At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012

Castle reads. Oh yeah.

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! Today’s topic involves fiction.

One of my fabulous Christmas gifts was a book journal from my mother, in which I can record what I have read and my thoughts on each book. When I saw blog posts from others listing their favorite books of 2011, I realized that I don’t remember what I read last year. Yes, I recall some titles, but I don’t know all of them. And my memory gets worse and worse every year with children.

With my new tool in hand (yeah, book journal!), I am ready for a new year of reading and keeping track. Or am I? Do I even know which novels I want to pick up in 2012?

I read about Jess Witkins’ To Be Read Pile Challenge on Jenny Hansen’s blog – a throw-down-the-glove challenge to read 12 books in 2012 which have been sitting on your TBR list for way too long. A great idea. Then I discovered A Novel Challenge – a whole blog dedicated to suggesting reading challenges, along with some cool prizes for some of them. I perused these choices as well.

But based on what I want to accomplish, I’m developing my own reading challenge, which may be best called My At-Least-3 Reading Challenge. I resolve to read at least three titles from each of the following categories in 2012.

Classics – from the following list:

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Hunger Games - read that one.

Young Adult Bestsellers

Books from 2009-2012 which topped the Amazon or NY Times bestsellers list.

Indie or Self-Published Books

I haven’t read enough of these, and there are some great authors out there. I’m leaving it open for what genre I’ll read among the indie and self-pubbed titles.

Mystery Masters

There are several mystery icons whose works I haven’t read. In developing my list, I relied somewhat on K.B. Owen’s blog to enlighten me on what I should be reading. Among the titles I’m considering are:

Of course Sherlock reads.

The Case of the Velvet Claws (Perry Mason) by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Fer de Lance (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes) by Arthur Conan Doyle
I, the Jury (Mike Hammer) by Mickey Spillane
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
The Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie

Fiction Powerhouses – titles from at least 3 of the following authors who top the bestselling authors ever list (and whom I’ve never read):

Mary Higgins Clark
Jackie Collins
Michael Crichton
Roald Dahl
Dean Koontz
Louis L’Amour
James Michener
James Patterson
Nora Roberts
Danielle Steel

Not My Usual Genre

Don’t we tend to read certain genres far more than others? Hand me a young adult novel, a cozy mystery, or paranormal fantasy, and I’m all over it. Romance? Not usually. Science fiction? Rarely. Horror? Never.

But there are some terrific reads in other genres, and I surprised myself by enjoying several in 2011. I would like to stretch myself and read more.

I do have the standing caveat that any novel I start gets 50 pages to engage me. If I don’t care one bit what happens to the characters after 50 pages, I hurl set aside the book and pick up another. At this point in my life, I’ve decided that there are far too many great books that I could be enjoying to waste time finishing one I don’t care about. Sometimes, the reason is that the book is poorly written, but far more often it simply isn’t my cup of tea. No criticism to the author; just not a match of writer and reader.

So what’s on your list of to be read novels in 2012? Have you taken on any reading challenges for the new year?

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Friday Fiction: What Are Y’all Reading?

I recently combed through our Borders store a second time looking for going-out-of-business bargains and walked away with another stack of books. This time, most of the books were for my family; however, I did add to my To Be Read pile – which currently resembles Jack’s beanstalk to the clouds.

In the queue are several non-fiction books (primarily on writing and language) and fiction selections as well.

For today’s Friday Fiction, I’m sharing what’s coming up on my list and asking what y’all have been reading.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book was recommended by mystery writer Jayne Ormerod. I had seen this title several times and it piqued my curiosity, but not enough until Jayne gave it a 5 out of 5 rating.

From the back cover: “January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.”

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Two good friends have recommended this book, and one finally loaned me her copy (which I’ve now had for months!). I’ve probably put off reading it because it sounds like a tearjerker, and this mama isn’t sure she wants to go down that road. But the plot does sound compelling and with the recommendations . . .

From the back cover: “This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own.”

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. My mother-in-law passed this one off to me. She has read quite a few historical novels and is good at spotting an excellent one.

From the Amazon.com book description: “In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.”

