Through my liberal practice of DNFing, I mostly read books that I enjoyed.
There were still a few books that disappointed me.
I read each of these books in its entirety without enjoyment.
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C. M. Waggoner
I have mostly wiped this book from my memory. All I remember is the disappointment.
I thought the book was setting up a number of neat subversions and fun gags that would pay off in the end.
Nothing that I had envisioned happened.
There were no betrayals. No twists. No last-minute morals. The undead mouse didn’t pay off at all.
The character development I’d been waiting for disappeared without preamble.
There was SUCH A GOOD BOOK HERE and I don’t know where it went.
A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King
I just want to know…how did I get here? And what did I do to deserve this?
A Certain Appeal is a burlesque retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
The first 80 or so pages of this were really fun. I thought I had a potential favorite on my hands.
Then came some cringeworthy dirty talk that made the sexual attraction seep from my body with every subsequent page.
THEN the unspeakable happened and I WILL be describing a sex act, MOM, so maybe scroll down.
If I remember correctly, our heroine Bennet was wearing rhinestone pasties.
Her paramour RIPPED ONE OF THEM OFF. HE RIPPED IT OFF. I CAN’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT WITHOUT CLUTCHING MY OWN NIPPLES IN SYMPATHY.
IF THAT WASN’T BAD ENOUGH, said act BRUISED BENNET’S NIPPLE. SHE THEN SAID TO DARCY, “You purpled my nurple.”
YOU PURPLED MY NURPLE. IN A SEX SCENE SHE SAID THIS.
I resign from reading, sex, and also Earth.
I do not wish to consume content anymore.
Goodbye forever. It was nice while it lasted.
Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson
I think this book’s villain suffered from a lack of human qualities, and I don’t mean in that in a Sympathy for the Devil way.
I wish the story had explored more of how insidious TERF rhetoric is, especially when coming from a respected community member.
Much of what TERFs say can sound reasonable. Even their most hateful comments can sound relatively mild or as though they have logic behind them.
It really took me out of the narrative to have the transphobic villain considered to be fringe by every other character.
Transphobia? Fringe? IN THE UK??
CAN YOU SEE HOW THIS LOWERS THE STAKES?
Anti-trans rhetoric and legislation are already mainstream in the UK. Portraying TERFs as fringe lunatics misrepresents a very real threat.
Also, the book went out of its way to insist that [redacted] was a girl whether or not she passed as one.
I think letting her magically transition into someone ultra-feminine in the climax undercut that message!
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
This was my first bell hooks book and wow, what a dud to start with.
I feel like the people on Goodreads who gushed about this book and wrote breathless five-star reviews only read the first half.
I agree with a lot of the ideas presented in this book, namely that patriarchy hurts everyone and that men are victimized by patriarchy even as they benefit from it.
I take issue with the conclusion, which I interpreted thusly: men aren’t changing because women haven’t tried hard enough to help them change. The onus of responsibility is on women to, with patience and understanding, lead the men in their lives into a better world.
This rings so false to me because it was presented as though women aren’t already expected and trained to manage men’s emotions for them.
What if two things are true: women hold men to unrealistic and harmful standards of manhood AND are also the tacit cleanup crew for men’s bad days?
The conclusion read to me like an academic “I can fix him.”
I have spent years trying to rescue people who did not want to change; I am not going to try that with the men in my life. It is not my job to fix them.
I will show up. I will hold space. I will not do the work for them. That is fully on their shoulders.
I’ve calmed down enough since reading this that I’m willing to give hooks another try. I’m just bummed that my first experience with her was so negative.
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
I maintain that when read as a look into both Mormonism and purity culture, the Twilight saga can be a fascinating reading experience.
Breaking Dawn still almost broke me.
The joyful celebration of grooming just about did me in.
I still think Stephenie Meyer should write horror; the pregnancy content alone noped me out of childbirth for another decade.
MORE horrifying than that, however, was when Bella’s ex-boyfriend imprinted on her miracle baby with the expectation that he would eventually MARRY SAID BABY.
It is BLEAK to know that Renesmee was born with an adult’s consciousness and rapid aging, so any objections to her and Jacob’s relationship can be waved away with, essentially, “She’s really mature for her age.” (Barf.)
