The CLUNKERS of 2009

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The CLUNKERS of 2009

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Dec 15, 2009, 5:29pm

Here's the place to post your 'clunkers' (however you define this) of 2009. 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 2008 Clunker thread is HERE

The 2007 Clunker thread is HERE

The 2006 Clunker thread is HERE

Dec 15, 2009, 5:31pm

Well I have had some this year, but I think fewer than last year. Will have to check.

Dec 15, 2009, 5:34pm

I don't finish some books; thus, I don't log them so it will be tough mining the memory cave for literary detritus...

Dec 15, 2009, 5:44pm

Well everything I read is in my DB and my on-line accounts. So its just a question of classifying. I have some I have definitely quit, then some I have just put down or listed as still reading. :)

These might not be clunkers so much as bad timing.

But I have a Stinkers collection, so I know which ones I didn't like.

Dec 15, 2009, 6:02pm

I would have to put At Risk on the top of that list. I hadn't read Patricia Cornwell before; it was a book for my book group and not a genre I ever read. It was abysmal writing, no character development, bad plot, dumb dialog, do I have to continue?? Zero stars. I suppose it's good to read a book like that once in awhile to appreciate the good ones all the more.

Another clunker: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. From my review:
...a cross between Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code and Garden Spells (a book I detested). Howe spent way too much time in the 1991 story of Connie and Sam -- with a most predictable budding romance from the moment Sam rappels from the church ceiling. I prefer my historical fiction to remain in the past.

Howe was inconsistent with the overdone Boston accent; it was clunky, hard to read and didn't ring true.

Plus, I didn't really care for the main character, Connie. None of the characters were fleshed out as much as they could have been; they were all overdone caricatures of academics and hippies.
Also? Many bloopers in time and place.

Telex from Cuba, another book group read. Hmmm. Clunky, confusing narration, metaphors that were big groaners.

Only three real clunkers for '09 - not bad! A few that were 'meh' but mostly some excellent reading for the year!

Dec 15, 2009, 6:05pm

I had a least favorite book for this year but I wouldn't consider it a clunker. Plus, no clunker can beat my clunker from last year: the terrible On Chesil Beach.

Dec 15, 2009, 8:06pm

My worst of the year had to be The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. Not one single sympathetic character in the whole book. Privileged 30 year olds whining about how they are unappreciated is not a plot, even if you do throw in 9/11.

Edited: Dec 15, 2009, 8:17pm

I had a few clunkers this year.
The most disappointing one being Crime and Punishment. I wanted to read that book so badly, but I just couldn't force myself to. I think my head was in the "wrong" place at that particular time.
I was very disappointed in Ya-Yas in Bloom as I had absolutely loved Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Perhaps too much expectations?
Pieces of my Heart was just a total waste of time. Robert Wagner may have had a ghost writer but it sucked just the same. It went from this to that, hither and yon with no rhyme nor reason. I mean it really blew!~! Goats!~! Big green ones!~! Don't waste your time.
The Summer of Naked Swim Parties. If you are a child of the 60's or 70's, how could that title miss? IDK!~! But it did. Lousy book!~!
An Absolute Scandal. I wanted to like this one but just couldn't. It was just boring, unlikeable, and nonsensical.
Conscious Point. (an ARC/ER) This, for me, was just a bad book. Written poorly, points poorly made, just plain didn't work for me. I was bored out of my skull. Funny thing though; I passed it off to an L.T. friend of mine and where I gave it 1/2 stars and thought I had overdone it, he gave it 5 stars and raved about it. Different strokes!~!
Allegheny, Monongahela. (an ARC/ER) Didn't like it. This one is a book of poetry and as I recall, all of the poems (or most of them) were about comparisons of body parts or used body parts as descriptive phrasing. This one too, I passed off to another L.T. friend, but don't know yet how she liked it.
Well, there you go folks.
belva's list of clunkers for 2009; not really too bad for almost 200 books read.

Edited: Dec 15, 2009, 8:15pm

>8 rainpebble: Totally agree about Ya Yas in Bloom, which I read a few years ago. I wish she hadn't written that book! Such a letdown after Divine Secrets! I also had expectations.

Dec 15, 2009, 11:07pm

Far and away my worst clunker was The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Critics of every stripe drooled over this book. It was praised as an adult's Harry Potter. Grossman published an essay about how he thought the next revolution in novel writing would be a return to the primacy of story over style.
The book starts well enough, then fast-forwards through years of fruitful material in a few pages. I was willing to forgive this. I chalked it up to my expectations being influenced too heavily by the 500+ pages dedicated to a single year in the Harry Potter books (of which The Magicians really is reminiscent). But the ending, I cannot forgive. It's the most poorly conceived, least "adult" ending the book could have had. Grossman mistreats his characters and contradicts the values underpinning the entire rest of the book. Ugh. What a waste.

