Tag Archives: least favorites

Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 4)


The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

An expanded universe where the Scarlet Pimpernel retires and the Purple Gentian and Pink Carnation take over as British spies in post-revolutionary France? Um, yes. But alas, no. The story switches between a pointless side story about a modern day woman working on her PhD trying to undercover the identity of the Pink Carnation and actual story of the Pink Carnation. The former bored me. The latter is a trashy, bodice ripping romance novel whose very existence besmirches the name of one of the greatest works in the English language. Poor, maligned Percy. 

The Perfect Kiss by Anne Gracie

I moderately enjoyed the first book in this series and decided to give it one more try with The Perfect Kiss. It sucked. The heroine was fine, I guess, but the lover boy was a pushy jerk who couldn’t take no as an answer. Decent writing could not make up for a trash story. 

The Spy Who Loves Me by Julie Kenner

Walter Mitty meets the female James Bond. They fall in love because reasons. The end. Oh wait, no, there is a Bond level villain who wants to start WWIII because reasons? He has a sexy, evil female sidekick who will try and seduce the main lead because…reasons? The end. No? There is a super predictable mole within the agency that the reader will figure out in chapter 1 because..reasons? None of this made sense.

Tightrope by Amanda Quick

Don’t judge this lovely book by its cover. It is terrible. It cannot make up its mind what year it is set in, the dialogue feels super forced, and the romance is insta-lust. Oh, and it is also book 3 in the series but nothing on the book will inform you of this. Sigh. So pretty. So terrible.

The Duke’s Marriage Mission by Deborah Hale

Take the worst parts of The Secret Garden, add it to the worst parts of Jane Eyre, then multiply by ten. I give you this book. Nothing spectacularly wrong with it but also nothing spectacularly right. The couple’s immediate attraction, stupid misunderstandings, and lame fights left me irritated. And the “moral” of the story (marriage doesn’t mean giving up freedom!) came as subtle as a fence post to the head.

Temple of the Dawn by Anne Hampson

I wanted to find some books set in Bangkok, Thailand and I found it surprisingly challenging to do so. This book did not actually disappoint me much there. It was fun reading about places I’ve visited. But the romance! The romance was beyond terrible. I almost did not finish with 6 pages to go. The climax/conclusion of the book was so out of nowhere that to even hint at it would be a big spoiler. But if you want the spoiler, check out my full review on Goodreads and avoid this one.


Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 3)

In which I pay penitence by confessing to all the books I finished and hated in 2019. Part 3.

How To Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

I won’t repeat my Goodreads rant about novels that create heroes only barely better than villains but I will say that this otherwise mediocre Regency romance irritated the snot out of me with an entitled jerk for a hero who rages until the heroine agrees to wed him. 

Starting Now by Debbie Macomber

I really need to take a vow not to read any more books that have a female attorney as the main character. They are universally terrible. This was a mediocre read that jumped right onto my “hate” list by having a stereotypical female attorney as the main character and tackling questions about career and motherhood with a heavy-handed horribleness that left me wanting to go work more billable hours. Awkward and overdone and all the romances sucked.

Naughty Neighbor by Janet Evanovich

I give the relationship a year. I thought maybe I could shuffle this one under 2 or 1.5 stars but the ending just left me gagging. The “political thriller” bit totally fell apart. The relationship itself is all lust and hormones. It won’t last. And if it does? Well, I’d be sad for the heroine. She gets the short end of the deal. She should dump the loser and go to law school. 

The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich

Despite the fact that Evanovich appears on this list twice, I actually was really enjoying her Fox and O’Hare series. They consistently received 4 stars from me. Then this book happened. The biggest problem? This is a heist series but this is not a heist book. The jokes fall flat and the characters pretend like the last two books never happened. Evanovich switched co-writers for this one and I’m wondering if that is where it went wrong. 