The Cat, the Lady and the Liar by Leann Sweeney. Mystery author Leann Sweeney lives in my town! But although that’s how I heard about her, I’m not reading her books for that reason. She’s a great storyteller. This one is the third in her Cats in Trouble series. I have also read her Yellow Rose Mysteries, which were a lot of fun. If you like cozy mysteries, pick up one of Leann’s novels and give it a shot.

From the back cover: “When cat quilter Jillian Hart tracks down the owner of a gorgeous stray cat, the trail leads her to none other than fabulously wealthy, undeniably quirky Ritaestelle Longworth. The gossips in town are questioning Ritaestelle’s sanity, and the high-society grande dame isn’t helping matters with her wild accusations that someone is drugging her to keep her away from her beloved cat. Before Jillian can get to the bottom of Ritaestelle’s charges, a body turns up in the lake behind her house – and her cat Chablis discovers Ritaestelle standing nearby. Can Jillian’s three wise cats aid her in solving a mystery with roots that are decades old?”

Rainwater by Sandra Brown. This bestselling author was the keynote speaker at the DFW Writers’ Conference held last spring by the DFW Writers’ Workshop. As part of her presentation, she described her two latest books, and this title sounded fascinating. I have only read one other novel from her– a romance from some years ago. I’m curious to see how her writing has evolved and to simply delve into the story.

From Publishers Weekly: “Bestseller Brown brings Depression-era Texas to vivid life in this poignant short novel. At the recommendation of Dr. Murdy Kincaid, Ella Barron, a hardworking woman whose husband deserted her, accepts David Rainwater, a relative of the doctor’s, as a lodger at the boarding house she runs in the small town of Gilead, Texas. As the local community contends with a government program to shoot livestock and the opposition of racist Conrad Ellis, a greedy meatpacker, to poor families butchering the meat, Ella grows closer to David. Meanwhile, David becomes a special guardian angel to Solly, Ella’s nine-year-old autistic son. Dr. Kincaid has gently suggested Ella put Solly in an institution, but she refuses to do so. Brown skillfully charts the progress of Ella and David’s quiet romance, while a contemporary frame adds a neat twist to this heartwarming but never cloying historical.”

Which of these titles have you read or want to read? So what’s up next on your reading list? Do you have recommendations for must-reads?

Who Wrote It? Author Franchises

So you pick up yet another book from an author who has churned out four this year already, excited to crack open the spine and yet wondering how he manages to write so many novels.

But then you discover, he didn’t. Although his name is on the cover, someone else substantially wrote the book. The famous moniker has become a branded franchise.

James Patterson is the poster boy for author franchising with 39 of his 78 novels including a “written with” acknowledgment. A former advertising guru, Patterson has made millions by collaborating with other authors to churn out several novels per year to his loyal readership. Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, and Daniel X are among his series. His fellow authors are not permitted to disclose the terms of their working relationship,but Patterson has stated that they write the first draft and he writes subsequent ones. (Time Magazine article.)

Janet Evanovich, author of the popular Stephanie Plum series, wrote romance novels for the Full series with collaborator Charlotte Hughes. Explaining her reasons, she said, “I had a lot of ideas in my head that I just didn’t have time to put on paper . . . I had started writing romance novels at the same time Charlotte did. She’s a great writer with her own distinct sense of humor. I thought she was the perfect person to help me start a new romance series.” (Crescent Blues interview). How much of the novels did each of these women write? I don’t know. But make no mistake, when you go looking for the novels, it’s Evanovich who features prominently on the cover, even though Ms. Hughes’s name appears below.

It’s hard to track which bestselling authors have contracted out some of their work. Some credit collaborators on the cover, others inside. And others do not reveal the extent to which a ghost writer lent a hand –literally. But if you are still turning out books while turning over in your grave, that’s definitely suspicious.

