Giving Up on a Book by a Favorite Author

pirateking AAR has a standing policy that reviewers do not do DNF reviews. No matter how awful the book, we must finish reading it. This policy has resulted in some pretty miserable reading for me over the last few years, but despite that, I heartily agree with the policy. Sometimes something happens toward the end of a book that changes a straight D to a C-. Likewise, sometimes something toward the end shifts a book from a C to a D or lower. So many books are uneven, that without reading the entire book, we can’t give an unbiased review.

However, as a result of this policy I’ve read (and recently listened to) a number of C-, D, and even F books for review. These mediocre, and sometimes downright unpleasant, reading experiences have made me even pickier about my personal reading than I was before I began reviewing at AAR. Before trying out a new-to-me author I sample their book in Kindle (or listen to a sample at Audible). And if despite all that sampling I don’t like it once purchased, I’ll put it aside, whether I’ve read 10 pages or 100 pages. And I pretty much never go back and try these books again. I’ll let them sit on a shelf in my spare bedroom for about six months, and then it’s off to a charity for donation. My personal reading time is just too limited to spend on mediocre books.

All of this applies except when it comes to my longtime favorite authors. Do I sample new books by these authors? Never. If they have a narrator I like, I’ll download their latest book in audio the day it comes out. If not, I may order the book months in advance and download it to my Kindle the morning it’s released. Or, if it’s an old favorite mystery author, I’ll pick up the latest book in print at my local mystery bookstore. (I do like to support the local independent booksellers.) Most of the time this strategy works out quite well and I have several hours of happy reading.

However, every once in a while my strategy fails, and I’ll find that the latest book by a longtime favorite author just doesn’t work for me. But in this case, instead of giving up after 10 pages, or even 50 pages, I keep trying and trying, hoping against hope that my favorite author will come through for me.

Right now I’m going through this experience with the latest books by two of my favorite mystery authors of all time – Elizabeth Peters and Laurie R. King. I waited for each of these books for over a year. I tweeted periodically about the big upcoming publication dates on twitter. I posted link after link on Facebook, no doubt annoying my FB friends. Then, when the big day came, and I actually had their books in my possession, I was let down.

Elizabeth Peters’ most recent Amelia Peabody mystery, A River in the Sky, was published over two years ago. I picked up the audio version of the book immediately, as I love Barbara Rosenblat’s narration of the series. The narration continues to shine, but the story just hasn’t made any sense to me. I’ll listen for about 15 minutes and then shut it off. Pick it up again, try another 15 minutes and then shut it off. This has been going on for over two years, but I keep trying. I’m now starting to think that the audio format just isn’t working for this book, despite Barbara Rosenblat’s marvelous narration. As a last try, I’m going to download it to my Kindle, hoping that it’ll work better in print. So yes, this means I’ll have paid for the audio version and the Kindle version; I do hate to give up on a favorite author. I’m especially reluctant to give up on Amelia Peabody. This series brought me back to mystery reading after nearly 10 years away from the genre. And the first book in the series – Crocodile on the Sandbank – was my first DIK at AAR.

I bought Laurie R. King’s latest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book – Pirate King – in hardback the day it was published. I read the first chapter when I got home from work that night and then put it down (and normally this would have been a late-night read for me). I picked it up again the second night, managed another chapter, and then put it down again. The book has now been sitting on my night stand for the last nine months. Every night I’m reminded of the book. I try it periodically, but it never works. For the first time, one of the books in this series just isn’t to my taste. Sherlock Holmes is pretty much out of the picture (at least for the portion of the book that I’ve read) and Russell is involved in a whole series of over-the-top adventures with movie makers on a boat. It’s just struck me as rather silly, which isn’t the tone for the series at all.

I’ll definitely pick up another Amelia Peabody, should Ms. Peters write another in the series, but I’ll have to think about the format more carefully. But Laurie R. King? After this disappointment I’m going to have to sample her in the future; I want to make certain that Sherlock Holmes is back in the book.
Do you always finish every book you begin? If not, do you try longer with your old-favorite authors? And has anyone tried to read Pirate King? Because if you have, is there something about it I’m missing?

– LinnieGayl Kimmel

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21 Responses to Giving Up on a Book by a Favorite Author

  1. Tee says:

    LinnieGayl AAR: Do you always finish every book you begin? If not, do you try longer with your old-favorite authors?

