Last week on my new, and hopefully not dreadfully short, series for ‘Read But Not Forgotten’ I looked at some of my favourite series starters from before I started blogging or reviewing in any meaningful fashion.
Today’s offering is a look back at the books that I really wish I hadn’t wasted my time on. It’s a mixture of physical and audio and, in one case, the narrator spoiled what is supposedly a great book.
My original post can be found here: Read But Not Forgotten – Series Starters
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce:
When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.
He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.
Harold Fry is the most ordinary of men. He just might be a hero for us all.
My main concern was that the characters did not seem real (they were also painfully stupid), nor did their dialogue. Almost every bit of dialogue sounded painful when you thought of it in an actual real-life conversational sort of way. I very much doubt I would have gotten through much of it if I had been listening to the audio book.
Another annoyance is the distances Harold travels. The average walking speed is about 3-4 miles per hour. Yet an out of shape old man with nothing but canvas shoes and incredibly poorly maintained feet manages to exceed this on occasion. I just could not really find myself getting ‘that’ feeling where you just have to turn the page. This book has received loads of favourable reviews, however. So perhaps my tastes are just different to most people who opted to read this title.
Also, the ‘twist’ … not that one could hardly call it a twist, was painfully obvious way early on into the book.
Z-Risen: Outbreak by Timothy W. Long:
A Navy engineer and a tough as nails Marine must learn how to survive the zombie apocalypse without first killing each other.
When the USS McClusky (FFG-41) was overrun by the dead, Machinist Mate First Class Jackson Creed, and Marine Sergeant Joel “Cruze” Kelly, were forced to abandon the ship, and take their chances in San Diego.
Now they are stuck in a city that has been completely overrun with the dead and as the days go by they must range farther and farther away from ‘fortress’ in their search for supplies. Even though both were trained by the military neither one of them could have anticipated the horrors from a nightmare world that is intent on killing them at every step.
Oddly enough, considering it made this list, I actually loved this as I was reading it. Sure, it had a lot of mistakes that an editor could fix, but it was a good story, with decent characters and, rarest of all, it really handled zombies well.
So, you ask, why does Mr Wong’s zombie awesomeness make my list of bad books, I hear you ask? Because he committed a cardinal sin. After purchasing the book and enjoying it right up until the end point I thought to myself ‘wow, nearly at the 100% mark, how’s this going to set up for the next book?’ It didn’t. It got to the ‘end’ and then said ‘to carry on reading, please visit my website. Screw you. Screw your website. I did not pay for this book to be directed to your website.
I don’t know if that’s the case now with this, or any of his books since, but I flat out refuse to read anything else by him because it was back then and I felt cheated out of my money.
Needful Things by Stephen King:
There was a new shop in town. Run by a stranger. Needful Things, the sign said. The oddest name. A name that caused some gossip and speculation among the good folks of Castle Rock, Maine, while they waited for opening day. Eleven-year-old Brian Rusk was the first customer and he got just what he wanted, a very rare 1956 Sandy Koufax baseball card. Signed. Cyndi Rose Martin was next. A Lalique vase. A perfect match for her living room decor. Something for everyone. Something you really had to have. And always at a price you could just about afford. The cash price that is. Because there was another price. There always is when your heart’s most secret, true desire is for sale.
I got into this one way back when I was happy to DNF something (I don’t do that now, torturous though it can sometimes be) and, as you can imagine due to my mentioning it … I didn’t finish it.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad book. It had everything that a King book should have from great storytelling to characters you could feel for. It just felt too linear and, even if I was wrong with where I thought it was going, I didn’t care. It was just ‘person buys item from cursed item shop followed by a section of the item doing its cursey stuff on them’ rinse and repeat. And I just could not get excited for it.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke:
The year is 1806. Centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell, whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very antithesis of Norrell.
So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms that between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.
I’ve listed this one before in my ‘most unenjoyable reads’ post from a while back, but it’s good/bad enough to make a repeat visit to this sort of post.
The writing was strong, there is no denying that, and the blurb made it out to be the sort of magical blend of fantasy and historical fiction that I needed in my life. Just a shame that the blurb was the most exciting thing to happen in the entire book. It was ponderously slow and nothing seemed to happen. I listened to the audio book and feel that 32 hours of my life were drained away by some form of literary vampire.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson:
Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits….
Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.
This is the case of ‘terrible narrator spoiled it for me’ that I mentioned at the top of the post. I was looking forward to reading this but Bernadette Dunne’s narration was not my cup of tea. Her voice sounded shaky, emotional (on the verge of tears) when describing anything. Even the unemotional parts.
For me, she sounded as though she had just been woken up, was thoroughly confused yet tried to read what was in front of her anyway. Caused me to DNF it very early on. A shame, as I had heard good things about this title and had been looking forward to it. It seems to get high ratings on Audible so perhaps that strange narration style is for every set of ears other than my own?