Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Ruth Ware, book ratings, and enjoying what you're reading

When Ruth Ware's third novel, The Lying Game, came out this summer, I decided to finally read her first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, which I've been meaning to read since before it came out. I like to read books, particularly mystery and thriller authors, in the order they were written and published. 

I liked In a Dark, Dark Wood immediately. I realized for a book I'd been meaning to read for so long, I didn't really know much about it. I found the narrator's voice fresh, fun and deliciously dark. It didn't necessarily feel like a thriller, but there was a clear sense that something was going to happen and make it darker. The novel is at its best when the narrative has two timelines. When the timelines merged, the pace slowed, and I grew impatient. The conclusion, however, reduced what was an enjoyable 3.5 or 4-star read to me to a 2-star read. I found it maddening and not grounded in the reality the rest of the book was. While I rated it only 2 stars, I was still eager to read her second book, The Woman In Cabin 10 because I did enjoy so much of In a Dark, Dark Wood.

The opening scene of The Woman in Cabin 10 is amazing. Despite one misgiving with the plot, I also enjoyed this one from the beginning. I found myself thinking: this premise is really interesting. When the action slowed (SO many pages are devoted to the first night on the ship), I was rewarded with a fun twist. And then...there a twist so unbelievable I completely lost my faith in this book. It doomed the entire book for me, but I still wanted to finish it. Despite hating this twist, I still was enjoying parts of it. Around this point, I tweeted, "When did an unreliable narrator come to also mean completely fucking stupid?" So I finished, and along with a few mildly fun twists, there were more ridiculous ones. Once again, a book I began by enjoying immensely ended with a 2-star rating.

When I finished The Woman in Cabin 10, I begged Litsy not to let me read The Lying Game because I didn't want to experience it again, but as time passes, I find myself wanting to give Ruth Ware another try because despite major flaws in both of her first two books, there were some really interesting premises and characters. Perhaps if I go in expecting it to be as poor as the other two, I'll be able to enjoy the good parts and not get as frustrated with the bad parts. I will likely make time, maybe even before the end of the year to give Ruth Ware (at least) one more chance.

This reading experience has also made me rethink my rating system, which reflects a combination of quality and enjoyment. Exceptional books might only rate a 4 or 4.5 if I don't also love them. Similarly, books I love may only rate a 4.5 if they're not exceptional. A 4-star read may be a good read, a fun read, or a really good book that I didn't particularly enjoy. Rarely do I recommend books universally. When people ask me for picks, I ask several follow-up questions before trying to pick the right book for the right person, and at the right time. Right now I'm reading What Happened by Hillary Rodham-is-back-in-her-name Clinton and Origin by Dan Brown for very different reasons.

Rating: 2 stars
Source: library

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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed Cabin 10 until that ridiculous escape scene. I haven't read this one and may not given my final reaction to Cabin 10. I know what you mean about ratings though. Sometimes a book is just a good read and not super well-written or deep.

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