    Not anymore, LinnieGayl. If a book isn’t working, then I usually abandon it, even if I don’t have anything waiting to be read. It’s no longer worth it to me to hang on when there’s nothing to hang on to. If I’m going to waste time, I’ll choose something else for which to use my time.

    And, yes, I try to resist letting go of a book if it’s written by one of my favorite authors; but I realize they can have stories once in a while that won’t appeal to me. Even so, if a book is not working, I will eventually stop reading it no matter the writer. For instance, right now I’m reading Nora Roberts’ “The Witness” and am loving it. But her last six or so books have been DNFs for me. She’s such a great writer, though, IMO, that I can’t quite let her go. This book is a stellar example of why I’m glad I held on.

  2. Tee says:

    Sorry about the entire post above showing up as a quote from you. Sometimes the first responses in an article get mixed up with the commands.

  3. dick says:

    Yeah, exactly. I do give favorite authors special treatment; I don’t give authors never read before much of a chance, no more than a chapter or two.
    In a way, though, that’s rather a standard approach to matters of taste, I think. If a food, a brand of shoes, a car,has pleased in the past, we’re more likely to give it a better chance than an untried product.

  4. farmwifetwo says:

    LRK’s last 3 haven’t appealed. I have 2 of them, PK I got via the library and it was a slog. The fans kept saying how funny it was…. it wasn’t… Holmes shows up late in the book. I am next on the “pass around” ARC and it should be here in today’s mail. It will be my “give up on the series” book. Before LANG and The Green Man this was one of my autobuy H/C series’. But like all series’ sooner or later you give them up and move onto something else.

    It’s just the way it goes.

  5. Leigh says:

    I might give favorite authors more of a chance – persisting a little longer with the book than I would normally. Also it depends if I have anything else I want to read. With limited personal reading time, I don’t want to waste it. And typically having a problem with a book is the foreshadowing of the end of my love fest with the author

  6. RobinB says:

    I have mentioned this in other postings on AAR, but after it took me nearly a year to slog through “The Fiery Cross” (Volume 5 in the Outlander novels), I essentially gave up on the series. I have the later books in the TBR stacks, but I honestly don’t know when I will have any urge to dive back in to the series.
    Up until 100 pages into TFC, when I realized that we were still on the same day and in the same place as we were on page one, Diana Gabaldon was a favorite author, and I had actually gone to a couple of book signings. I was very disappointed in the way the book was written (and more importantly, the way the book was edited!).
    Because Gabaldon and the Outlander series had been a favorite, I think it was all the more disappointing for me to realize that perhaps she had gone to the well once too often. When you read a book, see a movie, or watch a television show that has been royally panned by critics, the general audience, etc., you pretty much know what to expect, and so you’re not that surprised when said book, movie, or show turns out to be a piece of garbage! But when you pick up a book in a series that has brought a great deal of enjoyment to your life, and that book is so badly handled in terms of writing and editing. . .well, I can’t really say that after my last experience that I would be willing to slog through another bad book, even if it’s by a favorite author!

  7. xina says:

    Yes, I give a favorite author more of an effort. I try to at least skim through to the end, however.. I think twice before trying another book by the author without reading many reviews. Skimming is not a satisfying reading experience for me. And BTW, I very much appreciate your review policy here at AAR to not publish a DNF review, which really wouldn’t be a review at all. :)

  8. Livia says:

    If it’s a favorite author, one that had more than one book that I loved,
    I’ll give it extra credit, find excuses for the things I don’t like and refuse to admit to myself that it’s not that good for me. I’d like to believe I’m not a self deceiver in real life but, well… authors became favorites because of the enjoyment some of their books brought. They deserve my extra effort.
    If I’m true to myself: I do own a book by a favorite author that, after 5 chapters, I just gave up. But didn’t give it away – just sent it back to my TBR pile. Which, thank God, is large enough to allow me to avoid it :D

  9. Azucena Rodriguez says:

    I have always finished a book no matter what, but lately I have realized that the reason why I started to read was because I ENJOYED it. If a book is making me cranky, why should I continue to read it? I have stopped reading a few books from new-to-me-authors and I was okay with that.

