Mirage is inspired by the "Years of Lead" in Morocco's 1960s history and its underlying message about the terrors of colonialism is quite important. At first I thought it was inspired by the plight of Arabs in Palestine, so it's also very timely. That is why it pains me to say that I couldn't go more than several chapters in. The writing is amateurish, the lead teen character inconsistent and annoying and this is clearly a YA book written by a woman for other women.

  That may sound misogynistic, but everyone who has ever hunted for a good book to read knows what I mean: you get to something that has rave recommendations, raised to the level of masterpiece by a few articles, but then when you start reading and you look closer at those reviews you see that they are mostly from women writing those five star animated GIF capital letter emoji filled things. And all the men give two stars and wonder how did they get to read the book in the first place, just like you.

  I don't want to be unfair to Somaiya Daud - this is her debut novel and I am sure her writing will get better with time - but for me reading through the rest of the book and knowing that it's yet another trilogy in the making, so having to wait even more to even get to the end of the story, was too much. It also addresses issues of personal helplessness, which is probably my Achilles' heel. If I ever want to get to those good books that I want to find, I have to fail fast and cut my losses early.

  Bottom line: I couldn't even begin to start reading the book. A combination of subject, debut writing style and aggressive and misleading advertising made me abandon it immediately.

  A while ago I started looking for books about microbial biology, for whatever reason, and so I also added From Bacteria to Bach and Back, without bothering to look at the description or any of the reviews. And it was a hard to find book, too! So here I am, happy to have gotten it and looking forward to its wisdom. I really try to finish books that I have started, so I did with this one as well, but just couldn't. I had to decide if I want to abandon this and read some other book or just find new reasons to scroll Facebook forever!

  And the reason is not that the book is not saying something interesting and important or that it is not researched. The reason for me being unable to finish reading it is solely based on the style of the writing. Imagine David Attenborough at his most pompous, writing something that has the scope of something Yuval Noah Harari would write and with the condescendence of Richard Dawkins because he wanted to outdo Douglas Hofstadter and you get Daniel C. Dennett writing this book, but without the charisma, conciseness or cleverness of either of the others.

  The book relates exclusively on how evolution leads to intelligence, how our conscious minds can be explained by evolution and mechanistic principles alone and that concepts like free will are not consistent with anything scientific. The problem is that after saying that, it continues to repeat it, more and more smugly, trying to dot every i and cross every t, until reading becomes unbearable. And yes, one could have expected something like this from someone actually named Daniel Clement Dennett the Third, age 75 and having dedicated his life to defining and researching consciousness, but it doesn't make getting through the book any easier. It has nothing to do with bacteria or Bach, other than empty correlations, either.

  Apparently, this should have been the distillation of Dennett's thinking. At almost 500 pages, this is not distilling anything! You don't go into a pub to get a distillate and ask for a pint. And while the subject is interesting and the conclusions iron clad, I do believe that a smart editor could have created a wonderful little book by deleting two thirds of everything written in this.

  Bottom line: sorry, but I couldn't finish it. I couldn't even reach the half point.

 

  I have to admit this is a strange time for me, in which I struggle with finishing any book. My mind may drift away at a moment's notice, thoughts captured by random things that inflame my interest. And with limited time resources, some things fall through the cracks, like the ability to dedicate myself to books that don't immediately grab my attention. Such a book is The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

  And you know the type. It's one of those where the way the word sounds as you read it is more important that what it says, a sort of magical white poetry that is attempting to evoke rather than tell, feel rather than reason, while also maintaining a rigorous intellectual style. Alix E. Harrow is a good writer and it shows, however she is too caught up in her own writing. This story features a girl with an ability that is manifested when she writes words of power. She is an avid reader and, in order to learn about her capabilities, she receives a book that tells the story of another girl who was similar to her. And the style of that book is, you guessed it, words crafted to evoke rather than tell.

  So at about 40% of the book nothing had happened other than a girl of color living in a house of plenty, but imprisoned by rules and starved of knowledge or power. Her captor and adoptive father is a white and powerful aristocrat, cold as ice and authoritative in every action or word, while she is a good girl caught between her desires and her upbringing. I've read books like this before and I liked some of them a lot. And this may yet evolve into a beautiful story, but as I was saying above, I am not in the mood for paying that much attention before something happens.

  In conclusion, while I get a feeling of being defeated and a desire to continue reading the book, I also have to accept I don't have the resources to struggle with it. I would rather find a more comfortable story for me at this time.

  Station Eleven started really well. It had the fresh scene setup, the internal thoughts of a complex character, a dissection of actual motivations and emotions, rather than cardboard cliches. Because I have a bunch of books to read and when I start reading I just pick one at random, I didn't know what it was about, and so I had that feeling of "Oh well, it's not sci-fi or fantasy, but I like the writing!". I was convinced I was going to like the book.