Rumble on the Bayou by Jana Deleon

In general I enjoy Jana Deleon’s cozy mysteries but this one fell quite flat. It is basically a reverse Louisiana Longshot. Instead of a female government agent in a small Louisiana town sparking up a romance with the overly qualified and good looking male deputy, it is a male government agent in a small Louisiana town sparking up a romance with an overly qualified and good looking female deputy. Even the towns come across interchangeably. Except where Louisiana Longshot keeps things lighthearted and funny with a series of quirky side characters, Rumble on the Bayou focuses on the couple and not for the better. 

Belle of the Ball by Pam McCutcheon

Her name means beauty but Belle is not beautiful. Her sister’s name means charming but Charisma is not charmig. Her other sister’s name means grace but Grace is not graceful. If that is the kind of heavy-handed characterization you like, you might like this book. It is full of on-the-nose plot points and awkward, overstated jokes. The best thing this book has going for it is its $0 price tag. 

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray

All the technical plot points are there to make this an exciting, fun adventure story but it falls quite short. The problems are twofold: annoying characters and unclear plotting. The heroine demonstrates all of two reactions at any given moment: seasickness or judgment. She’s got the soul of a poet but keeps it firmly in place in case she finds herself tempted to crack a smile. She is joined on her journey by the sort of person one meets so regularly in fiction and so rarely in real life: the irresistible man. And that is about all the depth his character has. Wrapped up with some unclear plot-lines (ghosts? time travel?), this story truly misses the mark.

Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 2)

It is the time of the year where I get revenge on all my least-favorite books! Begin Part 2 of Amy’s Least Favorite Reads of 2019. 

This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine

The minute the heroine explained her name was “Jaine Austen” because her mother loved Jane Austen but couldn’t spell, I knew this wasn’t a mystery for me. But I unwisely kept reading anyway. Jaine likes eating, mocking skinny people, drinking margaritas, and whining about her lack of love life. When not doing any of the above she solves a murder. Her motivation made no sense and I found the book in general really irritating. 

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Virginal descendants of Alexander the Great who go around killing unicorns? Heck yeah. If only the plot lived up to its amazing premise. Alas, the execution of the story is rather mediocre. The characters are underdeveloped and the villain downright cartoonish. Finally, a behind-the-scenes rape added solely to push the story along left this book solidly into one star territory. 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I did not connect with this book on any level. And I feel kind of bummed about that fact. I appreciate the way the author kept certain information and slowly released it. It made me wonder if I somehow missed something but actually I just hadn’t been told it. But that is about the nicest thing I can say about this book.  I did not like the writing; I did not like the commentary about sex. I did not like any of the characters. I didn’t so much hate it as feel generally disappointed and disgusted. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

So, admittedly, the problem partially lies with me because I was under the impression this was a middle school novel. It most definitely is not. It also contains a whole list of thing I personally dislike: precocious children (à la The Little Prince and Be Frank With Me), child narrators for adult readers, attempted profoundness, confusing plots that jump everywhere, multiple unclear narrators, casual discussion of a sexual encounter, kissing…sisters?, angst, so.much.angst.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Unfortunately, this book lost me pretty quickly and never regained ground. I stayed perpetually irritated right up until the end. Not even turning the Beauty and the Beast plot into the story of Psyche and Eros (my favoritest myth ever) salvaged it. The hero is as bland as butter. The heroine is a moron who does literally the opposite of what she is told no mater the consequences. Lots of lust-fueled attraction. Not a series I will continue with. 

Bespelling Jane Austen by Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, & Janet Mullany

Jane Austen retellings with a paranormal twist. The Northanger Abbey retelling was clever. The other three made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon. Very TMI.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

So, you are part of an elite team of scientists sending two people into the past to retrieve a long-lost manuscript of Jane Austen’s, do you:

A. Send two people who actually look like the siblings they are posing as
B.  Find two people mature enough not to give into their lust and endanger the entire mission by becoming lovers while posing as siblings
C.  Choose two people who won’t run afoul with the racist and anti-Semitic attitudes of Regency England
D. None of the above

What? None of the above? Well, you would get along fine in this book! The rest of us will stand over here rolling our eyes. 

Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 1)

Did you know the first time I compiled a list of worst reads, I only had five 1-star books? That blows my mind. I have 27 for 2019. Many were cozy mysteries. Many are quite popular with other readers. But while I finished all of them, each definitely earned its place on the list for “Worst Reads of 2019.”

The Unscrupulous Uncle by Allison Lane

It started off promisingly enough. Cinderella-like, the orphaned heroine acts as housekeeper for her garish relations and marries a hero with barely a conversation. If you think I’m giving much away, that’s just the first few chapters. Unfortunately, those were the most interesting chapters in the book. The remainder involves predictable misunderstandings, constant rehashing, and underdeveloped scenes. Most damning of all, the plot sets up the main couple as ‘like brother and sister’ and then spends the rest of the book trying to explain why they actually were never like brother and sister. But the lady protests too much and the result is something much more awkward than it otherwise would have been

To Catch a Bad Guy by Marie Astor

A book that cannot decide which angle it wants to take. It is a legal thriller…no! It is a paper trail of corporate espionage…no! It is a spy story…no! It is a chick flick…no! It is a psychological thriller about really uninteresting characters….nah, I’ve got nothing. While any of those alone might sound interesting, together they create a mishmashed story where every character gets a backstory (no matter how irrelevant their role in the book) and a POV. The main couple’s horrendous insta-love is just icing on the cake. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Joanne Fluke is a fairly iconic cozy mystery writer and I was looking forward to reading her Hannah Swensen series. I barely made it through this one. Disjointed and repetitive, the story hits all the cozy mystery cliches (Midwesterner, small business owner, hassled sister, hints of a love triangle, etc.) without really adding much. The murderer was obvious. I suppose the only thing that makes the book somewhat interesting is the interspersed cookie recipes, but I do not bake so didn’t help much.

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie

Basically, your typical opposites attract storyline with main characters suffering from lust and parental issues (not necessarily in that order.) The main character randomly goes on about how much she loves the book of Job (and apparently she has a copy of it lying around? Like, just of the book of Job. Not a Bible) and for a moment I thought maybe I accidentally stumbled into a Christian romance. Then it got super sketch. I skimmed the last quarter. Not worth it. 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Possibly the most universally popular book I hated this past year. I think I literally liked nothing about this book. The story follows a severely messed up woman who twenty-five years earlier starred at her mother’s murder trial by naming her brother the culprit. When some new evidence crops up, she joins forces with a secret society set on clearing her brother’s name. The story switches from present day to the day of the crime. Despite the interesting premise, I found the book vulgar and excruciatingly boring. The twist further irritated me with its very senseless and pointlessness. 

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

I think this book made me hate Jane Austen, just a tiny bit. The premise intrigued me because it involved a professor who loves both Jane Austen and trashy Regencies. So many Jane Austen spinoffs involve heroines who act like they wouldn’t know a Harlequin if it bit them on the bottom. So I figured, worth a shot. But it wasn’t. I hated the insufferable characters, the over-the-top quotations, the ridiculous plot. I hated the predictability of it all. Do yourself a favor and watch the movie Austenland instead. (Or read the book, but the movie is better.)

The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd

Been ten months but I still feel the heat of my rage towards this book. Forget setting women back a decade. The Barefoot Princess sets women back to the stone age. The hard part is the book contained enough potential to make me think an actually decent story lay under the surface. The heroine starts off strong and her name is Amy! But the asshole hero and their seriously unhealthy relationship left me disgusted. The conclusion was a travesty. Avoid! For a better book involving a princess named Amy, try The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye.

YA Gone Wrong: My 1 Star Reads from 2016

While I had a record breaking amount of 5 star reads in 2016, I also rated fewer books 1 star than I ever have before. I like to think this is due to the fact that I was reading really good books and quitting early on stories that annoyed me. In reality, it it is probably because I finally gave up on finding a decent chick flick.

