Your Bottom Five for 2006

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Your Bottom Five for 2006

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Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 6:48am

I've had a good reading year in that I have enjoyed nearly all of my books. I actually only have a Bottom Four:
Larry's Party by Carol Shields
House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore
The Other Side of You by Sally Vickers
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Dec 6, 2006, 10:44am

If I really don't like a book, I don't finish it!

But of the ones I finished, I wouldn't necessarily call them bad, just disappointing given the hype. I don't think I can come up with 5, but in the disappointing category I'd list the following.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

There were parts I enjoyed in all of these, but I felt each of them lacked something overall, some more than the others.

Dec 6, 2006, 11:04am

I'm the say way, rebecca, in that if I really don't like a book, I don't finish it, but then again, sometimes I do. Just lately I only made it to page 250 in Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons because the whole thing was making me nauseous, and I just couldn't take any more. I'm going to double-check my reading list for this year, but the one book I recall that I actively hated was Joe Meno's The Boy Detective Fails, and really wanted my money back on that one.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 2:56pm

I would have a hard time picking only five for the *best* list, but this was fun :)
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson I was really enjoying this book and thought I had found a new author to love, but 500 some odd pages into the story he got way too descriptive of sexual activities and my mind was not happy there. I had to quit reading. So disappointed. Wish there was a PG-13 version.
The Detective and Mr. Dickens by William J. Palmer Again, because the author got smutty, to no purpose which I could discern, I had to stop reading this. However, I was not pained because it wasn't that engaging to begin with. It sounded like a great premise for a story, but the author did not have an apt use of words to my mind.
The Penguin Pool Murder by Stuart Palmer I was looking for another mystery author to love. This wasn't it. Full of inconsistencies and awkward, artificial dialogue.
Monster, by Frank Peretti, I loved Peretti's earlier works, but this was not good. The villians were unbelievable among many other shortfalls.
All in all, not a bad year to have only found four. I don't think I'll have time to find a stinky book in the rest of this year.

edited to remove the touchstones from Monster. The touchstone came up with a Calvin & Hobbes book which I love.

Dec 6, 2006, 3:26pm

Well I can only think of a couple I would list at the bottom.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This book was so boring I would literally go for pages and not remember a thing I had read.
Mercy by Jodi Picoult was the other one that I would rate low for the year. I enjoy most of her books but this one was a real stinker.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 4:07pm

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the only one off the top of my head. I was hoping would be better for all the hype. It was a good quick read, I liked the writing style (the different perspective offered by an autistic protagonist) and the plot twist, but I fail to understand why it's considered so incredible. Perhaps if I hadn't been expecting something phenominal, I wouldn't enjoyed it more.

Children of Men has the themes without the plot to back it up. I just felt like something was missing, and I felt that it started far too early and then stopped midway through the story. The writing was dull and the plot fell short. It sounded more exciting than it was.

Hunger of Memory I had to read for school. I wanted the author to stop complaining. There's a way to write a book about your difficult childhood, and this is not it. I understand the point of the novel is to speak against affirmative action, it's not like I missed the point. I simply don't think he succeeded in making his point or telling a compelling story.

7reader247 First Message
Dec 6, 2006, 4:00pm

Ludmilla's Broken English by D B C Pierre was very disappointing after the success of Veron God Little.

I also didn't care for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne which is a YA book about the holocaust but I just didn't like the character and how naive he was through the whole thing.

I wanted to like When Madeline was Young by Jane Hamilton but again I just didn't care about the characters and some of the story line just got too weird for me.

and lastly An Idiot Girl's Christmas by Laurie Notarowas nothing like her guide to hunting and fishing!! This was too sarcastic for me to get into but I finished it anyway.

That is all my 2.5 or less rated books so far this eyar.

Dec 6, 2006, 4:39pm

I am of the same habit as those of you above; if a book isn't grabbing me, I don't finish it. Life is too short. Now, that may just be poor timing on my part.

For example, I did not finish John Banville's The Sea but, as I have said to at least one other user, it could be that a story of one older man waxing prosaic about his life doesn't do it for me OR it could be that I was trying to read it while caring for my mother, who has Alzheimers.

And I didn't finish Gilead by Marilyn Robinson on audio. While I found some parts of it interesting, I was in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. Again, could be timing OR could be that a story of one older man waxing prosaic about his life doesn't do it for me.

But Amandameale in message 1 has reminded me that I also did not finish House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore. I do like Dunmore's fiction, even her mediocre stuff, so I suspect I got a "hot" reader's copy from the store, set the Dunmore down, and just didn't get back to it.

And finally, I did not finish Chris Roberson's Here, There and Everywhere. Roberson was on a nomination list for best new science fiction writer of the year, so I thought I'd try it. I found it too light for my tastes, the prose almost adolescent. I like my genre reading a bit meatier.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 6:22pm

1 - Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian: boring, bad characterisation, just couldn't plod through it
2 - a detective novel by a well regarded Icelandic writer, Arnaldur Indridason Silence of the Grave -very disappointed and badly translated
3 - Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson. Well reviewed but I found the style exhausting
4 - The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. Not my sort of thing - shouldn't have borrowed it
5 - The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. I was disappointed.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 7:18pm

The ones I actually read all the way through, in no particular even 1/2 dozen;

Forever Odd - seemed like a contractual obligation book and was so transparent that I can't imagine what Koontz thought was so mysterious about his plot.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - OMG this was even worse than the first one, which was bad enough but gave one hope. This one though - hopeless

The Italian Secretary - a Sherlockian pastiche with no panache, no real detection and very little sense.

Tales of the City - It's like, the 70s man, you dig? So dated and soap operaish that I could barely stand it.

Sacrifice - a thriller with no thrills, an abrasive and stupid and wholly unappealing protagonist and a serial killer that was straight out of central casting.

