A book not worth finishing.

It feels almost ironic that I should receive my first 1-star rating a day after I post about how I hope nobody will ever hate my books. Not only that, but that reader shelved Puppet Parade under “not-worth-finishing” on Goodreads. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it!), the reader did not leave me a text review so I have no idea what warranted putting my book under that shelf.

Thank goodness 0 ratings don't exist. (photo credit: http://joyreactor.com)

Thank goodness 0 ratings don’t exist. (photo credit: http://joyreactor.com)

How did I react? Well, to be honest I was upset at first. This was my first bad rating and I couldn’t readily accept it! I whined and protested about it for a good few minutes before I checked the reader’s profile  and discovered that they had shelved 31 books as not-worth-finishing, and they had an average rating of 2.95. At that point I felt better. I got the impression that this was the sort of person who judged a book 30 or 50 pages in and associated them with grumpy cat. That’s my mental image and I’m sticking to it! But in all seriousness, why would someone do that? How can you tell what the book’s going to be like a few pages in?

I’ve been clear about my stance when it comes to finishing books. Even if I really hate it, I will continue reading to the end. Why do I subject myself to this… this torture, if you may? Well, because there is no way I can form a proper opinion of a book if I don’t read the whole thing. Is every book worth reading? Debatable. But is every book worth finishing? Yes, I firmly believe that. It hurts when a reader dislikes your book, but I feel it hurts even more if they never bothered reading to the end.

I guess I don’t understand how someone can decide if a book is worth it or not just a few chapters in. How do they know it won’t improve? How do they know the writer isn’t simply building up? Fantasy especially needs some room to be allowed to build up. Even if you don’t think you can finish the book, it’s only fair to give it the benefit of the doubt and read at least 100 pages or so before you decide that it’s not worth your time.

I’ve read books that started out boring but ended up pleasantly surprising me, and I’ve read books that started out bad and ended up bad. But hey, it’s the experience that counts. In the mean time I’m just going to ignore that bad rating and content myself with all the other good ratings I received. *nods*

What do you think? What makes a book not worth finishing? Do you tend to see books to the end, or do you cut your losses and stop a few chapters in?

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53 thoughts on “A book not worth finishing.

  1. I used to always finish books. Now I don’t necessarily, but it has to be really dull for me to stop. But then I wouldn’t leave a review, because I hadn’t finished it, and I’d realize that just because it didn’t float my boat, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t float someone else’s. Sorry about the rating, but as you point out, that seems to be the trend with this person, so that should indeed make you feel better about it. But it is frustrating to not have a rating followed up with a review describing why they gave it such a rating.

    But as I always say, a wide range of reviews/ratings makes a book more credible in my opinion. I just read ‘The Weird Sisters’. I didn’t really care for it–gave it 3 stars. On Amazon, there is a huge range of ratings. Lots of one stars, two stars, all the way up to five stars. Not everyone likes the same thing, which is a good thing for writers!

    • That’s fair enough! I just don’t think someone who didn’t finish a book is qualified enough to give a rating. It doesn’t do any justice to the writer or the book. And yeah, I actually sometimes get curious about bad reviews because – if constructive – I can use them to help me improve!

      And that is true. I don’t trust a book that has a bunch of good ratings only. It seems less credible somehow. Ratings/reviews make for such a fickle thing!

      Thanks for the follow! I just followed you back. 😉

  2. I have set books aside when the author has failed to engage me in the first few chapters. But, let me share a little story!

    I bought a book that a very famous author had written and was expecting to be dazzled again by the story. I got through two chapters and felt like I wanted my money back. I threw the book aside and went on to another.

    Months later, I picked the book up again, as I had nothing else to read. I reread the first chapters and then hung in there for another two. And another two, until I was so entranced in the story that I stayed up all night to finish it!

    Sometimes, it depends on the mood of the reader as to whether they will continue to read a book that doesn’t instantly grab them. They might not want to spend the time necessary to discover the characters or the plot and they dismiss a good book too soon.

    If this was your first 1 star rating, then do not take it to heart! Not everyone is going to like your book..but I’m sure many will (and that’s just based on the synopsis I read.)