Several dead authors continue to put out novels, not from their ghostly gravesite but through the collaboration of other authors willing to write under a bestselling author’s name. Matt Christopher died in 1997 but his sports-themed children’s books continue to hit the shelves, and the bio section on the author’s website (Matt Christopher) does not mention his death. V.C. Andrews wrote seven best sellers, then died in 1986; yet the publisher has since released thirty-three novels in her name. Louis L’Amour, popular Western fiction author, died in 1988 but has had several novels published posthumously. Robert Ludlum, thriller author who died in 2001, has also been credited with novels written by ghost writers at the behest of his estate. His Bourne series has been continued by another author, Eric Van Lustbader, with Ludlum’s name on the cover as well as Lustbader’s.

I have been quick to point out to my sons when a novel is co-written with someone else, even if the bestselling author is the one credited on the cover or on reading lists. But admittedly, they don’t remember the name Adam Sadler like they do James Patterson (Demons & Druids). Patterson has become a franchised brand, like Domino’s Pizza or Jiffy Lube.

And while Domino’s Pizza’s earnings for the year are up, so are Patterson’s. According to Forbes, James Patterson took in $84 million dollars in 2010 – $49 million dollars more than the next bestselling author on the list, Danielle Steel.

My precious manuscript!

Is the bottom line what is important here? Sure, authors want to make money. At least most of us would like to do something more than bury our manuscripts in dresser drawers or wrap them in our Gollum-like hands and refer to them as “Precious.” We want others to buy and then read our stories. Making a living from writing means you can keep writing and turning on the lights in your house. And the idea of making so much money that you can write your next novel while on vacation in Greece certainly sounds cool, too.

But what do you think about hiring out some portion of the writing to other authors? Do you care whether you favorite writers have actually written the book in your hands, as long as it’s good? Do you think that hiring collaborators or ghost writers affects the quality or personality of a work? Do you think that estates and publishers should continue putting out books in the name of a deceased author? What do you think generally of author franchising? Is it a good idea?

Friday Fiction: A Secret to Getting Published

Want to become a best-selling author? I have the secret to unbridled success! Become a celebrity first. 

Of course, celebrities have long been known for publishing memoirs, autobiographies, and tell-all books. But in recent years, a large number of the famed and fortuned has dabbled in the world of fiction – with mixed results. Some of these authors are genuinely creative individuals whose ability to convey a story on the screen translates well to telling a story on the page. Others are less . . . well, gifted, shall we say. 

But when I see the words “New York Times Bestselling Author Nicole Richie” on the cover of a novel, I have to wonder if my efforts at publication should have included being born to a pop singer icon. Nevertheless, here are few authors who have entered the world of fiction: 

Carrie Fisher – Best known as Princess Leia in Star Wars (although my favorite role of hers was Marie in When Harry Met Sally), Carrie has authored several novels including Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, and Postcards from the Edge. 

Fannie Flagg – In case you’re not old enough to recall, Fannie Flagg was an actress in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Her acting credits include three appearances on The Love Boat as three different characters! But her writing career has overshadowed her acting with books like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man. Her most recent release is I Still Dream about You. 

Gene Hackman – This actor’s credits are too numerous to name, although I probably became aware of him when he portrayed Lex Luthor to Christopher Reeve’s Superman. He co-wrote three novels with Daniel Lenihan but has set out on his own for his latest release, Payback at Morning Peak. 

Jimmy Buffett – The singer who has inspired a lot of tequila consumption through his hit, Margaritaville, is also an author of three novels – one co-written with Helen Lansford. The other two are Where is Joe Merchant? and A Salty Piece of Land. 

Kirk Douglas – The unmatchable Kirk Douglas is not only an amazing actor, the original Spartacus, and father to actor Michael Douglas, he is an author as well with three novels to his name: Dance with the Devil, The Gift, and Last Tango in Brooklyn. 

Meg Tilly – Best known for her role in The Big Chill, Meg Tilly was also Sister Agnes in Agnes of God. She still acts from time to time (e.g., Mother in Caprica) but is now the author of Singing Songs, Porcupine, and Gemma. 

Nicole Richie – Yes, this daughter of former Commodore Lionel Richie, then reality TV star (The Simple Life), and BFF to Paris Hilton has penned two novels:  The Truth about Diamonds and Priceless. 

