When it’s Time to Give Up on a Book

whentogiveup

This pin on Pinterest made me stop and think: “If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print” (from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee).

Now, I’m not sure about the accuracy of the math or facts involved here, but I do know that there never seems to be enough time to read everything I want to read. There are so many books in the world that it seems silly to waste time reading books I don’t enjoy. What’s the point? There’s nothing to gain or prove by finishing it. While I’m mentioning four reasons why I may not finish a book, it’s usually a combination of these which leads me to abandon a book.

It may be time to give up on a book…

  1. When I avoid reading –

Normally, I’m the type of person who is never far from a book or Kindle. I’d read while going to the bathroom, while blow drying my hair, or during TV commercials. Even with a new baby, I still find plenty of time for reading (mainly while feeding her). I know I’ve got a problem with a book if I’d rather do other things during this precious down time, like search for recipes on Pinterest or read up on the MMR vaccine. If I’m not aching to find out what happens next, a book is in jeopardy.

  1. When it puts me to sleep after a few pages –

This is the book where I never seem to make any progress because I keep falling asleep while trying to read it. Perhaps the pace is too slow, or there’s not enough action, or maybe it’s the language: too dry, too technical, or too much description and flowery language.

  1. When I’m completely lost –

I know this is happening when I find myself re-reading passages or flipping back in the book to see if I missed something. I think, maybe I’m not supposed to understand yet. Maybe this is what the author intended. But as I continue reading, the frustration of not understanding wins out.

  1. When I don’t like the characters –

Isn’t connecting with the characters one of the best parts about reading? If you can’t form some kind of a bond with the characters, it’s hard to care about their plight. I want to imagine myself as the strong, brave main character, or be friends with them, or crush on the love interest. If that’s not happening, I’m not buying into the book.

Here are a few examples of books I’ve given up on:

  • Code Name Verity (lost…so very lost…)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (all four reasons, though mainly because it was so dull at the beginning…which is as far as I made it. Read more about my thoughts here.)
  • The Monuments Men (wanted to avoid reading, and when I did, it put me asleep. Read more about my thoughts here.)
  • The Goddess Hunt (lost and didn’t connect with the characters)
  • Fallen (didn’t like the characters, and was perhaps a little confused as well)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (zzzz…no action. Only made it through one disc of this book on CD)

How about you: do you fight your way through a book just to finish it, or are you okay with abandoning a book?

John Green? No thanks.

johngreen_nothanks

— Warning: may contain teeny, tiny book spoilers about Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines
     It’s official. I am not a John Green fan.
     If you didn’t gasp or let out a disgruntled hmmpf, then you probably aren’t familiar with Green. John Green is a Young Adult author who has legions of adoring fans. His novels include Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and a little novel-turned-movie you might have heard of called The Fault in our Stars. Green is kind of nerdy and adorkable. He video blogs along with his brother Hank and has inspired a community of followers who call themselves Nerdfighters. He has won myriad awards for writing about teenagers in (supposedly) realistic settings. His books have sold millions of copies and two have become movies (Paper Towns is scheduled to premiere this summer). He was also included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the World. In all, he’s an author getting a lot of buzz.
     So how could I, a lover of Young Adult literature, not be a fan of John Green?
I know, I was surprised too! I really wanted to like his books, and gave them an enthusiastic shot, but after reading four of his novels, I can’t quite figure out what the big deal is. I read The Fault in our Stars and thought I liked Green’s work. You can read my comments about the novel here. I wasn’t a crazy, adoring fan who was ready to get the word “okay” tattooed on my body or anything, but I liked the book well enough.
     But then I read three of his other books: Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. While reading all three books, I was faced with the decision of whether to keep reading or to abandon the novel. I kept reading mainly because everyone else seemed to love his books so much. At first I thought I didn’t like the books because the plots were so similar (road trip, anyone?!), but that wasn’t really it. I mean, I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew books, and they all followed the same, predictable plot formula. Instead, what really caused me to dislike Green’s novels are his characters. They are unlikeable. I wouldn’t be friends with them in real life. I don’t get a literary crush on any of the characters. They are whiny, philosophical, annoying, and sometimes boring.
     In Paper Towns, Quentin, Q, gets obsessed with the disappearance of his neighbor and long-time crush, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Q has these deep thoughts about people and whether we can truly know someone based on what they choose to show us about themselves, and it gets so repetitive and dull that I sometimes found myself skimming through paragraphs of text until I got back to the action. His love interest, Margo, is so completely unlikeable that it’s a disappointment when she returns to the story. She’s just plain selfish. Why this book is becoming a movie is beyond me.
     An Abundance of Katherines follows the story of friends Colin and Hassan as they take a road trip to get over Colin’s latest break up. I found it hard to believe that a socially-awkward boy who spends all his time reading and learning languages would have had nineteen girlfriends. He’s obsessive and self-centered, and I can’t see what all of these girls would have been drawn to. Again, the novel’s burgeoning love interest isn’t all that great either. She is a girl who admittedly changes herself so that she is liked by whatever type of person she is around. She does this to the point where she doesn’t even know who she truly is anymore. She was dating her boyfriend mostly to get back at him; she didn’t even really like him. Despite this, we as readers are supposed to like her. On top of the characters, the novel included sections of math formulas that I skimmed over, as well as footnotes that I just found annoying. In all, I think I really could have stopped reading this book and I don’t think I would have felt bad about it.
     So there you have it. An unpopular opinion for sure, but it just goes to show you that we all have different tastes in novels and authors. I will be removing Looking for Alaska from my Goodreads To-Read shelf and I will not be reading Green’s future novels.
How about you? Are you a Green fan? Tell me why or why not in the comments.