The Mephisto Club - my first and last Gerritsen. Annoying and stupid protagonists along with very sloppy forensic research make for a very bad read.

Edited: Dec 6, 2006, 7:40pm

They're probably not all bad. I just didn't want to finish any of these.

Wicked - Gregory Maguire - totally unabsorbing

On Beauty – Zadie Smith - annoying characters, nothing happens

How to be Alone (essays) – Jonathan Franzen - got bored

Baltimore Noir (short stories—crime) – Laura Lipmann (editor) - stories were mediocre

All Aunt Hagar’s Children (short stories) – Edward. P. Jones - due back at the library – unable to renew – didn’t much like the style of writing anyway

Intuition - Allegra Goodman – boring

Dec 6, 2006, 7:41pm

reader247 (Message #7)--Melissa Bank wrote The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, not Laurie Notaro, so don't lose hope!

Dec 6, 2006, 9:24pm

I didn't necessarily hate these books, but I found them all quite disappointing:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I'd never read it before, and I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't. It struck me as one of those books where the author is writing more about her own philosophical and/or scientific ideas than about a particular story. I find those sorts of books very off-putting.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in late 2005; I was very disappointed, but thought I'd read on in the hopes that the series got better. It didn't, but apparently I'm the only person in the western world who thinks ill of it.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I really liked the whole idea of the book, but there was something about Nafisi's writing style that failed to grasp me.

Saved by Love by Barbara Cartland. To be fair, I didn't expect this book to be good. I picked it up only because I'd seen a hilarious TV movie based on one of her books and was hoping it would be just as funny. It wasn't.

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch. I adore White Oleander, and was expecting good things from this book, but it didn't deliver. Right away, I disliked the main character. I had a really hard time overcoming that, and I found many of her motivations difficult to sort through and understand.

Dec 6, 2006, 10:39pm

Let's see...

The Poet of Loch Ness
Junior by Macaulay Culkin

I think that's it. Only two duds for me.

Edited: Dec 7, 2006, 9:46am

hazelk, #9, I was disappointed in The Plot Against America too, and I'm a big Philip Roth fan. I found it much too obvious. But a friend just told me, about another writer, "every great author is entitled to one bad book."

bookmarque, #10, I think Tales of the City is one of those books you have to read when it first comes out. I did, and enjoyed it, and enjoyed the TV series too, but I wouldn't dare pick it up again.

Dec 7, 2006, 10:03am

I only read one book this year I didn't like. Thirsty by M.T. Anderson. It's not that it was badly written, it's just I really didn't like the main character, the story or the ending.

Dec 7, 2006, 10:06am

you're probably right rebeccanyc, but I think I was 4 when this came out and my mom wouldn't have approved! ; )

Dec 7, 2006, 11:38am

No bookmarque,she wouldn't, but she might have been impressed by your ability to read!

Edited: Dec 12, 2006, 12:33am

Couldn't finish Life of Pi ~ boring. *ducking all the rotten eggs being thrown at me by Pi lovers*

Finished The Historian but agree it was incredibly boring in parts, and the ending was a bust. I did enjoy enough of it though to slog through to the end.

Finally, I tried George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones but just couldn't get into it. Maybe it was my mood at the time. I may try again someday, because so many people have praised it.

I'm sure there were others I didn't care for, but I can't recall what they were at the moment.

Edited to add: The Last Templar and The Dante Club

Edited: Dec 8, 2006, 12:45am

My worst reads this year, and it was a big year for bad books for me. I pretty much finish everything I start.

Riddle-Master (3 in 1) by Patricia McKillip, badly written, terrible characters, boring standard fantasy story, full of clichés.

The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert. A bodice ripper disguised as a thriller about an mysterious historical object/text. One of those very plastic type books where everyone is rich, young, good-looking, well educated, and has a dramatic life.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, it was written at about the 7th grade level, and a silly story with cardboard characters, though the movie actually managed to be worse.

Gene by Stel Pavlou badly written, fragmented story, lack of focus, more perfect people (baddies), preposterous premise.

Titan by John Varley, the poster book for the notion that SF is shallow dreck only written for sex starved teenage boys. This series was actually out of print and they brought it back.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, it has almost nothing to do with the murder or the victim. It is full of sexist, and racist crap that may reflect the time, but since the book doesn't work it is very ugly.

Scholars and Soldiers by Mary Gentle an older collection of short stories. Many were too short and just gave a snapshot of some place which seemed to be done for maximum hipness, with very little explanation. Several were too long, and a couple were set in the same place with the same characters.

Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton an exercise in ripping off the reader. Maybe a Novella packaged as a novel. About Anita's most recent and totally pointless BF whose only claim to fame is he is a doormat and hung like an elephant.

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, a series of quest stories set in a fantasy China to rescue be-spelled children in a poor village. None of the characters were real people, the threat to the children was obviously fake, and the 3 adventurers were never in any danger, so the threats they had to overcome were all obviously going to be vanquished.

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett, a follow up to the wonderful Bangkok 8. The sequel has a nasty snide attitude, I was very disappointed.

Dec 8, 2006, 8:19am

Better luck next year FicusFan

Dec 8, 2006, 3:36pm

I did pretty good this year. I truly can't think of five books that really disappointed me. The one that really sticks out is Chuck Klosterman IV, and I don't know anyone who liked it. Veronica by Mary Gaitskill, though I read it at the end of last year was sort of a dud, and I really like her, so my expectations were set higher than usual.

Dec 11, 2006, 4:16pm

I haven't read that many books in 2006, so only came up with three.

All times have been modern by Elisabeth Harvor

Getting over Edgar by Joan Barfoot

Kicking fifty by LIsa Appignanesi

All three with a similar theme about midlife as Larry's party (msg 1) yet I put this book up as one of my favourites after rereading it in 2005.

Dec 11, 2006, 4:55pm

The one book that I really hated this year was Rebel Angels by Libba Bray.

