Sunday, January 23, 2011

A few DNFs - Christmas 1945, Mansfield Park and The Queen of Last Hopes

I've always been a fickle reader, prone to read only so far and then abandon books but then return to them for a 2nd or even a 3rd try. It's just how I read, really. If a book doesn't grab me, I'll often have trouble forcing myself through it -- and, yet, 6 months or a year down the line I might find that same book becomes a personal favorite. Great Expectations is one of my favorite examples. I didn't get very far on the first 2 attempts but on the 3rd attempt the reading went quickly and I absolutely loved it.

Since history has shown that I will be less likely to like or positively review a book if I shove myself through the reading, I've continued to abandon those that don't grab me, although I do fight guilt when I set aside Advanced Reader Copies. Here are a few that have recently fallen into the Did Not Finish category, why I didn't finish them and whether or not I plan to give them another go.

Christmas 1945: The Story of the Greatest Celebration in American History by Matthew Litt

I got Christmas 1945 from History Publishing Company, a small press I'm quite fond of, unsolicited. The portion I read was really enjoyable -- very illuminating. I set it aside around Christmas because I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the seasonal doings and then decided I didn't much feel like reading about Christmas after Christmas ended. No surprise there.

While I did think it was a little on the dry side, it's a book I will definitely return to -- probably when it gets hot and I want to think about the cool time of year. WWI, the Great Depression, WWII and the post-war years are all of particular interest to me, possibly because my parents and grandparents lived through them, but also because I've always been very impressed with the gumption of people who lived through those major events.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - The first ebook I attempted to read from the beginning (I read a bit of Peter Pan on my husband's iPad, last year), I thought Mansfield Park was okay but I've discovered something fascinating: I'm really not an ebook type of gal. I have a tendency to pick up the paper books and forget I'm reading an ebook. Hmm. This is something I've never seen mentioned by other bloggers.

At any rate, I was chugging along just fine but not finding Mansfield Park the most enjoyable Jane Austen I've read and it seemed to be awfully easy to set the book aside. So, I finally decided I'll come back to it another time. I was encouraged by a few friends who told me Mansfield Park is their least favorite work by Austen.

I also own a paperback copy of Mansfield Park, so it'll be interesting to see whether I end up reading the ebook or the paper copy when I return to it.

The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham is a perfect example of Bookfool's Moody Reading. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the book -- nothing at all I dislike about it. From the first page, Margaret of Anjou was a compelling narrator. When I began reading The Queen of Last Hopes, however, I knew it was going to be a struggle simply because I wasn't in the mood to read historical fiction.

Since the book is an Advanced Reader's Copy I received from Sourcebooks, I forged ahead and made it about 30 pages. Then, as often happens when I'm not really in the mood to read a particular book, I set it down and didn't pick it back up. After about 10 days of looking askance at the book, I picked it up again and reread the same 30 pages. Same thing, round 2. I just wasn't in the mood for a large-cast historical fiction -- and it might at least partially have to do with the fact that I've read a lot of medieval fiction in the past year. Again, I plan to return to the book and I hope to read it as soon as humanly possible. I like Higginbotham's writing style and The Queen of Last Hopes is a story I've been looking forward to reading. I'm really quite fascinated by my inability to force myself through a book if the timing is wrong.

There are two books in my sidebar that I'm struggling with and which will probably soon disappear. One is the gluten-free French cookbook by Chef Alain Braux: Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food. Like Mansfield Park, the "struggling" can be wholly blamed upon the fact that it's an ebook and I keep forgetting it's there. I plan to have that one printed and bound, as soon as possible, because I honestly am dying to read it -- I loved Alain Braux's first cookbook; we're still using it -- and we want to try the recipes but I just can't talk myself into bothering to look at it on the reader. This is very frustrating. I hope my reader doesn't become a toy that only gets used for checking email and reading during vacations. I don't even leave home very often!!!

The other book I'm having trouble with is The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD, an ARC from HarperCollins. I have no specific policy about what page number I'll read to before abandoning an advanced reader but I recently read a favorite blogger's policy and decided 50 pages, her stated minimum, is a good number to shoot for. I'm finding I tend to quit around page 30-50, anyway, if a book isn't clicking with me, but I think it's very reasonable to read at least 50 pages before abandoning a book and I'm attempting to do so with The Procrastination Equation.