Straight to Video: Not a Surprise

straighttovideo
     I recently* happened upon an article on Vulture.com titled, “Why Did This Movie Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper Go Straight to VOD?” I knew which movie the author was referring to right away, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear of its fate! While the author of the article mentions several reasons why the movie is a flop, he seems to be missing one important reason: the book the movie was based on wasn’t very good to begin with! 
     Let’s venture back in time a bit. Over a year ago, I posted about my reading wish list and how I was attempting to read books from BuzzFeed’s 14 Books to Read Before They Become Movies list. 
  • Gone Girl. Check.
  • If I Stay. Check.
  • The Maze Runner. Check.
  • Divergent. Check.
     You get the idea. A list of hot books that everyone seemed to be reading. So when I saw Serena, a movie that would be starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, I assumed I was in for another good read. I requested the book digitally through my library’s access to Overdrive. When it arrived, I started reading Ron Rash’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction-winning book and was…bored. Let me give you a summary of the novel: George and Serena Pemberton are ruthless timber barons. It’s constantly dark and dreary in the Carolina woodlands. A bunch of guys work really hard logging timber. There’s a terrible accident and someone dies. Serena Pemberton is intimidating. There’s more logging, another terrible accident, and someone dies. Serena is more intimidating and a little crazy. There’s some more logging, a terrible accident, and someone dies. Serena is upset and sends her lackey to kill someone, because obviously, there haven’t been enough deaths yet.
     When the book’s loan was up, I hadn’t finished the book- strange for me at the time. I contemplated just forgetting about the book, but again, I thought of the future movie. Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper. Beautiful period costumes set in the late 1920s. A fierce female character. Danger and intrigue in a logging company. Murder. Maybe I didn’t give the book a fair chance, I thought. Maybe I hadn’t gotten to the good part yet. Maybe if I just kept reading…so, I did. I requested the book again and read the rest of the novel. Sadly, it was still boring. The story continued with a lot of misery and destruction. There was no redeeming quality about the characters or the plot. I would not recommend this book to anyone I know. The author of the movie review had similar ideas about the film, stating, “Serena is not an interesting or particularly enjoyable movie, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you watch it. But it is a useful object lesson in moviemaking in the 21st century — and an improbable tale of how something can go terribly wrong even when everything seems to be going wonderfully right.” That being said, read or watch Serena at your own risk!
           *The article is dated March 11, 2015. I wrote this blog post a long time ago…

Reading Reflections

readingreflections

I may be reading less than before baby arrived, but I’m glad I can still find time to read (what else would I do during a 4am feeding?!). Thanks to my Kindle Fire, I’m able to keep reading. Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle Fire? Baby occupies one arm while eating, so I can hold my Kindle in the opposite hand. It’s so much easier to scroll rather than having to hold a printed book and turn pages one-handed. My husband bought me a hardcover book for Valentine’s Day- thoughtful- but I haven’t figured out how I’m going to hold the book and baby at the same time! Instead, I’ve been devouring Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels lately.

