I’m about to move soon, and on principle, I hate moving. Though the settling in is wonderful, the process is never smooth or glamorous, and it’s also the time when I become the most ruthless. Namely, I throw out or give away things I don’t want to waste energy moving. This time, I’ve realized I have a lot of books, many of which I’ve had for two previous moves that I still haven’t read, so I felt it was time to cull their number.
What I’ve done is a speed-round of reading: I’ve picked up books from my TBR shelf and given the first chapter a read. If I liked what I saw, they stayed, and if I didn’t, well… It’s time to say goodbye.
What follows is a list of books I’m finally letting go, with explanations as to why after reading the first chapter. I figured people might like to see, but I also need it for my own records of why I shouldn’t pursue them further. Sometimes, it’s best to just move on and make room for other interests.
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
I had to read a few chapters of this because the first chapter was only two pages, and I wanted to give this one a fair assessment. We meet our heroine, a senior in high school, which is already not my favorite setup or setting. At her bus stop, she’s stared at across the street by some weirdo in a long coat, and she thinks he calls her Anastasia. Except her name’s Jessica. And she was adopted. I’m sure that’ll matter at some point. Anyway, Jessica gets to school, has a best friend named Melanie who probably won’t matter, and blushes at a teenage boy with jacked arms (who she, Jessica, is dating? Apparently? It’s unclear). She goes to class and is wedged between a dude that’s bullied her since elementary school and the bitchy cheerleader who can ruin anyone’s life.
Jessica’s pen doesn’t work, so cue the weirdo in the long coat who’s been there the entire time, and she hasn’t noticed. Jessica takes way too long to take the “writing instrument” he offers because I guess the guy is too European. Somehow, she also gets a papercut that bleeds Way Too Much because of course, and European coat guy is super into it. (Because vampires, you know?) He then gets up in front of the class and mansplains how to pronounce his name and his European heritage because this is definitely what everyone showed up to school for. From what I can tell, he spends the entire novel mansplaining everything else, from how vampires should behave to how women should take chivalry and feminism.
So yeah, this was riveting. Hard pass.
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
I admit, I bought this book after falling in love with ABC’s Legend of the Seeker, which was unjustly canceled well before its time, don’t @ me. The book opens up with notable differences from the show. Richard Cypher’s father has already been mysteriously murdered, and Richard finds a suspicious plant in his house that turns out to be poisonous. Seeking healing help, Richard crosses paths with Kahlan Amnell, who is being pursued by assassins.
While Legend of the Seeker is charming, with poignant character moments and obvious chemistry between the cast, Wizard’s First Rule really has none of that. In fact, it takes itself very seriously and is tedious to read. Women are treated Extremely Weirdly, not only from the male characters they have the misfortune of interacting with but also with what roles they are allowed to have in the book. Since I had my fun and plenty of heartfelt scenes with Legend of the Seeker, I’m more than happy to set Wizard’s First Rule aside and avoid further sleazy moments in this way too long series. Besides, book!Darken Rahl is blond, Richard’s father, and a rapist, which is just absolutely worse in every way imaginable from the show.
Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck
The way Tiger’s Curse opens screams ambitious, but it’s really sad because it’s painfully obvious the author’s trying too hard and it’s Not That Serious. This is a prime, cotton-candy, teenage romance plot inspired by the Twilight era. Regardless, it’s going to start with William Blake’s entire poem “The Tiger” anyway, as if 1) it’s going to be relevant beyond “love interest is cursed to be a tiger sometimes” and 2) it’s not already apparent that this poem contains the best writing the book has.
Next is a prologue, where we learn an unnamed Indian prince has been captured by Some Guy because the prince’s brother and fianceé betrayed him. In exchange for the prince’s surrender and his mysterious amulet, Some Guy has decided that the brother and fianceé will now marry and he alone will rule everything while they go frolicking off, I guess. Seems fair and balanced. Finally realizing this is a terrible deal, the brother decides to spring into action, but not before the prince becomes cursed (with a blood ritual!) and fianceé chick falls, cracks her head on the dais, and apparently dies! Wow!