    Where I had a tough decision to make was with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She was my first author, I devoured all her books and loved them up until Natural Born Charmer came out. I didn’t like it but I was willing to let it go and continued on, with Glitter Baby. Now, I understand that this was a re-print and although I disliked it, I let it go as well, knowing that her next book would be the SEP writing I knew. Oh boy was I wrong, not only did I not enjoy it, What I Did for Love had, in my opinion, the worst secondary character in all her books. Again, I let it go, knowing Teddy’s book was next and I just loved Teddy… AND SURPRISE, SURPRISE: he was paired with HER in Call Me Irresistible. I refuse to read that book LOL! And I have pretty much given up on SEP. It was a great run and I do thank her for bringing me into RomanceLand :)

    Another favorite author of mine is Lisa Kleypas. I just started to read her older books and I made myself quit Because You’re Mine after I had a similar experience with Only with Your Love, which made me mad and would have thrown it against the wall but couldn’t since it was on my Kindle lol. I don’t know if I’ll pick it up again in the future just to finish it but as of right now it is on my Kindle at 34% and I am in no hurry to get back to it. She might be my first favorite author to have a DNF book…

  10. Karenmc says:

    As my TBR pile has increased over the years, I made a decision to not finish books that are just aren’t working for me. Too many good books to waste time on mediocre or bad ones.

    That said, I just finished reading the new Kindle release of Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden, a title that’s been highly praised but OOP until now. It started slow and without much action, so I considered setting it aside. But because of all the praise I’d seen, I kept reading; the emotional journey picked up speed and the last few chapters were intense and satisfying. My takeaway is that I’m more patient with authors who have earned respect in the romance community or who happen to resonate strongly with me.

  11. Anna L H says:

    I used to feel the need to finish every book I spent my hard-earned money on, but I finally realized that by doing so, even though I was getting my money’s worth (somewhat), I was only wasting my free time instead and squashing my enjoyment in reading. So, I decided I would rather feel I wasted the money than the time. However, I do give favorite authors and highly-praised books (by sources I respect) more of a chance than new-to-me authors. But at some point if the book by a favorite author still isn’t working I make the choice to either skim the rest or DNF. I usually skim, especially if it’s an installment in a series that I might want to try the later entries in. If it is simply too boring or infuriating though, I DNF. Oddly enough, the highly-praised books that turn out to be duds annoy me the most. I think because I keep trying to understand why the book is so praised, especially if it just seems so dull and horribly written to me. The Girl In the Dragon Tattoo was that kind of book for me. I slogged through about 150 to 200 pages of it and just couldn’t care less about the plot or the characters. But all I heard about was how wonderful it was. I eventually had to accept it just wasn’t for me. And when I did so, I had a friend tell me that she hadn’t really liked it either, but hadn’t wanted to admit it because she’d bought the trilogy and was now dreading reading the other two books. (This is the same friend who feels she must finish every book she starts, even ones borrowed from the library.) I just don’t have time for that. Or the patience.

  12. Leslie says:

    I was just thinking about this issue and wondering if anyone was feeling the same as me. Elizabeth Boyle, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Suzanne Brockman, Jo Beverley, Sophie Nash, Rachel Gibson, Mary Balogh and a few others are authors that I normally buy sight unseen. Not any longer, I go to my local library instead of the bookstore.
    I liked MB’s “The Proposal” but I HATED the Huxtable series. All DNF except the last one about Constantine. SEH’s the best, but her last two, also DNF. I have to say that “Natural Born Charmer” is one of my all time fav SEH, especially the audiobook narrated by the late great Anna Fields. I also could care less about her new book. I will get it from the library if it looks better than I imagine.
    The other authors I mentioned have recent books and I couldn’t get past the 3rd or 4th chapter on any of them. Very disappointing.
    “Rescue Me” by RG was just awful. DNF.
    EB’s “Along Came A Duke” DNF. I can usually count on her for a good laugh. This time, too ridiculous.
    Nora Roberts has been disappointing me for almost a decade. “Witness” was surprisingly good, but I miss books like “Sea Swept”, “Born in Fire” and “Key Of Knowledge”. Boy Howdy, she sure could write good heroes.
    The Jayne Ann Krentz franchise is becoming a bore.
    Nalini Singh is good, but I don’t care so much for the wolves. I like the cats and Pys so I am doing a lot of skimming just to follow the plot thread.
    Suzanne Brockman’s early “Trouble Shooters” was gold, but WTF!! paranormal Navy Seals!! Sheesh.
    Elizabeth George’s “Careless in Red” was perfect. The last two, DNF.
    Eloisa James Historicals are okay, she’s a good storyteller and I might like them more if they were Regency and not Georgian, but I don’t buy them. So when her Memoir “Paris in Love” came out I borrowed it from the library. After one chapter I knew I had to own a copy. It is a lovely, a funny wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
    I’ve decided that in the future I will read before I buy.

