Tag Archive: reading


I really wanted to take on a reading challenge this year, to try to add diversity to what I read. I looked at several I found online but none of them quite hit the points I wanted to challenge myself on. So, I decided to compile one of my own.

I’m challenging myself to read 18 books in 2017, from my list of 24 challenge criteria. I’m not necessarily trying to read something for everything on the list because I’d like to give myself some flexibility and a chance to actually succeed. You could try to do all 24!

24-book-reading-challenge

In January I read:

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – which I counted as “a popular best seller”. This was outside my normal reading habit as I tend to go for genre fiction and avoid mainstream books, perhaps because I don’t want to feel like I’m reading the same thing as everyone else.

“Marked” by Sue Tingey – I won this book in a competition I didn’t even enter! It was weird. I got a message on Twitter, completely unexpectedly saying “you’ve won a free copy of a book”. It was “a book I knew nothing about.” Anyway, they sent it and this year I finally got round to reading it.

In February I am reading:

“The Dark Half of the Year” by North Bristol Writers – I could count this as “a book by someone I know”, but I’m going to use it for “an anthology of short stories” instead. I may or may not skip over my own story.

“The Works of John Keats” – My lovely partner bought me an 1899 edition of the Works of John Keats for Valentines Day. I’m planning to work my way through this over a couple of months while also reading other things. I don’t want to risk carrying it around in my bag at my day job.

 

If you’d like to try this challenge, why not post a comment with a link to your blog and let others know what you’re reading.

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Is it Okay to Stop Reading a Book?

I am currently caught in a reading dilemma.

The book I’m reading isn’t very good. Or at least isn’t holding my attention.

Is it okay to stop reading a book? Logic says “of course!” and yet it feels wrong.

Book with glasses against the backdrop of a library

Image courtesy of pannawat

When I am enjoying a book I make time to read and rocket through the chapters to the end all too fast, but when the book I’m reading isn’t engaging me I tend to choose other things to do. I might have that book on the go for over a month, and not spend much time reading. So by forcing myself to keep going I read less over all and then I resent that. I want to read lots of books and this book is getting in the way!

Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable pass time; there must be something seriously wrong if I find myself procrastinating from it, right?

So why do I feel so reluctant to give up on a book?

There’s a part of me that wants to give the author the benefit of the doubt. The eternal optimist that believes that the next chapter is when it will start to get good.

Then of course there is the fear of missing out. What if the next chapter is where it starts to get good and I don’t give it that chance and I miss out?

If something doesn’t hook me within a chapter or two, I can put it back on the shelf on the basis that I’ll tackle it again at another time. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for that genre. I can justify that.

But, if I persevere and get a decent way into the book, by the time I begin to suspect that the author is never going to deliver what I want from the book, I’m already committed. I’ve already spent some number of minutes/hours reading. If I give in now that was wasted time and I also have to admit that I was duped or made a bad call, and no one likes to admit they were wrong.

There’s also a nagging fear that if I don’t finish it, it will sit there, unfinished, forever, constantly reminding me of my failure to read it. If I put it back on the shelf at this point I’m not going to want to try again. I’ve already come to the conclusion that it’s not for me. And if I won’t want to read it in the future, it’s now or never!

This is particularly a problem with printed books rather than digital. I struggle to part with books (okay, things in general, I confess) at the best of times. At least if I finish it I can part ways with it amicably as I donate it to a charity shop or drop it off at a book share, but how can I let it go if I haven’t read it? I chose it and bought it; I don’t want to get rid of it before I have had my money’s worth.

By this point I understand I sound like a crazy person.

Is it just me who feels this way?

… No seriously, is it? Leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about giving up on a book.

What do you do if you start a book and it doesn’t grab you? Do you persevere and struggle through to the end? At what point do you decide enough is enough and walk away?

Do you ever regret not finishing a book?


Over on The Great Escape I explore more about the implications of readers quitting on books in my article Fiction Industry News – Amazon and Pay-Per-Page

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

The Glass Demon - book coverLin Fox is dragged away from her life in England by her family. Her father is obsessed with finding the mysterious Allerheiligen Glass – medieval stained glass windows thought lost for centuries – and moves them to a remote part of Germany. His initial investigations are hampered by the inconvenient death of his contact and the locals are none too welcoming. It could be a coincidence, but maybe not. Maybe someone doesn’t want them to find the glass.

