The prompt this week is to write about the last ten books you abandoned. I used to be one of those readers who prided myself on always finishing every book I started. Then I realised I had a 700+ book TBR, and literally thousands of books on my wishlist. I could either waste my time – and slow my reading speed – by finishing books that I knew from the beginning I was never going to like. Or I could just. Stop. Reading. I’m now a committed DNFer. So here’s the last ten books I dropped – and why.
A FAREWELL TO ARMS – ERNEST HEMINGWAY
I’m not the biggest Hemingway fan. I like The Old Man and the Sea well enough, and A Moveable Feast was interesting if an insight into a somewhat unpleasant mind. I started this and got about fifty pages in, but I couldn’t get over the extent of the utter misogyny in the narrative. I knew to expect it, but I still found it incredibly unpleasant and I wasn’t getting enough out of the plot, prose, or characterisation to overlook it.
A IS FOR ALIBI – SUE GRAFTON
I am absolutely not opposed to fun, engaging, light reads. However, I don’t see the point in them if I’m not actually having fun! I found the first book in this series really dated and cliched, even though I realise it was probably less so at the time. After the first couple of chapters, I realised that I just didn’t enjoy it enough to commit to such a long series and that I wasn’t going to get the light relief that I needed from it.
A LITTLE NIGHT MAGIC – LUCY MARCH
I really wanted to like this as I’m a fan of the media presence of the author, also know as Lani Diane Rich. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into this book. The writing felt overly self-conscious and was overly snarky in a way that doesn’t feel natural or enjoyable to read – very much along the lines of Joss Whedon at his worst excesses. I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal of the only black character in the book. I certainly don’t think it was intentional but that isn’t really the point.
A REUNION OF GHOSTS – JUDITH CLARE MITCHELL
This was one that I was very close to continuing. The writing was nice and it made me laugh a couple of times in the opening chapters. As soon as we got to the historical parts, however, I felt completely disengaged from the text. I’m a bit oversaturated on WWII narratives, and this one wasn’t keeping my attention. Again, it just wasn’t really special enough for me to persist with, and I felt like I wasn’t going to get much out of continuing.
A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS – KATHLEEN BALDWIN
The writing in this was far too mannered – I think it’s a delicate balance as it’s almost in a style I quite like in historical fiction. There are really good examples in I Capture the Castle and A Sky Painted Gold and in terms of boarding school stories A Great and Terrible Beauty is a good example, although the end of that series is a mess. This just felt like a very shallow appreciation of what’s good about that sort of language. There was also a sort of “not-like-other-girls” overtone to the first couple of chapters which I was not into at all.
A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD – ANNE TYLER
I cannot remember a single thing about this book except that I didn’t like it which is clear because I stopped reading it.
A WOMAN OF WAR – MANDY ROBOTHAM
I honestly read about two pages of this and then my “Nazi romance” radar went off. And it was correct! I have zero interest in reading about people falling in love with Nazis. I would never have picked this up in the first place except that it was gift, and usually I try to read things people gift me, but I draw the line here.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE – ANTHONY DOERR
Yet another WWII story that I found utterly uninteresting. When I was trying to decide whether to keep going I read some opinions on the blind character that corroborated the impression that had begun to form myself – that the portrayal was somewhat shallow and insulting. Between that, the pretentious style, and the fact that I’m burned out on WWII, I just gave up.
LIFE BEFORE MAN – MARGARET ATWOOD
I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s backlist along with What the Book Club Read and I managed the first three, though I only really enjoyed the first one, The Edible Woman. I started Life Before Man and when it became obvious that it was a retread of the same themes that she addressed in that, Surfacing, and Lady Oracle I became less interested. I enjoy a good toxic relationship and unlikable character as much as anyone but I wasn’t into going round in the same circle again.
A GATHERING OF SHADOWS – VE SCHWAB
This was a tough one. I wanted to love these books really badly. I read the first one and found it decent but not spectacular. It just felt very shallow and perfunctory. I’m not a great fan of the whole “show don’t tell” thing because I think it’s reductive, but A Darker Shade of Magic had a terrible case of telling a very linear, boring story, with characters that weren’t interesting or complex enough to support a basic plot. Kel is not a very well developed character – I understood very little about who he is, except that he has a complicated relationship with the royal family with whom he lives. Lila is worse – every note of her character was massively predictable and obnoxious. She in no way felt like a realistic person or anyone I could empathise with at all. When I started AGOS, I realised it was even more firmly rooted in Lila’s POV and I completely lost interest.