Book Burning

I’m no literacy scholar. Nor am I someone who’d go through 100 books a year.

So when I say I hate a book, you don’t have to agree with me.  I don’t expect you to.

I have a policy when it comes to reading a book.  Once I start, I must finish even if I don’t enjoy it all that much.  You know, the whole finish what you’ve started thing.

There have been occasions, however, when I just couldn’t go through with it.  Sometimes it was because it was boring. Sorry, Dickens. The Great Expectation will be read someday…as soon as I can stop falling asleep every 5 pages.  Like Reading Lolita in Tehran. I didn’t even get to actually reading Lolita, I don’t think.  About the 5th time it was complained about the horrible situation for women, I was done.  We got nowhere for 1/3 of the book already.  Sheesh.

Sometimes it’s the writing style…which you’ll read about later on.

At least with these that I quit early, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time.  You know, it’s like tasting something you weren’t sure you’d like. If you throw it away now, then you only have a little bad taste in your mouth.  But if you go finish it, you will suffer the pain and hate yourself for having gone through with it.

And that is exactly what happened with the first book of 2010, Anne Rice’s Angel Time.

It was one of those that I was hooked into the story and the characters just to get let down at the end.  Those that I really want my time AND money back after I finished.  I am so angry and disappointed to have invested my emotions and time (and money!) into it that I do want to burn that fucking book down so nobody else has to suffer the same fate.

First on the burn list, Angel Time.

From the cover, Angel Time showed some promises. The jacket grabbed my attention while I browsed through limited new fictions in Asia Books in Bangkok.  I grabbed this from Anne Rice’s website.

The novel opens in the present. At its center: Toby O’Dare—a contract killer of underground fame on assignment to kill once again. A soulless soul, a dead man walking, he lives under a series of aliases—just now: Lucky the Fox—and takes his orders from “The Right Man.”

Into O’Dare’s nightmarish world of lone and lethal missions comes a mysterious stranger, a seraph, who offers him a chance to save rather than destroy lives. O’Dare, who long ago dreamt of being a priest but instead came to embody danger and violence, seizes his chance. Now he is carried back through the ages to thirteenth-century England, to dark realms where accusations of ritual murder have been made against Jews, where children suddenly die or disappear . . . In this primitive setting, O’Dare begins his perilous quest for salvation, a journey of danger and flight, loyalty and betrayal, selflessness and love.

Intriguing, right?  So naturally, I ordered it when I came back. Amazon ratings gave it 4 stars.  Brandon was also interested to read it.  Today’s Assassin in 13th century? Yep, we’d really like to know how he’d pull that off.

Brandon got no more than a few chapters in when he gave up.  Now, you have to understand the the Mister is an avid sci-fi reader.  He’s willing to suspend disbelief for the fully fabricated story. However, the inaccuracy of something we know as true will drive him bonkers. One point he couldn’t get over is how Anne Rice would say that the Mission Inn in Riverside is “a couple of hours away” from Beverly Hills and San Juan Capistrano.  Seriously, lady. Have you actually DRIVEN in Southern California?  It definitely takes more than 2 hours from 90210 to the 909. Ditto to SJC.

Brandon also warned me that the writing is very tedious.  Apparently Anne is spending time describing every crack in the beams on the high dome ceiling held together by 18th century glue made out of prized race horses. Or something like that.

Having more tolerance to narrative than the hubby does, I was determined not to let the book defeat me.

Yep. Tedious is correct.  I even caught Anne rice using the same phrase twice within a few paragraphs from each other a few times.  Still I soldiered on.  A quarter of a book in and he still hasn’t killed anyone yet, but he’s getting to it.  Okay fine.  I’ll read a little more.  And then the Angel showed up and we were introduced to how Toby came to be Lucky the Fox, the lute playing, history book reading, mission visiting, quietly praying assassin.

THAT was the part that got me very interested.  Cutting through the tedious tiny details were action, tension, and drama.  Fantastic fun!  Now I know all of Toby’s skills, I was actually excited to see what he’d do in the 13th century.  Oh boy!  It’s going to be worth trudging through the first half the book!

Not so much.  Actually, it’s the second half of the book I want to burn.  Talk about TEDIOUS!  Do you really need 3 chapters to tell a back story? SERIOUSLY? And predictable. I mean at some point you can tell how it’s going to end. I skimmed through the second half because I already know how it is going to end.

The first kicker.  All the stuff you’ve learned about Toby before, what he could do, none was used here.  He didn’t play the lute.  He didn’t use his master of disguise skills since the Angel provides him with magical assistance whenever it is convenient.  He didn’t kill anyone.  All he did was, well, a Lord of the Rings journey: go here to get the story which will lead you to over there which you will have to bring something back here etc.  WTF?!?

