Five reasons I stopped reading


Today is book-hunting day! That wasn’t a thing until today, but now it is.

Book-hunting day means I go to Amazon and search for fantasy books with key words like “chosen one” or “elemental magic” (just, because). When a book entices me, I’ll start reading the preview until I either decide it sucks (ahem, I mean, decide it’s not for me) or buy it.

Of course, I’ll give you a commentary as I go. It’s mean to make fun of people in public, so I won’t name names and I’ll disguise some of the details. (I’ll use * to indicate the detail has been changed.)

Shall we head into the jungle?

Enter the Amazon

I go to Amazon, log out, and enter the “Kindle books” department. The shelves are neatly ordered and a saleswoman wearing a ridiculous scarf gives me a sidelong glance. She decides I’m not a homeless person sheltering from the cold, and proceeds to ignore me.

Now, I can never figure out if I should enter the “Literature and Fiction” section and then look for fantasy, or jump straight into “Science Fiction and Fantasy”. The coffees are better in the Literature section, but the people in SFF are more my kind of people, so I head there.

The shelves are loaded down with brightly coloured action figures wearing improbable armour and holding their swords by the blade, and the air is thick with dragon musk. It’s a good thing I haven’t had coffee yet.

I pass under a luminous globe that’s probably intended for illumination, but the creature inside is scrabbling to get out and blocking most of the light. I expect I’d upset the staff if I were to give him his freedom. Plus he might cause the end of the world. He does have very long fingernails.

Browsing the bestseller titles always ends me up in the same place, so instead I search for “peryton*” and open the first half dozen results.

Book 1

Rats, I should have limited my search to fantasy. Judging from the cover picture, which is all spacey stuff, this is distinctly a scifi book. Never mind. I’m here now.

The blurb gives a good idea of the plot. Captain Hero* and his crew take a job at the zoo* where they discover, shock-horror, a secret that could destroy Facebook* as we know it. But on their way to the police station* to report the terrible secret, they run out of petrol* and are stranded on the side of a deserted highway*. Can they figure out where all their petrol went* and fill up the tank*, or will they burn up on re-entry?

It sounds as if it has a plot, sort of, though it’s a cliche and not a plot I’m interested to read. Sorry, closing that tab.

Book 2

This is the third book in a trilogy, so I expect the blurb to not make sense. I’m not disappointed.

The cover shows a woman’s face. She’s wearing clothes appropriate to fantasy and has an expression that might be far-seeing, or alternatively really bored.

What’s the book about? A desecrated tavern*, a missing barrel of ale*, and a bloody* murder. Sounds exciting!

The kings calls heroine* and faithful companion* to discover the nature of the darkness that is leaving the streets awash with soap suds*.

Heroine* must fight an enemy who knows her nearly as well as it knows its multiplication tables*. The quest is really dangerous and time is running out.

In short, “danger, run!”.

What the cup, I might as well look inside. I always like to read about nice sudsy streets*.

It starts with a prologue. The first sentence might be talking about the weather, but I’m not really sure because it’s so garbed (or possibly garbled) in metaphors that I’m instantly bewildered. We meet a centaur*. It’s big, and old, and has some magic that makes it invisible. Cool.

The centaur* has been watching for something for years. I’m not being coy about what he’s watching for. I don’t know. But today might be the day he sees it.

Wheee! Paragraph three launches into backstory. The history of the world, no less. It’s really confusing. I’m done.

Book 3

This is a story about bullying. You know how I know? It says so in the blurb.

Muffins* looks different to the other badgers* and has always been an outcast because he is one weird-looking dude. The other badgers* badger him incessantly. Can he find a place in the world that isn’t just victim?

Um, message fiction much? No thanks.

Book 4

I love the cover on this book. It’s magical and mystical looking, and at least a wee bit sparkly.

Oh dear. The blurb has a lot of names in it.

