Read or Reject #3

The BookDepository

My New Year’s Resolution is to give up on books that aren’t outstanding. I don’t want to miss out on a gem that happens to have a poor beginning, so I hope that you can help me sort the wheat from the chaff.

Should I continue reading any of these books?

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh 

I foolishly allowed myself to run out of audio books and so grabbed this one from the shelf without doing any research. I hadn’t read any Ngaio Marsh before, but wanted to experience one of her classic crime books. This one is a murder mystery set on a ship. It struggled to hold my attention from the beginning, but I can’t decide if this is due its unsuitability as an audio book or whether I’d have the same issues with the print version. It was slow, felt very dated and the characters were quite irritating. Do you think the print version would be any better?


Snowdrops by A D Miller

I ordered this book from my library after seeing several people raving about it on the Booker forum. It had been described as a Russian thriller similar to Child 44, but apart from the fact they are both set in Russia I couldn’t see any similarities. Snowdrops has a strange writing style where things are written in Russian (and then translated into English in brackets). It had a very slow pace and nothing had happened when I gave up at about the 80 page mark. My problems with the book probably only indicate its suitability for the Booker. Perhaps I’ll re-read it when it makes the shortlist?

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

I know that a lot of people really loved this one and so I’m quite sad to be going against the grain. It started off well, but after a gripping first chapter I began to lose interest. I failed to warm to the characters and the plot didn’t do enough to grab my attention. I’m afraid this is another victim of my harsh new rejection policy.

Other books I dipped into, but failed to finish:

The Still Point by Amy Sackville

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman

Tony and Susan by Austin M. Wright

Was I wrong to give up on any of these books?

Is there magic lurking in the final pages?

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  1. TERESA says:

    I started The Lotus Eaters yesterday and at about 60 pages in I was giving up the will to live (not a good thing!) so, encouraged by your Read and Reject mission, I abandoned it. It was actually quite therapeutic…such a feeling of relief…indeed I felt most empowered! ;-) We’re all individuals and sometimes certain books don’t suit our moods at the time and indeed certain books will never suit us.

    Snowdrops has been fluttering about my reading radar for a while but I honestly don’t think it’s for me either. For some reason I have Tony and Susan on my wishlist and I have The Still Point TBR but I think I know deep down that they’re probably not going to engage me. I will just have to accept that and move on…or so my inner book therapist tells me. ;-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, You are the first person I know who has given up on The Lotus Eaters – it is so nice to know I’m not alone.

      I am beginning to enjoy abandoning books too – you are right about that therapeutic feeling. It feels wonderful to only read books that have power over me and not drag my way though books that aren’t gripping or enlightening.

      I have a feeling that The Still Point just entered my life at the wrong moment and I might enjoy it at some other point. Pehaps I’ll be inspired to give it another try when you rave about it later in the year ;-)

  2. Alison says:

    I really didn’t like “The Stillpoint” although I know other people have raved about it.
    I do like Ngaio Marsh but I veer towards her mysteries set around a theatrical background. Not keen on her stuff on audio tho. However, I generally don’t like crime on audio because I tend to find I’ve missed clues or character introductions & then find I’ve lost track.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alsion, I haven’t heard of anyone not liking The Still Point, so again that is good to know. I didn’t read very much of it (15 pages?) and so can’t give any real reasons for abandoning it. I just felt it wasn’t for me. So many people rave about it, so it does feel strange to go against the flood of love for it.

      It is good to know that Marsh’s books don’t tend to work on audio. I suspected that might be the case. I’ll keep an eye out for a print copy and give it another try – or perhaps start on a different one of her books. Thanks for the help :-)

  3. I’ve read two of the books you abandoned: The Lotus Eaters and The Financial Lives of Poets. Poets started off great for me but lost momentum. I think the beginning is the best part, so if it didn’t work for you, it’s probably best to abandon it.

    I loved The Lotus Eaters, but it was a novel that took me some time to get into. I think my reading of it benefited from being on vacation. I had the time to devote to it until I loved it (about 100 pages if I recall correctly). Regardless, not every book works for everyone.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, It is interesting to know that it took you a while to get into The Lotus Eaters. I think I gave up at around the 100 page mark, although I did skim read a bit further. I think I’d probably end up thinking it was OK, but it was far too long to risk finding that out.

  4. Annabel says:

    Now I ended up really enjoying The Still Point, but it did take about 60 pages for it to suddenly click with me … I did find it hard going at first, but ultimately liked it.

    Snowdrops is on my pile, I’ve not seen any rave reviews on this one which is a shame as the premise is right up my street – I’ll read it soon I hope.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, Dovegreyreader wrote a positive review for Snowdrops recently and several members of that Booker forum loved it. I think it is one for those who like slower books?

      I love the premise of The Still Point. I can see myself coming back to it at some point in the future – perhaps when I get to go to the Arctic?!

  5. stujallen says:

    I like fact you are willing to not finish books Jackie something I ve never really been able to do ,some of these fall into what you may call the hype category the sackvile ,beauman and walter all fall in that group usually they tend to be over hyped ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I’m not sure I’d describe them as hyped. Sackville was longlisted for the Orange prize and so received a bit of attention from that, but I haven’t seen that much mention of the others. I do know some books that have been hyped. *cough* Discovery *cough* Witches. comes to mind at the moment. I wonder whether I’ll make it to the end of that one?!

