The Books I Couldn’t Finish

I’ve talked a lot about books that I like, books from different genres that I love, books I want to read, and just generally a variety of book topics. But one topic I haven’t talked about is the books that I couldn’t finish. In the book community, these are also known as the books I DNF’d (did not finish). For a while, I basically refused to DNF a book, but in the last few years, I’ve changed my stance. After all, I don’t want to force myself to read a book I don’t like – there are so many books I could like out there that I could be reading instead!

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Boston bookworm Kate the (Almost) Great shares the books she DNFd, also known as the books she could not finish.

The Shadow of the Wind – The description of this book says, “Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love” (x). I read this book as a part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy book challenge in (I think) 2016. The category was a book in translation, and Anne described it as a mystery involving solving a crime and perfect for book lovers. I love both of those things, so I figured I’d try it.

It was a slow start, but I kept going. I was listening to it on audiobook, which Anne recommended, and it definitely helped the atmosphere. I made it about halfway before I gave it up because, for me, it never picked up the pace. I was avoiding reading because I didn’t want to read it … which is a good sign that it’s time to stop. I was definitely disappointed because I heard so many good things about it, but it couldn’t hold my interest.

My Sister the Serial Killer – “Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit. Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her” (x). This is one where I think I’m at fault for not liking it. While it is true that the main character thinks her sister might be a serial killer, it’s much more about their relationship and the emotional drama than it is about the murder component. I think that I went into it expecting it to be more of a mystery than it was. Maybe it became more like I expected in the second half, but I really wasn’t feeling it after the first so I passed on it.

Crime and Punishment, classic books, classics, should you read a classic, Russian literature, DNFd books, what I read

Crime and Punishment – “Living in a squalid room in St. Petersburg, the indigent but proud Rodion Raskolnikov believes he is above society. Obsessed with the idea of breaking the law, Raskolnikov resolves to kill an old pawnbroker for her cash. Although the murder and robbery are bungled, Raskolnikov manages to escape without being seen. And with nothing to prove his guilt and a mendacious confessor in police custody, Raskolnikov seems to have committed the perfect crime. But in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s world of moral transgressions, with its reason and its consequences, Raskolnikov’s plan has a devastating hitch: the feverish delirium of his own conscience” (x). I picked up Crime and Punishment because I wanted to try Russian classics and it was one of the shortest ones available on Audible. But the more criminal the main character gets, the more mentally ill he gets, too. As someone who lives with multiple physical chronic illnesses and generalized anxiety disorder, this connection between delirium and crime makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Authors have been using illnesses as metaphors for centuries, and I have the option not to read those, so I decided not to continue reading it.

The Breakout Novelist – “If you’re serious about transforming your writing into vibrant, engaging, and marketable fiction, you’ve found the right book. The Breakout Novelist gives you the craft and business know-how you need to make your stories stand out. Veteran literary agent Donald Maass brings together the best innovative and practical information from his previous books and workshops to help you set your novel apart from the competition. Maass shares examples from successful and contemporary writers across all genres to equip you with strategies for crafting compelling fiction–from core elements like character, setting, description, and plot, to more advanced techniques including theme, tension, and suspense. Plus, you’ll find over 70 practical exercises to help you evaluate your writing to the breakout level. You’ll also learn from Maass’s experiences from more than three decades in the publishing industry. Get straight talk from an insider about agents, contracts, industry changes, and how to be the kind of author who builds a successful career book after book” (x).

This is the first book in this post in which I didn’t stop reading because I didn’t like it. I was in the middle of reading this when The Fiasco happened. After 3 weeks in the hospital, it took another 2-3 before I started reading again. I’ve always struggled reading nonfiction (it takes me so much longer than fiction), so when I went back to reading, I wanted to go back to fiction. But also, I’m a little afraid of what memories are going to spring up if I go back to reading what I was reading when that all went down. I’ve been very fortunate in that I don’t have a ton of traumatic memories from that time – yet. I remember very little from those 3 weeks, and I don’t know if my brain is protecting me from the worst of it and if I do what I was doing when it all started, they will come back up.

