Monday, April 1, 2013

When Good Books Hit The Wall

I recently read Cassandra Clare's, City of Bones. It got my attention by the copious stacks available at Wal-mart, and several friends recommended it to me. What's more, I believe the series is up to book six now, so I thought it would be a good read.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

When Good Books Hit The Wall
I'm getting crotchety in my old age. Life is getting too short to read annoying crap. Usually I soldier through until I get past the poopy part of the book, but lately I discovered my increasing passion for dropping books I can't stand.

Oddly enough, I made it all the way through City of Bones despite my growing displeasure. But because of my frustration with it, I took the second and third books back to the library unread. Two books hit the wall, and I hadn't even read them.

My biggest complaints with City of Bones were:

The female protagonists constant attraction to the 'bad boy' character
This one probably agitated me the most. Please... this character wasn't a 'bad boy,' he was a jerk douche-bag. Most people, men and women, would have started avoiding him long before the end of the book. He was rude and annoying.

And the nice-guy, geek boy who stands by the heroine no matter what? She uses him like toilet paper.

(And people wonder why I hate love triangles.)

Several spots of purple prose
Purple prose is "a generally pejorative term for writing or speech characterized by ornate, flowery, or hyperbolic language. Contrast with plain style." (About.Com: Grammar & Composition) "The idiom was originally a purple passage or purple patch, and the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1598. The rhetorical sense in English comes from the Ars Poetica of Horace, specifically from the phrase purpureus pannus, a purple garment or raiment, the color purple symbolizing royalty, grandeur, power." (Charles Harrington Elster, What in the Word? Harcourt, 2005)
Take, for instance, the following excerpt:
"My pack were the first at the door. We burst into the hall, tearing the night with our howls. And we were followed by Fairy knights with weapons of glass and twisted thorns. After them came the night children with bared fangs and warlocks wielding flame and Iron. As the panicked masses fled the hall, we fell upon the members of the circle."
That's a serious chunk in five sentences. Granted, it's not bad writing, but this excerpt is from a character who is retelling an event, not telling a campfire story. Would you tell about a fight like this? Or would simply say, "We ran in backed up by Fairy knights and vampires. As people ran, we attacked the members of the circle."

But no. The author wants us to know exactly how everyone ran into the hall. I know, I know--it's not as... fun. But remember, if you were retelling the event, would you be so flowery?

Books That Hit The Wall
I can think of two books that I actually declined to finish reading:
  • A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin
  • Star Trek: Exiles - Howard Weinstein
A Dance With Dragons
Since this was a pretty big book, it put a hole in my wall when it hit. Nah, just kidding. I read the audiobook and I wasn't about to chuck my iPod at the wall.

My biggest complaint with this book: it's boring. After eight hours and nothing happening, I wanted to cut my wrist(s). And since my favorite character, who didn't appear at ALL in the previous book, spent his time in those first eight hours either drunk or drunk in a wagon--


I got a little fed up.

Star Trek: Exiles
I kinda feel bad about this one. It's book two in a series, so it didn't have good footing to begin with. But, as with, A Dance With Dragons, nothing happened in at least 2-4 hours of audio. The final nail in the coffin came when Mr. Weinstein used a flashback to remember the word slippery.

I kid you not.

A character remembered water getting spilled on the deck and freezing. This reminded him what what another character was like: slippery.

I hit the pause on my iPod so fast there was a sonic boom.

Why It's Okay To Toss Bad Books
I've actually stressed about writing a review for the books I've mentioned. I feel like a schmuck when I can't enjoy someones hard work, especially when so many others love them. Sure, I gave these books star ratings on Goodreads, but I didn't want to hinder other people's enjoyment with my ranting in a review.

So why didn't I like them? In this case, it really was just me.

John Brown, author of Servant of a Dark God, gave this quote by Thomas McCormack, CEO & editorial director at St. Martin's Press, during his presentation on The Hunger Games at the 2011 LTUE. Here's what he said:
"An author needs a lot more than one person to succumb to his literary seductive charms, but, like Saul, he must realize that he doesn't have to--and indeed cannot--capture the hearts of every possible reader out there. No matter who the writer, his ideal intended audience is only a small faction of all the living readers. Name the most widely read authors you can think of--from Shakespeare, Austen, and Dickens to Robert Waller, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling--and the immense majority of book-buyers out there actively decline to read them.”
So what Mr. McCormack is saying here, is that, if you don't like a particular book, that's okay! You're simply not a fan of that author, maybe even just that particular book. For instance, I've read the rest of George R.R. Martin's books, but hated this last one. It's received rave reviews, but I still didn't like it. I wasn't in the audience for A Dance With Dragons. And that's okay because others still liked it and Mr. Martin is still a screaming success.

Sound Off
So what books have you disliked? What were your reasons for tossing them? Have you ever stopped reading a book, only to try again years later and find that you liked it?  


  1. Nice post! Though while reading the "purple prose"excerpt all I could think was, "Wait... Fairy knights?" ;)

    Recently I've put down two books not because they were bad, but just because something more interesting came into my queue--that happened with SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD and SABRIEL. I stopped reading THE RUNELORDS because it wasn't real gripping after book #3 and I didn't like how the author handled certain characters and situations.

    There was actually an indie book that had gotten great reviews, so I got the sample, but I want impressed by the prose and couldn't get into the characters. Glad I didn't buy it!

    But yeah, I won't suffer through a book, ever. If it gets lame (or in the case with George R R Martin, graphic) I'll put it down.

  2. I will mention two books. First, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I kept rolling my eyes and by paragraph 5 said, "This is dumb and trying too hard to do something, not sure what and don't care to find out."

    The other one, The first Twilight book. I made it through Chapter 1 begrudgingly but recounted the fact that Bella randomly cries 5 times and thought, I cannot possibly take more of her crying!

  3. I happen to be a fan of the first three books in this series and am a huge fan of the Infernal Instruments (steampunk Victorian shadowhunters--I'm currently reading the third book in that series). I agree about the nice guy (Simon) vs the bad boy (Jace) but the reality is that Clare was never into Simon as a boyfriend anyway. And Jace isn't really a bad boy.

    I'm not a fan of love triangles but Clare is and they seem to be all the rage right now. Clare actually does an awesome one In Infernal, one that tears at the heart.

    For me, a book can hit the wall--or I just quit readiing--is when the main character does something so obviously stupid that s/he deserves the bad thing that happens. Kind of natural selection at work. DIe! lol

  4. I wanted to throw The Forest of Hands and Teeth against the wall because the main character was completely selfish and never did pull her head out of you-know-where...even at the end.

    One book that I have recently left unfinished was The Falling Machine: The Society of Steam book 1. The main character was annoying, self-righteous and made me want to smack her. Even after 50 pages I didn't have anyone to care about. That's a problem.


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