Dec 16, 2009, 1:37am

The worst book I read in 2009 is The Time Traveler's Wife. It is the only book in my 'Trash' collection. I vented all my anger about that book in my review so I'm not going to repeat any of it here. You can read my review here,

Dec 16, 2009, 2:45am

I didn't think I had any clunkers this year until I was going through the books I read for the top 10 for 2009 thread and I came across The Sea by John Banville... now that has got to be the worst book I have EVER read.

Edited: Dec 16, 2009, 7:27am

From the top of my head, I would say The Time Traveller's Wife and The Guernsey thingy. I may have read other "bad" (to me) books, but had high expectations for this two, so the disappointment was deeper.
I thoroughly disliked The last witchfinder too, but the beginning was actually funny and well-done, so it has some redeeming qualities.

Dec 16, 2009, 7:25am

I have been very lucky this year in that I have read very few clunkers.

a mercy by Toni Morrison - I just couldn't get into this book for whatever reason and was very disappointed in it.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - I read this for my RL book club and pretty much hated it.

Against Medical Advice by James Patterson - I really wanted to like this book as I have a child with ADD and two children with anxiety issues but I hated it. I mostly hated the writing style and just really have a problem with authors who think that no one is intelligent enough to be able to pay attention so the chapters in their books are only one or two pages long.

Where Is Here by Joyce Carol Oates - I hated this book.

Overall, a great reading year!

Dec 16, 2009, 7:56am

The only books I hat a hard time finishing this year were The Warrior Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought, both by R. Scott Bakker. I actually liked the first book in the trilogy, but the sequels were horrible. The writing is excellent, even though the author gets a bit too philosophical at times. The world in which the story os set is very thought out and fraught with details about the different cultures, religions, legends and forms of magic, which I absolutely love in fantasy novels.

On the other hand there are the characters, and they are the main reason why I didn't enjoy the books. It was absolutely impossible for me tom sympathize with any of them. The main character ruthlessly exploits everyone around him and everyone else is either incredibly naive/stupid, a religious fanatic, insane in some way or another and so on. The Consult is probably one of the most convincingly evil powers I have encountered in any book so far, yet I still found myself preferring them to the supposed heroes of this tale.

Another problem is Bakkers overuse of names. The only other book I can think of that uses as many names of people and places is the Silmarillion. Especially during big battle scenes it is almost impossible to keep track of who is who, when the Generals have names like "A, Count of B in C, son of King D, the famed Tiger of E..." and so on.

However, the worst part is that after fighting my way through the last book of the trilogy, I found out that the story doesn't have a real ending, because Bakker planned the whole thing as a trilogy of trilogies.

Dec 16, 2009, 8:04am

>12 kiwiflowa: That was a book I never finished. Maybe I had just had one too many older-men-reflecting-upon-their-lives in a row and that one just broke the camel's back...

Dec 16, 2009, 8:46am

My list of clunkers include
Crepes of Wrath by Tamar Myers- a mystery that was really silly- the heroine walked around with a small cat in her bra! Need I say more?
Carrie Bebris's second mystery novel Suspense and Sensibility was a disappointment. The author resorted to the occult as opposed to solving the mystery.
There were some novels that resorted to violence and glib endings-but I think that I have to find the authors that I want to follow.
I was also disappointed in The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. It isn't a bad book just I expected more.
Another disappointment was Kate Morton's The House at Riverton.
I was actually pleased with my book selection this year.

Edited: Dec 16, 2009, 11:33am

>17 torontoc: - it sounds like they had a catchy title and just had to use it but then wrote crap. Or crepe.

Dec 16, 2009, 11:38am

I had a pretty good reading year. I think my biggest disappointment was The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes. It really fell apart in the 2nd half.

Edited: Dec 16, 2009, 12:12pm

Oh nooooooooooo torontoc;
Please don't tell me that. I trust your recx and have so been looking forward to Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. I think I am going to cry.
And Crepes of Wrath; the cat in the bra thingy--------------nothing worse than shredded boobs!~!

That was really punny teelgee!~!

I must say that I love this thread!~! I hate reading a bad book more than anything other than personal injury or illness in me or a loved one. But I am loving reading about them. And I see you have been doing this for four years. I have been missing out avaland!~! Great idea for a thread!

Dec 16, 2009, 1:12pm

I was really disapointed with Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. I thought it was boring boring boring!

Dec 16, 2009, 1:22pm

Most of my clunkers were read for classes and therefore were not chosen by me, I wonder if they still count if I expected to hate them going in? I'll say yes...

The MacGregor Brides - The best part of this book is that it is short and obvious, so I didn't waste a lot of time on it. Although my class did get a lot of productive discussion out if it, I frankly felt offended at how stupid and misogynistic Nora Roberts assumes her readers to be. Katherine by Anya Seton was in a similar vein, just with more complicated clothing. I like historical fiction and saw several people on LT reading it, so I picked up a cheap used copy--big mistake! Some of the worst and most heavy-handed historical fiction I've ever read. I only finished it because I already owned it.

Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte was dry, self-serving, and too detail-oriented. On War was incredibly difficult for a civilian to read and understand, although I realize Clausewitz didn't write it for that audience. The introduction of the book, though, noted that Clausewitz died before he could finish it, so his wife did some of the organizing and editing--I wonder if that accounts for some of the disorderliness. In any case, she did a better job of compiling it than I would've. Despite On War's dullness, I did learn a lot about military strategy.

Dec 16, 2009, 2:42pm

#7 I agree with you 100% about The Emperor's Children.

While I am pretty good at avoiding clunkers, and not finishing books I don't like, I do have a few for 2009 that I consider serious disappointments.

The Book of Fathers by Miklos Vamos -- Highly praised in the New York Times by Jane Smiley, but overly formulaic and not interesting.

Lucinella by Lore Segal -- I've really liked several of Segal's books, but this novella left me cold.

The Gates of Hell: Sir John Franklin's Tragic Quest for the Northwest Passage by Andrew Lambert -- not enough about the "tragic quest," no maps, very dull writing

The Cave and the Cathedral by Amir D. Aczel -- I've been fascinated by cave painting since reading and loving The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis -- this book is a dud!

Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien -- cloying, and I love owls.

A Meaningful Life by L. J. Davis -- treads the same streets as Paula Fox's brilliant Desperate Characters but can't compare.

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel -- too much about the self-centered author, not enough about the diarist's life and times.

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean by Edward Kritzler -- the title is the best thing about this book.

Dec 17, 2009, 9:31am

Belva, I ,too was looking forward to reading The House at Riverton.Unfortunately the Kate Morton book was a disappointment to me- not badly written - I just figured out the plot really quickly. I would still read it if I had to go on a long plane trip or wait at a doctor's office.

Dec 17, 2009, 9:47am

The hands-down clunker of the year was Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs. This book was raved about for over a month, every reviewer adored it, but I found very little to admire. The main character seemed to fluctuate between an acute awareness and an extreme naivete that was maddening at times and frustrating as well. Toward the end the book jumped the shark completely: the main character's brother is blown apart in Iraq, and after his funeral she hops in the coffin and holds a dialogue with his remains on the way to the cemetery. Ugh.

Coming in a distant 2nd was Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City. My Kindle shows I'd read 46% of it before I abandoned it, and what a relief that was.

{Ha-Ha Note: Both books made the NYT Best of the Year list too}

Dec 17, 2009, 12:38pm

Expectations led to the clunkers for me.

The first is Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich, which was promoted as a lively adventure book akin to Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series, but was a disjointed anything but.

The other was Territory by Emma Bull, which was a not-bad fantasy set in the old West of the U.S. with the Earps and Doc Holliday, but wasn't anywhere near the level I'd come to expect from this author.

Dec 17, 2009, 12:50pm

Probably the worst book I actually finished was Loving Frank. I have rarely encountered characters I despised more than Frank Lloyd Wright and his lover, what ever her name was.

Dec 17, 2009, 1:01pm

Mahma, Mama, MooMoo, something like that.

Dec 17, 2009, 1:28pm

I stopped reading The Women for the same reason; didn't like Frank or his women. Shame because I normally like TC Boyle's books.

Dec 17, 2009, 1:29pm

Oh- I stopped reading that book a month ago.

Dec 17, 2009, 3:28pm

There were only 2 books that I really did not like in 2009.
1. The Spanish Inquisition
This is a nonfiction book. Boy was it dull. The info was accurate, but it read like a thesis.

2. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
The story was ok, but the ending was absolutely horrible. If I wanted to be preached at, I would go to church!

Dec 18, 2009, 12:18pm

I'm still surprised at why I bothered to finish these books at all.

Second Hand Smoke by Thane Rosenbaum - read like a script of a cheap suspense movie

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - nothing there to get excited about, really

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre - another Booker Prize disappointment

Tear this Heart Out by Angeles Mastretta - i've always been impressed by Latin American writers... until i read her.

Dec 18, 2009, 2:56pm

#18.. no that's her thing.. all of the books in that series are that way. i.e. Grape Expectations and Hell Hath no Curry. The books include recipes written into the storyline.

Dec 18, 2009, 3:00pm

I think the recipes into storyline has been done a few too many times.

Dec 18, 2009, 4:22pm

#33 and #34- I know and thought that the recipes looked good but the plot of the mystery was just a little too convoluted.

Dec 19, 2009, 10:25am

Me Cheeta: The Autobiography is my clunker for the year, as it was such a poorly constructed book in comparison to the other books longlisted for this year's Booker Prize.

Dec 19, 2009, 10:38am

Louis - I totally agree with you about A Gate at the Stairs, to the point that I wondered if I missed something, but I don't think so. I love Moore's short stories - she should stick with that.