Flash-forward. It’s now modern day. First person. We meet Kelsey Hayes, the white girl who will be chosen to break this so-called Indian curse even though the Indian culture and mythology brought up so far is fake. She can’t succeed at having a temp job interview to save her life despite only answering three basic questions. She somehow gets a two-week job cleaning up after animals at a local circus, mostly the dogs and… oh, no, a tiger! What does it mean? She goes home to her guardians because her birth parents are dead, and they’re super vegan and super in love and just kind of there to inform Kelsey’s yearning for romance, which is almost all she thinks about.
And end scene! In the goodbye pile, ya go!
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Oh, the things I bought as a teen. I’m giving Dearly, Departed up after reading the prologue and the first two chapters, mostly because it’s not that interesting and I’m super not buying the world-building. This whole Victorian aesthetic and societal rules thing is not meshing with having advanced technology in addition to zombies. This book cannot figure out what it wants to be.
The prologue opens with Bram, our future zombie love interest, being buried alive in a mine alongside his dying brother. Nothing much happens other than exposition telling us that his brother has a digital camera. Bram uses it to record what he thinks is his last message, and we learn that it is, in fact, the year 2193.
Chapter one introduces us to Nora, who is about to leave her girls’ finishing school along with Pamela, her best friend of “Indian heritage,” “average looks,” and “chocolate-colored hair.” Mm. Their transportation? Electric carriages. Are they cars or legit carriages with no horses, and if it’s the latter, then how are they actually driven? No idea. There isn’t a single description that answers my questions, probably because the prose is too busy introducing Blonde Rich Girl and how mean she is toward Pamela for being a scholarship student. But don’t worry! Our plain Janes sure show her!
The second chapter is all exposition about how the world got this way, and it’s a hot mess. Practically the result of post-apocalyptic events, massive migrations of survivors toward the equator, wars over land (but everyone made peace with that apparently). Since many of the “tribes” who survived were conservative religious types, they chose to model their new society around the Victorian era because it was a Golden Age to them for some reason, but somehow technology has flourished all this time despite that, historically, the Dark Ages happened due to conservative religious types. But okay. Nora doesn’t understand why there’s a resistance group fighting against the new society even though she acknowledges that it causes upper- and lower-class divides, takes advantage of the poor, and limits women. “Why are you guys so angry?” she whispers to herself. Maybe this was cute back in 2011, but it is 2019 in Trump’s America, and I am just not here for it.
Good thing Nora catches her reflection in the carriage mirror (?) and talks about how much she hates her appearance instead (because her face is too “childlike” and her black hair forms into “thick ringlets” no matter how she tries to teach it otherwise, like that’s a real problem). I would’ve hated for her to slip closer towards experiencing critical thinking. That’s not for women of this fine and perfect society to do, after all!
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
To be honest, I don’t have anything snarky to say about Uglies. The prose was okay, the story immediately launching into this dystopian society and Tally’s role in it. She’s anxiously awaiting her sixteenth birthday, where she will undergo an operation to turn from a low-class ugly into a high-class pretty. She’s also awaiting this eagerly because her best friend Peris has already become a pretty, and she’s afraid he’s leaving her behind. So Tally sneaks into a party in New Pretty Town, so she can talk to Peris, and after some empty reassurances, Peris convinces her to head back home.
I could just tell this story would be a bit too shallow for me. The dystopian element obviously comes from the hidden, sinister nature behind the pretty operation, but I couldn’t understand the big deal behind the class divide if everyone eventually becomes a pretty after sixteen, unless I missed something. (On that note, how do pretty parents raise their ugly kids until they undergo the operation? Does everyone just kind of get a pass?) I’d probably get my questions answered if I read more; I just don’t care to.
Along with these five, I wound up giving away 23 other books to the library! Those aren’t detailed here because the post would’ve been way too long. Plus, I already knew that I didn’t want to read them anymore, so there was no point. I was surprised to find there were a few books that I decided to keep after reading the first chapter, like Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, because the first chapter instantly grabbed my attention. Just goes to show that some books definitely can withstand the test of time, and the age of a book is not necessarily an indication of its quality.
Are there any books that you have given away recently? Is it because they disappointed you or because of another reason? Have you read anything lately that has surprised you with how much you enjoyed it?
Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon