It is time… for me yet again to read a bunch of books recommended to me by Buzzfeed quizzes and see what I think. In case you missed it, I did this last year – check it out my original post here – and had a ton of fun doing it. I also found that it went shockingly well. I’m honestly still surprised by it. Not only did I give every single book four or five stars, two of them actually ended up on my favorites of the year list. Which is kind of crazy. But it could also be a fluke, so, naturally, I had to repeat the experiment.
This time around, I took a completely different set of quizzes (all of these were actually published after my original post, so they’re all new). To be honest, they aren’t really as exciting as the quizzes I took during the first go – there is no book recommendation based on my Taco Bell order here. But I did get some recommendations I’m kind of excited about. There’s a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years, one that’s already on my 2021 reading list, one of my most anticipated books of last year that I didn’t get around to reading, and two books I have literally never heard of.
Here are my quiz results:
And what I thought of Buzzfeed’s recommendations:
Like last time, I blogged about these books as I read them, so I could share my thoughts as the experiment progressed.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This experiment got off on a strange foot. I started the audiobook of One Hundred Years of Solitude on Day 1. I listened to two hours before going to bed. And when I woke up on Day 2, I remembered nothing. Like, I had a vague memory of listening to it, but it was like I blacked out (completely sober). So I started over. And it was like my brain refused to absorb anything from this book. Reading the paperback didn’t help, either. It took me three or four tries to get past the first few chapters. Which is crazy, because I actually liked it. At least I think I did?
Honestly, this was just a really weird reading experience. And it wasn’t even because this is kind of a weird book (which it definitely is). It was like I was reading, and nothing was sticking. And it was only this book. I was reading other things during that week, and they were fine. But now that I’m done (and have refreshed my memory with SparkNotes) I can say that I did enjoy this. I’d give it maybe three stars?
It’s an interesting story, and I can definitely see why this is such a beloved classic. My brain just wasn’t having it, which I guess is a thing that happens? I somehow still ended up enjoying this, but I’m pretty sure that’s because it was kind of weird. And we all know how I feel about weird books (spoiler: they’re my favorite).
Also, this was the result I got when taking the quiz “which classic novel are you?” and I’m not sure what this says about me. Or how I feel about it. I mean my brain basically tried to reject my classic novel alter-ego (according to Buzzfeed). That seems… not good.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I am so glad I got this out of the way early on in this experiment, because (and I might get some flack for this) I didn’t like it. This is one of those books I picked up a few years ago because it seemed like it was on all the “books you must read in your lifetime” lists. Well, I finally read it. And I honestly kind of wish I hadn’t. This was absolutely not the book for me, and I kind of wish I’d known more going into it.
There are a few things I really don’t enjoy reading for personal reasons. I can name maybe three topics that might give me pause going into a book. Life of Pi had two of them. I am really not big on books about religion or spirituality. There is nothing wrong with them, just not for me. Twelve years of Catholic school was plenty, thank you very much. And that was a huge theme in this book. Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying it enough to really look into the meaning behind it. I’m pretty sure my brain just glossed over all of that.
Unfortunately, my brain did not choose to ignore the other thing that made this a two-star read for me: the animals. As an empath, I cannot handle when animals or children are hurt. I can and will binge watch murder documentaries, but I don’t want to hear about an animal killing another animal. I naively went into this thinking it was just going to be an existential story about a boy and a tiger. I was very wrong. The tiger is not the only animal on the boat. At least in the beginning. And while I get that they had to kill and eat each other for survival, it was done in a way that made me pretty uncomfortable. Let’s just say the eating came before the killing. The poor zebra deserved better.
Note to Buzzfeed: if you have a quiz where meal selections lead to a book recommendation, maybe don’t give a vegetarian a book that involves animals being eaten alive. Just a suggestion. I’m calling it now, the first Buzzfeed experiment was a fluke. Last time, all of the books were four- or five-star reads and so far we have a two and a three. Not super promising. But maybe the women can save the rest of this post. Fingers crossed.
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
I had literally never heard of this book before putting together this post. After reading the synopsis, I honestly kind of felt “meh” about it. Which doesn’t matter because I was reading it anyway. But absolutely nowhere in the Goodreads synopsis does it say or even imply that this is a Sherlock Holmes retelling. So I was a little surprised when, in chapter two, I realized that this is basically just magical Sherlock.
I love Sherlock Holmes, and I have experienced quite a few versions of that story/character over the years, both as versions of the original or retellings. And I think this might have been my least favorite. I actually had a few issues with this book. First of all, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing. It just felt like too much. I am a fan of good writing, but good writing is supposed to support the story, not overshadow or distract from it. And that’s kind of what happened here. You know those people who are just “a lot” and kind of make you want to back away slowly while smiling and nodding? That’s how I felt reading this book. Just, chill please.