I'm also not really enjoying Michael Crowe's Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution and Modern Theories of the Universe from Herschel to Hubble. I started both of them for class, and the first one at least is short enough that I really should finish it. But they're both very inconsistent; sometimes he writes at a level that would be appropriate for young high school students (e.g., "Here's a simple formula.... Now as an exercise, practise substituting numbers into it"), and then he'll follow up immediately with a 20-page excerpt from Kant that takes forever to get through.

Dec 11, 2006, 5:15pm

Like many of you, I found it easier to narrow down the books I didn't like. Happily, there were only four that really got on my nerves this year.

Lust for Life by Irving Stone. I really liked his book about Michaelangelo but van Gogh was too insane for me to want to be inside his head.

Washington Square by Henry James. I hate excessively weak female characters. James loved them.

Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner. There just wasn't enough going on in his head.

The Golden Age: A novel by Gore Vidal. Why did he write this book? It's like the previous one in the series but without the plot. Plus, we already know he's pompous--he didn't need to give himself so many cameos.

Edited: Dec 11, 2006, 6:24pm

Luftwaffe Squadrons, 1939-45 because it turned out to be considerably more superficial then expected; I'm glad I bought it on sale.

Longest Winter because the sloppy editing undercut a good story.

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque simply underwhelmed me.

Lady Slings the Booze because I've had fun before and this wasn't it.

"Race, War & Surveillance" because the author made an important & interesting topic borrring.

Dec 12, 2006, 8:22am

Not sure I can think of five, but the most disappointing read of the year for me was Sophia McDougall's Romanitas, based on the premise that the Roman Empire never fell. A typical case of a brilliant premise let down by largely poor writing. A great waste of potential.

Dec 12, 2006, 10:58am

Any thoughts on The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov? I can't remember if it was some LibraryThingers recommending it or not, but I simply couldn't get on with it. Was it me?

Dec 12, 2006, 11:52am

FicusFan (#20)
I agree with you about Micah. I knew from reading the author's blog that it was a "novel lite" whatever that is. To me it's just a waste of paper. Not that I expected anything else; Hamilton's books have been getting progressively worse for the last five years or so.

Hmmm... I don't really know what my other bad books this year were. I know I had some, but since I didn't like them or finish them, they didn't really stick in my brain, and I don't keep a list.

Dec 12, 2006, 1:50pm

amandameale: So glad you didn't like Larry's Party. I found it totally unconvincing and, frankly, boring.

oklahomabooklady: I found The Historian a total yawn, too.

avaland: The Sea gave me the impression of a writer using big words to impress the reader. Couldn't get into it.

Storeetllr: I tried to read Life of Pi twice, once in English, once in French. Wasn't any better the second time, I stopped in the middle.

And to add to that, Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard. Another complete yawn.

31aslan7 First Message
Dec 12, 2006, 2:25pm

I'm responding to your comment about looking for new mystery authors to love. I wondered which ones you already love? I am a big Dick Francis fan, but he's pretty popular so you probably have sampled his stuff. I thought you may not have read Sarah Graves, however, She's a Maine author and writes the "home repair is homicide" mysteries. Actually when she started it seemed that the stock market was the hook she was going for but the books morphed toward home repair. Anyway, I like her stuff and hope that you will too.

Dec 12, 2006, 9:07pm

oklahomabooklady and mdbenoit:Here's a third for The Historian.

Dec 12, 2006, 9:10pm

What is it about The Historian that's so bad? It looks like such an interesting book that I want to read it despite hearing so many negative things about it, and I'm wondering if there's any hope....

Dec 12, 2006, 9:24pm

I actually really liked The Historian. It definitely gets slow about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through, and it's like "okay, ANOTHER country, where they will find ANOTHER colorful personality who will have access to ANOTHER super-rare manuscript and will COINCIDENTALLY just happen to know some obscure detail that will get them juuuuust a little bit closer to the truth but will lead them to ANOTHER country, where they..." etc etc. It also seems like there's a mix of opinions on whether the ending (which is admittedly not particularly explosive) merits the other 600 pages. I thought it did.

But it's creepy, and detailed, and about graduate student research and libraries, and gave a lot of pretty good history in a palatable format. I found most of it really engrossing; not until they're right near the end of the mystery did it start to bore me, and at that point I just soldiered through and it picked up again.

Dec 12, 2006, 9:42pm

I found The Historian okay, but nothing particularly special. There was one part that really hurt my suspension of disbelief, but overall I thought it was a decent book. I mainly read it because a friend recommended it to me as Interview With the Vampire for intellectuals, though I wouldn't draw that parallel myself.

Dec 12, 2006, 10:08pm

I could figure out what I've read this year, but it's hardly worth it. Here are five I've found disappointing recently:

1.The Librarian by Larry Beinhart -- I so wanted to like this book, and it was so bad, if only in comparison to his earlier novels, which I should include in my profile, but haven't gotten around to. The Librarian is just a sloppy, unexciting, overly long conspiracy theory of a book.

2.A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier -- So good for the first 4/5ths, and then it lost me. So I've also included this on my "Best of" List for 2006, but only because the first 80% should trump the last 20%, but not by enough to preclude it from appearing in both places.

3.Absent Friends by S.J. Rozan -- didn't care about any character enough to finish the book, but somehow I muddled through. Kinda reminded me of Mystic River, but the plot twists weren't as interesting. I know this won an Edgar Award, but I wouldn't have voted for it.

4.Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman -- not as good as American Gods, so I was disappointed. Sorry, Neil. You've got too much to live up to.

5.The books I couldn't finish. You know who you are.

Dec 12, 2006, 10:29pm

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Don't give up hope on The Historian. Some people really like it. Others do not.