Also was disappointed in another NYT top ten: A Short History of Women.

Dec 19, 2009, 10:38am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Dec 20, 2009, 10:34am

My only true clunker this year (as opposed to those books which were merely disappointing in not living up to my expectations) was The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I gave it a 2.5 just because everything was spelled correctly and she managed to correctly sling her sentences together. Otherwise, I detested that book.

Dec 20, 2009, 12:49pm

There were several books I did not liked but slogged through anyway. My true clunkers, the ones I could not finish, are the following:

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
apologize, apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Time was Soft There Jeremy Mercer
A Mercy: A Novel by Toni Morrison

I realize that some of these are iconic books, but I just could not stand them!

Dec 20, 2009, 3:22pm

I only had three real clunkers this year.

Mr. X - A modern Gothic from the author of Ghost Story. It incorporates elements from H.P. Lovecraft (a favorite of mine) in telling the story of a haunted young man and what he learns when when he returns to his hometown. So what went wrong? Well, pretty much everything. The "Gothic" aspect ends up closer to "Soap Opera," the central villain goes from terrifying to irritating over the course of the novel, and this is probably one of the dullest uses of Lovecraft in fiction shy of a Lin Carter tale.

The Rising - I know I'm in the minority on this one, as it gets highly praised. As a reader of horror fiction, I'm willing to be forgiving, but Keene's mixture of tin-eared prose, over-the-top nastiness and cloying one-dimensional characters is the sort of hacktastic writing I prefer to avoid.

The Eyre Affair - I'm definitely in the minority on this one, but so be it. Won't get into what I found so dreadful about this book, besides that it seems to aim for quirky but wind up kitschy.

Dec 20, 2009, 5:30pm

I read a few clunkers this year, some of them for my library mystery book club. I'd say the worst of the lot was Banking on Death. We didn't have the chance to work along with the characters to solve the crime, and the characters wouldhave been right at home in Flatland.

Dec 20, 2009, 7:02pm

Tops among this year's clunkers was "Gone For Soldiers" by Jeff Shaara. Shaara is a best-selling author, but I frankly don't understand why; I found this book to be unreadable. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Bernard Cornwell and Steven Pressfield, two authors of historical fiction who set the bar very high. At any rate I plan to avoid Jeff Shaara (and a few others who I checked out this year and found banal) in the future.

Dec 20, 2009, 9:57pm

Oh dear. So sad to think of the ones that were a waste of time.

1.Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I read the whole thing and was counting the pages toward the end. Watching a rape through the eyes and mind of the rapist - ugh! And I kept forgetting we were in the Middle Ages!

2.House at Riverton by Kate Morton. This sort of thing has been better done in "Upstairs Downstairs" and even Atonement which wasn't a great favorite of mine.

3. Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr. Didn't get the hype and I'd been meaning to read it for years.

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I'm beginning to think I'm the only person on earth who didn't like this one...left me feeling as cold as a corpse.

5. Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen was a big yawn for me.

6. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo was the first time this wonderful author disappointed.

Dec 20, 2009, 11:09pm

My clunkers were Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. A lot of drivel. I also agree with #44 above about The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. I think my kids liked it, but I found it to be unrelentingly gloomy. I was disappointed, as I usually love her books.

Edited: Dec 23, 2009, 11:15pm

I agree - I thought The Elegance of the Hedgehog was pretentious and sentimental and very annoying.

Dec 24, 2009, 8:16am

I'm one of those who really enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog, after finding it a slow start, but I also may be pretentious, sentimental and very annoying. :-)

Dec 24, 2009, 12:24pm

>45 AMQS: I read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping about three years ago and definitely had mixed feelings. I liked the idea of it, but would certainly take the exercise in different directions than she did.

The biggest mark against it --The year in question was 2002 and she devotes an amazing amout of time to the presidential election, which is quite irrelevant to the subject matter, making it dated and self-indulgent.

Dec 24, 2009, 1:42pm

I had two clunkers this year and since I had enjoyed some of both authors previous works I was really disappointed. They were The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. Both books made me want to scream "Oh just get on with it!!!"

Dec 25, 2009, 8:02pm

My clunker of the year was Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding. As I said in my review, it's chick lit meets spy, but falls short of Charlie's Angels.
I was extra disappointed because I loved Bridget Jones's Diary, and Edge of Reason so much.

Dec 25, 2009, 10:51pm

The Thirteenth tale by Diane Setterfield
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I'll try to think of more. But those definitely, yuck!

Dec 25, 2009, 11:50pm

44 - I loved The Graveyard Book. I thought it was so good.

I hated Don Quixote though. Also hated The Trial, How to be a Domestic Goddess, March - Brooks, an ER book The Forgotten Man - Sumner, Inspector French's Greatest Case, and the worst of the year, The God of Small Things.

