Monday, November 2, 2009

Do You Struggle to Finish Books?

You remember high school where you had to read the book the teacher assigned whether it was Silas Marner, The Old Man and the Sea or Cheaper by the Dozen? You remember having to finish reading it no matter how boring the tale or how dry the writing? I admit, I loved the idea behind Great Expectations, but there were passages when I wanted Dickens to just get on with it. In other cases, it was Shakespeare that I dreaded reading – Shakespeare was a playwright, his work was meant to be seen and acted out, not read. But that’s assigned reading, what happens when you’re reading for fun?

Reading Books: The Struggle

Reading for fun shouldn't be a struggle, but sometimes, even the best books have their moments. I have occasionally come across books that I thought I would like, but when I got into reading them, I found it hard to sink into the character, the setting or the story. Those books aren’t a struggle to read because if I can’t get invested, I’m just going to set it aside and reach for another book.

But what about the books that I am invested in? What happens when the characters I love and I’m invested in get stuck in long scenarios that I don’t like, that I’m not supposed to like and I just want it over? I’ve had this experience twice recently and both with authors I absolutely adore. I loved both books, genuinely and I’ve re-read the first one at least three times, but the section I struggled to read the first time did not improve in any future readings. Not sure about the latest book, I haven’t had a chance to re-read it yet.

What Books?

The first book was Bone Crossed, the fourth Mercedes Thompson book by Patricia Briggs. The book was great, advancing the storylines and deepening the relationship between Mercy and Adam. There were some seriously beautiful moments in the book and the writing was top-notch as always. So why would I possibly struggle with it? There’s a section where Mercy is taken prisoner and well, to be honest, those couple of chapters were just unpleasant to read for me and I had to force myself not skip through until that sequence ended.

In the more recent novel, Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong, we are once again joining narrator Elena and her mate Clay as they deal with a convoluted mystery in Alaska. The narration by Elena was intriguing; so much has changed in her life since our first journey with her in Bitten. Of course, this is the fourth Women of the Otherworld narrated by Elena and I love seeing inside her relationship with Clay and how it has matured. But there is a very long sequence where Elena faces the very real possibility of rape and it just seems to go on and on and on and on. It was a very real struggle to make it through that portion of the book, though there was an ultimate pay off later.

So Why the Struggle?

So both Armstrong and Briggs are top-notch writers and I am totally a fan. I pre-order all of their books sight unseen and I’ve yet to be disappointed, so why would I find it a struggle to read sections of those particular books? I think it was seeing these two really powerful women put into situations where there was just no escape, no matter what they did or how well they reacted, things kept going wrong – particularly for Elena. I was frustrated and worried for her and frankly, I did not want to see her abused in any way shape or form.

And to be fair – Elena and Mercy are both more than capable of looking after themselves. But I have no problems with Clay or Adam shredding what threatens them.

I’d recommend these authors and these books in a heartbeat. Because the characters are wonderfully rich and textured and I struggled with those parts because I was so invested in those characters.

Have you ever struggled to finish a book?


  1. Hi Heather :)
    Yes, there have been a few books where I struggled to finish, and a few I didn't, but mostly because of poor writing.
    Have you ever read a book and went "WTF!" out loud, where everyone could hear?
    There've been a few for me. Most memorably the second book in the Song of Fire & Ice series by George R.R. Martin.
    All the best,

  2. I completely understand what you say, there are times when it's hard for me to go on reading even though I love the book.

    I remember a few year ago I read a book called Daughter of the Forest by Aussie author Juliet Marillier, and I actually read it in two parts because I started it and then came to a point where I couldn't go on, what was happening to Sorcha - the protagonist - was too awful but eventually I went back and finished it because I couldn't get her out of my head and I wanted to know what happened.

    Now DotF is one of my favorite books, but whenever I re-read and come across that same passage that made me stop the first time, I struggle no to skip. That's the point when I put it down and take a few deep breathes before going ahead.