Sunday, August 12, 2012

Life's too short to read bad books...

I'm really good at handing out the above bit of advice, totally terrible at taking it myself. I usually plough on regardless of how dire a book is, in the (often misguided) hope it will redeem itself at some point.

But atlas, I find myself in the unprecedented position of having ditched three books mid-read this year...and fast closing in on number four.

The current novel I'm struggling to care about is Glass Geishas by Susanna Quinn.  It has an interesting enough premise: Steph travels to Tokyo to meet up with her friend from high school Annabel, who's raking in the big bucks as a "hostess" in a high end Japanese night club.  But Annabel's gone missing and no one seems to care, except for newly arrived Steph.

There's lots of seedy underbelly and not a lot of substance.  Steph is one of the most unlikeable characters I've read in a while and her dialogue is insipid, annoying and unbelievable. There's lots of fascinating info about the history of the sex industry in Japan (for instance no panty clubs in the 80s - ewww!) courtesy of the back story of Mama, owner of Sinatra's, the last club Annabel worked in where Steph - despite numerous "dire" mistakes that conveniently get immediately forgiven - also lands a job. In fact, I actually like the character of Mama - the incompetent journalist George who's interviewing her, not so much. He is nothing more than a caricature of bumbling ineptness. Yawn.

So what do others think of Glass Geishas?  Well, it has either sparkling or scathing reviews on Amazon UK, no middle ground, and I find myself agreeing with the points made by those who rate it negatively...

But then the little voice of hope in me thinks maybe it will get better. Maybe there's an amazing plot twist coming that will redeem everything else.  And it *did* start with a cracking prologue that ratcheted up the tension every paragraph.

Sigh. To plough on, or not?

And while we're asking questions, why do I find it so hard to give up on books? Is it because I admire authors so deeply that I don't want to "offend" them by not finishing their hard work? Is it vestiges of that old ethic about always finishing what you start, be it the carrot and parsnip mash on your dinner plate as an 8-year-old (still scarred for life, thanks Mum) or the novel you begin reading?

How do you feel about "giving up" on a book? Are you more forgiving of a debut novel compared with a second/third/fourth effort? Do you kid yourself (like I am about the other 3) that you will go back to the dumped book at some point?

I'd love to know what you think!



4 comments:

Heather said...

I am reading a book at the moment that I'm considering giving up on. It's an early book by Tami Hoag and lets just say: boy her writing has improved! The story isnt too bad, but the question is: is reading this bringing enjoyment to me? No, not really, I feel like I should finish it because I started it and I feel like I shouldnt start anything else meantime. But that means I'm not reading at all!

If I stop reading, I will always pick it up and start again at the beginning. Sometimes it pays off (like the second time I started 'the girl with the dragon tattoo') and sometimes I get to the same point of the book and want to stop. No book gets a third attempt.

Craig Ranapia said...

How do I feel about "giving up" on an unsatisfying book? Utterly remorseless. There's more than enough tedious, badly written crap I've had to endure for a pay cheque or academic credit. Writers might want to look away from the screen, but they have no inalienable human right to a reader's time and attention. They've got to earn it, baby.

Heather said...

I am reading a book at the moment that I'm considering giving up on. It's an early book by Tami Hoag and lets just say: boy her writing has improved! The story isnt too bad, but the question is: is reading this bringing enjoyment to me? No, not really, I feel like I should finish it because I started it and I feel like I shouldnt start anything else meantime. But that means I'm not reading at all!

If I stop reading, I will always pick it up and start again at the beginning. Sometimes it pays off (like the second time I started 'the girl with the dragon tattoo') and sometimes I get to the same point of the book and want to stop. No book gets a third attempt.

Café Chick said...

Life is definitely too short to read a bad book. Think about all of the millions of good books out there that you simply don't have time to read. Why waste a precious moment on something that just isn't up to it?

Having said that, I HATE having to concede #bookFAIL but have got better at it over the years in direct proportion to the amount of time I have available to read. Don't feel bad; move on.