Whatever the cause, here are the 5 books I most regret reading in 2016:

The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

This book is supposed to be the debut of Margery Allingham’s detective, Albert Campion. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the plot that. The book actually focuses on a boring, insufferable, “cherubic faced” doctor named Abbershaw. I hated him from the beginning. Campion is around but plays a very limited role. The whole book is slow, confusing, and way too long. A British whodunit gone horribly, boringly wrong. Stick to Agatha Christie.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

I don’t know if this is a book I would necessarily say I regret reading; I was going to read it at some point. However, I was rather disappointed by this one. I have read so much about Marx and Engels that I expected a lot more from their famous volume. It started off strikingly but the writing and logic quickly went downhill. I disagreed with just about every sentence. Literally, the antithesis of what I do every day.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

I have thrown books across the room, but this was the first time I actually threw a book in the garbage after finishing it. While I acknowledge Angels & Demons had a decent twist, anything redeemable was quickly lost in bad writing, atrocious characters, and random plot. The main character is a professor who (the reader is frequently reminded) is hawt and emotionally traumatized.He meets a hawt, intelligent woman who runs around with little clothing on, admires his brilliance, and occasionally provides exposition. (So much for female empowerment.) There is an Evil Bad Guy who is so entirely villainous that it is morally proper to cheer for his downfall. Cue nearly 600 pages of this. I hate this book.

The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This was supposed to be “an engrossing Gothic novel of betrayal, jealousy, and treacherous secrets that will keep you guessing” but unfortunately it turned out to be a dark, disturbing and, honestly, stupid novel that I can’t wait to forget about. I enjoy a dark YA story done right (see Plain Kate) but this book was absolutely disgusting. It was badly paced and had bi-polar characters and too much sexual innuendo. Lots of potential but none of it is realized.

Red by Alison Cherry

Welcome to Scarletville, a sanctuary for redheads. Felicity St. John is a high school girl with the perfect life thanks to her coppery curls. However, Felicity has a secret and someone is blackmailing her about: she dyes her hair! Gasp! With a synopsis like that, I was hardly expecting my new favorite novel, but I had no idea how bad this book would be. Well, perhaps I did know but I was really hoping to be proven wrong. The book was super shallow and dumb. It has the usual teenybopper romance and cliche characters. There is supposed to be some overarching lesson about discrimination but it gets buried in bad writing and contrived plot elements. Such a waste of time.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

This book was the 4th and final installment of the Raven Cycle, a series I previously enjoyed. Unfortunately, The Raven King falls dramatically short of its predecessors. The plot was incoherent and full of deus ex machina moments. There was a lot of vulgarity and language. I had to force myself to keep reading because every time I put it down I didn’t want to pick it up again. Most of all, though, I was frustrated by the lack of real sacrifice in the story. There was no emotional punch. This book wasn’t so much a conclusion to the series as a ramble involving extremely changed characters. I was greatly disappointed.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

This was the most disappointing book of 2016. I was super excited to read Girl Online (a book with a blogging heroine, yay!) and searched for over a year to find a copy. (See full review here.) However, this proved to be yet another book ruined by bad cliches, juvenile writing, and YA boys. I have a soft spot for sappy story lines but this was just ridiculous. It was impossible to take anything seriously. The “15 year old” heroine writes like a 12 year old and basically has the same level of emotional maturity. Definitely not worth bothering with.

Bad Romances and Boring Thrillers: My 1 Star Reads from 2013

Amy’s One Star Books

What does it mean to give a book 1 star? While two stars, or even some three, may hint at mediocrity, one star remains an unequivocal not worth the time. The book might have had a good plot or interesting characters, but some major feature drove me away. Without much ado, then, I present….some of the worst books I read in 2013.

The Firm by Josh Grisham

Why not jump in with a controversial one? I realize this was particularly popular when it came out. I’ve had several people tell me how much they loved it. It was not much to my taste. Mitchell McDeere is fresh from law school when he receives a job working for a Memphis law firm…with extremely high benefits. It’s an almost too-good-to-be-true job, and as Mitchell begins looking into the company that employs him he uncovers corruption and power…etc. etc. For a legal thriller, it was kind of boring. I was irritated by several scenes, did not like any of the characters, found the pacing off. Overall, it bored or irritated me into increasing oblivion.

