AAR has a standing policy that reviewers do not do DNF reviews. No matter how awful the book, we must finish reading it. This policy has resulted in some pretty miserable reading for me over the last few years, but despite that, I heartily agree with the policy. Sometimes something happens toward the end of a book that changes a straight D to a C-. Likewise, sometimes something toward the end shifts a book from a C to a D or lower. So many books are uneven, that without reading the entire book, we can’t give an unbiased review.
However, as a result of this policy I’ve read (and recently listened to) a number of C-, D, and even F books for review. These mediocre, and sometimes downright unpleasant, reading experiences have made me even pickier about my personal reading than I was before I began reviewing at AAR.
Before trying out a new-to-me author I sample their book in Kindle (or listen to a sample at Audible). And if despite all that sampling I don’t like it once purchased, I’ll put it aside, whether I’ve read 10 pages or 100 pages. And I pretty much never go back and try these books again. I’ll let them sit on a shelf in my spare bedroom for about six months, and then it’s off to a charity for donation. My personal reading time is just too limited to spend on mediocre books.
All of this applies except when it comes to my longtime favorite authors. Do I sample new books by these authors? Never. If they have a narrator I like, I’ll download their latest book in audio the day it comes out. If not, I may order the book months in advance and download it to my Kindle the morning it’s released. Or, if it’s an old favorite mystery author, I’ll pick up the latest book in print at my local mystery bookstore. (I do like to support the local independent booksellers.) Most of the time this strategy works out quite well and I have several hours of happy reading.
However, every once in a while my strategy fails, and I’ll find that the latest book by a longtime favorite author just doesn’t work for me. But in this case, instead of giving up after 10 pages, or even 50 pages, I keep trying and trying, hoping against hope that my favorite author will come through for me.
Right now I’m going through this experience with the latest books by two of my favorite mystery authors of all time – Elizabeth Peters and Laurie R. King. I waited for each of these books for over a year. I tweeted periodically about the big upcoming publication dates on twitter. I posted link after link on Facebook, no doubt annoying my FB friends. Then, when the big day came, and I actually had their books in my possession, I was let down.
Elizabeth Peters’ most recent Amelia Peabody mystery, A River in the Sky, was published over two years ago. I picked up the audio version of the book immediately, as I love Barbara Rosenblat’s narration of the series. The narration continues to shine, but the story just hasn’t made any sense to me. I’ll listen for about 15 minutes and then shut it off. Pick it up again, try another 15 minutes and then shut it off. This has been going on for over two years, but I keep trying. I’m now starting to think that the audio format just isn’t working for this book, despite Barbara Rosenblat’s marvelous narration. As a last try, I’m going to download it to my Kindle, hoping that it’ll work better in print. So yes, this means I’ll have paid for the audio version and the Kindle version; I do hate to give up on a favorite author. I’m especially reluctant to give up on Amelia Peabody. This series brought me back to mystery reading after nearly 10 years away from the genre. And the first book in the series – Crocodile on the Sandbank – was my first DIK at AAR.
I bought Laurie R. King’s latest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book – Pirate King – in hardback the day it was published. I read the first chapter when I got home from work that night and then put it down (and normally this would have been a late-night read for me). I picked it up again the second night, managed another chapter, and then put it down again. The book has now been sitting on my nightstand for the last nine months. Every night I’m reminded of the book. I try it periodically, but it never works. For the first time, one of the books in this series just isn’t to my taste. Sherlock Holmes is pretty much out of the picture (at least for the portion of the book that I’ve read) and Russell is involved in a whole series of over-the-top adventures with movie makers on a boat. It’s just struck me as rather silly, which isn’t the tone for the series at all.
I’ll definitely pick up another Amelia Peabody, should Ms. Peters write another in the series, but I’ll have to think about the format more carefully. But Laurie R. King? After this disappointment I’m going to have to sample her in the future; I want to make certain that Sherlock Holmes is back in the book.
Do you always finish every book you begin? If not, do you try longer with your old-favorite authors? And has anyone tried to read Pirate King? Because if you have, is there something about it I’m missing?