Places: 1

People: 3

Capitalised stuff I can’t identify: 4

Cut out all the unidentifiable capitalised stuff and it would be fine. It seems the book has a wide appeal. It’s aimed at ages 9-18. Isn’t that a pretty wide band? How many books can you think of that appeal to nine-year-olds as well as eighteen-year-olds? (Harry Potter doesn’t count.)

I’m going to look inside, but only because I like the cover.

It starts with a prologue. I’m not always anti-prologue, but… sigh.

Ah, it seems to be a history of lego* from the perspective of some kind of god-being. The god-being watches as bad things happen to the lego*, and he is sad over its fate. Which I will never learn, because the writing is such a slog to get through. I wouldn’t have liked it when I was nine, either.

Book 5

This is a three-book box set, with a cover image that’s hard to see and no blurb. I’m going in.

Yay, no prologue! Though the first paragraph fills my whole screen (which is quite big).

In the first sentence, an alarming discovery! Another stolen candlestick* is discovered, murdered and washed up on the beach*. A couple of sentences later we plunge into backstory. This is not the first candlestick* that has washed up. One was found by a lion tamer*, who thought it was something valuable he could sell, then took a long time to realise it wasn’t.

All the villagers feared their candlestick* could be the next murder victim.

A named character appears! Blossom*. She goes to a grassy meadow* and sings* to summon her secret friend (a mole? a field mouse?), but her friend does not appear.

Some explanation of the world. Human cities are ruled by pig cities*, of which there are many.

The friend does not appear. Then the friend does appear, and she looks terrible.

This book has me somewhat interested, but sadly I can’t keep reading because the writing is too awkward, over-explained, and generally hard to slog through.

Book 6

Spacey stuff
This is not the cover.

I’m not a huge fan of the cover, and it’s more spacey stuff, but the blurb grabs me. Here it is:

Sure, it’s not perfect, but it raises a few questions that I really want answers to.

What the duck have the colonists been doing for three hundred years? What have they “accomplished”? Why did they break contact in the first place?

Why was Jess chosen? What awesome things am I going to discover about her if I read the book?

I’m not going to read it, though. I’m put off by a review claiming the book is “poorly written and badly edited”, though there are a fair number of good reviews. It might be great. If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s the link.


The light changes and the air goes cold. I look up. The luminous sphere, the one that had the creature in it, is now empty. Something dark with long fingernails skitters along the top of the bookshelf and disappears.

I hear screams and the approaching end of the world. Gotta run.

Open the door.

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

17 thoughts on “Five reasons I stopped reading”

    1. Why, thank you. 🙂 I wish it were possible to limit your Amazon searches to “good books that aren’t message books”. (And I don’t mean by numbers of stars, which mean approximately squat.)

  1. Oh, that sounds like how I search for books. It’s hard once we start writing because we start lookiing at books differently. But when you find one that entrances, that’s pure joy. 🙂

    1. Yes, I found myself being much more picky about what I read after I started writing seriously. I’m also scared to go back and read some of my favourite books in case I see the problems in them.

  2. I love that there are reviews to look at on Amazon! I find myself only letting myself click on 4 1/2 starred books. Even among those, I’ll read the reviews and often decide a book isn’t good enough for me. I like to read the 2-4 star reviews best. 5 star reviews are always the same; 1 star reviews too, stuff like “too much sex,” “too many curse words,” “I ordered a different book and got this one instead,” and most importantly “I couldn’t even finish this book. I gave up after only __ pages/chapters.” But the 2-3 and occasionally 4 starred reviews are my favorites, usually much more informative and unbiased.
    I have yet to really get into the space science fiction genre. It always sounds interesting, but something about it always makes me scrunch up my nose before I download. I loved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy though. I don’t know what it is about the others… I love dystopias and futuristic SF. Space epics never really appeal to me though :/

    1. I love reviews too, though you’re right, a lot of them are nonsense. Ones that complain about bad editing are a big red flag for me.

      I enjoy some science fiction, but it’s very much at the soft end. The characters dominate, not the science. If it’s in space or wherever doesn’t bother me if I enjoy the company of the characters.

