When Reviews Go Bad

So I took a bit of a gamble the other day. Usually I have a schedule of books that I’ll read in order, to make sure that I get reviews enough for the weeks ahead. Since I’m generally a quick reader, I don’t often have trouble with this. But there comes a moment when you look at the book in front of you, and you’re left with one very obvious problem.

This book doesn’t deserve a review.

Now, to be completely honest, I did give the book a brief review either on Goodreads or NetGalley (or both), I can’t remember. But books I put on the blog…I don’t know. I like them to be something more than just some dreck I picked up along the way. As you’ve seen from a few of the other posts recently, I’ve been finding books from early on in my NetGalley “career” that I failed to review in time, and am now going back to read. The last one I’ve gotten through (and the last back one I can read until I can find a copy to borrow of the single book left in the list) was a book called LOVE GONE MAD by Mark Rubinstein. It had an interesting premise, and that’s really all it needs to sell me on when I’m looking at books there. But here’s the trouble.

I hated it.

The prose was unnecessarily jargon-filled and complicated, it was written in an awkward present tense (I don’t mind some present tense, but this was just no good), and the characters were laughably stereotype tropes. It was painful to read at times. There wasn’t a single thing that happened that I couldn’t have told you was going to come to pass by the time I got three chapters in. I was describing a particular plot piece to a fellow author, and got about halfway through before he said “oh please don’t tell me this is going where I think it’s going.” And of course, it was. The two leads were flat and boring, the antagonist was bizarre and unbelievable. I’m all in favor of willing suspension of disbelief; I was trained as in actor. But the different is that in plays, we’re often not meant to believe that this is our normal, everyday life.

This book, in theory, could happen in today’s world’s Connecticut. And I can’t believe that for an instant.

So I’d already pushed the book I was going to read for today’s review off for this awful book–and then I saw that there had been a book hovering on my “Currently Reading” list on Goodreads for ages now. It was a book by one of the Irish authors I met while doing my residency in Dublin for my MFA. Kevin Barry was a fantastic speaker, a brilliant writer, and one of my favorite authors I met. I was excited to read CITY OF BOHANE, but when I first picked it up, for whatever reason, my brain could not for the life of me handle the Irish dialect that the book is written in. And I mean Nathaniel Hawthorne’s olde English levels of dialect. So not to let a book defeat me, I pounced on that one again instead.

And while it was significantly better than LOVE GONE MAD, I’m still not sure that I can give it a full review treatment like I do other books. I’m not sure why, though. It was a good book, though not amazing. Once I got into the language and the story, it was a very…basic story? Gang warfare, loves across lines…it’s West Side Story except for Ireland about a half century or so ago. (I can’t remember if it takes place in the 30s or 50s. Good job, me.) So while the writing is interesting, the story is fairly predictable, the ending is unclear in its openness, and I wear if I get one more character whose clothing takes a paragraph to describe–specifically, and for no express reason–I’ll throw something.

So now I’ve read two books, and I still have no review for today. I’ve finally had a chance to start reading the book that I’ll review soon, one that a colleague has written and recently re-released, and with luck, we’ll be back on track soon. But it’s been a hell of a ride to get here.

(For completion’s sake: )

LOVE GONE MAD Rating: * (Forget It)
CITY OF BOHANE Rating: *** (Worth a Look)


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