Books I Started But Didn’t Finish in January, 2009

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I made it about 100 pages into this Lord of the Flies goes to an Australian boarding school novel before I finally realized that I couldn’t figure out what was going on nor did I care. The boarding school had adults, but apparently they were all out to lunch except for one named Hannah who disappeared about fifty pages in, and the kids were busily fighting some kind of gang wars but out in the countryside instead of the inner city. I think. It’s a YA Fiction Cybils finalist, and Becky says it’s worth the effort. And it won the Printz Award for Young Adult literature. Maybe it’ll do something for you, but not for me, not this time.

Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway. Another Cybils YA Fiction FInalist.I only made it about three pages into this one. By then I knew that Audrey had decided to break up with her rock star boyfriend, that Audrey and all her friends had foul mouths, and that Audrey and her (ex)boyfriend had been, as they say in polite society, “engaged in sexual activity.” I was fairly sure that before I read too many more pages Audrey was going to tell me all about said activity, and I really, really didn’t want to know. Little Willow recommends this book for “those who enjoyed Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.” Since I hated Nick and Norah, I’m satisfied that my decision to give up on Audrey sooner rather than later was the right one.

Lottery by Patricia Wood. Great premise: Perry, who knows he’s not retarded because his IQ number is 76, one point above the cut-off, wins the lottery and deals with his new-found luck. However, the beginning of the book features Perry’s Gram who uses the Lord’s name and his judgement (g–d—) as a combination punctuation mark/adjective/exclamation in almost every sentence she speaks. It was annoying, and fairly soon, I decided I just didn’t care to hear it anymore.

Europe Central by William T. Vollman. I think I missed something here because to me it read like a bad imitation of a Russian novel. Maybe I just got that impression because the part of the novel is set in Russia and features Lenin and his wife as fictional characters. I think the rest is set in Germany, during World War II. The style and plot are too choppy and unintelligible for me, but the blurb says it’s “a daring and mesmerizing perspective on human actions during wartime.”

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This year was supposed to be the year that I “discovered” Neil Gaiman, after the rest of the world had already done so. Unfortunately, I tried this book twice. The first time I didn’t get past the first scene in which a teddy bear was murdered. The second time I read about half of the book, and although I can see the attraction, I realized that I was finding it tedious and boring. I’m glad the kid in book, Bod, escaped and found a home in the graveyard, but I didn’t really want to know what happened to him after that. Eventually, we all die and end up in the graveyard anyway. Cybils Fantasy/Science Fiction Finalist. And of course, after I wrote this blurb, it won the Newbery Award. Don’t mind me; you’ll probably love it.

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkowski. Fantasy set in an alternate nineteenth century (?) Czechoslovakia with magic. I read about half of this one, too, so I did give it a chance. However, I just couldn’t get very interested. Cybils Fantasy/Science Fiction Finalist.

Foundling by D.M. Cornish. I may return to this fantasy, the first in a series. The second book in the series, Lamplighter, is another Cybils Fantasy/Science Fiction Finalist. Again, I couldn’t get interested after reading about 100 pages.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I will finish this one, but I found it to be a book to be savored in small bites rather than devoured whole.

I started and quit more books this month than I ever have before. Maybe I’m getting older and more discriminating, or picky, or even judgmental, if I want to get pejorative in my terminology and criticize myself for giving up.

“If you still don’t like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you’re more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages.” —Nancy Pearl

I am over 50 now, so according to Ms. Pearl, I’m allowed.

8 thoughts on “Books I Started But Didn’t Finish in January, 2009

  1. You have no idea how much I agree with you on Jellicoe Road.

  2. I like that mathematical equation from Mrs. Pearl! My rule of thumb for myself (and for my children) has been to give a book three chapters to grab my interest. If it doesn’t have me by then, it gets reshelved/returned/what-have-you. Life is too short and there are far too many good – and even great – books in print that I have not read yet!

  3. Have you read Gaiman’s Stardust? (Seen the movie?) It’s the only book of his I’ve read so far, and I quite enjoyed it.

    And I agree, Heaven is not a book to be read in one setting. I did read it straight through, several years ago.

    I’m trying to give myself permission to set books aside — there’s one I started but abandoned in January.

  4. Eh, don’t worry about Audrey Wait. I think you need to be under 30 to really like that one. (I felt supremely unhip reading it, and bailed about halfway through.) As for a starter Gaiman, if you like scary stories, try Coraline. If you like fantasy, Stardust is good. (But I guess Word Lily already recommended that one.)

  5. I’m glad to hear there’s someone else that isn’t a Graveyard Book fan! I reviewed it a few weeks ago and I thought it was pretty boring, but I tend to get jumped on for that. 🙂 Like Melissa said, Coraline was a lot scarier… Gaiman tends to be hit-and-miss with me.

  6. To each his or her own. 🙂 Last month, I read a highly-praised-and-awarded book, and all I could think was, “Really?”

    The rest of Audrey, Wait! is pretty clean, actually.

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