Ranty Pants: The Problem With 3-Star Books and Boundless by Cynthia Hand Mini-Review


May 19, 2013 by Heidi

Even though I don’t use ratings here on the blog, I do have an internal mental ranking system.  The fact of the matter is, the bulk of the books I actually talk about here at Bunbury in the Stacks fall either above or below average.  Lately, I’ve been having a big issue with books that I pretty much ‘nothing’.  When I say I nothing you, book, I mean you haven’t pissed me off, but you haven’t won me over either.  I’m not worse off for having you in my life, but I wouldn’t notice if you weren’t there.  Quite frankly, these middle-of-the-road generally 3-star books are fine, but I have nothing to say about them.  Sure, I enjoyed them enough to read them at the time, but I almost wish that they’d have done something to piss me off and make me rail because at least then I’d be thinking and talking about them.

The latest case?  Boundless by Cynthia Hand.

Boundless by Cynthia Hand book cover

Here’s the thing.  Boundless, the final book in the Unearthly trilogy didn’t disappoint me.  But it didn’t sweep me away and remind me why I really loved this series when I first picked it up either.  Initially, I was drawn to this series for one reason: It took place in Wyoming.  I remember being pleasantly surprised at Hand’s realistic portrayal of the California wealthy tourist-town that is Jackson, Wyoming, and even more taken aback by her juggling notions of free will vs. destiny and playing out one of the few love triangles that has really torn me in several directions.

Author Cynthia Hand plays these ideas through all the way to the end, embracing some pretty unconventional plotlines for YA paranormal romance, but in the end, I was disappointed to find I just didn’t care.  The plot was decently paced and the ending surprised, but Cynthia Hand’s world and characters no longer held any power over me.  I honestly don’t think this is anything done wrong on her part–I felt Boundless was a stronger installment than Hallowed–but I just couldn’t muster the gumption to be either upset or happy with Clara’s choices in the end.

I suppose this is another clear example of why I prefer to wait until a series is complete before reading it.  Somewhere along the way, I think I may have outgrown the Unearthly series before its end.  It no longer seemed to fit me.  Maybe it was my own inability to choose between Clara’s potential suitors, maybe it was a lack of Wyoming goodness, it’s hard to say–I just don’t care enough to really explore my nonplussed reaction to the book.

My experience with Boundless has me questioning if I’m really going to finish some series that I fear I’ll similarly nothing, such as reading Ally Condie’s Reached.  Really books–piss me off or make me swoon, but do neither of these things and I will forget you in a matter of minutes.

FTC Disclaimer: I borrowed my copy of Boundless from my local library.

Do you ever nothing books? Do you also find these hard to talk about?

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  1. Heidi, I know EXACTLY what you mean. I know a lot of readers give books 3 Stars and use that to mean that they did enjoy the book, but I do my best not to pick up books that receive 3 Star ratings. I find that those books are either forgettable or just OK, which is fine, but I’d rather spend my time reading better novels. I know this book has been a hit-or-miss with readers, much like CP2. I feel like I outgrew Clare somewhere between the release of Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess. I can assure you, though, that The Bitter Kingdom is AMAZING. I just finished it and LOVED it, so I hope you do too! 😀 Anyway, fantastic mini-review (and rant)! :)

  2. Chachic says:

    Heidi, love that you posted about this because this is how I felt about Boundless as well. I was curious because I’ve read the first two books in the series so I just wanted to see how everything will end. But I really didn’t care for the characters, I went through the book as quickly as I could. There was a time when I would collect all the books before starting a series but nowadays, I try the first book first. There have been so many series that I’ve started and just wasn’t interested enough to continue.

  3. I think 3 star books are the hardest for me to review. How many different ways can you say “liked, but didn’t love?”

    It’s funny to read your reaction to BOUNDLESS, Heidi. I had a number of issues with it as well, and truth be told, went through some angsty moments where I didn’t want to finish it because I knew it was going in a direction I didn’t care for, and so much of the pacing/relationships/story seemed off to me. (So…I don’t know if it really is you? I think a lot of things were done well, but a lot of things could have been improved as well.) In the end, this was my least favorite one of the series, but I know you’re not alone in liking it better than Hallowed. Which was my favorite, hah.

  4. I know exactly what you mean about books that don’t really inspire strong emotions. It definitely makes it difficult to review. Also, I’ve noticed when I’m struggling coming up with something to say about the book, sometimes I focus on the negative, even when I didn’t hate the book. I have to watch myself with that.

  5. Yes! I enjoyed Boundless… but to be honest, I’ve already forgotten what happened. Same thing with Reached (I’d say skip it unless you’re OCD like me and HAVE to finish series). I also think you’re right about outgrowing series. I think this is one that I outgrew because it just didn’t do the same for me that Unearthly and even Hallowed did. I really love when books incite something, whether it’s positive or negative; sadly… this one didn’t do either!

  6. I nothing books far more than I’d like, especially lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many books at this point that I’m not ever excited anymore? I think someone made a post on that somewhere…

    And looking back, though I did like Boundless a little bit, it wasn’t the greatest conclusion to a series. The ending, especially, seemed lacking to me.

  7. It’s not just you. I nothinged this book as well. The worst part about nothing books for me is when I finish them and I’m just like, whatever, and then I go on Goodreads and see/read all the glowing THIS BOOK ROCKS reviews and I get confused about what the heck I missed. This one was particularly frustrating because you want a series to go out with a bang, and this one just went out with a whimper. I think, like you, I may have outgrown this series before its completion:-/

  8. I used to consider 3 star reads to be “meh” books, but I’ve been trying to figure out a better rating system for me, and I think I’ll be giving “meh” books more of a 2 star rating. I think 3 stars is good – not great, not amazing, but solid. Or at least that’s what I’m going to try out for now. I totally get what you mean about how frustrating it is to read a book that ultimately doesn’t affect you all that much. But, at the same time, I think I’d personally rather feel as though I read something that was decent than one I’d rate super negatively. I view negative/bad books as the ones that were a complete waste of time. Sometimes it’s nice to have a more mindless, middle of the road type book (I’m currently reading Unearthly, actually, and that’s kind of how I feel about that). Sorry this conclusion didn’t work out for you – maybe you should avoid the endings of series you think will end in a similar way. Just for your own peace of mind and all.

  9. I can totally relate to that “nothing” feeling about books, and with growing out of a series before you finish. If a book initially doesn’t grab me, I’m probably not going to finish it, but series I feel committed to see through. I haven’t started this series, and knowing it doesn’t “wow” you in the end, means that I probably won’t pick it up.

  10. Oh noes! HEIDI. A well-thought out post, for sure, and I think it’s safe to say that many of us know that feeling. I can’t fight myself enough to write a review for a book I don’t care about, was good but didn’t really EFFECT me, or if’s so good and everyone knows it and there have been so many people singing it’s praises I feel like I have nothing new to add. I’m sorry, though, that BOUNDLESS of all books made you feel that way. I’m hoping I’ll escape that particular emotion of “nothingness’ when it comes to ending the series…

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.