What is this place?
Books NOT to read. These are books which don't merit your
time or money. If they're your favorites, well, I guess there's no
accounting for taste.
There are other books which I merely dislike, but these are the
only ones I've read recently which were absolute, total, complete
and utter disappointments. All of them had the potential to be at
least all right... I was fooled. Now, at least, they won't fool you.
|Heartlight by T. A. Barron
One word: insipid. This book is insipid. People compare
Heartlight to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine
L'Engle, who endorsed the publication of this first book of
Barron's, but in my opinion the similarity is entirely
superficial. The plot of Heartlight is, superficially, a
lot like the plot of A Wrinkle in Time: A misfit girl
must travel via a strange scientific mechanism, guided by an
unfamiliar friendly being, to another star system -- where
"darkness" and an oppressive entity seek to dominate entire
worlds of living beings -- in order to rescue a loved one (after
being helped by kind aliens who heal her injuries) and thus
learn an enduring lesson about the nature of the human
condition. But Barron's prose is just not as good; in fact, it's
|The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
This book is depressing, right up until it turns
incredibly sappy and sweet. It is the non-magical story of two
cousins who are eagerly anticipating spending the winter
together in a huge mansion with all the amenities, but who wind
up, through the fraud of the evil governess, sick and starving,
working in a prison-like boarding school (but only until helpful
friends pop up again and rescue them). This is a cross between
A Little Princess, Oliver Twist, and the Series of
Unfortunate Events. The writing is high-quality, and there are
many follow-up books, but I won't read them.
|Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
This book is full of depressing angst, right up until it
turns incredibly sappy and sweet. It is the story of an
Indian-American teenager who is searching for an identity,
self-esteem, and a boyfriend. Through her photography, she finds
all three, and gains of an understanding of her best friend and
her parents to boot. Ta-da! Now you don't have to read it
yourself. If you did read it, you'd find subplots involving
drugs, alcohol, and alternative sexualities. And you'd learn
some Indian vocabulary.
|Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science by L.
Ron Hubbard (Self-Help?)
Supposedly Dianetics can cure all human problems.
But who needs problems when you've got a solution like this???
Note that I knew this book was total BS when I bought it - most
of the books on this page I thought would be okay, but not this
one. I bought it because of the mysterious goofy space
shuttle on the front. And it was cheap.
|Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
This book is not for me. I read a little and
stopped, which I almost never do. I am not surprised that
the blurbs on the cover were from Eoin Colfer, author of
Artemis Fowl, which I hated. Faerie Wars is too
much something for me; maybe it's too postmodernist for me,
maybe it's too "dark", or maybe it's just a little disturbing.
Thank goodness I got this from the library rather than the
bookstore. I almost bought a copy. Main character
discovers his mother is in a lesbian affair, local glue factory
uses live kittens in its manufacturing, and puts land mines
around the property. That's about all I remember, and
that's as far as I got.
|Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton
Wilson (Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
This omnibus has a
cool cover. (The
Illuminatus omnibus cover is cool too, but not as cool.)
Too bad I judged it by that. It's one of those sci-fi
books that jumped not only on the quantum physics slash
multi-dimensional reality bandwagon but also on the analytic
psychology bandwagon. The vocabulary is awash with a
redundancy of terms which don't belong in sci-fi and a dearth of
ones that do. I didn't read past about page 50 of this
omnibus. It was crude for my taste, and the author gives
the appearance of holding the entire human race in malevolent
disdain - we don't pay enough attention to the six-legged
majority on our planet, apparently. We are just primates
with delusions of grandeur and various other inherent psychoses.
Probably I'm not meant to take this attitude seriously, but then
again, it wasn't funny. Douglas Adams is funny. RA
Wilson just has, ironically, delusions of grandeur. I wish
I hadn't started to read this book at all. I'd have been
much happier to admire the cover in ignorance of what the cover
|The Saint of Dragons by Jason Hightman
This book was thoroughly mediocre. It mostly got good
reviews on Amazon, but I didn't enjoy it.
|Briar Rose by Rober Coover
Two bachelor's degrees but I'm a sucker for books.
I saw a book called "Briar Rose" and I assumed it was going to
be an enjoyable fairytale. I was so wrong! I should
have read the back of the book - it would have warned me a bit
about what I would find inside. Says the rear cover:
"Robert Coover's many acclaimed works of fiction have
established him as a powerhouse among America's postmodernist
writers." Postmodernist? Yuck! This slim
little volume tries to be inventive, profound, and titillating
at the same time. However, it's merely a carjacked
non-story, repellent and difficult to read. And, as the
cover says, "impossible to paraphrase." So I won't try,
and you won't be missing much. God help you
if you're at Brown, where the author teaches "electronic and
experimental writing." Whatever that means.
|The Talisman by Stephen King
This book is supposedly fantasy/horror. Emphasis on
the Horror. I read this book on the recommendation of a
friend, but this is not a genre I am comfortable with.
Noble quest, yes. Magical worlds and creatures, yes.
