30 April 2009

Unfinished: Post or No Post?

If you read enough, you'll eventually start a book with every good intention and with high hopes but then find that there is no way you'll ever finish it. What's a book blogger to do?

I have been thinking about this for several months. Last week, I decided that each abandoned book deserves a post of its own. So I wrote a kind of mini-review of a book I didn't finish: Deadly Nightshade by Cynthia Riggs.

I struggled a bit over the format of the post, and here's what I came up with. Although I always write my own summaries of the books I review, I used the publisher's blurb for Deadly Nightshade. How could I write a summary of a book I didn't finish? Next, I explained why I stopped reading (or, in this case, stopped listening). And finally, I hunted around for reviews so I could offer you (my readers) other opinions.

Here Are My Questions

⇒ Did my mini-review work? Were you interested in why I didn't finish?
⇒ If my post did not work, what should I do next time? (Not post? Provide different information?)
⇒ What do you do about books you don't finish?


violetcrush 4/30/09, 7:13 AM  

If it's a review copy or a book by a new author I generally avoid mentioning it on my blog.

If I read a post about not finishing a popular book, I would definitely be intersted because chances are that I may have read or heard a lot about it.

Chris 4/30/09, 7:34 AM  

I've done it once for a book I was given for review. It really wasn't my type of book and others seemed to love it so it was probably just me. I said that I didn't finish for that reason among others. I also gave a synopsis and apologized for not finishing it. It was still exposure for the author. I called it a "Book Review, sort of" in my labels.

I think you handled it well. I liked that you pointed people to other reviews (I did that as well).

Julie P. 4/30/09, 7:47 AM  

I think it's a great idea and I thought you did a good job with it. I think that you couldn't finish a book is just as important as one you loved. It's interesting as a reader to know why!

farmlanebooks 4/30/09, 7:54 AM  

I thought you did a great post. I think it is very important to mention books which you don't finish, as it enables me to build up a better picture of your book taste.

I recently listened to an audio book that didn't work well, and I don't think this is a reflection of how good the actual book is, as the audio can make or break a book.

I wish reviews on Amazon were split up, so you can instantly see if the audio book is well produced or not.

Keep up the great work!

bermudaonion 4/30/09, 7:57 AM  

I like the way you posted, since you explained what didn't work for you.

Sandy Nawrot 4/30/09, 8:40 AM  

Your instincts were totally spot on. You are right, if you don't finish a book, the best bet is the blurb (even though we all know it will always be a bit of fluff). Then explain your issues. I HAVE had some audios that I almost stopped listening to, and they were very well-reviewed books. You just get a bad narrator sometimes, and I'm always careful to bring this up in a review.

Jaime 4/30/09, 9:06 AM  

I like how you link to other reviews. I might start doing that for everything I review.

I don't normally do full posts for a book I don't finish, but I might mention it in passing in a Sunday Salon post or something. I make an exception if it's something I *really* didn't like. Terrorist by John Updike, for example. I wrote more about not finishing that book than I do about some that I do finish.

Vasilly 4/30/09, 9:19 AM  

Your mini-review was great. I usually don't review all the books I read and don't review the books I can't finish at all.

rhapsodyinbooks 4/30/09, 9:51 AM  

I think a review like yours is just as important as one that finishes - maybe more so, because it takes more commitment in a way to decide NOT to finish something in which you have already invested time and effort. And you are careful to state your particular reasons, rather than a blanket "this just sucks." I say it was a great review!

Dorte H 4/30/09, 10:18 AM  

It certainly worked for me.
If I give up on books, I often do it so early that I don´t have anything to say, but a fair post, explaining why YOU didn´t like it also gives your readers a hint whether this book is something for them.
As I said to Cathy last week, when she had received a book I wasn´t fond of, I am sure she is old enough to form her own opinion.
So am I, I think.

Kylee 4/30/09, 10:23 AM  

I liked the way that you posted about it. Especially going that extra step to find reviews of the title.

I have only not finished one book that I was given for review. (There are some that have been sitting on the shelf longer than I'd like though.) For that one book, I haven't mentioned it so far. I still intend on going back to it and give it another try. If at that point I still can't finish it, I will post something like what you did for Deadly Nightshade.

Serena 4/30/09, 10:29 AM  

I really liked the mini-review post. I think it worked...I like to learn why bloggers stop reading particular books...that helps me gauge if what they don't like jives with what I find annoying in a book that I don't finish, etc.

