When the author doesn’t take you along…

One of my favourite bits of cracking open a new book is being swept up in the story and carried along on an enjoyable ride to the end. Sometimes there are hiccups and it can be hard to get into, or get back into but generally, being a fairly easy to please reader, I go quite well. However, one recent reading experience left me pondering what to do when the author goes somewhere you don’t particularly want to go? It was nothing bad, just something I don’t have a lot of interest in reading and it went on for 95 pages, in fact the first 95 pages of the book. Now, I believe, that this is quite a lot of pages to devote to a character (male, vampire) having a tantrum about sex (m-on-m) that he wasn’t getting. Some readers will no doubt be nodding and know exactly who the author is. Later on this character does have his wishes met, in a kind of bee-dee-ess-em way (which again had me thinking if I really wanted to read this I’d seek it out on the internet) and what do you do when the author basically says like my characters, then you have to like where I take them? This book is about number 15 or so in a series which I have read most of and it was always heavy on the sex (in some cases extraordinarily so) only out done by the “OMG what sort of person am I?” agonising that went on (yes I am starting to wonder why I have bothered to read so many of them too) but in between that lots of interesting stuff about vampires, raising the dead, were-animals and so on. So I guess it was that that I stuck it out for.  But now, I’m not sure that I really want to venture any further into the murky recesses of this author’s mind. I don’t want to know, really, what is imagination and what’s not. I don’t give a fig if she does it, I just don’t want to read about it.

And it seems that this dissatisfaction with The Author [eta ~in general, not the author mentioned above specifically] is a bit of a mini-meme around the internets at the moment. Thirdcat talks about how she disliked ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Frantzen and Deborah has this great quote by Elaine Morgan on her Friday Feminist post:

The longer I went on reading his own books about himself, the more I longed to find a volume that would begin: ‘When the first ancestor of the human race descended from the trees, she had not yet developed the mighty brain that was to distinguish her so sharply from all other species…’

So, how long do you go on reading and how do you know it’s time to give up? Have you ever been back and found reading the same book you gave up on a completely different experience? Is life too short to be reading bad books? And the question I really want to answer is why is this bugging me so much?

ETA: Hi, my name is Mindy and I read trashy books by L.K. Hamilton. Mostly I’m talking about the A Blake series which are very interesting when she’s doing her necromancer stuff, not so good when she is angsting endlessly about how many partners she has had. Or when someone is in danger and needs help and she’s too busy fighting with Richard about sex to actually do anything useful until it’s almost too late.

Categories: arts & entertainment, fun & hobbies


17 replies

  1. Good question(s). I used to be a finisher, and I still am as a general principle, but I’m in transition towards becoming a person who stops reading once I stop enjoying (maybe my age, and a bit of the ‘life’s too short’ idea) . ‘Enjoy’ being applied rather loosely. What usually keeps me reading is that I feel like my thoughts or opinion about the book are more…what’s the word…valid? robust?…if I’ve finished it.

  2. If this is the series I’m thinking it is, I didn’t stop reading them, but I did stop buying them several books ago. I have a limited budget compared to the friends who I now borrow them off of, and I would rather my purchase money went towards the authors I enjoy more (my partner and I have bought every single one of Australian Kylie Chan’s novels NEW (we almost NEVER buy books new; they are almost always available second-hand sooner or later) because we are enjoying them so very very much).

  3. I hadn’t heard of Kylie Chan, must look her up. Yes I only buy particular authors now, mostly I borrow them from the library. There must be quite a fan base there, the library has most of them. Perhaps the person doing the buying hasn’t read them or there is a lot more happening in these quiet country towns than I know!
    @ thirdcat – since I’m mostly reading trashy novels I don’t worry about not having finished them before I have an opinion. Not that I ever get asked for it, really.

  4. 😀 One of the reasons we’re enjoying them is because the humour is so very, very Australian (and therefore familiar). The premise of the books is that all the mythology of the world is real (to one extent or another). They’re set mainly in Hong Kong (where the author lived for many years), and the point-of-view character is Australian. She thinks like an Australian.
    Re: the books I’m thinking of that were mentioned in the original post
    At one point, my Amazon.com recommendation list was full of toys, because apparently people who buy these books also buy baby and young child toys O.o

  5. If the author is who I think it is, and the series is the one I’m guessing, I gave up at about book eleven or twelve, when I realised I could get more explicit, more erotic and more interesting pr0n through fanfic sites for free, so why pay $20 or more per book for it?
    Generally, for me it does come down to “can I get something I’m more interested in for free on the internet” these days – if the answer is yes, then that’s a few dollars of my money saved. Part of it is a reaction to unemployment and dole payments (have to have the money to spend before buying books comes up on the radar again), another part is a reaction to having my text addiction largely filled by reading blogs and online fiction (fanfiction in particular). A final part is the recognition that most of what’s on offer in bookshops around my area is stuff I’m just not interested in – I’m not a big fan of romance, or possessed of a massive interest in literary fiction, so I’ll tend to keep an eye out for books recommended by friends, or books by favourite authors that I know I’ll enjoy. I’ll get back to buying series for completeness when I finally wind up in a job again and have the discretionary income.
    Of course, first I’ll have to buy some more bookshelves… but that’s another tale for another time.

