I have two questions for you: How long do you stick with a book that’s not working for you, and what’s the last book you gave up on?
Here are my answers: I rarely give up on books. That’s not due to any Reading Moral Code, I’m just a particularly stubborn person. When a book is amazingly terrible—as in, I can find no strengths whatsoever—I tend to keep reading simply because I’m fascinated. Literary rubbernecking, if you will. When I simply don’t find anything about the book compelling—character, storyline, worldbuilding or writing—I almost always find myself thinking, “I could put it down... but what if it gets better and I MISS OUT?” On the rare occasions that frustration wins out, I A) throw the book across the room* or B) maturely set the book aside in favor of something—anything—else.
Read Bookshelves of Doom on modern adaptations of Bronte's classic, 'Jane Eyre.'
Two hundred and fifty pages into Fiona Paul’s Venom, I went with Option B.
Why did it take me so long? Well, I just kept thinking that if I read one more chapter, the book would shift out of first gear. The back cover, after all, promised mystery and trysts and passion, and the series name—The Secrets of the Eternal Rose—suggested the possibility of a secret society. Early on in the story, the heroine discovers not only that the corpse of her friend is missing, but that it has been replaced with that of an obviously murdered courtesan! In theory, it sounds awesome. The writing in Venom is competent—the dialogue doesn’t particularly evoke the Renaissance period, but there are no huge howlers—so reading the first two-thirds wasn’t offensive. It was just... dull, especially considering the elements in play. But every time I decided that Enough Was Enough, there’d be a scene—I’m looking at you, masqued ball—that would convince me to stick around for a few more pages.
Don’t get me wrong! Some people may very well enjoy it. Paul is quite good at writing blush-inducing steamy bits, and I suspect that readers who pick up the book expecting a romance with a dash of mystery might not be totally disappointed**. Ultimately, though, I found the pace maddeningly slow, the tension non-existent, and the heroine so amazingly obtuse that I finally had to walk away***.
The most similar reading experience I’ve had in recent memory was with Ally Condie’s Matched—which I did finish, but upon finishing, realized that I’d really only enjoyed reading the very beginning and the very end. So, heck. Maybe Venom ends with a bang and I’m totally missing out.
Now I totally have to finish it, don’t I?
CURSES. Foiled again.
*As in the case of—*shudder*—The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
**Though if you’re craving the opposite, I guarantee that you will be.
***Other issues: EVERYONE CAN RAISE ONE EYEBROW. Also, when Cass finally decides to open the CLEARLY IMPORTANT letter than she’s ignored for 200 pages, she notices that someone else has not-so-subtly opened it before her but thinks nothing of it. Then there's the fact that she doesn’t twitch when her Secret Boyfriend gives her a lovely amethyst necklace, even though it is clearly out of his price range and her dead friend was wearing one when her (now missing) body was interred. Most importantly, though, I never felt that Cass had any genuine interest in investigating the mystery—which is a huge problem in a book that is purportedly about, you know, a girl investigating a mystery.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.