Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Books You Felt Betrayed By

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is Books You Felt Betrayed By, so, let’s jump straight in!

1. The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

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I’ve spoken about feeling betrayed by this book a few times on my blog (1, 2), so it seems apt to take the top spot here. To be honest, every time I think about my high expectations going into this book and how disappointed I felt at the other end, I get angry. This trilogy had so much buzz around it that I was expecting a book of epic proportions. Instead, I got a book in which nothing happened. This is a book about a young girl becoming a Queen, deciding how she wants to rule, and having to face the fallout of her decisions. My issue was that there was no fallout. Instead, the book builds up to action, promises action, and then leaves that action for the sequel. I enjoyed this book until I realised that the action wasn’t coming, and felt like I had been conned out of money and time. This is, to me, a prime example of stories being stretched out into series because series are more popular or profitable perhaps, without there actually being enough content to fill a trilogy.

You can read my full review for this book here.

2. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

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I’m pretty sure this was everyone’s most disappointing read of 2015. However, to be fair, I don’t think it’s completely down to the book itself. This was not a sequel, as marketing suggested, but actually Harper Lee’s first draft for To Kill A Mockingbird, and she didn’t want it to be published. For all those readers looking for a sequel, this was bound to be a disappointment. Central characters were completely different to how we remember them, like Atticus, or missing altogether, like Jem and Boo Radley (which was my favourite aspect of the book). It was an odd choice to market this book as a sequel, knowing that so many much-loved aspects of To Kill A Mockingbird were missing, and this was one of the few times I wished I hadn’t read a book altogether.

You can read my full review for this book here.

3. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley 

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I was so exciting coming into this book. It’s set in Victorian London, there’s a seemingly magical watch, a mysterious old man, Japanese influences, and a murder-mystery-esque storyline at the centre. It should have been like a fantasy Sherlock Holmes or Ripper Street, but instead, this book just bored me. Although Natasha Pulley’s writing is sensational – she describes things beautifully – and I enjoyed the ambiguity about whether or not there was magic involved, I felt like the plot itself faded into the background too much and I couldn’t remember what the point of the story was and what the characters’ aims were. I think that this book was maybe too convoluted with various threads of storylines, for example, there is one part of the book that takes place before the main timeline in Japan, but in my opinion, this could have simply been woven into the main storyline, and it would have been less confusing and the book as a whole would have flowed better. Everything else was there – characters, setting, fantasy – to make this a firm favourite, but it was just the lack of plot that made it difficult.

4. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

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Sarah J. Maas is a fantastic writer. When I read this book, I was completely wrapped up in her Throne of Glass Series, which I had just started, but where Throne of Glass is a thrilling fantasy epic full of drama and action, ACOTAR just dragged on. For the first half of the book, barely anything happened, and we simply follow Feyre around as she decides whether she wants to paint and falls in love with Tamlin. This book really let me down in two ways. I found Feyre to be annoying, boring, and frankly, too dumb to live. She made so many terrible decisions and always managed to get out of them alive, and never learning her lesson. The second way was in the setting. I know that Sarah J. Maas can create fascinating worlds from the Throne of Glass series, and the map in the book tells us that Prythian has many different kingdoms – The Summer Court, The Winter Court, The Spring Court, The Autumn Court, The Day Court, The Night Court, and The Dawn Court – which probably all have their own distinct characteristics. However, mostly we just see the Spring Court, and I think so much more could have been done here.

You can read my full review for this book here.

5. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

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When I read this, I was just riding off the coattails of The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska. I was into my angsty teen novels with fuzzy romances and tear-jerking tragedies, and John Green was the man for me. However, this book was so boring. I didn’t understand the purpose of the book, and I couldn’t relate to or sympathise for the main character Colin. Whilst in the other John Green books I had read, I had enjoyed the characters, even if they are somewhat overly quirky, but it took so much effort to not throw this book out the window because I hated Colin so much. He complains the whole way through, his obsession with anagrams was annoying, and the whole Katherine obsession felt creepy. This book was so disappointing that it has turned me off reading any more John Green novels since! Maybe one day, when the memory of An Abundance of Katherines has faded from my memory, I will be able to read Paper Towns, but for now, I’d rather read something else.

 

Now, if you enjoyed these books, that’s great! This is just a list of my own personal opinions, and whether you agreed or disagreed, I would love to hear your comments below. What are your top 5 most disappointing reads, and what are your thoughts on the books listed above?

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Book Reviews, Historical

Review – ‘Go Set A Watchman’ – Harper Lee

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55 years after audiences first met the characters of Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia, and more in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, Harper Lee’s new (old) novel Go Set A Watchman has hit the shelves. This marks the first time in a long time that I have been so excited for a book to be published that I preordered it, and I awaited the book’s arrival eagerly. Although I don’t think Go Set A Watchman is as moving as its predecessor and despite the story being extremely simple, I did enjoy the book and the opportunity to revisit characters like Scout.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 22.03.29Go Set A Watchman is set in 1950s in Maycomb, that is, two decades after the story in To Kill A Mockingbird. Scout now goes by her proper name Jean Louise and lives in New York but has returned to Maycomb to visit her elderly father, Atticus. However, while staying in Maycomb, Jean Louise’s saintly view of her father is shattered as she learns that he is a member of a racist group opposing the end of segregation. Over the course of Go Set A Watchman, Jean Louise grapples with this revelation, and must decide whether she continues following her father’s word as gospel or stands firm in her own view. In other words, whether she is able to stand firm in her convictions knowing that the man she most admires disagrees with her.

