Bad books – finish them or not?

Over the course of my Summer of Love, there have been a couple of books that I was supposed to review and ended up dropping out on, because I just didn’t like the books. I’m not going to name names, as the books are newly published and as an author myself, I would hate for someone to totally trash my book when I’m trying to get some traction with it.

But I will talk about two of the books, in general terms.

One I finished, but only because I was hoping to find something to redeem it and make it possible to review it. Unfortunately, that never happened. The heroine was weak and annoying, the hero an unlikable jerk (and that’s being nice!), and the plot was rather thin and weak, with some of the most interesting parts being left to wither without answers.

The other I couldn’t even finish, for several reasons. The main one would be that I just didn’t like the writing style. There was very little dialogue, and even less action. About 90% of the part that I did manage to read was nothing more than thoughts in the heroine’s head – about everything, but not much about the hero. In fact, it took several chapters before I got confirmation that the hero was the hero – and he seemed rather unattractive to me, and it was very hard to understand how and why he was the hero. I got as far as I could with this particular book, but eventually I realized that if I kept trying to “push through” on it, I would end up taking forever to finish and be very far behind schedule on finishing the other books I needed to read.

These two books bring me to my question for you today: what do you do when you start a book and discover it isn’t to your liking?

Whether I finish the book depends on a couple of different factors. One is the author. If it’s an author I know and usually enjoy, I’ll often finish it in hopes that it’ll improve, or even out of loyalty. Another is how far I am into the book. The further I am, the more time I’ve invested into it, I’ll finish it because I don’t want to feel like I wasted that time. But if I just started the book, I’m more inclined to walk away.

It also depends on what it is I don’t like. Writing style is (despite the book I mentioned above) usually something I can work with. An unlikable character is harder for me to get past – if I can’t connect with the character, I won’t connect with the book, and if I can’t connect with the book, then what’s the point in reading it?

With the previous question in mind, here’s another one for you: do you review the books you didn’t like?

For me, when it’s a book I get through Netgalley, I always review it – those reviews go directly to the publisher, rather than being made publicly available (though the publisher can do that, if they choose), and I feel that since they gave me the book because they want my review, I owe it to them to be honest about my thoughts on the book.

When it’s a book I purchase on my own, I will sometimes review it. If it is a truly horrendous book, filled with spelling errors, typos, poor grammar, missing or no punctuation, a thin or missing plot and just all around awful that obviously should not have been published, I’m more likely to leave a negative review on Amazon or elsewhere (including here).

In the case of a book that I just didn’t like, because it just wasn’t my cup of tea or I felt it didn’t live up to the expectations set by the description, whether I review it will depend on a couple of things.

The biggest of those things is how much of the book I read. If I didn’t even finish it, I feel it’s not really fair of me to review it sometimes. In this case, I generally will not review if I didn’t even get to the halfway point.

Another factor is the book’s other reviews. If it’s got nothing but 5-star reviews and I really feel strongly that the book was not that good, I will consider sharing my review just to give some balance to the reviews. If they’ve got a lot of bad reviews, or mostly bad, I don’t see much of a need to pile on.

So tell me: do you finish the books you don’t like, or do you walk away once you realize you don’t like it? And whether you finish them or not, do you review them?

4 thoughts on “Bad books – finish them or not?

  1. I have to finish reading a book whether I like it or not. If I don’t like a book it usually takes me forever (months) to read, but in my head I have to finish everything I started. Books I love only take me a few weeks to read.
    Usually I won’t review the book if I don’t like it. There’s nothing that would motivate me when writing a review and I don’t feel like bashing on someone else’s work even if I didn’t like it.

    1. I used to feel that way – that I have to finish reading whether I like it or not. But now that I homeschool, along with writing, and everything else, my reading time is so limited that I just can’t do that anymore. Like you, if I don’t like it, I’ll take forever to finish it, and I just don’t have the time to keep reading the same book for months.

      Motivation is a good point when it comes to reviews. To me, a review should be able helping other readers determine whether or not they’d enjoy the book, and I think there are many reviewers who use it more as an opportunity to bash the author. Instead of “I didn’t like this book because I thought it would have more romance and it was more of a sci fi,” they say, “This author sucks at writing romance, they think romance is kissing in space suits and that’s just stupid. They should never ever write another book ever, and if they do, I won’t buy it because they just plain suck.” If someone doesn’t like a book, I can see feeling no motivation to want to help another reader decide whether or not they’d like it. I will never understand the desire to completely trash the author, though.

    1. I agree, life is too short for that! I’ve started to be a lot more selective about what I read, and a lot more critical in the first pages of a book, so that I don’t end up investing time getting halfway or more through the book to decide I don’t like it, and then feel like I have to finish because I invested all that time.

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