Books I Didn't Finish

I'm never quite sure what to do about the books I start but for one reason or another don't finish. I don't feel it's fair to say a book is good or bad when I haven't read it all the way through, so I've decided to list them here with a sentence or two about why I wasn't motivated to keep reading to the end. Keep in mind these are just my opinions and other readers may think these books are wonderful.

2017

The World According to Garp by John Irving

I was a long way into this book when I stopped reading and I hate to quit a book when I've invested that much in it, but I simply couldn't take any more. I like John Irving's writing and his odd, quirky characters, but this one was too depressing. I had just finished a section where a car accident killed one boy and did horrible physical damage to another boy and both parents, and I thought surely things had to lighten up at least a little bit soon, but then the next chapter started with terror, harming a child, and rape. Three quarters of the way through or not, I don't want to spend any more time in the dismal world of this novel. I may finish it someday just because it seems wrong not to, but I can't stomach any more right now.

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

I read close to half of it and at times I was almost interested. The rest of the time the long, tedious descriptions had me bored, confused or just annoyed that the author hadn't yet moved on to something else. Several times I wanted to quit, but bits of it were intriguing so I convinced myself to keep going. But today I read thirty pages and on every single one of them I wondered why I was still reading this when I so clearly just wanted to be done. So, I'm done.

2016

Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield

Predictable, contrived, poorly written. Yawn.

Barbra, The Way She Is by Christopher Andersen

Nobody can be as awful all the time as this author makes Barbra Streisand out to be. It's boring to read stories of her unmitigated self-centeredness over and over with no redeeming quality ever bringing relief to the picture he's drawing. She's human, therefore she must have both faults and virtues but the latter were missing at least in the first hundred or so pages. It gives the impression that Anderson has a strong dislike for Streisand and is unable to take a balanced approach. I'll look for something more interesting.

The Rhythm of Memory

The writing felt stilted to me; the dialogue didn't feel natural. I got bored and started wondering why I was spending time on something I wasn't enjoying when I have so many other books to read and so few good years left to read them. I was three quarters of the way through the book but I just wasn't interested, so I stopped and moved on.

2015

The Mill River Recluse

Such a good premise for a novel, but some author once said "If it sounds like writing, take it out." and the editors of this book failed to follow that advice. Maybe if they'd taken out everything that sounded like writing there wouldn't have been anything left. I was over a hundred pages in and it still felt awkward. The story never got rolling and I never at any moment felt an ounce of anticipation for what might be coming. All potential, no soul.

2014

Gifts From Eykis
Supposed to be sci-fi, but really it's the author's philosophy of how we create most of our own problems and how we could (should) improve. I found it dull and badly written and quit in the third chapter.

2013 

The Last Supper - A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk
I got about a quarter of the way through this one and decided this is the wrong time to read it. I love the genre and she's an excellent writer, but it's going to take more effort than I can give it right now. You know those times when there's almost more going on in your real life than you can handle so you need an easy read with a story that will take you away? That's where I am. I'm going to keep this book though because I suspect I would really enjoy it another time. Rachel Cusk writes intelligently and lyrically about a wonderful country; maybe at another time I'll be able to give it the attention it deserves. 

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo
Great cover and title, and good reviews, but I was so bored I just couldn't keep going. I was hoping for a story about olive growing and was hoping to learn something about it, but in this book the olive groves are only the wallpaper in front of which the story plays out. There was nothing in the writing that made me want to keep going, I never got interested in the characters and the story didn't seem to be going anywhere. And that was halfway through the book, so it was time to move on.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquirel
I love the premise of a young girl growing up in Mexico and sharing the recipes of her family, and I love the whimsicality of a cake batter that won't thicken because the cook is crying so many tears into it, but the injustice done to this young girl is more than I can take. I just finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, which was so filled with injustice that it made me feel sick and I find I can't take any more. The mother in Like Water For Chocolate makes me furious. She slaps her daughters face, sending her reeling to the floor, for having feelings Mama doesn't want her to have, and when something goes wrong and there's no one else to blame she beats her daughter so badly it takes two weeks for the bruises to heal. I am so sick of injustice I can't even put it into words - so I won't.

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
What a disappointment! After reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and loving it I was looking forward to more great characters and meaning-of-life philosophizing, but no. I am one day going to learn not to judge a book by it's author. This one is about a dying chef, an arrogant jerk, miserable husband and cold-hearted father who is trying to remember the taste of something he enjoyed years ago. This awful man can talk about food with great emotion and yet says he never loved his children and if they hate him for it it's no concern of his. This book goes on endlessly about how exquisite it is to taste the best food and compares it to finding God. In one instance a chef is called Christ. It all seems overblown and a bit ridiculous to me. I like to cook and I like quality ingredients, but this book takes refinement of taste to, and way beyond, the outer limits of good sense. I've read 90 pages and am hating the experience so I'm done. 

