A few years ago, I came to the realization that I did not have to finish a book, if I wasn’t enjoying it. This was – to say the least – a startling revelation for me, because I had previously trudged through every. single. word. of every. single. book., even if I despised it. It led to some pretty miserable reading days. But since I’ve stopped doing that, I not only read more, I enjoy what I’m reading more, because I know that I’m reading more for the sake of wanting to, than for the sake of “just finish this, please god, so we can move on to whatever’s next.” Now, I try not to have too many unfinished books, particularly the ones NetGalley gives me for free, because I feel a certain obligation to review them, since that was the whole reason they gave them to me in the first place. So this year, I’ve decided to write the partial reviews for a few books I just could not finish. I’m warning you ahead of time, that the reviews are, by their very incomplete nature, probably unfair – the book could have turned the corner! It could have been salvaged, or the character could have started making better choices! – I don’t know what happened after I gave up. But I’m going to tell you what I thought up to that point, and WHY I gave up, and, hopefully that will help balance out the fact that I didn’t keep reading the whole thing.
First up – Bricking It by Nick Spaulding. This book started off great – a British brother and sister inherit a mysterious old money pit from their grandmother, and hire a bunch of colorful characters to fix it up for them. I liked everything that was going on – the quirky architect, the indecipherable British slang, everything! But then!!! A main character does something so utterly cringe-worthy and embarrassing that I had to stop reading all together, for months. I picked it up again recently, and tried to move past ‘the incident’, but I genuinely could not. I over-empathize with fictional characters, and I cannot help it, but I will not die of shame with this gent, I just couldn’t keep going.
Next, Lydia’s Enchanted Toffee, by Neale Osborn, which has a perfectly lovely cover, an interesting fantastical premise – “This tasty children’s fantasy adventure is set on Planet Plenti, a most extraordinary world bursting with confectionery minerals, drink springs, and sweet plants …Yet life in the land of Likrishka is mostly grim, as the Likrish population is ruled by Stannic, a Master Chef tyrant, and his robot army. Thus nine-year-old Lydia faces a future slaving away in a factory camp; however, she was born with a mysterious power over metal (when she eats a special type of toffee) …”, but lost this reader in a swamp of unpronounceable locations, overwhelming world building, and not nearly a fast enough moving plot. The word choices made it seem like the author couldn’t really decide if she was writing for a middle grade audience, or those much younger, and the struggle was left to the reader to slog through. I gave up about 88% of the way through, according to my Kindle, when I realized I didn’t much care if Lydia succeeded in her quest or not.
And, finally, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, which I read three quarters of, in despair, towards the end of the summer/beginning of the fall, and which, since the election, I cannot bear to bring myself to finish. It is an amazingly well written, and poignant, and utterly heartbreaking piece of non-fiction about poverty, powerlessness, and homelessness in America, and – if you can stand to see the truth of what we do to our own people – something every citizen should read and reflect on. I know I will eventually finish it, but I just can’t right now.
(All three titles were from NetGalley, and I did the best I could with them.)