Saturday, November 14, 2009

Books that have Bummed Me Out

I don't do a lot that is terribly interesting, so it's not always easy to come up with something to write about. But one thing I do - I read...a lot. Interestingly enough, it is not because I am unemployed and have time on my hands - I have always been this way. Those of you that know me are nodding your heads - and you all know that for the most part, I turned off my TV in like, 1998. I am always the person who sees previews for movies and says, the book.

I am always looking for good fiction - anything imaginative, exciting - anything that moves me in any way. Which is pretty much what anybody is looking for I suppose. Funny thing about me is that I will keep reading a book until it's bitter end - even if I hate it. I can only think of a handful of books that I actually put down before they ended (one that comes to mind is "PS - I Love You" which was so predictable and sappy I couldn't take it anymore). Is muscling through books I am hating a huge waste of hours in my life? Yeah, probably - but I just always have to know what happens. Even if I groan and moan and carry on about how awful it was. Perhaps it's a sickness? an obsession? A form of OCD maybe? Not sure. It's simply part of what makes me tick.

I do have favorite authors, as any big reader does - my "go to" guys, books I will buy - in hard cover even - because I am sure that I will enjoy them. Or, there are books that I will buy because I have heard good things about them. And then there are books that I buy because they are part of a series, and I just have to know how it all ends.

But lately I have to say that much of the "tried and true" that I have been buying and reading has been disappointing to say the least. And I'm here to tell you about it so you don't waste your money and/or your time reading a bunch of crap, even if I did. And if these are books you read already - I am sorry. But maybe you can commiserate with me on their crappiness. Or yell at me because you thought they were awesome.

BUT just so you don't walk away from reading this thinking I am Johnny Raincloud, I will try to recommend similar "alternates" that I did actually enjoy a great deal.

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

OK, seriously Dan...can I call you Dan?...The DaVinci Code came out in what, 2003? That's 6 years...and this is the crap you came up with during all that time? WTF? I feel very strongly about this because I really REALLY liked The DaVinci Code as well as Angels and Demons. What a great mind this author has! I kept at this book, pretty much non-stop for 2 days because I was so sure it would get good, some spark of greatness similar to his other novels would make its way to the surface. And it never did. In fact it just kept getting worse. I found it difficult to really care about the Freemasons and what they've been up to. The end was so anticlimactic and I honestly am not even sure what the whole Noetics thing is, or what real relevance it had to the storyline, other than filler copy. And really? A sensory deprivation tank with breathable liquid in someones secret basement? Come on. The piece of tarp slowing Langdon's free fall from a helicopter thousands of feet in the air (Angels and Demons) was more plausible - and that was completely over the top. What a letdown! THUMBS DOWN MR BROWN.

Read instead: His two "non-Robert Langdon" books, Deception Point and/or Digital Fortress. You could also try the author Steve Berry, a lot of his stuff is similar but not so hyped up that you expect the world from it. It's good - not great, but good and is definitely in the same genre.

The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb

This may top the list on complete total utter disappointments in all my days of reading books. I looked forward to this book for years and years, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True are two of my favorite books of all time. And then Wally comes up with this monstrosity. It started out very good, it seemed very promising - but then BANG - every socially sensitive topic got thrown in, and it became this disorganized, pieced-together Frankenstein plot - post traumatic stress, economic difficulties, drug addiction, adultery, dysfunctional family life, suicide resulting from military service in the Middle East, inter-racial marriage, same sex marriage - oh, you name it, it was in here. What a horror show. I was so seriously bummed out by this book - its badness affected me for days.

Read Instead: I am not even sure what to recommend in its place, Wally Lamb's stories are so uniquely moving and insightful - it's hard to come up with something even remotely comparable. The closest books I can think of would be Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (what a wonderful, amazing book!) or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (if you haven't read that gem already). And if you haven't read the first two Wally Lamb books I mentioned - I can't recommend them enough.

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

I really enjoy Dennis Lehane books, they are usually exciting, nail-biting crime/thrillers (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) and I make it a point to read all of his stuff. But this most recent book was just plain boring. It was about the formation of the union and subsequent strike of the Boston Police Department in the early 1900's. Zzzzzzzzz. I couldn't get into it, but my mother-in-law really liked it. Guess you just have to be into the subject matter?

