Return to the Shelf

Return to the Shelf: January

My family and friends know me as “the girl who reads everything.” And I do! (Hours have been spent perusing brochures in waiting rooms. Hours.) But sometimes I come across a book that just doesn’t work for me, and (very) sadly, I have to put it down and move on. These are sad moments, my friends. “Taps” is known to play in the background.

That’s what this post is for. (Inspired by Cialina’s Maybe Next Time post!) Since I won’t be reviewing these books (I don’t believe in giving up on a story and then bashing it unnecessarily), I’d like to at least discuss my reasons for marking it as “did-not-finish.” Who knows, I may even decide to give it another chance! (I sincerely hope I won’t be doing this feature often.)

Tempest, Julie Cross
 St. Martin’s Griffin. January 17, 2012.

A time-travel love story? Sign me up! Or, well…as soon as I can figure out where I’m supposed to go. I can’t recall ever having been this confused about a book’s plotline. Doctor Who, sure. Sherlock? Definitely. But when you don’t have special effects to help illustrate all the crazy things that are happening, it can get very difficult to understand a story.

But sure, it’s possible to enjoy a confusing story when the characters are great. Unfortunately, I never connected with Jackson or Holly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Holly is simply a construct, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who advances Jackson’s development. If you know me, you know that is, at the very least, a turn-off.

Lastly, conspiracies abound and while I love me some intrigue and spies, Cross’s attempt at creating a dizzying swirl of complications only succeeded in making me dizzy. Reading Tempest is an exercise in living vicariously, but I could never quite get off the ground and into that dangerous, romantic sky on the cover.

A Million Suns, Beth Revis
Razorbill. January 10, 2012.

It breaks my heart to say this, really it does. When I read the first chapter of Across the Universe in early December 2010, I loved it so much that I printed it out and brought it to my creative writing class to share with fellow readers. I was so obsessed with the world Beth Revis had created, and I couldn’t wait for the book to come out. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. No matter, I was sure that the sequel would be more action-packed and less talky.

I can’t actually remember anything that happened while reading this book. Literally, as soon as a chapter ended and I began another one, I had to go back and reread because I couldn’t remember anything that was said. At times, reading A Million Suns felt like sitting in a science lecture with the lights turned down low. The wonder I associate with science-fiction was watered down, murky and uncompelling.

Part of the problem may be the knowledge that this is a trilogy. It’s almost impossible to really be worried about characters that you love because you know they’re at least going to make it to the last book. I sometimes find it difficult to really get invested and concerned when I’ve already seen the cover copy of the second or third novel. And there’s the rub: do these stories really deserve to be stretched out into multiple books? I will admit that some of the stories that I love could have been told in one book. With such a high-powered concept, it’s disappointing when the actual writing doesn’t live up to the premise. I may still pick up Shades of Earth next year, but AMS isn’t on the priority list anymore.

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4 replies »

  1. It’s really interesting that you mentioned “Tempest” because earlier today I read this glowing review of that book giving it a 5 out of 5. I thought, maybe I’ll be interested. I like time travel, and maybe it isn’t what it sounds like since this person loved it so much… But after reading your comments, I think that it’s exactly what I would have thought it to be, and while I’ll add it to my maybe list, I think I’ll be skipping it. I just don’t have time to read books that aren’t amazing.

    I also really like the way this post is set-up – not about book bashing, but about why it didn’t work for you.

  2. These are great books for you to have chosen to highlight because they both have readers who loved them, so it’s nice to be able to compare reviews. I’m especially fascinated when reviewers who liked a book and reviewers who didn’t like it actually agree somewhat on the flaws, but the latter group finds the flaws to be fatal, whereas the former group still enjoys the ride. It really does prove that taste in books is so subjective: there is no “right.” YABookshelf has a positive review of TEMPEST here. And Intergalactic Academy has a good one for A MILLION SUNS.

  3. I’ve had one DNF this year already and it always pains me when it happens.

    I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about Tempest – seems like either you couldn’t finish it or you loved it. But I’m really surprised by A Million Suns! I still need to finish reading Across the Universe (I’ve been so bad in that department) but I’m hoping that I end up liking AMS.

    Fingers crossed that you don’t have to write too many of these posts!

  4. I find it really difficult not to finish a book. The only books I started for fun and didn’t finish is probably a reread of New Moon U_U

    Of course, uni books don’t count…

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