Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

7 Skunkers & Clunkers

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Ever get a whiff of skunk? You don’t need to get close. One whiff is Plenty. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

Mom and I, we read. A lot. Like, 300+ books a year on average. We know what we like. What we don’t. What works. What stinketh.

We try to approach every book with an open mind. Give it a chance. That being said, it doesn’t take us long to smell out a stinker. (We don’t look for this stuff. It finds us.)

When we can, we pass on our 100% unscientific, totally subjective “olfactory discoveries” to you. No extra charge. Consider it a Public Service Announcement.

So here’s our newest list of literary skunkers and clunkers. Four topped our most recent DNF (Did Not Finish) list. Here’s why:

1. Code Named Helene

By Ariel Lawhon

Historical Fiction (DNF)

Well, barf.

Operating in occupied France during WWII, Aussie Nancy Wake is a spy/journalist/smuggler/saboteur/loud mouth/femme fatale/secret agent 007A. With red lipstick. And a red satin pillow. Ditto a purse pooch named Pinchon.

This barf-fest opens with Nancy aboard a Liberator poised to parachute into France. She’s supposed to meet up with the Resistance. The pilot tosses her a spam sandwich, heavy on the mayo. Nancy eats it. Then it comes back up all over the floor of the plane. It’s all downhill from there, with needlessly graphic details of torture, mayhem, and murder.

Just gross. Gag me with shrimp on the barbie. We hit eject after 200 pages.

***

2. Just Go, Man:

Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide “Pandemic”

By Patrick Warren

Non-Fiction (DNF)

An ex-Los Angelino and online entrepreneur leaves the States, drops out of “civilization,” travels the globe and becomes a world class cynic. After losing most of his online income, he heads to Croatia and lives off the grid for a while. There, he hikes, “wild camps” and writes a book about it.

Told in the first person, the book’s itinerary features frequent check-ins at Camp Surly, Sullen, and Supercilious. Repeat off-ramps into Women Are The Scourge of the Earth. Detours into Too. Much. Information regarding personal hygiene. Stops at Whinefests and Complaints R Us!

There’s lots of griping about pretty much everything and everyone. Some may see this as “tongue-in-cheek.” Those of with eyes will see it as griping about pretty much everything and everyone.

Yea, verily. If climbing Mount Gloom was an Olympic Sport, this book would bring home the gold. It makes Eeyore look like Mr. Happy.

We bailed after 17 chapters. Why hang any further with Captain Kvetch and the Curmudgeonettes?

If we want that, we’ll tune into the News.

3. Home Front

By Kristin Hannah

Fiction

Okay. So who are you and what have you done with Kristin Hannah?

Hannah is usually a sure “in for the win.” So this dumpster fire was a big surprise.

Overwrought. Over-written. Over-cooked, over-played, and over-done. Like a burger that’s been left on the grill since the Fourth of July. And it’s now Christmas.

There’s also The World’s Biggest Brat (Hi, Betsy.) This character, the twelve year-old daughter of the protagonist and Black Hawk chopper pilot, Jolene, was just insufferable. As in, someone needs a good swift kick in the pants.

The story just tries too hard. It’s about as subtle as a ton of bricks. And just goes on and on and on… Well past its useful shelf life. By like, a mile and a half.

It’s like trying to haul around a 40-ton logging truck with your teeth. So predictable. So canned and contrived. Can’t believe I wasted two days on this lemon.

***

Image result for i was anastasia book4. I Was Anastasia

By Ariel Lawhon

Historical Fiction

Here a tsar, there a tsar, everywhere a tsar, tsar…

Ever try to track a winter rabbit over a snowy field, barefoot and blindfolded? That’s what trying to follow the “dual narrative” of this historical fiction novel is like.

It’s all over the place.

Anastasia is supposedly about Anna Anderson’s claim to be Anastasia Romanov—sole survivor of the murder of the czar’s family during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It’s really about one bunny trail after another going down the rabbit hole, barely drawing breath in between and ever more barelier (new word I just made up) connecting the tracks.

And that’s too bad. Cuz this book had potential regarding one of history’s greatest mysteries – was she an Imposter or the Real Deal? Doubtless the ending is supposed to be clever. But it’s merely smug. Thud.

 

5. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

By Olivia Hawker

State of Confusion (DNF)

Set in the Wyoming prairie in 1876. Or… something. Moves with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. I’ve seen paint peel faster than this dud.

 

 

 

 

Is There a Law?

Is there a law somewhere requiring PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hiking memoirs by female solo hikers to be banal, bathetic, boorish and badly overwritten? Cuz the next two skunkers do so in spades.

6. Wild

By Cheryl Strayed

Non-Fiction

This was a book club selection. So we read the whole enchilada. All 613 pages (large print). Here’s our synopsis:

After racking up enough poor choices to win gold, galactically under-prepared and embittered female 20-something makes another: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo.

We’re thinking of subtitles. Maybe:

  • Days of Whine and Woe-ses
  • Welcome to Motel Blitzed, We’ll Leave the Plight on For Ya
  • Camp Tenderfoot and the No-Nail Gang Stride Again!
  • PC Queen Hits the PCT, “Film at Eleven!”
  • 50 Shades of Nihilism
  • Trail Memoir of Hapless Hiker Who Renews My Faith in a Merciful God

Or how ‘bout we just cut to the chase with: How NOT to Hike the PCT?

Our whole book club raved about Wild. Except one person. (Guess who that was. C’mon. Guess!)

An avid hiker since just after the discovery of fire, Mom figures anyone who can’t properly size a hiking boot or put down a horse humanely has no business writing a book about either. Bye!

7. Girl in the Woods

By Aspen Matis

Non-Fiction (DNF)

Gag me with Meow Mix says Kimmi. Cuz this is one of the worst “hiking books” ever.

Think Clueless in Colorado drops out of college after a traumatic event, decides to hike one of the most rigorous long-distance hikes in the country, without a Water Report or much else in the common sense department. (You’re in high school and your “mommy” still dresses you? What?)

Badly overwritten and needlessly coarse, this stinker drips out dense like water from a leaky faucet. It makes War and Peace look like the Indy 500. If this hackneyed, foul-mouthed and maudlin memoir qualify as “exhilarating,” then so does watching grass grow.

I had enough after 200-ish pages. This clunker made my hair ache.

A Five-Star Skunker.

Better Hiking-ish Books:

Throwin’ this in for free (we’ve read them all):

Thirst: 2,600 Miles to Home, by Heather Anderson

A Walk Across America, and The Walk West. Both are by Peter Jenkins.

The Road Unseen, co-authored by Peter and Barbara Jenkins.

Southbound: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail, and Walking Home, both by “the barefoot sisters.”

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson. (The 2015 was terrible. But the book is highly readable.)

Trail Angel Mama: Tales of a Pacific Crest Trail Angel, by Sue Holman and Trisha Faye (more on this later, in a separate post.)

Wild Land, by Rebecca Hodge.

Have you read any skunkers or clunkers lately?

WARN US in the comments section!

Skunk image credit: Public Domain.

Code Named Helene Image credit: Target

2 thoughts on “7 Skunkers & Clunkers

  1. As bad as I feel for the authors, you’re at your funniest when someone ticks you off with a book. (“Barelier” – love it when you make up words.) “Welcome to Motel Blitzed, We’ll Leave the Plight on For Ya.” And made my “hair ache!?” Chuckling, chuckle, chuckle. Actually the whole post made me laugh. There were a lot of classic Kimber and Kristine moments. (Loved the pic.)

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