Gentle Reader 4/30/09, 10:36 AM  

I think your review worked. You did your best under the circumstances, and I think some information is better than none. I sometimes don't post about books I don't finish, and then I feel guilty :)

Margot 4/30/09, 12:06 PM  

I felt that your post worked for me. I don't recall you doing this at any other time so it got my attention. I like the way you handled it - very honest and you made it personal.

I know that you are a part of the Read and Review Challenge and that raises another question: How much of a book constitutes the "read" side of read and review? I've been wrestling with this question in my own mind the last couple of weeks. So far I've managed to read everything to the end but it's only four months into the challenge. How far should I go on a book before I consider it "not read" and therefore not a part of the challenge?

You raise an interesting question and I've enjoyed reading the other blogger's answers.

Kailana 4/30/09, 12:36 PM  

I actually like this idea. I have been thinking about doing something similar, but I need to get caught up on books I have finished first!

Elizabeth K. Burton 4/30/09, 12:39 PM  

You didn't mention if the audio version you had was full or abridged. Not that it matters, since there were other issues that turned you off--just curious.

I think you handled the situation beautifully by making it clear that much of your problem with this particular version were largely technical rather than content-specific.

Beth F 4/30/09, 12:50 PM  

Violet: I think lots of people choose not to post at all. But I'm glad you're interested in reading about other people's experiences with DNF books.

Chris: I think it's good for the publicists, publishers, and authors to know that you gave it your best shot. And linking to other reviews gives the other side of the story.

Julie: Thanks. If someone who had similar reading tastes as mine had trouble, then I might to. Knowing why, helps me make a decision.

Jackie: Thanks. I was hoping not to turn others off from the book but to show to explain my problems with it.

Kathy: thanks. It was a first for me.

Sandy: Audiobooks require that extra review of the narrator and/or production quality. I need to know about the narrator before I choose audio over print.

Jaime: Mentioning it in SS works for some books. I'm going to check out your Updike post in a minute.

Vasilly: I'm trying to review everything this year as part of a challenge. See Margot's comment and my answer to her. The challenge is part of my dilemma.

Rhapsody: Thanks. It's good to know that I found the right tone.

Dorte: It's a tricky balance. I don't want to scare off readers, but I also want to express my honest opinion. The links and summaries of other reviews helps, I hope.

Kylee: I think everyone has to decide for herself. But I rarely see reviews of DNF books and I wonder if we are doing our readers a disservice. I wonder what publishers think.

Sernea: I like it too, which is why I thought I'd give it a try.

Gentle: No guilt -- You have to do what works for you. This is new to me, so I was interested in some feedback.

Margot: Ahhhh, you found me out! Yes, the Read & Review challenge is what got me thinking about this. What constitutes a read is a good question. I decided any book I give a fair attempt at reading should be reviewed. If I just didn't like the book because of my mood, I might not post. But a three-time try meant that it just wasn't going to click with me. By then I had an opinion, so I thought I'd try to post.

I hope to hear from some more people. What's the down side of posting about a DNF?

Beth F 4/30/09, 12:53 PM  

Kailana: thanks. As I said, it's a new thing for me.

Elizabeth: Excellent point. I listen to only UNabridged but that should have been mentioned in the mini-review. Thanks so much for catching that. It could make a huge difference for an audiobook. And thanks for your assessment.

Meghan 4/30/09, 1:07 PM  

I liked it. I think it's helpful because even though you didn't like it, you're still mentioning it and someone else might know from your experience that they would or wouldn't like it.

I finish almost every book I read, so this hasn't been a problem for me yet. If it is, though, I would like to do a mini-review like you did. If it was a review book, I would probably give it away as well.

Jenny Girl 4/30/09, 2:14 PM  

I think it depends on how far you got into the book. I ususally read about 50 pages before I decide whether I'm in for the long haul or not. If 50 pages is all I read, or whatever that portion may be, I do a post anyway, and try to be fair and objective as to why I didn't like it.
Providing links to other reviews is a nice way to still acknowledge that someone else liked the book.
However, if a book is not me right from the start, then I don't even count it or give it another thought. Like it never exisited.

stacybuckeye 4/30/09, 4:20 PM  

Interesting post and feedback. I liked your review and thought you did a nice job.
Personally, I don't post on a book unless I've read the whole thing. I guess I don't like 'reviewing' a book unless I know what happened in the whole thing. (It's sort of like the craziness of giving Prez Obama a grade on his first 100 days. Unless we know how it ends how do we know?)
I think as long as you are up front about not finishing it it's okay. I like to read whatever you write :)

Beth F 4/30/09, 4:48 PM  

Meghan: I like the idea of giving it away if it is a review book. Maybe someone else will be able to do the book justice.