I'm reading it now and like it very much. I'm about halfway through. It's not the finest read of the year, but it is quite enjoyable. Interestingly enough, though I don't like history, this book has sucked me into liking it (at least for a short while in the context of the story). Be aware that the book is very long--700 plus pages in the trade paperback. It's part family mystery, part European history and part European travelogue. The chapters are short so you can stop anywhere and then pick up later. Two stories run parallel--that of a daughter and that of her father. The fun part is the Dracula-related mystery.

Do read it _Zoe_. Then come back and let us know what you think of it. I'd give it a 4 star rating here at LT! :-)

Dec 13, 2006, 6:01am

I liked The Historian too, though I can understand why some people have criticised the plotting. For me, the writing was the good part, and I was fascinated by the parts about Turkish history, to the point where I'd like to learn more about it.

I read all the other reviews only after posting my own, and they were pointing out flaws that I hadn't noticed while reading it, but agreed with after the fact. I'm glad though that I read it for myself first, since it was a whopping heavy hardback and I might easily have been put off ;)

Dec 13, 2006, 2:06pm

Zoe: The historical research in The Historian is quite well done, and I ended up keeping reading it because of that instead of for the story, which is pretty trite and the writing mundane. I kept wanting to edit as I read, which isn't a good thing.

Dec 13, 2006, 3:17pm

My bottom books I read in 2006 are:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which my book group read. I am glad I read it, because it is one of those books it seems I should have read. But I really HATE science fiction and really couldn't get into this book. It was okay for about the first twenty pages and then it was just like pulling teeth.

Pull of the Moon by Berg. Which is interesting because another book by Berg is on my top five of 2006 list. She is either hit or miss for me. I either really love the work, or really hate it. This one was just too Lifetime movie for my taste.

Whores on the Hill, a young adult novel. It just seemed to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. She didn't have a unique voice or anything to add.

Tales from the bed. The author came across as arrogant and superficial. I really wanted to read about how she felt about dying, how she felt about being estranged from her father. Couldn't relate to the author at all.

41duyan First Message
Dec 13, 2006, 3:37pm

I'm currently reading Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian.

Dec 13, 2006, 4:47pm

I guess I'll have to try The Historian for myself. I probably won't get around to it until at least February, but I'll eventually let you all know what I think.

Dec 14, 2006, 7:52am

Message 28, hazelk
The person recommending The Master and Margarita was probably me! I don't think it's just you though - even as I was reading it, I did have a strong impression that it wasn't a book that everyone would like, even though I really did.

Dec 14, 2006, 8:05am

The Basic Guide to Dental Instruments (ISBN 1405133791) isn't on my Christmas list....

Dec 14, 2006, 8:17am

tunarubber: I'm curious. You seem so adamant about HATING science fiction that I have to ask; what is it that you so dislike about it? Is it all SF, or a certain kind of it? How about Fantasy?

Dec 15, 2006, 5:24pm

mdbenoit (#30). I'm not giving up on The Sea but will try again.

Edited: Dec 15, 2006, 11:57pm

Cjacklen (#29)
I agree with you about Micah.

I had also heard that the book was very short, and incredibly padded, but still it rankles. I also knew it would be bad, which is why I put off reading it for so long. But since I am a completist, I read it because I needed to know what happened in the story.

I also agree LKH has gone horribly wrong with her plotting and writing.

Dec 16, 2006, 12:22am

I used to eagerly await every LKH book. I'd check the library hold religiously every day to see if it was on its way yet. And now, I haven't even read the latest Anita Blake book, I'm two behind on Merry Gentry and I think all I did with Micah was look at it in the store. And now I'm even less likely to read it, with it being on more than one Worst of list. Sigh.

I am going to read The Historian though. It'll be interesting to see how it goes, with so many diverse opinions on it out there.

The one book that stands out for me this year that I didn't like is A Dangerous Friend by Ward Just. It was just so slow. I like my stories to move more quickly.

49gwoodrow First Message
Edited: Dec 16, 2006, 12:47am

I tried to give Beowulf another chance. I'd first read it a little in high school, then had to read it for college. I wasn't an avid reader during those times and figured that my hatred for it just came from me not really appreciating good books. But now that I am an avid reader and game it another shot, I realized that my hatred had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the story.

So-so books: Across the river and into the trees and A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Okay, so I did enjoy those two books to an extent - but both of them are also just a wee bit overrated. I would've liked them more (especially AHWOSG) had not so many people constantly recommended them to me. Like a decent song getting overplayed on the radio.

But my absolute least favorite of the year: State of Fear. I can't say enough bad things about that book. Even if all the politics and "science" were set aside, the story still commits just about every literary crime imaginable. It's fine if a book does that for humor or irony's sake, but when it's so self important that it doesn't even realize that it's doing it, then it's just sad.

Dec 17, 2006, 1:08pm

I weigh in on The Historian as a disappointing book: I love history, and historical novels, and vampire stories, so I'm in the sweet spot of her target market. I loved ~450-500pp of the book. The ending stank up the place and made me feel as thoguh there should be a "Most Bungled Ending" thread in this forum.

I follow the Pearl Rule when it comes to books: I'm under 50 (for a very short while), so I give every book 50pp to grab me. If it doesn't, >thunkLuther Blisset"...why the author touchstones when the book will not, I can't fathom. Perhaps it's a commentary by the Tochstone Fairy. This is the damnedset, dullest book I've ever read. The existence of an historical novel that makes the Protestant Reformation...The REFORMATION!...uninteresting quite simply beggars the imagination. Yet here it is.

On Beauty was a ghastly disappointment. I won't belabor the point, since so many here have done so before.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman was a disappointment, too. I love the idea, and even the characters are fun, but no one grows/changes in any way, so the action comes to feel forced. A main character who goes through what this one does should come out the other side altered. But no.

Dec 17, 2006, 1:32pm

Books I wanted to like since so many others seem to and of which I ended up skimming the last third:

The Memory Keeper's Daughter didn't believe the female characters and didn't care about the male ones.