Marked by P.C. Cast

Summed up in a sentence? Zoey Redbird gets bitten by a vampire and goes to a vampire high school where subsequent pages involve sex, swearing, and general teenage hormonal angst. I recognize that this “R rated” concoction might be “nothing new” for a teenager in high school, but it was not something I’d recommend.

Enigma by Robert Harris

Another thriller turned sleeper. Details…description…long flashbacks. Summary claimed a genius numbers guy experiencing a breakdown would try and find his girlfriend and a spy. Except both plot points only get going by page 180. Though the twist at the end was interesting, it took too much slogging to get there.

Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguié

A fairytale retelling of Little Red Riding Hood…and not one worth bothering with. The romance was shallow, hormonal, and instantaneous – a horrendous trio. The plot was entirely foreseeable and had a lousy ending. The writing was dreadful. In short? A really badly done retelling of a classic fairytale.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

I actually like a lot of Sarah Dessen’s books. Despite being ‘teenage fiction’, they often strike a relevant cord and make for some slightly escapist but also realistic reading. This book follows a girl who has to move in with her sister and her sister’s husband…it gives her an education and a future but she mainly gives into teenage angst and falls for the neighbor guy and I don’t even remember what all else. Not particularly likeable or relatable on any level. Not worth the time.

The Trial by Robert Whitlow

Another legal thriller…except from the “Christian” genre.  The message is “become a Christian and everything good happens. You get out of jail, crazy people are healed, and you won’t faint after not eating for over 14 days.” Good things happen as long as you are a basically good person who has a nice come-to-Jesus-moment. There is misuse of Scripture, including verses taken out of context for a self-application that is sketch at best. Courtroom scenes were incredibly dramatic, the “thriller” portion badly passed and mainly crammed into the end. Being harsh on the novel but found it not worth it

The Ghost by Robert Harris

Though paced better than Enigma, the book contained a lot of unnecessary scenes and details. A lot is crammed into the end, but the climax doesn’t flow well into it. The main character is boring and unknowable, no character in the entire book is particularly redeemable. In the end, read more like a critique of Tony Blair’s government (or an episode of ‘Life With the Clintons’….) than a believable plot. Also, practically every American – or pro-American- is a bad guy. Meh.

Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguié

Arguably my biggest disappointment this year. It is a retelling of Princess and the Pea…my favorite fairy tale! I waited years for my library to get this one (not joking…). In the end, it was a weak novel with inch deep characters, irritating and predictable drama, and a thin storyline. It left the reader with more questions than answers, hardly a satisfying novel. More than that, it wasn’t even a so-so read worth the read. More irritating than interesting

Morning’s Refrain by Tracie Peterson

I really should avoid Christian romances. They annoy me so much. However, in this case it wasn’t the overt sickly-sweet ‘Christian’ plot that threw me off. That part wasn’t so bad. It was the nonexistent plot, boring characters, and lousy writing. Not much else to say. If you like this sort of thing you read it, and if you don’t you probably have more sense than I do to not pick it up.

Happy Days Are Here Again by Steven Neal

A sugar-coated account of FDR’s 1932 political campaign for president. Though it traces some interesting political maneuvering, overall a very biased and mediocre read

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Who knew a title could be so self-critiquing? A “modern” teenage version of Pride and Prejudice. It adds nothing to the story and hardly stands on its own without a working knowledge of Pride and Prejudice. The entire idea has been done before…with much better results. In short, an immensely useless book.