Guess what page I stopped on? Go ahead, guess. Ahhh. 30 pages. Figures. If I stop reading The Procrastination Equation, it will not be a book I return to because at this point I'm finding that I have a strong desire to give the author's marvelously oversized balloon ego a good pop. His arrogance is seriously annoying. In addition to that, I'm finding the whole equation thing is not explained well at all. The idea with this kind of book should be to create a practical guide to enacting change in the reader's life, a simple way to put improvement into effect, right? I'm not seeing it. But, as I said, I'm going to give it another 20 pages to see if it becomes more readable after the initial explanation of the "equation" that's supposed to help me stop procrastinating.

Speaking of which . . . I'm actually doing pretty well at getting things done, lately, anyway. I just added up my "Books In" for the last 5 weeks and subtracted the number of "Books Out", then came up with a net figure. In 5 weeks' time, I've received quite a few books but my net has been 103 books out the door. Wahoo! I think 20 per week is a solid start. I've still got a long, long way to go but we're also getting rid of clothing we no longer wear and games we don't play, so we've opened up a good bit of space in our little home, already. It's been really helpful having Kiddo back in the house. His presence is motivating me to get the job done so he doesn't have to worry about clutter and can just focus on studying.

And, now I leave you with Izzy under the dresser, your daily dose of Kitty Cute.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. My apologies that my clumsy attempts at establishing credibility has put you off. I did debate with my editors whether this was heavy handed, and this being my first book, deferred to them. I was worried that his reaction might occur, but also wanted people to understand I have been working on this for a decade. Though I got the balance clearly wrong on this point, I appreciate if you could set it aside to finish the book and then evaluate The Procrastination Equation as a whole. I have been lurking your website for a month waiting to find what you think of it. Appreciate your time, Piers Steel

  2. Izzy is such a beautiful cat. :-) My two are curled up together on the bed right now. Probably a hint that I should be heading there soon too.

    I usually save the DNF label for books I will not be returning to after having attempted to read them. And it's rare I completely give up on a book--but it does happen now and then. More often than not, I find myself in situations like you describe--a book just isn't right for me at that particular time and so I plan to return to it later. Sometimes with great success and other times not so much.

    I haven't run into the problem you describe with your e-reader, but then, I tend to read one book at a time so it's not likely I'll be tempted by a paper book while reading an e-book.

    I hope you have a great week, Nancy!

  3. Maybe you'll be in the mood for The Queen of Last Hopes later on.

  4. Piers,

    What a lovely note. I appreciate your kind request and I will happily do everything in my power to read your entire book. It helps to know that editorial decision won out over author concern. I'll return to the reading with a different understanding. Thanks for stopping by to tell me about that. I do think just the "PhD" on the cover tends to eliminate the need to explain how much time and effort you put into a study, but that's just my opinion. I'm married to a very humble man with a PhD and may be a little more sensitive than average to the kind of egos one encounters amongst those who survived doctoral programs.


    Thank you! She is a very pretty little thing, that Izzy. My Schwan's delivery man loves her "Cleopatra eyes". LOL

    I used to not write about books I haven't finished but plan to return to until a year or two ago, when I talked to several publicists and asked their opinion. Most prefer a DNF post because at least you're giving the book some exposure, so that's why I go ahead and write about my DNFs, even if they're not permanently off the stacks. Sounds like we have a similar reading style. I have no problem trying a book 2 or 3 times before giving up. It just depends on the writing, whether or not I'll give it a second chance.

    Oh, reading one book at a time would probably solve my ereader problem! LOL I'm afraid I almost never do that, though. I'm toying with purchasing my March F2F selection on ebook because it's fat and it's not a title I really wanted to read (and it's only $5 at the Kindle store). But, I'm a little nervous about doing so.


    I'll definitely return to The Queen of Last Hopes. It's a story I want to read; I'm just not in the mood for historical fiction, right now. I've found in the past that I burn out easily on entire genres and I am determined not to let that happen. It's the main reason I read such variety, although I also happen to be interested in just about everything. It took me a while to figure out what works for me, but now I stick with it.

  5. Lovely photo of Izzy!!! the light and dark just the right balance.
    and oh well abt those DNFs. They will always be more books, I think.

  6. Care,

    Thanks! Didn't Izzy pose nicely?

    Yes, there will always be more books. If you could see my house, you'd know I have plenty to choose from! :)

  7. Hi! I need your email so my new publisher can contact you about receiving a copy of my forth book, The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy, but I can't find a link on your site. Can you email me at marshaaltman at yahoo? Thank you!

