Hump Day, Dump Day: The Bad Book Review

I don’t have a ‘hump day, dump day’ book to write about, which may happen more often than not. At least, I’m beginning to think so. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about trashing books in some way.

Personally, I’m not a fan of — and try not to write — 100% negative book reviews. Yet, as any reader knows, sometimes you pick a book because it sounds good or intriguing only to find that it’s anything but good or intriguing. Maybe they aren’t so bad that we just throw in the towel, but sometimes we have no choice. That’s totally fine! I, myself, am slowly learning when to give up on a book I can’t get into, rather than forcing myself to finish what I started.

I don’t want Hump Day, Dump Day to be all about the negative review, per se. Some books are just straight-up bad. No questions about it, hands down, BAD. But, I think what happens more often is that a book isn’t particularly to my liking, your tastes, or whatever. All the lovely, wonderful subjectivity of writing. Bad writing is bad writing, but just because I don’t like the narration, voice, style, or plot doesn’t mean the book is dictionary-definition bad. There have been books that repeatedly teased me with the hope of getting better, only to fail. Yes, I have a specific book in mind. That book, has great reviews on Goodreads. Meaning what exactly? A ton of people loved a book that I hate! Simple as that.

That’s what Hump Day, Dump Day IS about. Books we don’t like. Maybe they aren’t bad books, through and through, but there was something that just didn’t do it for me. I’m willing to publicly share my disdain, without shame, in the hopes of saving another reader the same torment I endured. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative review, just a sharing of opinions.

On that note…here’s a bit of praise, or acceptance, from The New York Times for the negative book review. It has it’s place in the literary world. And to be honest, as a writer…we want criticism, not just unadulterated praise. It makes us better writers and, maybe, people. It’s not an industry or endeavor for the faint of heart or hypersensitive; you have to know how to separate yourself from your work, to a degree. It’s your baby, yes, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world thinks it’s cute.

More props for the negative book review can be found at The New Yorker, along with some winning examples of why positive only book reviews aren’t necessarily good (or fun to read).


Dump Day: The Magical Household—Spells & Rituals for the Household

I didn’t actually read the whole book. Read several chapters in full, including the Preface and Intro which were sadly the best parts I could find.

Cunningham and Harrington create a typical image of a magical person and the way they live. That’s not to say it’s wrong, but I wasn’t looking for stereotypical ideals or descriptions.

While written well, and helpful in some ways, I wouldn’t say that this a book of ‘Spells and Rituals.’ It’s a book of folk-lore, old wives tales, and other folk traditions that most of us have heard of in some form or another. There are, however, a few with chants/words to repeat to purify, protect, or garner something you may desire. There are lists of herbs and incense to be used for the aforementioned purposes and the section on cleaning house/bath were kind of interesting–mostly to see how they were viewed in ancient times and the various myths associated with them.

Overall, it was nothing special; nothing that can’t be found just as easily through a quick Google search if you have a specific purpose in mind (i.e. colors/stones/herbs/scents used for purification, etc). And Googling is cheaper and a lot faster than sifting through a book that doesn’t have the best organizational structure. But, should you choose to sift, the chapters are short as are paragraphs and excellent for skimming until you find what you’re looking…if you find what you’re looking for.

Dump Day: Siddhartha

Like Eastern religion, thought, philosophy? This is a great place to get a start on that journey if you want to.

However, I’d already been on that journey by the time I got around to reading this. Therefore, it was a little lackluster.

There were plenty of things to love about it. Great characters, simple but moving descriptions, good storyline. All that stuff that we like about good books.

But, because it didn’t leave me feeling any more or less inspired, enlightened, or even thoughtful…it gets a dump day.

Had I decided to go on my ‘read all the books that Charlie reads The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ mission the first time I read that book…Siddhartha woulda been the shit!

So if you’re 15-17, trying to find yourself and figure shit out—go here. Even if you’re, like, 30-dead and in that position—go here. If you’re looking for a simple way to understand Eastern religion, for whatever reason you might do that—you can go here too. But if you’ve already established a pretty firm grasp of your life/world view and it looks remotely like any Eastern religion—stray, stray far away.

Dump Day: Netherland

“Modern day Great Gatsby”–that’s what a review had described this as, which is what prompted me to purchase it. I love Gatsby, so how could this be passed up?

It could have been and my life would be no worse, in fact it might be better had I not read this.

Honestly, I’m not sure how it’s anything like The Great Gatsby, aside from the fact that they’re both set in New York City. I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to be about exactly. There’s a guy and he spends a lot of time talking about or referring to cricket.