Dec 26, 2009, 12:49am

#52 cmbohn, I'm giggling at how different people can react so differently to books. I love Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess book and for my son's 1st birthday party (really a party for our friends, to celebrate surviving a year of parenthood) made about 10 recipes from it... I think she's over the top but I **loved** the recipes I tried. Anyway, he's turned out to be allergic to egg and dairy so no more Nigella baking for me for a long time :(

Dec 26, 2009, 1:59am

There were a few books I read this year that didn't thrill me, but only two are bad enough to mention:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - tired and trite after only a few pages--and you really know you've failed as an author when the reader only continues on for her nostalgia for the original work and to be able to say she's gotten through it. This book may just be my all-time least favorite. What garbage.

City of Thieves, by David Benioff - not bad enough to earn an "awful" tag in my library, but by no means spectacular. The prose is decent, but only barely so--the novel reads like an especially clunky and unsubtle wannabe-blockbuster movie script, so I wasn't shocked to discover that Benioff was responsible for the Wolverine movie that came out this spring.

Dec 26, 2009, 2:31am

#52 & 53 I haven't read Nigella Lawson's book but have any of you guys watched her TV show? If you want to see over the top, you should watch her in action. But having said all that her recipes are pretty good.

Dec 27, 2009, 12:28am

The biggest mark against it --The year in question was 2002 and she devotes an amazing amout of time to the presidential election, which is quite irrelevant to the subject matter, making it dated and self-indulgent.

I liked Not Buying It, but that aspect of the book was annoying. I kept saying "why is this in here?" I wonder where her editor was.

Dec 27, 2009, 12:34am

I had a pretty fabulous reading year, so not a lot of clunkers to add. I abandoned Agony and the Ectasy by Irving Stone, not because it was bad, but because I've read enough about Michelangelo to last me my life. I also abandoned Delusions of Grandma by Carrie Fisher, not because there was anything particularly wrong with it, but it just didn't speak to me. I've enjoyed Fisher's writing in the past, but I've grown in another direction.

The books I disliked that I actually finished (apart from a bunch of political philosophy I had to read for school) was Under the Ribs of Death, by John Marlyn (uber-masculine immigrant story set in Winnipeg) and also Veronica Decides to Die (which was preachy and self-important).

Dec 27, 2009, 10:19am

#56, quoting #48 -- Am I missing something? 2002 wasn't a presidential election year. It does sound extremely irritating!

Dec 27, 2009, 10:28am

My clunker was definitely The Woman Who Can't Forget a memoir by Jill Price about a woman with an extraordinary memory. Fascinating subject; dreadful book. I posted what I didn't like about it on my review.

Edited: Dec 27, 2009, 10:51am

I've been hesitating for a week since I found this thread about whether or not to own up to the book that I consider my clunker of the year.

Since we went to Key West on vacation this year, I considered it the perfect opportunity to read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I'd been intrigued by the book ever since Nicolas Cage quoted it to Meg Ryan in A City of Angels. Alas for me - a clunker - never even finished.

It may be the quitisential book about Paris in the 20s, but for me ... boring, boring, boring. I got up, I ate, I went to the racetrack, I drank, I met firends, I drank, I went home... over and over again.

There - I've confessed -

Now I'll go list some of my favorites this year to make me feel better.

Dec 27, 2009, 11:06am

These two I had high expectations upon starting

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff: Overwrought prose and characters who in no way acted like real people actually behave.

Out by Natsuo Kirino: Grim, grim, grim. A book with relentless hopelessness and misery. At another time in my life, I probably would have liked it, but not now.

Edited: Dec 27, 2009, 4:39pm

My 3 Biggest Clunkers that I actually finished despite being bored to death due to subject or writing style or both were The Reader and The Shack. And for the sheer awfulness trainwreck of a book - Running With Scissors.

Two other books that I liked and was happily enjoying until the 'horrible let's make the reader really pissed off' ending were Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I have 2 or 3 more that I gave up on and had to put down which I won't list here as there is probably another thread for UNFINISHED Clunkers elsewhere.

Dec 27, 2009, 9:17pm

I too could not read/finish the following books:

The Time Traveler's Wife


Out Stealing Horses (For a book club).

I would really like to try to read both of these again. The book club I used to go to was during the weight watchers meeting I like to go to so I'm going to try to go to another book club meeting ( there are 3 or 4 at my library I think). I ended up seeing The Time Traveler's Wife in the theaters, so I think that might be what ruined it for me.

Dec 28, 2009, 2:02pm

#41 - I wasn't a fan of The Eyre Affair either. Just so you know you're not alone!

Dec 29, 2009, 10:35am

#62 I'm with you on Running With Scissors. That book was painful to get through.

