Stand Alone Sunday

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan over at BookSlayerReads where each Sunday she features a standalone book (not part of a series)! There’s tons of focus on books that are part of a series… It’s nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Title: The Master of Ballantrae

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Setting: 1740s Scotland

After a couple of dud books that I had been looking forward to, I was really relieved when I picked this one up and was hooked almost from the first page. Maybe it helped that I skipped the long introduction and got right into the story.

This is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau set during the 1745 Jacobite Revolution. Two Scottish brothers, James and Henry Durie, reprise the roles of those scriptural brothers and the conflict could not be more exciting. After a coin toss, James heads off after Bonnie Prince Charlie while Henry fights for the king. James is presumed dead after the Battle of Culloden and Henry marries the girl intended for James. But James is not as dead as all that, and returns to make trouble for his family.

In some ways, this reads like a soap opera. Just when you think things are settled, up pops something horrible. Pirates, duels, a daring escape, buried treasure — it has it all. The only thing that might discourage a modern reader is occasional use of dialect, but it is rare and there are footnotes in case you are really lost. Totally recommended as a great story sure to keep you turning pages.

Year in Review, Part 1

I gotta say, I’m not sad to see 2016 go! What a year it’s been. Like a lot of people, it’s been a hard year. The only highlight, and it is a really big one, is that I got a new daughter-in-law.
bench

Will and Brittany, September 2017

But to get back to the books, it’s time for a look back at the best and the worst. Today I’ll review my worst books of 2016, the ones that miss their mark, the ones that are disappointing, the ones that are just plain horrible.

So Much Talk Award

You know the whole “Show Don’t Tell” adage? It’s not always, always true, but when you’ve got a whole book of telling and telling, and practically nothing happens, it’s really time to move on. Plus it was an audiobook, so it stretched the talk out even further. This one goes to The September Society by Charles Finch. Another hint that this is a stinker: the author named his main character after himself.

Boot the Reboot

I’m awarding this one to two Jane Austen reboots. The one I actually finished, Eligible by Curtis Sittinfield, was a modern version of Pride and Prejudice. Set in Cincinnati. About a dad with, you know, 5 daughters. He lives on his “investments” and the girls live off him. Mostly – Jane is a yoga instructor and Liz is a writer. However, the redo is both offensive and boring. Bingley is a reality show star, Jane is pregnant via IVF, Lydia’s bad beau is transgender, and Darcy & Liz jump in bed together with practically no build up. I applaud the effort to bring this story into the 21st century, but I hate it when queer issues are seen as and ‘edgy’ plot point.

Then there’s one I couldn’t finish – A Modern Day Persuasion by Kaitlin Saunders. Honestly, this one was so bad. Our Anne Elliott was heartbroken when her romance with the cute lifeguard at the country club was cut short. Because she was in high school. And her daddy didn’t want them to get married. Seriously? I’m supposed to feel sorry for her? Gave up on this one early.

You Call This Classic?

I had some clunkers in the classic fiction category. The one I kind of liked was The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. The writing was beautiful in parts, but the story was very slow. Normally she’s one of my favorite authors, but this one was definitely her weakest full length story I’ve read.

But I couldn’t even force myself to finish the other two I tried. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is so full of cliche – sweet suffering orphan, scheming dwarf, downtrodden wife, and on and on and on. I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. I just so didn’t care.

Then I tried A Passage to India by EM Foster. This one was well written, with great characters. But I am not into reading an exploration of racial drama that ends in tragedy, misunderstanding, and heartbreak. Especially this year! I want to read something that ends positively.

So Much For This Series!

I had several series that broke my heart or turned me away. Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull, #3 in the Beyonders, ending by killing off practically everyone. This was for kids! Not cool. The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, the Oz reboot, so darn boring. The first one was so much better!  Shattered, #3 in the Slated series is by Teri Terry. I really loved the idea for this one, and the first two books had a lot of promise. But I don’t know why this book went is such a different direction.

DNF

Sometimes, you’re expecting a book to be one thing, a certain genre, or content, or whatever, and what you get is something else entirely. I am put off my excessive profanity or violence, by sexual content, and by anything too dark or depressing. So when I hit a book is a letdown, I put it down and move on. I love books that push the boundaries of plot or character or worldbuilding, but when it comes to my moral boundaries, I don’t compromise.

So I won’t list any of those books, because the problem was not just with the writer, but with the fit between the book & the reader. But then there are the books that were just bad – poorly written, badly plotted, with internal problems. That’s the writer, not the reader.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith sounded like so much fun. But it was odd. I expected something campy. What I got read like a straightforward biography of Lincoln, which I would normally love, with a little vampire thing hinted at. But it was taking way too long to get to the undead. It left me bored and I quit.

I listened to over half of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, and NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. All kinds of secrets, lots and lots of back story. But plot? What plot? It had so much potential. It was set in 18th century Amsterdam, and rich with detail. But setting is not enough to carry a story. It needs to move.

And the last one I’m going to list is Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta. The problem here was that I didn’t care about any of the characters. This was book one in a series, so I get that our MC will change. But I have very little patience with whiny teenagers, especially ones that have to figure out a way to survive. This is Christian historical fiction, and this is sort of the ‘before’ picture, but even so, it was badly written.

So those are my Worst Of 2016 books; and next time I’ll tell you about my favorites. Happy reading!