Shoot the Moon I think Letts was thinking about television rights when she wrote this.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay This may have been my own mood and not the book. Would consider trying this again.

Cold Mountain Still working on it, but it's not looking good.

Okay, so that's a bottom four. Not so bad for a whole year. Though I may be forgetting things I took back to the library . . .

A thought regarding American Gods (which is on my all time top 20 list): Shadow isn't a human being, he's a god, so he's not going to react/change/grow as a human being would.

Dec 17, 2006, 7:18pm

I'm with ya on The Memory Keeper's Daughter; I couldn't even finish it. To repeat myself, it was a Lifetime movie kind of book, which for the most part, I just can't stand.

Concerning Science Fiction, I have never liked it. I love reading stories about life and relationships and those topics (to me) aren't present in science fiction tales. I have read a few classics, which some consider to be science fiction, such as Brave New World, and 1984 and enjoyed them enough. Generally, I just can't get into science fiction.

I do read some fantasy, particularly young adult dystopias/utopias such as The Giver. I also like Harry Potter and Twilight, which I consider to be the fantasy realm.

Dec 18, 2006, 9:09am

I am amazed to see how many people really didn't like On Beauty. That was one of my favorite reads this year! I love Zadie Smith's style. I think she has a fresh voice and tells a damn good story.

Why didn't you like it? I've heard many people talk about how they hate it, but no one really says why. Have you read/liked others by her such as White Teeth? Did you feel it just didn't live up to all the hype?

Edited: Dec 18, 2006, 9:51am

On Beauty was definitely one of my lowest points of the year, though I did finish it. As I saw it, and it was a few months ago so my thoughts might have mellowed - there was precious little story line, a rather self-indulgent ramble round a few snippets of lives,it certainly had no sense of purpose. Nothing much developed, just a snippet here followed by another un-related snippet. None of the characters seemed to have much body (with the possible exception of the two mothers).

For the rest of my bottom 5

Merde Actually by Stephen Clarke an inconsequential follow-up to the somewhat better A Year in the Merde

The Apprentice supposedly by Alan Sugar but most likely written by a studio assistant in the breaks between shooting.

Confessions of an economic hit man by John 'no touchstone' Perkins - never came near to living up to the blurb on the cover, a shame because the story could be fascinating.

Deep Simplicity: Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribben - I forget what I didn't like (that's probably the problem).

But by far the worst was The War at Troy by Lindsay Clarke - a wonderful topic, pity about the writing.

Oh, and did I mention On Beauty?

Dec 18, 2006, 10:16am

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For some reason, White Teeth came alive for me. I found the characters very funny and engaging. I recommended this book highly to others. I was intrigued by the fact that the author abd the protagonist were biracial. I wanted to see how this fact played out in the book.

The characters in On Beauty were boring and annoying. It was at a point in the middle of this book, that I realized I could care less about what happened to them and simply gave up reading the book. I felt as if I left a bad party and could finally go home for relief.

Dec 18, 2006, 10:18am

tunarubber, Some of the reasons I didn't like On Beauty are the same as GreyHead's: poorly developed characters and a lot of self-indulgent writing. I also felt there was no need for some of the characters and subplots (if you can call them that) except to allow Zadie Smith to make some topical points that didn't really fit in with the book as a whole. And, to top it all off, trying to make it an "homage" to Forster's wonderful Howard's End really really irritated me. There were parts of it that I enjoyed, but I basically thought it needed a lot more thought and editing to be a good book.

Also, interesting that you think of Brave New World and 1984 (strangely touchstoned as Nineteen eighty-four) as science fiction; I've always thought of them as political. But, that's what's great about LT!

Edited: Dec 18, 2006, 3:16pm

I had a pretty good reading year - 104(ish) books and I could only come up with 4 I really disliked and 1 I was disappointed with.

George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings

I know a lot of people think that these are the best books ever (tm) but frankly, I hate them. I managed to get all the way through these two before I realized I was only reading them because my sister was lending them to me, not because I actually liked them, or cared about the characters, or was interested in what was happening, or was surprised by the twists, or anything, so I stopped.

LINT by Steve Aylett

I heard a thing on NPR about this book and it sounded hilarious, so I asked my library to get it. The funniest thing about it was that they shelved it with the real biographies, and it's fiction...I got halfway through it, but it was just uninteresting after a while. There was only so much "and he did this outrageous thing, and then he did this ridiculous thing, and then he did these three totally unbelieveable things at the same time!" that I could take.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Oh, god. It was there. I read it. Don't ask me why. It was awful.

And for a fifth book...well, I didn't hate it, but I was disappointed by Terrier by Tamora Pierce. Her books have been improving over the course of her series, but she tried something new with this one (first-person, journal style), and just didn't quite pull it off. Also, there's too much going on and not enough time devoted to each part, so some sub-plots get short-changed.

Edited: Dec 19, 2006, 7:07am

I liked On Beauty and disagree with all of the criticisms. I could only offer a counter-argument if we were talking about specific passages or sections of the book. Despite,that, however, I would say that I liked it, not loved it.
What interests me is when a book polarises opinion like this. The Historian is another which people loved or hated. Another is Special Topics in Calamity Physics. (I hated both of them.)

Dec 19, 2006, 7:49am

tunarubber: On Science Fiction: I think you've definitely read the wrong books. Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson is the story of three people's attempt at living their lives when faced with the certain death of the Earth. The science supports the character development, not the other way around. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville, is the love story between a scientist and a praying mantis-like female, and his struggle to survive in an unfriendly world. The Sparrow and Children of God is one man's search for the divine and his struggle to keep believing in God in the face of immense suffering.Old Man's War by John Scalzi is about the search for what defines us as humans; how much would we retain of our humanity if we were to be brought back from the dead? In the Palace of Repose by Holly Phillips is a series of short stories that are truly literary in nature. Each story recounts a slice of a woman’s life, and although some of them are victims on the surface, they are each presented with choices and the power to enact them.