Pamela Anderson Known for being C.J. in Baywatch, Lisa the Tool Girl in Home Improvement, and wife to Tommy Lee and Kid Rock, bombshell Pamela Anderson has written Star and Star Struck. 

Steve Martin – Almost a modern-day Renaissance man, he tells jokes, acts in movies, plays incredible banjo, and writes novels. Formerly a “wild and crazy guy” on SNL, Steve Martin has penned The Pleasure of My Company, Shopgirl, and An Object of Beauty. 

Tyra Banks – Supermodel, talk show host, and America’s Next Top Model producer, Tyra is coming out with her own novel in September titled (of course) Modelland. 

William Shatner – Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, T.J. Hooker in the series of the same name, Denny Crane in Boston Legal, and many more TV series appearances are in William Shatner’s bio. Beyond those achievements, and his Priceline gig, he has authored over twenty books, including the popular science fiction Tek and Quest for Tomorrow series.  

I haven’t read most of these, so I am by no means recommending that you pick up these novels– except for Fannie Flagg who is wonderful – but I find it interesting that these celebs are channeling their creative juices into writing fiction. So maybe I should rethink my plan and try to get on a reality show! However, I don’t have any crippling addictions (my love of Coca-Cola doesn’t count); I’m not a rich, single gal looking to date 20 men to find a hubby; and I don’t want to race across the world in record time. Oh well. 

Just so you know, I did not include any celebrities whose books listed a second author, although certainly some of the titles above could have been ghost-written. And I plan to cover celebrity children’s book authors another time. If you want to see more information about celebrities who write, check out the following websites: The Millions: Celebrity Book Club, Culture Mob: Celebrity Authors and the Books They Write, and Celebrity Cowboy: 40 Celebrity Book Authors 

Have you read any of these books? How do you feel about celebrities taking up their pen?  Do you feel they have an unfair advantage? Or do they have something unique to offer given their background and creativity? Do you know other celebrities who have written novels? Do you have ones to recommend?

Friday Fiction: What Are Your Guilty Pleasures?

Yes, of course, we are all high-brow literature lovers with titles like The Brothers Karamazov and A Tale of Two Cities gracing our bookshelves. We can’t wait to hear the winner of the next Pulitzer Prize and dutifully read New York Times bestsellers. We can discuss for hours the perplexities of plot, the merits of foreshadowing, the symbolism in great novels, and the tragic characters of the classics.

Except when we don’t.

Reading is a bit like your diet. Perhaps we should all be eating healthy meals with plenty of vegetables and scant fat. And much of the time, we can keep our temptation under reasonable control and genuinely enjoy the delicious food on our plate. But now and then, forget the love handles and the bathroom scale, I want a piece of cheesecake! Or a chocolate sundae! Or a Snickers bar! We love our guilty pleasures. 

For some, guilty pleasures include the romance novels bought on impulse in the grocery store line – you know, with the bare-chested muscle man embracing the curvy heroine. Or the horror novels with suspense and gore lining every page and a bloody book cover that makes the average reader recoil. Perhaps it’s the biographies of celebrities who have appeared in every tabloid newspaper with their latest scandalous event. Or an over-the-top political rant book from a hard-core advocate of whatever your political position happens to be.

I recently realized that I haven’t engaged in a guilty pleasure read for a long time. I feel that I should read the classics, expand my knowledge of young adult fiction, learn something new, get inspired, or delve into the kind of novels I want to write. But where is my guilty pleasure? Where is my literary slice of cheesecake?

What’s my adult equivalent of the comic books I read as a kid? I honestly don’t know. But I feel the need to break out of my vitamin-enriched reading diet and dive into a vat of chocolate for a change. Just this once.

So I’m wondering which not-so-good-for-me read I can pick up. Mind you, I’m not a horror or erotica gal (period) and political ranting gets old to me pretty quickly. What I really crave is a good belly laugh.

So what are your guilty pleasures? What suggestions do you have for me? Do you have some kind of books that you don’t readily announce to others that you read?

Friday Fiction: What to Read Next?

