A discontented blog post about quite a quantity of books

My sister kindly met me at the public library on Saturday and lent me her library card.  She also gave me a baseball cap, which she assures me I should use any time I visit the public library because it will ward off the attentions of creepy old dudes.  I did not take the baseball cap, nor was I bothered by creepy old dudes, but I mostly frequented the children & YA sections, which maybe is not where the creepy old dudes hang out.  I checked out loads of books, and none of the ones I have read so far have filled me with joy.  I am plainly reading the wrong books.

Hilary McKay’s The Exiles and The Exiles at Home

Not as good as the Casson books.  In particular, The Exiles was not as good as the Casson books.  The eponymous kids are not as fun and sympathetic as the Cassons, and I identified passionately with the paucity of books the poor girls were experiencing, though not to the enhanced enjoyment of the Exiles books themselves.  Only two books each for a summer vacation, they had.  It’s iniquitous to deprive children of books to that extent.  The Exiles at Home was touching, because the protagonists wanted something I also wanted them to have, and it made me cry.

Noel Streatfeild’s When The Sirens Wailed

Merciful God, this book was depressing.  Normally Noel Streatfeild’s books have fully realized children characters, but this did not.  Normally they allow a certain degree of stability for the children as far as housing is concerned, but this did not.  It was a vivid depiction of England’s suffering during World War II, and it made my heart sad.  Except occasionally there would be a particular detail that charmed me, like when all the boys in the village where the kids got evacuated were told to turn the street signs in the wrong directions, and the girls in the village were taught to tell Germans lies about how to get to London.  That sounds awesome.

Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The conclusion is inevitable.  Zombies are not for me.  Here I have seen all these reviews all over the blogosphere in love with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  If I do not love it, what conclusion can be drawn?  Only that zombies, they are not for me.  Zombiepocalypses.  I do not love them.  Zombies are not all about redemption.  Dystopia and branding of sentient aliens and human women, I’m all over that (that was spoilers for something but I’m not saying what and thus it doesn’t count).  Zombies, no.

Trying to Get Some Dignity: Stories of Triumph Over Childhood Abuse, Richard & Ginger Rhodes

Yeah, I know.  There was no way this was going to be not depressing.  I was reading it for research, and it didn’t even tell me anything I didn’t already know.  I should have confined this weekend’s research to books about gender roles in fairy tales.  Because there is nothing at all depressing about gender roles in fairy tales.  If there’s one uplifting subject of study in this world, it’s gender roles in fairy tales.

Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories

Oh yes, and I read this as research too, not at the library but at Bongs & Noodles, in a comfy armchair in the Christian Inspiration section because it was the only free chair, and not really read it but more zipped through looking for things that I would find useful.  For a book about evolutionary psychology, I found this book to be surprisingly understandable, and of all the books herein mentioned, On the Origin of Stories is the one with which I was least discontented (by far).  My favorite thing that I wrote down for myself to remember from this book is that people find stories most memorable when the characters of the stories cross ontological boundaries.  That is an interesting fact.

Noel Streatfeild’s Tennis Shoes

I read this the night before leaving home, and I stomped around the house for a while carrying on about how disappointing I found it. I did find it extremely disappointing.  The father pressures his kids into playing tennis because he wants them to be tennis champions for the glory of England, and none of them are particularly fantastic at it.  There is no excuse for such blatant badness as there was in Tennis Shoes!  She wrote it in between two of her most excellent books, Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes (or The Circus is Coming as it was also titled)!  Why, Noel Streatfeild?  Why?

Does it count as a reading slump if you are reading loads of things, and they are simply failing to satisfy you?  Also: Given my extreme dissatisfaction, might it not make sense to order Monsters of Men after all from England?  And just buy it again when it comes out here in the fall so that I will have matching copies of the whole series?

  • trapunto

    I had to stop listening to the audio of forest of hands and teeth. I can’t remember which was more annoying, the main character or the reader’s whiny mush-mouthed interpretation of her. I think they played each other up. Or deserved each other. At any rate, I wasn’t interested enough to reserve the non-audio book and finish the story.

    I like the idea of contained isolated communities, scary fences; and I liked the descriptions of the converted winery. But other than that…

    I am glad I am not alone on the internet in my lack of zombie love.

    Child abuse? You mean isolation and reading religious texts? or was there something else later? I quit the book about the time the stranger showed up.

