Monthly Archives: December 2014

Awkward Romances and Mediocre Fantasies: My 1 Star Ratings from 2014

Ah, those 1 star reviews. To paraphrase myself from last year, “while two stars may imply mediocrity, one star remains unequivocally not worth the time.” They are good only in how bad they are.

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

“Paying for your mistakes takes on a clever twist on The Scarlet Pimpernel…” That’s what got me.  Scarlet Pimpernel. As in Percy Blackney. As in my favorite literary hero next to the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes. So I read. And read and read and remained utterly baffled to the connection between a former kleptomaniac ghost forcing some poor 16-year-old to return her stolen goods and a classic novel. The answer is…nothing. A mediocre novel with an unoriginal plot that drew its poor rating from a bad handling of teenage sex.

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

Normally I consider Ibbotson a guilty pleasure. Fluffy, perhaps a tad scandalous, but basically clean. At least appropriate, which was more than this novel can claim.  One dimensional characters, dull antagonists, duller heroes, an entirely unbelievable romance with an atrocious misunderstanding to create a climax. However, what takes this particular novel from mediocre to miserable is the heroine’s determination to (and success with) “ruining herself.” It left me furious.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This book actually had some potential. The paranormal divide between angels/demons/chimera held my interest and the struggle to decipher good and bad made an interest philosophical context. Plus, the heroine rocks blue hair. Always a positive. However, the book got dragged down by awkwardness, nudity, sexual references, and charged, sensual hype between two gorgeous people with no flaws and convenient animosity/attraction. By the end I was bored to tears.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Read at the request of my roommate who wanted me to preview it for her. A Twilight rip-off with annoying characters and a plot so bland it doesn’t even deserve the word “mindless.”

 Confessions of a Murder Suspect by Robert Patterson

I should have known better, you say? I quite agree. It was a very stupid book. For all the characters supposed genius, the vocabulary, actions, and behavior of every single Angel child is pathetic, immature, and unbelievable. The ending, while potentially unforeseeable, doesn’t fit with the rest of the book or the characters as they have been developed and was way to open ended. What dropped the book in my estimation to one star was the caricature-treatment of the police officers. The lawyer was also joke. Justice is a mockery.

The Rose Bride: A Retelling of ‘The White Bride and the Black Bride’ by Nancy Holder

Elevatha described this one as “Cinderella meets Bambi”. A very confusing fairy tale full of insta-love and promises that make no sense. A random mix of gods (including Greek) who are utterly useless. Characters that are Evil For No Apparent Purpose or So Good It Physically Hurts. Not to mention the bunch of freaking talking roses. What a waste of time!

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

Sporadic POV and shallow characters made this thriller a pain to read. Because the reader has access to the serial killer’s thoughts, it isn’t very suspenseful. Overall a boring book I forgot as quickly as I read.

Love By The Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan

If the book tried to be funny, more along the lines of the frequently mentioned P.G. Wodehouse, it might have been a success. However, the insinuations made it too mature for a young audience and the weak plot and insta-love made it too young for a mature one. Rather an insult to literature

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

Spoiler: the highest promotion an angel can receive is to become a human. Strained my credulity to the point where I almost didn’t finish. Combine a sappy Christmas movie with a lousy teen flick (I can’t even say chick flick) and you get an idea.

Miss Darby’s Duenna by Sheri Cobb South

Might have been a light, semi-amusing novel if the content had not turned so unbelievably tasteless. Frequent use of Regency slang gives it the feeling of Geogette Heyer fan-fiction. Dreadful in every sense of the word.

Check out the Bad Romances and Boring Thrillers from last year!

2014 Reading Challenge – My 5 Star Reviews

As far as literary merit goes, this year may go down in history as my worst in quantity and quality reading in a decade. (Did the 11 year old Amy read more non-fiction 2004 then I did in 2014? Alas, it is a possibility) The lack can be blamed on a crazy schedule. My lofty goal of 250 books rapidly dropped to 100 new books as my hours fluctuated from 40 to 60 June through November. I mainly read fiction. From Sophie Kinsella to Lloyd Alexander, this year proved eclectic within a certain genre but not very scholarly.

