The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.
PREVIOUS TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:
13th June 2020: Books with One Word (Eponymous) Titles
20th June 2020: Books I’d Give a Second Chance To
27th June 2020: Morally Grey Characters
4th July 2020: Coming of Age Stories
I am going to twist this topic a little bit to not simply hyped books but overhyped books. And this is to offer no offense or disrespect to the books, series and authors whom I mention, nor to readers who love them: we all have different preferences and reading and writing styles which sometimes mesh and at other times don’t. And that is great! That is, in fact, the wonderful thing about reading! And at times a book can can be perfectly good but not quite live up the the hype which has been generated about it from the media, social media, and blogs like these.
Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike novels
Remember these are over hyped books – not unenjoyable. I enjoy the Cormoran Strike series, but they are enjoyably mediocre.
But poorly written.
Honestly. The descriptions are repetitive and clunky – with an overwrought use of the thesaurus and occasional f-bombs and occasionally excessive violence (especially in The Silkworm which is the most problematic of the novels).
Oh and the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Strike and Robin is so cliched and juvenile…
There is also something vicious and unpleasant in them: the presentation of homosexual and trans characters is at best ill-informed and cliched, and at worst bordering on homo- or transphobic.
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series
So many people I know love Jim Butcher’s maverick wise-cracking hard-boiled wizard detective… but I find them disappointing and I blame Harry Dresden for that: as a narrator I find him, bluntly, obnoxious, irritating and I am still not warming to him.
And the treatment of women in the novels – well by Dresden – is problematic. There must be more ways to introduce women than legs that go on forever or curves in all the right places…. and conspiring to get Murphy to strip her trousers off at one point… Problematic.
Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels
Again, I do read and enjoy these as a popcorn guilty pleasures but they are ridiculous is so many ways.
Formulaic, certainly – and it is absurd that a man with an eidetic memory like Langdon has not yet learned that the kindly paternal figure appearing to help him is probably the Big Bad! Even when it is a digital computer generated kindly paternal figure.
Overly detailed and unnecessary adjectives and statistics are thrown into a novel for the sake of what… Verisimilitude? Accuracy? To evidence his research? And sentences which don’t quite work together grammatically or logically…
And the concepts behind the novels went from credible (in its loosest sense, allowing for a significant suspension of disbelief) in Angels and Demons and even The Da Vinci Code to absurd by the time we reach Inferno and Origin.
The Martian, Andy Weir
Moving away from series, The Martian was another book I enjoyed but found over-rated.
The science was interesting and felt thorough and convincing… but the narrative was flawed. We open with a series of Log Entries – logs where the notional audience was presumably NASA. Even assuming that watching his crewmates leave Mars and abandon him presumed dead, there is no need in any sense for Watney to explain the details he does
“From there, we took the MDV (Mars descent vehicle) to the surface. The MDV is basically a big can with some light thrusters and parachutes attached. Its sole purpose is to get six humans from Mars orbit to the surface without killing any of them.”
I mean, I’d hope whatever audience he is addressing would know this!
And each chapter – for a while at least – was so formulaic: each chapter ended with a disaster being discovered, and the next chapter showed Watney “running the numbers” to science his way out of it.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I cannot think of any novel that generates as much love as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
And it is not a bad novel in any sense. It is good. Great even.
But it is so… polite and mannered… and contained.
It is a novel that I understood in my head, intellectually – I can write an essay on social satire and women’s roles in it if I have to, and I did at University – but it was the only novel in my studies which I did not feel in my heart, or in my bones.
I’m with Charlotte Bronte if I am honest whose view of the nvoel was
“And what did I find? An accurate, daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully-fenced, high-cultivated garden with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses.”
Although, maybe, it is time to re-visit those elegant houses…
I am not including the most obvious over hyped book here, E. L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy because these books, whilst over-rated, are decent reads. Fifty Shades is not: it has all the literary problems of the Dan Brown but glorifies and normalises abuse and misrepresents the BDSM community and it is a dangerous book… and very dull.
Forthcoming Top Five Topics
18th July 2020: Books you Own
25th July 2020: #OwnVoices Books
Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.
Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!
So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!
Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!