Friday, July 01, 2011

When Readers Throw in the Towel

I'm participating in the Book Blogger Hop this weekend hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. It's been aaaaaages since I've linked up with this meme and I really shouldn't have neglected it for so long. It's a great way to meet literate folks.

Jennifer asks a question each week and this week's topic is:

"What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?"

I love the way Jennifer worded the question. Truth is, book bloggers can be as tough as literary agents on the novels they read. Many only give it a few pages to grab their attention.

I'm not quite that tough, but I've come to the conclusion if a book is not working for me, I need to move on to the next review copy in my pile. I usually give novels three to five chapters to catch my attention, sometimes more if there's a certain spark I like.

Taste is subjective, but the things that make me stop reading a book are:

1. Excessive cursing.

I may like edgy, but there's only so much a gal can take, ya know? This is usually not a problem in Christian fiction (especially not from large publishers), but I have been pitched some edgy fiction from smaller presses that had excessive cursing in the sample chapter. Once I was pitched a Christian fiction book with a curse in the title! #marketingfail

2. Bad theology in Christian fiction.

I've only run across this once and I'll refrain from naming the book. It was a very popular fiction book that I couldn't finish due to the theology. Some things are too sacred to play with.

3. Magic Sex*

I've never seen this in Christian fiction, but it happens in general market romance all the time. It's when the hero and heroine sleep with each other and then fall madly in love. It's one of the reasons I don't read general market romance

(*I didn't make up this term, but it fits don't you think?)

4. Poor editing

For school teachers, spelling and grammar mistakes in a published novel pop out like a student blowing bubbles in class (if only I could find them in my own writing as easily). I'll forgive the occasional typo, but too many is a turn-off.

5. Stylistic faults too distracting to ignore.

Some writers find it hard to read for fun after they start writing. They can't enjoy a story without turning off the craft critique happening in their heads.

But not me. I read like a reader (which probably means I'm not so great at this writing thing yet).

For me, story still trumps craft. If I get wrapped up in the story, I'm unlikely to notice faults in the writing style of a professionally edited novel. And if I do notice them, I'm apt to forget and forgive.

Occasionally I'll find an author's writing style too distracting to ignore. Once I start tripping over clich├ęs, purple prose, or point of view problems I lose all interest in the story.

So book bloggers, please chime in here. Do you finish every book you start? If not, how long do you give it?


  1. You are way more generous with you time and attention than that other girl who reviews here (um, me.) If a book hasn't hooked me by about the tenth page (sometimes sooner) without some seriously trustworthy recommendations, I bail. I'm out. If I get through more than that and lose interest then I'm just mad at myself for having wasted so much time.

    There are so many GREAT stories out there that you have to let a few "good" stories slide through your fingers unfinished (and un-reviewed) in order to keep hold of the ones that take residence up in your heart.

  2. Forgot to add the most obvious reason I stop reading a book. Number 6, "Just plain boring!"

    Serena, your last line should be our blog motto! We're going to frame it and hang it over the door.

  3. You said it perfectly Joy! From the cursing, sex, poor theology, poor editing, and author style, I agree with it all! I have put books down because of the cursing, I have put books down because of the sex. Unfortunately I have muddled through some pretty poor works just because I feel obligated to the publisher that sent the book. I really need to shed the guilt of putting a book aside when it doesn't appeal in order to not waste my time and be able to move on to something more entertaining.

  4. Great post, Joy! Over the last few years, I found my time is too precious to waste on a bad book. Unless it's one I'm obligated to review, I have no qualms putting it back on the shelf. Who am I kidding? Forget the shelf...I toss it in the Goodwill box! LOL ☺ My reasons for not reading past the first chapter are just about the same as yours.

    Happy Saturday! ☺

  5. Hopping through. Magic Sex sounds silly. I also don't like books where sex is the pinnacle of the couple's relationship.
    My Hop

  6. Oh, my gosh! I love this commentary from you. Poor editing - definitely a deal-breaker; it's WAY too distracting. "Magic sex" - LOVE this term - that in itself won't keep me from reading - gratuitous sex, lots of sex, explicit sex - dealbreaker almost always (explicit sex - ALWAYS a dealbreaker). A lot of profanity and unnecessary profanity (and sometimes it depends .. I can take the "lighter" cuss words, but when you start talking the cuss words that you hear on the street and want to wash SOMEONE's mouth out over ... different story for me).

