Recent Frustrating & Brilliant Reads

Belle Reading

A couple of these books were frustrating in ways they didn’t need to be and a couple I think actually made me smarter. Maybe. But I felt smarter after reading them and that’s all that really matters 🙂

So I think I will start with the most frustrating.

So this is a 900+ page monster about mankind’s first alien encounter and the ideas behind it were really interesting. But the first 600 or so pages are kind of a slog and that’s just… not good.

The thing about XX though (and I knew this going in) was it was more about how the book looked. There’s all kinds of playing with fonts and graphics which seem like they would eat up a lot of pages but never enough to feel like you are making progress.

And I got to say I sprung for the hardback and even there I found some of the artsy stuff actually impossible to read. I can’t imagine what it would look like on an e-reader.

So this book about our first alien encounter and the galaxy altering power of ideas… interesting. But to long. To dull. To hard to read and it didn’t really need to be any of those things.

Recommend: No. Not for the story at least.

little scratch is a much shorter read but the gimmick made it equally hard for me.

(And I have to admit in both cases I knew there was a gimmick going in. That’s why I wanted to read them. It just didn’t work for me.)

In this one were following along one woman’s day as well as her actual thoughts underneath or beside what’s actually going on. And sometimes when I think I’d get into the flow of reading it she’d split the text or something to throw me off.

Plus there were way too many interludes of her in the bathroom. I mean I know that’s how it goes and such but you don’t need a whole page of someone peeing.

The sad thing is there’s some really meaty stuff that’s she’s dealing with including rape, work place harassment and assault and some good writing when it flowed. But that actually made the whole experience even more frustrating.

Recommend: Overall no. But I wish I could.

Like so many things John Green The Anthropocene Reviewed falls like right in the middle for me. It’s average.

His writing is fine. It would be a good book I think to pick up during the holidays or when you are busy and looking for something quick as the information is presented in short burst chapters.

But I mean I read this two weeks ago and I can remember the essays on the racetrack and Kentucky bluegrass and maybe one about the weather. It’s a fine read. It’s just not one that’s going to stick.

Recommend: Eh. It’s John Green you know? It’s fine.

So The Three-Body problem is the first book in a famous sci-fi series about man’s first encounter with alien.

And like XX the ideas are really good. I’ve never seen or read an alien story quiet like how this one goes and actually I enjoyed many of the characters as they thirst to unravel what’s going on in this story. Or fuck everything up as it goes.

And unlike XX it’s just a straight up book that doesn’t rely on any gimmicks.

It’s a little hard to read at times due to the science and the big ideas. I would say definitely read when you have the time and energy to spare for it and this isn’t a book you want to use to jump into science-fiction for the first time. But otherwise I actually was able to follow it and understand.

The other weird thing about this book was while I was reading it I was completely intrigued I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the series but since finishing I haven’t really wanted to. I don’t know what happened. I’ll finish it next year aliens willing but the pull of it just isn’t as strong.

Recommend: Yes.

Finally to my favorite of the reads:

This is a book about a young girl called Sasha who winds up being forced to attend this strange university where no one understands even what they are being taught. They do understand should they fail or step out of bounds their loved ones will pay the price.

Also the teachers might not be entirely, you know, real or people…

The first years are confused and scared. The second years are various stages of broken mentally and physically and the third years well they disappear and are never heard from again after the placement exams.

It’s the kind of school Snape would love.

Luckily Sasha is a really strong main character to guide you through the confusion and everything around the school while vague in detail is still weirdly colorful and full of life. Plus the more you read and the more Sasha studies…

Well I swear I as starting to understand it. It made sense to me. There’s a line where she tells someone she’s breaking free from her text that the whole thing coalesced around to me. Vita Nostra is a book full of intriguing ideas that I loved but I think it might be more of a what you read into it and take out of it is very personal kind of thing.

Recommend: Yes. Although I freely admit this will not be a book for everyone.


  1. “XX” sounds like a creative idea, but not the easiest reading experience. I’m reading “Babel-17” by Samuel R. Delany, and a few pages have different blocks of text to separate what’s happening and the thoughts of the main character. It was easy to follow. But I might not have enjoyed the trick if it went on for hundreds of pages. Your description of “Vita Nostra” sounds intriguing — I’ll have to check that out (after the several books that I have lined up).

    • I definitely think it was the length that killed XX. I’ll have to check out Babel-17 I don’t mind those things when they don’t intrude or disporportiantely lengthen the story.

  2. I swore of John Green’s books but I was considering The Anthropocene Reviewed. Thanks you for your honest thoughts. I’m definitely skipping it.

  3. First, I’m sorry it was so frustrating but thank you for taking the hit on ‘XX’ for me. I absolutely would’ve taken that home with me had I seen it in the bookstore! It sounds like such an amazing premise! But life is too short (or at least too full (right now anyway)) for me to wade into that. 600 pages of filler?!? Blah. So thank you for saving me learning that myself.

    Second, “the teachers might not be entirely, you know, real or people” *may* be what many of my students think of me and my coworkers. At least it feels like that some days XD.

    • You should give the students this book and they can be grateful you and your co-workers aren’t hypnotizing them and threatening the safety of their loved ones 🙂

      • I mean…whenever it’s a test day they may not see the difference XD. But this would provide helpful context. I should look into getting a classroom set…

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