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Leah Jones is trying to escape her trailer park life…through the skies. She flies for an aerial advertising company flying planes with banners. When her boss suddenly dies, though, she is forced to confront his sons. This book could have been incredible. Minus a the language, it has a huge amount of potential. The general plot is good. The characters are (mostly) good. The storyline is good. The content is …substandard. It boils down to sex and f-bombs. What might have been a great book became awkward, unnecessary, and eventually unreadable.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

In a world where dragons and humans remain at uneasy peace, Seraphina enters the royal court as a gifted musician hiding a dangerous secret. Think Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George but not as good.  There is no happy ending. The book comes to a crashing conclusion and I suppose that means I ought to find the sequel but I don’t have any inclination to do so. By the end I was sick of all the characters, every last one of them. The romance was distracting. The climax was anti-climatic. I remain dissatisfied

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Gosh was this book hyped up. Anna Silver is a cop and Paul Falcon works for the FBI. An old case brings them together…and eventually hey fall in love. Somehow I missed the memo that it wasn’t so much a mystery as a Christian romance novel. The entire plot is like – Ann Silver walks in, tells a story, Paul Falcon falls for her. They drink soda.
Stuff happens.
More soda is consumed.
More stuff happens.
More soda.

Interesting plot but the writing was not fabulous and I found myself bored with both characters. A disappointment…but I should have suspected as much the minute I realized it was mainly a romance.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Oh it was clever, I suppose. The ‘story’ behind Oliver Twist’s Dodger, Charles Dickens’s interaction with a street boy. However, mainly it was uninspiring. Bit of a sleeper. Possibly more like 1.5 stars, but I’m willing to keep it at its entirely uninteresting 1 star level.

A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss

A fictional account of Sarah Edmond’s adventure as a young woman who disguised herself as a boy to join the Union Army. I suppose, if I knew nothing about Sarah Emma Edmonds/Frank Thompson, if I knew nothing of women who disguised themselves to fight in the Civil War, if I enjoyed sappy romances….I might have enjoyed the story. But I didn’t. Because Sarah Emma Edmonds/Frank Thompson was one of my heroines growing up. Even though it has been a few years, I remember quite a bit about her. Lots of creative license taken with this book that distracted me. The first person style of writing only worked to a point. It was limiting and cluttering for the story. The romance was obnoxious. The modern mindset glaring. Not a bad story but had too many of my pet peeves to let slide. The story has been done before…with much better results.

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

A Christian fairytale retelling of Snow White. The characters are shallow, perfect, or self-centered. Most of them are not well-developed. I ended up despising the hero and the romance. My least favorite Dickerson novel to date.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Most of the book involved the main character getting sexually harassed and molested by pervs while pining after a guy. I seem to have missed the redeeming elements of this one. Not my cup of tea. Beautiful writing and description, however it wasn’t enough to distract me from my dislike of this particular ‘coming of age’ story.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

To conclude, I’m going to offer my angry rant written this summer about this book…mainly because I find it really amusing.