Jenny: Yes, that's a good thought -- how much do you have to read before even a mini-review can be written? Probably depends on the genre or maybe on the specific book and reader.

Stacy: I absolutely understand your view point, and I'm so glad you commented. I'm trying to establish some kind of personal policy and I need a variety of thoughts on the subject. And awwww! Thanks for the compliment.

Jennsbookshelf 4/30/09, 8:04 PM  

I think you did a great job with this post. You stated what you didn't like, what prevented you from finishing the book. A valid review in my mind!

imbookingit 4/30/09, 8:09 PM  

Thanks for this discussion!

As a new blogger, I haven't faced this situation yet, although the book I'm listening too right now isn't quite clicking for me, and if something better comes along, I may abandon it.

I find this to be more of an issue with audiobooks, since when reading on paper, I can push faster and faster, and even if I just skim the last part, I can get to the end. That doesn't happen often, but it does happen (and I would note it in a review). My MP3player doesn't have an option to speed up the audio, so I'm stuck plodding through even if I'm not enjoying it.

I think you handled your review well.

Ali 4/30/09, 8:16 PM  

I've done something similar when I couldn't finish a book. If it's one I've checked out from the library I'm more likely not to blog about it, but if I've accepted a review copy I like to at least mention the book, even if I didn't like it. I like the format you used.

Fantasy Dreamer 4/30/09, 8:52 PM  

I like how you set up the mini-review. I think it is part of the book review, whether you couldn't finish the book as much as a review where you finished the book and do a full review. Good work.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books 4/30/09, 9:55 PM  

I did this for the first time just this week! Actually, it's not really a DNF, since I plan to go back to it in a few months and try again (the writing style was too "jumpy" for my busy mind these days).

Anyway, to your questions ... I like the mini review explaining why you didn't finish. yes, since you typically review every book your read (don't you?) I'm interested in what you decide not to finish.

I like the links to other bloggers who have given it a more full review, too. This is an approach to a DNF book that is in keeping with your typical review standards.

caite 5/1/09, 12:22 AM  

I have a few ARC that I was just not able to finish. I have not written anything about them, perhaps with what is most likely an irrational thought that at some point in the future I will come back to them.

I guess my alternative is to just write "I thought this book was so bad, I did not finish it."
It would take a lot less thought on my part...

booklineandsinker 5/1/09, 1:19 AM  

i'm so stubborn (to a fault) that i always finish books i start--even if they are painful. i just can't help it--it's like an OCD thing. only once in my life have i broken up with a book--the house of leaves. i just couldn't muster the strength to get through it. i still own the book and every now and again i pull it off the shelf with the intention of reading it....and i can't. :)

i hope the day doesn't come when i can't finish a book i have to review! i'll remember to come back here and take notes from you!

CoversGirl 5/1/09, 9:42 AM  

I'm glad I found this post tonight, as I'm in that situation now. It did leave me in a bit of a quandary, but I decided that since the whole point of my blog is to record my opinions of what I read, I should post on unfinished books too. I considered using the publisher's summary, but since it's one of those books where nothing happens I figured it didn't matter that I'd only made it a third of the way through.

The idea of linking to full reviews is a good one, and one that I'll remember for next time. My current DNF, unfortunately, is so obscure that I haven't been able to find any other review.

Josette 5/1/09, 11:38 AM  

Yeah, I was interested in why you didn't finish! Nowadays I'm quite good as I manage to finish the books I start reading, no matter how bad they are. :D

Beth F 5/1/09, 12:10 PM  

Jenn: Thanks!

Imbookingit: You are so right about the one downfall of audio. You can't just switch to skimming just to see how it ends. Print is a bit easier to push through.

Ali: Interesting criteria. I do feel under a different obligation with review copies.

Fantasy: Thanks!

Dawn: Yep, I try review every book I read, so I was trying to figure out how to handle the DNF. I need to study your post (which I missed for some reason). And thanks.

Caite: I was trying to reach some middle ground. I hope the link to the other review helped.