      1. Two things. When you reply to comments, I don’t get notifications on WordPress. I think this is because of the .com .net difference we’ve talked about before. But if you ever wonder why people don’t respond after you comment back, that could be why. I had thought it was the case and came to check.

        Two. What gives you a red flag about people complaining about editing? I think editing is important because I can’t truly lose myself in a book when there are typos and terribly worded sentences all over it. It’s too distracting, and I feel like if the author didn’t care enough about their story to make sure it was exactly how they wanted it before publishing, than why should I care about it? I mean, bad writing (crappy sentences) is an extension of crappy storytelling to me. Not 100% all the time in every case, but when there are a lot of weird sentences, I’m never surprised to also find plot or characterization problems. In general, novels like that feel rushed to me, like the author just spat it out and hit publish. Admittedly, I’ve been reading a lot of junk fantasy lately, and I know there is a huge gray area in between those and mind-blowingly perfect 5-star reads. I’ve read great books before that were professionally edited and had one or two typos/comma errors that didn’t bother me. I know I’ve become a lot more critical when I read now that I’m writing and editing full-time, but I can’t help but notice errors like that. (Also, maybe hit me up on twitter and send me a link to this page if/when you reply to this so I can read it ?)

        1. Thank you so much for pointing out that you’re not getting notified when I reply to your comments. I had no idea. Do you tick the little box that says you want to be notified by email when there are new comments, or are you relying on some mysterious inner WordPress workings? Having established this is a problem I have no idea how to fix it, but I will definitely investigate.

          On reviews that complain about editing, I’m with you. What I meant was that it only takes one to severely turn me off the book. Maybe there are ten reviews, nine are glowing and the tenth says the editing is terrible. I tend to assume those nine people don’t care about editing, and the tenth is correct. Given that I care a great deal about good editing, I take this as a sign the book will drive me mad.

  3. I’d never heard of peryton, so I read Hannah’s blog post about them and other creatures. Wow. Fantasy has so much potential, I wish there were more books about desert rhinos and creatures who can set themselves on fire! I suddenly realized how much I love the Dune Chronicles for the giant sandworms alone.

    I had a lot of fun reading about your book search, thanks for the laughs. 😀 Murdered candlesticks washing up on the shore cracked me up. I’m totally with you. Preachy books, heavy background stories and clumsy writing send me running, too.

    1. I loved the desert rhinos too! What if the desert rhinos could set themselves on fire? Double cool! And I totally agree, the giant sandworms in Dune are awesome.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the murdered candlesticks. 🙂

  4. Oh! lol! I totally read the “red flag” wrong! I thought you meant you didn’t trust reviewers who talked about editing, haha.

    Yeah, I didn’t notice the checkbox about getting notified of new comments by email. Whoops! WordPress always sends me notifications of “likes” and new comments from people, even when they are on OTHER people’s blogs. So I’ll comment on someone’s blog and get a notification through email, the app, and the website when they like and comment back on it. I noticed you always liked and commented back on MY blog but not on yours lol and thought that was weird. I just wasn’t getting the notifications though. Hopefully I’ll remember to check the box from now on! 😀

  5. Oh, weird though. I just got an email about it (the box checking), asking me to confirm. It looks like I’ll be getting email notifications when ANYONE comments on this blog post from not on. That might be annoying, in the future, when I comment first on a post and then get 14 emails about strangers comments on the same post… :/

    1. That’s how it works when I comment on other people’s blogs. It doesn’t usually annoy me unless the blog is hugely popular and dozens of people comment for days or weeks afterwards. Then I just wait until my comment has been replied to and unsubscribe. Hopefully it doesn’t drive you mad. 🙂

      1. That seems like such a crazy system to me haha, that WordPress would think a person wants to see ALL the comments like that! Now I feel bad about you having to subscribe to mine! You’re probably right though, it doesn’t seem like it’d be too bad 😉

        1. 😀
          Yeah, I always scan through the comments before I add my own too. Partly to make sure I’m not repeating what someone else already said, but also for those gems of advice and such!

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