Jan 1, 2010, 1:57pm

I unfortunately had several clunkers, including two DNFs, in 2009:

A Flaw in the Blood - had a difficult time caring about any of the characters, writing was not engaging

Waiter Rant - pretentious, whiny, not what I'd hoped for

Thank You for All Things - poor character development, simply did not care

Lady Chatterley's Lover (DNF) - could NOT get into this book

The Oxford Murders - poor character development, failed to satisfy with big reveal/motive

Tales from the Bed (DNF) - self-centered, woe-is-me, money-should-buy-a-cure drivel

The Haunting of Hill House - did not like the characters, failed to scare me

The Friday Night Knitting Club - sloppy character development, disjointed plot/story, poor writing

Hopefully 2010 will be better!

Edited: Jan 2, 2010, 3:28pm

I actually had a better year that last year. I had fewer clunkers, and more good books. Still there are a good number to list. I classify a clunker anything under a 3.0 stars. I have a STINKERS collection.

The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr. It is non-fiction and an LT Early Reviewers book. He tried to do way too much (a new perfume in NYC and Paris). He tried to cover everything and it had no order, and then he was very pretentious with his I lived in France and speak French every other page. The NYC perfume was a celebrity perfume and he was name dropping and ass kissing.

The Story of the Cannibal Woman by Maryse Conde, world fiction
This was a RL book group (#1) read. It was about a Caribbean woman married to college professor from England. They were living in post-apartheid South Africa. He is murdered one night, and it was probably to escape her. Possibly the worst, most pathetic character I have ever encountered in a book.

She hates everyone, won't speak up about anything, won't do anything to help find his murderer. She can't even name her paintings or say what they are about or why she painted them. A total zero.

The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran, a non-fiction and another RL book group choice (#2, not the same group). It is supposed to be a humorous re-telling of Around the World in 80 days. They aren't supposed to use air travel. They are 2 friends who write for comedy TV, each has a thread in the book.

Oh god. They tried too hard to be funny. Vali was smarmy and took drugs. At some point it seemed they decided a book wasn't good enough, because then it became like reality TV. Vali started to cheat and fly. Shallow info about where they were and the people and cultures, and they skipped some places that would have been interesting, to win the race - which the reader could have cared less about.

First Death by Laurell K. Hamilton, graphic novel
Supposed to be the prequel to Guilty Pleasures, to explain how Anita and Jean Claude first met. Total rip-off, flimsy and rehashed.

Sway by Zachary Lazar, fiction
Story set in the 60s. Supposed to bring together the Stones, a follower of Charles Manson, and film maker Kenneth Angier. It purported to explore the dark side of flower power. Boring, bland, disjointed, pretentious, pointless and badly written.

Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, historical fiction
A fictional book that is the re-telling of the real writing of the real woman who was the basis for the plays and movies The King and I . Another RL book group choice (#2, same group as Ridiculous Race). Mind-numbingly boring.

The Art Thief by Noah Charney, thriller
Terrible writing ! The characters were plastic and cartoonish, the story telling was poor, and the author modeled the perfect main character after himself.

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva, thriller-mystery
A book that I just hated because of the story and the philosophy and rational behind it. It just glorified hate and excused killing. It was shallow and plastic in terms of writing and characterization. It was a RL book group choice (group #3).

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, fiction
It was supposed to be quirky. It was mostly about cricket ! It was a secret post-911 book. I say secret because it was never mentioned in the recap on the back. Boring.

The Parrot Who Thought She was a Dog by Nancy Ellis-Bell, non-fiction
Story of a woman who 'rescues' a sick, handicapped Blue and Gold Macaw (a tropical bird). She proceeds to keep the bird in an unsafe manner which eventually leads to the bird flying into 80-120 foot trees that surround their home in N.California, in the late fall. The bird is too afraid to fly down and is stranded in the cold and the rain for days.

She goes looking for a replacement bird while hers is still stranded. Eventually the bird's body is found at the foot of a tree. Full of stuff the author makes up about science and bad advice.

Alexander the Great by Nikos Kazantzakis, historical fiction
This is by the same author as Zorba the Greek. It is YA and totally romanticizes everything. The author works in monotheism and the Greek hatred of Turkey. Very shallow, plastic, and inaccurate.

Death's Daughter by Amber Benson, fantasy
An urban fantasy that is about Death's Daughter, who is somehow in her 20s, ( she and the family have immortality, but the kids are 'growing' and Death and the wife are in their '30s'). She was rebelling and living away from her family. Her father - Death, and older sister have been kidnapped and she is called back to help.

The POV character is whiny, stupid, shallow, self-absorbed and unstable. The book reads like a product placement agreement. The story makes no sense and is abandoned half-way through. The back-story makes no sense either. This was a RL book group choice (#4 group).

Terminal Cafe by Ian McDonald, SF
Badly written, jumbled tale of the future where death has been conquered by nano-technology. The dead return, but have no rights or standing, because the laws have not changed. Follows a group of friends who get together in a Necroville for a party every year.

They are spoiled, rich, whiny and lazy. The actual story is a bunch of vignettes of them living their lives as the time draws near for the party. The back story is implied rather than explained.