  7. @Julie G- I hate it when publishers MAKE you review a book before you get to choose another one. They should give you a pass or something on books you can't finish. I don't review books I can't finish.

    @Larri- Exactly, our time is too precious.

    @Alison- Thanks for hopping by!

    @Julie- I don't read mainstream romance anymore, but I've read so much general market fiction in my life that my internal editor skips over the explicit sex scenes. It seems like there's at least one in every general market fiction book I read (except YA).

    It just drives me crazy when characters have sex and then fall madly in love afterwards. The order is all wrong!

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  9. Already and gladly following you.

    I started reading a book the last month and it was suppose to be a very good book. But after giving it a couple of chapters I just couldn’t get into it. I put the book aside to read another day. I don’t like to do that because I feel as if my mind might have had too many distractions and I didn’t give the book a chance. So I always try to wait for another day to give it another go. I have so many other books calling to me from my to-be-read list that it can really be distracting. READ ME! READ ME!
    I prefer reading and reviewing Christian Fiction but I do read a varity of other books. I just can’t handle too scary or gory. Suspense and Mysteries I like. No explicit adult books either if I do find one I really want to read I just skip over the x-rated stuff. So what genre do I read?

  10. I so agree with you. As a blogger now Im really tough on the books I read. My rule was always 100 pages but Seriously within the first few chapters I can tell if its going to be a good book or a boring badly done book....I still read plenty of secular books (have you read Divergent...amazing!!) but had to stop reading adult PNR and romance its just too graphic in sexuality. I get pitched trash everyday....

  11. @Patricia- Christian fiction is my favorite genre followed closely by general market YA. I don't know what happened, but YA has gotten a heck of a lot better than when I was a kid. My 68 year old mother loves it just as much as me.

    @Tina- I hear such awesome things about Divergent. It's definitely on my TBR list!

  12. Joy, having worked in a middle school library I can say that not all YA is sex free. Unfortunately. And not just allusions to sex, but graphic sex. So I have had to put YA books down. The two most recent books that I threw away were actually YA books. One had Jesus' name used as a swear word so many times that it made me sick, I finally slapped it shut and threw it away. Another had an explicit sex scene so I slapped that shut and threw it away. BUT, I too have found some truly amazing YA books out there and they most definitely are better than when I was a kid! I guess we all have our "I've had enough of this" moments when we know it is time to give up on a book.

  13. Joy, thanks ever so much for visiting my blog! New followers make my day. : )

    I also agree with you - too much cursing is just a turn-off in a book. And poor editing really just sticks in my craw!

  14. @Julie- Yes, I've seen sex in YA, but I haven't come across explicit details like I have in general market fiction or general market romance. But I'm also not as well read in the genre as I am in Christian fiction. Are you no longer reviewing YA??

    @Molli- It's nice to meet you! Thanks for returning the visit.

  15. I love your site! I am a new Christian romance/suspense novelist(at the young age of 40, LOL), but I'm also a reader. I think the reason I write is to create the edgy stories I love (but not too far off the Christian fundamentals). Although, I do make Cherokee Indians immortals who fight agaisnt demons, and create a far too realistic ani-christ.

    Anyway, I joined the group and look forward to catching up on all the blogs. :-)

  16. True!
    Vigorously nodding my head in agreement with all the comments above.

  17. Oh yes Joy, I still review YA. I have a ton of YA books that I got at TLA in April. I was laid off from my Library Assistant job so I don't have first-hand access to all the wonderfulness. But my librarian friend(Edgy from Edifying and Edgy) still hooks me up with lots of YA goodness. I have just noticed the trend in YA becoming more adult. Is it sad that sex and cursing can cause me to put a book down, but murder and mayhem is right up my alley?! LOL!

  18. AMEN on magic sex. I love how you put that. SO so very true.

    Too much cursing automatically puts me off too.


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