Hans, the main guy, isn’t interesting. At all. He sort of just bumbles through thoughts and the city and interactions in the most disingenuous way that, as a reader, makes you feel nothing for him or his situation.

Unless you have to read it for a college class, it’s part of your book club, or you just really love cricket–skip it.

Dump Day: The Dharma Bums

On the Road was great. I fell in deep, unashamed love with Kerouac when I read that. But in The Dharma Bums, I fell a little out of love.

I bought a Selected Novels edition from Borders (bless their soul) when they went out of business in my town. I was so excited that I told myself I was going to read them all, consecutively and it would be pure reading magic.

After On the Road was finished I was even more certain of this reading magic. Once I got to the end of The Dharma Bums, the magic was gone.

While it still has the same voice and writing style as On the Road, it wasn’t nearly as engaging or entertaining. There was great imagery and I certainly ‘got’ the ideas and feelings being expressed, but what was once love for the supplanting of real life of Kerouac things became an annoyance.

Reading, or even hearing about, the spiritual journeys of others is often fascinating and something I’d definitely be into. And I thought this venture into Zen Buddhism would even more definitely be something I’d dig. Still a good book, just wound up a little disappointing and left me laying my Kerouac to rest on the shelf for awhile.

Dump Day: A Separate Peace

The setting: Sophomore English class with my BFF.

Sounds like a great time, right? Yeah, we were pretty amped to have a class together. However, we argued endlessly over this book. She loved it; I hated it.

What did I hate exactly? I found it boring mostly. Maybe if I reread it with 27-yr-old eyes I’d like it a little better, but the odds of that happening are…well…zero.

Even though I almost (read as totally) related to our lovely main character, Gene, I didn’t really give a crap about him at all. He was introverted and smart (score!), but he was also kind of a doormat when it came to anything his friend, Phineas, did/said/wanted to do or say. Just typing that made me annoyed and unhappy with this book all over again.

Anyway…the book finally ended (and I’d tell you what happened, as I remember it, but that’d be a major spoiler). My BFF, she cried. What did I do? I laughed–and it was not a laughable event that closed this fine piece of literature.

Dump Day: The Catcher in the Rye

Is this a shitty book, per se? No. I read it, didn’t hate it. Also, didn’t love it.

If you’re not of this generation it feels outdated and unrelatable. Holden Caulfield is a great character in my book snobbish eyes, but in my teenager of the 21st century eyes–he was little pretentious, whiny, and plain annoying.

What a bummer he got to stroll around the city on his own for an afternoon without the hassle of constant human contact via some sort of electronic device. The old soul in me wishes I could do that. But at the same time, I can’t relate to how Holden feels.

For one: I’m an only child. The bond and love he has for his little sister is beyond comprehension to me.

For two: Holden’s “rebellion” isn’t really rebellious at all compared to things I’ve seen, or heard of, my peers doing. He got expelled, skipped town so his parents wouldn’t realize it until after Christmas break (see he’s considerate of other people), and he’s got mad respect for women.

He’s concerned about Jane (considerate again) and shops for a gift for his little sister (more consideration). Yet how he ends up in a mental instituation was always unclear to me. I wanted to know what caused the breakdown, or at least how it played out and when.

All in all, it was a good read. An easy read. But it wasn’t really satisfying or as magnificent as my mom made it out to be. Granted, she could have been Holden’s Jane when she read it and therefore probably related far more than I could. Plus, the thought of it being banned–for profanity–baffles me to this day.

Dump Day: Anna Karenina

Maybe my dislike isn’t fully founded. I never actually finished the book. But, I do love Russian lit–especially from this period.

I’m not a big Tolstoy fan, even when it comes to short stories. However, I thorougly enjoy Hadji Murad. So maybe my opinion is still worthy. I tried reading this after a professor I liked recommended it under the pretense that it is his best novel and would change my mind about Tolstoy.

At first, I was into it. There was a lot of family history and back story and all that I expected from such a book. I read approximately half of it, and until that point I truly believed I was being swayed to the Tolstoy camp. But then it started to slow down and talk a lot about some sort of horse race and…I gave.

It took me about a year to get that far into it. I persistently read other books at the same time because I thought it’d keep me from getting too tired or discouraged after Anna Karenina slowed down. Yet it didn’t. However, I will go ahead and admit that the ultimate downfall is simply that I do not like Leo Tolstoy. Sorry.