Fear in Writing: Disappointing reads...Surprise! reads

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, February 12, 2010

Disappointing reads...Surprise! reads

I did the strangest thing yesterday.  I put down a book by a bestselling author and picked up one by a little-known blogging acquaintance.  It was a book about which I had been uber-excited.  I had even pre-ordered the thing and gone to the book-signing (gave myself away on that one, didn't I?).  But twenty-two chapters in I found myself wondering, Why am I supposed to care about these people?  What is the grander mystery I am trying to untangle?  Without anger, without frustration, I set it aside and grabbed a book that had been taunting me for months.

Dot.Dead is supposed to be my March Thriller&Suspense Challenge book.  But I am several chapters in and I don't think I'll be putting it down any time soon.  The narrator is sympathetic but not weak.  The action starts at sentence one.  The setting is intriguing (Silicon Valley).  The murder is just different enough to be interesting but not impossible (maid killed in employer's house).  Strange characteristics, small clue and untold secrets are already lurking.  People, check out this book!

And in case you didn't notice in my guest blogger news section, the author, Keith Raffel, will be stopping by in March to talk about his latest book, Smasher.  I think I'll order that one and make it my March challenge book.

I will, of course, finish The Swan Thieves.  I'll even finish it this month--it is a challenge after all!  The book is beautifully written and I am intrigued by the storyline.  I'm just not enthralled like I was with The Historian, and I think it is that comparison that has me so disappointed.  Of course, I'm only twenty-two chapters in and the book is a doorstop.  I will share more when I finish!

Have you ever picked up a favorite author's work and been disappointed?  Have you ever picked up a new-to-you author's work and been excitedly surprised?  Please share!
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  1. When I read Some Kind of Normal, by Heidi Willis, a fellow blogger, I was blown away! I have a new favorite and can't wait to find more newbies with tons of talent!!

  2. I have definitely been disappointed in a book before that I was looking forward to. Every time this has happened, it's because I was reading the whole series and just bought the newest one...not because I was excited to read it due to good reviews. So maybe the lesson is not to automatically buy a book in a series without reading the review first!

    I frequently find gems when I branch out and try new authors. That's the best!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. I've been disappointed often by big name authors. It's as if after so many books, they start to run out of ideas.

  4. Yes and recently - I adored beyond all measure Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (and I was in good company). I couldn't get through her one on the French Revolution. It was well-written but I don't know the history that well and I felt no alliance for any of the characters - interesting but...and you have to love her writing because the cast of characters is huge. I think I liked Wolf Hall more because it focussed on one person - Cromwell - and because I love that era - Henry VIII's court - and perhaps because this is her most recent book. I quit the other one about four hundred pages in. There ya go!

  5. I almost feel guilty saying this, but the occasional 'Spenser' novel by the late, great Robert B. Parker, could be disappointing. Most of them hit the spot, but the odd one missed.

    As for discovering treats: Liz Brady and her "Jane Yeats" series... Loved all 3 books and did an MA paper on the series! Found them quite by accident in a used book store.

  6. Phew- Glad to know I'm not alone! I was feeling so guilty! It was exciting to find a new author, and I was greatly pleased to know it was a fellow blogger and someone I "know."

    Like Elizabeth said, reviews don't always mean much. In fact, I put more on what you all recommend than NY Times reviews.


  7. I feel a bit disloyal saying this, but some of Bryce Courtenay's new stuff is, well a little long winded. I could not get through the last two her wrote. And I usually love his stuff no matter how many pages.

  8. I don't like to be disappointed, especially when I've waited for it, or I love the author and have loved all their other books, but sometimes you need to move on. I am glad you found a book that you are really enjoying at least!!

  9. I've had a few authors disappoint me. Glad you moved on to something better.

  10. I'll often pick up a book, expecting a great read, and things will fall a little short. Sometimes I'll finish it, often I won't (too many good books out there, too little time!). I read DOT DEAD and thought it was great! I also read SMASHER and thought it was great, too. (Full Disclosure: Keith and I share a publisher--but I'd say this about his books anyway!)

  11. I was recently horribly disappointed but a new to me author who was supposed to be really good. I got 3/4 of the way through the book and though to myself, you know what, I just don't have time to read stuff I don't like. I struggled with The Swan Thieves as well, it's worth finishing though.