Back in January, I set a much more reasonable goal for my 2015 Goodreads challenge. I read 50 books last year, and I know there’s no way I can do that this year (unless I count all the little board books and children’s books I read with my sweet baby – but that seems like cheating!). My goal is to read 30 books. We’ll see how that goes! So far, I’m on track, and completing those Outlander books is no small feat.

What I’m Currently Reading:
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #4)

  • I really loved the previous novel in the Outlander series, Voyager, but this one feels a little slower to me. I’m hoping the action and intrigue will pick up soon. The characters in these novels are so wonderfully formed. I love the historical fiction mixed with tastefully-written time travel. I was skeptical when I finally decided to start reading Outlander, but I love the saga of Claire and Jamie and I look forward to reading the entire eight book series.

What Baby is Currently Reading:
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees

  • We love the sing-song rhythm of Giraffes Can’t Dance and the adorable story about a gawky giraffe named Gerald. Poor Gerald gets laughed at by the other jungle animals because of his inability to dance. A cricket gives him the advice “Sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” Gerald finds that he can dance in his own way. The illustrations are colorful and lively. We read this book just about every day!

What are you reading right now? Has anyone else read the Outlander novels? What did you think of them?

End of Year Update

bnclosure_update

Baby has arrived!
My beautiful baby girl was born November 1st at 9:16 pm. She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces. My husband and I are smitten by her. For a person so tiny, she sure keeps me busy! It’s an accomplishment to get dressed and eat lunch by 2:00 pm now, so blogging has fallen to the wayside. Before the end of the year, however, I wanted to update you on a few literary things that have happened in my life recently.

1). Remember my post about writing to authors? Well, I got a response! Katherine Neville sent me a signature. I was surprised since I had written to her in September of 2013. The signature is now proudly displayed on my bookshelf in front of her novel, The Eight.

2). I also had a response from another author – but in a different way. Not long ago, I posted about Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s novel Bittersweet. I mentioned how I was confused by the story’s setting. I went on Goodreads and posed the question on the book’s page. I figured I would get a response from a fellow reader. Lo and behold – I received a response from the author herself. It answered my question and it made me appreciate the book more because the author took the time to respond.

3). I was further surprised to hear about the upcoming closure of my favorite bookstore. The Barnes & Noble located inside the historic Chateau Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota, will close at the end of December. I am saddened to hear this news and hope I can sneak in one last visit over the holiday season. It’s a unique space and who knows what will happen to the building once the books move out.

Happy Holidays to all. May your holidays be filled with lots of family, laughter, good food, and great books.

NewBaby = No NaNo

No_NaNo

With a new baby set to arrive any day now, I will obviously not be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Last year was my first experience with National Novel Writing Month, and I absolutely enjoyed the experience. It was so cool to be a part of a writing community where everyone was excited about writing and supportive of one another. It was also cool to accomplish my goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month.

While I won’t be participating, I do want to offer up some helpful links to those of you who will be participating this year.

  1. NaNoWriMo homepage: If you haven’t signed up yet, or if you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo is all about, make sure you start here.
  2. Need a spark to get your imagination going? Try the Writer Igniter at the DIY MFA website. It randomly selects a character, situation, prop, and setting for you to work with.
  3. Want to publish your masterpiece once it’s finished? I’ve had great experiences with Blurb. I’ve created scrapbooks, a wedding album, and a full text novel with the website’s free, downloadable software. It looks like Blurb is amping up for NaNoWriMo too. They’ve recently added new templates for novels.

 Best wishes to all of you future novelists out there! You can do it!