05 January 2015

Old Odds and New Ends

Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

Good grief, Charlie Brown where did 2014 go to? Seems like it was here and it was, until it wasn't. Now how long will it take me to remember to write 2015 on my checks instead of 2014? The year ended here in central TX with cold and sleet, but much more of the country had heavy snows, ice and tornadoes as they bid farewell to the old Year. Maybe it's time to let such a wild crazy year be on its way and welcome the New Year.

Did you finish all your projects? I didn't. I come from the school of Never Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow. It could be that I'm lazy, but I honestly think it's just my born nature. I have a To-Do list about five miles long. I'll probably never live long enough to finish them, however, I do keep trying.

One thing I'd like to know from my fellow writers and readers, and please answer in the comments: Do you ever stop reading a book that you just flat-out don't like? Or do you trudge on until the very end?

Personally, I don't keep reading a book if I find that I don't care if these characters live or die or get together or whatever. I remember years ago, everyone was talking about a book that was on the New York Times bestselling list. I got a copy of the paperback when it was published and began reading it. I thought it was terrible, nothing really happened and I was bored. The characters were non-entities and I sure didn't care if they lived or died. But I kept reading and you know what? The book never got any better. And when I finished it, I was mad at the author for writing this nonsense. I was mad at whoever decided this was a must-read book. But mostly I was mad at myself for not throwing that book across the room and forgetting it. I decided I wouldn't do that again.

A few years after that I tried to read a book that is currently popular in the movies, something about Hobbits and the underworld. The books and movies have been highly successful. I read about 75 pages and that was my line in the sand. I gave the book back to my friend who had lent the book to me. "I just can't get interested in it." My friend said, "You have to read about 100 or so pages before it begins to get good." Thanks, but no thanks. I'll never live long enough to read all the wonderful books by people that I want to read.

This sounds like I won't read new authors but that's not so. I love to discover new writers but I'm just careful to choose a book that I think I'll like. Since I owned a bookstore for nine years, I learned the old trick that most readers use in a bookstore. First they pick up a book with a jacket or title which intrigues them. Then they'll read the back cover or the inside jacket cover to see if there is a plot synopsis. Then they will open the book and read the first page or two.

One nice thing about the bookstores online (the devils) have a few reviews, or at least allow you to read a bit of the first chapter. A review can't always sell me but I can usually tell from the reviews if I might or might not like the book. And if I read a few pages or a first chapter on line and I want more then I know I'll most likely enjoy that book and will often buy it.

Personal recommendations always play a big part. When a bookseller tells you about a particular book it helps. The Indie bookstore (which is quickly fading away) is great for this. Because they get to know their customers and know if they like Jim Doe that they will probably like John Doe also. I often suggested a customer read an anthology, especially a theme anthology, to find new authors. Many times they'd say, "Oh, I never read short stories." And I'd counter with: just think how you'll discover many new writers. The author may write a short story with the same characters they use in their books. Or they might write a new set of characters that you really like and want to read more about. Just no way to go wrong that way.

My final notes here, Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

I read somewhere that a study at a University has discovered only 8% of people keep their New Year's Resolutions. It's been suggested that maybe we aim too high. Resolving to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time, to organize your desk or office and to quit drinking too much wine
is likely too much for your brain's willpower to handle at once. Might be smart to try only one at a time.

I heard some people on TV the other day talking about this and one professor said January is just another month. One person countered that she liked to make a small change in January, then in Spring make another small change as a time of renewal. She also made a small change the end of September because that was the fiscal year where she worked. Her idea was to just make small resets all throughout the year. Smart lady.

Here are my Resolutions: I saw this on Facebook and then now when I want it I can't find it, so if someone you know came up with this, I'll credit them. I also can't recall the full list of 10, but it goes something like this.
  1. Buy more books.
  2. Read more books
  3. Build more bookcases to hold more books.
  4. Work to make more money to buy more books.
  5. Rearrange schedule to make more time to read books.
  6. Read more books.
Have a Fantastic New Year everyone and please buy and read more books.


  1. Jan, I'm one of those people who, like you, quit reading if a book doesn't grab my attention well before the half-way mark; however that doesn't always mean the book isn't good. A lot of the time, it's a more subjective issue of what I personally like and don't like. Resolutions? I haven't made them in years but if I made one this year, it would be to complete a brand new novel I started after Christmas.

  2. I have been known to throw bad books across the room. Especially "The DaVinci Code" - I just could not finish that twaddle for love nor money (can you tell I'm an historian?)

    I don't make New Year's Resolutions, because I think the darkest, coldest time of the year is no time to make serious decisions about life. But I like the one about buy more books, read more books, build more bookshelves - I'll go for that one!

  3. Jan, I read a supposed mystery by an author who claimed to have written a hundred novels. The book was so horribly awful, I had to finish it just to see how much worse it might become. I don’t recall the author or the title, but the main character dripped with money, had a degree in nuclear physics, ran a Fifth Avenue fashion boutique, owned a beach house in New England, and solved crimes by non sequitur guesses. I hadn’t made the connection until this moment, but she was kind of a Mystery Novel Barbie.

  4. Jan, life is too short to finish reading bad books, unless of course you're using them as an "I can do better than that" inspiration.

  5. Oooh, Leigh! Mystery Novel Barbie! I see a new YA series! Gag. Actually, some books are so bad they're worth reading - not that MNB would be one of them - but Plan Nine From Outer Space types, like the worst book EVER, "The Playboy Sheik's Virgin Stable Girl." For a full review, check this out: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/the-playbot-sheikhs-virgin-stable-girl-by-sharon-kendrick/

  6. I try to give any book I start a fair shake, but sometimes I just can't take the pain.

    Eve, I'm with you on the "Da Vinci Code". That was bad on so many levels, yet, one of the biggest best-sellers in publishing history. Go figure.

    I'd throw it again though.

  7. Thanks to each of you fellow sleuthsayers for commenting. I'm on the way to Austin for a doctor appt...just a chechup. And will comment more later.

  8. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my dislike of Da Vinci code. Like David said, "go figure".

    One look at today's so called singing stars will tell you that this isn't confined to writing.

  9. I too am glad not to be alone in disliking the "Da Vinci Code." I read it to see what all the fuse was about.

    Sometimes I stop reading after about 10 pages if the book doesn't catch my attention before the 10th page. Once in while I'll finish a bad book to compare it to a good book.


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