Read Instead: There are any number of historical fiction books that are soooo much better. Just depends what "history" you prefer. I haven't come across anything good about America during this certain timeframe - has anybody else?

The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

Oh my I'm going to upset a lot of people but I have to say these books are just the worst. I can understand the teen obsession with them, but all of us adults that have become infatuated by this story? Don't get it. I have finished the 3rd one and refuse to move forward until the next book comes out in paperback...or someone else buys it and I can borrow it. I honestly dislike almost every character including Bella's mother, who plays such a minor role, its shocking that Ms. Meyer manages to make her so easily unlikeable with so few "appearances." I have had it with Edward "chuckling" and being oh-so-amused with Bella and her teen angst antics and am so sick Bella moaning and groaning and rolling her eyes and otherwise being a total pill. These two haven't ever had one meaningful conversation and yet they have this supposed intense love that just came out of nowhere. They stare at each other a lot. That's about it. Why she doesn't go with the hot werewolf instead of the cold-as-marble vampire is beyond me. Do I hate these books? Sure do. Will I keep reading them? Of course. I have to know how it ends.

Read Instead: Want a comparable love story? Read any trashy Harlequin Romance. At least they might actually have some decent sex scenes in them.

Interested in Young Adult fiction? There are so many better options out there (and in my humble opinion this is where the truly imaginative fiction should check out this section in the bookstore.) It just goes without saying that Harry Potter kicks the Twilight series' ass. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Going Bovine by Libba Bray and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak are just a few in this genre that have the McVicar thumbs up.

Want a good vampire book? Salem's Lot by Stephen King is always a classic. Anne Rice who pretty much started this vampire love affair has a couple of good ones, Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat are awesome. And I think the best vampire book I've read is Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist - really creepy and its originality manages to stand out in this overcrowded sea of vampire books.

And finally, interested in Stephenie Meyer? Read her book for grown ups, The Host. A very original and interesting story that proves that she can actually write.

Well that's about it I think. I could do more, but this was getting long! Perhaps I will have additional bok review installments. Please, comments! LOVING THEM!- even if you want to disagree! Would love some lively discussion! So glad I fixed that annoying little feature...


  1. OMG I wholeheartedly agree with you on Wally Lamb's lastest and the Twilight series. I was so disappointed in The Hour I First Believed since I too waited years for it to come out. Why did it have to be so awful? I haven't read anything great in a really long time. I am reading The Book of Ruth right now though and liking it a lot more than anything else I've read lately.

  2. I loved this post! I think you should make it a regular installment (at least monthly maybe?)!

    Now, I have to get my Twilight series back although, I have to say I am reading 'Eclipse' right now and wish they would just get on with it for crying out loud.

    I liked 'The Lovely Bones' also and want to see the movie. (My BF Marky Mark is in it.) Karen bought the Wally Lamb book but didn't like it so I haven't bothered.

    Some suggestions from me: The Shopaholic Series (yes, they're stupid/predictable, but I like it). Fight Club is a good one that I've not thrown out. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is REALLY good. It's a Christian book that's the retelling of the biblical story of Hosea, but I thought it was a great book - Christian or not. And, I'm always hooked on James Patterson and John Grisham. Got any reccos for authors that are similar to those two?

  3. I thought Lost Symbol was AWFUL... to the point where I was kind of mad at Dan Brown. I'd been warned off of the Wally Lamb book, so never got it. I did, sadly, buy it for my Mother-in-law for Christmas before I learned how bad it was. Was thinking of putting The Given Day on my Christmas list, but it sounds boring and you confirmed that for me. Couldn't agree more about Twilight... they are pretty awful and I dislike the characters and yet I had a hard time putting them down, so I guess that says something about her as a writer? I do have The Host on my Christmas list. Reading Saving Fish From Drowning (Amy Tan) on Kelly's recommendation and I like it for the most part. I really enjoyed that Born to Run book about that tribe in Mexico... I know you're not that into non-fiction but given your new running career, it might hit home.