The final kicker. One thing I didn’t see coming happened. And dude woke up in present time with a few pages left in the back. If that was all dream, I will send a VERY angry letter to Anne Rice.  It wasn’t all a dream though, I have to say.  But there’s a bombshell.  And the bombshell is contrite as hell and I kind of already guessed that too.

I truly hate it when I was strung along for the ride and there was nothing at the end. No resolution. No answers. Not even a fucking t-shirt.

Yeah, I’m talking to you too, Dean Koontz. *mumblegrumble* Never explain that stupid slow room in Odd Thomas. Don’t tell me it’s in the sequel because you already lost me there, sir. And that slipping through the slot in time thing in From the Corner of His Eyes wins shark jumping medal. *mumblegrumble*

In case of Angel Time, I’ve been strung along and driven off the cliff a long time ago–I just didn’t know when I was going to hit the ground.

Now, back to the fact that I also have books I couldn’t get through because of writing styles.

I must be truly too dumb to appreciate the Pulitzer Prize winning The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Again hooked by the glowing review everywhere for the young writer and the premise of a multicultural sci-fi nerd teen.  The writing style is what gets me. I know it was supposed to be the point of view of Oscar with all of his Spanglish etc. Then there’s some Spanish thrown in for good measures without any translation.  But my GOD it was really hard to read, disruptive and frustrating.

I wanted to give it another try after I was done with Angel Time but of course only a few pages in and I was reminded once again why I didn’t get through it in the first place.

There’s another critical acclaimed book like that that I bought years ago–it was a HUGE volume too–that I didn’t event get past a 1/4 of it.  It was supposed to be about wizards in 18/19th century England that were going to war. Or something like that. I don’t even remember the title. Nor whom I given the book too.  The book was written like a term paper. TONS of footnotes and even more notes in the footnotes.  Disruptive as hell and just wayyyy too much information.

Would I toss that Oscar Wao into the fire with Angel Time?  I might as well. The fire’s already roaring.

And I think Brandon would throw Michael Crichton’s Timeline in after that.  He’s STILL pissed off about the cop-out ending even now.

I’m sure Kuri would add Twilight to the fire too.

Now, your turn! You tell me what book(s) you wish you haven’t wasted time on?  Which book you haven’t gotten through?


  1. Ok. I won’t burn books, simply out of principle. But I did throw it across the room. Hard. It was so sad and I felt sucker-punched, and I was angry about it.

    Nicholas Sparks, Suzanne’s Letters to Nicholas.

    I wanted to kill Sparks after that one. I haven’t read another thing he’s written after that. Most mass-market paperbacks annoy me due to awful writing.

  2. Ken C.   •  

    Okay, I nominate…“The Ruins,” by Scott Smith. It starts off with above average writing, in an exotic setting, and with some (potentially) likeable young tourists as main characters. There’s an added element of mystery, when their new friend, Mathias, tells of his brother, who was on an archeological mission exploring nearby, but who has now gone missing. All the earmarks of a good tomb-raiding treasure hunt…but NO!

    The group dynamic falls apart after they encounter **spoiler alert**killer vines and unsympathetic Mayans, and they (the tourists) are systematically killed-off**. The characters become increasingly unlikeable, and perform grossly descriptive plant-removal surgery on themselves. The killer shrub is obviously powerful and intelligent, so why haven’t the Mayans destroyed it (it has vulnerabilities), or protected it more securely from trespass?

    About midpoint, the author’s writing became oppressive, and continued in that vein without relief. I knew that nothing satisfying was forthcoming, but I slogged ahead anyway. Really, I should have quit. The ending was absolutely horrible (as I suspected it would be), with nothing to redeem it. Strangely, Stephen King gave “The Ruins” a good review, and it was made into a movie.

  3. kuri   •  

    I liked Interview with the Vampire OK, but not enough to ever read anything else by Anne Rice…

    I liked Oscar Wao a lot…

    I really did hate Twilight. I’d never have gotten through it if I hadn’t been making fun of it on my blog. (I did finish reading it, even though I stopped writing about it.)

    One book I just couldn’t get through was the first of those cavemen books — Clan of the Cave Bear, I think it was called. I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever read. (Still is, unless non-fiction counts. Then anything Jonah Goldberg has ever written comes in first.)

  4. oakley   •  

    Thanks guys for stopping by!

    Tina: I only read The Notebook and A Walk to Remember and I vowed to never touch another Nick Sparks ever again. Totally formulaic.

    Ken: I’ve heard of the movies but didn’t know it was about killer plants. That sounds like it should’ve been straight to SyFy to me.

    Kuri: I really wanted to read Oscar Wao. But man, I just can’t do it. I did try one summer to read all of the Vampire Chronicles. I read Interview and Vampire Lestat and I had it. I figured she’s not writing about vampires now it shouldn’t be too bad. WRONG!

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