A few months ago, I exited a fabulous used book store in Chatanooga with 15 books. I’d gotten some great deals. While waiting for my ride, I sifted through the free book bin and discovered an old copy of “A Short History of England” which I guarantee no one has ever heard of because never exactly was on the bestseller list, even in its heyday, and is hardly short. But it was old, 1920’s or ‘40s, and had a good binding and was getting rained on. I know. Awful. I immediately snatched it up and stuck it in with my other books.
A true book-lover immediately understands my horror. Bad enough to have books get rained off, even awful ones that won’t sell at a used bookstore, but that such an old one would be so destroyed! (I’m pleased to say it came from the experience no worse for wear)
Mrs. Allison Hoover Bartlett would not understand. She is not a true book lover.
“Unrepentant book thief” John Charles Gilkey would not understand. He is most definitely not a book lover.
That the two of them even masquerade as such in this “I want to be a memoir but got hyped as a real-life crime mystery and really am lousy attempt at investigative journalism” is a travesty. I am so irritated right now I should probably wait till I cool down. The book Finally. Freaking. Ended.
Took forever.
Part of the problem is that I am a speed reader listening to my first book on CD since I was like, in first grade. And parts where I could zip-right through get dragged out. The smug tone of the writing, the reader, and just about everything about this book made me want to punch someone in the nose. My, I’m turning violent.
But seriously
You know what makes Ms. Bartlett and I different? I may tell you about saving an old book, but I don’t expect you to care. She, on the other hand, uses her book / biography / memoir wannabe as a platform to express her views about e-books and book banning and her own childhood favorites. And, to add insult to injury, she bores the world to tears talking about how she doesn’t understand. Here’s the thing. I don’t care about her. I don’t care about her son. Or her daughter. Her thoughts. I don’t care what emotions she felt, who she is attracted to, and who has a paunch.
I sound utterly heartless. This just wasn’t the context for her observations. Or maybe it was and this book is totally misrepresented. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the context much for anything. Though random trivia is thrown in and occasionally interesting bursts of book-loving quotes, I can’t help wonder when she glosses over things I know about what else is being glossed over. Oh how great of Jefferson to sell his private library to Congress! Never mind that he was hugely in debt…
See, we didn’t exactly hit it off well immediately. In fact, I scribbled down because I was so indignant:
“Nuh-uh, you did not just try to explain who Moriarty is to me.”
She gives way to many unneeded details. Like when she is visiting the prison and has to remove her bra. Did not….need…to…know…that. I did not need to know that she had to RUN out to her van to “wrestle” it off. That does not add to the story. In fact, it rather disturbs me.
I found her description of the people she interacted with equally irritating at times. Sanders and Gilkey are trumpeted as the two main characters of this book. The “persistent sleuth” and “serial book thief” respectively. Sanders is not given enough time. He isn’t. Not for what he is trumpeted as. However, there is only so much you can say. They really aren’t great, life long rivals or anything. Only so many times you can quote this foul mouthed book selling hippie. In the end, I don’t think she painted him in a great light either. Gilkey comes off as “misunderstood”, while Sanders is “close minded”.
Um, ‘scuse me?
And Gilkey. Let me tell you, he is exactly what is wrong with America. There is no sense of right and wrong. He views everything as a personal injustice against himself. It’s other people’s fault that he can’t afford books. “All” he wants is a good library and to become a gentleman. To live high on the hog without spending a penny of his own personal cash. Why, the penitentiary is perfect for him! He can live on the taxpayer’s dollar. But no, being in jail, those were “sacrifices” for his dream, “forced pauses”. I wish I were making this up.
I really do. He does not love books. He does not love learning. He loves the prestige that comes with books, the aura that comes with knowledge. His craving is for personal recognition, not a selfless esteem for the written word.
But oh no! He’s such a victim. He just loved books too much. His sense of right and wrong just a little skewed, but isn’t he basically like every other book collector?
Um, no, the comparison is offensive.
And Ms. Bartlett, the sucker, falls for his pity party!
What just irritates me to no end, though, what simply ruins this book is that Ms. Bartlett is no book lover. She’s a good little Freudian disciple. But no book lover.
Quote: “a large part of any book is sensual”
She connects everything as sexual. It’s “erotic” pleasure in the book. Holding the book automatically is assumed to be sensual. She almost trips over herself in her eagerness to mention “gay classics” or point out that she has a “feminist classic” on her shelf. Everything is so intense! As if the world depends on her….dates with this creepy criminal dude.
Worse than the “characters” that populate this story is the author’s discussion of herself. Because in this book she is the “heroine.” She is mortified in the bookstore, she wants to (and sort of kind of not really who are we trying to kid) “confronts” him over his crime. She is the one wondering if she should tell the FBI…the one who lies and checks up on the statute of limitations…the one who wants to single handedly discover where his book stash is and “save the day” so to speak. But she never does figure out where the stash is and so she just ends up looking like an idiot. “Even a fool is considered wise when he is silent”, alas that no one ever taught her that proverb!
I am being harsh on this book and I realize that. I am being particularly harsh on the author. However, this book was packaged as a great story about a book thief and the amateur detective who tracked him down. If it was even just the story of rare book collectors and their obsession and the criminals who steal, as the book tries to be, it would be passable. But this book aims too high, tries too hard to be wise, and finally just bores the reader out of their mind. A pretty big disappointment.


You now know which books to avoid in 2014. Happy New Year, readers!