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Site last updated:
1 January 2009

Books I Hate

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 (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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 disappointing.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Juvenile Fiction)
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 (Juvenile Fiction)
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 (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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 really 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 was covering.
The Saint of Dragons by Jason Hightman (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
This book was thoroughly mediocre. It mostly got good reviews on Amazon, but I didn't enjoy it.
Briar Rose by Rober Coover (Fiction)
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 (Fantasy/Horror)
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 (Non-Fiction)
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 (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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 (Fiction)
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 indefinitely.
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 (Non-Fiction)
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 proportion. Read that part and skip the rest.
The Mission Earth series by L Ron Hubbard (Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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 (Comics)
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 (Juvenile Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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 and Classics)
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 (Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
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.

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