    Did Bird give examples of ontological boundary-crossing characters? It sounds right, but I’m not sure I know what an ontological boundary is….

    • Yeah, there were things about Forest of Hands and Teeth that I thought were good, but overall I didn’t like it. Because of the zombies! I do not like zombies. They are lame.

      I was unclear about the child abuse book, it was a separate one. I’ve fixed it in the post – it was a book all about child abuse. Quite upsetting even though I’ve heard it all before. :/

      I think the remark about ontological boundary crossing wasn’t original to Boyd – he cited a book called In Gods We Trust. But basically, the idea is that mermaids cross ontological boundaries because they’re part human, part fish. It’s anything that defies categoric expectations, physical laws, and like that.

  • trapunto

    Oh. As soon as you can convince your sister to loan you her card again, go back to the library and get Queen of Attolia! It will make everything right. Ontological boundaries galore. You need a good book *now*, and it will take a while to get Monsters and Men, if you order it, which I think you should if you want it, even though I have not read it.

    • I want The Queen of Attolia! And the subsequent books, of which I think there are two after Queen of Attolia? I should be able to get them pretty soon; Anna actually gave me her library card to use, so I have it in my possession and can use it whenever I want (for now). She’s generous that way. I want Monsters of Men too, but I’m reluctant to order it because a) I am afraid I can’t receive post in this apartment that I am subletting, and b) I feel guilty spending more money when I will already be spending nearly $200 to get library privileges at the university library. And they do not have Monsters of Men. Sadly.

  • anna

    For future reference: The library is divided into zones of creepy old man danger: safest is the third floor children’s section. You’re perfectly safe there. Next safest is the side of the second floor which is one your right as come in the main entrance, once you pass the room that is full of job-training test prep books. Then, there’s the main lobby, job-training room and lefthand side of the second floor. the bottom floor is highly dubious, the librarians there the most likely to be cranky, and the most danger of all is around the movies and books on tape in the bottom floor.

    but I haven’t had any trouble, despite numerous library visits this month, ever since I started wearing the hat, and avoiding open spaces.

    • Creepers are creepy! They make me angry with their creepy behavior! But thanks for the advice. I will bear it in mind.

      • anna

        In fairness it is also possible my my diligence in sticking to back walls and walking between shelves did more to stop the problem than the hat.

  • Sorry to hear that you haven’t found any good books recently. I haven’t read any of the ones you mention and none of them are on my TBR pile so I don’t have to strike them off 🙂

    I fully support buying books from overseas, but beware that you don’t build up your expectations too much. I have been very disappointed by the last few I’ve imported 🙁

    • I don’t think I’d be disappointed, if I did end up buying Monsters of Men – I loved the preceding two books in the series, and I have yet to see anyone say that they found the third one disappointing.

  • I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t read anything you enjoyed. I have to admit that I am surprised by the amount of reading you’ve done! I have yet to read anything by Noel Streatfeild. I’m afraid my expectations are rather high because everyone seems to love Ballet Shoes.

    • Streatfeild writes very good books of a particular type. I think your expectations would be more likely to be thwarted by the genre not being quite what you expected, rather than the books not being good enough. Ballet Shoes is a really sweet book. I hope you do get around to reading it.

  • I wouldn’t call it a slump. I was wondering if a recent period where I didn’t like anything I read was because I was already grumpy, or if the reading disappointments were making me grumpy. I think one fed off the other. I finally read some new YA books and felt better. They were easy to read and had good plots. I read the third Pfeffer book, This World We Live in, and A Conspiracy of Kings, among others. And I found a really interesting book that I didn’t think would be that good so had checked out of the library as an audiobook–I’ll pretty much listen to anything while commuting, but this was good enough I went and bought a copy of the book–Grossman’s The Magicians. Review coming soon.

    Sometimes there are no more good books by an author. But have you read Streatfeild’s Apple Bough?

    • Actually, that was my exact plan! I felt cranky with all the more serious books I’d brought with me when I moved up here, and I thought a bunch of kids’ and YA fiction would be just what the doctor ordered. Apparently not though. :p

      There are a bunch of Streatfeild books I haven’t read, though a lot of them are her adult books. I don’t think I’ve exhausted her good books yet. I haven’t read Apple Bough.