And speaking of “too much” the magic system was a lot. There are angels and werewolves and vampires and different kinds of angels. And everything (not just the magic system) was overly explained. I kind of felt like the author didn’t quite trust her readers to understand what she was talking about. It got old fast.
But beyond that, I also wasn’t a huge fan of what the author did to the traditional Sherlock characters. It was like she tried to make the Sherlock character, Crow, more empathetic and I felt it didn’t quite work. She also didn’t really do anything at all to change the stories, except to add Jack the Ripper. We literally start with A Study in Scarlet, but also there’s a murdered woman on the docks, which is completely unrelated. And since there is clearly not enough going on already, let’s throw in a few other Sherlock stories and weave the Ripper through the whole thing so this feels like it’s supposed to be one book (it doesn’t).
If it’s not clear enough yet, I did not like this book. I was both bored and annoyed by it. It was literally Sherlock fan-fiction except Sherlock has wings (which the author fully admits in her note at the end). NOTHING in the blurb or synopsis leads you to believe any of this. It is very misleading, and made me feel like the marketing for this book was a little sketchy. This definitely belongs on a fan fiction site (nothing wrong with that, you just know what you’re getting into), not being pawned as an original standalone fantasy novel. One star. It was neither original or good. #sorrynotsorry
These books are progressively getting worse. Buzzfeed has failed me.
Beauty by Christina Chiu
Well, chapter one was a massive trigger for me, so I really didn’t go into this book with the best mindset. I have been in the middle of basically a war with my own mother for years, in part due to the fact that she insists on smoking even when it negatively impacts her health and mine (I have asthma and extremely sensitive lungs, and we both have MS, which is exacerbated by smoke). It definitely played a role into why we are currently not speaking. And guess what the main character and her mother disagree on like two pages into this book? Yup, the exact same thing. So kind of a very specific trigger, but a trigger nonetheless.
Honestly, I wish the synopsis had been a little more clear that this is largely about family and family relationships. I was having a bad day and might have put off reading this for a bit, or at least been a little more guarded going into it, because family-centric stories tend to not go well for me. I felt like I needed to offer a little bit of explanation as to why I didn’t love this. To be fair, this didn’t really seem like my kind of book to begin with, but I was willing to give it a shot. Because who knows? It could have been a surprise favorite. It wasn’t, but I couldn’t leave the cat in the box.
I kind of thought this was going to be more of a commentary on being Asian while being a working professional in America, and that didn’t happen. There wasn’t all that much about the main character’s professional life at all, which is what the synopsis leads with. I also have to say I didn’t really care for the writing at the beginning of the book, but it did grow on me as I kept reading. Still, I didn’t particularly enjoy the story all that much. And coupled with the fact that I now have to take a full day to get my anxiety back under control, I’m giving this two stars. But, like Life of Pi, it is mostly for personal reasons (which – newsflash – you are allowed to do because ratings are personal and subjective).
This whole experiment has been super disappointing so far. I am so glad I had the forethought to save Addie LaRue for last, but if I don’t love it like I’m expecting to, I might cry.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
FINALLY! This experiment gave me a five-star book! Though, to be fair, I definitely would have read this anyway, so Buzzfeed can’t really take much credit for this. But I did read it sooner than I might have because I have been putting off reading this book for months. And that is solely because I was afraid I wouldn’t love it. Which I did, and now I’m mad at myself for waiting this long to read it.
If I’m being one-hundred percent honest, I can’t say this book was flawless. Despite two of the main characters being bisexual, I agree with many reviewers this was a little lacking in diversity. There are several characters who may be diverse, but there was just a lack of character descriptions, so that wasn’t very explicit. I also can’t really imagine how that would have been done with this particular story in a way that wouldn’t be problematic, so I feel like I can’t judge that too harshly. I am looking forward to reading more reviews, especially from people of color.
I do want to sit with my feelings on this book for a while, but I did have to give it five-stars purely on my enjoyment of this book. I just really loved the themes this story plays with. It discusses both the brevity of life, but also how your impact contributes to the value of that life. The writing was also really gorgeous. I adored the whole atmosphere of this book. I can see where critics of this book are coming from, but I just really loved it.
AND… that is it for this reading experiment! I can’t say this was a success, but I was glad to cross off a few books that have been sitting on my TBR for a while. I wasn’t really expecting to love all of these books going into it, but I did not anticipate an outcome where I didn’t like most of the books I read. This was basically the opposite of the first time I did this experiment. It’s fine. Everything is fine. At least I finished on a high note so I don’t feel quite as disappointed as I might have been.
I’d love to hear what you all thought of this! Did you enjoy it! Should I do this one more time as a tie-breaker to see which of my posts more accurately represents Buzzfeed quiz book recommendations? Or should I leave it with this one?