Day 8 for the book nerds

Day 8 – A book you loved and one you didn’t


So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to discuss five types of books that I enjoy (not to be confused with genres…different animal) and a couple books with which I was severely disappointed. Because there’s no way I could pick just one of each.

1. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is a professional wizard. Basically, he’s a wizard who functions in a kind of P.I. capacity. He has an office where people come to him to get help with … unusual problems. Think your husband is cheating on you with another woman? Call a private investigator. Think your husband is cheating on you with a vampire? That’s when you call Harry Dresden.

That’s where the series starts anyway. In fifteen books, Dresden (and the rest of the cast) have evolved and grown into different characters than they were to begin (although not always for the better). But basically, if you enjoyed Harry Potter and are now looking for something a little more “grown up,” try the Dresden Files. It’s almost as if Harry Potter grew up, moved to Chicago and all the nasty crap that followed him through his youth has made him sarcastic and rough, although never bitter or jaded. Harry Dresden is the adult version of Harry Potter all grown up, surviving on steak sandwiches, microbrews, Coke, sarcasm and adrenaline.

And the occasional box of Froot Loops.

2. Ghost stories

I have a small collection of “real” ghost stories. One is a “travel guide” of haunted places to visit around the U.S., one is the autobiography/memoir of a real life paranormal investigator… stuff like that. I’ve had a few encounters in my life. Nothing that could definitively be described as a haunting or even a ghost sighting but definitely unsettling and a little spooky. Sounds that didn’t make sense, objects not being where they were left, things like that. And I’ve always been kind of the spooky kid, writing horror stories, watching horror movies…so I’m fascinated by the experiences of others.

3. Personal accounts

I’m not really sure what else to call it. It’s kind of all-encompassing; from biographies and autobiographies to the “true” ghost stories to books about historical events. Anything where a person decided to document their experiences, especially with something unusual or from an unusual perspective.

4. Horror stories

If it has a decent plot, I’ll try just about anything. But I tend to gravitate towards more human monsters. Psychological horror, Poe, King sort of stuff, less of the actual monsters you would find in Lovecraft and the like. I don’t mind the occasional vampire or a werewolf here and there, but I think humans can be the scariest being in the world.

5. Young adult

Huge, broad category but for the most part, it seems like the books that are designated for the 11-16 crowd are given more effort. The imagery is so much more vivid, the dialog is more integral. It’s like young adult authors feel like they have to work to captivate their audience and adult writers (some, not all) have decided their audiences are already avid readers so they can cut corners. Maybe that’s an unfair assessment but it’s kind of the way things feel like they’re going more and more, recently.

Now for the books that left me unfulfilled…

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Maybe it was all the hype that was given to this book before I read it that made me want to hurl it at a wall but I was so angry and frustrated by the time I finished… er… by the time I read the last page because if you’ve read it you know that no one finishes it. Because it doesn’t end. It just stops. Like someone ripped out the last ten pages. It’s horrible.

And my hatred doesn’t even touch on the cheap, forced ways the author attempted to drive his readers crazy. Because that was the goal of the whole thing. To plunge his readers into the same madness experienced by his characters. But instead of using words to do that, he used formatting so there’s a section of 8 or 10 pages with text across the middle of the page. That’s it. One line of text. So 10 words per page. And then it wraps around the page so you have to rotate the book to be able to read it. It felt gimmicky and I’m kind of anti-gimmick.

And the goddamned claw marks!

Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides

I saw the movie before I read the book. Which is how I do most things. I just don’t have the patience to trudge through the book version of a terrible story. But if the movie was good, I’m almost guaranteed that the book will be better, right? Not always. The problem with the book version of the Virgin Suicides is it was so disconnected. A lot was added to the film to make us understand why the boys telling the story were so fascinated with the Lisbon sisters. I never felt that connection reading the book. I never believed that the sisters were anything worth toiling over for years. But I understood the obsession watching the movie.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This was another huge disappointment brought on by a movie that added enough extra to make the story convincing. And another case of the book just…ending. I won’t spoil anything. I just didn’t believe it.

And when I say “the movie,” in the case of the Haunting of Hill House, I’m referring to The Haunting with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, not the original, which I think followed the book more closely.

Mark Twain said, “Of course truth is stranger than fiction. After all, fiction must be believable.” 9 times out of 10, if I don’t like a book, that’s why. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe that the events were enough to cause the end reaction. Especially in cases like the Haunting of Hill House, where we get the full story, beginning to end, rather than coming into the middle after something else happened (the way many post-apocalypse stories are set up…we are just dropped into the middle of the devastation and left to figure it out). If I am given the full story and still think, “hmmm….nope,” that’s when we have a problem.


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