Mini Reviews of Books I Didn’t Love

I usually won’t finish reading a book I’m not into because let’s face it: there are more books available than I’ll ever be able to read in my lifetime. It’s not worth plodding through something unenjoyable. Yes, sometimes a book can make a surprising turnaround halfway through, or the ending redeems the whole thing, and how are you going to know unless you finish? If I think something like that is likely to happen, I’ll push through to the end. Sometimes they don’t deliver, and those books get 2 stars. They had potential, but ultimately disappointed.

Not everything is everyone’s cup of tea. Here are some 2 star books I didn’t love.

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Mini Reviews of Books I Didn’t Like

It’s the one-star edition, folks. I didn’t just not love these books, I disliked them. Many apologies to the authors.

I once had a co-worker berate me because I started reading 50 Shades of Gray, and abandoned it when I found it poorly written and uncomfortable. “How do you know you don’t like it if you won’t even finish??” she kept screaming. Not just the first book, either. Read all three of them. Only then can I hand out criticism.

Sometimes you just know. A few chapters in, and nothing’s happened? Maybe let’s call it a day. Is the protagonist doing something “problematic” and you can’t get on board with rooting for this person? Move on.

For me, a 1 star book is one that had enough pull for me to finish a forth to half of it (the ones where I can’t get past the first few pages, I won’t review at all because something’s so fundamentally not for me, my opinion on it doesn’t matter).

Here are my 1 stars.

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Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix

★★★☆☆

What sold me first on this book is its design. It’s made to look like an IKEA catalog (in fact, when my husband saw this book come in the mail, he said he almost threw it in the garbage because he thought it was a catalog). I purposefully bought the paperback because of the design. Inside are illustrations of fictional pieces of furniture, company mottos, even an order form. A+

The order form is the copyright page
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My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

★★★★★

It’s the 80s, and there’s so much of it. Abby invites everyone in school to her birthday party at the roller rink, and only one person, Gretchen, shows up. Gretchen gives a disappointing present, but the two girls become best friends. We follow them through the grades, the boys, the catty friends, until a small group of them try some drugs, try to go skinny dipping, and Gretchen gets lost in the woods. She comes back with maybe some PTSD, and she gets worse before she gets better. Stops bathing. Stops changing her clothes. Stops being normal. Everyone’s worried, but the more 

Abby tries to get to the bottom of what happened and how she can help her friend, everyone turns on her instead. Why is Abby spreading lies, they ask? Why is Abby being such a bad influence? Abby is surely the reason behind Gretchen’s downward spiral, and we don’t want our daughter associating with her anymore. If it’s not Abby . . .

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More than This – Patrick Ness

★★★☆☆

Seth drowns and wakes up alone in an abandoned city, or the weirdest afterlife I’ve ever imagined.

Coming from a religious background myself, the idea of an afterlife is a) ever-present and b) a total mystery (and well-worth imagining). While it seems like Seth might be in Hell, it’s not explicit. For the first 40% of the book, he’s alone (except for the occasional animal, which may or may not be in his imagination), and I’ve never been so engrossed in a book in recent memory. 

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Cecile and Marie Grace – Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckley

★★★☆☆

Cecile and Marie-Grace are ten year old girls in New Orleans, 1853 — the year of the big yellow fever outbreak. The girls pull together to help where they can and build a friendship at the same time.

The story itself is fine. I don’t have any beef with the characters (except that they’re almost never together). Switching their perspectives from book to book shows the reader what life was like for a white girl and a free person of color. I didn’t honestly see much of a difference, except for some pretty hard segregation. I’m sure there was more to it than that, and it would have been interesting to learn about. It was interesting to see how primitive their knowledge of medicine and disease were in 1853. If this were just a book for middle-grade kids to read to make history fun, I’d move on and probably never thing about this series again.

But it’s by American Girl.

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The Last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish

★★★★☆

I’ve gotta be honest, I didn’t know who Tiffany Haddish was until she hosted Saturday Night Live a few months ago. After a few lines of the monologue, I liked her. I felt like I knew her.

Her book is called The Last Black Unicorn, which was a huge draw for me because I loved The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I knew when I started reading that Haddish’s Unicorn would be nothing like Beagle’s, but she had my attention.

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Lightness by Catherine Meurisse

★★★☆☆

Lightness follows one of the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and how she learns to see beauty again.

I had to read this book in small doses because of the subject matte’s gravity. While the “plot” of the book can be summed up tidily, the author pulls us into her head by showing how faulty her memory had become after the attack and by tying her past to her present. She sees the attack everywhere she goes, from the police escort that follows her in Paris, to the statues in Rome, to paintings in the Louvre. She sees her dead colleagues when she experiences things they would have enjoyed.

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