  A chapter later and there is a killer epidemic starting. One chapter later twenty years have passed and everybody except young people are alive in a post apocalyptic non technological world. I just couldn't go on. The complex character at the beginning and the interesting setup had been completely obliterated and replaced with tired formulaic ideas. I couldn't care less about any of the new characters or what was going to happen. I don't know what Emily St. John Mandel was thinking when she started writing the book, but it is clearly not for me.

  One of the main reasons to put the book down and not continue reading was the lazy and unscientific treatment of the killer pandemic. We are talking about a flu virus that infects just by breathing for a few seconds next to someone, then disabled those people within a day. Viruses like this do not spread! Moreover, there is no way that a flu virus kills everybody. There are always exceptions, whether due to immunity, isolation or other factors. I love pandemic stories, I read them all with glee, and I did that way before the current situation, and when I see one that teaches nothing, because the epidemic is just a prop in an otherwise unrelated story, I get frustrated.

  A few years ago I was watching a movie with my wife. We both didn't quite enjoy it, but were curious on how it ended, so I told her to skip scenes to get to the end. She was skipping all the scenes I was interested in and watching the ones I couldn't care less about. This book is the same. I understand why people would like it, as I said, the writing was good, but the focus of the story and the characters were in complete opposition to my own interests.

Have you ever found a book so bland that you just refused to continue reading it? To me it happens rarely, but it did with Malice, by John Gwynne. And I do feel a sense of loss, since the reviews I've seen are all so overwhelmingly positive. Maybe if I would have just read a few more formulaic chapters I would have gotten to the part when something, anything, happens.

But no, I do have a lot of books to read and I am not going to waste my time reading about another child who wants to be a hero, but he's weak and bullied, another large blacksmith who was once a soldier, another pair of good and evil gods and their minions, noble savages, strong princesses, evil viziers and so on and so on. After several chapters all I got was a bunch of people in different contexts, each with their own names, friends, family, dreams, history and narration. Whenever I thought something would happen, another character with a silly name came along to perform whatever ritual is assigned to its cardboard role. Confusing and boring as hell.

Bottom line, I couldn't even begin to finish it. I probably read about 10-15% and gave up.

It involves Russia! The story of how Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago got popularized and received the Nobel prize for literature is fascinating and one of the reasons why my wife and I decided to read it as part of our own private book club. She loved the book, although she admitted she didn't understand a lot. I couldn't finish it because I didn't understand it at all!

Let me get this straight, this is not a bad book, the fault lies solely with me. That being said, I've read half of it before I decided to watch the TV adaptation from 2002 and realized I had no idea who anyone was. I had read half of a book, enjoying the way Pasternak describes individual lives, but I didn't remember one character or scene. And the explanation is simple: this is like Crash, on steroids, had sex with Gone With The Wind and had this bastard child around the first World War in Russia. People have three different names, plus nicknames, that the author just splays around without explanation. Events are described through short chapters that sometimes connect via a character seeing the same things from a different perspective or saying something about a character, using a different name than the one we read about it previously. And all these people keep bumping into each other again and again. Sometimes there is no rhythm in how things are written, sometimes it sounds like poetry. There is huge attention to some details and complete ignoring of others. And so on. It is not an easy book; it requires your full attention.

It is obvious that Pasternak loved people and he described their experiences and toils during times of great upheaval, but for him those paled compared with the love stories and the feelings of the characters involved. I can understand how he was confused on why people thought his book was against the Soviet system, where it was clearly about people. I am sure this book is great, it is just not for me. If you want to try it, I suggest you read the summary in Wikipedia so you understand what is going on and you do not read it in bits of 15 minutes in the subway.

Imagine Me Gone is one of those books that I thought I should read because it received prizes for great writing. Maybe I'm too stupid to understand why something that doesn't say anything in the first 5% of it is a good book. The subject is great, too: a family of five people that each describe their lives while battling crippling depression.

I think Adam Haslett found a good way to convey depression: talk endlessly about random pointless things, describe the weather, the way light bounces off of things no one cares about, don't actually express anything or mention anything interesting and occasionally say something really heavy or personally relevant with the same boring and bored rhythm and style. It makes sense, it's the way people feel when in the thralls of this terrible affliction: nothing matters, nothing stands out, it's all grey and pointless. However, a good book means more than just making the reader feel suicidal, it has to have some story to care about, some characters that stand out, anything than just forcing the reader to fight throwing away the book in boredom.

