 3rd time I'd started it, and I was determined to finish it this time.

It took me 2 weeks, and was actually the last book I read in 2010.

Edited: Jan 4, 2011, 3:28pm

Black Sun by Julia Kristeva. Melodrama before meaning, unfounded assertions making me scream CITATION NEEDED on practically every page, paragraphs terminating in ellipses. I don't know what it tries to accomplish, but it's certainly not advancement of understanding of melancholy.

Jan 4, 2011, 3:58pm

# 32 Thanks! I was beginning to feel like I’m the only one who sees this. Most of the other readers rave about Tey’s works, Miss Pym Disposes in particular.

I've heard only bad things about Anthony Adverse. Thanks for confirming my ideas about the book. I think I'll avoid this one.

Jan 4, 2011, 4:03pm

Porua, I'll say this for Anthony Adverse, at over 1000 pages, it would make a great door stop.

Jan 4, 2011, 4:09pm

# 35 LOL!

Edited: Jan 4, 2011, 5:41pm

I read Anthony Adverse all way through when I was adolescent. It was more blockbuster than literary novel despite the bona fides of the the author, and people treated it that way. I have from time to time wondered aloud, so to speak, whether I should reread it, and the answer has often enough been yes. So I have a copy, and I'm glad to know that there are people who do like it.


Jan 4, 2011, 4:55pm

Robert, maybe if I had read it when I was younger, I would have appreciated it. I read and enjoy many books from that period, but this one just didn't do it for me.

I'm very glad everybody doesn't like the same things. It would make for a very boring world.

Jan 4, 2011, 6:02pm

#31 Wow! And I thought I was the only person who didn't like A Reliable Wife! It was the repetitiveness and the way the author told us what was happening instead of seeing only what the characters themselves saw that drove me crazy. But it is still far from the worst book I ever tried to read!

Jan 5, 2011, 5:54pm

I didn't finish these.

Middlemarch by George Eliot
Two or three chapters. Too much purple prose, didn't care about the characters.

The Complete Hans Christian Andersen by Hans Christian Andersen
About 1/4 complete. Tedious. Stories seemed all the same.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Finally quit 3/4 of the way through. Style made it a slog.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
50 pages. Didn't keep my interest.

The Collector by John Fowles
50 pages. Same. Didn't keep my interest.

Edited: Dec 31, 2011, 2:32am

Another book I finished this year that I would call a clunker was Valley of Dry Bones: a Medieval Mystery. Not dreadful (a la Murder of King Tut), just bored me to tears.

Edited to fix touchstones.

Jan 5, 2011, 11:25pm

I had two definite clunkers in 2010 . Seven Year Bitch had an interesting premise that I felt was badly executed . Cheap Cabernet was a memoir about two women that seemed totally unlikeable . The frustrating thing about these two books is that I won them from the Early Reviewers program . So it felt even more disappointing .

Edited: Jan 20, 2011, 5:11pm

After reviewing my 1010 Challenge thread, it looks like I did read a few clunkers last year...

Cleaving - Ugh. Just awful. Probably the worst book I have read in recent years. I had to restrain myself from throwing it across the room on several occasions.

A Stranger in the Earth - I don't know about this one. It wasn't bad, but I feel like I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever really did.

Time and Again - This one was just OK. I enjoyed the premise of the story, but I didn't think it was very well executed.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - To be honest, I didn't enjoy this one as much as I thought I was going to.

Peony in Love - I was expecting this to be more straightforward historical fiction, and found the magical/fantasy element that was present somewhat distracting.