  • “Does it count as a reading slump if you are reading loads of things, and they are simply failing to satisfy you?”

    Not sure but it’s happened to me and it certainly feels very…slumpy.

    • It sure does. Depressing. But I reread a few books this week, and found them satisfying, so at least I don’t have to worry I’ve gone off books forever.

  • LOL, well I’m sorry you didn’t like the zombieness of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I have the second book, The Dead Tossed Waves, out from the ‘brary, and I’m not yet certain I can handle another installment of creepy, slow, creeping, drooling zombies.

    • I know I can’t. I thought I might try the sequel, but even two pages in I couldn’t face any more zombies. One problem is that I can’t take zombies seriously, so all the angst seems misplaced and overwrought. Zombies. How silly.

      (Obvious idea to cure this problem: 28 Days Later. But I think it would be waaaaaay too scary for me.)

  • I’m very excited to read When The Sirens Wailed, misery and all (which makes me feel vaguely horrible). On the Origin of Stories sounds interesting too. And finally, I think ordering Monsters of Men would make *plenty* of sense 😛

    • I thought of you when I was reading On the Origin of Stories, actually! I know you are interested in that too. If I’d had time, I would have read the sections on Homer more thoroughly, because heaven knows I’m mad for discussions of archetype. 🙂

  • The opening of this post made me laugh. I’ve never thought to hide myself when I go to the library, but I have gotten yelled at a few times. It’s too bad you haven’t hit any great books, but hopefully you’ll get a good one soon!

    • Right after writing this post, I started An Abundance of Katherines, and after that I read DWJ’s Eight Days of Luke, and they both made me feel better about the world. Next up is The City and the City, which apparently a few people think is good too. 😉

  • For me, a reading slump is when I can’t bear to read anything at all. Not even an old favourite can tempt my reading mojo to come back. I’ve learnt to wait it out, because sooner or later the tide does turn.

    I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned. And yes, I think that when we are in a reading slump it is perfectly ok to order a book we know we will love. (That’s ok any time at all, in my world.)

    • Ugh, I just realized I missed answering all these comments. I’m crap.

      Thanks for the support for ordering Monsters of Men! I am still undecided – I don’t really like to have multiple copies of the same book, but I know it would drive me crazy if my copy of MoM didn’t match my copies of the other two in the series.

  • Oh come on. Gender roles in fairy tales? Inspirational and uplifting stuff. 😛

    I am so torn about The Forest of Hands and
    Teeth. I don’t hate zombies, but I do hate whiny characters I can’t relate to, so it seems likely I will hate the book, too. But I actually bought it, so I feel obligated to read it now.

    • If you don’t like it, you can always list it on PaperbackSwap. As a non-zombie-hater, do you have any good zombie book recommendations? Where the zombies send shivers up your spine?

  • I’ll be reviewing the Forest of Hands & Teeth soon and am glad that I’m not alone in not caring for it. It wasn’t really the zombie aspect that I didn’t like, as I loved Max Brooks’ World War Z which is a zombie-apocalypse bonanza.

    • I was glad to see another disliking-it review soon after mine! I’m always afraid, when I don’t like books that have been received with love and ardor all over the blogosphere, that I’ve just become curmudgeonly and anti-anything-that’s-popular. :p

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  • Zombies are not my thing either…just too many zombies floating around. What are they anyway?

    Thanks for providing a list of books not to try 🙂

    • They are reanimated dead people, and traditionally? They want to eat brains. And they shamble around all the time with their parts rotting off. Ugh, too unpleasant a mental picture.

  • I cannot express how pleased I am to find out that The Forest of Hands and Teeth may not be my cup of tea. (I almost typed cup of brains but decided that wasn’t pleasant and I seek pleasantries today.) I actually wasn’t aware it was a zombie book; I’ve only read P&P&Z which I found slightly amusing.

    • How come? Were you fearing you would be peer-pressured into reading it and you had no reason to refuse until now? :p P&P&Z looks a bit insubstantial for me, although the cover makes me smile.

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  • amo

    Thank you for the review of that Brian Boyd book on The Origin of Stories! I arrived over here from your post on Lüthi’s book, which links to this (I was googling Lüthi for research). Now I’m reading Boyd, and am utterly fascinated. I know I’m really late in the game here (this post is four years old, no?), but I just thought I’d mention it!

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