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Reading Bad Books. It’s Good For You, Right?

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I was one of those annoying children who knew how to read before I hit kindergarten. I don’t think my dad realized he was creating a monster when he sat me in his lap with a Dr. Seuss book and started pointing out letters and words, but the end result is that I read quickly and I read many books across almost all genres.

The best present I ever got was a Nook Color and access to the Midwest Collaborative for Libraries, which is like free candy 24/7. With digital holds (they send you an email when the book is available) and no overdue books (they just disappear after the 14 day checkout period), I can scarf down books like pretzel M&Ms. So I do. And some of them are really really bad (the books, not the pretzel M&Ms).

Some of my old-fashioned books next to my newfangled Nook. I probably have more books on my Nook than are shown in the photo, which makes them much easier to carry.

I was thinking about the awful books today because I just wasted a couple of hours recently on two books. I didn’t finish the one, and wish I hadn’t finished the other. I will never get those hours back now. Kraken by China Mieville had such promise. I love science fiction, and this book about a giant squid specimen disappearing from a London museum, the apparent victim of a cephalopod-napping by a mysterious squid worshipping cult  – how excellent does that sound? And the first few pages were totally bizarre and great, we meet the curator hero (and how often do you get those?) and the Architeuthis dux disappears…and then characters started piling in and the dialog began. Bazillions of characters across so few pages that I couldn’t keep them all straight. Acres of dialog that said absolutely nothing, and was annoying and unrealistic on top of that. I got to page 56 and gave up. I may need to try again, because for some reason I am fascinated by the idea of a squid cult, which probably says something unflattering about my personality.

Then there was Prey by Linda Howard. The title makes you think of Patricia Cornwell, right? Or maybe Michael Crichton. Well, don’t think those things. Tedious, repetitive, sexist and unbelievable (and that’s really something, considering I was all OK with the idea of a squid cult in London). Pages and pages of everyone’s innermost thoughts, and none of them worth the pages they are written on. Nasty hunk o’ ex-military man Dare (yep, that is seriously his name) has been stealing Angie’s wilderness guide business away. Except maybe it’s her fault because she can’t figure out how to advertise and use the web, plus she’s a woman and probably should stick with photography trips. She has one last hunting trip, two guys who want to hunt bear – but it turns out the one guy has been embezzling the other guy’s company and needs to shoot him so no one ever finds out. Because that’s what you do when you are an embezzling accountant. They go up the mountain with Angie, find pieces of some guy who got torn apart by a bear, the embezzler shoots other guy, and the man-eating bear shows up and eats the dead guy. Angie, smart girl that she is, runs away into the dark and stormy night. Murdering embezzler tries to find her, can’t, and RETURNS TO THE CAMP WHERE THE BEAR WAS. Why? Because the keys to the getaway vehicle were in dead guy’s pocket. Yes, yuck. Our heroine has managed to hook up with Dare – who was sent to keep an eye on her by her realtor who just had a bad feeling about this guide trip. If you guessed that the realtor is male, you are too smart to be reading this book, and apparently smarter than me, but then, I am providing a valuable service by reading it for you and telling you to stay away.

Dare, naturally, has a little cabin nearby and they are stuck there for a few days because 1) it’s raining, 2) Angie has a sprained ankle 3) they have to have mind-blowing sex because she has a world-class ass. They also decide that they should get married and merge their businesses. All in 3 days. I am not making this up. Angie and Dare eventually start back down the mountain, the murdering accountant finds them and shoots Dare, but then man-eating bear shows up and eats the accountant, and Angie, good little shot that she is, shoots the bear. What a woman! I was hoping the bear would eat everyone, maybe by page 123, and amble off into the sunset, but no.

And in the “disappointing” category is Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James. I wanted to like this book – P.D. James is a great writer of classic British mysteries and she sets this one at Pemberley with the characters from Pride and Prejudice. But is was very…meh. One part that almost hit awful was when Darcy gives this 5 page angst-ridden monologue about everything he has done wrong in life, and Lizzy just sits there and sympathizes. Six years of marriage apparently dulled her wits significantly. The old Lizzy would have smacked him.

But I did read some good books lately – The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, The Innocent by Taylor Stevens (The Informationist was good as well), Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I must also mention the wonderful book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the current Livingston Reads! selection – just get the entire trilogy. Trust me on this one, you will need to know what happens to Katniss and company.

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Rebecca Foster writes about food, politics, books and whatever has irritated her on any particular day, on her website Usual and Ordinary (www.usualandordinary.com). She is an occasional contributor to The Livingston Post and has remained active in local politics and the community after serving as Pinckney Village President from 2004-2012, and as a trustee currently. She is enjoying empty-nesting in Pinckney with her husband, three cats and a few chickens.

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