    By the way, that book I tossed aside for months was written by Stephen King and was the first in his “Gunslinger” series!

    • You’re right; mood does affect the enjoyment of a story. I know it has happened with me! I might be feeling “meh” about a particular novel, but then I slowly start to enjoy it as the mood shifts. I’ve heard some good things about the Gunslinger series (and the Dark Tower series), but Stephen King seems to me like an intimidating writer, haha.

      And aww, thanks! That’s sweet of you to say. 😀

  3. Carrie’s right. If a reader doesn’t finish – That review doesn’t tell you anything.
    Cranky is right about right place- right time.
    Like mom said, “Some people won’t like you no matter what you do. So let it go.”
    (Hard for me to take any of those review seriously – too many variables and reasons for writing review one way or the other. Too many people with too much time on their hands who delight in being mean or silly. A range gives credibility)
    Just write!

    • That is true. Not everybody will like you (or your work). I keep telling myself that.
      I think bad reviews are all right as long they’re constructive one way or another. One is entitled to dislike something, after all!
      Thank you for your comment. 😀

  4. silverneurotic says:

    It doesn’t happen too often, but I do sometimes quit a book, I don’t understand why I should slog through a book that I just do not like (or, let’s face it, is truly terrible) just because I “have” to finish it. There’s just too many books that I want to read in my lifetime to waste time on those books…

    However, I would not even think of rating a book that I did not finish, nor even adding it to Good Reads. It’s not fair to try to review something that you’ve only read a portion of. The only exception is if I’m stopping because there are a ton of grammatical or spelling errors…then I might make mention of that fact or post something on Twitter.

    • Well to each their own, I suppose. =] Personally I think I’m not being fair to the book if I don’t see it to the very end. In fact, I only stopped reading a book once… and that was just because it turned out to be an erotica disguised as chick lit.
      And that’s really how it should go! I don’t think a person who didn’t finish a book is entitled to review. =/ Many people shelf books as “didn’t-finish” or something like that without rating them, so I didn’t get why this person couldn’t do the same.

  5. If I don’t finish a book,I don’t dare to give my opinion on it!
    ….but ,perhaps I’m up to tell Why I’ve put it aside…..
    Don’t worry,for the negative ratings,(though I understand you very well),just enjoy for the good ones!

  6. I can never just stop reading a book, I have to finish it. I can not pick up the next book in a series but even that is hard to do. I know people say life is short and anything, but I always have to see what happens at the end!

  7. This must have been disappointing as well as an awful shock for you, Zen. I haven’t checked my reviews lately and now I’m wondering if I should – it may just spoil my day…

    That person seems to do this a lot, so I guess there is a bit of comfort in that. I got a three star rating with no comment from someone and then when I checked their reviews I saw that they also gave some very famous (and good) books three star ratings as well, so that made me feel a little better.

    I guess as writers we put ourselves out there for criticism – anyone who reviews should know if they’re going to do this they should at least have the manners to tell you why. {{{hugs}}}

    • It was disappointing, yes. =[ But I guess I knew this would happen someday! The good reviews would stop coming eventually, haha.
      Everyone has an opinion, but yeah, I do think they should at least try to write a few lines about what they thought of the book. That’s why part of my resolutions for this year was to review every book I read.

  8. Sorry to “like” this post, but you know what I mean. I say celebrate that there has only been one 1-star review!

    If I find I’m not enjoying a book, I give it the old college try and stick with it. But, if I still can’t get into it, out it goes. There are too many books I want to read to waste time on something that isn’t for me. That isn’t to say it it not a good book. It is just not my cup of tea.

    • Haha, I like your optimistic look towards it! Yes, I’m happy that it’s the only one. 😀
      Well, at least you’re giving it a shot! I guess I’m just a slightly bit OCD when it comes to reading everything, even if they’re not my cup of tea.

  9. It’s a rite of passage to get an absolutely craptastic review. You should feel proud–you are now a “real” writer. Seriously though, you must consider the source. The reader doesn’t sound very reliable. I don’t think bad reviews deter someone from choosing a book–unless perhaps there are major formatting errors and typos galore. And think about it–if your reviews are all perfect 5s, people are going to think only your friends and family have read it!

    • No, they don’t sound reliable at all! But you’re right; I do feel suspicious of a book when all I see are good ratings. 😉 Thank you, Tiffany!

  10. Zen, you know I can sympathize. It’s so unfair to give a one star with no reason.

    I’ve given up on books plenty of times, but I would never, ever think to leave a bad review. The book is published, and the author isn’t going to take it back because I didn’t like it. I don’t feel I need to “warn” anybody about the book, because there are usually people who love the book I’m giving up on. Reading tastes are so subjective.

    I think I’m finally getting a little numb about the entire review process. I have a one star at B&N which simply states “boring” and a one star that simply states “love.”

    I’m just going to get back to writing and quit worrying about this whole review thing.

    • Well, I find bad reviews to be helpful when they’re constructive. When I want to buy a book, I look for the good and bad reviews to give me a general impression of the book. I’ve avoided one too many Twilight-like novels by reading bad reviews!
      But… if I’m going to give a bad review, I think it’s only fair to tell the writer why we’re giving them a bad review, because the guessing game that follows is not fun at all. =[
      I’m going to do what you do and focus on my writing! 😀

  11. I’m one of those readers who, if the text does not captivate me after a few pages begins to wonder if it will ever enthrall, which eventually leads to me not concluding the text period. I also feel the same way about movies, TV shows and video games. However, I believe that every decision needs to include a reason to justify one’s choice, else, I will agree with you Zen, it is unfathomably mean. I myself can sympathise; a publisher once told me that my writing was cliche, boring and would never be approved by any publisher in their right mind. So, I dumped his body in an incinerator (that was a joke).
    True, a poor rating feels rotten, but if one provides constructive criticism in regards to their reasons, then the wound is not so great and you at least have something to work with and thus can amend your piece if that be your prerogative.
    On another note though, don’t let the decision of one cause you distress. If this happens again, check how many positive views you have received in contrast with the negative; I am certain this will cheer you up.

    • Derek, that’s exactly what I was getting at. I would’ve handled this with a grain of salt had that reader said something, anything about why they chose to give my book that one star. I appreciate constructive criticism when I get it because it helps me improve in the future.
      I have been dealing with this well, all things considered! My first bad rating a year after publication… that has got to count for something, right? And I sure do hope that was a joke because burning him would’ve been a biiiit too much of an overreaction, haha.

  12. I’ve read so many negative reviews on different books that had nothing to do with the book itself. Don’t take it too hard. I also try to finish every book, even if it’s dull or not well written. Very few books ever get a one star from me, especially if I can see their effort. By the way, I wanted to ask how you felt about poetry?

    • I’m dealing well with it, thank you, Nadia! I’ve accepted that not everyone will like the book! Poetry… well let’s just say I can appreciate it as long as it’s simple and doesn’t require me to analyse it!

      • I’m glad. That’s true, but I know it’s still difficult on the author. Yours is still on my TBR list, but I promise to get to it soon! I can understand that. I was actually asking because I had another question for you. Do you mind if I send you a DM or something?

  13. I’m a chronic book quitter. If I’m not completely engaged after the first few chapters I will probably stop reading. It doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad, it just means that it wasn’t the right time to read that particular book.

  14. I try to finish books, but if I find myself dreading picking up a book again because I find it unbelievably boring, I will probably stop reading it. It’s not something I like to do, but sometimes I just don’t have a choice.

    • There’s one book I’ve been dreading to pick up because I found it so dull, but I’ve kept it on my Currently Reading shelf to guilt myself into reading it again! I figure I’ll just grit my teeth and get it over with. xD

      • Lol. I did that for a while with a self-published book I bought on a whim. What was it called … A Song For Lynbidium. The name really intrigued me, but the book itself was just awful. So I slogged through like half a page each night before bed, and eventually I started dreading going to bed precisely because I had to read that book, and I was like, “Michelle, it’s time to donate this book to Goodwill and move on with your life”. However, I wish you the best of luck with your dreary book. Maybe it will get better if you give it a chance 🙂

        • That title does sound intriguing! But it must’ve been really bad if it made you dread going to bed, haha. And that’s what I keep thinking. Unfortunately I’m halfway through and there’s still no improvement whatsoever!