My Next Reads Stack

It’s a toss-up for whether my Netflix queue or my Next Reads stack is larger.  My husband recently said, “I could have three lifetimes, and never get through all the books I want to read.”  I agree:  There simply isn’t enough time to devour all the books I want to read.

Since I can’t get to everything, what causes a book to land in my three-foot tall stack of Next Reads?  For me, here are some criteria:

Book Club Choice.  I’ve been in a book club for years, and if we choose a book, I try VERY hard to read it.  Every now and then, I have been caught at a meeting having no idea why Charlise chose to leave Steve for the plumber and become a missionary in remote Africa, since I don’t even know who Charlise is.  But, for the most part, Book Club books get moved to the top of the stack.  There is, after all, some accountability for whether I’ve read the selection.

Reading with My Kids.  I have participated in programs with my kids for which I needed to read middle grade or young adult books at the same time they did.  This is also accountability because they know if I’ve read the book, and once I read it, I know if they’ve read the book!  I have truly read a lot of fabulous novels this way.

Next in the Series.  If I’ve started a series that I like but haven’t made it through or the author recently published another one (keep writing, Rhys Bowen), the next one goes in the stack.  I definitely read novels sequentially and want to know the whole story of characters I fall in love with.

Recommendation.  If a friend with similar taste highly recommends a book (or loans it to me), I usually get to reading.  This word-of-mouth advertising is what authors rely on!  I’m far more likely to grab a book suggested by a close Facebook friend than a New York Times book review.

Authors I Like.  If I loved your last book, I’ll probably like the next one.  It’s not always true.  For instance, I love Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series, but I honestly don’t enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  Still, it’s as good a bet as any.  And just like we order the same menu item in our favorite restaurant over and over, people like the certainty of reading an author they are almost certain they will like.

Classics.  I admit to feeling internal pressure to read the greatest literature of all time.  I have made it through works by Tolstoy, Austen, Hardy, Dickens, Steinbeck, Brontës 1, 2, and 3, and many more.  However, I still haven’t read Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Victor Hugo, and others.  Somehow, I feel that I must make it through a good number of the classics before I leave this world.

Authors with a Personal Connection.  There is a mystery author in my hometown, and I happily picked up her books (Leann Sweeney, author of Yellow Rose and Cat in Trouble mysteries).  I have also become acquainted through conferences, groups, and social media with other authors who make it far more likely that I will read their tomes (e.g., We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb and Making Waves by Tawna Fenske).  I could mention quite a few that fall into this group.  And they keep publishing more!  Which will keep me on my toes.

Catches My Eye.  This is the least likely way to get on my list, but it is often what authors are hoping for.  Sometimes, I do browse bookstores or libraries and find an interesting title, an eye-catching cover, and a book jacket description that makes me want to read the contents.  Once again, I have come upon some wonderful reads this way (e.g., A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson).  However, it is a crap shoot.

So what are your methods for deciding which books to read?  How big is your Next Reads stack?  Do you want your book to make it into my stack?  Let me know the title!

Friday Fiction: How Many Pages to the Tootsie Roll Center?

 

My Current Reading Stack

I was one of those honor roll high school students who read every book assigned in English class.  Recommend a good book to me, and I’m all over it!  I fondly recall reading classics like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.  When we discussed novels in class, I participated fully in discussing characters, plot, setting, symbolism, and lessons from the story.

Except for the two novels when I didn’t.

My sister and I were once discussing our respective high school experiences.  Her attitude had been a bit different from mine.  It went something like, “Why read the book when Cliff already did it for you?”  Or better yet, “Why attend English class when instead, I can write a please-excuse-from-class note and forge the signature, and leave campus to go eat chicken fried steak with my friends?” (That last one is an actual quote.)

I couldn’t fathom not following the reading list for an English class, much less skipping.  I asked if my sister’s teachers knew that she hadn’t read the books, and she said, “Of course not.”  So then I told her about the two novels that I didn’t read in high school.  In fact, refused to read!  And my teachers knew it.

Now I have a rule that I will read at least 50 pages of any novel before throwing it aside as not my cup of tea.  And I did read 50 pages of The Last of the Mohicans, which was a good-sized chunk of the book.  When I admitted in class that it was not capturing my attention, my English teacher said, “Well, the first fifty pages aren’t good, but the book gets much better after that.”