  8. Hi Marsha,

    My email is actually in the sidebar of my blog, in the "about" section, but I'll write to you privately. :)

  9. I have to read The Queen of Last Hopes, too, and it does not bode well for me at this time. So much ono my plate (why do I agree to these reviews?!). I hope to get to it in February, which would week from Tuesday!

    Love the kitty pic, especially stunning in black and white.

  10. I barely got through Mansfield Park. It's not my favorite Austen either, though I liked all her others. Izzy is adorable!

  11. Thanks! And thank you for the quick response!

  12. Bellezza,

    I ask myself that all the time. I'm really leaning toward totally stopping the ARCs. It's been fun watching space open up in my house and I want to keep it that way. Of course, I know myself well enough to know I'll make exceptions!! Hope you like The Queen of Last Hopes, when you get to it. Can you believe nearly a month of the new year has already passed?

    Thank you! I appreciate Isabel for being silly *and* posing nicely after she was done playing under the dresser!!


    I could have gotten through it and I do love Jane Austen, but I've always got so may books going that it was just one that I figured I could let go, for now. It was too easy not to pick up the reader. I've got to work on that. My March F2F book club pick is much cheaper as an ebook than a paper book, so it might be a good opportunity to work on teaching myself to pick up the reader!!

    Thanks! I think she's adorable, too. Izzy is also very entertaining!

  13. Marsha,

    You're welcome. And, good luck!

  14. Izzy is very photogenic! Great shot.

    I've given up on one book so far this year. Shhh, don't tell Bellezza. I couldn't get into The Enchanted April. I've tried to read this book twice (in the past decade) and it simply isn't working for me. However, I will try watching the movie. Why? It's set in Italy, of course. :)

  15. I say good for you for putting aside books that aren't working for you. I do the same. So far, I've only had one DNF this year. Last year I had way too many so I'm hoping I have better luck.

  16. Les,

    Thanks. I won't tell Bellezza. Oooh, that means I need to watch it, too. Speaking of which . . . I couldn't find my tour books for Italy and my husband rather humorously asked, "Have you found them, yet?" with that stupid "I know all," grin on his face. I said, "Nope, haven't found them, yet," and he said, "They're on your closet shelf! Right there! In plain view!!" Haha. Okay, honey, you got me.


    I don't worry about the number of books I toss aside, since I come back to most of them, eventually, but I can understand why you might find too many DNFs frustrating. I want to fall in love with everything I read (especially if I paid good money for them!!).

  17. I liked Mansfield Park but I did read it in the last couple of years.

    Glad Piers stopped by because if there is a procrastination equation that I can apply and that will help, I would love to know but I really didn't want to wade through his ego, but if it was publisher choice & not author, I'll have a different view too.

    Izzy is adorable.

  18. Carrie,

    What happened in the last couple of years that might have made Mansfield Park more tolerable?

    Haha, yes, I'm really glad Piers stopped by, too. I told my husband about his very polite letter and husband said, "You know, when you write journal articles you're required to write all about your experience and how much time you've spent on a study and so forth. It's probably just what he's used to." And, then he added that's why he hates writing journal articles. :) That's nice to know, too.

    Izzy and I thank you. :)

  19. I am really moody, too. It's part of the reason why I am trying very hard to move away from ARCs and other review-type books. Sometimes just because I have something to read doesn't mean I want to and I hate forcing myself to read something. It destroys the experience and mind result in a different review than what I would give at another time.

  20. Kelly,

    Same here! I'm planning on accepting nothing but children's and YA, after I run through my current ARC piles. I think it's a lot harder to read scheduled books. My old method of reading, pre-ARC, was to just roam my shelves, flipping through and reading a little until something grabbed me. Then, if it didn't keep my attention, I'd put it back on the shelf and go through the whole process, again. I've always done a lot of setting aside books to return to them later, so nothing has changed in that regard. But, I don't feel guilty about doing that with books from my personal collection and I think I've had about enough of the guilt.

  21. I am the same way... there are just some books that I have a really difficult time getting into and I end up having to push them aside for better ones. In fact, just last week I was trying to read "Wuthering Heights" (my 3rd attempt).. I just can't get into it. I pushed it aside for one that I found to be extremely fascinating... a great historical fiction thriller titled, "The Scorpion's Bite" by Aileen G. Baron. Now I am not a huge historical fiction fan, but have to say I was sucked in from page one.

  22. Becky,

    Just FYI, Wuthering Heights is one of my least favorite classics. I kinda hated it. So, I don't personally think you're missing much! :) The Scorpion's Bite does sound interesting.


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