However, I did discover some true gems this year and so, without further ado, I present Amy’s 5 Star Reviews From 2014 (In the random order ordained by Goodreads…and me)

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

A fabulous fantasy/medieval/magical series following an eclectic group of friends (including Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper, and Princess Eilonwy), I loved this series. True heroism and sacrifice are imbedded in each of the 5 books. Though I gave the majority of them 4 stars, Taran Wanderer andThe High King easily deserved their 5 stars. One of those books that brings to mind C.S. Lewis’s wise words: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Out of the Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan and his mother Angela Yuan

Discovered this book when Christopher Yuan came to speak at my college. I highly recommend it. There is so much grace found within its pages. The authors are vulnerable and willing to tell their own stories of brokenness and healing. Without compromising the truth, Out of the Far Country brings a mercy-drenched, grace filled perspective to a frequently damaging and hurtful topic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Usually when I listen to audio books, I end up loathing the book. The speed reader in me grows bored, I feel compelled to finish, and in the end leave more frustrated than enlightened. Not with The Book Thief. I have tried reading it for years and could never get past the first few pages. Listening to it on audio, I fell in love. I understand now why this book is so beloved. I didn’t mind Death as a narrator. I enjoyed it, though he is horrible at spoilers. You would think that would slow the novel down, but it doesn’t. It wets the appetite for more. I like words and this book positively dallies in them.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

I’m not a manager so I don’t know if this book succeeds in its attempt to enable a more creative work environment. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s perspective about creativity and productivity, as well as the history of Pixar’s journey from Steve Jobs to Disney to the problem of sequels. I loved reading about the beginnings of my childhood friends (Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, etc.) Interesting from a historical perspective and a creative one. By the time I finished I wanted to go do something “different and zany” which is always a good feeling.

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

A simply beautiful book for grade to middle school readers about a boy who goes to live with his father, step-mother, and four half-brothers when his Mom goes to jail. Despite the mature sounding plot, this novel strikes a tone of discovery, loss, family, and friendship.  It is innocent yet sorrowful. There are funny moments, sibling rivalry and of course….Freaky Fast Frankie Joe’s Delivery Service.

Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women by Katie Pavlich

I knew the minute I saw that this book was coming out that I would love it. When I got it in August, I read straight through in maybe two hours. Then I reread it. And started it for a third time within a month. Though occasionally she grows a little caustic for my taste, the majority of this book appealed to me. She correctly points out the double standards given to women (and men) based on whether they have a “D” or an “R” by their name. I enjoy Katie Pavlich’s writing. She is a rare journalistic and political role model for young women.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Have you ever read a book and immediately loved it? The loving may have nothing to do with actual literary quality, but the minute you finish you know you have met a best friend. If you don’t know love Helene Hanff, you have never read anything she wrote. 84, Charing Cross Road contains the 20 year correspondence between an American authoress (Helene Hanff) and a British bookseller (Frank Doel). It is short – under a hundred pages – yet immensely endearing. Heartbreaking, amusing, beautiful and sad. And real. Perhaps that is the best part, it is the true letters exchanged by the two. Not a “romance” as advertised, but the story of a genuine love of books and humanity. (The Duchess of Bloomsbury, also by Hanff, is just as satisfying and stands as a sort of real-life sequel)

Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff

The story behind Helene Hanff’s writing of 84, Charing Cross Road and her subsequent experience after its publishing. The book nearly left me speechless. It roused my fernweh. I adore Helene Hanff’s love of England. Her love of books. Her quirky, crisp writing style. Q’s Legacy was a nearly perfect 5 star read. It filled and yet sparked an ache for more. Marvelous.

Check out my 5 Star Reviews from 2013! –