  6. The series you are referring to: I stopped buying it about 6 books ago. I stopped buying her other series two books ago. That’s my answer. I will buy it used for $3 and under, because that’s what I will pay for trash. Try Charlaine Harris instead, or Kim Harrison. In the greater scheme of things, I vote with my wallet. First I go from Kindle/HC to PB. Then I go to used. Then I used to go library (but am now in a non-Anglophone country) so now I go to not reading them at all. That particular series went through that cycle and since I can’t get it used for that price, I go for not at all.

  7. Great questions Mindy. But just wondering, why all the mystery about the author and book series? This is the Internet, don’t we toss our opinions around on here with snarky abandon?

  8. For a couple of entertainingly snarky vampire and werewolf series’s, I like Patricia Briggs Merecedes Thompson series, and I’ve recently been sucked into Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series. Both have heroines who I can admire and think are awesome, who make bad judgment calls like everyone else, and who aren’t secretly mary-sue’s in disguise. And I’m pretty sure both women have discussions with other women about things that aren’t men! I like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, but I’ve been turned off them recently. I didn’t like the most recent one, it was kind of blah. Next time I might read it at the library before buying.

  9. Yeah, when I read stuff like that, I just want to tell the characters to grow up already, do what you want to do, and get over it. All the angst is not what I want I to read about (I got over that after reading Heinlein in high school, for crying out loud, and I’m 57 years old now).

  10. @Blue Milk, if this is the author we are all thinking it is, then the author in question has been known to be… unpolite, even for the internet, to and about people who express their discomfort with the direction these books are going. I know not whether the author will actually find this page, but I’m not comfortable with making it easier.

  11. I’ve put in an edit to make it easier to work out if we are all talking about the same author.

  12. I had this experience with a TV show a while ago. I just decided the writers were wrong, and made up my own version.
    I don’t know what I’d do if an author was wrong about an entire book, though.

  13. I used to find Robert Heinlein books great page turners, and before I knew it I’d have read a bunch in a short space of time and I’d have an unpleasant taste in my mouth and a feeling that I wouldn’t much like him. His utopias seemed to have an odd mix of features I liked and features I hated.
    I stuck with Patricia Cornwall’s Kay Scarpetta books for ages and I still love Kay and Lucy but I hate where the books have taken her, the degree of paranoia, gated communities and carrying firearms and just how miserable her life was getting. I recently read an interview with Patricia Cornwall that suggests her politics have swung to the left and her writing style has returned to more like the first books – perhaps I’ll give her a try again via the library. Meantime I’ve been eyeing the shelf space & considering getting rid of all but the “Scarpetta’s Winter Table” cookbook/light reading. (There was another series she did with cops as the main character and I think it was the first one I found disgustingly transphobic and didn’t persist with.)

  14. Mindy – thank you. I wasn’t even close in guessing.

  15. I gave up on the Harry Potter series early in the sixth book. I got to the point where Hermione was cleaning Ron’s room, INCLUDING his smalls, and I said, “Screw this shit, I give up.”
    Hermione is the smartest witch of her age. She doesn’t have to clean ANYBODY’S fucking dirty undies.

  16. I started reading this series some years ago. I thought that she had some interesting and fun ideas and I liked the main character and I like sex in my fun reads. The plot/character to sex ratio was about right so I kept reading. It seemed like every book shifted the ratio until the last few have been pron with about the amount of plot you get in regular, old-fashioned Penthouse pron. “I was working as a carpet delivery guy when…”
    The other series cracked me up. On, no! I have to sleep with multiple men multiple times to save the world? And they’re all exotically beautiful!! Woe! How shall I ever bear it?!
    So, I quit reading, even the free library copies.

  17. In answer to the question originally asked, though, I keep on reading bad books as long as they are entertainingly bad. There’s always that day you want to stay in bed with a trashy book and a hot water bottle. When they stop being entertaining, I stop reading.
    I stop buying quite a bit before that, though.

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