  13. Jean Wan says:

    “Pirate King” was a huuuuuuge disappointment for me. Huge.

  14. Sharon says:

    I’m certainly more disappointed to have a DNF from a trusted author. Once burnt though I tend to wait for reviews and positive recommendations before trying another one. Currently Linda Howard and Nora Roberts are in that category. _Angels Falls_ was the last Roberts book that I read and enjoyed and until she receives a high rating here or lots of positive praise, I’ll probably just reread her older books. Howard was one of my favorites but many of her recent books have not worked for me and so after _Burn_, which I detested, I won’t read her again without effective persuasion. I’m in the minority though in that I loved _Death Angel_.

  15. LinnieGayl says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the comments, everyone. It sounds as if most of us are on the same page. While we may give our favorite authors a bit more time before setting a book aside, there’s only so much time we have for reading, and we want to make it count.

    (And Jean, thanks for the affirmation on Pirate King!).

  16. Cozyfun says:

    I find that in the case of favorite authors, I succumb to diagonal reading. I’ll sorta, kinda read it to the end, just to know what happens at the end.
    It’s easier for me since I get most of my books from the library. This happened to Linda Howard’s last 1 or 2 books.

  17. Marianne McA says:

    I haven’t even bought Pirate King yet: I don’t know why, because I’ve auto-bought her for ages. I didn’t like the first of the books about Holmes’ son as much, but I did enjoy the concluding part of that story better.

    Funnily enough I was reading her blog today & thinking that the next book sounded good, so I’d need to catch up on the series. And now I’m worried, because Jean is one of the reviewers whose taste matches mine…

    (Mostly I slog through 3 books for an autobuy author – the book I don’t like, the book that confirms that book wasn’t just a fluke, and then the this-breaks-my-heart-but-I’m-leaving-you book.)

  18. Sandy C. says:

    I’m more willing to invest time in a book by a favorite author, but if it isn’t working (pick it up, put it down, leave it there for a few weeks then repeat!) I’ll finally give up. Nora Roberts’ “Chasing Fire” is the most recent example I can think of. I made it a third of the way, and then… nothing. I couldn’t care less about the characters, and as we all know, that’s the kiss of death.

    After reading “Infamous” by Suzanne Brockmann, she’s also no longer an auto buy – especially not in hardback! Somehow I managed to finish “Infamous”, but that was another long slog that was more work than fun.

    I don’t have the patience to force myself to finish books I’m not enjoying; this gets worse as I get older and less tolerant. I also find myself reading a book and thinking, “Oh, that plot was done much better in —-”, and then I go find that book and reread it! :D

  19. Linda Miller says:

    In the past, I also have purchased books by favorite authors, reviews unseen. However, now I skim a lot to at least finish off the plot line. I think it is not so much that I don’t want to give up on the author as I don’t want to abandon a favorite character. Sometimes what frustrates me is thinking “ws this book written by the same author I am used to?” The first author I experienced this with is Catherine Coulter, who used to be a favorite. Then I hit one book and thought well this is different, but after that I gave up on her books because there was something about the style that was different. Is it that common for authors to let different writers use their name?

  20. sylvia says:

    Well I guess I also fall into the once burned category, though I would give a favourite author a second try. Recently I tried Meredith Duran’s latest and could not get past the quarter book mark. I have enjoyed all her other books and they are all sitting on the shelf, this one, hum. Could not get my head around the strange relationship at all.
    I have also tried authors that others seem to find brilliant and can’t get into them at all. I tried a Galen Foley – The Duke – and found my chin on the floor for most of it as it was so over the top and improbable. For me, I just could not pick up another of her books.
    I also don’t follow authors into other genres. Quite a few have moved from historical romance to contemporary and I’m not that interested.
    Thankfully there are old books now coming out in kindle so I am discovering new to me authors with hefty back lists. Some times you have to love technology! It would be great to get recommendations for older books now available in ebook formats. I will say that if you haven’t had the chance to read Edith Layton’s C series, they are very good and now out in kindle format I believe.

  21. Linda Miller says:

    It is so weird that this topic came up because I just finished Elizabeth Lowell’s Beautiful Sacrifice and I had to force myself to finish it albeit a lot of skimming. It just seemed too wordy or too descriptive or maybe I just was into the subject matter and I really like or used to like Lowell’s books. So sad, but I guess we all move on.

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