  15. I will not finish a book I am not enjoying. I use to in the past, I would stick with it no matter, but I’ve concluded that my time is worth more and abandoning a book mid way is a small crime. 🙂 There are so many good books I’m yet to find and I may not find one if I pursue a poor one.

    • I always figure there will be time to read all the books I want. Plus, if I’m going through a bad book, I use a book I’m excited about as incentive to finish it quickly. 😉 But to each their own!

  16. Agreed with every word! I also think that if you decide that “finishing a book” isn’t a requisite of being a reader, then you should also consider that your ability to review it is unavailable, otherwise your review isn’t going to be accurate. Instead, it will be incredibly unfair, both to the author, and other readers under the impression that the reviewer read the entire book and therefore they won’t like it, when in reality, they may love it.

    • Yes! It totally gives off the wrong impression and lowers the overall rating of the book for no genuine reason. =[ I just wish some readers would put themselves in the writer’s shoes and think a bit before giving ratings randomly like that.

      • Definitely! It’s just unfair to everyone, so if you’re not going to read it all the way through, don’t review or rate it because you don’t have all the facts!

  17. I never mean to stop, I’d always rather finish the book. Sometimes, life gets in the way and I totally forget to finish a book but I always pick it back up.

    I’d love to read your book! Where can I get it?? Amazon?

  18. I was once a compulsive finisher. I would struggle through bad books on principle. Then I realized that if I wasn’t enjoying a book — wasn’t being engaged, entertained, or edified by it — I wasn’t doing myself any favors by finishing it. So why was I fighting my way to the back cover? To get my money’s worth? To add another title to my imaginary list of “Books I’ve Read in Their Entirety”? To indulge in some literary masochism?

    One day, I gave up on a series. Then another. And as time went on — and “real life” started usurping more and more of my day, making leisure reading time a rare and precious treasure — I realized that life is too short to spend time on a book that doesn’t resonate for me. So I stopped midway through a novel. I’ve given up on plenty of books since then.

    I’m still loath to do it, however. Even with short stories…no, especially with short stories. But I don’t feel too bad about it when I make the call, and the author couldn’t care less because he/she still made the sale. (He/she will never even know.) No piece of fiction will be universally appreciated. My time is precious, and an author has to earn my trust. If authors can’t hook me in the first 20-50 pages, I’m sorry, but they had their chance.

    Yes, there is something to be said for the “build up,” but a writer can’t do that at the expense of pacing, characterization, and/or a well-balanced plot. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone rave about a story, saying, “Yeah, those first few hundred pages were very rough, but it was so worth it once I got to the final 50 pages.”

    Anyway, what author would want ANY part of his/her book to be merely endured?

    Personally, I don’t think the reader owes the writer anything. The author must prove him/herself. And as a writer, I take that responsibility very seriously…precisely because there are people out there who, like me, won’t take the time to wait for the good parts.

    P.S., Sorry you got a bad review, Zen. Remember, art is always a matter of taste, and we all have different palates!

    • Hmmm. Well, I don’t know, but I think a self-published writer feels more shaken by a negative review than an author who made countless sales along the years. If someone doesn’t finish reading a book but doesn’t leave a rating, I will probably never know, yes; however, if they do leave a rating then it makes me sad… because I don’t think they’re entitled to rate if they haven’t even finished it. =/

      And it depends on what the reader wants from the book, doesn’t it? As I mentioned, some want to jump headfirst into the action, but others might want to understand the characters a bit before things go down (like me). Though you’re right, I wouldn’t want readers to just “endure” my book.

      Thank you for your comment, David!

  19. I never give up on a book. I’m probably just stubborn like that, but no matter how inept, cliched, brain-dead, or otherwise terrible a book is, I’ll still tough it out and read every page. My thinking it that somebody out there looked at this thing and thought, “This deserves to exist”, and published it, and I paid money for it, so I ought to try and see it through to try and see what they saw that made them kill trees to produce it.
    This doesn’t always work.

    • “I paid money for it” – lately I found myself using that argument more than once when the book was particularly bad. =/ One certain title comes to mind… ugh.

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