2012

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Such a great title and such good reviews. I was hoping for something along the lines of Cold Comfort Farm. It was not to be. Right from the first I didn't like the main character, then I got to the masturbation scene. I stopped there and decided to drop it, but I talked myself into trying one more chapter. It didn't help. I wasn't enjoying it, I didn't like the characters, the language, the setting or the story line. Life (at least mine at this point) is too short to read books you don't like so I'm moving on.

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
Too. Much. Swearing. It actually became boring.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
I liked some of the characters but when I got to the third rather detailed sex scene I decided to skip this one. He's a good writer though, and I loved his earlier book "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time".

2011

Watching The English by Kate Fox
I read reviews that said this was a funny look at the idiosyncrasies of "Britishness". I read maybe 30 pages and didn't find it funny at all. It is a very detailed look at what makes the British unique, written by a serious social anthropologist. Very detailed. The details have details. I was bored and decided to move on. It's very thorough and well written though if you want to give it a try. You might like it.

Ulysses by James Joyce
Well. I've wondered for a long time what all the fuss was about and now I know. And I am unimpressed. This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. I realize it's considered art by some, but I'm not one of them. I started out ready for anything and keeping an open mind, but the sheer foolishness of it finally got to me. I read over half of it, and by that time I swear I could hear the author laughing at me. At that point I was reading just for the sake of personal vanity; I wanted to be among those who could say they'd finished it. I finally stopped before losing all respect for myself and I hope never to pick it up again. I may read something else by Joyce some day; I think he could tell a good story. His writing ability comes through at times in spite of the cartoonish made-up words and pretentious drivel, but you'll never convince me he thought this book was art. Any enterprising individual can write gibberish, keep it obscure to befuddle the masses and round up a few "smart" people to call it art; the rest of us will accept it as art that we simply lack sufficient literary sophistication to appreciate. It's mind boggling conceit on their part and inexplicable submission on ours. Enough!

For example:

“For who is there who anything of some significance has apprehended but is conscious that that exterior splendour may be the surface of a downwardtending lutulent reality or on the contrary anyone so is there unilluminated as not to perceive that as no nature's boon can contend against the bounty of increase so it behoves every most just citizen to become the exhortator and admonisher of his semblables and to tremble lest what had in the past been by the nation excellently commenced might be in the future not with similar excellence accomplished if an inverecund habit shall have gradually traduced the honourable by ancestors transmittedcustoms to that thither of profundity that that one was audacious excessively who would have the hardihood to rise affirming that no more odious offence can for anyone be than to oblivious neglect to consign that evangel simultaneously command and promise which on all mortals with prophecy of abundance or with diminution's menace that exalted of reiteratedly procreating function ever irrevocably enjoined?".

I rest my case.

The Push and The Pull by Darryl Whetter
I'm beginning to wonder if this page of unfinished books is such a good idea. I find I don't like admitting to giving up on a book. I know it's not a failure on my part as a reader; it's simply a matter of personal taste. We will never all be interested in all books. I'll keep telling myself that. I only got about 15 pages into this one before I realized I wasn't the slightest bit interested in the story, I didn't like the language (the writing/the swearing) and I wasn't responding to the characters. Even the setting, which alone has carried me through some books,  left me cold. Also, I am in a place where I want some simple good stories about simple good people. I've been reading a lot of angst in the past few months, war, hardship, tragedy, moral conundrums and death, and I need a break. I want a mental holiday and this book doesn't fit anywhere into that plan. So I'm off to look for a 'comfort' read.

2010

In The Beauty Of The Lilies by John Updike
I found the book slow. It was my first experience with Updike, and I will try another eventually. There are a lot of good things written about his books so I'll try again to see if I can get out of them what others seem to.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I found this book to be very, very dark. It was a fascinating story but it delved into a level of darkness that I am not comfortable with so I decided not to finish it.

Shanghai by David Rotenberg
I read only a few pages of this thick paperback. I'm not sure why I didn't like it; I can only say that I think it's more of a man's book. What I read of the characters and setting didn't appeal to me but I think my father would have read it. He was an avid reader of mysteries and....well....books like Shanghai.

Island Walkers by John Bemrose
I am a lover of islands so any book with "Island" in the title tempts me and I seldom resist. Unfortunately it didn't deliver what I expected and I just couldn't get into it.

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