This book builds slowly, revealing the mystery in little chunks. There’s a web of complicated and none too rosy relationships between the characters of Lin’s family. It becomes something of a moral tale about the dangers of not listening to each other, of being so self-centred you’re not aware of the people around you. I spent the entire book trying to work out exactly what the relationship between Lin and Tuesday was, which was disorienting at first, but came clear in the end.

Lin’s infatuation with a good looking local priest who teaches at her school is so believably adolescent. Combined with her relationship with the boy next door, Michel, and her changing relationships with her family, you really get to watch her grow up from a series of reality checks.

The book is essentially a thriller, or mystery, but I for a long time I couldn’t tell whether it had a genuine supernatural element or not. The characters believe in the demon who haunts the glass and the evidence keeps you guessing. I loved that about the book.

The one thing that let it down for me was the occasional interjection from the narrator, Lin, to reassure me that something good was just around the corner. I’d be reading along, quite happily and reach the end of a chapter which concluded with something like “little did I know it would be the worst day of my life” or “at that time <blank> was still alive.” I didn’t need teasers like that to keep me reading. I already wanted to know what was going to happen.

It was quite clear from early on that one of the characters was going to die. It just remained to discover how and when. I felt let down when it finally did happen, because I though, how much more powerful would this have been if I hadn’t known it was coming?

It felt like I was reading a nervous author who wasn’t confident enough to trust the reader to find the story compelling.

The pace quickens as the story progresses. I was quite happy reading a chapter here or there for the first third, but then I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down. Over all a good read, with a compelling mystery that keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

There are lots of places where you can read reviews of the latest books. I on the other hand like to review things when I have a reason to, like having a spare copy to give away and an immanent movie release.

So, while it’s not a new release, this week I’m reviewing The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins and giving everyone a chance to win a brand new copy.

In part 2 I’ll be following up this review with a look at character morality as this is a great book to illustrate the challenge. I’ll also be announcing the winner of the give away.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book!


The Hunger Games - book coverThe Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But, Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Collins vision of the future is one of totalitarian control, where one powerful city state, The Capitiol, exerts complete control over twelve subjugated districts.

Katniss has grown up in one of the harshest of the districts, District 12, where the principle occupation is coal mining. Deprived of her father by a mining accident, Katniss has had to fend for herself and her family since she was barely out of childhood.

The tough conditions have given Katniss unflinching determination, courage and a serious cynical streak. Not to mention survival and hunting skills from years of illegal poaching in the forest surrounding her home.

She’s not a ruthless killer but she’s not going to go down without a fight. Thrown into the arena of the Hunger Games she has the skills and the will to survive, but, it’s not just about the other competitors. Every move is watched and really, they are all just pawns in one big political game.

Suzanne Collins does an excellent job of making the unthinkable, believable. But the background politics simply forms a very vivid stage for a strongly character driven story. The effect is one where you feel Katniss is swept along by events beyond her control and can simply hang on and fend off the rocks as best she can. It gives the story an air of desperation without stifling hope; a combination which makes it impossible to put down.

A Phenomenon in the Making?

The Hunger Games has already become a massive success but there’s bestseller success and then there’s the “every other tweenage girl is wearing this on a t-shirt” kind of success.

The prime example of the latter is the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer, and the resulting movies. For a while it wasn’t possible to walk into a branch of HMV, WHSmiths or Clinton’s cards without slamming into a two tone wall; one half warm, earthy Jacob and the other cool, mysterious Edward.

My personal feelings about the Twilight saga (*cough* over rated *cough*) aside, the phenomenal success they have enjoyed is undeniable.

But, until the first, relatively small budget move, with it’s heretofore unknown cast snuck onto the big screen, Twilight was just another “bestseller” in the YA fiction category.

The Hunger Games could be positioned perfectly to usurp the Twilight throne in the coming weeks as the movie turns new readers on to the books. Personally, I feel it would be the superior monarch. The book deals with far more worthy themes, and the heroin, Katniss, is far less one dimensional and, (oh I’m just going to say it) wet.

Only time will tell of course, but in my opinion, if you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, now is your last chance to do so and still be able to say “I was a fan before it got stupidly big.”

The Hunger Games movie is released Friday 23rd March (UK).


White gift box with a red ribbon and bowGive away!

Want to get your hands on a free copy of The Hunger Games? To enter into my prize draw, just leave a comment with either an email address or Twitter ID (so I can notify you if you win).

Closing date Thursday 15th March.

Image credit – “Present box with red bow” by Master isolated images

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