Undead and Unworthy by Mary Janice Davidson, humorous vampire romance
This is a book in the Queen Betsy series. They are light, fluffy, warm, charming, and funny. Or at least they were. The premise is that a Valley Girl type dies and comes back as Queen of the Vampires. She has no interest in their rules and rituals and because she is the strongest can do what she wants. It freaks the rest of the vamps out.

The books are very light, but the publisher has put them out in HC and split them in 2. So there is really no story, they aren't funny, warm or charming anymore either. They just argue and it is annoying. The story also makes no sense. She is the most powerful around, but now is running away from the Fiends. Huh ?

The Last of the Angels by Fadhil al-Azzawi, world fiction
This is also a book group read (group #2) and I am the one that inflicted it on them :(. It is a story set in 1950s Iraq, when the Brits ruled them through the oil company, though they have a King too.

The story is nothing like the recap on the back. It is middle-eastern magical realism, and jumps from one thing to another. No real main character or even story. More a story of the people living in a Kirkuk neighborhood and the time period than anything specific. I couldn't finish it.

The other book I couldn't finish this year was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Its not a stinker, but it was boring and I couldn't force myself to keep reading about people and events I didn't care about.

Jan 1, 2010, 3:52pm

One of my book clubs is planning to do A Tree Grows in Brooklyn this year. I'm not thrilled. I may look through it anyway.

Jan 1, 2010, 4:06pm

It has been a long time, but I really liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I can see it being a book you need to be in the mood for, though. If you give it an honest shot, you might just like it after all.

Jan 1, 2010, 4:10pm

I just started reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and have already found it to be a bit boring. Thanks for the info.

Jan 1, 2010, 4:24pm

I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it's one of my favorites, in fact.

I loathed The Phoenix Transformed by Lackey, Mercedes and Mallory, James. It was depressing and pointless and the characters were unlikeable and people changed their minds for no reason and and and... YUCK! Worse, it was the final book in a trilogy. But I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised. They did the same thing with the Obsidian trilogy. The first books were great/good and the third sucked.

Jan 1, 2010, 4:34pm

I'm fascinated by the history of hiding and exploiting art in Europe during WWII after reading Rape of Europa by Lynn Nicolas a few years ago. So I began Pictures at the Exhibition by Sarah Houghtelling, a work of fiction, with high hopes only to be bored to death by the characters. Major disappointment.

Jan 1, 2010, 6:59pm

I received Amy Bloom's new book, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, with ER. I had not read anything by her and had to make myself finish the first story of the collection.

Another I could not finish: The River Queen by Mary Morris. Though I reviewed and finished Anita Shreve's A Change in Altitude, I was disappointed by it. I am so used to not finishing books that I probably could do a whole other list of those I finished half of in 2009.

Jan 1, 2010, 10:21pm

This year I couldn't finish:
Angela's Ashes - So grindingly sad - and NOT a book I was into while 7 months pregnant. I think I stopped at the third or fourth death in the family. I may finish at some point.
Jane Austen and Zombies - - not worth more than a skim of my favorite parts
Midnight Sun - a silly read, but so repetitive that I can't bring myself to finish the last 40 pages

I finished, but was disappointed by:
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby - I just love his other stuff, but maybe here he did TOO good of a job capturing the dynamic and tension of a divorcing couple. Ugh.
Eggs by Jerry Spinelli - another favorite author, but this seemed like a retread
True Mom Confessions by Romi Lassally - a complete waste of paper, ink, and time

Edited: Jan 2, 2010, 7:39am

This year I didn't finish:
The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Fabulous Tale of Romance, Adventure and Faith in the Medieval Mediterranean by Burton L Visotzky

Jan 2, 2010, 9:14am


Jan 2, 2010, 9:16am

ditto to The Monsters of Templeton...finally gave up on it. I did finish The Emperor's Children but also did not like the characters.

Jan 2, 2010, 6:47pm

I was REALLY disappointed by my first book of the year, a photography book I'd specially requested for Christmas called On Reading by Andre Kertesz. I wanted an imaginative set of bookaholic photos that I could relate to, and I got a bunch of elderly gentlemen sitting in parks c.1950 reading the paper. Addition by Toni Jordan never went anywhere, and in Passing for Normal, the OCD/Tourettes autobiography, I found Amy Wilensky insufferably selfish and revolting all the way through. Oh, and Ella Enchanted, for all its charming reputation, was RUBBISH compared to the movie (I don't think I've ever said that before!). Wow, where has all this literary bile been hiding this year?

Edited: Jan 4, 2010, 5:00pm

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston Puerile psychobabble.

The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins - I really wanted to like this one because her first book, Midwife of the Blue Ridge was excellent. This one was poorly written plus I didn't like the title character at all.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen Mean-spirited characters, poorly written, one of the worst sentences I've ever read in a fiction book: “The woman swallowed, a bony ball moving within her thin, withered neck.” Is that not some of the most awful prose you've ever read? My November ER book and the best thing about it was that it ended.

