Trashin’ and moanin’: a couple of book reviews

Going through my goodreads list I’ve realized there’s a couple of books I haven’t talked about recently, mostly because those were either uninteresting or frankly not that good.  I wondered if I should talk about those, voiced the question aloud to my friend the cat who was engaged on a mortal combat whit his enemy the house plant and apparently didn’t have a minute to answer even this simple question. So I asked myself ” do I enjoy reading reviews of books the reviewer didn’t like?” And the answer to that is yes. ( In case you are wondering, I do have an internal monologue in form of questions and answers to myself, often at the moment in German, to add to the general normality that goes around in my brain).

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The battle is fierce, I tell you

So anyway, books that I didn’t like, didn’t finish, or simply didn’t live up to the expectation I had of them, in the past few months: (using the very arbitrary criterion of “books I recently gave 2 stars on goodreads to):

  • Géographie de l’instant, by Sylvain Tesson

23358125This is a book my father gave me. Sylvain Tesson (whose name makes me laugh for no other reason that it means shard as in shard of glass, don’t ask me why I find it funny) is one of the most prominent French contemporary travel writers, which, given my love for travel literature it was clearly a shame I hadn’t read anything by him. This is a collection of extremely short essays, most of them one page long, that appeared for years in a French magazine. Some of them are quick recollections of travel instants Tesson couldn’t fit into his other books, some are general remarks on current events (which, years after, are hard to relate to), or philosophical wondering of different sort. Now, a lot of things annoyed me in this book. The irrelevance of most of the themes – which, I suppose, is a given when you are putting together a collection of small remarks from years ago, but it could have benefited from a minimal amount of editing – the “I’m a free thinker and therefore expressing controversial opinions” tone of most of the pieces, which, actually, are often neither controversial nor interesting, but mostly the smug “this is a piece of concentrated wisdom I just brought you, be amazed” style of writing/point of view. I enjoy being thought intelligent things by humble teachers. I abhor being delivered a small remark that presents itself as intelligent but is in fact just void. And on top of that there were spelling mistakes. When you sound that smug, that’s unforgivable. Goodbye Mister Tesson, then, it is a shame because I would have enjoyed travelling with you.

  • Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse

14975A book I bought because it was 1) cheap and 2) I had read another book by Kate Mosse which I enjoyed a lot, “The Taxidermist’s Daughter”, a Gothic novel with a great gloomy brontë-esque atmosphere. This one, as it turns out, is the first of a historical thriller trilogy about religion wars and the Graal mystery in the Pays d’Oc, South of France. It is built like a thriller and is very thoroughly researched, giving a interesting peek into French History, but it also features – very Dan Brown like – unidimensional characters, heaps of unnecessary suspense and convoluted plot twists to keep the reader at the edge of his seat, and mostly, it is not very well written. I might have enjoyed it if I had come to it with the expectations of a (very) light summer read, but I didn’t, and it’s just as well, that’s one book I don’t need to bring back to Switzerland with me (and I’m all for more storage room: it means more books!)

  • Bossy Pants, by Tina Fey (audiobook)

9418327Again, a book I came to with way too high expectations. I’m aware this is probably a not very popular opinion, but I was bored listening to it. I had been promised a comedic masterpiece. I love Tina Fey and thought this was going to be a feminist manifesto about making it in the comedic industry, both interesting and drop dead funny. It turns out it is a rather detailed biography, full of passages that – for me at least- had no interest and weren’t that funny, despite the – too obvious – comedic exaggeration and constant self-checking. That might be what sounds so odd, in this book: her going back and forth between self appraisal (which a biography often is, that’s the point of writing about you) and self critic, both in a “I don’t really mean it” tone that lives you wandering: but then, what do you think? And some of the passages of her trying to sound as much of an outsider as possible (like her being the only cisgendered heterosexual female in her youth comedy club – therefore being the “minority”) are a bit too far fetched to be funny. A shame, because I think she is brilliant and would have wanted an interesting book from her.

Aah, there’s no pleasure like randomly ranting about slightly disappointing books, wouldn’t you say? Any frankly bad or just dull books you’ve read recently?

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