  6. sakura says:

    I’ve read quite a few of Ngaio Marsh’s mysteries but not sure whether I’ve read this one. Personally I prefer the ones which feature Inspector Alleyn and his wife Agatha Troy. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Boxer Beetle so am surprised to hear you didn’t finish it. But then I haven’t read it myself… Maybe I should read it:)

    1. Jackie says:

      sakura, The writing in Boxer Beetle was very good, but the subject matter wasn’t. Strong language and boxing don’t appeal to me and I found I didn’t enjoy reading about that underground lifestyle. I didn’t manage to get to the beetles (which I’m sure I’d have loved) Just a case of wrong book for me, but I’d love to know your thoughts.

  7. NancyO says:

    I have to agree with you on Lotus Eaters. I started it and then quickly put it down — absolutely not my cup of tea.

    Snowdrops — I don’t really think this is meant to be an “action-packed” novel like Child 44 (which I actually liked, despite what that year’s Booker pundits said), and I think that if someone actually compared those two books, he/she was a bit off. Not even close. I know you were kind of bored with it — I thought it was a good enough read, but I HATED the main character, as you know!

    Ngaio Marsh: I’ve been reading Ngaio Marsh for a while, but have really only stuck to the Inspector Alleyn mystery series. I think she may be a bit outdated for modern readers, but I still like her books. But then again, I’m a crime & mystery addict.

    Boxer Beetle: I have that one here somewhere so I’ll let you know what I think afterwards.

    have a lovely day!

    1. Jackie says:

      Nancy, Yes. Snowdrops has to be the opposite to action packed! It should have been compared to something much slower. I loved Child 44 too – such a shame I haven’t found anything else as good as it yet.

      Thanks fo the Alleyn recommendation – I’ll see what I can find.

      Enjoy Boxer Beetle :-)

  8. Kathleen says:

    I haven’t read any of the three but have heard a lot of good things about The Lotus Eaters. I like your resolution though and plan to follow that philosophy myself. There are too many really good books for us to suffer the ones that we just don’t like.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathlee, Lots of people love The Lotus Eaters – I’m just a fussy old soul :-( I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

  9. Carrie K. says:

    I absolutely loved both Lotus Eaters and Financial Lives of Poets, but I’m a big believer in the right not to finish a book without guilt!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, Almost all the reviews of both books were positive. Perhaps I’ll find some books that everyone else hated to love ;-)

  10. I was hoping The Financial Lives of Poets would be good, but if you didn’t finish, I may not even try.

    Do you actually give up on books that you borrowed easier than that you buy yourself? Somehow it seems hard to put a book away if you have spent many on it. On the other hand, it’s also a waste of time to keep reading something you don’t enjoy

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, You may well like Poets – I just couldn’t get on with the writing style. Try reading the first few pages and see what you think. Most other people seem to love it so don’t take my brief encounter with it as anything meaningful.

      I think I probably do put more effort into reading books I have bought for myself, but that is mainly due to the fact I normally have a very good reason for buying them (trusted recommendation) It normally ends the same way though – I think I’m getting quite good at recognising which books I won’t love early on. This means I am more likely to waste time reading a book I’ve bought for myself than give up and move onto something I’ll actually love.

  11. Biblibio says:

    I don’t often give up on books, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there are really a lot of bad books that end up on my shelves. But also a lot of good books. If struggling with a book means I’m going to be stuck reading only that and ignoring other books for a long time, it seems to me like it’s not worth it.

    I can’t say if you were “wrong” to abandon any of the books (having read none of them), but a lot of times books just aren’t for specific readers. You shouldn’t force yourself. If it’s really not enjoyable and is an actual struggle – better to reject and move on.

    1. Jackie says:

      Biblibio, I agree, but there are sometimes wonderful books that have a slow, boring beginning. I want to ensure I don’t miss out on those by giving up just a few pages too early. 90% of the time this isn’t the case though. I agree that reject and move on is normally the way to go. :-)

  12. Yvette says:

    I am a HUGE fan of Ngaio Marsh’s work. So I’m bound to say I loved SINGING IN THE SHROUDS. But I’ve only read the print version, not listened to the audio. I liked this book because it was one of the few (maybe the ONLY) books using the serial killer motif in the series and I wanted to see how Marsh dealt with it. Also I LOVE murder mysteries set on ships.

    This is not, though, Marsh’s best book. So perhaps you might like to try again with ARTISTS IN CRIME or A CLUTCH OF CONSTABLES or DIED IN THE WOOL or DEATH OF A PEER or KILLER DOLPHIN or…
    That’s my biased point of view. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Yvette, Thank you for the Ngaio Marsh passion! I think I’ll try her again, but ensure I only get the print version. I’ll keep an eye out for the titles you mention. Fingers crossed I’ll have more success with her next time.

  13. Teddy says:

    My rule of thumb is if I’m still not into it at all after 50 pages, I quit. But sometime there is one little tiny part that makes me want to slog through, then I give it 100 pages, I’ve even been known to go to 150 pages. There are so many books I want to read that I refuse to keep reading books I think are really bad or totally flat.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teddy, I used to ensure I read about 50-80 pages before giving up on a book, but I’ve realised I can usually tell much sooner than that. On the other hand I have given up on books after 300 pages – that frustrates me a lot!


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