February 19, 2012

Ambivalence: Did I Like That Book?

Photo found here.
Usually I find it pretty easy to decide if I liked a book or not. Often within the first 50 pages I've come to my conclusion. But recently I read not one, but two books which left me feeling ambivalent.

The first is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly which Angi recommended to me in the comments on my best of 2011 post. (Which reminds me, do you guys read the comments? Lots of times there are great book recommendations by other people! I try to reply to about 90% of the comments, and I love it when you guys tell me about books that I haven't read!)

But, back to ambivalence. I read The Book of Lost Things really fast. It's a fantasy novel about a boy named David who recently lost his mother. David's world is turned upside down by her death, by his father's quick remarriage, and by the outbreak of World War Two. Escaping through his books, David finds himself literally in another world...a creepy fairy-tale world. In this world Red Riding Hood and the wolf got together and bred a line of Loups -- humanish wolves who are threatening to take over the Kingdom. Snow White is an obese harridan who makes the dwarves miserable, and Sleeping Beauty isn't so sweet. David's quest is to get to the King, to see if his mysterious "Book of Lost Things" can help David get back to his own world.

I liked the creativity of The Book of Lost Things, and how Connolly took familiar fairy tales and turned them on their heads, making good guys bad and bad guys good. But I didn't like how sinister the mysterious "Crooked Man" who drew David into the fairy tale world was. I just felt uneasy the whole time I was reading it. And, in addition to the Crooked Man totally creeping me out, the story didn't have quite the ending I wanted. Hence, the ambivalence.

The other book that I'm not sure about is completely different. It's Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman. It gets crazy good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and I read several reviews of it last fall where bloggers talked about it being profound, and life-changing, and how it  helped them stop being perfectionists. In the book Freeman discusses different "masks" that "good girls" hide behind, and talks through her own journey from a good girl who was faking most of her Christian life to someone who let herself be imperfect, relying on Jesus (and not her masks) to make up the difference.

So maybe I was expecting too much from it? Because don't get me wrong, I thought it was a perfectly nice book, but it seemed a little...dull? Maybe I wasn't quite the right target audience though. I generally run the other way from self-help books of any variety, and although this is probably more accurately categorized as a religious/Christian book, it was also pretty self-help-y.

Ratings: I'm going to go with a solid 2.5 out of 5 on both, since I really don't know how I feel about them.
Should I recommend these to my grandma? The first one might give her nightmares. I bet she'd like the second one though.

Have you read either of these books? What books have left you feeling ambivalent?

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