If you want more SF stories about "life and relationships", let me know.

Dec 19, 2006, 8:14am

amandameale #58, I was one of the people who didn't like On Beauty, but I also didn't like Special Topics in Calamity Physics, although I didn't hate it. I thought it was very clever, but much too pleased with its own cleverness, and that it didn't hang together as a story. If the story had worked better, I might just have felt it was a type of fiction I didn't like but . . .

Dec 19, 2006, 10:36am

I only had one stinker and it was The book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Yes, Yes, I know it was delightful, exciting and very well written, but the rotting bits of other fantasy books made it stink.

Dec 19, 2006, 12:35pm

Thankfully I had a very good literary year, with barely a handful of regrets. Topping my list of blah books is Kim Edwards's The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Although I did finish it, it was more out of a sense of perseverance than engagement. I also struggled through A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter, which had moments of greatness interspersed with periods of boredom. Two books I simply did not finish (a practice that is likely to become more common now that I am finished with grad school and can finally read all the books backlogged on my TBR shelves, and have adopted my MIL's 100 page make-or-break rule) were Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clark, although the latter was abandoned due to lack of time and not dislike. Perhaps it'll resurface in 2007...

Dec 20, 2006, 2:52pm

I read A LOT of books this year, and in comparison there weren't that many duds which I am thankful for :) Here's what a (shudder) remember:

On Beauty - I also could not finish this book. I found that I had no sympathy for the characters, nor did I particularly care what happened to them. I have White Teeth on my TBR list, so I haven't given up hope yet.

Wanted by Kim Wozencraft - I usually like any thriller/mystery especially if they include prisons/jails. This one was just too over the top, and again I found I didn't like the characters much.

The Book of Frank by Simon Black - what was the point of this one? I still have yet to figure that out.

Murder Plays House by Ayelet Waldman - my first book by this mystery author...and I hated almost all of it. What a whiny character! Continually calling herself fat, when she's quite clearly annoying. I won't be picking up any others in that series.

Look Closely by Laura Caldwell - I had heard good things about her, although I can't remember where. It took me almost two months to read through this as it didn't hold my interest at all (I can't even remember what the story was). Books normally take me a maximum of two days to read, so I guess you can see my point.

Dec 20, 2006, 3:01pm

Couldn't agree more with gwoodrow who said this about State of Fear:

"But my absolute least favorite of the year: State of Fear. I can't say enough bad things about that book. Even if all the politics and "science" were set aside, the story still commits just about every literary crime imaginable. It's fine if a book does that for humor or irony's sake, but when it's so self important that it doesn't even realize that it's doing it, then it's just sad."

Definitely my least favorite read of the year.

Dec 20, 2006, 3:27pm

Any book by Laurel K. Hamilton since Obsidian Butterfly. She has turned Anita Blake into a sex addict.

Life of Pi did not charm me and I could not finish it.

A Game of Thrones went on and on and left without me.

The Historian was damned dull despite the fact that I wanted to like it. I had to leave this one.

I was distracted by other books and did not finish Bangkok Tattoo. This is one I will try again.

Dec 22, 2006, 6:33am

I agree with you on Life of Pi. I tried to read it both in English and French and could not finish it in either language.

Dec 22, 2006, 7:55am

I'm listening to On Beauty now on audio and am very much enjoying it. The reader is wonderful with a variety of accents, which I think enhances the story. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it.

mdbenoit, I think I disagree that Perdido Street Station is primarily a love story, but I'm going to have to think about it - that was so many Mieville's ago... (I also am "bugged" a little about describing her as a "praying mantis-like female" which suggests a certain eat-the-male-menace when it comes to relationships).

Edited: Jan 1, 2007, 12:34am

My bottom five is much tougher than my top five--I didn't read a lot that I didn't like this year. I have two complete dislikes: Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See (an audiobook I abandoned).

My other three are just books that disappointed me:

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck--nowhere on my copy does it indicate that it is an unfinished book. It completely left me hanging.

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, by Eoin Colfer. I didn't think it was as good as previous entries in the series.

The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I guess I expected more--it seemed like a giant infodump to me.

Jan 1, 2007, 1:13pm

cableguy, I read one book (forget which) by Arturo Perez-Reverte some years ago, and it was a big disappointment to me too.

Jan 1, 2007, 2:14pm

xenchu and mdbenoit -
I would say that Life of Pi is sort of like most of Robert Altman's movies: the last fifth is essential to make the rest of it fall into meaningful shape. Although I really enjoyed Martel's book, I admit it did feel like a bit of a slog in the middle of the voyage. I can't guarantee that the ending will improve your opinion of it. Some people love it all the way through, some find that the end redeems or enhances it, and some, like one friend I recommended it to, said "This was the worst book I ever read! But the ending was good."

I didn't have any books I despised or permanently abandoned this year, but there were several disappointments. The prevalence of graphic novels on the list is a reflection of how many of them I read over the last twelve months, rather than any negative feelings I have about the genre (quite the opposite, in fact!).

My bottom five of the year are:

1) Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede
I enjoy Young Adult fiction immensely, but this one just seemed insubstantial, uneventful, and lacking any innovation of the genre.

2) Crumple by Dave Cooper
To quote from my review earlier in the year, this is "a squelchy exploration of the extremes of misogynistic paranoia... A hybrid between a road trip narrative and a cult mystery, 'Crumple' is inventive, but uncomfortable."

3) Kingdom Come by Mark Waid
So unimpressive that I now can't remember anything about it.

4) Arabian Nights by Bill Willingham
This was the most disappointing of the Fables series of graphic novels, perhaps because of its extensive and uninventive reliance on stereotypes about the Middle East, and uncomfortable (rather than intriguing) parallels with real world current events.

5) Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
A quick read, but not a gripping or impressive one. I like Neil Gaiman and have enjoyed his work in graphic novels immensely (especially Mr. Punch), but the two novels of his I have read so far (Anansi Boys and American Gods) have been thin and unsophisticated by comparison. Anansi Boys is definitely the weaker of the two.

Jan 1, 2007, 8:53pm

Funny how different tastes can be. I love Mairelon the Magician, and the sequal Magician's Ward.

I disliked American Gods immensely, though; I couldn't even finish it, and gave my copy to my sister, who I knew liked it.

Jan 1, 2007, 9:47pm

I really liked Mairelon the Magician and its sequel too, though it's been a while since I read them and I can't really remember many details. I wonder whether it's because I read it when I was fairly young and might not have noticed the lack of innovation. I think I would have liked it no matter what, though. Maybe a re-reading is in order! I've been meaning to get back to Patricia C. Wrede anyway, starting with Sorcery and Cecelia (which I've never read) for next month's Read YA Lit discussion.

I also thought Life of Pi started out really slowly, and the ending redeemed it to a certain extent. The ending was good enough that when I first finished it I thought it had been really good, but on further thought I decided that the ending couldn't make up for the boring start.

Jan 1, 2007, 10:43pm

I suppose that part of my problem with Mairelon was that it did seem to have enough plot to stand alone as a novel, apart from any further episodes. Perhaps reading Magician's Ward would improve my opinion. What do you think?

I also have Sorcery and Cecelia on my shelf, waiting to be read.

Jan 2, 2007, 10:59am

It's honestly been so long that I can't remember whether reading Magician's Ward would make it any better. I'm inclined to say you might as well try it because it's short. Or else try something else by the same author, like Sorcery and Cecelia or Dealing with Dragons, and only read Magician's Ward if you like some of her other work. Sorry I can't be more helpful!

Jan 2, 2007, 2:35pm

73 sycoraxpine - it's possible, if it just seemed too short to be stand-alone. Magician's Ward is a continuation of Mairelon (unlike Sorcery and Cecelia, which is totally separate, but also amusing and very different) and resolves a few things that are left hanging in the first book. Some people don't like Ward as well as Mairelon, but I like them both about equally. And there are a few new entertaining characters. It is also, as _zoe_ said, a pretty quick read.

Jan 2, 2007, 9:26pm

Three come to mind quite quickly; The Accidental Pope -- a dreadful disappointment. I reviewed it, so you can read my trashing of it there if you want. Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss. Her Eats, Shoots and Leaves cracked me up, but this one was a much too obvious attempt to strike the same gold twice, and it just didn't work. And Sherlock in Love; recommended to me by two people I usually trust in such matters, but I just thought this book was a dud.

Jan 3, 2007, 9:55am

Three that I just flat-out didn't like at all:
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
Messenger by Lois Lowry
Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson

And then two that I didn't like very much but that feeling was intensified by how much everyone else seems to love them:
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Edited: Jan 3, 2007, 12:53pm

#77 fyrefly98. You are the first person I have come across who didn't like The shipping news and I feel so much better for knowing I am not alone. It's the only book, other than my maths exercise book, I have ever thrown across a room. It missed my husband by millimetres.

Edited: Jan 5, 2007, 1:11pm

The books I didn't particularly enjoy in 2006:

Before I Forget by Andre Brink
The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman and
The Mysterious Fire of Queen Loana by the usually brilliant Umberto Eco

Jan 5, 2007, 8:16pm

#77 and #78 - I hated it too. I struggled through the first half, then decided to give up on it because I didn't give a damn about the characters or what was happening to them. I've found a few other people who share my dislike, but not many.

Jan 6, 2007, 2:36am

If you guys are talking about The Shipping News I didn't hate it, and had no trouble reading it, but I have no idea why people rave about it. It was just an average to so so book, nothing special. I didn't read it this year, so it isn't on any of my lists.

A more recent book that also puzzles me in terms of the positive reaction and heaps of praise is The Kite Runner.
So so at best.

I did read The Geographer's Library and was intrigued with the different structure of the story. I liked some of the object stories, but felt the modern thread was bland, and really didn't like how quite a few of the characters in the object stories didn't get wrapped up or connected with anything else at the end.

Jan 6, 2007, 10:18am

>81 FicusFan:
I read The Kite Runner this past year and felt the same way. It wasn't bad, and certainly didn't make my "Worst of" list, but I thought it was a pretty average first novel. I figured that all the kerfuffle about it was based on the fact that it's a unique (and current-events-appropriate) setting - one that we don't normally see in American literature.

Jan 6, 2007, 11:33am

#81 and #82
I'm with both of you re. The kite runner. I held out reasonable hopes for it at the start of the novel, particularly because of the childhood friendship between the two boys and the ambiguous relationships with the fathers. Similarly, the scene of betrayal had an authentic ring and the ensuing guilt. However, even at that point I couldn't quite see the book deserved the plaudits it was receiving.

The whole thing then disintegrated into a purple prose unbelievable muddle and although I finished it, didn't take any particular pleasure in completion. You hit the nail on the head when you conjecture it was current events appropriate and I haven't felt the urge to recommend it to friends.

Jan 7, 2007, 12:19pm

>81 FicusFan:, 82, 83 re: The Kite Runner: I couldn't be bothered to hate it. The book was a first novel and a fairly promising debut, but as a read I don't remember enough about it to place it on any list, pro or con.

That's not a good sign.

Jan 10, 2007, 7:06am

Here's a few that I read in 06 that I most likely won't read again and doubt Iwill add to my permanent collection.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer.
- This was supposed to be Meltzer's Dan Brown book. It wasn't. I thought it was going to be about the Masons. It wasn't. This is the second book I've read by Meltzer...the first being First Counsel which is far better.

DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.
- Brown is a pretty terrible writer so he makes the list. He does have interesting ideas...whether they are actually his or not...which is why I read it.