DNFd Books: The Books I Couldn't Finish | Kate the (Almost) Great, Boston Lifestyle Blogger

The Winter Mantle – “Normandy 1067—William may have conquered England, but it is a conquest of a different kind that one English earl has in mind. Fresh from his defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William of Normandy has returned home in triumph, accompanied by the English nobles he cannot trust to leave behind. For Waltheof of Huntington, however, rebellion is not at the forefront of his thoughts. From the moment he catches sight of Judith, daughter of the King’s formidable sister, he knows he has found his future wife. When Waltheof saves Judith’s life, it is clear that the attraction is mutual. But marriage has little to do with love in medieval Europe. When William refuses to let the couple wed, Waltheof joins forces with his fellow rebels in an uprising against the King. William brutally crushes the rebellion, but realizes that Waltheof cannot be ignored. Marrying him to his niece, he decides, is the perfect way to keep him in check. But is the match between the Saxon earl and Norman lady made in heaven or hell? As their children grow, Waltheof and Judith must choose between their feelings for each other and older loyalties. At the same time, the reputation of Waltheof’s Norman acquaintance Simon de Senlis continues to flourish. The son of William’s chamberlain, he shares a special bond with Waltheof, who rescued him from being trampled by a horse when he was a squire. Now Simon enjoys the confidence of both the King and the rebel earl. And when tension between the two ignites once more, it is Simon who is set to reap the reward” (x).

I actually really liked this book, but it was so much longer than it needed to be. I made it about 75% through it but finally abandoned it because I was over it! It was definitely disappointing, as I liked the beginning and I like most of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books, but it really didn’t need to be as long as it is.

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Crowned in a Far Country – “Though of eminent birth and status in their own right, the women of Crowned in a Far Country all left the countries of their birth to marry heirs to great thrones. They all shared an inbred sense of duty and a genuine desire to see it performed. None fought against what she saw as her destiny but only sought to fulfill it. Some were passionate, others less so. Some were good wives; some were caring mothers. They were all catalysts, the pivots of their worlds for a time” (x).

A few years ago, Princess Michael of Kent (who wrote this book) was on a book tour and came to the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library, and my mom and I went to see her speak. While there, I got this book. I figured that because this book is about several women across time and Europe, it would be an easy read. Somehow, she made it boring. Also, the writing was not good. And then I later learned about her racist history – she’s the member of the British Royal Family who infamously wore a racist brooch to Meghan Markle’s first Christmas with the Royal Family – and was just officially over it.

An Echo in the Bone – “Jamie Fraser knows from his time-traveling wife Claire that, no matter how unlikely it seems, America will win the Revolutionary War. But that truth offers little solace, since Jamie realizes he might find himself pointing a weapon directly at his own son – a young officer in the British army. And Jamie isn’t the only one with a tormented soul – for Claire may know who wins the conflict, but she certainly doesn’t know whether or not her beloved Jamie survives” (x).

Confession: despite being a huge Outlander fan, I couldn’t finish this book. But I think that’s fair! I was reading this before the 8th book came out (this is the 7th) and at the end of Echo in the Bone, the American friends and family of Jamie Fraser are lead to believe that he has died at sea. I was so upset that I couldn’t keep reading it! It turns out that the ship he and his sister were supposed to be on has sunk, but due to a few things, they didn’t get on the ship. So (apparently) the book ends with Claire finding out that they did survive. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to finish this book, despite a) knowing he actually survives and b) reading the 8th book, in which he is present just as much as he is in the other books. I’m slowly but surely rereading the series, so when I get to Echo again, I might finish it, but I’m not positive. Diana Gabaldon has created a world in which you become emotionally invested in her characters, and I don’t want to read about Claire thinking Jamie is dead!

What books have you DNFd?

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  • Reply Nancy

    I found your podcast when you were a guest on Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next podcast. Have to admit I’m mostly a book finisher, but two that I can remember quitting are Wicked and Anna Karenina.

    After struggling through 50 pages of Wicked, I asked around and was told to skip the book and enjoy the musical. A friend said the book is “weird, and not in a good way.” I still haven’t seen the musical, but would like to.

    As for Anna Karenina, I listened to the audiobook on a long road trip. I remember mostly liking it, although it is of course very long! I made it to the last CD when my trip ended and I never finished it. I’d like to get back to it someday, but it’s been so long that I’d have to start over at the beginning. Someday…

    August 23, 2019 at 1:06 pm
  • Reply Nancy

    I found your *blog

    August 23, 2019 at 1:08 pm
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