September 1st, 2009
Why do you put books down?

Cross-posted from The Bradford Bunch blog

A few weeks ago I came across a fantasy novel on Amazon. The reviews for the book were glowing and called it noire historical fantasy, saying it was both dark and humorous. Just the thing I love to read. So, I ordered it and eagerly started in.

Basically, the novel follows the stories of about five different characters. They’re scattered all over this fictional world and none of them seem to have any link to the other. It was a little like reading five different novels in one. However, I suspected the stories at some time would begin to converge, so I kept on with it.

But the book was long, too, and slooooow. The pacing was so slow that I almost put it down several times. By then it was the characters that kept me reading. Almost every single last one of them are anti-heroes, so twisted and flawed that you wonder how you could be rooting for them, let alone care about them. This author has a real talent with character development.

So, even though the book was slow and disjointed like crazy, I didn’t put it down.

Then I got to the last third of the book and, wow!, the plot took off. The various storylines of the characters converged and the action picked up. I couldn’t stop reading until I got to the end and I practically sprained a finger in my haste to order the next book in the series.

Then I was really, really bummed because I won’t have the next book to read for several days. Meh.

So I picked out an urban fantasy book from my TBR pile last night that I’ve been meaning to read and settled in with it. The heroine was the typical kind I often read in urban fantasy–shallow. In this book the heroine is mostly concerned with her weight (and making snide remarks about other people’s weight) and appearance, guys, and getting that perfect designer dress on sale.

Now, I know that many times heroines start out this way and through the course of the book they grow, change, and get “deeper”. Hell, most of my heroines start out that way, though in my case my heroines start out powerless and then get more and more powerful as the story progresses. They rarely start out shallow.

There’s nothing wrong with a heroine starting off shallow and then developing throughout the story. Usually I love those kinds of books. But for some reason this heroine grated on me and I had to put the book down. I doubt I’ll pick it back up because I don’t think I can read this heroine long enough to get to the part where she starts to mature. It’s in first person, see, and I don’t want to be in her head. Normally I’m fine with first person, just not THIS time.

Ultimately, I think the deal is that I just couldn’t care enough about the character to continue.

I’m still trying to lay my finger on why, exactly, I was able to find those anti-heroes in the fantasy novel care-worthy enough for me to continue on with the book (even though the beginning was slow and disjointed), and why I can’t find it in me to continue with the urban fantasy novel with the shallow heroine.

It’s not about character likability. The characters in the noire historical aren’t likable at all. I think it has to do with whether or not the characters intrigue me. Are they interesting and different enough for me to want to invest my time in them? I think it must come down to that.

So, here’s my question for you all — what are some reasons you put down books you paid good money for? Does it come down to character? Pacing? Point-of-view? All of the above?

Conversely, what elements might keep you reading if there are several things about the book that niggle?

6 comments to “Why do you put books down?”

  1. There was one book that I had that took me two years to finish… boy was that book soooo boring and descriptive… The author wrote down every little detail that they could jam into that poor book, I could not stand it!
    But in general I push through a book that is a bit slow… I just leave with a feeling of disappointment. I usually love the books I choose, just dealt with a few that did not hold my attention. Sometimes the book just does not flow or end the way I was hoping…

  2. I’ve had a few books just like that recently.

    Did you not mention the titles for a reason? You don’t want to put down the author or sway us away from it?

    Well, I review books (for fun! HA!) so I don’t have the luxury of not mentioning a title when I review it. My followers expect 100% honesty from me in my reviews.

    I just read and reviewed Blue Moon by Alyson Noel. I didn’t get it for review but rather won it in a contest. It was the 2nd book of her series and I didn’t like the first book enough to purchase the 2nd book but I took the chance of winning it thinking I wouldn’t win. I won. I hated the book. I reviewed it as such too but with complete explanation as to why.

    Anyhow, I also stopped reading a few books too: Ghostland by Jory Strong and Another Faust by Daniel And Dina Nayeri, which is kinda like the first book you summarized above. I didn’t like all the characters. They were too complex and I was confused. With Ghostland it was an erotica that was too unbelievable. If it’s not natural attraction or expected then it’s unbelievable and forced, which is a no no to me.

    I did finish Blue Moon only because I was curious as to HOW bad it was going to be at the end. I knew it couldn’t be redeemed to my standards. It’s funny though, because it’s a very well selling book. 🙁 I gave my copy away. It was even author signed to ME. 🙂

    I’d be interested in knowing the titles you discussed. Email them to me if you don’t want it public. 🙂

  3. I am ruthless about putting books down.

    I’m wondering if the reason you engaged with the anti-hero book was simply because it was new and fresh. You know?

  4. It takes me about 50 pages to figure out if I want to read a book; usually it’s the story that’s not appealing to me or it’s just too slow. I keep the books though, I keep them for a later date hoping by then my mood will be more willing to try it out.

  5. For me, a lot of it depends on what my mood is. If I’m in the mood for romance and I pick up a twisty UF novel instead, I may not find myself enjoying it as much. The same can be said for the reverse. There are times where too much romance can throw me off and I need to read a UF or I won’t like the romance novel I am reading.

    Also, if I’m in a bad mood, I tend to find flaws with books that may or may not be there. Same with being sick. It’s hard to enjoy reading when you’re tired or exhausted or just not feeling well.

    At the same time, I try not to put down books just because I’m not feeling it. I’ve come across to many that get better at the end, so I like to stick it out. If there ever gets a point where I can’t continue reading, then I usually label it “go back to later”, put it back on my TBR shelf and wait for a rainy day to pick it back up again.

  6. I will read just about anything and have. There have been times when I’ll get about a quarter of the way through and be frustrated with the pacing or the way the author has written the book because it’s too wordy. I like the book to take off right from the start. To grab my attention right from the beginning and if it doesn’t get good until the end, I won’t like it.

    Also when I say too wordy I mean the author going into too much detail about the small stuff. Giving us a ten page description of a room is too wordy.