That is why I couldn't even begin to finish the book. I wasn't interested in the depressed description of someone I couldn't care less about, talking about how she handles the depression of others. I can only assume that the high marks for the book are coming either from writing that went completely over my head or from people who were affected by mental illness in the family and read about themselves and got the book. My family is not without its share of psychological problems, but I've had just about enough of it as it is.

I really tried to read and enjoy this book, which is highly rated and reviewed, which makes me wonder whether there is something wrong with me. Whatever the reason, I couldn't even finish it. Everything in this book is grating my senses, from the writing style to the scenes details, from the editing to the basic story outline. If you've read Dexter (the book the TV show is based on, not the TV show itself) you will have found a similar plot, but as I thought that book was bad, this one felt worse. I can't imagine who in their right mind would give this a full rating.

I've found a blog post by the author, Matt Hilton, that describes the unfortunate period in which he wrote the book. His seventeen old daughter just died. Maybe that affected the writing style, maybe the fact that it was written in several versions that then were edited into this one. I don't know. He has my sympathy for his loss, but not for PreterNatural. In his situation I would have expected to at least get the grief part right. Instead the character lives with the mind of his family's murderer in his head and has humorous dialogues with it.

It's a bad book. I won't recommend it in any way. Considering this is the first and only book in the Carter Bailey series, I think even the author probably agrees with me.

What the hell have I tried to read? It felt like a Google bot trying to describe random YouTube videos, a meaningless brainstorm of a neural network trained on black and white images, an intentional insult to anyone attempting to make sense of the book. At a mere 260 pages (on my smart phone) I thought that no matter what the subject or writing style, I would finish it, but after 60 pages of understanding nothing and using all my will power to continue, I've decided to call it quits.

It "helped" that I had no idea what I was reading. I just picked a book at random from my library and started it. I didn't know Herta Müller was a Nobel laureate for literature, I didn't know she was part Romanian, nor did I know of the Romanian movie based on the book. I could just read and enjoy the content. Or not. I don't know how I can describe this book in a way that is comprehensible. I had to read the synopsis of the movie in order to understand what The Fox Was Ever the Hunter tried to say! I am Romanian, I've lived through communism, even if I was just a kid at the time, I should have no reason not to at least understand the basic plot of the book, but I didn't get it. Eyes just glossed over the pointless descriptions, unnamed characters identified by body characteristics or clothing, useless details and unrelated chapters. One chapter ended in "The comb's teeth were blue." It wasn't a particular comb, it didn't feature in any interesting way in the story (had it been one), it was just a piece of detail that should have conveyed the lack of interesting things in the gray communist era or something. The book is filled with stuff like that.

Bottom line: I didn't find any positive thing to say about this book. No sentence that made me feel something, no interesting fact, no eye opening writing style, no plot or character that made any sense or brought any pleasure as I was reading it. It was like being so thirsty that you try to drink desert sand. It works just as well as this book. I hate it with fervor.

The only fantastical element in this book, except for a ghost that makes a short appearance, is a change in location. The rest is historical fiction in some place that feels exactly like Renaissance Europe, only it has another name and other gods. Worst than that, the story is boring and the writing mediocre. I couldn't finish it.

The story in Children of Earth and Sky follows a few chosen characters while they navigate the treacherous waters lying between warring (and spying) nations. I mean this both metaphorically and literally, since it is also about ships crossing the sea. Guy Gavriel Kay has been writing published works since 1984 which is why I was surprised to see such an amateurish writing style. He uses several tools again and again and again, without much effect. The worse, for me, was describing the same scene from different viewpoints, one after another, even if it did nothing to enrich the story or develop characters. Another is a certain repetition of a phrase for emphasis, something like "He didn't like the book. He didn't." OK, emphasized enough! Also I felt that the author coddled his characters too much. Instead of making them suffer in interesting situations, he just lets them off easy with crises that they can easily handle or at least manage with heroic skill. In one of the most important scenes, one of a battle, he kills off a major character, at which point I was thinking "OK, it's getting started", only to resurrect them immediately after. Ugh!

So beside being a boring historical drama (I mean boring even for a historical drama!), it really nagged me that it was marketed as fantasy. Maybe I am just getting fed up, considering I've just read a western and a heist story, both included in the fantasy and sci-fi genre because they happened in the future or in spaaaaaace. Bottom line: I can't in good conscience recommend this book and I am quite amazed that it has such a high rating.

The unthinkable happened and I couldn't finish a Brandon Sanderson book. True, I had no idea The Bands of Mourning was the sixth in a series, but when I found out I thought it was a good idea to read it and see if it was worth it reading the whole Mistborn series, for which Sanderson is mostly known. Well, if the other books in the series are like this one, it's kind of boring.

