Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

BKLBITS Awards! 6 Vastly Over-Rated Books That Fall Flat

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Ever finish a book and thought:

 “Well. That’s (fill in the blank) hours or days out of my life I’ll never be able to get back”?

Kimber here.

Mom and I have run across some of those lately. They’re the kind of books that epitomize the phrase, “All that glitters is not gold.” Cuz they’re just lousy. Boring. Insipid. Pointless slogs to the Middle of Nowhere. Littered with unsympathetic, cardboard characters we don’t know, don’t want to know, and could care less about.


Mom and I, we nominate these losers for what we call BKLBITS “awards.” That’s Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky.

We’re telling you this to save you some time. As in, don’t waste yours on these colossal duds.

Heading this summer’s BKLBITS nominations, all of which earned a one star rating or less, are:

At The End of the Day (Simon & Schuster, September 2020)

By Bill Clegg



One of the biggest stinkers of the season, At the End of the Day is also one of the most vapid. It’s like the author is trying so hard to impress us with his literary brilliance – or something – he loses sight of a few minor details. Like a coherent plot. Or an Actual Story.

Besides a yellow convertible and a green barn, a beach in Hawaii, and a Connecticut estate with the unlikely name of Edgeweather, there’s not much else going on that makes this dud worth the time. The main characters – Dana, Lupita, Jackie and Hap -are clumsy caricatures to the point of ridiculous. Even worse, there’s no point to this slog. As in, zip, zero, nada.

Badly overwritten to the point of nauseating, At the End of the Day is twice as long and half as lucid as it could be. Readers might rightly wonder if the author got paid by the word?

There are also way too many incidental and tangential characters that are hard to keep track of and add nothing to the story, if you can call it that. The timeline jolts back and forth and forth and back and upside down and backwards so often, you need industrial strength Dramamine to keep up.

It’s like a bad toothache. Or a presidential debate.

Adding injury to insult, the ending drops readers on their heads. It’s like the author finally ran out of words (thank you, God!) and just unplugged the key board.

We had to force ourselves to finish this. A colossal waste of time. (See our review here.)


Tsarina: A Novel (St. Martin’s Press, October 2020)

By Ellen Alpsten

Historical Fiction

Tsarina is allegedly about the life of Marta Skowronska, aka Catherine I of Russia. Born a peasant, she was the second wife of Peter the Great and became Empress of Russia upon his death.

This book had great potential as historical fiction. Unfortunately, the author too often resorts to cheap parlor tricks in lieu of an actual, coherent plot. Toss in a bunch of cartoonish characters and tiresome, predictable boors. Add heaping helpings of snow, war, and depravity. Try to pass it off as “historical fiction.”

Parts of it are just gross. It’s almost as if the author got stuck, couldn’t figure out where to go next, and decided to toss in a little debauchery to titillate readers because she couldn’t think of anything else. Well, barf.

If you have to choose between watching paint peel and this load of horse hooey, take the paint.


Fatal Accusation (Black Rose Writing, June 2020)

by Marian K. Riedy & Tanja Steigner



‘Fatal Accusation’ is allegedly about revenge. Betrayal. Double crossers and triple-crossers. Hackers and fraudsters. NSA data breaches. Secrets and spies.

A young lawyer, formerly with the NSA, winds up in a wheelchair as a result of a subdural hematoma. Jessica can’t remember anything about how she got it. The hot shot lawyer handling Jessica’s case for possible medical malpractice, Miranda, sniffs out something rotten in the deep state of D.C. It’s all downhill from there.

Billing this book a “legal thriller” is a stretch. It’s more of a convoluted cyber cat and mouse game with lawyers doing most of the chasing but little of the catching. Lots of legal mumbo-jumbo and maneuvering. Miranda and her colleagues spend a lot of time on their phones and being called into meetings.

Meanwhile, too many rabbits disappear down too many holes. Also, the title suggests a murder mystery. NOT. (That’s a BIG rabbit hole.)  Read our review here.

By Nathan Makaryk

Historical fiction

Well, barf again.  We really wanted to like this book. It had lots of promise.

Set in 12th century England, Lionhearts pretends to be a “Game of Thrones-ish” story picking up where the legend of Robin Hood leaves off. You know. Marion. King Richard. Will Scarlet. John Little. Severed hands and ears left and right. Red Lions. Street urchins. Characters who couldn’t find their way into an intelligible plot with a road map.

It’s really just one giant wallow in the pig trough. Oh, look. A potty-mouthed band of “merry men” wandering around Sherwood Forest and Nottingham doing their best impressions of talking garbage.


Not helping is the fact that this vulgar, profane rag moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. The author’s habit of flinging modern day playground vernacular into 12th century mouths also strains credulity.

We don’t do pig troughs. Or sloths. We’re just funny that way.

The Summer Demands, (First Catapult, 2019)

By Deborah Shapiro


This steaming pile of cow pucky is a top contender for our DNF list. Ugh.

Newsflash, authoroo: If you’re going to go all dumpster diving on us with gratuitous gross and mindless morass in the first coupla chapters, we’re not giving you the time of day for the rest. Oh, and by the way? You’re a lazy writer. We’ve got better things to do than wade through garbage dumps disguised as books.



The Retreat, (Macmillan Publishing, 2019)

By Sherri Smith


Well, gag us with liver pâté.

This exercise in Chinese water torture is not only badly edited (see page 14, for starters), it’s also dull as dirt. And makes about as much sense.

A few chapters of the insufferable Katie Manning – former child star Shelby Spade, girl detective, and Co. – and we’re ready for detox. And a bar of soap. Talk about “limited vocabulary.” So junior high.

Retreat characters are stilted, shallow and obnoxious. Stereotypes stick to them like fly paper on Jed Clampett’s wall. The hackneyed plot – what there is of it – is beleaguered by so many idiotic bunny trails, it lands in La La Land faster than you can say, “Camp Get Over Yourself.” (Ayahuasca tea and a “va-cay” in the Catskills? The predatory “Dr. Dave” and “Everything went Tilt-a-Whirl.” Seriously?)

Our time is valuable. So is yours.

We do not have the time or the patience to “wait till it gets better.” To the Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky you go!


For more on our rating system, click here.


Good News!

We’ll be featuring Best of the Summer soon. Captivating, uplifting and wonderful reads you won’t want to miss. Stay tuned!




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