But worth reading? No.
|The Magic Circle/The Circle Opens by Tamora
Pierce (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
I've decided (after reading 8 of them) that I don't really
thoroughly like Tamora Pierce's books. They are intelligent and
engaging, but they have several flaws. One is that they are a
little grotesque at times: there is a good deal of blood and
gore, which is a little disturbing to me, and I'm older than the
intended audience! Still, I admire the honesty with which the
books address vice and evil. However, there is a bit too much
political correctness for me in these stories: there's even a
note in one book defending a mention of furs! My least favorite
book was Briar's book: it dealt with an unpleasant epidemic that
starts in a sewer in the slums.
|Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce
Coville (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
Reads like a bad cutesy animated cartoon movie or TV
show. Really lame. Has sequels. Avoid at all costs.
|A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
This book seemed like science fiction to me. That's
backwards, I know: science fiction stories are derived from real
science, not the other way around. But really, some of the stuff
these astrophysicists think up just from looking at stars is
really out of this world. I truly doubt the soundness of their
"accepted theories." Hawking says that any good theory must
account for current data and make falsifiable predictions, but I
still think he's living in some sort of mathematical dream
world. He talks about the oneness of time and space, about the
beginning and end of time, God in the act of creation, and space
bending. He talks about particles we can't measure or sense, but
somehow "know" exist because of their effects. And he inserts
patronizing comments which sound like bad jokes. I didn't really
learn much science from him.
|Beast by Donna Jo Napoli
Interesting re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. Infused with
Persian culture and vocabulary. Too much vocabulary, if you ask
me. The book *was* written by a linguist, but the use of foreign
words wasn't as skillful as I would like. James Clavell does a
much better job with Japanese phrases in Shogun. They are
repeated enough not only to be useful throughout the book, but
to be remembered when the book has been laid aside. Aside from
that quibble, which is kinda a big deal for me, it was an okay
story. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, but this
story comes mostly before the tale I'm familiar with. What I
would call the
*real* story is tacked on in abbreviated form at the end of the
book. I'm also not comfortable with the narration, which is an
unconventional first person *present tense* narration.
Fairy tales are long ago and far away, but this one lacked the
detachment one expects when reading fiction, and thus felt
wrong. If you want to experience this odd lack, go to
Amazon and read a bit of the excerpt. All and all, the
book was only okay. I like McKinley's Beauty better, but her
Rose Daughter had *way* too much gardening in it for my taste.
|The Firm by John Grisham
Whoever wrote the movie did a much better job with the ending. I
saw the movie first, and desperately wanted to read the book. I
was disappointed. In the movie, the ending is clever, and
results in freedom for all the protagonists. Mitch is honest to
his wife and loyal to his clients. He breaks no laws, and in
fact becomes a champion of over-billed clients. In the book, the
ending is a desperate flight, achieved with force and obscene
amounts of bribe money rather than cleverness. The ending is
drawn-out, tense, and does not result in complete freedom. The
protagonists escape with a huge pile of (government) money, but
they have to leave the US and wander around in the Caribbean
|Winter of Magic's Return by Pamela F.
Service (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
The premise was that humans destroyed themselves and their earth
with their (nuclear) technology, so who needs technology anyway.
There is a lot of description of the consequences, of the
changed land and the destruction, of the mutated plants,
animals, and humans. Magic, not technology, is what people are
beginning to look towards to hold their frozen and dead world
together. Magic in the form of the improbable return of Arthur
and Merlin. Whatever.
|Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
Read Longitude, another book by Dava Sobel, instead. Longitude
covered some interesting historical territory, but this book was
just frustrating. It details one scientist's loss of the battle
with the church for freedom of thought and expression. There was
one part that I liked: it was Galileo's explanation of size and
that part and skip the rest.
|The Mission Earth series by L Ron Hubbard
I only read the first one. The protagonist hates anything which
isn't as filthy and evil as he is. This rather clouds the entire
book. Furthermore, the ending isn't an ending so much as an ad
for the next nine books.
|"Cathy" comics by Cathy Guisewite
If you want to be depressed, feel free. Cathy's life stinks. One
comic strip at a time, in the newspapers, doesn't really give
the overwhelming sense of despair that you get from reading a
whole book of comic strips. She and the other characters only
talk about being fat, pathetic, lonely, stressed out, and broke.
To think that the author named her protagonist after herself!
|The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibboston
I thought I'd like this book, but the author really just rubbed
me the wrong way. I started reading it and didn't like the
style, so I didn't finish reading it. I don't plan to try out
any of her others.
|The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy,
Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (Literature
A rambling bawdy story with unorthodox spelling and
punctuation by modern standards. Long and boring with way too
many end notes and an okay introduction.
|Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven
Spielberg (Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
I'm hoping that in this case the movie is better than the
book. The scene changes were abrupt and the description
insufficient. Characters needed more justification for their
reactions and actions.
|The Particolored Unicorn by Jon DeCles
Not that you'd read it if left to yourselves. I imagine this is
a somewhat obscure book. A total flop. No one puts hang-gliding
unicorns in fairy tales. Or at least, they wouldn't also botch
the plot, include bizarre sexual escapades, and end with a
hot-air balloon escape from a castle defended by goo and
airborne jellyfish. No, as a matter of fact I'm NOT making this
up. I couldn't have if I'd tried.