I didn't feel like the book was bad, don't get me wrong, it was just... painfully average. Apparently in the Mistborn universe there are people that have abilities, like super powers, and other that have even stronger powers, but use metal as fuel. Different metals give different powers. That was intriguing, I bought the premise, I wanted to see it used in an interesting way. Instead I get a main character that is also a lord and a policeman, who is solving crime with the help of a funny sidekick at the request of the gods, who are only people who have ascended into godhood, rather than the creators of the entire universe. The crime fighting lord kind of soured the whole deal for me, but I was ready to see more and get into the mood of things. I couldn't. Apparently, the only way people have thought to fight people who can affect metal is aluminium bullets, which is terribly expensive, or complex devices that nullify their power. Apparently bows and arrows or wooden bullets are beyond their imagination.

But the worst sin of the book, other than kind of recycling old ideas and having people behave stupidly is having completely unsympathetic characters. I probably would have been invested more if I would have read the first five books of the series first, but as it is, I thought all of the main characters were artificially weird, annoying and uninteresting.

Bottom line: around halfway into the book, which is short by Sanderson standards anyway, I gave up. There are so many books in the world, I certainly don't need to read this one. The Wikipedia article for the book says: Sanderson wrote the first third of Shadows of Self between revisions of A Memory of Light. However, after returning to the book in 2014 Sanderson found it difficult to get back into writing it again. To refresh himself on the world and characters, Sanderson decided to write its sequel Bands of Mourning first and at the end of 2014 he turned both novels in to his publisher. So the author was probably distracted when he wrote this book, perhaps the others are better, but as such I find it difficult to motivate myself to try reading them.

Tad Williams probably fancies himself as another Tolkien: he writes long decriptions of lands and people and languages, shows us poetry and songs, tells us about the rich history of the land. And all of this while we follow yet another common, but good boy, with a mysterious ancestry, while he and his merry band of helpers fight THE DARK ONE. It's the same old story, with the hapless youth that is guided by wise but not forthcoming people who tend to die, leave or otherwise shut up before the hero gets the whole story and can do anything about it. Regardless, he is young and lucky, so it's OK.

If The Dragonbone Chair would have been fun or interesting or at least show us a character that we could care about, this book would have been readable. As such it's a trope filled, boring and sleep inducing thing. You have to wait until half of the book to see the things that you predicted would happen from the first few chapters. I couldn't even finish it. More than two thirds in the book and there is no significant part of the story that involves either dragons or chairs.

Bottom line: it sucks!



I have to say that most of the books I start reading, I am also finishing, no matter how bad they are. I will not be finishing Guns, Germs and Steel, but not because it is a bad book, but because it is too thorough.

I know, it sounds bad for me, but this book, as with the next one I am going to review, are true science books, going through all the arguments, all the proof, anecdotes and theories before making a point. It is not an overly large book, but each passage has meaning and there is a ton of data that must be assimilated in order to be able to say I read the book. Alas, I don't feel like assimilating this much and reading it to the end, just in order to pretend I've read it would be pointless.

The book, written by Jared Diamond, is trying to explain why some regions of the world are more developed than others, why some people are oppressed, while other are the oppressors, why some people get along fine having farms and cities and a thriving economy while others are fighting to stay fed or secure. The author immediately dismisses the idea of racial superiority. Given the biological incentives to stay alive and the selection process that still goes on in less developed areas of the globe, it would be silly to consider those people genetically inferior to well fed Westerners from countries where the leading cases of death are random diseases or accidents. So the reason must be something else.

Having done a lot of living and studying in Papua New Guinea and Polynesia, he has direct knowledge of the way people live there and extensive knowledge of their history. Especially Polynesia he considers a rich bed of "natural experiments" as the many islands have spawned numerous social, political, military and food systems that eventually had to interact. He doesn't stop here, though, giving examples from all parts of the world, the native Americans, Africa, Eurasia, etc.

As far as I could ascertain reading only half of the book, the reason the world looks like it does today is because of a lucky assortment of domesticable animals and crop plants that appeared in the Fertile Crescent. The advantage of such a food surplus allowing for all kind of social and administrative developments was too great to compete with. The culture that spawned from that area quickly overwhelmed the world. In the few areas where resistance appeared, technological advances, immunity to disease that they would still spread and the general historical knowledge gained from the written word made the dominance of said culture a certainty.

For a sociologist, a historian or a palaeontologist, this book should be a must read. It explains a lot, using a lot of arguments on very well documented facts. The style is sometimes too formal, eventually repeating some questions and answering them with overwhelming detail, but none of it is superfluous. As such, it was an interesting read, but a very difficult one. Something that would have ended up eating a lot of time and yielding little lasting knowledge.

So, having faith that I got the gist of it and hoping that maybe I will watch the PBS documentary based on the book to get to the end of it, I will end by recommending it to anyone in the field, but not so much for a casual reader.