I don’t know what’s worse: that the author considers this an unquestionably happy ending OR that some readers consider Jacob a VICTIM of his “abusive” child bride. (I’m not joking.)
This book made it impossible for me to defend Stephenie Meyer.
On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi
I have wasted so many words on the love interest from this book. I refuse to write more about him.
I think there is a VERY thin line between “people are complicated and we should give them grace” and “we should put up with harmful behavior in the hopes that things will improve.”
Lately, the romance novels I’ve read have been promoting the latter THINKING they are portraying the former and I’m TIRED.
THIS IS NOT MY ROMANTIC FANTASY. IT IS JUST MY REAL LIFE.
Truly, the romance in this book killed both the compelling coming-of-age narrative and any chance of me rating it higher than two stars.
I WANTED BETTER FOR THE PROTAGONIST.
Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod and Jess Taylor
I did not like this at all!
I feel like the premise needed a more thorough developmental edit because it DID NOT MAKE SENSE as an allegory for the trans experience!
The coming-out narrative would have been more effective if the plot, worldbuilding, and character motivations hadn’t been treated as afterthoughts to the message! That’s not how stories work!
I don’t even have words for this book anymore. It won awards and I’m mad about it.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
Marriage of a Thousand Lies is without a doubt the best-written book on this list. I loathed it.
In this book’s defense, I reacted especially poorly to the Will They or Won’t They romance due to events in my life.
In my defense, I did not get the catharsis I needed after all of the pain the story put me through.
I UNDERSTAND families are complicated and nothing can ever be PERFECTLY resolved.
Still, did the book really need to end with the lesbian daughter comforting her homophobic mom about her own uncertain future?
I can’t even say that the journey meant more than the destination because the journey was ALL SUFFERING.
This was the Oops! All Towers of books.
It was all nausea with no relief. Zero out of ten reading experience.
Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A prenuptial memoir by Adrian Tomine
This book is the type of “silly” that appeals to people with no sense of humor.
I’m so sick of [presumed] straight couples who complain about wedding traditions while doing nothing to challenge them, e.g., “I can’t bewieve I have to spend money on a new tie! Getting mawwied is hawd.”
The couple in this book sort of acknowledged their privilege but did it in such a cutesy way that the acknowledgment meant little.
I can’t figure out if it’s unreasonable for me to be annoyed at Tomine’s now-wife for asking Tomine to draw an ENTIRE COMIC to give out copies of as wedding favors.
OKAY, SURE, I’LL JUST CREATE A BOOK OF SEQUENTIAL ART FOR OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THAT SHOULDN’T TAKE UP TOO MUCH OF MY TIME. I DRAW FOR A LIVING ANYWAY.
Regardless of whether or not it’s reasonable, I’M ANNOYED.
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
I can’t believe I was tricked into reading about Undertale (excuse me, Nethertale) in an award-winning queer novel. WHEN WILL I BE FREE?
Like Undertale, Light from Uncommon Stars approaches pain and trauma with an uwu attitude that grates on my nerves.
It was a little hard to buy the “Please don’t kill yourself! Life is beautiful!” messaging when the story kept throwing trauma Katrina’s way.
Being alive is wonderful! Being trans is amazing! Now have an on-the-page rape scene!
It wasn’t so much the content that bothered me, since it unfortunately fit the experiences of many trans people.
My biggest issue was the tone. I felt like Light from Uncommon Stars wanted to be both cozy and hard-hitting.
If you’re going to try for both, you’ve GOTTA turn down the volume on one of them for tonal consistency. This book did NOT do that and I hated it.
Also, I refuse to believe that video game music for violins is this huge untapped market. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ON THE INTERNET BEFORE? GO TO YOUTUBE RIGHT NOW AND TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE.
God, I just thought about the scenes of Katrina working as a[n] [underage] cam girl.
I came here to be uplifted and instead I’m pissed off and bummed out.
I have come to the conclusion that I should stay far, far away from cozy fantasy and sci-fi.
Also, after a pretty happy year together, romance and I are once again on the outs.
I will be avoiding hype as best I can in the coming year so as not to be swayed by awards.
Here’s to better reading experiences.