Friday, August 30, 2013

Goodreads Just Needs to Add Half Stars Already

Good books are all alike, bad book are each bad in their own way.
              ~Anna Karenina (sort of)

So I just finished a series last week.  It was . . . not good.  Frankly, it started at "meh" and descended into "awful" by the time I finished.  It was not so bad that I regret reading it - I've read a few of those - but it was bad enough that I do kind of wish I'd known from the start not to pick it up.  I realize that probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but it makes perfect sense in my head so we're just gonna go with it.

I picked it up because it sounded like a fun read, and with multi-thousand reviews giving an average of almost four out of five stars it seemed like it must be at least tolerable, right?  And that's where things all fell apart.  Because I absolutely do not see what it is that the other 93% saw in it to give it a high rating. (perhaps I need to occupy goodreads?)

The hardest part is looking at the ratings my friends have left on the books, which also influenced my expectations of what I was reading - ten ratings, all fours and fives.  And it took some real internal debate for me to give even two stars.

So now we get an oft-visited topic around here - How Lacey Hates Being Noticeably Different from Everybody: Books Edition.  I'd say that easily 90% of my goodreads books haven't even been added by any of my goodreads friends.  But of the books that do have opinions to compare, it's usually pretty varied, and more or less middle of the road.  I don't feel bad about giving a book two stars when I see that people I know have already given it a one, a four, and three threes.  But giving something a one when it has seven fives and three fours . . . is actually a little distressing.  Which sounds totally ridiculous, and is a total non-issue, but at the same time I look at that little list of stars and I can't help but think - what did I miss?  Did we even read the same book?  (I'm about 75% we didn't at this point)

And then I get all self-conscious like I'm in the wrong class or wandered into a wedding reception at some hotel ballroom where I don't know anyone but got pulled into the conga line before I could duck back out and now everyone's asking me how I know the newlyweds and I'm just trying to figure out how to answer in a way that won't make me look like a party crasher.

I feel a little guilty about not liking this trilogy too, almost as if I am crashing a party considering how almost universally well-liked it is.  But the simple fact of the matter is, it's bad.  The first book is iffy, the second book wipes away any potential for redeeming the whole, and the third book is just bad metaphor after stupid cliche after plot hole after illogical and unexplained escape from painted corners.  Rinse, repeat.  I really don't get it . . . and, for a couple of weeks at least, I feel like I almost can't trust my own opinions.  I much prefer the books where I can say it's not my thing but I can see how others would like it.  But when there's more to like in Twilight . . . yeah.  This does not work for me.

That said, I have to admit there is something that is just so . . . satisfying about writing a review about a book I didn't like.  I guess it's a cathartic thing, the angrier I am when I finish the book, the better I feel when I finish the review.  I do my best to be nice while still being honest, although I assume it probably doesn't always come across that way.  (actually, if we're being honest I'm coming to realize it's probably safest to assume I'm coming across more or less the opposite way from what I intended in most situations)  I don't know what it is, but I always have an easier time expressing what I didn't like about a book (or movie or whatever) than I do about what I like about it.  Reading a good book is such an overall enjoyable experience . . . was it because the characters were fun?  Because the dialogue was snappy and clever?  The overall premise and plot were unique and well written?  they all blend together so seamlessly in a good book, one aspect making up for where another might be a little bit lacking that it just becomes hard for me to say what it was that took it from two stars to three, or three to four.  But a one star book, now - those I can almost always point to the moments where I was thinking something didn't make sense, or was too convenient, or not as funny as the book itself thought it was, or just plain didn't work.   Especially in a book I wanted to like (as these were) it's so easy to point to where and how that desire was disappointed.

The good news is the book I'm currently reading is sitting at a solid three, depending on the ending, and only one other person has even added it.  And the next one in my pile is the fifth in a series I've become quite the fan of.  So hopefully I can shake off this dissonance by the time they're both done.

P. ost  S.cript
Have I already posted this one?  Oh well, don't care.  It's cute.  And we've been singing this song around here a lot lately . . . not sure why though . . .


  1. See: Me and Gone Girl. I DID NOT get the love...

    1. I feel like that one's been over-hyped. Every time I urn around someone else is talking about it somewhere. I feel like it's probably pretty good, but I'm not going to read it for a while because I know I won't like it right now because of how ubiquitous it is.

      But this trilogy hasn't been anywhere. Like, I've never even heard of it outside goodreads but everyone there gave it glowing reviews. I thought that was a little more legitimate, like it was kind of a hidden gem sort of thing. Yeah . . . not so much.

    2. Oh, yeah. I could see how that would bug.

      And, well, I could write pages about Gone Girl. But I will not...

  2. Well, as for Twilight, I didn't read it, but from what I've been told from people that I trust, the easiest way to summarize is the oft-Interneted (yes, that's a word. I used it in a sentence, therefore, it's a word) picture of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen captioned "Pixar told a better love story in 5 minutes with no dialogue than Stephenie Meyer did in 4 books worth of Twilight"

    For some reason, I've been in a "re-read books that were childhood memories" phase for the past week or so. And so I've re-read The Phantom Tollbooth, the Trumpet of the Swan, and Matilda. Maybe next I'll try to get through all 7 books of Narnia. (For some reason, in 3 or 4 attempts, I've only made it through 3 or 4 books each time)

    1. That does about sum it up, but if you're ever interested in a more amusing and in-depth analysis is always good for several laughs. Whilst cringing.

      If Trumpet of the Swan is the one I think it is I hated it in sixth grade, but I LOVE Phantom Tollbooth. And if you weren't Jewish I'd feel obligated to disown you or something for never getting through Narnia, lol. But seriously, it's awesome and you should try again. (says the girl who's been talking about trying Tolkien again for years . . . )