Midweek @ Musings: Two “meh” books

I pride myself on reviewing every book I read, and today I have a confession to make:  I skipped reviews for two books in the past month.  You see, these were “meh” books.  Reviews are easy to write if you love a book, and I also enjoy writing reviews for books that are just plain bad.  But if they’re just “meh”?  When I’m finished I just want to move on and not think about them anymore.  These two books were both contemporary fiction, and had been on my TBR pile for four years.  They weren’t bestsellers, and have long passed off the typical book buyer’s radar screen.  You’re not likely to find these on the 3-for-2 table at a major book store, nor will there be hundreds of copies in used bookshops.

So really, it doesn’t matter what I think of them.  But admit it: you’re kind of curious, aren’t you?  And don’t I owe it to you as a reader to help you avoid a mediocre read?  Well, here are a couple of not-really-reviews-but-reviews for you:

Wild Life, by Molly Gloss

I really wanted to like this book, because it had a number of elements that normally appeal to me: strong female protagonist, feminism, and a historic setting (in this case, the Pacific Northwest c. 1900). The main character, a widowed mother of four, sets off to help find a missing child and goes missing herself. Unfortunately, the events that followed seemed a bit far-fetched, and the account of her adventure was interspersed with other writings, making it difficult to make sense of the work as a whole.


Gardens of Water, by Alan Drew

Sinan and his family are left homeless after a massive earthquake hits Turkey. His young son Ismail is initially thought to have died, but is found alive in the rubble. Their neighbors, an American family, were not so lucky, losing Sarah, wife to Marcus and mother of Dylan. Then Marcus and Dylan join an American relief corp running a camp and convince Sinan and family to live in the camp. Dylan and Sinan’s daughter Irem become close; their illicit love is a source of family conflict and exacerbates an existing conflict between Sinan and Marcus.

This book, too, had some promising elements but on the whole just didn’t work. Dylan in particular: having lived all of his 17 years in Turkey, he was still very American (jeans, personal music player, tattoos & piercings) and prone to cultural gaffes. It also struck me as odd that Marcus and Dylan, bereaved and newly homeless themselves, would become relief workers. Wouldn’t they need support as much as any Turkish family? Or does their nationality afford them some special status, uniquely able to rise above personal tragedy and help those “less fortunate”?

The novel was also very dry, and didn’t generate the emotion it should have given a number of tragic plot elements.


There, that feels better.  Moving on …

14 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: Two “meh” books

  1. Well, I agree you have a duty to let us know what to avoid! It’s hard with books that are middling – I just finished one that wasn’t good and wasn’t bad and I just thought I would get to the end to see what happened and that’s that. I *will* review it tho’ I prefer to be raving about my reading!

    • kaggsy, I think part of my problem was also just being rather busy at the time. I was not inspired to write a review, and had plenty of other things to deal with, and just opted out. I still feel a little guilty about it, hence this post!

  2. I’ve had this experience too, but I’m more likely to write a really brief review of books I disliked (rather than ‘meh’) because I really can’t be bothered spending any more time on a book I didn’t like. Like you, I review everything I read and that means the occasional uncomplimentary review – though not many because I choose my books wisely and don’t often end up with the wrong book for me. (It’s usually when I get sucked in by hype that I get disappointed).
    Every now and again, especially with a popular book, someone will tackle me and want more detail about why I didn’t like it. They feel that I owe it to the book to give a detailed explanation with examples from the book. They don’t always understand that I am not going to spend more time re-reading a book I didn’t enjoy, to write a detailed review just for them!

    • Lisa, I kind of enjoy writing reviews of books I really disliked — you know, a scathing sort of review. It’s the lower-middle ones that are hard for me. I completely lack inspiration!

      • Sheesh, I had to edit & correct my own comment. I said “liked” when I meant to say “disliked” … guess I was in a bit of a rush, sorry!

  3. Yeah I know what you mean. I just had to read a crime/popular fiction type novel for a book club and though I didn’t hate it, I have no inclination to write a review of it. It just didnt really speak to me in that way … so I can relate.

    • And this is the dilemma, isn’t it? Because whether we intend it to or not, our blogs become a source of information that helps other readers to choose the books they’ll invest time and money in. Pollyanna blogs (where every book is gush-gush wonderful) don’t develop a sense of trust in the blogger’s ability to judge whether a book is worth reading or not. When we do as Laura has done here and tell it like it is, it confirms her judgement. She discriminates, she knows when one book is better than another. If the Emperor has no clothes, she says so. I can trust her opinion because it’s honest.
      But still, I always hesitate when blogging a review of a book I didn’t like. It’s hard to do, and I read and re-read what I’ve written to try to make sure it’s not unnecessarily harsh.

      • I agree with you Lisa, and I like the term, “Pollyanna blogs”. Sometimes I fear straying into that territory because I’m so selective about what I read, I rarely give low ratings (less than 3 stars).

        To go back to swright’s comment, let’s say the book is an obligation — for a book club, or for work — and not something you’d normally read. I would feel less guilty about not writing a review if it’s not the sort of book people would expect to read about on my blog.

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