Edited: Jan 5, 2010, 4:00pm

Whoa, I'm glad I didn't waste my time even requesting that one (I thought about it though!).

edited to make sure it was understood I was referring to The Silent Governess

Jan 5, 2010, 4:19pm

For some reason, I couldn't get into Sense and Sensibility, even though I quite enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and loved Emma.

The two real clunkers for me in 2009 were The Red Badge of Courage and Joanna Hershon's The German Bride.

Jan 5, 2010, 4:19pm

#80 sydamy - I'm in the minority, though - there are quite a few positive reviews about it. Can't understand why. I thought it stunk in triplicate.

Jan 5, 2010, 5:25pm

I believe the clunker of the year for me was Haunted America, a young adult "nonfiction" about haunted houses in North America. While I think the scariest books/movies are probably paranormal horror, the fact that people can still be this superstitious makes me sad. :(

Jan 5, 2010, 11:50pm

Here are mine:

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish - one of my first LT early reviews that I really disliked
Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck
Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier - When will she everwrite a book that's even half as good as Girl with a Pearl Earring?

P.S. #49 - I SO agree about The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. Such a disappointment after being blown away by The Lovely Bones.

Jan 6, 2010, 9:13am

Couldn't agree more, jhedlund, about Burning Bright. One more disappointment after the wonderful Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Jan 6, 2010, 9:54am

Two I couldn't finish...
The Terror and Hyperion both by Dan Simmons. Hope I've learned my lesson.

Two I did finish...
Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt and The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston.

Jan 6, 2010, 10:03am

I had only one clunker for 2009 Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen.

This one was raved by critics from around the globe (which should have given me a clue, alas I never learn) but I found it slow, boring, incoherent, confused, melancholy and tedious to say the least.

It was the only book in 2009 I couldn't finish.

Jan 6, 2010, 10:06am

I'm with whoever had trouble with The Trial. I've been reading it on and off for over a year now, and it's just not doing it for me. Perhaps I don't "get it".

Jan 6, 2010, 10:25am

I found the Trial challenging too, but once I started approaching it as if I was listening to someone tell me his bad dream, and I only read it in 20 minute chunks, it went a lot better. In the end I liked it.

I'd heard that The Girl with the Pearl Earring (which I loved) was Chevalier's only good book, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read The Lady and the Unicorn. It isn't a good as Girl, but as historical fiction goes, it's a lot better than so much other stuff out there. And it's illustrated, so you can see the art that the characters are working with. I have an ER copy of Remarkable Creatures waiting for me, and I'm looking forward to it.

Jan 6, 2010, 6:11pm

So many books here that I've been thinking of reading! Well, not to worry ~ I no longer bother to finish reading anything that is not wonderful in one way or the other (writing-wise or story-wise, pref. both) ~ so I can take a chance on getting any of them from the library & dropping them if they live up to your experiences.

Having said that, I'm left with no clunkers to list here since I don't keep track of books I start and then throw against the wall give up on. Anything I've finishd is at least a decent read, if not amazingly wonderful.

Maybe this year I'll keep a separate list of books I start but don't finish. Ah, doncha just love lists!?!

Jan 8, 2010, 7:51am

#90 Storeetllr - the only books I don't abandon are ER books or ARCs. I owe reviews on both and feel obligated to at least skim to the end. Otherwise, I happily abandon anything that doesn't hold my interest. :)

Edited: Jan 26, 2010, 2:36am

#86 5HrDrive Oh, dear, I hear you on the Hyperion -- I asked a lot of in-the-know science fiction-reading friends (my sci fi section is deplorable) what I should get and everyone was all over Dan Simmons. I read the first 20 pages and sort of stared at it and put it away.

I love Blindness by Jose Saramago, but, holy moly, the only book I didn't finish this year (that I really, really should have: for a book club) was his Death With Interruptions . Rambling satire about European governments just didn't translate into English for me. So. Boring.

Feb 6, 2010, 3:27pm

52 - Oh, God of Small Things is pretty much my favorite book.

The ones that left me cold this year, though, were Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters -- though I have fairly low expectations for most LGBT YA novels and so was still able to enjoy it a bit -- and The Crying of Lot 49, which... I'm tempted to say I didn't get it, but no. I got it, I just didn't like it. I think I have a very low tolerance for post-modern conspiracy theory sort of things anyway, as the secret society part of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was also unbearable to me, although I really liked that book in general.

Feb 7, 2010, 2:10am

The Great Fire has to be one of my least liked novels ever, I was rooting for the main character to turn into a human at every page turn and he didn't. Perfection is so annoying.

I'm embarrassed to admit I read PS I Love You and made it about 60 pages before I hurled it across the room. Seriously this was the worst novel of the decade. Terrible dialogue, corny descriptions, ick ick ick. That was the last "romcom" I will ever read.