  12. I loved The Swan Thieves, but definitely understand why you feel that way. The Historian was so amazing, but Thieves is a different type of story. Anyways, nice find! My find is at The Crowded Leaf.

  13. Tabith- The disloyalty thing is frustrating, I agree. But we have to be honest. It doesn't mean we don't like their work or applaud their talent. We just don't like some of their books.

    Jen- I even pre-ordered The Swan Thieves! It was my first ever pre-order and my first ever book signing (see post here)! Like I said, I will finish it. She is an artist.

    Alex- Thanks. And I will add that they are very different genres. I am not comparing the two, Kostova and Raffel.

    Alan- Disclosure noted. I have put down exactly two books in my life, unable to finish them. 'The Swan Thieves' will not be one of them. I am excited I get to read 'Smasher' sooner, though!

    Ash- Did you love 'The Historian?' I think Kostova is an artist. Her writing is beautiful. 'The Historian' carried me through with its mystery and magic, its twisting plot and endless education. This one is more sedate and a lesson in human relationships. It's still beautifully written, just a slower read. I think I just wasn't expecting that. I WILL finish it. Promise. And soon.

    Alayne- Welcome! I will click over to your find now, and I agree with your assessment of them as different types of books.

  14. This may get me banned from all polite society, but the bulk of Jane Austen's work was a real disappointment to me. I was assigned "Pride and Prejudice" when I was in school, and absolutely loved it--it's still one of my favorite novels. I then went on to her other books, and I couldn't get through even one of them--I found them completely lifeless and dull. Odd, that.

    And don't get me started on what I think of "Wuthering Heights"--that was one of the sickest, creepiest novels I've ever read.

  15. Undine- Your opinion is safe here, as all opinions are. This is a debate-friendly page! And I read on another person's blog today that they did not enjoy Austen's works either. I, however, loved Wuthering Heights. I think the creepiness was a part of that, but then again, I am a mystery writer. Curious--what books DO you enjoy?

  16. Heavens, yes! One of Elizabeth George (whom I worship)'s books I found just TOO depressing and tragic. It's the only book of hers I will never buy.

  17. Yes to both!

    Most recently I read "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and loved it. I was so happy and can't wait to read the other three!

  18. Great Post! And yes, it's happened to me! I still can't make it through Stephen King's "the black house" and I've tried SEVERAL times. I love that man but I just can't get into that book.

  19. I think we've all been there at some point. I know my husband, son, and father-in-law were all disappointed by Brisinger. Great post! (and Dot. Dead sounds awesome) :-)

  20. I found "Saturday" by Ian McEwen really disappointing and didn't finish it. I have loved everything else of his that I have read.


    Publish or Perish

  21. Unfortunately, for non-established writers it can be the kiss of death. I told you all in a post long ago (probably just a couple months!) that I tried reading a book and put it down by the second page. I couldn't do it. It was B-A-D bad. This was a debut novel. No way will I read that book or that writer again. Kostova? I will finish this book AND read her next one, no matter how slow going 'The Swan Thieves' is.

  22. First my thanks to you for the kindness done on my behalf, I'm truly grateful. Now on to the post I'm sorry about you-know-who's book but I'm very happy you had 'Dot.Dead' to take its place.
    Have a lovely weekend my dear.
    Warm regards,

  23. After reading The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen and proclaiming that it was my new favorite book (still is up there on my list), I read her first novel, Garden Spells, and was a bit disappointed. It's still a neat story with interesting magical realism elements (and that's now what I'm interested in writing, oddly enough), but it just didn't touch me like The Sugar Queen. I have faith her third book The Girl Who Chased the Moon which comes out next month will be fantastic though.

    Thanks for telling us about Dot.Dead. I'll have to look into it!

  24. Simone- No favor, just honesty.

    Kristin- Good for you for sticking with her! This supports my theory about established authors as well. Also, while her first novel should have been breakthrough, at least she's evolving int he right direction, right?

  25. Michele:

    To be honest, I don't read much fiction at all, other than Poe and P.G. Wodehouse (now there's a combination for you...) My reading runs largely to history and biographies.

    So, hey, what do I know about good and bad novels?

  26. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else's! Fantastic combination, btw. Thank you for returning to answer my question.