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Top Ten Hard-to-Read SF/F Books

Top Ten Tuesday

Thanks to the gals of The Broke and The Bookish for hosting this meme every week!

This was a tricky topic for me since I don’t tend to try to read really intense issue books and am pretty good and finding just the right level of darkness for my preferences. However, I do tend to prefer books that I can speed through, so I decided to include books with writing that just required more patience than I generally have as well as books that made my heart hurt so much I couldn’t see through my tears!

Writing that Required Patience

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley The Martian by Andy Weir The Thousand Names by Django Wexler The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

  1. The Midnight Queen – I realized shortly after starting Midnight Queen that the writing was more poetic and lilting than is ideal for me, but I was fortunately also in the mood for that when I read it, so it worked out. However, I know looking back that it would definitely not have worked if the timing hadn’t worked out perfectly.
  2. The Mirror Empire – Anyone who has read Mirror Empire understands this choice ;-). The writing is dense with details about this absolutely crazy fantasy world. There is also a lot of darkness which was right at the edge of what I can handle, ha.
  3. The Martian – But this one is full of humor right?? Well, yes, The Martian has lots of humor, but I also at first wanted to work through all of Mark’s calculations for survival to make sure they were correct and quickly realized that that was just not going to make it fun. Therefore, I ignored a lot of the numbers, oh well!
  4. The Thousand Names – I just apparently don’t like reading battle scenes and Thousand Names is thick with intricately described battles, oh well!
  5. The Scroll of Years – Again, the Scroll of Years has a very poetic and beautiful writing style that worked well for the world being described, but wasn’t a style that made me crave jumping back in.
  6. The Goblin Emperor – It’s a good thing I was trapped on a plane while reading this one since I am happy that I did, but I think I would have set it aside easily because it is mostly court intrigue and again dense and beautiful writing that makes me think too much when I’m tired ;-).

School for Good and Evil Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I tried to think of a category for these four but they would basically all have their own category, so whatever!

  1. The School for Good and Evil – I listened to this one on audio and really struggled to complete it at times. I think it wasn’t the ideal format for me since illustrations make me happy and I missed them and I just didn’t get some aspects of it unfortunately and ended up frustrated. Aspects of the gender role commentary just were too subtle for me while trying to drive.
  2. Expiration Day – Expiration Day is told as journal entries and I realized while reading that a teen’s journal entries just aren’t something that generally entertain me, haha. Things got awesome at the end, but it was a bit of a haul to get there.
  3. Dreams of Gods and Monsters – I think this was a case of this one being just too dang long and trying to pack in too much. I was SO excited when I first started it and then just lost my momentum by the end.
  4. The 5th Wave – Do NOT listen to this on audio! This is the one that made me cry so much that driving was treacherous and I had to switch to music >.>.

Whew, I made it! Maybe I could have made a “shouldn’t have listened on audio” category for those last four, haha. Basically most of these choices come down to my motivation for reading (escapism) not meshing with the goals of the book me thinks. Do you agree? Disagree? What books have been hard for you to read for one reason or another?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings -Anya

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I found The Fifth Wave very emotional and even brutal. I liked it, but it was definitely not what I expected in a YA novel. It reads more like adult science fiction. I admire people who can listen to audiobooks while they drive. I can’t concentrate on both at the same time.
    Hellen recently posted…Review/Reseña – Engines of War – George MannMy Profile

    • Definitely emotional and brutal! I’m a fan of older YA these days or at least darker YA, so I enjoyed it and the sequel a lot!

      Haha, yeah, my drive every week is on the highway so there isn’t much to look at anyway and I would definitely fall asleep if I didn’t have a book to listen to…

  2. I struggled with the second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, because it was just too much downer. Yeah Gods and Monsters had so much going on that it felt long. I’m not really one for poetic writing either, but it can be okay. You’ll have to make sure you aren’t listening to a sad book in the car from now on, yikes! I tend to like battle scenes, but I think it depends on how they’re written, because they can be boring too. My latest difficult read was Afterworlds, because I kept wanting to get back to Lizzie’s (the grim reaper/ psychopomp) story and skip the writer’s story, but I don’t like contemporary. I imagine other people had the opposite reaction.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Immortal By Gene Doucette Review and InterviewMy Profile

    • Haha, since I love darker fantasy, the second book was actually my favorite ;-).

      I hate it when a book jumps between storylines and you only really care about one of them! I have been so tempted to skip chapters just to get back to the storyline I like, haha. And that’s exactly why I definitely don’t think Afterworlds is for me!

  3. Yeah, I heard The Martian (from you) that it was super technical and math-y. BUT IT SOUNDS SO COOL. And humor! Also, I would be the person to try to make sense of everything as well, but I can just tell with that book I won’t be able to.

    I had the exact opposite reaction thing with Dreams of Gods and Monsters! I had a lot of trouble getting into the book in the beginning, but then it just got better and better! It did take me a while to read it though!
    Valerie recently posted…ARC Review: Lies We Tell OurselvesMy Profile

    • Just accept that you’ll have to skim the mathy parts and you’ll love it :D

      I think that since I tend to read books so far, whenever a book takes me a month to get through on audio, I just start losing interest no matter how good it might have been otherwise :-/. Also I think I really wanted it to be two books instead of everything jammed into one D:

  4. I still want to read The Goblin Emperor! :) Also, even though I enjoyed Dreams of Gods and Monsters, it did draag on unlike the other two books. I blame the additional characters no one cared much about. :/
    Anne @ Lovely Literature recently posted…Books that were hard to read due to the rageMy Profile

