Despite the number of books I read last year, I only rated 11 of them 1 star! Here are my least favorite reads of 2020:
Plato, Not Prozac!: Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems by Lou Marinoff
As the catchy title promises, this book is a pitch for “philosophical counseling” over medicated therapy. The main thesis is that most of the problems being treated by psychiatry/psychology/religion could better be treated by throwing a random life philosophy at a person instead. And I do mean random. The author takes a smorgasbord approach, borrowing heavily from all types of Eastern and Western philosophy, throws in a few quotes from the Bhagavad Gita, and of sits back to see what sticks. Unfortunately, the result is both boring and uninspiring.
It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox
Very, very dated. Published in 2005, the authors loudly wonder why Hillary Clinton never ran for president. Hmm. Didn’t really reveal anything new and overall irritated me with its supercilious tone. Further, the “academic” writing style did much to mask the the readability of the findings, resulting in the authors point-blank stating their very messaged conclusion to get their highly doubtful point across.
Rose O’ the Sea by Countess Barcynska
Published in 1920, I don’t know if I can think of a single redeeming thing about this book. The story follows the naïve, “innocent” heroine, Rose, who cares nothing for money and only wans to work with flowers and live near the sea. So, she does the obvious thing and moves to London. There her sweet innocence makes everyone around her become a better person…except for the ne’er-do-well young wastrel who tries to kiss her. His Dad goes to apologize and ends up falling in love with her himself. They get married. But don’t worry, family gatherings won’t be awkward because the ne’er-do-well dies of wasting disease after committing the crowning sin of marrying a * gasp * actress. He does repent on his death bed, though, ’cause Victorian moralizing got to moralize.
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
A fairly popular mystery that occurs at a Sherlock Holmes convention, I found this one immensely disappointing. The characters are universally unlikable, the intertwining plots boring, and the solution downright disappointing. I found the main character particularly egregious as he demonstrates no social skills or interesting personality traits besides a boorish ability to destroy crime scenes. Yet somehow he is joined by a Female. A perky, wide-eyed, you-really-hope-she-is-the-villain-because-no-one-should-show-this-much-interest-in-a-human-lumpasaurous type Female. But alas for dashed expectations…and the dignity my gender.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
This book is basically a cheerleader shouting the same peppy phrases over and over again with some pseudo-psychology and pseudo-economics mixed in for good measure. The segment on Marxism especially made me want to go bang my head against a wall. If you are looking for something with substance to help you pursue your dreams or advice on where to start, this is not a great resource unless you want someone yelling at you that rules are for losers and job-security for cowards.
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Do not let the pretty, innocent cover fool you. This is a graphic romance novel all dressed up to look like historical fiction. It may try to be more with its very heavy-handed “be on the right side of history and give women the vote!” theme. But all it succeeds in doing is sullying the names of suffragettes.
Loyalty’s Web Joyce DiPastena
If looking for a historical mystery with the suspense of a Blue’s Clues episode, then look no farther. What the story lacks in intrigue it makes up for in drama fueled entirely by irrational females, pointless miscommunication, and flagrant mistrust for no reason. To be fair, I’d probably have liked this one a decade ago because it is a squeaky clean romance and no judgement if you liked it. But yeah, I am not going to go out of my way to recommend this one.
The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
The story attempts edgy by focusing on the twisted relationship between an obsessive school teacher and his successful student. Unfortunately, it mostly just feels awkward. Read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by the same author instead.
Her Best Match by Tamie Dearen
I suppose I didn’t expect much from a Kindle freebie, but I gave into the promise of a clean, cute office romance. Except instead of sparks flying, I got to read about a bunch of blithering idiots. The heroine, despite being a widow with two grown-up daughters, has the maturity of a 16-year-old. She lands a secretarial job for a fabulously wealthy CEO. Even with insta-love, a love triangle, and a meddling mother, the story could have wrapped up at the 40% mark. The pure effort the plot takes to keep the couple apart is truly something else. Except that it wasn’t really extra plot. It was just stupid misunderstandings that keep going and going and going until you wonder how any of these people accomplish anything.
Candide by Voltaire
It is satirical. It is historically relevant. And it is trash.
Old World Murder by by Kathleen Ernst
A cozy mystery set at Old World Wisconsin with references to Madison, Eagle, and Waukesha County landmarks?! So much potential! But alas, I’ve not been this disappointed in a Wisconsin-themed story since The Coincidence of Coconut Cake tried to pitch cheese curds as the food of love. To name a few issues: the timeline is super confusing, the romance utterly unbelievable, the faux-feminism offensive, the last 10% of the book superfluous, and the focus entirely on Swedish ancestry. Swedish! Like this is Minnesota or something! Excuse you, it is New Berlin, Wisconsin, not New Stockholm.