Although Go Set A Watchman sounds like a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird – and in a way, is just that – it is more of a draft/alternative. There are mere references to what would become central storylines in To Kill a Mockingbird, like Tom Robinson’s trial, which has one vital difference in this book. Furthermore, an equally vital component of To Kill A Mockingbird, Boo Radley, is not even mentioned in this book. That means that, for those readers like me who were eagle-eyed and waiting for references of what happened to certain characters or to read about Jean Louise’s memories again, there would have been some disappointment. Even more upsetting though, was what felt like the mere seconds that was given to Calpurnia’s reappearance. Calpurnia, who is such a personality in To Kill A Mockingbird, barely spoke, and let’s not even talk about Jem. However, there were some new characters like Henry, or Hank, and some new stories that entertain. I particularly enjoyed the story about Hank, Scout, and her ‘falsies’, even if it wasn’t really a part of the main story, it contributed and took me back to Scout’s familiar narrative.

Harper-Lee-UKAnother aspect of Go Set A Watchman that you may have heard of recently regards what feels like changes being made to characters that go right to the core of how we see them. For one, Scout, our dear Scout, is no longer ‘Scout’ but now Jean Louise, the name she shoved aside as a child. Her spunky, rebellious attitude has faded, and Scout – I mean – Jean Louise now wears dresses. The closest we even get to dungarees in Go Set A Watchman is slacks. However, to be fair, people do change and so I accept Scout’s superficial changes because at heart, Jean Louise is still our Scout. Her perspective in life is exactly what I would have expected her to grow up thinking. She is frequently referred to as ‘colour-blind’ and struggles to live in a world and with people who aren’t, and struggles to deal with the realisation that the people closest to her and who made her who she is are now revealed to be different to what she thought they were.

On the other hand, both ours and Jean Louise’s vision of Atticus is torn apart in this book. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus is different to all the racist, prejudiced people of Maycomb. Scout in the narrator of the story but Atticus is the hero. In this book,  Jean Louise stumbles upon Atticus attending a Citizens’ Council meeting in the Maycomb Court, the same place where as a child she saw her courage defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape by a white woman even though he knew he’d been “licked” before the case began, and introduce and listen to white supremacist speakers campaigning against the work of the NAACP, the end of segregation, and the right to vote of black Americans. Although passages such as reading extracts from the speech, or hearing Atticus’ remarks about why he wants to keep segregation, were sickening, Harper Lee wrote the book so masterfully that I felt the same betrayal as Jean Louise. We are made to understand Jean Louise so deeply that we feel like retching and screaming and fighting with her, and that, to me, is a sign of brilliant writing. In fact, many writers cannot achieve that same level of connection between their readers and characters, but I felt as if my own hero had stabbed me in the back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 22.06.20Recently, there has been much whispering about Go Set A Watchman and whether this portrayal of Atticus as a racist will ruin the experience of To Kill A Mockingbird for readers. In response, I believe that this is a mistaken belief. When I first began reading the passages where Atticus is shown to be a racist, I too feared whether I could ever enjoy the story again, but when I reached the scenes where Jean Louise discusses her feelings with everybody from Hank, her Uncle Jack, to Atticus himself, I felt like Harper Lee was taking us on a journey of discovery with Jean Louise. The main journey in this book is not about how Atticus ‘became’ racist, but is about Jean Louise’s journey to independence and confidence in her own beliefs. As Uncle Jack puts it, Jean Louise must destroy the vision of her father as a God in order to know herself, and must find her own sense of morality.

Still, I think that Go Set A Watchman also makes an interesting point about racism in society. Atticus is largely a good guy, at least in To Kill A Mockingbird, but in Go Set A Watchman, he is the same man. He has done the same great things, he is loved by many, but he holds these prejudiced views. Uncle Jack makes the point that Atticus has always lived by the letter of the law, but I feel that what Harper Lee may have been pointing out to us is that the law is not enough to put an end to racism and prejudice. Atticus and Jean Louise talk about a slow end to segregation and racism being necessary, but Lee appears to dispute this. We must try to put an end to racism in all parts of society and our lives, not simply relying on the law to do our work for us.

To conclude, which I feel I must do in order to stop myself rambling for days on end, I think Go Set A Watchman is an enjoyable, interesting book and that Harper Lee was truly successful and bringing us into what felt like a close relationship with the characters. I don’t think that Go Set A Watchman would have have been anywhere near as successful as To Kill A Mockingbird if it had been published 55 years ago, and I am thankful that it wasn’t, or we wouldn’t have had all of the beautiful, complex stories that Lee gave us, but as a (sort of) sequel, it works. It works because we can revisit characters and places that we have seen before, and it works because we see Scout undertake another massively significant journey of discovery.

Have you read Go Set A Watchman? What did you think? Comment below.