What?!!  Hadn’t she spent hours trying to teach us to hook our reader in the first line of a five-paragraph theme?  If James Fenimore Cooper gets to deliver hooey for 50 pages of his book, my teacher should only grade the last four of my five paragraphs!  Or allow me three pages of worthless writing in my twenty-page research paper!  Somehow, it didn’t work that way.

I read a few more pages, deliberated the lack of fairness in making otherwise cooperative students read a less-than-marvelous novel, and decided to protest.  I informed my teacher that I was done reading The Last of the Mohicans – 50+ pages in.  She couldn’t make me, and she knew that I had read everything else, so she let it go.  I listened carefully in class and made an A on the exam.  I have never felt the need to finish Cooper’s tome.

Then there was The Iliad.  I have wondered whether certain literature has remained on reading lists merely due to the tenacity of an ancient manuscript.  Homer’s works are grueling for me.  I trudged through The Odyssey in my freshman year, but when I was told to crack open The Iliad as a sophomore, I made it halfway through.  What I recall was Homer introducing a new character every few pages and then explaining in detail how he was killed in the battle.  Really?  Did I need to know that?  I could be reading J.R.R. Tolkien or a Brontë sister instead!  So I stopped.  And informed my teacher.

I got my Cliffs Notes (absolutely the way to get through Homer in my opinion), listened in class, got tips from friends, and flew through the test.  I think we also had to write an essay on some portion of the novel, and as you might suspect, I analyzed the first part which I had read and ignored the remainder.

Now that I’ve made my way through all the formal schooling I intend to receive and my reading time is entirely my own, I have tossed aside more books than I can count which didn’t capture my attention in those crucial first 50 pages.  Hey, if you can’t get to the Tootsie Roll center of a novel in 50 pages, it’s time to tear those pages apart with your teeth!

I think my 50-page rule is pretty generous.  I know friends who hurl novels to the sea if the first page doesn’t grab them.

So what are your criteria for continuing to read or quitting a novel?  Do you have a set number of pages or chapters that you try?  Do you continue to read long past when you probably should have quit?  Do you recall which books you didn’t complete?

Friday Fiction: Firecracker Duds

So what’s that one book that everyone raved about, that you spent $20 on the hardcover to purchase or twelve weeks on the library waiting list to receive, that you opened with excited anticipation… only to finish and wonder what all of the hullabaloo was about? 

For me, it was Life of Pi.  When I turned the last page and set the book down, I thought, “I want my two hours back.”  Or maybe I expended three or four.  I don’t know.  I’ve tried to block it out like a humiliating high school memory or the knowledge that your parents had sex.

But I do know that I was not interested in the story, and I kept reading because I thought, “Surely it must get better because everyone is talking about how great this novel is!”  To my mind, not only did it not get better, it got worse with one of the lamest endings I’ve ever read.

Let me be clear.  The author writes well.  The book was well-crafted.  But I am among those who need a character in a book that I can relate to or root for.  No such person existed in The Life of Pi for me.

Also, showing that it is my opinion alone, everyone else in my book club liked the book.  That did not, however, stop me from ranting about it at our meeting.  (By the way, thanks for listening, book club friends, or at least pretending to listen while you played with your dessert or made a shopping list in your mind).

I recently picked up another strongly suggested read from an acquaintance and after a hundred pages tossed it back into the library book drop without once wondering what the characters might do next in the 600-page novel.  I guess my taste just differed from my friend’s.  It happens sometimes.

How many “amazing” books were what my kids would term an Epic Fail for you?  What titles were rampantly recommended that turned out to be time-suckers or firecracker-duds?

Or have you recommended a book that you absolutely adored to someone who reported back that they didn’t like it at all?  Why do you think that happened?

Round of Words in 80 Days Update:  wrote 2,632 of 5,000 words this week; edited 81 of 186 pages in my middle-grade novel; trying out a new blogging goal of 3 times a week – Monday Mumblings, Wednesday Words, Friday Fiction (We’ll see how that goes!)