1001 Nights of Snowfall by Willingham.
- I was so prepared to love this one. I waited for months for it to be released then waited longer as it kept selling out before I could get a copy. Then I read it and wondered what all the fuss was about. It should have been much better. The art is good, though.

Anansi Boys by Gaiman.
- I am a Gaiman fan and am very happy his next book isn't about gods. Enough with the gods walking around the hood. Gaiman is a good writer and I wager I would have liked Anansi better if it hadn't come on the heels of American Gods...which I loathed.

The Hunt Club by LesCroart.
- Actually this one is alright. It does suffer in comparison to LesCroart's Hardy and Glitzky books, though. Maybe it will imrpove when he gets a handle on the characters.

Edited: Jan 10, 2007, 2:38pm

I was disappointed with Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, basically because I really like him as a writer, but as a novel, this one didn't work. The short stories within it were great, but they were all his voice. It was supposed to be all these different characters, but none of them came across, they were just flat and the plot was stupid.

The other one that irritated me was Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Beautifully written and no problem at all to finish, but the ending was frustrating and unsatisfying, I thought anyway.

Jan 10, 2007, 3:08pm

Cathf - I felt exactly the same way about Never Let Me Go - it just seemed like everyone gave up, just... "Oh. Well, that's how it is." Not satisfying at all.

Edited: Jan 11, 2007, 6:13am

I'm glad someone else agrees. It claimed to be a book about "what it means to be human" but the ending completely missed what it means to be human, which is a desire to live and be free, surely? I'd like to think the conclusion would be that people will at least try and fight or rebel against injustice, and against attempts be others to suggest they're less than human and kill them horribly.

But no, the characters just ended up shrugging and going, as you say, 'Oh well, fair enough then,' and going willingly to their deaths.

Jan 11, 2007, 7:47am

cathf, fyrefly,etc: I was quite happy with the ending of Never Let Me Go. I don't mind a book (or a movie) not providing a resolution, I find that it makes me think more, and feel more about the subject.

Jan 11, 2007, 8:51am

In general, I'm okay with endings left unresolved, or even non-happy resolutions. Never Let Me Go didn't feel unresolved to me - we weren't left wondering what happened to the characters. And it wasn't like they fought and lost, which would have been okay too. They were just so passive and accepting that it felt like giving up - on their part and on the author's.

Jan 11, 2007, 9:29am

I don't mind unresolved either. The problem was that there was nothing to distinguish the main characters (the Hailsham educated ones) from the masses of clones.

We were asked to accept that, following the controversial, enlightend and liberal education they were given to "prove they were human", and the fact that it did make them question thier lot, they acted in the end exactly the same way as those effectively factory farmed with no love, education or life - ie just went complacently off to die. It made me wonder what the point of the story was.

It did make me think, I'll give him that, so I suppose that's good in a way.

Jan 12, 2007, 7:19am

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown.
This book was so bad it stained my soul.

Edited: Jan 24, 2007, 4:37pm

It's funny that all the LTers who didn't like Life of Pi didn't finish it. I had to read it for book club so I slogged my way through it. The ending was so incredible (in a wonderful way), I had to read it again. The ending absolutely makes the entire book.

I am ashamed to admit that I loved The Memory Keeper's Daughter with a passion so painful, I didn't want the book to end. Then I lent it to my daughter, and she thought it was pure tripe. I just cried and cried and cried.

But the worst book I read all year was History of Love by Krauss. I don't understand the point of post-modern literature. I don't want people playing with my books. Tell a good story straight; don't try to be so cute. It had the basis of a decent story but, as in post-modernism, it had no cohesive plot, story narrative, or character development. The ending was totally crappy -- unless you enjoy cuteness. Blagh!

Jan 24, 2007, 4:59pm

I didn't particularly like Life of Pi at first, but I did finish it. The ending was great, but it wasn't enough to make me love the book as a whole.

Jan 24, 2007, 7:29pm

I couldn't get past the first chapter. Maybe I should just skip to the end and read the last chapter. :)

Jan 25, 2007, 9:12am

#96. I adored The History of Love! How boring it would be if all books just told their stories from point A to point Z. How delicious to unravel connections, make discoveries, to slowly weave together the stories of seemingly unconnected people. And the form this takes can be art. IMHO.

100jlayoung First Message
Jan 25, 2007, 12:03pm

I really didn't care for The Tenth Circle. I liked the Eskimo history and the Dante references but I felt that most of the main characters were so unlikeable (with the exception of the father). There was no one route for and though I liked the father there was no routing for him because there was no way things would turn out well for him. I'm glad these characters are not real people that I know because I definately wouldn't want to be around them.

Jan 25, 2007, 12:11pm

I'm a bit late to this thread, but I can say with certainty that the two books I liked the least of 2006 were The Known World by Edward P. Jones and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Poe. The first was disjointed and didn't capture me at all. I just can't understand why the book was celebrated. As for the second, it was for school and everyone hated it. It seemed like it would get exciting, but never did, and the ending made no sense. The professor never quite managed to explain the literary value either.

Jan 29, 2007, 3:17pm

Wow am surprised at the books consider the bombs of 2006-many of which are still in my TBR pile. Especially surprising: Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kite Runner, Historian, On Beauty, and History of Love. Agree totally w/ Never Let Me Go--absolutely hated it and couldn't finish it. Glad it was a library book. But I purchased Gilead and just coulnd't get through it--boring, boring, boring! I will still read many of the above and hopefully won't find them too bad.

Edited: Jan 29, 2007, 4:24pm

I cringe when I see so many of my favorites are slammed here (Kite Runner, Life of Pi, My Name is Red, The Known World) and elsewhere. But, in fact, there is a lot overlap between the worsts lists and the favorites. It comes down to personal taste. You'll need to make your own decision after you read them...doesn't help trim your TBR list much.