    • Hehe, definitely the more and more new characters was a problem, though I kind of loved the additional viewpoint of the grad student (Eliza?) since that was quite accurate for a science grad student ;-)

  5. I definitely agree with you on Mirror Empire and The Goblin Emperor. I really enjoyed both of them, but they took me forever to read.
    Jessie H. recently posted…October Reads and Halloween ResolutionsMy Profile

  6. The Goblin Emperor has been on my TBR for a while now. I really like court intrigue, so even if it’s a little slow I think (hope?) I would like it. Did you continue the School for Good and Evil series? I liked the first one, but ended up not liking the second book at all. I’m torn on whether to continue the series or not.
    Melissa @ Bookmark Dragon recently posted…Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To ReadMy Profile

    • Oh definitely if you like court intrigue, you’ll love it :D

      I haven’t continued the School series, though I have purchased the second book. I’ve heard a lot of worrisome things, but one of my bestie reading buddies loooooves the series, so I feel compelled to at least try it for myself, haha.

  7. Oh bummer about the audio of The 5th Wave! It’s a really enjoyable read and kinda scary too! In the fact that I could totally see this happening and omg I’m gonna die in the first wave!

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    Jessica @ a GREAT read recently posted…ARC Review–Black Ice by Becca FitzpatrickMy Profile

    • Haha, I still really enjoyed it, but I just had to dry my eyes frantically at times ;-) I totally think I’d die in the first wave too D:

  8. I really enjoyed Dreams of Gods and Monsters… but I read it rather than listened to it. Even then, I will say that it was long. How many hours was the audiobook?!

    I’m not the biggest fan of audiobooks. There’s often something small, like the way the narrator breathes or says a certain word, that’ll really bug me and make me not like the book. I think it’s fairer to the authors if I read the books instead!
    La Coccinelle recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To ReadMy Profile

    • I don’t even know how many hours it was! *looks it up* 18 hours! *dies*

      Haha, yeah, they definitely don’t work for everyone! Since I have to drive so much though, it really helps me get more books off the TBR pile!

  9. I totally know what you mean about The Scroll of Years. Lyrical and poetic writing is something that I usually adore (I mean, I am an English major after all!) but at times I found it hard to push through. I ended up completely loving it though so I’m glad that I did! And I’ll definitely be avoiding The 5th Wave on audio…especially since I usually listen to audiobooks when I’m walking to and from classes!
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: Lock In by John ScalziMy Profile

  10. I thin you did a really good job with your list. Thank you for sharing such amazing books.

  11. I loved The Martian, but I can see how trying to work out all the math would make it tedious! I also really liked Dreams of Gods and Monsters but I definitely see how it can be too dense/slow. There were moments where I was thinking WHY ISN’T STUFF HAPPENING YET? But once things got going, I really liked it.

    Mirror Empire is on my to-read list. Thanks for the warnings about the crazy details about the world. I’ll pick that one up when I’m feeling patient.
    Kritika recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday 37 – Difficult to read booksMy Profile

    • Haha, yeah, I loved it once I gave up on the math ;-) I did also like parts of Dreams like you said, once things got going, but I think I would have liked it better as two books so it wasn’t so smooshed together ya know?

      Yes, patience is definitely the key to enjoying Mirror Empire, but with patience, it is awesome :D

  12. Right now the follow up to The 5th Wave—I shelved it for now–NOTHING IS FREAKING HAPPENING (40% in)
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    • I keep hearing that from people and I’m honestly a bit mystified since I didn’t feel that way. I did read it in one sitting though, so maybe my determination kept me going? I also really like Ringer so maybe that’s it?

  13. Sorry you didn’t like Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I still really want to read it. And I’m surprised to hear about 5th Wave. I’ve heard tons of good stuff about it, but never that it was a tear-jerker. Good to know. :D My TTT
    Liesel Hill recently posted…Symbolism: A Writer’s Sleight of HandMy Profile

    • I definitely liked parts of Dream of Gods and Monsters, but I really would have preferred it as two books instead of one super stuffed one ya know? Oh yeah, The 5th Wave and its sequel are both crazy tear jerking, but in the best way ;-)

  14. I really enjoyed The Thousand Names though I’m not big on reading battle scenes either. The 5th Wave was an emotional book. I haven’t read the others but I like poetic so I might check those two out.

    • Yeah, I don’t know exactly why I didn’t like Thousand Names as much as everyone else, but something just didn’t work for me :( The 5th Wave was definitely emotional and Infinite Sea is just the same haha

  15. Tough list. I think some of Valente’s stuff challenged me a bit. And Glen Cook’s Tyranny of the Night was a rough outing as well.
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  16. You definitely got it right with The Mirror Empire, which was just too brutal for me, with not much balancing that out. I tend to think of reading as an escape as well, so working too hard to get through something is never my idea of entertainment, either! Great list:-)

    • Yeah, not much humor in that one D: I happened to be in just the right mood for that one, which made it an epic experience for me but I knew that if I didn’t time it just right, it really would not have worked! This is one of the reasons that I like to see other early reviews since it helps me time books better, haha

  17. I think you summed it up brilliantly; the style and/or goals of the books didn’t mesh with your motivation for reading. (Now I think of it, that pretty well sums up most of the books on my list. I like to read for fun, and nothing takes the fun out of reading like unnecessarily large amounts of school paperwork.) Great list! :)
    Kel @ Booked til Tuesday recently posted…Top 10 “Hard” BooksMy Profile

    • *bows* Thank you thank you, I’m here all week ;-) That seems to be a lot of why I don’t agree with some reviewers too, just that our motivations are different so what we like is different, haha

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