Bookline: I used to be stubborn too. But Now I can leave a book guilt-free if I give it two tries. Sometimes the book doesn't work because of my mood at the moment, but if it doesn't work the second or third time, I just give up.

Covers: Yes, that's what I decided. The blog is supposed to be my views about the books I read. To be complete, I need to add in the DNF books. Difficult when you can't find other reviews, but you can link to commercial sites that have reviews, if possible.

Josette: Thanks!

Elizabeth 5/3/09, 8:17 AM  

I think this is a great idea. It's something I've been pondering myself lately, so I love the discussion you've generated. I think if it's a book I've received as a review copy from whatever source, I have a responsibility to post something. If its just one I've checked out of the library, etc, I'm not sure I feel the same responsibility. Then I could probably abandon it will less guilt!

Lenore 5/3/09, 9:24 AM  

I did a post a while back called "I'm just not that into you" about some books I couldn't finish. I am actually in the middle of several books that I'm probably giving up on soon...so there will probably be a part 2 coming up soon.

Kelly 5/3/09, 1:18 PM  

I found your post really helpful! I'm at that point with a book I received to for a blog tour, that I just couldn't stand. I bailed on the blog tour, I figured if I couldn't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all on the tour, (and I'd been sick so I used that as an excuse) I made it to page 184 in Follow Me by Joanna Scott and just can't read another page. But I feel like I must say something about it, I love the way you handled it, very gracious!

Beth F 5/3/09, 1:24 PM  

Elizabeth: I think that's a valid distinction -- review copy vs. personal book.

Lenore: I remember that post, and that's an excellent way to handle DNFs.

Kelly: Thanks so much! I think I'd also bow out of the tour but I would still be inclined to try to post something.

Nymeth 5/3/09, 5:39 PM  

I like this idea too. I rarely abandon books, so I haven't had to deal with this yet. I actually should give myself permission to put books down more often!

Melody 5/4/09, 3:00 AM  

I like your approach, Beth. I think I'm quite fortunate that I haven't abandon any books, so far. But if I do, I think I will do a short review (more like a round up) on it and state why I've given up on it though.

Sunny 5/4/09, 11:51 AM  

Since I started reviewing I've only abandoned one book. Like you, I tried. I really tried. But I just couldn't do it. It would have been a waste of time to finish it. I did post a review of it here. I also told why I didn't like it, but tried not to "bash" it and on your review I didn't feel like you were bashing it either. It came across straightforward and honest, not bitter. I like that you shared links to other reviews. I think it's a great idea to do the mini-review. I cant stand to read "bashing" posts but I do like to read why a book didn't do it for the reviewer. I also think that someone else may like it and by reading what I didn't like, they may realize that is their cup of tea and want to read it for themselves.

Belle 5/4/09, 1:52 PM  

I like your method of posting about unfinished books. It's pretty fair, it seems to me.

Joanne 5/8/09, 12:45 PM  

I really liked how you laid out your mini-review. And I very much enjoy seeing people blog about books they've abandoned, sometimes what one person disliked can even make another person want to give it a go.

I've only ever done one abandoned book post, but I do have 3 drafted up. The only guidelines I've set for myself is that I must have read at least 1/3 of the book before giving up. And I will never bash a book, just state what didn't appeal and why. Also including any links to other reviews is awesome.

Bookfool 5/9/09, 6:10 PM  

I liked the way you handled your DNF post. As to using the publisher's description, if you read my 6-book DNF post, you'll see that I only used the publisher's description for one out of 6 books. I just summarize in my own words; you can do that without having finished the book. I just don't go into great detail -- more like a 25-word description that's very general.

Kate 5/17/09, 5:30 AM  

[sorry - this ended up rather long]
Wow - I love your thought provoking questions.
I am interested in what you started and why you didn't finish it. I am marginally interested in what the book was about - but I am not at all interested in what other reviewers are saying about it.
I think it's important to be honest and say (in a considered way) why something didn't work for you. But I don't think you need to do much more than that. All I am doing on my blog is putting together a list headed DNF - no real explanation. But then again, my blog isn't just about books (although I am thinking of branching out...).
There is a theory that if you pick up a book you should give the author the courtesy of finishing it, but in what other area of our lives do we do this? If someone is annoying you at a party, do you still stick around and socialise our of courtesy? Most of us politely move on. And if we move on, we don't always go into all the details of why we didn't like the person - we just put our energies into making friends with the next person. I feel the same about books. there are so many wonderful things to read out there - that is where I want to put my energies.

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